Liberal Media Exposed

Monday, January 22, 2018

US News

IRS Tea Party

Taxation is always a thorny subject, raising questions of individual vs. societal rights and about how much of their own hard-earned cash people should be allowed to keep, but in principle just about everyone agrees that at least some tax is a necessary evil. After all we need to support the military and control the borders, and some spending on roads is always going to be necessary. It gets more complex when we start arguing about whether the government should be providing health care and education. Then there’s maybe the biggest difference between the political right and left – should tax be used to redistribute wealth from those who earned it to those who didn’t?
Now a congressional investigation has come up with evidence suggesting that tax policy has been used to do something much, much worse than redistributing wealth – it looks like the IRS might actually have been targeting tax to harm political opponents. The House Oversight Committee is working through 1.3 million pages of documents and emails covering the IRS, Treasury and Justice Department. A lot of this has fallen out of a 2013 FBI investigation that found the IRS had been targeting a variety of politically active groups, giving their tax-free status additional scrutiny. Obviously there are laws covering what political activity a group can carry out and still remain tax exempt, but what worries investigators is the way groups were targeted.
It looks like the IRS chose the groups to investigate by looking at their names, as well as making value judgements on their objectives. Aiming to “make America a better place to live” was enough to start a tax probe. That caught up a handful of liberal groups like Occupy, but it seems likely they were included to disguise the real focus of the operation. Targeted terms included “TEA Party”, “patriot” and anything critical of Obamacare. Any criticism of how the country was being run could trigger an investigation. Suggesting that American children needed to be taught about the Constitution and Bill of Rights would, too.
It’s obvious from the wording that would attract an IRS assessment that this whole plan was aimed at making life difficult for Obama’s opponents on the right. After all how many ultra-liberal groups have “patriot” in their title? Or “Constitution”? This is clear use of the IRS as a political weapon, sending out agents to harass law-abiding Americans on the basis of their political beliefs. If the administration disagrees with someone it should have an open discussion and say why it thinks they’re wrong, not try to silence them by tying them up in the famously arcane bureaucracy and paperwork of the tax system.
It’s likely that most of these investigations would come to nothing, but IRS scrutiny means real possibility of being unfairly stripped of tax exemptions. That can make a huge difference to an organization, depriving them of the funds they need to do their job. Shutting down the opposition is something we associate with banana republics; it’s very disturbing that Congress is now finding so much evidence of tactics like this being used in America.

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School Surveillance

There have been concerns about the abuse of authority in America’s public school system for a long time and they’re reaching frightening proportions under the current administration. Worried parents are being bombarded with attacks on their right to teach their children about morality, marriage and creation; obstacles are increasingly being put in the way of anyone who wants to take their kids out of the system and educate them themselves, with home schoolers increasingly being portrayed as antisocial or even dangerously misguided. But this all pales into insignificance compared with the increase in government surveillance our children are being subjected to by school districts.
Some city schools have been making students walk through metal detectors for years, and while supporters justify that on security grounds it’s still an egregious violation of personal privacy and pushes hard against the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment. Is it really a “reasonable search” to make innocent kids walk through a body scanner every day? It gets worse though. Authorities are taking an unhealthy interest in what kids eat, often over-riding the decisions of parents to enforce an officially approved diet. Rules on dress codes, designed to control the urge of some students to turn up half-dressed, are now being used to censor clothing that carries a politically incorrect message – meaning anything administrators don’t like. And now schools are actually hiring snoops to spy on kids.
Last week Orinda Union School District in the notoriously liberal Bay Area suspended a 7-year-old girl after claiming her parents had lied about residency on their application. The girl, from a Hispanic family, was registered at an address in an upscale area; the school decided she didn’t really live there and decided to investigate. Instead of taking appropriate steps – like asking her parents – they decided to hire a private investigator to follow her around and dig into her background. The detective posed as an insurance investigator to interview the girl’s mother and residents of her old neighborhood in Bay Point, as well as following her to and from a home in Orinda – the address she was registered to. Despite this the school decided her residency was false, and told her to leave the school.
If they’d bothered to ask they’d have learned that her mother was a live-in nanny for an Orinda family, and the girl – named only as Vivian – did indeed live inside the school district’s boundary. However it was only when a local paper published details that administrators admitted their mistake and allowed Vivian back to school.
It turns out that this is far from an isolated case. In fact several school districts around the Bay Area hide references to private investigators in the small print, and inquiries among detective agencies reveal that this is happening on a massive scale. San Francisco Unified ordered surveillance on thousands of students in 2010, then dismissed thousands for living at the “wrong” address. Several agencies get so much work from school boards that they advertise student tracking services on their websites.
It’s not acceptable that school administrators are allowed to order Soviet-style surveillance on students, or that parents trying to do their best for their kids should be surreptitiously interrogated by covert investigators. If kids have aspirations and a desire to learn our public schools should be helping them, not crippling them under an ever-increasing load of state control.

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Fed Ends QE

Quantitative easing, or QE, has been one of the most controversial policies of the US government since the financial crisis began in 2008. By artificially pumping money into the bonds market the Fed was able to stimulate demand in the US economy and help the stock markets recover from the worst effects of the crash, but the program has grown far beyond what was planned six years ago. There have now been three rounds of QE in total and between them they’ve sucked up $3.5 trillion, a lot more than anyone at the Fed expected when they started the process. The aim was to increase the money supply beyond what the devastated banks could manage, through buying up financial instruments – including colossal amounts of mortgage debt. The effect was to put more money in the hands of banks, businesses and consumers, and overall it’s sent several trillion dollars flowing through the economy.

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Ebola & The Markets

The Ebola epidemic is fast becoming the lead story in the news, as the death toll mounts – it’s already killed more people than every previous outbreak combined – and cases start to appear in the USA and Europe. Most of the attention is focused on the spread of the disease and the steps being taken to contain it, but behind the scenes many financial analysts are concerned about the effect it could have on the markets.

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ISIS Beheadings

For the second time in two weeks the world has been shocked by the sight of an American journalist being beheaded on video by what appears to be a British Islamist. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, hold an unknown number of western hostages and now we know what they plan to do with them – brutally murder them as a propaganda tool. It’s time for the US government to make it clear in the strongest way possible that this isn’t and never will be acceptable, and that means using our military to strike at ISIS. This is no time for “surgical” strikes either. There are good arguments for minimizing “collateral damage” when fighting a real nation state – why kill innocent citizens for the actions of their leaders? – but none of them apply here. ISIS isn’t a nation state; it’s a gang, and everyone who’s in that gang joined it voluntarily. Most of them even traveled to Syria specifically to join. There’s no need to use precision weapons against ISIS troops and positions – a B52 is accurate enough.

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ISIS Crisis?

The big Middle East news story this week has been the brutal murder of American citizen James Foley by ISIS terrorists in Iraq. Foley, a freelance journalist who’d been covering the Syrian civil war for Agence France-Presse, had been abducted in November 2012. It’s believed ISIS bought him from his original kidnappers to use in their propaganda. What’s really grabbed the headlines is the fact that his murderer seems to be a British ISIS member. ISIS is no conventional enemy, with a defined nationality and a recognizable uniform. We’re not at war with the Iraqi Army here – but we are definitely at war.

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