In-Cite by John DiDonna: Vitriolic Rhetoric

By now we’ve all read the stories, mourned the losses, gotten slightly (ever so slightly) over the shock, and discovered a new name in the lexicon of hate:  Jared Loughner.  The new assassin on everyone’s lips.

The sad direction of our national political dialogue ....?

On Saturday, with a semi-automatic handgun, he shot and he shot.  And when he finished shooting (and was wrestled to the ground), there were six dead and 14 wounded.  A federal judge – dead.  A nine year old girl – dead.  A congresswoman – Gabrielle Giffords – in critical condition but alive, her doctors optimistic about recovery.

The shooter himself?  The usual expectations.  Loner.  Pot smoker.  Unbalanced.  Previous trouble.  Worried classmates.

The not so usual?  The YouTube and MySpace postings showing a very disturbed man obsessed with “conscience dreaming” (his mistake, not mine) and the “new” currency.

In the face of all this tragedy and barrage of information, what did I also notice as I attempted to make sense of the hopelessly senseless?

One of the things that frustrates me on a daily basis.

It took about 15 minutes (or more likely less) from the last pull of that trigger for finger pointing to start, and it has yet to stop beyond multiple calls for it (including a brilliant one by CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen).

The “left” blamed the “right” which in turn blamed the “left.”  He was a tea partier. . . no,  he was a liberal and a democrat. . . no,  he read the communist manifesto. . .no, he was influenced by Palin. . .no,  it is your fault. . . no, it is yours. . .

Stop.
Just stop.

The fact is a very crazed man (yes, I used the word crazed) who was disturbed for reasons beyond our current knowledge of him, went on a killing rampage. Was it politically motivated? Possibly. But not in the way you would imagine (one friend pointed out it was a politician who was targeted, not anyone else – and recent findings in the shooter’s house support that clearly he went after Giffords). Was it an organized and agenda driven attack? Not likely – read the man’s writings and you will know there was not much coherence there.

Yet now we have new media sound bites to chew over.  “Vitriolic Rhetoric”.  “Toxic Political Environment” (Gergen’s phrase and one I like).

And while the direct and only blame that is deserved in this particular tragedy must be foisted on the shoulders of Loughner himself, we do have to ask ourselves: when did this savage vitriol start, and does it indeed set out an environment whereby a mentally disturbed man such as this may finally take the tragic action we are all now shocked by.

Every day we see the rhetoric in our papers, on our talk shows, blaring out of our radios and in blogs and our own conversations — from both sides of the political fence.  Just last night I was appalled at the horrifying posts being made on Facebook.  One – which I had to confess I was not sure was even real, it was so parody-like  – involved the effusive use of the words “Right Wing Nuts …. Nazi Propaganda ….” And of course there was the obligatory and oh so charming “Go f__k yourselves.”

As you see, the hate comes from all sides, not just one. Finger point. Finger point.

So how does it stop? None of it is beneficial. Some say “But it is political debate.” No, it is not. It is political division. It exists merely to divide.

Politics certainly contains high passions of both the intellectual and emotional kind.  But when exactly did the hatred start?  When did the vitriol become commonplace and even expected? When did finger pointing become a national pastime?  How and why did we let these individuals who flourish in this come into the equation, and why do we still listen?  When did we become so divided?  And how do we stop it and return to a useful national political dialogue?  And most importantly – why do we always think the “other” side is the one to blame?

What do you think? Looking for your in-cite.

But remember, no finger pointing.  If you decide to point the finger at the “other” side, (whichever “other” that might be), consider that a finger may be squarely pointed right back.

And remember the events of Saturday how dangerous that might be. Sometimes a finger pointing can be as dangerous as a gun.

Let us prove here on In-Cite that we do not have to fall into this dangerous trap and can have a non-partisan, intelligent, and constructive dialogue.

Enjoy the conversation.

Contact John DiDonna at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

Freelining with Mike Freeman: The Death of Conservatism

I was touring a local business one evening when I happened to notice them hanging on the wall: state licenses. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Now, you’re probably thinking that everything gets licensed these days by the state, so what’s the big deal? Was I in a doctor’s office?  A restaurant?

No, actually, I was in a tattoo parlor.  It was run by a man who designs the tattoos and a woman who does piercings, and just like every business these days, this tattoo shop is required to follow strict health care guidelines set by the state. That means the Florida Department of Health oversees the piercing aspects of this business, requiring the woman to undergo continuing education each year and to obtain a body piercing and biomedical waste license before she could work in the field.

Do we really need the state to protect us from tattoos and piercings?

A body piercing Florida license.  Now I’ve heard it all.

As I stood there looking at those licenses so prominently framed on the wall, I couldn’t help but think about one thing: the sad death of conservatism.

Conservatism, which I don’t think exists much these days, is supposed to be on the rise — even the dominant cultural strain in our society.  The Republicans just won a sweeping victory in last November’s election, including here in Florida.

Conservative talk radio easily crushes its liberal competitors. Conservative Fox News dominates the ratings over liberal alternatives like MSNBC.  Polls suggest far more people, up to 40 percent of the general public, consider themselves conservative, compared to those who view themselves as liberals (20 percent or less, depending on the polls).

Furthermore, the GOP victories were supposed to have been fueled by the rise of the Tea Party movement, which calls for a return to a very strict interpretation of the Constitution: remove powers from the government, and hand them back to the people.  Above all else, value and charish one thing: the free market, the very entity that the Obama administration and the former Democratic majority in Congress were supposed to be savaging with the health care law and other big government initiatives.

And yet … stop for a moment and listen to the speeches made by members of the Tea Party movement.  Listen to what those Fox News and conservative talk radio commenators rail about.  None of them sounds like a dominant movement that controls the government or the social trends in this country.  On the contrary, they almost sound like a tiny minority railing against a society that believes in the exact opposite of what they do — and they sound angry, frustrated, and fed up.

So if conservatism is truly dominant in our society, why do so many of these Tea Party or talk radio conservatives sound like they’re in the minority?

That’s easy.

They are.

The truth is, there’s so little genuine conservatism in our society today.  We abandoned that long ago, and I think the Tea Party folks know it.  Yes, we may rail against high taxes, and we may hate “big spending,” and we may think government does a lousy job at improving a bad economy or fixing the collapsed housing market, and we vote accordingly.  But the majority in this country shows little impatience with government itself.  In fact, we tend to look to it to solve every problem we have.  The free market, it seems, is too scary to contemplate.

Take that little tattoo parlor.

Why does a woman who sticks a needle in your ear or lip or tongue need a state license and continuing education?  Well, the “rational” argument goes, that license is there to protect you. If that woman isn’t licensed, she could run a dirty, unsanitary tattoo shop and unsuspecting customers would go in there, get pierced with a dirty needle, and get sick.

You can see a conservative politician, who just railed against the stimulus bill and health care reform, looking on nervously as his 18-year-old daughter says, “Dad, I’m ready to get pierced.” He wants Suzie to be safe when she visits that piercing shop, so what better way to protect her than to have Florida government regulate it.  And doesn’t a state license and health and safety regulations protect us from anything bad happening?

Uh … well, no. I actually think the free market — the very thing conservatives used to believe in — does a better job here.

Let’s say you have two rival tattoo parlors next door to one another. One is fully licensed and regulated, the other one isn’t. Common sense dictates that the fully licensed one will be clean and sanitary, while the one operating illegally won’t be.

But what if the “illegal” one takes great precautions, but the woman running the licensed one gets sloppy? Or maybe she’s going through a rough time financially or personally, and stops caring about standards.  If you think everyone who is licensed by the state will behave in a proper manner, just ask the lawyers who have stolen money from clients — after going to law school and passing the state bar.  Just ask the doctors who have committed malpractice — after completing medical school and getting licensed by the state.  Just ask any airline pilot at Orlando International Airport who stopped at the bar and had a few drinks before takeoff.  Good or bad behavior comes from responsible or irresponsible individuals — not state regulations.

And yet … how embarrassingly tempting these regulations are, even in a state that’s been dominated by “conservative” Republicans since 1998.  Funny how government always becomes so much more attractive when it serves to protect us, just like mom used to do when she warned us not to touch hot stoves or climb trees that we might fall out of.  How comforting to know that even after we turned 18 and left home, mommy will always be by our side — courtesy of that caring Florida government.

When did we all become such big government-loving woosies?

And why did we abandon the free market so hastily?

What happened in the days before tattoo shops were licensed? Were they all dirty and disgusting?  My guess is that responsible owners that wanted to stay in business made sure they operated in safe manner, knowing the first sick customer could ruin them.  Furthermore, in the Internet age we can always go online and do our own research to see which shops have a good — or bad — reputation, just as we can before hiring a contractor to fix our roof.  Too bad we tend to prefer the government doing it all for us instead.

It’s hard to believe conservatism is truly on the rise when we keep looking to the government to set a seemingly endless array of rules and regulations for how we behave — all in the false hope that if the government can’t protect us, nobody can.

I’m supposed to be grateful for all this, for the idea that if I do decide to get my ear pierced, the bureaucrats running Florida government are there to protect me.

But I don’t.

Instead, I think those angry Tea Party members who sounded like a lonely voice in the wilderness have a good point: they are a minority if they truly want the government to do less, not more.  Because right now, we’ve got a “conservative” Republican government in Florida that regulates like nobody’s business.

Contact Mike Freeman at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

Location, schools and curb appeal can help sell a home, but locally, so can capital gains.

FOUR CORNERS – There are a lot of factors that go into making a home appealing to buyers – its size, location, and price, among them.
But for Central Florida, where vacation and luxury homes are a significant part of the market, the nation’s tax laws might be just as crucial.  That’s because the region has traditionally attracted plenty of foreign investors who, in addition to safe home to investment their money in, may also be looking for a decent break on the high tax bills they’re confronted with back home.
Matthew L. Bell, a managing member of the CPA firm Bell & Van Grondelle, said the new tax package passed by Congress in December’s “lame duck” session could significantly help areas like Northeast Polk County and Four Corners, where Bell has his office and where a lot of the homes for sale are vacation homes that attract buyers from overseas.

Matthew Bell says low capital gains on home purchases will help bring more foreign buyers in Central Florida's struggling housing market.


The legislation, he said, extends tax cuts approved under President George W. Bush that offer zero capital gains on the first $68,000 on a home purchase.
“For an individual from overseas who invests in properties, it’s a significant savings,” Bell said.  “If you had a husband and wife who purchased a property, they could save up to about $70,000 worth of capital gains on the property. Anything above the $70,000 would be taxed at 15 percent.”
That’s likely to sound downright cheap to many Europeans, particularly those in Northern Europe, Bell said.
“Many of these folks come from countries where capital gains are taxed at over 40 percent,” he said.
Already, the Four Corners area is getting inquiries from Europeans who still view Central Florida as a smart investment, Bell said.
“We’re seeing a lot of folks from Scandinavian counties who are investing, and they are always pleasantly surprised when they talk about capital gains in the United States,” he said.
The exact figure of the tax break is $68,000 for married couples filing together.
“If they own the property for at least a year, they would have zero capital gains for up to that amount,” he said.
It doesn’t matter if the buyers are U.S. citizens, he added.
“For real estate sales, what ends up happening is the U.S. government considers them to be just like an American citizen for the sale of the real estate on U.S. soil,” Bell said.  “They’re afforded the same tax breaks.  That was one of the Bush tax cut extenders that came through, and it was extended for 2011 and 2012.”
Central Florida’s housing market has been struggling since it collapsed in 2008, leaving a sky high inventory of unsold homes, and a very high home foreclosure rate. Prices have fallen steadily ever since.
But foreign investors never fully lost interest in the region, Bell said, and declining prices on some luxury properties only made the region more appealing.  Adding in lower taxes on those investments only sweetens the deal, he said.
“I think it definitely is a good selling point,” Bell said.  “What ends up happening is a lot of real estate agents in the United States have marketing agents overseas sending clients to them.  We’re one of the spokes in the wheel, and many times agents will send their clients to us because they’re wanting to know about tax breaks on their purchases.
“What we tell folk,” he added, “is about the great capital gains regime right now. That’s another selling point for them to tell their clients about.”
As long as these tax breaks stay in place, Bell said, areas like Four Corners should continue to attract the interest of foreign buyers who know a good tax deal when they see one.
Bell’s office is at 600 Cagan Park Ave., Suite 8 in Four Corners. To learn more, call 863-420-0499 or email Matt@bellvancpa.com.

  Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

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