Monday, April 18, 2011

No Privacy & No Passports For Tax Cheats

The federal Government Accountability Office has come up with an additional source of revenue for the U.S. treasury. It's a tidy sum--about $6 billion.

That's the amount of unpaid taxes owed by passport applicants in a single year. The GAO came up with this information by comparing the Social Security numbers of Americans applying for passports, with Social Security numbers on an IRS list of scofflaws.

Working together, the Departments of State and the Treasury could invalidate the passport of any person on the list of tax cheats--thus forcing many of those tax delinquents to cough up.

The only obstacle is a federal privacy law which prohibits the IRS from disclosing taxpayer information; but Congress could rework that law to make an exception for tax cheats.

If you refuse to pay your taxes, are you entitled to privacy--or a passport?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Distracted Driving -- As Deadly As DUI

Last Wednesday, a 65-year old man on a bike was struck and killed while riding on the side of a road near where I live. Ironically, at the time of the accident, Robert King was participating in a fund raising event to benefit an organization involved in traffic safety education.

The driver of the truck which hit the cyclist was using his cell phone, when it fell to the floor. As he bent over to retrieve his phone, he swerved onto the shoulder of the road and hit, and killed the cyclist.

The Florida Highway Patrol says that it will take 60 days to complete an investigation. More puzzling than needing 60 days, is the FHP statement that charges "could" be filed sometime after that.

A motorist who strikes and kills a cyclist while under the influence of alcohol is subject to an mimediate charge of vehicular homicide, or manslaughter. Charges are filed quickly, and upon conviction, the punishment is usually severe.

A motorist makes a choice before drinking and driving. Likewise, a motorist makes a choice before trying to use a cell phone while driving. Is a drunk driver who kills someone any worse, or more guilty than a distracted driver who kills someone?

Drunk driving. Distracted driving. When either of these preventable impairments cause a fatality, it's negligent homicide.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Judicious Use Of The Power Of The Press

Newspapers work hard to beat the competition with breaking news. But sometimes there is something more important than being first. It's being responsible.

Last week, The Gainesville Sun, in northern Florida, could have scooped papers across the country and throughout the world, because the paper had exclusive access to the before and the after of the burning of a Quran in a small Gainesville church--an ignorant act which provoked the violence that killed 12 innocent people half a world away in Afghanistan.

The pastor of the church told the Sun in advance of his plans to burn the Quran, and he provided a written statement to that effect. The Gainesville Sun did not run the story.

Sun management carefully considered the ramifications of reporting on this event, before saying no. As a result of that decision, relatively few people were aware of the burning until the tragedy in Afghanistan was tied to the burning of the Quran, and the story went viral.

Today the Gainesville Sun printed an explanation of the newspaper's actions, or lack thereof. It was thought, by the paper's powers that be, that publicizing the burning could bring about retaliation from Muslim extremists. Sadly, they were correct.

The Gainesville Sun made the right decision, and in doing so, set an example of how best to use the power of the press--judiciously.