Equipping Florida Parents to Expose Jeb Bush’s Florida Education “Miracle”

The purpose of this column is to provide a brief summary for Florida parents regarding the failure of the spectrum of so-called education “reforms” introduced and advanced by former Governor Jeb Bush (1999 – 2007).

I have written this brief, two-page “talking points” Word doc to complement the contents of this post. Thus, parents can use the “talking points” as a quick reference in school board meetings and legislative hearings and use the contents of this post for a more detailed explanation of the talking points (complete with links to references supporting each point).

In this post, I address the spectrum of Florida education “reform,” including school letter grades; graduation rates; charters, vouchers, and virtual schools; teacher evaluation; third-grade retention, and “declaring” Florida high school graduates as “college ready.”

A – F School Letter Grades

A major problem with the school letter grades is their susceptibility to manipulation. In fact, former Florida Superintendent Tony Bennett was forced to resign in August 2013 after emails implicated him in fixing a charter school letter grade during his time as superintendent in Indiana.

Letter grade formulas are also endlessly manipulated. Politico notes, “In Florida, for instance, the legislature has tinkered with the A-F school grading formula at least two dozen times in recent years. … Last year, alarmed that so many Florida students failed a new writing exam, the state board of education quickly lowered the passing score to boost more kids over the bar.”

A letter grade system that changes from year to year is useless. The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) tries to promote school letter grade changes as good and also presents information on “improvement” based on their ever-changing letter grade calculations, but don’t let them fool you. Tell them that you know school letter grade comparisons are meaningless unless tests, and scoring, and all other parts of the formula (including student information) are kept exactly the same from year to year.

In 2012, FDOE botched its school letter grade calculations for 213 schools and had to correct them following publication.

Graduation Rates

Florida’s graduation rate has been among the lowest for years.  In 2001-02, Florida’s graduation rate was among the bottom five states. In 2010-11, it was among the bottom seven (three states did not have rates calculated).

The 2010-11 calculation is a better measure for state-to-state comparison since the 2001-02 rate was not calculated uniformly for all states.

For 2012-13, Florida reports its overall graduation rate as 75.6%, up from  70.6% in 2010-11.  This article attributes the rise in Florida school district graduation rates– which varies widely from district to district– to an emphasis on college preparedness–and the ACT test. Yet Florida was in the bottom six states for its average ACT score of 19.8 in 2012.

(For comparison sake: Alabama has a 2012-13 graduation rate of 80% and a 2012 average ACT of 20.3, and it does not promote establishing charter schools or grading teachers using student test scores.)

Charter Schools

Based upon the unstable, ever-changing Florida school letter grade system, Bush-favored charters are not faring well. In 2012, more Florida charters scored A’s– and more scored F’s. (This article includes a caveat regarding FDOE’s having to correct 213 school grades that it incorrectly calculated. When calculation formulas are constantly changing, errors in calculation are much more likely.)

FDOE does not properly regulate Florida charter schools. The USDOE was informed of Florida’s lack of charter oversight in this September 2012 audit. One result of this lack of proper oversight is this story of a Florida charter school that paid its principal of only 180 students $519,000 after the school was slated to close and paid her husband $460,000.

Lack of charter accountability before the public coupled with the ability to manipulate school letter grades enabled Former Florida Superintendent Tony Bennett to change an Indiana charter school’s letter grade– a charter founded by someone who donated millions to Republicans– including $130,000 to Bennett.

Vouchers

As is true for Florida charters, Florida vouchers also lack proper oversight. One Florida voucher program, the McKay Scholarship Program, supposedly provides vouchers for special needs students. However, McKay schools have no curriculum requirements and no accreditation standards. Thus, there is zero accountability for those teaching Florida students receiving McKay Scholarship money.

Florida also has a tax credit voucher program known as the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program, in which businesses donate money to send lower-income students to private schools in exchange for tax credits. The use of tax credits is a “back door” means to paying public money for students to attend private schools.

There is a current legislative push for Florida sales tax revenue to bypass the state and to be sent directly to “scholarship organizations.” Again, this is an underhanded way to use public money to finance private school education in Florida.

The final flaw regarding Florida voucher “success” is that no means exists for evaluating the effectiveness of Florida vouchers. Florida legislators wish to expand the corporate tax credit voucher program. Only one– Florida Senate President Don Gaetz– is pushing for voucher school accountability.

Virtual Schools

Lack of proper oversight is the common theme for Bush-promoted “alternative learning” in the form of charters, vouchers, and now, virtual schools. One for-profit virtual learning company in Florida, K 12, was investigated in 2012 for a cover-up regarding its using uncertified teachers and having certified teachers sign for uncertified teachers’ class rosters– which made it appear that some teachers had classes of up to 275 students.

The quality of education via virtual schools (also known as online schools or cyber charters) is highly suspect. Oversight is definitely needed.

Teacher Evaluation

Evaluating teachers using student test scores (known as “value added modeling,” or VAM) does not work.  Directly attributing “pieces” of student learning to specific teachers in specific classrooms via student test scores is a mathematical impossibility– this shows up in huge “margins of error” for teacher scores. (The margins of error for many Florida teacher VAM scores is so large that it is like saying, “We think the bullet hit the bullseye; however, it could have completely missed the target.”)

Moreover, in 2012– the same year that FDOE botched school letter grade calculations– FDOE miscalculated its teacher evaluations. FDOE had to retract the information only hours following its release.

In 2014, FDOE “flunked” a number of its Teacher of the Year winners and finalists using VAM. This is what happens when professional contribution and quality human interaction are replaced by numbers input into a mathematical formula: Common-sense-defying foolishness.

Third Grade Retention

Jeb Bush tried to erase social promotion in the third grade by holding back number of third graders. It did not work. Instead, Florida ended up failing a disproportionate number of minority students. Having these students repeat third grade offered the illusion of testing gains for fourth graders taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). (Third graders do not take NAEP.) In short, if more lower-performing students are kept out of fourth grade, then the resulting fourth-grade NAEP score improvement is misleading.

Read here about parents’ rights to exempt children from mandatory retention in Florida. Unfortunately, some students must be retained for two years until retention is determined to be itself a failure.

Hiding Bush’s Failure: The “College Ready” Declaration

In 2013, the Florida legislature passed a bill that declares high school graduates as “college ready” and places all in for-credit college courses. In doing so, the legislature has decided that ignoring a problem will make it disappear. What such legislation allows Florida to do is to state publicly that all of its graduates are “college ready”– whether they really are or not.

The point of such “college ready” legislation is to absolve Florida policy makers (including former Governor Jeb Bush himself) from any responsibility associated with their numerous decisions regarding the ever-changing school letter grades– or lack of accountability for Florida charters, vouchers, and online schools– or inaccurate, damaging teacher evaluation policies– or arguably-abusive retention legislation. After all, it certainly would make the failure of the Jeb-Bush-promoted Florida education reform “miracle” obvious if Florida graduates required remedial coursework in order to enter college.

In Closing: Accountability Needed

Florida legislators and other officials in positions of authority need to be held accountable for their decisions regarding the education of Florida’s public school students. My intention in writing this post (and the attached talking-point Word doc) is to equip Florida parents to do just that.

The Jeb Bush Florida Education “Miracle” is a sham, Florida parents. Tell all who will listen that you know so. Hold Florida’s elected officials accountable for what they are inflicting upon your children.

The Second Battle of Benghazi Letter Delivered to Speaker Boehner

For 17 months, Speaker Boehner has refused to authorize the establishment of a House Select Investigative Committee on The Battle of Benghazi.  We executed the second letter on the Battle of Benghazi which was hand delivered to Speaker Boehner; it is in the attachment and was signed by 94 Patriotic Americans requesting that Speaker Boehner finally authorize the establishment of a House Select Investigative Committee on The Battle of Benghazi.

That House Select Committee is absolutely necessary; because only such a committee can issue the subpoenas required, to obtain information that has been intentionally classified by Obama, in order to prevent the 5 separate House Committees investigating Benghazi from gaining access to that classified information for the past 17 months.  That failure to gain access to information intentionally classified by Obama is preventing the House from getting to the bottom of why Obama refused to issue “Cross Border Authority” on 9/11/12, thus preventing the US Armed Forces from dispatching a rescue mission that was ready and waiting on the tarmac 458 miles away in Italy, within 90 minutes of flight time to 2 hours away from Benghazi.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen was appointed by Hillary Clinton to be Vice Chairman of an Accountability Review Board (ARB) to supposedly determine the facts on the Battle of Benghazi, actually the report that Mullen authored “intentionally covered up” the fact that Obama refused to authorize “Cross Border Authority”.  In addition Mullen never interviewed the central figure responsible for the Security failure of the US Mission in Benghazi, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton was repeatedly warned by personal cables and personal phone calls made directly to her at least 8 times over nearly a 6 month period by Ambassador Stevens, the CIA, the DIA, Libyan State Security, and the Regional Security Officer in the US Embassy in Tripoli, that security was dangerously inadequate at the US Mission in Benghazi, that Ambassador Stevens was on an Al Qaeda hit list, that 10 al Q’ieda training camps were operating openly in close proximity to the US Mission, and the lives of  members in the US Mission were in danger; yet Clinton repeatedly turned down requests for additional security and Mullen never revealed those facts, or why on August 5, 2012, just before the murder of Ambassador Stevens, Clinton refused to re-authorize a contract to fund Ambassador Stevens personal Security Detail.  The Senate bipartisan Intelligence Committee reported that there were “Systemic failures at the State Department during Hillary Clinton’s tenure which resulted in a GROSSLY inadequate security posture in Benghazi.”

Mullen also failed to reveal that the lives of two US Navy SEALs, SOSC Tyrone Woods, USN (Ret) age 41, and SO1 Gen Dougherty, USN age 42, killed 7 hours and 35 minutes after 125-150 Al Qaeda terrorists launched a well-coordinated and rehearsed commando style attack on the US Mission in Benghazi with truck mounted artillery, rocket propelled grenades, professionally trained mortar teams, NATO assault rifles, hand grenades, AK-47s, and machine guns lives could have been saved by US Air Force F-16s Jet Fighters sitting at the ready on the tarmac 450 miles away in Aviano, Italy, within 90 minutes of flight time away from Benghazi.  Mullen did not include in his ARB that the occupant of the Oval Office in the White House, who was watching live video feed from an aerial drone of the Al Q’ieda terrorist attack on the US Mission in Benghazi unfold for 8 hours, willfully refused to authorize a military rescue mission and the nature of “Cross Border Authority” (the US military can’t move US military forces across any international border, not even into Canada or Mexico, without issuing “Cross Border Authority”).

The below listed 49 Republican Congressmen, including the top 4 Republican leaders in the House, have refused to support or to co-author Congressman Frank R. Wolf’s (R-VA-10) House Resolution 36, which has been co-authored by 186 Republican Congressmen; they have been calling for Speaker Boehner to authorize a House Select Investigative Committee on the Battle of Benghazi to no avail.  Speaker Boehner and the below listed 49 Republican Congressmen will have to answer to the voter in their primaries and in the general election in November for their support of Obama on this issue.

To learn more visit: http://www.CombatVeteransForCongress.org

H.RES.36:

The following 1 sponsor was added to this bill:  Rep. Candice Miller (REP-MI-10) (cosponsor)

List of Members Not Cosponsoring H. Res. 36 (3/04/14)

Alabama:

Bradley Byrne (R-AL-1) new cosponsor (replaced Jo Bonner in special election)

Mike Rogers (R-AL-03)

Spencer Bachus (R-AL-06)

Terri Sewell (D-AL-07)

Arizona

Ron Barber (D-AZ-02)

Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-03)

Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-01)

Edward Pastor (D-AZ-07)

California:

Jeff Denham (R-CA-10)  Now a cosp!

David Valadao (R-CA-21)

Devin Nunes (R-CA-22)

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23)

Buck McKeon (R-CA-25)

Ed Royce (R-CA-39)

Darrell Issa (R-CA-49)

Karen Bass (D-CA-37)

Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34)

Ami Bera (D-CA-07)

Julia Brownley (D-CA-26)

Lois Capps (D-CA-24)

Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29)

Judy Chu (D-CA-27)

Jim Costa (D-CA-16)

Susan Davis (D-CA-53)

Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18)

Sam Farr (D-CA-20)

John Garamendi (D-CA-03)

Janice Hahn (D-CA-44)

Mike Honda (D-CA-17)

Jared Huffman (D-CA-02)

Barbara Lee (D-CA-13)

Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19)

Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47)

Doris Matsui (D-CA-06)

Gloria McLeod (D-CA-35)

Jerry McNerney (D-CA-09)

George Miller (D-CA-11)

Grace Napolitano (D-CA-32)

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12)

Scott Peters (D-CA-52)

Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40)

Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36)

Linda Sanchez (D-CA-38)

Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46)

Adam Schiff (D-CA-28)

Brad Sherman (D-CA-30)

Jackie Speier (D-CA-14)

Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15)

Mark Takano (D-CA-41)

Mike Thompson (D-CA-05)

Juan Vargas (D-CA-51)

Maxine Walters (D-CA-43)

Henry Waxman (D-CA-33)

Colorado

Diana DeGette (D-CO-01)

Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-07)

Jared Polis (D-CO-02)

Connecticut

Joe Courtney (D-CT-02)

Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03)

Elizabeth Esty (D-CT-05)

Jim Himes (D-CT-04)

John Larson (D-CT-01)

Delaware

John Carney Jr. (D-DE-01)

Florida

Jeff Miller (R-FL-01)

John Mica (R-FL-07)

Trey Radel (R-FL19)

Corrine Brown (D-FL-05)

Kathy Castor (D-FL-14)

Ted Deutch (D-FL-21)

Lois Frankel (D-FL-22)

Joe Garcia (D-FL-26)

Alan Grayson (D-FL-09)

Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20)

Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23)

Frederica Wilson (D-FL-24)

Georgia

Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-03)

Robert Woodall (R-GA-07)

John Barrow (D-GA-12)

Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-GA-02)

Hank Johnson (D-GA-04)

John Lewis (D-GA-05)

David Scott (D-GA-13)

Hawaii

Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-02)

Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-01)

Illinois

Peter Roskam (R-IL-06)

Rodney Davis (R-IL-13)

Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17)

Danny Davis (D-IL-07)

Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-08)

William Enyart Jr. (D-IL-12)

Bill Foster (D-IL-11)

Luis Gutierrez (D-IL-04)

Daniel Lipinski (D-IL-03)

Mike Quigley (D-IL-05)

Bobby Rush (D-IL-01)

Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09)

Bradley Schneider (D-IL-10)

Indiana

Larry Bucshon (R-IN-08)

Todd Young (R-IN-09)

Andre Carson (D-IN-07)

Pete Visclosky (D-IN-01)

Iowa

Bruce Braley (D-IA-01)

Dave Loebsack (D-IA-02)

Kansas

Mike Pompeo (R-KS-04)

Kentucky

Harold Rogers (R-KY-05)

John Yarmuth (D-KY-03)

Louisana

Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02)

Maine

Michael Michlaud (D-ME-02)

Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01)

Maryland

Elijah Cummings (D-MD-07)

John Delaney (D-MD-06)

Donna Edwards (D-MD-04)

Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05)

Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD-02)

John Sarbanes (D-MD-03)

Chris Van Hollen Jr. (D-MD-08)

Massachusetts

Michael Capuano (D-MA-07)

William Keating (D-MA-09)

Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA-04)

Stephen Lynch (D-MA-08)

Edward Markley (D-MA-05)

Jim McGovern (D-MA-02)

Richard Neal (D-MA-01)

John Tierney (D-MA-06)

Niki Tsongas (D-MA-03)

Michigan

Bill Huizenga (R-MI-02)

Dave Camp (R-MI-04)

Fred Upton (R-MI-06)

Mike Rogers (R-MI-08)

Candice Miller (R-MI-10) – new cosponsor!

John Conyers Jr. (D-MI-13)

John Dingell (D-MI-12)

Daniel Kildee (D-MI-05)

Sandy Levin (D-MI-09)

Gary Peters (D-MI-14)

Minnesota

John Kline (R-MN-02)

Keith Ellison (D-MN-05)

Betty McCollum (D-MN-04)

Richard Nolan (D-MN-08)

Collin Peterson (D-MN-07)

Tim Walz (D-MN-01)

Mississippi

Greg Harper ((R-MS-03)

Bennie Thompson (B-MS-02)

Missouri

Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-04)

Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO-05)

Nebraska

Adrian Smith (R-NE-03)

Nevada

Steven Horsford (D-NV-04)

New Hampshire

Ann Kuster (D-NH-02)

Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-01)

New Jersey

Robert Andrews (D-NJ-01)

Rush Holt (D-NJ-12)

Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ-06)

Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ-09)

Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ-10)

Albio Sires (D-NJ-08)

New Mexico

Ben Lujan (D-NM-03)

Michelle Grisham (D-NM-01)

New York

Richard Hanna (R-NY-22)

Tim Bishop (D-NY-01)

Yvette Clark (D-NY-09)

Joseph Crowley (D-NY-14)

Eliot Engel (D-NY-16)

Brian Higgins (D-NY-26)

Steve Israel (D-NY-03)

Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08)

Nita Lowey (D-NY-17)

Daniel Maffei (D-NY-24)

Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12)

Sean Maloney (D-NY-18)

Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY-04)

Gregory Meeks (D-NY-05)

Grace Meng (D-NY-06)

Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10)

Bill Owens (D-NY-21)

Charles Rangel (D-NY-13)

Jose Serrano (D-NY-15)

Louise Slaughter (D-NY-25)

Paul Tonko (D-NY-20)

Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-07)

North Carolina

Renee Ellmers (R-NC-02)

Virginia Foxx (R-NC-05)

Howard Coble (R-NC-06)

Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10)

George Holding (R-NC-13) – Now a cosp!

G.K. Butterfield Jr. (D-NC-01)

Mike McIntyre II (D-NC-07)

David Price (D-NC-04)

Mel Watt (D-NC-12)

Ohio

John Boehner (R-OH-08)

Michael Turner (R-OH-10)

Joyce Beatty (D-OH-03)

Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11)

Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-09)

Tim Ryan (D-OH-13)

Oklahoma

James Lankford (R-OK-05)

Oregon

Greg Walden (R-OR-02)

Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03)

Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01)

Peter DeFazio (D-OR-04)

Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05)

Pennsylvania

Mike Kelly (R-PA-03)

Robert Brady (D-PA-01)

Matthew Cartwright (D-PA-17)

Mike Doyle (D-PA-14)

Chaka Fattah (D-PA-02)

Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13)

Rhode Island

David Cicilline (D-RI-01)

Jim Langevin (D-RI-02)

South Carolina

James Clyburn (D-SC-06)

Tennessee

Steve Cohen (D-TN-09)

Jim Cooper (D-TN-05)

Texas

Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-05)

Michael Conaway (R-TX-11)

Kay Granger (R-TX-12) – Now a cosp!

Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13)

Pete Sessions (R-TX-32)

Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20)

Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28)

Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35)

Pete Gallego (D-TX-23)

Al Green (D-TX-09)

Gene Green (D-TX-29)

Reuben Hinojosa (D-TX-15)

Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18)

Eddie Johnson (D-TX-30)

Beto O’Rourke (D-TX-16)

Marc Veasey (D-TX-33)

Filemon Vela (D-TX-34)

Utah

Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-03)

Jim Matheson (D-UT-04)

Vermont

Peter Welch (D-VT-01)

Virginia

Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-06)

Eric Cantor (R-VA-07)

Gerald Connolly (D-VA-11)

Jim Moran Jr. (D-VA-08)

Bobby Scott (D-VA-03)

Washington

Doc Hastings (R-WA-04)

Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA-05)

Suzanne DelBene (D-WA-01)

Dennis Heck (D-WA-10)

Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06)

Rick Larsen (D-WA-02)

Jim McDermott (D-WA-07)

Adam Smith (D-WA-09)

West Virginia

Nick Rahall (D-WV-03)

Wisconsin

Paul Ryan (R-WI-01)

Ron Kind (D-WI-03)

Gwen Moore (D-WI-04)

Mark Pocan (D-WI-02)

Wyoming

Cynthia Lummis (R-WY-01)

Washington D.C.

Eleanor Norton (D-DC-01)

Even a child could understand climate change

The National Science Foundation did a survey a few weeks ago, and found that about 25% of Americans believe the Sun goes around the Earth.

They didn’t reveal that all 25% are journalism majors. (Just joking!) It is not possible to underestimate the ignorance conveyed to the American population by our commedia. At least, I thought so until a few days ago. Then I learned something about the scientific knowledge of one of our highest government officials, John Kerry, Secretary of State, the official tasked with making a decision about the Keystone XL pipeline. There’s a whole new level of stupid out there.

All environmental impact studies, over five years, have concluded that the pipeline – and, more importantly, the extraction of oil from the Alberta “tar sands” – will have no serious impact on climate change or “global warming.” Even the Denver Post, a bastion of warming alarmism, endorses construction of the pipeline.

So I was mildly surprised when Secretary Kerry, speaking in Jakarta on February 16th, declared that “…climate change is the most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Just mildly; it has hardly escaped detection that Kerry is an idiot on this subject. More important, Kerry is a politician, and a Democratic billionaire, Tom Steyer, is offering $100 million to fund politicians who oppose Keystone XL.

Even John Kerry, former richest man in the US Senate (thanks to some wise marriages), has to notice $100,000,000. And, Kerry cares about warming, right?

Now, what does the commedia tell us about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW)? It’s due to the carbon dioxide (CO2) that we evil humans are pouring into our atmosphere like an open sewer, right? Do the words “carbon dioxide” or “carbon pollution” sound like “ozone” to you? Me neither.

However, here is part of the text of Secretary Kerry’s remarks, from the State Department  website:

“This is simple. Kids at the earliest age can understand this. Try and picture a very thin layer of gases – a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity – that’s how thick it is. It’s in our atmosphere. It’s way up there at the edge of the atmosphere. And for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature. Average temperature of the Earth has been about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps life going. Life itself on Earth exists because of the so-called greenhouse effect.

But in modern times, as human beings have emitted gases into the air that come from all the things we do, that blanket has grown thicker and it traps more and more heat beneath it, raising the temperature of the planet. It’s called the greenhouse effect because it works exactly like a greenhouse in which you grow a lot of the fruit that you eat here.”

No, I haven’t edited it, and there’s lots more of the same. Analysis? surely, the obvious is sufficient: Kerry doesn’t know the difference between CO2, that he has told us a thousand times is the great evil, and ozone, the beneficent stratospheric gas that shields us from harmful ultraviolet, which causes sunburn and cataracts,
even in attenuated intensity.

In five years, in spite of Obama, we have become energy independent. Europe, in pursuit of renewable energy, is so dependent on Russian oil and natural gas they dare not resist the partition of Ukraine. The lights and heat would go off tomorrow. I wonder what Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is thinking? The Chinese would love to buy Alberta oil. I wonder what they’re thinking?

I wonder what Canadian Prime Minister Harper is thinking?

“Separation of powers” useless to stop crimes against the Constitution

When the U.S. Constitution was adopted and the signatories agreed that the powers of the federal government would be divided among the executive, legislative and judicial branches, it was assumed that those running our government were honorable patriots who would faithfully abide by Constitutional law. But that was then when political parties were not around to pervert our leaders and turn government into a struggle for power, wealth and control over the people of the United States.

Back in 1787, few if any thought that elected officials would ever have the audacity to challenge the concept of separation of powers, and so no method of enforcement was ever set in place to compel the three branches to behave, live in peace, and honor their pledge to share power and faithfully support all of the Constitution…not just the parts they liked and that favored their selfish objectives.

Today, the form of Socialism being implemented by the Obama White House holds no respect for the concept of separation of powers. For our president, it doesn’t exist, perhaps because there are no provisions for its enforcement.

The Supreme Court must remain silent regarding executive abuse until someone or some group with “standing” files a suit against the president in response to a particular grievance. But who has standing to sue the president? No one seems to know; not even some in Congress who are reported to believe it has no standing to sue the president for overreaching his executive power.

In a 1999 Hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Rules, it was stipulated that “Congress may seek to nullify, repeal, revoke, terminate or de-fund an executive order, but each such action requires the eventual concurrence of the president (most likely the same president that issued the order in the first place).” No wonder Congress, itself, doesn’t want to challenge executive orders.

Even if someone were bold enough to claim to be personally aggrieved by a presidential act or executive order, unfortunately, it might take years to establish standing in the courts, especially when the case would have to reach the Supreme Court for a final irrevocable ruling. This would give the Obama White House an extraordinary amount of time for its abuse of power to “fundamentally change” or weaken the freedoms we enjoy today.

Separation of powers has no muscle and no teeth, and Barack Obama knows it. We live in a time when Constitutional amendments are necessary simply to save and uphold Constitutional law…I mean its very existence. But to introduce and pass a new amendment that can enforce separation of powers is doomed to failure by the fact that the major political parties–as they exist and operate completely at odds with one another–will never vote in concert to serve the best interests of the American people by passing such an amendment.

Our Constitution is at an impasse, powerless to provide a means to deliver control of the nation back to the people. Americans are in grave need of an act of God to produce a leader who can show us how Constitutional law can be empowered to deliver us from the Socialist dictatorship that is quickly descending upon us like a cold, dark night. Who will stand against the fall of night? Pray that there is such a person somewhere out there with the courage to confront dictatorship and preserve our Republic.

Republican Party of Florida resolution asks Governor Scott to stop Common Core using Executive Powers

Pam Stewart and many others including John Thrasher, John Legg, Joe Negron, Erik Fresen, Anitere Flores, Don Gaetz, Kelli Stargel, and Will Weatherford are being asked to remove themselves immediately from serving on the Jeb Bush Foundation for Excellence in Education as there is a direct conflict of interest with their position and the state’s interest in examining Common Core.

Clearly, the Republicans of this state do not agree with the implementation of standards created and funded by the federal government and corporate entities, like iBloom, who stand to gain billions by the takeover of education nationwide via Common Core.  Below is the RPOF Resolution condemning Common Core in Florida:

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I received the following reply to an inquiry on Common Core to the Florida Department of Education:

Dear Ms. Quackenbush,

Commissioner Pam Stewart has asked our office to respond to your correspondence regarding Common Core.  On behalf of the commissioner, we would like to thank you for contacting us.

In the early 2000s, members of the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) were provided research on education standards across the country and how standards from state-to-state compared to the standards of the highest performing countries on internationally benchmarked assessments. Additionally, with the high percent of high school graduates required to take remedial courses upon entering post-secondary institutions or training upon entering the workplace, there was an agreed upon need to provide consistency among states in the definition of college and career readiness. Governors and state school chiefs agreed to the need to address these issues that could negatively affect our nation’s economy and prosperity.

Led by a small group of state school officers, the decision was made to address this need by working as a team to develop research-based high quality education standards in English language arts and mathematics rather than have each state continue to work in isolation resulting in inconsistent, overall poor quality, and varied student college and career readiness rates. The standards that were created define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.

The number of standards is fewer; however, the standards focus on much deeper understanding of content, critical thinking, rigorous problem solving, and applied learning, as opposed to shallow understanding under previous state standards. For example, students are required to master Algebra 1 and English 10 – both validated as essential levels of knowledge to success in life.

The Florida State Board of Education first adopted state wide education standards called the Sunshine State Standards in 1996 and has been a leader in the United States for ensuring all students have access to education standards and assessments that match those standards. The current set of English language arts and mathematics standards are the third set adopted by Florida. Recently changes to these standards, which were adopted by the State Board of Education. If you would like to look at the changes they can be accessed at: http://www.fldoe.org/eduaccsummit.asp. A decision on the assessment to be used has not yet been made.

Implementation of state adopted standards occurs at the local level; however, the state is committed to supporting local districts and schools in any and all capacities possible during the transition.  Per Florida statute, all school districts are funded through the state legislature. Districts then make appropriate allocations to support local schools during the implementation process. School districts continue to have jurisdiction over the curriculum they chose to teach the standards and teachers continue to have the jurisdiction to determine the instructional methods used in the classroom that best fit the needs of their students. The state is working with districts to ensure they have the capacity to administer the aligned assessments and provide quality instruction to Florida students. Full implementation with aligned assessments will occur during the 2014-15 academic year.

If the Bureau of Standards and Instructional Support can be of further assistance, please contact me at 850-245-0758 or via e-mail at Katrina.Figgett@fldoe.org.

Sincerely,

Katrina Figgett

Parents, teachers, concerned citizens and the RPOF are stating in increasing numbers that will never abandon the children of Florida by ceding control of education to corporations and Washington D.Cc politicians and bureaucrats who ARE mainlining our children with what has been called “educaiton propaganda.”

Republican voters are asking Governor Rick Scott to use his executive powers if necessary to stop Common Core in Florida.

The Five Steps To Understanding Pure Islam

During my three decades of studying Islam, the mindset of the Muslim people, living and working in Islamic controlled countries, studying Arabic, reviewing 1000’s of Islamic books and dvd’s, conducting research inside hundreds of mosques worldwide, and talking with thousands of Muslims (to include Al Qaeda members), it is my professional opinion there are 5 stages a non Muslim must go through to truly understand ‘Pure Islam’. At any given time one is at one of these stages and must go through one stage to move up to the next stage.

Many people stay at Steps 1 and 2, while few ever make it to Step 5.

I have given each of these steps a name after considering the best way to describe the ‘Steps’ to non Muslims.

Junior – Step 1: This is the lowest step in understanding Islam. These are the people who do not want to hear about anything dangerous or negative about anyone, any religion, or any ideology. We all start at Step 1. We are born to care and love, respect, and honor others. This is because we have the blessings of our heavenly father. Most of us by the age of 4 or 5 understand not everyone or everything is good. Millions stay at this level due to fear and mistrust. They want nothing to do with matters outside the baseball and soccer games their children participate in. They seldom watch the news or read newspapers devoted to world news. Anything about Islam or Sharia law is a mystery to them. The closest they get to understanding or wanting to understand Islam is the Disney movie ‘Alladin’.

Incompetent – Step 2: Most of us will move into the next stage of understanding Islam when we are very young. we realize there are some things not exactly right in the world. There are some parents not so good, some teachers, some police, some political folks, and we may even hear a bad thing here and there about some strange religion practiced in far off countries called something like Islam. But at this stage we just come to the easy conclusion there are good and bad things happening all over the world, but that is just how the world is. Islamic practices raise no more a concern to these people than a athlete who is found out to be using illegal drugs. Things happen, no need to worry. Sadly, many people never leave this stage.

Hump Day – Step 3: This is a big jump for the people who arrive to understanding Islam at the ‘Hump Day’ stage. During this stage you may be in your late teens to 100 years old. It is a stage when some news about Islam and Muslims makes it way into the media. Not because most media want to provide anything negative about Islam, but due to the violent nature of the act committed by some Muslims in the name of Islam just can’t be ignored.

For instance on Sept. 11th, 2001, or the U.S. officer (Muslim) who killed numerous people at Fort Hood, or possibly when hundreds of news organizations are working at a major sporting event (Boston Marathon) and bombs begin going off and killing innocent people. Just so happens some Muslims are identified as suspects. Now to the people in this stage they have become to realize there seems to be more than just a few Muslims who commit violent acts, but with the media’s help and our liberal President these acts are committed by just some stray lone wolves who really do not know Islam.

Some people at this stage are on the verge of jumping to stage 4, but Islamic organizations such as CAIR and ISNA (with money from Saudi Arabia) insure non Muslims that Islam is peaceful, and some Muslims are just interpreting Islam and Sharia law incorrectly. These Islamic leaders are put on prime-time news and allowed to spread untruths about Islam and Sharia law. Even good ole Fox News will invite CAIR leaders to discuss Islam and Islamic based terrorism before they will allow Gabriel, Emerson, Lopez, or me.

Acceptance – Step 4: In order for people to get to Step 4, they must truly want the truth about Islam and Sharia law. These are people who do not believe everything they read in the newspapers or on major news channels. They trust these organizations just a wee little bit, but will dig deeper. These people will begin joining organizations that help people better understand Islam and Sharia law (such as ACT for America). They will pick up books written by non Muslims who have studied Islam and Sharia law for many years. They begin reading blogs about Islam, they begin talking with others about this issue, and some start speaking out about Islam because the people they trust say Islam is filled with hate and violence.

These people keep up with current events about Islam and realize that in any corner of the world there is violence being committed in the name of Islam. These people understand Islam better than 95% of the non Muslim world population. They are starting to get the ‘Big Picture’. The drawback to leaving this stage is that most people through no fault of their own can’t spend 18 hours of each day studying and researching the Islamic ideology. They will be stuck at Step 4 forever. There are a few (less than 1%) who make it to level five.

D anger – Step 5: The handful of people who make it to this stage are one’s who begin spending a majority of their life obtaining first-hand information about Islam and Sharia law. They want the truth. They do not want paid actors on TV News channels explaining to them issues the news actor has virtually no first-hand knowledge about.

The Step 5 people have come to the conclusion that our children, our country, and our children’s future are in jeopardy because of politicians who must always be politically correct, our law enforcement are not trained to understand the Muslim mindset, and the news media have sponsors and financial contributors they must please. For instance Fox News can’t criticize the Saudi government too much, when Saudi elite own much of Fox News.

The Step 5 people fully understand the realities of Islam because they have began reading more books by world leading Islamic scholars than they due professional counter-terrorism professionals (an example is an ACT leader named Jack Ellison). First hand knowledge is the best evidence you can obtain. The people at Step 5 do not use terms such moderates, radicals, extremists when discussing Islamic issues. They know first-hand that the Islamic ideology itself is the number one danger to non Muslims worldwide.

It is not groups of Islamic terrorist organizations (such as Al Qaeda), but it is what the Muslim people are taught from a very early age. There are more books about child marriages, physical Jihad, hate and violence materials in most mosques than there are materials about peace. The people at Step 5 know the Islamic ideology itself must be destroyed and looked at for what it is, evil.

These people understand there are only practicing and non practicing Muslims. A Muslim either complies with all aspects of Sharia law, or they pick and choose which ones they want to adhere to. These are Apostates of Islam, or as defined by the media, ‘moderate Muslims’. There is no such word within Islam for a moderate Muslim. They don’t exist. The Islamic ideology does not allow for people to be good.

There is no Sunni or Shiite: There is only ‘Pure Islam’

Conclusion: The goal is to help people get out of Step 1-3, and take the leap to Stage 4. If they have time in their lives to dedicate 12 plus hours a day studying Islam, they have a chance at reaching Step 5. The goal of the Step 4 and 5 people is to start ‘Branding’ Islam as evil. Just as Hitler and the SS Troops are branded as evil, we must convince non Muslims to cringe when the word Islam is used.

People in the Steps of 1-3 often believe (falsely) that people who are in Steps 4 and 5 of my scale, are haters and racists. The people in Step 4 and 5 are actually one’s who care so much for others (especially our children of all races and religions) that they give up their worldly life to discover the truth. these people understand there are millions and millions of people who identify with the Muslim religion are very good people. These millions of Muslims have been duped themselves about Islam, and when they begin discovering the truth, they begin not complying with the violent aspects of Sharia law. Many want to leave Islam, but Islam is a dangerous cult to leave. The penalty for leaving Islam is death under Sharia law.

1. We must begin to help these people to leave Islam without fear of revenge by their Islamic captors.
2. We must begin demanding young innocent children are not allowed to be taught hate and violence in mosques and Islamic Centers.
3. We must demand our politicians and law enforcement denounce Islam for what it is and protect our country and families in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.
4. We must demand our media discontinue being actors and actresses and being to provide honest news without rhetoric, and lies.
5. We must teach our children that America is beautiful and you must work hard to obtain success. There are no free rides in the real world.

So the 5 Steps are easily remember by the acronym JIHAD:

Junior
Incompetent
Hump Day
Acceptance
Danger

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Allen West: Latest Obama budget is a “fiscal death sentence for America”

I remember being on Capitol Hill and receiving President Obama’s budget resolutions. I don’t think his budget received one vote in my two years there. And it seems that streak will continue with yesterday’s release of the next Obama budget.

Recently the Washington Post described Obama’s foreign policy as being based on fantasy — same for his budget resolution, ridiculous fantasy. Obama has proposed $3.9 trillion in his new budget, which reflects where his spending priorities lie. Obviously he doesn’t believe in fiscal discipline or responsibility and his budget proves it.

As reported by FoxNews.com, “President Obama unveiled a $3.9 trillion budget plan on Tuesday that drops earlier proposals to cut future Social Security benefits and seeks new money for infrastructure, education and jobs training — handing Democrats running for re-election a political playbook but angering Republicans who called the blueprint “irresponsible.”

There is no doubt this is nothing more than a campaign document to try and give Democrats a boost in this election year. It will be used to demonize Republicans once again – Saul-Alinsky style — as mean, rude, nasty, and uncaring. But how can anyone believe that Obama and the Democrats care about the fiscal future of our Republic?

Consider the following factoids; The President’s budget increases spending by $791 billion over the budget window and by $56 billion in 2015 above the Murray–Ryan spending agreement that he signed into law just two months ago. Just more of the typical beltway two-step.

Obama has said that we have been living in an “era of austerity” — well someone forgot to tell him that since 2009, the Obama era, we’ve added $6.8 trillion to the debt and spent $17.6 trillion. But that’s just for starters. Obama’s new budget adds $8.3 trillion more to the debt over the next 10 years and cumulative deficits would amount to $5 trillion, while gross debt climbs to $25 trillion in 2024.

And what will fuel all the new Obama spending? President Obama has already increased taxes by $1.7 trillion. Now, he wants another $1.8 trillion on top of that. Roughly half of the new tax hikes would be dedicated to new spending rather than deficit reduction.

Most damaging is the fact that the current net interest on the debt which is $223 billion a year will explode to $812 billion in 2024, ten years from now. Keep in mind, net interest on the debt is on the mandatory spending side of the US budget and cannot be touched. It is a reflection of increased fiscal borrowing. Lastly, the Obama budget NEVER balances, it just fiscally decimates these United States of America.

Obama’s budget is not worth the paper it’s written upon — it is a fiscal death sentence for America. All it provides are empty talking points for liberal progressives running for office. It is a blueprint of lies.

After 5 years this hasn’t worked which means we’re all clearly insane: continuing to do the same thing and expect different results.

EDITORS NOTE: This column with graphic originally appeared on AllenBWest.com. The featured photo is of President Barack Obama signing the Budget Control Act of 2011 in the Oval Office, Aug. 2, 2011.

Milton Friedman on America’s Haves and Have-nots

Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman talks about the state of inequality in America, what he calls a system of haves and have-nots. Learn more about Milton Friedman, school choice, and his legacy the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice at http://www.edchoice.org.

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Baroness Margaret Thatcher on the Moral Foundation of Democracy

Margaret Thatcher was born in 1925 and went on to earn a degree in chemistry from Somerville College, Oxford, as well as a master of arts degree from the University of Oxford. For some years she worked as a research chemist and then as a barrister, specializing in tax law. Elected to the House of Commons in 1953, she later held several ministerial appointments. She was elected leader of the Conservative Party and thus leader of the Opposition in 1975.

She became Britain’s first female prime minister in 1979 and served her nation in this historic role until her resignation in 1990. In 1992, she was elevated to the House of Lords to become Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. The first volume of her memoirs, The Downing Street Years, was published in 1993 by HarperCollins.

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EDITORS NOTE: The following transcript is from the concluding lecture given on November 1994  by Lady Thatcher delivered at the Hillsdale Center for Constructive Alternatives seminar, “God and Man: Perspectives on Christianity in the 20th Century” before an audience of 2,500 students, faculty, and guests. In an edited version of that lecture, she examines how the Judeo-Christian tradition has provided the moral foundations of America and other nations in the West and contrasts their experience with that of the former Soviet Union.

The Moral Foundations of the American Founding

History has taught us that freedom cannot long survive unless it is based on moral foundations. The American founding bears ample witness to this fact. America has become the most powerful nation in history, yet she uses her power not for territorial expansion but to perpetuate freedom and justice throughout the world.

For over two centuries, Americans have held fast to their belief in freedom for all men—a belief that springs from their spiritual heritage. John Adams, second president of the United States, wrote in 1789, “Our Constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” That was an astonishing thing to say, but it was true.

What kind of people built America and thus prompted Adams to make such a statement? Sadly, too many people, especially young people, have a hard time answering that question. They know little of their own history (This is also true in Great Britain.) But America’s is a very distinguished history, nonetheless, and it has important lessons to teach us regarding the necessity of moral foundations.

John Winthrop, who led the Great Migration to America in the early 17th century and who helped found the Massachusetts Bay Colony, declared, “We shall be as a City upon a Hill.” On the voyage to the New World, he told the members of his company that they must rise to their responsibilities and learn to live as God intended men should live: in charity, love, and cooperation with one another. Most of the early founders affirmed the colonists were infused with the same spirit, and they tried to live in accord with a Biblical ethic. They felt they weren’t able to do so in Great Britain or elsewhere in Europe. Some of them were Protestant, and some were Catholic; it didn’t matter. What mattered was that they did not feel they had the liberty to worship freely and, therefore, to live freely, at home. With enormous courage, the first American colonists set out on a perilous journey to an unknown land—without government subsidies and not in order to amass fortunes but to fulfill their faith.

Christianity is based on the belief in a single God as evolved from Judaism. Most important of all, the faith of America’s founders affirmed the sanctity of each individual. Every human life—man or woman, child or adult, commoner or aristocrat, rich or poor—was equal in the eyes of the Lord. It also affirmed the responsibility of each individual.

This was not a faith that allowed people to do whatever they wished, regardless of the consequences. The Ten Commandments, the injunction of Moses (“Look after your neighbor as yourself”), the Sermon on the Mount, and the Golden Rule made Americans feel precious—and also accountable—for the way in which they used their God-given talents. Thus they shared a deep sense of obligation to one another. And, as the years passed, they not only formed strong communities but devised laws that would protect individual freedom—laws that would eventually be enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Freedom with Responsibility

Great Britain, which shares much of her history in common with America, has also derived strength from its moral foundations, especially since the 18th century when freedom gradually began to spread throughout her socie!y Many people were greatly influenced by the sermons of John Wesley (1703-1791), who took the Biblical ethic to the people in a way which the institutional church itself had not done previously.

But we in the West must also recognize our debt to other cultures. In the pre-Christian era, for example, the ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle had much to contribute to our understanding of such concepts as truth, goodness, and virtue. They knew full well that responsibility was the price of freedom. Yet it is doubtful whether truth, goodness, and virtue founded on reason alone would have endured in the same way as they did in the West, where they were based upon a Biblical ethic.

Sir Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote tellingly of the collapse of Athens, which was the birthplace of democracy. He judged that, in the end, more than they wanted freedom, the Athenians wanted security. Yet they lost everything—security, comfort, and freedom. This was because they wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them. The freedom they were seeking was freedom from responsibility. It is no wonder, then, that they ceased to be free. In the modern world, we should recall the Athenians’ dire fate whenever we confront demands for increased state paternalism.

To cite a more recent lesson in the importance of moral foundations, we should listen to Czech President Vaclav Havel, who suffered grievously for speaking up for freedom when his nation was still under the thumb of communism. He has observed, “In everyone there is some longing for humanity’s rightful dignity, for moral integrity, and for a sense that transcends the world of existence.” His words suggest that in spite of all the dread terrors of communism, it could not crush the religious fervor of the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

So long as freedom, that is, freedom with responsibility, is grounded in morality and religion, it will last far longer than the kind that is grounded only in abstract, philosophical notions. Of course, many foes of morality and religion have attempted to argue that new scientific discoveries make belief in God obsolete, but what they actually demonstrate is the remarkable and unique nature of man and the universe. It is hard not to believe that these gifts were given by a divine Creator, who alone can unlock the secrets of existence.

Societies Without Moral Foundations

The most important problems we have to tackle today are problems, ultimately, having to do with the moral foundations of society There are people who eagerly accept their own freedom but do not respect the freedom of others—they, like the Athenians, want freedom from responsibility. But if they accept freedom for themselves, they must respect the freedom of others. If they expect to go about their business unhindered and to be protected from violence, they must not hinder the business of or do violence to others.

They would do well to look at what has happened in societies without moral foundations. Accepting no laws but the laws of force, these societies have been ruled by totalitarian ideologies like Nazism, fascism, and communism, which do not spring from the general populace, but are imposed on it by intellectual elites.

It was two members of such an elite, Marx and Lenin, who conceived of “dialectical materialism,” the basic doctrine of communism. It robs people of all freedom—from freedom of worship to freedom of ownership. Marx and Lenin desired to substitute their will not only for all individual will but for God’s will. They wanted to plan everything; in short, they wanted to become gods. Theirs was a breathtakingly arrogant creed, and it denied above all else the sanctity of human life.

The 19th century French economist and philosopher Frederic Bastiat once warned against this creed. He questioned those who, “though they are made of the same human clay as the rest of us, think they can take away all our freedoms and exercise them on our behalf.” He would have been appalled but not surprised that the communists of the 20th century took away the freedom of millions of individuals, starting with the freedom to worship. The communists viewed religion as “the opiate of the people.” They seized Bibles as well as all other private property at gun point and murdered at least 10 million souls in the process.

Thus 20th century Russia entered into the greatest experiment in government and atheism the world had ever seen, just as America several centuries earlier had entered into the world’s greatest experiment in freedom and faith.

Communism denied all that the Judeo-Christian tradition taught about individual worth, human dignity, and moral responsibility. It was not surprising that it collapsed after a relatively brief existence. It could not survive more than a few generations because it denied human nature, which is fundamentally moral and spiritual. (It is true that no one predicted the collapse would come so quickly and so easily. In retrospect, we know that this was due in large measure to the firmness of President Ronald Reagan who said, in effect, to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, “Do not try to beat us militarily, and do not think that you can extend your creed to the rest of the world by force.”)

The West began to fight the mora! battle against communism in earnest in the 1980s, and it was our resolve—combined with the spiritual strength of the people suffering under the system who finally said, “Enough!”—that helped restore freedom in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union—the freedom to worship, speak, associate, vote, establish political parties, start businesses, own property, and much more. If communism had been a creed with moral foundations, it might have survived, but it was not, and it simply could not sustain itself in a world that had such shining examples of freedom, namely, America and Great Britain.

The Moral Foundations of Capitalism

It is important to understand that the moral foundations of a society do not extend only to its political system; they must extend to its economic system as well. America’s commitment to capitalism is unquestionably the best example of this principle. Capitalism is not, contrary to what those on the Left have tried to argue, an amoral system based on selfishness, greed, and exploitation. It is a moral system based on a Biblical ethic. There is no other comparable system that has raised the standard of living of millions of people, created vast new wealth and resources, or inspired so many beneficial innovations and technologies.

The wonderful thing about capitalism is that it does not discriminate against the poor, as has been so often charged; indeed, it is the only economic system that raises the poor out of poverty. Capitalism also allows nations that are not rich in natural resources to prosper. If resources were the key to wealth, the richest country in the world would be Russia, because it has abundant supplies of everything from oil, gas, platinum, gold, silver, aluminum, and copper to timber, water, wildlife, and fertile soil.

Why isn’t Russia the wealthiest country in the world? Why aren’t other resource-rich countries in the Third World at the top of the list? It is because their governments deny citizens the liberty to use their God-given talents. Man’s greatest resource is himself, but he must be free to use that resource.

In his recent encyclical, Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul I1 addressed this issue. He wrote that the collapse of communism is not merely to be considered as a “technical problem.” It is a consequence of the violation of human rights. He specifically referred to such human rights as the right to private initiative, to own property, and to act in the marketplace. Remember the “Parable of the Talents” in the New Testament? Christ exhorts us to be the best we can be by developing our skills and abilities, by succeeding in all our tasks and endeavors. What better description can there be of capitalism? In creating new products, new services, and new jobs, we create a vibrant community of work. And that community of work serves as the basis of peace and good will among all men.

The Pope also acknowledged that capitalism encourages important virtues, like diligence, industriousness, prudence, reliability, fidelity, conscientiousness, and a tendency to save in order to invest in the future. It is not material goods but all of these great virtues, exhibited by individuals working together, that constitute what we call the “marketplace.”

The Moral Foundations of the Law

Freedom, whether it is the freedom of the marketplace or any other kind, must exist within the framework of law. 0thenvise it means only freedom for the strong to oppress the weak. Whenever I visit the former Soviet Union, I stress this point with students, scholars, politicians, and businessmen—in short, with everyone I meet. Over and over again, I repeat: Freedom must be informed by the principle of justice in order to make it work between people. A system of laws based on solid moral foundations must regulate the entire life of a nation.

But this is an extremely difficult point to get across to people with little or no experience with laws except those based on force. The concept of justice is entirely foreign to communism. So, too, is the concept of equality. For over seventy years, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had no system of common law. There were only the arbitrary and often contradictory dictates of the Communist Party. There was no independent judiciary There was no such thing as truth in the communist system.

And what is freedom without truth? I have been a scientist, a lawyer, and a politician, and from my own experience I can testify that it is nothing. The third century Roman jurist Julius Paulus said, “What is right is not derived from the rule, but the rule arises from our knowledge of what is right.” In other words, the law is founded on what we believe to be true and just. It has moral foundations. Once again, it is important to note that the free societies of America and Great Britain derive such foundations from a Biblical ethic.

The Moral Foundations of Democracy

Democracy is never mentioned in the Bible. When people are gathered together, whether as families, communities or nations, their purpose is not to ascertain the will of the majority, but the will of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I am an enthusiast of democracy because it is about more than the will of the majority. If it were only about the will of the majority, it would be the right of the majority to oppress the minority. The American Declaration of Independence and Constitution make it clear that this is not the case. There are certain rights which are human rights and which no government can displace. And when it comes to how you Americans exercise your rights under democracy, your hearts seem to be touched by something greater than yourselves. Your role in democracy does not end when you cast your vote in an election. It applies daily; the standards and values that are the moral foundations of society are also the foundations of your lives.

Democracy is essential to preserving freedom. As Lord Acton reminded us, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If no individual can be trusted with power indefinitely, it is even more true that no government can be. It has to be checked, and the best way of doing so is through the will of the majority, bearing in mind that this will can never be a substitute for individual human rights.

I am often asked whether I think there will be a single international democracy, known as a “new world order.” Though many of us may yearn for one, I do not believe it will ever arrive. We are misleading ourselves about human nature when we say, “Surely we’re too civilized, too reasonable, ever to go to war again,” or, “We can rely on our governments to get together and reconcile our differences.” Tyrants are not moved by idealism. They are moved by naked ambition. Idealism did not stop Hitler; it did not stop Stalin. Our best hope as sovereign nations is to maintain strong defenses. Indeed, that has been one of the most important moral as well as geopolitical lessons of the 20th century. Dictators are encouraged by weakness; they are stopped by strength. By strength, of course, I do not merely mean military might but the resolve to use that might against evil.

The West did show sufficient resolve against Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. But we failed bitterly in Bosnia. In this case, instead of showing resolve, we preferred “diplomacy” and “consensus.” As a result, a quarter of a million people were massacred. This was a horror that I, for one, never expected to see again in my lifetime. But it happened. Who knows what tragedies the future holds if we do not learn from the repeated lessons of histoy? The price of freedom is still, and always will be, eternal vigilance.

Free societies demand more care and devotion than any others. They are, moreover, the only societies with moral foundations, and those foundations are evident in their political, economic, legal, cultural, and, most importantly, spiritual life.

We who are living in the West today are fortunate. Freedom has been bequeathed to us. We have not had to carve it out of nothing; we have not had to pay for it with our lives. Others before us have done so. But it would be a grave mistake to think that freedom requires nothing of us. Each of us has to earn freedom anew in order to possess it. We do so not just for our own sake, but for the sake of our children, so that they may build a better future that will sustain over the wider world the responsibilities and blessings of freedom.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of a portrait of Baroness Margaret Thatcher is courtesy of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Florida’s Dirty Dozen: Twelve Repealers That Can Boost Business, Create Jobs,and Change Florida’s Economic Policy for the Better

The Institute for Justice just released their latest study, “Florida’s Dirty Dozen: Twelve Repealers That Can Boost Business, Create Jobs,and Change Florida’s Economic Policy for the Better” with foreword from Dr. Bob McClure, president and CEO of The James Madison Institute. Read the full study here.

Foreword from Dr. McClure:

Governments too often go well beyond what’s required to protect the public’s health and safety. Nowhere is this more evident than in business regulations that stifle industries. Frequently, public officials use “safeguarding the public health” or “protecting consumers” merely as a pretext for allowing entrenched special interests to create obstacles for potential competitors, thereby gaining an unfair advantage in what ought to be a free marketplace. This study identifies 12 instances in which the Legislature has relied on these empty justifications—often provided by industry insiders—and suggests that repeal of these laws would make Florida a more welcoming place for consumers and small businesses.

Consider, for instance, a would-be entrepreneur whose goal in life leans less toward college and more toward pursuing a craft that she has learned to love: doing hairstyling and makeup. She is a recent high-school graduate. She is ambitious, as well; her goals include eventually opening a salon of her own.

But she is also realistic. Even though she has practiced her craft, cutting hair and giving makeup tips to friends and family, she understands that she’ll need some additional training. Imagine her surprise, however, when she discovers that she will be required to undergo 1,200 hours of instruction at a “beauty school” where the cost for tuition, fees, book, and supplies—at one of Florida’s least expensive providers—currently tops $16,425. So to enter her chosen field will mean going into debt with student loans to pay for “training” far in excess of what reasonably should be required. And all this not because of any legitimate concern for public health and safety, but merely because industry insiders have gone to the government as a means of protecting themselves from competition or protecting their profits, neither of which is a proper use of government power.

Unfortunately, in Florida these kinds of government-imposed barriers to entering a career are not unique to cosmetology. In fact, they extend across a wide array of occupations. This study highlights a “dirty dozen” of these kinds of obstacles that the Institute for Justice (IJ) regards as among the worst.

The James Madison Institute (JMI), which for many years has battled against the kinds of regulatory overkill marring Florida’s otherwise excellent business climate and quality of life, agrees that the issue deserves immediate attention from the Legislature.

Of course it should come as no surprise that JMI and IJ have a mutual interest in this issue. Indeed, these groups have a great history of cooperation in the fight for liberty. Both organizations share a devotion to the principles of limited government, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.

Florida’s current system of occupational licensing and regulation should be reassessed because it is clear that the current outcome— often over-reaching regulations—is a problem that stifles our economy, raises the cost of living, and makes it much more difficult for ambitious young people, such as our hypothetical entrepreneur, from achieving their goals.

IJ deserves tremendous credit for conducting the in-depth research required to bring these situations to the attention of Floridians and their elected officials. The next move will be up to those officials.

Calling the Global Warming Charlatans “Nazis”

On February 20th, the noted meteorologist, Dr. Roy W. Spencer, fed up with being called a “denier” of global warming, posted a commentary on his blog titled “Time to push back against the global warming Nazis.”

“When politicians and scientists started calling people like me ‘deniers’, they crossed the line. They are still doing it,” said Dr. Spencer. “They indirectly equate (1) the skeptics’ view that global warming is not necessarily all man made nor a serious problem with (2) the denial that the Nazi’s extermination of millions of Jews ever happened.” The Holocaust happened, but global warming’s latest natural cycle ended about 17 years ago and, as a lot of people have noticed, it has been getting cold since then.

“Like the Nazis,” said Dr. Spencer, “they advocate the supreme authority of the state (fascism), which in turn supports their scientific research to support their cause…” In the case of global warming, this huge hoax was put forth by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The UN would like to be the world’s global government, but that’s not going to happen. In the meantime, the IPCC provided scientists that cooperated with lots of money for their alleged research, all of which “proved” that carbon dioxide was dramatically heating the Earth. Others like Al Gore made millions selling “carbon credits”. Along the way, both Gore and the IPCC received a Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Spencer received a Ph.D. in meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. He was a Senior Scientists for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center where he and a colleague, Dr. John Christie, received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. He became a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2001 and continues to advise NASA as a U.S. Science Team Leader. As he points out on his blog, his research has been supported by U.S. government agencies, so the usual claim by Greens that he is a paid stooge of Big Oil just doesn’t work in his case.

Dr. Spencer’s decision to call a Nazi a Nazi ignited a lot of discussion among the global warming hustlers and those whom they have been calling “deniers” for many years. I always found it particularly offensive, but I suspect those I called charlatans and hustlers felt the same way. The difference, however, is the connotation applied to the term, “denier.” Even today anti-Semites of various descriptions deny that six million Jews died in the death camps of Nazi Germany during World War Two along with millions Christians and Eastern Slavic Europeans

What makes this particularly offensive and horrid is the fact that those in the Nazi leadership under Adolf Hitler were all environmentalists, deeply committed to conservation and similar expressions that put the Earth above the value of human life.

This is all revealed in a book by R. Mark Musser, “Nazi Oaks”, now in its third printing. Musser was introduced to environmentalism at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, from which he graduated in 1989. In 1994 he received Master of Divinity and spent seven years as a missionary to Belarus and in the Ukraine.

Musser’s book is absolutely astonishing as he documents how “Green” the Nazis were from their earliest years until their defeat. It was Heinrich Himmler, the Reich Leader from 1929 to 1945, who was responsible for the “Final Solution”, the mass killing of Europe’s Jews. He led the Nazi party’s SS.

As Musser notes, “The Nazis were trying to eliminate both global capitalism and international communism in order to recover a reverence for nature lost in the modern cosmopolitan world.” The Nazis also held Judeo-Christian values in contempt.

“That this evolutionary Nazi nature religion was clothed in secular biology and colored by environmental policies and practices, is a historical truth that has been ignored and underreported for too long a time in all the discussions about the Holocaust,” writes Musser.

I am inclined to believe that it is no accident that the global warming charlatans began to use the term “deniers” to describe skeptics.

By 2011, a Gallup poll that surveyed people in 111 countries revealed that most of the human race did not see global warming as a serious threat. Still, worldwide 42% told Gallup that they thought global warming was either ‘somewhat serious’ or ‘very serious.’ That was down from 63% in polls taken in 2007 and 2008 in the U.S.

More than just a spat between scientists, in April 2012, the Congressional Research Service estimated that, since 2008, the federal government had spent nearly $70 billion on ‘climate change activities.’ That kind of money could build or repair a lot of bridges and roads. It could fund elements of our military. It could be spent on something other than a climate over which neither the government nor anyone in the world has any influence.

Bursting onto the national stage, Dr. Spencer’s decision to call the global warming scientists Nazis for their efforts to intimidate or smear the reputations of those whose research disputes their claims, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. a Wall Street Journal columnist, wrote on March 1 that “Surely some kind of ending is upon us. Last week climate protesters demanded the silencing of Charles Krauthammer for a Washington Post column that notices uncertainties in the global warming hypothesis.”

“In coming weeks,” wrote Jenkins, “a libel trial gets under way brought by Penn State’s Michael Mann, author of the famed “hockey stick” graph (Editor’s note: an IPCC graph Mann created that asserted a sudden, major increase in heat has been widely debunked) against the National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writer Rand Simberg and roving commentator Mark Steyn for making wisecracks about his climate work.”

Revelations of several thousand emails between IPCC scientists, one of whom was Mann, were christened “climategate” and demonstrated the efforts in which they engaged to suppress the publication of any papers that questioned global warming in scientific journals. As the climate turned cooler, they became increasingly alarmed.

What we are likely witnessing are the long death throes of the global warming hoax. Calling those scientists and others like myself “deniers” and other names simply reveals the desperation of those who are seeing a great source of money slip away under the spotlight of scientific truth, nor will they be able to impose their lies on the rest of us.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-P049456 / CC-BY-SA

Is today a good time to buy?

Conventional wisdom states the three most important things in real estate are: location, location, location.  This wisdom is especially true today since market fundamentals and local conditions vary greatly across the US.  Thus, not surprisingly, the answer depends on location.

Nationally, homes look overpriced, but there can be great variations on a regional or even neighborhood level.  To gauge the sustainability of home prices within a metropolitan area generally, I suggest looking at measurements of market fundamentals such as unemployment, job growth, income, rental values, population levels, and mortgage rates. For example, Fitch Ratings measures how well a given metropolitan area’s home prices are doing relative to fundamentals such as these.  Its ratings range from undervalued (examples: Atlanta, Chicago, and Cincinnati), to sustainable (examples: Boston, Cleveland, and Dallas), to unsustainable (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC). For more information on Fitch Ratings metro area ratings click here.

To gauge the sustainability of home prices at a neighborhood level, compare the home’s sale price to what it would cost to rent.  In the past, rental estimates for individual single-family homes were hard to find.  Today, a prospective buyer may go to Zillow.com and look up a Rent Zestimate for tens of millions of individual properties. By dividing the annual rent estimate by the home price you are able to calculate a home’s gross yield.  For example, a $250,000 home with a rent estimate of $1,500 a month, would have a yield of about 7.2%, before home ownership costs.  As a rule of thumb, a yield of 8% or more means the home is a relative bargain, below 5% and the home is overpriced, and for between 5% and 8% a buyer should plan to stay in the home for at least five or six years and either put a little more down or pay the loan down faster.

For a more in depth look, you might do an analysis that considers the costs of buying versus renting over time.  For example, The New York Times has an on-line Interactive buy-rent calculator.  It allows you to input a number of cost and benefit variables for buying and renting and calculates whether you will be up or down after six years.  Of course, this is a projection and is heavily dependent on your assumed annual home price appreciation rate. Also keep in mind that combined transactions costs involved in buying and selling a home will likely total 10 percent of the purchase price.  While the NYT calculator considers these costs, it is assumed you will own the home for at least 6 years.  A shorter ownership period will negatively impact the benefits of owning.

Finally, I would be careful not to buy more house than you can comfortably afford.  The vast majority of home buyers take out a loan to pay for much of the purchase price. Most real estate professionals get paid a percentage of the sales price, so it is in their interest to put you into the most expensive house for which you qualify.  Martin Luther King recognized the problem of living beyond one’s means in his 1968 “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon.  This is still good advice today.  A simple way to gauge the riskiness of a 30 year fixed rate loan you may be contemplating is to go the HousingRisk.org using this link: Table of Risk.  All you need is your loan-to-value (home value minus downpayment), FICO credit score, and total debt-to-income ratio.  For example, a 90 percent loan-to-value loan with a 720 FICO score (this is the median score for all individuals in the US), and a total debt ratio of 30% would have about a 5 percent chance of default under a serious real estate correction.  On the other hand, a 95 percent  loan-to-value loan with a 660 FICO score, and a total debt ratio of 42 percent would have about a 22 percent chance of default under a serious real estate correction.

In general, I would expect home prices to be more volatile going forward than during the period 1950-1995.  Today’s buyer can’t expect to buy now and get an equity windfall in only a few years. Prospective buyers looking to purchase a property, which will serve as a home for years to come, should do their homework on the true value of the home and the home price volatility in the region before making what is likely to be one of the major financial decisions of their lifetime.

Obama’s Faceoffs with Putin and Netanyahu

Washington was the center of contretemps over Putin’s seizure of Crimea and widening public differences with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu

We recently interviewed Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute and reviewed of his new book Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes. (See The Peril of Engaging Rogue States: An Interview with Dr. Michael Rubin  and Engagement is Folly}.

Putin, according to Rubin is the consummate zero sum geo -politician. Diplomacy for the Kremlin thugocracy pales in comparison to unleashing military adventurism to recreate the former Soviet empire. Witness Georgia in 2008 with the severance of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and even the Kremlin support for Russian speaking breakaway state of Transnistria between the Ukraine and Moldavia. Remember Putin abhors NATO presence anywhere near the Russian sphere of influence. See the prescient title of a piece I wrote back in August 2008, Georgia: “Moscow Rules” and the West Wimps Out.  We had Bush and Condoleezza Rice back then.

The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) witnessed the transfer of nearly 2000 nuclear missiles to Russia followed by 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances by the UK, US and Russia that guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty including the rights of Russian citizens who chose to live there.  Recently Russia negotiated the extension of the lease on the Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol from 2017 to 2042. The move was heavily criticized by the opposition forces now in power in Kiev.  By seizing the Crimea province from Ukraine, the Russian guarantee of Ukrainian sovereignty has been breached. Russian military exercises near Finland and the Ukraine are clear demonstrations of military force to send a message to the EU and the Obama White House West Wing not to dare send NATO forces to the Polish Ukrainian border. Thus, while there will be lots of economic sanctions and isolation rattling by Washington and Brussels, it is up to the G-8 and G-20 groups to consider ejection of Moscow, which will doubtless come up short.

Sochi may lose tourist revenues from the upcoming Paralympics, followed by the loss of the G-8 Summit in June and even the inaugural Russian Formula 1 race scheduled for August 2014.  Meanwhile the Moscow Stock Exchange and Ruble were punished in trading today. Whether that continues will be influenced by Putin’s contempt for the West and the threats by Obama that “there will be consequences”.  So, while Obama’s Russian reset strategy like his pivot to Asia and push for a Final Status agreement between Israel and the PA have been potential failures.

Just look at the interview with Obama by Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg about the President’s entreaties to Netanyahu to “seize the moment and make peace”. This included  a veiled no veto threat by the US should the PA, as suggested in the Oxford Union remarks of PA negotiator Saeb Erekat on Al Jazeera’s Head to Head program of last Friday,  might opt for accession to the UN Security Council for statehood.

This would let 5 million Palestinian UNWRA refugees file for compensation against Israel.  Further, the PA could file a case for crimes against humanity brought before the International Criminal Court at The Hague the day after the April 29 deadline is passed for an agreement set by Secretary of State Kerry.  Even the brief comments by Obama and Netanyahu in the Oval Office about “tough choices” versus non helpful Palestinian moves sent a chilling message.  (See this CBS news report, here).

Tomorrow, we shall see what happens when Netanyahu speaks to 14,000 delegates at the AIPAC Policy Conference following Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ)   speech. They would urge the delegates to scamper up Capitol Hill to convince their Senators and Representatives to pass the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act, S. 1881 co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Menendez. Problem is that Iran may already have its nukes given a decade long cooperative weapons development and ICBM program with North Korea. Read my article; Has Iran Developed Nuclear Weapons in North Korea?

As to Israel’s capabilities, realize that it already has ICBMs – the nuclear equipped Jericho III.  Yes, as the ancient Chinese curse goes, “may you live in interesting times”.

RELATED COLUMN: ‘Delusional’: Krauthammer Slams Obama Admin’s Belief that Putin has ‘Blinked’ on Ukraine

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Redefining Truth has Consequences

In all organized sports, there are clearly defined rules that must be adhered to.  In all universities, there are clearly stated guidelines for admittance.  In all religions, there are shared beliefs that all members must adhere to. Without these clearly defined rules of engagement (ROEs), there can be no order within groups; and without order there is nothing left but chaos.

Groups and organizations, by definition are all predicated upon certain agreed upon principles and values. These agreed upon principles and values are the raison d’etre of these entities.

You join the Boy Scouts, for example, because you are a boy and you join the Girl Scouts because you are a girl.  You are a male because you are born with a penis and you are a girl because you are born with a vagina. These things used to be unquestioned statements of fact.

Now some parents are filing lawsuits because their daughters want the legal right to join the Boy Scouts. Some males, on the other hand, want the right to join a sorority while some females want the right to join a fraternity. To call this a ball of confusion is an understatement.

Sadly, sexuality is no longer determined at birth and is no longer absolute.  You now can legally (in California) “self-identify”  your sex.  You can be born a male and simply wake up and say you “self-identify” as a girl and legally you can play on your high school’s girls softball team; you must be allowed to use the girls bathroom; and you must be allowed to wear a dress to class.

Now, right is wrong; up is down, black is white; and there are no rules.

Rules are created in order to maintain order and control.  No matter where you go throughout the world, the rules for basketball, American football, and baseball are the same.

Conversely, when you have no clearly defined rules, you have chaos instead of order.  This is exactly what is happening in America in particular and the world in general.  Rules are the glue that keeps a society together.  Rules make the family into a functioning unit.  Rules create the framework for dispute resolution.

In America, as in most countries, murder is deemed wrong and society universally punishes the perpetrators. Killing can be justified (self-defense), but murder (the taking of an innocent life) can never be justified.  Honoring one’s mother and father is just simply expected in our society.

These rules are necessary to create a society where there is structure and order.  Rules also create a sense of security and freedom for the people.

How can you have a functioning country when you can no longer define the family unit?  For time immemorial, the family has been mother, father, and children; and in some cases grandparents, uncles, or aunts, also known as the extended family.   Now, agreement on the definition of the family unit has become mired in controversy.  Some want Johnny to have two dads or Jenny to have two moms.  Some want Rahim to have one father, but three mothers (all legally married to the one father).  Some simply want mother and child.

Study after study has shown that the family unit is the most stabilizing force in a society and that children who are reared with a mother and father are best positioned to be successful in life.

You can’t prevent or resolve disputes unless you have rules that have been agreed upon by society that are compatible with the values of a country.  Most Americans don’t commit crimes because we have been instilled with a sense of what is right and wrong; also because we know crimes will be met with certain punishment.

When there are disputes, you have courts, Congress, and government to turn to for redress.  Today, you have judges ignoring case law and the will of the people and injecting their personal feelings into cases such as homosexual “marriage.”  Congress is incapable of passing bipartisan legislation that is truly in the best interest of America.  Government is totally incapable of solving conflict because there is no consensus as to what the rules of engagement are.

I am a huge proponent of individual freedom, but freedom can’t exist without some agreed upon rules of engagement.  You can’t have children born as one sex and then be allowed to simply “self-identify” as to something totally different.  You can’t –  or shouldn’t – seek to become a member of, say, a Pentecostal church and then refuse to comport yourself in a manner consistent with their rules (including a prohibition against homosexuality), and then call them a bigot if they refuse you membership.

This altering of what it means to be an American will lead to our demise as a global leader. Even freedom has its orderly limitations.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is a photo of smaller chancel window depicting ‘The Life’ at Holy Trinity Church Leicester by P.J. Parkinson.

Why the Periphery Is Crumbling: The Spoils System Is Cracking

Instability starts on the periphery and moves into the core.

While it is clear that the instability in periphery nations is arising from dynamics unique to each nation, there is one unifying causal factor: the spoils system in each nation is breaking down.

Every nation-state, from brutal dictatorships to nominal democracies, ultimately depends on a spoils system that provides the various factions, classes, etc., with sufficient material and status benefits to accept the Status Quo arrangement.

The more a regime relies on oppression for its legitimacy (for example, North Korea or Saddam’s Iraq), the greater its vulnerability to erosion in the spoils system, which naturally favor the military and the regime’s Elites.

In broad brush, the spoils available for distribution are the surplus generated by the national economy. In the case of North Korea, this surplus stems from extortion (of donations from other nations), satrapy (free oil from China) and illicit activities (arms sales and counterfeiting). A common source of surplus is oil (Venezuela, Iraq, Iran) or some other desirable commodity.

The vast majority of surpluses outside oil exporting nations have been generated by three factors: cheap energy, rising productivity and the expansion of credit. If we examine periods of rapid expansion and generalized prosperity, we find these three factors were active: cheap energy, rising productivity and ample credit.

Just look at Europe and the U.S. in the 1950s and 60s, Japan in the 1960s and 70s, and China in the 1980s and 90s for examples.

Any reversal in these factors reduces surplus and the spoils being distributed.Sharply higher energy costs crimp profits and cause recessions, stagnating productivity leads to near-zero growth and institutional/state sclerosis and credit contraction leads to recession and the destruction of malinvestments.

Since ruling Elites are by definition constantly picking winners and losers, any Status Quo operated by Elites is systematically malinvesting on a gargantuan scale. This is the ontological imperative of any Elite: skim as much of the national surplus as possible and funnel it to cronies and loyal toadies. The prudent Elites (and imprudent Elites don’t last long–the spoils system is quite Darwinian) set aside enough surplus to distribute as spoils, effectively buying the complicity of key sectors, classes, factions, etc.

Thus the default policy of any ruling Elite is bread and circuses: supply the potentially disruptive masses with food and entertainment, and they’ll continue their grudging support of whatever arrangement is supplying the bread and circuses.

Any mob that appears threatening can be dissipated with a “whiff of grapeshot.”

In the U.S., the spoils system is almost unlimited: corporate welfare for capital, food stamps and SSI disability for the lumpenproletariat, big-bucks jobs as water-carriers for the Elites for technocrats in the State, finance, think tanks, elite universities and Corporate America sectors, a variety of quasi-secure lower-level positions as enforcers, lackeys, apparatchiks and factotums and a smattering of tax subsidies (mortgage interest deduction, etc.) to placate what’s left of the non-state-dependent middle class.

The spoils system is not only the foundation of every Elites’ political legitimacy, it is the thin layer of plaster that covers all the longstanding ethnic, regional, linguistic, religious and political fault lines that run beneath current nation-state arrangements.

As noted in yesterday’s entry Ukraine: A Deep State Analysis, numerous national borders were drawn after World War II (1945) with little regard for historical divisions between various groups or preceding borders.

Entire nations were penciled into existence by Imperial dictat in complete disregard for existing historical groups–Iraq and Syria being just two examples of many.

As long as the stick of repression and the carrot of the spoils system were sufficiently persuasive, the tectonic plates beneath the regime were masked. But once the spoils system and the machinery of suppression crack, the old rivalries arise anew.

The spoils system can crack for two reasons: either the national surplus declines so there simply isn’t enough spoils left to keep everyone placated, or the spoils diversion to the Elites and their cronies exceeds the tipping point of legitimacy.

Greece and Venezuela are examples of the first dynamic, and Ukraine is an example of the second dynamic. Greece essentially funded its vast spoils distribution system with borrowed money. When the regime’s free-money machine finally broke, the spoils system crashed along with the legitimacy of the Status Quo.

Venezuela is suffering a similar crash, based not on a withdrawal of credit but on the current Elites’ destruction of the nation’s oil industry and what was left of its productive private economy.

In Ukraine, the plundering of the national surplus by oligarchic Elites finally exceeded the populace’s threshold of legitimacy, and once the armed forces and police refused to murder their cousins, brothers, nieces and nephews in the streets, the Status Quo arrangement collapsed.

Now that the spoils system has crumbled, all the historical tectonics and fault lines are emerging in full force. the same can be said of Iraq and many other inherently unstable nation-states/regimes.

Why is the periphery crumbling? It’s simple: the conditions that enabled rising national surpluses and the distribution of spoils is breaking down for three reasons:

1. Energy is no longer cheap (compared to past prices)

2. The low-hanging fruit of higher productivity has all been plucked

3. The free-money flood of cheap, limitless credit is drying up

As regimes find surplus and credit are both contracting, their ability to placate every key group with spoils is also declining, and the conflicts between them can no longer be patched over with bribery or brutality.

Instability starts on the periphery and moves into the core. I have covered this in depth a number of times:

Instability Start on the Margins (October 31, 2013)

The Core-Periphery Model (June 11, 2013)

EU Leaders Throw Europe a Plutonium Life Preserver (October 27, 2011)

Everywhere, the instability from a failing spoils system is seeping from the periphery into the core: the E.U., the U.S., China and India. Two Powder Kegs Ready to Blow: China & India (January 23, 2014)

This erosion of the spoils system has a peculiar characteristic: once the old spoils system cracks and collapses, it cannot be put back together. A new arrangement arises, despite the best self-serving efforts of the current Elites.

Charles Hugh Smith – Of Two Minds