Declaring War on Americans

You have to be extremely stupid to send a couple of hundred armed government agents to confiscate some bullheaded rancher’s cattle without contemplating how the rest of the nation will interpret your actions.

What was obvious to voters who rejected Barack Obama’s run for the presidency the first and second time was the fact that he lacked any record of competency to be President. The rest voted for him because they wanted to say they helped elect the first black President of the United States and because they believed what this pathological liar said then and since.

The assertion that Obama’s and Eric Holder’s actions and policies are opposed because they are black is absurd. It is an insult to everyone who voted for Obama and to the rest of us.

I love the notion that Cliven Bundy lives in Bunkerville. It reminded me of Bunker Hill and you know how badly that eventually turned out for the British in 1775. What ensued was a guerrilla war led by George Washington that defeated the most powerful nation of its time. There is no way a militia with small arms can defeat the kind of arms the U.S. government can bring to bear on such a battle, but one has to admire the courage of those people who showed up to confront them. That’s quintessentially American!

Bundy should have paid his grazing rights fees. Other ranchers do. What he has done, however, is bring greater awareness the amount of land that the federal government owns in Nevada and elsewhere, particularly west of the Mississippi, and expose a regime that wants to intimidate Americans with force.

According to Wikipedia:

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers America’s public lands, totaling approximately 247.3 million acres, or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The BLM also manages 700 million acres (2,800,000 km) of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state, and private lands. Most public lands are located in western states, especially Alaska. With approximately 10,000 permanent employees and close to 2,000 seasonal employees, this works out to over 21,000 acres (85 km) per employee. The agency’s budget was $960,000,000 for 2010 ($3.79 per surface acre, $9.38 per hectare)

what police state poster

For a larger view click on the poster.

I can understand the need for national forests and reserves, but I have concerns that those reserves are used as an excuse to deny access to massive energy sources that lie beneath their surface. If the U.S. didn’t own most of Nevada, Bundy would not need to pay grazing fees. Most certainly, his ancestors didn’t. The other excuse, that the government is trying to protect an endangered tortoise, is just part of the environmental movement’s efforts to keep energy sources from being available to all of us. Endangered species is pure fiction.

What worries me and many of my blogger colleagues is the prospect of a renewed effort by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding what is essentially a fairly minor dispute between it and Bundy. Showing some common sense, the BLM backed off its initial effort.

I don’t think the BLM response to Bundy was exclusive to the agency. That decision needed to be sent up the line as far as the White House. Indeed, it was likely initiated by the White House.

Even more scary is the fact that only Fox News channel had reporters on the scene. No other major television news outlet set journalists to record the event. How much in league with the White House does the media have to be to ignore two hundred armed government agents descending on a ranch in Nevada?

I suspect that a lot of Americans and most certainly those who live in the rural areas of the nation are going to remember the Bundy face-off with the BLM come the November midterm elections. While most voters are crowded into the cities on the East and West Coasts, there are a lot of others in “flyover country.’

When you add in all the folks who lost their healthcare insurance and others who have discovered they can’t even buy a policy until next January, that’s going to be a voting bloc that could decimate Democratic Party candidates.

All tyrannies over-reach at some point and we are seeing that occur in the White House. The nation is fortunate to have the House controlled by Republicans and now needs a Senate as well in order to dispense some much needed justice on behalf of Americans.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the White House responds to the May 16 “Operation American Spring” being organized to bring a million or more to Washington, D.C. to participate in an event that will demonstrate the breadth of the unhappiness that has spread since Obama’s first election and is gaining momentum since his second.

The White House response will tell us all a lot about its current state of mind. Whatever it has in mind is likely to leak. The best thing about Washington, D.C. is its inability to keep a secret. The worst thing is the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

RELATED STORY: BLM Attacks Again: From One Rancher to the Next, The BLM Targets 90,000 Acres They Say Doesn’t Belong to Texas

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The Truth About the BLM – Bundy Ranch Dispute Explained

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The Patriot Factor by Bill Finley

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The New Common Core Democracy: Allowing Citizens to Speak for One Minute

Here in Georgia, politicians and state school board members did a lot of listening in the months before and after state Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) introduced his Common Core withdrawal bill. Listening sessions were held across the state in the months before the legislative session began in January. Parents testified about the crazy homework and lowered standards. Professors presented their expert opinions. Teachers who had quit because of Common Core talked about its emotional damage to kids. Tea Party activists denounced the unconstitutional federal imposition.

It made no difference. No legislation restricting Common Core passed.

I testified at one of the “listening sessions,” at a state school board meeting, and at a house education committee hearing. I said Common Core would accelerate the decay in reading and writing skills I had been seeing in college students during my 20 years of teaching English. In the minute to three minutes I was allotted each time, I explained how Common Core lowers standards by replacing literary works with short excerpts, informational texts, and videos; and focuses on “speaking and listening,” rather than reading, writing, and debating.

After all this, it occurs to me that Common Core proponents have adopted its dumbed-down “speaking and listening standards,” based on “collaborative discussions” with “diverse partners,” and little else.

These are not debating skills or even the public speaking skills. What I got at all the listening activities was a dismissive “thanks for sharing” response. Consensus with the dominant view was the goal.

It’s what Martha Reichrath, a deputy superintendent at the Georgia Department of Education meant during a September 26 debate when she made such a plea for “unification” because “the children deserve it.” “Unification,” however, comes in the adjustment to the change demanded by those in charge. (Ligon’s bill would have allowed school districts that had not yet spent money on switching over to Common Core to retain the superior Georgia Performance Standards.)

Who Is Setting the Agenda?
While parents, teachers, tea party members, and citizens were upset about Common Core as they came to realize what it really was (and were learned of its existence), those on the public payroll had their own ideas about what listening sessions should be for.

A listening session I attended on October 10 brought out public school employees expressing concern about budget shortfalls and begging for money. I think it had something to do with people like Patrick Atwater, superintendent of Tift County Schools, sending out a memo on October 1 asking for “help” regarding budget cutbacks. He reminded employees that the federal government shutdown threatened “supplemental services, many of which are jobs and or job-related.”

Around the same time I downloaded a “Listening Session Talking Points” memo from the Georgia Association of Educators. Four of the nine points were about budget issues. Members were encouraged to share personal stories about “how budget cuts are affecting your classroom.” The other points promoted Common Core, with suggestions for speaking about not “straying the course” (echoing Reichrath) and the need for testing in the “positive way” of Common Core. Teachers were advised to challenge the right of homeschooling parents to “dictate” what is taught in public schools. They were told to ask opponents for their suggested “alternatives.” (Of course, homeschooling parents who also pay for public schools are being affected; as for the “alternatives,” Ligon’s bill called for allowing school districts to return to the superior Georgia Performance Standards.)

At a Dawsonville, Georgia, “listening session” in early January, fellow college teacher Tina Trent made these observations about the majority of the politicians: “The real objective of the listening tour, of course, was to shut up opposition to Common Core by claiming they have listened to us and heard what we had to say so they can get back to doing politics without any more interference from the little people.”

As she notes, “listening sessions” are a way to avoid debate. Yet, that was all outsiders were offered. Those not financed by taxpayers or powerful foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are at a distinct disadvantage. While it would be challenging, Trent said we should build coalitions.

How ‘Democracy’ Works
I had had an introduction to how state-level decision-makers view us at a state school board meeting on November 7, 2013, at which I testified with four others. A huge clock was projected onto three walls in front of me, with the second hand ticking away the three minutes I had to speak. Those advocating for the board’s pet projects had unlimited time. These included Michelle Tarbutton Sandrock, Georgia parent engagement manager, as she talked up the upcoming Georgia Family Engagement Conference, a conference that included one-sided panel discussions promoting Common Core, as I would discover.

While there was much friendly engagement with Sandrock and others, we were politely thanked and then ignored until more than two hours later when board member Mary Sue Murray congratulated herself and fellow board members. She said, “At the risk of being maudlin. . . I think today what we saw, allowing people to speak without threat of being thrown in jail, is a perfect example of American democracy” (at around the 2:30 mark of the November 16 link). At the next board meeting in December, five people from the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL) and similar groups had their opportunity to testify in favor of Common Core. Of course, taxpayers pay for the dues and activities for “educational leaders,” like the superintendents and principals that belong to GAEL.

Rent-seekers Galore at Education Committee Meetings
On January 21, 2014, Trent and I attended a House Education Committee meeting. The chairman, Brooks Coleman, in an unusual move, asked all sitting in the audience to introduce themselves. I scribbled down organizations represented—Teach for America, League of Women Voters, EmpowerEd, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

Coleman announced he had met with the governor and that the budget “addressed everything we asked for.” (Gov. Nathan Deal, in this election year, had boosted the education budget considerably.) Coleman declared, “Good education is taking place.” Like Murray, he was “touched” by the testimony he had heard. He vowed to work with Ligon and the lieutenant governor. He promised an education bill would be passed. (Ligon attempted to restore his bill gutted by the House education committee, but it did not pass the committee.)

Again, there was much congratulation on the democratic process, on allowing citizens to speak. Coleman stated that members of House and Senate education committees had traveled more than 2,000 miles to listen at eight sessions in such places as Dahlonega, Gwinnett County, and Savannah. Out of the 180 superintendents in Georgia, 150 had attended. More than 1,400 teachers and parents had participated. Five things emerged from the testimony: 1. Concern over austerity cuts 2. Concerns about health insurance, 3. Equalization grants, 4. Common Core (superintendents were unanimously in favor; parents were split) 5. Teachers like being evaluated.

Listening to Whom?
They did “listen.” But those they heard were representatives of organizations like GAEL and those on the public payroll who toe the party line, like the superintendents. They did not ask the logical question about their boss, state Superintendent John Barge, who is running for governor, and who made an impassioned plea for Common Core at the March 5 hearing. Is it a surprise that superintendents would overwhelmingly support Common Core? Or that dissenting teachers would remain quiet?

Were parents split on Common Core? That is not the impression Trent and I had from the listening sessions, where most seemed to be alarmed about it.

Perhaps Coleman was thinking of parents on the state superintendent’s Parental Advisory Council who just might favor Common Core because of how they were chosen and where they got their information. Meeting minutes show such parents are given a slanted picture of Common Core, just as they were at theGeorgia Family Engagement Conference in January.

In the next article, I will discuss the manipulative advising of “parent advisors.”

Crichton: Environmentalism is a religion

REMARKS TO THE COMMONWEALTH CLUB

by Michael Crichton – San Francisco – September 15, 2003

I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.

We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Every one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears.

As an example of this challenge, I want to talk today about environmentalism. And in order not to be misunderstood, I want it perfectly clear that I believe it is incumbent on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment. I believe it is important to act in ways that are sympathetic to the environment, and I believe this will always be a need, carrying into the future. I believe the world has genuine problems and I believe it can and should be improved. But I also think that deciding what constitutes responsible action is immensely difficult, and the consequences of our actions are often difficult to know in advance. I think our past record of environmental action is discouraging, to put it mildly, because even our best intended efforts often go awry. But I think we do not recognize our past failures, and face them squarely. And I think I know why.

I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can’t be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people—the best people, the most enlightened people—do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday—these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don’t want to talk anybody out of them, as I don’t want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don’t want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can’t talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren’t necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It’s about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

Am I exaggerating to make a point? I am afraid not. Because we know a lot more about the world than we did forty or fifty years ago. And what we know now is not so supportive of certain core environmental myths, yet the myths do not die. Let’s examine some of those beliefs.

There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?

And what about indigenous peoples, living in a state of harmony with the Eden-like environment? Well, they never did. On this continent, the newly arrived people who crossed the land bridge almost immediately set about wiping out hundreds of species of large animals, and they did this several thousand years before the white man showed up, to accelerate the process. And what was the condition of life? Loving, peaceful, harmonious? Hardly: the early peoples of the New World lived in a state of constant warfare. Generations of hatred, tribal hatreds, constant battles. The warlike tribes of this continent are famous: the Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Mohawk, Aztecs, Toltec, Incas. Some of them practiced infanticide, and human sacrifice. And those tribes that were not fiercely warlike were exterminated, or learned to build their villages high in the cliffs to attain some measure of safety.

How about the human condition in the rest of the world? The Maori of New Zealand committed massacres regularly. The dyaks of Borneo were headhunters. The Polynesians, living in an environment as close to paradise as one can imagine, fought constantly, and created a society so hideously restrictive that you could lose your life if you stepped in the footprint of a chief. It was the Polynesians who gave us the very concept of taboo, as well as the word itself. The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. That anyone still believes it, 200 years after Rousseau, shows the tenacity of religious myths, their ability to hang on in the face of centuries of factual contradiction.

There was even an academic movement, during the latter 20th century, that claimed that cannibalism was a white man’s invention to demonize the indigenous peoples. (Only academics could fight such a battle.) It was some thirty years before professors finally agreed that yes, cannibalism does indeed occur among human beings. Meanwhile, all during this time New Guinea highlanders in the 20th century continued to eat the brains of their enemies until they were finally made to understand that they risked kuru, a fatal neurological disease, when they did so.

More recently still the gentle Tasaday of the Philippines turned out to be a publicity stunt, a nonexistent tribe. And African pygmies have one of the highest murder rates on the planet.

In short, the romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the plants in order to eat, to live. If they don’t, they will die.

And if you, even now, put yourself in nature even for a matter of days, you will quickly be disabused of all your romantic fantasies. Take a trek through the jungles of Borneo, and in short order you will have festering sores on your skin, you’ll have bugs all over your body, biting in your hair, crawling up your nose and into your ears, you’ll have infections and sickness and if you’re not with somebody who knows what they’re doing, you’ll quickly starve to death. But chances are that even in the jungles of Borneo you won’t experience nature so directly, because you will have covered your entire body with DEET and you will be doing everything you can to keep those bugs off you.

The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff. Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does. It’s all talk-and as the years go on, and the world population grows increasingly urban, it’s uninformed talk. Farmers know what they’re talking about. City people don’t. It’s all fantasy.

One way to measure the prevalence of fantasy is to note the number of people who die because they haven’t the least knowledge of how nature really is. They stand beside wild animals, like buffalo, for a picture and get trampled to death; they climb a mountain in dicey weather without proper gear, and freeze to death. They drown in the surf on holiday because they can’t conceive the real power of what we blithely call “the force of nature.” They have seen the ocean. But they haven’t been in it.

The television generation expects nature to act the way they want it to be. They think all life experiences can be tivo-ed. The notion that the natural world obeys its own rules and doesn’t give a damn about your expectations comes as a massive shock. Well-to-do, educated people in an urban environment experience the ability to fashion their daily lives as they wish. They buy clothes that suit their taste, and decorate their apartments as they wish. Within limits, they can contrive a daily urban world that pleases them.

But the natural world is not so malleable. On the contrary, it will demand that you adapt to it-and if you don’t, you die. It is a harsh, powerful, and unforgiving world, that most urban westerners have never experienced.

Many years ago I was trekking in the Karakorum mountains of northern Pakistan, when my group came to a river that we had to cross. It was a glacial river, freezing cold, and it was running very fast, but it wasn’t deep—maybe three feet at most. My guide set out ropes for people to hold as they crossed the river, and everybody proceeded, one at a time, with extreme care. I asked the guide what was the big deal about crossing a three-foot river. He said, well, supposing you fell and suffered a compound fracture. We were now four days trek from the last big town, where there was a radio. Even if the guide went back double time to get help, it’d still be at least three days before he could return with a helicopter. If a helicopter were available at all. And in three days, I’d probably be dead from my injuries. So that was why everybody was crossing carefully. Because out in nature a little slip could be deadly.

But let’s return to religion. If Eden is a fantasy that never existed, and mankind wasn’t ever noble and kind and loving, if we didn’t fall from grace, then what about the rest of the religious tenets? What about salvation, sustainability, and judgment day? What about the coming environmental doom from fossil fuels and global warming, if we all don’t get down on our knees and conserve every day?

Well, it’s interesting. You may have noticed that something has been left off the doomsday list, lately. Although the preachers of environmentalism have been yelling about population for fifty years, over the last decade world population seems to be taking an unexpected turn. Fertility rates are falling almost everywhere. As a result, over the course of my lifetime the thoughtful predictions for total world population have gone from a high of 20 billion, to 15 billion, to 11 billion (which was the UN estimate around 1990) to now 9 billion, and soon, perhaps less. There are some who think that world population will peak in 2050 and then start to decline. There are some who predict we will have fewer people in 2100 than we do today. Is this a reason to rejoice, to say halleluiah? Certainly not. Without a pause, we now hear about the coming crisis of world economy from a shrinking population. We hear about the impending crisis of an aging population. Nobody anywhere will say that the core fears expressed for most of my life have turned out not to be true. As we have moved into the future, these doomsday visions vanished, like a mirage in the desert. They were never there—though they still appear, in the future. As mirages do.

Okay, so, the preachers made a mistake. They got one prediction wrong; they’re human. So what. Unfortunately, it’s not just one prediction. It’s a whole slew of them. We are running out of oil. We are running out of all natural resources. Paul Ehrlich: 60 million Americans will die of starvation in the 1980s. Forty thousand species become extinct every year. Half of all species on the planet will be extinct by 2000. And on and on and on.

With so many past failures, you might think that environmental predictions would become more cautious. But not if it’s a religion. Remember, the nut on the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts the end of the world doesn’t quit when the world doesn’t end on the day he expects. He just changes his placard, sets a new doomsday date, and goes back to walking the streets. One of the defining features of religion is that your beliefs are not troubled by facts, because they have nothing to do with facts.

So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven’t read any of what I am about to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally don’t report them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn’t carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn’t give a damn.

I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage the US land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%. I can tell you that the Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing. I can tell you that a blue-ribbon panel in Science magazine concluded that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century. Not wind, not solar, not even nuclear. The panel concluded a totally new technology-like nuclear fusion-was necessary, otherwise nothing could be done and in the meantime all efforts would be a waste of time. They said that when the UN IPCC reports stated alternative technologies existed that could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong.

I can, with a lot of time, give you the factual basis for these views, and I can cite the appropriate journal articles not in whacko magazines, but in the most prestigeous science journals, such as Science and Nature. But such references probably won’t impact more than a handful of you, because the beliefs of a religion are not dependant on facts, but rather are matters of faith. Unshakeable belief.

Most of us have had some experience interacting with religious fundamentalists, and we understand that one of the problems with fundamentalists is that they have no perspective on themselves. They never recognize that their way of thinking is just one of many other possible ways of thinking, which may be equally useful or good. On the contrary, they believe their way is the right way, everyone else is wrong; they are in the business of salvation, and they want to help you to see things the right way. They want to help you be saved. They are totally rigid and totally uninterested in opposing points of view. In our modern complex world, fundamentalism is dangerous because of its rigidity and its imperviousness to other ideas.

I want to argue that it is now time for us to make a major shift in our thinking about the environment, similar to the shift that occurred around the first Earth Day in 1970, when this awareness was first heightened. But this time around, we need to get environmentalism out of the sphere of religion. We need to stop the mythic fantasies, and we need to stop the doomsday predictions. We need to start doing hard science instead.

There are two reasons why I think we all need to get rid of the religion of environmentalism.

First, we need an environmental movement, and such a movement is not very effective if it is conducted as a religion. We know from history that religions tend to kill people, and environmentalism has already killed somewhere between 10-30 million people since the 1970s. It’s not a good record. Environmentalism needs to be absolutely based in objective and verifiable science, it needs to be rational, and it needs to be flexible. And it needs to be apolitical. To mix environmental concerns with the frantic fantasies that people have about one political party or another is to miss the cold truth—that there is very little difference between the parties, except a difference in pandering rhetoric. The effort to promote effective legislation for the environment is not helped by thinking that the Democrats will save us and the Republicans won’t. Political history is more complicated than that. Never forget which president started the EPA: Richard Nixon. And never forget which president sold federal oil leases, allowing oil drilling in Santa Barbara: Lyndon Johnson. So get politics out of your thinking about the environment.

The second reason to abandon environmental religion is more pressing. Religions think they know it all, but the unhappy truth of the environment is that we are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving systems, and we usually are not certain how best to proceed. Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state of their knowledge. Our record in the past, for example managing national parks, is humiliating. Our fifty-year effort at forest-fire suppression is a well-intentioned disaster from which our forests will never recover. We need to be humble, deeply humble, in the face of what we are trying to accomplish. We need to be trying various methods of accomplishing things. We need to be open-minded about assessing results of our efforts, and we need to be flexible about balancing needs. Religions are good at none of these things.

How will we manage to get environmentalism out of the clutches of religion, and back to a scientific discipline? There’s a simple answer: we must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm. I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts that simply aren’t true. It isn’t that these “facts” are exaggerations of an underlying truth. Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning their case to present it in the strongest way. Not at all—what more and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple. Falsehoods that they know to be false.

This trend began with the DDT campaign, and it persists to this day. At this moment, the EPA is hopelessly politicized. In the wake of Carol Browner, it is probably better to shut it down and start over. What we need is a new organization much closer to the FDA. We need an organization that will be ruthless about acquiring verifiable results, that will fund identical research projects to more than one group, and that will make everybody in this field get honest fast.

Because in the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don’t know any better. That’s not a good future for the human race. That’s our past. So it’s time to abandon the religion of environmentalism, and return to the science of environmentalism, and base our public policy decisions firmly on that.

Thank you very much.

Florida Term Limits: Appellate court sides with Pinellas scofflaws

“Affirmed.”

That is the only explanation that the Second District Court of Appeals gave voters for their acquiescence to Pinellas County commissioners to ignore the 8-year term limits law approved overwhelmingly by voters in 1996.  The decision was rendered on April 16.

Of the 20 charter — or “home rule” — counties that have the power to customize their county government structure, 12 so far have passed term limits, mostly of the 8-year variety.  Most have enforced their term limits from day one, but a couple of recalcitrant county commissions (Sarasota and Broward, to be specific) fought them in court claiming they were unconstitutional. However, in 2012, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously decided that county commission term limits are indeed constitutional. For good measure, they also decided that constitutional officer term limits are constitutional, overturning an earlier split decision.

As a result, every term-limited county in Florida except one is enforcing their voter-approved term limits. The exception is Pinellas, and so far they are getting cover from the courts.

Why? The appellate court wouldn’t say. Perhaps this is because there is nothing to say.

It appears the courts so far have taken the position that the term limits were approved so long ago, they have never been enforced in Pinellas County, it would upset the political apple cart, it would be far easier to just let the status quo stand. Can’t we just all move on?

That is not a legal argument, of course.

The scofflaw incumbent commissioners named in the case rest their legal hat on the shaky premise that the Supreme Court effectively overturned Pinellas’ term limits law in its 2002 Cook decision which ruled constitutional officer term limits unconstitutional. That’s why the commissioners refused to place the voter-approved amendment in their charter.

Well, yes, the Pinellas law did include constitutional officers and this provision was clearly shot down, if only temporarily.

One of the problems with that argument is that the court never explicitly overturned the Pinellas law, and indeed the Cook decision didn’t even mention the issue of county commission term limits. Moreover, three other counties in which courts explicitly overturned the term limits (Sarasota, Broward and Duval) are now enforcing their limits due to the unanimous Supreme Court decision of 2012 deeming them constitutional. That includes Duval County, which was part of the Cook decision case!

How can that be squared with last week’s decision in Pinellas? It can’t — which means that the last chapter of this story is not yet written. Patrick Wheeler, who — along with Maria Scruggs — is leading this lawsuit on behalf of voters, has vowed to take this case to the next, and last, step.

Will the Supreme Court of Florida let a handful of corrupt local politicians defy its unanimous decision as well as the will of a large majority of Pinellas County voters?  I can’t imagine it. But we will find out due to the courage, honesty and persistence of citizens Wheeler and Scruggs.

The appellants are soliciting donations for legal expense. Please help. Checks can be sent to John Shahan, PA, 536 East Tarpon Avenue #3, Tarpon Springs, FL, 34689 please mark check “For Term Limits Expenses.”

Corruption in Florida Public Schools: A Perverse Disparity of Justice

On the opposite ends of Miami-Dade County, there are two high school United Teacher of Dade Building Stewards who suffered adverse action for varied reasons.

On the northern end of Miami-Dade County, Trevor Colestock, the November Watchdog Citizen Journalist, was illegally removed from Miami Norland Senior High School on October 24, 2013, for reporting a massive standardized test cheating scandal concerning industry certification exams to the Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General, the Florida Department of Education and their Office of Inspector General, and the United States Department of Education  Office of Inspector General.

The Miami-Dade OIG Final Report concluded that, “Miami Norland has benefited in the form of attaining a higher school grade and may have received financial compensation or other benefit resulting from its high pass rate on the industry certification exams” (page 13).

With the assistance of cheating, undertaken by Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin and Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, Miami Norland’s school grade went from a “C” for the 2010-11 school year to an “A” for the 2011-12 school year.

As a result, total federal funds (SIG, RTTT) given out due to a grade influenced by cheating was $100,560; the total state funds per FSRP was between $130,000- $140,000; the total overall combined federal and state incentive funds were $230,560- $240,560.

Each teacher at Miami Norland Senior High School received $1730.41 from all three payouts.

For his efforts in reporting and uncovering this scandal as a citizen journalist, Mr. Colestock lost his job as the Library Media Specialist and as a union steward at Miami Norland Senior High School as in currently suing the School Board of Miami-Dade County in state court.

Meanwhile, one of the teachers, Emmanuel Fleurantin (union member), has been suspended pending termination, whereas the other teacher that was involved, Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, returned back to work at Norland on January 8, 2014, after a 30 day suspension without pay.

Mr. Reginald Lee was the assistant principal over the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department during and after the Adobe industry certification exam cheating incident for the 2011-2012 school year. Over the summer of 2012, he was made principal of Charles Drew Middle School, as the investigation was going on. The superintendent brought Lee back to be principal at Norland SHS school in late November 2012.

Most crimes, such as theft and homicide, have varying degrees; test cheating does not and state law is straightforward and clear. In any given instance of test cheating, a role is a role; there is no distinguishing a major role from a minor role. Either one was involved or they were not.

Both Mr. Fleurantin and Mrs. Muchnick, according to the Miami-Dade OIG Final Report, allegedly “knowingly and willfully” violated test security rules irrespective of quantity of students in their respective roles.

When one reads that document and the Department of Administrative Hearings brief, issued by the School Board Attorney on January 8, 2014, justifying Mr. Fleurantin’s termination, one can reasonably conclude that Mrs. Muchnick is equally culpable and a reasonable person would think her employment was up for termination as well.

In the meanwhile, the State of Florida or the USDOE, not to mention the Miami-Dade State Attorney and/or the U.S. District Attorney, declined to take action even though various crimes appear to have taken place akin to the test cheating scandals in Georgia and Texas, which have landed school administrators and teachers in jail.

In Georgia, the state went after the cheaters in the Atlanta test cheating scandal which nabbed the superintendent, Beverly Hall, who like the Miami-Dade Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, is a recipient of the National Superintendent of Year award and close to President Obama.

The Federal and Florida state officials were nowhere to be found.

In Texas, the FBI directed the test cheating investigation which nabbed the El Paso superintendent, Lorenzo Garcia.

In October 2012, Lorenzo Garcia, former superintendent of the El Paso Independent School District, was sentenced by a federal judge to three and a half years in prison for his participation in a conspiracy, along with other district and school administrators, to improve the district’s high-stakes tests scores, as measured by state assessments, by identifying and removing low-performing students from participating in testing.

As part of his plea deal, Mr. Garcia also was ordered to pay $180,000 in restitution and fined $56,500 – the amount he received as a bonus from the district for its success on test scores.

Were the FBI involved in Texas, but not Georgia and Florida, as both the Atlanta and Miami–Dade superintendents with test cheating scandals were close to President Obama and supporters of his education policies?

In particular, Alberto Carvalho appointed by former Governor Charlie Crist as the Race To The Top Working Group Chairman for Florida and a strong Common Core supporter.

Too bad that Florida Governor Rick Scott did not exercise leadership, like former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, seeking prosecution against the Miami-Dade test cheaters as Perdue did in the Atlanta test cheating case.

Moreover, how does President Obama’s Federal Government prosecute test cheaters in El Paso; former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell for taking a loan from a friend without breaking any state laws; and Governor Chris Christie for a bridge closure in New Jersey but not investigate and prosecute the two identified test cheaters, Emmanuel Fleurantin and Brenda Muchnick, and possibly unknown others, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which led to a payout of close to $250,000 in state, federal, and corporate (test vendor Certiport) incentives?

On the southern end of Miami-Dade County, Christine Kirchner, Language Arts teacher and union steward at Coral Reef Senior High School, as well as an Obama supporter, made students uncomfortable by discussing sex, simulating orgasms, and gave students massages according to a Florida Department of Education ethics complaint.

Unlike Mr. Colestock and Mr. Fleurantin, Mrs. Kirchner is an Executive Board member of the United Teachers of Dade and was represented by a Florida Education Association attorney who arranged a settlement with the Florida Department of Education in which she was reprimanded, given two years of probation, paid a $500 fine, but got to keep her job.

To regain their jobs, Mr. Colestock and Mr. Fleurantin had to hire outside counsel.

Mr. Fleurantin had to retain an attorney for his DOAH hearing, though he was a union member.  The union should stand by its members in times of trouble; though Mr. Fleurantin’s termination is justified, he should still be entitled to legal representation from the union.

Apparently, being one of 22 UTD vice presidents (Executive Board members) has its perks as exemplified by Mrs. Kirchner. ‘

Too bad Mr. Colestock or Mr. Fleurantin were not on the United Teachers of Dade Executive Board as they could have kept their jobs like Mrs. Kirchner.

How else can it be explained?

How does an upright steward, Mr. Colestock, who clearly was in the right, lose his job and union steward position when he did nothing wrong and Mrs. Muchnick and Mrs. Kirchner, who engaged in reprehensible behavior, keep theirs?

Furthermore, two UTD members, Linda Garcia (Reading Coach) and Mary Morcos (English teacher) at Miami Norland Senior High School engaged in a professional development scandal last November in which Ms. Garcia gave Mrs. Morcos seven Master Plan Points while she taught a course- the exact same day.

Thus far, no action has been taken against them.

For its part, the United Teachers of Dade has been stunningly silent for varied reasons, thereby failing to advocate for Mr. Colestock and the faculty and students at Miami Norland Senior High School and colluding with the school district to cover this affair up, by being silent. UTD defended Mrs. Kirchner by quietly arranging a settlement with the FEA and FLDOE and shielding her from attention and the limelight.

Enid Weisman, the Chief Capital Human Officer for M-DCPS, is responsible for disciplinary practices in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

She led the effort to remove Mr. Colestock from Norland; fired Mr. Fleurantin while reinstating Mrs. Muchnick at Norland though they both were charged by M-DCPS with the same offenses word for word; and she does nothing to Mrs. Morcos, Ms. Garcia, or Mrs. Kirchner when action is clearly warranted.

In February, her office mishandled the Race To The Top payouts which shortchanged teachers $2 million.  Though she has a troubling record at M-DCPS, she is running for the post of Mayor for the City of Aventura.

Is this a classic case of screw up and move up?!

As exemplified by Mr. Lee, Mrs. Kirchner, Mrs. Weisman, Mrs. Morcos, and Ms. Garcia, meritocracy seems to be dead in M-DCPS, while corruption abounds.

And they teach and lead children.

No wonder why we have cheating scandals that plagued the U.S. nuclear force of the Air Force or the Navy.

The military has accountability as officers have lost their jobs.

Will accountability ever take hold in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for the sake of the children they have sworn to serve and the country?

Miami-Dade is Florida’s largest school district and the fourth largest in the U.S.

Ignoring corruption in the Miami-Dade County Public School District sends a message to all the other sixty-six school districts. That message can be detrimental to our children, undermine trust in our public schools system and soil Florida’s credibility.

Bring Back the House Un-American Activities Committee

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Alger Hiss standing behind Stalin, Roosevelt & Churchill at Yalta conference, USSR 1945. Click on photo for a larger view.

In the years immediately following World War II, most American were understandably  concerned about Communist infiltration at the highest levels of the U.S. government.  For example, how could anyone forget the photograph taken at the Yalta Conference, February 4-11, 1945, in which Alger Hiss, a deep-cover Soviet agent, was seen leaning over FDR’s shoulder, whispering advice to him as he negotiated with Churchill and Stalin?  Hiss served as Roosevelt’s senior advisor on political affairs.

Roosevelt arrived in Yalta carrying copies of the Morgenthau Plan, which advocated that the post-war occupation of Germany include measures to eradicate Germany’s ability to wage war, and to remove or destroy other key industries basic to military strength.  The Morgenthau Plan was the brainchild of yet another deep-cover Soviet spy in the highest echelons of the Roosevelt administration, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Harry Dexter White.

But it was not until the Cold War and the US-Soviet arms race became a fact of life that most Americans became fully aware of the dangers of Soviet expansionism and the extent to which Soviet agents had infiltrated the U.S. government.  It was then that Congress took steps to facilitate the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), created in 1938, with the passage of the Communist Control Act of 1954, and similar measures.

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Alger Hiss shaking hands with new President Truman at first United Nations conference, USA 1945. For a larger view click on photo.

The HUAC was abolished in 1975, but now, in the early years of the 21st century, we find ourselves confronted by an enemy every bit as ruthless as the enemies we faced in World War II and the Cold War, but far more numerous.  If, as some Muslim apologists suggest, only 5 percent of the world’s Muslim population are radicalized, the number of potential airplane hijackers, suicide bombers, and jihadists we face is approximately 70 million.  In World War II, the combined military forces of the Germans, Japanese, and Italians numbered only 31.4 million.

A recent article in Investor’s Business Daily, describes the recent formation of the United States Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO).  It provides a clear insight into how far Muslim infiltration of the U.S. has advanced.  The report tells us that, “With an eye toward the 2016 election, the radical Muslim Brotherhood has built the framework for a political party in America that seeks to turn Muslims into an Islamist voting bloc.”

IBD cautions, “This development bears careful monitoring in light of the U.S. Brotherhood’s recently exposed goal of waging a ‘civilization jihad’ against America that explicitly calls for infiltrating the U.S. political system and ‘destroying (it) from within.’ ”  The IBD article explains that this subversive plan was spelled out in hundreds of pages of documents seized by the FBI during a raid on a Muslim Brotherhood leader’s home in a Washington suburb after 9/11.

The article goes on to quote Nihad Awad, Founder and Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as saying, “Muslim voters have the potential to be swing voters in 2016.  We are aiming to bring more participation from the Muslim community.”

One might ask, “Is that a proffer, available to the highest bidder?” Liberals and Democrats have always been known for their willingness to embrace almost any special interest agenda so long as that special interest brings enough money and votes to the table. Is it possible that they might be tempted to adopt the cause of radical Islam, ignoring the fact that they and their families are as much targets of radical Islam as conservatives and Republicans?

The Democratic Party has been very successful at tap-dancing around the disparate interests of a large coalition of special interests, each demanding some self-serving policy or program from government.  However, it is probably too much of a stretch to think that they would be so reckless as to adopt the anti-American, counter-cultural, agenda of radical Islam.  Given the danger that radical Islam represents, they would do so at their own peril.  Even they are smart enough to understand that an ant should not contemplate swallowing an elephant.

Such was the case when the Communist Control Act of 1954 was under consideration.  The Communist threat during the early years of the Cold War led most liberals to overlook the fact that the CCA suspended citizenship rights of Communist Party members.  Few liberals and Democrats offered more than token opposition; most ardently supported the CCA, as they did the unconscionable internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The Communist Control Act of 1954 made membership in the Communist Party a criminal act, conviction of which carried a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment for five years, or both.  However, it should be noted that, while no administration has ever attempted to enforce it, the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of the CCA.  Provisions of the act outlawing the Communist Party have not been repealed and could easily be customized in our efforts to protect our country and our culture from the internal threat posed by radical Islam.

Reading Section 2 of the CCA, it is easy to see how the act could be tailored to meet the threat of Islamic jihad. By removing references to Communists and the Communist Party and substituting references to Islam, Section 2 of the Act could be paraphrased to read as follows:

Sec. 2. The Congress hereby finds and declares that Islam, although purportedly a religious sect, is in fact an instrumentality of a conspiracy to overthrow the government of the United States.  It constitutes an authoritarian dictatorship within a republic, demanding for itself the rights and privileges accorded to individuals of other religious denominations, but denying to all others the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.  Unlike political parties, which evolve their policies and programs through public means, the policies and programs of Islam are secretly prescribed by the foreign leaders of Islam.  Its members have no part in determining its goals and are not permitted to voice dissent to Muslim objectives.  Unlike members of political parties, members of the Islamic community are recruited for indoctrination with respect to Islamic objectives and are organized, instructed, and disciplined to carry out assignments given them by their leaders, including the order to kill and maim innocent men, women, and children by acting as suicide bombers.  Unlike political parties, Islamic jihad acknowledges no constitutional or statutory limitations upon its conduct or upon that of its members.  As a segment of the U.S. population, Islam is relatively small numerically and gives scant indication of its capacity ever to attain its ends by lawful political means.  The peril inherent in the existence of Islam arises not from its numbers, but from its failure to acknowledge any limitation as to the nature of its activities, and its dedication to the proposition that the present constitutional government of the United States ultimately must be brought to ruin by any available means, including resort to force and violence.  Holding that doctrine, its role as the agency of a hostile foreign power renders its existence a clear present and continuing danger to the security of the United States.  It is the means whereby individuals are seduced into the service of Islam, trained to do its bidding, and directed and controlled in the conspiratorial performance of their revolutionary services.  Therefore, the organization known as Islam shall be outlawed in the United States.

As the prominent sociologist, Ernest van den Haag said at the time of passage of the CCA, there is “no place in a democracy for those who want to abolish [it], even with a peaceful vote.”  Nor is there a place in a democracy for Islamists who acknowledge no respect for U.S. constitutional principles or the rule of law.

Perhaps the next Republican president will sign legislation expanding the Communist Control Act of 1954 to cover the activities of radical Islam.  His signing statement might echo President Eisenhower’s CCA signing statement of August 24, 1954, declaring, “The American people are determined to eliminate from their midst organizations which, purporting to be “religious,” in the accepted sense of that term, are actually conspirators dedicated to the destruction of our form of government by violence and force…”

The Muslim infiltration of old Europe is such that some very old cultures are in serious danger of extinction. In Sweden, for example, one in every four Swedish women are victims of sexual assault, while more than three out of four convicted rapists in Sweden are Muslim immigrants from North African nations. They demonstrate no respect whatsoever for the people or the laws of nations that have thrown their doors open to them, making the great liberal experiment in multiculturalism a complete failure.

Radical Islam poses a clear and present danger to the lives and property of the American people, and to the continued existence of western civilization.  So that the American people can be fully cognizant of the subversive activities of Islamic jihad and to the dangers posed thereby, the Congress should take immediate steps to outlaw Islamic fundamentalism and to document its eradication by reestablishing the House Un-American Activities Committee.

It matters little to Muslims whether the conquest of the West takes 10 years, 100 years, or 1,000 years.  They have endless patience and the only way to deal with the threat is to confront it courageously and forthrightly.  Islam must be made to understand that they will never gain full  acceptance in the Western world until such time as they renounce all forms of violence against non-Muslims, and Christians, Jews, and other religious denominations are accorded full religious freedom throughout the Muslim world.  That is the line in the sand that must be drawn… nothing less will suffice.

RELATED STORY: Material Support to Terrorism: The Case of Libya

EDITORS NOTE:  The featured photo of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s sons, Robert, 6 (left) and Michael, 10, looking at a 1953 newspaper is courtesy of the New York Times . The Rosenberg sons finally admitted in 2008, based on new testimony, that their father was in fact a Soviet spy.

Now Is The Time For Congress To Pass The FairTax by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (FL-4)

With America’s April 15 tax filing day just a couple days behind us, I must reiterate my strong support for passage of the FairTax Act of 2013. American individuals and businesses spend roughly $265 billion and over 6 billion hours every year filing their tax returns.

This costly and complicated tax code has grown to over 3.8 million words and over 70,000 pages of burdensome regulations and loopholes. This amount of time and money can be better spent on growing the economy and creating jobs, and implementing the FairTax would help do just that.

Americans deserve to keep more of their paycheck in their wallets and bank accounts. The FairTax replaces the current federal tax code with a national sales tax on all goods and services sold in the United States. Federal income taxes, FICA payroll taxes, and the death tax would all be eliminated, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would no longer be needed as the states would be in charge of collecting all revenue.

As Chairman of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, my Subcommittee directly oversees the IRS budget. The IRS plays a critical role in our nation’s tax administration by providing services to help Americans comply with their tax obligations and pursuing those who are not paying their fair share.

However, the IRS is encumbered with the large task of processing over 237 million tax returns that result in the collection of $2.5 trillion in taxes and $373 billion in refunds annually for a price of over $11 billion annually in hard-earned taxpayer dollars. These are billions of dollars that Americans don’t need to be sending to Washington to fund big and costly government programs.

The FairTax protects the poor and treats everyone equally: no exemptions, no exclusions, no advantages.

People would be allowed to keep their entire paycheck and spend hard-earned dollars on ways that best suit them. In addition, consumers would see savings in the price of goods and services from no longer required hidden business taxes. And on the business side of the equation, labor costs are lowered by eliminating payroll taxes and allowing businesses to hire more workers.

A tax code that is simpler, fairer, and more competitive is what our country needs to spur economic growth. By adding the FairTax to the equation we give individuals, families, and businesses yet another tool to achieve economic peace of mind now and in the future.

In the end, citizens in Florida and across the country know best how to spend their money and deserve to keep more of it in their wallets and bank accounts. Congress needs to take action to make responsible fiscal policy changes that will help strengthen our Nation’s future. That means passing the FairTax sooner rather than later.

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FairTax Volunteer Spotlight – Tax Day

California volunteer State Director, Jim Donnell sent us a note about a Tax Day rally at the California State Capitol:

“The FairTax booth was a popular spot. We had over 90 people sign post cards to be sent off to their representatives in Congress urging them to support the FairTax. We handed out well over 100 FairTax fliers and handed out a bunch of FairTax pens. All in all we felt it was a very successful day. I also had an opportunity to speak to the crowd for about 10 minutes after which we had people lined up two and three deep wanting more information.

CA Tax DayHearty thanks to Jim and fellow FairTax volunteers John Depue, Frank Wagener, Kenneth Smith and Maxine Rodowicz for working so hard to make the event happen!The FairTax In the Media

Bi-partisanship and the tax code – Shreveport Times

…Obama, Speaker John Boehner and others all the way down on both sides of the aisle give the same talking points on the need for comprehensive tax reform. “We need to close loopholes.” “We need to make it more transparent.” “We need to simplify.”..

The Fair Tax Act is a bill currently in Congress that would do just that…

Well, if this is so good, why hasn’t Congress done it?

This goes back to the bi-partisan effort I started with. Those in leadership have too much invested in the tax code to let it go easily. They may bicker over many things, but even when their side is not in power, they can’t let it go hoping that they will have their turn again. The only two classes that truly exist are the political elite, and the rest of us. This is why “we the people” no matter our other issues or disagreements, must be non-partisan on this, and force them to do what is right.

Isn’t it time you got involved?

Town hall meeting focuses on tax reform – WHIZ News

A town hall meeting proposed the idea that the current tax system is flawed and a tax reform is needed.

The forum debated the difference between a flat tax and a fair tax. Speakers on both sides agreed that the forum will hopefully act as a way to change the tax system.

“This is a replacement for the system that’s already there, the federal income tax. What we propose to do under the fair tax is eliminate the income tax and eliminate the IRS and replace it with one simple retail sales tax,” said Steve Curtis, State Director with Americans for Fair Tax Ohio…

Curtis adds, “Our objective is to help people understand just how bad of a situation we’re in and give them an alternative.”

Understanding The FairTax Webinar

With April’s Additional Topic: The effect on seniors and retired people.

When: Thursday, April 24, 2014

Time: 8 pm Eastern, 7 pm Central, 6 pm Mountain, 5 pmPacific

Where: At your personal computer, anywhere!

Why: To provide a LIVE, interactive forum for people who cannot get to local meetings to learn about the FairTax and to present special topics that are frequently misunderstood or not generally discussed.

Who: Join Marc Manieri, Webinar Producer & Host from Orlando, Florida. Our webinars are vital to educating honest tax payers. We help build the knowledge base of those on the front lines as well as those wanting to know what the FairTax is about.

Join: To participate, register here and watch for the confirmation email. For more information contact Larry Walters at repeal_16@earthlink.net

RELATED STORY: IRS Caught in Bed With DOJ: New Documents Reveal Lerner Conspired with DOJ to Prosecute Conservative Groups

Defendant asks judge to postpone lawsuit seeking to impose same-sex marriage on Floridians

Judge Sarah ZabelHomosexual activists and progressive liberals filed the following lawsuits this year seeking to impose same-sex marriage on Floridians:

  • On January 21, 2014, six same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in state court against Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of the Court in Miami-Dade Circuit, for refusing to issue marriage licenses to the couples.   The case styled as Pareto v. Ruvin was assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel.
  • On February 28, 2014, a same-sex couple from Florida who married in Canada in 2009 filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.  The case styled as Brenner v. Scott was assigned to Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle.
  • On March 13, 2014 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Miami-Dade LGBT group SAVE [50] and eight same-sex couples married in other states asking the courts to order Florida to recognize their marriages.  Governor Rick Scott and three other state officials are listed as defendants.  The case was assigned to Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle.
  • On April 3, 2014, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones filed suit against the County Clerk of Monroe County after they were denied a marriage license.   The case has been assigned to Monroe County Chief Judge David Audlin.

These lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the Florida Constitutional amendment which defines marriage as only between one man and one woman as well as F.S. 741.212 entitled Marriages between persons of the same sex which prohibits same-sex marriage.

Floridians voted 4,890,883 (61.92%) to 3,008,026 (38.08%) on November 4, 2008 to amend the Florida Constitution with:   SECTION 27 of the Florida Constitution states:  Marriage defined. — Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.   

Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of the Court in Miami-Dade, (defendant in the first case) filed a Motion to Abate the lawsuit.  The motion to abate states in part:

  • This action, like the Federal Litigation, involves questions of federal law, in particular, whether the provisions of the Florida Statutes and the Florida Constitution that prohibit recognition of same-sex marriage violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This action, like the Federal Litigation, was brought pursuant to federal law, i.e., 42U.S.C.§ 1983.  There are no state law questions raised in this action that can be resolved independently of the federal law questions, the same questions that have been advanced in the Federal Litigation.
  • Like the Plaintiffs in this action, the plaintiffs in the Federal Litigation seek to have the court enter a declaratory judgment that § 741.212, Fla. Stat and Fla. Const. Art. I, § 27 violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  • Based on the identical federal law questions raised in this action and the Federal Litigation, the subject matter of this action is essentially the same as the subject matter of the Federal Litigation.
  • The Clerk, a County officer, is the only defendant named in the Plaintiffs’ Complaint in this action. In contrast, the Grimsley Litigation names state officials Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pamela Bondi, Surgeon General/Secretary of Health John Armstrong and Department of Management Services Secretary Craig Nichols.  Similarly, the Brenner Litigation names as defendants the Governor and the Attorney General.
  • Unlike the Clerk, the named defendants in the Federal Litigation are state officials who have an actual, present, adverse and antagonistic interest in the subject matter of the Federal Litigation.
  • Unlike the Clerk, the named state defendants are not ministerial County officers and have standing to challenge or defend the validity of a provision of a Florida Statute or the Florida Constitution.
  • Therefore, unlike the Clerk, the defendants in the Federal Litigation are in a position to fully brief the federal law questions at issue in both the Federal Litigation and this action.
  • By abating this action pending resolution of the Federal Litigation, this Court will benefit from the full briefing of these important Constitutional issues by governmental advocates representing the State of Florida, instead of having only the Plaintiffs’ briefing on the merits of their arguments that the challenged provisions of the Florida Statutes and the Florida Constitution violate the United States Constitution.

Additionally, abating this litigation will save hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars by eliminating duplicitous lawsuits that require a government legal defense.

7,898,909 Floridians voted on this important public policy.  Therefore, the fullest Due Process should be afforded this matter.  Denying the fullest Due Process would only diminish a fair image of the court by the public.  The Motion to Abate is scheduled to be heard on April 23, 2014.

If Circuit Court Judge Sara Zabel grants the Motion to Abate in Pareto v. Ruvin then this case will not be litigated in her court until after the challenge is thoroughly vetted in federal court and U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle issues his ruling.

HOWEVER, if Circuit Court Judge Sara Zabel denies the motion to abate then in all likelihood she intends to strike down the Florida Marriage Protection Act.

Florida Family Association has prepared an email for you to send that urges Circuit Court Judge Sara Zabel to grant the Clerk of the Court’s motion to abate.

To send your email, please click the following link, enter your name and email address then click the “Send Your Message” button. You may also edit the subject or message text if you wish.

If you wish click here to send your email urging Circuit Court Judge Sara Zabel to grant the Clerk of the Court’s motion to abate.

Florida Senate Passes Textbook Review Legislation

Aya Sewell, Sarasota Citizen Activist in 2010 Protests Houghton Mifflin textbook World History: Patterns of Interaction

textbooks

Click on image for a larger view.

In Tallahassee, on April 11, 2014, the Republican controlled  Florida Senate passed SB 864 sponsored by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) by a narrow vote of 21 to 19. The measure would eliminate State Department of Education control over selection of textbooks returning that role to Florida’s 67 school districts, requiring open public hearing on texts used in courses.  The bill reflected in part concerns of conservative Groups over the Common Core Curriculum State Standards, sponsored by the National Association of Governors and Council of Chief State School Officers  seeking to impose national standards. Despite that criticism the Common Core has been adopted in Forty-four states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).

However, SB 864 was largely prompted by a different issue; objections of parental groups in several Florida counties in about the treatment of Islam and Muslim culture in world history textbooks on the Florida State Department of Education list of approved texts.  A companion bill (HB 921) is working its way  through the Florida House sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton.  That version would provide a local option to districts to review texts; however, the selections must still meet state standards. Gaetz was quoted in a News Herald editorial saying: “I think there’s an increasing frustration by parents in our state, that they don’t have a lot of say regarding the content and materials their children use in the classroom.”

Local advocates here in Florida drew attention to misrepresentations of Islam in protests in Volusia, Brevard and Sarasota Counties. Our Iconoclast post on the subject, “Sarasota, Florida’s biased Islam textbook problem”,  highlighted the relentless efforts of citizen activist Aya Sewell. Ms. Sewell is of Iraqi Jewish  heritage, members of her family were  subject to a 1941 pogrom against the Jewish population in Baghdad, the Farhud.  Sewell led a campaign against such texts locally in Sarasota, as well as before the Florida Department of Education.  Elsewhere in the US, Tennessee parents have also raised objections to similar course material extolling Palestinian suicide bombers. Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) in Boston accused the Newton, Massachusetts school board and superintendent for permitting use of texts and course materials that engage in promoting false information regarding both Islam and demonization of Israel.  APT undertook content and bias analysis and promoted their findings that included placing ads in local area media and a petition campaign.

An article in the current edition of Education Week noted the debate over the pending Florida textbook legislation:

[Sen. ]Hays said the legislation was needed so that school board members will be accountable to parents and voters. He said school board members have blamed the state for the textbooks they picked.

“This bill imposes on the local school board members the responsibility and accountability to their citizens,” Hays said.

Opponents complained it would cost districts money to review textbooks. Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said she was worried that some districts would wind up censoring some books, while other senators raised questions about whether districts would pick textbooks aligned to the state’s current standards.

Even Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart questioned Hays’ bill.

“From a practical standpoint it lifts a burden from us,” Stewart said. “But we heard loud and clear from districts that they rely on (the state review). They need that. They don’t have the resources to be able to do that.”

Following the Florida Senate vote on SB 864, CAIR-Florida unleashed an ad hominem campaign against Sen. Hays.  CAIR  undertook  an Action Campaign sending  Florida  Legislators an inflammatory Daily Beast  opinion column by Dean Obeidallah, that headlined, “Islamophobic Florida Republican Would Legalize Textbook Censorship”. Obeidallah  (which  means “little servant of God in Arabic”) is a former  lawyer,  self-styled Arab American stand up comic,  son of a Palestinian father and mother of Sicilian ancestry who grew up in Paramus, New Jersey.  Self proclaimed Muslim Obeidallah has been involved in several controversial issues including an apology to the Romney family.  CAIR, a Muslim Brotherhood front group, was listed as one of several unindicted co-conspirators in the 2008 Federal Dallas Holy Land Foundation Trial involving funneling tens of millions to Hamas, an MB affiliate.

This latest action by CAIR-Florida  followed earlier criticism of  SB 386, also sponsored by Sen. Hays,  on the acceptance of foreign laws in certain cases by Florida’ s court system as “bullying  legislation against Muslims and other minorities”.  Both  SB 386  and companion house  version (HB903) are currently pending floor votes in both the Senate and  House prior to the end of the 2014 Legislative session on May 2nd in Tallahassee.

To illustrate the concerns of  Floridians that prompted  Sen. Hays  and Rep. Gaetz  to sponsor SB 864 and HB 921, we  investigated  an assessment  performed  by  Jacksonville-based Verity Educate  (VE) of  one the texts on the approved list of the Florida State Department of Education. It was  Houghton Mifflin  Harcourt, Holt McDougal high school  text book called World History: Patterns of Interaction.  VE is a non-partisan, independent organization that uses scholars to examine and provide thorough reports on content accuracy and objectivity in textbooks and curricular material.   VE has performed such assessments at the request of parental groups in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas.

A letter we requested from the executive director of VE, Dr. Ellen R. Wald, noted the scope of their investigation of the Houghton Mifflin high school textbook:

Verify Educate examined the 2012 Tennessee edition of  World History: Patterns of Interaction. Verify Educate’s analysis concerned only the sections of the book dealing with the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as other related topics, including certain events in India, Spain, the United States, and the region around the Black Sea. This was done at the request of parents who specifically felt that their backgrounds were insufficient to examine these topics.

VE’s findings from its analysis  are:

The reviewed sections of this textbook exhibit regular flaws of factual inaccuracy, dishonesty, and bias. The primary concern with this textbook is the desire to make arguments and instill opinions in the students. These arguments come at the expense of instilling a fluency in the material (a knowledge of the language and facts). An additional effect of the focus on arguments is the lost opportunity for students to practice and develop critical thinking skills.

The most prevalent flaws in this textbook include the following:

  • The text presents religious texts and tradition as historical evidence even absent independent corroboration. The text regularly uses the Koran and other religious writings to relate events as history and fails to mention when no independent corroboration from sources outside the religion exists. In most cases the text fails to differentiate between history and religious tradition.
  • The text portrays religion as the defining characteristic of the Middle East and Central Asia throughout history, such that essentially all accomplishments and events are based on religion. Among the detrimental effects of this argument are lost opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking, distorted views of history, and the denigration of the inhabitants of this region. Limiting the basis for the history of the Middle East and Central Asia to a narrow focus on religion disparages and demeans the people, politics, geography, and historical events that occurred, particularly when religion is not highlighted in other regions.
  • The text repeatedly asserts that the religion of Islam dictates “tolerance” of non Muslims and that Muslim rulers have historically practiced “tolerance” towards the non-Muslim populations under their rule. This argument is promoted at the expense of examining historical facts honestly and fostering critical thinking. Students are presented with a conclusion and historical facts are often manipulated or stripped of nuance to convince students, even in cases when this conclusion is false. The focus on religious “tolerance” is unique to the sections of the text discussing Islam, and it  borders on obsession and bias.
  • The text depicts the depth and breadth of “Muslim contributions” as unique in history and as the result of Islam. In this regard, the text consistently attributes the successes of diverse societies to religion alone, even when these societies are geographically dispersed and chronologically distant. For example, the text connects the mathematical advances of a 9th century Spanish mathematician to the architectural exploits of a 17th century Mughal emperor in India based solely on their religion. The diverse Muslim populations over a 1500-year period do not constitute one society. In addition, the attention devoted to “Muslim contributions” far surpasses the attention given to any other society’s accomplishments.

That leads to the question of who wrote such misleading entries about Islam that the VE analysis  uncovered in the Houghton Mifflin publication.

One of those groups relied on by major textbook publishers is the Council on Islamic Education  known as the Institute on Religious and Civic Values (IRCV). Its founder, Shabbir Mansuri, is listed as an academic reviewer on a textbook used in Brevard County.

In 2001 the OC Weekly newspaper in California interviewed Mansuri about comments Lynne Cheney made lamenting the amount of time schools were spending teaching cultures that were not American. Mansuri took her comments as a personal attack.

“For the past 11 years, Mansuri has waged what he calls a ‘bloodless’ revolution: promoting an increased emphasis on world cultures and faiths – including Islam – inside American junior high and high school campuses,” the newspaper reported.

The IRCV had Saudi funding to pay Muslim scholars writing those chapters in the Prentice Hall, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin and other world history text  books.

Back in 2002,  this writer  ran interference for the American Jewish Committee chapter in Connecticut in an episode involving federal funding of a Da’wa program on Islam run with Muslim instructors as a summer program for public high school teachers at a state university.   During that episode we made the acquaintance of Stanley Kurtz  of the Hoover Institute at the time on this issue. Kurtz wrote a series of investigative articles for the NRO about the Title VI USDOE Higher Education Act grants for Middle East Studies programs dominated by Islam and Palestinian apologists. Universities, as Kurtz pointed out who benefitted from US Higher Education Act Title VI grants were engaged in preparation of work books for teachers in K-12 that engaged in role playing for fourth graders costumed as Arabs.

That effort led us to the forensic reviews –Islam in the Classroom – conducted by Dr. Gilbert T. Sewall of the American Textbook Council (ATC) on world history texts produced by the four major US textbook publishers.  Sewall  found those treatments biased   and in some cases prepared by the Saudi-financed and California based  IRVC. We later found out that effort had begun in the “image studies” funded by American oil partners of ARAMCO  in the early 1970’s objected to in the mid 1980’s  by a  study conducted by a school district in Tucson, Arizona.   The latest edition of the continuing ATC review of  Islam in the Classroom What the Texts Tell us by Dr. Sewall  was published in 2008.  Its conclusions corroborate the findings  of  Dr. Wald’s analysis in the VE report. To wit:

  • Many political and religious groups try to use the textbook process to their advantage, but the deficiencies in Islam-related lessons are uniquely disturbing. History textbooks present an incomplete and conflicted view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security.
  • Misinformation about Islam is more pronounced in junior high school textbooks than high school textbooks.
  • Outright textbook errors about Islam are not the main problem. The more serious failure is the presence of disputed definitions and claims that are presented as established facts.
  • Deficiencies about Islam in textbooks copyrighted before 2001 persist and in some cases have grown  worse. Instead of making corrections or adjusting contested facts, publishers and editors defend misinformation and content evasions against the record. Biases persist. Silences are profound and intentional.
  • Islamic activists use multiculturalism and ready-made American political movements, especially  those on  campus,  to  advance and  justify  the makeover of Islam-related textbook content.
  • Particular fault  rests  with  the publishing  corporations,  boards  of  directors,  and executives who decide what editorial policies their companies will pursue.

Publishers have developed new world and U.S. history textbooks at three different grade levels. Errors about Islam that occurred in older textbooks have not been corrected but reiterated. Publishers have learned of contested facts and have had the time to correct imbalances. But instead of making changes, they have sustained errors or, in deliberate acts of self censorship, have removed controversial material.

In an interview, Dr. Wald of VE analyzed the effects of  Florida Senate Bill SB 864 :

While SB 864 leaves all of the Florida state standards intact, and even highlights further standards to ensure fairness to all ethnic, religious, and diversity groups, the bill provides for parents and communities to have a greater say in the local education system.  Given that the standards are maintained, I can’t see how this bill could engender any more censorship than would come out of the current state review process.  In fact, the bill has the potential to severely decrease censorship.  Whereas now the state board can reject material for the entire state, under this bill, each community would make its own decision, and a rejection would only impact that community.

We commend Florida Sen. Alan Hays and Rep. Matt Gaetz for their sponsorship of  SB 864 and HB 921. Given the analyses of Drs. Wald of Verity Educate and Dr. Sewall of American Textbook Council  Florida may lead the nation to reign in the misleading depiction of Islam in World History texts. By devolving reviews of leading publishers to local school districts in the Sunshine State that may allow concerned parents  to sponsors such studies forcing publishers to finally correct  errors of both omission and commission.

We look forward to the reconciliation of the Senate and House versions leading to passage and ultimate enactment into law.

RELATED STORY: Canada: Criticism of Islam forbidden by Toronto District School Board

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

Gloria Steinem’s successful war against women and the traditional family

President Barack Obama and feminist Gloria Steinem before Steinem received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Photo: Paul Hennessy/Polaris/Newscom

There is a pattern of thinking that goes something like this: I demand equality for some at the expense of the many. I grew up during the “feminist movement” in America led by Gloria Steinem. The worthy goal was equal rights for women but it came at the expense of the traditional family. I did not see the eventual outcomes of Steinem and her efforts upon that most important institution – the traditional family, which is the building block of all societies and civilization itself.

Steinem remains committed to destroying women, motherhood and thereby the traditional family. Steinem has succeeded beyond even her own expectations.

Twelve years ago Jacqueline Kirby, M.S. in Single-parent Families in Poverty wrote:

One of the most striking changes in family structure over the last twenty years has been the increase in single-parent families. In 1970, the number of single-parent families with children under the age of 18 was 3.8 million. By 1990, the number had more than doubled to 9.7 million. For the first time in history, children are more likely to reside in a single-parent family for reasons other than the death of a parent. One in four children are born to an unmarried mother, many of whom are teenagers. Another 40 percent of children under 18 will experience parental breakup.

Ninety percent of single-parent families are headed by females. Not surprisingly, single mothers with dependent children have the highest rate of poverty across all demographic groups (Olson & Banyard, 1993). Approximately 60 percent of U.S. children living in mother-only families are impoverished, compared with only 11 percent of two-parent families. The rate of poverty is even higher in African-American single-parent families, in which two out of every three children are poor.

On March 25th, 2014, Steinem’s 80th birthday,  wrote, “The liberal sisterhood railed against a society they said encouraged women to stay at home and raise children. They demanded the marketplace open up more opportunities for women and pay them the same as men. Fine. But what about women who choose differently? Today’s young women are empowered to choose career, family, and all sorts of combinations of both. But the words of Steinem and other liberal feminists revealed what they believed about American women.”

Wood provided the following quotes:

Steinem: “[Housewives] are dependent creatures who are still children…parasites.”

Simone de Beauvoir: “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

Betty Friedan: “[Housewives] are mindless and thing-hungry…not people. [Housework] is peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls. [It] arrests their development at an infantile level, short of personal identity with an inevitably weak core of self…. [Housewives] are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps. [The] conditions which destroyed the human identity of so many prisoners were not the torture and brutality, but conditions similar to those which destroy the identity of the American housewife.”

Wood notes that Steinem has never been a fan of women who didn’t think like her or buy in to her radical feminist political agenda. “Having someone who looks like us but thinks like them (meaning men) is worse than having no one at all.”

“So much for tolerance—and the belief that women are individuals who should be free to think and make choices for themselves,” concludes Wood.

Dr. Larry Reed, President of FEE wrote, “Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.” American women today are less free because of Steinem. Traditional families are increasingly becoming the exception rather than the rule.

Urban Design and Social Complexity by SANDY IKEDA

Urban planning always risks draining the life out of what it tries to control.

This week’s column is drawn from a lecture I gave earlier this year at the University of Southern California on the occasion of the retirement of urban economist Peter Gordon.

One of my heroes is the urbanist Jane Jacobs, who taught me to appreciate the importance for entrepreneurial development of how public spaces—places where you expect to encounter strangers—are designed. And I learned from her that the more precise and comprehensive your image of a city is, the less likely that the place you’re imagining really is a city.

Jacobs grasped as well as any Austrian economist that complex social orders such as cities aren’t deliberately created and that they can’t be. They arise largely unplanned from the interaction of many people and many minds. In much the same way that Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek understood the limits of government planning and design in the macroeconomy, Jacobs understood the limits of government planning and the design of public spaces for a living city, and that if governments ignore those limits, bad consequences will follow.

Planning As Taxidermy

Austrians use the term “spontaneous order” to describe the complex patterns of social interaction that arise unplanned when many minds interact. Examples of spontaneous order include markets, money, language, culture, and living cities great and small. In her The Economy of Cities, Jacobs defines a living city as “a settlement that generates its economic growth from its own local economy.” Living cities are hotbeds of creativity and they drive economic development.

There is a phrase she uses in her great work, The Life and Death of Great American Cities, that captures her attitude: “A city cannot be a work of art.” As she goes on to explain:

Artists, whatever their medium, make selections from the abounding materials of life, and organize these selections into works that are under the control of the artist . . . the essence of the process is disciplined, highly discriminatory selectivity from life. In relation to the inclusiveness and the literally endless intricacy of life, art is arbitrary, symbolic and abstracted. . . . To approach a city, or even a city neighborhood, as if it were a larger architectural problem, capable of being given order by converting it into a disciplined work of art, is to make the mistake of attempting to substitute art for life. The results of such profound confusion between art and life are neither art nor life. They are taxidermy.

So the problem confronting an urban planner, and indeed government planning of any sort, is how to avoid draining the life out of the thing you’re trying to control.

The Trade-Off Between Planning and Complexity

Viewing cities as spontaneous orders and not as works of art helps to explain the trade-off between scale and order. In general, I believe the larger the scale of a project, the fewer the discoveries and subtle connections the people who use that space will be able to make.

Placing an apartment building in a commercial block will change the character of that block in unpredictable ways, but the surrounding urban environment can usually absorb the repercussions and the problems are relatively small. A block-sized mall, however, constrains much further how people can use that space and has a disproportionately larger impact on the neighborhood. And a mega-project that takes up many blocks severely limits the diversity and range of the social connections, as it challenges the planner to substitute her genius for the genius of many ordinary people using their own local knowledge to solve problems only they may be aware of. Making something bigger increasingly limits what people can do and whom they can bump into in the space that it occupies. Scaling up narrows the range of the informal contacts that drive creativity and discovery.

And for a given size or scale of a project, the more the planner tries to predetermine the kind of activities the people who use it can do in it, the less likely that her design will complement the spontaneous contact that generates and diffuses new ideas. That’s what made a lot of traditional downtowns so important. Over time the combination of diverse uses of public space (in the sense I mean here) brought people with different skills and tastes together in large numbers. Design can of course complement that informal contact to a point, but beyond a fairly low level, human design begins to substitute for it.

Of course, small is not always beautiful, and big is sometimes unavoidable. But that makes it even more important that planners appreciate how ramping up scale and intensifying design influences a complex social order.

Private Planning Is Much More Limited in Scale

And I’m not just talking about government projects. Private projects could, in principle, have the same “taxidermic” impact on urban vitality. But as long as a planner’s design is small compared to the surrounding space, the loss of complexity and intricacy isn’t severe. It’s usually when government somehow subsidizes private projects, softening up the budget constraint, that the scale becomes massive and the downside very steep. An example of this can be found about a mile from where I live in New York. Barclays Center, the new home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, grew to an enormous size once the local and state governments offered eminent domain and other large subsidies. Building on a massive scale in an already dense urban environment is typically too expensive, even for a wealthy private developer, without such legal privileges.

A planner can’t build an entire city (or neighborhood even) because she can’t begin to design and construct the necessary diversity and social intricacy that happens spontaneously in a living city. And I don’t think she should even try to because it can irreparably damage, even kill, the living flesh of a city. What can government do? In the ordinary course of its activities a government can perhaps at best refrain from doing the things that would thwart the emergence of the invisible social infrastructure that gives rise to that diversity, development, and genuine liveliness.

The rest is mostly taxidermy.

ABOUT SANDY IKEDA

Sandy Ikeda is an associate professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism. He will be speaking at the FEE summer seminars “People Aren’t Pawns” and “Are Markets Just?

Military/Veterans Poll: 66% disapprove of Obama and 63% disapprove of Obamacare

The Tarrance Group released its veterans survey on key issues facing the nation. Below are key findings from the survey using a representative sample of N=834 Veterans and members of the military.  Interviews were conducted 3/8-16/14 using a mixed methodology of live telephone interviews and online interviews. The margin of error is +/- 3.5%.

  • Sixty-eight percent of veterans believe the country is off on the wrong track (vs. 21% say right direction), and by a margin of more than two to one, veterans disapprove of the way President Obama is handling his job (66% disapprove  vs. 29% approve).
  • Veterans also hold negative views toward President Obama’s healthcare law.  Over six in 10 (63%) of veterans disapprove of Obamacare (vs. 28% approve), and nearly half (46%) believe Obamacare will be worse than VA healthcare.
  • All surveyed—veterans and members of the military— believe the top issues facing Congress are dysfunction in Washington (23%), followed by government spending and debt (19%) and economy/jobs (17%). 
  • In addition to the concern over spending and the debt, nearly three-quarters of veterans and members of the military (73%) agree with former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen’s statement that our national debt is “the greatest threat to our National Security.”
  • There is widespread awareness of the backlog of claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (66% of veterans/members of the military have seen, read, or heard about the backlog), and nearly one- quarter (22%) report having experienced the backlog.  Of those who have experienced the backlog, 58% report currently having a backlogged claim. Those who have experienced the backlog report it lasting at least 7 months (60%), with 36% saying it lasted more than one year.

Below is a breakdown of sample military status and branch of service in the survey:

CVA poll image

RELATED STORY: When veterans become victims: Reform the VA now

Governor Rick Scott fully supports in-state tuition for illegal aliens

Governor Rick Scott, Governor Jeb Bush and Governor Bob Martinez called on the Florida Senate to lower tuition for all Florida students and their support SB 1400. This means Governor Scott has caved into pressure to provide illegal aliens in-state tuition. All Florida students means illegal aliens at the expense of legal resident students.

According to a press release Scott, Bush and Bob Martinez are advocating for lowering tuition by advancing SB 1400, which would allow all Florida students, regardless of their background (illegals), to qualify for the in-state tuition rate.

Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN) notes that, “When immigration is viewed only racially and culturally, limits and legality will never be imposed.  The debate must focus on limitations and lawfulness, otherwise open borders will make the United States a marketplace and not a country.”

FILMEN states, “The bottom line nationally is that illegal immigration continues to hurt American families, take away jobs and depress wages of fathers and mothers who desperately want to support their children without going on welfare. The bottom line here in Florida is HB851/SB1400 will cause an unknown number of legal students to be displaced from college by illegal alien students. There is absolutely no estimate of the fiscal cost of college tuition subsidy for illegal aliens.”

Governor Scott said, “Students who have spent their childhood here in Florida deserve to qualify for the same in-state tuition rate at universities their peers and classmates do. We want our students to stay here in Florida when they go to college and when they choose a career, and that means we must make college more affordable for all those students who call Florida home. The Florida Senate should take immediate action to move SB 1400 forward.”

Forget the US and Florida Constitution. If you come to Florida you are now “entitled” to in state tuition.

Governor Bush, supporter of Common Core and potential presidential candidate in 2016, said, “We must keep and capitalize on the talent of all Florida students who want to attend our exceptional colleges and universities.  Punishing some children for their parents’ acts by creating obstacles to a college degree isn’t in their interests, or ours.  I urge the Florida Senate to do the right thing for our state and pass SB 1400.”

Governor Martinez said, “For Florida to continue to be a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom to people from all backgrounds, we must ensure our future generations are prepared for success. As a university trustee, I know this often starts with having access to a great higher education. I hope the Florida Senate and the full Florida Legislature support SB 1400 as a critical measure to continue to move our state forward.”

Nice sounding words but lackluster in defending resident and legal student slots in Florida universities and colleges.

RELATED STORY: Latest Trick for Illegal Immigrants: Granting Amnesty in Return for Military Service

Why are the Republican Sarasota County Commissioners violating their own Party Platform?

Many Sarasotans are wondering about their County Commissioners. In particular their support for policies that are directly violating their own party’s platform. On June 5th, 2014, Sarasota County will be hosting the United Nations 2014 World Environment Day (WED). Why? Because the County Commissioners have fully embraced the UN’s agenda on climate change and sustainable communities. But this is in direct violation of their own party platform.

The 2012 Republican Party platform states:

Since the end of World War II, the United States, through the founding of the United Nations and NATO, has participated in a wide range of international organizations which can, but sometimes do not, serve the cause of peace and prosperity. While acting through them, our country must always reserve the right to go its own way. There can be no substitute for principled American leadership.

The United Nations remains in dire need of reform, starting with full transparency in the financial operations of its overpaid bureaucrats. As long as its scandal-ridden management continues, as long as some of the world’s worst tyrants hold seats on its Human Rights Council, and as long as Israel is treated as a pariah state, the U.N. cannot expect the full support of the American people.

[ … ]

We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty, and we oppose any form of U.N. Global Tax. We oppose any diplomatic efforts that could result in giving the United Nations unprecedented control over the Internet. International regulatory control over the open and free Internet would have disastrous consequences for the United States and the world. [Emphasis added]

Many are calling for the Sarasota County Commission to opt out of any participation in or support for World Environment Day.

The Sarasota County website on sustainability is promoting the United Nations WED and its efforts for “sustainable communities“. According to its website, “Sarasota County government is committed to environmental, cultural and economic sustainability.”

The Sarasota County Roadmap to Sustainability reads, “Planning for a sustainable community is the overarching theme of the Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan. Sarasota County government is committed to lead by example, promote public participation and work in community partnership to improve our quality of life and protect the natural systems that support life. – Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan 2006”

Sustainable development is a UN initiative. According to the UN sustainable development website:

One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference was the agreement by member States to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda (click here for information on different work streams). It was decided establish an “inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the General Assembly“.

The Sarasota County Commission and United Nations are in full compliance with the Rio+20 outcome document, where member States agreed that sustainable development goals (SDGs) must:

  1. Be based on Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
  2. Fully respect all the Rio Principles.

Bottom line: The all Republican Sarasota County Commission is fully aligned with UN Agenda 21, and in direct violation of their own Republican Party platform. They are not, by their party’s own definition, principled American leaders.

RELATED STORIES:

AGENDA 21 REVEALED: ICLEI, Comprehensive Planning, Smart Growth, Green, Regionalism
EPA’s “Sustainability” Agenda: Vast Power Grab
Agenda 21 and the Threat in Your Backyard

RELATED VIDEO:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/JuoPqxAfnd8[/youtube]

Common Core Is Losing. Pass It on!

In “Pushback Continues: States Grow Increasingly Wary of Common Core” Brittany Corona writes, “Common Core is on the ropes. More and more states are pulling back from the national standards as the 2014–15 school year implementation deadline looms near. In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal (R)—formerly a Common Core supporter—is now encouraging the legislature to remove the state from the Common Core aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) test. And if they don’t act, he will.”

Corona notes that Jindal’s new stance comes after eight members of the Louisiana State House of Representatives sent him a letter, informing him of his prerogative to opt out of the standards and encouraging him to do so. As the New Orleans Advocate reported:

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that a gubernatorial order for the state to drop controversial Common Core tests is a ‘very viable option’ if state lawmakers fail to act. Jindal made the comment in response to a letter from eight House members who said the governor can opt the state out of the exams and should do that… ‘We believe you have the authority, as governor, under the 2010 PARCC memorandum of understanding, to opt out of the consortium,’ state Rep. Brett Geymann, (R–Lake Charles), and seven other legislators wrote.

In a statement released on Monday Jindal said,

We share the concerns of these [anti-Common Core] legislators and also of parents across Louisiana. We’re hopeful that legislation will move through the process this session that will address the concerns of parents or delay implementation until these concerns can be addressed. We think this course of action outlined in the legislators’ letter remains a very viable option if the Legislature does not act.

But as The Times-Picayune reports,

On a practical level, there is some question as to whether Jindal can unilaterally tear Louisiana away from the PARCC consortium, in which 16 states plus Washington D.C. participate. [Louisiana Superintendent] John White and Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education [BESE] president Chas Roemer said their permission is also required to leave the consortium, and both White and Roemer—who also avidly supports Common Core—are unwilling to do so.

Meanwhile, this week in South Carolina, State Superintendent Mick Zais officially withdrew his state from the Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced (SBAC) tests.

In a letter to the State Board of Education, Zais wrote:

I want to have a high quality assessment that meets the specific needs of South Carolina, at a competitive price. If we continue to focus only on Smarter Balanced, we lose any opportunity to consider alternatives….

In consideration of the foregoing, and the discovery that I have the authority to withdraw South Carolina from its status as a governing state of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and after full consultation with the Governor’s Office and appropriate members of the General Assembly, I am informing you that I am exercising that authority.

Oklahoma, too, is currently in a battle over Common Core. The state senate passed a bill earlier this month downgrading the state’s involvement with the national standards, although there is some difference of opinion as to whether it would fully remove Oklahoma from the standards, or merely change the name of the standards.

Governor Mary Fallin (R), a supporter of Common Core and chair of the National Governor’s Association which helped develop the standards, said in a statement that she “support[s] passing legislation that increases classroom rigor and accountability while guaranteeing that Oklahoma public education is protected from federal interference…”

Meanwhile, the Missouri House of Representatives passed their bill to find a Common Core replacement.

“We’re going to create the process to have Missouri standards and Missouri assessments,” State Rep. Kurt Bahr (R), who introduced the measure, stated. The proposal requires that by October 1, 2014 the state board must develop new academic standards by the following October 2015, in place of the Common Core, and adopt and implement these standards by the 2016-17 school year.

Fifteen states have now made strides in halting or downgrading their involvement in the standards. Last month, Indiana became the first state to exit Common Core. This is promising momentum in the effort of states to reclaim their educational decision-making authority,” notes Corona.

RELATED VIDEO: Bill Gates on Common Core

[youtube]http://youtu.be/Zrp-Bu2SLp8[/youtube]

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is by Sara Caldwell/The Augusta Chronicle/ZUMAPRESS.com and Heritage Foundation.