Florida’s School Board Treachery! Part 1

It is becoming increasingly clear that the only preservation for the children of Florida and their futures is to change how things are done in Florida. We must return the position of Commissioner of Education to an elected position; change the positions on the State School Board to an elected position or both.

The cronyism in Tallahassee has reached the highest levels it has ever been. The ethics bill last year was a smoke screen to fool us as an effort on their part to be good boys and girls. However the legislation passed in no way touched the real problems in that city and our government.

Appointing people to positions that hold the power such as the Commissioner and State School Board leaves parents out of the equation in regard to education and makes them answerable to whom?  Each other and a governor who has in recent months shown us he cares less about listening to parents concerns in regard to their children’s education and it is more important to him to have dinner with Jeb Bush.

Our past 2 governors,  Bush and Crist along with Rick Scott since the changes in the Florida Constitution in 2003 have given us 5 Commissioners of Education who are currently sitting on Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education; John L. Winn, Eric J. Smith, Gerard Robinson, Tony Bennett and now Pam Stewart. Has Jeb Bush been Florida’s perpetual governor?

Given the timing of the change to the Constitution (2003), the following commissioners (John Winn & Eric Smith) were given a seat on Jeb Bush’s foundation which of course is what Bush did after leaving the governor’s office – form his foundation. Do you see a little long range plan laid out here?

All of these people support the trash education of the Common Core Standards and the taxation without representation of the Charter/Choice/Voucher scheme along with the unelected school boards of the Charter schools removing the parental input into the equation. They don’t want you to know about the failures of the charter schools – much larger by percentage than traditional public schools.

The focus here is to make the Charter School Management (CSM) companies rich and the heck with what our kids learn! CSM’s fill coffers!

I want to give you the background on those dictating the futures of our children. You got a good look into the disrespect and arrogance of the SBOE Chairman this past Tuesday. We saw the board members talking to each other, messing with their iPads or phones, conversing with the administrative assistant through the whole time while over 95 taxpayers explained their point of views in regard to Common Core and education in general.

They didn’t even have the decency to have a conversation amongst themselves in regard to any of the issues brought up by the speakers before taking their vote. The 2 new board members (and there is history there also) spoke basically in favor of the vote that was about to take place with Tuck (new kid on the block) even stating we have to move into the 21st Century.

Florida State School Board:

gary chartrand

Gary Chartrand

Gary Chartrand came to the board in 2011 and of course is now serving as its chairman. His business background is pretty impressive as being one of those individuals who sits on every board you can think of. It is always supposed to make your resume look better. Other than the KIPP Charter school thing I can’t find any reason for Scott to appoint him to the board.

Know that no matter how impressive Chartrand’s bio is, it is what it doesn’t say that is important. He has absolutely no background in education except for being involved in bringing Kipp Charter schools and Teach for America (TFA) teachers to Jacksonville. He is a lot like Al Gore – “he knows not of what he speaks”. And his actions are getting rather loud.

Not a classroom, not a school office, not even a school janitor – he has no qualifications to sit on the Florida State Board of Education.  It is a little bit like asking a Construction Engineer to teach a Home Economy class (do they still have those?). Or maybe a professional chef to build a bridge!

Under Chartrand’ s direction the board’s 3 decisions in regard to a choice for the states “Unelected” Commissioner of Education have been less than stellar and it would lead those who follow these things to ask who was really behind these choices. Remembering our last five (5) including our present commissioner are also “reformer’s – (formerly chief’s for change) on Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Maybe they just wanted to make sure they had someone who would tow the line.

The main problem here is these choices rather than being individuals interested in actually improving our children’s education, the choice of commissioners were those whose main goal was to privatize our education instead. (Charter Schools)

Chartrand has been applauded for the KIPP Charter schools in Jacksonville – but of course he has given his allegiance to Charter schools. The state’s agenda is charter schools; however his results shown here so far are not any better than his performance as the SSBOE chairman. Chartrand, who helped raise $9 million to bring a KIPP elementary school to Jacksonville, also donated $1 million toward the network’s elementary school in the same city.

KIPP Impact Middle School is of course planted in a “low-income” area which to this writer gives them an out excuse for failure which is where a good amount of charter schools put themselves, low-income areas. 98% of the students are minority and 89% are Title I students both of which bring in extra funds for the school. Started in 2010, their first year grade was an F with less than 30% achieving the FCAT of 25% or less in reading and for math 67% reached the level of 25% or less. Not good.

When Commissioner Robinson made his famous trip to Jacksonville to look into the implementation of another KIPP school (I wonder what his interest was?), he was asked by a reported if he was going to take into consideration the existing Kipp school had received and F, he responded, “we don’t use that as the criteria for allowing new schools to open”.

Wow! Given the Florida State School Board allows D and F Charter schools (of which there are many more than traditional public schools) stay open for far longer than they should, one does have to ask “What are they doing”?

The mission statement for KIPP Jacksonville Schools is to prepare our students with the academic and character skills necessary to succeed in high school, college and the competitive world beyond.  Not at this rate!

Something else I discovered while doing this posting. KIPP and Charter Schools USA send their teachers to what is called the Clarion Council For Educational Greatness in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Though not clear, it looks like it is owned by Charter Schools USA and when you go to the web site and try to see what the training is – you have to have a “Clarion Training” password. Secrets, always secrets.

KIPP’s Accountability report for the 2010-2011 school years – AFRICAN-AMERICAN, ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED KIPP IMPACT MIDDLE SCHOOL has not met federal adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind because it needs improvement in one or more areas.  Because this is a Title I school, your student may be eligible for school choice options under No Child Left Behind.

Charter schools are School Choice so where do these students go if the school were to remain a failure. In fairness I admit they garnered a C the following year after the change to the grading process – no figures for the 2012-2013 year. But then the full accountability figures have not been posted on the Florida DOE web site since 2011. HUM!

More on Kipp Jacksonville Schools according to the 2012-13 FL Charter School Accountability Report:

Kipp Imagine:  4 of the 8 teachers are Teach For America teachers; 6 of the 8 teachers are not certified but are being paid at the same rate as the certified with benefits; average salary with benefits $48,125; 86.66% rated NOT Highly Qualified; 82.35% Teaching out of their field; in the hole financially at the end of the year $14, 000+ and have a large note due to KIPP,Inc.

Kipp Voice:  8 of the 12 teachers Are Teach For America teachers; only 1 is NOT certified; 100% of the teachers are teaching out of their field; their salaries are equivalent to those of Imagine.

Both schools are NOT certified and rent their building from McDuff Qalicb, Inc. of Jax and they are in a relationship with Kipp, Inc. but how is not clear. Both schools hold board meetings once a quarter and at one of the recent meetings Gary Chartrand asked Ashley Ferguson who is listed as the principal of both schools about her views on the Common Core vs. Florida State standards. There was general discussion about this.  She is also a TFA girl!

It’s too bad that Chartrand couldn’t find it in his heart to leave his ego at the door of the board room but then we tin-hatter’s all know that most of the people we are dealing with today have enormous ego’s.

Part 2:  Andy Tuck and Rebecca Fishman Lipsey – the new kids

RELATED STORY: Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford Co-Chairs Fundraiser for Jebs Foundation for Florida’s Future

It’s Hard Being a Black Conservative

“We’re not being governed. We’re being ruled by incompetence.” – Allen B. West, LTC, US Army (Ret.)

Cover - Guarden of the Republic

Click on the book cover to learn more.

It is refreshing to read a book that reflects one’s own views and “Guardian of the Republic” by Allen West, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army for over twenty years and a former, one-term congressman from Florida, who is perhaps best known these days as a Fox News channel contributor. He is a very conservative, articulate black American.

As he points out, “The Left must destroy black conservatives because it cannot afford to have freethinking, independent-minded black Americans. When the Left wins, our community loses. The result of such blind loyalty is that many black voters have come to resemble Vladimir Lenin’s ‘useful idiots.’ They make up an electorate that is completely taken for granted and no one even bothers to listen.”

It is ironic that the first black President will not only be remembered as our worst, but that his failure will reflect on the entire black community in America even while men like West and other blacks of real achievement exist.

For now, it is definitely an uphill struggle for black conservatives, particularly for those in public life. “The mainstream media,” says West, “have a clear tendency to recruit other blacks to denigrate and demean black conservatives” and have “sought to disrespect and deny the existence of black conservatives, but they’re losing the battle and they realize it. The big lie that has resulted in the twenty-first century economic plantation will be exposed and defeated, and our community will be restored.”

I don’t know when I first heard West, but I suspect it was during his run for Congress. I do recall I was instantly and enormously impressed. He won that race and served from 2011 to 2013 representing Florida’s 22nd District. His race for reelection was a classic case of electoral tampering, misconduct, and political slander by those who wanted to defeat him.

“One of my biggest frustrations and concerns about America (is that) our electorate doesn’t have a clue about who we are or whence we came.” Much of his book is devoted to a mini-history lesson regarding the founders, the Constitution, and the principles that set America on the path to greatness among nations. West holds two masters degrees; one from Kansas State University in political science and the second from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in military arts and sciences.

He had just over twenty years to practice military arts, but he had set his heart on joining the Army early on, joining the ROTC in college and thereafter being recognized at every stage for his intellect and his leadership skills. He was deployed to Kuwait in 1991 and Iraq in 2003.

West is plain-spoken. He defines our fundamental governing principles as “limited government, fiscal responsibility, a free market, individual sovereignty, a strong national defense, and an understanding that all of man’s freedoms come ultimately from God.”

And then he says, “Measured against our fundamental governing principles, we clearly do not have good government—heck, we suck! We have excessive debt, growing poverty, exploding deficits, an expanding nanny-state, and an anemic economy.”

“The sad thing is,” says West, “there seems to be no reprieve in sight. Why? Because, as a nation, we have become uninterested, uninformed, and disengaged from the truth.”

Throughout his book, West mixes lessons regarding the system the Founders implemented and his fears about the present generations of Americans, given the last two elections. “I fear national-level elections have become nothing more than a version of American Idol,” says West at one point. He concludes his first book saying, “We have to turn off the brain-draining reality TV shows for a few hours and read, think, assess, and challenge ourselves to be better.”

West has had a remarkable life to this point and he could choose to make a lot of money in some corporate position or as an entrepreneur, but he wants to reach out, not just to the black community, but to all Americans because he is worried about where President Obama has taken the nation he loves and wants to see it saved from unimaginable and unconscionable debt.

We need a lot more men like Allen West. The black community needs to pay him and other black conservatives more attention. The rest of us should hope that a change in future administrations will bring his talent to bear on the restoration of America.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Poll: GOP Voters Want Politicians to Support Natural Marriage

gop marriag

Click on image for downloadable copy of the survey.

WASHINGTON, PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Family Research Council (FRC) and American Values released the results of a commissioned national survey conducted by Wilson Research Strategies showing that 82 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independents believe marriage “should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman.” 74 percent strongly agreed with this statement.

The same survey found that the voters want their elected leaders to promote this view in public policy: 75 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters disagree that “politicians should support the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples.” 67 percent strongly disagreed with this statement.

FRC President Tony Perkins made the following comments in response to the survey:

“Republican voters continue to resist the demands of cultural elites who want to see the party abandon the very core values that gave rise to American exceptionalism. The vast majority of the GOP base continues to believe that marriage is a non-negotiable plank of the national platform and want to see their elected officials uphold natural marriage as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage and promote in law.

“The results of this survey are no surprise especially considering what has taken place in recent months. Republican voters, like everyone else, have seen that redefining marriage is really about fundamentally altering all of society. Redefining marriage undermines our fundamental freedoms of speech and religion and in the case of the Mozilla CEO, even the ability to engage in the democratic process without the fear of losing one’s livelihood.”

American Values President Gary Bauer made the following comments:

“Public policy makers are doing a great disservice to themselves and future generations by continuing to misread the convictions of the American people, who overwhelmingly support the institution of marriage as a unique union of one man and one woman. The misinformation campaign waged by media elites muddies the debate and attempts to isolate those who support the time-honored traditions and values shared by every major world religion throughout human history.

“Incredibly, the debate is no longer about privacy and tolerance. Religious liberty, free speech and rights of conscience are now at stake. This survey should remind political and cultural leaders that this debate is far from over. If anything, it is taking on a new sense of urgency for millions of men and women of faith.”

To view the results of the survey, click herehttp://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF14D62.pdf

RELATED STORIES:

Why True American Conservatives Cannot Be Extremist and How Progressives are Ultimately Tyrants
Croatians overwhelmingly vote against same-sex marriage in a referendum
Marriage and abortion are economic issues | American Clarion

Poll: 43% of the Dutch want fewer Moroccans

The virulent attacks on Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party (PVV) by opposition parties in the ruling coalition in The Netherlands and threats to have him prosecuted for his “fewer Muslim” comments in our April NER article “Geert Wilders Once Again Endures a Firestorm of Criticism” have backfired.   A new poll commissioned by the PVV reveal that Dutch voters reject those threats categorically.

A news release by the PVV today noted “43% of the Dutch want fewer Moroccans”:

At the request of the PVV, the independent research bureau “Peil.nl / Maurice de Hond” conducted an opinion poll into the view of the Dutch regarding the presence of Moroccans in the Netherlands.

No less than 43% of all the Dutch prefer to have fewer MoroccansOnly 3% wants more Moroccans, while 48% does not care how many Moroccans there are in the Netherlands. A majority of the voters of PVV (95%) and of the governing VVD (59%), but also more than one third of the voters of the Socialist SP and more than a quarter of the Labor voters prefer to have fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.

A majority of 55% of all Dutch is opposed to a criminal prosecution of PVV-leader Geert Wilders.

Geert Wilders: “The figures are very clear. Millions of Dutch agree with me. It is great, too, that a majority of the Dutch is of the opinion that I should not be prosecuted.”

This latest poll bolsters a previous one of Dutch parties in the European Parliamentary elections just one month away on May 22 to the 25th that showed the PVV in the lead.  See our March 17th Iconoclast post, “Wilder’s Freedom Party Leads Poll for Dutch European Parliament Elections”.    We noted:

Geert Wilders” Freedom Party (PVV) leads in Dutch polls next month’s European Parliament elections.  According to a report in the Dutch publication,  Spitsnieuws:

A TNS NIPO poll published today predicts that the PVV, the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders, will become the biggest party in the European elections in the Netherlands.

According to the poll the PVV is going to win the European elections on 22 May with 18.1% of the votes, followed by the Liberal VVD of Prime Minister Mark Rutte with 16.2% and the liberal-democrat D66 party with 15.7%.

The losers of the European elections would be the Christian-Democrats and Labor.

At the conclusion of our April NER article we said:

We hope that those Dutch folks who went to the polls on March 19th and gave the PVV victories in several smaller municipalities may be joined by others in the majority, who didn’t vote. That might provide the PVV with a victory in the May EU parliamentary elections. We have seen Wilders bounce back from previous episodes like a proverbial cat with nine lives.

Both polls taken in the Netherlands clearly indicate that the groundlings aren’t buying the ‘extremist’ charges and calls for prosecution of Wilders. Instead they may be auguries of a possible significant victory for the Freedom Party candidates in the May 2014 European Parliamentary elections.

RELATED STORIES:

France: Muslim unfolds prayer carpet in church, reads Qur’anic verses during Easter mass
UK: Shi’ite Muslim cleric investigated for hate rants against Sunni Muslims
China-Vietnam border: Seven dead as Muslims seize guns from Vietnamese border guards and shoot at them

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

The Progressive Income Tax: Backed by the envious, used by the greedy by DOUG BANDOW

Most Americans dislike the income tax, now more than a century old. The rates are too high. The provisions are unfair. The recordkeeping is onerous. The revenues are wasted.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

But there are fans. The politicians, certainly, of both parties. What good would it do to serve in Congress if you didn’t have any money to spend? There are other sources of public money, to be sure, but none so effective at plucking the geese while minimizing the hissing. Withholding means many Americans look forward to receiving a refund even though that means they have provided an interest-free loan to the very officials conscripting people’s money for dubious purposes.

The beneficiaries of the politicians’ largesse also share in the income-tax lovefest. Uncle Sam needs money to write checks. He can borrow, but there’s a limit to investors’ credulity. Borrow too much and they might doubt Washington’s ability to repay. Moreover, robust tax collections are necessary to repay debts. So creditors, too, benefit from the income tax, even if they don’t enjoy paying on the other end.

Don’t forget about the armies of tax preparers and IRS agents who, at the end of the day, end up with much of the deadweight loss.

Then there are the fans of expensive and expansive government. Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic argued that the money collected has gone for building infrastructure, cleaning the environment, and keeping us safe from foreign threats. Alas, a lot of federal building is politically driven, conservation measures spend huge amounts inefficiently to control minimal problems, and military outlays go to defend scores of foreign societies rather than our own. In all these cases, less would be more.

More dangerous may be the social engineers. For instance, Yale economics professor Robert J. Shiller suggested using the income tax to mitigate “some of the worst consequences of income inequality.” He proposed indexing taxes to income inequality.

It’s a genuinely nutty idea: Inequality measures are sensitive to data distortion based on dates chosen, units measured, and more. Moreover, they incorporate no judgments about how the inequality arose. Were opportunities obstructed, systems manipulated, wealth extracted, people defrauded? Or did a generally free society operate naturally and deliver ever-changing income and wealth patterns? If the latter, what is the government trying to “correct”? And if the former, is the government correcting the right things?

Worse, though, is the weird presumption that seizing private wealth from mostly productive taxpayers and giving it to political operators noted for their electoral skills rather than economic judgment would somehow remedy financial disparities. There is no evidence that increasing Washington’s resources would yield greater social or economic justice, improve economic efficiency or growth, or make people wealthier or freer.

To the contrary, experience demonstrates that the majority—most people outside of those who make their living from the federal trough—are likely to end up worse off. Extensive bureaucracies soak up a lot of money before it leaves government hands. Cash gets tossed at influential interest groups, such as businesses, non-profits, contractors, and unions. Benefits for the poor are dwarfed by middle class welfare, such as Social Security and Medicare. Federal largesse gets bestowed on foreigners through misnamed foreign aid, which long meant taking money from poor people in rich countries and giving it to rich people in poor countries. America’s defense budget is another form of foreign aid, subsidizing some of the wealthiest countries on the planet.

Providing more money to expand these and other programs is supposed to close the income and wealth gaps? The social engineers just assume that the benevolent dictator model, in which angels enact direct transfers that make people healthier and happier, can actually exist.

Unfortunately, the income tax creates additional harms. By taxing work, the levy discourages work. The higher the rate, the greater the incentive to choose leisure and invest in consumption and tax shelters. Moreover, credits and deductions give legislators the opportunity to play social engineers, providing subsidies and manipulating behavior sub rosa.

The greater the resulting complexity, the more wealth is wasted in compliance activities rather than invested in productive endeavors. Indeed, the system most benefits tax professionals who profit from the system’s failings. Today the tax code and IRS rules run nearly 75,000 pages. And there never is any certainty; my Cato Institute colleague Chris Edwards noted nearly 5,000 tax changes over the last decade. Ever-confused taxpayers are a captive audience for tax preparers and litigators.

Income taxes impose a number of other burdens. There is no financial privacy, since Uncle Sam is empowered to rummage through everyone’s personal affairs. And taxpayers are expected to maintain potentially extensive records for possible inspection for years. For instance, use a home office and you’d better keep your utility bills, home repair charges, and gasoline receipts!

Moreover, as Edwards pointed out, the entire enforcement process is built around a denial of due process. From start to finish the burden of proof falls on the taxpayer, not the government. The Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is out the window. Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures don’t apply. Sixth and Seventh Amendment guarantees of a jury trial don’t cover the U.S. Tax Court.

Contrast this with the sales tax. You pay it when you purchase something and you are done with it. You don’t have to keep personal records. You don’t have to file a return. There is no government rummaging around through your bank records for enforcement.

Even social engineering usually is at a minimum. Consumption levies typically include little variations of rates among goods, with at most occasional exemptions of “necessities” and surcharges for “luxuries.” There seldom is much attempt to manipulate rates to achieve objectives other than raising revenue. Even politicians don’t claim that they can use the sales tax to solve the “problem” of income inequality.

The first income tax in U.S. history was proposed in 1814 to fund the ill-fated War of 1812. Happily, the conflict ended before Congress could demonstrate the dire consequences even of taxation with representation. In 1861, a desperate national government turned to the income tax to fund its war to conquer the Southern states seeking to separate. Americans sacrificed both independence and liberty in that conflict.

A search for revenue to replace declining tariff collections led to another income tax in 1894, but the Supreme Court declared the levy unconstitutional. Legislators probably could have met the jurists’ objections by scaling back the tax. Instead, 15 years later Congress proposed a constitutional amendment, which was approved on February 2, 1913, during the heyday of the Progressive Era. From modest beginnings it has grown into a monster.

There is a necessary role for government, but it is far more limited than today’s Leviathan in Washington. Government must be funded, but it should be by something other than today’s income tax, which has made it far too easy for politicians to mulct the public. There are many reasons for Americans’ steady and serious loss of liberty, but the income tax ranks high among them.

doug bandowABOUT DOUG BANDOW

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

CLICHES OF PROGRESSIVISM #2 — Because We’re Running Out of Resources, Government Must Manage Them

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) is proud to partner with Young America’s Foundation (YAF) to produce “Clichés of Progressivism,” a series of insightful commentaries covering topics of free enterprise, income inequality, and limited government.

Our society is inundated with half-truths and misconceptions about the economy in general and free enterprise in particular. The “Clichés of Progressivism” series is meant to equip students with the arguments necessary to inform debate and correct the record where bias and errors abound.

Leaders and experts who support free enterprise and who understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and entrepreneurship will author the pieces. A book will be released in 2015 featuring the best editorials in the series. The opinion editorials and columns will be published weekly on the websites of both YAF and FEE: www.yaf.org and www.FEE.org.

See the index of the published chapters here.

#2 — Because We’re Running Out of Resources, Government Must Manage Them

Milton Friedman once said “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.” The great economist wasn’t just being cute. He’s pointing to a very serious problem with government management of resources. And in this chapter, we’ll talk about why it’s a problem. But first we should ask: Why are people so concerned that we will run out of resources? And how can we find a reasonable balance between using resources and conserving them?

When most people think about resources, they think about the possibility they might be used up. And running out of resources means there will be nothing left for future generations. This scares people. So the notion goes something like: If parents let kids get into the groceries on the first night of the camping trip, there won’t be any sandwiches left for the picnic. The parents wisely ration the resources and restrict the kids’ access so that there is something to left for later. People who think government should manage resources are thinking that government will behave like wise parents. But does it?

What you may not have realized is that people in the market—under certain conditions—find a balance between consumption and conservation, which one might call “sustainable.” But first there has to be a complete market mechanism. This may be hard for some people to get their heads around, because most people think markets cause over consumption. And certain kinds of markets can.

Healthy markets only exist under certain rules. The main rules are what we might call the Three Ps: Private property, price signals and profit. These are the basic conditions of exchange. Without them there can be no healthy market.

Private property means that an individual has full ownership of a resource. We know who the owner is, how much they own and that right cannot be taken away arbitrarily. The owner may also have the authority to divest himself of the resource. That means we know the difference between mine and thine and in so knowing, we have the one of the conditions under which to conserve, trade, or consume.

Prices are what economist Steven Horwitz calls “information wrapped in an incentive.” When the price of some resource goes high enough, owners have the incentive to do any number of things. They might use less of the resource (i.e. conserve it), they might find new creative ways to increase the supply of the resource, or they might find a substitute, which ends up conserving the resource. Of course, we make any such choice because we expect of future returns, otherwise known as profit. And in this equilibrium created by prices, property and profit markets balance use with conservation.

Consider a resource that was once highly sought after: whale blubber. Whale blubber was used as an energy resource in the 19th century. But in the case of whales, there were only two of the three Ps. Whalers had prices and profit, but no private property. The whales belonged to what is known as the Commons—which meant anyone could hunt them. Unsurprisingly they were nearly hunted to extinction. Because no one owned them, whalers had a perverse incentive to hunt them quickly. The whales rapidly became scarce. Indeed, as the number of whales went down, the price of each individual whale went up and the incentives to hunt increased. But this can’t happen if there is a robust private property regime in place. If people could own whales, their incentive is not destroy them unsustainably, but to raise them. (Ironically, fossil fuels saved the whales thanks to substitution.)

In the 19th Century American West, wild bison (buffalo) roamed the unfenced, commonly-held Plains by the millions. They were hunted nearly to extinction. By contrast, people could own and raise cattle and the use of barbed wire on private property made it feasible to do so. Today, there are far more cattle in the Plains than bison and even where bison are privately-owned, their long-term survival is now better assured than it ever was on “public” property.

Consider trees. In North America, there are more trees than there have been in over a hundred years. Not only do foresters have incentives to regrow trees they harvest, they have incentives to cut them at a sustainable rate. Of course, in certain parts of the world—like Amazonia and Africa—concerns about forest clearing are justified. The big difference between forests in North America and South America? In one case, forests are largely government managed and in the other they largely privately managed.

Since 1900, U.S. forestland acreage has remained stable for more than a century. Unlike some regions in the world where deforestation is happening at a rapid pace, the US has actually maintained its forestland for the past 100 years. When one includes the heavily forested Northern Forests of Canada, forestland in North America since 1900 has grown—by a lot, according to the UN State of the World’s Forests reports.

By contrast, forests in many parts of the world are losing ground, even losses in these areas are slowing. Still, that leaves the question: why are North America’s forests growing while forests in other areas being lost? Certainly the biggest factor is whether the country has the Three Ps. The absence of property rights is known as the Tragedy of the Commons. If we look at the facts around the world, places that have stable private property rights have stable forestland. Places that don’t have tragedies of the commons—with its attendant rush to exploit.

Political leaders in areas without private property rights have tried to solve the problem of over-exploitation of forestland through the application of government management—that is: simply forbid people from using the resource or have the government allocate it “sustainably.” Contrary to Progressive conservation clichés, neither policy works particularly well.

In the case of bans, black markets form and there is a race to exploit the resource. Poachers and illegal exploiters emerge as the problems persist. For example, black rhinos are under threat in Africa despite bans. Because the profit motive is even stronger under bans, risk takers come out of the woodwork. In the case of government allocation of resources, the process can easily be corrupted. In other words, anyone who is able to capture the regulators will be able to manipulate the process in his favor. What follows is not only corruption, but in most cases considerations of “sustainability” go by the wayside, along with all the market mechanisms that constitute the true tests of sustainability.

 

Max Borders
Editor & Director of Content
The Freeman

Summary

  • It is simplistic to assume that people will blindly use up what sustains them without regard to the incentive structures they face; if they have incentives to conserve, they will do so.
  • Private property is a powerful incentive to conserve resources. You lose if you squander what’s yours.
  • When property is held “in common,” you have a license to use and abuse resources with little incentive to nurture and improve them.
  • For more information, see http://tinyurl.com/pn3qlfbhttp://tinyurl.com/ot533p3 and http://tinyurl.com/ngchvyo
Max Borders

Max Borders

ABOUT MAX BORDERS

Max Borders is the editor of The Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also co-founder of the event experience Voice & Exit and author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.

RELATED STORY: CLICHES OF PROGRESSIVISM #1: Income Inequality Arises From Market Forces and Requires Government Intervention

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

Amnesty for Illegals Cannot be Defended

I am totally perplexed by Republicans who advocate amnesty for those who entered the U.S. illegally. We Republicans are supposed to be the party of law and order, a party that stands on clearly defined principles. Let’s cut through the pompous rhetoric: The issue of amnesty is only about cheap labor. All the other arguments are merely background noise. With the national unemployment rate just under 8 percent, how can you argue that illegals are doing jobs that Americans refuse to do?

With all the unemployed engineers (partly because of the shutdown of NASA’s Space Shuttle program), how do you justify increasing the number of H-1B visas? The special visa allows companies to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations for up to six years. How can six years still be considered temporary?

How do you explain to a kid in Virginia that he or she has to pay out-of-state tuition to attend the University of Maryland while but a student in the country illegally is allowed to pay in-state tuition? Why should someone in the country illegally be able to obtain a benefit that even an American citizen can’t have? Aren’t these Republicans supporting discrimination against American citizens in their lust of the Hispanic voter?
Linking amnesty to winning the Hispanic vote is not a winning or sensible strategy. One has nothing to do with the other. There is no unanimity within the Hispanic community on the issue of amnesty, therefore why are some operatives linking this issue to the future of the Republican Party? One can be against amnesty without being mean and nasty. But to equate supporting amnesty as a prerequisite to proving that you are not mean and hateful is an insult to our intelligence. As if this weren’t bad enough, can someone please explain to me the logic of any Black person supporting amnesty when the Black unemployment rate is in double digits?

We can have honest disagreements on the issue of amnesty; but please don’t give me the perverted reasoning supporters of amnesty have been using: “it’s an act of love,” “they are only looking for a better life,” “it’s not their fault.”

But these same proponents who want to justify ignoring the law based on some irrational, emotional tick refuse to apply the same empathy towards “Pookie” and “LaQueesha,” who represent inner city America.

When “Pookie” gets arrested for carrying a recreational amount of crack and get sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years for a first time, non-violent offense, where are these Republican thespians advocating for an empathetic approach to law enforcement? When a Black woman in Florida fires a warning shot in the air to stop an abusive former husband from beating her and gets 20 years mandatory minimum, where are the Republican voices of empathy?

If we are going to claim to be a nation of laws, then we can’t allow emotion to cause the unequal distribution of justice to continue. If your basis for giving amnesty to illegals is “their intent”—they only want to make a better life; then how can you not apply the same logic to “Pookie” and “LaQueesha?” Can you not make the same argument that they only want to make a better life for themselves and their families?

Pro-amnesty Republicans sound like a bunch of liberals when they refuse to advocate for the enforcement of current immigration law because they claim to know the “intent” of the law breaker. These same pro amnesty members of the House and Senate have been relentless in accusing President Obama for not being trustworthy on health care (“you can keep your own doctor”), but are willing to work with and trust him on the enforcement side of the immigration debate.

If you can’t trust Obama on healthcare, how can you trust him on immigration?

RELATED STORY: Illegal Aliens, Non-Citizens Caught Voting In Florida In Vast Numbers

Try to Ignore the Earth Day Hype

Try to ignore Earth Day, April 22. It won’t be easy. The print and broadcast media will engage in an orgy of environmental tall tales and the usual end-of-the-world predictions. It will scare the heck out of youngsters and bore the heck out of anyone old enough to know that we have had to endure the lies that hide the agendas that have driven the Greens since 1970 when the event was first proclaimed.

The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. It is the third planet from the Sun and fifth-largest of the eight other planets that orbit it (if you don’t demote Pluto). It is the only planet in our galaxy that has life on it and it has an abundance of mineral resources as well as water and the fecundity to grow crops and maintain livestock to sustain the human race.

Despite four decades of being told that the Earth was going to heat up due to greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide and methane, we are currently in a cooling cycle and no child born since 1997 has ever experienced a single day of the dreaded “global warming.”

Humans play a very small role affecting the Earth’s climate although, for example, deforestration is one way it has affects it. Other than cutting down trees, another way is to put the government in charge of vast acres of forest. It has a long record of failing to manage them well to the point where diseases and pests render the trees so weak that wildfires wipe out what would otherwise have thrived.

Otherwise, the Earth is and always has a been a very volatile place, subject to a variety of extraordinary natural events such as hurricanes, tsunamis, blizzards, floods, droughts, tornadoes, and earthquakes. The only thing humans can do is clean up and rebuild.

What has mostly changed for humans has been the discovery of energy sources that have transformed and enhanced their lives. Coal, initially, followed by oil and natural gas. All are carbon based, but then, so are humans and other life forms.

The Greens call them “fossil fuels” and some refer to “dirty coal” or seek to demonize “Big Oil.” Between 2007 and 2012, three U.S. oil companies paid a total of $289.7 billion in corporate income taxes. Until the Obama administration took power, coal provided fifty percent of all the electricity Americans used. Completely bogus “science” cited by the Environmental Protection Agency has been used to shut down coal-fired plants and close down coal mines. And, in concert with costly, unpredictable and unreliable “renewable” energy, wind and solar, have driven up the cost of electricity for everyone.

According to a study by the Heritage Foundation, released in March, over the next two decades the EPA’s climate rules aimed at reducing “global warming” (which is not occurring) will cost the economy $2.23 trillion. An estimated 600,000 jobs will be lost. The jobs that would be created by the Keystone XL pipeline have been waiting five years for the White House to approve the project.

As mentioned, it has been the many inventions that utilize the energy sources the Greens want to “leave in the ground” that have totally transformed the lives of Americans and others throughout the world. What Earth Day is really about is not the improvement of life, but limits that will reduce the world’s population. The one thing all environmentalists agree upon is that there are too many humans. This is a form of fascism that goes back to the creation of the communist/socialist economic systems, none of which have provided the level of prosperity that capitalism has. Even Communist China has adopted the capitalist model.

The other agenda Greens agree upon is that the government should own and control every square inch of the nation’s (and world’s) landmass. That is why climate change is part of the United Nations’ intention to become the single world government. It is home to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that has clung to the global warming hoax since they invented it in the late 1980s.

Recently, the IPCC released another report claiming “climate change” will melt polar ice, cause the oceans to rise dramatically, generate extreme weather conditions, et cetera. There have always been extreme weather conditions somewhere and the rest of the IPCC claims are just great big lies that have been around for decades.

Along the way, environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth, among countless others of comparable or lesser size have received millions in membership dues, donations, the sale of products, and from the assets that many own. Many, like Greenpeace, enjoy a non-profit status. For example, in 2011, Greenpeace took in $27,465,948 and had assets of $4,653,179. Multiply that against all the others and it adds up to billions.

Green organizations represent a very big business that is constantly at war with legitimate businesses in the energy, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors, seeking to impose laws and regulations that cost them and consumers billions every year.

If you’re a parent take some time to explain to younger children that the Earth is very old and not going to suffer the claims Greens repeat and repeat. As for everyone else, just try to ignore the Earth Day deluge. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

RELATED STORIES:

The Secret, Dirty Cost of Obama’s Green Power Push – Associated Press
O’TOOLE and SCHIFF: Do single-family homes threaten the planet? – Washington Times
What’s Actually Good for the Environment May Surprise You
Environmental groups sharply criticize the Polish government for hosting a coal industry meeting while UN climate talks are held in the country

Agenda 21? What is Agenda 21? by Michael Coffman

Most people have never heard of Agenda 21. If they have heard of it, they likely believe it to be a vague United Nations program that will never see the light of day, or they believe it is imagined by conspiracy theorists. Yet, the principles contained in Agenda 21 are at the heart of many of our federal programs since the late 1990s. They reach every corner of the United States and impact millions of Americans who don’t even realize the document exists.

Although Agenda 21 was decades in the making, it was showcased to the world at the 1992 UN “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. It was there that President George H. Bush, along with leaders from 177 other nations, signed onto this “non-binding” UN action plan that was purportedly designed to assist governments at the local, national and international level implement the principles of so-called “sustainable development.” The “21” in the name refers to the 21st Century.

Agenda 21 made its way into the U.S. the following year when President Clinton quietly established the President’s Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD). The PCSD codified Agenda 21 into U.S. policy through a program called Sustainable America. Today, nearly all federal programs dealing with land management, education, environment and much more are linked to Agenda 21 through Sustainable America.

Because of grassroots pushback, the federal government today rarely uses the term Agenda 21 or Sustainable America anymore – especially with any program it is promoting. Instead, programs which administer Agenda 21’s sustainable development principles are given warm and fuzzy titles like the America’s Great Outdoors InitiativePartnership for Sustainable CommunitiesObama’s Climate Action Plan and many more. Even the newest education fad, Common Core, is linked to Agenda 21, as are the new Next Generation Science Standards.

Google has over 300 million referenUN buildingces to Agenda 21, yet it’s hard for most people to get the truth about Agenda 21 because of the truckloads of smoke and misinformation generated by government bureaucrats and the progressive media. This UN program is indeed real and it is an affront to our personal liberties.\Agenda 21 is supposedly designed to make the world “sustainable” by limiting human activities that environmental extremists believe are harming the planet. That may sound fine to many people – until they understand what it means in practice. In order to protect the environment, Agenda 21 instructs governments to micromanage virtually all human activity – which the governments either severely restrict, or regulate to the point that such activity can be minimalized.

A good case in point took place in California recently, which as has been widely reported, experienced a major three-year drought. In mid-March 2014, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld federal guidelines that guaranteed minimal flow of the Sacramento River to benefit “endangered” Delta Smelt – totally neglecting the needs of local farmers. Most farmers are getting no water even though most of them have long-term contracts guaranteeing it to them.

Delta smeltIronically, the Delta Smelt have survived many severe droughts in the past when farmers got virtually all the available water from the Sacramento River. Yet today the smelt get the water and the farmers don’t – even though many of the farmers will not survive the cutbacks. Seeing the needs of nature as being in conflict with the needs of people is a principle that is at the very heart of Agenda 21.

This is no small matter. Thousands of workers are being put out of work in California, and up to 700,000 acres of prime farmland will be removed from production. Since one-third of America’s fruit and vegetables originate in California’s Central Valley, this means that food prices could jump as much as 3.5%. While that may not seem like much to the more affluent in our society, it could be devastating to seniors and the poor who may no longer be able buy essential fruits and vegetables.

Simply stated, the only way Agenda 21 can work is to deny private citizens their private property rights. This should surprise no one since the UN has maintained that “public control of land use is…indispensable” since the 1976 Habitat I Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. Yet, recent research sponsored by the World Bank has shown that legally protected private property rights drastically reduce corruption, while establishing the foundation for wealth creation. This in turn also helps the environment as weathier nations spend more on environmental protection than poorer ones. The research stressed that “since these people do not have access to a comprehensive legal property system, they cannot leverage their assets to produce additional wealth.” The bottom line? “Nearly five billion people are legally and economically disenfranchised by their own governments,” reports the Bank.

The vast bulk of this is occurring, of course, in the developing world – but not all. The same thing is happening in the U.S. as Agenda 21 principles are adopted into policy. It has already had devastating effects. According to the Fraser Economic freedom wordsInstitute and CATO’s Economic Freedom of the World, the legal-system and-private-property-rights ranking for the U.S. plummeted from number one in 1980 to 38th in 2011; which not unsurprisingly has occurred since Agenda 21 principles began to be implemented in the 1990s. The U.S. combined economic ranking in the world from 1980 to 2000 was second or third place behind Hong Kong and Singapore. It plummeted to 19th between 2000 and 2011—mostly due to federal spending, debt, skyrocketing regulations (especially from EPA) and, most importantly, loss of a stable legal system and property rights.

Is it any wonder the current “economic recovery” is so anemic. Certainly not all of the economic woes we have experienced since President Obama’s election can be blamed on Agenda 21 policy. But Agenda 21 is no doubt a big factor in ravaging the U.S. economy. Citizens can begin to restore America’s health by supporting rational candidates at every level of government that are committed to ridding this nation of Agenda 21’s “sustainable development” policy plague.

Mike-Coffman-250x300About Michael Coffman

Michael Coffman, PhD, is CEO of Sovereignty International and has worked to raise awareness about the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, one of the key goals of Agenda 21

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.

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.