A Shrine to a Socialist Demagogue by Lawrence W. Reed

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — It’s May 27, 2015. Driving south on First Avenue toward Masaya on a hot, late-spring day in the Nicaraguan capital, my eye caught an image in the distance. “That looks like Curly from The Three Stooges!” I thought. Nah, what would he be doing here? Nyuk. Nyuk.

As we approached, I suddenly realized it only resembled Curly. It was actually somebody considerably less funny. The statue was a garish, tasteless manifestation of the late Venezuelan socialist strongman Hugo Chavez, surrounded by ugly, orange curlicues. I repressed the urge to gag as I stopped to take this photo:

Hugo Chavez shrine

This tribute to a man whose ceaseless demagoguery ruined his nation’s economy is the doing, of course, of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and his party. Ortega, like Chavez, engineered constitutional changes that may make him effectively president for life. He has worshiped state power since the 1970s. He was a Cuban-trained Marxist and cofounder of the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, the Sandinistas. I visited the country five times in the 1980s to interview key political figures, and whenever I was there, Ortega was pushing government literacy programs; meanwhile, his government was harassing and shutting down the opposition press.

Back in the 1980s, Ortega relied heavily on subsidies from his Soviet and Cuban sponsors. But now that the Soviets are ancient history and the Cuban economy is on life support, he’s had to moderate. Nicaragua is a very poor country. Its per capita GDP is about a third of the world average, better than Yemen’s but not as deluxe as Uzbekistan’s. According to the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, however, it’s ranked better than you might expect at 108th in the world. Seventy countries are actually less free.

Who do you think is ranked at the very bottom, at 176, 177, and 178?

None other than the workers’ paradises of Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.

If you want a glimpse of the current state of the Chavez/Maduro experiment in Venezuelan socialism, look no further than the relative scarcities of toilet paper (you’d better bring your own if you visit) and paper money (more abundant than ever at 510 percent inflation).

I asked my old friend Deroy Murdock, senior fellow with the Atlas Network, Fox News contributor, and keen observer of affairs in the Americas: How would you assess the legacy of the Venezuelan caudillo memorialized by Ortega’s regime in Nicaragua?

“Hugo Chavez arrived in Venezuela, determined to make his country a gleaming showcase of socialism, and renovate Cuba in the process,” Murdock said. “Now, Chavez is dead, Castro still lives, and both countries remain in dire straits. Chavez’s legacy is the enduring lesson that big government is bad, and huge government is even worse.”

Indeed. Seems pretty self-evident whether you look at the numbers from afar or walk the streets in person. Venezuela’s economy has been in free-fall for almost all of the past 15 years.

But there I was, gazing at a giant Hugo in Managua, a monument intended to say, “Way to go, man!” One wonders where an impoverished country gets the money or even the idea to construct such a hideous gargoyle.

Then I realized the answer: Ortega’s Nicaragua is run by socialists. And by typical socialist reasoning, you can be an architect of disaster but reckoned to be a “man of the people” just by claiming to be one.

If you produced the same results while advocating capitalism, you’d be reckoned a monster.


Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s.

Florida Voters Refused To Listen – Now They Have Been Taken Again!

Many of us have done the research and then try to teach exactly what is happening with our lawmakers. Florida’s reputation for corruption and deceit is at the top of the charts. There is a great deal to be said regarding one party being in control for far too long – and that is certainly the case in Florida.

We have been lied to over education, environmental issues, Enterprise Florida, Charter School legislation, Public Private Partnerships and the list goes on.

Today we find out the Florida lawmakers have made very little progress in regard to budget negotiating sessions and their special session is almost over. Standing at the fore front of the disagreements between the Florida House and Senate are health care, education and the environment.

Now comes the truth – House members want to borrow nearly $300 million in bonds for projects related to Amendment 1, a referendum passed by the very voters we tried to educate before the last election showing the false statements being made in relationship to the environment. Legislators were contending they were going to use the money for conservation and environmental clean-up projects.

Voters didn’t listen to the warnings!

Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla doesn’t want to use any bonds in relationship to any Amendment 1 projects. “B-O-N-D is a four letter word” Hayes said.

House environmental budget chief Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, withdrew bonding from the House’s latest offer Sunday, calling it an “olive branch.” “I cannot be any more clear: the House is very interested and supportive of bonding as (budget negotiations) go forward ,” Albritton said.

Now why would the legislators want to do this when Amendment 1 didn’t call for raising taxes one nickel; using bond money or borrowing any funds? Amendment 1 was merely about prioritizing, forcing the state to set aside a tiny percentage of its massive budget for clean water, fresh air and preserved land. (Specifically, we’re talking a third of existing doc-stamp taxes on real-estate, which equals about 1 percent of the state’s $77 billion budget.)

At least that is what the legislators wanted us to believe. Today, June 7, 2015 Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel did a marvelous job of exposing the Florida legislators and the massive shell games they continue to play:

Remember the Lottery?  Florida Politicians May Try the Same Shell Game With the Environment!

by Scott Maxwell

Most Floridians are painfully familiar with the Florida Lottery shell game.

It was the political con of the century — one that involved tens of billions of dollars.

It started in 1986 when voters were told that, if they approved a lottery, the money would go to education.

We even called it “The Education Lottery.” That way, when you plunk down 10 bucks for a scratch-off, you’re not really gambling … you’re donating to a scholarly cause. How altruistic of you.

Well, folks started “donating” by the droves. A billion bucks. Then $10 billion. Then $20 billion … all of it supposed to improve our schools.

But Floridians didn’t notice much change in education. We still had one of the lowest-funded school systems in America. We still do.

In fact, 20 years after the lottery started, the Sentinel did an investigation and determined that education funding had actually dropped from 59 percent of the state budget in 1987 to 51 percent in 2007.

Yes, after the “Education Lottery” raised billions of dollars, the percentage actually went down.

How? Well, politicians played shell games.

Yes, they spent the lottery money on schools. But they took money they had previously spent on schools and started spending it on other things.

Admittedly, it was important things, like renovating the Legislature’s dining room, but it was other things, nonetheless.

Now, we may be doing the whole sick shell-game thing again … only this time with the environment.

Last fall, Florida voters approved Amendment 1 to demand that Florida spend more on the environment.

The amendment didn’t call for raising taxes one nickel. It was merely about prioritizing, forcing the state to set aside a tiny percentage of its massive budget for clean water, fresh air and preserved land. (Specifically, we’re talking a third of existing doc-stamp taxes on real-estate, which equals about 1 percent of the state’s $77 billion budget.)

It’s hard to overstate how overwhelming the support was. Amendment 1 passed with 75 percent. No statewide candidate got anything close to that.

But Legislators are once again playing shell games.

For instance, the House budget proposes spending $38 million of this money on existing payroll for the state’s park services and $40 million on existing forest service employees.

Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal included $17.5 million for a wastewater-treatment project in the Florida Keys.

The Senate has $10 million for salaries in the Environmental Protection division.

Were you able to keep your eye on the pea? Did you see the shells move?

Most of those endeavors aren’t new. None of them involve land preservation.

Environmental groups are crying foul. So are government watchdogs. The Florida Today newspaper in Melbourne took the rare step of running a front-page editorial last week demanding that lawmakers “Respect voters, Obey Constitution on Amendment 1.”

Many critics complain there isn’t enough money for Florida Forever land preservation — practically nothing ($8 million-$15 million) this year compared to the days when Jeb Bush was governor ($300 million).

I don’t think we should be buying land simply for buying’s sake. But I do think we need to honor the amendment.

That means protecting natural areas, restoring wetlands and cleaning up our water supplies. Fixing the Everglades, improving the Indian River Lagoon and providing recreational trails.

There is no shortage of worthy ways to spend money in a state where water is both polluted and scarce enough that we have restrictions.

The amendment’s title was clear: “Water and Land Conservation: Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.”

And this time, those pushing it were smart. They included a provision that said this money can’t be “comingled” with the general funds the state had already been using.

That means if legislators play shell games with this money, there may be grounds to sue them.

It needn’t come to that.

Lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott are looking at a record budget. And they are free to spend 99 percent of it on education, roads, incentives, public safety, their own health-care plans — or whatever else they want.

They simply have to dedicate 1 percent to the environment.

It’s what voters wanted — and now what the constitution demands.

Scott Maxwell June 7, 2015 Orlando Sentinel  smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com

I smell a lawsuit in relation to the use of the funds to be collected from the doc-stamp taxes on real-estate. The Florida legislators have proven to us numerous times they are not to be trusted and this reaches to Governor Scott’s office also.

The lies, deceit, manipulation and corruption have been on-going for far too many years. Time for them to have to answer to the people who not only pay their salaries, but put them in those seats in Tallahassee.

An Economic Slant: The Three-Way Struggle Between America, Russia and the Vatican [+Videos]

keysThe subtitle of Malachi Martin’s best-selling “Keys of This Blood,” indicates that the super-powers are involved in a three-way struggle for world supremacy. The book may have overlooked our 500 point stock market crash a month after John Paul’s visit in 1987.

With the take-down of the Berlin Wall and Communism, orchestrated by President Reagan and John Paul, it looked like the west was supreme until Pope Benedict visited the U.S. in 2008 and the economy crashed months later.

While the pope’s visit and the economy may not seem related, an undisclosed source said her son was high up in the hierarchy of priests and he visited the Vatican every 2-3 weeks. He said in 2008, Mother, before the elections, life in the U.S. will change forever. Things will never be the same.

With the economy on edge and another pope coming, we should be prepared for “change,” even as Obama also promised change in 2008. But aren’t we seeing more change than we want?

We might get off this merry-go-round if we could turn the clock back to what made America great for hundreds of years before the womb became the most dangerous place in America and a small minority wanted to redefine marriage.

Speculation on the pope’s proposed visit suggests flowery words and another effort to change our historic focus. He has already expressed a desire to see us re-distribute our wealth. If his system is so great, why are all the countries south of our border (colonized by Spain and dominated by Rome for at the same time of America’s development), so poverty-stricken and illiterate?

On a visit to Colombia and Venezuela in 1960, this writer found virtually everyone wanting to come to America someday. When I arrived in Venezuela, there was a huge Communist demonstration for the president of Cuba who was arriving at the same time.

Catholicism seems to be breeding ground for economic and political discontent. In that context, people prefer Communism’s promise to share equally  with everyone instead of our historic focus of liberation to be responsible for our own welfare.

A great example is a 10-year old black girl, now CEO of Bee-Sweet Lemonade who accepted $60.000 for a quarter share in her business after an interview on Shark Tank.

Another good example is Ben Carson who was an angry young man in Detroit, but came to the top because he changed his attitude and quit blaming others for his choices.

Speaking of Detroit, we might not understand how it happens, but Karen Hudes, World Bank whistle-blower says Detroit’s tax-dollars go by treaty to the United Kingdom and then are transferred to the Vatican Bank (hear it at the 7:30 point):

Shouldn’t there be some investigative journalism and reporting of how this works? Another example is the $2.3 Trillion missing from the Pentagon budget announced by Rumsfeld. Was his announcement knowingly planned for the eve of 9-11 so there was no follow-up?

America is hemorrhaging, and now the pope is coming to help us get morality and virtue to discover our social responsibility?

Minnesota Muslims used college loans to pay for airfare to Syria to wage jihad

Your tax dollars at work. “Fraud charges added to ISIL terrorism case against 2 Twin Cities men,” by Paul McEnroe, Star Tribune, May 19, 2015 (thanks to Pamela Geller)

Two Twin Cities men charged with conspiracy to fight alongside terrorists now face financial fraud charges for allegedly using their college loans to purchase airline tickets to fly to the Middle East.

In a superseding indictment unsealed Tuesday by the U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota, Hamza Ahmed and Hanad Mustafe Musse were charged with using more than $1,000 of financial aid provided to them.

Ahmed, 20, of Savage, and Musse, 19, of Minneapolis, are among seven young Somali-Americans from Minnesota who face charges of planning to leave the United States and fight alongside Islamic extremist groups. Six of them were charged in April.

During the past two years, more than 20 Somali-Americans from Minnesota have left to fight alongside terrorists with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, according to the FBI.

The new indictment says that Ahmed and Musse bought airline tickets on Nov. 8, 2014, from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Europe, using more than $1,000 in federal college financial aid. Ahmed used his aid money to purchase a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, authorities say. Musse used similar funds to buy a ticket to travel to Greece. From those two destinations, authorities say the pair then planned on heading to Syria. Ahmed had actually boarded his flight when he was ordered off the plane by officers from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In a related matter, Abdirahman Daud, 21, another alleged conspirator, made his first appearance in federal court in Minneapolis on Tuesday morning before U.S. Chief District Judge Michael Davis. Daud was arrested by the FBI in San Diego in late April, along with alleged conspirator Mohamed Farah, after they drove from Minneapolis to California. They were accompanied on the trip by a confidential informant who was working for the FBI.

Daud and Farah allegedly planned to acquire false documents in San Diego in order to cross into Mexico. From there, they planned on flying to the Middle East with the intent of entering Syria to fight, authorities say….

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Canada: 10 Muslims arrested at airport on suspicion of leaving to join Islamic State

Did the IRS Break the Law by Outsourcing an Audit to a High-Priced Law Firm?

By outsourcing an audit to a high-priced law firm, the IRS might have broken the law, and the Senate Finance Committee Chairman wants to know why.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) wrote a scathing letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen asking why his agency hired the “law firm of Quinn Emanuel on a $2.2 million contract” to assist in auditing Microsoft. “This contract marks the first time, to the Committee’s knowledge, that the agency has hired a private contractor to take such an involved role in an examination.”

Hatch is also asking why the IRS “issued a temporary regulation, without a notice and comment period” allowing the firm to “take compulsory, sworn testimony” weeks after it hired the firm.

Sen. Hatch has three problems with what the IRS has done.

Action Defies Will of Congress

First by hiring the firm, Sen. Hatch believes the IRS has stepped outside the law. In writing the tax code, “the Congress intentionally chose to restrict the performance of certain revenue functions, such as examinations and the taking of sworn testimony, to the Secretary and limited delegates,” Sen. Hatch writes. This doesn’t include hiring a law firm for $1,000 per hour.

Doesn’t Protect Taxpayers

Second, letting an outside law firm investigate a tax case doesn’t protect taxpayers:

Unlike private contractors, Treasury Department officials are required to swear an oath to the Constitution and are subject to rules of conduct and federal law regulating their interactions with taxpayers. This is one of the core reasons Congress has sought to limit certain examination actions to these officials, who are accountable to the public and for whom there is a clear chain of command.

The IRS Has the Resources to Investigate

Third, Sen. Hatch questions if the IRS is using its resources properly:

The IRS has over 40,000 employees dedicated to enforcement efforts, including more than 36,000 tasked specifically with exams and collections. If none of these employees, nor IRS Office of Chief Counsel or Department of Justice tax attorneys, have sufficient expertise to undertake the examination at hand, we should have a broader conversation about your agency’s hiring practices and recruitment needs.

What Kind of Law Firm is Quinn Emanuel?

On the “About Us” page of its website, Quinn Emanuel crows, “Litigation is a zero sum game. There is a winner and a loser. We know how to win.” The page also features a quote about the firm from The American Lawyer: “Better. Faster. Tougher. Scarier.”

Sleep well, America, the IRS gave some pit bull plaintiff lawyers the power to “take compulsory, sworn testimony.”

In Fiscal Year 2014, Congress gave the IRS over $11 billion. If it thinks one particular investigation is that important, it should dedicate enough internal resources. What the IRS can’t do is act like it’s above the law.

Sen. Hatch is demanding that Quinn Emanuel stop its investigation and that the IRS answer his questions immediately.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of the Internal Revenue Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. Photo credit: Dennis Brack/Bloomberg.

Republicans and Election Reform

Now that Republicans have working majorities in both houses of Congress, the American people can once again enjoy the benefits of the constitutional republic that the Founders designed for us.  Right?  Well, not so fast.  To expect the current crop of congressional Republicans to do what is necessary to restore constitutional government and repair the damage done by Barack Obama… let alone know what must be done… is entirely problematic.

As a case in point, the recent battle over construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline demonstrates the complete fecklessness of congressional Republicans.  From the instant the last ballot was counted in November, it was clear that one of the first bills to pass in the 114th Congress would be a bill to approve construction of the pipeline… a bill that Barack Obama promised to veto if and when it reached his desk.  Does Obama care about the environment or the leftists who politicize it?  Of course not.  What he does care about are the many millions of dollars that pour into Democrat Party coffers from a handful of radical environmentalists.

What congressional Republicans apparently failed to recognize was the immense political gains to be made if the issue was properly handled.  By developing best estimates of the number of engineers, contractors, welders, heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, and laborers required to complete the project, along with the generous salaries, wages, and benefits that those workers would command, Republicans could have armed themselves with the most potent political weapon they’d ever been blessed to have.  By seeing to it that every Republican in Congress had that information at his/her fingertips, with instructions to repeated it in every radio, TV, and print media interview, and in every public appearance, Republicans could have driven a very large wedge either between the Democrat Party and radical environmentalist, or between Democrats and organized labor.

By signing the pipeline bill Obama would reap the anger of the radical environmentalists and win the approval of organized labor.  Conversely, by vetoing the bill he would win high praise from environmentalists, but organized labor would be angered enough to split the Democrat vote in many national and state elections.  For Republicans, it was a win-win proposition.  However, instead of using that opportunity to their advantage, making a veto override a real possibility, congressional Republicans treated that opportunity as if it were a sexually-transmitted disease.

While Democrats can be counted upon to always play hardball, Republicans seem intent upon playing political softball.  So, if congressional Republicans aren’t smart enough to recognize a political advantage when one falls into their laps, how can we expect them to recognize the political damage to be done if Obama is successful in giving Social Security numbers, drivers licenses, and voter registration cards to millions of illegals, none of whom are eligible to vote?

Even though they are seriously victimized by fraud, violence, and intimidation in every election, congressional Republicans appear to be blithely unaware of the problem as Democrats continue to liberalize the electoral process.  In fact, it is unlikely that election reform is even on their wish list.  Although election law is generally a matter of state law, a comprehensive election reform law targeting federal elections would supersede state law.  A comprehensive election reform bill… one that would put Obama and congressional Democrats in a tight box… would contain the following elements of reform:

  • Voter registration must be done only in person.  Fraud-friendly motor-voter, postcard, Internet, and same-day registration schemes must be either repealed or superseded.

In same-day registration states, Democrats have recruited teams of college students to travel from precinct to precinct, registering to vote and voting numerous times in the same day.  In a heavily-Democratic county in Minnesota, an undercover investigator visited a county election board to ask whether or not it was necessary for new voters to register in person, saying that he had two friends, Tom Brady and Tim Tebow, who were unable to appear in person.  The investigator was given twenty registration forms and was told that he could register twenty voters with the forms.

  • Registrations must be done only by full-time registrars, employees of counties and/or township government, and only in the state, county, and/or township in which the registrant maintains his/her primary residence.  Third party registrars, paid and unpaid, must be prohibited.

In 2012, a voter registration study showed that, in North Carolina alone, some 35,570 voters shared the same first names, last names, and dates of birth with individuals registered to vote in other states.  Another 765 North Carolinians had the same first names, last names, birthdays, and final four digits of a Social Security number as those who voted in other states.  As a requisite for voter registration, each voter should be required to show proof of citizenship (birth certificate or passport) and proof of residence (drivers license, residential deed, apartment lease, utility bills, etc.).

  1. Before voting, each voter must show an official government-issued photo ID (drivers license, passport, etc.), or an official state-issued voter registration card complete with telephone number, home address, Social Security number, and precinct number.  As an alternative, and as a means of preventing voters from voting more than once in a single day, states may require voters to dip a finger into a vial of indelible ink after voting.
  2. Court administrators must be required to furnish local election boards with name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number of every individual convicted of a felony.  Election boards must be required to purge voter registrations rolls of all felons at least ten days prior to any election.  County Coroners must be required to furnish election boards with copies of all death certificates.  All deceased persons must be removed from the voter rolls no later than ten days prior to any election.
  3. Registered voters who move from one state to another, from one county or township to another, or from one precinct to another, must be required to obtain voter registration transfer documents from their local election board.  This document must be presented, in person, to voter registrars of the voter’s new place of residence.
  4. Absentee ballots must be received no later than ten days prior to an election.  Absentee ballots, other than those of overseas military personnel, must be tallied no later than the day and hour that polls close in any election.  Absentee ballots completed by residents of hospitals, nursing homes, elder care, and mental health facilities must be completed only in the presence of representatives of both major political parties.
  5. Other than absentee ballots, voting must be done in person, only on the day of the election, and only in the precinct in which the voter maintains his/her primary place of residence.  Electronic voting and vote-by-mail schemes must be repealed or superseded.  Provisional ballots must be limited only to the most serious instances of clerical error by election board officials.
  6. The Voting Rights Act must be amended to provide fines and mandatory jail sentences for any individual who would, in any election in which the name of a candidate for federal office appears on the ballot, do any of the following:
    • Vote in the name of another person.
    • Vote or attempt to vote more than once in any election.
    • Vote in the name of a deceased or fictitious person.
    • Vote in more than one state or political subdivision.
    • Vote without benefit of U.S. citizenship.
    • Intimidate, interfere with, or cause injury to the person or property of any other person peaceably engaged in the political process, or cause any other person to do any of the foregoing.

In an April 10, 2014, speech before Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Barack Obama attempted to rally his base by charging, falsely, that Republicans were attempting to suppress the black vote in the 2014 elections.  Demonstrating once again that he is either totally dishonest or ignorant of the facts, he said, “The principle of one person-one vote is the single greatest tool we have to redress an unjust status quo.  You would think there would not be an argument about this anymore.  But the stark, simple truth is this:  The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago.”

In truth, what Obama would like to see is a system in which only Democrats and illegal aliens get to vote twice.  If Republicans had any courage at all they would insist on tightening the noose around vote fraud and stop ignoring Democrat efforts to create more fraud-friendly processes.  They might use comprehensive voting reform as yet another issue that would require Democrats to identify themselves for who and what they are.

As Obama has said, one would think that there would no longer be a question about holding open and honest elections in the United States, but that’s not the way things are.  Decent, honest, men and women will endorse the reforms outlined above.  Democrats, on the other hand, are certain to oppose them.

The Logic of Testing  – Common Sense, NOT Common Core

Our Florida State and Federal legislators claim we must hold schools accountable for results so that they, the government, can cost justify the expense of education to the taxpayers.  Since 1985, they have increased their emphasis on testing, culminating in No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and Common Core.

Well, let’s see how that is working, exactly.  We have over 40 years of information shown on the CATO Institute chart showing the dramatic escalation of costs, while test scores have actually declined:

federal spending per student since 1970

Most logical people would conclude that increased spending on federal government programs has not been an effective tool to increase the effectiveness of our schools.  Logic is not all that common in government, however, and government programs don’t shut down just because they aren’t working.

This is especially evident in Florida, where testing now absorbs nearly 40% of class time available for learning, and billions of dollars are being spent on Florida State Assessments and Common Core.  These assessments are proprietary, however, and do not provide any comparison to other states; so much for accountability.

When actual, nationally normed tests are used to compare Florida’s students, year over year, to other states, we find the troubling truth.  The ACT is such a test and this how Florida’s students measure up over the last 20 years.  We are now a dismal 47th in the U.S.:

florida act scores

I attended our Lee County School Board meeting  where members were barraged with community complaints and tried to weigh options for the onerous burdens of the new bill, HB7069, recently signed into law by Governor Scott.   Similar discussions are being held at all school boards throughout the state.

The State bullies ignored the declining results reported by nationally normed ACT tests since 1998 and doubled down to erode accountability, reduce class time for learning, cede control to the state, dramatically increase cost, and endanger our children’s privacy rights.  They kept Common Core Curriculum and High Stakes Testing in place.

Let’s lay out the facts:

1.)    We don’t have the money to pay for schools to house our kids and yet the State wants us to build, maintain and update elaborate and expensive computer testing facilities.

2.)    The state wants us to pay about $34 per test for required state tests.

3.)    The tests are not validated and scores won’t be available until the middle of the next school year, yet the state wants them to be 30% of the student scores on end of course tests.  This means no report cards could be issued or decisions reached about student progress plans this year.

4.)    The FSA tests have disgracefully and repeatedly crashed, causing delays and confusion all over the state.  Starts and restarts themselves invalidate results.  Crashes were caused by the vendor, AIR, which was paid $220 Million to create and deliver this product.  No information has been presented from the state about recouping the millions of dollars schools lost in the crashes.

5.)    The tests will take about 9 days of student time if there was no conflict with sharing of computers.  Under current computer availability management, students are losing up to 40% of their class time to testing and delays.

6.)    We don’t see the test questions to see if they are appropriate or accurate and can’t use them to inform students.

7.)    Students taking tests on computers are being unfairly and inaccurately measured through the prism of their keyboarding skills, not their actual knowledge.

8.)    We know our children’s information is being data mined when they take tests on computers.

9.)    We have not been given any reason why tests must be given on computer.

10.)Pencil and paper tests are available to measure our students’ progress.

  1. They are MUCH less expensive
  2. They never crash
  3. It is difficult or impossible for the corporate cronies to data mine paper tests.
  4. Students can take them at their own desks without delays and confusion.
  5. Pencil and paper tests fairly represent the student’s knowledge, not their computer skills.
  6. Tests can be reviewed for accuracy and validity, and shared with teachers to inform instruction.

Given these facts it is clear.  Parents, teachers and local districts do not need the federal or state government to tell us how to educate our kids.  Our teachers are certified and the schools are accredited.  The STATE is NOT.  We need to restore local control by following this simple, “Common Sense, not Common Core” plan.

  1. Select from the best “off the shelf”standards which are available for free and not copyrighted
  2. Restore portfolio grading and eliminate high stakes tests
  3. Test on paper to reduce expense, eliminate data mining, and add back as much as 40% class time for learning

It’s a simple plan that will reduce bureaucracy, complexity, costs and inefficiency.  Tools to implement this are immediately available and are not copyrighted.  Our students will thrive in this environment and educational freedom will result in excellence.

Share this with your local school board now.

Reich Is Wrong on the Minimum Wage by DONALD BOUDREAUX

Watching Robert Reich’s new video in which he endorses raising the minimum wage by $7.75 per hour – to $15 per hour – is painful. It hurts to encounter such rapid-fire economic ignorance, even if the barrage lasts for only two minutes.

Perhaps the most remarkable flaw in this video is Reich’s manner of addressing the bedrock economic objection to the minimum wage – namely, that minimum wage prices some low-skilled workers out of jobs.

Ignoring supply-and-demand analysis (which depicts the correct common-sense understanding that the higher the minimum wage, the lower is the quantity of unskilled workers that firms can profitably employ), Reich asserts that a higher minimum wage enables workers to spend more money on consumer goods which, in turn, prompts employers to hire more workers.

Reich apparently believes that his ability to describe and draw such a “virtuous circle” of increased spending and hiring is reason enough to dismiss the concerns of “scare-mongers” (his term) who worry that raising the price of unskilled labor makes such labor less attractive to employers.

Ignore (as Reich does) that any additional amounts paid in total to workers mean lower profits for firms or higher prices paid by consumers – and, thus, less spending elsewhere in the economy by people other than the higher-paid workers.

Ignore (as Reich does) the extraordinarily low probability that workers who are paid a higher minimum wage will spend all of their additional earnings on goods and services produced by minimum-wage workers.

Ignore (as Reich does) the impossibility of making people richer simply by having them circulate amongst themselves a larger quantity of money.

(If Reich is correct that raising the minimum wage by $7.75 per hour will do nothing but enrich all low-wage workers to the tune of $7.75 per hour because workers will spend all of their additional earnings in ways that make it profitable for their employers to pay them an additional $7.75 per hour, then it can legitimately be asked: Why not raise the minimum wage to $150 per hour? If higher minimum wages are fully returned to employers in the form of higher spending by workers as Reich theorizes, then there is no obvious limit to the amount by which government can hike the minimum wage before risking an increase in unemployment.)

Focus instead on Reich’s apparent complete ignorance of the important concept of the elasticity of demand for labor.  This concept refers to the responsiveness of employers to changes in wage rates. It’s true that if employers’ demand for unskilled workers is “inelastic,” then a higher minimum wage would indeed put more money into the pockets of unskilled workers as a group. The increased pay of workers who keep their jobs more than offsets the lower pay of worker who lose their jobs. Workers as a group could then spend more in total.

But if employers’ demand for unskilled workers is “elastic,” then raising the minimum wage reduces, rather than increases, the amount of money in the pockets of unskilled workers as a group. When the demand for labor is elastic, the higher pay of those workers fortunate enough to keep their jobs is more than offset by the lower pay of workers who lose their jobs. So total spending by minimum-wage workers would likely fall, not rise.

By completely ignoring elasticity, Reich assumes his conclusion. That is, he simply assumes that raising the minimum wage raises the total pay of unskilled workers (and, thereby, raises the total spending of such workers).

Yet whether or not raising the minimum wage has this effect is among the core issues in the debate over the merits of minimum-wage legislation. Even if (contrary to fact) increased spending by unskilled workers were sufficient to bootstrap up the employment of such workers, raising the minimum wage might well reduce the total amount of money paid to unskilled workers and, thus, lower their spending.

So is employers’ demand for unskilled workers more likely to be elastic or inelastic? The answer depends on how much the minimum wage is raised. If it were raised by, say, only five percent, it might be inelastic, causing only a relatively few worker to lose their jobs and, thus, the total take-home pay of unskilled workers as a group to rise.

But Reich calls for an increase in the minimum wage of 107 percent! It’s impossible to believe that more than doubling the minimum wage would not cause a huge negative response by employers.

Such an assumption – if it described reality – would mean that unskilled workers are today so underpaid (relative to their productivity) that their employers are reaping gigantic windfall profits off of such workers.

But the fact that we see increasing automation of low-skilled tasks, as well as continuing high rates of unemployment of teenagers and other unskilled workers, is solid evidence that the typical low-wage worker is not such a bountiful source of profit for his or her employer.

Reich’s video is infected, from start to finish, with too many other errors to count.  I hope that other sensible people will take the time to expose them all.

Donald Boudreaux

Donald Boudreaux is a professor of economics at George Mason University, a former FEE president, and the author of Hypocrites and Half-Wits.

EDITORS NOTE: Here’s how Reich cherry-picked his data to claim that the minimum wage is “historically low” right now; here’s why Reich is wrong about wages “decoupling” from productivity; here’s why Reich is wrong about welfare “subsidizing” low-wage employers; here’s why Reich is wrong that Walmart raising wages proves that the minimum wage “works”; Reich is wrong (again) about who makes minimum wage; and here’s a collection of recent news about the damage minimum wage hikes have caused.

This post first appeared at Cato.org, while Cafe Hayek was down for repairs. 

What is the Point?

Recently someone asked me a very insightful question.  Since black Americans are always complaining about and committing dastardly acts, because of real or imagined problems, how is it that they have become what they have complained about?  When I was viewing the ongoing criminal activity of burning, looting and physical violence against reporters who were simply doing their job I became quite angry.  It did not matter to me what the angry black men and women were upset about.  The brutal demonstrators threw rocks at police cars and set fires to businesses, including liquor stores they raided.  Of course they consumed fire water and had a jolly good time giving the ultimate display of how uncivilized people can be.  The massive void of common decency and wisdom among the population of criminals was jaw dropping.

I could not help but think about the almost comical irony concerning the Baltimore rioters.  On one hand they were cursing capitalism and expressing the need for more jobs. Then preceding to confirm how stupid they are as they commenced to burn businesses up that had been a source of jobs.  But the truth is, whether it’s the bully thugs of Baltimore, the Debbie downers of Detroit, the shysters of Chicago or the complainers in Cleveland, there is one common denominator.  That is a dangerous philosophical base which includes hatred for America, capitalism, virtue, civility, liberty and self- reliance.

For decades, the liberal controllers of government schools have systematically and purposely indoctrinated generations of young Americans, particularly blacks against almost anything that is good and mentally stimulating.

Then there is the government of Baltimore, starting with its progressive mayor who was concerned about giving people the space to destroy and almost lost the whole city to destructive cretins. Her wrong decisions allowed thugs to gain so much ground that the Baltimore Orioles had to play their opponents in an empty stadium. In my opinion that was not a good decision. They should have used the force necessary to shut down the efforts of those who were using the death of one individual as an excuse to destroy the city.

The free speech of looters, fire starters and those assaulting police officers should not have been of any concern to anybody including the media.  Simply because they were obstructing the rights of business owners, people in general and even the police who according to their job description should have put forth more effort to protect the city and its citizens.  The failed mayor of Baltimore was and remains so misguided in her interpretation of the law. She forced the police to put forth a wimpy effort against criminals who were then strengthened in their mission to kill, steal and destroy.

The United States of America is a nation of laws.  Some of which are enforceable guidelines for the protection of  law abiding sovereign citizens.  They are not silly proclamations to allow looters, gang bangers and wannabes to destroy everything in sight because of some imaginary racist boogeyman.  “We the People” who truly desire a better life for our fellow Americans must demand that government be a fearsome force against evil doers, no matter what their color.

I am of the opinion that the Baltimore rioting was allowed either on purpose, or thru stupidity to get out of control and the looters were given way too much leeway.  Some pundits called it a delicate balance.  There is nothing delicate or balanced about thugs destroying private property, assaulting police officers, stealing and burning cars.  Thus a swift and powerful force should have been applied to stop the bully cretins who were more interested in decreasing jobs by burning businesses than seeking the truth about what really happened to Freddy Gray.

It was almost hilarious to witness the attorney for the Gray family call conservatives’ racist.  This after witnessing hours and hours of the end result of progressive, liberal indoctrination being acted out viciously on the streets of Baltimore.  I almost felt sorry for the Gray family attorney, who like many of the rioters blaming conservatives for the plight of black (he called them African Americans).  As long as black Americans continue to blame others for every problem (most of which they bring upon themselves) life will continue to be nothing more than misery for them and their generations far into the future.

If Black Americans truly want a better life, it would behoove them to quickly stop being willing agents of destruction and seek the path that leads to righteousness and restoration.  Black Americans must wean themselves away from the Alinsky, Soros inspired path of destruction.

Let us pray for wisdom and renewal to replace ignorance, misguided rage and broken families.

EDITORS NOTE: Please join Ron on his new talk show every Saturday @ 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM EST on Philadelphia’s AM 1360 WNJC Radio and everywhere  www.wnjcradio.com. Also, AM 1360 WNJC  is the newest affiliate outlet of The Edwards Notebook Syndicated commentary weekday afternoons @ 4:57 PM EST.The featured image is courtesy of the International Business Times.

Jailed in Atlanta, Walking Around Free in Miami-Dade: Different Strokes for Different Folks

On Tuesday, three Atlanta educators were sentenced to seven years in prison, and six others given terms of 1-7 years, for their part in the massive test cheating scandal in Atlanta Public Schools, with more prison sentences expected.  Two educators out of ten took the State’s plea deal- so far, the terms have not been reported.

At an emotional hearing, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter called the case “the sickest thing that’s ever happened in this town.”

Unfortunately for them, they did not work at Miami Norland Senior High School and participate in Adobegate, for if they had, they would be walking around free amongst us like Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin and Mrs. Brenda Muchnick.

Florida, like Georgia, has statutes relating to test cheating and racketeering:

  •  Florida Statute 1008.24, “Test Administration and Security,” makes it a misdemeanor to engage in standardized test cheating: “A person who violates this section commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”
  • Florida Statute 895.03, Section 1 states: “It is unlawful for any person who has with criminal intent received any proceeds derived, directly or indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity or through the collection of an unlawful debt to use or invest, whether directly or indirectly, any part of such proceeds, or the proceeds derived from the investment or use thereof, in the acquisition of any title to, or any right, interest, or equity in, real property or in the establishment or operation of any enterprise.”
  • Florida Statute 775.0844, “White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act,” states in Section 2: “Due to the frequency with which victims, particularly elderly victims, are deceived and cheated by criminals who commit nonviolent frauds and swindles, frequently through the use of the Internet and other electronic technology and frequently causing the loss of substantial amounts of property, it is the intent of the Legislature to enhance the sanctions imposed for nonviolent frauds and swindles, protect the public’s property, and assist in prosecuting white collar criminals.”

Adobegate was a host of white collar crimes that took place over the Internet as the tests were given online with the answers provided to the students by cheat sheets given by their teachers- Mr. Fleurantin and Mrs. Muchnick.

Though Florida, like Georgia, has the legal framework to pursue charges against those involved in Adobegate, Florida officials lack the motivation and inclination unlike Georgia, Texas, and Pennsylvania officials to prosecute them and seek justice.

Mr. Trevor Colestock, the whistle-blower, is of the opinion that other schools were involved and that Adobegate is being covered up to prevent others from speaking out and from exposing a larger and costlier fraud to Florida and federal taxpayers; is it so as to protect politically connected Miami-Dade County Public Schools officials such as Superintendent Alberto Carvalho?

Could it be that state and federal officials did not pursue Mr. Colestock’s complaints so as to avoid embarrassment and protect M-DCPS officials?

How far does Adobegate go?

What other schools and M-DCPS employees were involved and to what cost?

Only a thorough investigation will answer these questions, and the general public and Mr. Colestock, who was retaliated against for exposing Adobegate, are owed that much.

RELATED ARTICLE: Former D.C. Whistleblower Principal Adell Cothorne on the Atlanta Verdict

Razing the Bar: The bar exam protects a cartel of lawyers, not their clients by Allen Mendenhall

The bar exam was designed and continues to operate as a mechanism for excluding the lower classes from participation in the legal services market. Elizabeth Olson of the New York Times reports that the bar exam as a professional standard “is facing a new round of scrutiny — not just from the test takers but from law school deans and some state legal establishments.”

This is a welcome development.

Testing what, exactly?

The dean of the University of San Diego School of Law, Stephen C. Ferrulo, complains to the Times that the bar exam “is an unpredictable and unacceptable impediment for accessibility to the legal profession.” Ferrulo is right: the bar exam is a barrier to entry, a form of occupational licensure that restricts access to a particular vocation and reduces market competition.

The bar exam tests the ability to take tests, not the ability to practice law. The best way to learn the legal profession is through tried experience and practical training, which, under our current system, are delayed for years, first by the requirement that would-be lawyers graduate from accredited law schools and second by the bar exam and its accompanying exam for professional fitness.

Freedom of contract

The 19th-century libertarian writer Lysander Spooner, himself a lawyer, opposed occupational licensure as a violation of the freedom of contract, arguing that, once memorialized, all agreements between mutually consenting parties “should not be subjects of legislative caprice or discretion.”

“Men may exercise at discretion their natural rights to enter into all contracts whatsoever that are in their nature obligatory,” he wrote, adding that this principle would prohibit all laws “forbidding men to make contracts by auction without license.”

In more recent decades, Milton Friedman disparaged occupational licensure as “another example of governmentally created and supported monopoly on the state level.” For Friedman, occupational licensure was no small matter. “The overthrow of the medieval guild system,” he said, was an indispensable early step in the rise of freedom in the Western world. It was a sign of the triumph of liberal ideas.… In more recent decades, there has been a retrogression, an increasing tendency for particular occupations to be restricted to individuals licensed to practice them by the state.

The bar exam is one of the most notorious examples of this “increasing tendency.”

Protecting lawyers from the poor

The burden of the bar exam falls disproportionately on low-income earners and ethnic minorities who lack the ability to pay for law school or to assume heavy debts to earn a law degree. Passing a bar exam requires expensive bar-exam study courses and exam fees, to say nothing of the costly applications and paperwork that must be completed in order to be eligible to sit for the exam. The average student-loan debt for graduates of many American law schools now exceeds $150,000, while half of all lawyers make less than $62,000 per year, a significant drop since a decade ago.

Recent law-school graduates do not have the privilege of reducing this debt after they receive their diploma; they must first spend three to four months studying for a bar exam and then, having taken the exam, must wait another three to four months for their exam results. More than half a year is lost on spending and waiting rather than earning, or at least earning the salary of a licensed attorney (some graduates work under the direction of lawyers pending the results of their bar exam).

When an individual learns that he or she has passed the bar exam, the congratulations begin with an invitation to pay a licensing fee and, in some states, a fee for a mandatory legal-education course for newly admitted attorneys. These fees must be paid before the individual can begin practicing law.

The exam is working — but for whom?

What’s most disturbing about this system is that it works precisely as it was designed to operate.  State bar associations and bar exams are products of big-city politics during the Progressive Era. Such exams existed long before the Progressive Era — Delaware’s bar exam dates back to 1763 — but not until the Progressive Era were they increasingly formalized and institutionalized and backed by the enforcement power of various states.

Threatened by immigrant workers and entrepreneurs who were determined to earn their way out of poverty and obscurity, lawyers with connections to high-level government officials in their states sought to form guilds to prohibit advertising and contingency fees and other creative methods for gaining clients and driving down the costs of legal services. Establishment lawyers felt the entrepreneurial up-and-comers were demeaning the profession and degrading the reputation of lawyers by transforming the practice of law into a business industry that admitted ethnic minorities and others who lacked rank and class. Implementing the bar exam allowed these lawyers to keep allegedly unsavory people and practices out of the legal community and to maintain the high costs of fees and services.

Protecting the consumer

In light of this ugly history, the paternalistic response of Erica Moeser to the New York Times is particularly disheartening. Moeser is the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. She says that the bar exam is “a basic test of fundamentals” that is justified by “protecting the consumer.” But isn’t it the consumer above all who is harmed by the high costs of legal services that are a net result of the bar exam and other anticompetitive practices among lawyers? To ask the question is to answer it. It’s also unclear how memorizing often-archaic rules to prepare for standardized, high-stakes multiple-choice tests that are administered under stressful conditions will in any way improve one’s ability to competently practice law.

The legal community and consumers of legal services would be better served by the apprenticeship model that prevailed long before the rise of the bar exam. Under this model, an aspiring attorney was tutored by experienced lawyers until he or she mastered the basics and demonstrated his or her readiness to represent clients. The high cost of law school was not a precondition; young people spent their most energetic years doing real work and gaining practical knowledge. Developing attorneys had to establish a good reputation and keep their costs and fees to a minimum to attract clients, gain trust, and maintain a living.

The rise in technology and social connectivity in our present era also means that reputation markets have improved since the early 20th century, when consumers would have had a more difficult time learning by word-of-mouth and secondhand report that one lawyer or group of lawyers consistently failed their clients — or ripped them off. Today, with services like Amazon, eBay, Uber, and Airbnb, consumers are accustomed to evaluating products and service providers online and for wide audiences.  Learning about lawyers’ professional reputations should be quick and easy, a matter of a simple Internet search.  With no bar exam, the sheer ubiquity and immediacy of reputation markets could weed out the good lawyers from the bad, thereby transferring the mode of social control from the legal cartel to the consumers themselves.

Criticism of the high costs of legal bills has not gone away in recent years, despite the drop in lawyers’ salaries and the saturation of the legal market with too many attorneys. The quickest and easiest step toward reducing legal costs is to eliminate bar exams. The public would see no marked difference in the quality of legal services if the bar exam were eliminated, because, among other things, the bar exam doesn’t teach or test how to deliver those legal services effectively.

It will take more than just the grumbling of anxious, aspiring attorneys to end bar-exam hazing rituals. That law school deans are realizing the drawbacks of the bar exam is a step in the right direction. But it will require protests from outside the legal community — from the consumers of legal services — to effect any meaningful change.

Allen Mendenhall

Allen Mendenhall is the author of Literature and Liberty: Essays in Libertarian Literary Criticism (Rowman & Littlefield / Lexington Books, 2014). Visit his website at AllenMendenhall.com.

Worst in Nation Hawaii Health Connector Looking for Another $28M by Andrew Walden

Good money after bad?

Ranked last year as “worst in the nation,” with sign-up costs estimated at $56,819 per enrollee, the Hawaii Health Connector is begging Legislators for another $28 million.  The sales pitch?  A financial plan which openly states the Connector will lose money for another eight years.

The Connector is set up as a State-mandated non-profit organization with insurance company representatives on the Board of Directors.  The unique setup allows the Connector to evade Hawaii’s public records laws, but Hawaii’s lone Republican Senator Sam Slom argues the “$28 million in ‘debentures’ … are in reality General Obligation bonds.  Their issue by a private non-profit is unconstitutional….” On March 25 the House Consumer Protection and Health Committees agreed, yanking the funding mechanism from the bill and leaving the details for the House Finance Committee to work out in a hearing now set for Wednesday April 8 at 2pm in room 308. UPDATE: FIN passed SB1028 un-amended–it is headed for a referral to Conference Committee.

At the February 15 deadline, the Health Connector touted 13,356 sign-ups in the three-month enrollment period–but as many as 7,700 are Micronesian immigrants forced off Medicaid and into plans provided by the Health Exchange.  Estimated to save the State $20 million per year, the move alarms Dr. David Derauf of the Kokua Kalihi Valley clinic.  In a February 26 column in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Derauf points out:

“As a result of these changes, many will suffer serious consequences to their health. Some will die.

“For this particular group of lawfully present immigrants, the state under Medicaid currently pays 100 percent of the costs of the program, which ensures that low-income people have access to medically necessary care at no cost.

“By transferring them to a Connector plan, much of the state’s cost will shift to the federal government, which provides significant insurance subsidies for people near the poverty line.

“However, even with those subsidies, an individual will still have to pay up to $2,250 in copays and co-insurance in a single year — an impossible amount for someone working 40 hours a week at minimum wage and earning only $1,343 a month. At these income levels, seemingly insignificant copays can prevent people from getting the medications and treatment they need.”

Kelii Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute explains: “Before the Affordable Care Act, Hawaii had a workable public-private partnership that ensured 93% healthcare coverage for the population.  It was a model that other states were studying and planning to implement in some form without a federal mandate.  Now consumers as well as the state government are facing skyrocketing costs.”

Other populations are being suggested as forcible Obamacare converts.  A bill offering benefits to “innocent” ex-convicts includes lifetime health care “…provided that the claimant enrolls in the Hawaii health insurance exchange….”  With labor negotiations ongoing,Governor David Ige is suggesting putting the State’s 40,000 employees into the Connector.

While reaping the benefits of Micronesian misfortune, Connector officials talk up the State’s60,000 new Medicaid enrollees–signed up not by the Connector but by the State Department of Human Services.  While the Connector managed to waste $205 million on its failed enrollment software, the State DHS blew another $144 million on balky Medicaid signup systems leading to the February ouster of the State’s Medicaid Director.  Both efforts ended up relying on human enrollment workers to complete applications.

Says Slom: “I serve on the Connector Oversight Committee. When I seek fiscal answers I get double talk. The enrollment figures are bogus. The business plan is flawed. The Connector depends on endless subsidies and has lost millions of taxpayer dollars in questionable contracts. The Connector must be dis-connected now.”

Florida and Georgia: A Tale of Test Cheating Scandals in Two States

Disparity: Convictions in Atlanta, Impunity in Miami-Dade Schools.

On Wednesday, an Atlanta jury convicted 11 teachers on racketeering charges, with mixed verdicts on theft and false statement charges, in connection with the massive test cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools.

The defendants, including teachers, a principal and other administrators, were accused of falsifying and altering test results to collect bonuses (incentive funds) and/or to keep their jobs.

One teacher was acquitted and 21 others took plea deals. The 35 educators were indicted in March 2013 by a grand jury.

Prosecutors claimed and successfully argued that the educators conspired to cheat on standardized tests as far back as 2005 after feeling pressure from school district officials to meet federal and local testing standards.

The educators said the pressure came from their supervisors, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, who died of breast cancer last month.

Hall, who was superintendent for more than a decade, and her lawyer had argued she was too sick to stand trial.

In their report, investigators wrote that Hall “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” that allowed cheating to go on for years.

Hall maintained that she hadn’t done anything wrong, but resigned during the investigation.

Jurors deliberated for more than eight days. The racketeering charges could carry up to a 20-year prison sentence, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sentencing is scheduled for April 8, 2015.

This is a huge story and absolutely the biggest development in American education law since forever,” said University of Georgia law professor Ron Carlson. “It has to send a message to educators here and broadly across the nation. Playing with student test scores is very, very dangerous business.”

Logically, Mr. Carlson seems correct as the former Superintendent of El Paso, Texas schools, Lorenzo Garcia, was sent to federal prison, and five teachers and four principals were arrested in Philadelphia over the past year for test cheating with more arrests expected.

Yet, logic is being defied in Miami-Dade County, Florida, as citizen journalist and school library media specialist Trevor Colestock uncovered a massive test cheating scandal, Adobegate, at Miami Norland Senior High School; his findings verified by the Final Miami-Dade OIG Report; and the strange firing of one teacher and suspension of the other who was equally involved.

Mrs. Muchnick returned to Norland High in early January 2014.

To date, the teachers involved, Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin and Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, were never arrested, charged, booked, and/or prosecuted as the State Attorney, the Florida Attorney General, and Governor Rick Scott refused to acknowledge this massive test cheating scandal and the almost $250,000 paid out through federal and state incentives to the faculty for an “A” grade for the 2011-12 school year tainted by cheating.

Each teacher at Miami Norland Senior High School received $1730.41.

Though the teachers got paid, the big winners from Norland’s academic successes tainted by cheating were school and district administrators: Reginald Lee went from being an assistant principal over the vocational department in which the cheating took place to the principal of Charles Drew Middle School and then Norland in November 2012; Luis Solano went from being the principal at Norland to the Associate Superintendent, Curriculum & Instruction at Collier County Public Schools in Naples; Nikolai Vitti went from being the Assistant Superintendent of the Education Transformation Office (ETO) at M-DCPS to the Chief Academic Officer of M-DCPS and then became the Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville; and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho became the Florida and National Superintendent of the Year shortly thereafter.

Also, the Florida Department of Education recently released information that revealed that Miami Norland SHS had 96 FCAT/EOC test invalidations over the past three school years.

Interestingly, 25 other public schools, all high schools, had more test invalidations that Norland, with 20 of the schools being in Miami-Dade, most of them in the Education Transformation Office.

The breakdown for the 26 schools, all high schools, in the graphic: 21 from Miami-Dade (96 at Norland-275 invalidations at North Miami Senior); 2 from Broward (97, 134 invalidations); 2 from Palm Beach (99, 100 invalidations); and 1 from Duval (110 invalidations).

For more information on how this information was obtained, please read pages 38-40 of the Test Score Validation Process manual proffered by Pearson.

Furthermore, the FBI declined to investigate as they deferred to the USDOE OIG who dismissed Colestock’s complaints and took no action.

Simply put, Florida and federal officials, unlike former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, passed the buck.

Perhaps politics played a part as Florida is, and has been, the epicenter of standardized testing since instituting the first high school graduation test in 1976, and reports of test cheating undermine the politics and profitability of standardized testing.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Common Core and standardized test proponent, is in lock-step with President Barack Obama on these issues.

During his tenure as Florida governor, Bush expanded testing significantly, with lucrative contracts for testing and scoring going to Pearson, while creating the school grading system through his A+ Plan.

Beverly Hall served as the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent for more than a decade and was named Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2009. She was credited with raising student test scores and graduation rates, particularly among poor and minority students.

However, the award quickly lost its luster and was tarnished as the cheating scandal began to unfold when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable.

Likewise, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was named the state and national Superintendent of the Year over the past year and lauded for the same accomplishments in test scores and graduation rates.

Could it be that Adobegate and high number of test invalidations on the FCAT and/or EOC exams over the past three school years went unanswered and unpunished to protect standardized testing and spare Mr. Carvalho, who like Beverly Hall is close to President Obama, from going down in flames like Ms. Hall and Mr. Garcia by the state and federal governments respectively?

A reasonable person may assume that Miami-Dade County Public Schools “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” when it chose to transfer and retaliate against Mr. Colestock for reporting, exposing, and publishing articles about the test cheating while returning Mrs. Muchnick to Norland and never seeking her or Mr. Fleurantin’s prosecution.

The implied message to teachers in Miami-Dade seems to be “keep your mouth shut about test cheating lest you want to end up like Mr. Colestock.”

The lack of inaction by the federal and state governments seem to condone M-DCPS’s actions and test cheating in general.

Like Atlanta, the victims in Miami-Dade County, Florida, besides the taxpayer, are low-income minority (mostly black) school children who are being denied the remedial help they need as false and misleading test scores suggest otherwise.

Where are the talking heads and advocacy groups who decry events in Brooklyn and Ferguson when it comes to test cheating in Atlanta and Miami? Why are they silent on these issues?

Question: Why is Florida rewarding test cheaters while Georgia, Texas and Pennsylvania are punishing test cheaters?

RELATED ARTICLE: Whistleblower Principal, Adell Cothorne, on the Atlanta Cheating Verdict

The Real Reason a Republican Congress Can’t Undo Obama’s Damage

Washington politicians have sold out and America is going down. This is Bible prophecy which also shows God’s plan—something you wouldn’t imagine!

When this author visited U.S. Senators with medical literature to show adverse drug reactions were the leading cause of death before age 75, one senator said, “You are wasting your time—they own us,” speaking of drug company donations to their reelection campaigns.

Congress votes as drug companies want, like Obamacare and other “healthcare” bills, falsely so called. This means millions in taxes to subsidize lying, greedy drug companies that enjoy positive media coverage because of their ads. Doctors like the system—they don’t have time to question the patient about what might be causing the symptoms—in most cases they can just write a prescription and say, “See me in a couple weeks.” But sooner or later, the patient reacts to the drug and then there are two problems instead of one.

If members of congress will sell out on one issue, they will sell out on other issues. Washington is sold out and so goes the nation. Probably every president since JFK has been threatened with the similar fate, so they all go along with shadow government plans for a New World Order. President Reagan was much loved, but he did more than most towards NWO by appointing an ambassador to the Vatican, approving REX 84. (Google)

We’ve been going down for 40+ years since a “Supreme Court” approved the murder of the unborn. God judged Egypt for murdering boy babies, but 57 million abortions make U.S. worse in spite of an empty profession of a “Godly nation.” Amid a drunken feast in Babylon, handwriting appeared on the wall to say, Weighed in the balances and found wanting, Daniel 5. That very night, Medes and Persians conquered Babylon as they are conquering the U.S. now.

The Medes and Persians are geographically Iraq and Iran and a pro-Muslim White House has approved U.S. taxes to fund mosques and bring their refugees here with the “benefits” that citizens who pay taxes get: Obamacare, education, welfare, compliments of the U.S. tax-payer, when they can’t get along over there.

God foresaw the nature of Islam. Speaking of Ishmael and his descendents, ”he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him,” Genesis 16:12.  This is not to say all Arabs or Muslims are that way, but Nazi Germany or Communist Russia were the result of a small militant minority. There is no reason to open the gates to militants who want Sharia Law and an Islamic America.

So what is God’s plan? He says He “declares the end from the beginning,” Isaiah 46:10. In Genesis 15:18, God covenanted to give Abraham land for his “seed.” The apostle Paul reminds us that “If you are Christ’s, you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according ot the promise [of land].” Galatians 3:29.

That land is the only provision God has for Christians or anyone who does not want to be part of the New World Order that will involve compulsion to false worship. Those who are willing to be part of the New World Order will suffer the plagues of Revelation 16 as the Bible says:

“ If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” Rev 14:9,10.

Early Americans believed that “beast” (first political cartoon in Revelation 13) was the papacy which they had fled. They risked everything on the high seas for a new untamed world. The “image” beast is the New World Order that the U.S. [lamb-like beast in Rev 13:11] has made, and it is called an image because it will look like the Old World Order (papal beast) from God’s perspective when it forces false worship on everyone as Rev 13:14-17 shows.

Someone said, When everyone is tearing out their apricot trees to plant cherries, then is the time to plant apricots! The same is true here. When everyone wants to come to America for its prosperity, now’s the time to see God’s plan as reflected by the apostle Paul when he spoke of the Exodus and said, “All these things happened to them for examples…ends of the world.” 1Corinthians 10:1,11.

God took Israel to a covenant relationship and a wilderness experience to prove what was in their hearts. It didn’t turn out so well, but if we’ve learned anything from Scripture, God can do what He says and the good news for end-times is the New Covenant Promise for God to write His laws in our hearts. Ezekiel 36:24-28.

This is not an option. We must have this experience before Christ comes in the sky. If not, we would start trouble all over again in heaven because we would be unchanged and God won’t be forcing us there anymore than here. Israel didn’t know what was in their hearts till they had the wilderness experience, and we don’t either! Jeremiah 17:9 says the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (God knows!)

In spite of our failings, God has an amazing promise:”the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says the LORD. ‘And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.” Jeremiah 30:3. The chapter ends, “in the latter days you will consider it.” Then consider the next chapter–

“I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child…a great throng shall return there…they shall come back from the land of the enemy.” Jeremiah 31:8,16 is the context for the New Covenant Promise in verses 31-33.

In the New World Order, we might expect Jerusalem to be a cosmopolitan area that will have tolerance for Arabs, Jews and Christians, so the likelihood of compulsion to false worship should be minimal until Antichrist comes as suggested in 2 Thessalonians 2, and that will be years away in contrast to martial law and FEMA camps that are impending now.

Christians should be prepared to flee the cities when we see martial law being set up. Christ warned us to flee when we see what the early believers understood as military and fled Jerusalem, Mark 13:14.

For more information, I recommend reading Apocalypse 2015 on Amazon.  You can get a PDF of Apocalypse at http://TheBridegroomComes.com (lower right column).

Going Postal, Again: The USPS is in the red for the eighth straight year by DOUG BANDOW

The United States Postal Service (USPS) lost $5.5 billion last year. That is the eighth annual loss in a row and the third-highest ever. The only silver lining is that the loss was below the red-ink tsunami of $15.9 billion in 2012.

Why does the federal government deliver the mail? Why does it have a monopoly over delivering the mail?

Admittedly, the Postal Service is one of the few government programs with actual constitutional warrant. The Constitution authorizes Congress to establish post offices. And early American politicians rushed to take advantage of their opportunity, creating the Post Office Department in 1792.

Alas, one-time revolutionaries turned the system into a fount of federal patronage. Local postmasters became perhaps the president’s most important appointments, at one time accounting for three-quarters of all federal employees. The postmaster general actually was a member of the cabinet from 1829 to 1971.

With politics rather than service as the post office’s priority, Congress took the next step and approved the Private Express Statutes, which prevented anyone from competing with the government in delivering first-class mail. And Uncle Sam enforced his monopoly, fining would-be competitors, including celebrated libertarian author Lysander Spooner.

The feds continue to prosecute anyone with the temerity to compete with the USPS, even threatening the Cub Scouts for once offering to deliver Christmas cards.

Believing that Americans existed to serve the USPS left the system ill-equipped to adapt to changing circumstances. In 1971, Congress turned the Post Office Department into the semi-independent USPS. That removed its direct role in politics, but the USPS still is exempt from taxes and regulations, including local parking restrictions. Congress retained its control over postal policies and, of course, preserved the system’s delivery monopoly.

But banning competition could not preserve the postal market. The number of pieces of mail peaked in 2001 and continues to fall despite a rising population. Mail pieces dropped from 213 billion in 2006 to 155 billion last year, and the number is expected to decline to 130 billion by 2020. The USPS’s last profitable year was 2006. Since then, losses have run between $2.8 billion and $15.9 billion. The Postal Service has maxed out its borrowing from Uncle Sam and missed four retiree program payments. With characteristic understatement, the Government Accountability Office observed, “Given its financial problems and outlook, USPS cannot support its current level of service and operations.”

The postal unions insist that nothing is wrong — at least, nothing that a federal bailout wouldn’t solve. They reserve particular ire for the requirement that the USPS prefund workers’ retirement. Had this rule not been in place, noted former postmaster general Patrick Donahoe, the Postal Service would have earned money last year.

But prefunding protects taxpayers. Washington’s unfunded (government) retirement liability is about $800 billion and growing every year. That no other agency is required to prefund is unfair to taxpayers, not the Postal Service, since every agency should have to set aside sufficient money to fulfill its financial promises. With the Postal Service earning too little to pay and with nothing left of its federal credit line, the USPS has defaulted four times over the last three years on its mandated contributions.

Even Donahoe acknowledged that prefunding is appropriate. He contacted me after I wrote about the issue a couple of years ago and disputed only the amount the USPS should set aside. He said he asked postal workers what they thought of an unfunded system in light of Detroit’s bankruptcy, when city coffers were empty.

The unions may simply assume that Congress would bail them out if need be. Legislators normally can be counted on to do the wrong thing, but with the unfunded liability for Social Security and Medicare around $100 trillion, there won’t be a lot of cash available when the big retirement bills come due. Tens of millions of elderly retirees have the edge in fighting with postal workers over a diminishing public pot. The postal workers shouldn’t bet their retirement on winning that political battle.

There’s no other obvious way for the USPS to become solvent. Over the last half-century, the postal authorities raised rates 50 percent faster than the rate of inflation. Pushing hikes even faster in the future would encourage more people to use alternatives. Squeezing postal consumers would work only for truly essential first-class delivery services, but what are they? Bills are paid online; digital magazines and greeting cards go instantly and inexpensively. Junk mail trumps online spam only in the ability to blanket every address in a neighborhood.

The USPS has reduced costs through facility closures and staff reductions despite strong opposition. Cuts in compensation, retirement benefits, and workforce levels and improvements in productivity also are obvious responses, but they must overcome union opposition. Proposals for reducing services abound: end Saturday delivery, cut delivery to just three or four days a week, close more post offices, stop door-to-door delivery (with neighborhood “cluster boxes”). All of these anger consumers, encouraging them to go elsewhere — including to Federal Express and UPS, which offer better options for packages. Irritated workers and customers also complain to Congress, creating political roadblocks for the USPS.

Odder ideas involve offering services that already are widely available, such as check cashing and photocopying. Perhaps the strangest, from the Greeting Card Association, is to transform post offices into “centers of continuous democracy” and offer “community bulletin boards, licenses, permit applications, [and] citizen polling/opinion gathering.” In other words: a bizarre mix of political activism and government regulation, with no obvious way to raise the billions annually needed to balance the books.

Instead of attempting to save an unnecessary political monopoly, Congress should look abroad, where numerous countries, some pushed by the European Union, have introduced competition and innovation into their postal markets. Even such unlikely states as Indonesia, Russia, and Sweden have pursued postal liberalization.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, made up of wealthy industrialized states, including the United States, reported that such reforms have yielded “quality of service improvements, increases in profitability, increases in employment and real reductions in prices.” Only in the supposed laissez-faire paradise of America — where a union-led “Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service” just formed to ensure that whatever has been will forever be — do such ideas seem radical.

Even President Barack Obama appeared to get it. A few years back, he admitted, “It’s the post office that’s always having problems.” In contrast, “UPS and FedEx are doing just fine.” That suggests an obvious solution.

Better management and less politics would help. In fact, revenue was up a bit last year, much of it for package delivery, despite the bigger loss. But over the long term, the USPS cannot escape from a seeming death spiral of bigger losses, higher rates, poorer services, fewer customers, bigger losses, and so on.

Uncle Sam should get out of the postal business. Privatize the USPS and drop the federal first-class monopoly. No one can say for sure what would happen. But if history is a guide, innovative entrepreneurs would be more likely to find cost-effective solutions than will today’s mix of politicians and bureaucrats.

ABOUT 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.