Candidate Puts Wallet Behind Term Limits Pledge
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Friday 30 October 2009 3:45 PM


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In an age where politicians head to Washington as “citizen legislators” only to become transformed into career Beltway insiders, one candidate is putting his money where his mouth is regarding term limits.

Following the 1994 elections, congressional Republicans held true to their promise in the Contract with America to bring term limits up for a vote and many pledged to follow their own, self-imposed term limits. Some kept their pledges, others did not. But in North Carolina, congressional candidate Will Breazeale has made a $250,000 promise to the voters. In an age where so many people are frustrated with Washington politicians, maybe this is a move that could catch on.

As noted in a report on Carolina Journal Online, Breazeale “became the first candidate in the nation to take a bonded term limits pledge, agreeing to donate $250,000 of his own assets to a private charity if, after being elected, he doesn’t limit himself to three terms in office.”

“I see [bonded term limits] bringing about the largest power shift in this country since we became a country,” Breazeale in a telephone interview shortly after the press conference. “This will be the standard one day. If you don’t put up personal net worth, then you will not be elected.”

Breazeale partnered with the Alliance for Bonded Term Limits, a national nonpartisan group, to sign the pledge. Alliance president and board chairman John Skvarla told Carolina Journal that bonded term limits are about accountability.

According to the Alliance for Bonded Term Limits web site, the organization “seeks to explore and develop a process under which candidates for public office can assure constituents that they will work diligently in the public interest instead of building long careers rife with self-interest.”

This country does not need a Constitutional Amendment or a Federal Law to bring fresh ideas to Washington; we need dedicated citizens who will travel to Congress with a real commitment to return home after a finite time in office. Our nation needs to return to the citizen legislatures expected by our Founders and retire the career politicians and their patrician lifestyles.

As it stands now, only the president of the United States is constitutionally term-limited. Efforts by states to set term limits for federal office holders (representatives and senators) have run into a brick wall. The Supreme Court ruled in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton that “only the U.S. Constitution could impose restrictions on congressional hopefuls.” notes that following the 1994 elections, Republicans “brought a constitutional amendment to the House floor. It limited members of the Senate to two six-year terms and members of the House to six two-year terms. Because the Republicans held 230 seats in the House, they were able to get a simple majority. However, constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority, or 290 votes, and the votes to restrict term limits in Congress fell short of that number.”

For me, the best way to ensure term limits is to have an educated electorate. If a candidate becomes corrupt or loses touch with his or her constituents, the voters in that state or district can and should vote for someone else. However, this seldom occurs. Incumbency is powerful. Once elected, an officer holder has a much larger pool of resources to tap. In additions, voters are often lazy! They don’t take time to research, and they often don’t understand the issues. Thus, the person in power stays in power.

When voters don’t take the time to learn about the candidates, they will fall for anything. Charm, wit, or persona trump knowledge, experience, and political philosophy. Just look at these voters from the last election:

Case in point for an educated electorate!

So, outside of educated voters… voters who will look through the media filter, we also need to return to the concept of citizen legislators. We need office holders who care more about the people they represent than the office they hold. Is term limits the key? Is this the time to rally the country to support an amendment to the Constitution? Or perhaps, is it time to have candidates put their money where their mouth is and pledge to limit their own terms?

North Carolina candidate for Congress Will Breazeale may be tapping into the pulse of America at just the right time. Accountability and responsibility are timeless qualities. It would be nice if they were associated more often with our elected officials. Time for term limits? What do you think?

Senator DeMint wants term limits in Congress
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Thursday 29 October 2009 4:30 PM


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Senator DeMint of South Carolina will soon be introducing a constitutional amendment that will limit members of Congress to three terms (six years) in the House of Representatives and two terms ( 12 years) in in the United States Senate. After serving ten years in the Senate, Senator DeMint said he has come to believe that Washington D.C. "has the power to corrupt even those with the most honorable intentions" He further related that, career politicians ended up, "beholden to special interests, lobbyists, and big government policies."

The Senator’s rational for term limits appears to be directed at the need for politicians to start campaigning for the next election shortly after they are elected in the House and following four years in the Senate. By doing so, career politicians spend much of their time campaigning rather than legislating. DeMint believes that by imposing term limits congress will be filled with an ever changing skill set of new ideas and fresh perspectives in congress. Term limits he says, "will keep politicians in-tune with their constituents and less focused on pleasing those who promise to help get them re-elected."

According to US Term Limits (USTL) Term limits have been placed on 15 state legislatures, eight of the ten largest cities in America adopted term limits for their city councils and/or mayor, and 36 states place term limits on their constitutional officers. USTL states, “We are the voice of the American citizen. We want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, not a tyrannical ruling class who care more about deals to benefit themselves, than their constituents.”

Term Limits are already in place for the chief executive of the United States. The President is limited to two terms by the twenty-second amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1947. The Governors of thirty-six states also have various term limits in place. The rational for limiting the chief executive to two terms was to prevent a possible dictatorship. Back in 1776, Thomas Jefferson stated at the Continental Congress that term limits were necessary, "to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress.”

Those against a term limit amendment argue that term limits are already in place, they are called elections. They relate that a term limit amendment limits a voters first amendment rights of free speech by limiting the ability to elect anyone they choose. But sitting Senators out-raise challengers by eight to one. This contrast in finances probably accounts for the high re-election rate (nearly ninety-two percent) for incumbents. Many of these contributions are from special interest groups. Others say that rather than imposing congressional term limits there should be legislation that requires a legislator to recuse themselves from voting on any legislation that deals with a major contributor. By doing so, special interest contributions would evaporate.

Voters appear to agree with DeMint as a poll related that eighty-two percent want congressional term limits. DeMint said, "people deserve congressmen who fight to give them a voice rather than fight for their personal power and success. If the people want new policies and real reform, it’s not enough to change the congressmen — we must change Congress itself", He said.

D.C. voucher program fights to survive
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Thursday 29 October 2009 1:14 PM

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Parents gain power in school takeovers
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Wednesday 28 October 2009 1:05 PM

From The Contra Costa Times

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Empowering parents to take control of their children’s education, the Los Angeles Unified board voted Tuesday to expand a controversial reform plan and potentially allow the outside takeover of any underperforming school in the district.

The move comes just weeks before the launch of the School Choice Resolution program, which allows teachers, nonprofit groups and charter operators to bid to run new and underperforming district campuses.

While three dozen campuses had been identified, the board decided that a simple majority of parents could vote to nominate a school for inclusion in the reform plan if they are dissatisfied with student performance.

"We need change, we need change fast and we hope parents will be right alongside us with a dual steering wheel," said school board member Richard Vladovic.

Board member Yolie Flores-Aguilar, who authored the reform plan, said the parents would be able to nominate their children’s school for the reform plan if it failed to meet state and federal benchmarks on standardized tests for at least three years.

And Superintendent Ramon Cortines said that it’s important for parents whose children currently or will eventually attend an underperforming school have some way of voicing their dissatisfaction.

"Parents will play an essential role in initiating this process at schools," said Cortines, who would have final say on whether the school would be included in the reform program.

However, board member Steve Zimmer said he believes that only parents whose children are currently enrolled or would be enrolled the following year should have a say in whether the campus is included in the district’s reform plan.

District officials said they did not expect many schools to be added this year to the list of 36 because of the tight timeline. Still the lack of details on such a controversial element of the reform plan frustrated board member Margueritte LaMotte.

"It’s always the same," she said. "We never have all the answers before we jump into these processes."

The board also finalized the 11-step process to apply to operate one or more of the 36 schools, which includes San Fernando Middle School and five elementary schools planned for the San Fernando Valley.

Applicants must have nonprofit status, as well as the financial capability and skills to successfully operate a school.

Plans call for LAUSD to begin receiving applications by Nov. 15. The applications will be reviewed by two review panels that Cortines said will consist of district and external staff.

The schools chief will then make his recommendations, and the decision will be made by the school board in February.

Applicants will also have to guarantee that they will take all students who live within the attendance boundaries of that campus – an issue that has sparked serious concern among operators of charter schools, which are independent public campuses that enroll students via an application process.

In addition, United Teachers Los Angeles and other employee unions are also exploring whether to file suit in an effort to block the reform effort. The unions maintain the district is breaking promises it made to voters, who approved the bonds that funded the construction of the schools that will now be up for bid.

The unions also want to see more guarantees of employment for their members since traditionally charter operators do not hire union workers.

Co-Opted Competition
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Posted by Howard Rich | Columns
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| Wednesday 28 October 2009 9:55 AM

“Competition is as American as apple pie.”

That’s the premise behind a new ad from, the left-leaning grassroots group that’s pushing President Barack Obama’s socialized medicine plan. If it sounds familiar to supporters of free market reform, it should.

Competition is as American as apple pie, but there’s just one small problem with this group’s definition of the term.

By adding (or rather re-adding) a so-called “public option” to the latest trillion-dollar health care plan, Obama and his allies in Congress are not promoting competition – they’re squashing it. Simply put, by injecting the government directly into a market that it has the power to regulate, “Obamacare” would place the health care industry in America on an irreversible path toward nationalization – not to mention raise health care costs on the typical American family by as much as $4,000 per year.

Government doesn’t want to “compete” in the marketplace – it wants to artificially manipulate the marketplace to force millions of Americans out of private plans and into government-run plans, which they ludicrously claim will save taxpayers money.

At the heart of this bastardized notion of “competition” is the demonstrably false belief that government-run programs have lower administrative costs than private plans.

“Medicare has lower administrative costs than any private plan on the market,” U.S. Rep. Pete Stark wrote years ago as the government-run health care movement started picking up steam.

This is simply not true. Medicaid plans have significantly high per person costs than private plans, even though Medicaid is exempt from state health insurance premium taxes that private providers must pay.

“In recent years, Medicare administrative costs per beneficiary have substantially exceeded those costs for the private sector,” writes Dr. Robert A. Book for the Heritage Foundation. “This (is) despite the fact that, as critics note, private insurance is subject to many expenses not incurred by Medicare. Contrary to the claims of public plan advocates, moving millions of Americans from private insurance to a Medicare-like program will result in program administrative costs that are higher per person and higher, not lower, for the nation as a whole.”

Additionally, Medicaid is riddled with fraud and abuse – an epidemic problem that the U.S. government has shown little interest in “reforming.”

In fact, according to a CBS 60 Minutes report that aired last weekend, an estimated $60 billion out of $430 billion in annual Medicaid disbursements goes to fund fraudulent Medicaid claims.

That means one out of every seven dollars spent on Medicaid goes toward fraud – one reason why the program has seen skyrocketing annual premium increases in recent years, and one reason why its hospital trust fund is forecast to run out of money within the coming decade.

In South Florida, CBS found that Medicaid fraud had replaced cocaine traffic as the most lucrative criminal enterprise.

Why would a program that’s ostensibly so vital to the health of the nation be allowed to pour so much money down the drain?

“Our oversight budget has been extremely limited,” the government’s top anti-fraud bureaucrat complained to CBS, revealing another flaw of the “public option.”

Whenever these government-run monstrosities break down – and they always break down – every American taxpayer is suddenly on the hook for the “bailout.”

Is this really the sort of system we want to expand – perhaps to include as many as 100 million new Americans? Of course not. But that’s exactly what would happen under the plan currently being debated in Washington.

Obviously, proponents of Obama’s socialized medicine proposal are very well aware of the public’s skepticism when it comes to supporting unsustainable entitlement programs – which is why they are hiding the greatest government power grab since the “Great Society” beneath a cloak of capitalist-sounding terms like “market principles,” “choice” and “competition.”

Don’t be fooled. The only “choice” Americans will receive in this “market” will be left exclusively to government bureaucrats, whose definition of “competition” is racking up exorbitant costs to provide substandard service – and then sticking you with an ever-expanding bill.

Why We Need Term Limits in Congress
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Tuesday 27 October 2009 4:30 PM

From NetRight Nation

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Last week, we broke a story about Senator Jim DeMint introducing a Constitutional Amendment that would create Term Limits for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Senator DeMint followed up today with a blog post explaining why we need this amendment. Please read and spread to your friends.

From U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC):

The people of South Carolina have given me the privilege of representing them in Congress for more than 10 years now, and over that period I’ve learned a great deal about how things work in Washington. One of the more unfortunate things I’ve come to realize is that Congress has the power to corrupt even those with the most honorable intentions. Too often, I‘ve seen good, honest citizen legislators come to Washington only to realize that in Congress, you either conform to the system or find yourself on the outside looking in. As a result, the American people are left with more “career politicians” who go along to get along in Congress, and end up beholden to special interests, lobbyists, and big government policies.

Though there is no simple solution to this trend, there is a clear place to start: term limits. With term limits, we can put an end to the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach to legislating, and begin enacting responsible legislation that is in the best interest of our nation. As a result, I will soon be introducing a constitutional amendment limiting current and future members of Congress to serving three terms (six years) in the House and two terms (12 years) in the Senate.

Let’s face it, Washington has become far more powerful than any one person or party. If we want to change the policies, we must first change the process. By imposing term limits, we can ensure frequent turnover which allows for new ideas and fresh perspectives in Congress. Additionally, term limits will keep politicians in-tune with their constituents and less focused on pleasing those who promise to help get them re-elected.

While term limits are certainly a step in the right direction, they are not enough. I sincerely hope my amendment will be ratified, and then be followed by other structural reforms that make our public institutions more transparent and accountable. The American people deserve congressmen who fight to give them a voice rather than fight for their personal power and success. If the people want new policies and real reform, it’s not enough to change the congressmen — we must change Congress itself.

Silencing Voices for School Choice
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Posted by Howard Rich | Free Speech
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, Issues
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, School Choice
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| Tuesday 27 October 2009 2:13 PM

From The Weekly Standard

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President Obama isn’t taking kindly to a television ad that criticizes his opposition to a popular scholarship program for poor children, and his administration wants the ad pulled.

Former D.C. Councilmember Kevin Chavous of D.C. Children First said October 16 that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had recently approached him and told him to kill the ad.

The 30-second ad, which has been airing on FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, and News Channel 8 to viewers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, urges the president to reauthorize the federally-funded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides vouchers of up to $7,500 for D.C. students to attend private schools.

The ad features Chavous and a young boy–one of 216 students whose scholarships were rescinded by the Department of Education earlier this year when the agency announced no new students would be allowed into the program. The ad also includes an excerpt taken from one of Obama’s campaign statements.

“We’re losing several generations of kids,” Obama says, “and something has to be done.”

“President Obama is ending a program that helps low-income kids go to better schools, refusing to let any new children in,” Chavous says in the ad. “I’m a lifelong Democrat, and I support our president. But it’s wrong that he won’t support an education program that helps our kids learn.”

The young 5th-grade student then pleads for the president’s help. “President Obama, I need a good education right now,” he says. “You can help. Do it for me.”

The nation’s first black president has come under intense criticism for failing to support the program that is helping poor African-American students escape some of the nation’s most dangerous and worst-performing public schools. After embracing the teachers unions’ anti-voucher stance, the president now finds himself in the uncomfortable and awkward position of denying students access to a program that has strong bipartisan, local support, and that multiple studies say is helping poor African-American children succeed.

Little wonder then that the president and powerful allies like Holder–many of whom have benefited from school choice and are currently sending their children to expensive private schools–want the ad to go away.

Chavous discussed Holder’s comments during an Oct. 16 interview with WAMU radio host Kojo Nnamdi and NBC 4 reporter Tom Sherwood during Nnamdi’s The Politics Hour. A related article on Holder’s objection to the ad on has also been circulating.

During the broadcast Chavous elaborated on his interaction with Holder, and said he will continue running the ad until the president agrees to support the program.

“I saw [Holder] at an event,” said Chavous. “He did ask me in front of others to pull the ad. My response was, ‘No, and I tell you what, if the president does the right thing, not only will we pull it but we will celebrate him.’ ”

“We have high hopes based on his capacity to understand the plight of low-income families,” continued Chavous. “You know what, if this were 20 years ago and community organizer Obama was in this city and picking sides, he’d be right here in this studio fighting for these parents and these kids, and we want him to remember from whence he came, and [support] these families. He had the benefit of scholarships–many of us have–and I think that these families who have already been awarded scholarships that were taken away from them by the administration, they should have that benefit as well.”

In a separate interview Chavous said he did not believe Holder’s comment was an official request. “It wasn’t like the administration was leaning on me to pull the ad–this wasn’t an intimidation play,” said Chavous, adding that he knows Holder and his wife. “This is someone who is a friend, who saw me, and let me know his thinking.”

Chavous said he told U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan this summer that he and other voucher supporters would be ramping up efforts to save the embattled program that must be re-authorized to continue.

“I told them, ‘I’m not going to let up on this because you’re not doing the right thing and I’m not going to let up,’” said Chavous. “I think they made a calculated decision that they could wait us out . . . and I want to disabuse them of that strategy. That will not be an effective strategy. We’re not going anywhere until these kids get into these schools. It’s just the right thing to do.”

Chavous said he’s been surprised at the overwhelming amount of support and encouragement he’s received from the ad. “It goes to show that the folks in this town embrace choice full-throttle,” he said.

Secretary Arne Duncan said in an email through a Department of Education spokesman that while “this Administration is devoting more resources and supports more ambitious reform of our public school systems than any Administration in history,” he believes that “vouchers are not the solution to America’s educational challenges. Taking a tiny percentage of the kids out of the public school system and putting them in private schools is not the answer. We need to be more ambitious. We need to fix all of our schools.”

The program’s defenders have signaled that the ad campaign is just getting started, and that more hard-hitting ads are on the way.

The National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and People for the American Way have been waging a massive campaign to try to kill the voucher program, which they say takes money and focus away from public schools and is discriminatory.

“Vouchers are not real education reform,” wrote the NEA’s Director of Government Relations Diane Shust in a June letter to U.S. Senators. “Pulling children out of the public school system doesn’t solve problems–it ignores them.”

But in a revealing 2006 comment to the Washington Post, Washington Teachers Union President George Parker (whose parent union is the AFT) explained what really worries the teachers unions, and why children must not be allowed to leave D.C.’s troubled public schools.

“The landscape has changed. Our parents are voting with their feet,” Parker said. “As kids continue leaving the system, we will lose teachers. Our very survival depends on having kids in D.C. schools so we’ll have teachers to represent.”

More candid teachers’ union moments came this summer when the NEA’s former General Counsel Bob Chanin addressed the group’s national convention.

“Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas; it is not because of the merit of our positions; it is not because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child,” Chanin proclaimed. “[The] NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year.” To which Chanin received a standing ovation.

Chanin also told delegates that anti-union sentiment was “the price we pay for success.”

The price the teacher’s unions and their members were willing to pay to ensure their presidential candidate’s success was steep. In August of 2008 the NEA announced a $50 million election campaign plan to elect Obama by targeting swing states.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama received $22.9 million from individuals affiliated with the “Education Industry” during the 2008 election cycle alone. That’s a whopping $21.1 million more than Sen. John McCain received from the same industry. These donations came predominately from individuals–many of whom are teachers’ union members–employed by educational institutions, colleges and schools. Teacher’s unions spent millions more dollars on independent expenditures on Obama’s behalf that is not even included in these figures.

Prior to his election, then-Illinois state Sen. Obama acknowledged that political realities meant that candidates cannot always answer or act from the heart.

Asked by Chicago Tribune writer David Mendell whether it might have been wiser to spend hundreds of millions of dollars improving Chicago’s troubled public schools rather than on Millennium Park, Obama replied: “How do you really expect me to answer that? If I told you how I really felt, I’d be committing political suicide right here in front of you.”

Sheryl Henderson Blunt is a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow.

Non-Eminent Domain
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Property Rights
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| Monday 26 October 2009 4:30 PM

From The Badger Herald

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The University of Wisconsin System has decided to exercise eminent domain in order to seize the Brothers Bar & Grill at the corner of University and Lake in order to complete the acquisition of land necessary for a planned performance hall for the School of Music. An agreement had been reached for the sale of the property last year for $2.1 million plus moving costs, but after the agreement was all but done, the UW System reversed course and opted to exercise eminent domain to condemn the property and pay the appraised market value of $1.25 million.

As part of the state government, the UW System has been legally granted the ability to use eminent domain to acquire property, though it uses that right very rarely. In this case, the System has defended the use as saving taxpayers a significant amount of money. You know, the taxpayers besides the Fortney family, owners of the Brothers Bar and Grill.

Eminent domain should not be used for this purpose, it is a legal concept that only has legitimacy when attached to needs as opposed to wants. It is perfectly understandable that the UW System did not want to overpay for the property, indeed it is exactly the motivation that should drive our civil servants. But it was not unfair for the Fortneys to negotiate for what they did. The level at which they are willing to sell their private property is not required to be comparable to fair market value. If the fair market value of someone’s private property is less than they are willing to sell it for, it is their perfectly appropriate choice to choose not to sell it at all. That is the very definition of private property. It isn’t their concern if that decision disturbs a third party’s plans for property it does not own.

The exercise of eminent domain is a distasteful act that becomes the lesser of two evils in a single case: when it is unavoidable that a public project for the greater good has to use somebody’s property (new freeways in crowded areas, extensions of airport runways). The legitimacy of even this hinges on the definition of “greater good,” a case which the UW System is hard pressed to make in this particular instance. The legal standing may be such that the UW System is on firm ground, but that does not mean that ethically this seizure is anything more than theft perpetrated in the name of the public.

Knowing when to leave in Latin America
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Monday 26 October 2009 2:16 PM

From The L.A Times

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As Latin America’s military dictatorships fell one by one in the late 20th century, incipient democracies across the region sought to stamp out caudillo caudillo culture with constitutions that limited their newly elected leaders to one term in office. No more strongmen ruling in perpetuity. So powerful was the no-reelection sentiment that the Honduran Constitution even included a clause saying that its single, four-year presidential term limit could not be amended in the future.

But as democracies took root and civilian governments tried to implement ambitious economic and political reforms, they began to feel constrained by term limits. Soon,elected leaders from right to left sought to extend their mandates. Driven by ego and arrogance as well as ideology, some pursued the changes legitimately through the legislature. At least that was the case when the leaders of Peru, Argentina and Brazil sought second terms in the 1990s.

Problems arose, however, when Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and Argentine President Carlos Menem still weren’t satisfied and, despite charges of corruption, sought third terms. Other leaders went even further, using and abusing the tools of democracy to eliminate term limits altogether. That would include Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who lost one referendum to extend his term before winning passage of a second in February, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose allies on the Supreme Court lifted a ban on reelection last week, raising fears that Nicaragua might return to the kind of entrenched power that Ortega took up arms to defeat in 1979.

Just how long is too long for a president to serve? It’s up to each nation to decide for itself, of course, and the answers vary widely across Latin America. Mexico, which fought a bloody revolution to end the 35-year dictatorship of President Porfirio Diaz, has since limited its leader to a single six-year term. El Salvador has a five-year term without reelection; Chile has one four-year term. Like Brazil and Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador changed their constitutions to allow for two four-year terms. Whether four years or eight, all of these options seem reasonable.

But while we don’t believe in one-size-fits-all democracy, we do believe in alternating governments. The longer a single party stays in power, the more likely it is to take control of the courts, electoral institutions and the national purse strings, making it harder for opposition parties to compete. This is why the move to lift term limits has been so emotional in the region, leading to everything from a fistfight among legislators in Argentina when Menem sought to change the law in 1993 to a civilian-military coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya over the issue in June.

Even the most popular leaders make mistakes, run out of ideas and curb appeal, and eventually lose fair elections. But those who manage to remain popular longer than usual also should leave office on time, or they risk undermining the political system.

In Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe has been toying with a national referendum that would permit him to seek a third term in 2010, an election he would likely win. Most Colombians believe the conservative leader has successfully fought back against leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers, but 12 years is still too long for the good of democracy. He would do better to leave while he is still a hero to his supporters, and give others a chance.

The same is true for Chavez, Venezuela’s leftist leader, who has vowed to stay in office for years to come to complete what he calls his Bolivarian Revolution on behalf of the poor. Besides holding the presidency, he controls the legislature and courts, wields influence over the media and doesn’t tolerate dissent.

This is exactly what the political elites in Honduras feared. Zelaya ignored the will of Congress and the Supreme Court in pursuing a referendum on whether Hondurans favored a special assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution. He hadn’t specifically raised the question of term limits, and likely couldn’t have made a change before the end of his own presidency, although many speculated that this was what he intended to do. But Zelaya was close to Chavez, and his opponents took the preemptive step of ousting him, a move deemed illegal by the international community.

Ortega took a new approach to extending his rule in Nicaragua last week. He circumvented the National Assembly, which his Sandinista party does not control, and a national vote, which he might have lost. Instead, he took his petition to lift a ban on consecutive terms to six pro-Sandinista judges who make up the constitutional branch of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court. They agreed with his argument that the prohibition on a second term violated his rights. His critics accuse him of using the levers of government to perpetuate his own power.

A president should lead the government, not use it to his own ends. Latin America suffered long and fought hard to throw off its repressive regimes. Too much power should not be concentrated in the hands of one leader, regardless of ideology, or any leader who overstays his welcome. Latin Americans have wonderful role models in Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who are sticking to their term limits despite their popularity. The others should look admiringly at this example and follow suit.

FCC moves on Net neutrality rules
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Posted by Howard Rich | Free Speech
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, Issues
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, News
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| Friday 23 October 2009 4:00 PM

From The Washington Times

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The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Thursday to move toward new rules to prevent corporate Internet providers from charging online powers such as Google Inc. and Inc. extra for the large amount of infrastructure and bandwidth they use in delivering their services.

While technical, the issue of network neutrality – or Net neutrality – has sparked a furious, expensive lobbying war, as well as a raging debate in cyberspace over the government’s role in setting the rules of the road for the Internet, with some even arguing that the right to free speech in the Information Age is at stake.

The FCC commissioners said they were concerned about maintaining the Internet’s accessibility and openness and hope to issue a final set of rules early next year after a period of public comment.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, appointed by President Obama, said he was concerned about reports of some Internet providers slowing or blocking access to certain online companies.

“The heart of the problem is that, taken together, we face the dangerous combination of an uncertain legal framework with ongoing as well as emerging challenges to a free and open Internet,” Mr. Genachowski said.

He added that failing to consider new regulations “would be gambling with the most important technological innovation of our time.”

But the two Republican-appointed members of the commission, while voting to consider new regulations, said they are still skeptical there is enough evidence to justify government intervention.

“I am not convinced that there is a sufficient record to establish that a problem exists that should be addressed by [FCC] rules. … We should not adopt regulations to address anecdotes where there is no fact-based evidence that persuasively demonstrates the presence of a problem,” Commissioner Meredith A. Baker said.

The FCC move is designed to answer a basic question on how Internet services are delivered: Should cable and telecommunications companies be allowed to charge higher prices and fees to high-volume users to get access to their networks?

The proposed draft rule prevents operators from discriminating against any permissible content a third party sends through their networks – regardless of the volume of use – with exceptions only for technical reasons, such as to clear viruses and to block prohibited content such as child pornography.

While the panel voted 5-0 to proceed with the rulemaking, the commissioners broke down on party lines on a 3-2 vote to approve the proposed draft language as it now stands.

Complicating the dispute are fears from groups across the political spectrum that giving up the principle of Net neutrality opens the door to network owners censoring or favoring certain users based on the content of their sites.

“This is a down payment on creating a digital democracy,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, a digital rights advocacy group.

Internet providers, including such companies as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications Inc., say they are open to working with the FCC over the next few months as it receives public comments on the draft rules, but say Net neutrality would prevent them from managing their product lines and undercut the incentive to make an estimated $350 billion in new investments to improve their networks.

“We continue to hope that any rules adopted by the commission will not harm the investment and innovation that has made the Internet what it is today and that will make it even greater tomorrow,” said David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corp.

Liberal groups pushing to restrict what the Internet providers can restrict hailed Thursday’s vote.

“Today’s vote is an important step toward securing the open Internet and a victory for the public interest and civil rights organizations, small businesses, Internet innovators, political leaders and millions of people who have fought to get to this point,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, an advocacy group for “diverse and independent media ownership.”

Congressional Democrats – including Massachusetts Rep. Edward J. Markey – have spent the last few years pushing for legislation that would encode open access to the Internet but had been unsuccessful.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, introduced his own bill to block the FCC from moving forward with a Net neutrality rule.

New rules would create “onerous federal regulation,” Mr. McCain said.

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