New group strives to protect term limits in West Palm Beach
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Friday 30 July 2010 5:00 PM

From The Palm Beach Post

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WEST PALM BEACH — The group pushing to extend mayoral term limits can now expect some organized push-back.

Businessmen Richard Shepherd and Jon Fogt formed a political action committee on Wednesday called Keep West Palm Term Limits. The group will raise money between now and November to educate voters on why they believe an eight-year limit for mayors must be preserved.

The formation comes a day after a majority of the city commissioners said they would be willing to place a question on the November ballot to let voters decide whether to give Mayor Lois Frankel and her successors a chance to try for a third term, even though the petition drive to extend term limits is failing.

“We passed a resolution in 1991 that put term limits on mayors for eight years, and there’s a really good reason for that,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd runs Polonious, a West Palm Beach investigative software company. Fogt runs Mexican Tile Specialists Inc., of West Palm Beach.

“At a local level, you end up with some very cozy relationships, often some quid pro quo dealings that escalate over time. When you have a powerful mayor or a strong mayor as we do, it’s especially important.”

Shepherd is a veteran proponent of term limits, running the 2002 petition drive that eventually established term limits for county commissioners.

“We were seeing increasing corruption in the county commission, and you know exactly what’s happened since then,” Shepherd said. “Three county commissioners are currently in jail. The two most vocal opponents of term limits were (Mary) McCarty and (Warren) Newell and they’re sitting in jail right now.”

Clarence Anthony, director of the rival PAC to extend term limits in West Palm, said he welcomes this new PAC and is looking forward to debate.

Anthony said the corruption argument shouldn’t be connected to the term limit debate.

“We can’t base our governance of our cities based upon people who misused the trust of the public and did wrong things,” Anthony said. “I don’t think term limits fix or correct that problem or ever will. … It’s not a term limit issue, it’s just an abuse of public trust issue.”

Shepherd said his “Keep West Palm Term Limits” PAC is only in the beginning stages but plans to recruit supporters and raise money for the effort.

“What the commissioners have to know is that this is political suicide for them,” Shepherd said. “Everywhere across the country, politicians have totally underestimated the impact of trying to repeal term limits. It is one of those issues that is very sensitive to voters.”

Homes threatened by IPS expansion
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Posted by admin | Property Rights
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| Friday 30 July 2010 4:17 PM

From Wish T.V

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Upgrading an Indianapolis elementary school could mean uprooting residents who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. Seven homeowners find themselves facing a tough decision. Sell, or face takeover by eminent domain so their houses can be torn down.

Arlene Cole has lived in her home on Drexel Street on the east side of Indianapolis for 38 years.

“I was absolutely devastated. I still am,” she says. Her home is one of seven on the street targeted for demolition to make way for improvements to school 58 which is right behind their houses. A playground, a new media center and better access for school buses is on the drawing board. But Arlene says moving puts her in a tough spot. “I’m 74. I won’t be able to get regular financing.”

The Sebastians have lived behind school 58 for a decade. Over the past few years they’ve put in a new driveway, a new roof and new windows. They worry the IPS offer won’t include the cost of all the improvements.

Kristi Sebastian says “We hadn’t been putting stuff in with the idea of selling. We’ve been putting stuff in because we wanted to live here for 30-40 years.”

Kim Hooper with IPS says the decision to buy the Drexel homes is moving forward but is not set in stone.

“The board could always go back and decide we’re not going to make renovations at that building we can move school 58 to another location, an existing building, a school that we closed,” she says. Two professional appraisals will be done on each home and the average of the two is the price the homeowners will be offered.

The school board voted Tuesday night to allow IPS to use eminent domain to buy the properties if the homeowners won’t sell.

A community meeting is planned at the school to further discuss the issues. But no date for that meeting has been set.

D.C. Voucher Students: Higher Graduation Rates and Other Positive Outcomes
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Thursday 29 July 2010 4:30 PM

From The Heritage Foundation

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Congress put school vouchers to the test in 2004 when it authorized the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), a federally funded voucher program serving low-income students in the nation’s capital. It has awarded $7,500 scholarships to more than 3,700 students over the past six years.

Congress mandated a formal evaluation of the program, and researchers hired by the Department of Education have now released their latest report. Its content should help determine the future of DCOSP. Without reauthorization from Congress, the program will expire after next year.

What the Facts Demonstrate

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Parental satisfaction. School satisfaction was higher among parents of voucher students.
  • School safety. Parents of voucher students were more likely to describe their children’s schools as safe and orderly.
  • Graduation rates. Voucher-using students achieved a graduation rate of 91 percent, compared to 70 percent for non-voucher students.
  • Test scores. On reading tests, voucher students scored slightly higher (by 0.13 standard deviations[1]
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    ) compared to non-voucher students, but the difference is not statistically significant.[2]
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    DCOSP did not produce any gains in mathematics scores.

These results should be considered in light of the study’s quality of methodology and consistency with past findings.

Quality of Methodology

Because parents, teachers, or the students themselves must elect to participate in programs like DCOSP, participants tend to be different from non-participants in terms of ability, motivation, family background, and many other variables. An essential part of any program evaluation is to avoid mistaking these initial differences for the effect of the program itself. To do this, evaluators need a control group that is as similar as possible to the students who participate in the program.

The DCOSP evaluation uses the best possible control group, which is constructed from a random lottery. Among 5,547 eligible applicants, 3,738 were randomly selected to receive a voucher. The DCOSP evaluation then compared students who used a voucher versus those who were denied the voucher by random chance.[3]

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A lottery is the “gold standard” method of evaluation, which produces results deserving the most attention. If statistically significant differences between participants and non-participants emerge from this strict comparison, policymakers can be sure that the program in question has had an impact.

Without a lottery, the next most desirable evaluation method is careful matching of participants and non-participants on as many background variables as possible. Since researchers can never account for every variable, matching is less reliable than the lottery method, but it can still be informative when performed carefully. Recent examples of effective matching include the evaluations of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Edgewood Voucher Program in Texas. Each came to similar conclusions as the DCOSP report.[4]

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Less scholarly studies use raw comparisons or insufficient matching of participants and non-participants. These evaluations are rarely informative. A recent example is a comparison of voucher and non-voucher students in New Orleans published by the non-profit group Educate Now.[5]

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The comparison involved no matching at all, making the results uninterpretable.

Consistency with Past Findings

Increases in graduation rates and parental satisfaction are frequent findings in the school choice literature. Recent examples are the aforementioned Edgewood and Milwaukee evaluations, which used matching techniques. As the most rigorous evaluation, the DCOSP study can be viewed as confirmation of the positive effects on graduation and parental satisfaction observed in other voucher studies.

In prior years of this evaluation series, DCOSP did produce small reading gains that reached statistical significance, but the gains were insignificant in this round. Test scores are notoriously hard to raise through intervention. However, increasing funding for public schools—through class size reduction, teacher training, stricter certification requirements, etc.—also rarely results in significant test score improvement.[6]

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Policy Implications

Because Congress funded the DCOSP and mandated the evaluation, the results outlined above—greater parental satisfaction, safer schools, and higher graduation rates—should inform upcoming policy debates. But if scholars and policymakers focus on DCOSP’s modest test score effects, they may overlook the broader benefits of school choice.

Even holding test scores constant, improving high school graduation rates has a substantial positive impact on students’ earnings later in life.[7]

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And given the higher levels of parental satisfaction produced by DCOSP, test scores are clearly only one factor parents consider in evaluating schools.

In fact, parents probably understand the limitations of social policy better than most academics and policymakers do. Rather than obsessing over elusive test score gains, parents seem to have a more nuanced and child-specific set of criteria: They want schools that are safe, cultivate a positive attitude about learning, and best fit their children’s abilities and interests. Only school choice programs can satisfy these diverse preferences and expectations.

The Big Picture

In summary, the DCOSP evaluation uses the gold standard of scholarly rigor and reliability, and its findings corroborate past school choice studies. Among the positive outcomes of DCOSP are greater parental satisfaction—especially regarding school safety—and a significant increase in high school graduation rates. As the DCOSP evaluation makes clear, school choice offers real benefits to students and their families.

Jason Richwine is Senior Policy Analyst in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.

Official calls for eminent domain
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Property Rights
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| Thursday 29 July 2010 12:53 PM

From Nebury Port News

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SALISBURY — Frustrated by unsuccessful negotiations, Town Manager Neil Harrington wants the state to take by eminent domain a beach property that has failed to sign on with a private developer hoping to revitalize Salisbury Beach’s deteriorating center.

“I have asked our legislators to look into the possibly of the state taking the Finneral property (at 25 Ocean Front South) by eminent domain,” Harrington announced yesterday. “The primary reason for this is that I’m unhappy with the progress of the negotiations between the Thompson Group and the individuals — Robb Osinski and Jay Gallagher — who have had a (purchase and sale) agreement with (owner Mark Finneral).”

Of the 70 properties that the Thompson Group wants to buy, the Finneral property is in a key position — it’s a narrow strip of land stretching along the beachfront, roughly in the center of the area eyed for redevelopment.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation owns all the 3.8 miles of Salisbury Beach, including the stretch that abuts Finneral’s dilapidated property, which was once the Sidewalk Cafe.

Using the government’s “public use” eminent domain powers to take private property in order to help expedite a private development that’s considered to have substantial public benefit is legal, though it has raised controversy. In 2005, the debate ignited nationally when a landmark 5-4 decision by the United States Supreme Court allowed New London, Conn., to take a home in a blighted neighborhood that was slated for a major redevelopment.

The decision stirred backlash in several states and in Congress, though most of the attempts to curb eminent domain laws failed. And in New London, the promised redevelopment never occurred.

This would not be the first time DCR bought property at Salisbury Beach Center that abuts the beach, Harrington said. About a decade ago, DCR negotiated with the owners and bought the Frolics and Blinkey’s Fried Dough, Harrington said. The process halted before DCR reached an agreement with Harold Nabhan, then the owner of the only other remaining oceanfront buildings in the Beach Center, where the SurfSide 5 Bar & Grill and Pavilion now stand.

“I see this action as being entirely consistent with the state’s policy of 10 or 12 years ago when they attempted to buy all the oceanfront property at the Beach Center,” Harrington said.

Harrington has no intention of asking the town to take the property and said no party pressured him into his action.

“My decision to ask the state to take the property has nothing to do with the Thompson Group,” he said. “They have not requested I take this action.”

Yesterday, Osinski could not be reached for comment.

State Sen. Steven Baddour, D-Methuen, said he’s already discussed the possibility of a taking with DCR officials and will now move forward immediately on Harrington’s request, setting up meetings with the appropriate state officials, Harrington and state Rep. Michael Costello, D-Newburyport.

In June, Harrington announced he would be taking an active role in getting the last remaining half dozen or so property owners who have not signed with Thompson to get on board a project that’s considered vital to Salisbury Beach and the town’s overall economic health.

At the time, he said the holdouts included three Beach Center condo owners; the heirs and remaining trustees of the Salisbury Beach Associates; and developers Osinski and Gallagher, who have held an option to buy the former Sidewalk Cafe from its owner, Merit Property Limited; and Henry and Mark Finneral of Tewksbury.

Harrington said he spent months trying to get Osinski and Gallagher into a room with Norman Beaulieu of the Thompson Group in hopes of working out a deal. On July 14, that finally happened, but no substantial progress was made, he said.

“I’m doing this because of the concern that a small number of owners who haven’t signed on with Thompson could stop this project,” Harrington said. “The Thompson Group needs site control before they can move forward, and this property (at 25 Ocean Front South) has been a fly in the ointment for too long.”

The reason Osinski and Gallagher haven’t signed on with Thompson is simply price, both Harrington and Baddour said. Neither would discuss specific amounts, but referred to a significant difference between what Osinski and Gallagher want and what Beaulieu is willing to pay.

According to town records, the property was assessed at a little more than $2 million in 2009, Harrington said.

“Osinski and Gallagher have not moved from the figure they want and have provided no basis for the amount they’ve requested,” Harrington said. “The Thompson Group’s offer on this property is consistent with the values of all the other beach center properties they have under agreements. For the purpose of consistency, the Thompson Group has to take the same approach with this property, or it would be unfair to the other property owners they have under agreement.”

Baddour agreed Salisbury can’t afford to allow a disagreement over price to stop the badly needed revitalization of its once proud Beach Center.

“Nobody wants to do this, and I’m still hoping an agreement can be reached between these parties,” Baddour said. “But at the end of the day, the renaissance of Salisbury Beach is resting on a dispute over what this property is worth. In an eminent domain taking, the court will decide on the fair market value of the property. It’s time to pull the trigger.”

Oklahoma making strides in education reform
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Wednesday 28 July 2010 3:08 PM

From The Oklahoman

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LeBron James isn’t the only reason Florida is making national news. Florida’s education reforms are being praised and implemented by other states hoping to mirror Florida’s strong academic gains. On the other hand, Oklahoma’s beginning steps toward educational progress are receiving about as much national attention as Kevin Durant’s quiet re-signing… until now.

Since 1998, Florida’s and Oklahoma’s academic results have taken divergent paths, proved by the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s (NAEP) fourth-grade reading exam. Strong performance on this test is important, say researchers, because in students’ early years they are learning to read; in their later years, students are reading to learn. Therefore, if students can’t read, chances are they won’t be learning much.

In 1998, Oklahoma students outscored Florida students, on average, by more than a grade level on NAEP’s fourth-grade reading exam. In 2009, Florida students captured the lead and scored almost a grade level ahead of Oklahoma students.

In 1998, all Oklahoma students, on average, performed about two grade levels ahead of Florida’s Hispanic students on NAEP’s fourth-grade reading test. Ten years later, Florida’s Hispanic students are nearly a grade level ahead of the average for all students in Oklahoma and outscore the average of all students in 30 other states.

What’s Florida’s secret? In 1999, Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida’s legislature undertook bold, aggressive education reforms. Those included strengthening curriculum standards, providing school choice to parents, expanding virtual schooling, grading schools with clear A-F labels, allowing alternative teacher certification, and ending social promotion for illiterate third-graders.

Results of these reforms have positioned Florida as a national model for how to transform publicly funded education of children. Notably, Florida’s disadvantaged kids and students with special needs have especially benefited from its reforms. Based on its own recent developments, Oklahoma could be heading down this encouraging path.

In 2009, Oklahoma expanded its potential pool of quality teachers by enacting alternative teacher certification. In 2010, Oklahoma legislators made improvements to its charter school law. And last month Oklahoma enacted Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities, which will allow parents of children with special needs the opportunity to find better educational options at equal or lower costs to taxpayers.

Despite these and other positive developments, Oklahoma has a ways to go in enacting the reforms needed to catch up with Florida’s. Oklahoma’s testing, curriculum standards, school choice, virtual schooling, and school accountability measures lag behind Florida’s. Also, Oklahoma doesn’t have Florida’s strategic approach to ensuring students are reading by the fourth grade.

Although Florida demonstrates that reforms can create enormous educational progress, it, like all states, still must go further. “Reform is never finished,” Gov. Bush said. But Florida is at least running the right plays and making the big shots. Oklahoma has now entered the game, and after a couple of slam dunks, has a good start. When Durant re-signed with the Thunder, he said, “Our best years are ahead of us.” Indeed he could be right — in more ways than one.

Ladner is a senior fellow with the Foundation for Educational Choice and vice president of research for the Goldwater Institute. Price is chairman of the Oklahoma School Choice Coalition.

Charlie Rangel is the Poster Child for Term Limits
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Wednesday 28 July 2010 10:12 AM

From Fox News

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As the House prepares to launch on Thursday a rare, public ethics inquiry into alleged misdeeds by New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, it is clear that Rangel remains defiant. He is fighting the House Ethics Committee tooth and nail, claiming that he wants to “make certain, before this election, people know who Charlie Rangel is.” Most Americans know who Rangel is: the poster child for term limits.

Rangel, who has served nearly 40 years in the House of Representatives, including a tour as head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, illustrates the corruptive nature of political tenure.

Ask those who keep watch over our congressional scoundrels for the most common characteristic of nominees to the annual Most Corrupt list, and they will nominate prolonged service. Indeed, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has listed Rangel as one of our 15 most corrupt politicians since 2008.

The tragedy is that despite serial misbehavior, Rangel will not lose his job. The Ethics Committee (formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct) will likely give him a slap on the wrist, possibly in conjunction with an apology and perhaps a bunch of roses to make sure there are no hard feelings. (Rangel has been extremely helpful in raising money for his colleagues.) Moreover, voters in his home district appear poised to reelect him. Such is the power of incumbency.

Those not paying close attention might think that the charges against Rangel — which have not yet been specified but could include inappropriately using a rent-stabilized apartment for an office, filing inaccurate financial statements and using congressional letterhead to solicit funds for a center named for him at City College of New York — are a one-off. They would be wrong. As his power has grown over the years, so has the number of complaints against him. One of the most egregious acts of defiance was a 2008 trip to the Caribbean hosted by corporations seeking access to legislators. This annual event engaged the Black Congressional Caucus, which routinely streamed south for a little sun and fun, despite increasingly stringent House rules forbidding receiving such largesse from corporations. There is absolutely no doubt that those attending the event knew it violated the rules.

Ken Boehm, a representative of the National Legal and Policy Center, photographed the prominently and visibly placed placards acknowledging Citigroup and IBM as among the host companies. As investigators dug deeper into charges involving the outing, the Ethics Committee finally acceded to public outrage and launched a full investigation. Who was put in charge of the inquiry? Representative G. K. Butterfield, himself a member of the Black Congressional Caucus who had attended the junket in 2005.

Two months ago, some 19 members — nearly half of the total — of the Black Congressional Caucus introduced a resolution aimed at muzzling the newly active Ethics Committee. They were furious that several of their colleagues — including Rangel — had come under investigation. The request for a softer, gentler Ethics committee was ignored. The credit for that goes to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Polls have made it clear that Americans are disgusted by Congress. Yet, given the manner in which our congressional districts are formed, the importance of fundraising and the power of office, it is almost impossible to bounce an incumbent — even if he is a crook. In 2008, 94% of House incumbents were reelected; over the past 35 years the number has dipped below 90% only once. This needs to change — via term limits. Unhappily, getting those in office to pass a law restricting the number of terms that a senator or representative can serve is akin to asking for a suicide pact. Having said that, there are some enlightened members of Congress — encouraged by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint — who are pushing for term limits. It is doubtful that they will succeed, but it is a mission that should gain traction.

Power corrupts and it appears that extended power corrupts profoundly. Rangel should go, and his legacy should be term limits.

On Gingrich: A legacy of surrender
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Posted by admin | Columns
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| Monday 26 July 2010 9:38 AM

From Politico

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The news that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich folded like a cheap suit in the wake of a brazen political attack on the tea party movement was sad. But not surprising.

As far back as his second term in Congress, in 1980, Gingrich sided with big labor interests until brought to his knees by a National Right to Work education campaign. Contrary to his image, Gingrich has demonstrated throughout his political career that he possesses no real ideological mooring.

Now, his legitimizing the NAACP’s crass political attempt to play the race card reveals him to be nothing more than a rank political opportunist – a White House-aspiring demagogue who prefers looking good for the liberal legacy media to standing up for our rights as citizens and taxpayers.

Practically-speaking, Gingrich no more subscribes to the tea party ideals of limited government, individual liberty and personal responsibility than President Barack Obama. At least, that’s what one could infer from his endorsement of liberal “stimulus”-supporter Dede Scozzafava in upstate New York last year.

In fact, Gingrich previously dismissed the tea party as nothing more than the “militant wing of the Republican Party” — a crude diminution of a diverse group of freedom-loving Americans.

That’s why, when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People decided to play the race card against the tea party earlier this month, it wasn’t shocking to see Gingrich immediately raise the white flag and suggest that the Tea Party should give credence to this attack by co-hosting town hall meetings with the NAACP. Rather than rebuking this unfounded attack and exposing its political motivations, Gingrich chose to cave – again – in hopes of giving America a “teachable moment.”

This policy of appeasement had disastrous results in past. In fact, it is responsible for the GOP’s fateful retreat from its limited government roots after the “Republican Revolution” of 1994.

“When the Republican Party faced withering criticism during the government shutdown of 1995 to 1996, our leaders folded instead of standing their ground,” then-former Rep. Tom Coburn wrote in his 2001 book, “Breach of Trust.” “Rather than doing the hard work of explaining to the public, or even to rank-and-file Republicans, what was necessary to reduce the size of government, our leaders retreated.”

By taking the easy way out, and bowing to the altar of political-correctness, Gingrich established a pattern of appeasement that has defined the GOP to this day. Making matters worse, it was his arrogance which precipitated the costly sellout.

“He told a room full of reporters that he forced the shutdown because Clinton had rudely made him and Bob Dole sit at the back of Air Force One,” former House majority leader Tom DeLay later wrote. “Newt had been careless to say such a thing, and now the whole moral tone of the shutdown had been lost. What had been a noble battle for fiscal sanity began to look like the tirade of a spoiled child. The revolution, I can tell you, was never the same.”

Nor was the Republican Party — which from that moment began caving left and right to the Washington establishment it was elected to uproot.

In short order, Gingrich’s Contract with America gave way to bridges to nowhere and other big government spending outrages.

Now, in the hope of positioning himself as a legitimate presidential contender in 2012, Gingrich is again betraying the ideals of the limited government movement for his own political gains. Instead of calling NAACP leaders out as intellectual frauds, Gingrich is seeking to give their race-baiting views a national platform at the tea party’s expense.

Such appeasement is a recipe for disaster.

True limited government advocates should recognize both the NAACP and Gingrich for what they are – enemies in the fight for greater personal and economic freedom for all Americans.

That is the real “teachable moment” of Gingrich’s latest betrayal.

Exclusive: “Financial Reform” And America’s March to Marxism
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Posted by admin | Columns
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| Friday 23 July 2010 4:00 PM

Contrary to Barack Obama’s rhetoric about protecting consumers, his new financial reform law represents a dangerous big government power grab that willfully ignores the true roots of the recent financial crisis.

It is also the latest example of America’s “march to Marxism,” the not-so-gradual implementation of a command economic system in which the free market is taxed and regulated into oblivion while new and expanded government bureaucracies wield unprecedented power. Like last year’s failed economic stimulus (which was nothing but a bureaucratic bailout) and this year’s health care reform law (the largest entitlement expansion in a generation), Obama’s latest Orwellian scheme is once again being sold to the public as a necessary, even responsible measure.

“Because of this reform, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes,” Obama said. “There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts, period.”

Of course as Obama was making this pronouncement, the taxpayer tab for bailing out government-owned mortgage behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continued to soar. That bailout will now cost taxpayers at least $400 billion, according to the latest estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, although a deteriorating housing market could push the total above $1 trillion.

Among the chief culprits of the 2008 collapse, Fannie and Freddie became a central repository for much of the toxic debt associated with government-mandated, high-risk loans – like the $2.4 trillion pumped by the government into “mortgages for affordable housing” in 2000.

“Had Fannie and Freddie not been there to buy these loans, most of them would never have been made,” writes Mark A. Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute. “And had the taxpayer not been standing behind Fannie and Freddie, they would have been unable to fund such large purchases of subprime mortgages.”

Ironically, the chief author of Obama’s so-called reform bill – Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) – has had a front-row seat to this brewing crisis for years. Yet rather than correctly diagnosing and fixing the problem, he used his influence to block efforts that could have helped prevent the meltdown.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” Frank famously said in 2003, accusing then-Treasury Secretary John Snow of “exaggerating” problems at the lending agencies.

Trillions of tax dollars later, it’s painfully clear that it was Frank who was exaggerating (dramatically) the sustainability of government-mandated lending.

Does Obama’s new “reform” legislation address this fundamental problem?

Of course not. In fact, in addition to imposing a slew of new regulations on banks that had nothing to do with the crisis, Obama’s new law maintains the same strict government-mandated lending quotas as before. Accordingly, while Main Street lenders (which provide capital to small businesses across America) are forced to navigate a maze of new regulations and restrictions, the real culprits of the disaster are not only going unpunished – they are being allowed to conduct business as usual while receiving a steady stream of taxpayer-funded bailout money.

Obviously, this is a recipe for an even bigger disaster in the future – as is the law’s “proxy access” provision, which will permit labor unions, environmental activists and “community organizing” groups to bypass existing state laws on corporate director elections and place their representatives on corporate boards of directors. And far from ending bailouts for private sector firms (as Obama has promised) the law’s “orderly liquidation” provision permits faceless bureaucrats at the FDIC to seize control of any firm the agency deems a threat to “financial stability” – opening the door to bailouts of companies that aren’t even asking for taxpayer largesse.

Make no mistake – this new law is a dramatic escalation of America’s “march to Marxism.”

It is also the latest example of legislation that must be repealed – and a governing philosophy that must be reversed – if America is to avoid being relegated to the ash heap of history.

Scholarship fund could assist with private schooling
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Friday 23 July 2010 2:19 PM

Covington News

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Parents interested in sending their children to private schools but who cannot afford the cost may be able to quality for a student scholarship through the Apogee Georgia School Choice Scholarship Fund.

There are currently 84 private schools in the state that partner with the fund, including Woodlee’s Christian Academy in Covington and Piedmont Academy in nearby Monticello.

The program came about in May 2008 due to House Bill 1133, the Georgia Education Expense Credit. The bill allows taxpayers (both individual and corporate) to redirect Georgia income tax dollars to eligible private schools. Donors also receive a “dollar for dollar” tax credit for doing so. Up to $50 million of Georgia income tax payments can be directed to the fund. Corporate donors can contribute up to 75 percent of the corporation’s income.

Students are eligible for the scholarships on a first-come-first-serve basis and they are available only in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students qualify if they are a Georgia resident, enrolled in a secondary or primary public school or eligible to enroll in a kindergarten program, as well as home school, charter school and KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) school students. Students must have attended at least 30 days of public school to be considered eligible, and individual schools may have certain criteria that they also enforce.

To find out more, visit

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Gas firm seeks to condemn 9,117 acres of Kan. land
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Posted by admin | Issues
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, Property Rights
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| Wednesday 21 July 2010 6:01 PM

From Business Week

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A Nebraska company moved Monday to condemn more than 9,100 acres of land in south-central Kansas, marking the culmination of a decade in legal battles between property owners and a firm owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffet.

Omaha-based Northern Natural Gas Co. filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Wichita, arguing that taking the property is “in the public interest and necessity” in order to contain gas migrating from its underground storage facility. It is also seeking a court order to shut down all gas wells within the expansion area.

The filing is the first step under the power of eminent domain to take land from unwilling sellers in Pratt, Kingman and Reno counties. At least 173 property owners hold some interest in the 40 tracts targeted in the filing.

“All they want is condemnation. They don’t want to try to work it out with us. They just want to take it. This is a group of very angry landowners out here. We don’t want to give it up. It is their fault it is leaking,” said Dorothy Trinkle, one of the leaders of a landowner group formed to oppose the takeover.

Northern Natural Gas spokesman Mike Loeffler said the goal is to stop drilling by third-party natural gas producers, who the company contends have been essentially siphoning off their stored gas supplies by changing the geological pressure. The company believes that the drilling has sucked gas away from what had been a stabilized storage field.

The company is looking to get underground storage rights on the condemned property, and plans to drill observation wells on that property to check for migration of gas, Loeffler said.

The legal maneuvering for condemnation comes in the wake of a June decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that granted Northern Natural the authority to expand their Cunningham Storage Field in Kansas by an additional 12,320 acres. The facility stores gas in two underground formations now spanning about 28,000 acres.

But drilling companies that have put in the gas wells, and the landowners who get royalties off those wells, contend that there is native gas reserves underneath the property for which they should be compensated.

They have also won rulings in state courts that would allow landowners to keep the gas, even if it was originally in the storage facility, once it migrated more than a half mile away from the storage field and into areas under their land.

“We think it is the illegal confiscation of the minerals under this acreage because they circumvented the judicial system where they have been beat every time and went to the regulatory process — where they have tremendous lobbying power in Washington, D.C., because this company is owned by Warren Buffet,” said Todd Allam, president of VAL Energy, a Wichita firm with a block of oil and gas leases six miles from the storage field.

Northern Natural is a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., which in turn is a subsidiary of Buffet’s Birkshire Hathaway Inc.

The ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil and electricity, noted that there was native gas under the land that the federal lawsuit seeks to condemn that would need to be compensated, Allam said.

Northern Natural’s goal is to acquire all the land through good faith negotiations, Loeffler said.

“Under the condemnation, there is going to be a pretty good court battle to determine fair value to the landowners and the operators of existing production,” Allam said.

Allam said the company only offered $10 for each producing gas well, while Trinkle, the leader of a landowner group, said landowners were offered between $10 and $100 an acre.

Even landowners who don’t have wells on their property don’t want to lose their mineral rights because land that sells without mineral rights lose $200 to $300 an acre in value.

“Not only are they hurting us who have wells, but Pratt County is going to lose $4 million in valuation,” Trinkle said, noting that is going to hurt schools.

Northern Natural Gas can store up to 62 billion cubic feet of gas at its Kansas facility, Loeffler said. The company serves a market area including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and parts of Kansas.

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