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Monthly Archives: December 2019
Libertarian says college district is using the number 8 to influence Chinese voters – The Daily Post
Posted: December 31, 2019 at 5:49 pm
BY SONYA HERRERADaily Post Staff Writer
A local Libertarian said in a ballot argument for the March election that the Foothill-De Anza Community College District is trying to trick Chinese residents into voting for new taxes by flashing around the number 8.
The number 8 has long been associated with good fortune in Chinese culture. Often companies market products using the number. Thats why certain real estate listings include several 8s, and why other businesses try to get as many 8s in their phone numbers as possible.
Mark Hinkle of Morgan Hill, who regularly writes ballot arguments against tax measures, claims that the college district is using the number 8 to manipulate Chinese voters.
The college district is asking voters on March 3 to approve Measure G, a $898 million bond sale, and Measure H, a $48 parcel tax.
Hinkles co-signer on the ballot argument, Mountain View attorney Gary Wesley, said that he attended a college district board meeting in 2006 when they were discussing a $490.8 million bond measure. He recalled that a board member asked why there was a .8 at the end of the amount. A district employee answered that 8 was considered lucky in Chinese culture, Wesley said.
The 1999 bond measure had been $248 million. This one is $898 million, Wesley said. You will find no other credible explanation for the $898 (million) total proposed for March 3.
District board members did not respond to requests for comment.
Hinkle, president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, typically writes ballot arguments against tax increases in every election. The arguments for and against a measure are printed in the Voter Guide thats mailed to residents.
Heres a look at some of the arguments voters will see in the guide prior to the March election.
For Measure G, the college district would borrow $898 million, which would be repaid with a property tax of $160 per $1 million of assessed property value. The amount district property owners would have to repay is estimated at $1.56 billion, which includes principal and interest. The taxes to repay the bonds would continue through 2053-54, according to the districts website. The district says the sale of the bonds would pay for upgrading and repairing classrooms and labs, improving access to buildings for students with disabilities, and repairing plumbing and electrical systems.
Measure H is a parcel tax for the district that would be in place for five years. The tax would cost $48 per year per parcel and would pay for faculty salaries and new programs to help students who are homeless or hungry.
District trustee Patrick Ahrens wrote the arguments for Measure G and H and the rebuttals to the arguments against the measures.
These documents were signed by district trustee Pearl Cheng; student trustees Tiffany Nguyen and Genevieve Kolar; Dudley Andersen, former chair of the districts past bond oversight committee; Foothill student Luis Herrera; former De Anza instructor Harry Price; Dick Henning, founder of Foothill Colleges Celebrity Forum; De Anza instructor Bill Wilson; and resident George Tyson.
Ahrens wrote that Measure G would ensure that the colleges will continue their current classes, and that the colleges have been excellent stewards of taxpayers money. Ahrens wrote that Measure H money cannot be used for administrator salaries or pensions.
Hinkle wrote the arguments against Measures G and H and the rebuttals to the arguments in favor of the measures. He wrote that Measure G is the third bond measure from the district in 20 years, and that if it passes, your grandchildren will still be paying for the debt incurred today.
Hinkle wrote that Measure G would permit the district to sell the bonds in later years, possibly at much higher interest rates, which would more than double what taxpayers would have to repay. Hinkle said that while enrollment at the districts two colleges has dropped, the number of retiring employees has risen. Hinkle said that the pension liabilities and other benefits owed to these district retirees will cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and said that as written, Measure H allows the district to spend the money however it wants.
Measure T is a bond measure for Mountain View Whisman School District. The district would borrow $259 million, which would be repaid through a $300 tax per $1 million of assessed property value. The estimated total repayment amount is about $538 million, and the estimated revenue from the tax is $18.6 million each year. The district says the sale of the bonds would pay for repairing, upgrading and building new facilities and classrooms.
The argument in favor of Measure T and the rebuttal to the argument against Measure T were written by Cleave Frink, a member of the districts bond oversight committee for Measure G, which was passed in 2012. The argument in favor was signed by Realtor Aileen La Bouff; teacher Margaret Poor; district trustee Tamara Wilson; resident William Lambert; financial planner Niki Theil; Realtor Nancy Stuhr; Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District trustee Fiona Walter; retired fire chief Dale Kuersten; and teacher Gail Lee.
Frink wrote that Measure T would ensure that schools in the district would have modern classrooms, science labs and computer systems, and provide housing for teachers and district employees. Frink pointed out that Hinkle, the lone opponent to Measure T, doesnt live in Mountain View.
The argument against Measure T and the rebuttal to the argument in favor of Measure T were written by Hinkle, who said the bond is a blank check, and that the interest rate could be much higher and result in a higher repayment amount.
Measure D would change the Mountain View rent control law voters passed in 2016. The measure would, among other things, eliminate the current limit on rent increases, which is the consumer price index, and replace it with a 4% ceiling.
The argument for Measure D and the rebuttal to the argument against Measure D were written by multiple authors, including Frink and Fiona Walter; city council members John McAlister, Margaret Abe-Koga and Chris Clark; Environmental Planning Commissioner William Cranston; former Mountain View Whisman School board member Christopher Chiang; Greg Cooper, president of Mountain View Professional Firefighters Local 1965; Mountain View Whisman School District trustee Jose Gutierrez Jr.; and renter LJ Gunson III.
In the ballot argument, they said that Measure D allows landlords to fix up older apartments rather than tear them down. The group wrote that Measure D lowers rent increases from 5% to 4% per year, and that those increases arent automatic. They said courts have ruled that the citys current law doesnt cover mobile homes, and that Measure D allows city council to enact mobile home renter protections next year.
The argument against Measure D and the rebuttal to the argument in favor of Measure D were also written by multiple authors, including Sally Lieber, former mayor and state Assemblywoman; Tamara Wilson, Mountain View Whisman School District trustee; resident Alex Nunez; Trey Bornmann, president of Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance; Anthony Chang, member of Mountain View Homeowners Against Displacement; and former mayor Pat Showalter.
They wrote that Measure D would result in higher rents and more renters being displaced from their homes.
The group said that Measure D does not set new safety rules, and that the measure allows landlords to raise the rent up to 10% for non-safety property upgrades. They added that city council is only studying protections for mobile home renters next year, and that this study session does not guarantee protections for mobile home renters.
Go here to read the rest:
Libertarian says college district is using the number 8 to influence Chinese voters - The Daily Post
Posted: at 5:49 pm
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to restore civics in public schools. Worried that students are graduating ignorant of how Americas system of government works, he announced that hes instructing Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to have all seniors take the test administered to immigrants applying for citizenship.
While I agree on the importance of political understanding, I have reservations about the governors attachment to civics. With education so imbued with progressive ideology, and even the Founding Fathers dismissed as intractable racists, whats to keep civics classes from becoming just another means to run down the country?
Nevertheless, its important for young people to understand how our system works. A good start would be recognizing that there are four pillars on which our republic is based:
First is the right to life. Human life must be inviolable from conception to natural death. If it isnt, the state determines when life is of value and when it isnt. That means government officials can decide whether we live or die. They can declare who is a person. In essence, the state can set the terms of reality. And when that happens, all other rights are forfeit.
The second pillar is a commitment to the common good. Theres a strong strain of libertarianism in American society. The idea that I have the right to do whatever I wish, as long as it doesnt impinge on the rights of others is attractive and superficially plausible, because it seems to reflect the basic assumptions of American freedom.
Certainly, we strive to maintain a high degree of individual liberty, but we know that the very fact that everyone has their own rights places limits on individualism. This is what justifies imposing such restraints on private behavior as speed limits. Additionally, there are times when we must act collectively to meet a common need or confront a common danger. That can require great personal sacrifice, as in the case of the military draft. But common good supersedes individual will.
The third pillar is subsidiarity. This is the understanding that different levels of authority are responsible for different functions, and that needs are best met at the lowest level possible. Its what undergirds our federal structure. We have local authorities (cities, counties, school districts, etc.), we have state governments and we have a national government.
Under the principle of subsidiarity, human needs are best addressed at the level closest to the individual, beginning with the family. In point of fact, most needs can be met at the family level, as they were in the past. Unfortunately, the movement to increase governmental size and power has undermined the autonomy of families to such an extent that we now tend to look first to government to solve our problems.
The fourth pillar is solidarity. This implies pride in our countrys history and in the Judeo-Christian moral heritage on which the nation is based. It also requires a sense of unity among those who share our commitment to Americas principles and the U.S. Constitution.
Our history, our principles, our Constitution, even the concept of morality itself, are under attack. Hence, my reservations about Mr. DeSantis hopes for civics education. I think we would do better to emphasize revitalization of the nations churches.
Weve seen the influence of faith on politics before. In the 18th century, America experienced the Great Awakening. This was a grassroots religious revival that swept the colonies. Not only did it bring people to faith, it motivated them to demand independence.
The Great Awakening emphasized the dignity of the human person. It stressed that the Bible says man is made in Gods image and likeness. It is God, not government, who sets the parameters by which people should be treated. We are saved, by faith, not by adherence to ideas considered politically correct at a particular moment in time.
Many churches have been tainted by compromise with the values of the world. Its no mystery that people especially young people abandon organized religion, when what they hear from the pulpit is less inspiring than what they can get from the Hallmark Channel.
But there is no more compelling message than the message of the Gospel. And the network of churches and religious institutions built so arduously over centuries still exists (if somewhat reduced) to transmit that message, if only we can bring it back on track.
We need God more than ever right now. We must not be dissuaded by the popular, though wrong, assumption about Americas separation of church and state that because we have no established church, the public square must be cleansed of all religious ideas.
Act on your faith. Call upon religious leaders to speak the truth forcefully. Show your faith to your representatives by insisting on legislation that reflects traditional values. Strengthen the four pillars.
Save the nation.
Michael P. Orsi, a priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of Action for Life TV.
Posted: at 5:49 pm
This years Truthdig Originals cover a wide range of topics, from to subjugation by corporations and creative ideas for addressing climate change to elections and uprisings all over the world. Click on the title to read the full story.
The Private Governments That Subjugate U.S. WorkersBy CHRIS HEDGES
Corporate dictatorships, under the ruling ideology of neoliberalism and libertarianism, have stripped away the rights of employees.
Governments Beware: People Are Rising Up All Over the WorldBy SONALI KOLHATKAR
When people have had enough, they meet force with resistance and resilience.
We Are Living in the Wreckage of the War on TerrorBy MAJ. DANNY SJURSEN
Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan rage on with no end in sight. Our delusion was believing they were ever rational, winnable or meaningful.
The Cheapest Way to Save the Planet Grows Like a WeedBy ELLEN BROWN
Now that growing industrial hemp is legal nationwide, the miracle crop could solve many of our environmental, health and socioeconomic troubles in one fell swoop.
Trump May Be a White Nationalist, but American Racism Is BipartisanBy PAUL STREET
Despite its rhetoric and appearance of diversity, the Democratic Party is deeply complicit in the nations structural and institutional racism.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Refuses to Be Gaslit by The New York TimesBy KASIA ANDERSON
The congresswoman makes it clear that she doesnt agree with the papers take on her career moves.
Argentina Defies the Americas Crisis of DemocracyBy JACOB SUGARMAN
As regional powers backslide and Donald Trump looms, one nation offers a popular, progressive alternative. A dispatch from Buenos Aires.
I Know What Its Like to Be Told to Go Back to My Own CountryBy NATASHA HAKIMI ZAPATA
As the daughter of Iranian and Mexican immigrants, the presidents racist attacks on four congresswomen of color have struck me to my core.
The Supreme Court May Be Lost for a GenerationBy BILL BLUM
John Robert is the newest swing vote, but hes still a conservative. And if Trump is reelected, the GOP will likely get a sixth justice.
Donald Trumps Anti-Semitism Grows Ever BolderByILANA NOVICK
He portrays his audience at the Israeli American Councils National Summit as money-hungry villains, calling them not nice people at all.
The Real Russian Menace Is Just Hypercapitalism
By JACOB BACHARACH
A recent Washington Post feature lays bare the prejudices of our political press and its denial about how American society actually works.
The Left Is Finally Winning the War of IdeasBy LEE CAMP
Despite the establishments best efforts, progressive issues are dominating the conversationjust look at the Democratic primaries.
Presidential Candidates Refuse to Discuss the Countrys Worst CrisisBy BILL BOYARSKY
Americas homelessness problem is in plain view around the nation but conspicuously absent on the campaign trail.
Fred Hampton Lives On, 50 Years After His AssassinationBy TANA GANEVA
The Black Panther and civil rights leader pledged to fight racism with solidarity. The struggle against capitalism he championed lives on.
Who Would FDR Endorse?By CONOR LYNCH
The 32nd president understood how to leverage the popular will. Progressive candidates would be wise to embrace brand of his politics.
Lesbians Are a Target of Male Violence the World OverBy JULIE BINDELIn many countries, they have won legislative equality. But the grim reality is that they still have reason to fear for their safety.
Britains Choice Is Socialism or BarbarismBy ALAN MINSKY
In the Dec. 12 general election, the U.K. had to decide between a humane future or an ethnonationalist lurch toward the right.
Google Secretly Harvests the Health Data of MillionsBy JULIANNE TVETEN
A recent Wall Street Journal expos arouses a familiar sense of dread about Silicon Valley companies and privacy.
NATO Is as Good as DeadBy SCOTT RITTER
The 70-year-old alliance has been fraying since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Donald Trumps presidency may finish it off altogether.
Los Angeles Countys District Attorney Must Go, and Heres WhyBy MELINA ABDULLAH and RASHAD ROBINSON
Jackie Lacey, who oversees the largest prosecutorial office in the nation, has a pattern of neglecting black, brown and poor Angelenos.
Read the original here:
The Best Truthdig Originals of 2019 - Truthdig
Posted: at 5:49 pm
Here is news you probably cant use: a new Texas Law Review analysis by University of Chicago law professor William Baude concludesthat Justice Hugo Black, who served on the Supreme Court from 1937 to 1971, was unconstitutionally appointed.
The relevant text is the Constitutions Article I, Section 6, which says No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time.
At the time of his appointment Black was serving as a senator from Alabamaas part of a Congress that had enacted new retirement benefits for Justices, and while his backers argued that the clause did not apply to bar his nomination, Baude concludes that it probably did. One litigant before the high court challenged Blacks right to serve, but the Court chose to sidestep the merits of that claim by ruling against its standing, and the controversydied.
All of this might seem purely academic. At this remove there would be no way to unscramble the legal omelet as to Blacks jurisprudential contributions, even were there a will. (Despite an unpromising start, the Alabaman eventually showed a libertarian streak on many Bill of Rights issues.)
But the issue is not quite so remote as that, because more than a few contemporary commentators have flirted in some cases more than flirted with claims that the makeup of the present Supreme Court is illegitimate.
After the Senate leadership refused to hold hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, the editorial board of the New York Times repeatedly declared the seat of the late Justice Scalia to have been stolen, and then-Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said of eventual nominee Neil Gorsuch that hes not there properly.
The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy brought renewed attack, with former Attorney General Eric Holder declaring that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court can justifiably be questioned and other high-profile figures taking a similar line.
Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky raised the ante with this remarkable assertion in The American Prospect: each of the five conservative justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh or someone like him (emphasis added) came on to the Court in a manner that lacks legitimacy. Perhaps at some point it will lead to open defiance of the Court.
Other commentators were happy to take up the exciting theme that future Court opinions written by, or decided by the votes of, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and perhaps other Justices might meet with open defiance or resistance from a future Democratic president, from state officials, or from people marching in the streets.
What can the Supreme Court do? Send its tiny police force to storm the White House? wrote Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. Libertarian-minded law professor Ilya Somin, who does not welcome the efforts to de-legitimize the Court or promote defiance of its rulings, nonetheless found them worth taking seriously enough to analyze at length last year.
Baudes research may provide a bit of reassurance in this respect. The challenge to the legitimacy of Blacks seat fizzled in part because it gained little headway with the public, but much more because the Courts other Justices welcomed Black aboard.
Most of the scenarios in which triumphant Democrats in 2021 or 2022 defy Supreme Court rulings are difficult to reconcile with the reality that the Courts liberal Justices have, to all appearances, been entirely content to regard Gorsuch and Kavanaugh as legitimate colleagues, and would, themselves, neither counsel nor welcome defiance of Court rulings. As I wrote last year, "the federal courts are not as polarized and tribal as much of the higher political class and punditry at nomination time."
Baude puts it this way at the conclusion of his article: the real source of constitutional settlement in our system is not always judicial decision, but sometimes sheer practice.
Posted: at 5:49 pm
Gene Strandberg, Gilpin County. Fred Koch, father of Charles and David, was a founding member of the John Birch Society, a right-fringe group that spouted conspiracy theories about communist subversion plots in the U.S. These two sons would organize and lead the real subversion one generation later.
Fred helped Stalins engineers build 15 oil refineries, establishing Russias oil industry. The American businessman and Nazi sympathizer William Rhodes Davis hired Winkler-Koch Engineering to supply the plans and oversee construction of a huge oil refinery in Hitlers Germany, one of the few in Germany that could produce high octane fuel for fighter planes.
The John Birch Society tried to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren, after SCOTUS desegregated public schools. In 1968 Fred wanted a Birch Society member to run for President on a platform of segregation and the abolition of all income taxes.
In 1966 Charles was an executive and trustee of the Freedom School, founded in 1956 in Larkspur, Colorado by Robert LeFevre, who promoted the abolition of the state. The school opposed anti-poverty programs, Medicare, and forced integration. It taught that robber barons were heroes, taxes were theft, slavery was less evil than a military draft, and the Bill of Rights should consist of only one right, the right to own property.
According to a 1982 Bill Koch deposition, Charles led his brothers David and Bill in an attempt to blackmail his brother Fred out of his share of the family business by threatening to tell their father that Fred was gay, resulting in Freds disinheritance. The plot failed, because Fred wasnt gay, and he wouldnt give in. Exposing his character, Charles gave Fred so little notice of their mothers death that Fred could not get home in time for her funeral.
In 1974 Charles told a group of businessmen, The development of a well-financed cadre of sound proponents of the free enterprise philosophy is the most critical need facing us today. In 1976 the Center for Libertarian Studies was founded with $65,000 from Charles Koch. At a Center conference Charles suggested the movement attract young people because, that was the only group open to a radically different social philosophy. Charles was supported by Leonard Liggio, a libertarian historian with the Kochs Institute for Humane Studies from 1974-1998. He lauded the Nazis youth movement and said libertarians should organize university students to create group identity.
Former Birch Society member George Pearson presented a paper that was adopted for their higher education indoctrination grants. It proposed funding private institutions within universities, where they could influence who would be teaching and what would be taught. Pearson said it would be essential to use ambiguous and misleading names and hide the programs true agenda.
In a 1978 article for Libertarian Review, Charles wrote, Ideas do not spread by themselves; they spread only through people, which means we need a movement. Our movement must destroy the current statist paradigm.
In 1980 they tried through election, with David Koch as the Libertarian candidate for Vice-President. The platform called for the abolition of: the Federal Election Commission and all campaign finance laws; Medicare, Medicaid and all other government health care programs; Social Security; all income taxes and corporate taxes; the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Central Intelligence Agency; the Food and Drug Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; minimum wage laws; child labor laws; seat belt laws; public schools and all welfare programs for the poor. The parallel with ALEC and the current Republican goals is not coincidental.
Even arch-conservative William F. Buckley called their views anarcho-totalitarianism. They got only 1% of the vote, so they decided infiltrating universities, establishing think tanks, and co-opting the Republican Party was a better way to destroy the prevalent statist paradigm.
In the 1980s their disciple Richard Fink wrote The Structure of Social Change, which Fink described as a three-phase takeover of American politics. Phase 1 is an investment in academia, where the ideas to achieve their goals would be born.
Phase 2 is the establishment of think tanks to turn the ideas into palatable policies.
Phase 3 is forming front groups (promoted as grassroots), to influence officeholders to enact the policies.
If the Kochs were truly free market libertarians, they would have opposed the government bailout during the financial collapse, which the House of Representatives did reject. After the stock market dropped 777 points in one day, the Kochs and their think tank, Americans for Prosperity, scrapped ideology in favor of money. Two days later a list of conservative groups now supporting the bailout was shown to Republican legislators. The Senate soon passed TARP with overwhelming bipartisan support.
By 2009 Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas were speakers at the Koch donor summits, which are secretive to the point of paranoia. Attendees are told to destroy all document copies, not to post any related information online, and to keep notes and materials secure. Names of guests and agendas are kept secret, sign up is done through Koch staff, not resort staff, name tags are required, all electronic devices are confiscated before sessions, and white-noise emitting loudspeakers are placed facing outward to defeat any eavesdropping attempts. One would think they had something to hide. Sources include politico.com January 2016, the New Yorker August 30, 2010, and prwatch.org January, 2016
Next time: secret money
(Originally published in the December 5, 2019, print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)
Scoppe: How SC law made it crazy for cities, counties to give any ground to billboards – Charleston Post Courier
Posted: at 5:49 pm
Im not one of those people who consider billboards a blight on the landscape, and as will become clear in a moment, this isnt actually a column about billboards. At least not entirely.
So, lets talk about why Mount Pleasant and Charleston County need to hold firm against a local companys requests to digitize six old-fashioned billboards in the town and replace a digital billboard near the county landfill in West Ashley with a smaller but much more visible one.
The conversation begins as most questions of public policy in South Carolina do at the Statehouse.
The year is 2006, Mark Sanford is governor, and the General Assembly has just passed the S.C. Landowner and Advertising Protection and Property Valuation Act, declaring that local governments may require the removal of billboards only if the ordinance requires the payment of just compensation to the sign owners.
The bill masqueraded as part of the regulatory takings movement, which is built on the idea that the U.S. Constitutions prohibition on taking private property for public use without just compensation should apply to regulations that limit the use of property.
Since the courts dont usually buy that reading, libertarians support laws that require payments when a state says people cant erode the neighbors property by erecting a new seawall. Or a county says people cant give children an education they dont need by opening a strip club next to an elementary school. Or a city tries to prevent flooding by limiting how much fill dirt a builder can use to elevate property.
But this bill wasnt a libertarian effort to rein in regulatory takings. It was just the opposite: an attempt to pick winners and losers. And it was so extreme that even our most libertarian governor ever couldnt swallow it.
The bill, Mr. Sanford wrote in his veto message, put billboard owners in a position superior to homeowners, farmers and other businesses. It did this in two ways.
First, it required owners whose billboards were forced down to be paid as if the signs were real estate, which increases in value, even though billboards are taxed like personal property, which decreases in value. When the government actually takes the property of homeowners, farmers and other businesses, through eminent domain, the payment is based on the valuation system on which its taxed.
Second, when government actually takes your land, you get paid what its worth. Billboard owners would get paid based on the amount of money their signs would generate over years or even decades to come. Thats like saying if the government makes a food truck move to a new location, it has to pay the owner all the money she would have made from the food truck staying in its old location for the next 10 or 20 years.
The Legislature quickly overrode Mr. Sanfords veto, and the bill became law, making it extraordinarily expensive to remove billboards.
Since the cost is based on the potential revenue a particular billboard could generate, it costs far more to remove a luminous electronic sign that changes several times a minute than an old-fashioned one-message-a-month billboard. So no rational local government would ever deliberately allow a digital billboard within its jurisdiction.
It might seem ironic, poetically just in fact, that in its overwrought attempt to please the billboard industry, the Legislature passed a law that encourages cities and counties to do everything they can to prevent new billboards or new billboard technology, in order to avoid getting stuck with them for eternity. In fact, its a predictable result of what seems at times like the Legislatures single-minded fixation on asserting itself as the only real power in the state of South Carolina.
This fixation means keeping the states executive branch divided among seven statewide elected officials, and keeping two-thirds of the government beyond the governors control. It means keeping the courts on a short leash. It means limiting the ability of cities and counties to raise taxes and constantly dreaming up new things to tell them they cant do. Or must do. Like paying to remove billboards something the Legislature does not require of the state Transportation Department or other state agencies. Since, even though the governor ostensibly controls a few of them, everybody knows that state agencies all work at the bidding of the Legislature.
It also means South Carolinians get stuck with one-size-fits-all government that caters to the special-interest groups with the best lobbyists in Columbia, while ordinary citizens are back home lobbying their local governments for changes those governments arent allowed to make. Because theres only room for one power in this state, and its located on the second floor of the Statehouse.
Cindi Ross Scoppe is an editorial writer for The Post and Courier. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook or Twitter @cindiscoppe.
Posted: at 5:48 pm
Jailed journalists around the globe. How can it be?
First Amendment aggressions in the United States. How can it be?
Devious despots misusing power and preying upon humanitywithholding information because knowledge is power. Silencing the other side of the story. Fear of losing control feeds their depravity. Dictators hiding behind castle walls and armies of destruction for those who dare criticize.
Freedom of the press is held hostage as journalists observe through prison bars. The courageous story-tellers that sacrifice personal safety for the human rights of others. But their lips will not be nailed shut like a wooden coffin. Truth finds a way to seep out of the cracks and crannies of the grave.
Duvar English, an independent newspaper in Turkey, revealed the following facts in a 2019 article. There are 250 imprisoned journalists in the world, nearly 50 of whom are in Turkey, according to a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Turkey follows China with the second largest number of journalists jailed with 47, marking a decrease from 68 last yearPenned by CPJ editor Elana Beiser, the report noted that over 100 news organizations have been closed under the current Turkish government and that many working journalists are being accused of terrorism and are in legal battlesSaudi Arabia and Egypt tied for third place with 26 journalists incarcerated. http://www.duvarenglish.com.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) lends bulletproof vests and helmets at no cost to journalists travelling to dangerous areas.
Freedom of Press in USA
Before the thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain, the British government attempted to censor the American media by prohibiting newspapers from publishing unfavorable information and opinions. http://www.history.com.
The First Amendment, which protects freedom of the press, was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which documents First Amendment aggressions in the United States, has collected student journalism-based incidents at both the university and high school levels. Since its launch in 2017, the Tracker has documented five cases of high school newspapers being censored or placed under prior review for their coverage of controversial topics. At the university level, it has collected two arrests, two physical attacks and three border stop involving student journalists, as well as three cases of subpoenas or legal orders. http://www.freedom.press.
What Can Citizens in the US Do?
Support your local newspaper and pay for the news you consume. Read local, state, and national newspapers and write Letters to the Editors about free press issues.
Join or donate to Reporters Without Borders at http://www.rsf.org. Reporters Without Borders USA (RSF USA) is the US office of the global organization. Read about the 100 Information Heroes from countries abroad.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. CPJ is made up of about 40 experts around the world, with headquarters in New York City. When press freedom violations occur, CPJ mobilizes a network of correspondents who report and take action on behalf of those targeted. http://www.cpj.org.
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Posted: at 5:48 pm
It's hard to quantify the fight for life, liberty and freedom with cold, hard figures.
But in a year where anti-government protests in Hong Kong have dominated headlines, bringing into focus an area of the world with a somewhat spotty record on human and economic rights, one exchange-traded fund has come to the fore that tries to do just that.
Enter the Freedom 100 Emerging Markets ETF (FRDM). The fund, launched in May 2019, uses data from the Fraser Institute, the Cato Institute and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom to determine how 26 emerging market countries are weighed in the ETF. It essentially takes civil, political and economic freedoms into account and assigns a bigger weighting to "freer" countries based on the criteria.
So far, Taiwan holds the biggest geographic weighting in FRDM, followed by South Korea and Poland. Chile and South Africa round out the top five countries represented in the ETF.
One of the most noteworthy results of the ETF's weighting system is that China, Russia and Saudi Arabia aren't included, particularly as a result of their reported human rights violations. This is despite Chinese markets being up 12% year to date and indexer MSCI increasing its China weighting twice this year.
FRDM founder Perth Tolle says that's the exact problem her ETF is trying to address.
"The problem is with the way that we weigh countries," she said on CNBC's "ETF Edge" earlier this month. "In emerging markets, market capitalization weighting just naturally ends up with a lot of weighting in China and some of these other less-free countries."
Plus, said Tolle, "freer" markets tend to outperform in the long run.
"We do expect that freer markets do perform more sustainably, they recover faster from drawdowns and they use their human or economic capital, or capital labor more efficiently," she said. "So we do expect outperformance in the long run, but that cannot be measured in days, it has to be measured in decades."
But while some countries meet some of the criteria laid out by FRDM, investors may balk at missing out on other profit-generating regions. Tolle raised Saudi Arabia as an example while the kingdom's oil-heavy investments may garner huge payouts, its few breakthroughs in the area of women's rights and overall record in "human freedoms" has kept it out of the ETF.
Tolle also stressed that the ETF looks at every country's laws and practices individually, rather than penalizing them for trade and business relations they may have with less-free countries.
"We are highly invested in Taiwan, South Korea, and Chile. Those are all huge traders with China, and they all have investments or factories that function there," she said. "So we don't penalize them for that. They ultimately answer to [their own rules and laws]."
Since FRDM was launched in May, the ETF has rallied 11%.
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Posted: at 5:48 pm
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan Every Sunday night for the past two years, Jawid Kaderi has organized Afghan music nights in a recreation center on this expansive base to showcase an essential aspect of Afghan life that had been suppressed before the U.S.-led invasion 18 years ago.
American troops often dub the deafening roar of fighter jets taking off from the nearby flight line the sound of freedom, but in the small auditorium off the bases Disney Drive where Kaderi and a rotating cast of three to four contract interpreters gather each week, the strains of the stringed rabab and the rhythmic beat of the tabla drums make for a humbler celebration of the concept.
Though sparsely attended, the events are open to American troops and others who Kaderi hopes will come to learn about his countrys traditions.
The nightlong jam sessions are also helping to rebuild a musical culture that was nearly completely destroyed under the Taliban, and which faces continuing challenges even now, said Capt. Philip D. Tappan, associate bandmaster of the United States Army Band.
The revival of musical traditions here is also something of a rebuke of the radicalism that has mired Afghanistan in decades of war, said Tappan, who studied Afghan culture before deploying to the country several years ago with the 1st Cavalry Division band and played alongside Afghan musicians at Bagram and in Kabul in 2017.
If the work we did together provided any legitimacy to their programs and the musical arts in Afghanistan, then we have directly combated the extremism that has terrorized this country and the world at large, he said.
The Taliban had denounced singing and dancing as a moral perversion. When they emerged as victors in the countrys fractious civil war in the 1990s, they burned instruments and ripped apart cassette tapes, outlawing music and other forms of pop culture under their hardline interpretation of Islamic law.
But just a few decades before the country was plunged into 40 years of war, including street battles that ravaged Kabuls musicians quarter, artists like Ahmad Zahir the Afghan Elvis had flourished amid a golden age of music in the 1960s and 1970s, Kaderi said.
And after the militant regime fell in late 2001, it wasnt long before song returned to the countrys capital, Kaderi said.
Right after the Taliban were ousted by U.S. forces, the first thing that we saw on the streets of Kabul was the free people playing music, singing and dancing, he said.
The U.S. and NATO have funded music programs in the years since, but just as efforts to establish lasting peace, security and prosperity here still face numerous challenges, so too does any musical renaissance. In rural areas still under Taliban influence, the militant group continues to bar it, locals have said, and musicians elsewhere in the country still face strong family pressure and even threats from violent extremists.
In 2014, for example, a suicide bomb attack targeted Ahmad Naser Sarmast, founder and musical director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. The Taliban claimed the attack, which took place at a high school, and said Sarmast was corrupting Afghanistans youth.
Samast lost his hearing in both ears, and for three or four months afterward it felt like there was a full symphony orchestra in my head, playing out of tune, he said recently.
Now Sarmast is slowly regaining his hearing and continues teaching young people. However, an entire generation of other would-be teachers or mentors was silenced by death, oppression or exile, said Kabul University music professor Mohsen Saify, and Afghan women are still often discouraged from even studying music by family members who hold that its immoral.
At Bagram, however, Kaderi believes that sharing a love of music is a deep part of the countrys culture and a reason to continue to celebrate the Talibans ouster.
You cannot take away music from Afghan people, he said. Even during their fighting with their enemies, they sing and dance.
Capt. Eveleen Soroko has attended some of the music nights and said that even though she didnt understand all of the words, she enjoyed the musics poetry.
I can feel in the music that the culture is alive, and that the history has a beautiful depth to offer, she said.
The Bagram events are also a way for fellow musicians like Kaderi and Tappan to build camaraderie.
I have not forgotten about Afghan music, the experiences Ive had with Afghan musicians or the study of Afghan music, Tappan said. It will continually color my life.
Afghan and American musicians assemble on Oct. 23, 2016, at Bagram Airfield. The two groups of musicians closed the show in a joint performance of two traditional Dari folk songs.COURTESY OF CAPT. PHILIP D. TAPPAN
Freedom Socialist Party New Year’s Greetings for 2020: In anticipation of another year of global resistance – Freedom Socialist Party
Posted: at 5:48 pm
For all its difficulties and outright calamities, the year 2019 gave the workers and oppressed of the world a lot to celebrate. Mainly, international revolt on a scale unprecedented in recent history!
For every exploitative, inhumane or downright barbaric action by the powers-that-be, there was a resounding reaction by working-class and young people, often with women on the front lines. Around the world, from Chile to Lebanon, people rose up against corruption, the bitter fruits of neoliberalism, ethnic cleansing, destabilizing of the climate, and the arrogance and repression of authoritarian leaders.
Strikes in the United States and across the globe got real. Symbolic one-day walkouts were often replaced by bold, serious struggles, sometimes lasting for weeks or months. Internationally, one of the most compelling battles raged in France, where public employees were still out as the year ended. Strikers in the U.S. included 49,000 auto workers at General Motors, nurses in Ohio, copper miners in Arizona, and teachers in Los Angeles, Chicago, and across the country. In one week in October, over 85,000 workers were out.
Workers stepped up not only over bread and butter issues, but over issues of justice, equality, and planetary survival as well. Employees at Google, Microsoft, Palantir, Amazon, Tableau, Whole Foods, and Wayfair protested their companies dealings with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), sometimes by striking. Thousands of big-tech workers organized an environmental walkout the week before the United Nations climate summit in September. And Microsoft employees petitioned the corporation to cancel a $479 million military contract and to end development of weapons technology. Issues of gender, race, sexuality, and the rights of indigenous people, immigrants, and refugees galvanized action in every hemisphere.
Nonetheless, wars continued to proliferate, seas continued to rise, and the far right continued to grow. The opponents of all of these scourges had plenty of courage and commitment. But too often one overthrown dictator was merely replaced with another; a valiant strike won only modest gains or went down to defeat; or a climate mobilization of hundreds of thousands failed to push the politicians to stand up to the fossil fuel profiteers. What was lacking? Revolutionary organizations prepared to lead a fight for revolutionary solutions.
The Freedom Socialist Party aims to be part of meeting this need. To this end, FSP belongs to the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR), which is an expanding effort to bring socialists together internationally to collaborate on the major problems facing the worlds people.
Along with taking part in a productive, forward-looking meeting of CRIR in Mexico City in December 2019, FSP held its own rousing socialist feminist convention in the Seattle area in October. The overwhelming spirit of members was one of revolutionary optimism, based on the Marxist understanding that nothing is greater than the power of the working class once fully unleashed.
In the U.S., 2020 brings the quadrennial showdown between the Democrats and Republicans over who will take charge of stealing from workers and the poor to give to the rich with the added complication of Donald Trumps impeachment. But these exercises in capitalist democracy have very little to do with real democracy of, by and for the working-class majority. And that is the goal worth aiming for.
The best tribute we can pay to the brave insurgents and labor militants of 2019 is to continue their work and deepen it to usher in a new year and a new decade dedicated to achieving the international socialism that people and the planet so urgently need.
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