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Iowa Should Abandon Its Level Playing Field for Education Funding PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 28 May 2015 12:25

When Davenport Community Schools Superintendent Art Tate announced in March that he planned to violate state law by spending more money per pupil than the state allowed, it highlighted the strangeness of Iowa’s rarely questioned status quo: There’s no mechanism for school districts to consistently exceed the base-funding level.

It’s not quite as simple as saying that Davenport’s school district can’t spend more than $6,366 per student this year. But in the name of funding equality across Iowa, the state is unusually restrictive – meaning that even if citizens in a community would support higher taxes for educational operations, there’s no way to make that happen.

At heart, Iowa’s system takes the admirable goal of adequate education funding and turns it into a straitjacket.

How Jury Trials Could Have Softened the Blow of the Financial Crisis PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Scott E. Stafne   
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 08:10

For most of our history, lawyers have thought of themselves as the unofficial fourth “arm” of the government. This view is more understandable from lawyers’ past role as “trial advocates” than from the present relationship between the bench and bar, which reduces the significance lawyers have in the administration of justice.

Under the law in effect in most colonies at the time our Constitution was written, lawyers were advocates who had the right to argue the merits of their clients’ cases directly to a jury. Juries, not judges, had the right to decide most cases as they saw fit both with regard to the facts and the law. As the Supreme Court noted in 1943’s Galloway V. United States: “In 1789, juries occupied the principal place in the administration of justice. They were frequently in both criminal and civil cases the arbiters not only of fact but of law.”

The king’s denial of the right to a trial by jury was one of the reasons justifying separation from England in the Declaration of Independence.

Many believed the right to a jury trial was not adequately guaranteed in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. Anti-federalists urged rejection of the Constitution unless it was amended to include a Bill of Rights, which secured the right to trial by jury in both criminal and civil cases. Patrick Henry, a lawyer and well-known patriot at that time, argued: “Trial by jury is the best appendage of freedom. ... No appeal can now be made as to fact in common-law suits. The unanimous verdict of impartial men cannot be reversed.” This result was not because the jury would always be right, but because the result came from impartial members of the community.

No Matter Who Wins the White House, the New Boss Will Be the Same as the Old Boss PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Thursday, 23 April 2015 05:38
“What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else.” – Author Tom Clancy

The American people remain eager to be persuaded that a new president in the White House can solve the problems that plague us. Yet no matter who wins this next presidential election, you can rest assured that the new boss will be the same as the old boss, and we – the permanent underclass in America – will continue to be forced to march in lockstep with the police state in all matters, public and private.

Indeed, it really doesn’t matter what you call them – the 1 percent, the elite, the controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex – so long as you understand that no matter which party occupies the White House in 2017, the unelected bureaucracy that actually calls the shots will continue to do so.

Consider the following a much-needed reality check, an antidote, if you will, against an overdose of over-hyped campaign announcements, lofty electoral promises, and meaningless patriotic sentiments that land us right back in the same prison cell.

Fact: For the first time in history, a majority of members of Congress are millionaires, and U.S. representatives and senator are, on average, 14 times wealthier than the average American. According to a scientific study by Princeton researchers, the United States of America is not the democracy that it purports to be, but rather an oligarchy, in which “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy.”

Fact: “Today, 17,000 local police forces are equipped with such military equipment as Blackhawk helicopters, machine guns, grenade launchers, battering rams, explosives, chemical sprays, body armor, night vision, rappelling gear, and armored vehicles,” reports Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the treasury. “Some have tanks.”

Fact: Thanks to an overabundance of 4,500-plus federal crimes and 400,000-plus rules and regulations, it is estimated that the average American actually commits three felonies a day without knowing it. According to law professor John Baker, “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime. That is not an exaggeration.”

Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 07:47

Presidential candidates work hard to convince ordinary Americans that they’re just like us. Regular folks. Put their pants on one leg at a time, you betcha.

But nobody clears the airspace for me when I fly into a city.

Nor, I bet, do federal agents cordon off several blocks around venues in which you’re scheduled to speak, restricting people who don’t like you to “free-speech zones” for the duration of your visit.

And if either of us puts the pedal to the metal and flies down Interstate 89 at more than 90 miles per hour to keep appointments in Keene, Claremont, and Concord, New Hampshire, we’ll be lucky if we get off with stern lectures and expensive tickets.

Hillary Clinton gets a Secret Service escort. The police don’t even consider pulling her over for a ticket. They’re there to make sure all us regular people – you know, the ones she’s just like – keep ourselves out of her way.

Constitutional Convention: A Dangerous and Unnecessary Game PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Thursday, 09 April 2015 08:49

Supporters of a national constitutional convention, as provided for in Article V of the U.S. Constitution, have gained the support of 27 state legislatures for the idea. They need 34.

Republicans and Democrats are at war both with each other and within their own parties over the proposal. Some Republicans want such a convention for the purpose of getting a balanced-budget amendment.

Some Democrats also want a convention for the purpose of overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and regulating political-campaign spending.

Some members of both parties fear that a convention might get out of hand, producing unforeseen results. History says these Cassandras are correct.

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