Archive for Freedomworks

Freedom Art: Michele Bledsoe

In the Flesh by Michele Bledsoe
The Great Fear of Falling by Michele Bledsoe
Mr. Crazy's Lament by Michele Bledsoe
The Return of Boo Radley by Michele Bledsoe
As Above, So Below by Michele Bledsoe

Liberatchik is an art movement devoted to Liberty. We are conservatives and libertarians who understand the power of art. We know it has the power to move people with its intrinsic value, but it also has the power to gather people into movements for a cause. That is our focus. This month, we’re highlighting Michele Bledsoe and the Resurgence of Classic Children’s Stories.

Much of what I have learned about Michele and her art has come from her writings and stories. I was interested to know that she became an artist at a young age, much as I did myself. In much the same way that I came to an early love of art and a desire to draw, Michele was inspired by the children’s books of her youth.

Michele Bledsoe is a self-taught painter; but she didn’t start her creative career with brush in hand. In fact, she came to the art of painting as a means to deal with the grief she felt at her father’s death. In My Easel and I: A Love Story, you learn about the touching expression of her father’s love and his desire to give her something that would last forever – a metal easel. Though she had previously brought her imagination to life with drawing instruments and whatever paper was available when inspiration struck, her father’s passing and the easel he bestowed upon her put Michele on a path to self-discovery and broader creative purpose.

Michele’s stories are beautiful and touching in their sweetness and emotional depth. Though The Return of Boo Radley is my personal favorite, I find myself moved by the eloquence within all of her stories. There is a little bit of Michele in each one and she has a penchant for making the reader feel as if they were a participant in each story. Vivid images of embellished pine cones and whimsical creatures spring to life in the reader’s imagination as her stories unfold.

It seems quite logical that Michele would eventually decide to create her very own children’s book, though the path she took to launch the project was not traveled in the typical way. I suspect that much of what Michele does is not typical, so it is quite fitting that her art literally came before the idea to create the book. In fact, her sister is the person who opened her eyes to the fact that the book was already written; on the walls of her own studio that are covered with her small but vibrant images.

Michele has had some surprising revelations along her creative path. The most important discovery she has made was the distinction between message-driven stories and books destined to become classics of lasting cultural impact. This is a rare distinction in our modern, instant gratification society. Michele found that books designed to inspire are beautiful and imaginative, subtle and creative, transcending cultural trends and pop imagery. The result is The Secret Kingdom, a collaborative book of art and poetry between Michele and her husband Richard. This beautifully written and creatively illustrated book provides an artist’s glimpse into the worlds of dream and imagination lost in much of modern pop culture. It is sure to inspire current and future generations of children to embrace the creative rumblings of their own minds and cultivate lasting beauty and inspiration for years to come.

Find out more about Michele at http://secretkingdombook.wordpress.com/about

Learn More At Liberatchik

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Civil Forfeiture Allows Cities to Seize Private Property from People Never Charged with Crimes

The Institute for Justice is leading a class-action lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia and its’ civil forfeiture practices. This litigation comes in light of the city seizing a family’s home because unbeknownst to the parents, their son made a drug deal on the property worth $40.

Civil forfeiture laws allow police departments to seize private property, sell it, and use the proceeds to fund their operations. The real owners of seized property do not have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to lose their property. Government can seize property, such as a car or home, if it’s found to “facilitate” a crime. In essence, the government sues the property itself.

As strange as this all sounds, the names of cases pertaining to civil forfeiture sound even more bizarre, such as Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. The Real Property and Improvements Known as 2544 N. Colorado Street; United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Mass; and Commonwealth v. One 1958 Plymouth Sedan. The government literally sues a house or car, not a human. Innocent people can be punished for crimes that they did not even commit.

Even worse, the police departments use something known as equitable sharing, which hands over civil forfeiture cases to the federal government. Then, the feds allow police and prosecutors to keep about 80% of the profits. So even if state or local protections for property owners are there, enforcement can avoid these and still seize and profit off taken property using federal law.

While criminal forfeiture involves seizing property following a criminal conviction, under civil forfeiture, law enforcement can take your property without having to convict you of any crime. Further, those involved in criminal forfeiture are granted full constitutional rights, but those involved in a civil forfeiture receive none of these same protections, and you actually have the burden to prove your innocence, the exact opposite of how our legal system is supposed to operate.

Unfortunately, Philadelphia is not the only place in America where this is a problem. The Institute for Justice’s report “Policing for Profit” has revealed the nationwide practice of police departments profiting from civil forfeiture on real property. In 42 states, law enforcement can keep all the cash, cars and homes seized under civil forfeiture. The Institute for Justice graded the states on how well they protect property owners and only three states received a “B” or higher.

However, Philadelphia is disproportionately taking advantage of this flawed practice. According to Institute for Justice, from 2002-2012, Philadelphia received $64 million from civil forfeiture (about $6 million a year), and used $25 million to pay salaries of law enforcement, including civil forfeiture prosecutors, who all have incentives to see civil forfeiture continue with vigor.

The Institute recommends three changes to combat these actions:

1) Remove the profit incentive by reserving profits to the general treasury, education, or compensating victims
2) Reverse the burden of proof inversion – many people give up their cases because it is too hard to prove the property was not connected to the crime, even though that person is not even charged with a crime
3) Curb equitable sharing with a federal law ensuring that proceeds are distributed in accordance with state law so local agencies can’t get around state laws

Visit the Institute for Justice’s website http://endforfeiture.com to learn more about civil forfeiture.

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Ex-Im’s Green Energy Corruption Goes Deeper than Solyndra

Abengoa's solar projects are being propped up by corruption and cronyism.

By now, most people following the continuing saga of the U.S. Export-Import Bank have heard about how it guaranteed loans to now-bankrupt solar energy company Solyndra. Solyndra was a big news story when it went bust, because of the stimulus money it took and the preferential treatment it was given because green energy mandates took preference over sensible investment.

But if Solyndra was the poster child for government-sponsored green energy boondoggles, a Spanish company called Abengoa has taken things to the next level.

Abengoa is a green energy company based in Spain that took billions in stimulus funding and was heavily supported by loans guaranteed from the Ex-Im Bank. While the bank operates under the pretense of helping American companies generally, its loans are actually required to go disproportionately to politically popular industries, of which green energy is the largest. The fact that Abengoa is not even an American company doesn’t matter, as long as the partisan goal of solar power is pursued with taxpayer-backed dollars.

We already know that the Ex-Im Bank favors politically connected cronies, but the blatant corruption within the Bank’s management structure may still surprise some. At the time when Abengoa was receiving these loans from Ex-Im, former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson was sitting comfortably on the advisory board. At the same time, he also sat on the board of another major institution where his influence could help out his friends at Abengoa. In case you haven’t guessed it already, it was the Ex-Im Bank itself.

That’s right, the program that we are assured is necessary to support American small business is playing favorites with foreign companies under the advice of board members with conflicts of interest. It’s cronyism at its worst, and it needs to end.

But wait, there’s more! In case all this wasn’t enough to convince you that the Ex-Im Bank acts in a manner that is corrupt and irresponsible, let’s look at some of the activity Abengoa has been engaged in.

• Abengoa has violated U.S. law in multiple instances, including infractions related to immigration, environmental regulations, and worker safety.

• Abengoa has been busted for health insurance fraud, for putting people on their plans who were not on the payroll.

• Abengoa has been charged with intentionally delaying payment on American contracts in order to collect more interest on its investments in Spain – investments funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Abengoa is just one of any number of examples of Ex-Im corruption. The deeper one digs into the Ex-Im Bank, the more obvious it becomes that the program is as Barack Obama said in 2008 before incumbency changed his tune, “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” And a hopelessly corrupt one at that.

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House Overwhelmingly Passes Audit the Fed. So, Why Won't Harry Reid Bring it to a Vote?

As expected, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation (H.R. 24) to audit the Federal Reserve with a vote of 333-92. This goes to show that bringing transparency to the central bank is a bipartisan issue that transcends party lines. FreedomWorks will be scoring this important vote in our congressional scorecard to hold legislators accountable.

Thank you to all the activists who called their representative and urged them to vote yes!

Now, Audit the Fed moves on to the Senate. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has introduced identical Fed transparency legislation (S.209) that has 30 cosponsors. Unfortunately, there are no signs that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring it to a vote.

We were in the same boat two years ago.

Rep. Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill overwhelmingly passed the House but Reid refused to bring the popular bill to a vote. This is strange since Reid vocally supported an audit in the 1990’s, yet he’s now the one blocking it from happening.

Don’t believe me? Watch this from 1995:

Instead, Harry Reid is complaining that Republicans are saying no to (bad) bills that he’s tried to pass. Alright, then how about finally putting Audit the Fed to a vote? Both Republicans and Democrats should be able to support bringing accountability to the Federal Reserve.

After all, in Reid’s own words, “There is no entity in the world that controls our lives more than the Federal Reserve System.” Surely, that means the American people deserve to know what’s happening behind closed doors at the powerful institution.

It’s time for the Senate to finally vote on Audit the Fed. Harry Reid must stop blocking a vote on such a crucial matter that the majority of Americans support.

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FreedomWorks Calls on Harry Reid to Bring up Audit the Fed Bill

FreedomWorks calls on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring up the bill to audit the Federal Reserve. The House of Representatives passed The Federal Reserve Transparency Act (H.R. 24) with a vote of 333-92. The same bill to Audit the Fed passed in 2012 but was never brought up in the Senate. Now, FreedomWorks is calling on the Senate to bring the bill up for a vote, especially considering Senator Reid’s strong support for an audit of the Federal Reserve in the past.

“After years of the Liberty movement pushing for an audit, public sentiment has finally caught up with calls for transparency from America’s central bank. Now that the House has voted yet again to audit the Fed, it’s time for the Senate to take action,” said FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe.

“Harry Reid needs to give the Senate a chance to vote for an audit. Since he once stood on the Senate floor and called for this very measure, we are asking Harry Reid to walk the walk and bring a vote to the floor.”

Senator Reid gave a speech in 1995 where he said the following. Text and video can be found HERE:

“I have sponsored legislation every year that would call for an audit of the Federal Reserve system. I offer that amendment every year, every year it gets nowhere,” Reid says. “I think it would be interesting to know about the Federal Reserve. I think we should audit the Federal Reserve — it’s taxpayers’ money that’s being used there. But we don’t do that.”

Over a thousand FreedomWorks activists from around the country called their representatives asking them to vote yes to audit the Fed. FreedomWorks sent out a key vote on the bill and will be scoring the vote in their Congressional Scorecard.

FreedomWorks aims to educate, build, and mobilize the largest network of activists advocating the principles of smaller government, lower taxes, free markets, personal liberty and the rule of law. For more information, please visit www.freedomworks.org or contact Jackie Bodnar at JBodnar@FreedomWorks.org.

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FreedomWorks to Congress: Syria Amendment Should Stand Alone

While Congress debates on the McKeon Amendment to authorize the arming of Syrian rebels, FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe released the following statement in opposition:

“It’s completely inappropriate to lump arming Syrian rebels and the basic functions of our government into the same temporary spending bill. This Syria amendment could be a precursor to military action in the Middle East, and it should be debated and voted on separately. I think most people would agree, the decision is a little more serious than funding things like the National Park Service.”

FreedomWorks aims to educate, build, and mobilize the largest network of activists advocating the principles of smaller government, lower taxes, free markets, personal liberty and the rule of law. For more information, please visit www.FreedomWorks.org or contact Jackie Bodnar at JBodnar@FreedomWorks.org.

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Capitol Hill Update, 15 September, 2014

Capitol Hill Update: 15 September, 2014

House & Senate/Schedule: Both chambers are in session all of this week. The House intends to adjourn at the end of this week, and will likely remain out of session until December unless the Senate makes changes to the government funding bill.

Legislative Highlight of the Week: Both the House and Senate will spend a large part of this week dealing with the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government, H.J. Res. 124. It is not yet clear what the final text will look like – whether it will contain funding for military operations in Syria, or whether it will include a 9-month or longer extension of the Export-Import Bank.

While extending the Ex-Im Bank at all would be a disappointment, the House’s plan from last week would at least only extend Ex-Im into next June, which allows Congress to deal with it separately from the government funding bill, and away from the political pressure of avoiding a government shutdown.

The CR itself, in any case, will likely only extend government funding through December 11th, thus requiring Congress to come back to town for a “lame duck” session.

House/Monetary Policy: On Tuesday, the House will finally hold a vote on H.R. 24, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act. Sponsored by Rep. Paul Broun, this bill is identical to Ron Paul’s earlier bills to require a comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve. This same bill passed by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority in 2012, and seems likely to do so again this year, though it once again faces an uncertain future in the Senate. FreedomWorks has issued a Key Vote: YES in support of this bill.

House/Energy: On Thursday, the House is scheduled to vote on the American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act. Sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), this bill combines a number of bills which have been previously passed by the House, all of which address energy and natural resources regulations. The provisions in this bill include authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, expediting natural gas drilling permits and exports, and delaying or stopping a number of key EPA regulations which would dramatically harm coal and natural gas production.

House/Regulations: On Friday, the House is scheduled to vote on another package bill (no number yet) that would combine a number of regulatory reforms, including several which modify ObamaCare. There would include changing the definition of “full-time” under ObamaCare to 40 hours per week, repealing the medical device tax, permanently extending a number of expiring business tax breaks, and permanently banning taxes on internet access.

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House to Vote on Audit the Fed on Tuesday!

Good news!

The House is expected to vote on a bill to audit the Federal Reserve (H.R. 24) on Tuesday!

The bill was originally introduced by former Congressman Ron Paul and overwhelmingly passed the House last congressional session. With Ron Paul out of office, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia) has reintroduced the popular audit the Fed bill.

Like last session, the bill is coming up under a suspension of the rules. This means that it will need 2/3rds of the House (or 290 votes) to pass. That’s a lot of votes needed but there are reasons to be hopeful. Rep. Broun’s bill currently has 228 cosponsors and the same bill passed 327-98 in 2012.

“I am pleased to see such wide support for Audit the Fed, and I hope the House moves quickly to pass this important piece of legislation,” said Ron Paul after H.R. 24 reached a bipartisan majority of the House.

Of course, we still encourage you to call your member of Congress and urge him or her to vote yes on auditing the Fed. Believe it or not, your voice can really change how a member votes. It’s important to let your congressional representative know that you’ll be closely watching how he or she votes on H.R. 24.

Auditing the central bank is really a no brainer issue. It is both good policy and good politics.

There’s no good reason that such a powerful institution that impacts our daily lives has never been fully audited. The American people deserve to know how our money is being manipulated behind closed doors. We ought to know more about the Fed’s secret bailout of foreign big banks and corporations without even the approval or knowledge of Congress.

Nearly 75 percent of Americans support a full audit the Fed, according to a Rasmussen poll. This is no longer an obscure issue that is only talked about in libertarian circles. Transparency is a bipartisan issue that can unite people from across the political spectrum. Who is opposed to making government accountable to the people?

Now, auditing the Federal Reserve will not fix all of our monetary problems. However, it is a step in the right direction to bring much-needed transparency and accountability to the overreaching central bank.

Let’s reveal to the public what the Fed has been doing in secrecy.

Call your Representatives

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Key Vote YES on Auditing the Federal Reserve

As one of our over 6.6 million FreedomWorks activists nationwide, I urge you to contact your representative and ask him or her to vote YES on the Federal Reserve Transparency Act. Introduced by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), the bill would eliminate the current audit restrictions placed on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and require a full and thorough audit of the Federal Reserve.

Since its inception in 1913, the Federal Reserve has never been audited. It has always operated under a certain veil of secrecy, even though our dollar has lost 97 percent of its value since its creation. Many economists have found that the central bank’s loose monetary policy played a major role in the recent economic crisis. It is more crucial than ever that the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions be examined. Without a comprehensive audit, we will never know how the Fed is manipulating our money behind closed doors.

The American people overwhelmingly support auditing the Federal Reserve. We will not settle for the one-time, watered-down audit of the Federal Reserve which was included in the misguided Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law passed in 2009. The full Federal Reserve Transparency Act, sponsored at the time by Congressman Ron Paul, was passed in the House by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority in 2012, and ought to do so again.

With opaque bank bailouts done through “quantitative easing” among other programs, the Federal Reserve has violated the trust granted to it that allowed for secretive operations. With sound money crucial to our future prosperity, we must push for a full audit to bring much-needed transparency and accountability to the overreaching central bank.

Therefore, we hope that you will call your representative and ask him or her to vote YES on the Federal Reserve Transparency Act. FreedomWorks will count this vote as a Key Vote when calculating its Economic Freedom Scorecard for 2014. This scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of Congress who consistently vote to support economic freedom.

Sincerely,

Matt Kibbe
President and CEO,
FreedomWorks

Call your Representatives

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Should We Treat the Internet Like a Utility?

Aren't these two bad enough?

The FCC is looking to get its hands on the internet again, this time with a set of sweeping set of regulations known as Title II. Essentially, this would allow the internet to be regulated like any other public utility. Defenders of the plan argue that regulation is necessary to preserve competition and protect small startup companies.

There are plenty of solid economic arguments for why all this is nonsense, but we don’t need to delve into the arcana of academic studies or economic theories to see that it doesn’t pass the smell test. We need only look at the world around us, and observe the effect that regulating utilities has on consumer choice.

Simply take a look at the companies you buy from every day. How much choice do you have, for example, over your water carrier? If you decide you are paying too much for water, or you don’t like the taste, how easy is it to find another provider? Not very. The same goes for electricity. Has government regulation of this public utility resulted in lots of firms competing for your business, or are you pretty much stuck with whatever you’re given?

Contrast this with other services where regulation either doesn’t exist or has been loosened considerably. In 1996, the government amended the Communications Act of 1934 to decrease regulation on telephone service and allow more firms to enter the market. Anyone who lived through the 90s doubtless remembers the fierce competition between AT&T, MCI, and Sprint trying desperately to convert customers. The comparatively lighter regulations of the post-1996 reforms forced companies to cut prices and improve service in order to retain the business that government had previously guaranteed them.

Then there are the countless other services we use every day that are not regulated as utilities. For virtually any consumer product, we are treated to a wide variety of styles, of hugely varying levels of quality and price. Consumer choice is paramount, and we all benefit from it. Public utilities, on the other hand, are essentially an excuse for government to create monopolies and oligopolies, where the lack of competitive pressure pushes prices up and quality down.

Furthermore, providing internet service doesn’t involve any of the physical limitations inherent in other utilities. Internet service has no requirement for laying networks of wires or pipes in order to function effectively. This observation eliminates a large portion of the rationale given for regulating other utilities, and undermines the pretense of consumer welfare.

We should trust the evidence of our senses. The internet is working well as is. It is a hub for uniquely creative and innovative activity, whose equal has never been seen. The other utilities, under heavy government regulation, are stagnant, with a marked lack of competition and of consumer choice. Let’s keep the internet free from government meddling, and preserve the unregulated information superhighway we’ve all come to know and love.

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