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Campbell v. State Farm
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Press Release

Campbell v. State Farm

QUESTION PRESENTED The amici curiae will address the following question: Whether in relying on the probability that State Farm would escape liability for underpayment of first-party claims — rather than the probability that State Farm would escape liability for third-party bad faith — the Utah Supreme Court misapplied deterrence theory and thereby mistakenly approved an irrational and excessive punitive damages jud gment. Click here for the complete amicus brief in PDF format.

08/10/2002
Don't Skip the Hard Lessons of Sept. 11th
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Don't Skip the Hard Lessons of Sept. 11th

BY Jonathan Zimmerman

Patriotism, Samuel Johnson once warned, is often the last refuge of a scoundrel. As our public schools prepare to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, though, we might wish to add another danger to Johnson's list: psychologism. "Psychologism" reduces every social and political issue to a question of personal health and well-being. Whereas the patriot sees treason and subversion around every corner, the psychologist worries about trauma and self-esteem. Across the country, more than 1,000 high schools have announced plans to commemorate the 9/11 attacks with a special five-day curriculum about terrorism and global affairs. But here in New York, the main target of the attacks, students won't be learning much of anything. After consulting with child psychologists, city school officials have decided to downplay the Sept. 11 anniversary. "There are students here who witnessed tremendous trauma, not just on television or in ripples, but by seeing what happened or facing their own personal losses," explained Francine Goldstein, chief executive of school support services for the city's Board of Education. "All of this can drag up some very difficult symbolism for both the children and the staff." Of course it can. But the horror of the tragedy should not provide an excuse for eschewing a discussion of it. In the guise of protecting students, we will forfeit an enormous opportunity to teach them. For example, how many students know that the United States established a "citizens' auxiliary" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in World War One? More than a quarter of a million people joined the American Protective League, spying on their neighbors and co-workers in the hunt for German infiltrators and sympathizers. League members opened other people's mail, and intercepted their telegrams - all with the government's sanction. How does this effort compare to Attorney General John Ashcroft's proposed "TIPS" program, which would enlist millions of civilians as government spies? Should the World War I precedent make us wary of his proposal? Supportive of it? Why? How can we guard against terrorism but still protect our civil liberties? In previous national crises, patriotic propaganda blocked any such analysis from America's classrooms. During World War I, for example, the federal government distributed lesson plans illustrating the "democratic" virtues of our British and French allies and the "autocratic" nature of our German foes. (One lesson used the example of French patriot Joan of Arc - until somebody realized that she had been burned at the stake by England.) In the 1950s, schools purged textbooks of material about American poverty and racism. If students learned of their own country's problems, the argument went, they might start to sympathize with its Cold War foe: the Soviet Union. "There should be a constructive, positive approach," explained a patriotic group in California, "and emphasis should be placed on the 'good things' of American life." Even now, self-appointed patriotic organizations impose a cheery gloss upon the nation's textbooks. For example, in Texas, right-wing activists in the Texas chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy work assiduously to remove any passages that might sully America's pristine image. Here in New York, by contrast, the soft glove of liberal psychology - not the hard fist of conservative patriotism - constrains what our children learn. Lest any racial or ethnic group suffer a deficit of "self-esteem," textbooks distort or simply falsify American history. As school officials admitted earlier this year, even standardized examinations have removed ethnic referents like "black" or "Jewish" - because such terms might supposedly harm the delicate minds of young test-takers. To be sure, millions have been affected in some manner by racial or ethnic prejudice. Likewise, every person in New York was probably traumatized - in one way or another - by the attacks of Sept. 11. But the main job of our public schools is to make people into good citizens, not to make them feel good. Schools must give children the knowledge, skill, and interest to participate in complicated public questions - like the balance between individual freedom and collective security. Which brings us back to John Ashcroft and "TIPS." No matter what we think of citizen spies, let's all keep a close eye on our schools as the Sept. 11 anniversary draws near. Let's make sure our students use this day to learn about the tragedy and - especially - about our nation's response to it. And let's resist the twin perils of patriotism and psychologism, which will only defer the critical discussion that we need.

08/08/2002
Art Curtis is the CSE Activist of the Month!
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Press Release

Art Curtis is the CSE Activist of the Month!

August’s CSE Activist of the Month is Art Curtis of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is a part-time student, soldier, and family man who still finds time to take part in the political process and speak-out on important issues that impact the greater freedom and liberty of all Americans.

08/07/2002
The Calm Before the Storm?
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Press Release

The Calm Before the Storm?

The President is working from home this month. Congress has left town until after Labor Day. This August, like most Augusts, will be a slow month in Washington. But watch out for a wild ride this fall.

08/07/2002
It's the Tax Code, Stupid
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Press Release

It's the Tax Code, Stupid

Riding high on the nation’s moral indignation over corporate malfeasance, politicians have turned to bullying corporations and interfering with perfectly legal business decisions. The coming elections have fueled the anti-corporate rhetoric as politicians attempt to outdo one another with “get tough on corporate America” proposals that ignore underlying economic problems in a quixotic search for a government quick fix to boost stock prices. While new mandates will do little to address an overvalued stock market or bring more foreign investors into the market, they can hamper the ability of American companies to compete in a global market.

08/07/2002
Political Inexperience, Not Greed Caused Energy Traders’ Demise
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Press Release

Political Inexperience, Not Greed Caused Energy Traders’ Demise

By the time voters go to the polls in November, two to three energy companies could join Enron in bankruptcy. With the public furor over declining stocks and corporate greed already at a high pitch, these new failures could bring about a new round of re-regulation to the energy sector.

08/07/2002
School Board Nixes Tax Proposal
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School Board Nixes Tax Proposal

BY Rob Shapard

HILLSBOROUGH - The Orange County school board has officially dropped the idea of seeking a referendum on a special district tax. In deciding not to ask the Orange County Commissioners to schedule a referendum on the issue, board members cited either their outright opposition to a new tax, or concerns that the issue was too "divisive" to move forward. "This issue is becoming very divisive and very distracting," school board Chairwoman Dana Thompson said Tuesday. "It's just driving a wedge between a lot of people in the community. "It's a tool to get more revenue, but it's not the best tool," she said. "I don't even think it's a good tool." Thompson's comments came after a formal decision by the board Monday night. Board member Keith Cook had proposed asking the county commissioners to put on the ballot the question of setting a tax for the Orange school district. A specific date for a referendum wasn't part of the motion. Cook said Tuesday that he believed the spring of 2003 would have been the appropriate time, while Thompson said board members' understanding was that it could have been as soon as November's general election. The tax would be similar to the district tax in place in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district for several decades. Thompson seconded Cook's motion, but she then joined five other board members in a 6-1 vote against it. Thompson said Tuesday she seconded the motion simply to get it to the next step, a vote. The six 'No' votes were from Thompson, Bob Bateman, Susan Halkiotis, David Kolbinsky, Delores Simpson and Brenda Stephens. "Ultimately, this district tax business would do more damage than good," said Stephens, who had been a supporter of putting it on the ballot. Bateman and Kolbinsky have consistently opposed the district tax as an additional burden on the residents of the county school district, and groups such as the Citizens for a Sound Economy have weighed in against it as well. That group sent a letter to local candidates on Aug. 2, asking them to sign a "No District Tax" pledge, and Bateman signed the letter on behalf of the group. The vote comes about a month before the Sept. 10 school board election, which will include six candidates vying for four seats on the county school board. The district tax has been an issue in the race so far, with candidate Randy Copeland making the phrase "No District Tax" a prominent part of his campaign signs. "I congratulated them last night, because they think on their feet," Kolbinsky said, referring to the board members who had previously supported the district tax. "The district tax was a loser. "Even bond referendums for schools don't pass in this part of the county," he said. "I think sometimes [residents] up here cast protest votes. "I think the handwriting was on the wall, that anybody that was going to support a district tax wasn't going to get re-elected to the board," Kolbinsky said. "They saw which way the political trends were blowing." Cook is running for a seat on the Orange County Commissioners, but he still would have two more years on the school board if he fails to win a commissioner's seat. Cook said Tuesday he was disappointed with the board's vote. He said he considered the district tax a "dead issue" for now, although he said he expects it will come back up in the future. "I accept it, because I'm a member of a seven-person board, but I was disappointed that we decided we won't move forward," he said. "It got to be an issue on everybody's mind. But to me, it reminds me of the long time we worked to get the impact fee. Just think about where we would be without those monies to help us with our new facilities." The county collects impact fees applied to newly constructed homes, with the money earmarked for school construction. Thompson said she doesn't support the district tax now and won't in the future. "I don't think it's an equitable way to generate dollars for the school system," she said. "I just hope, now that this is off the table, that people can come together behind schools. We could have done a lot of damage to the entire community on this one issue and spent years trying to heal the damage."

08/07/2002
Brainstorm 2002
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Press Release

Brainstorm 2002

© 2002 Copley News Service, 8/6/2002 Last week I attended a remarkable conference put on by Fortune magazine, "Brainstorm 2002," which I believe very well may come to supercede Devos as the most important world forum on globalization and how to help lift poor countries out of poverty by strengthening the world trading system and expanding liberal democracy. More than 200 of the world's most diverse thinkers and doers assembled in Aspen, Colo., to think about and discuss the world's problems, challenges and opportunities for integration, unification and democratization.

08/06/2002
Microsoft Demonstrates That It’s Ready to End the Antitrust Case
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Press Release

Microsoft Demonstrates That It’s Ready to End the Antitrust Case

Today’s decision by Microsoft Corporation to release portions of computer code that comprise its Windows operating system, demonstrates the company’s willingness to comply with the settlement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice and nine state attorneys general. CSE Vice President for Federal and State Affairs, Erick Gustafson, issued the following statement:

08/05/2002
County Commission Candidates Field Questions at forum
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County Commission Candidates Field Questions at forum

BY Mike Conley

Eight of the 11 people running for the McDowell County Board of Commissioners answered questions and explained their positions on such issues as education, stream buffers and developments on Lake James during a candidates forum held Tuesday evening. The candidates forum, held at the McDowell County Courthouse, was hosted by the Upper Catawba River Landowners Alliance (UCRLA) and the Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). This forum was held so local residents could meet the candidates for county commissioner and ask them questions about the issues facing the county. Approximately 35 people attended the forum held in the main courtroom. This year, three seats on the commission will be up for election. The primary election will be held Sept. 10, and the general election is scheduled for Nov. 5. Former Commissioner Bill Wiseman, who is the alternate treasurer for the UCRLA, served as the moderator for the forum. He said the candidates who attended came at the invitation of the UCRLA and the CSE. "(The candidates) did not have to come," he said. "It was their privilege, their choice." Under the format for the forum, each candidate had three minutes to introduce himself to the audience and make an opening statement. Members of the audience also had an opportunity to ask a question directed to one of the candidates or all of the candidates. "We don't know what you will ask," Wiseman said to the audience. "They have not been screened. It must pertain to the issue and not be personal." Of the 11 candidates for county commissioner, three did not attend the forum. Incumbent Dean Buff, a Democrat seeking re-election to the board, could not attend because he is in the hospital with kidney stones. Challenger Virginia Williams, a Democrat, could not attend due to a prior engagement. Challenger Ocie Mayfield, a Republican, also did not attend. In his opening statement, challenger Bob Haskin, a Democrat, said he would like to change the county's programs for social services, if he is elected. Haskin said the judicial system should also be changed but added he did not want to make promises he could not keep. "I would have to wait and see what I can do," he said. Incumbent Bob Brackett, also a Democrat, said the current board has dealt with many complex and controversial matters such as the airpark, solid waste disposal and the proposed buffers for the Catawba River basin. "We have taken on a lot of things that were controversial," he said. Regarding the buffer issue, he said "We had folks who went to Raleigh and raised their voice." Incumbent Mike Thompson, a Republican who is also the board's chairman, said he first ran in 1998 on the platform of improving the county's infrastructure, providing more services for senior citizens, developing a water system for unserved areas and solving the solid waste disposal problem. "I feel like every vote I took was for the 41,000 to 42,000-plus people in this county," he said. Challenger David Walker, a Republican, said he believes in fiscally conservative principles. "I don't believe in giving money away," he said. "I believe people should be held accountable." Walker said he believes in strongly in the rights of property owners but the environment should be protected as well. Regarding the developments on Lake James, Walker said the lake should be available to the average citizen. "I am a conservative," said Republican challenger Mark Cauthen. "The buffer issue to me is a no-brainer. Anytime the government comes in and takes your land, with no compensation, I have a problem with it." He added the commissioners should be commended for turning the Lake James issue over to the county's Planning Board for more study and more regulations. Michael Lavender, a Republican challenger, said he is a lifelong resident of McDowell who has worked for 4 1/2 years at McDowell Technical Community College. He also works weekends investigating cases of child abuse and neglect for the Department of Social Services. "I have some qualities that will serve you well as a county commissioner," he said. "Once I form my opinion, it will stay that way." Dean Hughes, a Republican challenger, said he has been involved with the buffer issue and is a member of the UCRLA. "I am just a regular working guy," he said. "I consider myself a constitutional Republican." He said this means he supports a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Former Commissioner Larry Seagle, a Republican, said he commended all of the people who came to the forum. "I approach politics from a common sense perspective," he said. "There are far too many people making a good living on our tax money." When Seagle previously served on the board, he asked a series of questions to the county's school system about the administration and its use of public resources. "I found out real fast that the bureaucrats don't like to answer questions, even from a county commissioner," he said. During the question period, Doris Walston asked Seagle what he plans to do about education in the county. "One of the things I would like to do is follow the money trail," Seagle said, adding too much money is spent at the administrative level and not in the classroom. "Getting money to the pupil is primary," he said. Other commissioners were allowed to answer the question. "Our children are important in this county and we have got to make sure they have the best tools and equipment," Hughes said. Lavender said the county and the school system should seek more grants from private foundations in order to make up for less revenue from public sources. He said McDowell Tech is an important component of the local education system because it trains people for new jobs. Brenda Hollifield asked if the county could broadcast more public service programs on the local government channel including forums such as this. Brackett said he would support showing more public service programs if it does not involve additional labor for county employees. "As long as it is educational, I am in favor of it," he said. "I think this forum here is a perfect example of what should be on the government channel," Cauthen said. Shirley Washburn, president of the UCRLA, asked all the candidates if they believe McDowell should go along with the land use plan approved by Burke officials to regulate development on Lake James. "It will be interesting to see what the (McDowell) Planning Board comes up with," Cauthen said. "Maybe we can find some middle ground." Lavender said he supports placing a moratorium on new housing developments to allow the Planning Board to come up with new rules. Hughes said the rights of the property owners on the lake should be respected, too. "They own the land," he said. "It's a fine balance." Thompson said he wants rules that are defendable and effective. "Some of the things from Burke County, I agree with," he said. "Some I don't. Some are heavyhanded." "As long as they keep the lake clean, I don't think they ought to restrict people's property," Haskin said. Florence Hensley asked the candidates what they would do to bring new jobs to McDowell. Lavender said the county should bring back a full-time economic development director. Currently, County Manager Chuck Abernathy is also the director of the McDowell Economic Development Association. W.S. Johnson, a UCRLA member, asked all of the candidates to state their party affiliation and their position on the proposed buffers for the Catawba River basin. After stating their affiliations, all candidates said they are opposed to the proposed buffers. The candidates were also asked if they would support the videotaping of commission workshops and other public meetings. Thompson said the board would like to upgrade the video equipment used by the local channel. Hughes said he supports the videotaping and broadcast of commission workshops and the Planning Board meetings. "I proposed videotaping the School Board and that caused a lot of gnashing of teeth," Seagle said.

08/05/2002

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