Archive for April, 2009

Washington Decides to Throw Votes Away Too

April 29, 2009

The state of Washington has joined Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Maryland in a pact that will have their Electoral College votes go to the winner of the national popular vote.

So, basically, they are telling the residents of their states, that their vote doesn’t count, and that they will vote for whoever wins the national vote, no matter what.

What if Washington residents vote 90% in favor of the person who loses the national vote?  Then they send all of their electoral college votes to a person who 10% of their population voted for?  It really doesn’t make any sense at all.  It will just lead more Washington voters to stay home and not vote, because they know their vote has no bearing whatsoever.  Their votes will be controlled by the states with the largest populations, which sway the national poll numbers.

I agree that the Electoral College system as it exists now is not perfect.  It is dominated by the two parties who have rigged the rules in the states to give all of the electoral votes to whoever wins the state.  It just supports their interests, and not those of independents and third parties.

If Washington and other states want to make changes, they should split their Electoral College votes proportionally to the popular vote of their state.  That way, every vote at least has an influence.  In California, I can vote Republican every time, but I know that all of our electoral votes are going to go to the Democratic candidate.  By breaking up the electoral votes, it will reflect the will of the people, and will keep the Electoral College intact.

Advertisements

Swine Flu Overreaction

April 28, 2009

The world is in hysterics over the “Swine Flu Pandemic.”.  This is a media fueled frenzy that is making a mountain out of a mole hill.  

Just a little bit of research on the internet shows that swine flu is not any worse than the normal flu.  Only 65 cases have been documented in the United States, and only one person that has been hospitalized.  In fact, only TWO people have died from the swine flu in the US since 1976, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Now, to top it all off, President Obama wants to spend $1.5 billion to prepare for and fight off the swine flu.  That is over $23 million for each confirmed case of the swine flu in the US right now.  

Another, much more potentially deadly disease, tuberculosis had almost 13,000 cases in the US last year.  Why aren’t we all up in arms about that?  People are fighting to get the government to spend $250 million a year to combat TB.

To put that in greater perspective, the ALS Association that is a charity devoted to research for Lou Gerhig’s disease has raised $49 million since 1985.  Every year, 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS which is always fatal.  Do you think they could have found a cure or at least a treatment by now if they had $1.5 billion?  This is a huge waste of money and a misallocation of funds and resources.

Also, today, the State of California and the City of Los Angeles have declared a state of emergency, which allows for funding for the California Emergency Management Agency and grants them all sorts of special priviledges, and cuts off competitive bids for vaccines.  So, now a state that is already strapped for cash will be gouged by the big drug companies for swine flu treatments.

I cannot believe that we have become so accustomed to hundred billion dollar figures that we don’t even blink when the President wants to spend $1.5 billion on the flu.  Sure, it has a scary name like the “swine flu” but it still is basically the flu – you get sick and you get over it.  We should all be mad that the government is wasting more of our money, but instead, in the frenzy the media has created, we are all thanking Obama for saving our lives.

Typical Republicans in Orange County

April 28, 2009

On April 20th, the Orange County GOP Committee voted in favor of a resolution that gives a vote of “no confidence” to the new Sheriff and her concealed carry weapons (CCW) stance.  She wants to review and revoke CCW permits that were already issued.  You can read about the vote here on the RedCounty.com site.

The first steps in eliminating the freedom of the masses is to disarm them.  That is why the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment.  We have the right to bear arms in order to keep a tyrannical government from taking over.  The point is that if the authorities are armed, the citizens should be as well.

It’s fine that the Republicans in my county want to stand up for the rights of gun owners.  Supposedly, they also stand for small government, freedom, liberty and the Constitution.  Then how do you get to this statement?

Finally, we call for the elimination of waiting periods to purchase firearms and instead support complete implementation of instant background checks.

So, what the Orange County GOP is saying is that they believe in the Constitution, the Second Amendment, limited government, freedom, liberty and the right for the Federal Government, led by the FBI, to maintain a database with our names and any records that would deny us from purchasing a gun.  

How can you be for small government and freedom and liberty when you are relying on a central database maintained by the FBI?  This is exactly the kind of big government Republicans are supposed to be against.  

As a proponent of the Constitution, freedom, liberty and small government, I would sacrifice the “instant background check” for one that was performed by a third party that took a few days.  They would then destroy the records so that no one can use them for other purposes.  

Any power we grant the central government is abused.  By trying to appease the gun lobby, Republicans fall right back into the big government trap by letting the central government maintain a database of our personal information.  The GOP needs to start really standing for limited government and individual liberty, not just paying lip service to it.

Credit Cards – Regulation for Regulation’s Sake

April 23, 2009

Today, President Obama is meeting with the CEOs of credit card companies, in an effort to protect consumers from rising rates and high fees.  Both the House and Senate are currently working on versions of such a bill.

I agree that a simple law, stating that credit card companies have to inform you when your rate increases and a chart showing the fees you could incur if you missed a payment or went over your limit, should be welcomed by consumers.  Right now, all you get is a little “average daily rate” table but it doesn’t tell you if your rate went up or down.  

However, the need for the government to enact laws to “protect” us are insane, and another example of the government meddling too much in private affairs.

Really, who’s fault was it that we ran up so much credit card debt?  Part of the blame has to fall on the card companies for giving cards with high limits to just about everyone.  The problem was that they were able to securitize their loans and sell them on Wall Street.  So the card companies were just intermediaries between the consumer and Wall Street.  They bore almost no risk.

A large portion of the blame has to fall on the Federal Reserve as well because their easy money policies allowed the card companies to just keep giving away money.  To stave off a recession after 9/11, the Fed kept rates too low for too long, pumping up a huge spending/debt fueled bubble.

However, to act like consumers were just taken advantage of is absolute nonsense.   Even the most uneducated person knows what credit cards are and how they operate.   The card companies did not take advantage of them and did not force them to spend.  Consumers wanted instant gratification and put items on their credit cards they could not afford, with the intent to pay it off later.  Rather than saving, they took out a loan for all sorts of purchases.

Instead of putting regulations on the credit card companies for the sake of regulation, the government should put simple laws in place to inform consumers, and then back away.  By placing all of these restrictions on the companies, we are not solving the problem, which was too many unqualified people having high limit credit cards.  

Obama needs to let the markets work, and let the companies set limits and interest rates in line with the risk of lending people the money.  Until the government stops propping up the securitized credit card debt and meddling in the credit markets, no one will have a clear picture of who should be able to lend and borrow.  The longer the government distorts the markets and meddles in private business, the longer the recession will last.

The Vegan Terrorist?

April 21, 2009

Yesterday, the FBI announced that Daniel Andreas San Diego has been added to their “Most Wanted Terrorists” list.  This is the first time a domestic terrorist has been added to the list.  He is an animal rights activists and detonated two bombsin 2003 near the headquarters of companies that engaged in animal testing.  No one was killed or injured, but there was property damage.

Here is San Diego, on the same list as Osama bin Laden.  According to the FBI, these were very sophisticated bombs that used kitchen timers.  Since when are kitchen timers sophisticated?  He also might be armed with a 9mm handgun, so you should consider him armed and dangerous.  Seriously, how does this man pose more of a threat than any criminal that is on the loose right now?

Also, the timing of his addition to the list is very curious.  Just last week, a Department of Homeland Security memo was leaked identifying “right wing extremists.”  Their reaction to the memo was that they track “left-wing extremists” as well.  The point is that our police state is starting to monitor more and more domestic activity, from militias to protesters.

Is the FBI, DHS, and the Federal Government getting more concerned with our activities in the US?  Do they fear that as we progress further into the New Great Depression that people are going to try and rise up against the government?  Are they trying to suppress our actions with scare tactics?

Just think if protests turn into riots and property is damaged?  Could these protesters be classified as terrorists?  What happens then?  Are they locked up in a military prison somewhere?  If you donated money to their cause, would you be implicit to their crimes? 

In each case of the government flexing its muscles, the actions become less fitting of the crime.  At what point will opposition to the government be considered extremism or terrorism?  We need to stand up for our rights and liberties before they are all stripped away.  This might sound extreme, but if we do not push back against the police powers our government is taking, what else do you expect to happen?

Tea Parties or Bank Runs?

April 19, 2009

Last week, there were hundreds of new-age “Tea Parties” all across the country on Tax Day, April 15th.  There is currently a lot of frustration out there, which has led to tremendous momentum for financial reform in our country.  Thousand of people attended the protests.  Some people wanted to protest the role of the Federal Reserve, others were mad about our tax dollars being spent to bail out failing companies.  Others wanted to reduce the size of government and federal spending.

The problem with the Tea Parties, is that the media and Democrats have miscontrued the meaning behind them.  They are saying they are just politcal stunts, organized by Republicans and Fox News, who are against anything President Obama does.  Even though there were both Democrats and Republicans at the Tea Parties, the protests have been marginalized by the mainstream media.  All of the effort that people went through to organize these rallies is essentially being wasted because those in Washington are not taking the protests seriously.

There is another method of protest though, that the government, big corporations, and Wall Street cannot stop.  We can all take our money out of big banks that are getting bailouts and put it in a local, community bank.  Most of these smaller, local banks have been able to withstand the downturn because they were prudent with the money we deposited and did not get involved in all sorts of derivatives, trying to make a quick buck.

If we are so upset about the government using our money to bail out banks, why not show the government that we have no confidence in these institutions?  As a business, banks depend on us, the consumer to lend them (deposit) our money so they can make loans.  If we all pulled our money out of the big, failing banks, they would be forced out of business.  We need to literally, put our money where our mouths are.

Local banks are at a disadvantage because they do not have the resources to devote to technology and security that the big, national banks.  But if we all deposited our money with them, their business would naturally grow and they would be able to make banking as convenient and easy as a Wells Fargo or Bank of America.

The same can be said for our investments.  If we are upset that JP Morgan and other Wall Street investment firms are getting our tax dollars, move your account to another broker.  We can’t protest with our words and then let our actions directly contradict our views.

A lot of talking heads have made fun of people for withdrawing their money from banks so they can have cash (as if this is such a bad thing in the first place).  In fact, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow called Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina “Bank Run Burr” and Keith Olbermann named him the “Worst Person in the World” because he told his wife to withdraw $500 from an ATM.  They said it showed Republicans do not have a plan and that it was unpatriotic to pull his money out of the bank.  Burr said that he does not have any cash at home, and after a briefing that basically told him that banks would be out of cash, he panicked adn told his wife to take out the money.  Like $500 in his account is going to make a difference, anyway.

My plan is not to just take your money out and put it under your mattress in fear of failure.  It is a protest against the big, national banks that are on life support, sucking up billions of our tax dollars a day.  We should embrace our local banks, that know the local economy and community.  They will make prudent decisions and not take unnecessary risks trying to please Wall Street and investors.  Instead of making clever signs and protesting with our words on Tax Day, we should give the banks a vote of “no confidence.”  Only with our actions and our money will we show the government that we do not support the bailouts, or the banks and institutions they are propping up.

The Police State Puzzle Taking Shape

April 16, 2009

There have been a number of police state measures recently that might look benign at first, but when you put them all together the picture becomes awfully scary.  While there might not be a coordinated effort or specific target group, there is enough momentum going that anyone who speaks out against the government could have their homes raided and be detained and jailed.

It started after 9/11, when we were outraged that the government could not protect us from coordinated terrorist attacks.  At the time, we wanted the government to be able to listen in on potential terrorists.  After all, the authorities said that if they were coordinated and were allowed to access information, they could have prevented the tragedy.

This led to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and their program of listening in on our phone conversations, checking our internet browsing history, and being able to detain suspected terrorists without charging them with a crime.  Of course, the government told us that they were only spying on suspected terrorists, so none of us thought twice about it.

Over time, the efforts of the DHS have made some arrests that have resulted in convictions.  Other efforts though, have detained foreigners and US citizens for years without any charges being filed.  The government alleges that some of these detainees were fighting for Al Qaeda and aiding the enemy.  If this were the case, why weren’t they leveling charges?  If their allegations cannot hold up in a court, they should let the “terrorist” go.

In a separate effort, the Federal Government, led by agents from the FBI and IRS have been raiding homes of high profile individuals under the guise of “tax charges.”  Just recently, twenty agents raided the home of Barry Bonds’s trainer, Greg Anderson’s mother-in-law.  While this was clearly an intimidation technique to try and get Anderson to testify against Bonds, it was completely legal in the government’s eyes because of “tax charges.”  If they sent 20 agents to her house, then hundreds must have surely shown up at Tim Geithner and Tom Daschle’s homes, right?

Another example of the Federal Government’s new authority to raid the homes of private citizens has been playing out in family or co-op farms in the Midwest.  In Ohio, a family was raided by federal agents from the Food and Drug Administration because they were selling organic produce without the proper permits.  The agents seized the food from the co-op and food that belonged to the family.  They also took the family’s computer and went through all of their belongings.  Couldn’t they have just issued them a letter or met with the family?  Was this force necessary?  The scary part is that the government believed they were acting within the law.

So, now we’ve established that the government can spy on you  and detain you indefinitely if they think you are a terrorist, and they can raid your home and seize your property on bogus charges.

This now takes us to a case in a town near me, Tustin, California, where a Muslim man was arrested by Federal Agents on immigration fraud charges.  However, the entire story revolves around this man and how he donated money to a charity that was sympathetic to Al Qaeda, how his brother-in-law at one point was an associate of Osama bin Laden, and how this man said on a wiretapped phone conversation that bin Laden was “an angel.”  The agents raided his home and went through and seized his belongings and financial statements.  All this for lying on his immigration papers? The real reason is because they are going after him for being a “terrorist” but they do not have enough evidence to convict him.

While I do not know what the outcome of the trial will be.  If he indeed lied on his papers, then he should be punished.  The actions of the government though, allowing them to spy on us and raid our homes for reasons completely unrelated to what we are being charged.  It’s like getting a speeding ticket and having the government come and raid your home and take your computer for it.  It might keep us safe a fraction of the time, but it encroaches on all of our civil rights the majority of it.

So far though, most of the spying was relegated to “terrorists.”  Just yesterday though, I read a new DHS report about “right wing extremists” and how they could be forming militias in response to the bailouts and the recession we’re in.  The DHS was warning local law enforcement to be on the lookout for them.  These extremists would recruit soldiers returning from Iraq and turn them against the government.  In order for the DHS to look unbiased, they also said that they are investigating left-wing groups as well.  So, as long as you’re spying on both groups, it’s okay?

The question now, and what all this has been building towards, is “at what point do these ‘extremists’ become ‘terrorists’ in the government’s eyes?”  If the government went after someone for calling Osama bin Laden an “angel” in a private conversation, will they go after Rush Limbaugh for wanting Obama to fail?  Will they raid supporters of Ron Paul who believe in the Constitution and small government?  Will anyone who disagrees with Washington a “terrorist”?

We are told they are there to keep us safe, but government will almost always abuse their powers and overstep their limits.  The Justice Department came out with a report today saying the DHS survelliance program has violated the law by going past the legal bounds.  How are we supposed trust the government to keep us safe when they can be listening to your phone conversations or monitoring your internet use right now?  We need to wake up and see these police state measures as the violations of our rights that they really are.

Obama’s “New Foundation”

April 14, 2009

Today, President Obama gave a speech entitled “New Foundation” which gave an update on the economy and all of the government policies that are currently underway.

His opening portion of the speech ended with this remark:

And most of all, I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America’s future – a future where sustained economic growth creates good jobs and rising incomes; a future where prosperity is fueled not by excessive debt, reckless speculation, and fleeing profit, but is instead built by skilled, productive workers; by sound investments that will spread opportunity at home and allow this nation to lead the world in the technologies, innovations, and discoveries that will shape the 21st century. That is the America I see. That is the future I know we can have.

The funny thing is that most of what he says makes sense and I totally agree with.  We do need an economy based on production and savings and not debt and spending.  This is the fundamental problem with our current economic system.  He goes on to blame our current crisis on “greed” and “instant gratification” but those arguments don’t hold any water.  We’ve always had greedy people who want things now.  If that were the case, we’d be in a permanent depression.

The problem is that Obama thinks that only the government can implement policies and programs that will accomplish these goals.  I believe that government is the worst possible agent to try and lead us into the future, and that they are only making matters worse.

From a purely economics standpoint, the government is taking resources away that the private sector would be using, or they are undertaking tasks that are not being done by private sources because they are unproductive and inefficient.  Look at the auto bailout, for example.  Imagine what a startup like Tesla or some other company could do with one billion dollars, a fraction of what the Big Three have gotten so far.  We could have a brand new, competitive auto industry for the amount of money that has been wasted propping up dead bankrupt companies.  I do not believe in bailouts and handouts, but if we are going to give money away, it should go to new production, not financial means.

Other examples of Obama’s “stimulus” are building roads, weatherizing homes, and building green energy sources.  If these were profitable endeavours, don’t you think the private industry would already be doing these things?  The reason they aren’t is because there is not any money or benefit to gained at this point in time.  By directing resources to these projects, we are taking money that could be used for other, more profitable forms of production, and putting it to unproductive uses.

To make matters worse, we are funding these projects and bailouts with printed money.  When you think about how a bank works, you realize that they need to have people depositing and saving money in order to make new loans.  The more money saved, the more money that can be loaned out.  The same should be true for the government, except Bush and Obama have been running trillion dollar deficits.  We aren’t funding our “stimulus” with saved resources.  We are just piling on more debt and creating money out of thin air.  In the long run, this misguided form of “stimulus” will hurt our economy more than help it.

Obama has the right intentions, and he keeps talking about fiscal responsibility.  However, his actions to spend more, inflate more, and expand the central government will only dig us deeper into a depression.  We need to stop printing money trying to reinflate our spending bubble, and let the markets work.  Right now, Obama needs to resist the urge to intervene and let the economy readjust and liquidate all of the malinvestment.  How can a small group in Washington know more than an economy of 700 million?  Stop trying to play hero and get out of the way, that’s what he should have said today.

The Problem with Tea Parties

April 13, 2009

There is going to be a Tea Party in Santa Ana, which is close to my hometown of Huntington Beach.  There is a series of speakers, one of which is Dana Rohrbacher, who is my Congressman.  He’s been in the House since 1988.

My big problem with this is that he was in Congress during the Bush years, when the Federal Government grew to the largest it’s ever been.  Now, all of a sudden he’s outraged?  Where was he speaking out against the budgets and taxes under the Bush Administration?

There is a political theory that when a party is out of power, they go back to their core principles, only to abandon those principles and grow the government when they go back into power.  How true is this of the Republican party?  They pushed for the biggest growth in government spending in the history of our country when they were the majority, but now that they are in the minority, they are all about fiscal responsibility again.  We need to see this for the fraud it is and not fall for this trap again.

Also, many of these figures act like they support limited government, but all they want to do is trim a program here or there and shift the tax brackets around.  We need more than these little, inconsequential tweaks right now.  We need real change and a political revolution.

We need to start to question the need for central economic planning, led by the Federal Reserve and the monopoly it has on our money supply.  We need to question our fiat currency, and if local currencies backed by gold might be a better way to manage our money.  The first step would be to repeal legal tender laws and to eliminate capital gains taxes on gold money.  Ron Paul has laid out this plan to open up our money supply to competition of gold backed money and fiat money.  This needs to be discussed at any Tea party.

We also need to not just be mad at our money being used for bailouts, but we need to be mad that the government, as Rothbard put it, “legally plunder” from us.  Why is the government entitled to a third of our hard earned money?  We should not just be mad about our money going to bail out Wall Street, but we need to be mad that it is going to build bombs, fight foreign wars, build foreign bridges and roads, and support our welfare state.  In order to truly reform our government, we need to take as much out of the hands of Washington as possible.  Our Constitution lays out the framework for a limited central government and strong local and state power.  We have moved so far from this vision that we have a tyrannical government that has overriding rule over all.  This is what we should be revolting about!

The anger and frustration over the bailouts is a good way to start to build energy towards a revolution, but we can’t keep our scope so limited.  Every one of these Tea Parties need to go beyond the bailouts and taxes and to the Constitution and the vision of our Founding Fathers.  They should have speakers who believe in eliminating the Federal Reserve, cutting or ending the income tax, ending our empire, and drastically reducing the size of our government.  We need to move beyond the symptom, which is the recession we’re in and the bailouts, and really fix our country.

Good or Bad News?

April 10, 2009

Today, a source close to the Treasury Department said that no banks failed the government mandated “stress test” and would have to be shut down.  He went on to say that some banks would still need more capital injections.  The story is linked here.

While to the layperson, this looks like good news, to a supporter of the free markets, this is just more bad news.

First, the banks administered the stress tests themselves, and then submitted their results to the Treasury.  How are we to be certain they were being honest?  Of course, they would not want to show that they were going to fail, so why do we put any faith in this report?  If a bank came out and said, “we failed,” their stock would plummet and depositors would immediately withdraw their money.

Second, in the same statement, the source said some companies would still need more government aid.  So, doesn’t that mean these banks that need aid failed?  If they passed, they should not need any more propping up by the Federal Government.  If they still need more money, they can still fail, stress test or not.  That’s just common sense.

And finally, how can we be in the midst of one of the worst banking crises in the history of the US, and only a handful of firms have failed?  We have Lehman, Bear, Wachovia, and WaMu.  That’s it!  We need to weed out the bad apples, now.  We can’t keep propping up everyone.  The government is going about this all wrong, pre-emptively saving banks.  If the government should get involved, it should be after the banks fail, helping clean up the mess.  At least this way the rotten firms and bad assets would be liquidated, and we would be able to move on.

There is always more to the story than what the media and government reports.   Initially, the story might sound like good news, but if you read between the lines and put two and two together, you see that it is just a positive spin on more bad news.  The solution to our crisis is simple:  let the bad banks fail and liquidate the bad debts.  The sooner we allow this to happen, the sooner we will return to prosperity.