Archive for February, 2011

Response to Governor Brown’s State of the State address: Drop Race to the Top

February 17th, 2011 9:18 pm  |  by  |  Published in Commentary, Education  |  Comments Off

Governor Jerry Brown is known for short speeches, and most people who watched Monday evening’s State of the State address were no doubt appreciative of that. I know I was, but I would have liked an additional few moments for consideration of a state budget problem that is currently beneath the public radar: In spite of California’s $25 billion deficit, we are about to pour $1.6 billion down the drain.

That’s the estimated cost of replacing the California education standards with President Obama’s Common Core Standards (CCS). The Schwarzenegger appointed State Board of Education voted last summer to make the switch in pursuit of Obama’s Race to the Top (RTTT) education grant. Our RTTT application was rejected and we will not receive a dime of the grant, but as all eyes are focused on California’s dire budget options, we are still blithely planning to spend $1.6 billion of state money on testing companies, publishers, and school staff training, for no apparent reason.

To all appearances the Governor has what it takes to tackle such a gravy train. His speech made reference to his proposal to reduce the deficit through reversion of Community Redevelopment Agency funds, derived from property taxes, to their original uses, e.g. support of schools, police and fire fighting. Brown’s stand is brave, considering the clout of CRA defenders, headed by major players like L.A.’s mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a critic of excessive public sector wages and benefits who is apparently unperturbed that CRA secretaries make $80,000 a year. The question then becomes: Can Brown face-off against the clout of the education service industries, as he has with those who feed off the CRA?

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Geithner’s Failed Makeover

February 16th, 2011 6:52 pm  |  by  |  Published in Big Government, Debt, Economics, government spending, Liberty, Market Regulation, Obama, Politics  |  Comments Off

by Michael Pento, Senior Economist at Euro Pacific Capital (www.europac.net)

To counter the increasing demands that government reduce its micromanagement of the economy, last week the Obama Administration offered a fig leaf in the form of a white paper entitled “Reforming America’s Housing Finance Market.” In addition to marking the official end of the Bush era “ownership society,” where increasing the level of home ownership was a national priority, the document contains a recommended regulatory overhaul of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (together known as Government Sponsored Enterprises “GSE’s”), that intends to bring the share of government owned home loans from the current 95% to 40% over the next 5-7 years.

In the report, the Obama Administration makes the important admission that government interference in housing had dangerously distorted the market. And, while the goal of reducing the government’s footprint in the housing market is certainly laudable, the reform plan is not only too little too late, but fails miserably to address the nucleus of the problem. Even if all the recommendations are adopted, the government would actually extend its explicit guarantees to bail out failing lenders. Most importantly, the proposal completely overlooks the most significant government distortion of the housing market: the Federal Reserve’s manipulation of interest rates. Thus, this plan will insure that government’s role in the mortgage market will likely expand in the years ahead.

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How would a patriot act? Like Rand Paul, of course.

February 15th, 2011 1:11 pm  |  by  |  Published in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Liberty, patriot act, Rand Paul  |  2 Responses

While most of his Republican colleagues are ignoring their oath when it comes to extending the PATRIOT Act, Rand Paul is instead acting like a true patriot by upholding his oath to the Constitution. Here is a letter he has sent to his colleagues urging them to vote against extending certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act. This is definitely bold for a freshman senator, and I for one love it. It is long but worth reading.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Rand Paul (Ky.) released the following Dear Colleague letter to his fellow Senators this morning regarding the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Dear Colleague:

James Otis argued against general warrants and writs of assistance that were issued by British soldiers without judicial review and that did not name the subject or items to be searched.

He condemned these general warrants as “the worst instrument[s] of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever w[ere] found in an English law book.” Otis objected to these writs of assistance because they “placed the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.” The Fourth Amendment was intended to guarantee that only judges—not soldiers or policemen—would issue warrants. Otis’ battle against warrantless searches led to our Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable government intrusion.

My main objection to the PATRIOT Act is that searches that should require a judge’s warrant are performed with a letter from an FBI agent—a National Security Letter (“NSL”).

I object to these warrantless searches being performed on United States citizens. I object to the 200,000 NSL searches that have been performed without a judge’s warrant.

I object to over 2 million searches of bank records, called Suspicious Activity Reports, performed on U.S. citizens without a judge’s warrant.

As February 28th approaches, with three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act set to expire, it is time to re-consider this question: Do the many provisions of this bill, which were enacted in such haste after 9/11, have an actual basis in our Constitution, and are they even necessary to achieve valid law-enforcement goals?

The USA PATRIOT Act, passed in the wake of the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history, is no doubt well-intentioned. However, rather than examine what went wrong, and fix the problems, Congress instead hastily passed a long-standing wish list of power grabs like warrantless searches and roving wiretaps. The government greatly expanded its own power, ignoring obvious answers in favor of the permanent expansion of a police state.

It is not acceptable to willfully ignore the most basic provisions of our Constitution—in this case—the Fourth and First Amendments—in the name of “security.”

For example, one of the three provisions set to expire on February 28th—the “library provision,” section 215 of the PATRIOT Act—allows the government to obtain records from a person or entity by making only the minimal showing of “relevance” to an international terrorism or espionage investigation. This provision also imposes a year-long nondisclosure, or “gag” order. “Relevance” is a far cry from the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause. Likewise, the “roving wiretap” provision, section 206 of the PATRIOT Act, which is also scheduled to expire on the 28th, does not comply with the Fourth Amendment. This provision makes possible “John Doe roving wiretaps,” which do not require the government to name the target of the wiretap, nor to identify the specific place or facility to be monitored. This bears an uncanny resemblance to the Writs of Assistance fought against by Otis and the American colonists.

Other provisions of the PATRIOT Act previously made permanent and not scheduled to expire present even greater concerns. These include the use and abuse by the FBI of so-called National Security Letters. These secret demand letters, which allow the government to obtain financial records and other sensitive information held by Internet Service Providers, banks, credit companies, and telephone carriers—all without appropriate judicial oversight—also impose a gag order on recipients.

NSL abuse has been and likely continues to be rampant. The widely-circulated 2007 report issued by the Inspector General from the Department of Justice documents “widespread and serious misuse of the FBI’s national security letter authorities. In many instances, the FBI’s misuse of national security letters violated NSL statutes, Attorney General Guidelines, or the FBI’s own internal policies.” Another audit released in 2008 revealed similar abuses, including the fact that the FBI had issued inappropriate “blanket NSLs” that did not comply with FBI policy, and which allowed the FBI to obtain data on 3,860 telephone numbers by issuing only eleven “blanket NSLs.” The 2008 audit also confirmed that the FBI increasingly used NSLs to seek information on U.S. citizens. From 2003 to 2006, almost 200,000 NSL requests were issued. In 2006 alone, almost 60% of the 49,425 requests were issued specifically for investigations of U.S. citizens or legal aliens.

In addition, First Amendment advocates should be concerned about an especially troubling aspect of the 2008 audit, which documented a situation in which the FBI applied to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to obtain a section 215 order. The Court denied the order on First Amendment grounds. Not to be deterred, the FBI simply used an NSL to obtain the same information.

A recent report released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) entitled, “Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008,” documents further NSL abuse. EFF estimates that, based on the proportion of violations reported to the Intelligence Oversight Board and the FBI’s own statements regarding NSL violations, the actual number of violations that may have occurred since 2001 could approach 40,000 violations of law, Executive Order, and other regulations.

Yet another troublesome (and now permanent) provision of the PATRIOT Act is the expansion of Suspicious Activity Reports. Sections 356 and 359 expanded the types of financial institutions required to file reports under the Bank Secrecy Act. The personal and account information required by the reports is turned over to the Treasury Department and the FBI. In 2000, there were only 163,184 reports filed. By 2007, this had increased to 1,250,439. Again, as with NSLs, there is a complete lack of judicial oversight for SARs.

Finally, I wish to remind my colleagues that one of the many ironies of the rush to advance the PATRIOT Act following 9/11 is the well-documented fact that FBI incompetence caused the failure to search the computer of the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui. As FBI agent Coleen Rowley stated, “the FBI headquarters supervisory special agent handling the Moussaoui case ‘seemed to have been consistently almost deliberately thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents’ efforts” to meet the FISA standard for a search warrant, and therefore no request was ever made for a warrant. Why, then, was the FBI rewarded with such expansive new powers in the aftermath of this institutional failure?

In the words of former Senator Russ Feingold, the only “no” vote against the original version of the PATRIOT Act,

“[T]here is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists. But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. And that would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.”

I call upon each of my Senate colleagues to seriously consider whether the time has come to re-evaluate many—if not all—provisions of the PATRIOT Act. Our oath to uphold the Constitution demands it.

Sincerely,

Rand Paul, M.D.
United States Senator

Financial Disconnect

February 14th, 2011 10:22 pm  |  by  |  Published in Economics, jobs, Liberty, Politics, unemployment  |  Comments Off

by John Browne, Senior Market Strategist at Euro Pacific Capital

Despite last week’s confusing employment data, the increasing threat of another decline in home values, political uncertainty in Egypt and the broader Middle East, and sharp pullbacks in some emerging markets such as Brazil, US stock markets continued to rise. It sometimes seems that Wall Street exists in a bubble that is well-insulated from the rough and tumble of the outside world. But, in what may be a harbinger that America’s era of prosperity is winding down, the hallowed New York Stock Exchange, long the epicenter of American economic might, is expected to be bought by Germany’s Deutsche Boerse. When the king is so unceremoniously uncrowned, it won’t be long before investors notice how shabbily dressed he really is.

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the unemployment rate had fallen from 9.4 percent to 9.0 percent. Many in the financial media seized on the report and bundled it together with recently released data on improved consumer sentiment as great news for the economy. However, the report only showed 36,000 new jobs created, far less that the 146,000 that economists estimate need to be created to bring down unemployment significantly. Regardless, US stock markets continued to rise.

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Ron Paul on The Kudlow Report

February 14th, 2011 9:47 pm  |  by  |  Published in Constitution, Economics, Election, Foreign Policy, Free Market, government spending, Politics, Ron Paul  |  1

Ron Paul was interviewed yet again earlier today, this time by Larry Kudlow on The Kudlow Report.

Ron Paul on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” talking CPAC, government spending

February 14th, 2011 10:51 am  |  by  |  Published in Big Government, Constitution, Economics, Election, Foreign Policy, government spending, Ron Paul, Social Security, War  |  Comments Off

Here is an excellent appearance by Ron Paul on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”. Fiscal responsibility, foreign policy of Obama, and more is discussed. Ron Paul at one point bluntly calls Barack Obama a warmonger.

Ron Paul on CNN American Morning

February 14th, 2011 9:54 am  |  by  |  Published in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Election, Individual Responsibility, Ron Paul  |  Comments Off

Here is Ron Paul’s appearance discussing his CPAC straw poll victory on CNN’s “American Morning” this morning. Note that the youtube video does cut off a bit at the end, but the full video from CNN is posted below that.

Here is the CNN embed with the rest of the interview:

Ron Paul on FOX & Friends on his CPAC victory

February 13th, 2011 10:58 am  |  by  |  Published in Big Government, foreign aid, Foreign Policy, Free Market, government spending, Liberty, Ron Paul  |  Comments Off

Here is Ron Paul discussing his CPAC straw poll victory with Fox and Friends this morning. This is a really good interview as he is able to articulate his own positions and is not interrupted when doing so. He even takes a retaliatory shot, although a bit indirect, at Donald Trump.

Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll… what does it mean?

February 12th, 2011 11:52 pm  |  by  |  Published in Activism, Big Government, Blowback, campaign for liberty, Constitution, Election, foreign aid, Foreign Policy, Liberty, Maven Commentary, Politics, Ron Paul, War, Young Americans for Liberty  |  1

Yes, Ron Paul has won his second consecutive CPAC straw poll and as expected all the anti-libertarian, defense=offense, neo-conservatives (and Donald Trump, whatever he is) are dismissing the victory. They say it doesn’t mean anything. They don’t know what they are talking about, as usual. Of course it means something.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that Ron Paul will be the GOP nominee in 2012. Paul hasn’t even announced if he’s running yet. The victory’s meaning really has little to do with 2012 and much to do with the future direction of the Republican Party.

The organizers of CPAC sheepishly denounced their own straw poll prior to announcing Ron Paul as the winner. Appropriately enough, while they denounced the presidential preference question they gushed when talking about the results to the other questions in the poll. Yet the same people that voted for Ron Paul answered those other questions as well. Why did they not suggest that those results were skewed?

Yes, Ron Paul’s Campaign For Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty made it easier for supporters to attend CPAC by offering discounted tickets and lodging packages. They did not “bus them in” as some suggested. The reason so many showed up at CPAC for Ron Paul is because they are true political activists. They are active, vocal, and dedicated to spreading the liberty message to those who are and aren’t willing to listen.  This is something the GOP has been missing for a long time.

It is mainly foreign policy differences that keep the old guard GOP from embracing these young Ron Paul activists. Perhaps if the rest of the Republican Party could ever understand the fundamental differences between…

  1. preemptive war and national defense
  2. isolationist and non-interventionist
  3. anti-semitism and ending all foreign aid
  4. blaming America and blaming American policy

…they could welcome Ron Paul and his supporters. The CPAC straw poll result suggests an effort should be made to understand and perhaps embrace these differences. After all, isn’t the ultimate Republican goal to defeat Obama in 2012? Seeing eye to eye with Ron Paul and his numerous activist supporters could go a long way toward that goal.

I have little hope this will happen, but in the long run it may not matter. Many of those young Ron Paul supporters are growing up, feeding on liberty, and will become office-seekers in the future.

The result of the CPAC straw poll does have meaning. It suggests the future is burning bright with the fire of liberty.

Pass a Strong Balanced Budget Amendment

February 11th, 2011 11:56 am  |  by  |  Published in Big Government, congress, Debt, DownsizeDC.org, Economics, Money, national debt, Taxes  |  Comments Off

Quote of the Day: “Worrying works. About 90% of the things I worry about never happen.” — Woody Paige, on ESPN’s “Around the Horn”

Congress is going to raise the debt ceiling yet again. They’ve done this 70 times in the past, but this next time should be the last time.

We’ve created a new campaign to help to achieve this. The Republicans are pushing a Balanced Budget Amendment that has some great features. It would . . .

* mandate that Congress balance the federal budget each year.
* prevent Congress from spending more than 20% of Gross Domestic Product.
* require a 2/3 super-majority to increase your taxes.

This would mean that . . .

* the debt ceiling would never be raised again.
* the State’s cancerous growth would be checked.
* it would become almost impossible to raise federal taxes.

Here’s the deal . . .

If Congress (wrongly) insists on lifting the debt ceiling yet again, then they need to give us something in exchange.

What we need in exchange is a strong Balanced Budget Amendment.

To ensure that this is the last time they raise the debt ceiling, we need a strong Balanced Budget Amendment.

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