Thursday, November 13, 2008

Open letter to Congress about the bailouts

The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski
Hart Senate Office Building Suite 503
Washington DC 20510-2002

The Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin
Hart Senate Office Building Suite 509
Washington DC 20510-2003

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No government money, whether borrowed or taxed, should ever be used to bailout private financial interests.

No government money, whether borrowed or taxed, should ever be used to bailout private companies of any kind, including the car companies.

What is socialism? It is the ownership by the government of companies and enterprises.

History should teach us that socialism is the most inefficient and ineffective political and economic structure.

In order for an economy to succeed, in order for a country to prosper, government needs to get out of the way and stop trying to manage things.

The government caused the Great Depression. Even Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, agrees. Here's what he said at the celebration of Milton Friedman's 90th birthday in 2002 . ."I would like to say to Milton (Friedman) and Anna (Schwarz): Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it."

Predictably, government schools don't teach this view. Instead, they teach that . . .

The depression became Great because President Hoover was an advocate of laissez-faire economics who did nothing to intervene. In fact, Hoover was the first president to ever make major interventions in the economy.

The economist Bryan Caplan lists 21 Hoover interventions.

Another economist, Murray Rothbard, has described how President Hoover was the true creator of the "New Deal" approach for which FDR later claimed dubious credit.

Caplan and Rothbard are not alone in this. Roosevelt aid Rexford Guy Tugwell was to say years later . . .

"We didn't admit it at the time, but practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started." (Source: Paul Johnson, A History of the American People -- New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, p.

Even FDR himself agreed that Hoover had intervened, he just disagreed with the interventions. During the 1932 presidential campaign Roosevelt repudiated Hoover's meddling, saying . . ."The doctrine of regulation and legislation by 'masterminds' ... has been too glaringly apparent at Washington during the ."

And during the 1932 presdiential campaign Roosevelt constantly criticized Hoover for his huge deficits, promising instead . . .

* "immediate and drastic reductions of all public expenditures"
* "abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating bureaus and eliminating extravagances"
* "reductions in bureaucracy"
* Implied tax cuts
* And a "sound currency to be maintained at all hazards."

We aren't taught that Roosevelt promised these things. Instead, we're taught that FDR's heroic interventions saved the free market from itself.

But what did his interventions actually achieve?

* The depression became Great under FDR's guidance.
* It lasted more than a decade.
* Prosperity never returned while he was President.
* The economy only recovered after Roosevelt was dead and buried

Even FDR's own economic team knew that his New Deal interventions had been a complete failure. Here's what FDR's Treasury Secretary, Henry Morganthau, admitted to Congress in May, 1939 . . .

"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong ... somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises ... I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... And an enormous debt to boot!" It's significant that Hoover and Roosevelt were the first to intervene in the economy. Previous downturns had always been allowed to run their course, lasting from a few months to a couple of years. But the first one the politicians tried to stop is the one that lasted more than a decade, and that really hit hard.

If government intervention worked, then why did the 1929 depression become Great, when none had before?

It ought to make you angry. The injustice is so clear. The politicians caused the problem, blamed it on the free market, and then benefited from the disaster they had created by grabbing vast amounts of power and money.

And now it's happening again. History, sadly, is rhyming.

We're being told that the economic downturn resulting from the housing bubble is a market failure, and that massive government intervention is needed in all directions. But the truth is this . . .

* Government housing policies and easy credit from the Federal Reserve caused the housing bubble.
* Companies and individuals who made bad decisions based on these policies should pay the full price for their mistakes
* None of them should be rescued
* The politicians should not intervene

In short, the politicians should stop pursuing policies that rhyme with those pursued during the Great Depression.

In addition, the advocates of Big Government should be asked . . .

* Why, precisely, was the first economic downturn in which the government intervened the only one that became so bad that it earned the name of the Great Depression?
* And why is it, precisely, that the major areas of American life where the government has intervened to make things more affordable -- such as health care, higher education, and housing -- are exactly those areas where costs have risen the most?

Government intervention does not work. It does not make things more affordable, it makes them more expensive. It does not prevent economic downturns, it causes them, and deepens them.

Please do no support or vote for any bailout of GM or any other private company.

We are already seeing the problems that the bailouts that have already been enacted are causing. Secretary Paulson is having to try to change original plans and bob and weave when things change. No government can react fast enough or smart enough to manage the economy well. Government needs to get out of the way and stay out of the way if this economy is ever going to recover and get back on track.

Thank you.

Mr. Brian Mason

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bill Maher Puts Things in Perspective

There are so many reasons we should have not gone to Iraq, even if we want to protect ourselves against terrorists. Here is another.

Click on the title to go to YouTube to see this clip.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Star Simpson gives her side of the story

You may remember the incident at the Boston airport when a young lady was taken to jail after she showed up at the airport wearing a sweatshirt that had blinking lights. Many of the news reporters commented that she was "really dumb" to wear such an outfit to the airport and that airport security had every right to arrest her in the interest of airport safety and security.

As Star says in her comments, it was all theater. The huge inconveniences we have to put up with these days at the airport are just to make us feel safe. It has little to do with actually making us safe.

It is just too bad that Star basically had to deal with the after effects of her misadventure that day for a whole year later.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NSA Snooping on Cell Phone Calls

From CNet: A recent article in the London Review of Books revealed that a number of private companies now sell off-the-shelf data-mining solutions to government spies interested in analyzing mobile-phone calling records and real-time location information. These companies include ThorpeGlen, VASTech, Kommlabs, and Aqsacom--all of which sell "passive probing" data-mining services to governments around the world.

More proof that privacy is dead.  We now need laws that require that any organization using this software be disclosed to the public including their purpose for using the software and whom they intend to "probe".

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Friday, August 1, 2008

U.S. Government Policy for Seizing Laptops at Borders

Amazing. The U.S. government has published its policy: they can take your laptop anywhere they want, for as long as they want, and share the information with anyone they want.

This needs to be squashed and fast.  The U.S. does have a Constitution, though it seems to be ignored more and more.  And part of the Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.  By ANY reading of that provision, the seizure of a person's laptop is prohibited.

A laptop becomes an extension of the person and the person's mind.  This is the equivalent of taking a portion of a person's brain for government inspection.

Here's the actual policy:

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Legislators aim to snuff out penalties for pot use

The U.S. should stop arresting responsible marijuana users, Rep. Barney Frank said Wednesday, announcing a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying fewer than 100 grams, almost a quarter-pound, of the substance. "The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business," Frank said.  This proposal probably won't get any traction, but one can always hope.  Rep. Frank should at least be applauded for his effort.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Library confrontation points up privacy dilemma

Library Director Amy Grasmick sits in the Kimball Public Library's children's room where public access computers are in use in Randolph, Vt., Friday, July 18, 2008. Five state police detectives wanted to seize Kimball Public Library's public access computers as they frantically searched for a 12-year-old girl, acting on a tip that she sometimes used the terminals. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)AP - Children's librarian Judith Flint was getting ready for the monthly book discussion group for 8- and 9-year-olds on "Love That Dog" when police showed up.  Her courageous stand needs to be cheered by all who cherish our basic rights.  The police, however, were eventually able to gain access to the library's computers.  Which still leaves the questions about what information did they gather and what did they do with it.  We must demand transparency of our government officials.  There must be procedures in place which allow overseers to monitor what our police do with the information they are gathering on us.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Harassment and Lawyers

Harvey Silvergate makes a reasonable exposition in his article, If I Ran the Zoo XI concerning the proper definition of harassment, and the role lawyers are playing these days in "advising" colleges and universities on the policies and procedures they should adapt to deal with harassment.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Secrecy, the Movie

The comment on Bruce Schneier's blog by Unix Ronan dated June 12, 2008, is one of the best and most succinct discussions of secrecy I've ever read.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Behind Bars in America

In February 2008, the Pew Center on the States, a part of the Pew Charitable Trusts, published a study titled, “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008”. The report pulls together data from all of the States regarding the prison populations so that they will have accurate data from which they can make sound policy.

To highlight the fact that there is a problem which is largely being unaddressed, at the end of the study they compare the numbers of people incarcerated in the United States with 36 other countries in the world. The 36 countries chosen are all European countries with the largest inmate populations (years vary).

For a country which purports to uphold the ideals of freedom and democracy, the United States should be embarrassed by what these figures show. The next thing is to figure out why we are imprisoning more than one in every 100 adults so that the appropriate changes can be made to laws, policies, and practices to turn this around.

To visualize the stark reality of the situation, we can first look at the pure numbers of people in jail.

In fact, if you total up the prison populations of all 36 countries and compare that total number to the number of people held in U.S. prisons, the United States has more people in prison than all of the other countries combined.

Compare this with the total populations of these countries:

Finally, if you take a look at the percentage of the populations of these countries that are in prison, the United States still comes out way ahead. The following graph shows, in other words, how many people out of 100,000 residents (including children) are locked up in jail.

This study is not comparing the United States to countries with repressive regimes, but with Western Countries with which we should compare favorably, in that we supposedly share the same values.

What these pretty graphs do not show is the human toll suffered by families whose lives are being affected by a system which creates these huge numbers of criminals. Nor do they show the deteriorating effect on American culture.

We see here the effect. Our society must do a better job of understanding the causes, and take immediate steps to start correcting this situation.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The TSA Follies

Ostensibly the Transportation Security Administration exists to keep Americans safe when they fly. In reality it’s a bureaucratic nightmare which never should have been created in the first place. Consider what the TSA has done to pilots and air marshals to put you at risk.

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What is it going to take to turn this stupidity around and to start focusing on what it takes to make flying really safe?  Once again we have established an entrenched bureaucracy that costs billions of dollars and does little, as any cost-benefit analysis would show.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Federal Assistance Programs given boost

The Griffin Method reports an extensive budget increases for the SBA as detailed in a Senate news release. On March 14, the Senate reported that it will increase funding for the Small Business Administration (SBA) in the 2009 budget blueprint by adding $100 million above the President’s request.

This action reverses six years of budget cuts, resulting in a boost for America’s 27 million small businesses.

It restores or adds additional funding for increased loan oversight and reduced fees, microloans, contracting assistance, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, veterans outreach programs, and technical assistance programs, among others. Both Democratic Presidential nominees voted for the proposal, and the Republican nominee for President did not vote on the action.

The Senate’s budget would increase funding for greater SBA oversight of lenders in the 7(a) program by providing $9 million. The 7(a) and 504 loan programs are the largest source of long-term capital for small businesses, helping create or retain over 824,000 jobs last year.

SBA’s $3.6 million in funding for Microloans is restored (from zero) and Microloan Technical Assistance gets $20 million (the President’s 2009 budget sought to eliminate these). For 2008, small businesses received more than $31 million in microloans, proportionally helping more women and minorities than other programs. Also $5 million (from zero) restores the New Markets Venture Capital and New Markets Technical Assistance programs. These programs promote economic development and the creation of job opportunities through equity investments in low-income areas.

Several of SBA’s Entrepreneurial Development and Outreach Programs will be enhanced. Small Business Development Centers will increase to $105 million, up from $87 million. The 950 SBDC offices around the country provided counseling to 600,665 businesses last year.

Women's Business Centers got $17 million, increased from $11.9 million. There are 95 Women’s Business Centers providing business assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged women and men (in 2007 WBCs helped 147,000 businesses).

A veterans entrepreneurship bill signed into law in February 2008 established a grant program for SBDCs to provide more information to veterans about small business resources, and now SBA’s Veterans Programs will be increased to $2.3 million (up from $743,000) and SBDCs to $3.25 million. Native American Outreach will increase $2 million (up from $730,000). U.S. Export Assistance Centers will increase to $8 million (from $6.4 million). These centers help small businesses compete and succeed in the global marketplace.

Contracting Programs and Assistance will be provided additional support as funding for SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives is increased to $11.6 million (from $6.6 million). PCRs monitor federal contracts and “break out” contracts for small firms. 7(j) Technical Assistance Program funding is increased to $5.5 million (from $1.5 million) and provides small disadvantaged businesses with training in financing, business development, management, accounting, and marketing.

HUBZones will increase $5 million (from $1 million). Historically Underutilized Business Zones create incentives for contracting with small firms to create jobs in underserved communities.

Of course, all of this has to pass the House and get signed into law by the President before it becomes reality.

The Griffin Method is a full service-consulting firm assisting businesses to compete for federal contracts. Their home page can be reached at .

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cost of a penny

Did you know it costs $0.017 to make a penny?  And it costs ten cents to make a nickel.  This problem goes away when it comes to the higher denominations.  The Mint wants the authority to adjust the metal content of the coins it manufactures without having to go to Congress and getting a law passed each time.  I think it would be possible to pass a law granting them this authority and which would still provide restrictions which would ensure the proper value of the coins we use for trade.

We have been using promissory paper for decades.  Why does our coinage have to be "worth" the same as the item that we are buying?  It is even a pretense these days that we are getting a 50 cent item in exchange for a piece of metal worth 50 cents when we hand over a 50 cent coin.

As long as our coins are "pretty" and feel substantial enough (which is why aluminum probably would not do), oh, and can not be counterfeited easily, then that should be all that matters.

What does matter is the value of a dollar in the world of trade and markets.  That value depends on the perceived value of our products and the strength of our economy.

I think we should go ahead and give the Mint the authority they are asking for to make the coins out of whatever metal they choose within certain restraints.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Australia May Outlaw Laser Pointers

Doesn't the legislature in Australia have anything more important to deal with these days?

They were used against planes last week. I'm sure criminals also used cars in Australia last week. Will the country ban them next? On the other hand, I'm sick and tired of laser pointers myself. On the third hand, the cats of Australia will be terribly disappointed....

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Cubans savor new freedoms

In the last week, new President Raul Castro has legalized cell phone use for ordinary Cubans; granted Cubans access to previously off-limits tourist hotels; and legalized the sale within Cuba of microwaves, DVD players and personal computers. Cubans are welcoming the change, even if the costs are out of their reach.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

What if they opened a school and nobody enrolled?

Concerned that not enough young people apply for jobs with the Federal Government, many people are discussing the establishment of an undergraduate academy along the lines of the military academies for the purpose of training future public service employees.

What I would like to know is why do they think that establishing a school would solve this problem. There are many excellent colleges and universities with established programs for instructions in the skills required to be a public servant. If these programs are not currently graduating enough qualified students, why would the creation of an additional school accomplish this?

The problem is not with the education establishment. As usual, it is with the federal government. Ask any young person who has thought of working for the government. If you were to graduate and you were offered two jobs, one with the federal government and one with the private sector, both with the same salary, and you were told that you could start work with the private firm in a month, but you would have to wait a year to work for the federal government while they checked your background, which job would you take? The hiring process for those trying to apply for a job with the federal government is in shambles. This is where they need to start working to solve the problem of getting the required number of employees. We definitely do not need to establish a tax-supported public service academy.