Thursday, December 15, 2011

Welcome To America: Where Citizens Can Be Imprisoned Without A Trial

The House and Senate have just passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012, setting the budget for military spending by the federal government for the United States for 2012. This bill granted around $565 billion for the federal government to spend on military/defense purposes next year. The Congress passes a defense spending bill at the end of every year for the upcoming fiscal year; however, this year’s legislation has a very controversial amendment attached to it. That controversial amendment exists in section 1031 of the bill, which allows the executive branch to indefinitely detain US citizens who are suspected of engaging in terrorist activity without due process.

The indefinite detainment of a US citizen without being tried in a court of law is a complete violation of their right to due process. Due process in its most simplistic terms means fair treatment through the normal judicial system. The 5th amendment of the US Constitution states that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without the due process of law, indicating this provision is a complete violation of the 5th amendment. The 6th amendment also states that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial. The infinite detainment provision of the National Defense Authorization Act also violates the 6th amendment since it deprives US citizens the right to a speedy and public trial if suspected by the executive branch of being involved in terrorist activity.
The American people should be outraged with the passing of this legislation. This bill shows Congress does not care about the Bill of Rights, and does not care about the fact they have violated their oath of upholding the Constitution by passing legislation that blatantly erases multiple Constitutional rights. Considering there are many things one can do in order for the federal government to declare them a suspected terrorist, many people charged of regular crimes could be held indefinitely without any rights granted to them once this bill becomes a law. The passing of a bill such as this is dangerous because it grants the power to the executive branch to act as its own judge and jury. US citizens should not take this lightly, and should hold their representatives accountable if they voted in favor of this bill. 283 members of the House and 86 members of the Senate voted in favor of this bill. The American people need to become active and vote those members out of office in 2012!

- Liberty Mike

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Fed's Low Interest Rates Prevent Growth!

It appears some people never learn. On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee announced they would be keeping interest rates at record lows until at least mid 2013. In a statement from the FOMC, the Fed stated “To promote the ongoing economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent”. The FOMC has decided to keep interest rates at record lows in an attempt to pick up growth since the recovery has been slower so far this year than expected, but keeping rates this low will have the opposite effect.
After the financial collapse of 2008, the FOMC decided to lower the federal funds rate to 0-0.25% in December of 2008 to have credit flow more freely to financial institutions in an attempt for these institutions to recover after experiencing near bankruptcy. Many mainstream economists said the Fed’s decision to set interest rates at record low levels was a brilliant idea, and was necessary in order to prevent an economic depression. Government officials and the Fed stated that more liquidity in the US markets was the answer to solving our problems and putting a halt to the recession. However, the decision to significantly lower interest rates has not shown any real results in economic recovery, as the unemployment stays high, stocks have not shown any real growth, and the US dollar continues to lose its value against commodities and foreign currencies.
Although some argue that significantly low interest rates by the Fed prevented a depression after the 2008 financial collapse since we haven’t seen depression level figures for the US economy, it can be refuted by stating these artificially low interest rates have just prolonged the harsh recession that should have happened in late 2008. When the Fed decided to lower interest rates to a 0% level for the first time in its history in December of 2008, they took action in lending trillions of dollars in 0% interest loans to banks, corporations and financial institutions in the US and abroad from late 2008 to present day. These no interest rate loans have allowed these companies to pump their bank accounts full of temporary assets based off credit from the Federal Reserve. These assets have allowed companies to prop up their books and avoid having to record any significant losses as they can cover such losses with temporary cash they have on hand from the 0% interest loans.
Since the Fed has artificially propped up US markets by allowing some of the largest corporations in the world to borrow money without having to pay interest, the Fed has allowed these corporations to avoid showing losses which will be inevitable in the long run. Since the majority of the companies that are borrowing at 0% interest rates right now should have declared bankruptcy in 2008-2009, no true recovery will begin to happen for the US economy as long as they borrow money from the Fed on cheap credit to avoid having to report significant losses. The Fed’s recent decision to keep interest rates at all time lows until at least 2013 will just continue the trend these companies have been on in artificially propping up the assets on their books. The best and only decision the Fed should make at this time is to raise interest rates and allow the US economy to face reality before things get worse.
- Liberty_Mike

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tourture Is Not Ok!

For years, the United States Military and Secret Service have been performing torture techniques on prisoners of war who have been captured by the US during its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The excuse the US has used for performing enhanced interrogation techniques against detainees is that the US will be able to gather beneficial information in advancing our mission in the Middle East through torture that they would otherwise not be able to capture. The use of enhanced interrogation by the US against prisoners of war has been a very controversial issue with many people in the US and around the world who disagree with the use of such techniques.
After the US military assassinated Osama Bin Laden a couple weeks ago, many questions were asked about how the military became informed of the whereabouts of Bin Laden. In attempting to find the answer to this question, Senator John McCain (ranking member of the Armed Services Committee) asked CIA Director Leon Panetta how information was gathered in finding the exact location of Bin Laden.  In Panetta’s response to McCain, he stated that the years spent interrogating Al Qaeda detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed through techniques such as waterboarding did not lead to any information that helped the CIA find the whereabouts of Bin Laden, and that the information gathered from Mohammed via waterboarding was actually counterproductive in their mission. In a statement made by McCain after learning this information, he said that using torture techniques against Mohammed and other detainees produced false and misleading information in finding Bin Laden. McCain also stated that he had learned the most beneficial information gathered by the CIA in finding Bin Laden was gathered by detainees through non-coercive means. Also, the exact whereabouts of Bin Laden were not fully released by any CIA detainee who had been through enhanced interrogation or not.
The US Military and secret service has been using enhanced interrogation techniques on members of Al Qaeda and other insurgents since 2002, and did not find the exact whereabouts of Bin Laden until 2011. Although some people thought such techniques were beneficial in advancing the US’s mission against Al Qaeda, it took the US 9 years after the implementation of enhanced interrogation on detainees to finally find and kill Bin Laden. Considering the capture of Bin Laden was the top objective of the US in the War on Terror and recent statements by the CIA show enhanced interrogation was more destructive than productive in completing this objective, the US government should rethink such policies. If the US wants to maintain its reputation as being the land of the free and a nation that supports human rights, it should not continue to lower itself to a level where the government views torture as a proper means in gathering information. It is time the US government ban inhumane techniques such as torture and act in a non coercive manner when attempting to gather information that will help the US succeed in fighting the war on terror.
- Liberty_Mike

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bernanke, What Are You Talking About??

Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke held the first ever Fed press conference. During this press conference, Bernanke discussed the labor market, inflation, commodity prices, the housing sector, monetary policy and the overall health of the US economy. After listening to this staged event hosted by Bernanke, it is all too clear that the press conference was nothing more than a publicity stunt by the Federal Reserve in an attempt to gain public support for recent Fed policies. Since the Federal Reserve has been under attack by critics due to a serious lack of Fed transparency, Bernanke figured that holding a press conference would be a good way to give the public more insight about the Federal Reserve’s policies to calm overall criticism. In reality, this conference gave no real insight about recent policies, and showed how out of touch Bernanke is with American consumers by stating overall inflation is not affecting the US economy.
In his opening statement, Bernanke stated that increases in commodity prices are due to geopolitical developments and robust global demand. He also stated that there have not been any indications that inflation is getting bad enough to prompt the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy, and that the Fed will in fact carry out the rest of their US Treasury bond purchases to complete QE2 by this summer. When asked about QE2 and whether or not the program was successful, Bernanke stated the program has been very successful so far, and that the program has led to overall better economic conditions for the US. In making these statements during the press conference, Bernanke is either trying to trick the American people, or he truly is clueless about inflation and the current devaluation of the US dollar.
Since November 2010 when the Fed took action in pursuing QE2, commodity prices across the board have increased, and the US dollar index has declined. When looking at recent increases in commodity prices and the appreciation of foreign currencies in comparison to the US dollar, it is clear that inflation of the money supply has affected the value of the dollar, and that the Fed should do the exact opposite of what Bernanke stated they would do during last week’s press conference.
Two commodities that are the most sensitive to inflation are the monetary metals gold and silver. Gold hit all time record highs in 2010, and has skyrocketed since January 2011, now priced at over $1500/oz. Silver is near all time record highs ($50/oz in the 1980s), floating around $48/oz. In November 2010 when QE2 had just been announced, Silver was priced under $30/oz. Other metals such as Platinum, Palladium and Copper have increased in price over the past few months as well. Looking at commodities other than metals, oil/gas prices have also increased. Crude oil has significantly increased along with unleaded gas and heating oil. Natural gas prices have also increased since November 2010, although the increase hasn’t been as significant as the increase of other gas prices. Most food based traded commodities such as corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle, hogs and coffee have also increased in price since QE2 began. Along with these across the board increases in commodity prices, the US dollar index has declined in the past few months to around 73, approaching a 5 year low. Foreign currencies such as the Canadian and Australian dollars have recently surpassed the US dollar in value. When looking at the numbers, it is not hard to determine that the current increase in inflation is a problem, and that it is starting to affect the American people. If Ben Bernanke and the Fed do not wake up to this reality soon and take action in tightening monetary policy, the value of the US dollar will continue to decline and American consumers will continue to see a decrease in their standard of living.
- Liberty_Mike

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Situation in Libya Proves US Involvement in the UN Irrelevant!

The United States, Britain and France have taken action in performing a bombing spree on Libya in order to enforce a United Nations Security Council vote last week to implement a no-fly zone over Libya. The intent of the UN imposed no-fly zone was to protect Libyan rebels from air attacks by Dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.  Although the UN Security Council voted 10-0 in favor of enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, 5 members of the council abstained from voting. Two of the nations that abstained from voting, China and Russia, have veto power in the Security Council, and could have prevented the UN from imposing the no-fly zone by casting a “Nay” vote. Considering 5 member nations, including the 2 with veto power, abstained from voting on this action, the United Nations has once again shown the world how irrelevant its role in global policy really is. 
The United Nations was created in 1945 for the purpose of assuring international law enforcement, providing international security, upholding human rights, and most importantly, preventing war. The organization is comprised of 5 different organs, and the Security Council is the only organ of the UN that has the power to make binding decisions that member nations agree to carry out (the other 4 organs that make up the UN only have the ability to make recommendations). The countries who voted in favor of the no-fly zone over Libya decided someone was obligated to use force against Gaddafi and his supporters due to the fact UNSC decisions must be carried out. Although 10 member nations of the UNSC voted in favor of the no-fly zone, only the US, France and Britain have taken action in enforcing the measure at the UN’s demand. It appears the other 7 member nations of the Security Council who voted in favor of the no-fly zone do not want to get their hands dirty in Libya or bear the financial costs associated with using force.
I am not sure about Britain or France, but according to the law of the United States, the US may only get involved militarily in a foreign nation after first passing through the Congress and then going to the President. The US executive branch and military do not have the authority to use force against another nation due to a resolution from any sort of governing body, such as the UN, other than the US Congress. If the federal government is going to act outside the confines of the Constitution by using force without passing a resolution through Congress and do so without the help of the majority of members of the UN, what is the purpose of the United State’s involvement in the UN at all? The United States is the top financial contributor to the UN, providing 22% of their overall funding ($598 million in 2009 alone), with all other member nations contributing significantly less. Considering the US is carrying out the situation in Libya at the UN’s request with help from only France and Britain, the United State’s involvement in the UN is worthless. As lawmakers begin to look for areas to cut wasteful spending in an attempt to fix the massive budgetary problems facing the US, federal funding to the UN would be a great place to start!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gas Out

All things considering, I thought that this would be a good topic for my first article since it exemplifies the need for an education reform (I'm making a bit of a joke here):

So apparently there is another petition making its way around to "boycott" selected oil companies.  The link is here:!/event.php?eid=151363471591084

After reading the article in the link, I'm certain it wouldn't's why:

"If they [Exxon, Mobil] reduce their prices, the other companies will follow suit."

My Rebuttal: hahaha yeah right! Do you even understand how global economics works? This will just turn the new companies into conglomerates.  The only way oil prices can be reduced is by controlling the price of CRUDE OIL...not boycotting two companies.

"If you don't understand how we can reach 300 Million people...well let's just face it, you just aren't mathematician."

My Rebuttal:  Actually, I am an Applied Mathematician.  There are a grand total of only 311,000,000 US citizens according to the 2010 census.  24.3% of the US population is made up of children.  YOU do the math. 

Moral of the story:  If you don't want to have to worry about gas prices, either purchase your own drilling company or buy an electric car.

-Steely Dan

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The US Should Leave Afghanistan Now, Not 2014!

How much longer should the United States stay in Afghanistan? That is a question many people have been asking both the Bush and Obama administrations for years. It seems like every year we hear the White House give a time frame of how much longer US troops will remain in Afghanistan, but the following year they retract their previous statement and come up with a new arbitrary time frame. It appears this year, the Obama administration is once again extending the time frame they foresee US involvement in Afghanistan, stating the military would remain there well past 2014. The executive branch’s annual time frame extension of our presence in Afghanistan is trending into a never ending cycle.

On June 7th, 2010, the War in Afghanistan had become the longest war in US history, reaching 104 months in length at that point in time.  This 104 month period exceeded the time frame of the Vietnam War which lasted 103 months in total, and until that point was the longest war in US history. 9 months have passed since June, and the war has reached almost 9 ½ years in length. Considering our involvement in Afghanistan has reached such a lengthy period of time, the Obama administration should be working as hard as they can to assure the US withdraw forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible, and not prolong the war’s end past 2014 as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently stated the US will do.

The reason the United States decided to attack Afghanistan in 2001 was to remove the Taliban from power after the September 11th attacks since the Taliban was a known supporter of Al Qaeda. This objective was completed very quickly, with every major Taliban controlled city falling after a few months of US occupation. Although the main objective of the war had been successful for the US by early 2002, the Bush administration insisted we remain in Afghanistan to assure the Taliban would not come back to power and that the region would become stable. 9 years later, US and NATO forces remain in Afghanistan for those exact same reasons.

In the almost 9 ½  year period the United States has been involved in Afghanistan, 1,495 US troops have been killed and over a trillion dollars has been spent. The stability of the region has not been getting progressively better as the White House and Pentagon have anticipated, and the Afghan people are getting sick and tired of the United States’ presence. The Afghan people and government are especially angry at the US right now for a NATO bombing last week that killed 9 young boys who were out collecting firewood, mistaking them as insurgents. The US, NATO and people of Afghanistan can no longer afford to keep this occupation going. This war cannot keep going until after 2014, nor should it ever have lasted as long as it has. The only sensible thing the US can do at this point in time is end the war in Afghanistan now, or this trend will continue for many administrations to come.

- Liberty_Mike

Thursday, March 3, 2011

US Involvement in Libya Will Offer Same Results as Iraq

As civil unrest unfolds in Northern Africa, the United States doesn’t have to think twice about whether or not it should get involved. Right now, the people of Libya are in the act of carrying out a full blown revolution in an attempt to overthrow their dictatorial government.  In the process of these events, the government of Libya is failing to step down, and has shown its willingness to fight back. Considering some form of fighting is going to occur in Libya until its people and government settle their differences, the United States government has felt the need to once again act as the policemen of the world and intervene.
On Monday, the Pentagon announced it had begun to move warships and carriers closer to Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. Pentagon officials reported that this move was made in order to have closer access to Libya in case the US decides to pursue military action to help aid the revolution. The excuse the US is using for potential military involvement is that they want to liberate the people of Libya from their oppressive dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, who is responsible for turning the Libyan military on its citizens. Does this situation sound familiar?
When the Bush administration officially decided to intervene militarily in Iraq in 2003, they publicly stated many different excuses for attacking the nation, including the fear of weapons of mass destruction and a harboring ground for Al Qaeda. However, one of most commonly used excuses by the Bush administration for illegally attacking Iraq was to free its people from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, calling the war “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. Although the US military removed Saddam’s regime from power after only a couple weeks of military action, we continue to have troops in Iraq 8 years later with a few trillion dollars wasted, 4,400 US troops killed, and no true end in sight.
Putting recent historical facts into consideration, the US should not get involved in aiding Libya’s revolution. It is more than understandable that people all around the world should be outraged with Gaddafi’s actions in attacking his own citizens who are in opposition to his rule, but the reality of the situation is that outside involvement will only make problems worse than they already are. Not only will US military involvement make problems worse for both Libya and America in the long run, it will be illegal for the US government to take any military action unless it is officially voted on and declared a war by the US Congress. Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution states that Congress must be the first to take any sort of action in declaring war and using military action. Nowhere in the Constitution does it give the executive branch or Pentagon the authority to send troops into a foreign nation (the way the Bush administration did with Iraq) as the Obama administration appears to be considering. The more the US intervenes militarily in other nations such as Libya, the more it will cost the American taxpayer, lives of innocent civilians, and our respect around the world.
 - Liberty_Mike

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Federal Reserve Blows Past China in the US Treasury Market

It’s official!  Within the past couple of weeks, news was released that the Federal Reserve has surpassed China as the largest holder of US Treasury bonds, more commonly known as governmental debt. The Federal Reserve now holds around $1.1 trillion in United States debt, while China holds around $891 billion. If you don’t think the Federal Reserve’s recent increase in purchases of government bonds is anything to be worried about, think again.
In early November, 2010, the Federal Reserve announced they would purchase $600 billion in US Treasury bonds over an 8 month span in a program called QE2. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke stated this program was a necessary form of economic stimulus to help speed up the recovery for the US economy. Although many critics and inflation hawks (such as myself) immediately challenged the proposal of QE2, stating it would spark inflation and prolong the recession, many Keynesians and inflation doves such as Bernanke took action in following through with this plan while ignoring their critic’s concerns.
The purchasing plan for QE2 was for the Federal Reserve to buy US Treasury bonds at a rate of $75 billion per month. Considering this program started in mid-November, the Fed is almost at the halfway point of its $600 billion planned purchase. This means the Fed still plans to purchase $300 billion more in US Treasuries over the next 4 months. Such an action will further strengthen the Federal Reserve’s new standing as the number one holder of US debt.
For those who don’t know, the Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States. The main duty and obligation of a central bank is to regulate the nation’s currency by increasing or contracting the money supply. In doing this, their main objective is to hold the value of the currency stable and minimize the risk of inflation and deflation. When the Federal Reserve purchases US Treasuries as they are with QE2, they do so by simply printing the money out of thin air and adding it to the United States’ money supply. As the money supply increases at a rapid rate, inflation starts to rise, and the value of the US dollar declines in value against foreign currencies. Both foreign and domestic goods increase in price as inflation starts to rise, and it becomes tougher for the US to pay back its debts to foreign nations. Once this point hits, foreign nations become less likely to lend money to the US government, and the only way the US can continue to borrow is by going to its own central bank and ask them to crank up the printing presses.
The Federal Reserve acting as the top bond holder of US debt is a very bad policy, and it will inevitably slow down the recovery instead of speed up the process. As the federal government continues to spend and foreign nations become less interested in funding such habits, the Federal Reserve will continue to increase its purchases of US debt in an attempt to be seen as an economic stimulator and savior of the US economy. In reality, they will prove themselves to be the exact opposite.  If the Federal Reserve does not immediately slow down their holdings of US debt, it will take a longer time period for the US to pull out of recession.

- Liberty_Mike

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Increasing the Debt Ceiling will Bankrupt the US!

In the upcoming months, the United States Congress will be voting once again to increase the US debt ceiling. Raising the debt ceiling is something Congress has voted in favor of 5 times in the past 3 years. The most recent increase to the debt ceiling occurred on February 12, 2010, where the debt ceiling was increased from $12.394 trillion to $14.294 trillion. The recent proposition by the US federal government to raise the debt ceiling this year proves that Congress would rather continue prolonging our financial problems than actually fix them.
The recently released estimate of BEA economic data for the 4th quarter of 2010 measured the United State’s GDP at $14.660 trillion. With a 2010 GDP measure of $14.660 trillion and an outstanding public debt of $14.13 trillion, the United States has a current debt-to-GDP ratio of 96%. Since the Obama Administration has asked for an increase in the debt ceiling as soon as possible, outstanding public debt levels are expected to increase at least $164 billion in 2011. The current debt ceiling is over 97% of 2010 GDP, so any increase in the debt ceiling in 2011 will bring the US closer to a debt-to-GDP ratio of 100%, or what I like to call bankruptcy. When an individual, business, or nation owes more money than they bring in, they are officially bankrupt and face the severe risk of default.
Right now, the Obama administration, special interests, and mainstream pundits from both parties are making the argument that if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling in early 2011 the US economy will collapse. They argue that such a collapse will cause a domino effect that will eventually crash the global economy. This scare tactic may work to convince some members of Congress to vote in favor of increasing the debt ceiling, but the reality is that increasing the debt ceiling will cause such problems, not prevent them.
Although raising the debt ceiling will be destructive for the US economy, it is almost certain that Congress will vote in favor of the increase. As the debt ceiling nears 100% of GDP, it is less likely that other nations, mainly China and Japan, will continue to fund the federal government’s shopping spree. This leaves only one option for the United States, which is to monetize the debt by having the Federal Reserve print money to fund government expenditures.  Monetizing the debt is a sign of default, and such an action will inevitably devalue the dollar against other currencies in the global economy.  It is time the US federal government buckles down and stops spending outside of its Constitutional authority. If the debt ceiling is raised in 2011, the infamous quote by Voltaire will become more relevant than ever, “Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value: zero”.

- Liberty_Mike

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Congress Betrays the American People by Voting to Extend the Patriot Act!

The US House passed a bill today, HR 514, to extend 3 provisions of the Patriot Act which were set to expire at the end of the month to now expire on December 8th, 2011. The provisions that the house voted to extend through the end of the year relate to roving wiretaps, individual terrorists as agents of foreign powers, and access to business records. The bill was brought to the House floor to a vote today only needing a simple majority to pass (218 votes), after the bill failed last Tuesday when the house needed a super majortiy (290 votes) to pass the bill, and only recieved 277. The vote count today was 275-144 with 14 Representatives not voting. The yay votes were 210 Republicans and 65 Democrats. They nay votes were 27 Republicans and 117 Democrats.

I find it funny that this bill failed to pass with a super majority on Tuesday (February 8th), and less than a week later it was brought to the floor again for a second vote where it only needed a simple majoirity to pass. It's funny how fast Congress can work to pass a bill when it supports special interests and bureaucracy. Every legislative session we hear of Representatives introducing bills that might actually be beneficial and meaningful to the public, but never make it out of committe. However, whenever bills that violate multiple amendments of the Bill of Rights are introduced, bureaucratic representatives are able to bring them to the floor for a vote with minimal debate and lack of committee hearings. This is just another example of how little members of Congress listen to their constituents concerns, or care about their liberties. Considering the large majority of Republicans voted for the extension of the Patriot Act provisions that violate the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th amendments of the Bill of rights, I do not want to hear the Republican party as a whole talk about how they are the "true defenders" of the Constitution when campaigning for re-election in 2012!

Check out the following source to see how your Congress-person voted for the Patriot Act Extension (HR 514).

- Liberty_Mike