Saturday, November 3, 2007

The genius that is

Sorry, dearly devoted readers, for the dramatic pause between posts. I've been keeping up with what's been going on in the Republican Primary Race but didn't feel an unquenchable desire to contribute anything for awhile.. 'til now that is. See, I firmly believe that Ron Paul, and true conservatives like him, actually have a chance to win elections... over the last six months I had become quite frustrated with the lack of accurate information surrounding these truly conservative issues, which meant that the chances for successful candidates on a conservative platform were unlikely. Hence this blog... my own little way of spreading a little information around so that I can feel like I had done something. Well, as the months progressed, it seemed like accurate information was starting to get disseminated more frequently and from multiple sources, so the need for this series of posts was, I thought, diminished. But a funny thing happened. The Ron Paul campaign blew up.

See, about a month ago, Ron Paul announced they had raised a huge chunk of change (5.3 million or so) in the third quarter. And what was even better, they still had over 5 million in the bank to spend on advertising and running their campaign well into the primaries. This put him in line with the big boys. For someone who has "such low polling numbers", this was big news. This contradiction of low awareness and high fund raising caused quite the stir, and the subsequent backlash of repeated interviews in the mainstream media has been quite entertaining to watch. They all were asking why this guy was getting so much support all of a sudden. I mean, it didn't make any sense (to them). So why did this cause me to have to pick up the blog again? If he's still getting mainstream media attention a full month after his fund-raising figures were announced?

The problem is that the mainstream media are still asking the same stupid questions, over and over again... and in the classic definition of insanity... expecting a different answer. "Why are you getting so much support?" "Because the message of liberty is popular!" "Who will you vote for if you don't get the nomation?" "Anyone who can honestly say they will support a non-interventionist foreign policy and personal liberties here at home." What the mainstream media fails to recognize is that none of the other candidates are actually offering a platform based on individual liberties (at the cost of government largess). So, it's not just the candidate (one we can actually trust to deliver on the message), but the message itself that appeals to people. Funny how that works, isn't it? Well, it's time the media (and the nation blindly looking to the media to tell it what's going on) to listen to the answers and move on. Start asking why the other candidates can't find any constitutional authority for their initiatives for example. Start asking about the failed "managed care" system we have or the criminal devaluing of the currency currently underway by the "Federal" Reserve. Start asking why "they" hate us and "who are these islamo-fascists" we are supposed to hate back... to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tax payer money spent in this unending religious war.

But they won't. They still think the campaign is a gimmick... one that can be covered only for it's oddity and then back to the regular programming. Okay, so that covers why I'm writing again. Now you're asking what's this got to do about

It's simple really. Someone, somewhere thought that it would be cool to create a money bomb - a single day campaign contribution total that would knock everyone's socks off. Millions of dollars raised in a single day by tens of thousands of people who wanted to be heard. But they needed a day that would be a rallying cry of the masses... and what better day then a day that has become a fashionable nerd culture classic - "Remember, Remember the Fifth of November!" It's a actually a real live holiday (from the UK) that was made popular in today's "youth" culture through a graphic novel and recent movie adaptation based around the fictional bombing of Parliament on Guy Fawkes day - called "V for Vendetta". This is a graphic novel my brother introduced to me many years ago and it was profoundly moving... essentially a comic book that struck many political chords with me in a way I hadn't experienced before. In the end, it's about a massive popular revolt against an oppressive and evil government. Very fitting indeed that the grassroots effort that has organized this money bomb chose this particular day, for this particular candidate with this particular message. The genius is that while many people see the day as a great opportunity, others find it too controversial given the uptight nature of people when it comes to "terrorism". What no one seems to realize is that if a marketing campaign isn't controversial, someone didn't do something right :) The more the subject of the November 5th campaign is discussed, the bigger the November 5th campaign will be. Let the controversy go on!

I was immediately hooked and started thinking of ways I could help reach the goal of $10,000,000.00 raised in a single day. The site - - is just collecting those who want to make it clear that they are intending to donate. I've signed up and I'm now trying to get as many people to sign up as I can. Even if you don't sign up, please consider donating this Monday, November 5th. Even if you don't know if you are going to vote for Ron Paul or not, help get the message heard. All donations must go through

And tell a friend or sixteen to Remember, Remember the Fifth of November.
-Andrew Douglas

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

On the issues - The War

I've been meaning to do a blog post on the war for some time... unfortunately Ron Paul beat me to it:

Surrender Should Not be an Option
by Ron Paul
Sep 04, 2007

Faced with dwindling support of the Iraq War, the warhawks are redoubling their efforts. They imply we are in Iraq attacking those who attacked us, and yet this is not the case. As we know, Saddam Hussein, though not a particularly savory character, had nothing to do with 9/11. The neo-cons claim surrender should not be an option. In the same breath they claim we were attacked because of our freedoms. Why then, are they so anxious to surrender our freedoms with legislation like the Patriot Act, a repeal of our 4th amendment rights, executive orders, and presidential signing statements? With politicians like these, who needs terrorists? Do they think if we destroy our freedoms for the terrorists they will no longer have a reason to attack us? This seems the epitome of cowardice coming from those who claim a monopoly on patriotic courage.

In any case, we have achieved the goals specified in the initial authorization. Saddam Hussein has been removed. An elected government is now in place in Iraq that meets with US approval. The only weapon of mass destruction in Iraq is our military presence. Why are we still over there? Conventional wisdom would dictate that when the "mission is accomplished", the victor goes home, and that is not considered a retreat.

They claim progress is being made and we are fighting a winnable war, but this is not a view connected with reality. We can't be sure when we kill someone over there if they were truly an insurgent or an innocent Iraqi civilian. There are as many as 650,000 deaths since the war began. The anger we incite by killing innocents creates more new insurgents than our bullets can keep up with. There are no measurable goals to be achieved at this point.

The best congressional leadership can come up with is the concept of strategic redeployment, or moving our troops around, possibly into Saudi Arabia or even, alarmingly enough, into Iran. Rather than ending this war, we could be starting another one.

The American people voted for a humble foreign policy in 2000. They voted for an end to the war in 2006. Instead of recognizing the wisdom and desire of the voters, they are chided as cowards, unwilling to defend themselves. Americans are fiercely willing to defend themselves. However, we have no stomach for indiscriminate bombing in foreign lands when our actual attackers either killed themselves on 9/11 or are still at large somewhere in a country that is neither Iraq nor Iran. Defense of our homeland is one thing. Offensive tactics overseas are quite another. Worse yet, when our newly minted enemies find their way over here, where will our troops be to defend us?

The American people have NOT gotten the government they deserve. They asked for a stronger America and peace through nonintervention, yet we have a government of deceit, inaction and one that puts us in grave danger on the international front. The American People deserve much better than this. They deserve foreign and domestic policy that doesn't require they surrender their liberties.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Video - Ron Paul in a "nut"-shell, part 2

So, the same guy who made the first part in this series posted up this next video. I'll let it speak for itself.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

On the issues: Monetary Policy

Okay, I'll admit it's not the sexiest topic to discuss, but I think it's important to provide some insight into what exactly is America's monetary policy and the impacts our current policy has (hint - it ain't great).

Definitions -
U.S. Dollar: a good question is what is the value of a dollar, or what does legal tender really mean? So, how much is that dollar bill in your pocket worth? As much as I am obsessed with getting as many of those little green pieces of paper as I can, I honestly couldn't have told you much about this whole topic despite having college level courses in economics... that is until I started researching Ron Paul and his "crazy" ideas. I knew, from my schooling, that we ended the Gold Standard like 100 years ago or something and that was meant to allow us to control the amount of currency in circulation to prevent things like the depression. Sound about right?

So here's the first problem - if we aren't on the Gold Standard, what gives our money value? The shortest answer is, nothing. In the 1970's, Nixon finally severed all ties between the gold in our reserves and the dollar. Prior to this, the dollar could have theoretically been exchanged at any time for a fixed fraction of an ounce of gold. So, what was the gold value replaced with? Nothing but a faith in the American government. Or rather, how many goods and services people were willing to give you in exchange for that dollar bill. It frankly isn't worth the paper it is printed on as, if you went to the Fed with a dollar bill to exchange it for something of value... all they'd be able to do is give you... a different dollar bill.

The second problem is that it's a fiat currency. I'm not making fun of the money, I'm just saying that the government has created the money (fiat essentially means "by decree"), in this case out of nothing, as a form of legal tender. What's legal tender again? It's money that can legally be used in the repayment of debt. I hate to point out the obvious, but it's also the only way you or I can pay our income taxes. As funny as it sounds, the Federal Reserve System (we'll get to that in a second) and the personal income tax were both created in the same year - 1913. Coincidence??

Problem 3. Who makes the money? Well, some people would say, the U.S. Mint or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. They'd be technically accurate as the BEP prints the bill, and the mint makes the coins and since the bill is technically worth nothing anyway, the Mint or the BEP must have created it right? Well, no. They only create the money that the Federal Reserve "essentially" tells it to. So, let's talk a minute about how the Federal Reserve creates money (out of thin air.)

Federal Reserve System: AKA the Fed, is designed to control the value of the dollar and other "national goals" such as encouraging economic growth or controlling inflation by managing the amount of currency in circulation and by determining the interest rate the Federal Banks charge other banks that borrow money from the Fed. The Federal Reserve was created in a kinda shady way back in 1913. As you'll see, it is neither Federal nor is it much of a Reserve. Some say it's about as Federal as Federal Express. It's not exactly true, but it's pretty darn close.

So who's the Fed? The Fed is essentially a private or independent entity created and overseen by (to some degree) congress. It is, in essence, the Banker's Bank, made up of 12 regional Federal Banks overseen by a board of governors appointed by the President and confirmed by congress. I guess I should point out that the list of candidates for these positions is suspect and from what I've found is essentially created by the Banks themselves... but regardless, the banks have to do what the board of governors says. However, these Banks are "owned" by shareholders, and while we don't know really any specifics (boy they sure do love their secrecy...), the shareholders are other private banks. In fact, banks that are member banks must purchase/own stock equivalent to 6% of their "capital and surplus". That may seem like a lot, but the Fed allows them to really only keep 3% of their assets with the Fed... the other 3% is "callable" by the Fed at any time... hmmm. Wait. It gets better. The revenue from the fed is then used to pay the shareholders 6% dividends each year. That's 6% of their 6%, not 6% of their 3% that they actually have in the Fed. Nice racket if you can get it, right? Just wait till we find out where the Fed gets the vast majority of it's revenue!

Okay, so that's not too bad, right? Why is the fed really evil? Well, it comes down to it's manipulation of the amount of currency in circulation (using what they call Open Market Operations) and fractional reserves.

Fractional Reserve Banking: One of the Fed's responsibilities is setting Reserve Requirements for other banks. Let's see what this means with a practical example: If a fictitious bank named "Local Bank and Trust" had checking and savings and various other accounts with a combined balance of $1,000,000, the bank is only required to keep a fraction of that - normally around 10% - in reserve. They should then be able to lend 90% of that, right? Well, Yes and No. See, through the magic of fractional reserve banking, the amount of money that will eventually get loaned back out is actually more like $10,000,000. See, the original $900,000 that is lent out is then spent, right? When it's spent, it goes into someone else's bank account and shows as a deposit. The bank that accepted the deposit can then lend that money out at 90% of what was deposited... etc. When you total it all up, the banks are lending way, way, way more money than they have in assets.

Open Market Operations: When the Fed decides that it needs to increase the supply of currency in circulation, it "buys" government bonds and securities. When it decides to decrease the supply, it "sells" government bonds (it rarely ever does this). "Buying" these securities and increasing the money supply by a little bit of new money is one thing, you also get to factor in the magic of Fractional Reserve Banking to multiple that new money by about 10 times.

Anyway, how does the Fed get the money to "buy" these bonds? That's easy, they just make it up out of thin air. Well, the money isn't backed by anything so that makes sense. But wait. It gets better. Because this new money is actually backed by government bonds, these are actually liabilities that the government (ie, the American Taxpayer) have to pay back to the Fed at interest. So all the money that the Fed makes out of thin air, they then get paid back at interest... So, how much money are we talking about? From the current balance sheet of the Fed, it looks like they are holding a little under 800 billion dollars worth. And who benefits? The commercial banks that own stock in the banks. Who suffers? The people who have to pay the government to pay the interest on the money that the Fed created out of thin air!

So what's the solution? Some advocate removing the fed's backed paper money and replacing it with U.S. Notes that are actually owned by the government instead of the fed. That's viable to an extent, but because it's still just paper money, the government is apt (especially in times of war), to increase the money supply, thus devaluing the currency. How apt is it? Well, pretty much every (if not absolutely every) fiat currency ever created has eventually gone the way of the dodo.

Ron Paul's suggestion is that we migrate slowly away from the fed by first legalizing competition for the Fed's notes. What that means is that you allow hard money, gold and silver backed currencies for example, can be bought and sold without having to pay sales taxes or pay capital gains taxes. This will force the Fed to restrict the money supply using it's various means such as requiring higher reserves and stop creating more debt at interest for the American taxpayers to pay back. We can get rid of the Fed... it'll take time. There's no doubt that there are hard times ahead regardless... but doing something positive for the economy now, before inflation and the business cycle of booms and busts caused by the Fed's activities completely wipes out the middle class of this country, is essential. The only candidate to even understand these concepts let alone talk about them in public? Ron Paul.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"We love Americans. We hate Bush"

Sorry for being away for a bit. My wife and I were traveling around Europe and into Russia so blogging was the furthest thing from my mind. But a funny thing happened as we came into contact with dozens of people from all walks of life, all different countries and with as varied political leanings as you could find... we found that one thing united them all - every single one of them hated Bush. We would ask our Russian and Estonian guides about if they had any antagonism towards Americans - and without fail they would say "No, we love Americans. We just hate Bush." Whether it's the Brits, the Germans or any place in between, they all are frustrated with the man in charge.

And I found myself agreeing with them. It's not because I like their politics - Europe's socialistic tendencies frighten me... some of whom pay income taxes as high as 50%, and yet they still have to pay VAT and various other nickel and dime type rip-offs. What connected me to them was that we all agreed that he's walking around like we're the big man on campus... and I ALWAYS hated that guy. I certainly don't want to be that guy. What surprised me even more was how influential the US is to these people. They are essentially being forced into a US government led war, not just in Iraq but the middle east as a whole. They are being told they are either with us or they are against us. Their countries are being held hostage by leaders who dare not defy the will of Bush. Despite that, for some odd reason American culture, American people and American freedoms are still held in high regard. How long that can last when we continue to elect people who feel that the US has a moral obligation to police the world and launch preemptive wars (without declaring them) against other sovereign nations? Tell me, how can we not take our duty as voting American citizens seriously and finally elect someone who treats others the way we'd like to be treated?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Utopian View of Big Government

Now, I've only got a few minutes before the water boils for Mac n' Cheese but I wanted to throw a couple of pieces of info at you all.

1. The Washington Post actually posted a not-so-bad article on Ron Paul here. The not so good news is that it still paints him as a "long shot" candidate. If you haven't figured it out yet, "scientific" polls this far away from the primaries are completely useless. But if you think Ron Paul needs more media attention, the best way to do that is to donate to his campaign as it'll be hard to ignore him when the new quarterly numbers come out at the end of this month. Anyway, what does this have to do with Big Government?

It seems like any time there is some public exposure to his campaign, there are those that object to his "Free Market or Bust" economic philosophy (there is also a lot of sentiment out there, cultivated by the media that he's a nut... which couldn't be further from the truth). So the argument goes - if he became president, corporations would be able to run over the American consumer as there would be no government to protect us. I never really understood that point of view so I did some research to try to figure out where the idea that the government did a better job of protecting people than... you know... people... in the free market, came from. And I ran across this interesting podcast. One of the things they identify in the podcast is that people have an inherent distrust of corporations, insurance companies, etc... but at least some people don't have this same natural distrust of government. When something goes wrong - say, a plane crash - society tends to blame the free market, capitalism and corporate greed and demand that their government step in to protect them from those evil corporations. In my mind, nothing could be scarier than handing over more responsibility to the government, so why do people insist on it?

Obviously, the reason why they distrust corporations is because they see them as only looking out for themselves (which is certainly true), but what they don't see is that government is also only looking out for itself. Instead of governments greed being clearly being quantified in dollars and cents, it's measured in political power. See, money is power, political power is... uh... power. And we all know power corrupts. The money is just a means to an end. So the question is, do you trust the market (and therefore the consumers in the market) to look out for their own self interest, or do you put your trust in a government body that is driven by political self interest. From my close, personal, daily experience with the federal government over the last 10 years... I choose people in a free market.

You could argue that you could try to have both - which is what we have now in a way. The problem with government's involvement in anything is that they tend to consolidate power into just one place - and without competition or market forces in play to make sure that power is used correctly in the consumer's best interest. Where there is power, there will be corruption of that power. Let's say we need the government to regulate fuel consumption because the market isn't doing a good enough job (this is a common complaint, though the we don't actually have a free market, purely capitalistic society - what we have today is corporatism - government involvement in business certainly does lead to problems). Because the government now holds the keys to the cupboard, businesses that want to have inefficient cars will lobby their congress people to get them special breaks, tax incentives, etc. to get away with being inefficient. If the government didn't regulate fuel consumption, why would businesses bother lobbying congress? There's no power there. The free market can regulate fuel consumption quite well - witness the sharp decline in SUV sales in response to climbing gas prices that sent auto makers back the drawing boards. When gas prices go up, the market reacts. When the government gets involved, the market collapses :)

Okay, so the water is thoroughly boiled now

2. In my fanatical pursuit of Ron Paul news and interviews, I've really only found one mainstream media outlet that gives Dr. Paul a fair shake - and it's one that I really didn't have much respect for previously so it pains me to say this: Tucker Carlson on MSNBC has had Dr. Paul on pretty regularly lately and, while he responsibly grills the congressman, he always walks away impressed. Here's the latest entry. So what does this have to do with Big Government?

In the interview, Tucker tries to back Dr. Paul into a corner regarding how a smaller federal government would mean taking away services that people have come to expect their government to provide. In particular, hurricane/disaster relief (for example Hurricane Katrina) would require much more of local/state governments and personal contributions/charity. This sounds to some as if Dr. Paul is cruel or callous. Far from it. His response is classic - it's just as cruel (I'd argue more cruel) to say that the people who have just suffered from a natural disaster are now in the incapable hands of the federal government. FEMA is the disaster... and people want BIGGER government?

I love it when a politician is so consistent in their moral and philosophical views that instead of caving in the face of an opposing view or a "harsh" reality, they present the issue so that it's seen through their moral compass and present it in a way that makes it impossible to argue any further. Wait... has any other candidate done that?? :)
-Andrew Douglas

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why I Was Wrong - Government's Slight of Hand

I write, today, more disgusted with myself, with my party and with my president than I have probably ever been in my entire life. It started out innocently enough really. On a day when members of congress decided that those campaign promises to expose corruption and "earmarks" weren't really all that important as they only represented about 25 billion dollars [editor's note: I had originally put 2.5 billion, but it's actually 2.5% of nearly 1 trillion dollars]... Less than 24 hours after the White House's press secretary admitted on MSNBC (finally) that, yeah, the Immigration Legislation really does require everyone in America to have their "Real ID" in order to get a job because your employer would need to verify that you are legally allowed in the country or else face a $75,000 fine... In the face of media's "scientific" polls which continue to refuse to even include Ron Paul in the list of candidates to choose from despite him getting second place in the Utah Straw Poll.... I finally took the time to watch this:

Now, there are 4 parts to that, so be sure to get through it all because the first part is really just a funny introduction. If you start weeping for our Constitution and our liberty by the end of part 3, you may want to close your eyes for part 4. This is as fundamental a flaw in our government and the current administration than either the War in Iraq or the blatant disregard for fiscally and Constitutionally responsible government spending. And the sad thing is, I was duped... I was, to my own discredit, a neo-con, without even knowing what a neo-con was. I bought into Bush's campaign speeches of no nation building and humble foreign policy, but instead of backing that policy once he got into office, I backed the man. And when the man said that the Patriot Act was just, I believed him. And when the man said that the War was just, I believed him. And I became that which I now know to be evil - someone who would forsake freedom for safety.

This is why Ron Paul must win. This attack on our Constitution and our liberties must end. Period.
-Andrew Douglas