Monday, August 31, 2009

Bearing Arms and State Sovereignty

Another state sovereignty push has begun sweeping the nation, and it's centered on our right to bear arms. The Firearms Freedom Act has been passed, introduced, or intended to introduce in a number of states recently. From the official site:
Originally introduced and passed in Montana, the FFA declares that any firearms made and retained in-state are beyond the authority of Congress under its constitutional power to regulate commerce among the states.

Since its passage in Montana, a clone of the Firearms Freedom Act has been enacted in Tennessee, and has been introduced in the legislatures of Alaska, Texas, South Carolina, Minnesota and Florida. Legislators in many other states have announced that they will introduce FFA clones when their legislatures next convene.

The FFA is primarily a Tenth Amendment challenge to the powers of Congress under the “commerce clause,” with firearms as the object – it is a state’s rights exercise.
To date, those states that have passed the FFA are Montana and Tennessee. States that have introduced the FFA include Minnesota, Michigan, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, and Alaska. Finally, those states intending on introducing FFA legislation are Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and New Hampshire. That leaves a total of 22 states that have not indicated their intention of introducing FFA legislation.

It's very interesting to see the development of this bill around the nation. After Montana and Tennessee passed their FFA legislation, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives sent letters to those states residents that hold federal firearms licenses. Here's an excerpt from the Tennessee letter:
The passage of the Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act, H.B. 1796, 106th Leg. (Tenn. 2009) 1796 ("Act"), effective June 19, 2009, has generated questions from industry members as to how this State law may affect them while engaged in a firearms business activity. The Act purports to exempt personal firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition manufactured in the State, and which remain in the State, from most Federal firearms laws and regulations. However, becasue the Act conflicts with Federal firearms laws and regulations, Federal law supersedes the Act, and all provisions of the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act, and their corresponding regulations, continue to apply.
What the ATF has done here is basically disregarded both the Interstate Commerce clause and the 9th and 10th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Because of this, organizations such as the Second Amendment Foundation are preparing to challenge the federal government stating that "this is an area where the Federal government has no business." I'll be following this issue and sharing developments here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Government Can!

As serious as the government wasting resources and abridging our freedoms is, it's important to sit back once in awhile, and have a laugh (YouTube, 3m4s):

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Myth of Health Insurance II

It just so happens the day after I posted this Thomas Szasz article on the myth of health insurance, the daily podcast discussed this very thing. It's about 25 minutes (.mp3) and features economist Paul Cwik. The podcast can be downloaded here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Myth of Health Insurance

About a year ago, I experimented with going into financial services, which included having to get licensed to sell life insurance. To meet the requirements, I had to learn the basics of insurance generally, and what life insurance is specifically. What I learned about insurance is that it's what we buy to protect ourselves against risk. Insurance is simply a way to transfer risk. What is risk? Risk is the chance of loss. Thus, you can't insure against certain losses, only uncertain ones.

In what areas are there the genuine chance of loss? We are all mortal, so there's a chance that I could lose my life, and so my family would lose their breadwinner. I have life insurance to cover my family in the event they lose me through death. I also have automobile and homeowner's insurance to cover my assets in the event of an accident, etc. I even have identity theft insurance to pay for the cleanup required if my name and credit are used without my permission.

Here to explain the myth that is health insurance, is Thomas Szasz writing for the May 2003 issue of The Freeman:
Forty million Americans are said to have no health insurance. Those who do have health insurance are frustrated by having to pay ever-increasing premiums for steadily diminishing medical services. Conventional wisdom tells us that we are facing a “health insurance crisis.”

It is important to recognize that what we call “health insurance” has little to do with health and nothing to do with insurance. We do not face a “health insurance crisis.” We face the consequences of a set of economic and social problems rooted in a futile effort to make the distribution of health care—unlike the distribution of virtually every other good and service in our society—egalitarian.
Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Climate Change Carousel

By now, you're probably as convinced as I am that "global warming" isn't a problem and that the proposed policies to combat it would be disastrous. In fact, they already are. But I wanted to get this new video by the Competitive Enterprise Institute on here anyways (Viddler, 39m, 52s):

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cash 4 Clunkers V

I saw this a couple of days ago and have been meaning to put it here. I'm sure hospital administrators can't wait for ObamaCare! or worse:
NEW YORK (AP) - Hundreds of auto dealers in the New York area have withdrawn from the government's Cash for Clunkers program, citing delays in getting reimbursed by the government, a dealership group said Wednesday.

The Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, which represents dealerships in the New York metro area, said about half its 425 members have left the program because they cannot afford to offer more rebates. They're also worried about getting repaid.

"(The government) needs to move the system forward and they need to start paying these dealers," said Mark Schienberg, the group's president. "This is a cash-dependent business."

The program offers up to $4,500 to shoppers who trade in vehicles getting 18 mpg or less for a more fuel-efficient car or truck. Dealers pay the rebates out of pocket, then must wait to be reimbursed by the government. But administrative snags and heavy paperwork have created a backlog of unpaid claims.

Schienberg said the group's dealers have been repaid for only about 2 percent of the clunkers deals they've made so far.

Many dealers have said they are worried they won't get repaid at all, while others have waited so long to get reimbursed they don't have the cash to fund any more rebates, Schienberg said.
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cash 4 Clunkers IV

It turns out some of the worst-polluting cars don't qualify for the Cash 4 Clunkers program. Go figure:
Nearly 5 million of the nation's most polluting vehicles were quietly excluded from the popular "cash for clunkers" program after lobbyists for antique auto parts suppliers and car collectors persuaded the government to shut out cars built before 1984.

The restriction has prevented consumers nationwide who own older cars and trucks from cashing in on the $3-billion federal program even though many don't consider their jalopies to be collectors' items.

When the federal government announced the rebates of up to $4,500, Chris Hurst said, it looked like the perfect time to unload his gas-guzzling 1981 Ford F-150 pickup. Hurst, who lives in the Sierra foothills north of Fresno, was surprised to discover his truck was too old to qualify.

"If we could have gotten that rebate, it would have worked perfectly for us," said Hurst, who is now trying to sell the vehicle, equipped with Ford's biggest V-8 engine, for $1,600.

The restrictions were pushed by lobbyists for the Specialty Equipment Market Assn., a Diamond Bar group that represents companies that sell parts and services to classic and antique car collectors. The group, as well as classic car enthusiasts, have opposed cash for clunkers because they don't want older vehicles to be destroyed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wind or Nuclear?

I was in Evanston, Wyoming over the Fourth of July weekend. For the fireworks show, we traveled west to a little city named Lyman. We prefer the fireworks over there to the fireworks in Evanston. On the way, we drove by several new massive windmills. I couldn't help but wonder how expensive they were for how little energy they generated. It seemed like such a waste. Ray Harvey, writing for the Mises Institute has the same sentiments in his latest look at different types of energy, including wind and nuclear:
Windmills are taller than the Statue of Liberty, and they're loud; the Audubon Society calls them "condor Cuisinarts."

Wind comes strongest along mountain crests. Thus the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Adirondacks, the Appalachians, and so on would all have their ridges lined with these monstrosities. Yet environmentalists object to the building of one small nuclear plant, which, compared with a windfarm, is tiny.

Uranium generates gigantic amounts of energy in a very small space, which wind and solar combined cannot come close to. Those who say otherwise — those who are antinuclear, in other words — have brought the world 400 million more tons of coal used per year, because for thirty years now, since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, we've been using more coal.

The meltdown of the uranium core in 1979 at Three Mile Island was so overblown by antinuclear groups that it went virtually unnoticed that the containment vessel at Three Mile Island had done its job and prevented any significant release of radioactivity.

Uranium is abundant, clean, and safe — in technological societies.

The catastrophe at Chernobyl — which, once again, sent greens groups worldwide scurrying to their soapboxes — only happened because that state-run reactor was astonishingly unsafe: in the words of Peter Huber, "You couldn't have operated a toaster oven out of it."

Few scientists disagree that the discovery of energy at the nucleus of the atom is the greatest scientific feat of the 20th century. All this talk about how we need to "discover a new form of energy" therefore misses the point: we've already done so. It's called nuclear energy. And it's amazing.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Firearm Licensing Act of 2009 (HR45)

I just got word of a new bill introduced in the House that would give the Federal government all kinds of power over firearm ownership. This bill should be seen as a disgrace to anyone who loves liberty and self-government. A few telling parts from my own perusing:

Licensing Requirement
(1) IN GENERAL- It shall be unlawful for any person other than a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector to possess a qualifying firearm on or after the applicable date, unless that person has been issued a firearm license--

Application Requirements
Issuance of License
Renewal of License
Sale or Transfer Requirements
‘(bb) Unauthorized Sale or Transfer of a Qualifying Firearm- It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer a qualifying firearm to, or for, any person who is not a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector, or to receive a qualifying firearm from a person who is not a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector, unless, at the time and place of the transfer or receipt--

Firearm Records
(a) Submission of Sale or Transfer Reports- Not later than 14 days after the date on which the transfer of qualifying firearm is processed by a licensed dealer under section 922(bb) of title 18, United States Code (as added by section 201 of this Act), the licensed dealer shall submit to the Attorney General (or, in the case of a licensed dealer located in a State that has a State firearm licensing and record of sale system certified under section 602 of this Act, to the head of the State agency that administers that system) a report of that transfer, which shall include information relating to--

Universal Background Check Requirement
Failure to Provide Notice of Change of Address
‘(ff) Failure To Provide Notice of Change of Address- It shall be unlawful for any individual to whom a firearm license has been issued under title I of Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009 to fail to report to the Attorney General a change in the address of that individual within 60 days of that change of address.’.

Criminal Penalties
In order to ascertain compliance with this Act, the amendments made by this Act, and the regulations and orders issued under this Act, the Attorney General may, during regular business hours, enter any place in which firearms or firearm products are manufactured, stored, or held, for distribution in commerce, and inspect those areas where the products are so manufactured, stored, or held.

Effects on State Law
(a) In General- This Act and the amendments made by this Act may not be construed to preempt any provision of the law of any State or political subdivision of that State, or prevent a State or political subdivision of that State from enacting any provision of law regulating or prohibiting conduct with respect to firearms, except to the extent that the provision of law is inconsistent with any provision of this Act or an amendment made by this Act, and then only to the extent of the inconsistency.

Inapplicability to Government Authorities (of course not)
This Act and the amendments made by this Act shall not apply to any department or agency of the United States, of a State, or of a political subdivision of a State, or to any official conduct of any officer or employee of such a department or agency.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I am a Political Terrorist

I'm not a Republican, but I do oppose Obama's health-care "reform", soo...
The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems (emphasis added).
This isn't the first time I've been called a terrorist. It seems we are becoming desensitized to that word.

Health-care Reform Fallacies

I'd like to share two podcasts and an article on the fallacies surrounding our president's latest attempt to "reform" the health-care industry. It is imperative that we educate ourselves on this issue if we don't want to end up like Canada or Great Britain where hospital procedure wait times average 25 weeks and where only animals and people wealthy enough to travel to the US receive first-class medical-care.

The first podcast is from the recent Mises University, held at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. It is a lesson given by Walter Block and is excellent. He explains things in terms everyone can understand. This podcast can be downloaded by right-clicking here, and clicking "Save link as".

The second podcast and article are by the Foundation for Economic Education and feature Freeman editor-in-chief Sheldon Richman. The podcast can be downloaded like the above here. The article is the latest from Mr. Richman, found here. An excerpt:
The New York Times points out that the reformers have two conflicting ostensible goals: “to expand health coverage to nearly all Americans while reducing the growth of health spending.” How can they do both? Obama goes back and forth between stressing universal coverage and cost containment, but he doesn’t discuss one in relation to the other. Newly subsidized coverage will bring new demand for medical services and put more upward pressure on prices. As noted, higher prices can be counteracted only by denying service (say, hip replacements for octogenarians) or by imposing price controls, overtly or covertly.

Why is it government’s business how much we spend on medical services anyway? Government’s only concern should be to eliminate the ways it interferes with and influences our choices. The aggregate cost of our freely chosen actions is our concern alone, not the government’s.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cash 4 Clunkers III

So we know that the Cash 4 Clunkers program has been a nightmare for dealers and a tool used to destroy what would otherwise be good, reliable used cars for the lower and middle classes. Now, as was obvious to some, the AP is reporting that climatologists see the program having what amounts to no effect at all on emissions:
Calculations by The Associated Press, using Department of Transportation figures, show that replacing those fuel hogs will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by just under 700,000 tons a year. While that may sound impressive, it's nothing compared to what the U.S. spewed last year: nearly 6.4 billion tons (and that was down from previous years).

That means on average, every hour, America emits 728,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The total savings per year from cash for clunkers translates to about 57 minutes of America's output of the chief greenhouse gas.

Likewise, America will be using nearly 72 million fewer gallons of gasoline a year because of the program, based on the first quarter-million vehicles replaced. U.S. drivers go through that amount of gas every 4 1/2 hours, according to the Department of Energy.

For individuals, the program scores big. Vehicle owners who trade in an older, gas-guzzling truck or car for a newer fuel-efficient vehicle can get $3,500 to $4,500 in rebates. On average each year, they will save 287 gallons of gas, more than $700 in fuel costs and close to 3 tons in carbon dioxide pollution.

The problem is, there aren't enough of these individuals to dent the national or global energy and environmental problems.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cash 4 Clunkers II

I spoke with another dealer today, this one a new Suzuki dealer, and the first thing she told me was how much of a "nightmare" the program has been for them. Without fail, every claim they submit is denied the first time, and they are forced to re-submit. This is interesting in light of the news that the program ran out of money. It probably has more to do with how many outstanding claims they've been denying and re-receiving.

Also, I asked about the cars traded in. She told me that they are mostly 2000 model year and newer. Out of the 30 cars she has in her "clunker lot," 25 of them would easily sell as quality used cars. Yet, they are forced to destroy them. She said that if they were 1990 model year and older she could understand the benefit, but everything she's received is only a few years old. Our leaders are so wise.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cash 4 Clunkers

One of the criticisms I've heard and agree with of the "cash for clunkers" program is that it reduces the number of affordable cars for lower and middle class buyers. This is a valid criticism.

I've spoken with a new Toyota dealer and asked them what they do with the cars that are traded in under this program. They told me that they are required, under their own dime, to drain all of the oil out of the engine and then fill it back up with (something like) "silver nitrate", run the engine until it ceases, and then have it towed to a junk yard.

This seems like an incredible waste of what would otherwise be a perfectly good, affordable automobile to someone in need of such. At least this dealer was unhappy that they were stuck with the labor and tow costs of the "clunker", as well as the entire paperwork process that they must go through to get paid, weeks down the road. And some want government run health-care...

ObamaCare Details

Thought I'd pass on what is claimed to be the details of Obama's health-care reform bill (I put a few in red that I wanted to emphasize):
  • Page 22: Mandates audits of all employers that self-insure.
  • Page 29: Admission: your health care will be rationed.
  • Page 30: A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)
  • Page 42: The “Health Choices Commissioner” will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.
  • Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.
  • Page 58: Every person will be issued a National ID Healthcard.
  • Page 59: The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer. (!!!!!)
  • Page 65: Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans (read: SEIU, UAW and ACORN)
  • Page 72: All private healthcare plans must conform to government rules to participate in a Healthcare Exchange.
  • Page 84: All private healthcare plans must participate in the Healthcare Exchange (i.e., total government control of private plans)
  • Page 91: Government mandates linguistic infrastructure for services; translation: illegal aliens
  • Page 95: The Government will pay ACORN and Americorps to sign up individuals for Government-run Health Care plan.
  • Page 102: Those eligible for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled: you have no choice in the matter.
  • Page 124: No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “judicial review” is permitted against the government monopoly. Put simply, private insurers will be crushed.
  • Page 127: The AMA sold doctors out: the government will set wages.
  • Page 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into the government-run public plan. No alternatives.
  • Page 126: Employers MUST pay healthcare bills for part-time employees AND their families.
  • Page 149: Any employer with a payroll of $400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays an 8% tax on payroll
  • Page 150: Any employer with a payroll of $250K-400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays a 2 to 6% tax on payroll
  • Page 167: Any individual who doesn't’ have acceptable healthcare (according to the government) will be taxed 2.5% of income.
  • Page 170: Any NON-RESIDENT alien is exempt from individual taxes (Americans will pay for them).
  • Page 195: Officers and employees of Government Healthcare Bureaucracy will have access to ALL American financial and personal records.
  • Page 203: “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax.” Yes, it really says that.
  • Page 239: Bill will reduce physician services for Medicaid. Seniors and the poor most affected.”
  • Page 241: Doctors: no matter what speciality you have, you’ll all be paid the same (thanks, AMA!)
  • Page 253: Government sets value of doctors’ time, their professional judgment, etc.
  • Page 265: Government mandates and controls productivity for private healthcare industries.
  • Page 268: Government regulates rental and purchase of power-driven wheelchairs.
  • Page 272: Cancer patients: welcome to the wonderful world of rationing!
  • Page 280: Hospitals will be penalized for what the government deems preventable re-admissions.
  • Page 298: Doctors: if you treat a patient during an initial admission that results in a readmission, you will be penalized by the government.
  • Page 317: Doctors: you are now prohibited for owning and investing in healthcare companies!
  • Page 318: Prohibition on hospital expansion. Hospitals cannot expand without government approval.
  • Page 321: Hospital expansion hinges on “community” input: in other words, yet another payoff for ACORN.
  • Page 335: Government mandates establishment of outcome-based measures: i.e., rationing.
  • Page 341: Government has authority to disqualify Medicare Advantage Plans, HMOs, etc.
  • Page 354: Government will restrict enrollment of SPECIAL NEEDS individuals.
  • Page 379: More bureaucracy: Telehealth Advisory Committee (healthcare by phone).
  • Page 425: More bureaucracy: Advance Care Planning Consult: Senior Citizens, assisted suicide, euthanasia?
  • Page 425: Government will instruct and consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney, etc. Mandatory. Appears to lock in estate taxes ahead of time.
  • Page 425: Government provides approved list of end-of-life resources, guiding you in death.
  • Page 427: Government mandates program that orders end-of-life treatment; government dictates how your life ends.
  • Page 429: Advance Care Planning Consult will be used to dictate treatment as patient’s health deteriorates. This can include an ORDER for end-of-life plans. An ORDER from the GOVERNMENT.
  • Page 430: Government will decide what level of treatments you may have at end-of-life.
  • Page 469: Community-based Home Medical Services: more payoffs for ACORN.
  • Page 472: Payments to Community-based organizations: more payoffs for ACORN.
  • Page 489: Government will cover marriage and family therapy. Government intervenes in your marriage.
  • Page 494: Government will cover mental health services: defining, creating and rationing those services.

And that's about half of the bill. If I get more, I'll post it here.