The Bulletproof Patriot

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Government has proven incompetent in virtually every area of its involvement; the reasons for this are numerous, but rest primary on the lack of actual interest and involvement by the People.  Rather than taking a serious look at our futures and planning accordingly, expecting government to act in a way commensurate to the financial position of the country, we vote to elect party hacks who, when faced with the threat of an actual epidemic, choose to blame each other rather than find an actual solution.

Case in point:  The recent "Republican Cuts Kill" video [1] released by Progressive group The Agenda Project which, rather than seeking an actual solution to the risk of Ebola outbreak in Texas, instead takes this opportunity to "build a powerful, intelligent, well-connected political movement capable of identifying and advancing rational, effective ideas in the public debate and in so doing ensure our country’s enduring success [2]" by blaming the Republican party for the outbreak.  Yes, this is the childish level of social discourse we have succumbed to as a nation.


 

The president and founder of The Agenda Project, Erica Payne (who evidently was the brains behind this brilliant production and political calculation), described the video [3]:

Like rabid dogs in a butcher shop, Republicans have indiscriminately shredded everything in their path, including critical programs that could have dealt with the Ebola crisis before it reached our country. Yesterday, a health worker tested positive for the virus — now, the effects of the GOP's fanatical hatred for our government may finally be exposed.

To be fair, the Republican dirtbags are equally to blame for this mess.  But, it's still shocking to see exactly how low this country has sunken when at a time of national crisis, we're still playing the "D vs. R" blame game in an attempt to score some sort of political victory.  Is there an adult anywhere in the room?  Not at the Agenda Project.

But, this video is actually quite instructive in the sense that it gives us another insight into the root cause of our problems:  we all seem to believe that government can provide for our every want and desire, if only we would let them have the power to do so.  Second case in point:  the Federal Reserve's balance sheet [4].

Fed assets

Notice how the balance sheet ballooned from $900 billion to $2.2 trillion in 2009?  This was at the height of the housing crisis.  We're all told that the economy is "in recovery" virtually every Fed meeting and Presidential speech, yet the balance sheet has continued to explode well past the $2.2 trillion we had accumulated at the supposed "end" of the last crisis.  If we're recovered, why is the balance sheet now $4.5 trillion?

In a rational, intelligent society involved in its own self-preservation, the risk of Ebola becoming a pandemic is rather muted.  In a society dependent upon a false sense of government-provided security for all things, in which we depend on the Federal Reserve printing the money to keep the economy under the false impression of "recovery," the risk is substantially higher, because once the veil of security falls, incompetence rules the roost.

If you need any further proof of this than observing the disorganized fiasco of the CDC's "handling" of the Ebola risk, a relatively simple task for a first world nation and a center with brand new Obamacare-provided research budget of $3 billion, I sadly have nothing more to offer.  Of that freshly, taxpayer-confiscated $3 billion research budget, CDC spent all of 6% ($180 million) toward "Emerging Infections" since 2010.  Over the same period, CDC spent $517.3 billion on "Community Transformation Grants," a program which the CDC itself describes as helping Americans to "benefit from healthier environments and have access to healthier options [5]."

Most states have used the CDC grants to provide such things as, "expanding efforts in tobacco-free living, active living, and healthy eating [6]."  The program is also described as "increasing access to healthy foods by supporting local farmers and developing neighborhood grocery stores" and "promoting improvements in sidewalks and street lighting to make it safe and easy for people to walk and ride bikes."  In other words, nearly three times as much money was wasted on bike paths, street lighting, tobacco-free programs, and "healthier environments" than was spent on actual infectuous disease research.  Government at work.

As a highlight of their brazen incompetence, CDC has repeatedly reassured the nation that the Ebola virus is not "airborne."  Yet, the CDC itself also describes Ebola virus as present in both saliva and sweat, which are certainly present in the air around an infected person after a cough or sneeze.  Viruses are miniscule - they can be readily carried on water vapor in the air, similar to how influenza is carried.  Based on the contraction of Ebola virus by numerous, well-trained medical personnel following the CDC's exposure guidelines for direct contact, the bare assertion that the virus cannot be transmitted through the usual channels is absurd.  Two competent nurses in Dallas have managed to contract Ebola virus, while presumably following the CDC guidelines.

Something isn't working, and the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy agrees, noting the other day, "We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic [sic] evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks [7]."

If the CDC was behaving as a politically correct bastion of self-preservation, rather than as the nation's primary coordinator and administrator of infectious disease research and prevention, we could reasonably expect them to continue tamping down the worries of mass exposure to Ebola virus for bystanders occupying the same public transportation as those later found positive for the disease, and that's exactly what's been happening.  Except today, the Emperor has no clothes:

Second Ebola-Infected Nurse Identified, Was Symptomatic With 99.5 Degree Fever While Flying [8]

So... if she was symptomatic while flying, based upon the previous CDC advice on the matter, she was contagious.  Which is it?  We'll never know, because the Director of the CDC endowed the nation with this bit of wisdom just today [9]:

I think there are two different parts of that equation. The first is, if you’re a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried that you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no.

Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on a bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill, you might have a problem that exposes someone around you.

Just to be clear, you can't contract Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus.  But you shouldn't get on a bus if you have Ebola, because someone else could contract it from you.

This is the competence that $3 billion in Obamacare research funds gets you in 2014 America.

The larger problem with Ebola virus is that it's an enormous unknown.  The CDC and news media perpetually claim that Americans are at much less risk because our healthcare system and facilities are drastically better than the squalor of west Africa.  This is certainly true, but the care that can be provided at even the best hospital in the world for Ebola patients remains primitive - IV fluids and rest.  It's up to your body to develop a sufficient response to the infection and overcome it, unless you're lucky enough to get a blood transfusion from a survivor or one of the already depleted experimental drug treatments (which wouldn't be given in America anyway, since the FDA is concerned the treatment might kill you just in case you don't die from Ebola).  In other words, the only difference in America is that the bed you're resting in is clean, you have a clean bathroom to vomit in, and an IV bag dripping saline into your veins.  That's it.  This isn't like the avian influenza, which we do have a limited number of at least partially-effective drugs on hand to deal with.  With Ebola, it's a flip of a coin with 3:1 odds you'll be dead within three weeks.  In America, you'll just be in an air conditioned room when your eyes start bleeding.

The World Health Organization (WHO) noted yesterday that if Ebola virus is not contained now, the rate of new infections in west Africa could reach 10,000 per week within the next 60 days.  If we allow this to happen, we're absolutely f*****.  It only takes one person with Ebola walking into a coffee shop, thinking they have the seasonal flu, coughing a few times at the counter, paying, and leaving to start a pandemic when the disease at hand is virtually untreatable and has a fatality rate of 70% [10].

And as a side topic - something nobody is talking about.  Ebola virus is an RNA virus, the mutation rates of which are significantly higher than more traditional DNA viruses, because RNA viruses lack the ability to check their own replication and correct errors.  This is why it is much more difficult to develop vaccines for diseases such as Ebola - they mutate so rapidly that conventional vaccines are ineffective [11].  Yet we haven't heard a peep from the CDC about this risk, and nobody seems to be taking it seriously.

We're already beginning to see the early stages of what could become an economic crisis if an outbreak begins - even the Washington Post is (barely) beginning to notice [12].  Yes, it's still fortunately unlikely, but the chance is actually there this time.  If the virus spreads outside of Dallas due to, say, the infected nurse with a fever boarding a plane from Ohio to Dallas and those people heading to various regions of the country, suddenly people will begin to (quite reasonably, I might add) stay at a distance from places with large crowds.  If it continues to build, social contact will become more and more limited until people are concerned enough that they're pulling their children from school and working from home, if they can.  Would you ride public transportation if Ebola was spreading in your city at a rate of a dozen new patients a day?  How about 10,000 a day as the WHO has warned and which, according to mathematics, is actually possible thanks to the glorious nature of exponential growth?  I didn't think so.  Neither would anyone else.

Stupid comparisons and brush-offs given to this risk by claiming that more people will die of influenza this year than Ebola are asinine.  Some 20 - 60 million Americans contract influenza each season, and yet only 30,000 die as a result - a mortality rate of 0.1%.  Ebola, going strictly on the mortality rate figures provided by the CDC itself, is 700 times more mortally dangerous than the flu.  If 20 - 60 million Americans contracted Ebola, because it was allowed to propagate without being absolutely crushed by overwhelming response now, we'd be looking at literal mountains of dead, 25 million or more.

The Spanish Flu killed 5% of the world's population in 1918 [13], and the drugs we have available to treat an Ebola outbreak today are equivalent to what we had to treat the Spanish Flu then.

It's not time to panic.  But, the Ebola virus threat needs to be taken seriously by competent leaders in government today, not be handled by politically-motivated party cronies and ideological hacks interested in political correctness.  It is a real risk, not a pie-in-the-sky "doom and gloom" fantasy - it's actually here.  If we behave as competent adults, it can be stopped now before exponential growth becomes unmanageable and before the risk of mutation increases.  Unfortunately, we live in a nation which is uninterested in holding our leaders accountable (instead, we re-elect them) for their incompetence, because if we do so, we must also be held to account for our own.  We may well be about to discover once again, much more dramatically this time, that placing our faith in the facade of governmental security to handle the serious threats we face is every bit as much a mistake as it has always been.  This time, however, there might not be enough blood-free sheets to keep the facade in place.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Bell Icon - White EdgesUnderstanding how and why the U.S. dollar currently exists as the world's "reserve currency," what significance the "petrodollar" has in global trade and within the American economy, and what happens when the reserve status finally wanes is critical to grasp as the next phase of the great reset looms ever closer.  The following article is a repost written by Chris Hamilton [1] and has been posted in various places as a solid explanation of the ins and outs of the global monetary system for the layman.  Please take the time to read it, as it covers all of the bases and having this knowledge may eventually prove invaluable when the hard decisions will need to be made.  [Hat tip:  B.A. Smith]

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By Chris Hamilton [1]

By any objective measure Reserve Currencies — particularly the US dollar — are dying. The question most analysts get when discussing the reality of the US and world economic/financial situations is, if things are so dire (references 2, 3, and 4 below), why doesn’t it feel like it? If all the facts stated about $6 trillion annual (GAAP basis) US budget deficits or US government total debt and obligations in excess of $90 trillion are true, why does the system still “function”??? Social Security recipients receive checks, the military is still paid, the garbage gets picked up, and stores still have stocked shelves. Life seems hectic but generally “normal”. So, is there a problem at all and if so, when and how will it go from theoretical to reality?  [2] [3] [4]

Commit to about 5 to 10 minutes of reading and maybe we can have a very plausible answer.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

Following WWII, a new monetary system for international commerce and finance was implemented. This agreement known as Bretton Woods (the location in New Jersey where the conference was held) gave the expected Allied victors the spoils and represented the World as of 1945.

CHIEF FEATURES OF THE BRETTON WOODS SYSTEM

  • An obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained the exchange rate by tying its currency to the U.S. dollar.
  • The ability of the IMF (created by the Bretton Woods agreement along with many other current day acronyms) to bridge temporary imbalances of payments (IMF would loan money to nations in trouble with strings attached to ideally resolve these imbalances and keep the system functioning).
  • Address the lack of cooperation among other countries and to prevent competitive devaluation of the currencies as well (avoid countries printing money to cheapen their exports and gain advantage in trading)
  • To ensure the US did not abuse it’s privilege as the world’s de-facto currency, the US dollar would be freely convertible into gold (if the US printed an excess quantity of $’s, nations accumulating too many dollars from US trade/budget deficits could convert and retire these dollar’s into gold (gold representing a relatively fixed quantity and storage of value).

WHAT ACTUALLY TOOK PLACE

  • 1946-1959 – Growth surged while debt was flat.
  • Total US government obligations grew minimally from $269 billion to $285 billion. As a result the Debt to GDP ratio fell from 113% to 54%. In other words, the US essentially ran a balanced budget adding approximately $1 billion per year to national debt over 13 years, (about a third of a % annually…all while conducting the Marshall plan, the Korean War, and huge US infrastructure projects). The US was the model of global economic stability and fiscal restraint.
  • 1960-1975 – Debt Doubled While GDP Grew by More Than Three Times.
  • US government debt almost doubled from $285 billion to $533 billion while GDP more then tripled, from $525 billion to $1.7 trillion. In 1975 the US hit a Debt/GDP post Great Depression low of 31%. But great forces were already set in motion that would lead us to today’s trouble…including the initiation of the Great Society in ‘65 and LBJ’s four years later theft of these surplus’ meant to cover future tax shortfalls for these programs…all to hide the true cost of the Vietnam war…all under the “Unified Budget”. The US had put in motion the betrayal of Bretton Woods for national political purposes and the unfunded liability monster was borne.
  • 1975-2014 – Debt Spiked 168 times, 16 times GDP Growth, 11 times Household Net Worth.
  • Total US government obligations grew from $533 billion to $89.5 trillion while GDP grew 10x’s $1.7 trillion to 17 trillion and Household net worth grew 15x’s $5.4 trillion to $82 trillion. Median household income grew 3x’s from an estimated $17k to $51k annually while Real median household income barely grew 1.13x’s, from $45k to $51k annually. Bad policy decisions of 4 decades earlier went parabolic.

Below is a chart of GDP, Household Net Worth, and Federal Treasury Debt all indexed to 1973 to visualize the growth and relationship in each over the last four decades [5].

RAMIFICATIONS

  • The US had roughly 19,000 tons of gold as of the end of WWII and peaked in excess of 20,000 tons by 1958…but by 1971, the redemptions by nations concerned over US deficit spending and printing had reduced the US gold holdings to just over 8,000 tons and a run on the remaining gold (the convertibility of the dollar to gold being the dollars foundation of the dollar) looked likely.
  • 1971 President Nixon closed the US dollars convertibility into gold…but to avoid the dollars demise, Nixon struck an agreement with Saudi Arabia (and soon after all of OPEC) that all future purchases of oil will need be conducted in US dollars (regardless the buyer or destination). In exchange, the US promised weapons and protection to these close “allies” of the US. Unfortunately, this policy rewarded some very un-democratic and very despotic leaders in the middle-East whom reaped the rewards with a tiny minority of their cohorts. These trade policies typically left the populace poor and seething with anger at the US for supporting kings and dictators who ruled in complete contradiction to US founding principles and the best interests of the citizens of these nations.
  • Ultimately, this petro-dollar agreement allowed the US to run very large trade and budget deficits and export the excess dollars worldwide (through our trade/budget deficits) that would have otherwise created significant inflation within the United States.
  • This Petro-dollar agreement compelled by force of necessity a gigantic supply of dollars to be accumulated by foreign nations worldwide.
  • In fact, the estimate is that there are more than 4x’s the supply of all money in the US ($2.8 trillion, M1**) held abroad ($12+ trillion). This includes nearly $6 trillion in foreign held US Treasury’s, $6+ trillion in formal Reserves, and the Federal Reserve estimated that 55% to 70% (and potentially in excess of 100% of M1) of all US currency was held abroad and increasing as of 2012 [6]. As an aside, 80% of all US currency is in $100 bills and the vast majority of these reside overseas, but foreigners also hold lesser amounts in $50’s and $20’s. These formal and informal dollar and US Treasury bond reserves held by foreign nations allow trade in oil and other de-facto dollar denominated commodities (legal and illicit).

**M1 = the supply of money measured by all physical money, checking accounts, and liquid cash like money within the US economy

BRETTON WOODS, THE DOLLAR, & THE “BRICS”

But global power has shifted a bit since 1945 and the US has balked on its Bretton Woods pledges, the Middle-East teams with “radicals” and “revolutionaries”, and now the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) are on a path to de-emphasize dollar usage in favor of localized, decentralized currencies in trade. The US leans on the privilege of the dollar (established @ Bretton Woods) to maintain its lifestyle via massive $6 trillion annual (GAAP basis) deficit spending…but the dollars global dominance wanes more every day while America increasingly leans on this rickety crutch.

Today, the BRICS account for about 25 per cent of global GDP, 35 per cent of total international reserves (with China at over $4 trillion), 25 per cent of total land area and around 42 per cent of the world’s population…and BRICS affiliated nations increase these numbers significantly more.

However, despite their economic weight, the BRICS’ representation, voting power, participation in management and staff in the Bretton Woods institutions (International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, and International Finance Corporation) and others like the Bank of International Settlement, displays a major deficit of ‘voice’ and influence.

As of July, the BRICS nations formally agreed on a BRICS bank funded w/ $100 billion to rival the influence and power of the IMF. This money is to be lent to nations in need, as an alternative to the IMF (typically with US directed strings attached). China, Brazil, Russia, and so many more are moving away from clearing their trade in dollars and instead utilizing the Yuan, the Real, the Ruble, etc. Please note that Russia and Saudi Arabia are now the largest exporters of oil – and at least Russia is moving rapidly to settle in anything but the dollar…and the troubles in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, etc. are all symptomatic of this conflict for which currency(s) will be used to settle trade.

China is organizing itself and its trade partners in at least 24 separate agreements to transact in the Yuan rather than the dollar. As of 2009, less than 1% of China’s global trade was settled in Yuan but by mid-2013, 17% of Chinese trade was being cleared in Yuan…almost entirely at the expense of the dollar. And the trend and structure to allow far more has only accelerated throughout the BRICS.

ENOUGH – WHAT’S THE ANSWER ALREADY?

It should be very clear where this trend is going and the implications to the United States – the perennially optimistic Congressional Budget Office and like prognosticators have acknowledged the US will soon need to run even larger budget deficits in excess of $1 trillion (and that’s assuming all goes well) due to large debt loads, growing social programs, and large unfunded liabilities. Of course the situation will only get worse because:

  • We consistently spend more cash than we take in as revenue but due to Cash-Based accounting the true nature of the deficit spending is concealed.
  • We continue adding new participants to existing entitlement programs increasing present and future unfunded liabilities…while the tax payers per social program recipient is expected to fall from 4 to 2 per recipient within a decade.
  • We add new entitlement programs (i.e. the Prescription Drug Act in 2003 and the Affordable Care Act in 2010) absent funding therefore increasing our future liabilities.
  • We incur interest expense each year on our Federal Obligation; real interest on our debt held by the public (included in item (a) above), virtual interest on our intra-governmental borrowings, and virtual interest on the present value of our unfunded liabilities).

All this will necessitate the world accept and utilize ever more dollars. HOWEVER, the existing dollar-centric system is not in the favor of most of the new powers of the world…and they are rapidly moving to reduce their dependence on the dollar…just as the US will need foreigners to embrace it more than ever. Rock meet hard place.

If $12+ trillion (plus the continuing growth in available dollars) is no longer needed as reserves for international settlement – where does that money go? Well, a relatively small reduction in dollar trade replaced by Yuan, Ruble, Real, etc. (say 5%-10% over a period, say 2014) would free up $600 billion to $1.2 trillion to move where dollars are still readily accepted…the US of A. Typically, these dollars would be levered up (say conservatively 5x’s)…and voila, $3 trillion to $6 trillion of purchasing power is introduced to America in 2014. Things like stocks, bonds, and Real Estate would be very positively pushed higher and higher (rents, insurance, etc. would also be unwelcomingly pushed higher as wages remain flat due to structural unemployment issues…in other words, asset owners are rewarded, wage earners are punished). The Federal Reserve’s Z1 Household Survey for 2014 would be similar to 2013’s 11+% increase in US assets by $9.5 trillion ($84.5 trillion (’12) to $94 trillion (’13))…all while household liabilities (mortgages, all loans, etc.) barely increased ($140 billion) and wages remained flat.

But let’s say in 2015 the pace of BRICS non-dollar trade continues expanding and international settlement in non-dollars grows by 10% to 20%…and 10% to 20% of dollars are no longer needed as reserves to buy oil, wheat, finance trade, etc. etc. This is about $1.2 trillion to $2.4 trillion formerly held reserves cleared to go looking for their home…the US. $1.2 trillion to $2.4 trillion levered again very conservatively @ 5x’s (or 20% cash down) is $6 trillion to $12 trillion in “hot” money looking for assets. With just a fraction of all the inflation the US exported over the ’71-present period coming home…this creates what amounts to a hyper-monetary dollar overdose in America. Foreign holders of US money chasing assets in America where dollars are readily accepted. And of course, once these things start, they create a momentum of their own and eventually a likely counter by the administration to freeze out these dollars and the likely panic this ensues both domestically and internationally.

IMPLICATIONS

The minority of Americans with assets see their value rise but the majority will get much poorer…those dependent on wages and social programs (generally younger, with families, retirees living on SS, etc.) absent assets are made dramatically poorer (wages stagnant while costs rise…rent, food, insurance, school, fuel, etc.). The economy suffers as consumers lose ground and inequality runs rampant. How it plays out from there is impossible to know as supply and demand implications are met with 2nd derivative government reactions and on and on and on. Beyond that, it’s all just plain guesses with little historical precedence to guide us.

Of course there are many steps and actions that could be taken to acknowledge our challenges and collectively address them through shared sacrifice and a long term restructuring of our economy. But the 4+ decade trend of fraudulent accounting, financialization, and, well, like a hundred other trends that need be reversed seem unlikely to be voluntarily addressed. Prepare for the solution to be involuntarily applied in a time and manner not of our choosing.

See more at: http://charlesbiderman.com/2014/08/14/how-a-reserve-currency-such-as-the-us-dollar-diesslowly-at-first-then-all-at-once/#sthash.yvvNPbtO.dpuf

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Take this knowledge to heart and pass it on.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Sons of the revolution smallIt's been a while since I've bothered posting anything on TBP, and while the absence is explainable by any number of perfectly valid reasons, mostly it's because I've been watching Americans confidently blow off the most recent IRS scandal (where the IRS "lost" Lois Lerner's emails despite having both internal archiving and a contract with an external email archiving company [1]), the most recent VA scandal (which may have killed more than a thousand veterans [2]), the most recent immigration scandal at the border (which is looking more and more to have been ginned up to conveniently press the 'immigration reform' issue [3]), and the national party primary elections (in which the Republican party paid to explicitly attack "TEA Party" candidates and recruit registered Democrats to vote in the Republican primary [4]).

I haven't been around nearly as long as some, but I pay attention far more than most, and even I cannot recall a time in history more rife with scandals, cover ups, outright lies, and acceptance of widespread, deplorable behavior from our elected officials in both parties.  And nobody seems to mind.

Throw on top of all this today's story that the EPA office in Denver has apparently circulated a memo asking employees to stop shitting on the floor [5]:

Management for Region 8 in Denver, Colo., wrote an email earlier this year to all staff in the area pleading with them to stop inappropriate bathroom behavior, including defecating in the hallway.

In the email, obtained by Government Executive, Deputy Regional Administrator Howard Cantor mentioned 'several incidents' in the building, including clogging the toilets with paper towels and 'an individual placing feces in the hallway' outside the restroom.

Rather than simply determining who was responsible for this behavior and immediately firing them (as any private company would have done months ago), the EPA instead "consulted" with a "workplace violence national expert" who informed them that yes, shitting on the floor is a health hazard.

If the Environmental Protection Agency cannot determine on their own WHETHER OR NOT SHITTING ON THE F***ING FLOOR IS A HEALTH HAZARD, WHAT EXACTLY IS THEIR PURPOSE?

Confounded by what to make of this occurrence, EPA management 'consulted' with workplace violence 'national expert' John Nicoletti, who said that hallway feces is in fact a health and safety risk. He added the behavior was 'very dangerous' and the individuals responsible would 'probably escalate' their actions.

And yet, there seem to be no heads rolling.  There have been no mass firings of incompetents.  No prosecutions.  Exactly as is the case at the IRS.  And the VA.  And every other scandal-plagued department under the "leadership" of Barack Obama.  Failure is coddled, propped up, and eventually becomes the only option.  When you repeatedly fail to demand excellence (or even the slightest bit of success), this result is inevitable.

Now, we find out that the Bureau of Economic Analysis has released their third and final calculation of Q1 GDP, and wow is it great [6].  The first estimate pegged the U.S. at a decline of -0.1%, officially in recession territory (but it was due to "weather," of course).  The second estimate pegged us at -1.0%, well within recession territory (but it was also due to "weather," obviously).  The third estimate has Q1 GDP contracting at -2.9%, deeply within recession territory.

Nobody has been able to get away with blaming weather for the third estimate, since even extraordinarily bad weather is typically responsible for a slump in GDP - not an outright collapse of it.  In fact, the GDP print is so bad that the Obama Administration is today crediting a supposed decline in healthcare spending due to the success of Obamacare for the -2.9% decline.  Yes, seriously [7].  Unfortunately, the BEA did not mention any "success" of Obamacare in their report [6].  Even Obama's own agencies aren't buying the lies.

All of these things taken collectively into account, I have come to the disheartening conclusion that the American people simply do not give two shits about their future or taking responsibility for their own lives.  We are willingly becoming debt serfs, something F.A. Hayek addressed quite directly seven decades ago [7].  We are handing over liberties left and right, inviting government in to nanny us because we are too stupid and lazy to take care of ourselves.

Therein lies the reason that I have always doubted that the American People would pull themselves out of this dive.  It simply takes too much work to keep up with everything going on around us.  We can't be bothered to elect responsible, intelligent, and hard working people, so we elect Thad Cochran to an 80th term in the Senate and then encourage this sort of power-hungry electioneering for future candidates [8].  We can't be bothered to involve ourselves in the schooling of our children, so we accept Common Core which, as an engineer with a very thorough mathematics background, I can assure you will destroy mathematics for the next generation and take along with it success in science and technology.

Literally all signs are pointing south for this country, with an enormous amount of warning lights on the economy beginning to flash so brightly that even the talking heads are starting to notice.

When the Titanic sank, a third of the passengers were saved by life boats.  They had somewhere to escape.  We don't.

So get ready to go down with the ship, because nowhere near enough Americans are concerned with plugging up the gaping holes in the bow, instead contented to lie drunk on the upper deck, slowly and stupidly succumbing to their own demise to the upbeat sounds of the Titanic's string quartet.

I hope you enjoy the taste of salt water.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Bell Icon - White EdgesAs I pointed out the other day in what has turned out to be a relatively unpopular position on the issue (albeit the factually correct one) [1], Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters are wrong in their belief that the public lands in the Gold Butte region where Bundy grazes his cattle are the property of the state rather than the federal government.  Those lands were purchased by the federal government from Mexico in 1848 and have remained in federal ownership ever since.  They were also specifically excluded from the territory placed under state jurisdiction when Nevada's constitution was executed in 1864.

This is not a states' rights issue and anyone thinking otherwise needs to expend all of ten minutes of research to bear this point out.  The Nevada state constitution can be read elsewhere [2] and the important language comes in the third paragraph.

Cliven Bundy is not engaged in a states' rights battle.  Period.

As to whether the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ought to be prohibiting Bundy from grazing his cattle on the 600,000 acres in the Gold Butte area out of concern for a federally protected desert tortoise is another matter entirely, and I hardly believe that a tortoise coexisting with one head of cattle per square mile is a justifiable imposition upon a man whose family has been ranching the area since the state came into existence.  However, Bundy's refusal to pay relatively minimal grazing permit fees and penalties of $1 million since 1993 damages his case before the courts.  The 2014 BLM grazing permit fee is $1.35 per Animal Unit Month [3] (one cow and calf per month).  For a total of 900 cattle, one year of grazing fees is approximately $15,000, or 1.7% of the value of the cattle, not exactly a huge expense considering that the grazing fee is an alternative to buying feed.

Now, as enlightening as it is to learn that "there is no such thing as an illegal human being" but that "trespass cattle" require an armed federal operation, I'm not entirely sure what to make of the armed militia response to the BLM confiscation of Bundy's cattle for two reasons.  First, the cattle confiscation occurred as the result of multiple court orders wherein Bundy's rights to ownership of said cattle were suspended as a lengthy result of lawful due process (although whether the ownership of said cattle was lawfully transferred to the government is unknown).  Second, the militia response seems to be following the popular model of an Alex Jones-esque delusional, screaming wildman [4] devoid of virtually all fidelity to both the Constitution and God in favor of some sort of concocted, disorganized, uneducated, and headlong lurch to protect "gun rights" at all costs.

The stories which have surfaced regarding certain statements made by former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack about a potential strategy at the ranch to place women and children at the front of the lines so they would be shot first for the cameras if the feds chose to engage is outrageous and deplorable and stinks to high Heaven of a movement which is utter bullshit and completely devoid of both responsibility and honor.

If this [5] is who the liberty movement is, I will have nothing to do with it:

We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front.  If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.

Let us not be so presumptuous to forget that the American Revolution was not a hastily devised scheme suddenly thought up one famous Wednesday in 1775.  It ignited slowly, over a period of decades in which the colonists had literally no other recourse since they had zero representation in their own governance.  We are not in that position today.

The colonists were guided by their faith and mutual respect for life and liberty.  If the Bundy ranch supporters are today's equivalent, I'm sorry to say that faith and mutual respect seems to have been lost in the shuffle.

The natural right to an armed rebellion and revolution is a card we need to keep squarely in our back pocket for when the appropriate time comes.  Keep your barrels oiled and your powder dry, because today is a good day for petitioning for redress of grievances yet again to our brethren within the federal government.

It is not a good day for a revolution.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Bell-Icon-White-EdgesRancher Cliven Bundy, the focus of the emerging territorial and property rights dispute north of Las Vegas, Nevada [1], is wrong on his claim that the federal government has no legal or Constitutional justification for control over such lands, which is currently administered by the Bureau of Land Management.  I'm actually a little surprised by this myself, as I usually can comfortably side with states' rights without any Constitutional conflict whatsoever, but this one looks quite clear.  The federal government does indeed have rights to property ownership, so long as the original owner of the land voluntarily ceded such ownership.  Per Article 4, Section 3 [2]:

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

A great many libertarian or states' rights-oriented types naturally believe that the federal government should not be involved in land ownership within the boundaries of the individual states, and I am generally one of them.  However, simply believing this is not enough to justify such a position when the Constitution itself provides for such ownership, as Article 4 clearly does.  In addition to the explicit Constitutional authority to govern such public lands, there are plenty of examples of states ceding territorial claims to the federal government at the time of the country's founding.  The original 13 states ceded title to 237 million acres of "western" lands between 1781 and 1802 [3].  Other examples of lawful federal acquisition of land include the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 and the purchase of Florida from Spain in 1819, both of which were executed by a Senate-ratified treaty and neither of which are disputed.

That said, this would be a wholly different issue if the federal government was asserting ownership over land which was not ceded by the state of Nevada.  Unfortunately for Bundy's supporters, Nevada's state Constitution explicitly grants such authority of certain public lands to the United States right up front [4]:

In obedience to the requirements of an act of the Congress of the United States, approved March twenty-first, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-four, to enable the people of Nevada to form a constitution and state government, this convention, elected and convened in obedience to said enabling act, do ordain as follows, and this ordinance shall be irrevocable, without the consent of the United States and the people of the State of Nevada:

...

Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; and that lands belonging to citizens of the United States, residing without the said state, shall never be taxed higher than the land belonging to the residents thereof; and that no taxes shall be imposed by said state on lands or property therein belonging to, or which may hereafter be purchased by, the United States, unless otherwise provided by the congress of the United States.

This clause is quite clear - the People of the state of Nevada "forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within" the state and that such lands "shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States."  It doesn't get much more clear than this - the lands under BLM control were legally ceded to the United States and the state of Nevada has no claim over them whatsoever.  By extension, neither does Bundy, despite his assertion of having been using the land as family ranchers for more than one hundred years.

So, the question has devolved from one of Constitutional authority to one of realistic necessity and public use.  The BLM prohibiting Bundy from allowing his 900 cattle to graze on some 600,000 acres of public land doesn't exactly fit under most definitions of "necessity" since 1) cattle do not irreversibly damage or otherwise impair the land from current or future public use, and 2) the footprint of the cattle is miniscule - 900 cattle on 600,000 acres equates to approximately one per square mile, hardly a noticeable imposition and certainly not worthy of a substantial and armed federal response, particularly when one head of cattle can routinely graze on less than a hundred acres, even in high desert.  One head certainly doesn't need 650 acres for grazing, unless I'm wildly off in my understanding.

Perhaps even worse, it's looking like small militia units are being called up from various states to respond to this in defense of Bundy's property rights [5].  While I strongly support and encourage the formation and maintenance of private, local militia units, they need to be exceedingly careful in how they use their presence since even the slightest misstep could trigger a backlash against the entire liberty movement, particularly when such a backlash could be Constitutionally justified as the current one seems to be.

A spokesman for the one of the militia groups said as much to local 8 News Now: I’m not 'afraid to shoot,' he said...  'This is what we do, we provide armed response,' Jim Lordy, with Operation Mutual Aid, told the local broadcast station. 'They have guns. We need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government.'

Mr. Lordy also said 'many more' militia groups are coming to the site to join in the Bundy family defense.

'They all tell me they are in the process of mobilizing as we speak,' another member told the Review-Journal [6].

I have no dispute with a concern about tyrannical government or the use of armed citizen militias as a deterrent to the same (and actually believe this is a good thing which is unique to Americans and suggestive of at least part of the population understanding how precious their liberties truly are), however I would strongly caution the militia members in this case from acting irrationally or prematurely, lest they provoke a reverse-Ruby Ridge situation wherein the federal government is on the receiving end of provocation.  If the militias fire the first shot here, there will be little legal justification for doing so and little public sympathy if the feds overwhelmingly return fire.  Truth be told, the militias should pack up, head home, and keep their powder dry for the time when an unjustifiable intrusion into civil liberties arises, which at the pace things are moving recently, may not be too far ahead.

As always, blind faith in a belief is not the same as strict adherence to principle, and this case is no different.  While the concepts of private property and states' rights are of paramount importance to the American philosophy of self governance, certain exceptions may well be Constitutional and must be accepted as lawful by supporters of individual liberty if they seek to be faithful to principle.  Otherwise, we're nothing more than a lawless nation of men competing in armed groups.

Regardless, this certainly seems to be a mountain-out-of-a-molehill situation, and the federal government does indeed appear to be overreaching on authority for a relatively minor "violation" of Bundy refusing to pay for grazing permits.

While it is certainly true that we live in a world in which private property rights are under attack at seemingly every turn, this particular dispute is a nonissue Constitutionally and should be dealt with as such by reasonable people on both sides.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Sons of the revolutionNot long ago, we were a people who believed two very simple things about personal, American commerce:  First, that you had a right to deny business services to whomever you pleased, at your own risk, and secondly, that the federal government had no legal standing to compel a private business transaction between two parties.  Both of these beliefs have found themselves functionally murdered in a spectacular bloodbath over the course of the past several years, particularly with the enshrinement of Obamacare's individual mandate within the codices of Supreme Court jurisprudence and American case law and the most recent upholding of the New Mexico Supreme Court decision requiring that Elane Photography engage in a private business contract with a party it has deemed to be religiously questionable (a gay couple). The First Amendment expressly prohibits government from infringing upon the religious activities of Americans [1]:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The word "Congress" in the First Amendment text has been expanded to include state and local governments by incorporation through the 14th Amendment in Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940) [2], a questionable process which itself is the product of the Progressive Era and deserving of further discussion another time.  Regardless, we are left with a restriction against national and local government prohibiting both the creation of a state religion (which lawfully existed in several states at the time of the Constitution's ratification) or the free exercise thereof.  In the New Mexico case at hand (Elane Photography v. Willock [3] [4]), the court determined that Elane Photography's refusal to provide professional business services to a gay marriage ceremony violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA) [5]:

We hold that Elane Photography’s refusal to photograph Willock’s commitment ceremony violated the NMHRA. In enforcing the NMHRA, the NMHRC and the district court did not violate Elane Photography’s constitutional and statutory rights based upon freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and the NMRFRA. We affirm the district court’s denial of Elane Photography’s motion for summary judgment and its decision to grant Willock’s motion for summary judgment.

Elane Photography appealed to the Supreme Court, which denied the petition Monday afternoon [6], effectively stomping out the last vestiges of personal choice in business and suggesting that all businesses must engage in all business opportunities, even if they find them personally repugnant or otherwise questionable for any reason whatsoever.

This flies squarely in the face of the American concept of individual liberty because it abridges the freedom of the business owner to choose who he does business with in the name of political correctness.  That the Supreme Court allowed such an insulting ruling to stand without Constitutional review (and affirming the First Amendment right of business owners to control who they do or do not do business with) says a great deal about how far this nation has drifted away from the originally intended loose federalist framework wherein the only government on your mind throughout the day and continuously interrupting your weekly routine is the one assembled under the dome of your statehouse - in other words, the one closest to you and most readily changed by those it affects.

The Left has largely hailed the opinion, albeit blindly so (as is the case with so many things), without realizing the impact such a decision has on the free exercise of the individual to guide his own life, instead proclaiming that the courts and legislatures have somehow managed to stamp out yet another homophobic business practice in the name of "progress."

They are right, of course, that if such a decision existed during the 1960s and prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we would have had businesses everywhere openly refusing to do business with blacks and in fact did have plenty of such cases.  Unfortunately, the protection of the liberty of the individual reigns supreme over the feelings of any and all minority parties, however wrong that may seem, and is ultimately constrained by the goodness of the people and a trust that they will eventually right their own wrongs.  Few observers today of the younger generations, including those on the Right, would have a difficult time making the case that racism has been nearly expunged from society.  Not wholly, of course, as abject stupidity will always exist in any number of forms within groups of people as history has repeatedly borne out, but to the degree that instances of clear racism are rather rare for most people in modern America, including minorities.  The younger generations, such as my own, simply do not care about race and as a result tend to behave in a more or less colorblind manner.

But that's the problem - these colorblind generations are effectively self-regulating their own businesses in accordance with their own conscience and those in power simply can't have self regulation occurring outside of governmental control as allowing such a situation to exist and propagate throughout society might lead to people taking care of themselves and their neighbors without needing their Congressman to mandate equality for them.

If you'd like to open up a bakery and choose to exclude blacks from your business, you should be free to do so, because ultimately the decision to engage in stupidity is yours to make, and with the speed that information travels these days, your business is likely to sink long before your first tax bill ever becomes due.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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TBP supports the Convention of States project to call an Article V convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution to limit the powers of the federal government.

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