Friday, June 27, 2008

Bruno's legacy not a good one

From the 30 June 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

Eliot Spitzer was stupid enough to get involved with a prostitute and dumb enough to get caught. But, even so, one cannot deny that he is still a man possessed of great intellect. As our Attorney General he accomplished a great deal in his efforts to squash corruption. Before the tables turned he attempted the same in Albany, using all resources at his disposal (such as the New York State police) to bring down Senator Joe Bruno, a man he knew wasn’t on the up-and-up.

It didn’t work. The only man capable of taking Joe Bruno out of office was….Joe Bruno.

Last week, supposedly on his own terms (sans FBI pressure?), Bruno, one of the Three Men in a Room, finally left the room. The man who spent 32 years in the State Capitol announced that he would not seek re-election in November and was stepping down from his leadership post.

As it tends to happen with any retirement, accolades have been pouring in from friends and foes alike. Are their memories really that short? For the past 13 years as leader of the Senate he has been one of the three primary caretakers of the State and under his watch it – and, as matter of fact, he – has suffered.

Since everything that happens in Albany must go through Joe Bruno’s office, it can be said that he had direct control over state spending and even local spending (unfunded mandates) and, therefore, the health of our economy. Every state budget of the last 13 years was significantly larger than that of the previous year. When this is looked at in total, it’s almost unbelievable. Back In 1995 when Bruno took the throne, state spending was “only” $61.9 billion. In the current fiscal year state spending will exceed $121 billion. So, state spending nearly doubled while Bruno led the Senate!

Because of the debilitating taxation necessary to fund such spending, businesses have left in droves, taking our residents with them. In 1998 NYS was the fifth most-expensive state in which to do business, in 2007 we ranked second. In the 90’s, the net migration for New York was a loss of 1.9 million residents. It has been no better since the turn of the century: Two years ago, in just one year alone, we lost 124,000 New Yorkers.

Bruno and his Senate brethren have always placed the blame for these trends on the shoulders of the “liberal assembly.” That excuse exemplifies Bruno’s complete lack of responsibility and meaningful leadership because no bill, no budget can be passed without the support of both houses. And, don’t forget that up until 2006 Bruno always had a Republican governor as the third wheel. The demise of New York is a result of the collective efforts of Spitzer, Silver, Pataki and Bruno. He’s as guilty as the others and so are all of the Senators who obeyed his every order.

Bruno’s guilt extends beyond the halls of the Capitol. He has been under investigation by the FBI for over three years, the feds very critical of his moonlighting as a representative of Wright Investor Services, a company that controls pension funds for countless government workers employed in NY. The investigation into this conflict of interest and the expected outcome no doubt forced his unexpected retirement, even though he says it had nothing to do with it. That’s hard to believe when on the very day that he announced his desire to ride off into the sunset the FBI took 30 boxes of materials from his office.

To top it off, his sudden departure was a slap in the face to the Republican Party that supported him through the decades. This is the GOP’s most important election year in memory, they holding a very slim 32-30 advantage over the Democrats in the Senate. It has been said for months now that they might lose that edge come November and, thusly, control of the house that they’ve held since 1965. Bruno’s exit makes that almost certain as the party must scramble to address not only leadership issues but filling his Senate seat as well.

So, this is the legacy that Joe Bruno leaves, one that smacks of failure and corruption. It’s almost fitting that he chose to leave in 2008, a year fraught with controversy so intense that when historians look back on this era they will remember the man who tried to ruin him (Spitzer) and not the man who did (Bruno).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Protecting Property Rights

From the 23 June 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

When our founding fathers penned the Declaration of Independence they noted we are endowed with unalienable rights which include “…Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Happiness was used as an all-inclusive term, but it had its basis in the property rights of the individual. This focus was borrowed from the writings of British philosopher John Locke who emphasized life, health, liberty, and property rights in writings that appeared over a century before the Declaration. Recognizing Locke’s influence on our nation’s principles is the key to understanding just exactly what the founding fathers meant with the language of the Declaration and the Constitution.

Taking this into consideration, all our citizens must realize that individual property rights are paramount to the American Dream and the concept of ownership by the common man is one of the most significant factors that separates our country from all others. We are a unique society, without a doubt the greatest in history, because of the ability for – and desire of – the individual to acquire things that can improve his quality of life and that of his descendents.

Many Americans don’t understand this, placing a greater emphasis on entitlements, which are the awarding of property (financial assets, aid, housing). They believe the government should provide for them and they willingly take from it. The government, too, has a sense of entitlement, believing it can provide for the masses by taking away from the individual. This government “right” was granted in the Fifth Amendment but with limitations. It reads as: ”nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”

Despite the limiting agent, that property can be taken only for public use, many government entities have abused the Amendment and have stolen property for purely private use. One such example occurred in Niagara Falls, where New York stole land from homeowners and businesses which it gave to a foreign nation - the Senecas - which then used it to develop their casino.

Unfortunately, acting in a manner that sees the Constitution as a “living document” fit for modernized interpretation, the Supreme Court finds merit in such practices. In 2005 the Court settled the case of Kelo vs. City of New London, in which it ruled 5-4 in favor of New London, indicating that eminent domain for private purposes is a legal practice because economic development could be construed as being beneficial to the public at large.

The Court’s ruling has set an ugly precedent. Now, no one’s property is safe: Using the Supreme Court as a crutch, any business acting through a municipality could steal the land from underneath you as long as they employed people and - to the benefit of the government - paid higher taxes than your home, farm, or camp might. This is not what our forefathers had intended. As a matter of fact, this sort of robbery is what they were up against when they fought for our independence.

There is one way to inhibit eminent domain. It’s called the Private Property Rights Protection and Government Accountability Act. Introduced on June 10 by Congressman John Sullivan of Oklahoma, this bill has two interesting facets. First of all, it would empower property owners to take any and all eminent domain issues to court in an effort to prevent the land grab. In most of the recent cases the courts have acted primarily on issues of compensating the property owner. This bill would address the act of eminent domain itself, suspending the theft until the issue is settled and, hopefully, ruling in favor of the individual depending on state law. Not all states are as liberal as New York; some, such as Michigan and Ohio, have barred eminent domain outright.

The second power of the bill is a rather intriguing one that would turn government’s sense of entitlement upon itself. For as much as local and state governments tax every one of us, they still remain reliant on – and feel entitled to - funds from the federal government for “economic development” purposes. Sullivan’s bill would restrict such federal funds for a period of ten years to any state or locality which uses eminent domain. This is the ultimate in accountability, you could almost consider the foregone monies a massive fine levied against the government entity which has chosen to steal property. They’ll all learn quickly.

Sullivan’s bill is currently in committee. Let’s not let it die there. Contact your Congressmen, ask them to support it and let them know you value your property and you don’t want it stolen from you by abuses of power.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The North American Union

From the 16 June 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

Over the past few years a majority of Americans have been quite disappointed with what’s happening at our Southern border. Millions of Mexicans have been allowed to illegally enter our nation and assimilate into our populace. Despite considerable uproar from legal, taxpaying citizens, our federal government has done almost nothing to rectify the situation. There has been some talk of increasing border security or maybe enforcing existing laws, but this “silent invasion” continues unchecked: For every one Mexican caught trying to illegally enter our nation, more than five make it through. This begs the question, “why isn’t the government doing anything about it?”

The government is not moving on this because, quite frankly, it doesn’t fit into their plans for the future. Open borders actually serve an obscene purpose for our government, because the free flow of humans and money facilitates something known as “the North American Union”.

Believing they achieved great success with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the leaders of the USA, Canada, and Mexico want to extend that style of governance beyond the realm of economics. They have a long-term plan to create an all-inclusive system that mirrors the European Union, something that would touch on economic, social, political, and judicial issues, truly affecting your everyday life.

The North American Union (NAU) has been in development behind the scenes for quite a while now. The brainchild of one-world-order promoters such as the Council of Foreign Relations (known as the most powerful influence upon US foreign policy), the concept has been pursued in earnest during the Bush Administration. In 2005 he, Mexican president Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Martin launched the first step in the process, an initiative called the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. The SPP meets annually and outlines plans to standardize trade, security, and the flow of people.

The European model started in the same fashion and quickly became something that eroded the sovereignty of all participating nations. There, national identity and national laws (and, therefore, any semblance of self rule) have been eroded. Every one of the participating countries once managed their own defense and foreign affairs and handled items of law via their standards. Now, they conduct all such tasks as a cooperative.

All of this can occur in North America and some of it already has. Our Constitution has been usurped on numerous occasions by NAFTA. In a couple of high profile cases occurring since 2000 a tribunal of that pact has interceded in legal affairs, discounting court rulings in Massachusetts and Mississippi and going so far as to negate the rulings of our US Supreme Court. It’s frightening to think that outsiders can rule on issues on American soil where we are supposed to set the law of the land.

Imagine taking that one step further and putting your national defense into the hands of a continental security force. One of the primary goals of the Partnership is to universally protect everyone from natural and man-made disasters. That means countless trillions in US funds will be dedicated towards aid in Mexico, in a sense adopting all of their problems. That very same Mexico, a nation steeped in a culture of corruption, will be empowered to protect our nation. Not a very comforting thought.

Just as uncomfortable is the thought of a shared currency. Most Americans know that the Europeans share a common currency, the Euro. To supposedly improve trade the NAU would institute the same concept here, something anecdotally known as the “Amero”. This move would eliminate US monetary policy and stifle the rewards of American capitalism by spreading the economic benefit across three nations. Our national economy is sailing some rough waters right now. The dollar is at all-time lows. Just imagine how much worse off we would be sharing our money with Mexico. It’s obvious that we’d only be subsidizing their people: their gross domestic product is $12,500 per person while ours is $46,000. In the end, our quality of life would plummet in order to improve theirs.

Many people, including President Bush, have railed against NAU detractors, saying it will never exist and that it is not even in the planning stages. They attribute NAU talk to wild conspiracy theories and decry the insight of NAU opponents like CNN’s Lou Dobbs, the John Birch Society, and Congressman Ron Paul. As a concerned citizen you really can’t discount what those controversial men have to say. Years ago, dissenters much like them foretold of NAFTA and its flaws, and they have proven to be correct.

The NAU is not far-fetched. If it happened in Europe it can happen here, unless you act now. Contact your elected officials and let them know you like being an American…not a North American.

Oil: Made in the USA

From the 09 June 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

The United States twice suffered through oil crises in the 1970’s. The 1973 installment was caused by the OAPEC and OPEC cartels cutting-off and manipulating supplies to nations like ours that had supported Israel. This event proved frightening to the American economy, with price controls and rationing being called in to play. The 1979 crisis, a relatively brief affair, was caused by striking oil workers in Iran who made Iranian output plummet and global prices rise, much to the benefit of OPEC.

You would have thought that our federal government would have learned from these major supply hiccups. But, it did not. We have done absolutely nothing to wean ourselves, if even remotely, off of Middle Eastern oil. Case in point, just last week voters in South Dakota approved rezoning for a new oil refinery. There hasn’t been one built in the United States for as long as I’ve been alive!

Because of special interest disdain for domestic development and federal ignorance to its importance, the dependence on foreign oil has been a recurring thorn in our side and it has proven to be extremely painful to us over the past few years. With gasoline well past $4 per gallon (weren’t we paying $1.50 in 2000?) and no end in sight, our economy is quite literally in the tank.

Not only has this dependence hurt every American consumer’s pocketbook at the pump and in the store, but, worse yet, thousands of American men and women have experienced physical and emotional pain (and even death) serving our nation in an effort to bring about peace to the Middle East, the obvious goal of which is to ensure the consistent availability of energy.

We definitely need to end this current oil crisis - which truthfully is really an extension of those of the 1970’s - and invest in America’s future by investing in America’s oil. It would be ignorant to believe that would could be fully independent, but we could definitely lessen our reliance. Current statistics show that we import about 60% of our oil. Cleaving just 15 percentage points off that would go a long way towards cutting costs and dampening our global interventionism. It’s not like we’re at a loss for oil here. We have plenty of it.

While some in Congress choose not to champion the concept for fear of reprisal from the green people, a few, such as US Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, have chosen a path quite beneficial to America’s welfare and are asking that we use the resources we have. Domenici has introduced Bill S.2958 – “The American Energy Production Act” – that will initiate the use of American energy. The act is the first step and a big one at that.

For starters, it would promote oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It would allow private entities to lease the sites and tap into what is believed to be 14 billion barrels of oil. Revenues brought in from the leases would be shared amongst the states, the Federal treasury and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This drilling would be done with respect for the environment. Just look at Dubai’s model for success: They can tap offshore oils, they do it very cleanly, and their economy is booming because of it.

The act would promote interior development, too. Vast untapped oil shale reserves exist under Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, something to the tune of 2 trillion barrels of crude. The bill would accelerate the leasing process and eliminate the current moratorium on oil shale which is only prolonging our economic agony. It would also open up ANWR for controlled development. Under that terrain sits 10 billion barrels ready for the taking. According to Domenici, had Bill Clinton not vetoed ANWR in 1995 we would now be taking oil from there, saving Americans $40 billion annually.

The bill would also promote green and clean energy. It would facilitate the creation of powerful vehicular batteries through loans and grants. It would invest $2 billion in clean coal technologies for electricity. And, it would provide incentives for development of cellulosic ethanol and biodiesels.

There’s a lot more to this bill and, overall, it has sound science and economics. Contact your Senators and let them know it needs to be passed so that we can cut some of our many foreign ties. Only then will we rise from our weakened state and see nothing but prosperity on the horizon.

Climate security & economic ruin

From the 02 June 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

We live in an era of much unrest in which people fear for their security, be it socially (terror threats), economically (recession), or environmentally (global warming). Feeding off this, our elected officials have been quite successful in using fear-mongering to introduce endless amounts of legislation that do much more harm than good.

The terror fears have been addressed by the Patriot Act, a series of intrusive laws that are unconstitutional and un-American. The economic fears have been satisfied with an economic stimulus package which has produced reams of worthless fiat money.

Up next on the list is global warming, a fear yet to be rectified. What could sound more comforting to the masses than something called “America’s Climate Security Act”? This act, also known as the Lieberman-Warner Bill, will be debated by the US Senate this week. One can only hope that the many atrocities of this bill come to light over the next few days, preventing its adoption. Its scope is more insidious than that of the aforementioned pieces of legislation; were it to be passed, continued economic ruin of the American Empire is guaranteed.

The bill does what everyone under the influence of the Pied Piper and flute (Al Gore and his Inconvenient Truth) wants: it caps greenhouse gas emissions. Essentially, the government would make the right to produce CO2 a pay-to-play affair. The bill would introduce a system of cap-and-trade through which businesses (utilities, “Big Oil”, manufacturers) would be assigned a cap on the amount of their greenhouse gas emissions. If they don’t meet the cap, the affected businesses can sell or trade their remaining allotments to those who need to emit more. The federal government will also auction off unused and new allowances to industry. This glorified tax would net the federal government $1.2 trillion from 2009-2018.

This is not only a cap on greenhouse gases. Above all, it is a cap on the US economy. It will severely limit what manufacturers can produce, therefore making it logical to send even more jobs to nations with less-restrictive regulations such as China and India. Senator James Inhofe, an opponent of the bill, says the bill will force 3.4 million manufacturing jobs overseas in the ten years following its passage. Even the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency one would think would spin this bill in a way to suit its needs, admits that it would reduce the growth of our Gross Domestic Product by nearly 4% in the next two decades. Those numbers are significant. You think we’re in a recession now?

Speaking of recessions, the current one is being strengthened by escalating oil prices. This bill does nothing to satisfy that problem and will only make matters worse, even though we’ve been hearing for months that Congress will do their best to lessen the pain at the pumps. The double-speakers supporting the Climate Security Act will ultimately forgo overall national security (by increasing the reliance on foreign oil) so they can win votes now by pushing the currently popular green agenda. Because of the limitations of the cap, oil companies will wisely invest overseas. The American Petroleum Institute says investment in domestic oil research and production will decrease by $3 billion per year in the very near future and ten years out that loss of investment in the America’s will reach a frightening rate of $11.5 billion per year. Those who do remain will be forced to increase the costs that they pass on to consumers. The bill alone will account for an immediate (5 year) growth in gas prices in the range of 25 to 29 percent.

The Lieberman-Warner Bill will have no positive impact on our economy and therefore our society. Our quality of life will tank. Reasons like that accounted for America’s disdain for and disinterest in the Kyoto Protocol. Yet, here we are 11 years later, our elected officials attempting to ram down our throats legislation much more onerous. This at a time when Europe - the holier-than-thou hypocritical supporters of the Kyoto Protocol - are investing in 67 coal-based electrical generation plants that will break their own promises to the tune of 700 million tons of new carbon dioxide emissions every year.

Fortunately, George W. Bush has sworn to veto the Climate Security Act were it to make it to his desk this year. But, that is only a temporary reprieve. The two main presidential candidates - Senators John McCain and Barack Obama - have expressed their support for the bill. So, anyway you put it, there’s a very good chance this bill could become law in the next couple of years, much to the detriment of America as we know it.