reboot the republic daily August 9, 2010

Video: John Bush Arrested in Austin, TX for Obeying the Constitution

Posted: 09 Aug 2010 06:08 PM PDT

U.S Has Fallen From 1st to 12th Place in College Graduation Rates in a Single Generation

Posted: 09 Aug 2010 05:32 PM PDT

Hmmmm… What happened a generation ago? Oh ya… The Department Education was created in 1979 and now has an annual budget of around $50 billion. Let’s think about this–as the DOE budget, size and power annually increase, the children get dumber. What could possibly be done to reverse this trend?

For those still not paying attention, this is further proof that the government doesn’t care about you or your children. It’s objective is power and control.

From ABC News

Speaking at the University of Texas today, President Obama told an audience of 3,500 college students that America has failed them.

The president visited the Austin, Texas, campus to outline his goal to raise the nation’s college graduation rate to 60 percent in just 10 years, adding at least 8 million graduates.

“In a single generation, we’ve fallen from first place to 12th place in college graduation rates for young adults,” Obama said, citing recent statistics showing the United States ranks 12th globally in the percentage of a young adults who hold at least an associate’s degree.

Nationwide, 40.4 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds held such degrees in 2007, falling far short of Canada’s 55.8 percent, as well as Korea and Russia, both of which had 55.5 percent rates, according to statistics from the College Board. Full global rankings can be found at the end of this article.

Duncan: U.S. Has Been ‘Out-Worked’ By Other Countries

How did we get to this point? Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told ABC News today that complacency is partly to blame.

“We got a little self-satisfied and other countries have, I think, out-worked us,” Duncan said. “They have out-invested. They have taken this more seriously, and I think this is a wake-up call.”

Though the number has been slowly rising in the United States in recent years, up from 38.1 percent in 2000, the nation still has a long way to go to meet the president’s goal.

“We can retake the lead,” Obama said today. “The single most important thing we can do is to make sure we’ve got a world-class education system for everybody. That is a prerequisite for prosperity.”

While nearly 70 percent of high school students enroll in college, only 57 percent actually graduate. Among minorities and low-income students, less than half get a college diploma.

College Students Arrive on Campus Ill-Prepared

Of those that do make it to campus, they’re often unprepared for college-level coursework. Some education experts blame high schools for failing to prepare students.

“Large percentages show up needing some kind of remediation,” said Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute. “[Remediation] in reading, in mathematics, in courses that colleges would like to think had been done in high schools.”

To meet the goal of reclaiming the top college graduation rate worldwide in 2020, Obama is pushing to:

Make college more affordable by increasing financial aid and student loans. Help students complete their course of studies. Ensure graduating students are prepared to turn diplomas into paychecks.

“Is it an ambitious goal? Absolutely. Is it going to take hard work? Absolutely,” said Duncan. “But frankly, failure is not an option here.”

The education secretary said that everything is on the table to meet the goal, from adding days to the school year to hiring an army of new teachers.

Still, it’s a challenge not just in the classroom but in the ledger books. None of those steps come cheaply, and the Obama administration could have a hard time selling its proposals to cash-strapped states.

Graduates by Nation

Percentage of 25- to 34-Year-Olds with an Associate Degree or Higher, 2007

Canada 55.8%
Korea 55.5%
Russian Federation 55.5%
Japan 53.7%
New Zealand 47.3%
Ireland 43.9%
Norway 42.7%
Israel 41.5%
France 41.4%
Belgium 41.3%
Australia 40.7%
United States 40.4%
Denmark 40.1%
Sweden 40.0%
Finland 39.3%
Spain 38.9%
United Kingdom 37.1%
Netherlands 36.7%
Luxembourg 35.7%
Switzerland 35.0%
Estonia 34.6%
Iceland 31.0%
Slovenia 30.1%
Poland 30.0%
Greece 28.1%
Germany 22.6%
Hungary 22.0%
Portugal 21.4%
Mexico 19.5%
Austria 18.9%
Italy 18.9%
Chile 18.3%
Slovak Republic 17.5%
Czech Republic 15.5%
Turkey 13.6%
Brazil 10.0%

Source: Organisation for Economic and Co-operative Development, 2009, Courtesy of The College Board.


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Video: The Broken Window Fallacy

Posted: 09 Aug 2010 03:04 PM PDT

This short video explains one of the most persistent economic fallacies of our day.


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Freddie Mac Reports Loss, Seeks Another $1.8 Billion of our Money

Posted: 09 Aug 2010 02:46 PM PDT

From The Christian Science Monitor

The mortgage-finance company Freddie Mac reported a $4.7 billion net loss for the second quarter Monday, due to a rise in home loans that ended in default.

The report, following a similar loss at sister company Fannie Mae last week, underscores that the US housing market remains a central trouble spot in the economy. Because these government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) sit at the heart of the housing market, it also means the taxpayer tab is rising for keeping these firms afloat.

In reporting the loss, Freddie Mac also said that the Federal Housing Finance Agency will ask for $1.8 billion in additional Treasury funds to support the firm. The FHFA has held Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a conservatorship, to keep them from failing, since they collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis.

The FHFA made a similar request for new aid for Fannie Mae ($1.5 billion) last week. The new requests mean the two mortgage companies have needed $148.2 billion to stay afloat, according to the Associated Press. About $63.1 billion of that is being used by Freddie Mac.

The infusions of cash are designed to maintain a positive net worth at both firms. The goal is not simply to prop up the firms, but to avoid a collapse in the availability of mortgage credit at a time when the housing market is already weak.

Although both firms reported some positive trends, the taxpayer costs could climb much higher. In one recent survey of federal recession-fighting policies, economists Mark Zandi of Moody’s and Alan Blinder of Princeton University estimated that the GSE bailouts will ultimately total $305 billion, a bit more than double the current tally.

Losses at the GSEs could persist because America’s great foreclosure wave appears to be continuing. Fannie and Freddie together end up owning or guaranteeing most of the new home loans made in the US by banks or other finance companies. The role the GSEs play, which is based on a congressional charter and implied federal backing, has helped to keep the market for mortgage-related securities alive, even amid the financial crisis.

But their enormous scale, and the guarantees they make, also means the mortgage giants are very exposed to housing-market risks. At Freddie Mac, for instance, charge-offs of bad loans hit $3.9 billion in the second quarter, up from $2.8 billion in the first quarter and $1.9 billion in the second quarter of 2009.

If the Zandi-Blinder forecast proves to be accurate, the rescue of the GSEs will be the largest of all the government bailouts – larger than the ultimate cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program or the various actions by the Federal Reserve combined. The only larger cost, in their list of actions designed to revive the economy or to avert a depression, is the Obama economic stimulus package of tax cuts and new federal spending on things like highway projects.

Freddie Mac said some housing trends may be starting to shift in a positive direction. In the second quarter, the firm set aside a bit less money for future loan losses than it did in the first quarter, because of a small downshift in the percentage of borrwers who are delinquent.

“We recognize that high unemployment and other factors still pose very real challenges for the housing market,” Freddie Mac chief executive officer Charles Haldeman Jr. said in a statement accompanying the financial report. “With that in mind, we continue to focus on the quality of the new business we are adding to our book to be responsible stewards of taxpayer funds as we support the nation’s housing market.”

His statement and the losses to taxpayers come as Congress is about to take up the question of so-called GSE reform, or what to do with Fannie and Freddie in the long term. The Obama administration has scheduled a public conference on the topic on Aug. 17.


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ACTA: The War on Progress, Freedom, and Human Civilization

Posted: 09 Aug 2010 11:59 AM PDT

From The Mises Institute

[An MP3 audio file of this article, read by the author, is available for download.]

A clandestine international treaty is currently being negotiated among parties including the United States, Canada, New Zealand, the European Union, Japan, Singapore, and Morocco. It can justly be called the greatest threat of our time to the advancement of human civilization. Considering the magnitude of the other abuses of power pervading the world today, this might seem an exaggeration, but the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) contravenes every principle of civilized society, both in its content and in the nature of the proceedings leading to its creation.

It threatens to undo the accomplishments of the great Internet revolution and to thrust humankind back to a time when individuals had no public voice and no countervailing power against politically privileged mercantilist institutions. ACTA tramples on essential rights that have achieved even mainstream recognition: innocence until one is proven guilty, due process, personal privacy, and fair use of published content. Moreover, because of its designation as a trade agreement, ACTA could be imposed on the people of the United States by the president, without even a vote of Congress.

Some excellent background information on ACTA can be found in posts by Stephan Kinsella (here and here) and Justin Ptak (here), as well as in a detailed communiqué from the American University Washington College of Law. The first official draft textDownload PDF of ACTA was released only as late as April 20, 2010, even though the treaty has been negotiated since 2006. A subsequent draft textDownload PDF was leaked on July 1, 2010. An earlier discussion draftDownload PDF was made available on WikiLeaks on May 22, 2008. Indeed, the extreme secrecy in which the ACTA negotiations have been shrouded should itself lead to the strongest doubts regarding the merits and desirability of its framers’ intentions.

Freedom of Information Act requests regarding ACTA have been denied in the United States on the grounds of “national security” — while major special interests supporting intellectual property have been allowed privileged access to the negotiations. These interests include the usual suspects — the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Sony Pictures, and Time Warner — who were invited by none other than the United States Trade Representative to give their “input” on the treaty.

Members of the public at large, whom national governments are ostensibly supposed to represent, were not allowed to know about the ACTA negotiations for years. Meanwhile, front seats at the negotiating table were offered to the parasitic organizations which have thwarted actual creators’ freedoms and ruined the lives of thousands with frivolous multimillion-dollar lawsuits.

Here, I will only summarize the most salient abuses arising from this treaty, but I encourage readers to learn as much as they can about this truly totalitarian agreement. My other objective here is to demonstrate the enormous danger that ACTA poses: it threatens to thrust human civilization back into the pre-electronic Dark Ages.

ACTA’s provisions would amplify the already-onerous Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. Prior to DMCA, copyright infringement was a civil offense; if the holder of “intellectual property rights” to a work found himself inconvenienced by its unauthorized distribution, he could sue the “infringer” in court. The DMCA criminalized copyright infringement and has rendered thousands of innocent creators’ work subject to notorious and frivolous takedown notices, but it retained important protections for individual consumers and Internet service providers (ISPs). For instance, the DMCA’s “safe harbor” provisions absolved ISPs from liability for any copyright infringement on the part of their customers. ACTA would eliminate this protection and require ISPs to become an enforcement arm of the treaty, under threat that the ISPs themselves would be fined or shut down if they did not comply.

Under the current copyright regime, a holder of “intellectual property rights” is at least formally required to gather evidence of any infringement and submit a grievance. With ACTA, this requirement would be eliminated, and the holder of “intellectual property rights” would not even need to complain in order for governments to persecute the alleged infringer.

The sheer absurdity of this approach does not take long to recognize. Indeed, many copyright holders today — from superstar musicians to part-time online content creators — deliberately look the other way when others reproduce their work without prior permission; they hope to benefit from the resulting exposure. Under ACTA, governments would be able to crack down on the fans of these creators, against those creators’ own wishes! Even if one accepts the validity of intellectual-property rights (which I do not), who would be the rights holder here — individual creators, or governments and the large, politically privileged trade associations that are pushing this treaty?

Under ACTA, the very suspicion or allegation of having downloaded or even accessed copyrighted material online would render one’s computer open to search without a warrant. Fines and other penalties would apply to refusing permission for a search, while anyone consenting to a search would almost certainly be found guilty of some “infringement” or another. Under ACTA, even viewing a website containing material that infringes a copyright — without the viewer being aware of said infringement’s existence — would be considered aiding and abetting the infringement.

Moreover, ACTA would render individuals liable to searches and penalties even for the suspicion of possessing materials that might have been obtained via distribution channels that are similar to distribution channels for obtaining unauthorized copies. So, if you ever downloaded a free mp3 file from an artist who shares all of his work for free online, you would not be safe. And this is not too far off from what the proponents of ACTA desire. Remember that, with the force of US law on its side, the RIAA does not allow even nonmember artists to offer their own works for free on certain channels — such as Internet radio. This organization — the epitome of mercantilism and protectionism for politically connected large studios — would enjoy nothing more than the death of free, legitimate sharing of content online.

Just as important to remember is that people who never infringe on anyone’s copyright are just as likely to suffer from ACTA, particularly if they have anything intelligent and controversial to say online. If there is anything that the history of DMCA notice abuses teaches us, it is that sophisticated expressions of ideas are never safe from malicious and contrived allegations of copyright infringement.

Thousands of creators on YouTube, whose works contained no copyrighted materials, have for years been served DMCA takedown notices by fanatics who intensely disagreed with their ideas. YouTube’s mindless automatic response system to DMCA notices resulted in these creators’ accounts being suspended and sometimes deleted altogether, even when their accusers clearly violated the law by bringing forth frivolous charges. Under ACTA, the same frivolous accusations can result in much more than the deletion of a video account; governments will assume the role of enforcers, and — judging by precedents such as the war on drugs and “airport security” — you can be certain that they will not be nearly as scrupulous or respectful of individual rights as YouTube.

While the current judicial system’s treatment of intellectual property has certainly been flawed, when compared to ACTA, it is a shining example of respect for individual rights. Over the years, a number of fair-use exemptions to copyright law have been carved out by the courts to protect individuals seeking to use portions of copyrighted material for research, teaching, satire, and debate — among other worthwhile purposes. ACTA would greatly roll back the scope of fair use and would largely take the questions out of national judicial systems and into the scope of an international enforcement body specifically created by the treaty.

Under the current system, there at least exists the hope that other policy objectives pursued by the same governmental bodies — such as economic growth and semifree trade — might trump draconian crackdowns on dubiously classified infringements. But an organization devoted primarily to persecuting copyright infringers will have no such countervailing considerations. The theory of regulatory capture suggests that this body will quickly be co-opted to serve the agendas of the RIAA, MPAA, and other parasites of copyright.

Explicit comments from ACTA negotiators deny that governments would use the treaty to launch massive search efforts by border guards of individual travelers’ laptops and mp3 players. However, the draft treaty and discussion drafts nevertheless do contain provisions authorizing exactly this sort of search. It is immaterial whether or not the intent is to target massive commercial cross-border “pirating” operations: where the authority to engage in a certain act against ordinary individuals exists, it will be invoked somewhere, sometime, by somebody.

To be sure, the searches would be scattered and irregularly applied; they would not affect all people all the time. But the very right to conduct such a search would provide a formal justification for inconveniencing and punishing individuals who may displease the authorities for other reasons but who, in the absence of ACTA, would provide no probable cause for their devices to be scrutinized. To quote Ayn Rand’s villain Dr. Floyd Ferris from Atlas Shrugged,

There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of law-breakers — and then you cash in on guilt.[1]

Not every person would have a laptop or mp3 player searched at the border under ACTA, but the possibility of such a search would be a sword hanging over every traveler, descending at the enforcers’ whim. Would you take the risk of traveling with an electronic device under such a regime, or would you consign yourself to the safer drudgery of travel without one, as occurred before the electronic age?

ACTA’s scope extends into the sphere of patents as well. ACTA would greatly restrict generic drug competition against expensive brand-name labels — creating still more pharmaceutical monopolies and becoming yet another law that contributes to the ever-skyrocketing cost of healthcare. For instance, if a generic drug shipment were traveling from Country A (whose laws allowed it) to Country B (whose laws allowed it), but happened to pass through Country C, where the patent laws prohibited the drug, the officials of Country C would be empowered to confiscate the shipment. Moreover, producers of inputs used in patent-infringing generic drugs could be persecuted under ACTA, even if the use of their product in the drugs occurred without their knowledge. As with any law affecting the availability of medicines, Frédéric Bastiat’s emphasis on the unseen effects is paramount here. How many lives will be lost because of the confiscation of affordable, safe, generic medicines due to ACTA?

Readers who have followed me to this point may be thinking, “Sure, ACTA is misguided and abusive in many ways, but is it not an exaggeration to call it the greatest threat to civilization?” I will now take up the challenge of demonstrating this more ambitious part of my argument.

The Internet and other personal technologies have been the saving grace of the past 20 years. In every other respect, Western societies in 2010 look much more dysfunctional and tyrannical than they did in 1990. Consider that, 20 years ago, totalitarianism was collapsing in the Soviet Bloc and beginning to be consciously rejected in China; today, in the West itself, our previously creeping totalitarianism now advances at a gallop. Twenty years ago, one could arrive at the airport a half-hour before one’s flight, pass through perfunctory and barely noticeable security, and enjoy a relatively comfortable flight. Today, the airports are populated by virtual strip-search machines, while the bailed-out, subsidized airlines inflict a litany of petty abuses on travelers.

Even the water-boarding torture under the Bush administration seems mild compared to the prerogative that the Obama administration has assumed to unilaterally order the assassination of any person — American citizens included — on the mere suspicion of terrorist activity. The First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments to the US Constitution have all suffered grievous abuses that would have been unthinkable in 1990. In the meantime, vast segments of the population continue to think that this is all being done for our own good. However, without the Internet, the majority of these abuses would simply have been hushed up, as they probably have been during most of human history.

The actions of national governments have not been the only signs of deterioration over the past 20 years. In 1990, large Western corporations still maintained a semblance of competency and focus on satisfying consumer desires; today, most of them are lining up for bailouts. They have refused to innovate and refuse to adjust obsolete institutional structures to take advantage of new technological possibilities. Predictably, they began to fail.

In virtually all areas of life — transportation, finances, entertainment, and education — individuals began to look to more forward-thinking and reliable providers, and this has been greatly assisted by the Internet. Unable to compete on the technologically bolstered free market, the old institutions clamored increasingly for political protection.

Indeed, ACTA is itself an instance of this tendency. The obsolete Hollywood entertainment industry — with its gigantic, capital-devouring record labels, movie studios, and culture of serving mind-numbing trash of the lowest common denominator to as many people as possible — finds itself unable to compete with a new paradigm where individual creators and individual consumers are truly in charge.

Under the new culture, barriers to entry are much lower, technologies for disseminating art and entertainment are much more accessible, and there exist numerous niche markets for sophisticated consumers who reject the vacuous, conformist mass culture disseminated by the established entertainment firms.

The rise of online video sites and the Creative Commons license has further cast the RIAA/MPAA types into irrelevancy. But just like the banks and automobile companies of the American establishment, these organizations will not adapt to new technological realities; nor will they bow out with dignity. They prefer to remain as vampire institutions, perpetuating themselves by draining the lifeblood of the economy, and unwaveringly holding on to every vestige of the waste and inefficiency that fueled the current economic predicament. Politicians, knowing where their campaign contributions are coming from, are all too happy to oblige and to cement old institutional arrangements into law. ACTA is the TARP of the entertainment establishment.

The free culture of the Internet — free both in the sense of liberty and in the sense of monetary cost — has the potential to loosen and ultimately remove the death grip of the old institutions on Western societies. In “The Effects of the Economic Crisis on Young People” I argue that the up-and-coming generation should create an alternative economy using the Internet and personal technology so as to immunize itself from the depredations of bailed-out firms and inflationary monetary authorities. But if this culture of creative activity on the Internet is quashed by ACTA, the vampire institutions could persist indefinitely.

This would not be the first time in history when stagnation and decline characterize entire eras. Ancient Egypt, the Roman and Byzantine Empires, the European Dark Ages, Bourbon France, and the Soviet Union are just a few examples; obsolete and parasitic institutions, with enough force, can ruin the lives of multiple generations before finally collapsing under their own oppressive weight.

To be sure, ACTA would not kill the Internet altogether — not directly, at least. But if even routine uses of the Internet — not to mention trying to develop new online technologies for creation and distribution of content — render one vulnerable to criminal persecution, how many ordinary, risk-averse people would choose to participate? Not even the semblance of breaking the law would be required for one to be harmed by ACTA.

Indeed, the model for what would happen on a much larger scale under ACTA can already be foreseen by observing recent US federal government crackdowns on innocent, legitimate blogs. On July 16, 2010, federal authorities shut down, a site that hosted 73,000 blogs, under the allegation that some of these blogs reproduced copyrighted material. Any reasonable person will recognize, of course, that most of the blog owners probably committed no violation whatsoever, but millions of hours of human effort were nonetheless wiped out by this new kind of random, arbitrary censorship. Would you invest your time and energy into developing a high-quality blog if you feared that it could be destroyed at any moment, and not because of any action you took?

I somehow doubt that the federal authorities are experiencing any pangs of guilt or regret on account of this. It is, after all, much easier to control a population that only has access to three evening news channels, which are carbon copies of one another. Under ACTA, the books burned by the Spanish Inquisition would pale in comparison to the human knowledge and creative effort that will be forever eradicated under the rationale of enforcing dubious intellectual property rights.

I predict that ACTA will result in a war on the Internet, akin to the war on drugs. Internet use would not disappear, but many perfectly legitimate activities will be relegated to a black market of sorts, complete with all the attendant evils of genuine, physical crime, fraud, and an artificially created Hobbesian state of nature. Product quality, too, will decline, as people will direct their efforts more toward avoiding persecution than toward innovating.

The sophisticated online creator will become an outlaw, and what could have been unambiguously beneficial or at least harmless activities may become tainted by association with more sinister doings — much as the war on drugs has cast criminal aspersions on the procurement of cough medicine. For “respectable people,” the Internet will come to be seen not as the civilization-saving nexus of progress that it is, but rather as another outlet for gangsterism or, at best, a messy battleground that people concerned with a modicum of stability in their lives would do well to avoid. The resulting chilling effect on progress would be the greatest long-term tragedy conceivable for our time.

A determined effort should be launched by all parties who are rightly appalled at the abuses ACTA would bring about. Fortunately, many allies from diverse backgrounds and intellectual perspectives can be found for this particular battle. Unfortunately, ACTA advocates will do everything they can to bypass channels of government and civil society where extensive and thorough debate would be possible.

The inability of national legislatures to vote on the treaty is particularly disturbing, as it allows for expeditious, behind-the-scenes implementation without the possibility for political fallout for ACTA’s supporters on account of their votes. There remains no option but for members of the public to oppose ACTA directly using whatever methods of peaceful communication and persuasion are available to them.

It is important to remember that convincing others to oppose this treaty does not require full-fledged intellectual conversion to anti-intellectual-property libertarianism. While I personally reject the concept of intellectual property, it is also possible to support the general idea but to detest the kind of draconian regime that ACTA would implement. It is my hope that the intellectual-property justification for censorship and terrorization of innocent people will disappear over time, but stopping this treaty is a much more urgent and time-sensitive goal. If ACTA is stalled or thwarted, then maybe civilization will have a fighting chance.

A medium-term goal would be for consumers, through their peaceful and perfectly legitimate choices, to cast the entertainment establishment out of existence. As long as the vampire institutions continue to exist, they will continue to lobby for violent protectionism at the cost of basic individual freedoms. It is time to stop purchasing the completely superfluous products of these institutions and to cease having anything to do with their output altogether. The culture will become much improved as a result, and autonomous, thoughtful creators will only be benefited.

We should deliberately escalate the consumption and use of Creative Commons work — and the rewarding of its producers through donations and recommendations. Many genuine and consumer-respecting creators continue to produce under the copyright model and innocently support it, while refraining from turning it into a weapon against peaceful consumers; their work should also still be encouraged. However, the types that deliberately and knowingly aid the likes of the RIAA and MPAA should cease to receive the patronage of freedom-loving individuals who do not wish to be hanged by their own purse strings.

Stopping ACTA is absolutely indispensable for the short term, and relegating intellectual property to the dustbin of history is a praiseworthy long-term aim. In the intermediate timeframe, though, it is important to recognize that, even if defeated now, ACTA may be resurrected in other venues and forms. It is time to launch a cultural rebellion against the organizations that would foist ACTA’s tyranny upon us.


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Collecting Rainwater Now Illegal in Many States as Big Government Claims Ownership Over Our Water

Posted: 09 Aug 2010 08:23 AM PDT

From Natural News

(NaturalNews) Many of the freedoms we enjoy here in the U.S. are quickly eroding as the nation transforms from the land of the free into the land of the enslaved, but what I’m about to share with you takes the assault on our freedoms to a whole new level. You may not be aware of this, but many Western states, including Utah, Washington and Colorado, have long outlawed individuals from collecting rainwater on their own properties because, according to officials, that rain belongs to someone else.

As bizarre as it sounds, laws restricting property owners from “diverting” water that falls on their own homes and land have been on the books for quite some time in many Western states. Only recently, as droughts and renewed interest in water conservation methods have become more common, have individuals and business owners started butting heads with law enforcement over the practice of collecting rainwater for personal use.

Check out this YouTube video of a news report out of Salt Lake City, Utah, about the issue. It’s illegal in Utah to divert rainwater without a valid water right, and Mark Miller of Mark Miller Toyota, found this out the hard way.

After constructing a large rainwater collection system at his new dealership to use for washing new cars, Miller found out that the project was actually an “unlawful diversion of rainwater.” Even though it makes logical conservation sense to collect rainwater for this type of use since rain is scarce in Utah, it’s still considered a violation of water rights which apparently belong exclusively to Utah’s various government bodies.

“Utah’s the second driest state in the nation. Our laws probably ought to catch up with that,” explained Miller in response to the state’s ridiculous rainwater collection ban.

Salt Lake City officials worked out a compromise with Miller and are now permitting him to use “their” rainwater, but the fact that individuals like Miller don’t actually own the rainwater that falls on their property is a true indicator of what little freedom we actually have here in the U.S. (Access to the rainwater that falls on your own property seems to be a basic right, wouldn’t you agree?)

Outlawing rainwater collection in other states

Utah isn’t the only state with rainwater collection bans, either. Colorado and Washington also have rainwater collection restrictions that limit the free use of rainwater, but these restrictions vary among different areas of the states and legislators have passed some laws to help ease the restrictions.

In Colorado, two new laws were recently passed that exempt certain small-scale rainwater collection systems, like the kind people might install on their homes, from collection restrictions.

Prior to the passage of these laws, Douglas County, Colorado, conducted a study on how rainwater collection affects aquifer and groundwater supplies. The study revealed that letting people collect rainwater on their properties actually reduces demand from water facilities and improves conservation.

Personally, I don’t think a study was even necessary to come to this obvious conclusion. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that using rainwater instead of tap water is a smart and useful way to conserve this valuable resource, especially in areas like the West where drought is a major concern.

Additionally, the study revealed that only about three percent of Douglas County’s precipitation ended up in the streams and rivers that are supposedly being robbed from by rainwater collectors. The other 97 percent either evaporated or seeped into the ground to be used by plants.

This hints at why bureaucrats can’t really use the argument that collecting rainwater prevents that water from getting to where it was intended to go. So little of it actually makes it to the final destination that virtually every household could collect many rain barrels worth of rainwater and it would have practically no effect on the amount that ends up in streams and rivers.

It’s all about control, really

As long as people remain unaware and uninformed about important issues, the government will continue to chip away at the freedoms we enjoy. The only reason these water restrictions are finally starting to change for the better is because people started to notice and they worked to do something to reverse the law.

Even though these laws restricting water collection have been on the books for more than 100 years in some cases, they’re slowly being reversed thanks to efforts by citizens who have decided that enough is enough.

Because if we can’t even freely collect the rain that falls all around us, then what, exactly, can we freely do? The rainwater issue highlights a serious overall problem in America today: diminishing freedom and increased government control.

Today, we’ve basically been reprogrammed to think that we need permission from the government to exercise our inalienable rights, when in fact the government is supposed to derive its power from us. The American Republic was designed so that government would serve the People to protect and uphold freedom and liberty. But increasingly, our own government is restricting people from their rights to engage in commonsense, fundamental actions such as collecting rainwater or buying raw milk from the farmer next door.

Today, we are living under a government that has slowly siphoned off our freedoms, only to occasionally grant us back a few limited ones under the pretense that they’re doing us a benevolent favor.

Fight back against enslavement

As long as people believe their rights stem from the government (and not the other way around), they will always be enslaved. And whatever rights and freedoms we think we still have will be quickly eroded by a system of bureaucratic power that seeks only to expand its control.

Because the same argument that’s now being used to restrict rainwater collection could, of course, be used to declare that you have no right to the air you breathe, either. After all, governments could declare that air to be somebody else’s air, and then they could charge you an “air tax” or an “air royalty” and demand you pay money for every breath that keeps you alive.

Think it couldn’t happen? Just give it time. The government already claims it owns your land and house, effectively. If you really think you own your home, just stop paying property taxes and see how long you still “own” it. Your county or city will seize it and then sell it to pay off your “tax debt.” That proves who really owns it in the first place… and it’s not you!

How about the question of who owns your body? According to the U.S. Patent & Trademark office, U.S. corporations and universities already own 20% of your genetic code. Your own body, they claim, is partially the property of someone else.

So if they own your land, your water and your body, how long before they claim to own your air, your mind and even your soul?

Unless we stand up against this tyranny, it will creep upon us, day after day, until we find ourselves totally enslaved by a world of corporate-government collusion where everything of value is owned by powerful corporations — all enforced at gunpoint by local law enforcement.


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Sen. DeMint: Ratifying U.N. Children’s Rights Treaty Would Turn Parental Rights ‘Over to International Community’

Posted: 08 Aug 2010 07:50 PM PDT

From CNS News

Sen. Jim DeMint (R- S.C.) said that if President Barack Obama gets his way and the Senate ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the precedent would be set to place parental rights under the jurisdiction of the international community.

“We believe we need to take clear action here in Congress to protect the rights of parents to raise their children,” DeMint said at a Wednesday panel discussion. “This treaty would, in fact, establish a precedent that those rights have been given over to the international community.”

DeMint is lead sponsor of S. Res. 519, a resolution to protect parental rights, which is co-sponsored by 30 senators total. Only four more senators need to sign on to inform President Obama that he does not have enough votes in the Senate to ratify the treaty, DeMint said.

DeMint has also introduced a joint resolution, proposing a constitutional amendment to protect parental rights.

Under Article 2, Section 2 of the U. S. Constitution, treaties must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate for them to take effect.

The U.N. adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Nov. 20, 1989. By Sept. 2, 1990, 20 nations signed on to enforce the treaty. Currently, with the exception of the United States and Somalia, 193 nations have signed on to enforce it.

Nations that ratify U.N. treaties are bound to adhere to them by international law.

The convention established an 18-member panel to oversee children’s rights in nations that are part of the treaty. If approved by the Senate, the United States would fall under the jurisdiction of this panel.

DeMint said the threat to parental rights is “not some theoretical threat.”

He also said that ratification of the treaty would be “a terrible precedent” not just for parental rights, “but in other areas that we’ve looked at.”

“It submits our federal laws, our national laws to this treaty,” DeMint told “And the fact is that we don’t know exactly how it’s going to run, but we know how bureaucracy works. Once a precedent is established and we have yielded control, we know that it will continue to grow. So the precedent is almost worse than the immediate details.”

DeMint also said that the treaty is superfluous because there are laws already that safeguard abused children in the United States.

“We have laws in place,” DeMint said. “And when we have a parent that abuses a child, in our country, we have laws to protect our children. So we don’t need an international law that was developed for a third world country.”

Asked by a reporter how to hold child abusers accountable, given high levels of child abuse in the U.S., according to statistics, DeMint said that the social services system may not be perfect, but that it is at least under U.S. control.

“The fact that there’s not perfection in our system does not mean that we go to the United Nations for help,” he added.

While DeMint is in the forefront of opposition to the convention, liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is leading the charge for its adoption.

During the Senate confirmation hearing of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, held in January of 2009, Boxer told Rice the treaty would protect “the most vulnerable people of society.”

“Children deserve basic human rights,” Boxer said at the time, “and the convention protects children’s rights by setting some standards here so that the most vulnerable people of society will be protected.”

Boxer also labeled the fact that only the United States and Somalia are non-participants to the treaty as a “shame.”

Boxer has urged the Obama administration to review the treaty for the purpose of adopting it. The United States is already a part of two optional provisions in the treaty, namely relating to child prostitution and child soldiers. Boxer, however, is pushing for full participation in the treaty.

DeMint said there is a “pervasive attitude” in Washington at present that the federal government has “complete control over everything.” The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said, is government intrusion to the last degree.

“If the government, or even the international community, tell you how to raise your children here in America, is there anything that’s off limits?” DeMint asked.


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Senate Bill Marks Next Step in Federal ‘Sustainable Communities’ Plan

Posted: 08 Aug 2010 06:52 PM PDT

This is all part of Agenda 21.

From CNS News

A federal neighborhood planning program to provide grants for environmentally sound, sustainable living communities moved one step closer to being funded Tuesday, when the Senate Banking Committee passed the Livable Communities Act on a 12-10 party line vote.

The act would provide money for part of President Barack Obama’s “Partnership for Sustainable Communities,” which seeks to develop a national urban policy agenda to be carried out jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Transportation (DOT).

The act would create grant programs at HUD that seek to foster so-called sustainable communities, very high-density residential and commercial districts connected by public transportation.

The administration has already allocated billions of dollars since June 2009, when the interagency partnership was announced, to various grant programs designed to push local governments to make planning decisions that fall in line with Obama’s neighborhood planning goals.

Particularly, the administration has linked funds from the Federal Highway Trust Fund for the purpose of encouraging its favored style of land-use planning. The administration planned to transfer $307 million from the fund–normally used to aid states with highway construction–and earmark it for so-called livable communities grants.

The goals of Obama’s community planning initiative were articulated by Obama himself in a January 2010 speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“It’s time to throw out old policies that encouraged sprawl and congestion, pollu­tion, and ended up isolating our communi­ties in the process,” Obama said. “We need strategies that encourage smart development linked to quality public transportation, that bring our communities together.”

The EPA, DOT, and HUD representatives from each agency’s sustainable planning office were even more candid in a July 9 blog post on

“A part of President Obama’s broader urban and metropolitan agenda, the partnership, guided by six livability principles, aims to break down traditional silos and craft federal programs and policies that take a more collaborative and holistic approach to better respond to the needs of communities,” the federal planners wrote.

“In the past, federal policy inadvertently promoted uncoordinated, dispersed growth that left too many communities disconnected from regional assets and without the proper tools to realize their full potential,” they wrote.

“Today, many Americans are car-dependent, living far from their workplaces in residential subdivisions that don’t have quality public transportation and traditional amenities like corner markets, schools, parks, and medical facilities,” they added.

The federal neighborhood planning initiative is designed to coax localities into restricting where people can live, work, and shop into small areas connected by public transportation.

“To build and support these sustainable communities, housing, transportation, environmental protection, economic development, and energy policies need to be developed in concert,” the three government planners wrote.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
The proposal has come under fire from House Budget Committee Ranking Member Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who awarded the DOT program his “Budget Boondoggle Award” in June 2010.

“Local land use and zoning has always been the responsibility of local and State governments–to coordinate transportation and zoning projects, maximizing economic growth and serving community needs,” said Ryan. “But the administration’s ‘livable communities’ initiative ignores this jurisdictional boundary by leveraging grant money to gain heavy influence over local planning decisions.”

“Cities and local communities clearly face major challenges with growth, congestion, and a broad range of other quality-of-life concerns,” said Ryan. “The ‘Office of Livable Communities’ reflects Washington’s lack of trust in localities’ ability to solve their own problems; and instead it imposes an urban-utopian fantasy through an unprecedented intrusion of the Federal Government into the shaping of local communities.”


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