Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Political Class and Crony Capitalism

I was elated but very suspicious when communism failed suddenly in Eastern Europe in 1989. I suspected that the communist elites had decided to go underground to recoup and gain the trust of the west while attempting to rebuild their ranks.  

The communists’ economic system of surplus was such a dismal failure that it was necessary to hide for a while. People were starving literally and figuratively for capitalism, economic freedom, personal freedom, religious freedom, and a better life for their families. They had reached the breaking point where suffering would change into revolt.

The Romanian military finally turned against their handlers and joined the exploited and long-suffering citizens, deposing the brutal and totalitarian regime with its despised dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena.

The former communist rulers and underlings scurried like rats, forgetting to destroy all the damning evidence and documents collected over decades of terror, describing the utter depravity of power and abuse against unarmed and defenseless citizens, who were tortured, imprisoned, killed, and their personal possessions, savings, guns, homes, and land confiscated.

Thus began the difficult road to build a free market, a democratically elected government, and to recoup through the justice system the wealth confiscated by the communist goons.

The problem was that those in power were still the former communist elites who had given themselves new titles and affiliations to various parties that were now forming the fragile and corrupt parliamentary democracy.

One former communist party apparatchik after another took the helm of the country. Money borrowed from the west and earmarked for economic development seemed to disappear overnight. The new rulers started amassing vast fortunes and companies with the money and property confiscated from innocent citizens accused of political dissent during the prior communist regime.

The former proletariat (the workers – and we were all workers) benefited in several ways, primarily in the increased standard of living.

1.      Thousands of churches were built, Bibles and religion could be practiced openly again. 

2.      The borders opened to the European Union and a mass exodus of temporary workers commenced.

3.      Food became plentiful - no more bare shelves, endless daily lines, fights over food, and empty markets. Well-stocked supermarkets and malls opened in larger towns.

4.      Higher education became more accessible to all and tuition was low. When it was free, communist party members’ children had first choices.

5.      Primary and secondary education became globalized, Romanian history forgotten, while students were more and more alienated from their own cultural identity, encouraged and prompted to become “global citizens.”

6.      The gypsy population, the Doma people who call themselves Rroma, migrated back and forth to the EU in search of work and lucrative businesses in the West.

7.      People could now afford to take trips and vacations abroad and were allowed to do so.

8.      Citizens were no longer watched by the Security Police all the time.

9.      The population was free to own guns, hunt, and fish.

In spite of some progress, no accountability was put in place because people did not understand democracy, having been ruled by one tyrant after another over the centuries. People were indentured slaves from the moment they were born.

We did not own anything – the communist elites staked their claim to other peoples’ homes, land, anything on the farm, chickens, pigs, cows, milk, goats, sheep, vegetables, corn, wheat, eggs, cheese, or whatever a farmer produced.

Citizens welcomed capitalism with open arms – it was a new era they dreamed about from movies they had seen on TV and popular series like Dallas. Things began to privatize and the political class was born from the seeds of the former commies now turned into venture capitalists with other people’s money.

Without any vote or referendum, the political class started to dismantle and sell, piece by piece, the aging and non-profitable communist industrial base, factories, steel plants, refineries, oil wells, minerals, coal mines, gold mines, and to cut down forests for timber. The money was pocketed and shared with other politicians who proceeded to build a huge population control machine  – cabinets and agencies meant to control and terrorize, much more powerful than the previous communist dictatorship.

When the money was spent and the economic crisis ensued, the political class cut salaries 25 percent and pensions 15 percent. The people objected to this forced austerity vehemently, but nobody listened to them. The political class was in trouble and needed more money.

The political class spent the public money, billions and billions of dollars, and all they had to show for were ill-designed infrastructure projects, roads full of potholes, high unemployment, interstates that few people could afford to use, and walking around money for meager briberies for low information voters who were used to the communist nanny state and were unable to think or care for themselves independently. Historical buildings were left to crumble and rust, museums to decay, factories were abandoned, and streets turned into slaloms of pothole avoidance.

The corrupt political class dismantled the old regime and created new institutions, not because the country could not exist or run without them, but because cronies wanted special business treatment, special interests, a special position, or a title they’ve always dreamed of holding without much education, merit, or effort and were willing to pay.

Every year the new legislative coalition created new organizations, new structures, new bosses, new state secretaries, undersecretaries, new ministers, mayors, prefects, new institutions, and an ever richer industrial complex.

The former members of the political class never went away, they remained in the system and bloated it, corrupt and without a moral compass, disregarding the law, evading taxes, bribing, and further corrupting the entire political class system.

The economy was always in a state of collapse under communism. The population welcomed “capitalism” with a child-like naivet√© and enthusiasm. They woke up eventually when they realized that this capitalism was of the crony variety. The neo-communists and their crony capitalists pushed the theft and corruption to the highest level.

Government is now huge, turned into a monster by the political class while the people have watched helplessly, unable to stop its growth and escalation of power. The former commies and the new recruits are now the crony capitalists and the political class.

The few honest politicians get lost in the struggle for power. The political class is composed of parties of liberals, democrats, social democrats, national liberals, communists, labor, and other prominent minorities that dictate policies for the entire country.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Butler on Business, 1-23-14 Latest on Climate Change

Latest on Climate Change with Alan Butler. I come on at the 54 minute mark.

Global Warming, EPA, and Exploding Toilets

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson posed an interesting question in support of the idea that we should not worry about cutting carbon emissions, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”

The upcoming state of the union will address global warming in the coldest day of SOU address in history.  (Steven Goddard/Real Science)

The presidential memo of January 9, 2014 announced the establishment of a Quadrennial Energy Review which will concentrate on implementing a new energy policy for our country’s “infrastructure for transporting, transmitting, and delivering energy.” This review will explore “additional executive or legislative actions to address the energy challenges and opportunities facing the nation.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/09/presidential-memorandum-establishing-quadrennial-energy-review

This review will seek input from “nongovernmental, environmental, faith-based, labor, and other social organizations and contributions from the academic and non-profit sectors.” Mark Pryor (D-Ark) introduced the Quadrennial Energy Review Act of 2013 but the bill had a low chance of passing even though the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology made the Quadrennial Energy Review recommendations in March 2013. Plans are underway to push and finance local “clean energy” projects around the nation.  http://www.wnd.com/2014/01/another-unreported-obama-end-run-around-congress/#w82pwZEs9l9s5RLf.99

The global warming “explorers” from Australia who got stuck in miles and miles of Arctic ice and had to rescued, at great expense to many countries who used boats and helicopters powered by fossil fuels, were on a mission to capture footage and evidence of imagined melting polar ice caps.

The lives of billions of humans are rearranged for the worse at great expense and inconvenience to suit the globalist agenda of global warming in the summer and climate change agenda in the winter.

Global warming has become a very profitable business which generates billions and billions of dollars annually. The success of global “green growth” and “clean energy” plans comes after decades of brainwashing in school, with teachers and TV touting the man-made (anthropogenic) hoax and the worship of Gaia, mother Earth.

The talking heads who advocate social justice, climate justice, environmental justice, and equality, bike riding to work and school, saving animals at the expense of humans by re-wilding millions of acres of private and government land, living in 200 square ft. apartments the size of shipping containers, riding in dangerous tin cans, installing bird-chopping, health endangering wind mills, expensive solar panels who fry thousands of birds, using bio fuels with more ethanol that destroys car engines, have not given up their lavish lifestyles or their entire wealth. They still fly in jets with huge carbon “footprints,” own numerous cars, boats, and yachts, live in huge mansions on beaches that are supposed to be underwater when the ice melts.

Aaron Dykes of the ACTIVISTPOST.COM reported that in the Agenda 21 friendly Austin, Texas, in the name of Smart Growth, small high-rise apartments and condos are built, “driving is discouraged, cars are made to back-in angle park, pay to park, and even bicycles are rented out at an absurd rate - $12 for an hour, and up to $75 per day.”  http://www.activistpost.com/2014/01/trendy-bicycle-rentals-cost-75day-in.html

A picture is worth a thousand words. It is interesting to see the regionalism map, proposed Emerging Megaregions for 2050 America. http://www.america2050.org/sync/elements/america2050map.png

How would the state and federal government confiscate/purchase private property so quickly? One way is through eminent domain and environmental conservation. Another method is by property seizures through ObamaCare. 

In more than half the states, ObamaCare comes with an expansion of Medicaid. A 1993 federal law gives the states the right to recoup the costs of Medicaid by seizing the property of Medicaid recipients who have passed away. 

The Washington Post believes the enforcement of this 1993 law under ObamaCare expanded Medicaid “scary but improbable.” This option was rarely used before the Medicaid expansion and national data is scarce. However, the state of Oregon confiscated $41 million assets from 8,900 people from July 2011 to June 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/little-known-aspect-of-medicaid-now-causing-people-to-avoid-coverage/2014/01/23/deda52e2-794e-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html

Some well-informed people are now afraid to sign up for ObamaCare Medicaid expansion – they want to be able to pass their private property on to their heirs.

EPA regulations, EPA is arguably one of the most powerful agencies in America today, are suffocating private citizens and industries alike, destroying jobs and the economy, changing the face of America forever in the process.   

After wasting billions on “environmental justice” for minority communities in the U.S., the EPA is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help towns in Mexico like Nogales and Ensenada to “go green.” http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2014/01/u-s-funds-environmental-projects-in-Mexico/
Everyone is familiar with the low-flow flushing commodes mandated by the EPA in order to save the planet. These commodes do not save water because users must flush several times in order to get rid of waste. Sewer pipes get clogged and homeowners must spend thousands of dollars to dig up and replace the narrow sewer pipes, clean the mess, and replace damaged/smelly/wet/mildewed furniture, walls, and carpet. Water departments spend millions each year flushing their sewer systems that also become clogged from low-flush toilets.

A high-pressure flushing system was developed to help with this problem. Unfortunately this part causes commodes to explode. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Flushmate, the maker of Pressure Assist, recalled 351,000 units in the U.S. and 9,400 in Canada, made between March 2008 and June 2009. In June 2012, 2.3 million units of the same system made between October 1997 and February 2008 were recalled. Do they manufacture a high-pressure flushing Bidet? http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/michigan-company-recalls-exploding-toilets/-/1719418/24083138/-/15noetx/-/index.html

If you are familiar with the miles per gallon requirement for cars ( making them smaller, lighter, and less safe in the process), you will understand the new rating for homes that the Department of Energy is imposing in order to reduce the nation’s energy consumption.

The Home Energy Scoring Tool will be voluntary at first for homeowners looking to “renovate or remodel homes, lower utility bills, improve the comfort of their homes, or reduce energy usage.”

In time, the score derived will be a mandatory to document improvements in compliance with DOE standards when you sell your home. The DOE recommends getting the Home Energy Score “as soon as the program becomes available in your area.” The scoring program started in 2012.

To arrive at such Home Energy Score, a “qualified assessor” comes to your house and collects 40 measurements of your home’s walls, windows, cooling, heating, lighting, etc. The assessors are only available through DOE’s participating partners, state and local governments, utilities, and non-profit organizations (environmental groups).

The scoring fees range from $25-125 and there are more than 25 participating partners and 175 qualified assessors. DOE stated that 8,500 homes have been scored so far. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/doe-plugs-energy-rating-homes-similar-mpg-rating-cars#sthash.xKO9LgXV.dpuf

The software is based on “typical homeowner behavior” (who decides what is typical behavior and how?), with a 1-10 point scale accounting for zip codes assigned to over 1,000 weather stations.

No matter how many times the global warming hoax has been debunked, it remains a very profitable business for global elites aided by government fiat and crony capitalism, while the masses are harmed economically through heavier taxation, loss of property, loss of wealth, loss of freedom, and loss of mobility.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Polar Vortex Was Called Winter in My Childhood

It was bitter cold last night. Tiny snowflakes started to fall in the afternoon, turning lawns into a fantastic winter wonderland. Snow began to accumulate like a soft immaculate blanket. Then the hawk came and started blowing the soft dry snow into swirls of wind, howling past the windows, biting and stinging cheeks with the pricking sensation of needles. The wind chill was below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ghostly whiteness cast an illuminating glow inside the house all night. Trees were claiming their stake of the pristine snow-covered ground with intense shadows. The moon was a hanging globe of shiny silvery yellow.

The sunrise made the snow sparkle with an orange glow peppered with crystal rhinestones. It was an invigorating and frost-biting sun.

When my hubby shoveled the drive way, the scraping of the plastic against the asphalt reverberated in the quiet stillness of the street. An occasional stronger gust of wind would temporarily blind him with a snow shower from the tree tops. The tall oaks were creaking with frozen stiffness.

I had left a six inch deep frying pan on the deck last night and it was now covered completely by snow. I could have used a ruler instead but it was more fun this way.

The roads were deserted in spite of the school closures. Nobody went to work except my husband. No kids were outside playing in the snow or sledding down the many hills in the neighborhood. No laughter of kids chasing each other in snowball fights or building snowmen. Homes were shuttered like tombs.

Even the animals were hiding in the woods. There were no deer hoof prints or fox paws in the fresh fallen snow. A silent black bird with white throat was taking a snow bath on the lamp post. The non-hibernating squirrels were hiding in their nests; the ground was way too cold and frozen to dig for nuts between the evergreens.

Are the kids sleeping late or huddled in front of television or computer screens? Are they frightened by the cold, afraid to play outside because they might hurt themselves?

We used to play outside all day in bitter cold winters, oblivious to frigid cold, wetness, and slosh around us or the adult discomfort and misery. Parents had to walk to work, slipping often on the thick ice. We took tumbles like rubber figurines, getting up with a roaring laughter each time, rubbing the painful part.

Bundled up to the eyeballs in layers, with pajamas next to the skin, kids were stuffed like Michelin Men. We skated and sledded until dark, sometimes hitching rides on the tail bumper of slow moving cars. There were no regulators around to tell us that we might die. When the lights came on, we knew it was time to go home. Our clothes were so wet and frozen, it took a little while to peel off all the layers, like a tight onion.

Some dads pulled their children on sleighs on Sundays, trudging through snow and ice like dutiful oxen to make their bundled kids happy. We tobogganed down a steep hill nearby, climbing it with a flexible flyer in tow over and over until our cheeks were rosy and our running noses red from the blustery wind.

On our way to school, sometimes we were secluded from view and wind by snow drifts on both sides – it looked like we were walking through crystal tunnels, occasionally splashed by passing busses. Often the two mile walk back and forth to school was very cold and painful when we slipped on ice or the wind picked up, we were buffeted so hard that the snow felt like little ice daggers cutting our faces with the discomfort of paper cuts – pain by a thousand miniature icicles.

There was a nice ski resort called Sinaia, not far from my hometown – it was “reserved” for foreign vacationers who paid in dollars and the communist elites who had villas in the area and could afford to buy the equipment, pay for lessons, and ride the ski lift to the top. The skating rinks were reserved for the elites as well – ice skates and boots were very expensive.

Our fun winters from long ago are now called polar vortex by the very wise and omniscient climate change discoverers.

I drove to Sinaia last year and visited the lodging base area where more hotels have been built since the temporary “fall” of communism. Now that capitalism in America has given me the opportunity to afford to fly to a ski resort, stay in a ski lodge, buy equipment or rent it, ride the lift to the top, my knees are not so cooperative.




Conservation Easements for Unsuspecting Farmers

Paris Barn Virginia (Martha Boneta's Farm)
After Delegate Bobby Orrock introduced on January 8, 2014, HB 268 http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?141+sum+HB268,
and Senator Richard Stuart filed a companion bill, SB51, http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?141+sum+SB51,
Delegate Bob Marshall introduced on January 17, 2014, HB 1219.

The first two bills reintroduced the Right to Farm Act HB 1430 (Boneta Bill) which passed in the House but was defeated in the Virginia Senate last year. I have discussed the battle in my recent article, “Boneta Bill Part Deux.” http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/60539

In case you wonder, why would anyone care what is happening in another state, rest assured that it is coming to your state or is already there. It is an important battle not just in Virginia. Property owners and farmers are fined, bullied, and threatened around the country based on zoning ordinances and environmental conservation easements with onerous requirements and inspections.

HB 268 addresses agricultural operations and local regulation of certain activities, “protecting customary agritourism activities from local bans in the absence of substantial impacts on the public welfare and requires certain localities to take certain factors into account when regulating agritourism activities.”

Because local boards of supervisors have abused their power in the past, “there has to be a basis in health, safety, or public welfare for a local ordinance to restrict activities such as agritourism, sale of agricultural or silvicultural products, related items, preparation or sale of foods that already comply with state laws, and other customary activities. Local boards are “prohibited from subjecting these activities to a special-use permit requirement.”

Delegate Bob Marshall’s bill HB 1219, introduced on January 17, 2014, “provides that local governments violating constitutional rights through zoning shall pay their victims (1) the amount of fines they sought to impose, and (2) actual damages including attorney fees. Local government officials who intentionally violate this law would also be liable.” http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?141+ful+HB1219

Had these bills been in place, Martha Boneta would not have been bullied and threatened with $5,000 fines per day by her county government when she held a pumpkin carving party for 10-year olds on her own property.

Mark Fitzgibbons, a Constitutional attorney, is of the opinion that “There is great but underutilized precedent for remedies against government officials who abuse their power to violate the rights of citizens. Virginians don’t need to go broke protecting their rights on their own property.”

HB 1219 will “authorize private citizens to file suit for damages, Virginia’s Attorney General to defend the victims, and give whistleblower protection to government employees who expose violations of this law.”

The problems with land use restrictions in Virginia run deep. For example, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Warrenton, Virginia, Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), with its “comprehensive planning” of Virginia’s rural areas, has been successful in blocking Disney from opening a theme park in Prince William County twenty years ago.

More recently, PEC battled Trump Virginia Acquisitions, LLC, who bought Patricia Kluge’s Estate Winery and Vineyard in 2011 with the intent of expanding its dormant 9-hole golf course into an 18-hole course. The problem was that 216 acres of the 1,200 acre property had been placed by the former owner, Patricia Kluge, under “conservation easement” in 2006.

A “conservation easement” imposes certain restrictions on the homeowners’ use of their property in exchange for tax breaks. According to Dr. Cohen, “golf courses with conservation easements are common throughout the United States, including on courses owned by Donald Trump.”

PEC considered the project “inconsistent with the rural and agricultural character of the area,” citing traffic and noise. “In addition to the traffic and noise impacts, we also have concerns about water use, run-off, and septic issues.”

Martha Boneta had a conservation easement with PEC when she bought her farm. Martha uses tires on her property to “help hollow fields for plowing, train animals to move in a certain direction, and assist in planting. PEC sued Boneta, saying that the tires violated her agricultural conservation easement, and she was forced to store them in an enclosure.” Tires were the least of her numerous and constant problems with PEC. http://www.cfact.org/2013/11/05/trumping-a-golf-course-over-pec-adillos-in-northern-virginia/

On January 21, 2014, the new Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, announced more than $1 million in farmland preservation grants - “Eight localities receive funds to place working farmlands under permanent conservation easements.”

The counties of Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier, Isle of Wright, James City, Stafford, and the City of Virginia Beach will receive $149,678.46 each. Rappahannock County will receive $11,000. Since 2008, the Commonwealth of Virginia allocated $8.68 million in state matching funds for permanent conservation easements.

“Localities must use the grant monies to preserve farmland within their boundaries through local Purchase of Development Right (PDR) programs. PDR programs compensate landowners who work with localities to preserve their land permanently by voluntarily placing a perpetual conservation easement on it.”

At a time when food is expensive, we are using more crops for biofuels, and we have to import food from other nations, the obvious and most important question is - why would a landowner place good farmland under perpetual conservation easement in order to preserve it? Preserve working farmland for what?

A quick check of United Nation’s Agenda 21 40-chapter document on Sustainable Development, signed and adopted by 178 nations in 1992, reveals under Chapter 10 (Integrated Approach to the Planning and Management of Land Resources) a section 10.7 (c) which mandates to “establish a general framework for land use and physical planning within which specialized and more detailed sectoral plans (e.g., for protected areas, agriculture, forests, human settlements, rural developments) can be developed.”

Check the rural “comprehensive planning” in your area in synch with UN Agenda 21 and see how much of your property rights have already been taken away by regionalism, conservation easements, and through zoning laws passed by Boards of Supervisors without your knowledge, input, approval, or opportunity to vote.



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Boneta Bill Part Deux

Farming comprises less than three percent of American labor force that feeds 307 million Americans and many other millions around the world yet government regulations are making it harder and harder for small farms to operate and bring wholesome foods to the market.

Why should farmers be subjected to “annual property monitoring visits and inspections” by environmental groups, environmental councils, and local supervisors beholden to international agencies, groups that have no idea how their food gets to the table nor do they care?

Virginians have fought back the NGO environmentalist assaults on their land, private property rights, and the right to farm by introducing HB 1430, The Right to Farm Act, better known as the Boneta Bill, which passed the House of Delegates 77-22 in February 2013 but was blocked by the Senate Agricultural Committee by a vote of 11-4. The sponsor of the bill, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, promised to reintroduce the bill in 2014.

Chairman Mike Thomas and his committee of 12 proposed a resolution on May 4, 2013, the Virginia Small Farm and Food Freedom Resolution in support of HB 1839, the Virginia Food Freedom Act. (www.vafarmandfoodfreedom.com)

The Resolution called on the Republican Party of Virginia “to support state legislation and local ordinances consistent with each farmer’s right to determine what best constitutes farming, farm life, the best uses of his/her own farm land, respect for their neighbors,” market pay for their labor, and to repeal state laws and ordinances inconsistent with the Resolution.

Martha Boneta found herself at the center of the battle for farm freedom and property rights when she held a birthday party for eight 10-year old girls at her Paris Barns. Fauquier County deemed this party illegal because it lacked permit. “Why would I need a permit for pumpkin carving?” Boneta said.

Boneta was issued a special license in 2011 which allowed her to run a “retail farm shop” in which she sold handspun yarns, fresh vegetables, eggs, herbs, honey, and craft items such as birdhouses.

Fauquier County Board of Supervisors changed in 2011 the “farm sales classification” to require a special permit for activities that were previously included in the permit that Boneta had already been issued.

Faced with fines of $5,000 per violation under charges that she held a birthday party for eight 10-year old girls without a permit and a “site plan,” advertised one wine tasting, sold postcards with pictures of her rescued farm animals, sold wool fiber products from her sheep and alpacas, and sold organic tea from herbs grown in her garden, even though she had a business license, Martha paid $500 to appeal these unjust administrative charges. “The county zoning administrator told her at the hearing that ‘Martha was out of line,’ for appealing these charges.”

When farm property owners can no longer hold a child’s birthday party without a permit, we are no longer free. In a letter dated January 8, 2012, Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter said, “What’s next? A citation from the food police for serving cake and ice cream to the children? A user fee for every helium balloon inflated? It’s not outside the realm of possibility. Not anymore.”

Farmers engage primarily in agriculture; additionally, they have the right to commerce, the right of enjoyment of their land, assembly on their own property, the right to exercise religious freedom on their lands, the right to grow, eat, sell their locally produced foods without burdensome local and state government regulations or dictates from environmental groups sponsored by international groups and entities with taxpayer dollars.

Government should not use laws, regulations, zoning ordinances, or cumbersome and expensive permits to violate or trespass on farmers’ rights and freedom to farm under the guise that they know what is best for farming in general or one farmer in particular.

Such government agencies that violate farmers’ rights and trespass on their property should be made accountable for their deeds. Americans should not be treated as guilty until proven innocent while giving environmental groups unlimited power without much redress for small farmers who do not have the means to fight back and must shut down their farming operations and farm stores as was the case of Martha Boneta in Virginia and many others across the country.

The new Governor of Virginia and the General Assembly have a duty to advance legislation in 2014 that respects the rights of citizens to pursue their self-interests as protected by the Constitution of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

It appears that a compromise was reached and, on January 8, 2014, Delegate Bobby Orrock introduced HB 268. This bill is the labor of a state-appointed task force which assembled farmers from both sides of the aisle, reviewed public testimony, and reached a compromise. http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?141+sum+HB268

HB 268 summarizes agricultural operations and local regulation of certain activities, “protecting customary agritourism activities from local bans in the absence of substantial impacts on the public welfare and requires certain localities to take certain factors into account when regulating agritourism activities.” There has to be a basis in health, safety, or public welfare for a local ordinance to restrict activities such as agritourism, sale of agricultural or silvicultural products, related items, preparation or sale of foods that already comply with state laws, and other customary activities. Local boards are “prohibited from subjecting these activities to a special-use permit requirement.”

Senator Richard Stuart filed a companion bill, SB51. http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?141+sum+SB51

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services task force members included:

-         Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm

-         Lois Smith of Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association Katie Frazer of Virginia Agribusiness

-         Trey Davis of Virginia Farm Bureau

-         Martha Boneta of Liberty Farm

Virginia Farm Bureau and Virginia Agribusiness Council support the new bill that will strengthen the rights of small family-owned farms, allowing them “to sell their products from nearby farms and host events without additional local permits.”

Martha Boneta, a member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, http://farmtoconsumer.org/ explains, “This is a win-win for farmers, consumers, and the state. Farmers get the income they need, while consumers have a one-stop shop option and the state gains additional sales revenue. We are all so happy we’ve found a winning compromise.”

Bills can be tracked at:

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Skinny on Bitcoin

Precious metals, gold, silver, copper, have been used as payment for goods and services as early as 2500 B.C.  Such money made of precious metals was called commodity currency because it had intrinsic value, the precious metal which could be melted or shorn on the edges to make gold dust.

Currency circulating today, not backed by gold or silver since August 1971, is fiat currency, created and authorized by governments as their official currency. It has value only because the government says it does and there is faith in that particular government that prints the currency.

The Federal Reserve System (a system of privately owned banks) notes today are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. The Fed engages in monetary policy to influence aggregate demand by changing interest rates. To increase or lower interest rates, the Fed sells or buys U.S. government securities on the open market.

In the past, American colonists used to cut up coins in order to make change on the spot. “A half coin was considered four bits, and a quarter coin was two bits.” (Kenneth M. Morris and Virginia B. Morris)

A computer programmer, using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, created in January 2009 a digital currency called Bitcoin.  This currency does not require a third-party middleman such as a bank, Pay Pal, or Visa.

Even though the identities of the buyers and sellers are encrypted, there is a Bitcoin transaction record in a public ledger. The Bitcoin network is “completely decentralized,” the users execute all parts of the deal. Compared to credit card electronic payments or dollar debit and credit, the use of Bitcoin as electronic currency is relatively small.

Users love Bitcoin because it offers privacy from government intrusion, lowers transaction costs, and affords long term protection of loss of purchasing power from inflation. Inflation has been a serious concern lately. Escalating prices, coupled with endless quantitative easings by the Fed are reasons for that apprehension.

The price of Bitcoin as virtual money can be volatile, theft and fraud are serious fears, and a “long term deflationary bias encourages the hoarding of Bitcoins.”

Congress looks at Bitcoin for its potential use in illegal money transfers and laundering (as if that does not occur already with U.S. dollars), protection of consumers and investors (such stated protection did not help GM and Chrysler bond holders even though they held contracts with legal prior claim), and whether the Fed will be able to control “stable prices, maximum employment, and financial stability.” (The Fed does not seem to be doing such a great job, printing in excess of $85 billion a month to buy bonds, the U-6 is in the vicinity of 13 percent even though the official reported unemployment is an impossible 6.7% when 92 million Americans are unemployed).

From the regulatory standpoint, Congress does not know how to grasp and include Bitcoin under federal securities law and under foreign exchange trading. Two Senate hearings were held:

-          November 18, 2013, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, “Beyond Silk Road: Potential Risks, Threats, and Promises”

-          November 19, 2013, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, “The Current and Future Impact of Virtual Currencies”

The rub is that Bitcoin is not redeemable for another commodity, it is not legal tender like the U.S. dollar, it is not backed by any government (may or may not be a good thing), and supply is not determined by a central bank (may or may not be a good thing).

Because it relies on cryptography, Bitcoin is also called  a crypto currency. To understand how it works, a primer is available, “Bitcoin: a Primer for Policymakers,” Mercatus Center, George Mason University, 2013. http://mercatus.org/bitcoin-primer-policymakers

A decentralized public ledger called “blockchain” is visible to all computers on the network but all account holders’ identities are encrypted - “the public ledger verifies that the buyer has the Bitcoin being spent and has transferred that amount to the account of the seller.”

The ledger resolves the issue of the double spending problem, forgery and counterfeiting, and of the need for a bank or a credit card company.

There are three ways to get Bitcoins once you download the free software:

-          Fiat money such as dollars and euros can be exchanged for Bitcoins after an exchange fee is paid based on the size of the transaction (0.5 percent for a small one and 0.2 percent for a larger one). The online exchanges are Mt. Gox, Coinbase, and Kraken. The price of Bitcoin vis-√†-vis other currency is based on supply and demand. Prices are quite volatile – November 2013 price was $200, $1,200 in early December, and $800 in mid-December.(www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43339.pdf) The current price of a Bitcoin is found here (http://bicoincharts.com/)

-          Bitcoins can be obtained to pay for the sale of goods and services - a dentist accepting Bitcoin from a patient who buys dentures

-          Mining as in gold mining (using computer power to find new Bitcoins)

According to Craig K. Elwell, there are 12 million Bitcoins in circulation and the total number that can be generated has been randomly capped at 21 million coins by 2140, with maximum amount of spendable units at more than 2,000 trillion. A Bitcoin is divisible to eight decimals. Purchased or mined Bitcoins are stored in a digital wallet on the owner’s computer or in an online wallet service.

To determine the amount of Bitcoin market capitalization, one multiplies the current value of Bitcoin by 12 million – the result is over $20 billion. Bitcoin daily transactions volume in 2013 fluctuated between $20-40 million, about 40,000 daily transactions. http://bitcoincharts.com/

Bitcoin is still low volume when compared with the money supply, credit cards, and foreign exchange markets:

-          Bitcoin $20 billion

-          U.S. money supply in September 2013 $10.8 trillion

-          Visa in June 2013 $6.9 trillion

-          Daily transactions in 2012 on foreign exchange markets $4 trillion (Congressional Research Service, R43339, December 20, 2013, pp. 6-7)

If Bitcoin takes off, its existence might interfere with the Fed’s monetary policy by impacting the quantity of money, velocity of dollar circulation, and potentially interest rates.

Bitcoin use appears attractive and desirable because of lower transaction costs, more privacy, and no loss of purchasing power due to inflation. However, Bitcoin’s purpose as a medium of exchange is questionable due to its price volatility, Bitcoin is no legal tender, and hacking into Bitcoin account holders can be a problem.

Most economists would agree that a market-based economy runs more efficiently if it operates on one monetary unit as opposed to multiple monetary units.

Because Congress was granted the authority “to coin money and regulate the value thereof” in the Article I of the U.S. Constitution, it is exploring how to oversee and control virtual money such as Bitcoin via tax requirements through the IRS, offshoring, and “Homeland Security confronting the rise of virtual currencies.”

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee “envisions a government-wide approach to the threats and promises of digital currency.” SEC will definitely be interested in regulating investing in Bitcoins. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission might consider Bitcoin a “commodity“ and regulate it. The Stamp Act of 1862 and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act might be applicable to Bitcoin.







Friday, January 10, 2014

The Government 200 Square Feet "Stack and Pack" Concrete A-Podments

An American diplomat who flew over communist Romania during Ceausescu’s reign of terror asked the innocent question, where are the farmers and their homes, I see nothing but fields of green everywhere?

The accompanying hosts looked at each other embarrassed and nobody answered the question. It was too undiplomatic and dangerous to explain to this westerner coming from the land of freedom and private property that the farmers’ land had been confiscated, collectivized, and the former owners moved by force to government assigned concrete block apartments ranging in size from 200-400 square feet.

These apartments were located in blocks with 2-4 entrances depending on whether they were five or nine stories high. The five-story buildings did not have elevators; the nine-story buildings had lifts that could safely carry two individuals at a time and were seldom operational. Renters of various ages and physical abilities had the joy of climbing stairs every day.

Social engineers had decided that land was better used in co-operative farms owned by the communist government. Private homes located on farm land were bulldozed and people were moved either in a compact village attached to the collective farm, with little room between single homes, or in the densely populated cities with grey concrete apartments mushrooming overnight.

The communist party elites had decided that having too much private space was bourgeois, the socialist men needed just enough space to eat and sleep, the rest of the time had to be spent at work.

This brings me to the current trend in the U.S. to reduce Americans’ living space to as little as possible by changing zoning laws without their consent, using visioning committees composed of local agreeable supervisors and outside non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with lots of available grant money from HUD and other government agencies.

U.N. Agenda 21 is behind zoning, regionalism, land and water use, Sustainable Development, global warming, wealth redistribution, social engineering, Smart Growth, Green Growth, cap and trade, Smart Grid, Smart Meters, global citizens, IB World schools, Common Core standards, biofuels, the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), gun control, just to name a few. http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/Agenda21.pdf

Nationally syndicated talk show hosts have finally started speaking against U.N. Agenda 21 elements. I have connected all the parts in my best-selling book, “U.N. Agenda 21: Environmental Piracy.” http://www.amazon.com/U-N-Agenda-21-Environmental-Piracy-ebook/dp/B009WC6JXO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

A political refuge appealed to the St. Lucie County Commissioners in Florida at a meeting about the U.N. environmental regionalist Seven50 plans for Florida. “I do not come here to lose my freedom; I beg you – get out of Seven50. Do not destroy our Freedom.” www.westernjournalism.com/author/suzanne-eovaldi/

A long line of citizens vociferously opposed such regionalism and pleaded with “local elected officials to reject the takeover of Florida’s private property.” “

“I am opposed to Seven50… to the loss of our property rights by U.N. Agenda 21, the new world order communist Marxist project.”

Large grants from HUD and this administration have divided our country into 11 nationwide regions, including the east coast of Florida. The Seven50 Regionalism Plan has already been adopted in the Gore triangle counties south of St. Lucie and Indian River counties. Vero Beach, IRC rejected the plan based on a “vertical authority flow chart” controlled by unelected federal bureaucrats influenced by globalist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who plan to “stack-and-pack 200-foot dwelling spaces” and move citizens off their private property.

Suzanne Eovaldi describes the typical stack-and-pack living quarters in the 200 square foot aPodments building in Sammamish, Washington. Resident Judy Green “shares the kitchen with seven other tenants on the second floor.” To get to her loft cubicle, she must climb six flights of stairs in the absence of elevators. Cars are not allowed on account of global warming. The micro-units are the size of a hotel room and rent for $600-900 per month. The micro-housing units increase the population density of the area tremendously. http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020845443 apodmentscitycouncilxml.html

The government will impose its best practices of “Sustainable Urbanism” which will force areas to adopt “sustainable development” and “equitable communities,” changing the counties’ desired low density character and scale to high-density crime-ridden slums.

The American Coalition 4 Property Rights explains on its website why the Seven50 Regional Plan must be stopped with its Sustainable Urbanism and the Smart Code solution to urban sprawl. Regionalism will fundamentally alter the make-up of our society and of our property rights or lack thereof. http://nomoreunelectedbureaucrats.com/

“Social engineering is on the verge of being imposed on entire neighborhoods, adults, and children alike.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will dismantle local zoning and force people to move into certain areas in order to achieve what they consider “racial, economic, and ethnic diversity.” This is “nationalizing neighborhoods” on a grand scale. This is done for our “own good and to achieve utopia.” By obliterating zoning regulations, we will have neighborhoods by government quota. (Rush Limbaugh monologue, September 12, 2013)

Rush Limbaugh pointed out that “HUD’s power grab is based on the mistaken belief that zoning and discrimination are the same, zoning is disguised discrimination.” Introducing 200 square feet pods between single family homes is “social justice.”

The American Planning Association issued a HUD Smart Growth document, a blueprint of goals to replace single family housing. The 76-page study by APA’s Planning Advisory Service, report number 548, published on July 2007, had the “objective to examine, on a pilot basis, whether zoning impedes the development of higher-density, multifamily housing in growing metropolitan areas.”

The study presumed multifamily housing to be the most affordable type of housing yet it did not evaluate this presumption in the study. “High-density residential development is not always affordable, and low density development is not always costly. Ample high-density and multi-family zoning is neither necessary nor sufficient to produce affordable housing.”(p. iv) Why then destroy suburbia and why dictate to other people how they should live?

The authors identified other factors besides zoning that can limit multifamily housing stock such as market conditions, land availability, parcelization, provision of public services, planning goals such as protecting open spaces or rural areas, and existing land-use patterns.

The APA study recommends:

1.      Support the Regional collection and integration of land use regulatory data (maintain comprehensive data on zoning and other regulatory restraints)

2.      Encourage state and Regional governments to provide oversight of local land-use policies.

3.      Focus state and Regional oversight policies on quantitative performance measures.

4.      Continue to develop better measures of zoning barriers and support additional research on the effects of barriers on housing markets.

For these authors, “the critical question now is not whether regulatory barriers to affordable housing exist in some communities, but whether it is possible to identify such communities and craft an appropriate policy response.”

In my December 23, 2013 interview with Brian Lilley of Sun News Network in Canada, I explained the “affordable housing” fight in Fairfax County, Virginia, where almost all members of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission are crafting a plan to place Lilliputian slum dwellings in every area of the county. They are the size of shipping containers or jail cells. These are called Residential Studio Units (RSUs) with a total surface of 220-320 square feet. Each high-rise would contain 75 such units and one parking space per unit. Such units would reduce property values, change neighborhoods, increase population density, cause more traffic congestion, and increase crime in the name of “affordable housing” for the poor, low wage workers, and “diversity.” http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/2966593149001#.Ur0anuoYeJA.facebook

Further reading:

http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/58022 (Are We Too Late to Stop UN Agenda 21?)

http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/59206 (Environmental Conservation Easements Trump-ing Property Rights)

http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/56894 (Harriet’s Fictional America Post Agenda 21)

http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/56246 (Virginia is for Food and Farm Freedom Lovers)