'Tis Only My Opinion!

October 2004 - Volume 24, Number 10

Protecting America and its Freedoms

The War on Terror and the Patriot Act have changed our country!

Following the events on September 11, the administration and Congress reacted in a knee-jerk fashion to pass the Patriot Act.  The Act was almost unanimously by both houses without most of the Senators and Congressman or even their staff members even having a copy of the Act to read. 

Of course, that is not much different from the way most bills are passed in Congress.

As a result, we have become a significantly different country than before that fateful day.  We will not dwell on many of the ramifications of the Patriot Act which might in the future cause concern.

Our purpose today is to look at some of the programs which were enacted to protect America and its citizens and to suggest ways that might improve our safety without eroding our rights guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Many will read the following sections and probably suggest that the methods suggested are inhumane and harsh.  While I will agree with that assessment, I would like to remind you that we are in a "War on Terror."  While terrorists may kill people and destroy property, the American Way of Life under our Constitution can also be destroyed by failing to enforce our laws.


Voting in elections is the most important right our citizens have.

For voting is the way, the nation chooses its leaders and direction.  The alternative to free and fair elections is armed revolution.

The 2000 Presidential Election was a mess and the outcome was in doubt for many reasons.  However, during the ensuing four years, neither the administration, state legislatures, nor Congress undertook the necessary steps to assure that elections were fair and that a person who was a registered voted only cast one ballot.  As a result, we have a situation where the acrimony is likely to be repeated in the coming election.  The many methods which have been used in the past to cast illegal votes still exist despite funding new electronic voting machines.  Their reliability and software after four years are still questionable by many forensic computer experts.

There are several easy ways to solve the evident problems which current exist. 

bulletFirst, require all voters to be registered into a national database prior to the election. Proof of citizenship and current residency plus a valid social security number would be required. An immediate check would be made against the social security master database for confirmation. In addition, each registrant would be required to provide a fingerprint or eyeball scan.  Persons attempting to register without proper documentation would be arrested.
bulletSecond, states and local jurisdictions would be required to purge the voter rolls every year against the Social Security database.  There is simply no excuse by any jurisdiction for failure to do this simple computer task.
bulletThird, require all applications for an absentee ballot to be requested by the voter before a notary public and/or a consular official if overseas. Military personnel would be exempt.
bulletFourth, if a state uses electronic voting to speed up the reporting process, a paper backup ballot should also be required in case of a computer malfunction and for later verification of the electronic vote totals.  Each computer could be provided with a small printer to record the voters choices which he/she would then deposit in the ballot box.  Punched cards would not be permitted.  It is absolutely necessary to have a backup paper trail for every election.
bulletFifth, for every election, as soon as a person votes upload that information to the central database thereby preventing that person from voting more than once.

The computer technology exists today. However, many politicians want to continue the old game of stuff the ballot box, find missing ballot boxes, dead people voting, and vote in more than once precinct or state.  The cost of implementation all of these recommendations is probably less than $10 billion initially and thereafter, much less.

If a credit card purchase can be posted to an account from almost anyplace in the world within two seconds via either the ATM network or the Internet, there is no excuse for not using the same technology to prevent illegal voting to occur.

The result will be elections which are honest and each citizens vote counts.


The Gerrymander issue.

If you look at any of the Congressional and State redistricting maps, you find that they have been drawn in such a way as to almost guarantee the reelection of incumbents or in some cases, minority representatives.

Here again, the issue has many political ramifications beyond the scope of this issue.

However, until we require unitized districts, i.e., districts of the same population size drawn around geographical boundaries that don't stretch hundreds of miles from north to south or east to west, politicians will continue to seek an advantage through the use of demographics.

The only way to solve this problem is to let a small number of people selected randomly throughout the U.S. draw the boundary lines.  Moreover, if they lived in the state being drawn, they would have to step aside from the process in that state.  And no elected or previously elected official or his close relatives could serve on the boundary commission.

The above map of Texas before the recent redistricting was only gerrymandered slightly (?).  Of course, it kept the Democratic minority in control of the Texas legislature despite a Republican majority in the state.  There are several other states whose Congressional districts make Texas look pretty good.


Are Airports secure?

The answer is not really!

The Department of Transportation has instituted a lot of guidelines, hired thousands of employees, restricted access to gates and annoyed many people since 9-11.  Have they prevented any hijackings?  Highly doubtful.  Do we profile  Middle Eastern Muslims.  Of course, that constitutes most of the terrorists.  The answer is "No".

But it is ok to require 90 year old Caucasian grandmothers to undergo strip searches and former governors of South Dakota who are wearing the Medal of Honor to take off their shoes.  As I mentioned several months ago, where is the common sense?  Confiscating fingernail clippers and cuticle scissors while allowing #2 yellow pencils and other writing instruments aboard is simply window-dressing.  It is for show and not for real security.  In the world of covert operations, people have been killed with #2 yellow pencils.

Of course, DOT required the airlines to spend a small fortune retrofitting the cockpits doors.  After fighting pilots who desired to take weapons into the cockpit, DOT selected an out-of-the-way location to certify pilots to do so. Each pilot had to undergo another psychological examination and a week of weapons training at their expense to earn the right granted by the second amendment of the Constitution.  OF course, many of our pilots had a better indoctrination in the military than that received by the DOT organization.

Yet, prior to 2000, pilots were free to carry weapons on board.  Oh, you did not know that information!

There are many un-controlled airports in the U.S.  It is relatively easy for anyone to steal a plane, file a flight plan to any major airport, and land.  Once there, the pilot doesn't have to go through security while on the general aviation ramp.  It is then relatively easy to take over any plane on the airport.

Who needs to go through the airport security? 

I have left out for security purposes many other ingenious ways to obtain access to private and commercial airplances in the U.S.  Don't want to provide too many scenarios for the bad guys.


Ports and Containers

  One of the most worrisome problems is that of port security including containers.  Our current approach is to search approximately 5% of the containers that arrive for contraband using American personnel.  The U.S. should require the exporting nation to certify that each container is as represented.  This would increase the costs of the exporting nation while reducing ours.   

The U.S. could then use random searches to sample the sealed containers which have been tracked by satellite from the port of origin.  If any container was found not to have the correct merchandise, stop all shipments from that country for a period of time and fine them the equivalent of a month of that nation's trade surplus for each occurrence.

The technology now exists to verify if any explosive and/or radioactive material is in the shipping containers. Chemical and/or biological detection is a little more difficult.  However, make it absolutely clear to all exporting nations that if any weapons are used within the U.S. and/or its territories, we will use the same weapon on their largest population center.  We don't care if the weapons were transshipped through their ports.


Flights and Maritime vessels entering into the U.S.

  For most commercial maritime vessels and commercial airplanes, the security is pretty decent.  However, it is the drug runners and potential terrorists using small planes and high-speed boats that are troubling.  Here again, the solution is easy.

The military has the equipment to track any plane and/or vessel.  If not on a valid flight plan, shoot it down.  If the maritime vessel fails to stop for a Coast Guard inspection, blow it out of the water.  Sorry.

When people learn that we really are serious, and the stakes are very high, the problem will shrink in scope quickly.

We have been billions of dollars in a unsuccessful attempt to reduce drug usage.  Many believe that the time has come to legalize drugs and begin collecting taxes from them.  Many of our farmers could use another cash crop. But again, there is too much money in illegal drugs and it corrupts the system.  During the prohibition era, we had a similar problem.  When it was finally legalized and taxed, the situation stabilized. 

The same result might well occur if drugs were legalized in this country.  At least, we could reduce our prison populations and redirect law enforcement manpower towards more important problems like finding terrorists, bank robbers, and other violent offenders.


The Border Problem

Despite increases in the U.S. Customs, Border and Immigration personnel, our country remains vulnerable to a wave of illegal immigrants.  Many believe that the problem is unsolvable.  It is only because we lack the political courage to take the necessary steps.

The U.S. is largely a nation of immigrants and from that background begun in the 1600's springs many of the problems. Unfortunately, we are now in the 21st century and facing a set of circumstances vastly different from those of the previous four centuries.  Perhaps, it is time to begin to eliminate illegal immigration by allowing more legal immigration.

The two borders with Canada and Mexico are particularly vulnerable.  The biggest current problem is the southern border.  It is a problem of both a lack of manpower and detention facilities.  Until we really get tough on those caught crossing the borders illegally nothing will change.

The solution is easy.  From now on, photograph, eye scan and finger print every tourist and legal immigrant entering the U.S. When a illegal immigrant is detained, photograph, finger print and make an eye scan of the individual.  Then transfer via the nearest airline, the illegal immigrant back to the closest airport to his/her country and/or province. No hearings, no detention, just a quick airline ticket out of here.

The next time, the illegal immigrant is detained and if that person can not immediately prove that he/she is now a legal entrant, shoot them.  No jail, no airline ticket, no cost except for the bullet and a cremation.  Sorry.

Further, any illegal immigrant caught with any weapon and/or item deemed illegal in the U.S., i.e., drugs, explosives, biological and chemical warfare components can be eliminated upon capture.  Believe me, the word will get around quickly.


The Treatment of Illegal Immigrants already here.

  The key here is that they are already illegal by definition.  For a six month period, perhaps, a year, provide a method for those who are illegal but have been filing U.S. income taxes during the period that they have been here by which those illegal immigrants can apply for citizenship status.

After the "safe period,"  anyone who has not applied for citizenship status will be treated as an illegal immigrant and upon being apprehended will be treated as those newly arrived.  Send them home and if they return, shoot them.

After the "safe period,"  require schools, hospitals, and all government agencies to cross-check their records for illegal immigrants against the national database and report anyone including children who are illegal.  Failure to report will be a felony offense punishable by a $25,000 fine and one year in jail for each occurrence as well as loss of all state granted privileges.

Perhaps, someone can put forth a valid argument other than compassion why the U.S. taxpayer should pay for free medical treatment and reduced tuition at school and state-supported institutions of higher learning for illegal immigrants.  However, I doubt whether many taxpayers would agree with those arguments.


The Real Achilles Heels or Trojan Horses, if you will!

  Since the early 1980's, we have moved from being the largest creditor nation in the world to becoming the world's largest debtor nation.  There are two major components to this shift. 


First, the federal deficit has risen throughout the period. It now stands at about $7.4 trillion with unstated liabilities bringing the total federal obligations under Social Security, Medicare, and other government entitlement programs to near $50 trillion or about 5 times our current Gross National Product.                             The U.S. federal debt per the adjacent chart went up in every single year of the Clinton Presidency. Hence, by definition, there was no real budget surplus during that time. During GWB's era, the rate of increase was dramatic as spending increased and taxes were reduced. 

bulletSecond, is our insatiable appetite for foreign goods and our dependency upon foreign energy which as our manufacturing base was allowed to move off-shore through globalization reduced our export potential. In 1991, the U.S. had its last trade surplus.  In two of the last three months of 2004, the trade deficit in each month was more than the total trade deficit in 1992 of $50 billion.  Many economists believe that the trade deficit is not a real problem as it is still below 6% of our GDP.  Several analysts shrugged off the dangers as "it is only vendor financing."  Unfortunately, many of those analysts seem to forget the problems that arose in the telecom and fiber optic business during the late 1990's when many manufacturing concerns began selling their equipment to customers and then financing that equipment.  The credit problem eventually surfaced and many of those receivables were written off as worthless.  Will that be the eventual outcome for the vendor financing involved in the financing of the twin deficits.


Foreign investors are nervous.

  During the first nine months of 2004, foreign investors have reduced their appetite for U.S. stocks and bonds.  The auction of 10 year Treasury notes in September was particularly informative when the bond dealers were stuck with a large percentage of the offering still on their hands at the close of business.

Both Japan and China, our two largest creditors, have begun to reduce their holdings of U.S. dollars by diversifying into other currencies and the accumulation of hard commodity assets.  In addition, China has recently gone on a buying spree to acquire increasing interests in commodity producing companies. 

According to the U.S. Treasury, foreign purchases of U.S. securities in August 2004 were only $60 billion, the sixth monthly decline and about $20 billion below the average of the first six months of 2004.  At $14.6 billion, foreign purchases of U.S. Treasury offerings were the lowest level since last October.

In fact, net private holdings of foreigners of U.S. Treasury securities dropped in August by $4.4 billion. The U.S. Treasury probably twisted the arms of the Japanese central bank to take up the slack in August.

Foreign investors have also appeared to have lost their appetite for U.S. equities. In August they sold a net $2.1 billion. On a year to year basis, foreign investors have reduced their monthly purchases about 50% of their purchases in each of the prior 12 months.

Perhaps, Easy Al does not see the handwriting on the wall.  India, China and Japanese Treasury officials have all recently suggested that "vendor-financing of the American consumer" has gotten out-of-hand.  They have suggested that the currency reserves should be refocused towards meeting the internal needs of their countries rather than that of the U.S. 

During the past 21 months, the U.S. dollar index has fallen about 25% in value.  Perhaps, it is the continuing slump of the past two years in the dollars value that has foreign investors on edge. 

If it was not for its military strength, the IMF would be moving to prevent our collapse.  As one person recently observed, the only difference between Argentina and the US is we have an effective army.

After a year of absolute disaster in 2003 when it de-linked its currency from the U.S. dollar , the Argentine government has continued to defy the IMF and its outside creditors. In 2004, it has made major strides.

Argentina's economy grew 8.6 percent during the first eight months of 2004, according to the government's economic data institute. Unemployment fell officially to 13.1 percent. Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna predicted full-year economic growth would average seven percent.

That is somewhat higher growth than the rest of the world with the exception of China.  As it now rebuilds its currency reserves and gains value against the dollar, isn't it ironic that it has made a major commitment to rebuild those currency reserves in gold bullion.


Does it matter who wins this Presidential election?

The winner of the November 2004 will have economic problems which may make the War on Terror look like a small mole-hill. Perhaps, Kerry is correct when he implies that we refocus on terrorism as just a "nuisance."

Neither of the two major candidates nor members of Congress really understand the economic forces aligned against them.  Easy Al and his cohorts at the Federal Reserve have tried to keep the financial balloons inflated. Unfortunately, as workers are forced out of high-paying jobs, many are forced to downsize and reduce their discretionary purchases.  For the past several years, the economy has moved higher as easy credit and refinancing of mortgages provided the cash to spend.  However, as the work-force ages and the number of workers declines because of demographics, the real constraints of pensions, too much money overseas, and a reduction in our current living standards will interact to make it extremely difficult in the U.S. to grow the economy sufficiently to pay off the debts which have been incurred since 1980.

Legal immigration offers one way to achieve the necessary manpower required as our birth rate has fallen.  In the 1930's, there were about 30 workers for every social security recipient.  In 2004, there is only about 5 and the number is falling.  You can't blame increased benefits for all the increases in social security and medicare taxes.

A lot of the problem in the Middle East is a centuries old clash of two cultures, Jewish and Muslim.  The imposition of a Jewish state after WWII is still festering.  We might well solve part of our immigration policy by telling the citizens of Israel that for the next year subject only to a criminal background check, any Israeli citizen can apply for immediate U.S. citizenship.  Upon receipt, we will provide airfare and $50,000 for relocation expenses. After the year is up, the U.S. will cease funding to Israel and will no longer provide protection to the remaining Israeli's.

And then there is the real problem of who gets to nominate judges to the federal courts and particularly, the Supreme court during the next four years. 



In the May 2004 'Tis Only My Opinion!, the following words were in the conclusion.

bulletExcept by inflating away the deficits and depreciating further the dollar can the Fed prevent a fiscal collapse.  The odds of being successful are stacked against them.
bulletThe ability of the U.S. economy to continue to grow is going to be hampered by the lack of fiscal restraint by the Congress as well as the reluctance of the Fed to take the tough steps to put this economy into a major recession under which the excesses caused by the infusion of the flood of easy credit and liquidity can be worked down.
bulletThe real question is whether the threat of our military superiority will prevent China and Japan as well as the Euro nations from initiating a dollar run in an effort to bankrupt the U.S.  David Cassidy of the Lipper organization recently suggested that the probability of a run against the dollar in the next few months was at least 10%.

The same is true today.

While many of the solutions proposed may irritate and/or nauseate some, the alternative to strong measures may well be the loss of all the freedoms our forebears and ancestors fought for in many battles.

Has our nation become so weak-willed that we are unable to adopt strong measures to survive and retain our freedoms when under attack.  I surely hope not.


But then - 'Tis Only My Opinion!

Fred Richards
October 2004

Corruptisima republica plurimae leges. [The more corrupt a republic, the more laws.] -- Tacitus, Annals III 27

This issue of 'Tis Only My Opinion was copyrighted by Adrich Corporation in 2004.
All rights reserved. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.
'Tis Only My Opinion is intended to provoke thinking, then dialogue among our readers.

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