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OpenMarket: John Berlau

  • Nationalizing the cars and bikes of rock collectors -- Pending Omnibus land bill's forfeiture provision has broad reach

    February 22, 2009
    At the same time there has been so much talk of government nationalization of troubled big banks, a bill quickly snaking through Congress would allow the feds to expropriate cars, bicycles and other "vehicles and equipment" of everyone from amateur collectors of rocks to kids going on scavenger hunts.

    In the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which passed the Senate (S. 22) in January and is up for a vote in the House as early as this Wednesday, a "forfeiture" provision would let the government confiscate "all vehicles and equipment of any person" who disturbs a rock or a bone from federal land that meets the bill's broad definition of "paleontological resource." The seizures could take place even before a person and even if the person didn't know they were taking or digging up a "paleontological resource."...
  • Obama's Futile Attempts at Foreclosure Avoidance

    February 18, 2009
    If the government wants to spend $75 billion to help troubled homeowners, it would be better off giving a tax holiday to families subject to foreclosure, rather than attempts to stop the foreclosure from occurring that often have unintended consequences.
  • The Birthday of an Entrepreneur

    February 13, 2009
    February is an important month in the history of American commerce. In a few days will be the birthday of one of the country’s earliest business innovators and large-scale entrepreneurs.
  • Geithner's "bad bank" is a big bad idea: fix bad mark-to-market accounting instead

    February 10, 2009
    The Obama's administration $1 trillion plus bank bailout plan -- on top of the $800 billion stimulus that just passed the Senate -- will explode the national debt and rob from future generations while doing little about the tightening of credit and valuation of toxic assets. Like the Bush administration, the Obama team balked at doing anything substantial to provide relief from the mark-to-market accounting mandates that prominent liberals and conservatives agree are spreading the credit contagion.

    Despite my hopes that Treasury Secretary Geithner 's plan would offer a change to mark-to-market rules we can believe in, as rumored in the financial press last week, the plan turns out to be "more of the same" Bush-Paulson big spending and big government bailout. As knowledgeable observers from conservative...
  • SEC penalty policy change could harm innocent investors

    February 6, 2009
    In one of her first actions as SEC chairman, Mary Schapiro announced today that she was getting rid of a policy that required SEC officials to get approval from the commissioners before negotiating corporate penalties. According to the Associated Press, "Schapiro said that practice 'just sends the wrong message.'"

    But Schapiro should perhaps focus a little less on message and a little more on an action's consequences for investors the SEC is supposed to protect. Because unfortunately, this change will have the effect of further harm to shareholder victims of corporate fraud.

    Corporate penalties take money not from individual executives guilty of fraud, but from the corporate treasury that ultimately belong to the ordinary investors in the company. Frequently, these penalties have the...
  • Springsteen clashes with Obama advisor on Wal-Mart

    February 2, 2009
    In between playing at the Lincoln Memorial for Barack Obama's inaugural concert and performing the half-time show last night at the Super Bowl, Bruce Springsteen got caught in a policy controversy over a promotional deal he made. Springsteen had inked an agreement for Wal-Mart to exclusively sell and promote his new album, "Working on a Dream." This made good business sense, given that a similar arrangement last year with Wal-Mart and hard rock bank AC/DC led to a surprise chart-topping album.

    But the very mention of the name of Wal-Mart still raises the hackles of some activists, particularly those affiliated with Big Labor. They called on Springsteen to renounce the deal, and he caved, telling the...
  • Activist Jim Boulet RIP

    February 1, 2009
    The freedom movement lost a valuable ally way too soon a couple weeks ago. James J. Boulet, Jr., executive director of English First and creator of watchdog web sites such as and, died of cancer on Jan. 16 at the age of 50.

    Jim's main focus at English First was stopping bilingualism in public policy. The group didn't take positions on immigration issues, instead focusing on the dangers of a balkanized society that multilingual policies would lead to. His efforts were praised by well known proponents of both open immigration and assimilation, such as columnist Linda Chavez...
  • Geithner confirmed -- but with bipartisan "nays"

    January 26, 2009
    The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Timothy F. Geithner tonight, but the vote was closer than expected with more "nays" than any previous nominee of President Barack Obama. The 60-34 confirmation was also the first nomination vote of the Obama administration with any Democrat voting no.

    Because of the nagging questions remaining about Geithner's failure to pay four years worth of self-employment taxes and his role in designing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, four members of the Democratic caucus joined with 30 Republicans in opposing Geithner's nomination. (10 Republicans unfortunately voted for him). Those four are Tom Harkin of Iowa, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the independent self-proclaimed socialist who usually caucuses with Democrats.

    "Had he not been nominated for treasury secretary, it's doubtful that he would have...
  • Milton Friedman counters Kennedy inaugural--and Obama's

    January 20, 2009
    Before President Barack Obama gave his inaugural address, it had been reported that he was heavily studying John F. Kennedy's speech at the inauguration in 1961. And no doubt Obama's "call to service" will be compared to Kennedy's inaugural that contained the famous lines: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

    On the good side, Obama did hail "doers" and "risk takers" in his speech and talked about how they have improved our way of life. That's important, given the bipartisan urge to stamp out all risk-taking in the wake of the financial crisis. Perhaps that's a good sign that will Obama...
  • Geithner should withdraw nomination for failure to pay self-employment taxes

    January 14, 2009
    Treasury Secretary Nominee Timothy Geithner's failure to pay four years' worth of self-employment taxes for Social Security and Medicare is absolutely astonishing. And as more details are released, Geithner's actions seem even more disturbing.

    According to the New York Times, Geithner still didn't correct the same type of error for some years, even after the Internal Reveue Services flagged him for the failure to pay the taxes in other years. To have him leading the department that manages the IRS would be a slap in the face to the millions of self-employed Americans who fulfill their responsiblities to correctly asses their tax burdens.

    These disturbing details paint a picture of a nominee who...


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