Category Archives: Government

Home Businesses…Beware!

Seventy percent—around 21.1 million—U.S. businesses have no employees, and many, many of these businesses are conducted out of the owner’s homes. This practice has been ongoing for generations, if not centuries. It is a time-honored and normal entrepreneurial endeavor.

However, that may be coming to an end, at least in part. I ran across a post in makezine.com, by Robert Bruce Thompson, a chemist with several books to his credit, among them, An Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. Thompson’s post is a little scary, and should be soberly considered by all entrepreneurs who work in their homes. Excerpts would not do justice to Thompson’s post, so I will include it in its entirety below:

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that Victor Deeb, a retired chemist who lives in Marlboro, has finally been allowed to return to his Fremont Street home, after Massachusetts authorities spent three days ransacking his basement lab and making off with its contents.

Deeb is not accused of making methamphetamine or other illegal drugs. He’s not accused of aiding terrorists, synthesizing explosives, nor even of making illegal fireworks. Deeb fell afoul of the Massachusetts authorities for … doing experiments.

Authorities concede that the chemicals found in Deeb’s basement lab were no more hazardous than typical household cleaning products. Despite that, authorities confiscated “all potentially hazardous chemicals” (which is to say the chemicals in Deeb’s lab) from his home, and called in a hazardous waste cleanup company to test the chemicals and clean up the lab.

Pamela Wilderman, the code enforcement officer for Marlboro, stated, “I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.”

Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman’s words into plain English: “Mr. Deeb hasn’t actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don’t like what he’s doing because I’m ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I’ll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down.”

In effect, the Massachusetts authorities have invaded Deeb’s lab, apparently without a warrant, and stolen his property. Deeb, presumably under at least the implied threat of further action, has not objected to the warrantless search and the confiscation of his property. Or perhaps he’s just biding his time. It appears that Deeb has grounds for a nice juicy lawsuit here.

There’s a lesson here for all of us who do science at home, whether we’re home schoolers or DIY science enthusiasts. The government is not our friend. Massachusetts is the prototypical nanny state, of course, but the other 49 aren’t far behind. Any of us could one day find the police at the door, demanding to search our home labs. If that day comes, I will demand a warrant and waste no time getting my attorney on the phone.

There’s a word for what just happened in Massachusetts. Tyranny. And it’s something none of us should tolerate.

Here is an interesting follow-up from Mr. Deeb’s daughter:

I am the daughter of Victor Deeb and what they did and took from my father is not only unfair but devastating to an old man whose life for the last 40 years has been chemistry. They not only took all of his chemicals (which he used in his research for non-toxic sealants for baby food jars) but 20 years of notes that were valuable only to him. Now his research notes have magically disappeared into thin air. Can someone tell me where the justice is in that?
-m deeb

What do you think—could anything like this happen in your town…in your neighborhood? Homeland Security and the Patriot Act have changed the landscape in the U.S., and it does make a person wonder…….

Small Business–Caught in the Middle

I posted about this subject before, but I thought it would be a good idea to see if anything has changed since then. Apparently it has, but not for the good of small business.

“…community banks have plenty of money to loan, but thanks to increased regulatory scrutiny, all banks–even those that had no part in the subprime mess–are being forced to tighten their lending standards and are therefore narrowing the range of acceptable borrowers.”
–Paul Merski, Chief economist, and Director of federal tax policy for Independent Community Bankers of America

“We want to lend, but the regulators are flat-out telling us, ‘Get your capital up.’ Then there’s Congress telling you to, ‘lend it all out.”
–Greg Melvin, Board member of FNBCorp, a PA based bank that received $100 million in federal bailout funds.

“The left hand has the banker by the throat, saying ‘We want your ratios adjusted to compensate for diminishing assets,’ while the other hand is saying ‘we need you to start lending.’ They’re coming from different directions.”
–Curtis Cummings, CEO of Alan Jeskey Builders of Las Vegas

Well, as is typical of anything the U.S. government is involved in, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing–and small business is caught in the middle.

Hundreds (thousands?) of small businesses are closing every day–putting more and more people out of work–because they do not have the financial resources to see them through this recession.

Putting cash in the hands of consumers who are supposed to spend it in businesses that no longer exist doesn’t make much sense.

Small businesses need access to operating capital to keep their business viable until the economy turns around. The banks have the money to loan to deserving businesses, and the willingness to loan it, but the federal government is telling them they cannot loan the money out.

Doesn’t make much sense to me–does it to you?

Another Inconvenient Truth

I had heard of this documentary film about America’s fiscal problems, and then a friend just sent me a short version of the movie. I think we all have our own ideas about what the current economic situation means, but this is the only place I have seen the actual fiscal facts pulled together. It was produced by Christine O’Malley, an Academy Award nominee, and directed by Patrick Creadon, of Sundance fame. The full-length movie is a nonpartisan film that follows former U.S. Comptroller General, David Walker, as he crisscrosses the country explaining America’s unsustainable fiscal policies to its citizens. It was made prior to the election, bailouts, and the stimulus bill, so some of the current conditions are now even more dramatic.

The facts presented in this shortened video affect every small business and individual in the U.S.–probably the world. Although the video is about 30 minutes long, I think, like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, it is important enough that, hopefully, readers would set aside the time to take a look at it.

(email subscribers–view on the blog)

With so much doom and gloom, and misinformation coming out of the Eastern press, it is good to see exactly what lies ahead of us, so we can act accordingly. We will know how to plan for our future business, and what we have to do to make our businesses successful. The U.S. may no longer be the industrial giant of the world, but we certainly are a large community of entrepreneurs that work in our homes, in garages, in forest cabins, in university dorms, and in every block of every city of America. With our innate spirit of innovation, we can overcome the fiscal problems of America–and we will.

If anyone spent the time to view this documentary, I would appreciate your thoughts.

Steve Jobs, Wall Street, and Bernie Madoff

There seems to be no limit to the lack of intelligence within the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or the people who run it–nor in the Department of Justice (DOJ); the prosecutors for the SEC. They are now investigating whether Apple committed securities fraud by failing to inform the public about the details of CEO Steve Jobs health.

Yes, this is the same government agency that was responsible for overseeing the activities of Wall Street, and the actions of Bernie Madoff. Apparently, they thought Wall Street was doing everything right, and that Bernie was an ok guy–just doing his job–but that, somehow, Steve Jobs and Apple are in cahoots to defraud Apple shareholders.

Jobs health issues have been public for several years, at least since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. His successful operation and recovery was as public as the media could possibly make it. Why now, all of a sudden, does the SEC and the DOJ think they need to review Jobs medical records–can’t they just leave the poor man alone?

Anyone who has ever looked closely at Apple would certainly realize that Steve Jobs does not run Apple single-handedly. Jobs has built a strong organization of capable people, and Apple will become, and is, less and less dependent upon Steve Jobs, the person. Yes, he is the poster boy for Apple, but there is no such thing as an indispensable person–never was, and never will be. But, of course, shareholders, playing the Casino game called Wall Street, prefer to act like “chicken little” and create enough drama that the feds feel they must investigate. Besides, the SEC and DOJ need to take the spotlight off the sweetheart deal they just cut with Madoff.

So, the feds will storm Apple’s castle, and wring out every intimate detail of Jobs health. To me it is incomprehensible that investors are entitled to every little detail of his health when his health history has always been a matter of public record. Since these government agencies have historically been the poster boys for incompetence in dealing with businesses, it should come as no surprise that they are oblivious to common decency, and the desire by Jobs to have a little privacy while he tends to his medical needs.

Here’s a quaint suggestion: take some of the resources of the SEC and the DOJ and use them to oversee where the trillions of dollars of taxpayer money is going and how it is being spent. Now, that, I could support.