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Thursday, February 9, 2017
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Congress wants to spend $6 billion more on healthcare, but here’s a good suggestion for them
November 30, 2016 by Mark Meckler
Congress, you need to stop. Like, really. Just stop.
With the release of a 1,000-page health care spending bill, the Republican-heavy Congress has proved it has no interest in shrinking the size of the federal government.
Despite spending a majority of the Obama administration criticizing the Affordable Care Act for increasing Washington DC’s footprint, House leaders now appear no different than their Democratic counterparts who crammed the law through without any consideration for the consequences. (Remember, “We have to pass it to see what’s in it?”) Even more concerning is why the GOP is forcing this bill through with a new administration looming; especially one that has promised to repeal Obamacare and its wasteful habits.
And what is the name of this new bill? The 21st Century Cures Act, which is ironic because it’s not going to cure what really ails this country: the fat-cat lobbyists and politicians who will be the primary beneficiaries of such an act.
Daniel Horowitz explains what’s packed in the bill and how they plan to pay for it at Conservative Review:
Despite all the hand-wringing about partisan fighting in Washington, the “21st Century Cures Act” is a quintessential example of the two liberal parties coming together to grow the federal government, increase rather than decrease spending, give handouts to all their respective lobbyists, and sell the bill as the next step to curing cancer. In short, it represents everything wrong with Washington.The $6.3 billion package contains $4.8 billion in extra funding for the NIH [National Institute of Health] to further research cancer, brain cells, and precision medicine. It also gives the FDA another $500 million to move drugs and medical devices to patients more quickly, and a billion dollars in grants to states to combat the “opioid crisis.”As is always the case, the bill’s authors have concocted a hodgepodge of notional accounting gimmicks to “pay for” the cost of the bill. Not a single government program is eliminated to offset the cost of this new spending; rather the bill relies on receipts from selling off our Strategic Oil Reserves over ten years to pay for this bill. Using the Strategic Oil Reserves as a private piggybank to pay off lobbyists in order to grow government has become the new go-to source for “spending offsets.”
A similar version of this bill passed in the House just last year, but the new version has grown three times the size of the original. If the new version passes, the Department of Health and Human Resources will have billions of dollars coursing through its veins much like the very opioid addicts the bill vows to cure. It will be a non-stop taxpayer-funded binge, and Washington will never want to come off of that high.
Though the bill contains some reforms to the FDA and Bill Clinton’s 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, it’s canceled out by the billions in new spending. Much like the outgoing liberal administration, Republican leaders are selling the bill with keywords like “health” and “cure” in an effort to make the medicine go down easier. But the American people have spoken, and they elected a new administration which promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. When the “conservatives” in Washington won’t act like conservatives, how can they claim to be the party of small government ever again?
I’ll let Horowitz have the last word:
Rather than canceling the lame duck session and saving this endeavor for a new GOP mandate next year, House Republicans plan to drop this complex, multifaceted bill on the floor on Wednesday.
Monday, October 17, 2016
Friday, September 2, 2016
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Bitcoin Wins in CourtOn July 25, Miami-Dade Florida circuit judge Teresa Pooler dismissed money-laundering charges against Michell Espinoza, a local bitcoin seller. The decision is a welcome pause on the road to financial serfdom.
It is a small setback for authorities who want to fight crime (victimless or otherwise) by criminalizing and tracking the “laundering” of the proceeds, and who unreasonably want to do the tracking by eliminating citizens’ financial privacy, that is, by unrestricted tracking of their subjects’ financial accounts and activities. The US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is today the headquarters of such efforts.
As an Atlanta Fed primer reminds us, the authorities’ efforts are built upon the Banking Secrecy Act (BSA) of 1970. (A franker label would be the Banking Anti-Secrecy Act). The Act has been supplemented and amended many times by Congress, particularly by Title III of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, and expanded by diktats of the Federal Reserve and FinCEN. The laws and regulations on the books today have “established requirements for recordkeeping and reporting of specific transactions, including the identity of an individual engaged in the transaction by banks and other FIs [financial institutions].”
These requirements are collectively known as Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) rules.
In particular, banks and other financial institutions are required to obey “Customer Identification Program” (CIP) protocols (aka “know your customer”), which require them to verify and record identity documents for all customers, and to “flag suspicious customers’ accounts.” Banks and financial institutions must submit “Currency Transaction Reports” (CTRs) on any customers’ deposits, withdrawals, or transfers of $10,000 or more.
To foreclose the possibility of people using unmonitored non-banks to make transfers, FinCEN today requires non-depository “money service businesses” (MSBs) – which FinCEN defines to include “money transmitters” like Western Union and issuers of prepaid cards like Visa – also to know their customers. Banks and MSBs must file “Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs)” on transactions above $5000 that may be associated with money-laundering or other criminal activity. Individuals must also file reports.
Carrying $10,000 or more into or out of the US triggers a “Currency or Monetary Instrument Report” (CMIR).” Any US citizen who has $10,000 or more in foreign financial accounts, even if it never moves, must annually file “Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Reports (FBARs).”
In addition, state governments license money transmitters and impose various rules on their licensees.
When most of these rules were enacted, before 2009, there were basically only three convenient (non-barter) conduits for making a large-value payment. If Smith wanted to transfer $10,000 to Jones, he could do so in person using cash, which would typically involve a large withdrawal followed by a large deposit, triggering CTRs. He could make the transfer remotely using deposit transfer through the banking system, triggering CTRs or SARs if suspicious. Or he could use a service like Western Union or Moneygram, again potentially triggering SARs.
For the time being, the authorities had the field pretty well covered.
The Bitcoin "Loophole"
Now come Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Cash is of course still a face-to-face option. But today if Smith wants to transfer $10,000 remotely to Jones, he need not go to a bank or Western Union office. He can accomplish the task by (a) purchasing $10,000 in Bitcoin, (b) transferring the BTC online to Jones, and (c) letting Jones sell them for dollars (or not).
The authorities would of course like to plug this “loophole.” But the internet, unlike the interbank clearing system, is not a limited-access conduit whose users can be commandeered to track and report on its traffic. No financial institution is involved in a peer-to-peer bitcoin transfer. Granted, Smith will have a hard time purchasing $10,000 worth of Bitcoins without using a bank deposit transfer to pay for them, which pings the authorities, but in principle he could quietly buy them in person with cash.
Accordingly, “attempting to fit the sale of Bitcoin into a statutory scheme regulating money services businesses is like fitting a square peg in a round hole.”
In the recent legal case, it appears that this possibility for unmonitored transfers was noticed by Detective Ricardo Arias of the Miami Beach Police Department, who “became intrigued” and presumably alarmed upon learning about Bitcoin at a meeting with the US Secret Service’s Miami Electronic Crimes Task Force.
Detective Arias and Special Agent Gregory Ponzi decided to investigate cash-for-Bitcoin sales in South Florida. (I take details about the case from Judge Pooler’s decision in State of Florida v. Michell Abner Espinoza (2016).) Arias and Ponzi went to localbitcoins.com to find a seller willing to make a cash sale face-to-face. Acting undercover, Arias contacted one Michell Espinoza, apparently chosen because his hours were flexible.
Arias purchased $500 worth of Bitcoin at their first meeting in a Miami Beach coffee shop, and later purchased $1000 worth at a meeting in a Haagen-Daaz ice cream shop in Miami. Arias tried to make a third purchase for $30,000 in a hotel room where surveillance cameras had been set up, but Espinoza rightly suspected that the currency offered was counterfeit, and refused it.
At that meeting, immediately after the failed purchase, Espinoza was arrested. He was charged with one count of unlawfully operating a money services business without a State of Florida license, and two counts of money laundering under Florida law.
Bitcoin vs Money Laundering Rules
Judge Pooler threw out all three charges. Evaluating her arguments as a monetary economist, I find that some are insightful, while others are beside the point or confused. On the charge that Espinoza illegally operated an unlicensed money services business, she correctly noted that Bitcoin is not widely accepted in exchange for goods and thus “has a long way to go before it is the equivalent of money.”
Accordingly, “attempting to fit the sale of Bitcoin into a statutory scheme regulating money services businesses is like fitting a square peg in a round hole.” However she also offered less compelling reasons for concluding that Bitcoin is not money, namely that it is not “backed by anything” and is “certainly not tangible wealth and cannot be hidden under a mattress like cash and gold bars.” Federal Reserve notes are money without being backed by anything, and bank deposits are money despite being intangible. Gold bars are today not money (commonly accepted as a medium of exchange).
Judge Pooler further correctly noted that Espinoza did not receive currency for the purpose of transmitting it (or its value) to any third party on his customer’s behalf, as Western Union does. He received cash only as a seller of Bitcoin. Nor, she held, does Bitcoin fall into any of the categories under Florida’s statutory definition of a “payment instrument,” so Espinoza was not operating a money services business as defined by the statute.
Bitcoin is indeed not a payment instrument as defined by the statue because it is not a fixed sum of “monetary value” in dollars like the categories of instruments that are listed by the statute. It is an asset with a floating dollar price, like a share of stock.
If even casual individual Bitcoin sellers like Espinoza must also register as MSBs, that will spell the end to legal local Bitcoin-for-cash trades.
Here Judge Pooler accepted a key defense argument (basically, “the defendant was not transmitting money, but only selling a good for money”) that was rejected by Judge Collyer in U.S. v. E-Gold (2008). In the e-gold system, Smith could purchase and readily transfer to Jones claims to units of gold held at e-gold’s warehouse. Federal officials successfully busted e-gold for “transmitting money” without the proper licenses.
Judge Collyer accepted the prosecution’s argument that selling gold to Smith, providing a vehicle for him to transfer it to Jones, and buying it back from Jones is tantamount to transmitting money from Smith to Jones. Of course the Espinoza case is different in that Espinoza did not provide a vehicle for transmitting Bitcoin to a third party, nor did he buy Bitcoin from any third party.
On the charge of money laundering, Judge Pooler found that there was no evidence that Espinoza acted with the intent to promote illicit activity or disguise its proceeds. Further, Florida law is too vague to know whether it applies to Bitcoin transactions.
Thus: “This court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another, when his actions fall under a statute that is so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning.”
I expect that FinCEN will now want to work with the State of Florida, and other states, to rewrite their statutory definitions of money services businesses and money laundering to reinforce their 2013 directive according to which Bitcoin exchanges must register as MSBs and so submit to “know your customer” and “file reports on your customer” rules. If even casual individual Bitcoin sellers like Espinoza must also register as MSBs, that will spell the end to legal local Bitcoin-for-cash trades.
at 2:00 PM
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Good Jurors Nullify Bad Laws: Reclaiming the Right of Every Juror
Today’s juries serve with their hands tied and eyes closed, a fact that serves no one but overzealous prosecutors. The huge knowledge gap among American jurors in every state is patent and dangerous, as it not only supports the massive incarceration of Americans, but undergirds the explosion of legally and morally suspect laws and statutes that feed citizens into cycles of imprisonment.
Jury nullification is not some privilege proffered by a magnanimous prosecution; it is the jury’s right to know and to use. Jury nullification is the constitutionally guaranteed right of every juror and jury to vote and issue any verdict they see fit without fear of punishment. This freedom from penalty frees the jurors to vote according to their conscience and not be bound to unjust or extraneous laws and punishments. The jury, therefore, has the right not only to judge the facts in a trial, but the very law itself — a right that undergirds the efficacy and basis of the jury system as a check on government power.
Jury nullification was the defense that saved John Peter Zenger and helped establish the foundation of the First Amendment. It was the defense that saved many abolitionists from the Fugitive Slave Act. And today it saves individuals facing life in prison from mandatory minimums and three-strike systems for exceedingly minor crimes.
This is not to say that jury nullification, like any other tool, has not been abused and misapplied or will never be. However, the simple fact is that jurors intent on rendering “bad” verdicts will do so regardless of knowing their right to nullify. It does not require jury nullification for abuse to occur. However, it does require education about jury nullification to prevent rule-abiding citizens from being forced to render verdicts simply because they believe they have no other choice.
Jury nullification is not some privilege proffered by a magnanimous prosecution; it is the jury’s right to know and to use. The very notion that jury nullification is too dangerous for jurors to be informed of, as prosecutors’ motions in limine often argue, flies in the face of the Founders, American legal history, and centuries of common law.
Withholding this knowledge is not wrong simply because it prevents “good” verdicts or because it establishes a slippery slope ending in neutered juries, but because the very act of withholding knowledge itself is unacceptable. The current system of deliberately leaving juries in the dark, defendants gagged, and the prosecution at an advantage, is not only plain wrong but incredibly damaging.
As a juror later explained, they felt bound to find Kyler guilty according to the letter of the law until, while leaving the courthouse, he saw protestors advocating jury nullification. He petitioned the judge to explain the concept, after which the jury unanimously found Kyler guilty according to the law but issued a not guilty verdict according to their conscious.
Jury nullification is not a privilege. It is a right of the jury to know and it is a duty of the judiciary to inform — a duty that must not be skirted in favor of the prosecution. Lives and futures are saved and lost according to the whims of the judge and legal maneuvering of the prosecution. That is not an acceptable system. By cementing in state and federal law the right of every juror to know their right, we can begin to address America’s ever-growing web of laws that causes our governments to convict more of its population than any other nation.
Nathan Tschepik is a double major in history and government at Georgetown University.
at 10:44 AM
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Hillary Clinton gives us more to fear than fear
WASHINGTON, July 29, 2016 - Dressed in white and descending on her convention like an angel of light, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton told Americans they have nothing to fear but fear itself. We heard Donald Trump's answer last week at his convention. He wants to divide us from the rest of the world, and from…
By killing a priest in France, terrorists have clearly stated they're waging a war on Western religion
What was last week's Islamist horror? Was it when a gunman lured people to a McDonald's in Munich, Germany, and opened fire on children? Was that before or after the self-proclaimed jihadist ran a truck through a crowd of revellers in Nice, France? There are so many of these nowadays, it's getting difficult to keep the…
Friday, July 29, 2016
ELECTION 2016: AMERICA AT ITS CROSSROADS
By Professor Steven Yates | July 29, 2016 | NewsWithViews.com
By Professor Steven Yates | July 29, 2016 | NewsWithViews.com
Almost 50 years ago, Professor Carroll Quigley of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Services wrote the following, which I regard as the most significant political quote of the last century:
"The chief problem of American political life for a long time has been how to make the two Congressional parties more national and international. The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can 'throw the rascals out' at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.... [E]ither party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of those things but will still pursue, with a new vigor, approximately the same basic policies." ~Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, pp. 1247-48.
It sounds like a cliché to say that Election 2016 is turning out to be the most important election in over 50 years! But for the past half century, every election without exception has fit Quigley’s pattern – except this one!
Election 2016 threatens to upend globalism at its core!
Donald J. Trump is proving to be the mouthpiece of a rebellion that has been brewing ever since millions of ordinary people began to participate in the Internet Reformation, some call it, going online, reading uncensored news, and realized that much of the official history and economics they have been fed is a tissue of lies, and have voted to support the one person who promises to change the country’s direction before globalism and political correctness finish running it completely into the ground.
I have gone from being skeptical of the Trump revolution to realizing that Trump really is the last hope of turning the U.S. back from the cliff it is rapidly approaching.
That will mean breaking Anglo-European power elite control over the political process (the “rigged system,” both Trump and Bernie Sanders call it), over U.S. foreign policy, and over the economy.
It will mean putting an end to the situation Professor Quigley, an Insider’s Insider, described in the opening quote.
This is thus the first election in my adult life where Americans have a real choice between competing political and economic philosophies! (I am more than happy, incidentally, to have had my fears of a last-minute anti-Trump coup at the GOP Convention proven groundless – !) although the danger is far from over
A vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton is a vote for the Establishment – for globalism and all its trappings – because as Trump noted in his speech, the Anglo-European power elite (my phrase, not his) owns her. When Goldman Sachs, one of the power elite’s main financial corporations, pays her over half a million dollars per speech, common sense informs us that the globalists have an enormous investment in her.
Ed.: Please read the rest of this essay at the source. This learned writer expresses an optimistic vision for our Republic that we are not hearing elsewhere.
at 10:55 AM
Saturday, July 23, 2016
The Tax Army Is Three Times Larger than the US ArmyThe Office of Management and Budget has released new data on the amount of time Americans spend complying with the federal tax code. Tax Foundation summarizes the data here.
Individuals and businesses spend 8.9 billion hours a year on federal tax paperwork, which is equivalent to 4.3 million people working full-time and year-round on this unproductive activity. That “tax army” is three times larger than our uniformed military of 1.4 million active duty service members.
The burden of tax paperwork can be expressed in dollars. Based on the average earnings of U.S. workers, Tax Foundation finds that federal tax paperwork imposes a $409 billion annual cost on the economy.
The main reason to overhaul the tax code is to increase incentives for working, investing, and other productive activities. But you can appreciate how wasteful the tax code is by considering the paperwork burden of particular provisions. For example, the federal estate tax imposes $20 billion a year in paperwork costs, but the tax only raises $21 billion a year for the government. It clearly makes no sense to impose a tax if it costs as much to collect as the money raised.
The largest paperwork costs stem from the income tax. Tax Foundation has found that replacing the federal income tax with a simple flat tax would reduce the paperwork burden by about 90 percent. With that reform, Americans would be at peace with the tax code, and we could demobilize the tax army.