(FEDERALJACK) On this edition of DTRH Popeye spends the first hour talking with fellow member of Federal Jack, hacker, and friend Alex. They go over what Hack Miami is, the 2013 Hacker Convention in Miami, the future of Bitcoin in the wake of the DHS seizure of funds from Mt. Gox, the largest Bitcoin exchange, and more. In hour two Popeye covers the TPP or Trans Pacific Partnership and what it potentially means to everyone in any country involved; Police brutality, in this case cops in Florida running over a man for not wearing a seatbelt, and cops in California who just kick in a door, no warrant, and taze the residents in the house. Ending the broadcast on a positive note Popeye plays INCHES, and reminds everyone that “THE SOLUTIONS TO OUR PROBLEMS ARE AN INSIDE JOB.”
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(RT) Cities across the country are shutting down schools as way to deal with budget deficits. In cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, government officials say the closures are a last resort. Meanwhile, millions of dollars are being directed toward building a new prison and basketball arena, among other things.
(THE SMOKING GUN) Her government credit card paid for years-long shopping spree. Entrusted with a government credit card, an Internal Revenue Service worker allegedly used the plastic for a years-long Amazon.com shopping spree that netted her hundreds of items, including a chocolate fondue fountain; Bollywood movies; Pampers; Harlequin romance novels; Omaha Steaks; Apple Bottoms skinny jeans; mango body wash; and a Ginsu knife set.
Yetunde Oseni, 37, was named this month in a U.S. District Court felony complaint charging her with embezzling government funds. Oseni has worked since 2000 as a secretary in an IRS office in Lanham, Maryland.
According to a court filing, Oseni was given a Citibank MasterCard for the “purchase of office supplies for her business unit.”
However, a probe by the Treasury Department’s inspector general determined that Oseni has made scores of unauthorized purchases since being provided the IRS credit card in mid-2009. Oseni “provided altered receipts to approving officials at the IRS to cover-up the unauthorized purchases,” prosecutors charge.
While the criminal complaint does not itemize the “household items and food products” purchased by Oseni from Amazon.com, a search warrant for her Bowie, Maryland home includes an eight-page inventory detailing the illegal haul, which investigators have valued at $8515.
Some of Oseni’s more distinctive buys included:
* “2 Plus Size Trench Coats”
* “Hello Kitty Cosmetic Set and Dream Diary Kit”
* “MAC Haughty & Naughty Lash Mascara”
* “Nostalgia Electrics RSM-702 Retro Series Snow Cone Maker”
* “3lb Party Candy and Toy Pinata”
* “Lansinoh Lanolin Nursing Cream”
* “4 pairs of Leveret Children Pajamas (Choo Choo, Dreamboat, Tiger, Monkey)”
Oseni, who is free on a personal recognizance bond, faces a maximum of ten years in prison if convicted on the embezzlement count. She is scheduled for a June 12 hearing at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Maryland.
According to bankruptcy court records, Oseni filed for Chapter 13 protection in June 2011, citing liabilities of between $50,000 and $100,000. She estimated her assets at less than $50,000. But a judge subsequently dismissed the case when Oseni failed to file required financial disclosure documents. (11 pages)
(WEEKLY STANDARD) After two items last week on the cost of lodging for Vice President Joe Biden’s early February trip to Europe, other news organizations began to investigate further. Wolf Blitzer’s show The Situation Roomon CNN uncovered a contract apparently also related to the same visit to Paris:
Also on the receipt was $321,665 for a limousine company.
Although CNN did not link to the document, the notice of the contract award for the limousine service was posted on the same government website as the hotel contracts. Oddly, the “Contract Award Date” is listed as 2012, but this seems to simply be a typo:
The CNN report went on to explain that the limousine costs did not seem out of the ordinary:
As for the limousine to travel around Paris, the former advance official said that goes for the motor pool.
The vice president’s limo is flown in, but staff members on the trip didn’t take the Metro around. They’re not allowed to drive themselves and tend to book normal cars and drivers with the motor company-but don’t necessarily take limousines. The $321,665 figure in Paris sounded about right, that former official said.
The peculiarity pointed out by the CNN report and by Wolf Blitzer himself, based on his years reporting on the White House, is that these contracts are publicly available at all. A search of the government website in question reveals very few other contracts related to the travels of the president or vice president. However, another one of those rare finds also involves limousine service for a trip to France, this one from November 2011 when President Obama travelled to the G20 Summit in Cannes.
Inexplicably, the contract award amount is listed as only $10,000, which is wildly at odds with the $321,665 for Vice President Biden’s trip. However, this listing, unlike the one for the Biden trip, includes an accompanying Justification and Approval document. It reveals that the estimated cost of vehicles and drivers for the president’s Cannes visit was $731,938, not to exceed $1.4 million:
The president was in France for less than 36 hours.
(PRICEONOMICS) American males enter adulthood through a peculiar rite of passage – they spend most of their savings on a shiny piece of rock. They could invest the money in assets that will compound over time and someday provide a nest egg. Instead, they trade that money for a diamond ring, which isn’t much of an asset at all. As soon as you leave the jeweler with a diamond, it loses over 50% of its value.
Americans exchange diamond rings as part of the engagement process, because in 1938 De Beers decided that they would like us to. Prior to a stunningly successful marketing campaign 1938, Americans occasionally exchanged engagement rings, but wasn’t a pervasive occurrence. Not only is the demand for diamonds a marketing invention, but diamonds aren’t actually that rare. Only by carefully restricting the supply has De Beers kept the price of a diamond high.
Countless American dudes will attest that the societal obligation to furnish a diamond engagement ring is both stressful and expensive. But here’s the thing – this obligation only exists because the company that stands to profit from it willed it into existence.
So here is a modest proposal: Let’s agree that diamonds are bullshit and reject their role in the marriage process. Let’s admit that as a society we got tricked for about century into coveting sparkling pieces of carbon, but it’s time to end the nonsense.
(THE FIREWALL) Reuters is credited with breaking this story: EXCLUSIVE – U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans’ finances
The FBI has quietly been given access to the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
(Reuters) – The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.
The new rule was designed to be technology neutral and is meant to be adaptable to a range of products, such as a plastic card, an internet system, or a mobile phone network.
[Criteria that determines if a product is subject to the new rules include] whether the product is re-loadable, can be transferred to other consumers, and, […] can be used to transfer funds outside the United States.
We will be publishing [a] proposal for public comment very soon [on the requirement that tangible prepaid access is declared] when it is transported across a border, similar to the existing declaration required for international transport of cash and monetary instruments.
An entity that engages in money transmission in any amount is subject to the BSA rules.
The term ‘currency dealer or exchanger’ [has been replaced] with the new term ‘dealer in foreign exchange,’ a term used to include the exchange of instruments other than currency as a category of MSB.
It is recognized that AML/CFT regulations need to be applied not just to banks, but rather to a range of financial and other types of commercial institutions. Why? The reason is that any way that you can move money—any way that value can be intermediated—can be abused by criminals”.
Violations by much smaller entities might also merit monetary penalties.
Over the past year FinCEN has been engaged in an initiative to identify unregistered money services businesses, primarily independent money transmitters.
Now that FinCEN has established a solid regulatory framework for prepaid access in the United States, we must continue to promote analogous steps in foreign jurisdictions.
Cue imperial march as the American Empire refuses to allow a currency outside its control and influence to flourish. And yes, of course, the government that just let HSBC walk with meager fines is going to invoke money laundering in its clumsy thuggish attempt to shutdown yet another avenue of freedom.
The US Department of State has released its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), a key component of which is a report on money laundering activities in various countries. The list of countries/jurisdictions “of primary concern” contains a whopping 65 names, which is only half the world, but hey, no one ever accused the US of slacking off when it came to projecting its values abroad. Among the nations allegedly slacking off on their oversight of money movement are notorious rogue states like Canada, the UK and Japan, popularly known as the Axis of Mundanity.
(ACTIVIST POST) Did you pay sales tax on the last item you bought on the Internet? Unless it was from Amazon, you probably did not. You may soon though if a gaggle of U.S. lawmakers working hand-in-hand with big business get their way.
And if you’re an online retailer, you may have to collect and remit sales taxes for all fifty states no matter where your online business resides. But don’t worry, lawmakers want to force all states to adopt the same standard for sales taxes, thus making it easier for you to comply.
Earlier this month, a large collection of lawmakers introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act in both the Senate (S. 336) and the House (H.R. 684). Lawmakers who oppose the measure have renamed it more appropriately, the “National Internet Tax Mandate” because that’s what it is.
1. Forces customers to pay sales taxes for online purchases.
2. Forces states to “simplify” their sales tax laws.
3. Forces online retailers to collect and remit state sales taxes..
That’s right, no transaction in America must be allowed without the State taking its portion. The legislation has so much corporate support that it has its very own website which describes the law as follows:
The Marketplace Fairness Act grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers (“remote sellers”), no matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction – exactly like local retailers are already required to do.
On the website they argue that this is not a new tax even though it hasn’t ever been enforced in the history of the Internet, saying “Consumers are required under existing state laws to pay sales and use taxes on the goods they purchase, but online sellers simply are not required to collect the tax in the same way that local businesses do – which puts local businesses at a disadvantage.”
The law attempts to solve two problems. First, it seeks to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from “unfair” competition from online retailers and, second, it seeks to increase revenues to state coffers.
Yet the lack of sales taxes is just a tiny part of why most brick-and-mortar retail businesses are struggling. The Internet offers a massively competitive marketplace for the same products, thus better prices. Customer reviews are just a click away, and products can be purchased in our underwear from the comfort of our homes. No driving, no annoying salesman, no lines, etc.
Besides, leveling the taxes won’t work. For example, online retail giant Amazon.com started collecting state taxes in June 2012, and yet, in 2013 Barnes and Noble announced it would close up to 500 stores over the next decade. They’re not closing their storefronts because of unfair taxing systems, rather because the business itself has changed due to the Internet. Borders Books declared bankruptcy in order to restructure to this new model. No law can save retailers who don’t adapt to the competitive realities of the Internet.
Next, the law attempts to boost state tax revenues, which it may do. But at what cost? And will this solve the state deficit problems?
The lobbyists, who no doubt put together the website for the legislation, write:
Although some suggest these States have a “spending problem” rather than a “revenue problem,” it is important to recognize that these States have already been reducing their spending levels year-over-year and increasing collection and enforcement efforts based upon their existing sales and use tax laws. However, a State can only enforce these laws within its own borders unless (or until) Congress recognizes the significant advances made by “man and his ingenuity with machines” over the last 44 years. Simply put, without the Marketplace Fairness Act, our States are unable to require remote retailers to collect the existing sales or use tax already approved by that state’s residents.
And what will be the cost to enforce this tax collection on every worldwide online retailer? Please don’t laugh, they actually believe it will be possible and beneficial.
The first thing that states must do is fall in line with other states to simplify (unify) their state sales tax laws:
States are only granted this authority after they have simplified their sales tax laws.
Simplification is required because of two Supreme Court rulings (Bellas Hess and Quill, described below) cite concern that collecting sales tax for multiple states would be too difficult.
The Marketplace Fairness Act requires that states must simplify their sales tax laws in order to ease those concerns and make multistate sales tax collection easy.
States are given two options for how to do this; join the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, or adhere to the following rules:
- Notify retailers in advance of any rate changes within the state.
- Designate a single state organization to handle sales tax registrations, filings, and audits.
- Establish a uniform sales tax base for use throughout the state.
- Use destination sourcing to determine sales tax rates for out-of-state purchases (a purchase made by a consumer in California from a retailer in Ohio is taxed at the California rate, and the sales tax collected is remitted to California to fund projects and services there).
- Provide free software for managing sales tax compliance, and hold retailers harmless for any errors that result from relying on state-provided systems and data.
It won’t put any small online retailers out of business, right? Regulations are good for business, right?
This law is bad for customers, worse for online retailers, and the effectiveness for helping brick-and-mortar businesses and increasing tax revenues is questionable. The one thing it does is begin to regulate small online retailers who will have to comply.
Technology revolutionaries succeeded not because of some collectivist vision that seeks to regulate “fairness”, “neutrality”, “privacy” or “competition” through coercive state actions, or that views the Internet and technology as a vast commons that must be freely available to all, but rather because of the same belief as America’s Founders who understood that private property is the foundation of prosperity and freedom itself.
Technology revolutionaries succeed because of the decentralized nature of the Internet, which defies government control.
As a consequence, decentralization has unlocked individual self-empowerment, entrepreneurialism, creativity, innovation and the creation of new markets in ways never before imagined in human history.
But, ironically, just as decentralization has unleashed the potential for free markets and individual freedom on a global scale, collectivist special interests and governments worldwide are now tirelessly pushing for more centralized control of the Internet and technology.
If this legislation passes you can bet it will open the door for the government to begin regulating more aspects of Internet businesses. This must be opposed.
(BUSINESS INSIDER) Americans weren’t always addicted to buying things. Long before U.S. consumers racked up $11.3 trillion in aggregate debt, people used to save money for things they actually needed.
But in the age of plenty that followed World War I, corporations countered the threat of overproduction with a manipulative psychological strategy.
“We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture,” wrote Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers. “People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”
This conspiracy, enabled by new sophistication in advertising and supported by the government, was shockingly effective.