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Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville's Collateral Damage By Association

The disgusting and nefarious events of this past weekend are too important, too significant and indeed, too dangerous to be seen through a simple prism of "our side versus their side." 

A young woman was killed. Killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Killed for participating in civil discourse, for exercising her constitutional rights. 

We can rebuild civic society, restore respect for individual rights. But that young woman is gone. 

There are other victims on a broader, yet less tragic scale. 

The entire weekend represents another unfortunate success for fringe political elements to take advantage of our constitutional rights and exploit the attention they get from news coverage to make themselves look important, look bigger than they are, look more respectable than they are. These elements have no redeeming features, and make no mistake about it, they respect nothing and no one else. Everyone else is fair game, so they claim association with other groups, with elected officials, and even with sports teams. (One famous team's iconic logo was spotted on protest flags, with the team promptly denouncing the link.). 

This collateral reputational damage to the legitimate, to the respectable, is not an accident. It is on purpose. The fringe seeks to destroy the institutions and societal conventions which exclude, repudiate and reject them. 

When you see that strategy at work, you'll realize that the common political spectrum labels of "left" or "right" or "center" don't really apply.

Of course, the other serious downside to this weekend is the exploitation of tragedy by the Far Left to further shift the political demarcation lines. The Left now has the relative high moral ground -- that's not a hard accomplishment, not right now -- and is framing the debate to say, essentially, that anyone not standing with Antifa, with the most radical Left elements out there, is by default standing with the white supremacists, the fascists and, yes, the murderers.

Even worse, the exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech, of assembly, will be associated with the vilest elements as a means of attacking those rights, chilling their exercise and slandering the reputations of those who exercise them. 

Sadly, this weekend will give ammo to the totalitarian elements who are ready to accuse anyone supporting these core constitutional rights of standing with and supporting white supremacist murderers. 

For the Far Left, which rationalizes individual suffering as the necessary "broken eggs" in the progress towards Revolution, this weekend was a tremendous victory. 

For the rest of us, we've moved several minutes closer to midnight on the Lost Constitutional Rights Clock. 


Friday, July 28, 2017

BREAKING: Trump Made Us Jump! New York Couple Jumps To Death, Blames Health Care Costs

This article really requires the subheadline: Why Suicide Is A Sin.

Early Friday morning, a Manhattan couple committed suicide by jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of an apartment building off tony Park Avenue.

According to New York police, both the man and woman left suicide notes referencing their children who were still in the apartment, and asking they be cared for. The man's note reportedly contained the statement, "We both have medical issues, we just can't afford the health care." 

Yet they could afford to live one block off Park Avenue, and two blocks away from the iconic Empire State Building?

And, no doubt, their multiple children can afford to be without both their parents.

Maybe the parents felt relieved of their divine responsibilities by that horrible recent English court ruling (in the Charlie Gard case) that "children do not belong to their parents." And, after all, children are little more than evolved blastocysts, so their welfare is of little regard.

One has to wonder -- and the authorities really ought to investigate -- whether the parents' "issues" included being impressionable enough (and certainly, narcissistic enough) to be induced to "jump because of Trump" as a way to make a political statement.  Because in the progressive Petri dish of Northeastern cities, this might just be the way to "win the competition" for the greatest event of virtual signaling. 

Throw in the tendency of many adults now to be overmedicated, or out of balance, and you have a truly vulnerable segment of the population, ripe prey for predatory activists eager for a news event or "false flag." Anything for revolution!

What happened this morning is horrible. Can we be so sure it isn't an accident?



Thursday, July 20, 2017

BREAKING -- OJ Simpson Wins Parole; Release Scheduled For October 2017

The former football star O.J. Simpson was just granted parole in Nevada and will be scheduled for release this October.

Simpson, serving 33 years for armed robbery, was granted parole by a four-member parole board panel unanimously ruling just minutes after hearing testimony from Simpson himself as well as his primary victim, who spoke and argued in support of Simpson's release.

One of the board members called Simpson a "low risk" to re-offend.

Simpson was convicted of 10 criminal counts in 2008 and sentenced to 33 years, with his first eligibility for release on parole being this October. Simpson has claimed that he was not robbing sports memorabilia in 2007 when he broke into a hotel room and seized signed goods, but retaking items he claimed were previously taken from him. Simpson maintained those claims at today's hearing.

Simpson's victim in the 2007 break-in to a Nevada hotel room, memorabilia dealer Bruce Fromong, said Simpson "never held a gun to me" and "never laid a hand on me," and said Simpson's sentence was "way too long." 

Simpson testified on his behalf in the hearing, saying: "I've made no excuses...I take full responsibility...I had no intent to commit a crime...no inmate has represented this prison better than I."

Simpson apologized to the state of Nevada and then expressed regret for his actions trying to said "nine years away from my family...it's just not worth it."

Fromong, the sports memorabilia dealer, called Simpson "a good man who's made a mistake." He said he never stole from O.J. Simpson, and said, "O.J. never held a gun to me," instead identifying someone else. "He [O.J. Simpson] never laid a hand on me." 

Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of charges in the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, who was killed in June 1994. That was after Simpson was infamously chased in a Ford Bronco by police in a highway chase captured by helicopter video on nationwide live television during one of the championship games in the 1994 National Basketball Association finals.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Horizon Bill Echoes Christie's Arm-Twisting As Prosecutor

New Jersey governor Chris Christie is ready to shut down state government because he and legislators cannot agree on a state budget, and a sticking point is a horrible Christie proposal to raid the reserves of the state's dominant health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, under certain conditions (such as the reserve being too high) to shift funds to his new pet project of combating opioid addiction.

The problem is that those reserves represent customer payments, and not one penny would go back to them. It's the functional equivalent of the IRS keeping your tax refund and giving it to a tax commissioner's favorite charity.

Now, if the Horizon proposal doesn't pass Friday, Christie and some Democratic allies have threatened to shut down state government. That's because Friday is the last day of the preceding fiscal year and a budget for the new year starting July 1 has not been passed by the legislature.

Some Democrats are going so far as to reportedly seek to remove current Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto from that role, because Prieto, a strong opponent of the Horizon reserves proposal, refuses to allow that proposal to come up for a vote in the State Assembly.

How bad is this attempt to seize over $300 million in excess Horizon premiums? What's the effect of this?

If there are reserves, it is because either customers have paid too much or Horizon has not provided enough care. The proposal would not fix either problem. Customer premiums get shifted under Christe's proposal, not to their own healthcare, but to drug addicts.

Or as a cynic might point out, into the pockets of those few and connected health care providers who are in the drug treatment industry.

If you have health insurance through Horizon and that company has excessive reserves -- which come entirely from what you pay in premiums -- you won't get a refund or credit. Not one dime.

You won't get an expanded network.

You won't get more choice. Remember, if you're on an exchange (and Horizon is one of only two insurers participating on the Obamacare exchange!) you have no choice but to get covered on these exchanges, at whatever cost the insurer sets.

Again, if you pay too much, Christie's proposal would mean your overpayment gets shifted elsewhere.

Not refunded.

Christie has done this arm twisting of businesses to benefit friends and cronies before, however. When he was United States Attorney in the last decade, he prosecuted some companies and secured settlements that called for the companies to hire special monitors (law firms of friends of his) or make large contributions to pet causes such as to Seton Hall Law School. That is, Christie's alma mater.

This is how elected officials score brownie points.

You get the bill.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Winning In Business, Politics and Relationships With Just These Five Words

Five Words To Run Your Life By

By Eric Dixon

A business campaign, a political campaign and personal relationship all have something in common.

They are successful when they accept that human nature matters most of all. 

It's not about products, services, issues or what you say on social media. That all obscures the core point: Cater to your base and treat it like a tomato plant. Water it. Cultivate it. Make it feel special. 

Business, politics, philanthropy, when they are successful it is always because they recognize the importance of feelings, of psychology. There is nothing more important than making your base feel like it is the most important thing. Or the only thing!

A quick point: Most people will disagree with me. Just watch the comments section here. They will argue on facts. They will invoke morality.

My quicker responses: First, they are forgetting and ignoring the role of feelings. And second, most of those who disagree with me, are failures! Most people fail! Success is not common! Keep reading!

Since some of you actually care about politics -- the rest of us have, um, real lives -- here is a political twist to the advice above. 

Most candidates lose because they make one central error, and never realize it. They chase the base of their opponents. Why is that? 

Because in going after other segments of the voters, you are sending messages to your base which will ensure your defeat!

The messages? 

Our opposition matters more than we do.

We're being taken for granted.

He (or she) really doesn't care about us.

We don't matter. 

Whether these messages are true or not, that's not the point. When appealing to potential customers, facts don't matter; feelings do. 

That's what your base will feel. Issues, social media statements, none of that matters. Real attention matters. 

Give your precious time to other constituencies, and the one word message you send to your core is indifference. That will be returned, on Election Day. 

Make the people most important to your campaign, feel the most important. (Just like in real life.) Nothing means more than giving attention to people. 

This will sound harsh, but it is true in all relationships: personal, business, political. Give your attention to the people who matter. 

When you have a scarce resource -- your time -- your decisions make a big difference. Be very discerning and uncompromising with your time.

Donald Trump learned these lessons a long time ago in the real estate world. What did he do when he ran for President? He ignored convention, he ignored (and disparaged) his opponents. He made his base feel special, like they were the only thing that mattered. 

Trump won, by mastering five words: The carrot and the stick.

The carrot? In his presidential election it was playing to his base and deliberately ignoring his opponent's base. Why did this work? Because to his base, their reward was his attention. And part of that reward was a second, related, unspoken message -- the stick -- that his (and their) opponents did not deserve his attention. The effect of that, the subtle punishment of withholding attention, is to enhance the reward to those receiving his attention.

Manipulative? Yes. Cunning? Yes. Shrewd? Yes. Nasty, even? Probably.

But this is done in retail all the time! Customer affinity points, rewards plans, frequent flyer plans, points back on your credit card. These are all rewards systems which push your buttons with messages about loyalty, rewards and punishments.

You need to do the same. Reward your constituency with attention and you maximize your shot to win.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Convicted Terrorist Steps Down As Puerto Rican Parade Grand Marshal

First Kathy Griffin, now convicted Puerto Rican terrorist (aka nationalist freedom fighter) Oscar Lopez Rivera. Conservatives and common sense terror opponents are unleashing the power and fury of boycotts, and scoring victories. 

One of the largest street parades in the nation, New York City's Puerto Rican Day Parade, faced evisceration from its own community over its award of "National Freedom Hero" to convicted terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera.

Some of the biggest companies serving the Hispanic market worldwide pulled out from the parade in recent days, including the two top Spanish-language television networks Univision and Telemundo, Coca-Cola, the Spanish food empire Goya Foods and even the New York Yankees. Many elected officials, even in a Far Left safe space like New York City, also announced they would not march in the parade. 

Rivera, a leader of the notorious FALN terrorist group which sought Puerto Rican independence from the United States, announced he would decline the parade's award as a "National Freedom Hero" but would still march in the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City on June 11th. 

In this column published in the New York Daily News, Rivera expressed no contrition for his prior association with the FALN, which claimed responsibility for over 100 bombings in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. FALN attacks killed six people, including four in one 1975 bombing in New York's storied Fraunces Tavern which dates back to the American Revolution. 

Rivera was released from federal prison just last month after serving 35 years in federal prison after his 1981 convictions for weapons manufacturing and seditious conspiracy. The remainder of his sentence was commuted in January by former President Barack Obama. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Target! The Possible Legal Trouble of Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner (whom if you haven't been under a rock, is President Trump's son-in-law) is reportedly under federal investigation for his possible involvement in suspected illicit Russian meddling or interference (whatever those terms mean) in last year's election.

One wonders if envy of a rich kid with family connections and an uber-attractive young wife isn't a real motive here, to say to someone: 

Ha! Serves you right.

It is easier to focus just on what the ramifications of such a probe are, in a fact-agnostic way without regard for whether anything has actually been criminal, or who is involved, or who won the election. The technical details of such an investigation, and the protocols which might govern its conduct, are extensive and obtuse. To simplify matters, there should be no assumption that Kushner (or anyone else) is under criminal investigation in the sense of being a "subject" or "target" of a probe. 

I put the words "subject" and "target" in quotes, because each term has a specific meaning according to a very thick guide put out for use by the United States Attorneys and their respective offices. Those men and women are the ones who actually have to decide whether, and whom, to prosecute, not the FBI. That's the mistake everyone has made with former FBI Director James Comey, who did not and never had the authority to decide whom or even if to prosecute. (Comey's agency investigates and recommends, but the Justice Department and district United States Attorneys decide that question.)

Both terms involve a requirement that the person, whether subject or target (and one's status can change, incidentally), be notified of his or her rights to appear before the investigating grand jury, as well as to assert Fifth Amendment rights if requested to appear.

As for the meaning of a "target," that generally means the government is operating on the assumption the target is a "putative defendant" against whom there is "substantial evidence" linking the person to a crime, and is more likely than not to be charged for some criminal offense. Anyone who is a "target" is likely to be charged and indicted, but not always. 

The term "subject" means that the subject's conduct falls within the scope of what the grand jury is investigating, and that "conduct" may not necessarily be criminal, only that it means the subject is involved in the focus of the probe. 

Anyone who is notified that he or she is either a subject or a target should hire a qualified criminal defense lawyer, promptly.

As for Kushner, there is no indication he is either a subject or target. At least not yet and perhaps never. 

What we do know is he has a high-enough profile to make him, at least in the colloquial sense, a target of the ambitious. In addition, his family connections have been a double-edged sword, presumed to give him a head start in life. 

Consider Charles Kushner, Jared's father. The elder Kushner pleaded guilty to various tax crimes after an investigation during which some rather sordid details of Kushner's retribution against family members came out, causing the sentencing judge to call Jared's father a "revengeful, hateful man." (And the prosecutor? Then United States Attorney Chris Christie.)

Yet it is that Kushner family fortune which (presumably) helped the younger Kushner acquire the Manhattan elite-class weekly New York Observer ten years ago, and that plus the real estate industry connections likely positioned Kushner to enter into and move about circles where he would meet . . . Donald and Ivanka Trump.

Now consider the legal troubles of Donald Trump, trickling . . . no, pouring . . . down on Jared. 

This is a still young man whose elders, his father and father-in-law, have acted in ways and he has been made to pay a price. 

I seriously question whether this is a circumstance anyone should celebrate. 






Friday, May 19, 2017

Anthony Weiner Pleads Guilty To One Federal Sex Crime, Faces Jail; Huma Abedin Files For Divorce

Disgraced six-term former New York congressman Anthony Weiner will lose both his freedom, his marriage and perhaps even parental rights after he pleaded guilty in a Manhattan federal courtroom to one federal charge of transmitting sexual material to a minor.

Weiner took responsibility for his crime, stating that while he had what he characterized as a sickness, he does "not have an excuse."

Weiner's guilty plea concerns his transmission of sexual material to a minor, and in this case, to a 15-year-old girl.

Weiner agreed not to appeal a sentence which falls within the range of 21 to 27 months. This means that, absent leniency from the judge, Weiner likely faces federal prison time. Weiner likely will also have to register as a sex offender and that may impact his future custody and visitation rights with his young son with wife Huma Abedin.

While defendants and prosecutors can negotiate such deals in order to secure a guilty plea and ensure certain charges are not filed, sentencing decisions remain exclusively those of the judge who may disregard both sentencing guidelines and prosecutors' recommendations for leniency.

In addition, parole does not exist in the federal prison system. Incarcerated defendants must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

On the heels of his guilty plea, Abedin reportedly filed on Friday for divorce in Manhattan state Supreme Court.

Weiner's latest perverted exploits came to light after a camera shot of Weiner apparently amusing himself, with their son in the background, surfaced. Weiner was then connected to a federal inquiry into whether he received classified material from his wife Abedin while she was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Weiner's sexting problems first surfaced in 2011 and led to his resignation that year from the House of Representatives after he became one of that body's foremost authorities on health care insurance reform. It was at that time that Weiner's

Later, Weiner ran for the Democratic nomination for New York City Mayor in 2013 and was leading the polls until new sexting activity emerged. Those new revelations included the news that Weiner used an alias "Carlos Danger" for his escapades. Revelations in federal court today included Weiner also adopting an alias for his new pursuits.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jesus of Nazareth: His Likely Medical Trauma

While Christians worldwide prepare to celebrate (or more properly, to revere) the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth (and subsequent resurrection, as held by faith) upon the holy day of Easter, some earthly research into the extreme barbarity visited upon the Nazarene carpenter-by-trade named Jesus may give a new appreciation for the actual and virtually unimaginable suffering He sustained.

A central tenet of Christianity is that Jesus endured this suffering to save humanity and to "wash away the sins of the world." The suffering is associated most often, and with good reason, with His being literally nailed to wooden posts arranged as a cross. Yet the physical trauma -- which has been depicted in excruciatingly brutal fashion in some cinematic works including The Passion of the Christ  -- may have been more extensive, and his treatment even more brutal, than the "mere" fact of His being impaled.

Perhaps there is no greater (or more widely cited) medical authority on the severe physical trauma suffered by Jesus of Nazareth before and during his crucifixion than a 1986 Journal of the American Medical Association paper by Drs. William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel and Floyd E. Hosmer. 

The full paper can be accessed in PDF form through this link

Whether for the devout Christian or just the historically curious, the paper is worthwhile and compelling reading and remarkably relatively brief. It may give readers a new sense of the gravity of the pain and the duration of what today would undoubtedly be referred to as "torture." 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Judge On New York's Highest Court Found Dead in Hudson River

A sitting judge on the highest New York State court, the Court of Appeals, was found dead in the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey on Wednesday, in what authorities suspect is a suicide. 

Sheila Abdus-Salaam was reported missing earlier on Wednesday, and her body was found by passersby Wednesday afternoon. 

See this full report


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Client Information Is Never Totally Safe: Why We Need A "Know Your Lawyer" Rule

When you, or your company, hires a large law firm, you are assuming your information, your sensitive trade secrets, even sensitive personal information, is safe.

Far from it.

Your sensitive data could be at risk. Not from technology, not from breaches, technology failures or the ready-made-scapegoat-excuse of "hacking."

The risk is from the people who work at the law firm or corporation. 

The risk gets larger, and is harder to control, the bigger the organization is, simply because the biggest "X factor" is human nature and human integrity. That means that the more people with potential or actual access, the less safe your information is. Period. Even if there are "controls." 

That means that confidential client information is often only as safe as the integrity of the least-obedient person working in that firm or company. 

Consider this breaking news from the middle of the State of New Jersey, where a young lawyer got busted for accessing confidential files while a law student working for a county prosecutor's office. 

Could the same wrongful access happen to your files?

Financial institutions have had to obey the anti-money laundering and 'know your customer' rules largely implemented after the 9/11 attacks.

Far too many legal clients don't enjoy the same protections when they use a large law firm. The controls on who has access to information can be unevenly applied, hard to enforce, and susceptible to circumvention.

Most commentary on this topic focuses on the "ethical rules" which are in place in just about every state which govern the practice of law. I don't focus on these rules at all, because those rules are good at shifting the blame from the "leaker" to the lawyer. I think lawyers get blamed for enough things which are not their own doing, and the blame-shifting is only good for other lawyers to find a deep pocket (read: money) to go after in court.

That does nothing -- nothing at all -- to keep your data safe. Preventing your loss is my focus here. So-called deterrence is useless Monday-morning-quarterbacking that others can engage in to try to sound smart. But that does you no good at all, not before your loss and certainly not afterwards.

Risk managers will talk about how to "mitigate" risk. This is a smart distinction. The honest manager knows the risk can never be eliminated, but it can be reduced. 

In a "cover your ass" corporate world, decisionmakers are often rewarded for taking steps which, in hindsight, can be explained or rationalized or defended. But that is different from actual risk management. 

Often, the best risk management starts with the initial decision about which law firm or outside service provider or information technology vendor to use. Those decisions are commonly made in favor of "brand name" or "known" (and so often, larger) institutions, which always carry the integrity risk because of the sheer volume of people who are either working on a matter or have incidental access to sensitive data. (The list goes from top partners and executives down to janitors and copy-room workers.)

A solution may be to use select smaller institutions or even solo practitioners. Those are options which allow for direct accountability and the ability to "know" 100 percent of the personnel involved. There may be a loss of convenience, but as those whose information has been stolen or secrets revealed can attest, there is nothing more damaging or "inconvenient" than a busted deal or lost case because data got into the wrong hands.

Friday, March 31, 2017

How To Screw Renters and Homeowners

Homeowners want to preserve their home value.

Renters, or at least some of them, want to be homeowners one day.

But the so-called experts (including many politicians) on "the foreclosure crisis" have a way to hurt both groups. Even worse, they will make the real problem even worse, because our elected leaders and politicians either can't figure out the real problem, or they're too busy trying to buy support by giving more stuff away.

I've been writing about the "foreclosure crisis" ever since mortgage-backed securities starting going bad and home prices began to tumble, That was in the bad old days -- in other words, 2006 and 2007.

Foreclosures are -- wait for this -- a good thing!

Even for the family in foreclosure, it's a good thing. That family gets to "move on." What doesn't happen for that family is this: It doesn't get to live, rent-free, in a home it can't afford, not yesterday, not today and not tomorrow.

Why Do Foreclosures Occur?

Foreclosures usually happen for two reasons. 

The first is the obvious one: The family can't meet its monthly payment, falls behind and eventually "gives up" on paying. But the family isn't evicted right away, and not even for a few years! Foreclosure proceedings only start when the bank or investor holding the mortgage gets fed up with a nonpaying borrower (in legal terms, this is a "nonperforming asset"). In many states, including New York and New Jersey (both states in which I practice law), foreclosures go through the courts. In New Jersey, the average foreclosure period (that means the time from when foreclosure actions start in the courts, to the date of auction at the courthouse) is close to four years! (That's the longest period in the nation during which a borrower can avoid paying anything and stay in the house!) 

What happens during that time? Often, the borrower is pocketing the money he or she would otherwise be paying. That means some families in foreclosure are better off than they were before! 

How is that? I'll tell you! Because now they have cash.

And if you have been pocketing your monthly mortgage payment for three, four, even five years, that's a lot of money!

Meanwhile, those of you stuck in apartments, even subsidized Section 8 housing, can't move out and move up. Why? Because you're too busy working to pay your bills. And that is why you don't have the pot of gold these other people have. You're paying your bills; the people in foreclosure most often are not. 

The common wisdom in foreclosure relief is to "keep people in their homes." However, when you have an income problem and can't pay your bills, that relief is only delaying the inevitable and denying the obvious: The owner who can't afford the home and who needs to move out, ideally as soon as possible.

But the common wisdom, the politicians, and the people who run nonprofits to do "foreclosure assistance," either don't understand this, or those who do, turn a blind eye to it because they're too scared to lose votes!

As for the second reason for foreclosures, it comes from the lack of value of the underlying property. In the simplest terms, this is expressed by the phrase: The debt on the home is greater than the home's value. These mortgages are often called "underwater" and represent negative equity. These homes are often unmoveable, and fall into disrepair, but the primary reasons for that are either the refusal by the homeowner in foreclosure to sell (or dump) the property at a loss, or the bank's refusal to allow a "short sale" (where the home is sold for less than the outstanding mortgage) because then the bank has to recognize a loss on the asset.

The very opposite happens when a family defaults on its mortgage but still has plenty of equity in its home. That family may not be able to stay in that home, i.e., they can no longer afford the monthly payments, but here's what they can do and what they should do: They can sell the home. For a profit! And then turn around and have money, maybe enough for a down payment, on a less expensive place!

None of this should be taken to mean that expensive homes are immune to foreclosure. There will always be bull-headed homeowners who refuse to accept the inevitable, that they cannot afford to stay in their home. There are also plenty of expensive homes which are overleveraged. But more expensive homes are found in more desirable areas, are much more likely to be bought before falling into foreclosure, and therefore account for many fewer foreclosures than homes in lower-income areas with far less demand.  

A real solution to the "foreclosure crisis" recognizes that the neighbors and neighborhood are the victims, not the owner in foreclosure. A real solution incentivizes troubled borrowers to sell and move on, or for banks to do short sales and recoup part (but not all) of their loss. (The reason not to absorb all the banks' losses is to avoid encouraging banks to make more "bad" or "risky" mortgages to poor credit risks.)

The real foreclosure problem can be identified only when you figure out the real victim. The family in foreclosure, while sometimes a victim of circumstance, is not the victim of the foreclosure. The foreclosure victims are the neighbors, whose property values are threatened by a foreclosure and risk of an abandoned home becoming an eyesore, magnet for crime, or safety or health hazard.

This last point is recognized by some elected officials, because that is their impetus to help those in foreclosure on the hope that those "homeowners" will stay in their homes and maintain them. 

That approach is wrong. It is bad policy. It is also bad politics! 

A homeowner, who already has allowed his property to fall into foreclosure, or disrepair, or both, and who has been pocketing the money that would otherwise go to the loan payment, is not going to be any more responsible with someone else's money when he is getting it for free! 

If that home is an eyesore now, the government or a nonprofit throwing money at the old homeowner won't do anything to keep up the neighbors' home values, won't keep the rundown house from becoming more rundown. (Of course, you'll hear promises to the contrary, because people will do and say just about anything to get their hands on free money.) 

Our neighborhoods will be better off, they will be made more stable, and there will be fewer abandoned or dilapidated properties, if we stop trying to keep people in foreclosure "in their homes" and instead start using our scarce resources to move them out!

As for the elected officials terrified about losing political support, consider some points. 

First, people in foreclosure are few and far between. 

Second, people who are not reliable payers of their bills a hardly reliable voters. 

Third, as the self-styled affordable-housing activists are saying they won't support you unless you take their position of the day, you need to realize you are in an extortionate death spiral in which you will be induced to take ever more damaging positions as you seek to avoid the inevitable, which is to "lose" their support (which you likely never had and never will get) and ultimately an election. 

Fourth, you need to realize that for each voter in foreclosure you seek to appease with these foreclosure-victim appeals, you are alienating many more average voters. 

Voters who pay their bills and own homes are much more incentivized to be active in elections, to contribute to campaigns and to vote their pocketbooks. 

So if you're a politician torn between these two camps, can you figure out who can help you more, and who can hurt you more?

How you answer that question might decide your political future -- and if your town is lucky, its ability to have safe, stable neighborhoods and rising property values for its residents in the future. 







Sunday, March 26, 2017

Facts Versus What You Think Is A Fact: Prosecutions and "Fake News"

The judicial system (that is, our courts) have to parse out the facts of a case.

Both sides (and sometimes cases have more than two sides!) present their version of the facts, their arguments about the law and how the two work, and introduce items into evidence where permitted.

Many people do not truly understand the limits on a fact.

Even worse, and much worse, is this: Those people then compound the first error by imprecisely describing what is it that they claim to have seen, or know. 

This is where the vast majority of people get it wrong. Whether they're in the legal profession, or judges, or journalists, and definitely many corporate officials making decisions, they almost always get it wrong.

Just imagine, those are the people with above average mental intelligence, if not necessarily the emotional intelligence. For those of "average" or even "below average" intelligence, the subtle nuances between "impressions" and "opinions" and actual "facts" are often lost. This is a huge risk factor for people going before a jury, I tell you.

Someone having a feeling about something being wrong? Where's the fact in that question?

It is not that "something" is "wrong." The fact there is the observation about the underlying information that supports the feeling. The fact is the observation, that is, "I saw something." The problems arise when the "something" gets described incorrectly, inaccurately or embellished. 

Facts are objective. 

Opinions are not objective, but it is a fact to say that you have an opinion. The opinion, however, is not fact. 

A particular person who is quoted in some article saying blah blah blah?  The blah blah is not the fact, but the act of it being said becomes the fact. No matter how false the actual subject of what's said might be, the truth of it being said creates a fact no matter how false the subject matter claim might be. 

This brings me to my final points: Facts are objective, but impressions are subjective. Most people hear only part of what you will say (or write). Listening comprehension is a lost skill, particularly as we "multitask" more and get more "plugged in" to competing sources for information.

In other words, we hear, but we do not necessarily listen. And it's much rarer that we actually understand what gets through. 

The same can be said for the skill of reading comprehension. Trust me, as the skill in today's journalism has generally declined from two decades ago, although the dropoff in skill has also affected legal writing. 


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Former Goldman Sachs Executive Would Turn Foreclosures Into Mini-Ghettoes

Whenever you hear people talk about this so-called "foreclosure crisis" or "housing crisis" or whatever these Leftist opinion leaders call it, remember that good policy requires speaking the real truth about public housing. 

Because if we don't, we soon are going to all end up in public housing, that is, in housing where the actual quality of life is indistinguishable from a housing project! Let me explain how.

First of all, there could be an impetus, stemming from this year's New Jersey election for Governor.

The very wealthy former Ambassador to Germany under former President Obama, Phil Murphy, is running for Governor of New Jersey and he is currently battling for the Democratic nomination. The common wisdom and press coverage right now indicates he's a heavy favorite to get the Democratic nomination. As registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans statewide by nearly two to one (over two million registered Democrats to about 1.2 million Republicans, but over 2.4 million voters haven't picked a party, according to these new figures), and also seeing that Hillary Clinton ran strongly in New Jersey (beating now-President Trump by 14 percentage points), it's a very good bet that Murphy will be New Jersey's next Governor. 

Here is what is troubling. Ambassador Murphy, perhaps being made to feel he should be ashamed of his own accomplishments in life, senses he must atone for his success by "giving back."

I've met Murphy and spoken to him at length personally. He is a decent man, perhaps too decent for retail politics. I sense it is in that spirit that Murphy wants to turn foreclosures, in the midst of thriving working, middle and upper class neighborhoods, wants to solve the "foreclosure crisis" or "lack of affordable housing crisis" but his "plan" would risk turning any foreclosed property into a mini-ghetto.

Murphy puts forth his "housing rescue" plan (actually a rehash of a twice-vetoed "foreclosure residential transformation" bill passed by New Jersey's Legislature earlier this decade) on his campaign website. It reads:

Murphy said he would aggressively pursue the state's fair share of Wall Street mortgage settlement funds to launch a program in which the state would purchase foreclosed homes and partner with qualified nonprofits to repurpose them as affordable housing.

"Affordable housing"? 

In plain English, folks, that means a little housing project, for a whole bunch of people who otherwise can't afford (or do what it takes to earn a living sufficient) to live in your neighborhood.

As for your home values, they're likely to crash. Moving people "who can't afford 'affordable housing' " may be great to get the approval of the brie-cheese-and-caviar intelligensia, but it isn't good for the property values of the neighbors of the new mini-project.

That's because people who can move out of the ghetto, get the hell out of them and they do not ever look back. There's no conga line of people lining up to buy homes right next to housing projects -- er, sorry, "affordable housing." Why is that? It's because public housing contains some of the worst people you would ever want to have as neighbors. The mentally ill, the drug-addled, and plenty of criminal elements.

Turn a foreclosed mini-mansion into "affordable housing," and you'll have more "for sale" signs than dandelions very quickly. 
___________________________________________________
FLASHBACK: How "Foreclosure Relief" Hurts The Poor. Eric Dixon's 2012 analysis on a disastrous foreclosure relief plan which passed New Jersey's legislature, not once but twice!
___________________________________________________ 
It's also because public housing was originally sold to the electorate as an absolute last housing option for those with no other choice except homeless shelters or a cardboard box outside. It was not intended to become permanent low-income housing, which is precisely what it's become across America. (Ask yourself whether its original proponents knew all along what would happen, and purposely stayed silent.)

Some very good houses in upper and middle-class areas fall into foreclosure when disaster strikes their owners. It could be a medical emergency of which the cost outstrips the insurance coverage. 

Under the Murphy plan, those homes would become a great opportunity to turn a big house into a multi-unit "affordable housing" development, or a drug rehab center, or a property for some other "noble purpose."  

If the home equity you've built over decades of responsible ownership gets wiped out, well, you're a homeowner so you are one of the "rich." It might be more intellectually honest to simply come out and say the following: It serves you right. 

Why would any politician advance such a plan? Maybe it's because the politician doesn't understand basic economics. Some of our elected leaders do not understand basic supply and demand. Many others are disdainful of economic cause and effect. But why would Murphy, who is clearly a smart guy -- a former Goldman Sachs executive who actually omits any reference to this on his campaign website -- push this plan?

He understands the economic forces at work. He also understands the political forces which make him make a choice between the Leftist or "progressive" votes he thinks he needs, and the homeowners whose votes he believes he can take for granted. 

In making such a choice, politicians like Murphy are pandering to the mob of Gramsci (i.e., cultural) Marxists who envy, hate and want to hurt anyone else who's "got more." To these real deplorables who believe in political or cultural Marxism, anyone with a home may be branded as morally inferior, evil incarnate, and thus the ends justify the means.

If they cannot confiscate your property -- which I believe will be the end goal -- they can try to reduce its value. 

Confiscation and destruction of private property has often been among the first actions of totalitarian regimes upon seizing power. This attitudinal shift is laying the groundwork for future generations to come to believe those actions would be totally reasonable, acceptable and legitimate. 

Private property, after all, is the crime in their eyes. So these "foreclosure relief" measures are really just an attack on private property. The strategy is to attack the value, your value, your wealth, and by extension, your work, effort and sacrifice for all these years.




Saturday, March 11, 2017

Preet Bharara Got "Fired" As His Brilliant Strategic Move

Breaking news never sleeps. On Saturday, Manhattan's U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired by the Trump Administration after refusing to tender his resignation, as requested on Friday. Bharara himself confirmed the firing, using that precise term in his own tweet, from his own personal account.

This news needs to be viewed both in the proper context, and in a strategic context.

Background: A total of 46 sitting U.S. Attorneys, all appointed by President Obama, were requested to submit their resignations yesterday.

Further background: Submitting your resignation is not the same as an automatic resignation. It allows the Trump Administration (as with predecessor administrations) to accept or decline the resignation. It also allows the administration and the President (at whose pleasure all executive branch officers serve, let's remember) to exercise the discretion which it has, to decide when to terminate an appointee. 

Great lawyers think strategically. This could all be strategic. Not by Trump. But by Bharara.

First, Bharara may have anticipated being fired, or may have been looking for a way out without necessarily resigning or compromising any ongoing investigation (either civil or criminal) in the office of the United States Attorney he runs in Manhattan. 

As a result of his federal post as United States Attorney, Bharara would face potential conflicts and ethical hurdles if he negotiated big firm job offers -- likely quite lucrative -- while still in the federal post. That is because some of those firms representing corporate and individual clients who are (or were) witnesses, subjects or targets of investigations, or defendants. His conflicts would not merely be with cases he handled; he would face conflicts from any case or investigation before his entire Office of the United States Attorney in Manhattan.

That's a huge office. That means a huge list of potential, active conflicts. 

Some of those conflicts remain with regards to clients he cannot represent if or when he moves to a law firm, assuming that is even an option or desire on his part. Now that he is a "fired" and "former" federal employee, Bharara can have those discussions -- assuming, again, that he even wants to move into private sector legal practice.

He can also collect $400 per week in unemployment benefits. New York State allows a fired employee to collect $420 per week for up to 26 weeks. 

Plus, Bharara reserves the rights all fired employees have, including the right to sue for wrongful termination. One never knows what could happen.

And should Preet Bharara have political ambitions in New York City or New York State, suing President Trump for wrongful termination would be an absolutely brilliant optical and strategic move, if not necessarily a winning legal or financial move.

But overall, forcing and then publicizing his own firing looks like one great strategic play by Preet Bharara. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Female Hockey Player Sucker-Punches Opponent, Then Sues Referee

An overly aggressive New York female lawyer attacked a male opponent from behind in a co-ed ice hockey game, and is now suing the referee after she allegedly suffered a concussion and broken nose when the referee intervened to stop the attack. 

The news report (link above) glosses over the fact that the female player instigated the attack, and "allegedly attacked a male player from behind." 

Longtime observers of pro hockey -- and plenty of people with common sense -- know that attacks by one player on another player, particularly from behind, carry a high risk of serious injury. 

It is that risk, and likely the referee's awareness of that, which should be cited by the defense in this case to explain the referee's actions (assuming this case gets to the point of depositions or trial). 

The preeminent professional hockey league, the National Hockey League, has suspended players for such actions. 

And now here's some context -- with video:

The career of star New York Rangers defenseman (and 1994 Stanley Cup winner) Jeff Beukeboom never resumed after he was attacked from behind by Matt Johnson of the Los Angeles Kings in a 1998 game. Here's the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pS_D3FP4Zs

In another reprehensible attack, Todd Bertuzzi followed and then punched from behind Steve Moore, who fell right to the ice (again, basically ending his career). Here's a video clip showing Bertuzzi chasing down Moore in that 2004 game.

The severity of the attacker's actions must be considered, irrespective of the actual injury of the original victim, because the risk to that victim provides the necessary context with which to explain the propriety of the referee's actions. 

You win cases by explaining the context, whether historical or medical. In this case, the focus should be on the instigator. 

Eric Dixon is a corporate and investigative lawyer who consults with clients in New York and New Jersey.



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why Your Lawyer Sucks: More Headwinds For The Economy

America has never had so many lawyers.

And, apparently, so many absolutely mediocre ones!

Recent data shows that applications to the most competitive law schools in America have generally declined nearly 20 percent since the recession
-- which was nearly a decade ago! These schools (measured using the U.S. News annual rankings) report having reduced their entering classes by about five percent.

So fewer lawyers from the top schools, right? And maybe, fewer brilliant lawyers if you assume a brain drain from law school to other fields?

What about the rest of the law schools pumping out new graduates into the workforce? Other data reports a nationwide decline in applicants of between 40-45 percent post-recession. One prominent Northeastern law school reports a 60 percent decline.

Despite this significant applicant decline, the American legal profession continues to mint new lawyers at a consistent rate. The profession's leading industry organization, the American Bar Association, reports the number of active resident lawyers has never been higher! The ABA's latest data for 2016 shows approximately 1.315 million "resident active attorneys" nationwide, a number which has consistently been growing at over one percent annually, and which is currently an all time high!

When new graduates keep flowing unabated while the incoming pipeline has been drying up markedly for nearly one decade, you can draw the inference that law schools dependent on tuition revenue for survival have had to accept lesser quality students to keep up their enrollment.

This, in the face of declining student demand. It's also in the face of the persistent anecdotal evidence throughout the industry (including from big law firm partners) that demand for legal services has been flat to down now for over ten years. (That roughly corresponds with the deflation of the mortgage credit bubble.)

The results? Great judgment remains rare and in demand by a discreet set of users. However, most other legal services are a commodity. Many consumers believe contracts and even court complaints are boilerplate and that legal advice is now a "DIY" commodity. Furthermore, new demand areas like compliance are at risk of obsolescence (and offshoring) if the Trump Administration declares its War on Regulation, as promised.

The glut of mediocrity -- or worse -- threatens to create new headwinds for an American economy that has been under siege from government overreach for the better part of the last quarter century.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Boy Scouts and Avoiding Lawsuit Risk

The Boy Scouts of America recently announced it will allow transgender children (i.e., biological girls) into the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

The policy change comes days after reports that a New Jersey mother of an eight year old girl, identifying as male and recently kicked out of a Cub Scout pack, planned a civil rights complaint with New Jersey authorities. Not even a civil lawsuit, although there's no telling what has happened away from the glare of media cameras.

I counsel clients on avoiding risk and weighing risk in various situations. Part of that process involves asking questions, like: "How do you act, to minimize the risk of a false accusation?"

You cannot control the conduct or intent of others, but you can control your own conduct, your intent, and the situations you put yourself in. I believe that, and it's unfortunate in this world, but innocence is not enough.

With that in mind, here is how I see the Boy Scouts' situation.

When a girl joins and participates with the Boy Scout pack, the boys, the scoutmasters (often parents of the boys in the pack) and the organization are all at risk of a false accusation -- from a female.

In the current politically charged climate, for practical purposes, female accusations are accorded greater weight, at least in the court of public affairs. Allegations may not hold water and false accusers may even be prosecuted, but targets of accusations don't have a ready remedy to restore their reputations. (Note the qualifications and phrases set off by commas, before you misinterpret my writing.)

The Boy Scouts' new policy -- call it appeasement, call it compromise -- may endanger all of its participants in a misguided strategy prioritizing the seeking of the approval of opponents, over duties to its members. The effect is to give no resistance to outside challenges which represent a crude, if not depraved, indifference to the risk assumed to any Scout participant, a risk assumed by the mere act of being involved with the Scouts. Sadly, making participation in the Scouts a risky proposition, one in which participants (even, and especially, chidren) risk legal and reputational consequences, might be the unstated but intended consequence.

The organization could have elected to show a spine, to prepare for and engage in litigation. Now, by trying to avoid confrontation, it may well weaken its standing and support among its members. That in turn will almost assuredly weaken its ability to withstand the next legal threat, which its appeasement today will only invite.

After all, weakness is provocative.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Starbucks Risks Lawsuits With Refugee Hiring Push

The chief executive officer of Starbucks said Monday morning he will have his coffee chain hire 10,000 "refugees" in response to the Trump Administration executive order on certain majority-Moslem-nation refugees and visa holders.

I guess Americans will be wondering just where those unfilled jobs were all these years.

These are borderline discriminatory policies. The motives are clear. These companies either want to avoid the backlash from a Leftist-Marxist pro-open borders crowd, or they are catering to this growing and substantial segment of the consumer market. Thus, "virtue signaling" to this portion of consumers is seen as the way to grow -- more likely, to retain -- consumer sales.

Yet such blatant preferences -- for which the flip side is equally blatant discrimination -- violate a host of federal and state civil rights laws.

If one baker can be sued by a state attorney general for refusing to bake wedding cakes for a gay couple, surely Starbucks would be a clear target of an ideologically blind Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, or state attorney general, would it not?

I would think Starbucks and companies following its lead would become prime targets for shareholder lawsuits as well. That's because essentially declaring war on much of the rest of your native "American" consumer population is eventually going to harm the bottom line. Implicitly criticizing a segment of the consumer base puts other revenue at risk. These political decisions are not guaranteed to be revenue net-neutral and may well become net negative. The risks are substantial enough to throw doubt on whether any cognizable "business judgment" argument can or will be made to justify such strategies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Hidden Target of Election Fraud

The current controversy over alleged voter fraud misses the point on the numerous opportunities for actual mischief and distortions in the political process.

As this longer analysis of mine points out, the arena of opportunity is in the dark recesses of the election machinery. 

Everyone is watching a presidential election. 

It's where no one is looking -- and frankly, no one cares -- where the real problem lies. I explain how that then leads to metastasizing problems which undermine the integrity of the election process. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bullish on Blockchain, Or Full of Bull? How You Can Avoid The Frauds

As of this writing, most digital currencies of consequence are soaring with double digit percentage gains over the past week if not the past day!

Renewed interest in all things "blockchain" has followed. That interest is flowing towards the omnipresent commentary about how "The Blockchain" will solve all manner of human problems large and small.

Want to have immediate transaction clearing? The blockchain will handle that. Sure. Someday. Just trust us.

Want to end world wars and terrorism? The blockchain will have an app for that!

Want to stop food from spoiling? Yeah, the blockchain can do that too.

These are the fantasies of the utopians, the tech lovers and science fiction geeks whose faith in human intelligence to ultimately provide these solutions is both unbounded by and, too often, ungrounded in reality.

Blockchain technology can be a platform for great innovations, advancements and improvements in commerce, science, education and recordkeeping. It can be a main pillar of the next wave of human civilization in which the information economy is not merely a feature but rather a core element.

Yet the dreamers are too often followed by the schemers. The people saying that blockchain technology will solve your problems -- and get you rich quick in the process -- are confident only that it will solve THEIR financial problem, and your capital is the solution.

Any real solution starts with an understanding of the gravity of the problem.

We are rapidly moving into a post-fact era where impulsivity replaces intelligence and bravado replaces mature judgment. In this new world, we need a renewed appreciation for and value of the sanctity of information.

There's something else here as well. The value of information is only as good as the information itself. Throw bad content into the blockchain and, absent a strong external
Quality Control mechanism which may contradict the very nature of blockchain, the content remains. Because it is valid -- even though in its valid state it may have impure data.

The blockchain can be a great preservative. But it cannot guarantee a great crop yield and it cannot guarantee the food will get from field to table in one piece or in edible condition. As with perishable food, no amount of refrigeration will restore food which has already gone bad before it gets to the blockchain.

A mature view of this technology will accept its current limitations and identify the real present day problems that can be solved today. Focusing on stuff that sounds like it came out of a "Star Trek" movie is great for showing off. For the rest of us, we need to solve real world, real life problems and we need all the focus we can summon to accomplish what's real.




Without that appreciation, the blockchain is worthless.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Transgender Boy Scouts And The Right Of Association

A developing controversy, about an alleged transgender "boy" kicked out by a New Jersey Cub Scout pack, has serious, serious implications for the basic core constitutional right of privacy and the related rights of association most Americans take for granted.

On one level, my cynicism tells me this emerging discrimination claim -- a lawsuit is where this is headed, for sure, count on it -- may just be one big scam.

The objectives are unclear (that's by design) and there could be several. This could be designed to pressure the Boy Scouts of America, perhaps the most renowned boys' organization in the nation for generations, into "progressive change." (To support that theory, check out this petition drive to force the Boy Scouts to change its policy.)  Or drive it out of existence altogether. Or extract a high penalty, maybe civil fines or a settlement to pay off the family. Or all of the above -- and maybe the greater the damage, the better (as that is the point of all this, I suspect).

On the basic level, Monday's Gannett-owned Record of Hackensack reported on an eight year old Secaucus, NJ child, biologically female but identifying as male (so the story goes) and who was allegedly just kicked out of a Secaucus, NJ Cub Scout group because of objections from other parents. The Record's story shockingly identified both child and parent as eight year old "Joey" Maldonado and the mother as Kristie Maldonado.

The story's identification of the principals alarmed me. Naming family members in sensitive stories is, to me, a practice which is unnecessary and of no news value to the audience. Sometimes, I feel it is done as an overtly innocuous but secretly vindictive act to shame or pressure the person named. Here, it is clear the parties wanted to be named; this means the mother wanted to "out" her own child. That decision is reckless, if not depraved, for it creates the risk of damage to an eight year old child. It also indicates the child is just a pawn in this adult powerplay. 

UPDATE 12/29/16: As if on cue, the morning after this article was published, both mother and child appeared live in studio on CNN. The video is embedded in this NJ.com article

Now, the story makes no mention of gender reassignment surgery or hormonal treatment. Those absences support the inference that the child was born female and is still anatomically female.

The worst thing about the Record's salacious, click-bait-pursuing story, is that it names the child by the "male" name, Joey.  The child is exposed publicly. But as my ongoing investigation reveals, the mother hasn't been shy about revealing details about her child, not in social media and not in the conventional media. Quite the opposite. In fact, the child's identity has been publicized widely, almost as if the intent were to cause even greater harm. To the child. To her child. 

The mother claims her "son" started identifying as male several years ago. Yet social media tells a different tale. On the mother's Facebook page an August 5, 2015 post shows a photo of the child, who looks just like the same child pictured in the Record story. That post refers to the family members starting with "Jodi," then "Kristie" and "Jorge." 

(And if the page has been taken down, an archived version of the page is available through GotNews.com at this link.)
There's more evidence that the mother was parading around her child in the press. In May 2015, the same woman and her child were quoted in a different local publication. That story referred to the child as a seven year old named "Jodi" Maldonado.

It is pretty clear that "Joey" is really "Jodi," and this seems to be quite the sudden transformation, no? So what's motivating this change?

Maybe the mother is trying to set up a big lawsuit, a big payday. Because she was just recently on the other end of a lawsuit, as a defendant in an automobile accident personal injury case which settled before trial. The case was titled Leyva v. Morris, NJ-HUD-L-Civ. 5857-13. And when did the case settle? Mid 2015. (Settlement details are confidential.)

Just about the same time it seems the compliant or gullible news media organization wants you to believe this child started identifying as a
 boy.

And perhaps the same time that a perhaps-financially-strapped family needed money and could have fallen prey to political activists with cash to burn and scruples to abandon. 

As for the Cub Scouts, what about them? Maybe they're the perfect politically correct target, being all-male and traditional values and such, and better yet, one with deep pockets. A juicy target, a "get" is what the Boy Scouts are. 

But the larger constitutional issues revolve around attacks on a private organization. It is possible the Boy Scouts may be forced, under threat of either ruinous litigation or even state regulatory or prosecutorial action, to abandon any membership criteria. 

But then, you have the issue of who can join, and who can select members. 

When every organization is open to all, when there are no standards, when everyone can be a member, then in reality, no one is a member.

I am afraid that the larger, hidden agenda here is an assault on the right of association, the right of groups to privately associate, and thus an implicit attack on every cultural institution. The message: No institution is safe from assault, no group may enjoy a right to associate as it wishes.

The case of this one child in New Jersey is merely the sympathy-inducing deception, to distract observers from recognizing the deeper principles at risk. 

Eric Dixon is a New York City based corporate and investigative lawyer. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

NJ Attorney General Tries To Control Newspaper

A five year old in Trenton, NJ brought heroin and crack cocaine to his preschool on two occasions earlier this year, prompting his placement in foster care.

But when newspaper reporters from The Trentonian got their hands on the court complaint, which in family court matters is normally sealed, New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie sprang to action.

The State Attorney General, appointed by Christie, got a temporary injunction preventing the newspaper from publishing more articles on the story, and offered to agree not to oppose the newspaper's argument against a permanent injunction.

But there's a catch: The Attorney General's Office gets to approve the next article! And if they don't like it, they said they would seek a permanent injunction.

This case, set to be heard Wednesday down in Trenton at the Mercer County Courthouse, shows state government is willing to use its power to restrict press freedom. After Bridgegate, this is just the latest abuse of power.

When a right is conditioned on the permission, the judgment or the abusable discretion of the government, your right no longer exists. It becomes a license, to be granted by and withheld by the State for any reason or no reason.

Many in Hudson County just celebrated the passing of the Cuban Maximum Leader, the despot Fidel Castro. Yet this Christie Administration move on the press evokes the playbook of the totalitarian regimes that once comprised the Soviet Evil Empire.

Even worse, Christie is simultaneously pursuing a change in state law for the benefit of one person - himself. That's because he wants to write and profit from a book deal (assuming people would actually pay to read it), while remaining nominally in office for the last year of his term and collecting a full salary for writing his book on our dime.

Is this Chris Christie's First Amendment? Where he gets to change the law (with the Legislature's help) to benefit himself, while using his power to restrict press freedoms essential for the public's right to know?

A county court hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Wednesday. But this hearing should not even be necessary.

The First Amendment is clear that the people are to be free from any abridgment of the press, and our Supreme Court has reaffirmed this right. Freedom of the press is, in fact, not just a constitutional right, but a "core" constitutional right.

There are over 40,000 lawyers living and working in New Jersey (many others live there but practice in New York or Pennsylvania). Where are the principled men and women in the Attorney General's Office who would and should resign in protest, rather than violate the spirit, or letter, of our Bill of Rights?

Why aren't Christie appointees throughout our judicial system doing the same?

Chris Christie is a lame duck governor who still wields the power of our State Executive Branch. If Bridgegate wasn't enough of a warning, this case of legal intimidation of the press is a warning to us to beware of a man who is no longer accountable to voters and who just might think he can get away with Fidel Castro style repression.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Can IRS Use Coinbase Order To Harass Bitcoin Owners?

The federal government might have a new tool to discourage Bitcoin investment and acceptance by retail merchants.

That's because a federal judge recently authorized an Internal Revenue Service summons on the digital currency exchange and wallet provider Coinbase for its transaction history for the three years prior to December 31, 2015.

This means that the granular information of those transactions, all investment purchases and sales as well as each merchant transaction, will be accessible to the IRS.

The summons itself does not change any tax liability or responsibility of American taxpayers, because digital currencies have been ruled to be currency since an early 2014 agency ruling.

But without Coinbase issuing detailed records of transactions to its customers, the granular information to the IRS means the agency may obtain the aggregate sale proceeds to customers and force the customers to rebut the agency position that those gross proceed amounts are not income. Unfortunately, that means customers and merchants would be compelled to go through the trouble of documenting (i.e., proving) their purchase price (their "basis" for tax purposes) in the digital assets, lest the IRS assume a zero basis and that the entire sale price is taxable gain! This is patently unfair.

Imagine a supermarket (to take a low-margin industry as an example) buying milk wholesale for $2.50 per gallon, selling it at retail for $3.29, but being taxed as if the entire sale price were profit?  Well, if you're a bitcoin investor or merchant who takes bitcoin as payment, that could be the unstated, de facto policy of the IRS. And that would be a hidden, unofficial, unspoken way for some government officials to discourage the use of digital currencies.

Yet all is not lost. Any smart merchant or investor should keep meticulous records. All customers will need their records of the purchases. This will establish the basis of the taxpayer.

Now I will explain why that is not necessarily bad. Indeed, with the long period of Bitcoin's price decline from its $1200-plus peak in late 2013 to its trough below $200 in late 2014, many sales in the covered three year period (Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2015) may have been at a loss, where taxpayers bought at a higher price than the sale. Bitcoin still is several hundred dollars below its peak. Many Coinbase users may have taxable losses on Bitcoin, and can use $3,000 of losses to offset other income, and losses over that amount to offset any capital gains.

The uncertainty about the IRS implementation of its enforcement powers, and whether Coinbase will issue the tax statements customary for securities broker dealers or mutual funds, means that taxpayers may have significant tax reporting burdens for which they are unprepared.

If Coinbase starts -- or is required -- to issue tax statements to customers like other financial institutions, Coinbase will need to be prepared for a new level of compliance and the resulting costs. Those costs naturally get passed down to customers. You could see annual account charges or higher transaction fees, and plenty of business moving to extraterritorial (outside the United States) exchanges.

Taxpayers with Coinbase accounts face a documentation problem and should strongly consider hiring a legal or tax professional knowledgeable in digital currency to help establish the evidence needed to prove their tax basis in Bitcoin and other digital assets.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, blockchain enterpreneur and all-around fixer. Reach him at EDixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Election Fraud Claims Miss Opportunity For Voter Registration Fraud

The weekend brings a new allegation from President-elect Donald Trump about voting fraud resulting in "millions" of illegal votes.

The allegation was swiftly denounced as, among other things, a "fringe conspiracy theory" in the very lead of this Politico article.

But the possibility and opportunity for fraud remains largely unexplored and uninvestigated, curious circumstances indeed. At a minimum, the overeager dismissal of voter fraud claims suggests those doing the dismissing, are aware of systemic mischief and uneager to do anything to force its disclosure and their obligation to do something about it.

Election-related fraud can take two forms. Both have the potential for major mischief.

The first involves the misreporting of valid votes anywhere in the election process between the time the voter interacts with a polling machine, and the final tabulation of vote results. 

The trend of replacing old mechanical-lever machines with electronic touch-screen or scanners has not eliminated the basic problem of trust nor the opportunity for hyper-partisan poll workers to misreport numbers or otherwise make mistakes. (Some poll workers pull a 16-hour day which ends with the reporting of machine tallies, surely a common sense element to introduce at least the potential for mistakes, never mind much worse.)

One potential solution is presented by a blockchain-reliant electronic voting system (which is subject to a patent now in allowance and pending grant) using an electronic interface to report votes onto a decentralized, consensus-based public ledger (called the blockchain) which also allows for paper reports and an audit trail. 

When you consider all the individuals involved at the ground level of any election, it requires suspension of disbelief to be asked to believe (or assume) that everyone gets the numbers right. On a wide scale, the possibility for error only grows. Whether it is really possible to distort the outcome of any election is a different story, since both sides tend to be equally overzealous and opportunistic and one might credibly think the error or fudging the results may be roughly equal on both sides. (Or not.) 

Certainly, organized, clandestine efforts to rig the results would require the  involvement of many people and the silence or complicity of yet another large set of people, and the continued silence of all of these people (which is unlikely). Effective result-rigging would require misreporting and the absence of an audit trail or other verification mechanism, to permit the misreport from eventually being discovered, but this is the problem with electronic machines which do not print out a paper record. 

Now, to the second form of election fraud. This can distort (or throw) an election outcome as a result of the dilution of the legal voter pool by illegal or otherwise ineligible voters. Now this may be what Trump -- and others -- have in mind, but are not effectively communicating. (Amazingly, Trump & Co. also botched their explanation of the I-didn't-pay-taxes-one-year controversy.) While many non-citizens dutifully and eagerly report their ineligibility to vote when they are asked to "come out and vote on Election Day," anecdotal reports persist about plenty of other non-citizens who are clueless and sign whatever they are told to sign. They are signing voter registration forms, and have no idea what they are doing, but they are registered. (This can impact small races where a handful of votes does represent the margin of victory. Think your local party county committee races or local school board district, that type of thing, more than larger races like Congressional races.)

The potential for abuse exists, because observers know that our voter registration system operates on the honor system: We trust people to be truthful when asked if they are citizens.

But in a time where the hysteria was about possible deportations of legal immigrants, must the reasonable observer be forced to ignore at least the real possibility that there were scared-of-deportation immigrant non-citizens who signed up to vote?

Should we have a level of educated discourse on this topic that requires unanimity that, no, never, it is impossible that this could have happened, so impossible in fact, that we should not even explore the question? 

Across the country, these ineligible registered voters do add up. It may not be a big amount, may not be statistically significant, may not have any bearing on any election, but isn't it funny that this is a topic just about everyone is eager to cover up with a bulldozer so it never sees the light of day?

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who has represented dozens of candidates including presidential candidates in ballot access matters.