The Bad, Bad Law, IRS, Congress and Stealing from Grandma

Photosource: Flickr Creative Commons by Tax Credits https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/

Photosource: Flickr Creative Commons by Tax Credits https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/

If you give the IRS the legal power to seize money without cause, they’re going to take that legal power and use it to abuse everyday folks.

It’s kind of like one of Newton’s Laws of Motion. It just works that way.

It seems that back when Congress was in one of its rare bill-passing moods, this time in a holy zeal to wage “war on drugs,” it turned diarrheic and passed any stupid law that came into its collective head. Among these was a law that gives the IRS the power to seize monies of private citizens without preamble or proof of wrongdoing, without, in fact, suspicion of wrong-doing.

Here’s how it works. Suppose, say, you sold 3 prime acres of the old family homestead. Suppose you got the not-so-princely sum of fifty thousand dollars for the land.

Rather than deposit all of the money in one savings account, suppose you opened a second savings account and deposited 7 thousand you were setting aside to pay taxes on the sale. Then, you put another 5 thousand in an account set up to pay for the funeral of an elderly relative when the time comes. The rest of the money you put in your main savings account.

By doing this innocent, and even intelligent, bit of allocating of your own money, you would have committed a federal crime called “structuring.” Because you had “structured” your money to suit your needs, the IRS could seize it without warning.

The IRS does not have to prove that you had criminal intent for the money. It does not even have to believe that you had criminal intent for it. Your money could be seized and you could be prosecuted without having done anything wrong at all, simply for allocating your money to suit yourself like, say, a free American.

The law that allows this was passed with the supposed purpose of catching bad guys, specifically bad guys who are funding terrorists and laundering drug money and such. As will all bad laws, I would imagine that anyone who questioned its utterly stupid verbiage was accused of being “soft” on crime. This kind of emotional and political blackmail, writ as it is across the internet and in cable news talk-a-thons, can scare lawmakers into voting for bad laws.

When the force pushing for the law is none other than the IRS with their vast terror-tactic powers and the president of the United States, who is off on a legacy-building crusade, voting against even a law as obviously horrid as this one gets dicey. Political demagoguery and political cowardice are how grandma loses her life-savings to government forfeiture and ends up defending herself in federal court against charges that she has violated this nebulous and entirely unjust law.

The IRS has been seizing private monies with this law for a long time. According to Yahoo News, they seized $242 million in 2500 cases between 2005 and 2012. Fully one third of these seizures “were nothing more than cash transactions under $10,000.” Half of these were returned after owners challenged the IRS action.

That’s sounds sorta good. It means that half of these people were able to defend themselves. But think for a moment what defending yourself against the IRS entails.

Think of the anguish, the fear, the expense, the protracted and ugly battles and accusatory conversations, the search for an attorney who specializes in this stuff, the legal fees. Think about that and tell me that even the people who got their money back didn’t suffer a kind of legal purgatory because of this bad, bad law.

Consider also that not every innocent person whose money was flat-out stolen from them under this law was able to get it back. It takes determination and cash to fight these things. It takes willpower and nerves of steel. It takes a lot more fight than, say, an elderly person who had been depositing their spouse’s life insurance in separate accounts, divided up for the kids, would be able to muster.

The IRS has run into a bit of criticism because of the fact that it’s using the legal power that Congress gave it in the way the law clearly says that it can. As a result, the IRS is saying that it will stop being such a bad boy agency in this regard. They promise that they are going to stop seizing money that comes from legal sources. And we’re supposed to believe them and trust them and call it square.

What’s missing in this is the responsibility of our elected lawmakers in Congress to either repeal or amend this law. I know, it sounds like science fiction to expect our lawmakers to stop positioning themselves to either (1) take back the power if they are the Ds or (2) add the White House to the power they’ve got if they are the Rs, and do their jobs.

I know that’s not going to happen. Running for the next election is all they do in Congress. Governing this great country and representing the interests of We the People is not what they are about.

They aren’t going to change that just because the government is abusing the people they are supposed to represent due to a bad law that they passed themselves. That would be responsible. It’s the kind of thing that an actual public servant might do.

This is the United States Congress we’re talking about. They don’t do nothin’ but run for the next election and serve the special interests who pay for their campaigns.

This bad law won’t change so long as We the People continue to be bamboozled into thinking that either of the two political parties is the answer to our woes. So long as they can engage us in their ridiculous pie-throwing contests and keep us mesmerized with blind party loyalty, they’re going to continue with their bad governance and dereliction of duty.

So what we have is an agency saying that it’s going to change how it enforces a bad, bad law in order to stop a bit of bad, bad publicity. Meanwhile the people we’ve elected to write the laws are ignoring the problem and behaving as if lawmaking, actual lawmaking and law-fixing, has nothing whatsoever to do with them.

What’s wrong with this picture?

From Yahoo News:

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa widow is charged with a crime and had nearly $19,000 seized from her bank after depositing her late husband’s legally earned money in a way that evaded federal reporting requirements.

Janet Malone, 68, of Dubuque, is facing civil and criminal proceedings under a law intended to help investigators track large sums of cash tied to criminal activity such as drug trafficking and terrorism. But some members of Congress and libertarian groups have complained that the IRS and federal prosecutors are unfairly using it against ordinary people who deposit lawfully obtained money in increments below $10,000.

At issue is a law requiring banks to report deposits of more than $10,000 cash to the federal government. Anyone who breaks deposits into increments below that level to avoid the requirement is committing a crime known as “structuring” — whether their money is legal or not.

The IRS has increasingly used civil forfeiture proceedings to seize money from individuals and small businesses suspected of structuring violations, according to a review by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group. The agency seized $242 million in 2,500 cases from 2005 to 2012 — a third of which arose from nothing more than cash transactions under $10,000. Nearly half was returned after owners challenged the action, often a year later.

10 Ways to be Pro Life This Year

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Wes Peck https://www.flickr.com/photos/wespeck/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Wes Peck https://www.flickr.com/photos/wespeck/

1. Pray a Rosary on Fridays for the unborn.

2. Make a pet project of one of your state legislators. Track their votes on pro life bills and send them a handwritten letter commenting on how they voted. Better yet, go to the capitol and tell them what you think — kindly — in person. If they vote pro life, send them flowers at the end of session. If they don’t vote pro life, tell them that you are deeply disappointed in them, and that you worry about how they will feel when they look back on their time in office later. Tell them also that you will pray that God will open their eyes to what they are doing. Then, send them flowers, even though they’ve voted anti-life. Pray for them when you pray the Rosary from number 1.

3. Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center.

4. Write a check to your local crisis pregnancy center.

5. Speak out for funding for rape crisis centers. Rape victims should not be left alone with no other help except exhortations to “choose life” if they become pregnant as a result of rape. We need to help them heal from this terrible trauma.

6. If your state is considering euthanasia, organize a group of your friends and go to your state capitol and speak to everyone you can, asking them not to do this horrifically evil thing. Then, follow up on this visit by writing notes to everyone you talked to. Repeat every month.

7. Write a letter to the editor against abortion and euthanasia.

8. Take care of your elderly parents. Love and cherish them.

9. Make a solid, stable, loving home for your family.

10. Look at the sex ed curricula in your schools. If Planned Parenthood is teaching there, write a letter to the school board asking that the teaching be done by an organization that does not sell the contraceptives and abortions they are teaching young people to use.

Pro Life Oklahoma 2015: Rose Day

Wednesday of this week was Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

It was a clear, cold day and every parking space, everywhere, was taken. The capitol was full to the brim with pro life people, carrying roses to give to their state legislators.

I hugged a lot of people I hadn’t seen for several months and then found a seat at the back of the House Chamber for the program. Pro life people filled every seat in the chamber, including all the galleries, and there was overflow into the rotunda, as well.

If you don’t have a Rose Day in your state, consider starting one. It’s a great way to begin legislative sessions, since it reminds legislators — in a positive and loving way — just how many pro life people there are in their state.

Here are a couple of really bad photos I took of the chamber with my iPhone. The photos are terrible, but the love in that room was beautiful.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

 

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

ISIS Burns Jordanian Pilot Alive. Jordan Vows Revenge.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Klaus Nahr https://www.flickr.com/photos/klausnahr/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Klaus Nahr https://www.flickr.com/photos/klausnahr/

In their race to the bottom of the human pile, ISIS murdered a captive Jordanian pilot by putting him in a cage and setting him on fire.

I’ve decided to link to the video, primarily because I think that we need to know what ISIS is, and why they must be defeated absolutely. Anyone who joins ISIS or helps them should be hunted down and put in prison, even if it takes decades to get all of them.

You can see the video here.

The people of Jordan reacted explosively to the video. You can see a bit of their reaction in the video below. Jordan has already begun carrying out its promised reprisals.

I understand the emotion. I’ve been feeling the same emotions about ISIS for quite some time. Muslims who oppose this barbarism are our brothers and sisters in this fight.

We need to end ISIS. Hunt down the perpetrators and build a civilized and lasting peace. I pray that this war will not become an on-going blood feud that ultimately destroys civilization in that part of the world. In order for that to happen, ISIS must be laid to ground absolutely. But then, people must turn their backs on the bloodshed and move forward into civilization building.

This business of carrying on hates for generations (which seems to be the way they do things in the Middle East) will, if it is not checked, cripple and destroy that part of the world so that it never pulls itself out of the abyss of war.

I don’t know how you change people whose cultural trajectory is built on never forgetting and generational blood feud. But I do know that it is a necessity if that region of the world is ever going to move forward to provide stable and good lives for the people who live there.

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Tomorrow is Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol

Representative Gary Banz Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Gary Banz Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Gary Banz told me that when I left, he wanted my parking place.

I understood that.

My parking place was fantabulous; right next to the Gov’s parking place.

That’s what happens when a Rep has more seniority than anybody else in the building. She gets whatever parking space she wants.

Did Representative Banz get “my” parking space? I dunno. I haven’t been back to check.

I’m going to the Oklahoma State Capitol building for the first time since my son and one of his friends and I went out and loaded up my office and brought it home. That was, if memory serves, the Monday after the Friday on which we adjourned.

Oh, I’ve had phone conversations with people at the Capitol since then. Lots of them. And I’ve also had conversations with my former colleagues in the House and Senate. Lots of them, as well.

But I haven’t set foot in the actual building, or driven by it, for that matter, since I brought my stuff home to stay.

But I’m going to the Capitol tomorrow. I’m going with a couple of friends, who, because of their health problems, I will drop off on the Senate side of the building where they can get in without climbing stairs, and then I’m going to wind back south and park far from the building in one of the visitor spaces.

I will then go in, meet up with my friends and begin handing out roses to the reps and sens I know.

Because tomorrow is Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Photo Source: Oklahoma Rose Day Committee. Used with Permission.

Photo Source: Oklahoma Rose Day Committee. Used with Permission.

Rose Day is an annual event sponsored by pro life people, in particular the Oklahoma Southern Baptist Convention and Catholic Charities, which brings hundreds of pro life Okies to Oklahoma City to cheer on their pro life legislative heroes.

I loved Rose Day when I was in office. It was so nice to have people in the building who actually liked what I was doing by working to pass pro life legislation. The life of a pro life Democrat can be lonely, indeed. After some of the ugliness that happened to me, I drew into myself as a survival tactic. I just hunkered down and fought my way through the last half of my time in office.

Day after day, nobody asked me join them for lunch, nobody talked to me. When we stayed late in the evenings, I had friends from outside the legislature come pick me up for supper because I knew none of my colleagues would eat with me.

Rose Day was the one day that turned that on its head. For a couple of hours, I actually had friends inside that building.

That’s why I’m writing this now. If you are a pro life Okie, you need to be at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building tomorrow. You need to let pro life legislators know that you appreciate what they are doing.

You need especially to look up pro life Democrats and encourage them, because, believe me, they won’t hear another encouraging word all session long.

I’m going to Rose Day tomorrow as a spectator, rather than a participant. It will be my first time in a long, long time when I can’t just swing into my parking space next to the door and hustle up to my office.

Tomorrow, I’m walking in from the South 40, and then I’m going to have to find someone who will let me leave my coat in their office for a couple of hours.

I am so looking forward to it. I plan to drop by and encourage every single pro life Democrat I know, and to hug many of the dedicated pro life Republicans that I know. I’ll watch the inspiring program we have planned.

Then, I’m going to go back out to the South 40, get in my car, drive around and pick up my friends and we’ll go out and celebrate. Because this year I don’t have to stay. My time as an active participant in the legislative bear-and-bull-fight is over, and for that I am soooo grateful.

As for the pro life Okies reading this, be sure join me at Rose Day. Tomorrow is going to be a wonderful pro life celebration for all of us.

Pope Francis to Lithuanian Bishops: Defend the Family

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

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ISIS Fighters Credit Airstrikes with Driving them from Khobani

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by European Commission DG https://www.flickr.com/photos/69583224@N05/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by European Commission DG https://www.flickr.com/photos/69583224@N05/

Kurdish fighters have defeated ISIS in a battle for the Syrian city of Khobani.

Seizure of Khobani, which is near the Turkish border, would have been a significant tactical victory for ISIS.

Kurdish defenders of the city have succeeded in stopping the ISIS advance after an intense and protracted battle. The Kurdish ground forces were heavily supported by US – led airstrikes.

According to interviews that ISIS fighters give to Amak, which is a news agency within Syria that has aligned itself with them, the airstrikes were decisive in ISIS’ defeat in this battle.

Given the enormous power that air superiority gives to any ground force, I would be surprised is that was not true. Also, effective air support of Kurdish forces on the ground is certainly a better option than American “boots on the ground.”

After withdrawing from Khobani, ISIS has opened a new line of attack in Kirkuk. ISIS has taken control of the oil filed in Kirkuk.

From KRDO.com:

And according to the interviews given to ISIS-aligned Amak news agency in Syria, it was those airstrikes that won the battle for Kobani, referred to by the fighters as Ayn Al-Islam.

“Recently, we have withdrawn from Ayn Al-Islam bit by bit, because of the airstrikes and deaths of a number of our brothers,” said one of the two fighters, his face covered apart from his eyes.

He points to a scene of destruction behind him but vows that ISIS will persist, “and this is the message we send to Obama.”

The second fighter interviewed by Amak stood near a road sign reading Ayn Al-Islam. He said ISIS forces had raided 360 villages around Kobani, from which the people “ran away like rats.”

But the reason behind their withdrawal from the city, he said, “is that we no longer had places to hold there. We were inside Ayn Al-Islam and we occupied more than 70%, but the airstrikes did not leave any building standing, they destroyed everything.”

His horror of the airstrikes was apparent.

“I swear by God, their planes did not leave the air, day and night; they did airstrikes all day and night. They targeted everything. They even attacked motorcycles; they have not left a building standing. But by God willing we will return and we will have our revenge multiplied.”

Romney Won’t Run for Prez

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tony Alter https://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tony Alter https://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/

Mitt Romney announced today that he will not run for President of the United States in 2016.

I regard this announcement as something of a gift to the Republican party. Governor Romney’s run in 2012 highlighted his weaknesses as a presidential candidate. He evidently draws enthusiastic support from the business side of the Republican party, but does not generate corresponding enthusiasm from the party’s rank and file. A different candidate, who could have united the party and who was more attractive to working class Americans, might have won in 2012.

It will be interesting to see how the field of candidates in both parties shapes up in the coming months. One thing is certain: There is no interest in Washington in governing this country now. Everyone is in their usual don’t-do-anything-to-mess-up-our-chances-in-the-next-election cowardly Congressman posture.

I, for one, wonder when, if ever, any of these people are going to stop running for office and do the job they were elected to do.

But I digress.

The news of the moment is that Governor Romney will not be a candidate for president in 2016. Now, we’ll see what that decision does to the horserace.

Update: Representative Sally Kern Withdraws Bill from Consideration

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern has withdrawn HB 1597 from consideration. According to news reports, Representative Kern indicated that the measure did not accomplish her desired purpose. To read a summary of HB 1597, go here.

Oklahoma Legislators Take Aim at Gay Marriage

 

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives. Official file photo.

Oklahoma legislators have introduced 4 bills concerning gay marriage and civil rights for homosexuals and transsexuals.

Representative Sally Kern has introduced 3 bills:

HB 1599, which is designated the Preservation of Sovereignty  and Marriage Act, is a broad piece of legislation that seeks to dictate future findings by the courts, activities by state employees and expenditures of state monies in regards to same-sex marriage.

HB 1597 is another far-reaching bill. It does not address same-sex marriage, but instead says that no business can be forced to offer service to “any lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender person, group or association.”

HB 1598 allows mental health providers to engage in conversion therapy. As I understand it, conversion therapy seeks to change homosexual orientation to heterosexual by means of talk therapy.

I doubt that any of these bills will get a hearing in committee. If they should happen to make it out of committee, their chances of coming to a vote on the House Floor are even more dim. If, by a combination of legislative pressures, they do come to a vote of the full House, they are almost certainly DOA in the Senate. A lot of times, whether or not these things come to a vote depends on the determination and skill of the individual legislator and the amount of support he or she has in the body.

Having said that, I can tell you that the legislation as drafted oversteps all sorts of legal bounds. They would not stand, even if they managed to become law.

HB 1599 overreaches in a lot of ways, but the obvious ones are that it seeks to tell judges ahead of time what they may rule. This is outside the province of a legislative body. The legislature certainly does have the power to determine how state monies are spent, so the part of the bill that would limit state appropriations for activities concerning same-sex marriage would have a good chance of withstanding a court challenge, at least in principle.

The fact that it is not an appropriations bill and does not address appropriations per se might lead to its being overturned because of vagueness. However, by putting these two unrelated matters together in one bill, Representative Kern has created a piece of legislation with two topics in two areas of law. This is called log-rolling, and is in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution.

HB 1597 is clearly a violation of the civil rights of homosexuals and transsexuals. The law seeks to set up a system of discrimination in service regarding a specific class or group of people. It does not address legitimate First Amendment concerns regarding religious beliefs. It allows service providers to refuse service to a group of people because they are members of that group and for no other reason.

HB 1598 is the only one of the three bills that has legal merit. The question of whether or not therapists may use a particular therapy has become loaded when it concerns “conversion therapy” as it is used with homosexuals. A few states have made “conversion therapy” illegal. However, the real question is whether or not legislative bodies should be passing laws dictating which therapeutic approach is the correct one for health care providers to use. Dictating medical procedures and therapies is outside the province of legislative bodies, or it should be.

The whole discussion revolves around political correctness, with both sides slinging statistics and accusations, but the real issue is legislative bodies overstepping their bounds.

Senator Corey Brooks. Photo Source: Oklahoma State Senate. Official file photo.

Senator Corey Brooks. Photo Source: Oklahoma State Senate. Official file photo.

Senator Corey Brooks has authored SB 478. This is a good bill, which I hope will pass. It protects people from prosecution and civil liability if their religious beliefs require them to abstain from participation in a same-sex marriage ceremony.

In truth, I do not expect Senator Brooks’ bill to get very far, either. The reason is simple:  I expect that the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce will oppose it, and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce controls both the legislative and executive branches of Oklahoma’s government.

Their control is close to being dictatorial, and, as I said in another post, they are not all that nice about how they use it. Threats, which are not idle threats, are their standard way of dealing with legislators who do not do what they are told. Most Republican legislators are afraid of them, and with good reason.


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