Category Archives: Law

Online Retailers Lose State Tax Subsidy, by Wolf Richter

Online retailers will now have to collect the sales taxes their brick-and-mortar competitors have to collect. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Up to $13 billion in 2017. Brick-and-mortar gets some relief. Consumers not amused.

The US Supreme Court ruled today that states may require out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes on merchandise they sell in that state. The decision overturned its 1992 ruling – Quill Corp. v. North Dakota – that had blocked states from compelling retailers with no “physical presence” in that state to collect sales taxes. At the time, two years before Amazon was founded, the internet was dogged by “worldwide wait” dialup, and the idea consumers would buy everything from shoes to couches on the internet was remote.

The 1992 ruling eventually gave a huge boost to out-of-state online retailers in that they received a consistent state tax subsidy with every sale that their in-state and local competitors – brick-and-mortar and online alike – did not receive. At first, online retail was just a minor sideshow, but after a quarter century of booming, it has become the place to be, and the squealing from all sides about the tax subsidy has been deafening for years.

It amounts to big bucks. The Government Accountability Office estimatedthat state and local governments could have collected between $8 billion and $13 billion in sales taxes in 2017 “if states were given authority to require sales tax collection from all remote sellers.”

In today’s ruling, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court sided with South Dakota, which had passed a law in 2016 that required large out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes on merchandise sold in the state. Online furniture retailer Wayfair, along with Overstock.com, and online electronics retailer Newegg sued to block the law and won in lower court.

To continue reading: Online Retailers Lose State Tax Subsidy

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They Were Ordered to Shoot… by Bill Bonner

Does “Just following orders” excuse criminality? From Bill Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:

“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” is a line from Jesus of Nazareth.

Typically clever, and almost evasive, it left open the mischievous question – “What is Caesar’s?” – for roughly 2,000 years.

Moral philosophers had been bedeviled for even longer: If you want to do the right thing, can you just obey the authorities… or do you have to figure it out for yourself?

Finally, last week, like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai, legal and biblical scholar, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who previously distinguished himself by sponsoring a bill to name September 2016 as “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month” – handed down the answer.

More on that shortly. But first…

Dry Spell

The Dow was down again yesterday… but only slightly. That makes it the seventh straight day of losses for the index, the worst losing streak in over a year [more in today’s Market Insight].

Where it will go from here, no one knows. But there are good reasons to think that the “top is in.” If so, we’re in for a long dry spell.

If we’re right, U.S. stocks will “underperform” for many years. Readers are advised not to expect to get rich in the stock market, unless they are very lucky or well-advised. Las Vegas is likely to be more rewarding than Wall Street.

We’ll leave it to the technicians and cycle-watchers to make their own case. Here at the Diary, we focus on fundamentals.

Obviously, U.S. finances are worsening. Government deficits are increasing, just as the Fed is putting up interest rates. This is bound to lead to trouble.

But the bigger, or more insidious, problem is Caesar himself; he seems to want more and more things rendered unto him. And our observation is that the more Caesar gets, the less is left for everyone else.

To continue reading: They Were Ordered to Shoot…

I Remember When America Was A Free Country, by Paul Craig Roberts

Kids growing up today have no idea what it is like to live in a free country. From Paul Craig Roberts at paulcraigroberts.org:

I remember when America was a free country. You could get on an airliner without an ID. Driving licenses didn’t even have photos. If a friend was coming through your city on a flight and had a few hours layover, you could meet them inside the airport for lunch or dinner. You could meet friends, children, and relatives at the gate or see them off at the gate. Parents could actually put children on the plane and grandparents could take them off.

Your flight ticket was good at any airline. If something happened to your flight or you missed it, you could use the ticket on another airline going to the same place. On international flights you were permitted two free stopovers prior to your destination. If you were going to Athens, Greece, for example, you could first visit Paris and then Rome. It worked both ways, over and back. So one air ticket, six cities.

I can remember when you could enter a Manhattan office building without having to show an ID, be looked up on a list, and cleared in, and when you could check in a hotel without an ID and paid your bill when you checked out, with cash if you preferred. The only evidence of your name was the one you gave when you checked in.

Cars didn’t beep at you and neither did appliances nor construction machinery. The world was a quieter, less noise-disturbed place.

Common sense was more prevalent. Today it is hard to find any common sense. The British parliament is debating a law that would criminalize upskirt photographs. The “invasion of privacy” would have a price tag of two years imprisonment. Yet government can invade our privacy at will with street cameras, traffic cameras, read our emails, listen to our telephone calls, monitor our credit card purchases. Serious kinds of privacy invasion run amuck, but parents cannot find out if an underaged daughter is pregnant or has VD.

As kids we ran free. Heaven help a parent that permitted that today.
Oh, but times are more dangerous today we are told. What made today more dangerous? Failures in public policy. The government has made life more dangerous and less free.

To continue reading: I Remember When America Was A Free Country

Old White Guys Need Not Apply, by Laurence M. Vance

Should discrimination be either a civil wrong or a crime? From Laurence M. Vance at lewrockwell.com:

The victory of the plaintiff in recent Supreme Court case of Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission does not mean that all forms of discrimination are now legal in the United States.

Far from it.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that it had settled a three-year-old lawsuit against Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, a Fortune 500 company with 1,700 restaurants and 175,000 employees that owns the brands Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Eddie V’s, and Seasons 52.

The problem?

The federal lawsuit, which was filed in February 2015, alleged that job candidates at Seasons 52 were told that the restaurants didn’t hire “old white guys.”

Seasons 52, which has forty-one locations in twenty states, “is a fresh grill and wine bar that offers a seasonal menu inspired by the fresh appeal of a farmer’s market and what’s good now.” The restaurant uses “ingredients at their peak and rustic cooking techniques, like brick-oven roasting and open fire grilling over oak and mesquite, which bring out the natural flavors of food.”

The EEOC

  • said managers at Darden’s Seasons 52 chain tried to portray a young and hip image by hiring younger servers and hosts.
  • alleged that Seasons 52 wouldn’t hire two men, Anthony Scornavacca, then 52, and Hugo Alfaro, then 42, because of their age.
  • commissioned a statistical report from a University of California, Irvine professor that said Seasons 52 had not hired enough older employees.
  • said it contacted thousands of people over 40 who applied for jobs at Seasons 52 and found 254 people who claimed they were treated with bias.
  • alleged that one manager bluntly said that Seasons 52 didn’t employ “old white guys.”

“Often, discrimination cases are hard to prove,” said David Seltzer, an attorney on the case with the EEOC’s Miami district office. “But here, Seasons 52 interviews across locations repeatedly told applicants things like ‘We don’t hire people over 40,’ ‘Seasons 52 girls are younger and fresh’ or asked them for their date of birth, high school graduation date or a driver’s license.”

Lawyers for Darden argued the incidents were isolated and that there wasn’t proof of a top-down effort to exclude older workers.

To continue reading: Old White Guys Need Not Apply

Blind to Real Problems, by Walter E. Williams

By many statistical measures, blacks did better during far more racist times. From Walter E. Williams at lewrockwell.com:

For several decades, a few black scholars have been suggesting that the vision held by many black Americans is entirely wrong. Dr. Shelby Steele, a scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said: “Instead of admitting that racism has declined, we (blacks) argue all the harder that it is still alive and more insidious than ever. We hold race up to shield us from what we do not want to see in ourselves.”

Dr. John McWhorter, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, lamented that “victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism underlie the general black community’s response to all race-related issues,” adding that “these three thought patterns impede black advancement much more than racism; and dysfunctional inner cities, corporate glass ceilings, and black educational underachievement will persist until such thinking disappears.”

In the 1990s, Harvard professor Orlando Patterson wrote, “America, while still flawed in its race relations … is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; (and) offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all those of Africa.”

During an interview in December with The Daily Caller, Steele said the anti-Americanism that started during the 1960s and has become mainstream and visible in the black community is “heartbreaking and sad.” That anti-Americanism that so dominates the American black identity has been “ruinous to black America, where we are worse off than we were under segregation by almost every socio-economic measure.”

Some people might challenge Steele’s assertion that in many measures blacks are worse off than during segregation. How about some numbers? As late as 1950, female-headed households were only 18 percent of the black population. Today 70 percent of black children are raised in single-parent households. In the late 1800s, there were only slight differences between the black family structure and those of other ethnic groups. In New York City in 1925, for example, 85 percent of kin-related black households were two-parent households. According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. From 1890 to 1940, a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults. Today about twice as many blacks have never married as whites. The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.

To continue reading: Blind to Real Problems

Inspector general’s report on FBI and Clinton’s emails shows secrecy threatens democracy, by James Board

The Inspector General’s latest report has been previewed and leaked so endlessly, and its style is so bland, that it’s an anticlimax, especially for those who expecting something earth shaking. However, it its own way, it raises issues of serious concern, which James Bovard does a good job of highlighting. From Bovard at usatoday.com:

The 500-page inspector general’s report released Thursday reveals how unjustified secrecy and poor decisions helped ravage the credibility of both Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the FBI.

Yesterday’s Inspector General report on the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton contained plenty of bombshells, including a promise by lead FBI investigator Peter Strzok that “We’ll stop” Donald Trump from becoming president. The report reveals how unjustified secrecy and squirrelly decisions helped ravage the credibility of both Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the FBI. But few commentators are recognizing the vast peril to democracy posed by the sweeping prerogatives of federal agencies.

The FBI’s investigation of Clinton was spurred by her decision to set up a private server to handle her email during her four years as secretary of state. The server in her Chappaqua, N.Y. mansion was insecure and exposed emails with classified information to detection by foreign sources and others.

Clinton effectively exempted herself from the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The State Department ignored 17 FOIA requests for her emails prior to 2014 and insisted it required 75 years to disclose emails of Clinton’s top aides. A federal judge and the State Department inspector general slammed the FOIA stonewalling.

Clinton’s private email server was not publicly disclosed until she received a congressional subpoena in 2015. A few months later, the FBI Counterintelligence Division opened a criminal investigation of the “potential unauthorized storage of classified information on an unauthorized system.”

The IG report gives the impression that the FBI treated Hillary Clinton and her coterie like royalty — or at least like personages worthy of endless deference. When Bleachbit software or hammers were used to destroy email evidence under congressional subpoena, the FBI treated it as a harmless error. The IG report “questioned whether the use of a subpoena or search warrant might have encouraged Clinton, her lawyers … or others to search harder for the missing devices [containing email], or ensured that they were being honest that they could not find them.” Instead, FBI agents worked on “rapport building” with Clinton aides.

To continue reading: Inspector general’s report on FBI and Clinton’s emails shows secrecy threatens democracy

Meanwhile, 10 Miles From the White House, by Ann Coulter

The US’s immigration problem is still out there, unaddressed. From Ann Coulter at anncoulter.com:

Now that Trump has solved Northeast Asia’s problems, maybe he can get to a problem in our country — in fact, within 10 miles of the White House. For some reason, The Washington Post recently ran an article on something important — the MS-13 gang presence at a public school on the outskirts of our nation’s capital, William Wirt Middle School in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The media’s usual approach to the diversity being inflicted on us is: Don’t report this! It’s better if no one knows. Maybe the left has decided it’s too late to do anything about the transformation of our country into a Third World hellhole, and Trump couldn’t stop it even if he wanted to.

The Post reported that, like many schools up and down the East Coast, MS-13 has turned Wirt into a battleground. There have been near-daily gang fights, rampant drug dealing, one reported rape, gang signs on the walls, one shooting — more in nearby schools — and teachers afraid to be alone with their students. At least two students are required to have security officers assigned to them, walking them from class to class and watching them during lunch hour, on account of MS-13 threatening to kill them.

How many different categories of immigrants require special law enforcement officers devoted to them? Thanks to mass Muslim immigration, the FBI has terrorist watch lists in ALL 50 STATES. That’s why whenever there’s a terrorist attack, the FBI says, Oh yeah, we were watching that guy. And now we have police bodyguards for kids at schools wherever “unaccompanied minors” have been dumped by our government.

In addition to the free school lunches, transportation, housing and health care to pay for all this wonderful diversity, immigrants are also massively ratcheting up law enforcement costs.

It would be enraging enough if bad things were happening to our country and the immigrants were paying for it. But we’re paying for it. Wait — you are offering to bring gang warfare, drug cartels and terrorism? We’ll go top dollar for that! Put your wallet away! Your money’s no good here!

To continue reading: Meanwhile, 10 Miles From the White House