My brother serves; Trump’s treatment of the Khan family horrifies me

I didn’t watch Khizr Khan’s speech at the DNC–I couldn’t; it’s too emotional a topic for me. After all, my only brother is an Army Captain who’s deployed several times.

There’s nothing about Donald Trump’s reaction to Mr. Khan’s speech that doesn’t horrify me. As I think of my family being in the Khan’s situation, I know for sure that my father would be the only person capable of speaking about our experience.

To dismiss a mother’s silence for religious reasons, solely to promote one’s campaign and point of view, horrifies me. To denigrate a family’s mourning to promote a campaign of hatred and divisiveness horrifies me. That this sorry excuse for a leader could become my brother’s Commander-in-Chief horrifies me.

Ezra Klein’s response, drawing from James Fallows’ reactions, expresses my horror and anger far better than I can at this point.

All I know is that Donald Trump knows nothing of sacrifice.

Congressional Actions Necessitate Professional Tax Preparers

With just over one month until individual income taxes must be filed with the IRS, Congress is yet again considering a last-minute change to tax laws that will only further complicate the preparation of 2009 income tax returns.

Following the earthquake in Chile, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee introduced legislation that would allow taxpayers to deduct on their 2009 income tax returns donations made in 2010 for Chilean earthquake relief. Congress took the same action in response to the earthquake that struck Haiti earlier this year.

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In Ongoing Battle with IRS, UBS and Swiss Bank Privacy Score Minor Win

As the Journal of Accountancy reported yesterday, a Swiss court blocked the release of confidential information identifying the owners of 26 Swiss bank accounts sought in the IRS’ ongoing tax-fraud investigation. Considering that the earlier settlement entitled the IRS to information on 4,450 accounts, this is an almost imperceptible victory for proponents of Swiss bank secrecy. Nonetheless, for the owners of those accounts, the decision is certainly more than welcome.

The ruling, delivered by a Swiss administrative tribunal, determined that simply failing to file an informational form identifying the account owner as a U.S. citizen (IRS From W-9) does not constitute tax fraud. Since the tribunal ruled that its decision could not be appealed, the owners of the 26 accounts in question are, at least for now, safe from further scrutiny, and ultimately, penalties and interest on unreported earnings. As the settlement reached earlier this year between the IRS and Swiss government called for the release of roughly 10,000 names, the IRS will likely let the 26 accounts covered by the Bundesverwaltungsgericht’s1 ruling in U.S. Taxpayers v. Swiss Federal Tax Administration forgo further investigation. It is unclear, however, whether more of the 10,000 names to be released will benefit from this ruling.

  1. Swiss federal administrative tribunal

A Constitutional Argument For Same-Sex Marriage

Before the vitriol-filled comments begin, let me say that I do not believe that one group’s religious views are a sufficient basis for denying other Americans their civil rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution.

In a San Francisco federal court today (see NPRThe Washington Post), a challenge to the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage will be heard by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, in a that case focuses on the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.1

The United States Constitution provides the framework from which our civil liberties are derived, yet in the case of same-sex marriage, these rights are ignored and result in the violation of one group’s rights. Opponents argue that marriage is an institution of the church, and thus must be protected, but this argument is at odds with present-day legal realities and simultaneously conflicts with the First Amendment. At an even more basic level, denying one group a right afforded another violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

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  1. As an aside, Judge Walker ruled that proceedings in this case can be posted to YouTube on a daily basis. According to both NPR and The Washington Post, this is the first such instance of court proceedings appearing on Google’s video-sharing service.

My Family Thinks I’m Liberal, But I Disagree

While camping over a holiday weekend last year, a family friend noticed I was wearing an NPR t-shirt I received as an intern at the network back in 2005.

He declared, “NPR, they’re pretty liberal.”

Before I could react, my father retorted, “So is my son.”

Needless to say, my family and I don’t always agree on certain issues. But, to be clear, I don’t consider myself a liberal either. Rather, when pressed, I identify as moderate.

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Reforming Two Decisions That Led To The Recession

While many decisions made over a number of decades created the circumstances that led to the worst recession since the Great Depression, certain government actions were particularly devastating to the US and world economies. Embodied in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999), the law made two important changes to the securities regulations enacted in response to the Great Depression.

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In Interview with Broadcasting & Cable, FCC’s Levin Attempts to Calm Broadcasters’ Fears of Spectrum Grab

Given the controversy that has arisen since the FCC first announced its desire to reclaim broadcast spectrum from over-the-air television broadcasters, it comes as no surprise that the agency’s broadband pointman recently attempted to quell broadcasters’ fears. Blair Levin’s interview with Broadcasting & Cable came roughly two weeks after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski appointed a controversial Distinguished Scholar in Residence who advocates imposing burdensome regulations on television broadcasters that would imperil their viability.

In his interview, Mr. Levin noted that while “he does not think any of the commission’s plans for spectrum reclamation ‘threatens [sic] the future of over-the-air broadcasting…’, he also [said] that broadcasters [sic] own actions and revenue streams do not support retaining all of their spectrum all of the time.” His statement is likely of little comfort to the organizations threatened by spectrum reallocation considering the expense they incurred in the digital transition and their hopes for revitalization through mobile DTV and multichannel digital broadcasts.

As the FCC originally proposed in October, broadcasters would forego over-the-air high-definition (HD) broadcasts and the spectrum needed to offer additional digital services, instead reverting to a single standard-definition (SD) broadcast channel. In return, the broadcasters would receive a portion of the proceeds garnered from subsequent auctions of the relinquished spectrum.

Until the FCC releases its official plan, which is due to Congress by February 17, 2010, the rhetoric surrounding this issue is likely only to intensify, and I suspect no quantity of interviews and appeasing statements from the Commission will settle broadcasters’ worries.

The idiom, “Actions speak louder than words,” certainly holds true in this controversial debate.

Has the Internet Gone from Luxury to Commodity?

As a decade of significant change draws to a close, has the internet moved from luxury to commodity?

I would argue that the internet is a necessary part of everyday life, be it as a communication tool and social medium, news source, or even a method for seeking employment. Nowadays, it seems there is little that doesn’t have a home on the internet, from the local soup kitchen to the PTA to one’s financial institutions.

As more information becomes available exclusively online and countries move to eliminate non-electronic payment methods, internet access will become as necessary to everyday life as reliable electricity and telephone service.

Perhaps this reasoning is, at least in part, behind the FCC’s push to expand broadband access nationwide.

Appointment of Stuart Benjamin as Distinguished Scholar in Residence Reinforces FCC’s Position on Spectrum Reallocation

As the battle over broadcast spectrum reallocation heats up, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski appointed Stuart Benjamin to be a Distringuished Scholar in Residence, TVNewsCheck reported last Thursday.

Mr. Benjamin’s appointment has already raised concerns among television broadcasters, largely due to a paper he published back in May. Entitled “Roasting the Pig to Burn Down the House: A Modest Proposal,” Mr. Benjamin, a professor at Duke University School of Law, examined current broadcast spectrum policies and concluded that regulation that would make broadcast television unprofitable may be in the best interest of the public considering other uses for the spectrum currently licensed to over-the-air television outlets.

Continue reading Appointment of Stuart Benjamin as Distinguished Scholar in Residence Reinforces FCC’s Position on Spectrum Reallocation

It’s TARP Repayment Week!

Today, both Citigroup and Wells Fargo announced plans to repay their TARP funds. Their announcement comes shortly after Bank of America announced its plans to exit the bailout program. Apparently, December is the month for those banks remaining in the program to make their way out.

Could this move have anything to do with the approaching year-end?

Considering that all three have fiscal years ending December 31, 2009, the move is hardly surprising.123 By repaying their TARP funds during this fiscal year, all three can start 2010 free of government encumbrances on executive compensation and the additional oversight that came with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (which, by the way, never relieved [government speak for buying assets from the banks] any troubled assets, but instead infused capital into the banks to prevent their collapse).