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AM 93 – Former Department of Justice Attorney – Sidney Powell

In the today’s American Monetary Association Show, Jason Hartman speaks to author and former Department of Justice attorney, Sidney Powell. Together, they dive into some of the most scandalous and outrageous cases which have based through the Department of Justice in recent decades. Step-by-step, they overview several of the cases featured in Powell’s book Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice and consider the true state of our society.

 

Takeaways

01.30 – Sidney Powell’s book, Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice, deals with some of the most scandalous and historic events to come out of the United States’ Department of Justice.

9.50 – Within the Merrill Lynch case, it got to the point where favourable statements were hidden for six years while four Merrill Lynch executives were sent to prison without even a listed criminal offence.

13.30 – Sometimes there are two sides to a story and you need to dig a little deeper to find out what really happened.

17.25 – You have to question when a judge says he’s never had such a fine person before him for sentencing, and then passes a sentence.

20.50 – www.pogo.org (Project on Government Oversight) has identified over 400 instances of misconduct by prosecutors in the last decade.

22.30 – Despite having a criminal conviction against his name a few days before the re-election, Ted Stevens only lost his place on the Senate by a few votes.

28.15 – The Bar associations are less than useless in these situations because they just give the same response.

32.30 – Judge Sullivan is turning around the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS and doing his best to achieve a just result.

34.40 – There are too many aspects of the IRS case that just seem conveniently timed for it to be believable.

35.10 – Many of Sidney’s articles about these issues can be found at www.Observer.com

37.10 – If the IRS is being used to target political opponents, who gave that order?

39.15 – Information about the book and how to purchase it can be found at www.LicensedtoLie.com. Tweet Sidney using the handle @SidneyPowell1 and be sure to ‘like’ Licensed to Lie on Facebook.

 

Check out this episode!

A Cash Free Society? Sweden Leads the Way

A Cahs Fre Society? Sweden Leads The WayHard metal in the hand or virtual numbers on a card, money is what people agree that it is. And now, as Sweden moves quietly toward a cash-free society, the very nature of money – and what it means – could be forever changed.

Sweden has long been in the vanguard of cultural shifts. Its free and easy attitudes toward sex, marriage and marijuana are almost stereotypical. Now, according to a new article from Business Insider, Sweden may be on the leading edge of another revolution – making the shift from hard money to electronic transactions.

In 2013, four out of five monetary transactions in Sweden were conducted electronically, either by electronic transfers or swipes of credit, debit and other kinds of cards. That preference for electronic transactions has led to some unlooked-for consequences. ATMs and other cash-dispensing terminals are becoming few and far between. And armed robberies are rare, since there’s no cash to steal. Bank robberies in particular are at a 30-year low.

In Sweden, everybody accepts cards, prompting one academic to claim that in 20 or 30 years, the whole country could be virtually cashless. That’s a shift caused by cultural preference, not government decree. Anyone in Sweden is free to carry cash and use it – but the trick is finding places that do cash transactions.

Sweden’s quiet slide into cashlessness has people worried: Swedish natives, who claim that cash is a basic human right; Christian conservatives who see a cash free world as a sign of the end times, and financial experts who raise concerns about whether a completely cash free society could be viable – and what that means for other kinds of monetary experiments like the Bitcoin.

Throughout human history, money has had many identities. From the goats handed over in exchange for a daughter’s hand to the gold coins minted by a royal bank, currency has evolved from simple barter to an complex structure represented by symbols on paper and metal. Physical money was always easy to carry and largely anonymous.

But the rise of the credit card changed all that. You could use a card to hold all your money – and even money you didn’t have. Transactions were quick and easy. Ecommerce took the process a step further, with one click online shopping and more. And as more and more businesses and institutions began to accept online payments or payments with cards, cash started to look a little inconvenient and maybe old fashioned.

What’s more, cash costs money to produce, store and manage – costs that are largely irrelevant to the digital world. In Sweden, for example, cash handling costs have plummeted in the last five years, since e-transactions gained such popularity.

But some financial expert worry that over-reliance on electronic money in all its forms could have serious consequences. And civil libertarians worry about the toll taken on privacy.

Going cash free in Sweden – or anywhere else, for that matter – depends on having access to things like computers, electronic banking and credit. For those who don’t have those things, cash is the only option. That locks these individuals out of many services and transactions that depend on the electronic movement of money.

For those who can function without cash, there are other problems. As the world has seen again and again, virtually any database can be hacked, leaving users’ personal and financial information vulnerable to identity theft by people halfway around the globe. And if a major event such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack takes the nation’s power grid offline, the economy of such a cash free country could be plunged into chaos.

In a global world, cashless societies face challenges too. People traveling outside the country would need cash – and so would those conducting business in places that rely heavily on hard money.

And then there’s the privacy issue. Cash has always been the currency of choice when transactions need to be private – for reasons both innocent and criminal. Just about any electronic transaction can be traced back to the parties involved.

Those concerns fueled the development of the Bitcoin – a digital hybrid that promised the convenience of cashless transactions with the anonymity of cash. All it takes is for two parties to agree to conduct a transaction in Bitcoin – a nod to the earliest systems of money.

In most of the world, though, cash is still king. And there’s no law in Sweden or I other countries against using it. Sweden’s tilt toward cashlessness reflects a desire for convenience and economy, not a government mandate. But the trend reveals a new social experiment that pushes the boundaries a little further – and forever changes the way we think about money and the way it works. (Top image:Flickr/DanJ)

Source:
Farquhar, Peter. “Sweden is Going to Be the First Country in the World Completely Free of Cash.” Business Insider Australia. businessinsider.com 13 Oct 2014

Read more from The American Monetary Association:

US Dollar Rides High in World Markets

Do Borrowers Need Banks?

The American Monetary Association Team

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US Dollar Rides High in World Markets

The dollar Rises in World MarketsAfter the roller coaster ride of recent recession years, the US dollar is on top again – at least for now. And its strong showing against other world currencies may be due to the Federal Reserve’s much-maligned Quantitative Easing plan.

According to a recent Business Insider article on the performance of the dollar and other currencies, in the third quarter of 2014 the venerable US greenback hit highs not seen since 2010.

That was the period immediately after the great economic collapse of 2007-2009, when the housing market crashed and the nation was plunged into recession. In an attempt to bolster the sagging economy, the Federal Reserve set in motion its much publicized (and much maligned) Quantitative Easing plan, version 3.

The plan involved the massive buyup of mortgage backed securities, which the Fed hoped would keep interest rates low, stimulate the buying of housing and other goods, and get the economy moving once more.

QE3, the most ambitions of the Quantitative Easing put into place after the crash, was met with skepticism by many in the financial community, including officials of local branches of the Fed itself. The Fed’s buyup of over $80 billion in securities every month was keeping interest rates artificially low for an indefinite time, and financial experts worried that when the Fed decided to scale the program back, those rates would rebound to higher levels and trigger another crash as blindsided consumers found themselves unable to borrow and buy again.

But thanks to a brighter employment picture and a stronger housing market, the Fed began in early 2014 to take baby steps – to the tune of $10 million a month – to scale back the stimulus, with the option to kick it into high gear again if conditions changed.

Several months into the “taper down,” though, things haven’t worsened. Interest rates have inched upward, but not by much. And the dollar, as we’ve seen, has surged to its highest level in years, effectively silencing critics of the Fed’s aggressive move.

News about the performance of the dollar goes along with new data released by the US Department of Commerce, indicting an uptick in the Departments estimate of growth domestic product growth – its fastest increase in over 2 years.

That growth makes the US economy the “brightest spot” in today’s world markets, according the Business Insider. And it’s one reason the dollar continues to post gains against other leading currencies, especially in Asian markets.

The dollar continues to attract investors partly because the Fed’s final decision about the fate of the stimulus is still hanging, dependent on a variety of economic indicators. Because the future of QE3 still hasn’t been determined, international investors may be steering clear of US stocks and bonds, preferring to stick with the tried and true dollar.

The behavior of the dollar, and its attractiveness in markets around the world even in the toughest of times, confirms US domination of the world financial system – even as countries such as China surge to the top of the lists of the world’s largest economies.

US Treasury bonds are the backbone of the world’s currency markets, and its banks contribute to the setting of LIBOR rates – international interest rates – worldwide. And the world watches the moves of the Federal Reserve and American megabanks for clues to the behavior of those rates.

The Federal Reserve isn’t alone on the world stage in its efforts to manipulate economies. Other countries, faced with rising unemployment and a stagnant economy, have put into place easing measures of their own – but none so aggressively as the Fed. That, say some financial experts, may be keeping recovery slow and economies relatively weak.

The dollar isn’t without challengers, though. Some fear that China, now the world’s largest economy, might take aim at the dollar and the system it represents in order to claim that status as the go-to financial system for the world. And global conditions are liable to change rapidly, with emerging markets and other parts of the world claming a piece of the pie.

But backed by its longstanding – and very stable – government banking system and an enduing reputation for reliability around the world, the dollar continues to stay the course. And as the Federal Reserve keeps a watchful eye on the progress of the stimulus, the US dollar may still the currency to watch – and to trust. (Top Image:Flickr/squeakymarmot)

Source:
Sano, Hideyuki. “Dollar Hits Four Year High.” Business Insider via Reuters. businessinsider.com. 28 Sept. 2014.

Read more from The American Monetary Association:

Do Borrowers Need Banks?

International Conflict Hits Americans In the Wallet

The American Monetary Association Team

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AMA 92 – Editor of Stray Reflections – Jawad Mian

Today’s American Monetary Association program features the founder and editor of Stray Reflections, Jawad Mian, as a guest. He and host, Jason Hartman discuss the current and potential state of Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates before moving on to consider some of the biggest consumer investment issues facing today’s society and looking at the future of bitcoin.

                      

 

Key Takeaways

 

05.00 – A lot of the developments and changes happening to Dubai are to provide the desired lifestyle for the growing expatriate community there.

08.00 – Each of the Emirates in the UAE has different societal structures which lead to a different overall feeling of the country.

15.00 – Tourism remains one of the largest and most profitable industries in the Middle East.

17.20 – Transportation and particularly transportation of goods or consumer items is one of the biggest draws in oil reserves.

18.30 – In some ways, bit-coin seems attractive as an alternative currency, but the FBI and the IRS’s insistence that it is taxable property definitely alters some people’s view of it.

22.00 – The volatility of bitcoin as a prospective currency makes it particularly unattractive to merchants.

25.30 – The alleged main aim of bitcoin is to have an economy free from the government, but in the event of any incidents occurring, the only way they could get out from it is with government assistance.

27.10 – For more information about investing strategies and themes, head to www.stray-reflections.com

Check out this episode!

Do Borrowers Need Banks?

AMA9-30-14Banks are an essential part of the financial landscape – or at least, they’d like you to think so. But are they? New banking alternatives may be making the traditional bank loan a thing of the past.

The traditional banking model has been around for centuries, supersized to today’s massive institutions like Bank of America, Citi and J P Morgan Chase – the ones deemed “too big to fail even when caught red handed in some shady and downright illegal activity in the wake of the financial crisis of a few years ago.

The nation’s big banks were largely responsible for that crisis. Riding the expanding housing bubble, they underwrote massive numbers of highly risky loans that allowed unqualified borrowers to buy houses. But when those loans ballooned and the housing bubble burst, those unprepared borrowers were left with mortgages they couldn’t pay and houses lost to foreclosure.

As the dust settled, details emerged about widespread abuses on the part of those big lenders, including the infamous ”robosigning” scandal that had banks using fake signatures to block process foreclosure paperwork – often on houses that weren’t up for foreclosure in the first place. Add in a seemingly never ending string of Justice Department investigations and lawsuits – some civil, some federal – against Bank of America and others, and legislation demanding better accountability and trust in the nation’s lending system fell to an all time low.

That heightened oversight also meant new hurdles for borrowers. Lending standards tightened as banks tried to avoid penalties for writing bad loans. And interest rates and other fees made transactions more costly for many individual and small business borrowers. Even smaller banks felt the pinch, struggling under a new burden of regulations and oversight triggered by the sins of the big institutions.

Most of us have been trained from childhood to see banks as friendly depositories for our cherished savings, but the real business of banks — how they make money – is in making loans. And big loans to corporations and international entities make the most money of all. Even in the best lending atmosphere, smaller borrowers may be left out in the cold, with more limited borrowing opportunities and higher rates – if they’re served at all.

Enter a host of new alternatives such as monetary exchanges, peer-to-peer lending groups and crowdfunding sites. All these entities share one key feature: they offer a neutral ground for two interested parties to meet and conduct business. Borrowers can find lenders, sellers can find buyers, and individuals can join groups to spread the risk.

Digital currency exchanges may be the best publicized of the new banking alternatives. A whole culture sprang up around virtually anonymous digital currencies such as the Bitcoin and similar monies like the Litecoin, which could be used in any transaction that two parties agreed on. Exchanges provide an interface between the world of digital currency and that of “real” money, offering users a way to convert from one kind of currency to another, buy digital coin and conduct transactions without much of a trace. Much beloved by users in parts of the world that lack stable currencies of their own, the Bitcoin and others like it have survived a few dings to the image from links to online drug trafficking sites like Silk Road to achieve a relatively stable status as a legitimate kind of currency.

Peer to peer lending groups, made easy by the Internet, take the spirit of social media to the investing world. Entities like Lending Club cater to those small businesses and individuals who find it tough to get loans from established banks. These new lending alternatives position themselves as lending marketplaces, where people looking for investment opportunities and those needing funding come together. Like an online dating site, once the two parties meet up, they’re on their own. And while the sites advise participants to exercise due diligence, they don’t monitor the transactions once the parties agree to conduct business.

Crowdfunding takes the process a step farther. Sites like EquityNet, Crowdfunder, IndieGoGo and even Kickstarter let individuals and enterprises get projects that need funding in front of potential investors and supporters. There are no fees involved, and the project creators are free to set any terms they wish. Transactions are one time only and don’t ‘involve much by way of traditional lender paperwork. When the bank says no, these options give startups and new entrepreneurs a foothold for launching enterprises of all kinds, from buying real estate to creating a boutique baby shop.

Advocates of the new lending and money exchange models say they return the power to the people, bypassing lender fees and restrictions to allow two parties to agree on their own. They stimulate economies too, by helping launch startups and encouraging investment. And by focusing on doing one job and doing it well, they avoid much of the fraud and manipulation that came to light with traditional banks.

The downside, say critics, lies in the most prized aspects of peer-to-peer transactions. Though they’re completely independent of the banking system, they also lack the safeguards around traditional lending. Both parties are largely on their own if the deal goes bad. And the anonymity promised by Bitcoin exchanges and other sites means it can be hard to track illegal transactions and fraud.

Concerns aside, peer to peer financial exchanges are here to stay – and growing. Reflecting both a mistrust of the old ways and an eye to the future, peer-to-peer platforms may not put banks out of business – but for some borrowers, they’ll give those institutions a run for their money.  (Top image: Flickr/KevFoster)

Source:
Cohen, William. “Bypassing the Bankers.” The Atlantic Business. Atlantic.com 13 Aug 2014.

Read more from The American Monetary Association:

The Fed’s Stimulus Strategy: Silencing Skeptics?

Money Talks – But What Does It Say?

The American Monetary Association Team

 

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