Who will be punished next?

Jun 4, 2015

- By Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner
Paris, France

Dear Diary,

Imagine our delight!

"Crony Hung in Own Noose" is the headline we would have put on the story. Alan Brownfeld has the report:

    We now know that J. Dennis Hastert, who served for eight years as speaker of the House of Representatives, was paying a former student hundreds of thousands of dollars to not say publicly that Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago. According to The New York Times this information became public from "two people briefed on the evidence in an F.B.I. Investigation."

    Federal prosecutors announced the indictment of Hastert late in May on allegations that he made cash withdrawals totaling $1.7 million, to evade detection by banks. The federal authorities also charged him with lying to them about the purpose of the withdrawals.

    How, we may ask, did a former high school teacher who held elective office from 1981 to 2007 leave Congress with a fortune estimated at $4 million to $17 million? When Hastert entered Congress in 1987 his net worth was reported to be at most $270,000. The record shows that he was the beneficiary of lucrative land deals while in Congress and since leaving office he has earned more than $2 million a year as a lobbyist----influencing his former colleagues.

John Fund recalls:
    "Denny Hastert used to visit The Wall Street Journal where I worked when he was speaker. He was a bland, utterly conventional supporter of the status quo; his idea of reform was to squelch anyone who disturbed Congress's usual way of doing business."
But while everyone else is down on the apparent child molester/crony enabler/and hack politician...today, taking a line from the French and the 'Affair Charlie Hebdo': We Are Dennis Hastert.

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The usual way of doing business is in Washington is, of course, corrupt. It is intended to protect the status quo because it is the quo that has the status...and the money. That's how people such as Hastert, Newt Gingrich and the Clintons have pocketed so much money - by helping the cronies and the politicians get together...working together, hand in sleazy hand, trying to prevent the future from happening.

Gingrich made a fortune pushing drugs. Hastert made much of his money pushing candy flavored tobacco. The Clintons help foreign governments get what they want from Washington...and get paid millions for their speeches. Nancy Pelosi and her husband made millions as "special customers" in an IPO of Visa stock, while Pelosi strangled legislation that would have lowered the company's profits.

But what is at least mildly satisfying is that Hastert stuck his head into his own stupid noose. While in Congress, Hastert approved and promoted laws that made it harder and harder to conduct one's financial affairs freely and privately. He was charged neither with molesting a minor nor with bribery or fraud. Instead, the feds tagged him for "structuring," arranging banking transactions so as to avoid federal reporting requirements.

The trouble is, the noose is tightening on us all.

A friend in Paris reports:

    When I landed in the UK last week, my US bank "helpfully" froze my ATM card because they figured I couldn't possibly be the one using it.

    Had I not had a small amount of cash in pocket before getting to a wifi zone so I could Skype-call them (my SIM card wouldn't work in the UK either), I would have been out of luck.

    And this, not a week after getting a letter from our French bank saying they could no longer carry our checking account, because they aren't "registered with the SEC."

In Argentina, too, the long reach of the US cronies is causing trouble.

When you travel to a place like Argentina, you take cash. Because it's an economy that functions on cash, not credit. But taking cash out of a US bank sets off alarms. In the event, an 82-year-old American, living in Buenos Aires, was ratted out by his bank when he took out $10,000 to take with him back home. Then, the bank closed his account. It didn't matter that he had been a customer for 40 years.

And then, in Switzerland, our bank - with whom we have done business for years - has just turned us out too.

"This is not a tax issue. We know you're paying your taxes [how did they know?]. It's just that we're not prepared to deal with US clients any longer. The regulatory costs are too high."

No big deal. We can change banks. But wait. Maybe that's against the law too.

The system is so rigged up that the feds can go after anyone - even one of the riggers himself. There are so many pettifogging papers to file, so many jackass regulations to watch out for, so many rules you probably don't think apply to you - you're bound to spend most of your life in breach of some criminal statute.

Ted Bauman at the Sovereign Society:

    ...what matters is over-criminalization: converting trivial, harmless acts into major felonies. For example, the postal worker who flew a gyrocopter on to the U.S. Capitol lawn to protest the corrupt role of money in U.S. politics faces up to nine years in prison on multiple felony charges. Three U.S. restaurateurs were sentenced to eight years in federal prison for "importing lobster tails that were the wrong size and that were packaged in clear plastic bags rather than in cardboard boxes," which violated a Honduran law that they didn't even know existed, and the Lacey Act. People have served time in federal prison for faking sick days and getting lost in federal parks.

    Federal appellate judge Alex Kozinski wrote an essay entitled "You're (Probably) a Federal Criminal." In it he gives numerous examples of federal felony statues that are so absurd - such as inadvertently misfiling a tax return - that no one with a sense of justice would ever use them. Indeed, if all these laws were enforced as written, "Any attempt to go after all criminals would sweep up millions of people."

    But selectivity is precisely the point of many of these laws. As crusading lawyer-journalist Glenn Greenwald points out, "When everything - even trivial transgressions - can become a serious felony, it empowers law enforcement to punish whomever they want."

For reasons we don't know...they have chosen Hastert this week. Who's next?

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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