Tag Archives: opinion

How Strong Is the Bull Case for Bitcoin? — The Motley Fool – Motley Fool

Posted: February 19, 2017 at 10:53 am

Chris Hill and Simon Erickson

In this episode of Market Foolery, Chris Hill and Simon Erickson review Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA)after its solid quarter; talk about where bitcoin is headed — possibly into an ETF; and reflect on the rumors that Burger King’s parent has been testing the waters for an acquisition of spicy fried chicken specialist Popeyes(NASDAQ:PLKI).

A full transcript follows the video.

This podcast was recorded on Feb. 14, 2017.

Chris Hill: We’ve gotearnings to get to. We’re going to follow up on yesterday’s storythat we did onRestaurant Brands(NYSE:QSR),because the news continues there, and we’regoing to share some Market Foolery newsat the end of this episode. We’ve got a little bit of an announcement. But let’s start with fourth-quarter profits fromDiscovery Communications, whichcame in a little higher than expected. When you’relooking at media companies,I think it’s safe to say that the thesis for Discovery Communications,as much as anything, is this is a global play. If youlive in the United States and you have cable, you’refamiliar with at least some of their networks –Animal Planet, TLC, theDiscovery Channel, that sort of thing. But when you look at the global footprint of whereDiscovery Communications operates,I think that’s part of the thesis, isn’t it?

Simon Erickson: Absolutely,it is. I think that’s probably whatinvestors are looking at for this company right now. Like you said,there’s some definitely established channels here in the United States. We actually saw aslight decline in U.S.subscribers. So the real story here is that international growth. The one thatreally sticks out for me, Chris, it’s actually in Europe of all places. Discovery Communications hasEurosport,which is kind of broadcasting live events. They have done Wimbledon. They’ve done Formula 1. They’ve donea variety of other events. Typically not soccer, because that’s expensive, but otherlive sports in Europe. And they’ve got theexclusive rights for the Winter Olympics of 2018, tobroadcast nearly 740 million peopleacross in Europe. Great, right?

Hill: Yeah.

Erickson: Butthe other thing that’s really interesting to me is,there’s various ways that you can reach people. They’re going to,of course, do the free network TV. They’regoing to do some other paid TV events like that. But the thing that’s interesting to me is the over-the-top offering, thedigital streaming that they’re going to be doingin the next few years. They’re usingBAMtechtechnology to create this. We know BAMtech becauseDisney is also working with them for live sports here in the U.S.Discovery is using them in Europe. They have the guy fromDirecTV. They built out theNFL Sunday Ticket,incredibly successful here in this country.

Hill: I was going to say…that’s a nice thing to have on your resume.

Erickson: Yeah,the right guy on the right project. I think that more and more,you and I talk quite a bit aboutwhere the media industry is heading. It’s not just that linear free TV anymore, butstuff you could watch at any timeover computer andhave it streamed directly to youfor a certain price.

Hill: I want to go back to the first point you hit, which is decliningsubscriber ship in the U.S. Nice reminder that, for all of the headlines that Disney hasgotten over the last 18 months aboutthe following subscribership of ESPN,this is a nice reminder thatit’s not just ESPN. Whenpeople are cutting the cord, it’s also affecting companies likeDiscovery Communications.

Erickson: Absolutely. The subscriber numberis only one piece of this puzzle. As thatcontinues to evolve over time,you can’t just look at that and that’s the only thing that you’re following as aninvestor, there’s a lot of other things going on, too. Andlet’s not forget currency, too. A lot of this is revenue that’s generated overseas. When youtranslate that back to a strong dollar in U.S. dollar,it doesn’t look, sometimes, as strong as it really is out there.

Hill: Where is this stockin terms of its valuation? This is a good quarter,but I think the declining cable subscriber numbermight be a little bit of why we’reseeing the stock fall 2.5% today. That’snot a big drop, and this is a stock that was trading near a 52-week high. But it’s really been in the 20s for a year now,and I’m just wondering if it’s pricey,if that has anything to do with the drop today,or if it’s really all just about the cable subscribers?

Erickson: Well,I mean, a $13 billion valuation for a media company — that’s asmaller media company than the juggernauts — but obviously larger than a smaller regional one would be oranything like that. So, Istill think it has room to run, Chris. I think a lot of that over-the-top anddigital streaming stuff really isn’t priced into the stock at this point, but we stillneed to continue to see them gain traction on that,especially with that Eurosport in Europe.

Hill: All right. Here’ssomething we haven’t talked about in…I don’t even remember the last time wetalked about bitcoin,but we’re going to talk about bitcoin.

I feel like, if he’s listening over in Germany,Matt Koppenheffer is smiling, if not outright laughing at me, because I’ve been bearish on bitcoin from the start, and over the past year, the price of bitcoin has quadrupled. It broke the $1,000 mark last week, and it’s dipped back down. But you’re someone, likeMatt Koppenheffer, who’s beenpretty bullish on bitcoin. First, before we diginto the news with bitcoin, tell me why. Why the bull case for bitcoin? Because, to me, it just seems likeMonopoly money, it seems like a made-up currency, andas I have admitted before,the fact that the Winklevoss twins wereinvolved in this doesn’thelp the bull case, in my opinion.

Erickson: Right. This iskind of an ethereal discussion here, Chris. There’s a lot ofspeculation in bitcoin right now. Wedon’t have any stocks tied to this —

Hill: Not yet. We’ll get to that.

Erickson: Yes,exactly. But it is a very interesting story. Just, generally,my personal thesis,disclaimer, I own one bitcoin, have had quite a year with that.[laughs]

Hill: Congratulations, that’s worked out well for you.

Erickson: But,I think there’s just a lot of transactionalfriction in the way that we buy and sell things today. Think about it, we’rebuild off of a financing infrastructure. You have a bank account thatyou have a credit card that ties into, youpay your statement at the end of the month, andevery step along the way, somebody is taking a small piece of this. Butit’s the way that we built it out over the last several decades. And if you build adigital infrastructurecorrectly, as bitcoin did andBlockchain is trying to do, you don’t needa lot of those steps. It’s basically digital cash. I always think about it as, you’rehanding a digital dollar to somebody, and that’s it. There’sno statements. There’s no financing. There’s no APR at the end of the year, anything like that. But to do that, there’s a lot ofregulators who don’t like thatbecause you can do bad things with that. Youcan’t track the person giving you the cash at the end of the day and various other things. That’s hadbitcoin held back on what its true potential, possibly, could be. Butat the end of the day, you’restarting to see more and more transactions using bitcoin allacross the globe, not just in the United States, but in China andJapan and a bunch of different places. Because bitcoin isgoing to tap out at 21 million bitcoins, once they’re mined, you have a fixed supply and increasing demand, and that’s pushing the value of each one bitcoin up over the years.

Hill: We’ve seen this run up over the past 12 months,and you look at the fact that the SEC is considering threeseparate potential bitcoin ETFs. Considering approval of any one of the three. Let’s say one of them gets approved — what kind of run-up are we going to see then? Becauseif we’re seeing this run-up now…this actually gets me,I don’t want to say bullish on bitcoin,but it gets me slightly less bearish as an investor, because ETFs are a way that a lot of people investif they’re looking to get exposure to something without really having the concentrated upside and, therefore, downside of a single stock.I’m not looking to buy a bitcoin, but I’mslightly more interestedin a bitcoin ETF. What happens if they actually approve one of these things?

Erickson: Sure. On thecontinuum of uncertainty, it goes down a notch. If the SEC is going to say, “This is alright, to create bitcoin ETFs,” andthey have until March 11th, I believe, to approve of this, but the people who said, “No way, this is too early, I haveso many questions about this even being possible,”those people will start saying, “You know,this still sounds speculative to me, but I think it’s interesting now that the SEC is behind it.” Basically, anything new, almost all of innovation has got a zillionquestions when it first gets introduced that, over time, as it grows and getsmore and more approvals or people behind it, the questions tend to either linger or go away. And I thinkthat’s what you’re seeing with bitcoin. That’s what the SEC decisionis going to have an impact on this.

Hill: Yesterday,we talked about the latest earnings from Restaurant Brands,which is the parent company of Burger King andTim Hortons. After we taped the episode, Restaurant Brands wasback in the news reportedly talking toPopeyes Louisiana Kitchenabout apotential acquisition, andas a result of those reports,shares of Popeyes are up 14% at one point yesterday. They have sincecome back down to earth, so they are basically flat day to day. This isinteresting to me, though. We were talking about this earlier this morning –it seems like, in the restaurant business, anyway, that if you’re good atmanaging one type of restaurant,keeping in the category of quick-serve restaurants, if you’re good at that, thenthat’s a skill that translates to others.

So, without knowing what they were looking to buyPopeyes for, just on the surface of it,assuming they got the right price, I saw that news and I thought, “You know what? That could work out well for Restaurant Brands.” Ultimately, theywalked away because they didn’t want to pay the price, becausePopeyes is a stock that has done wellrecently, and as a result of that,the company is more expensive. I guess, the larger question for me is, when you think aboutacquisitions, when you just see, “Company X is thinking about acquiring Company Y,” what goes through your mind? Do you have any gut feeling in terms of “That makes sense” or “I need to see the terms first?” What’sthe first thing that you think of?

Erickson: Sure. First of all, to step back,there’s definitely different types of acquisitions going on. Themost speculative, if you will, ofacquisitions is technology acquisitions,especially softwareacquisitions, because things change so quickly. There’sa lot of unknowns ofwhat’s going to happen five years from now. It’svery difficult to tell. And maybeHPis the poster child of making bad acquisitions, very large, $10 billion acquisitions that they write downsignificantly in a couple of years.

Hill:[laughs] Ifthey’re not the poster child, they’re onMount Rushmore.

Erickson: [laughs] So manyuncertainties for that. But then you have more predictablebusinesses like we’re talking aboutin the restaurant industry. Restaurantsare not software companies, they’remuch more predictableas far as the traffic andhow the business looks. At that point, the acquisition ismuch more predictable for the acquirer, and if they’relarger and can scale the business, and be moreefficient than they were previously, thenyou can drop a lot more moneyto the bottom line to your shareholders and your investors. AndI think that’s what Restaurant Brands,who was actually majority-owned by3G Capitalin Brazil, is after in this. They want thepredictable, steady cash flows of a restaurant, but they want to be a little bit more creative, I think, on how they’re raising financing and taking what I would call non-strategic costs out of this business to drop more down to the bottom line.

Hill: I don’t think this is over, in terms of theirpursuit of Popeyes. I think,at the right price, and today is clearly not the right price because,again, this is a stock that has done very well over the last few years, I think ifthere was some sort of short-term hit the stock took,I could see Restaurant Brands going back to them. In the meantime, they clearly seem like they are looking for,Warren Buffett talks about the elephant gun,I don’t know if they have an elephant gun,because they don’t have that amount of cash on hand thatBerkshire Hathawaydoes. But they clearly seem like they are looking toexpand their portfolio.

Erickson: I’m glad you mentioned Warren Buffett,because Berkshire Hathaway is kind of partners with 3G Capital. Theygo after and make big deals like these together,which is kind of interesting because I think 3G isclearly a leader in the food spaceand the restaurant space, and that’sdirecting a lot of Warren Buffett’s,the greatest investor we have in theUnited States, capital. And they’relooking to build an empire here,and they got creative in doingdeals in the past. If you look at theacquisition of Tim Hortons,people were calling that a taxinversion deal, you’re avoiding a lot of U.S.-based taxes byacquiring and moving the company to Canada. The Popeyes one isgoing to be interesting because that’s based here in the U.S. That’snot something you have to worry about, the inversions. But,there’s a reason that they’re looking at it for doing this. Theyhave a price and their mind. Yousee them walking away now as Popeyesstock price has increased significantlyover the last four or five months or so. But,it’ll be interesting to see what they’re going after on this one. It’snot as obvious to me, but they see something they like.

Hill:Well,I think it’s probably just the category. Yes, it’s a quick-serverestaurant, but it’s not burgers,it’s not coffee and donuts. Quick-serve chicken makes upsomewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15% of quick-serverestaurants. And,as we were talking about with our man behind the glass, Dan Boyd, beforehand, yes, you can haveKFC. IfJason Moser were here,I’m sure he would be talking aboutBojangles. Give me Popeyes every day. Their biscuits. And the honey, oh!

Erickson: Theirbiscuits are great. So good.

Hill: AsChris Rock said, it’s too good. It’s too good! That was hiscomment to Jerry Seinfeld onSeinfeld’s web series, that Popeyes is so good that you actually need one of those memory sticks from theMen in Black movies to erase your memory,because otherwise you would just go back every single day.

Erickson: Right. Now,do they do significantly more business today because it’sValentine’s Day?

Hill: [laughs]I don’t know. I don’t knowif they’re doing any sort of big promotion. Look,you could do a lot worsefor that special someone in your life thantake them to Popeyes. Dan,you’re a Popeyes fan, aren’t you?

Dan Boyd: I am, yes.

Hill:Any chance you’re going to be thinkingValentine’s Day or anything like that?

Boyd: Ifmy girlfriend was amenable to the idea, which,I’m sure she’s not,I would love to go to Popeyes forValentine’s Day.

Hill: Let’sflip this around. If she came to you and said, “Hey,here’s what I’m thinking for Valentine’s Day.I’m taking you to Popeyes,” you’reeven more in love?

Boyd: We’d make a short stopon the way to Popeyes to a jewelry storeso I could buy her an engagement ring.

Hill: [laughs] All right. Before we wrap up,as I mentioned,a little something, apropos thatSimon is in the studio for this, becauseI’m happy to say that next month, we are going back toSouth by Southwest. If you’re in theGreater Austin Texas area or you’re going toSouth by Southwest, drop us an email, marketfoolery@fool.com, or hit us up on Twitter, because Simon, Dylan Lewis, who you may know from the Industry Focus podcast, Dan Boyd and I will be going. We’regoing to be recording from thebrand new podcast center that they have atSouth by Southwest. Excited to check that out. Simon, I know thatyou have only begun to look at –I mean, we’re going to be doing a whole week’s worth of Market Foolery there,but there are also breakout sessions,there are keynote speakers that you’re going to be checking out. Do you have an early sense of what’s going to be on your agenda?

Erickson: Absolutely, Chris. This isone of my favorite events in the entire year. It has such a window towhat the future is going to bring in, especially in the tech world.Kimbal Musk will be speaking about trust.I saw that on the agenda. I saw Ray Kurzweil, going to betalking about collaboration. And two topics that I’m very personally interested in isconnected health and the future of wearable technology. Those are both going to be tracks atSouth by Southwest in Austin.I’m super stoked about the event.

Hill: AndI should say,just as we did last year, we’regoing to try and put together a little meet and greet. Stay tuned formore details on that,but we did that last year, we went to Guero’s.

Erickson: Guero’s Taco Bar.

Hill: Abunch of listeners came out,a bunch of Motley Fool members. It was a great time, and we’re looking to do that again. In terms of dates, we’re lookingbroadly at March 11th through the 15th. Again,if you’re going to South by Southwest,if you’re in the Austin area,we would love to see you. More details to come. Dan Boyd, are there food truckson your agenda that you’re looking to hit?

Boyd: Absolutely, Keith’s Barbecue is the main one. Theyoperate out of an old school bus, and I think I ate there every single day last year in Austin, because it was amazing.

Hill: All right! Simon Erickson,thanks for being here!

Erickson: Thanks, Chris!

Hill: Asalways, people on the program may have interestsin the stocks that they talk about,and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against,so don’t buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. That’sgoing to do it for this edition of Market Foolery. The show was mixed byDan Boyd. I’m Chris Hill. Thanks for listening. We’llsee you tomorrow!

Chris Hill has no position in any stocks mentioned. Simon Erickson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Twitter. The Motley Fool recommends Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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How Strong Is the Bull Case for Bitcoin? — The Motley Fool – Motley Fool

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First Amendment survives challenge from Florida gun law – Minnesota Public Radio News (blog)

Posted: February 18, 2017 at 3:55 am

If youre at all a fan of the First Amendment, there was plenty to like about todays decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a Florida law that prohibited doctors from asking whether there are guns in the home (heres the full law in question).

But lets focus on the concurring opinion of William Pryor, who was on the short list to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pryor is a conservative, so he took great pains to point out that the decision is not about the Second Amendment; its about the First.

And much of his opinion was aimed strictly at conservatives, apparently anticipating their criticism.

Heres some examples.

If we upheld the Act, we could set a precedent for many other restrictions of potentially unpopular speech. Think of everything the government might seek to ban between doctor and patient as supposedly irrelevant to the practice of medicine. Without the protection of free speech, the government might seek to ban discussion of religion between doctor and patient. The state could stop a surgeon from praying with his patient before surgery or punish a Christian doctor for asking patients if they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior or punish an atheist for telling his patient that religious belief is delusional.

Without the protection of free speech, the government might seek to censor political speech by doctors. The state might prevent doctors from encouraging their patients to vote in favor of universal health care or prohibit a physician from criticizing the Affordable Care Act. Some might argue that such topics are irrelevant to a particular patients immediate medical needs, but the First Amendment ensures that doctors cannot be threatened with state punishment for speech even if it goes beyond diagnosis and treatment.

Pryor said doctors already discuss highly controversial topics with patients. Whether to play football, or telling teenagers to abstain from sex, and recommending organ donation.

He called the very idea a thought experiment and then lowered the boom with this beautiful piece of prose:

If today the majority can censor so-called heresy, then tomorrow a new majority can censor what was yesterday so-called orthodoxy.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion . . . . Our decision applies this timeless principle to speech between doctors and patients, regardless of the content. The First Amendment requires the protection of ideas that some people might find distasteful because tomorrow the tables might be turned.

Todays decision was not close. The vote was 10-to-1.

The one belonged to Gerald Bard Tjoflat, who is 87 years old and is the longest-service justice in the U.S. Court of Appeals system.

He does see the case as a Second Amendment question:

The majority and I agree that Florida possesses a substantial interest in protecting both Floridians reasonable expectation of privacy during medical treatment and the full exercise of their Second Amendment rights. If that is so, then it is hard to imagine a law more precisely tailored to advance those substantial state interests than the one presently before us. The Act does not categorically restrict the speech of medical professionals on the subject of firearms. Instead, it simply requires an individualized, good faith judgment of the necessity of speech related to firearm ownership to provide competent medical care to a patient.

a constitutional right is a right to be free of governmental restrictions on the exercise of the right it is not a right to be free of private criticism for the exercise of the right, much less private questions about the exercise of the right, law professor Eugene Volokh in his Washington Post column analyzing todays decision. A doctor no more violates your Second Amendment rights by asking you about whether you own a gun than the doctor violates your First Amendment rights by asking you how much TV your children watch, or your Lawrence v. Texas sexual autonomy rights by asking you whether youve been having sex with multiple partners.

Heres the courts full opinion:

Bob Collins has been with Minnesota Public Radio since 1992, emigrating to Minnesota from Massachusetts. He was senior editor of news in the 90s, ran MPRs political unit, created the MPR News regional website, invented the popular Select A Candidate, started the two most popular blogs in the history of MPR and every day laments that his Minnesota Fantasy Legislature project never caught on.

NewsCut is a blog featuring observations about the news. It provides a forum for an online discussion and debate about events that might not typically make the front page. NewsCut posts are not news stories but reflections , observations, and debate.

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Luddite Lefty Journalists Apparently Think Workplace Automation is Conservatives’ Fault [VIDEO] – Daily Caller

Posted: February 17, 2017 at 1:16 am

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David Corn of progressive magazine Mother Jones and Erin Gloria Ryan of The Daily Beast discussed the now withdrawn nomination of Andrew Puzder for Secretary of Labor on MSNBCs The Last Word Wednesday night.

But guests took issue with emerging workplace automation technology that threatens jobs in the fast good industry in which Puzder made his fortune. Both also appeared to hold Puzder at least partially responsible for its advent.

WATCH:

Hes Secretary of Labor, was going to be, yet he is against raising the minimum wage, Corn said, seemingly of the opinion the two were inherently incompatible.

He has said, you know, I wish I could get rid of workers and just put in robots because they dont file discrimination cases and theyre never late and you dont have to worry about them, Corn continued. He made no mention of the fact that higher minimum wages and additional employment litigation might make robotic labor more attractive to employers.

Just to add that, Ryan chimed in, The fact that he was somebody who is pro-automation when automation is something that, over the next ten years, is going to threaten tens of thousands, if not more, American jobs. And he was somebody that was supposed to be the Secretary of Labor, actually endangering Americans ability to work.

Ryan apparently believes Puzders enthusiasm for robotics technology means workplace automation would have been closely linked to him becoming head of the Department of Labor.

More here:

Luddite Lefty Journalists Apparently Think Workplace Automation is Conservatives’ Fault [VIDEO] – Daily Caller

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Simonson: The war on drugs – La Crosse Tribune

Posted: February 15, 2017 at 9:46 pm

Every week I write out the arrests for the records page in the Jackson County Chronicle, and every week there is at least one arrest due to drugs. It is quite sad really, that drugs would have such a huge hold on not only this community, but across the entire nation.

We have been fighting a war on drugs now for over 40 years and it doesnt look like we are doing any better, and in fact by some accounts, we are doing worse.

Now, please note that I am by no means an expert on drugs. I never smoked marijuana or a cigarette, so the closest I have ever gotten to an addiction is food. So take my opinion as someone who knows very little about what it means to be addicted to drugs.

After it is all said and done, I dont know what the right course is and honestly I dont think anyone has a good answer. We are fighting a very strong beast, one that rears its ugly head when we least expect it. One that pries on peoples weaknesses and uses every ounce of their strength to fight it.

There is one thing I do know about addiction thoughit is there for people when there is no one else.

When we were fostering children in Ohio, it was very disheartening when parents would choose their addiction over their own children.

As you get to know these parents, you find out that they themselves have troubled pasts.

Eventually I began to feel sorry for some of these parents. Most of them didnt have family or someone they could lean on, something that is important for any person. Many would rely on the people around them, which in most cases were addicts themselves.

Instead, these addicts needed someone that could pull them out of the darkness and let them stand on their own two feet. In todays world, that someone is hard to find and often only reserved for the lucky ones.

For so long we have been waging this war on drugs. I think it is time to wage a different war.

I dont really have any answers. To many, I am just a nave person judging something I dont really know much about.

I do know one thing though, we need to change something. Maybe it is more mental health services. Maybe it is reducing jail sentences for addicts. Or maybe it is adding sharps boxes throughout the community. Maybe it is all of these things.

There are a lot of things we need to do, but I know I am working on being more compassionate. In the end, these people are already being judged by everyone they meet. And so if everyone is judging them, who is going to save them? Who is going to be there for them when they decide they want to remove an addiction from their life.

Not only am I being more compassionate towards addicts, but I am also going to be more compassionate and loving towards my son. Loving him so he doesnt have to turn to an addiction. Loving him so he doesnt have to feel loneliness in the world. Loving him so he realizes that drugs are not his friends and it will lead to negativity in his life.

In all honesty, school is where it starts. School is where children find their friends. School is where they are going to be tested. School is where they are going to have to say yes or no to their first cigarette or joint.

It all happens when our children are young. So tonight, love on your children a little more. Make sure they know they dont have to give in to peer pressure.

Today they are our children, but tomorrow they could be the next addict on the street.

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The National Debt Is The Greatest Threat Facing America – Being Libertarian

Posted: at 9:43 pm

How big of a problem is the current national debt? To answer this question, we must understand the terminology that is used when discussing the debt, and then utilize perspective to fully appreciate the numbers that we will be dealing with. A surplus occurs the government spends less money than was collected in taxes during a single year. A deficit is when the government spends more money than was collected in taxes during a single year. The national debt is the total amount of money that is borrowed through the years to pay for any deficit in the annual budget, minus any surpluses that are used to pay down the debt.

According to NationalPriorities.org, as of December 15, 2015, the national debt was $18.8 trillion and the annual budget for FY 2015 was $3.8 trillion. This means that the national debt is roughly five times the amount of the entire federal budget. Imagine a family that makes $40,000 a year, but carries $200,000 in credit card debt, and one starts to have a good understanding of the mess that America is in. The first step of getting out of this debt is to start running an annual surplus in the federal budget.

The highest surplus in modern history, according to InsideGov.com was $290 billion attained by President Bill Clinton in 2000. If politicians could compromise enough to attain that surplus again, it would take almost 65 years for the debt to be paid off. It would be a little short of that if we rolled the savings from the interest saved while paying the principle down into the surplus, but that would be paying more than $290 billion a year. This is the perspective being taken, to keep the numbers easier to understand.

This just leaves us the challenge of finding $290 billion in the Federal Budget, right? Wrong. In 2016 the federal budget ended with a deficit of $552 billion. So, in order to attain the surplus of $290 billion we need to find and eliminate $842 billion. While this is challenging, it is not impossible; after all the Federal Annual Budget is $3.8 trillion, so we just need to drop the $.8 trillion right? Where do we start?

What would it take to recover this amount and attain a surplus?

Let us put that in perspective. Here are programs that are listed as discretionary spending in the federal budget from 2015 numbers:

The ENTIRE U.S. Military Budget: $598 Billion

Education Spending: $70 Billion

Medicare & Health: $66 Billion

VA Benefits: $65 Billion

Energy & Environment: $41 Billion

Science: $30 Billion

Social Security, Unemployment, & Labor: $29 Billion

Transportation: $26 Billion

Food & Agriculture: $13 Billion

If we eliminated all of these services, that would free up $938 billion, but thats not realistic; America needs to defend itself. Cutting the defense budget by 75% would eliminate $788.5 billion and be short of our goal by only $53.5 billion, which would only be a surplus of $236.5 billion.

The debt is not an issue for the Left or the Right. We all need to come together and decide what we are willing to sacrifice to keep this nation fiscally healthy. Programs cost money and we dont have enough to go around. Quantitative easing (printing money to pay debt) will only work as long as the American dollar is the standard world currency. There are already calls from Russia and China to move away from the dollar because quite honestly it is not fair to other nations when the American government can simply print money to pay for whatever it wants.

We are spending well above our means and this, not any foreign power, is the greatest threat to the United States. Progressive America will have to face what will happen to all of the people who have come to rely on government programs, while conservative America will have to face what happens when there is no fiscally conservative party to be a watchdog in government spending. What will it take to turn Americans towards a compromise that can correct this before it is too late?

The growth of the Libertarian Party is the only hope for America now. A truly fiscally responsible party needs to take its place among the government now that the Republicans have turned their backs on any form of fiscal conservation. President George W. Bush had a surplus his first year (2001), even though he cut the surplus inherited from President Clinton in half. Before Bush the last Republican president with a surplus was President Richard Nixon in 1969, when he had a surplus of $15.3 billion. This should debunk any myth of the fiscally conservative Republicans.

The Libertarian Party stands to inherit voters looking for candidates that understand finances and how to control spending. As the Democrats continue their march to the left and as the Republicans retract to the right, a majority of Americans are going to be left in the middle looking for someone to represent them.

It is the opinion of this author that discussions about, and actions to eliminate, the national debt are the best opportunities to shine a spotlight on where the current two-party system is leading America, and to suggest that a party that represents true liberty be given a chance.

Image of dollar attained from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net

_______________

Jeffrey Smith served in the U.S. Army, where he first began to question the policies of the government and the effect of these policies on personal liberty. Upon leaving the service he found Libertarianism ideas appealing, due to his stances on several issues that did not fit the mold of either Republican or Democrat, and the emphasis given to individual liberty. He currently works as a Senior Operations Specialist/Analyst for a Not-For-Profit organization that promotes standards within the healthcare industry. Jeff has a Masters degree in Business Administration from Excelsior College and is looking for opportunities to bring the Libertarian Platform to everyday people.

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Column: I was just thinking about ‘free speech’ – Moultrie Observer

Posted: at 9:04 pm

MOULTRIE, Ga.

Have you ever thought about this? If it wasnt for the First Amendment, then you probably couldnt ride around in your pickup truck with the essence of the Second Amendment on your bumper.

Ive been in the news business for many years. And Ive heard a lot of comments about free speech and the First Amendment. Ive even been amused by some of the utterances.

Ive often heard, He shouldnt be allowed to say that.

That expression typically comes from one who disagrees with another.

And of course wrapped in satire theres, If I want your opinion, Ill give it to you.

That expression is often meant to point out ones ignorance of the very essence of the First Amendment.

Ive even been told in so many words that if I expressed a particular opinion I would suffer retribution. So I said, lets go for it. I think that person put me on double secret probation or something. Ouch!

Not long ago, a person told me I should not be running a particular columnist on the opinion page of our newspaper. So I asked him why? He said because the columnist was stupid. I asked him how did he know that the columnist was stupid. He said, Because I read him all the time. So I asked him if he often indicts himself.

Ive met people who appear to be afraid to read an opposing opinion, as if through some weird process of osmosis they would embrace, against their will, a foreign idea. In other words, dont read Das Kapital. You might wake up a communist.

During the past presidential election, I witnessed some very crude and hateful exchanges over differences of opinion. Im talking about blue-veins-bulging-in-the-temples kind of anger. I thought to myself if this were a vampire, one could hold up a cross and ward it off. But somehow I dont think holding up a copy of the First Amendment would work.

Of course free speech has some parameters bound by law. The old standard to illustrate that point is that one does not have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. Its perfectly all right to yell theater in a crowded fire. Or to yell fire if you fall into a vat of chocolate, because if you yell chocolate! no one is going to come to your rescue. (Tommy Smothers)

Ive collected a few sayings over the years pertaining to free speech.

The granddaddy of them all, of course, is attributed to Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Perhaps one quote on free speech that should cause one to do some serious soul searching comes from Leo McKem: It is easy to believe in freedom of speech for those with whom we agree.

Thats kind of like saying one can appear really bold while tracking through the woods at night in search of a Bigfoot when you know full well youre not going to find one.

And of course I routinely look for the light side in researching philosophies and thats when I found this one: At no time is freedom of speech more precious than when a man hits his thumb with a hammer. That quote is attributed to Marshall Lumsden.

In the realm of politics, maybe the greatest truth about free speech is expressed by David Joseph Cribbin: Most people do not really want others to have freedom of speech, they just want others to be given the freedom to say what they want to hear.

Think about it.

(Email: dwain.walden@gaflnews.com)

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University violated campus group’s free speech by prohibiting pro-marijuana shirt: Appeals court – Washington Times

Posted: at 12:01 am

Iowa State University violated the free speech of a student group that advocates for marijuana legalization by barring it from using the schools logo, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Monday.

The ISU chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML, sued the college in 2014 after administrators refused to let the group print T-shirts depicting the universitys logo alongside a pot leaf. A District Court decided in the groups favor last year, and a federal appeals panel voted 3-0 this week to uphold that ruling.

University administrators violated the student groups First Amendment right to free speech by using the schools trademark policy to prevent NORML ISU from printing the apparel, the appeals panel agreed.

NORML ISU is one of roughly 800 student groups officially recognized by campus administrators, and advocates locally for the legalization of marijuana, according to court documents. Upon being profiled on the cover of the Des Moines Register in late 2012, however, the group suddenly found itself facing scrutiny in the form of what two courts have since equated as unconstitutional discrimination.

The groups former president, Josh Montgomery, told the Register in October 2012 that NORML ISU has gotten nothing but support from the university, according to the cover story.

He even got approval from the licensing office to make a NORML T-shirt with the ISU logo; the red shirt features Cy the Cardinal on the front and a pot leaf on the back, the article acknowledged.

The story quickly caused concern among campus officials, according to correspondence uncovered during litigation. Subsequent attempts to reorder the previously approved NORML ISU T-shirts were rejected by the universitys trademark office, and the school updated trademark policies in January 2013 to prohibit designs that suggest promotion of unlawful activity, including illegal drug use.

But NORML ISUs use of the cannabis leaf does not violate ISUs trademark policies because the organization advocates for reform to marijuana laws, not the illegal use of marijuana, the Eighth Circuit ruled Monday.

The state engages in viewpoint discrimination when the rationale for its regulation of speech is the specific motivating ideology or the opinion or perspective of the speaker, the appeals court wrote. Defendants actions and statements show that the unique scrutiny they imposed on NORML ISUs trademark applications was motivated by viewpoint discrimination.

Im most excited about the ruling being unanimous, former NORML ISU President Paul Gerlich told the Register following Mondays ruling. That shows how we were clearly in the right from the start.

University officials acknowledged the ruling but were not certain if theyd appeal further, ISU spokesman John McCarroll told the newspaper.

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Climate Lawsuit Threatens Free Speech – The New American

Posted: at 12:01 am

As a practical proposition if I enjoy normal life expectancy, this case will consume the bulk of my remaining time on earth. In the event that I dont, the thuggish Mann will come after my family, as has happened to my late friend Andrew Breitbarts children.

This is how well-known political commentator Mark Steyn recently summed up his opinion about the libel suit filed against him by Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, which is expected to be set for trial soon.

I did not seek this battle. But I will not shirk the fight, and I will prevail, Steyn predicted in a recent blog.

Remarks made by Rand Simberg, a policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in 2012 were the genesis of the Mann suit. Simberg referred to Mann as the Jerry Sandusky of climate science. Sandusky was a coach with the Penn State universitys football team who had been convicted of child molestation. The university has been roundly condemned for neglect in allowing Sanduskys antics to continue for so long.

This hyperbolic statement of comparing the Sandusky case to Manns was an effort to lambast Penn State for clearing Mann of accusations of scientific misconduct. Apparently, since Penn States administration had failed to rid itself of Sandusky, Simberg was saying that the exoneration of Mann by that same university was suspect.

Political commentator Steyn said as much, declaring in National Review magazine that any investigation by a deeply corrupt administration was a joke.

This was no doubt a strong comment by Steyn, but it was an opinion, and an opinion, regardless of how harsh it is, about a public figure is held to be protected speech press, under the First Amendment, according to the 1964 Supreme Court decision New York v. Sullivan.

Mann is most famous for his development of the so-called hockey stick image to illustrate his assertion that global temperatures have spiked over the last century, a spike Mann and others attribute mostly to human activity in the industrial age.

After Mann responded by suing CEI, Simberg, National Review, and Steyn for defamation, the defendants all asked that the lawsuit be dismissed on the grounds that their remarks were constitutionally protected free speech. The original trial judge allowed Manns suit to continue. Judge Natalia Combs Greene even argued that Manns defamation suit was likely to succeed. She said, To call his work a sham or to question his intellect and reasoning is tantamount to an accusation of fraud.

Surprisingly, the D.C. Court of Appeals declined to dismiss. Judge Vanessa Ruiz spoke for the three-judge panel when she wrote, Tarnishing the personal integrity and reputation of a scientist important to one side may be a tactic to gain advantage in a no-holds-barred debate over global warming. That the challenged statements were made as part of such debates provides important context and requires careful parsing in light of constitutional standards.

Despite these words, which would seem to have favored the defendants, Judge Ruiz then concluded, But if the statements assert or imply false facts that defame the individual, they do not find shelter under the First Amendment simply because they are embedded in a larger policy debate.

The D.C. appellate court said, in remanding the case back to the district court for trial, Dr. Mann has supplied sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that statements in the articles written by Mr. Simberg and Mr. Steyn were false, defamatory, and published by appellants to third parties, and, by clear and convincing evidence, that appellants did so with actual malice.

Steyn, in an article for National Reviews online blog, The Corner, cited Simbergs analogy of the Mann and Sandusky cases. Im referring to another cover-up and whitewash that occurred [at Penn State] two years ago, before we learned how rotten and corrupt the culture at the university was. But now that we know how bad it was, perhaps its time that we revisit the Michael Mann affair, particularly given how much weve also learned about his and others hockey-stick deceptions since.

Then, Steyn added the biting words that precipitated Manns retaliatory lawsuit: Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in service of politicized science that could have dire consequences for the nation and planet.

Steyn did note, Not sure Id have extended that metaphor all the way into the locker-room showers with quite the zeal Mr. Simberg does, but he has a point, adding that Manns hockey-stick graphic was used to advance the fraudulent climate-change thesis, and that Mann was the ringmaster of the tree-ring circus. (Editorial note: This is typical of Steyns wit, using tree-ring, instead of three-ring. Of course, animal-rights activists, the close cousins of the radical environmentalists, have now succeeded in shutting down the largest of the circuses).

While National Review has recently been dismissed as a defendant in this particular case, leaving Steyn and Simberg as the defendants, Dr. Judith Curry had previously filed a very interesting amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court brief on the side of National Review and the individual defendants. An amicus curiae brief is often filed in high-profile cases by parties who, while not actual litigants in the case, have a strong interest in the cases outcome.

Dr. Curry recently announced she was leaving academia due to the poisonous nature of the scientific discussion around human-caused global warming. She had challenged some of the assertions of the advocates of the climate change theory, and Mann had responded by calling her three books and nearly two hundred scholarly articles a meager contribution to science and stating she played a particularly pernicious role in the climate change denial campaign [by] laundering standard denier talking points but appearing to grant them greater authority courtesy of the academic positions she has held.

In short, Mann dismissed Currys work as boilerplate climate change denial drivel.

A comparison of anyone to a convicted child molester, as was done by Simberg, even though a reasonable person could see that it was simply a hyperbolic statement, is certainly a harsh statement. But the use of the expression of climate change denier to scientists like Curry is even stronger. As despicable as the analogy to the sexual molestation of little boys is, the denier label used so freely by the climate change crowed, including Mann, conjures up a comparison to the denial of the Holocaust the systematic murder of millions in Hitlers gas chambers.

For his part, Mann has repeatedly attacked those who disagree with him on this issue as peddling pure scientific fraud, and fraudulent denial of climate change, and even taking corporate payoff for knowingly lying about the threat climate change posed to humanity.

The Curry brief noted, As it relates to this case, Dr. Curry has been critical of Appelle Michael Manns methodological approach to climate science and the conclusions he has reached. Dr. Curry has experienced personal and professional attacks from Dr. Mann for her criticism of his work. Dr. Mann has a pattern of attacking those who disagree with him and this case is another in a long line of tactics to silence debate over the science of global warming.

Dr. Curry said that she has tried to understand Michael Manns perspective in suing so many people, while at the same time so freely throwing insults at others and even defaming other scientists. My understanding is this. Michael Mann does not seem to understand the difference between criticizing a scientific argument versus smearing a scientist.

The amicus brief of Dr. Curry highlighted its concern about allowing such a lawsuit to continue. If Dr. Mann and others like him who use libel laws to silence critics are allowed to prevail, those who use normal scientific debate will find themselves disadvantaged in the marketplace of ideas.

This is why libel suits involving public figures such as Mann are required to overcome significant hurdles in order to succeed. The plaintiff in a libel suit must prove not only that the statements found offensive are false, the plaintiff must additionally prove to a jury by clear and convincing evidence (a higher standard than the preponderance of the evidence of most civil actions, and closer to the beyond reasonable doubt requirement of criminal cases) that the defendant knew the statement was false. And the statement must have been made with actual malice, or a desire to cause damage. (For example, writing that a football player won the Heisman Trophy would not be libelous, even if the writer knew that was not true, because such a statement is not damaging and no intent to cause harm exists).

Finally, a plaintiff must show that some actual damage was caused to his reputation.

Jonathan Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University law school, explained the dangers of making it too easy for public figures to win such lawsuits. It threatens to make it too easy for public figures to file lawsuits against their critics, and, as a consequence, threatens to chill robust political debate.

Adler also expressed concern over the reasoning of the appellate court, when it held that, because Penn State had investigated and then exonerated Mann of doctoring scientific evidence to support his thesis of global warming, Simberg and Steyn cannot then criticize that investigation. It cannot be that once some official body has conducted an investigation of an individuals conduct, that further criticism of that individual, including criticism that expressly questions the thoroughness or accuracy of the investigatory body, is off limits.

This would preclude criticism of a judicial processes that exonerated individuals found not guilty, Adler notes.

Nor is it consistent with existing First Amendment doctrine to suggest that hyperbolic accusations of bad faith or dishonesty against public figures involved in policy debates is actionable, Adler added. In other words, the opinions expressed by Steyn and Simberg were just that opinions.

Even the threat of a libel suit is often enough to inhibit the free expression of honest political opinions, because of the potential enormous costs of litigation. Winning in a successful defense, but nevertheless out thousands of dollars, does not make one feel much like a winner. As one federal court once put it in the context of controversies in the field of science (and applicable in other fields, as well), More papers, more discussions, better data, and more satisfactory models not larger awards of damages mark the path toward superior understanding of the world around us.

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Gainesville Resident Fights To Protect Free Speech – WUFT

Posted: at 12:01 am

Jim Funk still remembers when a Gainesville police officer grabbed his arms and escorted him away.

It was an event that shocked and scared Funk but also sparked a discussion about free speech and assembly in Gainesville. His run-in proved to Funk that the cityhas work to do toensure free speech to all its citizens.

That kind of disturbed me that something like that would happen, Funk said.

Funks run-in happened in November at Artwalk, a monthly event held in downtown Gainesville, while he was gathering petitions for medical marijuana. Funksaid he was approached by police officers and the events coordinatorand was told he couldnt gather signaturesbecause he wasnt affiliated with a reserved booth.

Funk said he could gather signatures because the event was on a public street. After debating the issue for a while, police said Funk caused a scene an accusation Funk denies and he was carried out. Though Funkbelieves it was an isolated incident, he still feels he was treated with injustice and that his speech was limited.

They basically can assault someone in public whos an old man not doing anything, and they can get away with it, Funk said.

The discussion about free speech has mainly been ledby Gainesville resident James Thompson, an acquaintance of Funk. Shortly after Funks incident, Thompson emailed Gainesville City Commissioners and Mayor Lauren Poe. He has since been in touch with members of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs, city commissioners and city lawyers.

Poe said he firmly stands behind free speech in Gainesville, and wants to ensure it remains protected.

We dont want anything that would create a chilling effect on people practicing their free speech, Poe said.

Thompson received a list of court cases supporting Gainesvilles law from a city lawyer, David Schwartz. In response, Thompson went through each case and pointed out why it didnt apply.

At the time of his initial complaint, the Citys Administrative Procedure 34 said more than two canvassers contacting a single member of the public could be restricted, along with profanity and actions designed to gather crowds. Since then, the city manager updated the procedure to 34-A, which struck down those restrictions. However, a procedure only affects how city staff operatesinternally, and is not city law.

The current ordinance, which hasnt been updated, still has language limiting more than two canvassers from contacting a single member of the public at any time, Thompson said. It is found in Chapter 19, article 2, under peddlers and canvassers.This means people gathering petitions or passing out information might be unable to do so in a group.

That law is pretty egregious, and really a bad liability situation in my opinion, Thompson said. You basically dont need to make laws to limit free speech. We have a constitution, we have a set of practices, we have a set of rules. You cant create free speech zones, thats unconstitutional.

Thompson said limiting free speech makes sense when its a public safety concern, but that doesnt apply to Gainesville.

We all think of Gainesville as this perfect liberal open-minded town, but the fact is, you know, when people hold events even in public streets they have grand expectations about what they can do to limit others, and thats not the case, Thompson said.

Initially, Thompson planned to let the issue sit until the city took care of other dated laws on the books. The city hired Municipal Code Corporation in December to review existing laws. After the laws are reviewed, a recommendation will be made to the commission. The process should wrap up in two to three months, said Gainesville Clerk of the Commission Kurt Lannon.

Poe said he thinks it is too early to see if the code will be changed.The commission will wait until they receive a recommendation from the group.

This is why we wanted to hire an outside person, so we wouldnt crowd the view with our own personal biases and assumptions, Poe said.

With the election of President Donald Trump and subsequent national protests, Thompson said free speech in Gainesville needs to be protected now more than ever. He thinks making changes to the laws around assembly cannot wait.

I thought its very important for Gainesville to have this stuff cleared up before anything bad happens, to basically state that Gainesville is going to stand by the First Amendment and stand by its citizens, Thompson said.

Though Thompson considers himself liberal, he said it doesnt matter what the protests are for.

Thats exactly the time when we are supposed to protect free speech, is when it makes us uncomfortable and when it is unwelcome[d], Thompson said. In fact, it doesnt matter what these people are petitioning or assembling for, they should be allowed to do what theyre allowed to do with their rights.

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Kim Jong Un’s gambling half-brother reportedly assassinated – CBS News

Posted: February 14, 2017 at 11:57 am

In this June 4, 2010 file photo, Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, waves after his first-ever interview with South Korean media in Macau, China.

AP Photo

The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has died in Malaysia, police on the island nation have confirmed to CBS News, amid reports in South Korea that he was killed.

South Korean news agency Yonhap, along with other outlets in the country, reported Tuesday that Kim Jong-Nam had been assassinated. There were few details available, and the media all cited unnamed South Korean officials in their accounts.

Speaking to CBS News, Malaysian police would only say that the cause of death for the 46-year-old was currently listed as sudden death.

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CBS News Washington Bureau Chief Chris Isham and CBS News senior national security analyst Juan Zarate analyze what Kims latest purge means for …

Kim Jong Un has had a number of senior North Korean officials executed for vague crimes of disloyalty, from education and defense ministers to intelligence chiefs, as he seeks to consolidate his power in the isolated nuclear kingdom.

In 2013, North Korea said it had executed Kims uncle, calling the leaders former mentor a traitor who tried to seize power and overthrow the state. The announcement came only days afterJang Song Thaek– long considered the countrys No. 2 power –was removed from all his postsbecause of a long list of allegations, including corruption, drug use, gambling and womanizing.

More than a decade ago, Kim Jong-Nam, the casino-loving eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, spoke out against his little brother Kim Jong Un inheriting power in the country.

Analysts said at the time, toward the end of 2010, that Kim Jong Nam was prone to spending so much time outside his native land that his opinion carried little weight within the Kim dynasty.

The oldest of three brothers who were then in the running to take over secretive North Korea, Kim Jong-Nam was the closest thing the country had to a playboy.

Unlike many of his countrymen back home who lack the resources and connections to travel overseas, Kim always traveled freely and spent much of his time in China or the countrys special autonomous region of Macau — the center of Asian gambling with its Las Vegas-style casinos.

He sported the family pot belly and favored newsboy caps and an unshaven face, while frequenting five-star hotels and expensive restaurants.

2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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