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SEC case against Ripple Labs for XRP crypto sale a ‘Bit’ of a double standard

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SEC case against Ripple Labs for XRP crypto sale a ‘Bit’ of a double standard

During last week’s snoozer of a congressional hearing on the $2.5 trillion crypto-blockchain business, we got just a small glimpse into just how little the government knows about a technology that could transform the way we do business.

A more complete picture of this utter fecklessness is playing out in federal court in lower Manhattan in a case titled Securities and Exchange Commission v. Ripple Labs.

It will likely determine how much regulation there will be over the burgeoning crypto industry, and at least so far, the SEC is demonstrating why it should be nowhere near policing something reasonably described as the next Internet.

The SEC case hinges on some allegedly bad stuff done by Ripple. The SEC says Ripple execs sold an unregistered cryptocurrency called XRP to get rich and finance the build-out of its blockchain-like platform that transacts cross-border payments. The SEC says the XRP sales were no different from a company selling a stock or bond, and were illegal because they weren’t registered with the commission.

Ripple counters that the SEC is creating a legal double standard. The XRP sales were legal because XRP is not that much different from other non-registered cryptos, industry heavyweights such as Ether and Bitcoin.

If the creators of the first blockchain did not have to register their sales of Bitcoin, why should Ripple? Ditto for the dudes who created Ethereum.

The SEC seemed to officially declare Bitcoin and Ethereum’s Ether a compliant crypto in a 2018 speech by Bill Hinman, the former head of the SEC Corporation Finance Division. Ripple’s defense hinges in part on using Hinman’s words against the commission; XRP was used in the same way the Ethereum people used Ether to finance the initial build-out of their platform. So what’s the beef?

Representations of cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, Ethereum, DogeCoin, Ripple, Litecoin are placed on PC motherboard in this illustration taken,
The Securities and Exchange Commission, just like everyone in Washington DC, has little understanding of how cryptocurrencies are changing the economy.
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

This is where things get nonsensical on the part of the SEC. The commission is now arguing that whatever Hinman said, his speech meant nothing. It’s simply his opinion, nothing more. In court, the SEC is telling the crypto world it really hasn’t made an official ruling whether Bitcoin or Ethereum’s Ether comport with securities laws.

“I don’t want to be overly technical but … there is no action that [the SEC] took to say Bitcoin is not a security, Ether is not a security,” the SEC’s lawyer said.

So the words of a top official — reviewed by then-SEC Chair Jay Clayton — doesn’t reflect commission policy? Does that really mean SEC chair Gary Gensler is going to track down the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto (whoever he or she is) to do to Bitcoin what he’s doing with Ripple?

The SEC declined to comment.

Big Media vs. Gigi 

The popular explanation for Gigi Sohn’s imploding nomination as an FCC commissioner is ideological: Sohn — a progressive firebrand — is the victim of the fiercely partisan debate over who gets to regulate the $22 trillion US economy.

Yes, there is a lot of that at play following the Senate Commerce Committee’s move to put off a vote on Sohn’s nomination until probably next year, and possibly forever. But the Sohn imbroglio is more than a right vs. left fight; it pits a key part of the Democratic donor base against the party’s progressive wing.

While Sohn is at odds with conservatives and their allies in the Senate, she’s no darling of Big ­Media, which has a direct line into the party’s ruling elite involving the FCC: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, and of course House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

You see, as much as the media and Hollywood types love to sound woke, their virtue signaling has limits when money is on the line. Sohn has a long record questioning two issues they hold near and dear to their bottom lines: Overly restrictive copyright protections and something called ­“retransmission consent.”

Copyright protections are easy to grasp. Media companies own the stuff they create and copyright. If you pirate the content, you have to pay. The concept of retransmission consent is a little more complex but it leads to the same place: Money and lots of it.

Georgetown University Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy fellow Gigi Sohn testifies before the House Judiciary Committee's Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill March 12, 2019.
Some Democrats along with Republicans are not in favor of Gigi Sohn’s nomination to be FCC commissioner.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In the old days, cable operators could take a local network’s signal and air it without a second thought. Congress put an end to that in 1992, so now cable operators must cut deals seeking ­“retransmission consent” with Big Media companies to air their local network programming.

Sohn has a long record stating that both issues grant too much power to Big Media at the expense of consumers. She has advocated the FCC put a limit on how much networks and their powerful parents, i.e. ABC (Disney), NBC (Comcast), CBS (ViacomCBS) and Fox (my employer) can squeeze from these lucrative revenue sources.

The broadcast networks through their lobbying group, the National Association of Broadcasters, put Schumer & Co. on notice that the Sohn nomination as of now is a no-go without some conditions, sources tell me. That’s one reason it has been postponed so Cantwell can work on a plan to save it possibly by having Sohn recuse herself from those two issues when they come up for an FCC vote.

Stay tuned.

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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