Entries Tagged as 'Legal'

For the good of the many…

BART shutdown power to cellular antennas in and around BART stations in order to prevent individuals from using social media to organize a protest.

BART said basically it weighed the rights and freedoms all American expect against the potential threat to public safety.

How many times have autocrats and dictators used a similar statement to defend their actions in the past.

Freedom has costs associated with it; and unfortunately the right to protest is a fundamental tenant of American society… suppressing that right, even if there is a perceived threat of something possibly going wrong, does harm to all of us.

Since 9/11 this country has been headed down a dangerous road — essential freedoms have been compromised, and now public entities are taking action without any judicial review that severely impact public freedoms.

I say it’s time this stops before we find that “we” didn’t win the Cold War, we simply became the enemy.


Cell Service Shutdown Raises Free Speech Questions by Carrie Johnson NPR.org

Originally posted 2011-08-16 02:00:36.

Federal Express is a SPAMmer

Yesterday evening I received an Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE, aka SPAM) from Federal Express in violation of the California Professions and Business Code Section 17538.45.

Apparently Federal Express has taken to harvesting email addresses used in requesting tracking services and subscribing them to their marketing mailings lists without obtaining the permission of the owner of the email address (California law prohibits OPT-OUT policies, and requires that advertisers use OPT-IN methods).

Not only have I send a demand to Federal Expresses marketing campaign company and Federal Express demanding immediate payment of the fifty dollar fine specified by California Law; but I will no longer do business with Federal Express PERIOD.  That means I do not ship via FedEx, and I do not accept packages via FedEx, which means I don’t deal with vendors that use FedEx.

Originally posted 2009-02-19 01:00:25.

All the news fit to print…

Hmm… maybe that should be all the bs that can be gotten away with!

When you read news articles or when people relay to you “facts” be sure and do your homework; read accounts of the same events on multiple un-related sources.  In fact it’s often good to get a perspective from an international source.

Take a look at any of the facts, figures, and claims — try and verify those against an authoritative source.

If the information reported is important to you; check to see if any of the “facts” it’s based on, or claims it makes are updated over time.

Most journalists report the news impartially from their perspective; but it is from their perspective.  Many journalists and news organization like to sensationalize the news or majorly spin it to suit their agenda.

Question everything.

Originally posted 2009-02-12 01:00:46.

“Honest Services” Law

Last Thursday the Supreme Court greatly narrowed the scope of a federal fraud law frequently used to prosecute white-collar criminals.

And guess who might benefit from the decision…

Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling among a host of others.

The Supreme Court ruling was the result of an appeal Jeffery Skilling brought before the court.  Skilling actually ask that the “honest services” law be struck down as unconstitutional as well as asking for a new trial since he claimed he didn’t get a fair trial in Houston (I personally don’t recall him requesting a change of venue — so apparently he felt he’d fair better there than most other places people felt he’d defrauded them out of their life savings).

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s written option stated that prosecutors could continue to seek honest services fraud conviction in cases where their is sufficient evidence to show defendants accepted bribes or kickbacks.  Of course Jeffery Skillings isn’t accused of accepting bribes or kickbacks, just filling his pockets with money at the expense of his investors and customers by knowingly manipulating the energy market.

The court did not specifically throw out any of the nineteen counts against Skilling, nor did they agree to a new trial.

I’m sure former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, and ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, former newspaper magnate Conrad Black, former Alaska lawmaker Bruce Weyhrauch as well as other will be quick to see what this new ruling might do to help them.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and John Paul Stevens were the dissenters; and I once again have to ask what box of cereal Justice Ginsberg clipped her law degree from.

I know, this is America, land of the free; but where the more cash you have, the more “equitable” the law.

Originally posted 2010-06-25 02:00:00.

US Drug Policy

I certainly don’t have a solution to the drug problem in the US; but clearly the US government doesn’t either.

History teaches us many lessons, and when we ignore those lessons we often find ourselves repeating the errors of the past.

Prohibition didn’t work.

We make arbitrary decisions about which drugs are acceptable are which ones are not (we have legalized alcohol, but not drug in social use for much longer).

The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation has some interesting views on US drug policy:

The United States is at a crossroads in its drug policy. In our effort to quell the drug trade, we have greatly increased patrol and inspection on our nation’s borders. We have increased arrests for violation of drug laws and lengthened sentences. We have stripped away the rights of drug offenders and introduced drug testing in our nation’s schools and workplaces. We have poured billions of dollars into overseas anti-drug paramilitary operations that commit violent human rights abuses. And in the process of trying to eradicate illicit coca crops, we have destroyed over a million acres of land in Colombia alone.

Since 1990, more than half of the federal prisoners in America are serving time for drug offenses. The availability and purity of drugs has steadily increased over the past twenty-five years. The violence in the drug trade remains excruciatingly high and surges from year to year and city to city. Meanwhile, there remain a myriad of social issues as a result of drug abuse.

The use of drugs, and the enforcement of the anti-drug laws, effects all subpopulations in the U.S., all sectors of the economy, and many aspects of the legal system. Whether we are talking about violence, poverty, race, health, education, community development, the environment, civil liberties or terrorism, the illegal drug market is an important factor in the conversation.

We have tried to use force, prohibition and incarceration to control the drug market, but our efforts have actually led to a more efficient drug trade and a hugely profitable drug market. It is time to rethink our strategy and redefine our goals.

This section holds articles and speeches given by CJPF that address drug policy in all of its forms and effects. In this, we strive to provide a comprehensive framework for rethinking the war on drugs.

You can read the complete statement and peruse their web site at

Criminal Justice Policy Foundation

And if you’re wondering, I found their site through an article from NPR on taxing cocaine rather than (or in addition to) marijuana.

NPR

Originally posted 2010-03-28 02:00:43.

US Postal Service

I just dropped off some US Postal Service Form PS-1500s at the post office down the street, and have to relay a “funny” (maybe sad is a more appropriate word) episode…

The postal clerk said she’d never seen these forms before and went into the back to get her supervisor (who refused to give me his name).

He told me that the post office didn’t do “that”… and ask me where I got the forms, I told him the USPS web site (the people in line laughed, and that didn’t make him particularly happy).  Then he insisted again that the post office didn’t do “that”… and I ask him why the post office would have forms for something they didn’t do (and again I got laughs from the line).

He agreed to take the forms, and I reminded him that throwing them away would be a violation of postal regulations… he told me to get out of his lobby (presumably that would make him the station manager).

I’ve filed complaints with the US Postal Board of Governors before (and I just fired off another), but I always find complaining to my Representative, Senators, and President (all at once – which I’ve done as well) creates enough inquiries that the complaints is actually taken seriously.

I generally expect bad service at the post office, and it’s always amusing that the post office and quote postal regulations left and right when they benefit the post office… but few postal persons know anything about postal regulations that benefit the consumer.

For information on PS-1500 and taking control of your mail box, see my previous post:

Originally posted 2009-01-24 01:00:21.

A Pledge of No Privacy

Part of the intent of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (aka the Financial Modernization Act of 1999) and the rules and regulations for federal banking and credit unions was to put into effect requirements on financial institutions1 to safe-guard the personal, confidential, and financial information of their customers2.

On of the main parts of the law was that it required institutions to provide customers with their privacy policy which explained their information sharing and information safeguarding.  However, because the law was heavily effected by lobbying, and even reviewed by large financial institutions before being considered by congress there are cases where institutions aren’t really subject to many limitations on what they can do with your information.

You might find it interesting that every large financial institution I have dealt with since the law was passed (ie Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Barclay, etc) have specifically allowed for an “opt-out” of the sharing for personal information for use both inside and outside the company (effectively limiting the information to be used only as require by law and as necessary for the maintenance of your account).

However, you have to be very careful about smaller institutions.

Credit Unions are in general very customer oriented, and most the time “do the right thing” — particularly when it comes to building a solid, long term customer relationship based on trust and respect.  However, take a look at the “Privacy Pledge” for Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union3 (formerly Monsanto Employees Credit Union) http://www.gogulfwinds.com/page/privacy — WOW — that’s a really nice pledge to no privacy.  In essence what it says is that they’ll use any information they collect on you (both public and non-public) and use it to the full extent allowed by law (I’d guess to profit from) and won’t allow a customer (or consumer) to “opt-out”.

How many ways can you say “non-customer focused”???

The moral of this, don’t assume you’re better off dealing with small “local” financial providers that might seem to have your interests in mind — you might actually end up getting better over all service and respect from a much larger financial provider.

I for one will be re-assessing my financial relationships; and likely terminating a few — and trying to convince congress to stand up to the financial services companies and actually pass a law that protects me.

REFERENCES:

In Brief: The Financial Privacy Requirements of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

NOTES:

1 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 apply to banks, credit unions, securities firms, and insurance companies as well as a number of other type of companies providing financial services to consumers and is part of a larger framework of federal, state, and local banking laws.

2 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 privacy requirements apply to customers; which are defined to be consumers (not business) with which the institution has a “long term” relationship (ie holds an account), and does not necessarily cover all consumers who might interact or transact with an institution.

3 You can find the same type of non-privacy policy at a number of smaller financial institutions; Gulf Winds is particularly sad because they refer to it as a “Privacy Pledge” rather than just a “Privacy Policy”.

Originally posted 2010-07-05 02:00:15.

Brink’s Pill Heist

On the 17th of March in what could well become the basis of the next Hollywood crime caper movie, $75 million worth of pharmaceuticals was stolen from a warehouse in Enfield, MA from Eli Lilly & Co.

The thieves disabled the alarm system, scaled an exterior brick wall, cut a hold in the roof, rappelled inside, loaded pallets of merchandise onto an awaiting vehicle, and left with a semi-truck full of stolen goods.

Prozac, Cymbalta, Zyprexa according to Eli Lilly no narcotics or painkillers were stored in this ware house.

Why worry about drugs from abroad when it seems the drug trade is very much alive right in our own back yard.

Originally posted 2010-03-19 02:00:13.

Deep Throat

I watched a documentary called Inside Deep Throat — and I found it far more interesting than I think I ever found the movie.

The documentary talks about the changes occurring on the sexual landscape of America… while the sixties might have been referred to as the sexual revolution, it was really the early seventies where the battle of sexual expression was waged.

The movie was a landmark in many respects — but it’s success really had little to do with the quality of the movie, but rather the legal battles it caused — even though a presidential (appointed by Richard M Nixon) commission had already recommended that laws controlling pornography be repealed since they were largely unenforceable and that pornography caused no real risk to adults.

Watergate was only one of Nixon’s lies.

Sure the movie broke a great deal of new ground in film in general and porno specifically… but what it really broke was political and social stigma.

The trial in New York City (Judge Tyler ruled the file “obscene”) and an article in The New York Times catapulted the movie to the most profitable movie ever — $600 million US for a movie that originally cost only $25,000 to make.

The movie was eventually outlawed in 23 states; and the FBI harassed the director, producer, financiers, and theater owners.

Nixon’s four appointed Supreme Court Justices gave censorship a leg up; initially the feminist movement and the “protect our children” radicals supported the ban on expressive file; but steadily community standards changed possibly because of the VCR (and later DVD) and individuals began to demand their freedom of expression.

In most part of the country today individuals are free to choose; but believe me, there are still backward places that attempt to legislate morality — oppression controlled by the radical Christian right.


Below is a summary of court cases revolving around obscenity.

1957 Roth v. US – the Supreme Court defined obscene material is that which lacks any “redeeming social importance.”  The Supreme court combined the cases wof Roth v. US and Alberts v. California.

1964 Jacobellis v. Ohio – the Supreme Court reverses a state obscenity ruling, but issues four separate opinions laying the ground work for confusions.

1966 Memoirs v. Massachusetts – the Supreme Court attempts to better define the ruling in Roth v. US.  A work had to be proved by censors to: 1) appeal to prurient interest, 2) be patently offensive, and 3) have no redeeming social value.

1973 Miller v. California – the Supreme Court reinforces that obscenity was not protect by the First Amendment and established the Miller test but acknowledged “the inherent dangers of undertaking to regulate any form of expression,” and said that “State statutes designed to regulate obscene materials must be carefully limited.” 1) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards (not national standards, as some prior tests required), would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; 2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law; and 3) “whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

1973 Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton – the Supreme Court upheld a state court’s injunction against the showing of obscene films in a movie theatre restricted to consenting adults; however, the Court differentiated the case from 1969 Stanley v. Georgia.

1990 FW/PBS v. City of Dallas – the Supreme Court ruled the city ordinance attempting to regulate “expressive businesses” as unconstitutional.

1999 Free Speech Coalition v. Reno – the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against section 2556(8) of the Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA)  stating 1) the statue is not content-neutral and aims to curb specific expression; 2) the statute was not in line with Supreme Court decisions which have held that states can only criminalize child pornography when the laws “limit the offense to works that visually depict explicit sexual conduct by children below a specified age” – something the CPPA failed to do; 3) no demonstrated link to harm to real children has been demonstrated; and 4) the language is too vague and over-broad, allowing for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

Originally posted 2010-09-21 02:00:41.

Privacy Violation

Mid 2006 AT&T, Bell South (soon to be part of AT&T), and Verizon all turned over their phone call database to the National Security Agency just because they ask.  Qwest refused, indicating to the NSA that they were required to obtain a subpoena before such information could be release.

Section 2702 of Title 18, part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, provides that “a provider of … electronic communication service [including telephone service] to the public shall not knowingly divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such service … to any governmental entity” without the customer’s consent or a subpoena or court order. Under section 2707, carriers face civil liability, including minimum damages of $1,000 per violation, punitive damages, and attorneys fees. Government employees who participated in a violation also may face administrative discipline.

My questions is, since the NSA obtained such information illegally, why haven’t the telcos been fined, the information obtained by the NSA been destroyed, and the NSA employees who requested (and authorized the requests) been terminated?

I personally am tired of waiting for the restoration of my civil rights; the new administration has been in the White House for a year now, the honey moon is over — let’s stop hearing rhetoric, and start seeing action.

Originally posted 2009-12-31 02:00:15.