Entries Tagged as 'Legal'

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a real problem, and credit bureaus make it all to easy for individuals who get a little bit of information about you to get your entire life’s story — and use your name (and credit) to make their life better and your life a living hell.

While there’s been improvements in legal recourse for identity theft, your best bet is to guard against it.

To make yourself a harder target, try some simple things like:

  • Elect on-line delivery of banking and credit card statements; utility bills; and anything else you can.  It’s safe, it’s good for the environment, and it reduces the likelihood of mail theft.
  • Use on-line bill payment or pay bills with your credit card; it’s safe, convenient, and it reduces the likelihood of mail theft.  Using your credit card may give you additional rights, and cash back.
  • Destroy paper items that have any personal information on them; cross-cut or confettie shreaders are the best, a fire place, or just mark it over and tear it by hand.
  • Destroy old credit cards, drivers licenses, passports, etc — make sure nothing with personal and confidential information on it goes in the trash.
  • Don’t give out your name or address to any one or on any site or on any phone call unless you know who you’re dealing with and there’s some advantage for you to do so.
  • Remove your name from mailing lists, refuse delivery of mail you didn’t request (that will cost the sender money generally and is more likely to get your name expunged from the list they use).
  • Put a “freeze” on your credit report.  Click here for info
  • Report scammers, spammers, and phishers to law enforcement. Click here for info

 

There are lots of great sites online that are free (free of advertising), and full of information… here’s one of them:

          http://www.consumersunion.org/

Originally posted 2008-11-08 08:00:50.

Bill of Rights – Amendment I

The past week has made me question if it’s not just the financial future for the United States that is in serious question, but the very founding principles which established this republic.

The framers of the Constitution of the United States were compelled to add the first ten amendments to that document before ratification. Known as the Bill of Rights the first of these amendments (Amendment I) contains precept son which much of the expansion of this country has been based (though this is not the first time it’s principle has been tarnished).

On 17 September 1787 the current United States Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and ratified by each US state in the name of “The People”.

The United States Constitution is the oldest written (single document) constitution still in use by any nation on our planet, and had for over two hundred years defined law in the United States.

On 25 September 1789 the following was added to the United States Constitution, and enacted in full force on 15 December 1791.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The “eviction” of peaceful protestors in a number of cities across the nation was alarming in itself; but the use of pepper spray to clear out a group of peaceful protesters at the University of California Davis, in Davis, California is a travesty.  This incident, caught on video and seen within 24-hours of it happening by over half a million people is truly alarming.

I do agree with University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi that an independent investigation be conducted; but I believe that several investigations need to be conducted, including one by the Justice Department under the direction of the US Attorney General.

While I do not feel Linda Katehi needs to step down; I do believe both her and the commander of the police force, as well as any officer acting outside the bounds of the orders issued, need to be put on administrative leave immediately; and their actions would need to be fully investigated before allowing them to return to their positions of authority.

Points of law, and the legality of actions are determined by the judiciary; but it is the responsibility of the executive branch to insure that potential violations of law (and civil rights) are arraigned.

The Arab Spring was seen as a great movement forward to allowing people to be free(r) and allow them to have a (larger) stake in deciding their future; but now, perhaps the United States needs to request international observers to insure that our government doesn’t continue down this road to infringe on the rights that “we the people” have given so much to secure.


Originally posted 2011-11-21 02:00:40.

Do Not Mail Initiatives

In the United States we have a “Do Not Call” list that’s moderately effective at reducing marketing calls for those of us who don’t want them (though politicians notably made an exception for themselves)… but we don’t have a “Do Not Mail” list… and we should.

Organizations like the Direct Marketing Association lobby congress heavily to keep their mail rates cheap and prevent any legislation from standing in the way of their members from killing millions of trees, littering our mail boxes with “junk mail”, and wasting energy to produce – distribute – collect – and hopefully recycle all that garbage.

For several years now legislation has been pending that would greatly limit direct mail marketing (in much the same way as telephone marketing) — write your representatives in Washington DC and tell them YOU want legislation that will give you control over your mail box.

NOTE:  In all fairness, the Direct Marketing Association does offer a “Mail Preference Service” to consumers, and does require that it’s members use those preferences when mailing materials.  However, they make it difficult for consumers to enter their addresses and there are questions as to how effect self regulation has been.

Originally posted 2008-11-01 12:00:03.

Bush v. Gore

At a law school Supreme Court conference that I attended last fall, there was a panel on “The Rehnquist Court.” No one mentioned Bush v. Gore, the most historic case of William Rehnquist’s time as chief justice, and during the Q. and A. no one asked about it. When I asked a prominent law professor about this strange omission, he told me he had been invited to participate in another Rehnquist retrospective, and was told in advance that Bush v. Gore would not be discussed.

The ruling that stopped the Florida recount and handed the presidency to George W. Bush is disappearing down the legal world’s version of the memory hole, the slot where, in George Orwell’s “1984,” government workers disposed of politically inconvenient records. The Supreme Court has not cited it once since it was decided, and when Justice Antonin Scalia, who loves to hold forth on court precedents, was asked about it at a forum earlier this year, he snapped, “Come on, get over it.”

There is a legal argument for pushing Bush v. Gore aside. The majority opinion announced that the ruling was “limited to the present circumstances” and could not be cited as precedent. But many legal scholars insisted at the time that this assertion was itself dictum — the part of a legal opinion that is nonbinding — and illegitimate, because under the doctrine of stare decisis, courts cannot make rulings whose reasoning applies only to a single case.

Bush v. Gore’s lasting significance is being fought over right now by the Ohio-based United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, whose judges disagree not only on what it stands for, but on whether it stands for anything at all. This debate, which has been quietly under way in the courts and academia since 2000, is important both because of what it says about the legitimacy of the courts and because of what Bush v. Gore could represent today. The majority reached its antidemocratic result by reading the equal protection clause in a very pro-democratic way. If Bush v. Gore’s equal protection analysis is integrated into constitutional law, it could make future elections considerably more fair.

The heart of Bush v. Gore’s analysis was its holding that the recount was unacceptable because the standards for vote counting varied from county to county. “Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms,” the court declared, “the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another.” If this equal protection principle is taken seriously, if it was not just a pretext to put a preferred candidate in the White House, it should mean that states cannot provide some voters better voting machines, shorter lines, or more lenient standards for when their provisional ballots get counted — precisely the system that exists across the country right now.

The first major judicial test of Bush v. Gore’s legacy came in California in 2003. The N.A.A.C.P., among others, argued that it violated equal protection to make nearly half the state’s voters use old punch-card machines, which, because of problems like dimpled chads, had a significantly higher error rate than more modern machines. A liberal three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed. But that decision was quickly reconsidered en banc —that is, reheard by a larger group of judges on the same court — and reversed. The new panel dispensed with Bush v. Gore in three unilluminating sentences of analysis, clearly finding the whole subject distasteful.

The dispute in the Sixth Circuit is even sharper. Ohio voters are also challenging a disparity in voting machines, arguing that it violates what the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Daniel Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor, calls Bush v. Gore’s “broad principle of equal dignity for each voter.” Two of the three judges who heard the case ruled that Ohio’s election system was unconstitutional. But the dissenting judge protested that “we should heed the Supreme Court’s own warning and limit the reach of Bush v. Gore to the peculiar and extraordinary facts of that case.”

The state of Ohio asked for a rehearing en banc, arguing that Bush v. Gore cannot be used as precedent, and the full Sixth Circuit granted the rehearing. It is likely that the panel decision applying Bush v. Gore to elections will, like the first California decision, soon be undone.

There are several problems with trying to airbrush Bush v. Gore from the law. It undermines the courts’ legitimacy when they depart sharply from the rules of precedent, and it gives support to those who have said that Bush v. Gore was not a legal decision but a raw assertion of power.

The courts should also stand by Bush v. Gore’s equal protection analysis for the simple reason that it was right (even if the remedy of stopping the recount was not). Elections that systematically make it less likely that some voters will get to cast a vote that is counted are a denial of equal protection of the law. The conservative justices may have been able to see this unfairness only when they looked at the problem from Mr. Bush’s perspective, but it is just as true when the N.A.A.C.P. and groups like it raise the objection.

There is a final reason Bush v. Gore should survive. In deciding cases, courts should be attentive not only to the Constitution and other laws, but to whether they are acting in ways that promote an overall sense of justice. The Supreme Court’s highly partisan resolution of the 2000 election was a severe blow to American democracy, and to the court’s own standing. The courts could start to undo the damage by deciding that, rather than disappearing down the memory hole, Bush v. Gore will stand for the principle that elections need to be as fair as we can possibly make them.

Has Bush v. Gore Become the Case That Must Not Be Named?
By Adam Cohen
Published: August 15, 2006; The New York Times

Originally posted 2010-09-09 02:00:33.

Illegal Immigrants

Illegal Immigrants
By Arend Van Dam, 13-May-2011

Originally posted 2011-05-15 02:00:11.

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.