Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Barry's Peace Prize - Consent

I knew there was a restriction in the constitution. I didn't know there was a law. But I'm still waiting to see if Obama will prove his constitutional credentials or his contempt for the law.

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, Rep. Cliff Stearns, and Rep. Ron Paul say “no,” and have sent a letter to the President asking him to request congressional consent, which they expect would be speedily given. They point to the example of President Theodore Roosevelt, who created a committee, including the Chief Justice, to hold Roosevelt’s Nobel Peace Prize money in trust until he left office. After leaving office, Roosevelt asked for congressional consent to disburse the money to particular charities.

Article I, § 9, clause 8, of the Constitution states that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

When Roosevelt won the Peace Prize, there was apparently no controlling statute. Today there is: 5 USC § 7342 (titled “Receipt and disposition of foreign gifts and decorations”) sets out the conditions under which foreign gifts can be accepted without a separate action of Congress. The statute applies to an “employee,” which includes “the President and the Vice President.”

A “foreign government” includes ” any agent or representative of any such [foreign] unit or such organization, while acting as such.” Since the Nobel Peace Prize committee is, as the Representatives note, appointed by the Norwegian Storting (the legislature), it would seem to be within the scope of the statute.

A “gift” is “a tangible or intangible present (other than a decoration) .” A “decoration” includes a ” medal, badge, insignia, emblem, or award.”

By the statute, Congress explicitly consents to employee receipt of gifts of “minimal value,” which is “means a retail value in the United States at the time of acceptance of $100 or less.” The statute authorizes the Administrator of General Services to make regulations to adjust “minimal value” to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index, beginning in 1981, and reflecting CPI changes in the previous three years. Roughly speaking, $100 in 1978 is about $327 today.

A Peace Prize laureate receives a diploma, a 196-gram gold medal, and a large check (10 million Swedish crowns in 2007). The spot price of gold is $33 a gram, so the medal and the check obviously do not qualify for the “minimal value” exception. The diploma, as a piece of paper, could, although not if it were delivered with an expensive frame.

In the statute, Congress also formally “consents” to an employee receiving and keeping “a decoration tendered in recognition of active field service in time of combat operations or awarded for other outstanding or unusually meritorious performance, subject to the approval of the employing agency of such employee.” The diploma and the medal both fit within the definition of “decoration.” As President, Obama is the head of his own “employing agency,” and therefore can approve his receipt of the medal and the diploma.

The check is not a “decoration” and is of much more than “minimal value.” Employees may not accept gifts of more than minimal value. However, there are various exceptions, and the relevant one is that a gift may be accepted “when it appears that to refuse the gift would likely cause offense or embarrassment or otherwise adversely affect the foreign relations of the United States, except that– (i) a tangible gift of more than minimal value is deemed to have been accepted on behalf of the United States and, upon acceptance, shall become the property of the United States.” It would seem to be within the foreign policy discretion of President Obama to determine that refusing the Nobel check could cause offense, embarrassment, or an adverse effect on foreign relations.

Then, “Within 60 days after accepting a tangible gift of more than minimal value, employee shall– (A) deposit the gift for disposal with his or her employing agency; or (B) subject to the approval of the employing agency, deposit the gift with that agency for official use.” Accordingly, it would appear that President Obama must turn the check over to the United States government, for official use. I have not researched whether there are regulations detailing precisely how gifts which a President receives are to be disposed. It would appear that President Obama cannot personally give the Nobel money to charity.

Thus, it seems clear that the statute already supplies the constitutionally-required congressional consent for President Obama to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, and no further action by Congress is needed, provided that President Obama signs the check over the government, as the statute requires.

Makes you wonder if the check will be signed over to the government.

In a lot of ways this is more about what Obama will do with regards to the law rather than the money. But, it does appear to be something that should be noted as a real world indication of what he does rather than says.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crime and Criminilizing the Citizen

I've been reading a bit on this topic and have to admit this does scare me. I don't even know if I would understand what laws I'd be breaking if this is accurate, and from what I've been reading, it sounds to be.

Fear makes for easy politics. It both wins votes and primes us to give government more power at the expense of personal liberty. And that's certainly true when it comes to crime. With the possible exception of an incumbent mayor, politicians only benefit from exaggerating the threat of violent crime. Senators, Congressmen, and even governors are rarely held responsible when the crime rate goes up. But they do win votes by proposing new powers for police and prosecutors to bring it down.

The result has been a one-way ratchet effect on crime policy. We're perpetually expanding police and prosecutorial power, a process only occasionally slowed by the courts. Congress and state legislatures rarely take old criminal statutes off the books, but they're always adding new ones. A 2008 report from the Heritage Foundation estimates that at the federal level alone, Congress has been adding about 55 new crimes to the federal criminal code each year since the 1980s. There are now about 4,500 separate federal crimes. And that doesn't include federal regulations, which are increasingly being enforced with criminal, not administrative, penalties. It also doesn't include the increasing leeway with which prosecutors can enforce broadly written federal conspiracy, racketeering, and money laundering laws. And this is before we even get to the states' criminal codes.

In his new book, the Boston-based civil liberties advocate and occasional Reason contributor Harvey Silverglate estimates that in 2009, the average American commits about three federal felonies per day. And yet, we aren’t a nation of degenerates. On the contrary, most social indicators have been moving in a positive direction for a generation. Silverglate argues we're committing these crimes unwittingly. The federal criminal code has become so vast and open to interpretation, Silverglate argues, that a U.S. Attorney can find a way to charge just about anyone with violating federal law. In fact, it's nearly impossible for some business owners to comply with one federal regulation without violating another one. We're no longer governed by laws, we're governed by the whims of lawyers.

Just more reasons to avoid the police. And people wonder why LEO jobs are so hard. People don't want to talk to police because you could innocently be stepping into a felony arrest that you neither understand nor can avoid.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

War on Drugs Gets Bitten

This is a bit old (Dec. 2008) but I still find it remarkable.

Right up front I think the war on drugs has become a farce if it wasn't one to begin with. The institutionalization of the tactics and the laws that allow the various travesties of justice are astounding if one takes the time to view how often the innocent get bitten. I have no doubts that power proves irresistible in many of the cases and police forces tend to have a lot of people who go into crusader mode when they think there is an issue. No knock raids killing LEO and citizens isn't highly common, but it is far too common for what should be some basics in investigations. Police forces profiting from drug arrests and seizures just feeds into corruption.

Now a TeeVee program in Texas bites back. I am just astounded at the cajones of the guys who did this. In fact, I'd love to see this performed more broadly throughout the country.
"KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana," claims a release from "When faced with a suspected marijuana grow, the police usually use illegal FLIR cameras and/or lie on the search warrant affidavit claiming they have probable cause to raid the house. Instead of conducting a proper investigation which usually leads to no probable cause, the Kops lie on the affidavit claiming a confidential informant saw the plants and/or the police could smell marijuana coming from the suspected house."

"The trap was set and less than 24 hours later, the Odessa narcotics unit raided the house only to find KopBuster's attorney waiting under a system of complex gadgetry and spy cameras that streamed online to the KopBuster's secret mobile office nearby.

"The attorney was handcuffed and later released when eleven KopBuster detectives arrived with the media in tow to question the illegal raid. The police refused to give KopBusters the search warrant affidavit which is suspected to contain the lies regarding the probable cause.

"It is not illegal to grow plants under a light in your home but it is illegal to lie on an affidavit and plant drugs on a citizen. This operation was the first of its kind in the history of America. Police sometimes have other police investigating their crimes but the American court system has never dealt with a group of citizens stinging the police. Will the police file charges on the team who took down the corrupt cops? We will keep you posted."

I wonder if they have any grounds to get the original affidavit. No doubt the police will keep it out of public view because it's an ongoing investigation, but I do think there are legal actions to be taken around this.

And note, I don't blame the police for using the tools that the politicos have handed them, but on the reverse, it is about time that citizens fight back with those tools that they have. If our society is to be truly free then all portions of the legal system has to be open to review and change. This is especially true of those that people rarely dare challenge alone.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Michael Moore - Capitalist Whiner

The Fat Fuck From Flint is whining that capitalism did nothing for him. This is just too funny considering the amount of money he has. But then it appears that his point is that is was hard. asked: “Critics may say, when they see this movie, Michael Moore has amassed a fortune of over $50 million, some have said and –”

Moore said: “Really? Are you kidding me? Seriously? Wow. Where did it go?” then asked Moore: “Critics would say he’s [Moore] been very successful under a capitalist system. How would you justify making a movie where you paint capitalism as evil?”

Moore said: “Well, capitalism did nothing for me, starting with my first film.”
“You know, I had to pretty much beg, borrow and steal,” he said. “The system is not set up to help somebody from the working class make a movie like this and get the truth out there.”

“In fact, in Fahrenheit 9/11 if you remember, capitalism, the Disney Corporation, tried to kill that film--tried to make it so that people couldn’t see it,” said Moore. “My book Stupid White Men--Harper Collins tried to kill that book so that people couldn’t see it. It's only because I put the light of day on it and told people what was going on did people get the chance to see these things.”

According to Fortune Magazine, Moore’s films have grossed over $300 million worldwide. His highest grossing film was “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which critiques the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq and earned over $200 million worldwide.

Moore reportedly was paid $21 million by Disney for producing, directing and creating the film.

Moore also earned 50 percent of the profits of his 2007 film “Sicko,” totaling $25 million plus DVD sales, according to Vanity Fair.
"Oh no the capitalists tried to kill my movies and books, but yet went on to produce them for me and then gave me huge quantities of money. Those evil bastards."

What a fucking hypocrite. Imagine Michael Moore in China or the USSR. He'd have been allowed to shovel snow and never would have made a rubel, but no doubt he'd have had great health care and no worries about guns.

Fucking idiot.