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Current Topic: Politics and Law

MC Rove
Topic: Politics and Law 10:25 am EDT, Mar 29, 2007

I'm at a complete loss for words...

Update: I found some later in the thread.. As did others.

MC Rove

Justice gets wrong statute, pays $100M price -
Topic: Politics and Law 1:48 pm EDT, Mar 28, 2007

Poorly written Justice Department documents cost the federal government more than $100 million in what was supposed to have been the crowning moment of the biggest tax prosecution ever.

Walter Anderson, the telecommunications entrepreneur who admitted hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the IRS and District of Columbia tax collectors, was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in prison and ordered to repay about $23 million to the city.

But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he couldn't order Anderson to repay the federal government $100 million to $175 million because the Justice Department's binding plea agreement with Anderson listed the wrong statute.

Friedman said he could have worked around that problem by ordering Anderson to repay the money as part of his probation. But prosecutors omitted any discussion of probation -- a common element of plea deals -- from Anderson's paperwork.

"I've come to the conclusion, very reluctantly, that I have no authority to order restitution," Friedman said. "I hope the government will appeal me."

JoD appears to be firing the wrong people these days...

Justice gets wrong statute, pays $100M price -

Crossover Day in the Georgia Legislature
Topic: Politics and Law 12:34 pm EDT, Mar 27, 2007

A push to legalize the Sunday sale of alcohol topped a list of bills that likely died in the Georgia Legislature on Monday.

The bills including a proposed hate crimes law, plans for Confederate History Month and Gov. Sonny Perdue's effort to clarify that church groups may receive state money were not among the ones that made it onto the Senate calendar for Tuesday.

WSB's Capitol Reporter Sandra Parrish reports Tuesday is the so-called Crossover Day in the Legislature. That's the 30th day of the 40-day session and the last on which a bill may pass in one chamber to be considered by the other.

This means that both SB 59 and HB 504 are dead for the year. MemeStreamers may rejoice..

However, you still can't buy booze on Sunday. I guess we can't have everything.

Crossover Day in the Georgia Legislature

The Volokh Conspiracy - George Will on Rent-Seeking:
Topic: Politics and Law 12:18 pm EDT, Mar 23, 2007

In New Mexico, anyone can work as an interior designer. But it is a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison, to list yourself on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages as, or to otherwise call yourself, an "interior designer" without being certified as such. Those who favor this censoring of truthful commercial speech are a private group that controls, using an exam administered by a private national organization, access to that title.

Who benefits? Creating artificial scarcity of services raises the prices of those entitled to perform the services.

This discussion and the linked editorial should resonate with people who are concerned about HB 504.

The Volokh Conspiracy - George Will on Rent-Seeking:

Danger Room | 'Demented' Research Chief Isolates Agency
Topic: Politics and Law 10:57 am EDT, Mar 23, 2007

The Congressional Research Service is well known in policy circles -- especially defense policy circles -- for writing some of the smartest, sanest analyses you could ever hope to get in Washington. Their reports are non-partisan. They present dissenting points of view. And they are unclassified -- meaning, everyone is allowed to read them.

Now, however, "in what is being characterized by subordinates as an act of 'managerial dementia,' the Director of the Congressional Research Service [Daniel Mulhollan] this week prohibited all public distribution of CRS products without prior approval from senior agency officials," Secrecy News says.

Sounds like a great way to facilitate making less informed decisions.. The trend of secrecy uber alles we have been seeing the past several years needs to stop.

Danger Room | 'Demented' Research Chief Isolates Agency

House passes 3 bills to shine light on records -
Topic: Politics and Law 11:03 pm EDT, Mar 14, 2007

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed three bills to open government records to the public, brushing aside White House opposition, and in one case, a veto threat.

The measures, highlighting the media-led "Sunshine Week," would force government to be more responsive to Freedom of Information Act requests, make contributions to presidential libraries public and overturn a 2001 presidential directive giving the president authority to keep his records from public view.

The White House issued a veto threat on the presidential records bill and voiced opposition to the FOIA legislation. It also said the president would veto a fourth bill the House is to debate later Wednesday on whistle-blower protections.

Hopefully Congress can get somewhere with this...

House passes 3 bills to shine light on records -

Audit: FBI snooping did not follow rules -
Topic: Politics and Law 1:34 pm EST, Mar  9, 2007

The FBI is guilty of "serious misuse" of the power to secretly obtain private information under the Patriot Act, a government audit said Friday.

The Justice Department's inspector general looked at the FBI's use of national security letters (NSLs), in which agents demand personal and business information about individuals -- such as financial, phone, and Internet records -- without court orders.

The audit found the letters were issued without proper authority, cited incorrect statutes or obtained information they weren't supposed to.

As many as 22 percent of national security letters were not recorded, the audit said.

"We concluded that many of the problems we identified constituted serious misuse of the FBI's national security letter authorities," Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said in the report.

The audit said there were no indications that the FBI's use of the letters "constituted criminal misconduct."

The FBI has made as many as 56,000 requests a year for information using the letters since the Patriot Act was passed in October, 2001, the audit found.

A single letter can contain multiple information requests, and multiple letters may target one individual.

The audit found that in 2004 and 2005, more than half of the targets of the national security letters were U.S. citizens.

At the very least, those of us that had been assuming these powers were being abused no longer look like lunatics.

27B Stroke 6 has good coverage of this.

Audit: FBI snooping did not follow rules -

Boing Boing: CSPAN embraces freely copyable video
Topic: Politics and Law 1:22 pm EST, Mar  8, 2007

I'm pleased to pass on the news that C-SPAN has announced "two major initiatives designed to greatly expand citizen access to its online video of federal government activities, such as congressional hearings, agency briefings, and White House events."

The first congressional hearing under this new policy is up live on the Internet Archive.

There has been real progress on this front in the past few weeks, mostly due to the efforts and advocacy of Carl Malamud. I'm glad that CSPAN has seen the light.

Boing Boing: CSPAN embraces freely copyable video

State makes big fuss over local couple's vegetable oil car fuel
Topic: Politics and Law 9:31 pm EST, Mar  7, 2007

Hijexx writes:

Summary: A retired chemist and food plant manager converted his car to run on a vegetable oil / diesel blend. He has used it this way for the last four years.

He gets a visit one morning at his home from agents of the Illinois Department of Revenue. He is being investigated for criminal activity.

Turns out, Illinois wants him to pay retroactive fuel taxes on the vegetable oil. They also want him to apply for a license to become a special fuel supplier as well as a special fuel receiver. He also has to pay a $2500 bond as insurance that his "business" will pay the taxes in the future.

The State also sent him a cease and desist letter, threatening him with felony charges if he continued to operate his vehicle without giving the State their cut and dancing their dance.

Thankfully, there is a State Senator taking up his cause, but this is just patently wrong on its face. Why send agents out to someone's house who is trying to do the right thing? Why use that Gestapo tactic? I hate seeing people being bullied like that.

Worth a read, article has some good points.

On first read, this seems too stupid to believe. This man is doing something that should be commended. Garage level innovation in alternative fuel sources is something that should be encouraged. Someone needs to look at the big picture here, and see that a stop is put to the harassment he and anyone else in his situation is receiving. This is a story that should be tracked.

State makes big fuss over local couple's vegetable oil car fuel

YouTube - Letter to Ann Coulter
Topic: Politics and Law 3:07 am EST, Mar  5, 2007

If you like Henry Rollins, you'll enjoy this, er, marriage proposal?

YouTube - Letter to Ann Coulter

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