Monday, April 29, 2013


Disruption in the Legal Industry: A Librarian’s Perspective

Note: A version of this column was originally published at SarahGlassmeyer.com.

Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Disruption is definitely the hot term du jour.  It mostly is a fancy way of saying “change”, but that doesn’t quite do it justice.  To truly understand it, read this wonderful post by Jordan Furlong on “What Disruption Really Means.”

As with change, many people view disruption as one would a cloud of locusts on the horizon.  Others are “disruption deniers” who refuse to believe that any significant change is coming to the legal industry any time soon, and anyone who tells you different is a loser who can’t hack it in the real world.  And then there’s the third camp, which I happen to fall into.  I am waiting for disruption like a fat kid for the Easter Bunny, a Born-again Christian for Jesus, and Linus for the Great Pumpkin, combined.  Disruption can’t hit fast enough for me.

As the title of this column revealed, I am a librarian.  Formerly an academic law librarian, I currently work for a non-profit consortium of law schools that publishes open casebooks and law.  I have an admittedly narrow focus on the legal industry, but one that touches just about every corner of it: legal publishing.

Many people think that legal publishing was disrupted years ago, when we began to make the big switch over to electronic research tools.  To the contrary, as Sam Glover on Lawyerist points out, the switch to electronic legal publishing/research has not been disruptive.  I would agree with that—as far as it applies to lawyers.  It’s been hellishly disruptive to libraries and librarians, who have had to change the way they collect, access, distribute and pay for legal information.  But for the end user, it hasn’t really been too much of a change.  Disruption is in the eye of the beholder, I guess.

But that being said, legal publishing needs to be disrupted because legal publishing is broken.  In its current state, it only serves to keep information locked away from people.  And, given the unique status of legal information (which we can define here as cases, as well as laws and regulations passed by all levels of government bodies), you don’t even have to be one of those “information wants to be free” hippies to agree that there is no reason why this particular subset of the information ecosystem shouldn’t be free, open, accessible and preserved for all.

From the very beginning of our nation, government outsourced some of the publishing of its information products to private publishers.  And some privatization of government services was good:  Hats off to John West for coming up with the Key Number indexing system and making it easy in pre-computer days to do cross-jurisdictional research.

Even today, editorial content additions to primary law have value for researchers billing in six-minute increments.  Consider, for example, the differences between an unannotated code and an annotated one.  Whether that value is worth the cost is debatable.  But having to pay for primary law without editorial content is wrong.  Indeed, I truly believe human rights—and perhaps also our First and Sixth Amendment rights—are being violated by the government’s not providing access to legal information.  I’d love to see a brief or law review article draw a line from the Sixth Amendment, to Gideon, to a Right to Legal Information Access.

Sometimes the corporations won’t even sell you the law.  Lexis is the Official Publisher of the Georgia Code.  Another publisher, Fastcase, asked quite reasonably to purchase a copy. After all, West buys one.  But Lexis refused.  This is a very understandable business tactic, but doesn’t the fact that a corporation has the final say on who accesses the law make you a little uncomfortable?

Of course, when government does bother to publish its own law, it sucks at it.  Bad formats, limited preservation, and little to no authentication or even “official” status—sometimes all four in a single website!  A PDF on a website is not helpful.  It’s free to read, sure, but the information contained within that PDF is just as locked away as it would be if it were a book on a shelf.  Law needs open publishing.

The real benefit to “born digital” information, besides its obvious cost savings, is that its creation is merely the starting point.  Each case, law, or regulation (and the content contained within them) is a building block that can be remixed, reused and combined in new ways.  Imagine being given a pile of Lego bricks and being told that you can build something with them, but you’re not allowed to click them together.  That’s what a bunch of PDFs on a website is to a legal-website developer.  Open publishing would allow you to click those bricks together, and maybe also grab some from your buddy’s pile and create something new.

Another common tactic is for governments to deny all responsibility for the law that they are publishing.  The terms and conditions on the Kentucky Revised Statutes as provided by the Commonwealth of Kentucky say, “The files making up this Internet version of the Kentucky Revised Statutes do not constitute official text of the statutes and are intended for informational purposes only.  No representation is made as to the accuracy or completeness of these sections. The certified versions of the Kentucky Revised Statutes should be consulted for all matters requiring reliance on the statutory text.”  Although sophisticated users of the site would recognize that as CYA legalese, how many sophisticated users are utilizing a free government website?  Oh, and who has the certified versions?  West and Lexis.  If you want to be confident in your research results, you’ll need to pay for it.

The preservation and authentication piece of the problem here is no small matter either.  With so many jurisdictions switching to electronic publishing because it’s “cheaper”, yet not authenticating or preserving it properly, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that one day in the future, we will have no idea what a given law looked like on a certain date.  Sure, it might be something “minor” like what the zoning code in Valparaiso, Indiana was in 2014, but I personally am not ready to accept that only “major laws” that affect people who live in East Coast cities are the only ones worth preserving.  The Uniform Law Commission has passed the UELMA, which will require legal materials (although not necessarily case law) published by governments to be authentic and preserved.  It is slowly being adopted by state governments.

Finally, in a move that really aggravates me as both a lawyer and a librarian, both corporations and governments slap copyright notices on law.  Not just, for example, on the statute headings which some corporations have had to fill in because governments never bothered to do that.  That’s understandable.  Sort of a rude play, but understandable.  No, I’m talking about the actual text of the law.  Copyrighted.  

Look at the Wyoming Statutes page.  What in Hell was wrong with the people who did that, to cause them to think it was okay?  It’s far from a unique case too.  Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase, explains the phenomenon in his VoxPopuli post “Tear Down This Pay Wall.”

Of course, even though all of the above have been issues for a while, libraries have always been the workaround.  Can’t afford electronic research?  Go to a library.  Unfortunately, the consolidation of the legal publishing market has had the same effect that most monopolies have: Libraries simply cannot afford to keep primary law available, let alone any of the secondary materials that are necessary to understand what the primary law means.  That means poor people with legal problems are out of luck.  Moreover, I don’t believe it is unthinkable that soon, small and solo practitioners will have difficulty practicing in certain areas because they simply cannot afford the research costs.

At the present time, 80% of people who want legal representation aren’t able to afford it.  Even worse, if they want to research the law themselves, they are unable to access the information they would need to do so, because freely published law isn’t open or comprehensive.  They thus have two strikes against them, and that’s before they even set foot into the legal system.  The high cost of legal research will soon work its way up, and lawyers on the bottom of the economic ladder will soon find themselves unable to afford legal-research tools.

This is a situation crying out for disruption.  There is a huge market out there of people who need to access legal information, and new technological advances are happening every day that will easily replace the old editorial-content additions.

The Disruptive Solution to the Current State of Legal Research Accessibility

So, what’s the disruptive solution?  I propose an Open Online Law Library.  It would contain all the primary law from every jurisdiction in the United States, and allow for front-end cross-jurisdictional searching by the public, as well as bulk downloads in malleable formats for developers.  Ideally, this Open Online Law Library would be hosted by the government, but a non-governmental organization would suffice.  Besides, one of the benefits of open, bulk downloads is that there could be as many copies available as people would like.

As I learned at “Law Via the Internet” this year, there are several exciting project in the works, and open law depositories online.  These include Court Listener, Public.Resource.org, State Decoded, Justia, and, of course, the Granddaddy of them all, the Legal Information Institute. Some say we should just construct a framework that links all of these.  However, a single depository (and its copies) would encourage trust in the holdings of it by the professional community of researchers.  Anyone who has spent time on the web has seen a service suddenly go out of business.  It would be a shame if we lost, for example, the Ninth Circuit decisions because the organization we were trusting to publish that piece of the puzzle went dark.  Also, a one-stop shop would allow for non-professional researchers to search broadly in situations in which they don’t know exactly what they are looking for at first.

Once the raw material is available, who knows what tools and resources may be available?  There is a whole world of developers out there who have thus far been stopped by the fact that the law isn’t available for them to . . . well, develop.  At first I imagine much of their efforts will be more altruistic or academic, and aimed at assisting those that have been shut out of the system—namely, the 80% unable to be helped by even Legal Aid.  Then, as is the case with disrupted technology, it will slowly work its way up the food chain and developers will realize that there’s a paying market out there, while law firms realize that there are high-quality research resources that are cheaper than the ones for which they currently pay.

Disruption in legal publishing will never happen until the raw material—a.k.a. the law—is made open and accessible by the government.  Or, at the very least, if those in the open-law- publishing realm start sharing their holdings (or, more correctly, if someone goes around and collects their publications together and normalizes them) so that the virtual shelves of the Open Online Law Library could begin getting stocked.  

I’m not sure what the tipping point will be: When will enough of us in the legal community realize that a new publishing scheme is needed.

In the meantime, disrupt away.  I’m waiting.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Health Care Scams Against Seniors Soar as Obamacare Approaches


By Caroline Howle and Connor Martin – Ahead of ObamaCare’s massive overhaul of the U.S. health care system – to begin taking full effect in January 2014 – law enforcement agencies have noted recent upticks in a wide range of health insurance scams perpetrated by criminals looking to capitalize on public confusion regarding the law.  Unfortunately, these scams are hitting seniors and their bank accounts the hardest.

Sadly, the elderly and the poor are overwhelmingly targeted when it comes to what the Federal government has labeled “imposter scams,” with nearly 83,000 complaints filed in the last year.[1]  Law enforcement officials warn that these imposter scams take a variety of forms, from suspicious characters knocking on doors and calling people at home – to phony ads offering free health coverage on cable TV.  Mature Americans, whose retirement savings are ripe-for-the-picking, make for easy targets.  Their particular concern for the changes being made to their health care coverage – combined with the likelihood that they will be home to answer the phone – make seniors more susceptible to these deplorable scams.

The recent rise in the number of scams can be contributed in part to the grotesquely convoluted nature of ObamaCare itself, which has generated widespread confusion over the significant changes taking place in the nation’s health care system.  ObamaCare was rammed through Congress before many lawmakers even had a chance to find out what was in it – leaving the rest of America dazed and confused by what the law would mean for their families and their tax dollars.  As a result, the law was passed without full and thorough consideration of a vast multitude of concerns and problems, including various types of insurance scams and other breeds of fraud, manipulation and abuse.  Now, it will be up to state authorities and insurance companies to address reported incidents of fraud and to work to apprehend the perpetrators of these crimes.

Ambiguity and uncertainty have characterized ObamaCare from its very inception; American citizens and businesses are still largely unsure of the law’s mandates, as well as how the law will ultimately impact patient access, personal finance, business prospects, and the health industry at large.  In fact, recent polls from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicate that three years after its passage, 57 percent of the overall population still does not understand how ObamaCare will impact them![2]  Confusion and instability will only continue as major components of the law face delays and as the timelines for implementation of ObamaCare’s critical provisions are constantly readjusted.

It is in this vacuum of understanding that criminal elements have recognized a prime opportunity to prey on the vulnerable to make a fast, illicit buck.  According to James Quiggle, a spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, “misconceptions about the law’s provisions give criminals an opportunity to exploit consumers.  ‘Confusion is a crook’s best friend.’”[3]  Moreover, with something as massive as the U.S. health care system – comprising at least one-sixth of the entire U.S. economy – the Federal Trade Commission warns consumers that fraudsters are putting a “dangerous twist on the regular scams.”[4]

As it stands currently, a lack of real clarity surrounding ObamaCare will likely continue as health care providers, insurers and government employees work to institute this cumbersome law.  And, criminal operators will assuredly continue trying to leverage this lack of clarity for their own ill-gotten advantage, mostly by targeting specific groups and defrauding them of their individual financial wealth.  However, Mature Americans can avoid being victims, even by undertaking a handful of basic steps and practices, such as refusing to give personal or financial information over the phone or to a stranger.      As outdated information, and misinformation, continue to be everyday facts of life in the so-called “information age,” and as more business is done electronically, all Americans young and old, should remain vigilant regarding their personal finances and be on alert for suspect activity.

[1] Gold, Jenny, “Seniors Get Hung Up In Health Care Scams,” Kaiser Health,http://www.everydayhealth.com/senior-health/seniors-get-hung-up-in-health-care-scams.aspx.
[2] Gold. Jenny, “Poll Finds 3 Years Later, Americans Still Don’t Understand Obamacare,” Kaiser Family Foundation, March 21, 2013, http://www.tlnt.com/2013/03/21/poll-finds-3-years-later-americans-still-dont-understand-obamacare/.
[3] Cheplick, Thomas, “States on Hook to Prevent Obamacare Scams,” The Heartland Institute,http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/states-hook-prevent-obamacare-scams.

Under Attack (again) - "In God We Trust"


By Mike Fuljenz -

The national motto ‘In God We Trust’ is facing yet another legal challenge.

On Feb. 1, a group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation and 19 other plaintiffs sued the U.S. Treasury, demanding that the motto be removed from U.S. coins and paper money on grounds that its use constitutes “discrimination” against non-believers.

By handing their money to anyone in a commercial exchange, the plaintiffs argue, they are “forced to proselytize – by an act of Congress – for a deity they don’t believe in.” A similar case in 2011, brought by the same atheist attorney, Michael Newdow, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was rejected.

Most Americans, including President Barack Obama, have taken the words “In God We Trust” for granted. Thus, many were surprised in 2011 when the House of Representatives voted to reaffirm this simple phrase as the official national motto.

The story of the motto is an engrossing one, and from its inception in 1864, the phrase has been closely linked to the money in Americans’ pockets. The motto now appears on all U.S. coins and paper money, but nearly a century passed before that point was reached. One coin lacked the inscription as late as 1938 – and the motto didn’t appear at all on the nation’s paper money until 1957.

The phrase “In God We Trust” made headlines in October 2011 when the House passed a non-binding resolution by a vote of 396-9 reaffirming its status as the U.S. national motto. It did so after President Obama mistakenly referred to “E Pluribus Unum” as the nation’s official motto. That familiar phrase – which in Latin means “Out of many, one” – has appeared on U.S. coinage for more than two centuries, but enjoys no official status.

Democrats, including Obama, charged that in drafting and passing the resolution, the Republican-controlled House was wasting time.

In response, the sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., noted Obama’s earlier gaffe about “E Pluribus Unum” and pointed out that those words had earlier been engraved in the new Capitol Visitors Center until Congress ordered the use of the proper inscription. Forbes’ resolution supports and encourages the display of the words “In God We Trust” in all public schools and government buildings.

Exactly half a century before the motto “In God We Trust” first appeared on circulating U.S. coinage, a close approximation of this now-famous phrase turned up in a poem by Francis Scott Key that went on to attain equally iconic status when it was set to music and became “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Few Americans are aware of this precursor, for the words are embedded in the seldom read – and almost never sung – fourth stanza of the poem, but it provides a fascinating link between their country’s official national motto, adopted as such in 1956, and its official national anthem, an honor bestowed upon “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1931.

In the poem’s penultimate sentence, those who read – or sing – the entire set of lyrics will find the following reference to the Almighty:

Then conquer we must, when our cause is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

Many Americans mistakenly believe that the government’s use of the words “In God We Trust” dates back to the time of the Founding Fathers – as do two other familiar coinage inscriptions, “Liberty” and “E Pluribus Unum.” In fact, it was the bloody Civil War, not the American Revolution, that stoked religious fervor and gave rise to the phrase’s use on coins.

A Baptist minister from Ridleyville, Pa., the Rev. Mark R. Watkinson, is credited with planting the seed for this unprecedented action. In a letter to Salmon P. Chase, President Abraham Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, dated Nov. 13, 1861, Watkinson urged that provision be made for “the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.”

Chase shared Watkinson’s view. And he soon set in motion steps that led to a prominent reference to God on U.S. coinage. After receiving the minister’s letter, he sent a note to Mint Director James Pollock stating: “The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.” Three mottos reflecting such trust were seriously considered for our coinage: “God Our Trust,” “God and Our Country,” and “In God We Trust.”

The late Walter Breen, a renowned numismatic researcher and scholar, speculated that the final and now-familiar inscription – “In God We Trust” – was influenced by the motto of Chase’s alma mater, Brown University: “In Deo Speramus,” a Latin phrase meaning “In God We Hope.” Ironically, Newdow, the atheist group’s lawyer, also is a graduate of Brown.

Whatever the explanation, “In God We Trust” was chosen – and after nearly 150 years on the nation’s coinage, it now seems as basic to the American way of life as singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” or reciting the official Pledge of Allegiance.

The mating of the two-cent piece with the chosen motto “In God We Trust,” starting in 1864, seems to have been a marriage of convenience. Chase had been pondering the placement of some such wording on one or more of the nation’s coins ever since receiving Watkinson’s letter. Being a brand-new coin in a brand-new denomination, the two-cent piece made a perfect first vehicle, since use of the motto there would cause no confusion.

Use of “In God We Trust” wasn’t required by Congress when it passed legislation authorizing the two-cent piece on April 22, 1864. The law simply gave the Treasury discretionary authority regarding the inscriptions on the nation’s minor coins.
The authority was extended to gold and silver coins on March 3, 1865 – and, for the first time, “In God We Trust” was specifically mentioned in that follow-up legislation.

In 1908, a law was passed requiring that the words appear on U.S. coins, though the cent, nickel and dime were exempted because of their relatively small size.

The 1908 law resulted directly from an impulsive decision by President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1907, Roosevelt ordered the Mint not to place the words on two new gold coins. Roosevelt believed that the use of God’s name on coinage was blasphemous, and also maintained that such use cheapened the motto because the coins could be used for illegal or immoral purposes. But Congress overruled him and mandated use of the motto after church groups detected the omission, upon the gold coins’ release.

Matthew H. Rothert Sr., an Arkansas businessman and numismatist, played a key role in getting the motto added to U.S. paper money. Rothert noticed in 1953 that the coins on a church collection plate bore the inscription “In God We Trust,” but the paper money did not.

It was Rothert’s belief that “a message about the country’s faith in God could be easily carried throughout the world if it were on United States paper currency.” He conveyed the idea to Treasury Secretary George W. Humphrey and started a letter-writing campaign that resulted in a deluge of letters to federal officials supporting the placement of “In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency.

Public Law 140, requiring use of the motto on all U.S. coins and paper money was introduced in the 84th Congress and signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower on July 11, 1955. A year later, on July 30, 1956, Eisenhower signed a second bill establishing “In God We Trust” as the national motto. And one year after that, in October 1957, new $1 bills carrying the inscription became the first to enter circulation. By 1966, the words had been added to all of the nation’s paper money.

On July 30, 2006, the 50th anniversary of the 1956 bill recognizing the official status of “In God We Trust” as the national motto, President George W. Bush issued a proclamation reaffirming the appropriateness of this designation.

“Today,” Bush said, “our country stands strong as a beacon of religious freedom. Our citizens, whatever their faith or background, worship freely and millions answer the universal call to love their neighbor and serve a cause greater than self.

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of our national motto and remember with thanksgiving God’s mercies throughout our history, we recognize a divine plan that stands above all human plans and continue to seek His will.”
The inclusion of “In God We Trust” on U.S. coins and paper money has long been a point of contention with certain segments of the American populace. It has been challenged in court a number of times as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and of the principle of separation of church and state.

Critics charge that the phrase constitutes “respect for an establishment of religion” by the government. However, appeals courts have consistently held that such traditional, patriotic or ceremonial words do not amount to government sponsorship of a religious exercise or the establishment of a religion.

America's Gold Expert Michael Fuljenz is a respected numismatic consultant to First Fidelity Reserve and an award-winning author of newsletters, articles and four books about rare gold coins and bullion. In fact, he has won more national honors for excellence in more categories -- 44 awards, 10 categories -- than any other recipient of the industry's prestigious Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) awards. His "Personal Gold Guide" was named NLG's 2012 Best Dealer Publication and is available free to AMAC members to help them determine the best ways to buy and sell gold. The Press Club of Southeast Texas also has honored Fuljenz for his consumer protection work in conjunction with the Better Business Bureau and various news media.



10 Obamacare Myths


As Obamacare Medicaid expansion is being debated in the states, many myths are being perpetuated by its advocates. Here, Heritage provides the research to debunk such myths:

1. Myth: Expanding Medicaid is “free money” for the states.

Reality: The expansion adds an estimated $638 billion in new government spending from 2013–2023. New spending at the federal or state level is reckless in light of the country’s trillion dollar budget deficits and over $16 trillion in national debt. As Governor Rick Perry (R–TX)stated, “[T]here is no such thing as ‘free’ money. We know there’s only money that’s collected from taxpayers, and money borrowed from other countries like China against the good credit of our children and grandchildren.”

2. Myth: Expanding Medicaid will entail little to no costs to the states.

Reality: Within three years, costs would exceed any projected savings. Heritage research shows 40 of 50 states would see increases in costs due the Medicaid expansion. If all states expand, state spending on Medicaid would increase by an estimated $41 billion by 2022.

3. Myth: Medicaid expansion can bring savings to the states.

Reality: Analysis by Heritage shows that by 2022 any projected state savings are dwarfed by costs. Moreover, these projected savings assume states will further reduce payments to hospitals and clinics for uncompensated care. But, as Heritage’s Ed Haislmaier points out, it is more likely that hospitals will lobby state legislatures for more money rather than less.

4. Myth: States can opt out of the Medicaid expansion if they change their mind later.

Reality: Some proponents of the expansion claim that states could drop out of the expansion if the federal government reneges on its commitments. But as legal experts Robert Alt and Dan Greenberg state, “[I]n fact, there is substantial reason to believe that when a state chooses Medicaid expansion, it is something like a decision to go down a one-way street” and that “legislators are mistaken to ignore the possibility that expansion cannot be abandoned as easily as it was entered.”

5. Myth: States can circumvent Medicaid requirements for the expansion population.

Reality: In its recent Frequently Asked Questions, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) clearly states that beneficiaries under any premium support arrangement would still be Medicaid beneficiaries, “entitled to all benefits and cost-sharing protections,” and that states must provide “wrap around” to fill in any gaps. As Ed Haislmaier has pointed out, “[A]ny state that agrees to the Medicaid expansion will get exactly what the term expansion implies: simply a bigger version of the same expensive and dysfunctional program.”

6. Myth: States must act quickly before Obamacare cuts hospital payments.

Reality: Hospitals are pushing states to expand Medicaid coverage because Obamacare is going to reduce their payments for uncompensated care by $56 billion over 10 years. However, the President’s latest budget proposes delaying the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payment reductions until 2015, which raises questions over the future of the cuts. But regardless, as Heritage’s Nina Owcharenko points out, “[m]aybe it is time for the states to tell the hospitals to shift their attention to the real problem: Obamacare.”

7. Myth: Hospitals will go out of business if states do not expand Medicaid coverage.

Reality: Hospitals have been lobbying hard on the idea that without expansion, the Obamacare uncompensated care payment cuts will be unsustainable for their business. But according to Ohio Media Trackers, about 80 percent of Ohio hospitals would still net millions in profits if their charity care was cut.

8. Myth: States can trust the federal government to keep its funding promises.

Reality: “Although Obamacare stipulates the federal government will pay at least 90 percent of the benefit costs of the Medicaid expansion,” Heritage explains, “state lawmakers have no guarantee future Congresses will keep that promise.” In fact, the Obama Administration has already proposed changing the deal in its fiscal year 2013 budget proposal.

9. Myth: Medicaid expansion will help low-income workers out of poverty.

Reality: Medicaid expansion actually locks low-income workers in poverty because of its backward incentives that discourage work. As Dan Greenberg explains for Advance Arkansas, “[E]mployees who earn too much money—or who work too many hours—face a set of unpleasant choices. They can quit. They can work fewer hours. They can decline raises. Realistically, a large number of employees who face such choices will opt to preserve Medicaid coverage by reducing the hours they legally work.”

10. Myth: Medicaid is quality health coverage.

Reality: Research has consistently shown that Medicaid produces worse access and health outcomes than private insurance. As Heritage’s Kevin Dayaratna writes, “By further expanding this broken program, Obamacare only exacerbates the situation by adding millions of low-income Americans to a failing program.”

Our Lawmakers should uphold the Constitution of the United States


“Threats to our Constitutional rights seem to be growing bolder and more frequent.  This week the mayor of New York City called for changes that would give the government even more power to pry into our private lives; last week documents turned up showing the IRS was telling its agents to disregard the need for a warrant for personal email, text message and private social media messaging,” according to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens.

“Is it too much to require our lawmakers and public officials to reveal their positions as regards the Constitution before they are elected or appointed,” Weber asked.  “This is a vital piece of information that we, the voters, should have before we cast our ballots.  The very future of the country depends on the preservation and protection of the rights and values established by our Founding Fathers in that document.”

During a news conference Tuesday Mayor Bloomberg of New York said: “The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry.  But we live in a complex world where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”

Weber described Bloomberg’s comment as “an insidious, new high-level attack on our indisputable rights.  Revisionist politicians have been growing daring in their efforts to undermine the Constitution and these ideologues must be called to account,” he said.

The AMAC chief pointed out that “just last week it was discovered that the IRS was flaunting the Fourth Amendment by peeking at private electronic messages without first obtaining a warrant because, as the IRS Criminal Tax Division put it, ‘internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communication’.

The revelation caused a firestorm of protests, including a sharply worded promise by Senator Mark Udall of Colorado.  “I have serious concerns about the IRS’s recent comments that it can search and seize citizens’ emails, Facebook posts, tweets and other digital communications without a warrant,” Udall said. “This is an affront not only to our system of checks and balances, but also to our fundamental right to privacy.”

Weber pointed out that the attack on the First Amendment right to Freedom of Religion posed by the contraceptive/abortion mandate in Obamacare remains unresolved as is the effort to abridge our Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Gun Control - A fifteen year old explains what it does not do

You need to watch this!



Friday, April 26, 2013

Ann Margret ... The Real WOMAN OF THE YEAR


I pass this story on to all of you ….

This is very revealing and something that is, unfortunately not too common these days.



Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Viet Nam , other than he had been shot by a sniper. However, he had a rather grainy, 8 x 10 black and white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann Margret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.

A few years ago, Ann Margret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to sign the treasured photo so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o'clock for the 7:30 signing.

When I got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot, and disappeared behind a parking garage. Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted.

Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those shows meant to lonely GI's so far from home. Ann Margret came out looking as beautiful as ever and, as second in line, it was soon Richard's turn.

He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo. When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she would not sign it. Richard said, 'I understand. I just wanted her to see it.'

She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, 'This is one of my gentlemen from Viet Nam and I most certainly will sign his photo. I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for 'my gentlemen.''

With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him. She then made quite a to-do about the bravery of the young men she met over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them.. There weren't too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear. She then posed for pictures and acted as if he were the only one there.

Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet. When I asked if he'd like to talk about it, my big, strong husband broke down in tears.. 'That's the first time anyone ever thanked me for my time in the Army,' he said.

That night was a turning point for him. He walked a little straighter and, for the first time in years, was proud to have been a Vet. I'll never forget Ann Margret for her graciousness and how much that small act of kindness meant to my husband.

I now make it a point to say 'Thank you' to every person I come across who served in our Armed Forces.. Freedom does not come cheap and I am grateful for all those who have served their country.

If you'd like to pass on this story, feel free to do so. Perhaps it will help others to become aware of how important it is to acknowledge the contribution our service people make.

Semper Fi

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

IRS employees charged with stealing benefits


When it comes to cheating the U.S. government, some federal employees seem to know a thing or two about how it's done.

Twenty-four former and current IRS employees have been indicted for allegedly claiming they were unemployed in order to receive jobless benefits, food stamps, welfare payments and housing vouchers while they were employed at the IRS.

In total, the rogue employees received more than $250,000 in government benefits, according to a Justice Department statement released Thursday.

Thirteen of the employees were charged by the United States Attorney's Office because they received federal benefits. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison. The other 11 were charged by the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Tennessee for fraudulently getting their hands on state benefits.

"According to the allegations in the indictment, while these IRS employees were supposed to be serving the public, they were instead brazenly stealing from law-abiding American taxpayers," U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III said in a statement.

All but one of the defendants are from Tennessee -- and 21 of the 24 are from Memphis. But it's unclear whether the employees allegedly worked together to carry out the fraud or acted independently. Government officials declined to provide additional information at this time.

This isn't the first time IRS employees have found themselves in hot water.

At least five other IRS employees from California and New York were charged with fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits last year. And in a separate incident earlier this month, a former IRS agent who became a tax preparer was sentenced to nearly 24 years in prison for swindling $11 million from clients and "plotting their murders to prevent them from testifying about the theft," according to an FBI statement.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It Was Jihad Mr. President


The Boston Marathon bombings were unmistakably a jihadist act, says former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. But the Obama administration has disbanded the CIA interrogation group charged with investigating these plots, leaving America more vulnerable than ever to future threats.

Those who feel the only threat from brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been eliminated now that one is dead and the other is in custody for the rest of his life can rest easy, Mukasey writes in an op-ed piece published in The Wall Street Journal Sunday.

“But if your concern is over the larger threat that inheres in who the Tsarnaev brothers were and are, what they did, and what they represent, then worry — a lot.”

One big worry, Mukasey notes, is how the High-Value Interrogation Group (HIG) will even do its job.

The group was formed by the FBI after the so-called “underwear bomber” was Mirandized in 2009. President Barack Obama had disbanded the CIA interrogation program that might have run the interrogation of the bomber. The two programs aren't even remotely similar in their tactics and goals, suggests Mukasey, who served in the Bush administration from 2007 to 2009.

The FBI has “bowdlerized” its training materials at the request of such Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations (the very controversial CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America, writes Mukasey. They no longer even mention references to militant Islamism.

“Does this delicacy infect the FBI's interrogation group as well?” he asks in the op-ed, entitled "Make No Mistake, It Was Jihad."

"Will we see another performance like the Army's after-action report following Maj. Nidal Hasan's rampage at Fort Hood in November 2009, preceded by his shout 'allahu akhbar' — a report that spoke nothing of militant Islam but referred to the incident as 'workplace violence'?

"If tone is set at the top, recall that the Army chief of staff at the time said the most tragic result of Fort Hood would be if it interfered with the Army's diversity program," Mukasey writes.

Mukasey wonders whether the probe will look into the FBI’s own previous questioning of Tamerlan, which was made after questions were raised by a foreign government, presumably Russia, about radical leanings.

“Tamerlan Tsarnaev is the fifth person since 9/11 who has participated in terror attacks after questioning by the FBI,” Mukasey writes.

Another worry: The Tsarnaevs obviously were conducting a suicide operation, Mukasey says, though not the type in which one blows himself up along with his intended victims. Rather, the brothers went about it “in the way of someone who conducts a spree, holding the stage for as long as possible, before he is cut down in a blaze of what he believes is glory.”

It had been widely accepted that such attacks were unlikely on American soil since organizers would find it hard to find enough spiritual support to keep would-be suicide attackers focused.

“That analysis went out the window when the Tsarnaevs followed up the bombing of the marathon by murdering a police officer in his car — an act certain to precipitate the violent confrontation that followed,” Mukasey writes.

Smaller, less complicated crimes have been attempted since 9/11 because the United States has stepped up its defenses. Mukasey points to the Times Square attempted bomber. These smaller events are still intended to send a message of terror.

But that message may be lost on a president who seems preoccupied with Islamic sensibilities, Mukasey suggests, and not American security.

"There is also cause for concern in the president's reluctance, soon after the Boston bombing, even to use the 't' word—terrorism—and in his vague musing on Friday about some unspecified agenda of the perpetrators, when by then there was no mystery: the agenda was jihad."

For five years there have been claims that Americans need to learn how to change the Muslim world’s perception of the United States. Few have focused on a more important question: why we are hated, Mukasey writes.

The ideology of hatred extends at least to the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in the early part of the 20th century, according to Mukasey.

“The ideology has regarded the United States as its principal adversary since the late 1940s, when a Brotherhood principal, Sayid Qutb, visited this country and was aghast at what he saw as its decadence.”

Qutb was especially shocked by the freedom that women had at the Colorado college he attended. One of the most influential Muslim thinkers of the last 100 years, his inner circle mainly consisted of influential politicians and intellectuals in Egypt and other countries. Many of his writings were required reading in the curricula of the Arab world's finest universities.

The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, U.S. embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, and the 9/11 attacks were all fueled by hatred of American values that has its roots in Qutb's writings, Mukasey writes.

Despite this, no outreach is extended to critical Muslim organizations in the United States, such as the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, that speak out against the totalitarian Islamic ideology, he points out.

"There are Muslim organizations in this country, such as the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, headed by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, that speak out bravely against that totalitarian ideology. They receive no shout-out at presidential speeches; no outreach is extended to them," he adds.

"One of the Tsarnaev brothers is dead; the other might as well be. But if that is the limit of our concern, there will be others," he concludes.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Protecting Communications and Documents From IRS Summons Enforcement – Part I

Protecting Communications and Documents From IRS Summons Enforcement – Part I

Healthcare Architect "Healthcare law ...is just beyond comprehension.”


Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act, said on Tuesday that the healthcare law, set to go into full effect in less than eight months, is “probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress” and “is just beyond comprehension.”

Rockefeller said he is concerned that early missteps with implementing the healthcare overhaul may cascade into confusion and chaos. The law, said Rockefeller, is “so complicated and if it is not done right the first time, it will just simply get worse.”

Rockefeller’s consternation echoes comments made earlier this week by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who groused that "no one fully anticipated” all the complexities of the federal government's deep penetration into an industry that represents one-fifth of the U.S. economy.

HHS also acknowledged that the Obamacare government healthcare exchanges will cost $4.4 billion to implement, a figure more than double the Obama Administration's original $2 billion estimate.

Even if the grand opening of Obamacare goes smoothly, experts say insurance claims are set to skyrocket. A recently released report by the nonpartisan Society of Actuaries found that once Obamacare is fully implemented, medical claims costs will increase an average of 32%.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Important Things in Life

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 Beers.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.

The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.

Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full..

The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed..

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car..

The sand is everything else---the small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children.

Spend time with your parents.

Visit with grandparents.

Take your spouse out to dinner.

Play another 18.

There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter.

Set your priorities.

The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented.

The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.'

The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers  (OR WINE) with a friend.

The Affordable Care Act May Crumble Under Its Own Weight


BOHEMIA, NY, Apr 12 – “As the experts turn the pages of President Obama’s health care mega-law, they learn only one thing for certain: it is a baffling behemoth of a bill that causes consternation and concern,” according to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens.  “In fact,” he said, “the law may crumble under its own weight.”

Even the president’s chief health care surrogate Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, expressed frustration at the slow pace of Obamacare’s implementation.

As she put it Monday night at a Harvard University event: “There was some hope that once the Supreme Court ruled in July, and then once an election occurred there would be a sense that, ‘This is the law of the land, let’s get on board, let’s make this work.’ And yet we find ourselves having state-by-state political battles.”

Weber pointed out that Sebelius “of course, lays blame for the creeping failure of the law on political opposition.  But it’s the confusing complexity of the law, which might as well have been together by Rube Goldberg, himself, that’s causing all the pain and suffering.”

Fortune Magazine’s Washington columnist Nina Easton pointed out during a televised panel discussion this week that the administration promoted the most popular provisions of the law.  At first, they were telling the public that Obamacare would not impact your current health care coverage and that, in addition, your kids could remain on your family insurance plans until they turn 26, Weber explained.
 “However, things did not turn out exactly as planned.  Sure, your kids can utilize your family coverage, but there is growing fear that big companies will eventually opt out of providing insurance coverage and settle for paying the penalties instead.  Then both the consumer and their kids would be left without coverage.”

It’s a confusing law, at best, and, at worst, an onerous piece of legislation, particularly for the elderly, Weber said.

He cited this week’s “debacle” at a Long Island, NY cancer treatment facility where 5,000 patients were told that they would no longer be treated at that facility due to Federal Medicare cuts.

Meanwhile, the law is beginning to have serious economic implications.  A new Chamber of Commerce survey of small businesses shows that business owners list Obamacare as their number one concern, with 71% saying that the law makes it harder for them to hire new workers.  At least a third of the respondents in the survey said that they will likely be forced them to reduce the hours of current employees because of the law’s insurance mandate.

Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming put it this way: “It’s time for President Obama to finally admit that his health care law is dragging down the American economy.”

Monday, April 8, 2013

Obamacare - and the surprises keep coming


Nancy Pelosi warned that there would be plenty of surprises in the Affordable Care Act and she was right. It’s almost as if we hear about new and unpleasant revelations each week," according to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Among the newest disclosures is that the government subsidies Obamacare will provide starting in 2014 for those who need help buying private health coverage have strings attached, Weber warned

He explained that the size of your subsidy, if you are eligible, is directly related to your income. So, if you get a subsidy based on your previous year’s earnings and you get a raise or your spouse gets a new job and you wind up making more than anticipated, you’ll wind up having to pay back part of the subsidy you received.


“To add insult to injury, you will not receive the subsidy directly; the payment goes directly to your insurance provider. But, the bill for any repayments required on your part will come directly out of your pocket at tax time.”

The Associated Press reported that a preliminary draft of the insurance subsidy application “runs 15 pages for a three-person family, but nowhere does it warn people that they may have to repay part of the subsidy if their income increases.”

The AP report quoted Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, who commented that: “It’s potentially going to come as a shock to individuals who meet that criteria where their income hits a point where they owe money back. The fact is, with variations in income, people could end up owing money back and that will create consternation and problems for them.”

Obamacare called for the establishment of state insurance exchanges where users can choose a health care plan that suits them and the subsidies will be paid directly to the provider resulting in a discounted premium.

“Twenty-six states have decided not to establish these exchanges, so it is unclear how the subsidies will be administered and provided to individuals in those venues,” Weber said.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Protect our Constitutional Rights ... from Obama


In his pursuit of overarching gun control legislation in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, President Barack Obama has been dogged. He’s been relentless. He’s been demagogic, too, whether flanking himself with schoolchildren (the implication being that his political opponents don’t care about dead kids) or suggesting that if just one life can be saved by his legislation, we ought to buy into it wholeheartedly (a proposition that would justify almost any sort of government overreach).


But on Wednesday, President Obama took his gun control push a step further: He admitted that only the Constitution stands between him and full gun confiscation.


Rejecting concerns that new background checks might be a prelude to gun seizures, Obama suggested that worries about gun seizures were empty, and were only designed to feed “into fears about government. You hear some of these folks: ‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government. We can’t do background checks because the government’s going to come take my guns away.’ The government’s us. 


These officials are elected by you. … I am constrained as they are constrained by the system that our founders put in place.”


This is deeply frightening language. The notion that government tyranny is impossible in an elective republic is insanity of the first order. Hitler was elected chancellor. Mussolini manipulated his way into power through constitutional means. Hamas was elected in the Gaza Strip. Mohammed Morsi and his thuggish Muslim Brotherhood were elected in Egypt. 


If rights are dependent on votes — if we only have a right to bear arms because a majority of the population elects politicians who say we have a right to bear arms — then we have no rights at all.


The point of rights is to guarantee them against government. That is why the founders stated that rights descend not from government — not from “us,” as Obama would have it — but from God or nature. 


And in truth, Obama feels the same way about rights he thinks are universal, including the so-called right to same-sex marriage or the right to abortion. Reverse Obama’s argument by stating that radical feminists worry about a complete ban on abortion, but that feeds into fears about government, which after all, is only “us.” 


Would Obama agree with this? Or would he say that true rights cannot be violated, even by a majority vote?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wind-Power Subsidies


The sequester has led to dire warnings from many camps, including advocates of clean energy, who argue that Washington's modest cuts could derail America's green future. But from my vantage as a CEO in the wind-power business, the sequester offers Washington a rare opportunity to roll back misguided subsidies and maybe help reverse wind power's stalling momentum.

Since 2009, as part of the president's stimulus, wind-farm developers have been able to get a federal cash grant or tax credit covering up to 30% of their capital investment in a new project. This is especially attractive compared with another tax credit that rewards wind farms based on how much power they actually produce. Through May 2012, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Washington spent some $8.4 billion on these cash grants.

But under the sequester, Uncle Sam is cutting the cash-grant program by 8.7% between March 1 and Sept. 30. Advocates of clean energy should welcome this haircut and urge for even more fundamental policy change.

Government subsidies to new wind farms have only made the industry less focused on reducing costs. In turn, the industry produces a product that isn't as efficient or cheap as it might be if we focused less on working the political system and more on research and development. After the 2009 subsidy became available, wind farms were increasingly built in less-windy locations, according to the Department of Energy's "2011 Wind Technologies Market Report." The average wind-power project built in 2011 was located in an area with wind conditions 16% worse than those of the average project in 1998-99.
The Department of Energy admits that this trend is due at least in part to the 2009 federal subsidy: Because the grants that companies receive aren't based on how much power they produce, "it is possible that developers have seized this limited opportunity to build out the less-energetic sites."

Meanwhile, wind-power prices have increased to an average $54 per megawatt-hour, compared with $37 in 2005.
If our communities can't reasonably afford to purchase and rely on the wind power we sell, it is difficult to make the moral case for our businesses, let alone an economic one. Yet as long as these subsidies and tax credits exist, clean-energy executives will likely spend most of their time pursuing advanced legal and accounting methods rather than investing in studies, innovation, new transmission technology and turbine development.
A quick glance at the American Wind Energy Association's website illustrates this. In July, the association is planning a Capitol Hill event aimed at "educating legislators" on the importance of industry tax credits. Never mind improving the underlying fundamentals of the wind business.
My own company began by delivering clean energy (in the form of natural gas) to rural China, where families still used animal dung for cooking fuel. We entered the wind business in the late 1990s, when a wind-turbine company asked us to provide electricity from its site when the wind wasn't blowing. Years later, we oversaw a similar project but in reverse: In 2008, without a government subsidy, we built a wind farm in Lubbock, Texas, to supplement at lower costs the delivery of electricity to a cottonseed-oil company.

Such projects are likely the industry's future. Wind energy will make marginal—not revolutionary—contributions. The industry's success in Texas (where my company is based, and which is the nation's largest and cheapest producer of wind power) suggests that wind farms do make sense in relatively windy areas where electricity shortages occur.

But policy matters. California, which isn't located in the "wind belt," is America's second-largest wind-energy producer but also its costliest. The state's high costs are partly due to "aggressive renewable energy policies . . . that give developers a strong negotiating position," according to the Department of Energy report.
The wind industry has largely been out-competed by natural gas, which has proved to be a clean, reliable and cheap power source for the future without subsidies or even venture-capital funding. As such, my company isn't planning any new investments in the wind business, even though we would love to still be worth the $2 billion we were several years ago.

Of course, we could yet be proven wrong by technological innovation. Without subsidies, the wind industry would be forced to take a hard fresh look at its product. Fewer wind farms would be built, eliminating the market-distorting glut. And if there is truly a need for wind energy, entrepreneurs who improve the business's fundamentals will find a way to compete.

Mr. Jenevein is CEO of the Dallas-based Tang Energy Group.