Friday, October 15, 2010

Stolen Valor Act is Constitutional

As Mark Scott so often said, “A is A”. That is, if you don’t tell the truth, it is a lie. Pure and simple. So, tell me the community doesn’t have the right to expect that if you say you have won the The Congressional Medal of Honor that you really have.


The federal appeals court in California and a federal district court in Denver don’t think so. They have both ruled that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional. The act states that if you claim an honor from the military that you don’t have, you can be prosecuted. The courts ruled that it is a free speech issue and the individual can’t be convicted.

Without the law there are many ways to prosecute someone that tells such a lie. On written documents or in court it is perjury. If you say so on an employment application and get the job because of it, or if you are given money based on the lie, you have committed fraud. If in all of the above situations you stated a political opinion, something that is squarely protected, you would not be held accountable legal. So why can’t you be held accountable for making the claim when it is clearly a lie.

Many are suggesting that this case will make its way to the Supreme Court because of the importance of free speech.  But, no right is absolute. Saying you are a war hero is not an opinion or a complaint that demands redress from the government. It is an outright lie that can’t be defended.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Responsibilities of the individual and the community during umemployment

In the real world, every community has a problem with unemployment and job creation. But, the recent Nobel prize winners for economics may provide a view that helps us understand the scope of the problem. Some of what they say supports action that a Responsible Community should take with those that are unemployed.


Three men, Peter Diamond, Dale Mortenson and Chris Pissarides, were awarded the 2010 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. Their work was on why buyers and sellers in various markets have trouble finding each other.

Full disclosure: I am not an economist and have not read the full breadth of their work. On the practical side, what has been read makes sense.

According to theory, unemployment should always be at zero. But, in reality, even in an economy that is humming, unemployment can be as higher as 5 % and be considered full employment. This reason for this is that a percent of people are always leaving one job to take another. This activity is the continuous adjustment in the market place of the mix of jobs, wages, training and the employment pool. (And, yes, there are those individuals that find difficulty in find a permanent job, often because of their own personal issues.)

But the real problem is when the unemployment levels are higher. That means, on the community level, individuals can’t find jobs that they are qualified for or business wont hire individuals at the pay scale that the individual needs or wants.

The trio suggest that unemployment insurance provided by the community makes it more difficult for the market to work. If workers are getting enough from unemployment insurance to maintain, they will be reluctant to take any job. On the other side, business will need to increase the pay scale or benefits to make the job more enticing to people that are on unemployment.

Keeping the paragraph above in mind, it is difficult for the community to encourage an electrician to take the first job offered, which may be at McDonalds cooking fast food. It would make it more difficult for him to get a job that he is trained for and not provide the income necessary to maintain a lifestyle built on higher wages. From the community’s point of view, it is a waste of resources for the training and experience invested in the electrician to cook fast food.

Part of the answer is the expectations the community has on the return on investment from the unemployment insurance provided. As stated in a blog earlier this year, “Require a return on investment from unemployment”, in the short run, a community should provide enough income to allow an individual to maintain a portion of the lifestyle they have. This allows time for him to find a job in the field that he is trained to do without taking the first job offered. For that investment, the community needs to make it clear there are expectations of return. If after a short period of time the individual is not employed, the system needs to hold them accountable. Make an evaluation of their life and skills. Find markets that can employ them. Train them for their new jobs. Help them move if necessary to those markets. In return for the community’s investment, the unemployed individual needs to do also help themselves by cooperating with the community on all of the above and more. If not, they should be dropped from the program.

We formed communities to help each other in times of crisis. The community needs to help individuals through times of unemployment. No one in the community benefits when individuals and families lose their savings and even their homes when unemployed. But, to continuously keep supporting individuals that are not fully engage in their future is against the rules of success of the individual, the community and as the winners of the Nobel prize point out, the markets.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

The community can place reasonable limits on rights

In a September 17 post, it was stated that “If I was on a milk create at Fourth and Main in downtown Royal Oak and made a speech about the upcoming election, I would be arrested for disturbing the peace”. It is also stated that, “If a group of friends planned a gathering in a park nearby to protest the war in Afghanistan, we would be ticketed if we hadn’t received a permit from the city.” Mike Stollenwerk committed that the right to do both are “basic black letter law” rights protect by the First and Fourth amendments of the Constitution.


It is agreed that the right to free speech and assembly would be protected under the Constitution. The arrest or ticket would not be for making the speech or for assembling with my friends. (Of course, both would have to be for political purposes, commercial speech in not protect to the same degree as political.)

The reason that the statements above were made was to illustrate that no right is absolute, including strapping a gun to the waist and walking around in public. In the first case, the Royal Oak police state that if I was standing on the corner impeding pedestrian traffic flow, I would at first be asked “to move along.” That request would having nothing to do with the right of free speech or with the content of the speech. It would be that I was blocking pedestrians. If I refused to “move along” by using the shield of freedom of speech, in the end, I would be arrested.

The gathering in the park to protest the war in Afghanistan has some of the same issues and a few more. It I gathered with a group of friends without checking with the city, there are a number of issues that come up. First, if the little league team from the city was on the schedule to play a game in the park, they would have the first right. By claiming the right to assemble and refusing to move, the police would issue a ticket. Second, if I sat up a stage and used amplified sound to speak to the throng, I would have had to clear it with the city first. Another ticket if I didn’t request a permit from the city and used the right to assemble as a shield.

It was not the intent of the examples about speech and assemble to say we don’t have those rights. It was to illustrate that those rights can’t be used as a shield against all action by the community when its goal is safety and order. I could have used more extreme examples with long standing precedence. Such as yelling fire in a theater or hosting the assembly in the middle of the street. As long as it is not about the content of the speech and the community can demonstrate that people may be harmed or that order is compromised, the community can take action.

The original post was to support Royal Oak’s request to limit the right to open carry of guns. It is a simply request that people not carry their weapons at the Arts, Eats and Beats “assemble”. An assemble, that by many rulings in the courts, the applicant can request control of the people and their action that attend.

As stated at the end of the post, “The request that Royal Oak is making of the state is a reasonable limit on the right to bear arms.”

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