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Be aware of the scams…

I am in Charleston, West Virginia. It’s a bit of a blog shortcut.  Hopefully, this will serve as a caution.

I am going to post a list of scams that a committee of Congress has provided, for our awareness.  It was a good reminder to me of what “hucksters” are doing.

A: Types of fraud most commonly reported to the committee include:

  • Computer scams that involve fraudsters tricking consumers into believing their computers are riddled with malware and then charge them to “fix” the problems.
  • Grandparent scams, where con artists pretend to be a family member, often a grandchild, who is in urgent need of money to cover medical care or fix a legal problem, such as money for bail.
  • Health-related scams, especially medical alert device schemes, where scammers attempt to collect personal information or convince seniors to pay for a device or service they never ordered.
  • Identity theft, including reports of tax-related identity theft.
  • Lottery scams, including reports of the Jamaican lottery scam, in which fraudsters lead victims to believe they have won a lottery but must pay upfront fees or taxes before their winnings can be released.
  • Social Security fraud, where Social Security benefits are re-routed from the accounts of rightful recipients to fraudulently created bank and debit card accounts.

     And for our pic o’ day:



The Debt Ceiling Constitutionality

Nobody says it’s a good law.  Nobody says it’s a bad law. But, it’s a law. Did you see the Giants game on Sunday? They lost 31-7. Do you know what the Giants didn’t say after the game? If you don’t give us 25 more points by midnight Monday, we will be shutting down the ***** NFL!  They didn’t say that! What I’m saying is: Wouldn’t it be nice if the United States Congress aspired to the maturity and problem solving of football players.”

The above quote is a portion of what John Stewart said on The Daily Show, when discussing the debt ceiling. I decided to lead the blog with that quote because I think that it sums up what most people think… What is going on up there?”

The purpose of the blog is not to give a political opinion on Obamacare or the debt ceiling. Instead, without boring you to tears but living in fear of doing so; I wanted to just mention White House press secretary Jay Carney’s thoughts on the debt ceiling. And yes, I could not remember the name of the press secretary. Please stick with me on this brief thought.

Carney says that the President has no Constitutional power to increase the debt ceiling to deal with our current shutdown. Now, just stick with me briefly. The 14th Amendment provides that “The validity of the public debts of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

I know, Constitutional analysis is a bit like dry toast. If you made it through that, then you deserve a picture break. Maybe this is how it looks right now in Congress. Yep…commercial break from Constitutional law:

our differences

The point of this blog thought is the question, “Can the President just ignore the debt ceiling and blame it on Congress?”. Well, According to the New York Times, some say yes and some say no. How’s that for certainty?  No wonder John Stewart just thinks that we should let football players decide.

I could go into more detail but I can see that your eyes are no longer moving in a reading formation. This concludes my foray into Constitutional law blogging. Just a thought on the powers of Congress and the powers of the President. With the government shutdown, everyone is effected somehow. For instance,  all of our social security hearings are cancelled.  Do you think that there is any chance that they won’t fund the IRS? … Didn’t think so.

DID YOU KNOW that there are 132 rooms in the White House? I wonder if that counts the secret rooms?

And for pic o’ day:

Bark at me

The Finder of Fact

In the late 1990’s, Vice President Al Gore was being interviewed on CNN by Wolf Blitzer. In responding to a question about his qualifications in running for office; he replied,

“During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system”.

Gore was criticized and even ridiculed for claiming to have “invented” the Internet. He and his supporters quickly defended him by saying that he never claimed to “having invented the Internet”. He was just discussing how supportive he was personally and through legislation in technology advancement.

When I looked at Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, I saw a link to, which analyzes statements by politicians and rates them on being true or false. The most aggregious statements are rated as “pants on fire”. The little graphic even has fake flames.

One of the political statements is a quote from U.S Representative Eric Cantor. In budget discussion he is credited with saying that, “ The National Science Foundation spent $1.2 million paying seniors to play World of Warcraft to study the impact it had on their brain.” Right next to that statement is a big “pants on fire” graphic.

I did not do any research on why or where Representative Cantor said that. Plus, maybe he was given faulty research or simply misstated what he meant to say. Maybe PolitiFact misstated their facts.

In the trial of a civil matter, juries receive instructions from the judge that is considered as the law of the case to be applied to the evidence. In many cases, plaintiff and defendant will call expert witnesses who give completely different opinions on the exact same piece of evidence.

As to expert witnesses, this is the jury instruction that is usually read to the jury,”In considering the weight to be given to the testimony of an expert witness, you should consider the basis for his/her opinion and the manner by which he/she arrived at it and the underlying facts and data upon which he/she relied.”

In law, a jury is known as the trier of fact. In our own lives, it is up to us to determine truth or fiction. We have learned that we have to do our own research before just accepting what we hear or read.

When I think of truth, I am reminded of my grandfather’s quote that I probably have written in a previous blog. Still, when I think about it it brings back a good memory.

Before bedtime, he would always insist on making sure that I brushed my teeth. Plus, he did not want me to shortcut it and miss a tooth. He would look me in the eye and say, “be true to your teeth or they will be false to you”. Good motiviation!

Tomorrow’s blog will be a follow-up on this when I discuss a trial from last week.

For pic o’ day, some truth:

Admit it

Congressman’s Unique Alcohol Defense

When I read about U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, I admit that I knew then that I hadn’t seen it all. (Yorktown News) The story begins when Ryan was cited for a misdemeanor for public intoxication. He was charged in Lexington, Virginia.

It’s unusual to read about a Congressman being charged with public intoxication, but that’s where the story goes to a unique defense on the charge. Ryan describes the event as follows, “We were walking down the street, and I had thrown my back out the day before. I was contorted and got pulled over. They stopped me. It was bizarre.”

As a blog detective, I know that you want more clues before making up your mind on the charge. Well, Ryan had just left the wedding reception of a staff member and was walking outside. That’s when he was stopped by police around 2:01 a.m. on August 25. He refused the police request to blow into a Breathalyzer to prove he had not been drinking.

Ryan further explained to the reporter that, “I couldn’t believe they wanted to arrest me, so I refused to take the Breathalyzer”. He went on to say that he was aware that the town police had a history of pulling people over, and that was another reason for his refusal. He was not going to give in to that.

On Tuesday, the six-term Congressman did not show up for his Virginia misdemeanor trial. His attorney did show up and the presiding Judge of Lexington/Rockbridge General District Court, dismissed the charge. There were no more details on the trial and General District Court is a Court of no record, which means that there is no Court reporter transcribing the testimony.

I guess it’s not fair to consider that Ryan had three prior disorderly conduct charges in 2003, when he was a student at Bowling Green University. Instead, we should focus on the fact that he expects to get back on the House Appropriations Committee that helps determine our Federal spending. That Committee oversees about a trillion dollars in spending bills.

I certainly believe the bad back defense. I mean, he probably was in such pain at 2 in the morning after that reception. Those mean Virginia policemen were just targeting a hunched-over man.

For pic o’ day, my Mom sent me an excellent driver!

Congressman Scott Rigell’s Dilemma

     I intended to move to Part 2, for yesterday’s blog, and got sidetracked on another blog story. I promise to get to the   “Why”, for the Governor McDonnell veto. In the meantime, I do what I seem to always enjoy doing….. I digress.

     I saw an article in Pilot Online  that  discusses the NO vote of Congressman Scott Rigell (R-VA), from the 2nd District. Bills becoming law have always held some fascination for me. It’s why I was a Political Science major in college, in the first place.

      Political Science majors were always known as people that didn’t know what they wanted to major in, so it seemed easy and not too much of a commitment toward any specific career. I once heard a minister joke that the way that some knew that they wanted to be ministers in churches, was that “they woke up in the morning, craving chicken and not wanting to go to work”. Kinda like Poly Sci.

     All that leads me to Congressman Rigell voting against the Federal budgetary deal, that funds the government through  the remaining months of 2011. I have seen both sides of the aisle agree on voting against it and for it. In this instance,  even liberal Independent Senator  Bernie Sanders  (I-VT) also voted against the budget bill.

     This shows different philosophies arriving at the same ending.   Sanders says he voted against it because it did not provide funding for programs that helped the poor and elderly. He thought the budget does not do enough in funding.

     Congressman Rigell thought it didn’t do enough in reductions . He was the lone Virginia legislator to vote against it because it does not adequately deal with the budget deficit. He feels that, as a fiscal conservative, he could not vote for this spending bill.

     Now, drawing on my old Political Science days, here is the interesting caveat. Rigell’s vote basically was voting to shut down the government. That would have the effect of shutting down government services; eliminating or delaying government worker pay; and halting or delaying military pay. The Second District (Rigell’s) has many government and military personnel that he represents…. His constituents that elected him. 

     Rigell said that passage of this bill increases the federal deficit. Such an increase “threatens the foundation of this country”

     To me, some of this blog gets a bit boring until you consider the following  question. As an elected Congressman, does he owe a duty to vote for his constituents or vote for what he thinks is best for the country. I suspect that the next election for Congress will have an ad that may ask prospective voters, that exact question. “Who does Congressman  Rigell represent?”  Kinda like trying to figure out the correct blog title spelling for  “dilemma” or “dilemna”.

G. William Whitehurst’s Lesson

If the sum of a man is judged, in part, by his impact on others, then G. William Whitehurst’s life has a long measuring stick.

Typing his name into the title of the blog and the beginning of this sentence, seems a little odd to me. When I reported to his office as a Congressional intern, I was immediately told to call him “Dr. Bill”. Congressman was too formal. Last week, I attended a dinner that was honoring his life and accomplishments. Everyone referred to him as Dr Bill. He was always an educator, not a politician.

I have always known that he had an impact on me and my law practice. Every now and then, I hear his voice in my head, as a reminder of some lesson he taught me during my employment. The speeches and memories shared, of so many, also showed his impact on their lives.

Judges, past and current politicians, and people from all walks of life were there. I have attached Dr Bill’s Wikipedia, so you can quickly scan his background as an educator, TV commentator, author and retired US Congressman. At age 86, he is still quick with both serious and funny stories. The stories that were told, the other night, were like listening to living history.

I thought I would mention this dinner, and Dr. Bill, in my blog; to share one story, in particular, that has stayed with me for all these years. It’s why I hear his voice, as a reminder. The following job description was an extension of the story. First, let me tell you about my job at the Congressional office.

When I showed up to work, I reported to the Norfolk, Virginia Congressional office. At that time, the 2nd district Congressman maintained a DC office, but also an office in Virginia Beach, and in Norfolk. The DC office dealt with the every day matters in Washington. Dr Bill served on committees and subcommittees, that added many staffing responsibilities. Particularly important was the Armed Services Committee, since the 2nd District had the military installations.

The Norfolk and Beach offices were there to make sure we took care of Dr. Bill’s constituents. This meant handling matters that involved the Federal system, such as social security concerns; expedited passport request, and responding to questions about upcoming legislation that had been introduced during that current session.

At that time, the fax machine was still in the invention stage. So, if the DC office wanted something put out as a press release, they would call me and tell me to get the phone ready. That meant that I would literally put a phone receiver into this “cradle-like device”, at the other end, someone would do the same thing.

I would hear a high pitch beep. Soon, a slick piece of paper would come rolling out with words printing on it. It was the press release that had been drafted in DC. I would then take it over to the newspaper and drop it off at the reporter’s desk, who covered military affairs. I also drove it around to the TV stations, and dropped a copy off at each TV news desk. All this was done to make sure that Dr Bill’s constituents were kept updated on matters that impacted them.

Touring the White House has always been a highlight for many. At the Congressional office, we could help coordinate tours and make it easier for constituents, by getting them White House passes and credentials. At that time, you could even see extra rooms at the White House, when you had Congressional passes. Many teachers would call and line up passes for their upcoming trips with their students.

I remember the first time that Dr Bill came to the Norfolk Congressional office, after I had just started the internship. He called me into his office and asked questions about me. He seemed genuinely interested about my goals and aspirations.

At some point, I asked him about his speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives. I was having difficulty locating his speeches in the Congressional Record. It is the official transcript of the speeches and debates of each legislative session. In fact, many times, members will go to the floor without others in their seats, and give speeches, just to get them in the record.

Dr Bill smiled when I asked him about his speeches. He quickly let me know that he wasn’t one to put much emphasis on that. He said something like, “I don’t care to give speeches; my job is to take care of all my constituents”.

After my employment was coming to an end as an intern, Dr Bill offered me a job to stay right there, as a legislative aide. Throughout my time, my entire job revolved around taking care of those that called for Dr. Bill’s help, constituent service. He also insisted on signing his letters, while many others in the House and Senate, would use a machine to generate a signature that looked like an authentic signature.

In my law practice, I know that life can be full of distractions, to keep me from being focused on the important. Dr Bill was a reminder of what is important: taking care of my clients. He taught the lesson that, what was done in private was a whole lot more important than what was done for the headlines.

The other night at that dinner, I had the wonderful opportunity to remind him of our “first sit down” and thank him for the impact that he has had, on my life. Even when he stood and spoke, I realized that his stories were about others.

Senator Byrd and His Constitution

     With the passing of Senator Robert L. Byrd, the Internet is filled with multiple opinions and remembrances. I know you haven’t come to the blog to read the Senator’s biography or what Wikipedia has to say about him. So, I will tell you a story about my personal interaction with him that is consistent with what I had always heard about him. First, though, it is worthwhile to at least look at a little history about him. 

      If you google his name, you will see such things as attacks for his past record of racism. The Internet allows anyone to post their thoughts. In the past, when someone died after a long career of public service, all disagreements were put aside in the spirit of remembering the accomplishments.  Now, such restraint and civility  no longer is the norm, so on this day you can see plenty of opinion.

     If you do minimal research, you will see that the Senator served longer than any other Senator. You will also see that he was a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and even filibustered the vote on the Civil Rights Act passage. Despite this national persona, West Virginia continued to elect him because they looked at him as the great benefactor who unashamedly did everything he could to earmark great amounts of monies for his home state. Budget concerns and spending took a back seat to his perceived duties to  his constituents.

     A couple of years ago, I went to the Hill with some other lawyers and was told that we were going to “have a meeting” with Senator Byrd. In my college days, I had briefly met him while working as a legislative aide. In those days, you basically knew to stay out of everyone’s way. I only knew him by his nod and look of determination.

     For this meeting, about nine of us were ushered into a room in the Capitol Building and were told that the Senator was on his way.  Soon, the door opened and a couple of aides came in with one assisting him.  At that time,  Senator Byrd was using 2 canes to get about. He moved to the front of the table, placed his canes to the side and slowly sat. Then, he began to speak in a low voice. I had to lean over to hear him. About 2 minutes later, that all changed.

     Senator Byrd became very passionate about why he was still in the Senate. He then tapped on his sportcoat and reached inside and pulled out something that had been in his pocket. He told us it was a copy of the Constitution that he always carried with him and regularly pulled out on the Senate floor.

     No longer was he speaking in a low tone. His pitch and tone were almost too loud for the tiny room but none of us minded. He reminded us that it was article 1 of the Constitution that empowered Congress with its power to act. He reminded us that not until article 2, did the founding fathers spell out  the powers of the President. He then went on to explain that this is why the Senate was not to be a rubber stamp on such things as Judicial nominations.

     Now that Senator Byrd has passed away, I think back on that day, as we listened to that self-educated son of a coal miner. He certainly had his enemies through the years. I guess that brief meeting with him was a reminder of the passion that he still had carried into his nineties. The same passion that gave him the fortitude to serve longer and stand up for what he felt was important. The memory of his raised voice and that waving of his “pocket stashed” Constitution is what I remember,  in remembering him.

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