Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Exception to the Rule

By most indicators, and opinions, our democratic representative republic is on the down slide. As a rule, things aren't getting better for most Americans. Both the Left and Right seem to sense this, but for different reasons, of course.

Those on the Right will say we are being destroyed by “Big Government” regulations, social programs and safety nets. The GOP is now attacking Social Security, food stamps, minimum wage and unemployment compensation. Republicans are pushing to further unleash Wall Street from rules and oversight. Their base is also furious with marriage equality and their perception that we are losing our “values” as a nation.

Democracy and equality seem off their radar as part of those values.

Most Americans disagree, and again, as with the GOP takeover of the House, most Americans voted for a democrat senator. Such are the anti-democratic flaws of gerrymandering and disproportionate representation in both Houses.

Those on the Left say our nation is being destroyed by deregulated capitalism, militarism, militarized law enforcement, and the surveillance state. They see the corporatism built by corporate “personhood” and the dominance of  their “free speech” money. They see corporate written trade agreements becoming law of the land. This has done more for trickle up wealth and off-shore jobs than for the American people. Both parties are playing this game.

The divide and conquer tactics utilized by the economically powerful have been a great success. Both major parties are largely bought and paid for, as a rule.

This brings us to a curious exception to the rule.

Before 9-11 and the fear-mongering behind the “war on terror” shook Americans from reason and judgment, the war on drugs was doing the same damage to our basic freedoms.

Besides the futility and brutality of the war on drugs, we saw the encroachments on civil liberties through “no-knock” laws, passive acceptance of intrusive random drug testing, and more frightening of all, civil asset forfeiture. Law enforcement was granted the power of “legal” piracy. They could take your money and property without proof of wrongdoing. All they had to say was they suspected the money or property was related to drug dealing.

It is an outrage that has nothing to do with justice. That’s what police states do.

So as a rule, the police state is expanding. Now a curious and welcome exception to the rule is unfolding. Voices from diverse perspectives are joining the effort to end the piracy.

Two dozen civil liberties activists, legal specialists and Capitol Hill staffers from across the political spectrum convened Thursday to discuss reforms for civil asset-forfeiture laws, which allow local and state police to take cash and property from Americans without proving a crime has occurred.

Representatives of the Institute for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Bar Association, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, along with congressional staffers from both parties, strategized on possible legislative remedies to curb abuses.

Imagine that. Addressing blatant corruption and injustice by law enforcement has become a common cause.
Now it has come to this:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred.
Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.
But what about the elected officials?
Last Friday, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), along with Reps. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), signed a letter calling on Holder to end Equitable Sharing.
A rare and stunning glimpse of bi-partisan sanity. 
Take a picture; it won’t last.
Unfortunately states still have asset forfeiture laws. The fact the revenue largely goes to a general fund instead of the law enforcement agencies is some disincentive for abuse.

It’s amazing what can happen when both sides see an issue unclouded by propaganda and corporate PR. This is what real progress looks like.