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.

20 comments:

free0352 said...

First off, I 100% support civil asset forfeiture reform. I actually left a job over the practice, how its done is wrong.


But depicting Holder's new policy as "sweeping" is a pretty gross exaggeration. It is a step in the right direction, but its not sweeping and it doesn't change very much.

Civil asset forfeiture should exist - drug war or no. I think any reasonable person would agree a child pornographer should not be able to keep the fruits of their criminal enterprise. What we need however, if for law enforcement to hold sized property in escrow until a conviction (Or guilty plea) is secured before money can be appropriated and property auctioned. It would also be nice that the agency doing the sizing not keep the profits of the seizure and or sale. That would indeed be sweeping change.

This new policy doesn't do any of that.

free0352 said...

I would also note that civil asset forfeiture is a great example of why big government is the real problem.

Dave Dubya said...

In these times, it could be suggested a reversal of bad policy is a "sweeping change", as incremental as it may be.

The insanity of the drug war is abating, but the "war on terror" has continued the assault on civil liberties.

Since state and local law enforcement are also abusing and profiting, this indicates less a "big government" problem than it reflects bad laws, and corrupt enforcement, on multiple levels.

Most critics of "big government" are still continuing the Patriot Act and other encroachments on civil liberties. Many critics of "big government" are still imposing government control over women's reproductive freedom of choice.

Since you support civil asset forfeiture to some degree then it would be more an example of why unaccountable and abusive laws are the real problem.

Corruption of justice, bad laws, abuse of power, and a "war on drugs" hysteria on multiple levels are the specific problems.

Same with the "war on terror".

We live in fear-driven, reactionary times. What was once considered unthinkable in a free society has become the accepted norm.

Jerry Critter said...

We live in a war-obsessed society. Everything is a "war on something". It is a sick, fear-based way of looking at things, and is used to justify the take over of the country by big economic interests.

Dave Dubya said...

Jerry,
And it has proven to work well for the military/corporate empire.

All we need to know is their propaganda had 70% of Americans buying into the Saddam/al-Qaeda/9-11 deception. Bush and Cheney told us Saddam was tied to al-Qaeda and most Americans believed them.

This proves we are no different from any other society. We will willingly go to war and surrender our rights when the military/corporate empire takes us to defeat and ruin.

"American exceptionalism" is a propaganda tool that we buy into at our peril.

The madness, death, and cost of the war on drugs will pale compared to our eternal, un-winnable "war on terror".

But fear not, the right people will continue to get much, much richer.

And probably have their taxes cut too.




Jefferson's Guardian said...

Free0352: "Civil asset forfeiture should exist - drug war or no. I think any reasonable person would agree a child pornographer should not be able to keep the fruits of their criminal enterprise."

"‘With this new policy, effective immediately, the Justice Department is taking an important step to prohibit federal agency adoptions of state and local seizures, except for public safety reasons,’ Holder said in a statement.

Holder’s decision allows limited exceptions, including illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives and property associated with child pornography [bold type my own] , a small fraction of the total. This would eliminate virtually all cash and vehicle seizures made by local and state police from the program.


Apparently you fail to fully understand the scope, and restrictions, of the change that’s been initiated -- which is commonplace when discussing most economic, political or social issues with you.


"I would also note that civil asset forfeiture is a great example of why big government is the real problem."

Another reminder that you find intrinsic evil in anything the federal government creates or funds – unless, of course, it has to do with militarism and/or preemptively attacking sovereign states.

T. Paine said...

Dubya, kudos to you for this article! You point out a serious issue where we all can find common ground to fight it. I applaud you for that, my friend!

Unfortunately it only took a few feedback comments down the list for everything to degrade back to sophomoric diatribes by people.

Dave Dubya said...

TP,
Thank you for your kind words.

Goes to show they can't divide us on every issue. ;-)

The sooner we can find more common ground, the better. There's no reason we can't exercise and combine the seemingly disparate "personal responsibility" and "we're all in this together" perspectives in reforming government abuses of our rights.

I think the people have a better grasp, or at least a more developed conscience, than the politicians when it comes to issues like the surveillance state and unaccountable police powers.

We at least share some sense of something seriously wrong that threatens our notions of justice and liberty.

There are more conservatives thinking the drug war has serious flaws as well.

Another example is the fact a lot of responsible liberals own firearms. Just because they support background checks does't mean they support confiscation.

I hope everything is going as well as can be expected for you, old buddy.

T. Paine said...

Dubya, I agree that there are definitely issues where both sides of the political spectrum can and should come together. I am not so certain that our politicians are able to come together on common ground except on these very rare occasions though since nearly all of them are more concerned with their respective political parties and their own reelections than they are about the good of the country and what the voters want. This is one more reason why we need to vote out every last single politician and replace them with citizen legislators whose first order of business would be to pass term limits and set it in motion to become a constitutional amendment.
As for your other points, the drug war has some serious flaws in it. The surveillance state is WAY out of control and violating our rights, and for the record, I am a conservative that strongly supports background checks to ensure that the mentally ill and criminals aren’t able to as easily obtain firearms. That said, I don’t think this will keep the bad folks intent on getting guns from doing so. I also do not support a firearms registry by the government either.
I think you are right though that we should try to find those things that both conservatives and progressives agree upon and work those issues first. I hold on to no illusions that both sides will ever agree on every issue or be willing to compromise on certain ones, but it would be nice to see some of the government abuses curtailed to the satisfaction of a vast majority of Americans from both sides of the political spectrum.
As for me, I am doing quite well now, once again. God is indeed very good. I appreciate your well wishes, my friend! I raise a glass of Wild Turkey in your honor!

Dave Dubya said...

TP,

"Clink'

Jefferson's Guardian said...

T. Paine: "Unfortunately it only took a few feedback comments down the list for everything to degrade back to sophomoric diatribes by people."

I suppose, Mr. Paine, that degradation and "sophomoric diatribes" are in the eyes of the beholder -- especially when faced with the unrelenting truth. It's at these times that the truth hurts.

free0352 said...

Jefferson.

The article is not the definitive reality on what Holder is doing. As I said, it grossly over states what Holder is doing.

Do your own research, but if you think this solves the problem as you think it has, you are incorrect.

All this does, is stop local Law Enforcement from claiming (Nominal) federal involvement in a case to circumvent state civil asset forfeiture laws.

In most states, the laws are very lax anyway, so this does very little in practice.

free0352 said...

It should be a given understanding for you, that Eric Holder cannot dictate state law. That takes a state legislature.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Free0352: "The article is not the definitive reality on what Holder is doing. As I said, it grossly over states what Holder is doing."

Please share with us exactly what the "definitive reality" is.


"Do your own research, but if you think this solves the problem as you think it has, you are incorrect."

I never laid claim that it "solves the problem". It will, if I interpret the attached articles correctly, take away the incentive previously provided by the federal program.


"It should be a given understanding for you, that Eric Holder cannot dictate state law. That takes a state legislature."

Hey! I have a novel idea that you might want to consider!...read the article links that Dave Dubya provided -- an excerpt from which I've provided for your convenience (below):

"While police can continue to make seizures under their own state laws, Equitable Sharing was easy to use and required most of the proceeds from the seizures to go to local and state police agencies. Some states have higher standards of proof for forfeitures and some require seized proceeds to go into the general fund."

free0352 said...

Jeff,

You basically agreed with all my points, so why then are you so fan boy for Holder and this non-action?

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Free0352, I can't see where I've agreed with you. You'll need to be more specific.

Secondly, I'm not a "fan boy for Holder". Once again, you'll need to be more specific.

Thirdly, how do you interpret his action as "non-action"?

I'm starting to believe that you still haven't read any of the article links provided by Dave Dubya. You haven't, have you? Please get back to me after you have.

free0352 said...

I did read it, and I told you - it isn't correct. It over states.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Okay, so you claim you've read the links, but you still haven't shared with us specifically why it's an overstatement.

And, please, no opinions or conjecture, just the facts -- as Joe Friday would have requested.

free0352 said...

Its an over statement because its an agency policy change, not a law change.

I think I said that. Can you read?

As for me, this is what I've done on the issue. Tim Walberg is in my district and we've been lobbying him on civil asset forfeiture for three years, and its starting to work.

So that's real change, and you're welcome.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Free0352: "Its an over statement because its an agency policy change, not a law change."

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but nobody claimed it was a change in "the law". We all know Holder doesn't hold that power (at least, yet). Agreed -- it is an agency policy change, which he does have authority to enact.

"I think I said that. Can you read?"

You did concur that it was a policy change -- which, by the way, I never disputed. (My agreement to this proves I can read. I was just asking you to read the attached links, which I suspect you apparently have -- after the fact.)


"...and you're welcome."

"You're welcome" is a customary reply to "thank you". Since I never thanked you, because I see no reason to, it's quite unnecessary.