Fixing Asset Forfeiture

I discussed civil asset forfeiture in “Spoils of War” and also discussed the IRS seizure of assets for “structuring” deposits in “Repeal the Bill of Rights” under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.  I won’t say these policies should be eliminated because, in some cases, they do serve to disrupt cash flow for criminal activities, however when the NYPD boasts that they seized more cash than they can count they sound more like Blackbeard’s pirates than civil servants.  When innocent citizens have to file expensive lawsuits to recover wrongfully seized property the system is broken, so let’s fix it.  Here’s one way.

Assets seized from people not charged with a crime must be returned to the owner within one business day if criminal charges are not filed within a reasonable time, e.g., 48-72 hours.

Assets seized from people charged with a crime must be held in escrow pending outcome of the trial.  If the defendant is found “not guilty” the assets must be returned to the owner.  If the asset was cash it must have been held in an interest-bearing account and the cash returned with accrued interest.  If lawfully acquired real property (buildings, vehicles, firearms, etc.) was seized the state must preserve and maintain that property such that it can be returned intact and without loss.  If the individual is found “guilty” the judge will determine what happens to the seized property.

I think this is a reasonable balance between the needs of law enforcement to disrupt criminal activity and the rights of citizens to keep their lawfully acquired property.  When police departments consider themselves to be profit centers the entire concept of law enforcement is maligned.

Disabled Lives Matter

Black Americans often say that young black men must be warned about how do deal with police and other authorities, i.e., very carefully.  Evidently disabled people and their caretakers need the same type of warning as we see more violence against the disabled by authorities who are supposed to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.

A few months ago a disabled teenage girl suffering from brain cancer was beaten until bloody by TSA agents.  She became confused when an alarm went off so they immediately threw her to the floor and arrested her.  TSA agents have also been accused of hassling a 9-year old boy who has a pacemaker after undergoing multiple surgeries for heart defects.  Unfortunately TSA agents are Federal employees so they enjoy substantial protection against being fired for using excessive force.

Recently an unarmed deaf man was shot and killed by a state police officer who pursued him for a traffic violation.  The victim didn’t respond to the officer’s commands because he couldn’t hear them, but the officer must have thought that sign language posed a lethal threat.  There have been no protests, no demonstrations, and little media coverage because this situation doesn’t fit the mold that the liberal media wants to publicize: the officer was black and the victim was white.  If the races were reversed so would be the media coverage.  There would also be protests and maybe even a remark from the President.  This sure looks like a use of excessive force (or is it a hate crime?).  If the victim was unarmed but the officer felt threatened, a Taser would have subdued him.  Will the officer be charged or will filing charges against a black officer be called racism?

We hear how police officers around the country are being trained to be sensitive to Islam so they don’t “offend” anyone.  Instead of indoctrinating officers in the latest manifestation of political correctness they should be teaching them the difference between sign language and Kung Fu fighting.  An unarmed young father didn’t deserve to die for a traffic ticket.

Any police officer who can’t recognize a deaf person doesn’t belong in uniform. File charges or admit that disabled lives don’t matter in the USA.

Update:  From New Hampshire comes a news story that proves that it was not necessary for a cop to shoot an unarmed deaf man.  A distraught man who wanted to commit “suicide by cop” approached officers with razor blades.  The officers had the unquestionable authority to shoot an armed assailant, but instead they Tased him.  No officers were harmed and hopefully the suicidal man will get mental health treatment.  So, why did a black cop shoot an unarmed deaf man?  Maybe he hates disabled people.  Maybe he was exacting revenge for the shooting of black motorists by white cops.  Maybe he was just having a bad day.  Regardless, he murdered an unarmed man over a traffic stop.  In the interest of justice for a family that lost their father charges should be filed, and the shooting investigated as a hate crime.

Christmas Update:  Officers in California destroyed a family’s Christmas joy by killing an unarmed 73-year old grandfather who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  They were primed to shoot by a false report that he was armed.  Of course there were no body cameras, no dash camera, just the word of the cops against a dead grandfather.  Sue the city and the person who lied (that person didn’t recognize their own neighbor so how could they recognize a gun in the dark?).

Retroactive Laws: A New Assault on Private Property

A retroactive law is a law that criminalizes a past action that wasn’t a crime at the time.  Known as “ex post facto” laws, they are strictly and unambiguously prohibited by Article I, Section 9 (for Congress) and Section 10 (for states) of our Constitution.  They can be used to punish a person and/or to seize their property which is why such laws are banned.  Progressives, however, see the Constitution as an obstacle to their agenda.  I’ll look at one example of how they’re being used and then discuss the very slippery slope of ex post facto laws.

The state of California has passed some restrictive new gun laws.  One bans the manufacture and sale of high capacity magazines; the other (SB1446) prohibits possession of such magazines (hence requires confiscation) that were legally purchased in the past.  The constitutionality of the first law may be under debate everywhere but the second one is clearly unconstitutional.  It’s a retroactive ban, therefore it’s a ex post facto law.  Those who don’t submit to a mandatory “buyback” will be criminalized for what was a legal activity at the time of purchase.  The term “buyback” itself is a misnomer.  The government can’t buy back something it never owned.  If the government asserts ownership of all private property it’s a communist government.  Unless the government is paying full retail value for confiscated items it’s also theft.  Obviously confiscation of items obtained illegally or used for criminal purposes is a different matter that doesn’t involve ex post facto laws.

OK, you don’t care about the Second Amendment, but let’s look at just how slippery a slope ex post facto laws against private property could become.

The EPA has issued increasingly strict tailpipe emission and gas mileage requirements for cars and other light vehicles.  Tier I took affect in 1994, Tier 2 in 2004, and the Obama administration has approved even stricter mileage requirements in the future.  The standards that took effect in 1994 and 2004 effectively banned the future sale of new vehicles that didn’t meet those standards but they didn’t ban the ownership of older vehicles.  Suppose, however, that our progressive government, influenced by the socialist UN, decided to confiscate all vehicles that didn’t meet Tier 2 standards?  Of course they’d pay owners some token sum for surrendering their means of transportation but it would impose the greatest hardship on those who could least afford it.  Do they care?  NO!  Most politicians are rich.  As  I said once before, rich elitists will always live above the messes they cause for the masses.

You don’t think this could happen?  Don’t make me say “I told you so” again!  Over a year ago I predicted that we might someday see an environmental impact tax on meat.  Now the UN is actively recommending such a tax and Denmark is considering one.  Socialists are as relentless as ISIS when it comes to imposing their will on everyone.

The concept that private property that is obtained legally and not used for criminal purposes belongs to individuals, not the government, is fundamental to our freedom and our entire way of life.  Don’t let socialists incrementally deprive us of that freedom.

Repeal the Bill of Rights?

In “The Freedom Triangle” I explained how freedom is defined by three components: democracy, rights, and responsibilities.  Our basic inalienable rights are found in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights.  Every one of them is important.  Every one was included because the authors of the Constitution, in their wisdom, had seen how authoritarian governments had abused their subjects and sought to protect us.  In fact the Constitution doesn’t talk about “subjects”, it talks about “We the People”.

Now the Constitution can be changed by the deliberately cumbersome process of amendment.  It’s long and tedious and the outcome is uncertain, but in this case that’s a protection, not an inefficiency.  Democrats, socialists, and other progressives, however, have found ways to weaken our rights by DE FACTO means.  That term simply means “that’s how it is”.  If you don’t like a law but can’t easily change it, find ways to circumvent it.  These tactics might be unofficial, like intimidation, or official, through restrictions or taxation.   In this article I’ll look at how several amendments are being attacked.

First Amendment:

Intimidation (aka Bullying):  At this time intimidation is the primary weapon against free speech.  It began with political correctness, a crybaby concept that has grown from a minor nuisance into a state religion.  We see intimidation on college campuses where students complain about “micro-aggression”, demand “safe spaces”, and are even told to call police if they hear something “offensive”.  Now that’s intimidation.  On a larger scale, political correctness stifles communication to a point where serious issues can’t even be discussed.

Intimidation also threatens religious freedom by erasing religious equality.  When Christian churches remove exterior crosses so they don’t “offend” Muslim immigrants they’re not accommodating newcomers, they’re surrendering their right to exist as a public entity; doing exactly what is required in Muslim countries.  From a Christian point of view they’re denying Christ just as Peter did.  When a restaurant owner is bullied into removing a sign advertising bacon for breakfast his free speech is suspended.  Jews don’t eat pork either but they’ve never tried to impose their dietary rules on others.

Legal Action:  Can the USA have laws against free speech beyond the “don’t yell fire in a theater if there isn’t one” and “don’t threaten violence”?  Maybe, because it’s happening in European countries that guarantee free speech.  In Germany a comedian has been arrested for insulting the president of Turkey, and In Sweden people can be arrested for ethnic slurs.  Some in the US are saying that “climate change deniers” should be arrested and oil companies should be sued because they “knew” their products would cause climate change.

Second Amendment:

Propaganda:   No amendment is under heavier public attack than this amendment, even though self defense it a fundamental human right.  It’s in common law because historically only the un-free (prisoners, serfs, slaves) were denied the right to protect themselves and their families.  We hear anti-gun propaganda everywhere, much of it funded by billionaires who are surrounded by armed bodyguards.  Their message: “be rich or be dead”.  They blame the NRA for Chicago violence, not the gang members doing the shooting.  They make their case with bogus logic that anyone who has learned how to think can spot as invalid.  Any criminal act is the act of a person, not an object.

Legal Action:  In addition to funding propaganda campaigns, billionaire Mike Bloomberg spends millions to buy local elections for anti-gun candidates who will then enact restrictive laws.  The result is a confusing patchwork system of laws that turn honest people into criminals while doing nothing to stop crime.  Liberal San Francisco’s laws are so tough that the last legal gun shop had to close, yet they did nothing to stop an illegal immigrant with a stolen gun from murdering an innocent young woman.  Chicago’s tough gun laws can’t stop the endless gang wars that have made it the murder capital of the US. The latest effort to drive gun makers out of business is to attempt to sue them for gun violence.  No company has ever been held liable for criminal use of their products because the company has no control over the consumer.

Taxation:   Everyone has heard Chief Justice Marshall’s statement that “The power to tax is the power to destroy” and liberals know punitive taxes can be used to deny “little people” their rights while preserving “billionaire rights”.  Seattle has a $25 tax on guns, a US territory has a $1000 tax per gun, and Hillary wants a 25% tax on guns (all for more money to squander).  What part of “right” don’t they understand?

Health care:  President Obama and his British-born Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy want to draft doctors into their war on legal gun ownership.  They have decreed that “gun violence” is a public health problem (but gang violence isn’t) so doctors should question patients about gun ownership, presumably to then evaluate their mental fitness to own a firearm while simultaneously creating a national gun registry in those digitized medical records.  Since doctors don’t get “gun violence” training (they don’t get knife or fist violence training either) they’ll be fed the far left agenda and sent out on a mission to declare as many people “mentally unfit” as possible (it’s already happening at the VA).  That won’t work on doctors who are also hunters but it will on many.  The answer is “no”.

Intimidation:  I discuss the DOJ’s “Operation Choke Point” under the Fifth Amendment.

SCOTUS:  In the case “D.C. vs. Heller” the Supreme Court upheld the right of honest people to own a firearm for self defense.  Progressives would love to get this ruling overturned.  That would effectively repeal the Second Amendment.

Fourth and Fifth Amendments:

Legal Action:  The fourth Amendment protects private property from unreasonable search and seizure without due process.  The fifth Amendment protects individuals from being deprived of “life, liberty, and property” without due process.  Government departments are using often dubious tactics to deprive people of their property without adjudication.  Here are two of them.

The IRS can seize bank assets of individuals or businesses if they suspect small deposits are being “structured” to avoid reporting requirements of amounts in excess of $10,000.  They don’t need any evidence of criminal activity, indictment, trial, or conviction to proceed.  Victims are often small businesses that deposit money regularly just to avoid being a robbery target.  Even innocent people must file an expensive lawsuit to get their money released.

Police can seize property under “civil asset forfeiture” if they suspect criminal activity, and that includes “untainted” assets, i.e., those not associated with the suspected activity.  Again the word is “suspected”; no indictment, trial, or conviction required.  Asset seizure can make it difficult for an accused person to hire attorneys and prepare a defense; a right guaranteed by  the Fifth Amendment.

Eminent Domain:  Eminent domain was included in the Constitution to allow governments at all levels to take private land, with compensation, for public projects that would benefit the community.  The intent was to support construction of roads, bridges, schools, and other public facilities.  That concept has unfortunately been expanded to allow taking of private property for private developments under the guise that they will expand the local tax base.  This “public good ” is nothing but a gift for wealthy developers at the expense of the people.

Intimidation:  The DOJ has initiated a process of intimidation not supported by any law called “Choke Point” to cut off “high risk” businesses from having bank accounts and obtaining credit.  Basically banks are threatened with legal action so they cancel the accounts of many honest businesses that pay taxes and wages.,  High risk businesses include firearms dealers, short term lenders, used car dealers, and adult entertainment.  So, what constitutes “high risk” is determined by politically motivated bureaucrats, not the law.  Congress has been urged to outlaw this practice but liberals support it because it furthers their agenda of control of the people.

Ninth Amendment:

Legal Action:  This amendment protects “unenumerated rights” of the people, i.e., those not specifically guaranteed by the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights.  The most important right that has been asserted under this amendment is the right of privacy.  As the Federal government demands more an more tracking of peoples’ lives privacy is being lost, often in the name of the “common good”.  That is collectivism, the antithesis of what the Constitution stands for.  To make the situation even worse, neither the government nor various private data collection agencies can adequately secure their data against hacking or insider misuse.

Tenth Amendment:

Congress:  This amendment says that all responsibilities not specifically assigned to the Federal government by the Constitution remain with the states or the people.  Congress has been more than happy to de facto repeal this amendment with “one-size-fits-all” programs.  Nothing in the Constitution allows the Federal government to control public schools yet Congress created the Department of Education and has given it unlimited power over the states and parents.  This has allowed billionaire Bill Gates to fund development of Common Core, his vision of an ideal system, and coax the government to enforce it.  Nothing in the Constitution allows the Federal government to use the IRS to enforce health insurance yet it approved the ACA.  All the promises associated with this program were lies: costs will go down, you can keep your doctor, etc.  Even the insurers are losing money on this one.  Rising health care costs are a problem but the ACA does nothing to solve it.

Intimidation:  The Department of Education uses threats of withholding education money from school districts that refuse to comply with it’s directives.  Simply put, it uses our tax dollars against us.

So, that’s the picture, and it isn’t a good one if you value freedom because without rights you are not free.  Can the Bill of Rights be saved?  Yes, but time is running out.  The 2016 elections will pretty much determine whether your children will stand in freedom or kneel in servitude.

 

If you like your rights you can keep them… NOT.

Got Heroin? Thank a Democrat.

Hankering for heroin? Cracking up for cocaine? Thank President Obama and all the far-left progressives, including Hillary, who refuse to take the one action that would drastically reduce the supply of illegal drugs in the USA: secure our southern border.
Securing the border would be expensive, but so is spending more and more money on efforts that aren’t particularly effective at curbing the drug epidemic. Let’s look at them. Education is necessary but not sufficient. Every addict in this country probably experienced drug awareness teaching in school. Treatment of addiction makes more sense than jailing addicts but it’s hard for a recovering addict to stay clean with drugs on every corner. Computerized prescription tracking may cut the number of “doctor shoppers” but it’s a serious intrusion by government into the doctor-patient relationship. How long before a “czar” with no medical training dictates medical treatments? What happens when those databases are hacked (and all databases seem to get hacked) and homes with legitimate medications become robbery targets? Law enforcement works hard to arrest dealers but our prisons are revolving doors for street-level drug dealers and the top drug lords are well hidden. Federal efforts at patrolling the border are overwhelmed by it’s sheer length and by political correctness.
An open border doesn’t just bring in drugs. It brings in illegal weapons, drug cartel members, and violent gangs like MS-13. Drug abuse causes a host of other social problems too. Sharing needles spreads diseases like Hep-C and AIDS. Addicts have a hard time holding jobs or caring for their families. They may steal to support their habit or become abusive. Drug gangs stage open warfare on city streets, often killing innocent bystanders, and anyone who thinks more gun laws will make these thugs surrender their weapons must believe in unicorns. The only way to put drug gangs out of business is to cut off their supply of drugs.
Heroin and cocaine don’t come from a workshop at the North Pole; they come from south of the border, and until that border is secured people will be dying and law enforcement officials will be working with one hand tied behind their backs.
Build the fence now, for the safety of our children and security of our nation.

We Will, We Will Track You.

In the movie “Minority Report” people could be arrested before they commit a crime by the “Precrime Unit”.  The US hasn’t reached that point yet but the government is working to acquire two new powerful profiling tools to increase it’s surveillance of US citizens: biosurveillance and student databases; along with the FBI facial recognition database to support all tracking programs.

Let’s start with what they already know.  Thanks to the IRS they have a complete financial picture of you (unless you’re involved in illegal activities), and they will now know you have health insurance.  They have your military records and criminal records if you have any.  They can track your purchases with credit cards, cell phone activity, internet activity, foreign travel, and driving with toll transponders.  Since the US Post Office photographs all mail they could watch where your mail comes from and goes to.  They also know when you die.  That’s a pretty complete picture of your adult life, but for complete profiling some dots are missing.  Here are the two big dots.

The first is biosurveillance, a plan outlined in a 2012 White House  Memorandum (which has the same authority as an Executive Order with less publicity).  The concept is to give the government access to all medical records (which conveniently must be digitized by 2015) in order to track “health threats”, i.e., disease outbreaks and large scale accidental or deliberate releases of toxins, to a greater extent than is now tracked by the CDC.  While it sounds reasonable, the problems are that the access is unlimited (and therefore subject to abuse) and a “health threat” is whatever the government defines it to be.  Every diagnosis, lab test, and prescription would be available to non-medical people.  With the administration wanting gun ownership to be in medical records, those records would be a form of registry.  Your complete health picture would become part of your profile thanks to biosurveillance.  Oh, he got a pain killer prescription so put him on a list of suspected drug dealers, she got referred for counseling so send a sheriff  to make sure she doesn’t have a gun, etc.  Where does it end?

The second is the national student database (actually interoperable state databases) of  identifiable student information which is seen as an adjunct to Common Core, that will extend individual tracking to a younger age.  There is no educational need for individual student identification including health issues, disciplinary actions, family income, religious affiliation, etc., to statistically evaluate learning trends; this is about cradle-to-grave tracking of citizens and possibly data mining for commercial purposes.  Your kid gets suspended in 3rd grade and it’s part of a lifetime record.  Add to that a couple of high school detentions and your kid might be labeled a “potential troublemaker” for life.

The FBI facial recognition database will support all surveillance programs.  As long as it only contains photos of criminals it is within legitimate law enforcement bounds, but once it adds photos of innocent civilians, as planned, it becomes another tool of “Big Brother”.

The solutions are obvious.  Restrict biosurveillance access to communicable diseases and toxin releases, not anything some bureaucrat decrees.  Also prohibit information obtained through biosurveillance from being used for legal prosecution (to prevent “fishing”) except in cases of terrorism involving WMDs.  Outlaw identifiable student information in any state or nationwide education databases.  Finally, restrict the FBI database to photos of convicted criminals.  This would allow the intended purposes of the programs to continue while protecting individual privacy.

It’s unbelievable that a government that is so concerned with tracking US citizens is so unconcerned about the health or criminal backgrounds of millions of illegal immigrants.

Update:  The FBI facial recognition database now contains over 400 million images.  These aren’t just criminals or suspects, they’re anyone with a passport and, in some states, a driver’s license.

War on Whom?

Critics who decry “police militarization” over AR-15’s are missing the point.  The real issue isn’t the gear, it’s the military attitude.  When “to serve and protect” becomes “this is war” we have a problem.  Police need gear like body armor and night vision goggles.  They need modern semiautomatic rifles because the bad guys have them.  Armored vehicles can shield officers and civilians and even block dangerous criminals from escaping, and  their use is valid as long as the vehicles aren’t used solely for intimidating the public.  Police don’t need machine guns, hand grenades, or missiles because they’re not law enforcement tools, they’re weapons of war used to rapidly and indiscriminately kill large numbers of people.  Even their “flash-bang” grenades, which are incendiary devices, require caution.  They may be appropriate for ending a hostage crisis but they shouldn’t be the first resort in a nonviolent case.  SWAT teams were created to deal with violent situations but they’re increasingly being used for routine police operations that may actually increase the risk to the public.  As many as 80,000 SWAT deployments are estimated every year.  Does it make sense to send a SWAT team over a traffic violation?  Sadly these SWAT teams are sometimes sent to incorrect addresses with tragic consequences.  How much “collateral damage” is acceptable in this “war”?

Much of this war mentality comes from the “war on drugs”, a subject intentionally previously discussed.  No incident demonstrates the war mentality more than when police threw a flash-bang into a home from which there was no obvious threat.  They were after a low-level drug dealer (not a serial killer) and they relied on the word of a “snitch” instead of conducting the basic surveillance that would have told them that the dealer wasn’t there but a child was.  But no, they threw the grenade first, severely burning a child who must now suffer ongoing surgeries and disfiguration while the family suffers a 7-figure medical bill.  That wasn’t executing an arrest warrant, it was using a battlefield tactic where everyone in the house was “the enemy”.  The state must approve of battlefield tactics as it denies any responsibility for the child’s injuries.  Don’t blame the flash-bang, blame the war attitude that ordered it to be thrown, and don’t blame the child if he never trusts the police.

We’ve also seen unarmed drivers shot during routine traffic stops.  It’s a tense moment for the officer when the driver reaches in the glove box for the registration, so why not stop asking for the paper registration?  It’s obsolete!  When the officer “runs the plates” the computer shows (or should) the make and model of vehicle, registered owner, registration date, and whether the vehicle has warrants outstanding or has been reported stolen.  If the computer check is clean it’s probably just a traffic stop and if it isn’t the officer knows to be careful.  The tense moment is eliminated.

Let’s turn to Federal government militarization.  Unless the USDA is expecting an uprising of zombie chickens it needs to explain why it’s buying submachine guns.  Again, fully automatic weapons aren’t for routine law enforcement.  For that matter, why are so many government agencies suddenly  being armed and given law enforcement power?  The FDA and NASA have armed teams.  Even the “gun-free zone” Department of Education has armed agents.  The Federal government has law enforcement agencies including the FBI and US Marshals who, along with local police, could support these other agencies when needed.   What’s the purpose of this “civilian army”?  Since civilians can’t be deployed to fight overseas, who is this army going to fight, and why?

Why are so many unarmed suspects being shot multiple times? Don’t all lives matter?