CRIMINAL ASSET FORFEITURE

 

Last night I came across a recent report generated by the US Inspector General documenting the controversial policy of “civil asset seizure.” The conclusions, though unsurprising to me, should outrage ordinary American’s. Do most people even realize the power our government has to legally forfeit anyone’s property, should the agency –DEA, FBI, DOJ, Local Sheriff, etc– have reason to suspect the owner be a part to a crime? I can say that most of the people I’ve discussed the issue with hardly believe such practices are lawful, let alone common.

Here are some of the statistics found within the IG report: DEA has seized since 2008 over 4 billion in cash, not including cars, electronics, property, homes, clothing, etc. 81% of the cash was seized despite no civil or criminal charges ever being filed. Since 2007 the Department of Justice criminal seizure fund has ballooned to more than 28 billion in cash, 5 billion of which was stolen taken in 2014 alone. 

Summarizing the findings, the IG makes a strong case for patterns of clear misuse and abuse stating, “a perverse profit motive is at play.” Essentially the program funds the budgets of many entities, providing overtime, even high end electronics and sports cars reportedly allocated for “investigatory purposes.” 

My interest stems from an incident that occurred traveling with my uncle in western Texas in 2010. Stopped at a checkpoint run by the local Sheriff, we were removed from the vehicle and separated for questioning without any probable cause. The Mexican border was about 60 miles west and we were not coming from, or traveling to Mexico. Not that it matters.

The truth was, as tourists from California visiting a friend in the area, we were simply fish caught in their “lawful” net. I was asked where we were headed and where we came from, my uncles name and address, about the two firearms in the vehicle and “where” the narcotics were. After affirming my uncles name, I refused to answer further questions without legal representation. Over the course of the following two hours I was threatened with arrest and my uncle’s supposed confessions. Even as a former soldier, the ordeal was frightening. In my mind I kept telling myself, “stay firm, keep story straight and eventually I will be released.” 

After two hours we were released. But not without consequence. They had seized my uncle’s two firearms and $2,300 in cash, implying we were drug mules. It took my family 4 years to retrieve the property and cash, but only after spending $3,500 on legal fees, plus two more trips to the Sheriff’s facility. It almost defy’s believe that this can happening America, it’s outrageous that it is not uncommon. 

It made no difference that we were both veteran’s or that we had no criminal records. It made no difference that we knew the neighboring county judge, that we were white or that we told the truth. Truth is, it shouldn’t matter had those things not been true. The government taking peoples property for any reason is wrong and shortsighted. The people stealing from the people. What does matter is that there seems to be a large group of people in our country that can justify this behavior perpetrated upon fellow countrymen and women. Who are the real criminals? Yes, I’ll say it: these fuckers hiding behind nefarious laws and dime store badges are far worse than most criminals. At least regular criminals don’t pretend to be Range Rover driving Robin Hood’s.  

There is a limit to what “the people” will take from their government before changes are necessary by any means. Maybe reports like this are the answer? Maybe not? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Endless, Victoryless, Afghan War

Thoughts on Afghanistan. The never ending war.

Bracing Views

250 000 dollar - 50 Money isn’t always the answer …

W.J. Astore

Last week, I wrote an article for TomDispatch.com on the Afghan war.  You can read the entire article here, but I wanted to share some excerpts and some afterthoughts.

Some Excerpts

America’s war in Afghanistan is now in its 16th year, the longest foreign war in our history.  The phrase “no end in sight” barely covers the situation.  Prospects of victory — if victory is defined as eliminating that country as a haven for Islamist terrorists while creating a representative government in Kabul — are arguably more tenuous today than at any point since the U.S. military invaded in 2001 and routed the Taliban.  Such “progress” has, over the years, invariably proven “fragile” and “reversible,” to use the weasel words of General David Petraeus who oversaw the Afghan “surge” of 2010-2011 under President Obama.  To cite just one recent data…

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YES; THE GOVERNMENT LIES… ALL THE TIME IN FACT

Donald Trump is right to challenge the National Security establishment. Being a true liberal, I find it curious the fake outrage pouring out of DC, the MSM and “official sources within the government” over his questioning of these professional liars. Even if Russian State actors did hack the emails released by Wikileaks, please help me understand the actual damage done compared to the actions of our own FBI and the Clinton campaign itself. It’s not like the petty bullshit in the emails was made up?

Anyway, though I disagree with Trump on most policy, his ability to get under the skin of the elite political class is amusing and may even be healthy in the long-term? Who else with real power has so publically put their record as serial liars on front street? And make no mistake; they are professional liars and master manipulators.

As unlikely as it is, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to consider some rogue group within the CIA, FBI or NSA guilty of the hacking, then trying to pawn responsibility off on the Russian’s? You might laugh, but if you think that’s impossible, you haven’t been paying attention to history. Just this week it was learned that Dick Nixon scuttles the Johnson peace talks in Vietnam in order to win the presidency. And don’t forget his FBI boss and the incredible nefarious 50 year history within that agency under his kingship.

Oh but this is 2016 not 1968, you say. Don’t be naive. For 15 years the government has been collecting every American’s information, including recording the content of telephone and video chats, metadata, and all internet activity in clear violation of several Constitutional amendments. Literally tens of thousands within the government have known about it without but a very few speaking up. So? Yea.

Donald Trump is correct in questioning their ethics. Period.

 

 

 

 

#WAR: WHATS ALREADY BEEN SAID?

What can I say about war that hasn’t already been said? My experiences reflect those expressed by writer’s far more talented the me.

Even the greatest writers admit their inability to fully capture the experiences of horror, the crushing fear, the fury, the odors, screams and silence one suffers in between the disturbing peace. Like making love or the taste of fine wine, words on a page only trigger imagination and illicit a dark sympathy. Empathy without experience is nothing more than fantasy.

I do not make these claims in offense. My own empathy is a rope that over time has become a noose. Random moments are capable of producing the most unpredictable triggers. A playful child’s scream might reveal the man, laid bare beneath a shattered wall, his stomach and intestines uncoiled across the huts dirt floor. A door slamming shut behind me and a memory long suppressed plays in a loop just behind my eyes: our medic bagging a severed, yet still camouflaged soldiers leg. The smell of a rabbit and a phantom smell of burning tire and human flesh lingers for days.

We forget so much of what we see. This is true for almost everyone of us. War is no different. We can’t recall, but we never really forget. These shocking visions, buried just below the conscience, erupt into our lives like films about ghosts. They are insidious magic tricks, pictures from the most evil of theaters. None of us are immune, it’s just that some of the afflicted can overcome the inflicted. Count me as not one.

It’s like my best memories have been erased. I’m like a mixtape that’s been over recorded with the voice of the devil himself.

Where do I go from here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven In The Darkness; Eternity & Hope

Maybe there is a heaven? Heaven might be the black nothing of vanished memories and endless night? Or what we make it? Anything else, no matter how charming, would certainly include these memories. These short films I live with here in this hell.

This grey would rise, following into that shining city, like pet pollution; a smog that refuses to lift, becoming more dense in that miserable afterlife, I could never end. Hell such as this would be more appropriate, in its eternal pit of serpent and flame.

Behind these eyes are the fires that portend to reflect my pain. We lost you five years and two months ago today. I think about us and try to imagine you helping to douse all that’s enflamed today. It could be little more than a fantasy, you discovering a way through the cracks to save me from myself? I might have lost you anyway? I understand that. But at least the world would be a better place with you remaining in it.

I miss the way people would look at you; stare at you even, so striking, like a beautiful crash, you’d attract angular vision. Even though I tried never to show it and you never said it out loud, you liked the innocent way I could get jealous. Little secrets we couldn’t always hide though we tried. I never really believed I was good enough for you, though you never provided me reason to doubt it.

Sometimes I imagine you’re going to read this and write accordingly. It’s the rock of grace revealing an inner truth. It’s that hope you inspire. It’s that impossible dream reflecting upon a lake in motion.

If you were with us still yet, perhaps, beyond my grip, I’d be discontent. Your soul was my apex of promise, your loss, the final crushing blow. Be well in the darkness, my love, where the past has no future, no present, no hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIP-SERVICE: THE FARCE OF THANKING VETERANS

The intention was that I’d move here, the farthest away I could get, to write and discover just how fucked-up I’d become post-Army. In between my virtual travels, my organic life seemed to fall prey to one disaster, then another, causing me to reevaluate my journey, asking in earnest; “was it really the war, or was it just me?” And now, after all these wasted days and sleepless nights, a sharp conclusion struck me square in the face: I’m not alone. Veterans are not alone in suffering. Society en mass seems to have turned on itself? So many people angry and confused. So many good people understanding that so much is wrong, yet unsure or ambivalent to the actual perpetrators? Like fish in the sea who don’t even know that they are wet, we’re turning on each other. Picture the chicken coop full of birds. Just one of them turns up with a speck of blood on the feather and soon, the entire flock is in the midst of a bloody Armageddon to the death.

What I’m trying to say is this: In my struggles, far from home with nowhere else to turn, the systems in place meant to help, even as a veteran, in time, often resembled the chicken coop. The people employed to give a hand, so to speak, often seemed incapable of escaping their own anger. The projection and transference so readily apparent, at times naked, caused me to stumble further. For those in more precarious conditions, the ineptitude and carelessness was, is, and can be inescapable. What now hits me the hardest is the complete indifference of anyone in a position to modify these unprofessional flaws. Anyone taking a rational look from the outside in, beneath the metaphoric carpet, would easily recognize the rot. But here’s the irony: In truth, nobody [very few] gives a flying fuck about homeless veterans…or homeless anybody for that matter. I certainly don’t. I can’t even bring myself to care about me.

This is an obvious point, yet the election of Donald Trump, a truly revolting character and certain disaster as a president, is a reflection of this anger so many feel…and for good reason. The political elite and the institutions they direct, have for 30+ years, stomped on the social security and welfare of nearly everyone else. While they gorged themselves from Wall Street to war profiteering to a zero interest monetary policy, they completely dismissed the victims of that fattening. Turns out there is a limit to this sort of twisted economic principal, or as Bush I put it in a rare moment of truth, “voodoo economics.” The socializing of corporate and financial institutions losses and the free market capitalism of Main Street’s economic pain. That is: we can find the money to save the gambler’s on Wall Street, including massive bonuses and incredible pay packages with taxpayer money, while simultaneously cutting unemployment benefits, food stamps, etc, because, you know, the “deficit.” Turns out, even the ignorant “white working class” and all the other demeaning pejoratives for 99% of the country can understand when they’re being fed bullshit sandwiches.

My point is that this broad anger and frustration seems to be bleeding out and onto fellow 99%er’s. How else can you explain the rank treatment I personally witnessed military veteran’s enduring within programs funded to do the opposite? How else can one justify the lack of compassion for the most in need by those tasked to serve?

I don’t want to share my story, it’s embarrassing. You might think after reading, “you need to tell someone, file a complaint..etc?” I gave up on that. The truth is, it’s a homeless guys word against a group of employees at a private organization who have their own story. The world isn’t fair. They actually made me believe for a while that I was in the wrong. That’s how sick it is, the system. Imagine how those who are really troubled are abused?

Long story short: Far from home, family and friends, I lost my home and nearly everything else to a fire. I entered a local program funded through the VA for homeless vet’s. I worked at this program doing what they call “work therapy” 40 hours a week…no pay of course, I had no discipline reports, no problems, etc. Reluctantly, I began meeting with one of the counselors about my PTSD. The second session, he started holding my hand which I thought was strange and made me uncomfortable. I’m certain he understood this, yet the next week he moved from my hand to my thigh, at which point I got up and left without explanation. The following night at 1AM, the Veteran Case Manager had me come downstairs asking me about a firearm and had I been threatening someone. Of course not. In my things I had a toy pistol which I mentioned. The police were phoned without me knowing. I was escorted to get a few things and told to leave the property. It was -15f. When I was able to return, I was told my property was donated due to policy.

You might think this is a bullshit story? Sure, there are more details but I am not leaving anything out like I was drunk, acting crazy, unliked by any other client, nothing that I can point to regarding my behavior. This was a simple move to get rid of me after a sick advance by a sick employee working in an ultra sick organization. Period. And it worked.

That’s all I say for now. I have made peace with it the best I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HOLIDAY STORM

There’s an epic winter storm approaching fast out of the Northern Pacific. The final destination of this great typhoon will be somewhere past, along a track of land I am occupying.

The vicious rains first turned to wet, cement like sleet. As the latitude increases wind will sweep the heavy snowflakes across the land, painting in ice over these peaks of fire.

A storm like this has her own personality. A storm like this reminds us of uncontrollable powers, like a breath from Venus herself. Some unimpeachable power that takes life without declared reasoning…

and just like the sullen peace before the great storm, you were here with us, my love. Then gone.