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? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Poking the Bear – #Russia Love

The ever rising platitudes finally peeked, American style, with this pronouncement from a prominent talking head: “the 9/11 of cyber war.” Excuse me while I wipe the spittle from the corners of my acidic mouth. The 9/11 of huh? Will someone of authority please stand up and ask the loonies to dial it back just a tad? Am I missing something here? 

So far the most sophisticated arm of this Cyber-Charge of the Light Brigade seems to have cracked a Gmail account using a piece of code as old as Gmail itself. You say legit, I say illegitimate, whatever? Why would you ask some other dumbass to check your spam? These are the folks supposedly so much smarter than the Trump Clan? Hardly. The prey circled while the cuddly bear opened up a mean Care Bear Stare and whoopsie…..10s of thousands of Clinton campaign chairman emails woken from hibernation early. Bold move comrade. 

Now, the DNC hack. Seems a lot more sophisticated and targeted, yes. This story about the FBI agent phoning a DNC tech to report the activity pretty much sums up the rest of the damage. But 9/11? Come the fuck on! Out of millions of emails the absolute worst were of the “egg on da face” variety. No criminal shit. Just petty bickering and nonsense. Yes, Bernie was clearly never going to ascend over Hillary. No surprise there. The DNC could use this as a lesson instead of a crutch? Nevertheless, PUTIN, PUTIN, RUSSIA…WIKILEAKS! Reminds me of BENGHAZI, BENGHAZI.

If no one that matters can rise above this trash, the Dem Party has no relevant future on national politics. If the Russian Gov was directly involved in these shenanigans I have to believe many in the MSM have the reading all wrong. I’d say Russia thought Clinton was a lock to win and sent all this trash out in order to undermine our processes. Either way, big win for them. If American’s believe our NSA and CIA aren’t playing similar games, I have an Igloo in Siberia for sale…OH wait.

This is an arena that will become evermore dangerous as rhetoric soars and retaliations compound. We must remember that these spook agencies only leave bread crumbs behind when they WANT you to find the prize…or the flaming dog shit, as it were. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Torturers R’ Us: Moral Hazard Pardoned

In response to the devastating Senate Report on Torture, President Obama stated, I’m paraphrasing, “litigating the past will do us no good. We must look to the future.” At first glance this approach may sound reasonable enough, however, this course, a guiding principle of Obama’s administration, is fraught with thinking errors and inconsistent with our supposed legal ethos. Imagine prisoners serving time in prison grappling with such impotent language? “The government certainly litigated my past. I wasn’t convicted of future crimes, but rather, those committed in the so-called past.” Two other issues are evident in this injurious way of thinking: By not prosecuting the crimes, the American people assume the practices were necessary. By not prosecuting the crimes, moral hazard is vacated, assuring a repeat of the same crimes by future administrations.

Along comes President Elect Donald Trump. A man who stated, and I quote, “we’re gonna bring back waterboarding and a whole lot worse.” He actually campaigned on a promise to break the law, going so far as to suggest he’d place former CIA agent Jose Rodriguez in charge of the agency. The same Rodriguez who birthed the practices then burned the video cassettes containing contemporaneous visual evidence of the monstrosities. If you want to blame someone for the future practices of a Trump Administration look no further than Barrack Obama.

I’m not writing this in a political sense. This is important to me because I was on the front lines of this fight while serving in the army during the Bush years. I can barely live with the fact that I bear my own responsibility for prosecuting these policies, unwittingly or not. The men I served with did not torture or abuse those we detained. I did not know the extent to which our policies supported these brutalities. I’m also not sure what I would have, or could have done had I known? Our unit was commanded by officers who stressed the rules of war and the mission to protect and support civilians caught up in between those we sought and our mission to protect the man on either side of you in battle. Brutality was not completely absent, nevertheless, it was acknowledged and addressed in its aftermath.

The things I’ve learned since leaving the Army from excellent journalism and reports like the Senate’s report on torture are as astonishing as they are abhorrent. The treatment many of these detainees were subjected to can only be described as felonious and un-American. That these practices were not only encouraged, but US government official policy, seems the definition of criminal. Just because your lawyer says a law is no longer justified, doesn’t make it legal. Just because you believe the Geneva Conventions are “quaint,” doesn’t mean you can table the agreed upon rules of war. Remember, Nixon once said, “if the President does it, it’s not illegal.” That’s the language of an autocrat. That’s not the Constitutional principles we ascribe to as American’s. The fate of Richard Nixon and most of his henchmen bears this truth out.

What does any of this mean for the ordinary veteran, or for that matter, the ordinary American? It’s impossible to say or even predict. In a binary world, the choice between Trump or Clinton feels a bit pathetic. Our country faces a moral crises overtly under Trump just as it would have quietly under Clinton.

My own struggle with the wars we continue to fight goes on regardless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CATASTROPHIZING @realDonaldTrump: Hissy-Fit/Armageddon Edition

President Donald Trump.?! WTF? It’s the age-old question: Times make the man or, man makes the times? Is Trump simply at right place, right time, or, more troubling still: Is it Trump and his like that will transform the time? My best thinking results in a simpler answer to his win. The bottom rung of this theory is Clinton the candidate. I will try to explain.

Like some Hitchcock film, Obama and Trump lunch as equals…

My first thought after listening to one pundit after another sob with abject fear of the Trump Presidency is: “Are these folks a little bitter and a lot paranoid? Are they “catastrophizing,” as we used to say in group? It’s the end of the Republic, the world even, according to most news folks, liberal pundits and ancient elitist’s. Maybe? And maybe we should take a deep breath, put down the pumpkin spice lattes, and consider our history?

We survived the British Empire’s anger after declaring our independence. We survived the Civil War. We survived the Great War, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam and Richard Nixon. We survived the Cold War, a steady tension over 40 years, with thousands of thermonuclear weapons addressed USA, able to be fired in minutes, wiping out the entire modern world, if not human beings themselves? We survived 9/11 and the Bush Administrations lawlessness. And we survived several epic financial crisis including the Great Depression and the 2008 Great Recession. So???? Pump your brakes already.

I have said this many times: I would not vote for Trump, but I wouldn’t vote for Clinton either. An overwhelming number of voters had a similar outlook, with just enough of them saying “fuck it,” why not? The crazy part for Dem’s is that the numbers exposed this truth early on.

To say Trump voters, in general, are stupid or uninformed is exactly the analysis that resulted in the Clinton machine loss. It’s the bubble and the echo chamber that rings with terms like “white/uneducated” “working class whites” & “altright,” talking points for 5 minute news segments that drip with condescension and hubris. Polls are worthless anywhere outside of a campaign’s strategy session. They are worse than news, they are simplistic, targeted, and biased.

Here’s something you may have heard? If a site like 538.com -the Mauri Povich of political news- or others say candidate x has a 90% chance of prevailing, we still know nothing useful. Zero! In elections, two things, you win or you lose. Percentages are for blackjack and slugging averages. The fact that all the topical programs rely almost exclusively on polling to present the news, leads me to believe, it’s not the voters for either candidate who are stupid, it’s the news industry and its mouthpieces.

I have more about Trump, but this has exhausted me. He is worrisome on many levels. That’s for later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHANGE THEY CAN BELIEVE IN: #GOP #ELECTION2016 @realDonaldTrump

The world is awash with election analysis, mostly bullshit. As a true believer and political sadist I downloaded a few podcasts last night to get a better understanding of the anger and sorrow sweeping through the Democratic Party. The only reason I’m wading into the pedantic underbelly of this issue is the truly apocalyptic visions most of these hosts, and guests, were predicting come late January, 2017. Wow! Donald Trump brings a worrying set of character flaws to the job, but damn, the suicide hotline?

If liberals can learn anything from this election, it’s gotta be that the Democratic Party must be blown up and reborn, finding new faces to lead ahead. The programs I listened to today, minus The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur, offer little hope for change. These pundits and operatives cannot seem to wrap their minds around a simple concept? So if anyone in that bubble is listening I will type slow so you can keep up:

The #1 reason HRC and the Dem’s lost the election is HRC and the Democratic Party. Not Russia. Not Julian Assange. Not Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Not the Electoral College. Not Obama. Not white people. Not women. Not Trump’s free media blitz. Not even Trump! She lost because ordinary voters dislike and mistrust her. Many also dislike Donald Trump, but there is possible chance he could upend the status quo. With Hillary there is no chance of change: she is the status quo. 

Are the several points of blame completely irrelevant? Of course not, however, every one of those hurdles were low enough to clear had Mrs. Clinton, or another Democratic candidate, reached out to the electorate with authenticity and a coherent message beyond: Vote for me; I’ll work to keep it business as usual. Even Hillary could have squeaked out a victory with an open, authentic candidacy. Bet. What the party wouldn’t accept from the jump, was those things, being authentic and unguarded, are not within her capability in the context of addressing the public writ large. She is who she is: “a public and private” face that’s beyond modification after 40 years under the hot lights.

Liberals do like Obama, warts and all. He offered a message of change that I initially believed in too. I still remember that 2008 campaign well. The enthusiasm was electric just about anywhere you went that year. I wrote a few weeks ago how this entire campaign I never saw a single HRC bumper sticker, hat or t-shirt. Anecdotal, I know, but the contrast is stunning.

Bernie Sanders may have lost too? It’s a counterfactual that’s unanswerable. He did generate tremendous vigor in the electorate similar to Obama, all minus meaningful media coverage, unlike the Obama campaign. Who knows how many he could have reached with the establishment behind him, however reluctantly? I say, despite being a fellow Jew and democratic socialist, he would have won states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. The numbers suggested as much back in May-June. And that’s without mainstream media airtime. He had a message. I would have voted for him. I knew others who would have. Clinton though; nobody ever told me in person they were voting for her…so?

I suppose after sharing all this amateur gibberish, a short piece on Trump is only fair and balanced? That could cost a whole lot of energy? What about Biden? You think he is kicking himself? Whatever!

Clinton was deeply flawed in a time of populism and fear driving the vote. I wish her well. I do believe she IS a good person under the masks of public opinion. She’s damn tough, that’s undeniable. Making it this long in what is still a man’s world takes true grit.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#MICHIGAN? A Fitting Finale For Democracy

What if Michigan was the State that ends up swinging the election to Donald Trump? Is there a more manifestly iconic city in the United States than Detroit to exemplify the destructive forces of globalization and neoliberalism upon this economy? The heartbeat of the rust belt, once the 5th largest city in America, now the 5th biggest in the State of Michigan. A city that resembled the Middle East at times post-2008, as fires raged unchecked in once prosperous neighborhoods, along Oak lined streets with names like Cambridge, Eton and Dartmouth. A city that declared bankruptcy and was forced to auction off precious works of art and culture once displayed with pride in its modern, glamorous museum. A world-class theatre and opera, basically gone. Several of the largest manufacturing factories ever built, now poked and in ruin, labyrinths of crime, narcotics and temporary homes for the distant relatives of a once proud citizenry. A destination for black families escaping the Jim Crow south, -the great migration, or, the great chase, as it were- offering well-paying union jobs that helped build slivers of wealth within a once indigent community of dedicated, hard working, families simply looking for a chance to shine.

And now, tonight, election 2016 may sow the seeds of a temporary revenge? An angry, proud, -white- forgotten people of privilege just may have pulled the pin on a political grenade of epic power, rolling it across the floor of this country, towards a Washington elite far too dismissive of this multi-generational perverse, reverse sort of gentrification.

But who knows, maybe she will win and everything will stay cool?

A Red, White & Blue Phoenix Rises Over Washington DC & New York 11/09/2016

The things we will learn about this election once the dumpster fire dies out should be fascinating? From the supposed Russian government connections to the intensive hacking effort; to the FBI’s inner strife; to the Trump campaigns war on facts; to the Clinton’s in general; the things we don’t know and the things we think we know will likely shed much light upon the disease that’s afflicted our democratic processes and political institutions? Many books will be written and many career’s will likely be made from the ashes like some red, white and blue Phoenix ascending to mega media glory.

Is Putin really directly involved meddling in our democratic process? If you believe the “17 Intelligence Agencies” Clinton claims have asserted this to be true then we could be moderately worried. Or not. Really? Do we actually think Russia is to blame for the two least trusted, disliked Presidential candidates in the history of our Republic as our only viable choices? I’d surmise the blame lies in altogether separate venues, with Russia, if they truly are meddling, only a byproduct of these failures.

  1. American voters in 2016 are especially ignorant. Not stupid, but purely and willfully ignorant. Many voters are following their hearts far and above their minds. Facts don’t matter to too many out there who are just angry, depressed and confused, whether justifiably or not, to the direction the country seems to be traveling despite their will in opposition to that direction. Or, they just wont vote, unlike the 2008 election with its soaring optimism and hope, this year seems antithetical to that promise.
  2. Politicians are generally in the bag, despite their words or even genuine care and concern for their constitutes. Democracy is broken. The entire system IS rigged. The whole system is bought and paid for. Democracy is an illusion of the elite media conjured up to avoid economic truths. The wider public understands this truth, feels it and lives it even if they cannot put their finger on it. Many know Trump is an idiot, a charlatan, a phony, but he is NOT Washington DC.

 

I know this is very simplistic as political analysis goes. It doesn’t apply exclusively, of course. Yet, it is a mood and a feeling that’s prevalent throughout the country. Democrats were scared into nominating Hillary Clinton and Republicans scared the GOP into nominating Donald Trump. Dem’s were scared a Bernie Sanders would lose to any GOP candidate and Republican politicians are scared they wont if they oppose Trump. And the fear multiplies.

The Russians are coming! Fear. ISIL is coming! Fear. Shari’a Law is coming to Sunnyvale! Fear. Trump is a Fascist! Fear. Hillary is a crook…and a woman! Fear. China is bleeding us dry! Fear. Ebola, Socialism, no 2nd amendment, Lizard People! Fear. Fear. Fear…F..Okay, totally fake. What do almost all of these possibilities have in common? They are largely out of our control. And that’s the problem in a giant hairy nutshell. People who have felt in control for so long in this country feel as though they are losing that control and it’s frightening.

Donald Trump is going to lose badly on Tuesday. The election that is. The American people were simply his next “mark” or “sucker,” that’s all. He’ll bleed this fear for all its worth, that we can be almost certain of. He’ll play the victim like always. He’ll bully with litigation and Twitter; the courts and the web. He’ll ruin what’s left of the GOP and likely make it impossible for Clinton to govern with Congress as a partner. That’s all great for him and bad for the rest of us no doubt.

So much could happen out of the realm of prediction that might affect a Clinton Administration, positively or negatively. We can safely assume the level of sexism will escalate in proportion to her poll numbers. We can assume the military will continue absorbing half our budget and new wars and conflict will appear, new dragons to slay and freedom to protect. The Earth will continue to warm, the seas will rise and someone, somewhere, will proficize the imminent end of the world. The NSA will scoop up everything and store it forever. The police will become more militarized and Black Lives Matter will struggle and push against the howling winds of our history.

And if I’m still here, after nights alone, again and again, with suicide a desire and not a wish; I’ll continue complaining and suffering my soul. The present is so small and we forget the immensity of it all. We are but a speck on a speck on a tiny point of a smaller dot on a sailing place in time. I’ll hope these words matter, yet be maddeningly disappointed in tomorrow. There is a war I’m fighting still, downrange in my sorry home.

It’s snowing and that brings forth nice memories of places before the storm. I’m waiting for you with a smile and a hot cocoa, wondering why we parted so many long years ago. I think of you everyday. I think of you and pray to a God that hears nothing but hatred in this ankle-deep snow. I’m still waiting love for me to come home.

updated 2119 11/05/2016

Scanning through this I realized several open-ended assertions were made with zero follow up. From my skeptisism of our intelligence agencies public leaks or claims of Russian State involvement to Clinton citing “17 agencies” confirming Russian State meddling, I’m pretty sure my sarcasm was overt.

If you believe our Coast Guard Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency or the National Reconnisence Office chimed in on Russian hacking, well, you might should put the blunt down? When it comes to the NSA, the FBI or the CIA making declarations of fact, we should all be on guard. In my opinion, I tend to only believe something after the US government officially denies it. And where does this info come from or, how did it get to Clinton? A classified briefing? You see where I’m going, right? Of course The Donald is going to challenge the claims: He pretty much automatically disagrees with Hillary like some weird robotic autopilot meme. Doesn’t mean he supports Russia…I am suspicious however.

I wonder just how damaging Trump would be as POTUS? There has been some good points offered by experts in foreign relations no doubt. It would be degrading in the eyes of the global elite writ large. But Armegeddon? Not likely, but why chance it when Clinton is on deck to propell us onward? Another decade of war? No problem, right?

I should have left this post alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YES SIR #MILITARY WILL VOTE #TRUMP

Military support for Donald Trump comes as no surprise to me, especially support from enlisted and NCO troops. Whether true or not, Republicans are thought to be more adept with foreign relations than Democrats, e.g., more likely to go to war. There’s also a pervasive current of sexism and homophobia that permeates the Hoorah Joe culture in the US Military, both of which are associated with the liberals. The math is therefore quite simple: Hillary Clinton is a woman, a liberal, LGBT friendly, and worst of all: an elitist politician.

The media largely promotes the idea that if you’re not comfortable with, or cannot stand Trump, you’ll most likely be voting for Clinton. This might hold water in the civilian world, but is definitely not true among active duty military. Plus, as an active duty soldier you are often not permitted to discuss politics in uniform, and if a television is tuned into a news station, 9 times out of ten, it will be FOX News. Add it all up and you get a consistent result: the military will be voting Republican no matter the nominee.

No matter the nominee. No matter the Democratic candidate. Period.