Someone Else’s Non-Tax Dollars at Work

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Kazzy

One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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  1. Avatar zic
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    Given what we are seeing with civil asset forfeiture and ‘fundraising’ actions such as those committed by the Ferguson PD, I am concerned by the incentives created by such ‘alternate’ forms of revenue for the police.

    Not just Ferguson.

    It’s often outright theft of property for people who are later never convicted of any crime. Government-sanctioned theft.Report

  2. Avatar Troublesome Frog
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    I’d be much happier with it if an actual criminal conviction was required to seize the money. Absent that, any sort of asset forfeiture is nothing short of horrifying. I’d still be concerned about the incentives it creates, but at least it’s not outright theft.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Troublesome Frog
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      says:

      I believe such actions are under quasi in rem jurisdiction, and so the burden is significantly different.
      Not unrelatedly, certain states (e.g.,Wisconsin) recognize a “forfeiture” action, which is a criminal offense less than a misdemeanor and carries no jail time (i.e., a fine only). Other states (r.g., Illinois) have something similar, known as a “petty offense,” which follows different rules (e.g., no right to discover for a defendant).
      Which is to say, quasi in rem is widely recognized and applied. At issue here is its applicability to offenses against the public order; at present, contraband.

      Will H.’s Fairly Comprehensive and Super-Badass Jurisdiction’s Top Five Hits of All Time
      (rather than drafting outlines for my essays, as I should be doing . . . )

      1) The Number One Hit of Jurisdiction of All Time is subject matter jurisdiction. Every action has to have proper subject matter jurisdiction, or any judgment is void (rather than voidable). Additionally, judicial immunity is abrogated when a court acts without proper subject matter jurisdiction, so the Rules permit a court to raise questions of subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte. (“Sua Sponte” actually means something in Latin, but if you read it as “spewing smarmy,” the reading is close enough; at least, as far as horseshoes are concerned. Just don’t say that in open court . . . )
      Subject matter jurisdiction must be coupled with one of the following three types of jurisdiction (because without such coupling, there would be no seminal cases. Additionally, there woldn’t be so many people getting screwed.).
      2) The Top Two Jurisdictional Hit of All Time is in personam jurisdiction. This is an action against the person (although in personam jurisdiction may be exercised against a non-person). This is what permits people to be drawn and quartered. This is what allows a cop to fist a guy on a false pretense that some codger might have done a bong hit or two prior to tooling down the lane.
      3) Sliding into third place this week is in rem jurisdiction. This is an action against the title of something. Admiralty law is all about in rem jurisdiction (where the ship itself is named as defendant). Doesn’t seem all that exciting to me to make a winning argument against an inanimate object, but some of those inanimate objects can be a bit intimidating, I suppose.
      4) In fourth place this week is a (relative) new-comer to the jurisdictional scene. Quasi-in rem jurisdiction maintains a strong showing in the Jurisdictional Top Five. This is essentially the type of jurisdiction by which vandalism occurs: “If we can’t get to the bastaard [a Dutchman, in this case], we’ll just fish up his sh!t.” This is something of a favorite among cost-conscious counties, as it is a very efficient means of totally fishing people.
      5) Number Five in the Top Five Jurisdictions of All Time has been rendered to a black site, and all that is left is some old pictures and some video footage of weepy family members. This one works great with minorities of all types; whether you need to rough a guy up to make him “confess,” or if you simply pop a woody when giving enemas to hairy Arab men.

      These are just tools, mind you. There is only so much robbing of the illegal variety which can be done, but that robbery done legally is practically unlimited.

      I hope this helps you in any robbery scheme you might have planned.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    …Or, at least, from this guy whose car was from out of state and I swear smelled like marijuana when I pulled him over, fined him, took his money, and let him go.Report

  4. Avatar Alan Scott
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    says:

    a few years ago, I took a “personal health” class at my old college. It was a GE class, designed to be taken by freshmen and sophomores, but I’d originally taken a psychology class to meet that GE and only the health class counted for getting into a teaching program.

    One class session consisted of a Q&A session with a local city cop. It was very much a scare-you-into-behaving type of event.

    The dude was just taking sinister delight in the aspects of his job that let him harass anyone involved in alcohol use. He told us about the time he cited a designated driver for contributing to the actions of his drunk passengers. He told us about the time he seized a luxury car a drunk driver had borrowed from their aunt. All of this with the clear moral “That’s what happens when you get involved with those sorts of people“. No, that’s what happens when you get involved with cops. To this day, I regret not bitching him out in front of the class, even if it meant I’d have failed the class.Report

    • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Alan Scott
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      There was a much-linked-to discussion on reddit, maybe, that featured a cop entertainingly explaining why trying to outrun the highway patrol was a terrible idea. The conversation then took a turn into all the hi-larious things the cop could do make your life difficult if he were so inclined—how easy it was to find a pretext to pull you over, search you, ticket you, arrest you, over anything. He was pretty open about how this would result if he didn’t like you, not for any justifiable cause. It was a pretty sobering reminder not only of the mindset of a not-particularly-uncommon brand of American cop, but also how many citizens heartily approve of and encourage this mindset. Apparently openly abusing your government position is completely laudable for particular public servants.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    I’m curious how much of this is the result of the general American obsession with low taxes. I’d say this is largely driven by the right but is not exclusive to that side of the aisle. Americans want lots and lots and lots of things but we are not always willing to pay for them. As a result, government organizations have to get, um, “creative” with regards to how they drum up funding.

    To me, the way to prevent these sorts of abuses is to say that any and all funding for government must come from taxes. EVERYTHING they offer is free… no more court fees, no more licensure or registration fees, etc. To the extent that we want to authorize government to take hold of resources for other reasons (i.e., punitive purposes), these necessarily must go towards something other than funding the government. So your speeding ticket or ‘seized’ assets can’t go towards balancing the PD’s bottom line. That would see to certainly change lots of things. But, the question is, how many of us would be willing to pay the increased taxes required to make such a plan work?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      And I realize that we might want to separate out things like costs/fees from ‘punishments’. I mean, if I want to get a driver’s license and it costs money to make that happen (someone has to file the paper and pay for that paper and all that jazz), why should any one else be financially responsible for that? That is a reasonable argument. The problem is there is no transparency in that “pricing” and no competition. Does it really cost $35 to take my paperwork, enter it into a computer, and print out a piece of plastic? Or does it cost $25 with that other $10 going elsewhere? We really have no idea.

      I’ve had to pay fines that included a handling charge larger than the fine itself. “I have to pay you to accept my money?” If it costs the court $55 in order to process a $45 payment, what the hell is going on? The reality is the “fee” isn’t really a fee at all. It is a way for them to insist that their “fines” are reasonable while still receiving more money. The judge can lower the fines but, hey man, fees are fees. I watched a woman in court once accept a deal that reduced her “fine” to zero dollars. After accepting the deal with the judge she went to leave only to be told she still owed $65 in ‘fees’. English was not her first language and she was very confused. She didn’t have the $65. She ended up having to rescind the deal and take the case to trial, would likely is going to cost her a hell of a lot more than $65.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      Most of it is driven by the tax revolt. The anti-tax people thought that as tax revenue lowered than so would the number of services offered by the government. They were wrong. Many Americans want low taxes and government services offered at Swedish levels. At least for people like them. The funding for these services has to come from somewhere. Given that many Americans thought that drugs were bad or somewhat to very racist against African-Americans and Hispanics than it become obvious that the natural source for government funding was civil forfeiture and a fine racket implemented against African-Americans.

      Civil forfeiture and the fine racket tends to be less abused when the funds seized go into general revenue rather than the police and judiciary.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Insofar as this explanation is correct. It would be more accurate to say that it’s caused by the conflict between a desire for high spending and a desire for low taxes. You can’t just pick the part you don’t like and blame that.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Be that as it may Brandon but “Starve the Beast” was a distinctly right wing phenomena. As I recall the libertarians were skeptical to say the least but for right wing politicians the idea of giving out tax cuts (which people loved) and then assuming that some other politician or administrator would then responsibly cut spending (and thus lump the blame) to balance the budget was simply too alluring to pass up.
        Hell, looking at it uncharitably the entire “scary debt is going to kill us all” freakout that emerged after the right got washed out of office was basicly a tantrum that the Democratic party wasn’t willing to scrub the vomint out of the carpet after the GOP’s eight year bender.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      @kazzy and @leeesq

      The notion that it’s related to tax-aversion is sort of a testable insofar as if it is true, it’s primarily a feature of anti-tax states. But when states with the highest taxation in the country do it, it gets a lot harder to paint in that light. At least, it starts to look to me like it’s more about “just want more revenue” than “don’t want to pay taxes.”

      I think user fees are generally a fair and decent way to raise revenue. Or can be, at least, as a mechanism of encouraging and discouraging things. If providing X costs the state money, and you want to people to use X with a modicum of restraint, user fees are a way of going about it. Transportation comes to mind (whether talking about tollways for cars or bus tokens).

      I will say, though, I have become increasingly suspicious of things ostensibly “for the public good” that justsohappen to raise revenue. However, this often comes in the form of taxes (cigarette taxes being a big example).

      But neither of these are comparable to what has become of seizure.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        @will-truman But even high tax states there are anti-tax movements and policies implemented by voters. Prop 13 in California is Exhibit A in this.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mo
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          says:

          Nonetheless, you would expect to see some sort of relationship between tax rates and this sort of thing if it were just a refusal to tax.

          There may be anti-vax movements in every state, but they are not all successful.

          I have a hard time looking at New York State and saying “You know, if they were just more willing to pay taxes…” as though it comes down to that.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Mo has it right. Mr. Norquist is from Massachusettes. There are anti-tax groups in every state just as even the most conservative state has liberal enclaves here and there.

        Another thing is that even in high tax states, taxes are low by developed world standards. The high tax states might need assets from civil forfeiture and fines less, its why the fine racket seems to exist the most in low tax states, but that doesn’t mean taxes provide enough revenue for the level of services citizens demand.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Will Truman
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        I would exclude California from comparisons. California’s tax structure is all effed up because of various ballot initiatives.

        There’s a reason it costs 500 bucks to register your car there (because fees, unlike taxes, didn’t require a 2/3rds majority).

        And of course their property tax rules are equally insane. California is just one big example of “How some stuff doesn’t work well in reality”. (Ballot initiatives to fix funding levels AND super-majority requirements to raise taxes AND your property taxes are fixed to the value of when you bought your home? Good lord, it’s a wonder California even functions).Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Will Truman
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        It may be tax increase avoidance at the local level since non Federal gov’t is required to “balance” their budgets. And even then states can get creative, like raiding their transportation funds to cover the short falls in the general fun. Then of course, they can claim they need to raise taxes since they have to repair all these bridges and there is no money in the transport fund. Funny how the suckers still believe that lie.

        On the Federal level, I don’t think it’s tax avoidance, as the money / tax issue has been disconnected borrowing. Now politicians can make everyone that wants free stuff AND low taxes happy. Problem solved….at least until they aren’t running for reelection again.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Damon,

        My favorite state-level trick is this. Balance the budget by reducing the amount you put into pension plans (either by explicitly saying ‘we’ll pay more later’ or by ‘oh, we’re totally gonna make 10% a year here for the next ten”). Then when the pension shortfall happens (or when you’re due to ‘pay more later’) talk about the crisis in pensions and slash it.

        Bonus points if you talk about how over-paid the system is, and find one guy who managed to gin up 100k a year and claim he’s representative.

        It’s poor budgeting from the get go — and a transparent trick, because the problem never seems to be that they can’t afford the payments. The problem always seems to be a budget shortfall elsewhere, so why not reduce those pesky payments into the pension?Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        @morat20
        Yep, that’s a good one too!Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Always amuses me how many budget & other government crisis are self inflicted because nobody wants to make hard choices & take political heat.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        MRS,
        we could build a better system you know…Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Kim has met some of every people.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Will,
        You’d be surprised how far blackmail can get a bloke, wouldn’tcha?
        To change the system, one must apply the correct levers.

        Chris,
        Friends I have few enough, but friends of friends… nearly countless.
        http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/5079/Banned+from+kmart/
        Just a sample (and, yes, I heard the rest of the tale…).Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      Co-sign with @will-truman and @brandon-berg. The best way to understand this phenomenon is as bureaucratic mission creep and public choice theory. Even if increasing taxes could theoretically fully fund the proper functions of police departments, the police are still going to want more. They’re going to want nicer, faster cars; bigger and better weapons; and all sorts of high-speed tactical training.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to j r
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        says:

        Sign me up on this opinions also. There are two issues at play here, one being that there is a tug of war between the low tax population and the large gov’t pop. The other being that this is how bureaucracies work, budget wise. Missions creep is a real thing and costs money, while there is no gov’t incentive to be budget efficient.Report

    • Avatar A Compromised Immune System in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      Concur with @kazzy , utterly disagree with @will-truman and @brandon-berg.

      The tax aversion craze in the USA is out of control. It’s so far out of control that in my home state we’re honestly talking about how it would be “too expensive” to repair or replace bridges that have pieces falling off of them on a regular basis. I know of a section of state highway that has had a lane closed for over a month while “funds are located” to handle the cost of digging up the section, filling in the sinkhole, and repairing it.

      It finds its way into police academies and departments from both directions as well. The first problem is that cops are generally under-trained, which is to say that they are trained on “police procedure” but given little if any background in the actual law, the rights of the people they are interacting with, or any techniques in de-escalation of situations. When “civil forfeiture” policies are put into place, they get “training” from corrupt firms like Desert Snow, an agency founded by a corrupt cop named Joe David, whose tactics were responsible for enough racial-profiling lawsuits against the CHP that the department has now banned officers from conducting pretext stops and “consent searches” following the ruling in Curtis V. Rodriguez et al. v. California Highway Patrol et al.

      The second problem is that the underpayment attracts less-qualified candidates, the types of hotheads and sadists you wouldn’t usually want to give a badge and a gun to, and then to make more money, they take on “side jobs” and overtime, working long hours that they wouldn’t even be allowed to work if they were in less-dangerous jobs like truck driving. The result is that your average cop, already predisposed to anger management issues, is now a sleep-deprived time bomb, a badged and gun-authorized road-rage case just waiting to explode.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to A Compromised Immune System
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        What does any of that have to do with this so-called “tax aversion craze?”

        Anyone care to offer anything in the way of actual proof that links tax reform movements to the expanded use of asset forfeiture? In the absence of evidence, this is nothing more than mood affiliation.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to A Compromised Immune System
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        says:

        Re: Police training – that is less related to CAF & more related to poor PD leadership choices/cronyism, i.e. systemic/endemic issues within police culture itself. At best CAF just better enables such cronyism.

        Re: underpayments – Thugs/bullies/hotheads/sadists are going to be attracted to police work because of the power & freedom the badge gives them to indulge in their particular pathology. Again, considering the culture that police are steeped in, raising pay is going to do little to attract higher quality candidates, since individuals who are more professional/moral/ethical will either be unable to tolerate the demands of police culture to protect the thugs & bullies, or worse, they will be assimilated into that culture more fully. If you truly think pay is the issue, you are going to have to do more work to demonstrate that.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      Civil asset forfeiture (in it’s current iteration – it goes back to the Continental Congress and Brit law before that) comes near exclusively from the War on Drugs. This iteration specifically resurrected the practice from Prohibition, and both were so that criminals and criminal enterprises couldn’t profit off their criminality by using that dirty money to hire platinum tier defense lawyers.

      Of course, like all well intentioned government programs that are suppose to make society better by protecting people from themselves, it had adverse affects, that fall disproportionally on poor and/or minority communities.

      (fining people for penny ante crimes? – *that’s* the low tax mandate talking)Report

  6. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    First off, I’d be happy that I’d noticed the cop and that he was likely in front of me, so I could keep an eye on him (and that he wasn’t behind me). As to the bumper sticker, I’d chuckle in the poor attempt to justify their existence in “keeping me safe”. This Civil Asset Forfeiture has been going on for quite a while. Radly Balko hits it pretty hard often in his writing. But hey, go live in the southwest within 100 miles of the border. Then you can enjoy the CBP road blocks checking for illegals, etc. all through New Mexico and Arizona. It’s all “for your protection”, so be happy when you roll up and they walk the dog around your car and you hope the previous guy who rented your car wasn’t a drug mule.

    Oh, and @mad-rocket-scientist CAF is indeed theft, but then again, so are taxes.Report

  7. Avatar Jim Heffman
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    says:

    A quintessentially American notion is that it’s okay to be a total asshole so long as you’re doing it for the right reasons.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    John Oliver did a pretty damn good introductory bit on Civil Asset Forfeiture a few weeks ago. If people here haven’t seen it, it’s well worth the quarter hour.

    Report

  9. Avatar zic
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    says:

    @chris somewhat off topic, but: a judge dismissed charges against rapper Brandon Duncan.

    http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/3/16/gan-conspiracy-charges-against-san-diego-rapper-dropped.html

    there must be specific knowledge of that crime and a specific act of furthering or assisting, or a specific benefit to the individual, not just to the gang as a whole. Many of those factors could not be proven in this case.

    Report

  10. Avatar Michael Cain
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    I am of too many minds on this. I’m opposed to civil forfeiture laws without a conviction and/or plea bargain. With that out of the way, though… There is the federal civil forfeiture law, which includes a large amount of sharing with the states, and there are state civil forfeiture laws. According to this report, my state’s state laws aren’t too bad (compared to many other states) since the legal standard is clear and convincing evidence, and the state is responsible for proving guilt (many states require the accused to prove innocence). Law enforcement gets 50% of funds raised through seizure, the rest goes into the General Fund. (Maine gets the highest marks, mostly because all of the seizure funds go to the GF.)

    Then there are the proceeds from the federal seizures, shared with the states. If you take the offered money, it comes with strings: it can’t be transferred to the GF, it has to be spent on courts and police. Assuming the state is spending GF funds on law enforcement — mine does — then taking the funds frees up GF money for other things. If you don’t take the money, federal law enforcement keeps it. A Republican introduced a bill in the Colorado legislature this year that would block the state from accepting federal seizure money until Congress reformed the law. It was killed in committee in the Republican-controlled Senate on the argument that the seizures were still going to happen, the only effect would be a $3-4M hit to state revenues.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain
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      @michael-cain

      IIRC when all civil asset forfeiture is mandated to go into the general fund or the education fund, the amount of civil asset forfeiture done drops to nearly zero.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Cain
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      If a PD does a raid that they expect will net a considerable CAF haul, all they have to do is call in a Federal LEO to be part of the raid, and suddenly the haul falls under federal rules, which typically means 80% goes back to the PD and 20% to the feds.

      This completely bypasses any controls the states put in to route the money to the GF. It was one of the reasons, when Holder announced he was reforming Federal CAF rules, there was hope (until it was realized that he didn’t do anything substantive).Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Cain
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      When individual cops use similar logic, it’s called being on the take.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Michael Cain
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      I’m opposed to civil forfeiture laws without a conviction and/or plea bargain.

      Question 1: I am often a little queasy about plea bargains (or more specifically, the way in which the govt. can hang all kinds of outsized charges and threats above a defendant’s head to make them cave).

      I realize that plea bargaining is *a* way to expeditiously resolve criminal cases, but are you concerned at all that allowing CAF in the case of plea bargains just shifts the pressure points slightly (that is, if we agree CAF is often basically just the govt. robbing people, all the govt. has to do now is say “Your money, or thirty years in the pen”?)

      Question 2: I THINK I am pretty OK with some level of CAF in the case of a conviction, AFTER the appeals process is concluded (not that convictions can’t be wrongful, or later overturned etc., but sooner or later in the process we have to assume the justice system is mostly “working”.)

      After all, if money was stolen we’d want it repatriated if possible, as part of making victims (and society) whole.

      And in the case of drug dealers, even though the money wasn’t “stolen” (since drug use is a consensual crime which I don’t think should be illegal to begin with) it’s probably a safe bet that if there’s enough money there for the govt. to want, then there was probably some violence committed in amassing it.

      Is there pretty broad agreement on allowing CAF after conviction (especially amongst libertarians, is where I am curious), or no?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Glyph
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        Wyoming’s legislature passed a law (vetoed by its governor) that said that (a) a conviction must occur (plea deals would certainly count) and (b) the individual must be sentenced for at least one year in prison. The latter helps, in my mind, take the “Avoid prison by giving us your stuff” thing that I think you’re voicing concern about.

        That seems like a fair way to go. Except…

        Well, it would be a fair way to go if the whole enterprise weren’t so FUBAR. At this point, I think that what really needs to happen is that you stop doing it altogether, then after a dead period, revisit it later if you want to pursue it. Starting from the position of no forfeiture at all.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        @will-truman – yeah, you got my concern, and I don’t mean to imply plea bargaining is inherently invalid; it is part of the way in which the sausage gets made. On Better Call Saul last night, a crooked county comptroller was offered a plea deal – if he took it and returned the embezzled funds, then he’d only serve 16 months at a tony facility, versus almost-certainly losing the trial and going to the pen for 30 years.

        While it offends our sense of justice on the one hand, OTOH it’s almost certainly better for everyone for him to take this deal – cheaper for the taxpayers who avoid the trial, the victims get made whole, and the perp only loses a small chunk of his life instead of all of it, which benefits him and his kids.

        So I don’t see a situation like that as inappropriately-abusive on the State’s part; but of course it helps me to know for a fact – because this is a fiction in which we have a nearly-omniscient view – that the comptroller was definitely guilty.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
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        (Wyoming, that famously pro-tax state.)

        It seems to me that if you want to avoid the rather obvious perverse incentives, you have to get rid of civil forfeiture altogether, except in the case of returning money/property/value in the case of theft (as Glyph mentioned). For example, they’re not going to say, “give us the car and avoid prison,” they’re going to say, “You’re going to prison, but give us the car and avoid 30 years.”

        As a general ethical principle, if you create two alternatives from which people can choose, and no even remotely rational person would choose one of them, you haven’t really created two alternatives.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Is there pretty broad agreement on allowing CAF after conviction (especially amongst libertarians, is where I am curious), or no?

        Not speaking for the libertarians here, but my comfort level with it goes up quite a bit if you require an actual conviction. My remaining objections are related to the incentives it creates, which is more a policy problem than a moral one. First, paying police to find crime means that when crime goes down, police get paid less. That’s an incentive to create crime where it doesn’t exist. Second, it creates an incentive to fight profitable crimes before unprofitable ones. In general, it means fighting the drug war before, say, figuring out who stole my sister’s car. Crimes with actual victims are not very profitable to solve because there’s rarely a lot of money on the line, and when there is, you have to return it to the victim.

        If we were to make sure the asset forfeiture money goes into the general fund so that the people making the decisions don’t have an incentive to change their behavior one way or another, I think that making substantial asset forfeiture a part of the punishment for certain crimes is a good idea. Organized crime often thrives because it makes enough money to make the non-financial punishment of members of the organization just a cost of doing business. Seizing money that can be proven to be part of the criminal enterprise can potentially make the cost of doing business “all of the dollars you made doing business,” which changes the payoff calculations in a major way.

        Of course, all this assumes that we’re going after crimes that I think are serious crimes and not crimes that I would rather not be crimes in the first place. That’s not the case right now, so YMMV. When I think “organized crime” I think “drugs” and not a whole lot else.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        tf,
        you don’t think hackers? white slave trade? There’s worse stuff out there, but… organized crime is more than a bit of a beast.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @kim

        No, not when I’m thinking in terms of US law enforcement. Open it up worldwide and there are all sorts of interesting organized criminal enterprises, but they’re generally not hit very hard by US asset seizure rules or US law enforcement in general.Report

  11. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    When is Notme going to show up and defend civil asset forfeiture?

    I am being slightly serious.

    Civil Asset Forfeiture is big news in liberal circles right now and it is big news in libertarian circles.
    The New Yorker ran a huge story about it, Balko has been covering it for years, Tod just posted to a John Oliver segment about the horribleness of the program.

    Yet the program still exists. Are we just preaching to the choir here? Maybe a lot of people do really like these programs and have the “Scare them straight” mentality as described above? Maybe many people do feel good about the idea that “this vehicle was paid for with funds seized from drug dealers?”

    Has anyone done polling or research on whether a majority of Americans approve of civil asset forfeiture or not and for what reasons?

    How are we going to get people to dislike the program?

    What I do notice also is how the liberals and libertarians agree that this is a horrible program but they don’t agree on the cause and the possible solution? Unsurprisingly, I am with Lee, Kazzy, and ACIS, I think that the “starve the beast” mentality of the anti-tax right backfired and governments simply needed to look for other ways to fund their essential and necessary functions. I think it was a bit of folly on anti-taxers to think that government would simply stop performing certain or many functions just because tax revenue went down.Report

    • Avatar aaron david in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      @saul-degraw
      ” I think it was a bit of folly on anti-taxers to think that government would simply stop performing certain or many functions just because tax revenue went down.”

      I think it was a bit of folly on big-gov’ters to think that government would simply keep playing nice and not stealing just because tax revenue went down.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      The cause is simple – Supreme Court case that enabled it.

      The reason it’s used is because it works.

      The reason it perpetuates is because cops tend to be careful to pick victims least able to fight for their property back, which are also the people least able to exercise the political power to make things change. It’s the reason Balko, et. al. harp on it constantly, in order to engage those with the political power to change things.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      Why would you think notme would defend CAF? That hardly seems his MO.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        because several liberals here have said it’s bad

        the MO is the negative space of whatever a liberal says.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Nah, I still don’t see him defending CFA. More like,

        “I guess liberals only like the government taking things that don’t belong to them when it’s being done by Obama and Al Sharpton.”

        Less a defense of CFA than a wild, totally off-target and off-topic swing at the people they talk about on Fox & Friends.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        notme really is a pretty poor troll, when you think about it.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t know that he’s a troll.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Why would you think notme would defend CAF? That hardly seems his MO.

        I’ve never, not once, seen @notme fail to uncritically take the side of the police (and more broadly, all authorities in the criminal justice system, up to judges etc.)

        Maybe I’ve missed a thread somewhere, but the police seem to be always right, and I have little doubt that they’d probably say that the forfeiters were obviously up to no good.

        That said – and despite me hypocritically doing it, right here – it seems a little uncool to call out commenters who are not even participating in a particular conversation.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @tod-kelly

        For the same reasons that everyone else noted.

        @glyph

        Noted. I just used him as an example for my broader point.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        That said – and despite me hypocritically doing it, right here – it seems a little uncool to call out commenters who are not even participating in a particular conversation.

        Certainly notme would never do that (except all the times he calls me out when cops are brought up). Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Tod,
        Oh, he very well may not be a troll.
        But to say such would be impolite, as I’d have to ascribe his notorious vapidity to a level of intellect unfit to matriculate to middle school.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?

        Sorry, I am terrible at math. 😉

        Yeah, he(?) has pulled that stunt a time or two. And hey, there are times when you want to refer back to an earlier thread, even though that thread’s participants are currently elsewhere, and so names gonna get named.

        Still, I find that a good rule of thumb is to ask, “WWNMD?”, then do the opposite of that.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        I actually have that on a bracelet.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph @saul-degraw

        I’ll carry this a little further, because I actually don’t think notme is a troll. I think he’s pretty representative of a fairly big demographic in this country — like, 20-30% of the population big — that we just do’t happen to have much of here at OT, and I think it’s better to try to understand where people are coming from than just casually dismiss them.

        For example, this:

        “I’ve never, not once, seen @notme fail to uncritically take the side of the police (and more broadly, all authorities in the criminal justice system, up to judges etc.)”

        Sure you have. Find any thread that discusses the current justice department, Eric Holder, or really any bit of controversy where liberals are on the side of the police, judges, and the justice system, and I guarantee you where notme has shown up it is *not* to agree with everyone.

        I would argue that notme’s driving political philosophy is being anti-liberal; and while that’s certainly not enough of a driver for me, it obviously is to a substantial part of the country. Turn on talk radio sometime. notme is more than every single caller I’ve ever heard, he’s kind of every host as well.

        None of this, btw, should be construed as a defense of notme’s brand of politics or his specific “witty” rejoinders. It’s more that I tend to believe that if you’re going to be proactive about engaging someone you disagree like Saul did here, I think it’s best to attempt to engage them on their actual beliefs rather than what is convenient for you to believe those beliefs are at the moment.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @tod-kelly

        I completely agree with your assessment of notme and there have always been people like notme. The internet just makes it easier for them to do their job.

        Someone on another part of the Internet gave a story about how when they wrote an old-fashioned “letter to the editor” and it got published, someone went through the difficulty of finding their address and writing a letter about how wrong she was. When I worked at Pacifica in NYC, a guy would call up just to scream “Go back to CUUUUBBBAAAA”

        There is also Cleek’s Law:

        http://ok-cleek.com/blogs/?page_id=18788Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Tod,
        shining a laser at a mirror is hardly going to hurt the mirror.
        I’m not certain notme would listen to anything I had to say,
        save if I switched my spots and decided to troll full time.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        I am going to go one step further than @tod-kelly here, and say that not only is notme not a troll, but that he is someone that OT desperately needs. I don’t agree with him, but he does represent a view that is not uncommon in the USA, and that helps open window to aspects of our debates here that we wouldn’t normally look through. We may find him uncouth, but I have noticed more reflection in his posts as time has gone by. This is encouraging.

        Having views that you don’t like is how you stop the echo chamber effect.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Word up to that, @aaron-david .Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        notme might sincerely believe what he or she believes but he isn’t the best and talking about his beliefs. Most posters are capable of providing at least some of the reason, logic, or thought process behind their beliefs even if I do not agree with what a particular poster is saying. notme does not. His or her writing style is abrassive, cursory, and completely lacking in anything resembling a justification.Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        FTR, I think @aaron-david is spot on here.both his meta-analysis, and his observation about the development of notme’s comments over. Time. I’ve noticed this as well.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        The League has suffered from withdrawal of the conservative wing (always a relatively small one to begin with). I can’t prove this but I’ve gotten the feeling like conservatives in general (as opposed to libertarians or libertarian-conservatives) have been withdrawing into their online fortresses ever since Bush left office.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        What’s interesting, to me, is that there are still some fairly conservative people here, some very prominent (e.g., Will), but their conservatism is not the same as that of notme, or TVD, or some of the other early ones (Kos? what was the “the Republicans are our only hope” dude?) are conservative, which is to say a conservatism almost entirely defined by its anti-“liberalism”, where “liberalism” is itself defined almost entirely by the behavior of Democrats and those who vote for them (which means something can often be “liberal” and “conservative” at two different but very close points in time).Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        That’s because properly understood, conservative ≠ ~liberal. Many people who call themselves conservatives are indeed really complying with Cleek’s Law, as cited by @saul-degraw . They mostly seem to be enjoying that exercise. But I don’t think there’s a lot of deep thought involved in that.

        But conservatism in the contemporary sense of the term is (at its best) all about examining, understanding and molding cultural norms, social and governmental institutions, and laws, towards a harmonious and prosperous society. I say that in contrast with contemporary liberalism, which I understand at its best to be about manipulating cultural norms, institutions, laws, and economics, towards a society in which there is fundamentally greater equality between peoples and empowerment of individuals as contrasted with institutions and governments.

        If both of those propositions are true, it’s understandable that contemporary conservatism and contemporary liberalism would be at odds on many issues. But they need not be, when the goals of harmony and prosperity on the one hand, and equality and empowerment on the other hand, might sometimes dovetail. One of the reasons I really like our online community is that it’s a place where there is interest in and even some searching for ways that those goals might dovetail. And even if someone (possibly not necessarily @notme) occasionally Cleeks out, if they from time to time articulate the more refined and aspirational sort of conservatism, I for one not only welcome them but will actively solicit their intellectual contributions.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko

        I am going to push back against your post a bit.

        On a theoretical level, I think it is more or less correct including with a frame work about what conservatism is as a good definition.

        Reality is rarely theoretical or ideal world. We are still a representative democracy with ideologically based parties. I think the Founders’ were very naive in hoping that there would never be political parties. The nature of political parties is generally to stake out claims against each other to distinguish themselves. This is why partisans on both sides want their respective parties to take dramatic stances in opposition. “Why would Americans vote for Republicans lite instead of Republicans?” is a common refrain you can hear from liberal activists who are distrustful of the DLC-Triangulation wing of the Democratic Party.
        The far right base believes in the same thing, more or less, when they say that the GOP lost by going moderate instead of giving a real conservative choice. Conservatism can’t fail, it can only be failed.

        There is also seemingly a growing body of evidence that suggests much of the 20th century including the bipartisan nature of American politics was the exception rather than the rule. The problem is that many of us here grew up in the time period of that exception and are used to it. We hear all these lovely tails of Reagan and Tip O’Neil hashing out deals over Whiskey but maybe for most of American history a Democratic Speaker of the House would not be friendly with a Republican Congressional Leader and vice-versa. Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge did not get along probably.

        There are also those on the Left who might say that conservativism wants us to believe it is about your definition but the effect ends up being the extension and keeping of various privileges for a small and rich elite. See Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind. I admit to being attracted to this view of conservatism because of how “real America” seems to translate.

        Basically, how are you going to get past the Partisan issue?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Because I’m not addressing partisanship, I’m addressing small-“i” ideology, differing visions of what “the good” is and how to achieve it.

        Nowhere in my earlier comment did I mention Republicans or Democrats. For purposes of this discussion, partisan identification is not only uninteresting, it seems like it could become a distraction very easily. I’ve little use for people who want to insist that Those Other Guys are made of pure, unredeemable, unforgiveable evil. Whether it’s historically the case that compromise, consensus, and concessions are or are not the modus operandi for our government, it’s clearly the model for how a deliberative body is supposed to work, and it’s clearly the mechanism for democratic self-government in the Madisonian sense, especially as exposited in the famous Federalist No. 10.

        Moreover, we ought not be surprised to find that people have aspirations and ideals but often fall short of embodying and fulfilling them. Particularly when they either have not given those ideals particularly deep thought or when they find themselves thrown into an environment where they are forced to make concessions and compromises to people with different priorities.

        So while reality almost always falls short of ideals, this is only to be expected and is no cause to either sacrifice or eschew understanding of those ideals; while strident partisans are not the same thing as ideologues, we here strive to be neither; while you may have a different vision of what is good and how to realize it than I, we need not be enemies, at least not here.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      I think it was a bit of folly on anti-taxers to think that government would simply stop performing certain or many functions just because tax revenue went down.

      What the heck is an “anti-taxer?”

      This is a very Saul comment in that it assumes that people with whom you have a disagreement hold some vague, nebulous, but entirely silly position that accounts for their disagreement.

      I just spent a few minutes reading the Wikipedia entry on civil forfeiture in the United States and doing some Googling on the topic. Nowhere can I find any indication of an actual link between to movement to lower tax rates and the movement to increase the use of civil forfeiture as law-enforcement tool. Would love to see any evidence to the contrary.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        You’ve just written a cogent refutation of a point no one made. What Saul wrote is that government found a new source of revenue, not that anyone in particular favored or predicted that.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        By tying “anti-tax” sentiment to forfeiture, I think that does imply it’s use geared towards raising revenue (specifically the revenue “denied” by lower taxes) as a goal.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-schilling

        I’ll just leave this here:

        Unsurprisingly, I am with Lee, Kazzy, and ACIS, I think that the “starve the beast” mentality of the anti-tax right backfired and governments simply needed to look for other ways to fund their essential and necessary functions.

        After that, maybe you can scroll up and see what it is that Lee, Kazzy and ACIS said..

        Never mind. I’ll do it for you.

        @kazzy:

        I’m curious how much of this is the result of the general American obsession with low taxes.

        @leeesq:

        Most of it is driven by the tax revolt. The anti-tax people thought that as tax revenue lowered than so would the number of services offered by the government.

        and @a-compromised-immune-system:

        The tax aversion craze in the USA is out of control.

        Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @j-r

        You said “movement”, which implies a conscious connection between two groups, not a cause-and-effect, which is what the others are saying. I think that Gulf War II led to Iranian domination of Iraq, but I wouldn’t link the neocon and Shiite “movements”.

        @will-truman

        Yes, I think civil forfeiture is about getting more money in. I didn’t realize that was controversial.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-schilling

        You said “movement”, which implies a conscious connection between two groups, not a cause-and-effect, which is what the others are saying.

        To get to that conclusion requires one hell of a charitable reading of what the others are saying and one hell of an uncharitable reading of what I said. But if anyone can get that done, it’s you. Congrats!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Part of the problem is the attitude that “this needs to be done, I just don’t want to be the one paying for it”.

        We figured out the perfect way to wage the war on drugs: have the cops oppress the poor primarily, then take their stuff, sell it at auction, then buy better war on drugs tools.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        Nailed it, @jaybird .Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird – not that I don’t agree with the general sentiment, but have the cops oppress the poor primarily, then take their stuff, sell it at auction isn’t really quite right descriptively.

        It’s generally not the poor whose stuff gets taken/auctioned, or outright repurposed (I’ve seen those things where the cops just repaint drug dealers’ luxury cars). I mean, it DOES happen; but these programs *primarily* target those victims who have some gold to be dug.

        The people running these programs may be robbers and thugs, but they are not stupid. There’s little money to be made robbing poor people – THOSE people, they just send to jail forever.

        It’s the ones who HAVE some cash/stuff, that they want to hit.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        The problem is that the people who have money and nice stuff have a chance at also having cultural capital like an uncle who is a lawyer or a bestie’s dad on the city council or something.

        And so the cops don’t really get to enjoy the fruits of their labors for those busts.

        Look at medicinal. It was a way to get the cops off of the backs of the well-off. The cops didn’t listen. So they legalized it in a handful of places. The cops might finally be getting the message.Report

  12. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
    Ignored
    says:

    Re: Tax vs. no-tax

    There is a joke in the military about the difference between the quality of family services & facilities of Navy & Air Force bases that goes like this:

    When the Navy builds a base, it builds the docks, and depots, the ammunition dumps, and all the critical mission facilities first, then uses whatever money is left to build housing, etc.

    When the Air Force builds a base, it builds the housing, etc. first, spending lavishly, then when it comes time to build the runways, they are all out of money & have to go back to congress for more money.

    This in return reminds me of how, whenever a state is having a big budget/tax debate, politicians always threaten severe cuts to vital services first (schools, police, fire, etc.).

    When @will-truman was talking about tax heavy states still using CAF, I have to wonder, is the state needing more money because it truly has more demands for services than it has tax revenue, or is it because the state has extremely poor bureaucratic fiscal accountability, or even more basic, because politicians just like having lots of money for whatever cronyism or vanity projects put a twinkle in their eye.

    I can understand opposition to the first example, but the second & third (And yes they exist, and are common*)…?

    *Stories like this are good evidence of 2 & 3Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      This in return reminds me of how, whenever a state is having a big budget/tax debate, politicians always threaten severe cuts to vital services first (schools, police, fire, etc.).

      And at the local level, school sports, because that gets parcel taxes passed and triggers special fund-raising in a way that cutting arts or enrichment programs never will.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        In WA, I wish that was the case. Right now no one in the Puget Sound area can seem to get such a levy passed (if NPR is to be believed, which I generally do). Lots of schools are growing extremely fast and have to resort to pop-up classrooms to handle the expansion, rather than building a new school.

        I can understand waiting to build a new building until you know the influx isn’t a transient, but I think most school planners know when the population increase is effectively permanent and new facilities are needed.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Temporary buildings were a fixture when I was going through back home. In fairness, our football stadium was a dump, too.

        Eventually, they built a couple of new schools. A couple decades after the need became apparent. I think that had more to do with local politics than taxes, though. Basically, opening a new school meant redirecting a lot of kids from their current school, and nobody wanted to be redirected away from the school that I went to, even for a new school.

        One theory is that they let my school fall to $#!+ so that parents would be excited to send their kids to a brand new one. I never lent it much credence, but less than a year after the second new school was built, they announced that they were tearing down my school and rebuilding it from scratch.

        (Honestly, I’m skeptical that my school actually did fall to crap. But the parents have awfully lofty expectations. Another strike against the theory is that they redirected the poorest kids from my high school to the new one. That may just mean that the plan didn’t work, though.)Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      @mad-rocket-scientist

      There are plenty of CAF horror stories, I’ve heard from Blue cities and states. One of the worst came from Philadelphia which tried (and maybe succeeded) in seizing a house from an elderly couple because their son (or grandson!) dealt something like 20 dollars worth of marijuana from the porch.

      The issue with city budgets is that they are complicated and there always seems to be some hostility between the big city and the overall state government. A lot of NYCers feel like their money gets spent more upstate when it can go to helping NYC. I wonder if there are similar battles and resentments between Philadelphia and Harrisburg? My Wisconsin friends pretty much say that Scott Walker wins by going against big and scary Milwaukee.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw

        Sure, but such budget battles have little to do with CAF. CAF is driven mostly by PDs who think they should have more budget than they do, and they have a great tool to do it. This is why CAF, even if was only used against legitimate bad guys, should always place the funds in the GF, be it state or federal level CAF.

        Additionally, this opens a discussion into the obligation of government agencies to expand and contract personnel & services to meet demand (as best as one reasonably can). If a PD (although this can be any agency) serves a city that has a significant reduction in crime, the elected government should reduce PD personnel & budget to reflect the reduced demand, but CAF allows PD to have an independent revenue source that allows them to maintain staffing levels far beyond what might be needed, which opens the door wide to PD mission creep (never a good thing for a paramilitary org with force and/or arrest powers).Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist
        It could also allow the PD to have an independent budget, thus freeing moneys for local gov’t. I believe that someone (city council?) has to write the regs that allow many offenses. Now this isn’t directly CAF, but it does belay some of the idea that this is just the police acting on its own.

        Also, I have never seen any government group willingly lowering its number of personnel. Police or not. There is no incentive for it at the level of control.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @aaron-david

        It could also allow the PD to have an independent budget…

        You say that like it would be a good thing? Allow the police to generate their own funding, using the tools at their disposal, and with a compliant governing body & DA*, ‘policing for profit’ takes on a whole new dimension.

        Also, I have never seen any government group willingly lowering its number of personnel.

        I said there was an obligation for government agencies to do this, I didn’t say that it happened in practice. Public sector unions on one side will do all they can to prevent layoffs like that, and department heads will do it from the other side to avoid having their power & funding reduced. Nonetheless, the obligation exists under the idea that governments have a responsibility to be frugal with the public purse, as well as to avoid mission creep. Government is not a jobs program unless there is actual government work to be done. If there is not enough work to honestly justify staffing levels… well, idle hands & devils & all that.

        *Police power, as vital as it is, scares me. An unchecked police can, as many have pointed out time & again, make life miserable for any who annoy them. I can easily see a PD using the implied threat of police harassment to inspire compliance in DAs & other elected officials.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist
        I wasn’t trying to imply that it was a good thing, just a possible selling point from PD’s to city council members.

        And I agree with you completely that it should be part of the budgeting process, but I was just trying to point out how inherently difficult that is.Report

    • This in return reminds me of how, whenever a state is having a big budget/tax debate, politicians always threaten severe cuts to vital services first (schools, police, fire, etc.).

      I’ll push back on this some.

      Why, when the federal government “shuts down”, are the National Parks closed? Not because someone in the executive branch thinks that will force Congress’ hand; rather, because that’s one of the few things that’s not exempted and so has to be shut. Note that Congress has brought this on themselves, by over-dependence on permanent appropriations and loose definitions of “essential”.

      Why, when a recession hits state revenues, do the cuts come out of education (with the big cuts in higher ed) and public safety? Because those are the parts of the state budget that are funded out of the General Fund and aren’t largely on autopilot. State constitutional mandates, federal laws, federal court decisions, and the enormous incentive of federal matching dollars effectively protect most of the GF spending from cuts.

      Why, when a recession hits local revenues, do the cuts come in K-12 and public safety? Because those are overwhelmingly where local revenues that aren’t tied down by assorted federal and state constraints are spent. As I’ve been heard tellling my neighbors on occasion, “If spending has to be cut 10%, and 95% of spending is in program X, program X has to be cut 5% even if we wipe out everything else completely.”

      Every two years, the Colorado legislative staff runs training sessions for new members of the General Assembly. One day is set aside for the budget. I’ve never known whether to laugh or cry at the reactions from the new members when they discover just how much of the state budget is off limits.Report

  13. Avatar Kim
    Ignored
    says:

    Mission Creep:
    If you think America’s is bad, you should see Israel.
    You see, someone had the brilliant idea to organize a command of people to go after Nazi war criminals…
    Kidnapping them and all that.

    What do you suppose they’re doing now?Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Imagine it’s 1928 and you saw that sticker on a police horseless carriage that was talking about bootleggers.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I’d try to get their attention and then ask them where I could find said bootleggers.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      @jaybird

      To be clear, this didn’t appear to be a sticker but rather seemed painted right onto the car as part of it’s official labeling and what not. It doesn’t appear that the cop was making a joke. Rather, it was right there next to “To Protect and Serve”.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Considering that Americans gave a landslide victory to the dry Republican Herbert Hoover over the wet Democratic Al Smith in 1928; I’d argue that most Americans would cheer or at least silently appreciate such a sign in that year. I’m also relatively sure that most police departments were using cars and trucks rather than horses by 1928 but admit to this being intuition.

      Jaybird, you constantly express amazement that America would embark on the War on Drugs within living memory of the failure of Prohibition. I’m not sure that there is anything surprising about this though. For one thing, your assuming that everybody drew the same lesson from Prohibition’s failure. Prohibition enforcement was woefully under-funded through from the Volstead Act to the Repeal. It is perfectly possible for a person to reason that Prohibition failed because it wasn’t given the necessary funds and that a properly funded War on Drugs could succeed.

      You also assume that people should rational view one intoxicant or narcotic as no different than another intoxicant or narcotic. People make these sorts of distinction all along. Alcohol was the traditional intoxicant of choice in the West for thousands of years. Tobacco, coffee, and tea got added in the 17th century but for the most part no other intoxicant or narcotic did. Marijuana, opium, cocaine, and other narcotics always had an element of the exotic to them and this allowed Americans to see them as stuff “those people” did rather than alcohol, which was much more familiar and less scary. This allowed people to embark on a War on Drugs within living memory of Prohibition’s epic failure.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        People have completely frickin real and true fears of lots of drugs. They get those fears from having seen friends or family get hooked on meth or cocaine or heroin then watch their lives spin into the ground. That doesn’t mean the WOD is good or that people don’t think there are to many people locked up. The WOD isn’t the exact equal of all the fears people have about drugs.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Marijuana, opium, cocaine, and other narcotics always had an element of the exotic to them and this allowed Americans to see them as stuff “those people” did rather than alcohol, which was much more familiar and less scary.

        This is somewhat true, and somewhat not; we have cultural amnesia about the extent to which some of these other substances were ubiquitous in American life and in media (opium and cocaine particularly, which were added to just about everything medicinal and recreational you can think of). “Mother’s Little Helper” was a real thing.

        http://dangerousminds.net/comments/empire_of_drugs_vintage_ads

        http://dangerousminds.net/comments/cocaine_comedy_from_1916Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        The Opium wars were a greater fear than you think, the thought of America carved into pieces like China was…Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        @leeesq

        That is not quite true with opium. Laudanum is basically opium and was widely used (and very cheap) from sometime in the late-18th century until the 19th century.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        It’s more that there are the drugs that we use and the drugs that those people use.

        Nobody has a problem with the drugs that we use.

        Those people? They need to be stopped for their own good.Report

  15. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    @j-r and others…

    To be clear (and I think you understood this, JR), I was not arguing that this is the inevitable conclusion of right-wing anti-tax crusades. Rather, I think Americans — in general — are pretty tax averse. I mean, when Obama was talking about raising taxes during his first time, you’d have thunk he wanted to double or triple tax rates the way people responded. We have pretty low taxes for a highly industrialized welfare state. And even calls for more taxation are always about taxing someone else. And this was largely a rumination rather than my iron-clad thesis.

    If you asked most people, I think they’d say, “Yea, criminals should have to pay for the courts. Don’t raise my taxes for that.” Or, “Yea, let the police seize drug funds so my taxes stay low.” If you were to explain what all this meant, I think the response would be different. But, in a vacuum, if you ask people, “Will you pay more taxes for XYZ,” most are going to be opposed unless XYZ directly benefits them… and even then.

    Someone else pointed out that we generally tend to have high expectations for what the government provides and, as I note, a default aversion to taxes (hell, our nation was founded in part because of anti-tax sentiment).

    If we raised taxes tomorrow and doubled the police budget, I still think the police would push for CAF.

    But what struck me about this was the way it was being advertised. The sheriff’s department clearly thought that messaging was good messaging… that it would appeal to people. They wouldn’t have put it on there if they didn’t think so. And it is possible they were wrong about that… but my hunch is most people — left, right, and inbetween — would see that and think something between, “Fuck yea!” and “Better the drug dealers than me.” I didn’t feel that way but I think I’m in the minority.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      @kazzy

      I saw your comment as mostly raising the question as to what extent attitudes about taxes affected the widespread adoption and proliferation of CAF. Then, a few others answered your question with a strong affirmative, positing that there is in fact a cause and effect relationship. I do not believe that there is such a cause and effect relationship. I’m open to changing my mind, but I’d like to see some actual evidence to support this theory.

      This is the meat of it for me:

      If we raised taxes tomorrow and doubled the police budget, I still think the police would push for CAF.

      Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I think the somewhat odd part is that it was police equipment that most people (even libertarians) would agree is core equipment. From reading Balko and others, it’s my strong impression that civil forfeiture give police departments a revenue stream for nice-to-haves – or completely unnecessary, but cool-to-have toys. As this revenue stream is more or less independent from the regular budget authority, the toys can get really blinged up without no one making too much of a fuss – because the money isn’t technically tax dollars. It’s also frequently military surplus hardware (like the helicopter in that story) that the feds sell to local PD, that those departments would otherwise not be able to afford.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        @kolohe

        Money in fungible. Core equipment might get bought with CAF funds, but that A) doesn’t make CAF funds any less reprehensible, B) we have no evidence that the LE agency needed that car, rather than just wanting it, & C) does the agency in question have a bunch of other ‘toys’ in addition to the car (i.e. the new patrol car was just a nice way to use up the last chunk of cash in the yearly CAF take, after they got the APC, the new helicopter, etc.)?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        All true. I’m just saying it’s harder to rally the anti-CAF forces pointing to a Crown Vic than it is pointing to an EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        That’s just the PR department being smart about what it claims is bought with CAF funds.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      Let’s all keep in mind, at the core, CAF completely side steps due process, and corrupts founding principles of justice.

      The government may file an indictment against the $50K they took off the suspected drug dealer, but that $50K does not get a lawyer, and the $50K is guilty unless proven innocent (usually through an effort by the original owner).

      There is nothing laudable about it. It should skeeve you out, because there is no proof that the car was paid for with drug money, except that the cops said it was drug money when they seized it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        Is anyone in favor of CAF? It seems like an issue that would unite many groups. The local GOP is pushing for it here, with their Republican constituents leading the charge against it.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        Like someone said above, it’s classic public choice theory. There’s a lot of people that are against it, but don’t match the intensity of the institutional insiders that are for it. Thus, in a state legislature where both houses are controlled by a single party, a bill can pass in one chamber 92-6, but get stalled in the other chamber through a parliamentary procedure slight of hand. And no one is particularly outraged, just disappointed.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        Politicians love it, because they are rarely subjected to it, and if their friends & family are, power has privileges.Report

      • I suspect that if we took a poll tomorrow, over 60% of voters favor “seizing things from people using them in the commission of a crime.”

        You have to drill down to the cases of excess before people will start saying “that’s not right” but even then they will likely assume abuses are rare.

        On the other hand, legislation restricting how property can be seized passed overwhelmingly in Wyoming (though vetoed by the governor),so there is some clammer.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        As I said in the OP, I wonder how support would shift (among the police, politicians, voters, etc.) if instead of funding new toys for the PD or balancing the budget, the funds were earmarked solely for helping those harmed by the crimes.

        Drug money goes to treatment centers.
        Prostitution money goes to women’s shelters.

        Even then, I’d only support the provable proceeds of the crimes being used in such ways. Not just resources supposedly used in the commission of crimes. So, yea, if you find the drug dealer with a garage full of $100-stacks… take that and build a new treatment center. Don’t take his car or his house or anything else. Even if he used his drug money to pay for it.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        I agree with you @kazzy that if we are going to do something like this, we should spend the money wisely. And drug rehab is very wise to me. But, one of the problems with that, is if you set up a good program and staff it accordingly, what happens when the moneys needed don’t come through as necessary for the program? Now people are counting on that money for their jobs. You just created a new bureaucracy that needs to be feed.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        @kolohe

        This is probably a subject that deserves its own post, but there is no reason for any state to have a bicameral legislature anymore.Report

      • I support using upper houses at the state level for proportional representation.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        Nebraska is the only unicameral state legislature -> has the richest person in the world –> small government works! QED

        Since Nebraska is not hell on earth, obviously* there’s an empirical case that a single legislative chamber is not the worst thing in the world.

        However, the case for keeping two chambers is as follows:
        A second chamber with staggered terms would slow the tempo of the political whiplash that may occur in a contested (i.e. ‘purple’) state. Potentially, such states (I hesitate to call them ‘border’ states) could possibly change out the party in control every cycle. Particularly as elections – specifically, participation rates in elections – are increasingly tied to the (federal) Presidential election cycle.

        *and it may not be obvious. Nebraska is also noteworthy for being the only one of two states that splits its electoral votes, so there may some inherent political idiosyncrasies in Nebraska politics that make the unicameral state house work where it may not other places (plus it’s officially ‘non-partisan’, which is another oolie)Report

      • I want to see a state try a parliamentary system.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy Don’t take his car or his house or anything else. Even if he used his drug money to pay for it.

        What is your objection to taking things he bought with the drug money, assuming that can be reasonably proved (maybe your objection is that that part is very difficult to prove)?

        It seems to me that IF we are going to do CAF, the intent is not just to make victims/society whole and deprive the criminal of his ill-gotten gains, but to send a message to others that crime doesn’t pay.

        If the gangster plows all his ill-gotten gains into real estate, cars and jetskis, and is allowed to keep all that even after conviction, then a life of crime is still looking pretty good, so long as you make sure to invest wisely.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        @glyph

        If his wife and kids and mom and grandma are in that house, I think we risk creating more victims by throwing them out on the street. If he’s a petty dealer facing no jail time, taking his car diminishes his job opportunities and makes it more likely he returns to his trade. So, yea, take jetskis and vacation villas. But don’t put his kids on thr street or paint him into a corner that only begets more crime.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        Will, considering that the only restriction on state government is that they must have a republican form of government, which basically means no hereditary position, I’m constantly surprised at how many states miror each other in form.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy – OK, I see where you are coming from. I’d think there might be ways to address both your concerns and mine, by the way the law is drafted.

        Maybe CAF can take all *but* X dollars, with X being a large enough amount to let him have *a* house and *a* car – even if it’s not the mansion and the luxury car he currently has.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        @glyph

        This is where I’d hope common sense could reign supreme, but unfortunately I fear that relying on “common sense” is exactly how we ended up where we are.

        You’d think a court/judge/whomever could look at a convicted* drug dealer and figure out if he is the third guy from the bottom of the totem pole renting a 2-bedroom in Bed Stuy and driving a car older than most pop musicians or if he is the kingpin with thousands of square feet of living space on each coast. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        * The convicted part is important, mind you.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        The kingpin has better lawyers and more to trade in a plea deal.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @j-r

        But how often does CAF even involve lawyers? My understanding — which may be way off — is that stuff is often seized before lawyers even get involved. You get pulled over for speeding, the cops find roaches in the ashtray, and not only are you being hauled off to jail, but your car has been seized. Not impounded; seized. The onus is now on you to get it back.

        Again, I think the state’s handling of these matters change dramatically if they don’t have a financial incentive to take. I mean, from their angle, they’ve got to be thinking, “Not only do I get to punish these assholes, but I can to line my pockets, too? FUCK YEA!”

        If you were the kind of person inclined to be a dick, and someone suddenly starting offering you money to be a dick, you’d probably look for reasons to be a dick. You’d be an active dick. Which is much worse than a passive dick or even just a regular old dick.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        But how often does CAF even involve lawyers? My understanding — which may be way off — is that stuff is often seized before lawyers even get involved. You get pulled over for speeding, the cops find roaches in the ashtray, and not only are you being hauled off to jail, but your car has been seized. Not impounded; seized. The onus is now on you to get it back.

        Yeah, this is the part of CAF that is the worst, that it doesn’t even require a conviction. All of my questions about CAF assume that we should at least only take people’s stuff after we have convicted them of a crime that resulted in them having that stuff.

        And I should also clarify, again, that I don’t think (most, if not all) drug dealing SHOULD be illegal to begin with; but we don’t live in that world, and in THIS world a drug kingpin didn’t have access to legal recourse to settle his territorial and financial disputes, so once he reaches a certain level of material success it’s more or less inevitable that he resorted to violence to get there (plus, it’s unlikely that he paid taxes).

        Let me repeat my earlier general question to the libertarians around here: Are libertarians OK – assuming fair trial and conviction, and appropriate allocation of the proceeds – with the government seizing large assets resulting from drug dealing for these reasons?

        Or is the libertarian answer to say “send a kingpin up for the murders if you have the evidence, but leave the money alone, since it’s mostly the result of a consensual crime that shouldn’t be illegal”?

        My view is that it makes sense to confiscate most if not all of the money for the reasons I’ve stated, but am curious to know if that is a consensus view or not.Report

  16. Avatar ScarletNumber
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    says:

    Your concerns aren’t misplaced, but sadly I think the horse has left the barn on this issue.

    I don’t let it bother me anymore, even though I would prefer it not happen.Report

  17. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
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    says:

    This jives with the claim that in PDs, there are only a few bad apples.

    There is no excuse for why PDs &/or the communities they serve do not know (via hard data) who the problematic officers are. None.Report

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