27 December 2007

I'm Mad as Hell and I've Lost My Paxil

I spent a bit of this morning reading about a fellow in Lima--this is Lima, Ohio, by the way, here in the good old USA--whose life savings was stolen. Four hundred grand and change. And what are the authorities doing about it? Well, nothing. No, actually it's worse than nothing. The authorities--specifically the FBI--are the ones that stole the money.

Now I want to stress that this guy--Luther Hicks--has not been convicted of any crime. He has not even been charged with any crime. It is the mere fact of his possession of a large sum of money that appears to have excited the interest--might I say the greed?--of the FBI. They have presumed, without any evidence that I know of, and certainly without actually going to the bother of presenting any evidence to a court, that Hicks must have obtained it illegally, and are demanding that he present some sort of evidence to prove that he didn't. That is, they're demanding that he prove a negative, a difficult task at best, to get his money back. This is more anecdotal evidence, anyway, for a sort of crime that has become all-too-common under the bizarre forfeiture laws here in this once-great nation--laws that appear to be unconstitutional on the face of it several times over--violations of due process, excessive fines, unreasonable seizures at the very least.

Now there may well be more to the story; I haven't been able to find out and to be honest I'm not interested. Not unless it involves the presentation of hard evidence to a judge or at least some sort of legal cover. If Luther Hicks has not been convicted of a crime, then agents of the government have no business seizing his assets. Unless he owes back taxes or something of that sort, in which case the IRS should be doing the job. Not that I have any vast sympathy for the IRS approach to ripping people off first, and then asking questions about whether they owed the money, but at least owing money is some kind of excuse. A government lives on taxes; it's not surprising that it reacts to nonpayment like a dog deprived of a bone.

And as if that wasn't bad enough reading the inane comments here pissed me off even more. A certain Thomas writes, apparently seriously, "You are not supposed to have more than $10,000 in cash. Any amount over that and the government has the right to take it unless you fill out the proper currency transfer requests. You break the rules, you lose the money, period, end of discussion." Uh, no, Thomas; it is not illegal to have large amounts of cash on hand in this country. How do you think banks function? Stores? Other businesses? If it represents unreported income or something of that sort--or a payoff for a kidnapping, or the result of extortion, or whatever--then yeah, it can be illegal, though it would be just as illegal if it were in a bank or invested in stocks. An even more idiotic comment comes from a certain Cesar McKinley. In response to somebody who suggested that the NAACP should get involved (Luther Hicks is black), he wrote "They're too busy trying to get a pardon for six thugs who happened to be at a school where a noose was hung before they beat up a random kid." Apparently facts are of no concern to Cesar. What actually happened in the case he's referring to was that a racist kid picked a fight with a black jock and ended up with a black eye and other superficial bruises. (Had this kid actually been set upon by six jocks intent on doing him serious damage--attempted murder as the prosecutor claimed--he would have received some actual injuries, which didn't happen.) This minor schoolyard scuffle got blown up out of proportion by an overzealous prosecutor who appears to have been intent on making political capital from the case, though I don't pretend to know his actual motives. Maybe he was just the racist jerk he appeared to be. Who knows? But if Cesar and Thomas want to sound off, they might do at least a little research on the topics in question before waxing indignant.

And still another fellow pissed me off with this comment: "The '90s called...they want their paradigm back." Whenever I read an alleged joke in this form I hear David Spade's voice. Were these things ever funny? For me these are right up there with "I've heard of [fill in blank] before, but this is ridiculous." For some reason I hear those in Alan Alda's Groucho Marx voice. That's neither here nor there, I suppose, but the formula is tiresome. I'm reminded of an old movie parody, maybe from Humbug, in which a character asks "What language do you speak on this island?" "Here we speak fluent cliché," the native girl replies. If formula follows dysfunction, can misinformation be far behind?

But I digress. That's generous, maybe, in presupposing that I ever had a line of thought to digress from. Another thing--what is this fixation that readers of reason.com seem to have with Ron Paul? I was going to say that I don't get it, but on second thought, maybe I do. With all the unprincipled thugs wandering about, it could be refreshing to see a principled thug. Of course I mistakenly thought Robert Bork had principles, based on inaccurate media accounts, until I took a look at the guy's own words. And actions. If he has principles, they must be made of rubber. At least you know where you stand with Ron Paul. He's done right things for the wrong reasons, and wrong things for the right reasons, but at least most of the time you know where you are with him. Which is a lot more than I can say for some politicians I'm more likely to vote for.

But let me get back to the craziest of the comments at reason.com. A certain Joe at Joe.com (right...) claims to "work for an agency that seizes property under these exact circumstances." (I have my doubts.) "[N]o the us attorney's office," he writes, "nor my agency [whatever that is], would support a ridiculously unjust seizure like that. i don't know all of the facts of this particular case, but there is ALWAYS more than what is published in a simple news blurb." Now I'm not sure what "Joe" means by a "simple news blurb"--there's no such thing--but I'm sure there's more to the case than we've heard. However, as I said above, unless it involves due process or something strongly resembling it I'm just flat not interested. "[F]or all you conspiracy theorists and government haters," he goes on, irrelevantly as far as I can tell, "there has to be a substantial reason to seize that money; the punishment has to fit the crime. it's not as simple as this article makes it seem." But that's the problem with these seizure laws--the punishment does not have to fit the crime, nor does there have to be a substantial reason--or indeed any reason--to seize money. As I've seen in cases that have come to my attention the mere fact of possession of cash is often deemed proof of criminal activity, and it's up the the accused to prove that he is not up to something. If "Joe" has any evidence to support his claims, he ought to have presented it. As it stands his unsupported assertion backed by all the clout of an anonymous "agency" is singularly unconvincing. I'd love to know what his "agency" thinks would justify seizing substantial assets without criminal charges being filed. Still, "Joe" assures us "there is no possible way this seizure would be supported in the manner it is presented in this article." I don't believe it; I've seen too many instances in the real world of houses being seized from elderly grandmothers because a grandchild was growing a pot plant in the basement, and stolen cars seized because the thief used it to pick up a police officer posing as a prostitute to have any conviction that justice, or anything remotely resembling justice, is being served. Oh yeah, there's always supposed recourse--the grandmother can sue her grandchild for the value of the house seized by greedy government officials, or the car-owner can sue the thief for the value of his vehicle. That's justice for you, in some bizarre Humpty-Dumpty sense of the word. Ha. Put up or shut up Mr. "Joe" of the secret police.

Oh yeah, and another one--"Hit & Run-euphemism for moron infestation" writes in response to "Big Nanny"'s comment "If the founding fathers came back to life today...they would get sent straight to Gitmo", "Indeed, because as we all know, the Founding Fathers were notorious for slaughtering innocent civilians and harboring those that did the same." No shit. Has "moron infestation" ever looked into what the Founding Fathers did to win their revolution? Slaughtering civilians and harboring terrorists was indeed part of it. Not pretty, maybe, but history often isn't. I do agree with "moron infestation"'s shot, "The more I read this site, the more I realize it is chock-full of assholes so stupid, they can't tell their ass from a hole in the ground." As asshole-in-chief, he should know.

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