Sunday, September 16, 2018

Freedom Requires Civility

Can common ground be found between Republicans and Libertarians? One would think NO based on the recent posts and comments I have been reading. This puzzles me considering we hold common beliefs on a wide spectrum of issues. Some comments made by members of my former party are cringeworthy. Similarly are some responses from my new party members. Both are passionate in promoting their respective viewpoints. However, both are lacking in one component crucial to productive discourse…. Civility.

Name calling and attacks put others on the defensive. They respond in kind, and things quickly escalate to nothing but double downing and one upping. I urge others to read… re-read… and then read again posts/comments with which u disagree. I bet in most cases, you will find something in that post or comment you might actually agree with. Affirmation on one aspect of the post leads to a civil discussion which won't put the other person on the defensive. This will allow them to be more receptive to your counterpoints. This will allow an ever broadening exchange of ideas.

Remember, you don't have to change their mind right then…. but you may give them pause to reflect on your points and shift their opinion of a certain view. Who knows… you may find even more common ground to build on. You may not. In these cases, the most productive path would be to simply state you must respectfully agree to disagree and excuse yourself from the conversation. If you just keep in mind every person is an individual with the absolute right to state their viewpoint, you may find it easier to discern what basis on which they have formed their opinion.

Of course, the above advice is not addressing the “shock jocks” of chat groups. The outrageous and combative members, who consistently show they irrational or just itching for a verbal fight, should be shunned. Our natural response would be an awesome eye roll meme, a barrage of name calling or a laundry list of why their post or comment is absolutely inappropriate. I simply suggest no response. These trolls have a whole conversation already mapped out in their head. They are looking for the response they have incited and will drag you down to their level, leaving you feeling dirty and stupid for engaging in the first place. If these trolls are consistently met with silence every time… they will simply move on to another chat group they can bait and goad onto their desired response. This will leave the other members free to continue their productive discussions.

We must stick to issues we find most relevant to promoting liberty in Oklahoma. Theological or hypothetical discussions are engaging and stimulating. However, they can also become very divisive. I don't believe Republicans are religious zealots wanting to force their religion on others. Likewise, I don't believe Libertarians are godless heathens wanting to take other’s religion away. I do believe we can all find common ground in our mutual understanding that government should not discriminate based on an individual’s religion, and government should not suppress or promote one religion over another. I also believe we can have frank discussions on the merits of different cultures without assuming someone is a racist. Culture and race are not synonymous. One cannot choose one's race or genetics. One can prefer to live in a different culture, and this is evident in migration and immigration.

We are facing many crises which directly affect our freedoms and lifestyles today… here… now. Coming together to address and implement policy to ensure and expand our liberty is of the utmost importance. Republicans and Libertarians hold many of the same views on issues that directly threaten our financial and personal freedom. I believe we can be the most powerful and formidable voice this state has ever seen. We can form a strong coalition firmly based on common interests and beliefs. We can unite and facilitate liberty for the average Oklahoman, who is struggling under burdensome taxes and arbitrary laws.

In closing, I will reiterate, Civility is the key to Freedom in Oklahoma. Mutual respect for others and their differing viewpoints can lead us all to common ground on which we can unite and be an effective voice for change. I urge others to strive for patience and open mindedness. I urge all to stop conflating religion with politics… to stop confusing race with culture. Until we all do this, productive discourse leading to action will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Let’s revisit a topic that hasn't had much attention since minor reform was signed into law in 2017. I am talking about Civil Asset Forfeiture. Mary Fallin signed off on reform concerning reimbursement of legal fees of citizens who have their assets seized under Oklahoma's Civil Asset Forfeiture laws. This is great considering a citizen will have to hire an attorney and take off work to attend an average of 4 court appearances to reclaim their property. Also because… well you know… a citizen is constitutionally guaranteed the right to due process. Such defense is not free and well… their assets have be seized. We have Criminal Asset Forfeiture laws. Why do we need Civil? What is the difference between criminal and civil forfeiture?

Criminal forfeiture is only legal in cases after a conviction in criminal court. Criminal forfeiture only pertains to property seized which was used to facilitate the crime for which a conviction is obtained or assets acquired from the proceeds of said convicted crime. Criminal forfeiture requires proof “ beyond a reasonable doubt”.  Finally, in criminal cases, the accused is guaranteed access to defense via a public defender… you know that pesky constitution again.

Civil Asset Forfeiture is handled in civil court, and you do not have access to a public defender. Civil forfeiture only requires a “preponderance of evidence”, which is a much lower threshold of proof. Civil Asset Forfeiture is often filed simultaneously while a person is being prosecuted criminally. Prosecutors do this so they won't have to wait on a verdict in a criminal trial to pursue the forfeiture. Civil forfeiture can be litigated without a criminal prosecution. During my research I have found many cases where charges were never even filed, but the process is so burdensome to reclaim property and assets, many citizens never even try. Maybe the new law will help in those instances. I have reached the conclusion that while Criminal Asset Forfeiture seems reasonable… there is nothing reasonable about Civil Asset Forfeiture.

A study done by the Institute for Justice in 2014 gave Oklahoma a D- rating for our Civil Asset Forfeiture laws. We received this rating based on:
  1. Low bar to forfeit with no conviction required
  2. Poor protections for 3rd party property owners
  3. As much as 100% of seized assets goes to law enforcement

Before I catch flack for using 4 year old data… and we passed some reform… remember… here are some statistics reported to the DA Council. For fiscal year 2017 cash only forfeitures was reported as 6.2 million. Property and cash totaled 6.8 million. This was up from 2016 were only 3.1 million was reported. Keep in mind this amount does NOT INCLUDE property seized and forfeited from
  1. Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics
  2. Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office
  3. Department of Public Safety
  4. Federal agencies
These departments do not report to the DA Council.

During my research, I have also found a loophole frequently used by states with Civil Asset Forfeiture reform. The process is called Federal Equitable Sharing. The state will turn over a civil asset forfeiture case to federal agents to prosecute, thus bypassing the state’s forfeiture laws. The federal government will then give back up to 80% back to local law enforcement. WOW

I believe Civil Asset Forfeiture is a fancy name for state sanctioned theft for profit. I don't understand why local and state law enforcement need to plunder their citizens to keep their departments solvent. We pay municipal and state taxes. I have always been led to believe these taxes fund law enforcement agencies. I don't see how allowing these agencies to keep up to 100% of seized assets doesn't contribute to rampant abuse of this process. Minimal oversight regarding how these assets are being used also contributes to this abuse. I read of an instance where a law enforcement official used 4000 of seized cash to pay off his/her student loan.  I read of another instance where another law enforcement official lived rent free in a seized house for 5 years. OUTRAGEOUS.

I also don't understand how a law enforcement official can serve as judge and jury on the side of the road when a citizen is stopped, and their property is seized. I don't understand how seized property is not automatically required to be returned to the citizen when no charges are filed. Finally, I don't understand how Civil Asset Forfeiture doesn't violate every aspect of the 4th Amendment.  

I think it's time for a committee to be formed to write Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform. A petition needs to be produced and circulated so this issue can be put to a vote by Oklahoma citizens. I believe we would have no trouble getting on the ballot because 70% of Oklahomans believe Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform is needed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Partisan Politics

I believe the greatest disservice to the American taxpayer is partisan politics. Anyone besides me catch any of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings today? I am livid my tax dollars funded this circus.

Partisan hacks have hijacked this crucial process.  Our founding fathers had the foresight to develop checks and balances for our three branches of government. What I saw today bore no semblance to this process. I saw little lawmakers with colossal egos blame, browbeat and bastardize a system put in place to vet a judicial nominee. And guess what? We the taxpayer have the privilege to pay for these rock star wannabes’ shenanigans.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Two Takes on SQ 800

Clinical Analysis of the Vision Fund

While the Rainy Day fund (EST 1985) and the Revenue Stabilization Fund (EST 2016) rely on revenue and tax surpluses for funding, the Vision Fund, if passed by voters, will not.

On the ballot in November will be State Question 800. If passed, the Vision Fund will be established. This will be funded by 5% of the revenue generated by Oil and Gas Production Taxes. Also allowed would be a .2% increase annually with no cap. (Funny no cap was one of the reasons Gov Fallin vetoed previous legislation proposing this)

While the Rainy Day Fund can only be spent in instances of current and projected budget shortfalls, appropriations for a state “emergency” or tax incentives for at risk manufacturers, the Vision Fund has only one spending stipulation.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Freedom Requires a Voice

We are ALL guaranteed Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness per the US Constitution.
I have lived my whole life under the assumption the United States is the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”

I assert we are no longer free, but we can all choose to be brave. We all have a voice.

In Oklahoma, laws are written daily to curtail our individual liberty and hinder our pursuit of happiness. We seem to gobble them up with a spoon and ask “Please Sir, may I have some more?”

These arbitrary laws are written under the guise of righteous superiority…. designed to legislate morality or regulate industry for the common good of Oklahoma. We operate under the assumption we must be told how to live... what to buy… how much to pay for a product or service… when to buy and from where. We are told how to behave… who to love... what causes are just and moral. These laws are written to keep us fearful… to keep us dependent on government… to keep us divided and off balance.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Gunpoint 'Compassion'

I can't take credit for these words, but I believe them very much.
"It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people yourself is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.  
People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered. If we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint."