From The Publisher:
Do you have any idea why the average citizen no longer has much trust in his or her government at all levels?
Because much of that government doesn’t trust the average citizen.
This is also a relatively new phenomenon.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 1958, the number of folks who trusted their government was 75%.
An experience I had last week at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport may go a long way to explaining that lack of trust on our side.
I was taking a trip to Dallas. I have a TSA Trusted Traveler number which means that the so-called Transportation Safety Administration has my fingerprints, a background check and, probably a list of the thousands of flights I have made over the last 30 years.
That means they know damn well who I am and have granted me a pre-check.
So, I go through the line. And I’m told that I have been “randomly” selected for additional screening. For the 12th time in about 14 calendar months. Which by any mathematical definition is hardly random. And, as additional evidence of that, I have NEVER had a similar situation come up in Dallas, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Minneapolis or…ANYWHERE ELSE.
Now it could be that there’s a credible threat that terrorists are trying to sneak through the pre-check lane at Reno. Or it could be that the union guys who work for the TSA in Reno are putting on a show for Washington. Which do you think is more likely?
But it gets better.
It used to be that when you were selected for additional screening, you went in the body scanner.
Now, they want to dissemble your luggage and swab your electronics, of which I carry a lot.
So they swabbed my four cell phones (actually three because they missed one), my iPad, my laptop and my Bluetooth. The Bluetooth set off an alarm in their scanner device.
That meant a patdown, taking off my belt, my shoes and an inspection of my suitcase. All in all about 20 minutes.
Now, here’s where my lack of trust came in.
How do I know that Gomer Pyle who was operating the scanner didn’t do something to make that bluetooth swab set off an alarm so he could have a little more fun at my expense?
The answer is that I don’t.
In 1958, I might have been one of the 75% who would say, “Oh, that’s OK. Gomer is just looking out for my safety.” (Of course I would have been six years old.)
Today, having read the FBI text messages, the Devin Nunes memo and watched the clown act surrounding the so-called “special” prosecutor, I am not one of the now 30% of trusting souls.
If my government, having vetted me, doesn’t trust me, who should I trust it? Especially in the form of a very bad imitation of Jim Neighbors. Yes, Gomer, I’m talking about YOU!
Our Gomer Pyle was making $37,793 a year PLUS Federal benefits.
That is why, since 2007, the share of Americans saying they can trust the government always or most of the time has not surpassed 30%.
As taxpayers, we need to do some additional screening of our own.
By RON KNECHT and JAMES SMACK
There have been only two sons who followed their fathers’ footsteps to become President of the United States. John Quincy Adams followed his father John Adams in the early years of our republic, and George W. Bush followed his dad George H. W. Bush more recently.
Had circumstances been different during the Second World War, we might have had a third man follow his father to the highest office in the land.
Robert Taft was born in Ohio in 1889, the eldest son of future President William H. Taft. The Taft family had been a force in Ohio politics since Ulysses Grant was president, with President Taft’s father Alphonso serving in Grant’s administration as Secretary of War and Attorney General.
President Taft served as Secretary of War during the Theodore Roosevelt administration, and was elected president in 1908. President Taft became the only former president to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, serving for nine years in that capacity until his death in 1930.
Robert started his political career in the 1920s, serving in the Ohio legislature for twelve years. He distinguished himself in the legislature as a vocal opponent to the Ku Klux Klan and a supporter of the repeal of prohibition (which outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages).
Upon his election to the United States senate in 1938, he became a leader of the conservative coalition, a cooperation of some Republicans with conservative Democrats who stood in opposition to their party and president to defeat further expansion of the New Deal. This was only the beginning of Taft’s conservatism and its effect on our government at the time.
Taft continued to strongly oppose the growth of the federal government occurring during the reign of President Franklin Roosevelt. He supported the reduction of federal spending and a balanced budget, lowering taxes, and limiting fledgling social programs such as Social Security.
Senator Taft was also very much opposed to the United States entering into World War II. Taft strongly opposed any intervention into wars in Europe and Asia, either financially or with troops, advocating instead for more solutions to domestic issues. He was consistent in his opposition to aid to countries fighting Germany until Pearl Harbor.
In 1940, Taft made his first bid for the Republican presidential nomination. However, his non-interventionist stand made him unpopular with establishment Republicans. So, he finished second in five of the six ballots at the convention, unable to create enough momentum to deny the nomination of Wendell Willkie.
In 1947, Taft led passage of the Taft-Hartley labor act, which is still law today. The act banned several unfair union practices. Taft worked hard to pass that legislation, gaining bipartisan support to override the veto of President Harry Truman.
Taft stood firmly against the Nuremberg trials. Taft called the trials “victor’s justice” and a violation of some of the most basic principles of our justice system.
His Nuremberg stand was not popular, and was one of the principal reasons he was denied the Republican nomination in 1948, losing to establishment Governor Thomas Dewey of New York.
By the early 1950s, Taft had built a solid reputation as the conservative voice of the senate and a national leader. At this point, he made his strongest attempt in 1952 to secure the nomination for president.
Taft was the favorite going into the 1952 Republican convention, with about half of the delegates committed to his cause, the most primary votes, and the backing of party conservatives. However, his nemesis Dewey and others backed General Dwight Eisenhower for the party nomination. In a nasty ideological fight, Eisenhower won the nomination due to his perceived electability.
Even though Eisenhower and Taft disagreed on almost every foreign policy question, Taft endorsed Ike and helped him win the presidency. Taft was elected Senate Majority Leader.
Unfortunately, Leader Taft was unable to serve for long. In the early part of 1953, he was diagnosed with cancer and by the summer was terminally ill with the disease. He passed away on July 31, 1953.
Without the work of Robert Taft paving the way, we may well have never seen Barry Goldwater nominated for president in 1964, nor President Ronald Reagan elected in 1980.
By DANIEL HONCHARIW
Special to the Penny Press
In recent years, a number of states have implemented policies that have curtailed the abuse of “civil asset forfeiture” by law enforcement agencies. Nevada isn’t one of those states.
Instead, the rate at which Nevada authorities have exploited the practice has accelerated rapidly, according to the Nevada attorney general’s 2017 Forfeiture Report released this month.
Making matters worse, the state’s largest beneficiary of civil forfeiture — the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department — is using a legally dubious argument to keep the public in the dark when it comes to how, exactly, the department utilizes the practice.
Given the due-process concerns related to forfeiture, Nevadans deserve better.
Civil forfeiture refers to the law enforcement practice of seizing a person’s property based on the mere suspicion that such property was connected to criminal activity, regardless of whether criminal charges are ever filed against the owner. In forfeiture proceedings, individuals are required to spend their own time and money defending their seized property in court, with no presumption of innocence.
It’s a system that completely upends the American notion of due process.
Moreover, because the seizing law enforcement agency is often permitted to keep all or a portion of the proceeds generated by the forfeited property, there is a perverse incentive for authorities to abuse the practice to bolster their budgets — a phenomenon commonly referred to as “policing for profit.”
It’s difficult to comprehend how such a seemingly anti-American practice can flourish, unchecked, in the supposed “Land of the Free” — yet the situation is only worsening in Nevada, and the public is being left in the dark as to why.
According to the AG’s recent report, the amount of forfeited property in Nevada totaled $3.7 million during fiscal 2017, a 12 percent year-over-year increase.
Interestingly, the report also provides renewed evidence that the value of forfeited property is oftentimes petty, thereby belying law enforcement’s justification for the use of civil forfeiture — namely, that the practice is crucial for the purpose of crippling major crime syndicates.
The AG’s 2017 report documents multiple instances of forfeitures within Metro’s jurisdiction where the value of the property in question is less than $1 — hardly enough to bring any major criminal enterprise to its knees.
These instances suggest that local law enforcement is literally taking quarters out of the pockets of individuals through a practice that provides minimal due-process protection.
As multiple studies have documented, such forfeiture patterns often amount to legalized theft against the state’s poorest, who are disproportionately targeted by the practice.
Metro’s reluctance to be transparent about its forfeiture activities, however, makes things even worse. It has left the public no way to investigate the extent to which there might be abuse or mismanagement.
In fact, the Nevada Policy Research Institute has been trying for months to ascertain the underlying fact patterns behind such petty cases, to no avail.
Instead of providing the relevant records, Metro’s Office of Public Information has consistently denied the requests on the basis that “arrest reports are considered criminal history which cannot be disseminated to non-media.”
This response is peculiar, given that media outlets are no more entitled to public records than is the general public, nor are criminal history records specifically exempted from the purview of Nevada’s public-records law.
Thus it appears that the department is unlawfully keeping these records from seeing the light of day — an especially troubling thought, given the perverse incentive civil forfeiture provides for abuse by authorities.
Ideally, state law should simply prohibit the practice of civil forfeiture — allowing only for criminal forfeiture in cases where illegal conduct has been proven and due process rights are protected for the property’s owners.
In the interim, however, Nevadans should at least demand transparency from our law enforcement agencies regarding the use of civil forfeiture. After all, without such transparency, it is virtually impossible to assure the public that our local law enforcement agencies are not, in fact, “policing for profit.”
Daniel Honchariw is a policy analyst at NPRI and author of the report, “Who Does Civil Asset Forfeiture Target Most?”
For this week's entire issue go to www.pennypressNV.com
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