Monday, June 8, 2009

But what could possibly be wrong with getting tough on crime?



In my last post, I stated that one of my key objections to politician Mitt Romney was his emphasis on cracking down on crime.

Often when I criticize the laws currently governing this country (and I often do), I get the knee jerk response, “Oh, then you want to have no laws at all”.

I try, usually in vain, to explain that what I want are reasonable laws.

I’ve been watching since about 1980, as new restrictions have been continuously added, penalties increased, misdemeanors have been raised to felony status, surveillance has become ubiquitous, and as enforcement tactics have become more and more forceful and violent. No reasonable person can deny that the laws of this country are much tougher today than they were when Reagan took office. I’ve seen an endless line of scary bogeymen being paraded before the public, drugs, criminals, terrorists, impaired drivers, identity thieves, the war on this, the war on that, in order to frighten the people into accepting control measures that they would normally recognize as going too far.

And I’ve seen the results. I couldn’t begin to count all the decent people I have known, who thought that all of this would never affect them, because they live good lives and would never do anything to cheat or harm their neighbors…until one night they found themselves being taken from their cars or from their homes, handcuffed, and put in the back of a squad car.

Anyone who demands proof that the US has become an authoritarian state need only look at our prisons, which currently hold a greater percentage of our population than Iran, China, or any other despotic regime, either now or in history.

It is clear to me that excessive laws have become much greater threat to the honest citizen than drugs, crime, terrorism, or the distracted driver in the next lane.

That’s the problem, but what is the solution?
As I stated in the beginning, I am not some anarchist advocating the abolition of the rule of law. Indeed what I am advocating is a return to the rule of law, and to the principles enumerated in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Disorderly conduct, obstructing justice, failure to obey a lawful order, criminal mischief, these are just a few examples of vaguely defined charges which enable police to stop any activity they choose, even though no law has been passed specifically prohibiting that activity, and to arrest anyone whose behavior they don’t like. Giving those in authority the power to make up the law as they go along is not the rule of law, it is rule by fiat, or put even more simply, tyranny.

Getting rid of these broad sweeping laws would be a good first step.

Some say that our society swings like a pendulum, back and forth between a civil rights model and a crime control model. My own personal observation is that once a restriction is passed, it’s usually in place forever, once the government expands itself to deal with some supposed problem, it will never admit it’s error and back out, once a right is limited or lost, seldom will we ever get it back. But if the pendulum theory is right, then it is my hope that the public will turn off the scary images that CNN is bringing into their living rooms in vivid high def, will examine the world from the prospective of what they actually see with their own eyes as they go about their daily lives, will realize that the world they actually live in is really not all that dangerous, will stop demanding for the congressman they have on speed dial to fight for tougher laws, and will start calling that congressman with suggestions to start scaling things back to the way they were in a more free and reasonable time, repairing the damage caused to our once free society by 30 years of misguided zealotry.

Romney 2012?

“Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts”
-Mitt Romney

Mr. Romney is no more of a friend to the Libertarians and Constitutionalists in the Republican Party, than he is to social conservatives.

As part of his presidential run, Romney joined the NRA, but unlike abortion and gay marriage, where he actually did retract his former liberal positions, the caveat, "I don't agree with them on everything", indicates that spending a few hundred dollars on a life membership was simply a move for show. The fact is that he has never given any indication that he has reconsidered his actions when he enthusiastically supported and signed into law a state statute paralleling the absolute worst piece of legislation to come out of the Clinton administration, the so-called "assault weapons ban". Deceptively titled, in order to create the illusion that all that would be affected were a few exotic models that the average citizen would have no use for, this was actually a sweeping law affecting many commonly owned firearms and firearm accessories. We can thank God that, in order to get the federal ban passed, they had to include an expiration date, and that when that date came, there was not enough votes in Congress put it on Pres. Bush's desk (another betrayor of true conservative principles, who had indicated he would sign it).

One of the major points Mitt Romney made in his 2008 campaign was getting tough on crime. (See my blog entry following this one (link) for a follow up on what could possibly be wrong with that).

As governor of Massachusetts, he had a firm policy that his office would not issue any pardon or commutation under any circumstance (link). Anthony Circosta was a decorated combat veteran, who most certainly deserved clemency for an indiscretion at age 13, so that he could fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer. The Board of Pardons supported his petition, however the governor used the same rubber stamp, "NO!", on his application, that he used on every other that came across his desk.

Another example of Romney taking a inflexible and unreasonable stance is contained in a youtube video (link), where Romney rebuffs a man in a wheelchair, then turns away from him and ignores the man's attempts to continue the conversation, after the man tries to explain his medical situation. He tries in vain to tell Romney that he is opposed to the legalization of marijuana for everyone, that his doctors can attest to the legitimate need and benefits in his case, and that synthetic substitutes have not worked. All Romney could do was regurgitate the old line, of dubious reasoning, that pot is a gateway to hard drugs (but the two recreational drugs that are legal, alcohol and nicotine, are not?), and move away.

Under a Romney administration, we could expect no relief from interdiction roadblocks, police turning traffic stops into vehicle searches based solely on a hunch, homes being searched simply because some druggie relative gives your address as the place he is staying when he is booked into jail, SWAT teams attaching cables and ripping the doors and windows off people's homes (as the A&E channel films), real estate being seized even if the district attorney determines that there is insufficient evidence to support criminal charges, and any large sum of cash found on your person being taken and held, until you can hire a lawyer and prove in court that it was not from any ill-gotten source.

About Mitt Romney he really has going for him is a proven track record with managing money. However, Republicans who are primarily concerned with economics are vastly outnumbered by people focused on conservative social issues, and those who advocate states rights and limiting the federal government.

It’s amazing he got as far as he did, and for the sake of this country, I hope he’s long gone from the American political scene by 2012. I’m all for putting a Mormon in the White House…just not this Mormon.