Paul Joseph Watson, Infowars.com, Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Top tier presidential candidate Ron Paul has decried the ‘indefinite detention’ provision of the National Defense Authorization Act, warning that it represents an arrogant, bold and dangerous attempt to establish martial law in America.
Speaking with the Alex Jones Show today, Congressman Paul went on the offensive against the bill, which is set to be signed into law by President Obama later this week.
Section 1031 of the NDAA bill, which itself defines the entirety of the United States as a “battlefield,” allows American citizens to be snatched from the streets, carted off to a foreign detention camp and held indefinitely without trial. The bill states that “any person who has committed a belligerent act” faces indefinite detention, but no trial or evidence has to be presented, the White House merely needs to make the accusation.
Paul said he saw significance in “the announcement and the arrogance of it all,” making reference to the Obama administration’s claim that it can now assassinate American citizens anywhere in the world and noting that the passage of the NDAA bill is an effort to codify the policy into law.
“This is a giant step – this should be the biggest news going right now – literally legalizing martial law,” said Paul, noting that the subject did not come up at all in any of the Republican debates.
The Congressman also decried the “arrogance” of an attempt to push through via a voice vote an amendment that would have still authorized indefinite detention even if a detainee was found innocent after a trial. The amendment was narrowly defeated by his son, Senator Rand Paul.
“This is big,” emphasized Paul, adding “This step where they can literally arrest American citizens and put them away without trial….is arrogant and bold and dangerous.”
Despite speculation that the Obama administration would veto the bill, it emerged yesterday that it was the White House itself which worked to remove language from the bill that would have protected American citizens from indefinite detention under Section 1031.
The administration has been working with lawmakers to alter a separate provision, Section 1032, which pertains to the military being required to take custody of individuals.
With the administration’s concerns over Section 1032 now largely resolved, a revised and final version of the bill could be signed into law before the end of the week.
“The conferees said they plan to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote as soon as Wednesday afternoon and to the Senate soon thereafter,” reports Politico.
Despite the revisions, the bill still contains language that allows Americans to be detained without trial at a detention center anywhere in the world.
Republican Congressman Justin Amash has again warned that lawmakers are attempting to mislead the American people by claiming U.S. citizens are exempt from the most dangerous provisions of the bill.
“Pres. Obama and many Members of Congress believe the President ALREADY has the authority the bill grants him. Legally, of course, he does not. This language was inserted to keep proponents and opponents of the bill appeased, while permitting the President to assert that the improper power he has claimed all along is now in statute,” writes Amash.
“They will say that American citizens are specifically exempted under the following language in Sec. 1032: “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States. Don’t be fooled. All this says is that the President is not REQUIRED to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial. It still PERMITS him to do so,” warns the Congressman.
Amash is encouraging Americans to contact their representatives and sign a petition expressing their opposition to the NDAA bill, calling it “one of the most anti-liberty pieces of legislation of our lifetime.”
Click here to listen to the interview with Ron Paul in full.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show.
From The Future of Freedom Foundation
By Sheldon Richman, April 1997
With a new memorial about to be dedicated to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, perhaps no one wants to step back and take an objective look at the man. But when even President Clinton declares the era of big government over, maybe the time is right.
All children hear the words “FDR got us out of the Depression,” just as they are taught that he led the war against tyranny. FDR was the champion of the common man, or so we are told.
As W. S. Gilbert wrote, things are seldom what they seem.
Roosevelt didn’t get us out of the Depression. Six years after he was elected president, unemployment was about as high as it had been under Herbert Hoover. Even World War II didn’t end the Depression. A depression is a big drop in production and people’s standard of living. By that measure, as economic historian Robert Higgs has written, the Depression did not end until after the war and FDR’s death. People might have had jobs in munitions factories and the military, but those jobs did not improve their material well being. Consumer goods were rationed, and some things were unavailable altogether.
Nevertheless, in his futile effort to end the Depression FDR did bad things and left a terrible legacy of government control. He collectivized agriculture–a farmer could not grow more than his quota of wheat even for his own family’s or livestock’s use! (Many farm programs are still with us.) FDR tried to make a cartel out of every industry through the National Recovery Act. Fortunately the Supreme Court stopped him. (When the Court stopped him too many times, he tried to pack it with sympathizers.) He introduced federal welfare that has fostered dependency ever since, creating multigenerational “families” of people on the dole.
FDR saddled America with that infamous Ponzi scheme known as Social Security. The economic and demographic defects of that phony “pay as you go” insurance system are now well known. What gets too little attention is the offensiveness of a pension program that forces workers and retirees to be dependent on government all their lives. Is there a more un-American idea? Social Security is a fitting symbol of FDR. Since more young people believe in UFOs than in the integrity of Social Security, maybe the monument should be a flying saucer circling a rotting Social Security card.
The Roosevelt defenders will respond that at least he restored confidence in America after the Depression hit. More accurately, he sang them a siren song of meddling government. He took advantage of their depressed state to persuade them that government could make the important decisions in their lives. It can’t and we see that more clearly than ever before. The original American ethic abhorred government power. When the stock market crashed, Roosevelt told them it was caused by unbridled businessmen. It wasn’t. Only one thing can explain an economy-wide crash: government meddling. During the 1920s the Federal Reserve created a boom with cheap money. The boom had to end sometime. When it did, Roosevelt (and Hoover before him) blamed the private sector and grabbed for power. His successors have given up very little of it.
In foreign affairs, things were similar. FDR lied to the American people while striving to enter the European and Pacific wars. His defenders don’t deny this any longer; they say it was necessary because the people didn’t know what was good for them. His target may have been Nazi tyranny, but he left communist tyranny in control of half of Europe for 45 years. His government accumulated massive power to spy on and otherwise control the American people. Maybe a fitting monument would be a buried Constitution.
Finally, we should note that under FDR the income tax became, for the first time, a tax on the masses. Before the war, few people paid or even filed. But the power accumulated by Roosevelt required big bucks that only a broad income tax could produce. The man of the masses thus became the taxman of the masses. We’ve suffered under the IRS ever since. Perhaps the most fitting monument of all would be a 1040 tax form ringed by thorns.
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, editor of The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty (The Foundation for Economic Education), and author of Separating School & State: How to Liberate America’s Families (1995) and Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax (1998).
Herald Standard Newspaper
Letters to the Editor
8 – 18 East Church Street
Uniontown, PA 15401
I would like to address an editorial, “State Police Overworked in Many Areas”, dated September 26, 2008.
According to the editorial, Westmoreland County State Representative John Pallone has proposed that the citizens of municipalities of 10,000 residents or more and no local police force pay a $100 per head tax to defray the costs of State Police service in their municipalities.
This absolutely should not be done. If anything along these lines (taxes) should be done, it is the residents of municipalities that do have a local police force should be able to claim a tax credit on their state income tax as they are currently subsidizing the State Police service to the municipalities that do not have local police while paying for their own police service.
However, the best way to address this situation is for the Legislature to mandate that all municipalities provide local police services. If a municipality truly cannot afford to have their own police force, they can join with adjacent municipalities to form a regional police department. This is currently being done in many areas of the Commonwealth and there are many assistance programs available through Harrisburg to do it.
The editorial also says that the State Police force is currently 300 Troopers short of the compliment allowed by law. Obviously, this should be rectified immediately by abolishing many of the feel good social programs that are run simply to buy votes.
Finally, the editorial asks the question “Should County Sheriff’s Departments be given more authority”? As I pointed out in my guest column “Fayette already has police force mechanisms” of April 8, 2008, Pennsylvania’s Sheriffs already have all the authority they need to make an arrest for any crime on the books in the Commonwealth. Whether or not they make those arrests are solely at the discretion of the Sheriff of each county, there is no question of authority.
Our courts have declared Sheriffs and their Deputies to be peace officers fully empowered to make warrantless arrests for breaches of the peace committed in their presence.
And, in the cases of Commonwealth v. Leet, 537 PA 89 (1994) & Commonwealth D.O.T. v. Kline, 559 PA 646 (1999) they were declared to have the authority to enforce the PA Motor Vehicle Code (75 Pa. CSA et seq.) with proper training.
We also must remember that elected Constables and their Deputies have also been declared by our Supreme Court, in the case of In Re Act 147 of 1990, 528 PA 460, 463 (1991), to be peace officers charged with “conservation of the peace, and whose business it is to arrest those who have violated it.”
The arrest power of Constables is defined generally by Title 13 of the PA Consolidated Statutes (13 P.S. 45) which states: “Constables of the Commonwealth, in addition to the powers already conferred upon them shall and may, without warrant and upon view, arrest and commit for hearing any and all persons guilty of a breach of the peace, vagrancy, riotous and disorderly conduct or drunkenness, or who may be engaged in the commission of an unlawful act tending to imperil the personal security or endanger the property of the citizens, or violating municipal ordinances, for the violation of which a fine or penalty is imposed. Any person arrested, with or without warrant, shall be entitled to a trial.”
In 1992 our Superior Court, in the case of Commonwealth v. Frombach, 420 Pa. Super. 498, determined that our Legislature, by 13 P.S. 45 (above), “Conferred on Constables the power to, without warrant and upon view, arrest and commit for hearing any and all persons guilty of a breach of the peace.”
In addition, the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act, title 42 of the PA Consolidated Statutes Annotated 8953 (a), which authorizes municipal police officers in our Commonwealth to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth beyond the territorial limits of their jurisdictions.
In the case of Commonwealth v. Roberts, 356 Pa. Super. 309 (1986), the court held that the Legislature has clearly authorized duly employed municipal police officers to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth beyond the territorial limits of their jurisdictions.
In addition, in the case of Commonwealth v. Triplett, 387 Pa. Super 378 (1989), the court held that municipal police officers can enforce the laws of the Commonwealth in another municipal jurisdiction as if they were acting in their own jurisdiction when they are called into such other jurisdiction to aid another law enforcement agency.
In short, there is absolutely no need to assess additional taxes on anyone to accomplish what Representative Pallone is aiming for. All we need to do is use the tools that are already in place.
Brian K. Lutes
|PO Box 1362, 56 Summit View • Uniontown, PA • 15401
Phone: 724-439-1362 • e-mail: email@example.com
By Marcus Epstein / LewRockwell.com
There is probably no greater sacred cow in America than Martin Luther King Jr. The slightest criticism of him or even suggesting that he isn’t deserving of a national holiday leads to the usual accusations of racist, fascism, and the rest of the usual left-wing epithets not only from liberals, but also from many ostensible conservatives and libertarians.
This is amazing because during the 50s and 60s, the Right almost unanimously opposed the civil rights movement. Contrary to the claims of many neocons, the opposition was not limited to the John Birch Society and southern conservatives. It was made by politicians like Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, and in the pages of Modern Age, Human Events, National Review, and the Freeman.
Today, the official conservative and libertarian movement portrays King as someone on our side who would be fighting Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton if he were alive. Most all conservative publications and websites have articles around this time of the year praising King and discussing how today’s civil rights leaders are betraying his legacy. Jim Powell’s otherwise excellent The Triumph of Liberty rates King next to Ludwig von Mises and Albert J. Nock as a libertarian hero. Attend any IHS seminar, and you’ll read “A letter from a Birmingham Jail” as a great piece of anti-statist wisdom. The Heritage Foundation regularly has lectures and symposiums honoring his legacy. There are nearly a half dozen neocon and left-libertarian think tanks and legal foundations with names such as “The Center for Equal Opportunity” and the “American Civil Rights Institute” which claim to model themselves after King.
Why is a man once reviled by the Right now celebrated by it as a hero? The answer partly lies in the fact that the mainstream Right has gradually moved to the left since King’s death. The influx of many neoconservative intellectuals, many of whom were involved in the civil rights movement, into the conservative movement also contributes to the King phenomenon. This does not fully explain the picture, because on many issues King was far to the left of even the neoconservatives, and many King admirers even claim to adhere to principles like freedom of association and federalism. The main reason is that they have created a mythical Martin Luther King Jr., that they constructed solely from one line in his “I Have a Dream” speech.
In this article, I will try to dispel the major myths that the conservative movement has about King. I found a good deal of the information for this piece in I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King by black leftist Michael Eric Dyson. Dyson shows that King supported black power, reparations, affirmative action, and socialism. He believes this made King even more admirable. He also deals frankly with King’s philandering and plagiarism, though he excuses them. If you don’t mind reading his long discussions about gangsta rap and the like, I strongly recommend this book.
Myth #1: King wanted only equal rights, not special privileges and would have opposed affirmative action, quotas, reparations, and the other policies pursued by today’s civil rights leadership.
This is probably the most repeated myth about King. Writing on National Review Online, There Heritage Foundation’s Matthew Spalding wrote a piece entitled “Martin Luther King’s Conservative Mind,” where he wrote, “An agenda that advocates quotas, counting by race and set-asides takes us away from King’s vision.”
The problem with this view is that King openly advocated quotas and racial set-asides. He wrote that the “Negro today is not struggling for some abstract, vague rights, but for concrete improvement in his way of life.” When equal opportunity laws failed to achieve this, King looked for other ways. In his book Where Do We Go From Here, he suggested that “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis.” To do this he expressed support for quotas. In a 1968 Playboy interview, he said, “If a city has a 30% Negro population, then it is logical to assume that Negroes should have at least 30% of the jobs in any particular company, and jobs in all categories rather than only in menial areas.” King was more than just talk in this regard. Working through his Operation Breadbasket, King threatened boycotts of businesses that did not hire blacks in proportion to their population.
Myth # 2: King was an American patriot, who tried to get Americans to live up to their founding ideals.
In National Review, Roger Clegg wrote that “There may have been a brief moment when there existed something of a national consensus – a shared vision eloquently articulated in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, with deep roots in the American Creed, distilled in our national motto, E pluribus unum. Most Americans still share it, but by no means all.” Many other conservatives have embraced this idea of an American Creed that built upon Jefferson and Lincoln, and was then fulfilled by King and libertarians like Clint Bolick and neocons like Bill Bennett.
Despite his constant invocations of the Declaration of Independence, King did not have much pride in America’s founding. He believed “our nation was born in genocide,” and claimed that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were meaningless for blacks because they were written by slave owners.
Myth # 3: King was a Christian activist whose struggle for civil rights is similar to the battles fought by the Christian Right today.
Ralph Reed claims that King’s “indispensable genius” provided “the vision and leadership that renewed and made crystal clear the vital connection between religion and politics.” He proudly admitted that the Christian Coalition “adopted many elements of King’s style and tactics.” The pro-life group, Operation Rescue, often compared their struggle against abortion to King’s struggle against segregation. In a speech entitled The Conservative Virtues of Dr. Martin Luther King, Bill Bennet described King, as “not primarily a social activist, he was primarily a minister of the Christian faith, whose faith informed and directed his political beliefs.”
Both King’s public stands and personal behavior makes the comparison between King and the Religious Right questionable.
FBI surveillance showed that King had dozens of extramarital affairs. Although many of the pertinent records are sealed, several agents who watched observed him engage in many questionable acts including buying prostitutes with SCLC money. Ralph Abernathy, who King called “the best friend I have in the world,” substantiated many of these charges in his autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down. It is true that a man’s private life is mostly his business. However, most conservatives vehemently condemned Jesse Jackson when news of his illegitimate son came out, and claimed he was unfit to be a minister.
King also took stands that most in the Christian Right would disagree with. When asked about the Supreme Court’s decision to ban school prayer, King responded,
I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in god. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.
While King died before the Roe vs. Wade decision, and, to the best of my knowledge, made no comments on abortion, he was an ardent supporter of Planned Parenthood. He even won their Margaret Sanger Award in 1966 and had his wife give a speech entitled Family Planning – A Special and Urgent Concern which he wrote. In the speech, he did not compare the civil rights movement to the struggle of Christian Conservatives, but he did say “there is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts.”
Myth # 4: King was an anti-communist.
In another article about Martin Luther King, Roger Clegg of National Review applauds King for speaking out against the “oppression of communism!” To gain the support of many liberal whites, in the early years, King did make a few mild denunciations of communism. He also claimed in a 1965 Playboy that there “are as many Communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos in Florida.” This was a bald-faced lie. Though King was never a Communist and was always critical of the Soviet Union, he had knowingly surrounded himself with Communists. His closest advisor Stanley Levison was a Communist, as was his assistant Jack O’Dell. Robert and later John F. Kennedy repeatedly warned him to stop associating himself with such subversives, but he never did. He frequently spoke before Communist front groups such as the National Lawyers Guild and Lawyers for Democratic Action. King even attended seminars at The Highlander Folk School, another Communist front, which taught Communist tactics, which he later employed.
King’s sympathy for communism may have contributed to his opposition to the Vietnam War, which he characterized as a racist, imperialistic, and unjust war. King claimed that America “had committed more war crimes than any nation in the world.” While he acknowledged the NLF “may not be paragons of virtue,” he never criticized them. However, he was rather harsh on Diem and the South. He denied that the NLF was communist, and believed that Ho Chi Minh should have been the legitimate ruler of Vietnam. As a committed globalist, he believed that “our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation. This means we must develop a world perspective.”
Many of King’s conservative admirers have no problem calling anyone who questions American foreign policy a “fifth columnist.” While I personally agree with King on some of his stands on Vietnam, it is hypocritical for those who are still trying to get Jane Fonda tried for sedition to applaud King.
Myth # 5: King supported the free market.
OK, you don’t hear this too often, but it happens. For example, Father Robert A. Sirico delivered a paper to the Acton Institute entitled Civil Rights and Social Cooperation. In it, he wrote,
A freer economy would take us closer to the ideals of the pioneers in this country’s civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized this when he wrote: “With the growth of industry the folkways of white supremacy will gradually pass away,” and he predicted that such growth would “Increase the purchasing power of the Negro [which in turn] will result in improved medical care, greater educational opportunities, and more adequate housing. Each of these developments will result in a further weakening of segregation.”
King of course was a great opponent of the free economy. In a speech in front of his staff in 1966 he said,
You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry… Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong…with capitalism… There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a Democratic Socialism.
King called for “totally restructuring the system” in a way that was not capitalist or “the antithesis of communist.” For more information on King’s economic views, see Lew Rockwell’s The Economics of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Myth # 6: King was a conservative.
As all the previous myths show, King’s views were hardly conservative. If this was not enough, it is worth noting what King said about the two most prominent postwar American conservative politicians, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater.
King accused Barry Goldwater of “Hitlerism.” He believed that Goldwater advocated a “narrow nationalism, a crippling isolationism, and a trigger-happy attitude.” On domestic issues he felt that “Mr. Goldwater represented an unrealistic conservatism that was totally out of touch with the realities of the twentieth century.” King said that Goldwater’s positions on civil rights were “morally indefensible and socially suicidal.”
King said of Reagan, “When a Hollywood performer, lacking distinction even as an actor, can become a leading war hawk candidate for the presidency, only the irrationalities induced by war psychosis can explain such a turn of events.”
Despite King’s harsh criticisms of those men, both supported the King holiday. Goldwater even fought to keep King’s FBI files, which contained information about his adulterous sex life and Communist connections, sealed.
Myth # 7: King wasn’t a plagiarist.
OK, even most of the neocons won’t deny this, but it is still worth bringing up, because they all ignore it. King started plagiarizing as an undergraduate. When Boston University founded a commission to look into it, they found that that 45 percent of the first part and 21 percent of the second part of his dissertation was stolen, but they insisted that “no thought should be given to revocation of Dr. King’s doctoral degree.” In addition to his dissertation many of his major speeches, such as “I Have a Dream,” were plagiarized, as were many of his books and writings. For more information on King’s plagiarism, The Martin Luther King Plagiarism Page and Theodore Pappas’ Plagiarism and the Culture War are excellent resources.
When faced with these facts, most of King’s conservative and libertarian fans either say they weren’t part of his main philosophy, or usually they simply ignore them. Slightly before the King Holiday was signed into law, Governor Meldrim Thompson of New Hampshire wrote a letter to Ronald Reagan expressing concerns about King’s morality and Communist connections. Ronald Reagan responded, “I have the reservations you have, but here the perception of too many people is based on an image, not reality. Indeed, to them the perception is reality.”
Far too many on the Right are worshipping that perception. Rather than face the truth about King’s views, they create a man based upon a few lines about judging men “by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin” – something we are not supposed to do in his case, of course – while ignoring everything else he said and did. If King is truly an admirable figure, they are doing his legacy a disservice by using his name to promote an agenda he clearly would not have supported.
January 18, 2003
Marcus Epstein [send him mail] is an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, where he is president of the college libertarians and editor of the conservative newspaper, The Remnant. A selection of his articles can be seen here.
Copyright © 2003 LewRockwell.com
You committed no crime, but an officer is knocking on your door. More Minnesotans are surprised to find themselves being locked up over debts.
June 9, 2010
As a sheriff’s deputy dumped the contents of Joy Uhlmeyer’s purse into a sealed bag, she begged to know why she had just been arrested while driving home to Richfield after an Easter visit with her elderly mother.
No one had an answer. Uhlmeyer spent a sleepless night in a frigid Anoka County holding cell, her hands tucked under her armpits for warmth. Then, handcuffed in a squad car, she was taken to downtown Minneapolis for booking. Finally, after 16 hours in limbo, jail officials fingerprinted Uhlmeyer and explained her offense — missing a court hearing over an unpaid debt. “They have no right to do this to me,” said the 57-year-old patient care advocate, her voice as soft as a whisper. “Not for a stupid credit card.”
It’s not a crime to owe money, and debtors’ prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.
Not every warrant results in an arrest, but in Minnesota many debtors spend up to 48 hours in cells with criminals. Consumer attorneys say such arrests are increasing in many states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Washington, driven by a bad economy, high consumer debt and a growing industry that buys bad debts and employs every means available to collect.
Whether a debtor is locked up depends largely on where the person lives, because enforcement is inconsistent from state to state, and even county to county.
In Illinois and southwest Indiana, some judges jail debtors for missing court-ordered debt payments. In extreme cases, people stay in jail until they raise a minimum payment. In January, a judge sentenced a Kenney, Ill., man “to indefinite incarceration” until he came up with $300 toward a lumber yard debt.
“The law enforcement system has unwittingly become a tool of the debt collectors,” said Michael Kinkley, an attorney in Spokane, Wash., who has represented arrested debtors. “The debt collectors are abusing the system and intimidating people, and law enforcement is going along with it.”
How often are debtors arrested across the country? No one can say. No national statistics are kept, and the practice is largely unnoticed outside legal circles. “My suspicion is the debt collection industry does not want the world to know these arrests are happening, because the practice would be widely condemned,” said Robert Hobbs, deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.
Debt collectors defend the practice, saying phone calls, letters and legal actions aren’t always enough to get people to pay.
“Admittedly, it’s a harsh sanction,” said Steven Rosso, a partner in the Como Law Firm of St. Paul, which does collections work. “But sometimes, it’s the only sanction we have.”
Taxpayers foot the bill for arresting and jailing debtors. In many cases, Minnesota judges set bail at the amount owed.
In Minnesota, judges have issued arrest warrants for people who owe as little as $85 — less than half the cost of housing an inmate overnight. Debtors targeted for arrest owed a median of $3,512 in 2009, up from $2,201 five years ago.
Those jailed for debts may be the least able to pay.
“It’s just one more blow for people who are already struggling,” said Beverly Yang, a Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation staff attorney who has represented three Illinois debtors arrested in the past two months. “They don’t like being in court. They don’t have cars. And if they had money to pay these collectors, they would.”
The collection machine
The laws allowing for the arrest of someone for an unpaid debt are not new.
What is new is the rise of well-funded, aggressive and centralized collection firms, in many cases run by attorneys, that buy up unpaid debt and use the courts to collect.
Three debt buyers — Unifund CCR Partners, Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc. and Debt Equities LLC — accounted for 15 percent of all debt-related arrest warrants issued in Minnesota since 2005, court data show. The debt buyers also file tens of thousands of other collection actions in the state, seeking court orders to make people pay.
The debts — often five or six years old — are purchased from companies like cellphone providers and credit card issuers, and cost a few cents on the dollar. Using automated dialing equipment and teams of lawyers, the debt-buyer firms try to collect the debt, plus interest and fees. A firm aims to collect at least twice what it paid for the debt to cover costs. Anything beyond that is profit.
Portfolio Recovery Associates of Norfolk, Va., a publicly traded debt buyer with the biggest profits and market capitalization, earned $44 million last year on $281 million in revenue — a 16 percent net margin. Encore Capital Group, another large debt buyer based in San Diego, had a margin last year of 10 percent. By comparison, Wal-Mart’s profit margin was 3.5 percent.
Todd Lansky, chief operating officer at Resurgence Financial LLC, a Northbrook, Ill.-based debt buyer, said firms like his operate within the law, which says people who ignore court orders can be arrested for contempt. By the time a warrant is issued, a debtor may have been contacted up to 12 times, he said.
“This is a last-ditch effort to say, ‘Look, just show up in court,’” he said.
Go to court — or jail
At 9:30 a.m. on a recent weekday morning, about a dozen people stood in line at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis.
Nearly all of them had received court judgments for not paying a delinquent debt. One by one, they stepped forward to fill out a two-page financial disclosure form that gives creditors the information they need to garnish money from their paychecks or bank accounts.
This process happens several times a week in Hennepin County. Those who fail to appear can be held in contempt and an arrest warrant is issued if a collector seeks one. Arrested debtors aren’t officially charged with a crime, but their cases are heard in the same courtroom as drug users.
Greg Williams, who is unemployed and living on state benefits, said he made the trip downtown on the advice of his girlfriend who knew someone who had been arrested for missing such a hearing.
“I was surprised that the police would waste time on my petty debts,” said Williams, 45, of Minneapolis, who had a $5,773 judgment from a credit card debt. “Don’t they have real criminals to catch?”
Few debtors realize they can land in jail simply for ignoring debt-collection legal matters. Debtors also may not recognize the names of companies seeking to collect old debts. Some people are contacted by three or four firms as delinquent debts are bought and sold multiple times after the original creditor writes off the account.
“They may think it’s a mistake. They may think it’s a scam. They may not realize how important it is to respond,” said Mary Spector, a law professor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas.
A year ago, Legal Aid attorneys proposed a change in state law that would have required law enforcement officials to let debtors fill out financial disclosure forms when they are apprehended rather than book them into jail. No legislator introduced the measure.
Joy Uhlmeyer, who was arrested on her way home from spending Easter with her mother, said she defaulted on a $6,200 Chase credit card after a costly divorce in 2006. The firm seeking payment was Resurgence Financial, the Illinois debt buyer. Uhlmeyer said she didn’t recognize the name and ignored the notices.
Uhlmeyer walked free after her nephew posted $2,500 bail. It took another $187 to retrieve her car from the city impound lot. Her 86-year-old mother later asked why she didn’t call home after leaving Duluth. Not wanting to tell the truth, Uhlmeyer said her car broke down and her cell phone died.
“The really maddening part of the whole experience was the complete lack of information,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘If there was a warrant out for my arrest, then why in the world wasn’t I told about it?’”
Jailed for $250
One afternoon last spring, Deborah Poplawski, 38, of Minneapolis was digging in her purse for coins to feed a downtown parking meter when she saw the flashing lights of a Minneapolis police squad car behind her. Poplawski, a restaurant cook, assumed she had parked illegally. Instead, she was headed to jail over a $250 credit card debt.
Less than a month earlier, she learned by chance from an employment counselor that she had an outstanding warrant. Debt Equities, a Golden Valley debt buyer, had sued her, but she says nobody served her with court documents. Thanks to interest and fees, Poplawski was now on the hook for $1,138.
Though she knew of the warrant and unpaid debt, “I wasn’t equating the warrant with going to jail, because there wasn’t criminal activity associated with it,” she said. “I just thought it was a civil thing.”
She spent nearly 25 hours at the Hennepin County jail.
A year later, she still gets angry recounting the experience. A male inmate groped her behind in a crowded elevator, she said. Poplawski also was ordered to change into the standard jail uniform — gray-white underwear and orange pants, shirt and socks — in a cubicle the size of a telephone booth. She slept in a room with 12 to 16 women and a toilet with no privacy. One woman offered her drugs, she said.
The next day, Poplawski appeared before a Hennepin County district judge. He told her to fill out the form listing her assets and bank account, and released her. Several weeks later, Debt Equities used this information to seize funds from her bank account. The firm didn’t return repeated calls seeking a comment.
“We hear every day about how there’s no money for public services,” Poplawski said. “But it seems like the collectors have found a way to get the police to do their work.”
Threat depends on location
A lot depends on where a debtor lives or is arrested, as Jamie Rodriguez, 41, a bartender from Brooklyn Park, discovered two years ago.
Deputies showed up at his house one evening while he was playing with his 5-year-old daughter, Nicole. They live in Hennepin County, where the Sheriff’s Office has enough staff to seek out people with warrants for civil violations.
If Rodriquez lived in neighboring Wright County, he could have simply handed the officers a check or cash for the amount owed. If he lived in Dakota County, it’s likely no deputy would have shown up because the Sheriff’s Office there says it lacks the staff to pursue civil debt cases.
Knowing that his daughter and wife were watching from the window, Rodriguez politely asked the deputies to drive him around the block, out of sight of his family, before they handcuffed him. The deputies agreed.
“No little girl should have to see her daddy arrested,” said Rodriguez, who spent a night in jail.
“If you talk to 15 different counties, you’ll find 15 different approaches to handling civil warrants,” said Sgt. Robert Shingledecker of the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office. “Everything is based on manpower.”
Local police also can enforce debt-related warrants, but small towns and some suburbs often don’t have enough officers.
The Star Tribune’s comparison of warrant and booking data suggests that at least 1 in 6 Minnesota debtors at risk for arrest actually lands in jail, typically for eight hours. The exact number of such arrests isn’t known because the government doesn’t consistently track what happens to debtor warrants.
“There are no standards here,” said Gail Hillebrand, a senior attorney with the Consumers Union in San Francisco. “A borrower who lives on one side of the river can be arrested while another one goes free. It breeds disrespect for the law.”
Haekyung Nielsen, 27, of Bloomington, said police showed up at her house on a civil warrant two weeks after she gave birth through Caesarean section. A debt buyer had sent her court papers for an old credit-card debt while she was in the hospital; Nielsen said she did not have time to respond.
Her baby boy, Tyler, lay in the crib as she begged the officer not to take her away.
“Thank God, the police had mercy and left me and my baby alone,” said Nielsen, who later paid the debt. “But to send someone to arrest me two weeks after a massive surgery that takes most women eight weeks to recover from was just unbelievable.”
The second surprise
Many debtors, like Robert Vee, 36, of Brooklyn Park, get a second surprise after being arrested — their bail is exactly the amount of money owed.
Hennepin County automatically sets bail at the judgment amount or $2,500, whichever is less. This policy was adopted four years ago in response to the high volume of debtor default cases, say court officials.
Some judges say the practice distorts the purpose of bail, which is to make sure people show up in court.
“It’s certainly an efficient way to collect debts, but it’s also highly distasteful,” said Hennepin County District Judge Jack Nordby. “The amount of bail should have nothing to do with the amount of the debt.”
Judge Robert Blaeser, chief of the county court’s civil division, said linking bail to debt streamlines the process because judges needn’t spend time setting bail.
“It’s arbitrary,” he conceded. “The bigger question is: Should you be allowed to get an order from a court for someone to be arrested because they owe money? You’ve got to remember there are people who have the money but just won’t pay a single penny.”
If friends or family post a debtor’s bail, they can expect to kiss the money goodbye, because it often ends up with creditors, who routinely ask judges for the bail payment.
Vee, a highway construction worker, was arrested one afternoon in February while driving his teenage daughter from school to their home in Brooklyn Park. As he was being cuffed, Vee said his daughter, who has severe asthma, started hyperventilating from the stress.
“All I kept thinking about was whether she was all right and if she was using her [asthma] inhaler,” he said.
From the Hennepin County jail, he made a collect call to his landlord, who promised to bring the bail. It was $1,875.06, the exact amount of a credit card debt.
Later, Vee was reunited with his distraught daughter at home. “We hugged for a long time, and she was bawling her eyes out,” he said.
He still has unpaid medical and credit card bills and owes about $40,000 on an old second mortgage. The sight of a squad car in his rearview mirror is all it takes to set off a fresh wave of anxiety.
“The question always crosses my mind: ‘Are the cops going to arrest me again?’” he said. “So long as I’ve got unpaid bills, the threat is there.”
July 5, 2010 from http://www.ten8.wordpress.com
Our Founders Displayed Both Bravery and Uncertainty
From The Washington Times July 2, 2010
By Stroube Smith
”We hold these truths to be self-evident.” So begins the second paragraph of our Declaration of Independence, adopted by unanimous vote of Congress on July 4, 1776, and as fine a composition as ever devised in the English language.
There are many remarkable aspects of the document, not least of which is the unanimous vote. In this day and age, it is virtually impossible to conceive of American politicians being unanimous about anything, including the sun rising in the East and setting in the West. But different times yield different breeds of politicians.
And that expression “self-evident.” I remember, as a very young person about the time of Pearl Harbor, asking my father what was special about that. His answer was that these concepts were so basic and so valid that no further questions could or should be raised about them.
Hard on the heels of “self-evident” comes “all men are created equal,” which seems to stump some people but strikes me as clear as freshly scrubbed, well-made glass: We are all equal in our humanity, something that does not depend on financial, physical or mental prowess.
I confess that at times it has seemed to me that there have been people who had abandoned their humanity, but the realization has always come sooner or later that such a judgment is not upon me. Nor can anyone render such a judgment on me. This is a comforting thought.
A right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” follows, the last a suggestion from Ben Franklin as a substitute for property.
After pointing out that the Colonies are separating from their “British brethren” more in sorrow than in anger and detailing a long list of transgressions by the English Crown, the document asserts:
“For the support of this declaration … we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Brave words for men who were placing their necks on the line as they signed their names immediately after that pledge – for the stake if they lost was their lives.
Looking back on our past, it appears the triumphs always seem inevitable, but that is never the case for the people living through the challenges.
In the days following the hopeful Declaration, through the loss of New York and Philadelphia, through Valley Forge and the series of defeats in the campaigns in the South, the rebels just barely survived. Even after the British surrender at Yorktown, more fighting was needed before the British decided that they had had enough.
In the War of 1812, the diplomats who signed the treaty ending the conflict did not know of Andrew Jackson‘s victory at the Battle of New Orleans. They had to wait to see if the British had been too generous in the settlement; if the British decided they had, it likely would have meant another round of warfare.
In more recent history, triumph in World War II did not seem assured to Americans who suffered through a withering string of defeats inflicted by the Japanese in the Pacific, an uncertainty shared with our Allies.
Americans watched the Germans reach the gates of Moscow, besiege Leningrad and take the lion’s share of Stalingrad. They watched Germany’s Marshal Erwin Rommel drive the British back to within spitting distance of Alexandria, Egypt and the Suez Canal. Victory certainly did not seem a sure thing to the guys who landed on the Normandy beaches on D-Day in 1944.
Bravery, blood and stubbornness finally won out for the Allies. Through the years, there have been notable Fourths of July. The one that tops them all in my mind is the one in 1863.
The Civil War for years had been chewing up lives from North and South at a fearsome rate, and no end seemed in sight. In fact, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was in Pennsylvania battling George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac, many miles from its namesake river.
On that Fourth, Lee’s troops began their painful retreat after three days of bloody combat. Now we can point to a spot that Pickett’s Charge reached as “the high point of the Confederacy.” Who knew then?
As a matter of fact, Gen. George B. McClellan, one of the generals Lincoln had fired for lack of success, was starting his campaign for the White House on an end-the-war platform.
On that same Fourth, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant took the surrender of Southern forces at Vicksburg, allowing the Mississippi to “flow untroubled” from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico and effectively cutting the Confederacy in half.
For the first time, Union leaders could see signs of hope. Close to two more years of fierce bloodletting was still to come.
As we festively watch the parades and the fireworks that celebrate our independence and our freedoms, it is well to remember that none of this came automatically. Through the years, the cost has been high.
And there is no sign that the price is going to go down.
Stroube Smith, a former copy editor for The Washington Times, is a free-lance writer living not far from Gettysburg.
July 5, 2010 from http://www.ten8.wordpress.com
Obama Administration Refuses to Prosecute ”Non-Whites” for Civil Rights Violations
From The Washington Times
Friday, June 25, 2010
By J. Christian Adams
On the day President Obama was elected, armed men wearing the black berets and jackboots of the New Black Panther Party were stationed at the entrance to a polling place in Philadelphia. They brandished a weapon and intimidated voters and poll watchers. After the election, the Justice Department brought a voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party and those armed thugs. I and other Justice attorneys diligently pursued the case and obtained an entry of default after the defendants ignored the charges. Before a final judgment could be entered in May 2009, our superiors ordered us to dismiss the case.
The New Black Panther case was the simplest and most obvious violation of federal law I saw in my Justice Department career. Because of the corrupt nature of the dismissal, statements falsely characterizing the case and, most of all, indefensible orders for the career attorneys not to comply with lawful subpoenas investigating the dismissal, this month I resigned my position as a Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney.
The federal voter-intimidation statutes we used against the New Black Panthers were enacted because America never realized genuine racial equality in elections. Threats of violence characterized elections from the end of the Civil War until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Before the Voting Rights Act, blacks seeking the right to vote, and those aiding them, were victims of violence and intimidation. But unlike the Southern legal system, Southern violence did not discriminate. Black voters were slain, as were the white champions of their cause. Some of the bodies were tossed into bogs and in one case in Philadelphia, Miss., they were buried together in an earthen dam.
Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law. Others still within the department share my assessment. The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers. The dismissal raises serious questions about the department‘s enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has opened an investigation into the dismissal and the DOJ‘s skewed enforcement priorities. Attorneys who brought the case are under subpoena to testify, but the department ordered us to ignore the subpoena, lawlessly placing us in an unacceptable legal limbo.
The assistant attorney general for civil rights, Tom Perez, has testified repeatedly that the “facts and law” did not support this case. That claim is false. If the actions in Philadelphia do not constitute voter intimidation, it is hard to imagine what would, short of an actual outbreak of violence at the polls. Let’s all hope this administration has not invited that outcome through the corrupt dismissal.
Most corrupt of all, the lawyers who ordered the dismissal – Loretta King, the Obama-appointed acting head of the Civil Rights Division, and Steve Rosenbaum – did not even read the internal Justice Department memorandums supporting the case and investigation. Just as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. admitted that he did not read the Arizona immigration law before he condemned it, Mr. Rosenbaum admitted that he had not bothered to read the most important department documents detailing the investigative facts and applicable law in the New Black Panther case. Christopher Coates, the former Voting Section chief, was so outraged at this dereliction of responsibility that he actually threw the memos at Mr. Rosenbaum in the meeting where they were discussing the dismissal of the case. The department subsequently removed all of Mr. Coates’ responsibilities and sent him to South Carolina.
Mr. Perez also inaccurately testified to the House Judiciary Committee that federal “Rule 11″ required the dismissal of the lawsuit. Lawyers know that Rule 11 is an ethical obligation to bring only meritorious claims, and such a charge by Mr. Perez effectively challenges the ethics and professionalism of the five attorneys who commenced the case. Yet the attorneys who brought the case were voting rights experts and would never pursue a frivolous matter. Their experience in election law far surpassed the experience of the officials who ordered the dismissal.
Some have called the actions in Philadelphia an isolated incident, not worthy of federal attention. To the contrary, the Black Panthers in October 2008 announced a nationwide deployment for the election. We had indications that polling-place thugs were deployed elsewhere, not only in November 2008, but also during the Democratic primaries, where they targeted white Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters. In any event, the law clearly prohibits even isolated incidents of voter intimidation.
Others have falsely claimed that no voters were affected. Not only did the evidence rebut this claim, but the law does not require a successful effort to intimidate; it punishes even the attempt.
Most disturbing, the dismissal is part of a creeping lawlessness infusing our government institutions. Citizens would be shocked to learn about the open and pervasive hostility within the Justice Department to bringing civil rights cases against nonwhite defendants on behalf of white victims. Equal enforcement of justice is not a priority of this administration. Open contempt is voiced for these types of cases.
Some of my co-workers argued that the law should not be used against black wrongdoers because of the long history of slavery and segregation. Less charitable individuals called it “payback time.” Incredibly, after the case was dismissed, instructions were given that no more cases against racial minorities like the Black Panther case would be brought by the Voting Section.
Refusing to enforce the law equally means some citizens are protected by the law while others are left to be victimized, depending on their race. Core American principles of equality before the law and freedom from racial discrimination are at risk. Hopefully, equal enforcement of the law is still a point of bipartisan, if not universal, agreement. However, after my experience with the New Black Panther dismissal and the attitudes held by officials in the Civil Rights Division, I am beginning to fear the era of agreement over these core American principles has passed.
J. Christian Adams is a lawyer based in Virginia who served as a voting rights attorney at the Justice Department until this month. He blogs at electionlawcenter.com.