The Problem With Confidential Informants

We all want to catch, prosecute and convict violent criminals.  So when the police use investigative tools like confidential informants to gather evidence and develop suspects it should be a good thing, right?  But does the end justify the means? (Read my post on that subject here)  What could possibly go wrong with this concept?

Is justice blind, or is justice for those who can afford it?

Is justice blind, or is justice for those who can afford it?

I recently read a story about a man who stole a car.  When the car thief was arrested he told the cops that there was meth in the car when he stole it.  Based on that information the police busted down the door of the vehicle’s owner and, when the homeowner grabbed a gun to defend himself against the apparent home-invasion the cops shot him dead.

The Innocence Project estimates that 18% of convictions that are overturned because of DNA testing there was in informant who testified against the defendant.  Often these people receive some sort of incentive to provide this testimony, whether it be release from prison, reduced sentence or monetary compensation.  Some of them are witnesses in multiple cases, perhaps “career informants.”

Aside from the obvious concept that a criminal might not be the most honest witness, there is something inherently wrong with a witness-for-hire system.  One has to speculate that such practices would encourage false testimony.

This is even more relevant since the passing of the Patriot Act (see my post on this subject here), giving the federal government the power to detain American citizens without due process based on the suspicion of terrorist activity.  This can be as innocent as someone saying they heard you talking about wanting the current administration out of office.

While I am all for holding people accountable for their actions, I am vehemently opposed to paying or otherwise compensating potential witnesses.  Since 1973 over 130 people who were on death row have been exonerated.   This is just the death row data…how many more convictions have been overturned?  How many innocent people could not afford to continue appeals or the court would not hear them?

Our system is broken.  It will not be fixed until we, the people, demand it from our elected representatives.  I hope and prey that you and your loved ones never face these issues, but if you do, I hope you are more fortunate than those who are currently behind bars…or dead…because someone SAID they did something wrong!

Free vs. Freedom

EBTMany of us are quick to take free stuff. However are these things really free? Most (if not all) of the things that are given away must be paid for by someone.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common things that people are quick to take advantage of. There are many, including businesses offering incentives, charities, food stamps (now called EBT which stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer or SNAP for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), there is unemployment, welfare, heating subsidies and housing subsidies and the list goes on. Who pays for these things?

Free perks offered by a business are funded by the customers, as a general rule.  Often there is a requirement to purchase something…free toothbrush with purchase of XYZ toothpaste.  Sometimes free things are offered in the hopes that you will purchase something, but again the expense is factored into the items for sale.

Charities (private organizations) are funded by donors who willingly give money to the group.  But they are also funded in part by your tax dollars, if only because they do not have to pay taxes on their income.  Now I am not saying this is a bad thing, only pointing out the fact.  Actually, I think that income tax is theft and anti-freedom, but that is for another post.

In the case of unemployment, I hear many say that they paid into this so they deserve to collect it. Well, in most states this is not the case. The employer pays a tax based on past claims and on an average for their region. So an employer who has never had a claim will be paying into the pool as long as they have people on staff.  And if they are in a “high risk” pool they will pay higher rates even if they never had a claim.  This cuts into the net pay of every employee at those companies

Welfare, EBT and other subsidies are slavery in disguise.  Those who work are forced to give the proceeds of their labor to others…who may or may not NEED the funds, but did not EARN the funds.  Make no mistake, this is not charity.  Charity is voluntary, not forced and the donor can select the beneficiary.  The other insidious effect of these programs is the theft of the self respect of the recipient.  There was a time when no honorable man (or woman) would take a handout except under the most dire circumstances.  If they were forced to accept charity it was paid back as quickly as possible.  Today, there seems to be a race to see how many “free programs” one can participate in!

In Virginia former Governor McDonnell gave an award and a promotion to a Social Services director for growing the department and exponentially expanding the number of recipients.  Isn’t the goal of such programs supposed to be helping people to become self sufficient?  Or is it to “create more jobs” by expanding government and requiring those working in private industry to give up even more of their hard-earned dollars?

The concept of freedom is that if you work hard you will be rewarded by accumulating wealth which you can use to make your life, and the life of your heirs, more enjoyable.  The practice of penalizing success is counterproductive to that goal.  There are many lures to entice us to take these give-away programs, but there is always free cheese in a mousetrap.  Even if we don’t have to pay for these things, our children and their descendants will.  Perhaps we should think long and hard before we give up our freedom and theirs in exchange for a little bit of “free” stuff.

How To Find Happiness

A friend of mine has a saying that happiness is not having what you want, it is wanting what you have.  Many of us think in terms of…stuff.   While having material things can and does make life easier (assuming you could afford those things when you purchased them), the real secret to happiness is around us all the time.  For example it could be a quiet moment with someone special or catching a glimpse of a beautiful sunset.  We often take for granted the endearing moments like when our toddler breaks several dozen eggs in the kitchen floor and laughs hysterically as each one smashes.

In fact, many of the things that irritate us in day to day life become the moments we hold on to when a loved one has left this world.  Sometimes we never get a chance to say the things we really mean.  Sometimes we hold grudges until it is too late to let them go.  And sometimes we just overlook the obvious.

I was fortunate that life showed me the real value of family and true friends.  I hope that those reading this post will also take a moment, smell the roses, hug a loved one and simply…want what you have.

Have A Great Day!

Are you the bright spot in the day or do you blend in to the background?

Are you the bright spot in the day or do you blend in to the background?

In my line of work I come in contact with hundreds of people every day. Most of the time I look forward to my job.  But there are days where I really don’t want to see people.  You know those days.  Sometimes we just don’t have a choice of whether or not to deal with people when we really don’t feel like social contact.

Fortunately, I have a choice on whether I reflect that negativity to my clients.  It used to be that I would let things like this affect my interaction with others.  But it quickly became

When you look at this tree do you see something old and tired or something with amazing stories to tell?

When you look at this tree do you see something old and tired or something with amazing stories to tell?

evident that doing so could have a negative effect on my business. But it also rubbed off on the people I associated with.  So I began an experiment.  When someone inquired how I was doing I would answer enthusiastically that I was great!  After two or three times saying it like I meant it I actually DID mean it!  What’s more, those around me would “catch” the upbeat attitude and everyone behaved in a more positive manner.

 

So if you are feeling a bit on the blue side, do yourself a favor and deny the urge to wallow in self-pity.  At the very least you will avoid subjecting those around you to your pains.  But you never know, you may just teach yourself to be one of those annoying people who are always cheery no matter what!  Besides, life is too short to waste it by not enjoying each day for what it is worth.

Hate Crime Laws are Hate Crimes

There are several laws on the books making “Hate Crimes” punishable by a tougher penalty than the same act not committed out of “hate.” But what exactly constitutes a “Hate Crime?”

If a white man beats up a black man because he is black it is a hate crime…but if a black man beats up a white man because he is white it is not.  If an arsonist lights a church on fire it is a hate crime.  But if that same arsonist lights a store on fire because he hates the owner it is probably not going to be classified as a hate crime (unless the store owner is a minority).

So why do we have hate crime laws?  The logic was that it would give a stricter punishment for BlindLadyJusticeperforming a malicious act out of spite.  But is this reasonable?  Is the victim any less victimized if they are not being targeted because of prejudice or if the bias is not recognized in one of the special groups that these laws apply to?

So in reality, by passing a law that gives special consideration to some groups over others, we are actually committing what equates to a “hate crime” in that we are singling out individuals and leveling a greater punishment on them than the crime would otherwise warrant.  It would be different if the standard was applied equally across the board, but it is not.  Plus we are telling certain victims that they don’t rate as high on the scale of justice when we don’t classify theattack on them as a hate crime.  All men are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law.  They are all supposed to have the same rights and protections.  Justice is supposed to be blind…but is it?

Who Is Your Best Friend?

As a child and adolescent I spent a great deal of time trying to fit in. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was looking for validation in the eyes of others. This was, of course, unachievable.  But I wanted to have friends…and to be liked by the “popular” kids.  After a while, I realized that those popular kids were not what they seemed.  Many of them spent their time putting down others, presumably to pump themselves up.  Eventually I discovered a secret. Continue reading

It’s Common Knowledge…

There was a time when it was common knowledge that the world was flat and the sun, moon, stars and all the planets revolved around it. There was a time when everyone was sure that demons caused illness and drought. Today we have made discoveries that disprove those “facts” of long ago and we have replaced them with new “facts” accepted by most of us on this planet. But just how accurate are these things we hold as common knowledge? Will they, too, be disproved one day? Remember that there is no proof that something is correct, only the inability to prove that it is no…for now!

I am reminded that back in the 1970’s we were told by the “experts” that we were entering a mini ice age.  Well, that has morphed into global warming and again into climate change.

There was a time when it was commonly accepted that some ethnic groups were not as intelligent as others, or that lightning never strikes the same place twice.  We know today that both of these are untrue.

My point is not to attempt to dispel current beliefs or argue today’s contested topics.  I simply wish to point out that before we blindly accept “common knowledge” as fact we should ask questions, do our own research and think independently…like a free person!

The War On….[Fill In The Blank]

We as a nation have waged war on poverty, drugs, obesity, terrorism, illiteracy and much more.  Where has that gotten us?

Back in the 70’s the Department of Energy was created to combat our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the price of gasoline.  How is that working for us?  We are still paying around $30 Billion every year to support the DOE, which employs over 15,000 federal employees and over 100,000 private contractors.  Are we any less dependent on foreign oil than we were in 1977 when the agency was crated?  It doesn’t appear that we are.

OK, maybe to war on drugs is doing better…after all, if we get someone off of heroin and substitute (taxpayer subsidized) methadone for the “illegal” drug we are making progress, right?  There is obviously less of a drug problem today then there was in 1914 when the Harrison Tax Act was passed, right?  Oh, wait, maybe not!  But Pat Nixon’s “Just Say NO” program was highly successful…NOT!  Again, we are throwing money at a problem that won’t go away.  Humans have been chemically augmenting their consciousness since the first man ate a fermenting piece of fruit. Today we have millions of Americans locked in cages (that we are footing the bill for) because they were found in possession of a “controlled substance.”  But what is the difference between someone smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol?  Nothing, except that one is legal and the other is not.  One could argue that we are saving them from themselves, but freedom gives the individual the right to poison their body with chemicals if they so choose…provided they don’t endanger others in the process.  What the war on drugs has done is create an underground, a crime syndicate, that actually increases the threat to society instead of making it safer.  Look at what happened during prohibition!

How about the war on terrorism?  Are we safer today than we were 10 years ago?  How about 20 or 30 years ago?  We have freely given up our liberties in an attempt to make ourselves feel safer, but are we really more secure?  If a terrorist wanted to poison our food supply or disrupt our lives they would not be deterred by these “feel good” measures that only give the illusion of security. Does a gated community really keep criminals out?  No, it just makes us FEEL safer.  The reality is that we, each and every individual, are the ones responsible for keeping ourselves, our communities and our country safe.

There is no way to wage war on an idea, an object or an action.  There is no way to ensure that bad things won’t happen to good people.  There is, however, the ability to be prepared for unexpected or adverse circumstances.  In fact, it is your responsibility as an adult to do so.  We prepare by doing things like saving money for emergencies, keeping fire extinguishers in places where they could be needed, using smoke detectors, keeping gas in our car, being aware of our surroundings and what others in the vicinity are doing, etc.  So in essence, we wage a war every day.  We do things to prevent catastrophes and if the unexpected happens and we need to react we try to be ready.  That is the real war on….[fill in the blank].

Conservative? Liberal? Libertarian? Independent?

I am always amazed at the way people tend to impose their ideals on others.  We classify ourselves into three basic categories…conservatives, liberals and libertarians with independents not “claiming” any affiliation.  But what does that mean?

Conservatives claim to be for freedom, but they still impose their values on others.  This case was recently brought to my attention.  There is a young girl in Front Royal, Virginia, who had a vision.  She made awesome pastries and decided to open a donut shop.  So she recruited backers and worked hard to make her dream a reality…this, by the way, is the true American dream, but that is another post.  She called her shop Naughty Girl’s Donut Shop and used posters of icons like Marilyn Monroe as decoration.  She and her staff continue to go to high school while running the shop!  But some think her name is too risque for the sleepy town of Front Royal so they are calling for a boycott.  So much for the concept of freedom!  Read about this young lady and her business here.

Liberals call themselves “liberal” which would imply a more tolerant outlook, but it seems they only take that stance if you agree with their outlooks and phobias.  As a general rule they are for a Utopian world where everyone is given everything that they need and everyone is equal.  The problem with that concept is that if everyone is equal there is nothing to strive for, no goals, no success and no failure.  In essence, no advancement.

Libertarians are more in line with freedom than the first two groups, but still believe that we are not trustworthy enough to make our own decisions, therefore we must have a higher “authority” telling us what we can and cannot do.  This is still not freedom.

Independents…true independents…will hold that we are each responsible for our own actions and accountable for our deeds.  There are very few true independents, although there are some.  When you meet them you may think them odd because they embody a different perspective on life and freedom.

Most of us fall into more than one category.  Most of us THINK that we are all about freedom and liberty, but we have lost sight of what those terms really entail.  Where do you stand?  Are you willing to allow others to embrace their own values even when they don’t agree with your own?