This Is One of the Greatest Threats to Property Rights

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Every American knows that in a court of law they are innocent until proven guilty. But that isn’t the case for the accused’s property.

The procedure known as civil asset forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today. It means the government can seize someone’s property on suspicion of a crime — even if the accused is not yet proven guilty.

The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies just released a new informational booklet on civil asset forfeiture. Arresting Your Property: How Civil A$$ET Forfeiture Turns Police Into Profiteers explains what the law is and also provides common-sense reforms to stop the abuse of this law enforcement tool. Here’s a brief description of the unfair law:

Meant to ensure that “crime does not pay,” civil forfeiture laws allow police to seize property they merely suspect was involved in criminal activity. In many states, law enforcement authorities can keep whatever they seize as profits—leading some agencies to treat civil forfeiture as a way to raise revenue, often at the expense of innocent property owners.

Arresting Your Property: How Civil A$$ET Forfeiture Turns Police Into Profiteers takes a deep dive into how civil forfeiture is a law enforcement tool with a dark side where the government can take and sell your property without ever convicting, or even charging, you with a crime.

Be sure to click this link to learn more about the history of forfeiture, how hard it is fight a seizure, the perverse profit incentives for law enforcement, and shocking examples of cops seizing homes, money, and cars on dubious grounds.

Do you think civil asset forfeiture is justified? Or do you think it’s a threat to property rights?

 

 

Heritage Keeps the Pulse on Asian Strategy

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Asian leaders are worried about China’s rise, the spread of ISIS, and the lack of American leadership in the Pacific, Heritage expert Dean Cheng reports from a meeting of Asian defense ministers.

Here’s Cheng’s assessment:

The region is clearly very troubled by China’s activities in the South China Sea. They are primarily focusing on two responses. Politically, they would like to see the creation of a binding code of conduct (which has been in negotiations for many years, and shows no evidence of being concluded). Militarily, they would like to establish closer relations with the United States, but without jeopardizing their substantial economic relations with the PRC.

Several people, both during the sessions and in separate conversations, asked what the US would do if China does NOT cease its current island building. There is no obvious answer forthcoming from Washington.

Apart from China, the other major concern was the prospect for Islamic terrorism, especially if ISIS fighters return from Iraq/Syria. There were reports, while I was in Singapore, that there have been so many Malaysian/Indonesian recruits that ISIS has formed a separate brigade of such fighters (presumably easing language difficulties). A number of defense ministers and staffs emphasized that there is a need to address ISIS now, before those fighters return to wreak havoc in the region.

Finally, there was some discussion of refugee movements, based on the simultaneous crisis involving Rohingya peoples fleeing Burma and Bangladesh and Africans fleeing to Europe. The Southeast Asian states in particular noted the need to develop norms and standards for refugee assistance and repatriation.

Do you think China and ISIS threaten America’s interests?

How Much Could You Save If Congress Removes Obamacare Regulations?

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The Supreme Court could rule later this month that federal subsidies for health insurance purchased on state-run exchanges are unlawful. This could increase out-of-pocket costs for consumers in those states.

Here’s one solution to address the problem: If Congress eliminates three key Obamacare regulations in affected states, premiums could decrease dramatically. Heritage expert Nina Owcharenko lays out what this means:

For example, in Arizona, premiums could drop by as much as $1,044 for a 21-year-old and $402 for a 64-year-old. Similarly, in Iowa, premiums could decline by as much as $1,068 for a 21-year-old and $486 for a 64-year-old. In Ohio, premiums could be reduced by as much as $1,125 for a 21-year old and $633 for a 64-year old.

Use this interactive chart to see how removing these onerous regulations could benefit health insurance customers in your state:

Tell us in the comments: is this the right approach to Obamacare?

Among Bin Laden’s Recovered Reading: a Heritage Report

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A trove of information seized during the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound was declassified yesterday.  In total, 266 English-language books, U.S. government documents, and think tank reports were found in Bin Laden’s Pakistan hideaway. And among the documents recovered was a report from Heritage Foundation expert Jim Phillips.

Phillips’ report, “The Evolving Al-Qaeda Threat,” is a testimony he gave in 2006 before the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism.

The key to defeating Al Qaeda, Phillips argued, is to discredit and defeat its ideology — not just to target Al Qaeda leaders.  So a two-pronged approach is necessary to truly defeat the terrorist network: we must confront them not only on the battlefield but in the ideological war of ideas.

“The revelation made me feel queasy and surreal,” Phillips said of this uninvited notoriety:

Queasy because I was shocked at how much attention Bin Laden evidently paid to think tank analyses and Washington debates on counterterrorism strategy.  I hope that anything I wrote did not help him.  Also surreal, because I have been reading his writings and video transcripts since before 9/11 and it is odd to think that he also was reading mine.

In a way, the discovery of Phillips’ report among Bin Laden’s reading materials is a testament to the power of ideas. Heritage works to ensure that our analyses, grounded in the principles of the American founding, have as broad an audience as possible, whether we’re making the case for economic reform or for defeating Al-Qaeda.

In his testimony, Phillips quoted conservative thinker Richard Weaver’s dictum that “Ideas have consequences” and explained how Muslims must be convinced that Bin Laden’s ideas have bad consequences, not just for the United States or non-Muslims, but for Muslims themselves.

Gen. Mattis Says We Need a Leader Who Is ‘Unapologetic About American Values’

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Gen. Mattis

Photo: Katie Nielsen

Too many of America’s leaders today lack a coherent strategy for addressing the world’s challenges, General James Mattis said Wednesday at The Heritage Foundation. Instead, America needs a leader who is “unapologetic about American values.”

“The greatest generation taught us that if you don’t talk about something then things will go wrong fast,” Mattis said. But today’s leaders often ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

He warned that ignoring the problems with Russia, China, and political Islam won’t make them go away. Rather, ignoring them will allow them to escalate which could be catastrophic for both the U.S. and our allies.

Though things may look gloomy now, he emphasized we can reverse it through the powers of intimidation and inspiration. He has high hopes for the younger generation, which is why he focuses his attention on universities.

This leadership can be gained through learning, he said, and emphasized the importance of the reading lists Marines are required to read upon advancing ranks.

Mattis, a retired four star general in the Marine Corps, delivered the annual Colonel James T. McGinley lecture. Known as the “Warrior Monk,” Mattis served as Commander of the United States Central Command, Commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander.

Mattis said he turns down most speaking requests, but since he quotes Heritage research so often, he felt he should accept this opportunity.

Do you think today’s leaders have developed a strategy to deal with the world’s challenges?

Heritage Brings Together Conservatives from Across the Country

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For the last 38 years, Heritage has hosted the annual Resource Bank meeting to bring together conservative leaders and organizations from around the country and around the world. Attendees talk strategy, share tactics and best practices, and work to strengthen the movement.

This year’s meeting took place last week in Bellevue, Washington. Highlights of the agenda include:

  • Strategy sessions on issues like education reform, restoring federalism, health care, social services, grassroots organizing, educating more Americans about conservative principles, and more.
  • A keynote address by Maine Gov. Paul LePage about state-based conservative reforms
  • A speech by Ann McElhinney, who most recently crowdfunded a movie about abortionist Kermit Gosnell
  • The awarding of the Salvatori Prize to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for their “What Will They Learn” project, which seeks to raise education standards.
  • A dinner hosted by Heritage’s Steve Moore and Heritage trustee Steve Forbes.

As Heritage Foundation Founder Ed Feulner has always said, it is better to add and multiply the conservative movement than it it to divide and subtract. That’s what Resource Bank is all about.

Do you think it’s important for conservatives to work together and share ideas about how to succeed?

President Obama Ignores Iranian Piracy and Neglects an Ally

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Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out cooperation with the U.S. against ISIS. (Photo: Newscom)

The Obama administration is so desperate to push through a nuclear deal with Iran that it is turning a blind eye to the rogue regime’s hostile actions in international waters.

On Tuesday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boarded, hijacked and diverted a cargo ship, registered in the Marshall Islands, to an Iranian port — essentially performing an act of piracy.

Iranian authorities claim the hijacking was due to a commercial dispute with the ship’s owner. Heritage Foundation expert Jim Phillips rejects this pretext involving a commercial dispute and noted that “even if true, that would not legally justify seizing a ship in international waters.”

Phillips believes that Iran has a more ominous motive:

[T]he Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has flexed its muscles to provoke a crisis in retaliation for U.S. backing for the Saudi-led coalition that is blockading Yemen, to prevent Iran from arming and supplying Yemen’s Houthi rebels, which Tehran has backed.

“If Iran violates international law and its own legal commitments in the strait,” Phillips asks, “why does the administration believe that it will suddenly abandon its longstanding effort to attain a nuclear weapon?”

If the Obama Administration ignores this aggression, it will be abandoning its responsibility to defend the interests of the Marshall Islands, a U.S. protectorate under a binding treaty, as well as its commitments to ensure freedom of the seas and free flow of trade.

The Obama administration needs to immediately demand the unconditional release of the hijacked ship and its crew. If they don’t, Phillips warns:

Turning a blind eye to Tehran’s latest provocation would not only betray an ally but would send a dangerous signal to Iran’s predatory regime that it can interfere with international shipping in the strait and violate international law with impunity.

CNN reports today that “U.S. Navy warships will now ‘accompany’ every U.S.-flagged commercial vessel that passes through the Strait of Hormuz.”

How do you think the administration should respond to the hijacking?

Raul Castro Pardons America

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You read that right. Raul Castro pardoned us. Over the weekend, the Cuban dictator granted the United States of America a pardon for the embargo we enacted on Cuba.

And President Obama shook the dictator’s hand:

Photo: NPR

This thaw in relations does nothing for the Cuban people or America’s interests, but rather serves to bolster Obama’s personal legacy.

“Barack Obama is simply in a rush to create a legacy for himself,” Heritage Foundation expert Mike Gonzalez told FoxNews.com. “He found time to meet with Mr. Castro, but he didn’t have time to meet with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”

And how has President Obama affected the dictator’s future plans for Cuba? Gonzalez warns that it will be much of the same: “Raul Castro is a family man, like ‘Don Corleone’ – he is now setting up his pieces and Obama has given him an assist in how to perpetrate that.”

What kind of foreign policy legacy do you think President Obama will have?

Russia Is a Major Strategic Adversary. Here’s What We Need to Counter It.

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“The next leader of the free world must be able to powerfully project and defend America’s interests internationally,” Heritage Foundation experts Nile Gardiner and James Carafano point out in National Review.

President Obama’s mantra of leading from behind isn’t cutting it when it come to such a shrewd adversary as Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gardiner and Carafano explain:

[It] is simply not good enough when it comes to challenging Vladimir Putin’s regime. In the last year, Russia has grown more aggressive, annexing Crimea and fighting a proxy war in support of ethnic Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

And leading from behind doesn’t exactly lend itself to anticipating–and countering–Putin’s next moves. Looking forward, there are the two major components our new president needs to focus on:

  1. America must project military strength in Europe. We can do this by “establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in the Baltic region, expanding joint training exercises with military allies in Eastern Europe, and providing arms to help the Ukrainian government resist the Russian invasion.”
  2. European countries need to become economically independent from Russia’s energy supplies. Furthermore, “the next U.S. president must act to lift barriers to natural-gas exports and end the ban on crude-oil exports.”

Read their full article in National Review.

What do you think? Should the next president follow President Obama’s Russia policy?

An Agreement in Principle with Iran–with No Principles

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The framework agreement on nuclear weapons with Iran could open the flood gates, Heritage Foundation expert James Phillips explains:

While the administration will spin the agreement as a signal that the Iranians are acting more reasonably, Tehran will see the deal as acceptance in the West of its policies and behavior. There is danger that Iran will be emboldened to escalate its destabilizing behavior in the region, not reduce it. And the more sanctions relief Iran gains, the more cash it will have to finance terrorism and other subversive activities.

We only have to look to the past to see that Iran has a poor track record for keeping its word. Considering its long history of violating nuclear agreements, it’s difficult to accept that Iran won’t cheat. Fool me once…

Ultimately, Phillips says, “the Obama administration made an agreement in principle with an Iranian regime that has no principles, except to expand its power and export its revolution.”

Tell us in the comments: What do you think of the provisional agreement the Obama administration made with Iran?

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