One of my very favourite lines from Catch-22 is Yossarian's statement (paraphrased),
They have the right to do whatever they cannot be prevented from doing.
I was reminded of that line by this story from the CBC [via Ms Eclectic] which outlines how law-enforcement officials in the US take cash from people's cars.
Across America, law enforcement officers — from federal agents to state troopers right down to sheriffs in one-street backwaters — are operating a vast, co-ordinated scheme to grab as much of the public’s cash as they can; “hand over fist,” to use the words of one police trainer.
It usually starts on the road somewhere. An officer pulls you over for some minor infraction — changing lanes without proper signalling, following the car ahead too closely, straddling lanes. The offence is irrelevant.
Then the police officer wants to chat, asking questions about where you’re going, or where you came from, and why. He’ll peer into your car, then perhaps ask permission to search it, citing the need for vigilance against terrorist weaponry or drugs.
What he’s really looking for, though, is money.
And if you were foolish (or intimidated) enough to have consented to the search, and you’re carrying any significant amount of cash, you are now likely to lose it.
One bit of advice in the article is not to carry much cash with you, which makes sense to me.
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Digression: about ten years ago when I was taking a minibus from London, Ontario, to the Detroit airport, a US immigration official asked "How much money are you bringing with you?"
I replied "Fourteen dollars."
He reacted with faked shock that I thought I could get by on so little cash, insinuating I might become a homeless vagrant.
I somewhat sarcastically replied that I was going to the airport, but I knew they had ATMs all over the US, and I had no wish to carry much cash with me, especially through Detroit.
I have no idea why they didn't pull me aside for being sarcastic. Whew.
Update: Raffi drew this article to my attention:
A Nebraska judge ordered cops to return $1 million to a California stripper after the cash was confiscated during a traffic stop.
Update #2: The actual quote from Catch-22 is from Chapter 39:
“Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”