In Wisconsin, home now to Saturday’s new face mask requirements, the authorities are trying to deal with law enforcement agencies that are refusing to enforce the new mandate. Forty sheriff’s departments in Wisconsin have so far indicated that they will not assume enforcement of this mandate. The mandate calls for a $200 civil forfeiture against intentional violators of the order. That means that violating the mandate is not illegal. A civil forfeiture may be pursued by the district attorney in the area or county where the deliberate infraction or offense occurs. What they are encouraging is for the public to become part of enforcement in the following manner:

Consider conferring with your District Attorney, corporation counsel, and local public health officials to develop an efficient way for citizens to report their concerns about violations of the face-covering order. It is within the District Attorney’s authority to take referrals from public health officials, law enforcement, or others in the community who report intentional violations.

The public is being encouraged to report friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers out in public who violate the mandate. The call for action by the state does not go so far as to encourage civilians to encounter people that might be violating. The public is not equipped to deal with a potentially enraged and possibly armed citizen in such circumstances, so that stance is correct. Civil forfeitures are not covered by most constitutional guarantees or protections, so the ability of citizens to find out who accused them or turned them in is severely limited to what information the district attorney might want to release. Civil and administrative asset forfeiture (yes, they can go after your bank account, car, home, and more to get the money) basically deny the public almost all ability to fight for its rights and are very controversial in nature. With the advent of forfeiture being used to punish disobedient citizens during the virus crisis, however, things may change if enough citizens are cited and enough to get lawyers and file suit against the state, counties, and district attorney offices for damages. The forfeiture process also may begin to create violence, as citizens find themselves turned in simply because of emotional altercations with others that are then turned into supposed violations of the mask mandate. The rules of evidence are mostly suspended in forfeiture situations.

Beating the system, but at what cost to everyone else around?

I am also writing about the use of ‘valve’ face masks, like the highly vaunted N95 surgical mask, since the new mandate does not specifically allow or disallow any masks. The primary purpose of a face mask is not to protect the wearer, although there is a partial benefit in that too, but primarily the protection of those around the wearer. The valve in some face masks and you see more and more of them as states pass rigid mask-wearing rules with real teeth in them, let much more, nearly unfiltered, air out so that the wearer, although getting the full value of the partial protection of the mask, isn’t protecting others much around him or her at all.

The new name for these masks should be the ‘Selfish Mask.’ All masks are uncomfortable, especially in the heat of summer, occurring in most places. They also take away the good looks of those who have good looks. They damage human communication ability by blocking facial expressions. They are suffocating, and glasses fog easily when wearing them. They leave marks on the skin when removed, and those marks stay for some time on many people. But what are we to do, as long as the solution to the virus is seen as restricting interaction, movement, and even breathing near other people? The argument raging about how the ‘solution,’ which does not seem to be having much effect, is worse than the disease, goes on unabated…bleeding over into political positions. Conservatives appear mostly against the rigid physical (masks) and social measures (distancing), while democrats appear to favor them. Note, however; at the gathering where Obama and others spoke in the eulogy about the black leader who recently passed, most of the audience, likely democratic in nature or orientation, wore masks with valves.

The rules for almost all conduct today are completely fluid…changing by the day, week, and month. The only factor not changing is the continued appearance, seemingly vaguely in the distance, of the great danger we are all in now. There is danger in being exposed to or contracting the virus. There is an even greater danger in suffering the results of a nation going half broke by reacting to that virus danger.


Sign up for Updates