h/t Delaware Libertarian.
Archive for February, 2009
Posted by Jim Davidson at bostontea.us
Jim is signed up to write here, but says this site is crashing his computer.
Anyone else having access issues? Please comment if you are able to get that far with the site.
Chris Wood over at CaseyResearch.com has done the yeoman’s work of analysing the current act.
Here are a few things he’s found:
Agriculture, rural development, FDA: $16,744,500,000
About $10.5 billion for section 502 unsubsidized guaranteed loans and another billion for direct loans under section 502. Don’t you wish you were rural? Broadband as part of rural electrification (?) gets $2.5 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and grants.
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: $15,922,000,000. Includes a billion for community policing and a billion for periodic census work. Also $4.7 billion for more of that broadband stuff, interfering in the successful Internet industry because government can’t keep its hands off a successful business model. I can’t wait to find out what $2.5 billion in research gets us.
Department of Defense Operation and Maintenance: $4,549,000,000.
Energy and Water Development: $51,175,000,000.
Financial Services and General Government: $6,858,000,000.
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: $10,950,000,000.
Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies: $70,465,000,000.
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs: $4,276,000,000.
Transportation and Housing and Urban Development: $59,745,000,000.
State Fiscal Stabilization Fund: $53,600,000,000.
You can go through and see how worthless and ineffective agencies like the Army corps of engineers and the department of education are being rewarded with multi-billion dollar boondoggles. I expect the states which were fiscally stable aren’t going to get much of the stabilisation fund, huh?
Altogether, it looks like a spend and spend Democrat’s wet dream.
Coleman will make his official announcement today during a speech at the Columbia Club, where he will be flanked by members of the Libertarian Party of Indiana.
“This is not a decision I take lightly, nor did I come to it without deep reflection,” Coleman said in a statement released Monday by the Libertarians.
“I have found that the direction of the Republican Party has changed, and it is not the same party I joined many years ago,” he said. “Nor do I believe its current leaders truly represent the ideals that the party markets and advertises to voters.”
Vic Ryckaert, “GOP councilman goes Libertarian“, Indianapolis Star, February 17, 2009
Also covered by Radley Balko at Reason Magazine.
“This is not change,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero correctly told the Associated Press. “Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue.”
A Gallup Poll released February 12 revealed that 62 percent of Americans want to investigate or criminally prosecute Bush administration officials who authorized torture in the so-called “war on terror.” But even hough President Obama has said numerous times that “nobody’s above the law,” on February 10 he used the Bush administration’s “state secrets” gambit to quash a lawsuit attempting to penalize some of those involved in renditioning torture subjects.
Vice-Admiral Albert Church: US abused/tortured prisoners to death in Afghanistan
The ACLU has managed to acquire incompletely redacted Federal documents that substantiate charges that US interrogators indeed did abuse/torture prisoners to death in Afghanistan as early as 2002.
Find the documents here.
A chilling passage from the report by Vice-Admiral Albert Church:
The behavior alleged in the Deember 2002 Bagram death cases was clearly abusive, and clearly not in keeping with any approved interrogation policies or guidelines. In both instances the deaths followed interrogation sessions in which unauthorized techniques were allegedly employed, but in both cases these sessions were followed by further alleged abusive behavior outside of the interrogation booth.
The second page of the report details prisoners
being handcuffed to objects above their heads in order to keep them awake. Additionally, interrogations in both incidents involved physical violence, including kicking, beating, and the use of “compliance blows” which involved striking the PUC’s legs with the MP’s knees. In both cases, blunt force trauma to the legs was implicated in the deaths. In one case a pulmonary embolism developed as a consequence of blunt force trauma…
from Greens for Greens
CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names
On the Rocks
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
I write these words at the end of a week in which:
A new Democratic president, Barack Obama, via his Attorney General, has explicitly endorsed Bush’s policy on renditions and Bush’s refusal to recognize the jurisdiction of US courts in any legal proceedings in this regard; also a week in which Obama’s solicitor general has explicitly endorsed Bush’s policy on enemy combatants.
I write not long after the New York Times reported that state welfare rolls are actually shrinking in months when unemployment has risen to real totals of 17 and 18 per cent – 1.7 million in Dec and Jan, hence when more and more people are in desperate straits.
I told ya….
- William Grigg predicts that Obama will be worse than Bush.
- Steve Funk writes
- Less foreign military interventionism? NOPE
- Ending the insane war on drugs? NOPE
- Defunding G.W. Bush’s “faith-based initiatives”? NOPE
- Halting illegal government wiretaps and repealing FISA? NOPE
- No more taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street and big business? NOPE
- Cutting reckless government spending and reducing the $10+ trillion federal debt? NOPE
- Reforming our doomed Social Security program? NOPE
- Reducing the influence of PACs and lobbyists? NOPE
- Lifting the Cuban trade and travel embargo? NOPE
- Becky points out that Obama was partially responsible for the passage of gay-bashing Prop. 8 in California. He did nothing to stop pro-Prop 8 forces from calling millions of people with a recording of him saying “I believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God is in the mix.” He did not campaign against the measure.
Ironically, it was the huge black turnout, triggered by their enthusiasm to put [Obama] in the the White House, that ensured passage of Proposition 8. Exit polls show it was opposed by whites, Latinos were evenly split, and favored overwhelmingly by African-Americans.
(Much) more to come…..
Knappster’s post on Liberaltarians, and my comments…
“Liberaltarianism” in its 2008 regeneration simply meant that libertarians placed dismantling the Bush Administration’s catastrophic civil liberties and foreign affairs policies so much higher on the agenda than fiscal restraint (which neither conservatives nor liberals embrace today anyway) that they were willing to hold their noses, close their eyes and pull the lever for Obama — despite knowing full well what the budgetary ramifications would be.
Think of the Republicans and Democrats like the meth and heroin a junkie shoots.
Junkie gets too spun out on meth, and shoots some H to come down. Junkie gets too low with H and shoots some more meth to spin back up. It’s a toxic mix.
“placed dismantling the Bush Administration’s catastrophic civil liberties and foreign affairs policies so much higher on the agenda than fiscal restraint”
What about the Bush gang’s lack of fiscal restraint, worst since either LBJ or FDR in growth level terms, and worst ever in absolute terms? What about the Clinton gang continuing the Iraq embargo for eight years, putting more people in prison for drugs than any administration before him, proposing everything which eventually came to be in the use-a-patriot act, etc? What about Obama voting for all these kinds of policies in the Senate, and promising more of the same on the campaign trail (IE more war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, no timetable or complete withdrawal in Iraq, no marijuana legalization, etc.)
Whether you vote for a Democrat or Republican, either will make foreign policy, civil liberties, *and* government spending much worse.
Democrats as a cure for Republicans and Republicans as a cure for Democrats are both very bad ideas.
… which puts them in the position of having to deal with a whole new set of problems, this time coming from the direction that, in desperation, they endorsed.
Yes, kind of like a pit and pendulum situation.
I’ll be interested to see which ways today’s “liberaltarians” go over the next couple of years.
I suppose that would depend on which ones.
More Liberaltarianism discussion at NFV posted yesterday by Deaconstruck…
An outgoing president has escalated a long conflict into full-blown war, ultimately to popular displeasure. He is not seeking re-election. His party rejects its anti-war wing and nominates a “stay the course” candidate.
The opposing party nominates, and elects, a candidate running on nebulous “new leadership will end the war and win the peace” rhetoric.
The new president introduces “bold” economic policies, including wage controls.
1968 or 2008?
LBJ or GWB?
Eugene McCarthy or Ron Paul?
Richard Nixon or Barack Obama?
The more things change …
Same guy? Think about it … ever seen’em together?
What does that leave? The Pope? Well, hear ya go.
Bdee, bdee, bdee….
One of the things that has come out of meeting Doug Casey and participating in several of the Eris Society conferences over the years was getting to meet, in Aspen in 2005, Scott and Cyan Banister. My friend Sean Hastings and his wife Jo introduced us. Fun people.
Last year, Cyan started a new project called Zivity.com which I very highly recommend. It is dedicated to the ideal of feminine beauty. It is based on a very attractive business model.
You can participate by purchasing votes. Ten votes costs $10, I think. Anyway, that was during the beta test mode. When you vote for a photo set, part of the dollar goes to the model featured in the photos. Part of the dollar goes to the photographer. And part of the dollar goes to keep Zivity going.
As you can imagine, this business model has attracted a number of very fine photographers. It has also attracted some truly sexy ladies.
One of my problems with the business model during the beta test period was their use of PayPal. I do not like Paypal for many, many reasons. In my direct experience, they freeze accounts arbitrarily. Several merchants with whom I have worked have been put out of business by Paypal actions. The process for unfreezing accounts can be tedious, in the experience of these associates who have tried. I also think very little of PayPal’s approach to relations with government.
Happily, I can now fund my account directly through the simple task of sending a check along. Sweet. Problem solved.
If you’d like to see some beautiful women free themselves from clothing, give Zivity a look. I think you’ll be glad you did.
I’ll just quote the old post, and add stuff.
- I’m looking for more bloggers to write here. If you are interested, drop me a note in the comments.
I’ve already added Less Antman, Robert Mayer, Matt Harris and Jim Davidson. Michelle is still signed up to write here, but has not in quite some time. I still cross-post at her blog.
What’s new: she kicked me off her blog. And she also bought LFV and removed me from the blogroll there. I haven’t kicked her off here, but I’m not exactly expecting new posts from her here.
Also posting since then: DeaconStruck, AynRKey, S. Greffenius, Peter Orvetti, Mike Seebeck, Todd Barnett. A lot of people have only done one post, so I’m hoping they’ll come back and post more. Also, I can do an “about” page for you if you want to send me a blurb. Other folks: Drop a comment if you haven’t been added to blog here yet and would like to be.
The about page is out of date.
It includes some youtubes which have since expired. I haven’t done much with Crazy for Liberty or myspace in quite a while, and the Steve Kubby radio show is no more.
I am mostly at IPR these days. I’ve been Kicked off LFV and Michelle’s blog. Still signed up at Crazy for Liberty and TPW, as far as I know, but I have not been posting at those.
Since I am no longer at LFV (see below), here is my about blurb that used to be listed there:
Paulie was born in Siberia, part of the former USSR in 1972 and the USA is reminding him more of the country his parents took him out of every day. Growing up in the epicenter of the 1980s crack cocaine explosion in NYC, Paulie got caught up in the available business ventures and saw some of his friends die, and then became an activist against the drug war.
Through his involvement in the drug peace movement, and college studies in free market environmentalism, he became interested in libertarianism, and abandoned the Democrats after they picked the military-industrial-corporate-statist DLCer and drug warrior hypocrite Bill Clinton as their nominee in 1992, thus finally disproving the idea that 60s radicals were merely infiltrating the establishment in order to change it.
Paulie became an LP member in 1995 and a life member in 2000, and has occasionally been on the executive committee of the Alabama LP. Since 1998, he has traveled the country as a professional activist. Between that and his earlier travels in the import-export business as a teenager, he has been to 49 US states and about 20 countries, and lived in a number of them. As a life long entrepreneur, he has also started hundreds of businesses in a wide variety of fields.
Paulie recently worked on the Steve Kubby for President campaign, has been an active member of the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus, is an advisory board member of Liberty Consulting, and hopes to start a new national College Libertarian Organizing Committee.
As many of you already know, I got kicked off LFV. The stated reason for doing so was
I have the message you sent out to individuals and groups behind my back, attempting to damage my reputation and LFV’s reputation (which again, proves only that I was right to downgrade your permissions, since obviously you cannot be trusted at all). As a result of that vindictive email, which wasn’t even truthful [...], I have removed you from LFV.
Here is the only email I sent out during the timeframe in question that pertained to the situation, other than to ENM directly:
Anyone who has issues with ENM is welcome to join me on my blog as contributors.
I realize some of you are busy. It’s an open invitation for whenever.
She just downgraded my status at LFV with no prior discussion/warning. I’m not too happy about that since I’ve been there longer than her, invited most of the people who write there (her included), etc.
This is the full text of the email. Nothing in it attempts to damage anyone’s reputation, or is in any way vindictive. It went out to a very small number of people who had either been kicked off LFV before I was or left on their own, and no “groups” as ENM claims in the portion I did not reprint here (although Brian Miller later forwarded it to Outright Caucus exec comm, without asking me). It did not say anything about reasons why she downgraded my status, another false claim ENM made in her last response, after which she stopped talking to me.
What’s new since then: ENM sold LFV to Michelle. I informed Michelle of the above. She did not respond, but did remove me from their blogroll – most of which I put together. I also spent literally thousands of hours blogging at LFV and promoting it at other sites, talking about it in person and on the phone, writing hundreds of posts and thousands of comments (many of which could have been posts themselves); had recruited most of the people who wrote there, including ENM (but not Michelle – she was one of the few people there before me, although she more or less abandoned it for a long time).
Of course, I have removed ENM from writing any more here. I freely admit that I made a mistake in trusting her to be a co-administrator with me both at LFV and here. I should have taken full control of LFV when I had the chance. I was on the road, with limited internet access, and foolishly put my trust in the wrong person. Luckily, she did not kick me off this site as well.
People ENM kicked off LFV before me include Jim Davidson and Chris Bennett. Others left on their own.
As for my original offenses:
1) I did not volunteer information about my criminal history. True, but she never asked me. She says she “did ask” me, by way of asking why I was trying to dissuade her from publishing a hit piece about Gary Fincher. However, since my reasons were at that time stated completely and truthfully, and had nothing to do with my criminal past, this is erroneous. I don’t exactly hide that I have a criminal past, either:
No, I have not always been a good person. I have lied, stolen, cheated, swindled, literally beaten the shit out of people, just about every bad thing you can think of I have done. No, I am not proud of doing these things. No, I don’t have a time machine. I apologize to everyone that my deeds as well as my words have hurt.
2) I published some articles about top search terms used to find LFV, what articles were being read the most, what links LFV readers clicked the most on, and top referring sites to LFV. She says that “anyone with any common sense” would not have published those. I described what I did to several people, and not one of them thought there was anything wrong in publishing what I did. If anyone is curious, I can publish the same sort of information for this blog.
3) In the aforementioned exchange regarding Gary Fincher, she claims I was “repeatedly, intentionally abusive” to her. This is completely false. I have the email exchange saved and can prove that I was not abusive. If she took it that way, it was most certainly not due to any intention on my part.
Since I’m now publishing this here, she may well say I am provoking her into publishing an article about some of my criminal history. If she does, I’ll consider it a violation of my privacy, and a way of making it easier for an experienced and trained killer who has publicly and explicitly threatened to kill me and feed my corpse to his dogs to find me. I consider respect for privacy to be a two way street.
What’s new: ENM did not publish it, but Sean Haugh did at LFA.
For my response, see Personal note: of saints and sinners
What’s new since the response: Not a whole hell of a lot. I’m mostly over the holiday blues, thanks to some nice folks who called me and talked me down from going on a crack and hookers binge and holing up in the county jail for the winter. I appreciate y’all. Health and career are still mostly in the toilet, but both with some signs of upcoming improvement.
And now, for something completely different, in the spirit of St. Valentine’s day:
And, courtesy of Delaware Libertarian:
Yeah, I’m hating, no doubt.
A bit of background about the term, “Liberaltarian”. In December 2006, Brink Lindsey, Cato Institute’s vice president for research, penned an essay in which he posited that Contemporary Conservatism had betrayed its own roots, and no longer truly represented a libertarian worldview. Lindsey went on to muse that liberals had at least, and probably more affinity to true libertarian precepts than the travesty that passes for conservatism presently in America. His essay began with:
The conservative movement–and, with it, the GOP–is in disarray. Specifically, the movement’s “fusionist” alliance between traditionalists and libertarians appears, at long last, to be falling apart. To understand what’s happening, look at the Democratic gains made in previously Republican strongholds on Election Day. In “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, both House seats–as well as control of both houses of the state legislature–flipped from the GOP to the Democratic column. Out in the interior West, Jon Tester squeaked past Conrad Burns in the Montana Senate race, while other Democrats picked up a House seat in Colorado (along with the governorship) and two more in Arizona. These parts of the country are all known for their individualism and suspicion of officialdom–in short, for their libertarian sympathies.
Libertarian disaffection should come as no surprise. Despite the GOP’s rhetorical commitment to limited government, the actual record of unified Republican rule in Washington has been an unmitigated disaster from a libertarian perspective: runaway federal spending at a clip unmatched since Lyndon Johnson; the creation of a massive new prescription-drug entitlement with hardly any thought as to how to pay for it; expansion of federal control over education through the No Child Left Behind Act; a big run-up in farm subsidies; extremist assertions of executive power under cover of fighting terrorism; and, to top it all off, an atrociously bungled war in Iraq.
This woeful record cannot simply be blamed on politicians failing to live up to their conservative principles. Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.
Brink Lindsey, “Liberaltarians” Cato Institute reprint of an article first published by The New Republic, December 4, 2006
This started up a dialog within some of the libertarian movement; notably at the Volokh Conspiracy, and Reason Magazine. Much of the dialog died down, although Reason Magazine has continued publishing articles. Some of the younger libertarian thinkers also published their thoughts about Liberaltarianism. Will Wilkerson and Julian Sanchez are two fine examples.
Dialog about Liberaltarianism was largely left on the back-burner for close to two years, until recently, when National Review’s Jonah Goldberg started it up again, followed by NRO’s John Hood:
- Jonah Goldberg, “Whither Liberaltarianism?“, NRO – The Corner, February 11, 2009
- John Hood, “Re: Whither Liberaltarianism“, NRO – The Corner, February 11, 2009
That Jonah Goldberg is considered to be a conservative pundit is direct evidence of contemporary conservatism’s continuing plunge into the dark well of moral relevancy. That the CaponHawk Goldberg has the audacity to pretend he is able to speak for libertarians is personally defamatory to me. At least Goldberg’s inanity started up new dialog about Liberaltarianism. The following are a few links, listed alphabetically, by date:
- Will Wilkinson, “Missing the Point of Liberaltarianism“, February 11, 2009
- Reihan Salam, “The Point of Liberaltarianism“, The American Scene, February 12, 2009
- Andrrew Sullivan, “The Long Angle“, Atlantic, February 12, 2009
- Matt Welch, “‘Liberaltarianism’ in the Age of Obama“, Reason, February 12, 2009
- Ross Douthat, “The Future of Liberaltarianism“, The Atlantic, February 13, 2009
- Ross Douthat, “The Future of Liberaltarianism (II)“, The Atlantic, February 13, 2009
“Artist Scott Donahue of Emeryville, Calif., was paid $196,000 by Berkeley’s public arts program to create two large statues, which feature small, artistic medallions that show dogs doing what dogs do best.
“‘Various things,’ Donahue said. ‘Biting each other, chasing each other…. One dog is defecating, two dogs are fornicating.’
All that spending comes with one hell of a dog knot.
I wonder if taxpayers will finally have had enough of being the government’s bitch, or will they be like these fratboys and keep lapping it up? (warning: disgusting)
Like many libertarians, I’ve come to hold a low opinion of Alan Greenspan. Austrian libertarians loathe him. Objectivists regard him as a traitor. Those who hate the free market alternate between thinking him a genius for allegedly giving us prosperity and saying that the current downturn is the result of his alleged free market ideas.
If he had free market ideas, why do so many free market libertarians despise him so?
But nothing destroys a good hate-fest like pointing out that Greenspan might not have been a traitor at all.
As strange as that may sound to libertarians, Bob Murphy makes that argument.
How could that be? Every act taken by Alan Greenspan has been one that Monetarists and Keynesians would approve of. During the entire eighteen years of his tenure his every act has been anathema to free market proponents.
Perhaps, argues Bob Murphy, Greenspan was motivated by his Objectivist beliefs to act like the perfect unrestrained Keynesian in order to show us that Keynesianism does not work. He was deliberately trying to break the system instead of thinking, as his admirers did during his tenure, that he was trying to find the winning combination that would result in unending prosperity.
In short, his Objectivist beliefs caused him to act like a Keynesian so he could destroy the economy. When the statist say his Objectivist beliefs caused the meltdown, they are right for the wrong reasons. They left out the middle term because that would cause them to doubt their own beliefs.
It’s a hard concept to grasp, because libertarians have spent the last twenty years hating Alan Greenspan. But we have to remember that Objectivists like to demonstrate that they are right. They like object lessons. The trashing of the economy is the San Sebastian Mines writ large.
If Bob Murphy is right that is. Unfortunately if he is there’s no way to find out. Alan Greenspan won’t admit it on this side of the grave.
(I am not sure it they might extend the deadline. But, ideally, I think people are supposed to sign up today or tomorrow. Thought you might be interested, but also, it would be of great help if you could blog about this/spread the news –tonight???? Thanks for any help. Peace, Kimberly)
Facilitate Change – an NVC program with a focus on social change
Facilitate change is a 9-month Nonviolent Communication Social Change intensive training program in New York. This project-based program includes three residential retreats and weekly gatherings by phone.
Using Nonviolent Communication as a primary activist tool, in Facilitate Change you’ll develop practices to boost the effectiveness of grassroots projects and nonprofit organizations in how they function and achieve their goals.
The Facilitate Change program supports the development of social change leaders and their organizations to create the change they wish to see in the world. By applying the consciousness and skills of compassionate, Nonviolent Communication to social change projects, Facilitate Change fosters “compassion in action” at a personal, group, and international level, taking tangible steps towards creating a world where human needs are peacefully met.
P.S. I have taken a course with Dian who is one of the leaders of this. She is very good. I think that this program would be invaluable for activists. It seems likely to lead to profound discussions about how can people have a politics of change in a new way, with profound listening and profound compassion.
peace, peace, peace, peace
peace, peace, peace, peace
Long Island, NY
Our family web-site of politics, art and culture:
The more you learn about Abraham Lincoln, the more you learn to admire him. He deserves his praise. Today is the two hundredth anniversary of his birth day, February 12, 1809. February 12, 2009, is only twenty-three days after another leader from Illinois stepped into Lincoln’s large shoes.
We all know that Lincoln managed to hold the Union together through victory in a protracted civil war. The standard stories often don’t relate how much that outcome depended on Lincoln’s determination and tenacity. Right up to the fall of 1864, when Atlanta fell, people pressed Lincoln to negotiate with the South to end the war. They even suggested that he retract the Emancipation Proclamation to conciliate the South.
Outcomes of war look inevitable in retrospect, but they don’t look so certain when you still have to fight for them. When we praise Lincoln now, and thank him, we recognize the material part he played to keep the United States one country and all free. The house did not divide and it did stand.
Interestingly, Lincoln’s ambition to lead brought the sectional crisis over slavery to a turning point. The country split because of his election, though Lincoln himself never recognized the separate status of the Confederate states. He regarded the Confederacy’s call to arms as a rebellion that had to be defeated. With wisdom and force of character, he succeeded.
Thank you, Mr. Lincoln, for the continuation of this great experiment. We may feel somewhat pessimistic about our prospects right now, but we have reasons to be hopeful, too. If Mr. Obama follows your example of leadership, as he wants to do, our hope may have some foundation.
Syndicated from my weekly column in the Mountaineer Jeffersonian, a weekly paper publication in Morgantown, West Virginia:
A supreme court ruling from mid-January could impact the legality of thousands of police searches each year. At issue is the admissibility of evidence obtained where the possibility of police misconduct or negligence exists. Called the Exclusionary Rule, which is based largely upon the fifth amendment to the constitution, specifically the verbiage that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” and that no person “shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” and upon the fourth amendment provisions against unreasonable search and seizure. Thus this supreme court case may in fact be quite landmark in that it has watered down these protections for citizens, allowing for greater lee-way for law enforcement agents to act irresponsibly and still enjoy the “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
The case involved an individual by the name of Bennie Herring, whose home was entered based upon a search warrant in a police database. When the police entered his home, they found drugs and a firearm. Unfortunately, no such warrant for Mr. Herring’s arrest should have existed. It had in fact been withdrawn prior to his arrest. The existence of it in the database was purportedly caused by a database malfunction involving the computer systems of a neighboring county’s police department. Mr. Herring, following his unsuccessful appeal to the supreme court, is now serving a 27 month sentence after being found guilty by a jury in Alabama.
Professor Craig Bradley of Indiana University law school was quoted as saying “It may well be that courts will take this as a green light to ignore police negligence all over the place.” Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority in a 5-4 ruling, stated that the exclusionary rule was limited to “deliberate, reckless or grossly negligent conduct, or in some circumstances recurring systemic negligence.” Unfortunately, the existence of errors in law enforcement data is commonplace enough that it could easily be qualified as recurring systemic negligence. According to a 2005 report by the Office of the Inspector General’s audit division in the Department of Justice, the nation’s largest database of potential terrorists included noteworthy amounts of incorrect and incomplete data. A 2006 report from the Social Security Administration went on to document database errors in the Numident database, a system operated by the Department of Homeland Security to enable the identification of individuals by social security number for purposes such as employment eligibility verification and drivers licensing. This report estimated that data for 4.1 percent of the total records could contain errors, impacting the employability of and potentially otherwise inconveniencing 17.8 million US citizens.
Chief Justice Roberts went on to state, “the deterrent effect of suppression must be substantial and outweigh any harm to the justice system,” and that “marginal deterrence does not ‘pay its way.’” He was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito Jr. On the other side, Justice Ginsberg wrote for the minority that the majority “underestimates the need for a forceful exclusionary rule and the gravity of record keeping violations.” She was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer.
This ruling follows on the heels of a 1995 verdict in which a similar judgment was issued. The case, Arizona v. Evans, dealt with a similar issue wherein a database maintained by the courts had contained erroneous information which led to prosecution. In Arizona v. Evans, the supreme court ruled that erroneous records kept by court officials was an exception to the exclusionary rule. This month’s ruling now extends that exception to records maintained by police and other law enforcement agencies.
Flying in the face of what seems to clearly be an accurate reading of the constitution, this ruling sets a dangerous precedent. There is a long and well-documented history of police misconduct in this country which includes, at times, a willingness to operate outside of what is ethical and legal to obtain a desired result. This ruling will unfortunately create a new loophole which crooked or desperate law enforcement agents will be able to use to obtain results while disrespecting the constitutional protections of citizens against unreasonable searches. If “database errors” can be systematically created in such a way that enables police to enter onto any premises at any time to search for evidence, regardless of whether any such warrant has ever been in actuality granted by a judge, the potential for abuse is tremendous. Defense attorneys representing those accused under such circumstances will likely have no means of investigating whether such a database error was created erroneously or was in fact simply a malfunction of hardware or software. Furthermore, given this ruling, it will be nearly impossible for any citizen to defend themselves against such unconstitutional intrusions of their property.