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Archive for the ‘civil liberties’ Category

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 It had in fact been withdrawn prior to his arrest.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.

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There, I said it.  It wasn’t hard.  It didn’t hurt.

Now, I don’t smoke pot like some people I know smoke pot.  I smoke it once in a while, usually socially.  I enjoy it.  I enjoy partaking with friends.  I likely don’t need to state for everyone here the health facts about marijuana use: it’s safer than cigarettes, and the negative effects are vastly less than those of alcohol.  Alcohol and cigarettes contribute vastly more to bad health and other societal problems than does marijuana use.  I’m sure you already knew all of that, though. I’ve never assaulted anyone while high.  I’ve never robbed a bank, nor knocked off a liquor store because I got stoned.  Marijuana has not turned me into a perpetrator of crimes which infringe upon the rights of others.  It does help me relax, it does help me laugh, and the fact is that neither relaxing nor laughter are conducive to going out and infringing on the rights of others.

Let me get to the point, though.  When things become normalized out in the open, acceptance goes up.  It’s worked for achieving less discrimination for queer individuals.  It’s worked for a variety of other communities, causes, and activities, as well.  Once homosexuals started coming out, publicly, it became a whole lot more accepted very quickly.  There’s still room for improvement of course, but I digress.  This is about pot.  I’ve gone to all this trouble to announce that I smoke pot simply because I think it’s important to make it a normal, accepted part of American culture.  Once that happens, legalization will be a vastly easier task.

So I invite you all – regardless of how much or how often you smoke – join me in coming out of the closet.  Tell your family.  Tell your friends.  Post it in a comment here.  Whatever you do, lets make it so ordinary that people in this country smoke pot, that no one even thinks twice when they hear it.

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Nothing to add to what’s been said about this by others.

Just my attempt to get a threadjacking off IPR and bring it to where it is on subject. That is, here.

If you have thoughts on the question, whether you find this from IPR or elsewhere, please add them in the comments.

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From Liv Films, an editorial about gay marriage, fat marriage, eating lobsters, and more. Mona of Liv Films was the “Ron Paul Girl,” but most of their recent work has been non-political. LMFAO (laughing my fat ass off)….

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Press release posted on the LP Radicals yahoo group. Starchild has had various offices in the San Francisco and California LP, and is one of the spokespeople for this initiative.

The San Francisco Department of Elections announced today that the measure prohibiting city officials from spending money arresting and prosecuting people for prostitution, and mandating equal legal protection for sex workers, has qualified for the November ballot. Of 500 signatures randomly sampled and checked by department personnel, 80 percent were found to be valid. “This is a happy day for San Franciscans who want government to focus on fighting real crimes like homicides and robberies, and are tired of seeing resources wasted in a futile effort to police consensual sex between adults,” said Starchild, a sex worker activist and spokesperson for the campaign. “We’ve cleared the first hurdle.” By the Elections Department’s tally, supporters had turned in 12,745 signatures of registered San Francisco voters on July 7.

The campaign to decriminalize prostitution will hold a kickoff rally and press conference to formally announce the results on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. in front of the Polk Street entrance of City Hall, with
speakers to likely include Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who was a signer of the petition to put the measure on the ballot along with two of his board colleagues. “It is way past time that the
recommendations of the Board of Supervisors 1996 Prostitution Task Force were implemented,” said the measure’s proponent, Maxine Doogan. “Criminalizing sex workers has been putting workers at risk of violence and discrimination for far too long.”

The prostitution reform measure joins two other voter-submitted measures on the local Nov. 4 ballot, along with eight measures put on the ballot by the mayor or members of the Board of Supervisors, with many others expected to be added in the next several weeks.

Starchild – (415) 621-7932 / (415) 368-8657 / RealReform@…
Maxine Doogan – (415) 265-3302 / MistressMax@…

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Back in November, I made the following comments at
Loretta Nall Sends Troy King Appropriate Sex Toy
:

But reasonable people would not include the Alabama legislature, which in is great wisdom passed a law banning dildos, vibrators, and other weapons of mass stimulation.

Not content with the law as it stands, Alabama Attorney General Troy King wants the legislature to make the law even more draconian.

I remember Troy from college. He was always a little weird. He used to write frequent letters to the CW, which described in detail his disgust with homosexuals hooking up in public toilets (well before Larry Craig), a subject he seemed to be intimately familiar with, and exhorted readers to go eat at Cracker Barrel, which at the time was under fire for a policy of discriminating against having gay employees. Troy always seemed just a little too obsessed with homosexual perversion.

Alert readers may remember that Loretta Nall sent Troy King a blow up pig:

My suspicion now seems likely to have been confirmed.

Loretta explains

This is not about being gay. This is about being a hypocrite…of the highest order

There is an official denial of the rumor about Troy King now….so I can say what the rumor is.

According to rumors flying around for the last week Troy King, our
rabidly homophobic
, anti-sex toy, Sunday School teaching, pro-execution Republican Attorney General is GAY! And I don’t mean that as in happy either. I’d bet he is anything but happy right now. In fact, according to two sources he is about to resign. [..]

I have been sitting on this story for about a week. Truth is I am SORE from having to sit on it so long….but not as sore as Troy King is.

Loretta elaborates:

I have some friends in pretty high places in Alabama politics so I called one of them up with the juicy details. They told me they heard a rumor about his sexual orientation some six months ago from a former reporter with a large, credible newspaper in Alabama. I also know that reporter and knew them to be very credible. The rumor at the time was that Troy’s mystery man was his old college roommate who he gave a position to when he took over the AG office in 2004. Supposedly when Troy was out of town so was lover boy.

The story then became that the mystery man was a young man who had just graduated from Troy University and was the Homecoming King(no pun intended) (God that gets confusing…Troy King with the homecoming king who graduated from Troy) and that was who the wife walked in on. Then a few weeks later Troy and his boy toy from Troy were spotted at the YMCA (not kidding) engaging in….ummmm….inappropriate activities. Yeah…at the YMCA…made famous by the Village People. Apparently Troy has no inkling of what it means to be ‘discreet’.

I’m betting they are both true. If Troy King can be a closet gay and Alabama Attorney General at the same time then there exists in this universe the infinite possibility for him to be a promiscuous, closet gay, Alabama Attorney General. But apparently closet and promiscuous don’t go so well together. But, hell, no one is claiming that he’s smart are they?

As far as the significance of this story, Loretta explains:

There are so many things that make this a delicious story. Gay Sex, high ranking elected officials who are rabidly anti-gay in public but turn out to be gay in private, they get caught at the YMCA (of all places), the whole sex toy incident, the ‘below the belt’ legislation that Troy has made a focal point during his time in office, his desire to be the guy who injects death row inmates with deadly chemicals. I bet this is why he objects to DNA testing, ya know? Wonder where all they would find his DNA? It’s really not much different than what Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewenski…except Troy is a Republican and his mystery partner is GAY!! Lordy, does it get any better than this?

Head On Radio Network is one of several sites making video and musical parodies which take advantage of Troy King’s embarrassment.

Another one is found at the myspace page for Mock 5

Alabama Queen

Troy King has refused to comment on the allegations, claiming that his kids would be subject to teasing.

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Cat holdupA robber in Texas came into a convenience store, pointed his gun at the clerk’s head and fired.

The clerk moved just in time to dodge the bullet, and emerged quickly from behind the counter with her own gun.

You go, girl!

A Longview clerk showed her mettle for the second time within a year Saturday, returning gunfire on an assailant as he fled a Fourth Street convenience store.“He cocked the gun to shoot (at) me again, and then I went barrel to barrel with him,” Robin Adams said in the EZ Food Mart where she and her store manager husband, Jimmy, returned to work Sunday. “This thing happened so fast that nothing was said about money. It was like he came in here to kill me.”

No one was injured in the shooting.

At 9:59 p.m. Saturday, Adams was ringing up orange juice and a cigarillo for a customer when man stepped rapidly in front of her register and raised a handgun, firing once.

“He’s shooting right at her face,” the manager said as he replayed an in-store video showing the man firing at his wife of 31 years. “She’s got powder burns on her face.”

The video shows the clerk bending slightly at the register when the gun was raised toward her. She stands up, moving her head reflexively to the left while lifting a .32-caliber pistol from a shelf just inches below the cash till.

“I’m just so happy I got lucky and tilted my head,” she said, estimating the bullet missed her skull by fewer than three inches. “And the only choice I had was to pull mine out.”

The clerk fired once on the fleeing man, striking a plastic glass partition. The assailant’s bullet had nicked the top of a pack of Winston Light 100s behind Adams’ head and continued through the store front glass.

You can read the entire article here.

This is why women need to be familiar with firearms, not fear firearms (well, you should fear them, but it should be a healthy fear so you don’t end up doing something stupid, and not a fear of using them in self-defense), know how to shoot so you don’t freeze if you need to use the gun (take lessons, for goodness’ sake), and have firearms available for use.

You never know when it’s going to be you, or the other guy. There are a lot of violent freaks out there, and you need to always be prepared to deal with them.

_________________________________

Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan 

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