From retirees to young potheads, marijuana investors chase new highs from promise of ‘trillion-dollar industry’

Financial Post | Business

[np_storybar title=”‘Potcom Boom’ gets higher and higher as regulators watch with concern” link=”http://business.financialpost.com/2014/06/20/potcom-boom-gets-higher-and-higher-as-regulators-watch-with-concern/”]

It is being called the “Potcom Boom” and it has certainly given investors a high in recent months. But how long can it last?
[/np_storybar]

Plenty of excitable retail investors and even more excitable stock promoters made Toronto’s first marijuana investment conference resemble a typical junior mining show.

That was appropriate enough, since a number of these marijuana firms were indeed junior mining companies until a few months ago — including the one that put on the conference.

“It’s the new trillion-dollar industry,” John Berfelo, medical advisor to conference host Next Gen Metals Inc., told the audience. “We don’t have to mine it from the earth. We have to grow it from the ground.”

Make no mistake, this is indeed an industry growing from the ground up. There were precisely zero marijuana companies on Canadian stock exchanges…

View original post 719 more words

Advertisements

Facebook Manipulated 689,003 Users’ Emotions For Science

June 29: Updated with statement from Facebook.

Facebook is the best human research lab ever. There’s no need to get experiment participants to sign pesky consent forms as they’ve already agreed to the site’s data use policy. A team of Facebook data scientists are constantly coming up with new ways to study human behavior through the social network. When the team releases papers about what it’s learned from us, we often learn surprising things about Facebook — such as the fact that it can keep track of the status updates we never actually post. Facebook has played around with manipulating people before — getting 60,000 to rock the vote in 2012 that theoretically wouldn’t have otherwise — but a recent study shows Facebook playing a whole new level of mind gamery with its guinea pigs users. As first noted by Animal New York, Facebook’s data scientists manipulated the News Feeds of 689,003 users, removing either all of the positive posts or all of the negative posts to see how it affected their moods. If there was a week in January 2012 where you were only seeing photos of dead dogs or incredibly cute babies, you may have been part of the study. Now that the experiment is public, people’s mood about the study itself would best be described as “disturbed.”

The researchers, led by data scientist Adam Kramer, found that emotions were contagious. “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred,” according to the paper published by the Facebook research team in the PNAS. “These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

The experiment ran for a week — January 11–18, 2012 — during which the hundreds of thousands of Facebook users unknowingly participating may have felt either happier or more depressed than usual, as they saw either more of their friends posting ’15 Photos That Restore Our Faith In Humanity’ articles or despondent status updates about losing jobs, getting screwed over by X airline, and already failing to live up to New Year’s resolutions. “*Probably* nobody was driven to suicide,” tweeted one professor linking to the study, adding a “#jokingnotjoking” hashtag.

The researchers — who may not have been thinking about the optics of a “Facebook emotionally manipulates users” study — jauntily note that the study undermines people who claim that looking at our friends’ good lives on Facebook makes us feel depressed. “The fact that people were more emotionally positive in response to positive emotion updates from their friends stands in contrast to theories that suggest viewing positive posts by friends on Facebook may somehow affect us negatively,” they write.

They also note that when they took all of the emotional posts out of a person’s News Feed, that person became “less expressive,” i.e. wrote less status updates. So prepare to have Facebook curate your feed with the most emotional of your friends’ posts if they feel you’re not posting often enough.

So is it okay for Facebook to play mind games with us for science? It’s a cool finding but manipulating unknowing users’ emotional states to get there puts Facebook’s big toe on that creepy line. Facebook’s data use policy — that I’m sure you’ve all read — says  Facebookers’ information will be used “for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement,” making all users potential experiment subjects. And users know that Facebook’s mysterious algorithms control what they see in their News Feed. But it may come as a surprise to users to see those two things combined like this. When universities conduct studies on people, they have to run them by an ethics board first to get approval — ethics boards that were created because scientists were getting too creepy in their experiments, getting subjects to think they were shocking someone to death in order to study obedience and letting men live with syphilis for study purposes. A 2012 profile of the Facebook data team noted, “ Unlike academic social scientists, Facebook’s employees have a short path from an idea to an experiment on hundreds of millions of people.” This study was partially funded by a government body — the Army Research Office — and via @ZLeeily, the PNAS editor on the article says this study did pass muster with an Institutional Review Board, but we’ll see if it passes muster with users.

In it’s initial response to the controversy around the study — a statement sent to me late Saturday night — Facebook doesn’t seem to really get what people are upset about, focusing on privacy and data use rather than the ethics of emotional manipulation and whether Facebook’s TOS lives up to the definition of “informed consent” usually required for academic studies like this. “This research was conducted for a single week in 2012 and none of the data used was associated with a specific person’s Facebook account,” says a Facebook spokesperson. “We do research to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible. A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content, whether it’s positive or negative in tone, news from friends, or information from pages they follow. We carefully consider what research we do and have a strong internal review process. There is no unnecessary collection of people’s data in connection with these research initiatives and all data is stored securely.”

Ideally, Facebook would have a consent process for willing study participants: a box to check somewhere saying you’re okay with being subjected to the occasional random psychological experiment that Facebook’s data team cooks up in the name of science. As opposed to the commonplace psychological manipulation cooked up advertisers trying to sell you stuff.

CONTINUE READING….

Facebook tramples human research ethics and gets published by PNAS for the effort

Progressive Culture | Scholars & Rogues

Facebook may have experimented with controlling your emotions without telling you

I start out an angry bastard on most days, but that’s just before coffee. After that, I actually lighten up and quite enjoy life and laughter. I’m really not the bitter old curmudgeon I tend to unleash when I write. Even much of my political ranting is spent more tongue-in-cheek and facepalming than actually risking a real aneurysm.

But this pisses me right off.

View original post 839 more words

Drug War Chronicle, Issue #840 (short version)

Subject: Drug War Chronicle, Issue #840 (short version)

a publication of StoptheDrugWar.org Issue #840 – 6/27/14
Subscriptions | Archives | Speakeasy Blog | Chronicle main page | Donate StoptheDrugWar.org/chronicle

TABLE OF CONTENTS

support-dont-punish-2014-pictures-200px_0.jpg
worldwide protests against the drug war

1. WORLDWIDE PROTESTS SET FOR UN ANTI-DRUGS DAY THIS THURSDAY [FEATURE]
The UN’s annual anti-drug day is Thursday, but this year, it is going to be met by a counter-campaign calling for drug decriminalization, harm reduction, and human rights in the drug war. "Support, Don’t Punish" protests are being held in 80 cities worldwide. Is yours one?

2. COPS NEED WARRANTS TO SEARCH CELL PHONES, SUPREME COURT RULES
In a landmark ruling for privacy rights, a unanimous Supreme Court has held that police may not search the contents of cell phones and other hand-held devices "incident to arrest." Instead, they must get a warrant.

3. MEDICAL MARIJUANA UPDATE
A Senate companion to the successful House DEA defunding amendment has been filed, New York becomes the 23rd medical marijuana state, a CBD bill is moving in North Carolina, Rhode Island retrenches, and more.

4. MEDICAL MARIJUANA PASSES IN NEW YORK
After last-minute compromises between legislators and Gov. Cuomo, the legislature has approved a medical marijuana bill, and Cuomo says he will sign it. But it’s more restrictive than patients and advocates would have liked.

5. THIS WEEK’S CORRUPT COPS STORIES
Last week may have been slow on the police corruption front, but we make up for it this week. A Washington SWAT team member goes bad, an NYPD officer pays for going bad, a former Colorado sheriff also pays a price, an Arkansas cop gets nailed for protecting what he thought were dope loads, and, of course, more jail and prison guards get in trouble.

6. CHRONICLE AM — JUNE 19, 2014
We can watch the marijuana policy landscape shift before our eyes, with legalization initiatives and decrim measures popping up around the country and even Oklahoma Republicans arguing over legalization. There is also action on the opiate front, the Senate will vote on defunding the DEA’s war on medical marijuana in states where it is legal, and more.

7. CHRONICLE AM — JUNE 20, 2014
Two killer narcs face consequences for their actions, New York is set to become the 23rd medical marijuana state, the Pope comments on drug policy, prohibition-related violence flares in Mexico and Peru, and more.

8. CHRONICLE AM — JUNE 24, 2014
Your fearless reporter has been traveling, so our schedule is a little off, but the drug policy news continues. Paul Stanford calls it quits in Oregon, pot shops are coming within days in Washington, an Alabama drug task needs to reconsider its priorities (or maybe the people funding it need to reconsider theirs), and more.

9. CHRONICLE AM — JUNE 26, 2014
It’s UN anti-drug day, and protests to mark it are going on in at least 80 cities around the world, House Republicans move to block DC decrim, the Oregon legalization initiative looks set to make the ballot, the ACLU has a strong new report out on SWAT teams, and more.

Lock ’Em Up Nation; Mandatory Sentencing for Medical Marijuana

How did the United States, land of the free, become the world’s top jailer? It’s a question asked by visitors from other democracies, and the American citizen who wakes from a stupor to find that our prisons are stuffed with people serving interminable sentences for nonviolent crimes.

For the answer, you need look no further than the real America, the sparsely settled, ruggedly beautiful, financially struggling eastern third of Washington State. There, 70-year-old Larry Harvey, his wife, two family members and a friend are facing mandatory 10-year prison terms for growing medical marijuana — openly and, they thought, legally — on their farm near the little town of Kettle Falls.

To get a sense of the tragic absurdity of this federal prosecution, reaching all the way to the desk of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., consider what will happen next month. Pot stores will open in Washington, selling legal marijuana for the recreational user — per a vote of the people. A few weeks later, the Feds will try to put away the so-called Kettle Falls Five for growing weed on their land to ease their medical maladies. Federal sentencing guidelines, which trump state law, call for mandatory prison terms.

Photo

Larry Harvey, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey and Rolland Gregg each face a 10-year mandatory prison sentence. Credit Nicholas K. Geranios/Associated Press

Harvey is a former long-haul truck driver with a bad knee, spasms of gout and high blood pressure. He says he has no criminal record, and spends much of his time in a wheelchair. His wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, is a retired hairdresser with arthritis and osteoporosis. Mr. Harvey says he takes his wife’s home-baked marijuana confections when the pain in his knee starts to flare. The Harveys thought they were in the clear, growing 68 marijuana plants on their acreage in northeast Washington, one of 22 states allowing legal medical marijuana. (Federal authorities say they are several plants over the limit.)

Their pot garden was a co-op among the four family members and one friend; the marijuana was not for sale or distribution, Mr. Harvey says. “I think these patients were legitimate,” Dr. Greg Carter, who reviewed medical records after the arrest, told The Spokesman-Review of Spokane. “They are pretty normal people. We’re not talking about thugs.”

But the authorities, using all the military tools at their disposal in the exhausted drug war, treated them as big-time narco threats. First, a helicopter spotted the garden from the air. Brilliant, except Harvey himself had painted a huge medical marijuana sign on a plywood board so that his garden, in fact, could be identified as a medical pot plot from the air.

This was followed by two raids. One from eight agents in Kevlar vests. The other from Drug Enforcement Agency officers. They searched the house, confiscating guns, and a little cash in a drawer. The guns are no surprise: Finding someone who does not own a firearm in the Selkirk Mountain country is like finding a Seattleite who doesn’t recycle. Still, the guns were enough to add additional federal charges to an indictment that the family was growing more than the legal limit of plants.

Now, let’s step back. The Harveys live in the congressional district of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is part of the House Republican leadership. She loves freedom. You know she loves freedom because she always says so, most recently in a press release touting her efforts to take away people’s health care coverage. “Americans must be protected from out of control government,” she stated.

Well, maybe. Unless that government is trying to take away the freedom of a retired couple growing pot to ease their bodily pains. That freedom is not so good. Astonishingly, in our current toxic political atmosphere, Republicans and Democrats joined together last month to vote, by 219 to 189, to block spending for federal prosecution of medical marijuana in states that allow it.

Yaayyy, for freedom. There was one dissent from Washington State’s delegation. Yes, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, standing firm for an out of control government instead of defending one of her freedom-loving constituents.

Let’s go further up the government ranks. As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to “immediately review these sentences” — mandatory minimums — “to see how we can be smarter on crime and reduce the ineffective warehousing of nonviolent drug offenders.”

He kept that promise, in ordering a review. And his Justice Department also issued new guidelines saying the Feds would try to avoid prosecution of medical marijuana operations so long as they don’t do things like funnel money to interstate drug operations or sell to children. The Harveys say they meet the guidelines.

Why the federal prosecution, then? Attorney General Holder was in Spokane last week, meeting with his subordinates. But he said nothing about the case. Trial is set for July 28, and the Harveys can’t use legal medical marijuana as a defense, a judge has ruled. All the government has to prove is that the Harvey family was growing marijuana — a federal crime.

If they go to prison for a decade, as the mindless statutes that grew out of the crack-cocaine scare stipulate, they would become part of a federal system where fully half of all inmates are behind bars for drug offenses. And one in four of those crimes involves marijuana.

So remember the Kettle Falls Five when all the legal pot stores and their already legal growing facilities open for business in Washington State next month. There will be silly features about cookies and candy bars laced with pot, and discussions about etiquette, dos and don’ts. The press will cite polls showing that a majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, and more than 80 percent feel that way about medical cannabis. But in the eyes of the federal government, these state laws are meaningless.

If Larry Harvey, at the age of 70, with his gout and high blood pressure and bum knee, gets the mandatory 10-year term, he’s likely to die in prison, certainly not the last casualty of the assault on our citizens known as the War on Drugs. For him, freedom is just another word his congresswoman likes to throw around on the Fourth of July.

CONTINUE READING…

Americans Are Smoking More Pot

TIME

Americans are increasingly consuming marijuana but also seeking treatment for problems caused by their use of the drug, according to a new report.

The World Drug Report was released Thursday against the backdrop of a country whose states are increasingly liberalizing legal access to marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes. The report suggests that as laws have relaxed toward the herb, more people have begun to use it — from 2008 to 2012, marijuana use among “people 12 years and older” increased almost 2 percentage points, from 10.3 to 12.1.

Washington State and Colorado recently legalized pot for recreational use, numerous states allow it for medical use, and residents in other states — New York,Alaska and Kentucky, among others — are working to legalize various forms of marijuana use, and legalization has become a staple in youth discourse and liberal politics.

The report cautions that the…

View original post 235 more words

June 17, 2014: 133 G77 Nations vow to destroy America’s New World Order

June 17, 2014. Bolivia. The American and European media are doing everything they can to black this news out. But it’s not going to stay a secret for long. As of this weekend, there’s a new New World Order on Earth and its enemy is the United States, the EU, the UN Security Council and the world’s shadow government led by the IMF and WTO. This new alliance of poor countries wouldn’t be much of a threat, except it includes two-thirds of the world’s nations including China and India.

 

UN Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon (center) with host country Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and 133 other world leaders this weekend. Image courtesy of the UN.

It’s a sad day for the American people when their government and state-sponsored news industry blacks out such an important news story. Americans actually have to rely on outlets like the Havana Times in Cuba, The Times of India, and United Nations press releases. There’s a reason this news is being censored across the West. And it’s only the latest global news story over the past two weeks on this subject blacked out from the American people.  Read on to find out why.

End of the New World Order

When the richest and most powerful nations on Earth formed the G7, G8, G20 and the like, they united to combine their dominance over the remaining 175 countries that make up humanity. And for decades, the wealthiest 20 countries led by the US have gotten exponentially more wealthy at the expense of the poorest 175 nations, who in turn have gotten even poorer. That’s been the result of the West’s ‘New World Order’, led mainly by self-appointed global governments like the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.

133 of those 175 countries have had enough of the New World Order’s rigged global financial system based in New York and London. They’ve seen their economies destroyed by corrupt corporations and global governments that create a cycle of never-ending dependence and poverty.  They’ve seen their nations’ vast resources stolen by multinational corporations. Their agriculture landscape has been poisoned. Their citizens bankrupted by the IMF and Wall Street. And their democratically elected leaders overthrown by foreign agents from countries like the US.

They’ve had enough of the New World Order. And an alliance of 133 countries, two-thirds of the nations on Earth, signed an agreement this weekend to end the West’s New World Order and replace it with a fair, honest and legitimate World Order – one that lets everyone participate and benefit, not just the super rich.

The Next World Order

The organization is officially called the ‘Group of 77 and China’, but the alliance actually includes 133 nations. Showing just how much influence they have, their meeting this weekend in Bolivia was opened with a keynote speech by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In the audience were over 30 heads of state from around the world and official representatives from over 100 more governments. Also illustrating the organization’s growing influence, China isn’t even a member of the G77, but insisted on participating anyway in a show of unity with the globe’s Next World Order.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro participated, telling the gathered nations they had to unite to, “fight for fair and sustainable economic growth and for a new world economic order.” Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa went one step further, telling the gathered national leaders and representatives, “Only when we are united across Latin America and united around the world will we be able to make our voice heard and change an international order that is not just unfair, it is immoral.”

A report from AFP on Yahoo News, about the only report found in Western media, describes how Cuban President Raul Castro also participated, but reserved his comments for a call to help their top ally Venezuela. Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and a number of South American countries have insisted they are currently under attack by the United States and the CIA, who they insist are desperately trying to orchestrate coups to overthrow their democratically elected, pro-socialist governments the same way they are accused of doing in the Ukraine recently.



Iran and the UN

An announcement published by the United Nations this weekend touts UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s enthusiastic participation in the G77 meeting. It discusses how important this massive alliance is to the goals of the UN, particularly with regard to reversing the world’s growing economic inequality among nations. Moon and the UN are also sponsoring a separate but related meeting of nations in September to draft new climate resolutions to be enacted in 2015.

The announcement describes a private meeting between the UN Secretary General and Iran’s Vice President, ‘On the margins of today’s summit, Mr. Ban met with the First Vice President of Iran, Eshaq Jahangiri, to discuss development issues, as well as the potential role that Iran could play in restoring stability in Iraq and Syria. The Secretary-General added that he looked forward to Iran’s positive involvement on climate change and said he very much hoped that President Hassan Rouhani would attend the climate summit this September.’ The report also says the two leaders discussed Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the coming July deadline for compliance with past mandates.

Threats of America’s “second Vietnam”

Many of the government leaders in attendance took the opportunity to strike a blow against what they consider to be the biggest enemy of world peace, democracy and economic freedom – the United States. One leader even went as far as calling out President Obama by name and threatening the United States with a second Vietnam.

As reported by the Times of India, the G77 conference’s host this weekend – Bolivian President Evo Morales – threatened the United States and the American President telling the gathered heads of state, “If Mr. Obama keeps assailing the people of Venezuela, I am convinced that, faced with provocation and aggression, Venezuela and Latin America will be a second Vietnam for the United States. Let us defend democracy, natural resources, our sovereignty and our dignity.”

Cuba’s President Raul Castro was possibly the most pointed and focused in his remarks regarding the agenda of the participating countries. As reported by the Havana Times, Castro told the alliance of 133 nations, “It is necessary to demand a new international financial and monetary order and fair commercial conditions for producers and importers from the guardians of capital, centered in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and from the defenders of neoliberalism grouped in the World Trade Organization, which are attempting to divide us. Only unity will allow us to make our ample majority prevail.”

UN Civil War – dissolving the UN Security Council

One of the more ambitious goals of the G77 and its 133 participating countries is the elimination of the United Nations Security Council. World leaders insist it is little more than a five-nation tyranny over the full UN body. With five permanent members of the UN Security Council having veto power over the rest, UN policies and actions have been dictated by those five countries – US, UK, Russia, France and China. Members of the G77 want the Security Council eliminated so the UN can go back to being a purely democratic body.

The Cuban leader went on to describe a global economic system run by American hypocrisy and financial corruption, “The principles of International Law and the postulates of the New International Economic Order are brazenly violated, concepts that attempt to legalize meddling are imposed, force is used and threats of force are made with impunity, the media are used to promote division.”

Dominoes beginning to fall

This is just the latest organized attack on a global financial system rigged by corrupt governments and the multinational corporations that control them. Just last month, Russia and China signed a long term trade alliance that represents the first major crack in the US Dollar bubble. The two countries agreed to stop using US Dollars in their transactions and instead use their own two currencies. The two largest banks from both countries immediately announced they would be dumping the US Dollar as well.

On top of that, the world’s ‘BRIC’ countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – have publicly declared their goal of replacing the corrupted US Dollar with some other global default currency. Now that Russia and China have finally taken actual steps to do that, the remaining two-thirds of the world will most likely begin making preparations to stop using the US Dollar as well. It was only this weekend that 133 of them pledged to do just that.

The scary part for Americans is that both Washington and Wall Street have promised this would never happen, because if it did, it would destroy the US economic system and possibly the US itself. Read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Russia-China Deals move US Dollar closer to Collapse’ for more information.

To view a full list of the 133 nations that make up the G77, visit the Group of 77 website.

CONTINUE READING…

Chemerinsky: Hurt by a government official? SCOTUS is making it harder and harder to sue

Posted Jun 24, 2014 8:40 AM CDT
By Erwin Chemerinsky

In a series of cases this term, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it much more difficult for plaintiffs to recover for civil rights violations. These decisions continue a pattern in recent years of the Supreme Court significantly expanding the immunity accorded to government officials sued for violating the Constitution.

Suing individual government officers is often the only way that an injured person can recover for constitutional violations. Yet suits against government entities are often difficult, if not impossible, to win. Both the federal and state governments are protected by sovereign immunity, which greatly limits suits against them for damages. Local governments may be held liable for civil rights violations only if there is a municipal policy or custom that led to the injury.

State and local government officials may be sued for constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S. Code Sec. 1983, and federal officers may be sued pursuant to the Supreme Court’s 1971 decision, Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The Supreme Court, however, has said that all government officials sued for money damages may raise immunity as a defense. Some government officers have absolute immunity to suits for money damages: among them are judges performing judicial tasks, prosecutors performing prosecutorial tasks, legislators performing legislative tasks, police officers testifying as witness, and the president for acts taken in office.

All other government officers have qualified immunity. In Harlow v. Fitzgerald, the Supreme Court held in 1982 that “government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”

In the 30 years since Harlow, courts have struggled with how to determine if there is a clearly established law that the “reasonable person would have known.” Must there be a case on point to say that there is such clearly established law?

In Hope v. Pelzer, the court in 2002 seemingly resolved this and held that there need not be a prior decision on point for the plaintiff to show the existence of clearly established law. Rather, officers may be held liable so long as they had fair warning that their conduct was impermissible.

The case involved a prisoner who was tied to a hitching post and left in the hot sun. The federal court of appeals found that this was cruel and unusual punishment, but that the officers were protected by qualified immunity because there was no case on point holding that such use of the hitching post violated the Constitution. The Supreme Court reversed and said that a case on point is sufficient to show clearly established law, but it is not necessary.

In the decade since Hope v. Pelzer, including three cases this term, the Supreme Court repeatedly has found qualified immunity based on the absence of a case on point. The court has not overruled Hope v. Pelzer or even distinguished it; the court has simply ignored it. In the process, the court has made it much harder for plaintiffs to overcome qualified immunity and hold government officers liable for constitutional violations.

In Lane v. Franks, issued June 19, the court unanimously held that a government employee’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was fired for truthful testimony he gave pursuant to a subpoena. This result seems so obvious: of course it is wrong to fire a person for testifying honestly in a criminal trial, especially when the individual had no choice but to testify because of a subpoena.

Nonetheless, the court found that the defendant responsible for the firing was protected from liability by qualified immunity. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the court, said that “[t]he relevant question for qualified immunity purposes is this: Could Franks reasonably have believed, at the time he fired Lane, that a government employer could fire an employee on account of testimony the employee gave, under oath and outside the scope of his ordinary job responsibilities?” The court reviewed precedents, especially from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which earlier ruled on the case, and found that none had clearly held that this violates the First Amendment. But Hope v. Pelzer said that a case on point is not necessary: Shouldn’t every government officer know that it is wrong to fire a person for truthfully testifying in court?

In Plumhoff v. Rickard, decided on May 27, the court again found that government officials were protected by qualified immunity. Police officers pulled over a white Honda Accord because the car had only one operating headlight. Donald Rickard was the driver of the Accord, and Kelly Allen was in the passenger seat. The officer asked Rickard if he had been drinking, and Rickard responded that he had not. Because Rickard failed to produce his driver’s license upon request and appeared nervous, the officer asked Rickard to step out of the car. Rather than comply with the officer’s request, Rickard sped away.

A high-speed chase then occurred that lasted five minutes and reached speeds greater than 100 mph. At one point, the officers appeared to have Rickard’s car pinned. But when the car pulled away, officers fired three shots into the car. As the car attempted to speed away, another 12 shots were fired by the police. Both the driver and the passenger were killed. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the police used excess force and violated the Fourth Amendment.

The Supreme Court unanimously reversed, ruling in favor of the police. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the court and held that there was no violation of the Fourth Amendment. The court said that the driver’s conduct posed a “grave public safety risk” and that the police were justified in shooting at the car to stop it. The court said “it stands to reason that, if police officers are justified in firing at a suspect in order to end a severe threat to public safety, the officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended.” Moreover, the court said that even if there were a Fourth Amendment violation, the officers were protected by qualified immunity, in that the law had not clearly established that the conduct violated the Fourth Amendment.

This is a disturbing holding. The Supreme Court now has said that whenever there is a high-speed chase that the officers perceive could injure others–and that would seem to be true of virtually all high speed chases–the police can shoot at the vehicle and keep shooting until it stops. The car was stopped for having only one working headlight. If the driver refused to stop, why not just let the car go and then track the driver down later? Why should death be the punishment for making the extremely poor choice to begin a high-speed chase?

Finally, in Wood v. Moss, also decided on May 27, the court found that Secret Service agents were protected by qualified immunity when they engaged in viewpoint discrimination with regard to speakers. President George W. Bush was in Oregon and the Secret Service agents allowed supporters of President Bush to be closer and pushed the opponents further away. The law is clear that the government cannot discriminate among speakers based on their views unless strict scrutiny is met.

Nonetheless, the court, in a unanimous decision with the majority opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, found that the Secret Service agents were protected by qualified immunity because there were no cases on point concerning when Secret Service agents may violate the First Amendment. But why do there need to be specific cases since the law is clearly established that viewpoint discrimination violates the First Amendment?

All of these cases were unanimous. All found qualified immunity because of the absence of a case on point. Together they show a court that is very protective of government officials who are sued and that has made it very difficult for victims of constitutional violations to recover.

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, is one of the nation’s top experts in constitutional law, federal practice, civil rights and civil liberties, and appellate litigation. He is the author of seven books, the latest being The Conservative Assault on the Constitution (Simon & Schuster, 2010). His casebook, Constitutional Law, is one of the most widely read law textbooks in the country. Chemerinsky has also written nearly 200 law review articles in journals such as the Harvard Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Stanford Law Review and Yale Law Journal. He frequently argues appellate cases, including matters before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeal, and regularly serves as a commentator on legal issues for national and local media. He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.S. from Northwestern University.

The U.S. Supreme Court Is Marching in Lockstep with the Police State

 

 

http://www.globalresearch.ca/

 

“[I]f the individual is no longer to be sovereign, if the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can ‘seize’ and ‘search’ him in their discretion, we enter a new regime. The decision to enter it should be made only after a full debate by the people of this country.”-U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

The U.S. Supreme Court was intended to be an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds. Yet as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice. In the police state being erected around us, the police and other government agents can probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts.

Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching innocent motorists on the side of the road, these instances of abuse are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to virtually every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.

These are the hallmarks of the emerging American police state: where police officers, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.

A review of the Supreme Court’s rulings over the past 10 years, including some critical ones this term, reveals a startling and steady trend towards pro-police state rulings by an institution concerned more with establishing order and protecting government agents than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits. In Plumhoff v. Rickard (2014), the Court declared that police officers who used deadly force to terminate a car chase were immune from a lawsuit. The officers were accused of needlessly resorting to deadly force by shooting multiple times at a man and his passenger in a stopped car, killing both individuals.

Police officers can stop cars based only on “anonymous” tips. In a 5-4 ruling inNavarette v. California (2014), the Court declared that police officers can, under the guise of “reasonable suspicion,” stop cars and question drivers based solely on anonymous tips, no matter how dubious, and whether or not they themselves witnessed any troubling behavior. This ruling came on the heels of a ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Westhoven that driving too carefully, with a rigid posture, taking a scenic route, and having acne are sufficient reasons for a police officer to suspect you of doing something illegal, detain you, search your car, and arrest you–even if you’ve done nothing illegal to warrant the stop in the first place.

Secret Service agents are not accountable for their actions, as long as they’re done in the name of security. In Wood v. Moss (2014), the Court granted “qualified immunity” to Secret Service officials who relocated anti-Bush protesters, despite concerns raised that the protesters’ First Amendment right to freely speak, assemble, and petition their government leaders had been violated. These decisions, part of a recent trend toward granting government officials “qualified immunity”–they are not accountable for their actions–in lawsuits over alleged constitutional violations, merely incentivize government officials to violate constitutional rights without fear of repercussion.

Citizens only have a right to remain silent if they assert it. The Supreme Court ruled inSalinas v. Texas (2013) that persons who are not under arrest must specifically invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in order to avoid having their refusal to answer police questions used against them in a subsequent criminal trial. What this ruling says, essentially, is that citizens had better know what their rights are and understand when those rights are being violated, because the government is no longer going to be held responsible for informing you of those rights before violating them.

Police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes,” justifying any and all police searches of vehicles stopped on the roadside. In Florida v. Harris (2013), a unanimous Court determined that police officers may use highly unreliable drug-sniffing dogs to conduct warrantless searches of cars during routine traffic stops. In doing so, the justices sided with police by claiming that all that the police need to do to prove probable cause for a search is simply assert that a drug detection dog has received proper training. The ruling turns man’s best friend into an extension of the police state.

Police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime. InMaryland v. King (2013), a divided Court determined that a person arrested for a crime who is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty must submit to forcible extraction of their DNA. Once again the Court sided with the guardians of the police state over the defenders of individual liberty in determining that DNA samples may be extracted from people arrested for “serious offenses.” While the Court claims to have made its decision based upon concerns of properly identifying criminal suspects upon arrest, what they actually did is open the door for a nationwide dragnet of suspects targeted via DNA sampling.

Police can stop, search, question and profile citizens and non-citizens alike. The Supreme Court declared in Arizona v. United States (2012) that Arizona police officers have broad authority to stop, search and question individuals–citizen and non-citizen alike. While the law prohibits officers from considering race, color, or national origin, it amounts to little more than a perfunctory nod to discrimination laws on the books, while paving the way for outright racial profiling and destroying the Fourth Amendment.

Police can subject Americans to virtual strip searches, no matter the “offense.” A divided Supreme Court actually prioritized making life easier for overworked jail officials over the basic right of Americans to be free from debasing strip searches. In its 5-4 ruling in Florence v. Burlington (2012), the Court declared that any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a virtual strip search by police or jail officials, which involves exposing the genitals and the buttocks. This “license to probe” is now being extended to roadside stops, as police officers throughout the country have begun performing roadside strip searches–some involving anal and vaginal probes–without any evidence of wrongdoing and without a warrant.

Immunity protections for Secret Service agents trump the free speech rights of Americans. The court issued a unanimous decision in Reichle v. Howards (2012), siding with two Secret Service agents who arrested a Colorado man simply for daring to voice critical remarks to Vice President Cheney. However, contrast the Court’s affirmation of the “free speech” rights of corporations and wealthy donors in McCutcheon v. FEC (2014), which does away with established limits on the number of candidates an entity can support with campaign contributions, and Citizens United v. FEC (2010) with its tendency to deny those same rights to average Americans when government interests abound, and you’ll find a noticeable disparity.

Police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. In an 8-1 ruling in Kentucky v. King (2011), the Supreme Court placed their trust in the discretion of police officers, rather than in the dictates of the Constitution, when they gave police greater leeway to break into homes or apartments without a warrant. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by police.

Police can interrogate minors without their parents present. In a devastating ruling that could very well do away with what little Fourth Amendment protections remain to public school students and their families–the Court threw out a lower court ruling in Camreta v. Greene (2011), which required government authorities to secure a warrant, a court order or parental consent before interrogating students at school. The ramifications are far-reaching, rendering public school students as wards of the state. Once again, the courts sided with law enforcement against the rights of the people.

It’s a crime to not identify yourself when a policeman asks your name. In Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada (2004), a majority of the high court agreed that refusing to answer when a policeman asks “What’s your name?” can rightfully be considered a crime under Nevada’s “stop and identify” statute. No longer will Americans, even those not suspected of or charged with any crime, have the right to remain silent when stopped and questioned by a police officer.

The cases the Supreme Court refuses to hear, allowing lower court judgments to stand, are almost as critical as the ones they rule on. Some of these cases, turned away in recent years alone, have delivered devastating blows to the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Legally owning a firearm is enough to justify a no-knock raid by police. Justices refused to hear Quinn v. Texas (2014) the case of a Texas man who was shot by police through his closed bedroom door and whose home was subject to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally-owned firearms in his household.

The military can arrest and detain American citizens. In refusing to hear Hedges v. Obama (2014), a legal challenge to the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), the Supreme Court affirmed that the President and the U.S. military can arrest and indefinitely detain individuals, including American citizens. In so doing, the high court also passed up an opportunity to overturn its 1944 Korematsu v. United States ruling allowing for the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.

Students can be subjected to random lockdowns and mass searches at school. The Court refused to hear Burlison v. Springfield Public Schools (2013), a case involving students at a Missouri public school who were subjected to random lockdowns, mass searches and drug-sniffing dogs by police. In so doing, the Court let stand an appeals court ruling that the searches and lockdowns were reasonable in order to maintain the safety and security of students at the school.

Police officers who don’t know their actions violate the law aren’t guilty of breaking the law. The Supreme Court let stand a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Brooks v. City of Seattle (2012) in which police officers who clearly used excessive force when they repeatedly tasered a pregnant woman during a routine traffic stop were granted immunity from prosecution. The Ninth Circuit actually rationalized its ruling by claiming that the officers couldn’t have known beyond a reasonable doubt that their actions–tasering a pregnant woman who was not a threat in any way until she was unconscious–violated the Fourth Amendment.

When all is said and done, what these assorted court rulings add up to is a disconcerting government mindset that interprets the Constitution one way for the elite–government entities, the police, corporations and the wealthy–and uses a second measure altogether for the underclasses–that is, you and me.

Keep in mind that in former regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the complicity of the courts was the final piece to fall into place before the totalitarian beast stepped out of the shadows and into the light. If history is a guide, then the future that awaits us is truly frightening.

Time, as they say, grows short.

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead’s aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and accomplishments, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom. His concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization in Charlottesville, Va. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s president and spokesperson.

Global Research Related Articles

CONTINUE READING…