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Justice Stevens – what a bizarre man

I have a real love-hate relationship with this guy.

I first came to know Justice Stevens as the author of the wonderful Supreme Court Decision striking down the Communications Decency Act. It was a stirring opinion, and he noted strongly:

“The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship,”

At that point I was thinking “here’s a Justice who really understands the importance of the freedom of the individual over governmental attempts to squash it.

And then, in one of his later major decisions as a Justice, he authored the wholly reprehensible opinion in Illinois v. Caballes, where he decided that dogs should be allowed to determine when a search was allowed, including this outrageous statement.

“A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment.”

Based on that decision, he became one of my least favorite Justices.

Then, Stevens retired and wrote a bizarre bit about the six amendments he would add to the Constitution – a piece that sounded like it came from someone who had absolutely no understanding of the concept of the Constitution.

Now, Stevens has come out in favor of marijuana legalization.

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens – Marijuana Should be Legal

“Yes,” Stevens replied. “I really think that that’s another instance of public opinion [that’s] changed. And recognize that the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction. Alcohol, the prohibition against selling and dispensing alcoholic beverages has I think been generally, there’s a general consensus that it was not worth the cost. And I think really in time that will be the general consensus with respect to this particular drug.”

Yay. Gee, thanks.

I’m thrilled.

As are all the people who got pulled over and had their cars searched because a dog decided to please its master.

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27 comments to Justice Stevens – what a bizarre man

  • claygooding

    Ex-Justice is like ex-President,,they should have changed things when they had the power,,look at what Obama has done and not one Federal bill or law changed on marijuana yet,,,of course all those memos could be shredded tomorrow and the FEMA camps opened tomorrow,,,if the govt can borrow enough money from China to pay the costs.

  • N.T. Greene

    When you’re in the power structure, you have to play the coward — you have to worry about pleasing those who ensure that you’ll continue to get money and power. This is, ironically, the ultimate result of our “land of the free, home of the brave” mentality. Free, but only free enough — money has to be made by somebody; brave, but only in the face of paper demons — to fight real evil costs money, and that undermines the “free” part.

    This shit is sort of like when actors talk about their long finished works with a critical eye: it could have been done better, if only I had the experience I have now, if only I had listened to such-and-such or so-and-so. The problem is politicians are not supposed to be actors on the grand stage of the Capitol; they’re supposed to be running the country well and looking for ways to improve it. While retired folk might have the luxury of hindsight, those in power now have access to all the same information — if not more and even better information.

    I don’t put much faith in the current system because of this. To me, it is proof positive that the system is corrupt and listening more to money than people. For all the legal degrees in Congress and state houses across the land, no one seems to have a grasp on rudimentary logic or the wherewithal to actually look at data relevant to policy. It’s 99% rhetoric and posturing for position in this country. Posing for pretty photographs at dinners funded by lobbyists.

    I’m reminded, tangentally, of one of the episodes of the new version of Cosmos… the one about this man, Clair Patterson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clair_Cameron_Patterson

    I’ll spare the full lecture, but let’s just say he confronted the government with actual data concerning lead in the environment, which ultimately led to the ban on leaded gasoline. To bring it back on point, the current problem is that this sort of “checkmate” data concerning the drug war exists. It is just diluted or ignored. A study with 40 subjects makes national headlines, despite the fact that no reasonable conclusions can be drawn from it — and thousands of years of human consumption is simply ignored.

    People have no sense of history in this country. To many, there never was a time without a Drug War, or any War for that matter. Land of the free, home of the brave — we must always be fighting something to prove our worth. It is that urge to fight that is, at heart, self-destructive; our worth as a nation erodes because of this. We say, “absolute power corrupts absolutely” — and yet we seek absolute control, totally failing to see the folly.

    Me? I just want to pay taxes and not be harassed by the government I pay those taxes to. I want services and support as recompense. I think that, in theory, this is easily achievable — and yet the reality is far from this.

    /rant

    • BossIlluminati

      here here

    • Howard

      “When you’re in the power structure, you have to play the coward — you have to worry about pleasing those who ensure that you’ll continue to get money and power.”

      Your description was recently proved true when a retired SEC prosecutor revealed that the honchos in the SEC did not want to go after certain miscreants in the financial sector because it might hinder their employment chances after leaving the SEC. Like a beat cop not messing with the Mob in hopes of getting a job with them someday. Cowardice (and corruption) personified.

      Of course we minions are always in the cross hairs — even when we shouldn’t be.

    • NorCalNative

      You make a great point on data’s inability to have much of an impact when it’s controversial or opposed by elite interests.

      When I get frustrated at the glacial pace of cannabis reform, I often turn to Max Plank, a famous physicist who is no longer with us, and this quote. It helps remind me that facts, truth, and science remain the province of the “gut” rather than the intellect.

      What Max said:

      “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

      I have this quote placed over my computer at my desk and I look at it every day. It helps keep me sane.

      My point here is that too many educated people expect the truthiness of their facts to be the point of their spear, so to speak. Dealing with SMALL AMYGDALAS (fear center of the brain) needs a different approach that doesn’t get weighted down in science.

      I think we need to talk family values with these people because it’s a better approach to their form of mental instability and Life-Vision. Healthy kids and healthy families due to use of cannabinoids is the point I’d be pushing.

      Something really fucked-up happened in this country when faux news created an atmosphere of competing realities. Conservatives no longer need to face uncomfortable societal derison based on their embrace of ignorance.

      Thus, they’re able to live in a flat-earth that’s several thousands of years old. We need to treat prohibitionists like little children in need of help making their families SAFE and HEALTHY.

      I’ll close this with what I absolutely believe will be the three most important words in the American future.

      WHAT’S YOUR RATIO?

      As in, what’s your THC:CBD ratio?

      Cradle-to-the-grave people. Cannabinoids for LIFE.

  • “…sounded like it came from someone who had absolutely no understanding of the concept of the Constitution”

    I see current Justices trying to interpret the constitution in new ways to better fit the Justice’s own concept of how things should be now, as though the constitution and bill of rights were somehow outdated.

    What did happen to “a Justice who really understands the importance of the freedom of the individual over governmental attempts to squash it”?

    Isn’t that what the Supreme Court is always supposed to do? Seems we sometimes lose things in the translation. We might be able to scrutinize and interpret the bill of rights, right into the waste paper basket. I have never seen a corporation sitting next to me in the doctors office waiting their turn. Except for those kindly free drug samples that keeps the price of their high priced “smack” at the top of the hit list. Can’t own a gun and smoke pot according to the feds, right? I see Stevens diabolical plan now.

    • kaptinemo

      It goes back to FDR’s plan to pack the Supreme Court with his allies.

      He threatened the SC Justices with increasing their number to 15 in order to break their (wholly Constitutional!) stonewalling of his desire to increase the power of the Federal bureaucracy beyond its previous limits.

      The ‘common history’ would have you believe that FDR failed. But…

      The Supremes folded, the proof being that they passed just about all of FDR’s programs. That was also when the Supreme Court became a completely political beast…a process solidified since Nixon’s days.

      And why it’s so important to keep nutjobs out of the SC lest they, like long buried and forgotten landmines, years after their (politically oriented) appointments from a previous Administration, explode their ignorance, stupidity and insanity at the wrong place and time…like during Bush v. Gore, or Raich, when Scalia referred to the WAMM hospice as a hippie commune.

      Such benighted, proudly, viciously ignorant people in charge of the nation’s legal system; any wonder why we’re hip-deep in trouble?

      • Duncan20903

        .
        .

        The decision in Wickard v Filburn, 317 U.S. 11 (1942) was unanimous. 8 of the 9 Justices in that vote were nominated by President Roosevelt.

      • Mallam

        I’d rather not return to the Lochner Era. Also, the court has always been “politicized.”

  • Frank W

    He has earned the title “Contrite Former President Of Mexico.”

  • Francis

    As are all the people who got pulled over and had their cars searched because a dog decided to please its master.

    I assume that’s a reference to Stevens’ decision.

    • kaptinemo

      As someone who worked with SAR dogs (air-scent) I can tell you from experience that the dog will actually try to manipulate the handler to gain a reward. The smarter the breed, the more likely that will happen. Shepherds, especially.

      It will also follow your unconscious body language very closely, trying to match your expectations, as well.

      And it would be the height of naivete to think a handler doesn’t know how to cause an ‘alert’ where there is none. Easiest thing in the world, really.

      For any person not experienced in their handling, it’s the height of folly to legally place waaaaay too much trust in a system wherein devastating consequences can result from the actions of an quasi-intelligent animal.

      Which makes an honest dog handler who knows this a damn sight smarter than a Supreme Court judge who doesn’t…

      • Francis

        Oh, I know. I was just making a (bad) joke — Stevens is a dog and his opinion in Caballes was an attempt to please his (political) masters. Har har. (Hey, they can’t all be winners.)

        BTW, I just reread the Caballes decision. (Ok, fine. I read the wikipedia entry.) Here are my problems with it:

        1. The majority opinion begins with the premise that the only information revealed by a drug-sniffing dog’s alert is the presence of illicit drugs. That’s obviously not true. All you really know is that the dog alerted. Hell, all you really know is that the dog’s handler now claims that the dog alerted. Why did the dog alert? Well, sure, maybe it’s because the dog detected the presence of illicit drugs. Or, as you point out, maybe it’s because the dog detected conscious or unconscious signals from the handler indicating that he wanted or expected an alert. Or, maybe the dog alerted for some other reason that will only ever be known to the dog. (Who knows? Maybe the car had one of those “Spay or Neuter Your Pet” bumper stickers on it, and the dog was motivated by spite.)

        2. The opinion claims that the use of a drug-sniffing dog is not a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment because a person doesn’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the possession of what is, thanks to drug prohibition, inherently “contraband.” Of course (and this is one of the many reasons the drug war is itself unconstitutional) that’s wrong. You absolutely have the right to privacy with respect to what you choose to put into your own body and consciousness.

        3. The conclusion that the use of a drug-sniffing dog is not a “search” is also based on the flawed premise that privacy is the only liberty interest the Fourth Amendment is intended to protect. I don’t see how that’s a reasonable position. The Fourth Amendment doesn’t say anything about “privacy.” What it does say is that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated….” The use of a drug-sniffing dog is a coerced, unsettling, and frequently time-consuming encounter with police who are attempting to find something with which to incriminate you. That’s a search, and the police should be required to have a damn good reason before subjecting a person to that kind of harassment. The effect of saying that the use of a drug-sniffing dog is not a “search” is to give police one of the most dangerous kinds of power there is (or, rather–unfortunately–to give them more of it), and that’s the power to exercise arbitrary authority over others — power that is no longer constrained by the protections embodied in the requirement for probable cause or a warrant.

  • dancapo

    …and another person who at one time had the power to affect change has a change of heart after retirement, when they are basically no good to anyone.

  • primus

    Notice that he refers twice to the change in the public mood as reason for changing the laws. Not once did he refer to the constitution. IOW he is a politician in judge’s clothing, sensitive to the whims of the public, not to the underlying fundamentals and rules of engagement. A willow, not a mighty oak. A lightweight whose opinion should not be regarded as anything but the ramblings of an old has-been.

  • BossIlluminati

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    of course former Supreme Court Chief Justice Stevens says marijuana should be legal, is he now just coming to the table i’ve been at for decades? welcome…

    “any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death” – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary….nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states…even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice…no matter
    though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol…not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

    Deaths by Alcohol and Tobacco: Millions
    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
    Deaths by Guns: Millions
    Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
    Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever…they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever

    AMERICA’S WAR ON DRUGS IS A WAR ON AMERICANS! 33

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .

    An elite level college athlete from Michigan named Mitch McGary was found with inert cannabis metabolites in his urine. Now the poor man is going to be forced to take an NBA contract worth an undisclosed 7 or possibly 8 figures instead of playing for free next year. That’ll teach him.
    Mitch McGary headed to NBA after testing positive for marijuana

  • Mallam

    If you knew Stevens style, it would make plenty sense. Stevens values precedent and stare decisis above a lot of things, and was never someone who would throw previous court decisions out. He frequently concurred or “agreed” with majority opinions based on precedent alone, even if on the merits he disagreed with the precedent that was set.

    It might not be something you agree with — I certainly don’t — but it’s not bizarre or confusing to me. Stevens clearly deferred to United States v. Place in the Caballes decision.

    The Roberts court doesn’t seem to value precedent at all, and is throwing everything that it can out the window. As we just saw with Navarette vs. California. Of course, it’s simply returning to its true roots. The court has historically not been a friend to civil rights, liberties, or general expansion of individual freedom, especially if it came at the cost to employers, bosses, and CEO’s. The Warren and Burger Courts are the exceptions.

    • primus

      Now let’s see him re-elected by a landslide.

    • N.T. Greene

      Can you hear that, boys? That’s the sound of hammers hitting the damn wall.

      Is it true that one voice can raise a chorus? Why, I think so — but only time will tell.

      Then again, we’re all hanging out on the couch now, aren’t we? I guess it would be nice to see a chorus of policymakers.

      In all honesty, I think moves like this (that were once considered suicidal at best) will come to be seen, in retrospect, as strokes of absolute genius.

      (Hell, I honestly believe that the RNC had to change its rules, on the spot, to block Ron Paul’s nomination by caucus… and I bet that had he somehow won the big chair, he would have disassembled the damn CSA before he sat down in the Oval Office…)

    • B. Snow

      2014 Laws 14 sec

      Here’s the first one, on what is listed as the “Katu Portland” youtube account… Maybe someone from up there knows for sure who that – It only has 3 videos posted, which seems a but odd – and yet still legit – if puzzling… could be the TV station’s, a fan of the station’s?, or Blumenauer’s??

      • allan

        I’m not sure when the ad is scheduled to debut, but it’s soon and I’ll post it here when it does.

        Blumenauer is feeling his oats and it’s good to see his standing tall in support of cannabis.

  • NorCalNative

    For the musicians.

    Some of you know I’ve been going through morphine withdrawal and detox. I’ve put that 28-day experiment behind me and am narcotic-free for the first time in almost 20 years.

    I don’t have any basis for comparison of other more well-known medically-managed opiate withdrawal medications and programs, but the full extract cannabis oil (aka Rick Simpson Oil) got me through this period in good shape. My symptoms were more akin to a really mild cold then nasty tales of dope sickness.

    But, what I really want to talk about is the difference in the quality of my guitar playing since getting off morphine. I had no idea that long-term opiate use was apparently hurting my playing.

    I mean come on, Keith Richards!

    However, there’s no denying the improvement in my play as well as increased creativity in what I’m playing. Time to dust off my recording equipment!

  • Servetus

    A recent piece on motivated reasoning by Ian Millhiser, called You Can’t Trust The Supreme Court, Science Proves It! , might explain Justice Stevens’ seeming conversion to the path of sanity and reason:

    The job of a judge and, most importantly, a Supreme Court justice, requires them to set aside partisanship and their personal preferences in order to decide cases according to what the law does or does not allow. Yet, a series of studies examining a phenomenon known as “motivated reasoning” suggest that many judges cannot be trusted with this task. Their brains simply are not capable of such disinterested reasoning.

    A recent study adds to the growing evidence that our brains reject information that rebuts our strongly held beliefs.

    … the brain finds a way to rationalize away the unwanted information. When that happens, the distress centers of the brain turn off and the centers associated with positive feelings turn on. As Westen later explained, these positive emotional centers “overlap substantially with those activated when drug addicts get their ‘fix.’ Committed partisans are almost literally addicted to remaining committed partisans.”

    The implication is that Supreme Court justices cannot be trusted with our Constitution, at least as long as they are selected by political officials with a strong motivation to ensure that the justices are themselves highly partisan.

    As a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr. Stevens is displaying a non-addiction to partisanship. This is why his statement about pot seems so incredible. We expect him to be a partisan hack like most of the other Supremes. Mr. Stevens, currently a retired, common citizen, residing among the majority who favor marijuana legalization, no longer needs to kowtow to politicians.

    • DdC

      Stoner Supremes

      The Scythians – High Plains Drifters
      The Scythians were a barbaric group of pre-Common Era nomadic tribes who are a fascinating example of an ancient cannabis using group. The Scythians played a very important part in the Ancient World from the seventh to first century BC.

      It could well be that in later times the cannabis smoke had somewhat mellowed the Scythians, and their spiritual leaders directed them towards becoming a more civilized people. The ancient Greek historian Ephorus wrote in the fourth century BC that the Scythians ‘feed on mares milk and excel all men in justice’. His comments were followed in the first century BC by Strabo, who wrote that ‘we regard the Scythians as the most just of men and the least prone to mischief, as also far more frugal and independent of others than we are.’