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Harrington, Critique of a critical story that the local establishment ignores

This story has been widely distributed via the social media, but the rabiblano press has pretty much ignored it. From the online edition of The New York Times.

About the article in The New York Times

by Kevin Harrington-Shelton

[Editor’s note: See http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/22/world/americas/panama-canal.html ]

Disappointing sensational twist, to what has effectively exposed the local media trust’s complicity in the expansion project from its onset.

Yet unwarranted insinuations of malfeasance by the younger Mr. Jorge Quijano (contradicted thereinafter) hardly qualify as “all the news that’s fit to print.” I have long been at odds with the elder Mr. Quijano on official matters, but there is no call for such guilt by association. Researching the parliamentary record on this very point would have avoided much embarrassment.

Regrettably, (too) many in local media fail to acknowledge deficiencies in the rule of law as the root of many of our problems.

Example. The 2006 legislation enabling the expansion established an obligation for the elder Mr. Quijano (and former Administrator Alberto Alemán, on his watch), plus Canal Affairs Minister Roberto Roy, to testify on the Assembly floor every six months. This has not been discharged even once in the intervening decade! Attorney General Ana Belfon dismissed my complaint, that such blatant non-compliance warranted prosecution.

Neither did the legislative branch ever attempt enforcement of the transparency clause it enacted.

Had this transparency been discharged as prescribed in extant law, much of this morass would have been avoided. One is minded of Jeremy Bentham (Poor Laws): “The more strictly we are watched, the better we behave.”


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Forecast: extreme displacement of tropical wildlife


Researchers forecast extreme displacement of tropical
wildlife even under moderate warming scenarios

by Mike GaworeckiMongabay

The tropics are the warmest part of planet Earth, but as global temperatures rise, simply “staying put” and enduring additional warming may be extremely harmful to many tropical species and societies, researchers are warning.

Surface temperatures are nearly uniform near the equator, which means that species trying to migrate in order to find temperatures they are adapted to would have to travel extreme distances, even under relatively mild warming scenarios at the low end of current projections.

Researchers Solomon Hsiang of University of California, Berkeley and Adam Sobel of Columbia write in a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports that “in order to preserve their annual mean temperatures, tropical populations would have to travel distances greater than 1000 km [about 620 miles] over less than a century if global mean temperature rises by 2°C over the same period.”

The nearly 200 countries that negotiated the Paris Climate Agreement last December have agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Calculations by climate scientists have found that Earth could reach that threshold as soon as 2036 if we don’t sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The rapid evacuation of the tropics that could occur under such a scenario would cause migrant species to concentrate in the margins of tropical zones and in the subtropics, potentially leading to population densities increasing 300 percent or more in those areas, which would have consequences not just for ecosystems but for human wellbeing, as well, especially in contexts where alternatives to geographic displacement are limited.

“If populations were actually to concentrate this quickly in what are already exceptionally arid environments, we would expect there to be many adverse consequences in both natural and human systems, such as an accelerated transmission of infectious diseases or conflict over scarce resources,” Hsiang and Sobel write in the study.

The researchers found that 12.5 percent of the global human population would have to migrate more than 1,000 kilometers to stay in the temperature range they’re accustomed to —  and the majority of those people currently live in the tropics. Just under 34 percent of the population would have to migrate more than 500 km.

“Imagining the tremendous cost of actually undertaking such massive spatial reorganization of the global population helps illustrate the potential importance of the dynamics we highlight here, although in the context of humans there are likely many local adaptations that are preferred to these displacements,” the researchers add.

Of course, not all populations can pick up and move as easily as humans — coral reefs and mature forests, for instance. It’s not clear at all that they can manage to move quickly enough to beat the heat.

“If maintaining their present environmental temperature is a critical adaptation to anthropogenic climate change, some tropical populations may have to migrate at unprecedented speeds over extreme distances in order to cope with relatively optimistic warming projections, given current emissions trajectories,” according to the study.


  • Hsiang, S. M., & Sobel, A. H. (2016). Potentially Extreme Population Displacement and Concentration in the Tropics Under Non-Extreme Warming. Scientific Reports, 6, 25697. doi:10.1038/srep25697


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Overseas Vote

Editorials, Canal nonsense; and Today’s US voting rights realities

President Varela poses with the security crew during the new locks festivities. Photo by the Presidencia.

George Washington didn’t cut down the cherry tree
and Hernán Cortés did not explore Panama

The consensus here is hope that the canal expansion, now that it is up and running, works well. Is there anyone in Panama who hopes for its failure? But do expect that, despite the successful first few days of operation, some adjustments will have to be made. The onset of strong dry season winds is likely to be a key test and it may be that new locks just can’t be used when the wind blows with such force that big ships stacked high with containers act like huge sails.

At the new locks’ inauguration the hype by the ACP, the politicians and those rabiblanco media that reaped fortunes in a government financed “yes” campaign back in 2006 was, however, in many cases insufferable. Consider:

  • The ineptitude of President Varela’s speechwriters, who most probably were not Panamanian and were writing for one of the most poorly educated electorates on the planet. So was it Hernán Cortés, the Spaniard who defeated the Aztecs in Mexico, who gazed out over the Pacific from the Darien? Any Panamanian who didn’t flunk grade school history would know that it was Vasco Núñez de Balboa.

  • Presidential speeches that downplayed the role of the United States in building the original canal and gave priority to Arnulfo Arias, who had little to do with Panama gaining control over or expanding the canal, over General Omar Torrijos, whose dictatorship’s main positive accomplishment was the canal treaties.

  • All this hype from many interested quarters about this remarkable democratic mandate in the 2006 canal expansion referendum, which was an infamous campaign that included illegal public financing for one side only, illegal government suppression of the pitiful efforts of the other side, outrageous deceptions in the ACP’s presentations to the electorate and elaborate steps to reduce participation on the day of the election. It’s important that the abuses should be remembered because they were in many ways a template for the criminal abuses of the 2014 Martinelista campaign in which even greater sums of public money were used to try to effect the proxy re-election of a thug administration.

  • The complete lack of acknowledgment of serious corruption in the canal expansion, including conflicts of interest that saw the award of the locks contract on a lowball bid to a consortium that included a company owned by the family of and formerly run by the canal administrator at the time, and gave a contract for deficient Spanish tugs to a company represented by the son of the current canal administrator.

  • Failure to mention several major costs required to complete the expansion — the new bridge over the Atlantic entrance and the ferry service in the meantime, the change in the metro area’s main water intake to Madden Lake instead of Gatun Lake, the dredging to deepen the ship waiting areas outside of the canal’s entrances, the project for a new bridge to replace the Bridge of the Americas at the top of the list — that ought to be part of any true price tag.

  • A continuing ACP and government information control game wherein a Panama City protest about the Barro Blanco dam project scheduled for the day before the inauguration was suppressed and information about an injury-causing canal waters collision between two vessels on the day of the ceremonies was misrepresented by the ACP.

The new locks are up and running. Let’s make the best possible use of them. But spare this nation the revisionist history.


Debbie had to step aside, but what’s
needed is a new Voting Rights Act

Debbie Wasserman Schultz retains her title as chair of the Democratic National Committee, but pending the election of a successor she has turned over the duties of that office to labor leader and Clinton loyalist Brandon Davis. The living symbol of a sordid set of political tricks to rig the primary process, Debbie would be an obstacle to the unity of a party split right down the middle. She faces a hotly contested August 2 primary to retain her seat in Congress.

Now comes a general election campaign in which vote suppression tactics will come into play against Hillary Clinton to a greater extent than similar measures helped her on her way to the nomination. In the primary campaign the voter registration tampering, the bogus caucus vote counts, the pro-Sanders districts that “ran out of ballots,” the measures to prevent university students from voting, the reduction in voting venues with little notice and by suspicious criteria and so on were mainly directed against younger voters. Now the arbitrary application of voter ID laws, changes in voting places, voter registration tampering, intimidation, fraudulent vote counts and so on will be applied in a more traditional manner, by jurisdictions controlled by white racists to suppress African-American and Hispanic voting in order to boost the chances of Donald Trump. The stuff that was pulled in the Democratic primary process has alienated many of the younger volunteers who traditionally have done the legwork of voter registration and other measures to circumvent vote suppression against black and Latino communities. Hillary has to win those young activists to her side and it can’t be done with notoriously cynical and petty manipulators of Debbie’s sort injected into the process.

One of the low moments in the Democratic primaries came in Arizona, with the lowest of the low coming from Republicans rather than Hillary people. That was Maricopa County’s “budget cutting” decision to shut down most of the voting sites in Mexican-American neighborhoods, something that would not have been allowed before the US Supreme Court gutted a provision that required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get prior federal approval for any such changes.

That hole carved out in the Voting Rights Act by Republican appointees on the high court needs to be patched. But this year’s year’s primaries featured ugly attacks on voting rights that were in many cases based on age, affiliation with universities or residence in areas where the favored candidate was likely to lose. The old Voting Rights Act was about racial discrimination and it does need to be restored and strengthened on that count. However, American democracy also needs voting rights legislation that protects other groups from discrimination, makes tampering with voter registration rolls a federal crime and affords greater protection against the manipulation of electronic voting systems. That needs to be an issue in the fall campaign, and a new generation of civil rights leaders needs to be in place to assert it.


Bear in mind…


The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
Dorothy Parker


It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
David Brin


When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
Hunter S. Thompson


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Overseas Vote

What Democrats are saying

Panama’s Democrats will be at this year’s Pride March, as we have been for the past several years. The parade gathers starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 2 at the corner of Via España and Via Argentina.

Democrats Abroad Panama to
pick a new board on July 23

Democrats Abroad Panama will elect its seven-member Board on July 23 from 2-3 PM at the Balboa Union Church, Calle Enrique Linares, Panama City, Panama. Nominations from the floor will be accepted.

If you wish to join the Board, become a member, vote, or just volunteer to help, contact Phil Edmonston at lemonaid@earthlink.net. Members can vote for the Board through Skype at lemonaidcars1 or Michelle Brion.

Volunteers are welcome to assist in voter registration or help to produce debates with Republicans Abroad if they don’t chicken out again as in 2012.

We aren’t big on speechifying. We believe an educated electorate is key to an honest and progressive government.

Bernie Sanders on the Democrats’ draft platform

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Florida has some hotly contested Democratic primaries on August 2




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If you are a US citizen, you have
the right to vote from abroad


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The thing about bug season…

Jimi Hendrix's ride
Acclimating to life in rural Panama often includes a greater appreciation of insects that come with the rains. Photo by Eric Jackson.


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¿Wappin? The mix you don’t get on radio here

Elijah Emanuel — who brings us bilingual reggae from San Diego.

Hey — where’s the corporate playlist?

The National – Fake Empire

Imagine Dragons – Demons

Monchy y Alexandra – Dos Locos

Mad Professor live @ Scheune Dresden 2015

Peter Gabriel & Sinead O’Connor – Don’t Give Up

Bob Marley – Get Up Stand Up

Shakira – Try Everything

Natalia Lafourcade – Nunca Es Suficiente

Jefferson Airplane – Somebody to Love

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite – I Ride At Dawn

Aswad ‎- Warrior Charge

Elijah Emanuel – Luchador

Valerie Wellington – Bad Avenue

Big Mama Thornton – Ball And Chain

Cultura Profética – Festival de Viña del Mar 2015


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Peace agreement among Colombians ~ Acuerdo de paz entre colombianos

Videos in Spanish, story in English ~ Videos en español, cuenta en inglés

The war is over

Colombian government and FARC rebel group agree to a peace agreement ending the decades-long armed conflict

by Larry Birns and Peter Bolton — Council on Hemispheric Affairs

On Wednesday, June 22, spokespersons from both the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced that after years of peace talks they have finally reached a conclusive agreement that will lead to a complete bilateral ceasefire. The historic announcement marks the end of the half-century-long civil war that has claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced millions across the country’s rural areas.

President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC commander Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (known by the alias Timochenko) shook hands at a ceremony in Havana, where the talks have been held since they began in 2013. Cuban President Rául Castro presided over the event and stood by as Timochenko, the Marxist rebel group’s most senior leader, reached out his hand to President Santos, a former defense minister during the Uribe administration and member of the conservative Party of the U. Also in attendance was Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whose country played a key role in encouraging the FARC to enter negotiations, as well as UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and the leaders of several other Latin American and Caribbean nations.

Santos spoke in jubilant terms about bringing the protracted and bloody conflict to an end, noting that for many Colombians, war is all they know. He said: “Colombia got used to living in conflict. We don’t have even the slightest memories of what it means to live in peace.” Timochenko, holding back tears in an emotional statement, said: “May this be the last day of war.”

According to a joint communique, the two delegations reached a mutual position on safety guarantees for demobilized guerrillas and a program for reintegration into civilian life. The FARC’s leadership is said to have issued an order to “silence all rifles,” which will be followed by a decommissioning process in which all arms will be surrendered and put out of use. The Colombian government will immediately end operations against the FARC in exchange for an agreement to disarm 180 days after the signing of a final peace deal.

Ivan Cepeda, a congressman from the left-wing Alternative Democratic Pole who was an early advocate of dialogue, emphasized that the outcome was not just the result of the efforts of the Colombian government, but also many sectors from across Colombian society including social movements, unions, and human rights organizations. Amongst these groups is Marcha Patriotica, a popular movement coalition of over 2,000 grassroots organizations that organized the historic march for peace in April 2013, in which hundreds of thousands of Colombians descended on the county’s capital city Bogotá to demonstrate in support of peace.

Cepeda also paid tribute to the role of the international community and solidarity with the process from across the world. He noted that in addition to hosting the talks in its capital city, Cuba had along with Norway served as guarantor of the peace talks, while Venezuela and Chile had worked in an accompaniment role.

The talks have been going on since 2013 and deadlines have been extended on several occasions. A final deal in which all of the finalized agreements will be codified together in one document is expected in the coming months. Once signed, the agreement will be put to a referendum in which the Colombian public will have the opportunity to accept or reject its terms.

After a long period of equivocation on the part of the United States, the dialogue belatedly received US endorsement from Secretary of State John Kerry when he met with representatives of both negotiating teams during a visit to Cuba earlier this year. Representatives from the United States were in attendance along with diplomats from several European nations.

To be sure, the talks have been controversial from the outset. Opponents to dialogue from the political right have argued that negotiating with the FARC, whom they consider to be “terrorists,” has been a dangerous and immoral surrender to violent insurrection. Former President Álvaro Uribe, whose administration engaged in an aggressive counter-offensive against the FARC and other leftist insurgent groups, has been a particularly outspoken opponent of dialogue, even launching a signature drive denouncing the peace talks as promoting “impunity” for the FARC. Uribe’s preferred candidate in the 2014 presidential election, Óscar Iván Zuluaga, promised throughout the campaign to discard the peace talks in favor of a return to all-out counter-insurgency, with the hope to defeat the FARC militarily and force a surrender on less agreeable terms. Santos defeated Zaluaga in what was widely seen as a public referendum on the continuation of the dialogue.

On the other side of the political spectrum, fears have been voiced that a disarmament of the FARC might leave its demobilized members defenseless against right-wing violence. Such concerns are based in large part on the FARC’s experience from the previous attempt at peace in the late 1980s and early 1990s in which several thousands of members of the Unión Patriótica were murdered. The political party, which was made up partially of FARC members but also leftist intellectuals, was formed to provide the radical left a route into electoral politics after the finalization of a peace deal and formal end to hostilities. Indeed, one of the major areas of contention in the current round of talks has been an agreement regarding a path into peaceful politics for the FARC.

But Santos has struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone, arguing for the importance of democracy and the inclusion of all perspectives. Though maintaining that the FARC will always be his sworn enemy, he said that battles would in future be fought through political debate rather than through violence. He said: “Now that we have agreed peace, as head of state and as a Colombian, I will argue, with equal determination their right to express and to continue their political struggle by legal means, even if we never agree. That is the essence of democracy to which we welcome.”

COHA’s view

Santos was the primary example of a war monger as Minister of Defense in the Uribe government and one of the most predictable and flagrant human rights violators. His aggressive anti-guerrilla policies included the 2008 incursion into Ecuadorian territory that led to the deaths of over twenty militants and sparked the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis. However, with his actions throughout the process, he has shown himself to be a peacemaker of considerable caliber.

Despite the growing pressure for him to further engross Colombia as the main US ally in South America, he has persisted to present himself as a Latin Americanist and not a US pawn in the region. The way that he has come out in favor of the peace agreement will no doubt be looked back on as one of the major events in Colombian history. Though it is perhaps wise to wait for the referendum by the public, COHA sees Santos as a potential nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership throughout the talks.

For the guerrillas, there is terrible risk that they are taking, especially in terms of how the Union Patriotica genocide decimated some of their leading figures and forced them to retreat back into the jungle. Their decision to take a leap into the unknown by laying down their weapons has been brave and commendable.

Just as the Santos government has a responsibility to move toward demilitarization of the countryside, the FARC too will have to adapt to a culture of non-violence and come to terms with its past. With the strength of the Marcha Patriotica and other social movements, there is a strong base for a resurgent left in Colombia to participate in the political process through peaceful and democratic channels.

Though there is much to celebrate, there is also much work still ahead. All parties now need to focus on building institutions that will foster peace and greater democracy for Colombia’s future.


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University of Panama to vote on June 29 – English story with Spanish videos

Si puede soportarlo, este canal de YouTube tiene entrevistas con los seis candidatos a rector, cada una un poco menos de una hora de duración. ~ If you can stand it, this YouTube channel has interviews with all six candidates for rector of the University of Panama, each of them just under an hour long.

A scandal-tainted University
of Panama votes on June 29

by Eric Jackson

On June 29 the University of Panama — including all of its branches — goes to the polls to elect a new rector, deans and vice deans in each department and the heads of the regional university centers. The outgoing rector and some of his entourage are the subjects of at least six different criminal investigations by the prosecutors of the Public Ministry, with other complaints winding their ways through the Comptroller General’s office. These include probes of large and valuable tracts of university land essentially given away to people with political connections, at least $3.5 million missing from the university’s treasury without explanation over the past few years, a “private foundation” into which university funds were poured for years without accountability, “innovation centers” (CIDETEs) whose purchases the administration refuses to explain, an employee on leave of absence after police arrested him for allegedly smuggling drugs using a university vehicle, people getting degrees without having done the class time and work to earn them — and the audits have only gone back three or four years of rector Gustavo García de Paredes’s 24-year reign at the university.

Although he is not a candidate, the self-proclaimed “Rector Magnifico” has been handing out raises and bonuses as if trying to buy votes. For which, if any, of the six candidates for rector García de Paredes would like to tip the scales is not a matter of public knowledge. It may be presumed that physics professor and former Sciences Faculty dean Eduardo Flores, who ran for rector five years ago, would not be favored by the man who beat him. But an open endorsement of a favored successor would be something like the kiss of death.

The last time Flores clobbered García de Paredes in the student vote, did better than expected among the faculty and was trounced by the non-academic employees who owe their jobs to the rector. That added up to a Flores win in total raw votes, but when the heavier weight to faculty and staff choices was calculated, a rout in favor of García de Paredes.

The student body is almost entirely different from five years ago, but the body of university employees is by and large the product of a political patronage machine that has been in power for a generation. However, if such employees might be expected to be obsequious yes-people, maybe not when prosecutors and auditors are nosing around and asking questions. Can the fix be in under such conditions?

In a way it already is. Many of the faculty and staff have received extra pay for consulting or other services — often of questionable value to the university — and have become reliant on that income. None of the six candidates for rector — Flores, Argentina Yin, Justo Medrano, Dorindo Cortez, Nicolás Jerome and Gilberto Boutin — are talking about eliminating sinecures. They are all talking about various Rs: reform, renewal, rehabilitation or renovation (but not revolution). Flores is promising that nobody will lose his or her job. No candidate is mentioning the CIDETEs or any moves to set aside the land transactions. Inflated salaries are a taboo subject. Accountability for what has gone on is off the agenda. Everything is in prospective terms, as if a generation of scandal had never happened. The result is petty bickering about things like who would have a right to retire and then double dip atop a pension with an administrator’s salary. As law professor Miguel Antonio Bernal put it, “the current UP campaign is like this: prudish, hypocritical, vulgar, anarchic, dirty and biased. Out of it will come a new rector and new or re-elected deans and regional center directors.” Flores, playing to people who voted decisively against him five years ago, is content to make the argument that the university must make mostly unspecified changes if it is to survive as an institution. It’s as if there is a general consensus that things can’t go on as they have, but that everyone who believes it thinks that his or her particular gravy train can and must keep running on time.

Is García de Paredes whispering to people about the covert anointment of a successor? It could be. But some of his recent ploys would seem to have undermined the credibility of such a thing. Yes, he did send out a tiny band of student sycophants to block the street and do battle with the riot squad in order to demonstrate displeasure with the investigations. All it showed was that he doesn’t have actual campus radicals on his bandwagon like he once did, and that, old apparatchik of the dictatorship that he is, his ties with the forces of repression aren’t so good anymore. He offered the law school’s most internationally famous graduate, entertainer and former Tourism Minister Rubén Blades, an honorary doctorate — and Blades turned him down, at least pending a less scandalous new university administration taking office.

Is García de Paredes’s patronage machine like Gorbachev’s Communists, or the last Aztecs? Perhaps. They don’t want to go, but they probably can’t stay under the same terms. An era does seem to be ending, albeit with an apologetic whimper.


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Sotomayor: police searches and The New Jim Crow

Madame Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Photo by the WEOC.

Dissent in Utah v. Strieff

by Sonia Sotomayor

For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk” — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them.

[Editor’s note: The following is the full text of a dissenting opinion by US Supreme Court decision Sonia Sotomayor, on what would seem to be a minor evidentiary matter. Are you one of those US citizens in Panama who supposes that the US Constitution and the exclusionary rule implied from it apply here? Wise up. We have an entirely different jurisprudence here in Panama, of the Civil Code rather than the Common Law family of legal systems. But with that caveat, this dissent, issued on the losing side of a 5-3 vote, is of enormous importance to US politics and law in this election year. One of the presumed major party candidates, the one who has the backing of most of the nation’s white supremacists, is openly running on a platform advocating racial and religious profiling of individuals by US law enforcement agencies. He would make what is notoriously de facto into something de jure, and he would have to power to nominate US Supreme Court justices who would enforce that program. (One of the first categories of people whom we can infer from that candidates statements is to be screened out of any rights would be those with names like Sonia Sotomayor — something that ought to be a matter of concern to any Panamanian thinking about travel to or through the United States.) Theoretically the law is supposed to be blind to partisan concerns as well as to race and nationality, but to put too much faith in that would be particularly naive in the USA in this election year. There are choices to be made and Madame Justice Sotomayor put her finger on one of the principal ones.]


No. 14–1373



[June 20, 2016]

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG joins as to Parts I, II, and III, dissenting.

The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent.


Minutes after Edward Strieff walked out of a South Salt Lake City home, an officer stopped him, questioned him, and took his identification to run it through a police database. The officer did not suspect that Strieff had done anything wrong. Strieff just happened to be the first person to leave a house that the officer thought might contain “drug activity.” App. 16–19. As the State of Utah concedes, this stop was illegal. App. 24. The Fourth Amendment protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” An officer breaches that protection when he detains a pedestrian to check his license without any evidence that the person is engaged in a crime. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 663 (1979); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968). The officer deepens the breach when he prolongs the detention just to fish further for evidence of wrongdoing. Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. ___, ___–___ (2015) (slip op., at 6–7). In his search for lawbreaking, the officer in this case himself broke the law.

The officer learned that Strieff had a “small traffic warrant.” App. 19. Pursuant to that warrant, he arrested Strieff and conducting a search incident to the arrest, discovered methamphetamine in Strieff’s pockets.

Utah charged Strieff with illegal drug possession. Before trial, Strieff argued that admitting the drugs into evidence would condone the officer’s misbehavior. The methamphetamine, he reasoned, was the product of the officer’s illegal stop. Admitting it would tell officers that unlawfully discovering even a “small traffic warrant” would give them license to search for evidence of unrelated offenses. The Utah Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Strieff. A majority of this Court now reverses.


It is tempting in a case like this, where illegal conduct by an officer uncovers illegal conduct by a civilian, to forgive the officer. After all, his instincts, although unconstitutional, were correct. But a basic principle lies at the heart of the Fourth Amendment: Two wrongs don’t make a right. See Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 392 (1914). When “lawless police conduct” uncovers evidence of lawless civilian conduct, this Court has long required later criminal trials to exclude the illegally obtained evidence. Terry, 392 U.S., at 12; Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 655 (1961). For example, if an officer breaks into a home and finds a forged check lying around, that check may not be used to prosecute the homeowner for bank fraud. We would describe the check as “‘fruit of the poisonous tree.'” Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 488 (1963). Fruit that must be cast aside includes not only evidence directly found by an illegal search but also evidence “come at by exploitation of that illegality.” Ibid.

This “exclusionary rule” removes an incentive for officers to search us without proper justification. Terry, 392 U.S., at 12. It also keeps courts from being “made party to lawless invasions of the constitutional rights of citizens by permitting unhindered governmental use of the fruits of such invasions.” Id., at 13. When courts admit only lawfully obtained evidence, they encourage “those who formulate law enforcement polices, and the officers who implement them, to incorporate Fourth Amendment ideals into their value system.” Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 492 (1976). But when courts admit illegally obtained evidence as well, they reward “manifest neglect if not an open defiance of the prohibitions of the Constitution.” Weeks, 232 U.S., at 394.

Applying the exclusionary rule, the Utah Supreme Court correctly decided that Strieff’s drugs must be excluded because the officer exploited his illegal stop to discover them. The officer found the drugs only after learning of Strieff’s traffic violation; and he learned of Strieff’s traffic violation only because he unlawfully stopped Strieff to check his driver’s license.

The court also correctly rejected the State’s argument that the officer’s discovery of a traffic warrant unspoiled the poisonous fruit. The State analogizes finding the warrant to one of our earlier decisions, Wong Sun v. United States. There, an officer illegally arrested a person who, days later, voluntarily returned to the station to confess to committing a crime. 371 U.S., at 491. Even though the person would not have confessed “but for the illegal actions of the police,” id., at 488, we noted that the police did not exploit their illegal arrest to obtain the confession, id., at 491. Because the confession was obtained by “means sufficiently distinguishable” from the constitutional violation, we held that it could be admitted into evidence. Id., at 488, 491. The State contends that the search incident to the warrant-arrest here is similarly distinguishable from the illegal stop.

But Wong Sun explains why Strieff’s drugs must be excluded. We reasoned that a Fourth Amendment violation may not color every investigation that follows but it certainly stains the actions of officers who exploit the infraction. We distinguished evidence obtained by innocuous means from evidence obtained by exploiting misconduct after considering a variety of factors: whether a long time passed, whether there were “intervening circumstances,” and whether the purpose or flagrancy of the misconduct was “calculated” to procure the evidence. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 603–604 (1975).

These factors confirm that the officer in this case discovered Strieff’s drugs by exploiting his own illegal conduct.The officer did not ask Strieff to volunteer his name only to find out, days later, that Strieff had a warrant against him. The officer illegally stopped Strieff and immediately ran a warrant check. The officer’s discovery of a warrant was not some intervening surprise that he could not have anticipated. Utah lists over 180,000 misdemeanor warrants in its database, and at the time of the arrest, Salt Lake County had a “backlog of outstanding warrants” so large that it faced the “potential for civil liability.” See Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2014 (2015) (Systems Survey) (Table 5a), online at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/249799.pdf (all Internet materials as last visited June 16, 2016); Inst. for Law and Policy Planning, Salt Lake County Criminal Justice System Assessment 6.7 (2004), online at http://www.slco.org/cjac/resources/SaltLakeCJSAfinal.pdf. The officer’s violation was also calculated to procure evidence. His sole reason for stopping Strieff, he acknowledged, was investigative — he wanted to discover whether drug activity was going on in the house Strieff had just exited. App. 17.

The warrant check, in other words, was not an “intervening circumstance” separating the stop from the search for drugs. It was part and parcel of the officer’s illegal “expedition for evidence in the hope that something might turn up.” Brown, 422 U.S., at 605. Under our precedents, because the officer found Strieff’s drugs by exploiting his own constitutional violation, the drugs should be excluded.



The Court sees things differently. To the Court, the fact that a warrant gives an officer cause to arrest a person severs the connection between illegal policing and the resulting discovery of evidence. Ante, at 7. This is a remarkable proposition: The mere existence of a warrant not only gives an officer legal cause to arrest and search a person, it also forgives an officer who, with no knowledge of the warrant at all, unlawfully stops that person on a whim or hunch.

To explain its reasoning, the Court relies on Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796 (1984). There, federal agents applied for a warrant to search an apartment but illegally entered the apartment to secure it before the judge issued the warrant. Id., at 800–801. After receiving the warrant,the agents then searched the apartment for drugs. Id., at 801. The question before us was what to do with the evidence the agents then discovered. We declined to suppress it because “[t]he illegal entry into petitioners’ apartment did not contribute in any way to discovery of the evidence seized under the warrant.” Id., at 815.

According to the majority, Segura involves facts “similar” to this case and “suggest[s]” that a valid warrant will clean up whatever illegal conduct uncovered it. Ante, at 6–7. It is difficult to understand this interpretation. In Segura, the agents’ illegal conduct in entering the apartment had nothing to do with their procurement of a search warrant. Here, the officer’s illegal conduct in stopping Strieff was essential to his discovery of an arrest warrant. Segura would be similar only if the agents used information they illegally obtained from the apartment to procure a search warrant or discover an arrest warrant. Precisely because that was not the case, the Court admitted the untainted evidence. 468 U.S., at 814.

The majority likewise misses the point when it calls the warrant check here a “‘negligibly burdensome precautio[n]'” taken for the officer’s “safety.” Ante, at 8 (quoting Rodriguez, 575 U.S., at ___ (slip op., at 7)). Remember, the officer stopped Strieff without suspecting him of committing any crime. By his own account, the officer did not fear Strieff. Moreover, the safety rationale we discussed in Rodriguez, an opinion about highway patrols, is conspicuously absent here. A warrant check on a highway “ensur[es] that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 6). We allow such checks during legal traffic stops because the legitimacy of a person’s driver’s license has a “close connection to roadway safety.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 7). A warrant check of a pedestrian on a sidewalk, “by contrast, is a measure aimed at ‘detect[ing] evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.'” Ibid. (quoting Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32, 40–41 (2000)). Surely we would not allow officers to warrant-check random joggers, dog walkers, and lemonade vendors just to ensure they pose no threat to anyone else.

The majority also posits that the officer could not have exploited his illegal conduct because he did not violate the Fourth Amendment on purpose. Rather, he made “good faith mistakes.” Ante, at 8. Never mind that the officer’s sole purpose was to fish for evidence. The majority casts his unconstitutional actions as “negligent” and therefore incapable of being deterred by the exclusionary rule. Ibid.

But the Fourth Amendment does not tolerate an officer’s unreasonable searches and seizures just because he did not know any better. Even officers prone to negligence can learn from courts that exclude illegally obtained evidence. Stone, 428 U.S., at 492. Indeed, they are perhaps the most in need of the education, whether by the judge’s opinion, the prosecutor’s future guidance, or an updated manual on criminal procedure. If the officers are in doubt about what the law requires, exclusion gives them an “incentive to err on the side of constitutional behavior.” United States v. Johnson, 457 U.S. 537, 561 (1982).


Most striking about the Court’s opinion is its insistence that the event here was “isolated,” with “no indication that this unlawful stop was part of any systemic or recurrent police misconduct.” Ante, at 8–9. Respectfully, nothing about this case is isolated. Outstanding warrants are surprisingly common. When a person with a traffic ticket misses a fine payment or court appearance, a court will issue a warrant. See, e.g.,Brennan Center for Justice, Criminal Justice Debt 23 (2010), online at https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/Fees%20and%20Fines%20FINAL.pdf. When a person on probation drinks alcohol or breaks curfew, a court will issue a warrant. See, e.g., Human Rights Watch, Profiting from Probation 1, 51 (2014), online at https: //www.hrw.org/report/2014/02/05 /profiting-probation/ americas-offender-funded-probation-industry. The States and Federal Government maintain databases with over 7.8 million outstanding warrants, the vast majority of which appear to be for minor offenses. See Systems Survey (Table 5a). Even these sources may not track the “staggering” numbers of warrants, “‘drawers and drawers'” full, that many cities issue for traffic violations and ordinance infractions. Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Div., Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department 47, 55(2015) (Ferguson Report), online at https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/ferguson_ police_department_report.pdf. The county in this case has had a “backlog” of such warrants. See supra, at 4. The Department of Justice recently reported that in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, with a population of 21,000, 16,000 people had outstanding warrants against them. Ferguson Report, at 6, 55.

Justice Department investigations across the country have illustrated how these astounding numbers of warrants can be used by police to stop people without cause.In a single year in New Orleans, officers “made nearly 60,000 arrests, of which about 20,000 were of people with outstanding traffic or misdemeanor warrants from neighboring parishes for such infractions as unpaid tickets.” Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Div., Investigation of the New Orleans Police Department 29 (2011), online at https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2011/ 03/17/nopd_report.pdf. In the St. Louis metropolitan area, officers “routinely” stop people — on the street, at bus stops, or even in court — for no reason other than “an officer’s desire to check whether the subject had a municipal arrest warrant pending.” Ferguson Report, at 49, 57. In Newark, New Jersey, officers stopped 52,235 pedestrians within a 4-year period and ran warrant checks on 39,308 of them. Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Div., Investigation of the Newark Police Department 8, 19, n. 15 (2014), online at https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2014/07/22/newark_findings_7-22-14.pdf. The Justice Department analyzed these warrant-checked stops and reported that “approximately 93% of the stops would have been considered unsupported by articulated reasonable suspicion.” Id., at 9, n. 7.

I do not doubt that most officers act in “good faith” and do not set out to break the law. That does not mean these stops are “isolated instance[s] of negligence,” however. Ante, at 8. Many are the product of institutionalized training procedures. The New York City Police Department long trained officers to, in the words of a District Judge, “stop and question first, develop reasonable suspicion later.” Ligon v. New York, 925 F. Supp. 2d 478, 537–538 (SDNY), stay granted on other grounds, 736 F. 3d 118 (CA2 2013). The Utah Supreme Court described as “‘routine procedure’ or ‘common practice'” the decision of Salt Lake City police officers to run warrant checks on pedestrians they detained without reasonable suspicion. State v. Topanotes, 2003 UT 30, ¶2, 76 P. 3d 1159, 1160. In the related context of traffic stops, one widely followed police manual instructs officers looking for drugs to “run at least a warrants check on all drivers you stop. Statistically, narcotics offenders are . . . more likely to fail to appear on simple citations, such as traffic or trespass violations, leading to the issuance of bench warrants. Discovery of an outstanding warrant gives you cause for an immediate custodial arrest and search of the suspect.” C. Remsberg, Tactics for Criminal Patrol 205–206 (1995); C. Epp et al., Pulled Over 23, 33–36 (2014).

The majority does not suggest what makes this case “isolated” from these and countless other examples. Nor does it offer guidance for how a defendant can prove that his arrest was the result of “widespread” misconduct. Surely it should not take a federal investigation of Salt Lake County before the Court would protect someone in Strieff’s position.


Writing only for myself, and drawing on my professional experiences, I would add that unlawful “stops” have severe consequences much greater than the inconvenience suggested by the name. This Court has given officers an array of instruments to probe and examine you. When we condone officers’ use of these devices without adequate cause, we give them reason to target pedestrians in an arbitrary manner. We also risk treating members of our communities as second-class citizens.

Although many Americans have been stopped for speeding or jaywalking, few may realize how degrading a stop can be when the officer is looking for more. This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants — so long as he can point to a pretextual justification after the fact. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996). That justification must provide specific reasons why the officer suspected you were breaking the law, Terry, 392 U.S., at 21, but it may factor in your ethnicity, United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 886–887 (1975), where you live, Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 147 (1972), what you were wearing, United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 4–5 (1989), and how you behaved, Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 124–125 (2000). The officer does not even need to know which law you might have broken so long as he can later point to any possible infraction — even one that is minor, unrelated, or ambiguous. Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 154–155 (2004); Heien v. North Carolina, 574 U.S. ___ (2014).

The indignity of the stop is not limited to an officer telling you that you look like a criminal. See Epp, Pulled Over, at 5. The officer may next ask for your “consent” to inspect your bag or purse without telling you that you can decline. See Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 438 (1991). Regardless of your answer, he may order you to stand “helpless, perhaps facing a wall with [your] hands raised.” Terry, 392 U.S., at 17. If the officer thinks you might be dangerous, he may then “frisk” you for weapons. This involves more than just a pat down. As onlookers pass by, the officer may “‘feel with sensitive fingers every portion of [your] body. A thorough search [may] be made of [your] arms and armpits, waistline and back, the groin and area about the testicles, and entire surface of the legs down to the feet.'” Id., at 17, n. 13.

The officer’s control over you does not end with the stop. If the officer chooses, he may handcuff you and take you to jail for doing nothing more than speeding, jaywalking, or “driving [your] pickup truck . . . with [your] 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter . . . without [your] seat belt fastened.” Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 323–324 (2001). At the jail, he can fingerprint you, swab DNA from the inside of your mouth, and force you to “shower with a delousing agent” while you “lift [your] tongue, hold out [your] arms, turn around, and lift [your] genitals.” Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, 566 U.S. ___, ___–___ (2012) (slip op., at 2–3); Maryland v. King, 569 U.S. ___, ___ (2013) (slip op., at 28). Even if you are innocent, you will now join the 65 million Americans with an arrest record and experience the “civil death” of discrimination by employers, landlords, and whoever else conducts a background check. Chin, The New Civil Death, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1789, 1805 (2012); see J. Jacobs, The Eternal Criminal Record 33–51 (2015); Young & Petersilia, Keeping Track, 129 Harv. L. Rev.1318, 1341–1357 (2016). And, of course, if you fail to pay bail or appear for court, a judge will issue a warrant to render you “arrestable on sight” in the future. A. Goffman, On the Run 196 (2014).

This case involves a suspicionless stop, one in which the officer initiated this chain of events without justification.As the Justice Department notes, supra, at 8, many innocent people are subjected to the humiliations of these unconstitutional searches. The white defendant in this case shows that anyone’s dignity can be violated in this manner. See M. Gottschalk, Caught 119–138 (2015). But it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny. See M. Alexander, The New Jim Crow 95–136 (2010). For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk” — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. See, e.g., W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903); J. Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963); T. Coates, Between the World and Me (2015).

By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.

We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. See L. Guinier & G. Torres, The Miner’s Canary 274–283 (2002). They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.

* * *

I dissent.


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The Panama News blog links, June 20, 2016


The Panama News blog links

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