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Preview: Jacob Sullum from Creators Syndicate

Jacob Sullum from Creators Syndicate



Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber.



Last Build Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2018 12:48:11 -0800

 



Federalists Can't Support a Cannabis Crackdown for 01/10/2018

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800

Before last Thursday, state-licensed marijuana merchants operated in a highly uncertain legal environment, subject to the whims of federal prosecutors who could at any moment decide to shut them down, take their property, and send them to prison. Now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has clarified the Justice Department's policy regarding the cannabis industry, state-licensed marijuana merchants operate in a highly uncertain legal environment, subject to the whims of federal prosecutors who could at any moment decide to shut them down, take their property, and send them to prison.

Sessions calls this "a return to the rule of law." The description is dubious, not only because the situation for state-legal marijuana growers and distributors is fundamentally unchanged but also because the cannabis crackdown threatened by Sessions offends a basic principle of constitutional law: The federal government may not exercise powers it was never granted.

U.S. attorneys prosecute a minuscule percentage of marijuana violations, and they have very broad discretion to decide which ones are worth their time. Sessions rescinded Justice Department guidelines that said a violator's compliance with state law was one factor prosecutors should consider.

Updated: Wed Jan 10, 2018




Stop Pretending Sober Drivers Are Stoned for 01/03/2018

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800

Last year Kali Su Schram was sentenced to six months in jail because of a fatal traffic accident she did not cause, thanks to Michigan's unjust and unscientific definition of drugged driving. Schram had the right of way when a bicyclist suddenly appeared in front of her at an intersection, but she was blamed anyway because she had a detectable amount of THC in her blood.

California, where state-licensed marijuana stores began serving recreational consumers on Monday, takes a more rational approach to driving under the influence of cannabis, requiring evidence of impairment. But three of the eight states where marijuana is legal for nonmedical use have adopted versions of the Michigan model, falsely equating impairment with arbitrary levels of THC in the blood.

In Michigan any amount of THC suffices for a DUI conviction. The cutoff in Nevada, where legal recreational sales began last year, is two nanograms per milliliter, which is not quite as strict but still criminalizes driving by many marijuana users who pose no threat to the public.

Updated: Wed Jan 03, 2018




The Buck Stops Over There for 12/27/2017

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800

After he won what he erroneously described as an Electoral College "landslide," Donald Trump explained away his failure to attract the support of most voters by conjuring "millions of people who voted illegally" — a massive fraud that somehow went completely undetected by election officials throughout the country. A few days after taking office, Trump revived that fantastical claim, setting a pattern for the excuse making and blame shifting that would mark the first year of his presidency. Here are some of the highlights.

Smooth talk. A hasty, half-baked executive order that Trump issued on January 27 immediately blocked entry by travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including legal permanent residents of the United States and people who had already received visas. Despite the ensuing chaos as hundreds of people were detained at airports around the country, Trump insisted that "we had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban," blaming any problems on the judges who blocked its enforcement.

Who's the boss? After the first travel ban got bogged down in the courts, Trump issued a revised version that was designed to be more legally defensible. Then he acted as if he had nothing to do with the executive order he had signed, tweeting, "The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version."

Updated: Wed Dec 27, 2017




Trump's Phony Postcard Tax Return for 12/20/2017

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800

At a meeting with congressional leaders last month, Donald Trump kissed a postcard-sized tax form, expressing his commitment to simplification of the hideously complex Internal Revenue Code. "Over 90 percent of Americans are going to fill out taxes on that postcard," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin promised on Sunday.

That's not really true, because the bill that emerged from Congress this week does little to simplify the tax code and in some ways makes it even more complicated. The tax return on a postcard, originally a symbol of radical reform, has become a gimmick aimed at distracting the public from a revenue collection system that is just as confusing, frustrating, intrusive and manipulative as ever.

Hoover Institution economists Robert Hall and Alvin Rabushka promoted the idea of a "postcard tax return" in their 1985 book The Flat Tax, tying it to the elimination of deductions, credits, and every tax bracket but one. Under Hall and Rabushka's plan, everyone would pay a single rate on all forms of income after subtracting a "personal allowance" aimed at maintaining progressivity.

Updated: Wed Dec 20, 2017




Scared Cops Are Scary for 12/13/2017

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800

The jurors who acquitted Philip Brailsford of second-degree murder last week were told to judge him based on "how a reasonable officer would act, versus a regular person with no police training," as The Arizona Republic put it. That distinction was crucial, because a "regular person" would never get away with shooting an unarmed man who was crawling on the floor, sobbing and begging for his life.

Like other recent cases in which jurors failed to hold police officers accountable for the unnecessary use of deadly force, Brailsford's acquittal shows that cops benefit from a double standard. Unlike ordinary citizens, they can kill with impunity as long as they say they were afraid, whether or not their fear was justified.

Updated: Wed Dec 13, 2017




Chris Christie's Situational Federalism for 12/06/2017

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800

As a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Chris Christie promised to stop states such as Colorado from legalizing marijuana. As governor of New Jersey, Christie insists that the federal government has no business stopping his state from legalizing sports betting — an argument that got a mostly friendly reception at the Supreme Court on Monday.

The most likely explanation for Christie's situational federalism is that he does not mind if people bet on sports but cannot abide pot smoking. But there is a legal rationale for Christie's apparent inconsistency, and it says a lot about the extent to which the federal government has usurped powers that the 10th Amendment reserves to the states.

Updated: Wed Dec 06, 2017




Your Secrets Are Not Safe With Anyone for 11/29/2017

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0800

Timothy Carpenter specialized in stealing cellphones, the same devices that betrayed him. Based on four months of cellphone location data from the companies that provided Carpenter's mobile phone service, the FBI placed him near four stores while they were being robbed.

Carpenter argues that the FBI should have obtained a warrant before looking at those records. His case, which the Supreme Court will hear today [heard on Wednesday], gives the justices a chance to reconsider a misbegotten and increasingly obsolete rule that threatens everyone's privacy in an age when people routinely store large volumes of sensitive personal information outside their homes.

Updated: Wed Nov 29, 2017




When Good Faith Medicine Raises Red Flags for 11/22/2017

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0800

Forest Tennant, who has been treating and researching pain at his clinic in West Covina, California, since 1975, is well-known as an expert in the field, having published more than 200 articles in medical journals and given more than 130 presentations at professional conferences. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, all of that was an elaborate cover for drug trafficking.

Or so you would have to surmise from the affidavit supporting the search warrant that the DEA served on Tennant's offices and home last week, which describes "invalid prescriptions," "red flags of diversion and fraud" and "combinations of drugs that are consistent with 'pill mill' prescribing practices." The allegations and insinuations show how the DEA has tried to criminalize differences of opinion about pain treatment, encouraging doctors to think about their legal exposure first and their patients second.

Tennant says the "red flags" perceived by the DEA are consistent with a practice like his, which specializes in treating severe, intractable pain caused by conditions such as arachnoiditis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, reflex sympathetic dystrophy and post-viral neuropathy. "We only take people who have failed the standard treatments," he says.

Updated: Wed Nov 22, 2017




Trump's 'Great Relationship' With a Homicidal Drug Warrior for 11/15/2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0800

When Maximo Garcia heard that he was on a list of local drug suspects in Mayombo, he tried to clear his name with the police chief, explaining that he no longer used drugs and had never sold them. Four days later, the Philippine news site Rappler reports, a masked gunman shot up Garcia's house as he and his family were eating lunch, wounding him and killing his 5-year-old granddaughter.

So it goes in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, which has claimed somewhere between 7,000 and 13,000 lives since he took office in June 2016. Although Duterte's bloody crusade has drawn international criticism, Donald Trump evidently did not think the subject was worth broaching during his meeting with Duterte in Manila on Monday.

Updated: Wed Nov 15, 2017




Murderers Slip Through the Screen for 11/08/2017

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0800

Last week Sayfullo Saipov, who was approved as an immigrant in 2010, used a pickup truck to murder eight people on a bike path in Manhattan. This week Devin Kelley, who was repeatedly approved as a gun buyer in recent years, used a rifle to murder 26 people at a church in a small Texas town.

The deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11 and the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history illustrate the limits of screening as a defense against violence. We would like to think that the right combination of exclusion criteria and background checks can reliably prevent mass murder, but experience tells us otherwise.

Updated: Wed Nov 08, 2017




Scarlet Letter Passports Are Unjust and Irrational for 11/01/2017

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0700

The notice, which will appear on the second-to-last page of U.S. passports, is officially known as an "endorsement," but it is more like a badge of shame. "The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor," it says, "and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 United States Code Section 212b(c)(l)."

The scary notation, which was revealed this week, is the State Department's response to a 2016 law requiring that the passports of certain registered sex offenders include a "unique identifier" to help maintain their status as pariahs wherever they travel. Although the warning is supposedly aimed at stopping sexual predators from abusing children in other countries, it will mark the passports of many people who pose no such threat.

Updated: Wed Nov 01, 2017




Presidents Are Reckless With Soldiers' Lives for 10/25/2017

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700

The widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four U.S. soldiers killed in Niger on October 4, says she was "very angry" when Donald Trump told her during a condolence call last week that her husband "knew what he signed up for." The president's critics say that remark was insensitive, but the more important point is that it was not true.

How can any member of the armed forces know what he is signing up for when presidents of both parties deploy the military so promiscuously, usually for reasons that have little or nothing to do with defending the country? The problem is not that Trump is tactless about soldiers' deaths but that he and his predecessors have been reckless with their lives.

Updated: Wed Oct 25, 2017




The NRA's Dangerous Alternative to a Bump Stock Ban for 10/18/2017

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700

Thomas Massie, the Kentucky Republican who leads the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus, and Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is one of the Senate's most persistent gun controllers, do not agree on much. But the congressman and the senator both see the folly of the National Rifle Association's position on bump stocks, the firearm accessories that Stephen Paddock used in his deadly October 1 attack on country music fans in Las Vegas.

The NRA opposes a legislative ban on bump stocks but wants the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to reconsider the question of whether they are legal. The administrative approach favored by the NRA invites unelected bureaucrats to rewrite a statute for political purposes, undermining the rule of law and the separation of powers.

A bump stock increases a semiautomatic rifle's rate of fire by harnessing recoil energy to help the shooter slide the weapon back and forth against his trigger finger. Since this technique is notoriously inaccurate and prone to misfiring, it is not clear that bump stocks made the Las Vegas shooting any deadlier than it otherwise would have been.

Updated: Wed Oct 18, 2017




Does Reproductive Freedom Require Forcing People to Sin? for 10/11/2017

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700

Last Friday the Trump administration unveiled regulations that let a wider range of employers claim a religious exemption from the Obamacare mandate requiring health plans to cover birth control. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., responded by invoking The Handmaid's Tale, the Margaret Atwood novel, now a Hulu series, set in a patriarchal dystopia where the government controls women's bodies and forbids them to read, write or work outside the home.

Lowey is not the only critic of the new regulations who conflates freedom from coercion with a right to forcibly extracted subsidies. Such overwrought reactions obscure the real issue raised by religious exceptions to the contraceptive mandate: When does respect for religious freedom require relieving some people of the obligation to obey rules that everyone else has to follow?

Never, according to the Supreme Court, which in 1990 ruled against Alfred Smith and Galen Black, who were denied unemployment benefits after being fired from their jobs as drug rehabilitation counselors because they used peyote in Native American Church ceremonies. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said letting the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom trump a "neutral, generally applicable law" such as Oregon's peyote ban would create "a system in which each conscience is a law unto itself."

Updated: Wed Oct 11, 2017




A Massacre Is Not an Argument for 10/04/2017

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700

The morning after a gunman murdered nearly 60 people in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton tweeted that "we can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again." The former Democratic presidential nominee's commitment to putting politics aside was gone in an instant, and her implicit claim that she knows how to "stop this from happening again" was equally empty.

Gun controllers like Clinton habitually seize upon mass shootings as evidence in favor of the policies they have always supported. But there is rarely any logical connection between the two, because in this debate, showing you are on the right side is more important than persuading anyone.

Updated: Wed Oct 04, 2017




SCOTUS Shouldn't Let Fear of Sex Offenders Trump Justice for 09/27/2017

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0700

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, locking up sex offenders after they have completed their sentences is not punishment, and neither is branding them as dangerous outcasts for the rest of their lives. Two cases the Court could soon agree to hear give it an opportunity to reconsider, or at least qualify, those counterintuitive conclusions.

Karsjens v. Piper is a challenge to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, which, since 1994, has confined more than 700 people who were deemed too "sexually dangerous" to release after serving their prison terms. Although these detainees are supposedly patients rather than inmates, in more than two decades only one of them has ever been judged well enough to regain his freedom.

Updated: Wed Sep 27, 2017




Congress Does Not Want Its War Power for 09/20/2017

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0700

The short-lived CBS series Brain Dead, now available on Netflix, is a science-fiction satire about an invasion of Washington, D.C., by extraterrestrial bugs that crawl into people's ears and hijack their minds as part of a plot to conquer the world. But the most implausible aspect of the story is a dramatic Senate committee vote on whether to authorize military action in Syria.

In the real world, of course, no such vote is necessary, because the president does whatever he wants with the armed forces he controls while Congress abdicates its constitutional responsibility to decide when the country should go to war. Last week, 61 senators showed they are happy with that situation by tabling an amendment that would have forced a debate about endless, metastasizing wars that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives without making Americans any safer.

Updated: Wed Sep 20, 2017




If Democracy Is Doomed, Don't Blame the Russians for 09/13/2017

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0700

A week before Hillary Clinton published her campaign memoir, Facebook seemed to validate her complaint that Vladimir Putin helped Donald Trump defeat her. But the social media platform's announcement about suspicious online political ads also highlighted common misconceptions about the nature of Russian attempts to influence the presidential election.

We often hear that Russia "hacked the election," "attacked our democracy" or "undermined the integrity of our electoral process." Yet so far all the anti-Clinton efforts blamed on Russia amount to attempts at persuasion, as opposed to interference in the casting and counting of votes. Our democracy probably can survive a few more voices in the cacophony of competing claims, especially if we cultivate habits of skepticism and critical thinking.

Updated: Wed Sep 13, 2017




For Sex Offenders, Registration Is Punishment for 09/06/2017

Wed, 06 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0700

The three men who challenged Colorado's Sex Offender Registration Act were sentenced to probation. Two of them also served 90 days in jail. Their real punishment began later, when they found that appearing in the state's online registry of sex offenders made it impossible to lead a normal life.

Last week, a federal judge recognized what anyone dealing with the burdens, obstacles and dangers of life on the registry knows: Its punitive impact far outweighs any value it might have in protecting the public. In fact, as U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch concluded, registration can violate the Eighth Amendment by imposing what amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

On the face of it, that judgment contradicts the 2003 decision in which the Supreme Court described Alaska's Sex Offender Registration Act as a "civil regulatory scheme" that only incidentally resulted in humiliation and ostracism. Since Alaska's statute was not punitive, the Court reasoned, it could be applied retroactively without violating the Constitution's ban on ex post facto laws.

Updated: Wed Sep 06, 2017




Trump, Sheriff Joe and the Thrill of Arbitrary Power for 08/30/2017

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0700

Three days before Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, he suggested that the former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff was "convicted for doing his job." In reality, Arpaio was convicted for doing someone else's job by enforcing federal immigration law.

When a federal judge told him to cut it out, Arpaio openly defied the order. By giving a pass to Arpaio's criminal contempt, the president reveals the hollowness of his supposed commitment to law and order.

Beginning in 2007, specially trained Maricopa County deputies had authority under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to detain people they believed to be in the country illegally. But after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revoked that authority in 2009, Arpaio's deputies could legally detain people only if they reasonably suspected they were involved in criminal activity, as opposed to a civil violation of federal immigration law.

Updated: Wed Aug 30, 2017