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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: Sun, 18 Mar 2018 18:12:53 -0700


Don't Deny Young Adults the Right to Armed Self-Defense for 03/14/2018

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700

After last month's mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Donald Trump said he favored raising the minimum age for buying rifles or shotguns from federally licensed dealers, currently 18, to 21. On Monday he backed away from that position, saying the decision should be left to the states.

The president was immediately criticized for kowtowing to the National Rifle Association. But there are sound reasons, aside from crass political considerations, for questioning the effectiveness and fairness of new restrictions on young adults' access to firearms.

Updated: Wed Mar 14, 2018

Trump, Slayer of Pushers for 03/07/2018

Wed, 07 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0800

The president wants to kill drug dealers, which he thinks would be a legal, moral, and effective way to prevent opioid-related deaths. He is wrong on all three counts.

"Some countries have a very, very tough penalty — the ultimate penalty — and by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do," Donald Trump said during a White House summit on opioid abuse last Thursday. The remark was consistent with reports of private conversations in which Trump has said drug dealers deserve the death penalty.

Federal law already authorizes execution for certain drug traffickers. Offenders subject to "the ultimate penalty" include leaders of criminal enterprises that sell 60,000 kilograms of marijuana, 60 kilograms of heroin, 17 kilograms of crack cocaine or 600 grams of LSD.

Updated: Wed Mar 07, 2018

Supreme Court's Silence Clouds Gun Control Debate for 02/28/2018

Wed, 28 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800

This month's mass shooting at a high school in Florida has predictably provoked demands for new restrictions on guns, most of which are dubious on practical grounds and constitutional grounds. But while logic and experience can help us figure out which measures are likely to be effective, the debate about which ones are consistent with the Second Amendment occurs in a shadow land only partly illuminated by the Supreme Court.

In the decade since the Court officially recognized the individual right to armed self-defense, it has passed up one opportunity after another to clarify the boundaries of that right. "The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court's constitutional orphan," Justice Clarence Thomas observed last week as the Court declined to hear yet another Second Amendment case.

That case involved California's 10-day waiting period for buying firearms, which applies even when state and federal background checks take less time and even when the buyer has previously been cleared and already owns a gun. In 2014, a federal judge ruled that the waiting period violates the Second Amendment rights of people who are buying additional firearms or who hold concealed-carry licenses.

Updated: Wed Feb 28, 2018

Don't Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria for 02/21/2018

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800

According to a federal indictment unveiled on Friday, Russians who pretended to be Americans while participating in online political discourse during the last few years committed a bunch of felonies. Whether they accomplished anything else of significance is by no means clear, notwithstanding all the scary talk about "information warfare" that supposedly undermined our democratic institutions and interfered with the electoral process.

The crimes described in the indictment, which names 13 Russians associated with the so-called Internet Research Agency in Saint Petersburg, include fraud and identity theft as well as violations of immigration law, campaign finance rules, and the Foreign Agents Registration Act. But everyone knows the real crime was, as Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch put it in Senate testimony last fall, conspiring to "sow division and discord" and "undermine our election process" by committing "an assault on democracy" that "violates all of our values."

The New York Times, which last year breathlessly claimed that "Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics," reports that Donald Trump's "admirers and detractors" both agree with him that "the Russians intended to sow chaos" and "have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams." A Times editorial assures skeptics that "the Russian subversion effort" was "sophisticated" and "breathtaking" in scope.

Updated: Wed Feb 21, 2018

Jeff Sessions' Cruel Prescription for Pain for 02/14/2018

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions advised people in pain to "take some aspirin" and "tough it out" during a speech in Tampa last week, the federal prosecutors in his audience laughed. Mitzie Katzen, who has suffered from complex regional pain syndrome since she was a teenager, had a different reaction.

"I was just floored," Katzen says. "I could not believe what I was reading, and I thought that has to be somebody who has never experienced really severe pain for any length of time." Katzen's perspective on Sessions' remarks illuminates the depravity of a policy that sacrifices the interests of patients like her in the name of fighting the "opioid epidemic."

Updated: Wed Feb 14, 2018

There's Still No Big 'There' in the Russia for 02/07/2018

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800

Peter Strzok, an FBI agent who called Donald Trump an "idiot" and rooted against him in 2016, was nevertheless reluctant to join the investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russians who sought to influence the presidential election. Strzok, who was removed from the probe after his anti-Trump comments came to light, expressed his qualms in a May 19 text message to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, his girlfriend at the time: "I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there's no big 'there' there."

It is looking more and more like Strzok's gut was right. The FBI's surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, which Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee criticize in a memo that was declassified last week, shows investigators putting a lot of time and effort into a line of inquiry that apparently led nowhere.

Updated: Wed Feb 07, 2018

Poland's Holocaust Bill Is a Hate Speech Ban for 01/31/2018

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800

In Poland, as in several other European countries, it is a crime to deny the Holocaust. Soon, thanks to a bill that was approved by the lower house of the Polish parliament on Friday, it may also be a crime to discuss the Holocaust too frankly.

The pending ban on references to Polish complicity in Nazi genocide, which has provoked outrage in Israel and around the world, may seem inconsistent with the ban on Holocaust denial. But the two taboos are of a piece with each other and with Poland's prohibition of ethnic insults — a fact that should give pause to American fans of European-style speech regulation.

The Polish bill makes it a crime, punishable by fines and up to three years in prison, to accuse "the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich." The legislation was motivated largely by anger at the common use of phrases like "Polish death camps," which could be read to mean that the war crimes committed by Germans in occupied Poland were a project of the Polish government.

Updated: Wed Jan 31, 2018

E-Cigarettes Can Be Lifesavers for 01/24/2018

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800

This week, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine weighed in on the question of whether e-cigarettes are a public health menace or a public health boon. The answer is yes, according to a NASEM report published on Tuesday.

The report, which was sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration, concludes that "e-cigarettes cannot be simply categorized as either beneficial or harmful to health." While that is true in principle, the report gives too much weight to scenarios in which these products could be harmful, even while confirming that they dramatically reduce exposure to toxins and carcinogens for smokers who switch to them.

Updated: Wed Jan 24, 2018

Stop Warrantless Snooping on Americans for 01/17/2018

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800

Over the course of two hours last Thursday morning, Donald Trump offered two diametrically opposed takes on a surveillance bill making its way through Congress. Both were wrong.

The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, which the House approved last week and the Senate is considering this week, has nothing to do with purported wiretapping at Trump Tower or any other direct surveillance of the Trump campaign, as the president initially suggested. But neither is its impact limited to "foreign bad guys on foreign land," as Trump said in a corrective tweet after alarmed advisers explained his administration's position to him.

The bill would renew for six years Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which authorizes warrantless collection of communications between people in the United States and people in other countries when "a significant purpose" of the snooping is obtaining "foreign intelligence information." Although the official target is supposed to be a "non-U.S. person" (i.e., neither a U.S. citizen nor a legal permanent resident) who is believed to be located in a foreign country, the National Security Agency "incidentally" gathers a great deal of information about Americans, including their international emails, chat sessions and phone calls.

Updated: Wed Jan 17, 2018

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