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Watch Matt Welch Debate Pot Prohibitionists Tonight at 10 p.m. on Hannity (Update: False Alarm)

At 10 p.m. ET, Fox News host Sean Hannity will host another of his week-long series entitled "Stoned in America." As the name suggests, there is a built-in skepticism about recreational marijuana being legal. The show features a panel of about two dozen commentators, and I am a vocal part of the outnumbered legalize-it caucus. I don't know how the thing will play on television, but it was a pretty amazing exchange in the room, and I suspect that Hit & Run readers might find it of interest....

UPDATE: False alarm. Looks like it will air later this week.

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Amending the First Amendment: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

SCOTUSSCOTUSAfter the Supreme Court overturned restrictions on political speech by unions and corporations in the 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig proposed a solution: a narrower First Amendment. Lessig suggested an amendment stating that "nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to restrict the power to limit, though not to ban, campaign expenditures of non-citizens of the United States during the last 60 days before an election." When I asked him whether that amendment would authorize censorship of speech by corporate-owned news outlets, he reacted as if the possibility had not occurred to him. "It might well be important to make sure that nothing is intended to weaken or to draw into question the immunity granted by the First Amendment to the press," he said. "But that's certainly not my intent." I was amazed that Lessig, an avowed champion of free speech, could so blithely propose to amend the First Amendment without considering the potential for unintended consequences. New York Times legal writer Adam Liptak recently had a similar exchange with former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the dissent in Citizens United and is promoting his new book Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution:

One of those amendments would address Citizens United, which he wrote was "a giant step in the wrong direction."

The new amendment would override the First Amendment and allow Congress and the states to impose "reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns."

I asked whether the amendment would allow the government to prohibit newspapers from spending money to publish editorials endorsing candidates. He stared at the text of his proposed amendment for a little while. "The 'reasonable' would apply there," he said, "or might well be construed to apply there."

Or perhaps not. His tentative answer called to mind an exchange at the first Citizens United argument, when a government lawyer told the court that Congress could in theory ban books urging the election of political candidates.

Justice Stevens said he would not go that far.

"Perhaps you could put a limit on the times of publication or something," he said. "You certainly couldn't totally prohibit writing a book."

As you may recall, the First Amendment that Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart had in mind when he said banning books would be constitutional—an answer that seemed to be a turning point in the case—was the unimproved version, the one that rules out any law "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Imagine how much fun government lawyers could have with the versions of the First Amendment preferred by Lessig and Stevens.

As Damon Root noted last week, Stevens also wants to fix the Second Amendment.

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Arizona Supreme Court Makes It Harder to Convict Unimpaired Pot Smokers of Driving Under the Influence

Yesterday the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that people whose blood contains a secondary, inactive byproduct of marijuana can drive without violating state law. That means cannabis consumers are less likely to be charged with driving under the influence of a drug (DUID) when they are not actually impaired.

Arizona, one of seven states with a "zero tolerance" DUID law, forbids driving by anyone whose body contains any amount of an illegal drug "or its metabolite." The question for the Arizona Supreme Court was whether "its metabolite" includes carboxy-THC, which is not psychoactive and can be detected up to a month after consumption of cannabis. The court deemed the phrase ambiguous, since it could be understood as referring only to hydroxy-THC, a primary metabolite that is psychoactive. In light of the legislature's aim to prevent impaired driving, the court said, that interpretation makes more sense, especially since the alternative, including any chemical trace left by the metabolism of an illegal drug, would lead to "absurd results":

This interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver's system or whether it has any impairing effect. For example, at oral argument the State acknowledged that, under its reading of the statute, if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted.

The broader interpretation would therefore "criminalize otherwise legal conduct": medical use of cannabis permitted by state law. "Because Carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion," the court noted, "the State's position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving any time nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana."

The court noted that a broad reading of "its metabolite" could have absurd results when applied to other drugs as well:

This interpretation would allow the prosecution of an individual who drives after ingesting a legal substance that shares a non-impairing metabolite with a proscribed substance. For example, serotonin, a legal substance, and the proscribed drug bufotenine [a psychedelic found in fly agaric mushrooms and the skin of certain toads] share a common metabolite, 5-hydroxindoleactic acid ("5-HIAA")....Under the State's interpretation of "metabolite," it could prosecute a driver who had 5-HIAA in his or her system after ingesting a legal serotonin supplement or, for that matter, whose blood contains 5-HIAA as a byproduct of naturally produced serotonin.

This decision is reminiscent of a 2010 ruling in which the Michigan Supreme Court narrowly interpreted that state's zero-tolerance DUID law, which says a person may not drive "if the person has in his or her body any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule 1," which includes marijuana, THC, and "their derivatives." The Michigan Supreme Court said carboxy-THC does not count as a "derivative."

Despite these rulings, it is still possible for unimpaired marijuana consumers to be convicted of DUID in Arizona and Michigan, since any amount of active THC in the blood will suffice. In fact, such convictions are possible even under less strict per se standards, such as Washington's new rule equating five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood with impairment, which makes it illegal for many medical users to drive even when they are perfectly capable of doing so safely. Given variation in the way people respond to psychoactive substances (including alcohol) , per se standards are bound to unfairly tar some people as public menaces That is a good reason to require additional proof of impairment—unless you are using road safety as an excuse to punish people for consuming politically incorrect drugs, in which case per se (and ideally zero tolerance) is the way to go.

[Thanks to Marc Sandhaus and Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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Elderly Man Calls 911 to Get Ambulance for Wife, Says Police Beat Him Up Instead

called 911 for an ambulance, got a beatingKSPRIn a town called Humansville, in Missouri, an elderly man called 911 to get an ambulance for his wife, who suffers from dementia. Tragically, you’ll believe what happened next. Via local ABC affiliate KSPR:

When police got there [first], "police car drove up, he bailed out ran over and knocked me down. He told me to get up, I told him I couldn't," he explained.

That's when [Elbert] Breshears says police got aggressive. "First thing, I know they grab me, threw me out there on the gravel. One of them sat down on my back, the other sat down on my head. They were trying to get handcuffs on me. I told them I can't get my hands up. I have no objection to being handcuffed," says Breshears.

By then paramedics arrived. Breshears says he and his wife were taken to the hospital. A doctor looked him over.

Cops claimed the elderly man attacked them. The mayor of Humansville and the police chief both declined to be interviewed on camera by KSPR, though the police chief spoke with the news station over the phone. He said Breshears would be charged with abuse of the elderly, resisting arrest, and assault on a police officer. Breshears denies ever hitting his wife of 47 years.

h/t toddb

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Tonight on The Independents: Mystery Meat Wednesday, With Praise for Canada, BLM Commentary From Chuck Woolery, Income Inequality, Julie Borowski, Armenian Genocide, a Libertarian Quiz for John Bolton, and Two Minutes Hate!

Wha happen? |||We never promised it wouldn’t be a weird television show....Tonight on The Independents (Fox Business Network, 9 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. PT), you will see the following things:

* Game show legend Chuck Woolery talking about a rumored Bureau of Land Management land-grab on the Texas-Oklahoma border.

* Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton subjecting himself to a libertarian-policy quiz on domestic policies.

* Beloved Internet libertarian Julie Borowski joining Fox Business Network reporter Jo Ling Kent on the Party Panel to talk about A) whether Canada's rising middle class is due to lefty-approved income-inequality politics or righty-favored government-slashing; B) news that the FBI is using no-fly lists to pressure Muslims into becoming informants; and C) New York Mayor Bill De Blasio backtracking on his horsey ban.

Oh, Bernie! |||* Me talking about my favorite obscure issue: How the Obama administration tomorrow will once again flout his repeated, plaintive promises to recognize the 1915-23 Armenian genocide by using the word "genocide" on April 24's Armenian Remembrance Day, because Turkey is more important to U.S. foreign policy interventionists than Armenia is.

* And your favorite segment, Two Minutes Hate! With a very, ah, different looking Bernie Maxsmith.

Check out the show's Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and click here for video of past segments.

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J.D. Tuccille on the Security State and Institutionalized Fear

Boston Marathon securityThe National Guard/FoterOne year after a bloody bombing that made international headlines, the Boston Athletic Association, organizer of the Boston Marathon, was blunt about the new environment surrounding what was once a fun outing. "Spectators approaching viewing areas on the course, or in viewing areas on the course, may be asked to pass through security checkpoints, and law enforcement officers or contracted private security personnel may ask to inspect bags and other items being carried." Similar measures are appearing at many of America's high-profile events and public places.

But the move toward checkpoints and bans may be precisely the wrong response to a rare, but fluid danger, writes J.D. Tuccille. Armed police can't protect every possible target. Empowering people to respond to rare terrorist attacks may be safer, and allow us to live without institutionalized fear.

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Chelsea Manning’s Name Change Is Official, SCOTUS Limits Child Porn Restitution, Georgia Loosens Gun Laws: P.M. Links

  • She can still control her identity, if not her circumstances.US ArmyA judge has ruled in favor of legally allowing Chelsea Manning to change her name from Bradley and for her birth certificate to be amended as such. This doesn’t obligate the Army to treat Manning as a woman, and she’ll remain imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, a male-only facility.
  • The Supreme Court has ruled to limit how much restitution victims can demand from people who possess child pornography but were not responsible for producing it.
  • Georgia’s governor has signed a gun rights law that allows licensed owners to carry their weapons in more places, including schools, bars, churches, and some government buildings.
  • More than 60 have been killed in a train derailment in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Google maps now allow viewers to see earlier versions of street view images taken over the past seven years. Google plans to continue allowing users to see old photos as they move forward and take new ones.
  • Amazon has struck a deal with HBO to stream some of the premium cable network’s content, but not any of its newer stuff like Game of Thrones. If you’re looking for some Arli$$, though, there’s good news!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily updates for more content.

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Peoria Mayor Thinks Outrage Over City’s Raid on Twitter Parodist Is Everybody’s Fault Except His

Stupid Jim Ardis, stupid mayor of Peoria, Illinois, looking stupid.Peoria Mayor's OfficeWhen Peoria, Illinois, Mayor Jim Ardis responded to a parody Twitter account by calling out the police, the story quickly went wide nationally, and he became the butt of even more jokes and additional parody accounts.

He regrets nothing, though, and seems to think a parody of him violates his right to free speech. His response and the subsequent police raid became a big issue at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. A Peoria Journal Star reporter was in attendance:

"I still maintain my right to protect my identity is my right," Ardis said in an interview with the Journal Star before the council meeting.

"Are there no boundaries on what you can say, when you can say it, who you can say it to?" Ardis said. "You can’t say (those tweets) on behalf of me. That’s my problem. This guy took away my freedom of speech."

Perhaps his stated concern about the profane nature of the tweets makes him unfamiliar with the seminal Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell Supreme Court decision that parody is a protected form of free speech. No doubt a man as pure and clean as him would never touch an issue of Hustler or read anything about it. But anyway, he has it exactly backward, and everybody seems to get it except for him and his local police department. Even the Peoria City Council members appeared a bit aghast at his behavior, the subsequent raid, and the unrelated drug arrest that resulted, especially when the story went national.

[Council member Jim] Montelongo said the episode represented an abuse of Ardis’ authority, as well as the police department’s.

"There was too much power of force used on these pranksters," said Montelongo, the 4th District councilman. "It made it look like the mayor received preferential treatment that other people don’t get or will never get."

Ardis, though, has decided to blame the media:

Ardis said the situation provides an opportunity to discuss the proper limits of commentary on social media. He also said the news media is responsible, in part, for the problem.

"You’re the ones responsible for getting full information, but not to spin it in the way you want to spin it," Ardis said to a Journal Star reporter. "To make us look stupid."

"It’s your responsibility to put actual information out there and cover both sides. Not to opine. And that didn’t happen. Clearly, that didn’t happen."

Clearly, that didn’t happen. So in the spirit of Ardis’ complaint, I hope he clicks on the link to the Hustler case above so he can avoid future situations where the media makes him look stupid for being a person in a position of power who apparently knows very little about the First Amendment.

UPDATE: State's Attorney Jerry Brady said today the originator of the parody account will not face charges and furthermore said that the fake tweets are not violations of the state's law against impersonating public officials.

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Behold the Democratic Future, Boasts Jonathan Chait, Because Suspicion of Government Is Racist

Jonathan ChaitBloggingHeads.tvOver at New York Magazine, which today suffered a website crash that temporarily lowered Internet smug levels by a measurable degree, Jonathan Chait makes the bold claim that the Democratic Party is entering a period of dominance. His argument is partially rooted in favorable ethnic and generational trends that have much to do with the relative skills of the two major parties in enticing new voters—something that can confer a very real, but hardly permanent advantage. But Chait also proclaims victory for the donkey party because, he says, "America’s unique brand of ideological anti-statism is historically inseparable...from the legacy of slavery," and who wants anything to do with that?

It's tempting to say "what the fuck?" and take Chait's argument as an exercise in self-congratulatory lunacy—part of the attempt to declare an argument over, and further debate illegitimate—that has become so popular recently.

But Chait links to an earlier piece of his that is both more nuanced and very revealing of a hermetically sealed cultural and intellectual hothouse, one that can make it easy to assume a natural march to victory by his side and inevitable defeat for his opponents.

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David Cameron Was Right When He Called the U.K. a 'Christian Country'

Credit: Johan Bakker/wikimediaCredit: Johan Bakker/wikimediaBritish Prime Minister David Cameron has caused a minor controversy in the U.K. by writing in the Church Times that "I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country." After the article was published, 50 public figures signed a letter to The Daily Telegraph objecting to Cameron's article, saying:

Apart from in the narrow constitutional sense that we continue to have an established Church, Britain is not a “Christian country”. Repeated surveys, polls and studies show that most of us as individuals are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities.

Unlike the American president, the British head of state (Queen Elizabeth II) is the head an established church (the Church of England). However, as the signatories of the letter to The Telegraph rightly point out, most Britons "are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities."

As the chart below from The Washington Postbased on 2011 British census data—shows, almost 60 percent of Britons identify as Christian, and a little over 25 percent are not part of a religion.

The Washington PostThe Washington Post

The Washington Post goes on to mention that according to the results of the 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey, 48 percent of Britons did not belong to a religion. In 2013, the Church of England said that church attendance rates were "stabilising" after years of decline, with 1.1 million attending weekly services in 2011. The U.K. has a population of almost 64 million. The British Humanist Association claims that many Britons identify as religious for cultural reasons, not because they believe in religious metaphysical claims.

While it might be the case that the British are not very religious, it is hard to deny that the U.K. and its institutions are drenched in religious history and culture, as Harry Cole explained in The Spectator:

Leaving aside the fact that 59% of the UK population self-defines as Christians, we need only look at our institutions and state structure to see how bizarre this row has been. England has an established church. English bishops sit in our Parliament. A glance around the rim of our £1 coin will show you that our Head of State has another far more interesting title – Defender of the Faith. The Left weren’t so snooty about the Archbishop of Canterbury, our state-declared spiritual leader, when he was defending foodbanks.

We have a constitutional framework, legal system and legislature that is built around Judeo-Christian values. Almost every single bank holiday we have in this country is to mark some sort of Christian festival. Tens of thousands of children are educated every day in church-supported schools, and what is the first word of the national anthem again?

The British may not be a particularly religious bunch, especially compared with Americans, but they undoubtedly live in a Christian nation.

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Strippers v. the Supreme Court: Live Nude Theater!

Is it constitutional to require strippers to wear pasties and G-strings?

In 1991's Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc, the Supreme Court ruled that go-go dancers in Indiana could indeed be compelled to cover up their naughty bits. The decision upholding such bans is the subject of the provocative—and nudity-filled!—play Arguendo.

Check out Reason TV's lastest video offering above or click the link below for downloadable versions.

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Lapel Video Unavailable in Third Fatal Albuquerque Police Shooting in Past Month

shot by copvia KOATPolice in Albuquerque, New Mexico, shot and killed 19-year-old suspected car thief Mary Hawkes after she allegedly pulled a gun out at officers. It may have been just another police shooting in America but for it being the third one in Albuquerque in the last month and the first since a scathing Department of Justice (DOJ) report on civil rights violations and brutality in the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).

The DOJ report stopped short of holding any actual police officers accountable for the pattern and practice of constitutional violations. But the fatal shooting of Hawkes highlights the necessity of holding police officers to a high standard and penalizing them up to the point of termination for poor conduct, even if that conduct doesn't rise to the level of actual crime.

Too often, cops are not accused of crimes, because such an accusation requires a determination be made by a prosecutor who almost always relies on cooperation from police to pursue other cases. Prosecutors, then, aren't usually interested in prosecuting cops. So-called officer-involved shootings often end with investigations partly or wholly undertaken by the departments to which the cops under investigation belong, with prosecutors declining to prosecute or failing to make a case to indict to a grand jury.

By the account of the APD, the shooting of Hawkes appears arguably justifiable. No narrative from the family, which includes her foster father, a former judge and cop, or anyone else has emerged to contradict the police's story. Yet, unsurprisingly, doubts remain about what happened, because a decades-long pattern of abuse and brutality at the department—while police continue to duck accountability for any wrongdoing—has eroded any constructive relationship the police may have with the community. In this particular shooting, the police chief, Gordon Eden, said lapel video from Jeremy Dear, the officer who killed Hawkes, could not be recovered and that officers who fail to activate their lapel cams could face letters of reprimand or suspensions.

If the APD hopes to ever restore its relationship with the community and its very integrity, it will have to treat cops who fail to follow procedure and then kill in the line of duty far more harshly. Dear may or may not have erred in shooting Hawkes, but he erred in not activating his lapel camera every time he went on duty. That negligence has now contributed to uncertainty about the shooting, further wrecking the reputation of the APD and exacerbating the pattern or practice of abuse, brutality, and corruption in Albuquerque that the DOJ reported on to  just two weeks ago. Dear may or may not belong in jail. His dereliction of duty, however, ought to already preclude him from continued employment with the APD. 

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Gene Healy Talks About Kill-List Record of ‘Most Transparent Administration’ in History

Last night's episode of The Independents included a conversation with Cato Vice President (and columnist) about his piece yesterday on President Barack Obama's miserable transparency record, particularly when it comes to his system for killing people. You can watch the video below:

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New Clemency Policy Could Free 'Hundreds, Perhaps Thousands' of Drug War Prisoners (and Yes, That Would Be Constitutional)

Senate Judiciary CommitteeSenate Judiciary CommitteeToday Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced new criteria for expedited consideration of clemency applications by President Obama, focusing on prisoners serving sentences longer than the ones currently imposed for similar offenses.  "Older, stringent punishments that are out of line with sentences imposed under today's laws erode people's confidence in our criminal justice system," Cole said. "I am confident that this initiative will go far to promote the most fundamental of American ideals—equal justice under law."

Cole says the Office of the Pardon Attorney, under a newly appointed head, Deborah Leff, and with the assistance of lawyers from other divisions of the Justice Department, will give special attention to "non-violent, low-level offenders" who have served at least 10 years of a sentence that would have been shorter under current law, "do not have have a significant criminal history," have "demonstrated good conduct in prison," and have no "significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels." An unnamed "senior administration official" told Yahoo News the new guidelines could result in clemency for "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of federal prisoners by the end of Obama's second term. That would be a dramatic turnaround for a president who so far has commuted just 10 sentences and during his first term racked up one of the stingiest clemency records in U.S. history.

It seems plausible that thousands of federal prisoners could meet Cole's criteria. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), more than 23,000 federal prisoners have served at least 10 years. Drug offenders, who account for half of federal prisoners, will be the main beneficiaries of the new policy. FAMM estimates, for example, that 8,800 federal prisoners could benefit from retroactive application of shorter crack sentences enacted by Congress in 2010.

How many drug offenders who have served at least 10 years would meet the other criteria? A 2013 calculation by Paul Hofer, a policy analyst with Federal Public and Community Defenders, suggests the number might be in the thousands. Hofer was estimating the potential impact of Attorney General Eric Holder's new charging guidelines for drug cases, which use criteria similar to the ones announced today (including no violence, minimal criminal record, and no significant ties to criminal organizations). Hofer estimated that the charging guidelines, if followed by U.S. attorneys, could help about 500 drug offenders escape mandatory minimum sentences each year, which suggests that thousands of people who meet the new commutation criteria may be serving time now.

Even if the number of prisoners freed under the new policy is only in the hundreds, Obama will look much better than any of his recent predecessors. No president has broken the double digits with commutations since Lyndon Johnson, who issued 226 over 62 months. Since then total commutations have ranged from a low of three under George H.W. Bush to a high of 61 under Bill Clinton (followed closely by Richard Nixon with 60). George W. Bush issued just 11. "The doors of the Office of the Pardon Attorney have been closed to petitioners for too long," says FAMM General Counsel Mary Price. "This announcement signals a truly welcome change; the culture of 'no' that has dominated that office is being transformed." If Obama follows through on his promises to ameliorate some of the appalling injustices committed in the name of the war on drugs, it will be one of his most admirable legacies.

According to PJ Media columnist Andrew McCarthy, it will also be unconstitutional. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, argues that Obama's clemency plans usurp the legislative branch's authority to determine appropriate penalties for actions it decides to treat as crimes:

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Successful U.S. Action in Libya Leads to Jihadists Controlling Secret American Bases There.

Without getting sidetracked with "What About Benghazi?" questions (which are well worth asking), check out this new story from The Daily Beast's Eli Lake. It tells you all you need to know about the sagacity of Barack Obama's unilateral and unconstitutional commitment of U.S. forces in Libya.

A key jihadist leader and longtime member of al Qaeda has taken control of a secretive training facility set up by U.S. special operations forces on the Libyan coastline to help hunt down Islamic militants, according to local media reports, Jihadist web forums, and U.S. officials.

In the summer of 2012, American Green Berets began refurbishing a Libyan military base 27 kilometers west of Tripoli in order to hone the skills of Libya’s first Western-trained special operations counter-terrorism fighters. Less than two years later, that training camp is now being used by groups with direct links to al Qaeda to foment chaos in post-Qaddafi Libya.

Last week, the Libyan press reported that the camp (named “27” for the kilometer marker on the road between Tripoli and Tunis) was now under the command of Ibrahim Ali Abu Bakr Tantoush, a veteran associate of Osama bin Laden who was first designated as part of al Qaeda’s support network in 2002 bythe United States and the United Nations. The report said he was heading a group of Salifist fighters from the former Libyan base.

Well that's just great, isn't it?

Luckily for Obama, who replaced a terrible Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) with an even worse one (John Kerry), and whose Defense Department is full of whiny crybabies (Leon Panetta back in the day, various officers today), nobody cares about Libya anymore. Qaddafi could be back in power and no one would give a rat's ass. Because, you know, we need to fix what's wrong in Syria. Or Crimea. Or Ukraine. Or maybe Venezuela. Or Rhode Island. The most important thing in U.S. foreign policy is that, like the rock band Boston and Satchel Paige, you should never look back. U.S. foreign policy, like a third-rate boxer or Mad Men's Don Draper only goes in one direction: Forward.

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Supreme Court Juggles Copyright Law and Modern Technology in Aereo Case

The U.S. Supreme Court stepped gingerly into the brave new world of cloud computing and online streaming Tuesday morning when the justices heard oral argument in American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, a case testing the reach of copyright law in today's hi-tech world.

At issue is whether Aereo, a New York-based company whose tagline reads, "Watch Live TV Online," is in violation of federal copyright law because it does not pay royalties for the TV broadcasts its service allows paying customers to watch on their smart-phones, tablets, and computers.

"Aereo is an equipment provider," the company's lawyer, David C. Frederick, told the Court. That equipment includes some 10,000 dime-sized antennas in the company's Brooklyn facility. Those antennas, Aereo says, operate just like the old-fashioned antennas that were once commonly affixed to TV sets. They catch over-the-air broadcasts and allow people to watch those broadcasts on their TVs. According to federal law, the old-fashioned scenario raises no copyright concerns. Aereo maintains that its hi-tech service should be seen as the modern equivalent. "All Aereo is doing is providing antennas and DVRs that enable consumers to do" what the law already allows them to do, Frederick repeatedly stressed during questioning.

But several members of the Court voiced significant doubts about the probity of Aereo's approach. "If every other transmitter does pay a royalty," observed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "you are the only player so far that doesn't pay any royalties at any stage."

Justice Stephen Breyer amplified that concern. "It looks as if somehow you are escaping a constraint that's imposed upon" cable companies and satellite systems, he told Frederick. Indeed, added Justice Elena Kagan, from the user's standpoint, Aereo is "exactly the same as if I'm watching cable."

But the other side faced sharp questioning as well. Representing ABC and several other media entities in their fight against Aereo was Paul Clement, the former solicitor general and high-profile conservative lawyer. He told the Court that because Aereo is "publicly performing" copyrighted material it must pay the price. "They provide thousands of paying strangers with public performances over the TV, but they [claim] they don't publicly perform at all. It's like magic," he quipped.

Yet Clement's definition of what should count as a "public performance" of copyrighted material plainly troubled several of the justices.

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Zach Weissmueller on the Wrong Cure for Sex Trafficking

Reason TVReason TV"If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today," reads the first line of a 2013 State Department report on curbing sexual slavery. In other words, if only we could just stop people from wanting to pay for sex altogether, the market for this nasty trafficking business would disappear once and for all. Since that's never going to happen, Zach Weissmueller offers a real way to reduce sex trafficking: Make prostitution legal.

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Ohio Alt-Weekly 'Can't Locate' Anyone to Argue Against Legal Weed

Dayton City PaperDayton City PaperThe Dayton City Paper, an alt-weekly out of Dayton, Ohio, recently ran a "debate" on marijuana legalization. On one side of the page, a DCP staffer argued in favor of Ohio moving to legalize. The other side of the page was mostly blank. 

An editor's note on the anti-legalization side of the page says, "On behalf of the Dayton City Paper staff, we apologize, but we were unable to locate a debate writer who was able to submit a view opposed to the legalization of marijuana in Ohio at this time." 

The paper's plan had been to have another staff writer make an anti-legalization argument. But a scheduling mistake prevented the one staffer amenable to writing against legalization from filing on time. Rather than scrap the debate—a weekly staple in the paper and one of its most popular features—the publishers decided to have fun with it. 


Clearly, the paper could have found a writer, if not necessarily a staffer, to take the opposing side were time constraints not an issue. But they were. DCP Publisher Paul Noah points out that the editorial note merely says they couldn't locate someone in time

"We're making a statement in a playful way," says Noah, a supporter of legalizaiton efforts like Colorado's.

Not even medical marijuana is currently legal in Ohio. Three medical marijuana amendments have had language approved by the attorney general and the Ohio Ballot Board, but campaigners have been unable to collect enough signatures to get these on the ballot.

In 2013, State Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) introduced legislation that would allow people to grow marijuana for medicinal use or designate a caregiver to grow it for them, a proposal similar to existing laws in 20 states and the District of Columbia. But after an initial May 2013 committee hearing, there's been no action on Hagan's bill. Hagan also introduced a measure to legalize, tax, and regulate recreational marijuana, but it has met a similar fate. 

According to a poll released in March, 87 percent of Ohioans (including 78 percent of Republicans) think medical marijuana should be legal. And a slight majority (51 percent) support legalizing small amounts for personal recreational use. "Is it time?" as the Dayton City Paper recently asked. It seems like the answer's inching closer to yes. 

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U.S. Troops in Poland Amid New Killing and Hostage-Taking in Ukraine

US ArmyUS ArmyOne hundred and fifty American paratroopers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team landed in Poland today and an additional 450 soldiers are set to arrive and begin conducting military exercises in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by next Monday.

"It's a very tangible representation of our commitment to our security obligations in Europe, and the message is to the people of those countries and to the alliance that we do take it seriously," said Defense Department Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. "We're looking at trying to keep this rotational presence persistent throughout the rest of this year."

According to Politico, the White House is considering piling on even more sanctions against Russia for its role in destabilizing Ukraine. 

A group of diplomats including Secretary of State John Kerry met in Geneva last week and hammered out an agreement to "de-escalate" the crisis in Ukraine. Six days later, the situation has only gotten worse.

Yesterday, a Ukrainian politician, Vladimir Rybak, and another man were found dead near the separatist-occupied city of Sloviansk. The Ukrainian government alleges that separatists "tortured to death" the two men, prompting the government to resume the "anti-terrorist" operation it was conducting before the Geneva agreement.

And, there's a growing list of people being taken hostage by militant separatists. Simon Ostrovosky, an American journalist with Vice was briefly detained after a press conference with a self-proclaimed "people's mayor" of Sloviansk.

Several pro-Russian separatist leaders have previously said that they will not back down until there is a referendum on the secession of eastern regions of Ukraine.

Read more Reason coverage of Ukraine here.

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Who Gets Rewarded for Stiffing the IRS? IRS Agents!

IRSJoshua DoubekIf you and I pay the Internal Revenue Service less than it claims it owes us, we can get slammed pretty hard with fines, penalties, and even jail time. The IRS even stages armed raids in its search for a few more sheckels to feed the government's appetite. We even can get dinged $5,000 for filing "frivolous" returns that just annoy the tax collectors.

But there is one class of people that can misbehave and even stiff the IRS, and receive rewards in return. Who has that sweet deal? IRS employees.

According to a press release from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration:

between October 1, 2010 and December 31, 2012, more than 2,800 employees with recent substantiated conduct issues resulting in disciplinary action received more than $2.8 million in monetary awards and more than 27,000 hours in time-off awards. Among these, more than 1,100 IRS employees with substantiated Federal tax compliance problems received more than $1 million in cash awards and more than 10,000 hours in time-off awards.


Among the most serious misconduct the full report revealed among employees who were later awarded was "late payment and/or nonpayment of Federal taxes, Government travel card misuse or delinquency, Section 1203(b) violations, misconduct, and fraud issues."

Section 1203(b) violations include assaults on, harassment of, and retaliation against taxpayers, if you're curious.

To put this in context, the full report notes that for 2011, the IRS awarded almost $92 million in cash and almost 520,000 hours of time off to 70,500 of its approximately 104,400 employees. So there are plenty of goodies to go around, and they're not all going to malefactors, as the tax agency defines them. But still, to be a tax collector who skates along on the company credit card, abuses taxpayers, and holds back on your own taxes while getting a pat on the back and a bonus has to be a pretty sweet deal.

The inspector general's office urged the IRS to consider requiring management to take into account conduct issues resulting in disciplinary actions, especially the nonpayment of taxes, prior to awarding all types of performance and discretionary awards.

They'll get right on that. Right after they finishing scrutinizing your tax return for clerical errors.

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John Stossel on the Value of Privacy

ntr23/Flickrntr23/FlickrWe voluntarily give up privacy all the time. keeps our credit card info. Websites track what we read and what we buy. By comparison, the National Security Agency's data mining seems relatively benign, writes John Stossel—but there's one big difference. We can decide whether to use Facebook or let private sites install cookies. But we didn't give the NSA—not to mention the IRS, FBI, etc.— permission to access our information. 

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Of Course Recidivism Is High When Everything Is a Crime

Othered.Credit: Bandesz | Dreamstime.comA new report released this week from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that slightly more than three-quarters of released prisoners will end up arrested again within five years.

The report has not gotten a whole lot of attention, though Caitlin Dickson delves into the stats over at The Daily Beast and tries to draw out some meaning. After noting that rearrest doesn't mean these people end up back in prison (that number is much more modest, less than 30 percent), she spoke with some college experts:

CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor Deborah Koetzle … hopes that the drastic numbers will spark more conversation about the need for rehabilitation and re-entry programs to combat recidivism.

"In a lot of ways we set people up because we put them in prisons, which are are coercive, violent environments that can have psychological impacts, and when they come out we put up a lot of barriers," Koetzle told The Daily Beast. "We make it difficult for them to get jobs, to find housing. We put them back in an environment where there's a lot of temptations without a lot of support."

Koetzle argues that most correctional facilities are not equipped with the types of psychological or substance abuse treatment programs many inmates need, making it unsurprising when people come home and get into trouble again.

"We spend a lot of money incarcerating people and it's not a very efficient way of doing things unless we're providing treatment," Koetzle said. "We should to look at these figures and think, there is a reason for this. We need to do a better job."

StatsBureau of Justice StatisticsHaving lived in and run a newspaper in a small town for a decade and having watched regular "probation sweeps" from law enforcement agencies looking for any reason to drag ex-offenders back to jail, I immediately wondered exactly what kinds of crimes were getting these people rearrested. I thumbed through the full 31-page report (pdf) and found what I was looking further in. Fully a quarter of rearrests included probation or parole violations. More than 38 percent were rearrested for drug-related violations. The chart on the right shows the distribution of charges for recidivists.

Because arrests may involve several different charges, the totals add up to more than 100 percent and we can't really determine the number of people arrested for "public order" or probation violations who were also charged with violent or property crimes from the chart. We can see, though, that the majority of rearrests involve these public order violations, the greatest percentage falling under the "other" category. The report classifies these crimes as "those that violate the peace or order of the community or threaten the public health or safety through unacceptable conduct, interference with governmental authority, or the violation of civil rights or liberties. The category also includes probation or parole violation, escape, obstruction of justice, court offenses, nonviolent sex offenses, commercialized vice, family offenses, liquor law violations, bribery, invasion of privacy, disorderly conduct, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and other miscellaneous and unspecified categories."

What does it say about our criminal justice system when only 28 percent of our repeat criminals are committing violent crimes, only 38 percent are committing property crimes, but 40 percent of them are falling in this catch-all category of "other" crimes that are so extensive that even a report full of statistics for recidivism isn't able to account for them all?

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Looking Back at Hollywood's Pre-Code Era

Over at The Toast, Mallory Ortberg takes a tour through Hollywood's pre-Code era, recommending movies left and right—some of them because they're good, some of them because they're weird and interesting even if they aren't exactly "good" in any normal aesthetic sense. To give you the flavor, here's her list of "Less Well-Known Remakes":

The Hulk is horny.Paramount PicturesThe Letter, 1929—SLUTTIER THAN THE BETTE DAVIS REMAKE.


Mädchen in Uniform, 1931—LESBIANER THAN THE 1970S REMAKE.

The Maltese Falcon, 1931—GAYER AND SLUTTIER THAN THE HUMPHREY BOGART REMAKE (Obviously not as good, though. I mean, it doesn't ask us to believe that Mary Astor is a femme fatale who has had sex, so that gives it a leg up on the John Huston version, but still. Only worth watching as a comparison to the classic. And I don't think being as overt about sexual matters makes much of a difference—it's still incredibly clear that Bogart and Astor bone, that Joel Cairo is super-mega gay, and that Gutman is giving it to poor Wilmer in the 1941 remake.)

The Broadway Melody, 1929—Really, really bad production values, but a lot of fun if you're a Singin' in the Rain completist and want to hear the full version of "The Wedding of the Painted Doll."

The pre-Code era came to an end for a few reasons, the most underappreciated of which is the threat of federal censorship. Thomas Doherty described that process in this classic Reason article (and I've touched on the topic a time or two myself); it's a still-relevant lesson in the ways busybodies can clamp down on eccentric creativity.

For more on this chapter of Hollywood history, check out Doherty's book Pre-Code Hollywood, which is a great read. And since I was writing about the Army-McCarthy hearings yesterday, lemme add that one of the best discussions I've seen of that soap opera is in another Doherty book, Cold War, Cool Medium. Check that one out too.

[Via bOING bOING.]

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Twitter's Take on #MyNYPD Not Exactly What NYPD Hoped for

It's always a bit entertaining to watch misguided social media moves backfire. But there's a particular poetic justice when the moves are made by conceiveable villains like politicians or J.P. Morgan or...the New York City Police Department (NYPD). On Tuesday, @NYPDnews asked people on Twitter to post photos of themselves with officers, using the hashtag #MyNYPD. You can probably imagine how this went .... 


After a few friendly posts, the response quickly shifted to folks using the #MyNYPD hashtag to highlight police brutality and abuse. 


@MoreAndAgain: You might not have known this, but the NYPD can help you with that kink in your neck. #MyNYPD


@OCongress: 50 years of #NYPD brutality on minority youth. Bet you won't feature this on your Facebook. #myNYPD @NYPDnews


A. Barton Hinkle: A Constitutional Case for Gay Marriage

Credit: Mr-T in DC / / CC BY-NDCredit: Mr-T in DC / / CC BY-NDWhen liberals and conservatives argue they often talk past each other, deploying arguments that seem like winning ones to them but that the other side views as irrelevant or unimportant. So the Cato Institute has done a great service by filing a brief in Virginia's gay marriage case that makes a conservative argument for the liberal position. What's the argument? In short, writes A. Barton Hinkle, the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause demands equal treatment for same-sex couples.

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