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No, Students, Words Are Not Violence

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Fight with words social issue concept as a person screaming with bullets flying out of the mouth as a metaphor for strong communication and aggressive shouting with 3D illustration elements.

Of all the ideas percolating on college campuses these days, the most dangerous one might be that speech is sometimes violence. We’re not talking about verbal threats of violence, which are used to coerce and intimidate, and which are illegal and not protected by the First Amendment. We’re talking about speech that is deemed by members of an identity group to be critical of the group, or speech that is otherwise upsetting to members of the group. This is the kind of speech that many students today refer to as a form of violence. If Milo Yiannopoulos speaks on the University of California, Berkeley, campus, is that an act of violence?




Recently, the psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett, a highly respected emotion researcher at Northeastern University, published an essay in The New York Timestitled, “When is speech violence?” She offered support from neuroscience and health-psychology research for students who want to use the word “violence” in this expansive way. The essay made two points that we think are valid and important, but it drew two inferences from those points that we think are invalid.

First valid point: Chronic stress can cause physical damage. Feldman Barrett cited research on the ways that chronic (not short-term) stressors “can make you sick,alter your brain—even kill neurons—and shorten your life.” The research here is indeed clear.




First invalid inference: Feldman Barrett used these empirical findings to advance a syllogism: “If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech—at least certain types of speech—can be a form of violence.” It is logically true that if A can cause B and B can cause C, then A can cause C. But following this logic, the resulting inference should be merely that words can cause physical harm, not that words are violence. If you’re not convinced, just re-run the syllogism starting with “gossiping about a rival,” for example, or “giving one’s students a lot of homework.” Both practices can cause prolonged stress to others, but that doesn’t turn them into forms of violence.

Feldman Barrett’s second valid point lies in her argument that young people areantifragile—they grow from facing and overcoming adversity:

Offensiveness is not bad for your body and brain. Your nervous system evolved to withstand periodic bouts of stress, such as fleeing from a tiger, taking a punch or encountering an odious idea in a university lecture. Entertaining someone else’s distasteful perspective can be educational. … When you’re forced to engage a position you strongly disagree with, you learn something about the other perspective as well as your own. The process feels unpleasant, but it’s a good kind of stress — temporary and not harmful to your body — and you reap the longer-term benefits of learning.

Feldman Barrett could have gone a step further: This “good kind of stress” isn’t just “not harmful,” it also sometimes makes an individual stronger and more resilient. The next time that person faces a similar situation, she’ll experience a milder stress response because it is no longer novel, and because her coping repertoire has grown. This was the argument at the heart of our 2015 essay in The Atlantic, “The Coddling of the American Mind.” We worried that colleges were making students more fragile—more easily harmed—by trying to protect them from the sorts of small and brief offensive experiences that Feldman Barrett is talking about.




Feldman Barrett then contrasted brief experiences of offensiveness with chronic stressors:

What’s bad for your nervous system, in contrast, are long stretches of simmering stress. If you spend a lot of time in a harsh environment worrying about your safety, that’s the kind of stress that brings on illness and remodels your brain. That’s also true of a political climate in which groups of people endlessly hurl hateful words at one another, and of rampant bullying in school or on social media. A culture of constant, casual brutality is toxic to the body, and we suffer for it.

We agree. But what, then, are the implications for college campuses?

In Feldman Barrett’s second invalid inference, she writes:

That’s why it’s reasonable, scientifically speaking, not to allow a provocateur and hatemonger like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at your school. He is part of something noxious, a campaign of abuse. There is nothing to be gained from debating him, for debate is not what he is offering.

But wait, wasn’t Feldman Barrett’s key point the contrast between short- and long-term stressors? What would have happened had Yiannopoulos been allowed to speak at Berkeley? He would have faced a gigantic crowd of peaceful protesters, inside and outside the venue. The event would have been over in two hours. Any students who thought his words would cause them trauma could have avoided the talk and left the protesting to others. Anyone who joined the protests would have left with a strong sense of campus solidarity. And most importantly, all Berkeley students would have learned an essential lesson for life in 2017: How to encounter a troll without losing one’s cool. (The goal of a troll, after all, is to make people lose their cool.)

The War on Drugs is a Failure on Every Level

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The goal of the war on drugs is to reduce drug use. The specific aim is to destroy and inhibit the international drug trade — making drugs scarcer and costlier, and therefore making drug habits in the US unaffordable. And although some of the data shows drugs getting cheaper, drug policy experts generally believe that the drug war is nonetheless preventing some drug abuse by making the substances less accessible.




(VOX)The prices of most drugs, as tracked by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, have plummeted. Between 1981 and 2007, the median bulk price of heroin is down by roughly 93 percent, and the median bulk price of powder cocaine is down by about 87 percent. Between 1986 and 2007, the median bulk price of crack cocaine fell by around 54 percent. The prices of meth and marijuana, meanwhile, have remained largely stable since the 1980s.

heroin price

Much of this is explained by what’s known as the balloon effect: Cracking down on drugs in one area doesn’t necessarily reduce the overall supply of drugs. Instead, drug production and trafficking shift elsewhere, because the drug trade is so lucrative that someone will always want to take it up — particularly in countries where the drug trade might be one of the only economic opportunities and governments won’t be strong enough to suppress the drug trade.

The balloon effect has been documented in multiple instances, including Peru and Bolivia to Colombia in the 1990s, the Netherlands Antilles to West Africa in the early 2000s, and Colombia and Mexico to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala in the 2000s and 2010s.




Sometimes the drug war has failed to push down production altogether, like in Afghanistan. The US spent $7.6 billion between 2002 and 2014 to crack down on opium in Afghanistan, where a bulk of the world’s supply for heroin comes from. Despite the efforts, Afghanistan’s opium poppy crop cultivation reached record levels in 2013.On the demand side, illicit drug use has dramatically fluctuated since the drug war began. The Monitoring the Future survey, which tracks illicit drug use among high school students, offers a useful proxy: In 1975, four years after President Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs, 30.7 percent of high school seniors reportedly used drugs in the previous month. In 1992, the rate was 14.4 percent. In 2013, it was back up to 25.5 percent.

past-month illicit drug use seniors

Still, prohibition does likely make drugs less accessible than they would be if they were legal. A 2014 study by Jon Caulkins, a drug policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University, suggested that prohibition multiplies the price of hard drugs like cocaine by as much as 10 times. And illicit drugs obviously aren’t available through easy means — one can’t just walk into a CVS and buy heroin. So the drug war is likely stopping some drug use: Caulkins estimates that legalization could lead hard drug abuse to triple, although he told me it could go much higher.




But there’s also evidence that the drug war is too punitive: A 2014 studyfrom Peter Reuter at the University of Maryland and Harold Pollack at the University of Chicago found there’s no good evidence that tougher punishments or harsher supply-elimination efforts do a better job of pushing down access to drugs and substance abuse than lighter penalties. So increasing the severity of the punishment doesn’t do much, if anything, to slow the flow of drugs.Instead, most of the reduction in accessibility from the drug war appears to be a result of the simple fact that drugs are illegal, which by itself makes drugs more expensive and less accessible by eliminating avenues toward mass production and distribution.

The question is whether the possible reduction of potential drug use is worth the drawbacks that come in other areas, including a strained criminal justice system and the global proliferation of violence fueled by illegal drug markets. If the drug war has failed to significantly reduce drug use, production, and trafficking, then perhaps it’s not worth these costs, and a new approach is preferable.

Illinois town votes to ban assault weapons, violators fined $1,000 per day

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The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has once again ignited the public debate around assault weapons and large capacity magazines. And while no sweeping gun control laws have been enacted at the federal level, one town in Illinois is taking matters into its own hands by discarding the second amendment.




(CBS News) The Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Illinois voted on Monday to ban the possession, sale, and manufacture of assault weapons and large capacity magazines to “increase the public’s sense of safety.” What’s more, CBS Chicago reports, anyone refusing to give up their banned firearm will be fined $1,000 a day until the weapon is handed over or removed from the town’s limits.

The ordinance states, “The possession, manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the Village of Deerfield is not reasonably necessary to protect an individual’s right of self-defense or the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.”




So, beginning June 13, banned assault weapons in Deerfield will include semiautomatic rifles with a fixed magazine and a capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, shotguns with revolving cylinders, and conversion kits from which assault weapons can be assembled. And those are just a few of the firearm varieties banned. The list is long and includes all the following models or duplicates thereof: AK, AKM, AKS, AK-47, AK-74, ARM, MAK90, Misr, NHM 90, NHM 91, SA 85, SA 93, VEPR, AR-10, AR-15, Bushmaster XM15, Armalite M15, Olympic Arms PCR, AR70, Calico Liberty, Dragunov SVD Sniper Rifle, Dragunov SVU, Fabrique NationalFN/FAL, FN/LAR, FNC, Hi-Point Carbine, HK-91, Kel-Tec Sub Rifle, SAR-8, Sturm, Ruger Mini-14, and more.Antique handguns that have been rendered permanently inoperable and weapons designed for Olympic target shooting events are exempt, as are retired police officers.

“We hope that our local decision helps spur state and national leaders to take steps to make our communities safer,” Deerfield Mayor Harriet Rosenthal said in a press release, after the ban on assault weapons passed unanimously.

The nearby suburb of Highland Park passed a similar ban in 2013, which was contested as unconstitutional by one of the city’s residents and the Illinois State Rifle Association. Ultimately, however, the ordinance was upheld in court.

Reckless Trump and Syria – Violence Will Only Increase

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Last year on the campaign trail, crowds roared when Donald Trump denounced his opponent as “trigger-happy” Hillary. But President Trump is rapidly incarnating the vice he condemned. Nowhere is this more evident than in Syria, where Trump’s recklessness risks dragging America into a major war.




(USA TODAY) U.S. policy toward Syria has been a tangle of absurdities since 2012. President Obama promised 16 times that he would never put U.S. “boots on the ground” in the four-sided Syrian civil war. He quietly abandoned that pledge and, starting in 2014, launched more more than 5,000 airstrikes that dropped more than 15,000 bombs on terrorist groups in Syria.

Four years ago, Trump warned in a tweet: “If the U.S. attacks Syria and hits the wrong targets, killing civilians, there will be worldwide hell to pay.” But the Trump administration has sharply increased U.S. bombing while curtailing restrictions that sought to protect innocents. A British-based human rights monitoring group estimated Friday that U.S.-led coalition strikes had killed almost 500 civilians in the past month — more than any month since U.S. bombing began. A United Nations commission of inquiry concluded that coalition airstrikes have caused a “staggering loss of civilian life.”

The carnage is sufficiently embarrassing that “the Pentagon will no longer acknowledge when its own aircraft are responsible for civilian casualty incidents,” Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations recently noted.

U.S.-led forces are reportedly bombarding the besieged city of Raqqa with white phosphorous, a munition that burns intensely and is prohibited by international law from use against civilians. Deploying white phosphorous to attack Raqqa could be a war crime, Amnesty International warns.

Trump’s most dangerous innovation involves direct attacks on Syrian government forces, including last week’s shootdown of a Syrian jet fighter. The Russian government, which is backing Syrian President Bashar Assad, responded by threatening to shoot down any aircraft over much of Syria.




After the Syrian government was accused of killing at least 70 civilians with sarin gas in April, Trump speedily ordered the launch of 59 cruise missiles against a Syrian military airfield. Much of the American news media hailed the Syrian missile attack as Trump’s finest hour. When he gave the commencement address at Liberty University in May, the audience cheered when Trump was introduced as the man who “bombed those in the Middle East who were persecuting and killing Christians.” But America could pay a harsh price for Trump’s “virtue signalling” with bombs and missiles.

The biggest delusion driving U.S. policy is the quest for viable “moderate rebels” — which apparently means groups who oppose Assad but refrain from making grisly videos of beheadings. America has spent billions aiding and training Syrian forces who either quickly collapsed on the battlefield or teamed up with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or al-Qaeda-linked forces. Policy is so muddled that Pentagon-backed Syrian rebels have openly battled CIA-backed rebels.

The United States has armed and aided al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria despite federal law prohibiting providing material support to terrorist groups. A prominent Assad opponent who organized a conference of anti-Assad groups financed by the CIA was recently denied political asylum. The Department of Homeland Security notified Radwan Ziadeh that because he provided “material support” to the Free Syrian Army, he has “engaged in terrorist activity.”




By the same standard, thousands of CIA, State Department, Pentagon and White House officials should be jailed. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has introduced The Stop Arming Terrorists Act to prohibit any funding, support or weapons for al-Qaeda, ISIS and allied terrorist groups.

POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media

Every side in the Syrian conflict has committed atrocities, often with approval of their foreign patrons. Former CIA officer Phil Giraldi observed, “The Saudis, Qataris, Turks and Israelis are all currently (or have been recently) in bed with terrorist groups (in Syria) that the United States is pledged to destroy.” The Wall Street Journal reported this month that “Israel has been regularly supplying Syrian rebels near its border with cash as well as food, fuel and medical supplies for years.”

The Syrian government has never threatened the United States, and Congress has not approved attacking it. White House spokesman Sean Spicer justified Trump’s cruise missile attack because “when it’s in the national interest of the country, the president has the full authority to act.” But this is a recipe for unlimited power — warring limited solely by self-serving presidential proclamations.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., condemned Trump’s attacks on Syrian government forces as “unconstitutional” and a “completely unlawful use of power.” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., concurs: “This is illegal war at this point.”

Killing vast numbers of innocent civilians sows the seeds of future terrorist attacks on America. There are no good options for continuing U.S. intervention in Syria. The only question is whether Trump’s blundering will turn that war into a catastrophe for Americans as well as Syrians. As Trump tweeted about Obama’s Syria policy in 2013: “Be prepared, there is a small chance that our horrendous leadership could unknowingly lead us into World War III.”

There Are Now ‘Food Pharmacies’ That Dispense Fruit And Vegetables

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Many medical issues have symptoms that can be managed or preventative with exercise and nutritional care, but access to things like fresh fruits and vegetables or healthy protein can be challenging for certain populations. An experiment in San Francisco called a “food pharmacy” has had amazing results.




The Silver Avenue Family Health Center has expanded a traditional food pantry into a place where patients struggling with high blood pressure and diabetes can discuss nutrition, recipes, and receive cooking demonstrations for improving their diet and health. Mother Jones reports that patients can access the food pharmacy with a referral, and that the program has been so successful, it will be expanding to four other primary care clinics in the coming year.

The program was based on another successful enterprise in Boston, called the Preventative Food Pantry and run by the Boston Medical Center. According to their website, this pantry welcomes patients with “cancer, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, obesity, food allergies and other chronic conditions,” offering them a “prescription” to come by twice a month and pick up enough food for three or four days worth of meals.




While many food pantries emphasize goods that can be stored for a long time, like grains or canned items, BMC’s pantry focuses on healthy perishables that don’t last on shelves, but are good for patients. They offer fresh fruit and vegetables all year round. They now feed over 7,000 people a month, and derive some of their produce from the hospital’s rooftop garden.




Dr. Rita Nguyen, of the San Francisco public health department, spearheaded the effort to open a similar location on her city.

“Often we just pile on prescriptions and ignore the other half of the equation for wellness, which is food,” Nguyen told Mother Jones. She pointed out that most primary care physicians prioritize care that will make them money, which means action over discussion. She says most will not “spend 15 minutes talking to someone about their diet” when they could prescribe something and send them on their way.

It’s difficult to measure the efficiency of the food pantry, since patients are getting their food form other sources as well. But initial findings are positive.

In a three-month trial, 75 percent of patients said they had “greater access to healthy foods.” Half had better blood sugar levels, and 38 percent reported lower blood pressure. For many, the issue isn’t so much a reluctance to eat healthy, but a lack of access to what the pharmacy can offer. With a combination of education and supply, doctors may be able to bridge the gap to health that so many people struggling with poverty and illness need help getting over.

Article originally appeared in Green Matters 

Former Federal Prosecutor Purchases California’s First Legal Cannabis

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(Greenstate) In one of the many surprises from the launch of commercial cannabis sales in California on Jan. 1 was the backstory of the first buyer.
A former federal prosecutor turned legal mastermind of the marijuana industry named Henry Wykowski bought the Golden State’s first legal bag of marijuana. 



 Wykowski paid $20.01 cash for a gram of Neville’s Purple at 6 a.m. on Jan. 1 at the Oakland dispensary Harborside. He didn’t wait in line for hours, either. He’s Harborside’s tax attorney, so the purchase opportunity was a sort of gift from client to counsel for years of effective service.
Not only did cannabis prohibition end in California with a former federal attorney buying marijuana, but Wykowski did it in the very building he saved from federal asset forfeiture.
 Wykowski is one of the world’s top cannabis attorneys and specializes in complex white collar litigation like federal asset forfeiture and tax cases.
Among his many victories, Wykowski prevailed in federal court twice against prosecutors seeking to seize the state’s largest dispensaries — Harborside and Berkeley Patients Group. Both cases were some of the biggest of the 2011 federal crackdown on medical marijuana, and both ended in the government dismissing the forfeiture actions with prejudice, meaning they cannot be tried again for the same crime.
In 2017, Wykowski was in tax court battling for reasonable tax rates for lawful cannabis businesses. Under ‘80s-era tax law, licensed marijuana stores are treated like illegal street dealers and face taxation rates of as much as 80 percent. Harborside prevailing in tax court could help set national precedent.



We met up with Wykowski after his purchase at Harborside for a short Q&A:
GS: When you think back on the arc of your life, did you ever imagine it would lead to this point?
HW: I do remember when we used to smoke in New York and we talked about when we were going to be adults and cannabis would be legal and we’d go to cocktail parties where they’d be handing out not only wine but some joints.
The fact that it’s now legal, I’m so excited about it, I’m — it’s just — wow. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe.
Continued on next page

Library Allows Young Readers to Work Off Late Fees By Reading More

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Adorable little boy, sitting in a book store, looking at books

In today’s technology-obsessed world, getting kids to read more actual books is certainly a worthy goal. Libraries in Los Angeles are trying a new program to ensure young readers log more hours devouring books.




Los Angeles County is working with local schools to ensure that all students are signed up for library cards. Additionally, they are eliminating late fees for readers younger than 21 years old. As a book-obsessed kid who often racked up my fair share of library late fees, this is a perk I definitely could have used!

The new rules go into effect immediately, but is not retroactive for those who had past fines. But, the county is offering a smart solution for those children, too. They will now be able to pay off their balances by simply reading more!

View image on Twitter

 




They’re letting kids eliminate $5 of fees for every hour of reading they do at the library. “You tell them you’ll read and they’ll sign you in and you start,” Leilany Medina, a fifth-grader at Morris K. Hamasaki Elementary in East L.A., explained to the Los Angeles Times. “When your head starts losing the book you can stop reading and they tell you how much money they took away.” Medina is so invested in her reading habit that she hopes to become a librarian herself one day.

Administrators hope that the policy will encourage kids to use the library more, and in turn, read more. “When charges accrue on a young person’s account, generally, they don’t pay the charges and they don’t use the card,” Darcy Hastings, the L.A. County’s assistant library administrator for youth services, said. “A few dollars on their accounts means they stop using library services.”

kids reading books photo
Flickr | PersonalCreations.com

So far, the policy seems to be having the intended effect. According to Aleah Jurnecka, children’s librarian at East L.A. Library, at least 100 students a week opt to read off their debt. She says the policy is also appreciated by parents.

What a great idea! Hopefully other library systems will follow suit.

Article originally appeared in Simply Most 

Oregonians Are Going Nuts Over Pumping Their Own Gas

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A new gas pumping law passed in June of 2017 is now causing a shakeup on social media. The law, which allows people in towns of under 40,0000 to pump their own gas, is inspiring rage, confusion, and quite a bit of trolling from people in other states. Here’s a selection of the best reactions to the law, all inspired by a poll from a Medford Oregon CBS station. We’re not sure which we enjoy more, the hissy fits or the trolls.

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Study: Average American Breaks 3 Laws A Day

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“Outright innocence is not sufficient to escape the brutality of detention.”
If you reside in America and it is dinnertime, you have almost certainly broken the law. In his book Three Felonies a Day, civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate estimates that the average person unknowingly breaks at least three federal criminal laws every day. This toll does not count an avalanche of other laws — for example misdemeanors or civil violations such as disobeying a civil contempt order — all of which confront average people at every turn.




An article in the Economist (July 22, 2010) entitled “Too many laws, too many prisoners” states,

Between 2.3m and 2.4m Americans are behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults. If those on parole or probation are included, one adult in 31 is under “correctional” supervision. As a proportion of its total population, America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan.

By contrast, in 1970, less than one in 400 Americans was incarcerated. Why has the prison population more than quadrupled over a few decades? Why are you, as an average person and daily felon, more vulnerable to arrest than at any other time?

There is a simple answer but no single explanation as to how the situation arose or why it continues to accelerate out of control. The answer: a constant flood of new and broadly interpreted laws are criminalizing entire categories of daily life while, at the same time, the standards required for arrest and conviction have been severely diluted. The result is that far too many people are arrested and imprisoned for acts that should not be viewed as criminal at all or should receive minimal punishment.

In some cases, the violated laws are so obscure, vague, or complicated in language that even the police are ignorant of them. In other cases, outright innocence is not sufficient to escape the brutality of detention.




Some Sample Cases
(Note: the following examples are selected to illustrate the wide range of criminalization that is occurring and so their circumstances differ significantly from each other. Nevertheless, they share certain factors: the criminalization of harmless, trivial acts; the enforcement of unreasonable rules; the severity with which any noncompliance is punished; the indifference to the human devastation wrought by law.)

In 2005, while a passenger in his family car, Anthony W. Florence was mistakenly arrested for a bench warrant on traffic tickets he had already satisfied; the proof of payment he carried was to no avail. During seven days in jail, Florence was strip-searched twice, even though the guards admitted they had no reasonable suspicion of contraband. He was otherwise deprived of rights; for example, guards watched him shower and forced him to undergo a routine delousing.1

Eventually released, the attempt to get justice has taken Florence years. On October 12, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Florence v. Burlington, et al., in which the question is “whether the Fourth Amendment permits a jail to conduct a suspicionless strip search of every individual arrested for any minor offense no matter what the circumstances.”2

According to his lawsuit, Florence is joined by people who were similarly treated after being arrested and jailed for such crimes as “driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal, and riding a bicycle without an audible bell.”Download PDF

In 2003, “three pickup trucks” with “six armed police in flak jackets” pulled up to 66-year-old George Norris’s house in Texas.

Norris was detained for four hours while they ransacked his home and confiscated 37 boxes of possessions without offering a warrant or an explanation. In March 2004, Norris was indicted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species for “smuggling” the orchids he had ordered and paid for to run a side business. Norris was thrown into the same cell as a suspected murder and two suspected drug dealers.3




The Economist reports,

Prosecutors described Mr. Norris as the “kingpin” of an international smuggling ring. He was dumbfounded: his annual profits were never more than about $20,000. When prosecutors suggested that he should inform on other smugglers in return for a lighter sentence, he refused, insisting he knew nothing beyond hearsay. He pleaded innocent. But an undercover federal agent had ordered some orchids from him, a few of which arrived without the correct papers. For this, he was charged with making a false statement to a government official, a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Since he had communicated with his suppliers, he was charged with conspiracy, which also carries a potential five-year term.

Unable to pay legal bills, Norris pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 17 months. For bringing prescription pills into prison, he was thrown into solitary confinement for 71 days. But “[t]he prison was so crowded … that even in solitary he had two room-mates.”

In 2000, a poor kid from foster care named T.J. Hill thought he had found a path to success when he received a wrestling scholarship to Cal State Fullerton. School did not work out, and he was arrested in 2006 for possession of psilocybin (mushrooms).




He was put on five years’ probation with a suspended imposition of sentence. In other words, if he completed his probation successfully, he would not have a criminal record.4

In November 2008, he left the state and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Although the original charge was minor and no further illegal activity occurred, T.J. was jailed on $100,000 bail to prevent flight risk. His family has spent thousands on legal fees. Now well known for his volunteer work with children, even police officers are hoping T.J. escapes more jail time. As one of them said, “He’s a good guy. He’s changed lives.” Whether he will be allowed to continue doing so or will become dehumanized through a senseless, brutal imprisonment waits to be seen.

Such stories abound. Most share characteristics with the foregoing three. For example, the criminal activity being punished is trivial and violates no one’s rights. The crimes are mala prohibita rather than mala en se. The first refers to crimes that exist only because rules were passed to control people’s nonviolent behavior, like the buying of orchids; the second refers to crimes that exist because the acts are intrinsically wrong, like rape. Another characteristic shared: the punishments are extreme and any attempt to correct them is often ruinously expensive in terms of time and money. But the ultimate punishment is usually the police record that follows these “criminals” for life, shutting off worlds of opportunities.




Ask yourself, How different am I from Florence, with his paid-up-but-still-punished traffic tickets? Or from Norris, who accidentally purchased a harmless but illegal flower? Or from T.J. who made a mistake by breaking a malum prohibitum law against drugs?

If something similar happens to you or your children, do you want the lives of those you love to be destroyed by clerical error, understandable ignorance, or a youthful mistake? With every passing law, that prospect becomes more probable.

What Path to Justice?
Even thinking about how to shift a government system toward freedom or justice can be exhausting. The penal system is particularly daunting because its raw brutality seems to leave no room for reason. Fortunately, the best approach may be to address the penal system’s precursors: the legislatures that create laws, the law enforcement and judiciaries that impose them. Without fundamental change at the early stages, effective change at the final stage of imprisonment is unlikely.

“The penal system is particularly daunting because its raw brutality seems to leave no room for reason.”
Libertarianism has evolved sophisticated theories of what constitutes a proper justice system and how to implement it. One of the most popular theories is based on restitution, rather than retribution or punishment. Restitution is the legal system in which a person “makes good” on a harm or wrong done to another individual and does so directly; if you steal $100, then you pay back $100 and reasonable damages directly to the victim of your theft. You do not pay a debt to society or to the state by going to prison. You do not undergo “punishment” other than the damages assessed. You make your victim “whole” — and, perhaps, a bit more for his trouble.

Court Rules Bakers Must Pay $135,000 for Not Making Gay Wedding Cake

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A husband-and-wife baking team must pay a $135,000 fine for declining to make a cake for the wedding of two women, Oregon’s second-highest court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a decision by a state agency that led to the fine and forced Aaron and Melissa Klein to close their bakery.




The court ruled that baking wedding cakes is not “speech, art, or other expression” protected by the First Amendment. The judges said the state did not “impermissibly burden the Kleins’ right to the free exercise of religion” because it compelled the Christian bakers only to comply with “a neutral law of general applicability.”

Oregon law prohibits businesses from refusing service because of a customer’s sexual orientation, as well as because of race, gender, and other personal characteristics.

“We are very disappointed in the court’s decision,” Michael Berry, deputy general counsel at First Liberty Institute, which represents the Kleins, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Friday. “I think that punishing people for their religious beliefs is … not American, and it’s wrong.”

“It does not matter how you were born or who you love,” one of the lesbians, Laurel Bowman-Cryer, said in a written statement following the ruling. “All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally. Oregon will not allow a ‘Straight Couples Only’ sign to be hung in bakeries or other stores.”

Boyden Gray, former White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush, argued the Kleins’ case. Gray told the three judges that the state violated the two bakers’ rights to free speech, religious freedom, and due process.




The Kleins had owned and operated Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon.




After the Kleins declined in 2013 to make a cake for the wedding of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, citing their Christian religious beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, they also faced protests that eventually led them to shut down their bakery.

In July 2015, an administrative judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that the Kleins violated state law by discriminating against the Bowman-Cryers on the basis of their sexual orientation. The judge ordered the Kleins to pay the $135,000 for physical, emotional, and mental damages to the two women, as The Daily Signal previously reported.