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Jacob Sullum

Articles by Jacob Sullum

The clarity of false choices

"There are those who claim we have to choose between paying down our deficits ... and investing in job creation and economic growth," President Obama said last week. "This is a false choice." During the same speech, he asked his audience to "let me just be clear" that his administration, having racked up the biggest budget deficits ever, is embracing fiscal responsibility, as reflected in his vow that "health insurance reform" will not increase the deficit "by one dime." Published December 19, 2009

Bet blockers

In 2006, Congress passed a law that instructed the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board to write regulations aimed at preventing "unlawful Internet gambling." But Congress did not define "unlawful Internet gambling," and neither did the regulators. Published December 5, 2009

Menu mandate's missing math

The most conspicuous effect you will see from President Obama's health care overhaul won't be at your doctor's office or the hospital. It will be at your local Burger King. Published November 21, 2009

The folly of unilateral disarmament

When Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan started shooting up the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas, Pfc. Marquest Smith dove under a desk. The Associated Press reports that "he lay low for several minutes, waiting for the shooter to run out of ammunition and wishing he, too, had a gun." Published November 14, 2009

Obama's hidden fees

President Obama's promise to raise taxes only on the wealthy was easy to make and easy to break. He broke it barely two weeks after taking office, and he will break it again if Congress passes the health care legislation he wants. But Mr. Obama has come up with a strategy to avoid the fate of George H.W. Bush: Although he will raise your taxes, he will never admit he is raising your taxes. Published November 7, 2009

Mandatory savings?

The recently revived idea of creating a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers may reinforce the impression that President Obama and his allies in Congress are standing tall against those corporate fat cats who delight in denying lifesaving care to children and old ladies. But Mr. Obama and the insurers still see eye to eye on a central element of his health care agenda: the requirement that every American obtain medical coverage. Published October 31, 2009

Myocardial infractions

Six years ago, when I asked an epidemiologist about a report that a smoking ban in Helena, Mont., had cut heart attacks by 40 percent within six months, he thought the idea was so ridiculous that no one would take it seriously. He was wrong. Published October 24, 2009

Piling on penalties

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama plans to sign soon, is named after two men who were murdered in 1998. Shepard, a gay college student, was beaten to death in Wyoming. Byrd, a black hitchhiker, was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Texas. Bigotry seemed to play a role in both crimes. Published October 17, 2009

Careless coercion

At a July press conference, President Obama claimed that "the average American family is paying thousands of dollars in hidden costs" because uncompensated health care for the uninsured drives up the price of medical coverage. In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, by contrast, he said uncompensated care costs the average family $900. Published September 26, 2009

Drug control becomes speech control

When the government accuses a doctor of running a "pill mill," prosecutors portray every aspect of his practice in a sinister light. Prescribing painkillers becomes drug trafficking, applying for insurance reimbursement becomes fraud, making bank deposits becomes money laundering and working with people at the office becomes conspiracy. Published September 12, 2009

Unfair, unbalanced, but free

"When the government of the United States of America claims the authority to ban books because of their political speech," says Citizens United, "something has gone terribly wrong." A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court seems to agree. Published September 5, 2009

Ways of making them talk

In a 2004 report made public Monday, the CIA's inspector general noted that "a number of agency officers of various grade levels who are involved with detention and interrogation activities are concerned that they may at some future date be vulnerable to legal action." Published August 29, 2009

Grass roots that shun the sun

Two years ago, the Senate rejected an attempt to regulate "astroturf," professional political agitation aimed at stimulating (or simulating) grass-roots activity. Recently, that measure's supporters have been saying, "I told you so," citing the debate over who is behind boisterous criticism of President Obama's health care agenda at congressional town-hall meetings. Published August 22, 2009

A bitter remedy

Last week, Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Counsel of Economic Advisers, suggested that we think of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as an extremely expensive course of antibiotics. "Suppose you go to your doctor for a strep throat," Ms. Romer said in a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, "and he or she prescribes an antibiotic." Published August 15, 2009

Bringing 'inefficiencies'

This week President Obama promised that "the reforms we seek" will bring greater "inefficiencies to our health care system." It was a slip of the tongue, but the Obama-inspired health care bill moving through the House of Representatives suggests the president accidentally told the truth. Published July 25, 2009

SULLUM: Court-expanded liberties

The Vermont Legislature last week overrode the governor to legalize gay marriage. The week before, the Iowa Supreme Court achieved the same result by overriding the state Legislature, declaring a 1998 ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Published April 18, 2009

SULLUM: A push after Alabama rampage

Less than a day after Michael McLendon fired his last shot, gun-control groups issued press releases that cited his murderous rampage through three Alabama towns as an argument for reviving the federal "assault weapon" ban. Published March 25, 2009

SULLUM: Obama's charitable taking

In his speech to Congress last week, President Obama promised to "go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs." Although the process was not completed yet, he said, "we have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade." Published March 6, 2009

SULLUM: The indefinite future of indefinite detention

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder visited the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay as part of the preparation for closing the detention center there. Although the prison's days are numbered, the policy it has come to symbolize, indefinite military detention of terrorism suspects, is likely to continue. The form it takes will tell us a lot about the strength of President Obama's avowed commitment to protecting civil liberties. Published March 1, 2009

SULLUM: Lott's pot shot

On Monday, after Richland County, S.C., Sheriff Leon Lott announced that he did not have enough evidence to arrest Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps for smoking marijuana at a November party in Columbia, the gold medalist issued a statement of regret. "I used bad judgment, and it's a mistake I won't make again," Mr. Phelps said. "For young people especially - be careful about the decisions you make. One bad decision can really hurt you and the people you care about." Published February 22, 2009