Category: Law

How to address the issue of “Addiction”

| July 9, 2015 | Reply

This TED speech by Journalist Johann Hari criticizes conventional “war on drugs” and “just say no” approaches, making ample reference to data from Portugal, which ended its war on drugs 15 years ago.

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Psychedelic drugs: Safer than riding a bike or playing soccer

| June 29, 2015 | Reply

This report from RAW story: Psychedelic drugs like MDMA and magic mushrooms are as safe as riding a bike or playing soccer, and bans against them are “inconsistent with human rights”, according to the authors of a letter published in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal today.

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About “race”

| June 21, 2015 | Reply

On FB, someone recently complained that race is not a legitimate concept. The writer claims to be Libertarian and wants to dismantle all government laws protecting citizens on the base of racism. Here is my response:

It is my position that you are overstating the role of Obama in peddling of “race” as a legitimate concept. The peddlers of racialism are ubiquitous, all stripes of people want to believe that they can use the skin color and body features as a proxy for a personality type. It’s been going on for many decades and centuries and, in my opinion, it’s time to put this stupidity to a stop. That said, I have no idea of how to do this, but the first step would be to say “Halt!” to everyone, all the pundits, social workers, media reporters, judges and every one else who claims that there is some scientific or social basis for claiming there to be sub-races to the human race. It’s much like climate change. There is no basis for the belief in race (or the denial of human-caused climate change), yet the stupidity has taken on a life of its own. Careful scientists with expertise in biology have weighed in, almost entirely in unison.

There is no “black” or “white” or “Chinese” race. Belief in race has no more basis than the belief in phrenology, and if there were big money, careers and xenophobia making use of phrenology, that silliness would still be with us too. Skin is an organ. It comes in different shades of brown. If skin were transparent, we’d be manipulating/exploiting/threatening each other on the colors of our livers, kidneys and lungs too. But I write this with a caveat – There are still many bigots running amok, much of this caused by the widespread misconception that there is such a thing as race. I would not outright eliminate all laws that protect people from racial discrimination. I would not make it an element of these laws that one is of a particular “race,” however, because I don’t believe in race. Rather, the protection would be given to anyone who is fired/excluded on the basis that they are perceived to be of a certain “race,” even though there is no such thing as race. In short, there can be racism even though there is no such thing as race, and people should be protected from racism, because it is a pernicious belief that causes widespread harm to society, in addition to causing specific harm to specific people.

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What it takes to get fired as head of the DEA

| April 21, 2015 | 1 Reply

So . . . carrying on a non-stop immoral war on drugs that ruins the lives of millions of Americans–a war that is much worse than the medically treatable problem of drug addictions–is not a problem. But a tiny-blip-on-the-radar sex scandal IS enough to get, Michele M. Leonhart, the leader of the DEA, fired. We have such fucked up priorities here in the US. There is a voice in my head keeps saying that we are getting what we deserve for letting viral fear, corrupt money, state-orchestrated violence and fake piety dictate how we handle so many major policy issues. The war on drugs is an especially distressing case in point.

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War on Drugs: An economic analysis

| March 19, 2015 | Reply

The War on Drugs is terrible for taxpayers and users, because it treats a medical problem as though it were a criminal problem, filling our expensive prisons with millions of non-violent persons, and making violent persons out of non-violent persons. Yet we carry on with this “war.” This article by Benjamin Powell focuses on an economic analysis of the “War,” discussing the many other counterproductive aspects of the war. Here is an excerpt:

Prohibition also creates more problems for non-users. Because it increases the cost for addicts to support their habit, many resort to stealing in order to get their needed high. In a study of the U.S. drug war on Latin America, economist David R. Henderson estimated that if the same mark-ups applied to cocaine as to coffee, which would be roughly accurate with cocaine legalization, then cocaine’s price in the United States would fall by about 97%.[12] If cocaine and other narcotics lost the price premium caused by the drug war, few, if any, addicts would need to resort to crime to afford their habit.

On the supply side of the market, the drug business is violent precisely because it is illegal. Illegal businesses can’t settle disputes in court, so they do so through violence. If drugs were legalized, drug suppliers could settle disputes by turning to courts and arbitrators. One reason that large dealer networks and organized crime outcompete smaller dealers is that they can partially provide their own internal dispute resolution.

When alcohol was prohibited in the early twentieth century, violent criminal gangs catered to the nation’s thirst for alcohol. When Prohibition ended, normal businesses returned to the market and violence subsided.

Economist Jeffery Miron found that both alcohol prohibition and drug prohibition enforcement efforts have increased the homicide rate in the United States. He estimates that the homicide rate is 25-75 percent higher due to prohibition.[13] In short, the violence associated with drugs, both by users to support their habit and by gangs supplying the drugs, is a product of prohibition rather than a rationale for prohibition.

These costs, taken together with the above supply and demand analysis, indicate that the very concerns that animate drug prohibitionists—the harm to users and the violence in society—should cause them to oppose drug prohibition.

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Why copyright laws don’t actually protect many content owners

| March 18, 2015 | Reply

Sad story here by Alex Wild, nature photographer, who has been a constant victim of infringement despite the existence of copyright laws. How overwhelming is his battle?

For a concise idea of what could go wrong, let me indulge in a list of recent venues where commercial interests have used my work without permission, payment, or even a simple credit:

Billboards, YouTube commercials, pesticide spray labels, website banners, exterminator trucks, t-shirts, iPhone cases, stickers, company logos, eBook covers, trading cards, board games, video game graphics, children’s books, novel covers, app graphics, alt-med dietary supplement labels, press releases, pest control advertisements, crowdfunding promo videos, coupons, fliers, newspaper articles, postage stamps, advertisements for pet ants (yes, that’s a thing), canned food packaging, ant bait product labels, stock photography libraries, and greeting cards.

Yesterday evening, while Googling insect references in popular culture, I discovered that a small Caribbean island helped itself to a photograph I took in 2008. My photo shows a slave-raiding ant, a fascinating species that survives as a parasite on the labor of other ants. But the image had been imprinted on the back of a commemorative one-cent piece. Perhaps symbolically, this is one cent more than I received for my part in bringing the coin to the public.

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Public Justice: CFPB should ban mandatory arbitration

| March 8, 2015 | 1 Reply

Arthur Bryant of Public Justice argues that the CFPB should ban mandatory arbitration.

Recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court have given banks, credit card companies, and all other lenders a license to steal billions from consumers and small businesses. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has the power to rescind that license. On Tuesday, at a hearing in Newark, the CFPB is expected to announce whether it will do so. If it does what the facts and law require, it must.

In two cases in the past four years, the Supreme Court allowed corporations to charge allegedly illegal fees to millions of consumers and small businesses, net billions, and walk away with the money. The corporations’ form “agreements” barred all lawsuits against the companies, required consumers and small businesses to pursue their claims individually in arbitration, and banned class actions. The court enforced these agreements, even though that meant the companies would never be held accountable.

Sadly, these two cases weren’t anomalies. Far too many lenders cheat and mislead consumers, charging inflated and illegal fees or interest. But the court has given them near-total immunity.

Thankfully, that can be changed – and should be soon. When Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, it created the CFPB and required the new agency to study the use of arbitration clauses by lenders. Congress said that the CFPB should prohibit or limit their use if it found that they harm consumers. The evidence proves that forced-arbitration clauses hurt consumers badly.

This issue affects everyone in America.

Here’s the bottom line:

The primary effect of mandatory-arbitration clauses is to suppress claims by consumers, allow corporations to break the law, and prevent our civil justice system from providing injunctive relief (like having debts forgiven or credit records cleared) and compensation to millions of consumers;

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The CFPB should ban mandatory arbitration clauses and rescind the lenders’ license to steal. Consumers are entitled to what is engraved on the front of the Supreme Court – “Equal Justice Under Law” – not what the Supreme Court has given them:

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Senator Elizabeth Warren warns us about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

| March 2, 2015 | Reply

Elizabeth Warren warns us about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as reported by the Public Citizen Consumer Blog:

Sen. Warren’s op-ed in the Post this week is a must-read, and a must-share: it explains how our country’s consumer, worker, and environmental protection laws could be undermined by a dispute-resolution clause in the TPP, currently being negotiated. More generally, the danger Sen. Warren describes is a potent illustration of how trade deals that may sound benign in terms of their general aims can contain some pretty radical giveaways to corporate interests.

Here’s a flavor:

[The Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause, or ISDS] would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.

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Suits filed regarding municipal fees

| December 9, 2014 | Reply

The following press release was issued today regarding suits filed by my law firm (Campbell Law, LLC) working alongside the Law Clinic of St. Louis University School of Law and ArchCity Defenders. At issue are illegal fees being charged by many municipalities. In this particular set of cases, many cities are charging people “warrant fees” when they attempt to pay overdue traffic offenses. We’ve alleged that these fees are illegal because they are prohibited by Missouri State Law. We intend to pursue additional cases regarding illegal municipal fees as additional violations and victims come to light. My law partners ( John Campbell and Alicia Campbell ) and I are proud to be part of this endeavor.
Here is today’s press release:

SEVEN CITIES ARE SUED FOR COLLECTING ILLEGAL FEES IN MUNICIPAL COURTS

St. Louis (Dec. 9, 2014) – A team of attorneys from three public interest law offices filed class action lawsuits against seven St. Louis County municipalities for charging illegal fees in their municipal courts. The lawsuits come amid new scrutiny of municipal courts and the systemic issues of high fees and warrants that adversely affect low-income defendants.

The class action lawsuits were filed against Ferguson, a city at the center of the focus on policing and municipal courts, as well as Beverly Hills, Fenton, Jennings, Pine Lawn, Wellston and Velda City. The suits claim that fees for warrants are not authorized by state law.

Plaintiffs in the seven separate suits are represented by attorneys John Campbell, Alicia Campbell and Erich Vieth of the private public interest law firm of Campbell Law, LLC; Thomas Harvey and Michael-John Voss of ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit organization serving the homeless and working poor; and Professors John Ammann and Brendan Roediger of the Saint Louis University Legal Clinics.

“There are serious problems in our municipal courts, and these lawsuits are an attempt to hold these cities accountable by forcing them to remedy the wrongs of the past,” said John Campbell of Campbell Law.
Professor Brendan Roediger of the Saint Louis University Legal Clinics said, “Our goal is to stop cities from filling their coffers with illegal fees and from continuing to conduct for-profit policing.”

“The cities have charged an untold amount of money illegally to thousands of people; money that could have gone to help families and help the economy,” said Thomas Harvey, executive director of ArchCity Defenders. “We hear municipal officials and police repeatedly say citizens must be held accountable for their actions. Now it is time for these municipalities to be held accountable.”
The lawsuits call for a judgment that the fees violate state law, an accounting of who paid the illegal fees and how much, and for reimbursement to defendants who were forced to pay the fees to avoid jail time or warrants. The suits also include a claim under the Missouri Merchandise Practices Act, the state’s consumer fraud statute, alleging the cities attempted to deceive defendants into paying the fees.

Ferguson recently repealed the ordinances charging the illegal fees, but made no effort to reimburse defendants who were charged the illegal amounts, including a $50 warrant recall fee and a $15 failure to appear letter fee.

The team of lawyers expects to file lawsuits against additional cities in St. Louis County in the near future.

For more on these issues, check out this detailed article in the Washington Post:  “How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty.”

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