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Steve Chapman


What’s wrong with victims’ rights?

Criminals are generally despised, and cops are not universally beloved. But one participant in the criminal justice system has no enemies: victims of crime. They’re the Sara Lee of American politics. Everybody doesn’t like someone, but nobody doesn’t like victims.

Obama and the appeasement myth

Hawks in the wild tend to be solitary creatures. But those in Washington, D.C., often appear in noisy flocks. As Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his predatory activities in Ukraine, conservatives here are unanimous on how the Obama administration should respond: by emulating the Bush administration.

Harmless drones get federal flak

In March 2012, volunteers spent four days looking for a 2-year-old boy who wandered away from his home outside Houston, Texas. They found him only after volunteers reviewing images captured by a drone-mounted aerial camera saw a flash of red in a pond that had already been searched. It turned out to be a shirt worn by the child, who had drowned.

Lifting the lid on campaign contributions

The Supreme Court decision killing limits on total donations to political candidates means billionaires will be running amok. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson can lay out astronomical sums to help Republicans. Oilmen Charles and David Koch can see him and raise him. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg can burn through his fortune like a blowtorch.

Boots on the ground in Ukraine?

The United States government has a dangerous penchant for military intervention, so after Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea, it was a relief that no one talked about sending troops or deploying bombers. Sen. John McCain scotched any such notion by acknowledging glumly that “there is not a military option.”

NSA surveillance and the dangers of power

Every so often, we get proof that Barack Obama, when confronted with a grievous abuse of government power by his administration, will do the right thing. Sometimes, I mean. When he can’t get away with it anymore, that is. Just as soon as he’s tried everything else.

How Hobby Lobby will hurt conservatives

Lawyers for Hobby Lobby this week urged the Supreme Court to let companies opt out of certain health insurance rules for religious reasons, and they have a good chance of success. If employers are allowed to refuse to provide coverage that pays for certain types of contraception, it will be a big victory for religious conservatives. Or will it?

Obama’s overtime gambit

If you take an economics course, you may learn about the different events that can cause an increase in workers’ pay. The demand for the product a worker makes may rise, causing the demand for workers to go up. The supply of workers may decline, causing employers to bid up wages to keep the ones they have.

Putin’s illusory triumph

Bungling is an inherent feature of American foreign policy. Even with the best of intentions, our presidents miss warning signs, overreact to minor threats, fail to dissuade other governments from doing things we oppose and wade into situations that blow up in our faces.

The CIA reminds us who’s boss

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a stalwart ally of the nation’s intelligence agencies, says she is appalled to learn they have been spying on her committee, ignoring federal law and possibly trampling on the Constitution in a heavy-handed targeting of innocent people. Hey! Maybe now she knows how the rest of us feel.

The futility of sanctions on Russia

In 1980, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter came up with a way to retaliate: stopping grain sales to Moscow. The boycott, said Commerce Secretary Philip Klutznick, would prove to the world that “aggression is costly” and induce the Soviets to “halt their aggression.”

Our irrelevance in Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Crimea occurred in a place little known to Americans, for reasons rooted in a tangled and bloody history. The showdown between President Vladimir Putin and the new Ukrainian government is a fight about tangible matters of intense mutual interest.

Climate change and the perils of inaction

A basic rule for assessing policy is to ask what bad things it makes likely or even possible. Conservatives are fond of citing the law of unintended consequences, which they know can produce negative effects dwarfing the envisioned benefits of a particular measure.

Solitary confinement and its costs

After journalist Terry Anderson was taken hostage by a terrorist group in Lebanon in 1985, he spent much of six years in tiny cells completely by himself. Trapped in solitude, he found his mind inexorably breaking down.

The myth of ‘traditional marriage’

In the battle over same-sex marriage, opponents are strongly in favor of deferring to the wisdom of our ancestors. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence uses the prevailing formula when he says, “I support traditional marriage.” The Christian Coalition of America urges its friends to “Say ‘I Do’ to Traditional Marriage.”

Republicans see the light on immigration

In 2012, the Republican Party stood for the ancient biblical proposition that the sins of the father should be visited upon the son. Mitt Romney captured its presidential nomination while vowing to veto the Dream Act, which would allow immigrants brought here illegally as children to gain citizenship.

Our wasted effort in Afghanistan

The United States government and the Taliban don’t agree on much, but they have found one point of convergence: Both think someone needs to get a hose and put out the flames engulfing Hamid Karzai’s pants.

The no-fly list takes a hit

Americans have always treasured the freedom to pick up and go anywhere they please. Our forebears had to travel to get here, often had to travel more after they arrived and sometimes moved on to uncharted territories out West only to return East. No one stopped them, whatever direction they were going.

The bipartisan commission ruse

In the polarized atmosphere of Washington, there is one thing that both parties can usually agree on: convening independent, bipartisan panels of respected experts to devise solutions to tough problems. Actually, there’s one more thing they can usually agree on: ignoring what those groups recommend.

Obama retreats from the war on drugs

The American people once elected a president who favored decriminalizing marijuana. Jimmy Carter endorsed the change in 1976 as a candidate and again after taking office. Nothing happened, and more decades have been wasted in the war on cannabis and other drugs.

Mass surveillance proves pointless

In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.

Bob Gates is tired of war

Robert Gates may be the only CIA director or defense secretary who ever took part in peace demonstrations during the Vietnam War. In his 1996 memoir — the one nobody noticed — he says that in 1970, as a young CIA employee and Air Force veteran, he marched in Washington to protest the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.

Chicago fights gun rights, and loses

Since the death of communism in most of the places where it once prevailed, North Korea and Cuba function mainly as educational exhibits for an irrelevant and unsuccessful ideology. When it comes to the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, the city of Chicago fills a similar role.