Uncle Sam, government slumlord

Vacant Federal Building

It is no secret that the federal government has too much real property.  Plainly put, Uncle Sam is one extremely disorganized landlord that likes purchase, lease, and hoard large amounts of costly real estate.  And as with most operations left to languish at the hands of bureaucrats, the business is terribly wrought with mismanagement and a serious lack of transparency.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has supported the sale of excess government property since the organization’s inception in 1984. After the Bush administration created the Federal Real Property Profile (FRPP) database to help federal agencies manage and dispose of the surfeit property, CAGW has been following its progress and publishing numerous reports on the federal government’s real problems with real property.

Costly government leasing practices have been included on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) high-risk list since 2003. A March 12, 2014 GAO report called on the federal government’s landlord, the General Services Administration (GSA), to improve both the FRPP’s budget structure and streamline the process of disposing of excess “surplus” property to benefit both tenant agencies and taxpayers.

Pro-life death penalty advocates have a lot to think about today

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In a case that could have ripple effects in criminal justice, constitutional rights, race relations, and capital punishment, the 1944 conviction and execution of a black 14-year old boy for a double murder has been vacated by a South Carolina judge.

George Stinney, Jr. was arrested for killing two white girls, aged 8 and 11, confessed to the murders after a brief interrogation by white police officers, stood trial for just three hours with a defense attorney who presented no evidence or witness on his behalf, and was electrocuted less than 3 months later after no appeal was filed. Technically, he was afforded due process, but this child was also clearly railroaded at every turn.

Though I’m not certain, this is the first case I can recall of a conviction overturned after execution. That was a grim milestone many in the anti-capital punishment movement long dreaded.

However, some death penalty advocates argue that executing an innocent person is impossible, either by virtue of the rigors of the criminal justice system and its perpetual appeal process, or by definition, arguing that a person who has been convicted by a jury after a trial is necessarily not innocent, regardless of what actually happened.

GOP picks up last House race of 2014 elections, now hold largest majority since 1949

Martha McSally

Though the 2014 Midterm elections were more than six weeks ago and Republicans were assured an even stronger majority than in the last Congress, one closely-watched race was just decided today.

In Arizona’s 2nd District — a seat once held by Gabrielle Giffords (as AZ-08, due to redistricting) — Republican challenger Martha McSally eked out victory by fewer than 200 votes. McSally challenged Giffords’s former district director, Ron Barber, who was elected after the tragic shooting that left 14 injured and six dead in a supermarket parking lot where Congressman Giffords was holding a community meeting.

McSally is a retied U.S. Air Force Colonel and the first woman to fly in combat since the ban was lifted in 1991.

Roll Call reports:

Republican Martha McSally has officially defeated Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., after a protracted recount in the Tucson-based 2nd District reaffirmed her lead.

MsSally won the seat by 167 votes, picking up six votes after the recount, according to elections officials.

Barber conceded the race shortly after the official tally was released.

“Today I congratulated Martha McSally on her victory, and wished her well in serving Southern Arizonans,” Barber said in a statement. “This result is not the one we hoped for, but we take solace in having spoken out loud and clear for the principle that every legal vote should be counted.”

House Leaders snuck Russian sanctions through Congress while most Members flew home for the weekend

Russian Sanctions

One of the great debates that will likely play some role in the coming Presidential election is the relationship between Congress and the White House, especially in matters of war. Conservatives have long lamented President Obama’s over use of the executive mandate (that almighty pen), and libertarians — and even some high-profile Democrats — have been vocal to the point of town crying the need for Congressional authorization as opposed to “unilateral presidential power” when it comes to foreign policy.

So it is interesting to note that the newest legislation imposing sanctions on Russia, while that country continues to sink into a tarpit of recession, passed the House last Thursday while almost no one was there. The Senate gave its thumbs up Saturday.

Pressure had been building around the White House this week to sign the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the panel’s ranking member, during Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s visit to the United States in September.

It was approved by a voice vote in the Senate on Thursday, but was amended by the House to spread out military aid for Ukraine over three years instead of delivering it in fiscal 2015. The Senate gave the measure its final approval late Saturday.

Support for gun rights is at an all-time high — especially among black Americans

Shooting a Gun

A recent Pew Research poll suggests more Americans are concerned about protecting gun rights than restricting gun ownership. 52 percent of Americans — the highest percentage since Pew began asking the question 20 years ago — favor greater gun freedom, compared to 46 percent of Americans who support stricter regulations. The twenty-year trend shows support for gun rights steadily increasing, while support for restrictions on the decline.

Two Years After Newtown, A Shift in Favor of Gun Rights

The study finds:

For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control. Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.

Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year, and marks a substantial shift in attitudes since shortly after the Newtown school shootings, which occurred two years ago this Sunday.

The balance of opinion favored gun control in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown tragedy in December 2012, and again a month later. Since January 2013, support for gun rights has increased seven percentage points – from 45% to 52% — while the share prioritizing gun control has fallen five points (from 51% to 46%).

Support for gun ownership is up across nearly every demographic.

You can support torture or the Constitution — not both.

Detainees

What is torture, if not punishment? The legal definition of torture is (basically) “severe mental pain or suffering.” When torture is used as an interrogation tactic, many people seem to forget the basis of our justice system: The principle that it is better to let a guilty man go free than to punish an innocent one. This idea dates back to our founding and can even be found in the Bible.

The U.S. Constitution cites rights for the accused and for the convicted, and torture is not on the menu. That is, for American citizens.

Since torture has been used as a form of “enhanced” interrogation on non-Americans, however, the discussion is more than the rule of law. Our very morality is in question.

We must ask ourselves if it is moral to set aside the Bill of Rights in certain situations. These amendments to the Constitution were ratified in order to document the most basic of all human rights that shall not be infringed under any circumstances. The law doesn’t explicitly say “under any circumstances” because it doesn’t have to. People who were born somewhere else are no less deserving of humane treatment, even if, and especially if they have been accused of a crime. Too many government actions are taken with the good intention of saving lives, and rarely are the unintended consequences considered.

Intra-Party rift on funding bill shows serious cracks in Democrat Party’s unified front

Obama and Pelosi

The mainstream media spends an inordinate amount of time reporting on the conservative/grassroots versus “Establishment” rift within the Party. Meanwhile, Democrats tend to lock arms and tackle policy initiatives in a unified manner — until now.

Congress avoided a government shutdown last night when they passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep the government open through the end of the year. For a moment, it looked like Massachusetts Senator and liberal darling Elizabeth Warren would be the face of the government shutdown.

First, let’s take a look at the notion of a government shutdown. When Senator Ted Cruz pushed a government shutdown last year, it was the end of the world for the media. In reality, not many Americans realized the government even shuttered its doors.

Kevin Glass at Townhall has a great piece about how the media covered the possible Warren-fueled shutdown versus the Cruz-fueled shutdown of October 2013. Glass writes:

During last year’s government shutdown when Republicans and Democrats couldn’t come to a compromise on spending provisions to continue to fund the government, the media portrayed it as Ted Cruz’s fault - Ted Cruz’s shutdown, because he wanted to defund Obamacare. This year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to reject the bipartisan spending compromise to get rid of business-friendly deregulatory provisions.

Knock! Knock! Cops want to search your home for your lost, forgotten guns

Cops search homes for guns

Do you know where your guns are located? If not, don’t worry! The police have offered to search your home in order to help you find them.

Earlier this week, Wisconsin Public Radio published a story about a police initiative in Beloit, Wisconsin, to reduce gun violence. The police department has offered to search a resident’s home — for free — to see if their home contains any guns that they, the home owner, may not know about.

No, this story isn’t from April, and this is not a joke.

Beloit Police Chief Norm Jacobs actually thinks this is a good idea. His hope is that some residents will volunteer to have their homes searched and that guns related to crimes will be found. He also likened gun violence to Ebola.

From the story:

Police Chief Norm Jacobs said he doesn’t expect the phone to be ringing off the hook with requests for police to search their homes. He nevertheless hopes the program will encourage people to think about gun violence as an infectious disease like Ebola, and a home inspection like a vaccine to help build up the city’s immune system.

“Gun violence is as serious as the Ebola virus is being represented in the media, and we should fight it using the tools that we’ve learned from our health providers,”

Yes, you read that correctly. He compared “gun violence” to Ebola.

The Republican Plan to Cripple the IRS

Internal Revenue Service

Imagine a world where there were not enough IRS agents to threaten your livelihood by pouring over years of receipts and tax filings. With the Republican takeover of the Senate, the Republican-controlled Congress is looking to severely de-fund the IRS in the wake of the ongoing scandal that revealed the organization targeted conservative organizations and held up nonprofit status approval.

POLITICO would have you believe that’s a bad thing:

Confused taxpayers, jammed help lines and tax cheaters running rampant — the IRS for months has warned that drastic budget cuts will disable an already troubled agency.

Republicans aren’t buying it.

Instead, they’re biding their time until they seize control of both chambers next year, giving them majorities to financially gut the most hated government agencies and new leverage to get agencies to do what they want.

A top priority? Crippling IRS regulatory actions, from Obamacare’s individual mandate to the looming draft rule that will limit political activities of groups like Crossroads GPS. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services are among the others in the cross hairs.

Republicans are already chipping away at the agency’s budget. Tucked into something called a “cromnibus” (a terrible word only politics-obsessed D.C. folks could devise) is a $350 million budget cut to the IRS, and Democrats aren’t really doing anything to push back.

The POLITICO account continues:

Senate Torture Report Gives Ammunition to Enemies

Senator Dianne Feinstein

In a fascinating op-ed in USA Today, Senator Bob Kerrey took the recent Senate Torture Report to task, citing problems with partisanship and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to interview no one in compiling its damning report. The following paragraph is particularly concise:

I do not need to read the report to know that the Democratic staff alone wrote it. The Republicans checked out early when they determined that their counterparts started out with the premise that the CIA was guilty and then worked to prove it.

While Kerrey largely concerns himself with the breakdown of how our committees are supposed to work and the political machinations that prevent them functioning in a healthy manner, the release of the report may actually have an even darker consequence should enemies of our state decide they want to use its contents as propaganda in today’s social media environment of “it appeared online, so it must be true”:

“The FBI, DHS, and [National Counterterrorism Center] assess the most likely impact of the report will be attempts by foreign terrorist organizations … and their online supporters to exploit the report’s findings by claiming they confirm the U.S. government’s perceived hypocrisy and oppression of Muslims,” the FBI and DHS said in a joint intelligence bulletin distributed within hours of the report’s release.

 


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