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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A New Relationship with Cuba May Be a Good Thing, Just Not Necessarily For Who You Think

Cuban Embargo

There are several arguments being bandied about regarding President Obama’s desire to normalize relations with our little Commie friend to the South, Cuba. And they run the gamut: some think it’s a sign of weak negotiating prowess and simply bad policy (we give more than we get, etc.); some think the embargo a failed prospect that should be, in the interests of the Cuban people, tossed to the wind, but that Congress should have been included in the decision; and others think it’s all just a swell idea and hurray because Cuba and the USA are about to be besties! (I’m sure there’s a selfie joke in there somewhere).

Congress, understandably, is pushing back — again, something that will likely be a common theme over the next two years — with Marco Rubio making as clear a statement as any I’ve heard on the matter:

“I anticipate I’ll be the chairman of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee on the Foreign Relations Committee” in the new Congress, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a press conference hours after the release of American prisoner Alan Gross from a Cuban prison was announced along with the administration’s plans to normalize relations with Cuba, including opening an embassy there.

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.”

A Practical & Optimistic Approach to Cutting Big Government

Like a lot of libertarians and small-government conservatives, I’m prone to pessimism. How can you be cheerful, after all, when you look at what’s been happening in our lifetimes.

New entitlement programs, adopted by politicians from all parties, are further adding to the long-run spending crisis.

The federal budget has become much bigger, luring millions of additional people into government dependency.

The tax code has become even more corrupt and complex, with more than 4,600 changes just between 2001 and 2012 according to a withering reportfrom outgoing Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

And let’s not forget the essential insight of “public choice” economics, which tells us that politicians care first and foremost about their own interests rather than the national interest. So what’s their incentive to address these problems, particularly if there’s some way to sweep them under the rug and let future generations bear the burden?

Please, no: Hillary vs. Jeb 2016 is already happening

Hillary vs. Jeb 2016

Please, no. It’s already happening.

The slow-moving train toward the inevitable candidacies of both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush left the station this week with the latter’s announcement on Facebook that he would launch a leadership committee in January to begin a possible run for the White House.

The Facebook note reads:

Columba and I are so proud of the wonderful adults our children have become, and we loved spending time with our three precious grandchildren.

We shared good food and watched a whole lot of football.

We also talked about the future of our nation. As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.

In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.

This, apparently, caught the Clinton machine off guard.

POLITICO reports on this “tortoise and hare” race:

 


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