It Is Time to End Federal Executions

It Is Time to End Federal Executions

Last week the federal government executed three inmates. These marked the first federal executions in 17 years. The long lapse in executions may make this seem like a non-issue to some people but all executions are inherently wrong.

The Attorney General’s directive makes federal executions a new priority for the Department of Justice, which means there are likely more to come. Luckily, there’s a bill that has been introduced in the House of Representatives that can put an end to this practice at the federal level. In this article, I will highlight the moral, fiscal, and practical reasons to oppose capital punishment.

From a small-government stance, the death penalty is about as bad as it gets. There is no way the government can be more intrusive than to take someone’s life. By allowing the government to take someone’s life, we are giving it a form of ultimate power. Far too much power to give to the state. The government’s role in criminal justice should be to protect the populace, not to seek an eye for an eye. When a convicted criminal is in imprisoned, they are no longer a threat to the public. There is no additional value or an increased measure of safety by going even further and taking their life.

Not only is capital punishment a pointless gift of power to the state, but it also comes with the very real likelihood that someone innocent could be executed. A 2014 study estimated that at least 4% of people on death row are innocent. It is immoral to continue a practice that we know kills innocent people.

This argument is not to say that it is wrong to want some form of retribution or that murderers do not deserve punishment. The problem with seeking execution as a form of punishment is that allowing the government to decide who lives and who dies, outside of protecting someone from an immediate threat, can open up a Pandora’s box of government authority that can lead to a slippery slope of abuse.

We also must remember that the irreversible nature of capital punishment means we cannot get a life back if a wrongfully accused person is executed. A wrongfully convicted person’s right to life outweighs another person’s desire for retribution. Until we have a system that can guarantee that every convicted person is without a doubt guilty, the death penalty will not be a moral option.

One of the main arguments people make for supporting capital punishment is the fact that they don’t want to pay to feed and house convicted criminals for the rest of their natural lives. They believe that capital punishment is saving them money. This idea is wrong. It is far more expensive to put someone on death row than it is to sentence them to life in prison. The trials alone can cost hundreds of thousands more than a life sentence trial due to the increased man-hours for both prosecutors and public defenders. Then there is the cost of appeals and extra housing costs for death row inmates. A 2016 report by Susquehanna University found that on average a death penalty inmate costs $1.12 million more than a general population inmate. The fiscal argument in support of capital punishment falls flat on its face.

Not only is the death penalty immoral and expensive, but it is also inefficient as a deterrent. There is no evidence that the threat of execution deters violent crime. Evidence suggests that it has no effect on violent crime. A 2008 poll found that over 88% of criminologists do not believe the death penalty is a deterrent. Additionally, a 2010 report by Dartmouth University concluded that capital punishment does not lower homicide rates. If executions do nothing to reduce homicides, there is no real reason to continue them.

There is no moral, fiscal, or public safety argument for the death penalty. One cannot support concepts like limited government and fiscal responsibility while supporting capital punishment. Everyone that believes in these concepts should write to their representative and tell them to cosponsor H.R. 4052. An easy to use tool that helps you craft a letter can be found here.

Rob Faust holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, served four years in the United States Air Force, and has worked as a defense contractor in the greater Washington D.C. area for eleven years. This experience and education motivate him to write about criminal justice and national defense policies.

Trump’s Big Government

Trump’s Big Government

A recent Foreign Policy article makes a case that the role of the government in the U.S. economy has grown under President Trump. Normally this would seem contrary to the values of a conservative administration. However, Trump is no small-government conservative nor is he a free market capitalist. Donald Trump is a big government protectionist and any claims of battling “socialism” or big government are a complete fraud. His actions show a continued push for increased government interference in business and the economy.

The president recently tweeted that he will be monitoring Facebook closely to look for bias against conservatives. It should be noted that the “conservatives” in question are just conspiracy theorists and trolls. Why is the president of the United States monitoring a private company for its business decisions? When did the decisions of private social media companies fall under the purview of the president? The push to regulate social media and instill some sort of government mandated fairness isn’t free market capitalism, it’s just one more instance of big government Trumpism.

President Trump’s big government habits can best be seen on display with his trade policies. He threw out the GOP’s traditional free trade stance and replaced it with a protectionist stance that’s more reminiscent of something you’d see from the left. Trump’s tariffs have already cost the U.S. economy over $7.8 billion, and on Sunday the president stated he would increase tariffs on Chinese goods. His statement about increasing tariffs on Chinese goods was accompanied by false statements about China paying the tariffs and revenue from tariffs benefitting the U.S. economy. In reality, it’s American businesses and consumers that pay tariffs on Chinese goods and the revenue from tariffs has mostly gone towards subsidies to help farmers hurt in Trump’s trade war. President Trump’s defenders praise his tax cuts while ignoring his taxes on trade.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of Donald Trump’s big government is his penchant for eminent domain and asset forfeiture. Constitutional scholar Ilya Somin has a very good write up on Trump’s private property abuses that can be found here. The President’s bogus national emergency, along with being a constitutional crisis, would be a private property nightmare. Normally Republicans would balk at an expensive federal project that requires a massive land-grab, but it’s pretty much par for the course in Trump’s GOP. If the eminent domain for the wall wasn’t bad enough, the president hopes to partially fund the wall through civil asset forfeiture. If you live on the border you may have the distinct honor of losing your property to give the president his vision and maybe even your valuables to pay for it.

The fact is that Trumpism isn’t small government conservativism. The Trump administration is increasing government intrusion on both the state and federal level. Its policies are steeped in tribalism and rhetoric instead of logic and principles. Trumpism is a combination of executive overreach, victim politics, and economic buffoonery all rolled up in a McDouble wrapper.

A Few Thoughts on Birthright Citizenship

A Few Thoughts on Birthright Citizenship

Most have probably already heard that President Trump told Axios in an interview that he seeks to remove birthright citizenship via an executive order.  As many have already explained, this move would be unconstitutional as it would violate the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Constitutional scholar Ilya Somin penned an excellent article on the subject that can be found here.  As I’ve previously pointed out, Donald Trump neither understands the Constitution nor respects the Constitution, and while this just the latest in his unconstitutional illiteracy, I believe that it may be purely for political points.

With the midterm elections just around the corner, Trump is trying to fire up his base.  He’s ramped up his nativist rhetoric by conjuring up images of “invasions” and dangerous immigrants.  This rhetoric accompanies the nativist myths that immigrants are here to steal jobs, get on welfare, and commit crimes, all of which have been debunked by the CATO Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh.  The president and his nativist supporters seek to paint their opponents as pro-invasion prior to the election.  Now they can paint pro-immigration candidates as pro-anchor baby as well, even though “anchor baby” is just a derogatory term for another United States citizen.  When people denigrate the native-born children of immigrants, they are denigrating fellow Americans that were born here under the protection of the United States Constitution.  Let that sink in for a bit.

The arguments against birthright citizenship usually go back to culture and economics.  Removing birthright citizenship would backfire in both regards.  As Alex Nowrasteh points out, birthright citizenship boosts immigrant assimilation.  If we removed birthright citizenship it would lower assimilation for children of immigrants. An apparent lack of cultural assimilation is one of the major arguments used by immigration restrictionists. Why would they seek to remove a policy that increases assimilation? As for the fiscal impacts, a study by the National Academies of Science found that the children of immigrants contribute more to taxes than their parents and the rest of the native-born population.  Removing birthright citizenship would negatively impact the amount of taxes a second-generation immigrant can pay as it would decrease their job opportunities and their wages. The nativist arguments against birthright citizenship fall flat when they are faced with facts.

President Trump’s idea behind removing birthright citizenship is flawed on all levels.  The move would be unconstitutional and an executive order can’t be used to change a constitutional amendment. It’s a move that would damage the economy and hinder immigrant assimilation.  It’s a nativist fantasy that is steeped in xenophobia and emotions rather than facts and respect for the United States Constitution.

Ted Cruz and Republican Love for Authority

Ted Cruz and Republican Love for Authority

 

As midterms draw near Ted Cruz has ramped up his political attacks on his Democrat opponent.  One attack on Twitter was particularly interesting.  In a bizarre tweet, Cruz posted a video of Beto O’Rourke speaking in front of a predominately black church about the murder of Botham Jean.  As most will already know, Botham Jean was shot and killed in his own apartment by an off-duty police officer.  O’Rourke’s message was that it was an injustice for an unarmed black man to be shot in his own home while he was doing nothing illegal.  Just what was Cruz’s intent with this tweet?

Regardless of how you feel about the rest of O’Rourke’s political views, his statements on the murder of Jean are spot on.  The murder of an unarmed citizen in their own home by law enforcement should be horrifying for everyone, especially those that consider themselves proponents of freedom and limited government.  Why would anybody take issue with O’Rourke’s sentiment on this issue?  Perhaps Cruz was demonstrating dog-whistle politics and playing to the identity politics that is rampant in today’s Republican party, or maybe he was displaying a dominant theme among Republicans, the love of authority.

Republicans claim to be proponents of limited government and claim to want accountability in government, yet they push back against investigating and firing bad officers.  They claim to uphold the Constitution, yet they defend officers that violate the Fourth Amendment.  Cruz’s tweet is a perfect example of these contradictions.  A man who claims to be a constitutional conservative, yet he appears to be siding with an officer that deprived a man of his constitutional rights and ultimately his life.  A supposed proponent of limited government who sides with an agent of the government that invaded a private home and murdered the lawful occupant.  What Cruz claims to be and what he really is are two very different things.

Ted Cruz isn’t alone in his blind loyalty to authority.  Whenever there’s publicized police shooting the police defenders come out and tell you how why the shooting was justified and why police have it so bad.  One of their main arguments is that the police have a dangerous job.  Apparently, you’re allowed to take the life of an unarmed person if you have a dangerous job, never mind the fact that law enforcement isn’t even in the top ten most dangerous jobs in America.  If someone criticizes excessive force or expresses the need for accountability among law enforcement, they’re branded as being “anti-cop”.  Desiring accountability among law enforcement isn’t anti-cop, it’s anti-bad cop.  If you want a doctor to be held accountable for malpractice nobody accuses you of being “anti-doctor” but apparently police are in an untouchable group, one that must be protected from criticism.  Now, police are even being treated as a protected class.  In May, the United States House of Representatives passed the Protect and Serve Act, which would make an assault on a police officer a federal hate crime.  Republicans, who are usually critical of hate crime laws, voted 220 to 11 in favor of the bill.  It should be noted that not all Republicans showed this same adoration for authority, the libertarian-leaning Liberty Caucus opposed the bill.

Cruz is pushing an authoritarian agenda in the culture war.  He’s painting himself as pro-cop and his opponent as pro-crime.  His message is spurious as an authoritarian police state isn’t required to cut down on crime.  Questioning authority and holding law enforcement accountable is should be the duty of all Americans.  Cruz has gone with this same line of attacks several times and has attacked O’Rourke’s comparisons of Jim Crow policies and the criminal justice system.  When you look at police shooting statistics and racial disparities in prison sentencing, O’Rourke has a valid point.  As I already stated, you don’t need to agree with the Beto O’Rourke on everything to agree with him on criminal justice.  On criminal justice O’Rourke is right and Ted Cruz is dead wrong.  Cruz and those like him have apparently lost their appetites for liberty and developed a taste for boot polish.

The Expanding Military Blob

The Expanding Military Blob

On August 13, President Trump signed the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.  The act bumps the already massive military budget to a staggering $715 billion for the 2019 fiscal year.  With a military budget that’s already larger than the next seven countries combined, one has to ask if such an increase is really needed.

Proponents of the bill will say that it is needed to replace aging equipment.  They will also point to the pay bump that was given to the troops.  This argument lacks merit as most of the budget is used for expenditures other than payroll.  The budget is littered with expensive pet projects like the F-35, which has become the most expensive defense procurement program in history.  The aircraft is plagued with deficiencies and takes up $7.6 billion of the new budget.  The budget is replacing the tried and tested equipment with faulty pricier equipment.  This is fiscal insanity wrapped in the guise of modernization.

One would think that with increasing defense spending our military would become more efficient and we would be using these funds to defeat our enemies.  More money to kill enemies should mean there are fewer enemies, right?  Sadly, that isn’t the case at all.  Total defense spending grew from $437 billion in 2003 to $818 billion in 2017, during which time our enemies only seem to have increased.  Military operations expanded from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya, Yemen, and beyond.  As of 2017, there are combat troops in fifteen countries and airstrikes in seven countries.  As our spending expands so do our military operations in an ever-growing list of conflicts.  The new bill authorizes $5.2 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces and another $850 million for Iraqi security forces. These two drawn-out conflicts have become a bottomless pit for money.  One estimate already puts the cost of these wars at $5.6 trillion dollars.  Taxpayer money continues to flow into these conflicts with little reward.  Not only is there little reward but there is a much larger backlash.  A 2006 intelligence assessment found that the Iraq War created a new generation of terrorists and fueled more support for jihadist movements.  So not only is the money not defeating terrorism, but it very well be helping to fuel it.  The military-industrial complex serves as a sort of self-licking ice cream cone in which money is pumped into the Middle East to supposedly defeat extremism, which in turn fuels more extremism that requires more money to defeat.  The cycle continues, and the taxpayer keeps paying.

The military isn’t just expensive, it’s downright terrible with managing money.  A prime example of military spending involves a purchase of helicopter gears for $8,123.50 which should have cost $445.  This type of poor money management is rampant at the Department of Defense,  so rampant that the Pentagon tried to bury an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste.  Outside studies have also found gross mishandling of money as a 2016 audit found that the Department of Defense misplaced $800 million.  It gets worse.  A 2016 report by the Department of Defense’s Inspector General found that the Army had made $6.5 trillion in wrongful adjustment accounting entries in 2015.  There’s not only a pattern of mishandling money but a pattern of trying to cover it up.  The Department of Defense has grown fat on an inflated budget and is willing to hide the truth to continue its reckless spending and fiscal gluttony.

We don’t need a bigger military budget, we need fiscal restraint.  Everyone wants to take care of veterans but that’s not what the vast majority of the military budget is used for.  For years our politicians have pumped up the military budget without any sense of fiscal responsibility and have sold it to the public as patriotism.  It’s not patriotic to unquestioningly send money to a department that wastes it or to fund wars that only beget more wars.  It’s not patriotism, it’s insanity.  It’s time to hold the Department of Defense to the same fiscal scrutiny that we do with the rest of the government, and maybe it’s time to employ the all too logical concept of using the Department of Defense simply for defense.  This would not only save money, but it would ultimately make the world a safer place.

The Second Amendment is For All Races

The Second Amendment is For All Races

“No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms” were the words Thomas Jefferson wrote in three drafts of the Virginia Constitution.  There’s a reason for that, it’s a powerful phrase, one with a sentiment that should be remembered and respected by our government.  All Americans, regardless of skin color, should have the full protection of the Second Amendment.  Unfortunately, history has shown that these words have been all but forgotten by law enforcement.
In January 2014, police were called to the house of Gregory Hill for a noise complaint.  In what can only be called a suspicious scenario, the deputies fired four rounds at Hill.  Three rounds hit Hill, killing him.  The official story is that Hill, a black man, pointed a gun at the police.  However, when SWAT arrived on the scene Hill was found dead with an unloaded gun in his back pocket.  Outside of a science fiction story, it is hard to see how someone could place their gun into their back pocket after taking a fatal shot to the head.  The more likely story is that Hill was simply in the possession of a firearm and was shot for it.  Despite the evidence, a jury awarded a paltry $4 to Hill’s family, under the reasoning that he was at fault for being intoxicated.  Not only is this idea that intoxication equals fault an asinine argument, the case ignored Hill’s right to possess a firearm.  The jury’s decision in the Hill case is a reoccurring theme.
Gregory Hill isn’t the first black man to be shot while exercising his Second Amendment rights.  In 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed by Officer Jeronimo Yanez.  Castile was in possession of a legally concealed firearm when Yanez shot and killed him.  Yanez’s reasoning was that he feared for his life due to Castile’s use of marijuana.  Maybe Yanez had recently watched the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness and took the movie’s themes for facts.  That can be the only explanation for his bizarre and unreasonable excuse for ending another man’s life.  This dubious reasoning was apparently enough for the jury as Yanez was acquitted of all charges.  The reasoning was also enough for the NRA’s Dana Loesch who pointed out that Castile was in violation of the law for possession of a controlled substance while carrying a firearm.  Minnesota’s statute 624.7142 makes it a misdemeanor to carry a firearm while under the influence of an illicit substance.  Loesch’s argument is extremely disappointing as the NRA’s mission is to protect the rights of gun owners.  Should Castile’s use of marijuana strip him of his right to bear arms?  Throwing away Second Amendment rights over misdemeanors is a dangerous precedent to set.
It’s not just black men that get a raw deal when they practice their Second Amendment rights, it’s black women too.  In February, a jury convicted Siwatu-Salama Ra, a 26-year-old black woman, of a felony firearm charge.  The case stemmed from a 2017 incident in which she brandished a legally owned firearm at Channel Harvey.  Harvey had rammed her vehicle into Ra’s car while Ra’s two-year-old child was inside the vehicle.  Under Michigan’s “stand your ground law” Ra has the right to defend herself.  Yet, neither the Second Amendment nor the “stand your ground law” stopped Ra from receiving a two-year prison sentence.  It should also be noted that Ra is pregnant and will give birth in prison.  Where is the justice in sending a pregnant mother to prison for exercising her constitutional rights?
These are just the most recent events in an old and oppressive trend.  Denying black Americans the right to bear arms predates the Civil War.  In 1857, the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford was partly based on the idea that granting citizenship to slaves and freedmen would give them the right to bear arms.  Writing the opinion of the court, Chief Justice Roger Taney stated that if persons of African descent were to become citizens they would have the right to keep and carry arms, which the Court worried would result in “inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State”.  Those last four words say it all.  The State did not want those of African descent to have the ability to defend themselves or to revolt against their oppressors.  Granting them citizenship and the right to bear arms would have threatened white supremacy as well as the institutions that benefited from forced labor. Today’s criminal justice system carries on this odious tradition.
If the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to defend against a tyrannical government, shouldn’t it apply to the most disenfranchised groups in our nation?  Shouldn’t they be equally protected under this amendment?  Black Americans shouldn’t be gunned down or imprisoned for practicing the rights many others enjoy.  One should not have to have the same skin color as the framers of the Constitution to be protected by the Constitution.

The Second Amendment is For All Races

A Not So Isolated Incident

Last week police footage went viral of an incident that happened at New Jersey beach. In the video, a 20-year-old woman, Emily Weinman, was punched in the head several times by a police officer while being arrested. The officer’s justification was that Weinman was resisting arrest. Should an officer really need to strike a small woman that is of no real threat? The situation arose from an apparent minor in possession charge, which makes one wonder if escalation and physical force were really required. Those that religiously defend police will tell you that incidents like these are isolated. They may be right if you only saw these stories once or twice a year but when you read the news you see another one…and another one…and another one. How many times can an incident happen before it’s no longer an isolated incident?
The situation in New Jersey makes me think of several other incidents; a Utah nurse physically accosted by an officer for refusing to violate patient rights, a New York man choked to death for selling loose cigarettes, a High School student who was thrown onto the floor by an officer for refusing to leave her seat, the list goes on. These are just the incidents that are recorded, there are those that get less attention or aren’t reported at all. According to the CATO Institute’s Police Misconduct Reporting Project, there were 1,575 incidents of excessive force in 2010. This number likely represents a much bigger problem as many incidents go unreported and there are no government databases to help track them. Over fifteen hundred cases in one year is not an isolated problem, it’s a systemic one. There’s a pattern of police officers using excessive force on the citizens they are sworn to protect.
The use of deadly force aren’t isolated incidents either. According to the Washington Post’s police shooting database, there were 987 people fatally shot by police in 2017. To put that number into perspective let’s compare it to the number of US military members that were killed in Afghanistan within the same year, which was 15. In a year period, police killed over 66 times as many Americans as those killed by the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. While most of these shooting victims were armed, the presence of a weapon doesn’t necessarily mean that an officer is in danger or that a crime has even been committed. Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by an officer during a traffic stop, had told the officer he was legally carrying a firearm and the officer still decided to end his life. Law enforcement defenders like to point out that Castile had apparently been smoking marijuana prior to the shooting, which would be a misdemeanor under Minnesota law as it prohibits carrying a firearm while under the influence of an illicit substance. However, a misdemeanor doesn’t warrant a summary execution. Neither the Second Amendment nor obtaining a permit protected Castile from the rash actions of a police officer. It’s not unreasonable to assume that others could have been practicing their Second Amendment rights when they were shot and killed by the police.
Excessive force is used as a tool against those that are most marginalized. Minorities suffer higher rates of abuse by police and a large percentage of police shooting victims tend to suffer from mental illness. These groups are the least capable of defending themselves against abuse as they often lack the resources to legally fight back. A study by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that those with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by a police officer. Studies have found that black civilians are more than twice as likely to be unarmed than white civilians if they are shot by police, and are more than three times as likely to be victims of excessive force. These numbers point to more than just one or two bad officers, they point to a problem in training and a systemic problem in policing in general.
The fact is that excessive force and lethal force aren’t isolated incidents. To brush them off as isolated or “not the norm” only works to excuse and enable abuse. To create accountability for our law enforcement, which should be our goal for all tax paid organizations, the prevalence of abuse must be acknowledged. It’s time to stop saying these cases are isolated or that they rarely happen and accept the truth and admit we have a policing problem in our country.

The Second Amendment is For All Races

The Failures of Rand Paul

Rand Paul has been considered Constitutional conservative and a non-interventionist. Both are admirable labels to have. However, over the last year, Senator Paul has failed at being either of these things.
As a self-described Constitutional conservative Senator Paul should do his best to oppose those that would step on our nation’s most important charter. Unfortunately, he has begun tow the party line more than he has championed our rights and liberties. Last October, Paul endorsed the Roy Moore’s U.S Senate campaign. This was a betrayal of his supposed constitutionalist beliefs. One would be hard-pressed to find someone who respects the Constitution less than Roy Moore. In 2006, Moore wrote an op-ed on why he believes Muslims shouldn’t serve in Congress. Not only was Moore’s opinion at odds with the First Amendment but he ignores Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution. Also known as the No Religious Test Clause of the Constitution, Article VI, Section 3 states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. Moore served as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama but was twice removed, once for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and later for ignoring the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which found that gay marriage bans violated the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Roy Moore felt that his personal religious beliefs were more important than the rights protected by the Constitution. Moore seems to have an incredibly limited understanding of the Constitution, as he incorrectly claimed that kneeling during the national anthem is illegal. Not only is it legal, it’s protected by the First Amendment. Roy Moore refused to respect the Constitution and, in many instances, lacked a basic understanding of the document. How Senator Paul thought this man could protect and uphold the Constitution is baffling.
Senator Paul has had an admirable history of speaking out against military adventurism and arming foreign conflicts. Last June, he voted to block a $110 million arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, the effort was rejected, and the Saudis obtained more weapons for their inhumane attacks in Yemen. Senator Paul’s actions, in this case, were commendable and principled. Senator Paul was right to grill Mike Pompeo over the constitutionality of Syrian strikes during Pompeo’s confirmation hearing. Unfortunately, that’s where Paul’s principals ended.  On April 23, Senator Paul tweeted that he would support Mike Pompeo’s nomination as Secretary of State. This announcement was in direct contradiction to Paul’s previous statements that he would do everything he could to block Pompeo’s nomination. According to the senator, he was assured by both Mike Pompeo and President Trump that Pompeo is a newfound non-interventionist who believes regime change is a mistake and the United States should end its involvement in Afghanistan. This is a very spurious claim considering the president had recently appointed renowned hawk and regime change fanboy John Bolton as the new National Security Advisor. The fact that Paul took the word of the self-aggrandizing Pompeo and the truth-phobic Trump is extremely troubling. Although Pompeo would have been nominated even without Rand Paul’s vote, it showed that his principals are extremely flexible. Pompeo as Secretary of State and John Bolton as National Security Advisor place two foreign policy hawks in powerful positions.  This should be extremely worrisome for anybody that is opposed to new wars.  Senator Paul’s epic flip-flop set the board for more neoconservative style foreign policy.
Rand Paul’s vote for Mike Pompeo isn’t his only failure in recent memory. In February, Mike Lee, Bernie Sanders, and Chris Murphy introduced S.J.Res.54 to the Senate floor. This bill would end the United States’ unauthorized participation in the Yemen conflict. Congress had not declared war and therefore U.S. participation in the war is in violation of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to declare war. A bill that not only ends America’s involvement in an unjust war but also ends an unconstitutional action should be in Senator Paul’s wheelhouse. Yet, his name was absent from the list of 14 cosponsors of the bill. This bill is the exact thing Rand Paul should be championing. In March, the Senate voted 55 to 44 to table the bill. Paul at least showed up to vote nay against the motion, but had he added his name to the bill it could have had more weight and perhaps helped get it through the Senate. This was a missed opportunity to create a bipartisan motion that would do right by the Constitution and end America’s shameful actions in Yemen.
I used to admire Rand Paul for his outspokenness and the importance he placed on the American Constitution. He has spoken out against military adventurism and promoted peace through diplomacy and trade. Sadly, he has become all bark and no bite, and in some cases, he has gone from barking to sitting and obeying. If Rand Paul wants to back partisan agendas and throw his full support behind anything the White House does that’s his prerogative, but he should stop pretending to be a man of principals when he abandons them so willingly.

The Second Amendment is For All Races

Donald Trump vs The Constitution

Donald Trump is a lot of things; a fan of the Constitution isn’t one of them. Throughout his relatively short time as president Donald Trump has verbally assaulted no less than five amendments. Most of these have come in the form of an ill-conceived tweet and haven’t actually led to any policy changes, but that doesn’t change the fact that the man sitting in the Oval Office has a total disregard for the founding charter of our national government.
The amendment that the president seems to have the most trouble with is the First. This is quite odd considering he is the type of person that benefits from the right to express oneself. In November of 2016, Donald Trump stated that flag burning should be illegal and that offenders should either lose their citizenship or serve jail time. In this statement Trump showed a disregard for not only the First Amendment but most likely the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments as well. The United States Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson that flag burning was protected speech under the First Amendment. The decision in Afroyim v. Rusk found that it was unconstitutional to involuntarily strip a person of their citizenship as it is a violation of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. With Troy v. Dulles, the Supreme Court found that stripping a person’s citizenship as a form of punishment was cruel and unusual, and therefore a violation of the Eighth Amendment. In one tweet Donald Trump showed his urge to violate three amendments. In a later tweet, the president stated that the NFL should lose its tax breaks because it allows its players to kneel during the national anthem. According to constitutional scholar Eugene Volokh, this type of retaliation would violate the First Amendment. The President seems to struggle with the concept of freedom of the press as well, as he has tweeted that he would like to take away press credentials for organizations that give him negative coverage. These tweets show a pattern of complete disregard for our constitutional amendments.
President Trump’s disrespect for the Constitution goes even further and gets even more insidious. He has gone so far as to pardon authorities that violated the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty of violating the Fourth Amendment through racial profiling and unlawful searches and seizures. It’s extremely dangerous for the president of the United States to pardon someone of such crimes and to normalize this behavior. The president should uphold the Constitution and seek to remove those that violate it, not pardon them or reward them.
Recent amendments to come under fire by the president are the Second and Fifth Amendments. After the Parkland shootings, the president stated that he would like to “take the guns first, go through due process second”. What he’s saying is that he would like to waive due process, which would violate the Fifth Amendment, and take people’s guns away without a conviction of any crime. Taking someone’s firearms away without any due process would be stripping them of their Second Amendment rights. This is an especially interesting thing to hear from a Republican president, considering the importance Republicans place on the Second Amendment, it further proves the total disregard this president has for the Constitution. When even the Second Amendment isn’t sacred to a Republican president, there’s something very troubling going on.
The president’s defenders may say that his words are harmless, that they are only words and not policies. This is a very shortsighted way of thinking. President Trump’s words show his intent, that if he had his way he would ignore amendments that he doesn’t agree with. It also sets a dangerous precedent and trend. Trump supporters have shown some alarming views when it comes to the First Amendment. A Pew Research study found a rather low percentage of Trump supporters who believe that the press should be able to criticize leaders and that people should have the right to non-violent protest. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are important parts of the First Amendment. These views show an erosion of respect for our freedoms and constitutional rights. The president’s disdain for freedoms seem to have been adopted by his followers.
The President’s oath of office states that he will defend the Constitution, not dismiss it. Gone are the days of the “Constitutional conservative”, the term has lost any meaning in the era of President Trump. Today’s Republican party is about political strongmen and culture wars instead of limited government and individual liberties. Let us hope that future administrations find more importance in our founding documents than the current one does.

The Second Amendment is For All Races

The Looming Iran Conflict

President Trump’s announcement last week to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was the latest step towards military conflict with Iran. The decision comes after the confirmation of a hawkish Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and places us on a collision course with Iran. The neoconservatives are finally smiling again.
The prospect of a conflict with Iran really started to form when the president nominated former CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and infamous Iran-hawk John Bolton as his new National Security Advisor. John Bolton has a history as one of the most hawkish people involved in United States foreign policy and is part of the small group that still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea. He holds an almost obsessive view of Iran in a manner reminiscent of Elmer Fudd and his obsessed quest to get Bugs Bunny, he even went so far as to pen an op-ed in the New York Times stating we must bomb Iran in order to stop them from obtaining a nuclear weapon. With Bolton in the president’s ear and Pompeo heading the State Department, United States foreign policy will likely see a more aggressive turn.
The question of why President Trump even decided to pull out of the deal should be posed. Pulling out of the JCPOA makes it more difficult to monitor Iran’s nuclear research. According to a 2018 threat assessment from the Director of National Intelligence, the deal enhanced transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities. If monitoring Iran and making sure they don’t obtain a nuclear weapon is the main concern, why pull out of the deal that makes such an inspection possible? After the decision was made to pull out of the JCPOA one of the State Department’s top nuclear experts, Richard Johnson, decided to resign. In his farewell letter, Johnson stated that the Iran deal had “clearly been successful in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon”. With nuclear experts and intelligence agencies saying, the deal was a success, what was the reasoning behind pulling out of the deal if not to create conflict?
If you read the writing on the wall it looks like the United States and Iran are heading for an armed conflict. Neither the United States nor the world have anything to gain from this. Most of our allies aren’t happy with President Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal. Those that would benefit from a war with Iran are Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Sunni Jihadists. Saudi Arabia is currently waging an inhumane campaign against Shiites in Yemen and would love to see the Shiite nation of Iran brought to its knees. Sunni jihadists like ISIS would benefit from the fall of their Shiite rivals and would no doubt take advantage of the chaos and a weakened opposition if we were to attack Iran. There would be nothing to gain for the United States if we were to attack Iran other than death, debt, and a new military quagmire. The security of the world would not be enhanced by such intervention as instability would only benefit radicals and terrorists. Research suggests that even if Iran did gain nuclear capabilities they wouldn’t change their posture and wouldn’t become a larger threat to the world, the idea that they are an imminent threat is exaggerated propaganda. If the United States conducts military operations against Iran it has a very real possibility of becoming Iraq 2.0, where the only winners are those that seek instability in the Middle East.
President Trump’s decision to pull out of the JCPOA has reversed years of diplomatic progress. It has placed us at odds with not only Iran but many of our allies. Each nation has increased their rhetoric after the decision and in that rhetoric, you can hear the war drums beating. American adventurism may have found its next big mistake.

Pin It on Pinterest