Recreational Weed Now Legal in Oregon

Today marks the first day that recreational weed is legally available (kind of) in Oregon. Oregon residents voted to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes back in November 2014. Oregonians will now be allowed to possess eight ounces of marijuana for recreational use, but they cannot legally buy or sell it just yet. A person may grow their own weed or receive it as a gift, and are only allowed to carry around one ounce at a time. Smoking in public remains illegal.

From Huffington Post:

"We’re turning a page," Blumenauer said Tuesday. "We are suffering, and have for years, with unequal application of justice ... [We’re now] able to focus on our attention of enforcement on people who would put it in the hands of our children, and away from criminalizing behavior that most people think should be legal for adults."

Lawmakers are still working on making it easier for people to clear convictions from their record. A House bill overwhelmingly approved last week still needs Senate approval.

For now, it's not legal to buy or sell marijuana -- though local organizations are circumventing that by giving weed away. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has said it won't be ready to dole out licenses to sell until late next year.

Legislation that still needs House and Senate approval would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell weed to the public as early as Oct. 1, The Oregonian reports. That bill will make pot easy to obtain for adults, considering there are 269 medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon -- more than there are McDonald's or Starbucks locations in the state, Vocativ reports.

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Gov. Kasich Signs Pro-Life Budget That Helps Pregnancy Centers, Could Close Abortion Facilities

Ohio Governor John Kasich reaffirmed Ohio’s pro-life stance this week when he signed into law a state budget that helps pregnancy centers and holds abortion clinics accountable by closing those that fail to meet basic health and safety standards.

LifeNews.com reports:

Kasich signed the State of Ohio’s 2016-2017 Budget, which provides funding for Ohio’s over 140 pregnancy centers. These life-affirming centers provide material assistance to pregnant women in need, as well as parenting classes for mothers and fathers alike, a service that many centers consider a core element in empowering families.

Across the country, there are over 3,000 pregnancy help centers, outnumbering abortion facilities by a ratio of 6:1. In Ohio, they outnumber abortion providers by a ratio of 18:1, according toOhio Right to Life.

[…]

According to [Ohio Right to Life], the budget also includes pro-life measures that could restrict abortion facilities. The first is an amendment that defines “local” following an abortion facility’s attempt to enter into a contract with an out-of-state hospital in order to stay open.

The second is a requirement that the Ohio Department of Health respond to a facility’s license application in reasonable time. Failure to approve the application within that time will result in the facility’s closure.

“With Ohio facing an infant mortality crisis, it’s absolutely essential that our state enlists and promotes as many community partners as possible to help pregnant women and their children survive birth and their first birthday,” said Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, reports LifeNews. “We know that abortion increases the risk of premature birth, and that premature birth increases the risk of infant mortality. It’s clear that our state needs a consistent ethic that affirms life at all of its stages, and pregnancy centers are the perfect partners for promoting that.”

Krider also noted the importance of showing compassion to women facing crisis pregnancies.

“As a pro-life state, we have to be working to hold abortion facilities accountable, while also promoting positive alternatives to the heartbreaking practice of abortion,” she said, reports LifeNews. “Showing compassion for women and opposing abortion are not mutually exclusive. We have to stop the abortion industry’s disingenuous attempts to turn women against their babies. We have to truly love them both.”

The pro-life group thanked Kasich, a presumptive presidential candidate, who’s been instrumental in promoting the dignity of every human life in The Buckeye State.

VA Denies Iraq War Vet Medical Care Because They "Aren't Taking New Patients"

The Department of Veteran's Affairs apparently doesn't have time for the nation's veterans and recently turned at least one young man away after he sought treatment for PTSD. The excuse? The VA just isn't "taking new patients right now." More from USA Today

Iraq war veteran Chris Dorsey figured that no one would believe he had been turned away from a U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs clinic when he sought an appointment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

So when he went on Tuesday to another facility, the VA Oakwood, Georgia, Community Based Outpatient Clinic, he flipped on his smartphone camera.

On the video, Dorsey is heard waiting patiently in line for more than 5 minutes. When he reaches the check-in counter, he informs the desk he needs a transfer from the Athens, Georgia, VA system and an appointment.

The response?

"We're not accepting any new patients — not this clinic," the VA employee behind the desk says, without providing any extra information, assistance or guidance for treatment.

Unforunately, Dorsey's case isn't an isolated incident. According the the Armed Forces Foundation, the average wait time for veterans to see a specialist for PTSD at the VA is 41 days.

"If it's happening to me, I can't just be be the only one," he said.

Waiting periods for any veteran can be deadly, but especially those suffering from PTSD. On average, veterans commit suicide every 65 minutes of every single day. Since 2001, 2,500 active-duty military personnel have committed suicide. Our vets need help and they need it immediately when they make the decision to seek it out. This is completely unacceptable. 

The War on Marriage

Editor’s note: This author interview originally appeared on ConservativeBookClub.com.

Congratulations Dr. Paul Kengor on the release of your new book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage! Can you give us an overview of the book?

Well, as you can see, I avoid provocative topics. Really though, in all seriousness, I wrote this book because of my unique background—decades of researching, studying, writing, and lecturing on ideologies and especially radical ideologies like communism, socialism, and secular progressivism. I know from that background how communists, socialist utopians, and (more recently) secular “progressives” have long sought to reshape, redefine, and effectively take down natural-traditional-biblical family and marriage. This has been a long march ongoing for about two centuries. They’ve long looked to alter the so-called “nuclear family.”

I know that ideological past. I know how it fits into the present. Most people don’t, including those today who are shockingly and unhesitatingly willing to redefine the historic Western/Judeo-Christian conception of male-female marriage. The vast majority of those who are willing to do that have no idea of the deeper, darker ideological-historical forces long at work in this wider movement. They are signing on to something that, whether they know it or not, have important links to much older and more sinister attempts by the far left to redefine family and marriage.

And so, my book details that longer effort. It goes through characters ranging from Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Robert Owen, and Charles Fourier to the likes of Margaret Sanger, Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, the Bolsheviks, the Frankfurt School of cultural Marxists, the New Left, and assorted ‘60s radicals from Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to Mark Rudd and Tom Hayden, just for starters.

What three takeaways would you like readers to leave with after reading your book?

First, for two centuries, the far left—from communists to socialists—have sought to takedown the natural-traditional-Biblical understanding of family and marriage. Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto candidly spoke of the “abolition of the family,” which, even then, in 1848, they could rightly describe as “an infamous proposal of the communists.” These two men did not like marriage and family. “Blessed is he who has no family,” Marx wrote to Engels, who agreed wholeheartedly, refusing marriage to his many suffering mistresses.

Second, for the first time ever, the far left has finally found a vehicle to enable this long-sought takedown of family and marriage: gay marriage. This 21st-century novelty is utterly without precedent in the ancient sweep of human history. Though communists, socialists, and even early progressives could have never conceived the idea of same-sex marriage, they are now firmly on-board for this fundamental transformation of marriage and family. Amazingly, groups like Communist Party USA, its flagship publication People’s World, and even Fidel Castro’s Cuba—once militantly anti-gay—now support gay marriage.

Third, the American mainstream and even the gay community itself have no idea that their support of same-sex marriage actually enables the far left to achieve the takedown of marriage it has long desired. Most chillingly, they have no idea that their support of gay marriage also allows the far left to attack religion—its long-reviled foe—in a way it never thought possible with such wide public acceptance. They are oblivious to the older, deeper forces at work.

What is your opinion of the recent Supreme Court case involving gay marriage?

I’m not surprised. It was inevitable. This country and culture was destined to redefine marriage, period. America as we once knew it is long gone. It’s now comprised of people who feel they can arrogate unto themselves the right to redefine whatever they want. If you tell a modern American that her dog is a dog but she wants it to be a cat, then damn it, it’s a cat. Since January 22, 1973, we’ve rendered unto ourselves the right to redefine life itself. It’s up to each and every woman in America to decide whether the child in her womb is a baby or not.

I think of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s woeful proclamation in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), affirming abortion as a “constitutional right” in all 50 states: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Chew that one over. If Anthony Kennedy interprets liberty to mean that every American possesses his or her own right to define existence, meaning, the universe, and life itself, then why not marriage? For a country of people than can redefine life itself, and come up with their own meaning of meaning, redefining marriage is small potatoes. Really, this country and culture is toast. America, RIP.

What the court’s decision also means is a long, dark, protracted battle for religious believers who dare invoke their faith against a newly invented constitutional “right” to gay marriage. They are in big trouble. With this decision, the religious persecution will now begin full throttle. It’s amazing that these five justices have done this even after several years of watching what liberals—in the name of “tolerance,” of course—will do to those who dare to disagree with them on redefining marriage. This stunning new constitutional invention of “gay marriage” will be an extraordinary wrecking ball for the secular left to smash religious people who disagree with them.

A long period of persecution against religious Americans was launched on June 26, 2015.

Some of our readers may disagree with your view on marriage. What would you say to those who believe that same-sex marriage is an issue about equality, or a civil right itself?

Well, consider all of my earlier points. But I’ll add some more.

This requires a much longer answer on so many levels, but the absolutely fundamental starting point must be this: We have to understand and remember that two men or two women simply can’t form a “marriage.” The very notion of gay “marriage” starts from a completely flawed premise. Marriage has always been a male-female bond. That’s simply what it means. A tree is a tree, a dog is a dog, a cat is a cat, the moon is the moon, and marriage is marriage.

When we as conservatives start acquiescing to a totally relativistic culture’s redefinition of the most fundamental things, then we’re little different from progressives, and we’ve certainly ceased to be true conservatives. A progressive can come up with a new definition, a new meaning, and a new right over a grande skim latte at Starbucks one morning. That’s what progressives do; they have no absolutes, no standards. The only thing that progressives know, and do, is change. They can come up with a totally new definition of marriage tomorrow, next week, next month, or next decade. And they will do so, moving beyond same-sex marriage as well.

In fact, in my book, read closely my section where I discuss the “progressive” group “Beyond Marriage.” They’ve been ready for nearly 10 years to use same-sex marriage to move the culture and legal system beyond traditional marriage entirely.

This is a cultural revolution, folks. If you don’t understand that, then you’re quite ignorant and need to get up to speed really, really quick. The typical gay-marriage supporter has no understanding of how breaking this model, this male-female mold, will open the floodgates and truly change everything. This will undoubtedly create a revolutionary fissure in marriage and family.

One added thought on this: As for conservatives who support gay marriage, all I can say is that supporting gay marriage is absolutely and utterly incompatible with the basic tenets of conservatism. Click here for a recent piece I did on this. Conservatives conserve and preserve the time-tested values and ideals that we know have been good for people, for cultures, for societies. We don’t seek to fundamentally transform human nature and human relations through brand new revolutionary ideas that have never been done before. That’s what the other side does.

If you could advise any of the 2016 GOP presidential candidates, how would you advise them to approach the topic of marriage?

Though the Supreme Court ruling is bad for America, it’s actually politically good for the 2016 Republican presidential candidates. It will allow them to stick to something politically more popular with the electorate: protecting religious freedom from the gay-marriage onslaught.

Though Americans are split on or slightly favor gay marriage, most do not support (not yet anyway) the state forcing religious believers to bake cakes or photograph or provide flowers or whatever for a gay-wedding service that violates their religious beliefs. The candidates can now focus on that aspect of the gay-marriage debate. The supremes have spoken: gay marriage is a “constitutional right” in America now. The candidates can’t do much about that, but they can strive to protect religious liberty.

Also, I would advise the candidates to generally appeal to their faith on this issue. Most of the candidates, if not all, are religious, and (I believe) Christians. As Christians, it would be incredibly arrogant of us and downright heretical and blasphemous to render unto ourselves the right to redefine something that heretofore has been the province of the laws of nature and nature’s God. The male-female unitive, procreative, and marital bond is as old as Genesis and was reaffirmed by Christ himself in the first book of the New Testament, where Christ told his followers that humans cannot tear asunder what God ordained.

As Christians, we have no right to redefine marriage.

What books or conservative-themed books, influenced your political philosophy?

That would be a long list, but I’m often reminded in this marriage debate of a remark by Whittaker Chambers in his classic Witness, which bears very much on the focus and argument of my book, Takedown. Witness was a favorite book of Ronald Reagan as well. Reagan and Chambers both often noted that communists (read: radical leftists) were their own gods. Whittaker Chambers noted precisely this, as would Reagan in his March 1983 Evil Empire speech, where Reagan quoted Chambers on the point. Chambers declared that Marxism-Leninism is actually the world’s second oldest faith, first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden with the words of temptation, “Ye shall be as gods.”

Today’s liberals/progressives, like their leftist forebears, have taken it upon themselves to reinvent our very order in their own image. They are their own determinants of truth, of morality, of what is right and wrong. They render under themselves the right to determine everything from what is marriage to what is life. Again, these things used to be the province of nature and nature’s God. And when someone disagrees with liberals’ attempts to remake these sacred institutions in their own image, they are attacked with hellfire and brimstone.

And here is where modern liberals, secular progressives, and old socialists and communists all come together and share common ground. They all unite, across the generations and centuries, in a joint willingness to permanently alter the historic Western/Judeo-Christian understanding of male-female matrimony. They reject the idea of a single absolute arbiter. They share the fatal conceit first expressed in the Garden of Eden: Ye shall be as gods.

Email Upchuck: State Department Releases First Batch Of Clinton's Correspondences

After a judge ruled that the Clinton emails must be released on a rolling basis, the State Department dumped the first 3,000 of such correspondences last night. They contained more information about Sidney Blumenthal, the fear that she might not last long in the new administration, and how she was reportedly engaged in foreign affairs, specifically the debate about the Afghan surge. Oh, and her private email address was a “hot commodity," with some containing correspondences with journalists.

On Blumenthal, the emails show that the longtime Clinton aide was sought for advice:

Clinton has described Blumenthal’s advice as unsolicited. However, it’s clear from the emails that — at least in her first year in office — the two were in regular contact and Clinton sometimes sought Blumenthal’s counsel.

“Are you still awake?” she wrote in an email to Blumenthal sent on Oct. 8, 2009, at 10:35 p.m. that does not provide details on the issue prompting the message. “I will call if you are.”

Clinton even attempted to get Blumenthal a State Department post in 2009, but aides to President Barack Obama blocked the appointment because of what they viewed as Blumenthal’s role in spreading rumors about Obama during the 2008 presidential primary fight with Clinton.

He would later go on to be a consultant for the Clinton Foundation at a rate of $10,000 a month.

Besides Blumenthal, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rahm Emanuel, Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Clinton, and David Axelrod had Clinton’s private email address (via National Journal):

A new batch of Hillary Clinton's emails released by the State Department make one thing clear—lots of people wanted Hillary Clinton's email.

More specifically, they wanted her email address—a non-governmental address that, as is widely-known now, was hosted on a private server she controlled. Following a court order, the State Department on Tuesday released more than 3,000 pages of emails that Clinton had turned over from her server, with several more batches of messages due before January 2016.

The newest tranche of messages, all of them from 2009, show that many top officials and powerful figures inside and outside the administration had Clinton's address, but some didn't.

In one exchange from June 8 of 2009, Clinton's chief of staff Cheryl Mills emails with a note saying "axelrod wants your email -- remind me to discuss with you if i forget," referring to then-senior White House adviser David Axelrod. Clinton replies, "can you send it to him or do you want me to?" They resolve that Mills will take care of it.

Then a Sept. 5 thread notes that Clinton and Obama's then chief of staff Rahm Emanuel were slated to speak and that she had asked him to email her. Mills emailed Clinton asking, "do you want him to have your email?" Clinton replied: "Yes."

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell had it, as was made clear in his June 19, 2009 email asking, after her mid-June 2009 elbow fracture: "Hillary, Is it true [Richard] Holbrooke tripped you? Just kidding, get better fast, we need you running around."

At the same time, Axelrod said he knew nothing about the email server.

Here are the journalists (via Washington Examiner):

BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith and former New York Times correspondent Les Gelb both make a brief appearance in the newly released trove of messages, as the two reporters apparently discussed Clinton-related story ideas with various members of her team. The emails, which cover only the former secretary of state's first year at Foggy Bottom, raise questions about how much input Clinton's people had in the press' coverage of her early days as America's top diplomat.

In one of the correspondences released Tuesday evening, Smith, who was reporting for Politico at the time, discusses possible story ideas with Tommy Vietor, the former spokesman for President Obama's National Security Council.

On June 22, 2009, Smith wrote Vietor, saying, "[Thanks]. I've been successfully, mostly, talked out of that thesis."

Vietor responded with a simple, "Victory!"

Smith told the Washington Examiner that there's more to the story than the single State Department email suggests.

"I think I'd tried to get them to talk to me by floating the thesis that she was totally irrelevant," Smith told the Examiner. "Reporters' tactics are not always great."

There’s also the bit where the former first lady seems to have been aware of how the media views her, and how she was engaged in her role as Secretary of State, or so says Foreign Policy:

They reveal she was highly concerned with the day-to-day workings of Washington’s Fourth Estate and was well informed of her portrayal in the national media. Additionally, the messages lay bare Clinton’s almost painful awareness of losing her party’s presidential nomination in 2008 to Barack Obama.

But the emails released Tuesday show how Clinton wielded her influence in Obama’s administration.

The messages document Clinton’s initial unease with obscure aspects of international diplomacy. In an April 2009 exchange, Clinton asked advisor Jake Sullivan what is the difference between the P5+1 and E3+3 — two different names for the same world powers’ diplomatic grouping assembled to carry out negotiations with Iran. “What is the E3+3 vs the P5+1?” Clinton wrote. After a back-and-forth with Sullivan, who schooled his boss, Clinton replied, sardonically, “I already feel safer.” Sullivan replied: “And I feel ashamed that I had to subject you to this” — a commentary on U.S. irritation with European countries’ insistence that the term E3+3 be used in official government statements.

As the White House grappled with whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, longtime Clinton political advisor Mark Penn complained to her in a Sept. 24, 2009, email about “the lack of clear Afghanistan policy [that] is unwinding the coalition and threatens to cause a massive deer in headlights problem for administration if not resolved soon.” In heated White House debates, Clinton had lobbied Obama to plus up U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan vexed Clinton in a variety of ways, but never as angrily as in September 2009, when, the emails show, she became aware of naked pool parties and sexually deviant acts performed under pressure among the security staff guarding the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

“This whole issue makes me sick,” Clinton wrote in a Sept. 2, 2009, email to her close friend and chief of staff, Cheryl Mills. “State is too passive and accepting.… I have some ideas about this to explore.”

Clinton also was called on repeatedly to soothe ruffled allies, from Haiti to Argentina, and agreed to send a condolence letter in December 2009 to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose brother had just died. Fewer than two years later, Assad would face a revolt from his country’s Sunni opposition and respond so harshly that Clinton ultimately advocated sending U.S. military assets to curb his assaults.

Still, her perceived engagement doesn’t negate the fact that “smart power” diplomacy has been a disaster.  Guy will elaborate more on this document dump.

Terrific: Attorney In Charge of Releasing Lois Lerner "Lost" Emails Now In Charge of Hillary Clinton's Emails

Attorney Catherine Duval is in charge of handling inquiries from Congress about emails belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner, the woman at the center of the conservative targeting scandal. Just last week we learned during Congressional testimony from internal government watchdogs that Lerner's hard drive containing emails sent and received when the agency was targeting conservative groups between 2010 and 2012 likely crashed due to "an impact of some sort." We also learned that her hard drive allegedly crashed on a Saturday and that the IRS didn't bother looking for backup tapes. 

“When asked about the possible cause of the hard drive failure, the HP technician opined that heat-related failures are not seen often, and based on the information provided to him, the hard drive more than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort. However, because the HP technician did not examine the hard drive as part of his work on the laptop, it could not be determined why it crashed," written testimony submitted by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George and Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Timothy P. Camus said.

Now, we're learning that Duval is also in charge of handling the release of emails belonging to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who of course conducted years of government business on a private server hosted in her house. More from CNSNews

“I want to ask you about another name. Have you ever heard of the name Kate Duval?” asked Gowdy.

“Yes sir,” said Camus.

“Who is Kate Duval? Because I think I’ve heard that name before too,” said Gowdy.

“Kate Duval is the chief counsel representative, the IRS’ counselor concerning the production issues to Congress,” said Camus. “She was a lawyer in charge of making sure the counsel made production to Congress.” (The Senate Finance Committee also lists Kate Duval in its timeline of IRS communications with Congress.)

“So she’s in charge of making sure that emails and other matters get produced,” said Gowdy.

“Yes sir,” said Camus.

“Is she still with the IRS?” asked Gowdy.

“She is not, I don’t recall the date that she left, but she’s no longer,” said Camus.

“Do you know where she is now?” asked Gowdy.

“I can get that information for you,” said Camus.

“No, I know where she is now. She’s at the Department of State, in charge of their email productions,” said Gowdy. “Wow.”

Based on the results of Duval's work getting Lerner's emails released, or rather "lost," the American people will never see Hillary's emails. This is a corruption shuffle.

Obama: Opening US Embassy in Cuba "a Historic Step Forward"

On Wednesday, President Obama announced from the White House that the United States and its longtime rival, Cuba, were moving beyond Cold War suspicions and entering a new partnership.

“More than 54 years ago today, at the height of the Cold War, the United States closed its embassy in Havana,” he began. “Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally reestablish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and reopen embassies in our respective countries.”

“This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people,” he continued, “and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.”

Not surprisingly, the president also emphasized that such a diplomatic breakthrough was a long-time coming, and therefore will be officially celebrated — and kicked off in style — by his top foreign diplomat.

“Last December, I announced that the United States and Cuba had decided to take steps to normalize our relationship,” he said. “Later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana, formally, to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.”

“This is not merely symbolic,” he added. “With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people, we’ll have more personnel at our embassy, and our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island.”

All of which is surely true. However, not everyone is celebrating open diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is perhaps the most vocal critic of such a policy, released a statement today blasting the president's announcement.

“Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama Administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession,” he intoned. “The administration's reported plan to restore diplomatic relations is one such prized concession to the Castro regime. It remains unclear what, if anything, has been achieved since the President's December 17th announcement in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, [in] obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”

“I intend to oppose the confirmation of an Ambassador to Cuba until these issues are addressed,” he added. “It is time for our unilateral concessions to this odious regime to end.”

CNN Poll: Bush 19; Trump; 12

So who are the GOP winners and losers in CNN/ORC’s latest poll? Let’s take a look:

Clearly, the two candidates sitting pretty right now are Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. The former jumped six percentage points over the course of the past four weeks, while the latter quadrupled his level of support during that same period, according to the survey. This is no coincidence: Both candidates recently announced their presidential bids, and therefore both have capitalized on all the free (if not always positive) media attention. A month from now, however, it will be interesting to see if The Donald is still in the top tier, especially since he is still reeling from a bevy of negative attacks after uncharitably stereotyping Mexican immigrants.

On the other hand, several candidates have fallen precipitously since CNN/ORC released a national survey. Most noticeably, Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) status as a frontrunner has all but disappeared. He’s polling at a measly six percent, dropping eight percentage points in just four weeks. No candidate (not even Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who fell just four percentage points to six percent overall) is in as bad shape as Rubio. The silver lining, however, is that it’s much too early for this poll to be a political death sentence. Rubio can still recover.

Finally, and not surprisingly, none of the candidates come close to defeating Hillary Clinton in the general election. The candidate who does best against her head-to-head is Jeb Bush, and he trails her by...13 percentage points. And while not every serious contender was tested against her, if the nominal GOP frontrunner, Jeb Bush, is trailing her by double-digits already, clearly Republicans have their work cut out for them. They must finally begin convincing the public, collectively, that Hillary Clinton should not be the next president of the United States.

Luckily, it's only 2015.

Video: Waiting Times For NJ Gun Permits Range From Six Months To 1.5 Years

NRA News’ Ginny Simone has more on Carol Bowne, the New Jersey woman from Berlin Township who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend Michael Eitel on June 3. Bowne’s friends said she did everything to ensure that she would be safe from Eitel. She got a restraining order, had surveillance equipment installed, and filed for a gun permit on April 21. In fact, two days before she was stabbed by Eitel, she had checked in with the police about the status of her permit; a permit that is suppose to be issued 30 days upon filing.

Right now, balloons and flowers surround Bowne’s station; she was a hairdresser. Her co-workers are filled with anger, sadness, and disgust over the death of their friend, and the state’s abject failure in protecting her. One of her co-workers said “you could blow your nose on a restraining order.”

Bowne also filed every incident of harassment and intimidation she endured by Eitel with the police and the local prosecutor’s office. One of her co-workers alleges Eitel came to her work and shot up her car windows with a pellet gun. To make matters worse, Eitel had a warrant out for his arrest for violating the restraining order filed by Bowne. Eitel was found on June 8 in a Berlin Township home’s garage; he had hung himself.

This gets back to the egregiousness of New Jersey’s gun laws. In February, a New Jersey man faced 10 years in prison for possessing … a nearly 300-year old flintlock pistol. In Bowne’s case, it was the Garden State’s abysmal permit law that arguably got her killed.

In Jersey, you need a permit to own a handgun (which is absolutely ridiculous). Fingerprinting is involved, but the whole process should only take 30 days. It's explicitly clear in the NJ law books, but testimonies from other NJ gun owners say the real length of time ranges anywhere from three to six months to a full nine months until they get their firearm ID card. In Newark, some folks have waited for as long as a year-and-a-half. Shari Spivack, a firearm instructor interviewed by NRA News, waited nine months for her ID card.

As for concealed carry permits … please–this is New Jersey. You’re more likely to spot a unicorn than to receive a CCW permit if you’re a resident.

SCOTUS Agrees to Hear Case Challenging Compulsory Union Dues

Teachers should not have to pay mandatory union dues that support political agendas they don’t agree with, argues California educator Rebecca Friedrichs, the lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The frustrated teacher is suing the California Teachers Association for forcing her to give $1,000 a year to a teachers union she says is using that money to forward liberal causes that do not represent her. Now, her complaint has reached the Supreme Court of the United States. The high court just granted her petition. 

Friedrichs spoke with Townhall a couple of years ago about her grievance with union dues, explaining that teachers unions often use this money to fund such politically charged items such as Common Core and Obamacare. Her specific union, she shared, was working especially hard against a program she actually supported, the voucher system.

“And I think the unions are against vouchers because, they wouldn’t be able to control so many teachers being in the union, you know if there was more freedom in education. I think it’s a way they are protecting their own organization. They’re not protecting teachers and students – they’re protecting themselves. It’s coming out in a negative way. I would love to have more choice in the schools that I could work at too. I don’t have a choice. We don’t have very many charter schools around here and we don’t have a voucher system in California.”

More egregiously than being forced to indirectly support political causes, educators who pay mandatory union dues may also be fronting money to tenured teachers who have disgraceful pasts.

“I’m sure you’ve heard about all the teachers who are child molesters and other horrific things. The unions come by and support them, well that’s because of tenure and that’s a collective bargaining issue. So I feel like that’s political. At this point we can’t get out of paying them, so I cannot avoid supporting that pedophile teacher with my dues.

Why not just opt out of paying the dues? Because the process is discouragingly burdensome.

Read more about the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association here. The case will be briefed and argued in the fall, with a guaranteed decision by June 30, 2016.

Mike Huckabee Vows Executive Orders to Protect Religious Freedom

After the Supreme Court ruled last week that gay marriage is a constitutional right, immediate concerns about protections for the First Amendment and religious freedom were magnified. New York Times contributor Mark Oppenheimer called for the tax exempt statuses of churches and non-profits to be stripped in light of the ruling. 

Now, former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is vowing to issue executive orders, should he be elected, protecting religious liberty and those with religious objections to participating in gay marriage. Here's the outline of actions he would take from his campaign: 

1. Sign executive orders in support of traditional marriage that protect businesses, churches, non-profits, schools and universities, hospitals, and other organizations from discrimination, intimidation, or civil or criminal penalties for exercising their religious beliefs.

2. Direct the Attorney General to protect religious liberty and aggressively prosecute any violations of First Amendment rights of individuals, businesses, religious organizations, institutions and civil servants, including those who believe in traditional marriage. The Justice Department will protect and defend the rights of American citizens to follow their religious convictions without discrimination and prosecute attacks on all people of faith and their religious liberty as hate crimes. 

3. Direct the Secretary of Defense to support military chaplains to exercise their faith and not force them to participate in ceremonies they find objectionable on religious grounds. People of faith will not be punished for serving their country and sacrificing to keep us free.

The plan was outlined as Huckabee makes his way through Iowa, a heavy evangelical state.

"While some cowardly politicians wave the white flag and surrender to this unconstitutional, out-of-control act of judicial tyranny, I reject this decision and will fight from 'Day One' of my administration to defend our Constitution and protect religious liberty," Huckabee said in a statement.

It should be noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges ruling gay marriage a constitutional right, dedicated an extensive paragraph to the issue of religious freedom and the ruling. 

"Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex," Kennedy said in the opinion. 

The Obama Justice Department stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act in 2011.

Uh Oh: Survey Shows Hillary Will Have a Tough Time Turning Out Democratic Voters

Liberals are pros when it comes to getting people out to vote, but a new survey shows Hillary Clinton will have major trouble turning out Democrats in 2016. From Real Clear Politics (bolding is mine): 

Americans want change and reforms, but “people don’t think any of this is going to happen,” Stan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, said during a reporter roundtable organized by the Christian Science Monitor.

Their skepticism doesn’t turn on the idea of a Democratic nominee who would follow a two-term Democrat, President Obama. “It’s because the old political system is uniquely corrupted” in their eyes, Greenberg said. “What matters is how deep the critique people have about what’s happening in the country, both politically and economically.”

Voters define corruption as money in politics and Washington power brokers who are self-serving and disconnected from everyday Americans and their concerns. This is why Clinton’s wealth, the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising, her decades lived as a VIP, and her missing emails discourage some voters from accepting the leading Democratic candidate as trustworthy, even if they favor the economic and social policies she stakes out.

The Democratic Party’s strategy to hold control of the White House and win congressional seats next year relies on America’s shifting demographics and on voter turnout. But “if the disparity in enthusiasm is not addressed, that strategy is at risk,” Democracy Corps wrote in a synopsis of the findings that began, “Democrats need to give voters a reason to participate.”

The threat comes down to an enthusiasm gap of 19 points between the Democrats who say they are “extremely interested” in the congressional and local races in 2016, and the much more energized GOP voters.

Meanwhile, while Democratic voters aren't necessarily interested or confident in Hillary Clinton, progressive candidate Bernie Sanders is catching up and leftist darling Elizabeth Warren could end up on the campaign trail to back him.

Will Warren support the new favorite son of the left and hit the campaign trail for him? "Too early to say," she told the Boston Herald on Monday. Warren has so far refrained from endorsing any Democratic presidential candidate, but she sure sounded enthusiastic about Bernie when speaking with the Herald. "These are people who care about these issues, and that’s who Bernie’s reaching," she told the paper. "I love what Bernie is talking about. I think all the presidential candidates should be out talking about the big issues."

Clinton's enthusiasm gap with voters explains her visits to places like Ferguson and her race-baiting language on the campaign trail. It's an effort and strategy to get the same voters who put Barack Obama in the Oval Office twice to do the same for her. It isn't working. Not to mention, if Clinton is already having trouble with Democrats, she's in major trouble when it comes to the rest of the country.

California Governor Signs New Law Effectively Mandating Vaccines in Schoolchildren

California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has signed into law a new bill eliminating religious and personal belief exemptions for childhood vaccinations. California is now the third state to not permit parents to submit a religious exemption from vaccinations and the 33rd state to prohibit "personal belief" exemptions. A child can now only be medically exempt from vaccinations due to reasons like allergy to a vaccine component or immune deficiency.

While the bill was passed by the California Assembly last week, it was unclear whether or not Brown would actually sign it as there was considerable public outcry against the bill.

From the Associated Press:

Brown, a Democrat, issued a signing statement just one day after lawmakers sent him the bill to strike California's personal belief exemption for immunizations, a move that requires nearly all public schoolchildren to be vaccinated. The bill takes effect next year.

"The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases," Brown wrote. "While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community."

California joins Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states with such strict requirements.

Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica introduced the measure after the outbreak at the theme park in December infected over 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico.

The bill likely would be successful in increasing immunization rates and stopping the spread of disease, pediatric doctors said Monday after the state Senate sent the legislation to the governor.

Children who are not vaccinated in California will have to be homeschooled due to this new law. Many doctors are refusing to take on patients who are not vaccinated due to the considerable risk of illness transmission to medically fragile patients in their waiting rooms.

An outbreak of measles traced back to Disneyland re-ignited the vaccine debate in California. A majority of those stricken with measles were either unvaccinated by choice or were too young to be vaccinated.

VIDEO: Let's Change The Name Of The Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

So, this happened (via Richmond Times-Dispatch):

Hillary Rodham Clinton will headline the Democratic Party of Virginia’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner on June 26.

Details still are being finalized, but the event, traditionally held in Richmond, is expected to take place at George Mason University in Northern Virginia — a Democratic vote- and cash-rich region of this crucial presidential swing state.

Last year’s “JJ” dinner speaker was Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C. This year, with several major 2016 presidential candidates up and running, Clinton’s high-profile visit — her first campaign stop in Virginia — could boost her 2016 bid in the commonwealth.

MRCTV’s Dan Joseph appeared to be on the hallowed grounds of George Mason University and found that most people agreed that “JJ” should be renamed to signal a change in the times. One person felt the dinner’s name was grounded in history and didn’t need to be changed, but most seem to have had strong feelings about Andrew Jackson. One woman said if she had it her way, Mr. Jackson would be off the $20 bill. Another man said that the Democratic Party had other prominent leaders that could replace Jackson and Jefferson’s names for the dinner.

Some folks even listed their candidates to replace Jefferson and Jackson for the dinner; some thought Carter-Clinton, Kennedy-Obama, Kennedy–Clinton, and Roosevelt-Johnson were good combinations.

Folks are trying to ban, or erase more or less, the Confederate flag and its impact on our history. It seems the names of dinners are in the cross hairs as well.

Heritage Panel Analyzes Obergefell Decision

The Heritage Foundation hosted policy and legal experts inside the Allison Auditorium on Wednesday to discuss the fallout of Obergefell v. Hodges, where the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal throughout the country.

The panelists consisted of Heritage senior research fellow Ryan Anderson, Judicial Crisis Network chief counsel and policy director Carrie Severino, and Gene Schaerr Law Offices principal Gene Schaerr. Roger Severino, the director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Society at Heritage, moderated the panel. The panel all agreed that the ruling in Obergefell was incorrect.

Carrie Severino began by saying that Justice Anthony Kennedy's decision was based on the fundamental right to marry. While Severino agrees that there is a right to marry, it based on the precept that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.

"It's dangerous when we redefine the terms that we're actually dealing with because we could easily shift the meaning," Carrie Severino said, pointing out that the term "speech" could then be redefined. "The challenge here is that he redefined the term 'marriage' in the process of attempting to uphold the fundamental right to marry."

Kennedy based the decision off of four principles of marriage derived from previous cases- that it's individual autonomy through personal choice, unique two person union, it safeguards of children and families and it forms a keystone to the social order. Severino believed that Kennedy "cherry-picked" the principles he examined.

"By assuming the conclusion already, he chose the principles that would support it," Severino said. "It's interesting also to see that he didn't actually- in my opinion- choose those principles to overlap perfectly well because he does cite the rights of child bearing, procreation and education, and it is simply difficult to understand how a particular right to procreation has nothing to do with an opposite-sex union when that's obviously how procreation happens."

Severino also pointed out that Kennedy didn't do traditional Equal Protection Clause analysis under the 14th Amendment since he didn't discuss the level of the scrutiny- such as strict or intermediate- that should be applied to this particular case.

The four dissenting judges focused on a few major themes, with one being that the decision is not accurate from a legal matter, according to Severino.

"The Constitution is completely agnostic as to how marriage is defined," Severino said, pointing out that even Kennedy said as much in the Windsor case a couple of years ago.

The dissenters also highlighted religious freedom concerns.

Schaerr said that while Kennedy's majority opinion was the most respectful to religious freedom, his ruling "launched some grenades that are still in the air," saying there are 12 threats to religious liberty from this ruling which he calls the "dirty dozen."

The "dirty dozen" include tax-exempt status, pastors licensed by the state, religious school housing policy, religious school licensing and employment.

During the oral arguments of Obergefell, Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli about how tax-exempt status of religious organizations would be affected if the court were to rule in favor of gay marriage. According to Schaerr, Verrilli responded, "I can't deny Justice Alito that that's going to be an issue."

In order for pastors to have the authority to perform a marriage, they need to be licensed by the state. According to Schaerr, this prompted Justice Antonin Scalia to ask that if a pastor were to refuse to recognize a same-sex marriage, "Are they going to be denied the ability to marry people and have those marriage recognized by the state?"

Religious colleges depend on ability to get accredited in order to receive federal funding and for students to get jobs. 

"If same-sex marriage is the law of the land... isn't there a risk that accreditors will be pressuring religious colleges to recognize same-sex marriage?" Schaerr asked.

Schaerr also pointed out that some religious organizations make decisions on employment based on religion, which would be put into doubt by the Obergefell decision.

When it was Anderson's turn to speak, he said the cultural question is the most important in the long run, and that the pro-marriage movement is in the same position as the pro-life movement was when Roe v. Wade was decided.

"We've never accepted Roe v. Wade as the final word on abortion or the Constitution," Anderson said.

He pointed out that after Roe, there was a movement to protect the consciences of those who didn't want to believe in abortion. There is also the March for Life every year on January 22 and that the list of pro-life groups that have sprung up has been "remarkable."

"The same thing culturally needs to happen with this Supreme Court ruling," Anderson said. 

Anderson said that marriage places a limit on the state, so the state does not have the right to redefine marriage.

Kennedy's philosophy of marriage is a result of the breakdown of the American family, Anderson said. Anderson believes that marriage for a man and woman to commit to each other so a child has a mother and a father.

"How do we as a culture rebuild a strong marriage culture insisting that fathers are essential when Anthony Kennedy has redefined marriage saying that fathers are optional?" Anderson asked.

During the Q&A period, a member of the audience asked Anderson if he believed the government should be taken out of marriage. Anderson didn't like that idea, saying that marriage was never purely a religious institution.

"While your church can marry you, your church can't divorce you or alimony you," Anderson said, also pointing out that custody battles and other legal matters aren't take care of by the church. "You will simply explode the state on the back end."

California Debates Assisted Suicide Bill, Conservatives Rush to Block It

A bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California has gained traction in the State Assembly in recent weeks, and it will be considered by the Assembly Health Committee on July 7. Conservative and pro-life activists in the state have been working all hours to stop the bill from being passed.

The California Pro-Life Council is urging constituents in that state to contact their representatives and voice their opposition to the bill.

“We need to contact Health Committee and ALL Assembly Members, as parliamentary ‘sleight of hand’ may be used to wrangle around committee obstacles,” the group said. Pro-life people can use the following link to reach members of the panel to voice opposition to the bill.

Six Latino Democrats recently came out against the bill following a strong public statement from the Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez. Archbishop Gomez vehemently opposed the bill, saying:

“The compassion that doctor-assisted suicide offers is hollow. And this legislation has dangerous implications for our state, especially for the poor and vulnerable. . . There is no denying that in California and nationwide we face a public health crisis in the way we treat patients who are terminally ill and at the end of life. But the answer to fear and a broken system is to fix the system and address the fears. It is not to kill the one who is afraid and suffering.

State Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, a Republican, is also urging his colleagues to oppose the bill:

Senate Bill 128 would legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in California. Supporters call it the Death with Dignity Act.

In reality, however, the bill should be known as the “Aid in Killing” act. We are asking our health care professionals — the people we hire to care for us and cure us — to now prescribe drugs that will cause our death.

Where is the opposition coming from? Hundreds of organizations and citizens are vehemently opposed to physician-assisted suicide. This includes the American Medical Association and the physicians who treat cancer patients: oncologists. These are the doctors that deal with dying more than anybody.

The bill already passed the California Senate on June 4 and is now left to the State Assembly. Proponents of the suicide law had tried to introduce the legislation for years, without success. But that changed in late May, when the California Medical Association (CMA) removed its formal opposition to physician-assisted suicide. The CMA cited changes in public opinion as its basis for adopting a "neutral" position. The CMA's opposition had been a political roadblock for the assisted suicide movement, and its removal of opposition lent the movement new momentum.

If California were to pass the bill, it would become the sixth state in the nation to legalize some form of physician-assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide is currently legal in four countries.

Uber Executives are in Trouble

Uber, a popular and booming form of transportation in the more recent years now face some serious trouble as the Uber France and company executives will go on trial in September on charges related to misleading business practices, complicit in operating an illegal taxi service, and illegal treatment of personal date.

Because of this, Uber France General Manager Thibaud Simphal and Uber's regional general manager for Western Europe, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, were taken into custody and may be held for up to a day for questioning.

Uberpop, a sector of Uber that offers a low-cost service is the result of an accumulation of trouble.

"Uberpop matches passengers with drivers who don’t have professional licenses. The new law makes operating such a system punishable with a fine of as much as €300,000 ($332,000) and two years in prison."

In October of 2014, a law was passed that put a ban on connecting clients with unregistered drivers found through Uberpop. However, Uber continued to run Uberpop drivers.

In addition to such trouble is the scrutiny behind taxi drivers leading to protests last week across France where cars were damaged and Uber drivers were threatened. Taxi drivers have long generated anger on behalf of Uber because of their alleged hiring of ineligible passengers arguing that the licenses to get a taxi are extremely expensive, and "[UberPop drivers] do not have to pay any of that. And living here is getting more expensive for everybody — we can't breathe."

Uber has helped many young and technologically savvy people get to where they need to go quickly. Could this be the next negative turn for Uber and its clients?

Here We Go Again: Is The Death Penalty Unconstitutional?

Yesterday, Christine wrote about the Supreme Court’s five-to-four decision in Glossip v. Gross that approved the use of the three-drug cocktail administered during executions by lethal injection. Specifically, whether the sedative midazolam would render inmates who were sentenced to death subject to excruciating pain upon execution. It revisited the standard established in the 2008 Baze v. Rees, which upheld the three-shot cocktail protocol used in lethal injections was constitutional under the Eighth Amendment. Here’s the formal list of questions in Glossipaccording to SCOTUSblog:

(1) Whether it is constitutionally permissible for a state to carry out an execution using a three-drug protocol where (a) there is a well-established scientific consensus that the first drug has no pain relieving properties and cannot reliably produce deep, coma-like unconsciousness, and (b) it is undisputed that there is a substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk of pain and suffering from the administration of the second and third drugs when a prisoner is conscious; (2) whether the plurality stay standard of Baze v. Rees applies when states are not using a protocol substantially similar to the one that this Court considered in Baze; and (3) whether a prisoner must establish the availability of an alternative drug formula even if the state’s lethal-injection protocol, as properly administered, will violate the Eighth Amendment.

The three-drug cocktail is detailed in the certiorari of the U.S. Court of Appeals For the Tenth Circuit:

(1) sodium thiopental (a barbiturate) to induce a state of unconsciousness, (2)a paralytic agent to inhibit all muscular-skeletal movements, and (3) potassium chloride to induce cardiac arrest.

Baez ruled this combination wasn’t an unconstitutional form of punishment, but the writ added that anti-death penalty opponents forced pharmaceutical companies to prevent sodium thiopental and pentobarbital from being used in executions. Furthermore, European companies won’t ship sodium thiopental to the U.S. if it was to be used in executions.

Hence, the 500-milligram dose of the sedative midazolam, which Oklahoma’s death row inmates argued wouldn’t incapacitate them to the point of not feeling pain. The Court disagreed, citing that the petitioners “failed to established a likelihood of success of their claim…failed to established that any risk of harm was substantial…[and that] evidence suggests that a 500-milligram dose of midazolam will induce a coma.” You can read the whole opinion here.

On the liberal wing, they’re wondering whether it’s time to reconsider if the death penalty is unconstitutional in its entirety … again.

Via Justice Sonia Sotomayor:

Petitioners contend that Oklahoma’s current protocol is a barbarous method of punishment—the chemical equivalent of being burned alive. But under the Court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake: because petitioners failed to prove the availability of sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, the State could execute them using whatever means it designated. But see Baze, 553 U. S., at 101–102 (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment) (“It strains credulity to suggest that the defin­ ing characteristic of burning at the stake, disemboweling, drawing and quartering, beheading, and the like was that they involved risks of pain that could be eliminated by using alternative methods of execution”). 8 The Eighth Amendment cannot possibly countenance such a result.

Via Justice Stephen Breyer:

Nearly 40 years ago, this Court upheld the death penalty under statutes that, in the Court’s view, contained safeguards sufficient to ensure that the penalty would be applied reliably and not arbitrarily. The circumstances and the evidence of the death penalty’s application have changed radically since then. Given those changes, I believe that it is now time to reopen the question.

In 1976, the Court thought that the constitutional infirmities in the death penalty could be healed; the Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would protect against those constitutional problems.

Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed.

Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use.

As you would expect, Scalia also wrote a concurring opinion to his majority decision, which took Breyer to task for his dissent [emphasis mine]:

Mind you, not once in the history of the American Republic has this Court ever suggested the death penalty is categorically impermissible. The reason is obvious: It is impossible to hold unconstitutional that which the Constitution explicitly contemplates. The Fifth Amendment provides that “[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital . . . crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,” and that no person shall be “deprived of life . . . without due process of law.” Nevertheless, today JUSTICE BREYER takes on the role of the abolitionists in this long-running drama, arguing that the text of the Constitution and two centuries of history must yield to his “20 years of experience on this Court,” and inviting full briefing on the continued permissibility of capital punishment, post, at 2 (dissenting opinion). Historically, the Eighth Amendment was understood to bar only those punishments that added “‘terror, pain, or disgrace’” to an otherwise permissible capital sentence. Baze v. Rees, 553 U. S. 35, 96 (2008) (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment). Rather than bother with this troubling detail, JUSTICE BREYER elects to contort the constitutional text. Redefining “cruel” to mean “unreliable,” “arbitrary,” or causing “excessive delays,” and “unusual” to include a “decline in use,” he proceeds to offer up a white paper devoid of any meaningful legal argument.

Even accepting JUSTICE BREYER’s rewriting of the Eighth Amendment, his argument is full of internal contradictions and (it must be said) gobbledy-gook. He says that the death penalty is cruel because it is unreliable; but it is convictions, not punishments, that are unreliable.

Scalia also hit Breyer for the long delays and “penological purpose” section of his dissent:

JUSTICE BREYER’s third reason that the death penalty is cruel is that it entails delay, thereby (1) subjecting in- mates to long periods on death row and (2) undermining the penological justifications of the death penalty. The first point is nonsense. Life without parole is an even lengthier period than the wait on death row; and if the objection is that death row is a more confining environment, the solution should be modifying the environment rather than abolishing the death penalty. As for the argument that delay undermines the penological ration- ales for the death penalty: In insisting that “the major alternative to capital punishment—namely, life in prison without possibility of parole—also incapacitates,” post, at 24, JUSTICE BREYER apparently forgets that one of the plaintiffs in this very case was already in prison when he committed the murder that landed him on death row.

Now, midazolam has been used in botched executions that were particularly grisly, which cannot be ignored when deciding these capital punishment cases.  Both the Tenth Circuit and the Supreme Court acknowledge that capital punishment is constitutional. Justice Scalia aptly noted that the death penalty was an appropriate form on punishment since the founding of our nation; the methods may have changed­–hanging was the optimal choice in the era of maize and breeches–but never has the U.S. Supreme Court “invalidated a State’s chosen procedure for carrying out a sentence of death as the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.  Lastly, if society feels otherwise about the Eighth Amendment with regards to the death penalty, Scalia writes they are free to pass a law and ban it outright.

So, yes, it seems the death penalty is constitutional. And if there’s a consensus to abolish it–and they succeed– that’s perfectly acceptable. The same goes for abortion rights. In a 60 Minutes segment on Scalia, he mentioned at the Oxford Union in 2010 that the Constitution says nothing about the right to an abortion. If you want to create a right to abortion on demand (a horrific thought), we’re free to pass a law to accommodate that change. He’s said ad nauseam that it’s the legislatures, not the Constitution, that keeps society up to date. The Constitution, in his words, simply doesn’t prohibit us from passing laws that deal with the controversial issues of the day (abortion, capital punishment, gay marriage etc.):

Time and again, the People have voted to exact the death penalty as punishment for the most serious of crimes. Time and again, this Court has upheld that decision. And time and again, a vocal minority of this Court has insisted that things have “changed radically,” post, at 2, and has sought to replace the judgments of the People with their own standards of decency. Capital punishment presents moral questions that philosophers, theologians, and statesmen have grappled with for millennia. The Framers of our Constitution disagreed bitterly on the matter. For that reason, they handled it the same way they handled many other controversial issues: they left it to the People to decide.

If Breyer and company feel that the death penalty is unconstitutional, they may not need to delve into law books in order to eliminate it.  They might just have to wait for a growing consensus among the electorate that it's wrong, and wait for lawmakers with similar views to hold a vote to abolish it.  There's a growing group of conservatives that are having mixed feelings about the death penalty, ranging from abolition to its non-essentiality (though they maintain it's still constitutional).  National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru said, "The state has the legitimate authority to execute criminals, but it should refrain if it has other means of protecting people from them. Our government almost always does.”

Nineteen states–both red and blue–have already abolished it, with Nebraska joining that club this year. Forget the moral and ethical problems within this form of punishment, it's also incredibly expensive to maintain, as my colleague Leah wrote in her feature in May.

What do you think?

Oklahoma Supreme Court: Take Down That 10 Commandments Statue

In a recently issued opinion that could have widespread implications, the highest court in Oklahoma determined that the state’s Ten Commandments statue, located near the capitol, cannot stay where it is. The AP reports:

A Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is a religious symbol and must be removed because it violates the state's constitutional ban on using public property to benefit a religion, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

Oklahoma's highest court said the Ten Commandments chiseled into the 6-foot-tall granite monument, which was privately funded by a Republican legislator, are "obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths." The 7-2 ruling overturns a decision by a district court judge who determined the monument could stay.

Interestingly, the statue did not actually violate federal law, the judges ruled. And yet, it is not constitutional, either:

Attorney General Scott Pruitt had argued that the monument was historical in nature and nearly identical to a Texas monument that was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Oklahoma justices said the local monument violated the state's constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.

But how, exactly, did the statue violate Oklahoma’s governing document?

“[The] court said the placement of the monument violated a section in the state's constitution, which says no public money or property can be used either directly or indirectly for the ‘benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion,’" Reuters reported.

So because the Ten Commandments statue clearly espouses Christian and Judaic teachings on public lands, the justices concluded, its placement is therefore unlawful. Meanwhile, this might also help explain why the justices were so eager to throw out the attorney general’s central argument:

Lawmakers have argued that the monument was not serving a religious purpose but was meant to mark a historical event.

That opened the door for other groups, including Satanists and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to apply for permission to erect their own monuments on Capitol grounds to mark what they say are historical events.

Nevertheless, Attorney General Scott Pruitt has asked the justices to reexamine the case.

“In response [to the ruling], my office will file a petition with the court for a rehearing in light of the broader implications of this ruling on other areas of state law,” he said in a statement. “In the interim, enforcement of the court’s order cannot occur. Finally, if Article 2, Section 5, is going to be construed in such a manner by the court, it will be necessary to repeal it.”

Chelsea Clinton Paid Over $1,000 a Minute to Appear at a College

After discovering that Hillary Clinton charges exorbitant amounts to appear at events (actual quote: "Yikes!"), administrators from the University of Missouri at Kansas City decided to go with a slightly cheaper member of the Clinton family to headline their lunchtime gala for the opening of a women's hall of fame: Chelsea. Chelsea, a relative bargain at $65,000 compared to her mother's fee of $275,000, spoke for a whole 10 minutes, did a moderated Q&A for 20 minutes, and took pictures with VIPs for a half hour.

$65,000/60 = $1,083.33. Chelsea Clinton was paid over a thousand dollars per minute.

The event raised $38,500, but organizers claim fundraising was not the goal of the event.

While a spokesperson for Chelsea stated that the money went to the Clinton Foundation, there is apparently no reference to this in any email communication between UMKC and Chelsea's representatives nor was there any reference to this in the contract for the speech.

Is it really a question why college costs are skyrocketing?

Christie: Unlike These Other Guys, I'm Not Running To Be "Prom King"

After speaking passionately and movingly about the people in his life who’ve made his rise to national prominence possible, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) finally announced, from his high school alma mater on Tuesday, that he was running for president of the United States.

And of course, he began his remarks by touting his record as the Governor of New Jersey

“When I became governor six years ago, we had a state that was in economic calamity,” he said. ���A state that had its taxes and fees raised on it 115 times in the eight years before I became governor. A state that no longer believed that any one person could make a difference in the lives of the people of this state.”

“And so we rolled up our sleeves, and we went to work,” he continued. “We balanced six budgets in a row, we refused to raise taxes on the people of this state for six years, we made the hard decisions that had to be made to improve our education system.”

And yet, he went further than merely listing his conservative credentials. At a time of immeasurable dysfunction on Capitol Hill, he also played up his reputation as a fair-minded — and effective — chief executive.

“Americans are filled with anxiety,” he said. “They’re filled with anxiety because they look to Washington, D.C., and they see a government that doesn’t even work anymore; it doesn’t even talk to each other anymore; it doesn’t even try to pretend to work anymore. We have a president in the Oval Office who ignores the Congress, and a Congress that ignores the president.”

“We need a government in Washington D.C. that says ‘you went there to work for us, not the other way around,’” he added.

Interestingly, however, he also criticized his own party, both in characteristically harsh and strong terms.

“Both parties have failed our country,” he declared. “Both parties have led us to believe that in America, a country that was built on compromise, that compromise is somehow a dirty word.”

“If Washington, Adams, and Jefferson thought compromise was a dirty word, we’d still be under the crown of England,” he added.

Similarly, too, unlike most politicians, Christie also pledged to continue being open and honest with his constituents — which is, arguably, his greatest and most refreshing quality as a presidential contender.

“We must tell each other the truth about the problems we have, and the difficulty of the solutions,” he said. “But if we tell each other the truth, we recognize that truth and hard decisions today will lead to growth and opportunity tomorrow for every American in this country.”

That line, as it happens, touched on the two overarching themes of his campaign announcement: inclusiveness and optimism. Towards the end of his remarks, however, he took a parting shot at the current occupant of the White House — and issued a warning to America.

“After seven years of a weak and feckless foreign policy run by Barack Obama, we better not turn it over to his second mate, Hillary Clinton,” he intoned. “In the end, leadership matters. It matters for our country and American leadership matters for the world. But if we’re going to lead, we got to stop worrying about being loved and start caring about being respected again, both at home and around the world.”

“I am not running for President of the United States as a surrogate for being elected Prom King of America,” he said “When I stand up on a stage like this, in front of all of you, there is one thing you will know for sure: I mean what I say and I say what I mean — and that’s what America needs right now.”

Millennials in Shock Over Hillary's Cribs

Last year, when Hillary was then just a presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, a majority of voters, 55 percent, felt she was relatable. Who knows, maybe they hadn’t heard about her exorbitant speaking fees, or, they actually fell for her ‘dead broke’ comments. But either way, the reality is she couldn’t be more unrelatable to the average American if she tried, no matter how many campaign road trips she takes in a Scooby Doo van.

To that end, Campus Reform’s Cabot Phillips decided to play a little game with millennials called “Candidates' Cribs.” Phillips stopped young people in our nation’s capital to see if they could guess which presidential candidate had lived in a series of mansions he had displayed on a poster.

A number of youngsters guessed Marco Rubio—I don’t know, maybe they heard about his “luxury speedboat.” None, however, pegged Mrs. Clinton as having been privileged enough to live in the lavish abodes displayed. And when Phillips told them the truth, the resounding response was, “What?!” and “Are you serious?!”

Check it out:

“Well, now, you’re changing my opinion on the election a little bit,” one young woman said.

HRC’s not so relatable after all.

GOPAC Returns To Its Roots In Prepping For 2016

As stated in their history, GOPAC was founded in 1979 to recruit and elect new Republican leaders at the state and local level. This was after then-Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont noticed that Republicans were sort of a dying species in 1978. Well, it’s 2014–and the GOP is stronger than ever at the state and local level. With Republicans controlling the two-thirds of the governorships and the most state legislatures since 1920, the work of GOPAC shows that the new talent is derived from the local elections that don’t get much attention in the press. It’s starting to now given that Democrats’ talent pool is shrinking rapidly.

Yet, we have a huge presidential election coming up against a huge, though flawed, political machine that’s being helmed by Hillary Clinton. Republicans at every level need to be ready for the assault. To prepare, GOPAC is returning to its roots with a series of videos called Imagine. Share. Impact, which is a throwback to the organization’s instructional tapes made by GOP leaders between 1986-1994 (via Library of Congress):

The tapes inform the public and aspiring politicians of conservative positions and assist them in articulating and honing their language and message on a wide array of issues, as well as providing "how-to" primers on everything involved in running an effective political campaign. The recordings have proved to be extremely influential in shaping political discourse from the 1980s to the present.

At the same time, no one is listening to audiotapes, so YouTube will have to suffice.

The first of these “how-to” videos from GOPAC’s Educational Fund was released today featuring conservative radio host and commentator Hugh Hewitt, where he discusses the “S’s” of winning in 2016.

Hewitt called on politicians and public figures to embrace specificity since we’re all tired of talking points. He noted how he knows nothing about net neutrality, but all he gets from people on the subject is that they’re for or against it, and then they dole out a talking point; no one explains to him what it’s about. Another issue that will require more than talking points is reforming the tax code.

Another point he made was speed; the nation is moving a bit too slow on critical issues. Hewitt asked, “Why does government move like molasses?” Hewitt noted that he, along with the vast majority of Americans, is constantly moving. Hewitt has four jobs–and he wonders why the government simply doesn’t put forward important legislation early–and deal with it early–instead of the usual protocol of having committee hearings, maybe a dinner, and then adjourning for a recess. While government moving slowly is not necessarily a bad thing–our Founders emphasized safety over efficiency–it’s killing us regarding some important issues, like in the Middle East and the Islamic State. Hewitt mentioned that this slow speed is “ingrained” in our history since ideas took some time to reach the frontier regions of the United States in the early 19th Century. Then, there had to be time to debate these ideas that were eventually returned to Washington over an extended period of time. Maybe it’s time to retire this mindset, especially on issues that need immediate attention.

Dovetailing with the discussion bit, Hewitt also mentioned sacred spaces, especially after the same-sex marriage decision. In the aftermath, he says, we will have to debate whether people can hold certain beliefs without shunning. We don’t have time to dabble in such nonsense since the “barbarians are at the gate.” And we need to return to the notion that we can live together and disagree. Hewitt noted that he has a 33-year rule in his household regarding his sister-in-law, who’s a hard-core liberal, that they do not talk politics at the dinner table. Yet, he loves her, she’s the de facto grandmother to his children, and “that’s the way America ought to be” with regards to these issues.

Lastly, he mentioned Spanish; the vast majority of the Spanish-speaking public in this country reads media in their native language. The same goes for every single ethnic group that arrived in this country. Figuring out a way to get into this market will establish a critical foundation to expand on the GOP’s inclusion operations, especially in states like Colorado.

While Clinton has her flaws, this could be a hard fight next year. Regarding the long game, it’s possible that Democrats could have trouble finding a new deep bench of candidates after the Nancy Pelosis, the Clintons, and the Harry Reids have long passed. State-based Democratic Party apparatuses have “atrophied (especially in rural America),” and Hillary Clinton has made it her pet project to rebuild such party operations if she’s elected president. That’s a direct challenge to GOPAC’s mission.

“Ideas unite individuals to take action on a common cause. The Imagine. Share. Impact. series will keep us at the forefront of educating elected officials and their constituents on the path which leads to healthy, growing economies that create opportunities,” said GOPAC Chairman David Avella.

Let’s see if adding YouTube to their arsenal can keep the enemy from climbing the walls … for lack of a better term.

Instead of Taking Dangerous Birth Control Device Off Market, FDA Adds a Warning Label

"These symptoms, these problems are not in our heads," said Essure user Claudia Castellanos. "They are real. Our pain is real." 

A birth control method called Essure has prompted serious side effects such as hair loss, debilitating pain and constant bleeding and has even been associated with five deaths, reports MyFoxDC. Because of the unwanted threats the device poses, women fully expected the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take it off the shelves when they voiced their concerns. The government agency had other plans: a public hearing in September and a warning label will suffice.

MyFoxDC first reported on Essure’s dangerous side effects in November. Here were a few of their unnerving findings:

But more than 10,000 women are accusing the maker of an implantable birth control device of ignoring complaints from users that the product was unsafe, even before it was approved by the FDA . The women claim they've had perforated organs, chronic pain, excessive bleeding, pain and other adverse side effects from the device. Some report they've been forced to have hysterectomies to solve the problems.

At the time, Bayer, the company that produces the birth control device, dismissed these concerns as what’s to be “expected.” So uncontrollable bleeding and chronic pain are totally normal when using Essure? How comforting.

Now, months later, as the complaints persist, Bayer has offered another not so reassuring statement regarding the drug:

“Patient safety is Bayer's top priority. Given there has been a great deal of interest in the safety of Essure among some patients, we welcome this open dialogue with healthcare providers, patients, researchers, representatives from professional societies, and other members of the public to review and discuss available data regarding the benefits and risks associated with Essure.

Well-founded fear over a product’s safety is defined down by Bayer to “a great deal of interest.”

MyFoxDC spoke to three women, Claudia Castellanos, Ana Fuentes and Janet Ramirez, who were victims of Essure's painful side effects, and who now call themselves The Essure Sisters, holding rallies in protest of the device and writing to the FDA. Ramirez offered an especially emotional plea to the agency:

"Listen to the evidence and please, please remove this off the market," she said. "It is not safe." 

Despite what Bayer says, this is not just a time for “discussion.” This dangerous situation demands action. Until Bayer and the FDA at least figure out what’s causing these threatening and sometimes deadly side effects, they need to pull the product before even more damage is done.

Surprise: Iran Negotiations Miss Deadline, 'Major Disputes' Remain


Actually, blowing through deadlines is a staple of these talks, so nobody's the least bit surprised by NBC News' report from late Monday:

A senior U.S official in Vienna said negotiators will not make tomorrow's deadline on an agreement on Iran's nuclear program. And while those involved in the talks are willing to spend a few more days hammering out details, no one will agree to a long term extension. They are also not willing to renegotiate what they say Iran agreed to in April. The U.S. and five other world powers have crafted a framework of a deal with Iran to keep it from developing nuclear weapons. Despite recent statements from the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei indicating Iran could be backtracking from the "framework" agreement negotiated in Lausanne in April, the official said "the agreement will be based on the Lausanne parameters. Period." The White House echoed a similar hardline. "If the Iranians refuse to agree to final agreement that's not consistent with framework there won't be an agreement," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday.

Those so-called Lausanne parameters -- which Iran has subsequently undermined and rejected -- weren't nearly as robust as the Obama administration's original demands.  Nevertheless, the ongoing talks persist as "major disputes" continue to hamper progress, reportedly over Iran's stubborn resistance to offering concessions on inspections, sanctions relief timelines, and full transparency regarding the military dimensions of the regime's rogue nuclear program.  In recent weeks, a string of damaging revelations have cast a dark shadow over the prospects for an acceptable deal: (1) Two European intelligence reports spelled out how Iran's nuclear cheating has continued during the negotiations, (2) experts determined that Iran's nuclear stockpile has increased significantly during this period, during which Tehran's program was ostensibly "frozen" with its stockpiles reduced, (3) the State Department once again affirmed Iran's continued status as a major state sponsor of international terrorism, concluding that the regime's malignant activities have carried on "undiminished," and (4) a prominent nuclear expert warned that President Obama's assurances about a potential deal's capacity to greatly extend Iran's "breakout" horizon have been  hugely exaggerated.  The potential agreement already makes enormous concessions to Iran, including permitting the regime to maintain a vast nuclear infrastructure, phasing out Western-imposed restrictions after one decade, and effectively acknowledging Iran's impending status as a threshold nuclear state. A powerful and bipartisan group of foreign policy heavyweights, including several former Obama administration officials, wrote a letter last week warning that they would oppose any Iran accord struck by the White House unless the West secures a series of robust concessions from Tehran:

A group of influential U.S. foreign-policy strategists, including five former confidants of President Barack Obama, warned the White House Wednesday they would oppose a nuclear agreement with Iran if tough terms weren’t included in a final agreement. Among the requirements identified by the former diplomats, military officers and lawmakers were intrusive snap inspections of Iran’s nuclear and military sites, a resolution of questions surrounding secretly developed nuclear-weapons technologies and a phased reduction of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The group also called on the White House, in a public statement, to make clear to Iran the U.S. would use military force if Tehran moved to assemble the materials and technologies for a nuclear weapon...Among the signatories were some of Mr. Obama’s closest foreign-policy advisers from his first term, including Dennis Ross, a White House Middle East strategist; David Petraeus, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Gary Samore, once the National Security Council’s nonproliferation czar. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top adviser on nuclear proliferation issues, Robert Einhorn, also signed the statement, as did retired Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011.

Meanwhile, in Syria,  this is happening

U.S. intelligence agencies believe there is a strong possibility the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on a large scale as part of a last-ditch effort to protect key Syrian government strongholds if Islamist fighters and other rebels try to overrun them, U.S. officials said. Analysts and policy makers have been poring over all available intelligence hoping to determine what types of chemical weapons the regime might be able to deploy and what event or events might trigger their use, according to officials briefed on the matter...Last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad let international inspectors oversee the removal of what President Barack Obama called the regime’s most deadly chemical weapons. The deal averted U.S. airstrikes that would have come in retaliation for an Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people. Since then, the U.S. officials said, the Assad regime has developed and deployed a new type of chemical bomb filled with chlorine, which Mr. Assad could now decide to use on a larger scale in key areas. U.S. officials also suspect the regime may have squirreled away at least a small reserve of the chemical precursors needed to make nerve agents sarin or VX.

The Assad disarmament plan was accidental US policy, forged on-the-fly after Secretary of State John Kerry accidentally misspoke. Syria's murderous dictator and Russia's Vladimir Putin took advantage of this flash of American weakness, hailing the "solution" as a diplomatic breakthrough that staved off the specter of war. At the time, you'll remember, President Obama was considering bombing Syria due to that regime's repeated and flagrant violation of the US' so-called "red line" on chemical weapons -- which had gone unpunished for more than a year. Assad proceeded to miss deadlines (sound familiar?), then routinely violate that exact same red line, forcing Kerry to concede that the White House policy had failed utterly. Now US intelligence officials are worried that Assad is about to step up his deployment of WMDs to an extraordinary levels, using the very sorts of WMDs he allegedly surrendered. Turns out he couldn't be trusted. And that the White House's self-congratulation was totally and humiliatingly misplaced.  Team Smart Power is still going full steam ahead with the Iran negotiations, though. What could go wrong?