Saturday, May 25, 2019

What Georgia And Alabama Voters Think Of Their New Abortion Laws

The new laws restricting abortion in Alabama and Georgia made a big splash in the news over the past few weeks. Since the laws were passed there have been numerous polls showing that voters nationally oppose the measures. Of course, the new laws won’t affect most Americans so I wondered what the citizens of Alabama and Georgia who will actually live under the laws, assuming they are allowed by the courts to take effect, thought of them.

When you look for polls of Georgia and Alabama voters about the new laws, it’s quickly apparent that few have thought to check the opinion of local voters. In March and April, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution surveyed Georgia voters about the fetal heartbeat bill that was pending in the legislature at the time. The poll found that Georgia voters were closely split on the bill, with 43 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed. In addition to the plurality of total voters, opponents of the bill also felt more strongly about it. Thirty-nine percent were strongly opposed while 25 percent strongly supported the legislation.

On the larger question of abortion, 70 percent of Georgia voters opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, however, only 22 percent said that abortion should be legal in all cases. Voters who oppose all abortions were also a minority at 10 percent. The majority of voters supported legal abortion with restrictions. Thirty-five percent said it should be legal in most cases and 25 percent said it should be illegal in most cases.

There does not seem to be any recent public polling of Alabama voters available about the abortion law. Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood released details of a 2018 poll by ALG Research, a Democratic polling firm, that showed results similar to the AJC poll of Georgia voters.

In the poll, slightly less than a third of Alabamans supported positions that were consistent with the state’s new law. Sixteen percent said that abortion should only be permitted when the mother’s life is in danger and 15 percent said that it should be banned outright.

Again, most voters took a moderate position with 49 percent favoring restricted abortion. Twenty percent said that abortion should be legal in most cases while 29 percent said that it should be allowed only in limited cases, “such as rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is endangered.” Only 16 percent favored unrestricted abortion.

The lion’s share of support for the laws is from Republicans, who Morning Consult recently found support the measures by a 57-31 percent margin. Even among Republicans, however, there is widespread support (45 percent) for exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. These exceptions are notably lacking from the Alabama law.

The bottom line is that passage of the laws was a principled stand for pro-life principles by state Republicans, but it wasn’t a popular stand. Even at home, the new restrictions are outside of the mainstream. This is particularly true of the Alabama law.  

When a party goes against public opinion to force through legislation that is popular with the base, but unpopular with voters at large, it often leads to a backlash. This raises the possibility that Republican legislators will pay a political price for their votes next year, even if courts strike down the new laws before they even take effect.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, May 24, 2019

Democrats Lack Votes To Force Pelosi To Impeach

There has been a lot of talk about a possible impeachment of President Trump lately, but it appears to be just talk. New comments from a key Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee indicate that Democrats who favor impeachment are far short of the votes to force Speaker Pelosi to take up the issue.

In an interview with a Yahoo News podcast, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said that about 40 House Democrats now support impeachment. Cohen added that about 90 percent of Democrats on the Judiciary Committee would support impeachment. Nevertheless, with a Democratic caucus that numbers 235, the uprising against Speaker Pelosi’s decision to focus on the upcoming election rather than impeachment is too small to force a policy change.

While a revolt by 40 congressional Democrats is unusual, Speaker Pelosi has a long history of keeping a tight rein on her caucus. She is a shrewd politician who has had much luck controlling her party’s representatives than recent Republican speakers.

Nancy Pelosi has said numerous times that she opposes impeachment unless there is overwhelming bipartisan support. She echoed that opinion again yesterday, telling reporters, “The president’s behavior in terms of his obstruction of justice... yes, these could be impeachable offenses. If we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation, it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment or not. But we’re not at that place.”

Thus far, only one Republican, Justin Amash, has announced his support for impeachment. With a Republican majority in the Senate, Pelosi would want to see support from significant numbers of Republican senators before she moves in the House. So far, that has not happened.

As I predicted last year, Nancy Pelosi is unlikely to enter into a battle over impeachment that she cannot win. Although the House would certainly vote to impeach, Donald Trump would survive a Senate vote and might well emerge from the process stronger.

President Trump senses this as well and seems to be attempting to goad Democrats into impeachment with increasingly obstructive behavior with respect to House investigations. The unpopular president likely hopes that impeachment would be even more unpopular and would salvage his hopes for re-election.

The speaker intends to have it both ways. Although beating Trump in the election is far more likely than impeaching him, Pelosi will keep up the pressure on Trump by trolling him incessantly and keeping the impeachment option on the table. The president typically takes the bait and fires back at her barbs, making him look erratic and unhinged, as he did this week when he stormed out of an infrastructure meeting with Democratic leaders after three minutes.

If unforced errors like that one continue, the Democrats won’t need to impeach Trump. Voters will send him packing next year.

Originally published on the Resurgent

Drunk Pelosi Video Is a Fake

If you happen to see a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stammering through a press conference as you make your rounds through social media, be aware that the video is a fake. The video of Pelosi at a press conference was altered to make it appear as though the speaker was stammering and repeating herself. Accompanying descriptions often claim that she was intoxicated when she gave the remarks.

None other than Fox News is on record with a description of the fake news video’s origins. Fox reports that the three-minute clip was from a speech yesterday at the Center for American Progress in which Pelosi described President Trump’s angry exit from a meeting with Democrats about infrastructure. Per Fox, the video was uploaded to Facebook on a page called “Politics WatchDog.” At press time, the video is still posted on the page and has 2.4 million views. Similar videos have been removed from YouTube and Twitter.

Fox cites the Washington Post, saying that the video was apparently “slowed down to 75 percent from the original speed and that her pitch was also manipulated in order to present her under the influence.”

“It is striking that such a simple manipulation can be so effective and believable to some,” Berkeley computer science and digital forensics expert Hany Farid told the CNN. “While I think that deep-fake technology poses a real threat, this type of low-tech fake shows that there is a larger threat of misinformation campaigns -- too many of us are willing to believe the worst in people that we disagree with.”

A separate fact-check article by Politifact notes that unaltered audio is available from C-SPAN and is noticeably different than the audio accompanying the video, which has “more slurred and lisping than the one on C-SPAN.”

The original altered video posted to Facebook is captioned, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on President Trump walking out infrastructure meeting: ‘It was very, very, very strange.’” The clip closes with Pelosi saying that the meeting with Trump was very strange.

In a subsequent post, Politics WatchDog seemed to acknowledge that the video was fake, saying, “Just for the record [sic] we never claimed that Speaker Pelosi was drunk. We can’t control what the people in the comments think. It’s a free country. For your information [sic] we are not a conservative news outlet.”

The fake nature of the page is also apparent by a poll that the group posted which asks, “Should the Pelosi video be taking [sic] down?” Legitimate news sites rarely leave obvious grammatical errors uncorrected.

A spokesman for Pelosi told CNN, “We're not going to comment on this sexist trash.”

Yesterday, President Trump tweeted a different video of Pelosi that had also been altered under the caption “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.” This video, which was originally aired on Fox News’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” strings together a series of the speaker’s flubs in a speech. Although altered through selective editing, this video does not appear to be digitally manipulated.

While I am no fan of Speaker Pelosi and don’t agree with her policy prescriptions, I do value truth over blatant lies, even when they are about the opposition. The “drunk Pelosi” video is an example of the worst inclinations of the right-wing media. The fact that some conservatives and Republicans actually believe that the video is authentic is a far worse reflection on the right than the doctored video is on Mrs. Pelosi.

Fake news remains a real problem, as do blatantly false attempts at character assassination on both sides. Remember, kids, when surfing the internet, if it seems too stupid to be true, it probably is. However, in this day and age, you should probably check the source just to be sure.

Originally published on The Resurgent

May Ends Early In The UK

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will step down from her role as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7. May has presided over six months of failed negotiations with parliament for passage of a Brexit deal to leave the European Union. In her speech, she conceded that a new leader is needed to complete the deal. Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31.

“I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide,” May said, as quoted by Politico. “I have done my best to do that,” she added. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”

May said that she will remain on the job until a new leader is selected, which means that she will still head the government when President Trump visits the UK next month. Unlike the long American presidential election process, the process to select a new leader will begin the following week and will be decided quickly.

The leading contenders to replace her Michael Gove, currently environment secretary and another member of the Conservative Party, also called the Tories, Boris Johnson, a conservative member of Parliament and formerly foreign secretary, and Dominic Raab, a Conservative and former Brexit Secretary.

The next prime minister will face the difficult task of bringing together a sharply divided country in time to pass a Brexit deal. A Brexit with no deal would mean that Britain leaves the EU with no agreements in place. This would have a number of effects that could severely curtail travel and trade between Britain and EU countries. The effects on Britain’s economy could be devastating. Many members of Parliament want to keep close ties with the EU, but the Brexit Party, led by populist Nigel Farage, prefers a hard Brexit with no deal to maintain relations.

"A lot depends on whether they are serious about no-deal,” said former Brexit Secretary David Davis. “If we go at this properly and say we are going to do this properly, in my judgment the Brexit Party will step back because this is a real, serious existential moment for the country.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Trade War

The tariffs designed to protect American steel and aluminum have led to lower prices. 

It has been a year since President Trump placed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum to protect American producers. Since then, the import taxes have not worked as expected. Rather than driving up the price of the metals and boosting the stock prices of the companies that produce them, prices of both aluminum and steel have declined in the past year. The same is true of the stock prices for steel and aluminum companies.

The intent behind Trump’s protective tariffs was to drive up prices. Increased costs are a feature, not a bug, of protectionism. In theory, the taxes on imports will make foreign products more expensive and allow domestic producers to raise prices and reap more profits in turn. That is not what happened.

In reality, steel prices spiked in the months after the tariffs were implemented and then crashed in late 2018 before rebounding slightly over the past couple of months. Overall, the trend has been slightly downward since the beginning of 2018.

The story is similar for aluminum prices.  There was a spike in April 2018 followed by a long decline to a current price level that is lower than pre-tariff prices.

The slump also applies to stock prices. Steel producers US Steel and Nucor both have stock prices that are far lower than their highs from last spring. The same is true of aluminum producer Alcoa.

So, what happened? The answer seems to be found in decreasing demand. As you may remember from Econ 101’s price curves, as prices go up, demand falls. Fewer goods are sold as prices rise higher.

CNN points out that expectations of rising prices and possible supply problems led to a glut of orders in 2018. This surge in demand led to the price spike last summer and helped steel companies post nice profits.

When faced with rising prices and demand, the steel producers did the logical thing. They boosted production in order to maximize their profits. Some mills reopened and others added capacity, which led to about 9,000 new steel jobs, which reportedly cost American consumers about $900,000 each. Production in the first quarter of 2019 increased by approximately 1 million tons over the same time last year.

That’s when another economic law kicked in: the law of supply and demand. The increased steel output led to another glut, this time in supply. As steel inventories piled up, prices fell drastically.

“We observe that supply exceeded demand ... over the last six months," UBS analyst Andreas Bokkenheuser said. “This explains the corresponding 25% price correction.”

There were other reasons for softening demand as well. Steel purchasers had built up their own inventories, expecting possible interruptions in supply. When those interruptions never materialized, purchasers slowed new orders while they worked through their inventories.

The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association also notes that “steel’s major end-use markets, construction and automotive, show signs of slowing compared to last year.” This softening demand may be due to the trade war’s effects on other manufacturers who use steel and aluminum as a component in their products. Other buyers are watching prices and keeping inventories lean as they prepare to place orders when the price finds a bottom.

Despite the falling prices, US steelmakers are still adding capacity. Per CNN, both US Steel and Nucor are spending billions on projects that will add a combined 2.6 million tons of production capacity in coming years. If other factors remain the same, the new capacity could drive prices even lower. Investors who would have preferred dividends and stock buy-backs voted on the investments in new capacity by selling off stocks.

With the new investments, the American companies will be more dependent on continued tariffs to protect them from foreign competition.

“We're among the lowest-cost producers. We're extremely competitive if we're operating on a level playing field. But there is massive overcapacity of steel from China, multiples of US capacity, and it's heavily subsidized by the government. That's led to a very distorted global market for steel,” said Kevin Dempsey, senior vice president of public policy for the American Iron and Steel Institute. “If we lifted the all the tariffs, I think we'd see another flood of imports.”

That is already happening. President Trump announced this week that he would lift tariffs from Canadian and Mexican imports. The US imports far more steel and aluminum from these two North American neighbors than it does from China and the rest of the world.

The bottom line is that the tariffs have failed to protect the steel and aluminum industries and, ironically, have left them more vulnerable than they were before. Steel producers invested their windfall in more capacity which will be of little use in a market with declining prices. As competition from foreign imports returns, the future of American steel and aluminum companies appears to be difficult.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

Women Consider Adoption ‘More Emotionally Painful’ Than Abortion

The Atlantic recently ran a piece on adoption versus abortion. While most conservative outlets and readers focus on the money quote, a subtitle that reads, “Some American women see giving up their babies as more emotionally painful than terminating their pregnancies,” the excerpt doesn’t do the article justice and really doesn’t reflect the tone of the article.

The implication from the blurb is that many women choose abortion over adoption because they are self-centered and would rather inflict pain on an unborn baby than to go through the process of pregnancy and suffer emotional pain themselves as a result. That was my initial reaction, but then I actually read the piece by Olga Khazan, which turned out to be quite interesting.

Preconceptions are shattered almost immediately when Khazan points out that, while rates for both adoption and abortion have fallen in recent decades, births to unmarried children have risen. This suggests that, rather than making a choice to abort over placing their baby up for adoption, many women are choosing to become single parents. As single-parenting has become more socially acceptable, more women have decided to keep their babies rather than allow them to be adopted.

While this does contribute to the welfare state since children of single-parent families are more like to be raised in poverty, it is a better choice than abortion. It also works against the declining birthrate in the United States, which is another longterm problem that needs to be addressed.

Khazan cites the Turnaway Study of women who were denied abortions between 2008 and 2010. Of 956 women interviewed, 161 went on to give birth, but only 15 chose adoption. Khazan doesn’t say, but presumably, the remainder had successful abortions on subsequent attempts.

The study found that when women were denied an abortion, usually for financial reasons or lack of access, they often considered adoption. Fourteen percent of mothers who were denied an abortion considered adoption in the weeks following their abortion attempt, but ultimately, only nine percent decided to adopt. Most of those who carried the baby to term simply decided to raise the child themselves.

On the other hand, none of the mothers who aborted had any interest in adoption. The authors of the study wrote, “Adoption was often ruled out because they felt it was not right for them, because their partner would not be interested, because they had health reasons for not wanting to carry to term, or because they believed there were already enough children in need of homes.”

While the mother’s health might preclude an adoption, the other reasons relate more to the fact that the baby was an inconvenience. For example, having children already has nothing to do with putting a different child up for adoption but does raising children while pregnant is more difficult.

The study did find that mothers who chose adoption were satisfied with the choice but that it was very traumatic initially.

“Uniformly, the birth mothers experience grief after placement,” said Gretchen Sisson, a sociologist at the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health research group of the University of California at San Francisco. “It’s a very hard choice and one that a lot of women are not interested in making. By the time they are delivering the child, women feel bonded to their pregnancies and their children.”

One study participant said, “I had too many feelings for her to give [her] to someone I barely knew.”

These types of comments underscore the truth that unborn babies are living human beings, a fact denied by many in the pro-choice camp. Nevertheless, most mothers inherently understand that the child inside them is just that: a child.

Khazan also cites a small study performed by Sisson on mothers who placed their children up for adoption between 1962 and 2009. In the study, she wrote, “Rarely was adoption the preferred course of action; it emerged as a solution when women felt they had no other options.” Most of the women interviewed described their experience with adoption as “predominantly negative.” Khazan notes that this may be because most of the participants were involved in closed adoptions where no contact was allowed between the birth mother and the adopted child.

Finally, Khazan cites a third study which does lend credence to the money quote cited above. A 2008 study found that a quarter of women considering abortion found adoption to be too emotionally distressing. “Respondents said that the thought of one’s child being out in the world without knowing whether it was being taken care of or who was taking care of it was more guilt-inducing than having an abortion,” wrote the authors.

While it seems barbaric and wrongheaded – and more than a little reminiscent of Nazi Germany – to kill an unborn baby because you are concerned about its wellbeing, this statement again cuts against the claim that a fetus is not a human being. If an unborn baby is nothing more than a lump of cells then there is no reason to be concerned about whether it will be taken care of in the future.

If I go that far, I’m attached. I cannot just give my baby away to someone,” said the unmarried, 24-year-old mother of two who was considering abortion over adoption.

Khazan also points out that neither pro-choice nor pro-life counseling centers are doing a good job of selling expectant mothers on adoption. According to the National Council for Adoption, the referral rate to adoption agencies is only about one percent.

While Khazan’s article is not pro-life by any means, she is objective enough to confront some uncomfortable truths. “Rightly or wrongly, very few women who desire abortions actually see adoption as a favorable alternative,” she writes, but adds, “The reason the women don’t choose adoption is not great for the pro-choice side, either. Some of these women report feeling bonded with their fetuses, or at least too attached to give up the resulting baby. That’s an inconvenient point if you feel that a fetus is nothing more than a collection of cells and that what happens to it before viability is basically immaterial.”

If the pro-life movement wants women to see adoption as a viable alternative to abortion, there is a lot of work to be done. Crisis pregnancy centers could do a better job of informing women about adoption and there should be more methods through which the mother can stay involved in the child’s life if she chooses. This may help to reduce the emotional stress of giving a child away. Campaigns should also be undertaken to make the public see adoption as a positive choice and spouses should be encouraged to support women who want to carry their children to term and place them with adoptive parents.

One of the most difficult problems to overcome is the fact that abortions can take place in secret while carrying a baby to term is difficult to conceal. Many women probably choose abortion to keep others from ever knowing that they were pregnant in the first place.

In the end, Khazan’s article contains both good news and bad news for the pro-life movement. Rather than attacking the messenger or ridiculing the women who choose abortion over adoption, we should learn from their experience and tailor the pro-life message to address their concerns.

The only way to resolve the national issues that divide us is to talk to each other and find common ground. Olga Khazan may be a pro-choice advocate, but I applaud her for looking past the rhetoric to find out what mothers on both sides of the issue think.
 Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Why Justin Amash Is Right About Impeachment

Justin Amash has generated quite a stir with his comments about President Trump having committed impeachable offenses. Most Republicans and many conservatives are distancing themselves from his tweets, but I believe that Amash hit the nail on the head.

If you’ve read the Mueller report, or even if you read about only the most reported-upon sections of it, you know that Mueller’s team did not find “nothing.” While Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy with the Russians, he did find numerous undisclosed contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign as well as a pattern of deception about those contacts. Even more alarming, Mueller found that the president did attempt to obstruct justice. Mueller’s pointed note that Trump could not be exonerated should be translated to read that the president obstructed justice but could not be prosecuted under DOJ policy.

From all this, what the president and his supporters have gleaned is “no collusion, no obstruction.” In reality, the findings against Trump are much more serious. Despite “no collusion,” the president showed himself to be dishonest with the American people about his dealings with a foreign power in his attempt to cover up negotiations for a Moscow Trump Tower that were ongoing during the campaign. The president has demonstrated a habit of attempting to cover up anything potentially embarrassing such as the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya in the New York Trump Tower as well as defying legal requests from Congress for his tax information. While the lies weren’t illegal because the president did not lie under oath (as some of his staffers did), it underscores the fact that Donald Trump is fundamentally dishonest and cannot be trusted by the American people.

What was illegal were the president’s attempts to undermine the Russia investigation. Some, such as Ben Shapiro, say that the law requires either successful obstruction or an underlying crime to be criminal. There are many others on the right, including Judge Andrew Napolitano and former prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who disagree. In fact, hundreds of federal prosecutors say that Trump would have been indicted if he had not been president.

In his tweet thread, Amash, who is himself an attorney points out that there were underlying crimes uncovered by the Mueller investigation but that obstruction of justice does not require the investigation to have found a crime.

As Amash points out, the president could not have known for certain what Mueller’s team would find. It was entirely possible that some members of the campaign could have been Russian agents without Trump’s knowledge. It is also possible – because it actually happened – that Mueller’s investigation would uncover other crimes.

Add to Mueller’s findings the president’s attempt to undermine the will of the voters and Congress by declaring a national emergency. David French explained in February why Trump’s national emergency violated existing law, calling it “contemptuous of the rule of law.” This is a far cry from the party that attacked President Obama’s circumvention of Congress on DACA and that spent years pointing out that the House, not the president, held the purse strings of government.

We are left with no criminal conspiracy and no prosecutable obstruction because the DOJ has a policy against indicting a sitting president. That’s quite a difference from “no collusion, no obstruction.” Unconstitutional abuses of power add to the mix. There obviously was wrongdoing by the president that deserves some sort of penalty. The options on the table are for the DOJ to amend its policy, to indict Trump after he leaves office, impeachment, or a congressional vote of censure.

Amash is also correct that the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” do not require the commission of a crime. The Constitutional Rights Foundation points out that the original meaning of the phrase, as the framers would have understood it, included both criminal acts as well as noncriminal offenses with the “common denominator… that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.”

In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton wrote that impeachable offenses are “those offences [sic] which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

Donald Trump’s actions fall under the categories of abuse of power, even if one does not acknowledge that they were criminal on their face. In the best case scenario, the president directed his subordinates to undermine a federal investigation. This is a clear breach of the public trust.

The most palatable option for Republicans should be a censure vote. It would acknowledge that the president acted improperly and hopefully restrain him in the future. Unfortunately, loyalty to Trump is now a litmus test in the GOP. Republican congressmen cannot vote for censure without incurring the wrath of both the party’s base and the president.

With most Republicans unwilling to follow Amash’s lead, most GOP officials are stuck with the additional option of whistling the tune “no collusion, no obstruction” as they tiptoe past the graveyard and pretend nothing is wrong. The problem with following this option is that the media and Democrats are holding up Trump’s misbehavior for voters everywhere to see. I’ll wager that presidential ads next year will quote the Mueller report verbatim. Polls show that Mueller is more trusted than Trump even after two years of vicious Republican attacks and that Mueller’s findings changed few minds about Trump.

If Republicans choose to ignore Donald Trump’s misdeeds out of either misguided loyalty to the president or an affinity for his policy, then it will be up to voters to hold both the president and the Republican Party accountable. Ideally, Republican voters would oust Trump in the primary, but if not, it appears that general election voters will be up to the job.

Originally published on The Resurgent