Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Three Shocking Developments In the Cruz-O'Rourke Senate Race

The surprisingly hotly contested race between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and his Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke has been shaken up once again. A new poll, a sudden change of heart and an August surprise have upended the race that Cruz had once been assumed to win in a walk.

The first shock came with the release of a new poll on Monday that showed Cruz with only a one-point lead over O’Rourke. The Emerson College poll of 550 registered voters found Cruz with 38 percent and O’Rourke with 37 percent. The race is well within the poll’s margin of error of 4.4 points. It should be noted that the sample size of the poll is small and registered voter polls are less credible than polls of likely voters.

The poll found that voters disapprove of Cruz by 38 to 44 percent. Cruz has only 25 percent approval among independent voters (57 percent disapprove) and O’Rourke leads by 20 points among independents. Cruz is suffering from a generation gap. Younger voters overwhelmingly prefer O’Rourke while older voters favor Cruz by large margins.   

Shockingly, the poll found that 21 percent of voters were undecided. This is not good news for Ted Cruz since he is an incumbent with 99 percent name recognition. As pollster and pundit Dick Morris often points out, undecided voters often break for the challenger. Morris uses the analogy of marriage, saying that if you are undecided about whether to keep your spouse, that’s not a good thing. Being undecided on whether to rehire your senator also likely means that you have a problem with him.

The good news for Ted Cruz is that the other two shocks to the race are bad for Beto O’Rourke. First, O’Rourke announced on Monday that a proposed August 31 debate with Ted Cruz “is not going to happen.” In July, Cruz challenged O’Rourke to a series of debates. O’Rourke accepted the challenge, but proposed revisions to the Cruz schedule.

On Monday, O’Rourke told the Texas Tribune, “Friday in Dallas is not going to happen, but I'm convinced we will debate. I'm convinced there will be a number of debates.”

O’Rourke accused the Cruz campaign of attempting to micromanage the details of the debates, saying, “We're working through those differences, and we're trying to introduce more of a collaborative style to the negotiations than he may be used to. And so we're confident that out of that, we're going to come to something good.”

A spokesman for the Cruz campaign fired back, “[O'Rourke] begged for debates, but when Sen. Cruz invited him to five debates all across Texas, suddenly O’Rourke seemed to get scared” and added that "except for when he has to be in DC for his work in the Senate, Cruz is ready and excited to debate O’Rourke, including this Friday.”

It’s possible that O’Rourke’s reversal on the debate challenge is related to an August surprise published in the Houston Chronicle this morning. A Chronicle investigation confirmed that O’Rourke was arrested in the 1990s for DWI and burglary. O’Rourke was arrested on two separate occasions. The first was in 1995 for “attempted forcible entry” on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso and in 1998 for DWI. The university decided not to press charges for the first incident and O’Rourke completed DWI school as a result of the second charge.

The O’Rourke campaign said that the candidate has acknowledged both arrests multiple times. In fact, the arrests have been public knowledge since 2005 when O’Rourke’s opponent in a race for the El Paso city council ran an ad describing the incidents. O’Rourke eventually won that race.

In 2005, The El Paso Times quoted O’Rourke’s description of the arrests. “I've been open about that since the very beginning,” O’Rourke said. “I have owned up to it and I have taken responsibility for it.”

With respect to the burglary arrest, O’Rourke said, “That happened while I was in college. I along with some friends were horsing around, and we snuck under the fence at the UTEP physical plant and set off an alarm. We were arrested by UTEP police. ... UTEP decided not to press charges. We weren't intending to do any harm.”

At a campaign stop in San Antonio, O’Rourke called his DWI  a “far more serious mistake,” saying, “I drove under the influence of alcohol. There’s no justifying that.”

In a close race, O’Rourke may regret his decision to bow out of his debate with Ted Cruz. The decision gives the Cruz campaign an opening to attack him and make him look weak and unprepared on the issues. At this point, O’Rourke may well feel that debating Cruz can only slow his momentum.

Likewise, O’Rourke’s arrests may be old news in El Paso, but they will be new to many Texas voters. Even though the arrests happened 20 years ago, they may lead voters to question O’Rourke’s character and fitness for office.

The bad news for O’Rourke at least partially offsets Ted Cruz’s negative approval rating. Polling over the past few months has shown O’Rourke closing slowing on the senator. The Cruz campaign and its surrogates will undoubtedly hope that the revelations about O’Rourke shift the momentum towards Cruz.

In any case, the race is certain to go down to the wire. Texas is still deep red and the race remains Cruz’s to lose. Nevertheless, if the senator returns to Washington for the next Congress, it won’t be because he cruised to reelection.   

Originally published on The Resurgent

John McCain's Touching Farewell Letter to America

When Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) left this life over the weekend, he left a final message for the country that he spent much of his life serving. The letter was read aloud by Rick Davis, McCain’s former campaign manager who is currently acting as a spokesman for the family.

As with many conservatives, I had a love-hate relationship with Sen. McCain. I disagreed with McCain regularly on the issues, but never disrespected the man or doubted his sincerity or his love for his country.

Senator McCain’s devotion to America was written in the blood, sweat and tears that dropped to the floor of the Hanoi Hilton during his almost six years as a prisoner of war. Then-Lt. Cmdr. McCain refused early release when the Vietnamese offered to let him go due to his father’s rank and position in the Navy, choosing instead to remain and be tortured until the Americans captured before him had been released.

Whatever else can be said about John McCain, he was an American hero and he was not a bullshitter. That makes Senator McCain’s last testament to the American people all the more beautiful and touching.

Here is Senator John McCain’s last message to America, as read by Rick Davis, in its entirety:

My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for 60 years, and especially my fellow Arizonians, thank you for the privilege of serving you, and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead.

I’ve tried to serve our country honorably. I’ve made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them. I’ve often observed that I am the luckiest person on Earth. I feel that way even now, as I prepare for the end of my life. I’ve loved my life, all of it. I’ve had experiences, adventures, friendships, enough for 10 satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life in good or bad times for the best day of anybody else’s.

I owe this satisfaction to the love of my family. One man has never had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America to be connected to America’s causes: Liberty, equal justice, and respect for the dignity of all people brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth were not circumscribed, but are enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

Fellow Americans, that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history, and we have acquired great wealth and power in the progress.

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down; when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before, we always do.

Ten years ago I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still.

Do not despair of our present difficulties. We believe always in the promise and greatness of America because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit, we never surrender, we never hide from history. We make history. Farewell fellow Americans, God bless you, and God bless America.

Originally published on The Resurgent

How Trump Helps - And Hurts - Republican Candidates

Donald Trump is proving to be a blessing and a curse for Republican candidates this year. Unfortunately for Republicans, we appear to be transitioning from the helpful phase to the hindrance phase.

In the primary elections, President Trump’s favored candidates were tough to beat. Buoyed by 85 percent approval from Republicans (per a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll), Trump-backed candidates have seen a definite Trump bump in the polls while many Republican Trump critics have been defeated or decided that 2018 was a good time to retire.

However, the 2018 elections are now shifting to the general phase where Mr. Trump is looking more like a liability. While Republicans have eked out victories in this year’s special elections, Democrats have overperformed by an average of 16 points. There are many Republican House districts with margins smaller than 16 points.

With the economy doing well, President Trump seems to be the big problem for Republican candidates. The same poll that showed President Trump with 85 percent approval among Republicans found him with only 38 percent approval among the independent voters who decide elections. We don’t even need to discuss his approval among Democrats.

President Trump’s collapse with independents seems to be driven by women voters. A new Fox News poll shows that women disapprove of Mr. Trump by a margin of 60-38 percent The gender gap has returned with a vengeance.

President Trump has placed both the Republican Party as a whole and individual candidates in a conundrum. GOP voters are out of sync with the rest of the country on President Trump. The Republican primary became a loyalty test where candidates argued over who supported the president more. The problem now is that the inability to distance themselves from Trump is likely to hurt Republican candidates in the general election.

Republican candidates are between a rock and a hard place. At this point, most have secured their nominations by pledging to support a president who preempts stories about a booming economy with his daily Twitter tirade and petty squabbles, not to mention a parade of indictments and convictions of Trump campaign staffers and Republican congressmen. If President Trump would sequester himself in the White House without his phone, Republican candidates might recover some lost ground and save some endangered seats. There is little chance of that happening, however.

President Trump’s outspokenness is one of the things that Republican voters love about him. It helped him get elected. It just won’t help congressional Republicans.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, August 27, 2018

Democrats Decide Superdelegates Are Undemocratic

The Democratic Party is continuing to at least make token reforms after its 2016 Hillary Clinton debacle. The Democratic National Committee decided over the weekend that the party would jettison its longtime system of superdelegate votes in primaries.

In the Democratic primary, 712 superdelegates to the convention are free to vote for whichever candidate they want, regardless of how their state votes. The superdelegates, who are typically members of the party establishment, make up about 15 percent of delegates to the Democratic convention and could swing a close primary.

Last Saturday, the DNC voted to eliminate the role of superdelegates in the first round of balloting at the convention. If no candidate is selected on the first ballot, then superdelegates would be allowed to vote on subsequent ballots.

The change was pushed through on a voice vote by DNC Chairman Tom Perez. The measure was largely popular with DNC members, but a vocal minority argued that it would disenfranchise party elites.

The Democrats have used superdelegates since the early 1980s as a way to balance the party’s populist and establishment sides. Prior to 1970, party bosses picked the party nominee. In These Times noted that Hubert Humphrey won that year despite not competing in a single primary. This outraged supporters of the antiwar Eugene McCarthy and threatened to split the party. The solution was to rewrite party rules in favor of primary elections.

After George McGovern and Jimmy Carter lost two of the next three elections in landslides, Democrats went back to the drawing board. The creation of superdelegates, which were first used in 1984, was intended to temper the Democratic voters’ preferences for radicals and unknowns by giving some control back to party elites.

Fast forward to 2016 when more than 92 percent of superdelegates supported Hillary Clinton over the populist sensation, Bernie Sanders. The superdelegate system performed exactly as intended in preventing a grassroots insurgent from defeating an establishment favorite, but the contest left the party divided. Contrary to popular belief, Clinton would have won even without the superdelegates, but the one-sided nature of the battle for the superdelegates made the system seem, well, undemocratic. There is also the deep-seated belief among many Democrats that Bernie Sanders, who did not carry Hillary Clinton’s massive amounts of baggage, could have beaten Donald Trump.

Sanders expressed approval for the change in a statement quoted in The Hill. “Today's decision by the DNC is an important step forward in making the Democratic Party more open, democratic and responsive to the input of ordinary Americans,” Sanders said.

That could be translated to mean that the change could help Democrats nominate an even more transparently radical leftist. The party has become more radical and accepting of socialists since 2016 so the new rules could lead to the nomination of the most radically left candidate that American politics has ever seen in a mainstream party.

Before Republicans prematurely celebrate the nomination of an “unelectable” candidate, they should remember that the last two presidents were both considered unelectable until they were, in fact, elected. The American electorate has whipsawed between extremes in past elections and, given Donald Trump’s persistent unpopularity, it is within the realm of possibility that, if the Democrats nominated a socialist like Bernie Sanders, America could elect its first socialist president.

For better or worse, the change remakes the political landscape for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. The election of 2020 is shaping up to be an interesting one to watch, even if the candidates may be the most unpopular and uninspiring nominees since… 2016.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Mollie TIbbetts' Family Rejects "Racist" Exploitation of Her Murder

Since the arrest of an illegal alien for the murder of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, the immigration status of her killer has become a hot political topic. Immigration hardliners have used the murder to call for strict enforcement of immigration laws and the deportation of all illegal immigrants. You might expect Mollie’s family to join in the calls for retribution against other illegal aliens. You’d be wrong.

The Tibbetts family has largely remained publicly silent about the immigration debate surrounding their daughter’s death. On Wednesday, the family released a statement through the Iowa Department of Public Safety that thanked the public for their prayers and support and asked that the family be allowed to grieve in private.

The family members who have spoken out on the politics surrounding her murder have been quick to distance themselves from the anti-immigration rhetoric and say that Mollie would not have agreed with what they call “racist fear-mongering,” reports KCCI in Des Moines. Members of the family call it unethical to “use this tragedy to demonize an entire population for the acts of one man.” As The Resurgent discussed last week, statistics show that illegal immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.

Among the family members who have made public statements are Mollie’s aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, who wrote on Facebook that “evil comes in EVERY color,” and cousin, Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, who blamed the murder on “the toxic masculinity that exists in our society.’

As with Seth Rich, the politicization of the murder of Mollie Tibbetts only serves to add to the tragedy by hurting her family as they deal with their grief and loss. If the activists truly care about Mollie and her family, they will leave the Tibbetts family out of the political arena.

For those who sincerely care about the family and want to honor Mollie’s life and legacy, the family has requested that donations to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital in lieu of flowers. Donations can be sent in care of the Smith Funeral Home, P.O. Box 368, Grinnell, Iowa 50112.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ben Sasse Won't Support Replacing Sessions

President Trump has had a difficult week. There has been bad legal news on several fronts and the president responded as he often does. In an interview with Fox News, Trump denied Russian collusion and blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his disloyalty in recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

One of Trump’s chief complaints is that Sessions took the job of attorney general without telling Trump in advance that he would recuse himself. In reality, Sessions had no reason to recuse himself until after he was sworn in on Feb. 8, 2017. A few weeks after he took office, it was revealed that Sessions had met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the 2016 campaign despite stating during his confirmation hearings that he had not had contact with Russians in that time.  After the revelation, Sessions recused himself on March 2 citing Justice Department regulations that “no DOJ employee may participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution, or who would be directly affected by the outcome.”

The renewed spat between the president and the attorney general has rekindled speculation that Trump may fire Sessions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speculated that the president is “very likely” to dismiss Sessions after the midterm elections. Now Ben Sasse and other Republican senators are warning the president against removing the attorney general.

“I find it really difficult to envision any circumstance where I would vote to confirm a successor to Jeff Sessions if he is fired because he's executing his job, rather than choosing to act as a partisan hack," Sasse (R-Neb.) said on the Senate floor.

“The attorney general of the United States should not be fired for acting honorably and for being faithful to the rule of law,” he added.

“It would be a very, very, very bad idea to fire the attorney general because he's not executing his job as a political hack,” Sasse said. “That is not the job of the attorney general. The attorney general's job is to be faithful to the Constitution and to the rule of law.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) seemed to agree with Sasse, telling reporters that she didn’t “see the president being able to get someone else confirmed” if Sessions was removed.

Meanwhile, President Trump left no doubt what he wants with a pair of early morning tweets, in which he responded to Sessions’ statement that the “Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

“Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants,” the president tweeted, before adding unironically, “So look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side’ including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA abuse, Christopher Steele & his phony and corrupt Dossier, the Clinton Foundation, illegal surveillance of Trump Campaign, Russian collusion by Dems - and so much more.”

At this point, President Trump is stuck with Sessions. The attorney general seems to have no plans to leave his post even after more than a year of withering criticism and attacks from the president. If Trump did fire Sessions, there would be little time to pick and confirm a new nominee before the new Congress is seated next year. In any case, the growing revolt from Republicans in the Senate makes it doubtful that a nominee more friendly to Trump could be appointed. In the absence of a new attorney general, control of the Department of Justice would fall to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is not exactly a Trump favorite either. It’s possible that election results might make firing Sessions after the election even more problematic.

Donald Trump picked Jeff Sessions to head the Department of Justice. Sessions is doing his job with integrity and without regard for partisanship. This is obviously what upsets the president since he wants someone who can steer the Russia investigation away from his administration and focus the efforts of the DOJ onto his political enemies. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that Trump will be able to rid himself of Sessions before his term ends in 2021.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, August 24, 2018

Republicans Fail To Defund Planned Parenthood Again

For years, a central pillar of the Republican platform has been defunding Planned Parenthood. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave the party another chance to follow through on its commitment to strip federal money from the abortion provider yesterday, but the GOP failed once again to rise to the occasion.

Sen. Paul offered an amendment to a “minibus appropriations package for Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education” that would have stripped federal funding from Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortions. In a press release on his website, Sen. Paul said yesterday that Republican leadership was blocking a vote on the amendment.  Later in the day, Paul took to the Senate floor to accuse Republicans of blocking his amendment, which is already included in the House version of the bill.

“Planned Parenthood ends the lives of 320,000 babies each year,” Paul said. “That’s about 900 babies every day. Planned Parenthood receives over $400 million of taxpayer money. The government, with a wink and a nod, tells us that Planned Parenthood doesn’t spend the money on abortion, but everybody knows that the taxpayer is really cross-subsidizing Planned Parenthood’s abortion mills.”

Last week, before Paul was able to add his amendment to the limited spaces on the “amendment tree” of the bill, the Washington Examiner reported that Republicans who were worried that the controversial amendment would kill the funding bill placed another amend the ent in the last slot that changed funding of a government program by $1.

“Its only purpose was to block Paul,” a Senate insider said.

After Paul attacked the Republican Senate leadership on the floor of the Senate, Republicans relented and allowed a vote on the amendment. Two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined Democrats to defeat the amendment by a vote of 45-48. Four Republicans (Corker, Cruz, Fischer, and McCain) and three Democrats (Hirono, Murray, and Schatz) did not vote.

With midterm prospects looking bleak, the vote may mark the last opportunity for Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood, but even if the amendment had passed defunding the group would have been a long shot. If the amendment had been added to the bill, Democrats would likely have filibustered the spending package since Republicans would have lacked the votes for cloture.

If Republicans really wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, it would be necessary to insert the measure in a budget reconciliation bill that cannot be filibustered. Even then, if Republican leaders cannot pressure Collins and Murkowski to stick with their GOP colleagues, the two rogue senators would be enough to defeat the measure since Democrats always vote in a bloc to protect the abortionists.

In the end, the appropriations bill passed with bipartisan support in an 85-7 vote. The various departments of the federal government will get their money. So will Planned Parenthood.

Originally published on The Resurgent

More Than Half of US Children Are In Households That Receive Government Benefits

The United States has reached a milestone. And not a particularly good one. According to US census data, a majority of American children under 18 are now in households that receive means-tested government assistance.

CNS News reported that 52.1 percent of Americans under the age of 18 live in households where at least one person receives government assistance. This does not necessarily mean that each young person personally receives government assistance. It could be an older or disabled person, but many of the programs are geared toward families with young children.

The means-tested programs include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid, public housing, Supplemental Security Income, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the National School Lunch Program.

The share of people receiving government benefits decreased as age increased with Americans aged 75 and older being the least likely to receive assistance. Only 18.8 percent of senior Americans received benefits. Even when school lunches were excluded, the under-18 category still led with 44.8 percent receiving assistance.

Historic data shows that the share of children receiving benefits has climbed sharply over the past 20 years. In 1998, only 36.9 percent received means-tested assistance. By 2008, the number has risen to 40 percent. It continued to climb throughout the Great Recession and first reached 50 percent in 2013.

A driving factor may be the increase in unmarried births. Out-of-wedlock births have risen alongside the increased government assistance. For women under 30, more than half of all births now occur outside of marriage. To some extent, government assistance has replaced a spouse’s income in these single-parent families.

The trend of growing entitlement spending will be difficult to reverse, but is vital for the future of the United States. Entitlements are already in excess of 15 percent of GDP and represent about 60 percent of the annual federal budget. Entitlements drive the federal budget deficit and, as entitlement spending grows, it will crowd out other programs such as defense and infrastructure spending.

Equally important is that having a large share of young Americans on the government dole teaches a bad lesson. Rather than teaching the next generation to be self-reliant and prepare their own futures, broad government assistance involves a moral hazard, the risk of teaching children not to build their own wealth or think carefully about life choices because the government will bail you out. That’s not the message that we should be sending to the next generation.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Illegal Immigrant Crime Wave Is A Myth

The murder of Mollie Tibbetts was a tragedy. That her killer was an illegal immigrant makes the crime seem even worse and more senseless. Yet, as conservative news outlets focus attention on 24-year-old Christhian Rivera, a Mexican national living and working illegally in the US, it is important to distinguish between fact and fiction in the discussion about the so-called illegal immigrant crime wave.

Despite claims from immigration hawks, the data does not support claims of a crisis level of violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants. In any large group, there will be both good and bad people. The question is not whether illegal immigrants commit violent crimes, it is whether they do so at a rate that is higher than native-born Americans.

Due to the nature of the group being studied, reliable data is hard to come by. Official government statistics about “criminal aliens” from the GAO do not distinguish between legal and illegal aliens. Therefore, some studies, such as John Lott’s 2018 study of Arizona inmates, are flawed because they make assumptions about who is a legal immigrant and who is not. It’s tough to determine how many crimes are committed by illegals if you can’t determine who is an illegal alien.

There are other ways to skin the cat though. A 2018 article in Criminology cited several studies that looked at community-wide crime rates. One compared “gateway” cities with high immigrant populations to “traditional” American cities. Another looked at different neighborhoods in Austin, Texas. Both found no evidence that neighborhoods with high numbers of immigrants had higher crime rates A third study examined federal Uniform Crime Report data from 2000 through 2010. The study found that even though immigration increased during the period, the crime rate decreased.

When the researchers looked at violent crime, the pattern was the same. Far from being the most dangerous places in the country, cities with many recent immigrants had the lowest homicide rates. Murder rates were more closely associated with age and socially disorganized neighborhoods than immigration status. Immigrants, possibly due to their strong family structures, often helped to lower the homicide and crime rates in their neighborhoods.

Earlier this year, Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute also published a study of illegal immigrant crime rates in Texas where crime data distinguishes between illegal and legal immigrants. The Texas data showed that the overall crime rate and the violent crime rate for both legal and illegal immigrants were far below that of native-born Americans.

Cities on the southern border do not rank among the most dangerous cities in the US even though they are in close proximity to the source of much illegal immigration. The most dangerous city in America is Detroit, located near the Canadian border. We might do more to lower the crime by deploying the national guard to Michigan than the Mexican border.

The killing of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant, another high profile case, seems fresh because her killer was acquitted less than a year ago. In reality, Steinle died in 2015. If three years pass between such highly publicized murder cases involving illegal immigrants, it is de facto evidence that such cases are hard to find. If the immigration hardliners could find more cases to sensationalize for their cause, there is little doubt that they would do so.

Despite the headlines about crimes committed by immigrants, it makes logical sense that immigrants commit fewer crimes. The vast majority of immigrants, both legal and illegal, come to the US to work. They have a powerful incentive to stay out of trouble and steer clear of law enforcement. If they get into legal trouble, they not only lose their income, they can be deported. Their entire way of life is at risk if they commit even a small crime and attract the attention of police.

There are violent immigrants, such as members of MS-13, the infamous criminal gang, but even this is exaggerated. There are an estimated 10,000 members of MS-13 in the US, but most are American citizens and not immigrants. Even if the gang was made up entirely of illegal immigrants, it would represent a tiny fraction of the estimated 12 million illegals living in the US.

If the family of Mollie Tibbetts does not take comfort from data that shows that immigrants are more law-abiding that US citizens, that is understandable. However, good policy decisions are not made in the heat of the moment based on an emotional reaction to a tragedy. That is as true with crimes committed by illegals as it is after mass shootings when victims and their relatives often clamor for a quick solution. As H.L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” As citizens of a republic, we pay our elected officials to dispassionately consider the facts and enact policies based on the right solution rather than impractical, feel-good policies.

In fact, the anti-immigrant chorus in the wake of Mollie Tibbetts’s murder sounds a lot like the anti-gun crowd after a mass shooting. In a great many cases, the phrase “illegal immigrant” in Republican rhetoric can be interchanged with the word “gun” in Democratic rhetoric after a mass shooting. Granted, Mollie Tibbetts would still be alive if there were no illegal immigrants, but there would also be no mass shootings if there were no guns. Neither argument contains a practical solution. Deporting all illegals is no more workable than banning all guns.

For conservatives, a practical solution to the problem of illegal immigrant crime should fit the problem. The conservative solution should keep government growth to a minimum, it should keep costs to a minimum (including both direct expenditures and costs to the economy from removing people from the workforce) and it should minimize disruptions to families. Conservatives should keep in mind that many illegal immigrants have family members, often dependents, who are American citizens with the same constitutional rights as any other American.

Considering the fact that most illegal immigrants are peaceful contributors to the US economy and their local communities, the best solution seems to be to focus on illegals with a propensity for violence rather than wasting limited law enforcement resources on people who are here to earn a living. Border security is needed to control who enters the country, but so is reform for the legal immigration system. Fewer migrant workers will cross the border illegally if the wall has a big door with a welcome sign.

The murder of Mollie Tibbetts was a horrible crime, but it should not be used to unfairly demonize all illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration is a crime, but there is a huge difference between crossing the border to work without authorization and committing a brutal murder. Any conservative solution must recognize the difference.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Even The Hospital Doesn't Know What Your Surgery Will Cost

Last week I bought a car. I don’t know how much the car cost yet. I gave the dealership a down payment and they will send me bills for the balance. I’ll get separate bills for the engine, the body, the tires, the radio and the other separate components and send a monthly payment to each supplier until I pay it off. Until I pay all the bills, I won’t know if my new car costs $10,000 or $100,000 or somewhere in between.

If you are thinking, “That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works,” then you’re right. Anyone who bought a car under these terms would be an idiot. That’s not how the market for new cars works at all, but this is the way we buy health care without thinking twice.

We go to the doctor and pay our copayment or deductible, but we know that this is not the entire cost of our care. The insurance companies exclude some services from the copayment and even after paying the deductible we are responsible for a percentage of our healthcare expenses until we reach an out-of-pocket maximum. When we leave the doctor’s office or hospital, we have no idea how much money we have just spent.

It isn’t that health care providers are keeping the cost of care a secret. It turns out that they don’t know how much their services cost either. The Wall Street Journal recently cited the example of Gunderson Health System in Lacrosse, Wisc. The hospital administrators had increased the price of knee surgery by about three percent per year for a decade until the list price approached $50,000.

As with most car dealerships, only suckers pay the list price. The sticker price is a starting point for negotiations. As the car lot, the buyer negotiates directly with the seller, but in the case of health care, the haggling is done between the provider and insurance companies and Medicare.

When the insurers complained about the cost of Gunderson’s knee surgeries, the hospital conducted an 18-month review of their pricing. The review included an efficiency expert, cost of materials and a tally of the time that nurses, doctors and physical therapists spent with the patient. In the end, it turned out that Gunderson’s knee surgeries cost $10,550 at most, about one-fifth of the list price.  

A big part of the problem with American health care is lack of price transparency. If hospitals don’t know how much a procedure costs, how can patients? When you don’t know what something costs, it is impossible to compare prices and shop around. When you only see the insurance copay before the procedure, there is no incentive to compare prices.

Knee surgery, the most common procedure in the US outside of childbirth, would be a good case for price shopping if the data were available to consumers. High-priced hospitals spent about twice what lower-priced hospitals spent on the procedure, but there was little difference in the quality of the work.

“It’s a standard procedure” that doesn’t vary much between hospitals, said Professor Robert Kaplan of the Harvard Business School. “Carve out the old knee and put in a new joint.”

Gunderson went further than just finding out what its costs were. It took steps to cut them. The hospital took steps to improve efficiency while improving the quality of its care. A generic brand of bone cement was substituted for the higher-cost brand used previously. Now physical therapy is started much more quickly. This reduces pain for the patients and speeds up the recovery time, making hospital stays shorter. These and other changes lowered costs by about 18 percent to $8,700.

The American health care system is one of the best in the world when it comes to quality. The biggest problem with American health care is its high costs. Lack of transparency in pricing means that there is little competition based on price. Inefficiencies at the local level boost costs for some hospitals, but the lack of transparency prevents patients from seeking out lower cost alternatives.

The current pricing system is not working well. Even after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, health care costs have continued to rise. Reuters reported that health care costs are projected to increase by more than five percent in 2018 while CNBC pointed out that annual health care costs already exceed $10,000 per person. Health care spending is approaching 20 percent of GDP and will go higher as Baby Boomers continue to age.

In the end, it is the consumers who are hurt most by the lack of competition and transparency. When the bills that insurance doesn’t cover start rolling in, the patient may contract a serious case of post-op sticker shock. Even those who don’t have surgery pay for the inefficiencies in the system through constantly rising insurance premiums.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Donald Trump And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Jimmy Buffett once wrote that there are good days and bad days and going half-mad days. For President Trump, August 21 will go down in history as one of the latter two options. Bad news supposedly comes in threes and Tuesday was no exception. The string of bad legal news for the president may make the day a defining moment in the midterm elections, if not the entire Trump Administration.

The worst news for the president was the revelation that his “fixer,” attorney Michael Cohen, had agreed to a plea deal. Cohen’s plea goes beyond damaging Mr. Trump through guilt-by-association since the counselor fingered his client, the “candidate,” as the person who directed him to make hush payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Mr. Trump. In other words, President Trump is directly implicated in illegal activity.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, admitted in May that Mr. Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the payments, but claimed that the president was unaware that the money had gone to buy the women’s silence. Cohen’s statement under oath is at odds with Giuliani’s version.

The second piece of bad luck was expected but will still sting. Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and hiding foreign bank accounts. Mr. Manafort faces up to 80 years in prison and still faces other charges as well, including a possible retrial on ten counts where the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Manafort’s conviction does not directly involve Donald Trump or the 2016 election, but it does involve Russia. Manafort worked for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Putin dictator of Ukraine, before he worked for Trump. Manafort was accused of hiding payments related to his Ukrainian work and faces additional charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign lobbyist.

The third piece of bad news was also somewhat of a surprise. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and his wife were indicted on charges of using $250,000 in campaign contributions to finance a lavish personal lifestyle. Rep. Hunter had been under investigation since 2017, but the timing of his indictment was unexpected. Hunter’s legal problems only involve President Trump in that they are both Republicans, but it will make the president’s life much more difficult over the next few months and beyond.

Hunter’s indictment comes only a few weeks after another Republican congressman, Chris Collins of New York, was indicted for insider trading and subsequently suspended his campaign. With the midterms rapidly approaching, the two indictments, along with Manafort’s conviction, paint a picture of Republican corruption that could have effects that reach much farther than the two congressional districts that are suddenly more vulnerable to Democratic challengers.

The day’s events leave President Trump to face two different but overlapping problems. First, is the direct legal threat to the Trump presidency from Michael Cohen’s testimony. Because the payments violated campaign finance laws, it is almost certain that Donald Trump will now be subpoenaed to testify under oath. Three presidents have been subpoenaed, but the power to subpoena a sitting president has never been tested in court. President Trump may break new legal ground if and when his subpoena comes, if he chooses to resist.

It is less clear whether a sitting president can be indicted. Justice Department guidelines say that the president can only be impeached, but there may be exceptions. Courts have never ruled on the question so any attempt to indict the president would likely face years of appeals. Either a subpoena or an indictment could spark a constitutional crisis.

The indirect threat to the president is that the seemingly endless parade of corruption may sway the midterm elections. Democrats are already enjoying advantages in fundraising and voter enthusiasm while Republicans must contend with a wave of retiring incumbents. As the headlines trumpet the legal problems of a growing list of Republicans, the party’s image will be tarnished for other candidates. Corruption is always bad, but especially for a party elected on promises to “drain the swamp.” Democrat control of one or both houses of Congress would create a crisis of a different sort.

If nothing else is certain, the events of August 21 did make one thing clear. Despite Mr. Trump’s fervent wishes and tweets, the investigations of his administration will not be going away anytime soon.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Red Exodus Is Behind Predictions Of A Blue Wave

Much has been written about the signs of epic disaster that are looming for Republicans ahead of this year’s midterm elections. Now a leading nonpartisan expert on elections says that the biggest threat to the Republican majority in the House may not be a “blue wave,” but a “red exodus.”

Dave Wasserman, the Cook Political Report’s House analyst, told Axios that the most overlooked aspect of the 2018 midterms is that “a blue wave is obscuring a red exodus.” A total of 39 Republican and 10 Democrat House incumbents are not running for reelection. Of these, 26 Republicans and eight Democrats are totally retiring from their political careers.

The wave of retiring Republicans has left a gaping hole in Republican defenses for the house. When primary losses are considered, there are now 43 Republican seats without an incumbent on the ballot. That’s more than one in six House Republicans who will not be returning in the next Congress. Wasserman notes that you have to look back at least a hundred years to find more retiring incumbents.

The large number of exiting Republicans contributes directly to the large number of tossup Republican seats. Cook currently rates 37 Republican seats as “tossup or worse” compared to two Democrat seats. At the beginning of the year, only 20 Republican seats were considered tossups, but as the number of retirees grew, so did the number of vulnerable seats. Ten of the Republican tossup seats already favor Democrats.

Wasserman says that the most telling sign of a blue wave is the disparity in interest between the two parties. Democrats consistently rate their interest in voting in the midterms higher than Republicans. This intensity gap goes beyond polling and has translated into Democrat voters actually showing up in special elections. Despite Republican wins in many of these elections, Democrat turnout has been extraordinarily high. Deep red districts such as Ohio-12 where Republicans typically win by double-digit margins are now tossups where Republicans win by only a few votes. In other cases, such as Pennsylvania-18, moderate Democrats win districts that were reliably Republican as recently as 2016.

Many Republicans are skeptical of polling, especially after Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, but Wasserman warns that many pollsters are actually erring on the side of caution this year. “There's a bit of over-caution, perhaps, on the part of the punditocracy, after what happened in 2016,” he said, “But if anything, most media could be under-rating Democrats' potential to gain a lot of seats. They could be caught being cautious in the wrong direction.”

Wasserman argues that 2018 will be the “year of the angry female college graduate.”

“The most telling number in the most recent NBC/WSJ poll is that Trump's approval rating among women with college degrees was 26 percent,” he says. “That's absolutely awful and the intensity of that group is extraordinary. They're already the most likely demographic to turn out to vote in midterms. But never have they been this fervently anti-Republican.” Wasserman points to “family separations at the border and Trump's temperament and behavior” as motivating factors for women voters.

“In 2010 when Republicans won back control of the House, I would argue that was the year of the angry white senior,” Wasserman said, noting that “consternation” over Obamacare was a large factor, but that wasn’t the only reason Republicans won.  “It was the young, and non-white Obama surge voter from 2008, who stayed home, and it lost Democrats the election in 2010.”

As I have noted previously, there are many parallels between the Obama and Trump Administrations and if there is a blue wave this year, it won’t be just because people are motivated to vote against Donald Trump, but also because, as in 2010, some voters are motivated to stay home. Wasserman says that the role of the stay-at-home voter in 2018 may be played by “men without college degrees who are Trump true believers.”

Wasserman says that these voters “believed in Trump fervently, but they've never liked congressional Republicans at all. In fact, Trump gained ground by running against them in 2016. So why are they going to turn out this year for congressional Republicans?”

Until the votes are counted, no one will know the extent of the Republican losses, but the law of averages points to a likely loss of control of the House of Representatives. Democrats only need to win 23 seats to take over the House. With 37 seats in the tossup category and an abnormally large number of retiring Republicans, they have ample opportunities to turn red seats blue.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Meet Alex Jones' Most Surprising Defender

In the wake of several social media giants banning Alex Jones, there was much rejoicing from the left. The enforced departure of the conspiracy guru was cheered as a victory by liberals across the country. There was, however, at least one prominent liberal who bucked the trend.

Bill Maher, the far left host of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” and “Politically Incorrect,” gave the tin-foil-hat-wearing talk show host a surprising defense last Friday. Maher began the segment by saying, “Alex Jones, who is not my friend and who tells crazy lies about me is thrown off Twitter, I think, and Facebook and a few other platforms.”

“Thank God!” exclaimed Jennifer Granholm, the former Democratic governor of Michigan and a current analyst for CNN, as the audience broke into cheers and applause.

“Well, if you’re a liberal you’re supposed to be for free speech,” Maher countered.

“That’s free speech for the speech you hate. That’s what free speech means. We’re losing the thread of the concepts that are important to this country,” he continued.

“If you care about the real American shit or you don’t. And if you do, it goes for every side. I don’t like Alex Jones, but Alex Jones gets to speak. Everybody gets to speak,” Maher said.

“Sure, but he doesn’t necessarily get to speak on Facebook or Twitter,” Charlie Sykes contributing editor for the Weekly Standard, responded.

“I get that,” Maher agreed.

“If a guy goes out – and this is not opinion -  if he engages in vile slander and fabrication about children who are murdered at Sandy Hook and he harasses the parents of children who were murdered at Sandy Hook … Facebook [and] Twitter don’t have an obligation to provide him a platform because they’re private companies.”

Both Maher and Sykes are absolutely correct. Censorship on social media is a free speech concern, but it is not a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment protects Americans from censorship by the government. It does not protect people from censorship by private companies who legally set the rules for behavior on the internet platforms that they own and operate.

“The way to get rid of hateful things is that sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Maher said, quoting Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

“A good example is the alt-right rally,” Maher continued. “They had their rally again. Twenty people showed up, okay? Not because we outlawed it, but because we let it happen the first time and these mental midgets found out, oh, it’s not so great when you do this in public because then you go back to the office and people don’t like you so much.”

While both sides of the political spectrum pay lip service to free speech, both sides are happy to censor the speech of political opponents. Liberal activists often shout down conservative speakers on college campuses and social media platforms are accused of bias against conservatives in enforcing their terms of service.

For their part, many on the right approve of using the power of government to regulate what they consider to be “fake news.” An Ipsos poll from earlier this month found that 43 percent of Republicans, a plurality, agree that “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” This would be a direct violation of the First Amendment.

I rarely get to agree with Bill Maher, but he is absolutely correct here. Freedom of speech should apply to all ideologies, but it is most important for speech that is unpopular or that we disagree with. Nothing in the Constitution or the US law prohibits us from having our beliefs challenged or guarantees the right to an uninterrupted echo chamber.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, August 17, 2018

How Americans Could Elect A Socialist In 2020

The midterm elections have yet to come, but already there is intense speculation about the presidential election in 2020. President Trump has already announced his intention to seek reelection and a number of Democrats are testing the waters. Unlike the 2016 election, there is no Democrat awaiting a coronation in which the primaries are a mere formality. A lot can happen over the next two years, but it is very possible that circumstances will combine in a way that will lead to the election of America’s first socialist president.

The first step towards a socialist is the razor-thin margins by which Donald Trump was elected in 2016. President Trump’s 2016 Electoral College victory was predicated on winning a series of Rust Belt states that normally vote Democrat. Trump succeeded, but by an extremely narrow margin. Changing the vote by two percent in three states (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) would have changed the outcome of the election.

In order to win reelection, the president must either replicate the conditions that won those key states in 2016 or, preferably, win new supporters. However, when it comes to winning converts, the president’s unpopularity has been remarkably consistent. Just prior to the 2016 election, Trump polled at 42 percent. He beat this number in the actual election, winning 46 percent of the popular vote to Hillary Clinton’s 48 percent. Since he took office, Trump’s average approval rating reached a high of 46 percent in February 2017 and then settled back down into the low 40s and high 30s where he has been ever since.

Trump’s approval is similar to that of Barack Obama, who was in the low 40s for much of his presidency. Obama did win reelection, but the problem for President Trump is that his approval has slipped in the places where he needs it most. In the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the president now has a negative approval rating. He is also negative in other swing states that he won in 2016 such as Ohio and Nevada. In Minnesota, a state that Trump only lost by 1.5 percent, his approval rating is now negative by 15 points. As it stands now, Donald Trump is an unpopular president who faces an uphill battle to get back to the electoral map that won him the presidency in a fluke.

Donald Trump is unpopular despite the fact that the nation is experiencing an economic boom. If President Trump’s policy of tariffs leads to an economic slowdown and more layoffs among American workers, then his approval could go even lower and spell disaster for his reelection hopes.

The manufacturing states in the Rust Belt are particularly vulnerable to President Trump’s trade war. International supply chains mean that products built in the US are often assembled with components that are imported and subject to tariffs. The tariffs mean higher manufacturing costs and a less competitive product. Tariffs applied to US exports also make American products more expensive to foreign buyers. When costs rise, demand falls. Wage cuts and layoffs may soon follow.

Meanwhile, President Trump has driven the Democrats crazy. The opposition party has moved farther to the left as many of its members embrace “democratic socialism.” Self-proclaimed democratic socialists such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have become immensely popular in the Democratic Party. Rasmussen recently found that 51 percent of Democrats have a favorable impression of socialism. Fifty-five percent of Millennials also had a positive view of socialism according to a 2016 Gallup poll (although 57 percent also like capitalism and 78 percent like free enterprise).

Given the growing number of Democrats who openly profess an admiration for socialism, it is increasingly likely that the party will nominate a self-professed socialist. Bernie Sanders came within a whisker of winning the Democratic nomination in 2016 despite Hillary Clinton’s systemic advantages. In a June Harvard CAPS/Harris poll of Democrats, Sanders ranked third as a potential 2020 nominee behind Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton with Elizabeth Warren finishing fourth. Sanders has a dedicated and loyal following and a nationwide grassroots organization that could give him an edge in the 2020 primaries, especially Biden and Hillary split the Democratic establishment vote.

Would Americans vote for a socialist if the Democrats nominated one? A Hill/Harris poll recently found that 76 percent of Americans say that they would not vote for a socialist. Even 64 percent of Democrats say they would not pull the lever for a socialist.

Nevertheless, socialist ideas tend to be more popular than the label. Both Pew and  Washington Post/Kaiser polls showed that more than half of Americans favor single-payer health care. Another Kaiser poll found that 59 percent approve of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan. Likewise, most Americans support other ideas championed by Democrats such as raising the minimum wage and free college tuition. For all their craziness, democratic socialists have some popular policy proposals to pair with their unpopular label. Many mainstream Democrats endorse many of the same ideas, blurring the line between socialism and liberalism.

As the country heads toward the next presidential election, the Republicans are saddled with an unpopular president who has done a poor job of selling his agenda to voters. President Trump won the presidency with a minority of votes and then proceeded, as Obama did before him, without regard to the need to build coalitions to support his actions and agenda. Both presidents relied on their congressional majorities, voter bases and executive actions to force their way rather than trying to win people over.

President Trump is immensely popular within the Republican Party. That is enough to win the nomination, but not the general election. For that, the president must persuade those moderate and independent voters that he has been ignoring since 2016. The voters who are unhappy with his trade and immigration policies as well as his continual bad behavior will ultimately decide the election.

Donald Trump was a reaction to the economic doldrums of the Obama Administration and the corruption and incompetence of Hillary Clinton. In 2020, the pendulum is likely to swing in the other direction due to President Trump’s incompetence and erratic behavior if the Democrats can keep the focus on Trump and off of their own foibles and radical platform.

While it is far too early to make predictions, conditions appear to be ripe for a backlash in 2020 against President Trump and congressional Republicans. If Democrat primary voters nominate a Democrat socialist, America might well find itself with its first self-described socialist president.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, August 13, 2018

Should the US Deport a 4-Year-Old?

When it comes to immigration, many Americans say that immigrants should just follow the legal process and come in the front door. Several recent cases of productive-yet-illegal immigrants, many with American family members, being deported have been met with the response that they should have become legalized while they were here to avoid deportation. Increasingly, however, there are cases in which people try to follow the legal process, but are stymied by the system. The case of four-year-old Angela Becerra is one such case that illustrates just how broken the American immigration system is.

Angela is the adopted daughter of two American citizen parents. Colorado’s Fox 31 reports that Marco and Amy Becerra adopted Angela when they were residents of Peru in 2014. Marco has dual American and Peruvian citizenship while four-year-old Angela is a citizen of Peru.

Angela was born on May 23, 2014 and was abandoned at birth. “She was 11 days old when she was brought to the orphanage,” her adoptive mother said. Angela’s biological mother “was treated like a dog. She was chained to the table and sex-trafficked. That’s the reality. No running water. No electricity. Very little food.”

Amy said that the Becerras were asked by a woman at the orphanage to foster baby Angela. “She literally placed this little 5-pound baby in our hands and said do you think you guys can take care of her?”

The Becerras agreed and ultimately adopted Angela legally. In 2017, the couple decided to return to the US, in part so that Angela could grow up as an American and benefit from education in American schools. The family now lives in Aurora, Colorado where Amy accepted a job with the State of Colorado and Marco works for the federal government.

Amy started her job in 2017 with the understanding that Marco and Angela would soon join her in Colorado, but Angela’s immigration application kept hitting roadblocks. The US does not normally grant tourist visas for anyone with a current immigration application so it was 13 months before the little girl was allowed to join her mother in Colorado for the first time in March 2018 when she was finally allowed to enter the US on a tourist visa that expires on August 31. No deportation proceedings are currently underway, but after Angela’s visa expires she will be at risk for deportation.

The Becerras continued to follow the legal process, but now, less than a month before Angela’s tourist visa expires, the little girl’s immigration application has been denied. The problem seems to be that Angela’s adoption was formalized in Peru, not the United States.

“I don’t know what it takes to reopen a case. Once it’s closed, it’s closed,” Amy said.

The law does provide for an appeal, but it is unlikely that the process can be completed before the end of August. At the end of the month, when Angela’s tourist visa expires, she will be subject to deportation even though she has no family or home to return to in Peru.

“We’re both citizens. My husband and I have a full legal binding adoption completed and we have a birth certificate that lists no other parent,” Amy Becerra said. “It’s inconceivable that a child of two citizen parents would have to live out their life as an undocumented alien in this country.”

“I’ve followed the path they’ve given me, and it’s such a dysfunctional, uncoordinated system,” Amy said.

The Becerras have contacted immigration attorneys, but at this point are uncertain why Angela’s application was denied. A letter explaining the decision should be received from the government in the next few weeks, but by then Angela may be an illegal immigrant despite the family’s best efforts to follow the law.

The family has also contacted their congressman, Republican Mike Coffman, for help. Coffman’s office is working with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Denver to cut through red tape and try to find a speedy resolution to Angela’s case.

“I mean this is beyond belief,” Rep. Coffman told Fox 31. “I believe we have a broken immigration system, and this is a symptom of that broken immigration system.”

The case is an illustration how even immigrants who attempt to follow the law can find it difficult or impossible to become legal citizens. The Byzantine immigration bureaucracy is fraught with pitfalls and delays that can cause even the most well-intentioned immigrants to be denied legal status and end up being deported.

Originally published on The Resurgent

How to Steal An Airliner

The theft and subsequent crash of a Horizon Air Q400 airliner over the weekend has left many people wondering how it would be possible to steal an airliner from one of the nation’s largest airports in the post-9/11 world. The surprising answer is that is probably easier than you think.

What made Richard Russell’s theft easy to carry out on an apparent whim was that Russell was an airline employee. Russell had worked as a ground service crewman for Horizon for 3-1/2 years prior to Friday’s incident. To be employed in secure areas of the airport, he would have had to pass a five-year background check that included a review of his criminal history as well as prior work history. While aviation background checks don’t delve into an applicant’s mental state, if any psychological problems were apparent they probably would have been noticed during training if they had not been uncovered when Horizon contacted Russell’s previous employers. Russell’s psychological problems probably manifested after he was already on the job and cleared for access to the flight line.

Once he became a Horizon employee, Russell would have been issued a badge that would allow him to access secure areas of the Seattle-Tacoma airport where he worked. Since Russell was an employee who had a legitimate reason to have access to the areas of the airport where the airplanes were parked, getting to the airplane would have been the easy part.

The tricky part would have been starting the engines and taking off, but even that is not as hard as it sounds. The Bombardier Q400 is a turboprop airliner. Jet airliners typically nose into the gate and passengers embark via the retractable jetway. Since turboprop airliners have propellers, they don’t use jetways. Normally turboprops park away from the terminal and passengers walk outside across the open ramp to get onboard. In the case of Russell’s airplane, N449QX was parked in a maintenance area, not at the passenger terminal. Russell used a tug, which he was trained to use as part of his normal duties, to turn the airplane 180 degrees before he took it.

Airliners don’t typically have lockable exterior doors so getting into the plane was also easy. From his job, Russell undoubtedly knew how to open and close the door. After September 11, airliners were required to have lockable cockpit doors, but they are normally only locked during flight.

Airliners also don’t have keyed ignitions as cars do. Much has been made of the intricate sequence of setting cockpit controls to start the engines. This also is not as hard as it sounds. The Bombardier Q400 is a new version of the Dash 8, originally built by de Havilland Canada in the 1980s. The Q400 version first flew in 2000 and has modern avionics and engine controls, which are much simpler than in older airplanes.

The Q400 engines include FADEC, full authority digital electronic engine controls, that greatly simplify managing the engines. While I don’t have any firsthand experience with the Q400, I have flown a variety of turbine airplanes both with and without FADECs. A Beechcraft King Air turboprop without a FADEC has three sets of levers for its two engines: The throttles, the prop controls and the fuel levers. Online pictures of Q400 cockpits show only two levers, the throttles. Starting the engines was probably just a matter of turning on the aircraft batteries and pressing the starter button.

Airplane cockpits are checklist-driven environments. Russell could have found a checklist in the airplane and simply followed the steps to help start the engines and set up the airplane for flight. While this would have required some minimal knowledge, such as knowing where controls are and what they are called, it would not have been an insurmountable obstacle for someone who was around the airplanes on a daily basis. The landing gear control is typically one of the easiest things to find in a cockpit. It is normally a big handle that is shaped like a wheel.

Russell’s website also indicates that he took airline trips in his spare time. A fringe benefit for airline employees is the ability to travel on standby tickets at little or no cost. Russell may have been able to observe pilots on some of these trips, perhaps from the jump seat (a third seat in the cockpit behind the pilots).

Once the engines were started, taxiing and taking off would have been relatively easy. You just push the throttles forward, wait for the airplane to accelerate and pull back on the control yoke to raise the nose. Russell’s flying probably wasn’t smooth and professional, but it didn’t have to be. He just had to get the airplane off the ground and high enough to avoid obstacles.

Russell could have been aided by flight simulator software. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a PC-based game that has undergone many revisions since the 1980s. Current versions allow upgrades so that users can pretend to fly many different aircraft, including the Q400.

As a former simulator instructor, I can say that even nonpilots can fly a simulator with a little coaching. It isn’t uncommon for a novice to be able to do loops and rolls in a simulator. Russell reportedly executed aerobatic maneuvers like these with the Q400 and may well have learned them on a PC-based flight simulator. The Q400 is not built to fly aerobatics, however, and there is good chance that Russell could have killed himself earlier in attempting these maneuvers. The flight instrument displays on five screens in the Q400 cockpit really do look like a video game.

Landing is much more difficult than taking off. Landing an airplane is a combination of art and science. The plane’s autopilot could have helped Russell land the plane, but the final seconds of the flight, the landing flare, touchdown and rollout on the runway would have been in his hands. Large jets have autoland, but a regional airline turboprop would not be equipped with such a system.

It seems likely that Richard Russell was intent on ending his life when he took off. There have been several cases of pilots using their airplanes to commit suicide. It seems likely that this was Russell’s goal all along.

Despite all the precautions and security measures, it is impossible to foresee every scenario. If an airline employee passes a background check and gains trust through years of experience on the job, there is no reason to suspect that he would decide to take an airliner for a fatal joyride. Thankfully, most aviation employees are responsible people for whom bending an airplane and using it to hurt people is unthinkable.

Originally published on The Resurgent