Tuesday, September 17, 2019

‘Get Real:’ Leading Democrats Know Kavanaugh Impeachment Is Pipe Dream

If further evidence of a schism between the woke base of the Democratic Party and its leadership class, the move to impeach Justice Brett Kavanaugh should provide it. A fresh allegation of sexual impropriety over the weekend stoked the fires of impeachment among activists but realists quickly dismiss the movement.

The new allegation is from a third party who said he saw Kavanaugh’s friends push his penis into a female Yale student’s hands during a drunken party. Max Stier, the man who claimed to witness the incident, has not come forward publicly and the New York Times story on the incident was corrected to point out that the woman at the center of the allegation does not remember the incident and declined to be interviewed. There also seem to be no other corroborating witnesses or evidence.

In summary, the allegation is like the other allegations against Kavanaugh in that none of them can be supported by objective evidence. If this information had been brought forward in the confirmation hearings, it would not have changed anything and it is not sufficient to justify impeachment. None of this matters to the chattering class, but the people who would have to carry out the impeachment know better.

“Get real,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Monday.

“We’ve got to get beyond this ‘impeachment is the answer to every problem.’ It’s not realistic,” Durbin told Politico. “If that’s how we are identified in Congress, as the impeachment Congress, we run the risk that people will feel we’re ignoring the issues that mean a lot to them as families.”

Squad member Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) has said that she will introduce an impeachment resolution that would allow House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Kavanaugh should be impeached, arguing, “Kavanaugh’s confirmation process set a dangerous precedent. We must demand justice for survivors and hold Kavanaugh accountable for his actions.”

Let me help her answer that question. He shouldn’t.

Per the Constitution, “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” If we look back to the original intent of the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors,” it is much more broad than the criminal definition often assumed today. As the Constitutional Rights Foundation points out:

The convention adopted “high crimes and misdemeanors” with little discussion. Most of the framers knew the phrase well. Since 1386, the English parliament had used “high crimes and misdemeanors” as one of the grounds to impeach officials of the crown. Officials accused of “high crimes and misdemeanors” were accused of offenses as varied as misappropriating government funds, appointing unfit subordinates, not prosecuting cases, not spending money allocated by Parliament, promoting themselves ahead of more deserving candidates, threatening a grand jury, disobeying an order from Parliament, arresting a man to keep him from running for Parliament, losing a ship by neglecting to moor it, helping “suppress petitions to the King to call a Parliament,” granting warrants without cause, and bribery. Some of these charges were crimes. Others were not. The one common denominator in all these accusations was that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.

There is no evidence that any of these apply to Brett Kavanaugh, especially since he took his seat on the Supreme Court last year. This is key because the House Judiciary Committee determined in 1873 that impeachment “should only be applied to high crimes and misdemeanors committed while in office and which alone affect the officer in discharge of his duties.”

At this point, there is far more cause to impeach Donald Trump than Brett Kavanaugh. The Mueller report’s revelations of Trump’s attempts to interfere with an ongoing investigation and the president’s use of national emergencies to circumvent the will of the people expressed through Congress would arguably fall under the abuse of office category of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The ultimate problem with impeaching both Kavanaugh and Trump is the Republican Congress. As Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pointed out, “Mitch McConnell would block any impeachment. So that’s a moot point.”

Impeachment of either man would be pointless because Democrats are not even close to the required two-thirds of members present in the Senate. An impeachment vote in the House would only serve to fortify the Republican base for the upcoming election.

An article in Vox that judges can be removed without impeachment faces similar problems. The argument, based on a paper that predates the Kavanaugh controversy by law professors Saikrishna Prakash and Steven D. Smith, is that judges who fail to exhibit “good behavior” can be removed by the “judicial process.”  

Again, the problem is that Kavanaugh has not committed “misbehavior” while in office. Further, the Department of Justice and Supreme Court are controlled by Republicans and constitutionalists respectively. Neither is likely to allow a court proceeding that would remove Kavanaugh.

There is a good argument that the bar for impeachment is too high, especially given our stalemated Congress and current tribal partisan nature, but the procedure is laid out by the Constitution and will not be changed any time soon, again thanks to our stalemated Congress. The rank-and-file members of Congress and presidential candidates who are pushing impeachment of the two men are either strategically challenged or are doing so to gain publicity for themselves at the expense of their party.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Bad Week For Legal Immigration

Republicans have long claimed to support legal immigration, even as they pursue a hardline against illegal immigrants. I’ve written before how that has not been necessarily true of the Trump Administration, which has introduced a number of policies aimed at curbing legal immigration. This week yielded more bad news for proponents of legal immigration.

The first bit of bad news was the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Trump Administration’s rule blocking asylum-seekers from asking for asylum in the United States if they pass through a third country and don’t ask for asylum there first. The Court did not rule on the merits of the case but struck down an injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that prevented the government from enforcing the policy while the case was being heard.

From the perspective of proponents of legal immigration, the new policy is a bad one for several reasons. The law is aimed primarily at Central American refugees who pass through Mexico in order to ask for asylum in the US. Applying for asylum is legal under US law so the policy is clearly intended to discourage legal immigration by making it more difficult and requiring these refugees to seek asylum in Mexico.

For many reasons, Mexico is not an attractive place for asylum-seekers. Our neighbor to the South is itself a poverty-stricken nation that is plagued by drug violence. It is unlikely that Mexico can accommodate a large influx of refugees. The fact that Mexico itself is the source of many migrants to the US says a lot about the country’s ability to accept refugees.

On the other side, Republicans claim that immigrants are abusing the asylum law by asking for asylum because they are seeking economic opportunity rather than because they are part of a persecuted group. Data from the National Immigration Forum shows that in 2016, the most recent year for which complete data was available, immigration courts granted approval to asylum-seekers in 28 percent of cases. Interestingly, the largest source of asylum-seekers is China, a country that will not be affected by the new policy since most Chinese immigrants can fly directly to the US from their homeland.

The ultimate question before the Court should not be whether the Trump Administration’s policy is wise or humanitarian but whether the president has the legal authority to change US immigration law. Does the law passed by Congress grant the president the leeway to unilaterally make such a significant change? In barring the government from enforcing the rule, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar wrote that the policy “is likely invalid because it is inconsistent with the existing asylum laws.” It is likely that the Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide that question, but, for now at least, the Trump Administration has another tool for turning back Central American refugees.

The second blow to legal immigration was President Trump’s decision to deny citizens of the Bahamas temporary protected status in the wake of the devastation to their country left by Hurricane Dorian. The storm left at least 50 people dead and about 2,500 are missing. An estimated 70,000 more are homeless.

Temporary protected status would allow Bahamians to temporarily live and work in the United States while their country recovers, but Reuters reported on Wednesday that the program, which currently includes about 300,000 people from 10 different countries affected by natural disasters and wars, would not be extended to hurricane refugees. Per Axios, a TPS designation would affect only those Bahamians in the US at the time of the designation, an estimated 1,500 people. Officials from Florida had requested TPS status to allow Bahamian refugees to live with families in that state earlier this week.

“The Bahamians impacted by Hurricane Dorian are facing a humanitarian crisis, and the American government, international partners and private organizations continue to support them with aid and services. At this time, we do not plan to invoke Temporary Protected Status for those currently in the United States,” a White House official said.

There seems to be no leeway in accepting Bahamian refugees. Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan of U.S. Customs and Border Protection initially said, “We will accept anyone on humanitarian reasons that needs to come here” and that, “If your life is in jeopardy and you're in the Bahamas and you want to get to the United States, you're going to be allowed to come to the United States, whether you have travel documents or not.”

But President Trump overruled Morgan on Monday, telling reporters, “We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation. The Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there. I don't want to allow people that weren't supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members, and some very, very bad drug dealers. So, we're going to be very strong on that.”

“Bahamians must be in possession of a valid, unexpired passport or a Bahamian Travel Document listing nationality as Bahamian. Bahamians arriving to the United States by vessel must be in possession of a valid passport AND valid travel visa,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Monday. “Travelers who would otherwise qualify for the Visa Waiver Program and who travel by air from a CBP Preclearance facility in Freeport or Nassau may not need a U.S. visitor's visa.” The DHS statement also contradicts Morgan.

It is understandable to want immigrants to come to the US legally, but it is not understandable to insist that people obey the law and then make the law almost impossible to follow. “I want tremendous numbers of people to come in,” Donald Trump said in 2015 as he promised a “big beautiful door in the wall,” but, since becoming president, the door to legal immigration has been pushed further closed by Trump’s policies.

If Republicans really want to encourage legal immigration, the process should be made easier, not more difficult. If not, they should be honest about it.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Iran Just Knocked Out Half Of Saudi Arabia’s Oil Production

Drone attacks have temporarily destroyed half of Saudi Arabia’s oil capacity. Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the two attacks which left Saudi oil facilities in flames and knocked out production of 5.7 million barrels of oil and natural gas per day. The loss of production is equivalent to five percent of the world’s oil capacity.

Per CNN, Houthis said that they attacked two facilities of Aramco, the Saudi state-owned oil company, at  Abqaiq and Khurais. The attacks reportedly involved 10 drones and left the oil facilities in flames. The Saudis said that the fires were under control. It is not known how long oil production will be affected by the attacks.

Oil prices will probably rise when markets open next week. "Abqaiq is perhaps the most critical facility in the world for oil supply. Oil prices will jump on this attack," Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said in a statement.

"Sanctioned Iran supplies are another source of potential additional oil," Bordoff said. "But [US President Donald] Trump has already shown he is willing to pursue a maximum pressure campaign even when oil prices spike. If anything, the risk of tit-for-tat regional escalation that pushes oil prices even higher has gone up significantly."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed the attacks on Iran in a tweet, saying, “Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.  There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

While Pompeo did not cite evidence that Iran was behind the attacks, Iran has long used the Houthis as a proxy in their cold war with the Saudis. The cold war turned hot in 2015 when Saudi Arabia intervened on behalf of the government in the Yemeni civil war. The Houthi rebels, who are predominantly Shia Muslims, are backed by Iran and were in danger of taking over the country which borders Saudi Arabia at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudis, who are Sunni Muslims, led a multinational coalition to aid the Yemeni government. At the time, the Saudis predicted that the fighting would only last a few months, but the war is still ongoing four years later.

The new unrest in the Middle East could affect the US in a couple of ways. First, the blow to global oil supplies is likely to drive up oil prices. Uncertainty about the future of Middle East oil production could also cause prices to go higher. With signs that the US and global economies are already slowing, higher energy costs could further slow growth.

If the attacks can be firmly linked to Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US may reciprocate with reprisals. In June, President Trump approved and then canceled an attack on Iran after the Iranians attacked several ships in the Persian Gulf.

There seem to be few options for a response to the attack. Iran seems determined to cause a confrontation. Their past behavior indicates that if the Saudis and the US do not take action then the Iranians will ratchet up their aggressive behavior.

After President Trump’s abortive attack and recent revelations that he may be considering extending a $15 billion credit line to Iran if the nation comes back into compliance with President Obama’s nuclear deal, which President Trump canceled in 2018, the Iranians almost certainly view Trump as a weak and indecisive leader and are seeking to find out how far they can push him. Since the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, Iran has had little love for Americans and Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal was like a slap in the face.

The attack on Saudi oil production is one of those stories that is easy to overlook amid concerns about whether Beto O’Rourke’s threat to confiscate AR-15s and the culture wars about gender and abortion, but it may ultimately be of much greater importance than most topics being discussed. The event could impact the US and the world in much the same way as Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of a small Middle Eastern country that most Americans had never heard of.

President Trump does not want war with Iran. The president is essentially an isolationist who wants to bring American soldiers home rather than dispatching them to a new front. War with Iran, if it did not reach a rapid and successful conclusion, would also complicate President Trump’s reelection campaign. The problem for Trump is that the Iranians sense that he does not want war and realize that this gives them an opportunity to run amok.

Taking military action against Iran runs the risk of igniting the Middle East in a regional war that could end up as another Iraq or Afghanistan. Not taking action is also risky, however. If Iran is allowed to act with impunity, the rogue nation will only be encouraged to continue its aggression.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Deficit Tops $1 Trillion

It has become a trope among many on both sides whenever a big news story breaks to ask, “What are they not wanting us to pay attention to?” I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I will admit that today’s firing of National Security Advisor John Bolton overshadows what is, in reality, a much more pressing issue. As both sides react to Bolton’s ouster and even people who, as recently as yesterday were critics of the mustachioed advisor, weigh in on how his departure is a bad sign for the president, what many people are missing is the news that the federal budget deficit just exceeded $1 trillion.

In a report released on September 9, the Congressional Budget Office noted that the deficit for the first eleven months of the 2019 fiscal year was $1.067 trillion, which was $168 billion more than for the same period in 2018.

The historic deficit occurred as both revenues and spending increased over last year. Per the CBO, “revenues were $102 billion higher and outlays were $271 billion higher” than the first eleven months of 2018. Expenditures increased by seven percent, a larger rate than the three percent increase in total revenues, which accounts for the larger deficit.

I’d like to say that the lack of an outcry from Republicans is surprising, but it wouldn’t be true. At this point, it is no longer shocking that fiscal hawks from the Freedom Caucus and elsewhere are silent on the issue of Trumpian spending. Even Mark Sanford, the newest Republican challenger who is running on a platform of fiscal conservatism, was didn’t mark the occasion.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the last year that the US ran a trillion-dollar deficit was 2012 when the red ink totaled $1.076 trillion in the wake of the Great Recession. Given that President Trump’s deficit this year is already at $1.067 trillion, it seems likely that Mr. Trump will exceed Obama’s spending level by the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

What makes the current budget deficit even worse is that President Obama’s spending was justified as a response to the 2008 financial crisis. I don’t believe in Keynesian stimulus spending but at least there was a crisis to blame back then. The current spending levels are in a relatively stable economy. With no crisis to avert, neither side is offering any pretense that the deficit will ever be under control.

Both sides like to talk about the various crises that America faces, but neither wants to face the difficult choices that will be required to solve our budget crisis. It is easier to attack AOC and the squad than to talk about the reality that entitlements are bankrupting our country. As commenters illustrate whenever I point out that Social Security and Medicare are both entitlements, even conservative voters are loathe to talk about cutting the programs that are driving us bankrupt.

Here’s the truth: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other safety-net programs make up 61 percent of the federal budget while interest on the debt adds another seven percent.

More truth is that Social Security and Medicare are entitlements, not savings accounts. Your payroll tax dollars that are euphemistically called “contributions” do not go into an account with your name on it. They go to pay current recipients. The Social Security trust fund is expected to be exhausted by 2032 and Medicare will be bankrupt by 2026.

Yet another difficult truth is that we could all foreign aid and trim wasteful spending until the sacred cows come home and we would still have a debt crisis. Entitlements are the problem and Social Security is the largest entitlement in the federal budget.

The YUGE national debt is the root of many of our problems. The Fed must keep interest rates low, punishing savers and investors, because higher rates will mean even more federal debt and a higher deficit. We are vulnerable to China because they hold much of debt and can dump it, causing a financial crisis, if we give them too many problems. The need to make payments on debt and interest crowd out many other things that we could be spending money on (although let’s be honest, not having money doesn’t stop the government from spending). The deficit also crowds out private borrowing and leads to higher taxes.

Maybe Rush Limbaugh was right when he said a few months ago that “all this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.” It sure looks that way.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, September 6, 2019

August Jobs Report Yields Disappointing Numbers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the monthly jobs report for August and the hiring numbers for last month are further evidence that the economy is slowing.
In raw numbers, the BLS reported that the economy added 130,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent. The report notes that 25,000 of the new jobs were temporary census workers hired by the federal government.
Job creation in August was short of expectations and below average for the current year. Economists had predicted a gain of about 158,000 jobs. The August numbers, especially when the temporary census jobs are subtracted, was the worst month for job creation since last February.
Job creation was offset by the loss of 11,000 jobs in retail and 5,000 jobs in the mining industry. There was little change in construction, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and leisure and hospitality, industries in which the report notes “job growth in these industries has moderated thus far in 2019 compared with 2018.” Some of the job loss in retail could be attributed to the rise of internet retailers such as Amazon.
In the same report, the BLS revised down the job creation numbers from June and July. In June, businesses created 15,000 fewer jobs than previously reported while July numbers were downgraded by 5,000.
The stock market reacted to report by pulling back a surge that resulted from the news that the US and China will resume trade talks next month. As of this writing, the Dow is up about 82 points for the day.
The primary change in the economy over the last year has been the escalation of the trade war with China. As reported last week in The Resurgent, manufacturing output has decreased to its lowest point since 2009, putting the manufacturing sector in a recession already. This is largely due to decreased demand.
Despite the manufacturing slowdown and declining jobs in retail, consumer confidence remains relatively high. Confidence is above 2016 levels, but it has fallen sharply since the onset of the trade war last year. The addition of President Trump’s new tariffs, with one round of taxes on consumer goods effective Sept. 1 and another due in December, may further erode confidence.
“Household consumption right now is propping up the U.S. economy,” Joe Brusuelas, chief economist for the audit and consulting firm RSM, told NPR. “We’ll see if the uncertainty tax that’s been placed on the economy by trade policy begins to adversely influence consumer attitudes.”
The Wall Street Journal points out that, while the contraction in manufacturing due to the trade war is problematic, the bigger concern is the services sector that includes retail. If hiring slows enough to raise the unemployment rate, consumers could slow their spending and the economy could slow further as a result. Trade uncertainty and the possibility that businesses could slow their investments is yet another threat.
President Trump has pressed the Fed to decrease interest rates and the August jobs report will likely support the need for an interest rate cut, but a lower interest rate is not the answer to what ails the economy. It is the trade war that has led to what seems to be a global manufacturing slowdown and things are likely to continue to get worse until the trade uncertainty is resolved.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Right To Open Carry Requires Responsibility

Like many people, I was disappointed in Walmart’s decision to stop carrying certain types of ammunition and ask customers to refrain from open carry of guns in their stores. The decision is undoubtedly linked to the mass murder in an El Paso Walmart that left 22 people dead on August 3, but I think that it also has a lot to do with people like Dmitriy Andreychenko.

For those of you who don’t remember, Mr. Andreychenko entered a Springfield, Missouri Walmart on August 8, 2019, carrying a rifle, a pistol, more than 100 rounds of ammunition and wearing body armor. Rather than opening fire, he took videos of himself and panicked customers with a cell phone while he pushed a shopping cart around the store. Ironically, Andreychenko was held at gunpoint by an off-duty firefighter, a good guy with a gun, when he attempted to leave.

Andreychenko later told police, “I wanted to know if Walmart honored the Second Amendment.”

Even though Missouri is an open carry state, he is still in serious trouble. Andreychenko was arrested and is currently awaiting trial for making a terrorist threat in the second degree, a charge that carries a jail term of up to four years and a fine of up to $10,000.

“Missouri protects the right of people to open carry a firearm, but that does not allow an individual to act in a reckless and criminal manner endangering other citizens,” Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press, who likened the act of walking into Walmart carrying a loaded rifle while wearing body armor to “falsely shouting fire in a theater causing a panic.”

"His intent was not to cause peace or comfort," Lieutenant Mike Lucas of the Springfield Police Department told KYTV. "He's lucky he's alive still, to be honest."

Both Andreychenko’s wife and sister told investigators that he had asked them to film his visit to Walmart and both told him that it was a bad idea. Their testimony is now being used as proof that Andreychenko’s intent was to cause a disturbance.

While open carry is a right in many states, rights come with responsibilities. Andreychenko’s actions were clearly irresponsible, but what about other open carry activists who stage public demonstrations? I’ve seen many pictures floating around the internet of heavily armed open-carry activists doing things like ordering food at restaurants with AR-15s or AK-47s slung across their shoulders. In my opinion, this is a very bad idea.

There is a right way and a wrong way to open carry and making a public spectacle of yourself is the wrong way. In this age of frequent active shooter incidents, gun owners should be conscious that a great many members of the public are very nervous about guns. If voters get freaked out by people in the grocery store who look like refugees from “The Walking Dead” or a Wild West cowboy, it will likely not end well for gun owners. Open carry laws can be repealed just as easy as they were passed. Probably easier.

In open carry states, it is still somewhat unusual to see someone with a gun on their hip. I lived in Texas when open carry became law there and now live in Georgia, another open carry state. In both places, I can go months without seeing anyone exercising the right to open carry. Even then, weapons have been exclusively small pistols that are not very noticeable. This is the correct way to open carry, a way that doesn’t spark fear from other shoppers.

Personally, I favor concealed carry over open carry for a couple of reasons. First, you can’t set off an anti-gun backlash if people don’t know that you are carrying a gun. Second, I don’t want bad guys to know that I am armed until I am ready for them to know.

If you want to open carry a gun, you have a responsibility to get training on how to do so safely, regardless of whether your state requires it. When you carry a gun in the open, you make yourself a target. If a criminal sees your gun, he may decide to shoot you rather than take the risk that you will shoot him. Proper training will teach you how to draw your gun quickly and shoot with accuracy in a high-stress situation.

Further, open carry also makes you a target for someone to take your gun and use it against you. Preventing theft of your gun requires good situational awareness and training in gun-retention techniques. If you think it can’t happen to you, consider that about 10 percent of police officers who are killed by gunshots are killed with their own guns.

You should also become familiar with the laws governing how and where you carry a gun. Some places are off-limits for carrying a weapon and some state define how you can legally carry. For instance, public buildings are frequently off-limits and you may be required to use a holster rather than simply putting a pistol in your pocket.

I support the right to carry and I believe that allowing good guys to arm themselves is a reasonable idea. A study by the Rand Corporation last year found that the effect of shall-issue carry laws on violent crime was inconclusive, but giving people the right to decide for themselves on whether they need to be armed for protection is a good thing.  

Guns are a valuable protective resource but if the pro-gun community doesn’t take some action to rein in people like Dmitriy Andreychenko, the right to carry a gun could be easily lost. The fear of heavily armed people in public is a reasonable fear in a time when large numbers of innocent people are being gunned down. Gun owners should not abuse the right to carry and, if they choose to exercise it, should get training and practice on a regular basis.

Originally posted on The Resurgent

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Joe Manchin’s Big News: He’s Staying Put

When Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said that a big announcement was coming today, many observers jumped to the conclusion that he was about to announce a campaign for governor of West Virginia or even a run for the presidency. The truth turned out to be much more underwhelming: Manchin is going to keep his old job as a US Senator.
There was speculation that Manchin, who had been a popular two-term Democratic governor, would seek to challenge Jim Justice, the current governor, who was elected as a Democrat in 2016 and then became a Republican. Manchin was first elected governor in 2004 and served until 2010 when he resigned after winning a special election to fill the seat of Robert Byrd, who had passed away.
Manchin was re-elected to the Senate in 2018. The election was close with Manchin defeating his Republican challenger by only three points in a year in which Democratic candidates experienced a blue wave. West Virginia has trended more and more Republican in recent years, however.
Manchin is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate according to GovTrack‘s analysis, which places him to the right of Republicans Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). FiveThirtyEight‘s Trump score indicates than Manchin has voted with Trump about half the time.
It is easy to understand Manchin’s decision to keep his old job. After a close election less than a year ago, most people would be hesitant to jump into another heated race. This is especially true in an election year that promises to be as turbulent as 2020.
Further, even though he has a somewhat conservative record, Manchin does have weak spots. He has a 40 percent rating from National Right to Life and a 57 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. This puts him in the middle which is not nearly pro-choice enough for the Democrats and not pro-life enough for Republicans. Manchin also has a D-rating from the NRA, which targeted him in 2018. Both would be a tough sell in West Virginia.

There Are Only Three Viable Democratic Candidates

We are still six months away from the first primary elections and already the Democratic field has effectively winnowed itself down to only three likely candidates. Despite – or perhaps because of – a historically large field of more than 20 candidates, the majority have failed to gain traction and are unlikely to do so in the future. The odds are overwhelming at this point that the eventual Democratic nominee will be either Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders.

The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows clearly that Biden is the frontrunner and is followed by Warren and Sanders whose support combined is approximately equal to Biden. No other candidate, including Kamala Harris, is polling above 10 percent.

In particular, Kamala Harris’ failure to launch is surprising to many observers on both sides. Harris seems to be 2020’s version of Jeb Bush in 2016: A candidate widely expected to receive a coronation by the party elites but who never caught on with voters.

Biden, on the other hand, has defied the pundit predictions that “his first day on the campaign trail will be his best.” Looking back six months ago on the RCP average, Biden was at 28.3 back in February. His position as I write this? 28.9 percent. There have been ups and downs over the spring and summer, including a surge after his campaign announcement in April and a decline after his lackluster performance in the first debate, but the former vice president’s support has proved remarkably resilient.

As I have predicted numerous times in the past, Biden seems to be benefitting from the fact that most of the Democratic candidates are far-left progressives while a large part of the Democratic base is not. Biden holds a plurality of support while the progressive candidates split the vote of the “woke” wing of the party. There may be more progressives than blue dogs in the Democratic party, but internal divisions allow Biden to come out on top. The situation is very similar to the Republican primary in 2016 in which Donald Trump won without a majority as the conservative candidates split the non-Trump vote.

The darlings of the political left, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are hobbling each other, just as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich prevented each other from defeating Donald Trump. If either Sanders or Warren dropped out, the other might be able to mount a serious challenge to Joe Biden, but neither seems likely to take one for the team.

Even then, it might not matter. A recent Morning Consult poll that asked about second choices of Democratic voters showed that Joe Biden would benefit about as much as Sanders or Warren if the other dropped out. At 30 percent, Biden was the top second choice of Sanders voters compared to 26 percent for Warren. Twenty-four percent of Warren voters picked Bernie as their second choice, but Biden was only two points behind.

Interestingly, the political betting markets at Predict It are not following the voters. Bettors there are picking Elizabeth Warren, with a 33 cent ranking, to be the nominee. Biden is a fairly close second at 26 cents. Bernie is a distant third at 15 cents.

Biden has retained his lead despite frequent gaffes in large part because of his support among black voters. Politico pointed out that Biden has the support of more than 40 percent of all black voters. Biden’s support rises to almost two-thirds of black voters who are older than 65.

So what could upset Biden’s chances to become the eventual nominee? The most likely scenario is probably a catastrophic gaffe, but at this point it seems that Biden’s gaffes, like Trump’s, are baked into the cake. Biden, like Trump, benefits from low expectations.

It is possible that another candidate might emerge that would unify both wings of the Democratic Party, but it is unclear who that would be. Michelle Obama is a candidate that could probably enter the race and immediately become the frontrunner, but the former First Lady said last month that there was “zero chance” that she would run.

Barring a health crisis or the unlikely discovery of some long-dead skeleton in his closet, Joe Biden is likely to emerge next summer as the Democratic nominee to face a Republican nominee that will almost certainly be Donald Trump, a candidate who at this point is trailing all of the aforementioned Democrats (plus Pete Buttigieg) by a historically large margin. The resulting campaign between two gaffe-prone senior citizens, a “gaffe-o-lympics” if you will, will be a comedy of errors the likes of which this nation has never seen.  

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, September 2, 2019

Odessa Rampage Killer Showed Red Flags

There is new information about the man who committed mass murder in a shooting rampage in Midland and Odessa, Texas over the weekend. While the man apparently did not have a recent criminal record, he allegedly did commit acts that would be considered “red flags” before his killing spree.

The New York Post reports that two of 36-year-old Seth Ator’s neighbors reported the man’s threatening behavior. One neighbor reported Ator to police last month after he had threatened her with a rifle for leaving trash near his property. The woman said that Ator would often sit on top of his house and shoot animals at night and then retrieve the bodies. The woman reported Ator’s threatening behavior to police, but they could not find his house because it did not have an accurate address for GPS navigation.

The woman said that Ator’s house did not have electricity or running water and that he would sleep in his car with the heat on in extremely cold weather. Photos of a house believed to be Ator’s published in online news media such as Heavy show a barn-like structure with a boxy addition on the roof that resembles a hunting blind.

A second neighbor also told the Post that Ator had threatened her with his rifle. It was not clear if this incident had been reported to police, but the woman said that Ator owned at least two guns.

A third neighbor told Heavy that Ator “didn’t bother anybody.”

Ator had a criminal record, but it was almost two decades old. He had pled guilty to criminal trespass and evading arrest in 2002. Both crimes are misdemeanors in Texas. This would not have prevented him from legally buying a gun since only misdemeanors that are related to assault are disqualifying under Texas law. Even then, people convicted of misdemeanors are allowed to possess guns after five years. Rep. Tom Craddick, a Texas Republican, said that Ator had failed a background check but did not say when the check occurred. So far, there has been no confirmation of that claim except for a nonspecific tweet by Gov. Greg Abbott. The Washington Examiner also reported that Ator had received a traffic citation in 2018 for a federal motor carrier safety violation.

Additional reports say that Ator was fired from his job as a truck driver shortly before he was stopped by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers for a failure to signal a left turn in his personal auto. During the traffic stop, Ator pulled out what police describe as an “AR-style rifle” and attacked the officers. He then drove away and fired at innocent civilians as he drove through the neighboring towns of Midland and Odessa.

Unlike mass killings and serial murders years ago in which neighbors often said that the perpetrator was normal and not suspicious, in many modern rampage killings there are a number of warnings before the massacre. In the case of the Odessa murders, the killer exhibited threatening behavior on at least two occasions. Frequently shooting animals from his roof could be a red flag as well, although the report is not specific about Ator’s actions. Cruelty to animals (which does not traditional hunting) is an early warning sign for many murderers.

Even though Ator exhibited classic red flag warning signs, red flag laws may not have prevented this specific killing spree. Laws vary by state and in many cases only a close relative can petition to have guns taken from a person who shows signs of potential violence. With only two neighbors experiencing his threatening behavior and no recent criminal history, a red flag statute might not have been triggered.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said over the weekend that “Words must be met with action” but has not backed any specific new laws yet although red flag laws have gained widespread popularity among both parties. Recent polling shows about 70 percent support for the measures.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Which Is The True Workers’ Party?

Labor Day is typically considered to be the end-of-summer holiday by many Americans, but the holiday originated in the late 1800s as a day to celebrate America’s labor movement. As such, it was closely identified with labor unions for much of its history. On this Labor Day, with elections more than a year away already heating up, it’s appropriate to consider the relationship of both parties to workers.

Democrats have traditionally tried to coopt Labor Day due to their close association with the unions. Today’s Democratic Party, with its newly popular contingent of democratic-socialists, is no different. The Democrats pay lip service to workers, but many of their policies are proven job-killers and ultimately hurt the very people that they try to help. Higher taxes, business-strangling regulations, and mandates that add to the cost of doing business all serve to slow the economy and prevent job creation.

That the Democrats have alienated their blue-collar base is apparent from the fact that Donald Trump is sitting in the White House instead of Hillary Clinton. Trump’s victory was clinched in the Rust Belt states that were traditionally assumed to be safely tucked behind a Blue Wall.

Many of the proposals from the 2020 Democrats aren’t much better – or different - than what Hillary tried in 2016. There are proposals for rolling back the 2017 tax reform, raising the minimum wage, and nationalizing healthcare. None of this bodes well for the economy or for workers.

But if Democrats have disregarded their blue-collar base so have Republicans. Although the Trump Administration got off to a good economic start with tax reform and deregulation, it went off the rails in 2018 with the trade war. Although the tariff war was pitched as strategy to help workers and strengthen US industry, the opposite has turned out to be true.

The trade war was originally launched to help the US steel and aluminum industries, but American steel companies are shutting down mills and laying off workers. Why? Because overproduction paired with declining demand from other industries led to a sharp decline in steel prices despite Trump’s attempt at protectionism.

It isn’t only steelworkers who are suffering from the trade war. The agricultural and manufacturing sectors have both been hard hit as well. Despite the president’s farm subsidies, US farm income has fallen precipitously, leading to higher rates of farm bankruptcies and suicides by frustrated farmers. A boom in manufacturing jobs in Trump’s first two years has already turned flat as manufacturing declined for two straight quarters in the first half of 2019, putting the industry in a recession even before the most recent rounds of tariff increases.

The month of September ushered in one of those rounds of tax increases. President Trump’s new 15 percent tax on 40 percent of consumer products imported from China will be borne heavily by blue-collar workers and their families. JP Morgan Chase notes that the new tax will cost the typical American household more than $1,000 annually. Previous rounds of tariffs had almost totally erased the benefits of tax reform per Accounting Today so the September tariffs will put taxpayers firmly in the red. And there is yet another round of US tariffs scheduled to go into effect just in time for Christmas.

The new tariffs on Chinese goods will have an outsize effect on lower and middle-class consumers because lower-income Americans are more dependent on cheap imports from China. The poor are also least able to afford the 15 percent tax on everyday items such as clothes, shoes, electronics, plastic items, computers, and furniture.

At this point, it probably seems to most voters that both parties are bad for workers. The Democrats are intent on milking businesses for every cent that they can get while Republicans are oblivious to the collateral damage of their Quixotic trade war. Both are too focused on their own priorities to pay attention to the fact that neither party is popular with average Americans.

Rather than telling workers what is best for them and informing taxpayers that they should be grateful for the chance to “invest” more of their hard-earned money in the priorities of the party base, maybe politicians of both parties should listen to the concerns of the workers they are supposed to serve.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Facebook Is Still Up To Its Old Tricks

Less than two weeks ago, Facebook announced its intention to reform itself to address conservative concerns of bias. Facebook’s changes were in response to an audit led by former Republican Senator Jon Kyl and included an appeals process and more transparency in why content is removed by the social media platform. Now it seems that Facebook is already up to its old tricks.

On Friday, Live Action tweeted that Facebook had flagged a post stating that “abortion is never medically necessary” as “false news.” Facebook’s notification to Live Action notes that “Facebook reduces the distribution of misleading content while showing additional reporting on the same topic” and warns that “pages and websites that repeatedly publish or share misleading content will see their overall distribution reduced, their ability to monetize and advertise removed, and their ability to register as a news Page removed.”

Science Feedback, the organization that fact-checked the Live Action posts, rates the claim that “abortion is never medically necessary” as “inaccurate.” The group, which claims to be nonpartisan, argues that some medical conditions “such as pre-eclampsia, HELLP syndrome and placenta previa, in which abortion could become medically necessary in order to save the life of the mother.” The group also points out that “In order for early delivery to save both the life of mother and child, the fetus first needs to have developed sufficiently that it stands a chance of surviving outside of the womb.”

In an interview with Fox News, Live Action President Lila Rose responded, “We have doctors, OBGYNs, [who are] board-certified, who are also featured in our videos, who are saying the exact same thing. In fact, thousands of doctors agree with Live Action, with me, that abortion is not a medical treatment.”

Earlier this year, American medical leaders representing more than 30,000 doctors signed a letter at The Public Discourse which stated, “It is never necessary to intentionally kill a fetal human being to save a woman’s life.” In 1981, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “The fact of the matter is that abortion as a necessity to save the life of the mother is so rare as to be nonexistent.” Even Dr. Alan Guttmacher, a former president of Planned Parenthood, said as far back as 1967, “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.”

Rose also told Fox News that Live Action had contacted Facebook and was told to contact the fact-checkers with its concerns. It seems that, with a difference in opinion between medical professionals on both sides, that Live Action’s case would be a likely candidate for Facebook’s new oversight board. Labeling Live Action as “false news” seems to be an overreaction since the controversy seems to boil down to a quibble between the word’s “never” and “hardly ever.”

Live Action is not the only conservative facing sanction from Facebook, however. I have had recent reports from members of conservative Facebook groups who say that they are still being sent to “Facebook jail” for posts that do not violate Facebook’s community standards. In one example, a meme depicting Charles Manson morphing into Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led to two of my Facebook acquaintances receiving a 24-hour ban. The picture was what those of us in the South would refer to as “tacky,” but it didn’t seem to violate Facebook’s written standards.

One of the Facebook users shared the meme with me along with several screenshots. In violation of Facebook’s promise to be transparent, the notification only says that the post violated community standards and did not give a specific reason. The notification offered the user to “see options” in order to “learn more about this post and see what you can do.” When this option was selected, it led to a blank screen with an exclamation point icon. There was no explanation as to what community standard was violated or how to appeal to the oversight board.

As a private company, Facebook has the right to set its own rules and pick what sort of content to allow on its platform. However, if the social media giants want to be public forums for political discussion, they must do a better job of not discriminating against conservative viewpoints. Otherwise, Facebook will find many of its users migrating to competing platforms that don’t discriminate against conservative content+9. No company, no matter how big, is infallible.

Earlier this month, Facebook made a commitment to enforce its community standards with more fairness. Maybe the company is truly trying to improve how it polices conservative content, but it has a long way to go.
Originally published on The Resurgent