Political Finger-Painting

On April 5th The Signal published a column by Gary Horton entitled “America Has A Complex Complex” which brought a memory to mind for me.

When my daughter was a little girl she’d do finger-paintings for me. She’d sit at the table and smear random colors all over a piece of paper, and then turn to me.

“Look, Daddy”, she’d say proudly. “A sunrise!”

Of course, all I could see was paint smeared randomly all over the page.

That’s what we have with this Horton column: a little kid’s finger-painting of what’s wrong with America. It makes no sense to the person reading it. Only in the mind of the “artist” who created it do any of the shapes or colors coalesce into a meaningful whole, as they’re randomly selected and applied.

Horton’s painting of an “industrial-congressional-complex” makes as much sense as my daughter’s finger-painting of a “sunrise”, meaning none. It’s a very pretty picture, quite colorful, but not at all representative of anything in the real world.

He’s taken disparate elements of our society which he considers flaws or shortcomings in its fabric and tried to tie them together into a neat package of cause and effect. But the fatal mistake in this approach is that it ignores the benefits that derive from that very same system.

We live in a society unique in the world, with freedoms and liberty, guaranteed in our Constitution, that are unparalleled anywhere. We’ve also – whether willingly or not – been forced to assume the mantle of being the defender of those freedoms on a global scale, both for ourselves and our allies.

There are costs, both overt and hidden, that accrue to those kinds of benefits and responsibilities. That’s just the way the world works.

I know Horton, and those like him, have a utopian vision of how they think things should be. I’ve been active in politics for about five decades, and have been debating these issues for all of that time. But utopia doesn’t exist, and never will. That’s just a fact.

Any society with freedoms such as ours is going to be a messy place. Open debate, electoral politics, federalism, equal access of competing interests, free-market economics, free speech, property rights, individual responsibility, open competition… these are all concepts that, when put in practice, will naturally lead to uneven results.

Equality of outcome can only be assured by the imposition of tyranny.

So… which system would you prefer?

 

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal)

 

Who’s To Blame for the Failure of the Healthcare Reform Bill?

 

 

On March 29th The Signal published a column by Gary Horton entitled “What’s next after health care”.

This absurd column was full of hyperbole and hysteria, with a lot of ad hominem thrashing about thrown in for good measure. A return to his old “style”.

That’s a shame, too, because his last few columns were pretty good. But those were on the topic of Measure H, on which he took an actual “conservative” position, so maybe what we’re seeing here is an illustration of how conservatism is easy to support rationally, while socialism needs wild-eyed ranting to seek its justification.

As to the latest healthcare debacle, there’s a lot more blame to go around than just facilely throwing it at Trump, though I’m sure he’s the bogeyman Horton likes to target. House GOPers have had over 6 years to come up with a viable plan, something that actually made sense and included realistic elements that would address the free-market shortcoming of the current wealth redistribution scheme in place. The “Ryan plan” was a non-starter from the jump; in reality just a place-holder they could point at when asking for votes in the past elections.

Now that they finally had both chambers of Congress and the White House, to have seriously rolled out that tired piece of garbage as their offering was stupid beyond belief. There was no way it was ever going to be passed, as bad as it was. It was hardly better at all than Obamacare. What would have been the point?

They should have taken their time and crafted something that actually would have repealed and replaced Obamacare, not just tinkered with it a little bit. And Trump’s biggest failure was in not making them do exactly that. Maybe due to his own political inexperience, I don’t know.

As I’ve written before, we need to get government out of the healthcare and insurance equation. Government is the problem, not the solution.

 

(Also published today in The Signal)

Some Truths About “Gender Bias”

 

On March 21st The Signal published a column by Maria Gutzeit entitled “Women’s Day: a work in progress” (Here). In this very interesting column Maria discussed “gender bias” against women, citing several examples, and I’d like to respond with a few thoughts.

This issue is nowhere as clear-cut as simply being gender bias, Maria. There are far more complex issues in play.

You mentioned that female athletes are paid less than their male counterparts, but didn’t consider why that might be so. However, that goes to the heart of the matter.

Who pays athletes? Generally, companies that use them for endorsements in advertising. But what determines any athlete’s value? How much the manufacturer can realize in an increase in sales revenue for that athlete’s endorsement. So, a Michael Jordan, who has a very high profile in a wildly popular sport and generates a great deal of media attention is going to enjoy a very high value and get paid an astronomical sum. As will his female equivalent, a person such as….. whom?

You see, right there’s the problem with your example. I can’t think of any female equivalent. Can you? Is that because of any actual “bias”, or simply because there’s no such equivalent who can bring a Jordan-like value to an ad campaign?

If I’m a business owner, and I know I can hire a woman with the exact same skills, abilities, work ethic, etcetera as some white guy, and pay her 25% less, wouldn’t I be pretty much a fool to hire a guy just because he’s a guy, and penalize myself financially? Who would do that?

There must be other factors in play, and actually there are. Over the long term women as a group tend to spend less time on their career path over the course of that career, taking time out for other endeavors such as raising a family. Naturally, this difference will be reflected in their statistical earnings difference, because we’re talking macro. But in the micro, when women and men follow the actual same career paths in all relevant respects, that pay discrepancy isn’t there.

As to your daughter’s experience with the other kids blocking her swimming lanes, trust me. Young guys do the same kinds of things to other young guys, too. Part of actual equality is the realization and acceptance that there are some things in life that aren’t actually reflective of some kind of “bias”.

I’m not saying that actual bias doesn’t exist. Of course it does. That’s just part of human nature. But we must be careful in how we consider it, and try to make sure there is actual discrimination involved rather than some other factor influencing actions and outcomes. Only then can we address it, and try to come up with solutions that are meaningful and relevant.

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published in The Signal on 3/22/2017)

Naked Judicial Activism and Overreach

On March 15th, for the second time, a federal district judge – this time in Hawaii – issued an injunction against President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from several specific countries. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, in the case of State of Hawai’I and Ismail Elshikh v. Donald J. Trump, had the temerity to order that “Enforcement of these provisions in all places, including the United States, at all United States borders and ports of entry, and in the issuance of visas is prohibited, pending further orders from this Court.” In other words, this judge in the district of Hawaii issued a restraining order that supposedly has nationwide enforceability.

The only problem is, he has no authority to do so.

Article III of the US Constitution establishes the Judiciary, and defines its powers, authority and limitations. Section 2, Paragraph 2 clearly states that: “In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.”

What that means is that, barring a constitutional amendment, any case in which a state is a party must be heard by the Supreme Court, the only court with the authority and jurisdiction to hear such cases. Since one of the plaintiffs in the case at issue is the state of Hawaii, District Judge Watson had no jurisdiction, nor authority, to even hear the case. The same holds true for the several other District Courts that have heard and/or issued rulings on cases of like kind.

That paragraph goes on to state that: “In all the other Cases before mentioned (in Paragraph 1), the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.” Under that authority Congress went on to enact the Judiciary Acts of 1789, 1801, 1865, and 1925. These various Acts established the judicial system we have today, consisting of nine Supreme Court Justices, the various Circuit Courts of Appeal, the various District Courts, and their various jurisdictions, responsibilities and powers.

Part of that structuring defined court power to establish that the only court with national jurisdiction is the Supreme Court. For example, any ruling handed down by the Ninth Circuit Court only has enforcement power within the geographical boundaries of that Circuit, which are the nine Western states, including California. That’s why it’s not unusual to see different Circuits hand down conflicting rulings on the same issue, with the Supreme Court then stepping in to address and resolve the conflict by issuing a determinate ruling with national authority, thereby assuring a consistent application and rule of law across the nation.

The geographical jurisdictional and enforcement power of a District court is even smaller, as it’s a subset of the Circuit Court. So, just as the authority of a ruling by a Circuit Court is constrained by its geographical boundaries, so is the authority of a District Court’s ruling constrained to its own.

From this it’s easy to see that, in addition to hearing a case over which he had no jurisdiction, District Judge Watson issued a ruling and restraining order that he unlawfully attempts to apply outside the geographical borders of his own limited authority.

This is beyond unacceptable; it’s a repugnant attempt to usurp and arrogate power.

Were I Trump I’d instruct the State Department and other involved agencies to ignore these illegal rulings by this, and other, District judges who have far overstepped their legal authority. If these tin pot local judges want to set up a confrontation between the Judiciary and the Executive branches, then let’s bring it on.

Thomas Jefferson expressed his concern that the federal judiciary was potentially “the most dangerous branch” of government because, once seated, judges were installed for life and not accountable to the electorate. Unfortunately, particularly in recent decades, we’ve been seeing those fears realized as arrogant activist judges have taken to regularly exceeding their authority in order to facilitate their own political agendas, as facilitated by the cynical practice of “judge shopping” by litigants eager to promote and achieve their own political ends, goals they generally can’t achieve through the regular political process.

This must come to a halt, even if that has to be done through a constitutional confrontation.

 

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal)

Repealing Obamacare

(The following was published today by my local newspaper, The Signal, as an opinion piece on 15 March 2017)

 

In the Weekender edition of The Signal published March 10th was an editorial by Jim de Bree entitled “Long road to fixing Obamacare”. Unfortunately, I think his column is very far off the mark.

The first clue: his use of the term “level playing field”. Every time I hear that nonsense, I know I’m about to be hit with some Big Government socialist scheme that usually involves wealth redistribution, and government interference in this arena is a perfect example.

What Jim doesn’t seem to accept is that government isn’t the solution to the problem; government IS the problem.

We need to get the government OUT of the health insurance field altogether. The Constitution guarantees equality of opportunity, not of outcome, so the government has no legitimate role to play in “leveling the playing field” while interfering with free-market solutions to the problem as would be realized by competitive product availability, as well as private philanthropic and charitable activities.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There are three simple steps to addressing the problems in this arena:

  1. Remove the barriers to interstate sales of health insurance products. Free market product competition will, by its very nature, lower prices and increase choice options for consumers.
  2. Streamline the FDA drug approval process. It can currently cost upwards of a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market, or a medical procedure to accepted practice.
  3. Institute major medical tort reform to eliminate the need for the practice of “defensive medicine”. Patients are often subjected to unnecessary testing and other procedures their doctors require simply in an effort to indemnify themselves from potential future lawsuits. Defensive medicine is a significant cost multiplier.

Do those three simple things and we’ll see healthcare and related costs stop their spiraling ascent, and return those costs to an actual basis reflecting real needs and usage as determined by free market principles.

Socialized medicine, under whatever guise, is NOT the answer.

 

Still Searching For A Solution to Homelessness

(The following was published today as a Guest Column in my local newspaper, The Signal: https://signalscv.com/2017/03/09/brian-baker-still-searching-solution-homelessness/#comment-3196757063)

On March 8 The Signal published a column by Gary Horton entitled “Deciding to decisively end homelessness.”

It seems that Gary and I agree on this issue, and I’m sure that blows his mind as much as it does mine.

In his column he called Measure H a “boondoggle of epic proportions,” and I’m right there with him. He also states, “We’ve got to have the backbone to declare homelessness plainly unacceptable and even ‘illegal.’”

The problem, as I pointed out in my own column urging a “no” vote on Measure H, is that the measures that used to be in place to combat homelessness – and they were pretty effective – were deemed decades ago to be violations of the rights of homeless people to self-determination and autonomy.

The “declare it illegal” strategy, as effective as it was, was nullified. That ship has sailed.

I actually believe that was proper, because if one class of people can have their rights taken away based solely on their economic status, none of us is safe.

Gary speaks of “zoning to allow both government and private enterprise to build affordable, or even free, housing,’ and maybe there’s a partial answer there.

But that has to be done in a realistic manner, putting aside the pie-in-the-sky approach so many bleeding hearts want to impose by forcing “affordable” housing into existing or developing communities in which such housing isn’t a natural fit with the rest of that community.

Sticking Section Eight or other “affordable” housing units in the middle of a planned gated community, for example, isn’t going to work, on many levels, and it also unfairly penalizes property owners who will suffer loss of the value of their homes when such units are dropped in their midst like meteorites falling from the sky.

Yes, areas can be specifically zoned for such housing, but then we have to accept that we’re just creating more “projects,” like Nickerson Gardens in Los Angeles and other such disaster areas.

And that still doesn’t address the unfortunate fact that, unlike in the movies, you can build it and a lot of people still won’t come.

It doesn’t acknowledge the reality that some homeless choose to be so, or are unable to live in such units due to mental deficiency or substance abuse, and simply won’t avail themselves of such accommodations.

So it seems he and I agree on the nature of the problem, and the fact that Measure H is going to be less than useless in actually “solving” it, but differ on what can actually be done about it.

Gary said he’s going to make some proposals in an upcoming column, and I’m eager to see what he proposes.

Frankly, I don’t see an actual solution that’s practical and legal.

 

 

FLHHC

FLHHC? What the heck is Baker babbling about now, right?

Well, my friends, that’s an acronym. It stands for:

Facts,

Logic,

History,

Human nature, and the

Constitution.

Those are the five things non-conservatives – of any party – have to be able to ignore in order to advance their arguments.

In my experience, any argument on any political topic that observes those five precepts will end up, by definition, being truly “conservative” in nature. In contrast, any argument advanced by leftists to support their position on a topic will by necessity have to ignore at least one, and generally several (if not all), of those elements.

Try it out for yourself. Have some fun with it. I think you’ll find it’s a very accurate litmus test, and once you do you can use it when you’re debating your not-so-conservative friends to hopefully show them the error of their ways.

Remember: FLHHC.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

 

Can Homelessness Be “Prevented”?

homeless

 

On March 7th we’re having an election in this county and there’s only one thing on the ballot: Measure H, a proposal to increase the sales tax in this county by ¼% in order to “Prevent and Combat Homelessness”.

It sounds so noble: prevent homelessness! And so cheap, too. Only one-quarter of one percent increase in the sales tax!

But let’s take off the rose-colored glasses and deal with reality. First, homelessness will never be “prevented”, and the problem can never be “solved”. That’s just a fact of life.

Decades ago it was public policy to involuntarily confine and institutionalize the homeless under various vagrancy and other such laws. But those laws were ultimately – and rightfully, in my opinion – deemed to be an unconstitutional infringement on their right to autonomy and self-determination, so such practices were banned.

That means that today’s homeless can’t be forced to do anything, unless they’ve actually broken some law. It’s also important to understand and accept that a significant portion, maybe the majority, of homeless people are in that condition either by choice (yes, there are those who actually choose to be homeless) or because they suffer from some condition (drugs, alcohol, mental deficiency) that makes them incapable of functioning in a structured and/or ordered environment. Therefore, by default there are going to be many people who simply won’t avail themselves of anything offered by this measure if it passes.

So though this tax increase may provide some programs, policies and facilities that might help some of the homeless, in no way will it “prevent” homelessness. In fact, the long-term result may be completely the opposite, as human nature asserts itself. As word of such programs spreads, LA County may find itself the destination of choice for homeless folks now living in other areas, who then hit the road to come here, increasing our homeless population, a classic example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Then there’s the idea that this is such a “cheap” solution. Well, as I’ve just pointed out, it’s not a “solution” at all, and as we consider the money aspect, is it really even “cheap”?

The statewide sales tax rate is 7.25%, but here in LA County it’s currently 8.75%, which is 1.5% higher than the rest of the state. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s 20% more than the basic state sales tax rate. Twenty percent higher already!

This proposal would add yet another ¼%, which is another approximately 3% increase to our current rate, raising the county’s sales tax rate to 9.0%. That would place us second only to Alameda for having the highest county sales tax rate (Link).

How did we get to this position? Simple. By repeatedly passing feel-good tax increase propositions like this one. Just in the last election we passed Measure M, which continued an already extant ½% sales tax, as well as adding another ½%. Which means that if Measure H passes we’ll have added, for all intents and purposes, 1.25% to our county sales tax rate in less than one year.

tax-increaseNone of this even takes into account the constant bombardment of other taxes we’re repeatedly being hit with, such as gas tax increases, school bonds (yes, bonds are a de facto tax), “usage fees”, and every other gimmick the do-gooders and social engineers in government can come up with to euchre us out of our hard-earned money (at least, those of us who are actually still “earning” any).

When is enough going to be enough? Because let’s face it; when this program ends up not actually “preventing” homelessness, which is exactly how things will turn out, what do you think is going to happen?

They’re going to come back to the well for another drink. Yet another tax increase in some form or another will be put on the table. The very personification of “creeping socialism”.

Let’s put a stop to this right now. Vote “No” on Measure H.

 

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published today as a column in my local newspaper, The Signal)

#Calexit To Nowhere

calexit-2

 

It’s official. The Electoral College has spoken. Donald Trump is the President-Elect of these United States of America. Those last four words are important, because they describe the nature of this country: individual states united into a nation.

But to hear the hysterical left carry on about it, you certainly wouldn’t know it.

In my last three columns I discussed how unglued they’ve become since Trump’s Trumanesque victory over Clinton, and I thought I was done with the subject. Well, it turns out that just when I thought they couldn’t get any crazier they went ahead and proved me wrong.

Have you heard of #calexit? It seems that there’s a contingent here in this state that wants to collectively and figuratively stamp their feet in frustration, take their ball, and go home.calexit By that, I mean they want this state to secede from the Union. The word “calexit” is obviously fashioned after the term “brexit” which resulted in the start of the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union. A petition is in circulation for a ballot proposition to advance the act of seceding from the Union.

With great sadness, however, I have to inform them that their plan is a non-starter. When a state joins the Union, it’s kind of like the Mafia: once in, never out. It’s not a membership in a health spa or gym. In fact, we actually had a little event known as the Civil War back in the mid-1800s that made that point rather dramatically.

The Constitution goes to great lengths describing the process a state has to go through to join up. There’s not one single word about ever being able to pull out again. In fact, there have even been Supreme Court cases confirming that reality.

The crazies promoting this idea like to point out that if it were an independent country California’s economy would be the eighth largest in the world. All well and good, but they also ignore other realities that attach to being an independent country.

About ¼ of the illegal aliens in this country, approximately 3 million of them, live in this state. Additionally, about 1/3 of the nation’s welfare recipients live here, all while the state has only about 1/8 of the nation’s residents.

The only reason those demographics haven’t further bankrupted the state is that the costs of supporting these groups is defrayed and subsidized to a very large part by funding from the federal government, both directly and indirectly, through various grant, aid, and direct funding programs.

But if California were to secede from the union that flow of money would stop dead in its tracks. Then what? Jack up taxes on the already overtaxed people in this state who already are subject to about the highest tax burden in the country?

Of course, this fantastical new Republic of California is going to have to be able to conduct foreign affairs, and defend itself militarily, a huge new expense currently borne exclusively by the United States. Where’s the money going to come from for all the new embassies everywhere, and professional diplomats? And for the new army, navy, and air forces we’ll need, not to mention coastal security, meaning some form of Coast Guard?

Every country in the world has to have some kind of military capability to defend its existence and autonomy, at the very least, and the Republic of California is no different. And don’t kid yourselves; in the eyes of ISIS and the rest of the Islamic jihadis, the new Republic of California will be just as much a “Great Satan” as the rest of the United States, meaning we’ll be participants in the “war on terror” whether we want to be or not. We don’t make that decision, they do.

So, how do we fund this stuff? Even more new taxes? I sure don’t see any other way to do it. Do you?

All of a sudden it starts to become clear that the only reason this state is “the eighth largest economy in the world” is because so many of the financial burdens of its very existence are borne by the country of which it’s a part. But if that support goes away, and as the already high tax burden on its remaining residents increases, not only will that economy collapse, but those remaining productive tax-paying residents will vote with their feet and start an exodus that will deplete this state of its last source of income.

calexit-6The new Republic of California will turn into Venezuela North.

 

 

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal)