Our Current Civil War

On July 20th The Signal published a column by Joshua Heath entitled “A Democrat’s defense of the GOP” (Link), in which he described what he perceived as the beneficial effects of the essentially two-party system of our political structure in this country.

The problem with his thesis is that the traditional Democrat Party he described is virtually non-existent today, having been hijacked by far-left extremists who seem to be obsessed with destroying our social order and cultural norms.

He has effectively described the political order that existed when I was his age. That was a very long time ago. In my opinion this country is currently engaged in a civil war every bit as intense and fundamental as the one that took place in the 1860s, the only difference being that thankfully much less blood has been shed… so far.

The transformation of the Democrat Party into what it’s become today began with the radical left of the 1960s, with the Vietnam War and race relations being the pivotal issues of the time.

If there’s a watershed event, it’s the 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago. I encourage everyone to research that event. There had already been riots over race relations, but they’d been primarily carried out by minorities. The lesson for the radical left that the Democrat convention debacle illustrated was that mainstream Middle American whites could also riot, and that the rioting could have a profound influence on the policy decisions of that party.

LBJ withdrew from the election; the Dems nominated his VEEP Humphrey, and Nixon was elected in a solid repudiation of LBJ’s policies on the Vietnam War.

And so the fuse was lit.

Over time, the left and right drove further apart, and rioting and other forms of bad behavior became a standard tool of the left. And one has to be honest and acknowledge that you just don’t see equivalent behavior of that scale from the right.

Further, the prevailing ideology of the left also moved steadily further toward radicalism, with formerly “mainstream” liberalism being more and more marginalized. There’s a cliché that in today’s political climate, Democrat icon JFK would actually be a Republican, and frankly, it’s true. That alone symbolizes the changes that have taken place to the Dem party.

The reality is that Washington’s political landscape, particularly in the Democrat party, has been warped and distorted by the rise to prominence of the radical left in that party.

This country is incredibly polarized. In my opinion, as I said earlier, his view is reflective of a political landscape that existed decades ago, not today.

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

(Published 21 July 2017 on my blog and in The Signal)

 

 

 

The GOP Aims At Its Own Foot — Again

On June 19th my local newspaper, The Signal, published an opinion letter by Thomas Oatway entitled “Legislators must stand up against potential tax reform threats” (Link). In that letter Thomas urged Congressman Steve Knight and other California Republicans to “fight to derail this plan”, and I want to add my voice to that chorus.

As Oatway correctly pointed out, eliminating the federal tax deduction for home mortgage interest and property taxes will have a very negative impact on home ownership, particularly for the middle class.

Why would the GOP be so stupid as to eliminate the deductions that their natural base depends on? It would be electoral suicide.

This is yet another loony proposal popping from the “mind” of Paul Ryan, a nerd without a lick of common sense.

Congressional Republicans promoting this plan claim that by increasing the personal exemption and decreasing the number of brackets, these eliminations will be essentially “harmless”, and they’ll still be there for people who elect to itemize their deductions.

But eliminating the mortgage and property tax deductions is going to immediately cause home values to drop (http://www.businessinsider.com/gop-tax-plan-could-affect-real-estate-market-2017-1). Who owns most homes numerically? The middle class, the exact same demographic from which the GOP draws most of its support.

So, as those people sit there, with their ongoing mortgages and property taxes, they’re going to see the value of their homes drop out from under their feet.

Then there’s the secondary, or ripple, effect. As home values drop, so do rental values. So, those who own investment properties are going to see their income decrease as rental incomes chase property values down. That’s a direct effect on income for those people.

As a homeowner, I’m looking at personally losing almost $50K in hard equity from my house. Why would I think that’s any kind of good idea at all? That’s exactly the same thing as taking $50,000 out of my savings account. Why would I vote for someone who wants to do that? I may as well vote for a Democrat!

Who actually benefits from this? People who can’t afford to buy homes, or others who are renters, and I’d guess the majority of them are people who support Dems.

So in reality, the GOP will manage to alienate middle class home owners and investment owners, their natural base (as I said), while providing a benefit for people who are never going to vote for them anyway.

In what alternate universe does that sound like a good idea?

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

(Also published today in my local newspaper The Signal)

“Single-Payer” Healthcare? You Mean Like the VA?

VA

On May 24th The Signal published a column by Steve Lunetta entitled “Health care free market an abject failure” (Link), and I have to take great issue with much of what Steve wrote.

He claims that “All attempts to create a ‘free market’ in health care have failed here in the United States.”

What “attempts”? How can they have “failed” when there haven’t been any to begin with? Oh, there used to be a free market in health care, but it was so long ago that at 68 years of age I can barely remember it. The only thing that’s been “attempted” in the last five decades or so has been to exert ever more government control and regulation of that market segment.

In all the anecdotal “evidence” Steve presents in the column, one glaring element simply leaps out at me: he had an HMO, which he described as a “blessing”, and HE made the decision  to switch to a PPO, from which all his described problems arise.

If his organization is like the ones I worked for, as an employee I had a choice between either a PPO or an HMO. Didn’t he? Even if he didn’t, he certainly wasn’t forced by his employer to participate in their PPO program. So it seems to me that his problems with his health insurance provider are actually due to his own lack of due diligence, and his own decision to participate in a PPO that doesn’t meet his perceived needs.

His lack of due diligence is also illustrated by his example of allowing visits by a doctor without asking first what his own charges would be for that doctor’s services. Why would anyone do that? That’s a question I ALWAYS ask when a medical service or procedure is being contemplated.

The next problem here is that the insurance companies aren’t “making a mountain of money” as he claims. In fact, under the current structure, many are facing serious financial problems, and are withdrawing from many markets. Further in many jurisdictions, this state being one of them, insurance profits are limited by law.

Then the ultimate sin: proposing “single-payer”, which means government-run health care. You want to see how well that will work out? Take a look at the VA system for your answer. Now imagine that being the national norm.

How about we actually try some REAL free-market health care for a change? For years I’ve promoted three steps to reforming the system:

1.  Eliminate the artificial Barriers to interstate competition for health care and insurance products. Let real competition begin.

2.  Streamline the FDA approval process, which will significantly lower the cost of bringing new meds and procedures to market.

3.  Reform the medical tort system, which will lessen the costs involved in, and perceived need for, practicing “defensive medicine”.

Let’s do those three things, see how well they work, and only then see what else might be done to improve things.

Lastly, we as a society have to get away from the idea that there’s some magic bullet that will indemnify us from the vicissitudes of life. Some people are healthy until the day they drop dead; some are chronically ill for decades. That’s just the way things are. It’s no different from anything else. Some people have investments that make them rich; some people go bankrupt. Life isn’t “fair”.

But no one ever said it would be.

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

(Published 1 June at my blog and in The Signal)

 

 

Impeachment Hysteria Versus Reality

 

Our family is very politically aware (and fortunately for us and family comity, all conservatives), and as everyone with a pulse knows, virtually from Inauguration Day there have been calls for President Trump’s impeachment. The hysteria seems to be reaching a crescendo recently, dominating news coverage, and as a result I received an email the other day from one of the younger members of our clan, a Millennial:

“Hello there!

“What do you think the odds are of Trump getting impeached? That’s all I see in my news feed now!

“Brett R.”

To answer Brett’s question, I think the odds of that are pretty much zero. First of all, you’ve got to understand that the “news” feed is all pretty much just biased – and I mean to a point I’ve never before seen in my lifetime – agenda-driven rubbish.

But to the actual legalities, there has to be actual “cause” for impeachment. Per the Constitution, that means “high crimes or misdemeanors”. So, what actual “crimes” or “misdemeanors” has Trump actually committed? None that I can think of.

Then there’s political reality. Impeachment takes place in the House, and conviction takes place in the Senate and requires a 2/3 vote of the Senators to do so and remove him from office. Both the House and the Senate are controlled by the GOP. So, what are the odds of ANY of that actually happening?

Precedent. Only two sitting Presidents have ever been impeached: Andrew Johnson and “Quick-Zipper Bill” Clinton. Neither was convicted. Johnson’s impeachment was purely politically motivated, based on his Reconstruction policies, and his conviction was one vote shy. Clinton actually had committed a crime – perjury – and yet wasn’t convicted in the Senate. So, particularly in light of Pantsuit Hillary’s federal felonious actions with her email rig and the failure to indict HER, I can’t see any way an actual impeachment takes place.

Another political reality. I think impeaching Trump would actually BENEFIT him. We saw the same dynamic when Billy-Bubba was impeached: his popularity actually increased. I think the same dynamic would inure to Trump. There’s a VERY large percentage of people in this country that are simply fed up with the SOP of how both major parties have been conducting business over the last few decades. Trump’s election is the embodiment of that frustration. Impeaching him… the consequences of that could be beyond imagination.

All these impeachment noises are being made by left-wing radicals spouting moronic sound bites for public consumption; people like Maxine Waters and “Nancy the Red” Pelosi. It’s become Dem/socialist SOP to act like silly, spoiled children. And all the while they’re doing it they’re losing actual political power all across the country with the exception of a few blue coastal states like Commiefornia and Taxachussetts.

I see this as simply political Kabuki from the American socialists. Think about it. If Trump’s impeached and convicted, that doesn’t roll back the election clock and make the Pantsuit Lady President. Mike Pence becomes President! They know that as well as I do. And that would be about the worst thing that could happen to them and their agenda, because he’s as clean as a whistle, and a great conservative. It would absolutely CRUSH their political aspirations. The whole point of this impeachment drivel is to try to keep Trump off balance, and to delegitimize him in order to try to weaken him. An actual impeachment would be a huge strategic error on their part.

Like I said, I think the chances are pretty much zero.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

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

 

It’s About Damned Time!

After decades of bringing a plastic toy bat to a gunfight, the GOP – that party with an uncanny record of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory – finally grew some gonads and “went nuclear” on the confirmation process for Judge Neil Gorsuch.

It’s about damned time!

The result is that Gorsuch has taken his rightful place on the bench at the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

We’ve all heard the incessant bleating from the left. “It’s a stolen seat! It should be Merrick Garland’s! Senate rules! Tradition!” Blah, blah, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

I, for one, couldn’t care less about their whining. In fact, in all honesty, I’m absolutely reveling in it! Because the time finally came when they had to pay the piper, and they didn’t like it one little bit. They’re squealing like stuck pigs. Good!

For decades, for purely political purposes, they changed rules, and moved the goalposts, at will. They counted on the GOP to consider themselves to be above such “petty” political games when they were themselves in power, and for the most part they’ve been right… up to now. The GOP was indeed stupid enough to keep letting them get away with it while refusing to resort to the same tactics themselves.

This kind of cynical, manipulative behavior goes all the way back to FDR, who threatened to “pack” the Supreme Court with like-minded leftist judges who’d back his socialist programs, and when the GOP legislators chickened out and backed off, the stage was set.

When Reagan nominated Robert Bork, a superbly qualified originalist jurist, to SCOTUS the scurrilous attacks on his character, ironically led by Ted Kennedy – the “Lion of the Senate” who was apparently taking a break from molesting and drowning young interns at the time – were so outrageous that Bork ended up withdrawing from consideration. The episode was so shameful it even led to the coining of the term “borking” for subjecting nominees to irrational and unreasonable political attacks.

When Bush I nominated Clarence Thomas to SCOTUS Senate Dems tried, unsuccessfully, to “bork” him with the infamous Anita Hill slander. When Bush II nominated Samuel Alito Senate Dems tried unsuccessfully to filibuster his appointment. They did successfully block Bush II’s nominee to the DC Circuit, Miguel Estrada, using a filibuster.

Yet when the shoe has been on the other foot, Dem/socialist nominees have sailed through to an easy confirmation, in spite of their political bent, with little to no GOP opposition, die-hard doctrinaire leftist Ruth Bader Ginsburg being a classic example. A Carter appointment, she was confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 96 to 3. Breyer was confirmed 87 to 9; Kagan by 63 to 37; and Sotomayor by 67 to 29.

When Bush I was president then-Senator Joe Biden – who was at the time chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee – said he would block any Bush nominee to SCOTUS that may occur in an election year. So much for the “stolen seat” of Merrick Garland, since all the Senate GOPers did during the last year of Obama’s term was follow that very same “Biden Rule”.

And when Obama was president the ever-despicable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader at the time, used the so-called “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster option for all judicial appointments other than to SCOTUS, thereby ensuring that Obama was able to load the lower-level Circuit Court system with activist leftist jurists. The truth is in the numbers: at the end of Bush II’s term ten of thirteen circuit courts had majorities nominated by Republican presidents. But as of now, nine of them have majorities nominated by Democrat presidents. In other words, the situation reversed by almost 180 degrees during Obama’s time in office.

There’s nothing in the Constitution that requires anything other than a simple majority for the Senate to act. As it’s been used on judicial appointments, in reality it’s been a tyranny of the minority exploited by the Dem/socialists to pack the court system, right up to and including SCOTUS, with activists more concerned with advancing a “social justice” agenda than with ensuring that proper legal and constitutional principles are observed.

Thus the irony is so thick it can be cut with a knife when Mitch McConnell and the other Senate Republicans used the Democrats’ own traditional strategy, the “nuclear option”, to ensure Gorsuch’s ascension to a seat on SCOTUS. It’s why the wailing and bleating of the left is music to my ears.

Their own chickens have come home to roost.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

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

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)

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.