Monday, March 26, 2018

The Ghost of the FBI Past --

University of Louisville Law Professor Justin Walker has an important op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal.  He reminds us of the consequences of an "independent" FBI. Independence became lack of accountability to democratically elected presidents.

I am generally aware of the misdeeds of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. The recent movie, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House does a good job of illustrating that in the aftermath of Hoover's death, during Watergate.

What Walker's piece reveals, however, is that Hoover's abuse of civil rights extends to thousands more ordinary Americans than I had previously thought; this was not a problem limited to Hollywood stars and prominent politicians.

Walker's op-ed is a condensed version of a piece that will be published later this year in the George Washington Law Review, which I look forward to reading. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

More Crony Capitalism from GOP in Frankfort

Senate Bill 5 should be filed under "what were they thinking" or "why bother winning elections if you're going to govern like Democrats." Sen. Max Wise (R-16) is the sponsor.

Wise's bill basically reverses a successful practice of the private companies overseeing pharmacies dispensing drugs and brings it back into state government. That's right, it grows state government -- at a time when programs like education are being slashed due to Kentucky's desperate financial shortfall and the pension mess.

Not surprising, it's expensive (and inefficient) to grow government.  The price tag for Senate Bill 5:  $36 million a year.

Where on earth will the state get $36 million?  This is lunacy.

The only people to benefit from this bill are small town pharmacists. That is, it's crony capitalism -- Frankfort pols picking winners and losers.  In this case, the small town pharmacists win, and tax payers lose. If enacted, the pharmacies will get the Obamacare payment of $10.64 per each drug dispensed -- compared to under a dollar they now get. That's quite a raise. 

Nothing against small town pharmacists. But why should they get preferential treatment over other businesses and industries?  I bet some now defunct independent booksellers are wondering where their handout was.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Al Franken Schadenfreude

As Democratic women finally call for Sen. Al Franken to resign,  it's time to recall this, from The Hill:

He barked at Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearing, “I question your judgment!” and condescendingly told her that “the root word of judgment is judge.”
Last June, during John Bush’s confirmation hearing, Franken explained, “One of the qualities I look for in a judge is judgment.” He described his responsibility as using his own judgment to evaluate the judgment of judicial nominees.
In hearing after hearing, Franken has sat, face resting on fist, lecturing conservative judges for what he deems “bad judgment.”
Jump cut to today. Freeze frame on the now infamous photograph of a grinning Franken apparently assaulting a sleeping woman. Read her describe his alleged behavior:
“He came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth. I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time. I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth. I felt disgusted and violated.”
And her describe her reaction to discovering the photo:
“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep. I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”
Franken has made a habit of accusing Trump judicial nominees of having poor judgment seemingly because they disagree with his political opinions, but it's clearly Franken’s judgment that's lacking. No matter how much the media shakes their pom-poms every time he launches into one of his confirmation hearing morality plays, that much is clear.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Angela Leet for Mayor

This is excellent news for Louisville. Republican Metro Council member Angela Leet has confirmed that she is running for mayor.

Angela is really impressive. She is smart, tough and entrepreneurial and a mother of two boys. She has been one of the voices for common sense in opposition to the inane plan to relocate the VA center to Brownsboro Road.

And she has called attention to Louisville's murder rate, even before most people were paying attention.

She's very personable. She commands respect from across the political spectrum.

After the election, Mayor Greg Fischer will have lots of time to risk his life on all those bike paths he's been building in heavy traffic areas (speaking of which, I saw a horrible accident of bike vs. minivan on Market Street).

Friday, September 22, 2017

Steve Forbes Rocks U of L

This is out of sequence -- it happened a week ago --but worth mentioning nonetheless.  Publisher Steve Forbes spoke to several hundred University of Louisville students at the Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise, in the U of L College of Business (jointly sponsored by the Young Americas Foundation).

Given the lunacy that we have seen on college campuses like Berkeley and Middlebury, it was striking to see how polite the U of L students were to Forbes -- an unabashed defender or capitalism.

This is the second time in a matter of months that the Schnatter Center hosted a prominent conservative to a large and respectful crowd.  (And as noted below, the McConnell Center hosted Justice Neil Gorsuch to standing ovations yesterday).

Not surprisingly, Forbes spoke out in favor of  a flat tax.  He's been relentless on the topic over the years, correctly so.

One new thought (or at least new to me):  Forbes challenged the concept of "giving back."  As in the virtue signaling demand that we must turn over our money to the less fortunate, either voluntarily or through the coercion of the tax system.

The problem with "giving back," Forbes observed, is that it assumes that our earnings were not ours to begin with and therefore must be returned, at least in part. That's a fallacy. It also diminishes the act of charity by grounding it in guilt.

Forbes gave some advice to the students that also struck me:  sometimes it is best not to wait until you are ready. He gave the example of Chris Christie, who was urged to run for president in 2012 but declined because he was not ready; when he was ready in 2012, his time had passed and he lost badly.  Barack Obama, in contrast, ran for president while still brand new in the Senate. Many said that he was not ready, but he disregarded the advice and pressed on.

Forbes would have made a really good president. He is still consequential, however, sharing his wisdom with college students who are more interested in hearing and analyzing than protesting.

L'ville Loved Justice Gorsuch

The McConnell Center at University of Louisville hosted Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch yesterday and he surpassed everyone's expectations.

It was a packed crowd of 550 or so, mixed with students, lawyers, faculty.  No protests -- to the contrary, both Gorsuch and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell received standing ovations.

Gorsuch's line that appeared to resonate the most with people referred the the limited institutional competence of the judiciary and it's constitutional limitations for fixing bad statutes:  justices wear robes, not capes.  That is, we cannot expect the judiciary to fix Congress' bad policy choices. That's for the elected branch.

Gorsuch explained originalism in a way that was clear enough for non-lawyers to understand but nuanced enough to those who had been reading for thinking about it for years. He made a good argument that it is constitutionally mandated by the doctrine of separation of powers, and also supports that doctrine (and hence liberty).

My favorite moment: Gorsuch addressed a group of 40 army soldiers who have been spending the month at the McConnell Center as part of a Strategic Broadening Seminar. Gorsuch thanked the group for their service, and noted "if you don't do your job, I can't do mine."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Truth About Trump's Judges

Finally, a piece that is not, how to put it, defamatory.  As usual, Scott Jennings nails it for CNN.

Sitting atop the Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville on Monday morning was the who's who of Kentucky's legal community, all gathered to witness the investiture of John Kenneth Bush, President Donald Trump's latest appointee to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Overlooking the banks of the Ohio River, 6h Circuit Chief Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr. pointed out that the limited number of cases taken by the Supreme Court each year makes appointments to the circuit court -- the level just below the high court -- among the most important any president makes.
Scott Jennings
On that score, President Trump has hit home run after home run by appointing conservative lawyers to the various circuit court vacancies. In Bush, he found a highly qualified, Harvard-educated lawyer dedicated to the US Constitution and the nation's founding principles (he even named his dogs after Founding Fathers). During his confirmation, liberals expressed outraged that Bush had once written that America's two "greatest tragedies" were "slavery and abortion."Imagine that -- a pro-life, Republican president nominated a pro-life judge.
    A few weeks before Bush was nominated, the 6th Circuit received from Trump another Kentuckian, Amul Thapar, previously appointed federal district judge by President George W. Bush. My advice: take Thapar in the first round of your fantasy future Supreme Court Justice draft. You won't regret it. Thapar is a rock solid conservative judge whose name is on the lips of every Federalist Society member in Washington. He's close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and well-thought of by key White House lawyers.
    Trump is driving liberals nuts with his circuit court nominations. Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett, nominated by Trump for the 7th Circuit, was pilloried in a committee hearing by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein for being -- gasp -- a Catholic. Feinstein has come under criticism (including from the presidents of both Notre Dame and Princeton) since she had a melt down over Barrett's faith, further exposing just how out-of-touch today's Democratic Party is with Americans who still take their faith seriously.
    I suspect Feinstein was just as worried about Barrett's age and resume as she was her Catholicism. Barrett is in her mid 40s and counts a clerkship with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia among her past jobs. She's a strong conservative who will fill an important seat for a very long time. The same can be said of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who Trump nominated to yet another vacancy in the 6th Circuit.
    Young, Scalia-trained additions to the federal bench have Democrats pulling their hair out.
    President Trump has made 14 nominations for current or future circuit court vacancies, with three already confirmed (Kevin Newsom of Alabama, another strong conservative, was confirmed last month). Trump is outpacing President Barack Obama in circuit court confirmations and overall judicial nominations at this point in their presidencies. Sources in the White House tell me to expect more waves of conservative judicial nominations this fall.
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    While Trump faces trials and tribulations on other policy matters, he's absolutely nailing his judicial appointments. Obama appointed about 40% of the federal judiciary by the time he left office, while Bush 43 appointed just over one-third of it. Obama's appointees were, in many cases, extremely liberal, ideologically driven people who dragged their circuits drastically to the left. Presidents have enormous impact on the judiciary, especially if their party controls the Senate for some part of their term.
    If President Trump's first year in office is any indication, conservatives should be very happy with this reshaping of the federal bench, particularly at the appellate level. Undoing the damage done to the appellate courts by Obama is a key reason why Trump must do everything he can to maintain Republican control of the US Senate in the 2018 midterm election.
    If Feinstein's reaction to Barrett is any indication, Democrats would love nothing more than to shut down the Trump Train's drop-offs at the federal courthouse.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Imports Factor In to Opioid Crisis

    As Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tries to fight the opioid crisis by suing Big Pharma, keep in mind the effect that Sen. Bernie Sanders's efforts to increase pharmaceutical importation could have on the crisis. Plainly, Sanders's approach would make a bad situation much worse.

    Barry Denton  discusses it in the News-Enterprise:

    Drug overdoses are skyrocketing in Kentucky.

    Staff at the St. Elizabeth hospital system in the northern part of the state revive six opioid overdose victims every day. Twice as many Kentuckians are dying of overdoses as car accidents.

    Incredibly, politicians in Washington are pushing a bill that would make the crisis even worse.
    The proposed law, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, would legalize the importation of medicines from Canada.

    Proponents argue the bill would save patients money by allowing them to buy cheaper prescription drugs from abroad.

    In reality, those “cheaper” medicines could come at the price of hundreds of Kentuckians’ lives. Many unscrupulous pharmacies will jump at the chance to make a few bucks by sending painkillers to Americans without requiring prescriptions. The bill also would seriously strain law-enforcement’s ability to intercept illegal drugs.

    Kentuckians’ drug addictions often begin with prescription pain pills.

    In the last three months of 2016, Kentucky residents filled prescriptions for more than 17 million doses of oxycodone and 36 million doses of hydrocodone. In just one year, Clay County residents filled enough prescriptions to provide every resident – including children – with 150 doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone.

    Many of these pills wind up on the black market, fueling people’s addictions. And when addicts can’t find or afford prescription painkillers, they often turn to heroin.

    Heroin is dangerous enough on its own — but now, drug dealers are lacing heroin with fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid that’s 100 times more potent than morphine. Some strains of fentanyl are so potent that Narcan, a lifesaving shot used to resuscitate overdose victims, doesn’t work.
    One-third of Kentucky overdose deaths involve fentanyl.

    Legalizing prescription drug importation would make it easier for dealers to obtain massive quantities of illicit pain pills, heroin and fentanyl.

    Even though it’s illegal, some Americans already import prescription drugs.
    Many order from online Canadian pharmacies, some of which don’t even require prescriptions. Authorities sometimes are able to intercept these shipments, which often contain spoiled, counterfeit or illegal substances.

    If the bill passes, many Americans would start ordering medicines from foreign pharmacies without realizing those drugs lack the gold standard of approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
    There’d be little stopping a drug dealer from buying opioids in bulk to resell to vulnerable addicts.
    The sheer volume of shipments makes it unlikely law enforcement would be able to stop this trafficking.

    Legalized importation wouldn’t result only in pain pills flooding into Kentucky. It also could allow drug dealers to bring in pure fentanyl.

    Canadian authorities have warned that they don’t inspect drugs imported from abroad, routed through Canada and reshipped to America.

    The FDA also has no way to inspect or vet these imports.

    In other words, fentanyl- producing labs in China could ship large quantities of the drug to America via Canada. It’d be difficult for health authorities and law enforcement to distinguish between packages containing legitimate prescriptions and those containing deadly opioids.

    Kentucky’s police and first responders already are stretched thin dealing with overdoses. The last thing they need is for federal lawmakers to make it even easier to obtain dangerous drugs.
    Sen. Sanders sincerely may believe importation would help lower drug costs. But the price paid in human lives would be far too steep.