Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Prayers For Bush 41

And Barbara Bush as well.  God bless you and heal you!

Obama Never Ceases to Amaze

The Chelsea Manning pardon is such an outrage it makes one wonder whose side this administration is on.

Manning committed treason, for which he could have faced the death penalty. Now the Obama administration has shaved his sentence by 80 percent.

Then there is the spectacular hypocrisy regarding WikiLeaks:  if John Podesta's embarrassing emails are leaked, that's a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the election. But if national security information is leaked -- that puts Americans lives in danger -- it's no big deal, apparently because the leaker is "transitioning.'

Friday cannot come soon enough.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Another Solid Trump Appointment

President-elect Donald Trump has appointed my friend Rod Rosenstein as the number two at the Department of Justice.

President George W. Bush appointed Rod U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, and the Obama administration never replaced him.

The Washington Post gives an overview of the outstanding job he has done as U.S. Attorney. I'd add to that that I have known Rod since law school, and he is a really good guy -- as well as a true conservative.

It's an outstanding appointment, for a department that needs some serious house cleaning.

Hey John Yarmuth, Can I Have Your Seats?

Congressman John Yarmuth is boycotting the inauguration. Who cares?

The more important question is what is he doing with his tickets?  Lots of his constituents would like them. Yarmuth donates his Congressional salary to charity (for which I commend him).

I hope he donates the tickets to someone who doesn't share his antipathy for the new president. I think his constituents should call him and ask.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Score One For Property Rights

Demolition has begun. Remember that Louisville couple who had to fight for the right to demolish their home?  They won in the end by convincing Metro Council to overturn a ruling of the Landmarks Commission. That should not have been necessary.

The couple bought an old house in the Highlands with the intent to renovate it, until costs proved prohibitive. They couldn't sell it. The Landmarks Commission fought their attempts to tear it down. To justify this infringement upon the right of the homeowners to use their property as they see fit, efforts were drummed up to make the house look "historic" -- as opposed to just old.

I like old houses, I do. I live in one that we renovated, and thereby learned that renovation is way more expensive than new construction. We did it anyhow because we like history and wanted that reflected in our home.

That's my personal preference as a homeowner. It doesn't follow that I get to impose it on what other people choose to do with their own homes.

The basis of the fourth amendment, after all, is that a man's house is his castle. That reasoning applies to historic preservation, as well.

Property rights are the bedrock of rule of law. Thank heavens our Metro Council recognized that and did the right thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trump's Press Conference - Wow!

My favorite part was when President-elect Donald Trump told the CNN reporter that he would not call on him, because of the network's fake news. Even over am radio, I could hear the guy spitting with fury.

Republicans have taken it on the chin from mainstream media for too long. It was really refreshing to see Trump call out the Clinton News Network -- which after all, signaled to Buzzfeed to release its hit piece of fiction last night.

Drama aside, the press conference included some real substance from Trump tax lawyer Sheri Dillon.

Dillon's style is much different from that of Kellyanne Conway.  The former is a Big Law tax attorney and the later is a political operative. Still, it has to be noted, that for a guy who is supposedly a misogynist, he sure employs smart, tough women who get the job done.

Dillon's methodical reasoning for the steps that Trump has taken to avoid conflicts of interest seemed sound. He is still walking a mine field. But plainly, they have made a serious effort to avoid the appearance or fact of impropriety.

In particular, Dillon did an excellent job explaining why Trump didn't toss everything he owns into a "blind trust."  It's a term that the public has heard for years with respect to other presidents. It is not applicable for Trump, however. As Dillon pointed out, real estate holdings cannot be equated with a stock portfolio:  Trump cannot unknow that he owns Trump Tower. That's why a blind trust is the wrong means to address the ethical challenges.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Congress Needs to Repeal the O-Care HIT Tax - STAT

This Health Income Tax from the Affordable Care Act will start to "hit" small businesses and the middle class next month, if Congress doesn't act quickly. This should be a no-brainer.

To be sure, the replace part of "repeal and replace" is tricky. There can be no doubt, however, that the HIT tax needs to be repealed immediately, even if Obamacare's replacement is still being formulated.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been following this issue for sometime:

The Obamacare Health Insurance Tax (HIT) is Back! 

Without immediate repeal, the Obamacare health insurance tax will start hitting premiums again as early as February.  The reason is simple: As small businesses and consumers begin enrolling in health insurance coverage for 2018, they will begin paying premiums which include this tax.  Insurance policies that provide coverage into calendar year 2018 will factor this tax into premiums.  The longer Congress waits, the more Americans will pay this tax.

Additional Obamacare Taxes – like the Medical Device and the Cadillac Tax – will be next to further increase health care costs.

The Obamacare Health Insurance Tax Drives up Premiums.
Unfairly, small businesses, seniors, and consumers are the ones that pay for this health insurance tax.  According to past analysis by former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin, the average family will pay an additional $5,000 over 10 years in extra premiums because of the health insurance tax. Further, other past analysis quantified that 84 percent of the premium tax burden for the four year period from 2014-2018 would be borne by those earning less than $100,000 per year and more than 50 percent of the tax burden would be borne by those earning less than $50,000 per year.

Voters are Demanding Change.
Many Members of Congress campaigned on making health care coverage more affordable. Now they can do something about it.

Trigger Warning For Those Who Liked the Golden Globes Speeches

My Courier-Journal column suggests that the Hollywood liberals stick to their day jobs. Reprinted with permission:

One of the bonuses of the presidential election has been watching the Hollywood elite throw tantrums. All the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It’s the only reason worth suffering through shows like the Golden Globes, where performers took the opportunity to express their grief at how half the country voted.
Meryl Streep even called upon Hollywood to protect journalists. (Huh?)
Before the election, numerous celebrities threatened to leave America if Donald Trump won. Apparently, this was supposed to deter the great unwashed from voting for President-elect Trump. Instead, it likely did just the opposite.
Among the would-be ex-pats: Barbra Streisand; Bryan Cranston; Miley Cyrus; Lena Dunham; Amy Schumer; Jon Stewart; Cher; Chelsea Handler; Samuel L. Jackson; Whoopi Goldberg; Neve Campbell; Keegan-Michael Key; George Lopez; Ne Yo; the Rev. Al Sharpton; Raven-Symone. But wait, there’re more:  Chloe Sevigny; Eddie Griffin; Omari Hardwick.
Don’t feel bad if you haven't heard of some of these folks, despite their publicists’ best efforts. We will have a chance to not recognize them at Derby.
As for the more famous, the pledge to emigrate is a re-run. Take Barbra Streisand: she threatened to leave the country if George H.W. Bush won, and then again, if George W. Bush won. Likewise for Cher. Their quadrennial threats to leave America are attempts to stay relevant.
We are still stuck with them. (Now if they were prisoners at GITMO, then the Obama administration might buy them a plane ticket out.)
Following the election, a group of celebrities “starred” in a “public service announcement” that urged Republican electors to the Electoral College not to honor the voters’ choice. Someone tell Martin Sheen he was not really president, and the “West Wing” was a set. Like the threat to emigrate, Sheen’s PSA failed.
The next phase of celebrity meltdown involved refusals to perform at the Inauguration. Sir Elton John supposedly declined an invitation to perform, although inviting a Brit to a presidential inauguration in the first place seems odd, given the Revolution. Other celebrities who were allegedly asked but declined: Garth Brooks; Kiss; Andrea Bocelli; Celine Dion; Katy Perry; and David Foster.
The mainstream media gleefully reported these supposed celebrity rejections, until the Trump transition team observed that the Inauguration “is not Woodstock.”  Nor should it be. After all, the voters rejected the aging hippie.
Rosie O’Donnell, deprived of an opportunity to turn down the invitation, launched a campaign to halt the Inauguration. O’Donnell tweeted, “HE MUST NEVER BE SWORN IN - DELAY INAUGURATION - INVESTIGATE - ARREST HIM” (emphasis in original).
One wonders if O’Donnell even believes her own tweets. She crossed the line from petulant to anti-democratic. In complaining about supposed fascism, she advocates anarchy.
O’Donnell was once a good performer. Same for Cher and Barbra Streisand. Their talent brought them fame and riches. It did not, however, make them political savants — something they lack the humility to recognize.
Celebrities have just as much right as anyone else to express their opinion. However, fame is no substitute for facts and reason.  Notoriety alone should not persuade.
Miley Cyrus, for example, campaigned on many college campuses for Hillary Clinton, but never attended college. She makes millions of dollars a year, not because of her intellect. Good for her that she’s not flipping burgers. It doesn’t follow that we should suffer her lectures about anything, including politics.
Not all, but many celebrities ride private planes and yachts and then whine about climate change. They advocate gun control but employ body guards. Perhaps they have forgotten how the rest of the country lives. As for those celebrities who no longer bother to conceal the fact that they think half the country is stupid or bigoted, the harder they campaigned for Clinton, they better they made Trump look.
There are a few conservatives in Hollywood, of course. But the orthodoxy is overwhelmingly left-wing — increasingly so. One reason for this, according to producer-writer Rob Long, is that celebrities don’t receive paychecks. Their huge salaries are sent to their manager or agent. So they never get the reality check of looking at a pay stub and seeing how much the government withheld to fund those liberal programs they love.
As a result, Hollywood has become as irrelevant to political discourse as its home state of California — an outlier. That should worry Hollywood. It should also motivate artists, including conservatives, to understand and portray the needs and concerns of the great swath of America between the two coasts. That’s a big audience.
The Hallmark Channel has done this with such success that it now has a second channel. There is a hunger for entertainment that does not coarsen the culture, entertainment grounded in empathy, not snobbery.
This year’s rejection of the elites has been a long time coming. And it makes for great performance art.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

O-Care Replacement Watch

This article from the New York Times suggests that following repeal of Obamacare, House Republicans will look for a replacement that substitutes liberty for compulsion -- a big improvement:

In defending the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration, congressional Democrats and advocacy groups have focused on the 20 million people covered by the law, which has pushed the percentage of Americans without health insurance to record lows. The American Medical Association recently said that “any new reform proposal should not cause individuals currently covered to become uninsured.”
But House Republicans, preparing for a rapid legislative strike on the law next month, emphasize a different measure of success.
“Our goal here is to make sure that everybody can buy coverage or find coverage if they choose to,” a House leadership aide told journalists on the condition of anonymity at a health care briefing organized by Republican leaders.
. . . 
Republicans have an “ironclad commitment” to repeal the law, the aide said, as lawmakers moved to discredit predictions that many people would lose coverage.
“There’s a lot of scare tactics out there on this,” said Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “We can reassure the American public that the plan they are in right now, the Obamacare plans, will not end on Jan. 20,” the day Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated.
The suggestion that 20 million people will lose coverage is a “big lie,” Mr. Brady said, after meeting here with Republican members of his committee.
“Republicans,” he said, “will provide an adequate transition period to give people peace of mind that they will have those options available to them as we work through this solution.”

Alvarado Punches Back Twice as Hard

Good for Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester). He just won a defamation and false light suit -- and $200,000 in damages -- from former Sen. R.J. Palmer

As Pure Politics reports, Alvarado (who is a doctor) sued his former election opponent for essentially portraying him as a drug dealer.

It took Alvarado two years to get the victory; it went all the way to a jury trial, where the jury awarded $125,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages.

The point of punitive damages is to deter. Hopefully, the verdict in this case will indeed deter slimy politicians from lying about an opponent just to advance their chance of winning.

This suit has important ramifications not just for defamation law but also for candidate recruitment.  Honorable people who would make terrific public servants often refuse to run because they don't want to be subjected to lies of the sort Palmer spread about Alvarado.

It's good to see that there is recourse, even despite the difficulty of proving actual malice when the victim is a public figure (which candidates are).

Parents Should Watch This JCPS Issue

Reprinted with permission of the Courier-Journal:

As the most recent National Geographic illustrates —its cover story features a nine-year-old transgender girl— parents are facing challenges and choices that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. That calls for vigilance about what images and messages bombard our children, and clear communication about what we believe, and why.
Take, for example, the Jefferson County Public School sex education curriculum.
For more than a year, an organization called Louisville Sex Ed Now has been advocating changes to that curriculum. LSEN is a coalition of Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Fairness Campaign and others. It maintains that due to vague state standards, there is too much variation among JCPS schools and teachers in how sex ed is taught.
Given Kentucky’s Republican governor and legislature, there is no possibility that the state standards on sex ed will be modified to please organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. So they are taking the fight to the local level. LSEN wants JCPS to enact new standards to specify what must be taught to middle school and high school students. That is, LSEN wants to reduce the discretion that Site Based Decision Making Councils at schools within JCPS have to choose sex ed curricula.
In addition to this reduction of local control, LSEN advocates “comprehensive sexuality education.”
“Comprehensive” appears to be a term of art, or perhaps code, for sex ed that goes way beyond the “birds and the bees” of reproduction. The United Nations defines comprehensive sexuality education as “rights-based and gender-focused.”
Typically, “comprehensive” sex ed gives a passing nod to abstinence and therefore is sometimes misleadingly called “abstinence-plus” sex ed.
The goal of comprehensive sex ed is to reduce the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. That sounds reasonable, at first glance. The underlying premise, however, is that teenagers are brimming with hormones and will have sex, whether we like it or not, so best show them how to use a condom.
To that end, the Obama administration took away $100 million from abstinence programs and spent nearly a billion dollars on comprehensive sex ed known as the Teen Pregnancy Program (TPP). A recent Health and Human Services report foundthat teens in some TPP programs were more likely to begin having sex, more likely to begin having oral sex, and more likely to get pregnant than teens who did not take the class; 80 percent fared no better than or actually did worse than non-TPP students.
Many parents who addressed the JCPS board on Nov. 29 similarly argued that sex ed should teach students risk avoidance, not risk reduction. The best way for a teenager to avoid the risks of unwanted pregnancy and sexual infections altogether is to not have sex.
That entails more than preaching abstinence. It requires empowering students to defer gratification, master their passions, remain focused on long term goals —  to learn self control and patience. A curriculum that teaches risk avoidance, therefore, has broader applications than just deferring when a child becomes sexually active.
A curriculum based on abstinence need not (and should not) evoke fear or guilt or teach that sex is bad. Nor should an emphasis on abstinence omit the lesson of treating all people with dignity and respect. Rather, the point should be to elevate sex to its proper context.
Risk avoidance recognizes that teenagers are more than the sum of their hormones. Risk reduction, in contrast, takes a cynical view of what is attainable for a teenager — similar to what former President George W. Bush called the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
At the very least, parents must ask to review what is being taught to their children to make sure it doesn’t undermine the values they are trying to instill; if it does, opt out.
Regardless of one’s opinion, it is unrealistic to expect that JCPS will teach everything that parents want their child to know about sex. Parents will have to supplement and perhaps enlist the help of their church, on the one hand, or Planned Parenthood on the other.
There is no reason to believe that JCPS’s success rate at sex ed will exceed what it has, or has not, achieved with other more traditional academic subjects. Some would advance the “radical” view that a school district should focus on those other subjects rather than advance a more “comprehensive” sex ed agenda.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Obamacare Repeal and Replace Update

A good read from the Wall Street Journal on the critical issue of what the replacement for Obamacare should look like. President-Elect Trump's nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) actually encourages me that this might happen:

. . .

The new system should be fully consumer driven, empowering individuals to be the surveyors and purchasers of their care. Past reforms in this direction became stilted and ultimately incomplete, but the current moment offers a chance to truly rebuild from the ground up. If Messrs. Trump and Price want to make the most of this short window, they should keep four central reforms in mind.

1. Provide a path to catastrophic health insurance for all Americans. There’s ample evidence that enrollment in insurance doesn’t always lead to improvements in health—but access to health insurance is important nonetheless. A 2012 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found higher insurance enrollment from reforms in Massachusetts led to better results in several measures of physical and mental health.

Health insurance is also important for financial security. The ObamaCare replacement should make it possible for all people to get health insurance that provides coverage for basic prevention, like vaccines, and expensive medical care that exceeds, perhaps, $5,000 for individuals.

Those Americans who don’t get health insurance through employers, or Medicare and Medicaid, should be eligible for a refundable tax credit that can be used to enroll in a health-insurance plan. The credit would be set at a level comparable to the tax benefits available to individuals with employer-sponsored insurance plans. The subsidy would be enough to make a basic level of catastrophic coverage easily affordable for all Americans. 

2. Accommodate people with pre-existing health conditions. The price of insurance naturally reflects added risk. That’s why beach houses cost more to insure than a typical suburban home. Yet there is a reasonable social consensus that people should not be penalized financially for health problems that are largely outside of their control.

So as long as someone remains insured, he should be allowed to move from employer coverage to the individual market without facing exclusions or higher premiums based on his health status. If someone chooses voluntarily not to get coverage, state regulation could allow for an assessment of the risk when the person returns to the market. 

This would prevent healthy people from waiting until they get sick to buy insurance, which is one reason ObamaCare’s insurance markets are unstable. The refundable tax credit ensures that everyone, including the unemployed, can get access to at least catastrophic insurance and maintain continuous coverage. Well-run and properly funded high-risk pools can help address the inevitable cases of expensive claims for the remaining uninsured.

3. Allow broad access to health-savings accounts. ObamaCare pushed millions of Americans into high-deductible insurance without giving them the opportunity to save and pay for care before insurance kicks in. There should be a one-time federal tax credit to encourage all Americans to open an HSA and begin using it to pay for routine medical bills. And HSAs combined with high-deductible insurance should be incorporated directly into the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
An NBER study from 2015 concluded that families spent between 7% and 22% less on health care in the three years after switching to an HSA. Spending was also lower for outpatient services and pharmaceuticals, without any increase in emergency-room spending.

As millions of consumers begin using HSAs, the medical-care market will begin to transform and deliver services that are convenient and affordable for patients.

4. Deregulate the market for medical services. HSAs will empower the demand side of the market, but suppliers need freedom from regulation to provide packages of services better tailored to people’s needs. For example, those consumers who maintain HSA balances should be allowed to use their resources to purchase direct care—basic services that keep people healthy and treat illnesses and chronic conditions—from physician groups. This might take the form of a monthly fee, a practice sometimes referred to as direct primary care. Today, this could be considered an insurance premium that’s barred by law.

Hospitals and physicians should also be allowed to sell access to their networks of clinics, oncology services, and inpatient facilities as an option to be used in the event a patient is diagnosed with an expensive illness. Medicare patients should be allowed to purchase the option to consult with their caregivers by phone, videoconferencing, or email. These are only some of the needed reforms. Regulation shouldn’t be an obstacle to entrepreneurs crafting more consumer-oriented services, many of which can’t be countenanced under current rules.

American health care is teetering because it relies too much on governmental coercion. A functioning marketplace can deliver high-quality care at lower cost. Now is the time to secure a system that empowers consumers to take command of their health care.