Friday, June 24, 2016

UK Gets Brexit Right

The United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union is a vote for decentralization -- a vote against elites who govern from afar, are removed from the people they govern, and lack transparency and accountability.  Brexit also speaks to a renewed respect for what it means to be a sovereign nation.

It bodes well for Republicans on the other side of the pond.

Removing the layers of regulation that stem from all the interlocking EU entities will help the UK economy. it was long overdue.

And those who talk about the 40 year history of the UK's participation as if this was some permanent fixture ignore that the EU is a blip in Britain's longstanding history. Viewed against that backdrop, the EU is just a blink of an eye.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Dr. Noelle Hunter, an Amazing Woman

Russell Coleman has an excellent letter to the editor in today's Courier-Journal about a woman I had the privilege of meeting in 2014, on Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign trail. Gov. Bevin recently appointed Dr. Noelle Hunter as Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety.

Noelle Hunter, Phd. is in recovery -- a fact she's been very open about, and a fact that demonstrates her courage, perseverance, and God's grace. Her prior drug use made her the subject of a media hit piece recently. I'd hazard a guess that what really drives the left-wing crazy about Dr. Hunter is that she is a Black Republican, and an outspoken one at that.

Here's Russell's letter:

The CJ on Thursday raised the past mistakes of one of Gov. Bevin's recent Transportation Cabinet appointees. But the reporting fell far short of telling the whole story of Dr. Noelle Hunter, Ph.D.
It's a story of redemption, resilience and God's grace. It's one that we want for so many Kentuckians who have fallen victim to the scourge of the commonwealth’s illegal drug abuse epidemic. It's one that Gov. Bevin, Kentucky lawmakers of all political stripes and The Courier-Journal itself have recognized in supporting recent legislation to give certain ex-offenders a second chance and to approach criminal justice reform with common sense.
Dr. Hunter is a woman who, like many of our fellow Kentuckians, once battled drug-related demons, but who almost a decade ago, through God’s grace, accepted responsibility for her actions. She is a mother who endured unimaginable adversity with the parental abduction of her daughter, and who at great personal risk made multiple trips to terrorist-infested Sub-Saharan Africa to save her daughter.
She is a talented academic who taught at Morehead State, founded a non-profit organization to assist similarly situated parents in their time of need, served on the staffs of U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Legislature, and the Smithsonian, and has testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations regarding international child abduction.
Dr. Hunter has made no secret of her mistakes, citing them frequently when sharing her story of recovery and repentance publicly.
I have had the privilege of observing Dr. Hunter as she tirelessly and courageously worked to rescue her daughter from Africa, and have been privy to her eloquent use of her own mistakes to encourage others. I thank Dr. Hunter for her willingness to offer up her imperfect past as an example of the power of redemption and her embrace of the opportunity to serve Kentuckians. I applaud our conservative governor, who demonstrates real leadership in affording a second chance for an extraordinary woman and who advocates for second-chance policies for all Kentuckians. Our commonwealth will benefit mightily from both.
Russell Coleman
Louisville, Ky. 40202 
The author is an attorney at Frost Brown Todd who previously served as legal counsel and senior advisor to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

ICYMI: My CJ Column on Rand Pauls Plan to Honor Ali, End Registration

Reprinted with permission of the Courier-Journal

The world watched Kentuckians honor Muhammad Ali last week in many different ways. Thousands stood in line at 5:30 a.m. to get a ticket to his funeral. Crowds jammed the funeral processional route in 90-degree heat.
Sen. Rand Paul, likewise, has a fitting tribute: a stand-alone bill to end Selective Service registration. Paul named the bill the “Muhammad Ali Voluntary Service Act.”
Ali was called up for the draft in the prime of his boxing career, at the height of the Vietnam War. He had become a devout Muslim by that point and therefore refused to be inducted. He was willing to go to jail for his religious beliefs. That took courage, regardless if one agrees with his beliefs or his decision.
Ali was convicted of a felony for draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison.
Will Smith’s performance in the movie “Ali” shows the human cost of the fighter’s resolution. Ali lost his boxing license and his ability to provide for his family. He was stripped of his world championship. He was vilified.
His appeal took years before the Supreme Court overturned his conviction 8-0.
The draft was abolished a few years later. Nonetheless, American males ages 18-25 still must register with the Selective Service. Jimmy Carter initiated registration to expedite things if America ever reinstates the draft, and like many bad ideas from the Carter days, it persists.
In explaining his legislation, Paul rebuts a misconception about Ali: “Muhammad Ali was not a ‘draft dodger.’ When Ali was drafted, he did not run away. He did not go to Canada. He did not ask for special favors, treatment or even try to get a deferment. He was a conscientious objector and practiced civil disobedience, a proud American tradition that runs from the Founding Fathers to Thoreau and all the way through Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ali’s own time.”
Paul’s proposed legislation is timely and appropriate, and not just to honor Ali. Now that the ban on women serving in combat has been repealed, the exclusion of women from Selective Service registration is hard to justify; it likely violates equal protection. If Selective Service registration remains, its constitutionality requires the inclusion of women.
Congress has begun to debate whether young women should be required to register for the Selective Service. The issue even surfaced during the presidential debates.
Paul gives a better solution: Scrap Selective Service registration altogether.
The caliber of our all-volunteer armed services — superior to conscripted forces — has demonstrated that Selective Service registration is not necessary for our national defense. Volunteers have better morale and are more likely to reenlist, which enhances the armed forces’ professionalism.
Moreover, the fact that our current soldiers volunteer makes their service even more honorable, more selfless, than if they were compelled to serve.
The Selective Services System costs more than $23 million a year to prepare for a hypothetical draft that has not been necessary for four decades. We have wasted nearly $1 billion on registration.
The penalty for failing to register is five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine as well as exclusion from federal programs such as college financial aid. The compliance rate for registration is high, 89 percent for 2013.
But those young men who fail to register tend to be high school drop-outs, poor and disadvantaged, who find out about registration the hard way, when they cannot get financial aid, or apply for certain federal jobs or renew their driver’s license in many states.
In short, Selective Service registration needlessly makes it harder for poor young men to escape poverty.
Both liberal and conservative economists recognize that an all-volunteer force is preferable to compelled registration and service. It’s said to be the one issue upon which Milton Friedman and John Kenneth Galbraith ever agreed: the military’s need for soldiers should function as a labor market. The government should determine the size and then pay accordingly to recruit and retain soldiers who choose to serve.
But beyond economics, ending Selective Service registration would ensure that military service is just that – service. It should be a matter of conscience to do what one thinks is right to protect one’s country.
Ali made a decision of conscience not to fight. Others have made decisions of as much conscience as Ali’s to fight.
The government shouldn’t compel people to violate their faith, whether through military service, or by forcing bakers to make wedding cakes or by making nuns provide birth control. Such coercion corrodes liberty.
Eliminating Selective Service registration ensures freedom for every citizen to act of his or her own free will to provide voluntary military service. Or not. That’s a principle worthy to be remembered in reflecting on Ali’s life.
Bridget Bush is a Louisville attorney and founder of Elephants in the Bluegrass blog. Her column appears every third Wednesday in the Courier-Journal.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

McConnell Calls Out Dems for Missing FBI Briefing

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's remarks on the Senate Floor this morning note that Democratic Senators who filibustered yesterday guns missed a critical briefing from the FBI.  In short, they chose to grand stand rather than inform themselves about Orlando terrorist attack.

Here are McConnell's remarks:

“Over the past few months, terrorists inspired or directed by ISIL have committed mass murder in Brussels, in California, and in France. When ISIL issued a call for lone wolf attacks against the West during Ramadan, its followers heard the call.

“This week, just outside Paris, more innocent lives were ended brutally — by a terrorist who broadcast news of the attack over the Internet.

“This week, in Orlando, Americans were targeted deliberately and taken forever from their families — by a terrorist ISIL has claimed is ‘one of the soldiers of the caliphate.’

“It’s clear from his behavior that this was not a random act of violence. This was a calculated act of terror.

“As CIA Director John Brennan testified this morning before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Islamic State militants are ‘training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks on the West.’ He also called this terrorist attack an assault on the values of openness and tolerance that define the United States as a nation. He’s right. It throws into stark relief the troubling reality we now face.

“ISIL is not the JV Team. ISIL is not ‘contained.’ ISIL is the personification of evil in our world, and it will continue to bring tragedy after tragedy to our doorsteps until it is defeated.

“President Obama needs to finally lead a campaign to accomplish this objective, or at the very least prepare the military and intelligence community to help the next president do so if he won’t. This is his primary responsibility in the wake of this terrorist tragedy.

“Here is ours. Our responsibility in the Senate is to make a choice: Work on serious solutions to prevent terrorist attacks, or use the Senate as a campaign studio.

“Yesterday the FBI Director came to deliver a critical briefing on Orlando and explain what’s needed to prevent similar terrorist attacks in the future. Senate Republicans attended and asked serious questions; a group of Senate Democrats regrettably skipped it for a campaign talk-a-thon.

“It’s hard to think of a clearer contrast between serious work for solutions on the one hand and endless partisan campaigning on the other.
“Doing what we can to fight terror beyond our borders and prevent attacks within our border were priorities of ours well before the terrorist attack in Orlando, they continue to be at the forefront of our efforts now.

“We just passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act. It will go a long way toward helping Americans confront global security challenges today and toward preparing the next commander-in-chief to take on threats tomorrow.

“We’re now working to pass an appropriations bill that will give the FBI and other law enforcement officials more of the resources needed to track down and defuse threats on American soil. As we consider that measure, we’re continuing to explore additional tools that can help prevent devastating terrorist attacks — like tools to help us permanently address the threat of lone wolf terrorists, and to help us connect the dots when it comes to terrorist communications.

“Now is the time for Democrats to finally join with us in pursuing serious solutions that can make a real difference. As we said on Tuesday, there will be amendment votes on this bill — and yesterday, we were prepared to begin that process but were unable to get amendments pending because of extended floor debate.

“We will try again today to move forward with amendments from both sides, and once there is an agreement to do so, we’ll update everyone.
“Of course no one wants terrorists to be able to buy guns — let’s get real here — so if Democrats are actually serious about getting a solution on that issue, not just making a political talking point, they’ll join with us to support Senator Cornyn’s SHIELD Act. It will give the Justice Department the ability to prevent known or suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms. It will protect the Constitutional rights of all Americans. It will go a step further too, and actually allow terrorists to be taken into custody if a judge finds probable cause. Now that’s a serious solution on this issue.

“Let’s remember, however, that this issue represents only a piece of a much, much bigger challenge. Director Brennan also told the Intelligence Committee today that ‘despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.’

“If we want to prevent ISIL-inspired and directed attacks, we have to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Here’s what that means. From the White House, it means we don’t need another lecture or another threat to veto the defense bill — it means we need real leadership and a plan of action to defeat ISIL. From our colleagues in the Senate, it means we don’t need more campaign talk-a-thons — it means we need serious solutions and hard work. That’s what our constituents sent us here to do. We may have gotten held back by a day, but now we’re able to keep moving forward to set up votes on both sides, just as we always expected.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Congress Should Repeal the "HIT" Tax

The Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") always struck conservatives as Orwellian in its name, given that it has made health care less affordable.

One piece of Obamacare, however, is accurately named:  the Health Insurance Tax, or "HIT."  This tax is indeed a "hit" to families and small businesses, which is no doubt why Congress has repeatedly deferred its implementation.

Think about that.  Obamacare is six years old and yet we are still being subjected to new taxes from it. That is, we still haven't experienced its full ability to hurt our economy, cripple businesses and otherwise screw up the health care delivery system.

Essentially, HIT is a sales tax on insurance policies. In theory, the insurance companies have to pay it, but we all know that it then gets passed to the consumer -- small businesses, farmers and people who unlike large corporations do not have the luxury of self- insurance. What's most disturbing about HIT is the hidden nature of the tax. It's part of the lack of transparency that the Obama administration used to try to dupe the public into accepting Obamacare.

We're talking about an extra $5,000 per family over the coming decade. Trade associations that have looked at the issue estimate that HIT will disproportionately hurt those in the $10,000 - $50,000 a year income range. These are families who can ill afford an extra $5000.

Fortunately, even Democrats recognize the unfairness of HIT. Last year, approximately 100 Democrats and 300 Republicans voted to suspend its impact for one year. Rather than continually delaying this HIT, Congress should just repeal it altogether.

To be sure, it would be preferable to repeal Obamacare in toto. That's not possible right now because we don't have a filibuster-proof Senate or the White House. So in the meantime, let's chip away at these provisions of Obamacare that are so outrageous that both parties recognize the need for action.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

When the Bathroom Wars Hit Middle America

As I wrote recently for the Courier-Journal, transgender people make up less than one percent of the population. It's a fact that keeps getting lost in all the anger swirling around whether transgender individuals should get to use the bathroom of their identified gender, as opposed to their biological sex.

It's an issue that is not going away and if anything is coming to a bathroom near you. Indeed, it's no longer limited to the bathroom

Summer is here and the pools are open, this year with challenges heretofore unimagined.

A mother shared with me that at a neighborhood pool in Louisville recently, a little boy came up to his mother and asked if "girls need to wear swim suits on top." She assured him that they do.  He explained that there was a teenage girl in the parking lot with no top on, and he and his friends were watching her.

Not long thereafter, the club manager informed the young woman that she could not enter the facility without a top on. She replied that she was transgender, and identified as male. The club manager stood firm and she eventually left.  Fortunately, she was a guest rather than a member.

This occurred in Louisville, Kentucky. Not the Hamptons, or San Francisco or any other liberal enclave.

The "free the nipple" folks might think this is no big deal. So some kids get to see unclothed breasts of strangers in public. That's how they sunbathe in France -- which reminds me of something that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said for some time:  the Left wants to turn us into France.