Saturday, January 21, 2017

LOYAL OPPOSITION


I have often thought that there is a relationship between politics and the binary code. Binary code; that’s the seemingly endless string of  0’s and 1’s that computers use to store and communicate information.

All human decision making; perhaps all human knowledge, comes down to the 0’s and the 1’s. Yes or No. Aye or Nay. Up or Down. True or false. It is or it ain’t.

Which is why the so called “two party system” came into being. It wasn’t invented or decreed. It wasn’t adopted like the the Constitution. It just happened when Vice President Thomas Jefferson ran against President John Adams in 1800.

The legacy of that election, often called the ‘revolution of 1800’ has been a national Congress in which both Houses are divided by an aisle down the approximate center, separating the majority from the minority.

Procedural rules in both houses protect the right of the minority to participate in the legislative process. Any truly deliberative body needs to hear both sides.

The Catholic Church never confers sainthood until it has heard from a “Devil’s Advocate” in opposition. Vigorous debate is the best insurance against bad decisions.

In the United Kingdom, it is customary for the party which is not in power to organize a “shadow government” consisting of unofficial department heads corresponding to the members of the ruling Party’s cabinet. Their function is to critique the work of cabinet officers.

The bottom line is that in civilized nations there is such a thing as ‘loyal opposition’ which is both honorable and useful. Members of the minority party take the same oath of office, and are bound to support the same Constitution as members of the majority.

We commonly talk about, and approve of, efforts by Representatives and Senators to “reach across the aisle” to assemble bi-partisan support for legislation. That involves nothing more nor less than listening to objections, debating alternatives and arriving a better conclusion because the loyal opposition has concurred in the final product.

The whole process is civilized, intelligent and proven by human experience.

All of which brings me to the misguided comments of Congressman John Lewis of Georgia: 

“I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people,” Lewis told NBC’s Chuck Todd in a segment for “Meet the Press.” “It’s going to be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

Lewis argued that the efforts of hackers suspected to be Russians, to discredit Hillary Clinton, tilted the election in Trump’s favor.

“That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open, Democratic process.” Sorry, Congressman, it was exactly what happens in free elections. Your side reveled in disclosing a statement by Mitt Romney at a private meeting;
the infamous 47% remark. You really can’t complain when Wiki Leaks reveals that the DNC was siding with Clinton against Bernie Sanders.

All of which wouldn’t matter much if it were not for Lewis’s background as a civil rights protester and his call to organize protest against the 45th President of the United States.

There is a place for loyal opposition in American politics. It’s a good thing; a useful component of our democracy.

But the attempt to marshal civil disobedience against the duly elected Chief Executive of the country is not only irresponsible, it is downright treasonous.

The thugs who rioted during the President’s inauguration broke the law, destroyed property and endangered lives. That 217 were arrested attests to the fact that there was serious mischief bring done.

The thousands of women who marched today were peaceful. Despite their lack of any agenda, they had the right to march and express their unhappiness.  But I sure hope they don’t listen to Representative Lewis’s call for civil disobedience. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

HEALTH CARE REVISITED

I wrote a blog about health care back in 2009, called TOO MANY DOCTORS?. Here it is: http://oldjudge.blogspot.com/2009/07/too-many-doctors.html.

My argument then, and still today, is that affordability is a subjective standard, best served by unleashing the free enterprise system.

On reflection, I must say that there is one big problem with free enterprise. It can best be described as REALLY free enterprise.

REALLY free enterprise, like basic free enterprise, begins with the idea of human liberty; nothing more nor less that human beings pursuing their own happiness by making their own decisions.

But REALLY free enterprise includes the freedom to act in concert with other people. Thus associations, corporations, partnerships, unions, churches, clubs, political parties – you name it – every manner of combining the efforts of more than one person, involves free people freely associating to pursue happiness together.

And the problem is that the freedom to associate often gets in the way of individual freedom.

I remember the phenomenon very well from my days spent launching the Thomas Cooley Law School. The American Bar Association is a fine organization, completely voluntary, which lawyers all across the county join for the purpose of improving their profession.

But the common economic interest of lawyers often tempts them to close the front door of their profession. It’s a common practice in all trades and occupations. Licensure statutes are always popular with licensees, whether plumbers, builders, barbers or nurses. The theme is “you don’t get to do it unless you are one of us.”

In business, many people seek to “corner the market.” It’s call having a monopoly. It’s a natural selfish instinct.

In the final analysis, the ultimate monopoly is the exclusive use of force to accomplish things. It’s called sovereignty; people power; the power of government.

Historically, logically and necessarily, under the common law, it is a proper function of government to regulate monopolies.

Now, here is where it gets sticky. Under the Constitution of the United States of America, we are a federal nation; that is to say’ the power of government, the right to use force to accomplish things, is divided between the States and the national government.

That division can be stated very simply: the national (we call it the ‘federal’) government gets to use force to do all those things, and ONLY those things specified in the national Constitution. The States get to use force to do everything else.

That is what the Tenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, the last Right of the Bill of Rights, tells us. Whatever power has not been expressly given to the national government stays in the States or the people themselves.

Health care basically consists of two things; knowing what to do and doing it. Diagnosis and prescription. Knowledge and service. Heads, hands, and hearts. Making it affordable in a free country requires removing every unnecessary obstacle to the recruitment, training and authorization of health care professionals.

And it requires reducing the responsibility for health care to the lowest common denominator. The cheapest health care is that which is self administered: diet, exercise, rest. Learning how to take care of yourself. Knowing when you are sick and what to do about it.

The next cheapest source of health care is your family. The folks who love you. The people who live under the same roof that you do. Right after that comes the guy next door. The folks in the neighborhood. Your town. Your city. Your State.

The most expensive health care is that which is farthest away. Like the brain surgeon in Switzerland. Or the bureaucrat in Washington, D. C.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

R AND R

The Greatest Generation invented the term: R and R meant Rest and Recuperation. Or Rest and Recreation. Or Rest and Relaxation. It didn’t matter. It was just R and R. Or maybe even “Rock and Roll.” Everybody knew what it meant.

But times change and words change and even slang and abbreviations change. Google R and R today and you might find an article about “Repeal and Replace.”

Nancy Pelosi says the only good thing about Repeal and Replace is that it is alliterative. I don’t often agree with Nancy, but I’m with her on this one.

After all the thundering promises to repeal Obama Care, Congressional Republicans have jumped on board the Pander Train and promised to enact a new National Health Care Law to replace the discredited ACA.

Early in his campaign, Donald Trump had a simple answer to the Obama Care question. He said: “Just let the Insurance Companies sell across state lines.”

Hello. What a drastic idea? For more  than 200 years, health care has been a matter solely within the jurisdiction of the States. Every State has some sort of regulation of health insurance companies. Some, like Massachusetts, have a system very similar to the Affordable Care Act.

The result over the years has been that some States have more inclusive, more affordable, more desirable health care providers than other States.
But they also have licensure requirements that keep foreign companies out or put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Mr. Trump is a businessman. He understands the free enterprise system. He knows that “affordable” is a slippery word. It is certainly not a standard that can be written into the law. What is affordable for one person is exorbitant to another.

The Republicans in Washington have lost their nerve. They are backpedalling on their brave and bold promise to repeal Obama Care.

And why? Simply because there are some features of the law that are popular and they don’t want to be pegged with killing things like coverage for pre-existing conditions, extended parental coverage for children to age 26 and the large number of people who are simply getting health insurance as a welfare benefit.

Surely there are many in Washington who hope that the law can be replaced with support from both sides of the aisle. After all, Bill Clinton said the law is crazy, didn’t he? And Hillary conceded that it needs amending. The D.C. establishment of store bought politicians – the “swamp” as Trump calls it – will be working hard to mesh the ideas of “fix” and “replace” in order to claim a bipartisan solution.

The real tragedy is that nobody is speaking for the Constitution. Both Parties are committed to a national health care system, dictated from Washington, D.C. and mandatory from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson and Washington would be appalled. There is nothing in the Constitution suggesting that health care is a proper function of the national government.

Health care in America, before Obamacare, was the envy of the world. It was built on the free enterprise system; the sum total of the free choices of a free people.

Health care is a human necessity, like food, clothing, shelter and liberty.

Like these other essentials, health care cost varies from State to State, often from town to town. The history, the weather, the culture, the terrain, all these things affect affordability.

One size does not fit everybody. The last thing we should want to do in America is to kill the spirit of initiative and enterprise. The Republicans have the gavel in Congress. They should repeal Obamacare, every word of it. Make it effective in two years to give everyone time to adjust.

Then forget about replacing it with another federal program. Just let the fifty States do what they are supposed to do under our Constitution.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

HILLSDALE’S ARNN

Larry P. Arnn, the President of Hillsdale College, is  a brilliant man with impeccable academic credentials and a national reputation as an expert on the United States Constitution.

He is also an energetic and indefatigable fund raiser.

In March of 2016, President Arnn sent Polly and me a solicitation letter which contained – visible through a window – a one dollar bill. It’s a not uncommon strategy to get folks to open letters asking for money.

I replied as follows:

March 6, 2016

President Larry P. Arnn
Hillsdale College
Hillsdale, Michigan

Dear Larry:
Polly and I have supported Hillsdale and will continue to do so. No need to send money. We have always been impressed with the mission and tradition of Hillsdale. Certainly the American people need to be reminded of the precious gift of constitutional government that has been our birthright, and your national educational campaign is necessary and timely.

There is, however, a dimension in the field of constitutional study that, I believe, has not been adequately addressed by any American college or university: the Article V amendatory constitutional convention.

Currently, there are at least seven active initiatives seeking a convention call.
At the same time, there are a number of voices, both from the Left and the Right, expressing opposition to an Article V convention for any reason.

I am writing to urge you to consider hosting a debate on Article V. In this season of political debates, I think such an offering would garner a large audience and could well produce substantial revenue for the sponsor.

I would very much appreciate the opportunity to sit down with you and discuss this idea.

Sincerely,


Thomas E. Brennan
cc: Chris Chocola
Encl: $100

That letter was never answered or acknowledged, but I can’t say it wasn’t noticed. Indeed it seems to have induced President Arnn’s staff to achieve new heights of solicitation.

As the year 2016 came to a close, a virtual crescendo of emails from Larry Arnn exploded on my computer screen. No fewer than eleven requests for money: On December 3, 8, 17, 24, 28, 29, 30, 30, 31, 31, 31.

The other day, my son, Tom, Jr. wrote to encourage me to read Larry Arnn’s speech printed in Hillsdale’s magazine, Imprimus. I did, and found it interesting. Indeed worthy of comment. 

I would welcome a vigorous exchange with President Arnn on various Constitutional issues. Maybe I should send him a dollar.


Friday, December 23, 2016

THE TROUBLES

I should stay out of the storage room. It’s too full of old files, poignant memories, temptations to blog.

This time, I stumbled onto a file entitled “Larry Brennan’s Song.” It was nineteen years ago. Northern Ireland was still mired in “The Troubles” and suffering from endless rounds of murder and revenge between the Catholics and the Protestants of Belfast.

USA Today carried a story about a 52 year old Catholic cab driver who was assassinated while sitting in his parked taxi.

I wrote a song about it:
The Legacy of Larry Brennan

Twenty-five days after Christmas Morn
         In dear old Belfast Town
Assassins hailed a taxicab
         And gunned he driver down

Well, he died for being Catholic
         He died for being Green
His sweetheart was a Protestant
         She’ll never be his queen

No, she’ll never be a Brennan now
         She’ll never share his bed
The Troubles split poor Larry’s brow
         The Troubles left him dead

Now, he was a gen’rous witty man
         Who loved most everyone
And for his kindness he was paid
         Four bullets from a gun

Oh, he had no time for politics
         He helped the sick and old
His killers didn’t care at all
         They left his body cold 

Yes, the Troubles trouble Ireland
         A People torn apart
They took poor Larry Brennan’s life
         And broke his mother’s heart

Then his sister, Lish O’Reilly, stood
         Midst flowers in the hall,
And with good sense she spoke the words
         That echo for us all:

“I forgive them, those that did this thing”
         Her eyes were rimmed with tears
“They’re sick and wounded animals,
         Imprisoned by their fears.

“No, we can’t let hate and bitterness
         Control the Irish heart
If we’re to see the Troubles end
         We’ve got to make a start”

Tho’ two thousand years have come and gone
         Since Christ was crucified
The world still longed for peace on earth
         When Larry Brennan died.

Now his little house on Friendly Street
         Will never be the same
The World has built a friendly shrine
         In honor of his name

So let this be Brennan’s legacy:
         That vengeance won’t be seen
And peace will come to Ireland
         For both the Orange and Green

Historians tell us that the Irish Troubles erupted in 1968 and ended thirty years later with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. As we gather to celebrate Christmas 2016, in a painfully divided America, let us pray that our troubles will soon be consigned to history as well.