Tuesday, February 28, 2017

America’s troubled youth foreshadow trouble for America’s future

As if there aren’t enough problems facing America, there’s one that we hear about here and there in comic segments on TV, but those episodes don’t really show the problem in a way that we realize its impact.

America has produced a substantial number of young people that do not know the fundamental elements of their country or the important aspects of its operation, and who are therefore unprepared to discharge the duties and obligations of citizenship.

Ours is a country whose success and ability to continue being successful depend upon its citizens understanding its foundational principles, knowing how government is supposed to work, being able to discern when it has strayed from its proper course, and then work to restore things so that the republic can and will survive and thrive.

Columnist Walter Williams addressed this aspect of the younger generation in a column titled “Dumb American Youth,” and provides some troubling statistics that help to put this problem in perspective.

“According to a Philadelphia magazine article, the percentage of college grads who can read and interpret a food label has fallen from 40 to 30,” Williams wrote. “They are six times likelier to know who won ‘American Idol’ than they are to know the name of the speaker of the House. A high-school teacher in California handed out an assignment that required students to use a ruler. Not a single student knew how.”

He quoted a News Forum for Lawyers article about a study by American Institutes for Research revealing that more than “75 percent of two-year college students and 50 percent of four-year college students were incapable of completing everyday tasks.”

And included in Williams’ essay was this damning assessment of today’s youth: “Reported by Just Facts, in 2009, the Pentagon estimated that 65 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. were unqualified for military service because of weak educational skills, poor physical fitness, illegal drug usage, medical conditions or criminal records. In January 2014, the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command estimated this figure at 77.5 percent, and in June 2014, the Department of Defense estimated this figure at 71 percent.”

These children have a family of some description, most of them attended 12 years of public or private schools, and some of them attend or have attended American colleges. Starting with the family, they should have learned proper respect for themselves, for others and for the rules of life, and during their education have broadened their understanding of what life is all about, and how to be a good person and a responsible citizen.

Perhaps it is of some comfort that these youngsters have not achieved this humiliating level of unknowing all by themselves. Or, maybe not.

Without a blanket condemnation of all the nation’s schools, in some schools at all grade levels it is increasingly common for indoctrination to replace education, as teachers sometimes throw off their professional, ethical and moral responsibilities to present subject matter free of ideology, and leave political and ideological ideas in the safe confines of better judgment.

However, many a college campus now is the prisoner of political correctness and those who champion it. Trigger warnings are now required for “troubling” class material, and there are rules for microaggressions, safe spaces, free-speech zones, and the use of one of more than 30 gender pronouns that must be used as each transgender student prefers.

And we now are being told that using traditional, proper grammar is racist or produces social injustice.

A poster created by the director, staff, and tutors of the Writing Center at the University of Washington, Tacoma states “racism is the normal condition of things,” saying that rules, systems, expectations in courses, school and society are filled with it.

“Linguistic and writing research has shown clearly for many decades that there is no inherent ‘standard’ of English,” the writing center’s statement claims. “Language is constantly changing. These two facts make it very difficult to justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.”

The writing center will “listen and look carefully and compassionately for ways we may unintentionally perpetuate racism or social injustice, actively engaging in antiracist practices,” and will “emphasize the importance of rhetorical situations over grammatical ‘correctness’ in the production of texts,” and promises “to challenge conventional word choices and writing explanations.”

Apparently, it no longer matters at UW, Tacoma if words are put together in functional constructions, or if unconventional words and phrases are used in written materials students submit for grades. Does this make acceptable writing that is unintelligible?

If you aren’t going to teach or expect accepted grammar, what about correct spelling? Will there be any expectation of effective communication among college students at UW, Tacoma in the future?

From their earliest days many American youth are not taught important aspects of being a productive, responsible person. And when they are old enough to go to school, too many of them are exposed to indoctrination to guide them away from established standards and traditions.

This, and similar crises, strike at the heart of America.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Trump’s difficulties solving problems identified in the campaign

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump identified and pledged to repair a number of problems facing the country. Among those problems were high tax rates, over-regulation, repealing and replacing Obamacare, the high cost of prescription drugs, immigration, and strengthening the military. All these need solutions, and all will be difficult to solve.

Illustrating the difficulty in changing entrenched policies and practices is the high price of prescription drugs. Early on, the administration’s handling of this issue seems confused. President Trump has changed his focus a couple of times; part of the process of learning the differences between running a business and running a country, perhaps.

He is caught between helping consumers get better prices, and at the same time not hamstringing the companies that manufacture crucial and beneficial medications.

First, Trump met with prominent Democrats, like Representative Elijah Cummings, D-MD, and promised to lower drug costs, and then he met with drug company executives and backed away from that promise.

The goal hasn’t really changed, but figuring out how to get there is tricky, and the reality is that the president has limited power to bring it about.

Many are content to blame high drug prices on greedy pharmaceutical manufacturers, and that sometimes is a reasonable criticism. But that view ignores the steep hill manufacturers have to climb to get needed drugs to market. It takes the creation of 1,000 drug formulas before the right one is found and gets through that step to clinical testing and patent protection, and only 8 percent of those getting to the testing phase actually pass FDA requirements for approval.

Thus, many years and millions or billions of dollars later, a beneficial drug makes it to market. The pharmaceutical company then has to sell enough of the product in the remaining few years of the exclusivity period or patent protection to cover those enormous costs before other companies are free to produce a generic form without investing much to do so.

And then, someone who takes the drug and has a bad experience may sue the manufacturer, despite the stringent quality requirements for FDA approval, and the fact that the drug was prescribed for the plaintiff by a physician. Such lawsuits add to the substantial costs of manufacturing drugs.

If Trump negotiates with manufacturers to get prices down and threatens that if they don’t lower prices the government – the largest drug buyer – won’t buy their drugs, he risks preventing Medicare and Medicaid recipients from getting what in most cases are the best drugs on the market. And without sufficient profit from their products, pharmaceutical companies will be substantially hampered in funding research necessary for new and better drugs.

Even a successful negotiation for Medicaid/Medicare has no effect on those Americans with private insurance through their employers, or through exchanges, or otherwise. Their prices would undoubtedly rise as drug makers try to recoup money lost due to the government paying lower prices.

“In addition, prescription drugs often substitute for, and reduce, other health-care costs — by, for instance, reducing surgeries or hospital stays,” wrote Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute published in National Review. “Limiting the availability of prescription drugs, therefore, may do less to reduce overall health-care costs than we think.”

Going back to the steep hill drug manufacturers must climb to produce a marketable drug, working to streamline the FDA’s approval process can certainly reduce the length of time it takes and also reduce the cost to get drugs through the approval maze and to market. For example, when Mylan acquired the EpiPen and raised the price by about 400 percent, two manufacturers had competing products that had been awaiting approval for five years. Had there been a streamlined approval process, there would have been no EpiPen price gouging.

Tanner also points out that during this fiasco, “in Europe there were three different versions of the product on the market.”

“And finally,” he wrote, “we can inject more consumer choice into the health-care system by expanding health savings accounts and transitioning Medicare to a system of premium support. Nothing more effectively disciplines a market and forces down prices than engaged consumers spending their own money.”

It is easy to outline solutions; it is much more difficult to actually get them done.

Only 30 days into his presidency, Democrats and much of the media criticize Trump for nearly everything he has done and not done, and a good bit comes from some on the Right, as well. The traditional honeymoon period, where a new president is allowed 100 days to get his administration formed and active, ended before it began for Trump. And to be objective, the president often pokes the bear, further complicating things. But there is little recognition for the things Trump has accomplished, compared to the manic nit picking that passes for news these days.

Congress needs to stop hemming and hawing, and get busy, and the Democrats and anti-Trump media need to abandon their obstruction and focus their criticism on things that really deserve it, and give the Trump presidency the same hands-off treatment Barack Obama received for eight years, or at least until the honeymoon is really over.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Judicial activism in Trump travel suspension case is dangerous

The recent hullabaloo over President Donald Trump’s temporary suspension of travel from seven Middle Eastern countries with ties to Islamic terrorism has dominated the early days of his administration. Trump’s action suspends entry to the country as his administration seeks better methods of vetting potential visitors to the U.S. for national security reasons. This incident has brought to the fore once again the high degree of activism in the federal judiciary.

Judicial activism involves interpreting the U.S. Constitution and the nation’s laws to achieve some non-legal, socially desirable leftist/liberal end favored by judges. Politics trumps the law.

The first instance of activism occurred in a federal District Court in Washington State, where Judge James Robart allowed a suit by the state’s attorney general to go forward, despite the fact that Washington State did not have legal standing to sue the federal government over Trump’s executive order. To establish legal standing a plaintiff – in this case, the whole of the State of Washington, not some individuals or some entities within the state – must demonstrate that the travel suspension would cause it irreparable harm. According to “irreparable harm” means that “the type of harm threatened cannot be corrected through monetary compensation or conditions cannot be put back the way they were.”

Robarts ruled that a ban on travelers from seven countries “affects the state’s residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel,” and said it also harmed the state’s public universities and tax base.

How many citizens of these seven countries actually work or attend a college or university in the state of Washington, and of that number how many are not within the borders of the United States at this time? Is it likely that there are sufficient numbers of them that their absence for another 90 days will actually cause the State of Washington – not the institutions or employers, but the state itself – irreparable harm? It is reasonable to believe that there are relatively few people in these circumstances, and that the harm would be of little significance to State of Washington.

However, in his ruling, Robart said the Washington AG had met the high burden to justify a restraining order by showing that Trump’s order was causing “immediate and irreparable injury,” and that the state had a substantial likelihood of winning its underlying lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the travel ban.

Interestingly, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton in Massachusetts reached the opposite decision earlier the same day. He understood the law that gives the president the exclusive authority on national-security grounds to impose the temporary suspension on travel to the U.S., and that under the U.S. Constitution immigration is under control of the president, not the judiciary.

Title 8 United States Code, section 1182(f), which was enacted as section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, is entitled “Suspension of Entry or Imposition of Restrictions by President” and states: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

That statement is clear as it can be: the president has the authority to do what Trump did. The president, not the judiciary, has both constitutional authority and statutory authority over immigration, as former President Barack Obama would say, “Period!”

The administration appealed Robart’s flawed ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco, and the three judges who heard the appeal predictably upheld the initial ruling, since this appellate court is notoriously liberal/activist, and has the reputation for being a federal court whose decisions are frequently overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Neither Robart nor the three Ninth Circuit judges – William Canby Jr., Richard Clifton and Michelle Friedlanddealt with the actual law giving the president the authority to do what Trump did in any meaningful way. They acted outside their narrow area of authority and improperly interfered with lawful actions by the president.

Since Robart issued the temporary restraining order on February 3rd, 77 percent of 1,100 immigrants/refugees that had entered the U.S. at the time the situation was analyzed came from the seven countries in the travel suspension, a substantial increase since before the order was issued.

Perhaps none of them are terrorists or will become terrorists and commit some atrocity against Americans, but this is a prime opportunity for terrorists to get into the United States, with the blessing of four federal judges.

Constitutional law scholar and conservative talk radio host Mark Levin termed the appellate court’s decision to uphold the stay as “disgraceful” and “pathetic.” Levin points out that the court has improperly conferred due process and constitutional rights onto this class of individuals.

Judicial activism does not always create potentially dangerous situations, as this incident has, but all activism is harmful to some degree, and must end.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Hysterical, desperate reactions mark Trump’s early presidency

Watching Democrat/liberal reactions to President Donald Trump from the time he declared himself a candidate has been entertaining, educational, and recently more than a little disturbing. Since the election and swearing in, the anti-Trumpsters have simply become unglued, indulging in outlandish and irrational behavior.

Among the craziness we find:
·      The automatic emotional criticism of Trump’s nominees.
·      Government employees saying they will not do their jobs, because of Trump.
·      The lawful travel suspension on people in seven predominantly Muslim countries connected to radical Islamic terrorism being deliberately mislabeled as a “Muslim ban.”
·      Some are calling for the military to overthrow the government, senior Obama administration Pentagon policy official Rosa Brooks, among them.
·      Trump’s actions and/or his supporters have been met with rioting in the streets, the destruction of property, and some have been personally attacked.

Following the issuance of an Executive Order for temporary travel suspension, which was approved by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel as a lawful order, the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, refused to defend the order issued by her boss, her client. She could have resigned her position on principle, but chose insubordination and causing a politically motivated public incident instead, resulting in Trump telling her, “You’re fired!”

This event was met with typical liberal disdain: “This administration seems to have no regard for the rule of law;” said one of the leaders of the party of Hillary Clinton, Al Sharpton, Lois Lerner, Rod Blagojevich, and Dan Rostenkowski; that person being Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Regarding the claim that it is a “Muslim ban,” there are some 40 countries with substantial or majority Muslim populations, but the suspension covers only seven. It is a lawful and appropriate temporary suspension on travelers from seven terrorism-connected nations, and those "countries of concern" were officially identified in a 2015 law signed by then-President Barack Obama. Furthermore, Trump’s action is well within a president’s authority, and similar bans have been imposed by previous presidents, including Chester Arthur, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and, yes, Barack Obama.

Legal actions to derail the travel suspension must show it will cause plaintiffs irreparable harm. The plaintiffs in the case where U.S. District Judge James Robart issued a restraining order are the states of Washington and Minnesota, not individuals or groups of individuals, and the states cannot demonstrate irreparable harm. Some observers say, therefore, that the restraining order has political motives, rather than legal ones. Deciding to suspend foreign visitors for national security is an executive branch decision, not a judicial decision, and the restraining order should be nullified.

The travel suspension is a smart tactic that could have been handled better. It has attracted even more attention than the fake news and media screw-ups, but Trump’s nominee to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court is not far behind.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth followed then-President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat not long after Scalia died last February. The Republican-controlled Senate announced it would not act on the nomination in Obama’s final year, saying that the next president should fill that slot.

The Republicans’ position has an interesting history. Then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said on the U.S. Senate floor in 1992 that in a presidential election year a president should not make a nomination for the Supreme Court until after the election. This became known as “The Biden Rule.” Apparently, Biden, as Obama’s vice president, was unable to persuade him to follow his rule, or did not try. notes that “Not only have there been several lengthy Supreme Court vacancies, but there are plenty of past instances when [Democrat] senators refused to confirm a [Republican] president’s nominations.” The article lists 10 such actions.

Since the Democrats do not control the Senate, they must try to show that the nominee, federal Appellate Court Judge Neal Gorsuch, is unqualified, and given the broad approval of Gorsuch’s nomination, that is a tall order.

“Judge Gorsuch has repeatedly sided with corporations over working people, demonstrated a hostility toward women’s rights, and most troubling, hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent Justice on the Court,” Minority Leader Schumer said in a statement.

Such comments of desperation – posing as thoughtful opposition – are interesting in view of the unanimous confirmation vote putting Gorsuch on the Appellate bench 10 years ago, as well as the voluminous praise of his towering qualifications for this nes position.

Gorsuch made this revealing statement during Trump’s announcement of his nomination: “A judge who likes every outcome that he reaches is very likely a bad judge,” meaning that following the law and the Constitution is more important than following one’s political philosophy, or personal desires, which is precisely the judicial philosophy we must have in all judgeships, and what he has demonstrated on the Appellate Court. Judges must have impartiality, independence, collegiality, and courage, he said.

Trumpitis has infected the land. Major news outlets demonstrate rampant symptoms through abdication of journalistic standards, and other anti-Trumpsters riot, destroy, and scream obscenities in protest. Large doses of adult behavior and acceptance of reality are prescribed.