Tuesday, August 05, 2014

AG McDaniel Wants Judges to Be Appointed Rather than Elected


Disgraced Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has called for Arkansas Supreme Court Justices to be appointed rather than elected at least initially. He made the suggestion in response to questions about a law suit by a group seeking to overturn the Arkansas Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  It was voted into the constitution by 70% of the voters less than a decade ago.  Nevertheless, the amendment was thrown out at the circuit level by "Judge" Chris Piazza in a one-sided ruling which made a series of bizarre claims. The man actually ruled that the Arkansas Constitution violated itself!  But it does not matter how "Captain Queeg" Piazza goes in his rulings, the Democrat-Gazette supports his error, as they have so many other errors.  

The attorneys for the plaintiffs have asked any Arkansas Supreme Court Justice who is planning to run for re-election to recuse themselves from the case!   The reason they give is that the "political pressure" of having to answer to the voters might cause them to uphold the Arkansas Constitutional Amendment as constitutional rather than overturn it as they wish.  OK, well actually they say the pressure would come from "the legislature" but if they mean that then why did they specify the wanted recusals from those who contemplate running for re-election?  The pressure in elections is not from the legislature, its from voters!

Abraham Lincoln had his flaws, but he had it right when he said that "We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the constitution."   The Founders had it right too when they said in the Declaration of Independence that government derives all just powers "from the consent of the governed."   The idea that judges cannot rule fairly if they ever fear answering to the ones whose consent is the basis for all of their just powers is absurd, elitist, offensive, and extremely dangerous.

I am not objecting to the doctrine of Judicial Review. That is how judicial power is supposed to work- the courts protecting citizens from an over-zealous Executive branch. Compare that to what the courts have spent too much effort doing lately- imposing elitist views on the citizens against their will on the flimsiest of legal grounds. The former activity serves the rights of the citizens, the latter denies them the very fundamental right of ordering their communities as they see fit and instead transfers that power to the courts themselves.

I am not against the courts. We need the courts to protect us against persecution or against an encroaching police state. We don't want the courts to go away. Instead, I wish the courts would quit blowing their credibility and goodwill among the populace by doing things like trying to impose formal recognition of homosexual marriage on the people, or purging all expression of Christianity from the public square, or ordering the legislature to spend a certain amount on education. Doing those things costs the court respect and goodwill from the people.  

The politics cannot be totally removed from court decisions on government issues.   People who claim they can be are simply trying to impose their own politics on the nation against the will of the populace.   When courts make idiotic and oppressive rulings, they lose credibility in the eyes of the people.  That credibility is basically political capital which comes from the belief that they are fair and impartial.   Someday, the courts may need that political capital to help protect us from an executive that goes too far.  

A much better case for a judge recusing himself would have been if Judge Piazza had recused himself from ruling on the marriage amendment case in the first place.  This is because he has a history of throwing out the law and imposing the homosexual agenda on Arkansans.  He was the judge who originally threw out the state's law banning homosexuals from using the power of the state to gain access to other people's children via adoption.  I deconstructed his ruling here, with more on it here.

An even better case for judges recusing themselves would be for federal judges to recuse themselves from all cases in which the issue is that some state and the federal government have a disagreement about the limits of the federal government's power.   After all, federal judges are federal employees.  Their employers are a party to the case!   Maybe such cases ought to be heard by a panel of judges from other states not connected to the case.  

Actually, I think that last one is a good idea, that's why its in my book Localism, a Philosophy of Government.    But I also think that the idea that judges should recuse themselves because they can't be "fair" if they might have to face the voters someday is an offensive, elitist, and anti-democratic idea.   The government has already taken on a life if its own separate from the desires of the people it was created to serve, and this would only make it worse. 

If anything, we need more public awareness of judicial candidates and their rulings.   Under current Arkansas law judicial candidates can't really talk about their approach to the law, or whether they agreed or disagreed with any past case ruling.   What this means is that even though citizens get a choice, its not an informed choice.   It makes the choice next to meaningless, which is still better than no choice at all.  Even John Brummit, who is paid to do stuff like this for a living, admitted that he only endorsed Courtney Henry for Justice because she married into a prominent Fayetteville family (from which she divorced immediately after the election).  If even a paid pundit does not have enough info to make a rational choice, then the rules need to be changed so that more information is available.  

We have to live under the rulings of these courts.  Using appointments makes some sense on the federal level, where judges can more easily show restraint and always have the option of saying "this is a matter for the states to decide", but the buck stops at the state courts.    To make them above the will of the people is to turn them into despots.  Regnant Populus!  Let the people decide, because in the long run no government has any legitimacy if it is too far afield from those it seeks to govern.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why I Just Helped George Pritchett Raise $500 for His State Senate Campaign

I just helped former Garland County Justice of the Peace George Pritchett raise $500 for his race for State Senate District 14 against establishment-crony Republican Bill Sample of Hot Springs.  Some may recall that this month I reported that I also gave $500 to Marc Rosson for State Representative in his race for the seat presently held by Nate Bell of Mena.  As for any other candidates who smell my monetary blood in the water since I have now donated to two candidates- don't bother. My wife says I can stop donating money to people running for public office now, and I am going to take her hint.

It is not just that Bill Sample was rated by our panel of activists as one of the worst legislators in Arkansas.  Pritchett is a good candidate, and there is every reason to believe he will continue to be a good legislator in office.  You see Pritchett is running as an Independent.  He is not plugged into a party machine that is powered from Washington D.C. with special interest money from global (not even strictly American) corporations.   He does not have divided interests.  If elected, he will owe only the people of his district, not a party label or a party machine.  He will represent only the people of his district, not a party.

I have long held this up as a better model for governing than the two party model.  I think almost all legislative offices ought to be filled by independents backed by local citizens groups.   If you think about it, the system of checks and balances put in place by the Founders gets short-circuited when the same party controls candidates from both the executive branch and the legislative branch.  Nor can the states balance the feds when the same DC parties provide the politicians for both state and federal offices.  Ultimately they are in the same club.   No wonder American government is in the state that it is in!

I believe it is important that independents start winning elected office, particularly in the legislature.  It is important structurally for our government.   Pritchett is a trade up from Sample, in terms of limited government, and avoiding cronyism.   This race is important.  I and my friends at Neighbors of Arkansas would like you to help if you can.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Seeing Things Coming

What does it mean to be "credible?"  What makes someone "credible" when they advocate for a certain course of action or make a prediction about future consequences?    Is getting lots of face time in the establishment media what makes one credible?  Is saying what the herd says and staying within the bounds of "mainstream" thought what makes one credible?

I suggest to you that the fairest test of who is credible and who is not is to look at their history.  That is, go back and look at what they said, look at what their opponents said, and then see who turned out to be correct.   The one who was most often correct is the credible person, the ones who turned out to be frequently wrong are not credible, regardless of who the corporate media tells you that you ought to listen to.

Special credit should be given to the person who makes predictions that are outside of conventional wisdom which later turn out to be correct.   Here is an example:  Suppose "everyone", the political and media leadership on both sides, say "we ought to do X".  One person, or a few, says "We should not do X because doing so will cause Y to occur."    The herd shouts down the contrarian and dismisses them as a "nut".  Later, the policy "X" turns out to have been a bad idea because it causes "Y" to happen.  The rational response to such an occurrence is to give the herd leaders less credibility and give the contrarian more credibility.  It would behoove us next time to listen to the one person who saw it coming rather than simply following the herd leaders who led us astray last time.

Sadly, that does not happen very often these days.  If I turn on the news, I see the same people who have been wrong for years being asked by the media what we should do next.  Sometimes there are fresh faces, but I don't hear any fresh ideas.   Anyone who goes outside the narrow range of what the media tells us is "mainstream" thought is dismissed, even if they are repeatedly correct and their critics repeatedly wrong. And too often we have accepted their message without critical consideration.   When we change this for the better, we will change our lives and country for the better.

Sorry to post what amounts to an "I told somebody so" list.   It is just tiresome to be called names for making predictions that short-sighted dullards think are crazy, but most people forgetting when they come to pass that I called it a long time ago.  Meanwhile, the dullards are still condescending and name-calling.  If the establishment media ignored or dismissed your predictions, but then kept pumping up as experts the people who were wrong about most or all of these things then you might get irritated with it too!

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No Child Left Behind:

I predicted the failure of the Bush-Kennedy education plan "No Child Left Behind" way back in 2006.  Republicans like John Boozman backed the plan.  Democrats like Mark Pryor backed the plan.  The whole establishment on both sides thought it was a wonderful idea.   State governments from coast to coast thought it was a wonderful idea.   I said it was crazy and it would fail.   Now not one state has met the goals of the program and most states have applied for "waivers".   It's quiet pseudo-death will not stop the next effort to centralize control of education- Common Core.

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That the Deal With Beebe to Fund the Insurance Dept. While "Blocking" the Launch of an Obamacare Exchange would end in an exchange being constructed anyway:

In the 2011 session when Republican legislators wanted cut a deal with Gov. Mike Beebe I warned them that this would lead to the establishment of an Obamacare exchange in this state.      They were sure they had reached a bargain that would allow them to fund the insurance department and still block the exchange.  At the time, I expressed the view that they had been "taken."    I said once Beebe and Co. had the money, they were going to set up that exchange with or without their approval.  "We will still have legislative oversight" one of them opined.  I replied that they were about to find out just how worthless that was dealing with people like this.

Over the next few months the Beebe administration tried everything they could to lure some Republicans into going along with the idea of going forward with an exchange, but they did not budge.  Every time Beebe spent some money to advance the exchange concept, the legislature asked him what he thought he was doing.   For a while, it looked like I was wrong.   I then did what honest men do when they are wrong.  I fessed up to being wrong and congratulated them for threading the needle between keeping the Insurance Department funded and still blocking the Health Care Exchange.

Well, it turns out that I was wrong about being wrong.  And the Republican legislators who thought they could manage this thing?  They were just wrong.   Beebe kept working with the feds and started using regulation and policy to implement the Exchange, even without the benefit of a law authorizing it.    The legislature could not stop him from setting up a "partnership" exchange once he had the money.  Over the next three years Beebe leveraged that deal to back them into one corner after another until finally the Republicans themselves voted to authorize the state to set up a "Partnership" exchange with Obamacare in a bill sponsored by a Republican (Mark Biviano of Searcy).
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That Gov. Mike Beebe was playing politics with the budget numbers.  

I long complained that Mike Beebe's budget department was playing games with the numbers. At one point I even wrote "the budget is projected to be either up or down, depending on what is convenient to Governor Beebe."

By 2009 some legislators were beginning to catch on to what I had been warning about, but the lengths to which State Budget would go to tell legislators anything to scare them into what they wanted them to do was still not fully apparent.  When I drafted some legislation that would have helped children suffering with autism, but gave too much control of the money to parents for the bureaucracy's liking, we got a full dose of the deception.   

In 2011 they claimed the bill would cost the state zero extra dollars, but would endanger federal funding.  We showed in an interim study that this was not true. What was true was that under static budgeting assumptions (which is what they normally use) the bill would not cost the state any extra money.  In 2013 they claimed the same bill they said would cost nothing in 2011 would now cost $84 million over two years!  They used bogus accounting and we called them on it, but the bill still failed by one vote to make it out of committee (it actually would have passed out of committee at one point in the proceedings, but two legislators against the bill walked out of the room, preventing a quorum).

Now the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has released a chart that shows which states used how many of the five best budgeting transparency practices.  Arkansas was the only state in the union to use ZERO of the five "best practices.  As I had been saying for years, they have politicized the budget process in Arkansas.

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That implementing Obamacare by expanding Medicaid in Arkansas (and the "Private" Option is Medicaid) would strain the safety net in ways that could cost people their lives.....

Here is what I wrote in January of 2013: " Rather than providing longer life to more people, an unsustainable attempt at expansion might cost more years from more lives than doing nothing.     Leftists may be literally betting the lives of those currently on Medicaid that Obama knows what he's doing.    If one's confidence in the Resident does not rise to that level, then caution is advised."

Meet 14-year old Chloe Jones of Walnut Ridge, who appears to be one of the first three people in Arkansas who will die as a result of the sort of strains I was talking about.  You see since the feds are paying (at first) for a higher share of Medicaid dollars spent on Obamacare than they are for the Medicaid program we had for poor children which existed before Obamacare, the financial incentive for the state is now to deny dollars to poor children in order to pay for insurance for abe-bodied adults.  

But this girl's untimely death will be a mere harbinger of what is to come if we don't back out of Obamacare soon, because the financial stresses of loading the social "safety net" beyond the carrying capacity of those supporting the net will only cause more to be pushed out or, God forbid, the net to fail catastrophically.   Another concern, though some evidence indicates that the launch of Obamacare was so rocky that the poor are still using many private health clinics, is the fear that the pre-existing network of medical clinics and infrastructure which served poor people before Obamacare will go away and then Obamacare will crash.
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Raising the Natural Gas severance tax by 1,600% would cost the state money.

Governor Beebe had a plan in 2008, which many Republicans went along with, to raise the tax on extracting natural gas in Arkansas 1,600%.   I predicted at the time that the state would lose money by raising taxes.  The drilling companies would just go elsewhere.  I meant overall money, because even if government gets more tax money, the economy as a whole can lose money because some people shut down operations in the state due to the tax hike.  I did not know how right I was at the time though- the following year revenues from the tax were down 10%  

How many jobs and dollars of economic activity had to be lost in order for tax collections to go down 10% after tax rates went up 1,600%?  The Schlumberger yard in Conway is still pretty much empty while the other states with large gas deposits are having a boom.
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A Veteran opposed to the invasion of Iraq from the beginning, long before it was understood to be a titanic miscalculation costing us much blood and treasure.

I don't have any blog posts to document my opposition from the beginning because I started the blog in 2005 and it was focused on Arkansas issues at first anyway.  But I was the State Chairman of the tiny Constitution Party in those days (before I went to a national convention and figured out that I did not want those folks in charge either).  The Constitution Party opposed the war from the beginning.  By 2008 I was an official campaign spokesman for Ron Paul in Arkansas.   Like me, he was against that war before being against it was cool.

Though there are some diehards who continue to claim "weapons of mass destruction" were the reason for the war, and worth the One Trillion Dollar and 5,000 American lives with ten times that disfigured cost, most Americans now accept the reality that we were mislead.  The war was a huge negative for the country, though not for the Military Industrial Complex President Eisenhower warned us about.

George W. Bush and company heard only what they wanted to hear (an Iraqi cab driver posing as a chemical engineer and taking money to tell them the lies they wanted to hear) and twisted the information from more credible sources to spin a tale about the state Iraq's programs for weapons of mass destruction.  Not that Saddam had zero capability to build such weapons because the United States, with approval from the federal government, sold Iraq that capability.  Is selling a nation this capability and then borrowing one trillion dollars from the Chinese to make war on them because they have it a rational way to conduct foreign policy?  Only if your goal is to maximize the profits of the Military Industrial Complex at the expense of the nation.

But then none of this quibbling over what Iraq had really answers what ought to be the real question.  Are we going to keep borrowing money from the Chinese to make war on wide portions of the world in an effort to keep them at a pre-1945 level of military technology?  Make that a pre-1914 level of technology if you count mustard gas as a "weapon of mass destruction."    I submit to you that this policy is neither wise, nor sustainable, and will result in a world full of people who are very angry with us and are just waiting for the time China tells us "no more loans" for bomb-building to do something about it.

We have been bombing Iraq pretty much continuously since 1991 and the place is a bigger mess now than when Saddam was in charge.    Rational Americans from across the political spectrum now realize that we can't impose good government at gunpoint on alien cultures.  If military action can help, the Iraq should have been helped, instead of a giant mess.


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That the Arkansas Lottery Would be an Embarrassing Mess:

Closer to home, let's talk about the dysfunctional Arkansas State Lottery.  Who could have predicted that the Arkansas lottery would be such a cesspool of looting and corruption? Ahem.  Well, as it turns out I predicted it even as the proposal was on the ballot back in 2008.  But who listens to me?   I am just an extremist nutjob who makes crazy predictions - which later prove to be correct. But let's not get hung up on who later events actually proved to be right or wrong, let's focus on who the establishment media tells you is or isn't "credible."
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On Counting on Federal Highway Funds to Service Bond Issues:

In 2011 I dueled with State Rep. Nate Bell (R) Mena over his support of a measure to float more debt for routine road maintenance.   The bonds would be funded by pledging our Federal Highway Fund dollars for the next umpteen years to bond payments. Around forty percent of our federal highway dollars would go to bond fees and interest.  I wanted it all to go to roads.  But I also warned that relying on a bankrupt federal government to fulfill their commitments was a mistake, especially since Arkansas taxpayers would be on the hook if the Feds failed to come through with all the money they promised over the next 15 years.

Lo and behold, the fund has gone broke as I warned it might.  Congress has temporarily patched over the problem largely by having the bankrupt fund borrow from other funds.   Obviously, that is not a real solution and will only make the problem bigger next year and every year after that.  Clearly the prudent thing to do is for the state to ween itself from the practice of relying on this money to fund bond issues for routine highway maintenance.

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That FOX News is not the friend of Americans Who Believe in Limited Government instead of Globalism:

I maintained for years that FOX News (who I have taken to calling "FAUX" News") was not the friend of limited government folks at all, or any other Americans except for a few globalists.   Obviously not everbody has caught on yet, but increasing numbers of limited-government folks who used to watch FOX news are now wise to them.  I think their core audience is mostly people who don't get informed from the internet and lean fascist but think they are conservative.

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That the state needed to change its ballot access laws before they got a smackdown in Federal Court

I maintained back in 2005 that state ballot access laws were unconstitutional. The issue was that one could get on the ballot for a state-wide office as an independent with 10,000 signatures but the hurdle for running for the same office as the candidate of a new party was more than double that and growing.  I even drafted a bill that would bring the state into compliance with federal court rulings on the issue. That bill was sponsored by then-State Senator Jim Holt.  The Senators on the State Agencies committee decided to defy the federal courts (remember that the next time they tell you they can't) and the bill died for lack of a second.  They were supported by Attorney General Mike Beebe.  His office chimed in that their view was that existing ballot access law complied with all federal court rulings and did not need to be changed.

The next year the Green Party of Arkansas sued the state on the exact basis I predicted someone would.  Before the case I predicted the Green Party would win that case hands down, and they did.  Current ballot access law has an equal signature hurdle regardless of how one wants to get on the ballot- just like the bill I drafted in 05 said it should be.

(PS- I am part of a small  group suing the state over other recent anti-constitutional changes the legislature has made to the ballot access laws.  We expect to prevail on this one too.
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Science Being Politicized Due to it Being Funded by the Government:

I wrote years ago about the threat to real science that government funded science has become.  As science becomes corrupted that which is called science is transformed into something else even while it steals the name and credibility of the original.  It goes from being a tool to understand the world around us into just another government program with an agenda.  The "answers" coming from politicized government funded "science" are increasingly those answers which are convenient to government itself.  Now others are complaining about the threat to real science that government-funded "science" has become.  As a former science teacher and a practitioner and admirer of real science, I take strong offense at the phony government-funded corruption of actual science.

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"Global Warming":

Speaking of science issues, I told folks that "Global Warming" was a hoax long before it became obvious. I even warned how it can distract from real environmental issues.  Proponents of increasing government funding and control of your life have now crab-walked away from the term, trying to use the phrase "Climate Change" instead of "Global Warming" so that no matter if it gets hotter or colder, the "solution" to the "problem" is that you need to give them more money and power.  The powers that be told you that it was "settled science" that man-made "Global Warming" was coming.  I told you years ago that a multi-decade cool spell was coming.

PS- Here is a good link that puts the politicizing of science and global warming fraud together.  U.S. Government funded scientists altered climate data to make it appear that the earth was warming.

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That DOMA was not enough if one wanted to stop the courts from imposing state recognition of homosexuals relationships as "marriages."

Hey, I know a lot of you younger readers think I am an old fuddy-duddy or worse in my belief that no one has a "right" to public approval for their relationships.  Well, just give it some time before you throw me to the wolves on that one.  With my track record, haven't I earned a little leeway?\\\

At any rate back in 2006 Senator Blanche Lincoln said that she opposed a marriage amendment because we had the Defense of Marriage Act and that was plenty enough to protect marriage.  I said it was not.   That unless we had a federal amendment the judges would conjure up a brand new "right".   No matter how you feel on the issue, Blanche Lincoln told people the wrong thing.  I told them the right thing.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Why I Just Donated $500 to Marc Rosson for State Representative

I am not a rich man.  We are a one car (2008 Ford Escape) family who live in a small and modest home. I don't have a 401K or own any stocks.  Nor do I live anywhere near district 20, which is around Mena and points south.   I have not spoken with Marc Rosson in years.  Yet, with the concurrence of my wonderful wife, I just donated five-hundred of our family's hard-earned dollars to the Marc Rosson campaign.   If you would give me a couple of minutes, I would like to explain why.

First, let me tell what is not the reason why I donated $500 to the Marc Rosson campaign.  It is not about revenge on the incumbent Nate Bell.  That would be an unworthy motive and if it were so I would not be writing this column, for I would be ashamed of my motive.  It is true that, from a positive beginning, Bell and I have clashed on several issues. These include  the use of debt for routine highway maintenance and his flip-flop on voting for the so-called "private" option version of Obamacare.

Our latest clash involves a change to the ballot access laws via a bill whose sole co-sponsor was Bell.   Readers may know that I am of the opinion legislatures should be filled via independent candidates who don't owe their office to a political party based in D.C. but rather understand that they owe only the people of their district.  Further, the system of checks and balances our Founders set up simply cannot work properly when the same political clubs control ballot access for both state officials and federal officials, for both Executive Branch and Legislative Branch.  That is why I helped form "Neighbors of Arkansas" to encourage people to run for the state legislature and local offices as independents.   That group is currently suing the state of Arkansas over the changes in the law instigated by Bell, which make it much harder for people to file as independents.

Still, the scripture says "never take your own revenge."  I had made up my mind to stay out of Bell's race.   I did not even bother to find out who the candidates running against him were, until recently when a prominent Republican who is tired of Bell's antics called me and said "who is the Libertarian candidate running against Nate Bell?  We may need to support them."   Only then did I offer to find out, but it occurred to me that if the candidate was a good person then helping them win that seat and ridding the legislature of Nate Bell would be doing a service to almost all Arkansans.   It would be a plus for the Republicans in that it would improve their brand, it would be a plus to the Democrats who are no doubt tired of his abrasiveness, and it would be a service to independents who want access to the ballot for other alternatives on equal terms.

When I discovered that the "Libertarian" candidate was Marc Rosson, I was fired up.  When I tell you how I know him, you may understand why.  Years ago, when the Tea Party came on strong and was a hot item, I helped start one in my county.  We were going to hold a big candidate forum, and all the candidates for Senate and Congress wanted to come.   We voted that as a condition to attend the forum that they had to answer a Candidate Questionnaire put together by our evaluation committee, which I chaired.

The questionnaire consisted of 44 questions from the eight or nine members of our committee, most of them multiple choice.  Half of the questions were over the subject of what it meant to keep one's oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  If you want to see those questions, here is the article I wrote which complained that none of the candidates (except unknown Fred Ramey) were willing to have their answers to those questions revealed.  That is right, all of those great statesmen balked at having their answers to those questions revealed.  That includes Senator John Boozman, Congressman Steve Womack, and Former state Republican Chairman Gilbert Baker.  

They all balked and lobbied the Chairman heavily to get out of it.  The Executive Committee took two more votes to confirm that answering the questionnaire was a pre-condition to be included in the forum.  At that point the Chairman, who they got to, announced that he had the surveys (not the person they were supposed to be sent to) and that he had promised the candidates that he would never reveal the answers to anyone.  He said he was going to "dig in his heels" about his unilateral decision to keep the answers concealed.  I left the group in disgust.  The big forum never happened, nor did much else of note happen.  Since that time, the group has collapsed on its own uselessness and is now being rebuilt by new leadership.

Right after that another candidate came to my attention- a guy in South Arkansas willing to jump in the race, back then as a Republican, against Congressman Mike Ross at the height of his popularity.   The guy was Marc Rosson.   Marc volunteered to take the quiz without any restrictions against making his answers to any question public.  And he made an "A" on the questions.   We don't agree on every issue, but big picture, he gets it.  In my book, that makes him a better man than those others.  I think he's a better man than Nate Bell too.    Bell is a stinker and I don't know which side will breathe a bigger sigh of relief when he goes, Democrats or Republicans.  But I did not give Marc Rosson $500 just because Nate Bell has gone so bad.  I did it because Marc Rosson is that good.  If you can afford to do the state a favor, would you send him a little something too?









Saturday, June 28, 2014

Establishment Media Rushes to Defense of Judicial Overlord Piazza

On paper, Chris Piazza is a circuit judge, one of the lower members of the black-robed class.   In his mind, he is our Supreme Judicial Overlord, as evidenced  by his ruling that the Arkansas Constitution violates the Arkansas Constitution when he threw out an amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the state of Arkansas.  Naturally, the only state-wide newspaper has leapt to give Piazza cover for his obscene ruling, because the Arkansas Democrat Gazette has consistently led the people of this state astray.  That's why we are behind when we should be among the most prosperous states in the union.

The establishment media of this state, led by the Democrat-Gazette and in this case abetted by the Arkansas Times, must be responsible for poor condition of our state.   We have a good climate, are in a central location with a prime navigable river, abundant natural resources, and a hard working population.  Yet we are consistently behind.   

Whenever a unit of anything underperforms over a long period of time, it is always the fault of whoever is in charge.   In this case, it is the ruling class of the state, with aforementioned newspapers being their mouthpiece.   If you want to know why Arkansas has under performed, look to its leadership.  That's the reason.   The responsibility must lie with those who have been running it.   If the people bear any blame, it is only that they gave into herd thinking for to long and kept following the same folks even as they were being looted.

I note from the coverage of this matter "Judge" Piazza denied the "successful" attorney's their claim for attorney's fees in the case.  Makes sense to me, because Piazza knew in advance how he was going to rule regardless of the evidence, or even the specific issues before his court. He should award himself those fees, not the attorneys- he did all the work and he would have ruled the same way if the attorneys had been replaced by potted plants.

I note with anger, amusement, and disgust that the Arkansas Times engages in their usual dishonesty when trying to defend Piazza's bench-legislation.  I have a link to his ruling in this article where I go over the five most insane things his lordship Piazza actually wrote in that ruling.  The ArkTimes tries to use a federal case to provide cover for their claim that it is OK for a state judge to use the state constitution to find the state constitution unconstitutional.   The claim is ridiculous.

It is a very different thing for a federal judge to rule that a state constitution provision violates the federal constitution than it is for a state judge to rule that the state constitution violates itself!   Piazza barely mentioned the federal constitution in his ruling.  He almost totally used the state constitution to roll into an opium-laced joint which he apparently smoked to come up with the conclusion that the document violated itself, and that he in his wisdom could correct such a conflict by utterly tossing aside the part most recently passed. 




Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Real Run-Off Battle is on the Northern Tier Counties

I am amazed that the Republican Run-off for Attorney General has gotten so much attention while the real battle for the future of the Republican Party in this state is going on with little notice or fanfare.   As usual, mainstream media distracts with coverage of the ugly mudfest that the AG's GOP run-off is becoming instead of the issues of substance at stake over the contest in Senate District 17.

Look, it is not going to rock my world either way, because my expectation is that those who are trying to get the Republican Party to actually become the party of limited government and more freedom are going to continue to fail to win that struggle.    I am ready to move on with an experiment in true self-government like they are trying in Garland County, instead of out-sourcing the job of protecting our interests to a D.C. based private club which has proved its corruption and duplicity beyond any reasonable doubt.

Still, I have many friends who are good people who still feel that the GOP is worth saving and can be saved from within.   Maybe I am wrong and they are right.  If you are one of those people, then you should know that the real battle for the future of the Republican Party in this state is going on in Baxter, Marion, and Boone counties.   It is the run-off for State Senate District 17 between John Burris and Scott Flippo.

I don't know much about Flippo, but I know plenty about Burris.   He was voted one of the ten worst legislators in Arkansas in the Arkansas Watch list of Worst Legislators.  He was one of the key voices in getting Obamacare implemented in Arkansas, via the deceptively named "private" option.   The plan simply combines the worst features of Obamacare's socialism with the crony capitalism that establishment Republicans love all combined in one ultimately unaffordable package.   Not that this was his only shortcoming as a legislature, but that, combined with his dishonesty about what the "private" option was and is, makes it the most glaring.

As close as the funding vote to renew the program will be in the state senate next year, I posit to you that this run-off is the race which determines what the heart and soul of the state Republican Party will be like, not the AG race.   If Burris gets promoted from the house to the senate even after shafting conservatives by getting Obamacare implemented, albeit with a corprotist twist, then the others will feel they can get away with renewing the funding (i.e. borrowing more money on your children's credit).   If he loses, then legislators will realize that there is a price to pay for expanding government, even if you are an establishment darling.   Right now the record is kind of mixed on this question.   Some Obamacare supporters won in the primary, but a couple more lost.

Members of the legislature understand that this is the critical race that will define the character of the party.  That is why very conservative legislators like Sen. Bryan King, Alan Clark, and Rep. Jim Dotson, along with more moderate ones like Sen. Cecil Bledsoe, are all backing Flippo.    Burris is backed by many of those who sold out and voted to fund Obamacare.   The legislators themselves understand how important this race is, I just hope the grass-roots do.   It seems like they are more focused on the state-wide race than the race where there is truly the most at stake.

Like the AG's race, it is getting ugly.   Some who back Flippo have raised questions about the $57,000 in expense money Burris has claimed, and about how he got a loan for a $260,000 home in Little Rock when he claims to live in Baxter County.   Something does smell a little, but really there is no proof of anything, nor does their need to be.   The race is not about whether or not Burris is financially corrupt or not.   The race is about his policies, and whether he was being honest with the voters when he made claims about the "private" option.   If he prevails, then it is likely that Obamacare will prevail in Arkansas, confirming the state GOP as the party that only accepts Socialism reluctantly and if their friends get a slice rather than the state GOP as the party of limited government and freedom.

If you are among those who thinks the battle for the soul of the state GOP matters and you know of anyone in Boone, Baxter, or Marion counties who may not understand the importance of this race, you might want to call them up and remind them to vote and vote well.   If you live close enough and have time to give, you might want to knock on doors.   I am not sure how much money matters at this point in the race, but it always matters some.  



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Finger Pointing on Lack of True Paper Ballots

We got reports from several counties around the state which said that paper ballots were not available.  In some cases, the county election workers were telling voters that the state were making them vote by machine alone.  In others they said if you wanted a paper ballot that it had to be a provisional ballot.  Several contacts with the Sec. of State's office, and purviews of Arkansas law later, here is what we think is happening....

Years ago a law was passed which gave counties the option of doing away with paper ballots, except for the provisional ballots.   This was not something that the state mandated.  It just gave the counties the option of choosing to go all machine.  The JPs could do it by resolution.    Over time some counties opted to do that, and the number this time is high enough to where it is finally being noticed.

If there is an easier way to do things, human beings will try to take it.   It is likely many County Clerks asked their JPs to take this step to save themselves some work on election nights.   It is a legal option, and I believe in giving localities different options, so that part is cool.  What is not cool is not owning up and taking responsibility for the decisions that one makes.  In this case, it was county officials who decided to do away with paper ballots, but if these reports are accurate they are trying to blame the "state" for mandating doing away with paper ballots.   That's wrong.   If they are not using paper ballots it is because the JPs voted to do away with them, and if people are upset about it the remedy is to vote for JPs who will change it back.

Also not cool is handing people a "provisional" ballot and telling people if they want paper ballots they will have to use "provisional" ballots.   State law is very clear about what a "provisional" ballot is supposed to be used for, and passing them off as a replacement for paper ballots in not among them.  In addition, the law has some requirements a to the layout of a regular paper ballot, and I don't think the provisional ballots meet them all.

And now you know....

Monday, May 19, 2014

Is Wal-Mart Falling Apart Before our Eyes?

The Financial Site "Motley Fool" thinks so.  Same store sales sagging compared to consumer spending, foreign store margins going down.   It looks like the thrill is gone for Wal-Mart, until they pull the next rabbit out of their hats.... http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/05/17/walmart-is-falling-apart-before-our-eyes.aspx

Friday, May 16, 2014

Piazza Marriage Ruling: Yeah He Actually Wrote That!

A state circuit judge, Chris Piazza, recently took it upon himself to throw out amendment 83 of the Arkansas State Constitution.  The amendment defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.   And he petulantly did it in a way and with such timing as to create a giant mess even if his ruling is eventually overturned.

There needs to be some word that is more extreme than "hubris" to define Piazza's attitude.  He is the same judge who ruled that the state must assist homosexuals in their efforts to gain access to other people's children.  I deconstruct that ruling here in an article aptly titled "Judicial Tyranny at its Most Incoherent".   But I have to say, his writing in that one was a model of propriety compared to the parody of a legal ruling he cobbled together on this one.   After a point, I quit being angry and started being amused.   The ruling read like a SNL skit of a smug, self-righteous lower court judge with a god-complex.

Rather than do a detailed de-construction of his "logic" as I did with the prior ruling, I just want to show you the five dumbest things this character wrote in his ruling.   If it were not such a serious subject, it would be hilarious.   Ready?

1) "The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage for no rational basis
violates the fundamental right to privacy........The difference between opposite-sex and same-sex
families is within the privacy of their homes."

No, no, he actually wrote this. Not just in a Facebook post either, where asinine assertions are commonplace, but in his legal opinion on the case.  Can anyone out there tell me how a failure to publically recognize anyone's relationship as a marriage violates their right to privacy?   And does this man, who so self-assuredly bench-legislates his personal preferences on the populace really think that "the" difference between two men and a man and a woman is merely within the privacy of their own homes?  Does he think we can't tell the difference outside of their homes, especially say, in the ability to procreate?

2) But the hilarity does not end there. In his desperation to waive off any hint that the people he wanted to step on (75% of the voters) had any rational basis at all for defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman he also wrote...

"Even if it were rational for the state to speculate that children raised by opposite-sex couples are better off than children raised by same-sex couples, there is no rational relationship between the Arkansas same-sex marriage bans and the this goal because Arkansas's marriage laws do not prevent same-sex couples from having children."
Right. Nature itself does.   And when people are wise, nature informs the law.   He is extremely determined to refuse to admit the other side can have any "rational basis" for their views.  He repeatedly claims that there is no "rational basis" for defining marriage traditionally, but he does so by waiving off objections with absurdities like this, not by actually addressing them.  For more on the rational case why the state should not recognize homosexual marriage see here and here.  

3) In his efforts to show that he should use a higher level of scrutiny to look out for the "rights" of homosexuals to your approval of their relationships, His Eminence wrote..

"this Court finds the rationale of De Leon v.
Perry, Obergefell v. Wyrnyslo, and the extensive authority cited in both cases to be
highly persuasive, leading to the undeniable conclusion that same-sex couples
fulfill all four factors to be considered a suspect or quasi-suspect classification.”

OK, now listen to what those four factors are which Piazza (I find myself spinning my index finger around the side of my forehead in the universal sign for crazy every time I say his name) finds are fulfilled....

"1) the characteristics that distinguish the class indicate a typical class member's ability to contribute to society
2) whether the distinguishing characteristic is 'immutable" or beyond
the group member's control, and
whether the group is 3) a minority or 4) politically powerless,"

I added the numbering, but the rest was listed right before his absurd claim that homosexuals fulfill all four categories.  Regarding 1) It is obvious that homosexuals can't contribute to marriage in all the way that natural couples can.  Regarding 2) He is still crazy.  The trait is not truly immutable.   People can and have left the homosexual deathstyle.   Compare that to the percentages of blacks who have quit being black!  Regarding 3) OK I will grant they are a minority. This is the only one he is right about.  Regarding 4) Are you kidding me?   Total denial of post-modern political reality.

You can hardly turn on the TV without homosexual characters portrayed favorable in shows that are obstensibly supposed to be "entertainment."   Even in the macho NFL, a player tweets a rather brief and mild protest at attention-whore Micheal Sam kissing his boyfriend on national television and the player gets fined and suspended from the team until he goes to re-education camp!  They are not a politically oppressed minority, they are the oppressors.  Like Voltaire said, if you want to find out who your true rulers are, find out who you are not allowed to criticize.  Apparently we are ruled by sexual deviants, because that's who we are not allowed to criticize anymore.

4) Amendment 83 was legally added to the Arkansas Constitution by 75% of the voters. He actually found the constitution unconstitutional, not just according to the federal constitution, but to the state constitution to which it had been legally added! He based his “reasoning” on the idea that the amendment did not repeal Article 2 Section 2 of the Arkansas Constitution which reads....

All men are created equally free and independent, and
have certain inherent and inalienable rights, amongst
which are those of enjoying and defending life and
liberty; of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property,
and reputation; and of pursuing their own happiness, To
secure these rights governments are instituted among
men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the
governed.

I guess that last part just kind of flew right past him, eh?  He said it was dangerous to "narrow the definition of equality" granted in this section "for no rational reason" of course. That is just silly because the amendment simply ratified what existed when it was passed, it did not change anything.   But where does the section even use the word "equality"?   Sure it says men (sorry ladies!) are created equal, but that does not mean that their choices must be honored by other men or women equally.  It does not say they must have equal recognition from the state, even if their deeds are not strictly speaking, equal.   It does not guarantee equality of outcome.   It is just saying whatever rights men will have under the constitution will be had equally, but leaves it up to the rest of the document to define what that means.  The guy is just hallucinating into the text that which he wishes to see, while missing the important point that ultimately, the people have to decide what they will recognize as rights and what they do not consider rights.

5) Let's see how well the judge knows what is actually in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights concerning "rights".....   See if you can find 1) Those that are actually listed in our constitution as stated, 2) The one that is a slight extrapolation of one that is stated 3) One that was conjured into existence in the “penumbra” of a stated right, but conveniently ignored in all cases involving the growing surveillance state and 4) One that is not even remotely listed in the constitution, and is being made up of whole cloth by the present generation of judges to force acceptance of homosexuality on the nation under any pretext....

“The strength of our nation is in our freedom which includes, among
others, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the right to marry, the
right to bear arms, the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures,
the right of privacy, the right of due process and equal protection, and the
right to vote regardless of race or sex.”

“Freedom of Expression” is #2, and is a reasonable extrapolation of “freedom of speech and freedom of the press”. The “right to privacy” is #3, conjured into existence by penumbras of the 5th amendment (why doesn't the 2nd amendment ever have any penumbras greatly expanding the scope of its meaning with these judges?). This non-textual "Right to Privacy" is aggressively defended in cases relating to abortion but consistently ignored when the NSA wants to save our life's communications to their hard drives just in case.

Oh and how about #4? It fits the bill of “which of these is not like the other ones” in the sense that Piazza made it up before our eyes and inserted into the hallucinatory constitution that only liberal judges can see while no mention of it exists in the real one. That is “the right to have your marriage recognized by the government”.

That so-called "right" is not in there.   Piazza and company are just making it up and inserting it into their Mickey-mouse super-secret constitution right before our eyes. Those of us who don't have the magic decoding ring can't seem to find it in the actual text of the document.  And what they really mean by it is not “the right to marry” at all, but rather the “right to public approval for their relationships” to any group the judges happen to favor at the moment.

****************************

OK, some of his claims about the differences in homosexual relationships are funny, others, like his inability to accurately list the actual rights from the constitution and Bill of Rights without inserting his pet issue unto the list is merely amusing.  I am going to end with two more example that are neither.  They are just examples of what a pompous, self-important jackass this man is:

He wrote “The issues presented in the case at bar are of epic constitutional
dimensions-the charge is to reconcile the ancient view of marriage as between
one man and one woman, held by most citizens of this and many other states,
against a small, politically unpopular group of same-sex couples who seek to be
afforded that same right to marry.

Piazza does not even address the right question, so it is no wonder he never gets near the right answer. This is not about the “right to marry” since there is no law threatening to jail homosexuals if they claim to be married. Rather the question is whether society as a whole is to be compelled to recognize such arrangements as equal to traditional marriage. He acknowledges that the decision is epic, but has no problem at all coming down hard totally on one side of the issue. The way he “reconciles” the two positions is to dismiss with hardly more than a waive of the hand the concerns of the vast majority of his fellow citizens because he is just oh-so-sure that he is just that much smarter and better than the rest of us. And he structured his ruling in a way that makes it impossible to avoid a mess even if he is overturned. Piazza is a god in his own mind.

He writes “The court is not unmindful of the criticism that judges should not be
super legislators. However, the issue at hand is the fundamental right to
marry being denied to an unpopular minority.”

You see, he claims he is “not unmindful” that judges should not be super legislators, but then immediately and strongly does it anyway by virtue of the recently manufactured claim unsupported by the text of any constitution that marriage is a "fundamental right."  And even that understates the degree of his cluelessness and arrogance because even if marriage should be considered a right, the question here is not that but whether the public must recognize and grant honor to claims of marriage. Marriages existed before the state recognized them and will exist afterward. The issue is public recognition and approval of the relationship, not the relationship.

People of Arkansas, we failed somewhere when we did not find an opponent for this man, who undermines the public respect the judicial branch ought to have with his zealotry and over-reach.

Monday, April 28, 2014

New Pryor Ad: Not Even His Own Ads Can Make Him Sound Sincere



People who know me know that I am no fan of national Republicans like Congressional Wunder-Kid Tom Cotton.   I have no idea how or even if, I will vote for U.S. Senate this year, other than it won't be for the incumbent.  So when I deconstruct Senator Mark Pryor's new ad, you can know that I am not telling you that it's terrible because I am a red-team partisan.  I am telling you that it is terrible because it truly is an awful ad.   It's only "redeeming" feature is that it might work.  It might do what it was made to do, which is to use deception to terrify easily confused senior citizens into voting for Pryor.

You would think they were only allowed one take on the ad, so unappealing does Pryor look and sound during the few seconds his handlers allow him to speak on the video.  At second six he bobbles his head like some sort of dashboard knick-knack.     He does not look the camera in the eye, and any semblance of eye contact he makes with the other actors in the commercial are as synthetic looking as his acting sounds. He looks shifty, and insincere.  It's like on some level he knows that what he is doing is a sham, and that somewhere in his heart whatever human decency is left in him feels revulsion at his own tactics.

Mark Pryor has been in office for over a decade.   He just filed the "Medicare Protection Act" last month, and it is given a "0% chance of passage" at govtrack.  Nor would its passage do much if anything to "protect Medicare" if it miraculously passed, since the little it claimed to do can be just as easily undone by future legislatures.   One can't justly claim to have "done something" on the basis of sponsoring, or even passing, a bill which purports do obligate future legislatures as to how they must act. Each legislature can decide what its own rules will be.  So it is pretty obvious this bill is a gimmick.  It looks like something Pryor's campaign consultants cooked up for him so that he could run an ad saying he was trying to save Medicaid while his evil opponent wants to destroy it.   This is what politics in our former Republic has degenerated to- something too fake and anti-intellectual to rise to the level of a clown show.

Going beyond that, far from protecting it, Mark Pryor, along with the rest of the Democrats and most of the Republicans, are in the process of destroying Medicare.  Not deliberately mind you, but simply by insane over-spended of public funds to such unsustainable levels in order to try and buy the votes of the short-sighted and greedy.  They are going to try to buy votes by laying more and more on the "safety net" until the thing snaps.    For example, we have been running trillion dollar annual deficits since 2011, and Pryor and company think its a good time for another massive expansion of government in the form of Obamacare.

It is delusional. Government is drowning in red trying to maintain our present safety net, yet they want launch major new expansions of government.  Can't they see this lack of fiscal discipline will threaten our entire economic structure?  They seem completely oblivious to fiscal reality, or they don't care about the economic implosion they are causing, because they think they are passing the bill to the next generation.  The only way they could get away with such a cowardly and dishonorable course of action is because the voters have let them.  They too want to live above their means at the expense of the children, so long as no one makes them face up to the fact that this is what they are doing.

Adding additional absurdity to the claim that anyone who was for Obamacare is trying to "save Medicare" is the fact that the original Obamacare plan called for 400 billion dollars to be cut from Medicare in order to help fund it.   Those cuts did not last though, nor are many of the tax increases. They never stick with the planned cuts, but the planned spending not only continues, it consistently exceeds the planned amount.   That of course means Obamacare is being funded by debt more than ever.   And when our national credit card is maxed out, the whole thing is going to come down just when the population is most dependent on it.   Pryor is the one who actually voted to cut Medicare, and his other actions will insure its eventual failure.

Grown ups realize that things have to be paid for, but politicians like Pryor and the people who vote for them want to maintain a state of perpetual adolescence.   A decent case could be made that it is really Cotton who is trying to preserve Medicare, because he is the one suggesting benefit reductions (like raising the age of entry to seventy) which might actually make the program sustainable.   Personally, I just think Cotton wants to spend the money on other things like more police state at home and foreign interventions abroad, but I don't know that.   What I know is that Pryor's actions will, intentionally or unintentionally, result in the destruction of Medicare.  Of the two, Cotton's plan is more likely to keep the program alive.

None of this is rocket science.   It is not hard to see. Nor are the future consequences and what we are doing to our children with this government debt hard to see.   It doesn't take "genius" to see it, it takes courage and moral virtue to see it.   I am depressed at the very thought that this tricksey Pryor ad might work at garnering the vote of anyone outside of persons who are suffering from some sort of senile dementia.  I would hope that the vast majority of voters could see right past it.









Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Other Shoe on So-Called "Private Option" costs

We have been told that about 155,000 people have signed up for the so-called "Private Option", which is an expansion of government subsidized medical coverage via the Medicaid program.  Since poor children and very poor adults were already covered under various Medicaid programs, once you follow the money and take away all the window dressing this is essentially government health care for adults who earn over 17% of the federal poverty level but less than 138% of it (about $16,500 a year for an individual).

The "Private Option" is a Medicaid program.   It is not private at all except that it combines the worst features of crony-capitalism with the worst features of socialism all in one ultimately un-affordable package.  Much has been made of the fact that this new Medicaid program is already, three months in, experiencing 11% cost over-runs, called wrap-around costs.

Some legislators have come to so identify with the state government and so un-identify with the taxpayers that they act like if the state does not have to pay for it then it is free.  It is not free to the citizens, just the state government.  American taxpayers are on the hook for all costs of the so-called "Private Option".  Right now as both state and federal taxpayers we are on the hook for 100% of the regular costs as federal tax payers and 100% of the wrap-around costs as state taxpayers.  Forbes has estimated that these wrap around costs will obligate state taxpayers to around ten to fourteen million extra dollars in 2014, and an increasing amount thereafter.

Starting in 2017 we will be responsible for a decreasing percentage of regular costs as federal taxpayers and an increasing percentage as state tax payers until we are responsible for 90% of the regular costs as federal tax payers and 10% of the regular costs and 100% of the wrap-around costs as state tax payers.  Since our state does not have its own printing press and thus the ability to "borrow" vast quantities of funds at essentially no interest, the increasing cost coming to the state will bring immediate pressure to increase taxes.

What is amazing is that these costs have been so high even though the lawmakers responsible for the scheme tried to rig the pool of "private option" enrollees by segregating out the 10% least-healthy and sending them to the traditional Medicaid program.  The next time a private-option legislator tries to claim they did not vote to expand Medicaid you might point out to them that even if you were to accept their flat-out delusion that the "private option" is not a Medicaid program, which it is, there is still the fact that 1/10th of "private" option enrollees were always meant to be sent to traditional Medicaid roles.  So yes, its an expansion of Medicaid, both in the form of the new program and the traditional one.

What is more amazing to me is how little discussion there has been about the addition costs coming from the 10% most sickly among poor and semi-poor adults who are being added to the state's traditional Medicaid rolls due to the Medicaid expansion. If 155,000 have been signed up for the "private" option then I suppose about 15,500 have been added to traditional Medicaid rolls.

It is true that the federal government is paying all the costs this year, but us citizens are federal taxpayers too.  Because they are financing this expansion of government with debt we may not have to pay increased taxes for it right away, but either we or our children will have to pay for it eventually.  And starting in 2017 we will begin paying for a share of that group too.  After a few years, we will pay for 10% of those increased costs, and that's if the federal government keeps all of its promises about how much of this it will fund (hint, in the long run they won't and they can't).

So how much will we have to pay each year for the expansion of traditional Medicaid under the "private" option program?   I don't know, but these are the sickest slice of a sub-population which tends to be sicker than average.   How many have health issues related to meth addiction?  How many have AIDS from homosexual relations?  How many need new livers from alcoholism?   How many are simply eating and slouching their way into a million dollars worth of medical bills?

I can easily see the cost of these patients being $10,000 or even $20,000 per year.  Even if it is only the former figure, that means we taxpayers are on the hook for 15,500 X $10,000 equals 155 million dollars in additional government health care expenditures.  15.5 million of that will be as Arkansas taxpayers and the rest as federal taxpayers, if FEDGOV keeps all of its promises about this program.   I expect my numbers are very conservative.

Look, I am not saying that the meth addict, the promiscuous homosexual who picked up AIDS, or the alcoholic who needs a new liver don't deserve medical care.  I am not saying that at all.  I am saying that I don't want my children to be sent the bill for all of it, which is what is presently happening.  All of these promises are being paid for by debt.  It is not being done on a pay-go basis at all.

So everyone is looking at the immediate benefits but ignoring the long term costs, since they are not paying them.  I just think my kids should have a say in the decision on whether or not their earnings should be used to give one million dollars worth of medical treatment to prolong the life of an AIDS victim for another three years, or if instead they should someday be able to buy a house. Like it or not those are the kind of hard choices people have to make in the real world where money does not exist in infinite quantities.  Right now, because of the "private" option, your kids and mine have no say in the matter.  The money they haven't made yet, the money they will need to have the kind of decent life most of us have enjoyed, is being spent on adults whose own choices have ruined their health.   Its automatic now.

'The government' does not really have any money.  They are just giving those pieces of paper they hand out value by borrowing against the earnings of the next generation.  Your children's future earnings are the collateral for all the loans FEDGOV is getting to pay for all of this.   Voting for those who support this program is not the "nice" thing to do, it is not the "compassionate" thing to do.  It is just more immediately gratifying than doing the right thing.  It is just choosing to relieve ones self of the stress of telling people "no" now at the expense of the next generation.  Whether or not our children end up blessing us or cursing us will depend in part on our willingness to make the hard choices and pursue a just morality over a shallow, feel-good-about-ourselves-today pseudo-morality on questions just such as this one.








Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bureaucrats Dissing the People's Branch of Government

The Legislature is supposed to be "The People's Branch" of government.   It is the one most directly accountable to the individual citizen.   If an individual citizen feels they have a bad President, there is little they can do about it.  It is much easier for them to have an impact on who their Congressman or state legislator is than who their President is.

As conceived by the Founders, it was to be the "first among equals" of the three branches of government. They were to make the laws, and the executive was only there to enforce such laws as they made.  The judiciary was there to interpret such laws.   As envisioned, the legislature was the lynchpin of the nation's government.   The other two branches existed only to work with the material given them by the legislature.

That has all changed now.  The legislature is by far the weakest branch, almost irrelevant these days (to some extent by their own choice). We all know they roll over for the courts, and that's not always a bad thing.  But they are now dominated by the Executive Branch as well.   The bureaucracy attached to the executive branch has almost replaced them as they pass vague laws which empower agencies that churn out "regulations" which give the law meaning.  That is, this is what happens when the executive doesn't simply make up the law themselves via expansive signing statements, or heavy-handed executive orders which either make up fiat law on the spot or announce that laws properly passed will not be enforced.

The continued disrespect that the legislature gets from the executive bureaucracy is a serious problem that has reached epidemic proportions, yet is seldom discussed.  Our representatives are only as good as the information they are given.  If they are kept in the dark, or even lied to, then they simply cannot make good decisions on our behalf no matter how capable they are as individuals.

The Arkansas Project touched on this issue recently when Rep. Joe Farrar tried to get information about the costs of the so-called "private option" from DHS spokesperson Amy Webb.   She kept telling him that he would get the information to him soon.  I guess she meant when he read it in the newspapers because the Demo-zette got the data he had been asking for before he got it!

She apologized for it, and Farrar accepted her apology, but I have seen situations where any "apology" would be insincere, should not be accepted, and even if it was accepted should not serve as an excuse to get out of accountability to "the People's Branch."

The ledge is constantly being given bad information, or kept from information, that they need to do their job. Let me tell you this story so that you will see how bad the problem is: I was part of an effort to get a bill passed which would allow parents of autistic children to direct home or other services, under and in accordance with an Individual Education Plan devised by state certified personnel, using the money we would already be spending on them in the public school classroom.  It was not a voucher program, and it was not applicable to the general student population, but it was close enough to all that to scare the educrats.

What they really hated about it though, was that it gave the parents more leeway on who was to educate their child and where than parents of children with autism had ever had before.  Oh, they could get tossed from the program if they were not implementing the IEP agreed to by the state personnel, but the state had to jump through hoops to toss them instead of the parents having to jump through hoops to get permission from the DOE to take each step forward.

I am here to tell you now that the bureaucracy lied repeatedly to the legislators over that piece of legislation.  They told them anything they had to in order to scare them out of voting for that bill.   They told them that we could lose our title X federal funding if it passed.  The educrat (I would mention her name if she was still working there, but I understand she has since been canned) also filibustered.  Parents who drove hours to speak got no chance to tell their side of it because this DOE person who was right next to the legislators every day of the session took up all available time.

 The House Education Committee voted it down, but the sponsor called for an interim study on the question, and it passed.  Usually, these studies are just a polite place to send bills to die, but we found a good lawyer (Greg Brown of Rogers) who found the applicable case law proving that courts had ruled in some cases that states had to go beyond even what we were asking for.

We has asked a devastating series of questions in our interim study, but the DOE simply did not respond.  Bear in mind that when they voted for the interim study, the legislators were voting to have these questions answered.   When it came time for the big meeting to discuss the findings of the study, the other side did not even show up.   The joint committee on education endorsed our findings right down the line. There was no threat to the state's federal education money poised by the bill in question, in fact the state might be more open to an expensive lawsuit by the failure to pass it.

The next session, we were back again. This time they could not claim that the bill would cost us federal education dollars, but State Budging did present a cost study where they claimed implementing the bill would cost the state $84 million.

Strangely enough, two years ago this same state agency presented a cost study which claimed that implementing the bill would cost the state zero dollars per year!  And under static budgeting assumptions, that was correct.  Since the bill would only use existing dollars in one pot and put those dollars in another pot, under static budgeting assumptions the obvious answer on how much the bill would cost was zero additional dollars.  And static budgeting was all they ever did.

When the first barrage of mis-information (that the bill would cost us federal education dollars) was defeated they had to come up with a back-up plan.  Apparently that plan was to change how they scored the bill for spending state dollars so that the same program which they said would cost zero additional dollars two years before would cost $84 million additional dollars!

How did they do that?  For the first time I or the sponsor had ever seen, they switched to dynamic scoring instead of static scoring to estimate the cost of a bill.  Under static scoring rules, the number of people in some state education program was a constant.  They would just move from the public school classroom to this program and back again.   Dynamic scoring recognized that there were children out there who were not being served in public school but who might be enticed to participate in this program.   I agree that this would be the case, but the point is they only used static scoring before.  They only dusted dynamic scoring off and used it in this one instance- where a really big cost number would scare off the legislature.

Their dynamic scoring assumptions were also insanely far off.  For the numbers to work, Arkansas would have had to have had far more autistic school age children than the national average, none of whom were presently being served.   They also double-counted the expenses for these children- they gave the local districts the money and then gave the proposed program the money too.

We called them on the numbers, and finally budget Director Weiss got involved.  He told the legislators that they had revised their estimate and that the program would cost "$5 to $10 million" to implement.  That was quite a discount from the $84 million they said it would cost the previous day, but he still had to use dynamic scoring assumptions to get the cost even that high.   And if more children are being served by the program, if there are children out there right now not in school and not being served but get served because their parents finally feel there is a state program which can help them be appropriately educated, then why shouldn't serving more children cost more money?

What should be done about behavior like this?  Simple.  Bureaucrats should lose their jobs.  They are there to execute the laws the legislature passes.  They are there to provide accurate information so that the legislature can make rational decisions about what the law should be.   If they don't do that, or worse if they provide mis-information, then they should be gone.  Period.  I think legislators should vote on who among the bureaucrats ought to be gone.  If a bureaucrat named Alice Jo Webb conceals information from state legislators who have been asking for it, if she is the worst offender, then members of the ledge should ask the Governor to remover her.  And if he doesn't, then put a line in every single appropriations bill which says "no monies from this bill may be used to pay a wage, salary, or any other employee compensation to one Alice Jo Webb presently of (their address)."

If that sounds harsh, let me tell you that if we don't the results on you and your children will be even harsher.   Good legislators cannot effectively function in an environment like the one I described above.  I realize that is not always the environment, but when it is, someone should go.  This problem of disrespect of the legislature is serious, pervasive, and its not going away unless and until they take measures to defend their turf, which is also your turf, from executive branch assault.