Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Walking Away from Omelas and Generational Looting

Science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin once penned a classic short story called “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”. As Wikkipedia describes the story, Omelas is a utopian city of happiness and delight, whose inhabitants are smart and cultured. Everything about Omelas is pleasing, except for the secret of the city: the good fortune of Omelas requires that an unfortunate child be kept in filth, darkness and misery, and that all her citizens know of this on coming of age.
Some of them walk away; the story ends “The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”
I mention this story because life is now somewhat imitating art. Many people, the ruling class, those connected to government, and many of the rest of us frankly, are living a better life than our own efforts and service to others would merit. We are building our own Omelas, not on the present misery and pain of one child, but on the future pain and misery of a vast multitude of children in the next generation. We do this by funding unsustainable government largess via debt. We are impoverishing the next generation in order to give ourselves a materially- but not morally, better life today. The Democrats are doing it, almost all Republicans are doing it.
I suppose the politicians voting for all of this plan on their own children being in tomorrow’s upper class, because their policies will destroy what is left of today’s middle class. Count me among those who choose to walk away from an Olemas forged on the misery and impoverishment of the next generation. That’s why I’m in Neighbors, to find a way for citizens to get candidates on the ballot and elect them outside of a DC-controlled two-party system that has degenerated into a Game of Thrones.
The great Preacher Charles G. Finney was once practically abducted by a man who took him into the back of a building and locked the door behind him. The fellow then produced a revolver and leveled it at Finney. He told Finney that he had killed two men with the gun. Then he asked the preacher if there was hope for a man so wicked as he. Finney assured him that there was hope for him in one place- in the forgiveness purchased by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
The man with the gun then told Finney that he owned the saloon that they were standing in. He said that men would spend their last dollar on booze, and he would sell it. Wives would come in and place their babies on the counter and beg him not to sell their husbands any more liquor. He would run them off. “Is there any hope for a sinner like me?” he asked. Finney assured him that there still was hope.
Then the man confessed, among other crimes and outrages, that he ran a crooked gambling hall in that saloon. He said, “A man leaves the saloon with some money left in his pocket, and we take his money away from him in our gambling hall. Men have gone out of that gambling den to commit suicide when their money, and perhaps entrusted funds, were all gone. Is there any hope for a man like me?’
Finney again told the man that their was hope for the repentant sinner in Christ. The man did repent. He spent the night smashing up his saloon and gambling club. In the morning he went home and for the first time became kind to his much-abused wife and daughter. The whole family joined the local church, and the man spent the rest of his life warning others of the evils of alcohol and gambling addiction.
That man was driven to repentance in part because he had to look into the faces of the men he cheated, and see the destructive effects of what he was selling. It is my view that politicians and lobbies and businesses who are pushing for programs financed by debt (such as the recent Medicaid expansion) are in worse spiritual condition than this man. They mean to loot the next generation in order to enrich themselves, but unlike him they will be insulated from the destruction they bring to families in the process.
The guilt this man felt for his wicked deeds brought him to repentance. Today outwardly respectable men push for gain by looting the next generation and feel no guilt at all. Instead, they commend themselves, and pass off what they are doing as some sort of good work! They are celebrated in the newspapers. They sit in churches every Sunday and the thought that they are doing anything they need to repent of never even crosses their minds. Truly, that former saloon and gambling hall owner, who killed two people and beat his wife and daughter, will gain entrance to the kingdom of Heaven before these men. Wicked though he was, he saw the harm he was doing and was moved to repent of his work. These men, who should know full well that the “good” they mean to do will be purchased with the misery of others, not only fail to feel guilty for their sins, but are actually proud of what they are doing!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Common Core Bad Kabuki Theater

I am physically nauseous as I write these words, but uber-liberal Max Brantley has a much more honest assessment of Governor Asa Hutchinson's statements and approach to Common Core than some of my conservative friends. It is not that Max is more honest than they are. I have found he is perfectly willing to distort the truth, even to the point of what can realistically be called lying, if that is what it takes to smear Republicans in general and conservatives in particular. The sad thing is that lately he has not had to resort to such tactics to make the Republicans look bad- he can make them look downright awful just by reporting what they are doing and offering the obvious conclusions about what it means.
Nor is Max smarter than my conservative friends. Sure he is clever, but the real difference is that a lot of them want to believe that all of these machinations and "listening tours" and rebrandings are all going to result in Arkansas abandoning Common Core. Brantley, whose powers of observation are in this case unhindered by such desires, can just add up the facts and come to an unemotional conclusion that its all a big show. He is only wrong when he is wrong, he is not wrong just because he is Brantley.
Others media outlets have also noted the obvious, that the elites here as in other states are just going to slap a new name on the program, add a state specific standard here or there, then try to sell the warmed-over product as something "new", just as they did with the "private" option. It is a tactic that is tired and transparent but is still useful because it is able to fool one subset of people - those who wish to be fooled.
Kicking the idea of our approach to Common Core off to this commission is simply a way to add a few Arkansas tweaks and give it a new name while retaining the core program. This is exactly what Hutchinson appears to be doing with Medicaid Expansion now that the Private Option has been unmasked. His commission chair for the Common Core task force is designated "Tea Party Betrayer" Tim Griffin, who came up through the ranks as a protege of Karl Rove. Karl Rove, leader of the group of elitist Republicans making war on the Tea Party, is a Bush guy, and they love centralization of education in all forms, including Common Core.
Hutchinson and the Republicans also went to extraordinary lengths to weaken the requirements for Education Director in order to shoe-horn former state senator Johnny Key into the position. Key is an ardent supporter of Common Core, and would not have been the pick if there was any doubt Hutchinson wanted the global standards implemented. If you watch what Asa Hutchinson does, rather than what he says, it's obvious the intention is to foist Common Core on us. The average person does not want it, but the elites do.
Sure the spin in the recent media reports are that he says he wants an "Arkansas Solution", but when you look into the details that is exactly what I and others have described. When he says there is "no preconceived outcome" I assure you he does not mean that whether or not Arkansas stays in Common Core is up in the air. He means that if we add a few additional standards to the mandated ones our ruling class have ordered us to include, that the content of those is not preconceived.
How can I know all of this? Listen to the man closely. In the link above he says "“I don’t know what the outcome will be,” Hutchinson told the panel Thursday. “It’s not preconceived, but I do expect high standards, high expectations for our students that are transparent, that we can measure where we are in reference to the competitive world, other states.”  Tell me how in the world we can refuse common core and still have results "that we can measure where we are in reference to the competitive world, other states"?  You can't. Its political double-talk.
I tire of listening to it, and I tire of people accepting it at face value when it is delivered at two-faced value. Not that I blame Governor Hutchinson personally. There are simply a lot of people who want to be lied to, and when there is a market for that, the need will be filled. If he did not do it, someone else would. The root problem is a population willing to accept such duplicity, the duplicitous politicians are merely a symptom, not the  cause of our troubles. The root cause is that too many of us have lost our love for the truth. When we love the truth more than the comfort of easy answers and pleasant falsehoods, then we will get it. If we are willing to accept less, we will have less.
That boils over to the way problems are solved. When Hutchinson says in the same article :
“I didn’t mind people on this panel, this task force, that had preconceived ideas. That’s life. That’s a part of our background, and if you’ve studied and thought about it, you have some preconceived ideas, but the most important criteria is that you’re open-minded and you’re willing to listen to the other side and willing to see facts and data and to adjust where you are. That is critically important, because otherwise you’re never going to arrive at a consensus.”
It tells me that he is using the Hegelian Dialectic as the method of "solving" the problem. That is, the purpose of the Commission is not to find the "right" answer. It is to reach "consensus" in an approach that takes the premise that there is no right or wrong answer, only a process of meeting in the middle. If I say 2+2 = 4 and someone else says that 2+2 = 22 what we do is meet in the middle and agree that 2+2 = 12. I am going to give you a link to this short article which describes exactly what is wrong with using this as the default method of problem "solving" and what the outcome must be if we don't change. If you want to understand what is happening to you, big picture, please read it.
I also strongly disagree with the Governor's claim that we can't let local school districts have primary control of setting their own standards because of the Arkansas Constitution. He said, "“We can’t say, ‘Well, we just want to give it all because we believe in local flexibility and local control,’” he said. “The constitution of Arkansas gives that responsibility to the state, and so we’ve got to have standards that are high and high expectations all across the state of Arkansas for every student.” .
You don't care more about those children than their parents Governor. Nor do you know more about what is good for them than their parents. Nor does the Arkansas Constitution mandate any such thing as you are claiming that it does, and if it did, why did we give school districts such wide latitude for the first 100 years after the state constitution was adopted? The only part of the constitution he could be talking about is Article 14 which reads:
"Intelligence and virtue being the safeguards of liberty and the bulwark of a free and good government, the State shall ever maintain a general, suitable and efficient system of free public schools and shall adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education."
Is centralized control, micro-management, and 85% or more of our standards being derived from an outside-of Arkansas group consistent with this passage? Are they going to agree with Arkansans as to what constitutes "virtue"? Is this "suitable"? Is centralized micro-management "efficient"? At most, this provision in the state constitution permits Arkansas to set "general" standards, while letting the districts pick their own. It does not mandate Common Core, even if it is renamed "Arkansas Core". If this provision mandates that the state is responsible for school standards then submitting to a Common Core actually violates this provision of the constitution, because it would outsource a function delegated to the state in the constitution to an outside group.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Is Arkansas' Ruling Class Involved in Massive Welfare Fraud?

"It's a scam." concluded Arkansas State Senator Bryan King (R) of Green Forrest when discussing Arkansas' recent Medicaid expansion under the so-called "Private" Option. King was recently featured in a Forbes article discussing the lack of eligibility verification, in violation of federal law, for participants in the program. King is the one who calmly laid out the numbers explaining why the costs of the "Private" Option are going to eat up virtually all projected growth in future state budgets and tie the hands of future legislators, leading to a fiscal train wreck in five years. His reward for actually looking at the numbers was to be removed as chairman of the joint budget committee, I presume so that the looting could continue without a lot of pesky questions.
It really does not matter whether you like the idea of expanding Medicaid or hate it.  It does not matter whether you want to help the poor, or want to eat the poor.   The fiscal reality is, neither the state nor the nation has the money to pay for it, promises to the contrary not-withstanding.   A person who says "we can't afford this" is not a heartless person, they are a realistic person.   They are a grown-up in a landscape of perpetual adolescents who think prices are evil and only exist to keep people from getting things.
What is really going on with this program is a perfect example of what Charles Hughes-Smith has been talking about, where the middle class and the upper middle class are being looted by an alliance between the political class (and the very rich who fund them) and the lower class. Since much of it is being paid for by debt via generational looting, the real bill will come due in their children and grandchildren's days.
In this case, the big players in Arkansas health insurance get a cut when someone signs up for the private option. The owners of the hospitals get a cut when those people come in for care. Hence the insurance and medical care lobbies favor the program. Those who own significant shares in companies in those markets tend to favor those programs. They are willing to give money to politicians who vote for those programs, thus benefiting the political class. DHS benefits when they "grow" the number of people in this program. Every time someone new is added to the program, eligible or not, all of these interests benefit from borrowing money against the credit of the children and grandchildren of today's middle and upper middle classes. It is the very top and the political class strip-mining the wealth of the middle by making a deal to expand welfare benefits to the lower classes.
But we are not here to cast blame on poor people who are in a desperate situation for health care and take what is offered them. Indeed, while individuals in this group may be committing welfare fraud by entering or staying on the program when they are not eligible for it, even those people don't have an incentive to look the other way when more and more ineligible people are enrolled in the program. The other interests I mentioned do have such an incentive. The more people on the rolls, eligible or not, the more money or power they get. They have an incentive to sign up everyone possible, eligible or not, and basically encourage welfare fraud by empowering a system which neglects to perform mandatory eligibility screening. This is what the Senator was referring to, particularly with respect to government officials, when he called the "Private" Option a "scam."
What about the rest of that list? Are various members of what might be called our ruling class encouraging welfare fraud as part of an effort to maximize their profits? Are they scam artists? Well, the Forbes article paints a very bleak picture of the screening process for this handout. It is consistent with the idea that since the (borrowed) money is presently all coming from Washington, they are just signing up everyone they can, eligible or not, so that they can get some of that "free" money that our children will be expected to pay back.
In addition, Wallet Hub has rated Arkansas dead last in the nation when it comes to return in government services for tax dollars spent. That is a sign that our ruling class is more rapacious than the ruling class of other states when it comes to skimming dollars off of government programs for their own benefit. Plus the "Private" Option has had consistent cost over-runs, because of course you can't have Medicaid Expansion with private insurance companies taking a cut for standing in the middle as cheaply as you can just have Medicaid expansion.
All of this circumstantial evidence and more point to an attitude of "Washington is handing out free money, let's go get as much of it as we can any way possible for as long as it lasts" in the ruling class of our state. I mean legislators, Governors, High-level bureaucrats, and certain Big Business interests. This attitude disregards then underlying long term costs or ethics or morality of the cash-grab.
The solution to such a wretched state of affairs is an old-fashioned word that is much out of favor in a post-truth age: repentance. The ruling class of this state, those that may be participating in this particular legalized theft, should repent of their deeds. Those of us who have been sitting on the sidelines letting them do this ought to repent of our complacency and inaction. The alternative is for the looting to continue until the middle and upper middle class in this state has been preyed upon to extinction, and the loot gained thereby enjoyed by each member of the ruling class for perhaps thirty years or so until at last the day comes that they have to explain their actions before a Righteous God.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Arkansas Dead Last in Return of Services for State and Local Taxes Paid

Wallet Hub did a study to determine how much people "get their money's worth" for their state and local taxes paid. That is, how much we get from taxes vs. how much we pay in taxes. The results could be viewed as how "efficient" our state and local governments are at turning tax revenues into government services such as highways. Conversely, they could be a function of how much graft and corruption is costing taxpayers. Arkansas was dead last in the rankings. That is to say, we get the very lowest return in the nation for our taxes paid.
Our taxes are among the worst in the nation. 40th out of 50 according to the chart. If we are in the bottom ten because our taxes are among the ten highest, you would expect that at least our government services would also be among the ten highest- if we pay a lot at least we should get a lot. Sadly, the reverse is true. We are 48th in government services provided. In spite of being in the top ten in what we pay to state and local government, we are in the bottom three in terms of what we get from state and local government.
The liberals at the Arkansas Times tried to make this a red/blue thing, implying that the problem was that we are now a red state. They could be a decent independent news organization if they were not so ridiculously dishonest about things like this. We have only been "red" a short while, and this study measured local governments too, many of which are still blue. This is not a red/blue problem in my view. The problem as I see it is that our present ruling class (red or blue makes no difference) is more rapacious in their looting of the populace compared to the ruling class of other states and/or our populace is more docile and willing to put up with being looted. Until one or both of those things change I don't see it getting better.
Much of our low ranking comes from the poor return we get on highway dollars spent, yet the population recently voted to raise their own sales taxes to give the same highway commission system more money to inefficiently spend. The problem with "democracy" is that we get the government than the average voter deserves. Arkansans are familiar with the idea of repentance as a religious concept. It is essential to the Christian faith.  Maybe it is time we "repented" of giving our consent to be governed by the folks that have brought us here and instead give someone new a chance so that we might leave a better Arkansas to our children.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Judge Shopping Machinations on Homosexual Marriage Case

In a very depressing sign of what our courts have become (bench-legislators separated from all sense of original intent and perfectly willing to use the courts to hammer through their personal feelings on a matter into a quasi-law) here is an Arktimes article on some of the maneuvering to decide who will hear a case on formal recognition of homosexual relationships as marriage. It is hard for me to see how an individual has a "right" to formal public approval for their relationship, especially when such "approval" is mandated by a court instead of passed by referendum or at least legislation from "the people's branch."

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Sorting Through the Noise on Religious Freedom' Bills

“Private property, not democracy, is the great guarantor of prosperity and liberty. And because it decentralizes power, it safeguards us from madmen with utopian hallucinations.”
–Thomas Sowell
“Creating false distinctions between human rights and property rights plays into the hands of Democrat and Republican Party socialists who seek to control our lives. If we buy into the notion that somehow property rights are less important, or are in conflict with, human or civil rights, we give the socialists a freer hand to attack our property.”
Walter E. Williams
****************************************************************
Rarely have I seen an issue so misunderstood and misinterpreted by all sides as I have in this struggle over what happened on HB 1228. If you don’t know what is contained in this story, I daresay you do not understand what happened on this issue. Any effort to set the record straight and accurately inform the people of this state of what has really happened to them must start outside the state.
Colorado has a law which treats homosexuals as a “protected class”, meaning that it is not legal to “discriminate” against them on that basis. Many bakeries are small family businesses. In Colorado, some of them were owned by Christians who did not want to bake and design a cake to celebrate a homosexual “marriage.”  The homosexuals have taken to suing such small businesses in Colorado on the basis of discrimination, and courts have supported such suits by fining the bakeries out of business or even threatening prison time for bakers who refuse to serve homosexual “weddings” in violation of their conscience.
In Arkansas there is no such law which makes sexual orientation the basis for a protected civil rights status. Because of that, no such suit could stand here. Late last year though, the city council of Fayetteville passed a city ordinance which would set up a “Civil Rights” commission, just like in Colorado, which would hear claims of “discrimination” based on sexual orientation. The commission could have issued fines, more limited in nature than the Colorado law permitted, but still sizable.
I say “could have” because the people of Fayetteville, both church and business community, petitioned to have the matter put before a vote of the people, as is possible under their city charter. The ordinance was reversed by a vote of the people. In addition, one of the city council spots was filled by a candidate who ran against the ordinance.
So when the legislative session got underway, there was no threat to violation of conscience such as occurred in Colorado. Christian bakeries could refuse to serve homosexual “weddings”, and as far as state law was concerned atheists could refuse to serve Baptist revivals, black-owned bakeries could turn away business for Klan rallies, Muslims could refuse to serve Bar Mitsvahs, and Jews could refuse to cater an event at a Hog Farm. Basically, if you owned a business you had the right to refuse service to anyone.  There was no state law describing the circumstances under which an Arkansan could be forced to violate their religious conscience. We had a state right to free association, a right to freedom of religion, and use of our property as it related to the same, and no state law put any boundaries on that.
People these days, conservative, liberal, or whatever, are so insecure, and so government oriented, that whenever something pops up in the news they think the answer is to pass another law. There was no need for another law. The issue had been handled by the people, where it ought to have been handled. There were only a few towns in the state even willing to consider such a law, and if any of them had tried it the market would have punished them for their idiocy as businesses, citizens and customers gravitated to towns without a bunch of little city commissars handing out fines for not being PC-enough.
Not only that, but as we will see, adding laws such as these often serves as a two-edged sword. Still, the uproar caused by the events surrounding the Colorado and Fayetteville incidents led some legislators to decide that they had to “do something” about the threat to “religious freedom.” Senator Bart Hester filed SB 202 and Representative Bob Ballinger filled HB 1228. Though I don’t doubt their intentions, I saw no reason why either bill was necessary. I saw several reasons why each bill was a risk and those risks are blowing up on us faster than I anticipated.
SB 202 stipulated that counties and cities could not pass civil rights ordinances for any class not protected in state law. That meant that the power to decide who got civil rights protection was centralized. It passed from the cities to the state. I don’t think that is a bad idea because I am a localist, I am a localist because stuff like that is a bad idea.  I am from a very traditional town, Pea Ridge. They would not be partial to recognizing homosexual relationships as marriage. An hour down the road is Eureka Springs, which has an official City Registry to recognize such marriages. Pea Ridge is not like Eureka Springs, and neither of them are like Little Rock. Why try to make the rules the same when the people who live there don’t believe in the same things?
Look, if we are non-neurotic enough to sleep well at night even though people we don’t know in a city we don’t visit are doing things differently, then maybe we have got a chance to be free.  “The bar for everybody should be set by law exactly where I feel it should be” is simply not a rational position. If we just can’t stand it unless distant strangers are forced to live by the rules we want for them, then why exactly should we be free? After all, that attitude is one of a petulant child dictator who does not believe in freedom for anyone else, so why do they deserve it for themselves?
Senator Hester cited ease of commerce in his bill. OK, having a patchwork of laws might slow things down a bit, at least for giant chains. It won’t affect local business. But this raises the question of who decides what our laws are and for whom are they written? Are our laws written to reflect the real beliefs and values of the real persons who have to live under them, or are they written for the benefit of giant corporations which may or may not move to the area? Snatching all the power to make such ordinances from the localities and concentrating that power in Little Rock was, in my opinion, unjustified by the events which transpired in Fayetteville even if they hadn’t quickly fixed their issues themselves.
That brings us to HB 1228, which many mistakenly believed would give Arkansas business owners some kind of new permission to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. It would not have done that and Representative Ballinger said so on national television. The reason it did not grant such permission is that up to that point there was no Arkansas or Federal law that implied that people even needed such permission.They were already able to do what some people think this bill would have “allowed” them to do. They had an undefined amount of freedom of conscience in that area. All HB 1228 did was take that undefined amount of religious freedom property owners had in this area of life and start putting boundaries on it! The bill subjected such previously undefined freedom to freedom that could be removed when it was in “a compelling government interest”, whatever that is, so long as such freedom was removed in the “least restrictive manner.”
In that sense HB 1228 started the process of reducing religious freedom, and that was before the PC-police started jacking with it! Just because a bill is named a “religious freedom” bill does not mean that its content and actual effect would be to increase religious freedom. What this did instead was attempt to define a previously undefined amount of freedom.
Let me stop right here because everyone was tripping over themselves saying that they did not want the bill to be “discriminatory.” That has become one of those poisoned words that you can’t tell the truth about  because the more thoughtless members of our populace have been conditioned to think that it is always bad to be “discriminatory”. The truth is more complicated than such slogans allow for. Sometimes it is good to be “discriminating” and if we did not use our judgement to discriminate between good and bad we really couldn’t even function in everyday life. What matters is not whether one is “discriminating” or not, but whether the basis of one’s discrimination is just or unjust.
I will go farther, discriminating on an unjust basis is wrong, but if the issue is whether you want to use your own property to serve someone, why should it be a matter for the law?  If I refuse to make you a cake for some event to which I have religious objections I have not with-held from you anything to which you have a natural right. This is because I am not your, or the state’s, slave. You don’t have aright to compel my labor. By putting out my shingle, I am just saying I want to engage in voluntarycommercial transactions. Hanging out that shingle does not remove the “voluntary” part. Everyone that walks in that door and asks for a custom cake, the baker has to decide if they want the job and the customer has to decide if they want to pay the price. When both sides agree, a voluntary transaction occurs, and that is what the baker is soliciting when they open their doors to the public. Its not a commitment to take every proposal that walks in the door.
OK, but Mark are you suggesting we allow a business to discriminate based on say, race? I think it is repugnant for a business to refuse to serve on the basis of race. I would want to know who there were so I could boycott them. The thing is, under current law, you can’t tell who the racists are because they “hide in the closet”. They make up some other reason to deny service, or they give shoddy service or resort to some other ploy because they are bound by law for saying what their real motives are for not wanting to do business with, or hire, someone. You and I may be doing business with someone like that right now simply because they are compelled by law to conceal who they are. Nevertheless I don’t have to consider that question here, because this is discrimination based on behavior.
If Starbucks or Apple do not want to do business with me as a traditional, orthodox Christian, then they should not be compelled to. I will just get my over-priced beverages and smart phones elsewhere (note: I am not saying that is the actual policy of these two companies). The right to use my property and my labor as I see fit is also a civil rights issue. The two black guys I quote to start this article agree with me on that (both of those “guys” are also economics professors at two of the most prestigious universities in the country).  I wonder if we did not go so far in our national repulsion with our mistreatment of black Americans that we started down a slippery slope that threatens the property rights and rights of conscience of all Americans of all colors.
But I digress. I was talking about how a previously open-ended and undefined right got bounded by HB 1228. With HB 1228 such rights became subject to “compelling state interest”. I object to this, for there is no state interest more compelling than the individual right of conscience in the use of their labor and property. Still, even that was too much freedom of conscience for the PC-left. They objected that the boundaries set were still too broad precisely because it protected Christians from being dragooned into service of homosexual celebrations by private interests.
To show you what a farce this whole thing is, the federal version of the “Religious Freedom” act only protected you from the government forcing you to violate your conscience on their behalf, unless there was a “compelling state interest” for the government to do so. It did not explicitly protect you from the government forcing you to violate your conscience on the behalf of someone else-for example a member of what the government felt was a “persecuted” group such as homosexuals traumatically denied the services of a Christian baker for their “wedding”. That is why the language in the federal bill by itself was so worthless that Bill Clinton could support it, and Barack Obama could and did support it. The government can simply use some private interest as their surrogate and the protections in the language of the law could be negated.
Some courts had ruled that since the federal Religious Freedom Act barred the government (without a “compelling state interest”) from dragooning you into their service in violation of your conscience, it could not do so to dragoon you into the service of a private individual either, but that point was in dispute and not in the text of the federal law. Ballinger put it into the text of HB 1228. Governor Asa Hutchinson did an about-face and refused to sign the bill over that amount of difference. Hutchinson did not want even that tiny amount of variation of state law language from federal law language, so much has he become a DC-man.
Hutchinson made like it was a family chat with his son Seth that caused him to change his mind on the bill because of the “generation gap” of a measure he called “divisive.” Seth Hutchinson himself has been quoted as saying he only had a small part in changing his father’s mind. Global corporations have taken sides in the American Culture Wars, and for the most part they have sided against traditional American culture (and why not, they are global, not American). Wal-Mart called Hutchinson up and told him not to sign the bill. The people who voted for him were mostly asking him to sign the bill. He did what Wal-Mart asked him to do, not what the people who voted for him told him to do.
If it had stopped there, I would be OK with it. Like I told you, we did not need either of these bills and I did not want either of the bills. We could already do everything HB 1228 said we could do when this thing started. I was worried that once they started regulating it, once they started putting boundaries on it, what was once open and free would shrink to a smaller and smaller area of allowable dissent from the norm (i.e. – a smaller amount of freedom). Sure enough that is what happened, I thought it would take years but HB 1228 did not even have dry ink on it before it happened. Hutchinson said he wanted another bill with the provisions which went beyond the worthless provisions in the federal version of the bill removed.
Unfortunately, Ballinger and most of the rest of the captured Republicans compliantly obliged the Governor. They weakened a bill that was already at the very best only no better than what we already had concerning the controversy which prompted it. I have no idea what Jerry Cox of the Family Council is talking about when he describes this bill (SB 975) as a “victory” or a “Cadillac.” Bills don’t do what their title says they do just because its in the title. The bill was a defeat, a set-back, for people who believe in religious liberty and freedom of conscience and a minor victory for those who want to continue to use government compulsion rather than reason and persuasion, to win the argument over the public recognition of homosexual relationships as “marriage.”

Thursday, March 05, 2015

New School Standards Mean the Eviscertation of US History

Want to know what your students are learning in public high schools?  Just take a look at the new Arkansas Department of Education frameworks or requirements for high school graduation. 
 
The new 2016 graduation requirement for United States History calls only for teaching American History since 1890.  Early American history is no longer necessary.  No Jamestown Colony in Virginia.  No Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.  Gone is the expectation that the students learn the reasons for the American colonies to separate from Great Britain to form a new country called the USA.  Gone is the need to study the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Jefferson presidency, including the Louisiana Purchase.  Apparently we don’t need to know about the rise of laissez-faire capitalism and the 1776 book entitled Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.  
 
No more studying of the War of 1812 or the Monroe Doctrine.  Age of Jackson? – poof!  Gone.  Doesn’t matter anymore.  Westward expansion of the United States and Manifest Destiny – nope, not part of the new Arkansas program.  The Civil War – Lincoln – Reconstruction of the South?  Not important either.  We will also skip the study of failed experiments of utopian socialism.
 
Our students will also not learn about the Second Industrial Revolution with the advancements in technology and transportation.  No study of the steam engine, canals, highways, railroads, the telegraph and telephone, barbed wire fences, the Oliver plow, or the McCormick reaper. 
 
The year 1890 started a period of American history known as Progressivism.  Apparently learning about Progressivism is a critical place to start for the decision-makers at the Arkansas Department of Education. 
 
It is not only U.S. History that is seriously being dumbed down.  A high school course in American Government is no longer a graduation requirement.  Civics is still required – and that course is usually taken in 8th or 9th grade.  No longer will there be intensive study of the U.S. Constitution, and the powers of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government.  No more study of the checks and balances that were put in place to curb governmental excesses.  An intensive study of the Bill of Rights is no longer deemed necessary.  The major U.S Supreme Court cases that have changed the course of America prior to 1890 are now consigned to the dustbin of history.
 
But wait, there’s more!  Advanced Placement (AP) courses are designed to grant college credit to students who do well on the end-of-course exams.  My Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) students were the top performers in the state of Arkansas in 2014.  Unfortunately, APUSH is now aligned with Common Core.  As a result, the learning of facts has been de-emphasized.  The new focus is on process – analyzing and comparing documents to come up with meaning.  The new dumbed-down approach is so controversial, that the State of Oklahoma is moving to eliminate APUSH from its public school offerings.
 
Oh, one other thing.  The new 2016 Arkansas graduation requirement calls for World History to cover only the period from 1450 to present.  No more study of the Babylonian and Chaldean Empires.  No study of the ancient civilizations of China, India, or Egypt.  Can’t be bothered with the Greco-Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great.  No need to study the Roman Empire either.  And we can conveniently skip the founding and violent spread of Islam, the Dark Ages of Medieval Europe, the conquering hordes of Asia that penetrated Europe, the Vikings, William the Conqueror of Normandy, and the signing of the Magna Carta. 
 
Apparently learning all the stuff I listed is considered to be just too much for Arkansas students.  Or perhaps there is another agenda at work here.  The fewer facts that Arkansas students know, the easier it is to manipulate them as adults.  Removing the understanding of the foundations of American government allows future adults to be deceived regarding the function of government. 
 
Does the Arkansas Legislature have any idea about what the State Department of Education is doing?  Does the governor know?  How can we be comfortable producing educated but ignorant students?  We do know this much – that if the Legislature and the Governor do nothing to fix the rewriting of history and government educational requirements for high school graduation, then by default they approve of the new dumbed-down standards. 
 
                                                                                                                   – Brutus
*****************
 
“Brutus” is a former businessman and newspaper columnist who is now an Arkansas high school teacher with classes in American History, American Government, and Economics.  He has a B.A. in Economics and an M.Ed. in Secondary Education, with graduate studies in Law.  He was a state legislative intern as a college student and has worked on several political campaigns.  He has also served as a school board member and a city council chairman.   
 
*****************
“The bottom line is the farther  decisions are made from home, the more tyrannical those decisions become.” – Brutus

Monday, February 16, 2015

It is Better to Know Nothing at all About State Government than to Know Only What Steve Barnes Tells You

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” 
― Thomas Jefferson

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” 
― Thomas Jefferson

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

Thomas Jefferson reasoned that a person who reads nothing at all at least does not have a head full of misinformation which would have to be swept away before the actual facts of some matter were learned, but a person who read only the newspapers would first have to be disabused of all of the errors and mis-education which they had acquired via reading the newspapers.  After reading the recent Steve Barnes column "Arkansas to end Alternative Obamacare Program for the Poor" I know what ole' Tommy Jeff meant. I don't have time to break down all of Barnes' inaccuracies, so I will just deconstruct the first two paragraphs for you, just to give you a taste of how bad it is.
Barnes writes: "Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has signed legislation that will end by 2017 the state’s innovative but controversial adaptation of the Affordable Care Act, which has provided nearly 190,000 residents with health coverage."
Well, Asa Hutchinson is serving as Governor, so there is some fact in there.  But the "state's innovative but controversial adaptation" of Obamacare was already slated to end by 2017.  The state was granted a temporary waiver to build this facade in front of Medicaid Expansion to give it the look and feel of private insurance.  The temporary waiver expires at the end of 2016 and the bill does not change that. So the bill, SB 96, does not tear down this facade any earlier than it would come down anyway.  

What the bill does is say that if the state cannot agree on how to build a new facade in front of the state's Medicaid Expansion, then the underlying Medicaid expansion goes away as well. Some legislators are beating their chests saying that the vote for SB 96 is a vote for "ending Medicaid expansion" but a more holistic look at the bill paints a different picture. While it does establish a possible end-date for Medicaid Expansion eventually, it does so only after doing everything possible to build political momentum to a new facade so that Medicaid Expansion will be retained. More details on what SB 96 really does here.

When Barnes writes that the Affordable Care Act "has provided nearly 190,000 residents with health coverage" he at least gets part of the story right.  The act itself did not provide the coverage though, rather the act authorized spending money that the government did not and does not have to pay for the coverage.  The money was borrowed from the next generation, so it may be more complete to say that the Act authorized the confiscation of the future earnings of todays babies and children in order to pay for the health care of able-bodied adults today.  

His phrasing, while typical of today's media, seems to ascribe God-like powers to a piece of legislation to actually provide things. Instead it merely did what all legislation does- describe who gets goodies and who has to pay for it. The next generation is who should get the credit for providing health care coverage to today's able-bodied adults.  The Affordable Care Act, via the "private" option, is just the means by which those kids are being robbed to pay for the coverage. 

That leads into his next paragraph, which continues to erroneously describe the Affordable Care Act itself as magically providing the money for the healthcare.....
Arkansas' "private option" plan uses federal funds from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to purchase medical insurance for some low-income individuals, rather than assigning them to the state's Medicaid program.
Not only that, he implies that Arkansans who sign up for the "private" option are not a part of the state's Medicaid program.  In doing so he repeats the falsehood of those legislators who insisted that the "private" option was not Medicaid expansion.  The so-called "private" option is a Medicaid program, just one which has a couple of waivers from the traditional Medicaid program.  It is like when Blue Cross offered HSA insurance in addition to their traditional product.  Customers who signed up were still with Blue Cross, just a different program.  

In the same way people who sign up for the "private" option are still on Medicaid, just a different Medicaid plan that the traditional one.  The new plan has a facade built in front of it to make it look and feel like private insurance, even though its Medicaid money (ironically, Arkansas Blue Cross is one of those companies forming the facade, and getting a cut in the process) Because Barnes seems unwilling to admit that the "private" option is really just the Medicaid Expansion called for under Obamacare dressed in a hat and sunglasses he has to write like these are two different things.  

It is no wonder Arkansans are picking the kind of people they have for public office, if this is the kind of mis-information and mis-education they are getting from the state media. (For a more humorous look at my views on Arkansas newspapers click here) We are not going to get better government until we either get a better media, or quit listening to the one mis-informing us.

Forum Over Article V Convention, Mark Moore vs. Randy Alexandar

Recently the Washington County Tea Party had a forum over whether they should support an Article V convention to amend the constitution.  I argued against it until we had both a state legislature and a Congress we could trust.  Former State Representative Randy Alexander argued that the time is now. Here is the link to the main part of the meeting.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Article V Convention Debate: Conventions, Courts, Constitutions, and Congress

Thirty minute audio...

Mark visits with Antone Blansett about both Article V conventions in general....and the specific proposal from "Compact for America".

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Asa Care and Celebrating Generational Looting

It looks like the Governor is among those Republicans who believe they are the first ones in history smart enough to make socialism work.  But as Margaret Thatcher observed, the problem with socialism is that pretty soon you run out of other people's money.  The solution today's politicians have hit upon is to use the next generation's money to finance their extravagance.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sorting Through the Noise on SB 96 and THE REAL PROBLEM

"When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” - Thomas Sowell

I would ask you to keep the above quote in mind, my fellow citizens, and forgive me if some of the things I write today have too fine a point. I ask that you look past any discomfort my words may cause.  Judge me not according to any sting you might feel from what I say. My words are true and my motives in writing them are not to hurt you, but to help you.  If you must judge me, I ask that you do so on that basis.

First of all, Governor Asa Hutchinson's plans set the stage for continued Medicaid expansion under Obamacare in Arkansas. I think what he wants is going to be something halfway between Romneycare and the Obamacare program which it inspired. He has not said this outright, but if you think this through, as we will together later on, then it is clear that he does. For those supporters of his who would protest that I should not put words in his mouth, I will keep it short:  He has only himself to blame. If the man does not want people speculating about what he wants then he should get off the fence and say what he wants in plain English.

So, the answer from our ruling class, after all of this, is more government. This even though the voters have made it crystal clear in multiple elections that they did not want into Obamacare to begin with, and they have voted to take us out of it ever since. This continues a long tradition of the Democrats expanding government, and Republicans elected to reduce it instead deciding they should expand it too, but more efficiently. There is your choice America, And you say we don't really have self-government anymore.

When you look beneath the shell games, this Medicaid expansion simply borrows money from the next generation in order to subsidize health insurance for able-bodied adults.  Further, the program is not sustainable because the money to pay for it does not exist and never existed. When today's politicians max out the credit capacity of your children the world will quit loaning us money and this and other unaffordable government will end (badly). The hospitals, the Obama administration, and others who are raking in the extra money love it.

If you think this is good public policy, you should support the Governor's program, if you think its a bad idea you should oppose it.  The only thing I would fault you for is if you supported something (or were silent about something) that you were formerly actively against just because now the Governor wants it.

The administration and many legislators are going around telling people that Hutchinson's plans will "end the private option."   Much like when Bill Clinton said that he did not have "sexual relations" with Monica Lewinsky, they are not technically lying, you just have to listen to them really, really, closely.  The so-called "private" option was a specific set of temporary waivers applied to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.  Those waivers are temporary and go away anyway at the end of 2016.  If nothing else replaces them, then as it stands we go to the standard Medicaid expansion without any special waivers.

When conservative grassroots objected that the "private" option was Medicaid expansion, certain Republican legislators swore up and down that it wasn't.  Over time, it became obvious they were not being honest about that.  Now the Hutchinson plan comes along and says that we should get a study group together so that when the collection of temporary waivers known as the "private" option expire they can ask for a different set of waivers.  If the legislature accepts those waivers, Medicaid expansion stays, they just change the tweaks attached to it.

If that happens, everyone upset at the "private" option should still be upset.  That is because they were not upset at the tweaks to Medicaid expansion called the "private" option, they were upset at what was being tweaked- Medicaid expansion.  Keeping the same program with different tweaks does not address the underlying objection, but some legislators are using a verbal shell game to mislead their constituents about what is really going on.

But does the Hutchinson bill, SB96 run by his close relative Senator Jim Hendren, really aide the cause of Medicaid expansion, or does it provide a path to end Medicaid expansion?  There have been claims both ways.  What is the answer?  Like the Governor's intent, it is opaque and difficult to sort out, but I believe the best answer is that the bill provides a possible way to end Medicaid expansion a few months before it would end anyway at the potential risk of providing it a pathway making it permanent (at least until it helps bankrupt us).

Sen. Hendren argues that his bill is the only way to repeal Medicaid expansion that can get enough votes to pass.   If you are not thinking it through, his claim sounds plausible, and it may well be that he himself believes it.   Consider that the legislature has three main factions on this issue now.  One is mostly the Democrats, who will agree to any Medicaid expansion that the Obama Administration will approve, including one without special waivers.   There are a lot more Republicans than Democrats in the legislature but they are split between a second group, those who take the position of most voters in this state (no to any sort of Obamacare Medicaid expansion) and a third group who feel that they are the first people in human history smart enough to make socialism work.  That last group consists of what is left of the group that supported the Private Option and others who think that while those waivers did not work out, maybe others will.  I believe the Governor to be in this category as well, and so a lot of legislators who were in the firm "no" category are going over to the "let's grow government smarter" category.

So is Hendren right?  Is SB 96 the best way to end Medicaid expansion given the make up of the legislature? Here is the flaw in that thinking: His bill funds Medicaid expansion until the waivers required to pass it in the first place end anyway.  Hendren says that without the repeal in SB96 that once the waivers expire we will be stuck with standard Medicaid expansion with no tweaks (waivers).  I would answer "for how long though"?  Only until the next legislature sat down in January of 2017.   If the Governor's office said "no waivers" then the Democrats would be isolated.   The group of Republicans who opposed this from the start, and the group who would only vote for Medicaid expansion if they got to tinker with it, would be against going on with the program.  The Republican party would be re-united, and in a way that pleases the majority of the voters.

The provision in Hendren's bill to shut down Medicaid at the end of 2016 is little more than a fig leaf.  It gives those who really want to shut it down next to nothing, while the rest of his bill undermines them terribly.  A glance at the bill shows that supporters of the original "private" option will pick the lion's share of the "Task Force" members who will give recommendations. A best case scenario for Hendren's bill would be if it shut down the Medicaid expansion a couple of months earlier than would happen anyway without his bill.   The worst case scenario seems more likely- that it keeps factions one and three above working together and isolates those who are listening to the voters and want to end this thing now.

Further proof that Hutchinson wants some sort of Medicaid expansion and that those who support SB 96 are (wittingly or unwittingly) helping him, is the way they have blocked alternative bills that really did wind down Medicaid expansion.  I am talking about SB 144 by Linda Collins-Smith and a similar measure in the house sponsored by Donnie Copeland.   Those bills never got out of committee.

Senator Hendren says a bill that Private Option supporters can vote for is the only kind of bill that can pass. Even if that is true, if Senator Hendren really does want to shut down Medicaid as he claims, then he and the rest should do everything they can to get those bills re-filled and voted on by the full house and senate.  If he is wrong and one of those bills passes, Medicaid expansion is gone sooner, before it further distorts our medical infrastructure.  But even if he is right and the bills fail, having a vote will give the voters valuable information on who they need to target.  We can't tell a thing about all those freshmen or potential flip-floppers by how they vote on SB 96, because as the Senator himself says, it is a bill that even those who want Medicaid to stay swollen can vote for.  We the People can get him the most help if there is a floor vote on those kinds of alternatives.
******
And now we get to the real point of the article.  The part you may not care for because it may require change of you, and not just them.  The aspect of this drama that is most shocking to many people watching is the speed and even ferocity with which many of the formerly most steadfast opponents of Medicaid expansion are lining up behind the Governor's plan, even though that plan is, when properly analyzed as above, pro-Medicaid expansion.  Why are they flipping, or at the least, why are they so reluctant to see what the rest of us can see?

The answer is simple, the Governor is of their own party now.  It was bad when a Democrat was doing it, but now that it is a member of their own party doing it, well, as Upton Sinclair once noted "it is hard to get a man to see something when his salary depends on him not seeing it."  There place in the party hierarchy, in being in "the club" depends upon them not seeing it. That explains why some legislators have been lashing out at people who point to the widening gap between how these legislators wish to see themselves and what they are actually doing. 

The point is that when a legislator's party holds the Governorship or the Presidency, the typical response of legislators is that they don't really need constituents anymore- they work for the Executive branch. Thus it is that the People's Branch, that entity most accessible to the citizens, becomes lost to them. This is how the unitary party system, where the same organization sends up candidates for all branches of government at all levels of government, undermines the formal system of checks and balances established by the Founders to protect the American people from their government.

The bottom line is that if you want your legislators to represent you instead of the Governor, you are going to have to quit electing them via the same political organization which elects the executive branch.   You will have to elect them as, for example, independents.   Until you do, the effect you see right now on this issue will keep happening over and over and over.  I am a part of Neighbors of Arkansas, a group which helps independent candidates who answer only to their constituents and not a party label run from DC. I ask you to consider signing up.