Friday, February 16, 2018

Gov. Has Difficulty Getting Needed Votes Once Criminals Removed From Senate

I was amused to read this article from Arktimes talking about the need for a targeted special session to address specific issues, including possibly the re-authorization of funding for Medicaid expansion. The latter takes a 3/4ths majority, and at times over the past six years the margin has been close in the senate. This may be in part because Arkansas' version of Medicaid expansion has operated very much like a giant welfare scam.

There are three empty seats in the senate this special session. At least part of the reason is scandal. You might not be surprised to learn that the missing votes- including those driven from office because they got caught committing crimes, are people who would have voted for the scam program. Those missing voters from criminals who have been caught will hurt the Governor's chances. For some reason, the criminal vote supported his program! He may have to put the vote off until after special elections fill those seats with votes for his program- if it goes down that way.

The federal courts? The legislature continues to blow them off whenever they want. Judge Moody declared Arkansas' ballot access laws requiring independents to file their petition signatures unreasonably early to be unconstitutional. So filing period is about to start and our laws as they stand are unconstitutional. Yet there has been zero talk of adding bills for ballot access laws to the proposed special session. The courts are trying to defer to the legislature and give them every chance to do the right thing, but they don't seem interested.

Is Big River Steel Losing Money?

As some of you may remember, a few years back Governor Mike Beebe, with overwhelming support from our "pro-free market" Republican legislators, voted to shovel an incredible amount of money to a private business for them to start a steel mill in Northeast Arkansas. They even risked the teacher's pension fund by directing it to buy $50 million dollars worth of stock in this start-up. In 2013 I described that deal in an article entitled "Beebe Overbids the Most."

Obviously, I was against the anti-free market, crony-capitalist proposal but I don't count because I am just a regular person like you. The only difference is you complain about these things on Facebook and I write them down in a blog before I complain about them on Facebook.  The people who matter right now are officials of the Republican and Democratic parties.  This is because people like you keep voting for them, and participating in their primaries. Please stop doing that. They are destroying our state by your permission. But I digress.

The leadership of both political parties, in their superior wisdom, were united in deciding to blow us peasants off and do it anyway. Well, by the time the plant got operational in 2015 steel prices had collapsed due to massive oversupply as I documented here. This was perfectly predictable because taxpayers consistently get ripped off in these "pubic-private partnerships".

Now its 2018 and there is still a massive oversupply of steel globally. The U.S. is considering draconian steel tariffs that experts assure us will initiate a costly global trade-war. It is a risky and desperate move but it may be necessary to save what is left of our steel industry.

So does anyone know if "Big River Steel" is making a profit? A real profit, not a number pumped up by all those wheel-barrows of your tax dollars that they dumped into it? If they are not making a profit what is the value of the $50 million dollars in stock now? Bear in mind that last August they borrowed $1.255 Billion which was secured by their assets. At least some of that was for "working capital." If you are not expanding, and they are not, then why do you need to borrow money for "working capital" if you are making a profit? The answers may be hard to find because the mill seems to be owned by a private LLC that Bloomberg financial can't even find an address or phone number for.

This has all the classic signs of the instances where the insiders get a huge amount of capital raise, use it to buy stuff and then borrow against that stuff, and then give themselves large salaries and bonuses until it becomes clear that the operation was never really making a profit and was operating on borrowed money, a significant portion of which was skimmed by those operating it before it collapsed and left shareholders with nothing. Not say that is what is happening here, but if it was, this is what it would look like at this point.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

A Welcome Change in Tone After Lawsuit

As some of you know, I recently won a long and arduous law suit with the state over a ballot access law which unfairly discriminated against independents by moving the date they were required to submit ballot access petitions up to an unnecessarily early date. This date had been ruled unconstitutional several times before yet it still took four years of battling to get it thrown out.

Technically, the ruling just applied to me. I am permitted to file my petitions after the legal deadline and the law is declared unconstitutional- meaning the legislature should change it. Of course if it is wrong to hold me to that early date, it should be wrong to hold anyone else to it also. Initially the Secretary of State's office was a bit cagey, and frankly snarky, about the issue of how they would handle it if anyone else wanted to file petition signatures on the later, and constitutional, deadline.

It is my thinking that the Secretary has had a talk with the more partisan members of his staff because a follow-up article by Steve Brawner quoted them as saying "the new deadline is May 1st" for everyone. The difference in tone is pronounced. I invite you to read their original response in this link and compare it to the one in the Brawner article linked to above.

Taxing Americans to Pay Chinese Communists to Hire Some of Us

Government cannot, on the net, "create jobs". At its best it can only provide optimal conditions for those in the private sector to create jobs secure in the knowledge that no one, including the state itself, will loot the wealth that they generate by doing so. The other thing government can do is take capital from a large area and dump it in a small one, then loudly point to the jobs created where the capital was dumped while ignoring the job loss and economic drag produced in the larger area which was robbed of the capital. This happens a lot. The politicians who go around talking about what they will do to "create jobs" are either ignorant of basic economics or disingenuous. Many are both.

I was against corporate welfare when Mike Beebe did it with Big River "Steal" and the Windstream Fiasco. I was against it when Barack Obama did it with the Solyndra Scam, and I am also against it when Governor Asa Hutchinson does it on behalf of Chinese Communists/Cronies. If these projects were compelling ideas, someone in the private sector would do them with private capital and without looting the taxpayers. The taxpayer costs of the Shandong Sun paper mill proposed in Clark County are outrageous. These global companies get states to bid against each other and the politician who gets the project is the one who overbid the most. And believe me there is a lot of over-bidding going on because they are not using their own money, they are using taxpayer money to buy themselves publicity for "creating jobs".

There is no net economic sense, and less justice, in taxing the owner of your local hardware store so that the state can spend millions to lure Lowe's in to open a store that puts him out of business. Our economy is being grossly distorted towards giant corporations and away from small business by these practices. All the existing small businesses are taxed so that a few high-profile giants can get subsidized. If you were thinking of starting a small business, would you choose Arkansas? With these misguided policies businesses will not want to come here unless they are among the privileged few with taxpayer subsidies. Everyone else pays the subsidies. You are either feasting at the table or you are on the menu. It is sick, it is immoral, and it is destructive.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Early Deadline for Independents Ruled Unconstitutional

I was the plaintiff in this case. I imagine I will have a lot more to say about it, but this article in the Demo-zette was fair so I will let them tell it for now....

Sunday, January 21, 2018

NSA "Regrets" Deleting More Documents

If the IRS ever audits you and demands past documentation, just tell them what the NSA and FBI tell Congress. That ought to work.....

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Pet Peeve - Evading Dialogue through Appeal to Authority

"By any chance, does your claim appear in the scholarly literature?" - this is the trendy way that people who cannot address your arguments evade having to do so. It is really just the other side of the fallacy of "appeal to authority" formed as a question. Instead of using an appeal to authority to make a point, they use it to avoid having to consider one. 

They can insulate themselves from any claims that are outside their preferred academic circles. If you do happen to have some applicable scholarly literature they will invariably start looking for some reason why your chosen scholar doesn't qualify to rate being considered. Indeed it is probable that no scholar whose research contradicted their previously held opinions would be "qualified", because the primary motive for the charade is to insulate themselves from have to address the evidence for ideas which conflict with their own.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

More UAMS Lay Offs?

Looks like UAMS wants to cut the lean at the bottom to keep the fat at the top. It is really a shame the system has the spending priorities that it has because when I say that higher-ed is over-funded in this state I don't mean higher-ed for medical training. Indeed, as Obamacare continues its slow painful collapse I think we are going to have a bigger need than ever for student-staffed, doctor and nurse run clinics in various parts of the state as a big part of the way to fill the gap. At least we could have if we would prepare that way. Sadly, the vision isn't there because hospitals and insurance companies like the current set-up just fine- even if its unsustainable.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Independent Ballot Access Battle Update

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Morgan Jumps in Governor's Race

Governor Asa Hutchinson has a challenger in the Republican primary. It is Hot Springs Gun Range owner and FOX News commentator Jan Morgan. Hutchinson has angered people on the right with continued big-spending policies and several instances where he successfully persuaded the legislature out of more forceful conservative policy. Basically, there is no deterrent to the Governor with a legislature dominated by the party which he heads, and he usually has the support of Democrats in the legislature too. His ability to "get things done" is very strong, but are those things getting done things that the voters will approve of ? The primary is May 22nd. Here is a link to Morgan's announcement speech.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Now They Care About Healthcare Fraud

Senator Bryan Kind called the "Private Option/Arkansas Works" a "scam" and there is a lot of evidence to suggest he is correct. That is why I asked the question "is the ruling class of Arkansas perpetrating welfare fraud on a massive scale?" But of course the first three years the Feds were picking up 100% of the tab, and it seemed that no one in state government cared if the people they were signing up were eligible or not. After all, the more people on the roles, the more payments from Fedgov went to Arkansas insurance companies.

Then the state started having to match. They were only required to pick up 5% of the cost at first, but even that was a strain. Soon they will be required to pick up 10% of the cost and so now they care. They wound up cutting 10% of the people off of the program in the first round of fraud checks they did. Those were done grudgingly after King and others pointed out that federal law required eligibility check.

Now they are not doing it grudgingly. Now comes the part where we are supposed to pony up 10% of the cost from the state budget and we haven't got it! So they want to shed people. The Governor has a plan to take those at the higher income part of the "Arkansas Works" spectrum (100% to 138% Federal Poverty Level) and move them to the Exchange. That will take about 60,000 people out of "Arkansas Works" just in time for Arkansas State Government to avoid picking up the tab. They will be shifted to a federal program that taxes others on the exchange (so expect to see the premiums of middle class and above go way up) and also pays from federal coffers (with borrowed money of course). The state has no fiscal liability though, and that is driving all decisions on this thing so far as I can tell.

Recently they did another eligibility check on 140,000 folks that had not been checked in the first go round. A shocking 80,000 of 140,000 were not entitled to be on the program! That is over a 50% rate of misuse. Here is a breakdown of some of that 80,000 from this link.

Working with the Department of Workforce Services to capture unreported employment. That resulted in 16,467 cases being closed.

Identifying individuals receiving public benefits from more than one state, which resulted in 25,742 cases being closed.

Establishing a process to sort large volumes of returned mail due to bad addresses. That resulted in 26,093 cases being closed because beneficiaries are required to report change of address so that DHS can ensure they remain in state.

Identifying those on Medicaid now eligible for Medicare, which resulted in 7,198 cases being closed because Arkansas Works enrollees cannot have both Medicare and Medicaid.

Removal of individuals incarcerated by the Department of Corrections from the rolls because inmates are generally not eligible for Medicaid. That resulted in 4,131 cases being closed.

Remember that the federal government was making payments to Arkansas insurance providers for each of these ineligible persons for an unknown amount of time. I think the jig is up and the powers-that-be are trying to clean up their books and cover their tracks as fast as they can. Could this have something to do with why the Governor recently decided to switch information system vendors over the company who has been doing it without any obvious problems for many years even though the company they are switching to bid $20 million dollars higher? Could it be that the information needed for the feds to recoup the money they paid out for bogus enrollments will be "lost" in the vendor transition?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I Go to Federal Court for Independent Ballot Access

I spent most of yesterday in federal court in Little Rock. Some of you will know that I have struggled for years with a lawsuit over changes in ballot access law in 2013. Before that time, Independents could wait until the last day of the filing period to decide whether they wanted to run- just like Republicans and Democrats. After that time, independents had to decide months early they were going to run and collect signatures in the non-idea period of December, January, and February. I viewed the change in the law as the two parties pulling the ladder up so that people will be forced to go through them no matter how fed up people are with them.

The legislature had tried this stunt several times before. Each time the courts told them it was unconstitutional. The state can't put unnecessary burdens on people just because they want to run outside a party system they may view as corrupt. There should be equality of opportunity in access to the ballot as much as it is possible to do so.

The first time around the judge, James Moody Jr., agreed that I had standing to sue, and agreed that the change in the law was an infringement of my rights that should not be tolerated unless it was forced by necessity. The third part was the controversy. The Attorney for the State, A.J. Kelly, was dressed in a nice suit and spoke in calm but confident tones when he asserted without evidence that due to changes in election law the state simply could not handle the burden of processing the signatures after the filing period. He also presented an affidavit from an employee of the Secretary of State's office making that same assertion. The Judge bought it and ruled against me on the grounds that the state was doing the best it could to give independents equal treatment.

I have found this to be a recurring theme among people on the top in the political class. They rarely get nasty or confrontational to your face. They generally avoid engaging in the actual argument you try to make. They compliment you for something or other. They are well-dressed. They are never strident or overly emotional. They are pleasant in demeanor and speak softly and mildly as they, with consolations and apologies, give you all kinds of reasons why they just have to screw you.

On that first go around my lead attorney, Jim Linger of Tulsa, didn't even give a second thought to the state's claim that the law was due to unavoidable necessity. He was an expert in ballot access litigation and knew too much about the process to give those assertions any credibility. But I can see how that judge must have thought that the attorney for the state would not just claim something that was obviously false with such conviction and confidence. In the years to come he would learn better.

At any rate, we appealed. The Appeals Court had three judges on it. They all affirmed the lower court's first two conclusion- that I had standing and the damage was real. On the third question they all agreed with us that the state had not offered evidence to support their claim of necessity, but they differed on how it should be handled. One ruled that the decision should be reversed and I should win on summary judgement because the state had not presented any actual proof that they could not process the signatures when they always had - between May 1st and May 31st. The other two judges agreed that the state had not shown necessity, but wanted to give them a chance to show it, and so remanded it back to Judge Moody's court to give them that chance. Specifically they wanted the state to give answers to five questions which would show that the discrimination against independents was truly unavoidable and the least restrictive way to handle it.

The state did not want to have to answer those questions- for good reason as it turned out. So they appealed to the Supreme Court, again arguing on all points, including attacking my standing. The Supreme Court voted 9-0 that their appeal was not even worthy of a hearing. So it went back to Judge Moody's court for the showdown, which occurred yesterday.

In the meantime their evidence was looking shakier than ever. The employee who filed the affidavit for them the first time no longer worked at the Secretary of State's office. I heard elsewhere that they were kind of hush-hush about the circumstances surrounding his departure. So they had to bring someone else in to testify in person- a young man that I thought was put in a very unfair position of having to defend the indefensible. The fault does not lie with him, but rather with his superiors who put him in that position needlessly and without just cause. My lead attorney masterfully walked him down the list of questions from the Circuit Court ending in even he admitting that the unequal treatment of independents was not necessary.

Mr. Kelly could only do what he always did- try to change the subject and substitute a lack of evidence on the point in contention with a large quantity of irrelevant rabbit trails and assertions of possible future harm and doom for which he could provide no real proof.  If you had never heard Mr. Kelly before, you might sense from his confident tones and the passion and conviction with which he was speaking that there must be real substance to what he was saying.  If you are motivated to pay very close attention though, it becomes evident that the form is present but the substance is lacking. I think that is what happened the first time in court, but by now Judge Moody has figured it out. A reporter for the Dem-Gaz was there and I think that sort of factored into her report, which I have no complaints about once it is understood that it is written from the perspective of someone who has not caught on to Mr. Kelly's SOP.

Mr. Kelly continued to try and argue, regardless of the findings of this judge and every judge up to and including the Supreme Court, that I did not have standing. In fact, after all the arguments were supposedly over he called me up to the stand under the pretext of getting me to acknowledge under oath a couple of documents which were in the record as a procedural issue. Then once on the stand he started asking me questions related to my standing! He then got what amounted to a second closing in which he again brushed off a the heavy hints from the judge that this was settled and again attacked my standing.

But wait, there is more- my attorney had dueled with Mr. Kelly on a previous case in Judge Moody's court related to how long the Libertarians have to name candidates to the ballot. In Kelly's closing-after-the-closing he actually talked about how allowing that late limit for libertarian candidates could cause actual harm to other candidates if there was litigation about it which extended too late to take rejected libertarian candidates off of the ballot. In other words, it was not enough that he wanted to re-argue all of my case from scratch like the last three and a half years never happened, he also wanted to continue arguing to the Judge that the Judge was incorrect on the previous case which my attorney argued before Judge Moody, a case to which I was not a party! Daaaaang! Give it up man, your objectivity is becoming an issue.

If you want to hear more I had a segment on the Paul Harrell program about it here. The judge should have his ruling by January 2nd, which is pretty fast for these types of cases.

As far as solutions go, I wish they would let independents have access to the ballot like Judicial candidates get access. That is, Judges can collect signatures (which they often do) or pay a filing fee directly to the state equal to six percent of the annual income of the office. That way the state can make money on independent filings instead of spending money validating petitions and fighting tooth and nail lawsuits that they are going to lose anyway. Oklahoma lets independents pay a filing fee direct to the state. Our judges can do it here. If validating our petitions is such a bother, why not extend that same privilege to independent candidates in Arkansas? I mean, unless its really about keeping out the competition......