Sunday, June 17, 2018

More Rules to Turn Rascals into Honest Men

I noticed that the State Senate was in a hurry to put in some new "ethics rules" while they still have enough members not under indictment to muster a quorum. Bear in mind these are the same folks who in 2014 referred to us something that they called an "ethics amendment" which deceptively claimed in the title that it was to "establish term limits." What it actually did was greatly weaken already existing term limits. But the deceptive wording fooled enough people to get it passed. Hopefully we can undo that this November.

Not that that was the only thing wrong with the so-called "ethics" amendment. It contained hidden language that could be used to have a chilling effect on anyone who wanted to run for a large office as an independent. It even included rules which, if they were caught mis-appropriating campaign contributions, gave them thirty days to pay back what they stole before the ethics commission could censure them! Yep, that's right (or wrong). If they get caught stealing, they have 30 days to pay it back before they can be penalized for stealing! These don't enumerate all my objections to that so-called "ethics" bill, but let's just say it was the most unethical "ethics" bill in my lifetime and leave it at that. The guy who wrote and sponsored it, Jon Woods, is now out of the Senate and on trial for taking bribes. If he walks, it may be because an FBI agent destroyed evidence that could have been used against him.

In addition to all of that, the two Senators most determined to do something about the huge corruption involving Arkansas Works, Bryan King and Linda Collins-Smith, were recently narrowly defeated in Republican Senate primaries by opponents who were heavily backed by the Governor and enormous sums of money from some of the same special interests which are doing the looting. Conduit for Action had a good, though not complete, roundup of the corruption.

So you will excuse me if I am more than a little skeptical at these proposals from the senate on new ethics rules from the article which I linked to in the opening paragraph. For one thing, you cannot make rascals into honest men and women just by putting more rules on them. You have to do the hard work of ridding yourself of the rascals and right now the people of Arkansas don't seem to have much appetite for that. This makes all of us victims, but too many of us are also accomplices. The two-party system is a system that honorable people should no longer support. If we have to start something new ourselves, return to self-government, we should do that.

Let me give you an example from the article of something that raises red flags for me...
"The proposed rules also would prohibit certain activities that involve conflicts of interest. Hendren described these changes as “really the meat of this.”
For example, he said a senator would be barred from seeking or taking a benefit, other than official compensation, for public duties under the proposed rule changes, “so if someone pays you to do something in your role as a state senator,” it would be an ethical violation."
They are making a rule against something that has not been the problem. The problem has been pay for "jobs" that are ostensibly not related to their role as Senators. For an example, please see this article called "worse than a revolving door" where a Senator takes a job spending money for an outfit that is appropriated indirectly by the Senator himself. Yet this job is "not related" to his role as Senator. The real graft has been from their being hired on as "consultants" or "attorneys" and getting paid all out of proportion to their work as such. That would not be banned under the proposed rule changes. They would only have to disclose such payments, simply bringing corruption out into the open on the gamble that the voters of Arkansas are too ignorant, immoral or blinded by party partisanship to care.

Don't get me wrong, I favor the disclosure requirements, but I question the window dressing of an outright ban on payments related to one's official role while consulting and attorney's fees need only be disclosed. I foresee this having unintended consequences unless they make some reasonable exceptions. For example, if a boy scout troop wanted Senator Pureheart to come speak at their event on government policy, he would be banned from receiving mileage and hotel expenses, or any other monetary benefit, for doing so. This would have a chilling effect on his ability to perform such a service. Meanwhile Senator Graft could continue to pull in six figures as a "consultant" for PolluteCorp so long as he disclosed they were giving him the money.

Then there was this jewel....
The proposal would create a five-member Select Committee on Senate Ethics appointed by the president pro tempore with three members in the majority party and two members in the minority party.
Any senator who believed there was a violation of the code of ethics could file a complaint with the committee, which would investigate. The complaint would list the name of the accused, the accuser, the provision violated and a description of the suspect activities.
The Senate would be allowed to punish any violator with penalties ranging from a letter of caution to expulsion.

This proposal would grant the Pro Tem extraordinary power and freeze out any other party besides the two established ones, or independents, from this powerful committee. I have zero doubt that it would be politicized as everything else they have touched as been. Those opposed to the Governor's agenda would be targeted repeatedly on the slightest technicality and harassed with a stream of baseless claims. Those in the club would have to shoot someone on the capitol steps to get censured by this committee.

Just look who Sen. Hendren wants on the committee....
Hendren said he wants Sens. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View; Jason Rapert, R-Conway; David Wallace, R-Leachville; Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia; and Bond to serve on the committee.
Jason Rapert? Are you kidding me? Jason Rapert thinks that disagreeing with Jason Rapert is an ethics violation. Also an affront to God Almighty! Can you think of a less objective person in the State Senate?

The whole thing has the effect of centralizing power and making the party system stronger. IOW it is strengthening the very thing that is the root problem. History teaches us that one party rule breeds corruption. Every time. Without exception. Those of you who think its different this time because its your party are utterly wrong about that and your error is hurting our state and my family. So repent. Don't stiffen your necks or harden your hearts. Just replace wrong with right, lies with truth, and injustice with integrity. Rules don't change rascals into honest people, especially the rules they write themselves. We need repentance. We need a heart change, from the voters to the Governor's office.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Establishment Media Sins of Omission

I think "Talk Business" is part of the establishment media in this state. Most of the print media is. A few TV stations have some real journalists in their employ. What the establishment media tells you is bad enough but what they fail to disclose is sometimes the real issue.

For example, so owned by Wal-Mart is our state government that we extended I-49 to a couple of miles from the Missouri line, though Missouri no longer had the money to pay to connect it to their end. So Arkansas and Missouri applied for a joint federal grant and Arkansas was going to give their share of the money to Missouri in order to build a highway in Missouri! Wal-Mart must have wanted that connect really bad to induce our politicians to do something that much against the interests of the average Arkansan.

Don't worry though, our politicians knew that they could count on the establishment media of this state to never make that clear. Sure enough, the report on the grant application being turned down did not discuss this absurdity!

Moore's Media Maxim- the establishment media does not exist to inform the public. The establishment media exists to protect the establishment.

Monday, June 04, 2018

An Old Earther on Peaceful Science

Monday, May 21, 2018

The State of Corruption

Conduit Media has a good run-down of the corruption scandals tied to (mostly) Republicans in the state government, and connects the dots to the Governor's efforts to run off the few legislators actually trying to fight the corruption.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Jezebel Spirit and a Mutant Strain of Theology in Politics

Senator Jason Rapert of Conway livened up the GOP Primary for Governor when he compared outsider candidate Jan Morgan to Jezebel from the Old Testament. For those of you not up on the Old Testament accounts, Jezebel was a wicked queen of Israel who manipulated her feckless husband King Ahab. Among her unjust acts was framing an innocent man for a crime so that she could have him executed, clearing the way for her husband to seize his land. According the account, the Prophet Elijah confronted King Ahab when he went to take possession of the land.

Obviously comparing either candidate in the race to Jezebel is over-the-top. Jan Morgan isn’t like Jezebel, and Governor Asa Hutchinson is not like Elijah. One of my pet peeves is preachers wrenching bible stories out of context so that they always become about us and what is going on in our lives instead of focusing on what they tell us about the nature of God.  But after some research I am starting to believe that there is something darker and more sinister going on here.

Before I get to that part, one more comment about the comparison. It doesn’t fit well either way, but if you could get past the sex of the parties doesn’t the comparison fit a little better the other way? That is, Gov. Hutchinson is the powerful ruler who is using his power in ways the “true believer” considers sketchy to abhorrent? And then wouldn’t Jan Morgan fit the analogy better as Elijah, the outsider who boldly speaks truth to power? Of course to see that one has to get past the sexes of the two parties, and I have a feeling Rapert would have trouble doing that.

Now let’s take a look at one of the Senator’s most provocative statements on this topic….

What “spirit” is the Senator claiming has entered the room? Many have chalked it up as a metaphor. But the fact is there is a mutant strain of pseudo-Christian theology which makes a “thing” out of “Jezebel Spirit”. This doctrine ought to be “fringe” but is actually too big to be fairly called that, and as you read on you may understand better how Rapert’s behavior is explained by his falling victim to it.

Here is a You Tube video on “Unmasking the Jezebel Spirit.” The ramrod on that was John Paul Jackson, now deceased. He was one of the first to coin the term “Jezebel Spirit” and was once associated with the controversial and probably heretical group called by others the “Kansas City Prophets”. Here is one called “Stop Tolerating Jezebel Spirit”. This one is called “Discerning the Sneaky Seductive Jezebel Spirit”. Here is one about “Overcoming the Jezebel Curse”. Here is an article describing the “Jezebel Spirit” according to one of these very, very unorthodox ‘teachers.’

And here is a screen shot of one of his face book posts about the “Jezebel Spirit”. It is from a Pastor friend of his from Conway. Do you notice any “projection” going on here?  Most of this list could fairly be applied to Rapert himself….

The more I look into it the more I am convinced that Sen. Jason Rapert was not just using a weird metaphor. Instead he was applying a weird theology- one which does not have much in common with the gospel or classical Christianity at all. Rather it uses the name of Christ and the bible as a talisman to leverage power for the one that practices this variant view.

For example, in classical Christian theology, we are all bound up in sin. It isn’t that we are the “good guys” and our opponents are the “bad guys”. We are all the bad guys, only saved by faith through the grace of the one true Good Guy. Thus it behooves us to love our enemies, do good to them who say all manner of evil against us falsely, and forgive our debtors as we wish God to forgive us our debts. All that is de-emphasized under this mutant strain of theology which makes your Man of Power for the Hour the “Good Guy” and thus anyone who would speak ill of them- even if it’s the truth- the “bad guy”. It’s a philosophy which leaves little room for introspection, repentance, and thus improvement.

Such a mind-set leads to a lack of accountability for those in leadership. Have you wondered how so many Republican legislators could get sucked into the Ecclesia scam? Where was their discernment? “Hey, our team is the “good guys” and a bunch of us are doing it so it must be OK.” This is the exact opposite attitude which true Christian faith should engender. The one who believes in the faith once delivered says “I am a sinner saved by grace and so is my pastor, so both of us, and everyone else, should have accountability.” But in this other view, trying to hold your leadership accountable is akin to blasphemy.

I think this whole “Jezebel Spirit” thing started because some pastors did not want to be held accountable and they needed a way to tamp down on any women in their church who got too “uppity.” That last link above says “Remember, this evil spirit desires to silence your spiritual authority by quieting your voice.” Later I think they also expanded the concept to men, because anyone who “came against God’s anointed” obviously is a tool of the Devil!

In classical Christianity Christ is God’s anointed. That is what the word “Christ” means. All the anointed people in the Old Testament were merely shadows pointing to Him as the Type. What these men are doing with their use of the term is take the focus off of Christ and take His place themselves! They become the anointed that you had better not “come against” by demanding accountability from them. It’s an abuse of scripture and the Faith.

Our system of government helped make this a great nation when people in government had the classical Christian view of these matters. Now that they have this warped view, our politics is increasingly becoming toxic. A logical extension of this thinking leads to a rejection of the “two kingdoms” view whereby we are citizens of an earthly kingdom and a heavenly one. The two are connected but separate. So we can work to make this world a better place, but we don’t get so hung up on forcing our vision on others, because this life is the test, it’s not the main show. But this mutant strain of theology does not recognize this distinction. After all, “God’s anointed” is not just Christ in Heaven, it’s your guy down here. So politics becomes theology. Church and state move together, with state actually pushing church out of the way and assuming the central role.

Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven won’t be something we can point to. But once you toss out the two kingdoms concept “God and Country” meld together. Your guy is the special guy who can do no wrong and your country is the special country that can do no wrong. Somehow that same federal government that we chafe at when they try to run our lives here is the entity we cheer for when they try to run people’s lives over there.

This doctrine does not allow for introspection for either ourselves or our leaders, because we are “the good guys.” We are no longer sinners in need of His grace, but His warriors chosen to bring His wrath on the heathen/our political opponents! The picture below, where the flag is moved to the center and Christ pushed to the edges is a good representation of where this ends up….

The sad thing is that this sort of thinking does not make our country better. It makes it worse because people who have fallen victim to this mentality think questioning their political leader (so long as he is of their tribe) is tantamount to questioning God. Our nation was better when its citizens considered that its public servants should constantly be held accountable.

To show how this lack of introspection leads to an almost psychotic inability to self-evaluate, here is a post Rapert made calling for civility in public discourse. 

He really doesn't see himself as violating the standards which he is calling on others to adhere to because his sense of right and wrong is becoming too self-referential. In his mind he is the good guy, so whatever he does is, by definition, "good". Those who call him on his hypocrisy and double-standards are of course "coming against God's anointed" and therefore there is good reason to suspect a wicked "spirit" is working through them! How can a person who believes this become a better person over time? They can't. 

I can see why non-Christians would recoil at the thought of having Christians governing them, if this is what Christianity really was. But this is a perversion of the Christianity which the bible teaches. It has snuck into the church because it appeals to the sinful pride of those in authority, and even our own sin nature which will believe any con to avoid facing daily the truth of what God’s word says about us- we are all the bad guys.

Fortunately we serve a merciful God. I can repent of my sins and God will forgive me. Jason Rapert can repent of his sins and God will forgive him. The same thing goes for Jan Morgan, Asa Hutchinson, and even you dear reader. We can go ahead and admit to ourselves that we have been wrong about this or that in the faith with assurance that He will forgive and heal. This is the path to redemption. Only if we are too prideful to admit our errors will they become a part of us.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Corporate Governance- How you almost got tricked out of a right to trial by Jury

Friday, March 02, 2018

The Problem With Primaries Will Presently Be Seen

Some of you that read this space know that I think political parties should nominate by caucus rather than primaries. There is no just reason I as an independent should pay for an election for private political clubs to select their nominees- especially since the parties get the filing fees!  It is in effect a taxpayer subsidy for the Republicans and Democrats, presumably in appreciation for the wonderful way they have mismanaged the country into colossal debt while those close to them get richer and the rest of us get poorer.

The population has the idea that this is the way the system is "supposed to work". But primary elections are not in the constitution. The parties have managed to arrange the election process to their own benefit, giving the public the impression that this is "our" process. But as the DNC argued in court last week, the people who run the club have no public legal obligation to conduct their primaries fairly- they only want to give people that impression so they will continue to buy in.

I have previously noted to activists who get incensed at all these special elections to sneak in bad things that "primaries are special elections" where the insider class who directly benefit from bigger government show up in greater proportions than regular taxpayers. I think we are about to see an example of that in the GOP Primary Governor's race where Jan Morgan is challenging the establishment incumbent Governor Asa Hutchinson.

Though Morgan could be said to face long odds, I want you to notice the special election for state senate district 16 (Russellville area). No matter how it ends up in the run-off, the first go-round was extremely close between the candidate Morgan supports, Bob Bailey, and the candidate Hutchinson supports, Breanne Davis. It was something like 41-43 with the balance of the vote going to the third candidate whose supporters might be expected to stay home or split between the other two candidates.

So if that race is a proxy for the GOP Governor's primary then its very close. And absent some bombshells between now and May I think it will be- in areas similar in profile to district 16. Is that most of the state? Geographically yes. But two places with lots of votes are not like the rest of the state- Pulaski County and Benton and Washington Counties. What's more all three of those contain large numbers of insider-thinking Democrat-leaning voters with a history of crossing over into Republican primaries when the need arises. Also consider that the Democrats have gone to great lengths to avoid any meaningful state-wide primaries. Dr. Bland was induced into getting out of the Secretary of State's race and switching to Lt. Governor for example. This leaves their insiders free to cross over and vote in the GOP primary. Don't think they won't. Its been happening in Benton County for years.

So what I expect to see is crony-capitalists and lefty-university types in northwest Arkansas swing those two counties over to the Governor. I expect those voters in Pulaski County whose livelihood is connected to expanding government to come to the Governor's rescue as well. He will be rescued by voters which are usually Democrat or simply mercenary. Most if not all of his margin could come from those three (out of 75!) counties. In order to overcome that Morgan will need not just a majority, but a large majority of the stalwart conservative grassroots types that you think of as "normal" Republican primary voters. Actual Republican primary voters are not who you may think they are, just as the party itself is not what you may think it is.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Libertarian Line up

  • Governor- Mark West
  • Lt. Governor- Frank Gilbert
  • Secretary of State- Christopher Olson
  • Attorney General- Kerry Hicks
  • Auditor of State- David Dinwiddie
  • Commissioner of State Lands- TJ Campbell
  • U.S. House 1- Elvis Presley
  • U.S. House 2- Joe Swafford
  • U.S House 3- Michael Kalagias
  • U.S. House 4- Tom Canada
  • AR State Senate 5- Lee Evans
  • AR State Senate 8- William Hyman
  • AR State Senate 10- Bobbi Hicks
  • AR State Senate 17- Kevin Vornheder
  • AR State Representative 15- Wayne Willems
  • AR State Representative 17- Greg Maxwell
  • AR State Representative 30- Mitchell Fenton
  • AR State Representative 35- Bill Barger
  • AR State Representative 46- Drew Tanner
  • AR State Representative 67- Sandra Richter
  • AR State Representative 77- Stephen Edwards
  • AR State Representative 80- Casey Copeland
  • AR State Representative 87- Justin Jones
  • Benton County Judge- Ronnie Smith
  • Benton County Justice of the Peace 3- Trina Wilson
  • Benton County Justice of the Peace 7- Joseph Bollinger
  • Benton County Justice of the Peace 8- Jeff Wadlin
  • Benton County Justice of the Peace 9- Cody Martin
  • Benton County Justice of the Peace 12- Jacob Faught
  • Jefferson County Justice of the Peace 1- James Hood
  • Pulaski County Justice of the Peace 12- Jacob Deaver
  • Craighead County Constable- Chris Lutterloh
  • Pulaski County Constable- Mark Phillips
The Libertarian party would also like to welcome all who have questions to visit with their candidates at the Capitol.


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.