Monday, July 24, 2017

Secretary of State's Office Wins E-Award

Not that you would read it in the Arkansas Establishment Media, but Secretary of State Mark Martin's office won a national award recently for their Go-2-Gov effort to be a one-place access point for all the information needed by a citizen. Over 375,000 Arkansas citizens and businesses have signed up! How did that happen with so little media coverage? Not that the blame is theirs alone. Heck the RPA can't even be bothered to brag on Martin's office, not even a tweet! They did find time to talk about how $1,000 donors to their new HQ will get their name etched in the foyer glass though.

Look, I have had my ups and downs with the Secretary of State's office. I've been a strong defender in the past, but I am also part of a lawsuit against Secretary Martin because his office seems determined to enforce new laws against independent candidates which have already been declared unconstitutional in the past. The one place I can't give kudos to Martin's office is the election law portion.
That has been so at least since Doug Matayo moved on and Martha Adcock unexpectedly passed away. Assistant Secretary A.J. Kelly has proven very partisan and defends the status quo to ridiculous extremes. For instance, he fought in court for a law forcing new parties to declare their candidates earlier than the establishment parties even after the legislature itself threw in the towel and repealed the law! The judge, Moody Jr. who our suit is also with, ruled in favor of the Libertarians. He also awarded the attorney in the case (Jim Linger who is also one of our attorneys) taxpayer money for legal fees because it was deemed a civil rights case. I have come to the conclusion that Kelly will use the powers of his office to defend the interests of the Republican party to the last taxpayer dollar.
But at the same time, it seems the media as are quick to pile on Martin as "his" party is reluctant to defend him. I thought the story about providing publicly available voter data to the commission on voter fraud was a nothing burger. I walked in the elections office myself today and got similar data for $2.50. Any of us can. It is what the commission might do with the data that would be untoward, not giving the data itself (for example singling out minorities to mail cards to see if they are still at their voting address in an attempt to suppress minority turn out. That was what Lt. Governor Tim Griffin did to minorities in Florida when he was working for Karl Rove.)
At any rate, congratulations is in order to the Secretary's IT department for winning a national award for work which is already helping large numbers of people in our state. The alternative media exists in large part because their are things that the establishment media seems very reluctant to tell people. Good things coming out of Martin's office is one of them even if they go on and on about "bad things" that don't amount to a hill of beans.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Governor Frustrated that Washington Does Not Keep its Promises

I noticed an article yesterday which chronicled the debate over tweaking Obamacare (you didn't think the Republicans were going to repeal it did you?) prominently featured Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. He complained to Vice President Pence that the new version was "cost shifting to the states".  I found particularly amusing his quote ,“I wish the federal government would keep its bargain,” Hutchinson said. “That’s the frustrating part.”

Governor Washington D.C. is filled with liars from stem to stern, as you well know. Your real concern should be that your bargains with them are making a liar out of you! As it is written,
"What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?"

I do not understand how someone who is supposed to be wise in the ways of the world in general and Washington D.C. in particular could fail to anticipate this outcome. He and others are acting like "nobody could have seen this coming" when in fact the Tea Party right and the Ron Paul types were warning for years that this would be the inevitable outcome. Yet somehow, we have little credibility in the eyes of the media (and therefore the group-thinking members of the public) while the Governor and all the legislators and "experts" who utterly failed to see the obvious somehow still have credibility. Why?

The Governor thinks he has reason to be frustrated? Try being one of those who correctly sees things coming in a place where those who are repeatedly correct in their warnings are dismissed as fringe extremists while those who make titanic and obvious mistakes in judgment are never-the-less accorded great credibility.

For example, in December of 2012 I wrote in this piece in an article aptly called "The Politics of Fiscal Delusion.....
"Some Arkansans are screaming for us to take this "free money." Problem: There is no money. Only the promise of money from the most indebted institution in human history- the federal government of the United States. They cannot keep their past promises, much less this current one...........
..... If Washington reneges on its promise to pay 90% of the bills for eternity then our state can't afford it and again those who became dependent on the system are worse off. We should say "no" to this "free money" from our bankrupt and delusional federal government just as a fish should say "no" to "free food" on the end of a hook. Washington does not have the means to keep its promise. This is going to be a "bait and switch" where states will wind up paying for more and more of this program. If we can't afford that, and we can't, then we should just say "no." 
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 have 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."
That was in 2012. Here was one I wrote in 2013 that gave much the same warning...
Washington D.C. is isolated from reality and suffers from a bad case of "normalcy bias". They think things will be the same as they've been for years because that's the way things have been for years. It's somewhere between circular reasoning and delusion. It is also a frequent mistake made by persons without a lot of experience or perspective (i.e. adolescents). FEDGOV presses on with lavish promises and massive expansions just like they still have money. They don't, and foreigners will decide when our last national credit card has been maxed out.
 Many of our wiser state legislators are wondering if they should launch major new commitments based on the promise of funding from the most indebted institution in all of human history. Suppose you knew a man who used to be rich, but was now living off of credit in a state of denial about his present financial position. If he offered to fund a joint venture with you, would you re-arrange your life so as to take the offer?
Those wiser leaders were ignored. In some cases, the Governor found primary opponents for them. Others lost plum committee assignments for daring to ask troubling questions.

And in 2014  I wrote this article which said...
This is my prediction for what will happen. We will get into this thing and in a few years FEDGOV will try to shift costs to the states or something else will happen which will cause it to fail. We will then realize that the money to pay for all of these promises does not exist. The money to pay for it never existed, they only said it did in order to gain control over your family's health care. We will have dismantled our existing health care structure for the poor only to see the single federal system the state's leaders pinned all of our hopes on fall apart.  
And I am pretty sure if I dug around enough I could find something from 2015 and 2016 too. My point is that the Governor thinks he has good reason to be frustrated, but I think those of us who have been right from the beginning are the ones whose frustration is most justified. That's my little point.

My big point, and my next prediction, is that a whole lot of people who consider themselves loyal voters for the Republicans and the Democrats are going to wake up one day- a day not far off- and realize that they have been betrayed. Many others will refuse to see that, and get angry with those who point it out to them, but it will still be obvious.

Their problem is that they have surrendered too much of their humanity. Humans are supposed to be social animals, but not herd animals. We are supposed to join together into groups, but not follow our leaders off the cliff like lemmings. Humans have something that animals don't - we have the capacity to love truth. And love of truth can top loyalty to herd leaders. At some point they are going to realize that "their" herd leaders are working for someone else- shearing and eating the flock more than looking out for it. They are going to realize that many of the people they looked up to were not the great men they thought, but just men. Men who made serious lapses in judgement and worse.

My prediction is that very soon, by November of 2018 even, people are going to wish that they had someone else, someone competent, honest, and sane, to vote for.  You may even be one of those people. But you can't wait until November of next year to give yourself a better choice. If you want a better choice then you have to do something about it right now. Go to this link and get a ballot petition to let Neighbors of Arkansas present a slate of candidates in 2018. Sign it and get nine other voters to sign it, and then mail it in to the address given. Encourage others you know to do the same.

That is what you are going to have to do if you want better ballot choices. If you will think back, many of you have been unhappy with a lot of your lack of choices in past elections. Why do nothing and let yourself be put in that position again and again? The time to do something about it is now. But hey, why listen to me?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wal-Mart to Fine Suppliers for Being A Day Early

The Wal-Mart supplier squeeze reaches a new high (or low depending on perspective).

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

A Troubling Lack of Self-Objectivity

Very few legislators craft the bills that they sponsor. The ideas in the bills are usually not their own. Instead, think tanks or similar associations funded by various interests generate support for issues and help craft (or completely write) bills. The idea of concerned citizens sitting down with "their" representative and explaining some problem they have which is addressed by the legislator then crafting a bill themselves is a rare thing (some of us hope to change that). ALEC is the most prominent national example. But there are state versions of these things too, and this story concerns two of the biggest on what is considered "the right" in Arkansas, and some of the biggest names.

Dan Greenberg runs "Advance Arkansas" which is a think-tank for Arkansas public policy that focuses on economic freedom issues. Mr. Greenberg also writes for and runs the website "The Arkansas Project", which gives political voice and commentary on many issues related to those that Advance Arkansas is for or against. In other words, these operations are Dan Greenburg's instruments for advancing public policy as he sees fit. Joe Maynard and Brenda-Vassaur-Taylor run an outfit called Conduit for Commerce which is much like Advance Arkansas. They too have an associated organization which gives political commentary on issues relevant to their think tank- Conduit for Action. The Paul Harrell Program, on which I have sometimes been a guest, is a part of that commentary effort.

Up until a couple of years ago, Conduit and AA worked together on certain things. And when I mean "together" part of what I mean is that the founders of Conduit paid Mr. Greenberg and AA to produce material. That was as recently as 2015. I did not have to FOIA anyone for this interesting tidbit- Mrs. Vassaur-Taylor told me they paid Mr. Greenberg $20,000 to do a legislative scorecard in 2013. That is a heck of a lot of money for a scorecard.

They were not completely satisfied with his work- for example he refused to weight bills. That meant that a bill which spent a billion dollars to restrict our freedom in a big way may get a "-1", and a  largely symbolic bill which saved us $52 could get a "+1". Using that scoring system a legislator could make up for voting for Obamacare in Arkansas by voting for the second bill. They thought that a more fair method would be to subtract more for a bill that was not only negative, but negative over a broad area in a big way. Sounds reasonable to me. They also, at some point, wound up splitting with him over his approach to "tort reform".

At any rate, they recently issued their own scorecard and did it their own way. They were not paying Dan Greenberg anymore. They were not going along with Dan Greenberg on the approach he had (which was basically the nursing-home industry's approach) on tort reform. Dan Greenberg then co-wrote an extremely critical article slamming Conduit's scorecard for their alleged poor methodology and lack of transparency. He failed to mention that a few years before they were paying him a very substantial amount of money to do a scorecard. He failed to mention that they were basically now a competitor for credibility in the niche market of those who care about economic freedom issues. He failed to mention some other very glaring conflicts of interest which I will document in short order.

It is ironic that he did not disclose any of those potential conflicts because the main thing he slammed them on was "transparency".  He said concerning the negative scores of some legislators "nobody has any idea what it means, really, because Conduit’s methodology is completely invisible". Well, some of the details were invisible, but a lot of the main criteria were easily visible, or at least discernible. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what a negative score meant. He said it was "pointless" to rely on the scores in their ranking system. Also "As it stands now, we don’t see much difference between Conduit’s rankings and the random results that you’d get if you called each legislator’s name and then picked a number out of a bingo basket."

I really thought that went too far. I thought he was just bad-mouthing the competition, and very oriented to the nursing-home industry's idea of tort reform for biased reasons. So I went on the radio and said so.

I followed that up with an article, and we went through a dreary session of comments back and forth. I admit that I did not understand the scale of the scoring correctly, but after talking with Vassaur-Taylor I had almost everything about the methodology right. I don't need to know the scale in order to obtain relative values. If you understand the basis of a process having a total grasp of the minutia of the process is not essential to obtaining value from it. But if you want to know how Dan Greenberg works, it is like this: He finds some area where we do not have perfect knowledge or something is said with less than perfect precision, then he greatly exaggerates the significance of that uncertainty or imprecision. He acts as if it invalidates everything you are saying and establishes everything he is saying. That's his m.o.

For an example, his strong statements about how useless conduit's ratings system was were hinged in part on the argument that a few committee votes were counted in the scoring, so that not all legislators had the chance to participate in every vote. He put it like this...
"If we told some legislators to run a hundred-yard dash and other legislators to run a marathon, and we gave them all one score that was based on how long it took for each one to cross the finish line, even a child could see that just judging them all on this one statistic would be unfair. Everybody has to be judged by the same yardstick – if we’re going to give everyone one meaningful rating. "
The truth is they got ranked on 30 floor votes and three committee votes in the senate. Not all of them had a chance to vote on the three committee votes (for good or bad) but that hardly amounts to the difference between a 100 yard dash and a marathon. It does not invalidate the rankings, particularly when comparing two legislators who were not on those committees, or were both on them, or who had a wide gap in their scores. Any lack of precision on the rankings from the decision was compensated for by the increased usefulness of using key committee votes as a rating of overall value, IMHO. Comparing that to the difference between a 100 yard dash and a marathon is hyperbole but this is what Dan Greenberg does. He finds some minor lack of precision and blows it all out of proportion and acts like this distinction (that does not really make much of a difference) is somehow disqualifying. He nitpicks the lack of perfect transparency in others, but exempts himself from anywhere near that same amount of scrutiny.

He then wrote a second piece on Conduit's scorecard controversy, the tone of which made it sound like Conduit started the fight when in fact he did. I am going to give an extended quote from that one so that you can marvel at how this guy operates....
Instead, she replied “Dan is paid by the people who want the tort reform bill passed, and his wife does work for the nursing home association PACs, and that is what it is. And so he has an interest in writing an article like that.” 
Now, I am sure that Brenda knows perfectly well that none of that is true. I am paid – indirectly, I guess – by hundreds of AAI donors, some of whom support tort reform and some of whom don’t. (I admit that, in the past, I have helped draft some proposed tort reform amendments, and I was honored to do so.) My wife doesn’t work for any political action committees at all. My position on tort reform hasn’t changed; every two years, we publish our Action Plan for Arkansas; in 2013, 2015, and 2017 we published almost identical tort reform recommendations in that book. In fact, before its recent move to the left on tort reform, Conduit cosponsored the 2015 edition of our book that contained our tort reform recommendations.
This is a carefully crafted statement worthy of Slick Willy Bill Clinton himself. First, he says he is paid by "hundreds of AAI donors" with various views on the issue- implying that he is not paid by those specifically pushing tort "reform". He then says he was honored to "helped draft some proposed tort reform amendments". Does that mean he did a little volunteer work? One might think so from the phrasing. But it turns out that "honor" was not his only reward. He got paid almost $30,000 by the sponsors. Maybe more, that is just what I can find. Yep. Here is a picture from one of the filings for the group pushing the amendment that was struck down by the courts for confusing or deceptive title language late in 2016....it is their expenses and it shows Dan Greenberg gets over $18,000 in that reporting period alone...

click to get larger view
Also, he didn't just "help draft" the proposed amendments. He was their lead attorney! Here is shot from a letter from the Attorney General concerning the proposed amendment. It is addressed to him!
click to get larger view

And who is this group? Well I will put their donors list from that same report below this paragraph. They are interests associated with assisted care facilities- old folks homes. These are the people behind the so-called "tort reform". Compare that to his statement in red above, which strongly implies that he was not being paid by tort reform interests but small donors from AAI with various views on the matter. You see what Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky did was not technically sexual "relations" so Bad Boy Bill was telling the "truth". And when Greenberg tells you that his money from AAI is not from the industry he may also be telling you the truth- because they give the Greenbergs money outside of AAI.
In that statement in red Dan Greenberg just says "my wife does not work for a PAC" and leaves it there as if it was a ridiculous lie made up from whole cloth by Brenda Vassaur-Taylor. This is exactly what I said about his M.O. He takes the slightest imprecision in communication and makes it seem like either nothing is there or it proves everything, depending on what he wants at the time. It is like Bill Clinton saying "it depends on what the meaning of is is." Greenberg's wife does not work for a PAC, but the firm she works for (AHCA) has several PACS. It also represents 93% of the assisted living facilities in this state. They employ a number of lobbyists as well as having their own. Here is a pic from their website describing her duties...(correction/clarefication, both of these things, the picture and the description, are under the "About" tab of their website, but the description of  their mission is not next to her picture on the site).
click on image to get a larger view

According to that part of her job is to go before government agencies and provide information on behalf of the clients they represent- which includes almost all assisted care facilities in this state. (Editor's Note: Dan Greenberg says his wife cannot legally go before government agencies herself as she is still subject to a lobbying ban. So perhaps that screen shot from her own company's web site means that she is doing the research and preparing the reports that their people deliver to government entities and that she does not deliver or appear before them directly.) That same circle of people were the donors to the so-called "tort reform" amendment that Greenberg was the lead attorney for. So he has made money from them, and she is making money from them. For all we know he still could be, because for a guy who demands total transparency from others he sure seems reluctant to disclose potential conflicts of interest from himself. Both Greenbergs have made money from the people on the opposite side from Conduit on this particular mutated view of tort reform.

This is not Conduit picking on a wife who has no skin in this game. This is like a miniature version of Bill and Hillary Clinton where they are both making money from the same people and it is connected to what they are advocating for in terms of public policy. The idea that he can just brush off the suggestion that he should disclose that he has a potential conflict of interest here is outrageous. He should have disclosed. Especially if he demands transparency of others.

Not only that, Greenberg is still at it. He put up an article today singing the praises of his version of tort reform. Earlier his site put up an article which chastised a Democrat-Gazette reporter for her coverage of what his site called the "non-scandal" associated with nursing home owner Micheal Morton! I think you would have a hard time finding someone in this state to write defenses of Micheal Morton unless they (or their boss) are paid by or related to Micheal Morton.

I absolutely don't think Dan Greenberg is in position to be neutral on this issue and he is not being neutral on it. Further, he refuses to disclose, or maybe even see, how compromised his position is on it. He and his wife are serving as agents of nursing home interests. She is at least doing it openly because she works directly for a firm which counts them as clients. He is peddling his advocacy as neutral public policy.

Though the amendment he drafted was thrown off the ballot for deceptive/confusing language, the vast influence of this lobby has given us SJR8- which should be on your ballot next year. It is a referred ballot amendment from the legislature and it has a lot in common with the one Greenberg helped write. That is, it is bad tort reform as opposed to good tort reform. To understand why it is bad tort reform, here is an audio of me on the Paul Harrell Program talking about it.

I don't say to put your trust in any group, Conduit or Advance Arkansas. We all go astray and we all need correction from time to time. Some of us know that, others insist on very high standards for others while oblivious to their own failings. It is not falling into error that I object to the most, its the troubling lack of self-objectivity.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Trump Repeals Church Gag Law, But Freedom is the Test

President Trump gave quite a speech yesterday. After suffering for many years listening to the nasal and inarticulate Bushes, it was refreshing to hear someone in clear and powerful language express things that his mostly evangelical Christian audience longed to hear. With the Bushes evangelicals had to strain between the lines to interpret some of the things they said as agreement for their view of the world. Trump put it directly before them. Trump threw a few punches, but mostly stayed above-the-belt and directed praise to others.

I found myself agreeing with the substance of what he said. Yet as much fun as it would be, if I let myself get caught up in that without looking at the big picture I could be led astray. I mean, just to hear them give a speech, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama could make you think they had all kinds of good sense. You had to compare what was communicated in the speech with the big picture to get an accurate assessment. When I hear someone give the soaring rhetoric and what they say matches up with the big picture, then I will get downright euphoric and in that case it would be the right thing to be euphoric. In that case being cynical would be the wrong thing. But it would also be wrong to ignore the red flags just so you could get caught up in a euphoria based on a sales job and not reality.

Donald Trump is a master salesman.  It is possible this is the best of salesman giving a pitch to his largest account and telling them exactly what they want to hear. Or he could sound sincere because he is sincere. Again, we have to zoom out to see if there is a red flag there.

There are generally two kinds of people in church. People who go because they feel good about themselves when they do it and who think that this is what good people do, and those who know that they are sinners saved by grace and go pay their respects and rejoice over the grace that they have found. Only the latter group actually understands the gospel. Only the latter group are Christians as the Bible defines it. The former group are religious people, but you can't get to Christianity without coming to grips with the truth about yourself- that you are a sinner in need of grace, that you can't make yourself right in your own power. The truth about yourself leads directly to the good news of the gospel- you don't have to make it right, He did it for you. If you make it right, it is in response to His already doing it for you.

Listen to this response from candidate Trump when asked if he had ever asked God for forgiveness. It is clear that, at least in this point in time, that he is from the former group not the latter. He does not see himself as a sinner saved by grace. He sees himself as a good person who goes to church. He does get communion pretty well, but not the gospel. Without repentance, where is the need for regeneration?

It is hard to avoid the conclusion (never mind the rest of his life, just from the answer in the video) that as much as he is culturally inclined toward the form of the Christian Church, he is not a "new person in Christ" as are believers who have repented and accepted salvation. We attend worship services of the same religion, but he does not have what we have. I prayed for Obama and I am praying for him, but without repentance what he has is not the same as what I have even though it can look the same on the outside.

In the speech yesterday he delivered on a policy position that much of his evangelical base favors. Lyndon Johnson changed IRS rules so that pastors could not endorse candidates for office from the pulpit. They could talk about issues. They could endorse privately as a private person, but they could not do so on behalf of the church. I am glad the rule is going away. It was not enforced even-handedly. It was a violation of free speech if not freedom of religion. So I am glad that churches will have more freedom. My concern is how they will use that freedom.

Certain churches have traded the harsh self-assessments required to preach the gospel in favor of the false allure and excitement of being a "player" in the world of secular politics. They don't want to have to come back each and every Sunday and face the truth about who they are. Like the President, they want to see themselves as some of the "good people" because they attend church and profess a certain moral code. The truth of the gospel is that it is not a case of us "good guys" against the Other Side who are the "bad guys". We are all the bad guys, and we need to scrutinize ourselves at least as often as we cast stones at them. That is not fun, it is not "sexy", it does not lead to a lot of euphoric moments of "winning" in the short term.

My fear is that some of these churches who are teetering on the rails are going to go off the rails if they have this new freedom. They will willingly become wholly owned subsidiaries of a corrupt republican party which really has very little regard for them, even if it has a use for them. They will want to maintain eligibility for federal grants which the government should not even be giving as broke as they are.

The church should be the conscience of the nation, speaking truth to power. It is hard to do that when you are a palace prophet dining at the king's table. Maybe the gospel is too inconvenient to church leaders who want to keep their "access" to the corridors of power -because those in the corridors find its message distasteful. They will instead preach a utilitarian civil religion which has no power to save.

This is the temptation of the church. She can be offered all the kingdoms of the world, if only she will bow down to another besides God. She will wind up exactly what some of her critics maintain- just another interest group which will try to force outward compliance by outward law to standards she favors- standards which rightfully come from a changed heart. I am not even saying that the church should not advocate for better and more just laws. She should. It is all a part of loving our neighbor. But how do you know when it has gone too far? I am not sure where the line is, but I know this, when you leave off preaching the gospel because it is an impediment to efforts to influence government access/policy then you are definitely over it.




Friday, June 30, 2017

Does Obamacare Save Lives?

Despite some anecdotes which would indicate "yes" (at the cost of making slaves out of the next generation who will be stuck with the debt created to fund it), this through analysis calls into question the very premise of the left, that "people will die" if Obamacare is ended (not that anybody in DC is actually considering doing that, they just want the same thing cheaper).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Symbols and Substance in the Ten Commandments Incident

"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.…"  Jeremiah 33
Does this at least mean that the ACLU won't be suing the state now? Less than 24 hours after a privately-funded ten commandments monument was placed on the grounds of the state capitol 32-year old Micheal Reed drove into the monument and destroyed it. Reed has a history of mental illness. He destroyed a similar monument in Oklahoma.

Symbols are important. At their best, they are used to re-enforce good things from our past and from our culture which are in fact present in ourselves. At their worst, they are used as substitutes for the substance which they represent- an external fig leaf to cover for the fact that the reality of the symbol is not present in our souls.

The symbols are only good when they are a representation of what is already within us. In Arkansas, we have a legislature with people who outwardly make a big show of supporting the symbol of the ten commandments monument, but are drastically short on the actual substance of the commandments in their actions.

For example, the commandments say "thou shalt not lie" and "thou shalt not steal." The commandments are good. But the legislature has insisted on maintaining Obamacare, which steals from today's children through generational looting. Further, they have resorted to numerous deceptions since 2013 to pretend that its not Obamacare. Those deceptions are not fooling anyone who is paying attention anymore, but still they have tried and its been going on for years. Most of them either participated in the dishonesty or went along with it as a "team player." I do not exclude Senator Jason Rappert from that group.

Every session those connected to the government get more and more while expanding debt and increased tax revenues are demanded from the rest of us with private means in order to pay for it. When government has been operating like this then having a big monument gathering dust on the grounds is an empty symbol. It does not reflect what they actually respect and the way they actually operate. It is just an excuse to tell themselves they are still good people because they want to publicly flourish the symbols of righteousness while letting the substance of it whither in their hearts. I consider this a very dangerous spiritual condition.

What I suggest is the long prescribed antidote to sin - repentance. I want to put the ten commandments back in our hearts more prominently and not worry so much if there is a symbol representing them out on the capitol grounds. Instead of pointing to a rock on the capitol grounds as evidence that the Ten Commandments still mean something to us, we should point to our lives and our work and our votes. That we neither lie nor steal nor use the law as a cover for unrighteousness. Let them be written on our hearts and it will not matter if there is a monument for some insane person to destroy. There will be no symbol for the ACLU to sharpen its ax for. But righteousness and peace will flourish.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wal-Mart War with Amazon Goes Hot

It seems that Wal-Mart would rather have politicians grab more tax revenues from online sales and threaten truckers who do business with Amazon than build a customer-friendly website for online retailing. It is crazy stupid. They could compete with Amazon for online retailing. Instead they want to hinder online retailing and force people into their increasingly unpleasant store experience. They are threatening to boycott truckers who haul stuff for Amazon!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Now Come the Tough Choices on Medicaid

Some of us warned about this day six years ago when the Republicans in this state signed us onto "The Private Option" with claims that it was "the furthest thing from Obamcare". Some of us knew at the time that was untrue, but it confused enough people long enough for them to get it going until they could change the name to "Arkansas Works" and reset the Confusion Clock.

Of course the few activists who were warning about this were dismissed as "unappeasables" who didn't know anything. I specifically said "the money to pay for these promises does not exist. It never existed." But hey, the national credit card was not maxed out just yet so party on dudes. What has the next generation ever done for us anyway? Let's stick 'em with the tab and congratulate ourselves for saying "yes" to more government spending on health care.

So now that the health care system and insurance plans in this state have been re-arranged to Obamacare, the money is running out and major changes have to be made. You may think that is a good idea, or you may think it is a terrible idea- but it doesn't matter because the money to do all this was never there. Governor Asa Hutchinson took the first step by moving able-bodied adults from 101% to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level off of Medicaid and onto the exchanges. They will still be somewhat subsidized on the exchanges but nothing like the sweet deal they got on Medicaid (sweet deal from them, terrible deal for tomorrow's children who will be stuck with the debt).

Before Obamacare we had Medicare for the elderly. It is not quite pure socialized medicine because people paid in all their working lives, but it was going broke even before George W. Bush did big pharma a huge solid and socialized prescription drug coverage for the elderly. We had Medicaid for Children, the disabled, and the very poorest of the poor. So those groups already had the government paying for their health care, and it was straining the safety net. What Obamacare did was add a lot more able-bodied adults into the safety net and it is giving way due to the strain.

Now it is time to figure out who to reduce benefits to. The Republican plan from Senator Tom Cotton et al looks like it is trying to keep FEDGOVS hand in the pie, but still give smaller pieces of pie to every group that got pie under Obamacare. What that means is the elderly, the disabled, and children will have to get smaller pieces of pie going forward. Why? So that the group that Obamacare added- able-bodied adults who are poor but not the poorest of the poor, can keep getting government pie. That allows the lefties at the ARKTIMES to deride the plan as "annals of mean" for "cutting" benefits to children.

Now that the Democrats (with Republican help) have extended the reach of the federal government into the healthcare of able-bodied adults the Republicans just can't seem to simply let go. They can't seem to get behind a plan which would simply take FEDGOV out of that new area of life that they invaded and took over- even if they don't know what they are doing and don't have the money to do it anyway. It is like they are control freaks who cant. let. go.

Yet the right thing to do is so simple. Simple but not easy. The able-bodied adults who have gotten a free ride at the expense of tomorrow's children have to get kicked off the bus. If it is a choice between whose benefits to cut, cut theirs before you cut benefits to children and the disabled. Just admit that you are having a devil of a time managing the vast federal programs that were on your plate before Obamacare and it was a mistake to add more to that load. But they can't seem to bear doing that, no matter how obvious it is they should. I sure hope they get over whatever psychological issues won't let them come to grips with the reality that they need to let go, and that they do it before the credit card is maxed out.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Defending Conduit's Legislative Scorecard

Conduit for Commerce had a legislative scorecard that I was very complimentary of. No sooner had I complimented it than Dan Greenberg of Advance Arkansas put out a piece highly critical of their scorecard. Advance Arkansas and Conduit have very similar mission goals. They could either be allies or competitors for the "market" of economic freedom people. Greenberg decided to treat them like competitors and launched on them. I shared my views about it in some audio files which were played on the Paul Harrell Program. In addition to playing them on the show, they also put up the clips by themselves. You can listen to my critique of Greenberg's critique here. This is an example of a contrived and unnecessary fight among people who would be better off making peace and working together IMHO.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ranking the Legislators 2017

Conduit for Commerce has come out with their rankings for all legislators from the 2017 session. It is very comprehensive and I noticed that a lot of the names high on their list were names that were also high on our list of top legislators from the 2015 session. They don't explain it in their article but I think that the names that are underlined and have an asterisk were those who voted against the Governor when they needed to on a couple of big bills. I.E. those are the ones who will stand up for fiscal responsibility even when its not cool and the price could be high (the Governor finding them a primary opponent for example).

For the past several sessions I have gotten with four other activists and we had our own vote on who the best and worst legislators were. This list looks good enough that I don't feel the need to do that this time around.  I endorse their list, even if I don't agree with every bill they scored and how they scored it.


What do the numbers tell us? That there are six really good State Senators in the Arkansas Legislature and after that there is a really big drop-off in quality. It also tells us what kind of score Asa Hutchinson would get if he were a state senator- that score is "-19". We know that because that is the score that Jim Hendren got and he is the Governor's nephew and point man and votes with him pretty much right down the line.

The House has 100 members instead of the 35 the Senate has, so you would expect to find more good ones, and there are but not that many more. (NOTE: I don't agree that Sullivan was the #1 member of the house.)  Ten of them are really solid, like the top six senators, but after that there is a more gradual tapering of quality. The top ten is really strong and the next 15-20 are pretty good too. In the Senate once you get past the top six, things go downhill fast. It is like by then they have decided what they are and they go there. In the house they are still a work in progress and could go either way. I am not even going to link the house rating. Check the article out to see it yourself.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

In Training to Receive the Mark of the Beast

Revelations 13:16-17

16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or[a] the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
 I don't know what I believe about eschatology. It has always been the most unfathomable to me (along with early Genesis which I am finally convinced that I do understand) and I figured that I had a difficult enough time trying to live up to the parts that were easy to understand. I do know that when I was growing up it seemed very unlikely that we would have a one-world system, yet everyone was talking about it coming and how they would refuse to take "the mark of the beast", whatever it is or was. So much so that I can remember thinking "how could they get away with forcing people to take such a mark, too many people would know that it would be making a deal with the Devil?"

Now days it is very clear that the ruling class is pushing for a one world system, and it seems either plausible or maybe even inevitable. Yet no one seems to be talking about "the mark of the beast" anymore. It is amazing how much the world has changed since I was a teenager. The technological improvements have been wonderful. But more power has not made man better, and the noise has made us a lot less contemplative of life's larger questions.

One thing I have learned about evil over the years is that it does not describe itself as evil, at least until people are hopelessly sucked in. Rather, evil tries to present itself as good. That dishonesty is just a part of the evil. When and if the time comes they are not going to say "everyone who wants to deny God so we world rulers can try to take His place in league with Satan line up here to get your mark." It is going to be a lot more seductive than that. Not that truth can stay hidden to those who want to see. Despite an intense propaganda campaign with all kinds of claims about itself, I suspect the rottenness and corruption of the system will be plain enough to anyone who cares to see it.

But people will not want to see it. A lot of folks who consider themselves "good people" will line right up for, even if they don't buy the system's claims about itself. Why? They will tell themselves that they need access to the system so that they can do good with it. They will assume that they themselves will resist the corrupting influences of the system that they see in others.

Not everybody will be jaded. There will be some "true believers" who want to get wrapped up in something bigger than themselves (but not God). They will take the mark "on their foreheads". That is to say, it will reflect the state of their minds- they will really believe. Others though, will just take the mark on their right hand- they will do the things the system wants them to do in order to maintain their access to the system no matter what is going on in their minds. They won't necessarily buy into it- at least not at first. They may even think that they will just be using the bad system for some "good" purpose. They have to take it in order to stay "relevant", in order to be "players."

If Revelation is such a mystery to me, how do I know all of this? Easy. It is already happening. Right now I see this very thought process occurring in lots of otherwise decent people. People who think of themselves as the good guys, as decent people, will go right ahead and voluntarily put their name on an institution that they will privately admit is corrupt to the core. And they will do this for the very reasons that I described above. They will want "access". They have convinced themselves that they can use a corrupt institution to accomplish good things- things that the institutions leading lights are opposed to doing. And they think they can out-use those professional users without becoming tainted themselves- they thought that they might be never even seems to occur to them.

Yes, I am talking about the Republican Party, among other institutions. I don't think an institution has to be 100% pure or moral before I lend my name to it- once I was a part of it then it would not be 100% pure any more anyway. But I am opposed to joining an organization that I know is systematically corrupt and which tends to make those who join it worse instead of better. The generally upright people I know who are heavy into it are miserable, and the dirtiest and willingly deceived who are in it seem the most supportive of it as it is now. Why would any decent human being want to join an outfit like that? Why would they remain in such an outfit? For all of the reasons I outlined above.

I can't tell you how many people I have talked to inside it that admit to me that it is bad and getting worse. Some make excuses about trying to "change it from the inside" but mostly they don't say that anymore. They are too ashamed to because people have tried to do that my whole adult life-time and its only gotten worse not better. Anyway you might as well try and join the Gambinos and try to "change them from within". Mostly, they say just what I outlined above- they know it is rotten but they want to use it to accomplish some personal goal that they see as good. Well, the system is using you too, your name and influence, to give the cloak of credibility to what they are doing, even if you don't approve. You are supporting and enabling it by continuing to be a dues-paying member.

I visited with a guy the other day who once ran as an independent for a county position and did very poorly. Now he wants to run as a Republican. I told him that I knew lots of men who tried to use the system for good purpose without becoming either corrupted or miserable, but maybe he would be the first. He actually wrote back agreeing that in the past every single person he supported for leadership in the party let him down and went back on what they said they would do with it. I guess he considers himself made of finer clay than those other guys who went in and let him down. I don't think so much of myself. I want to be surrounded by people who will help me be better, not worse.

For a believer, this world is not our home. We hope for a better country, the land above. And as such we should not have the same compulsion to be a "player" in a corrupt system. Our spiritual forebears knew this. They were thrown to the lions because they would not burn a pinch of incense to the Emperor as though he were a god. Some folks who say most of Revelation has already happened think that this is the "mark of the beast" that Saint John the Revelator was referring to. They refused to pay homage to a corrupt institution, or lend their name to it. It finally crashed in on itself due to its own corruption. That caused a lot of hurt- mostly to those deepest inside it. The Christians could not have saved it anyway, because it was being judged by God and was not meant to be saved. All they could have done by staying in and supporting it was get in His way.

Sure, there were centuries of rebuilding required, but that rebuilding was on a firmer foundation than state-worship and Emperor worship. Their descendants built the political systems which became the Republics of the West, which granted mankind more freedom and stability than had ever before been known. Our refusal to participate any longer in a corrupt system may or may not have the same effect, but it is still the right thing to do. I am not advocating just giving up mind you, but leaving the corrupt system which offers you hope of personal advantage and "relevancy" and starting something new which is not mired in rot even though it offers you nothing but self-sacrifice. Both your grandchildren and your soul will be better off.