Saturday, November 28, 2015

Northwest Medical Center Billing Fraud?

The menu they showed us, and the price we paid

Something is very wrong at the billing department of Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville Arkansas. When I say "wrong" I mean very likely unethical and maybe even criminally fraudulent. They have a lot of affiliates in a lot of area in our state, and I wonder if this is a one-off or if we have a large scale problem.

In January of 2015 my wife gave birth to our third child. I choose to insure outside of Obamacare so my family had a Blue Cross plan which did not cover maternity. I just new we would have a medical expense and set some money aside to pay for it. I went to each player in the delivery, hospital, doctor, and anesthesiologist, and asked them to give me a cash-upfront price for the service. 

At the hospital in Bentonville I saw a woman named Kim. When I explained our situation she handed me the "menu" pictured above. It gave a cash up-front price for mother and child of $4095. That was just the hospital cost: the delivery doctor and the lab and the anesthesiologist were separate, but I was pleased with the hospital price. A few days later I brought her a check for the whole amount.

The delivery went off without a hitch and we went home happy. Then more bills started showing up. To be fair, at first they showed up from all three providers. It was understandable that providers these days are not used to people who pay for services cash-up front. Still, a phone call and a visit cleared it up with the deliver doctor and the anesthesiologist. With the hospital, I went by in person twice and showed Kim the price that she gave me. It did not matter, the demands for an additional $1,712 kept coming in the mail. At first the reason for the bill was non-descript. Later it said it was for the baby.

I wrote back several times and explained the situation, and even included a copy of the above, which clearly says the price listed is for both mother and baby. I asked them to explain to me why I owed it since I paid the up-front price for both and the delivery went off exactly as planned. The only answer I got was more and increasingly threatening form letters demanding money for a service for which they were already paid the agreed-on price. 

I also learned that Northwest Health Systems attempted to bill my insurance provider (Arkansas Blue Cross) for these same services. Since the plan I had with them did not include maternity, Blue Cross did not pay anything. If they had, it seems to me that it would be insurance fraud, since they had already been paid for these services by me. Isn't it attempted insurance fraud anyway? How is this different from going to a restaurant and paying the menu price for your food only to have them try to shake you down again on the way out the door?

Northwest has since turned this over to a collection agency called PASI. When they started sending letters I wrote them too. It did not help. It seems like the machine just keeps rolling along demanding money no matter what. Our healthcare system is definitely not fixed. The Obamacare part is not fixed and neither is the rest of it. What other area of the economy is there such a lack of transparency on price? Without prices, costs and benefits cannot be rationally decided. You can't ever have a rational allocation of resources without known prices. Its crazy, and yet medicine, in collusion with government and possibly big insurance, has kept price discovery for its services obscure, and in this case possibly deceptive. There is no effective reform in healthcare which does not involve patients knowing what price will be paid for the services received, yet here we are after politicians have reformed their reforms and we still don't have anything close to price transparency. 

Has anyone else had trouble with Northwest Medical System over billing, or trying to bill you more than you were led to believe something would cost? Right now anytime we get a major medical service it seems like they can just keep making up bills for vague "services" and we are just supposed to keep paying them until they decide to stop billing us. Are they doing this in the government health care programs too? Are they just sending as many bills as they can get away with until the bureaucrats decide it is just less paperwork for them to pay it with our money rather than dig into each one? 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

On Syrian Refugees

In the landmark work The Art of War T'sun Tzu said (loosely paraphrased) that to win battles one must know 1) Your enemy, 2) Yourself and also 3) Know the conditions on the field of battle. I submit to you that the reason we are losing battles is because we have not troubled ourselves to do the things required to win battles. Until we do, victory will elude us.

It is almost impossible to find the right answers if one is not asking the right questions. In this case, there is more than one question to consider. One question is a policy question we might ask if we sat in the White House or in Congress. This is the question of "what should we ask our government to do about the refugees?" A part of this question involves determining where the funds might come from to pay for the costs of such a program.

A separate question would be "how should we as individual citizens respond if the government re-locates refugees to our community?" I have heard plenty of people express opinions on the first question, but the truth is, the decision is not up to most of us. That decision will be made by our ruling class. The only choice we will have to make is how we respond to their decision. This is a separate question from the first one, and it is a mistake to mix the two. What I see happening is that many of us are so wrapped up in the first question that we never get around to answering the second question. Sadly, for most of us that is the only question to which the answers matters. Most of us don't make policy. Most of us only get to decide how we will respond to policy made by FEDGOV. I wish to answer  both questions.

Regarding the first question, we know that Muslims have friction with other communities basically everywhere they go. In India, the clash with Hindus. In Israel, they clash with Jews. In Lebanon, they clash with the Druze. In secular Europe they clash with the non-religious. In much of the world, they clash with Christians. In lands where Muslims are from different sects of Islam, they clash with each other.  It does not matter who their neighbors are, once they are present in large enough numbers they tend to bring friction and violence wherever they are present.

Because of all this, as a general principle concerning immigration policy it is rational and in the national interest to actively discriminate against members of all but the most congenial and tolerant schools of Islam. Will there be individual exceptions? Yes, but the rule is still a sound one. For those aghast that I used the word "discriminate" in a positive sense I will keep it simple- grow up and face reality. Discrimination in itself is not bad. It is necessary to discriminate between sound and unsound courses of action and we could not function without being able to do it daily. The basis on which one discriminates can be good or bad, not the act of discriminating between wise and unwise policies itself.

FEDGOV is not pursing that policy of course. Whatever forms or parodies of self-rule we might have, FEDGOV no longer answers to the citizens but only a global ruling class. The immigration policy of FEGOV, Republican or Democrat in administration, has been to admit large numbers of Muslims of all types into America. I can't prove it, but I suspect this to be a deliberate policy of population replacement, or at least an effort to reduce population cohesion. The more we fight among ourselves the more "need" we will have for government to referee our differences. As discussed in the seventh pillar of "Localism", this is an age-old tactic of tyrants.

That said, we are not dealing with immigration policy in general here. We are dealing with a specific situation- Syrian refugees. Most of these people are not ISIS, they are victims of ISIS. ISIS and FEDGOV that is. The reason there are so many Syrian refugees is that FEDGOV has supported a policy of de-stabilizing Syria and doing what it could to create conditions that would bring an ISIS into existence. FEDGOV, and our mid-east "allies" have been handing out aid, weapons and giving training to all manner of psychotics in Syria. They gave crazies the means to turn the country upside down and now its upside down. Christians from Lebanon and Syria are fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Assad regime to drive out the Islamofascist groups, including ISIS, that our government helped create.

As much as Republicans would like to blame Obama for all of this, its not the whole truth. Until we are willing to face that, we cannot "know ourselves" as Tsun Tzu said was necessary to win. FEDGOV planned to meddle in Syria before Obama ever assumed office.   Former General Wesley Clark explains that American foreign policy has been taken over by a secret coup committed to what seems to be world domination. In other words, America is the aggressor.

So the argument can be made that since "our" government provoked this human tragedy that the morally right thing to do is to help ease at least some of the suffering that our government's foreign policy precipitated. I suppose those of us who have been arguing for getting out of the Middle East and for America to stop "policing" the world can at least say we were against foreign interventionism from the beginning. I can't help but notice that some of those most opposed to taking in any Syrian refugees are also loudly in favor military adventurism abroad.

There are those who assert that we have some kind of right to send in soldiers to take over the Middle East but at the same time have no obligation to relieve the human suffering of civilians that result from such measures. I find such a position to be grossly immoral. It is also ultimately destructive because it needlessly creates dedicated enemies for us. Tomorrow's "terrorist" is today's loving husband and father who lost his wife and daughter in the chaos unleashed in his country as a result of American interventionism. Or maybe fighting for ISIS is the only way left to feed one's family in an economy devastated by the actions of FEDGOV and "allies" like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The actions of such a terrorist may have a thin coating of "Islam" painted over the top of them, but the fellow would have never considered becoming a "terrorist" absent the terror which befell him. Indeed many terrorists (example, that woman in Paris)  are not particularly religious. It is mental instability and a feeling of helplessness over the circumstances of their lives more than religious faith which is the common thread.

Many Americans have lost the Biblical virtue of patience and so they have no patience for sorting through these nuances before they call for more bombs to fly. It is easier to just believe that all Muslims are evil and that they are eager to put their own lives on hold if it means they can conquer the West for Islam. If that were true then the decision is an easy one: keep them all out. But that is just a case of believing something that is not true in order to avoid the necessity of hard thinking. The reality is that not all strains of Islam share the Wahhabi view of jihad. Even among that part of Islam which does, the reality is that a lot of Muslims are no more committed to Jihad than many Christians are committed to the Golden Rule; being The Good Samaritan; Loving Their Enemies, or living out many other important aspects of the Christian Faith. Like Christians, a lot more Muslims talk a good religious game than actually live it out.

If two things were to occur I would be fine with taking some responsibility for the horrendous mess that "our" government's foreign policy has caused by taking in some refugees. First, the money to pay for it must come from a place that is less just than what it would be spent on. For example reducing money for veterans to pay for resettling refugees would be unjust even if taking in refugees were just. So to fund refugee resettlement on a just basis the money to pay for it might come exclusively from money we currently spend in aid to Muslim nations, many of whom are heartlessly refusing to help any of the refugees. Maybe you can think of another place too, but my point is a government program can't be just unless the place we get the money to pay for it is less worthy of support than what we propose to spend it on. Once we get them resettled and most of them become productive citizens, that revenue stream should not go back to foreign aid. We keep it for domestic aid. We can also enjoy any tax revenues the refugees produce once they get their feet under them. That is the way to do it that makes sense financially.

The other thing to do would be to have reasonable vetting because there is no doubt that terrorists will try to hide among the victims. That is not what happened in France so near as we can tell as the perpetrators were all euro-nationals. Still, if it is easier for a terrorist to slip in among the refugees than to enter a country in other ways then we can expect them to try and hide among them. How thoroughly should we vet them? They should be vetted enough so that we are at least as likely to catch them if they try to enter as refugees than if they attempt to enter on say, a student visa or get smuggled across our porous southern border.

Since bombastic media outlets and personalities are conditioning people to make absolutist and unattainable demands, many reading this may need some convincing that the above should be our vetting goal. They have been trained to demand a no less than 100% assurance that no one who will commit an act of terrorism will make it through the vetting process. If 20,000 refugees have to die to save Americans from the chance of one would-be terrorist coming through, then too bad for them.

Of course, that level of safety is not achievable in a fallen world. I have often said that the left reflects a mind-set of perpetual adolescence, where government is the parent who is to provide for 100% of their needs and clean up all their messes. This mind-set turns a section of the right into the same thing. Instead of a 100% assurance of their needs being met there is 100% assurance of physical safety. Government can't do either one of those things, but it can bankrupt you and make you into slaves trying.

I have been asked if there were a bowl of 10,000 M&Ms before me, ten of which contained a deadly poison, if I would be so foolish as to eat from the bowl. I would not. Nor would I be so foolish as to think that is a fair analogy of our question here. I am not contemplating what level of risk is moral and reasonable in order to eat a handful of candy. I am contemplating what level of risk is moral and reasonable in order to save human lives. Lives which have been turned upside down in part by the insane actions of what purports to be my own government. So if you saw a girl drowning in a river would you say "there is a one in 10,000 chance if I jump in and try to save her that I could die too. I better just watch them drown."? Is there anybody out there who thinks that is a moral and reasonable choice?

But with all of that said, few people with good sense trust the Obama administration to properly vet refugees. I certainly don't. Even the launch of his landmark program, with his own name on it, was a rollout disaster. That is why Governors have made various demands. They range from demands to see details from the files on the vetting FEDGOV has done to demands to do their own vetting before any refugees are relocated to their states. Many Governors have simply come out against taking any refugees, Arkansas' Asa Hutchinson included.

I think they have every right to do so. FEDGOV keeps telling them that they can't refuse to take refugees. Governors point to the fact that the federal law says that Governors should be consulted. I would go farther- the 10th Amendment was included in the constitution for just such instances as the one we now face. The states don't work for FEDGOV, FEDGOV is a creation of the states. States have a right to refuse refugees from federal programs. This is the only position consistent with the localist philosophy of government which I embrace. So to answer the question of "can states refuse them"; yes.  Should states refuse them? It depends. It depends on where the money to pay for it is coming from and the quality of the vetting process.

How can they be vetted? With over 11 million Muslims already in America a decent share of them might already have friends or relatives over here. We could probably take as many as France has agreed to take (20,000) just by getting their own relatives in America to vouch for them, with the understanding that they would be in trouble too if the relative later committed an act of terror. Not that this is even necessary, because even though not all of the refugees can be adequately vetted, a lot of them can be and some probably have been already. We take the ones who can and have been vetted.

But all this so far only addresses the question of what we should do if we were in charge. You and I are not in charge. The only decision in this sad affair that we might be faced with is how we should react if refugees are relocated to our area. Suppose we come face-to-face with Muslims from the Mid-east, right there in our American home town. How are we to react?

Despite how much longer I spent on the first question, I will say little as to this question even though it is the more important of the two. I will say little on it because, if you are a Christian, the question has already been answered for us by our Lord and Savior. I dare not give my opinion on a subject on which He has given His. Rather, my obligation is to agree with Him. Here is what He instructed us to do (Matthew 5):
443 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

By following His precepts, our spiritual ancestors did more than bring down the Roman Empire, they made it their own. When we were nothing, pure Christianity beat paganism and state-worship (though that vile spirit is striving to sit upon Christ's throne even to this day). If our faith is in our military rather than our God then we will surely lose. We cannot obliterate over one billion people without becoming the same kind of monsters that we imagine them to be. But where our guns cannot even truly conquer Muslims, the Gospel will convert them. It can change them from our enemies to our brothers and sisters. Islam will be kept at bay by the sword, but it will only be defeated by the Cross.

Now you may say that even if we do this, FEDGOV will not, for it is hostile to the gospel. I agree. FEDGOV has become a bigger threat to America than ISIS (which it helped create). The wicked creatures who run ISIS would love to precipitate the murder of fifty million Americans, but they cannot. Yet FEDGOV, through its wicked abortion rulings, has done so. ISIS would love to force a redefinition of marriage on America, but they cannot. Yet FEDGOV has done so. ISIS would love to turn us all into debt slaves while they spend the money created through the debt, but they cannot. Yet FEDGOV has done so.

These refugees are not so big a threat to your liberties as the out-of-control federal government which will let them in. Yet the power and mercy of God is so great that if His people seek His face and walk in His ways, then very instrument intended to divide and negate us can be used for our deliverance. Let us show the love of God to these people, and to one another since many are Christians, that whoever might come to Christ will come to Christ. Let them in no way be hindered from believing the gospel on account of us. I can see the day coming where the sons and daughters of those immigrants stand shoulder to shoulder with our sons and daughters to help us to finally bring the excesses of Washington to heel.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Half of All Freshman at U of A Fayetteville are Out of State Students

More evidence of my thesis that Higher Ed is one of the most over-funded areas of state government. It turns out that half the freshman at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville are from out of state. A big reason for this is that they have offered inducements to out of state students because they have run short of Arkansans who are qualified and interested in their programs. In other words, they have a huge over-capacity.

Heavy subsidies of higher education does not "create jobs" in this state, because labor is mobile. Rather, when a state has a higher-ed system grossly disproportionate to the size of its underlying existing real economy then higher ed is a subsidy from the taxpayers of that state to the economies of other states where the students must go to find work. Or those students graduate and then take a job around here which does not require a college degree, in which case the higher ed represents of massive misallocation of resources.

I tried to warn people back when they started the lottery that Higher Ed was already over-funded. Now I guess they have so much money coming, and they have ballooned their facilities to such an inappropriate capacity, that they have to start subsidizing the education of out-of-state people to find someone to use it all.

This state will be forced to make some very difficult choices in just a few years. When it comes time to cut back, a primary target should be Higher Ed.  When we are having trouble taking care of our own needs, subsidizing the college education of non-Arkansans should be last on the list. Especially since many of us detect an arrogant, elitist, and out of touch culture at some of these universities. It is particularly unfitting that the state of Arkansas stuff more public money into institutions whose administration expresses disdain for the values, mores and culture of the people whose funding makes it possible.

Brooks Rules Baxter County Nativity Scene Ruled "Unconstitutional"

Federal Judge Timothy Brooks ruled this week that Baxter County was in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because they have displayed a Nativity Scene on the Court House grounds for the past fifteen years while ignoring a request/demand by atheists to put a display celebrating the Winter Solstice.

Brooks wrote in his ruling that County Judge Mickey Pendergrass “must either (1) refrain from placing any religiously sectarian seasonal display on the courthouse grounds, or (2) create a public forum on the courthouse grounds for a seasonal display open to persons of all faiths as well as of no faith at all, without discrimination on the basis of viewpoint.”

Look, I am a Christian, but I am not one to get in an uproar about these outward displays of religiosity. Neither was Jesus if I read Mathew chapter six aright. I have seen too many politicians hide behind these public shows of religion while their policies are unjust. Maybe some of them are doing like Machiavelli advised in his book on advice to ruthless rulers, The Prince. He advised doing the exact opposite of what Jesus commanded. He advised having a strong outward display of religion in order to gain the trust of the people, but not to be restrained by the tenants of religion in the administration of government. I am not trying to insinuate anything about Mickey Pendergrass in particular, because I don't know his policies, but I think its done.

So I don't give politicians a lot of points for outward displays of faith. I look to see if they have virtuous private lives and promote justice in the law. That being said, Judge Brooks is wrong. His ruling is in accordance with the prevailing judicial reasoning of the day, but that's wrong too. Judicial precedent has mutated into something so bizarre that it no longer upholds the intent of the U.S. Constitution, but actually undermines it. Please join me with an open mind to understand how this is so:

First of all, Baxter County cannot violate the first amendment. The first amendment begins "Congress shall make no law....". The First Amendment, like every amendment in the Bill of Rights, was a prohibition on the Federal government. They were not meant to be limitations on state or local governments at all. In particular they were not meant to be prohibitions which empowered the federal government to act as referee. We would never have had a union if that were the case. I discuss and demonstrate this in more detail in Localism, a Philosophy of Government. It may be that Baxter County violated some provision regarding an establishment of religion in the Arkansas Constitution, but it cannot have violated the first amendment of the U.S. constitution anymore than I can violate the code of judicial ethics.

But doesn't the  fourteenth amendment mean that the Bill of Rights now applies to the states? People say that, and courts may claim that, but the fourteenth amendment does not say that.  It does give FEDGOV some limited role in refereeing state behavior, but only when Congress has passed appropriate legislation enabling the provisions of the fourteenth amendment. See the last sentence of the 14th. Unless Congress passes a law to the effect that County Courthouses cannot put up Nativity Scenes then the courts have no legitimate power under the 14th to rule there is a violation. Congress having made no such law, the court has exceeded its legal and constitutional authority. And that is only if the act in question is something that is subject to the 14th amendment. Recent courts have expanded the definitions of "equal protection" and "due process of law" to a degree that deserves to be considered ridiculous, that deserves to be ridiculed, but for now must be taken seriously.

We don't have nearly so big a problem with a state laws favoring an "establishment of religion" in America as we do with Judicial Over-reach and usurpation. That's the larger present threat to our republic.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Jon Woods Will Not Stand for Re-Election to State Senate

State Senator Jon Woods, (R) Springdale, will not run for re-election he announced Friday. Woods was the driving force behind the very worst bill passed last session, one that made it virtually impossible for the Ethics Commission to sanction legislators regardless of how many times they get caught misusing campaign funds.
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Friday, November 06, 2015

Burris Report on Hutchinson Hires Nausea Inducing

Talk Business has a "report" by John Burris. Burris tried to stay in the ledge by running for Senate but was rejected by the voters in large part due to his work in imposing the "private" option on Arkansas. The "report" is Pollyanna-style coverage of the way that Governor Asa Hutchinson staffs. I think it serves as a good example of the type of "journalism" we can expect from Burris. You may want to remember this one as the inevitable scandals, deceptions, and blunders unwind.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Online Schools Have Worse Performance

I am not a fan of online education for high school students. As a supplement, yes, but not as a replacement for a live, capable, and caring teacher. My brother is a history teacher in a public school, and a good one. When his school used online learning for their Advanced Placement History course only one student scored "proficient" on the end of course exam over a five year period. They put him in the classroom to teach it instead. Five students scored proficient that year and in all the years he has taught it since they have never had less than five students score that high.

That anecdote is now backed up by this study. Online learning does not work as well as having a teacher in the classroom. Even mature teenagers are not focused enough to learn without a teacher in the classroom, unless it is something they are innately interested in. A major part of education is training young minds what it is proper and useful to be interested in- that is where I disagree with the leftists who want children to write their own curriculum. On the other hand, fascists, including those on the "left" and the "right" want to nationalize or globalize the curriculum and I disagree with them too. Young people are meant to learn, they are designed to learn, in families and in communities. They are not robots. They are not mere machines. Education is not simply a process of information delivery. Its about caring. I believe in community schools, not state schools.

And not corporate schools either. A lot of this drive for online education is being driven by conservatives in name only, who are in actuality corporate tools. Some boardrooms see big profits if they can take all of those public dollars spent on education and convert it from a brick and mortar situation to one that is digitally delivered. They want the same "teacher" to deliver the same course to one million students online. It sounds great on paper, if you ignore what children actually are and how they really learn.

I oppose "McSchool" as much as I oppose schooling directed by the central state. Long live localism, down with central control, down with corporate control, up with families and communities.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Article V Amendments Convention Debate

This is a debate from the Arkansas Tea Party Alliance Meeting. The topic is whether or not now is the time to ask Congress to call an Article V convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the constitution. I represented the "No" side. Mark Alspaugh of the Convention of States project represented the "Yes" side.

I was mostly satisfied with the results, though my opponent got the last word to make some incorrect assumptions that I had no opportunity to counter. For example, he dismissed my evidence that George Mason was dissatisfied with the final form of article V by saying that "Article V was approved unanimously" as if that meant Mason must have been for it. But votes in that convention were not counted by delegate, but by state delegation. So for example, if the three federalists in the Virginia delegation voted to approve Article V then the vote for Virginia would be "yes" even if Mason and Randolph had voted against it. Mason's comments at the next to last day of convention provide ample indication that he did not trust the article V process to correct what he saw as weaknesses in the document. That may be a tempest in a teapot anyway because today's ruling class does not care what the founding fathers thought an article V convention ought to look like.

Tea Party Alliance Meeting Musings on the Worst Congressmen

I recently had the pleasure of attending part of the "Liberty, Does it Matter?" meeting hosted by the Arkansas Tea Party Alliance. I was there on the request of Eagle Forum to make the case that the conditions are not right for Arkansas to ask Congress to call for an Article V Convention to propose amendments to the constitution. Here is the video of the debate.

The Tea Party in Arkansas is at an identity crossroads. The Tea Parties have the challenge of staying in the "sweet spot" of political activism. On the one side, they must stay honest watch dogs without turning into reflexive attack dogs. But if they go too far the other way, they can wind up as lap dogs. They become irrelevant if they devolve into mere cheerleaders of, maybe not the most establishment  Republicans, but a second group who are merely playing a role as outsiders while really doing nothing to challenge the system. The Tea Party needs both good cops and bad cops working together to demand accountability from politicians, not merely access.

For what can happen when a Tea Party over-emphasizes access at the expense of accountability, see the story of what happened to the Benton County Tea Party at the end of this report. I hope the Tea Party alliance leaders have the wisdom needed to navigate the challenges and opportunities of their position. Ultimately "relevance" must depend on staying relevant to the conservative base which must form the ranks of the Tea Party rather than being "relevant" as a player in a political establishment which their base is increasingly coming to detest. At the same time, they can't just represent people who are have directionless belligerence. There has to be a policy direction on which to base satisfaction or dis-satisfaction with a given politician. It is a difficult course to navigate and we should pray they receive wisdom equal to the difficulty of their task.

At this particular event, much was made of the fact that Congressman Steve Womack was not there- as in he was an establishment guy and would not dare show his face at a Tea Party event. This was contrasted with Congressmen Bruce Westerman and French Hill, who showed up and entertained the faithful during lunch with their joint talk. They are supposed to be the good guys that the Tea Party is on amicable terms with.

The two did get asked a pointed question by the Heritage Foundation guy. He asked if either one of them were members of the Republican Freedom Caucus and if not why? The Republican Freedom Caucus is widely considered responsible for forcing corporate sock puppet John Boehner out of the Speaker's seat. The establishment tried to trade him in for another obvious tool, Kevin McCarthy, and they blocked that too. It appears they have been induced to settle for Paul Ryan, who is still awful but at least the Republican Freedom Caucus was fighting. If any group in Congress represents the interests of the Tea Party, its that group.

So when asked if they were members, and if not why, it was a real defining moment. They hemmed and hawed and danced around a bit and confessed that neither of them was in it. Westerman downplayed his lack of participation by saying that there were all kinds of caucuses for all sorts of things on Capitol Hill. I turned to my companion and said "yeah, that one is for freedom, and you two are not in it."

So here were Hill and Westerman serving as sort of a "bridge" between the Tea Party and the establishment members such as Womack. They were not critical of Womack. They were not taking any action they were willing to share against the establishment of their party. They were just serving the role of keeping the party tolerable in the eyes of the conservative audience. They were doing this by charm more than substance, since they were doing nothing to oppose the establishment that most people in that room think is ruining the GOP and America.

That got me thinking about who the "worst" congressman might be. Is it one like Womack, who openly represents international business with little pretense of listening to his constituents? At least Womack is being straightforward about who and what he is. Is that worse than what Westerman and Hill were doing? Is it worse to openly identify with the establishment or serve as the faces that keep grassroots connected to that establishment when they seem to have no intention of confronting it? Is it not true then that they simply serve the same establishment monster in a different role? They may not openly do its bidding, but they keep people connected to the political brand that empowers it while doing nothing to oppose it. I don't have any answers on this one, just musings.

********** After Story ****************

An example of what I am talking about is the experience I had in my own local tea party, from this article on Captured Institutions and the Collective.

A recent example of the process I am talking about can be found in the story of my own County Tea Party. I was one of the three people most responsible for getting it started by uniting a number of city groups. In a rare act of nobility, I deliberately arranged things so that I could not be elected Chairman, or any other "big" office. Unfortunately, it was almost immediately "captured" by the local Republicans, and the new team was more interested in hob-nobbing with politicians than holding them accountable to the precepts of limited government and upholding their oaths of office.

What happened over the next three years happened automatically, organically, and beautifully. As the new County Tea Party was merely an appendage of the local county Republican Committee, it had no real function other than that which was better done in the Republican Committee itself. It became afraid to take a stand on any issue because there were always some Republicans who would take the wrong side of any issue. Even though there were well over one hundred patriots in the room the night it was founded, and it grew for a while after that, over time its numbers began to dwindle. The Tea Party in the next county down stayed true to its function of Watch Dog instead of settling down to the comfortable but dull life of a Lap Dog. More and more patriots from my county drove the extra distance to attend the Tea Party in the adjoining county until at present half its board and membership are made up of persons from my county!

Finally and most recently, the so-called "Tea Party" in my county collapsed on its own uselessness. The "Executive Committee" that ran it into the ground declined en mass to stand for re-election because no one else wanted to play anymore. An enterprising friend of mine encouraged a few of his friends to sign up, seeing this coming, and got himself elected Chairman and his friends on the board. Now, I am re-joining and I suspect many others will too. This is the beauty of small institutions. In our current environment, big institutions are indefensible against the push of the collective, but small institutions resist it almost automatically. Adam Smith's invisible hand of the free market is our secret, and powerful, Ally.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wal-Mart Stock Takes Biggest Hit Yet

Or at least the biggest drop in 17 years. Strangely, they are blaming a strong dollar on their woes. It seems to me that if Wal-Mart were still an American corporation buying goods made overseas for sale to Americans, then a strong dollar would be good for Wal-Mart. Methinks Wal-Mart is now a global corporation, not an American one, and therefore they suffer as the world suffers from deflationary forces unleashed by our dollar being the best looking horse in the fiat currency glue factory. Article on Zero Hedge.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Senate Chairman Pledges Further Reviews of Private Option

Senator Bryan B. King of Green Forest, the chairman of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee’s Medicaid Subcommittee, said Friday that he intended to look more deeply into the problem of potentially thousands of ineligible recipients receiving Medicaid benefits.

“Quite a few of my colleagues have urged me to renew my inquiries, so there is definitely legislative support for a more thorough review of Medicaid’s verification process,” King said.

“When you consider the tremendous cost to taxpayers of a typical Medicaid service, it’s imperative that we determine the extent of payments made for invalid claims submitted for ineligible recipients,” King said.

King’s discussions with other legislators were prompted by this week’s release of the findings of the Stephen Group. The consulting firm has a contract with the Health Reform Legislative Task Force that is working on recommendations to bring to the full legislature for an overhaul of the Medicaid system.

The Stephen Group’s final report revealed that more than 42,000 people on Arkansas Medicaid rolls actually have addresses out of state. More than 6,700 have no record of living in Arkansas. Their study revealed that 367 Medicaid recipients were dead, and 261 had been dead for more than two years. Also, 128 enrollees in the private option were dead before being authorized, and of those 82 had been dead for more than two years. (page 183 of the report).

King said that his concerns were twofold. First, the cost to taxpayers is likely in the millions of dollars. Secondly, he wants to know whether employees at the Department of Human Services (DHS) were entirely forthcoming with auditors two years ago. As a former Senate chairman of the Joint Auditing Committee he was instrumental in ordering an audit of Medicaid expansion. Auditors asked DHS officials about the methods they used to determine eligibility and medical need.

The committee ordered its audit in November, 2013, and auditors released their findings on January 29 and 30, 2014.

“The Audit Committee likely would have taken stronger actions last year, and saved taxpayers millions of dollars, if legislative auditors had known that thousands of recipients were deemed eligible, although they had out-of-state addresses or had been deceased for months,” King said.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Religious Right is Lost, Because They Quit Being the Christian Right

Check out the details on the Localist Blog.