Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Alternate Reality Reporting of the Democrat Gazette

Even though I often express displeasure at the widespread corruption, foolishness, and general dysfunction in our state government, when I read the pages of the state's only state-wide newspaper I marvel that the situation we face is not much worse than it is.   Peering into the pages of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is often like viewing an alternate reality.    What should be up is down, and down is up.   Good is bad, and bad is good.  No wonder voters influenced by its misinformation make poor choices, and politicians influenced by its pages produce poor public policy.

One of the subjects in which I find the Democrat-Gazette is particularly discordant from reality is anything having to do with Secretary of State Mark Martin.    After watching this issue very closely for two years I have come to the conclusion, amply documented on this site, that when the subject is Mark Martin you cannot trust one single word which appears on the pages of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  Not. One. Word.

On Monday the 28th for example, their NW Arkansas section had an prominent story with the headline "Website had glitches on first election run."  It's first paragraph said "Secretary of State Mark Martin's new nearly $400,000 election-night-reporting web-site lagged behind results reported by media outlets during Tuesday's primary election, and some counties' results were missing from it Thursday afternoon."

While the rest of the article gave Martin spokesman Alex Reed lots of space to defend against their allegations, the bottom line was the allegations were ridiculous and the headline and opening paragraph were appallingly misleading.  

I mean this just happened last week.   Many of you have, like me, been following election results for several cycles.   This last election was the very first time in my life that I followed the returns almost exclusively on the Sec. of State's website because I noticed its returns were faster, more complete, and easier to follow than the major media web sites.   This was the first time this had ever happened.  Previously I had primarily used major media websites to track results because they were faster and easier to understand than the SOS website.  The elections I was following had results reported smoother and faster than I have ever remembered it.    What the Democrat-Gazette reported in this story is exactly the opposite of what I personally experienced, ergo, they are wrong.

OK, but what about the costs?  Martin was widely and falsely accused of wasteful spending, at least until the numbers came in and proved Martin was actually operating his office quite frugally, and also proved that the Democrats were deliberately over-funding all of the state Constitutional Offices while claiming they needed more money for various programs.  So did, or will this new election reporting system "cost" the taxpayers of the state an additional $400,000?   I decided to ask Martin.   He answered, "with this software, the counties will no longer have to pay $500 per election x 75 counties, with and average of about 2 elections per county per year. So you can subtract off $225,000 of taxpayer dollars right there.."       

Martin also noted that this spending was not new spending, additional spending.  They were already spending money on election reporting.  When shifting services from one vendor to another you can't get an accurate picture just by looking at the money you are spending under the new contract without also considering if the move will allow you to reduce spending on another vendor.    The system they bought is replacing some of the services from a contract they already had with INA.   Though he could not recall off the top of his head what the exact savings might be, Martin anticipated further cost reductions from their contract with INA as a result of implementing this system.   Over the length of his term, Martin noted that he cut spending on their INA contract to the tune of millions of dollars of taxpayer savings.

That left only the complaints of the poor county worker from Newton County who was not adequately trained for her collateral duties on election night.   That was hardly the fault of the SOS office, and judging by the number of counties who quickly and accurately filed their returns seems to have been an outlier.    The same was the case in Searcy, where provisional ballots slowed things down.  

The bottom line is that the Arkansas Democrat Gazette seems to be on a mission to destroy the political career of Secretary of State Mark Martin.   It looks from here that they are willing to distort the truth farther to go after him than any other major office holder in this state.    Maybe we should start asking why.    Why is Martin, among all the names from both parties in this state they could smear, the one they smear?   

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dinosaur Droppings in My Driveway

A coprolite.
I found a fresh dinosaur dropping in my drive way the other day.  No, not a fossilized version like that pictured above, but the current sort of dinosaur dropping.    There was an unsolicited, environmentally unfriendly, old fashioned newspaper in my driveway.    The local commie rag was trying to drum up subscriptions again.  Apparently, the effects of my phone call to the editor a few years ago asking them to cease and desist littering my property ("Do I have to come down there?") had worn off.

Gingerly, I examined the artifact from a bygone era.   "So primates somewhere are still making these things" I said to myself in amazement,  "I wonder why?"     Searching the long-forgotten memories of my distant past, I tried to remember the last time I had need of a newspaper.   Was it after that fishing trip?  No, my catch had not been large enough.

Curiosity got the better of me as I transported the archeological find into my home and examined its contents.   It was a foolhardy move, because I could not check the article for contamination until I had opened it.  Sure enough, contamination was present- in the form of poor logic, selective presentation of facts, and failed ideology.     Clearly, the fate of this medium had more problems than its low-tech delivery system (which relative to the net was like using stone axes in a world of laser-guided computer controlled lathes).

The front page was about the mayor of a nearby town complaining that news reports from other sources (not the staff of this paper) made it seem like bidders for bond issue services had to "pay to play."   He assured the readers (I use the plural here on the assumption that someone else besides me got curious enough about the tube of trash that had appeared in their yards to open it up) that he and the bond dealers pushing for this thing were on the up and up.

The piece was wholly one-sided.   No views dissenting from the Mayor's appeared in the piece, and to my great frustration I found there was no place on the top of the paper to open a new tab and search for any information about the other side of the story.    It seemed like the entire purpose of the front page "news" story was to assure readers that the Mayor and the bond dealers the Mayor was working with were, despite any reports to the contrary, completely upright in their dealings.

I am sure it was mere coincidence that one of those bond dealers was Stephens Inc.    I believe the same folks who run Stephens also control the paper the story was reported in, but I could not find anywhere in the article exonerating Stephens where this fact was mentioned.   It must not have been important.

Leaving the "news" section I turned to the editorials with great curiosity.   Here I might gain insight into the values and belief systems of a quaint and primitive culture.      Most of it was the standard pro-corporate establishment stuff I got from broadcast news, but a few things did stand out.   One was an article which belittled the contributions of Ron Paul and suggested to his supporters that they mostly forget about all of his silliness and come back to the reservation.

So at least these savages were familiar with the name of Ron Paul, though they had an extremely garbled view of his contributions to the nation's political process.   Their vast distance from technological civilization probably distorted their perceptions.   But while Paul supporters made up about 13% of his party's electorate around here, I could not imagine what would lead them to believe that many of those supporters would wander into the dusty pages to read, much less heed, their advice.   The experience was much like one might have if one looked into the sky and observed smoke signals from some forgotten Indian tribe containing a message advising Wal-Mart on how to proceed with inventory control measures.

Rounding out the editorial pages was a long column claiming that "the time was now" for Arkansas to pass an ERA amendment.     If you are old enough, you might remember the ERA from the 1970s.   It had it's heyday somewhere around the time of polyester leisure suits with bell bottom pants.    Yet this newspaper was advising us that "the time was now" for America to get behind this archaic measure.  Groovy.

I put down the newspaper and mentally returned to the present century.  Did the rest rooms where this stuff was written even have running water?  After chuckling with amusement for a few seconds I had a sobering thought.    What if there was a significant group of voters who looked at these anachronistic implements not as a whimsical blast from the past, but rather as a legitimate source of information used to shape ones present perceptions?

A chill ran through my spine as I contemplated the sort of idiocy such a population might actually believe.   The fear soon passed though.   Why, a society where voters and politicians took their cues from newspapers like this one would be so out of touch with reality and so mentally backward that its government would be nearly dysfunctional!    The very thought seemed ridiculous, once I had time to consider it.    I then placed the artifact in a repository commiserate with its value (the nearest garbage can) and settled into my computer chair to catch the news.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Heroes, Even if You Don't Believe in the Mission

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
from "Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
MSNBC's Chris Hayes questioned whether or not U.S. Service members should  be described as "heroes."   I say they are, but I have not been satisfied with any of the explanations I have heard as to why they are heroes.   Hayes does not care for the mission that the troops are on, so he questions the propriety of the label.   Most of the response from the neocon right who support these global interventions is just radiating indignation that anyone would even dare ask the question.  That's not a real answer.

 Here is my answer.  Our service members are heroes by any reasonable commonly accepted definition of the word.  A hero is someone who is seen by the people as displaying heroic qualities, with an emphasis on courage and bravery.   By that common definition, yes, our service personnel are heroes.    They are heroes in a world where heroism is all to rare because it requires believing in a cause greater than yourself. In our morally-impoverished our post-modern madness we don't believe in anything except that nothing is worth believing in.

One does not have to agree with the decision to fight whatever war they are engaged in to believe that they are heroes.  For example, I opposed our intervention in Iraq.  Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and they were no threat to the United States.   To the contrary, we were imposing a no-fly zone and otherwise meddling in their country.    Still, our service members who fought in that war were American heroes.

How can I say that?  It is not up to a 22 year old private to morally evaluate the decision to engage in war with another nation.  As with the light brigade, his is not to reason why, his is but to do or die.

For those not familiar with it, the poem celebrates a unit of young British soldiers battling the Muslim Turks in the Crimean War.    Because of a mistake, their outfit and their outfit alone was ordered to advance into a line packed with hostile guns.   Though the order made no military sense, they charged the guns and were beaten back with heavy losses.  The reason this poem still stirs the heart is that it speaks to a truth about heroes.    There is nobility about being brave and following even commands that you don't always understand.   The moral responsibility for any error in such a case falls on those who issued the bad orders rather on those who faithfully and courageously executed them.

 So long as his fight is with enemy forces and not looting or terrorizing civilians, we should not judge the soldier by the justness or injustice of the war he or she fights.     This is not their call to make.   Rather, it is the nation's leaders we should hold accountable for taking the nation into unnecessary  and ruinously expensive and bloody wars which have clearly done nothing to make us safer or more free.   The major outcome of such adventurism is to transfer wealth from the middle class of the United States to the Military-Industrial Complex which is rapidly becoming a Military-Police State Complex.

But does that mean that in World War Two the German soldiers were also heroes?   For Germans, yes it does.    Many of them fought bravely and well.    The cause for which they fought was evil, but the young men who fought for the Wehrmacht did not understand all that.  They were fighting for their nation.  Many were drafted against their will.

This does not mean that all men in uniforms were heroes though.   Consider the Nazi S.S. units who rounded up Jews and political opponents of the Nazi Party.    These men were not heroes by any definition.   It takes little bravery and courage for a group of men with guns to roust terrified civilians out of their beds at night and send them off to the camps.   Not all men in uniform with guns are heroes.   Some are villains, whose villainy is made all the worse for their wearing the adornments of those we recognize as true heroes.

At the Nuremberg trials the world did not accept the pleas of these villains that they "were only following orders."    The typical German soldiers followed orders heroically, and were excused for any hurt resulting from their actions.   Not so the S.S. units.    The world recognized that there was no heroism in guns turned on civilians, prisoners, and political opponents.

I fear that very soon, the people of the United States will come to understand this distinction all too well.     Will we ever see the day when villains disguised in the clothing of heroes come and turns their guns on the civilians of our own nation?    Will we ever see the day when we are rousted from our homes and sent to camps simply for doing things that formerly were considered our God-given right?     I hope not, but if we do, I pray that our heroes know what to do about it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Texas Political Ads Cannot Be Satirized!

My favorite this year is candidate for Railroad Commissioner Roland Sledge.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

AG Settlement With Big Banks a Miscarriage of Justice

I gave the deranged lefties at the Arkansas Times credit for two things.   One was being an independent news source in a world dominated by a few giant corporate players who tend to district rather than inform.   The other thing was that they were willing to point out the corruption and incompetence of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.    I guess they heard that Halter is not running for Governor or something.  Maybe they are coming to grips with the probability that McDaniel is going to be the Democratic nominee for Governor next time?  If so their "rally around the guy with the right letter before his name" spirit is kicking in and I can scratch that last one off the list.   They put up a favorable post lauding McDaniel for his actions in the nation-wide foreclosure settlement.

But of course, if McDaniel's actions were truly laudable, I would not have a problem with his "lauding."   The truth is that McDaniel, along with most of the other AG's in the nation, have shafted homeowners, and local governments, and let the big banks off with a comparative wrist slap.    These banks have defrauded individuals and local governments of vast amounts of money, maybe even north of 100 billion dollars worth.   Now they have been "caught" and the powers that be (whose campaigns are often funded by these same banks) have determined that their "penalty" is that they have to give $2.5 billion, not to their victims, but to the state governments to distribute as they see fit!

If I could use an analogy, it would be like a gang of billionaires stealing $10,000 from one million people and local governments ($100 billion dollars).    In some cases, they took homes to which they were not legally entitled from people by the use of fraudulent documents.    In other cases they used shell entities to take title without paying the tax stamp to local governments.    Eventually, they get caught and people and local governments start to take them to court to recover their property and funds.   But the billionaires get the state AGs to sign off on a deal.  Instead of all of those legal cases being decided on the facts of each case, we will settle with YOU for a lump sum provided that you block all the little people we cheated from obtaining access to the legal system in order to sue us.    And the amount of the lump sum we will pay for your help in blocking the little people from getting justice will be about 2.5% of the money that we stole from them.

Locally, it would be like a con man defrauding you of $1,000 and getting the his buddy the DA to agree not to let you prosecute (or sue) him in exchange for giving $25 to his buddy the DA for the DA to split up as he sees fit.   Is the DA a hero if he gives you the whole $25 instead of keeping half of it for himself?   I think not (see list here.)   The "penalty" was a sham with the effect of letting the con man get away with defrauding you of your property.   It gives unrighteousness the cover of law (that's a phrase penned by an old testament prophet).

McDaniel does give more of the money to the victims and less to state government than some of the other AGs, but the whole deal was a travesty.   He is participating in helping the big five banks get away with fraud against Arkansas citizens and communities on a vast scale.   He has no right to sign any such agreement.   We are the ones the banks defrauded, we should each have the right to seek justice for it.   All of the AGs around the country, except for Oklahoma, are committing a terrible travesty.    The AG in Oklahoma could not be induced to be complicit in this outrage.   That there is only one shows the depths of corruption to which our financial and political system has sunk.    That an "independent" media outlet like the Arktimes could laud an AG for participating in this scandal shows how low they have sunk.

Black Democrat Gets the Shaft from Dem Party (Situation Normal)

  Crumbly out, white Democrat in, Beebe-McDaniel Plan Worked as Predicted

Its really not news.   The Democratic party has been taking its black voting base for granted for decades now, very similar to the way the Republicans abuse the Christian Right.   Despite the abuse, they seem determined to continue to support the folks engineering their own political lynching.    Why, Obama would not even have won the Democratic Presidential nomination in Arkansas if it were not for Pulaski County, the white liberals in Washington County, and the overwhelming black vote he got in Jefferson County.  Democrats in the rest of the state voted Wolfe!

But this story is not about that massive divide.  Rather it is the tale of one black politician who refused to stand still while Democrat Governor Mike Beebe and Democrat Attorney General Dustin McDaniel put the noose around his political neck.    Where were the black Democrats in Arkansas while this was going on?  Where were the other members of the Democrat black legislative caucus?    There was no sign of them to be found, unless maybe they were holding Beebe and McDaniel's coats for them while they pulled the lever.

I speak of State Senator Jack Crumbly.   I don't write this because I am a fan of Crumbly by any means.   His politics are near the polar opposite of mine, and I wonder if vote buying did not play a role in his original election.   But the fact is that Beebe and McDaniel redrew his district lines in a way that got him replaced with a white Democrat.   He said it would happen, and sued over it, but he could not stop it from happening.  Nor did his "friends" in the black caucus do anything to prevent it from happening even though that would be in the best interests of their caucus.   He was beaten in the Democratic Primary this Tuesday by Rep. Kieth Ingram 55% to 45%.

The district lines drawn up by Beebe and McDaniel did have a majority of black voters, but that majority was a very slim 53%, and the black population tends to be much younger and therefore does not vote at the same rate.     53% of the total population converts to about 45% of the vote when you account for age demographics and what not.  Crumbly knew this.  That is why he sued.

Crumbly testified in his suit that he did not believe that the lone Republican member of the Apportionment Board, Sec. of State Mark Martin, was trying to discriminate against him.  Martin's plan actually would have given Crumbly a district much more like the one he had before redistricting.   It was the plan that Democrats Beebe and McDaniel pushed through that spread the black vote out enough statewide so that black faces in the legislature could be replaced by white Democrats.   The judge agreed and dismissed Martin from Crumbly's suit.

Crumbly and his suit simply ran out of time.   He wanted the Democrat Black Caucus to sue Beebe and McDaniel as a group, thus enabling him to bring more ammo to back up his claims of a pattern of discrimination designed to reduce the number of black legislators.   Too bad for him the leader of the Democratic Black Caucus was former Rep. Tracy Steele, one of the worst five legislators in the state of Arkansas according to the Arkansas Watch panel of activists.   Steele gave a little lip service on the matter, but basically went along with the Beebe/McDaniel plan to throw members of his own caucus to the political wolves.  He declined to get the caucus behind the suit.    Knowing him, I feel confident that he will find a way to be personally rewarded for selling out the caucus.  

I wonder if there is some point at which the black community will refuse to go along with their own disenfranchisement?   I can't see much of it in this state, but the few brave ones sure have lots of ammo to convince the rest that it is time to exit the plantation.   Too many think that if "they take care of the party, the party will take care of them."   Yep.  As long as you stay on the bottom.   If you try to raise yourself up they will "take care of you" the way they "took care" of Jack Crumbly.

Is This America? - Ron Paul

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Not Death Panels, But a Death Czar

Resident Obama appropriated for himself the power to assassinate American citizens that he deemed to be associated with enemies of the state.   Our feckless congress voted to confirm this power grab in section 1021 of the NDAA.   A judge has ruled at least some of this act unconstitutional, but the rule of law does not seem to be much in vogue in the Beltway.   

But did you ever wonder how Obama decides who to assassinate and which of us are allowed to live?  It turns out he has a "death Czar" who makes these calls for him at weekly meetings.   The guy's name is John Brennan.    Meet your new judge, jury, and executioner.   That's not an American way to do things, but we are just not that America anymore.  Get the full report here.

When Do Fundamental New Features Ever Evolve?

Of course our government is insistent that we accept the notion that all life evolved directly from previously existing life by strictly natural means (macro-evolution).    A population which accepts this will be much easier to shape, rule, loot, and abuse than one which believes we are created in the image of God and endowed by Him with certain unalienable rights.   Therefore, the version which is most convenient to the ruling elites will be relentlessly pushed by the federalized education system which they control, as well as the universities whose researchers are now their hirelings, and in the classrooms where their students attend by virtue of federal aid.

But when do new features ever evolve?   That is the question I keep asking myself time and time again when I read yet another story about how scientists discover some "advanced" feature in some fossil dated quite close to the time the earliest extant phyla appear in the fossil record.

The latest example is this article where they discover that a "primitive" eel has a back bone of a type thought only to exist in land animals.   Apparently, the land animal backbone "evolved" (because of course you know these things must have evolved) before it ever became a land animal.   And as usual, we don't have the fossils showing it evolving, rather we find, near the base of the fossil record, that animals with these sorts of back bones just show up.   If all these features show up at or near the beginning, where exactly is the evolution?    All I see is that the parts you started with get arranged in different ways.   That argues against evolution as even necessarily being the arranger, much less original maker, of those parts/structures.   That's not the way the article spins it mind you, for they keep a wary eye on their government funding I am sure.

This article is another example.   They found a genetic switch for limbs and digits in a "primitive" fish.  Again, what really evolves here when genes like that are already present in "primitive" organisms.   All I see is a pile of original material, complex from the start, getting arranged in a countless number of ways.   Most of what they are calling TRANSITIONAL forms appear to be merely a COMPOSITE form. 

Another example is this recently discovered eel.    It has a double upper jaw which is common only in fossilized eels from over 100 million years ago.  But it also has a set of raked teeth present in fishes but not present in any eels living or dead.   It is not a TRANSITION from eel to fish.   It is a composite.   There is no "evolution" from fish to regular eels or any such thing.   This is something different and has been classified as such.

So what's new in macro-evolution?  Not much.  All I see is loss of information and shuffling of existing information.   It is hard to get from molecules to man that way, unless the potential for a man was already built into the first living creatures.   That is not the creation story I am used to, but its implications for Divine Creation are no less obvious.

The Power of Conformity (and non-Conformity) to Alter Perception

This is an excerpt from a long article, but it is so important I thought it deserved a stand alone post...

[Studies show ] that even one dissenting voice can give people permission to think for themselves. Specifically:
Solomon Asch, with experiments originally carried out in the 1950s and well-replicated since, highlighted a phenomenon now known as “conformity”. In the classic experiment, a subject sees a puzzle like the one in the nearby diagram: Which of the lines A, B, and C is the same size as the line X? Take a moment to determine your own answer…The gotcha is that the subject is seated alongside a number of other people looking at the diagram – seemingly other subjects, actually confederates of the experimenter. The other “subjects” in the experiment, one after the other, say that line C seems to be the same size as X. The real subject is seated next-to-last. How many people, placed in this situation, would say “C” – giving an obviously incorrect answer that agrees with the unanimous answer of the other subjects? What do you think the percentage would be?

Three-quarters of the subjects in Asch’s experiment gave a “conforming” answer at least once. A third of the subjects conformed more than half the time.
Get it so far? People tend to defer to what the herd thinks.
But here’s the good news:
Adding a single dissenter – just one other person who gives the correct answer, or even an incorrect answer that’s different from the group’s incorrect answer – reduces conformity very sharply, down to 5-10%.
Why is this important? Well, it means that one person who publicly speaks the truth can sway a group of people away from group-think.

If a group of people is leaning towards believing the government’s version of events, a single person who speaks the truth can help snap the group out of its trance.

There is an important point here regarding the web, as well. The above-cited article states that:
when subjects can respond in a way that will not be seen by the group, conformity also drops.What does that mean? Well, on the web, many people post anonymously. The anonymity gives people permission to “respond in a way that will not be seen by the group”. But most Americans still don’t get their news from the web, or only go to mainstream corporate news sites.

Away from the keyboard, we are not very anonymous. So that is where the conformity dynamic — and the need for courageous dissent — is vital. It is doubly important that we apply the same hard-hitting truthtelling we do on the Internet in our face-to-face interactions; because it is there that dissent is urgently needed.

Bottom line: Each person‘s voice has the power to snap entire groups out of their coma of irrational group-think. So go forth and be a light of rationality and truth among the sleeping masses.

A Good Night for the Grassroots in Arkansas State Government

One of last night's winners was not even on the ballot.

Although I find it pretty hilarious that an unknown Democrat got over 40% of the vote against Resident Obama in the Arkansas primary yesterday (and beat him in over 25 counties), I'd like to focus on the state results in last nights primary elections.

The first thing I think ought to be mentioned is that the results (available here) came faster and smoother from the state than we have ever seen them before.  UPDATE: This was in spite of the fact that "The Drudge Report" linked to the site, something that would crash or slow up many servers.  I believe you have to credit Secretary of State Mark Martin and the County Clerks and election workers for doing an outstanding job of conducting that election.  For the first time I can remember, the Secretary of State Website had the results out faster than the news media's websites.   Instead of following the results on the KARK web site, or that of some other media, I followed them straight from the SOS site.    The county sites I was interested in also seemed faster.

Voter turnout was quite low at 22%, and there were less than 11,000 votes difference (around 7% difference) statewide between the Democrat primary and the Republican Primary.   I can remember when Democrat primary voters outnumbered Republican primary voters five to one (a 500% difference).  Arkansas is a two-party state as a whole, but as I will discuss in a minute, locally it is really a one-party state and the identity of the party changes depending on the region.     Very few areas are really two-party in November.

 Is low voter turnout for primaries a problem?   I think it is in the long run because it reduces the legitimacy of the outcomes.    On the other hand, I don't want to pester uninformed people to show up at the polls.   If they don't bother to inform themselves, maybe it is better to leave the decision on who should run things to those citizens who care enough to get informed.   So low turnout is not the worst possible outcome, but its not the best either.   A healthy political system would have high voter turnout when elections were really decided.  Over most of the state, they are decided in the primary and turnout is low and getting lower.

At this rate, primary voting will soon consist largely of three groups 1) the insiders and special interest voters 2) Activists and 3) friends and family of candidates.  As long as this trend continues, we need to recruit a few more activists, who need to recruit a few more candidates.   Last night, in state races, the activists won almost all of them, so that's good.    Where the Arkansas Watch list of Top-Ten and Bottom Ten List of state legislators were in races, the good guys mostly won and the bad guys had trouble. Arktimes did not like it.

Analysis continued on the jump.....

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Is Fascism Really that Popular in Arkansas?

  Things are still rosey, because its not fascism when we do it!

I have already demonstrated from the text of the law itself, that the 2012 "National Defense Authorization Act" laid the legal framework for martial law in the United States.    It replaced habeas corpus with a meaningless new "corpus light" and violated about four of the first ten amendments from the bill of rights.  "Obamacare" has people in a tizzy, and it should because its an awful piece of legislation, but of the two bills, the NDAA is clearly the more tyrannical.    Yet all four congressmen from Arkansas, R and D alike, either acted in ignorance or disregarded their oath of office and voted for this travesty. 

In an all-to-rare occurrence,  the Federal Courts did their job and ruled the act unconstitutional.  The government should not be able to lock up someone without a trial just on the Executive Branch's assertion that they are a terrorist.  That ruling did not phase our Congressional delegation.   They all voted to renew the act, which basically gave Resident Obama a blank check to arrest American citizens without trial and detain them as military prisoners.   Obama claimed authority to do this under the "authorization for use of military force" that was voted on prior to our invasion of Iraq!  Think back to when that was voted on.  Did you think that the purpose of that act was to allow the military to arrest people here at home?

Is fascism really that popular among my fellow Arkansans?   I define fascism as a form of government where individual rights are subsumed by a desire for "national security", usually as a part of some drive for "national greatness."     Our forefathers held to the belief, which I still hold, that the greatest nation is not the one whose military is the most powerful or whose security apparatus is the most comprehensive, but rather the greatest nation is the one whose people are the most at liberty.   Its the one where the people live their lives with the least fear of their government, and with the least interference from it.   How did we get from there to here?

It appears that President (and General) Eisenhower was right.  He warned us to beware of the military industrial complex, which now includes the security-industrial complex.   The military-industrial complex has teamed with big government and along with big media have joined together to induce such a permanent state of fear and insecurity in the population that many people are willing to surrender their heritage and fund a security apparatus which can, is, and will, be turned on them.

How did we become so fearful?  How did we become such sheep?     Many if not most of the "terrorist plots" uncovered by this growing security apparatus wind up being instigated by a government agent or informant!   They find some mentally deficient young social outcast and fill their head with crazy ideas, hand them a dummy bomb switch, and then grab the headlines for stopping another "terror plot" that never would have happened without their choreographing.   They were doing the plotting!   Meanwhile they loudly insist on the right to lock us up in violation of the clear text of the Constitution.

It does not amaze me that the Military-Industrial-Security Complex arranges these sorts of incidents in order to keep the dollars flowing.   It does not amaze me that a corporate media complex owned by some of these same interests which are hungry for sensationalist reporting keep pumping up a grossly disproportionate fear of terrorism.    It does not amaze me that our power-hungry ruling class relentlessly moves forward with implementing a police state, because that's what control freaks do even when they rule well (which our ruling class definitely has not).    None of that amazes me, because it all boils down to special interest groups of fallen human beings acted in their own interests even if it is against the interests of the nation as a whole.   I find it disgusting, but it does not surprise me.

What amazes and alarms me is the non-response from my fellow citizens.   What amazes me is that otherwise intelligent and reasonably virtuous people actually cheer this nightmare on.       What amazes me is their willingness to exchange their heritage of freedom for the false promise of security from a political class that they know is corrupt.   It makes no sense to anyone who dares to sit down and think about it for even a single hour.  Maybe that's the problem. Our lives are so full of noise that few of us have ever had such an hour.

Our Congressmen gave the finger to the federal judge who ruled the act unconstitutional, but they did vote for a fig-leaf provision by Rep. Louis Gohmert.   The provision said that persons detained by the military "when legally in the United States" had the right to file a petition for habeas corpus within 30 days.   So you can be locked up on the basis of an anonymous informant for up to 30 days before you are even allowed to file a petition to ask a federal judge to review the case and see if there are any grounds for holding you!   Current U.S. law, which conflicts with the NDAA, says that we have the right to file such a petition basically right away.

But hey, they might be able to water board you, and starve and sleep deprive you enough in 30 days that they can wring a "confession" out of you, because the NDAA authorizes them to do all that.   Some of you may be thinking "well, at least within 30 days we can still file a petition to let a judge look at our case."  Well, our ruling class is taking care of that one too.   You see, this "protection", as sorry as it is, only applies to persons "lawfully in the United States."   No worries you say, because that includes you and me right?  Not if Senator Joe Liberman has his way.  He is currently sponsoring a bill that would allow the State Department to strip you of your citizenship if they thought you were somehow connected to "terrorists." 

So problem solved!   Once this bill passes the same federal government who arrested you by mistake does not have to admit their mistake or let word of it get out in federal court. Thinking like a bureaucrat, they can simply strip you of your citizenship- thus removing your "lawful" status as a citizen entitled to a habeas corpus hearing!   They can then just stack you in Guantanamo with all the Afgan "mistakes" they made, when warlords kidnapped innocent civilians and claimed they were "insurgents" in order to collect on the bounty that the U.S. was offering.

The coming police state never makes mistakes (that you are allowed to hear about)!   Are we going to keep electing congressmen who vote for such legislation?  Is that the kind of people we are?  Do we really support the idea that if the executive branch of the federal government says someone is a terrorist then they must be a terrorist?   You cannot sacrifice freedom for security because once your freedom is lost the people you gave it to will then become the biggest threat to your security.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Real Issue on J.P. Morgan

I have seen quite a bit of heat generated on the J.P. Morgan multi-billion dollar trading loss.   It is almost like the media wants to cover it without ever reporting on the core issue.    The core issue here is that J.P. Morgan appears to be gambling with financial instruments while claiming the transactions are on their regular banking side (backed by the FDIC and the taxpayers) rather than their investment bank side (not supposed to be backed by the taxpayers, at least pre-bailouts).

JPM claims they were only using the hedging to protect their asset pool, not generate revenues.  For example, if they had 10 billion dollars worth of mortgage backed securities on their books, they might take out a hedge (sort of like an insurance policy) that would pay them a certain amount if an excessive number of those instruments did not perform.

If that was the way they used them, they could have been telling the truth.   They would just be insuring against their assets' possible loss of value.   Of course, they should be hedging with capital reserves, not these pseudo-insurance policies with significant counter party risk.   But the main thing is, that does not appear to be how JPM was playing these hedges.   It looks like they were using them to try and make money.   In other words, they would bet on the failure of stuff they did not even own, or bet on the success of something that they did own.

 It looks like they were trying a gigantic version of a very simple trick.  If you keep betting "double or nothing" long enough, you are bound to win.   The trick is having a near infinite pool of money so that you can keep doubling down until you win, then walk away.   Of course this is just gambling.   It adds nothing real to the economy and takes no special talent.  Yet because JPM put these things on the commercial side instead of the investment banking side, the taxpayers are on the hook for the losses.

Our entire high-finance system is based on fraud.   Investment banks and regular banks should be strictly separated, just as they were before the repeal of Glass-Stegal.     The big banks are gambling.    If they win, they keep the money.   If they lose, they pass it on to the taxpayers through various means.   We don't yet realize how broke we are, because all the bad bets they have been using for "collateral" for loans at the Fed are still on the books as having value far in excess of their true value. 

Fraud is an interesting crime because for a while both the criminal and the victim think they have the money.   Right now, the American people think they have the money, in the form of the securities that the banks have been dumping on the Federal Reserve (with their collusion because they are controlled by the big five banks).  It is going to be a financial shock when the truth comes out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Effort to Push People Out of Cars Continues

Automobile users continue to pay high taxes at the gas pump.   Said tax money is then all too often diverted to mass transit, light-rail, and "alternative" transportation such as bicycle paths.   Here is the latest example.   Instead of refurbishing the old bridge, the State Highway Department is floating the idea of building a whole new bridge, while the old bridge (right beside it) is converted into a bridge for bicycles.   I don't have anything against bicycles, but special transportation infrastructure for bicycles needs to be paid for by people who ride bicycles, not automobile users. 

The State Highway Department and Move Arkansas Forward assured people that money from the highway bond issue that passed last year would only be used to "maintain what we already have" when we asked them about spending gas tax money on bicycle lanes.    This money is not from that bond issue, but it makes us wary of what is going to happen when that money does come.    It is a data point which trends toward a policy of making it harder for Arkansans to own and operate personal vehicles and pushes members of the public toward less personally-empowering forms of transport.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Judge Rules Rep. Martin Did Not Discriminate, But Not So Sure About Democrats

                     Member of the Board that Was Exonerated

Black state Senator Jack Crumbly is suing.   He complains that a state redistricting  plan did not make his district black enough to ensure that minorities like him are the overwhelming favorites to keep those seats, thus harming minority interests in state government.   While he started by suing the entire board of apportionment (Sec. of State Mark Martin, Governor Mike Beebe, and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel) today the judges ruled that one of these men was not responsible for any unfair treatment of minorities resulting from the new district lines.   That one man was also the only Republican of the three, Martin.    It is the two Democrats that the three judge panel still finds suspect.

Crumbly himself testified that he did not think Martin was a part of the scheme to dilute minority votes- the heart of the complaint.   Indeed Martin's version of the redistricting map would have been more in line with Crumbly's expectations, but his map was voted down 2-1 by the two Democrats on the board.

Will the results prompt black Arkansan's to give the GOP another look?   That's probably not the way to bet!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sounds Like Intelligent Design to Me

Bats and whales use sound in ways that are unexpectedly similar, according to this study.   That is, the findings would be unexpected if you believe these diverse creatures are the product of naturalistic evolution.    This is just the sort of thing you might expect to find if they were created by a common Designer.

The article makes a half-hearted attempt to say that maybe these commonalities are related to some limitations in the mammalian brain of the super distant alleged common ancestor.   I call WS (Whale Stuff).     What "fundamental limitations" are so unshakeable that they can't be overcome by evolution?   If mammal brains went from a pecan-sized lump in a shrew-like critter to a whale brain (or a human brain) then why should it be limited by some mystical sound processing barrier?   Especially since sound behaves very differently in water than in air.   

How do you give a Monkey Autism? Administer them the Vaccines we give to our Children!

The kind of tests that should have been done a long time ago have finally been done on lab monkeys.   The result is that young monkeys given a vaccine schedule from the 1990's tend to develop autistic symptoms while a control group did not.   Here is a link to an article reporting on the particulars of the research.  This result contains some variables not present today.   Thimerosal has been largely removed from vaccines today, so if that was the factor which contributed to the increase in autism associated with the vaccines then it could mean that today's vaccines are safer.    Regular readers of this space will know that my view is that it was NOT the  Thimerosal which contributed to the autism, but rather the presence of rouge human proteins from live virus vaccines cultured in aborted fetal tissue.   The MMR and Chicken Pox and some whooping cough vaccines fit into this category.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Hester-Summers Race Heats Up (Senate Dist. 1)

 Fresh Faces and Old Tricks in the Race for State Senate

Tim Summers is a Republican State Representative from Bentonville.   Bart Hester is the fresh-faced young realtor who is challenging Summers for the Republican nomination for Senate District #1.

The political newcomer Hester looks very strong so far in this race.   What has the sitting legislator Tim Summers in trouble?   Any state legislator whose district includes the Bentonville area is going to bend over backwards to be fair to Wal-Mart.    The knock on Summers is that he takes that too far and practically serves as the Representative from Wal-Mart in the state legislature.    Does the giant corporate person in his district get favorable treatment from Summers even at the expense of real people?   I am just reporting the common perception in political circles is that he does whatever Wal-Mart wants.

I will say that the other knock on Summers is that he is a relatively liberal Republican.   I have seen that.   I remember going to the capitol and speaking up for an education bill for autistic children that would give parents more authority than the educrats wanted.      Summers voted with the Democrats on the bill.   The vote was so close that the one switch would have sent it to the House floor with a "Do Pass" recommendation.      What I say fits with the perception that Summers, while not really a liberal, is liberal for a Republican.

Since the GOP is the dominant party in this county, everybody tends to vote in the Republican primary, even Democrats.   That's where the races are.   Because of that, crossover Democrats help pick the Republican nominee in these races.    That's why a very conservative Republican stronghold like Benton County still often elects people that are among the least conservative Republicans in the state.

A confidential but reliable source has informed me that Wal-Wart's top lobbyist Chris Neeley is now going door to door for Summers.   Obviously someone in his position would not do that unless it was authorized.  I doubt it would be authorized unless Summers is as influenced by Wal-Mart as his detractors claim.  Is there anyone out there that can confirm this for us?

The other word going around, and this is less certain, is that the Summers' campaign is targeting Democrats in the district.    That is, they are making a conscious effort to seek out Democratic households and get them to crossover into the Republican primary and vote Summers.   This tactic would be another example of the phenomenon I discussed earlier, where conservative Benton county winds up with relatively liberal representation because there everybody, even Democrats, vote in the GOP primary.  I would like some confirmation on that too, but when long time "friend of Bill" Dave Matthews is in your corner, its a good sign that you are the Democrats' choice for the Republican nomination.

Summers has the endorsement of the Democrat-Gazette, which normally means the other guy is the one to vote for.    He also has the endorsement of John Paul Hammerschmidt and Tim Hutchinson.    I respect what both of them did during their time in office and they way they were willing to be a Republican before being a Republican was cool.   At this point however, I think it is fair to say that both men represent voices from a Republican establishment that the rank and file as grown very frustrated with.

This is not to say that Hester is an angel.   I don't know enough about him to say, and there are also rumors of shady goings on from his campaign.   For example, someone has apparently been doing push polls which falsely insinuate that Tim Summers voted for Obamacare and other items that he did not vote for.    They don't say outright that he voted for these things, they merely imply it by asking the person polled if they would be "more or less likely to vote for Tim Summers if they knew he voted for Obamacare."   If this is going on, its dirty politics and Hester ought to order whoever his consultants are to operate with integrity or hit the road.      He's a fresh face, but can voters judge a book by its cover?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Beebe Setting Up Giant Tax Increase

Now that the fiscal session is over Gov. Mike Beebe has made a terrible discovery.    It appears that Medicaid will face a shortfall in the next two years that could run as high as $400 million dollars.    Either services will have to be slashed, or spending on the program increased.  And of course, not many people want to cut very deeply into medical care for the poor. 

Well, can we really blame the Governor for failing to see this one coming?  No we can't.  And for a very good reason.   He didn't fail to see it coming.  He knew it was coming.  A lot of people at the capitol knew it was coming.  Heck, even I knew it was coming.   What we can blame him for is deliberately refusing to act on that knowledge.     He waited until the budget session was over by a month or two, and only then do his people formally fess up to the legislature.  He has always treated the legislature as if they were mushrooms.

This leads naturally to the question of motivation.  Why would he do such a thing?   Of course anything I write about that would be judging the intent of another man's heart, and who can know such a thing?  Not I.  Unless its Mike Beebe.   I have endured enough of the man to get how he operates.   He is in an early phase of doing exactly what I told you he was going to do in February.

You may recall that Republican John Burris introduced his own version of a budget that spent $21 million less than the Governor's plan during the just concluded special session.   The Governor assured us that he would be forced to make draconian cuts if this dastardly plan to spend less money than he wanted to spend went through. 

Folks, if he can't stand to cut $21 million then he is not about to cut $400 million.   He is setting us up for a large tax increase.   He deliberately resisted cuts two months ago because he wants a budgetary crisis so big that we have no choice other than to raise taxes or watch poor people die for want of medical care.     If we had started cutting five months ago for this extremely foreseeable need then we would not face such a dramatic shortfall next year.

Here is how I put it three months ago....
"The pattern repeats itself. Big spending politicians set us up for another tax increase by hiding behind sick children instead of altering fiscal course while there is still time."
 If the Governor had really wanted to save us from a tax increase in the midst of a near-depression, then he would have gone with Rep. Burris' plan to cut spending, and come up with some spending cuts of his own besides.   He knew this shortfall was coming.  Lots of people knew.   He deliberately choose to wait until after the fiscal session ended in March to formally announce it.   The reason?  He wants it to be paid for with new taxes, not reduced spending.

I know he gets extreme cover from the Democrat-Gazette, but the guy is not that hard to predict.  Hey other team, have your own plan ready using budgets cuts- taken mostly out of his political hide.    He's earned it.