Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hard Times in Ozark Arkansas

As some of you may know, Southwestern Energy runs a huge natural gas storage depot near Ozark, Arkansas. The facility, based around natural underground storage caverns, employs 800 area residents. Next week, seven hundred of them will be laid off.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Does Boozman Really Rate an "F"? Its Complicated

Federal Senator John Boozman faces a primary challenge from Curtis Coleman. Boozman recently received an "F" rating from Conservative Review, a nationally known conservative group aligned with radio talk show host Mark Levin. The Coleman campaign gotten a bit of traction lately, with their hiring of the campaign consultant who orchestrated David Brat's Republican primary upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Boozman's campaign has also had an uninspiring start with a misleading fund-raising letter. Still, does Boozman really rate an "F" as a conservative?

That depends on how you define "conservative". One definition of "conservative" is "resistance to changes in the status quo." So if you think "conservative" means "make the law so that the people who are running things now keep running things no matter what their policies or outcomes" then Boozman doubtlessly deserves an "A+" rating. That was one reason why his fundraising letter posing as a Washington outsider who was against bail outs was so distasteful.

Some groups focus on one or two issues, such as Arkansas Right to Life or the Arkansas Family Council. The heads of both of those groups (Rose Mimms and Jerry Cox) have given Boozman high marks. One explanation for the discrepancy is that Boozman is fiscally liberal but socially conservative so he gets higher marks from groups that only consider social issues.

I don't buy it. John Boozman is hardly a pro-life crusader. The party legislative system works to shield members from having to make controversial pro-life votes. The nominal "pro-life" votes he has made are on the margins of the issue. He did not for example, filibuster to defund Planned Parenthood despite their recently revealed abominations. So no, he did not expend any political capital for the sake of the unborn. He made the safe votes that came before him and otherwise pretty much kept his mouth shut.

The same thing with "Pro-Family" issues. The Supreme Court just made an outrageous decision to impose public recognition of homosexual relationships as marriage across the nation. It was the biggest affront to family values in a generation. Where was John Boozman during all of this? Silent and invisible. So what constitutes an "F"? Is it being actively against your side, or when someone gets massive support from pro-family voters is it an "F" if they just sit there as an inert substance while the people who elected you are getting steam rolled one of the biggest pro-family issues of this generation?

Mimms and Cox praised Boozman to the sky in the article. I don't see that, especially if one grades on the curve of "how much did you do for us compared to how much support you received from us?" I think that there is a danger for a lot of these groups that start as watchdog groups. They can become captured by the establishment. Instead of them influencing the politicians to take risks and get out front supporting the issues important to the people these groups are supposed to represent, they can get that flipped and wind up giving cover to the political establishment that they are supposed to be holding accountable. In politics everybody is trying to use everybody else. Maybe they have gotten out used? I don't know, but I do know that whatever Boozman's actual "conservative" grade should be, he should not be getting the kind of cover he is getting from Family Council and Arkansas Right to Life. Something is wrong there. And these are supposed to be his strengths. His fiscal record has been even worse.

On the other hand, Mark Levin has been a big proponent of an Article V Convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. That scares me. The people in today's political leadership are not founding fathers material and I shudder at the thought that they might get a chance to re-write our founding document. It has served us well when it is observed so changing the Constitution can hardly be the answer. Our problem is the people who run the two major parties and their unwillingness to abide by it, not the text of the document.

Coleman has in the past been favorable to the idea of a convention. If he still is maybe that is why Levin's group is so willing to go after Boozman. If so, the "F" represents an exaggeration to achieve an effect rather than solid scoring. Their score seems to be the outlier, but as I mentioned some "conservative" groups have actually become captured by the establishment and cover for establishment guys like Boozman. Their scores are unrealistically generous.

The American Conservative Union is not one of those. They quoted as saying that Boozman started right, and has drifted left and currently has a "79%" score. That would be a C+. So is that the right score? By any fair definition of "conservative" in a policy sense, giving Boozman an "A" is ridiculous. Giving him an "F" is not ridiculous, but it may not be quite right either.  I think the truth is probably somewhere between the ACU's "C+" and the "F" that Levin's group assigns him. He should have done a lot better, particularly considering the support he has gotten from conservatives.

The winner of the party primary faces Democrat Conner Eldridge and Libertarian Frank Gilbert in the general election.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Big River Steel Coming Just in Time For Collapse in Steel Market

I have been documenting for years how Crony Capitalism is a consistent failure for taxpayers. It does not matter which party is in charge, when they decide they are smarter than free market forces the taxpayers lose and the cronies win.

Two to three years ago I had to endure the claims of "conservative republican" legislators over the Big River Steel project. Somehow, this one was supposed to be worthy of support because it would "create jobs" and "help the Arkansas economy." All but a few sided with then-Governor Beebe and the Democrats to take a gamble and fund a steel mill with taxpayer dollars and money from the teacher retirement fund.

At the time we wondered why, if there was such a demand for more steel capacity, the private market did not step up and fund it? What did the politicians know that the people investing with their own money did not?

Now the money is about spent and the steel plant is nearing completion. It will enter production in an environment of collapsing world-wide steel prices due to a titanic over-supply of steel plants.

Congratulations losers, you blew it again. If this had been the first time crony capitalism wound up being a train-wreck, I could be more understanding. It's not. If their response to the legitimate criticism they are going to get when this thing loses money is sincere contrition then I will be sympathetic. History suggests that their actual response will be to play the victim and whine about how mean and "negative" all the people pointing out their repeated brain-dead mistakes are. We will see.

This kind of waste will not end until people decide to know history and learn from it. It won't end until they start listening to the people who have proven to be right instead of dismissing them.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

NSA Data Collection Has Not Stopped

Since the mis-named "USA Freedom Act" was passed some are going around claiming that FEDGOV is no longer doing bulk collection of the electronic communications of American citizens. Those collections were done in violation of the 4th amendment because they did not have a real warrant (FISA courts are housed within the executive branch and thus it is like the executive branch giving itself permission to snoop not an independent evaluation of a request to review). Real warrants also have to have a description of the specific thing being searched for and state a reasonable cause for the search. Those fake FISA warrants were just fishing expeditions.

FEDGOV is such a fraud I knew that they would never willingly relinquish such power regardless of its illegality. Recently I discovered the "catch". The "USA Freedom Act" only stopped one specific way of collecting the data, and the NSA was already moving onto other ways anyhow. The mass-spying was not stopped, it will continue by other means. The data will flow, but the providers will store it now on behalf of the NSA rather than immediately turn it over to the NSA. It would be like you had a GOOGLE Search on anybody's private phone call logs or emails but you did not make GOOGLE send you all of the raw data, but only the data from your search results. So the snooping does not end, only the details of how the data is collected change.