Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columnist Attacks the Character of Gun Rights Advocates

This morning Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columnist Philip Martin attacked the character of Arkansans who support the Constitutional (from both state and federal constitutions) right to keep and bear arms without further violations. He did this in a column entitled "Where are the Good Guys?" He suggests that if you don't support more restrictions on gun ownership then you are not one of "The good guys". "Good guys" in his view are those who want us to enact more restrictions on gun ownership and in so doing move us closer to a government monopoly on firepower. And the Democrat-Gazette gives platform and place to his views in preference to the views of someone such as you or I.

His column represents an attempt to drive a wedge between gun owners who are insistent that the government respect the Rule of Law concerning our gun rights and those who are open to some "minor" infringement on those rights so that they won't be called out as a bad person by establishment media hacks like Phillip Martin. His column dismissed out of hand the idea that the gun owners who want no further restrictions on firearms could be "good guys." He writes, though I added bold font to some of the quote:

I don't care how many times you saved the lives of others and yourself because you had steely courage and a fast draw. I don't find you credible. Maybe if one of you had told me a story about how once having access to a gun came in handy, I might think, "OK, these things happen. There's that side of it." But all of you guys are superheroes? All of you are so calm and collected (and yet so intemperate in your response to what are, after all, only words)? All of you are so brave (and humble)?
All you sheepdogs, with nothing but scorn for us sheep.

You see, not only are you not one of the "good guys" who will consent to further restrictions on the right you inherited from your forefathers, you have no "credibility". He rejects your credibility, and apparently so do his Patrons at this state's flagship establishment newspaper since they provide him the platform to disseminate his contempt for you.. If you have personal information contrary to what Phillip Martin chooses to believe then he just waives his hand and decides you are all lying and that is that.

To be sure he spends plenty of print beating around the bush, and making carefully measured statements before his invective leaks out, but he can't hide what he is trying to do. He admits we have the right to bear arms, but wants to divide us into those who will volunteer to give some of those up (the good guys) to the government and those who insist that the government infringe no further than they have already (who are not the good guys). Divide and conquer.

I see it very differently than Mr. Martin because I am not just looking at last week's headlines. I am looking at the last one hundred years of history. When I do I see very clearly that those in power use that power to kill the citizens they govern in order to keep power. Places where the citizens are well-armed are exceptions to this bloody pattern. In the 20th century over 262 million persons were killed by their own government. That is equal to fifteen Orlando massacres each and every day for one hundred years! I see most of the Bill of Rights have been greatly whittled away and I am convinced that were it not for the second amendment that process would be much further along. Gun owners, in particular those who own military-style guns, serve us all as a insurance policy to keep Americans off the list of the 262 million people murdered by their own government. They are heroes whether they stop a rapist or not, because they deter tyranny.

Rocker Frank Zappa once said “The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.

I would only add to his words that the ruling class would strongly prefer that the rest of us be separated from our guns before this happens. No wonder the lesson they want us to get from a situation where they let in a million Muslims of violent disposition from around the world, and when the son of one of them goes insane and kills 50 people; after the FBI interviews him twice and clears him; after he works for a Federal contractor providing "security"; after his ex-wife says he is violent and beat her; after one gun store refused to sell him stuff and another immediately called the local police after they sold him stuff to warn them; after all that I say- the ruling class and the media has determined that the problem is that We the People have too much access to guns. The system failed at every level yet their diagnosis is not that they are incompetent and should be replaced or change their policies. They think the problem is that we have too much freedom. We have too much access to the guns necessary to protect our loved ones from both ordinary criminals and those who come in the name of the state.

If Phillip Martin wants to know where the "good guys" are he should look at the patriots that he is trying to browbeat into surrendering their birthright to an increasingly morally and fiscally bankrupt Total-State. The ones resisting him and his employers are the ones doing the most to restrain the evil of government run amuck, as well as lessor criminals from time to time. The ones resisting the pressure to cave are the good guys, the brave ones, the ones who will keep us freer from oppression than we would be if we listened to the pleas of guys like Phillip Martin. His blandishments are for the weak, the cowardly, the easily cowed and intimidated, those who move in herds rather than think for themselves. In short, for those who do not deserve to be free and who will not be free unless they are made so by the sacrifices of men and women who resist ignorant verbal abuse such as Martin's column and hang onto their arms.

Judges Should be Elected Not Selected

After a long and happy abstinence I had occasion this morning to read a John Brummett column advocating that our State Supreme Court Justices be selected, not elected. This is an absolutely terrible idea, as are so many of those which emanate from the mind and keyboard of Mr. Brummett. But unfortunately, the idea is not his alone. He raised the subject because the state bar association is about to suggest that our legislature refer an amendment to the voters to end elections for our State Supreme Court Justices. Instead, the Governor would "choose" between one of three candidates offered up by a panel of lawyers. Unfortunately the same legislature that gave us last cycle's phony "ethics reform" bill might send this one up too.

Do we have problems with our judiciary in this state? Yes. Special interests with money have disproportionate influence with the Judicial branch, just as they do with the other two branches. But this "cure" will be worse than the disease. We the People would have less responsibility for our own government as this would be passed off to a small group of unaccountable experts. It is a solution for slaves, and an "answer" only for the slothful who groan at the burden of living as a free person responsible for their own governance.

He writes that they should ask people to "be smart enough to accept the premise that they aren't informed enough to vote for state Supreme Court justices." I do accept that premise. What I don't accept is that this idiotic proposal is the cure to that problem. The replacement process suggested by Brummett and these lawyers is very similar to, but even less accountable to the people than, that process which has given us our present federal Supreme Court. That is, the same court which does not even understand what marriage is, but is so confident enough in their ignorance that they impose their trendy prejudices on the rest of us at the point of a federal bayonet. If you want judges to be more arrogant and over-reaching than they presently are, then support the plan which Brummett suggests.

As I said at the first, I agree with his premise. We don't have the information necessary to make good choices about our state supreme court justice candidates. But the solution to this problem is not to take the decision out of the hands of those of us who must live under their rulings. The solution is to remove the very deliberate obstacles which have been erected to prevent us from obtaining this necessary information. When the government calls something "ethics" in Arkansas, you better look out. In this case the "Arkansas Code for Judicial Ethics" does not allow a candidate for the state supreme court to talk about anything related to how they might have ruled on any case, past, present, or future. About all they can do is give you their credentials and say they will try to be fair. Anything else is a violation of the "Code of Ethics" which can get them fined and disbarred.

It's no wonder we "aren't informed enough to vote for state Supreme Court justices". The candidates are banned by law from informing us! That is what needs to change, not the method by which they are put in office. Brummett himself endorsed Courtney Henry based on who her family was- which family she divorced out of the moment she was elected, because under our system we have nothing else to go on. I actually agree with Brummett on the root problem. Regarding solutions, we are utterly opposed.

I understand why a judge cannot talk about how they might rule on a future case, but there is no reason why they can't write an opinion on the legal reasoning from a ruling from the past. I have one savvy friend who asks candidates about their "world view" as a substitute for asking their opinions on past cases, but we should know what they thought of the legal reasoning in past cases. Someone might argue that this would prejudice them in future cases if the same case from the past was a part of the proceedings. I find such arguments disingenuous. These people have viewpoints whether they tell us in advance or not. As the people who will have to live under their rulings, I demand to know what those viewpoints are before we elevate them to high office. My solution is to repeal the section in the constitution on "Judicial Ethics" so that candidates for Judge can talk about their view of the legal reasoning in past cases.

The other thing which must be done is to get an honest and thoughtful media in the state of Arkansas. We are mis-informed about judges just as we are mis-informed about all candidates for all offices in this state by an establishment media which insists on giving us voices like John Brummett instead of letting us hear from people who actually understand things. Fortunately, bloggers are becoming the real media in this state and the old media is starting to fade. That process must continue or we will never have good government in this state. We can't improve things by listening to the same media which has kept us backwards for so long- and in parts of the state which are doing well, we mostly don't!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Medicaid Expansion: When Numbers Collide with Narrative

Please click on pic to get a larger view

State Senator Bryan King is passing around an interesting chart which he asked the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research to prepare. Please click on the image to get a larger view. Proponents of the state's Medicaid Expansion under Obamacare, whatever they are calling it these days, keep directing our attention to the spending line items that have been lowered by the program.  They then demand that the critics of the program tell them where they would get the money to replace these "missing" savings from the state budget if we end it. This chart shows that there would be no missing savings from the state budget. Line items that have been reduced are off-set by line items that have been increased in order to implement and administer the program.

Total Medicaid related spending, using both federal and state money, shows explosive growth. In 2013 this spending was about $4.6 billion dollars. This year, three years later, around $7.2 billion dollars of taxpayer money will be spent in this category. That is an increase in excess of 50%! They disguised this growth by taking spending that was in one program and divided it between the old and the new program. Yes it looks like spending on the old program went down, because a lot of that spending has moved over to the new one. Total spending is way up.

Once you zoom out past the shell games and sleight of hand, all of this program does on net is pass out a whole lot of federal money, much of it borrowed, to a sliver of our own population. That is a good deal for them but a bad deal for everyone else- especially the next generation who are also expected to pay for this.

Notice on the top half of the chart that total state funds spent (for Medicaid related spending) does not go down from 2012, when we had not expanded Medicaid, to the present year. Instead, total spending trends up. We are not spending less state money because we expanded Medicaid. We are spending more. Spending for "Traditional Medicaid" went down but total state spending for Medicaid related stuff went up. The drop in traditional Medicaid came from starting a second Medicaid program called "the Private Option" or "Arkansas Works" and shunting a lot of people from the old to the new program. The feds were paying for 100% of the premium costs for the second program during the first three years.  In theory that was supposed to save state government money, at the expense of the federal budget.

The theory did not work out in practice as you can see from the chart. Sure state dollars spent on one line item went down, and a new federal budget line showed up with many more dollars being spent. But other state budget lines increased even while the "traditional Medicaid" number went down. The reason is simple. Even if the feds were paying 100% of the cost of benefits for the first three years of the new program, there are a lot of other expenses involved with administering a new program. Adding 250,000 people to the government rolls costs serious money beyond the cost of benefits paid. Administering the program is costly, even if FEDGOV is paying the non-administrative costs.

This year is the "high-water mark" for the program in terms of benefits to the state budget. Starting next year, Arkansas is going to have to shoulder 5% of the cost of paying benefits while retaining the burden of administering the program. That is why the chart shows the total state spending for Medicaid related stuff will be $120,000,000 higher in 2017 than it is this year. And its only going to get worse through 2021 because our share increases each year.

The bottom line is, not only did the state's ruling class have to commit welfare fraud on a massive scale in order to make the numbers look as good as they did, the fact is that the total numbers don't look good. Proponents have to play a shell game with the accounting in order to make it seem like the program is saving the state money. When you factor in all costs, it is a bad deal for the state as a whole and it is getting worse. 

Thursday, June 02, 2016

The Universe is Expanding Faster than Expected.

According to this study. I found it interesting because it fits into some ideas I have about a Unified Field Theory. If you are a physicist who can do the math, contact me and let's split the Noble Prize!