Monday, January 30, 2017

How to Tell Who the Bad Guys Are

The Arkansas Senate today voted against (but they will try again) passing a resolution calling for Congress to pass a call to a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. Giving all of the people in the current political establishment- people we are angry at because they are liars and thieves who are robbing our posterity blind- a chance to rewrite the U.S. Constitution is a terrible idea. Yet because a lot of people are scared, frustrated, desperate, and maybe still in denial about how bad even their representative is, some of them want to roll the dice and support this "solution".

The politicians are glad to feed their escapism and agree with them that what needs to change is not the politicians themselves, and not their voting habits (voting for candidates from the two D.C. controlled and globally funded political cartels which have helped bring our nation to ruin both fiscally and morally), but rather that the problem is the constitution. It needs to change while the people can go on voting for team red or team blue......

But what struck me the most on this important vote was that the people I came to think of as "the bad guys"- hard leftists and corporate republican sellouts, were the ones who voted correctly. They voted against it. The ones who I long thought of as the "good guys", sensible limited government types, voted for it. Yes, thanks to all of what we thought were the bad guys and no thanks to those few who we consider the good guys, this terrible idea was stopped for now.
These events remind me of something-  my thesis actually. I am not like those usual limp-wrists who try to say that "there are no bad guys, we are all good people here who need to understand one another".  No that is not it. The truth is that we are all bad guys, and even the best of us are sinners saved only by the finished work of Christ. Even our allies, even ourselves, can and do go terribly wrong and need watching. It isn't that there are no bad guys, its that we are all bad guys.
I had this conversation with a friend today, about the actions of "Senator X", someone who we have in the past regarded as one of the finest people in the legislature....
"Senator X took offense at my posting about it the other night, urging them and our other Senator friends to vote against it. I had to call them yesterday to try to repair the relationship, but they went on and on and on about how we were "attacking" them (by asking people to vote against it)? They took it all as a personal attack. They cannot be reasoned with at all on this issue and told me they had made up their mind no matter what I said. Then they said I had to just "trust their heart," that they was doing the right thing for the right reasons. Well, why don't they "trust our hearts," that we're opposing it for the right reasons?"
Indeed. But that would be a mistake too. None of us are beyond error and all of us should be ready to give an answer for our intended course of action. An answer which defends our choices on the basis of reason, fact, and logic, not an appeal to the purity and correctness of someone's heart. I prefer to trust God's word above a politician's demands to "trust their heart", and here is what God's word says about the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9)..."
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Not sinful human beings in the midst of political battles, that's for sure. Our perspectives are limited even in the best of circumstances, especially on subjects like the wisdom and the purity of our own motives!
The bad guys are the good guys and the good guys are the bad guys on this one. We are all sinners, we just have different sins.
Politicians who forget this wind up like this Senator did- unable to distinguish between a policy disagreement and an attack on them personally. Once we get it in our head that our side,  "the good guys" are without sin, then we are on the road to perdition. At that point it is not about the truth anymore, it is about their own illusion of self-righteousness. They can't be "doing something wrong" because they are the "good guys" and by definition they can do no wrong because "good guys" don't do that.  Doing something wrong is taking them out of the "good guys" group. That is why these politicians have been taking things so personally.
It is time to reject these flawed ideas, before the bitter fruit of them poisons our public well any further. Our side is not the "good guys". Neither is the other side. Nor would a new side be. The best we can hope for is a side which realizes "we are all the bad guys, so we better watch each other and ourselves."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mark and Paul Get Into It on "Article V" Movement

Audio at this link...

(PS- yes liberal states like California and New Jersey have also petitioned Congress to call an Article V Convention.)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

COS Campaign's Shady Tactics Cause Setback

The effort to initiate an Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution encountered a setback recently when investigators for Secure Arkansas discovered that HJR 1001 listed co-sponsors who never agreed to co-sponsor the bill. One of those listed as a co-sponsor, Republican Trevor Drown, said he was against it. Proponents were hoping for a pass out of committee, but due to the flap its been tabled. Sources tell Arkansas Watch that an identical resolution, SJR 2, has strong support in the Senate Committee so the house side is probably the best place to stop it.

I am not going to hold back here. I don't believe that this is an anomaly. It is not a one-time mistake from a group which normally does things right. The "Convention of States" movement has been dishonest all along. This is not an an exception to how the operate, it is an example of how they operate. And they have taken in some of the finest people in the state with their deceptions, and that makes me angry. I hope the legislators and activists who have been sold a bill of goods get away from these people as fast as they can.

Even their name is a deception. There is no "Convention of States" in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. Those words do not appear in that order in the article. It is a marketing slogan, not something that actually exists in the Constitution. The states can only petition congress to call a convention, Congress writes the call, not the state's. You can't trust this Congress to represent you on their regular job, just look at Congressman Womack who is crusading to shake us down for more sales tax collections on internet sales. Who thinks that's what most of his constituents want him to do? And make no mistake, Washington's hand will be all over this if it happens. And if there is any doubt about whether or not they are overstepping their bounds the issue will not be decided by you or I, but by employees of the Federal government in D.C., the Supreme Court who just decided they were smarter than God and now mandate that all states recognize their new idea about what constitutes "marriage."

Trusting today's ruling class in D.C. to alter the constitution and expect it to be something better than it is now is madness. But even if the states really did run this thing, we can't trust the ruling class in our state government either. Thanks to the present party system, every state party is connected to D.C. Conservatives can't count on Asa Hutchinson, and they can't count on a legislature that is increasingly coming to be controlled by him.

We are all only human. We all tend to reach for easy answers instead of facing up to painful choices. The real problem is that our two-party system does not represent us anymore. They have insulated themselves from the people. But a lot of activists have emotional attachments to what they mistakenly think of as "their" party, so they don't want to face the fact that what needs to change is that the national parties need to go away. We need a new decentralized approach to electing the people who are supposed to represent us.

But that would involve We the People changing our political habits. So the snake-oil salesmen come and tell you "you don't have to change, the constitution is what has to change". As if the same people who are ignoring the constitution now will respect it if you just add more to it. When failure of the ruling class to respect the constitution is the problem, adding to it can't be the solution. We have to replace the ruling class, even if that means we have to quit seeing ourselves as "team red" or "team blue" to do it.

Deep down, people know this if they would just think it through, but the salesmen keep offering this so-called COS thing as a magic "cure-all". If the debt is your issue, they promise it would fix the budget. If Congressional Term Limits is your issue, they promise it would fix that. If a Flat Tax is your issue, they will say it will fix that. If a new issue comes up in the news tomorrow that has people up in arms, they will say that an Article V will fix that too. Dr. COS's healing tonic will fix you right up! That is why I am OK with using the term "snake oil" to describe their tactics. They sound just like the tonic peddler stereotypes. And very smart people are falling for it, because they are anxious and desperate for a cure. If the fake cure wasn't offering such easy answers they might even be willing to make the hard choices they are going to have to make for the real cure.

Another thing. They don't win the debate. Here is one big debate I had with them. The audio for their side is not good on this second one but here is another. Listen for yourself. They don't win the argument, but they have big money behind them from somewhere and they want to win on volume what they can't win on reason and intellect. This audio highlights some of the arguments they have no good answers for. The other side does not have full time paid employees to go around and make claims and influence people. We don't have national radio talk shows as platforms. But don't mistake "loud" for "right".  We just had some protests in DC that were loud and got lot's of media coverage, but that did not make them right, or even sane.

The thing they keep coming back to is "this is the only constitutional answer", which is just as fake as their list of cosponsors. First of all, its not the "only constitutional answer" because its not a real answer. Its a fake one so long as we have the ruling class that we do. The current ruling class would control the process. They are not going to cut their own political privileges for you. They would love for you to be distracted by this process for another three, four, five years because it means that you are not focusing on the real problem- them and the unitary national party system they have developed which shifts all of the influence away from you and towards them. The centralization of political power.

Adding names as co-sponsors without their knowledge or consent smacks of an attempt to create a false "band-wagon"effect. That is, it gets people to support something not because they have independently and rationally evaluated evidence from both sides and decided that its a good idea, but just because "all of my friends are for it". But its not true. Conservative, Conservatarians, and Classical Liberals, I am your friend too. I am the contrarian friend who tells you what I think you ought to hear, even if it doesn't resonate in an echo chamber. I hope they don't pull it off, but if they do I want you to mark this day well. If I am wrong and the results of an article V convention really are good for the country then quit listening to me. If they are wrong about an issue this big, then maybe you should quit listening to some of them.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Legislative Session on Taxes So Far

We are about two weeks in to the Arkansas legislative session. 2015 was the first session in which we had both dominant Republican majorities in the legislature and a Republican in the Governor's office. Now not only do we have all that to an even stronger degree, but they have had experience being in charge. What I see overall is that Governor Hutchinson is tightening his control over the legislature. The "leadership" in the Republican legislature is tightening its control. 2015 was the wild west by comparison.

In 2015 the Republican majority was still slim enough that Hutchinson needed the Democrats to join him against the true conservatives in his own party in order to get things through various committees and get passed. Now they are marginalized. He does not need them any more. 
When the Democrats were the majority, Mike Beebe ran a very tight ship- too tight for my comfort because the legislature can get demoted from a co-equal branch of government to a rubber-stamp. As a Republican Governor attempts to tighten control I see the same thing happening. As a localist I dislike the centralization of political power into fewer and fewer hands, so I would be for almost any renegade faction that showed up and tried to return some power to the rank and file members of the legislature.
To show you how the unitary party system causes legislators to abdicate from their responsibilities here is a quote from Hot Springs senator Bill Sample on his view of SB 115. 
"“If it were Bill Sample doing business, I probably wouldn’t do it,” Sample said Friday. “But this is the governor’s bill and his call, and he says we can afford it. If something comes up [with the tax cut], then he’s the one that has to answer the question. But I am going to vote for it.”
So the individual judgment of the man the people elected to vote on laws is out the door, and the new way of doing business is to vote the way the Governor wants no matter how you feel about it. Sounds just like what the Democrats did under Mike Beebe.
To unpack the tax policy of the Republicans I think we need to go back a bit in time. The Beebe tax policy could be summed up as "Look for isolated groups of people to loot by massively raising their taxes in order to fund a tiny tax cut or some benefits for a much larger group. Take political credit for "cutting taxes" with this move." He did it with the natural gas severance tax and he did it with the tobacco tax. That was Beebe's SOP, and it is also Asa Hutchinson's SOP. The winners and losers change but the tactics are identical.
In 2015 the Republicans in the legislature took credit for a "middle class income tax cut". I told you at the time "there has been no middle class tax cut, at least not yet". I suspect that there never will be. All they did was raise capital gains taxes immediately and cut a microscopic amount from income taxes at first, with an order to decrease them more later. They paid for their 2015 tax cut by reversing their 2013 tax cut- at least for all but the very rich who had over $10 million in capital gains.

So the net effect of their tax changes last time could be described like so: It gave your parents an extra $200 bucks a year in income tax reductions but when they retired and sold their house the state got it all back in capital gains tax increases. On the net there was no middle class tax cut, Republicans simply harvested the political credit for passing the illusion of one. Since they later slipped in a measure which eliminated capital gains on gains in excess of ten million dollars, the main group that got a net tax benefit from those maneuvers are entities with capital gains over that amount.
In 2017 the plan is to give all Arkansans who make less than $21,000 a year a tax break, but to pay for it largely by increasing sales taxes on manufactured homes. Right now sales taxes are only paid on 62% of the price of the home- they want to raise it. If you think about it, they are already disadvantaged because we don't pay sales taxes on regular houses. That is going to be a crushing blow to the manufactured home industry in Arkansas - which is just the kind of housing that poorer Arkansans have to resort to if they are to own their home at all. It is not like these same folks can afford traditional homes which cost considerably more. If I had the time to check the campaign finance reports, it would be my guess that the home builders associations gave a ton of money to the Republicans and the Manufactured Homes association interests gave more to Democrats.
The plan will turn potential manufactured home owners into renters- in a state with the most landlord-favorable laws in the nation. Landlords will win. Arkansans who work in the manufactured home industry or poorer Arkansans who aspire to own a home will lose. Would you trade a reasonable chance to go from being a renter to a home owner for $150 a year tax cut? This is a tax cut designed to keep the poor poor.

As bad as that is, I think I am saving the worst for last. I don't see government shrinking in size or power due to this plan. The bill (SB 115) will establish a panel to determine what income tax policy ought to be going forward. In other words, that decisions will be taken out of the committee system and the judgment of individual legislators and handed to this committee. So if I say to my legislator "I want you to support X as a tax policy" they can just shrug and say "its all up to this committee that you don't vote for what the policy will be."  Then again, if the legislators are all like Sen. Sample then they are in a hurry to defer their judgment to the Governor anyway.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Mark on Paul Harrell Program

Start at minute 24:20 for a "theological" take on the legislative bribery case, Speaker Gillam's penchant for advancing dubious crossover Democrats ahead of long time Republicans. That an more on this segment of the Paul Harrell Program.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Neal Bribery Case Illustrates Office Holder Abuse of the Christian Faith

State Representative Micah Neal (R) Springdale, has pled guilty to taking bribes in order to steer taxpayer money from the General Improvement Fund (GIF) money to specific entities - including tiny Ecclesia College near Cave Springs.

This was done in collusion with a former State Senator who is not named in the Federal Indictment, but matches the description of Jon Woods, also of Springdale. Talk Business has a report out naming Woods and Lobbyist Rusty Cranford as two of the parties named in the allegations. I don't think this will be the last case of this. Something tells me the FBI has a bead on a number of legislators.

We used to be a one-party state controlled by Democrats. Now we are a one-party state controlled by Republicans. Just last month on the Paul Harrell Program I pointed out that one party states tend to go corrupt very quickly. The more devotion there is to party over principle the faster things go bad. It does not matter if the one party is the Republican or the Democrat Party. If you want a one-party state it means that you are willing to impose corruption on our political process because that is what happens when there are no checks and balances. That is why I advocated a more decentralized way of electing political representation, as advocated from Neighbors of Arkansas.

As bad as it might be though, I think the worst part of it is Representative Neal's reaction to being caught taking a bribe. The attitude he displays in his tweets makes me cringe, but I have seen it before. There is a class of person who abuses (in my view) the Christian faith and turns it around completely from what it is supposed to do in one's heart. This attitude can be described as one in which the individual makes themselves the point of it all and God as merely someone who exists to serve them. True faith puts God at the center and makes servants out of us. If we think that we are the point we don't question ourselves, we question Him. If He is the point we have the more healthy attitude of questioning ourselves and trusting God.

I want to show you some recent tweets from Mr. Neal to show you what I am talking about. I want to emphasize that I am not singling out Mr. Neal as an especially wicked sinner. We are all sinners, me included, who require a constant attitude of repentance when we sin. But I don't see that from him, or a number of the other members of our political class who often use religion as a cloak to justify whatever they are doing.

What He is doing? Where is the introspection? Where is the acknowledgement that Mr. Neal did wrong? Why is this about what "God is doing" as if God is acting in a puzzling manner? This is about what Mr. Neal did. He accepted a bribe. He took public money and spent it on the basis of who bribed him. He let down his constituents. He broke the law. And he brought shame on his family and His God.

Don't worry though, God is big enough to take the hits for the mis-steps of His people. But aren't we supposed to have some little bit of contrition or take some sort of personal responsibility for our actions? As for what God is doing, the answer is right there in Hebrews 12.

5And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
So what God is doing is exactly what the scriptures say that God will do when His sons misbehave. This should be a relief to Mr. Neal because it means that God has not rejected him, but rather He cares for him too much to allow him to operate in this soul-corrupting manner without consequences. Its the ones that get away with it who should be most concerned!

God leads us? Again there is no recognition that his own sins led him to this place. His reasoning seems to start with the assumption that he was just following along after God's leading! He does not distinguish between his own choices and God's leading. Wherever Micah Neal wanted to go, he just figures that this is where God was "leading" him to go.

.I have seen too much of this in Arkansas politicians, and obviously citizens too. Again the problem is that they don't start with God, they start with themselves. They are God's chosen. If you oppose them, or even question them too closely, why you are against God's chosen, so you are misguided at best and possibly even evil.

This is a very dangerous mindset to have, especially for politicians. True faith supports liberty because the politicians understand they are accountable to a higher power outside of and beyond themselves. This knowledge is supposed to humble the official, and lead them to critical self-examination.

Empty religion undermines liberty because those in power no longer have to act with humility or introspection once they come to believe they are God's man of power for the hour. Not only is there no critical self-examination, but examination from the outside is also dismissed as religious "persecution" of God's chosen. "Repentance" is a religious concept, but there is no room for it, or any of the other Christian practices I have referenced in this article, in the false religious mind set which is corrupting our politics.

So long as we are quoting scripture, here is one that applies...

Psalms 26: 9 "Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men: 10 In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes."

and Isaiah 33:15 tells us who shall dwell on high....

"He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;"

We, each of us but especially those ministering in government service, should understand that we are not the "good people" who are opposed by "the bad people". We are all the bad people. We are all going to sin, and we are all going to need to recognize and repent of it when we sin. If we sin in a public trust then publically is how we ought to own up to it.

Jesus said there is One good- God alone. We all like sheep go astray from His leading. And we all need to listen to people who love us, and search within our own hearts and His Word to constantly monitor for where we might be walking outside the ways of righteousness and peace. When (not if) we find ourselves doing so then our place is to quickly repent and ask God to help us get back on the right path. Any other attitude will find us on the road to destruction.

Update- this was one of the topics we discussed on the Paul Harrell Program Monday. Go to minute 24:20 of this audio

Friday, January 06, 2017

Where Have I Been Lately?

I realize that I have not been posting much since, well at least the Summer. Not here or even on the other two blogs, or The Localism Blog. I want you to know that I have not been idle. Instead, in addition to working a day job and being a husband and father to my three young children, I have been working on a book on theology. It is by far the most important thing that I have ever written. Look for it by the end of January on Amazon, in either print or e-book versions. I was writing on government and culture less because I was writing on theology more.

Writing about the higher things has been very draining for me, but at the same time uplifting. Draining because these things are too great for me without a Divine nudge, which I believe I received. You may judge for yourself. I think that I am about to change gears again and go back to government and culture writing. It will almost be a rest after the joyful exertions spent on this one.