Friday, August 31, 2018

Yes Issue One, Tort "Reform" is Still That Bad, Even if its not Interpreted that way.

Very early on when I was on the radio with Paul Harrell talking about Senate Joint Resolution Eight, (which has now become Issue One) I made some provocative claims. I said the so-called "tort-reform" measure would limit punitive damages so that giant out of state corporations could write off killing your mother as a cost of doing business. It is straight out of that scene on the airplane in "Fight Club" where the Edward Norton character confesses to his fellow passenger that he works for a big car company whose products often kill people if they don't do recalls. His job was to calculate the cost of a recall, then calculate the cost of the damages they would have to pay for killing people if they didn't do the recall. If the cost of the recall was higher, they didn't do the recall. Issue one would help companies like that keep the cost of killing people low and known.

Tim Griffin has come out hard in favor of Issue One even though his SOP is to remain motionless and quiet while controversial issues are raging, emerging only once things have settled down and there is credit to be harvested for some good news that he had almost nothing to do with. His two opponents in the race, Independent-minded Libertarian Frank Gilbert and Democrat Gary Bland, have come out against Issue One.

Now some people have suggested to me that I don't know what I am talking about because the measure has been amended to lift the cap on punitive damages based on "intent". The people who are telling me that I don't know what I am talking about don't know what they are talking about. They continue to trust Republican politicians long long long after huge amounts of evidence have piled up right in front of them that these people should not be trusted. They continue to put confidence, and votes, in people who have repeatedly demonstrated that they don't deserve it. I wish they'd stop and face the truth because their refusal to do so is badly jeopardizing our children's future. Yes the language was amended to include a provision to lift the caps based on intent. No it doesn't say what people think it says or wish it says. It says what it says.
In this case it is easy for you to personally determine which of us you should believe, me or these politicians and their apologists. Read the resolution. In particular read section two paragraph (c)(2) where it describes the conditions under which the limits on punitive damages do not apply:
(2) Subdivision (c)(1) of this section does not apply if the
 finder of fact determines by clear and convincing evidence that: (A) The defendant intentionally pursued a course of conduct for the purpose of causing injury or damage to the claimant; and (B) The defendant's intentional conduct harmed the
31 claimant.
Read what it says, not what is reasonable, but what the plain language of the law says. It does not say that the caps on punitive damages can be lifted if it is proven they were intentionally reckless or negligent. It does not say the caps are lifted if they knew a product was dangerous and they intentionally covered it up. It doesn't say the caps are lifted if they covered up a known defect for the purpose of maximizing their profits. It says they must pursue a course of conduct for the purpose of causing injury or damage. That is, it is not enough that they built a car that they later discovered blew up at random times and intentionally elected to cover it up and not do a recall in order to save themselves money. They must set out to intentionally build a car that will randomly blow up and injure their customers!

You say "but no one would do that, its crazy." Exactly. But there is a lot of crazy in the world these days including people's continued faith in Republicans and Democrats. But that is what the law says them must do before the caps on punitive damages were lifted. And not only must they do that, intentionally pursue a course of conduct to hurt people, but the claimant must be able to provide clear and convincing evidence that this is what they were doing!

Now some of you may be thinking, and I am aware that some attorneys are thinking, that judges won't rule on what's written in black and white. They will "interpret" the law to mean something more reasonable than what it actually says. Maybe. Maybe not. But its the judge who rules on what it actually says that's following the law. What's written in the law is awful. So why vote for something that's terribly written in the hopes that some judge will ignore what it says and rule based on some more reasonable idea about what it should say? Why not just vote against it until they give you something that makes sense as written?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Are Legislators Misleading You on Term Limits?

Have you seen the graphic above floating around on social media? Have you heard your legislator citing this "fact" as they try to talk you out of voting "Yes" this November to toughening up our term limits laws after they tricked us in 2014 into loosening them? I have. It's come from legislators like Mary Bentley, Alan Clark, Charlie Collins, and Bruce Cozart.

These are people I want to consider the "good guys". I already don't trust the Democrats, because they have become deranged and out of touch, but its getting to the point where I have to check out virtually everything I hear from Republican office holders too. And if its an issue like this, which threatens the interests of their club, when I check it out I often find that what they are telling us is misleading and incorrect. I consider this claim to be misleading and incorrect as well. Let me explain why....

First to put the claim in context. Only fifteen states have term limits. This isn't like a score on education or something where every state has a number. Only fifteen have numbers. Six more would have numbers, but according to Wikipedia in six states that had term limits they were either thrown out via court challenges or the legislature had the power to reverse its own and did so. Maybe people in other states want term limits, but the politicians who run things have been able to keep it off the ballot. The only reason our original term limits measure got on the ballot IMHO is because the Republicans felt they could move the Democrats out faster if there were term limits.

Of those fifteen states, here is a chart showing how long a legislator can remain can remain in office under the most important variables .....

As you can see, there are several variables involved. 1) Total consecutive years you can serve in the legislature 2) Total consecutive years you can serve in the same office ("total years in ONE office" column above) and 3) Total years you can serve in a lifetime - with the length of the break they have to stay out of office a factor in how tough this requirement is for those states which allow people to run again after a break from "service". Because there are three factors involved- with an important twist on the third so you might as well say four factors, giving a single answer as to "shortest" term limits laws in somewhat misleading in itself. Some of these laws are apples to oranges.

In the chart above I ranked how short the term limits laws were based on the total number of consecutive years a legislator could stay in the legislature. In most cases (but not Arkansas) this would require a hop from one chamber to the other. My fall-back criteria in case of a tie was this: "how many years could a legislator remain in the same office?" with one caveat. If a state let a legislator serve an unlimited number of terms after only missing one two year period I counted that as a weaker law than one which gave politicians more time in the legislature but did not let them come back after taking a two-year break.

Nebraska in my view has the toughest term limits laws in America even though it lets them come back after a four (not a two) year break. Nebraska only has one chamber in its legislature. They can't hop back and forth from one to the other to get more time. They can "serve" eight years, and then they have to sit out four. I suppose in theory they have an "unlimited" number of terms, but it would take them 24 years of life before they could begin to get more than the 16 years in the legislature available in Arkansas. That would require two four year bans from office during that time. I consider that way tougher than getting 16 years straight government gravy without a break. If you can come back after taking four years off and beat whoever replaced you, you are probably pretty good. I was probably unfair to Florida. If I made the top criteria how long you could stay in a single office, they'd be right up there with Nebraska. Like I said, its hard to get a single number when you are evaluating three or four criteria.

Now I want you to look at the yellow zone on that chart. Basically that is the "middle zone" of term limits laws.  All eight of those states have 16 years of total consecutive service in the legislature as a parameter. That's the same as Arkansas. But four of those states let a person get a chance to start over once they take a two year break from service. So I count that as the weakest possible 16 year term limits law. That describes four of those eight states. But three of the eight not only have a lifetime limit of 16 years in the legislature, just like Arkansas, but they have a limit of 8 years in any one office while in Arkansas lets someone stay 16 years in the same chamber. IOW even though the total years in office is tied those three states put more limitations on how those years are spent so they must be counted as tough in term limits laws than Arkansas.

That puts Arkansas at 7 out of 15 on the list. In other words, right about the middle of the pack. Now you may argue that Nebraska does not belong ahead of Arkansas on that list because it does allow people "unlimited" terms after a four year ban after every eight years, but even if you counted it that way Arkansas would be 6th out of 15. I just don't see where they are getting their number that Arkansas has the "5th shortest" term limits in the nation. Unless they mean it is tied for 5th with seven other states in terms of lifetime limits on length of service. If that's what they are arguing, I think its misleading. Don't you agree that they are misleading you by using that number?

Look, I don't think term limits are a panacea. In a perfect world, they wouldn't be good policy. But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in one where two very corrupt parties are deeply entrenched and people go in with virtue and come out troubled. In the world we live we not only need term limits but we need to do exactly what the opponents of term limits have been telling us we should do instead- vote for someone else. Vote for an independent. Vote for a libertarian. And vote for term limits.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Your Governor in 2022 is Already Decided For You Unless .....

A lot of us haven't even given much thought to the 2018 election yet, especially the down-ballot races and ballot issues. But there are a few who never stop thinking about it because it's their profession. Politicians can maneuver and scheme to position themselves years in advance to get to higher office. And some of them are very good at it and connected to the right people to make it happen.

The idea that the Governor's race in 2022 could already be virtually decided unless you do something right now seems strange to most Arkansans, but it's a very reasonable claim. The Republican party now dominates state politics. With the condition the Democrat party is in, its not likely to be credible opposition. So unless some new political force emerges, whoever wins the GOP nomination is on track to be the next Governor.

Therefore if the GOP nomination becomes a "shoe-in" then the race for Governor is all but decided. Right now Lt. Governor Tim Griffin is close to maneuvering himself into position to be a shoe-in for the Republican nomination for Governor. He operates like the Karl Rove trained politician that he is, staying out of most controversies but telling activists what they want to hear at more private venues. At the same time, when something good happens, he displays an uncanny ability to hop in front of the parade and garner credit regardless of how little his efforts contributed to whatever good thing is going on. The media frequently seeks him with out for quotes to softball questions even if his office has little or no impact on what is discussed and there were dozens of other political figures they could have asked.

In other words, the media seems to be covering for him. It's like he has something on them. Come to think of it, his former Chief of Staff when he was in Congress, Carl Vogelpohl is known for keeping files on people. I don't know what's in them or if any dots connect, but I've noticed over the years that my hunches are at least as accurate as the establishment media's narratives.

Vogelpohl is now running the campaign in support of Issue One, the so-called "tort-reform" measure that would limit punitive damages so that giant out of state corporations could write off killing your mother as a cost of doing business. It is straight out of that scene on the airplane in "Fight Club" where the Edward Norton character confesses to his fellow passenger that he works for a big car company whose products often kill people if they don't do recalls. His job was to calculate the cost of a recall, then calculate the cost of the damages they would have to pay for killing people if they didn't do the recall. If the cost of the recall was higher, they didn't do the recall. Issue one would help companies like that keep the cost of killing people low and known.

Tim Griffin has come out hard in favor of Issue One even though as I have said his SOP is to remain motionless and quiet while controversial issues are raging, emerging only once things have settled down and there is credit to be harvested for some good news. I think this indicates the hold and influence that his former Chief of Staff, Vogelpohl, has with him.

Look, we saw how hard it was for an outsider to challenge a sitting governor in a Republican primary. Griffin won't be an incumbent Governor in 2022, but he will be close and he won't have a trial of tough decisions that could open him up to criticism like Asa Hutchinson had. Griffin has maneuvered his way to the doorstep of the Governor's mansion without ever really being tested in a difficult race. David Meeks was steered away from competing against him when he ran for Congress in the primary. He faced Joyce Elliot in the general election. She is a formidable state legislator, but lacked the crossover appeal with moderate voters needed to make that a real contest. His Democratic opponent last time was not someone that the Democrats wanted to run, they guy decided to file on his own. If his job as a Chippendale dancer in his youth didn't torpedo his chances (something from the files?) his more recent behavior did. Griffin has managed to get as far as he has never having faced a serious and difficult opponent.

The truth is these issues are often decided years in advance and if you don't think ahead years in advance you are going to be frustrated because by the time you get to make your "choice" your choice has been made for you. And its about to happen again and the only way you can stop it is to think as far ahead as they do and vote accordingly. Look, if you are OK with the election for Governor in 2020 being virtually decided for Tim Griffin right now, then go ahead and vote for him for Lt. Governor this Fall. A landslide in that race will just about put him in position to lock up the nomination without a serious challenge. But if you'd like to see someone else get a shot at it, then I suggest you vote for the nominal Libertarian Candidate and former Mayor of Tull Frank Gilbert. If Griffin gets a much lower amount of the vote than expected, it could trip up his coronation parade and open up the field for Governor in 2020, giving you the real choice you may have wished in times past.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Karma and Term Limits

"Karma" is an eastern mystical term which means, in our vernacular "what goes around comes around". I am more into Western mysticism myself, where the same thought is expressed in passages from scripture such as "He who digs a pit may fall into it" and "As a man sows, so also shall he reap." It seems that both eastern and western religions, as well as popular culture, all point to the same universal truth. And this universal truth applies very well to our current debate, perhaps hysteria would be a better way to put as describing the attitude of some public officials, over the proposed term limits amendment.

In 2014 the legislature referred a deceptively titled "ethics" amendment to the voters. It claimed to "establish" term limits but in fact greatly weakened existing term limits law. Not that that was the only thing wrong with the so-called "ethics" amendment. It contained hidden language that could be used to have a chilling effect on anyone who wanted to run for a large office as an independent.

It even included rules which, if legislators were caught mis-appropriating campaign contributions, gave them thirty days to pay back what they stole before the ethics commission could censure them! Yep, that's right (or wrong). If they get caught stealing, they have 30 days to pay it back before they can be penalized for stealing! These things don't enumerate all of my objections to that so-called "ethics" bill, but let's just say it was the most unethical "ethics" bill in my lifetime and leave it at that. The guy who helped write and co-sponsored the "ethics" amendment that weakened our previous term-limits laws, Jon Woods, is out of the Senate and now faces up to twenty years in prison for taking bribes.

In addition to all of that, the two Senators most determined to do something about the huge corruption involving Arkansas Works, Bryan King and Linda Collins-Smith, were recently narrowly defeated in Republican Senate primaries by opponents who were heavily backed by the Governor, other legislators, and enormous sums of money from some of the same special interests which are doing the looting. Conduit for Action had a good, though not complete, roundup of the corruption. Basically many of these people who are crying about how terrible it will be if we term-limit them out are the same ones who either helped, were blithely unaware, or did nothing while the establishment drove out the most fiscally honest remaining members from their ranks.

I spoke with Tim Jacob, who has long been prominently associated with the Term Limits movement. He said "they see themselves as indispensable people". And its true. Despite the fact that the legislature is dripping in corruption and the FBI has to clean house for us because it seems we can't or won't clean our own, they really think it would be a tremendous disaster if we showed them the door early. They don't just see themselves as "the good guys". They see them selves as indispensable people. There will always be a small coterie of "political groupies" who flatter office holders, but this is so far out of touch with the way most people see them as to be ridiculous.

Normal people sense something is wrong, but they don't see an outlet. They don't see a way to fix it, so they are frustrated. Indeed the legislators don't want there to be a way to fix it. They can't even understand why someone would want an alternative to their continued essentially one-party rule. They continue to see themselves as the indispensable good guys. This despite the fact that history shows us that one-party political rule ends in corruption every time, without exception. It was true when the Democrats were that party and they have become hopelessly corrupt and out of touch and now that the Republicans are that party they are going the same route while doing everything in their power to eliminate any way that people have to check that natural progression.

They made ballot initiatives much harder to pull off. They passed laws which make it harder for people to run as independents, including one I have been fighting them on in court for the last five years. It's already been ruled unconstitutional four times but they are still fighting and delaying as much as possible to keep it on the books. And have doubled down by adding more barriers to independents. They have consistently acted in their own interests to tamp down on competition, extend their time in power via deception, and block all efforts to get around them. All while maintaining a posture of self-righteous indignation toward those dissatisfied with their rule. Now people see a way to express their frustration and it looks like they are going to do it. Conduit for Action calls it "payback" from the voters.

Senator Alan Clark has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Term Limits proposal. They have him front and center because he is seen as one of the more respectable members, especially with his important work pushing back against DHS on family separation. His Facebook feed, until recently, was a blizzard of red herring arguments and flawed analogies against the Term Limits proposal. He imagines several scenarios where a good employee is being forced out. This is the "indispensable person" argument I referenced above. A better analogy would be one where you have employees who have found a way to legally insulate themselves from being replaced even though you have a large stock of good potential replacements available who have not yet been corrupted by the system.

In that situation the rational thing to do is to go for term limits to move out the bad apples. Even though its a shame the good ones have to go as well, your odds of getting a good replacement are decent, and it gets rid of the bad ones and gives those good replacements a chance to get in there. Its the best worst option given that all of them have worked and schemed to make it hard to reform the party from the inside and almost impossible to go around it from the outside.

Clark's second main complaint is that the legislative branch could not push back against the executive as well with shorter term limits. The problem with that is that under one-party rule they don't anyway. The legislature has been supine whenever the Governor snaps his fingers. He's already run off the main ones who weren't subservient to him. If the legislature is going to march in lock-step with the Governor who is of their party then they have forfeited the argument that they need more time in office to more effectively push back against the executive branch. Again, Karma. They are responsible for the fervor behind the term limits proposal.

Look, I don't see term limits as a Panacea. In a perfect world they would even be a bad option because we would have very open access to the ballot. In a perfect world the executive would not interfere with elections for the legislative branch- Governor and special interest money from outside the state would not jump into Republican primaries and engineer the defeat of any legislator who bucked him on the money. In a perfect world we would have run-offs in November so that third parties and independents could be considered by the voters without fear of "splitting the vote" and electing their least-preferred candidate. In a perfect world we would have four or five viable candidates for every legislative seat whenever a legislator was doing a less-than-stellar job. But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in this one, where the people who make the rules have twisted them and are highly resistant to real reform. In this world, I'll be voting for the Term Limits Proposal.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Democrats Take Clinton Name off of Fundraising Dinner

And now the virtue-signalling mob turns on former President Bill Clinton. Now that he can't help them anymore, they care that he was a sexual predator. The New Hampshire Democrats yielded to pressure to take his name off of their annual fundraising dinner.

This event is the equivalent of the Republican "Lincoln Day Dinners." The Democrats used to call them "Jefferson-Jackson" dinners but started moving away from that a few years ago when the virtue-signalers pointed out that Jefferson owned slaved and Jackson was, by the new standards of PC, borderline genocidal against Native Americans.

Honestly Lincoln had his problems too. He arrested the Maryland legislature! All of these human-gods have feet of clay. Maybe we should just honor them for what they did right while understanding that they are all just human beings and are going to have areas of sin in their life just like us. That doesn't apply to Bill Clinton. Unlike those other men, his primary accomplishment was self-enrichment while in government "service" and personally surviving in office.