Saturday, August 22, 2015

Octopus Genome Reveals Surprises for Macro Evolution

Just one of many news stories about the sequencing of the Octopus Genome. It turns out that even though their nervous system is totally unlike ours they are the only known invertebrates to have hundreds of genes otherwise only found in vertebrates such as humans. This poses a dilemma for macro-evolution (and proponents will concoct a just-so story to "resolve" it). Did the hundreds or thousands of genes exist in the common ancestor of vertebrates and invertebrates? If so, why did such a primitive creature need the genes later used in advanced organisms and why did every other invertebrate lose such genes?  The other possibility, almost too improbable to mention, is that by chance the exact same genes that showed up in vertebrates also evolved in octopi.

This is hardly the only example of large numbers of genes showing up in one primitive species and advanced animals and nothing in between.

Julie and Medicaid Expansion

The plight of a 53 year old Rogers woman shows what is wrong with Medicaid Expansion. Not just the eligibility verification process, but the whole program.

And for a video breakdown of the Governor's keynote address on Medicaid Expansion, and why his plan violates most of his self-proclaimed "principles" and why his plan is unworkable and guarantees many more snafu's like the eligibility verification mess, click here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Outside My Comfort Zone on Medicaid Mess

I find myself in the uncomfortable position of sticking up for Gov. Asa Hutchinson twice in the same month. I don't consider the mess in Medicaid eligibility renewals to be his fault at all, though his admin. is drawing heat for it. It was Gov. Beebe who failed to make even a minimal effort to confirm eligibility for two years that created a huge backlog. That plus Central Planning always fails and frequently manifests in just these sorts of bottle necks. That is, the fault is not the administrations, but the so-called "Private" option itself. Obamacare in all forms is finding these kinds of snags everywhere, not just in Arkansas.

Data From Bird Genomes Disfavor Macro Evolution but We Can't Go There

Absurd. Here the data clearly points to Intelligent Design over evolution, but when Naturalism poses as Science then the most unlikely naturalistic explanation must be accepted over the most obvious super-natural one. Here is what was found: "the Uppsala researchers have found that, for instance, a cuckoo can be more closely related to a hummingbird than a pigeon in a certain part of its genome, while the opposite holds true in another part. The study found numerous examples to corroborate the existence of the phenomenon."

C'mon. That finding would be no surprise if you believe an Intelligent Designer created the various families of birds and cut and pasted code across genetic boundaries. For macro-evolution, its a problem that requires we throw out Occam's razor and come up with an unverifiable evolutionary "just so" story.

Here is a link to the Science Daily article.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why the Early Primaries Take the South Out of GOP Nomination Picture

The Arkansas legislature made the decision to move Arkansas' party primaries up to a ridiculously early March First of 2016. This necessitated a filing period in November of this year for a general election which does not take place until the following November. If that were not bad enough, other recent changes to the law require independent candidates to start collecting signatures now for an election not due to occur until the November after this one.

Neighbors of Arkansas is suing over that "early signature" business for independents, but even if you are in a third party, or seeking to find a challenger within one of the major parties to a terrible incumbent working, then the extremely early red line dates in the process make it much harder. It is hard to recruit someone to run for a local or district office over a year early. Some have chided the move as the "incumbent protection act."

The rational for the move-up was so that Arkansas could have "a say" in who the Republican Presidential nominee is going  to be. With only 2% of the national population, there is only so much say you can have unless you are New Hampshire. The more I look at the rules and the lineup the more I realize though, that the national party guys have conned our state legislators- who should have been listening to us instead of them anyway.

The move is not going to make Arkansas or the South more relevant. Its going to make us less relevant. The effect is going to take us mostly out of the game. If someone asked me to design a primary process that would look fair but subtly hand the nomination to Jeb Bush then the process which I would have designed would look exactly like the one which we have.

In this field, with these rules, the primary line-up looks tailor-made to hand the nomination over to Jeb Bush. And our legislature, like those of other Southern States, walked right into the trap.

Consider that by the rules, any state which has its primary from March 1st to March 14th is obligated to used "proportional" representation in awarding delegates. For example if seven candidates are on the ballot, and the leading candidate got 25% of the vote, then they would wind up with about 25% of the delegates. States holding primaries from March 15th onward can use a "winner take-all" process. That is, if there are seven candidates, and the top vote-getter has 25% of the vote, they get 100% of the delegates even though 75% of the voters did not vote for that candidate. John McCain and Mitt Romney both got a huge chunk of their delegates by getting basically 100% of the delegates from states in which they got less than 50% of the total vote. The establishment has now fine-tuned this playbook, with the full cooperation of the duped legislatures of the Southern states.

Here is the primary calendar. I do not count Florida as a southern state for the purposes of this exercise because this is not about Florida being in the south, its about it being the place where Jeb Bush was the Governor. If he continues to falter, the establishment has Rubio as back-up plan #1. Notice from the calendar that the South gets one week of glory at the cost of awarding proportional representation in what will surely be a crowded early field. That is to say that no one will come out of that process with an overwhelming share of delegates. And after that week, the media can easily shift attention elsewhere as Michigan has also slipped into the mix early.

There will not be an over-whelming winner on "Super-Tuesday" in terms of delegates, because of the rules. And they will only be a big winner in terms of coverage for six days- until March 8th when Michigan votes.

All of the other big states are holding back until March 15th and beyond so that they can award their delegates on a winner-take all basis. Look, whoever wins "Super Tuesday" is going to have to share delegates with all of the other candidates who lost on "Super Tuesday". Whoever wins Florida on March the 15th (the first day they can vote "winner take all") is going to come home with all of the Florida delegates. I can see Jeb Bush or Rubio being way down in the delegate count on March 14th, let's say sixth or seventh, and then leading in delegates after the dust dies down on March 15th.

But even if someone else is still leading in delegate count, the South has emptied its magazine. The lineup after that is northern, and states like Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, and New York will award their hefty delegate loads on a winner-take all basis.  That means someone needs the money and staying power to last a long time and buy media all over the nation to win. If someone who is not acceptable to the establishment is winning, the media will talk about what a long way there is to go and count on this process to wear down those without access to titanic amounts of cash. If someone acceptable to the establishment leads then the media will declare the race over and talk about how its time for the Republicans to get behind one candidate lest they lose to the Democrat.

Consider also that these votes do not determine who all of the delegates are. Of the roughly 2400 delegates, only 1,700 or so come out of this process. The other roughly 600, or one fourth of the total, are something very much like "superdelegates" connected directly to the party itself in some fashion. So an "outsider" candidate has to get their 51% of the delegates out of 75%, not 100%. And bear in mind that these party delegates want to avoid a second ballot.

The wildcard in all of this, the one with the potential to annihilate these well-laid plans, is of course Donald Trump. I do not write this as an endorsement in any way, merely as an objective assessment of the facts. He has his own agenda, and the establishment can't count on him. He has the money to campaign all the way, he has support outside the south, and he will not sit down and be a good "team player" if he leads in elected delegates but is cheated out of the nomination by the superdelegates freezing him out. This is why the establishment and its media organs are going to such extremes to destroy his campaign that their obvious bias endangers their own credibility.

Again, I don't say this as a fan of Donald Trump per se, just his ability to expose the fraud of our political system for what it is. Maybe once it happens, more of my fellow citizens of virtue will face the facts about how broken our candidate selection system is and finally begin the long-overdue work of building a new one instead of continuing to get all exercised about a noisy spectacle that markets itself as an open process but is meant to be a rigged game.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Hutchinson's Common Core Letter Signals No Real Change to Program

Talk Business has an article about Gov. Asa Hutchinson's letter to the state board of education on the subject of the recommendations from his Council on Common Core Review. They did a good job of citing relevant quotes from the letter, but did not really provide any analysis of what it means. Today I will fill that gap: What it means is that there will be no substantial change.

For example, Hutchinson wrote: “I have reviewed the recommendations with Commissioner (Johnny) Key, and I understand that the Department of Education will initiate revision of the English Language Arts and Math standards according to Arkansas Code Annotated 6-15-101 and ACTAAP Rules 4.0.,”
The original standards for Common Core had no requirements to teach U.S. History prior to 1890 in High School. That would mean the only time students would learn about, say, the U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, and even the Revolutionary and Civil Wars was in Middle School. Minds that young are not fully able to grasp many of the most important concepts from those documents and events. Some would say an article on Neighbors of Arkansas helped draw the legislature's attention to that omission. The legislature added a requirement for pre-1890 U.S. history back in High School. That's good, but it is not any change that was a result of this Common Core Review. It happened during the legislative session. 

Isn't it good that Arkansas can add a little something to Common Core standards? Well, its better than not being able to add anything, but the problem isn't that we can't add a thing or two to what these unelected and unaccountable experts say ought to be taught to our children. The problem is that we can't take anything away from their list of demands - which on a practical basis also serves to severely limit what we might wish to add. My and other's objection to Common Core is not that we can't add a little of what we want to it- its that we must include all of what they want. This of course leaves us only a little room to add what our own state and its people think should be in there while giving us no leeway to omit things that we think are useless or even objectionable. 

Saying this is an Arkansas-based program because we can decide to add a standard or two of our own is like saying you are self-employed because you can do what you want on your 15 minute break. 

As for the testing, its true Arkansas switched from the PARCC to the ACTAAP, but the two tests will still be measuring the same things - Common Core standards. The issue is who picks the standards to which students in Arkansas will be educated towards? The answer appears to be, except for the small amount of local tweaks we have room for, that whoever writes the standards for Common Core will be deciding those standards, not Arkansas parents, teachers, or school boards. Once the standards are decided, who writes the test to measure them is of lesser importance, and plenty of evidence suggests that the same company, Pearson, is behind both incarnations of Common-Core centered tests.

The Governor's letter further states “The process allows the ADE to seek feedback from the public on the current and revised standards, and it allows the Content Revision Committees ample time to review and revise the standards as necessary.” 

Just because ADE is "allowed" to seek feedback from the public does not mean they will even do it, much less take is seriously. Who is going to be on the "Content Revision Committees an how much authority do they have to "revise" standards? Can they "revise" a politically-correct standard until is reflects more traditional viewpoints or may they only change the wording around the edges so long as they don't change the actual intent of what the delivered standard is attempting to convey? Once you centralize this much power, there are going to be a lot of groups fighting to insert their agenda into the standards. That is why the purest and best way to do it is to allow local school boards to pick their own standards. Good ideas will win over time because the market will reward them for being good. Government coercion leaves little to no room for feedback from reality.

One thing that might change is the name. Since Common Core is copyrighted, an Arkansas version with its own little additions and tiny tweaks might run afoul of the owners of the Common Core standards without a new name. Giving it a new name however, does not change the fact that it is essentially the same program, regardless of the number of people who wished to be fooled into believing that it does.

He also said he wanted the state to "continue to utilize safeguards" to protect student data, which implies that current efforts are adequate and once again no real change needs to be made.  I do think privacy of student data is important, and that as long as you have a standardized program that information is going to be a tempting target for some group to try to exploit. This is simply another reason we should move away from all standardized programs.  The ultimate problem with Common Core for me is that it takes the power to decide what your children should be educated toward further and further away from you and gives that power to some distant unknown persons. None of these superficial reforms come anywhere close to addressing that basic objection.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lawsuit Alleges Commissioner Kerr Got a Pass

Talk Business comments on a long developing story. It has been alleged in court that Arkansas Insurance Commissioner and former state representative Allen Kerr of Little Rock got favorable treatment from the state insurance department run by Gov. Mike Beebe and the former director, Jay Bradford. Kerr was among the Republican legislators who "flipped" and voted to fund Obamacare in Arkansas in 2013 via the deceptively named "private" option.

What seems to be missing in all of these reports is the $64 question. Was there a quid pro-quo between Beebe and Kerr, with Kerr changing his vote in exchange for being able to keep his insurance license even after State Farm parted ways with him in circumstances which might normally warrant a lost of license?

During the original debate in 2013 I heard a story from more than one legislator that some other legislator was threatened with the loss of his professional license if he did not flip his vote on the "private" option. I always took that legislator to have been Kerr, but soon after Republican legislators quit dropping such hints. I always wondered why. The sudden silence would be explained if they later discovered that what they thought was extortion - taking the license unjustly unless the vote was flipped, turned out instead to be bribery. That is, letting him keep a license he might be expected to lose if he flipped his vote.

This theory is supported by the fact that Beebe openly cut what was in less shameless times called a 'backroom deal' with Senator Jane English. Only this deal was done on the front porch and amounted to a bribe to direct the spending of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in a way English wanted in exchange for her flipping her vote. Maybe he crossed this line as well.

Just to emphasize how bad the one-party with two faces establishment in this state is, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson chose Kerr to be his Insurance Commissioner. Of all of the insurance people in this state, why pick one who was jettisoned by his agency, Farmers, for at best sloppy or at worst unethical work? Why does he have to be the guy? Between that hire, and the saga surrounding the hiring of Johnny Key, and hires of that nature,  you start to get the idea that having a cloud over one actually helps them get a good paying state job- so long as they did what the system wanted when they were in there they get "taken care of."