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Obama’s Approval Rating & The Big Picture

September 7, 2012 by Wayland Smith

Pres. Obama illustrates which way his approval is headed.

Today’s Gallup poll on President Obama’s approval rating was interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, and most obviously, the current results (using a three-day rolling average) show the President with a 52% approval versus a 43% disapproval.  You have to go back to  June of 2011 to find a better margin.

Second, however, the results seem to validate a criticism of the GOP Convetion — that it fell flat in terms of reaching out and persuading people outside the Republican base.  Yes, there was some pandering to women, but the bulk of what went on was either self-serving (Chris Christie) or hyperbolic nonsense (Clint Eastwood), the overwhelming majority of which was aimed at the kind of people who were already going to vote for Mitt Romney.

Consider the following daily ratings (again, using a three-day rolling average).  The dates listed are the last day included in the polling sample:

8/28: 43-47
8/29: 44-47
8/30: 45-46
8/31: 45-46
9/01: 43-48
9/02: 45-48
9/03: 45-48
9/04: 47-47
9/05: 49-45
9/06: 52-43

Of course, 8/28 was the scheduled start date for the GOP Convention, and it ended on 8/30.  The Democratic Convention ran 9/04 through 9/06.  So, even accounting for some statistical noise (MOE +/- 3%), the impact of the Democratic Convention on how people perceive President Obama was much higher than the GOP’s impact.  I’m curious to see if today’s job report has a downward effect on the poll over the next few days, but, as it stands, this poll cannot be seen as anthing but bad news for a Romney campaign that was already facing a highly likely defeat.

 

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Keep Your Government Hands Off My Pizza Box! (And Other Stupid Things Mark Darr Thinks.)

September 7, 2012 by Wayland Smith

“Are you as tired as I am of seeing recycling logos on your milk in the cafeteria?”

 

I suppose I’m a little late to this party, but whatever.  That’s never stopped me from addressing stupidity with a healthy dose of sarcastic disdain.

As the Arkansas Blog noted, Lt. Gov. Mark Darr is sick of the “constant” pro-environment message in America.  As you might expect, Darr’s full statement on the issue was your standard Fox News / Tea Party agitprop, devoid of anything resembling cogent thought.  But let’s not let the fact that it was jaw-droppingly dumb keep us from tackling this baby FJM-style.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten tired of the constant barrage of messages everywhere telling me to “go green”.

Really? “Constant barrage”? I can’t recall the last commercial urging me to “go green” that I saw on television. I can recall seeing ads from coal companies, telling me to write my Congressman and complain about “Obama’s EPA” for making it harder on the coal companies to burn their “clean burning” product. I’m positive that I watch more liberal programming than Darr does, so I’d reckon that his exposure to “go green” tv ads is lower than mine by a long shot.

As for non-TV sources of that “barrage,” there are a number of billboards around that promote going green, I suppose. But there are also a number of billboards for Sissy’s Log Cabin, yet they’ve never prompted Darr to complain. Who even reads billboards?

Sure, I’ve bought some of those corkscrew light bulbs and I haven’t killed any whales, but give me a break.

You haven’t killed a whale? Awesome. Great. You’re a regular John Muir. We should all give you a break because, obviously, you’ve more than done your part by forgoing your strong urge to harpoon whales. In Arkansas.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed Under “Things We Already Knew,” Mark Myers Is An Idiot

August 31, 2012 by Wayland Smith

Yesterday’s post about the spending in the Secretary of State’s office drew a response from a member of Martin’s staff. The response was (predictably) from Mark Myers who (predictably) demonstrated a complete lack of higher-order critical thinking.

@ThrowingAnvils you failed to mention that SOS have more employees than all those offices combined. #fail

Oh no! He put the hashtag #fail after his response! Man, everything I wrote must’ve been devastatingly undercut by his wickedly insightful observation! Let’s look at each of the five points raised in the first post through the lens of “more employees” to see just how foolish I was.

1. $2,170 (plus $339.57 in travel expenses) to hire a company called THOR Global Defense Group, Inc. While it is true that part of Martin’s larger staff– the only time in the history of the world that those three words have been used in that particular sequence — is the Capitol Police, that doesn’t negate the fact that he apparently paid over $2,500 for needless paramilitary training for those police. What insane string of events would have to unfold for the Capitol Police to be forced to use that training? Even if you assume that a terrorist could possibly attack the Arkansas Capitol — probably because of something Obama did, I’m guessing — you still have the State Police and the LRPD available at a moment’s notice. The Capitol Police exist primarily to (a) enforce parking rules around the Capitol complex, (b) man the metal detectors at the Capitol entrances, and (c) to give emergency rides to legislators who need to get to or from the Capitol in a hurry. Sure, there’s a general “security” component to what they are doing, but the number of attacks on the Arkansas Capitol in recent memory are exactly zero. This is wasted money that has nothing to do with the number of Martin’s employees and everything to do with his willingness to waste money on needless stuff.

2. $9604.43 in travel and travel-related expenses. Arguably, this cost could be tied to the number of employees. Except it’s really not. There are a handful of employees in the office who actually do any traveling. It’s not like the people running the gift shop in the lobby are flying off to conferences. It’s only Martin, Boyd, Reed, Matayo, and a couple others who go anywhere on the state dime. That’s pretty close to the same number of Governor Beebe’s employees who are traveling. Not to mention, the mere fact that Martin has more employees doesn’t mean that those employees need to attend some of this crap. Again, he sent someone to the National Association of State Legislatures. There’s no earthly reason for this from an office that claims to be non-political and not interested in lobbying (which is a lie, obviously).

3. $204,250 (so far) on repairing and renovating the skylight in the Senate chamber. This has nothing to do with the number of employees, nor did it have anything to do with the spending of the grant money. It has everything to do with the fact that he hired an out-of-state corporation that just recently settled a racial harassment suit with the EEOC instead of hiring an Arkansas company and keeping that money in the state.

4. $4,435.50 to Comcast Cable. This is only related to total number of employees if you buy the idea that a bunch of Martin’s employees need cable television in their offices. I reject that idea out of hand, as I think any right-minded taxpayer would.

5. $8,672.00 at Crain Ford in Chenal. Related not to the number of employees, but certainly related to the SoS’s duty to maintain a fleet of state vehicles. As I said in the post, I included that charge because, when coupled with the $27,629 he spent on an unneeded Ford Escape as well as the above-listed needless spending, it paints a picture of Martin that is exactly the kind of picture we expected from him if he won.

So, to recap, the only #fail I see is Mark Myers’ attempt at a rebuttal. Oh, and Mark Martin generally. He sucks.

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Mark Martin Is Racing As Fast As He Can (To Spend Your Money)

August 28, 2012 by Wayland Smith

Nice plane. I’ll take it. For the office, of course.

I have very strange feelings when it comes to Secretary of State Mark Martin.  As a human, I find him to be utterly detestable (and woefully in need of an ass kicking).  As an elected official, I find him to be shady and inept and as corrupt as his middling intellect allows. But as a source of blog fodder?  He’s like The Giving Tree, and I sort of love him for it. So reliable is Martin in this capacity that I had no doubt I’d be able to find something worth talking about simply by perusing the state online checkbook.

For example:

1. The Secretary of State’s Office spent $2,170 (plus $339.57 in travel expenses) to hire a company called THOR Global Defense Group, Inc.  Who is Thor Global Defense Group, Inc., you ask?  Well, according to their website,

[t]he mission of THOR Global Defense Group is to provide the most advanced weapons and equipment, the latest in techniques and tactics for training and to offer experienced, professional security operations for missions worldwide.

Overall, THOR provides “a variety of services including ocean freight security / protection, site analysis & consulting, remote or on-site training, weapon & equipment supply, protective services, facility construction, systems development, nuclear operations, import/export and delivery.”  Obviously most of those don’t (or at least shouldn’t) apply to the Secretary of State’s Office — they don’t need secure ocean freight shipping, they don’t need help in designing a secure facility, they don’t have nuclear operations … you get the idea.  So, best guess, Mark Martin brought in THOR either to (a) provide site analysis and consulting for the Capitol grounds or (b) to train the Capitol Police in paramilitary tactics and weapons.  Neither of these seems necessary or makes much sense, though I suppose (b) is slightly more likely.  But, hey, it’s good to know that the Capitol is safe from attack thanks to the efforts of Mark Martin.

2. At a glance, it appears that the office has spent $6433.63 in travel on conference fees and related expenses.  However, digging a bit, there are additional travel costs that, for whatever reason, are listed under Operating Expenses, including $1,615 in Conference & Seminar Fees and $1,555.80 in Lodging, bringing the grand total to $9,604.43.

And what did the state of Arkansas get for nearly 10 grand?  Well, we inexplicably sent someone from the office to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which only makes sense when you know that SOS employee Kelly Boyd works as the governmental affairs director, aka the on-staff lobbyist for the nonpartisan and non-legislation-backing SOS Office that Martin touted on his campaign website.  There’s not much detail in the checkbook to figure out what else we got, but I’m sure it was totally worth the money and not at all ridiculous.

You might be wondering how that $9,600+ total compares with other offices.  It is, roughly, the same as the travel expenses for the office of the Governor, Lt. Governor, Land Commissioner, Treasurer, and Auditor combined.  That’s an impressive amount of spending on stuff that, as far as anyone can tell, is borderline worthless.

3. They’ve spent $204,250 (so far) on repairing and renovating the skylight in the Senate chamber.  The money is not the issue here, really; the funds came from a grant.  Which might make you think, “hey, awesome . . . that’s money pumped into the Arkansas economy.”  Except it’s not.  Because Martin and Co. hired Ralph Jones Sheet Metal, Inc., a Tennessee corporation, to do the work.  Excuse me, I mean, a Tennessee corporation with a history of racial harassment.  So that’s awesome.

4. Then there’s the $4,435.50 to Comcast Cable.  Sure, there are some TVs in the main hall of the Capitol — showing FOX News, of course, because why wouldn’t you want vitriolic faux journalism available for all visitors — but where is the rest of that cost going?  How many of the SoS’s office have cable TV, and why?  While we’re at it, why do the Governor’s Office ($650.64), the Treasurer ($378.56), the Lt. Governor ($191.57), and the Auditor ($172.64) have cable bills?  What need do they have for watching television at work?  What news are they getting that they can’t get online?  Why are we paying for this?

5. Finally, for purposes of this post, the SoS spent $8,672.00 at Crain Ford in Chenal.  This is, of course, on top of the $27,629 he spent on the 2010 Ford Escape.  Not a huge deal, I suppose, and fleet vehicles do need replaced from time to time, but still worth noting, if only because of the hypocrisy in Martin’s riding into office on a wave of Tea Party support, only to spend like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s not like we expected any less from Martin when he came into office, of course.  His history of milking the state teat for every possible dime is well-documented.  Still, I guess I hoped that his staff retreat to learn “ethics-based leadership” — price tag $54,000 — would have stanched the flow a little bit.  Guess not.  Maybe when the unfortunately looking Alex Reed gets back from the GOP Convention, he and Mark Martin’s chief lackey, Mark Myers, can come up with some not-at-all-ridiculous spin about how these numbers are totally ok you guys because . . . uh Democrats steal elections OBAMACARE!

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Eviscerating Charlie Collins’ Laughably Awful “Jobs Magnet” Op-Ed

August 9, 2012 by Hephaestus

I don’t know why I continue to be amazed at the horribly specious arguments consistently pushed by AR Regressive politicians.  Recently on Twitter, @ARGOP is highlighting this hilariously awful op-ed by Charlie Collins (aka Cluckles as he’s too chicken to respond to direct questions when he’s having a “forum”) titled “Collins: Let’s Turn Arkansas Into A Good Jobs Magnet.”  Collins, in typical Regressive fashion, doesn’t actually talk about turning Arkansas into a good jobs magnet.  Or even a bad jobs magnet.  Alas, Collins’ op-ed is stereotypical tax cut for the wealthy rubbish we’ve come to expect from the party of the oligarchs.  Let’s quickly review his trash, shall we?

 Arkansans count on their elected officials to help improve the quality of life here, a worthy goal. Yet, numerous studies have concluded that we rank between 42nd and 48th among the 50 states on quality-of-life measures like median income (good jobs) and adult college graduates, while we rank near the top on negative measures like child poverty and teen pregnancy.

Leading off, he hits a home run of stupidity, though not for lack of knowledge!  Alas, does he have any ideas on how to address problems like the lack of college graduates, child poverty, or the state’s excessive teen pregnancy rates?  No, he does not.  In fact, he quickly glides over these problems like they don’t even exist.  Here’s some help, Cluckles.

If you want to improve the number of college graduates in AR, you could vote to build more state universities and improve the current state of public education in AR.  Problems with child poverty?  How about addressing the problems of adult poverty, and you take care of their children, as well.  Too many teens getting pregnant?  Well, it’s more than proven that states with abstinence only education have the highest teen pregnancy rates.  However, the AR Regressive party standards are anti-education, anti-helping the poor (tres Christian), and pro-abstinence only education.  In other words, some of the most basic problems of the state will never be addressed by your party’s platform, Cluckles.

But don’t worry, folks, Cluckles has a plan to address all the problems which don’t make Arkansas attractive to good jobs: tax cuts for the rich!

Growing state government faster than the economy grows, while punishing workers with more taxes has not achieved the quality of life improvement goal.

Especially if those quality of life improvements are never addressed, which is a failure at the policy level.  You’ve already ignored the lack of education, high poverty rates, and teen pregnancy issues.  You aren’t addressing basic fundamentals from the out-set.

Our top income-tax rate is 7 percent on earned income above $33,200. My plan would give all workers tax relief and simplify the system. We eliminate two of the six tax brackets—the 2.5 percent and 7 percent rates—which drops the new top rate to 6 percent. We then phase in higher income levels (six-figure earners) for the 6 percent rate over time.

Tax cuts for the rich WHOOOOOO!!!!! /drops mic and walks off the stage

Want to simplify the tax code?  Great idea.  As usual, the poor are going to pay the greatest price with these cuts, and the wealthiest will see a tax cut.  The last sentence of this paragraph is especially beautiful: “phase in higher income levels…over time.”  I’m sure this will be your top priority.  Or completely forgotten about.  Whatevs.

Most importantly, at no point do you address the tremendous revenue drop this creates, or how any of this solves the education, poverty, and teen pregnancy problems mentioned in his opening paragraph.  But if you make more than $100,000, you’ve just received a massive tax cut, one every other bracket will pay for with a huge drop in state-based services (you know, silly things like feeding the poor).

Cluckles, wouldn’t it just be easier for you to have all the poor line up at the Waltons’ and Stephens’ estates and have them hand everything over?  Seems more efficient this way, doesn’t it?

The result is a dramatic tax break for low-income workers (60 percent reduction from 2.5 percent to 1 percent), strong relief for middle-class working families (35 percent cut from 7 percent to 4.5 percent), and a modest drop for high-income workers and job creators (14 percent from 7 percent to 6 percent).

I cannot deny your math here, and I agree the effective rates for low-income and middle class workers need to be cut.  At the same time, the wealthiest will see a massive cut in their taxes, and you do not address the tremendous revenue cut and how this would be addressed in the budget.  You do not address education, poverty, teen pregnancy, etc., and you at no point address how this makes AR into a jobs magnet.  In fact, it does the opposite because you never address the primary problems you, yourself, cite above.

Most importantly, however, you at no point consider what makes a city/state a great place to live.

Here’s a random list of the top cities in America.  What do these cities most have in common?

  • Emphasis on education
  • Focus on public goods such as clean air and water
  • Strong, modern infrastructure
  • Excellent public transportation
  • Green space

All of these are directly due to local government policy decisions.  Sticking out is the wildly differing tax rates across these cities.  In other words, there is no reason to believe there is a direct correlation between being a top city in which to live and having a low tax rate.

But let’s return to your opening paragraph and the quality of life measurements you, Cluckles, cite as problematic.  Your proposal would create a massive drop in tax revenues, meaning there’s no way to focus on education, eradicate poverty, or cut-back on teen pregnancy because there simply wouldn’t be the money to do so.  And how would you improve infrastructure and other facets of being a good city while handing more money to the wealthiest?  Is this where you will offer some mindless platitudes about “free market solutions” and “supply-side fixes?”  I bet it is, since that’s generally where Regressives hide when someone points out that their actual economic arguments are without merit.

One can only rationally conclude your proposal is yet another smokescreen designed to punish the poor and enrich the wealthy.  The quality of life for most Arkansans would suffer, of course, which flies in the face of your opening statement about improving Arkansas.  Maybe, if we make the quality of life for the rich really, really good, that can trickle down to the rest of us just like the money does.  Oh…wait.

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The Stark-Raving Hypocrisy of Jason Rapert

July 17, 2012 by Hephaestus

I’ll admit my Bible is fairly old, as I got it as a gift from my grandmother in the 1970s.  Also, it contains a bunch of crazy ideas about the poor.  To wit:

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor. – Ps. 140:12

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. – Luke 6:20:21

The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; the wicked does not understand such concern. – Prov. 29:7

These seem simply incompatible with the Modern Day Republican Party (MDRP), don’t they?  Either that, or there’s been a re-print of the Bible which must say, somewhere, “Soak the poor; let them die.”

I must have the Hippie Bible.

But if you’re Jason Rapert, none of these formerly Christian values have any meaning whatsoever, and your policy stances are a nauseating maze of hypocrisies, all bundled under his supposedly conservative, Christian beliefs.

From Rapert’s website:

Healthcare is an individual choice…

Unless you’re a woman, that is!  Rapert introduced a sickening invasive ultrasound bill for women seeking abortions, SB 843.  Because, obviously, nothing says “healthcare is an individual choice” like being forcibly raped by a doctor with a wand.  Can you taste the freedom?  No?  Hold on, let me stick it farther up there.

From the Bible:

But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. – Luke 6:24

Rapert, of course, receives fantastic healthcare by being an Arkansas State Senator.  If there’s one thing he’ll never, ever have to worry about again, it’s meeting his and his family’s health care needs.  Woe unto you, poor Jason.  But if you’re one of the 505,000 Arkansans without health care, most of these among the most poor of the state’s citizens, this is what Jason Rapert has to say to you:

As a senator, I was proud to stand up for the rights of Arkansans and to fight the implementation of key components of Obamacare in our state while the question of the health care law’s constitutionality was being considered by the courts.

Raped by a wand?  Fantastic!  Health care for the poor?  Unconstitutional and I’ll fight against it!

But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? – 1 John 3:17

Ultimately, Rapert is a MDRP “life begins at conception/ends at birth” politician.  From his site:

Life begins at the moment of conception…

This is demonstrably false, but when you’re so overcome by ideology rather than scientific reasoning, your conclusion will be incorrect about every time.   The rest of the sentence from Rapert’s site:

…we, as leaders, have a moral and spiritual obligation to protect the life of children.

Unless, of course, you are poor and without health care.  In that case, Jason Rapert couldn’t care less about you and yours.  You’re born; interest gone.

Taking a quick look at Rapert’s largest contributors, it’s the usual bunch of conservative puppeteers buying Rapert’s votes: Ess Transportation, Don “Double Dipping” Thomas, Stephens Group, Waltons, etc.  These are Jason Rapert’s masters.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Money. – Mt. 6:24

The MDRP is a religious parody of itself, readily hiding behind the Bible but, seemingly, never bothering to crack the seal of the good book.  Jason Rapert is a perfect example of this hypocrisy: health care for me, not for thee; freedom except if you’re a woman; and, screw the poor (to say nothing of his other horrendous policy positions).  These aren’t Christian ideals, and rampant hypocrisy like his is a driving factor in the huge rise of atheism in America.

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him. – Prov. 14:31

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In Wake Of HCR Ruling, Tim Griffin Has No Use For Facts

July 2, 2012 by Wayland Smith

“Also, I disagree with the general consensus that the sky is blue. I think the sky is a Democrat lie. I want to repeal the sky and replace it with some unspecified overhead thing.”

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR2) gave his thoughts to THV on the healthcare ruling.  Here it is in video form.

Rather than make you watch the video, however, how about we just fisk the transcript of it?  That should be all kinds of fun!  (Note: Fun not guaranteed.)

0:22.  Well, this is the No Spin Zone, my friend.

Here’s a handy rule to live by: if you don’t want people to think you are spinning your answer, don’t rip off someone who has made a career of championing the No Spin Zone while maniacally twisting the “facts” in his talking points to fit the narrative he wants to give.

0:25.  I will tell you that I’m disappointed in the opinion.  I agree with the dissent; I thought the dissent did a great job.  I’ve gotta take some time and read the entire opinion, but I agree with the dissent that the law is invalid.

Also a handy rule: actually read the entire opinion before you go on TV to talk about the opinion.  It’s great that you agree with the dissent, which reached the conclusion that you wanted the court to reach.  But until you’ve read the whole thing, you really have no frame of reference for why the dissent might be wrong.  You’re like a person who, wanting to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, reads something online that says he is a Muslim, then crows about how you agree with that position.  You have no frame of reference here, Donny.

0:41.  And, uh, you know, President Obama in 2009 was asked whether the penalty for not buying health insurance was a tax.  He said, “no, it’s not a tax! Of course it’s not a tax!”  Well, then when his law was challenged in the Supreme Court, his lawyers changed 180 degrees and said, “yeah, you oughta uphold it ’cause it is a tax.”

Actually, President Obama was asked whether the mandate represented a tax increase on the middle class, and he said it did not.  Rather, he said that, for people who can afford insurance but would otherwise choose not to get it, the mandate is the government “saying ‘we’re not gonna have other people carrying your burdens for you.”  If that sounds somewhat familiar, maybe it’s because you remember Mitt Romney explaining that the healthcare mandate in Massachusetts was “the ultimate conservative plan” because it “said that people have to take responsibility for getting insurance, if they can afford it, or paying their own way.”

1:06.  Well, we lost on that argument, and what this decision does is it paves the way for one of the largest tax increases in the history of the country.  So what we’ve got to do is continue to do what we’ve been doing . . .

Be needlessly obstructionist and treat Grover Norquist like the second coming of Jesus Christ?  (Also, this “one of the largest tax increase in history” canard is laughable; the increase is $27MM over 10 years, which is smaller in real dollars than the tax increases by George H.W. Bush in 1990 and Ronald Reagan in 1982.)

. . . which is fight to repeal this healthcare law through the political process.

Oh.  You mean hold another meaningless vote, knowing that you can’t possibly repeal the bill in 2012 and hoping that your Quixotic tilting will win you favor with the unwashed masses.  Got it.

I believe in healthcare reform; we need it more than ever.  We didn’t really get healthcare reform with this bill.  We got a top-down, big-government law.

Modeled on the law that the presumptive Republican nominee passed while governor of Massachusetts.  You know, the law that is wildly popular in Massachusetts — so popular, in fact, that an attempt to repeal the individual mandate there last year could not garner enough signatures to get to a vote.

I think we need healthcare reform that encourages innovation . . .

Agreed.

. . . reduces costs . . .

Again, agreed.  Though that’s the point of the individual mandate, of course, as well as the insurance exchanges required under the PPACA.

. . . and helps us keep this quality that we’re — this great quality of healthcare that we’re so accustomed to in the United States.

What the hell?  Seriously?  America’s healthcare is nowhere near “great.”  America ranked last among 19 similar countries in “rate of deaths from conditions that could have been prevented or treated successfully.” The overwhelming bulk of comparisons between Canadian and US healthcare find that the Canadian system is better in most measurable ways. Perhaps most damning, a recent survey of chronically ill or intensively ill patients in eight similar countries found that the United States had the highest reported rates of problems such as being given the wrong medication or dosage, experiencing a medical error, receiving incorrect test results, or facing delays in hearing about abnormal test results.

Point being, if your goal is a system that maintains the current standard of care, you have zero credibility on this topic.

1:50.  But we’ve gotta do that through the ballot box in November.  We passed a repeal in the House; it went to the Senate and died.

Damn that Senate not rubberstamping the House’s actions, even when those actions are partisan hatchet jobs designed to embarrass the lawmakers who passed the PPACA and the President.  Where do they get off, think that they, as a co-equal part of the legislature, can disagree with the House?!

1:56.  So that fight continues, and I think it emphasizes to Arkansans and Americans [that] we can’t rely on the Court; we lost there.  We’ve got to work in November to elect more, uh, public officials like the ones, many of the ones we have in Arkansas, that opposed this law.

Prescribing more David Meekses and Mark Darrs as a cure for what ails the American political process is like prescribing leeches to cure hemophilia.

2:19.  You know, all of our members of Congress from Arkansas, Democrat and Republican, opposed this law.

There are no Democrats in the House of Representatives from Arkansas.  The fact that Rep. Mike Ross (“D”-AR4) opposed this law says less about bipartisan opposition and more about what a farce of a Democrat Mike Ross really is.

2:24.  And, uh, so, we’ve gotta make sure that we speak out and fight for people on the ballot in November who will help repeal this and, uh, with a new President hopefully, and then get real, patient-centered reform enacted that gives people more choices and allows people to make their own decisions about their healthcare.

I love this way this went from “Tim Griffin’s response to the ruling” to “Tim Griffin’s campaign ad for Republicans generally.”  Of course, this is airing only on a local, Little Rock channel, and the only people on the ballot in Arkansas in November who would be in a position to help repeal the PPACA are President Obama and the four Arkansas representatives who already voted against it.

Sure, local Republicans can (and will) use the same inane approach that worked for Messrs. Darr, Meeks, and the rest, stating that they “oppose Obamacare” or whatever.  That doesn’t change the fact that, like Rep. Meeks, they have as much impact on whether the PPACA is repealed as they do on whether the sun will come up tomorrow.

2:50. [Craig O’Neill: Congressman, one of the things that Republicans maintain is the uncertainty in the marketplace, the uncertainty for businessmen, the uncertainty for business leaders.  The Supreme Court now comes out with a ruling with certainty.  Are you saying that you’re going to undo this healthcare bill politically, providing even more uncertainty in the marketplace when this is a call for certainty?]

Sure.  Well, let me tell ya the uncertainty about the healthcare has had less to do with what the Court would do.  It has had primarily to do with the Nancy Pelosi line that we need to pass it to see what’s in it.  Because what job creators will tell you when you talk to them about uncertainty is what they’re uncertain about is what the rules and the regulations are going to be because many of them aren’t written yet and won’t be written for years to come because the implementation of this is going to continue to take years. That’s the main uncertainty.

This is a ridiculous red herring. Of course many of the rules and regulations for implementing the law are not written yet. That’s how most laws work; Congress passes a law that dictates certain things, then the nuts-and-bolts implementation of the law is left to the various government agencies impacted by the law. Complaining that many of the “rules and regulations” aren’t written overlooks that the substance of the law, which those rules and regulations will be enforcing, is in place. You might not know exactly how the paperwork for compliance will be structured, but you (or your attorney) can get a very, very clear picture of what you’ll have to do to be in compliance with the letter of the law. Griffin’s complaint is akin to saying that a law establishing a new speed limit is too uncertain because it doesn’t explain how that speed limit will be enforced.

If this video teaches us anything, it’s that Rep. Griffin has little use for things like facts and figures and logic and intellectual honesty.  Not that you would expect one of Karl Rove’s old lapdogs to behave otherwise, right?

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Lies, Damned Lies, & Claims Of Legislative Success

June 29, 2012 by Wayland Smith

Does John Stossel know David stole his ‘stache?

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I thought it might be instructive to recall the halcyon days of December 2010, when newly elected Rep. David Meeks (R-Conway) pre-filed HB 1053[1], entitled “AN ACT TO ENSURE FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN HEALTH CARE FOR ALL ARKANSANS; AND TO PREVENT INVOLUNTARY ENROLLMENTS IN HEALTH CARE INSURANCE PROGRAMS.”  Under that bill, Meeks would have told the federal government that they could not impose a mandate on Arkansans, nor could they impose a penalty on Arkansans who did not buy insurance.

At the time that he proposed it, the reaction among people who weren’t trying to score political points with constituents who don’t understand how such things work was that the bill was absolutely worthless.  In fact, it was slightly worse than worthless: at best, it would be superfluous if the Supreme Court struck down the mandate.

If, instead, the Supreme Court upheld the mandate, as they did today, passing that bill could have had a much more deleterious effect, embroiling Arkansas in a lawsuit — paid for by tax dollars — once someone filed a suit challenging the law.  Either way, there was simply no remotely likely set of circumstances in which HB 1053 would have had any positive, practical effect.

But Meeks was not done.  In March 2011, he co-sponsored Sen. Missy Irvin’s (R-ALEC) attempt to do more or less the same thing regarding the individual mandate, SB 709, “AN ACT TO CREATE THE HEALTHCARE REFORM ACCOUNTABILITY ACT AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.”  Had this bill passed, the outcome would have been the same as with HB 1053, resulting in either absolutely nothing or a lawsuit.  Mercifully, this bill also died in committee.

Imagine for a moment that you are David Meeks.  (Try not to let the existential embarrassment lead to clinical depression.)  Imagine that you’ve got two bills with your name on them, and neither of them made it out of committee.  Imagine further that, if they had passed, neither would have had the slightest impact on Arkansans as of June 28, 2012.  Now, whether because they didn’t pass or because they were worthless from the jump, answer me this (while still imagining that you are David Meeks):  isn’t it pretty fair to say that these bills in no way blocked the implementation of the PPACA in Arkansas?

If you were really in character, you should have answered “not as far as what I’m going to tell my constituents!”

He even goes so far as to call HB 1053 the “Healthcare Freedom Act” on the legislative tab of his website.  Because, you know, “Act” is TOTALLY not designed to make people think that the law passed and that Meeks “protect[ed] Arkansas from being forced to purchase health insurance.”  Nope, not meant to mislead at all.

By which I mean it is meant to completely mislead.

In a perfect world, Meeks’s opponent, Cody Bassham, could capitalize on the fact that he’s running against a Representative who has accomplished nothing in his first two years and has gleefully attached his name to terrible bills (in addition to the above, he also co-sponsored Rep. Ed Garner’s unconstitutional attempt to remove Arkansas’s capital-gains tax, sponsored a bizarre bill to let doctors refuse treatments based on the dictates of their own conscience, and co-sponsored the kind of asinine resolution to “claim states rights under the Tenth Amendment” that Tea Party backers think has any meaning whatsoever).  Sadly, Faulkner County ain’t a perfect world, and Bassham is fighting an uphill battle; he doesn’t have a website, and Meeks has been able to outraise him by a wide margin thus far.

Worse still, Bassham is running against a Pastoral Ministry major who is willing to blatantly lie to his constituents about what he’s done while in the House, and there’s no reason to think that the people of Faulkner County will realize this and hold Meeks accountable for his deceit.

Obviously, Meeks is not the first politician to tell a lie in hopes of keeping his seat.[2] I wouldn’t suggest that he was.

I would suggest, however, that there is a difference between a politician repeating a Fox News-type lie about a policy issue and a politician who has to lie about a red-meat Tea Party issue like “Obamacare” just to hide the fact that he has accomplished nothing.  The former is doing what politicians do, in a form that you expect; the latter is acting in desperation, hoping to fool people into re-electing him so he can . . . I dunno . . . propose more bills that might get the state sued?  Continue to milk at the teat of mileage and expense reimbursements?  Not have to get a real job in a poor economy that he and his GOP buddies have helped make worse?

Something like that.  (My money is on the real-job thing.  Because small government starts at someone else’s home for the ARGOP.)

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[^1] Protip: You can save yourself a couple seconds when writing about David Meeks’ 2011 session by writing “HB” before checking the number of any bill on which he was the primary sponsor; you never have to worry about writing “Act,” because he didn’t manage to pass a single bill in 2011. Does this make Arkansas Watch’s listing of Meeks as the Best Legislator In Arkansas borderline absurd? No. In fact, it makes it completely absurd. Which is par for the course with Arkansas Watch.

[^2] Technically, this isn’t even his first falsehood of 2012: he distorted the hell out of the truth during the primary in order to explain paying his unqualified wife to be his legislative assistant.

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Crumbling With Irony

June 2, 2012 by Wayland Smith

Wait...the actual vote totals matter? THIS DISTRICT ISN'T CRUMBLY-FRIENDLY ENOUGH!

Throughout this entire Jack Crumbly-Keith Ingram kerfluffle is the massive amount of irony in Crumbly’s asking the courts to jump into the election.  After all, it was but six years ago that Crumbly basically stole the election and got that Senate seat, and his attorney defended his “election” by arguing that only the Senate — and not the courts — could decide who was rightfully a member.

The backstory here is totally worth recounting.  In 2006, three men ran for District 16, and it was crumbly and State Representative Arnell Willis who made the run-off.  In that run-off election, Crumbly won by a scant 78 votes, but there were literally hundreds of ballots cast in St. Francis County (Crumbly’s home) that were cast illegally.  When Willis challenged the vote, Judge L.T. Simes of Marianna dismissed the suit.  The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the dismissal and rules that Simes had to at least hold a hearing and rule on the merits of Willis’ suit.  Furthermore, because Crumbly (and Simes) had concluded that there was no way to determine who an illegal vote was cast for, the Supreme Court stated:

In short, while Amendment 81 protects the secrecy of ballots, its intent is to protect an honest voter, not an illegal one. As a result, this court is convinced that in election contests, where there is evidence of an illegal ballot, the person who illegally voted can be forced to testify as to whom they voted, and such is permissible under Amendment 81. We reverse and remand this case for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

Furthermore, the late (and awesome) Associate Justice Tom Glaze wrote that, due to Simes’ apparently reluctance to address the issues in the case, a new judge should be appointed.  Unfortunately, the remainder of the court did not agree.   Nevertheless, Simes actually did step aside in this case. Not because he didn’t want to remain on Crumbly’s case, but because he was ultimately suspended for unethical behavior in other matters. John Lineberger, a retired judge from Rogers, was appointed to the case.

Just before trial was to start, Crumbly’s attorney offered a new argument.  He contended that the courts could have nothing to do with election-fraud cases because the Constitution, as amended, gave the House and Senate the sole jurisdiction over determining who should be a member of their respective bodies.  While that argument was completely absurd — the legislature had ceded such jurisdiction to the courts under Act 465 of 1969 — Judge Lineberger inexplicably agreed with it.  Even more inexplicably, Willis’ attorney agreed with the outcome and did not bother to file an appeal.

The Arkansas Senate quickly made a show of their own “investigation” of the matter.  (In case it wasn’t amazingly clear, I used the quotation marks in the previous sentence to demonstrate irony.)  The Senate State Agencies Committee listened to testimony on the matter and voted 4-3 to keep Crumbly in his ill-gotten seat.  Shortly thereafter, the full Senate voted 21-12 to keep Crumbly seated.  Perhaps most disturbingly, even the majority of the State Agencies Committee noted that fraud and irregularities were rampant in the election and a “blatant and flagrant disregard for the democratic process” had occurred.

The committee also discovered a “chilling and alarming pattern of disregard for state election laws in a cavalier and irresponsible matter.”  Yet, for whatever reason — read: because the Senate protects its own above all else — Crumbly was seated as a Senator, simply because there was “no evidence” that he, personally, had done anything wrong, and the committee could not figure out (because they did not try to figure out) what the “correct” vote totals should have been.

Once you think about how Crumbly got his seat, how can anyone respond with anything short of derisive laughter when you hear him complain that the apportionment committee didn’t ensure that he’d be re-elected?   (In case it wasn’t amazingly clear by this point, I consider Jack Crumbly to be an interloper who managed to steal a Senate seat, and I have zero sympathy for him in the current matter.  He’s a terrible person, and this outcome is hilariously perfect.)

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“There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.” –Hippocrates

May 11, 2012 by Wayland Smith

There’s a certain logical disconnect that seems to pop up among everyone in the anti-vaccination crowd.  They dismissively ignore all actual evidence that doesn’t support their firmly held belief, but they will crow from the mountaintops any time they think they’ve found scientific evidence that backs them.  While this sort of thing is far from exclusive to the anti-vacc contingent, they are among the most obnoxious about it, and they have enough of a profile (thanks to noted biomedical scientist Jenny McCarthy) that you can’t help but hear a lot of what they spout, whether you want to or not.

Which brings us to Mark Moore of the Arkansas Watch blog.  Mark is, it seems, part of the anti-vacc group that is just absolutely sure that vaccines cause autism.   Once you know this, it becomes much less of a surprise that he would entitle a post, “How do you give a Monkey Autism?  Administer them the Vaccines we give to our Children!

The kind of tests that should have been done a long time ago have finally been done on lab monkeys. The result is that young monkeys given a vaccine schedule from the 1990’s tend to develop autistic symptoms while a control group did not.

Then he provides a link to the study. If you’ve followed the anti-vacc movement at all over the last few years, and if you ignore that Mark makes it sound like this is a new study, you might guess that he’s going to link to the study by Dr. Laura Hewitson from 2010.  You’d be more or less correct; he links to an article on LewRockwell.com.  That article, while also making it sound like we’re dealing with a new study, links to an article at Age of Autism written by (noted shaken-baby-denialist) Catherine Frompovich.  Frompovich is talking about the Hewitson study, and she’s hitting all the same notes that you’d expect: (1) the study showed that “biological changes and altered behaviors did occur in vaccinated monkeys, which resembled and were similar to those observed in ASD diagnosed children;” (2) the same changes and behaviors did not occur in the non-vaccinated monkeys; (3) that people who stand to profit from vaccines don’t want this study to be replicated; and (4) that this study, once replicated, will prove ex-Dr. Andrew Wakefield correct.

Wow.  That sounds like quite a study, no?  To someone who was unfamiliar with the study (or who was simply looking for something to confirm what they already “knew” to be true), that’s tantamount to a smoking gun.

Of course, once you look at the study — which I would bet most people touting the results have not done — you realize it’s less a smoking gun and more a smoldering pile.  First of all, there’s some important information in the Methods section of the study.  See if you can spot the problem:

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