Archive for the ‘ARGOP’ Category

h1

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

September 7, 2012

“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 ?

h1

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

August 31, 2012

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.

h1

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

August 28, 2012

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!

h1

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

August 9, 2012

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.

h1

Lies, Damned Lies, & Claims Of Legislative Success

June 29, 2012

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.)

***

[^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.

h1

And, If You Are ALEC, She’s Totally Your Huckleberry

April 21, 2012

The mud lets you know she isn't some liberal, car-washing elitist.

Apparently, a Holiday Inn in Heber Springs was hosting a meet-and-greeting last night, and all local political candidates were invited.  Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) RSVPed on behalf of herself and roughly 100 additional people that she invited.  Because, hey, party!

Then she learned that the Holiday Inn had the unmitigated temerity to — gasp! — serve alcohol to attendees.  Well, she wasn’t going to have any of THAT, because (paraphrasing) such antics “alienated the Christians.”  So Sen. Irvin attempted to rally people not to attend the meet-and-greet.  Take that, Holiday SIN!

Oh, except she didn’t actually get in touch with all of the myriad people she’d invited, so people showed up, expecting her to attend.  That would have been embarrassing if Sen. Irvin had the capacity to be embarrassed by her own action.  Which she obviously does not.

But, hey, embarrassing or not,  maybe we should give Sen. Irvin credit for sticking to her faith-based guns (and for ignoring that 59% of the Bible’s references to wine/alcohol are positive), right?  Well, we could do that.

Or we could point out that tonight Sen. Irvin held a private event at the Red Apple Inn in Heber Springs.  Where . . . wait for it . . . alcohol was served!

If I ever film a re-make of Tombstone, I’m totally casting Missy Irvin as Doc Holliday.  Because when she says “it appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds,” you’ll know she absolutely means it.

h1

A Couple ARGOP Reps Find Racism Hilarious.

February 11, 2012

How did you spend the last Friday night before the 2012 Fiscal Session begins?  I went out to dinner at Faded Rose in Riverdale, where I had a delicious soft shell crab topped with lump crab meat and mushrooms.  Also at the restaurant were Rep. John Burris (R-Harrison) and Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) meeting with a lobbyist type.

In and of itself, the fact that Burris and Collins had dinner with someone would not be interesting.  Where it becomes interesting, however, is when you are sitting close enough to the table that you can hear the “jokes” about which cigarettes are “only for blacks” or hear Rep. Collins talk about what he said to someone when he was drunk.  High comedy, I tell ya.

To Burris’ credit, I s’pose, he did not actually make the racial comments.  But, then again, he did not object to them, and he did laugh along.  Besides, there’s always that old reputation-by-association saw, “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.”  Oh, and he also felt the need to explain to the third party why he (Burris) voted a certain way on specific bills last session, during which my wife described Burris as looking “like he was being raked over the coals naked.”

If you are the type who cares about such things, you might be wondering whether Burris and Collins paid for their own meals.  I left before they did, so I cannot say.  My guess, however, would be that they did not.  If either of the Reps would like to correct this assumption, they can contact me at [email protected]  Unless and until I hear from either, I’ll just hope that this ethics-reform package has legs.