The Price of Being Victimized

John DePetro has continued his attention to the most critical story of the day: letters to the editor and yoga pants in Barrington.  Saturday, he spoke with the letter writer, Alan Sorrentino, who said that he’d received death threats and was reminded of intimidation he felt in the past as a homosexual man.  This morning, DePetro tweeted Sorrentino’s claim that the Barrington police wanted him to pay for the detail they dispatched to his house the day of the parade.

As I suggested when I wrote about this story on Friday, the whole thing has the feeling of a TV comedy show (see, e.g.), but that doesn’t mean the lessons aren’t real and important.  As much as the people involved may be comedic — Sorrentino now insists he wrote his letter in the persona of somebody who would actually disgust him and the yoga fascists, well, they’re comedic outright — death threats are simply not acceptable.

If Sorrentino correctly understood the Barrington police, that request is unacceptable, too.  Grievance mobs simply cannot be permitted to impose government costs on their victims.

Whether people laugh at this turn of events or not, the effect on public dialogue cannot be doubted.  Anybody thinking of expressing opinions that aren’t perfectly in line with the politically correct, self righteous mobs will think again, and we’ll all be poorer for it.


You Mean People Make Money by Selling Drugs?

Sometimes following the news makes one feel as if everybody else is willfully living in some sort of fantasy.  Today’s Providence Journal article on the profits of medical marijuana in the state, by Jennifer Bogdan and Tom Mooney, gives me that sensation:

Medical marijuana is big business in Rhode Island. It wasn’t intended to be.

Advocates wanted dispensaries to provide a safe, ample supply of medicine for those who needed it. But the program has proliferated virtually unchecked, offering yes, relief for the ill, but also opportunity for investors who can operate behind the opaque screen surrounding Rhode Island’s three dispensaries. …

There were so many questions that they couldn’t answer at the time [legislation was crafted]. “I mean who knew?” How should the dispensaries operate? How much marijuana should they be allowed to grow? Would the legislature be more receptive if dispensaries weren’t influenced by shareholders?

“We said they were supposed to be nonprofits. Why? Well, first of all, we didn’t want them to be in it for the money.”

Oh, come on.  Are people really that unable to break down issues to their core components and categorize them properly in order to predict outcomes?  With medical marijuana, our (famously corrupt) state gave oligopoly authorization to three entities to sell an otherwise illegal product.  As I put it in 2011, the state was estimating that each dispensary would be “an instant $20 million business facilitated by the Department of Health.”  According to today’s article, the profits appear to be smaller and not quite so instant, and yet, the article presents 78% growth over a year, to $17 million for all three dispensaries, as if it’s unexpected and suspicious.

To the extent that the organizations aren’t making big returns on their investments, the article expresses suspicion about other ways in which participants are trying to make money.  It never fails to surprise that people really believe that those who work for non-profits can’t be “in it for the money” and that government power tends to breed corruption.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with making a profit.  Money is just an indication of value, and our economic system is supposed to determine what people value and provide it — whether that means innovating to create new products or building new capacity to produce and supply existing products.  People value drugs, but it takes an investment to get the industry over a start-up hump, and then it takes the flow of money to prove the consumer interest.  (As a society, we love to harvest the fruits of investment, but we never want to pay the reward.)

The way in which Rhode Island legalized marijuana was almost expressly designed to ensure that the government maintained pent-up demand in order to drive up prices and increase the tax take.  That’s been obvious along; people who are surprised really need to go back and review the assumptions that they have about the way things work and reevaluate how they believe government should behave.


Enough Of The Insider Machine

It is a result of the failed status quo of increased government intervention in our personal and business lives that the Ocean State ranks so poorly on so many national indexes. It is not acceptable that we rank 50th with the worst business climate in the nation, 48th on the national Family Prosperity Index, and 48th on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index. It is up to voters to review all the data, and decide whether or not to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records this November.

This week, the Center released a new voter guide for the upcoming ballot questions. In heaping over $321,000,000 of additional debt burden on Rhode Island families, as well as on future generations, we are recommending to voters that they “reject” bond Questions #4-7. Just like families who must tighten their credit card debt and avoid luxuries they cannot afford, voters should reject the exorbitant spending proposed by the state, much of which is earmarked to benefit special interest insiders. Only Question #2 – to amend the state constitution restore Ethics Commission authority – received an “Approve” recommendation from the Center.

Haven’t you had enough of the broken status quo here in the Ocean State? We have seen over and over again that the special interest thinking is failing the people of Rhode Island, while enriching the elites. You and your family deserve more. The headlines are full of examples of regular people being kept out of the process and silenced. It is time to stand up to the same old way of doing things here in our state. It will be up to voters to decide this November if they want to continue down the path our state is on or to change things here in Rhode Island.

I think Rhode Islanders have had enough of the insider machine. It is time to make a complete turnaround from the poor scores and last place rankings. We must adopt the free market reforms that can make our state a place where our families can be prosperous. You are powerful. You do not have to tolerate the cronyism and elitist attitude any longer. Don’t be on the sidelines. The rigged system in the Ocean State has kept too many people out of the process. Now is the time for you to speak out and make sure your legislator does more to make Rhode Island a place where our families can achieve their hopes and dreams.


Father Healey Puts a Marker in the Mainstream Ground

Thank you to Roman Catholic priest Father Bernard Healey for raising the local profile of the anti-Catholic scheming of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle in the Providence Journal:

When public officials and political organizations such as the Clinton campaign create phony political groups to attack the teachings of any faith community, this act must be justly condemned by all right-minded people. The free exercise of religion is a constitutional hallmark of our nation’s foundation.

However, Catholics have come to expect the silence of the media, the Clinton campaign, civil libertarians and other faith communities in the face of such intolerant bigotry and shameful tactics. Intolerance of the Catholic faith is the last acceptable prejudice in our country and quickly becoming a hallmark of “enlightened” elites in our society.

I’m sure Father Healey will take heat from multiple quarters for writing so plainly in a mainstream publication about a political figure, but it’s becoming increasingly important for clergy to stand up and cast a cutting light through the smoke of public discourse.

And clergy aren’t the only ones.  Even as we (properly) retrench in our own communities (religious and local) and shore up our own foundations, more believers must step forward into public view.  In the past, I’ve tried to stand up for unpopular opinions (that happen to be undeniably correct), but the Providence Journal commentary pages won’t publish me anymore, so others have to fill that breach.


More of the Vicious Progressive Playbook Becomes Evident

Writing about James O’Keefe’s latest videos and one of its central characters, Democrat operative Robert Creamer, Stanley Kurtz notes that he’s a long-time ally of Barack Obama’s.  Kurtz’s essay ends with a quote from a book that Creamer wrote while in jail for financial crimes, and it casts light not only on the behavior of our current president and the amped up gaslighting many have observed in recent months and years, but also the strategies of progressive activists all the way down to the local level:

In general our strategic goal with people who have become conservative activists is not to convert them—that isn’t going to happen. It is to demoralize them—to ‘deactivate’ them. We need to deflate their enthusiasm, to make them lose their ardor and above all their self-confidence…[A] way to demoralize conservative activists is to surround them with the echo chamber of our positions and assumptions. We need to make them feel that they are not mainstream, to make them feel isolated… We must isolate them ideologically…[and] use the progressive echo chamber…By defeating them and isolating them ideologically, we demoralize conservative activists directly. Then they begin to quarrel among themselves or blame each other for defeat in isolation, and that demoralizes them further.

It would go too far to assume that Creamer’s book is a hidden guide that progressives prominent and unknown have memorized, but the above does indicate that such notions are in the air among them, and the standard rhetoric of progressives across the board proves that Creamer isn’t on his own in promoting these sentiments.

Most disconcerting is his emphasis on demoralization.  This is war to progressives.  The first assumption that non-progressives should make is that they are not really interested in dialogue, consensus, and harmonious living.  They want power and “the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless,” as Orwell put it.

Adding this tidbit to the running list of revelations about how the Clinton camp, the Democrat Party, and progressives generally think and operate, perhaps the most critical lesson for conservatives is that it is a strategic ruse.  Knowing what it is should help us to avoid feeling demoralized, as they desire.  Take their insults and their insistence that we’re alone as fuel, as reason to persist.

As for the advisable counter strategy, at this level of spiritual warfare (which is ultimately what this is) fighting fire with fire will not work, particularly where they have the advantage, which they do in popular culture.  Rather, we have to fight fire with water, which means upholding standards, adhering to a principle that everybody has value and deserves our attention and patience, and simply being better people than they are.  Judging from Creamer’s writings and O’Keefe’s videos, that shouldn’t be difficult to do.

People are generally good, and few can keep up a strategy that requires them to be unjust if their victims don’t reinforce the bullies’ hatred with a sense that it’s kill or be killed.


Unsightly Yoga Pants, Unsightly Politics

Rhode Islanders’ first reaction to the Providence Journal’s front page, today, might be, “What? A local yoga-pants letter-to-the-editor controversy on the front page?”  With some meta-analysis, though, the story’s a bit too perfect.

The most obvious observation is that the story is another contribution to the Hillary Clinton campaign, in the long line of stories to build up her woman-power narrative.  In this regard, the Providence Journal is just playing its role fomenting division and separating people from each other so politicians in the Democrat Party can capitalize on people’s aggravation and feelings of disconnect and powerlessness.

The story could also be seen as an upscale community’s sit-com take on current events, as a commentary on liberals’ fascist urge to escalate every issue to the point of personal confrontation and violence for the express purpose of forcing others to back down.  In Orwell’s 1984 the Party lured citizens into violations in order to crack down on them and make them suffer.  That was the point.  Party boss O’Brien tells our hero, Winston, the following.  (I quote the most relevant part, but readers should find the long paragraph in the middle of the page and read it for its astonishing relevance to our time)

There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.

Some women (and men) are planning a parade in yoga pants down the street of a man who did nothing but express an opinion about appropriate clothing (published in a forum that only a portion of even his town’s residents encounter on a regular basis).  If it happens, the event will be mainly than an opportunity for some people to live out the fantasy of valor on a Sunday afternoon by reveling in somebody else’s powerlessness.

As with their attempt to stop the newspaper from allowing such views to be published, the parade’s effect — its intended effect — will be to warn others away from expressing views to which fascist agitators like Erin Johnson of Barrington might object.  In matters of disagreement with the self-righteous, only those willing to depart from the challenges of their daily lives in order to escalate the fight will push back, isolating the great majority of people who just want to go about life in harmony and forcing them to choose between extremes.  (Nevermind that one of the extremes is largely fictional.)

Our society once strove to encourage discussion of differing points of view to foster understanding and to resolve those differences in a way that we used to call “civil.” Guess those days are done.


The Problem When Government’s an Economic Player

This should be an uncontroversial story offering the latest in medical thinking on a vaccine:

Since the HPV vaccine went on sale a decade ago, three doses have been needed. The panel decided Wednesday that two doses are enough.  

“It will be simpler now for parents to get their kids the HPV vaccine series, and protect their kids from HPV cancers,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As readers of the Current know, Rhode Island responded (arguably) more strongly than any state in the country to the nationwide push to mandate that all students receive this vaccine — which is produced by a single company — as a condition of attending school.  That nationwide push makes one think it awfully convenient that the government would recommend 50% more shots than it now says is necessary.

On the other hand, with ObamaCare, government is increasingly (and disastrously) involved in handling payments for health care, and excess vaccines may not make the cut as it balances its desire to make people pay for other people’s services with the voting-and-campaign-donating payers’ willingness to sit idly by as their wallets are raided.  With premiums continuing to rise, and the government positioned to take the blame, spending isn’t all fun and games.

Obviously, these two dynamics are not mutually exclusive.  The government may have loved the idea of prodding consumers toward excessive utilization of a monopoly drug while it wasn’t so directly visible in the funding stream, but is now reevaluating the corporate cronyism in light of its own accountability.

So if we take away the government’s incentive to meddle, what would be the recommended dosage of this vaccine?  Unfortunately, the question points to the most profound reason to resist society-by-government.  Who knows?  The same entity we’re supposed to trust to give us an analysis of the data is in bed with those who profit from higher recommendations and on the hook if the prices get too high.

Somewhere in this great muddle of health care policy, there’s the intention that government agencies could be objective voices coming to conclusions on the basis of medical science and leaving the market to work out the consequences and individuals to make decisions about resulting priorities.  Trust in that intention has now reached the point of naiveté, and we’ll all be poorer and less healthy for it as long as we allow it to continue.


Funding Cronies in the Company State

Aw, well, isn’t this a nice “things we choose to do together” government report?

Gov. Gina Raimondo and other state officials unveiled Skills for Rhode Island’s Future at a Bank of America call center in East Providence, which is hiring some new workers through the program.

That’s what people will take away, but what they should focus on is the background story that’s somewhat visible in the details:

  • The federal government gave Rhode Island $1.25 million to hire the private non-profit Skills for America’s Future.
  • This is the corporation’s second location, expanding from Skills for Chicagoland’s Future.
  • The founder of the organization, Penny Pritzker, went on to become Obama’s secretary of commerce.

The group’s IRS filings fill in the picture a bit. Between 2012 and 2014, its total revenue ranged from $3,316,498 to $3,943,121, with the better part coming from government.  If the linked article above is correct that it has “found jobs for more than 3,100 people in Chicago,” the per-job cost is over $4,000.

I’ve written frequently about the idea of a “company state” model under which government becomes the central industry for an area (like the State of Rhode Island) and strives to expand the services that it can provide in order to justify confiscating money from disfavored groups in the area or in other states.  Skills for Rhode Island’s Future is a great example.

With the federal government as its anchor client, the organization is expanding across the country like a franchise, spending copious amounts of money to make people feel dependent on government, acting as a recruiting contractor for connected companies and acting as an entry point for people’s reliance on government.

According to the office of Governor Raimondo, Skills for Rhode Island’s Future will not be interacting with state welfare offices or be plugged into the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) system, which would direct clients to any and all other government services for which they might qualify.  That would be a relatively short step, though, once the organization is established.

As this system becomes entrenched and integrated, companies will have increasing incentive to play ball and get in on the scheme, while workers will have incentive to become the sorts of people whom the government and the corporations want them to be. Thus will more people be drawn through the dependency portal, leaving fewer who aren’t under the direct influence of and subject to reliance on government.


Drama at RIC: Another Way to Steal from Taxpayers?

The Providence Journal’s Jacqueline Tempera reported, the other day, on another way in which state employees of Rhode Island can potentially steal from taxpayers:

The managing director of the theater at Rhode Island College has been arrested after he allegedly stole more than $60,000 from the college over three years, state police said Friday. 

An investigation by the state police’s Financial Crimes Unit determined that James L. Taylor, 46, of Johnston, had been requesting checks from the accounting department “under false pretenses” and depositing them into his personal bank account.

Hot on the heals of the reported conspiracy to defraud the unemployment insurance office, this latest arrest isn’t making state employees look so hot.  Mix in the recent “quiet time” shifts in the Tiverton police department, and the entire Rhode Island public sector comes into question.

I do have to say I feel a bit for these workaday employees.  I mean, the really connected folks just get bonds, tax credits, and other means of handing out taxpayer dollars in sums way above what ordinary folks can steal, and it’s all completely legal.  When it isn’t legal, they get friendly officials in the attorney general’s office and even the state police to slow-roll and cover up.

Of course, I should note that Tiverton’s last employee caught up in a scandal of stealing from local taxpayers got away with a graceful retirement — and even the accrued sick-time he didn’t use because, it appears, he was just doing his side work on the clock.  Elected officials don’t want the expensive and embarrassing lawsuits, so it’s not like the workaday employees always get their comeuppance.


Can We Start Putting Two and Two Together?

Although you wouldn’t know it from mainstream sources, sometimes-over-the-top video journalist James O’Keefe has released two videos in a series exposing people associated with the Democrat Party and the Clinton campaign. What I’ve seen so far looks credible, although I leave it to the mainstream media to determine whether there ought to be disclaimers — for example, whether the people making the most explosive claims are really just low-level operatives talking big.

In the first video, the objects of O’Keefe’s investigation are very open about their efforts to manipulate the media and the political process through such means as “bird dogging” (putting planted questions at the front of a greeting line to embarrass Republicans in front of reporters) and using mentally ill people and union members to provoke the opposition and make them look bad. (Naturally, the schemers assume journalists will ensure that the appropriate narrative is applied.)

One more-legalistic step is for groups that can’t coordinate their activities, mostly because of campaign finance laws, to hire the same contractors, who act as messengers. In this way, people in public office or in campaigns simply use go-betweens instead of email to skirt the law.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, according to the Daily Caller, one of these contractors is a regular visitor of the White House:

A key operative in a Democratic scheme to send agitators to cause unrest at Donald Trump’s rallies has visited the White House 342 times since 2009, White House records show.

Robert Creamer, who acted as a middle man between the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and “protesters” who tried — and succeeded — to provoke violence at Trump rallies met with President Obama 47 times, according to White House records. Creamer’s last visit was in June 2016.

Americans have spent the past eight years being manipulated and abused in countless imaginative ways, and it looks like we’re in for at least another four. Are our elections rigged? Our entire system of government now is.


Collapse When Infrastructure’s Bad and Government’s Run Poorly

Perhaps things are different in other parts of the state, but it has seemed that the new Dept. of Transportation (DOT) signs displaying their proud green on-time-and-on-budget dots are mostly planted around relatively small paint jobs.  Painting’s important, of course, but the metaphor of bragging about it is too appropriate to let slide.

Within the first two pages of today’s Providence Journal, for example, we learn of DOT’s botching the roll-out of a temporary lane change, causing untold damage to the Rhode Island economy and the continued travails for people on public assistance after the botched roll-out of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP).  Now add in Nick Domings’s reporting for WPRI about “Dozens of dams in RI deemed unsafe“:

Dozens of dams in Rhode Island are in rough shape. In fact, dozens of them are in high-risk areas, and failure could cause death and catastrophic damage, according to the R.I. Department of Environmental Management.

To be fair, some of these dams are privately owned, but if we’re going to give government the role of inspecting and regulating even private infrastructure, it should be doing so (rather than the myriad other tasks government sets for itself).  More importantly, can anybody have confidence in the people who run state government to handle a real catastrophe?  If they can’t manage even a simple lane change, planned well in advance, and if $364,000,000 and years of preparation aren’t enough for it to implement new a software system smoothly, why should we expect that state government will do anything but make matters worse when something really bad happens unexpectedly?

A comment from Raymond Carter comes to mind both as a wake-up call and a warning:

The (very sad) truth is that sane crooks like Murphy, Paiva-Weed, Gina, Paolino, Mattiello and DeSimone will be a fond memory once the progressive crazies take over the asylum. Get ready for $100,000 babysitters with state pensions. Get prepared for Venezuelan style government, economics and collapse.

And in the face of all of this, Rhode Islanders remain poorly informed and apathetic.


Take-Aways from the Blockbuster Curt Schilling Interview?

Rhode Islanders for the first time this morning started getting some straight answers about the 38 Studios debacle that put us all on the hook for $89,000,000 as 38 Studios founder and CEO Curt Schilling broke his silence for three riveting hours on the John Depetro Show on WPRO.

So many interesting items came out of the interview. Two of the bigger ones – but by no means the only big ones – for me are:

1.) Gordon Fox crony Michael Corso played a huge role in putting the deal together and acted as traffic cop for the lucrative contracts that arose from the company coming to Rhode Island. Were all of his actions legal? And were the Rhode Island State Police permitted to conduct an adequate investigation of this question? Or was it … um, shepherded by the Attorney General so as to narrow its scope?

2.) Rhode Island and Providence have some of the most onerous building and fire code requirements in the country. Yet the newly built-out 38 Studios headquarters NEVER OBTAINED A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY because at least in part, Schilling said, he signed autographs for people. (Editorial comment: We pass highly intrusive laws and they don’t get enforced??? ARGH!!!)

Ahem. What were your take-aways?


Are Rhode Island Elections Rigged?

In a promotional tweet for an article he published in early September on RIPR, Ian Donnis highlights the unseating of Rhode Island House Majority Leader John DeSimone as “evidence that elections in RI are not rigged.”  But I’m not so sure the evidence supports the claim.  Consider:

In a strong display of anti-incumbent sentiment, one-third of the 18 incumbent state lawmakers facing primary challengers went down to defeat. …

With 100 percent of the vote in, according to unofficial results, Ranglin-Vassell got 50.6 percent of the vote (677 votes), compared with 49.4 percent (660 votes) for DeSimone. That count includes mail ballots. …

Six of the 18 General Assembly incumbents facing primary challenges were defeated, reflecting anti-incumbent sentiment among voters.

So only about one-quarter of incumbents even had challengers.  Six new faces in the General Assembly would represent turnover of 8%.  And the highlighted case, here, involved a slim majority win for the challenger of 17 votes.  About the best one can say about these results is that they prove Rhode Island’s electoral system is not perfectly rigged.

I’d go further, though.  Ranglin-Vassell is a member of arguably the most powerful insider group in the state: teachers unions. Moreover, she and her five fellow victorious challengers won by peddling progressives list of vote-buying schemes like an unsustainable minimum wage and more paid days off from work.  In other words, one big-government Democrat defeated another, effecting maybe a slight change in who gets the money they all rob from taxpayers and how they steal it.

That seems pretty rigged to me.


Rhode Island’s Agent of Indecision

Anybody else wonder why Linda Borg’s front-page article, in yesterday’s Providence Journal, comparing Rhode Island’s abandoned education reform with Massachusetts’s forward march, didn’t mention former Independent-to-Democrat Governor Lincoln Chafee once?  He was the single-most-responsible party for Rhode Island’s policy reversal and the resulting halt of improvements.  Another way to put it would be that he was the teachers unions’ tool for achieving that reversal and halt.

Given Curt Schilling’s op-ed broadside against Chafee on the 38 Studios debacle, also in yesterday’s paper, it would have made a strong statement, indeed, for readers to have been given reason to consider the former governor’s effect on education, as well.  It also would have provided some food for thought with respect to Massachusetts’s now-“stagnant” test scores, as Borg puts it, because Democrat Deval Patrick played much the same role during his time as governor.

Of course, giving Chafee his shameful due on education would also have raised questions about how he achieved his office.  And that might have undermined the pro-Raimondo section with which Borg closed out her article.  After all, the new Democrat governor — whom Borg credits with bringing “a fresh approach” — achieved office in much the same way as her predecessor: with multiple candidates splitting the vote and preventing the election of anybody with a clear majority.


This post wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t raise the front-page graphic’s insistence that another $432 per student somehow makes the difference between Massachusetts’s first-place test results and Rhode Island’s merely average performance.  When last I looked at these numbers, Massachusetts’s per-pupil spending was seventh in the nation, while Rhode Island’s was eighth.  Anybody who’s looking for an explanation of the differences in our results can safely put the funding differences to the side.


Anti-Tolling Rally Tomorrow!

At the truck stop in West Greenwich off Route 95: 849 Victory Highway, West Greenwich, RI 02817. Tuesday, October 18, at 11:00 am. (No question, a bit of a tough time of day for a lot of us working folks.)

The Rhode Island Trucking Association and NATSO, the national association representing travel plazas and truckstops, announced today that they will host an informational rally and press conference Oct. 18 to discuss the devastating effects that “RhodeWorks” — the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s truck-only tolling plan — will have on local businesses and commercial truck drivers that operate within the state of Rhode Island.

The small group of state officials advocating for truck tolls say that they are necessary because the money to repair our bridges cannot be found within the budget. Like most of the data and talking points that accompanied the passage of truck-only tolls, this is a flat-out lie. This money can be found in the budget. Remember also that, under Governor Gina Raimondo’s highly destructive RhodeWorks toll plan, shepherded through the General Assembly by a flip-flopping Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, hundreds of millions of dollars would be completely squandered on items other than bridge repairs: gantries, toll fees, interest – meaning that hundreds of millions of dollars would be coming out of the pockets of truckers and all Rhode Islanders and going down a rat hole rather than into infrastructure repair.

Adding urgency and danger to the situation, a recent federal court ruling in New York has brought tolls on cars in Rhode Island one giant step closer. As WPRO’s John Loughlin correctly pointed out on air Saturday morning, this is almost certainly why the start of work on the 6/10 Connector was rushed. Governor Raimondo and her organized labor supporters want to be sure to sink their toll claws into the state as quickly as possible by getting projects hooked on this destructive new revenue source ahead of a court ruling. (“Oh darn. The courts ruled that we can’t toll just trucks. We have no choice but to toll cars because look at all of the borrowing and construction that we rushed through … er, that is now underway.”)

In addition to the big red flag of the federal court ruling in New York, it is important to note that no other state tolls only trucks. From the beginning, this posed an enormous constitutional flaw in the RhodeWorks toll law. (For more on this, check out Rep Blake Filippi’s excellent op-ed in Thursday’s Providence Journal.) Accordingly, any state leader or legislator who voted for truck tolls in February took the unnecessary and very dangerous step of inviting the toll vampire into all of our homes. If state leaders don’t wise up and rescind truck tolls, it is now just about impossible to envision a scenario by which the toll vampire doesn’t turn to feast on the blood … er, wallets of car owners. It is critical, therefore, that state legislators who voted for tolls be held accountable. Please go here to see how General Assembly incumbents voted on tolls, where their challengers stand on the matter and vote for the candidate who did NOT invite the toll vampire to Rhode Island.

And if you’re able to get away from work for an hour tomorrow, please also stop by this rally. Garlic is optional. But your presence at the rally and, especially, your anti-toll vote on November 8, would send an important message against the toll vampire.


Coastal Liberals’ Unspoken Agreement on Hillary

The Providence Journal editorial board’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton today was nothing if not unsurprising.  The entire newspaper has been unambiguously and inexcusably devoted to her election.  It would have been a stunning show of independence for the opinion pages to offer even a tepid endorsement of the media’s Democrat candidate.  And so, they write, “we enthusiastically endorse Democrat Hillary Clinton for president” (emphasis added).

Of course they do.  They have to.  If a newspaper in deep blue Rhode Island (which went for Bernie Sanders, remember) had so much as expressed reservations, it might have drawn national attention and ensured snide comments over wine glasses across the state.

However, those restrictions didn’t prevent the editorialists from surprising in one way.  How can intelligent people write an endorsement of Hillary Clinton without at least mentioning that a sizable portion of the country believes (with justification) that the Democrats’ nominee would be headed toward the defendant’s table rather than the White House if the current Democrat administration, under Providence Journal endorsee Barack Obama, hadn’t corrupted the inaptly named Department of Justice and mockery-worthy Federal Bureau of non-Investigation?

One can even believe that such accusations are overwrought and still understand that their broad currency merits consideration when picking a president.  The Providence Journal even includes its faith that Clinton can work across the aisle to get things done as justification, yet spares no space for the perspective of us “deplorables.”

My operating theory is that the cocktail party set of coastal elites (and its aspirants) have a tacit reluctance to address such considerations, because when once a party goer mentions them — acknowledges this as a real problem — then they all must do so, and thereby abandon the tenuous deception that it doesn’t matter (that you and I don’t matter) and that Hillary Clinton isn’t already predictable to be an utter disaster, perhaps even outstripping that other predictable disaster they won’t acknowledge, Obama.


Doing Violence to Community and Beauty by Policing Language

Providence College English professor Anthony Esolen has it correct when he writes, “Language is not language unless it is communal, and it cannot be communal unless it can refer, quickly and clearly, to the things in front of our noses: to husbands and wives and hats.”  His subject, following that assertion, is the effect and objective of those who seek to make it impossible for us to communicate, particularly on matters of gender and sexuality.  His essay’s title is, “Pronouns, Ordinary People, and the War over Reality.”

To pretend, therefore, that we do not know what we immediately and urgently perceive is to do violence at once to human nature, language, the possibility of a shared life, and the intellect’s capacity to apprehend reality. If I cannot say, “There is a man walking down the street,” then it is hard to see how I can make any reliable judgment about anything at all that bears on human existence. If I cannot say, “Joey is going to grow up to be a fine man someday,” then what in life is left to talk about? Everything else is less certain than sex. We may disagree about whether President Eisenhower was a good leader of men, a loyal husband and father, or a pious Christian; but if we cannot agree that President Eisenhower was a man, then speech itself is but sound and fury, signifying nothing. Or, rather, speech collapses into action, and reason lies prone before appetite. Speech delivers the bribes and threats of people who want what they want and do not care overmuch how they get it. (Emphasis added.)

This is the objective of the radicals.  In the case of transsexuals, we could be compassionate toward them — even as disinclined as the radicals to draw any substantive distinctions regarding gender — without forbidding each other the ability to describe reality objectively, but:

[The radical] says that she wants all people to feel “safe” and comfortable, regardless of their sexual identity. That is not true. What she wants is that ordinary people should feel uncomfortable. She wants to rob them of their ordinary perceptions. She sows the field of conversation with mines, glad if ordinary people learn to tiptoe around them, but much gladder still when they fail and blow themselves up, because that provides her with the opportunity for more “education,” which means a more aggressive campaign against our common grasp of objective reality and our ability to communicate with ease what we see. (Emphasis in original.)

Esolen then goes into the why, suggesting that confused people want others to join them in their confusion and, of course, that some people profit from it.  “They sow the mines and then sell you a map to the field.”  A third explanation, though, is that some people are purely rebelling against the good, the beautiful, and the ordinary, typically because they for some reason find it difficult to achieve.


Here’s Some of That Elusive “Waste, Fraud, and Abuse”

One is almost tempted to wonder if taxpayers will get a refund for this:

A former state employee has agreed to plead guilty to charges that he manipulated computer files kept by the Department of Labor and Training in a scheme that bilked the state’s unemployment insurance system of almost $500,000 in benefits, federal and state authorities said Thursday.

The former employee, Ambulai R. Sheku, 37, of Providence, an interviewer at the DLT, exploited his senior position to gain access to the department’s computer files and fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits for himself and co-conspirators, says information that federal prosecutors filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, in Providence.

Will the state budget go down a commensurate amount in the upcoming fiscal year, or is state government operate under Darwinistic rules of corruption whereby the discovery of one insider cheat means there’s more taxpayer money available for the others to take?

And by the way:  With the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) linking every social service program in the state through one interface, how much larger are the possible scams and how much more difficult to spot the smaller ones?


The Real Cure for “Climate Change”: Technological Advancement

Here’s the sort of news (via Instapundit) that keeps a lot of us skeptical of efforts to use warnings about “global warming,” “global cooling,” or “climate change” as justification for radical changes to our economy and society:

In a new twist to waste-to-fuel technology, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed an electrochemical process that uses tiny spikes of carbon and copper to turn carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into ethanol. Their finding, which involves nanofabrication and catalysis science, was serendipitous.

Sure, this is a long way from techniques for capturing atmospheric carbon; the only application mentioned in the article is the conversion of excess energy from periodic energy sources (like solar and wind) for storage.  But in a world in which alarmists declare that it’s already too late to avoid the harmful effects of human activity in the past, any action taken that slows the economy in the name of the environment will inevitably restrict research and development that may — serendipitously — solve the very problems about which we’re being warned.


The Organized Effort to Divide the Catholic Church

Sometimes headline writers can perform the wonderful service of putting things in perspective.  Such is the case in today’s Providence Journal, with an example that indicates either unfortunate timing for the writer or an over-confident attempt to subtly link the story being reported with one not being reported beneath the headline.  Here it is:

Catholics in conflict over Pope’s call for mercy

Before moving on to my point, let’s recall that the conflicts over Pope Francis’s “who am I to judge” phrase — the core of Michelle Smith’s Associated Press article, even though the pope spoke it three years ago — was more of a media distortion than a statement of Church teaching.  The context and specifics of the larger quotation, as I’ve noted, put Francis’s statement directly in keeping with the catechism and long-standing Church teaching.

Now take a closer look at the context that Smith applies to her story:

Francis’ famous declaration “Who am I to judge?” in 2013 energized Catholics who had pushed the church to accept gays and lesbians. Now, some gay Catholics and supporters who hoped for rapid acceptance find themselves stymied by many bishops and pastors.

Let’s be particular about the effect of that sentence.  Smith is constructing a division within the Catholic Church, presenting our Church community as Pope Francis and “gay Catholics and supporters” on one side and “bishops and pastors” on the other.

Now, here’s the story that Smith doesn’t include: Among the emails released by WikiLeaks recently was one from Clinton confidant John Podesta, who responded to a progressive activist’s suggestion that they should use an issue like contraception to cause a “revolution” and drive a wedge within the American Catholic Church.  Podesta replied that “we” have been building groups to seize on just such opportunities.

Podesta’s email puts articles like Smith’s — and the Providence Journal’s related headline — in a new light.  Progressive activists are already organized and lying in wait for an opportunity to pounce on the Catholic Church, divide Catholic from Catholic, and overthrow the Church’s leadership.  The news media, as always, is happy to play along, the only question being where the organized movement ends, relying only on ideological sympathy.


Signs of Bad Management from the Raimondo Administration

Up to now, the blame attaching to the administration of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo for Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) failures was mitigated by the fact that its implementation and many of the related decisions predated her time in office and, as Kathy Gregg notes, because an outside contractor was responsible for the work.  But this news raises questions about the ability of Rhode Island’s current governor to manage the state and its projects:

The Raimondo administration ignored strongly worded warnings from the federal government that its new $364-million benefits system wasn’t ready to launch last month, and officials put federal funding at risk by going ahead anyway, Target 12 has learned.

Reading the letters available through Target 12, it’s clear the federal government’s concerns were broad of scope, from criticism of an inadequate method of testing the new system to concerns that new staff intended to help with the roll-out had very little time for training and preparation.

Another matter that the letters bring to light is the degree of help that the Raimondo administration has had at its disposal.  Not only has it utilized an outside contractor to put the system together, but the federal government is clearly available to help in a detailed, hands-on way.  Where the state government had influence — in making decisions, such as the decision to go forward with implementation — it failed.

Making matters worse is the evidence of how the Raimondo administration handles its other core responsibility (other than actually running government): communicating with the public.  Gregg points out that the Raimondo administration strove to keep these letters (and who knows what additional embarrassing information) from the Providence Journal.  Even now, the administration is spinning more than clarifying.  From the Target 12 link:

Brenna McCabe, a spokeswoman for the R.I. Department of Administration, reiterated that point in a statement on the federal letters, telling Target 12: “As you will see … FNS expressed concerns with the state’s plans, but at no time did they instruct us to stop the launch of the system on Sept. 13.”

The language of the letters is so strong that one would have to say the federal agents were all but telling the state to delay the project.  With this spin, the Raimondo administration is like an 18-year-old girl attempting to deflect blame for some disaster because her parents only warned her in the strongest terms that what she was planning to do was a very bad idea.


Sticking with Principles Isn’t Retreat

With an eye on the moral-legal weather vane, Wesley Smith notes the move afoot in Canada to force Catholic hospitals to kill people who want to be killed.  Quoting the Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms provision on “conscience and religion,” he writes (emphasis his):

That’s an explicit and enumerated right.

If that right is to retain any heft, Catholic and other religiously-affiliated institutions should promise to close their doors before buckling under to the boot of the state.

That would leave Canadians with a choice: Do they want more good hospitals available, some of which won’t allow euthanasia, or would they prefer fewer facilities all of which willingly allow homicide.

Progressives’ political calculation on such matters puts morally traditional institutions in a difficult position.  The progressives rightly understand that Catholics (for instance) engage in these activities because we feel called to do so in order to help others and because we understand that only a visible light can attract wanderers (i.e., only public behavior can attract converts).

As a strategy, therefore, the Left seeks to corrupt those activities or to drive Catholics out.  We can keep doing them, but only if we continue to shrink the observable difference between our practices and those of the secular world.  As Smith’s example illustrates, the preferred method is to further make Catholics do things that seem to prove some teaching or other of the Church’s negotiable.

The other option is for traditionalists to do as Smith suggests and close up shop.  Such an action, while powerful as a threat, also opens us to the accusation that we care about some controversial social policy more than helping people, including clients, employees, and communities.

Unfortunately, we’re getting to the point that this is the better option.  The tests will become harder and the demands for compromise more thorough and more forceful.  If we’re to salvage the principles that define us, moving sooner is better than waiting for resistance to become even more difficult.

That doesn’t mean going about our lives, though.  It means moving back a step and making the charitable activities more fundamental.  Take the lesson of Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  If Catholics can’t operate a hospital, per se, then we should find some way to help those whom hospitals won’t take or for whom they can’t do anything.  We should go out in the community and help people to do such things as keep them out of hospitals, and so on.

That is, if we don’t replace charitable occupations with some other activity of life, but with more charity, it will be clear that we didn’t choose our pro-life, pro-marriage, or pro-whatever stance over helping people, but were pushed away from doing more good because progressives have made society into a moral trap.


Raimondo and Corporate Cronyism

Leave aside the paperwork of campaign finance. This, from GoLocalProv, seems like an important, telling detail:

A GoLocal investigation has found that Governor Gina Raimondo’s gubernatorial campaign in 2014 failed to properly report at least one campaign gift from California developer Lance Robbins.

Raimondo held a major campaign event at Robbins’ property — her gubernatorial campaign kick-off event — and did not report the in-kind donation. When first asked, her campaign claimed that the amount of the gift did not require reporting.

Robbins’s organization, Urban Smart Growth, has recently been awarded $3.6 million from the quasi-public Commerce Corp., an organization that has long been a political arm for Raimondo, with questionable due diligence.

Rhode Islanders should take the lesson to heart. With Raimondo’s brand of progressive, government-driven economic development, not only do politicians and bureaucrats get to play Monopoly with other people’s money, but they manage to flip the public’s perspective. Raimondo has been promoting the fact that she’s using her contacts to bring companies to Rhode Island for special deals.

A prerequisite for selling that as a positive action, rather than a possible indication of corruption, is making Rhode Islanders feel as if they don’t have anything to offer without the lure. Of course the governor has to use government to pay her friends and associates off, in this view, because her friends and associates have more to offer Rhode Island than the state has to offer them.

The first step of this turnabout was progressives’ making the state a less attractive place to live and do business, owing to regulations, taxes, and other factors, like abysmal public education. But that still doesn’t mean Rhode Islanders don’t have value or rights to self determination, for that matter. If this process sounds familiar, it may be because labor unions and progressives have accomplished something similar with workers, making government involvement a necessity because, we’re led to believe, employees have no inherent value that they bring to the negotiating table. It benefits those offering worker-strengthening services when workers see themselves as weak.

In Raimondo’s case, the strategy may not be deliberate, but it’s certainly predictable and convenient for the powerful. If companies were battling each other to establish in Rhode Island, rather than to escape, government wouldn’t have an excuse to hand out millions of dollars to political friends. As a simple matter of incentives, which economic condition better serves the Gina Raimondos?


Ignorance of Ourselves: The Lesson Never Learned

Reading Richard Ebeling’s brief summary of the economic misadventures of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (244-312 AD), the striking lesson is how stunningly we fail to learn the lessons of history, with Venezuela’s being a recent example:

Michael Ivanovich Rostovtzeff, a leading historian on the ancient Roman economy, offered this summary in his Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire(1926):

“The same expedient [a system of price and wage controls] have often been tried before him [Diocletian] and was often tried after him. As a temporary measure in a critical time, it might be of some use. As a general measure intended to last, it was certain to do great harm and to cause terrible bloodshed, without bringing any relief. Diocletian shared the pernicious belief of the ancient world in the omnipotence of the state, a belief which many modern theorists continue to share with him and with it.”

Finally, as, again, Ludwig von Mises concluded, the Roman Empire began to weaken and decay because it lacked the ideas and ideology that are necessary to build upon and safeguard a free and prosperous society: a philosophy of individual rights and free markets.

Ebeling details that there is much more to the error than simple price controls.  One underlying theme, however, of which we can’t lose sight is the hubris of the central planner.  As with quantitative easing, the planners don’t see themselves as flailing around looking for some solution.  They really think they’ve got a workable idea.  They aren’t entirely dismissive of the risks; they just think the risks are minimal.

And for the most part, the piece they’re missing is the likely response of the people.  Ebeling peppers his essay with descriptions of people’s reactions to Diocletian’s heavy-handed economic policies, and they all seem obvious.  We can guess, though, that they weren’t obvious to Diocletian.  If only he’d been able to imagine what he would do if he were in the position of his subjects.  If our own elites could do the same.


There are Better Solutions Than Rhode Island’s Status Quo Public Policy Environment

Does anyone trust that an elite cabal of political cronies should centrally engineer our economy? Or do we place more trust in the great people of Rhode Island to be able to unleash their suppressed capacity in a fair and free-market economy, via major tax and regulatory reductions across the board? The top down ideas being presented in the upcoming election would be harmful to our state. It is up to voters to decide for themselves if Rhode Island will be a place where our families can prosper.

There are many examples. We have proven in our Freedom Index that the status quo is moving our state in the wrong direction. Led by Rep. Patricia Morgan and Sen. Elaine Morgan, only 11 of 113 lawmakers earned positive scores on our 2016 Freedom Index. The Sheeple Index, released in partnership with WatchdogRI, shows that there is a dangerous pattern of lawmakers blindly following the leader.


Pressure Builds when Twisting Culture and Blocking Legitimate Grievance

Matthew Continetti is worth a read, related to my midday theme, yesterday.  He quotes John Marini’s suggestion that: “The American people themselves did not participate or consent to the wholesale undermining of their way of life, which government and the bureaucracy helped to facilitate by undermining those institutions of civil society that were dependent upon a public defense of the old morality.”  As Continetti elaborates:

Marini refers to institutions such as the family, church, and school, institutions charged with forming the character of a citizen, of instructing him in codes of morality and service, in the traditions and history of his country, in the case of the church directing him spiritually and providing him a definitive account of the cause and purpose of life. These are precisely the institutions that have been brought under the sway of bureaucracies and courts heavily insulated from elections, from public opinion, from majority rule. And as the public has lost authority over decision-making in the private sphere, as the culture has become more alien, more bewildering, more hostile to “the old morality,” as President Clinton keeps saying rather fatuously that the fates of Kenya and Kentucky are linked, is it any wonder voters have sought out a vehicle for their disgust and opposition?

“Undermining” is a good image, given the notion of removing the foundations of a structure.  As I’ve written with respect to same-sex marriage, government didn’t create or even really enforce the cultural understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman.  Rather, it simply recognized the cultural institution.  By expanding government’s involvement in our lives and then redefining marriage on its own terms, radicals used government to knock down supports for the institution.

We saw this very quickly, when Catholic adoption service providers in Massachusetts were forced to choose between their faith and their accreditation.  The radicals couldn’t abide a group that focused its services on situations according with its beliefs because the true goal was to undermine the group’s ability to affect the culture.

Marini and Continetti emphasize the unelected bureaucracy, but even our elections are becoming something of a sham, not the least in the sheer scope on which we’re supposed to make our decisions.  Sure, theoretically, if the people of Massachusetts didn’t like the decisions of the state’s bureaucracy, it could have elected officials who would force a change, but even putting aside the mammoth task of changing the bureaucratic blob, voters must cast their votes as a single statements covering activities across their lives.

The fate of Catholic adoption may be a consideration, but economic policies and others that affect how each of us lives our lives are in the mix, too.  In that regard, many voters are effectively bought off, and large, ideologically driven institutions (like the university and the news media) devote themselves to muddying the waters, while activists (now with flush budgets courtesy of Obama’s federal government) seek to impose social and financial consequences to anybody who speaks up against their views.

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