Do Warwick Schools Operate with Sickouts Every Day?

It’s good to read, this morning, that Warwick’s public school teachers didn’t contribute to the recent wave of thuggishness in Rhode Island by having an organized sick-out over the disinclination of the school department to keep giving them more and more money to teach fewer and fewer students.  But then Paul Edward Parker’s article reports:

Eighty-three teachers have called in sick, according to Catherine Bonang, secretary to Superintendent Philip Thornton.

On an average day, the number of teacher absences runs in the 60s, Bonang said. The school system has about 840 teachers.

What?  On a typical school day, one in thirteen teachers is absent?  That’s between 7.1 and 8.3%!  According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average absenteeism in America is 2.9%.  (It’s 2.7% in the private sector and 3.5% among government employees, which is a 30% difference.)

Granted, the BLS data excludes vacations, personal days, and a few other reasons people miss work, while the Warwick secretary may or may not be including such absences in her rough number.  On the other hand, we also have to consider that there are only around 180 school days in the year to begin with.

Whatever the case, should it sit well with the taxpayers and parents of Warwick that their public school teachers are so often not in the classroom?


Gross Behavior from Democrat Bill Lynch and Yoga Pant Fascists

The Providence Journal opinion editors were disturbed by the flash mob incensed at a letter to the editor in a local Barrington paper about yoga pants:

… marching by the hundreds on the writer’s house — in a residential neighborhood, in possible violation of town ordinances — smacks of something more chilling and threatening: an attempt to demonstrate that such speech will not be tolerated. The underlying message was that those who speak out as the letter writer did will be hounded by organized protesters and find the sanctity of their neighborhood invaded.

Elsewhere, the paper reports on the letter writer’s travails, providing the image of him “scrub[bing] the street of scrawls left behind by the protesters” and saying that the experience isn’t “over for me.”

Since we seem to have some agreement that terrorizing private citizens when they presume to participate in public discourse is wrong, let’s turn our attention to Bill Lynch and the Rhode Island Democrat Party.  Late yesterday, several local journalists promoted a press release from the party in which “Senior Advisor” Lynch claimed to reveal how much money the conservative Gaspee Project and Roosevelt Society have spent “in an attempt to influence this election.”

The press release then prints (twice) this disgusting paragraph:

For the Gaspee Project, one of the donors, Warren Galkin, is a Wall Street executive who has donated over a quarter million over the years and who was involved in a life insurance annuity pool that defrauded insurance companies by using the identities of terminally ill patients.

Note that this exact line of attack is so out of bounds that even the far-left group Think Progress has called it “nasty.”  As Think Progress explains, Galkin wasn’t “involved in” illegal activities; he was one of multiple investors, from a local police chief to the Democrat governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, in a process they’d been led to believe was aboveboard.  According to the Washington Post there was “no indication that McAuliffe (D) or other investors were aware that Caramadre was stealing identities.”

Think about what Lynch and the Rhode Island Democrats are doing, here.  They’re digging through campaign reports looking for any individual they can slime as a villain in order to protect their near-total domination of Rhode Island government, even as the state falls apart.  Given the number Lynch’s fellow partisans who’ve had run-ins with the law in recent years, perhaps this thuggishness isn’t surprising.

The behavior is also not surprising in light of the post in this space yesterday describing how progressives work to intimidate people who don’t agree with them and silence everybody else.  Between mob-like marches on letter-writers’ houses and the state Democrat Party’s targeting not even of candidates or activists, but of those who support them, the message is unmistakable:  Participate in Rhode Island society or the political process, and people with no sense of boundaries or of common decency may make you pay a high cost.


Father Marciano’s Homily and the Care of His Soul and Ours

The headline above Katherine Gregg’s Providence Journal story on Father Robert Marciano’s recent Presidential election homily, “Warwick priest: A vote for Clinton would put ‘immortal soul’ in peril“, fails to convey an important detail about what Fr. Marciano actually said (though the story itself does provide an accurate quote). While the headline refers to the soul in a general way, Fr. Marciano in his homily referred only to his own…

I cannot vote for Mrs. Clinton since my immortal soul would be in peril by cooperating in the destruction of innocent human life.

Fr. Marciano follows the powerful example of St. Thomas More — who was martyred, by the way, for refusing to say what the government of his time wanted him to say — in being explicit about a danger to his own soul.  St. Thomas More’s understanding of the individual soul and the role of individual conscience is captured beautifully in a famous exchange from the film “A Man for All Seasons“…

The Duke of Norfolk: “Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage [of Henry VIII] was lawful or not but – dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!”

Thomas More: “And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

(The line is based on correspondence attributed to St. Thomas More).

To a believing Catholic, the conscience spoken of by St. Thomas More does not allow for unconstrained individual choice. A properly formed conscience must follow God’s laws and every individual bears the responsibility of learning them and following them to the best of his or her ability. Ultimately, whether one has done enough in forming and following one’s conscience to gain entry into heaven is decided by a single judge: not a priest, bishop or even the Pope, but God Himself.

As to what can be known prior to God’s judgement, theological debate is ongoing as to whether many people are able to do what is required for salvation, or whether only a few will make it to heaven.

But it is precisely because no one on earth can say with absolute certainty who is saved and who isn’t that a priest has a responsibility to move as many people as he can towards a greater chance of salvation by encouraging everyone to more closely conform their consciences and their actions to the teachings of the Church. If a significant danger to the salvation of many arises in the form of political leaders who pursue their own earthly gains by ignoring and even opposing church teaching, then a priest has an unavoidable responsibility to point out that cavalierly following such leaders may lead away from the path of salvation.

We should take Fr. Marciano at his word, when he says that his understanding and acceptance of Church teaching means that he would have to violate his own conscience to vote to place certain candidates who strongly oppose key Church teachings into positions of influence. And because Fr. Marciano cannot know the precise state of anyone’s conscience but his own, we should also take him at his word when he limits his certainty of knowledge of when conscience has been violated to himself, while he encourages his congregation and his community to move in a direction where the salvation of as many souls as possible is most assured.

Trading the scare-quotes in the headline for two additional characters, i.e. “Warwick priest: A vote for Clinton would put my immortal soul in peril” would have much more accurately conveyed the tradition of Catholic belief that Fr. Marciano is a part of.


The Left’s Intimidation Game

As usual, the content on this Prager University video — featuring Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel — won’t be new to readers of the Ocean State Current, but it’s well done and worth the reminder:

Progressives are in the intimidation game for the long haul; indeed, Strassel points out that Southern Democrats used the tactics progressives now focus on conservatives (or any non-progressives) to suppress blacks.  The strategies are:

  1. Harass, as with the IRS targeting Tea Party groups
  2. Investigate & prosecute, as with Wisconsin prosecutors raiding the homes of conservatives, or our own U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s attempts to criminalize opposing views and activities
  3. Blackmail, for which Strassel provides the example of threats made against corporate sponsors of ALEC
  4. Expose, by which progressive seek access to lists of donors and other supporters in order to apply the first three techniques

On the last count, Democrat Tiverton/Portsmouth Representative John “Jay” Edwards had a coup this latest legislative session with his legislation to harass with regulations any citizen who attempts to have a public say on any local ballot question and to open such local activists and their supporters to harassment by vicious groups like Tiverton 1st, which not only succeeded in making public office seem like a costly volunteerism, but also in driving some of its opponents clear out of the town and the state.


Putting Government in Charge of Everything, Consumer Financial Division

We hear complaints when government is slow and inefficient, with Congress receiving the greatest volume of such complaints, but that’s a key point.  When an organization is empowered to confiscate people’s property, change the rules of the economy and society, put people in jail, and even kill them, we should want it to be structured such that it is difficult to abuse and that it doesn’t make sense to use it to undertake too many activities within our society.

This morning’s post on HealthSource fits into this category, as does Iain Murray’s observations of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in the case, PHH Corp. v. CFPB, that the Bureau’s structure was unconstitutional and ordered that Cordray should report to the President. Under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, which created the CFPB, the President has no power to remove the CFPB Director except for malfeasance, and Congress has no power to restrict the Bureau’s operations through the appropriations process, as the Bureau draws its budget from the Federal Reserve, itself an independent agency. The Court deems the CFPB’s unaccountable structure unconstitutional, saying that it posed a “risk of arbitrary decisionmaking [sic] and abuse of power” and “a threat to individual liberty.”

Sounds momentous. But you will find no mention of the judgment on the CFPB’s website, and so far the Bureau’s only action has been to file a brief in an unrelated case saying that the ruling “has no basis in the text of the Constitution or in Supreme Court case law,” and that, “The panel decision was wrongly decided and is not likely to withstand further review.”

Read the rest if you haven’t been following the antics of the CFPB.  The lawless agency has been imposing fees retroactively in what can only be described as extortion.

Next, move such boards — including all quasi-publics, government-aligned non-profits, and corporation-like entities like HealthSource — up on your list of things about which to be concerned and by which to judge the people whom you elect.


HealthSource and Defrauding of Taxpayers

Ted Nesi reports that HealthSource RI — the state’s ObamaCare health benefits exchange — wouldn’t accept two lower-cost plans from Neighborhood Health.  Even on its surface the decision is an outrageous scam:

A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, which originally included the two Neighborhood plans rejected by HealthSource, suggested they would have lowered the average premium for HealthSource’s second-cheapest mid-tier plan by 14% in 2017. Instead that number will only decrease by 0.5%, according to HealthSource.

But HealthSource officials said their decision was driven by the federal formula for premium subsidies, which are provided to about 90% of the Rhode Islanders who buy insurance through the marketplace.

In other words, Rhode Island officials didn’t want prices to go down too much because they want to force federal taxpayers (ultimately through debt) to pay $17 million more for Rhode Islanders’ health care than they ought to.  The openness with which “HealthSource officials” admit this shows they believe Rhode Islanders are happy to have their government stealing on their behalf, but some of us aren’t so immoral.  As a side benefit to local government agents, the after-tax cost of the exchange’s average health plan would have gone up 42% if they didn’t rig the market, making the exchange look even worse in the public eye.

And that’s not all.  Earlier this month, we learned that Neighborhood initially set its prices too high because its inexperience in the market left the organization no good basis by which to set prices.  So, they ended up refunding $2 million to members, probably with much of it simply a transfer of money taken from taxpayers as subsidies.

In summary, Neighborhood Health, which was arguably more like a quasi-public welfare agency before ObamaCare, overcharged its customers from the start, which forced us all to pay more in subsidies in our capacity as United States citizens.  It then refunded a chunk of the excess to its members, none to taxpayers.

Now, state government officials have refused to allow Neighborhood to charge less for plans in order to steal more money from taxpayers.  This action may very well result in another big transfer of wealth to Neighborhood members through another refund next year.

And on it will go.  If a private organization behaved like this, politicians and pundits would be declaring it scandalous.


What We’re Buying with “Spending on Education”

In a brief post last week, the American Interest suggested that America’s increases in education spending aren’t really going toward increasing services for students:

Campaigns to increase spending on schools are always popular, and understandably so: Education ought to be a great equalizing force in our society and, in theory, an efficient way to invest in the future. The problem is that in many states, new “K-12 spending” isn’t really an investment so much as a transfer payment to retired employees of the public schools who have been promised untenable lifetime pension benefits.

I think that net’s a bit too small.  Mainly, “investments” in education are simply transfer payments to unionized teachers with lots of professional incentive to advocate for better pay and benefits and limited professional incentive to advance the actual cause of education.*  Our system creates a large funding stream for labor advocates and political agents who are actually harmed to the extent that teachers are valued for success in their vocation (because then who needs labor advocates?) but who profit by building a cult of members who focus on the victimization inherent in anybody suggesting they shouldn’t get even better pay for the unacceptable results of the system overall.

This isn’t exactly difficult to understand or to predict.  Students’ advocates are families, whose interests are narrowly targeted toward their own members and whose resources of money and time are limited, perhaps with some legitimate non-profits who have to rely on shoestring budgets collected from donors.  Advocates for teachers, as workers, get an easy funding stream directly from taxpayers and have a vast professional organization paid for with those funds.

That professional organization has, in its own interest, developed deep ties and alliances with political actors and bureaucrats and invests those resources not paid to its own employees toward putting people in public office who will tilt laws in their favor and negotiate specific contracts in a compliant way.  When it comes to it, union organizers will admit as much.

For as long as this is the case, “investing” more money “in education” only makes matters worse, as the increased tax burden gives families even fewer resources and less time to devote to advocating for their own children.


* Note that I used the term “professional incentive” to indicate the systematic incentive that is separate from teachers’ personal sense of responsibility and vocation.


See No Clinton Evil, Hear No Obama Evil in the News Media

So we now have direct evidence that Barack Obama, the President of the United States, lied to the American public about an email scandal in which his law enforcement agencies appear to have (at best) allowed Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to skate.  Meanwhile, from a different source, we’re learning about the apparently illegal activity of the Clinton campaign, with paid allied activists crafting messages with the campaign and seeking to foment violence at Donald Trump rallies.

What’s the big story on the front page of today’s Providence Journal?  Rhode Island’s Congressmen haven’t been completely inactive in Washington.  As for the Campaign 2016 page, if anything, it presents clandestine sources of information about the sleazy dealings of government officials as if they, the sources, are a threat to our democracy.  Really.  This is how a piece by Bloomberg’s Chris Strohm starts:

Hacking attacks. Voter intimidation. Foreign interference. No election in modern U.S. history has faced such a convergence of threats, some 21st century and others as old as democracy.

Strohm is deliberately vague, but one can infer that he isn’t talking about the professional activists intimidating voters on Clinton’s behalf or the Clinton Foundation’s pay-to-play scheme for foreign governments and other entities.  Indeed, a nearby Associated Press article by Michael Biesecker frets about the legality and morality of even reading the enlightening hacked emails of Clinton cronies.

This part is just too much, though:

Despite Trump’s bombast, no bombshell revelation has emerged to significantly alter the presidential race or prompt calls for the Democratic nominee to drop out — as happened with Trump following the leak of a decade-old video of him vulgarly bragging about groping women.

That lack of a “bombshell” isn’t a function of the content.  As stated above, the emails show direct lies by the President of the United States and collusion between the campaign, the administration, and the news media.  Even tangential issues found in the emails — like Podesta’s conspiracy to divide and conquer the Roman Catholic Church in the United States — are objectively “bombshells” if one isn’t programmed to excuse everything that progressives and Democrats do.

In other words, the American news media is actively downplaying or ignoring stories that hurt its favored political party and then pointing to the lack of attention as evidence that information obtained by furtive means is not only dangerous to democracy but frivolous, too.

This is one way the system is rigged.


Save the Environment with Fracking (and Economic Advancement)

I’ve been meaning to note this American Interest post, providing more evidence that the way forward — even if climate change alarmists have a point — is not to slow the economy, but to let it loose to advance and bring technology with it:

… it was coal’s sharp decline—a drop of 18 percent in the first half of this year as compared to 2015—that really moved the needle on America’s energy emissions. And let’s not forget that Old King Coal isn’t being dethroned by onerous regulations, but rather by market forces. More specifically, coal’s demise has been precipitated by the sudden rise in domestic natural gas production that has led to an oversupply (and, as a result bargain prices). This, of course, comes to us courtesy of the great shale revolution.

Anybody who insists that the environment’s salvation must come through heavy public subsidies of a few favored technologies and restrictions of everything else, along with increasingly centralized power to restrict people’s behavior, isn’t in it for the environment, but for power and, very likely, for a cut of the subsidized profits from those favored technologies.

Over the past few decades, multiple movies and TV shows have used plot devices in which the money men invested in old energy sources conspired to undermine fashionable technologies like wind and solar.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen show that portrayed “renewable” industrialists conspiring to prevent fossil fuels from becoming less of an environmental problem of themselves.

Ask yourself this: How would environmentalists and progressives respond if some technological innovation made coal less carbon-intensive than wind and solar and still less expensive?  Would they shift their support to that new technology or continue insisting that “renewables” were the only hope for humanity?

For most, I suspect, the question is rhetorical, because they’re either on the take or in a cult.


Big News in Clinton-Obama Corruption; Will We Hear About It?

Even accounting for my bias about what ought to be considered Big News, it seems as if the subject of this story is either a complete fabrication or a match that ought to set off a news firestorm for the rest of the presidential election cycle:

A March 2015 email chain released by WikiLeaks Tuesday is further proof that President Obama lied to the American people when he said he found out about Hillary Clinton’s private email server from news reports.

“Jen you probably have more on this but it looks like POTUS just said he found out HRC was using her personal email when he saw it in the news,” Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin wrote to Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, press secretary Nick Merrill, and others.

Merrill then forwarded Schwerin’s email to longtime Clinton confidante and attorney Cheryl Mills, who sent it to campaign Chairman John Podesta. “We need to clean this up,” she wrote to Podesta. “He has emails from her — they do not say state.gov.”

“Clean this up,” eh?  Guns don’t get much more smoky than this.

Now add in a massive political contribution made on behalf of the spouse of a high-ranking FBI official working on the Clinton email case.  Andrew McCarthy, who has directly relevant professional experience with the processes involved, doesn’t think the donation is evidence of a direct payoff, but rather that people within the Obama administration and the FBI knew the Clinton case would never be prosecuted (because it implicated the president directly) and were therefore willing to be somewhat careless with their appearances of impropriety.

The calendar doesn’t resolve the question.  Here’s the Wall Street Journal:

Mrs. McCabe announced her candidacy the same month (March 2015) as the news broke about Mrs. Clinton’s private email server. Mr. McCabe was running the FBI’s Washington field office at the time, and he was promoted to the No. 3 FBI slot not long after the formal FBI investigation began in July 2015.

The FBI said in a statement that none of this is an issue because Mr. McCabe wasn’t promoted to the No. 2 position until February 2016, months after his wife lost her race, and only then did he assume “for the first time, an oversight role in the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails.”

If the Obama administration, the Clinton camp, and all of their interwoven cronies were working together to “clean [the email scandal] up,” it would hardly be a challenge to arrange the timing of events to make payoffs only appear improper and even to have contingency plans to ensure the collusion plan worked whether or not Mrs. McCabe won office.

Whatever the case, the story emits enough smoke, with enough loose ends, that it ought to be a giant journalist beacon.  Any outlet covering the national campaign that doesn’t front-page it will look like little more than a propaganda outlet.


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.

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