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Reed, Whitehouse Hope Rhode Islanders Don’t Pay Attention

Leave it to our own Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to weigh in on the recent price increase of the EpiPen in a way that is both blindingly insidious and enlightening:

The sky-rocketing cost increase of the EpiPen is just the latest evidence that our regulation of prescription drug pricing is broken. (The) system is rigged by the pharmaceutical industry to allow this price-gouging, and that is what needs to be corrected.

Drug pricing doesn’t have to be regulated; it’s regulation of drug production that’s the problem.  Everybody from The Guardian to the Wall Street Journal knows that the pricing of the EpiPen is made possible by the government’s enabling of Mylan’s “near monopoly” (as Whitehouse and other senators characterize the company). A Wall Street Journal editorial explains:

… the steady Mylan rise is hard to read as anything other than inevitable when a billion-dollar market is cornered by one supplier. Epinephrine is a basic and super-cheap medicine, and the EpiPen auto-injector device has been around since the 1970s.

Thus EpiPen should be open to generic competition, which cuts prices dramatically for most other old medicines. Competitors have been trying for years to challenge Mylan’s EpiPen franchise with low-cost alternatives—only to become entangled in the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory afflatus.

Of course, when I write “everybody,” I’m limiting my set to those who are modestly well informed.  A little economic understanding helps, too.  Let me repeat something I write regularly: Prices are measurements of value.  If a price goes up a great deal, especially if it does so quickly, that means people want more of the product than they’re able to get, and it’s a signal to other producers that they should enter the market, even at great expense.

Immediately after a devastating hurricane, it may seem predatory for people with chainsaws and water bottles to charge super-high prices, but their doing so not only forces affected families to weigh the value of the assistance, but also sends a signal far and wide that it’s worth people’s time to invest in tools, supplies, and gasoline and travel to the affected spot.  Of course, as a moral matter, we should all approach such situations in a spirit of charity, but by the same principle, we shouldn’t stroke our own moral vanity by insisting that only those with the right intentions can help.

In the case of pharmaceutical gouging, the focus of Congress should really be on creating laws that require smarter, lighter handed, less capricious regulation and therefore allow more companies to offer comparable products at competitive prices.  Unfortunately, it’s so much more profitable for progressive politicians to empower unaccountable bureaucracies to manipulate the market and create “near monopolies” that make the politicians’ corporate friends and donors rich and allow the politicians to posture in meaningless poses while grabbing more power to repeat the process.

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Whitehouse’s Attacks on Private Groups

Rhode Island Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has repeatedly shown that he’s got no problem using government to go after people and groups he perceives as political enemies.  He’s sympathetic to the literal conspiracy of attorney generals to prosecute those who take a different view on the question of climate change, and now he’s coordinating a smear campaign from the floor of the Senate.

Whitehouse’s office circulated assignments for his fellow Democrat senators for a two-day extravaganza of attacking private center-right think tanks and advocacy groups, from the local (Nevada Policy Research Institute) to the national (Heritage Foundation), from the morally focused (Acton Institute) to the libertarian (Reason Foundation).

To be sure, much of this is the pure stagecraft of politics, but it ought to, in any event, make us a little uncomfortable.  The senators are using a government podium to embark on a coordinated attack on Americans, dividing the country as if their domestic opposition is the real enemy.  One could suggest that it would be incorrect to see Whitehouse as representing all of Rhode Island.  He represents a specific worldview, and he’ll use our money and other resources to advance that worldview and impose its conclusions on everybody who live within the borders of his reach.

English has multiple words by which to describe that sort of behavior.

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Whitehouse’s Focus as RI’s Senator

Back when Rhode Island’s Junior Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse led the charge to mandate the audio of television commercials, I suggested that “government regulation of television volume is not likely to signal the end of the republic, but the oppression of ‘there ought to be a law’ is a patchwork, encouraging voters to acclimate to the big government mentality and investing them in its exercise of power.”

Having gone some years without another such coup, Whitehouse is apparently at it again, as Shaun Towne reports:

“There’s a big, it appears, emerging scam of selling people cheap, lousy products that have been misdescribed for purposes of getting their business,” said Whitehouse.

Rhode Island’s junior senator is pushing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on fraudulent clothing websites. In a letter to the agency, Whitehouse said the websites “…use stolen photographs and deep discounts to lure consumers into buying products that are indeed “too good to be true.”

One suspects laws against stolen photographs and false advertising are already in place, so it isn’t clear what a “crack down” would entail, but is this really the sort of stuff-of-life priority that a U.S. senator should have?

It’s not coincidental that Whitehouse is also arguably the nation’s leading advocate for using innovative legal maneuvers to intimidate and “crack down” on organizations that disagree with his conclusions about climate change.  Building on what I wrote in 2011, a public that gets used to having government go after every little inconvenience or example of advantage-taking will produce a weakened backlash when that same government begins taking advantage of the new practice in order to punish political enemies and help political allies (while enriching politicians).

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Whitehouse and the Literal Conspiracy to Deprive Americans of Rights

Law professor Glenn Reynolds has an important essay in USA Today, this week, that’s relevant to RI’s former attorney general and now U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and other far-left loons who seek to implement an environmentalist inquisition and prosecute organizations that will not proclaim their unassailable faith in the doomsday wickedness of anthropomorphic climate change:

Federal law makes it a felony “for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the Unites States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).”

I wonder if U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, or California Attorney General Kamala Harris, or New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have read this federal statute. Because what they’re doing looks like a concerted scheme to restrict the First Amendment free speech rights of people they don’t agree with. They should look up 18 U.S.C. Sec. 241, I am sure they each have it somewhere in their offices.

One suspects neither the law nor the science nor the long-term fate of the planet is actually a higher priority to such corrupt politicians than their own lust for power.  And any journalist or other person who handles these affronts as if they might be legitimate should be doubted if he or she claims to be interested in preserving Americans rights.

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Mark Levin Features Soviet-Like Whitehouse

Rhode Island’s own Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat) led off episode 4 of Mark Levin’s new online show.  Reviewing a clip of Whitehouse presenting an obviously prepared line of questioning for President Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, Levin draws parallels between Whitehouse’s content and presentation and the sort of government activity we used to expect from the Soviet Union.

Without any specifics — leaving much to the imagination and the insinuation — the senator and the AG discussed criminal and civil investigations of private companies that aren’t fully in line with the required climate change ideology.  Levin suggests that the entire performance isn’t meant to enlighten the senator from Rhode Island, but rather to get the message out there in the air, so to speak, that companies should start worrying about an FBI knock on the door.  “It’s as tyrannical as is possibly imaginable.”

The idea is to intimidate the public in order to prevent real debate over public policy.  In practice, the government doesn’t have to take oppressive action to the extent that people believe that oppressive action is always a possibility.  The great majority of people (including business leaders) just want to move along with their lives, and so they’ll respond to implied threats from officials.  Then, those who either won’t or can’t capitulate so easily seem like extreme cases and are easy to marginalize in an environment in which everybody else just wants the tension to go away.

This is how freedom dies, and it’s sad to see how large a role even little Rhode Island has managed to play in the process through its electoral choices.

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Whitehouse as Anti-Science Left’s Poster Boy

Rhode Island’s own U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat) gets a name check in Josh Gelernter’s article likening the climate change alarmists to the historically infamous persecutors of Galileo:

People tend to think that proponents of an Earth-centered solar system were nothing but intransigent religious fanatics. In fact, they included scientists of Galileo-level genius, like Ptolemy and Aristotle. When their theories were weakened and their opponents’ strengthened, they switched sides — and the “scientific consensus” changed. The intransigence belonged to the government, seated in the Vatican, which refused to accept new data because a deviation from the consensus-ante would have proved politically difficult. …

But our government — or parts of it, like Senator Whitehouse — prefer the status quo. Global warming is (literally and metaphorically) cash in the bank for many of our men in Washington, and a lot of their supporters. They want the new heliocentrists excommunicated and in prison. But remember: The lesson of Galileo’s inquisition is that truth will out.

Progressives have gone pretty far on a logical fallacy.  Essentially, they’ve promoted the notion that “the Church persecuted Galileo, and business moguls exploited workers, but we support action through government, and government is neither the Church nor a business.”  The fallacy, obviously, is to pretend that organizations in each of those three broad categories are different in a way that’s relevant to the undesirable outcome.  Put differently, they pretend such institutions can’t switch roles in the narrative, as if it’s always the prefixes and never the suffixes in “theocracy” and “oligarchy” that make a difference, as if claiming that they have invented a pure, non-prefixed government — a “cracy” or “archy.”

That’s not a sustainable delusion, but progressives have also been very busy buying off constituencies and brainwashing with reckless abandon.

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Whitehouse’s Turn to Fascism

I’m with Kevin Williamson on this stunning Washington Post op-ed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  It’s dispiriting to read the very wealthy senator from Rhode Island crossing well into the range of McCarthyism, if not fascism.  I mean, look at this:

To be clear: I don’t know whether the fossil fuel industry and its allies engaged in the same kind of racketeering activity as the tobacco industry. We don’t have enough information to make that conclusion. Perhaps it’s all smoke and no fire. But there’s an awful lot of smoke.

The suggestion is clear.  Laying the background for the tobacco industry part of the comparison, Whitehouse writes, “Thankfully, the government had a playbook, too.”  And “finally, through the discovery process, government lawyers were able to peel back the layers of deceit and denial and see what the tobacco companies really knew all along about cigarettes.”  That’s what the senator wants to attempt to do to organizations that express skepticism about climate change alarmism.

To what couldn’t this principle apply?  Maybe same-sex marriage advocates have studies showing that children do just as well without their own moms and dads.  Start a Congressional investigation!  Or maybe the gun industry is conspiring to hide evidence that eliminating the Second Amendment would make Americans safer.  Or maybe Grover Norquist has buried a report proving that high taxes are good for the economy and freedom.  Or (and here’s the goldmine) internal memos among Republican groups might prove a big-dollar conspiracy to fool the American people into believing that the Democrats have become a party of ultra-wealthy radicals who have no interest in helping average Americans prosper and who lack the competence to achieve that goal, even if they believed in it.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.  We’ll never know if we don’t start investigating every conservative organization.

This is not a difficult one.  Even people (including journalists) who agree with all of the senator’s political positions should be able to see that.  Whitehouse is way off the deep end, here, and he ought to be called on it.  (But he won’t be.)

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IRS Targeting and Unethical Whitehouse

Many readers have likely seen or heard of this, already, but it’s worth putting on the record, here.  Bradley Smith and David Keating, with the Center for Competitive Politics, have filed a complaint against several Democrat Senators who, they say, used their offices to try to press the IRS to engage in crass electoral intimidation by targeting conservative groups:

The complaint documents how the senators improperly interfered with IRS adjudications to further their party’s electoral prospects. They pressured the IRS to undertake income-tax investigations of specific organizations, to find that specific organizations were in violation of the law, to reach predetermined results pertaining to pending applications by individual organizations for nonprofit status, and to adopt specific regulatory interpretations and policies to further their campaign goals.

It isn’t surprising to learn that on the list is Rhode Island’s own Sheldon Whitehouse.  It also isn’t difficult to imagine the aristocratic Senator seeking to pervert the nation’s tax agency as a campaign weapon.

In the rhetoric, the policies, and the demeanor of Democrats of Whitehouse’s ilk is the unavoidable impression that they believe they’re wiser than everybody else, and when somebody believes that about their countrymen, it’s only rational that democracy should not be permitted to move the nation in a direction that the wise ones know to be incorrect or (worse) gauche.

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The Budding Federalism of Sen. Whitehouse?

Last week, Ted Nesi interviewed RI Senator Sheldon Whitehouse about the ongoing problems with the ACA Health care rollout. Said Whitehouse, “I think it’s been a botch, and when you consider that little Rhode Island can get it right, it’s frustrating that the federal government didn’t.”

Today, Erika Niedowski reports that Senator Whitehouse, during some hearings in the Senate, remarked that it’s “‘a little nervy to be complaining that the federal government didn’t do it for you well enough’ when states could have ‘simply saddled up and done it’ themselves.”

Seems like Senator Whitehouse is implying (admitting?) that, just perhaps, smaller units of government are more effective than larger ones, even when it comes to implementing grand schemes.

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Rich Senators Target Poor Children’s Scholarships

Yes, of course we should be interested in having government-driven programs be free of waste, fraud, and abuse, but this sure does seem like a political attack on a policy that helps disadvantaged students escape failing government schools and secure real opportunities through private schools.  According to Emma Brown, in the Washington Post, three Democrat Senators are asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate states’ tax-credit scholarships, which allow businesses to donate money for scholarships in exchange for some percentage back as a tax credit.

Naturally, Rhode Island’s upper crust U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is one of the three signatories.  The emphasis of the letter on whether such programs “pose a risk of waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct, or mismanagement” indicates that the objective is to attack the programs, not simply to learn from them.  Note, especially, that the letter doesn’t ask the GAO to look into the positive results of the programs.

One wonders where Whitehouse sent his own children to school.

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, Republican state representative Robert Lancia (Cranston) has submitted legislation that would increase the cap on Rhode Island’s tax credit scholarship program and implement a feature that would allow it to grow according to demand.  His bill (for which I offered feedback based on a review of other such programs) would also make scholarships more predictable, by prioritizing continued funding of scholarships for students already receiving them.

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Weird Absence in the Notes

An obvious point is oddly missing from Ted Nesi’s Notes item on the possible Republican campaign of Robert Flanders for U.S. Senate:

His announcement that he’s exploring a 2018 U.S. Senate run against Sheldon Whitehouse, first reported by the indefatigable Kathy Gregg, had the Rhode Island political class chattering all week. Flanders told me he isn’t doing interviews yet, but suggested in a statement he’d be “a senator that works with Republicans, Democrats, and independents to promote practical solutions.” The former judge is no fool, so he knows the tough odds he’d face – the last time a Republican not named Chafee won a Rhode Island U.S. Senate race was 1930. Flanders would have a number of advantages, including his intellect and a robust Rolodex to tap for donations, which is why some local Republicans are enthusiastic about his chances. He also has some disadvantages: the deep pension cuts he approved as Central Falls’ receiver are ripe for negative TV ads, and President Trump’s unpopularity could allow Whitehouse to effectively rerun his 2006 campaign, which was technically against Linc Chafee but really against George W. Bush. Flanders says he’ll make a final decision “over the next several months.”

Know what I mean?  Maybe this, from an item farther down in Nesi’s column, will help:

Two Rhode Islanders who did not visit Trump, however, are Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse – both men skipped a White House dinner for senators the president held on Tuesday night.

Sure, Trump is unpopular in Rhode Island (particularly in those circles with which journalists have the most interaction), but even people who don’t like the president, if they’re just a little pragmatic, can see the advantage of having at least one of our four federal legislators be from the party that controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.  The question, then, is whether the Republicans, pragmatic Democrats, and friends of Flanders can outnumber those who like the fact that Whitehouse repeatedly stands out as an especially radical and aggressive voice in the party out of power.

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Breaking – Former RI Supreme Court Justice Flanders Exploring Run for US Senate

Well, things just heated up in Rhode Island’s 2018 race for US Senate. Kathy Gregg has the scoop in the Providence Journal.

Robert G. Flanders, a former Rhode Island Supreme Court justice, respected Providence trial lawyer and onetime Brown University football star, has taken the first step toward a potential GOP run for the U.S. Senate against two-term Democratic incumbent Sheldon Whitehouse.

This is somewhat out of the blue: rumors where that Justice Flanders was considering, at the urging of RIGOP Chair Brandon Bell, a run for Governor. Justice Flanders isn’t technically announcing his candidacy, as Gregg notes, but rather, he

plans to create an “exploratory committee” to determine whether he will be able to muster the money and support he would need for a potential GOP primary fight and, ultimately, a 2018 run against Whitehouse.

He is certainly clear as to why he sees the need to run, however, as he indicates to Gregg in a statement that includes a nice little zing at the incumbent.

“With the unease and hyper-partisan political environment in Washington,” Flanders said, Rhode Island needs a U.S. senator who “will work across the aisle to unlock innovation and job growth, provide a system of high quality and affordable health care, reform unfair and anti-competitive tax policies, lift regulatory burdens off the backs of small business, promote better education and enhance our security by restoring global confidence in America.”

“In short, we need a climate change in Washington,” he said in a play-on-words on Whitehouse’s signature issue.

If his candidacy is a go, he will first face off in a primary against State Representative Robert A. Nardolillo III (R-Coventry).

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Corporate Personhood and Three Steps to No Rights

Brad Smith recently took up an important point in the Providence Journal, responding to Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who is seeking to “strip rights from corporate entities,” in Smith’s words.  He cites the 1819 Supreme Court case, Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward:

A corporation, the court noted, “is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.” But that didn’t mean that people gave up their rights when they formed a corporation. Rather, the decision emphasized that when people join together to accomplish things, they usually need some form of organization, and shouldn’t have to sacrifice their rights just because they organize.

This is one of those recurring discussions that are frustrating because they’re mainly semantic, and one feels as if normal people sitting down to fairly explain to each other what they mean will agree and move on.  The danger is that the semantics could allow radicals like Whitehouse to push the law a few steps to totalitarian control.

Step 1 is to force people to organize for any sort of public activity by offering either competitive enticements (from tax benefits to liability protections) or regulations restricting activities if people do not organize.  We’re already pretty far along this path.

Step 2 is declare that those organizations that people have formed don’t have rights.  Another way of putting that, as Smith explains, is to say that people lose their individual rights when they organize as corporations… which they were more or less forced to do in order to accomplish their goals.

Step 3 will be to force people to do what government insiders want by imposing requirements on the rights-less corporations.

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Pundits Looking for Elusive Footing of Normalcy

Like everybody else who follows policy and politics, I’m still trying to figure out how to interpret the Trump administration.  I have to say, though, that I think a lot of established pundits on my side of the ideological field are getting something very wrong.  Here’s Jonah Goldberg, for example, writing about Trump’s executive order related to refugees:

If Trump had given agency professionals 30 days to review his order on refugees, he could have avoided the confusion at airports, not to mention the media hysteria and the protests. And if his communications team had been given time, they could have preempted some of the wild claims made by Democratic detractors.

I don’t believe this is accurate. If word of the deliberation had leaked — or if the policy had been discussed openly — we’d have had the same reaction, but without its being rooted to an actual order.  Opponents would have been able to warn of even more extreme possibilities, and moderation in the course of developing the policy would have been presented as hiding true, evil intentions, rather than error.

Then there’s John Podhoretz, talking during a Commentary podcast on Ricochet.  He warns that President Trump’s style and speed is galvanizing the Left, worrying, for instance, that no Democrats will be able to vote for Trump nominees, and the president won’t be able to peel Congressional Democrats away from their party for his policy initiatives.

Democrats may take that approach, but I’m not so sure it’s something that should frighten Republicans.  From where I stand in Rhode Island, waching the Far Left push the U.S. Senate’s most outrageous lefty, Sheldon Whitehouse, to be even more unreasonable, I don’t see how this can possibly be a majority-winner, especially this far out from an election

It seems like even conservative pundits want normality to apply in some way, but Obama, his party, and the news media have proven that the state of affairs we used to see as normality was just an illusion that served progressives’ ends.

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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.

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Providence Journal Gives Up on Objectivity

I’ve long harbored the hope that journalists with integrity at the Providence Journal were quietly embarrassed by their paper’s dabbling in PolitiFact.  In the past, I charted PolitiFact’s bias, and I even wrote a parody song about it.  In PolitiFact, the mainstream media has the perfect representation of the pretense of objectivity being used as a partisan political weapon.

With its coverage of this year’s partisan conventions, the Projo appeared to have committed the entire paper to the PolitiFact aesthetic.  With today’s front page, it appears to have taken up its method, too:

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The “news” of this story is that Donald Trump, (sadly) the Republican nominee for president, is habitually dishonest.  Disliking Trump, myself, I’m not inclined to object to such investigation, but I still find it shocking to see it as such a prominent report in the Providence Journal, partly because it is inconceivable that the paper would give similar treatment to the similarly dishonest Hillary Clinton.

In fact, take the analysis a bit farther and open the paper to its “Campaign 2016″ coverage.  The headlines are:

Pay special attention to the bullet in the middle, because it may indicate why the editors felt it necessary to land so hard on Trump’s honesty today.  The “lack of filter” story is used as an envelope around an inset about the latest Clinton-related revelations, which I mentioned this morning, and that story is couched in terms of “Trump pounces.”

A search of the last fifteen days of the Providence Journal turns up no other news reports including the words “Clinton Foundation email.”  In other words, for the paper’s only reporting of emails that raise ethical questions about the Democrat nominee for president, it minimized the find (excluding, notably, the Obama Justice Department’s killing of FBI requests to investigate the foundation further), presented it in terms of Trump’s response, surrounded by a story about Trump’s wild speaking habits, next to a story about a U.S. senator calling him a kook, within an issue fronted with bold declarations of Trump’s habitual lies.

This is a newspaper attempting to affect the outcome of an election along predictable party lines, pure and simple.  Few remain so naive as to believe in mainstream objectivity in the post-Bush era, and I personally think we need less regulation of speech, not more.  Nonetheless, while this may do little more than show my age, I’m still shocked by the tabloid-esque brazenness.

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Stop Expecting Corrupt Government to Prosecute Corruption

Not to be contrarian or anything, but really, what more of relevance did we expect to learn about the 38 Studios debacle?  The whole thing is outrageous from ignominius start to Friday news dump end, but State Police Colonel Steven O’Donnell has a point when he says, “A bad deal does not always equate to an indictment.”  Neither does corrupt government.

Look, 38 Studios is the brand of Rhode Island’s deepest corruption for a reason.  The General Assembly and the governor slipped through a big-money program with the promise of creating jobs, and a quasi-public agency put taxpayers on the line for a private company’s failure.  Partly because the politicians and bureaucrats involved have our electoral system locked up with a mix of handouts, demagoguery, insider advantages, and (some of us suspect) not a little outright cheating, there were no real consequences.  Moreover, the very same system that created the opportunity for corruption and failure in the first place is now the central economic development plan of our state.

It’s no good sitting around hoping that the corrupt will slip up and break the law so that the legal system can do what voters refuse to do.  We’ve seen all the way up to the White House that America’s legal system doesn’t do that anymore.  (A tweet that flitted across my screen this morning suggested that “the law is no longer working to protect us from the corrupt, but to protect the corrupt from us.)

More importantly, though, much of what we consider to be corruption is legal in Rhode Island, and that’s not necessarily wrong.  Expand the scope of activities that are illegal — to include bad decisions or working with people you know, for example — and you’ll find it becoming a weapon used by the corrupt against those who are not corrupt.  Look to Sheldon Whitehouse and various attorneys general for evidence or consider that, while the 38 Studios process may have been entirely legal, it is now illegal for people to spend almost any money advocating on local ballot questions without registering with the government.

The obvious solution is this:  Get off the sidelines.  Maybe run for office.  If that’s more effort than you can reasonably muster, then resolve to support those who will shake up the system, both in office and in organizations that strive to keep the pressure on politicians and government.  Perhaps reevaluate how much weight to give to different political issues (corruption and good government should maybe outweigh social issues in your decision-making for a decade or so).

That’s where change has to occur.  Otherwise, each investigation, indictment, and prosecution is just a bucket of water as we attempt to bail out a submarine a mile below the surface. The fact that these suggestions are nothing new doesn’t make them less true.

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When Government Secretly Coordinate, That’s a Conspiracy

There’s a certain irony, here.  Rhode Island’s far-left Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is leading the charge to criminalize research and expression of views that don’t fit his extreme ideological and political view and a gang of thuggish attorney generals have been coordinating legal attacks on fossil-fuel companies and conservative think tanks on the claim that they’re engaged in an anti-environmentalist conspiracy, and yet the attorneys general are hiding their coordination from the public.

A press release from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (for which I work) notes its participation in an effort to ensure a little bit of transparency into this actual conspiracy:

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center) announced that it assisted a national nonprofit organization in a lawsuit, filed today, demanding that the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General (OAG) release documents they have refused to make public. The legal complaint calls for the release of documents related to AG’s United for Clean Power, a group comprised of politically-motivated AGs from about a dozen states, including Rhode Island, who have secretly teamed up with anti-fossil fuel activists to investigate dozens of organizations that have exercised their free speech by challenging the global warming policy agenda. …

In a series of April emails obtained by E & E Legal, the RI OAG consented to sign-on to an “agreement” among the larger AG cabal that is colluding to investigate if RICO statutes may have been violated. However, the Rhode Island AG now refuses to make public the group’s ‘Secrecy Pact’ documents related to that taxpayer funded activity.

That is, the attorney general will not release the terms of his office’s agreement or even the text of the documents pledging to keep that agreement hidden.

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Is Climate Change Persecution Fading Already?

With one of our U.S. Senators’, Mr. Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, naturally), being a key figure in the fascist effort to pursue legal persecution of people who have a contrary opinion to him on the politically charged issue of global climate change, Rhode Islanders might be interested to hear that some of his allies are backing away from his level of aggression, as the Wall Street Journal notes (text here):

Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker recently withdrew his subpoena of Exxon Mobil. He was a leader among the 17 AGs charging that the oil giant defrauded shareholders by hiding the truth about global warming. That’s hard to prove when the company’s climate-change research was published in peer-reviewed journals.

Mr. Walker also targeted some 90 think tanks and other groups in an attempt to punish climate dissent. These groups and others, including these columns, pushed back on First Amendment grounds, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute counter-sued Mr. Walker and demanded sanctions. He pulled his subpoena against CEI last month.

The real shame, and the real warning sign, is that those AGs, and fellow travelers like Whitehouse, weren’t instantly lambasted by people across America’s political spectrum for even initiating such patently offensive-to-freedom steps .

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6% and Flawed Models: Why We’re Skeptical of AGW

A second day, a second applause-worthy editorial by the Providence Journal yesterday. They politely call out Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who

… asked [US] Attorney General Loretta Lynch whether the Justice Department had considered pursuing fraud charges against those who have, in his view, misled people about climate change. ….

This is troubling: a U.S. senator and attorney general, both sworn to uphold the Constitution, mulling legal action against American citizens and companies for the “crime” of challenging a scientific theory.

The ProJo correctly points out that

… it is vitally important that America not discard its essential values of freedom.

With Earth Day coming up this Friday, it’s important to note the two simple facts that make so many of us skeptical of the theory of anthropogenic global warming. 1.) Man only generates 6% of all greenhouse gases. 2.) The heart of the case for AGW, the climate models, are flawed (see here and here, and lots of other places).

Accordingly, the proposal by Senator Whitehouse and others to silence by prosecutorial bullying those who question AGW not only violates, as the ProJo points out, free speech, one of America’s essential values, but also comes across as someone who … well, doesn’t want to hear why he may be wrong about something he believes in. It’s fine to disregard facts and evidence that contradict your belief in something. It crosses the line to narrow-minded despotism, however, to propose the use of the considerable powers of government to punish people or companies attempting to present such facts and evidence.

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On Climate, It’s the Government That’s Acting Conspiratorially

Ted Nesi’s Saturday roundup column gives Rich Davidson, the spokesman for far-left-radical Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, room to offer some spin related to the senator’s push to make a crime of disagreeing with him on climate change:

Simply denying climate change isn’t what Senator Whitehouse believes could violate federal law. Like courts found with tobacco companies, it can be a violation of the federal civil RICO statute when companies engage in an enterprise designed to mislead the public about the dangers of their products. The senator’s questions to the attorney general were to learn whether the Department of Justice is doing its due diligence to investigate whether fossil fuel special interests are leading a coordinated fraudulent effort to deceive the American people.

Two observations.  First, the entire effort, including Whitehouse’s public pronouncements and especially the hearing with the attorney general, is an excellent example of how government can make the process the punishment and use broad threats to chill speech and activity.  What company or organization wants federal law enforcement agencies rifling through its files or telling the public that it’s under investigation for potentially criminal activity?  This sort of “due diligence” is thug government.

Second, it doesn’t get nearly as much press coverage as it should — particularly when the media presents Whitehouse’s tyrannical overtures as just a bit of he-said-she-said politicking (at worst) — but in this entire controversy, it’s the government that looks like a more likely candidate for RICO investigations.  Consider, for example, the relatively minor matter of an Obama administration video promoting propaganda about how “climate change” is producing polar vortexes (i.e., how global warming makes winter colder).  When the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) requested through official channels that the video be corrected and then requested documents substantiating the refusal of that request, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) engaged in a time-and-money wasting exercise to keep its documents secret, lying about the nature of the video.

Now, one could interpret the White House’s actions as evidence that it wants to hide its efforts to deceive the public, or one could interpret them as a bid by an over-sized organization that overspends its revenue by hundreds of billions of dollars every year to drain scarce resources among its ideological opponents.  Either way, Sheldon Whitehouse comes out looking objectively worse as a representative of the people of Rhode Island.

If only there were some way the news media could provide residents with an accurate picture of their junior senator and the schemes of which he’s a part…

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UPDATED: About That Global Warming Consensus

Obviously, a survey does not an argument make, but this is an interesting tidbit that one might expect to be getting more attention if the news media were truly on a politically neutral search for truth and compelling stories [see update for an important note]:

Don’t look now, but maybe a scientific consensus exists concerning global warming after all. Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies. By contrast, a strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem.

The survey results show geoscientists (also known as earth scientists) and engineers hold similar views as meteorologists. Two recent surveys of meteorologists (summarized here and here) revealed similar skepticism of alarmist global warming claims.

I’ve wondered if such things as the rush to a non-binding agreement in Paris and Rhode Island Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s enthusiasm for prosecuting political opponents indicate that those who wish to use “climate change” as justification for sweeping away freedom see their window closing.  Perhaps in part because real and immediate threats are arising for contrast (such as terrorism and the rising wave of refugee invaders throughout Europe), the spell whereby environmentalists have silenced skeptics appears to be wearing off.

UPDATE (1/3/16 12:38 p.m.)

A reader points out that the first link above points to an article from 2013, which I’d missed.  Obviously, that removes the oddity of the news media’s not following the story now (although not back then).  However, the chronology actually contributes to the possibility that the alarmists have been making a push because they sense the window closing.

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Climate Change by Anecdote and Science

Just up on the Providence Journal Web page is a new part of “a special report on Confronting Climate Change in Southern New England.”  The story is about steps that some local businesses are taking in response to recent extreme weather events, and it’s generally interesting, as a tale of local life, but the larger purpose of reporter Patrick Anderson, one suspects, is to have some anecdotal spikes with which to garland a more-political narrative, as follows:

The resilience of businesses along Rhode Island’s southern shore after Sandy mirrors the approach much of New England has taken to severe weather and the persistent, advance of the ocean — linked to climate change.

The actual business owners seem to be deciding things more as a matter of interest, investment, and risk, but (scary music) we all know that climate change is coming!  One wonders how much Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s political rhetoric inspired the story.  The odd thing is that it’s actually a simple matter to look into how much the ocean has risen in the area.  Of course, the answer “not much at all in the past two decades” would complicate the narrative.

As a fan of complicated narratives, though, I thought I’d throw in E. Calvin Beisner’s thoughts on a recent U.S. Senate hearing about climate science.  Beisner’s basic conclusions are that the science isn’t settled and that there’s reason to doubt alarmist claims, not the least because of government influence:

Christy, Curry, and Happer also testified that government funding of climate research biases subjects chosen for research (e.g., lots of focus on human causes of climate change and little on natural causes), and Steyn joined them in testifying that threats (by Rep. Raul Grijalva [D-AZ] and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI]) to investigate and prosecute skeptical scientists under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law had a “chilling effect,” undermining both First Amendment freedoms of speech and press and the free inquiry essential to scientific progress.

They recommended instead that the federal government should fund competing research teams in climate just as it has done on other issues. When the two teams critique each other’s work, both improve.

Of course, then the debate would have to be covered, rather than reported as if it were over.

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