Court Appointments and the Governor’s Power


Rhode Islanders should find two bits of news from yesterday unsettling.  Even those who support the Democrats, Gina Raimondo, and the lockdown strategy of pandemic control should pause and make note of where these trends point.

The first is Governor Raimondo’s interview with WPRI, yesterday, headlined, “It would be hard not to keep RI in ‘some kind of a pause,’ Raimondo says.”  It’s beginning to feel sinister, watching politicians and journalists speaking through their masks even though they’re surely a dozen feet apart or more.  Worse, however, is the psychology apparent behind the governor’s words:

“We have 900 beds in the field hospitals, but we don’t have the staff, which is why I keep begging and pleading with Rhode Islanders,” she said. …

She said Rhode Islanders who are “choosing to break the rules” are costing people’s lives.

“There’s a lot of fatigue,” Raimondo said. “At this point, I could say whatever I want, but if people don’t follow the rules, then it’s not going to help.”

“Please Rhode Island, hang in there and follow the rules,” she continued. “We are in a very dangerous spot right now and if you could just rein it in and follow the rules over the next few weeks, it will save lives and make a difference.” …

“It’s my hope that I can get a handle on it and reduce our test positivity,” she said

Be sure to read the whole thing for the full effect of Raimondo’s threats, but the quotation above captures the part relevant for this post.  Notice this:  The problem is all you, you, you.  when it comes to Rhode Island’s bad results, it’s your fault people are dying.  You and your selfish attempts to salvage some kind of a life under her restrictions are killing people.

And it must be you, because other places where the restrictions aren’t as bad are doing much better than Rhode Island. Certainly, it can’t be her. She’s just having to govern a terrible people, and if not for her restrictions, things would be much worse, because you’re just that bad.

But when it comes to any prospective improvement, it’s her, her, her.  “It’s my hope that I can get a handle on it.”

One wonders whether it’s even entered her mind that the reality might be the reverse.  Maybe she’s the one failing.  Maybe despite destroying our economy, her policies haven’t kept us from having the highest infection rate in the world.  Maybe there was a different approach available.

The second terrifying news punch comes from Providence Business News (emphasis added):

R.I. Superior Court Judge Melissa A. Long on Friday granted the R.I. Department of Health a temporary restraining order against Seventh Maxx Warren LLC and Fourth Maxx Lincoln LLC, the owning entities of Maxx Fitness Clubzz in Warren and Lincoln, respectively, and the gyms must close during the two-week economic “pause” that took effect Nov. 30.

In summary, the governor has given herself power to close businesses and impose $500-per-day fines.  Citizens’ defense against this sort of overreach is supposed to be the courts, but here comes a Superior Court judge affirming her move.  Well, that puts an end to it, no?

Well, in true Rhode Island fashion, there’s more to the story (emphasis added):

For the Supreme Court, Raimondo made two nominations, both women: Superior Court Associate Justice Melissa Long and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata, D-Warwick. They would replace Justice Gilbert Indeglia, who retired earlier this year, and Justice Francis Flaherty, who is also retiring.

Keeping in mind that these two appointments are only one person away from a majority of Supreme Court justices in our state, consider their circumstances.  On Erin Lynch Prata’s behalf, in June, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission (currently with seven of eight active members appointed by Raimondo) waived away a revolving door provision in the Code of Ethics, against the suggestion of the commission’s own legal staff, and despite clearly contradictory language in the code.  Clearly politics and insider conversations are the real law in the Ocean State, not any pesky written rules.

Now, Long has received the nod for elevation just after giving the governor’s assumption of dictatorial powers her blessing with a smash of her gavel.  The law simply doesn’t matter, and you, dear residents, taxpayers, and voters, have no recourse.

Even if Gina Raimondo or some future governor relinquishes this power to control the minute details of our lives, that will merely be a surface resumption of our civil rights.  The rule of law is not merely civilians’ following the laws, it is also — arguably more importantly — powerful government officials’ acknowledging that power resides not in them, but in the written rules under which we’ve agreed to live.

Raimondo wants you to follow rules that she, alone, has developed and proclaimed.  Whatever their thoughts about the coronavirus, Rhode Islanders should insist that she must follow the rules that our representative democracy purports to impose.

  • Lou

    For a proponent of personal responsibility, you sure like to use the Governor as a scapegoat…”Maybe she’s the one failing”?

    I find it curious that you have not downplayed the severity of the pandemic in a few weeks. Did you find that wasn’t proving to be a sound strategy?

    “terrifying news punch”?…lighten up, Snowflake. You don’t like their opinions, so you resort to ad hominem attacks? That’s such a classic Katzian response. Maybe you should tell the readers why their decisions are flawed instead.

    • Portia

      He could also come up with a constructive solution to the pandemic. As opposed to denial, or victimhood. Christ, Gina “suggests” a way to avoid getting COVID, and Justin accuses her of dictatorship.

      But, then, standing back and throwing rocks is pretty much all we can expect from Justin.

      • Justin Katz

        Yeah, the “suggests” thing went out the window this month. She’s been unacceptably coy about what was a “suggestion” and what was an enforceable law (e.g., limiting family gatherings while threatening to charge people $500 per guest over the limit). With her in-the-pocket judge now signing off on the governor’s closure of a gym, it’s not a suggestion. It is, in fact, a dictatorship.

        I offered my constructive solution months ago. Protect the vulnerable. Issue suggested precautions. And go away. At the very least, acknowledge that the legislature has to be involved in long-term measures.

        I guess some people like to be ruled.

        • Portia

          The “suggests” thing went out the window because it didn’t work, to the point of swamping the hospitals and staff. What was your plan for that?

          • Justin Katz

            So now she’s doubling down by affirming that “suggests” was actually “demands.” You’re asking me for a solution that accepts her initial error.

            We’ve had a massive misallocation of resources. All the money and effort we’re wasting cracking down on a healthy population should have been used to (1) protect the vulnerable, and (2) prepare for overflow. (Some of that has been done, of course, as we see in the existence of “field hospitals.”)

            Cracking down on the public won’t work. In fact, I predict it’s about to backfire as people just start dismissing it, as I find myself doing, even though I’ve been largely compliant up to now. The governor’s scolding mom routine is absolutely harmful in this regard.

            Across the country, we’re starting to see public officials admit that what they’re doing isn’t working, but they only know one trick: force people to do things. Instead, the governor should shift gears. Tell the public that our original strategy didn’t work, so now things are opened back up, and money that was going to go toward keeping things closed will be used for bonus pay and hiring of those who deal with vulnerable populations (e.g., nursing home employees) and those who handle COVID patients, and maybe to subsidize some paid sick time for those who don’t have it.

            Most people go back to normal and can easily deal with the fallout of the illness. People who live independently and are vulnerable can make their own decisions about risks. Meanwhile, the government is prepared to accommodate the influx.

          • Portia

            Really? Where are they “admitting” this?

            And, your “solution” only works if you deny the severity of the illness and the collective problem. The “vulnerable” can’t and don’t live in a vacuum. The “non-vulnerable” also become severely ill. Both populations can and are suffering serious long-term problems. The spread is now in the community. The health care system is overloaded. Paying the health care workers more just doesn’t make skilled help where none exists.

            I acknowledge that Gina’s delivery leads a lot to be desired. But, responsible adults look past that and recognize that in a pandemic, individual actions affect others. Unfortunately, a lot of people just aren’t capable of that. Hence, the need for controls.

          • Justin Katz

            We’re at an irreconcilable difference. To some extent freedom is permissible only within certain boundaries (e.g., you can be free to walk around as long as you don’t go about cutting people’s heads off). Your tolerance for freedom is simply lower than mine. I think you’re overstating the numbers and severity of the illness and taking the fact that many people disagree with you as justification for declaring them incapable of freedom. From my perspective, that’s tyranny, not the least because I don’t trust Raimondo’s judgment (or yours, Mr. Anonymous Commenter) of the boundaries.

          • Portia

            If you are so convinced the boundaries have been crossed, why don’t you challenge it all in federal court? You’ve had no trouble playing lawyer before.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Regardless of the declaration of a pandemic, I know only one person who has contracted the disease. She was in a “high risk group” and recovered. Add to this the John Hopkins study that the death rate has not increased during the pandemic; and the Marine Corps study showing that masks and isolation did not seem to be effective. So, many are left wondering.

    • Portia
      • Rhett Hardwick

        I read that article and note that it creates more questions. For instance, why is Rhode Island experiencing 140 deaths per 100,000, and Virginia 50. Why are similar, side by side, states such as New Hampshire and Vermont experiencing different rates of infection?

        • Portia

          Good question. My guess would be population density, and the overall age of that population. Something to look at, for sure.

    • Christopher C. Reed

      According to our own CDC, masking seems to be more superstition than science.

      • Portia

        That is not what the CDC says.

        And one study, about a different virus doesn’t cut it. Especially when that study acknowledges its own limitations.

        • Pjgj28a

          You might want to check out this site concerning mask wearing.

          Note that mask wearing in many of the hardest hit states is in the high 95%+ area. If you select the Providence Warwick area in the box in the upper right, mask wearing is about 99%. If you have an incredibly high percentage of mask wearing with one of the highest positivity rates in the world masks don’t appear to be a very effective prophylactic.

          • Portia

            Ever hear about controls?

          • Lou

            It unfortunate that this is a major source of “science” for the far-right. And I quote from the webpage: “Percentage of people who report wearing a mask most or all of the time while in public, based on surveys of Facebook users

          • Pjgj28a

            WHO ARE WE?

            From the website:

            Delphi Research Group

            We’re a research group based out of Carnegie Mellon University dedicated to developing the theory and practice of epidemic tracking and forecasting. Pre-pandemic our focus was influenza; now it’s COVID. We procure unique data streams that reflect epidemic (or pandemic) activity, extract relevant indicators, and make these publicly and continuously available. These indicators are then used for nowcasting (situational awareness) and short-term forecasting.

            Since 2019, we’ve been working directly with CDC as a National Center of Excellence for Influenza Forecasting (a 5-year designation).

            Since March 2020, we’ve created and maintained the nation’s largest public repository of diverse, geographically-detailed, real-time indicators of COVID-19 activity in the U.S. Our indicators cover every rung of the severity pyramid, and they’re freely available through a public API.

            Several of the underlying data sources (on which these indicators are built) would not exist or be publicly available without our efforts. This includes:

            A massive national daily survey we’re running I in partnership with Facebook. This has reached over 12 million Americans since April, providing real-time insights into, e.g., self-reported symptoms, mask wearing, testing, and contacts, all broken down by various demographics.

            An enormous database of de-identified medical insurance claims, covering more than half the US population, made possible through health system partners including Change Healthcare. We use this to produce a new syndromic COVID-19 indicator based on doctor visits, and other indicators based on hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

            Since April 2020, we’ve been supporting and advising the CDC in their community-driven COVID-19 forecasting effort, which includes creating and evaluating an ensemble forecast from the 70+ forecasts under submission that serves as the basis for the CDC’s official COVID-19 forecast communications. We also contribute our own short-term forecasts of COVID-19 cases and deaths, which can be found in the COVID-19 Forecast Hu

            Yep, sounds like this is truly a far right science group that never heard of the concept of controls. Shame it is so involved with the CDC. Of course what this organization does won’t fit into the cherry picked far left “science” that progressives say is settled science which they pick and choose to support a preconceived political viewpoint. Point something out as a fact based on science that interferes with the progressive narrative and immediately that fact is far right or Russian disinformation etc.

          • Lou

            That’s all great. It doesn’t change that fact the Facebook is the source of your data. Draw your own conclusion, I did.

          • Pjgj28a

            I don’t need no stink in’ facts said Lou….

            “Participants are recruited for the surveys through an advertisement placed in their Facebook news feed. Facebook automatically selects a random sample of its users to see the advertisement; users who click on the ad are taken to a survey administered by Carnegie Mellon University, and Facebook does not see their survey responses. The survey is available in English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Vietnamese, French, and simplified Chinese.

            The survey participants are sampled from Facebook users, rather than being a random sample from the entire United States population. But unlike a traditional telephone or mail survey, distribution through Facebook allows us to reach tens of thousands of respondents every day, permitting researchers to make comparisons between many geographic areas and to detect changes as soon as they happen.

            Before you make up your mind you might want to familiarize yourself with facts as opposed to opinions.

          • Lou

            Look, even if you accept your Facebook survey as “science”, and I don’t necessarily have an issue with the findings, most of it supports what we know about guideline compliance with pandemic recommendations. Your premise that mask wearing compliance is the sole driver of “highest positivity rates in the world” is entirely bogus. It’s also troubling that you actually believe that we have the highest positivity rates in the world.

  • Pjgj28a

    As we near a year of lockdowns and sheltering in place, the long-term effects of pandemic policy on the economy are becoming clearer. Almost every piece of legislation ostensibly designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus and protect workers has wreaked devastation on small businesses—while benefiting the largest corporations. Roughly 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed due to COVID-19, while big-box retailers, tech giants, and pharmaceutical manufacturers have seen record profits.

    “if you consider the upward transfer of wealth and market share to Big Business since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s fair to think such economic changes were intended. “

    After all, it’s no secret that the interests of politicians and the corporate elite align more often than not. They certainly do in Rhode Island-a proposed $12.74 billion dollar budget for around 1 million residents is balanced by use of the CARES Act money. The federal monies could have gone to support Rhode Island businesses — and are now going to support government, aid to cities and towns, social services, and state colleges. And note bill includes no cuts to state agencies that would result in staff layoffs at this time. Also public schools are fully funded even though many are closed.

    So for the record, provide data that supports the use of lockdowns, pauses, emergency brakes as a solution to stop the spread of the virus. And do try to not pick only a “science report” that only supports you political views as believe it or not there are many different opinions that science supports.

    • Portia

      Look, if it’s true that the small business aid is being used to plug the state budget, that is wrong and despicable. But that doesn’t change a real public health problem.

      And what possible motive is there for Gina to crash her own state’s economy?

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Because government will lead the “Reset”, hopefully along the lines it desires.

        • Portia

          Really? Like the powers that be don’t have it their way already? This is unhinged conspiracy stuff.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            What we are looking at are the “Police Powers”. these are mentioned only as an aside in the Constitution and are at best ill defined. These are the inherent powers of government to “protect the public”. These can reach unusual results, for instance Zoning is not a “taking” because it is based on the police powers. This has come to be accepted as “protecting property values”. Where would you find that to be a proper governmental function in our Constitution? If government is to protect the value of my residence, why not my 401k?

          • Portia

            Uh, were we talking about the government protecting property values as the rationale for the COVID restrictions?

          • Rhett Hardwick

            Just an example of the “police powers”; requiring distance between houses to prevent spread of fire expanded into the Zoning we know today. Once we get used to the current requirements, will they ever go away? More likely they will expand. Look at “Homeland Security”. Pub closing hours in Britain were put in place during WWI, to protect drunk workers. The war ended, and 75 years later they were still in effect.

  • Lou

    I suggest this applies to Justin’s attempted hatchet job at our state officials also:

    Federal and state judges, it turns out, are not the cynical political puppets that Donald Trump took them for when he started on his fanatical, fact-free quest to overturn the presidential election by using the courts.

    Supreme Court justices and judges across the country have done exactly as they are sworn to do: Issue rulings based on the facts and the law, without regard to the people involved. They have shown that the American system of democracy can survive an assault even by the president of United States.

    • Portia

      Thank you, Lou. Justin really needs to exercising his First Amendment rights far more responsibly than in the past. The unhinged conspiracy theories were one thing before the pandemic. Now, he’s been actively trying to undermine legitimate public health efforts.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      not a “fact free quest”. Quite simply, the facts presented were only sufficient to overturn the fraudulent votes actually proven.

      • Lou

        “…overturn the fraudulent votes actually proven.”?…where/when did this take place and what else to you suggest be done to remedy your concerns?