Good evening. My name is Justin Katz. I’m the research director for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.
The amazing thing about infrastructure, and this whole issue, is that we’ve got roads that need repair, we’ve got workers who want to repair them, we’ve got a public that wants to pay to fix the roads — the problem is we’ve got special interests who already have the money we’re already paying to fix the roads that won’t let us do it. They’re holding that money hostage; they’re holding our roads hostage and holding the jobs hostage, saying, “You can’t do this unless you come up with new money somehow in your economy to fix this problem.
It brings to mind, actually, something a former chairman of this committee said recently, Steven Costantino, when somebody had suggested that he was in on the scandal of 38 Studios, and he said, “Well, look, I was just doing what I was tasked to do by my superiors,” meaning legislative leadership. That’s not how representative democracy works. The people upstairs are not your superiors; the people in Rhode Island are.
So, I’m basically here to give you the message that you have options. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to go out and say, “We had to fix the roads.” A lot of the benefits everybody agrees on: We need new infrastructure; we need repairs; we need maintenance. Don’t expect you’re going to be able to go out and say, “Well, we had to do it, and this was the only option,” because there are other options.
I’ve attended a lot of legislative hearings at the Rhode Island State House, and they’re often an exercise in endurance and almost always give one a sense that the plan is to dissuade the public from paying attention, as I described for WatchDog.org last May. Usually, though, the only real insult is the contempt and lack of serious that one would expect when the people conducting a long hearing know it’s just a dog and pony show.
House Finance under Raymond Gallison (D, Bristol, Portsmouth) has been particularly bad, though, and yesterday’s 9+ hour hearing on Governor Raimondo’s toll-and-borrow RhodeWorks plan was exacerbated by the attitude of Dept. of Transportation Director Peter Alviti, which drew multiple remarks on Twitter about his rudeness and arrogance from people present and watching on television. Goading his behavior, no doubt, was Gallison’s repeated practice of intervening on his behalf in exchanges with Republican committee members, even chastising Patricia Morgan (R, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) when Alviti had interrupted her. Also prodding Alviti on was the vocal backing of Michael Sabotini of the Laborers union (which recently employed Alviti) and a gaggle of other labor lobbyists in the audience.
Here’s a clip of the most egregious moment. The performance-art cackling you hear in the background is Sabotini and cronies:
Anybody who’s gone to a school committee or town council meeting during a labor dispute will recognize the bullying strategy of both Alviti and his backers. It’s rare at legislative hearings with executive-branch department heads, though, and it’s unfortunate to see us descending to this level. The governor and her transportation director should publicly apologize to Morgan and to the people of Rhode Island.
Dear Members of the General Assembly,
Please vote against Governor Raimondo’s and Speaker Mattiello’s Rhodeworks plan that calls for Tolls and more Debt.
RI may have the worse roads and bridges, but we are also saddled with one of the highest Debt burdens in the nation – both on a per capita basis and as a percentage of Gross State Product. We simply do not need more debt.
The Governor explained to us in October that the RIDOT, which has a stunning $450+ million budget this year, was “dysfunctional” and that they “never produced start-to-finish budgets and schedules”. That is precisely the reason our roads are in such disrepair. It is NOT due to a lack of funding; rather, it is due to a lack of planning and oversight, and gross mismanagement.
Tolls will simply add to RI’s already notorious national reputation of being “anti-business”.
If you haven’t already seen Neel Kolhatkar’s short film about political correctness, be sure to set aside the seven or so minutes:
It’s creepy because it’s true.
There simply can’t be too many songs lampooning the idea of trucker tolls in Rhode Island, and here’s one to add to my own “Seventeen Tolls.” It’s “Take This Toll and Shove It” by Billy Mitchell (also singer of the very-Rhode Island “I Know a Guy“).
If you haven’t seen this footage of students, apparently corralled by at least one professor, acting to eject and exclude anybody fulfilling the role of a journalist at a protest event at the University of Missouri, set aside the 12:41 for some preparatory research:
To me the most telling moment comes at the beginning, when a bespectacled guy who looks a little older than the average student tells photographer Tim Tai, from within the arm-linked circle of “protestors,” that the photographer “cannot push [the protestors] to move closer.” It’s a reasonable sounding rule of engagement from somebody presenting himself as some sort of an authority figure.
A moment later, the students start pushing Tai away from the center of the circle, and he turns to the same guy with a complaint that they’re breaking the rules that he had just laid out. The reply: “Don’t talk to me; that’s not my problem.” Tai then spends several minutes arguing with the students while being physically pushed back. The argument is fruitless, because the mob is clearly not interested in reaching fair conclusions. They are righteous, and any infiltrating journalists are not. It’s not about coming to a rational conclusion. The only rule is domination.
The second half of the clip is videographer Mark Schierbecker’s already-infamous conflict with Professor Melissa Click and the aftermath after she gets her requested “muscle” to eject him.
The bespectacled guy’s role is classic Saul Alinsky: force the enemy to live by his own rules… and then deny them as your own. In a chaotic interaction, people want some sort of authority figure who can negotiate between the sides. Pretending to be that figure deflates some of the leverage of the target while not limiting the pretender’s own options.
If one refuses to capitulate — to subordinate one’s own rights to those who do not acknowledge them — the only two approaches are to (1) abandon your own rules or (2) bring those among the fascists who are unaware that they are behaving as such face to face with their decision. In the first approach, Tai and Schierbecker would physically push back; find a weak link in the human chain, perhaps, and push through it. Of course, then the fascists would call in the actual authorities (perhaps armed) who would proceed to enforce the rules (which the fascists were ignoring in the first place) in a one-sided way.
In this case, the second approach would have been better and would probably have been even more clarifying for those now discomfited by Schierbecker’s footage. Standing on two legs leaves us susceptible to being pushed back by even jostling, as we strive to keep our balance. Sitting down would have required the fascists to escalate or to give up. Forcing somebody who’s sitting to move requires much more than simply leaning against him. Brainwashed students might convince themselves — in the thrill of the mob action — that stepping forward is not really “pushing” or “assault,” but somebody who’s sitting would have to be unambiguously pushed or dragged.
If you’re feeling particularly interested in preserving your liberties, could reverse the leverage. As the fascists strive to keep their balance around you, they’ll naturally shift their weight away a bit, at least periodically, leaving room to advance against them.
In this case, the likelihood of things escalating out of control looked pretty minimal, and too many of the students had looks on their faces like they thought they were only mildly misbehaving for fun. Contrast Schierbecker’s video with the scene when union thugs assaulted Steven Crowder in Michigan.
A little bit more fortitude while the fascism is still budding may prevent the need for actual risk of life for the next person down the line who attempts to resist.
UPDATE (7:51 a.m. 11/11/15):
I am particularly interested in the ways that people creatively and constantly negotiate identity, significance, and power through religious idioms in the dense contexts of their everyday lives.
So, Professor Chip clearly understood the moral dimensions of his statement to Tai that other students pushing him, in violation of the rules that the professor had just articulated, “Don’t talk to me; that’s not my problem.”
Saul Alinsky did dedicate his Rules for Radicals to Lucifer, after all.
If Millennials have a particular connection with Pope Francis, it may have to do with their shared understanding (very possibly erroneous) that human society has moved on to a new chapter.
A discussion of the correct understanding of economics within Catholic teaching may hinge on the origin of our right to private property.
On State of Mind, Dan Yorke and I discuss (and sometimes argue about) the controversial report that the Rhode Island State Police issued on the state of the Cranston Police Department and how the public should respond to it.
A California man vacationing on Aquidneck Island thought he’d send up his personal drone to get some footage of a coastal wind turbine in Portsmouth. Here’s the video:
Providence Journal reporter Patrick Anderson initially thought it was the non-functional turbine owned by the town of Portsmouth, but it’s not. It’s the nearby turbine on the property of the Portsmouth Abbey school. If I’m not mistaken, the man on top is one of the monks (see here). The likelihood is, then, that he isn’t, as the Daily Mail suggested, a “sun worshipper.”
One would think that such a remote height would be a safe place to relax and take in the warmth of God’s bounty, and it would be in a world without a proliferating number of flying video cameras.
Kenneth Colston traces the significance of Saint Francis and Franciscans in the works of Shakespeare, Manzoni, and Chesterton and applies them to Pope Francis.
Fr. Roger Landry speaks of at the 2015 Portsmouth Institute conference about being missionaries by bringing joy and meaning to everything.
First Things editor R.R. Reno puts Pope Francis’s style of rhetoric and diplomacy in the context of the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
At the 2015 Portsmouth Institute Conference, Fr. Dwight Longenecker gives context to Pope Francis’s statement about proselytism and gives a more full explanation of true evangelization.
John Carr’s preview of Pope Francis’s message when he visits the United States this fall raises questions about the balance of the individual with the government in the eyes of the Church.
In his keynote address on Pope Francis, Cardinal Sean O’Malley makes the author wonder whether church leaders understand how much the West needs to be evangelized, and how differently Westerners will hear the messages of the pope.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat expects divisions within the Roman Catholic Church to avoid coming to a head for many decades, but it will depend on Pope Francis’s understanding of his own role in the world and on whether Catholic progressives follow the path of American progressives in pushing fundamental transformation.
An interreligious panel on Pope Francis’s relationship with those of other faiths raises questions of religion’s relationship with politics, which returns us to the question of whether Francis has the world right.
Looking at current events, it’s tempting to be discouraged, but in the trials of a church in Charleston we can find inspiration to wipe discouragement away.
Professor Anna Bonta Moreland’s talk on “El Papa Francisco es Argentino” set some cultural context for the pope and raises questions about the risks of his worldview.
Alexander Mikulich closes out the 2013 Portsmouth Institute conference.
Jim Forest speaks on Dorothy Day on day 2 of the 2013 Portsmouth Institute Conference
Samuel Casey Carter, of the Faith in the Future Foundation, begins day 2 of the 2013 Portsmouth Institute conference.
Writer George Weigel closes out day 1 of the 2013 Portsmouth Institute conference.
Last night’s record-breakingly short budget debate marked the final end of Rhode Island’s period of representative democracy and the beginning of the last stage of its decline.
The key points come at the end, when I suggest that Rhode Islanders should see if their representatives and senators are on some of these bills for socialized medicine and never, ever vote for them again. It’s frightening that people who want to do these things to us could get into office.
Representative Cale Keable, a landlord with properties in Mapleville, is seen in an online video forcibly opening an entry door, despite the request of the tenant’s minor son for him to return when his mother is home.
A little… umm… light morning viewing from Andrew Klavan, lampooning the moral vacuity of President Obama and like-minded progressives.