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In the Dugout: Lyle Morse on Miraculous COVID Recovery

This is a must watch… miracle coronavirus survivor from Rhode Island – Lyle Morse tells us his story on this episode of “In the Dugout”! He was saved by Hydroxychloroquine in Idaho after suffering from life threatening symptoms of COVID-19.

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Leaving No Place for the Disagreers

In some ways it’s a familiar story, but for some reason an article titled, “Left-Wing Billionaire Tom Steyer is Back to Buy Another New Hampshire Election f.  or Democrats,” struck me differently:

Since 2014, Billionaire Tom Steyer has dumped buckets of money into the Granite State to buy elections. In 2018 Tom Steyer’s money turned out the illegal college vote for Democrats, and it worked. Democrats won. Well, guess what? He’s back for 2020.

Because it makes a convenient bogeyman, some folks in Rhode Island, and even at the local level, say conservatives in the state have some similar arrangement,  That’s nonsense.  Although a local advocate on some issue or other may find sympathetic support from outside the state, no evil billionaire cares enough about Rhode Island to invest in a sustained effort to flip it from Blue to Red.

But New Hampshire represents something different.  It’s the “Live Free or Die” state — in some ways a last redoubt in New England.  Perhaps that’s what draws Steyer’s eye.

That possibility gives his efforts something of an evangelical feel.  For the most part, conservatives want a place they can call home.  If some New Englad state were the last to be progressive during a massive conservative resurgence, we wouldn’t set our sights on crushing that last haven, I don’t think.

We’d draw contrasts and make arguments, but I don’t think many conservatives would set their mind to eradicating ideas we disagree with by political means.  That’s a very different mindset than ours, and at this point in history, it belongs firmly on the Left.

One can see its reflection all over the place.  It’s in cancel culture.  It’s in identity politics.  It’s in the notion that conservative speech is violence while progressive violence is speech.  It’s coded in the basic difference of philosophy.  Conservatives want to harness natural processes that maintain free-will amidst social cooperation, while progressives want to declare the answer and enforce conformity for our own good.

With that objective, leaving people an escape is intolerable, because overcoming the natural desire to live free of progressive rules requires that no other option seems possible.

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Update 7/27: DePetro Partially Blinded by BLM Protestor?

In recent weeks, radio talk host John DePetro has been taking Facebook Live out on the streets of Rhode Island to offer coverage of left-wing protests in a way that our local news media is apparently not willing to do or interested in doing.  Last night, he posted video of an arrest after the more-significant conflicts with police had quieted down. In that video, you can see a green laser hunting around his face:

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Here’s his subsequent report on his own website later in the evening:

A Black Live Matter protester was arrested for shining an illegal laser on John DePetro Facebook Live outside the Providence safety complex after a violent night of protest to defund the police. DePetro was covering the protest when the illegal laser was pointed at him, initially did not understand what was happening and even joked about it. DePetro then lost vision and was unable to drive home after the incident. This week, three federal officers were permanently blinded by protesters in Portland using an illegal green laser.

The cookie-cutter reports from the local TV news stations mention the arrest, reporting that the laser was pointed at officers (without mentioning the significance of that act).  The Providence Journal does not mention the incident, and arguably slants its coverage toward support of the protestors, given a headline that describes the protest as “raucous,” like a tailgate party or something, rather than “violent.”

So far, no local news media appear to have mentioned DePetro’s experience.  In the last year, several conservatives in the state have mentioned the impression that local journalists have muted or blocked them on social media and are deliberately ignoring us.

UDPATE (7/27/20 12:30 p.m.):

John has put a statement up on his site:

Shortly after that, the protesters got closer to me and the one who lasered me in the eyes was apprehended by Providence police. I am left with blurry vision, nausea, and headaches. I sought immediate medical treatment and was told I may have permeant cornea or retinal damage and I am uncertain of my long term prognosis.

Unless I’ve missed it, I haven’t seen anybody in the RI media mention the incident, yet.  Keep that in mind as you try to understand what’s going on by means of the news media.  What is happening is becoming less important than to whom it is happening.

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Looking for Reality with Schrodinger’s President

You’ve heard of Schrodinger’s Cat? It’s a classic thought experiment illustrating the role of odds and observers in quantum physics, which one could summarize as suggesting that a cat with a fifty-fifty chance of surviving a trick box is simultaneously dead and alive until the person conducting the experiment looks inside.

Over the past three years, we’ve entered a world in which truth truly is up in the air, and the Schrodinger’s Cat of the situation is President Donald Trump.  On issues up and down the list, there is no objective truth in the way information is presented… only the question of whether some possibility harms or helps the president.

For example: If an economy-destroying pandemic is bad for Trump’s reelection, that is either good or bad, and every angle of the story must be interpreted in that way.  Viewed objectively, the “cat” of the story could be alive or dead, good or bad, but the decisive factor is which one the observer wants it to be.  Thus, for the anti-Trump observer, if hydroxychloroquine is a potential treatment for COVID-19 and the president mentions the possibility, then Trump must be dangerously proclaiming false hope for political purposes, and hydrochloroquine must in fact be harmful.  Even the testimony of a top epidemiologist, Harvey Risch, will not change that narrative:

As professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, I have authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications and currently hold senior positions on the editorial boards of several leading journals. I am usually accustomed to advocating for positions within the mainstream of medicine, so have been flummoxed to find that, in the midst of a crisis, I am fighting for a treatment that the data fully support but which, for reasons having nothing to do with a correct understanding of the science, has been pushed to the sidelines. As a result, tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily. Fortunately, the situation can be reversed easily and quickly.

I am referring, of course, to the medication hydroxychloroquine. When this inexpensive oral medication is given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective, especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc.

Or what about Russiagate?  Over years of extended investigation, from the public perspective, President Trump could have been guilty or innocent of “colluding with the Russians.”  Yet, the anti-Trump observers just knew the cat was dead.  “Listen to the silence,” they repeated frequently.  “Government agencies and the news media wouldn’t be behaving the way they are if the cat were alive, and they’ve got their ears to the box.”  Well, as Mollie Hemingway notes, the secret evidence that those privileged folks had is now coming out, and it’s proving they lied, which is why we don’t hear about it much anymore:

The FBI official who ran the investigation into whether the Donald Trump campaign colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election privately admitted in newly released notes that a major New York Times article was riddled with lies, falsehoods, and “misleading and inaccurate” information. The February 2017 story was penned by three reporters who would win Pulitzers for their reporting on Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia.

The FBI’s public posture and leaks at the time supported the now-discredited conspiracy theory that led to the formation of a special counsel probe to investigate the Trump campaign and undermine his administration.

Oh, Mollie, there is no such thing as “discredited” attack stories on President Trump.  Any story that allows those who hate him to continue to do so, and to argue for his removal (one way or another ), must remain a live possibility.  If the cat can be either alive or dead until we look, then the moment we get hints that our preferred possibility is not real, we need only not look.

Of course, in reality, that isn’t an option.  We have to look.  We have to know whether a particular treatment for COVID-19 can save lives and help us get back to normal, productive life.  We have to know whether powerful government agencies have been abusing their power for political purposes (most likely at the encouragement of President Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama).

Even at the risk of keeping President Trump’s political career alive for another term, we have to know, not the least because we have to know whether we can trust the people we rely on for information.

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Daring to Look for Perspective on the Pandemic

Even if you don’t believe that it is happening in any particular case, let’s stipulate that it is possible for the news media and political elite to affect how the rest of us see an issue of current concern.  The way they convey facts (and the facts that they choose to convey) creates a framework in which we understand the world around us.  They give us a sense of how we should feel about things.

That’s why it’s crucial to try to maintain perspective.

So, when WPRI backs up Governor Raimondo’s crackdown on beaches with a headline like “RI beach communities seeing fastest growth of new COVID-19 cases,” it’s worth asking ourselves a simple question:  How significant is this, really?

Helpfully, WPRI provides an interactive map that readers can hover over to see actual numbers.  The color coding is supposed to emphasize the point that the waterfront towns are in the red.  They’re dangerous, because “of overcrowding and lax social distancing on beaches and boats.”

Put aside the fact that our entire state is basically coastal and people from every other city and town access the water, too.  Perhaps more in some cases.  Nevermind that arguably more than half of the cities and towns that actually touch the water are not in the red.  Just look at the numbers.

WPRI marks Jamestown as a hot spot of COVID-19 based on an increase of two cases in about two weeks.  That could be a single couple that caught the disease anywhere in the world.  Charlestown is in the worst group, with a 25% increase.  That actually means six people.  A family of six just back from a vacation could do that.

Keep in mind that thousands of people live in each of these towns.

On the other hand, Providence is not in the red, despite an increase of 216 residents.  The difference is that there were already 5,840 people in the city who had tested positive.  In other words, the underlying beachfront story is that small numbers of new people tested positive in communities that had small numbers of cases to begin with.

One town that jumped out at me on the map is Middletown, which is also in the worst group, with an increase of 14 cases from 55 to 69.  The reason that caught my attention was that the local Newport Daily News had just recently run with its own scary headline, “Tiverton has highest coronavirus positive test rate in Newport County,” whereas Middletown was the lowest.

As I noted on Tiverton Fact Check, 91 cases in Tiverton seems like a lot compared with 55 in Middletown, but in proportion to population, it’s the difference between 99.7% of Middletown being COVID-free and 99.4% of Tiverton.  Randomly pick Tiverton residents, and you’ll go through 174 before finding anybody who has tested positive over the past six months, and they won’t all have active infections.  Moreover, simply encountering them is not a guarantee of catching the disease.

As I found on local Facebook, trying to apply some sort of context can make one a target.  Suggesting that the facts justify caution, but not “living in fear,” apparently makes a person a reckless propagandist who wants people to die.

That is the attitude that has been fostered by the presentation of COVID-19 to the public, which has created a terrible atmosphere in which to be making major life-and-society-affecting decisions.

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Fairy Tale Political Battles on the Road to Polygamy

A WPRI article by Melanie DaSilva about Rhode Island’s newly passed “Uniform Parentage Act” is advocacy, not journalism.  To be fair, DaSilva isn’t alone in putting aside objectivity when it comes to social issues, but the article is illustrative from the first sentence:

The legislation that updates the state’s 40-year-old law to ensure all Rhode Island children have equal access to the security of legal parentage is heading to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s desk.

That is an advocate’s description of the legislative intent, and it might be passable as reportage if the article did anything more fair than reinforce the advocates’ position.  Not a single word of hesitation about the legislation appears in the article, because as with everything in young progressives’ worldview, the thing that makes this newsworthy is the simultaneous sense of controversy and the denial that controversy is possible. It’s a hero story about advancing justice with the villain simply assumed away.

Readers may be meant to understand that there must be some illogical, bigoted reason that this “update” has not passed until now, but today’s journalists wouldn’t know where to look for somebody to articulate it, and they’d probably think the antagonists’ views inadmissible to public discourse if they could find them. Consequently, the news is actually propaganda with talking points meant to make the legislation sound good without any explanatory substance.  For example:

The bill also provides clear standards for the Family Court to apply in order to establish parentage.

What are “clear standards”?  The law that this is replacing was about filling the spots of “mother,” who is known by fact of the birth, and “father.”  With that clear baseline removed, there are no boundaries, and the legislation does not provide any.  An individual can gain parental rights by signing “acknowledgements of parentage” if:

  1. It is the birth mother (having not signed her rights away as a “gestational carrier”).
  2. He or she is another genetic parent.
  3. He or she was an intended parent under an assisted reproduction agreement (that may or may not be limited to two).
  4. He or she is a “presumed parent,” which could be by marriage or simply by living in the household for two years and being acknowledged by “another parent.”

So, voluntarily, groups can arrange to all be parents to a child.  When disagreements arise and a court steps in, the section titled “adjudicating competing claims of parentage” (15-8.1-206) also doesn’t state how many “parents” a child can have.  Subsection 4 says the judge shall base decisions in part on “the harm to the child if the relationship between the child and each individual is not recognized,” which implies the possibility of multiple, but is deliberately vague.

I say “deliberately” because the original draft of the legislation explicitly stated that there could be more than two “parents.”  Presumably, that was too obvious for politicians to risk, but taking that language out does not mean our society will guarantee our children the wisdom of ages, that children have two parents.  It just means the legislators are leaving fundamental questions about our civilization to judges’ discretion.

So, “clear standards” mean judges will decide based on their own sense and values whether a child can have three or more parents.  Indeed, even though lawmakers removed the obvious language from the bill, it remains clear that group parentage is still permitted.  The text refers repeatedly to “another parent of the child,” rather than “the parent” or “the other parent.”  It also states that “the adjudication of an individual as a de facto parent under this chapter does not disestablish the parentage of any other parent.”

In other words, the title of section 206 is misleading.  There are no “competing claims of parentage”; there is no competition in those terms, because there is no limit on the number of spaces available.  There can only be competing claims about parentage, wherein factions of parents go to court to deny the parentage of others or to force it upon them.  With potentially limitless numbers of parents, the likelihood that courts will need to step in rises.  And with the idea of “family” removed from the realm of biological reality and into the realm of legal creation, “the family” ceases to be a more-fundamental institution with primacy over government and rights beyond the scope thereof and becomes a matter of legal agreement under the purview and whim of public officials, ultimately in the person of a judge.

To return to the key point:  In contrast to WPRI’s claims, the legislation was modified in order to make it less clear what it would do. As unclear as lawmakers may strive to be, with the move of nearby Somerville, Massachusetts, to explicitly allow for polyamory in domestic partnerships, it isn’t difficult to see where this is going.  Our politicians just don’t trust their voters to be sufficiently enlightened if their elected betters state their intentions, so the move is step by step, deception by deception.

In those terms, even if our news media were inclined to stand up for clarity, truth, and our civil right to representative government purely out of principle, journalists may not know how to recognize when those principles are threatened, much less report on it.  Politicians pass laws without acknowledging what they are meant to do, and journalists write stories without acknowledging that any objections could conceivably exist.

In this way, everybody gets to enjoy the jolt of excitement and self-affirmation that comes with radically transforming a civilization without risking any uncomfortable criticism.  Thus, in a short report on a government action that most Rhode Islanders will never know about, we get an indication of where we are:  The modern-day progressive crusade sees political disputes as battles in a fairy tale.  The good guys are always obvious, and the Other is always best ignored and can justifiably be eliminated (or, let’s say, canceled) if it dares make its presence known.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Restrictions and Reparations

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for July 20, included talk about:

  • Elorza reparations
  • Gina beach restriction
  • Gorbea ballot intentions
  • Unions’ school reservations
Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

I’ll be on again Monday, July 27, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Death Arrives – Lockdowns Now Demonstrably Indefensible

The survival rate of COVID-19 is now in the range of 99.35% – 99.74%, per CDC data. But even this high rate is almost certainly on the conservative side as it does not include all unidentified cases, an important data point which scientists continue diligently to try to quantify.

Moreover, COVID cases are rising but COVID deaths are falling.

Conversely, grimly, deaths from the lockdown have moved from projection to reality and are rising.

Moreover, the JAMA study found huge increases in excess deaths from underlying causes such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – the five states with the most COVID-19 deaths in March and April. New York City experienced the biggest jumps, including a 398% rise in heart disease deaths and a 356% increase in diabetes deaths.

Add to that

… an increase of 10,000 more breast and colorectal cancer deaths in the U.S. over the next decade.

In fact, 35% of “excess deaths” early on in the pandemic were not caused by the disease itself.

“But a third possibility, the one we’re quite concerned about, is indirect mortality — deaths caused by the response to the pandemic,” [Dr. Steven] Woolf said. “People who never had the virus may have died from other causes because of the spillover effects of the pandemic, such as delayed medical care, economic hardship or emotional distress.”

… in part, because the unjustified panic tone by which some governors initially raised the alarm about the disease scared people away from getting vital medical treatments.  Longer lasting and almost certainly more profound will be the impact – deaths and exacerbation of health conditions – of the loss of health insurance by millions of people forcibly, unnecessarily placed on unemployment by governors who overreached and over-reacted.

No country has ever responded to a pandemic, however deadly – and this one is the opposite – with a lockdown.  Now we are witnessing why, in real time and real life as lockdown deaths begin to climb. 

Equally important in a different way is the destruction of people’s lives, livelihoods and businesses as certain governors strangle business revenue and wages in their state via lockdown – an inexorable decimation of revenue streams, long term revenue structures and jobs.  (The corresponding impact of this revenue loss on the state and local tax base is not of particular concern to myself and most other people; special interests and special interest-motivated elected officials may have a different take on such collateral damage from the lockdown.)

It is now downright dangerous that lockdown governors like Gina Raimondo and Charlie Baker studiously disregard all of the positive developments and critical new information about COVID-19 but continue to act, in demeanor and executive action, as though we are experiencing the bubonic plague and, medically, are still in the fourteenth century.

The continuation of the lockdowns is now completely indefensible.  They must end immediately, with protection of our precious, vulnerable population. Lockdowns are now demonstrably, completely unmoored from science, data, real life and very real death.

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Venson Jordan: The Beginning of the End of Racism in America

Americans blast foreign countries for their lack of human rights, civil rights, and animal rights. We thump our chest with pride when we compare our democracy to third world dictatorships. But are we that different?

There is another voice, growing by the day. It’s a revolutionary point of view that looms like the ghost of Christmas past, conjured over four hundred years of broken promises and stall tactics, pointing a long finger at the urgent necessity for change.

Formerly enslaved Africans in America have been tricked, swindled and duped more times than anyone can remember. Yet the parade of politicians, celebrity ministers, and political priests are asking the young rebels of today to repeat the failed patterns of the past, suggesting that peaceful protest, progressive police reform and federal laws are the sustainable way to fix this problem.

Unhindered by the editorial eyes of mainstream media, today’s young revolutionaries witness atrocities streamed in real time, virtually putting them at the scene. So, when two days later, some bureaucrat utters an official perspective filled with legalese, half-truths and pacifying platitudes, they don’t trust the official version. They trust what they saw.

For many Black people in this country over the age of forty, the fear of losing the progress we’ve gained keeps us tethered to the abuser we were forced to wed. The new generation of revolutionaries are saying if Black and Brown people have to live under constant fear of losing progress because of the way we protest for freedom and justice, we are not free. A swelling number of white people agree. The paradigm has shifted, and a rise of voting-age white people of every gender identity and faith are willing to risk their lives and livelihoods to stop law enforcement from terrorizing Black and Brown communities.

African countries, led by Burkina Faso, requested that the United Nations Human Rights Council investigate the systemic racism, police brutality, and violence against peaceful protests in America. The world is watching, and the established civil rights community sees this as an opportunity to strengthen the reformation of the criminal justice system.

Revolutionaries are not asking for the reformation of a bad system. They demand the reconstruction of a new one. But there are millions of Americans who don’t. They see America as the most desired destination for people on the planet. If you are raised here, it’s easy to agree.  America does so many things well, we tend to overlook the fundamental cracks in our foundation. We say this is the place where anything is possible. We created jazz, Google, and Thaddeus Stevens. But we also created napalm, the FISA Court, and Donald Trump.

As a middle-aged Black man, I believe in the grand possibilities of this country but think it’s silly to crown ourselves as the greatest nation on earth. We’re not there yet. Especially when we can’t protect our citizens from the very people paid to protect them.

This issue rises every few decades, and we always end up in the same place. It made me smile to hear a twenty-year-old activist say, “We’re not marching and fighting for a better tomorrow. We want better today!”

Outside of a Steven King novel, can you imagine an officer or anyone kneeling on the throat of your brother until there are no signs of life?  Who would you call for help? The police officer who has his knee on your brother’s throat? Incidents like these are not rare or isolated. They happen all the time to our Black and Brown brothers and sisters in America.

But you can stop it. You have the individual power to stop police brutality and judicial injustice. When you see something, make it your business, and do something. Disrupt the cycle of abuse and save a life. The social tsunami confronting us today can be a powerful source of positive energy, if we choose to accept it.

 

Venson Jordan is an internationally known African American author who lives in Washington, D.C. and Rhode Island. His most recent book, The Rebel Marcus Madison (2017), is a thought provoking and prescient fictional story about an upstanding Black couple needlessly killed by law enforcement officers. It touches upon fear, faith and fairness for Black and Brown people in America and around the world.

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James Mageau: Against Political Kneeling

It’s time for the people of Rhode Island to demand that Governor Gina Raimondo and her left-wing colleagues explain why the white people and others in this state are expected to fall on their knees to apologize for something they did not do. Why should anyone apologize to a bunch of subversives in “Black Live Matter” who were not subjected to slavery?

Of course, there are radical left-wing crackpots who have convinced themselves that they will sleep better by conforming, but not in my house. The only person I genuflect in front of is Jesus Christ!

Why is Raimondo so willing to ignore the approximately 360,000 Union soldiers who were killed in the fight to free the slaves during the Civil War? Why are they also willing to ignore the approximately 40,000 black soldiers who were killed?

It is disgusting and irresponsible that the radicals would not respect the Republican President from that time, a white man who sacrificed his life for the African American slaves. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer, because he freed the slaves. Now the anarchists desecrate his memorial!

Anyone responsible enough to do the research will know that “Black Lives Matter” is a Marxist subversive organization. The leader of its New York City chapter said on TV last week that if they don’t get what they want they’ll burn it down! Maybe one of the weak-kneed liberals on his/her knees apologizing for something they didn’t do will tell us what they intend to burn down!

Governor Raimondo and her Democrat colleagues’ behavior is an embarrassment! She owes an apology to every Rhode Islander of a different ethnic origin for elevating the demands of Black Lives Matter and surrendering our culture and history to them!

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Journalism Off Its Track

Former Providence Journal editorial page editor Ed Achorn has posted a “lament for journalism” on his own website:

As the years went by, people employed in the news media increasingly dropped the cloak of objectivity. They became advocates for progressive ideology. Journalists came to regard fairness and, in some cases, accuracy as impediments to their advocacy, which they believed served the public better than old-fashioned attempts at objectivity.

Accordingly, they increasingly shielded favored politicians and political organizations from serious scrutiny and accountability, while heaping abuse on others. They promoted political hoaxes. They erased the line between news and opinion. And they advanced a narrative, day after day, depicting those who hold traditional values — and America itself — as systemically evil.

The spark for Achorn’s reflection appears to have been the resignation of Bari Weiss, who recently resigned from her top-of-the-heap job as a columnist for the New York Times; Ed quotes:

“My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again.’ Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly ‘inclusive’ one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.”

This accords with the impression that many conservatives have of the coming progressive totalitarianism — that it will be some kind of mixture of revolutionary France, the Google playhouse office campus, and Mean Girls.  It also affirms that the totalitarianism is closer than we’d like to believe.  As transparently corrupt as it may be, including in its “1619 Project,” the Times still reflects elite America, which is increasingly spreading its ideology throughout previously safe zones such as professional sports and the business world.

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Data Doubts and Games with Models, 7/15/20 Data

Americans are finding ourselves in a position of not knowing whom to trust on COVID-19.

It seems more than once in the past week, I’ve had occasion to point out that the medical establishment, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pretty clearly lied to the public about the effectiveness of masks early on in the pandemic.  They arguably did so with good intentions (helping to save equipment for medical personnel and at-risk populations), but it was still a lie.  We got another dose of that when the “experts” fell over themselves to downplay the risks of massive progressive protests.

So, here we are, with the Trump administration moving data up the bureaucratic scale from the CDC to its parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the chatter is that this is somehow proof that the administration is going to “politicize science,” or some such.  Some of us feel that the science has already been politicized, and there’s a chance this will actually reduce the problem.

The administration’s stated goals are to increase the speed of reporting and to increase the percentage of hospitals included.  We’ll see how it goes.  For the time being, pure hype and assumptions that the administration will actually be hiding and manipulating data seem to be susceptible to one of two criticisms:  either that the accusers simply prefer the data to be manipulated toward another conclusion, or that they’re on the side of the bureaucracy more than they’re on the side of elected officials who are directly answerable to the public for their performance.

This bureaucratic turf war comes just as evidence emerges that testing sites in Florida have been misreporting their data, in some cases as dramatically as reporting a nine-something-percent positive test rate as a ninety-something-percent positive test rate.  As Instapundit Glenn Reynolds asks, “How does this happen?”  One might also ask, “Why would they do that?”  Maybe the Trump administration’s new reporting system will help to catch this sort of (ahem) error.  Again, we’ll see.

Along similar lines, Rhode Island Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration today reported a nearly 15% drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations from what was reported yesterday.  Part of that came from a batch of nine hospital discharges.  As I’ve been noting, the numbers were going up not because more people were going into the hospital, but because fewer were leaving (in the good way or the bad one).

Another reason for the drop, however, was that the numbers were revised down significantly, as the chart below shows in the gap between the black line and the red one.  Remember those headlines about the huge increase in hospitalizations over the weekend?  Nevermind.  The new numbers suggest the increase never got over 65 patients, not to 70.  At the same time, the low point from last week was revised up, from 56 to 58 now to 59.  So, rather than a scary 21% increase, we’re now being told that surge was actually 10%, and it appears to be fading.

How does this happen?

As the governor tightens enforcement of her rules because of her disappointment in restaurant owners, young adults, and beach-goers, Rhode Islanders should ask her a question reporters probably won’t:  If these are the results we’re getting with this level of compliance, then so what?  She should be easing the restrictions, not cracking down.

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(See here for my original methodology and here for a subsequent modification I made. A thorough explanation of the chart is included in this post.)

Projections versus actuals (date of report).

  • Cases:
    • Projection for 7/15: 17,647
    • Actual for 7/15: 17,640
    • Projection for 7/16: 17,705
  • Hospitalizations:
    • Projection for 7/15: 70
    • Actual for 7/15: 59
    • Projection for 7/16: 58
  • Deaths:
    • Projection for 7/15: 988
    • Actual for 7/15: 987
    • Projection for 7/16: 991
Mayor Elorza's comments only served to illustrate his ignorance—as abortion is not a religious issue. It is an issue that pertains to human life.

Elorza’s “Collection of Truth” for Reparations Is a Red Flag

You know we must have forgotten the lessons of history and literature when a politician feels comfortable announcing his intention to assign employees to a “collection of truth,” and such is the degree of Orwellian  amnesia coming from Democrat Mayor of Providence Jorge Elorza as he deploys a cynical and divisive plan to move the city toward paying reparations to people based on their race:

Mayor Jorge Elorza will sign an executive order Wednesday to begin the process of examining the feasibility of establishing a reparations program in Providence for residents of African heritage and Indigenous people.

City leaders have no estimate on how much a reparations program would cost or how it would work, but Elorza said studying the issue will be the “first step in accepting the role Providence and Rhode Island has held in generations of pain and violence against these residents and healing some of the deepest wounds our country faces today.”

Didn’t the city just receive a major blow from the Rhode Island Supreme Court, immediately imposing millions of dollars in costs to cover pensions and creating longer-term fiscal problems?  Shouldn’t the mayor be focusing on that… or ensuring that businesses can operate smoothly in the city… or working with the state to improve the city’s deplorable school system… or working to shore up the city’s infrastructure?

Reasonable minds may wonder whether the mayor’s announcement is simply a means of distraction.  It certainly isn’t a quest for truth.

Consider, firstly, whether it is conceivable that the “collection of truth” might actually conclude that reparations are not owed.  It is not; no politician capable of tying his own shoes would begin this process if he thought for a moment he might produce a disappointment for the narrative.  In progressives’ minds, the truth is already known, and the project would merely be gathering whatever facts (or factoids) might justify confiscating more money from disfavored communities, while brushing aside any evidence that would point the other way.

Nevermind the question of tying actual people to any demonstrable harm, such a project, if fair, would also have to assess the degree to which people have actually been in Providence in order to be harmed or to have benefited.  Despite Rhode Islanders’ using their government to bring an end to slavery and racism, a program of reparations would require the conclusion that the government was complicit in the harm, thereby imposing the burden on anybody who falls under that government.  Implicitly, Elorza would use the government to decree that a white person who moved to Providence yesterday owes something to a black neighbor who moved in the same day.

In short, Elorza’s truth commission is sure to be a pure manifestation of racism, and the most likely outcome is that it will arrive at the predictable finding that reparations are owed, but that they cannot be paid, right now, because the money simply is not there.  This will arrive just in time for Elorza to depart office, leaving his successor with an even bigger challenge governing the city and solving its problems.

Our politics have reached the point that people really need to start standing up and acknowledging that elected officials are way off base. If common sense and just moral reasoning have no advocates, then insanity will simply roll over us all.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: For the Image of the Governor

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for July 13, included talk about:

  • Dan Connors’s $170,000 DUI
  • General Assembly’s misplaced priorities
  • Gina’s missing tested Rhode Islanders
  • Protests on the governor’s lawn
  • Mask wearing
  • The odds of school
Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

I’ll be on again Monday, July 20, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Narrative Battles and Games with Models, 7/13/20 Data

The debate, and the data, around COVID-19 is starting to get interesting again.  States that were harder hit earlier in the pandemic are claiming that they demonstrated leadership, versus states that weren’t hit as hard early on but are now seeing increases, even though the harder-hit states still have higher cases and death rates.  Meanwhile, the debate, as presented in the news media, has fully shifted from the initial panic narrative that we had to shut everything down because we had no idea what the virus would do or how it worked to the current narrative, which strongly implies that martial-law-like policies should remain in place until the threat from the virus has completely gone away.

And then there is the complete silence around the idea that people can decide to balance this thread different, or to bring a different perspective to bear.

Some of this can be explained without recourse to political bias (although probably not all of it).  The news media, for example, has incentive to maintain the impression that the virus continues to be a desperately important story that can’t be ignored for a single day.  Thus, we get WPRI star reporter Ted Nesi tweeting that “the 10% increase in RI COVID hospitalizations since Friday (from 61 to 67) is something to keep a close eye on.”  Nesi says this “adds context to Friday’s briefing where @GovRaimondo shared a forecast warning of the potential for hospitalizations to start rising again.”

Does that really “add context”?  And if so, what is it really?

As you can see in my updated hospital projection chart, below, my model is now, indeed, predicting an increase that looks a lot like the projection from the governor in Nesi’s article, but I don’t make any assumptions at all about people’s future behavior.  Rather, my model at this moment projects an increase for three reasons that may be nothing or may arguably be positive:

  1. The decrease in the rate of new infections over a 14-day span has edged up, from 0.035 to 0.039 over five days.  That isn’t what we want to see, but it’s hardly terrifying.  This means that the number of “active” cases, per my methodology, has increased, which is a part of my hospitalization projection.  Looking more directly, we see that daily new cases have remained under 100 for four full weeks.
  2. The increase in hospitalizations is not because more people are being admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 than before.  It isn’t even because more people are being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 (whatever reason they’re in the hospital) each day.  Those numbers have remained consistently below 10 for nearly three weeks.  Rather, the increase in hospitalizations results from the facts that (a) fewer people with COVID-19 are being discharged from the hospital each day (probably because they’re in the hospital for something else) and (b) COVID-positive deaths in the hospital have mostly been at none or one per day.  Last week, only four patients with COVID died; if the four days that had zero deaths had each had one, there would obviously be four fewer in the hospital.
  3. The numbers are relatively small, so a percentage increase over a few days can extrapolate to exaggerated increases later.

In summary, if we see an increase in hospitalizations, it may very well be an indication that fewer people are dying, which is good, and that people are in the hospital for other reasons, which isn’t an indication that COVID is overwhelming our resources.

Part of what makes human beings special is our ability to, in a sense, live in the future.  We envision a future and begin to react intellectually and emotionally as if we are already living in that moment.  This makes it a matter of grave importance to be sure that our future projections are accurate and that we know what they actually reflect.  Fomenting a vision of harmful trends may encourage people to pay closer attention to the news, but it will also lead them to respond in ways that aren’t justified.

COVID19-hospitalizationsandprojections-071320

(See here for my original methodology and here for a subsequent modification I made. A thorough explanation of the chart is included in this post.)

Projections versus actuals (date of report).

  • Cases:
    • Projection for 7/13 (from 7/8): 17,360
    • Actual for 7/13: 17,487
    • Projection for 7/14: 17,538
  • Hospitalizations:
    • Projection for 7/13 (from 7/8): 46
    • Actual for 7/13: 67
    • Projection for 7/14: 68
  • Deaths:
    • Projection for 7/13 (from 7/8): 980
    • Actual for 7/13: 984
    • Projection for 7/14: 987
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The COVID Story’s Focus Isn’t Where It Should Be for a Free People

After a light content week last week, and for a little Monday morning political philosophy, consider two COVID-19-related stories/conversations that have been floating around out there.

The first comes via Ken Block, who asked on Facebook how anybody could think “it is wrong for the federal government to get involved in pushing states to get everyone to wear masks but it is OK for the federal government to push states to reopen schools in the fall for in-person classes, even in states with out-of-control virus outbreaks.”

A little bit of conversation did nothing to help me understand how it is possible that an intelligent person who has demonstrably spent time thinking about political philosophy and the structure of government would not see the difference, here.  Ken drew no distinction between the federal government’s seeking a say in the operation of state government’s ordinary activities and its seeking a say in the state government’s impositions on citizens.

At least since the post-Civil War era, the structure of our citizenship is almost dual, as citizens separately of the United States and the states in which we live.  The Constitution guarantees us representative forms of government at the state level.  Then, the Constitutional Amendments intended to eliminate slavery (and Supreme Court interpretations thereof) have  essentially extended that guarantee to include every right recognized under the U.S. Constitution.  It is entirely in keeping with this framework for the federal government to intervene on our behalf with overreaching state governments and, more so, to refuse to conspire with a state government to influence our individual behavior.

This idea that the federal government has separate relationships with us and with the states of which we are also citizens ties to the portion of Ken and my conversation having to do with money.  The feds give money to the states for schools they, the states, operate.   That is substantively different than saying that federal money goes toward healthcare, too, and therefore it is appropriate for the federal government to leverage that fact to impose new mandates on individuals.  The parallel to schools would be if the federal government leveraged money it gives us, as individuals, to encourage mask wearing.  Our state is not our intermediary to the federal government in all things; we don’t even allow states to appoint U.S. Senators anymore.

Of course, I’m arguing this point as somebody who thinks we’ve got way too much government, that what we have is way too centralized, and that our ruling class is becoming way too comfortable with the idea that government is a legitimate mechanism for guiding society.  My point, here, is not to say that the federal government should be doing one thing or another, but if we can’t think clearly about the operation of government, then we can’t defend our rights at any level.

Another distinction that is worryingly being missed these days can be seen in the conversation about beach closings and the like.  If you listen to Rhode Island’s Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, you might get the impression that the primary goal isn’t to protect people so much as to win some competition with other states.  Our COVID-19 cases have been slowing down, and if we don’t follow her rules, that statistic might begin to reverse.

Her tone, which predominates in the local news media, too, isn’t one of interest in why Rhode Islanders are making the choices they are making, how we’re balancing our various needs and interests, and how that might guide our government in better representing what we want.  It’s more like: “the queen might have no choice but to increase enforcement because unruly subjects aren’t doing what they’re told.”

The focus of coverage hasn’t emphasized how we’re getting through this as a community — including what we’re thinking and why — so much as it has been about how well we’re getting in line in a collective competition of preventative behavior and whose leaders are making the right choices on all of our behalf.  It’s all big personalities and political games.

That may be an easier and more-fun story to write, but it isn’t what we should demand as a free and independent people… unless that’s not what we are anymore.

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Roland Benjamin: $23,000/Student is Already More than Sufficient Funding

[On Tuesday, South Kingstown residents will vote on two budget reduction referenda. Click here for a ten year overview of South Kingstown’s school budgeting and student enrollment trend (spoiler: downward).]

I have been close to these budgets. Very close.

A “lack of funding” cannot be the culprit for every decision from local officials that change services or reconsider programming. When a 1% or 2% fiscal nudge in anything is blamed, I seriously question the competence and/or the integrity of those using the argument.

Imagine raising kids in South Kingstown. Imagine also that you learn next year’s raise will be 2% instead of the 3% you were hoping for. Imagine then, in response to this “shortfall”, you tell your kids they won’t be getting Brickley’s next year due to a lack of funding. Ludicrous, right?

At $23,000 per student, or similarly with the 5% increase in municipal spending, there is more than sufficient funding to do whatever the municipality wants. Sure, hired officials want as much as possible. That way there is less pressure to identify priorities. But pretending that we are anywhere near “underfunding” our programs is absurd.

According to School District reporting, our most expensive elementary schools spend more than $25,000 per student. Monsignor Clarke’s tuition is nearer to $8,000. Peel the onion in any number of ways, but that is quite a disparity.

On top of all this, COVID ravages South Kingstown just as final budget votes were being cast. Instead of making a reasoned and moderate adjustment to next year’s budget based on this unparalleled health and economic scare, they stood hard and fast to protecting their budgetary turf. Then the rhetoric kicks in to protect that position. Even the simple term “Protect the Schools”, implies that the opposition wants to attack them. That a 1% trim to growth is some broadside attempt to cripple the institution. Come on.

We are neighbors looking for pragmatism, not marauders raiding local coffers. On July 14th, at the Rec Center, I will be voting for both the reductions on the ballot. I do so without a shred of doubt that South Kingstown will have everything it needs.

Roland Benjamin is a resident of South Kingstown and served two years on the town’s School Committee, one as its Chair. This post originally appeared on the South Kingstown Spotlight.

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One Way to Gauge Who You Would Have Been

In a recent Twitter thread, Princeton Professor Robert George gets at a question that has long interested me:  How can you tell who you would have been in ages past — what side of a controversy you would have taken?

In some recent podcast or other, writer Jonah Goldberg mentioned a statement that William F. Buckley, Jr., made some decades ago when asked about the risk that history will fault conservatives for some of the things they’ve striven to conserve.  Buckley was not bothered by the prospect.  Conservatives’ objective is to slow down change to the point that decisions can be made with appropriate care, so of course they will from time to time be slowing down changes that turn out to have been to the better.

So, if we assume that being conservative, in the sense of being cautious about political and social change, is a somewhat innate temperament disconnected from the specifics of the day, then conservatives would have to consider that they’d have been on the wrong side of some very important questions, like slavery.

I don’t think that analysis is sufficiently deep, however.  Today’s conservatives are specifically striving to conserve American principles of liberty, as well as the values and beliefs of traditional religions.  Those also are a matter of temperament that could be as innate as the preference (all else equal) to change slowly.  Complicating things further is the fact that conservatism in our time is countercultural, which is arguably the key aspect attracting some of us (ahem).

Here’s where Professor George offers a helpful guide.  He mentions his repeated finding that every one of his students claims that he or she would have been an abolitionist in the time of slavery.  Finding this result laughably unlikely, he goes on:

So I respond by saying that I will credit their claims if they can show evidence of the following: that in leading their lives today they have stood up for the rights of unpopular victims of injustice whose very humanity is denied, and where they have done so knowing:

  1. that it would make them unpopular with their peers,
  2. that they would be loathed and ridiculed by powerful, influential individuals and institutions in our society,
  3. that they would be abandoned by many of their friends,
  4. that they would be called nasty names, and
  5. that they would risk being denied valuable professional opportunities as a result of their moral witness.

In short, my challenge is to show where they have at risk to themselves and their futures stood up for a cause that is unpopular in elite sectors of our culture today.

Surely, many in George’s Twitter audience will recognize his measuring stick as conspicuously like the witness of many conservatives, particularly those of us who are pro-life.  That familiary applies even if we are more general in our terms.

Whether we would have recognized the humanity of people who were maligned in common wisdom, as well as according to the convenient scientific theories of the day, is a haunting question, no matter who we are.  We can be a little less haunted, though, if we’ve proven a willingness to follow our lights despite the contrary encouragements of the authorities and popular role models of our times.

Featured image: An illustration from the original edition of Mark Twain’s Huck Finn.

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Games with Models, 7/8/20 Data

Today’s data release from the state brings more non-dramatic continuation of trends.  Interestingly, the state has now added a new category of information on its spreadsheet to show the total count of positive tests including people who’d been tested before.  Thus far, apparently, we were tracking people tested, not tests administered.

So, it turns out that a total of 271,710 tests have been administered to 163,270 people.  Whereas 17,204 people have tested positive, there have been 24,698 positive tests.  (Presumably, that includes people who were being tested to see if they were clear of the virus, yet, and anybody who got sick again, if that has happened.)

Data notes aside, the daily number of new people testing positive remains low, with “active” cases, defined with an average illness length of 14 days, falling below 600 for the first time since the first of April.  Intensive care patients and deaths remain in the low single digits.

Hospitalizations aren’t falling as quickly as my model had suggested, but in that context, it’s worth a reminder that we’re counting anybody in the hospital for any reason who has tested positive for the virus.

COVID19-hospitalizationsandprojections-070820

(See here for my original methodology and here for a subsequent modification I made. A thorough explanation of the chart is included in this post.)

Projections versus actuals (date of report).

  • Cases:
    • Projection for 7/8: 17,154
    • Actual for 7/8: 17,204
    • Projection for 7/9: 17,240
  • Hospitalizations:
    • Projection for 7/8: 50
    • Actual for 7/8: 56
    • Projection for 7/9: 53
  • Deaths:
    • Projection for 7/8: 971
    • Actual for 7/8: 971
    • Projection for 7/9: 973
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The Narrative Determines Who Gets Marked for Life

Maybe it’s relatively inconsequential.  After all, differentiating between people who assault police officers is a pretty fine distinction among a group who are markedly distinct from the general public.  Still, such things can illustrate the way in which the news media construct narratives.

I’m thinking of this WPRI story making famous a man from New Bedford, Massachusetts.  According to the story, while drunk at a party in suburban Acushnet, the man attacked a police officer who’d responded to a fireworks complaint.  Not far away, in Hartford, Connecticut, three police officers were hurt when a crowd began throwing large-scale fireworks at them.  For context, WTNH reports:

Illegal fireworks have been a huge problem for weeks across the state. Last month, fire officials say a 17-month-old baby suffered second-degree burns as a result.

In contrast, I have yet to see the name and mugshot of the person who assaulted a police officer during the Black Lives Matter protest in Providence on June 5.  Indeed, anybody who didn’t happen to catch mention of that incident as reporters tweeted live from the event probably wouldn’t know it happened.

In Boston, nine police officers had to be taken to the hospital, but in that case, WPRI reports them in a collection of statistics rather than a narrative story:

The Boston Police Department confirmed Monday that nine officers were injured and transported to area hospitals, and many more were treated on scene. Police said 21 cruisers were damaged and 53 individuals were arrested on a variety of charges, including larceny, breaking and entering and malicious destruction of property.

That paragraph is followed by two describing (without names) three low-level crimes examples from those 53 arrests and then a tweet from Governor Charlie Baker thanking “the peaceful protesters for their positive message.”

Taken as a whole, one might think that 431 (or more) officers injured during recent protests and riots across the country represented some sort of incidental fluke, whereas Americans who set off fireworks are a dangerous mob sowing chaos and disorder.  Nobody should have any confidence that the news media will conspicuously report any details linking the fireworks-related police assaults with the recently stoked anti-police sentiment.

Meanwhile, the message is clear: If you are going to do bad or stupid things like assault police officers, trespass on government property, or steal and loot, make sure you do it under cover of a political uprising favored by the news media.  That way, the odds will be lower that your mugshot will chase you around the Internet for the rest of your life.

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On the Cusp of a Downgrade and Games with Models, 7/7/20 Data

Hank Berrien makes an interesting observation about coronavirus trends on the Daily Wire:

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the percentage of deaths in the United States has dipped low enough so that the nation is at the epidemic threshold, which means if the percentage drops any lower, the CDC will no longer call the coronavirus an epidemic.

The observation reinforces the point that deaths (i.e., the most concerning statistic for a disease outbreak) have not yet followed the increase in cases of COVID-19.  Whether that “yet” proves superfluous will be seen soon, but it isn’t at all a sure thing.

Meanwhile, a return to the data after a long weekend shows Rhode Island continuing on the good path.  New positive tests per day have remained under 100 now for 26 days.  The 14-day infection rate has gone below 0.04, which means it now takes 25 people carrying the disease for two weeks to infect one additional person.  Rhode Island has also gone more than a month now without having a day during which at least 10 people died of the disease.

Regarding hospitalizations, the state moved its data up a day for some reason.  Whereas before there was a two-day lag in hospitalizations compared with other data points, now there is only a one day lag.  That adjustment aside, intensive care units housing COVID-19-positive patients have been under 10 since the start of the new month, and hospitalizations continue their decrease.

COVID19-hospitalizationsandprojections-070720

(See here for my original methodology and here for a subsequent modification I made. A thorough explanation of the chart is included in this post.)

Projections versus actuals (date of report).

  • Cases:
    • Projection for 7/7: 17,110
    • Actual for 7/7: 17,154
    • Projection for 7/8: 17,154
  • Hospitalizations:
    • Projection for 7/7: 54
    • Actual for 7/7: 55
    • Projection for 7/8: 50
  • Deaths:
    • Projection for 7/7: 969
    • Actual for 7/7: 969
    • Projection for 7/8: 971
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Let’s Not Overdo the RI History Revisionism

Ever since Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello invited accusations of ignorance by questioning whether there had ever been slavery in the Ocean State, the pendulum has been swinging the other way.  Although it seems unlikely, we can hope that Providence Inner City Arts Director Ali Cabral’s letter on GoLocalProv is the furthest-point of that swing:

The Bristol Rhode Island Independence Day Celebration is 236 years old this year. I am having a hard time comprehending that for almost 81 of those years, just one block away from Main Street, slave ships docked in Bristol’s harbor.

I wonder how did the Citizens of Bristol rationalize beating the drums of freedom one day, and beating into submission their human cargo the next?

Cabral doesn’t give any details, so it isn’t clear what moment he thinks marked the end of those beatings.  The Bristol Independence Day parade began in 1785.  Were Bristol residents handling human cargo up until the end of the Civil War?  More specifically, were the same Bristolians beating drums for independence also beating slaves?

Here is one of the challenges in responding to modern day revisionism.  In the fashion of Howard Zinn, progressives count it as proof of their version of history if they can find any evidence for their claims at all.  The burden then falls on those who would disagree to prove that there was not a single case of a particular activity.

Even where such a thing might be possible, most people in common discussion are unlikely to do the thorough research to satisfy themselves that there’s not some hidden anecdote lying in wait to spring forth as proof of their ignorance.  Thus, extreme assertions manage to stand, because reasonable responses cannot be as extreme.  This is why we used to be (and ought to be again) content with some level of generalities.  Put aside the special and/or difficult cases; can one really assert that the people of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations were hypocrites for celebrating independence prior to the 1860s… or even to this day?

A test case for that question can be found on the Rhode Island page of historian Douglas Harper’s website, Slavery in the North.

During the Revolution, Quaker abolitionists and the powerful Newport shipping interest clashed over slavery. In February 1784 the Legislature passed a compromise measure for gradual emancipation. All children of slaves born after March 1 were to be “apprentices,” the girls to become free at 18, the boys at 21. As with other Northern instances of gradual emancipation, this gave slaveowners many years of service to recoup the cost of raising the children.

No slaves were emancipated outright. The 1800 census listed 384 slaves, and the number fell gradually to 5 in 1840, after which slaves were no longer counted in the censuses for the state. And, in an essential element of the 1784 compromise, the right of Rhode Island ship-owners to participate in the foreign slave trade was undisturbed.

Legislation against slave-trading proved difficult to enforce in Rhode Island. John Brown, a merchant, state representative, and powerful slaveholder, was tried in 1796 for violating the federal Slave Trade Act of 1794, which prohibited ships destined to transport slaves to any foreign country from outfitting in American ports. He was found not guilty. The acquittal convinced many that the new legislation was useless against the wealthy and powerful. A year later, he saw his ship, the “Hope,” confiscated for violations.

Very clear in this passage is that slavery was a contentious issue in Rhode Island.  Those tarring the state are lumping the Quakers in with the wealthy self-interests, like John Brown.  Note, in particular, that Brown appears to have been targeted with legal and regulatory pressure.  If you’re looking to characterize the state and people of Rhode Island as pro-slavery or pro-freedom back when the Bristol parade was still new, those doing the targeting by means of government would seem to have the stronger claim.

When it comes to the debate about changing the state’s name to eliminate the word, “plantations,” one can find fact-checking articles about the significance of the state’s full name’s appearance in the U.S. Constitution, but a related historical document is probably more relevant.  In the late 1700s, the inchoate United States of America found it necessary to pressure Rhode Islanders actually to ratify the U.S. Constitution.  When they finally did so, at the end of May 1790, the “Convention of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” presumed to request several amendments to the document, including this one:

As a traffic tending to establish or continue the slavery of any part of the human species is disgraceful to the cause of liberty and humanity, that Congress shall, as soon as may be, promote and establish such laws and regulations as may effectually prevent the importation of slaves of every description into the United States.

When acting “in the name and behalf of the people of the state,” Rhode Islanders sought the end of slavery in the America.  This seems to be the ongoing theme of historical research, whatever exceptions there may be to prove the rule, and a reasonable person should find that it solidifies the claim of Rhode Islanders (including those from Bristol) to value freedom and independence.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Muted Independence

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for July 6, included talk about:

  • Phase 3
  • Lack of budget
  • The secret consultant
  • Nursing home problems
  • Not a real Bristol parade
  • RI schools’ future
  • Lt. Gov. McKee tries an online petition
Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

I’ll be on again Monday, July 13, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Ideals that Make America and Rhode Island Strong

Have a happy and proud Independence Day weekend. Now is the time to celebrate America’s great and noble ideals. Sadly in the Ocean State, the political class has taken too much from hard-working Rhode Island families and businesses. The chosen few have benefited from the broken system, while the rest of us have suffered.

Now, Rhode Island lawmakers will return this summer, and decide the fate of our state for a century to come. The status quo budget approach – tax, spend, and borrow – will not work in response to this pandemic crisis.

The budget problems we face did not come down from the heavens. They were government-made and they can be reversed. Lawmakers should not feel helpless, nor should they rely on the federal government. Many states are taking proactive steps to prepare their state economies for rapid recovery… and we must do the same.

This Independence Day weekend, state lawmakers should remember the ideals that made our country strong. They cannot look at your family as an endless source of revenue. Instead, our elected officials must remember who they really work for— the people of our state.