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Demand Transparency on Covid-19 Cycle-Threshold Data

The full release and analysis of detailed testing data could be critical in shaping more focused and less intrusive COVID-19 restrictions for Rhode Islanders.

This data, which measures “viral load” (how much of the virus is present) and which is routinely collected by labs that conduct COVID tests, can be critically important in determining both public policy and individual regimens. Take action now to demand it.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity has launched a new campaign, sending over a sixteen hundred pre-written emails (in just days) to officials petitioning the state to take action to collect and publish this vital cycle threshold data.

We have good news to share… they have taken the first steps in making a small portion of this data available. Our campaign is clearly working, but we need full transparency on this critical information.

You can take action by clicking on the link here now. Don’t wait, because your voice is powerful and it will make a difference for the people of Rhode Island!

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Tiverton on Track, 24: Operation Blue Santa

Time is of the essence, on this one.  Tomorrow in Tiverton, the Police Department will be in the parking lot of Tom’s Market on Main Rd. collecting toys and other gifts for 40-50 local families in need.  If you’re in the area, stop by for beverages, cookies, Clauses, and music.

In the meantime, here’s a Tiverton on Track interview I did with Chief Patrick Jones and Sergeant John LeDuc, who suggested and spearheads the event.  We also talk about the need for police to have positive interactions with the public and the experience of policing under the shadow of COVID-19, which is changing the frequency and nature of the calls to the department.

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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.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: The End Game Settling In

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for December 7, included talk about:

  • Not getting rid of Gina
  • Identity politics rule
  • The poor investment of a General Assembly campaign
  • Nellie’s election security deterioration
Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

I’ll be on again Monday, December 14, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Mattiello, Shekarchi, Ruggerio, Raimondo Prolonging Failed Lockdown – Due to Filthy Federal Lucre?

At her press conference Thursday, Governor Gina Raimondo stated that she would not end Rhode Island’s COVID-19 lockdown (“pause”, “restrictions”) until late spring 2021. This follows on eight months of excuses … er, reasons for implementing, then not ending, the lockdown. Let’s review, shall we?

> The most infamous – “two weeks to flatten the curve” – is the one that kicked off this madness.

> Next, the curve got flattened — but not enough. Never enough.

> Then hospital capacity, one of the few matters that we all agree on to a point, was the issue. Except that, in fact, this was not an impediment to ending the lockdown because it involves the one smart action that Governor Raimondo took in response to the pandemic: she set up field hospitals early on.

> Then, a couple of weeks ago, Governor Raimondo strongly alluded to an end to the lockdown once the vaccine is distributed, saying among other things,

So, try to do whatever you need to do, in your life, with your family and your friends to ask yourself, what do you need to do to get through these next few months safely, between now and when we have a vaccine.

> Now – oops, “a few months” is out the window as of Thursday because it turns out that sufficient vaccine will not be available until late spring. Yet another artificial goal to justify the extension of a failed solution.

And all throughout, a drumbeat of fear; an emphasis on the number of deaths; then on the number of cases. Never a mention of critical data like the disease’s very high survival rate, per the CDC, or which demographics are most vulnerable and that, therefore, maybe, just maybe, we could shield those demographics, take basic precautions and simply go about our lives.

No, it’s been eight months of, “we have to lock down or we’re all going to get very sick and die”.

Let’s say it. The emperor has no clothes. The lockdown is not working.  In fact, it is plain from repeated spikes, including in California and places that implemented tight lockdowns, that lockdowns are completely ineffectual, other than New Zealand, as pandemic control.

But this is even more evident in Rhode Island, where 71% of COVID deaths have occurred in nursing homes (nice work by WPRO’s Tara Granahan getting that information from the administration), not in the businesses that Governor Raimondo has shuttered for months.

What lockdowns are quite effective at is inflicting heavy damage; lives, jobs, businesses, education, healthcare/health insurance, sanity, the tax base.

In short, Governor Raimondo has dragged out an economic, social and mental strangulation of Rhode Island for over eight months against all data and plain evidence.  And she proposes, bewilderingly, to extend it another six months.  Apparently, “it’s not working, so we’re going to keep doing it”.

It is critical to note that Governor Raimondo is not alone but shares culpability in this strangulation.  The repeated extensions of a failed lockdown and studied disregard of the resulting destruction – Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, presumed incoming Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have so far fully endorsed and approved of all of this by their silence and inaction.

We are naturally compelled to ask why our state leaders are doing this as it is obviously not due to public health.  Well, we almost certainly got the answer to that in mid-September.  And it isn’t pretty.  During NBC10’s “Ten News Conference” of September 13 with himself and Minority Leader Blake Filippi,  House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi stated at minute 09:35,

If we as a General Assembly were to come back and dissolve the state of emergency that we’re in, we would lose any eligibility for future federal funds.  And we need that very badly in Rhode Island.

Federal dollars – a tiny trickle of which would go to businesses that have hemorrhaged billions, a little to insider businesses and organizations, but much of it to prop up poorly-crafted state and local budgets now heavily damaged by the lockdown. Federal dollars over the survival of significant swaths of the state’s private sector.  “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” had the tiniest kernel of utterly misguided principle to it.  “We have to destroy the state in order to save our politics-laden public budgets” doesn’t even contain that minuscule kernel.

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Magaziner, a Fiduciary Hypocrite

With Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner taking the lead, the Rhode Island employees’ Retirement System has joined a lawsuit against the social media company Pinterest, “claiming they fostered a culture of discrimination and retaliation that also hurt its financial success”:

Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner said in an emailed statement that “the Pinterest board’s deference to a culture of sexism and systemic discrimination has impaired Pinterest’s value and the value of the system’s investment in Pinterest.”

Take the culture war specifics out of this move for a moment.  The specific legal claim of Magaziner and the state pension fund is that a social or cultural bias among the leaders of the company has cost its shareholders money, thus creating a “breach of fiduciary duties.”

Only in a state where he knows he will never be questioned on ideological grounds could Seth Magaziner join in on a lawsuit like this.  Wind the clock back to January 2020 (I know, I know… it’s only pretend):

The Rhode Island public pension fund will stop investing in companies that either operate private for-profit prisons or make assault-style weapons that are sold to civilians, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner announced Wednesday.

“We don’t want to be associated with businesses that we think are fundamentally immoral,” Magaziner, a Democrat, said at a news conference attended by representatives of several gun control groups including Moms Demand Action and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Here we see Magaziner, as the chief fiduciary of the state’s pension fund, pulling investments out of perfectly legal businesses because of his social or cultural bias.  How has that affected the state’s investments?  This is just one quick result from an Internet search:

Shares of gunmakers Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ – SWBI) and Vista Outdoor (NYSE – VSTO) have more than doubled since March, while Sturm, Ruger & Co’s stock (NYSE – RGR) is up 30% – far outpacing the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index during the same time period.

So who’s going to sue Magaziner for costing his shareholders money?  Or is it OK to harm the financial well-being of Rhode Island’s government employees as long as it’s done in the name of the progressive ideology?

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Power Outages Wouldn’t Be So Common in a First-World State

Is there anything more frustrating than watching elected officials complaining about poor services when their own actions were among the causes?

Power outages, which hit a 10-year high in Rhode Island last year, now have the attention of local lawmakers.

One is calling for underground power lines in certain impacted areas, while another wants more reliable service in exchange for Rhode Islanders paying “one of the highest” electricity rates in the country. …

State Rep. Katherine Kazarian, D-East Providence, cited four outages over the past eight months in her district as one of the reasons she is calling on National Grid to address ratepayers’ concerns. …

State Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr., D-Warwick, has proposed a bill that would force the utility to bury lines in any area that loses power for 96 straight hours or more within two years of the outage. …

“We are already paying for this service,” Kazarian said. “We need to make sure we’re getting what we pay for.”

To the contrary, what we’re paying for is expensive off-shore wind and other “green” projects.  We’re also paying for the NIMBYism of people who don’t want any power-generation going on anywhere near them, as well as protected labor.

There’s simply a set of hard economic facts, although they’re moving targets.  There is a price that people will tolerate for electricity.  There is a cost to provide that electricity, given the current reality.  There is a profit/income/wage at which people will be willing to do the work of making the system function rather than doing something else with their lives.

This recognition that facts are facts and people are people may be the biggest gap in the progressive approach, which always seems to imply that somebody, somewhere is messing up a perfectly designed system and just needs to be found and forced to comply.

 

As legislators and administrators drive up the cost of providing electricity, the price that people will tolerate does not go up, so the gap has to be made up somewhere.  Labor is an obvious first place to look for savings, but then other jobs begin to look more attractive, or employees form a union to put up a political firewall.  Next come more-speculative investments in development.  Then more-concrete investments to anticipate future needs.  Finally, maintenance starts to go out the window.

Why do we not have underground utilities?  Because there isn’t enough space between the price we’re willing to pay for electricity and the cost to provide it. As Kazarian indicates, we all feel like we’re already paying for this service… and we are, but what we’re actually getting is fashionable green energy, a unionized labor premium, and a landscape with limited energy production.

The first step to fixing this problem is to be honest about it.  Until we’re willing to do that, the outages will continue, and the haves will continue to invest in very non-green personal household generators.

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Moving Social Media Beyond 230

Remember when Twitter only allowed 140 characters per message and everybody had to edit and serialize to make their points, and then the platform went to 280 characters, and it seemed ideas could fit a bit better.

That shift comes to mind upon seeing that President Trump appears to be playing a little bit of legislative hardball to get a law relevant to social media changed:

President Donald Trump is vowing to veto the National Defense Authorization Act unless Congress repeals a section of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields social media platforms from liability for what users post on them.

His comments came in tweets posted Tuesday night. He wrote: “Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to ‘Big Tech’ (the only companies in America that have it – corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity. Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand.

“Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk. Take back America NOW. Thank you!”

It would be understandable for the president to focus on national security even if he weren’t the character he is.  Not only does doing so provide the hook to link his demand to the NDAA, but it also is the level at which presidents should think.

However, the move to take Section 230 protections away from social media is needed for individual protection, too.  I’ve been censored for so much as suggesting that some of the rhetoric around the same-sex marriage movement is misplaced.  (At least, that’s why I think Twitter censored me.)  Yet, the platform is famous for its ability to slander people and pressure their employers to fire them, or otherwise do them concrete and specific real-world harm.

The bottom line really is this simple:  If a social media platform is simply a forum providing a public square for others’ use, then an additional shield against lawsuits is understandable.  However, when they start executing editorial judgment, they make themselves responsible for the content that they allow.  They have, in essence, approved it.

When purported adults in the news media jumped to the conclusion that high-school-student Nicholas Sandmann deserved their public condemnation based on a cut-short video clip, they opened themselves and their employers up to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for the harm they had stupidly done him.  The social media giants’ irresponsibility, bias, and dishonesty should put them in a position to have to make the next Nicholas Sandmann a billionaire.

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Wolf Crying and Water Carrying in the Local News Media

The alert that most Rhode Islanders received on their cell phones in the middle of their work-mornings, on Monday, proclaimed that Rhode Island hospitals have reached their capacity.  An article last week by Sarah Doiron and Rob Nesbitt on WPRI prepped the field of fear for that emergency alert with the headline, “Data reveals most RI hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.”

That’s a scary headline, and the numbers provided in the article are presented to support it. RI Hospital’s intensive care unit is full! Panic!

But hold on a second. Totaling all the numbers in the table, the ICUs at the 10 listed hospitals are 75% full. Still pretty scary, right?  Now back out the COVID patients in ICU (30 of them at the time the article was published), and the ICUs would still be 64% full. COVID accounts for only an 11 percentage point increase.

Now look back in time. According to the Department of Health, back in May, there were nearly three times as many people in the ICU for COVID. But there were only 30 additional people in the hospital altogether. This tells us that fewer COVID patients are requiring intensive care. It also suggests that there are more people in intensive care now for other reasons than in spring, because otherwise the ICUs would have been more than full back then.

Why would that be? One reason is that the panic was scaring people away from the hospital in spring, which was a dangerous thing for government officials and news reporters to promote.  Another reason could be that the panic led people to hold off on medical treatments or diagnoses that they should have gotten back then, leading to more-severe illness now.

If the governor has been correct in her extreme measures for our state over the past nine months, how is it that the state didn’t adequately prepare for a late-autumn surge? If they didn’t, then that’s a big story. And if they did, what’s the panic about?  Today’s headline is that “RI field hospitals admit their first patients.”  OK.  I’m glad we have those.  Why isn’t the headline encouraging… as in “Don’t panic; we’ve got this”?

At least with total hospital beds, Rhode Island’s hospital system is far from “overwhelmed.”  Unfortunately, the governor needs to scare to get people to comply because she lacks the legitimate authority to tell people to do the things she’s telling them to do.  It’s a sad testament to the state of modern media that journalists are happy to play along.

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The Era of Rhetorical Tricks

Here’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed in general commentary and in private email threads that I’ve somehow found myself to be on:  Everything is a rhetorical trick.  “Experts” and “intellectuals” are apt to devolve into lists of acronyms to prove how smart they are rather than answer the simple question of whether they actually care whether fraudulent techniques of media, politics, and even the electoral process won Biden his victory.  Not whether it’s correct, but whether they care if it is or isn’t.

It seems they think their clever arguments will continue to deceive the public.  Or maybe they’re just so thoroughly trained and acculturated to them that they don’t even realize what they’re doing.

This must be something like the tyranny of “white logic” that those who espouse “antiracism” see in our “institutionally racist” society, only it isn’t a racial category but a class one.  Our betters think they’ve structured logic itself such that they win at every turn.

So, put forward the opinion that the 2020 election was fraudulent, and the response will be that there is no evidence.  Points out evidence of obvious fraud, even throwing in conspicuous “errors” or “mistakes,” and the Bidenites will note that the incidents, even in the thousands, do not add up to enough votes to have made a difference.  It’s a tally of specifics.

If, on the other hand, you point to the bigger picture and note how implausible it is that, with scarcely any campaigning or visible enthusiasm (and a half century in the public eye), Joe Biden was able to shatter every vote record on the books, including that for Barack Obama, or maybe you note the statistical implausibility of the voter turnout and vote swings in key cities and the complete failure of almost every bellwether county to predict this outcome for the first time in decades, then the claim is that this is not “evidence.”

The fraud-skeptics’ methods cannot be overcome, because they are total.

In short, to “prove” impropriety, they apparently would require Trump supporters to document and prove beyond the shadow of a doubt every single suspect vote.  Some of them will go so far as to point out that this is impossible because the mailing materials were separated from the mailed-in ballots long ago.  To them, this isn’t evidence of potential taint; it’s taken as evidence that there was no fraud because fraud cannot be proven.

This is as much as to say that fraud only exists if it is proven in court, and the disappearance of evidence means it can never be proven in court, so therefore, there can have been no fraud.  This was the most fraud-free election in the history of the universe!  It’s an intellectual trick to allow the beautiful people to comfortably believe what they want to be true.  They make it safe to believe a falsehood because they feel they have this protective barrier of logical impossibility.

This same social cohort, by the way, has demonstrably different standards in different circumstances.  A single anecdote of bias in an individual somewhere in the country is sufficient evidence that some large group or organization is something-ist.  On the other hand, statistical evaluations of police stops or pay rates is sufficient evidence of “institutional something-ism” without a single instance of bias being proven, or even specifically alleged.  Never mind the claims of the same cohort about the supposed crimes and illegitimacy of Donald Trump.

None of this matters, because they consider themselves the judges of what counts, with no objective measurement.  This is why they devolve into credentialism.  Obama was “scandal free” because they chose not to count anything that happened under his administration as a “scandal.”  It’s a tautology.

Just so, they claim that no fraud has been proven or even alleged, except by “crackpot lawyers,” because, naturally, no lawyer but a crackpot would allege such a thing.  See how neat and tidy that logic is?  There cannot possibly be evidence because anybody who brings forward evidence cannot be believed simply by the fact that he or she brought forward evidence.

Then, if you somehow get past that circular defense, you must deal with their assertion that our legal system is the central (even the only) tool for figuring out what’s true.  In other circumstances, the same people will either cite the corruption of judges to explain an outcome they didn’t like or, more intellectually, acknowledge that judges aren’t really tasked with discerning deep truth, but merely determining how the law should apply.  I’ve heard this from police, judges, and ethics commissioners:  “The behavior you’re complaining about may very well be wrong and unjust, but my job is only to make final determinations applying a particular body of law to a specific situation.”  Except when it isn’t.

When this cohort thinks the law is not in their favor, you will find them qualifying each judge’s name with the political party under which he or she was appointed (as in, “Republican-appointed judge”).  When they think they will get their way from a judge, you can expect a dramatic elevation of that politically appointed or elected person.  He or she will instantly become something more like the judges of the Old Testament, who were much closer to “wise kings.”

Those of us who believe this election to have been a sham should stride confidently through these rhetorical tricks.  If we’re correct, then a majority of Americans did not vote for the ostensibly incoming administration.  Even large numbers of people who hoped for a Biden victory believe there was fraud involved.  Our time is better spent thinking about those Americans and how they can be reached and represented.

The insiders’ trick will work only if we turn away from that broad population of Americans in order to debate people who prove by their very arguments that they are immune to persuasion.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: The Governor’s Court

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 30, included talk about:

  • The Pause arrives
  • The Queen’s bid for a higher court
  • McKee’s bid for the Queen’s attention
  • The General Assembly as courtiers
  • Is the jester in the Britt trial still relevant?
Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

I’ll be on again Monday, November 30, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Raimondo in Line for National Scold

WPRI reporter Ted Nesi is as apt as anybody to be slipped information from the Raimondo team (with gubernatorial and personal-promotion staff intentionally blurred), and he’s hinted at the possibility of Joseph Biden selecting Gina Raimondo as Health and Human Services secretary if he becomes the President.

That possibility would certainly shed new light on Raimondo’s approach too the pandemic — some parts of which Biden has mentioned as possibilities for his own administration.

If it comes to pass, it will be interesting to see how the governor’s presentation plays nationally.  Rhode Islanders have been disappointingly comfortable with her “Knock it off,” “you guys are disappointing me,” “it’s your fault I have to punish you” schtick.

One could see the mutually replaceable late-night hosts and Saturday Night Live eating that up as exactly the sort of adult-in-the-room posture our nation of children needs.  How it plays with the tens of millions of Americans who have a somewhat stronger view of their civil rights than Rhode Islanders is another story.

Along one foreseeable storyline, it’s plausible to see Raimondo’s COVID-queen persona defining the Democrat Party for a large segment of the population… and not in a good way.

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Arm’s Length for the Heir During the Very Serious Pandemic (TM)

On his radio show, John DePetro mentioned that he heard the faint sound of honking horns as he sat in on Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s latest press conference on the COVID-19 situation.  The sound, he said, came from a handful of cars participating in a driving protest organized and led by Democrat Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee.

The participants were calling for Raimondo to release more of the federal aid money to help small businesses in the state.  While that issue is important, put the specifics aside for a moment.  Also put aside any mixed feelings about the lieutenant governor’s activities.  (On one hand, he is to be applauded for not orchestrating his office as something like the Office of the First Lady at the federal level.  On the other hand, somebody with his stature and taxpayer resources really ought be having more success organizing.)

Perhaps the most important part of John DePetro’s picture is that the governor is keeping the lieutenant governor at arm’s length, and the news media hardly cares.

We’re into the tenth month of the governor’s using her 30-day emergency powers because we face this dangerous, deadly virus, and yet she’s keeping the guy who would replace her if anything happens at a greater distance than arm’s length.  If she becomes incapacitated by the dreaded coronavirus, McKee becomes governor, and yet in order to even come close to getting her attention, he has to drive his car around her press conference?

With topics like COVID-19 and climate change, one often hears conservatives say, “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.”  Well, if Governor Raimondo really thought the coronavirus represented a crisis, wouldn’t she be keeping her replacement in the loop?  And shouldn’t our guardian news media be asking why she isn’t?

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Rhody Reporter: COVID Update

Mark Zaccaria shows that Gov Raimondo and other public officials have provided little help to their constituents by trying to micromanage everyone’s behavior. Instead, they should start trusting us to make good decisions about COVID safety on our own.

The research Mark cites may be found here: https://globaljournals.org/GJSFR_Volume20/1-SARS-Cov-2.pdf

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: A Pause Before Dying

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 23, included talk about:

  • The governor hits “pause” on freedom
  • The Board of Elections hits “stop” for GOP challenges
  • Congressional Democrats hit “no” on Cicilline’s bid
  • A police review board director hits “send” on a leak
  • The General Assembly hits “go” on a progressive agenda
Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

I’ll be on again Monday, November 30, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Lockdowns are Now a Proven Failure As Their Collateral Damage Rises Inexorably

Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown (“restriction”, “pause”), let’s pull back and examine some critical items.

Never has a broad scale economic and social lockdown been implemented to slow or stop the spread of a disease. But this became the path that leaders chose to take in the spring as the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Now, for many states, “fifteen days to flatten the curve” has morphed into an eight month involuntary experiment of the effectiveness of a lockdown to combat a contagious disease; eight months of harsh economic measures, social distancing orders, regular goalpost shifting, constant haranguing by our elected leaders that we are not taking the disease seriously – and no end in sight.

And it HASN’T WORKED. Coronavirus, which is highly contagious but with a very high survival rate, continues to spread and spike. Lockdowns have not worked to slow the spread any place other than an isolated island in the pacific.

Lockdowns do not work even to reduce COVID deaths, per a study, released late last week.

Stringency of the measures settled to fight pandemia, including lockdown, did not appear to be linked with death rate.

As we see by the current spike, lockdowns have not “put a lid” on the disease, as we have been promised for eight months – if we would just behave! – that they would do. What lockdowns have done, very effectively, is decimate: lives (literally; suicides, overdoses), livelihoods, mental health, businesses, people’s access to healthcare (health insurance). Here’s a list, by no means exhaustive, of the negative consequences of the lockdown:

~ As of October, the best estimate for deaths in the United States caused by the lockdown stood at approximately 80,000 to 100,000. This will almost certainly rise as data collection accelerates.

~ There has been a horrifying impact of the lockdown on congregate care residents. (What has been going on in Rhode Island’s congregate care facilities?)

~ This report outlines the impact of the lockdown on mental health, healthcare, unemployment, education and crime.

Now, this brings us to another disturbing aspect of lockdowns: our elected leaders have perpetuated them with studied disregard for these “unintended” consequences, effectively dismissed via hollow platitudes like, “I know it’s hard”.

What our leaders do say, time and again, emphatically, is that it is our fault that the lockdown and social distancing have not worked because we, the people, have not done it good enough.

This accusation not only blames the victims but is false and it is important to debunk it. I have never seen or could have even dreamed of a level of compliance as we have seen with masks and other executive orders.  Everyone, but everyone, is very aware of COVID-19. Ninety nine point nine percent of people are taking COVID-19 very seriously.  And because our elected leaders have hyper focused on only certain aspects of the disease (the death rate and the case count) while carefully omitting information about the most important aspect of it (the very high survival rate), many, many people are very scared of COVID-19.

If your solution is not working with this incredible level of compliance and fear, IT WAS NEVER A VIABLE SOLUTION.

Governor Raimondo, with the hearty consent by silence of Speaker Mattiello, the presumed next speaker, Joe Shekarchi, and Senate President Ruggerio, has announced a two week “pause”, i.e., a ratcheting up of the lockdown, starting November 30, though with the warning that it may be extended if we don’t (say it with me) “follow the rules”.

As the death and destruction from a now clearly failed public health policy inexorably mounts, a two week heightening of that policy goes in exactly the wrong direction – particularly in light of the absence of science correctly noted by Justin.

Governor Raimondo says “COVID fatigue” is real. If, by fatigue, you mean extreme anxiety, disgust, anger and frustration to watch our state leaders continue to pursue a public policy that is clearly not working but instead, is needlessly, systematically destroying the system by which we and our neighbors sustain and improve our lives and – insiders and special interests, take notice – which funds the state and local tax base — yeah, we’re fatigued.

COVID-19 lockdowns (“restrictions”, “pauses”) were a first ever, real life experiment to slow or stop a contagious disease.  Eight months in, with cases spiking, not slowing, lockdowns are a complete failure BY THE STANDARD THAT LOCKDOWN LEADERS THEMSELVES SET.  We need to end the experiment now and do what we’ve known almost from the beginning: protect vulnerable populations; open up fully, including all schools; wear masks, wash our hands and go about our lives and our business.

By capitulating to progressive-union pressure, and despite disingenuous claims that no broad-based taxes were imposed, Ocean Staters will once again bear increased burdens to pay for new taxes and regulations, more spending, and more union giveaways. Lawmakers chose to appease, rather than resist, the progressives’ job-killing, big-spending agenda.

State Senate’s Hard Left on Progressive Street

It looks like Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D, North Providence) and his leadership team observed the advance of the progressives within the Democrat Party and are moving to conform.  He and Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D, Warwick) have published an op-ed that put any lingering proclamations about the senate’s “conservative leadership” to rest.

Like many progressive politicians, they try to capture some of the language of the political Right with sentences such as, “The COVID-19 pandemic is as much an economic crisis as it is a public-health crisis.”  But the policies are all Left and therefore at odds with the insinuation about helping the economy:

  • Socialized healthcare
  • Wealth redistribution in housing
  • Identity politics and regulation of business payrolls
  • Legalized drugs
  • More-progressive taxation
  • Higher energy costs in the name of climate change
  • Higher employment costs, harming employers and workers
  • Subsidies to decrease “small business” independence

Political leaders who can look at an economy in which nearly 20,000 people stopped looking for work during a pre-COVID-surge month when the nation was recovering and in which there are 36,000 fewer jobs than a year ago and conclude that this is what’s needed are not just pandering.  They’re dangerous.

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Following the Science Where Science Can’t Lead

Read and compare these two snippets from Ted Nesi’s weekly roundup column very carefully.  First (emphasis added):

The targeted restrictions have received praise from national health experts, including former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who praised Raimondo in a tweet, saying, ‘We face hard choices now, and Governors are leading.’ But the governor shouldn’t expect too many holiday cards next month from gym owners. They were left scratching their heads, wondering why workout spaces must shutter while restaurants, retail operations and churches remain open within limits. Raimondo argued the targeted shutdowns are anchored on ‘what is true, what is science, what is fact, what is data and what the health experts are telling me.’ But that didn’t do much for many business owners, including Crossfit Providence owner Tanner Baldauf, who argues they’ve followed all the rules and have been safe. He also worries the two-week pause will turn into another two weeks and then another. ‘Then it just turns into this never-ending two more weeks,’ Baldauf told 12 News.’”

Second (again, emphasis added):

The virus has become so widespread at this point that health officials tell me it’s almost impossible to identify where transmission is happening. To try and shed some light on the issue, IBM offered a new analysis last week indicating 42% of transmissions over the last couple months have happened within families and households, while the remaining 58% have happened at work, restaurants and bars, churches, parks and sports sites. (A full breakdown can be found here.) The data painted a slightly different picture than the one Governor Raimondo has offered in recent months, that the virus was spreading most at social gatherings. And she partly acknowledged that during her weekly news conference Thursday, saying, ‘I’m not going to pretend that we know with great specificity exactly how everyone in Rhode Island has contracted COVID. So I have to make decisions in the face of a lot of uncertainty and I’m going to do my best.’”

Put the two italicized sentences next to each other, and the conclusion that emerges is that we’re supposed to buckle under the governor’s commands (and those of bureaucrats throughout government) because they are issuing them in the name of science, but when analysis highlights the arbitrary nature of their restrictions, the response is that the science isn’t specific enough, so the governor is issuing proclamations about your life based purely on her own judgment.

That gap between what the science shows and what the government is pretending it shows — and the fact that human beings are incapable of conceiving of all of the factors involved, let alone making judgments about them for millions of other people — is why we don’t hand over this much power to government, at least not until recently.  Emergencies, during which government officials can say, “We don’t know exactly what’s going on, but we know it’s not safe to go over to that part of the city,” are one thing.  This is quite another.

Consider the slant that appears even in a seemingly straightforward explanation from the news media.  Nesi misleads his readers by lumping every outside-the-home circumstance into one bucket.  Even if you follow his link to Eli Sherman’s source material, you’ll get a misleading impression.  When breaking down “work, restaurants and bars, churches, parks and sports sites” to their own portions, Sherman gives them as percentages of the 58%.  So, for example, the article says “11% occurred at recreational sites, including churches, parks and sports settings,” but because that’s not a percentage of the whole pie, it’s misleadingly high.  As the following chart shows, that category actually accounts for only 7% of all cases.  In other words, the way Sherman reports the numbers makes it look overstated by almost 60%!

(Let’s ignore for our purposes, here, the bias and insult implicit in calling churches a subset of “recreation.”)

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Displaying the facts and data this way shows how absurd it is to target places like gyms and recreation facilities, let alone churches.  To really stop the spread of this virus, the governor would have to claim power to isolate members of families from each other and shut down our productive activity (work and spending).  Such practices would violate our civil rights and destroy our economy, so she’s “doing her best,” and by the time the journalists filter the background information to the public, that almost sounds like a reasonable thing for a temporary dictator to say.

It’s not.  Instead, we should acknowledge reality (you know, believing in science and all), respect rights, and do what planning and management we can around those to great Rs.

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How Bad Things Are in RI… Even Pre-Pause

Rhode Island’s queen, Gina Raimondo, today proclaimed that her dominion would be made to suffer a “two-week pause” owing to the intransigence of her subjects to obey:

She lamented that she has been “utterly ineffective” at getting Rhode Islanders to “follow the rules” in their own homes.

Yes, the problem is you and your refusal to take the governor’s words into your heart as you would those of a god whose watchful eyes were ever upon you.  As a reminder, she continues to justify her emergency powers based on a high number of daily discovered “cases,” largely owing to the practice of testing about 1.5% of the entire population of the state every single day, whether or not they have symptoms.  Also, hospitalization numbers are up, although the queen’s administration does not provide clear information about how many of them actually result from COVID-19 or are simply coincidental with positive tests.

As for deaths, not only are these only ambiguously associated with the new virus, but their trends do not correspond with the wave of “cases.”  Of course, that bloodbath is always forecast to arrive in the future.

However, one key number to watch in all of this illustrates a bloodbath of another sort.  Hidden under hopeful-sounding news about a drop in Rhode Island’s unemployment rate from September to October is this:

The Rhode Island labor force totaled 541,300 in October, down 18,400 from September and down 15,600 from October 2019 (556,900).

In the midst of a supposed recovery from the government-induced economic “pause” in the spring, nearly 20,000 more Rhode Islanders stopped looking for work.  They gave up.  They moved on.  For whatever reason they stopped looking, the state no longer counts them as workers.  That’s why unemployment went down so much.

In the not-too-distant future, when we tally the costs of COVID-19 and the government’s response to it, we may very likely conclude that the latter was more harmful by far.  There are 36,300 fewer jobs in Rhode Island than there were a year ago, and our governor is talking about tightening her shut-down policies and blaming our families in the process.

At some point, a self-respecting people have to say, “enough.”

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R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Mark Zaccaria says the Secretary of State’s organization had no respect for either the laws or the voters of Rhode Island as they managed the recent election.

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A Higher Purpose Than Building a Twitter Following

Here’s a too appropriate discovery:  When I went to promote my latest Dust in the Light essay on Twitter, I discovered that the social media giant had suspended the account.  Days after appealing the decision, mostly to find out what I’m being punished for, I have yet to hear back.  Most likely, the offending action was a tweet promoting the prior essay on Dust in the Light, warning that our society will probably regret having erased our ability to distinguish between different forms of love.

Whatever the outcome, I’m done with Twitter.  Those who participate give the company much more than they get in return by making it a vibrant place to be, which is tantamount to serving evil for the sake of an addiction.  We should look for other places where our gift of interaction can build something positive.

But I say the discovery of the Twitter suspension was “too appropriate” because I made it while trying to promote an essay about the benefits of risking hatred:

An apparent deterioration of this American [willingness to take risks] is among the illnesses that have coincided with the proliferation of social media. “Just do your best,” “better to have tried and failed than to have done nothing,” even “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” — all such sentiments are more difficult to maintain when petty, envious people might capture a moment of weakness or failure and replay it without mercy for your entire life. When it comes to anything cultural, political, or simply visible, some there will be who take to social media gleefully at your every misstep.

Even without antagonists, though, it’s all too easy to imagine some future potential employer or love interest bringing up for explanation some mark that you missed years or decades earlier. So… no risks of ideas, words or actions. It’s safer to adhere to the common fashion (whatever it is), even as it thrashes wildly around. At least then a great many people will be working to excuse your shared past errors.

But we should take a higher perspective than our curated media personas, and we should be suspicious of people who want temporary failure to be taken as another’s endemic state. Indeed, there’s something evil about wanting failure to be somebody else’s defining feature.

What motivates such people?

Dust in the Light has an explicitly Christian theme, so the essay is an encouragement toward faith and finding personal security in God, but the idea filters down to the practical decisions of everyday life.

We cannot avoid the culture war anymore.  It’s in everything we do.  We therefore must act with honesty, integrity, and courage even in things that seem small… like offering our thoughts to the world in few-dozen-word snippets.

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Distracted from Important COVID Questions

As you read around about COVID-19 in Rhode Island, doesn’t it seem as if important questions aren’t being answered… or even asked?  What, for example, are those counted in the COVID-death category in Rhode Island actually dying from?  Surely if the governor can get specific about the handful of people who tested positive after a specific party among a particular group in a single town she can give us at least an aggregated sense of the fatalities.

Or consider this bit of a recent Providence Journal article:

If current trends continue, Raimondo said, the state’s hospitals will be filled up in three weeks, requiring the state to open its field hospital in Cranston.

Unlike in the spring, hospitals are being stressed not only by an influx of COVID-positive patients, but also by patients hospitalized for other reasons.

Why can’t our hospitals accommodate this sort of a season?  Is it really a COVID thing or something else?  As I noted in the spring, back when insiders were pushing Obamacare, they talked about how important it was to take away the influence of the market because obvious things could then be done… like reducing the number of hospital beds in Rhode Island.  (Is that how this works? They say we need government control so the state can limit the number of hospital beds, and then when there’s a crisis, they claim government needs the power to tell us how to live so we don’t overwhelm the system they created?)

Or maybe the incentives of government healthcare, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and ObamaCare, are part of the problem.  And what about illegal immigration?

Nobody’s asking these questions.  Everybody’s simply accepting the blame-your-freedom rhetoric that Halloween is to blame… or soccer-player parties.

One suspects distraction from a more-full picture is deliberate.  Given the choice, Americans might very well choose not to sacrifice their holidays, their businesses, and their children’s education so as to maintain the fiction that a rapidly socializing government can manage complex systems like healthcare.

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Christopher Reed: Memories on Veterans Day

It wasn’t long ago I was flying out of Oklahoma City, which serves the U.S. Army artillery school at Ft. Sill, when the captain announced, “Thank you for your service,” and the civilians applauded. Every civilian except me, of course. I still get caught out by that. Back when I wore the uniform of this country, to wear it off post was risking confrontation. As if we were… what? All baby killers, as Sen. Kerry put it?

But we weren’t exactly a mature-audiences version of the Boy Scouts. More than a couple of guys in my platoon had been given a choice by a judge: “Join the Army or go to jail.”

The post in West Germany where I was stationed was an old Reichswehr kaserne (barracks) that had seen some racial unrest, typical of the early ’70s. My outfit was intelligence, and we shared the kaserne with an armored unit. We didn’t have much contact with them except in the mess hall. The Black soldiers kept to their own tables, greeting each other with a display of “dapping,” something like a riff on the Masonic handshake. The rest of us would look on, bemused.

Our unit had few Black soldiers. I knew only two, both soft-spoken guys with none of the bristling attitude of the tankers. One put me in mind of a young Martin Luther King for his measured way of speaking. He clearly had more than a bit of Bible study in him. We hung out some; he felt more comfortable going off post with a white guy. The previous unit, which had been rotated out, was notable for some race… not riots, exactly… more like rumbles. The sight of this salt’n’pepper pair strolling about town raised eyebrows among the Germans. They referred to us as the “New Troops.”

I learned a thing or two from him. Once, we were on a hike out in the woods, the Autumn light was fading, and we were a bit crossed up on which tractor trail to take back to the post. I could see the path I thought we needed to be on, but it was across a large field. It had been plowed up, but even though we couldn’t damage any crop by cutting across it, he would not. He was raised in the South and wouldn’t cross another man’s land without permission. I used to argue with him and the other fellow about “re-upping” versus leaving the service at the end of your hitch. Weighing my rhetoric against the number of Black NCO’s they saw, both of them opted to re-enlist.

The tanks would form up to sortie to their firing range in the pre-dawn gloom, their engines hammering and tracks screeching. When the armor woke up, everyone in the kaserne woke up. We worked our shifts in air-conditioned rooms listening for enemy signals, waiting for the day the balloon went up. So, there were no combat casualties in my outfit, just the usual… involving alcohol, motorcycles, suicide attempts, or some combination thereof.

One man in my training cycle met his Maker in the Land of Bad Things. He happened to be on the wrong side of the Mekong River when a Chicom 122mm rocket landed among him and a bunch of Green Berets. He’d been sent to provide signals intelligence support for the Special Forces operating there. The inter-branch trash talk was that the snake eaters hadn’t anyone who could operate a radio.

The tankers lost one man during my tour that I know of. A mechanic was working on a tank’s engine platform when another tank collided with it, cutting him in half. He was, they said, killed instantly.

 

Featured Image: Photo by Suzy Brooks showing a 2010 reenactment on Otis Air National Guard Base.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Mailing in the Lockdown

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 16, included talk about:

  • What to make of Gina’s move toward another lockdown
  • What to think about the RI Trump co-chairs’ differences on concession
  • What Rhode Islanders should do about mail ballot anxiety
Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

I’ll be on again Monday, November 23, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Adapting to Change

Mark Zaccaria insists that Rhode Island can bounce back, but we have to be willing to adapt to a changing world.

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A Complicated Relationship with Military Service

This isn’t a political post, so take this observation as just an objectively relevant observation:  Joseph Biden and Donald Trump have very similar records when it comes to avoiding the war in Vietnam, yet for one, it was a political liability, and for the other, it was not.

At least since that war, our society has had a complicated relationship with military service, creating opposing clichés.  The coward-who-shirked-his-duty faces off against the wise-youth-who-eschewed-immoral-conflict.  The soldier-as-damaged-lunatic faces off against the soldier-as-bedrock-of-civilization.

When it suits us, our society lionizes soldiers, and when it suits us, we demonize them (well, some of us do).  It all depends upon your perspective, even down to how you feel about a specific circumstance at a particular moment in time.  The fact of having served or not having served is either a stone to throw at somebody you don’t like or flag to wave for somebody you do.

Even if everything weren’t political in our time, this would be understandable.  War is a scary thing, but bravery, discipline, service, and adventure are valuable.  That generates discordant contrast.

Those of us born after the Vietnam Era can only infer this to have been the case, but it seems like there was once a day when our society had a healthier perspective.  Across all socio-economic categories, some people joined the military, and some didn’t (which is different than saying that some people had no choice but to join and others were privileged).  For those who served without seeing conflict, it was both a blessing and a missed experience.

At a Veterans Day event this morning in Tiverton (which would have been better attended not long ago, with or without a coronavirus scare) Historical Presentation Advisory Board member Susan Anderson asked the veterans in the audience to state their service.  Although it was difficult to hear through their masks, one striking feature of their statements came through clearly:  their humility.  Whatever they had done, they moved quickly to praise those who had done more, had sacrificed more.

Under the shadow of COVID-19, a 2004 essay of mine has become newly relevant.  People pursuing a medical cure for aging were speculating that such a thing would lead us to value life much more.  But perhaps, instead, it would make us more vulnerable to those who did not value other people’s lives, or at least who were willing to manipulate our fear of losing our own.  If death isn’t just part of life, it becomes a more-frightening event that can sometimes happen to us.

As we move toward that attitude, the risk of military service seems much greater, and many will see it as something that unfortunate people were unable to avoid.  Veterans’ humility shows the healthier view that others risked and lost more, along with a recognition that risk (and even loss) can come with reward.

Individuals and nations benefit from the lessons that come from putting ourselves in harm’s way from time to time — lessons about the fleetingness of life and lessons about the thrill of risk and lessons about cooperation and self-sacrifice to achieve a common goal and lessons about the complicated emotion of deriving benefit from something that helps others, of being grateful for experiences that generate gratitude in others.  It would also be to the health of the nation if every demographic group had lives on the line depending who was making decisions for the country.

On Veterans Day, we could do worse than to spend some time thinking about the role of veterans, and of becoming veterans, in our society.  Those who have served should feel as if it is their day to be valued and also to reflect on the good they did simply by saying “yes” to the call.  And those of us who have not served should express our gratitude and also reflect on our reasons for not doing so, as well as how we might make up for that deficit for our nation and ourselves.

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Chris Maxwell: RITA Never Forgot Better Days of Eventually Turbulent Relationship with Nick Mattiello

The Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA) made a conscious effort to never publicly target recently-ousted Speaker of the Rhode Island House, Nicholas Mattiello.

Perhaps we never forgot his humble visit to our office in May of 2013 when he was serving as Majority Leader and we were just beginning our reemergence as an organization.

Maybe, down deep, we knew that RhodeWorks and its origins were not of his making and, besides stopping the program in its tracks in June of 2015, he attempted to make the final law more protective and palatable for the interests of local business owners.

Most likely, in addition to the aforementioned reasons, we very likely sought to avoid the wrath of the vindictiveness he reigned with. After all, if we sought passage of legislation for the benefit of our industry, it would have little to no chance of passage if we were on his bad side – regardless of its value or merit.

I recall meeting with the Speaker in Spring of 2015. It was the first time since he’d visiting our office and he clearly had morphed into a far more commanding and powerful version of the somewhat soft-spoken Majority Leader I’d hosted at 660 Roosevelt Ave. As we sat alone in his office with his chair back facing me, he swung around, cell phone in hand, relishing in the fact that WPRO’s Dan Yorke was calling him a “thug” during his afternoon drive time radio show. As our conversation advanced, he listened to me. And when I explained to him how furious I was that our industry had been blindsided by the Governor, he shared with me that he similarly knew nothing about it in advance, commenting, “How do you think I feel.” It was a candid moment and a glimpse into the man.

I believe that meeting had much to do with him halting the first version of RhodeWorks. Of course, by the following Winter, the Speaker’s revised version of the legislation passed with much fanfare and the subsequent doling out of punishment to legislators Ray Hull, Joe Solomon and Robert Phillips who were summarily relieved of their powerful committee assignments for failure to vote in line for the Speaker’s legislation.

The Speaker’s legislation, and I refer to it as that because it was his version, was an attempt to grant a cunning and equally power-hungry Governor her signature policy, one she needed as a payback to the interests of labor, while providing trucking and local business with baked in protections such as daily caps and local rebates. Unfortunately, his efforts to craft compromise legislation may, today, be the Achille’s heel of RhodeWorks in court as it flew in the face of interstate commerce protections. In the end, I think he probably meant to do good which is why he took criticism very personally. The mention of tolls trickling down to cars incensed him and RITA and its constituents faced repeated retribution for their opposition ranging from the denial of good legislation to threats to members to unethical if not illegal offers from his surrogates.

Ironically, all of these incidents and the personality he demonstrated throughout our dealings parallel what brought his demise. He ran the speakership with an iron hand, much like a crime boss whose seemingly bullet-proof thirst for power and self-preservation would end his speakership. Legislatively, he brought conservatism to a progressive state government, but through his continued willingness to compromise to the far left to remain in power, he would lose his grip on the chamber over which he powerfully ruled.

So I end where I began. Unlike Gina Raimondo and the interests of labor, we never forgot the better days of what would become a turbulent relationship. That perhaps, is why we never attacked him publicly nor politically and won’t do so now during his darkest days. This is far more than I can say for the others like the Governor and labor leaders who kicked him to the curb after he put his political neck on the line to push through RhodeWorks.

Chris Maxwell is President and CEO of the Rhode Island Trucking Association.  This op-ed first ran yesterday in the association’s weekly newsletter.

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The Implicitly Pro-Government Media

We’re hearing all sorts of stories about voting irregularities across the country, and how one feels about them probably tracks pretty closely with how one voted.  Without slipping into partisan mire, however, we still can take non-partisan lessons.

One important lesson is that supposedly objective sources of news are not and, knowingly or subconsciously, twist stories to shape a narrative.  Moreover, that narrative is passed on to them from government officials, meaning that reading private news sources may be little more than a veneer on top of government messaging.

Consider the issue of voting locations in Arizona giving Sharpies to voters to use filling out their ballots.  As a point of fact, a woman has filed a lawsuit claiming that poll workers gave her a Sharpie and then prevented her vote from being counted; she has been joined by 10 unnamed plaintiffs.  The attorney general of Arizona says his office has received hundreds of similar complaints.

Compare the story at the second link with the Associated Press version that WPRI ran under the headline, “No, Sharpie pens did not ruin Arizona ballots despite social media claims“:

As states across the U.S. release vote totals for the presidential election, some social media users are falsely claiming that ballots are being invalidated in Arizona. The supposed culprit: Sharpie markers.

In what’s come to be known as #Sharpiegate, social media posts suggest that election officials in Maricopa County provided voters with Sharpie pens, which interfered with ballots being recorded, specifically those for President Donald Trump.

Are Sharpies in Arizona a problem for ballots?  I don’t know.  Apparently, there are tens or hundreds of people on the ground who are concerned about it, and the state AG is going to investigate.  Maybe these were quirky people or unique circumstances.  Maybe we’ll find out that some polling places were using old machines or colored markers or that some ballots were accidently printed so that ink bleeding through was a problem or that there was some other factor causing unexpected errors.

Notice that the AP journalist, Beatrice Dupuy, did not come up with some way to independently test the proposition or prove that no (or few) ballots were canceled.  Rather, she simply took the word of government officials — who might be complicit if this is an election-stealing scheme or who would, at the least, have incentive to minimize the problem if people in government messed up something this important — and then cited the decision of private social media companies to censor contrary claims.

This approach isn’t unusual.  At least when they confirm the biases of journalists, the statements of government officials and fact-checks of social media giants are often taken as objective and well-meaning.  To the contrary, they should be considered as statements from people who may have reason to distort or spin the truth.

In this particular article, the problem is made more conspicuous by being dressed up as a check of a “CLAIM” versus “THE FACTS.”  The condescending, “everybody knows” headline on WPRI puts it over the top.