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Trees in Warren and Government from a Distance

The man-made conflict between trees and federal disability law is a fine example of why most government should be done locally (to the extent it has to be done at all):

Town officials say they are facing a painful dilemma: They can’t make the sidewalks accessible to the handicapped and save the trees.

]Nearly 80 years after the Works Progress Administration installed the curbing and sidewalks during the Great Depression, the thick trunks and roots of the trees planted along the road are blocking and buckling the pedestrian way.

The situation came to a head recently when the town began reconstructing King Street, a quiet road one block east of Main Street and just south of the downtown. Once the town undertook substantial repairs to the road, it triggered federal requirements that the sidewalks comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Public Works Director John Massed.

For a before-and-after picture, click the link above and watch the related video.  The camera shot at the 20-second marker shows the street with one side de-treed and the other not.

As communities, we do have a responsibility to accommodate those with the misfortune of being disabled, but dictating minute policies from Washington, D.C., is lunacy bordering on tyranny.  If the responsibility were local, neighbors could figure out solutions that work best for everybody involved, answering questions like, “What are the odds that a disabled person is going to go down this street so often that both sides have to be cleared of trees?”

We’ve reached the point of the absurd.  When the Tiverton Yacht Club reopened this year (after a fire and years of legal battles), members could not use the second floor.   Hefty barriers blocked the stairs, not because the upstairs was unfinished or otherwise unsafe, but because there had been a delay in installing the elevator required for people with disabilities.  A private club, using the property mainly for a children’s camp, a swimming pool, and the occasional social gathering, could not let members upstairs because some hypothetical disabled person wouldn’t be able to get up there for a couple of months.

Now apply this observation to the thousands and thousands of pages of laws and regulations passed at the national level that affect our lives in ways we can’t so obviously see.

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Whitehouse’s Attacks on Private Groups

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

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

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

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

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“Field of Trains” Redux: Why Would We Spend Millions for 89 Riders Net Per Day?

The Wickford Junction is an unmitigated disaster. So, of course, it makes sense (???) to strive to repeat it in Pawtucket.

Rhode Island has taken its biggest step yet toward building a new train station to serve Pawtucket and Central Falls, requesting $14.5 million from the federal government to cover about a third of the project’s cost.

But a new train station in Pawtucket would net only eighty nine new riders per day, with hundreds more poached from the South Attleboro and Providence stops. By the way, it isn’t just federal dollars that would be involved.

Separately on Tuesday, the House Finance Committee is scheduled to take up a bill sponsored by Rep. Carlos Tobon, D-Pawtucket, that would appropriate $10 million to help underwrite the cost of the Pawtucket train station. Tobon proposed a similar bill pegged at $20 million last year.

RIDOT is currently looking to fill a $126,648 – $140,920 position of “Administrator, Office of Transit, New Starts, Operations and Transportation Alternatives“. It looks from the job description that this proposed new train station would fall under the purview of this position. Is this taxpayer-funded job the sort of “opportunity to transform the area and provide much needed economic opportunity for local residents” that RIDOT Director Peter Alviti is referencing when he tries to justify this completely unneeded project?

This is serious derangement. The “If You Build It, They Will Come” approach to expensive public transit projects didn’t work in Wickford. We know NOW it won’t work in Pawtucket, either. So why are our elected officials working to repeat Wickford’s costly mistake in Pawtucket?

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Whitehouse’s Focus as RI’s Senator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MacBeth’s Party -Switching Shocker

Well, this is quite the interesting and unexpected development.

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Karen MacBeth of Cumberland filed official paperwork with the secretary of state’s office on Monday afternoon, telling a crowd of reporters she thinks Democrats no longer represent Rhode Islanders effectively.

In a conversation tonight with WPRO’s Matt Allen, Rep MacBeth cited the jamming through of tolls last month in only “thirteen days” over the objections of “screaming” voters as the straw that tipped her to make the decision to change parties.

With regard to a potential run for Congress from the First District, MacBeth told Allen that she expects to make that decision in approximately the next week. Um, has someone let her know that, if she does run for Congress, she would almost certainly face a primary challenger in September?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark Levin Features Soviet-Like Whitehouse

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

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

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

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

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Politics Over Veterans in Unions and on the Left

Well, at least one government labor union representative has remorse that she didn’t sooner tell the Republicans who actually did something about atrocious behavior at Veterans Affairs facilities because they were Republicans:

“If I would’ve gone to him two years ago, who knows what kind of lives could’ve been saved,” Germaine Clarno told a radio interviewer Monday, referring to the Republican leader of a VA subcommittee. Clarno, a lifelong Democrat and social worker at the Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital in Hines, Ill., was president of the union representing doctors at the hospital as the deadly wait-time scandal unfolded.

On the other hand:

But there is no remorse in Wisconsin. The union is now running ads against [Republican Senator Ron] Johnson, faulting him for not acting on information he was never given. The public employees union is campaigning for Russ Feingold, a Democrat who preceded Johnson in office and is now running to retake the seat.

Maybe someday Americans will look back at this era of our history and marvel at how little we resisted despite the obvious and predictable harm when a particular ideology and labor structure brought together a political party, labor unions, and cultural institutions all in the service of an ideology placed above the country they were supposed to be serving and even the lives of people like the veterans who have died for lack of care.

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WhoYouKidding on Supreme Court Nominations, Fitz?

A quick word on the “YouGottaBeKiddingMe” portion of Providence Journal columnist Edward Fitzpatrick’s “Fitz Hits” notes, today.  He writes:

A group of top constitutional law scholars, organized by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, said the Senate’s “advice and consent” duties contain no exception for election years.

One needn’t be a lawyer from a left-wing activist group that exists solely for the purpose of “countering the activist conservative legal movement” to read the Constitution.  That document — the starting point for our laws, which no code, regulation, or legal ruling can contradict — puts the appointment of Supreme Court justices in Article II, pertaining to the presidency, not in Article I, pertaining to Congress.

In keeping with that placement, it makes perfect sense that there would be “no exception for election years” on the Senate’s authority to approve of the president’s nominations.  There are no imposed responsibilities on the Senate from which exceptions would be needed.  Simple as that.

Rather, the Senate’s involvement is a restriction on the president.  The president cannot appoint Supreme Court justices without considering the Senate’s advice and earning its consent.  President Barack Obama has done nothing to earn the Senate’s consent and has done quite a bit to advise the body against giving his presidency that significant of a reach into the future.

Even a mildly objective commentary from those to the left of political center should acknowledge that Obama has done himself no favors with the Republican Senate over the past seven years and argue why the Senate should ignore that history for this particular reason.  To the extent that they just assert that the Senate has a duty to review the president’s picks (particularly insinuating a presumption of approval), readers can reasonably infer that their motives are partisan or ideological.

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Taking Us Over with Created Money

Those who wish to re-engineer our society to better fit their tastes (and usually their own personal financial interests) have been staying quiet about RhodeMap RI and its related plans.  The juggernaut keeps moving, though, with the persistence of the Obama Administration; the money never runs out, largely because it’s not real money.

As Ken Blackwell and Rick Manning mention, Congress is in the process of removing funding for enforcement of a rule propagated by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH).  Basically, federal bureaucrats use their limitless resources as a bribe for states, cities, and towns to commit their neighborhoods to social experimentation.  (One suspects that we’ll be able to tell who’s really rich and/or influential by the fact that their own neighborhoods will remain untouched.)

This method raises an interesting point:

Refusal to comply with these invasive, unfunded mandates would empower the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to withhold millions of dollars in community development block grants from the area – effectively turning this $3.5 billion annual program into a political redistricting tool.

Like a drug dealer, the federal government has worked, over the years, to hook more-local governments on federal funds, which allows them to skirt mechanisms in the U.S. Constitution designed to prevent an overly powerful national government.  The HUD bureaucrats aren’t specifically mandating local zoning rules, but they’re dangling a pretty big lure on that hook.

Some of us find it difficult to understand why it’s so difficult just to refuse the money, but our political system has come to be built for invidious incentives.  Doing things with money that comes from a higher tier of government gets elected officials credit for spreading money around and getting things done without their having to suffer the consequences of taking that money away from somebody.  The feds take that heat.

But then, they really don’t.  Until the early-to-mid 1900s, the federal government ran surpluses more often than it ran deficits.  Since then, surpluses have been very rare, and the deficits have been massive.  Since Obama took office, the average annual deficit has been nearly a trillion dollars, and the government expects them to continue at around a half-trillion dollars for the foreseeable future.

That is, our local governments are being bought off with money that nobody currently in office has to take responsibility for collecting at any level.  That’s not how our government is supposed to function; rather, it’s a recipe for lost rights, followed by disaster.

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Obama’s Latest Step Toward Killing Representative Democracy

It’s difficult to say which is more astonishing: President Obama’s willingness to skip Congress and adjust the crown that he imagines himself to wear or the news media’s lack of interest in calling him on it.

That’s from a general point of view; from a pragmatic point of view, neither is very astonishing, considering that they both see themselves as left-wing activists.  The president wouldn’t attempt such things as creating new energy law without bothering with our elected legislature if he didn’t expect the news media to cover for him, and the news media wouldn’t ignore it if the partisans and ideologues who compose it didn’t support the Democrat party or disagreed the policy.

But any American with even a passing education in civics should read the following and ask, “Umm, where does he get the authority to do that?”

Touting the plan at a White House ceremony, Obama described his unprecedented carbon dioxide limits as the biggest step ever taken by the United States on climate change. On that point, at least, his opponents agreed. They denounced his proposal as egregious federal overreach that would send power prices surging, and vowed lawsuits and legislation to try to stop it.

The federal overreach isn’t even half of the problem.  Even if the federal government had the Constitutional authority to impose such a policy on the states, how in the world does the president, acting unilaterally through a regulatory agency, have the authority to make “the biggest step ever taken by the United States on climate change”?  This ought to be the stuff of impeachment and revolution, because it means we simply do not have a federalist, Constitutional, representative democracy.

We still get to elect the president… for now and discounting the realities of media bias, voter fraud, and immigration policy designed to counteract the American electorate… but this is not how our system is supposed to operate.

One suspects, frankly, that the move (indeed, the entire climate change hysteria) is primarily intended as a ruse to eliminate the rights of the people to control their own government and, therefore, their own lives.  As Betsy McCaughey notes in The American Spectator, the amount of actual improvement in climate change results (even assuming the questionable models are correct) is minuscule.

If the American people don’t wake up and see through this very soon, we deserve the next step in this takeover of our country.

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Whitehouse’s Turn to Fascism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cicilline’s Bid to Facilitate Fascism

Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline (who, let’s not forget, helped draw Providence to the precipice as mayor) wants to give his fellow members of the acronym group of sexual preference special rights at the national level:

Cicilline said he plans to introduce a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill later this spring that would address the gaps in current law. The resolution is a first step, he said, and it currently has over 100 sponsors, though a Republican-controlled Congress could prevent the proposed bill from becoming legislation.

As a political matter, there’s a gaping hole in the logic behind the legislation.  If “the overwhelming majority of Americans oppos[e] discrimination against LGBT people,” as Janson Wu, executive director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, says, then why do they need special protections?  There should only be a small minority discriminating, right?  It’s flatly impossible, at this point, to pretend that this supposed bogeyman is powerful on the order of the lingering institutional racism that existed after Western Civilization ended the ancient practice of slavery, thereby necessitating government to take a side in social disputes.

What Cicilline and his comrades want, one suspects, is actually to facilitate the fascistic behavior that has begun in order to wipe out anybody who expresses reservations about undermining cultural institutions, like marriage, that have formed the foundation of our society.  Skim through the news on any given day:

  • A pair of gay businessmen who hosted an event for Republican Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz were forced to offer a groveling apology (contradicting their stated belief that “an open dialogue with those who have differing political opinions is a part of what this country was founded on”).
  • A couple operating a small bakery in Oregon to support their three children faced a life-altering fine of $135,000 for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. (The complaining lesbian couple, by the way, has the impossibly perfect name of “Bowman-Cryer,” considering that they are leveraging their tears to shoot deadly legal arrows at the family.)  Making matters worse, GoFundMe pulled the plug on a national campaign to support the family against the ridiculous penalty when a local competitor of the bakery complained.  Presumably, the competitor would have been happy to bake the disputed cake, illustrating how little sacrifice is needed to allow our neighbors to have different beliefs.

The national anti-discrimination legislation that Cicilline wants is simply an attempt to make it illegal to act on beliefs that differ from his and make it more difficult for people who share those beliefs to help each other.  Just as redefining marriage (mostly through the judiciary) is removing the ability of religious people and organizations to uphold their beliefs about the institution, making “discrimination” illegal will give opposing activists the ability to use government to target them.  It’s an attempt to bring the point of a gun to the culture war.

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Nuclear Politics at Brown

Secretary of State John Kerry’s international security adviser, Joseph Cirincione, was recently at Brown University to promote his boss’s work in Iran, and to attack members of the opposing party as cynical opportunists who’d risk the world’s security for a cheap political point:

The framework meets all the U.S. goals, he said. If the final agreement “is close to what the framework is, we’re in pretty good shape.” 

Politics and ideology are behind most of the opposition. Republicans do not want to give a Democratic president what some people believe “could be the most significant foreign policy achievement in over 20 years,” he said.

Nothing that I’ve read about this deal supports Cirincione’s claims, including this Mortimer Zuckerman commentary in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.  Indeed, Cirincione’s statement that “if you do not get the agreement, you can forget about reducing the nuclear dangers in the world” strikes me as completely inverted, as does his assertion about the political opportunism.

But even a mildly critical mind should flag that “most significant foreign policy achievement in over 20 years” phrase.  If Cirincione, his boss, and his boss’s boss actually believe that an agreement would be such a huge achievement, they’ve got obvious incentive to be able to proclaim that one has been reached.  As Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner put it, the administration “appears to want a deal at any cost.”  If that’s the case, the risk isn’t just in not “reducing the nuclear dangers in the world,” but actually making them much, much worse.

It’s fair to assume both sides of the domestic debate are playing politics, to some degree or another.  That being the case, I look forward to reading about an event at Brown offering the opposing view, in an article of the same size and prominence in the Providence Journal. 

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Jack Reed and Political Journalism

Maybe it’s a small omission that triggered a personal peeve, or maybe it’s a glimpse of a more profound problem, but something bothered me about this item from Ted Nesi’s weekly Saturday column:

It will be nearly two years before we find out who wins the Maryland U.S. Senate seat being given up by Barbara Mikulski, but we already know one winner: Jack Reed. That’s because the retirements of both Mikulski and California’s Barbara Boxer mean come 2017 Reed will be the 7th most senior Democrat in the U.S. Senate, where seniority is the coin of the realm. It’s possible Reed could ascend even further up the ranks before long, since the terms of 74-year-old Patrick Leahy and 75-year-old Harry Reid both expire in 2016, with 81-year-old Dianne Feinstein close behind in 2018. It’s conceivable Reed, who turned 65 last fall, could someday be the most senior senator of all; if he retires at the same age as the late T.F. Green, Reed will be in the Senate until 2043.

Notice the possibility that isn’t mentioned anywhere in that blurb?

Look, we all know Rhode Island has nearly reached the point that democracy is a game of pretend.  Arguably, it’s already there for the state’s federal seats.  But shouldn’t political journalists be among those pretending?  Behaving as if a politician’s seat is permanent goes a long way toward discouraging competition even to begin.

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Destructive Policies, Waning Influence

Let’s be honest.  This would be a healthy thing for the country:

 If the trend since 2010 — dropping an average of two spots a year — continues, Rhode Island will be relegated to a single House seat [in the U.S. Congress] when the 2020 U.S. Census is tabulated.

If you’ve got a state that can’t keep the population it has and to which others don’t move, it’s clearly doing something — a lot of things — wrong.

Obviously, things don’t have to be this way.  Rhode Island has the natural advantages to thrive, but the thing is… it won’t.  An hour of listening to politicians shift blame and utter falsehoods concerning energy costs, yesterday, was an instructive exercise.

They want to do what they want to do, whether for friends or for ideology, and no amount of pain for the rest of us will penetrate that personal interest.  Worse: We’ve proven unable to overcome their institutional (and probably corrupt) advantages to make the electoral system work as it should.

At least in the case of Congress, there’s a formula to force some acknowledgement of the “these boots were made for walking” vote.

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It’s Supposed to Be People’s Job to Make Us Less Stupid

A first-pass post on that genius “MIT professor and Obamacare architect” Jonathan Gruber could be in the category of “imagine if a Republican consultant had said this.”

In case some of you get your news mainly from Rhode Island and/or mainstream national sources, I should explain that Gruber was deeply involved in the policy and marketing development of ObamaCare, and he’s apparently made it a regular part of his speaking engagements to point out how the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats deceived the American people to get the legislation into law.  Here’s one incident, and here’s another.

Inasmuch as the planners consider us too stupid to make decisions for our own good, they decided that they might as well leverage that stupidity to slip things into ObamaCare that would have sunk the legislation if the politicians had been forthright about them.

But a first-pass post wouldn’t get to the most egregious part of the story — namely, that there are people whose job it is to tell the rest of us what’s important in policy debates and other current events.  Where were they?

In an advanced society like ours, people can’t possibly keep up with the minutia of 1,000-page bills.  It’s presumptuous even to assume that a majority of people in a busy, diverse society can be expected to trace the economics of such bills even if they find out about their provisions.  Whole industries and professions exist to translate the news into the basic concepts that everybody can understand, in order to help us make better decisions for ourselves and for our republic.

In this case, one such industry is organized labor, which didn’t really begin grumbling about their objections until after the debate was over, probably because they expected a friendly administration to open up loopholes or exemptions for their members later.

The industry that deserves the most criticism, though, is the one whose reason for being is to inform all of us: the news media.  According to Gruber, then-Senator John Kerry (D, MA) was the one teaching him lessons in the stupidity of the American people.  That means not only that Kerry knew a majority of Americans wouldn’t understand the deceptive mechanisms in the law, but that high-level Democrats knew the news media would either (1) not understand economics any better than the average American, or (2) not report to the average American what the administration was actually trying to do.

So which is it?  To use the term of Jonathan Gruber: Are American journalists stupid or complicit?

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Mark Zaccaria on Issues Facing the US Senate


After his campaign announcement, Republican Senatorial candidate Mark Zaccaria answered questions posed by Anchor Rising on the subjects of:

The guiding principle and vision of American foreign policy.

Where to go on Obamacare, from where we now are.

The institutional way to deal with executive overreach.

The gulf between the elites and the people, on illegal immigration.

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Mark Zaccaria Announces for Senate


Mark Zaccaria: “[Y]our taxes, your food and your housing costs are all up as a result of what the Federal Government has done, and Jack Reed has voted yes for every single one of those increases, certainly during the last couple of terms. I contend that Rhode Islanders are ready to vote no, and it’s about high time.

But they have to have a choice to be able to do that, to be able to vote for better monetary policy, or smaller government that costs less, so that it takes less money out of your pockets. You have to have that alternative on the ballot. I hope to be the face of that message to the hard-working, tax-paying men and women of Rhode Island during this campaign.

There is another way, folks. We can do that. And I will be making that point, to anyone who will listen to me, every day between now and the fourth of November…you don’t have to vote for the guy you voted for last time. In fact, it might be better if you voted for somebody new.”

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What the Republican Establishment Needs to Take Away From Eric Cantor’s Loss


GOP voters are much less likely than Democratic party voters (or Democratic party elites, for that matter) to reject economics. They thus realize that the intra-coalition deal where the establishment gets an immigration amnesty and lower wages for everyone, while the rest of the GOP gets to listen to the establishment elite posture ineffectively on other issues but never actually achieve anything, isn’t a good one.

If Wall Street/Chamber of Commerce types are interested in helping to build a stronger Republican party at the national level, their path forward is this: Invest some energy into an issue or two other than amnesty.

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IRS Targeting and Unethical Whitehouse

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

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

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

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

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