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The Conversation Starts Tuesday: Opportunity To Become Self-Sufficient

Everyone concerned about the well-being of our state’s families should be alarmed by our unacceptable 48th-place ranking. It is time to challenge the status quo insider mindset and to search for a more holistic path to help real Rhode Islanders improve their quality of life. This week, the Center will co-host a forum at Bryant University, that will provide an ideal opportunity for community, religious, and political leaders to convene and begin the process.

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Leaders… and a New Perspective… Wanted

Could the key to a healthier, more-prosperous Rhode Island be as simple as a change in perspective?  Many of us believe so.  If the top priority… the first question… the lynch pin… of every policy discussion in the Ocean State were, “How will this affect our families?,” instead of, “Will this disrupt the way government insiders do business?,” a whole new vista of possibilities would arise.

Kicking off an effort to begin changing the perspective of Rhode Island’s movers and decision makers, the Family Prosperity Initiative of Rhode Island is hosting a forum on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 17.  During the free event, national and local experts will address the findings of a recent report about the Ocean State’s ranking of 48 among states on the Family Prosperity Index and begin to apply the lessons to the state’s policy environment and civic culture.  (Lunch will be served.)

Register here.

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Anti-Tolling Rally Tomorrow!

At the truck stop in West Greenwich off Route 95: 849 Victory Highway, West Greenwich, RI 02817. Tuesday, October 18, at 11:00 am. (No question, a bit of a tough time of day for a lot of us working folks.)

The Rhode Island Trucking Association and NATSO, the national association representing travel plazas and truckstops, announced today that they will host an informational rally and press conference Oct. 18 to discuss the devastating effects that “RhodeWorks” — the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s truck-only tolling plan — will have on local businesses and commercial truck drivers that operate within the state of Rhode Island.

The small group of state officials advocating for truck tolls say that they are necessary because the money to repair our bridges cannot be found within the budget. Like most of the data and talking points that accompanied the passage of truck-only tolls, this is a flat-out lie. This money can be found in the budget. Remember also that, under Governor Gina Raimondo’s highly destructive RhodeWorks toll plan, shepherded through the General Assembly by a flip-flopping Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, hundreds of millions of dollars would be completely squandered on items other than bridge repairs: gantries, toll fees, interest – meaning that hundreds of millions of dollars would be coming out of the pockets of truckers and all Rhode Islanders and going down a rat hole rather than into infrastructure repair.

Adding urgency and danger to the situation, a recent federal court ruling in New York has brought tolls on cars in Rhode Island one giant step closer. As WPRO’s John Loughlin correctly pointed out on air Saturday morning, this is almost certainly why the start of work on the 6/10 Connector was rushed. Governor Raimondo and her organized labor supporters want to be sure to sink their toll claws into the state as quickly as possible by getting projects hooked on this destructive new revenue source ahead of a court ruling. (“Oh darn. The courts ruled that we can’t toll just trucks. We have no choice but to toll cars because look at all of the borrowing and construction that we rushed through … er, that is now underway.”)

In addition to the big red flag of the federal court ruling in New York, it is important to note that no other state tolls only trucks. From the beginning, this posed an enormous constitutional flaw in the RhodeWorks toll law. (For more on this, check out Rep Blake Filippi’s excellent op-ed in Thursday’s Providence Journal.) Accordingly, any state leader or legislator who voted for truck tolls in February took the unnecessary and very dangerous step of inviting the toll vampire into all of our homes. If state leaders don’t wise up and rescind truck tolls, it is now just about impossible to envision a scenario by which the toll vampire doesn’t turn to feast on the blood … er, wallets of car owners. It is critical, therefore, that state legislators who voted for tolls be held accountable. Please go here to see how General Assembly incumbents voted on tolls, where their challengers stand on the matter and vote for the candidate who did NOT invite the toll vampire to Rhode Island.

And if you’re able to get away from work for an hour tomorrow, please also stop by this rally. Garlic is optional. But your presence at the rally and, especially, your anti-toll vote on November 8, would send an important message against the toll vampire.

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Happy 240th Birthday To America!

Happy Independence Day from everyone at the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity! As we celebrate the Fourth with our family and friends, it is important to reflect the principles that led to the American revolution. On this anniversary of the original Brexit, we must remember that “US-Away” happened because free people stood up to an imperial power and demand that their rights be respected. In our own time, people are standing up against the elites here in Rhode Island that want to micromanage our lives.

We should all be proud of our fellow citizens working to advance freedom here in the Ocean State. The recent opposition to the Brookings agenda is a good example. Because Rhode Islanders spoke out against RhodeMap RI and central planning, many of the crony corporate welfare deals were squashed before they could begin. The stadium deal and the superman building are two more examples of stopping corporate welfare in Rhode Island. There are reasons to hope. However, we must remain vigilant and continue to speak out. The political elites will continue to try to give special deals to their cronies.

When will the insiders learn? We are warning the status quo against seeking to devolve Rhode Island into a dependent appendage to the Boston economy, or to some other form of regional governance. The citizens of our state demand local control. Centralized plans are not the answer for the Ocean State. We urge lawmakers to reject the concept of a centrally controlled, regional bureaucracy that will infringe on the authority of locally elected officials. Rhode Islanders do not want intrusions into their own lives.

There are better solutions than the central planning of economies and the loss of local control. It is time to end the insider culture where the little guy suffers. As we saw in the recent Brexit vote, citizens are demanding more from their leaders. How many of us would say that the status quo public policy culture in Rhode Island is making anything easier on the average family? For too long, the political elites have thought they’ve known how to better run your life than you do. I encourage you to speak out against the status quo and remember that things can change here in the Ocean State.

And once again, Happy Fourth of July.

[Mike Stenhouse is CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.]

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Please Check Out the Gaspee Business Network Thursday!

On Thursday (June 23, 2016) at 5:30 pm, the Gaspee Business Network will be holding a Partner Information event at the Radisson Hotel, 2081 Post Road, Warwick. If you’re a business owner and you’re not satisfied with the state’s business climate, please consider dropping by to check out the “Incorruptible Voice of Rhode Island Business“.

We will be discussing why the GBN is different from other business networking groups and how you can take part in the most formidable force to fight the hostile business environment so prevalent throughout Rhode Island.

For more information about the GBN, click here. Click here to register for the event. Or just show up!

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Good Riddance to 2015 (With Trepidation)

For (probably) my last post of the year, I’ll direct your attention to two articles on NRO.  George Will grabs a long list of lowlights from 2015:

We learned that a dismal threshold has been passed. The value of property that police departments seized through civil-asset forfeiture — usually without accusing, let alone convicting, the property owners of a crime — exceeded the value of property stolen by nongovernment burglars. The attorney general of New York, which reaps billions from gambling — casinos, off-track betting, the state lottery — moved to extinguish (competition from) fantasy football because it is gambling. Florida police raided a mahjong game played by four women aged between 87 and 95 because their game’s stakes allegedly exceeded the $10 limit set by state law. A Michigan woman was fingerprinted, had her mug shot taken, and was jailed until released on bond because she was late in renewing the $10 license for her dog. New Jersey police arrested a 72-year-old retired teacher, chained his hands and feet to a bench, and charged him with illegally carrying a firearm — a 300-year-old flintlock pistol (with no powder, flint, or ball) he purchased from an antique dealer.

And on it goes.  Then there’s Stephen Miller’s humorous recollections and foreshadowing for President Barack Obama’s final year in office, written as if it’s a TV show titled SOTU:

The television show SOTU premiered a teaser promo on Twitter Tuesday night, hoping to get viewers who have fallen off over the course of recent seasons excited for the long-overdue final season’s premiere on January 12. The season will conclude with a series finale in January 2017.

Not much is revealed about the plot of the upcoming season, but the promo does feature the smirking president (played by Barack Obama) adjusting his white-tie tuxedo, an upbeat image in stark contrast to how last season ended: the country he presides over suffering another devastating terror attack in California, as well as one in Paris, with our hero rushing away to Hawaii.

In the (deliberately) labored preface of my novel, A Whispering Through the Branches, I questioned the significance of a clock turning the gears from one year to another, even when it turns the number for a millennium.  This year, I suspect we’ll simply graduate from the foolishness of 2015 to a 2016 that will either be so ridiculous it’s painful or so painful it’s ridiculous.

For the country, 2016’s saving grace may be that the major consequences of the Obama presidency won’t be experienced so soon, just as the major consequences of the Clinton presidency weren’t felt until September 2001 and the recession of the late ’00s.  Maybe in our stumbling or our wisdom we’ll choose well in the election, although the odds seem to be against us.

When it comes to Rhode Island, well, not much can be expected.  Our governor still has some momentum for her experiment in choosing the wrong direction, but maybe it will be the year the people and the news media start to catch on.

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Privacy No Longer a Side Benefit of Tall Structures Like Wind Turbines

A California man vacationing on Aquidneck Island thought he’d send up his personal drone to get some footage of a coastal wind turbine in Portsmouth.  Here’s the video:

Providence Journal reporter Patrick Anderson initially thought it was the non-functional turbine owned by the town of Portsmouth, but it’s not.  It’s the nearby turbine on the property of the Portsmouth Abbey school.  If I’m not mistaken, the man on top is one of the monks (see here). The likelihood is, then, that he isn’t, as the Daily Mail suggested, a “sun worshipper.”

One would think that such a remote height would be a safe place to relax and take in the warmth of God’s bounty, and it would be in a world without a proliferating number of flying video cameras.

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Registration Now Required for Commenting

Ocean State Current and Anchor Rising before it have always had completely open commenting systems.  Times have changed, though.  Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have developed to answer a lot of the impetus that used to lead people to leave one-off comments on blogs, and proxy servers have become so commonplace that the light-touch comment management we used to pursue for random stoppers-by isn’t really possible anymore.  Meanwhile, many of the comments are from folks who read regularly.

Therefore, some registration will now be required in order to comment.  You can use Twitter, Facebook, or Google, or you can register quickly for a Disqus account.  It only takes a moment, and it’s still anonymous, if you insist.  The only real difference, if you go the Disqus route, is that if you don’t verify your email address, your comment will have to be approved before it appears.

We’ll give it a try and see how it goes.

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Dr. Flanigan to Talk at Portsmouth Institute Saturday

Long-time readers will know that I used to write, every year, from the Portsmouth Institute conference on the grounds of the Portsmouth Abbey school in late June.  It was always one of the highlights of my year, and for some reason, the institute took a hiatus.

Well, it’s back, and extending its activities through the year.  In fact, this Saturday, Dr. Tim Flanigan will be talking about his missionary adventure in Liberia, rebuilding medical infrastructure in Africa.  The talk, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. is titled “Faith and Fear in the Ebola Crisis: Two Months Volunteering in Liberia.”

The event is free and open to the public, but the institute is requesting that people RSVP.

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Translation from a Place of Disagreement

Well, look, I know my writing is often abstract and that I tend to include words that aren’t exactly of quotidian usage.  When I first developed a literary voice, I was up to my vocal chords  in Melville and Hawthorne and Shakespeare.  Then there are all the ordinary hurdles of writing — ensuring that context is clear, crafting sentences that contain enough information but don’t barrage the reader, and so on.

Nonetheless, I continue to be amazed at the degree to which readers can find a text to say what they want or need it to say, especially when they hate the writer for political reasons.  That’s the subject of my latest Tiverton Fact Check post.

Back in college, it occurred to me that, in some situations, the better somebody articulates an opposing view, the more dishonest or insane he or she appears to be to the opposition.  I’ve certainly had that feeling while reading those with whom I disagree, with the frustration that every sentence seemed to be just a little bit off, just a little nudge of the wheel to keep the argument from going off the sheer cliff of actual truth.

My particular literary tics and foibles seem to allow those who disagree with me to believe that I’m weaving an elaborate illusion to hide my vicious insanity behind a reasonable facade.  Some years ago, progressive commentator Tom Sgouros repeatedly insisted that I was arguing that “the rich” were leaving Rhode Island.  Finally, in some comment section, somewhere, I got him to see that I was actually arguing nothing of the sort.  His response, if I remember correctly, was that I’d used “stylized prose” to give the impression that that had been my point.

The confusion can snowball, too.  When the person who stubbornly misreads turns around and tells other people what the writer was really saying, even when those people read for themselves, they implicitly begin with the challenge of reconciling what they expect the message to be with what it really is.

Communication on charged topics is tough.  I’m certainly a long way from having it down and often reread things I’ve written and see that they could have been clearer.  That said, writers should remember that it isn’t always their fault when people don’t understand.

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Site Performance and Comment Notes

We’ve had increasing downtime that is probably due to the commenting system that we were using. I’m in the process of switching over to Disqus and should be able to import all comments to this date.

The Internet hordes must know what I’m up to, because the site has been touchy as I’ve worked on it, but everything should be fully operational soon.

Please note that if you’ve made a comment within the past hour or so, it may not have made the transition.

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Rest, Much Needed; Peace, Much Deserved

A local progressive once argued that tax rates weren’t driving out Rhode Islanders, because my mother-in-law was nearby to watch my children during the workday.

Obviously, I’m exaggerating a bit; her argument wasn’t as convoluted as that.  What she was saying was that people don’t up and leave an area over taxes, because there’s so much more to life… and a person’s life in a particular area. That’s inarguable, and there may be no finer evidence than Arline Griffiths.

It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that Arline was the source of the gravity that kept my wife and I in Rhode Island.  She wanted her daughter close, and her daughter wanted to be close.  Child care is one thing, but what’s the value of holidays with three generations tripping over each other in a too-small ranch — two grandparents, three brothers and a sister (plus wives and husband), and eleven grandchildren (and don’t forget at least a few of the family pets)?  What’s the value of a son-in-law nearby when the freezer is jambed and won’t close?  What’s the value of grandparents near enough to come over in the middle of the night to keep an eye on two sleeping children when the third decides to enter the world in the middle of the night?

What’s the value of a room packed with family, filling the air with recollections of your life during its last twenty-four hours?

A state — a world — is poorer when such things are rare, and from a negative perspective they became one person rarer, this week.  From another perspective, the one that I prefer, Arline spent her life doing the heroic work of convincing her family, at least, to keep those values alive and keep them growing, ensuring that their particular neighborhood of the world remained a home, not just a place to live.

After such a life, God knows, a rest is much needed and peace much deserved.

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Catching Up with Dr. Flanigan and Getting Supplies on Time

Dr. Tim Flanigan, of Tiverton, has posted a number of new entries on his blog from Liberia, where he’s working to help build up a medical infrastructure that has been overwhelmed and attacked by the Ebola outbreak in that part of Africa.

Based on my paranoia about chemicals when I was a carpenter, I tend to go through a lot of latex gloves when I paint or handle any questionable substances, but from what I’m hearing, medical personnel in Liberia are breezing through the scarce resources.  And they’re all resources that we take for granted in the United States.

I’m also told that material donations must be collected, in Tiverton, by this Friday.  There may be subsequent shipments, but Friday’s is the only one that I know about.  Here are the details, as I posted them last week:

  • Nitrile or Latex gloves
  • Show covers
  • Tyvek jump suits
  • Masks (N95 particulate respirators)
  • Rubber cleaning gloves

Those items can be delivered to either location of the joint parish of Saint Christopher and Saint Theresa in Tiverton.  Alternately, the local 501(c)(3) charity Tiverton Cares (of which I am a board member) is collecting donations to pass along, as well.  Send donations of supplies or checks (to “Tiverton Cares”; memo “Ebola”) to P.O. Box 525, Tiverton, Rhode Island 02878 or click the “donate” button below.

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Dr. Flanigan Reporting from Liberia

Yesterday, I mentioned the news that Tiverton resident and infectious disease specialist Dr. Timothy Flanigan had flown to Liberia to help revive a hospital that closed down in the midst of the Ebola epidemic in Africa.  That post includes a list of items that Dr. Flanigan has requested people to donate.  A local nonprofit charity with which I’m affiliated is helping to raise money, as well.

Tim has started a blog to chronicle his experiences there for family, friends, and all of us.  By the marvels of modern technology (text message, in this case), he tells me that he’ll have much more content soon, including other ways that people can help.

In the meantime, tax-deductible credit card and PayPal donations can be made through Tiverton Cares using the “Donate” button below, or checks (made out to “Tiverton Cares” and marked “Ebola”) can be sent to P.O. Box 525, Tiverton, RI 02878.  With the exception of transaction fees from PayPal, all donations will go directly to the cause.


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An Actual Debate in Rhode Island; Two Sides and Everything

Ever go to some event in Rhode Island that was supposed to provide a balanced discussion between people of differing views?  When I have, more often than not, it has seemed that the points I would have thought were obvious failed to be articulated.  “Balanced” tends to be a lot like the “balance” in Rhode Island’s legislature — far left to center left (maybe hard center, on a good day).

This Saturday, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity will be presenting actual balance — meaning people who actually disagree on fundamental questions — with its first UnleashRI Debate at the University of Rhode Island:

  • STEVE MOORE (Heritage Foundation, FOX News) vs. TOM SGOUROS (RI Policy Analyst)
  • RICH BENJAMIN (Demos, MSNBC) vs. DON WATKINS (Ayn Rand Institute)

You can register here.  It’d be great for this event to be a success for multiple reasons.  The largest is simply that these big questions actually do matter, and the answers cannot simply be assumed by people who happened to win office amidst an apathetic electorate.

My favorite reason to want a big turnout is that the progressives in Rhode Island to whom we initially reached out, in order to ensure that the representation of their side actually was fair and compelling, actively worked to prevent the debate from happening.  It’d be nice if the opposite of that behavior were actually rewarded in the Ocean State.

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Left and Right and Evidence-Based Policies

Pondering of a Sunday afternoon, I find myself recalling this part of a comment from Dan:

… imagine that the reverse were true, with Anchor Rising finding itself in a perpetually depressed conservative state hemorrhaging young talent as sympathetic right-wing candidates – endorsed by the AR staff – were overwhelmingly reelected season after season while nothing ever changed for the better. Imagine the cognitive dissonance progressives must feel every day waking up in Rhode Island and winning political victory after victory as the state falls further and further behind nationally.

It isn’t merely ideological fidelity that leads me to think this wouldn’t be the case with the Anchor Rising contributors. I don’t know if it’s true of every single one of us, but there’s a strong strain of having once held different views, among conservatives of our stripe. I know I once held every opposite opinion from those I now proclaim.

We’re conservatives, that is, because the evidence of reality has led us here. We’re also kind of counter-cultural types, disinclined to toe a party line just because it’s our party. So, if hypothetical conservative policies were failing Rhode Island as badly as actual progressive policies are failing Rhode Island, we’d be reevaluating our policy beliefs and realigning politically with people who might fix what’s broken.

I’m sure there are analogues on the Rhode Island Left. They’re just kind of difficult to find.

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Happy 2014

Survived another one! 2013 brought a blog merger (right here), a surprising championship for the Red Sox and some change for me personally with a new job in a different state (commuting to Connecticut now) and the closing of a very active 10-year span of volunteering for a local soccer league (though, concerning the latter, you’re never completely out; “Just when I think I’m out, they suck me back in” and all that). It also brought many schadenfreude and “told you so” moments on the political front, all of which went relatively unremarked upon by yours truly (the others around here did a fine job, though!). I did Tweet quite a bit….is that a good thing? I’m still not sure. Regardless, here’s hoping a happy 2014 to all of our readers and commenters, whether you agree or are just plain wrong disagree. 😉 Good luck to all!

Katz in Today’s ProJo: Participation In Boycott of WPRO Is Evidence That the Person Is Not Fit to Hold Office

Ed Fitzpatrick’s column in today’s Providence Journal is about the public union led attempt to boycott WPRO until they fire John Depetro.

As preamble, I repeat my own take on this brouhaha: I don’t agree with Depetro’s use of those epithets. They were nasty and unnecessary.

However, if Depetro had made his comments about the General Treasurer and not her critics, there would have been no boycott but instead, lots of smirking and quiet head-nodding in certain quarters. (It is fascinating, by the way, that an early rejection of Depetro’s apology came not from a woman but – paternalistically? – from a public union man.) So is the boycott really about protecting women or getting rid of, as Ed Fitzpatrick points out in his column, the state’s loudest critic of public unions?

While union leaders and politicians might be sincerely outraged, it can also be true that a successful boycott would silence one of their loudest, harshest critics.

Fitzpatrick, undoubtedly quoting Katz, carefully indicates that his (Katz’) comments are his own and not those of this blog. But this contributor has no problem at all with his take on the situation.

Justin Katz, managing editor of the conservative blog Anchor Rising-Ocean State Current, said elected officials are not acting in their private capacities.

“That would be the case were they boycotting WPRO as listeners and encouraging their fellow Rhode Islanders to do the same,” said Katz (speaking for himself, not the blog). “This is public officials abusing their privilege and responsibility to keep the public informed in an attempt to starve a private business of the content that constitutes its product. They have a right to interpret their responsibilities so as to allow that. But it isn’t right, and Rhode Islanders should consider it evidence that they aren’t fit for public office.”

The boycott could have a chilling effect, Katz said. “It sends a signal down the line to talk show hosts — or me or you — that if you are thinking of saying anything close to the nebulous line of what’s not sayable, you might be better off softening your criticism or even going with a different topic altogether.”

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Updating the Conspiracies: House Stenographer Tangentially Raised a Good Point Last night

Further to the … um, unscheduled remarks of a Stenographer at a live microphone last night in the U.S. House, where exactly do Freemasons fit on the chart of shady, new world order organizations? After the Tri-Lateral Commission and the Counsel on Foreign Relations but perhaps ahead of the Bildeberg Group and Yale Skull and Bones …?

From Gawker:

As the House finished their vote to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling, a House stenographer decided it was a good time to let everyone know her feelings about God, Congress, and the Freemasons.

“He [God] will not be mocked,” the stenographer, apparently named Molly, yelled into the microphone as she was dragged off by security. “The greatest deception here is that this is not one nation under God. It never was. It would not have been. The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons. They go against God. You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God. Praise be to Jesus.”

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