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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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