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Always Wise to Implicate the President in Your Corruption

Drifting into national politics for a moment, Andrew McCarthy is worth a read, suggesting that the implication of President Obama in Hillary Clinton’s email scandal explains the government-wide cover-up:

Thanks to Friday’s FBI document dump — 189 more pages of reports from the Bureau’s year-long foray (“investigation” would not be the right word) into the Clinton e-mail scandal — we now know for certain what I predicted some eight months ago here at NRO: Any possibility of prosecuting Hillary Clinton was tanked by President Obama’s conflict of interest.

As I explained in February, when it emerged that the White House was refusing to disclose at least 22 communications Obama had exchanged with then-secretary Clinton over the latter’s private e-mail account, we knew that Obama had knowingly engaged in the same misconduct that was the focus of the Clinton probe: the reckless mishandling of classified information.

One can easily understand the urgency to seat Clinton in the Oval Office no matter how horrible a candidate she might prove — even to the point of a Weekend at Bernie’s campaign.  Any other candidate, even a Democrat, might find some cause to allow justice to follow its course.

That the only hope for stopping the plan — which is probably little more than a representation of so many other plans and calamities, known and as yet unknown — is a President Trump is depressing.  But that’s modern America.

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Questions of Who Wants to “Save Tiverton” from a Casino

By way of a preface, I’d note that I believe campaign finance laws to be an unconstitutional infringement on citizens’ rights, and on the matter of a casino in Tiverton, I’m ultimately ambivalent (though my being so upsets some folks, locally).  My opposition to gambling, generally, has mainly to do with the fact that it’s become a means for government to profit from a formerly illegal activity, but if Tiverton gets in on that game, the revenue better go toward tax relief.

The preface notwithstanding, the following snippet from a Jennifer Bogdan article in yesterday’s Providence Journal caught my attention.  The article is about local clergy’s decision to part ways with a group calling itself “Save Tiverton” because of the secrecy of its backers.

Save Tiverton has not filed any campaign expenditure documents with the state Board of Elections, which would be required if the group spent money. Richard Thornton, the board’s campaign finance director, said no complaints about the group have been received. …

To his knowledge, [Holy Trinity Episcopal Church’s Rev. John] Higginbotham said, the backers haven’t spent any money or done any fundraising despite promising a funding stream.

What’s eye-catching is that some significant number of Tiverton residents appears to have received two-page mailers promoting a meeting and providing a sheet of “myths” (PDF).  The photocopied sheets came in a nondescript envelope, with no indications of individuals behind Save Tiverton.  Notably, the return address is 1956 Main Rd., which is the address of Rev. Higginbotham’s church.  More notably, perhaps, the bulk-rate stamp permit is provided through Hingham, Massachusetts, up on the bay next to Quincy.

While it’s certainly possible to conduct printing and mailing entirely by Internet and phone, Hingham would be a bit far for local interests to drive if they had to deliver printouts.  It is, however, closer to Taunton and Everette, two pending locations for casinos in Massachusetts that the Save Tiverton myth sheet notes are creating “saturation” in the local gambling market.

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2016 Freedom Index Shows Paying Attention Works

The most striking finding of the Freedom Index for the 2016 legislative session — which the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity released this week — is the difference that it makes when the people pay attention and give their representatives feedback.  In 2012, 14 legislators scored in positive territory on the index.  That first iteration turned out to be a sort of beginners luck, though, as the positives dropped to just two in 2013 and none in 2014 or 2015.

This year was the first that the Center made a point (as much as the legislature makes it possible) of reviewing legislation before it received a floor vote, and here are the results:

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We’re back to 11 positive legislators, and another 10 are separating from the sinking pack in a way that’s different from the results of previous years.  Despite the race to the bottom evidenced by legislative leaders and those who blindly vote with them 21 legislators are pulling away.

Of course, the fact that it’s an election year may have made a difference by itself, but elections can’t be but so effective if people aren’t paying attention and, more importantly, politicians know that tools exist to let voters know how they’re doing.  Step 1 is to make it clear which side a given legislator tends to take.  Step 2 is to bring that information to the voting booth to ensure that the number of legislators who will vote the right way actually increases.

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Warwick and RI Can’t Be Generous While Shrinking

The Warwick school department is considering closing up to three schools, and predictably, people aren’t happy about it:

So far, the city has fielded complaints of traffic jams, unfinished construction projects and overcrowding at Warwick’s high schools.

And in an excellent civics lesson, democracy is producing candidates implying they’ll make all the problems go away if elected:

School committee candidate Dean Johnson said he lives nearby and sees the problems every day.

“Nothing but traffic,” he said. “It was 15 minutes from Benny’s to Pilgrim – it was absolutely ridiculous.”

Fellow school committee candidate Nathan Cornell is just 18 years old and said he still has friends in high school.

“At the first day, I called them and say, ‘how was school for you,’” he said. “And they told me it was crowded, especially the lunchrooms.”

Rhode Islanders want to run things as if the state is economically healthy and growing.  It’s not.  When I looked at Warwick’s population in 2012, it had dropped nearly 4% from the 2000 Census to the 2010 Census.  This May, I wondered how the school department could be considering any raises at all (let alone the 10% per year the teachers union reportedly wanted) with a smaller, less-working population with shrunken house values, and what justification there could be when the under-performing district had seen its enrollment drop 34% since the 2000-2001 school year.

Look, if you want neighborhood schools, you need the population and the enrollment to support them.  If you want small class sizes, you need to control the costs of teachers.  Rhode Islanders can’t keep up the economy-strangling approach to government and the union-gorging approach to employees and expect to maintain the quality of life they’ve enjoyed.  It is not paradoxical to observe that when you let government take more money from you and your neighbors and to limit your freedoms, you wind up getting less from government.

What will it take to make Rhode Islanders realize this?  Or more precisely, what will it take to make Rhode Islanders realize this and then change things rather than simply move away?

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A Tale of Clashing Intra-Boomer Greed

Essays by Joel Kotkin are often frustrating.  On one hand, he’s clearly more reasonable than the typical mainstream liberal and willing to consider evidence even if it leads him to conclusions that conflict with the standard liberal line.  On the other hand, he pulls up sharply short of following his thinking all the way through.  Consider this, from a column attacking Baby Boomers for their role in constructing the civic society that has produced our terrible presidential choices:

Trumpian boomerism is easily evidenced in my own neighborhood of Villa Park in Orange County. Our lovely, well-maintained and aging little enclave is friendly, civic-minded and civil. But it also is the center of opposition to such things as school bonds that would improve local schools now in a shocking state of disrepair. Villa Park residents helped defeat the last school bond, and it’s a former (thank heaven) City Council member who seeks to lead the effort to overturn the one on the ballot this year.

The arguments of the anti-bond advocates, like those backing Trump, base their pitch on accusations of public incompetence but rest on a culture of selfishness. Many opposing the bonds, which would cost them a few hundred dollars a year on their property tax bill, think nothing of spending lavishly on luxury vacations or home upgrades. The fact that better schools might increase their own property values seems to sail against their mind-set, which apparently renders them oblivious to the penury imposed on the next generation.

Kotkin seems not to consider that bonds typically require higher tax bills for 20 to 30 years.  Boomers are more likely to have purchased their homes when property values were much lower (even if only 15 years ago), and they are more likely to have finished paying off their mortgages; they’re also farther along in their careers and wealthier.  “A few hundred dollars a year on their property tax bill” is therefore not as big a deal to them as it is to those in Gen X who may be struggling to get on the other side of life’s financial hump or Millennials looking to buy houses (or even rent them) for the first time.  Long-term debt will also affect whatever generation comes after today’s kids in the same way.

In fairness, it’s entirely possible that Boomers in Kotkin’s suburb of (typically liberal) coastal California haven’t thought this through, either, and are, indeed, acting out of greed.  But even if we cede that point, we still must challenge his assumption that more money will improve education.  The same teacher unions that have helped to diminish public education in the United States have spent decades driving up the cost, pushing taxpayers toward antipathy to new expenses and forcing administrators to cut corners when it comes to maintenance and capital improvement.

That is, to the extent greed is involved, it is in no way one sided.

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Telling Them by Their Motivation

Imagine an issue with two opposing factions:

  • One organization was formed with no commercial incentive, but because people believe advocating a particular side on the issue will literally save lives and, more broadly, produce a healthier, more moral and just society.
  • The opposing organization is a major service provider with heavy investment in the issue in question, although its advocates do claim its work improves (maybe even saves) lives and supports fundamental rights and freedoms.  Of course, the key service its provides on the issue is literally killing young human beings.

Readers will likely have guessed that the issue in question is abortion, and the juxtaposition struck me while reading Ted Nesi’s weekend bullet-column this morning.  Being mainly concerned with politics, Nesi looks at the vying lobbying of Rhode Island Right to Life and of Planned Parenthood.  It makes one wonder what would happen to the pro-abortion cause if the direct financial self interest were removed from the equation.

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Every Event Comes with Opportunity

A key question I’ve asked myself as I’ve tried to work through the appropriate response to our awful choices for the upcoming presidential election is what position each candidate would put the conservative movement in as president.  Even if we could count on them both to behave in exactly the same fashion, how they got to the presidency and how they are perceived could have a dramatic effect on the ability of people with a conservative view of policy to advance their beliefs.

In that regard, Ian Tuttle gives an important admonition that we ought to be prepared in the event of a Hillary Clinton victory:

Four years of Hillary Clinton will be enormously painful for conservatives. But millions of non-ideological Americans are going to be pained by it, too, and looking for an alternative. When 2020 rolls around, conservatives should have one to offer.

It has become clear beyond denial that mal-education means we can no longer count on the lessons of tradition, patriotism, and common sense to provide the answer for the second part of “not x, therefore y.”  It isn’t enough for us to say that things have gone wrong; we need to tell people how to set them right.  The hard part is that people won’t change their minds about the narrative with which they’ve been indoctrinated until we find that remnant of common sense that must exist by virtue of their being human beings.

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The Obama Glow Is Radiation from News Media Decomposition

Every now and then, you’ll come across a news report mentioning that President Obama has dramatically reduced deficits, as if he’s some sort of fiscal hawk.  The spin of the characterization comes through the fact that such statements start the clock in 2009, Obama’s first year in office, during which the deficit more than tripled, to around $1.4 trillion.  In other words, his deficit reduction only looks like responsible spending in the context of that profligate year — a bit like saying an alcoholic is making strides toward sobriety because he’s now guzzling regular rum, rather than 151.

In a similar vein, an article from the Washington Post in today’s Providence Journal tries to spin the Obama Era as a time of economic satisfaction.  Under the Projo headline, “Poll: Many feel lives have improved under Obama“:

How Americans feel about the state of their lives has improved markedly in the eight years since Barack Obama was elected president, according to Gallup data released Tuesday.

In 2008, fewer than half of Americans said their life was good enough to be considered “thriving,” according to Gallup. But that’s changed: “The 55.4% who are thriving so far in 2016 is on pace to be the highest recorded in the nine years Gallup and Healthways have tracked it,” according to the report.

Not only that, members of each ethnic or racial group in Gallup’s study feel better about their lives.

Ummm… about that.

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Yes, in the first year of Obama’s presidency, people were feeling better about their lives, especially (not surprisingly) blacks, but 2010 brought a peak.  The percentage of blacks who say they’re thriving has dropped significantly since then, to below the level in 2009.  Asians are down, and Hispanics haven’t budged much.  Whites are up a few percentage points since 2010, but not much above last year.

Reading the rest of Christopher Ingraham’s article, one can only conclude that he’s spinning on purpose.  For instance, he belittles Donald Trump’s recent appeal to black voters, writing that the Gallup numbers “reflect” black “gains in employment, income and education,” which they really don’t.  And then there’s this:

Certainly, economic policies have been central to Obama’s administration, including the 2009 stimulus package and the $80 billion auto-industry bailout. But his supporters and detractors disagree on the extent to which those policies helped pull the country out of the recession.

This is boosterism, pure and simple.  It appears that the only way to make Obama look good is to compare him on his good days to himself on his bad days, so to speak.

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Talking 38 Studios Scorecard on TV and Radio

Since the release of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s scorecard showing how legislators have voted when the 38 Studios scandal has been within their scope of office (as opposed to calling on the attorney general to release information), I’ve had a few media appearances.  The most extensive, also touching on the legal settlement just announced related to the bankruptcy, was on Dan Yorke’s State of Mind on WPRI’s digital station:

 

I also had my first appearance on Frank Coletta’s Business Lunch on WJAR, Channel 10:

 

And on the audio-only front, I spoke with John Loughlin on WPRO, in part 2 of the August 20th show.

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Misunderstanding the Problem of the Master Lever

Sam Howard wants to conclude that the master lever (allowing voters to simply vote for a political party for all open offices) was never Republicans’ problem in Rhode Island, because he wants to believe that the issue is “their party’s toxicity to a state that overwhelmingly supports Democratic policies.”  One’s first thought upon reading that might be that RI progressives have to get their story straight.  Here’s Bob Plain reporting Progressive Democrat leader Sam Bell’s belief that “the people who dominate the Democratic caucuses in the General Assembly … really seem to stand with the national Republican Party on the core issues that divide the two parties at the national level.”

But Howard wants to believe progressive policies are popular — perhaps because without popularity, they’d just be society-and-soul-destroying nonsense in the service of totalitarians — so he wants to conclude that eliminating the master lever won’t really help Republicans.  Mind you, he’s putting forward his evidence before there’s been a single election without the lever:

Eliminating the master lever was supposed to assist the RI Republican Party (and strengthen RI’s democracy) by assisting in one of the most important things a party needs: candidate recruitment. The problem, as it was posed, was that the prevalence of the master lever basically acted as a deterrent for potential Republican candidates for the General Assembly; why put in the effort of running if loyal Democrats, voting for president or US senator or governor at the top of the ticket, would simply pull the master lever and obliterate down-ballot Republicans? Eliminating the option would allow Republican candidates to run without fear of such occurrences, thereby assisting efforts to recruit quality candidates.

This paragraph shows a deep misunderstanding of the interaction of human nature in politics, at least on the Right.  Nobody should have believed that eliminating the master lever would be anything but a long-term reform.  Generally, conservatives don’t want to enter a lifelong swirl of politics and government’s rotating doors, certainly not to the degree of people who believe in big government, so there’s no giant wave of people so aware of the career path that they’ve carefully calculated their odds of winning, with the master lever considered.

Rather, potential Republican candidates see the current makeup of the legislature, they have a general sense of their odds of winning, and they know they’ll be a targeted minority even if they beat those odds.  That last is not a matter of the popularity of their beliefs; it’s a matter of the political machine, from the master lever to legislative grants to union thuggery to biased media.  It’s also a matter of accelerating from a near standstill.

Assuming digital-technology-enabled fraud doesn’t swamp its effects, eliminating the master lever will bear fruit at the margins, enabling a few more candidates already crazy enough to run to get in.  With each who does, the level of required craziness will drop and the field of candidates will broaden, with most not realizing the effect the master lever had.

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The 38 Studios Misfire

Putting together the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s 38 Studios scorecard, the peculiarity of the whole matter reared its head.  Most folks who’ve watched the controversy closely know that the Economic Development Corp.’s (EDC) loan guarantee program first arose in a supplemental budget, but the details aren’t widely understood.  Here are some findings that don’t entirely jibe with the common recollection:

  • The increase of the $50 million program to $125 million — to surreptitiously cover the 38 Studios bonds — was not slipped in as a floor amendment during the infamous floor session at which Republican Representative Robert Watson of East Greenwich stood as the lone “nay” vote when the bill came back around a second time.  It was part of article 7 in the SubA bill (2010 7105) that the House Finance Committee sent to the floor with the supplemental budget.
  • More representatives voted against the program in the supplemental on April 13, 2010, than as a separate bill, although all but one apparently changed their views when the bill came up again:
    • Rod Driver
    • Larry Ehrhardt
    • Robert Jacquard
    • Charlene Lima
    • Brian Newberry
    • Robert Watson
  • Cranston Democrat Lima even put in an amendment that would have required disclosure of any elected officials who contacted the EDC on behalf of any company seeking to participate in the program, and 25 representatives voted for it (which is a relatively large vote for an insurgent amendment).
  • The Senate actually did pass the supplemental budget, on April 14, but oddly didn’t transmit it to the governor.

The immediate question that the Center had to consider for its scorecard was whether to count these votes.  Ultimately, we decided not to do so because, in the weird circumstances, it never became law.  Even if, for example, Lima’s floor amendment had passed, it wouldn’t have been part of the law because she didn’t resubmit it to the version of the statute that made it into law.

Had we counted the supplemental, some legislators would have edged a grade up or down, but no incumbents.  Moreover, in the discussion over the years, the public has generally considered the 38 Studios controversy as having begun with the freestanding bill that actually made it to the governor’s desk.

Reviewing the history, though, does make one wonder who knew what, back then, and why an issue that did spark some push-back in April seemed to zip right through when it came around again in May.

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Going After Free Speech Against Incumbents in Connecticut

For the Campaign Regulation Is Unconstitutional file, Joe Markley relates his experience in Connecticut:

Along with my friend and colleague, Connecticut state representative Rob Sampson, I’ve been charged with a violation of campaign-spending statutes by our state elections-enforcement authority. My misdeed was a single mention of Governor Dannel Malloy in each of two mailings we sent during the last state election. …

The fact is, we didn’t bring the governor up to hurt his campaign, but to make our own position clear to voters: Dan Malloy is Connecticut’s single biggest problem. His enormous tax hikes (the two largest in state history, one each passed immediately after his election and reelection), his reckless borrowing, and his refusal to reduce the size and scope of state government have brought our state to the precipice. Prohibiting us from sharing with voters our opinion of the governor would deprive them of the most important piece of political information we can offer.

And that’s the point.  All that stuff about getting money out of politics is dressing.  Some activists sincerely believe it, of course, but whether the political corruption was behind the cause at its inception or the corrupt subsequently identified the opportunity it presents, campaign finance and related regulations are now meant to protect the powerful.  There is simply no legitimate interpretation of the Constitution that allows the government to forbid people from criticizing the king or a duke or an earl when it matters or seek to restrict their funding or force them to list their co-conspirators.

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Ray Mathieu: Not Too Late to Default on 38 Studios and Force Investigations

Taxpayers are and should be outraged not only at the final “findings”, or rather lack of findings, resulting from the conclusion of the multi-year investigation of the 38 Studios fiasco, but also at the lack of transparency surrounding the investigation. Based upon what professional bond investment managers have told me, I have stated repeatedly since long before the first bond payment was ever made that the only way to have a thoroughly independent, full-blown professional investigation would be to default on the bond payments, thereby forcing the bond insurance companies, who would wind up paying these bonds, to perform their own deep investigation.

Of course, The Powers That Be did not want that, for fear of the real truth coming out, so they used the fear mongering excuse that the state’s bond rating would be adversely affected if we defaulted on the bonds. While, as I’ve been advised, it may be true that the rating of moral obligation bonds like the 38 Studios bonds, which are not backed by the full faith and credit of the State and, therefore, do not carry a low tax-exempt interest rate but rather a much higher and fully taxable interest rate, may be adversely affected, we should not be issuing anymore of these moral obligation bonds anyway. Such bonds are approved by the legislature so the debt can be issued without requiring voter approval. Needless to say, after the result of the 38 Studio investment, the practice of issuing bonds without voter approval should be curtailed permanently.

As I have been also advised, the ratings of the state’s general obligation bonds may also be affected by a default on the 38 Studios moral obligation bonds, even though general obligations require voter approval and are backed by the full faith and credit of the state. Even so, the possible potential increase in the amount of interest the state may have to pay on potential future bonds not even yet issued would be far less than the $90 million we are currently paying on the 38 Studios bonds, and the state would have avoided what now appears to be a cover up.

If the governor and state treasurer had stepped up and done the smart thing by defaulting on the bond payments initially, the taxpayers could have saved tens of millions of dollars and would have had the results of a professional insurance investigation made public years ago.

It is still not too late to default on the remaining 38 Studios bond payments and, thereby, force the bond insurers to give us the full investigation the taxpayers deserve and reduce the cost of this fiasco to the taxpayers.

 

Ray Matheiu is an independent candidate for RI state representative in district 1.

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In the Darkness Beyond the Footlights

This Richard Fernandez essay would be worth a read if only for the historical analogy:

… Florence Foster Jenkins was a Pennsylvania socialite who aspired to be a diva. The trouble was she couldn’t sing a note. “From her recordings it is apparent that Jenkins had little sense of pitch or rhythm, and was barely capable of sustaining a note. Her accompanist, Cosmé McMoon, can be heard making adjustments to compensate for her tempo variations and rhythmic mistakes. Unfortunately, there was nothing McMoon could do to help conceal the glaring inaccuracy of Jenkins’ intonation: the notes she sang were consistently flat and their pitch deviated from the sheet music by as much as a semitone. Her dubious diction, especially in foreign languages, is also noteworthy. Additionally, the technically challenging songs she performed, requiring levels of musical skill far beyond her ability and vocal range, served only to emphasize these deficiencies.”

The key part is that Jenkins’s friends covered for her, forbidding objective critics from entering her shows and deploying such Obama-esque spin phrases as lauding her “intentionally ambiguous” technique.  Fernandez even supplies an audio clip to capture what sound the phrase was intended to describe.

Readers won’t be surprised that I agree with Fernandez’s application of this analogy to President Obama and the mess that he has made of the world.  To the extent that the question remains whether Obama is incompetent or bumbling for some ulterior purpose, the best spin available might be that his performance is “intentionally inadequate.”

Still, the most intriguing part of the comparison with Jenkins is Fernandez’s suggestion that our elites in government and the media “can’t see the audience in the darkness beyond the footlights heading for the exits.”  That captures the feedback problem we have when the elites who want to spin reality have thorough control over so much of the country’s education and information systems.  Those of us wincing at the sound from the stage have no way of knowing, really, whether the audience is going along with the con or is preparing to throw rotten vegetables at the stage.

The unexpectedly successful candidacy of Donald Trump gives some indication, but without making clear whether people are accurately associating their headaches with the noise from the stage or are merely lashing out, knowing not at what.

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A Culture Of Silence In The Ocean State

In America, we must all remain free to voice our opinions without fear of state-sponsored persecution. It is reprehensible for any political elitists to collude to prosecute those who disagree with them on policy. For this reason, the Center is assisting a national nonprofit organization in a lawsuit demanding that the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General release documents they have refused to make public. We believe that General Kilmartin, and his fellow enemies of debate, are seeking to maintain a cloak of invisibility over the national AG group’s attempt to crush dissent by those who disagree with their radical climate change agenda.

In June, the Center published an energy report that demonstrated how oppressive state renewable energy mandates, as part of the national climate change agenda, will cost taxpayers and ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. These mandates will cause job losses in the thousands, and artificially raise local electricity rates. It is research and advocacy such as this that Kilmartin and his AG group are seeking to muzzle and potentially prosecute as criminal. No matter where you stand in the climate change debate, citizens must have the right to speak freely.

This culture of silence in the Ocean State is chilling. Why do so many elected officials and prominent people want you to be quiet? The rigged system protects the corrupt insiders. As we saw in the recent 38 Studios political whitewash, the machine will do what it takes to keep you from knowing the truth. Rhode Islanders want a government that works for everyone not just the chosen few. Things do not have to be this way in our state. We can have an open state government that serves the real needs of our families, and protects our freedom to achieve our dreams.

Elected officials saying things are getting better in Rhode Island is not enough, they must take action. We need action. Unless the Ocean State adopts the proven free market reforms that can transform our state, we will continue to see the negative trends continue. You can change the status quo. You must not allow anyone to silence you. By speaking out on the issues that affect your family, you can make a powerful statement to the insiders that you have had enough. Now is the time to be bold, and have our public policy culture make a complete turnaround.

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

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Bike Paths, Lights, Sustainability – RhodeWorks Tolls Turn into Huge Bait-And-Switch

Am I going crazy? (Don’t answer that!) Didn’t Governor Gina Raimondo sell us on her unnecessary and highly destructive RhodeWorks toll plan by saying that the money would go to repair our very unsafe (oh so unsafe; most unsafe in this quadrant of the galaxy) bridges? But look at this RhodeWorks Quarterly Report!

Bike paths, lights, guardrails, road re-paving, something called “I-95 Sustainability” – RhodeWorks is being spent on all kinds of projects, not just bridge repair. Remarkably, there is even a RIDOT sign that CONFIRMS money from the RhodeWorks/Toll Project is being spent on a bike path!

What the heck??? Tolls were supposed to go to our unsafe bridges! Where did all of these other projects come from?

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Funding the Fundamental Transformation of America

Periodically, I’ve noted ways in which the seemingly out-of-nowhere madness sweeping our nation has actually been funded from the top-down, largely with our own money.  My favorite example — because it was my own discovery, my first hint of the mechanism, and so clear a one — is PolicyLink, an activist organization largely funded through the federal government, sometimes indirectly (as when the state of Rhode Island was forced to hire the group as part of federally funded RhodeMap RI activities), that has used its resources in the past to fund research into transforming U.S. capitalism into far-left socialism.

Yes, there are billionaires funding the Left’s astroturf, such as Tom Steyer on environmentalism and the infamous George Soros, but a whole lot of the money comes from us, largely through debt that we’ll have to pay.  No billionaire can beat the U.S. government for spending.

I mention this today, because I’m going through bookmarks of links on which I never managed to post and came across this, from the Sean Higgins in the Washington Examiner:

Bank of America has been able to reduce a multi-billion dollar mortgage fraud penalty imposed by the Justice Department by giving millions of dollars to liberal groups approved by the Obama administration.

The bank has wiped about $194 million off its record $16.6 billion 2014 mortgage settlement by donating to nonprofits and legal groups. Thanks to little-known provisions in the settlement, the bank only had to make $84 million in donations to do that. …

Among the groups receiving the money were Hispanic civil rights group the National Council of La Raza ($1.5 million), the National Urban League ($1.1 million) and the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America ($750,000).

Our government does not represent us.  It is abusing us, and there’s no end in sight.

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Climate Change as an Excuse to Turn Government Against the People

Kevin Mooney has picked up, for The Daily Signal, the story about an open-records-related lawsuit against Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.  In brief, Kilmartin’s office has signed an agreement to work with other attorneys general and environmental activists to target companies and organizations on the other side of public debate about climate change and related public policy, with a further agreement to keep the larger agreement and correspondence secret.  One problem with that:

If Kilmartin and the other attorneys general prevail in the deal to keep select details secret, the ordinary citizen will be the loser, Chris Horner, a leading critic of climate change orthodoxy, said.

“It will mean that they can create privilege for what are otherwise public records, even when shared with ideological activists and donors, so long as everyone who wants to keep their scheming secret agrees in advance,” Horner told The Daily Signal.

That’s not the only way for government officials to keep things secret.  I’ve been writing about the efforts of the Employee Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI) and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner to withhold from me the total amount of pension promises to which the state is committed, efforts in which the attorney general’s office is now involved.  In that case, the state government is making the ludicrous claim that, because a private actuary has the data, might have to perform a simple calculation, and might charge some price to produce the results, getting it would implicitly be an “undue burden,” thus creating an exemption from the law.  That is, even if the costs would be small and the people requesting the information were willing to pay the fees, public agencies do not have to release public information as long as they use an outside company to process it.

With that massive loophole in mind, turn to an essay from May by Hans Von Spakovsky and Tiger Joyce.  As part of this very same effort of state attorneys general to go after political opponents in the name of climate change alarmism:

Some state attorneys general are hiring profit-seeking, private-sector personal-injury lawyers to do their legal dirty work. Moreover, any contingency fees collected by these lawyers through settlements arising from these cases could be used, in part, to fund the campaigns of allied politicians who embrace the “one, true belief” of man-made global warming.

Unfortunately, the Department of Attorney General does not appear to be included in Rhode Island’s transparency portal, so there’s no immediate way to dig into Kilmartin’s expenditures with private firms, but even if the state has not yet reached the point of paying hired bounty hunters to track down those lawless climate change deniers, we can certainly include this whole corrupt effort on the list of ways in which government at the state and national levels has left the road along which the people can safely feel as if they are legitimately governed.

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Providence Journal Gives Up on Objectivity

I’ve long harbored the hope that journalists with integrity at the Providence Journal were quietly embarrassed by their paper’s dabbling in PolitiFact.  In the past, I charted PolitiFact’s bias, and I even wrote a parody song about it.  In PolitiFact, the mainstream media has the perfect representation of the pretense of objectivity being used as a partisan political weapon.

With its coverage of this year’s partisan conventions, the Projo appeared to have committed the entire paper to the PolitiFact aesthetic.  With today’s front page, it appears to have taken up its method, too:

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The “news” of this story is that Donald Trump, (sadly) the Republican nominee for president, is habitually dishonest.  Disliking Trump, myself, I’m not inclined to object to such investigation, but I still find it shocking to see it as such a prominent report in the Providence Journal, partly because it is inconceivable that the paper would give similar treatment to the similarly dishonest Hillary Clinton.

In fact, take the analysis a bit farther and open the paper to its “Campaign 2016″ coverage.  The headlines are:

Pay special attention to the bullet in the middle, because it may indicate why the editors felt it necessary to land so hard on Trump’s honesty today.  The “lack of filter” story is used as an envelope around an inset about the latest Clinton-related revelations, which I mentioned this morning, and that story is couched in terms of “Trump pounces.”

A search of the last fifteen days of the Providence Journal turns up no other news reports including the words “Clinton Foundation email.”  In other words, for the paper’s only reporting of emails that raise ethical questions about the Democrat nominee for president, it minimized the find (excluding, notably, the Obama Justice Department’s killing of FBI requests to investigate the foundation further), presented it in terms of Trump’s response, surrounded by a story about Trump’s wild speaking habits, next to a story about a U.S. senator calling him a kook, within an issue fronted with bold declarations of Trump’s habitual lies.

This is a newspaper attempting to affect the outcome of an election along predictable party lines, pure and simple.  Few remain so naive as to believe in mainstream objectivity in the post-Bush era, and I personally think we need less regulation of speech, not more.  Nonetheless, while this may do little more than show my age, I’m still shocked by the tabloid-esque brazenness.

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Clinton and the Rule of Law

It sure does seem that Hillary Clinton has been almost daring the federal bureaucracy to uphold the rule of law, and the Obama Administration has casually refused to take the bait.  From CNN:

Early this year as the investigation into Clinton’s private email server was in full swing, several FBI field offices approached the Justice Department asking to open a case regarding the relationship between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation, according to a law enforcement official. At the time, DOJ declined because it had looked into allegations surrounding the Clinton Foundation around a year earlier and found there wasn’t sufficient evidence to open a case.

This sure looks like a cover-up.  Wouldn’t it behoove the federal government to be absolutely thorough and transparent in putting to rest any suspicions — particularly considering that the suspicions originated through “several FBI field offices,” not the vast right-wing conspiracy that Clinton has long offered her supporters as an excuse to ignore reality?  After all, this is a person likely to be the President of the United States, and it can’t be good for the country to have open questions about uninvestigated suspicions.

We can only fear what sort of damage a Clinton presidency would do to the rule of law should she win the office, just as we can only fear what sort of damage an unpredictable and apparently ignorant Donald Trump would do in the same position.  The more important conclusion, though, is that the federal government is already illegitimately exercising power because it is acting outside the bounds of the rule of law, which the citizenry should consider to be a violation of the contract that binds us to following the law ourselves.

As I’ve written before, our country has reached the point that we should follow the law to avoid prison or other consequences — and insofar as the law happens to correspond with moral principles — but should feel no moral responsibility to obey an illegitimate government.

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The Inequality Narrative

Not to pick on Ted Nesi, because he’s only trying to promote his work using a click-bait political narrative, but I had to ask him what the insinuation was when he tweeted that “just 5 of RI’s 27 best-funded politicians are women.”  Do people who attempt to buy Rhode Island politicians put sexism before corruption?  Or do fewer women run for office?  Or are the specific women who are currently politicians in Rhode Island not as effective at or interested in fundraising?

Nevermind.  Let’s all just assume sexism.

The problem is that such statements are part of what turns straight reporting of the news into another brick in the wall of a political narrative serving one side — in this case, the glass-ceiling-breaking Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (who will enter office with a large percentage of the population thinking she’s the archetype of corruption and thinking more of the cliché to “break glass in case of emergency”).  The entire inequality narrative, as Thomas Sowell argues, ought to be retired before it does anymore divisive harm:

People like Hillary Clinton can simply grab a statistic about male–female income differences and run with it, since her purpose is not truth but votes. The real question, however, is whether, or to what extent, those income differences are due to employers paying women and men different wages for doing the very same jobs, for the very same amount of time.

We do not need to guess about such things. Many studies have been done over many years — and they repeatedly show that women and men who work the very same hours in the very same jobs at the very same levels of skill and experience do not have the pay gaps that people like Hillary Clinton loudly denounce.

As far back as 1971, single women in their thirties who had worked continuously since high school earned slightly more than men of the same description. As far back as 1969, academic women who had never married earned more than academic men who had never married.

For the foreseeable future, I’m afraid, “equality” for women will continue to mean that women must have all the same positive outcomes as men, no matter what decisions they make.  If that doesn’t sound like “equality” to you, clearly you need to be reeducated.

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The Clinton Pay-to-Play and RI’s Mandatory Vaccine

Sarah Westwood sketches in some of the details of what many see as the pay-to-play scheme involving the overlapping activities of the Clinton Foundation and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (via Stephen Green):

The confusing structure can make tracing the precise destination of donations to the foundation a difficult task. However, donor records show major pharmaceutical firms — including Pfizer, Merck & Co., and Sanofi — have written generous checks to the Clinton Foundation. …

During Clinton’s first year at the agency, Merck lobbied the State Department to ease regulations restricting the distribution of its drugs “in certain Latin American markets,” according to lobbying disclosure forms from 2009. That placed the drug company’s international interests squarely on Clinton’s desk. …

As a senator, Clinton had reportedly written a letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services to approve Merck’s human papillomavirus vaccine in 2005.

By 2011, under her purview at the State Department, the U.S. government had teamed up with Merck to provide that same HPV vaccine to women in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative was set to cost $75 million.

Merck, of course, is the company that produces Gardasil, the vaccine for HPV (which cannot be transmitted in any ordinary school activity) that the state of Rhode Island has mandated for all girls and boys entering seventh grade in a public or private school and for which the state’s Dept. of Health is actively advertising with mailers and robocalls.

Like Hillary Clinton’s misdeeds, however, these connections and the strange enthusiasm of government officials for specific drugs that push the boundaries of their purview are not high on the list of mainstream journalists.  We all might chuckle that the federal government has apparently been pushing dental floss for over 30 years without any scientific basis (but much corporate enthusiasm, no doubt), but it isn’t enough simply to shrug and assume that this is how things work.  It shouldn’t be.