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Press Conference To Oppose Taxpayer Funded Stadium Tomorrow at 3:45 pm; Meanwhile, PawSox Graciously Offer to Buy the Land

As you may have heard, tomorrow at 4:00 pm, the Commerce Corporation (formerly the EDC) will meet to hear a proposal from the PawSox for locating a baseball stadium in Providence — and what they want from state and Providence taxpayers to do so.

Almost simultaneously, all of the organizations and individuals* opposing the PawSox proposal will be holding a press conference — right outside of the building where the Commerce Corporation will be meeting with the PawSox. In the event you are able, please stop by. It will kick off at around 3:45 pm. Below is the address of the Commerce Corporation, where the meeting will be taking place inside and the press conference opposing will be taking place outside.

315 Iron Horse Way
Providence, RI 02908

Helpful tip: should you need directions from Mapquest or Google, as I did, be sure to enter “555 Valley Street, Providence” instead.

So the latest development is that the PawSox have offered to purchase from the state the prime, waterfront land upon which they propose to build, largely if not exclusively at taxpayer expense, a baseball stadium.

They presumably still want $4 million/year from state taxpayers. (They have, remarkably and not very credibly, actually increased their estimate of offsetting tax revenue to the state from $2 million to $2.4 million/year. Let’s remember that, while the tax revenue from the stadium is a pure guess … er, projection, the $4 million/year from the taxpayers to the owners of the PawSox would be a firm obligation.) And they’d presumably still like to be relieved of the obligation to pay property taxes, an obligation that Providence Council President Aponte quickly tried to shift to state taxpayers.

Even WITH the PawSox offer to purchase the land, these constitute remarkably aggressive terms for a use whose seasonal nature prima facie limits its potential for economic activity.

In a way, the PawSox proposal is worse than 38 Studios. As WPRO’s John Loughlin pointed out, 38 Studios was a Hail Mary pass. But a Hail Mary pass has some chance, however remote, of succeeding. With this stadium, EVERYONE, including our elected officials, KNOWS UP FRONT that it would be a financial loser for taxpayers.

We all very much want the Pawtucket Red Sox to stay in Rhode Island, if not Pawtucket. But the price has turned out to be very high, indeed. No one has made a remotely rational case as to why, in the face of red budget ink as far as the eye can see, our elected officials, on behalf of state taxpayers, should take on yet another economic development loss leader like the Convention Center Authority.

We cannot easily divest ourselves of that $15 million/year net loss. But for heavens sake, we also don’t need to knowingly add another $2 – $4 million/year into that budget column.

Tiverton Casino, 2 of 20 Things to Know

Ian Donnis’s weekly TGIF column highlights Twin River’s plans for a casino in Tiverton twice, once from the state’s perspective, and once from the town’s:

The parent company of Twin River may have pulled an ace when it unveiled a plan Monday to transfer gambling from Newport Grand and expand it at a new site on 45 undeveloped acres in northern Tiverton, a dice throw from the Massachusetts border. With Newport remaining unwilling to add table games, a so-called convenience casino in Tiverton may be the most pragmatic option for protecting Rhode Island’s third-largest source of state revenue.

The local perspective comes via a “dispatch” from me, which Ian juxtaposes with John Loughlin’s comments.

I’d only add this, after another day of conversations: The casino proposal appears to be much less controversial, locally, than the Tiverton Glen “multi-use development” proposed a few miles south on the highway.

Union Firefighter Intimidation Tactics in Warwick

As reported by John Howell at the Warwick Beacon:

CVS Health has found no wrongdoing on the part of one of its employees, former Ward 1 councilman and former chairman of the Warwick School Committee Robert Cushman, in response to demands by the president of the Warwick Firefighters Union.

The union’s president, William Lloyd, threatened a statewide – followed by a national – boycott of the pharmacy chain because of Cushman, a full-time business analyst with the company.

Cushman has been critical of the firefighter and police pension liabilities faced by the city. Firefighters have questioned Cushman’s credentials.

In an email Tuesday, CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis released the following statement: “After investigating this matter, we determined that Mr. Cushman did not claim to be representing CVS Health or speaking on behalf of the Company when he exercised his rights as a private citizen at a public meeting in his hometown.”

The email continues: “As such, we have no position on his comments. We believe the IAFF Local 2748’s call for a boycott of CVS/pharmacy is misplaced and not warranted. We have a strong track record of supporting emergency responders, and we appreciate all they do to protect our communities.”

Cushman said CVS executives brought Lloyd’s email to his attention more than a month ago. He said the company questioned him, and reviewed tapes of a presentation he made to the City Council in December. Cushman said he was later shown a copy of the CVS reply, which according to DeAngelis closely followed the statement released to the Beacon.

DeAngelis did not feel it proper to release Lloyd’s email to the paper. Cushman did not have a copy.

In an interview yesterday, Lloyd said the letter that was addressed to DeAngelis never called for Cushman’s dismissal, but that because Cushman is an employee “we would not be using CVS anymore.”

“I never made a threat against his job,” Lloyd said. “I never said anything about getting Bob Cushman fired.”

Lloyd said a boycott was not a singular decision, and that the union unanimously voted for it.

“A vote taken by all members, it wasn’t me just spouting off,” he said.

Nevertheless, message sent, no?

Terry Gorman - RIILE

Terry Gorman: Sympathetic Providence Journal Article Encourages Illegal Immigration to Rhode Island

[Terry Gorman of RIILE sent the following e-mail to Providence Journal reporter Karen Lee Ziner in response to her front page article of Saturday. It has been lightly edited for style.]

Regarding your April 18 article in the Providence Journal, “Fight over Obama’s orders“, so much for “HIDING IN THE SHADOWS“. Two women here Illegally delivering 5 children that by current law are U S Citizens. Free pre-natal care, childbirth, post-partum care and long term family planning for two years (evidently not working) all at the expense of taxpayers. Just how much does this group cost US taxpayers and how is it justified in these lean times?

I think this article will only serve to ENCOURAGE many more pregnant illegal alien women to flock to Rhode Island. Why wouldn’t they come if they can arrive Illegally, have as many children as they wish, work Illegally or just not work, receive workers compensation, get free care for a child’s autism, receive subsidies for the new U S citizen children in the form of welfare, SNAP etc., now that it’s been basically ADVERTISED on the front page of a major newspaper? Thanks.

Magaziner’s Uninformative Op-Ed

Politics is a game of persuasion… if we’re putting it nicely.  “Deception” would probably be more accurate.

But even within that jaded paradigm, I have to marvel at how uninformative state General Treasurer Seth Magaziner’s op-ed in yesterday’s Providence Journal is.  Even putting aside questions about the green theology, the op-ed doesn’t really explain what the treasurer wants to do.

We’ve got a name change of the RI Clean Water Finance Agency, and we’ve got a couple of green-industry ideas, but shouldn’t the treasurer of the state focus on explaining what the bank would mean, functionally, and how much it would cost?  Presumably, an op-ed is meant to be the policy folks’ medium for explaining their proposal to the broader public.  If the treasurer of the state is offering mainly assertions about the wonders of his idea, who’s going to translate the nuts and bolts for the masses?

Our civic culture is really much-deteriorated around here.

Lincoln Chafee’s sense of modern politics could indicate the U.S. has caught RI’s civic illness

A shock went through the collective psyche of Rhode Island when former governor Lincoln Chafee announced that he had formed an exploratory committee to consider a run for the Democrat nomination for President of the United States in 2016.  As governor, Chafee’s public support became so thin that he announced in September 2013 that he would not seek reelection to his office, which didn’t expire until January 2015.

Stepping back from the local incredulity, however, it’s an open question whether Chafee’s got a political sense that his critics lack.  Maybe things like experience and evidence don’t matter as much as they once did.

Continue reading on WatchDog.org.

A Two Million Plus Dollar a Year Loser of a Stadium: What Does the Governor See that Almost No One Else Does?

Two million dollars per year because that is the projected annual loss for state taxpayers in the just-unveiled proposal by the new owners of the Paw Sox for construction of a baseball stadium in Providence. It’s worth repeating: the numbers offered by the Paw Sox owners THEMSELVES have state taxpayers losing two million dollars per year.

“Plus” – and the plus could be quite a large figure – because the president of the Providence City Council has told WPRI’s Dan McGowan that Providence would be looking to state taxpayers to pick up the property taxes that the owners of the Paw Sox have requested to be relieved of. This suggestion would be a laff riot, especially in light of the state’s multi-hundred million dollar structural deficit, except that the council president seemed quite serious about it.

Earlier today, John Marion tweeted out,

Received a call from someone looking to know if there is an organization actively opposing the PawSox stadium deal. Anyone know if there is?

Most of the reaction I’ve seen and heard can be described as “actively opposing” the stadium (also: vigorously opposing, seriously concerned about and downright appalled by), though a single-purpose opposition organization – presumably what Marion’s caller meant – has not yet popped up. Even Bob Plain over at RI Future, never shy about spending tax dollars, has expressed skepticism about the proposal.

In fact, it would be far quicker to list those who support the Paw Sox proposal. This list so far consists of the building trades unions – not a shock as the Paw Sox owners have promised that the proposed stadium would be built with union labor.

Enter Governor Raimondo, who spoke to NBC 10’s Bill Rappleye today.

“I also think this has the potential to create a lot of jobs – immediately construction jobs,” Raimondo said. “It brings people into the city and could catalyze other economic development in the area, which has been done in other cities. If we do it right, I think it could be a good piece of our economic puzzle.”

The Convention Center Authority, 38 Studios and others – the very last thing that state taxpayers can afford is yet another costly economic development loss leader. But by the Paw Sox owners own calculations, that’s exactly where we would be headed with a minor league baseball stadium in Providence. We would respectfully ask to see your numbers, Governor Raimondo. How exactly would a brand new $2+ million hole in the budget make a good contribution to the state’s “economic puzzle”?

The Chafee Indictment of Our Political System

Given the title ,”Why Chafee for President actually makes sense,” I wanted to be able to lay into Ted Nesi’s essay, but I really can’t.  It’s smart and well reasoned.  But for all that, it’s a discouraging statement on the state of our political system.

Here’s a guy who had no real success as a U.S. Senator and was arguably a disaster as governor.  His go-to talking point is that unemployment dropped during his term as governor, but that’s only the case because people’s hopelessness drove them out of the workforce.  By all appearances, he opted not to run for a second term because he realized he had no chance whatsoever and might very well be heavily chastened by the vote totals.

As Ted suggests, though, he’s rich; he’s got an outsized ego; this will get him some attention; and he’s got nothing else to do, right now.  Here’s the depressing part:

During his time as governor, Chafee’s aides would marvel at the warm response he’d receive when he traveled out of state, a marked contrast with his 30%ish approval ratings at home. Many Democrats still appreciate his votes as a GOP senator against the Iraq war and the Bush tax cuts, as well as his repeated argument that the Republican Party is no longer open to pro-environment, pro-choice, dovish moderates like himself. Most Iowa and New Hampshire primary voters have never heard of 38 Studios – and Chafee has no reason to tell them about it. (Although, Chafee being Chafee, he probably will anyway.) His authenticity and quirkiness could play well in the retail politics atmosphere of those early states, particularly with Clinton skeptics searching for an alternative.

Political statements are fine… valuable, even.  If subgroups of the major parties can have an effect on important races, then that’s a positive feature of our political system.  But going with Chafee would be worse than going with somebody who is either completely unknown or who has name recognition, but hasn’t really done anything.  He’s demonstrably not a competent executive or a good leader of large, diverse populations.

The statement isn’t even, “Hey, let’s give this guy a shot.”  It’s more like, “What’s governing have to do with elections?”

Freedom of Religion in Indiana and Rhode Island

At the national level, Americans are being led to ignore any number of critical and pressing issues through a media-and-activist-driven condemnation of a religious freedom statute just passed into law in Indiana.  The hysteria has reached the point that companies that freely do business in communist China are boycotting Indiana, and Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut has implemented a travel ban to Indiana, despite the fact that his own state is on the list of those with such laws.

Rhode Island is also on the list, on the strength of Rhode Island law 42-80.1, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1993.  Arguably, Rhode Island’s law is stronger than Indiana’s.  Here’s the operative language in Indiana’s statute:

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

(b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Here’s Rhode Island’s language, for comparison:

(a) Except as provided for in subsection (b), a governmental authority may not restrict a person’s free exercise of religion.

(b) A governmental authority may restrict a person’s free exercise of religion only if:

(1) The restriction is in the form of a rule of general applicability, and does not intentionally discriminate against religion, or among religions; and

(2) The governmental authority proves that application of the restriction to the person is essential to further a compelling governmental interest, and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

In Indiana, religious people only have protection if the government’s restriction is “substantial,” and the government can impose even “substantial” burdens if it can “demonstrate” that it will “further[] a compelling governmental interest.”  In Rhode Island, the government is not allowed to restrict the “free exercise of religion” at all, substantially or otherwise, unless it can “prove” that the restriction is “essential to further[ing] a compelling governmental interest.”

These may be shades of nuance, but given that the language is similar, with slightly more edge in Rhode Island:  Is anybody aware of any Rhode Island cases in the last 22 years in which (A) this law has been cited and (B) in which it has won a case in a way that could reasonably be seen as permitting discrimination?

Marketplace Fairness or a Tax Trap?

Beware the word “fairness” when elected officials propose new laws.  Be doubly wary of the word when it appears in the name of an act, as it does in the case of the recent second attempt to pass the “Marketplace Fairness Act” through the U.S. Congress, to allow states to collect sales taxes on Internet (“remote”) retail.

The first attempt, in 2013, made it through the Senate, but not the House. All four members of Rhode Island’s federal delegation jumped on the bandwagon ascosponsors, but of the four, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, may have done the most to give the game away.

In his related press release, Whitehouse emphasized that unfairness in retail pricing isn’t really an issue for Rhode Island, because consumers are supposed to pay the state’s 7 percent sales tax–rebranded as a “use tax”–no matter where they buy something.  (Other states’ taxes, if collected, count toward the total.)

To the extent that the pricing difference is unfair, it’s because Whitehouse considers Rhode Islanders to be scofflaws who use online purchases as a means of skirting tax laws.  That, obviously, is unfair to the government officials who would like to have more money to spend.

A series of related Rhode Island statutes reinforces Whitehouse’s emphasis on tax collections.

Continue reading on WatchDog.org.

UPDATED: Governor’ Raimondo’s $13.6 Million Refinance

Give this to our super smaht, financially savvy new governor: She knows how to pack a budget with things that require detailed review and analysis if the public is going to have any real sense of whether it’s a good or bad package, on the whole.

Jennifer Bogdan does the good work of digging into the big refinance part of Governor Raimondo’s proposal in today’s Providence Journal:

Roughly $64.5 million in Raimondo’s 2016 fiscal year budget would come from a refinancing effort. Another $20 million would flow in fiscal year 2017. The bonds in question have an average interest rate of 4.9 percent, but if refinanced the interest rate is expected to be lower than 2.34 percent. She calls the refinancing conservative and says it would be irresponsible not to consider a money-saving measure for the state.

By “money-saving,” what the governor means is that she’s using the restructuring to borrow around $84 million in the first two years.  In the third year, the state will actually have to pay about $10 million more in debt service, and the years will change between costing more and costing less over the refinancing period.  As shown in a table included with Bogdan’s article, when the state reaches the end, in 2032, it will have actually paid $13.6 million more in debt service.

That’s where the governor deploys an accounting trick to make the analysis a bit murkier.  In the words of Budget Officer Thomas Mullaney, “The key here is that we would not enter into this transaction if the state would not ultimately come out ahead.”

He’s referring to the fact that if you look at the present value of the changes in payments up and down over the sixteen years — in other words, adjust them for inflation to what they would be in today’s dollars — the real value of the changes is actually $225,238 less in debt service.

Like so many of the “bold and innovative” moves in the governor’s budget, that’s misleading.  For one thing, the assumed inflation rate is critical.  A rough spreadsheet suggests it’s 2.97%.  In that case, it would erase these so-called savings if inflation turns out to be 2.91%.  Below that, we’ll be well into negative territory.*

For another thing, the state isn’t going to treat the refinance like a restricted fund.  The state will spend the savings in the years that there are savings and will have to come up with the money in years that there are costs.  The money is going to have to come from somewhere to pay the extra debt service, and that somewhere will very probably have been worth more to the economy than simply inflation.  (Hey, maybe the governor should invest the savings along with the state pension fund, which the state assumes makes 7.5% profit every year.)

Simply refinancing from 4.9% to 2.34% interest for the same number of years would have saved a great deal of money that could have been left in the hands of Rhode Islanders.  Whatever the governor’s room full of smaht people do for economic development, they have to do better not only than the cost of the refinance, but also the economic activity of people acting without the government’s meddling.

UPDATE (03/27/15 8:37 p.m.): According to the governor’s office, the estimated rate of inflation is 2.44%, which my math leads me to believe would produce a $2 million cost to the refinancing, in current dollars.  I’ve asked for more insight into the governor’s math, but if anybody has an idea, I’d be interested to hear it.  There also must be something incorrect in the information out of the governor’s office.  They’re saying the refinancing is of $160 million of debt, but the Projo’s numbers have the state paying nearly that amount every year.

* Posting this of a Friday afternoon, I got my signs reversed.  I’ve fixed the relevant text.

Fiddling While the Pension System Burns

The Rhode Island media has its eye closely on the drama of the latest proposed settlement of the pension reform lawsuit — that is, the latest attempt to water down a reform that was nowhere near sufficient in the first place.  In contrast, Mike Riley is continuing to point out that the state, the labor unions, and retirees are arguing over free drinks on a sinking cruise ship:

The Rhode Island Pension fund is roughly  $8 billion dollars invested in stocks, bonds, fixed income securities, Private equity, Hedge Funds, other alternatives and cash. Im keeping the numbers simple here. The state commission, headed by Raimondo, has stated expected return of the portfolio to be 7.5% annually and this is to be achieved compounded over the next 20 to 30 years. A 7.5% return on $8 billion is $600 million for Fiscal 2015. According to the report that Treasurer Magaziner was handed, the return thus far in Fiscal 2015 shows a portfolio (Fiscal ytd )loss of 0.71% and including expenses a loss of 1.03% . This 1.03 % loss translates to a negative $80 million dollars.  The State would need to gain $680 million over the next 5 months to achieve their “expected” return.

Bill Rappleye has picked up that thread on Channel 10, but for the segment, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner spit out a bunch of squid oil to muddy the waters, selectively picking five-year investment returns to make it seem as if the state’s pension fund is doing swimmingly.  I noted the problem with this happy talk last month:

The ten-year average investment return is only 6.0 percent, which should be seen as -1.5 percent.  And the longest term number provided, back to July 2000, is 4.8 percent, which should be seen as -2.7 percent. …

If the average for the last 14 years was 4.8 percent, then the average for the next 14 doesn’t have to be 7.5 percent, but more like 10 percent, to make up the difference.  If we’re already seeing diminishing returns from the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy and President Obama’s binge of trillion-dollar deficits, what are the next 14 years realistically going to look like?

More importantly, I suggested, it should be the state’s general treasurer who is making this case to everybody.  It should be Seth Magaziner out in the news saying, “Hey, these negotiations are all well and good, but we may only have a few more years left until this pension reform thing starts to spring new leaks.”

Former Treasurer, now Governor, Gina Raimondo lucked out that the Obama Administration and the Federal Reserve proved to be such believers in stock-market-trickle-down theory.  Rather than ease the reins on innovators and working people, they’ve hit the loose-money throttle for the investment market.  That’s given the pension fund and the reform a brief period of looking like they might be fine, although as Riley argues, the state managed to do worse than other funds during the bubble’s latest inflation.

Skeffington: Hero or Villain?

Reading this Sunday front page article from the Providence Journal, about consummate Rhode Island insider James Skeffington, one gets the sense of a community-minded figure pulling together beloved public projects:

Friendship, sports, business, government and charity mix together for Skeffington. It’s a recipe that’s served him well through 40-plus years as a corporate lawyer and political adviser.

You won’t find Skeffington’s name on public buildings or laws in Rhode Island, but you’ll see his hand in many high-profile projects.

It could be realigning a Navy base in North Kingstown into a business park, building a convention center and a mall in Providence, attracting a global financial firm to Smithfield, keeping a lottery giant from fleeing to Massachusetts, developing a state airport parking garage or a private retirement home. He’s had a hand in all of these projects.

To bring it back to a Rhode Island cliché, Skeffington doesn’t just know a guy; he’s a guy you wanna know.  Of course, it’s not all friendship and charity.  Scion of a funeral home–operating family, he’s made himself very wealthy fulfilling his role in the Ocean State’s back rooms.  Indeed, the following paragraph could be the pivot point from the pro-government worldview to the government-skeptic worldview:

He joined the Edwards & Angell law firm in Providence after college and made himself an expert bond counsel, later importing to Rhode Island an economic-development tool devised in New York — moral-obligation bonds. Such bonds allow quasi-public agencies to issue debt without voter approval, a provision often criticized by government watchdogs.

The poster child for moral-obligation bonds in Rhode Island is 38 Studios.

It’s an easy principle to forget, as we get caught up in debating one public policy proposal after another, but every time Rhode Island undertakes economic development projects, a small group of people whose names Rhode Islanders don’t know do very well for their personal economies.  Bonds, tax credits, development, and public-private partnerships all require lawyers, brokers, dealers, negotiators, advisers, lobbyists, and on and on.

All they have to do to keep their game going is to keep friends in office and voters falling for one scheme after another.

Some of the Larger, Seriously Ill-Advised Items In the Governor’s (What Kind of) “Jobs Budget”

During the days following its release, reporters, analysts and observers worked to unpack the budget that Governor Raimondo sent to the General Assembly — and found some unpleasant items therein. Here is a bullet list of some of the bigger ones.

Proposed Statewide Property Tax

… aka, the Taylor Swift tax.

Justin got clarification from Governor Raimondo’s office that the INTENT is not to include apartment buildings as properties to be taxed. This conforms to Governor Raimondo’s attempt to sell this tax as having only a narrow list of targeted properties. (So, gosh, don’t worry about it. And, anyways, we only want to tax those icky rich people.)

Intent, however, is completely secondary. If this tax passes into law, the door will be opened wide for future – and current! – governors and General Assemblies to tax apartment buildings (of all classes and sizes); commercial buildings; second homes of less than one million dollars; PRIMARY homes of more than one million dollars; primary homes of $750,000 – $1,000,000; et empty state cetera. The critical issue is not that the initial list of targeted properties is short. It’s that the list comes to exist at all. To subject just one property classification to a new, statewide tax would set the precedent to subject virtually all real estate in Rhode Island to a statewide property tax via an easy tweak of the targeted property list.

In a perfect bit of timing, RIPEC released an analysis right before the governor released her budget of just how much Rhode Islanders are already taxed. By one measure, Rhode Island already has the fourth highest property taxes in the country. The governor is seriously proposing to raise that ranking? In fact, the one thing above all that our elected officials should not do is exacerbate this burden.

Further, there’s the matter of Rhode Island’s already undesirable reputation as a high tax state. On Twitter, Gary Sasse correctly asks,

When Tax Foundation.et. al.rank tax climate will new statewide property tax impact rankings w resulting reputation risks?

Further to “reputation risks”, WPRO’s Gene Valicenti pointed out Friday morning that the governor’s mere proposal has made the national news via the AP’s feed. This is exactly the kind of publicity that Rhode Island needs to avoid, not curry.

Governor Raimondo’s Proposed Statewide Property Tax Redefines Ownership of Real Estate as a Privilege

This one was a great catch by Justin.

The Anti-Capitalist Treasury Adviser

Mike Riley asks a question on which Rhode Island journalists should follow up: What was General Treasurer Seth Magaziner thinking when he hired a far-left policy adviser whose repeated theme on public pensions and other post-employment benefits has long been that the problem is purely an illusion of accounting?

Further quotes from this policy director [Tom Sgouros] can be found in his scary “The Manufactured OPEB Crisis.” Can you imagine a guy who never managed money being elected Treasurer of Rhode Island in the midst of a pension Crisis and selecting an anti-capitalist political supporter who doesn’t believe basic financial concepts as his policy adviser? Sadly, you don’t have to imagine this scenario because you are living it.

I tend to doubt that the local mainstream media will take much interest in this story, though.  It’s “dog bites man.”  Rhode Island Democrats take office and fill their ranks with progressive activists.  It’s not like the job titles mean anything.  Those appointed to the jobs are just there to help build constituencies, to earn a living off of taxpayers while remaining activists, and maybe to lay in waiting for some vacant elective office or other.

Don’t Vote for Them? You Don’t Exist.

Because progressives have a coordinated belief system and playbook, politically active readers may have come across this at the local level: The city or town has a very close election (in which, perhaps, the Democrat Left outspends its opposition by wide margins), with the progressives winning a majority of seats.  After the election, they pick up the habit of declaring that their opposition “failed,” and that election results prove that the voters “rejected” them.

(Naturally, when votes go the other way, and the Left loses, the election was unfair, somehow, or the victors fooled the public, which is the current rhetoric of Tiverton’s progressives about the 0% budget that I submitted for the town last spring and that voters supported by nearly a two to one margin.  Elected officials are literally screaming at public meetings that it was all my doing.  But I digress.)

I’ve got a post up on Tiverton Fact Check addressing this tactic of the local Democrats and progressives.  They’re declaring that my friends’ message didn’t “resonate” with voters even though the Democrat Left spent five times as much money and even though the results would have been reversed if we’d received less than 1% more of the total vote.

Overall, of course, elections are elections, and they won.  But the prize is the privilege of representing one’s neighbors, not the ability to believe that very nearly half of voters just don’t count.

Two Worlds in One on Israeli Election

I’ve noted before how it seems that people on opposing sides of political issues can be said literally to inhabit different worlds.  Here’s a good example.

From an AP story by Josef Federman, with the headline used in the Providence Journal:

Netanyahu emerges with slight edge after tight race

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to have fended off a strong challenge from the country’s opposition leader in parliamentary elections Tuesday, emerging from an acrimonious campaign in a slightly better position to form Israel’s next government.

The article goes on to describe how “an upstart centrist party led by a former Netanyahu ally-turned-rival” could swing the government either way.

Now, here’s John Podhoretz in the New York Post, under the headline, “Netanyahu gambles his career and scores breathtaking victory“:

Although Netanyahu’s Likud Party only won about half the number of seats needed to secure a majority in Israel’s parliament, it did so much better than anyone (including Bibi) expected that he seems to have triumphed in the goal he had set for himself last December when he broke up the government he had formed in 2013 and called new elections.

He did that because he wanted to strengthen his own hand and rid himself of two hostile coalition partners at the same time. This was a risky strategy, and it looked for quite a while like a disastrous one.

In Podhoretz’s view, Netanyahu’s “path to forming a new government is clear and should be relatively easy, especially compared to last time.”  Quite a different understanding of Israeli politics.

Honestly, I don’t know enough to know which is correct, although I trust Podhoretz more than I trust the AP.  The thing that stands out for me, though, is Federman’s line that Netanyahu is “in a slightly better position to form Israel’s next government.”  On first read, it looks like he menas “in a slightly better position” than his opposition, but in light of Podhoretz’s explanation, it looks more like “a slightly better position” than he was in before the election.

That suggests that the two writers aren’t actually living in two different worlds, but the AP guy may very well be trying to enable his readers to do so.

New Local Taxpayer Newsletter for Tiverton

Over on Tiverton Fact Check, I’ve put up a post announcing that the Tiverton Taxpayers Association Web site now has a PDF of the group’s first newsletter.  It’s got a couple of articles, some activity introductions and updates, and a local crossword puzzle.

The puzzle is on local matters, but the answers are printed upside down underneath, if folks get stuck.

Hatred and Treason in the Eyes of the Left

American progressives have been having their two-minute hate against the Republican Senators who published an open letter expressing reservations about President Obama’s nuclear negotiations with Iran.  The progressives’ complaint seems mainly that elected legislators are reminding the world that they have a Constitutional role in ratifying treaties.

The New York Daily News went so far as to call the Senators “traitors” on its front page.  This vitriol has trickled down to the rank and file of the Left, as proven by a letter from Vincent Fugere of Cranston, in yesterday’s Providence Journal:

The letter sent by 47 Republicans to Tehran, warning that any deal made by President Obama with Iran could be nullified by Congress, puts in sharp focus how ugly the Republicans really are. …

The Republicans have bordered on treason since Obama took office. It’s high time they were held accountable for their ugly actions that put politics and profits ahead of people and progress.

It’s actually high time that we stopped pretending that the progressive movement actually believes in democracy and freedom if they’re at the point of openly calling for the prosecution of elected officials for free speech.

And it’s so obviously not principled.  John Hinderaker reminds us of a Michael Ledeen article reporting that Obama, while running for president, sent a behind-the-curtain message to Iran, in the midst of its negotiations with the Bush Administration, to “assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies.”  If we’re talking treason, we’ve got an instructive lesson in comparison and contrasts, here.  As Hinderaker suggests:

Unlike Obama’s secret overture to Iran, the GOP senators aren’t discouraging Iran from dealing with Obama so that they can get a better deal later. On the contrary, their letter strengthens Obama’s bargaining position. He can say, “Even if I wanted to, I can’t give in on nuclear enrichment. It would never get through the Senate.” But of course, that isn’t what Obama wants to do. He wants to agree to a weak deal that will allow Iran to become a nuclear power.