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PolitiFact RI Bends Reality to Protect the Bureaucracy

A Rhode Island conservative can only be grateful, I suppose, that PolitiFact RI — the long-standing shame of the Providence Journal — managed to get the word “true” somewhere in its rating of the following statement from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity:

Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.

The brief summary under the “Truth-o-meter” reading “Half True” on PolitiFact RI’s main page emphasizes: “Pretty flexible for a despot.”  That’s a reference to the most weaselly part of Mark Reynolds’s quote-unquote analysis, which reads as follows:

[CEO Mike] Stenhouse labels the policies in Virginia and Rhode Island as mandates. But Jason L. Schwartz, an assistant professor at the Yale University School of Public Health, says you can’t call policies with such liberal exemptions mandates.

At best, this is an example of the frequent PolitiFact tactic of finding somebody whose opinion the writer prefers and treating that as the authoritative fact.  One wonders, though, what rating PolitiFact RI would give its own newspaper.  On July 29, the day before the Center released its press release with the challenged statement, the Providence Journal ran this headline at the very top of its front page:  “Rhode Island to mandate HPV vaccine for 7th graders.” (Note: The online version adds the word “all” before “7th.”)  The article itself uses the word “mandatory” five times.

Lesson learned, I guess: Never trust the headlines or reporting of the Providence Journal.

As for the PolitiFact rating, there are three relevant premises:

  1. Rhode Island is only the second state to require the HPV vaccine for students. Even PolitiFact admits this is true.
  2. The requirement is a mandate. This is so true that the supposedly objective journalists at PolitiFact RI’s home paper ran it in the most prominent spot on the paper.
  3. The mandate was implemented without public debate.  PolitiFact’s evidence of “public debate”  is that the professional activists at the ACLU managed to send in a written objection and post about it on Facebook.  Well, then.

The fact that PolitiFact considers the awareness of the ACLU to be “public debate” — as opposed to hearings and a floor debate by the public’s elected representatives — is one of two highly disturbing aspects of Reynolds’s essay.  The other is the latitude that it gives to government officials to adjust the truth to suit their needs.  Days after the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity helped drum up actual public debate and concern about the HPV mandate, the Dept. of Health came forward to assert that the exemptions are so broad that its mandates should really be considered something more like suggestions.

The Providence Journal should end this fraudulent, government-propaganda feature.  It distorts public awareness and undermines the political process.


Park Avenue Bridge: Did the Wood Even Need to be Replaced? Was the Correct Part of the Bridge Repaired? “Lieutenant Colonel” Columbo Has a Few Questions

With the completely unacceptable, lose-lose for Rhode Island prospect of across-the-board vehicle tolling suddenly on the table, let’s take a closer look at a high-profile toll-related incident from a couple of months ago: the closure by RIDOT of the Park Avenue Bridge.

You may recall the WPRI investigation last month by Ted Nesi on the timing of the Park Avenue Bridge inspection. RIDOT had ordered an inspection – it turned into three inspections – of the Park Avenue Bridge in Cranston, a bridge just down the road from Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s office. The inspections resulted in the abrupt closing of the bridge at the height of Governor Raimondo’s attempt to get her tolling program passed by the General Assembly.


Updated – Terrible Tolls Would be a Win-Win for Governor Raimondo and a Lose-Lose for Rhode Island

From the wow-that-didn’t-take-long department, the Providence Journal’s Kathy Gregg, in a piece of kick-butt journalism yesterday, reports that the tolling of all vehicles is now on the table as an option. It seems that, at Speaker Mattiello’s suggestion, Governor Gina Raimondo is carrying out an “economic analysis”.

In recent months, the administration also commissioned an “economic analysis” of Raimondo’s truck-toll plan and a variety of other possible revenue-raising options that could, potentially, include: other new “user-fees,” gas taxes and a revived effort to toll all vehicles — not just big trucks — on Route 95 near the Connecticut border.


Commerce RI as Raimondo PAC

How is this even remotely appropriate, from the news page of the Web site for the state’s quasi-public economic development agency, Commerce RI?

Raimondo Poised to Fix Rhode Island

In just eight months as the first female governor of Rhode Island, Governor Gina M. Raimondo passed an economic development and jobs focused budget through the General Assembly in record time, giving the state an unprecedented toolkit to reboot the economy.

Contrary to what Rhode Island insiders may believe, it is not the role of government agencies to promote the particular politicians who happen to be in charge at the time.  It would be questionable enough for elected officials to use their own government offices to promote their activities in a nakedly political way, but when other offices do so, it’s way out of bounds.

For one thing, it implies that interaction with that agency is related to approval of the politician’s agenda.  Suppose a business is considering a move to Rhode Island and initiates contact with Commerce RI.  The executives might justifiably get the impression that fealty to the governor is a must, if they expect help from the quasi-public (let alone fully government agencies).

For another thing, this sort of behavior gives incumbents access to a multi-billion dollar organization’s exception for unregistered and unregulated in-kind contributions for their political races, to the point of electioneering.

I’ve already been tracing the way in which the rule of law is falling apart in Rhode Island and the country, creating arbitrary rules based on who has power rather than who has rights.  If government agencies are becoming unabashed promoters of elected officials (and attackers of their political opponents), we’re crossing into a new type of government altogether.


Cranston City Council Planning Coup with Help of State Police?

This report from NBC 10 reporter Parker Gavigan suggests that one of the bigger worries expressed in my analysis of the state police report about the Cranston Police Department might actually have been understated:

City Council President John Lanni told the NBC 10 I-Team that he expects the council will introduce two resolutions at next Monday’s meeting that deal directly with the scathing state police report on Mayor Allan Fung’s leadership over the police department.

Lanni said the council will vote on a resolution of no confidence against Fung. …

Lanni also said he expects the council to “right a wrong” in the case of Patrolman Matthew Josefson.

As I mentioned in my analysis, Lanni appears to have become a political friend of Police Chief Michael Winquist, as well as the new prime beneficiary of donations from the the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 301.  The core criticism of the state police report about Cranston is that there was too much alignment between the union, the chief, and the mayor.  With their extremely biased report, the state police officers appear to have facilitated a switch to an equally unhealthy (or worse) alignment between the union, the chief, and the city council, which may be preparing to overstep its own bounds, to boot.

A quick look at the city’s charter suggests that a “no confidence” resolution would be purely political and that the council has no authority to dip into the minute details of city employment.  They are well situated, however, to undermine the mayor and disrupt the operation of the city until the next election, at which point, they can complete their coup.

Depending how this goes, I may have to upgrade my criticism of the report from “extremely biased” to “recklessly and dangerously political.”  If Chief Winquist and State Police Superintendent Steven O’Donnell don’t do what they can to stop the train that their report started rolling, they risk long-term damage to the credibility of the state police.


Brookings Backers Backed Raimondo, Too

As a quick follow-up to my post on Ted Nesi’s look at the meager details available on the forthcoming Brookings Institution plan to turn Rhode Island toward the radically new direction of socialism,* I checked out the campaign donations of the folks providing funding for the study, whom Nesi lists in this paragraph:

The $1.3 million is coming from a small group of backers: the Rhode Island Foundation; another local nonprofit that has yet to be publicly identified; The Fascitelli Foundation, a nonprofit endowed by the wealthy real-estate executive Michael D. Fascitelli, a Rhode Island native; Mark Gallogly, a Rhode Island native and hedge fund executive, and his wife, Lise Strickler; Stephen Mugford, an executive with Capitol One Financial Corp. in Boston, and his wife, Kristin; and Thomas R. Wall, another private equity executive, and his wife.

Including Rhode Island Foundation President Neil Steinberg’s $1,000 gift to her last year, the five listed families have given Governor Gina Raimondo $8,249 in political donations, $6,000 of it in 2014.  Fascitelli leads the way, with three $1,000 contributions, with Thomas Wall and Stephen and Kristin Mugford in for $2,000.  Mark Gallogly’s $249 in 2010 is the only non-$1,000 amount.  Although they all seem to have Rhode Island ties (mostly in Westerly), Steinberg is the only one with a Rhode Island address on his donation.

Raimondo’s policies and, we can assume, the plan that Brookings will lay out, are what we get when very wealthy people decide they need to step in and do society better than society does.  That their political philosophy is the core of the problem, in Rhode Island, whether it’s done poorly or with all of the study and structure that can be bought with the money of the 1%, doesn’t matter.  Their policies serve their interests and their egos, and at the end of the day, they won’t do the suffering if they fail; in fact, they’ll probably profit.

* Yes, there’s a touch of sarcasm, here.


New Voting Technology MUST Produce Verifiable Paper Copy

Quietly in the background of the news, recently, the state government in Rhode Island has been moving forward with plans to update voting machines:

Raimondo says the new machines will make voting easier and will make sure every vote gets counted.

“Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, allowing everyone to exercise their right to vote in the United States without racial discrimination,” said Raimondo. “This anniversary reminds us that voting is a fundamental right that should be protected. The content of this bill continues to move Rhode Island into the 21st century by allowing the Secretary of State to purchase new voting equipment that has not been replaced in decades.”

Frankly, I’m suspicious of the whole enterprise.  When I was a carpenter, I used tools that were centuries or millennia old.  The hammer, for example, has certainly improved, but its basic design hasn’t changed all that much in about five hundred years.  If a tool works well, there’s no need to change it.

Any new voting equipment that the state approves must produce a paper copy that the voter can verify for him or herself.  The counting of ballots is subject to much doubt about cheating, and there’s no way the electoral system can have integrity if it is entirely digital.

(Via RI Taxpayer Times email)


Changing the Face of the Country for Votes

Speaking of borders and voting rights, Steven Hayward pulls together some stories on the immigration problem that Great Britain is having with thousands of “migrants” attempting to use the Chunnel tunnel to get from Paris to London in order to get free stuff from the welfare state.  Note this, in particular, from a 2010 Daily Telegraph article (hat tipped to Instapundit):

The release of a previously unseen document suggested that Labour’s migration policy over the past decade had been aimed not just at meeting the country’s economic needs, but also the Government’s “social objectives”.

The paper said migration would “enhance economic growth” and made clear that trying to halt or reverse it could be “economically damaging”. But it also stated that immigration had general “benefits” and that a new policy framework was needed to “maximise” the contribution of migration to the Government’s wider social aims. . .

Voting trends indicate that migrants and their descendants are much more likely to vote Labour.

Luring massive immigration to a country is a way for the government to elect itself another electorate, so to speak, and we have a right not to tolerate it.


Obama’s Latest Step Toward Killing Representative Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Selective Recalling in Tiverton

Ever notice that, when it comes to politics, consequences for behavior seem to have less to do with what was done than with who did the doing?

After the hearings and Town Council vote that threw a roadblock in front of a large mixed-use development proposed by the Carpianato Group, the word “recall” was in the air, particularly for the two council members who ultimately voted to make changes to the town’s comprehensive plan in order to accommodate the development, Jay Lambert and David Perry.

Oddly, as I’ve reported on Tiverton Fact Check, the first recall petition pulled appears to be against Council Member Joseph Sousa.  Sousa’s well known for his tendency to speak his mind even when his mouth would serve him better by remaining shut, and the impetus for the recall appears to be a short, snarky response to an email from the petitioner’s teenage daughter.

That said, neither Lambert nor Perry have been free of bad behavior, and after all, they voted against the large group of residents who advocated so strongly against the development.  But Lambert and Perry are candidates supported by the radical local political action committee Tiverton 1st, and vacancies for the council are filled by the next-highest vote getter from the last election.  In this case, the replacement council member would not be from that group, but in opposition to it.

The date is still early, of course, so perhaps more councilors will find themselves in the cross hairs, but for now, politics appears to reign in town:  Elections in Tiverton are, on paper, non-partisan, but that doesn’t mean that the left-wingers don’t protect their own, no matter how badly they behave or how damaging their decisions.


The Big Apple’s Progressive Lesson

Let’s be honest, New York City has not been a bastion of conservative policies, at least in my lifetime, and its previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was progressive even as a Republican.  News of the Big Apple’s rapid deterioration under overtly progressive mayor Bill de Blasio, however, has been coming in from all directions.

The latest is from Myron Magnet, in City Journal, which ends with the following advice that Rhode Islanders should take to heart for their own government:

Listen, Mayor: the first job of government is to keep the people safe in their homes and in the streets. If you can’t do that as a municipal chief executive, you are a flop. Equality is not the job of government, unless you are a Communist, in which case equality usually comes at the barrel of a gun or the end of a noose. And voters of New York, please learn this lesson too, despite your attachment to FDR and the New Deal or your seductive professor of race-class-and-gender studies at Brown or Wesleyan. New York needs a realistic mayor. We don’t have one.


What the Radical Party Thinks of Its Country

You may have heard that Connecticut Democrats have disowned Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.  Here’s Dennis Prager, writing on National Review Online:

Every year for the past 67 years, the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner has been the major fundraising event for the Connecticut State Democratic party. Not anymore. The party unanimously voted to drop the two Democratic presidents’ names because they were slaveholders.

That is the way the Left sees American history.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, the document that articulated the principle of human rights endowed by the Creator (thereby ultimately ensuring the end of slavery) and led to the establishment of the country that has served as the beacon of hope for people of every race and ethnicity. More black Africans have voluntarily emigrated to the United States to seek liberty and opportunity than came to America as slaves.

But that is not how the Left views Jefferson or America.

As the Far Left has completed its takeover of the Democrat Party, this sort of thing has become inevitable.  Prager goes on to describe why it wouldn’t be too much to suggest that the party has become the home for Americans who hate the United States, in the absence of radical transformation into something else.  Think of Michelle Obama’s admission that she had never, as an adult, been proud of her country until it put her husband in a position to undermine it.

To be sure, Republicans do a lot of dumb things, and I switched my voter registration to unaffiliated some years ago, but, wow, a party that has ample room for an organization that harvests the body parts of aborted babies can’t stand to be associated with Thomas Jefferson?


The Decoding Key for Progressive Policies

Glenn Reynolds built Instapundit.com on two things: his relentless ability to supply a constant stream of links to interesting things on the Internet, and his talent for encapsulating concepts in brief phrases.  One of his best, on the latter count, is to say that this or that common sense policy is undesirable to the elite because it presents “insufficient opportunities for graft.”

This week, he’s elaborated on the point for his USA Today column:

… why are so many politicians coming out against innovative new services such as Uber or Airbnb?  The answer, I think, is simple: Those new services offer insufficient opportunities for graft.  The old services they compete with — hotels or taxi companies — offer politicians a better deal, even if the deal they offer for consumers often isn’t as good.  And politicians back the companies because — and be clear about this — politicians don’t care about you, they care about using their positions to accumulate money, power and prestige.

… politicians don’t care, except to the extent that we make them care.  Whatever they say when they’re running for office, their top priority once elected is to build a coalition that will keep them in power, and accumulating money and influence, regardless of whether the interests of that coalition coincide with the public’s.

There’s a lot of explanatory power in Reynolds’s short phrase, and readers can surely think of examples at all levels of government to prove its truth.  At the state or local levels, there is certainly a closer link between politicians and their constituents, so the urge toward graft will be balanced in some degree by a closer interest in the community.  But self-interest still exists, and a certain amount of back scratching is the price of gaining and keeping office.


A Cost to the Pope’s Polls

At this year’s Portsmouth Institute conference, with the topic of Pope Francis, both Ross Douthat and John Carr mentioned the very strong, across-the-board favorability of Pope Francis in the United States.  As a central premise, of course, the leader of an organization driven by revelation and founded in the Word of God shouldn’t pay much attention to favorability polls, which are more appropriate to politics.  Still, with an eye toward being effective, no leader of any sort should dismiss the information if it’s available; the question is one of the weight it’s given on the decision-making scale.

In Douthat’s case, the New York Times columnist raised polling mainly by way of minimizing the significance of three groups of Catholics who were “unsettled” by the pope: Catholic traditionalists, politically and economically conservative Catholics, and socially conservative Catholics.  Carr raised the pope’s poll numbers to emphasize the huge potential for good could accompany Francis’s visit to the United States this autumn.  With such vast support, the pope would be better able to get across his message, and Catholics across the spectrum would presumably promote, reinforce, or at least not distract from it.

So what might it mean that Pope Francis’s approval ratings have taken a major hit in the past month?  According to Gallup, he’s still very popular in the United States, although his favorability among people who identify as conservatives has dropped from 72% last year to 45% now, and the drop was almost as substantial among Catholics as among non-Catholic Christians.

That said, in my running series of essays about the Portsmouth Institute presentations, I’m tracing what appears to be a subconscious concern that the pope might not be accurately assessing our point in history or his role in it.  Two problems that stand out, if such concerns are justified, are that the pope might play a role in hastening, rather than forestalling, a global crisis and that his intended message will be lost.

To oversimplify the first count, if the West is holding the world together by some remaining threads of actual economic and civic freedom, then attacking crony capitalism might advance the cause of corrupting socialism.  Thus a message that would be appropriate after a socialism-driven crash and shuffling of resources to a government-and-crony elite might push the world over the edge if what’s really happening is that the elite is using the pretense of solidarity in order to undermine its more-libertarian opposition.

On the second count, the more divided people are about the pope and his intentions, the less likely they will be to harken to his message of solidarity.


The Never-Learn-from-Your-Mistakes State?

Is it a central theme of Rhode Island’s civic culture that the state does not learn from its mistakes?  That’s a question of perspective.  Perhaps what most perceive as mistakes are not mistakes, but rather the entire corrupt purpose of state government.

Two articles might give some clues as to which perspective is more accurate.  The first is another historically driven column in the Providence Journal by Steven Frias:

In 1974, Rhode Island’s first moral obligation bond to promote economic development was issued by the Rhode Island Port Authority. This bond helped provide financing to Fairmount Foundry to purchase and keep open the ITT Grinnell Foundry in Cranston. In 1976, the foundry went bankrupt.

… after the General Assembly paid off the moral obligation bond, at a cost of approximately $4 million, Speaker Edward Manning created a new committee, the House Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Rep. Raymond Gallogly, to investigate the Fairmount Foundry fiasco. …

After the hearings concluded, Gordon Bryd, the acting director of the Port Authority, stated: “I don’t think there will ever be another moral obligation bond issued by the Port Authority.” For about 15 years, Mr. Bryd was correct, because Rhode Island wisely avoided issuing another moral obligation bond for an economic development project.

Director Bryd seemed accurately to have predicted a lesson learned, but I wonder.  Maybe 15 years was just the interval for those who don’t think spending money by any means is a mistake to work the politics back toward allowing this particular mechanism again.  Here’s Brian Bishop, on GoLocalProv, taking up a different topic:

It is a perennial saw that Rhode Island’s bridges are bad and getting worse. But the stimulus friendly DOT under our new governor has caused the present consternation by proposing not to buckle down and prioritize its spending to climb out of this hole. Rather DOT wants to borrow $700 million just as the state’s road debt is finally improving. For a decade RIDOT has been struggling to adopt a pay-as-you-go approach to road work, thus putting the moneys previously consigned to interest and bonding expenses to work on the roads.

Whether this is paid for by tolls on trucks is a side show compared to the lunacy of undertaking such an effort without contemplating how it is that Rhode Island is in the top five states for spending per mile on its roads but has the highest percent of deficient bridges in the country?! Giving $700 million dollars to the combine of bureaucrats, contractors and labor that have produced that record is indefensible.

There are two lessons not being learned, there.  First, that we shouldn’t borrow our way to better infrastructure, and second, that giving the state’s bureaucracy more money is foolish.

Come to think of it, both perspectives come back to the same thing. After all, Rhode Islanders keep sending the same people back into public office, so even if they are repeating “mistakes” on purpose, the rest of us never seem to learn.


Lobbying Laws Keep Politics an Inside Game

Lobbying laws should be found unconstitutional and abhorrent to a free people.  Consider these letters Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea sent out to parties on both sides of the Pawtucket Red Sox stadium issue, in GoLocalProv:

A letter sent to Pawtucket Red Sox Chief Executive Officer Michael Tamburro, outlining the state’s lobbying statute, began with, “Congratulations on the exciting new developments at the Pawtucket Red Sox, a venerable Rhode Island Institution.”

In contrast, a Pawtucket citizen’s letter started with, “It has come to my attention through media reports and the Organizing Pawtucket website that you are the head of Organizing for Pawtucket, and that you may be engaging in conversation with Rhode Island state government officials on behalf of that entity.”

Does anybody really believe that a government so steeped in inside dealing as Rhode Island’s pursues lobbying and campaign finance laws as a matter of transparency?  That’s the spin, of course, but the end effect is to ensure that politics remains an insider game.  Special interests are drawn into the official network, sort of like outside vendors, and grassroots activists are intimidated.

It’s impossible to know how many people on the periphery of politics never take the next step to involvement because they have a sense that there’s some complex network of laws that they lack the bandwidth to investigate, but I’d wager it’s not a negligible number.  The professionalization and regulation of politics creates incentive for reluctance across the spectrum of involvement, except for those who are actively seeking to buy advantage through government.

Look at the example being made of Dinesh D’Souza.  Run afoul of the government’s regulations for trying to change the government, and you put your life under the thumb of people like U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who dismissed the assessments of two licensed psychiatric professionals in order to issue this judgment, which would be right at home in a Soviet dissident novel:

“I only insisted on psychological counseling as part of Mr. D’Souza’s sentence because I wanted to be helpful,” the judge explained. “I am requiring Mr. D’Souza to see a new psychological counselor and to continue the weekly psychological consultation not as part of his punishment or to be retributive….

WND reported that at the Sept. 23, 2014, sentencing hearing, Berman said he could not understand how someone of D’Souza’s intelligence, with credentials that include college president, could do something so stupid as to violate federal campaign contribution laws. D’Souza was at the pinnacle of his career, writing bestselling non-fiction books and producing popular feature films….

“You have to understand, I have a background in social work with a psychology major,” Berman explained. “I’m sensitive to mental health issues in the criminal cases I hear, and I do not want to end psychological counseling at this time in Mr. D’Souza’s case.

For those who do not want to make politics and government a central part of their lives, the message is clear: Life is much safer if you just keep your head down and don’t get involved.


Money Management Requires Acknowledgement of Reality

Many of us free-market types have watched Greece with a sort of morbid fascination.  What can one say of a country whose people apparently believes that they can vote to suspend reality?

One thing you could say is that such people aren’t only in Greece.  Inasmuch as progressives have an ideology built on denial of human nature and reality, wherever they dominate, one is likely to see, first, inadvisable fiscal risks followed by, second, a refusal to accept reality when things come to a head.  There’s a lot that an increasingly controlling government can do to fudge numbers and put off the day of reckoning — including moving power up to higher levels of government that can redistribute from other areas that have been better managed — but with each postponement it gets worse, and the people become more incredulous that reality could actually exist.  (Not for no reason have conservative gadflies called progressivism/liberalism a “mental disorder.”)

I’m thinking, at the moment, of the Mercatus Center’s new ranking of states by their fiscal condition, on which I’ll have an article on WatchDog.org sometime this week and about which Investor’s Business Daily observes:

There’s only one factor these fiscal winners and losers share in common. And that’s their political leanings. Of the top 10 states in the Mercatus ranking, just two — Florida and Ohio — voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in the past four elections, and just one — Montana — has a Democratic governor. Even if you look at the 25 best-performing states, only three could be considered reliably liberal.

At the other end of the list, just two of the 10 lowest-ranked states — Kentucky and West Virginia — have voted for the Republican in the past four presidential elections. And while four of them have Republican governors, they all are in solid blue states and all were elected to clean up messes left by their Democratic predecessors.

The editorial ends by crediting conservative policies, like low taxes and limited government, but I’d submit that there is a more basic distinction.  Conservatives tend to look at the way in which people actually behave, balance their observations with the wisdom of the ages (call it “tradition”), and strive to give individuals maximum autonomy to move things forward while attempting to educate them about said wisdom through the culture.  Progressives, in contrast, start from ideological and emotional premises, determine from them how the world must be, and then strive to use power in order to force people to fit the mold.  (I’m being charitable; many would say that the lust for power comes first.)

Unfortunately for those who find themselves under progressive control, reality isn’t as malleable as it would need to be for the progressive remaking to work.


Student Loans Largely Increase College Costs. Duh.

This particular consequence is so obvious that it almost didn’t need to be studied, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:

We find that institutions [of higher learning] more exposed to changes in the subsidized federal loan program increased their tuition disproportionately around these policy changes, with a sizable pass-through effect on tuition of about 65 percent. We also find that Pell Grant aid and the unsubsidized federal loan program have pass-through effects on tuition, although these are economically and statistically not as strong.

As the Week elaborates:

The resultant tuition hikes can be substantial: The researchers found that each additional dollar of Pell Grant or subsidized student loan money translates to a tuition jump of 55 or 65 cents, respectively. Of course, the higher tuition also applies to students who don’t receive federal aid, making college less affordable across the board.

From the progressive government perspective, this strategy is win-win.  The government turns a generation into debt slaves, and collegiate indoctrination mills — leading the way, among other things, in dismantling religious belief as a competitor to statism, vilifying the foundations of Western freedom, and keeping racial strife as a living, breathing issue in a country in which it could long ago have become purely a matter of history — get an infusion of money to hire more bureaucrats.

The only people who suffer are those who must attempt to make enough money with their increasingly useless degrees to cover their increasingly breathtaking debt and those who would prefer to maintain the United States as a land of freedom, intellectual diversity, and productivity.

(Via Instapundit.)


UPDATED: Correction (Sort of) on Ed Fitzpatrick’s Column

Soon after I put up my post, this morning, on Ed Fitzpatrick’s Providence Journal column, the man himself responded to my Twitter link that he’d criticized Sen. Whitehouse for commentary on the floor of the Senate in which he raised the specters of the French Revolution, the Nazis, and Southern lynchings in a column back in 2009.

That column didn’t appear in my search of the Providence Journal’s archives because they don’t go back that far, but Fitzpatrick was good enough to send me the text.  Rereading the 2009 column, while I would have definitely included it in my earlier post, I’m not sure it changes my criticism at all.

For instance, I suggested that Fitzpatrick should have tried to understand why Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would have such strong sentiments toward his court, and if we look back to the 2009 column, it’s practically slathered with sympathy for Whitehouse’s heat.  Fitzpatrick presents it as a response to Republican ire, emphasizes that Whitehouse “gave voice to the Democratic anger and frustration” (with examples), and gives the senator space to contextualize his comments.

If I may paraphrase the impression the column gives, it’s that:  Whitehouse was only responding to the bad Republicans; he has a lot of company in how he feels; and after all, he’s got underlying reasoning, which Fitzpatrick validates with a “good point.”  None of these qualities are present in the Scalia column.  Indeed, here’s the point of actual criticism of Whitehouse:

Perhaps it’s good for Rhode Island to have a fiery, outspoken senator to go with the understated Sen. Jack Reed. Perhaps there is some political utility to such speeches. If Palin is going to be using her Twitter account to perpetuate the “death panel” idea (PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year”), maybe Democrats need to do more to fire back.

But I don’t see why Whitehouse had to go all Judgment Day on the GOP when he knew they’d lose the vote. Why not just watch them wail and fail?

Scalia didn’t even go as far as “all Judgment Day,” and he was, in fact, issuing a warning about the actions of the victorious majority.  In Scalia’s case, though, Fitzpatrick is on the side of those who want to insist that there’s nothing wrong, or even questionable, about the outcome or process by which they redefined marriage and likened traditional values to pure bigotry.

As the progressives march across the country trying to put pizza parlors out of business, prevent businesses that receive this treatment from using online tools to collect donations, and grab tax exemption away from churches and charities, one can only hope that liberal columnists prove to object to government oppression, not just reference to oppression from the past.

UPDATE (7/2/15 2:35 p.m.)

In response to the suggestion that I didn’t do an adequate job presenting Fitzpatrick’s objection to Whitehouse above, here’s another statement from the 2009 column, which was what Fitzpatrick put forward as the summary of his criticism in his tweet:

But in the end, Whitehouse only added to that toxicity. He accused the Republicans of going too far and, in the next breath, he went too far himself. Quoting Lord Acton and using vivid literary allusions didn’t save him from venturing down the well-worn path that ends with someone accusing an adversary of being like the Nazis.

I didn’t exclude this paragraph to downplay Fitzpatrick’s criticism of the senator; I just didn’t see that it added anything not covered in my descriptions or quotations.  The context also brushes away much of the criticism.  The paragraph before quotes somebody who liked Whitehouse’s outburst (as pushback against Republican “toxicity,” and the paragraph after notes references inappropriate Nazi references by Lyndon LaRouce (not labeled as a Democrat, though) and Rush Limbaugh.


Edward Fitzpatrick’s Conditional Opposition to Vitriol

In his Providence Journal column, today, Edward Fitzpatrick takes on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia because, as the headline says, “Scalia’s vitriol undercuts his influence.”

It’s not enough for Fitzpatrick to highlight Scalia’s colorful language; he’s got to find an objective reason why the justice should tone it down.  I’d say Fitzpatrick is playing the quietly liberal journalist’s role in changing America.  Objectively speaking, public debate would be healthier if people in that role were more self-aware when it comes to their arguments.

The first step is trying to see things from the other person’s perspective.  If you’re Justice Scalia, you believe that the court on which you serve has become a mechanism for rewriting the Constitution on the fly, in a way that has no real basis in law and therefore cannot be consistently applied.  This lawlessness, from his point of view, invites (perhaps requires) the people of the United States and their elected representatives to begin ignoring the court.  As he put it in his Obergefell v. Hodges dissent:

Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall. The Judiciary is the “least dangerous” of the federal branches because it has “neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm” and the States, “even for the efficacy of its judgments.” With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.

Fitzpatrick can disagree with that, of course, but if he shared Scalia’s view about the huge importance of this matter, would he still be fretting about whether Scalia’s strong language costs him influence?  I tend to doubt it.  A search of the Providence Journal archives, for example, produces no instance of Fitzpatrick’s worrying about the effects of Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s vitriolic attacks on his fellow Americans, notably his commentary asserting extremism and insinuating racism when it comes to people who were wise enough to oppose ObamaCare.  Fitzpatrick also does not appear to have commented on the senator’s zeal for investigating American organizations with which he disagrees because there might be something for which they could be attacked.

Instead, I found a Fitzpatrick column in which the writer trumpets Whitehouse’s role pushing the minority Democrat line on climate change, which ends with Whitehouse’s not-at-all vitriolic quip that “the best news about a Republican Majority in the Senate is that the Republican minority is now gone. They were just a God-awful minority.”

Again, it’s all well and good for Fitzpatrick to do his part to advance progressive causes, but this pose that he’s simply offering his opposition friendly strategic advice gives the game away.

UPDATE (7/2/15 12:55 p.m.):

See here for a partial correction of and some context for the above.


Has Left-Wing Activism Been “Stimulated”?

Russ Moore’s article highlighting how little stimulus money seems to have been spent on infrastructure comes at a good time:

Yet that fact has led many talking heads and casual political observers alike wondering why, after the enactment of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, otherwise known as “the Obama stimulus package” that saw almost $787 billion spent on a national level with just under $1.1 billion sent to Rhode Island, the state still has roads and bridges that can only be described as woeful.

The answer is probably as frustrating as it is simple: it’s because a relatively small amount of money was actually allocated to roads and bridges. According to a GoLocalProv review of federal data on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus spending, just under 9 percent ($95,493,854) of the $1.096 billion that Rhode Island received was given to the Rhode Department of Transportation and used to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.

As I state in the article, it’s pretty clear that Obama’s stimulus wasn’t meant to actually get anything done for the people of America. It was intended to insulate government at every level from the effects of the recession, to help reinflate the stock market bubble, and to direct taxpayer dollars (rather, taxpayer debt) to the activists with whom Obama is aligned.

For an example on that last point, I’ve noted before that the PolicyLink group that provided the equity piece of the RhodeMap RI puzzle is largely funded through the Dept. of Housing and Urban development, as well as the government entities that receive grants from HUD.  Stimulus didn’t fix our roads, but it did build infrastructure for Obama’s “fundamental transformation” of our country.

It would require more investigative reporting than I have the time to pursue, but one has to wonder how much of the stunning activism we’ve seen in the past few years — to radically change our society and promote a far-left worldview out of keeping with the principles of our constitutional republic — was directly bankrolled by us.