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Breaking – Former RI Supreme Court Justice Flanders Exploring Run for US Senate

Well, things just heated up in Rhode Island’s 2018 race for US Senate. Kathy Gregg has the scoop in the Providence Journal.

Robert G. Flanders, a former Rhode Island Supreme Court justice, respected Providence trial lawyer and onetime Brown University football star, has taken the first step toward a potential GOP run for the U.S. Senate against two-term Democratic incumbent Sheldon Whitehouse.

This is somewhat out of the blue: rumors where that Justice Flanders was considering, at the urging of RIGOP Chair Brandon Bell, a run for Governor. Justice Flanders isn’t technically announcing his candidacy, as Gregg notes, but rather, he

plans to create an “exploratory committee” to determine whether he will be able to muster the money and support he would need for a potential GOP primary fight and, ultimately, a 2018 run against Whitehouse.

He is certainly clear as to why he sees the need to run, however, as he indicates to Gregg in a statement that includes a nice little zing at the incumbent.

“With the unease and hyper-partisan political environment in Washington,” Flanders said, Rhode Island needs a U.S. senator who “will work across the aisle to unlock innovation and job growth, provide a system of high quality and affordable health care, reform unfair and anti-competitive tax policies, lift regulatory burdens off the backs of small business, promote better education and enhance our security by restoring global confidence in America.”

“In short, we need a climate change in Washington,” he said in a play-on-words on Whitehouse’s signature issue.

If his candidacy is a go, he will first face off in a primary against State Representative Robert A. Nardolillo III (R-Coventry).

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Did Russia Learn from the Pros?

This Wall Street Journal article by Joe Parkinson and Georgi Kantchev shows more than the willingness of Russia to meddle in foreign elections:

In the run-up to presidential elections in Bulgaria last year, the country’s opposition Socialist Party received a secret strategy document proposing a road map to victory at the ballot box, according to five current or former Bulgarian officials.

Among its recommendations: plant fake news and promote exaggerated polling data.

The source of the roughly 30-page dossier, intercepted by Bulgaria’s security service, was a think tank connected to the Kremlin, according to the officials. It was delivered by a former Russian spy on a U.S. sanctions list, three of them said.

Investigators should peruse the internal documents of the national Democrat Party and correspondence of mainstream media’s JournoList.  They might find that the Russians are also guilty of plagiarism, because the tactics described above look awfully familiar.

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Correlation of Business Friendliness and Voting Habits

Readers may already have come across Fayetteville State University Accounting Professor Robert McGee’s new ranking of states for business friendliness:

This study is the first annual McGee Report on the best and worst states for business. The fifty states are ranked based on the extent to which they facilitate business creation and expansion. This study incorporated the data collected from five other studies, which included the examination of hundreds of variables. Utah was found to be the most business friendly state; California was least business friendly. States that voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election tended to be more business friendly than states that voted Democratic.

Rhode Island, if you couldn’t guess, is in the bottom five — 46th, to be specific.

Pepperdine University School of Law Tax Professor Paul Caron emphasizes just how much voting habits tend to correlate with business friendliness:

The Best And Worst States For Business: 90% Of The Top 10 Voted For Trump; 80% Of The Bottom 10 Voted For Clinton

Of course, how one looks at these results will depend a great deal on how one looks at the world.  Some would (correctly) note that business friendliness is not the only important measure of a region and point out the advantages of California and the Northeast, where most of the bottom states are located.  Others would (even more correctly) argue that the biggest advantages of those regions have nothing to do with their style of governance and that business unfriendliness correlates with general suppression of people and, especially, their ability to improve their plight.

The epithet I used to hear a lot about Rhode Island was that it’s a playground for the rich.  Business unfriendliness tends to indicate that that’s still the case.

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Transcripts & A No-Bid Contract: Governor Raimondo Has Politicized RI State Police

An editorial in Friday’s Providence Journal correctly deplores the awarding, in contravention of state bidding procedures, of a no-bid contract by the Rhode Island State Police. But is there any doubt that Colonel Ann Assumpico did so at the instruction of Governor Gina Raimondo? No, there isn’t, especially in light of the clear ties of the winning firm back to the Governor, who is also known to have aspirations for the national political stage.

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Progressives Move Closer to Fascism in March on Coughlin’s Home

Obviously, they’ve still got a long way to go, but a mob of protesters’ showing up at a state representative’s home with a police escort and leaving a mess of signs is a step on the path to fascism:

Pawtucket City Councillors Sandra Cano and Meghan Kallman helped to lead the march, along with Fuerza Laboral’s executive director Heiny Maldonado and organizer Raul Figueroa. The group, escorted by the Pawtucket Police Department for the safety of the marchers, arrived at [Pawtucket Democrat David] Coughlin’s residence shortly before 9am and tried to get him to come out and address the crowd. Coughlin did not come to the door or answer his phone. A car with Coughlin’s House license plate 60, wrapped in a “Choose Life” frame, was parked in the driveway.

The crowd stood outside Coughlin’s residence for about ten minutes. Heiny Maldonado rang his doorbell and knocked, but did not get an answer. As the crowd departed, they left a small pile of messages, in the form of protest signs, on the front steps of Coughlin’s house. This is believed to be the first protest of a state legislator’s home in at least three years, and the success of the action points the way towards more such protests in the future.

Call it a trial balloon for fascism: target homes, intimidate, show up with a mob and the police, leave messages for the target to clean up (quotes: “Your Constituents Put You There. Your Constituents Can Take You ‘Out’,” “Resist,” “You do not represent our district,” and “Dream killer”), and publish photographs of his home from multiple angles having nothing to do with the “protest.”

Apart from the danger of fire, depositing these signs is not far off from a flaming cross, and the published photographs send the message “we know where you live” as clearly as a brick through the window.

Not only will the Coughlins of the state get the message, but anybody who might consider running for office while disagreeing with the brownshirts will have another reason to think twice.  That’s what they want, and that is fascism.

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Putting the “Failed” in “Liberal Coup”

Being suspicious that others are ever using rhetoric to manipulate, my warning lights go off when I see talk of coups and the like.  After all, if the battle is that stark, then your allies have some claim to have you compromise your principles.

It’s difficult to disagree with John Hinderaker, however, when he writes:

What we are seeing here is a coup: a coup by the New Class; by the Democratic Party; by far leftists embedded in the bureaucracy and the federal judiciary. Our duly elected president has issued an order that is plainly within his constitutional powers, and leftists have conspired to abuse legal processes to block it. They are doing so in order to serve the interests of the Democratic Party and the far-left movement. This is the most fundamental challenge to democracy in our lifetimes.

For the moment, I still conclude that our goal, on the right, should be to ensure that the rule of law is followed to the greatest degree possible, by which I mean that we follow it, rather than escalating the lawlessness of the Left.  That conclusion derives from my sense that the American people know what’s going on and a large majority don’t like it.  The progressives are over-playing their hand, in other words, and the only way they win is if conservatives don’t convey a palpable difference.

In short, I’d edit Hinderaker’s headline that “A Liberal Coup Is in Progress” to make it “A Failed Liberal Coup Is in Progress.”  The requirement, however, is that we stand up — stand up against the coup and for our principles.

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The Union’s Shocking Admission… Which Nobody Will Notice

Confessions of my naive idealism are becoming a theme for me, perhaps, but I still find casual admissions such as the following, from Ian Donnis’s weekly TGIF column on RIPR, partly shocking and partly comforting:

The National Education Association Rhode Island, a influential force in state politics, is likely to support Governor Raimondo for re-election next year. NEARI Executive Director Robert A. Walsh Jr. acknowledges that retired teachers are among those still fuming about the pension overhaul spearheaded by then-Treasurer Raimondo in 2011. Yet Walsh, speaking on RI Public Radio’s Bonus Q&A this week, offered this explanation for why the incumbent Democrat is likely to get NEARI’s support in 2018: “I think that the election of Donald Trump significantly changed the game in this state. It is imperative that the Democrats retain control of the governorship …. My approach to this is a very pragmatic one. You’ve heard me advertise for alternative candidates to the lieutenant governor — ‘come on down, we’ll help you run against Dan McKee [see #4].’ I am not advertising for alternative candidates to Gina Raimondo. We must retain the governorship and we must retain our Democrats elected in the Senate and in the United States Congress. And the Republicans are going to drop money in this state and go after us as a package, so it’s imperative that the team stays in place.”

Here’s one of your state’s two teachers unions: part of the Democrat “team.”  There is no line between the party and the labor union that takes taxpayer dollars and shuffles them back into political activism.

In a healthier society with a greater appreciation for the founding principles of the United States, this would be a scandal — the sort of thing that would be uncovered through an undercover investigative report.  Instead, it’s proclaimed proudly on a publicly subsidized radio station, and nobody in the state but an outré blogger will bat an eye.

I’ve said it before, but it merits repeating: Rhode Island isn’t fully a representative democracy anymore.

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Approval of the Cognoscente Versus Approval of the People

It seems to me that politicians (particularly those on the right) should take data points like this, from Austin Yack on NRO, as justification for further experimentation going against the common wisdom of their Washington–New York social set:

The Republican-majority Congress also polled well. Americans trust Republicans to legislate on issues pertaining to the economy, jobs, immigration, energy, and health care — and, astonishingly, these responses were recorded during the days in which the Congressional Budget Office found that 24 million people will be uninsured by 2026 under the Republican-majority Congress’s health-care plan. Forty-six percent of registered voters approved of the health-care plan; 35 percent disapproved, and 19 percent had no opinion.

Perhaps people are learning that the news media hypes stories from a point of view benefiting a particular political party, not the country, and perhaps people understand that when a country (like a person) has let itself go, getting back on track involves some discomfort.

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Under Raimondo, Promoting Dear Leader Is the Government’s Job

Silly Republicans, there is no higher good than promoting Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo:

The Republican Governors Association slammed Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday for using taxpayer money on a Facebook ad to promote a New York Times story about her.

The sponsored ad, purchased by the quasi-public Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, was first noticed by an Eyewitness News reporter on Wednesday

This has been an issue for Raimondo’s entire term; in August 2015, I called CommerceRI a Raimondo PAC.  From where I sit, there are only two ways to look at this, both of them bad:  Either it’s corruption, and the governor is using public resources — not just $50 for a Facebook ad, but the multi-million-dollar apparatus of the Commerce Corp. — for personal political advantage, or her administration truly believes that the government’s chief executive should be considered the embodiment of the government and the state, which is an extremely dangerous totalitarian attitude.

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Hate Crimes and Playing the Man in Politics

Noting that some significant portion of the anti-Semitic threats made in the recent past were perpetrated by a left-wing journalist, Kevin Williamson puts his finger on the impression that many conservatives (and, I would hope, clear-eyed moderates and even liberals) are getting: 

The Left, for the moment, cannot seriously compete in the theater of ideas. So rather than play the ball, it’s play the man. Socialism failed, but there is some juice to be had from convincing people who are not especially intellectually engaged and who are led by their emotions more than by their intellect — which is to say, most people — that the people pushing ideas contrary to yours are racists and anti-Semites, that they hate women and homosexuals and Muslims and foreigners, that they could not possibly be correct on the policy questions, because they are moral monsters. This is the ad hominem fallacy elevated, if not quite to a creed, then to a general conception of politics. Hence the hoaxes and lies and nonsense.

Phony hate crimes. Phony hate.

“Play the man.”  That is, rather than try to move the ball down the field, hurt the other team’s members so they can’t make any progress, either.

Of course, contact sports have, well, contact, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell how clean a play is or whether a player is going after his or her opponent or merely standing his or her ground in the face of aggression.  In policy, the important judgment for spectators is where the emphasis seems to be.  Charts and analysis coupled with a bit of roughness is very different from accusations designed to keep people from considering alternatives to one’s preferred perspective.

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Scheming to Go After Congressmen… No Need in RI

Those subsisting on a diet of local news in the Northeast might believe it’s crazy to think the “resistance” isn’t grassroots and that Obama is behind much of the organizing should expand their reading horizons. Here’s Debra Heine, writing on PJMedia:

Leaked audio from a recent “Indivisible” group meeting sheds light on how the anti-Trump activists manufacture hostile environments at Republican town halls.

The audio, obtained by radio station KPEL out of Lafayette, La., features the Indivisible activists plotting to create the false impression that Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy’s support for President Trump is unpopular with his constituents. …

If Indivisible — which recently partnered up with Obama’s “Organizing for Action” — is trying to model itself off of the TEA Party — they’re doing it wrong.

Of course, things are skewed in Rhode Island.  Here, a bakers dozen of Indivisible activists get a private meeting with Democrat Congressman Jim Langevin’s chief of staff and partly spend their time thanking the congressman.

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Governor Pitches Free College to More Kids Who Can’t Do Math or Read at Grade Level

Last week, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo and Democrat Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed visited Rogers High School in Newport to promote the governor’s plan to buy votes by giving families taxpayer dollars for two years of public college:

“When I talk to people around the state like your parents, they tell me that they are kept up at night thinking about your future,” Governor Raimondo told the students. “I want you and Rhode Islanders like you to get the jobs companies are creating here. The number one barrier to a college degree is cost. Our Free College proposal is affordable and an investment we need to make in your future. I am so thankful for Senate President Paiva Weed’s leadership and partnership. Working with her, I’m confident that all of you will have a shot at a good job here in Rhode Island.”

The women didn’t mention that 96% of students at Rogers High School are not proficient in math, and only 21% are proficient in reading.  A more honest message would be:

In cooperation with your teachers’ union, we have ensured that most of you are not receiving the education that you deserve.  You’ll be excited to hear that rather than fix the problems that we’ve created for selfish reasons, we’re going to take tens of millions of dollars from your parents and neighbors and cut two to four years out of your adult life in order to try to get you to where you ought to be right now.

The reception that these politicians get when they abuse their power like this — using school time to campaign to children — ought to be more like a Tea Party town hall than a pep rally.  It would seem that keeping students under-educated has its benefits.

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Risk Aversion in Stocks and in Politics

Here’s an interesting find from Justin LaHart in the Wall Street Journal, in a brief article titled “Why the Stock Market Doesn’t Like Republicans“:

The two economists created a model where people have a choice between being entrepreneurs and working for the government, and of voting for a political party that favors lower taxes or higher taxes. When risk aversion is low, more people want to be entrepreneurs and to vote for the low-tax party. When risk aversion is high, the opposite is true.

It is a highly simplified version of U.S. politics and economics. But the implications for stock prices are interesting. The low-tax party gets elected when risk aversion is low, and then if risk aversion merely returns to the mean, stocks suffer. For the high-tax party, the opposite is true.

The next question, obviously, is what causes these changes in sentiment, because the variables seem more to correlate than to cause one another.

Of course, they may have a causative relationship indirectly.  The high-tax party, for example, is likely to sense this dynamic (whether consciously recognizing it or not) and change policy in a way that makes people more risk-averse (such as regulations to make independent activity more difficulty while acclimating people to dependence on government’s socialization of risk).  Indeed, even when they promote entrepreneurialism, they strive to make it seem like something that cannot be done without the safety net of government subsidies.  (“You didn’t build that.“)

The insight has implications for advocacy, too.  Conservatives who make a theme of imminent doom under progressive rule — however accurate that theme is — may be making the public more inclined to fall for progressive promises of security.  The key, perhaps, is to make people feel secure in their families and their own ability to transcend

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The Left’s Town Halls: “Pray on Your Own Time.”

Well, this isn’t very much like the Tea Party town halls:

As U.S. senators and representatives took a brief recess this week, visiting their home states for town hall meetings with constituents, one senator ran into some issues with a tough crowd. Bill Cassidy, a first-term Republican senator from Louisiana, was meeting with a crowd of constituents in Metairie yesterday, but as Louisiana State chaplain Michael Sprague begun to recite an opening prayer, the crowd immediately began to heckle him.

One man interrupted Sprague’s first words to shout, “Amen! Let’s get on with it.” Another person added, “Pray on your own time. This is our time.” Meanwhile, a group of people began to chant repeatedly, “Separation of church and state.”

Sure, it’s a little unfair to pull one anecdote from across the country as representative, but it’s also not entirely surprising that something like this would happen.  That’s particularly true if one remembers the move within the national Democrat Party to remove mention of God from its platform, with boos when the party bosses maneuvered to reverse the decision.

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Left-Wing Spying Versus Holding Conservatives Accountable

Kurt Schlichter’s style might be described as writing harshly and humorously what many conservatives are thinking quietly and reasonably. A recent column that begins with a comparison of Trump’s relationship with the news media to the, umm, love dynamic in Fifty Shades of Grey is no exception.  This point merits additional thought:

Then there’s the Russians/Flynn nonsense, a non-story that America non-cares about. Oh, there’s a real story there, but the press isn’t interested in that. Here’s the real story – the intelligence community under the Obama administration was obviously eavesdropping on Trump’s campaign in violation of practically every law ever written. Whether it was direct tapping of phones and emails, or illegally accessing the communications swooped up by the NSA in its nets, it’s clear that Obama’s people were spying on Obama’s political opponents. The transcript excerpts of Flynn’s phone call with the Russian diplomat leaked because it could be played off as targeting the Russian, though this was still an outrageous disclosure of American spying capabilities. What these criminals can’t do is release the communications between Americans that they possess because doing that confirms what we all know – that Obama’s people spied on his political opponents like his IRS persecuted them. The only question really is what did Obama know, and when did he know it – interestingly, on his way out the door, Obama made it easy to hide the source of the leaks by opening up access to the information across a bunch of agencies. There’s your story, a scandal that makes Watergate seem microscopic, and the mainstream media will not touch it because it would destroy the media’s political allies.

Conservatives suspect that the reason progressives become so irate when we win offices is that they believe we’ll do what they do.  We won’t, but more importantly (in a practical sense), we can’t.  As Glenn Reynolds periodically writes, if you want accountable, heavily scrutinized government, you have to elect “straight, white, male Republicans,” because the institutions tasked with the scrutiny have been overtaken by progressives and only really scrutinize politicians who fit that profile.

[9:42 a.m., 2/25/17. A quick postscript, in case it’s needed:  I’m suggesting that it’s a bad thing that politicians’ demographic profiles affect how thoroughly they’re scrutinized and what they get away with.  To wit, note how the news media is freshly invigorated to hold President Trump accountable and progressives across the nation are extolling the virtues of Constitutional separations of power and the federalist empowerment of states.  Such sentiments seemed to be anathema to them during the Obama presidency, so if one values the Constitution and federalism, then having a president like Trump is more likely to advance your principles.]

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Clarity When Legislators Decline to Increase Their Own Leverage

Rep. Jared Nunes (D, Coventry, West Warwick) may not have succeeded in passing much-needed reforms to the state House of Representatives’ rules with recent legislation, but he managed something very important, indeed.  Reformers at any level of government in Rhode Island face a long, frustrating slog and must find encouragement wherever they can.

One source of encouragement is that having somebody push against the establishment wall at least forces its supporters to dispense with some pleasant illusions.  In that way, even unsuccessful reform efforts show where doors are merely painted on the wall or where something solid proves to be soft.

Consider this, from a recent Providence Journal Political Scene:

“There are a number of reasons you put a bill in; sometimes you put a bill in to engender discussion,” [Arthur Corvese (D, North Providence)] said about the “held for further study” amendment. “Sometimes people put in bills and tell the chairman or leadership, ‘I don’t want this bill to see the light of day.'”

There you have it.  Many of the bills that give activists hope on one side or headaches on the other are never intended to go anywhere, even by their sponsors.  They’re meant to patronize you and stitch together a constituency that keeps legislators in office to accomplish what they’re really there for — mainly structuring government in ways that benefit their friends and special interests that actually pay for their connections.

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