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Is This Representative of RI Teachers?

TEACHER ALERT: 100% of the Nat’l Educ Assoc of RI (NEARI) endorsements are for Democrats, including EVERY far-left PROGRESSIVE incumbent. If you pay union dues and this political extremism is not shared by you, the US Supreme Court ruled in June that you no longer have to give part of your paycheck to the union – and you cannot lose your job, status, or benefits.

What would it take for you to consider leaving your union saving about $7,000 over ten years for your family?

Open post for image.

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Three Democrats, Only One Labeled

Maybe it’s a small thing… maybe a mere oversight in the rush to keep up with breaking news, but I find this Providence Journal staff article on fraud and tax evasion charges brought against former Pawtucket Senator James Doyle head-shaking.

Over the course of four paragraphs, the article tells readers about the charges and when he was elected, as well as his reference to issues with alcohol.  It also mentions that Doyle is “the son of a longtime Pawtucket mayor.”  The staff writer doesn’t tell us, however, that both the ex-senator and his father were Democrats.

What makes that weird is the final paragraph:

In April, Democrat Sandra C. Cano won a special election to fill Doyle’s former seat.

So why is the party of the woman who replaced the alleged malefactor noteworthy, but the party of the alleged malefactor himself is not?  Forgive my cynicism, but I can’t discount the possibility that the conscious or subconscious reason is to put the labeled Democrat, who is currently running for reelection against a Republican challenger, in contrast with the unlabeled Democrat.

Or maybe it’s just in the Projo’s style guide that misbehaving Democrats should only be labeled when it’s absolutely critical to the story, while Democrats running for office must always be labeled so voters know where to look for their names.

ADDENDUM (9:18 p.m. 8/16/18):

The Associated Press played “hide the party, too.”  Meanwhile, kudos to Rhode Island Public Radio’s Scott Mackay for not doing so.

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A Congressman Disturbed by the Possibility His Side Is Wrong

As Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline (a Democrat) forges a path decrying the FBI’s firing of an employee who is easily one of the top 10 agents to have brought public disrepute to the bureau, Sharyl Attkisson’s question is worth pondering: “What would the intelligence community’s ‘insurance policy’ against Trump look like?

Assume, for the sake of argument, that powerful, connected people in the intelligence community and in politics worried that a wildcard Trump presidency, unlike another Clinton or Bush, might expose a decade-plus of questionable practices. Disrupt long-established money channels. Reveal secret machinations that could arguably land some people in prison.

What exactly might an “insurance policy” against Donald Trump look like?

The “insurance policy” phrase comes from one of the tweets that have gotten agent Peter Strozk in trouble for the disturbing partisanship they reveal from somebody investigating a political subject.  Anonymous sources have whispered context to reporters that they insist shows Strozk was simply using the phrase as an example of taking care of something before an unlikely event makes it too late.  Attkisson’s hypothetical treats it as less accidental — that is, as reference to a program agents were putting in place in case Trump was elected.

As with everything else in our divided country, we face two plausible realities:

  1. Partisan bureaucrats used their positions to stack the deck against a much-hated political figure (who happened to be the candidate of the party they despised) and allowed themselves to overstep to a previously inconceivable degree in part because they were so sure that their candidate would ultimately win and nobody would ever be the wiser.
  2. A long-shot candidate, with decades in the public eye as a sleazy businessman and reality show star, looked for help anywhere he could get it, even with a hostile government, and worked with foreign agents to manipulate the American public and possibly even cheat directly in an election.

Let me correct my phrase above:  These two possibilities are both implausible realities in the sense that, whichever one you pick, the other seems like an unprecedented danger to our society that nobody would have thought possible in the United States.

My view is that the currently available evidence leans strongly in favor of option 1, but picking one or the other isn’t my purpose, here.  Rather, my point is that reasonable people can go in completely incompatible directions in their understanding of this controversy, and it doesn’t help us bring our country closer to either the truth or a reconciliation when a congressman is so clearly invested in the division.

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The Little League Lesson on Legislative Grants

Legislative grants have been an issue as long as I have been paying attention to Rhode Island politics.  They are so obviously a vote-buying scheme that legislative leaders use to reward representatives and senators who help to keep the insider game going.  They are therefore an excellent symbol for everything that is wrong with Rhode Island politics.

The Providence Journal Political Scene today emphasizes the increase in grants going to groups in the name of Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, who had a too-close-for-comfort campaign result last time around and has clearly wanted to avoid a second roll of the dice:

The Cranston Police Department ($65,000), Western Cranston Garden Club ($1,000) and Cranston Western Little League ($15,000) were among the groups on which Mattiello bestowed 32 grants under the General Assembly’s legislative grant program this year.

No state lawmaker sponsored more grants individually than Mattiello or more total cash than the $205,048 in those grants, nearly 30 percent more than the $158,500 Mattiello sponsored the previous year, according to a Political Scene review of legislative grants for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

If legislative grants stand as an archetype of Rhode Island corruption, the Little League grants are especially revealing about the unfairness of the granting system.  Twenty-eight grants totaling $84,000 went to organizations with “Little League” in their names this legislative session.  Mattiello’s gift was the biggest, but that wasn’t it.  Cranston, as a municipality, received by far the most Little League grants in Rhode Island:  $32,500.  The second-place municipality was Warwick, receiving only $11,500.

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Those grants go to 19 Little League organizations in 14 cities and towns (out of 39) and are the work of 25 legislators (out of 113).  Democrat Senator Felag managed to spread his wealth to all three towns that he represents: Bristol, Warren, and Tiverton.  A few more legislators requested Little League donations in their names that don’t appear to have been granted.

There is no justification for a government program that picks and chooses which children’s baseball clubs deserve taxpayer dollars based on the political fidelity of their representatives and senators.  But the clear purpose is to keep our elected officials in line and to send a message to voters that the price of replacing their representation at the State House could be access to millions of dollars in cash for their kids and their pet projects.

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Reporting by OSC: Veteran Struck With Bike Lock By Antifa Rally Attendee

I want to share with you an outstanding piece of reporting done by our Ocean State Current on a violent politically-motivated assault of a veteran by an alleged member of Antifa last Saturday. The Current broke this important story, and brought Rhode Islanders the real message of what was happening.

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A World in Which Only the Inexperienced Can Manage Big Programs

As we enter the thick of election season, Brian Riedl’s reminder on Vox should be firm in our minds:

… the democratic socialist agenda will face resistance not only from other lawmakers but from basic math. Their promises, which include free college, a single-payer health care system, guaranteed jobs, and more, would require astonishingly high expenditures that would cause the federal deficit to skyrocket. Once the costs become clear, most mainstream politicians and voters will surely balk. Making big promises is one thing; paying for them is another.

Riedl tallies $42.5 trillion (with a “t”) in new taxpayer spending over the first decade of the progressive program.  And, as Stephen Green further notes, “that’s before the ripple effects create the need for even more spending, which creates even more ripple effects, etc., until a once-wealthy country is ruined.”

Fortunately, if a conservative cabal were choosing the representatives of democratic socialism with an eye toward making it easy for the public to see the problem, they couldn’t have done better.  Bernie Sanders, for example, is an old rich guy whose wife’s questionable leadership of a Vermont college may have contributed to its closure.  Recent socialist upstart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been a veritable gift to conservative meme-makers and humorists.  In Rhode Island, the standard bearer for the far left is Aaron Regunberg, an Ivy League transplant from another state who, as far as anybody knows, has never held a real job in his life.

Unfortunately, it’s a powerful ploy to promise people that the government can give them everything they need and want… and don’t worry, the people in control will always be on your cultural and ideological side.  Promise!  As for those who propose that we govern our society under the restrictions of reality, well, they’re demons, all of them.

Those of us demons in that reality-based camp have our work cut out for us.  The country’s education system has softened up a couple generations for the sort of mushy thinking that leads one to believe that politicians with dubious experience actually running things will be able to manage a number as big as $42,500,000,000,000, which is, like, a really big number.

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Dickinson Gets Attention, but Offers Little

By way of a follow-up to yesterday’s post about Spencer Dickinson’s play for some press coverage, I note that the Providence Journal did send a reporter outside its door to cover his press conference.  However, I can’t say the reported substance of his presentation is very encouraging:

“The topic is this: National rankings by respected financial publications. They’re bad. And year after year, they don’t get better. They probably discourage some good businesses from coming here. What would you do about it?

“We need a program to deal with it,” Dickinson said.

If Rhode Island wants better grades in the rankings, he said, someone needs to go consult the professors and figure out how to improve performance.

The thing is, Rhode Island politicians have already tried analyzing the the rankings, when the state Senate investigated “moving the needle,” and it didn’t fix anything.  Elected officials attempted to game the rankings, rather than unleash the economy, and they tweaked some tax rates while increasing overall taxation.

We don’t “need a program.”  We need a statement of principle and the willingness to pursue it, and that statement of principle needs to be that government should get out of the way.  Dickinson’s campaign Web site doesn’t provide any additional details about how he proposes to move the economic needle, but based on the issues that he does emphasize, his approach would be entirely wrong, amounting to more government in the way.

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Acknowledging the Beacon Our Ship of State Should Follow

My op-ed in the Providence Journal is ruffling some feathers around the state:

No one who seeks to captain our state’s ship seems capable or courageous enough to speak out about the destructive and unjust principles of the progressive agenda. Socialism inevitably leads to economic depression. And the confiscation of private property from some — in order for politicians to give it to their supporters — is inherently immoral. Openly violating one’s private space or property rights cannot possibly be the direction most Rhode Islanders want our government to steer towards.

Ironically, the way to avoid shipwreck is shining like a beacon in the night. Recent federal policies to reduce tax, trade and regulatory burdens, and to increase energy production, have led dramatically to prosperity. The second-quarter national gross domestic product increase of 4.1 percent is the latest in an impressive string of positive indicators, including historic lows in unemployment rates across many demographics, rising personal incomes, the return of manufacturing jobs once considered extinct, increasing labor participation rates and declining food stamps rolls.

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Dickinson Tries to Get the Projo’s Attention

A continual question for people who need to raise public awareness of their activities is whether what they’re doing is too insignificant to attract media attention or the media’s lack of attention makes their activities insignificant.  When my blogging first started to land me invitations to cover events, a Rhode Island media personality commented to me that if nobody covers it, it’s as if the event didn’t happen.

That principle has a limit.  If the media doesn’t cover events that actually are significant for a large number of people, entire undercurrents can weave through society and shoot up like geysers through the mainstream ignorance.  On the other hand, a geyser is easier to achieve if the media is digging.

Spencer Dickinson, a challenger to Governor Gina Raimondo in her Democrat primary, is trying to spur that sort of digging after a front-page Providence Journal story about business rankings over the weekend quoted only the other two candidates from his party.  From his press release:

Dickinson, who has a reputation as an innovative problem-solver, having designed and built the first solar panel and the first solar house in Rhode Island, will do more than comment on the national business rankings. He will present a brief framework of new approaches to economic development in response to Rhode Island’s national business rankings.

To make covering the full story easier for the Providence Journal reporters, the press conference will be held in front of the Journal offices at 75 Fountain Street in Providence.

A cynic might wonder whether the Providence Journal is trying to play the king-maker game, keeping Rhode Island’s First Female Governor™ in her aura of inevitability while leveraging Matt Brown to pull her to the Left.  It might be more fair, though, to observe that the Projo featured the two leading candidates from each party plus the only independent candidate who has any traction whatsoever.

Media attention and buzz feed into each other, so what will be most important for Dickinson is to find a way to leverage any coverage he can for greater gains in the public.  Trillo and Brown have buzz almost entirely because they might draw on newly prominent constituencies to disrupt their parties’ front runners, and Morgan has been campaigning strongly and prominently.  Dickinson and the rest of the Unquoteds need to build their undercurrents.

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Fun-Sized Observations on UHIP and Out-of-State Donations

Rhode Island tourism appears to be having some success with its “fun-sized” series of ads, and the branding idea also provides opportunity for political commentary — as with Mike Riley’s quip about “fun-sized taxes.”

Surprisingly, though, I haven’t yet seen the adjective applied to the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP).  As has been widely reported, the state government is planning to spend another $156 million on the project, bringing the total up to $648 million:

In a request to the U.S. government for federal money to pay the bulk of finishing the computer system, the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services this week said its new Unified Health Infrastructure Project budget “reflects the necessary personnel and contracted staff to support enterprise-wide efforts to move the system towards compliance and to address mission-critical operational concerns.”

In other words, despite two years of emergency troubleshooting since the biggest piece of the project went live, the technology still isn’t working as designed, and Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration is planning for another year of development work, plus ongoing maintenance and operations.

So what is “fun-sized,” here — the budget or the lines of people that we’ve seen waiting for government services?  One could envision videos for both possibilities:  In one, the camera starts zoomed in on a pile of money and then zooms out to the entire cost for this non-functional software; in the other, it zooms in on a couple of people talking and then zooms out to the entire line of people wasting their day trying to correct problems with payments from the government.

Neither of those videos will be produced, though.  In contrast, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo has a big, big campaign budget and is producing lots of targeted videosOut-of-state donations have long donated the governor’s funding stream, with non-Rhode Island donors contributing 66% of the money she raised during the second quarter of this year.

We’ll see if out-of-state interest in our governor is enough to buy her another term despite her presiding over this massive debacle (among others).

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Truck Tolls: *Sigh* No, Peter and Gene, We Cannot Conclude that Truck Drivers Support Them

Every Thursday morning, as you probably know, WPRO’s Gene Valicenti hosts RIDOT Director Peter Alviti on the WPRO Morning News for a half hour plus segment. (Yeah, I know, I find it annoying, too.) Alviti takes questions from callers and spends a significant amount of air time promoting Governor Gina Raimondo’s wasteful, unnecessary, highly damaging RhodeWorks toll scheme.

On July 19, Alviti ratcheted it up a notch by involving his host.

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Next/Last Round of Toll Gantries: Raimondo Administration Solicits Public Comment on an UNFINISHED Environmental Assessment

A couple of weeks ago, Governor Gina Raimondo’s Department of Transportation announced the locations of the balance of ten toll gantries and released an Environmental Assessment [PDF] of them. They also announced that hearings to take questions and comments on the E.A. would occur in three locations on July 27 – tonight, as a matter of fact.

Yes, that’s right, RIDOT is holding public hearings on a very significant project on a summer Friday evening. Quite similar in spirit, as a matter of fact, to the scheduling and location of the hearing for the first Environmental Assessment – in that case, two days before Thanksgiving hard by a cow pasture in South County so remote, the cows themselves need GPS to get there.

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No Space Between Governing and Campaigning

Brian Gallogly is right to lament on Twitter the politicization of the Community College of Rhode Island under Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo:

CCRI President Hughes setting a new precedent by standing in front of a campaign banner & essentially endorsing Gov. Raimondo for reelection. Prior Rhode Island college presidents stayed neutral so they could work well with whoever won.

However, the fault is not all hers.  Gallogly’s response is to a tweet from Raimondo announcing her “second term universal job training and education plan.”  The governor includes a video of her announcement and speech (bookended with words from CCRI President Meghan Hughes) at CCRI.

The problem is the ambiguity between an official policy announcement and a campaign event.  Under this governor, there is no space between the two.  Governing is campaigning, and campaigning is governance. At some point, that practice transitions from simply poor taste to corruption, and a governor becomes something more like a potentate.

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BJ’s Enters the Political Fight

As a member since the last century (according to my card), I’m was concerned to come across this news:

The BJ’s in Seekonk has canceled a book signing that [former Trump spokesman Sean] Spicer was scheduled to hold there on Saturday to mark the release of his new book, “The Briefing,” which came out Tuesday, according to Spicer’s publisher.

“We got word last Friday the store was canceling ‘due to the political climate,'” a spokesperson for Regnery Publishing said in an email.

The story is still developing, and it looks like there may be some conflict going on between the larger company and this particular store:

“After two different reporters called the store today to find out why the event had been canceled, we received a note from corporate saying they wanted to proceed as originally planned,” the email continued. “However, there seems to be some confusion because the store is still telling people who call that the event has been canceled.”

We’ll see how things play out, but it’s easy to imagine some local manager either being worked up or made skittish by aggressive feedback from activists.  Personally, I’m not exactly zealous for Trump, and I’ve got no special affection for Spicer, but I’m less interested in giving money to a wholesale shopping club that gets involved with politics at all, especially when it sides in a direction generally opposed to my views.

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Judge “Treason” by Deeds

In national politics, the outrage-a-day ethos that the news media has pursued since President Donald Trump became a serious candidate has made it a matter of urgency to comment on anything on which a writer might think to comment.  Wait a few days in order to take care of items of more actual relevance, and the tempest on which one had something to say is no longer relevant.

Well, I’m not sure where we are with the whole “Trump is a Russian asset” mania, but for the sake of offering my little corrective to the monolithic certainty one sees among Rhode Island’s news and commentary folks, here’s Mark Tapscott’s “10 Ways Trump Put Real Muscle in U.S. Policies, Defenses Against Russia“:

That “something [beneficial that might come from the Russia hysteria” is a sharper public understanding of the numerous ways in which Trump has reversed the accommodation, wavering and vacillation that marked former President Barack Obama’s approach during his eight years in the Oval Office to dealing with Putin.

Obama’s weakness was epitomized by the “red line” he drew in Syria against chemical weapons. Obama did nothing when Syria’s Russian-backed dictator, President Bashar al-Assad, killed hundreds of civilians with chlorine gas.

Putin subsequently annexed Crimea and openly backed insurgents trying to return Ukraine to Russian control.

While U.S. intelligence and military assets have undertaken multiple unpublicized measures since Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017, the following dozen initiatives on the public record amount to a near-complete reversal of the Obama years.

Have people forgotten the truism that we should watch people’s actions, not their words?  The United States is still backing Ukraine and is pressuring Europe to increase its resilience in the face of Russia.  Probably most importantly, we continue to build our energy output, which drains the Russian economy.  Those aren’t the actions of a foreign government’s “asset.”

In fact, they’re just about the opposite of the policies pursued by our prior president, whom a hot mic caught transmitting a message to Vladimir that he’d have more flexibility once he’d won reelection.

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Amplifying Incumbent Protection Program of Campaign Finance

Maybe it’s a trap that has just organically formed due to human nature or maybe it’s a deliberate scheme, but ever-increasing campaign finance regulations are effectively an incumbent protection program.  Consider the next notch on the ratchet, as proposed by state representative Deborah Ruggiero and state senator Louis DiPalma:

The state’s campaign finance laws need to be tightened so officeholders and candidates cannot repeatedly amend their finance reports that list all expenses and contributions in a given period, according to Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, D-Jamestown. …

“Mandating submission of a paper bank statement is a good first step, it allows the Board of Elections to easily identify discrepancies, but we should go further and require banks to send electronic statements directly to the [Board of Elections], as is done in Massachusetts,” Ruggiero said in the statement. “Most-needed though are stiffer penalties for repeated amendments to campaign finance reports and not filing on time.”

Having spent many hours working with the Board of Elections Campaign Finance Unit, I can report that situations easily arise that aren’t absolutely clear in the law and can lead to very time-consuming revisions of reports going back months simply to adjust for a $1 discrepancy.  And having worked with local candidates for office, I can also report that even just the prospect of having to fill out these forms is a significant disincentive to run.  If the rules are made even more strict more people will simply decide that it isn’t worth the effort or risk.

The question that arises is whether it’s more important for our democracy to be able to trace every penny that is donated or spent by state and local campaigns or to avoid having more than one-third of incumbents in the General Assembly winning their campaigns simply by getting their names on the ballot, because they have no opposition.  From my point of view, that isn’t even a close competition.

We’re not going to end corruption by catching it in nickel-and-dime inspection of small-time politicians’ campaign accounts.  We need to ensure that all politicians are under constant threat of losing their seats.  The bigger-time the corruption, the more likely the politician will be to hire people to avoid accounting errors, even as the people who would like to challenge him or her out of a sense of public service are tripped up and fined for minor errors and lapses.

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Super Governor Promotes Basic Services (with Big Bucks)

What’s one advantage of having an unprecedented war chest to fund the re-election campaign of an unpopular governor?  Well, as Spencer Rickert points out from Smithfield, the candidate can buy town-specific videos naming specific road repair projects that were “fixed by” the candidate:

Gina Raimondo fixed Capron Road Bridge in Smithfield to make Rhode Islanders safer and put our construction crews back to work. Under Gina’s leadership, we have already fixed more than 75 bridges and roads, in every community in Rhode Island, as part of a 10-year, $4.7 billion investment in the state’s infrastructure.

No, the video does not provide any evidence that Rhode Island’s Democrat governor, Gina Raimondo, was at any point out in the field repairing Capron Bridge Road, but the online video does bookend her initial use of the RhodeWork signs to promote her own name.  Just so, the video claims:

In Smithfield Gina Raimondo is investing $8 million in roads and bridges

If that means the Raimondo family has taking $8 million of its own money and generously donated it to the cause, this might really be breaking news.  As Alan Gianfrancesco comments to Rickert’s post:

She did not fix anything. We did. With our high sales tax, gas tax, corporate tax, nookie tax, toothpick tax and animal waste picking up tax.

Tell the truth.

Over the months that John DePetro and I have been discussing the election, I’ve wondered how effective standard political materials could be (even when inflated with millions in campaign funds) after four years of scandalous failure on the part of state government.  Will people forget UHIP, “Cooler & Warmer,” and all the rest because the governor is claiming credit for fixing roads, or will they bristle at the notion that spending more of our money (including with tolls) to do what should be the normal operation of government is some sort of act of altruism on her part?

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Grumbling About East Side Progressives

One hopes (but doubts) that John Walsh’s opinion is on the increase in Rhode Island:

Our elected representatives on the East Side are progressives, a misnomer if ever there was one. Their priorities are ranting at President Donald Trump, advocating for more illegal immigrants, concern over Roe v. Wade, and other “progressive” issues.

As the quality of life deteriorates here, no one seems to be concerned over the many local issues. The criminals who prey on the East Side are not worried about being caught. They immediately go shopping with the stolen credit cards.

As the elections are almost upon us, it seems all the candidates claim to be progressive. What a shame. We’re getting very little value for the taxes we pay here.

The thing is:  Progressivism doesn’t work to produce the lives that people want to live, so progressives must always be directing your eyes elsewhere.

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