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Father Healey Puts a Marker in the Mainstream Ground

Thank you to Roman Catholic priest Father Bernard Healey for raising the local profile of the anti-Catholic scheming of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle in the Providence Journal:

When public officials and political organizations such as the Clinton campaign create phony political groups to attack the teachings of any faith community, this act must be justly condemned by all right-minded people. The free exercise of religion is a constitutional hallmark of our nation’s foundation.

However, Catholics have come to expect the silence of the media, the Clinton campaign, civil libertarians and other faith communities in the face of such intolerant bigotry and shameful tactics. Intolerance of the Catholic faith is the last acceptable prejudice in our country and quickly becoming a hallmark of “enlightened” elites in our society.

I’m sure Father Healey will take heat from multiple quarters for writing so plainly in a mainstream publication about a political figure, but it’s becoming increasingly important for clergy to stand up and cast a cutting light through the smoke of public discourse.

And clergy aren’t the only ones.  Even as we (properly) retrench in our own communities (religious and local) and shore up our own foundations, more believers must step forward into public view.  In the past, I’ve tried to stand up for unpopular opinions (that happen to be undeniably correct), but the Providence Journal commentary pages won’t publish me anymore, so others have to fill that breach.


Can We Start Putting Two and Two Together?

Although you wouldn’t know it from mainstream sources, sometimes-over-the-top video journalist James O’Keefe has released two videos in a series exposing people associated with the Democrat Party and the Clinton campaign. What I’ve seen so far looks credible, although I leave it to the mainstream media to determine whether there ought to be disclaimers — for example, whether the people making the most explosive claims are really just low-level operatives talking big.

In the first video, the objects of O’Keefe’s investigation are very open about their efforts to manipulate the media and the political process through such means as “bird dogging” (putting planted questions at the front of a greeting line to embarrass Republicans in front of reporters) and using mentally ill people and union members to provoke the opposition and make them look bad. (Naturally, the schemers assume journalists will ensure that the appropriate narrative is applied.)

One more-legalistic step is for groups that can’t coordinate their activities, mostly because of campaign finance laws, to hire the same contractors, who act as messengers. In this way, people in public office or in campaigns simply use go-betweens instead of email to skirt the law.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, according to the Daily Caller, one of these contractors is a regular visitor of the White House:

A key operative in a Democratic scheme to send agitators to cause unrest at Donald Trump’s rallies has visited the White House 342 times since 2009, White House records show.

Robert Creamer, who acted as a middle man between the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and “protesters” who tried — and succeeded — to provoke violence at Trump rallies met with President Obama 47 times, according to White House records. Creamer’s last visit was in June 2016.

Americans have spent the past eight years being manipulated and abused in countless imaginative ways, and it looks like we’re in for at least another four. Are our elections rigged? Our entire system of government now is.


Take-Aways from the Blockbuster Curt Schilling Interview?

Rhode Islanders for the first time this morning started getting some straight answers about the 38 Studios debacle that put us all on the hook for $89,000,000 as 38 Studios founder and CEO Curt Schilling broke his silence for three riveting hours on the John Depetro Show on WPRO.

So many interesting items came out of the interview. Two of the bigger ones – but by no means the only big ones – for me are:

1.) Gordon Fox crony Michael Corso played a huge role in putting the deal together and acted as traffic cop for the lucrative contracts that arose from the company coming to Rhode Island. Were all of his actions legal? And were the Rhode Island State Police permitted to conduct an adequate investigation of this question? Or was it … um, shepherded by the Attorney General so as to narrow its scope?

2.) Rhode Island and Providence have some of the most onerous building and fire code requirements in the country. Yet the newly built-out 38 Studios headquarters NEVER OBTAINED A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY because at least in part, Schilling said, he signed autographs for people. (Editorial comment: We pass highly intrusive laws and they don’t get enforced??? ARGH!!!)

Ahem. What were your take-aways?


Are Rhode Island Elections Rigged?

In a promotional tweet for an article he published in early September on RIPR, Ian Donnis highlights the unseating of Rhode Island House Majority Leader John DeSimone as “evidence that elections in RI are not rigged.”  But I’m not so sure the evidence supports the claim.  Consider:

In a strong display of anti-incumbent sentiment, one-third of the 18 incumbent state lawmakers facing primary challengers went down to defeat. …

With 100 percent of the vote in, according to unofficial results, Ranglin-Vassell got 50.6 percent of the vote (677 votes), compared with 49.4 percent (660 votes) for DeSimone. That count includes mail ballots. …

Six of the 18 General Assembly incumbents facing primary challenges were defeated, reflecting anti-incumbent sentiment among voters.

So only about one-quarter of incumbents even had challengers.  Six new faces in the General Assembly would represent turnover of 8%.  And the highlighted case, here, involved a slim majority win for the challenger of 17 votes.  About the best one can say about these results is that they prove Rhode Island’s electoral system is not perfectly rigged.

I’d go further, though.  Ranglin-Vassell is a member of arguably the most powerful insider group in the state: teachers unions. Moreover, she and her five fellow victorious challengers won by peddling progressives list of vote-buying schemes like an unsustainable minimum wage and more paid days off from work.  In other words, one big-government Democrat defeated another, effecting maybe a slight change in who gets the money they all rob from taxpayers and how they steal it.

That seems pretty rigged to me.


Anti-Tolling Rally Tomorrow!

At the truck stop in West Greenwich off Route 95: 849 Victory Highway, West Greenwich, RI 02817. Tuesday, October 18, at 11:00 am. (No question, a bit of a tough time of day for a lot of us working folks.)

The Rhode Island Trucking Association and NATSO, the national association representing travel plazas and truckstops, announced today that they will host an informational rally and press conference Oct. 18 to discuss the devastating effects that “RhodeWorks” — the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s truck-only tolling plan — will have on local businesses and commercial truck drivers that operate within the state of Rhode Island.

The small group of state officials advocating for truck tolls say that they are necessary because the money to repair our bridges cannot be found within the budget. Like most of the data and talking points that accompanied the passage of truck-only tolls, this is a flat-out lie. This money can be found in the budget. Remember also that, under Governor Gina Raimondo’s highly destructive RhodeWorks toll plan, shepherded through the General Assembly by a flip-flopping Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, hundreds of millions of dollars would be completely squandered on items other than bridge repairs: gantries, toll fees, interest – meaning that hundreds of millions of dollars would be coming out of the pockets of truckers and all Rhode Islanders and going down a rat hole rather than into infrastructure repair.

Adding urgency and danger to the situation, a recent federal court ruling in New York has brought tolls on cars in Rhode Island one giant step closer. As WPRO’s John Loughlin correctly pointed out on air Saturday morning, this is almost certainly why the start of work on the 6/10 Connector was rushed. Governor Raimondo and her organized labor supporters want to be sure to sink their toll claws into the state as quickly as possible by getting projects hooked on this destructive new revenue source ahead of a court ruling. (“Oh darn. The courts ruled that we can’t toll just trucks. We have no choice but to toll cars because look at all of the borrowing and construction that we rushed through … er, that is now underway.”)

In addition to the big red flag of the federal court ruling in New York, it is important to note that no other state tolls only trucks. From the beginning, this posed an enormous constitutional flaw in the RhodeWorks toll law. (For more on this, check out Rep Blake Filippi’s excellent op-ed in Thursday’s Providence Journal.) Accordingly, any state leader or legislator who voted for truck tolls in February took the unnecessary and very dangerous step of inviting the toll vampire into all of our homes. If state leaders don’t wise up and rescind truck tolls, it is now just about impossible to envision a scenario by which the toll vampire doesn’t turn to feast on the blood … er, wallets of car owners. It is critical, therefore, that state legislators who voted for tolls be held accountable. Please go here to see how General Assembly incumbents voted on tolls, where their challengers stand on the matter and vote for the candidate who did NOT invite the toll vampire to Rhode Island.

And if you’re able to get away from work for an hour tomorrow, please also stop by this rally. Garlic is optional. But your presence at the rally and, especially, your anti-toll vote on November 8, would send an important message against the toll vampire.


Coastal Liberals’ Unspoken Agreement on Hillary

The Providence Journal editorial board’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton today was nothing if not unsurprising.  The entire newspaper has been unambiguously and inexcusably devoted to her election.  It would have been a stunning show of independence for the opinion pages to offer even a tepid endorsement of the media’s Democrat candidate.  And so, they write, “we enthusiastically endorse Democrat Hillary Clinton for president” (emphasis added).

Of course they do.  They have to.  If a newspaper in deep blue Rhode Island (which went for Bernie Sanders, remember) had so much as expressed reservations, it might have drawn national attention and ensured snide comments over wine glasses across the state.

However, those restrictions didn’t prevent the editorialists from surprising in one way.  How can intelligent people write an endorsement of Hillary Clinton without at least mentioning that a sizable portion of the country believes (with justification) that the Democrats’ nominee would be headed toward the defendant’s table rather than the White House if the current Democrat administration, under Providence Journal endorsee Barack Obama, hadn’t corrupted the inaptly named Department of Justice and mockery-worthy Federal Bureau of non-Investigation?

One can even believe that such accusations are overwrought and still understand that their broad currency merits consideration when picking a president.  The Providence Journal even includes its faith that Clinton can work across the aisle to get things done as justification, yet spares no space for the perspective of us “deplorables.”

My operating theory is that the cocktail party set of coastal elites (and its aspirants) have a tacit reluctance to address such considerations, because when once a party goer mentions them — acknowledges this as a real problem — then they all must do so, and thereby abandon the tenuous deception that it doesn’t matter (that you and I don’t matter) and that Hillary Clinton isn’t already predictable to be an utter disaster, perhaps even outstripping that other predictable disaster they won’t acknowledge, Obama.


The Organized Effort to Divide the Catholic Church

Sometimes headline writers can perform the wonderful service of putting things in perspective.  Such is the case in today’s Providence Journal, with an example that indicates either unfortunate timing for the writer or an over-confident attempt to subtly link the story being reported with one not being reported beneath the headline.  Here it is:

Catholics in conflict over Pope’s call for mercy

Before moving on to my point, let’s recall that the conflicts over Pope Francis’s “who am I to judge” phrase — the core of Michelle Smith’s Associated Press article, even though the pope spoke it three years ago — was more of a media distortion than a statement of Church teaching.  The context and specifics of the larger quotation, as I’ve noted, put Francis’s statement directly in keeping with the catechism and long-standing Church teaching.

Now take a closer look at the context that Smith applies to her story:

Francis’ famous declaration “Who am I to judge?” in 2013 energized Catholics who had pushed the church to accept gays and lesbians. Now, some gay Catholics and supporters who hoped for rapid acceptance find themselves stymied by many bishops and pastors.

Let’s be particular about the effect of that sentence.  Smith is constructing a division within the Catholic Church, presenting our Church community as Pope Francis and “gay Catholics and supporters” on one side and “bishops and pastors” on the other.

Now, here’s the story that Smith doesn’t include: Among the emails released by WikiLeaks recently was one from Clinton confidant John Podesta, who responded to a progressive activist’s suggestion that they should use an issue like contraception to cause a “revolution” and drive a wedge within the American Catholic Church.  Podesta replied that “we” have been building groups to seize on just such opportunities.

Podesta’s email puts articles like Smith’s — and the Providence Journal’s related headline — in a new light.  Progressive activists are already organized and lying in wait for an opportunity to pounce on the Catholic Church, divide Catholic from Catholic, and overthrow the Church’s leadership.  The news media, as always, is happy to play along, the only question being where the organized movement ends, relying only on ideological sympathy.


Always Wise to Implicate the President in Your Corruption

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2016 Freedom Index Shows Paying Attention Works

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

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


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

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


Warwick and RI Can’t Be Generous While Shrinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Tale of Clashing Intra-Boomer Greed

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

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

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

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

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

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


Telling Them by Their Motivation

Imagine an issue with two opposing factions:

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

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


Every Event Comes with Opportunity

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

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

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

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


The Obama Glow Is Radiation from News Media Decomposition

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

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

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

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

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

Ummm… about that.


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

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

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

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


Talking 38 Studios Scorecard on TV and Radio

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


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


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


Misunderstanding the Problem of the Master Lever

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

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

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

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

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

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


The 38 Studios Misfire

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

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

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

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

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


Going After Free Speech Against Incumbents in Connecticut

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


In the Darkness Beyond the Footlights

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

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

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

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

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

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