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Projo Plays It (Relatively) Straight for Day 4

Following up yesterday’s post about the Providence Journal’s (ahem) different approaches to constructing its front-page coverage of the two presidential conventions, I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised to see the paper offer comparable presentations of the final days.

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Sure, “HILLARY” is a little higher on the page than “TRUMP:” (with the lack of a colon arguably making the insinuation of the subheads less indicative of “she said this.”  Yes, Clinton gets another subhead promoting the fact that she’s a woman woman (as opposed those types of women for whom gender is entirely a social construct), and she also gets a boost from another negative-for-Trump story connecting him to Putin.  Meanwhile, the pro-Trump talking point for his coverage came not in a sub-head but in a picture from a goofy-looking supporter, and a secondary story is another negative-for-Trump story about Republican division.

And, of course, one could do a closer analysis of the three main sub-heads at the top of the page.  Still, the candidates do set their own tones, and one could argue whether each of the three Trump and three Clinton talking points favor them or not, depending on one’s perspective.

I’m sure these comparable covers were largely the plan all along for the final day of convention coverage, but I find it amusing to imagine that there is, somewhere, a design for a celebratory day-four front page of Clinton now defunct in a folder on a computer on Fountain Street.

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For Electoral Trust, Keep the Paper

I’ll admit that in darker moments I wonder whether the General Assembly agreed to get rid of the Master Lever (which allows a voter to pick everybody in a party with one mark the ballot) — delaying implementation for one election — because leadership knew that digital electoral equipment would be coming online with its own advantages for insiders.

To be sure, the changes actually planned for the election in November aren’t as bad as they might be.  We’ll still be voting on paper, but the machine will transmit the data wirelessly rather than through dial-up.  (Dial what?)  On the other hand, people will now be able to register to vote online, and the state will be testing out an “e-poll book” system that will handle check-in through tablets and (presumably) the Internet, rather than using an actual book that voters have to sign.

The process is important here.  A cynic might wonder whether somebody in state government will be able to keep an eye on votes in real time (with the new ballot scanners) and also watch the list of who has voted across the state, enabling them to drop hints to political friends who needs to be prodded to the polls where.

In the long run, though, I’m still with Glenn Reynolds on the value of paper:

Voting systems rely on trust. Voters have to trust that their own vote is recorded and counted accurately; they also have to trust that the overall count is accurate, and that only eligible voters are allowed to vote. …

The problem is that electronic systems — much less the Internet-based systems that some people are talking about moving to — can’t possibly provide that degree of reliability. They’re too easy to hack, and alterations are too easy to conceal. If the powers-that-be can’t protect confidential emails, or government employees’ security information, then they can’t guarantee the sanctity of voting systems.

Yeah, folks in the news media and those really invested in the out come of elections (like me) are addicted to watching results in as near-real-time as possible, but we shouldn’t be the top priority on election day.  If it takes a whole day, week, or more to produce an election outcome around which everybody is absolutely confident that the process of voting (at least) was fair, accurate, and traceable, then we’ve got the time.

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When Government Secretly Coordinate, That’s a Conspiracy

There’s a certain irony, here.  Rhode Island’s far-left Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is leading the charge to criminalize research and expression of views that don’t fit his extreme ideological and political view and a gang of thuggish attorney generals have been coordinating legal attacks on fossil-fuel companies and conservative think tanks on the claim that they’re engaged in an anti-environmentalist conspiracy, and yet the attorneys general are hiding their coordination from the public.

A press release from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (for which I work) notes its participation in an effort to ensure a little bit of transparency into this actual conspiracy:

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center) announced that it assisted a national nonprofit organization in a lawsuit, filed today, demanding that the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General (OAG) release documents they have refused to make public. The legal complaint calls for the release of documents related to AG’s United for Clean Power, a group comprised of politically-motivated AGs from about a dozen states, including Rhode Island, who have secretly teamed up with anti-fossil fuel activists to investigate dozens of organizations that have exercised their free speech by challenging the global warming policy agenda. …

In a series of April emails obtained by E & E Legal, the RI OAG consented to sign-on to an “agreement” among the larger AG cabal that is colluding to investigate if RICO statutes may have been violated. However, the Rhode Island AG now refuses to make public the group’s ‘Secrecy Pact’ documents related to that taxpayer funded activity.

That is, the attorney general will not release the terms of his office’s agreement or even the text of the documents pledging to keep that agreement hidden.

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​How Does the Governor Reconcile Her Support for Lower Electric Costs with Her Push for Renewable Energy?

All eyes on Philadelpha and the Democrat convention, of course. Thanks to Wikileaks, by the way, for furnishing an interesting Rhode Island connection for us all to speculate on.

Meanwhile, it’s important not to totally lose sight of stuff going on back in Rhode Island. The debate about a natural-gas powered electric plant proposed for Burrillville, for example, moved into the arena of the PUC this week.

The hearings are set to run Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and will differ markedly from the public hearings that have been held so far on the application, which gave Burrillville residents and others the opportunity to air their opinions and concerns about the power plant but didn’t allow for any back and forth.

On Thursday, Governor Raimondo called into the WHJJ Morning News with Ron St. Pierre to defend her support of the plant. (Podcast.) In doing so, she said

Well, I support natural gas because I support lower energy costs and lower electricity costs for Rhode Island.

That’s a pretty categorical statement. Yet only seven months ago, the Governor signed an Executive Order

… committing state agencies to get 100 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025

Further, in February,

A bipartisan group of 17 governors, including Governor Raimondo, have signed a pact agreeing to work together to build modern, sophisticated transmission grids and to advance clean energy and transportation technologies. Called the Governors Accord for New Energy, the agreement includes commitments to diversify energy generation and expand clean energy sources

All of these actions by Governor Raimondo are a big problem for everyone’s electric bill and a huge conflict with what she said on WHJJ. Because the dirty little not-so-secret about renewable energy is that it is far more expensive than conventional energy. Further and worse, as an important new report by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity demonstrates, the state’s continued pursuit of renewable energy would come at a high cost to ratepayers and taxpayers while providing an extremely poor return on greenhouse gases abated BY THE EPA’S OWN STANDARDS. In fact, the cost of renewable energy to Rhode Islanders could be as much as five times higher than the EPA recommends.

The Governor seems to want to manage her stance on energy in silos. “I’ll support the gas powered energy plant and say that I support lower electric rates and that will cover me with a lot of Rhode Islanders. Meanwhile, I’ll aggressively push renewable energy mandates onto ratepayers and taxpayers and that will satisfy the environmentalists.”

But it does not work that way, on any level. Firstly, the walls of the silos are not opaque. So everyone, whether inside a silo or outside of it, can see what she is doing in all of them. Far more importantly, the effect of her actions in one silo do not remain contained therein: what she does in one – the renewable energy silo, in this case – will most definitely have the effect – higher electric rates – that she claims to deplore as she’s standing in another.

Her words, to phrase it more plainly, do not match her actions. And that’s a real problem for the ratepayers (let’s remember, this category includes businesses) of a state that has some of the highest electric rates in the country. They very much need her actions – a wholesale repeal, not an expansion, of very expensive renewable energy mandates – to match her words when they open their electric bills every month.

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The Party of Trump, Which I Cannot Support

Maggie Gallagher succinctly describes the Trump policy platform, inasmuch as it is possible to discern and predict:

Here is the new Party of Trump that we saw in this convention: liberal in expanding entitlements, pro-business in terms of tax and regulations, non-interventionist in foreign policy, socially center-left (with the possible, but only possible, exception of abortion).

Americans who pay attention to politics and policy tend to err, I think, in allowing themselves to be drawn toward the exchange of discrete, independent policies as a form of compromise.  I give you this social policy; you give me that regulatory reform.  That’s how we end up with a worst-of-all-possibilities mix of policies that, for example, encourages dependency while socializing the losses of major corporations, all to the benefit of the inside players who are well positioned to manipulate the system to serve their interests.

Broadly speaking, policies are components of a machine that have to work together, with a basic operating principle.  As the most-charitable interpretation, the machine that Gallagher describes is designed to drive corporations forward in order to generate enough wealth for government to redistribute as a means of providing comfort and accommodating the consequences of an anything-goes society, with the world blocked out at the borders and not engaged in socio-political terms so as to avoid bleeding of the wealth.  (The only difference between that vision and a fully progressive one is that progressives don’t want the machine to be independent, but to be plugged in as a component of a bigger, international machine.)

Put that way (again, most charitably), Trumpian nationalism doesn’t sound too bad.  Unfortunately, the lesson of the past few decades (at least) is that the machine doesn’t work.  The corporations recalculate to the reality that the politicians’ plan makes them (not the people) the engine of the whole machine, while the value of promising entitlements leads politicians to over-promise and the people to over-demand, particularly in response to the consequences of loose culture, while the world outside the borders erodes the supports of our society and allows implacable enemies to rally.

Now add in the stated intention of Donald Trump to actively agitate against members of his own political party because they show insufficient fealty, and the policy mix points toward disaster.  The aphorism that “success is the best revenge” is apparently not good enough for Trump.  More than that, though, from his late-night tweets about the pope to this planned attack on Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and some unnamed foe, Trump shows no realization that these leaders have supporters.  Trump is free not to respect Pope Francis, but his behavior shows that he has little concern for the vast world of Roman Catholics.  His own supporters Trump loves, and he’s happy to condescend to them; those who aren’t his supporters are either enemies or inconsequential.

Nobody should have any trust that they’ll continue to have Trump’s support starting the moment their interests conflict with his, and that has implications for the instructions he’ll attempt to give the machine.

Yes, one of the very few arguments in favor of a Trump presidency is that he may remind certain sectors of American civic society about the importance of the checks and balances designed into our system.  However, Trump’s behavior has also proven that we should not assume he’ll moderate or react well to the reinstated rules of the game.

This isn’t to say that our electoral alternative is any better.  As I’ve written before, more than any I’ve ever seen, this election hinges on the timing of oscillating disgust with the two major candidates.  The wise move may very well be not to invest much wealth, energy, or emotion in the outcome, devoting personal resources instead to battening down the hatches.

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When the High-Tax Advocates Feel Free to Speak Their Minds

If the Town Council follows through with the Budget Committee’s threat to end trash pickup in Tiverton (or charge extra for it), it will be because elected officials and their supporters want to teach taxpayers not to attempt to control their taxes.  But the real lesson will be that we must be more careful about whom we elect to office.

At the May 21 financial town referendum (FTR), 1,224 voters out of 2,210 approved Budget #2, for a 0.9% tax increase, resulting in zero increase in the property tax rate.  That made supporters of a much-bigger tax increase angry; here are some examples of things that they wrote on the Facebook page of the local activist group Tiverton 1st:

  • May 21. Budget Committee member Deborah Scanlon Janick: “Make sure you all personally thank Justin Katz when you lose the services you are used to.” (Somebody even printed up business cards at this time, telling people to call my cell phone and complain.)
  • May 22. Former Town Council Vice President Joanne Arruda: “First thing… snow plowing… I know this is awful, but those people who put in this budget out there and had their minions vote for it will have to be affected.”
  • May 22. Tiverton 1st organizer Mike Silvia: “… in this town, the uninformed and greedy followers who outnumber the community-minded aren’t smart enough to know they’re being played.”
  • May 26: Tiverton 1st activist, school department employee, and school committee candidate Linda Larsen: “Unfortunately, [voters] won’t care until they feel pain. … It won’t make a difference unless it becomes personal.”
  • May 26: Tiverton 1st organizer Kelly Anne Levesque: “I would like to see trash pickup removed which will require you to schlep your maroon bags to the dump or hire a private company.”
  • June 7: Deborah Scanlon Janick: “The residents of Tiverton will pay the price for voting for Budget 2 or for not voting at all.”

Continue reading on Tiverton Fact Check.

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Cruz Shows the Contrast, in More Ways Than One

You’ve heard the hype.  Now, if you haven’t already done so, take 25 minutes and watch Ted Cruz’s Republican convention speech.

Actually watching the video, I’d say by far the most disturbing aspect is the booing — the inability of the assembled Republicans to muster some grace.  The new GOP apparently cannot accept somebody who articulates a beautiful vision of the party’s perhaps-erstwhile values if he doesn’t at the same time utter a magic phrase of endorsement.  In that regard, it truly is now Trump’s GOP.  Me, I agree with Jonah Goldberg:

This is part of the corruption of Trump. He called Ted Cruz a liar every day and in every way for months (it used to be considered a breach in decorum to straight up call an opponent a liar, never mind use it as a nickname). The insults against his wife, the cavalier birtherism, the disgusting JFK assassination theories about his Dad: These things are known. And yet the big conversation of the day is Ted Cruz’s un-sportsmanlike behavior? For real? But forget Cruz for a moment. For over a year, Trump has degraded politics in some of the most vile ways. His respect for the Republican Party as the home of conservatism is on par with Napoleon’s respect for churches when he converted them into stables.

Read the whole thing.  Goldberg, like Cruz, is intent on exiting the Trump era (whenever that may be) with his courage, integrity, and well-formed political philosophy intact.  People who claim to share at least some significant share of that philosophy and yet who can boo its articulation if it does not mix in Trump’s cult of personality bring home just how much this election may hinge on a seesaw of alternating disgust.

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Rhode Island… Not the Place to Be for Economics or a Zombie Apocalypse

I’ve long found the notion of a zombie apocalypse to be a useful metaphor when discussing the condition of Rhode Island. In 2013, for example, I suggested the following:

The American economy is not being kept alive by unnatural forces (stimulus and quantitative easing); that’s the talking-point dogma of Obama zealots in whose view the president can never fail because it will always be possible to close their eyes and believe that things would have been worse without him.

Rather, it is being held back by those unnatural forces and others (most notably over regulation). Look to Rhode Island for the test case — with a General Assembly that has now concluded its session proud to have made it more difficult to live and do business in their state. In light of Woodhill’s analogy, I’m inclined to see the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ map showing New England unemployment as a sort of infection map for the zombie apocalypse.

So, of course I clicked on the link when RIPR’s Ian Donnis tweeted out that Rhode Island has been judged the 49th best (i.e., 2nd worst) state in which to live in order to survive a zombie pandemic.  As usual with such rankings, it takes bad performance by most measures to land at the end of the list.

Rhode Islanders are about average when it comes to being physically active, so we’ve got an OK chance of running away from individual zombies when necessary, and we’re out of the bottom quarter when it comes to leaving our dead uncremated, reducing the ranks of the monsters from among the already dead.  But our state is the second most densely populated by the living and has the fourth lowest gun ownership.  We’re also in the bottom 10 when it comes to the preparation of watching zombie movies.

Perhaps the worst news for Rhode Island, though, isn’t captured by this list.  Judging by our apathetic response to the destruction of our state and the impositions on our lives perpetrated regularly by politicians and bureaucrats, one might reasonably expect Rhode Islanders to be slower to react to the obvious signs of a civilization-ending catastrophe.

On the other hand, the number of former Rhode Islanders proves the willingness and ability of our population to flee to healthier environs.

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Testing and Accountability in Public School

Linda Borg’s article in today’s Providence Journal gives a small taste of an argument that would be much more prominent if Rhode Islanders really cared about education as much as we say that we do.  At issue is Education Commissioner Ken Wagner’s decision to end standardized testing at the high-school level.  Tim Duffy, of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, gets it right:

“If you aspire to be Massachusetts, then high school graduation requirements are going to have to have some consequences,” he said. “If there are no consequences for students, teachers or the system, we end up with improved graduation rates but we haven’t measured whether they are living up to the standards.”

One superintendent adds to that:

Chariho School Supt. Barry Ricci applauds any reduction in testing, but he doesn’t want the state to abandon tying a standardized test to graduation. Without that incentive, he said, high school students will not have any reason to take the test seriously. “I don’t want to give kids the message that we’re lowering the bar,” Ricci said.

In a word, what Wagner has diluted is accountability.  There has to be some way to hold not just students, but teachers and our entire public education system accountable.  What has happened (as I keep repeating) is that Rhode Island’s “fix the system” approach to education reform hit a political ceiling.  The adult special interests that infect our education system feared the prospect of having their failures laid bare in undeniable fashion, so they used our political system as a defensive weapon.  The repercussions of that explosion are reflected in standardized scores, with disadvantaged students (predictably) suffering the most harm.

I happen to agree with those who express concerns about high-stakes testing, but the public needs some means of measuring performance and imposing accountability.  Our children would be much better off, though, and our education system tremendously improved, if accountability derived from market mechanisms.  Let Rhode Islanders determine their own priorities for themselves and their own children and send students to the schools — public, charter, private, home — that best reflect those priorities.  Schools that cannot maintain viable student populations will have to improve or go out of business.

That scares our state’s politicians and insiders because no political ceiling would be possible once Rhode Island families got a taste of real reform.

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Insider Reps Under Fire; Will Anybody Care?

Questions, questions, questions.

Why would a state representative (Democrat John Carnevale [Providence, Johnston]) under fire for doubts about his residency request that the Providence police ticket his car for illegal parking?

Embattled state Rep. John Carnevale asked a police officer to intentionally write him parking tickets at his Barbara Street home in recent days, Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare confirmed Tuesday.

What was a former state representative (Democrat Raymond Gallison [Bristol, Portsmouth]) under federal investigation doing with a deceased client’s possibly valuable coin and stamp collection, which may not have been valued into the man’s estate under the rep’s executorship?

The NBC 10 I-Team spoke with the new attorney handling the Medley estate. Thomas “Tucker” Wright said he suspected something was array when Medley’s personal property from inside his house only amounted to $750 on an inventory list. He knew Medley to have an extensive coin and stamp collection, he said, but was unsure of the value. Those items were not listed on the inventory. Also missing was the total of Medley’s stocks and bonds. That value is also unclear. However, the new lawyer for Medley’s estate told the NBC 10 I-Team that Gallison returned the coin and stamp collection last week.

Is anybody picking up an overwhelming anger in the electorate about these matters — on top of new tolls, last-place rankings, botched marketing moves, corporate welfare, and a completely stagnant employment situation?

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Missing the Point of Conservatism and Western Culture

Pamela Constable’s Washington Post reflection on her conservative Connecticut WASP parents has been making the rounds on the right-wing Internet.  Her personal connection with her parents is just that (personal), but the Baby Boomer journalist appears mainly to have become more comfortable with her parents’ somewhat moderate political conservatism mainly because she can now see it in contrast with movements that she finds more distasteful, like the Tea Party and Trumpism.

What’s most clear, though, is how much she’s missing the essential point.  Feeling stifled and separated by the cool, hip movements during her youth, she set out to become a “crusading journalist” (telling phrase, that).  As a foreign correspondent, she traveled the world and witnessed some of the worst hardships that human beings face, even today.  Then:

Visiting home between assignments, I found myself noticing and appreciating things I had always taken for granted — the tamed greenery and smooth streets, the absence of fear and abundance of choice, the code of good manners and civilized discussion. I also began to learn things about my parents I had never known and to realize that I had judged them unfairly. I had confused their social discomfort with condescension and their conservatism with callousness.

Notably, Constable learned that her parents had actually developed their habits in reaction to the hardships and terrors of the early 20th Century:  “Eventually, I saw how loss and sacrifice had shaped both my parents, creating lifelong habits of thrift, loyalty, perseverance and empathy for those who suffered.”

I recall a lesson in elementary school concerning the layers of need that an individual has in order to achieve higher planes of action.  One must have bodily necessities.  One must feel relatively safe; intellectual pursuits don’t quite fit into the schedule while fleeing for one’s life.  Civilization needs a safe place to cultivate those willing to change the world for the better, in part because they’ve seen a better world.

The problem is that Constable took that place for granted, and she didn’t bother observing as the world changed around her, in large part because of the actions of her ideological peers and their consequences.  Too late is she discovering that the traditions and culture handed down to her have been learned over millennia of a magnificent civilization’s development mainly in order to address the changes that we can’t see happening and lack the capacity to predict.

Progressives like Constable don’t see that the voices they don’t like — the Tea Party and the Trumpists — are becoming more forceful because progressives are marching along, intent on trampling them and their continued sense of the wisdom in our culture.  Like a religious cult, progressives are blind to much that is essential, not only why the culture they loathe is so well evolved, but also how much damage their heroes, like Barack Obama, are doing, and how much they are ensuring conflict and a descent into increasing hostilities.

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Katz’s Kitchen Sink: But Bountiful Parody Song

As the fiscal year comes to a close for the State of Rhode Island and most municipalities in June, it’s ever more clear that civic life in Rhode Island revolves around government budgets.  For insiders, town, city, and state budgets represent their hopes and dreams — often their livelihoods.  For everybody else, though, they can be a time of dread, as the impossibility of real change is affirmed, cherished programs are threatened (if you’re on that side of the ledger), or more money is confiscated from your bank account (if you’re on the other side of the ledger).

Herewith, a parody song to the tune of “But Beautiful,” inaugurating a somewhat regular new video series, “Katz’s Kitchen Sink,” which will feature whatever sort of content I think might be useful to throw at the problems of the Ocean State — songs, short skits, commentary, or whatever.

Download an mp3 file of this song.

But Bountiful

A budget’s taxes, or it’s pay
Handouts are credits or giveaways
We’re investing, or we save
But bountiful

Bountiful, our industry’s bureaucracies we run
It’s a budget you have no choice but to fund

A budget appropriates, or it steals
Votes are traded in backroom deals
Nobody’s sure just what’s real
But bountiful

And I’m thinking if I had chips, I’d cash them in for gold
And take them to a more bountiful abode

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Fed Money Locks in the Local Bill for Later, Helps Senator’s Brother

How is this, from the Providence Journal, a good idea?

The City of Providence will receive a $15,011,440 federal grant to hire 80 firefighters and stanch the bleeding from a mass loss of Fire Department personnel over the past 18 months.

And the City of Cranston will receive a $2,765,310 federal grant to hire 15 firefighters, increasing the possibility that the Fire Department will hire its first female firefighter. …

A SAFER grant carries the full cost of firefighters with fringe benefits for two fiscal years, after which the municipality must pick up the cost.

What’s supposed to happen between now and two budgets from now to make these positions more affordable for the cities?  Without that piece to the puzzle, this is just the federal government using some additional deficit spending to lock the taxpayers of Providence, Cranston, and Rhode Island into a larger bill in a couple of years. (Don’t forget pensions and other post-employment benefits [OPEB], too.)

Without a specific plan to supplant the federal grant when the time comes, the local governments are acting recklessly.  In offering the grants, though, the federal government is acting immorally, and not just because Senator Jack Reed’s brother Paul is a major figure in Rhode Island labor unions for firefighters who has recently been under fire over financial challenges within his union.

Rhode Islanders don’t have the flexibility for government to play these games.  As very specific evidence, turn to an article out today, on GoLocalProv:

In a letter sent to the Providence City Council this week, Dulgarian informed elected officials that after talking with business owners, he learned:

* Paragon Restaurant had averaged 6200 customers a month before [parking] meters and now averages 4000 a month

* Antonio’s Restaurant had 25 employees before meters and now has 7

* Silvia Disposal hauled away 2.5 truckloads of rubbish a week from Thayer Street before meters and now has 1.5 truckloads

“Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing to have to review things of this nature,” said Dulgarian on Thursday. “Even to be off 5% on sales is devastating. These businesses are on oxygen support.”

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Whitehouse’s Attacks on Private Groups

Rhode Island Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has repeatedly shown that he’s got no problem using government to go after people and groups he perceives as political enemies.  He’s sympathetic to the literal conspiracy of attorney generals to prosecute those who take a different view on the question of climate change, and now he’s coordinating a smear campaign from the floor of the Senate.

Whitehouse’s office circulated assignments for his fellow Democrat senators for a two-day extravaganza of attacking private center-right think tanks and advocacy groups, from the local (Nevada Policy Research Institute) to the national (Heritage Foundation), from the morally focused (Acton Institute) to the libertarian (Reason Foundation).

To be sure, much of this is the pure stagecraft of politics, but it ought to, in any event, make us a little uncomfortable.  The senators are using a government podium to embark on a coordinated attack on Americans, dividing the country as if their domestic opposition is the real enemy.  One could suggest that it would be incorrect to see Whitehouse as representing all of Rhode Island.  He represents a specific worldview, and he’ll use our money and other resources to advance that worldview and impose its conclusions on everybody who live within the borders of his reach.

English has multiple words by which to describe that sort of behavior.

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Is Climate Change Persecution Fading Already?

With one of our U.S. Senators’, Mr. Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, naturally), being a key figure in the fascist effort to pursue legal persecution of people who have a contrary opinion to him on the politically charged issue of global climate change, Rhode Islanders might be interested to hear that some of his allies are backing away from his level of aggression, as the Wall Street Journal notes (text here):

Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker recently withdrew his subpoena of Exxon Mobil. He was a leader among the 17 AGs charging that the oil giant defrauded shareholders by hiding the truth about global warming. That’s hard to prove when the company’s climate-change research was published in peer-reviewed journals.

Mr. Walker also targeted some 90 think tanks and other groups in an attempt to punish climate dissent. These groups and others, including these columns, pushed back on First Amendment grounds, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute counter-sued Mr. Walker and demanded sanctions. He pulled his subpoena against CEI last month.

The real shame, and the real warning sign, is that those AGs, and fellow travelers like Whitehouse, weren’t instantly lambasted by people across America’s political spectrum for even initiating such patently offensive-to-freedom steps .

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RI Foundation’s Sneak-Attack on Free-Speech

Should Rhode Islanders silently accept the corrupt political climate that has failed so many of us? Or should we, as free citizens in our uniquely American democracy, be encouraged to freely speak-out and engage in a battle of ideas so as to help make our state a safer and more prosperous place to live, to raise a family, and to build a career?

It is the Center’s primary mission to stimulate such rigorous public debate about important policy issues. However, the most powerful and wealthy nonprofit organization in our state is asking you to shut up.

As part of its own 100th year celebration, the Rhode Island Foundation this week published and promoted a video, which, in essence, encourages people to remain silent and to accept that the political elite know best about what’s in your and my best interests.

In what initially seems to be a video for kids, it is shameful that the Foundation hides its adult message behind children. With the frequent backdrop of our State House, it is obvious that the video is intended to be political. Under the pretense of “be nice or be quiet”, the Foundation is clear in its message that is directed to all of us – that we should just “stop complaining”.

Stop complaining about Rhode Island’s 48th place ranking on the national Family Prosperity Index?
Stop complaining that so many of our neighbors cannot find or have given up looking for meaningful work?
Stop complaining about the political corruption that continues to embarrass our state?
Stop complaining about the lack of bold and decisive action to do anything significant about it?

I don’t think so.

It is also despicable that the Foundation forces these children to read text that has to be bleeped.

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Speaker’s “Independent” Political Opponent Know Buttons But Not Policy

Fascinating interview in yesterday’s Providence Journal by ace political reporter Kathy Gregg. She sits down with the “independent” candidate who has entered the race for House District 15, currently held by one Nicholas Mattiello, Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

During the interview, Patrick Vallier indicates, apparently without hesitation, that he opposes tolls and the legalization of marijuana and is a supporter of the Second Amendment. But the gentleman didn’t have an answer for a very basic question:

Asked the top three things he would like to do for his home city, Vallier laughed and then said, “Ooh. That’s a tough one.” After a pause, he said: “Probably taxes. Do something with taxes. … The car tax. A lot of people complain about that.” Next? “The minimum wage maybe go up again. I’ll try something with that.” Third top issue? “I guess that’s it right now. That’s all I can say.”

How interesting and strange! It’s almost like someone whispered the hot button issues to the gentleman while assuming, mistakenly as it turns out, that he was familiar with substantive policy matters.

But the interview reaches the peak of strangeness with this.

Asked if there is anything Mattiello has done that he would have done differently, Vallier said: “Not really. …

Wow, really? Then, respectfully, sir, why are you running if the guy currently holding the office is doing a fine job from your perspective? Especially when that incumbent has a ton of resources, financial and other, to fight off your challenge.

I am not in the least implying that this may be what is going on with this gentleman’s candidacy. But here’s a sincere tip for a person who has entered a race as a straw candidate: if any professional Rhode Island journalist approaches you looking for an interview, you should run for the hills. If that reporter is Kathy Gregg, you should don a jet pack to expedite your escape.

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The American System the Left Is Building

Kevin Williamson offers a candid summary of the cynical frustrations of the American Right, by which I mean Americans who are either “right” or have a propensity to be correct and fair.  Comparing the way in which prosecutorial discretion is the name of the game for Democrats like Hillary Clinton with the nakedly political prosecutions of Republicans, like Tom DeLay and Rick Perry, Williamson suggests that Leftists (generally Democrats) “prefer their politicians a little crooked,” because:

… It helps them, a Chavista party constrained mainly by the temperamental (rather than ideological) conservatism of the American electorate, to make up in viciousness what they lack in policy ideas appropriate to the 21st century.

That lack of policy ideas isn’t really very important. The Left isn’t interested in policy; it is interested in power, and the things you can do with it, meaning rewarding one’s friends and punishing one’s enemies. Barack Obama has been, in his less guarded moments, fairly plain about that. For the Left, all justice is Wonderland justice: decision first, arguments afterward as necessary. There is seldom if ever any doubt about how the so-called liberals on the Supreme Court (who are not liberals at all) will vote on any question: They will vote the way the Left wants them to. Elena Kagan, you may recall, testified in her confirmation hearings that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage lurking in the penumbras to be discovered. Once confirmed, she reached a little deeper and pulled one out. Conservatives can never really guess which way a Kennedy or a Roberts is going to come down on a question, but you know how the judges of the Left are going to vote. Arguments do not matter; only outcomes matter.

One can observe this at every level of government, from the local to the metastasizing international totalitarianism.  For some, the payoff is simply filthy lucre — money that they could never have a hope of earning fair and square transferred from other people to them.  For many, though, it’s just the cheaper (if deeper) payoff of feeling that they are good people making a positive difference in the world.  Power serves the first group inasmuch as it can be exchanged for cash; it serves the second group by enabling them to impose diktats on others.  (These motivations overlap in actual individuals, of course.)

As a general matter, they don’t really care about outcomes in the sense that the world actually becomes a better place.  Per Williamson’s phrasing, they measure good by helping those whom they perceive as their friends and hurting those whom they perceive as their enemies.

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RI Foundation Tells Rhode Islanders to Shut Up and Take Their Medicine

The lede of a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Daniel Henninger describes its point concisely: “Barack Obama’s presidency of moral condescension has produced an electoral backlash.”  The notion of this condescension from our elite betters came immediately to mind when I opened up a Rhode Island Foundation email promoting this video, which is part of its “what’s next” initiative, and which is slap-in-your-face offensive:

The video opens with a blank screen and marching thrum before the following phrase appears: “Actual quotes, From actual Rhode Islanders.”  The text doesn’t specify which Rhode Islanders, or where these phrases were found.  It’s just us; things we’ve said as we’ve participated in public debate.  (At least its those of us who don’t fit the obvious political profile of the people included in the RI Foundation’s “community contributions” section.)

The slap comes immediately and with deliberate offense, with video of a child being beeped for reading swear words from a notepad.  Child 2 is beeped again, reading another quote from an “actual Rhode Islander.”  Child 3 looks up in disbelief after reading his quote.  A small girl offers the first commentary after hers:  “Who says this?”

Next, our local elite betters put their own words in the kids’ mouths: “Stop! … Stop complaining. Stop blaming. Stop trolling.”  We (“actual Rhode Islanders”) aren’t making things better; we’re making them worse.  Not to worry, though, because these kids “are what’s next.”  They’re going to solve the problems of the world when they’re adults, but in the meantime, they need us to “be nice or be quiet.”

That’s right.  The message of the people promoting this slick video…

  • who rope all of us broadly into the suspect category,
  • who include the very act of complaining on the list of things that we should stop,
  • who deliberately slap us with the shock of putting swears in the mouths of children,
  • who tell us that we’re merely a hopeless generation occupying space until the saintly kids grow up

… is that we’re not being nice, that we’re being dismissive.  That we should just shut our traps and not complain about the treatment to which the powerful in our state subject us or when they do things like impose new fees, take away our rights, and slush around money sucked from our economy in a corrupt whirlpool (or when they use non-profit organizations to push political agendas) or blame them when things continue to go wrong, year after year.  We’re just “trolling.”

Who are the condescending people behind this message, hiding behind children?

Well, the Rhode Island Foundation we know.  It’s interesting to note, though, the group behind this video, NAIL Communications, because it’s received almost $2.5 million from the state government through HealthSource RI, our ObamaCare health benefits exchange, over the past few years.

So, yes, shut up and pay your taxes, you nasty Rhode Islanders, so that people who think they’re better than us can get big paydays from government ventures that limit our freedoms as well as redistribute our money.

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Rhode Island: Where Even Mediocrity Would Be Revolutionary

To expand upon the less-than-admiring budget review by Republican state Representative Patricia Morgan (Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) I posted this morning, here’s Pam Gencarella in GoLocalProv, noting one result of the General Assembly’s unwillingness to do what must be done to get Rhode Island out of the bottom of America’s barrel:

Mr. Stergios explained that the deal was sealed with Massachusetts because of a high-quality workforce, the highest quality educational system in the country, and a governor who has made clear that he wants a predictable tax and regulatory environment.  Seems like deja vu for Rhode Islanders.  A couple of years ago, CVS stood in front of the RI General Assembly and spelled out the four areas CVS looks at when deciding where to expand.  They included all of the areas listed above, plus one more – available infrastructure (ie. quality roadways and bridges).

And what has RI’s legislature done in those two years to address the need for a high quality workforce, a high quality educational system and a predictable tax and regulatory environment?  Our elected leaders have severely walked back most of the educational reforms that mirrored Massachusetts reform, they have sent the idea of predictability in taxation into a tailspin with the creation of a new stream of toll revenue, and now they have proposed a RI Big Dig with the 6/10 Connector.  And, in creating one of the highest taxing states, legislative policies have driven much of the high-quality workforce out of state looking for job opportunities elsewhere.  Although it’s really nothing but another government giveaway, in desperation, our governor has resorted to bribery in an attempt to keep RI’s graduates in the state.

Gencarella suggests that Rhode Island’s government officials should set their sights on achieving status at the middle of national rankings, such as for business friendliness.  We all know how likely that is, though.  Even pulling the state out of the bottom 10 would require insiders to relinquish way too much of their power and personal advantages for it even to be considered.

And unfortunately, the state government long ago resorted to bribery, such that a population with a large contingent who are bought off will keep attempting to protect their benefits, no matter how paltry, as the ship goes down.

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On the Razor’s Edge Between Citizen and Subject

I’m actually surprised, sometimes, how directly lessons from local politics apply even at the national level.

A few years ago, a friend of mine submitted a charter complaint, as allowed by Tiverton’s Home Rule Charter, against a school employee for disseminating political material in a school.  In contravention of the clear process for such complaints, the Town Clerk conducted an investigation, including being party to the discarding of evidence, and dismissed the complaint.

Now, I happen to like the Town Clerk, but thinking it vital that the process for complaints be clear, strictly followed, and universal in their application, I filed a complaint against her for this activity.  Ultimately, the Town Council let her off by finding that she didn’t “knowingly” violate the charter.  The ruling was ridiculous.  In general, “knowing” action means the person knows he or she took the action, not that he or she knows it was illegal, and the clerk didn’t accidentally conduct an investigation.  Making matters even clearer, section 1211(d)(2) provides for distinct additional penalties when a town employee knows his or her action is a violation.  There is simply no ambiguity, here.

But the council members liked the clerk, and most of them had a political interest in protecting the school employee and the political group whose material she promoted (Tiverton 1st).  So, they simply declared the law to be something different than what it clearly was for this one case.

Now, at the national level, despite what could accurately be described as “gross negligence”… a week after her husband met with the nation’s top law-enforcement agent in a clearly inappropriate, nearly clandestine meeting… the same day the President of the United States takes to the campaign trail with her, Hillary Clinton has dodged prosecution for sending classified information using a private email server because, in the words of FBI Director James Comey, the investigators did not find “some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information or vast quantities of information exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct or indications of disloyalty to the United States or efforts to obstruct justice.”  She didn’t know, despite having been warned against the server, so that’s that.

As in Tiverton, the reality is that the people whom we have entrusted to enforce our laws simply don’t want to do it, in this case, so we’re stuck.  And that means the only thing keeping us as citizens, rather than subjects of a ruling oligarchy, is our behavior.  If we accept this new reality, we’re serfs.  On that count, I’m with Kurt Schlichter:

They don’t realize that by rejecting the rule of law, they have set us free. We are independent. We owe them nothing – not respect, not loyalty, not obedience. But with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we will still mutually pledge those who have earned our loyalty with their adherence to the rule of law, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

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Newest Addition to State’s … Er, News Scene: “The Rhode Island Cooler and Warmer”

Rhode Island has a new … um, newspaper (in the loosest sense of the word): “The Rhode Island Cooler and Warmer”. From the publication’s “About” section on their Facebook page.

The Rhode Island Cooler and Warmer is a satirical news publication. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and enjoy.

Not only does the publication exist only on Facebook and Twitter, but some of its articles are not even complete, ending at what appears to be the middle of the article with a seeming traditional newspaper pointer “Cont’d on Page 4″ … but no Page 4 (or whatever) to turn or click to.

This is the only slightly discombobulating aspect of an otherwise well-informed, fun and definitely welcome addition to Rhode Island’s … um, newspaper scene. To give you a flavor of the newspaper, the headline of one of my favorite “articles” (screenshot only, so no way to copy and paste an excerpt here) is “Governor Gina Raimondo Briefly Visits Rhode Island”.

In its second issue, Cooler Warmer “covers” a news item inexplicably missed by WPRI’s indefatigable Providence news hound Dan McGowan.

City of Providence files legal claim as common law wife of former Mayor Vincent Cianci: City seeks millions from Buddy’s estate

and also gets the dirt on the real method utilized by Brown University to conduct a poll.

Check it all out, including their latest issue released just in time for Independence Day, here.

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Local Politics in Poetry

You know an election season is bound to be odd when it’s scarcely begun and already poetic letters to the editor are hitting the local papers.  Tiverton entered this phase this week when one activist associated with the local big-government, high-tax political action committee Tiverton 1st sent a poem in to the Fall River Herald attacking me.

By way of background, I proposed a budget to voters (who approved it) that held taxes down to a 0.9% increase for the upcoming budget, leaving the line items up to the Budget Committee.  After achieving around 84% of the adjustments needed, the committee backtracked and instead eliminated most of the budget for curbside trash pickup, expecting people either to bring their trash to the dump or for the Town Council to set up some sort of new fee to force people to pay the money that the town initially wanted in taxes, but that the voters refused to pay.  (The move is legally questionable, particularly because the very same activists have long argued that the Budget Committee has no authority to set policy, while now the Town Council president is insisting that her council has no authority to refuse the committee’s decision.)

 

You’re Welcome, Dear Susan

Responding to a personal attack masquerading as a poem by Susan Scanlon, whose sister, Deborah Scanlon Janick, is a member of the Tiverton Budget Committee.

Hi, Susan! Your poem in these pages
thanked me for the referendum results.
As when your sister, Deb Janick, rages,
your real goal seems to be your sharp insults.

Could it be your sister didn’t tell you,
when she wrapped up work with the budget board,
ending trash was what she wanted to do?
So many non-trash options were ignored!

On June 7, here’s what Deb had to say,
writing on Tiverton 1st’s Facebook page:
“The residents of Tiverton will pay
the price for voting for Budget 2.” Rage!

Now it’s the Town Council’s turn to decide
on the administrator’s Option E,
which moves cash around to keep trash alive,
or a sneaked in tax or fee, then blame me.

So, my dear Susan, you are most welcome.
My goal, as always, is one of service.
Now our neighbors can see from the outcome
what sort of people we have in office.

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IRS Scandal and Fragile Commitment to Rights

Reading Eliana Johnson’s NRO article, “New Documents Suggest IRS’s Lerner Likely Broke the Law,” it occurs to me just how fragile our rights are.  Ten years ago, I would have thought this sort of thing would be a cause of universal outrage, across the political spectrum.  The American Left and news media haven’t proven to have as much integrity as I’d thought, back then:

It is likely the largest unauthorized disclosure of tax-return information in history: the transfer of some 1.25 million pages of confidential tax returns from the IRS to the Department of Justice in October of 2010. And it was almost certainly illegal.

The documents, which consisted chiefly of non-profit tax returns, were transferred to the DOJ’s criminal division from the IRS at the request of Lois Lerner, who wanted to get the information to the DOJ in advance of a meeting where she and several of the attorneys in the public integrity section of the department’s criminal division discussed their concerns about the increasing political activity of non-profit groups.

Speaking with people, in a social setting, who are likely to find their way to voting for Hillary Clinton, I’ve wondered if it’s all a function of long-term narrative propaganda and raw audacity.  That is to say that the Left has spent decades making themselves the heroes and their opposition the villains in every story, such that a sufficient number of people would be inclined to interpret real transgressions as well-meaning indiscretions or overzealous errors.

With that sense established, an incentive begins to form to be audacious in the lies.  Get people invested in the interpretation that Hillary Clinton and President Obama were working from faulty intelligence when they lied about the nature of the Benghazi attack and that Clinton’s private server was mainly used for sharing recipes with friends and the like.  Purposefully slip the admission of illegal activity from the IRS into an obscure Q&A session.

The initial benefit of the doubt given on the basis of decades of propaganda then gains the general sense that the culprits wouldn’t have gotten away with it for so long if it were really bad.  But the prerequisite is, again, that the American Left and its partisans in the media really don’t believe the things they claim to believe about rights.

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It’s Pull-Papers Time!

If you’re planning to run for office in Rhode Island, it’s time to file a Declaration of Candidacy form. Deadline to file is tomorrow (Wednesday, June 29, 2016) by 4:00 pm. If you’re running for local or state office, you would file them with your local Board of Canvassers. (The Board of Canvassers is often a part of your City or Town Clerk’s office and, if not, they can certainly direct you.) If you’re running for federal office, file with the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office. (… I presume that’s what “Department of State” means on this form; seems like poor wording by the RI Secretary of State’s office.) FYI, next step will be to collect signatures on the nomination papers that you will, in due course, need to obtain.

A couple of current event items to note. The Tee-Shirt guy had vowed to run again but as of the end of the day yesterday, he had not pulled papers. (Possibly an investigation by the Rhode Island State Police has impacted either his schedule or his plans.)

And, if you were mulling a run for the General Assembly, perhaps this will tip you over: WPRI’s Ted Nesi has crunched the numbers and determined that Governor Raimondo, with the highly misguided approval of the General Assembly, has handed out $50 million ($50,000,000) AND COUNTING in corporate welfare under the guise of economic development. As a legislator, you would have the ability to vote against such costly, inequitable madness.