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

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

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

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

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

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Hate Crimes and Playing the Man in Politics

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

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

Phony hate crimes. Phony hate.

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

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

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Scheming to Go After Congressmen… No Need in RI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Risk Aversion in Stocks and in Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Left-Wing Spying Versus Holding Conservatives Accountable

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

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

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

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

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Clarity When Legislators Decline to Increase Their Own Leverage

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

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

Consider this, from a recent Providence Journal Political Scene:

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

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

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Anybody Buying the UHIP Spin?

Come on, now. This is like lie-detector 101:

“There was pressure [to launch UHIP despite its not being ready], no doubt about it,” Raimondo told reporters. “High ranking members of the General Assembly said, ‘Deliver this now.'” …

[Department of Human Services Director Eric] Beane, called to testify about his month-long probe of UHIP, tempered his answer, saying employees he spoke with at DHS and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services talked about pressure from former House Finance Committee Chairman Raymond Gallison and former Rep. Eileen Naughton, who chaired the finance subcommittee on health and human services.

So, the governor tried to deflect some blame, and the administration realized it was starting a political fight, so a flunky ostensibly testifying with a neutral assessment of what went wrong implied (indirectly, notice) that the blame should fall on two legislators whom a governor would hardly take seriously as directing the administration’s actions and who, conveniently, are no longer in office (one because he was jammed up with criminal investigations).

This is cover-up land. The governor can’t be trusted.  As I suggested in my “Last Impressions” podcast this week, it appears that Raimondo has invested in the tagline that she’s the “governor who gets things done,” and sliding down the UHIP wormhole had to be a major concern.

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How the Media Will Help Trump Get Away with Things

Even while reporting a correction in the Washington Post to a bit of fake news from the mainstream media that had (and probably still has) broad currency around the country, Jackson Diehl can’t help but push blame onto the Trump administration:

One thing Trump has decidedly not done, however, is downgrade the participation of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the deliberations of the National Security Council. You may have heard and read otherwise, repeatedly. Therein lies an illustration of how communication between the executive and mainstream media, and with it coverage of the Trump administration, has already come unhinged.

So a hostile media blames the administration for the media’s own inability to do its job while hopped up on hatred of said administration.  Instead, we get loud blasts of outrage and scandal over every little change or misstatement that members of the administration make, walked back or corrected in quieter, easier-to-miss follow-up stories.

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Support for Lots of Immigration, Not Necessarily Altruistic

Funny how moral principle in politics seems so often to align with self interest.  Here’s Byron York in the Washington Examiner:

Why is Washington State mounting such a vigorous challenge to President Trump’s executive order temporarily suspending non-American entry from seven terrorism-plagued countries? Of course there are several lawsuits against the president, and there are lots of motives among the various litigants. But Washington State’s is the suit that stopped the order, at least temporarily. And a look at the state’s case suggests that, behind high-minded rhetoric about religious liberty and constitutional protections, there is a lot of money at stake.

Judging by the briefs filed by Washington State, as well as statements made by its representatives, some of the state’s top priorities in challenging Trump are: 1) To ensure an uninterrupted supply of relatively low-wage H-1B foreign workers for Microsoft and other state businesses; 2) To ensure a continuing flow of high-tuition-paying foreign student visa holders; and 3) To preserve the flow of tax revenues that results from those and other sources.

And don’t forget Medicaid, SNAP, public education, and other federally subsidized welfare programs available to legal and (probably) illegal immigrants on the government plantation.

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Scoffing at Trump for his Ethical Approach

I’ve seen variations of this comment, captured here in a Wall Street Journal article by Jess Bravin, in multiple places:

“If Trump is hoping that Judge Gorsuch will be a rubber stamp for the Trump administration, he is woefully misguided,” said former clerk Jason Murray, a Denver attorney who later clerked for Justice Elena Kagan.

The president’s expressed preference for pulling back restrictions on church leaders’ ability to make political statements has raised similarly cynical responses.  In a tweet that flitted through my stream, somebody suggested that Trump should be careful what he wishes for because many churches would use their new latitude against him.

As such thoughts pile up, even people who dislike President Trump should start asking themselves how many actions he has to take that could arguably constrain him politically in the future before they reevaluate their assumptions.  I’m not saying that this is my solid assessment, right now, but maybe Trump is doing things that he believes are right (or perhaps that some among his allies believe are right) without regard to their political consequence for him.

Somehow, I suspect we learn more about the people who make such comments (and the media that promotes them) than we do about President Trump when they scoff at his actions because they think he doesn’t realize the political implications.  They seem to be implying that they, themselves, would not do the right thing if it looked likely to have political ramifications for them.

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Wanting Government Restrictions on Others’ Behalf

As far as arguments against a policy go, points like this are terrible: 

While some conservative Christians would like to see the rule [against religious organizations’ involvement in politics] abolished, others, especially the younger generation, support a clear separation of church and political endorsements. Many liberal churches are also active on policy issues, and could potentially get more involved in partisan politics.

Mayer noted that for some religious leaders, the IRS rule has given them a way to avoid political pressure for an endorsement.

“Now a church that wants to say no has an easy answer, it’s illegal,” Mayer said.

Really?  Those tasked with promoting and explaining a religion are timid about explaining why they might not want to endorse anybody, or even a particular candidate?  Nobody will be forced to express an opinion.  I suspect it’s more the truth that they don’t feel comfortable with it themselves and wish to restrain others from what they see as an unfair advantage.

Perhaps, too, those who object tend to be of the sort who are entirely on the same page as the secular culture, so they know their political work will get done, making it worth taking a slight hit in order to impede others whose Churches play a role to the secular culture.

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A Deliberate Spectrum of Protest, from Riots Up

Overall, a Wall Street Journal article by Peter Nicholas and Carol Lee doesn’t exactly paint the picture of a White House in disarray, but rather of an ambitious president mixing things up and having to make adjustments in the process.  Those are very different stories, mostly of interest to those addicted to political news.

The more broadly significant, in my view, is this passage:

[Randy Bryce, political director of the local ironworkers union,]  learned through labor contacts the Secret Service had done a security check at a Harley factory in Menomonee Falls, Wis. He began organizing car pools and buses to bring demonstrators to the middle-class suburb in heavily Republican Waukesha County. Also, “we put up phone numbers for the [Harley] public-relations department and pretty much anybody we could get hold of,” Mr. Bryce said.

At Harley, which never acknowledged Mr. Trump planned a visit, executives became nervous about demonstrators, said a person familiar with their thinking. As word spread of the mounting protest, Mr. Trump’s appearance was canceled—at whose behest neither side has said.

Let’s stipulate that the labor union was planning a more-or-less standard union protest, maybe with some tense moments, but generally with a sense of control.  Even controlled protests, however, are now happening in an environment of potential riots, as seen at the University of California in Berkeley.

The first layer of threat against a company that takes the unextraordinary step of welcoming the President of the United States is that it will face organized boycotts and vitriol on social media.  If that isn’t sufficient, progressives have ensured a looming threat of property destruction, too.

Somehow, I don’t see this having the long-term effect that the activists want, but we’ll see.

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Ah, the General Assembly’s Legislative Grant Program

Here’s a telling little tidbit that slipped through the strainer of Tiverton politics, from a not-online Newport Daily News article by Marcia Pobzeznik on January 30.

Town Council Member John Edwards the Fifth (son of Democrat State Representative John Edwards the Fourth) appears quietly to have planned a beach bonfire for Christmas trees, which left his fellow council members feeling like “the Town Council was the last to know,” per councilor Denise DeMedeiros.  They finally found out when they were called to a special meeting to decide whether to cancel the event because of gusty winds.

Here’s the telling part that makes the anecdote of statewide interest:

Firefighters and a fire engine would have been required at the beach, deMedeiros said, along with a police detail for crowd control.  She asked Edwards if he had considered the costs.

A legislative grant would take care of the costs of the firefighters and the police detail, said Edwards, son of Rep. John “Jay” Edwards, D-Tiverton.

There is no such grant on the House’s list, although it’s dated only through October 1.  The Senate’s list is more up to date and has some grants for Tiverton, but whether or not they’re associated isn’t possible to tell.

Think of the process, here, especially involving the son of the legislator who successfully pushed legislation to make it more difficult for individuals to participate in local politics, creating hurdles for them to jump in the name of “transparency.”  A Town Council member almost pulled off a public event involving town property and the use of town employees without the knowledge of at least some of his fellow councilors, and the whole thing was supposedly going to be funded through a General Assembly handout that, likewise, nobody else had any idea about.

Obviously, given the lack of transparency, there’s no way to know whether this is relevant, but as I’ve written before, the state Ethics Commission would find no problem with a member of the General Assembly pushing to use state taxpayer money to fund a politically helpful event secretly orchestrated by his son because everybody involved is acting in official government capacity.

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Political Football

Trump wins again.

On the largest sports and media stage in the world, several news outlets somehow got it into their heads that Brady’s sole responsibility wasn’t to concentrate on football and lead his team to a fifth Super Bowl title. No, he also had a moral responsibility to denounce his friend and golfing buddy, Donald Trump.

In their attempts to put Brady and the team on notice about their problematic friendship, the media somehow managed to convert former Patriots haters into fans. Because while few institutions are more hate-able than the Patriots, the media is definitely one of those institutions.

Obviously, we New Englanders don’t hate the Pats and it’s not our fault the rest of the country – or the NFL offices – can’t handle their success (but those of us who grew up as Yankee-haters do sorta get it!).

That being said, the week leading up to the Superbowl saw Brady, Belichick and Kraft join the ranks of other celebrities who have fallen afoul of the media moralizers.  “Spineless Feminist” Taylor Swift came in for criticism when she didn’t attend the Women’s March on Washington.  Fellow Diva Lady Gaga has now fallen afoul of the Progressive Prudes for not properly politicizing her Superbowl Halftime show. “[I]t’s disheartening to watch someone with so much heart (and guts and spleen) stare down a moment of this magnitude and blink.Twitter was full of lefty media types gloating over the Pats performance and correlating the blowout to their support for Trump.  Karma or something.  But then at least some of those tweets got deleted once the Pats won.

Here’s hoping things calm down soon. I don’t think we can take this amped up environment that politicizes everything.  Can we?

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Political Omissions in Worcester Story

For some reason the Providence Journal ran a minor story on a Worcester, Massachusetts, political incident.  In doing so, however, the paper spotlights a curious… let’s say… tic of the mainstream media:

Mayor Joseph M. Petty is now apologizing for remarks he made that, unbeknownst to him, were picked up by an open microphone at the beginning of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

The remarks were unflattering observations about some of protesters attending the meeting. Earlier, there was a rally at City Hall attended by people unhappy with President Donald J. Trump’s immigration policy.

Funny — Don’t you think? — that the article doesn’t mention that Petty is a Democrat and the main voice speaking out against him, Michael T. Gaffney, although in a non-partisan seat, has been backed by Republicans.  Why do you suppose that is?  How do you suppose the reporting might have been different if it were a Republican mayor badmouthing a Tea Party group?

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