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In the Dugout Talking COVID-19

Is the cure worse than the disease? Research Director Justin Katz of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity joins CEO Stenhouse on in “In The Dugout” to discuss the coronavirus crisis in RI. Katz is also the managing editor of the Ocean State Current, an he offers an analysis of the data of Governor Gina Raimondo’s data.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Civil Rights on Order

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for April 20, included talk about:

  • Executive orders from the governor
  • Models projecting the illness
  • A cowardly General Assembly (looking for incumbent security)
  • Talk of a Raimondo VP pick
  • The idea that killing unborn children is an essential procedure

I’ll be on again Monday, April 27, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Decision Time!

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for April 13, included talk about:

  • The governor’s handling of the virus crisis
  • The silence from everybody else
  • The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s suggestions
  • The decisions facing the governor and the people of RI

I’ll be on again Monday, April 20, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: The Executive Takes All

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for April 6, included talk about:

  • The governor’s tough tone
  • Unemployment skyrockets
  • The General Assembly shirks its duties
  • Bad optics from Cranston mayoral candidate
  • Tyranny in Tiverton

I’ll be on again Monday, April 13, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Move the Date for Declaration of Candidacy

As state and local governments take action to postpone various elections and grant themselves emergency powers (and abuse those powers), the people should keep an eye on an important deadline: the declaration of candidacy.

The state forces citizens who might run for office to declare their intentions by June 22-24 in an election year.  While this gives plenty of time for campaigning (and opposition research by incumbents) and prevents political surprises, it also means that voters may not be able to hold elected officials accountable for anything that happens between late June and November, especially if the incumbents are running unopposed.

Even if the coronavirus crisis subsides in time to make it reasonable for people to collect signatures following their declaration, the public is still at a disadvantage.  When it comes to potential candidates, they can’t be out there right now learning the landscape and getting a feel for their chances.  When it comes to incumbents, the public is too anxious and preoccupied, right now, to adequately assess their actions (or lack thereof), and this atmosphere may remain until well after the COVID-19 cloud lifts.

As much as government may have a fair claim to increased flexibility during this time, the public deserves an opportunity for increased accountability as things get back to normal.  If parties can replace their candidates into September (as we witnessed when Bob Healey jumped in at the last minute as the Moderate Party candidate for governor in 2014), the people should be able to have until then to decide whether incumbents deserve competition or other declared candidates are satisfactory as the only other choices.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Government and Twitter Flames

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 30, included talk about:

  • Raimondo v. Cuomo
  • Cheit v. Fung
  • Rhode Islanders v. the state budget
  • Democracy v. mail ballots
  • and the U.S. Senate as the means of grabbing money

I’ll be on again Monday, April 6, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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A Way to Deal with the New Normal

Over on the blog of Rhode Island Women for Freedom & Prosperity, Judith Bowman describes her sense of the new normal, concluding thus:

Although we cannot change others, each of us has the ability to change ourselves. We have a responsibility to model appropriate language and behavior and lead by example. Americans have historically answered every call to action when the country’s well-being has been at stake. As we are diverted from our normal routines we must surely put partisan politics aside and continue to come together. As we practice and calibrate new communication approaches perhaps we could consider choosing more measured words to help restore emotional health and well-being, civility, respect and unity to our country.

We gratefully acknowledge the swift and decisive actions by our government leaders, physicians and health professionals, companies and corporations, friends, neighbors and perfect strangers and thank them for their prompt and tireless efforts, updates and generous spirit. They say, ‘out of every tragedy comes new strength.’ During this very challenging era in American history, we have a chance to not only heal the wounded and win the viral war but reinforce American exceptionalism merely by choosing more measured words and matching those words with actions.

This attitude is sorely needed.  To be honest, it’s rattling to read some of the hostility, sometimes approaching glee, out there, particularly among progressives.  A former legislator who has been filling his time accosting me on Twitter talks down any news that might potentially give people some hope that there’s light at the end of this tunnel.  It is apparently catching on in certain circles to call COVID-19 “the Trump Virus.”  Yesterday, Rhode Island Public Radio columnist Scott MacKay retweeted left-wing activist Barbara Malmet declaring the inevitable recession to be “Trump’s Great Depression.”

Who wishes such things on their country?  Is there any concern or hope among such people around ever reconciling with their fellow Americans again?

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Changing Gears, 3/21/20

On Saturday, March 21, 2020, Changing Gears hosts Mike  Collins and Chris Maxwell offered a different view on Ocean State goings on and beyond!

  • Governor’s 2A Executive Order extends background check from 7 to 30 days.
  • Bob Duva of R.I. Echo checks in.
  • Mike Stenhouse: which path is state going to take to get out of this
    crisis? Time for “government distancing.”
  • Rob Cote: cities cut services but, unlike private sector, no layoffs.
  • Don Culp with tips for staying focused and mentally strong.
  • Scumbag US senators dump stocks during national crisis.
  • Bring manufacturing back to US.

Listen to “Changing Gears 3/21/20″ on Spreaker.

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Changing Gears, 3/14/20

On Saturday, March 14, 2020, Changing Gears hosts Mike  Collins and Chris Maxwell offered a different view on Ocean State goings on and beyond!

  • The link to Joe Biden’s coronavirus plan starts w/campaign donation page.
  • Coronavirus dangers, overreaction, political one-upsmanship & impact on RI businesses.
  • Len Lardaro’s compelling remarks about what RI officials are still not doing to grow the state’s economy.
  • Truckers file request for preliminary injunction to stop RI’s collection of truck tolls.

Listen to “Changing Gears 3/14/2020″ on Spreaker.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Remarkable & Worrying Times (With Hope!)

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 16, included talk about:

  • The Virus and the politicians
  • Britt bends the insider rules
  • RI Women for Freedom & Prosperity
  • Closing the GOP primary

I’ll be on again Monday, March 23, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Changing Gears, 3/7/20

On Saturday, March 7, 2020, Changing Gears hosts Mike  Collins and Chris Maxwell offered a different view on Ocean State goings on:

  • Caw! Another set of coattails out of RI for gov crashes.
  • Susan Wynne calls in to announce a new voice of reason, RI Women for Freedom & Prosperity.
  • RI selling overweight permits yet “trucks do all the damage.”
  • Rob Cote calls in about Warwick DPW’s awful quality control for road construction.

Listen to “Changing Gears 3/7/20″ on Spreaker.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: They Value What They Promote

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 9, included talk about:

  • Unionist Pat Crowley’s promotion.
  • More grand jurying around the speaker.
  • Gina and her endorsements.
  • Minimum wage.
  • Anti-Second Amendment tax honesty.

I’ll be on again Monday, March 16, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Rhode Island’s Civic Infection

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 2, included talk about:

  • The degree of confidence in the state government to contain a contagious disease.
  • The effect of distrust on public perception of the Veterans Home debacle.
  • The meaning of Weingarten’s texts to Infante-Green.
  • The ubiquitous Mr. Nee.

I’ll be on again Monday, March 9, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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The Census’s Opportunity for Redistricting

Guest: John Marion, Executive Director, Common Cause RI, www.commoncauseri.org
Host: Richard August Time: 30 minutes
Mr. Marion is the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island a non-partisan organization promoting clean, open and accountable government. He discusses the importance of the upcoming census and its impact on redrawing the state’s House and Senate districts. This has given rise to a movement called RedrawRI a campaign to reform how RI legislative districts are drawn. It calls for an impartial citizens’ commission to redistrict the state.

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An Election About Suppressed Dislike

With Bernie Sanders’s front-runner status in the Democrat primary for president, political analysts are starting to contemplate the consequence on that race and on down-ticket races.  Many of us can’t help but see the parallel to Republicans’ predicament in 2016, when they were forced to grapple with their own discomfort with candidate Donald Trump.

This topic came up at the tail end of Republican Representative Michael Chippendale’s appearance on the Matt Allen Uncut podcast.  Chippendale’s position is that he’s uncomfortable with Trump, the man, but his policies have been positive.  That phrasing makes me think of Game of Thrones.

As a fan of the books years before the show was even a rumor, I was captivated by J.R.R. Martin’s character development and underlying themes.  Those aspects are what made the HBO series such an epic mega-hit, but its being HBO, they were delivered with a lot of gratuitous moral assaults, particularly with sex scenes in the earlier seasons.

Those of us who could have done without the moral challenges could still appreciate the writing, the story-telling, the themes, and the show-craft, but the question arises: At what point does the bad outweigh the good?  That’s an individual judgment concerning not only what we allow into our own brains, but also what we promote and normalize for others.  A Christian who emphasizes personal purity could still plausibly claim that the sex scenes do not rouse lust in his heart and that the combination of compelling art and cultural awareness make the risk worthwhile, but only for mature audiences.  As the famous question goes, who am I to judge whether what that person says about his feelings is true?

Just so with President Trump.  A good, moral conservative needn’t elevate Twitter etiquette and a history of boorish behavior into a litmus test that disqualifies the president from support no matter what he accomplishes.  The challenge is to make ourselves, and our society, better and more mature so as not to be affected by the negative.

Therein lies the distinction between President Trump and Bernie Sanders.  The objection to Trump is behavioral and related to insinuations about his motives, whereas the objection to Sanders is his history of anti-Americanism and dangerous policies.  That’s a problem of substance rather than style.  At best, that’s Game of Thrones without the gratuitous sex, but with an evil, dangerous theme.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Is Political Change Circling the Speaker?

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for February 24, included talk about:

  • Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung files to take the speaker’s district away from him.
  • The media does (and doesn’t) cover the day of key grand jury testimony.
  • Blake Filippi expands his JCLS lawsuit (and maybe the chance for real change).
  • The Jobs & Opportunity Index shows continuing stagnation in RI.
  • The rise of Bernie Sanders makes things potentially uncomfortable for RI Democrats.

I’ll be on again Monday, March 2, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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The Independent Man Needs YOU: Consider This Call To Civic Action

Is it time for you to get involved… to save our state? If we are ever going to change the policies that are driving away families and crippling businesses, the sad truth, my friend, is that we are going to have to change the players.

Rhode Island’s political class is so beholden to so many special interest groups and agendas, that they are paralyzed when it comes to considering common-sense, pro-growth policy reforms.

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Behind the Deterioration and the Hostility

Members of the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA) are finding a single cause behind many of the problems and controversies going on in town.  The guest for episode 12 of the Tiverton on Track podcast is Richard Rom, who is on the board of the Tiverton Library and who is the chairman of the Tiverton Republican Town Committee (TRTC).

Richard’s appointment to the library board generated a lot of heat last year, because he came from a different perspective than the other members.  That was exactly the reason the majority of the Town Council supported him, and now he’s offering suggestions as the board figures out how to address maintenance issues and the contents of the library.

Meanwhile, a group of men who have been supporters of a faction heretofore hostile to the TRTC have suddenly registered as Republicans and have begun to attend its meetings.  A big tent and conversations are great, but somehow they bring the air of a hostile takeover, rather than of an intent to build on shared values.

The single cause between these and other controversies is the sense among some in town that people who disagree with them should be locked out not only of decisions, but of institutions where they might feel comfortable.

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The Governor’s Conflicting Projects

Rhode Island’s Democrat governor, Gina Raimondo, has been pledging to do “whatever is needed” for a lot of people who aren’t Rhode Islanders, lately.  First she became one of six co-chairs of a new PAC called “Organizing Together 2020.”  As she says, “good organizing takes time.”  The she became a co-chair of Mike Bloomberg’s campaign for president, another national political effort that is not focused on Rhode Island.

Rhode Islanders might wonder what they’re paying her for.  We should also worry about what we’re paying her for.

After all, her fellow activists in Organizing Together are in large part labor unions:

The group includes labor unions — Service Employees International Union, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — and a collection of progressive advocacy groups including Planned Parenthood Votes, the Color of Change PAC, the NAACP and VoteVets, according to a news release.

One of the major challenges of the remaining years of her gubernatorial administration is going to be the improvement of Providence schools.  The state has taken over the district; the governor has hired a new education commissioner; and the commissioner has hired a new superintendent.  Whether the officials involved will admit it publicly or not, this project is going to require pressure to be put on the teachers union.  How does that play out when the governor has made common cause with their national organizations?  How can the families of Providence trust that she’s fully on their side as their governor?

As for the Bloomberg move, what’s notable is the focus on career moves.  The promise of a local campaign office for a presidential candidate who is a billionaire many times over gives the governor jobs to hand out out to allies… jobs that have nothing to do with governing Rhode Island.  And the responsibilities of a national campaign co-chair will give the governor reason to be outside the state, networking and building her brand in key battleground states that aren’t Rhode Island.

Again the question arises:  Does Gina Raimondo want to end her terms as governor on a high note from the perspective of the people of Rhode Island, or from the perspective of an ambitious career-building politician?

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A Surprisingly Unknown Raimondo Pension Story

Reading Edward Siedle’s recent Forbes column, which is the text of a speech that he gave to a “Rally for Pension Justice,” involving the Rhode Island Retired Teachers Association, one can’t help but wonder why his claim isn’t more widely known around the state:

In 2007, Rhode Island current governor and former state treasurer, Gina Raimondo was a co-founder and partner in a very small local venture capital firm with very little money under management and a very short investment track record.

Miraculously, Gina succeeded in convincing the $8 billion state pension to invest $5 million in a brand new fund her nascent, unproven firm was offering called the Point Judith Venture Fund II.

According to Siedle, that one deal grew Point Judith’s portfolio by 33%, but the state considered the investment reasonable because the firm “had a billionaire hedge fund investor in New York backstopping” it.  Then, the state gave Point Judith a 2.5% fee, even though the sales presentation only asked for 2%, which is the industry standard.

There’s more.  Per Siedle, Point Judith gave Raimondo an ownership interest in the pension investment, with a $125,000 minimum payout per year, no matter how the fund did.  That revelation puts a much different light on the annual story we hear about Point Judith extending its contract with the pension fund without the state’s consent due to secret provisions allowing its investors to do so.

How is this not a regularly revisited investigative story in the Rhode Island press?  Granted Siedle was talking to a very interested crowd and telling them something sure to keep their interest, but he’s a credible guy in this area.  After all, the article appeared in Forbes.

Maybe the layers of secrecy and PR professionals, combined with the specialized knowledge to investigate it, move this down local reporters’ to-do list, especially given the flagging journalism industry, which can afford fewer and fewer specialized investigators.  (I’ll admit to being unable to devote time to the story, myself.)  Whatever the mechanism, though, it seems as if a healthy civic environment would somehow get this story into the awareness of more Rhode Islanders.

There’s something very similar between this story and the conspicuously timed clean-out of the JCLS offices just as the Speaker of the House is under fire for that agency’s activities.  That’s easier to speculate about, though, because white-collar schemes aren’t as easily understood.