Topics

City/Town Government

Sowing the Seeds of a Future Revival

Events in America suggest dark times for liberty and true diversity. But we can always rebuild, starting at the bottom.


All-Day Kindergarten and Political Misfires

A budget article having to do with full-day kindergarten creates the opposite incentives from what political activists are taking credit for.


End of the Sessioner #1: The Firefighting Bills and the Withering Away of Rhode Island Democracy


Unfortunately, some members of the General Assembly want to reinforce the marginalization of democratic control over public services that is sadly acceptable to both union leadership and to Rhode Island’s insider and managerial elites, via a pair of bills that would deny elected municipal authorities the power to set policies concerning platoon structure and overtime policy. Instead of making decisions, civil authorities would be reduced to asking for deals when trying to exercise basic command authority in these major areas. Try to imagine a system like this working further down the chain-of-command where, for example, a captain has to make a deal with members of his platoon when he wants something significant done. It wouldn’t work very well.

In Rhode Island parlance, this is frequently labeled as an issue of “management rights”, but that is an overly business-bourgeois conceptualization of the problem, and fails to capture the true magnitude of what is at stake. The real issue is whether we are a society where basic democratic control is exercised over the government chain-of-command or we are something else and something worse.

Full post below the fold….


Back to top



Civil Rights

Hikaru Sulu Renames Kunta Kinte

The great disagreement of our times is whether rights and dignity are innate, affirmed by a higher power, or are conceived by the individual and made real by the affirmation of the government.


The Box They’re Putting Christians In

David Brooks encourages traditionalists to focus on the mission of helping society but overlooks the probability that the Left will not let that happen.


Sowing the Seeds of a Future Revival

Events in America suggest dark times for liberty and true diversity. But we can always rebuild, starting at the bottom.


Back to top



Congress

Inspectors General and the Corrupt Edifice of Big Government

Senator Whitehouse’s notion of expanding the application of RICO suits might point the weapon in the wrong direction.


10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 46 (Congressional Debates)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss the candidates for U.S. Congress from Rhode Island (mostly by way of the issues).


Mark Zaccaria on Issues Facing the US Senate


After his campaign announcement, Republican Senatorial candidate Mark Zaccaria answered questions posed by Anchor Rising on the subjects of:

The guiding principle and vision of American foreign policy.

Where to go on Obamacare, from where we now are.

The institutional way to deal with executive overreach.

The gulf between the elites and the people, on illegal immigration.


Back to top



Culture & Family

Hikaru Sulu Renames Kunta Kinte

The great disagreement of our times is whether rights and dignity are innate, affirmed by a higher power, or are conceived by the individual and made real by the affirmation of the government.


The Box They’re Putting Christians In

David Brooks encourages traditionalists to focus on the mission of helping society but overlooks the probability that the Left will not let that happen.


A Culture Must Include Some Survival

Perhaps the single most destructive aspect of the Supreme Court’s set of rulings last week is the clear evidence that the culture of our ruling elite makes societal survival a secondary consideration (if that).


Back to top



Economy

May 2015 Employment: Milestones and Missing Workers

Employment and labor force numbers for Rhode Island are still booming, but it remains difficult to believe they won’t be revised significantly, meaning that celebration of a low unemployment rate would be premature.


Thoughts on Anna Bonta Moreland’s Portsmouth Institute Lecture on Pope Francis (With Video)

Professor Anna Bonta Moreland’s talk on “El Papa Francisco es Argentino” set some cultural context for the pope and raises questions about the risks of his worldview.


April 2015 Employment: A Few More Months of Fantasy

Growth in employment numbers has taken off, in Rhode Island, but history and data on RI-based jobs suggests that the numbers have broken free of reality’s gravity.


Back to top



Education

Sowing the Seeds of a Future Revival

Events in America suggest dark times for liberty and true diversity. But we can always rebuild, starting at the bottom.


Portsmouth Institute 2013 Conference: “Catholicism and the American Experience,” Day 2, Samuel Casey Carter

Samuel Casey Carter, of the Faith in the Future Foundation, begins day 2 of the 2013 Portsmouth Institute conference.


Advocacy for Children Not Allowed

While we accept that teacher unions advocate to extremes for their members and that school committee’s strive to balance interests, parents or others who try to push just a little bit harder in the children’s direction are quickly denounced.


Back to top



Energy & Environment

Inspectors General and the Corrupt Edifice of Big Government

Senator Whitehouse’s notion of expanding the application of RICO suits might point the weapon in the wrong direction.


Reading Between the Trees of the Sustainable Argument

Environmental regulation and “sustainable development” may not cause income inequality, but they sure do correlate well with it.


Faith in the Anthropocrimen

News media leaps from evidence of a changing climate to a human cause to a global socialist solution have politicized science and sowed distrust among the people.


Back to top



Gambling

RI’s Bad Decisions and Burning Money Instead of Tobacco

My op-ed in today’s Providence Journal places the match of Rhode Island’s experience of the tobacco settlement money (a one-time-fix turned bad debt) on the pile of bad decisions that the state government has made in the past decade or so:

According to a review by ProPublica, Rhode Island has just refinanced some of the resulting debt, with the expectation that “the deal would shave $700 million off a $2.8 billion tab due on the bonds in 2052.” In that regard, it’s a bit like the state’s pension reform, which was marketed as salvation but merely shaved about $3 billion from $9 billion of unfunded liability.

The people who operate Rhode Island’s government are racking up quite a list of these liabilities.


Beware Statists in Libertarian Clothing

Some libertarians have been encouraged to see the liberalization of laws on social issues, but they should go beyond the cliché that politics makes strange bedfellows and wonder why they have the company they do.


Betting the House for Rhode Island

Legislation submitted last week would allow people to gamble their assets (such as houses and investment accounts) at the new state-run casino.


Back to top



General Assembly

Another Sign That the House Budget Session Was the Beginning of the End

Another incident during the House debate over the budget, this one involving an amendment that would have directed resources to an investigation of 38 Studios, strengthens the impression that representative democracy is dead at the State House.


The New Toll Plan Will Still Be Challenged in Federal Court


If getting bond investors their interest payments construction underway as quickly as possible is of the utmost importance, Rhode Island’s political leaders will need to consider how much of a risk of a lawsuit they are willing to take in order to get the local carve-out; a case like this would take years to work it’s way through the Federal courts and the whole tolling-plan might possibly be enjoined during the litigation process. Of course, an injunction against the toll-plan would mean no money for bond payments road-repairs right away.

On this issue, Rhode Island’s legislators would be wise to keep in mind the lesson of Gordon Fox: Because Rhode Island’s Democratic leadership can play fast-and-loose with interpretations of rules and laws while inside the statehouse (e.g. nullification, revolving door judgeships) does not mean they can extend that power very far outside and forgetting about this can lead to unfortunate consequences.

The legal analysis that leads to this conclusion is in the main post.


Record Short Budget Debate the Beginning of Rhode Island’s End

Last night’s record-breakingly short budget debate marked the final end of Rhode Island’s period of representative democracy and the beginning of the last stage of its decline.


Back to top



Government

Hikaru Sulu Renames Kunta Kinte

The great disagreement of our times is whether rights and dignity are innate, affirmed by a higher power, or are conceived by the individual and made real by the affirmation of the government.


Sowing the Seeds of a Future Revival

Events in America suggest dark times for liberty and true diversity. But we can always rebuild, starting at the bottom.


No Weapon Formed Against Us Shall Prosper

Looking at current events, it’s tempting to be discouraged, but in the trials of a church in Charleston we can find inspiration to wipe discouragement away.


Back to top



Governor

The New Toll Plan Will Still Be Challenged in Federal Court


If getting bond investors their interest payments construction underway as quickly as possible is of the utmost importance, Rhode Island’s political leaders will need to consider how much of a risk of a lawsuit they are willing to take in order to get the local carve-out; a case like this would take years to work it’s way through the Federal courts and the whole tolling-plan might possibly be enjoined during the litigation process. Of course, an injunction against the toll-plan would mean no money for bond payments road-repairs right away.

On this issue, Rhode Island’s legislators would be wise to keep in mind the lesson of Gordon Fox: Because Rhode Island’s Democratic leadership can play fast-and-loose with interpretations of rules and laws while inside the statehouse (e.g. nullification, revolving door judgeships) does not mean they can extend that power very far outside and forgetting about this can lead to unfortunate consequences.

The legal analysis that leads to this conclusion is in the main post.


End of the Sessioner #2: To Bond or Not to Bond, Questions About Priorities in the Governor’s Toll Plan


What Rhode Island’s Governor and legislature decide in the next couple of weeks with regards to highway tolls depends on what their policy priorities are, by which I mean…

1. Despite the fact that a case for funding a decade or more of highway construction with a revenue bond, instead of saving money on interest and spending the savings directly on construction, has not yet been presented to the public,…

2. …a revenue bond financed through tolls seems to be an integral part of Governor Gina Raimondo’s transportation infrastructure plan.

3. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello is concerned about the impact highway tolls would have on the local economy, which is a reasonable concern, and has signaled he’d like to see some kind of local-relief plan implemented.

4. However, Federal case law based on the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause clearly looks askance upon local carve-outs when it comes to highway tolls/user-fees/whatever you want to call them, meaning that…

5. …if a tolling plan did include a local “discount” in its structure, there is a risk it would be immediately enjoined (with the help of ground-transportation trade organizations which appear to have some pretty good lawyers).

6. And, of course, if a tolling program were enjoined right away, a bond sale probably couldn’t proceed until the case was resolved, which would probably take several years, at least.

What to watch for is this: if the priority is issuing the bond, something without anything resembling a local exemption that could bring the court-system into the process needs to be passed soon, and a special session in the later half of the fall might be too late to get bonds issued for this tax-year. If, on the other hand, the bond itself is less of a priority, the timeline is not quite so immediate, and some explanation to the public of why interest payments associated with a bond make sense is in order.

But bond or no-bond, it’s going to be difficult to construct a local preference for vehicle tolls that survives Federal court scrutiny. Based on the proposal already submitted, we know this won’t prevent the Governor from supporting tolls. Will the Speaker eventually come to share to the same attitude?


Some of the Larger, Seriously Ill-Advised Items In the Governor’s (What Kind of) “Jobs Budget”

During the days following its release, reporters, analysts and observers worked to unpack the budget that Governor Raimondo sent to the General Assembly — and found some unpleasant items therein. Here is a bullet list of some of the bigger ones.

Proposed Statewide Property Tax

… aka, the Taylor Swift tax.

Justin got clarification from Governor Raimondo’s office that the INTENT is not to include apartment buildings as properties to be taxed. This conforms to Governor Raimondo’s attempt to sell this tax as having only a narrow list of targeted properties. (So, gosh, don’t worry about it. And, anyways, we only want to tax those icky rich people.)

Intent, however, is completely secondary. If this tax passes into law, the door will be opened wide for future – and current! – governors and General Assemblies to tax apartment buildings (of all classes and sizes); commercial buildings; second homes of less than one million dollars; PRIMARY homes of more than one million dollars; primary homes of $750,000 – $1,000,000; et empty state cetera. The critical issue is not that the initial list of targeted properties is short. It’s that the list comes to exist at all. To subject just one property classification to a new, statewide tax would set the precedent to subject virtually all real estate in Rhode Island to a statewide property tax via an easy tweak of the targeted property list.

In a perfect bit of timing, RIPEC released an analysis right before the governor released her budget of just how much Rhode Islanders are already taxed. By one measure, Rhode Island already has the fourth highest property taxes in the country. The governor is seriously proposing to raise that ranking? In fact, the one thing above all that our elected officials should not do is exacerbate this burden.

Further, there’s the matter of Rhode Island’s already undesirable reputation as a high tax state. On Twitter, Gary Sasse correctly asks,

When Tax Foundation.et. al.rank tax climate will new statewide property tax impact rankings w resulting reputation risks?

Further to “reputation risks”, WPRO’s Gene Valicenti pointed out Friday morning that the governor’s mere proposal has made the national news via the AP’s feed. This is exactly the kind of publicity that Rhode Island needs to avoid, not curry.

Governor Raimondo’s Proposed Statewide Property Tax Redefines Ownership of Real Estate as a Privilege

This one was a great catch by Justin.


Back to top



Healthcare

No Weapon Formed Against Us Shall Prosper

Looking at current events, it’s tempting to be discouraged, but in the trials of a church in Charleston we can find inspiration to wipe discouragement away.


Number Games to Lock Us In to Government Medicine

The General Assembly’s budget looks likely to impose a brand new HealthSource tax on all Rhode Islanders who buy individual or small-group health insurance in the state. Whatever the numbers can be made to show, the scene will surely darken in years to come.


Correction on Getting Away Without Paying the New HealthSource Tax

HealthSource RI has asked me to clarify my statement about how many Rhode Islanders will have their payments of the proposed new tax covered by their federal subsidies.


Back to top



History

Thoughts on Portsmouth Institute Panel on Interreligious Perspectives on Pope Francis

An interreligious panel on Pope Francis’s relationship with those of other faiths raises questions of religion’s relationship with politics, which returns us to the question of whether Francis has the world right.


Sowing the Seeds of a Future Revival

Events in America suggest dark times for liberty and true diversity. But we can always rebuild, starting at the bottom.


The World the West is Creating with Vladimir Putin


Is there a better way than political authoritarianism and stunted economic growth that Vladimir Putin’s subjects (including high-ranking oligarchs) might want to consider? Western elites might not like to admit this, but ratcheting up an “uncivilized” tribal strategy may be an effective way for Putin and current Russian leadership to answer this question in the negative, by boosting the morale (at least in the short term) of his Russian followers, and by frightening an “internationalist” coalition away from being willing to take the steps necessary to slow his expansion.

The ultimate effectiveness of this strategy depends on the strength and the nature of the coherence of the adversary that Russia faces.


Back to top



Immigration

Terry Gorman: Sympathetic Providence Journal Article Encourages Illegal Immigration to Rhode Island

[Terry Gorman of RIILE sent the following e-mail to Providence Journal reporter Karen Lee Ziner in response to her front page article of Saturday. It has been lightly edited for style.]

Regarding your April 18 article in the Providence Journal, “Fight over Obama’s orders“, so much for “HIDING IN THE SHADOWS“. Two women here Illegally delivering 5 children that by current law are U S Citizens. Free pre-natal care, childbirth, post-partum care and long term family planning for two years (evidently not working) all at the expense of taxpayers. Just how much does this group cost US taxpayers and how is it justified in these lean times?

I think this article will only serve to ENCOURAGE many more pregnant illegal alien women to flock to Rhode Island. Why wouldn’t they come if they can arrive Illegally, have as many children as they wish, work Illegally or just not work, receive workers compensation, get free care for a child’s autism, receive subsidies for the new U S citizen children in the form of welfare, SNAP etc., now that it’s been basically ADVERTISED on the front page of a major newspaper? Thanks.


Steve Ahlquist, the Oppressors’ Heir

In attacking Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, Steve Ahlquist gives reason to believe he’d have been a different kind of oppressor in a different time.


10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 37 (WJAR Gubernatorial Debates & Immigration)

Justin and Bob Plain discuss the first Republican and Democrat gubernatorial debates on Channel 10, WJAR, with some emphasis on the illegal immigration crisis.


Back to top



Infrastructure

End of the Sessioner #2: To Bond or Not to Bond, Questions About Priorities in the Governor’s Toll Plan


What Rhode Island’s Governor and legislature decide in the next couple of weeks with regards to highway tolls depends on what their policy priorities are, by which I mean…

1. Despite the fact that a case for funding a decade or more of highway construction with a revenue bond, instead of saving money on interest and spending the savings directly on construction, has not yet been presented to the public,…

2. …a revenue bond financed through tolls seems to be an integral part of Governor Gina Raimondo’s transportation infrastructure plan.

3. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello is concerned about the impact highway tolls would have on the local economy, which is a reasonable concern, and has signaled he’d like to see some kind of local-relief plan implemented.

4. However, Federal case law based on the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause clearly looks askance upon local carve-outs when it comes to highway tolls/user-fees/whatever you want to call them, meaning that…

5. …if a tolling plan did include a local “discount” in its structure, there is a risk it would be immediately enjoined (with the help of ground-transportation trade organizations which appear to have some pretty good lawyers).

6. And, of course, if a tolling program were enjoined right away, a bond sale probably couldn’t proceed until the case was resolved, which would probably take several years, at least.

What to watch for is this: if the priority is issuing the bond, something without anything resembling a local exemption that could bring the court-system into the process needs to be passed soon, and a special session in the later half of the fall might be too late to get bonds issued for this tax-year. If, on the other hand, the bond itself is less of a priority, the timeline is not quite so immediate, and some explanation to the public of why interest payments associated with a bond make sense is in order.

But bond or no-bond, it’s going to be difficult to construct a local preference for vehicle tolls that survives Federal court scrutiny. Based on the proposal already submitted, we know this won’t prevent the Governor from supporting tolls. Will the Speaker eventually come to share to the same attitude?


Art Norwalk: The Lure of Shiny Objects in Providence and Rhode Island

Two capital projects dominating city and state discussions might be unproductive distractions from the necessary work that Rhode Island needs to do to rebuild its economist.


Politicians, Look to Your Own “Horrendous Impact” on Energy Prices

When the energy market forces National Grid to increase its rates, politicians condemn the company, but expensive energy is a problem to which they’ve happily contributed.


Back to top



Legislation

No Weapon Formed Against Us Shall Prosper

Looking at current events, it’s tempting to be discouraged, but in the trials of a church in Charleston we can find inspiration to wipe discouragement away.


Another Sign That the House Budget Session Was the Beginning of the End

Another incident during the House debate over the budget, this one involving an amendment that would have directed resources to an investigation of 38 Studios, strengthens the impression that representative democracy is dead at the State House.


All-Day Kindergarten and Political Misfires

A budget article having to do with full-day kindergarten creates the opposite incentives from what political activists are taking credit for.


Back to top



Media

Journalists in Search of Divisions to Stoke

A reporter in search of racial division in Rhode Island mainly succeeds in encouraging it.


Faith in the Anthropocrimen

News media leaps from evidence of a changing climate to a human cause to a global socialist solution have politicized science and sowed distrust among the people.


Terry Gorman: Sympathetic Providence Journal Article Encourages Illegal Immigration to Rhode Island

[Terry Gorman of RIILE sent the following e-mail to Providence Journal reporter Karen Lee Ziner in response to her front page article of Saturday. It has been lightly edited for style.]

Regarding your April 18 article in the Providence Journal, “Fight over Obama’s orders“, so much for “HIDING IN THE SHADOWS“. Two women here Illegally delivering 5 children that by current law are U S Citizens. Free pre-natal care, childbirth, post-partum care and long term family planning for two years (evidently not working) all at the expense of taxpayers. Just how much does this group cost US taxpayers and how is it justified in these lean times?

I think this article will only serve to ENCOURAGE many more pregnant illegal alien women to flock to Rhode Island. Why wouldn’t they come if they can arrive Illegally, have as many children as they wish, work Illegally or just not work, receive workers compensation, get free care for a child’s autism, receive subsidies for the new U S citizen children in the form of welfare, SNAP etc., now that it’s been basically ADVERTISED on the front page of a major newspaper? Thanks.


Back to top



Musings & Announcements

Friday Night Beer: Troegs Troegenator

The Troegenator Doublebock blends alcohol and flavor for an experience of sweet associations.


Friday Night Beer: Troegs Hop Knife Harvest Ale

Troegs’s Hop Knife Harvest Ale accomplishes what a “harvest ale” ought to accomplish: it brings to mind an agricultural past and a sense of heritage.


Friday Night Beer: Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA

Sometimes a beer just fits a dark New England evening, with heavy music on the speakers and a heavy meal on the plate.


Back to top



National Security

A Culture Must Include Some Survival

Perhaps the single most destructive aspect of the Supreme Court’s set of rulings last week is the clear evidence that the culture of our ruling elite makes societal survival a secondary consideration (if that).


Sowing the Seeds of a Future Revival

Events in America suggest dark times for liberty and true diversity. But we can always rebuild, starting at the bottom.


The World the West is Creating with Vladimir Putin


Is there a better way than political authoritarianism and stunted economic growth that Vladimir Putin’s subjects (including high-ranking oligarchs) might want to consider? Western elites might not like to admit this, but ratcheting up an “uncivilized” tribal strategy may be an effective way for Putin and current Russian leadership to answer this question in the negative, by boosting the morale (at least in the short term) of his Russian followers, and by frightening an “internationalist” coalition away from being willing to take the steps necessary to slow his expansion.

The ultimate effectiveness of this strategy depends on the strength and the nature of the coherence of the adversary that Russia faces.


Back to top



On a Lighter Note

Friday Night Beer: Ommegang Valar Morghulis

A dubbel ale by Ommegang offers enjoyable flavor with mild buzz and a tie-in to the world of fantasy novels.


My Non-Epic Soccer Post


I’ll side with the Ancient Romans over Ann Coulter, but soccer’s powers-that-be should really lighten up on the substitution rules.


$5,000 – or .000022 – Worth of Sunday Morning Grins & Giggles Courtesy PolitiFact RI

On a personal note, I’d like to sincerely thank PolitiFact RI for starting my day with a big smile this morning, though perhaps they would not be altogether pleased at the reason.

In today’s Providence Journal, they’ve rated a statement by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity (hereinafter “the Center”) pertaining to the $224.5 million in wasteful spending identified by the Center in the governor’s proposed 2015 budget. PolitiFact is not questioning that the state gave away the $5,000 example offered by the Center of an expenditure item in the Governor’s Workforce Board from a prior year. PolitiFact is only saying that the Center did not fully explain what the $5,000 in hard earned taxpayer dollars was spent on.


Back to top



Pensions

Press Conference & Request By Concerned Citizen, Bill Murphy, to Testify about Unfairness of Pension Settlement

[The following was received via e-mail this afternoon.]

Concerned Citizen Seeks to Testify about Unfairness of Pension Settlement to Taxpayers at Court Hearing Tuesday, Schedules Press Conference to Explain Request to the Public

Concerned citizen Dr. William J. Murphy will hold a press conference in front of the Frank Licht Judicial Complex at 250 Benefit Street in Providence at 4:30 PM on Tuesday, May 26, 2015 to explain to the public the reasons for his request to testify about the unfairness of the pension settlement to taxpayers at the ongoing fairness hearings in Superior Court. Dr. Murphy will deliver a statement emphasizing that the terms of the settlement itself as well as the impropriety of the court-supervised secret negotiation process that produced it have significantly harmed the financial welfare of taxpayers, violated the political rights of citizens, and severely damaged the public interest.

(EAST PROVIDENCE, RI – May 25, 2015) – Dr. William J. Murphy, a concerned resident of East Providence, has petitioned the Rhode Island Superior Court to testify at the ongoing pension settlement fairness hearing Tuesday. He held a press conference at Superior Court in Providence on Tuesday to issue a statement explaining the reasons for his request.

Dr. Murphy opened his remarks by saying that, “The pension settlement is grossly unfair to good citizens of Rhode Island because it adds over $290 million to the unfunded pension debt that the state’s already overburdened taxpayers cannot afford. Even more troubling, the terms of the settlement itself as well as everything about the nature of the process itself fail to demonstrate appropriate sensitivity to the economic hardships this increased tax burden would impose on elderly citizens living on fixed incomes as well as low-income younger taxpayers and their families who remain deprived of adequate economic opportunities in part because of the unaffordable state pension system, the high rates of taxation imposed to feed it, and the resulting negative consequences for the Ocean State’s economic competitiveness.


Retiree Liability and What You Owe

If the people of Rhode Island are going to come to grips with their pension and OPEB problem, journalists (and their editors) are going to have to figure out how the math works.


Coalition Radio Introduces Three Fiscal Topics into the 2014 Campaign


Issue 1: Do any candidates for Rhode Island Governor or Rhode Island General Assembly support modifying or repealing Governor Chafee’s Wall-Street-first law regarding municipal priorities?

Issue 2: Will any of the candidates for Governor of Rhode Island have their fiscal staffs look immediately into the possibility of a Providence receivership. Will they tell us if they do?

Issue 3: Buddy Cianci, according to some research done by Michael Riley, once advocated for pension obligation bonds to help finance Providence’s pension system. Might he do so again?


Back to top



Political Theory

Hikaru Sulu Renames Kunta Kinte

The great disagreement of our times is whether rights and dignity are innate, affirmed by a higher power, or are conceived by the individual and made real by the affirmation of the government.


A Culture Must Include Some Survival

Perhaps the single most destructive aspect of the Supreme Court’s set of rulings last week is the clear evidence that the culture of our ruling elite makes societal survival a secondary consideration (if that).


Thoughts on Portsmouth Institute Panel on Interreligious Perspectives on Pope Francis

An interreligious panel on Pope Francis’s relationship with those of other faiths raises questions of religion’s relationship with politics, which returns us to the question of whether Francis has the world right.


Back to top



Politics

Thoughts on Portsmouth Institute Panel on Interreligious Perspectives on Pope Francis

An interreligious panel on Pope Francis’s relationship with those of other faiths raises questions of religion’s relationship with politics, which returns us to the question of whether Francis has the world right.


Sowing the Seeds of a Future Revival

Events in America suggest dark times for liberty and true diversity. But we can always rebuild, starting at the bottom.


Another Sign That the House Budget Session Was the Beginning of the End

Another incident during the House debate over the budget, this one involving an amendment that would have directed resources to an investigation of 38 Studios, strengthens the impression that representative democracy is dead at the State House.


Back to top



Sports

Shut Down the NCAA

The NCAA handed down a one half of one game suspension for current Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel for taking money for autographs. However, they have a bit of a history with giving out much longer suspensions for lesser offenses. It’s time to shut down the NCAA.


Back to top



Taxation

Record Short Budget Debate the Beginning of Rhode Island’s End

Last night’s record-breakingly short budget debate marked the final end of Rhode Island’s period of representative democracy and the beginning of the last stage of its decline.


The 2016 Budget for Rhode Island in Historical Perspective


Spending from All Sources, Current Dollars
Spending from All Sources, Inflation Adjusted
Spending from General Revenues, Inflation Adjusted
Spending from Federal Funds, Inflation Adjusted


End of the Sessioner #2: To Bond or Not to Bond, Questions About Priorities in the Governor’s Toll Plan


What Rhode Island’s Governor and legislature decide in the next couple of weeks with regards to highway tolls depends on what their policy priorities are, by which I mean…

1. Despite the fact that a case for funding a decade or more of highway construction with a revenue bond, instead of saving money on interest and spending the savings directly on construction, has not yet been presented to the public,…

2. …a revenue bond financed through tolls seems to be an integral part of Governor Gina Raimondo’s transportation infrastructure plan.

3. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello is concerned about the impact highway tolls would have on the local economy, which is a reasonable concern, and has signaled he’d like to see some kind of local-relief plan implemented.

4. However, Federal case law based on the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause clearly looks askance upon local carve-outs when it comes to highway tolls/user-fees/whatever you want to call them, meaning that…

5. …if a tolling plan did include a local “discount” in its structure, there is a risk it would be immediately enjoined (with the help of ground-transportation trade organizations which appear to have some pretty good lawyers).

6. And, of course, if a tolling program were enjoined right away, a bond sale probably couldn’t proceed until the case was resolved, which would probably take several years, at least.

What to watch for is this: if the priority is issuing the bond, something without anything resembling a local exemption that could bring the court-system into the process needs to be passed soon, and a special session in the later half of the fall might be too late to get bonds issued for this tax-year. If, on the other hand, the bond itself is less of a priority, the timeline is not quite so immediate, and some explanation to the public of why interest payments associated with a bond make sense is in order.

But bond or no-bond, it’s going to be difficult to construct a local preference for vehicle tolls that survives Federal court scrutiny. Based on the proposal already submitted, we know this won’t prevent the Governor from supporting tolls. Will the Speaker eventually come to share to the same attitude?


Back to top



Unions

Inspectors General and the Corrupt Edifice of Big Government

Senator Whitehouse’s notion of expanding the application of RICO suits might point the weapon in the wrong direction.


End of the Sessioner #1: The Firefighting Bills and the Withering Away of Rhode Island Democracy


Unfortunately, some members of the General Assembly want to reinforce the marginalization of democratic control over public services that is sadly acceptable to both union leadership and to Rhode Island’s insider and managerial elites, via a pair of bills that would deny elected municipal authorities the power to set policies concerning platoon structure and overtime policy. Instead of making decisions, civil authorities would be reduced to asking for deals when trying to exercise basic command authority in these major areas. Try to imagine a system like this working further down the chain-of-command where, for example, a captain has to make a deal with members of his platoon when he wants something significant done. It wouldn’t work very well.

In Rhode Island parlance, this is frequently labeled as an issue of “management rights”, but that is an overly business-bourgeois conceptualization of the problem, and fails to capture the true magnitude of what is at stake. The real issue is whether we are a society where basic democratic control is exercised over the government chain-of-command or we are something else and something worse.

Full post below the fold….


Advocacy for Children Not Allowed

While we accept that teacher unions advocate to extremes for their members and that school committee’s strive to balance interests, parents or others who try to push just a little bit harder in the children’s direction are quickly denounced.


Back to top



Welfare

Sheehan’s Taxation Without Representation and Woulda, Coulda, Never Did on All-Day K

Commentary from state senator and history teacher James Sheehan points to a skewed understanding of representation and the government’s tendency to siphon money away from the public good.


Reviewing the Earned Income Tax Credit

Debate about Governor Raimondo’s proposed increase in the earned income tax credit illustrates both the spin of advocates and the danger of making wealth redistribution the province of the political process.


Correction on Getting Away Without Paying the New HealthSource Tax

HealthSource RI has asked me to clarify my statement about how many Rhode Islanders will have their payments of the proposed new tax covered by their federal subsidies.


Back to top