Entries by Carroll Andrew Morse

About “Defunding the Police” in Rhode Island…

Without commenting on the substance of any particular policy proposal, it can be noted that, in the state of Rhode Island, the number of sworn officers on a police force is frequently determined by the police union contract. This seems to be the case in Providence, according to a Projo article by Mark Reynolds

The tentative agreement with the Providence lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police also includes some new language on staffing levels. The language basically requires the city to maintain a staffing level of at least 435 positions. If staffing falls below that level, the city would compensate officers with additional sick days.

So whatever “defund the police” means in a Rhode Island context, will it mean that the local police union has to directly approve any major policy and budgeting shifts covered by their contract, or will the powers-that-be in Rhode Island come around to challenging the idea that major public policy changes can be vetoed by an organization not democratically selected by the people?

And if it is the latter, will there be an explanation of why police unions are different from other public-sector unions?

It has been argued in this space that allowing union contracts to be a major constraint on state and municipal government decision-making creates a democratic accountability problem, but many Rhode Island leaders were content to ignore this, when they could pretend the issues were mostly fiscal and could be reduced to choices between cuts to existing programs and tax-increases.  Well, the issues around policing that government must address right now are much bigger than fiscal ones, and the problems of dealing with them with less-than-democratic governing structures can no longer be ignored.

Rhode Islanders Killed Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq

 
Sgt. Gregory A. Belanger
Sgt. Charles T. Caldwell
Staff Sgt. Joseph Camara
Spc. Michael Andrade
CW5 Sharon T. Swartworth
Capt. Matthew J. August
Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Mancini
Master Sgt. Richard L. Ferguson
Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Serio
Lance Cpl. John J. Van Gyzen IV
Sgt. Christopher S. Potts
Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette
2nd Lt. Matthew S. Coutu
Sgt. Dennis J. Flanagan
Cpl. Brian R. St. Germain
Staff Sgt. Dale J. Kelly
Sgt. Moises Jazmin
Lance Cpl. Eric P. Valdepenas
Sgt. Michael R. Weidemann
Spc. Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss
Sgt. Kyle J. Harrington
Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV
Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu
Staff Sgt. Thomas H. Oakley
Sgt. Michael F. Paranzino
Spc. Dennis C. Poulin
Spc. Dennis P. Weichel Jr.
Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe
Staff Sgt. Timothy R. McGill
Master Sgt. David L. Poirier
1st Sgt. Peter Andrew McKenna Jr.

The Limits of Lawlessness in Service of the Progressive Cause

A brief summary of the essential elements leading to no indictments related to the August 14th incident where a Wyatt Detention Center guard drove his truck into immigration-enforcement protesters blocking the entrance to the facility parking lot is as follows…

Protesters at Wyatt wanted some lawlessness, when it gave them an advantage in imposing their will on others.

At the point where the lawless enviornment no longer provided the protestors with the advantage they sought, they wanted the state to step in and take their side.

The system seems to have reached the conclusion that the protestors’ ask was unfair, and has rejected it.

 

The continuation of events following the decision not to indict is also worth noting…

As recorded in the Woonsocket Call, on the day it was announced, the grand jury decision not to indict was protested at the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office in downtown Providence.

However, despite the parking lot for the Attorney General’s office being nearby, the protestors chose not to block traffic or attempt to deny anyone access to a public space during the Providence protest.

 

Worth discussing, especially with people with divergent views on how the police, prosecutors and the court system are dealing with these types of events; is why the protesters chose blocking access to a public space as their tactic in one place but not the other. There are variety of possibilities and working through them may be revealing.

A Thoroughly Predictable Chain of Events at the Wyatt Detention Center

In response to the events at the Wyatt Detention Center from two weeks ago, Our society could choose to accept anarchy, to accept that whoever has the bigger, tougher, better organized gang wins for themselves the use of public spaces; literally implementing might makes right as a governing principle. This does not seem to be a pathway that governing authorities in Rhode Island will consciously choose, as state government quickly remembered the importance of deterring violence from escalating, once the focus of events became people not involved in the intentional blocking of traffic.

A second possibility would be to cut the problem off at its root: enforcing laws and norms against blocking traffic and against denying people the right to travel in public spaces, and uniting around a shared norm that has served our society well. (I concede that that last phrase is a bit normative).

Of course, this depends on the right to travel being a norm that is widely shared. Is this still the case? The affinity repeatedly shown by protestors for blocking traffic, combined with the so-far one-sided response by Rhode Island authorities, suggests that it may not be; this, in turn, points in the direction of the third possible evolution of the system: convincing people that it is acceptable for government to protect fundamental rights within the context of a caste system, where some people have fewer rights than others. For various reasons, this is an unlikely candidate for smooth implementation.

That is your universe of choices. In the end, any way forward that abandons the impartial defense of the right to travel will lead to more and more cycles of violent conflict that will only be eliminated once the norm acting against those who try to block innocent people from traveling in public spaces is rediscovered.

Three Options for Next Week, for Preventing the Decriminalization of Fetal Homicide in Rhode Island

Below are three possible strategies that could be pursued during the Senate floor debate next week, one procedural and two in the form of amendments; that would remove the decriminalization of fetal homicide from the Senate abortion bill with no impact (for better or for worse) on the sections concerning the legality of abortion.

Introducing one of these amendments (or making the motion to divide) is the right thing to do. Voting for one of the amendments, or supporting the motion and then voting against the section decriminalizing fetal homicide, is the right thing to do, obviously in line with pro-life principles, and an absolute must for any politician who would try to explain how his or her support for sending the bill to the floor or for “codifying” Roe vs. Wade is not pro-abortion radicalism.

  1. A Senator could simply make a motion on the floor to divide the question, and have section 4 of the bill voted on separately from the others.
     
  2. A Senator could introduce an amendment to strike the sections of the quick child law related to the legality of abortion that would be superseded by the rest of the bill, while leaving the definition of fetal homicide during an assault on the mother in place. It would look something like this:
     

    11-23-5. Willful killing of unborn quick child.

    (a) The willful killing of an unborn quick child by any injury to the mother of the child, which would be murder if it resulted in the death of the mother; the administration to any woman pregnant with a quick child of any medication, drug, or substance or the use of any instrument or device or other means, with intent to destroy the child, unless it is necessary to preserve the life of the mother; in the event of the death of the child; shall be deemed manslaughter.

    (b) In any prosecution under this section, it shall not be necessary for the prosecution to prove that any necessity existed.

    (c) For the purposes of this section, “quick child” means an unborn child whose heart is beating, who is experiencing electronically-measurable brain waves, who is discernibly moving, and who is so far developed and matured as to be capable of surviving the trauma of birth with the aid of usual medical care and facilities available in this state.
     

  3. A Senator could introduce an amendment leaving the repeal of sections (a) and (b) of the current law in place, but inserting a new section (a) that reads something like:
     

    11-23-5. Willful killing of unborn quick child.

    (a) An act that injures a pregnant woman which would be murder if it results in her death and causes the death of an unborn quick child shall be deemed manslaughter.

    (c)(b) For the purposes of this section, “quick child” means an unborn child whose heart is beating, who is experiencing electronically-measurable brain waves, who is discernibly moving, and who is so far developed and matured as to be capable of surviving the trauma of birth with the aid of usual medical care and facilities available in this state.

Archambault’s Flip-Flop on Fetal Homicide

It seems that Senator Steven Archambault, who had been the swing vote on the RI Senate Judiciary committee on the abortion bill, agreed to support decriminalization of fetal homicide in return for nothing of substance.

The revised abortion bill that was introduced yesterday removes the killing of a preborn child during an attack on the mother from the definition of manslaughter, while explicitly adding “the termination of a pregnancy” to the definition of a serious bodily injury under Rhode Island’s felony assault law. But if you listen to Dan Yorke’s interview with RI Attorney General Peter Neronha from earlier this year, starting at about 6:50, you will hear AG Neronha say that harm to a preborn child that occurs during an assault on the mother already meets the definition of serious bodily injury, under the legal theory — acceptable to abortion supporters — that a child is an organ or member of his or her mother. (“Organ or member” is Attorney General Neronha’s description, not mine).

Based on his statements from the Dan Yorke interview and the language in the current abortion bill, the Attorney General should be asked if he believes the new section defining serious bodily injury changes anything about its definition, because it certainly seems that the amended bill makes no meaningful change to the law except for making a point of stripping preborn children of their right to life. With the transfer last night of the abortion bill from the Senate’s Judiciary Committee to the Health and Human Services committee, there are two additional days to seek this expert opinion.

As for Senator Archambault: it looks like he’s the kind of “moderate” Democrat who becomes a progressive, whenever it counts.

Rhode Islanders Killed Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq

 
Sgt. Gregory A. Belanger
Sgt. Charles T. Caldwell
Staff Sgt. Joseph Camara
Spc. Michael Andrade
CW5 Sharon T. Swartworth
Capt. Matthew J. August
Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Mancini
Master Sgt. Richard L. Ferguson
Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Serio
Lance Cpl. John J. Van Gyzen IV
Sgt. Christopher S. Potts
Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette
2nd Lt. Matthew S. Coutu
Sgt. Dennis J. Flanagan
Cpl. Brian R. St. Germain
Staff Sgt. Dale J. Kelly
Sgt. Moises Jazmin
Lance Cpl. Eric P. Valdepenas
Sgt. Michael R. Weidemann
Spc. Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss
Sgt. Kyle J. Harrington
Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV
Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu
Staff Sgt. Thomas H. Oakley
Sgt. Michael F. Paranzino
Spc. Dennis C. Poulin
Spc. Dennis P. Weichel Jr.
Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe
Staff Sgt. Timothy R. McGill
Master Sgt. David L. Poirier
1st Sgt. Peter Andrew McKenna Jr.

Fish on Fridays

Nothing symbolizes the supposed arbitrariness of religion to those predisposed towards skepticism towards religious belief more than does the Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays during the season of Lent. I’ll admit to having asked myself, especially on Good Friday, what connection is there really, between not eating meat and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And then there is the philosophical paradox. If my soul is lost after I’ve eaten meat on a Lenten Friday, does that mean I’m free to commit worse sins without making my situation worse? But if the rule doesn’t really matter, then why follow it? And on and on and on and on…

Here’s what I do know. With the wide variety of fish and other meatless options available to a 21st century American, abstaining from meat on Fridays is about as small a “sacrifice” in a material sense as can be asked for. But honoring the rule does require me to make some conscious choices that run contrary to what the surrounding culture tells me are cool and sensible. And if I am unable to make this small sacrifice, because I find it too inconvenient, or because I’m afraid to explain myself to others who don’t share my belief or who might think that I’m being just plain silly, then on what basis can I believe myself to be capable of taking a stand in more serious situations, when the choices might be a little harder and the stakes a bit higher?

Slightly edited re-post of an April 6, 2007 original.

How the Reproductive Privacy Act Enables Late-Term Abortion

Abortion supporters in Rhode Island are trying to tell you two stories at the same time. Story number one is that their proposed statutes to legalize abortion “codify” the law as defined by the Supreme Court in 1973. Story number two is that the proposed statutes only allow abortion in cases where a child has reached viability when there a serious medical risk to the mother’s life or health.

Katherine Gregg‘s story posted on the Providence Journal’s website last night shows how the two stories are not compatible and need a little help to appear consistent when told at the same time…

Among the key tenets of [Roe v. Wade], which has guided decades of court decisions since: “For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”
 
The bill headed for a vote in Rhode Island…says much the same thing: “The termination of an individual’s pregnancy after fetal viability is expressly prohibited except when necessary, in the medical judgment of the physician, to preserve the life or health of that individual”….
 
One of the newcomers — Republican David Place of Burrillville — confirmed he will be voting an adamant “no” against what he considers an “extreme” piece of legislation that goes far beyond the Roe v. Wade ruling with a “health” exception for late-term abortions that, in his mind, is so vague it could mean “mental health.”
 
The problem here is that the idea of mental health as a justification for abortion did not, as the Journal story implies, originate in the mind of Rep. Place; mental health as a justification for abortion originated with the United States Supreme court, in an opinion issued on the same day as the Roe v. Wade decision, in the case of Doe v. Bolton
 
We agree with the District Court…that the medical judgment [whether an abortion is necessary] may be exercised in the light of all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the wellbeing of the patient. All these factors may relate to health. This allows the attending physician the room he needs to make his best medical judgment.
 
So if the legislature desires to turn back the clock on abortion law to January 22, 1973, then the non-specific “health” exception that they are proposing can, in certain cases, allow the killing of a healthy baby when the mother’s life and physical health are not in danger, up until the moment of birth.

That is not just David Place’s opinion. It is the Supreme Court’s opinion, and what Rhode Island’s supporters of abortion are attempting to “codify”. That this kind of broad justification for late term abortion is wanted by more than a few Rhode Islanders is not at all clear.

Rhode Islanders Killed Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq

Sgt. Gregory A. Belanger
Sgt. Charles T. Caldwell
Staff Sgt. Joseph Camara
Spc. Michael Andrade
CW5 Sharon T. Swartworth
Capt. Matthew J. August
Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Mancini
Master Sgt. Richard L. Ferguson
Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Serio
Lance Cpl. John J. Van Gyzen IV
Sgt. Christopher S. Potts
Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette
2nd Lt. Matthew S. Coutu
Sgt. Dennis J. Flanagan
Cpl. Brian R. St. Germain
Staff Sgt. Dale J. Kelly
Sgt. Moises Jazmin
Lance Cpl. Eric P. Valdepenas
Sgt. Michael R. Weidemann
Spc. Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss
Sgt. Kyle J. Harrington
Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV
Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu
Staff Sgt. Thomas H. Oakley
Sgt. Michael F. Paranzino
Spc. Dennis C. Poulin
Spc. Dennis P. Weichel Jr.
Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe
Staff Sgt. Timothy R. McGill
Master Sgt. David L. Poirier
1st Sgt. Peter Andrew McKenna Jr.

Approaching the Easter Vigil

When introduced as an element of Catholic theology, some people will find the idea of a power entering the universe from outside and bending the rules of time to be too fanciful to merit a second thought. But suppose a similar idea was presented in a different form, perhaps as a “new” idea behind a bestselling novel or a blockbuster movie? In that context, might not a fair number of people you know (and perhaps even yourself) find the concept of human beings connected by a force that actively reaches around the flow of time to bring them together to be at least intriguing, maybe even cool, and perhaps worth exploring further?

Fish on Fridays

Nothing symbolizes the supposed arbitrariness of religion to those predisposed towards skepticism towards religious belief more than does the Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays during the season of Lent. I’ll admit to having asked myself, especially on Good Friday, what connection is there really, between not eating meat and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And then there is the philosophical paradox. If my soul is lost after I’ve eaten meat on a Lenten Friday, does that mean I’m free to commit worse sins without making my situation worse? But if the rule doesn’t really matter, then why follow it? And on and on and on and on…

Here’s what I do know. With the wide variety of fish and other meatless options available to a 21st century American, abstaining from meat on Fridays is about as small a “sacrifice” in a material sense as can be asked for. But honoring the rule does require me to make some conscious choices that run contrary to what the surrounding culture tells me are cool and sensible. And if I am unable to make this small sacrifice, because I find it too inconvenient, or because I’m afraid to explain myself to others who don’t share my belief or who might think that I’m being just plain silly, then on what basis can I believe myself to be capable of taking a stand in more serious situations, when the choices might be a little harder and the stakes a bit higher?

The Elites’ Preference for Non-Accountability

When the Constitution Doesn’t Apply to the Code of Ethics

At Least There’s an (Improbable) Correction for Senate Process Abuse

Yes, It’s a Serious Matter

A Feat of the Imagination in the Bureaucracy

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