November 29, 2004

Rhode Island Politics & Taxation, Part I

When my family moved to Rhode Island just over seven years ago, we were disturbed to find out that property taxes on our new home here were nearly three times what they had been for our comparably priced home in post-Proposition 13 California.

We received no unusual benefits in exchange for this higher taxation level in Rhode Island. Even more troubling, nobody could explain what made the taxes here so high and kept them increasing at a rate above the growth rates in the incomes of working families and retirees.

Before we delve into Rhode Island-specific details in subsequent postings, let’s take a step back and begin with a big picture question: Are there some guiding principles that lead to sound public policy?

Addressing that question first will define a context in which subsequent postings will explore specific Rhode Island politics and taxation practices.

Lawrence Reed heads the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan. On October 29, 2001, he gave a speech entitled “Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy” before the Economic Club of Detroit. I found it to be one of the most insightful overviews on guiding principles. While the entire speech can be found online, let me share some excerpts:

The "Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy" that I want to share with you today are pillars of a free economy. We can differ on exactly how any one of them may apply to a given issue of the day, but the principles themselves, I believe, are settled truths…. They are not the only pillars of a free economy or the only settled truths, but they do comprise a pretty powerful package. In my belief, if every cornerstone of every state and federal building were emblazoned with these principles-and more importantly, if every legislator understood and attempted to be faithful to them-we'd be a much stronger, much freer, more prosperous, and far better governed people.

PRINCIPLE #1: Free people are not [economically] equal, and equal people are not free.

PRINCIPLE #2: What belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair.

PRINCIPLE #3: Sound policy requires that we consider long-run effects and all people, not simply short-run effects and a few people.

PRINCIPLE #4: If you encourage something, you get more of it; if you discourage something, you get less of it.

PRINCIPLE #5: Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own.

PRINCIPLE #6: Government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes from somebody, and a government that's big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you've got.

PRINCIPLE #7: Liberty makes all the difference in the world.

Mr. Reed made the following comments during the same speech as he elaborated on the last two principles:

George Washington once said, "Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it can be a dangerous servant or a fearful master." Think about that for a moment. Washington was saying that even if government is no bigger than he wanted it to be and even if it does its work so well that it indeed is a servant to the people, it's still a dangerous one!....You've got to keep your eye on even the best and smallest of governments because, as Jefferson warned, the natural tendency is for government to grow and liberty to retreat. At the risk of adding yet another quote to this paragraph, it was Alexander Hamilton who wisely told us that "Control of a man's subsistence is control of his will."….

Liberty isn't just a luxury or a nice idea. It's much more than a happy circumstance or a defensible concept. It's what makes just about everything else happen. Without it, life is a bore at best. At worst, there is no life at all.

Public policy that dismisses liberty or doesn't preserve or strengthen it should be immediately suspect in the minds of a vigilant people. They should be asking, "What are we getting in return if we're being asked to give up some of our freedom?" Hopefully, it's not just some short-term handout or other "mess of pottage." Ben Franklin went so far as to advise us that "He who gives up essential liberty for a little temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security."

Rhode Island faces some serious challenges due to public policies that place an enormous tax burden on residents. This has created a disincentive for new economic growth, which translates into further economic hardship for working families and retirees – while certain parties currently in political power live quite well. This hardship is the antithesis of liberty. It is unjust and immoral. And, it does not have to be our future.

Before we can fix the problems here in Rhode Island, it is necessary to be aware of the lack of any public sector incentives to minimize taxation.

Before we can fix the problems here in Rhode Island, it is necessary to better understand the underlying facts. More on those facts in the coming postings.

And then There Were Four

Justin Katz

Anchor Rising welcomes Donald B. Hawthorne to our contributors list. Readers may recognize Don's name from the pieces that he's published in The Providence Journal taking on Rhode Island's teachers' unions (see his Recent Publications on the sidebar).

Don's interests are much broader, however, and he's sure to be an even more significant benefit to the cause of changing Rhode Island than he already is.

Managed {noun}

Carroll Andrew Morse

Apologies for the unexpected absence. I'll be back blogging in-force this week.

For now, let me leave you with a quick thought. Instapundit last week referenced a New York Times article involving plagarism problems with "managed books" (books where the person listed as author delegated significant portions of the actual writing to research assistants). I don't know anyone who has anything good to say about "managed care", unless they are making a profit from it.

Is there any context in which "managed {noun}" connotes something positive? I can't think of any off of the top of my head. Sticking an obviously positive descriptor in front of managed doesn't count, e.g. "a well-managed business". What's the underlying truth behind the fact that a managed {noun} implies a lower-quality {noun}?

Letters, Blue and Red

Justin Katz

According to Boston resident Dan Flynn, to whom Michelle Malkin links, many residents of that city are still suffering a hangover from their indulgence at the country's political office party. The slurred speech was not charming, and the promotion was not forthcoming.

Such is the image that comes to mind while perusing the stream of bitter letters to the editor (intraoffice memos, if you will) printed in the Providence Journal. In the latest, Cranston's Michael Simone inadvertently spurs recollection of the media's failure in its efforts to overthrow the American regime:

Let's look at some of the Nov. 20 headlines from The Journal: "Worshipers killed in chaotic raid on mosque"; "Protest erupts in Chile: Bush an unwelcome visitor"; "U.S. charges Iran is racing to make uranium compound"; "6 NATO allies balk at helping U.S. train Iraqi army officers"; "Insurgents threaten nation's rebuilding, U.S. director says."

Too true — the relentless stream of bad news for Bush failed to persuade the masses. In fact, its relentlessness became a meme in its own right, hurtling Arthur Chrenkoff to online fame with his "Good News from..." series. In contrast, Bill Carpenter, also of Cranston, believes that deception actually won the day:

It seems the Big Lie has won the battle over truth and common sense for the nation's loyalty. What further dishonor will the next four years wring from the great deception?

Unfortunately, Mr. Carpenter is referring to the Bush administration, not the likes of (to pick a name at random) Dan Rather. Despite spotlights on phony memos and relatively minor, if tragic or disheartening, stories that might sap the President's support, as well as the dimmed light with which stories that might hurt John Kerry were approached, Bush's party increased its share of the government.

One can only presume that the pervasive hatred of Republicans exacerbates apathy and habit to its current degree, at which Fran Brelsford, of Riverside, must actually articulate sage advice for which Rhode Island is dramatic evidence:

Wake up, voters! Being born, living, and dying Democratic does not produce good government. There has to be some balance, to allow a flow of ideas.

Meanwhile Westerly's Steven Artigas endeavors to explain a principle that may have been missed during snoozes:

Four years after the 2000 election, there is still apparently a sizable contingent of partisans harboring resentment over the outcome. One of the touchstones of this group is the demand that the Electoral College be abolished, in favor of direct elections. If these people were awake during their high-school civics classes, they should recall that the Electoral College serves to increase the clout of those voters who do not live in areas of large population.

In fairness, we should leave open another explanation: no matter how meticulous one's high school note-taking, it's difficult to recall civics lessons through a pounding headache.

November 25, 2004

The State of Thanksgiving

Justin Katz

For some reason, this entire week has felt like a window for breathing. On a national scale, perhaps that has something to do with its being the first holiday after a startlingly contentious election season. On the personal level, for me, it follows a couple of months of big plans, significant breakthroughs, and large steps; the long weekend also stands as a pause before I find out, early next week, just how desperate my financial situation is.

Such is life. Amid all of the worries and confusion, one thing for which we can certainly be thankful is the opportunity to stop, every now and then, and turn our minds to other things, coming back to the difficulties with a fresh perspective.

A special thanks, therefore, is due to those who fight back the madness that would pull our minds from all things greater. I speak of those who articulate sanity, from religious leaders to teachers to writers and thinkers. Of those who root our lives in emotional stability — family and friends. And of those who risk their own lives to beat back the vines of iniquity on our own streets and in foreign lands.

Thank you all. When the time for pause is over, we'll strive to uphold our own role in the everyday effort of thanking God by making our world worthy of its birth and of the future for which we hope.

November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving and Separation of Church and State

Marc Comtois
Since Thanksgiving is upon us, I thought I'd provide an excerpt from Paul Johnson's A History of the American People that puts the Separation of Church and State, and Thanksgiving, in their proper historical context.
'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' This guarantee has been widely, almost willfully, misunderstood in recent years, and interpreted as meaning that the federal government is forbidden by the Constitution to countenance or subsidize even indirectly the practice of religion. That would have astonished and angered the Founding Fathers. What the guarantee means is that Congress may not set up a state religion on the lines of the Church of England, ‘as by law established.’ It was an anti-establishment clause. The second half of the guarantee means that Congress may not interfere with the practice of any religion, and it could be argued that recent interpretations of the First Amendment run directly contrary to the plain and obvious meaning of this guarantee, and that for a court to forbid people to hold prayers in public schools is a flagrant breach of the Constitution. In effect, the First Amendment forbade Congress to favor one church, or religious sect, over another. It certainly did not inhibit Congress from identifying itself with the religious impulse as such or from authorizing religious practices where all could agree on their desirability. The House of Representatives passed the First Amendment on September 24, 1789. The next day it passed, by a two-to-one majority, a resolution calling for a day of national prayer and thanksgiving [emphasis mine].

It is worth pausing a second to look at the details of this gesture, which may be regarded as the House’s opinion of how the First Amendment should be understood. The resolution reads: ‘We acknowledge with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peacefully to establish a constitutional government for their safety and happiness.’ President Washington was then asked to designate the day of prayer and thanksgiving, thus inaugurating a public holiday, Thanksgiving, which Americans still universally enjoy. He replied: ‘It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of 144 Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His mercy, to implore His protection and favor ... That great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that ever will be, that we may then unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people.’

There were, to be sure, powerful non- or even anti-religious forces at work among Americans at this time, as a result of the teachings of Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, and, above all, Tom Paine. Paine did not see himself as anti-religious, needless to say. He professed his faith in ‘One god and no more.’ This was ‘the religion of humanity.’ The doctrine he formulated in The Age of Reason (1794-5) was ‘My country is the world and my religion is to do good.” This work was widely read at the time, in many of the colleges, alongside Jefferson’s translation of Volney’s skeptical Ruines ou Meditations sur les revolutions des empires (1791), and similar works by Elihu Palmer, John Fitch, John Fellows, and Ethan Allen. The Age of Reason was even read by some farmers, artisans, and shopkeepers, as well as students. As one Massachusetts lawyer observed, it was ‘highly thought of by many who knew neither what the age they lived in, nor reason, was.’ With characteristic hyperbole and venom, John Adams wrote of Paine: ‘I do not know whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs for the last thirty years than Tom Paine. There can be no severer satire on the age. For such a mongrel between pig and puppy, begotten by a wild boar on a bitch wolf, never before in any age of the world was suffered by the poltroonery of mankind, to run through such a career of mischief. Call it then The Age of Paine.’

As it happened, by the time Adams wrote this (1805), Paine’s day was done. His ‘age’ had been the 1780s and the early 1790s. Then the reaction set in. When Paine returned to America in 1802 after his disastrous experiences in Revolutionary France, he noticed the difference. The religious tide was returning fast. People found him an irritating, repetitive figure from the past, a bore. Even Jefferson, once his friend, now president, gave him the brush-off. And Jefferson, as president, gave his final gloss on the First Amendment to a Presbyterian clergyman, who asked him why, unlike Washington and Adams (and later Madison), he did not issue a Thanksgiving proclamation. Religion, said Jefferson, was a matter for the states: ‘I consider the government of the United States as interdicted from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, disciplines, or exercises. This results from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof, but also from that which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly no power over religious discipline has been delegated to the general government. It must thus rest with the states as far as it can be in any human authority.’ The wall of separation between church and state, then, if it existed at all, was not between government and the public, but between the federal government and the states. And the states, after the First Amendment, continued to make religious provision when they thought fit, as they always had done. [Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 144-45]
To be sure, many of the founders were not what we today would consider conventional Christians (rather, they were deists), but most recognized the importance of organized religion in society. (For more on the deism of the Founders, refer to p.141-44 of Johnson's History).

With that, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. (I may be around some time this weekend, but I have a tour of southern New England scheduled, so free time, much less blogging time, will be at a premium).

ADDENDUM: I'd also recommend Ken Masugi's piece, which touches on the same theme and points to the Thanksgiving Proclamations of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Playing Catch-Up

Justin Katz

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past couple of days. Judging from my daily rounds, we don't appear to be the only quick read out there. That's no excuse, of course, and we do appreciate your readership. (Arguably that appreciation is served by not posting fluff just to fill space.)

Among my reasons, personally, for not posting is that I've been trying to catch up with various tasks and correspondence. Among the tasks was making some additions to the blogroll:

As always, if you're aware (or are) of a resource to which we should link, please feel free to contact us.

November 23, 2004

No Child Left Behind - It's Working

Marc Comtois
Presiden't Bush's much vilified No Child Left Behind Act appears to be working, at least that's the conclusion drawn from reading this story in today's Providence Journal.
More than half of Rhode Island's public schools have jumped into the high-performing category, and school leaders across the state say that's in no small part due to the strict goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind law -- and the sanctions schools face if they don't meet those goals.

Among the schools, 166 are now classified as high fliers, up from 89 last year. Schools also showed marked improvement at the other end of the spectrum: 84 are ranked as in need of improvement, compared with 119 last year.
I previewed these results last week (my first scoop!). What can be taken from this is that challenging teachers and students to meet established and well-defined standards is effective in influencing outcome. Of course there will be complaints, but that is because all of us, to different degrees, resist change. It appears as if the changes endorsed and implemented as a result of the NCLB Act are making things better. Accountability is a good thing after all.

Perhaps we in Rhode Island can take this as an object lesson. We need to realize that our penchant for habitually voting for the same people to the same political offices only sends the message that we accept past transgressions: that everything is fine. No matter how loud we may howl when examples of patronage, payoffs or corruption slap us in the face, change will never occur unless we rid our government of those who enable and contribute to such an atmosphere. Joe E. Democrat, the guy you grew up with, may be a nice guy, but he is beholden to his party leaders and will always toe the line when told. On his own, he may not be a "problem," but as a part of the larger group, he contributes to the attitude of entitlement held by the ruling political class in the Ocean State. He may be a nice guy, but don't all enablers appear to "care"? At some point, personal relationships have to be separated from what is good for the state.

The biggest way to create political change is via the ballot box, something we conservatives and advocates for change failed (again) to accomplish a couple of weeks ago. (Though some believe signs of hopefulness are evident.) With the help of Governor Carcieri, Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, and (dare I say), the mantra of change will spread and take deeper roots. Maybe the example of the NCLB Act and the determination of teachers, students and parents to do better will spill over into other arenas. Right now, the biggest arena is the coliseum that is Rhode Island Politics. Some of us have entered to face the lions. Will we be mere martyrs or will we survive, led by some Spartacus-like figure (who won't get killed ;) to implement lasting change?

November 22, 2004

From the Outside In

Justin Katz

The Projo editorial board's comments on recent healthcare happenings in the state mention a strategy — perhaps a necessity — with much broader application:

We are unmoved by Blue Cross's complaint that United is "an out-of-state for-profit company." In all-too-cozy Rhode Island, being out-of-state can be an advantage, avoiding as it does the local cronyism that has characterized such creatures as Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

And calling Blue Cross a "not-for-profit" merely elicits a bitter chuckle. We immediately think of the conflicts of interest -- the most glaring being that Blue Cross Board Chairman Frank Montanaro also heads the state AFL-CIO.

As a conservative advocate (of sorts) in this state, I can confirm that outside help is just about the only hope for real change at a pace measurable in years rather than decades. Fortunately, just as the size of the state helped its problems to develop, it lessens the degree of attention required from wider-world groups. (Of course, for them to care at all, we've got to be laboring from within.)

Facing the Judges

Justin Katz

A word on where Andrew and I differ most significantly on the Taricani matter: Andrew believes that one problem that conservatives face when attempting to trim the powers of the judiciary is that they "pick a hot-button issue -- gay marriage, flag burning, 'under god' in the pledge of allegiance -- to advance the cause of placing limits on the power of the judiciary." In the course of the public debate, the judicial aspect gets lost in the heat of the social issue.

Of course, as one who has written often about the issue of same-sex marriage, I'm predisposed not to want other issues to detract from the fuel that helps the traditional marriage side keep its case moving. Even accounting for that bias, however, I still think social/cultural issues are the ones on which to stand against the judiciary. The central reason, putting aside the difficulty of motivating the public to become concerned at all, is that endemic judicial activism has been most egregious in its imposition of judges' cultural values. That is where they seem most motivated to cross lines, so that is where the lines must be bolded.

The case of Jim Taricani involves what might be characterized as government theory. Strategically, that means the principles behind the struggle will have to be explained to the public (and the media) in order to give the movement any momentum, and such explanations tend to tip the scales back toward apathy. Furthermore, while hot-button issue may overshadow judicial considerations, more targeted volleys will highlight the specific questions involved, allowing the larger picture to slip away.

In the Taricani/Torres case, those specific questions will be the use of protective orders and, especially, of court-appointed special prosecutors. These are certainly issues worth addressing, but I don't know that they're worth expending a great deal of the President's political capital. More importantly, given my priorities, I'd fear that success would give social activists a rhetorical pin with which to deflate the judicial activism side of the other battles.

November 20, 2004

Stone's Alexander May Teach A Lesson...

Marc Comtois
...though it may be one different than intended. When I first heard about Alexander I was naturally interested as it was an historical epic and history is, after all, one of my main interests. (Granted, I know how Oliver Stone tends to treat historical fact, but I'm still interested in the film.) Now, the current "controversy" around the film seems to be centered around the very-much historically accurate fact that Alexander the Great had a male lover. However, the controversy may be a smokescreen. It seems as if the writing may not be so good, and that the movie may be so bad that some are trying to use the "controversy" over the homosexual content as an excuse for a potential box-office flop. So why did I bother to bring all of this up? Well, the whole discussion over the homosexuality of Alexander got me thinking about the history of homosexuality.

It is a well-accepted fact to say that Alexander was bisexual and had male lovers throughout his life (as did many Greeks). Homosexuality was considered normal in the Greek culture (as well as many others). That leads to a question: did these male lovers ever marry? Some have sought to find examples of gay marriage as far back as antiquity, though what they have really done, for the most part, is to find something they define as being akin to marriage, which they classify as same-sex union. However, others have claimed to have found examples of the Catholic or Orthodox Church condoning marriage between same-sex couples. These assertions have been criticized as examples of "false history" and an attempt to justify aspects of modern culture by reading their antecedents into the past. Additionally, it is also a fact that many of these particular types of homosexual relationships were examples of pederasty, or a homosexual relationship between a young boy and an older man.

Homosexual relationships also existed in Japan, China, Korea and many Islamic cultures, as well as the Sambia of Papau New Guinea. Not only did such relationships fulfill the desires of the two participants, they seem to have been considered a step on the way to manhood, at which time a man took a wife and had a family. This itself implies that the expected role for a mature male was that of a father and husband married to a woman. (With this in mind, there has been scholarly argument over the "social construction of homosexuality" and whether pederasty and homosexuality are necessarily the same thing).

Homosexuals have been fighting for widespread social acceptance throughout history. By the 1970's, they were redefining their goal from that of mere social acceptance of their own self to social acceptance of their "lifestyle" choice. (From "love the sinner, hate the sin" to "love the sinner, accept the sin," if you will). With these arguments now essentially won (for the most part) homosexuals are now devoting their energy to social acceptance of their relationships. However, they don't seek just legal acceptance, rather, they seek to redefine an institution. (Note: Justin has written extensively on the gay marriage debate).

In all of the historical examples of homosexuality and gay marriage (or its approximation) cited by proponents, a careful reading reveals one component missing: there is never a mention made of children. It is widely accepted, though largely understated, that children need parents of both sexes to provide a basic solid social groundwork. To some of us, this seems like common sense. Yes, there is divorce, loveless marriages, single mothers, successful gay or lesbian parents, etc., but a family with a father and a mother has been shown throughout history to be the best and most basic social construct for proper child development. Marriage is more than a bond between two indivuals, it is also society's way of providing the best environment for child-rearing. Just because some do not aspire to the ideal does not render the ideal obsolete. I hope that we don't let the exceptions make the rules.

ADDENDUM: There are other arguments to be made against gay marriage. (For example, I attempted, somewhat poorly, to provide a "rational" argument for the alternative of civil unions, here. Much of what I said then I still believe, but I think the more convincing argument centers around the raising of children, as mentioned above.)

Help me with a Taricani Detail

Carroll Andrew Morse

I have question about a "detail" in the Jim Taricani case that I have yet to see explained. Perhaps one of my fellow contributors or one of Anchor Rising's readers can help me with this...

Did Taricani voluntarily waive his right to a trial-by-jury in this matter, and if so, why?

November 19, 2004

Meeting the Emotional Needs of the Elite

Justin Katz

Brown professor Anne Fausto-Sterling, recent Massachusetts-made spouse of Brown professor Paula Vogel, skirts the heart of the same-sex marriage debate (coming to a small coastal state near you) in a Providence Journal column today. Interspersed with a description of exactly the sort of ceremony that one would expect from New England radicals, Fausto-Sterling offers points of rhetoric that adeptly slip right past any arguable point so as to return to emotionalist tugs that are ultimately irrelevant:

Many argue that marriage is about family, parents, children, and generational continuity. I agree. And here, too, I cannot fathom how hetero- and homosexual unions differ.

It might be enough for many (maybe most) of those with a conservative bent that Fausto-Sterling "cannot fathom how hetero- and homosexual unions differ." But simply shrugging such statements off without rebuttal allows the mantra to do its work among citizens who, especially in this region, want to be tolerant, but who wish this uncomfortable issue would just go away. The biology and gender studies professor goes on:

Not all marriages of either sort have children -- sometimes by choice, sometimes because the bodies are unwilling.

I cannot fathom how a highly educated woman so casually equates "marriages of either sort" under such an inapt euphemism as "unwilling bodies." On one side of the orientational divide are couples biologically constructed so as to have children, often without even trying, with the vast majority of the married among them procreating at some point in their lives. On the other side are couples biologically incapable of doing the same and aware of that inability from the moment their eyes first meet.

Moving on from that dubious elision, Fausto-Sterling opens her rhetorical umbrella so wide as to argue for same-sex marriage on the basis of benefits that marriage of any sort is not needed to provide:

But married couples, with or without children of their own, serve important roles for children -- as aunts and uncles, as godparents, as teachers and confidants.

As should be immediately obvious even to those outside the ivied walls, couples can serve such roles with or without being married — with or without being couples! Indeed, when Fausto-Sterling poses her closing rhetorical questions, readers might wonder why it is she believes we need institutional recognition of marriage at all:

How could it be that these ceremonies that stabilize us, that strengthen communities, that support children, that offer social and economic supports, especially in old age and in times of illness, benefit couple and society when two-sex couples engage in them, but not when same-sex couples do?

It isn't the ceremony that makes the marriage; marriages can be had with a minimum of frills, after all. Furthermore, nobody, to my knowledge, is arguing that ceremonies of any sort oughtn't be allowed. The question that Fausto-Sterling is apparently ideologically disinclined to address beyond a dismissive "no" is whether the nature of same-sex couples calls for differences in the way in which our public institutions handle them. Perhaps it would be beneficial for our society to find some way to encourage commitment and stability among homosexuals, but that does not mean that it can or should be the same as our encouragement of men and women to marry each other.

How can the good things that marriage brings to same-sex couples subtract from the worth of marriage between couples of different sexes?

By allocating benefits and extending definitions meant to create a social expectation to a relationship that is fundamentally a matter of choice (because it cannot create vulnerable dependents), and by blurring a necessarily simple and concrete social construct, both inherently and through the threat of further change.

I ask those opposed to marriage for lesbians and gay men: Which of the pledges we made during our marriage harm you?

To this final question I give the implied answer, but without the implied conclusion: Absolutely none, and that is why such pledges oughtn't be stripped of whatever meaning their takers invest in them. Fausto-Sterling's view of society, however — in which direct harm to another is the only barrier to defining culture for one's self — is antithetical to the purpose of marriage.

Marriage is meant to unite couples even when they aren't inclined to make pledges. It is meant to define a culture in which two people who have the ability to be responsible for the creation of new life will handle that new life responsibly, binding themselves to each other on that basis, even if not entirely for that reason.

In other words, appeals to the emotions and tolerance of good-hearted people aside, marriage isn't about the pledges and ceremonies of autumn-aged elite white women after fifteen years as a couple.

Reason 4 to Pardon Jim Taricani: Hard Cases Make Bad Law

Carroll Andrew Morse

There is a legal maxim that says "hard cases make bad law". This has taken on a new urgency with respect to the Jim Taricani case. As a result of Judge Torres' Thursday ruling, Senator Christopher Dodd from Connecticut has proposed a federal shield law for journalists.

Let me make an important point I haven't yet stated directly. My call for a Presidential pardon of Jim Taricani is in no way based on any concept of special rights for journalists. Journalism, like any profession, makes unique demands on the people who practice it. Those demands in no way release its practitioners from their duties as citizens.

The advent of blogging and electronic publishing blurs the line between who is and who is not a journalist. Perhaps no meaningful line exists. Passing a shield law will invite the abuse of the concept of journalism, encouraging people whose primary goal is to avoid giving testimony to claim they are journalists.

Of course, the President could make this issue go away by pardoning Taricani. And when else will President Bush have an opportunity to do something popular in a blue state, something civil liberties oriented AND something that upstages Christopher Dodd at the same time?

Reason 1: Why Pardoning Taricani is the Right Thing.
Reason 2: Why Pardoning Taricani fits the President's Agenda.
Reason 3: Why Pardoning Taricani is a Teaching Moment.

Black Robes and Conflicting Interests

Justin Katz

Andrew, yes that notion that the judge can usurp executive powers when some among the executive branch might have a conflict of interest is the lynchpin. After I read, last night, Torres's decision demanding that Taricani name his source (PDF), questions about the procedures and powers involved with forming grand juries and appointing special prosecutors still loomed over the issue. (And it isn't an area of the law that I'm able to research right now.) Taricani's lawyers' not making a big deal of that aspect seemed to indicate that Torres hadn't stretched the law on that count, but I guess they have raised the issue.

Particularly of note, from the Providence Journal piece, is this paragraph:

Taricani, [Torres] said, had no right to refuse to reveal his source to DeSisto, based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 1972 case of Branzburg v. Hayes. In that case, the nation's highest court rejected the argument that reporters have a First Amendment right to refuse to answer "relevant questions put to them in the course of a grand jury investigation or criminal trial."

I haven't read Branzburg, but in Torres's summary of and quotations from that case in his ruling, the repetition of the phrase "grand jury" is conspicuous. Consider (emphasis added):

Only where news sources themselves are implicated in crime or possess information relevant to the grand jury's task need they or the reporter be concerned about grand jury subpoenas. Nothing before us indicates that a large number or percentage of all confidential news sources falls into either category and would in any way be deterred by our holding that the Constitution does not, as it never has, exempt the newsman from performing the citizen's normal duty of appearing and furnishing information relevant to the grand jury's task.

Again, I'm not versed in the laws and practices surrounding court-appointed special prosecutors, but the difference between them and grand juries strikes me as significant. The sentence that the Projo quotes from Branzburg seems to leave open further possibilities, but it only adds "criminal trial," which (if I'm not mistaken) suggests a court proceeding in which an indictment has already been made.

Two other cases that Torres cites raise interesting considerations. First, in Bruno & Stillman, the court ruled that, "as a threshold matter, the court should be satisfied that a claim is not frivolous, a pretense for using discovery powers in a fishing expedition." When Torres turns to another case, Cusumano v. Microsoft Corp., for an example, he highlights the central concern in the Taricani ordeal: in Cusumano, the court was weighing the claims of Cusumano against those of Microsoft; here, the court is weighing Taricani's claims against... its own.

To be sure, Torres's strongest point is that the public has a significant interest in maintaining the authority of courts during legal proceedings as well as during investigations undertaken in the course of "law enforcement." The problem that this neatly sidesteps, however, is that the court is not immune to conflicts or excesses. The party most directly wronged by Taricani's refusal to answer questions (as quite distinct from the party wronged by the breaking of the protective order in the first place) is the court itself. Even somebody who disagrees with my highly suspicious view of judicial power ought to be able to understand, in this context, why the following sentence from Torres's original ruling raises my eyebrows:

... the investigation was initiated at the behest of the Court, itself, and cannot be described as the arbitrary action of a possibly overzealous prosecutor or runaway grand jury having ulterior motives.
Now, I'm not saying that Judge Torres has ulterior motives, but the mindset seems to be that courts are above such things. They aren't; one can easily imagine situations in which the precedent that Torres is setting could lead not only to individual instances of judicial wrongdoing, but also to further usurpations of power. In researching this issue, one can nearly hear the pieces falling into place.

The court generated the protective order and was the most directly wronged party when it was broken. The court appointed the person to investigate the crime. And it is the court that has just deemed its own special prosecutor to have the power to coerce testimony. Unless I'm missing some important piece of the legal background — and discussion of such background is a notable absence in Torres's reasoning — the step that this case has taken is the equation of a court-appointed special prosecutor with grand juries and investigators involved in cases in which the court is more clearly a disinterested third party.

Incidentally, although this is a federal case, I noticed while researching that Rhode Island's laws appear to offer a bit more license to judges when it comes to their orders and decrees. That might be something that we should look at as we push and pull the state toward governmental sanity.

So, Why DO "They" Hate Us?

Marc Comtois
I've always wanted to blog extensively on the various reasons as to why Europeans, and a lot of the rest of the world, seem to "hate" the United States. However, since so much has already been written, and much of it better than anything I could offer, I decided that it would be most beneficial to link to a few essential articles rather than re-hash them. After all, that's one of the benefits of a blog, isn't it?

But before providing those links (go to the bottom if you just can't wait!), I'd like to point out that the ongoing investigation into the UN Oil for Food Program has provided evidence of some of the pragmatic reasons as to why the world was against our going into Iraq. The roadblocks set up to block anyone from taking final action were not put up out of any sense of fairness or due process (though the UN and Europe certainly do love "process"), but instead were placed for more selfish reasons.

According to the historian Paul Johnson, George Washington stated that "no nation can be trusted further than it is bound by interest." (A History of the American People, p. 89) With this in mind, the information coming out of the aforementioned investigation has made it perfectly clear that it was those who most benefited from the corrupt UN Oil-for-Food program - particularly France, Russia and China who are all permanent members on the UN Security Council - who were also the strongest opponents against taking action against Saddam Hussein. While we have heard much about America going to war for oil, the Senate investigation is showing that, in fact, these nations were interested in preventing war for oil. Why? Because it was in their own best interest to do so. Over the years, Hussein earned $21 billion in Oil-for-Food money, but he didn't keep it all.
According to U.S. officials, the former Iraqi leader spread billions of dollars around the globe, particularly targeting France, Russia and China, all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

While diplomats from those three nations deny they were bought off, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he doesn't believe they were, Saddam's oil voucher scheme was aimed at ending sanctions, and a CIA report [The Duelfer Report, this link is to the Key Findings (pdf format)] revealed that Saddam was very generous to his friends and supporters.
What Saddam instituted was, essentially, an oil voucher program whereby he gave vouchers to "sympathizers and supporters" who could then sell them and earn "hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars."

The Bush Administration is constantly criticized for failed diplomacy because it did not effectively "make the case" to our "traditional" allies for war with Iraq. The cleverness of this argument is that it implies that the onus for diplomacy is always on the United States and gives the rest of the world a pass. The natural result is that any diplomatic failure is the fault of America. The possibility of the intransigence of our prospective "allies" is never acknowledged. Thus, the importance of the UN Oil-for-Food investigation is that it is finally exposing the truth. It is not that the Bush Administration wasn't putting forth a convincing case, it was that these nations simply didn't want to listen. They had no interest in changing their behavior because they were profiting from the situation as it was and probably believed that, once the sanctions agains Hussein were eventually lifted, they would be in a prime postion to profit even more.

However, Europe is comprised of more than its governments. What explanation can be given for why the general population seems to loathe us so? To answer this question, I recommend the following articles. (Note: some of the linked articles are quite long).

Perhaps the best article, and the only one that needs to be read, is by Bruce Bawer, called Hating America. Two shorter pieces, here and here, (each written by the co-authors of the book Hating America: A History) show that Europe's loathing of America really is nothing new, while Joshua Levesto's piece puts forth the theory that Europe is led by the wrong kind of anachronistic politicians who set the example for the general population. In "The Psychology of Appeasement," Russell A. Berman shows it may go deeper than that. Finally, Victor Davis Hanson has written much that touches on this subject (an index of his columns are here). I'd recommend "Our Weird Way of War," which shows that our enemies in the Middle East know which Western buttons to push; "Civilizaton vs. Trivia"; which illustrates the idiocy of relativistic outrage; and finally, "Let Europe be Europe", which is almost self-explanatory.

There are many more, but these few articles are probably enough to illustrate the alternative viewpoint that the diplomatic rift between the U.S. and Europe are not all the fault of America.

Taricani's Lawyers do See the Separation of Powers Issue

Carroll Andrew Morse

From today's Projo story on the Taricani case:

Yesterday, as Taricani's legal team has argued in the past, Murphy challenged DeSisto's authority to prosecute the contempt case against Taricani. He asserted that only the U.S. Attorney's office has jurisdiction to prosecute such cases.
Here's part of Judge Torres' response, where he explains why it is necessary for the courts to assume the function of enforcing the law in this case.
The judge also said he felt the U.S. Attorney's office had a conflict of interest because someone in that department could have been Taricani's source.

That lays it out pretty clearly. Taricani's lawyers are concerned with judicial usurpation of the enforcement function of government. Torres agrees there is usurpation, but says it's necessary for the greater good.

November 18, 2004

Our Judicial Supragovernment?

Justin Katz

Not being adequately informed about the case and the relevant laws, I've been waiting to hear Andrew's argument in full with respect to Jim Taricani and Judge Torres before taking a position. However, Dan Yorke believes Judge Torres is in the right, and he just said something on his radio show that gives reason, at the very least, to be concerned about an underlying mindset.

With interspersed commentary, Yorke played the public statement that Taricani made upon being declared guilty of criminal contempt of court. When he got to this sentence, Yorke stopped the tape:

The government has used its resources and power and the threat of jail to try to coerce me to identify a confidential source.

Among his comments, Yorke suggested that, while technically true, it was somehow shifty to characterize the judiciary as "the government." Paraphrasing: "It's one branch of government, and in this case, it's investigating another branch of government, the executive" (meaning the FBI). This brings to mind something from one of Andrew's posts on this topic:

Institutionally, American democracy has forgotten something -- all three branches of government are charged with defending the rights of the individual. Somewhere that idea was lost, replaced by the idea that the court system alone was charged with protecting individual liberty, and the other branches of government, and the general population, were expected to obey judges' orders without question (unless another judge overturned an order.)

I've done some preliminary investigation of the relevant law — enough to realize that I don't have the time right now to do more than a preliminary investigation — and it appears that the question comes down to whether Torres's order that Taricani reveal his source was a "lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command." I'll leave that question open (Taricani does have lawyers working on his behalf, after all), but I will agree with Andrew that this case may present a worth-taking opportunity for the executive branch to remind people that the actions of the judiciary are, indeed, actions of the government — not some supragovernment with incorruptible judgment as to the law and its own powers.

Sovereignty and the War on Terror

Marc Comtois
Since Justin hasn't brought this up, I will. Over at his Dust in the Light blog he has made note of the Catholic Church making motions to join the "good" side in the War on Terror. In the post, Justin wrote that the problem the Church may have is in "its view that the authority that such regimes have forfeited can only be arrogated by a superseding bureaucracy — specifically, the United Nations." How true. The slow coming-around of the Vatican is due to many factors, one of which is that of clinging to a misconception, or anachronistic definition, of the concept sovereignty.

In general, those in the Vatican, the UN, "Old Europe" and the Democrat Party suffer from applying old concepts to our post-9/11 world. The best and most concise explanation I have seen that describes this mindset was in a Tech Central Station article by Lee Harris in March of 2003. Without getting into the weeds too much, the basic crux of the problem, as framed by Harris, is this
All previous threats in the history of mankind have had one element in common. They were posed by historical groups that had created by their own activity and with their own hands the weapons - both physical and cultural - that they used to threaten their enemies. In each case, the power that the historical group had at its disposal had been "earned" by them the hard way: they had invented and forged their instruments; they had disciplined and trained their own armies; they had created the social and economic structures that allowed the construction of their armies and navies; they had paid their own way.
In the case of much of the Arab world, this has not occurred.
If we look at the source of the Arab wealth we find it is nothing they created for themselves. It has come to them by magic, much like a story of the Arabian nights, and it allows them to live in a feudal fantasyland.
The magic elixir, if you will, is oil. Ironically, the nations in the Middle East have been allowed to thrive because the Western world, the same that they encourage the mullahs and sheiks to demonize, has allowed them to take ownership of the natural resources within their borders, which has enabled them to form sovereign nations. In the past, "Empires" would have never allowed such a situation, they would have simply used armed force, if necessary, to take a coveted natural resource out from under the people who lived in a region. This changed after World War II because of many factors (detailed by Harris).

The result has been that an Arabic/Islamic culture of "fantasists" has arisen in the Middle East led by those who have never had to really risk anything to acquire their great wealth. They simply lucked into it. The countries they rule are not the sort set up under what Harris previously described as "classical" sovereignty but instead exist under a sort of "honorific" sovereignty. According to Harris
A world has been virtually achieved where each nation state is an inviolable entity, its borders protected by an international consensus, and the benefits of such a system are so obvious that there is no need to enumerate them....

If the existence of a nation state is guaranteed by some external authority - whether by the United Nations or the United States - then it means that one of the chief incentives to a realistic policy, both domestic and foreign, has been removed from play.
Because these nations didn't form in the way that most previous nations had formed, they have not adhered to, nor have they been forced to adhere to, the rules of the West, much less cope with other nations in the Western realm of "reality." As such, attempts by European countries, the UN and the Vatican to apply a "Western ruleset" to these nations, or extra-national groups like Al-Queda, are doomed to fail. (For more on this contrast of "rule sets," and a heckuva lot more, see Thomas Barnett's "The Core and The Gap"). Thus, attempts such as that by the Vatican and others to apply classic Just War Theory to the War on Terror are nearly impossible. Seeing this, it seems as if the Vatican is taking its blinders off, or at least peaking from beneath them by justifying preemptive action in the name of humanitarian relief. Unfortunately, the UN, Old Europe, and too many Democrats, are still operating blind in a 9/10 world.

Two TV Nations

Marc Comtois
National Review Online's Cathy Sieppe has noted that
One of the election lessons for Democrats is that while the Left doesn't understand the Right, the Right can't help but understand the Left, because the Left is in charge of pop culture. Urban blue staters can go their entire lives happily innocent of the world of church socials and duck hunting and Boy Scout meetings, but small-town red staters are exposed to big-city blue-state values every time they turn on the TV.
Sieppe has given four examples of relatively conservative (or at least, definitely not liberal) television shows: Blue Collar TV, American Dreams, King of the Hill, and The Simpsons. The only one of the four that I have not seen is American Dreams, though I watch none of them regularly. As with most shows, the episodes are sometimes uneven, but the very fact that none seem to tow the Conventional Wisdom/Politically Correct line add to their appeal. I suspect as Hollywood realizes that there is money to be made by producing fare that would be appealing to the "Red-Staters" (Passion of the Christ comes immediately to mind) we will see more entertainment about and for "regular" America. I just wonder if the main characters created for such entertainment will be portrayed as genuine people (Red-State Everyman, if you will) or if the entertainment industry will simply rehash the same old "redneck" stereotypes.

The Basis of the Taricani Ruling

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Providence Journal provides a link to Judge Torres' order (pdf format) compelling Jim Taricani's testimony about his source. Two things leap out at me.

1. It is clear from the memo that the leaking of the tape is not a violation of the law. It is a violation of a "protective order" issued by the judge. In explaining the validity of the order, Judge Torres cites its consistency with "the Local Rules of this Court" and the "Rules of Professional Responsibility" for lawyers. Do we now live in a society where rules that judges and lawyers make to police themselves, without consulting any other branch of government, can be used to take a citizen's freedom away?

2. Judge Torres cites precedents stating "Certainly the public has no right to demand access to discovery materials which are solely in the hands of private party litigants" and "no public right of access submitted to court in camera as part of discovery dispute". He uses these precedents to support the "rules" barring the release of evidence. The logical connection Judge Torres sees is troubling. Do we live in a society where everything that there is no right to is forbidden? Is the government's enumeration of our rights the limit of our rights? More concretely, because I don't have a right to a $1,000,000-a-year job, does that mean a $1,000,000-a-year job is forbidden to me?

I mean no personal disrespect to Judge Torres, but this memo contains the kind of sloppy reasoning that is only possible when courts feel that mere laws written by legislators are too harsh a limit on their powers.

Another Take on Cox

Carroll Andrew Morse

I also was intrigued by Cox's article on urban-versus-rural-versus-Democrat-versus-Republican. For Marc's thoughts, click here. For Justin's thoughts, click here. Here's my plausible-but-not-proven stab at explaining the trend: Urban areas are the most dependent on other areas to survive.

Imagine the following: One Sunday night, impenetrable force-fields appear along the borders of every town in Rhode Island. Places like Foster and Hopkington would be able to set up some sort of subsistence-level society pretty quickly. Providence, on the other hand, would be in big trouble once the supplies at the grocery stores ran out.

I think, at some level, though maybe not a conscious one, urban dwellers are aware of this vulnerablity. That's why they are more likely to vote for the party whose central message is "don't worry, we'll keep taking stuff from other people and giving it to you" than they are a party with a more principled message.

November 17, 2004

Fixing Something Broken on Purpose

Justin Katz

I've admitted before that I find healthcare to be an eye-glazing issue — especially in Rhode Island. Sometimes it seems reasonable to wonder whether that's an effect that the industry actively encourages. As William Gamble's analysis suggests (to my mind, anyway), Blue Cross of Rhode Island could hardly have been better designed for corruption if that had been the intention all along:

Both the law and the market provide six methods to stop agents from taking anything that is not nailed down. They are: 1) business failure, 2) the market for corporate control, 3) managerial duties required by law, 4) direct managerial financial incentives, 5) corporate-governance oversight, and 6) shareholder empowerment. None of these applies to Blue Cross.

His solution?

Try selling it. It must be worth something. Why does Rhode Island, a small state with a small insurance pool, need a separate Blue Cross? Why not merge it with Massachusetts Blue Cross? Why not a New England Blue Cross -- a company large enough to negotiate with all providers?

I've noticed, here and there around my life, that smaller groups — a school system, a town government, a small office in a limited market — are often infested with backstabbing and advantage-taking out of proportion to their actual significance. The temptation of becoming a small pond big fish seems apt to drive people mad. (Perhaps because a certain sort of person can become such a creature although he wouldn't survive in a broader pool.) But as anybody who becomes addicted to the Flash game Fishy! will learn, ambition quickly becomes its own undoing in an enclosed ecosystem, and unfortunately, the individual isn't likely to be the only one undone.

Senate Prediction

Carroll Andrew Morse

Over at National Review Online, John J. Miller previews the 2006 Senate races. With all due respect to the conservative mothership, he gets Rhode Island completely wrong.

Lincoln Chafee, the sort-of Republican, isn't well liked by many of his GOP colleagues because they worry he'll bolt the party if it means he can stay in the majority. He may face a primary, but he'll probably win. Democrats will have a hard time coming up with a candidate who can beat him. Congressman Patrick Kennedy would be an interesting choice, but he appears content in the House.

First, obviously the name "Steve Laffey" has not trickled up to the national level yet. He would certainly be a strong challenger against Chafee in a Republican primary. Second, I think that Miller underestimates the potential of a Kennedy run. Kennedy can present himself as more responsible than Chafee on national security issues (he voted in favor of the Iraq war). Enough Republicans may have grown tired enough of Chafee to leave that part of the ballot blank on election day, especially if the Republicans already have a solid 54-or-more member majority in the Senate.

The Red in the Blue

Justin Katz

Having been struggling for an interesting way to frame this, I was much relieved to read Marc's recent post about demographics and Republican states' receiving more government aid while (ostensibly) voting against Big Government. Blogger Sensible Mom has explored the data in a bit more depth (the bracketed comment is hers):

But let's focus on the election map by county. Those states with large cities, Illinois, New York and California, benefit from the corporate taxes payed by the businesses in those cities. In addition, in many of the blue states, there are large areas of red. Take a look at Illinois and California. One of the collar counties of Chicago, DuPage County, is wealthy. I would like to see the average tax bill per household in DuPage compared to the average in the city of Chicago [I'm going to try to find this data]. I bet it is higher in DuPage. ...

Next I looked at Illinois by county. I picked one blue county, Cook (includes Chicago), and three red counties, Lake, DuPage and Will. The US Census Bureau publishes the Consolidated Federal Funds Report by county. When that information is divided by the population in each county it shows that the blue counties receive considerably more federal funds on average than the red counties.

Of course, Illinois might be different than, say, Massachusetts, but some of the considerations are significant. First, we can't forget the disproportion of corporate taxes when assessing how much the Blue States "give." Second, it is apparently (and logically) the case that some Blue States concentrate the money that the feds give back to them in a limited number of Democrat-controlled areas.

So here's the (intentionally biased) question: Do the Republican poor vote principle while the Democrat poor vote self-interest? I don't have the time, right now, to dig into this as deeply as the turf appears to allow, but at initial glance, it would seem that living amid the Coastal Elite has a deleterious effect on one's character.

(Via Lane Core)

Voter Motivation and Another Stab at a Big Idea

Marc Comtois
I'd encourage anyone interested in the question as to "why we vote the way we do" to read this article by Patrick Cox about the seeming correlation between political ideology and demography. In it, he also tackles the apparent conundrum of those who most benefit from government spending (so-called Red States) voting against those who would seem to favor an increase in said spending (the Democrats). This is something that the pundit Lawrence O'Donnell (one of the proponents of Blue State Secession, btw) had been pontificating about recently. (O'Donnell said "Ninety percent of the red states are welfare-client states of the federal government.") According to this meme, it was rural voters, who receive more federal dollars than do urban voters, who are responsible for putting President Bush back in the White House. (I guess we are all supposed to revel in the irony of it all.)

Cox offers some insight into why this ungratefulness, as O'Donnell seems to imply, on the part of the Red States is not really hard to figure out. First, because the cost of living is higher in urban areas, they have a higher concentration of higher wage earners and generate higher revenue than do rural areas with lower cost of living requirements and commensurate wages. As such, more of the urban dollars get redistributed. To this I would add that the gulf between the very wealthy and the very poor is wider in the cities. As such, one group votes its interests (the poor) and the other (the rich) votes either out of guilt or because it can afford to pay for social welfare programs (or, with good tax people, can avoid taxed altogether anyway!). Cox's second point is that, with less concentrated populations, rural states spend more money delivering services (like the mail) to fewer people over larger areas. Finally, Cox believes that it is more likely that the voters in rural states are continually being "bought off" by "redistributionists" so that they will approve of other government programs.

While looking deeper for a link between demography and ideology, Cox closes the piece with the following:
The statistician's perennial caveat is that "correlation is not causation." but there is little doubt that there is connection, largely unexplained, between ideology and demography. Depressingly deterministic as it is, this correlation, if it continues, may mean that future elections will be decided by immigration patterns, reproductive rates and technologies that allow more businesses and workers to locate in suburban and rural locations.
In one sense, Cox has simply noticed a characteristic that has existed in this country almost since its founding. The Town/Country, Rural/Urban divide has been much debated. While Cox links demography to ideology, it is important to note that "demographies" can change in their ideological preferences, or, at the least, in their political preferences. (The change in the south from solid Democrat to solid Republican is an example of the latter. However, it can be argued that the ideology of the South has not necessarily changed as much as the vehicle that best expresses that ideology of the polity, a given political party, has indeed changed.)

Demography is a term that covers a wide array of other terms. These include words like geography, race or religion, and all carry certain characteristics or connotations that may be much more indicative, or even determinative, of ideology. Importantly, rare is the case where only one of these factors is determinative and usually it is a combination of these characteristics that goes into forming an ideology. As such, the ability of "demography" to serve as a conceptual catch-all makes it attractive, especially to one such as Cox who appears determined to find that one Big Idea as to why we vote the way we do.

The work of historians such as Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood and Joyce Appleby has shown that, while certain ideologies have been predominant at certain periods in our history, they inevitably give way to other, more persuasive concepts. Though traces of the ideologies of the 17th Century Radical Whigs, or the Civic Humanists or the Jeffersonian Liberals can still be found, no single ideology has dominated for an extended period of time among the general population.

Cox seems to have consigned himself to having concluded that his view is hopelessly deterministic, which harkens back to yet another Big Idea. History is full of many attempts by those who have been tempted to find a single word or concept to describe both the process of history and the future of the world. The funny thing is, just when we think we have it all figured out, the rules change. Just ask Karl Marx or Francis Fukuyama.

A Strategy... Just in Case

Justin Katz

Mackubin Thomas Owens, a professor at the War College in Newport, has done a little preliminary strategic brainstorming in the event that the Blue States try to secede:

To begin with, where would the blue-state secessionists get the military force they would need to vindicate their action? After all, to paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, principles, no matter how noble, are mere wind without the sword. Most U.S. servicemen come from the red states, or from the red counties of the blue states. The blue states have made it next to impossible for their citizens to own firearms, so they can't count on "a people, numerous and armed" to vindicate their secession.

Although I imagine Blue State liberals, in their secession fantasies, imagine themselves being set free by their legions of lawyers, Owens's piece is certainly worth a read for the laugh. A Red v. Blue war would be a bit like when the littlest brother gets really, really mad at the biggest.

The 9 Most Catholic States Picked Kerry

Marc Comtois
Just to add to the observations that have been touched on here and there at Anchor Rising, the 2005 Catholic Almanac has revealed that 9 of the 10 most Catholic states sent their Electoral Votes to John Kerry, with only Lousianna (#10 overall) in the Bush column. Rhode Island, at 63.5% of its population, is the nation's most Catholic state.

November 16, 2004

The Racket Next Door

Justin Katz

Especially without being in that state, it'd be difficult to guess the political dynamics of a probable proposal in the Connecticut legislature:

On Election Day, voters in 11 states approved constitutional bans on gay marriage. But when the Connecticut legislature meets in January, the state may buck the national trend.

Democrats hold strong majorities in both houses of the legislature. The party's leaders favor some sort of civil unions which would grant same-sex couples many of the same rights as married heterosexual couples.

Rep. Robert Godfrey, D-Danbury, and other lawmakers say it is almost inevitable that a gay union measure will become law in the 2005 session of General Assembly. ...

... The judicial branch is not forcing the hand of Connecticut's legislature.

At least not yet.

However, earlier this year, seven same-sex couples filed suit to force Connecticut to legalize gay marriage. Some preliminary hearings have been held on the case, which is pending in New Haven Superior Court. The case is expected to take at least two years to decide; most observers expect it to end up before the state Supreme Court.

From now until one side or the other wins at the national level (or both sides admit stalemate, which isn't likely), every governing body in the country is going to face a variety of concerns: the separate powers of the branches, events in other states, struggles at the federal level, and (oh yeah) constituents' wishes. Gay rights activists are going to continue with their through-the-courtroom strategy. The mainstream media everywhere, but particularly in the Northeast, is going to accelerate its advocacy. Supporters of traditional marriage will continue to argue that the issue is going to change the Constitution one way or another.

Various states will respond to the forces in different ways, and the federal debate will be shaped accordingly. We can only wait and see what happens, but I'd guess we'll be seeing it happen in Rhode Island relatively soon.

Radical Change by Definition

Justin Katz

Since this is my first post on same-sex marriage on this blog, it is probably relevant to note that I've already written extensively on the topic.

Barbara Gordon of Pawtucket is "distressed" at various efforts to write into the law explicitly what, until recently, everybody thought to be there by definition:

I believe it is immoral to discriminate against any minority group solely because they differ from the norm and make some of us uncomfortable. I believe it is un-American to deny civil rights to certain citizens not because of any crime, but just because of who they are and whom they love. I cherish the U.S. Constitution and am concerned when those who would have their religious beliefs dictate the laws that affect us all seek to undermine the constitutional separation of church and state. ...

Whom another person wishes to love, comfort, and honor threatens none of us; codifying discrimination in anti-gay marriage laws or amendments harms us all.

If the law — as it already exists — is clarified, you see, then those who wish to change it will find it more difficult to convince a judge to declare that marriage is something other than what the language means it is. I've come to think that this is less a conscious stratagem than a flaw in reasoning.

Mrs. Gordon might be edified to learn that I agree that civil rights oughtn't be denied "just because" of whom somebody loves, and that I'm also wary of people who rely entirely on irrational beliefs to dictate laws. I suspect she'll be a bit less enthusiastic about my suggestion that her irrational beliefs are a case in point.

I've given Rhode Island's marriage laws a pretty thorough look, and I see not a word about "love." In fact, the words that Gordon uses to describe marriage are conspicuously religious-sounding, and while civil officiants may use them as boilerplate, they aren't required to do so by law. This isn't just a cute debater's point, because it underlies the two critical concepts in her argument: "civil rights" and "discrimination."

At Gordon's urging, I found and read Charles Bakst's November 11 column on the topic. Therein, Providence Mayor David Cicilline takes the same approach as Mrs. Gordon (and most other supporters of same-sex marriage). Petitio principii, he embeds his conclusions in his assumptions:

You cannot on the one hand say 'I respect people' and 'I agree with tolerance' and at the same time argue for discriminating against the same group of people. And, frankly, gays and lesbians aren't asking to be 'tolerated.' We're asking to be valued and we're asking for the same rights and responsibilities that everyone else has. You 'tolerate' an annoying noise in a car.

But is the equivalence of same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage a civil right? Is refusing to recognize same-sex marriages invidious discrimination? It is only so if, as the innovation's proponents contend, society's interest in recognizing marriages in the first place has nothing to do with the spouses' being of opposite sex. For "discrimination" to deserve the revulsion that the word too often sparks even in its most neutral sense, two groups must be similarly situated. It is not invidious discrimination, for example, for a carpenter to be denied a tax break intended for teaching supplies. That unjust discrimination is so often assumed in the opening salvos of the same-sex marriage discussion ought to be cause for concern.

To declare so haughtily that traditional marriage laws violate the rights of homosexuals, one must believe that there are no differences between men and women that are relevant to marriage. If marriage is not centrally about gender, then it is not centrally about the most obvious thing that men and women can only do together: create children. And if marriage is not about procreation, then there's no reason it has to be about sex. And if it isn't about sex, then intimate love — as opposed to other forms of mutual interest or affection — needn't be definitive. Marriage, in other words, becomes a partnership in the most bland, contractual sense of that word.

That outcome has proven all but inconceivable to many who support same-sex marriage (at least those whom we trust about their intentions). They take for granted that the emotional culture of marriage is written in firm ground that they imagine at the core of our social being. As they, themselves, prove that ground is not as firm as it might seem. Even if it were, however, we would still have to keep in mind that the law does not require married couples to act married, or even to proclaim that they are. Any stigma associated with same-sex marriages of convenience would have no readily visible identification on which to accrue and would therefore quickly slip away.

I can only muse that those who are most willing to force radical changes on our culture are also the most naive about the ways in which the culture can change. And I can only be distressed that too many seem to believe that same-sex marriage would represent no change at all.

Reason 3 to Pardon Jim Taricani: The President should Seize the Teaching Moment

Carroll Andrew Morse

Reason 1: Why Pardoning Taricani is the Right Thing.
Reason 2: Why the Right Thing is Consistent with the President's Agenda.

Institutionally, American democracy has forgotten something -- all three branches of government are charged with defending the rights of the individual. Somewhere that idea was lost, replaced by the idea that the court system alone was charged with protecting individual liberty, and the other branches of government, and the general population, were expected to obey judges' orders without question (unless another judge overturned an order.)

That flaw, of course, is that the people who make up the judiciary branch are just as human and fallible as the people who make up the other branches. They can make mistakes and overstep their authority -- for what they think are the right reasons -- just like the other branches can. And that is why there are checks built into the system that limit the power of judges.

In the Jim Taricani Case, President Bush has an opportunity to step forward and remind the nation of the fact that the court system is not more equal than others when it comes to protecting individual freedom; the executive is as responsible for protecting rights as are the courts. The President has the authority -- and the duty -- to reverse actions of the judicial branch that would improperly deny an individual's freedom.

Outsider Looks In

Marc Comtois
Patrick Ruffini, former "blogmaster" at the official Bush Blog is back doing his own blog and has offered some further insight into Republican gains in New England. (Something we've been speculating upon ourselves). Surprisingly, Rhode Island was second only to Hawaii (nationwide) in the increase in percentage of support for President Bush from 2000 to 2004. Overall, President Bush made gains throughout New England from 2000, but there was a dividing line. According to Ruffini:
The line runs through Massachusetts and New Hampshire. On one side there are the blue-collar Catholic urban and suburban areas, in which President Bush staged a strong recovery. On the other is the small-town Yankee-Protestant interior, which turned to Kerry. If Kerry was in fact the hometown favorite, it manifested itself far from Louisburg Square, in rural Vermont and New Hampshire. Closer to home, the booing when Kerry bounced the ball at Fenway was apparently the real deal.
Ruffini provides a chart of the increase among Catholic voters for the President and posits his own theory as to why they swung toward Bush and away from Kerry:
Several explanations are available to us. The first is that churchgoing Catholics do hold Catholic political leaders to a higher standard – and the Senator found no sympathy among lapsed Catholics. The second is that he alienated both sides by seeming to straddle. The third is simply that blue collar Reagan Democrats, many of them Catholic, liked the grit they saw in George W. Bush at Ground Zero and ever since. All three have some validity, but Catholics being the least politicized of all the major faiths, especially in the Northeast, I tend towards the third.
If this is the case, it will take more leaders with demonstrable grit to continue to make Republican gains in the northeast. Rudy Giulianni and Arnold Schwarzenegger, no conservatives mind you, would be extremely attractive here in the northeast. Perhaps America's appetite for a "John Wayne Presidency" is stronger than ever.

Report Card

Marc Comtois
I attended a meeting last night at my local elementary school in which data was presented detailing where the school stood with regards to standardized testing for school accountability as mandated by the State and Federal governments. While I may find the specific numbers for my children's school more germane, I realize that there is more general interest in the statewide numbers. These have yet to be publicized, so I guess you could call this a bit of a scoop. (For a more comprehensive breakdown, please go to the Ocean State Blogger where some of the analysis below has been repeated).

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, all students must meet the achievement standards by 2014. The test results I have are only for 4th graders statewide and cover Math and English Language Arts (ELA). There is an established standard that all students are supposed to meet. The levels of achievement are measured against that standard for each student and then the percentage of students meeting that standard are calculated. In total, 89% achieved the overall standard for READING, 81% achieved the overall standard for WRITING, and 56% achieved the overall standard for MATH. (There are further gradations of achievement, and, again, if you're interested, go to my OSB site).

A closer look at the internals reveal specific problem areas. Obviously, progress needs to be made in Math, particularly in the areas of Problem Solving and Concepts. Overall, the ELA numbers are better, but it seems as if there is a deficiency in the area of Writing Conventions and Reading Analysis. The latter is not surprising, giving the suspicion we all have regarding the short attention spans of today's video-centric kids. The deficit in Writing Conventions is also not entirely surprising, as teaching and learning the mechanics of writing (remember diagramming sentences?) is generally not classified as "fun." Besides, I suspect that, as we are just coming off of a decade in which it was OK for 2+2 to = 5, strict adherence to punctuation and sentence structure have been subordinated to teaching a child how to better express their thoughts and feelings in writing. Content over structure, if you will. The recognition that writing conventions are important will hopefully remind that it's not just the content but also the structure of what was written that earns serious consideration of one's work. (This never changes, content is nothing in the world of scholarly publication if you can't get the format correct).

Overall, it seems as if progress is being made, and that the education establishment is taking this seriously. However, they can't do it alone and it is up to us as parents to make sure that our kids are putting the effort into their schoolwork and that we encourage them along the way. Remember, the responsibility for educating our children is not only held by our children's teachers. The lessons learned behind the school walls are forgotten unless they are reaffirmed at home. The teachers need our help, our encouragement and our support. It may sound hokey, but the school my kids attend have a little acronym that encapsulates what parents, teachers, kids, and the community need to do. They need to be a T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More).

I have written in the past about my disagreement with teachers when it comes to contracts and such. I will continue to do so. However, I will give them all the support they need to educate my child to the best of their ability. We all need to be able to separate the political from the educational, at least on a personal basis. After all, it really is about the kids, not about the desire to extract every penny from the taxpayers and the reciprocal resentment derived from such demands.

November 15, 2004

Leading by the Force of Example

Justin Katz

On the radio, Dan Yorke is talking about the possibility of Condoleezza Rice's ascension to the post of Secretary of State. Yorke speaks often and forcefully in support of women's rights and respectful treatment of them, so I'm sure it pains him to say it, but he's concerned that Condoleezza's gender will represent a problem for the United States' dealings with regimes such as those in the Middle East.

Perhaps the first typically American response — certainly mine — is to say, "tough luck." She's our representative, and if a backwards dictatorship or oligarchy doesn't like it, well, then that country's going to have a hard time drawing out the benefits that come with being a friend to the world's only superpower. However, as John Kerry tried so hard to symbolize, sometimes we have to compromise our principles in the short term to make more profound gains in the future.

Such questions are right along the line of disagreement between fortitude and nuance that characterizes so much of the American political debate, right now. Both sides make legitimate points. In this specific instance, though, I don't know that the gut response is as unnuanced as it seems.

Our foreign policy currently has as its focus the relatively rapid remaking of entire regions so as to preclude catastrophic terrorism. Consequently, we must force and lure regimes toward radical change. Perhaps it shows how serious we are if we take the risk of choosing a diplomat with whom those regimes will be reticent to work — forcing them, in that one respect, either to be the sorts of governments that we believe they must become or to emphasize the ways in which they are more sympathetic to our enemies than to us.

In the comments, Marc asks whether Madeleine Albright's name came up. I didn't hear the entire segment of Yorke's show, so I can't say. It's interesting that the circumstances between the Clinton '90s and now are so dramatic that the comparison mightn't come immediately to mind. (It didn't to mine.)

Although we're still too close to those years to judge accurately, it seems likely that some text-book producer of the future won't be able to come up with a more accurate section title for the 1990s than "A Break from History."

The Influx of Sanity

Justin Katz

I see that Marc beat me to mentioning that Tom Coyne piece. When I first spotted Coyne's headline, on Saturday, before I realized who the author was, I smirked; in Rhode Island, even the mantra that the "politics have got to change" has been corroded by endemic apathy.

The most proximate cause of my delay was time spent reading a long comment to my post about teachers' salaries. In short, a recent transplant to Warwick from Minnesota has a whole lot to say about the Ocean State's political culture, and she gives a face (so to speak) to Coyne's suggestion that "the voting patterns of these new residents will be very different from what we see today."

If anything, Coyne underemphasizes this factor, because he equates new residents and "private-sector commuters," who earn their incomes in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Although perhaps commentators can be forgiven for overlooking new residents who actually work here, too, one would think that citizens with both feet in the saltwater marsh that is the Rhode Island polity would be even more vehement in their desire to drain the swamp.

The Warwick commenter mentions that she'd been a teacher-union supporter back in Minnesota, but that Rhode Island has changed her view, which brought to mind a rough calculation that I'd posted at Dust in the Light in September 2003:

The fact remains, however, that, in 2001, the average public-sector employee in Rhode Island earned 32% higher than the private sector average. Using the corrected data for the number of private sector employees per public employee (in 2000), on average, every 7.4 private-sector workers in Rhode Island pays for one person to earn more than they do. Simplifying the numbers, take the average individual income in the United States to be $25,000. The public sector average in Rhode Island would therefore be $33,000, requiring each private sector worker to pay $4,460 (by force of law) to support one public worker, leaving the private workers with $20,540.

The calculation was spurred by an Edward Achorn piece that isn't available online any longer. Achorn, as it happens, is also a stunned Rhode Island newbie:

WHEN I MOVED to Rhode Island four years ago, I was struck instantly by its pinched and starveling economy, its oppressive taxes and poor government services. Most striking of all to me, perhaps, was the brazen sense of entitlement displayed by many public employees. They seemed to feel that they had a perfect right to drive the state into the ground, and they didn't seem to care about the consequences to themselves or their own children -- never mind to their neighbors' children.

I ended that post skeptical of "my ability to fight, if I stay." A little more than a year later, now a homeowner writing on this new blog, I'm somewhat more optimistic. Whether we look at all immigrants or emphasize those who work elsewhere, I increasingly suspect that each incredulous new arrival — for whom the quirks of corruption aren't an endearing character flaw of the state — counterbalances more of the endemic apathy than numbers alone suggest.

Slow Tides of Change

Marc Comtois
Tom Coyne of wrote on Saturday that politics in Rhode Island will change, it is merely the pace and manner in which this change occurs that is in question. He offered that either the voters will decide to bring about, via the ballot box, a more equitable political system or will the state go bankrupt as a natural result of one-party rule in which there is no check on spending.

In Rhode Island, the public sector, ie: government, has taken an increasing amount of the overall dollars earned in the state. This money comes from the pockets of those who earn their's in the private sector. (Justin's chart in a previous post is a simple, graphical representation of this sort of thing as it relates to teachers, a narrow section of the private sector.) If the public sector becomes too large and demands too much of the private, then those who comprise the private either vote for change or leave. If the latter ocurrs, then budgetary shortfalls become endemic and bankruptcy will follow unless the state government takes steps to forestall such an occurrence.

The recent election seemed to indicate that Rhode Islanders, as of yet, have not reached a point of disenchantment with current system as they did relatively nothing to alter the balance of political power in the state. However, Coyne offers an interesting observation about political change:
Since the Nov. 2 election didn't do much to advance this result, then change will probably have to be brought about by the accelerating replacement of long-time Rhode Island voters with new residents who commute to jobs in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Unfortunately, this change process will be more painful. Because these new residents earn their income outside Rhode Island, as they increase in number our state income-tax revenue will decline....

Change will happen because the voting patterns of these new residents will be very different from what we see today. For example, someone new to Rhode Island won't vote Democratic simply because his cousin works for the state. Private-sector commuters want honest, efficient government, and will try to remove from office those representatives and senators whose voting records show that they want something else. For example, don't you wonder how many of the voters who turned John Harwood out of office in the primary were relatively new to his district?
However, Coyne also warns that those coming into the state with new political attitudes may still not be able to exceed those leaving the state who have already given up, much less gain a majority over those who continue to vote for the same tax-and-spend offenders. If such is the case, then the road to change will be through bankruptcy as public sector demands increase at the expense of a shrinking public sector.
Municipal bankruptcies are triggered by the recognition that it is economically impossible to service the public sector's liabilities: debt repayment, pension obligations, municipal salaries, etc. After some point, there are no public-sector assets left to sell, and further tax-rate increases simply force people to leave the jurisdiction -- resulting in lower, not higher, tax revenue.
There are some root causes as to why the private sector in Rhode Island is shrinking. According to Coyne:
According to Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, Rhode Island's taxes are already the worst in the nation for people who are retired and/or affluent.
Additionally, as was noted today by the editors of the ProJo
Two new studies suggest that Rhode Island is on the wrong track if it wants to attract new business and thus tax revenues. Politicians must start focusing on creating a vibrant economy in the Ocean State, to bring in the jobs that will help to pay for the government services citizens want.

The Washington-based Tax Foundation rated Rhode Island fifth from the bottom in creating a favorable climate for business through its tax policies....The Tax Foundation rightly argues that states should stop trying to lure businesses by making sweetheart deals with short-term tax abatements and exemptions -- which has very much been Rhode Island's approach in desperately trying to bribe businesses to remain. Rather, the foundation argues, states should create a "level playing field" for businesses, have simple and transparent tax systems, and restrain government expenditures so that tax dollars are spent more efficiently.

Another new study offers even bleaker evidence that Rhode Island is discouraging the very thing it should be promoting: small businesses. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council ranked Rhode Island a dismal 48th in its "Small Business Survival Index" for 2004.

Ocean Staters are right to be willing to pay relatively high taxes for good services and compassionate government. But without job creation, Rhode Island cannot conceivably have enough money to do all the things citizens want to do: provide for the poor, create top-notch schools, invest in roads and bridges, and a thousand other things government does.
Given this last, then, it seems that the majority of the voters in Rhode Island suffer from a disconnect between the thickness of their own wallets and their desire to fatten those in the public sector. [Of course, one obvious point is that it is not really a a disconnect because many of the voters in this state are either directly employed by, or benefit from, the public sector]. As a result, I fear that Coyne's Option 2, state bankruptcy, may be the most likely path to political realignment in the state.

Our "Un-Serious" Senator

Marc Comtois
In Sunday's ProJo, M. Charles Bakst, erstwhile stakeholder of the political commentariat of Rhode Island, took Sen. Lincoln Chafee to task for his waffling on both supporting fellow Republican President Bush and staying a Republican at all.
His flirtation with bolting the party -- and, more especially, his decision not to vote for George W. Bush and instead write in the name of the president's father -- has been an excruciating episode that has done the senator no good in Rhode Island or in Washington.

He has been in these matters the picture of indecision, and his dithering has been a distraction that has needlessly punctuated political conversation.
Indeed, all Senator Chafee has managed to do is to further call into question his own suitability as a responsible member of the Senate.
A spectacular low point came on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention. (He would make only a brief appearance on the New York scene.) Chafee said he supported Mr. Bush's reelection but wouldn't commit to voting for him. He looked ridiculous, and Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, more conservative, more combative, and a possible challenger in a 2006 Senate primary, could barely contain himself, asking in an interview:
"What does that mean? Usually, the people you support you vote for. Would you vote for one you wouldn't support? Or is he saying he supports two people?
Then Chafee, distancing himself further from the president but also wanting to stay away from Democrat John Kerry, hit upon the solution of writing in the name of the president's father, an old family friend whose policies he like better.

But, in declining to choose between candidate Bush and candidate Kerry, Chafee didn't make a decision, he avoided a decision. Citizens look to leaders to lead. Chafee is often accused of wanting to have things both ways. This time he outdid himself.
He certainly did. In trying to be all things to all people, he seems to take few principled stances except for the few instances (environmental, War in Iraq, Tax Custs) that find him at odds with his own (ostensibly) party. This is exacerbated by the perception that he lacks critical thinking abilities and is not the best at offering well-reasoned arguments for some of his postions.
He is who he is, not the most polished operator, but a bright guy, an honest guy, moving as best he can through the political jungle. He has plenty of interests in life, and he and his wife, the former Stephanie Danforth, have a ton of money, and he is very competitive, but he doesn't need this job, and when he's through, or when voters decide he's through, he'll find something else to do.
I suspect that in 2006 Lincoln Chafee will be the former Senator from Rhode Island.

Reason 2 to Pardon Jim Taricani: The President can Advance his Agenda by Doing the Right Thing

Carroll Andrew Morse

The President and his conservative coalition, as a matter of principle, do not like activist judges, i.e. judges who use their power to go beyond just interpreting the law. Here is uber-conservative and Bush supporter Phyllis Schlafly on the subject...

"Finally, we have a president who comes right out and targets 'activist judges' as the enemy of traditional values and urges us to use 'the constitutional process' to remedy the problem....Bush called on Americans to defend the sanctity of marriage against activist judges who force 'their arbitrary will' by court order 'without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives.'"

Alas for Ms. Schlafly, conservatives have a poor track record of limiting the power of activist judges. The above quote shows why. Almost always, conservatives pick a hot-button issue -- gay marriage, flag burning, 'under god' in the pledge of allegiance -- to advance the cause of placing limits on the power of the judiciary. By the time the debate reaches the public sphere the issue of activist judges generally gets lost in the more visceral substance of the case being decided. For better or for worse, people respond more strongly to ideas about 'traditional values' and 'the sanctity of marriage' than they do to ideas of 'activist judges'.

Because the Taricani case is not the usual kind of case people have in mind when they hear talk of 'activist judges', it an ideal circumstance for a President concerned about activist judges to step in. This case does not involve a hot-button issue. If the President were to announce a pardon for Taricani, the civic debate that ensued would focus on the President's power to limit the actions of the judiciary. And the President would be the one broadening rights and expanding freedoms that the judiciary wants to limit...

November 14, 2004

Reason 1 to Pardon Jim Taricani: It's the Right Thing to do

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island just passed a separation-of-powers referendum on the state level. But do we have it at the Federal level? Separation-of-powers means that a legislative branch of government makes the laws, a judicial branch of government interprets the laws, and an executive branch of government enforces the laws.

At the moment, Jim Taricani is being denied the protection that separation of powers is supposed to provide. What law did Taricani break? Well, it was not a law exactly, it was a "court-order" not to release information. And who is enforcing this court-order? Well, it is a "special prosecutor" appointed by the judge who issued the order. In other words, in the state of Rhode Island, an American citizen may be imprisoned by his government for violating a rule made by judge Ernest Torres, interpreted by judge Ernest Torres, and enforced by judge Ernest Torres.

This is a clear breach of the principle of separation-of-powers. Fortunately, the Federal constitution anticipated excesses of judicial authority, and provides a remedy -- the Presidential pardon.

And, for a variety of reasons, President George W. Bush should be inclined to use his power of the pardon in this case...

The Jim Taricani Case

Carroll Andrew Morse

Providence Journal media writer Andy Smith has an update on the Jim Taricani situation in Sunday's paper.

For those unfamiliar with the events, here is the background. Jim Taricani is a political reporter for the local NBC affiliate, WJAR-10. In 2001, about two months before the (former) Mayor of Providence was indicted on federal corruption charges, an anonymous source provided Taricani with a videotape showing one of the Mayor's aides taking a bribe. Taricani showed the tape on WJAR.

The judge presiding over the case, Judge Ernest Torres, ordered Taricani to reveal his source. Taricani refused. Beginning in March, Torres imposed a $1,000-a-day fine on Taricani. This Thursday, Taricani goes to trial for criminal contempt, and, according to Smith, could face six months in jail.

There is a solution to this problem, though it will not fully please everyone. The case is a federal matter. As such, it is possible for President George W. Bush to use his power of the pardon to end it. This week, I will lay out the reasons why President Bush should pardon Jim Taricani...

November 13, 2004

Too Late for Early Housing

Justin Katz

While we're in the midst of our first weekend content lull, it seems as good a time as any to republish a vlog post of mine from January 2003 (mostly so it'll be in the archives here). In the surrounding weeks, I made a few short blog-like videos, but the time it took to make them became too costly for the payoff in viewers. It is, however, something that I'd love to take up again if the fruits of blogging begin to cover the expense in hours.

This time around, the vlog goes on the road... literally. (And the vlogger realizes that, if he's going to make these things on a regular basis, he's going to have to begin getting his hair cut more than once a season — like he did when he was single and didn't work at home.) I've used some new tricks, so please feel at liberty to let me know what you thought and to offer suggestions.

Click the picture for the interactive RealMedia version that makes my head look wide (for which you'll need the free RealOne player available on the right side of this page). Click here for the plain ol' high-bandwidth, thin-headed Windows Media file, and here for the low-bandwidth Windows Media file.


I don't know if this holds true for others at the tail end of Generation X, but it seems as if I've frequently been just a bit too late or a bit too early. And I mean more than being born just in time to model plaid bellbottoms for the family photo album.

In grade school, renovations were just beginning while traditional activities were being canceled. In high school, dances and proms had become shadows of the glory days pictured in teenybopper movies. The University of Rhode Island, when I attended, was in the process of shedding its party-school image but had barely begun its efforts to improve its academic reputation.

Out in the "real world," the economic boom began to contract just as I entered the job market, and the teacher shortage that promised to land my wife a job has yet to materialize. Now, we're beginning to look into buying a house just as rising property taxes are forcing residents of our income level to sell, while the healthy real estate market has kept the prices out of our reach.

Mackey Ervin of Midland, Texas, recently made news by trying to sell a $100,000, four-bedroom house once inhabited by the Presidents Bush on eBay for $250,000. Within the past few years, real estate in my neighborhood has jumped that much even for cramped homes with no presidential history: $200,000... $269,000... $325,000... $449,000.

And I live on the less-expensive side of town. I don't even want to know how much these houses go for. Back in New Jersey, we used to call such areas "yuppie developments." They always remind me of the firstPoltergeist movie.

But that's midtown. The jaw-droppers are in Congressman Patrick Kennedy's neighborhood. Combining prices in the multiple millions for these houses and the fact that I can't even afford to live on the "wrong" side of the tracks, a natural impulse is to cry foul. Somebody of Kennedy's ideology might feel the need to "do something" about it.

Maybe it's a result of conditioning, but I can accept that this is just the way it goes. The rich have a right to raise the level of the municipality. Personally, I'd prefer to see property taxes arranged in such a way that locals wouldn't be thanked for helping to build the community by being forced to leave town. But that wouldn't help me; I came too late to grab a plot of land back when prices were in the five digits.

People in my position will have to do what we've always had to do: forge on. We can rent sheds with plumbing and enjoy the waterfront... only below the mean high-tide line. Or maybe we should move across the river, where the land is more reasonable, and build communities there, perhaps one day to sell our houses for many times our investment.

The world changes, often cyclically. Just as nature reclaims abandoned land, perhaps this town will once again be accessible to new families and regular folk. Change always brings as well as takes, so maybe you're never too late. As for being chronically early, the remedy is as simple as having patience.

November 12, 2004

Acclimating to RI's Education Dispute

Justin Katz

Commenting to a post by Marc, Rich from East Greenwich offers several specific questions that he might ask if mediating teacher contract disputes there. Among the considerations that he proposes is a comparison of teachers compensation with the median for the town.

Although not addressing East Greenwich, Marc and I worked through some of these sorts of questions on our personal blogs (pre–Anchor Rising). The following figure, which tells nowhere near the whole story, provides a baseline beyond which the picture only gets worse:

Truce Watch

Carroll Andrew Morse

Arianna Huffington has an article on her blog nominally analyzing how Kerry's reluctance to talk about foreign policy contributed to his defeat, yet in her detailed tactical description how foreign policy came to be muted, she doesn't tell us what she thinks that the Kerry campaign should have been saying. She attributes the avoidance of foreign affairs to "the old obsession with pleasing undecided voters". The question is: if she didn't want Kerry to court undecideds, whom did she want him to go after?

The possibilities are 1) turn out the base with a more stridently anti-war position. But all the anti-war voters were already vehemently against Bush. Were there that many more votes to be found on the hard left?

By default, the other possibilty is to 2) convince Bush voters to switch sides. This option breaks down into two sub-options...
a) Push the "competence" angle, i.e. I'll fight the war better than Bush. Do this, however, and the pro-war talk drives voters on the left away, probably in greater numbers than the gains in the middle.
b) Talk about the war as unwinnable, and say the best you can hope for is an open-ended truce. Convince the public that a detente with Islamist terror is the only "reasonable" option.

I fear that this position is going to gain strength as the Democrats redefine themselves in the coming election cycle. Remember where you heard it first.

The Anchor in the Corner

Justin Katz

A beleaguered — but hearty and hopeful — welcome to readers of NRO's Corner. By way of assuring Mr. Ponnuru that there do exist conservatives in Rhode Island, I note that this blog is the product of three of them and that there are at least four other rightish bloggers in the state. Away from the computer, I personally know about a dozen people who voted for President Bush.

If you're among the 161,636 Bush-voting Rhode Islanders whom I haven't mentioned, I hope you'll make a point of checking in on us and helping to make the conservative discussion more than a whisper in this state.

I should note for the millions beyond our borders that we don't intend to limit our writing to local issues. And even with those, of course, we could use all the help we can get...

Burning a Hole in Your Pocket

Justin Katz

Pre–election day, Marc and I had a short cross-blog exchange that touched on the state ballot's spending referenda. Marc did his homework and argued on behalf of some of the spending measures, including the URI biotech center.

For my part, noting that I considered mine little more than a protest vote, I declared: "not a penny." Yes, various projects are good ideas. Yes, rehabilitation and maintenance are important. Still, it all seems like a scam to me: the powers that be spend all the money and then return to voters with some of the more important and/or interesting items and ask them to replace money squandered elsewhere.

Well, in a letter to the editor of the Providence Journal, Jeff Opalka of Cranston appears to be somewhere between. I think we all agree on the bottom lines, though:

Our state ranks 46th out of 50 for providing a business-friendly environment. Rhode Island also stands shamefully above the crowd with the third-highest gasoline tax, second-highest cigarette tax, fourth-highest property tax and eighth-highest corporate tax. If anything is preventing business opportunities in this state, it's the tax climate, not a lack of a biotech center or improvements in Quonset Point. ...

I recall the gas tax was to be used solely for maintenance of roads and transportation. The lottery was to be used for education, and the 7-percent sales tax was to be temporary during the banking crisis. How many more lies can Rhode Islanders endure? Now we have an additional 1-percent restaurant tax. When is enough enough? When will we start holding our officials responsible for what is an increasing fiscal crisis, with agencies like RIPTA constantly over budget?

A couple of days ago, I mentioned Froma Harrop's concerns about a "brain drain" as scientists interested in embryonic stem-cell research flood into California for that state's newly available largesse. Extending URI's biotech branch is a natural tangent to include in that discussion. That tangent, however, cannot be shorn of yet another tangent: the brain drain that occurs as a result of Rhode Island's high cost of living and lack of opportunity or incentives to build a business here.

As Mr. Opalka puts it, "We need to closely consider where this state is going, because soon many of us will no longer be able to afford to live here."

Overstating Morality's Election Day Impact

Marc Comtois

Those on the left and right have written and said much since the election regarding the role of moral issues in President Bush's reelection. For those on the right, reaffirmation and confirmation of deeply held beliefs has been expressed. For those on the left, demonization of overly-religious rural southern voters has prevailed over any sort of internal introspection. In a column today, Charles Krauthammer(free register req.) offers some insight into the very basis for this premise and, to my mind, succeeds in showing how the role of morality has been somewhat overstated. (He was preceded by others in coming to this conclusion, for example by Paul Freedman at Slate).

Krauthammer first notes how the Democrats have seemingly converted the Angry White Males of 1994 (who voted Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress into power) into the "Bigoted Christian Redneck" of 2004. He then deconstructs the exit polling that has provided the basis for the apparent importance of moral issues in the 2004 Presidential Election.
Whence comes this fable? With President Bush increasing his share of the vote among Hispanics, Jews, women (especially married women), Catholics, seniors and even African Americans, on what does this victory-of-the-homophobic-evangelical voter rest?

Its origins lie in a single question in the Election Day exit poll. The urban myth grew around the fact that "moral values" ranked highest in the answer to Question J: "Which ONE issue mattered most in deciding how you voted for president?"

It is a thin reed upon which to base a General Theory of the '04 Election. In fact, it is no reed at all. The way the question was set up, moral values were sure to be ranked disproportionately high. Why? Because it was a multiple-choice question, and moral values cover a group of issues, while all the other choices were individual issues. Chop up the alternatives finely enough, and moral values are sure to get a bare plurality over the others.

Look at the choices:

• Education, 4 percent.
• Taxes, 5 percent.
• Health Care, 8 percent.
• Iraq, 15 percent.
• Terrorism, 19 percent.
• Economy and Jobs, 20 percent.
• Moral Values, 22 percent.

"Moral values" encompass abortion, gay marriage, Hollywood's influence, the general coarsening of the culture and, for some, the morality of preemptive war. The way to logically pit this class of issues against the others would be to pit it against other classes: "war issues" or "foreign policy issues" (Iraq plus terrorism) and "economic issues" (jobs, taxes, health care, etc).
Krauthammer then uses his broader categories, does the simple math and shows that War/Terror and Economic issues still held the preeminent place in the voters' minds on election day, much as they did in all of the polls leading up to the election. In essence, the election hinged on the voters prioritization of War/Terror and the Economy. As Freedman had earlier pointed out, there wasn't a "morality gap" so much as a "terrorism gap." Krauthammer's argument is convincing and well-reasoned, though he doesn't mention the role of the 4 million evangelicals who sat out the 2000 election and undoubtedly helped push President Bush to the popular vote lead this election. He does address the specific issue of gay marriage:
Ah, yes. But the fallback is then to attribute Bush's victory to the gay marriage referendums that pushed Bush over the top, particularly in Ohio.

This is more nonsense. George Bush increased his vote in 2004 over 2000 by an average of 3.1 percent nationwide. In Ohio the increase was 1 percent -- less than a third of the national average. In the 11 states in which the gay marriage referendums were held, Bush increased his vote by less than he did in the 39 states that did not have the referendum. The great anti-gay surge was pure fiction.
I would argue that, even if the numbers were to support a "great anti-gay surge" that, in fact, it wasn't anti-gay so much as anti-judicial activism (See: Massachusetts Supreme Court). Nonetheless, the demonization of their opponents is an oft-used salve for the liberal ego. As Krauthammer writes, "They need their moral superiority like oxygen, and they cannot have it cut off by mere facts. Once again they angrily claim the moral high ground, while standing in the ruins of yet another humiliating electoral defeat." Except, of course, in Rhode Island, where the simple of appendage of "(D)" to one's name seems to be enough to guarantee political victory.

November 11, 2004

Double Checking the Chastener

Justin Katz

While I'm proud to see him touting New England's Roman Catholics as a pivotal demographic, University of Connecticut and Catholic University professor William D'Antonio was a bit bold in his comments last week in the Boston Globe:

For all the Bible Belt talk about family values, it is the people from Kerry's home state, along with their neighbors in the Northeast corridor, who live these values. Indeed, it is the "blue" states, led led by Massachusetts and Connecticut, that have been willing to invest more money over time to foster the reality of what it means to leave no children behind. And they have been among the nation's leaders in promoting a living wage as their goal in public employment. The money they have invested in their future is known more popularly as taxes; these so-called liberal people see that money is their investment to help insure a compassionate, humane society. Family values are much more likely to be found in the states mistakenly called out-of-the-mainstream liberal. By their behavior you can know them as the true conservatives. They are showing how to conserve family life through the way they live their family values.

Oh yes, Massachusetts and Connecticut leave no children behind — except the 27.1% and 26.2% that they respectively left behind in abortion clinics in 2000. Rhode Island outdid them both, at 30.9%.

As for "conserving family life," one wonders what that might mean to the 42.4% (MA) and 43.2% (RI) of households with members over 65 that are actually households of one — older folks living by themselves. For context, the average for the Southern states that D'Antonio lists in the following paragraph is 38.8% of households, and for the Northeast, 41.3%:

The Associated Press, using data supplied by the US Census Bureau, found that the highest divorce rates are to be found in the Bible Belt. The AP report stated that "the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average of 4.2 per thousand people." The 10 Southern states with some of the highest divorce rates were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. By comparison nine states in the Northeast were among those with the lowest divorce rates: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Those are odd states to group for D'Antonio's purposes. New Hampshire's 2001 divorce rate (PDF) was only lower than those of four of the ten Southern states, and Oklahoma and South Carolina would only be average among the Northeastern states. Nonetheless, he is correct to note that Massachusetts had the lowest number of divorces per 1,000 inhabitants in 2001, at 2.4. Leaving out the flukish Nevada, Arkansas was at the other end, with 6.6 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants.

Of course, that year, Arkansas also had one of the highest marriage rates, at 14.8, compared with Massachusetts' 6.4, which was the sixth lowest. That means that Arkansas gained 8.2 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants, while Massachusetts gained only 4.0. (For Rhode Island, the calculation is 8.6 marriages minus 3.3 divorces equals a 5.3 gain.) Little wonder that the 2000 Census found that 54.3% of Arkansas's households were married-couple families, while only 49% of Massachusetts' and 48.2% of Rhode Island's were.

Michael Triplett, who (via Marriage Debate Blog) led me to D'Antonio's editorial, concludes that "liberalism, tolerance, and permissiveness [don't] appear to lead to high divorce rates." I'd suggest that D'Antonio's bout of what Tom Sylvester calls "increasingly trite, self-congratulatory" analysis doesn't quite justify declaration of those three qualities' success.

In 1990, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut topped the list of states when viewed according to Catholics' proportion of the population (63.1%, 49.2%, and 41.8%, respectively). Not surprisingly, I'm willing to agree with D'Antonio that New England Catholics represent a net plus for "family values" statistics. (Stanley Kurtz also highlights the Roman Catholic factor in Massachusetts.) That being the case, one wonders what New England's numbers might look like if church-going religious citizens were removed from the tally, leaving secular liberals without recourse to their good behavior when the notion of values becomes politically important.

Anti-Specter Details Needed

Carroll Andrew Morse

I'd like to offer a suggestion to the conservatives mounting a challenge to Arlen Specter's chairmanship of the Senate judiciary committee. They need to do a better job explaining what exactly the powers of a committee chair are, and exactly how a committee chair can frustrate the appointment process in a way that any other indivdual Senator cannot.

I'm not sure that the general public understands that committee chairmen are more than just the time-keepers during hearings. Some detail about how legislative committee chairmen can use scheduling and other powers to dominate the legislative process would help explain the urgency of their campaign.

The Dems and National Security

Carroll Andrew Morse

My latest article for TechCentralStation, on the subject of the Democratic party and national security issues, ran today. As luck would have it (or maybe it's my vast network of spies in the vast right-wing conspiracy), the article serves as something of a response to blog entries from Kevin Drum and Matt Ygelsias (scroll up) that ran yesterday.

Teacher Contracts

Marc Comtois

After 20 months of fruitless contract negotiations, the School Committee and the Warwick Teachers Union are about to put the dispute to arbitration hearings -- but now they can't even agree on when to meet to frame out a schedule for the proceedings.
So begins the latest report on the latest chapter in the Warwick Teacher Contract dispute. (I've written more extensively about the Warwick teacher dispute here). The union clearly seems disinterested in engaging in talks and has continually thrown up excuse after excuse to delay the arbitration hearing.
The union has also filed a motion to have the arbitration proceedings cover only last year and this year. The School Committee wants to extend its scope forward a few years.

Committee Chairwoman Joyce L. Andrade called the union's request "absolutely ridiculous."

"Who the heck wants to go through this again next summer and start all over again? I don't know what they could possibly be thinking," Andrade said. "We need to get this contract settled long term. Why on earth they would want to put those type limitations on it is beyond me."
The only reason I can think of is that the current situation is seen by the teachers as "better" than any new contract that could be negotiated. Right now, they have the best of both worlds: an old-style contract with no real health care co-pay and no obligation to help in after-school or extra-curricular activities. What is their incentive to change? More work for "less" pay and fewer benefits?

Meanwhile, the recent display in East Greenwich in which students marched to a School Committee meeting to express their displeasure over the current "Work-to-Rule" situation in the district strikes me as sending the wrong message.
They were met at the school by applauding teachers and parents. Many of the parents belong to the six local parent-teacher organizations that had organized the demonstration.

"We don't want to take sides on this issue, but we wanted to let the School Committee know that we are very concerned about the welfare of our kids," Lillian DePietro, president of the Hanaford School PTO, said after the meeting.

She said one of the main concerns is that, with teachers working to rule in the absence of a new agreement, students are missing out on many activities as well as the extra help they used to get before and after school.

Only a few of those in the crowd addressed the school board. Patty Streich, co-president of the PTG at East Greenwich High School, urged school officials and union leaders to continue to "work diligently" for a contract settlement.

"We ask both sides to remember what you represent," she said, citing examples of many of activities and services students have to do without as long as teachers are working to rule.
Though ostensibly meant to be a "criticism" of both sides, WPRO's Dan Yorke pointed out that by going to a School meeting, the message sent clearly seems to put the onus on the board to resolve the situation moreso than on the teachers. And the fact that parents AND TEACHERS applauded the students certainly lends credence to his point. One idea expressed on his show, though unlikely to happen, would convey a true sense of "bipartisan" criticism on the part of the students. Why don't they next march on a Teachers Union meeting? Finally, Yorke had the head of the East Greenwich PTO call him in and she stated (and I'm paraphrasing) "All of us think that the Teachers should have to have a Health Insurance co-pay..." This, Yorke concluded, should have ended any argument that the parents and students had with the board. It is not the board that is categorically denying this provision, after all.
School Committee members did not respond directly to speakers' comments. But after the crowd left, the board distributed a statement prepared by their labor lawyer, Richard Ackerman.

Reiterating points the board made in a statement issued earlier this month, Ackerman said that the School Department is facing tough financial times and that teachers have not agreed to pick up enough of the cost of their health insurance premiums.

So far, the union has only agreed to about a 2 percent contribution, the statement said, but the School Committee does not consider anything less than 10 percent "meaningful."

Roger Ferland, president of the teachers union -- The East Greenwich Education Association -- has said that many of the details being released by the school officials are being taken out of context but that the union does not want to get into a point-by-point rebuttal because it does not want to negotiate in public.
I find it hard to understand how the basic numbers concerning the health care premiums could be "taken out of context." It sounds to me like the union doesn't want to "negotiate in public" because they know they would probably lose that P.R. battle.

November 10, 2004

Can you Secede From the Bizarro World?

Carroll Andrew Morse

And having opened talking about the local roots of this blog, I now move immediately to a national-level post...

The (mostly tongue-in-cheek, I think) talk about some sort of red-state blue-state secession has me feeling like I'm living in the Bizarro World. I have a track record on the issue of secession. I've written a couple of Tech Central Station columns advocating secession and/or partition as a potential solution to problems in Iraq and Sudan. Based on the reaction to these columns, it would not surprise me if many of the people pondering an American secession think that idea of partitioning Sudan to protect the people of Darfur from the Sudanese central government is too radical to be considered.

I would never advocate secession for a democracy for a simple reason. Ultimately, assuming that the democracy is working, partitioning it limits the choices of an individual. Right now, a resident of Rhode Island can drop everything and move to Southern California without asking anyone's permission. If the US broke into smaller states, however, the departing Rhode Islander would have to get some form of governmental permission to settle in California.

p.s. Is there one "r" or two in "Bizarro"?

Late, as Usual

Carroll Andrew Morse

My apologies for being late to the kick-off party.

Thanks go immediately to Justin for setting this blog up and giving it a professional look. It makes it almost look like we are important! Now, my temptation is to next write the sentence "but of course, as conservative leaning individuals in Rhode Island, we're not".

That oversimplifies things. Institutional Republicanism here in southern New England is very weak, but (as Marc and Justin have mentioned), conservative ideas still find a resonance. So we're going to see if we can help healthy, two or more sided political discourse flourish in Rhode Island.

A Charitable Interpretation

Justin Katz

Michelle Malkin color-coded a by-state generosity index to reflect the election outcomes. Wading through the eighteen blue states — not one of which broke the top twenty-five — I found a silver lining for Rhode Island: at least we beat Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Putting aside methodological questions, what could account for RI's poor showing? One... umm... charitable possibility is that we're so over-taxed that we've little left to give. Adding a layer of culpability to the guess, perhaps Rhode Islanders have a gave-at-the-town-hall attitude.

Bi-Partisan Conservatism

Marc Comtois
A new column by National Review Online's Jonah Goldberg has prompted me to clarify something, at least about myself. Goldberg has pointed out that he is primarily a conservative, which is too-often conflated to mean the same thing as being a Republican. In fact, they are different. It is obvious that to a large degree Republicans and conservatives hold the same view on a wide array of issues. It is safe to say that the Republican party is more amenable to conservative viewpoints than is the Democrat, as the recent retirements of Zell Miller (obvious) and John Breaux (just a guess) indicate.

In my previous post on Karl Rove, I alluded to the difference between the political calculation of a party seeking to build itself by widening its appeal and conservatives seeking to maintain their ideals, regardless of whether or not they garnered widespread political appeal. Goldberg illustrates the dichotomy thus:
By all accounts, Bush and Karl Rove want to seal the Republican party as the majority for a generation. I'm all for it, but that doesn't mean I'll like everything the White House does to achieve this. The No Child Left Behind Act was a deliberate attempt to steal education from Democrats as an issue. It was somewhat successful, but that doesn't mean conservatives should suddenly cheer federal meddling in local education. The expansion of Medicare to cover prescription drugs was a fiscal train wreck.

The White House has many excellent ideas � tax reform, overhauling Social Security, etc. � that conservatives should get behind. But if the goal is to make the Republican party the majority party by making it the more "reasonable" big-government party, I suspect you won't find it so easy to confuse conservatives and Republicans in the near future.
Keeping this in mind, while I may sound like a Republican cheerleader at times, I will also try to point out the good, conservative things that Democrat politicians accomplish, too. Therefore, I point you to the success that Democrat Providence Mayor David Cicilline has had in negotiating a more reasonable contract for the city's municipal workers.
The three-year contract gives some 900 city workers pay raises of 7.5 percent over three years. More important, the workers -- who on Oct. 6 strongly endorsed the contract -- agreed to pay for 10 percent of their health coverage, as did the pensioners. Perhaps above all, the contract increases the flexibility of departmental managers by eliminating a no-layoff clause and by reducing the red tape involved in reassigning workers.
There is more work to be done with the firefighter and police unions, but Mayor Cicilline has shown that he is willing to fight for the taxpayers. For this I congratulate him.

Optimism for Republican Gains in Rhode Island

Marc Comtois
As detailed in this morning's ProJo, Karl Rove went into a deep statistical analysis of where the Republicans gained in the electorate during the recent elections. One of his examples, surprisingly, was the increase the President enjoyed in garnering the vote of Rhode Islanders.
Kerry carried Rhode Island with 59.4 percent of the vote. Mr. Bush's 38.7-percent share was 6.8 percentage points higher than in 2000. Nationwwide, Mr. Bush's 51-percent majority last week was 3.1 percentage points higher than his total in 2000.
For my part, I guess this small, but significant, gain was obscured by the relative margin of Kerry's victory. Perhaps progress is being made.

Interestingly, Rove also made a point of warning against assuming that the much-talked about "moral values" issues were those that carried the day for the President.
"Be careful," Rove said more than once, of stereotyping Mr. Bush's victory as the work of evangelical Christians who flooded the polls in the heartland because they oppose gay marriage. Rove affirmed the importance of such voters and issues, but he said the true portrait of the 2004 electorate is much "broader and more subtle."
Indeed, Christopher Hitchens for one has pointed out that Bush improved in the secular/atheist vote over his performance in 2000. However, the one religious group in which the President made a substantial gain was Roman Catholics, where he experienced a 5% increase.

Finally, Rove confirmed something that I have suspected: there is a real effort at party building going on by the RNC.
Rove also said that Mr. Bush intends to help the Republican Party "grow our numbers" in New England and other areas that Sen. John F. Kerry carried. In a related matter, Rove hinted that Republican Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee may get a fence-mending White House invitation from a president determined, in Rove's words, to "serve all the people."

Rove hinted that "gestures have been made" from the White House to Chafee and other Republican moderates. Chafee later confirmed that, saying he has had more than one conciliatory phone call from the White House -- though not, so far, from Mr. Bush.

Rove also said that Mr. Bush was not irritated by Chafee's symbolic protest of writing in the name of the president's father on his ballot. "Look, he's a wonderfully independent guy and he's entitled to his opinion," Rove said.
"And he also runs in a very tough state."
Yes, he does, and it appears that political idealism is taking a back seat to political practicallity. This is not a bad thing, but as the Arlen Specter debate has revealed, it is a difficult spot for a conservative.

Bush v. California

Justin Katz

Froma Harrop walks a strange line between liberal and conservative principles in a recent column about economic differences between the Red States and the Blue States, and the tax-cut implications thereof. It's a thick topic, even when it isn't encumbered by an underlying theme of pinning something undesirable to President Bush's back. Consequently, I'm not inclined to take it up, just now.

However, something that protrudes from the column almost as a tangential distraction strikes me as telling, and in a way that's relevant to the rest of the piece:

California seems poised to profit from both Bush's tax cuts and his moral disapproval of embryonic-stem-cell research. We speak of California's vote Tuesday to spend $300 million a year on this promising field. The sum makes a mockery of the measly $25 million Bush doled out last year -- and only for work on existing stem-cell lines.

This investment will make California the stem-cell champ of America, if not the world. Biotech centers in other regions now fear a brain drain to California. And economists say the program could bring the state a bonanza in jobs and patent royalties worth hundreds of millions.

What, precisely, is Harrop's understanding of federalism? Ethics aside, is it the federal government's role to invest heavily enough in lucrative research so as to prevent any given state from dominating the market? Moreover, is it the government's role to put ethics aside so as to give states a fair share of the profit from endeavors of which their citizens want no part?

I'd be surprised to learn that there's a subindustry of Tupelo biotech companies now fearing the loss of faculty because Cali has become the place to do immoral research. And as far as I know, California's decision to fund the research isn't the result of some loophole that's not available to other states. Red-State Americans can invest in ESCR by way of their governments, just as they can invest in it individually. That's another distinction that Harrop loses:

No one has made a connection between the Bush tax cuts and the research, but someone should. The tax cuts have made California $51 billion richer. So Californians can think of the $3 billion they will spend over the next 10 years as found money.

Correction: the tax cuts have made Californians that much richer. That's not the same thing. If the citizens of the Golden State choose to process their research-funding dollars through a corrupt bureaucracy, that is their right. At least the poorer citizens of fly-over country aren't being forced to devote their hard-earned money on Blue-Staters' hot-flash quest for immortality.

November 9, 2004

AG Lynch: Preview of Gov. Lynch?

Marc Comtois
Edward Achorn has a column in today's ProJo denouncing state Attorney General Patrick Lynch for his confusing and specious written justification for not prosecuting Cranston Firefighter Union head Paul Valletta for threatening Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey at a City Council meeting in August. The incident is on tape and no reasonable person would argue that Valletta was not threatening Mayor Laffey. However, Lynch's office disagrees, according to Achorn:
In a strange 11-page document, Mr. Lynch's office twisted itself in knots arguing that the law did not apply to this case. Among the reasons: Mr. Laffey did not display sufficient fear; the City Council has met since Aug. 23 without incident; Mayor Laffey has "by all accounts, maintained a full public schedule, including an active political campaign for his re-election." Thus, "While his conduct was certainly disruptive, Valletta's words at that point can not be factually considered as 'true threats.' " The A.G.'s office recommended prosecution of Mr. Valletta on a misdemeanor charge, for "disruptive activity," rather than for making a threat.

In essence, Mr. Lynch, in a highly subjective ruling, nullified the law on making threats. But is Mr. Lynch truly fit to be the final word, to be judge and jury?
Good question and there are reasons other than this that should give all Rhode Islanders pause when considering the veracity of Lynch. As Achorn writes:
After all, Mr. Lynch is a Democratic politician, brother of the state party chairman. Since the spring, Patrick Lynch has received $450 from the Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters, run by labor boss Frank Montanaro. Such labor contributions are the lifeblood of Rhode Island Democrats -- a big reason they narrowly won a number of close legislative races on Nov. 2. They are key to Mr. Lynch's future in politics...

He found nothing amiss with government officials in West Warwick, and helped fight to keep basic information out of the public's hands, after the Station fire claimed 100 lives. He displayed brazen disregard for the First Amendment in seeking criminal action against The Journal for publishing a photo from its own files. He found nothing actionable when a powerful Democratic legislator, Rene Menard, urged police to commit a crime and erase from a public log the name of a Massachusetts official...

Many thinking people cannot help but conclude that there are two sets of laws in Rhode Island: One for friends of the politically powerful, and another for those who dare challenge the political orthodoxy. That is a fair description of a lawless society, which can ultimately do nothing but terrible harm to the people of Rhode Island.
As a result of the AG's recommendation, the Cranston police charged Valetta with a misdemeanor. Never one to take things lying down, Mayor Laffey said his piece:
Angered by the attorney general's response, Laffey last week called it "a political decision"

"This is why Rhode Island is such a sick political state," Laffey said at a news conference. "You have public officials making decisions based on who their political buddies are."
Looking forward, it's obvious to me that Patrick Lynch has his eyes on the Governor's office and that he is not above doing "business as usual" to sit in that seat. Let this serve as an early warning that Lynch, as a governor, would be beholden to the very same interests that have put this state in the governmental quagmire from which Governor Carcieri is trying to free it.

Well, Hem, You Know, Haw

Justin Katz

U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee (RINO, RI) has promised to remain a Republican, offering the supremely confidence-inspiring declaration: "Yes, at this stage, that is my intention." In a sad echo of President Bush's overused phrase in the first debate, Chafee says it is also his intention to "work hard to regain the support" of Republicans. Personally, I think the state GOP chairwoman's defense of Chafee tells Republican voters all they need to know:

"The media forced him to make statements that were contrary to how he actually views his role," Morgan said, speaking of Chafee's months of inconclusive public musings about whether he would support Mr. Bush and remain a member of the Republican Party.

"You guys backed him into a corner," Morgan said, "and he wasn't adept enough at dealing with the media to sidestep the issue."

Perhaps it's best that he not "rehabilitate that," as Morgan put it.

Opening Stages of the RIGOP Revolution

Justin Katz

A pre-election comment from the Edward Achorn piece linked in the previous post is worth a follow up:

Now, Mayor Laffey and GOP candidate Jim Davey are working to send another powerful statewide message. They hope to defeat state Rep. Frank A. Montanaro (D.-Cranston) -- Boss Montanaro's son -- on Nov. 2.

A quick look at the election results for the City of Cranston reveals that the hope was fulfilled. Not only did Mayor Laffey win his own race in a landslide, but Jim Davey added his R. to the General Assembly. The Democrats will work to firm up their seats around the rest of the state, lest Laffeyism spread, but they may be backing across a narrow beam. Note this all-too-revealing inside explanation of Montanaro's defeat:

"They didn't defeat Frank junior. They defeated Frank senior," Cranston Democratic City Chairman Michael J. Sepe said yesterday. "They weren't running against Representative Montanaro but they were running against the AFL-CIO president Frank Montanaro."

Exactly. And that's hardly an unfair strategy. The single greatest problem that Rhode Island has is the degree to which the various aspects of its governing class work together against the interests of the citizens. The more they link arms, the larger target they may present.

Politics... Bad for Your Health

Justin Katz

Writing in the Providence Journal, Emily Harding of the Rhode Island Association of Health Underwriters lays out the general argument for some suggestions for improving the healthcare near-crisis in the state:

What made [national health insurance carriers] leave the state had nothing to do with the inability to compete with Blue Cross (which they had done for so many years, or else they wouldn't have stayed as long as they did), but it had everything to do with Rhode Island's unfriendly legislative atmosphere, which got worse and worse until it was so bad that they all left.

National carriers have been on record for two years saying what changes are needed if Rhode Island wants to see competition return to its health-insurance market.

The suggestions seem reasonable, and just pushing those who run Rhode Island to do something about the problem — other than reaching out for more centralized control — is absolutely critical. But here's the catch:

Can we count on our legislature to get the job done next session, so we might see some additional carriers back in Rhode Island, perhaps by next summer, along with much lower health-care costs and more choices? It remains to be seen whether our legislators will get the job done.

Well, that's the question of the decade. Interested citizens might find themselves wondering why it is so difficult in this state to make straightforward changes to address obvious problems. For starters, consider this little biographical summary from a recent Edward Achorn piece:

In many ways, Representative [Frank A. Montanaro (D.-Cranston)], 43, is the poster child of special-interest control of the General Assembly. It is their money -- especially the money of public-employee union groups allied to his father, who is head of the state AFL-CIO and State Association of Fire Firefighters -- that put young Frank in office at 25 and has kept him there for 18 years.

Soon after his election, he obtained his state job, as assistant director of facilities at Rhode Island College, which pays him about $53,600 a year. Combined with his state representative's salary, he makes $65,880 a year directly from the taxpayers. ...

Immense political power seems to be concentrated in Montanaro's family. His father, of course, is the unelected governor, running Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, controlling the state Labor Relations Board and often chairing the state Economic Development Corporation. Young Frank's wife, Joy, a dental hygienist, is chair of the Cranston Zoning Board of Review. His uncle, Richard Crudele, ran the city's Building and Maintenance Department until Mayor Laffey took over. His cousin, former state Rep. Coleen Crudele, is chairman of Cranston's Board of Contracts and Purchasing.

How many Rhode Island legislators have similar reason to be disinclined to invite competition into the state? Higher healthcare costs to the RI taxpayer are a meager price to pay, considering the rewards of complicity.

One-Party States

Carroll Andrew Morse

John Fund documented in yesterday's Opinionjournal, that more and more states are tending towards one-party rule at the state level.

This is an intersting trend. If you believe what people say about voting for "the best candidate" instead of party affiliation, you would expect, at the local level, less dominance by any single party, because at the local level, voters have more of a chance to actually get to know their candidates.

November 8, 2004

International Troops Enter Iraq

Justin Katz

It's entirely possible that my media-cynicism adjuster is tuned too high, but whether rightly or wrongly, the following caption for the photo currently on the Providence Journal's home page surprised me. In big, bold letters on the picture itself is the word "Captured," and beneath it:

In this image from television, troops oversee captives at a hospital on the western edge of Fallujah, the Sunni insurgent stronghold being stormed by international and Iraqi forces today.

I'm glad to see the international community joining us over there in Iraq! The linked headline that follows is "Thousands of U.S. Troops Storm Fallujah," but that might be the Associated Press's handiwork.

I'm also glad to see the Iraqis getting into gear. Here's Prime Minister Ayad Allawi sending his troops off to battle:

"The people of Fallujah have been taken hostage ... and you need to free them from their grip," he told Iraqi soldiers who swarmed around him during a visit to the main U.S. base outside Fallujah just before the attack began.

"May they go to hell!" the soldiers shouted, and Allawi replied: "To hell they will go."

Well, wherever the insurgents end up, may God watch over the troops fighting to wrench the city from them.

Mere minutes after I'd posted this entry, I noticed that the AP headline has been changed to "Troops Storm Fallujah in Major Assault." The tone is changing more quickly than I'd thought, even with my media-cynicism adjuster set to eleven!

Out with the Old, in with the New

Justin Katz

I'd been considering republishing a June entry from my own blog here, mostly so that it would be in the archives for future reference, and Marc's latest post makes the topic more relevant. It's my "coverage" (including video) of the RIGOP convention. Even if the reality of last week's election has thrust the GOP revolution back into political context, I'm still hopeful that some retooling within the state's Republican party gives indication that things can and will change.

The format of the post is an experiment that I hope to pursue more regularly in the future (assuming I manage to maintain the time without going into bankruptcy or having to sell my video camera). I'll admit that this initial "v-blog" isn't very good. It took a good 10 minutes of listening to the protesters outside for me to realize, "Hey, this is what I carry around this video camera for." Furthermore, not having any defined purpose for filming, I didn't brave the sidewalk in their midst and I didn't give much thought to positioning, camera steadiness, and the like. Since I'd previously been remiss in my following of RI politics, I also didn't react quickly enough to catch most of the significant moments. Although, I did catch the defining moment: Mayor Laffey declaring "out with the old, in with the new."

As I suggested in the context of Edward Achorn's belief that Rhode Islanders' displeasure will, at some point, break through their political apathy, the motion might already be forming within the state's GOP. Voters need someone else for whom to vote, after all, before they can overthrow inadequate leadership.

For that reason, it is only more fitting that remembrance of Ronald Reagan permeated the RIGOP convention on Thursday — from Chairwoman Patricia Morgan's misspoken request for "ayes" from all who wished to endorse President Reagan's bid for a second term to Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey's likening of his view of the RIGOP's prospects to Reagan's optimism about the fall of the Soviet Union. (Both of which seem laughably improbable as predictions.)

For some idea of just how mired this state is in its political system, consider that I had no idea that the speeches related to internal controversy were of any more significance than what might be found in a high school student senate until the highest high point of the evening. Even then, I didn't get a sense of the magnitude of the shift until I read Scott MacKay's explanation in the Providence Journal.

Video: Scott MacKay (3sec). Windows Media

According to MacKay:

In what some Republicans saw as his first foray into making a run for statewide office, Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey spearheaded a move at the Republican State Convention last night to depose Michael Traficante, the former Cranston mayor and longtime Republican stalwart, from a top party post.

Traficante was set to run for reelection as national committeeman, a position that carries an automatic seat to the Republican National Convention, when people close to Laffey at City Hall discovered that Traficante had disaffiliated from the Republican Party.

Mayor Laffey has raised eyebrows across the state by cracking down on precisely the sort of degeneration in his town that infects the entire state and much of the country — taking on everything from "political patronage" crossing guards and gas pump inspectors to ACLU attacks on Christmas displays. Not surprisingly, the mayor — the only key figure who, despite being the most bustling politician in the room, offered a lurking blogger so much as a quick "hello" — with his somewhat wild eyes and candid language, looks to be the focal point for the incipient revolution. From MacKay:

"Out with the old, in with the new," said Laffey in a campaign speech supporting Robert Manning, a 51-year-old retired banker from Charlestown, who was installed in Traficante's place.

Video: Stephen Laffey (28.6sec). Windows Media

A former head of Citigroup Japan, Manning reminded the crowd that the Rhode Island Republicans are the 15 in the 85/15 split — and for a reason. Now the beneficiary of an upstart movement, he enters the scene as a representative of change.

Another such representative is Dave Rogers, who is running a second time against Patrick Kennedy for my district's seat in the U.S. Congress. As I believe is appropriate for a national candidate, Rogers's persona is less incendiary, and in his speech, he made a point of his intention not to settle into a political position (approximately): "Patrick Kennedy says he's never worked a day in his life. This won't be my first job, and it won't be my last."

I've implied before that Rogers is running against images and stereotypes that Rhode Islanders' believe about themselves and about conservatives. So, it is fitting that he's more approachable and less forward than Laffey and is inclined to make self-effacing jokes about the arrogance of having had to nominate himself the first time he ran. (This is by no means the best part of his speech, but for the below-mentioned reasons, I didn't film the rest.)

Video: Dave Rogers (18.5sec). Windows Media

All considered, and admitting that I am a political naif, I couldn't help but see, in the burgeoning movement within the RIGOP, reason for more hope for my state than I've yet been able to muster. I also couldn't help but notice the irony of different groups' relative roles. While, inside the Cranston Knights of Columbus building, a quiet revolution was beginning, with the intention of returning a balanced political system and sensible government to Rhode Island, outside, the activists marching on the street, drawing honks from passing cars, were protesting for bigger government and expanded benefits for a limited few.

Video: Protesters (30.1sec). Windows Media

As MacKay touches on, the marchers were private child-care providers who are trying to be defined as public employees in order to gain some of the benefits that come with that status in this state. In Spanish and English they exploited children and chanted ill-fitting clichés; "No justice, no peace" translated into the circumstances meant "no free healthcare, no peace."

If the rumble within the political party that is euphemistically called the "minority" in the state of Rhode Island continues to grow, perhaps we'll end up with justice, peace, and prosperity to boot.

Quantifying the Anchor's Weight

Marc Comtois

Turning to local politics, it seems that one of the first things to be done is to concisely show the size of the task we conservatives/Republicans face. With the latest election in the rear view mirror, the following numbers should clarify our perspective (taken from this story):

Republican State Representatives - 12 out of 75
Republican State Senators - 6 out of 38

Granted, the governor is a Republican, and two out of the state's largest cities are run by Republican Mayors (Cranston's Steve Laffey and Warwick's Scott Avedesian), but the Republican "bench" is pretty thin. Dave Rogers has now failed two times in his attempt to unseat Patrick Kennedy and will have to turn to a different means to gain political legitimacy within Rhode Island. Another run would, at this point, render him bereft of all political capital.

WPRO's Dan Yorke has commented that, individually, teachers are great people, but that collectively, when gathered beneath the union umbrella, they can be unreasonable, greedy and quite shrill. I would add that we have the same problem with our legislative representatives and senators. In a small state like Rhode Island, where everybody really does know almost everybody else, these local politicians are well-known, and well-liked, neighbors and friends. They are, generally speaking, good people. The problem is that when they gather together on the Hill, they enter the partisan echo chamber and, inevitably, these good people do bad things in pursuit of patronage and personal advancement. This is a direct result of the lack of political competition in the state.

I suppose many have concluded that the Republican party in Rhode Island is simply too inept, at this point, to be of any practical political value. That may be so, but for those of us who still believe that the Republican party is the last, best vehicle through which real change can be realized in this state, it is up to us to contribute and participate in a Rhode Island Republican Renaissance. Right now it seems like a dream. It will take hard work to turn that dream into reality.

Goading the Opposition

Justin Katz

It has become a commonplace among right-leaning pundits that Democrats' greatest problem is their reluctance to objectively assess the causes of their defeat and, more importantly, to reconsider their positions accordingly. Of course, that the observation is commonplace doesn't make it untrue. Here's Matt Russo, from Exeter, in a letter to the Providence Journal:

The call now is for unification. My own candidate said we must unite. I disagree.

I will never be as foolish as to accept the leadership of this president. He does not represent me. Everyone in the media talks as if family values and a moral lifestyle are distinctly Republican. The Northeast is being mocked at as some sort of lost culture.

I protest that notion as adamantly as I possibly can. I come from a Catholic background and I can trace my roots directly back to the founder of my state, Roger Williams. My morals and values, in my opinion, run as deep as my ancestral heritage. ...

It is time for the Democrats to understand their failures. It is not time to bow down to the leadership of a wayward president. The time now is for Democrats to right their own course. The time is now to stand up, get off the mat, and begin to fight back.

Catholic blogger Mark Shea has found the perfect cartoon to illustrate how those on the other side of the aisle feel about this Democrat impulse.

Our Little Blue Corner of the Nation

Marc Comtois

Now for my first self-promotional plug. My most recent post at my personal blog, The Ocean State Blogger, deals with Blue New England's place in a Red Nation and in it I allude to the Republican party being the real "big tent" party in the nation. Additionally, I recently posted on some of the Rhode Island exit polling results that seem to indicate that many Rhode Islanders are more personally conservative than they vote. Read them both for why I made these two conclusions. I promise in the future to limit my cross-posting, but I believe these two posts are particularly relevant to the (as yet unknown) readership of this site.

Anchors Aweigh

Marc Comtois

First things first: I'm not a native. I've resided in the Ocean State for well-nigh ten years now and am still getting used to it all. You all know the litany of "things Rhode Island": Coffee milk, cabinets, hot weiners, Del's, etc. After nearly a decade, I now feel comfortable calling myself a Rhode Islander, though I also realize that I have a good 20 or 30 years to go before "real" Rhode Islanders acknowledge me as one of their own. Nonetheless, here I am. This is my home and I have an interest in making things better for both myself, my family and for my neighbors.

Now, it's not as if I came to the Ocean State from Mars. What I most definitely am is a lifelong New Englander: born in Vermont, interlude in Massachusetts, raised in Maine and parents who now reside in New Hampshire. As such, I am a Yankee through and through. I understand the work ethic, the wit and the sense of community as well as the wry cynicism, the provincialism and attitude that the rest of the world is screwed up while New England is indeed the "Shining City on the Hill." Well, maybe that was once true, but, as the recent election all too clearly has shown, New England is becoming isolated from the rest of the nation politically, socially and, unfortunately, economically.

While on the face of it Rhode Island is the most Democrat of the six New England states, I don't believe it is the most liberal, which is an interesting dichotomy. As such, I believe, along with Justin and Andrew, that progress can be made within the Ocean State towards providing the citizens with an alternative to the same "good old boy" network they have come to know and, almost perversely, enjoy. It seems like many in our state take pleasure in Rhode Island's reputation of political corruption and that they are, at the very least, resigned to more of the same. We at Anchor Rising don't think it has to be that way. We've manned the Anchor windlass and applied some tension to the chain and now we need some help to actually bring this thing up. Care to come aboard?

November 7, 2004

The Difficulties of Digital Freedom

Justin Katz

I did my best — testing the blog in multiple browsers on multiple computers in multiple screen sizes— to ensure that everything will appear as intended for anybody with a reasonably recent Internet browser. Still, the quirks of Web design manifest in unpredictable ways. Indeed, there are a couple of minor IE issues that I've decided that I just have to live with.

Because every computer in the world potentially skews a Web site in bizarre ways, I wanted to leave open a spot right at the beginning for any feedback that readers might have to offer. I especially want to know if things just plain aren't working, but general thoughts would fit here as well. Click the comments link below.

Welcome to Anchor Rising!

Justin Katz

About a year ago, I experienced, simultaneously, pleased surprise and sinking disappointment upon discovering that the various online lists of Web logs (blogs) revealed none identifiably from Rhode Island at a higher rank than my blog. It's nice to be in the running for even obscure titles, of course, but being aware of my relatively poor showing outside of the Ocean State niche led to a dampening conclusion:

There simply isn't much by way of alternative media in Rhode Island.

Around the same time, Carroll Andrew Morse, who had been working his way toward regular publication in the online commentary magazine, Tech Central Station, emailed me to confess that he, too, was a Rhode Island conservative. Thinking that such rare creatures ought to band together, he proposed that we start a group blog, and I immediately suggested including Marc Comtois of The Ocean State Blogger.

Circumstances sapped the project of momentum, back then, but something in the change of our nation's political atmosphere toward the end of this year's campaign season suggested that reinvigorating it was less an investment than a calling or obligation. Not only is our state in dire need of frank and equitable debate within its own borders, but we remain on course to find ourselves nationally on the wrong side of a sort of Cold Civil War.

It is with the goal of progress — of moving the state forward toward less-waning waters, of hoisting our many anchors — that we have at last put together this long overdue forum for ideas outside of the local consensus. Of course, because none of these United States can progress apart from the others, it will be crucial for us to participate in the national and global discussions of our day. Therefore, while the perspective of Anchor Rising is from Rhode Island, and its focus will be on matters affecting those who live here, its approach will not be provincial. Truth is truth, after all, and error, error.

While we three bloggers compose Anchor Rising initially, we can only accomplish so much on our own. Therefore, we invite readers to contact us — using the email addresses on the left-hand side — with any news, information, or commentary that they believe to be important. Most blog posts will have sections for comments and discussion, as well. Similarly, we will always be open to expanding our list of contributors; interested readers should contact me via email, with either writing samples or links to their own blogging efforts.

Lastly, it must be said that Anchor Rising will necessarily be written and maintained during nights, weekends, and moments stolen from work and play. Our schedules limit the amount that we can manage — often drastically. Sponsorship from those with the means and the interest to offer it — in any form — will go directly toward helping us to accomplish more.

Such considerations will keep, however. For the moment, all that remains to be done is simply to begin — with faith that inquiry, thought, and credulous discussion can shape the eras of human history. And if we challenge ourselves, and if we engage each other, we can work our way around to the right side of hope.