December 30, 2005

The Best Place to Start a Business that Serves Rhode Islanders is Probably Attleboro or Seekonk

Carroll Andrew Morse

I often think of Massachusetts (my home for 20 years) and Rhode Island as very similar places in terms of government and political and social culture. However, a study conducted by The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University noted by Jack Perry on the Projo’s 9-to-5 blog says otherwise.

According to the study, Rhode Island rates 41st in the nation in economic competitiveness while Massachusetts rates 1st. Rhode Island’s poor ranking comes from it position amongst the worst 5 states in the categories titled “government and fiscal policy”, “business incubation”, “openness”, and “environmental policy”.

Do we have a clue here as to why Rhode Island is facing a $60,000,000 shortfall while Massachusetts is running a surplus?

Why Liberalism is Confused

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ross Douthat, guestblogging over at, provides a fresh (at least to me) perspective on the fundamental problem with contemporary liberalism...

The original aim of the liberal philosophers was to remove the "high" questions, the important-but-unresolvable questions - what is virtue? is Jesus Christ the Son of God? where do we go when we die? etc. - from the political realm, where they had caused so much trouble, and into the private and personal sphere. Politics henceforth would focus on lower matters, and be more peacable because of it. The difficulty, of course, is that over time liberalism lost sight of the fact that the high questions are high, and the low questions low, and came to believe that because everyone could agree, say, that you should respect your neighbor's property and avoid killing your enemy whenever possible, these were the most important questions facing humanity, and nobody - not even essayists and intellectuals - should sweat the other, harder-to-answer stuff. In early liberalism, governments weren't supposed to take positions on Christ's divinity, because the question was too important to be adjudicated by the state; in late liberalism, writers for the Times Book Review aren't supposed to take positions on Christ's divinity, because the question isn't important enough to worry over.

December 29, 2005

Boldly Going Where Few Conservatives Have Gone Before…

Carroll Andrew Morse

…to the pages of the Providence Phoenix.

In response to Ian Donnis’ Phoenix article on Rhode Island’s young Democrats and young Republicans, Justin expressed some disappointment over how quickly young Republican leaders reject any association with a robust conservatism.

In a letter to the editor in this week’s Phoenix (scroll down to the 2nd letter on the page), I attempt to explain to Rhode Island’s Republicans why their “fiscally moderate, socially conservative” “fiscally conservative, socially moderate” message is not nearly as popular as they believe it to be.


The fabulously named AuH20Republican suggests, correctly, that my last sentence above paints all RI Republicans with too broad a brush. I should have said that I am attempting to explain to Rhode Island’s Republican party establishment why their “fiscally conservative, socially moderate” message is not nearly as popular as they believe it to be.


Or maybe AuH20Republican was pointing out an even stupider mistake on my part (see the strike-through above). I think I'm ready for the new year.

Is Jeffrey Hart Equating Conservatism with Realism? (And Why He's Wrong if He Is)

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here's a little more on why I think Jeffrey Hart's use of the term "Wilsonian" to describe George W. Bush's foreign policy obfuscates, rather than clarifies, the debate over the nature of a conservative foreign policy. Hart states that...

George W. Bush has firmly situated himself in [the Wilsonian] tradition, as in his 2003 pronouncement, "The human heart desires the same good things everywhere on earth." Welcome to Iraq. Whereas realism counsels great prudence in complex cultural situations, Wilsonianism rushes optimistically ahead.
If Jeffrey Hart is claiming that realism is the true conservative path, then it is he, and not George Bush, who is the conservative iconoclast. Hart is certainly aware of "realism" has a very specific meaning when applied to foreign policy. If realism is conservatism, then uber-realists Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger should be counted amongst the great conservative leaders.

Students of conservatism should feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here, but I know of very few conservatives who trace the lineage of conservatism through Nixon/Kissinger. Nixon, in fact, is generally considered a major example of the non-conservative Republicanism that troubles Hart so.

At this point you might rightfully ask if it matters how conservative foreign policy is labeled, as long as people understand the ideas being discussed. But that is precisely the point. Because Hart chose to criticize W's foreign policy for being "Wilsonian" instead of being "idealistic", I cannot tell if Hart believes that there is any role for ideals in foreign policy. The praise of "realism" implies that he believes that foreign policy should be ideals-free. The fact that Hart chose to criticize a specific version of an ideals-based foreign policy, instead of idealism in general, implies the opposite.


Here is the link to Marc's detailed summary of the many facets of the Hart debate.

December 28, 2005

Patrick Lynch and Open Meetings in Rhode Island

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch is unhappy with the Projo's coverage of his office's March 2005 advisory opinion concerning open forums and school committee meetings. In the opinion, the AG's office stated that school committee members should not respond to public comments made during school committee open forums because substantive responses, in some circumstances, could constitute official discussion without advance notice, violating Rhode Island's open meetings law.

Lynch accuses a December 11 Projo news story by Arthur Gregg Sulzberger and a December 14 unsigned Projo editorial of misrepresenting the content of the advisory opinion...

If ever there was a case of agenda-driven, "gotcha" journalism, this was it. Misinformation at best and disinformation at worst, the story and editorial were, either way, a great disservice both to the many civic-minded citizens who stay involved in our democratic system by attending open meetings and to the people these citizens elect: local officials. Contrary to both the article and the editorial, my office never advised or told anybody that local officials had to sit silently at public meetings.
The Attorney General has the beginnings of a legitimate complaint. Rhode Island law, according to Lynch, treats school committees differently from other public bodies. The advisory opinion suggesting that officials not respond to open forum questions applied only to school committee meetings, but the December 14 editorial assumed that it applied to all RI public bodies...
In obsessing over the fine print, lawyers often put themselves in a position of missing the bigger picture. That seems to be the case with Rhode Island Atty. Gen. Patrick Lynch, whose office recently offered the opinion that public officials can listen to citizens at open meetings, but cannot generally respond to their concerns.
However, Lynch's blame-the-media strategy goes too far. Sulzberger's article makes clear that the belief that the advisory opinion applied to all public bodies was spreading long before the Projo published its articles on the subject...
[Jamestown Town Councilman Bruce J. Long] says, "It's tough to sit there and listen to it without responding." But, he adds, he is just following the advice of the town's solicitor.
Unless Lynch is accusing the Jamestown Town Solicitor of getting legal advice from the Projo, blaming the media is not appropriate here. Nor is it appropriate for Lynch to blame the Projo for an opinion expressed by Narragansett's Town Solicitor...
In November, more than three months after Jamestown's council stopped talking during open forum, Narragansett's longtime town solicitor reluctantly urged the town to follow suit. "I would caution you that for all future open forums you should . . . not respond, make a request of staff, or express an opinion," Mark A. McSally wrote in a letter to the council.

In a subsequent interview, McSally said he has mixed feelings about the opinion, which he encountered while doing research on another open meetings complaint.

Lynch's beef appears to be more with RI's town solicitors than it is with the Projo. Or perhaps his office needs to write clearer advisory opinions.

Adding to the lack of clarity on this issue is the fact that Lynch is now trying to rewrite the meaning of the advisory opinion. Lynch claims (today) that open meetings restrictions apply only in narrowly defined circumstances, even in the case of school committee open forums...

The [Open Meetings Act] OMA states, and my advisory affirmed, that citizens wishing to discuss a previously unnoticed matter can, indeed, discuss it, as long as a quorum, or majority, of the public body does not weigh in. Let's use the Providence School Board as an example. A member of the public could have an exchange with up to four members of the full, nine-member board on an unnoticed item without violating the Open Meetings Act. The law would only "kick in" if a fifth board member joined the discussion.
This spirit of this assertion differs significantly from the spirit of the position expressed in the actual text of the advisory opinion...
Although we recognize that an isolated comment or question from a school committee member may not rise to the level of a collective discussion between a quorum of the members, and hence might not be subject to the OMA, see The Children First Coalition v. Providence School Board, OM 03-03, at the very least, such actions fall dangerously close. In all likelihood, what may begin as an isolated comment could easily be the spark that ignites an ensuing collective discussion by committee members that would violate the OMA if regarding an unnoticed topic.
The March 2005 advisory opinion clearly sought to discourage the actions that Lynch now claims it affirms.

December 27, 2005

The Non-Wilsonian Roots of Republican Foreign Policy

Carroll Andrew Morse

In today’s OpinionJournal, Jeffrey Hart attempts to sum up the state of contemporary conservatism...

The Conservative Mind is a work in progress. Its deviations and lunges to ideology and utopianism have been self-corrected by prudence, reserved judgment as an operative principle, a healthy practical skepticism and the requirement of historical knowledge as a guide to prudent policy. Without a deep knowledge of history, policy analysis is feckless.
Jonah Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review Online, two gentlemen very familiar with the history and principles of conservatism, have serious reservations about the views expressed by Mr. Hart towards life and cultural issues.

I have a reservation of my own. Mr. Hart believes that Republicans have turned away from conservatism to pursue what he calls a “hard Wilsonian” foreign policy. Hard Wilsonianism is the term often used (improperly, in my opinion) to describe the belief that the US should aggressively promote its ideals in its foreign policy, by force of arms if necessary.

This definition -- consistent with Mr. Hart’s essay -- too broadly construes the meaning and the dangers of Wilsonianism. Wilsonians want to do more than just promote (classically) liberal, democratic ideals in the conduct of foreign policy. They want to promote those ideals using specific means -- by endowing supra-national institutions with a legitimate right to coerce sovereign governments into behaving in a particular way.

This doesn’t really describe the foreign policy of George W. Bush.

No version of “Wilsonianism” would have allowed the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government of without UN, or some kind of formal, supra-national permission. You might argue that the foreign policy of George W. Bush is overly idealistic (I would disagree), but calling it "Wilsonian" stretches the definition of "Wilsonian" beyond any useful meaning.


Marc has compiled many reactions to Jeffrey's Hart's essay over at Spinning Clio.

The Upcoming Public Sector Financial Implosion

Ed Achorn of the ProJo discusses the looming transparency of public sector financial obligations to be required under the new accounting rules:

Taxpayers in Rhode Island -- and nationwide -- will soon be learning some very unpleasant facts of life about debts the politicians have been running up in their name for many years, in courting favor with public-employee unions. And some union leaders are understandably getting twitchy about the day when the spotlight gets switched on.

The federal Government Accounting Standards Board has ordered states and communities to start reporting, in less than two years, how much they owe government retirees for (often free or low-priced) health coverage.

The true costs -- which have been kept hidden from the public until now, since governments have conveniently failed to keep track of the mounting pricetag -- are staggering, experts say. Nationwide, the unfunded liability could be $1 trillion.

"This is a huge liability," Jan Lazar, an independent benefits consultant in Lansing, Mich., told The New York Times ("The next retirement time bomb," Dec. 11). "If anybody understands it, they'll freak out."...

Public disclosure of such costs will have repercussions, some of them alarming. Cities and towns may have such huge liabilities that their bond ratings will plummet, making it extraordinarily expensive or impossible to borrow money. Some may be forced into bankruptcy.

Local taxes -- in Rhode Island, already among the nation's highest -- may have to be raised sharply, and services slashed. Citizens are sure to be angry that even more of their money will have to go for even worse government because of deals cut long ago, and never fully explained. Union officials fear the public will pressure politicians to slash benefits...

Of course, those of us in the private sector, struggling to survive in a competitive world, are paying most of the bills for those in the public sector. While we focus on our jobs, paying taxes, and keeping our children clothed, sheltered, educated and healthy, special interests are at work day and night to influence the political system.

In many states, public-employee unions and their operatives have learned to contribute heavily to campaigns, get out the vote, elect friendly politicians, and handsomely pay experienced, full-time advocates to represent their interests at the state house and at city hall.

...Unfortunately, the common good and the public interest sometimes get short shrift, even in the best system, and even when agreements are made "in good faith."

It's human nature. Politicians often don't worry about cutting deals whose costs will be inflicted on later generations of taxpayers, such as offering free health care to government retirees. They won't be around to suffer the wrath of the voters who foot the steep and rising bills. And politicians can get away with selling out to special interests because the public is too busy and apathetic to notice -- or because voters are denied essential information that could help them better understand what is at stake...

Achorn's editorial expands on some of the points made in Andrew's previous posting, which highlighted a recent ProJo article:

As a result of a new public-sector accounting rule, Rhode Island -- along with every other state, city, and town, water, sewer and school district in the nation -- will soon have to disclose to its taxpayers and bondholders the total value of its retiree health-care promises....

While no other specific action is required, the [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees] told its members, the new Government Accounting Standards Board rule "will require employers to calculate and publish the cost of these benefits, which will show up as a liability on the employer's financial statements."

"If assets have not been set aside to offset the liability, an 'unfunded liability' will be displayed.

I predict that, when the full effect of this previously hidden information becomes public knowledge, it will make any number of corporate scandals of past years look like a walk in the park.

Outlandish and unfunded public sector pension obligations as well as extraordinary healthcare insurance benefits are all a result of outrageous demands by public sector unions rewarded in a competition-free environment by spineless politicians and bureaucrats.

Why does this happen? Because of the misguided structural incentives that drive public sector actions that nobody wants to confront directly. These issues have been discussed previously on Anchor Rising:

Public Sector Issues
Misguided Incentives Drive Public Sector Taxation
Bankrupt Public Pensions: A Time Bomb That Will Explode
Why Truly Free Markets & Timely, Transparent Information Are Needed to Protect the Freedom of American Citizens
RI Public Pension Problems
The Cocoon in which Entitled State Employees Live
The Union's Solution for the Future: Get More People in Unions
Bankrupt Public Pensions, Part II
How Public Pensions Make People Well-Off at Taxpayers' Expense
Public and Private Unions
Rhode Island Unions Again Resist True Pension Reform
"Shut Up & Teach"

Union Political Activity
Learning More About How Dues Paid To Big Labor Are Spent
Pension Fund Politics: How the AFL-CIO Violates Its Fiduciary Responsibilities
Now Here is a Good Idea
Paycheck Protection: Allowing You to Keep Your Own Hard-Earned Monies

The big picture of why all this happens is explained in this posting: A Call to Action: Responding to Government Being Neither Well-Meaning Nor Focused on the Public Interest.

A Direct Perspective on Samuel Alito

Carroll Andrew Morse

Most efforts at evaluating the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court have focused on parsing the Judge's record (too often looking solely towards the outcomes of cases while ignoring the legal reasoning used). Anchor Rising was provided with an opportunity to approach the question of what kind of Justice Samuel Alito would be from another direction; we had the opportunity to put a few questions to a person who has worked with Judge Alito. Below is a short interview with Susan Sullivan, a former law clerk for Judge Alito (1990-1991), now a solo legal practitioner in San Francisco, CA.

Anchor Rising: We are interested in asking you a few questions about Judge Alito because, as a member of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, you have a resume that's different from many of Judge Alito's supporters. Do you believe that, as a Supreme Court justice, Samuel Alito would gave a fair hearing to the cases and arguments brought by organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU?
Susan Sullivan: As a self described social progressive, (a registered Democrat, a pro-choice feminist who supports gay marriage, opposes the death penalty and supports gun control), I am not afraid to have Sam Alito as a Justice on the Supreme Court. Having worked closely with him, I never saw his personal or political views dictate an outcome in a case and I do not believe him to be intent on advancing a conservative political agenda. If he were a conservative zealot there would not be the decisions he has made with so called "liberal" outcomes. There are cases with "pro-choice" outcomes; there are cases favoring plaintiffs bringing discrimination suits, cases that ruled in favor of criminal defendants, or expanded a woman's rights to seek political asylum on the basis of gender. These are just not the results you would expect to see if he were a conservative ideologue.

AR: What would you say to your fellow liberals who oppose Judge Alito's nomination because they don't like the outcome of some of his decisions, regardless of the legal reasoning used?
SS: If George Bush had picked anyone other than Judge Alito, I would probably have the same response of suspicion, fear and distrust as many liberals have had to Judge Alito simply because he was selected by Bush. But because I worked closely with the Judge I do not believe he will reach results based on his own personal views. While, it does not sound very complimentary to say that we could do a lot worse, the reality is that with George Bush in charge, we really could do so much worse and end up with a real conservative ideologue and I find that to be really scary! That is in part why I have said that by opposing Judge Alito, we may be shooting ourselves in our own left foot. I cannot predict the future and there are no guarantees but I'm confident that Judge Alito will be fair and impartial, and that is more important me than having a political ideologue of any stripe on the Supreme Court.

Second, we ask juries and judges every day to not judge someone until after they have heard all the arguments and seen the evidence. Some groups have already declared their opposition to him. I think the better approach is to wait until after the hearings to reach a more informed judgment. So I would suggest we take a careful look over his entire fifteen year record. He heard over 2,000 cases and was involved in over 200 opinions.

AR: What kind of boss was Judge Alito?
SS: He is a really likable, modest guy who treats everyone with respect and courtesy. It was great to work with him. He's really smart and he's always open to argument. He's a quiet and a private person. When a judge down the hall from Judge Alito redecorated her office and placed two rather elaborate stone lion sculptures outside her door, Judge Alito (though he won't confess to it), placed two pink, plastic flamingoes outside his own door! A coffee shop down the road named a coffee after him "Bold Justice." Perhaps if he makes it onto the Supreme Court, they'll rename it "Bolder Justice."

Hope that's helpful. All I would ask is that people temper what they are hearing in the mainstream press. Keep in mind that if it is not ugly and sensational, frankly, the mainstream press does not seem interested in reporting it and there is so much at stake, we should give the Judge a fair hearing before reaching any judgment.

December 25, 2005

Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Carroll Andrew Morse

In 1897, a young girl named Virginia O'Hanlon asked the following question to the editors of the New York Sun...

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
Here is Sun editorial writer Francis Church's answer...
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measure by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest man that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank GOD! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas everyone!

December 24, 2005

Santa Slightly Ahead of Schedule

Carroll Andrew Morse

North American Aerospace Defense Command confirms that Santa has successfully lifted off from the North Pole and is slightly ahead of schedule.

Continuing updates from NORAD available here.

December 23, 2005

Steve Laffey, Health Savings Accounts, and Conservatism, Part 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

The attention given to the vote on ANWR earlier this week stepped on bit of news relating to Steve Laffey in another significant policy area…

Laffey Introduces First HSA Plan in New England for Municipal Employees.

Last night, Cranston’s City Council voted to ratify the tentative agreement negotiated between Mayor Laffey and Local 251, the Teamsters – comprised of 162 City employees. Most notable in the agreement is the introduction of Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) as an option for the municipal employees.

HSA’s have potential to be the reform that fixes the healthcare mess in this country.

Here’s how they work. An employer makes regular (tax-free) contributions to an HSA. The employee spends from the HSA’s for routine medical expenses, preventative check-ups, vaccinations, etc. The employee also purchases high-deductible catastrophic medical insurance (which is cheaper than comprehensive insurance) in case of a major medical emergency. The idea is to return insurance to being insurance -- many people pooling their money to help a few who need major assistance when an emergency strikes.

We’ll talk more about healthcare policy specifics in the coming year, but for now, I want to use this issue to emphasize Justin’s point from a few days ago – that the why of policymaking in many ways, is as important as the what and the how. The official announcement of HSA program from the Laffey campaign site is strong on the fiscal responsibility and the economic libertarian angles. These are both good arguments, but to fully understand the importance of HSA’s you need to go one step further

Steve Laffey, Health Savings Accounts, and Conservatism, Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

Healthcare reform is necessary in this country not just because of the current system’s fiscal insanity. It's necessary because our present healthcare delivery system disrupts a fundamental connection in society – the relationship between healer and patient. While our leaders and the public in general weren’t paying nearly enough attention, laws were put into place that allowed insurance companies and government bureaucracies to insert themselves far too agressively between doctors and patients.

The bureaucratization of healthcare has consequences that reach beyond budgetary effects. The bureaucratization of healthcare contributes to a general feeling of insecurity in American society. Will I be able to go to my doctor tomorrow, if some bureaucrat decides to change the rules? Even if a doctor wants to treat me, will the insurance company allow him to? If some intermediary makes an improper decision, is there any chance of reversing it?

When individuals start feeling that too much of their lives have come under the control of distant, unaccountable actors -- and there's nothing more important to controlling your life than maintaining your health -- they despair about their ability to help themselves. And to help them where they feel they can't help themselves, people start demanding that government seize more power to try to fix things. But as government accumulates more power, it becomes inevitably less accountable, eventually becoming just another meddling intermediary.

HSA’s, which allow people to begin to seek medical treatment without obtaining permission from some remote third party partially motivated by something other than a desire to heal, help eliminate this insecurity. In doing so, they break the cycle driving society towards a mechanistic regime of government-controlled medical decision making.

By endorsing HSA’s Steve Laffey has presented a policy consistent with a humanistic conservatism that is cognizant of the fact that what good government does comes from building upon -- not replacing -- the relationships between and the innovation of individuals. Laffey's energy policy is based on the same idea. My hope is that we will to continue to see this theme as the Mayor presents his policy proposals in other areas and that Mayor Laffey himself, eventually, will spend some time directly explaining its importance.

Sure, EB is laying off...but we've got more slots! III: The Governor Has His Say

Marc Comtois

In my first post in this series, I sarcastically contrasted two headlines that seemed to sum up the current state of RI economic development. In the second post, I noted that ProJo columnist Edward Achorn had also noticed the contrast and wrote on the topic. Achorn was especially critical of the state's reliance upon gambling revenue to foot thebill. Now Governor Carcieri has responded with a point by point rebuttal to Achorn. He explains why he's against a container port (not enough interest by private business), against an LNG facility in Providence (safety concerns), why he supported the expansion of slots at Lincoln Park (and went along with the legislature's 11th hour expansion at Newport Grand so the deal wouldn't get killed) so that the burden on RI taxpayers could be lightened, and that the Electric Boat layoffs had more to do with Department of Defense policy than Rhode Island's business climate. The Governor also noted that there was progress being made:

Almost three years ago, I set an ambitious goal of creating 20,000 net new jobs during my first term as governor. Today, Rhode Island is on track toward achieving that goal. Through November, we have created 14,600 net new jobs -- one of the best performances in New England. Further, last month Standard & Poor's upgraded Rhode Island's bond rating to AA, citing our economic progress, pension reforms, and overall financial management.

. . . Rhode Island already has a good base to its economy, and we have been working very hard to further strengthen and diversity it, with particular emphasis on biotechnology and other life sciences.

As governor, I have been pro-growth. I will continue to champion economic development and job growth in Rhode Island. I will continue to make the tough decisions to secure our state's future. And I will continue to protect Rhode Island citizens from unnecessary risks to their safety. Contrary to Mr. Achorn's misplaced criticisms, that is the correct strategy for moving our state forward, and it's working! We are removing impediments and Rhode Island is beginning to flourish.

The Governor has a right to be proud of the economic development he's fostered, especially given he's a lone-wolf Republican running with a pack of Democrats. Though I may disagree with him on individual issues (gambling and the container port), overall his policies have been a benefit to the state. Most importantly, he is a valuable check to one party power and has sought to be the representative of the people of Rhode Island: not the lawyers or lobbyists, not the unions, not the insurance companies. For the coming year, let's all focus on trying to give him a little help in 2006.

December 22, 2005

New York Transit Strike: Example of New "Class Warfare"

Marc Comtois

The New York Transit Worker Union strike has been going on for three days--and though a deal may be looming--both the lessons offered and the people most affected are those I'm quite sure the strikers hadn't intended. New York Post columnist Ryan Sager [subscription] writes of the key lesson we can all take from this episode:

As transit workers walked off the job Tuesday and stayed off the job Wednesday, the rhetoric has heated up on all sides.

Nowhere did the rhetoric get hotter than on a Web site that the TWU set up for the strike. There, as the sun came up on Tuesday, hundreds of anonymous New Yorkers logged on and sounded off about the TWU's decision to shut down the subways and buses.

The surprise (at least to the TWU): Opinions on the site ran roughly 4-to-1 against the union — which pulled the comments off the Web by Tuesday afternoon.

But the real surprise was who was against the union. . .

"I appreciate many of your concerns regarding the contract negotiations, but striking, though [it] may prove a point, hurts more people than it helps," wrote one New Yorker. "My annual salary is less than half than the lowest paid transit worker in the system, and now I am going to lose at least one if not more days of pay due to the strike . . . Thanks for that — and happy holidays."

. . . Not the reaction the TWU was hoping for.

And also not the war of rich against poor that the unions would like New Yorkers to believe is underway.

One socialist Web site on Tuesday labeled the strike "the biggest class confrontation in the U.S. in a generation" and wrote that "The attitude taken by the city's ruling elite is akin to the reaction of a master to a slave revolt."

Not quite.

As the comments excerpted above show, there is a class confrontation of a kind going on — but it's not between rich and poor. It's between the working class and what might be called the government-worker class. {emphasis mine}

Sager offers a couple more comments and delves into the gaps between private and public benefits, the last of which regular readers of Anchor Rising should be familiar. Sager sums it up this way:
The private sector has been groaning under rising health and pension costs for years. Retired coal miners have lost company-paid health insurance in bankruptcy proceedings. Companies like General Motors have had to lay off tens of thousands of workers because of crushing pension costs.

Yet the benefits for public-sector workers keep getting fatter and fatter.

The reason is fairly simple. While only 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized these days, some 40 percent of public-sector workers are unionized. And while the rigors of the free market forced private companies to become more efficient, the government faces no such constraints.

Instead, pliant politicians simply give the unions whatever they want, driving up health and pension costs — and sticking taxpayers (the ones trudging over the Brooklyn Bridge this week) with the bill.

Sound familiar? Of course, here in Rhode Island--a STATE with only 1 million people (versus the 8 million in the CITY of New York) where "everybody knows somebody" employed by some level of government--I suspect the sympathy for such a strike would be higher.

More thoughts on the ANWR Vote

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Defense Department appropriations bill has passed, with the ANWR drilling provision removed. If I read this right, the move to remove the ANWR provision passed the Senate 48-45, with 7 Senators not voting. Senator Lincoln Chafee was one of the 7 not voting.

Since Senator Chafee is also listed as “Not Voting” for the final Defense appropriation bill which passed by a vote of 93-0 a little later in the evening, I am guessing that this was a case of Senator Chafee not being physically present for the vote, not some sort of protest or procedural move. Still, I wonder if, just to be sure, Senator Chafee calls up the Democratic whip and asks “do you need me on this one?” before leaving for the evening.

The ANWR vote also begs a question for all those who argue that it is impossible for Congress to cut pork spending. ANWR drilling was put into the Defense Appropriation by Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska. I seem to recall reading arguments that individual Senators could not hope to defy the will of a powerful Senator like Ted Stevens on a pure-pork project like the Bridge to Nowhere and still be effective in the Senate. Yet on this issue, many Senators – including Lincoln Chafee – did make a stand against Senator Stevens. So if a bipartisan group of Senators can make a stand on this issue, why can’t a bipartisan group of fiscally responsible Senators also make a stand on runaway pork spending?

December 21, 2005

Laffey, ANWR, and the Link between Foreign Policy and Energy Policy

Marc Comtois

While none of us should be surprised about Senator Chafee's vote opposing ANWR drilling, some may be surprised to learn that Mayor Stephen Laffey-who ties energy policy and national security together in an op-ed in today's Providence Journal--also opposes ANWR drilling. Robert Bluey, editor of the conservative website Human Events Online, calls upon the National Republican Senatorial Committee to pull its support for Senator Chafee in light of his anti-ANWR stance (and got the predictable response that the NSRC thinks only Chafee can win in RI). But Bluey also reports:

Unfortunately for conservatives, Laffey also opposes drilling in ANWR. Laffey’s campaign manager, John Dodenhoff, said whereas Chafee caves to environmental activists, his candidate opposes drilling for national security reasons. Whatever the case may be, it means Chafee isn’t facing any home-state critics on ANWR, and therefore, probably sees no reason to support drilling. {Emphais added.}
In the earlier-referenced op-ed, Mayor Laffey stated that his... energy plan must be sold to the American public for what it is: a vital national-security program to help win the war for the free world. And the plan is not optional; it is imperative. Saudi Arabia, with a $26 billion surplus, will use some of that money against America. Iran is building a nuclear-power plant and talking about exterminating Israel -- our closest ally in the Mideast. The higher oil prices get, the more Russia moves away from democracy. And in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez's dictatorship grows more ominous with each up-tick in the price of oil. We must destroy the economic base of our enemies -- cash from oil -- if we are to win this war.

In a recent survey, 59 percent of the respondents gave "developing new energy technology and sources" as their top choice for reducing America's energy problem. The American public clearly gets it. So why does Washington sit on its hands while continuing to coddle big oil? This is a textbook example of government's being captive to special interests, rather than supportive of the best interests and stated desires of the American people.

The fact is that the Beltway and big oil have been in bed together for decades. It is now time to seriously re-evaluate the merits of this wasteful liaison, and move on to far healthier relationships. Our economy, our environment, and, most important, our national security hang in the balance.

Given Mayor Laffey's stance against "Big Oil," I suppose his opposition to ANWR drilling is understandable as he must believe that such an expansion of drilling would only encourage the "Big Oil" interests he finds so distasteful. However, by reading the Mayor's op-ed and his campaign's statement regarding ANWR together, I see an inconsistency in his policy of energy independence for the sake of national security. Apparently, his animosity towards "Big Oil" is clouding his judgement. While the Mayor's long-term vision to reduce oil dependence through R&D of alternative energy sources is admirable, it is not a mutually exclusive proposition to also promote domestic oil drilling. After all, both will alleviate foreign oil dependency.

Senators Chafee and Reed Filibuster Defense Appropriations

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review Online is reporting that Senator Lincoln Chafee has joined with the Democrats (including Senator Jack Reed) to filibuster this year's Defense Department appropriation until a provision allowing oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is removed.

By the way, to read a more sensible approach to energy policy, click here.


The Associated Press confirms ANWR oil-drilling as the reason for the filibuster. (h/t Kathryn Jean Lopez).

The New Fiscal Responsibility: Spend Now, Who Cares About Later

Carroll Andrew Morse

Katherine Gregg had an aritcle on Sunday's Projo concerning an accounting rules change affecting state and municipal government. PLEASE STAY WITH ME FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER PARAGRAPH OR TWO, DESPITE THAT INCREDIBLY DULL FIRST SENTENCE. The rules change should not really be controversial; it simply requires public entities to disclose how much they owe their retirees in health-care benefits...

As a result of a new public-sector accounting rule, Rhode Island -- along with every other state, city, and town, water, sewer and school district in the nation -- will soon have to disclose to its taxpayers and bondholders the total value of its retiree health-care promises....

While no other specific action is required, the [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees] told its members, the new Government Accounting Standards Board rule "will require employers to calculate and publish the cost of these benefits, which will show up as a liability on the employer's financial statements."

"If assets have not been set aside to offset the liability, an 'unfunded liability' will be displayed.

The money has to come from somewhere, so knowing how much you will need seems like a good idea, right?

Not everyone agrees. Here's the Rhode Island Policy Reporter on the subject (h/t

The important difference between a private business and a government is that a private business can go bankrupt and disappear. In that case, it's important that there be financial backing to the commitments it has made to its customers and employees. This is why it's inappropriate for a private business to pay for pension costs out of current revenues, and why a corporation's "unfunded liability" -- the difference between what they owe and the cash they have on hand -- is such a big deal.

The same is not true of a government. Social Security, for example, has happily paid benefits out of current revenues for decades, and there's no reason it can't continue into the foreseeable future. But this accounting rule change will make this kind of perfectly responsible fiscal management appear to be mismanagement, and will cause thousands of governments across the country to raise taxes or cut services in order to pack away huge sums of money so they can appear more "fiscally responsible" than they really need to be.

In a rather Orwellian twist, RI Policy Reporter defines "fiscally responsible" as making big commitments today without having any real idea if you will be able to pay for them tommorrow.

The progressive position appears to be that government doesn't need to be honest with citizens -- in fact, government shouldn't be honest with its citizens, because they might demand (traditionally defined) fiscal responsibility. Government can't "go out of business" for spending more than it can afford, so saddling future taxpayers with huge liabilities doesn't matter.

Am I my missing any part of the progressive argument?

December 20, 2005

Yet Another Madeline Walker Coincidence

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to Providence Probate Court Judge John Martinelli, cases similar to the case of Madeline Walker, the 81 year old Providence woman evicted from her home for failing to pay a sewer bill, are more common than they should be...

At a Providence Probate Court hearing yesterday, Judge John Martinelli looked out into the packed courtroom of lawyers, reporters, and community activist groups and noted that while the crowd was unusual, such a case was not.

"I'm happy everyone's on board now, but I must tell you, there are numerous cases like this," Martinelli said. "I'm disappointed this case has gone this far without any activity by this court."

The report comes from Amanda Milkovits in the Projo, who also provides a quick summary of the inintial tax-lien sale of Ms. Walker's home...
The lien was sold for [$836.39] in November 2003 to Cobble Hill Development LLP, whose managing member is John E. Shekarchi.

Private companies or individuals can buy the tax liens on properties. They pay the lien and seek to recoup their expenses, plus interest, from the homeowner. If the homeowner doesn't repay the buyer within a year and a day, the buyer can charge legal fees as well and file a court petition for ownership of the property.

At the start of last year, several Rhode Island legislators proposed adding at least one additional step to this procedure. In mid-February (Senate)/early March (House), a bill was introduced that would have, among other things, made notification of the Departement of Elderly Affairs a binding requirement in certain tax-lien sales involving senior citizens. However, sometime between the bill's introduction and its passage through committee, (late June in the Senate, early July in the House), the binding notification requirement was removed.

Something else happened in that time period, perhaps just a coincidence. On March 31, 2005 -- during the interval of time when the strong protections in the tax-lien bill morphed into weaker ones -- the aforementioned John E. Shekarchi gave a $200 campaign contribution to Rhode Island Senate President Joseph Montalbano. In other words, an active tax-lien speculator gave a campaign contribution to the Rhode Island Senate President at the same time the Rhode Island Senate was considering imposing tougher rules on tax-lien speculators. Do you think that Senate President Montalbano will be touting Mr. Shekarchi's support in his upcoming election?

Other recipients of Mr. Shekarchi's campaign cash include Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, the State Democratic Leadership Committee, and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian.

Setting Some Things Straight

Justin Katz

Although this isn't something that I expected ever to write, the coming year's Republican primary in Rhode Island is already a subject for blazing passions. That, in itself, strikes me as a healthy turn of events. Still, I remind commenters that Anchor Rising will insist that their conversations be civil. I should also clarify my current thinking so as to avoid being lashed (laughably) to "liberal lightweights" and accused (insultingly) of choosing my ground based on an event-lurker's bruised ego.

I do not support Lincoln Chafee's reelection. Long-time readers of Anchor Rising and, especially, Dust in the Light will not be shocked to hear me opine that Chafee, simply by virtue of his being a United States Senator, does damage to our nation. His being so prominent among local Republicans does further damage to both the party and the conservative movement in Rhode Island. Indeed, playing some role, large or small, in his removal from office would bring me not a little satisfaction.

Furthermore, I've long held, and continue to believe, that Steve Laffey brings to the table many qualities that Rhode Island needs. Allow me to restate with emphasis: that Rhode Island needs. Most significantly, that means a courage for disruption. It also means the good sense to understand the general dynamics that brought about our current circumstances and the clarity to cut through to their cores.

As Cranston's mayor, Laffey has operated with a mandated and clear objective to clean up the municipal government and return the city to functional status. But the U.S. Senate requires a broader political and social philosophy than I've heard Laffey articulate — much less prove. Where will he stand on abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, or the next matter that the world thinks to heave upon its moral burden? I don't know. More importantly, I don't know what foundation would be informing his decisions. I've heard that he's pro-life; why? On what grounds? If he will be driven on social matters by the pragmatism that drives his civic policies, then he, too, may prove damaging to our nation.

None of these questions, on their own or in aggregate, would lead me to question Laffey's suitability as a means for unseating Chafee. However, little signs of character and personality, gathered from the news and (admittedly limited) personal experience, tilt my ambivalence toward concern. Not least among those signs is the fact that Laffey was unable to find — or wait for — a second step for his political career within the state's borders. That inability is at least suggestive of an impatience, perhaps an arrogance, that is fundamentally at odds with the approach to government that I believe to be essential toward arresting our society's spiral into either chaos or mechanical depravity.

That Laffey is what Rhode Island Republicans have come up with as an alternative to our unacceptable incumbent suggests to me that we are still in need of shaking up and creative turmoil. Perhaps a loss of one of their most treasured possessions — a seat in the national legislature — will force the local party operatives to reassess the necessities of success. In that process, it is not inconceivable that Steve Laffey will develop and articulate a more encompassing vision and emerge as a candidate whom I could enthusiastically endorse.

In the meantime, perhaps I'll write in "George Herbert Walker Bush."

December 19, 2005

Who Was Arguing for Importing Drugs from Canada?

From the December 19, 2005 issue of BioCentury, a biotechnology industry publication available only by subscription, comes a story entitled "FDA seizes imported drugs."

FDA said that in 1,700 parcels intercepted at three U.S. airports over a few days in August, only 15% of drugs that were promoted as "Canadian" actually originated in Canada. The agency said many of the drugs were not adequately labeled in English to assure safe and effective use, and that 32 of the pharmaceuticals sampled were determined to be counterfeit. The agency did not say how many drugs were sampled. FDA said the findings suggest that drugs ordered from Internet sites that consumers believe to be Canadian are not drugs of known safety and efficacy.

The Kids' Exclusive Big Tent

Justin Katz

Ian Donnis offers must reading, about politically active young adults in Rhode Island, for anybody interested in local politics. Donnis obviously writes from the liberal's perspective (albeit that of an admirably fair liberal), but I'll offer one observation nonetheless, related to the fact that he twice emphasizes Young Republican chairwoman Mia Caetano's distinct stand from more conservative Republicans. First:

On the GOP side, the charge to build youthful involvement is being led by Mia Caetano, the genial and articulate 34-year-old chairwoman of the Young Republicans, who describes herself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate. ... In touting the group, Caetano, who works as an account executive for Esquire Deposition Services, says, "We're the new face of the party and we're the future of the party."

And on the next online page:

... as the cheerful face of youthful Republicanism — and perhaps mindful of the Rhode Island GOP’s longstanding difficulty in surpassing token status — she tries to build a big tent, touting the Log Cabin Republicans and even raising the prospect of get-togethers with the Rhode Island Young Democrats.

A variety of plausible causes exist for the lack of corresponding specificity in the Democrat sections of the article — from the history of perceptions to the possibility that Republicans are, in fact, less monolithic in their beliefs. Still, it's curious that the closest statement of the same sort characterizing the Democrat side is the following, from Young Democrat president Paul Tencher:

Citing the rightward movement of the national Republican Party and the marginalization of more moderate voices, Tencher asserts, "The same thing has happened to young Republicans. They're more right, more fervent in their beliefs. ..."

The "same thing" phrase is misleading, in the published piece, because there's no foregoing suggestion that, for example, the Young Democrats are well to the Left of their elders. Given the starkly different assertions about the GOP's young, however, Donnis would have done well to investigate, because it appears that Caetano and Tencher agree about one thing; in Tencher's words, "[moving right is] not going to help them attract new members, because Rhode Islanders won't take that kind of stuff."

We'll see. Personally, I wonder whether that view mightn't be a false extrapolation of the beliefs held by the social class from which these young activists — of either party — tend to come. As far as I'm concerned, the direction in which Rhode Islanders will go, once they realize that they can decide for themselves what they will and won't take, is still up in the air.

In the meantime, my fellow social conservatives will continue to find themselves wondering whether we have to crash that big tent party that we keep hearing about.

A Madeline Walker Irony -- or Coincidence -- or Something Worse

Carroll Andrew Morse

Madeline Walker is the elderly Providence resident who lost her home for failing to pay a $500 sewer bill. A law proposed in the legislature earlier this year would have given Ms. Walker and others in similar situations a better chance to learn that their houses were being sold out from under them. House bill H6020 and its companion, Senate bill S478, would have required mandatory notification of the Department of Elderly Affairs during tax-lien sales involving residents with elderly abatements and explicitly invalidated tax-lien sales if Elderly Affairs was not notified.

Here's the irony, or coincidence, or maybe something worse. In the Senate, the first Representative listed as a sponsor on the mandatory notification bill was State Senator Harold Metts. Senator Metts represents District 6 -- the Senate district where Madeline Walker lived (122 Chester Ave, Providence).

In the House, the first sponsor listed on the mandatory notification bill was State Representative Joseph Almeida. Representative Almeida represents House District 12 which is, yes, that's right, the House district where Madeline Walker lived.

This is quite a coincidence. Apparently, Senator Metts and Representative Almeida had reason to believe that their elderly constituents needed some extra protection from tax-lien sales. And, it turns out, they were right.

So, what was it exactly that motivated Senator Metts and Representative Almeida to press for changes in tax-lien sale procedure at the start of last year? And who in the legislature convinced them to water down their changes, making taking advantage of an elderly citizen like Madeline Walker much easier than it should be?

December 16, 2005

It’s not Unpatriotic to be Incoherent

Carroll Andrew Morse

Just a reminder: conservative criticism of Democratic foreign policy is not based on a belief that Democrats are “unpatriotic”. It's based on the belief that Democrats are “incoherent”. Here’s Exhibit A of Democratic incoherence, courtesy of the Washington Post (h/t OpinionJournal)…

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq…

Pelosi said Democrats will produce an issue agenda for the 2006 elections but it will not include a position on Iraq….

"There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position," Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors….

Her comments ruling out a caucus position appeared to put Pelosi at odds with some other party officials. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean recently said Democrats were beginning to coalesce around a strategy that would pull out all troops over the next two years. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on the day Murtha offered his plan, "As for Iraq policy, at the right time, we'll have a position."

"Laffey Campaign says Senator Chafee is running in the wrong primary"

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Steve Laffey for Senate campaign has released some new polling numbers...

On December 12, 2005, Survey USA released the results of a poll of 600 Rhode Island adults taken between December 9, and December 12, 2005. The poll asked the following question:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the job Lincoln Chafee is doing as United States Senator?”

Of the respondents that identified themselves as “Republican”, Senator Chafee received an Approval Rating of 38% and a Disapproval Rating of 54%, with 8% responding Not Sure.

Conversely, among Rhode Island Democrats, Senator Chafee has a 65% Approval Rating and only a 27% Disapproval Rating, with 7% responding Not Sure.

However, without independent voter totals, a major component of the if-the-election-were-held-today assessment is missing.

An Issue for Voter Initiative: Merit Selection of Magistrates

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising is soliciting examples of reforms that explain how a voter initiative alternative for passing laws could be used to improve the state of Rhode Island. The example that follows was suggested by Operation Clean Government.

The law discussed below was proposed in last year’s legislative session, but killed in committee, without a vote. Consider if this is law that you believe Rhode Island should have. Then ask yourself if it is reasonable to believe that the legislature will vote on it this year, or if it is more likely that they will quietly kill it again -- if they think they can get away with it.

You may have heard in Rhode Island that we have both “judges” and “magistrates”. What is the difference, you ask? Rod Driver, from Operation Clean Government explains…

In 1994, after a series of scandals in the judiciary, Rhode Island voters amended the state constitution to establish merit selection of judges. However, since then relatives of politicians have been appointed to positions with the powers and responsibilities of judges. But instead of calling them judges, they are called "magistrates" and hence not covered by the merit-selection requirement.
In last year’s legislative session, the Rhode Island Senate passed bill S1051, which would have closed the judges-versus-magistrates loophole and instituted merit-based procedures for selecting magistrates, similar to the procedures used for selecting judges. The reform bill died, however, in the House Judiciary committee, without being voted on.

The argument against voter initiative is that elected legislators, out of a sense of noblesse oblige, protect citizens from special interests – special interests that will be left unchecked if voter initiative is passed. So here is the question to voter initiative opponents: What special interests was the House fending off when it rejected merit selection of magistrates?

And here’s a question specifically to incoming House Judiciary Chairman Donald Lally (a voter initiative opponent): Will you bring merit-selection-of-magistrates up for a vote if it is re-introduced in the House Judiciary Committee this year?

Finally, here’s a trick question. What are the positions of the other members of the House Judiciary Committee on merit selection of magistrates? If a majority are in favor, then it’s obvious that RI needs voter initiative because legislative procedures concentrate too much power in the hands of a small group of leaders able to thwart not just action on, but basic deliberation of issues. But if a majority oppose the merit selection of magistrates, it is equally as obvious that RI needs voter initiative to bypass a government establishment more interested in rewarding friends than in facilitating good government.

Toward a Non-Pixelated Movement

Justin Katz

Believe me that I tried, as the comments on the Laffey Photoshop controversy trickled in yesterday, to convince myself that I was making a flaw out of a quirk. Believe me, too, that I'm not altogether happy about the contrast between these posts and the more substantive ones that others are publishing around them. Nonetheless, I can't shake the feeling that there's something just, well, off about doctoring those photos. Perhaps not doctoring them so much as keeping them available on a campaign Web site after having done so.

I'm far from tepid in my desire to unseat the faction of Rhode Island Republicans who hold on to what power they have in part through convenient definition of what a Senator — specifically, a Senator for Rhode Island — "needs to be." But there are certain qualities that a prominent representative must project in order to be effective. Maturity and a modicum of magnanimity are among them; such representatives must have the ability to coat their barbs with an intelligence and cleverness that ups the rhetorical ante, rather than lowering the political dialogue.

The two times that I've heard him speak, Mayor Laffey evinced a fondness for comparing himself to Ronald Reagan. It's a comparison that many of his supporters long to be accurate, and I worry that, in our desire for a conservative stalwart to succeed by making the case for policies that we believe to be just, effective, and even compassionate, we may be marrying our cause to the first candidate to successfully identify that political opportunity. In local races, the flirtation was enough. When it comes to the U.S. Senate, we should husband our growing political capital until the real thing comes along.

Rhode Island conservatives aren't there yet. I happen to believe that allowing Linc Chafee to lose his seat will bring us closer to our goal, but I'm not so sure that attempting to give it to Steve Laffey isn't setting us back.

After Mayor Laffey had given his speech at a gathering of Portsmouth Republicans back in February, event organizer Deborah Mitchell Young introduced him to the two bloggers whom she'd invited: me and Rocco DiPippo. After a minute or two of observing Rocco being his magnificently exuberant self, Laffey grabbed Deborah's arm and pulled her a few steps away as if to discuss some minor scheduling detail that would be of no interest to the rest of us. A moment later, the transitionary move having been made, he simply slipped away.

He was enough of a politician to know to step away from those who offer only gusto in a room full of the influential. But he was not enough of a politician — and not genuinely interested enough in his potential base of supporters — to find a way to leave behind a sense of having been acknowledged, rather than left hanging.

As a movement, Rhode Island conservatives aren't yet sufficiently corporeal that we can afford to be pixelated.

December 15, 2005

How the Rhode Island Legislature Failed Madeline Walker

Carroll Andrew Morse

Madeline Walker is the Providence woman evicted from her home for failing to pay a sewer bill totaling about $500. According to a report from WJAR, lawyers for the evictors are saying that proper procedures have been followed...

The law firm that handled the eviction told NBC 10 everything was done by the book and that after the eviction notice was sent in September, there was no response whatsoever from Walker or her family.
The "book", however, has a non-binding provision I have yet to see mentioned; according to section 44.9.10(d) of Rhode Island law, under appropriate circumstances, “the collector” is supposed to notify the state Department of Elderly Affairs in the event of a tax lien sale…
In the event the person to whom the estate is taxed is listed in the records of the assessor and/or collector as having applied for and been granted a property tax abatement based wholly or partially on the age of the taxpayer, then the collector shall also notify the department of elderly affairs by registered or certified mail postage prepaid not less than twenty (20) days before the date of the sale. Failure to notify the department of elderly affairs shall not affect the validity of a tax sale.
According to a WJAR report from yesterday, Ms. Walker did have an elderly abatement on her taxes…
The city of Providence told NBC 10 that Walker was given an elderly exemption on her property taxes for at least five years. The Narragansett Bay Commission said it had no record of that, and said its title search turned up no indication of Walker's age when it sold her lien.
…so notification appears to have been appropriate. Was the Department of Elderly Affairs notified by the tax collector?

Here's what may be the worst part. Legislation introduced into the Rhode Island legislature last session would have changed courtesy notification of Elderly Affairs into a binding requirement. Original versions House bill H6020 and Senate bill S478 would have changed section 44.9.10(d) to read…

In the event the person to whom the estate is taxed is listed in the records of the assessor and/or collector as having applied for and been granted a property tax abatement based wholly or partially on the age of the taxpayer, then the collector shall also notify the department of elderly affairs by registered and certified mail as described herein. Failure to notify the department of elderly affairs shall nullify any tax sale.
From the information available online, sometime between introduction and approval at the committee level, this legislation was amended to remove the mandatory notification provision. In the final version of the tax-lien bill passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, section 44.9.10(d) was left untouched.

The House Committee involved was Finance. The Senate committee involved was Judiciary. Shall we put it upon the Committee Chairmen -- Steven Costantino in the House and Michael McCaffrey in the Senate -- to explain why they thought removing the mandatory notification provision was a good idea? Or would another legislator like to come forward and take the blame?

Iraqi Elections Successful (Again)

Carroll Andrew Morse

Short version of the Iraqi elections...

High turnout, including in the Sunni areas.

Lots of people celebrating, literally, their right to vote.

Pajamas Media has a roundup including on-the-ground reporting from bloggers who are there.

ProJo Editors: Beware of Dictators Bearing Oil

Marc Comtois

While the ProJo Editorial board thinks Senators Reed and Chafee are on "safe," though borderline, foreign policy ground in trying to obtain discounted heating oil from the state-operated oil company of Venezuala, Citgo, they do offer some familiar sounding warnings:

A close ally of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Mr. Chavez famously declared that the U.S. brought the attacks of 9/11 on itself, and that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken out against Venezuela because she lusts after Mr. Chavez -- but that he is not interested in her sexually! He also accused President Bush of trying to assassinate him. South American politicians often find it useful to scapegoat the United States, deflecting attention from their own failings, and from sometimes painful remedies for problems at home.

It appears that Mr. Chavez is hoping, through deals with U.S. politicians, to embarrass the richest country and position himself as the hemisphere's champion of the poor. He is making some progress in achieving these aims.

The Venezueland president is counting on the world to ignore that while he is giving away something to Americans with one hand, he is taking away much more with the other. While apparently showing concern for America's poor, Mr. Chavez is working, through the OPEC cartel, to drive up oil prices. His dream of $100-a-barrel oil could obviously hurt the poor much more than limited reduced-price programs would help them.

When it comes to demagogic politicians who befriend dictators, some skepticism is usually in order.

A Crack in the Machine?

Justin Katz

Yeah, I know, it's silly and not a little suspicious that such a thing would become a news story at all. Still...

Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey has apparently been making some revisionist history -- digitally removing a one-time political ally turned foe from all images on his Web site.

The photos remain, but the space where former City Councilman Randall A. Jackvony once stood has been replaced by rainbow-colored pixels.

Call it the case of the missing politician.

Laffey, who is running for U.S. Senate, denies responsibility for Jackvony's disappearance, suggesting that "hackers and perhaps even space invaders or extraterrestrials" altered the photos.

"What can you say? It's so ludicrous it's funny," Jackvony said. "A mature adult would just remove pictures from their Web site.

"It gives you the sort of mindset of his whole campaign -- which is, there's one way to do things and people that may disagree with him are not treated in a respectful manner," Jackvony added. "I would question if the people of Rhode Island want that type of person representing them in the United States Senate." ...

A third photo of Jackvony, his wife, his sister and her three children at a campaign event, is completely blurred out. The caption reads: "Many families were out in force for the big day." ...

"Please Note: Like many things in life image files can become corrupt over time," the disclaimer reads. "Several files from our original archive that depicted people and events from the 2002 Mayoral campaign may have become corrupt or damaged. Hackers and perhaps even space invaders or extraterrestrials may also have gotten past our rigid security firewall and tampered with some files."

Perhaps one could make the case that politics, particularly Rhode Island politics, need some "regular guy" lightening up. When it comes to the interpersonal and marketing sides of campaigning, a quasiparody could be an effective and, moreover, meaningful strategy.

But there's just something creepy — menacing — in the image of a campaign aid's taking the time to blur out the wife and children of an erstwhile political ally. Even abducting aliens don't go back for the families.

December 14, 2005

Beware Dictators Bearing Oil IV

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Jack Reed and Senator Lincoln Chafee have helped broker a deal to bring heating oil assistance supplied by Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez. Senator Reed has no problem doing business with Chavez because he believes the deal is not political. According to John E. Mulligan in the Projo

Sen. Jack Reed has minimized the controversy, saying that the first associaton many people have with Citgo is the company's sign near Fenway Park in Boston.
Citgo is a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil company.

From what the Projo presents, Senator Chafee goes further in justifying dealing with Chavez. Chafee blames America first…

Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee said he can understand why Chavez believes he has not been accorded respect by the Bush administration. Chafee said Mr. Bush should invite Chavez to the Oval Office for a meeting. Noting that Chavez has ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro, Chafee partly attributed the bad blood between the two governments to Mr. Bush's desire to pander to Cuban-Amercans in Florida before the 2004 election.
If Senator Chafee thinks that Chavez bears any responsibility for strained US-Venezuela relations, the Projo does not mention it.

Supporters of the assistance program point out, reasonably, that it is unfair to single out the Chavez government for vilification. America does business with lots of bad characters to keep the oil flowing. The world’s largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, is not exactly a bastion of civil liberties.

But no one pretends that Saudi Arabia is a liberal democracy. President Bush himself has called for political reform in Saudi Arabia. Here is President Bush speaking before the National Endowment for Democracy this past October…

By standing for the hope and freedom of others we make our own freedom more secure.

America is making this stand in practical ways. We're encouraging our friends in the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to take the path of reform, to strengthen their own societies in the fight against terror by respecting the rights and choices of their own people.

As the President is willing to challenge the Saudi government about its need to respect the rights and choices of its people, are Senators Reed and Chafee willing to challenge the Venezuelan government to respect the rights and choices of its people? Ironcially, the chain of events leading to the oil assistance deal provides a perfect context in which to do so....

How to take the Oil and Respect the Rights of the Venezuelan People

Carroll Andrew Morse

In March of 2005, the Venezuelan government passed a law making criticism of the President and other high government officials in Venezuela a criminal offense. According to the law, Venezuelan citizens can get as much as 30 months in jail for criticizing government officials in print or writing.

Are Senators Reed and Chafee are troubled by this policy implemented by their new oil ally? If they are, here is a statement they can use to appropriately express their dissatisfaction…

President Chavez, we thank your government for making this oil assistance available to our people. And we hope that you will take the time to appreciate the lesson about the importance of freedom that this agreement affords.

The reason this deal is possible is because of the strength and openness of American democracy. In America, when our President makes a decision that not all of us agree with, we are free to criticize it. In America, we are even free to work towards policies that our President does not support.

President Chavez, the law passed in Venezuela this past March denies this right of public dissent, essential to a democracy, to your people. We hope that your government learns from what has been achieved here, and repeals the unwarranted restrictions on criticism of government officials that are now part of Venezuelan law.

Will our Senators, who proudly, frequently and appropriately avail themselves of their right to criticize their own President also criticize a foreign president when it is appropriate? Or will our Senators censor themselves, fearing that Venezuela will kill the oil-assisistance deal if public criticism of Chavez neutralizes its propaganda value. Or do they just not care about freedom of speech and democracy outside of the United States?

Of course, Senator Reed tells us that the oil assistance deal has minimal political overtones, so the Venezuelan government should not be bothered by hearing the truth. After all, the Saudis still provide oil to America even as President Bush calls for reforms in their country. Why should Venezuela be held to a lower standard?

Venezuelan Oil Deal Coverage

Carroll Andrew Morse

Bill Rappleye from NBC 10 (WJAR) interviewed me for tonight’s 6 o’clock news on the subject of the Rhode Island Senate delegation's attempt to broker a deal for discounted heating oil from Venezuela.

In case you're wondering, I have some reservations.

WSJ Notes: Laffey Donated to Democrat Senatorial Candidates

Marc Comtois

James Taranto's Best of the Web Today is an entertaining read, but Taranto is off today and in his place is a sampling of the Wall Street Journals "Political Diary" (no permalink, unfortunately). Included in this sampler is a bit by Brendan Miniter about our own Chafee/Laffey contest. After noting that Laffey has gotten the support of The Club for Growth, "a political action committee with a reputation for backing conservative challengers against liberal Republicans," Miniter outlines the challenge facing Mayor Laffey:

. . . if Mr. Laffey hopes to win the hearts of conservatives nationwide by unseating Senator Chafee, he'll first have to explain a few things about his own record. As mayor of Cranston for the past three years, Mr. Laffey has increased taxes three times. The city now has one of the highest property tax rates in the state, and Mr. Laffey has said Cranston may "need" an additional tax hike in 2007. And while living in Tennessee in the 1990s, he gave money to Democratic senatorial candidates who ran against former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson and the current Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. He even made a campaign contribution to Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Such donations can probably be chalked up to the pragmatic doings of businessman seeking to play his cards right for political/business reasons. However, such pragmatism will lead some to question Mayor Laffey's committment to the conservative ideals he so often proclaims.

Beware Dictators Bearing Oil III

Marc Comtois

It seems that Hugo Chavez's Public Relations campaign--"Petrol Populism"--is making some headway here in RI.

Rhode Island's senators will meet today with officials of Venezuela and its state-controlled oil company to discuss what may be an imminent deal to sell discounted heating oil to the state's poor people.

Citgo, a Houston-based business owned by Venezuela's government oil concern, has already agreed to distribute 12 million gallons of heating oil at below-market prices to needy households in Boston and 8 million gallons to residents of the Bronx in New York City.

Those agreements, which stem from a pledge last summer by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, emerged last month after discussions between Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., and representatives of the Chavez government and of Citgo.

The deals have generated controversy because of the contention between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. Chavez has reportedly accused the Bush administration of seeking to assassinate him or topple his government. The Bush administration has criticized Chavez's support for Colombian guerrillas and his declaration that the United States brought the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, upon itself.

Sen. Jack Reed has minimized the controversy, saying that the first associaton many people have with Citgo is the company's sign near Fenway Park in Boston.

Boy, that's clever. That Sen. Reed sidestepped the real issues of Chavez's questionable democratic bona fides, his desire to become South America's leading military power and his various strong arm tactics shouldn't be surprise. Oil-from-Chavez offers a double-bonus: cheap oil for a valued constituency and a poke in the eye of the Bush Administration. How could he resist? For that matter, how could Senator Chafee?
Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee said he can understand why Chavez believes he has not been accorded respect by the Bush administration. Chafee said Mr. Bush should invite Chavez to the Oval Office for a meeting. Noting that Chavez has ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro, Chafee partly attributed the bad blood between the two governments to Mr. Bush's desire to pander to Cuban-Amercans in Florida before the 2004 election. . .

Chafee, who has a separate meeting with Venezuelan and Citgo officials, said the "dynamic" of the deal under negotiation is that "President Chavez wants to embarrass President Bush because we don't have good relations with Venezuela." Chafee said, "It's not hypocritical for me to explore this initiative" because he has twice visited with Chavez in Venezuela and said that "we need to repair our relations" with that nation.

Chafee, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel with responsibility over South America, held out former President Richard M. Nixon's overtures to communist China as an example for Mr. Bush to follow with Venezuela.

Look, I can appreciate the realpolitik that seems to be motivating our Senators: sometimes you have to deal with the devil (so to speak). And it is a worthy effort to try to find cheap heating oil for the disadvantaged. Besides, as Senator Chafee's allusion to China indicates, we've been dealing with authoritarian's for a long, long time. But this is taking things to a particularly acute and intimate level, isn't it?

Here are some previous posts that include discussion on Chavez:

The Geopoliticization of World's Oil & Gas Industry (Don mentions Venezuala's energy deal with China)

Dictator Chavez of Venezuela

Religious Without Being Morally Serious Vs. Morally Serious Without Being Religious (Don writes of Pat Robertson irresponsible call for an assassination of Chavez)

A Republican Crackup? (Andrew mentions Jack Kemp's improper lobbying efforts for Chavez)

Beware Dictators Bearing Oil

Beware Dictators Bearing Oil II

A Reason to Support Hugo Chavez!

Hugo Chavez holds an Election but Nobody Comes

Killing on the Radio

Justin Katz

Shortly after 2:00 p.m. today, I'll be discussing Israel's recent euthanasia law with Howie Barte on WHJJ, 920 on the AM radio dial.

December 13, 2005

Syria Tipping the Wrong Way

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Grape’s Vine (based in North Providence) has a good summary of the most recent events following from likely Syrian involvement in the car-bomb assassination of a Lebanese opposition leader…

The second report issued by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis detailing his investigation into the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri further implicated Syria in the assassination plot. Adding to the seriousness of the mounting case against Syria, Mehlis found strong evidence of witness tampering and the destruction of key evidence on Syria's part….

Based on mounting evidence against Syria, the US is pushing for UN sanctions against the rogue state. As it did last time, however, France is once again waffling on any inclusion of the threat of sanctions in a UN resolution. France agrees with pushing forward another resolution against Syria, however it is still holding out against wording that would actually give that resolution some teeth. The French version of the revolution accuses Syria of not "providing full and unconditional cooperation" however it stops short of punishing them for their failure to fully cooperate.

In a TechCentralStation column from about a month ago, I predicted that events concerning Syria could drift in two different directions. Unfortunately, the worst case seems to be emerging…
And in the worst case? The liberal internationalists succumb to their own worst tradition. Instead of leading, they follow the lead of the visceral anti-Bush partisans and join tortured arguments that at best ignore, and at worst justify, state-sponsored political assassination. Sensing a divided America, the UN is never compelled to move beyond approving resolutions that do nothing more than threaten other resolutions...
I think we're in an "ignore" phase right now.

Syria’s government-sponsored, cross border assassination of a neighboring political leader -- an act of war by any reasonable standard -- is a case where those who believe in international law should be not just hoping for, but demanding meaningful, collective institutional action. But liberal internationalists too frequently disappear when enforcing international norms means taking action against a rogue regime.

Why is it that liberal internationalists and their fellow travellers make a big deal of obeying international laws and norms when it would stop the United States from doing something, yet ignore international law when it could be used to deter dictators from expanding their power by violent means?

Does A Blog = A Radio Show in Campaign Finance Law?

Marc Comtois

We all know that the RI Board of Elections gave Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey a hard time by asserting that he was taking an "in kind" contribution by hosting a radio show on WPRO. For the record, I don't support campaign finance laws and think they are an abridgement of free speech. We in RI have followed the national current and instituted campaign finance reform that is little more than an incumbent protection scheme.

Nonetheless, prompted by Hugh Hewitt, I now wonder if the RI Board of Elections could apply the "Laffey Standard" to a candidate who blogs? For example, RI Secretary of State (and declared 2006 Senate candidate) Matthew Brown is a contributor to the Huffington Post, which is both hosted out-of-state (I believe), is supported (at least partially) by advertising revenue, and has a national audience. Do the campaign finance laws cover such "in kind," out-of-state campaign contributions if it is done via a blog? If not, why not? A forum is a forum, isn't it? As Hewitt points out:

Matt Brown is a candidate in an FEC regulated race. The Huffington Post is giving him valuable blog space. Is this a contribution? If Brown was running editorials on a television station, would that be an in-kind contribution? If a newspaper allowed [Brown] to run daily op-eds, would that be a contribution?

I along with most other bloggers absolutely reject the idea that anything a blogger writes or says on blog is a contribution to a candidate's campaign, but I haven't thought through the situation where the blogger is a candidate for office blogging on another's website. This is a much more troublesome and thus inviting target for the overactive regualtors at the FEC. I'd welcome the opinion of experienced campaign counsel.

I would too.

"The Virtue of Partisanship"

Marc Comtois

JA Davis at RedState has a thought provoking post that both champions partisanship and refers to our own RI Senate Race.

How many times have you heard someone say they were "independent" and voted "on the issues" or "for the person?" Doesn't it always seem like those people have a very uppity attitude about their enlightened and pensive political choices? I assert that they are neither wise nor admirable.

Reflexive partisanship is always cast as the villian in our political stories and it shouldn't be. Humans are unique, thinking creatures that like to associate with other like-minded individuals. However, if everyone demanded strict compliance to their own personal beliefs by their representatives, there would be no effective government possible. This seems to be what independents believe. Because no party has a platform that corresponds perfectly to their unique opinions, there is nothing to do but chose between the lesser of two evils or sit on the sidelines and boo.

I think those independents have trouble prioritizing and compromising their opinions accordingly. For example, an independent who is pro-life would never vote for Lincoln Chafee, but a pro-life Republican could do so in good conscious because he knows Sen. Chafee's presence protects the GOP majority in the Senate, which in turn, advances the pro-life cause because most Republican senators are pro-life. The partisan Republican can feel a greater sense of accomplishment from voting because they are supporting their team and their own personal beliefs as well. This promotes greater civic involvement and a more vibrant body politic, whereas for an independent who votes according to their own personal ideology, voting will always be a torturous exercise in blasphemy and betrayal.

Davis has more thoughts on the role of ideology in politics which are worth reading, too.

Senator Chafee Gets $ for Alternative Schools

Marc Comtois

NB: I changed the original title of this post to reflect that Sen. Chafee has garnered funds for more than just the Narragansett school.

It's tempting to classify a lot of Federal spending as "pork," and we at Anchor Rising have certainly done our part to call it like it is. However, not all Federal money is "pork" and small amounts--strategically placed--can do much good. In my opinion, an example of this is the $50,000 that Senator Chafee helped to garner for the Nuweetooun School.

The Nuweetooun School is a private, nonprofit school in Exeter serving about 40 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

It's the first school created and administered by the Narragansetts since Europeans settled Rhode Island. Senator Lincoln Chafee is expected to visit the school this morning to announce 50-thousand dollars in funding to help develop curriculum, purchase supplies and pay operating expenses.

The money is from the U.S. Department of Education. The Nuweetooun School's core curriculum is Native American culture and history, with a focus on experimental learning.

Here is more on the impetus for founding the school and on the theory of "cultured learning" and the curriculum that is taught. Some may cast a cynical eye on this approach, but the Narragansetts are to be applauded for taking the initiative in starting a school that suits the needs of their people.

UPDATE: Commenter John B. has alerted me to the fact that Sen. Chafee has also obtained $150,000 in funding for Sophia Academy, which is a " nondenominational, private, non-profit gender-specific middle school for girls, grades 5-8, from low-income families in Providence, Rhode Island." We have written a lot about how important school choice is for the future of both Rhode Island students and the state itself. These programs are worthy of support and Sen. Chafee should be commended for helping them. I would add, however, that Senator Chafee has been opposed to "school choice" (vouchers) in the past. This begs the question: if such private enterprises are advantageous for the groups--Native Americans and "low-income girls"--that they were targeted to help, why aren't similar entities that seek to appeal to the broader public likewise not worthy of such support?

Sure, EB is laying off...but we've got more slots! II: Achorn Chimes In

Marc Comtois

In Sure, EB is laying off...but we've got more slots!, I contrasted two headlines that seemed to sum up the current state of RI economic development. It was more of an attempt at saracasm than substance. Well, ProJo columnist Edward Achorn also noticed the contrast and has written on the topic.

Last Wednesday, two fairly depressing headlines dominated The Journal's front page: "Electric Boat to cut 2,400 jobs" and "State OKs expansion in Newport Grand slots."

It is hard not to see a link: Good jobs (mostly at Groton, Conn., but 500 to 600 at Quonset Point) are leaving, and Rhode Island officials keep hoping that ever-expanding gambling can paper over a deficit of tax revenue. That's a prescription for disaster.

Gambling revenue is fool's gold. Gambling preys on weak people, fuels crime, inflicts terrible damage on families, and takes money out of the economy -- and straight out of the state to the home offices of the gambling companies -- that could be spent much more fruitfully in other ways. For some reason, Rhode Island's elected officials seem slow to grasp this point.

Achorn takes RI politicians--including the Governor--to task and also offers some prescriptions for the future. I encourage you to read the whole piece.

December 12, 2005

Club For Growth Endorses Laffey

Marc Comtois

Club For Growth President Pat Toomey--who knows a little something about taking on a moderate Republican incumbent--has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he reveals that his organization has officially endorsed Steve Laffey for the RI GOP Senate primary.

[Ronald] Reagan helped define the mission of the Republican Party. By re-establishing limited government as the central principle of the GOP, he laid the groundwork for the political revolution that bears his name. Almost 30 years later, the Republican Party is at a similar defining moment. Once again, challengers to certain Republican incumbents are needed to help restore limited government to its rightful place at the center of the Republican agenda.

Today, the Club for Growth PAC will endorse Steve Laffey, the Republican Mayor of Cranston, R.I., in his primary challenge against Sen. Lincoln Chafee. Steve Laffey is a pro-growth, Reagan Republican. Sen. Chafee epitomizes the GOP's waning commitment to limited government and economic freedom.

Toomey proceeds to explain why the Club for Growth is against Senator Chafee:
Sen. Chafee has consistently opposed tax cuts. Citing the federal deficit, he opposed the Bush tax cuts that have generated our powerful economic expansion. But his concerns about deficits don't extend to government spending. Bills he has sponsored would add nearly a half-trillion dollars in new spending over 10 years. The National Taxpayers Union gave him a dismal 49% rating for his profligacy with taxpayer money. A close ally of organized labor, he opposes school choice, and just last month voted for a minimum-wage increase. A recent Boston Globe profile describes his ideology as "well-suited for a centrist Democrat."

Despite his liberal record, Sen. Chafee is warmly embraced by the Republican Party establishment which dutifully enforces an unprincipled, though ironclad, mutual-defense agreement that ignores ideology.

Sounds familiar. After explaining why the Club for Growth is philosophically opposed to Sen. Chafee, Toomey explains why they have chosen to endorse Mayor Laffey.
Steve Laffey makes a stark contrast. After an inspiring climb from rags to riches, he returned to his hometown to run for mayor and rescue the city of Cranston from impending insolvency. As mayor, Mr. Laffey ruthlessly attacked the mismanagement that had caused Cranston's problems. He cut costs, established financial controls, rooted out waste and took on bloated union contracts in the courts--as well as in the court of Rhode Island public opinion. Today, Cranston has recovered its investment-grade credit rating and the voters there have re-elected him twice. This in a city where only 14% of voters are Republicans!

As a senator, Mr. Laffey would cut wasteful spending, especially corporate welfare; make the Bush tax cuts permanent; expand international trade; reform insolvent entitlements and fix broken tort laws. In short, he's precisely the kind of pro-growth, limited-government Republican the Senate badly needs more of.

According to Toomey, the RI Senate GOP Primary is only part of a larger battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.
After 10 years of controlling Congress, Washington Republicans have an identity crisis. It was Republicans who gave us a farm bill that only a Soviet central planner could love; a campaign-finance reform bill that expands government's unconstitutional restrictions on speech; a prescription-drug entitlement program that Lyndon Johnson could only have dreamed of; and a transportation bill with more than 40-times as many pork projects it took to earn Reagan's veto. So, we ask a fair question: Is Reagan's vision of limited government--the fundamental principle that brought Republicans to power--still part of the Republican identity, or has it been abandoned in favor of the seductive power of controlling unlimited government?

UPDATE: This endorsement has prompted me to scrounge around for other endorsements. I had forgotten that NARAL had endorsed Senator Chafee in May in hopes that the early endorsement would "help the senator sink a potential primary fight from Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey." (Guess that didn't work) More from the story:

Chafee expressed pleasure with the endorsement and said he will try to stress to NARAL members today that the Senate should not cut back the ability of Democrats to filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees, many of them conservative opponents of abortion.

Keenan said NARAL opted to give Chafeee its first endorsement of the 2006 campaign for several reasons. One is that NARAL supports incumbents and "we stand by our friends," such as Chafee, who have amassed what NARAL considers to be good records on the issue.

NARAL gave Chafee a 100-percent rating on its review of how senators voted last year on legislation the group considers important.

Keenan also emphasized NARAL's devotion to helping Republicans who support abortion rights. "We need Lincoln Chafee's sensible, moderate, Republican voice" in the Senate, Keenan said.

Keenan was asked why NARAL did not prefer [Secretary of State Matthew] Brown, a candidate who has pledged to apply a "litmus test" to all judicial nominees -- opposing any who do not show support for abortion rights.

She answered that Chafee has a record of tough votes, while Brown has no congressional voting record.

Some Democrats are now pointing to NARAL's strategy as flawed.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for more endorsements as they occur.

December 9, 2005

Economic Eye Candy

Marc Comtois

Tim Graham noticed that the Washington Post seems to have a policy of "Good Economic News on D-1, Bad Economic News on A-1" and Brian Wesbury commented last week about the ominipresent pessimism that seems to surround any and all economic news, noting:

During a quarter century of analyzing and forecasting the economy, I have never seen anything like this. No matter what happens, no matter what data are released, no matter which way markets move, a pall of pessimism hangs over the economy.

It is amazing. Everything is negative. When bond yields rise, it is considered bad for the housing market and the consumer. But if bond yields fall and the yield curve narrows toward inversion, that is bad too, because an inverted yield curve could signal a recession.

If housing data weaken, as they did on Monday when existing home sales fell, well that is a sign of a bursting housing bubble. If housing data strengthen, as they did on Tuesday when new home sales rose, that is negative because the Fed may raise rates further. If foreigners buy our bonds, we are not saving for ourselves. If foreigners do not buy our bonds, interest rates could rise. If wages go up, inflation is coming. If wages go down, the economy is in trouble.

This sort of spin--along with the negativity of the reporting of the Iraq War--has led to a lot of unwarranted public pessimism. Perhaps these two charts will help cheer people up.

First, Treasury Secretary John Snow released the below chart (via Taxprof), which shows the increase in government revenue that has occurred since the Jobs and Growth Act of 2003:


Second, Angry Bear has charted spending growth over the last 35 years:


For "supply-siders," the first graph really needs no explanation. As far as the second, Angry Bear explains:

What strikes me about this chart is that while spending on Defense and Homeland Security (the red line) has indeed risen quite sharply under the Bush administration, other types of discretionary spending (the green line) have risen only quite modestly, and are still slightly below where they were in 1995. While Bush 43's budgets have clearly benefited from low interest payments (thanks in part to the low deficits and surpluses of the late 1990s, and in part to the very low interest rates of the past few years), the one other category of spending that has grown rapidly during his presidency is government-provided health insurance.

So perhaps Bush is indeed no Reagan when it comes to non-defense-related discretionary spending. But neither has such federal spending grown dramatically in the past few years.

No, the only category where it seems clear that Bush has deliberately let the money flow freely is in defense. So if you think that the federal government's spending has grown too fast in recent years, turn your attention to defense spending and health care. That's where the money has been going.

UPDATE: Don notes that the Powerline guys had a post on Angry Bear's chart, saying:
This chart tends to undermine the stereotype of the free-spending, money-hemorrhaging Bush administration. If the numbers are correct, only defense and medical care have risen significantly during the present administration, measured as a percentage of GDP. The increase in defense spending is good, and the increase in medical costs is bad, but typical of what has happened at all levels of government under current law.

Another way of looking at the data, of course, is to say that everything has risen as a percentage of GDP except interest and Social Security, the latter of which, at least, has nothing to do with the administration's policies.

They, in turn, got a heads up that In the Agora has a more negative takeaway from the numbers:
[The] analysis is short-sighted. It fails to account for the fact that Bush's massive $400 billion increase in Medicare spending has yet to take place; it phases into place over the next 10 years. The devastating effects of Republican spending will be like the slow impaling of a dagger, not a swift jab that we can see in a real time graph.

Finally, Angry Bear appears to assume that because something costs X% of the economy to function properly, it must always cost X%. Why must that always be the case? With efficiencies and economies of scale, some government costs should actually decline as a percentage, not necessarily stay the same.

Either way, looking at government spending as a percentage of the GDP in the status quo tells us very little about the long term budget decisions of a government.

In the Agora is conceptually right concerning the economies of scale and government efficiency, but the simple fact is that the government is always expanding. Agora is also correct regarding the usefulness of the graph as far as a projection tool, but simply because history doesn't necessarily repeat, doesn't mean it is not useful.

Sheldon Whitehouse's Unsupported Innuendo Against Samuel Alito

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island Senate candidate Sheldon Whitehouse wants Senator Lincoln Chafee to filibuster the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court…

It is apparent that President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, Samuel Alito, is not only anti-choice, but an actual strategist in undermining Roe v. Wade. I strongly oppose this nominee. In light of these extraordinary circumstances, I urge Senator Chafee to reconsider his statement that he will not support a filibuster.

In 2000, Senator Chafee pledged that he would never support a Supreme Court nominee who would put a woman's right to choose at risk. He failed to honor that pledge by supporting John Roberts. Now, the Alito nomination presents an even greater threat -- and it's clear that keeping this nominee off the court will demand not only a simple "No" vote, but a filibuster as well.

Please join me in calling on Sen. Chafee to support a filibuster of Judge Alito....

Whitehouse’s implication is that a pro-life justice will impose his beliefs on the court without regard for the law and use any abortion case before the courts as an oppurtunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Judge Alito’s record demonstrates that Whitehouse’s implication fails to rise above the level of innuendo.

In 1997 (Alexander v. Whitman), Judge Alito concurred, regardless of personal beliefs, with the position that a fetus is not a person under the 14th amendment. In 2000 (Planned Parenthood v. Farmer), Judge Alito voted, regardless of personal beliefs, to strike down a state ban on partial-birth abortion because it defined partial-birth abortion too broadly.

Judge Alito has on his side a record of scrupulously applying the law. Does Sheldon Whitehouse have anything on his side besides innuendo and hostility towards the pro-life position?

Elected Representatives and Public Opinion

Carroll Andrew Morse

Almost always, the rule in political blogging is don’t blame the staff guys (and gals) for the contorted positions that their bosses sometimes force them to have to explain. To use a specific example, have some empathy for the John Kerry spokesman who has to answer a bunch of questions about his boss’ statement that “I voted for the Iraqi reconstruction before I voted against it”. It’s not the staff guy’s (or gal’s) fault that the boss is incoherent.

However, Beth Schwartzapfel's article in this week’s Providence Phoenix on the looming confirmation battle over Judge Samuel Alito gives justification for breaking the don’t-blame-the-staff-guys-rule. Here's what Stephen Hourahan, Senator Lincoln Chafee's spokesman, had to say about the best way to influence Senator Chafee’s vote…

Chafee spokesman Stephen Hourahan says the senator’s office has received some calls from constituents on both sides of the issue, "[But] as far as a great outpouring, we haven’t had that yet." His advice to groups on both sides is, "If you wanted to really make an impact, you could get an auto-dialer and start calling the senator’s office."
I thought that the job of an elected representative was to represent what the public really believes. Why is Mr. Hourahan encouraging people to provide a distorted view of public opinion to Senator Chafee?

That Old Smugness

Justin Katz

Feeling a bit too much the elder rebel — whose rebellion is increasingly merely to laugh at the enemy's antics — I suggested to a URI College Republican in a comment to my previous post that it is only recently that campus communities have had to face the idea that perhaps anti-conservatism isn't simply an objective indication of compassionate intelligence. I contend that the prejudice is only so visible now because it is being challenged. Well, as if to provide me evidence, URI student Arthur Ferri has published a humorous example of the old mentality in The Good ¢5 Cigar:

The University of Rhode Island's conservatives lament that their social science and humanities professors are liberal. Professors who spent their entire lives analyzing the beloved "marketplace of ideas" under the strictest academic protocols and guess what? Conservatism lost. That is why conservative faculty members in these disciplines are few and far between.

... Maybe conservative students are "captive and vulnerable," but no liberal student I ever met felt "captive and vulnerable" in the classroom, but rather proud and confident that his liberal values (yes, we like that word) stand up successfully to vigorous academic scrutiny. Liberal students find "political propagandizing in the classroom" stimulating and a challenge, especially from conservative professors.

Ah yes! The pride and confidence of students who believe that they are regurgitating an ideology that has emerged victorious in "the 'marketplace of ideas' under the strictest academic protocols." The stimulation and challenged of not taking "two seconds of verbal abuse from conservatives in the classroom without hitting back hard with solid academic evidence" that is provided readily by the many professors — not "few and far between" — with whom the students agree. Oh the confidence of the smug and the stimulation of the sneer built on political dominance in an environment in which "intellectual diversity" means degrees of Leftism (which, as we all know, professors push merely for the unobjectionable reason that it has been proven correct):

Conservatives are never going to have power here and nothing can possibly be done about it. At the university, conservatives will never be allowed to sit at the cool people's table in the cafeteria.

Witness the hamartia of those who cannot ponder the possibility that authoritarian mechanisms are possible, indeed victorious, in the world of higher education. Rest assured, College Republicans (and Arthur, too), that Mr. Ferri's is the voice of a doomed elite. We who've been sputtered at with the "solid academic evidence" of the intellectual comme il faut can hear the hollow echo of stagnation in its strains.

December 8, 2005

Murtha's Flawed Plan

Carroll Andrew Morse

Earlier today, I described Congressman Jack Murtha's plan for "redeploying" troops out of Iraq as appeasement. I explain why Congressman Murtha's approach is deeply flawed in my latest TechCentralStation article.

Everything You Need to Know about Tax Policy in Two Sentences

Carroll Andrew Morse

I realize tax-policy discussion can get dull. Fortunately, today’s Washington Post explains the entire issue in just two sentences. Read carefully and ponder…

Although the federal tax revenue has grown since the passage of the 2003 tax cuts -- from $1.9 trillion in 2004 to $2.1 trillion in 2005 -- the tax revenue measured against the size of the economy remains below the 2002 level and well below the level of 2001, when the first of Bush's five tax cuts was passed. "The argument that tax cuts will grow the economy and pay for themselves is very attractive, but it's just not true," [Maya] MacGuineas said.
Maya MacGuineas is president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Now consider the sequence of events and the response that brought about the publication of these two sentences…

  1. The federal government cuts tax rates.
  2. After the tax-rate cuts, the government collects $200,000,000,000 more in revenue.
  3. But high-tax advocates are unhappy because, even though the government is getting more money, the government is getting a smaller percentage of the total economy.
  4. But increased economic activity does not involve an proportional increase in government activity. So even though the government provides pretty much the same range and scale of services before and after the economic growth spurt, the government takes in more money after the economic growth spurt.
So what then is the rationale for advocating higher tax rates when tax revenues are increasing anyway? Is it possible that high tax-rate advocate want high taxes for their own sake, as a scorecard of how effective their lobbying is and as evidence of how compassionate they are?

Re: Explanation of Sen. Reed's "generalities"

Carroll Andrew Morse

This is a quick follow on to Marc’s last post. The President has made his case for progress in Iraq, including lots of specifics. Now, if there is to be a real debate, the Democrats have to answer. Here are a few questions the Democrats can answer to help clarify their position…

Do they agree with Congressman Jack Murtha that appeasing the Iraqi insurgency is the next logical step?

Do they have any facts of their own to back up Democratic party chairman Howard Dean's assertion that Iraq is unwinnable? Does Rhode Island Senate Candidate Matt Brown want a quick withdrawal from Iraq because he agrees with Dean that Iraq is unwinnable?

Does the non-defeatist, non-appeasing wing of the Democratic party have anything to add?

Actually, Senator Jack Reed may have answered “no” to that last one already. According to John E. Mulligan in the Projo

Reed declined several times when asked what he or his party would offer by way of specific cash outlays, troop commitments or other resources that the United States should devote to the war.
Maybe it would help if the Democrats would be more specific about what they mean by specifics.

Explanation of Sen. Reed's "generalities"

Marc Comtois

President Bush gave another speech on our progress in Iraq and our own Senator Jack Reed (again) offered the Democrat response. Senator Reed referred to the speech like this:

"Another missed opportunity to be candid with the American public," Reed tagged Mr. Bush's speech. During a news conference in the Capitol, Reed said, "The American people were eager to hear the president's plan for the economic reconstruction of Iraq. Instead, we again heard vague generalities."
Such vague generalities can be found here.

After Horowitz, the Hoopla

Justin Katz

I've been following the letters to the editor exchanges in the University of Rhode Island's student paper, The Good ¢5 Cigar, subsequent to David Horowitz's appearance on campus, including an angry offering from the man himself. In today's edition, however, is a letter from John Biszko, a Tulane student displaced back home, as it were, by Katrina, that is particularly poignant:

I feel absolutely compelled to write in to the Cigar because since the time I have become a part of the College Republicans I have come under an unfair and vicious onslaught unlike anything else I have ever encountered. I have studied at Providence College, the University of Connecticut, Tulane University of Louisiana, and the Special Operations University of the U.S. Military, and I have never encountered such blatant and inexcusable attempts at liberal political indoctrination in classrooms before.

Personally, I'm inclined to advise the young man simply to enjoy, grow, and improve from the experience, and I can't decide whether the barbed point with which he closes enhances or diminishes the wisdom of such counsel (emphasis added):

I will also add that my intelligence has been insulted by blatant attempts to present Republicans as uncaring, and that my uniform has suffered onslaught by anti-military sentiment expressed by professors from the podiums of their classrooms during class periods that myself and other students pay dearly for.

Of course, our consideration of the matter isn't merely academic; Mr. Biszko neglected to mention that Rhode Islanders all pay dearly for the public university.

Also in today's edition of the Cigar is a letter from another student conservative, Jesse Gillett, who makes this curious defense of the College Republicans on a discrete, but related, issue:

I apologize, Miss Grant, for pointing this out to you again because it may still come as a shock to you; the essay made no attempt at stating (or whining, as you likely want people to think) that affirmative action discriminates against whites. To say that the College Republicans stand for such a ludicrous idea, without providing logical reasoning, is despicable.

I lack the time to read the backstory, so I can't say whether Gillett's point is accurate with respect to the essay in question, but the claim strikes me as of the type that lend credence to the notion that the speaker is hiding actual beliefs and intentions. It is plainly true that affirmative action discriminates against whites. That may not be the most important argument against the practice, but it's true nonetheless. As for what the College Republicans "stand for," well that I can't say.

December 7, 2005

NEA Thinks the NSRC has hurt Chafee

Marc Comtois

In a piece titled "Teachers consider endorsing Chafee before it’s too late," Peter Savodnik of The Hill reports:

In yet another sign that Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s (R-R.I.) election prospects are in doubt, the National Education Association (NEA) is “seriously considering” endorsing him in the GOP primary, the head of the organization’s Rhode Island chapter said yesterday.

Bob Walsh, the chapter’s executive director, said that Chafee’s primary opponent, Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey (R), would have plenty of money and that recent television ads run by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) had led political insiders to worry about the senator’s odds. . .

“We don’t always agree with Senator Chafee, but we’ve always had a good relationship,” Walsh said. “It would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to influence that.”

Meanwhile, the NSRC thinks their ad campaign has been effective:
Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the NRSC, dismissed Laffey’s claim to be a tax-cutter, adding that the two ads the campaign committee had run in Rhode Island were meant to set the record straight.

Ronayne asserted that since the television ads had aired — the second one stopped running in mid-November — and the committee had sent direct-mail pieces to many Rhode Island Republicans, Laffey’s support had ebbed.

As an aside, I wonder when actual poll numbers will be release? There have been claims on both sides that the other guy has been hurt, but nobody is showing us any proof. Until then, their claims have to be regarded suspiciously.

That being said, what to make of the NEA endorsement? On the face of it, it seems like common sense. The NEA has no love for Laffey. But could it be that a deeper calculation is being made? Could Walsh et al be betting that an endorsement of Chafee by them would push conservative Republicans further towards Laffey. This, they may be hoping, will lead to a Laffey primary win and--they presume--will give their "real" candidate (probably Sheldon Whitehouse) a better chance in the general election. Just some idle speculation. Anyone else have a good conspiracy theory?

Sure, EB is laying off...but we've got more slots!

Marc Comtois

In a moment of negative serendipity (if there is such a thing), the following headlines great the reader of today's ProJo:

"Electric Boat to cut 2,400 jobs"

"State OKs expansion in Newport Grand slots"

The Electric Boat layoff is a result of a reprioritization by the Navy and is an example of the normal economic corrections that go on all the time. Jobs go away in one sector of the economy and are added in others. While it can be difficult and trying for the individual affected by this normal economic ebb and flow, a job-seeking EB welder can take heart that his skillset is probably coveted by another employer here in Rhode Island or (more likely) somewhere else. If he can't find a job as a welder here in Rhode Island--and doesn't want to move--he could forget welding altogether, sign-up for job retraining, and look for a job in some other area. Or he could always take a job at Newport Grand. It seems they're expanding.

December 6, 2005

Mac Owens & His Encounter with Sen. Chafee

Marc Comtois

Anchor Rising Contributor Mac Owens has posted this story about an encounter with Senator Chafee on The Corner:

Chafee is a disgrace. In February 2002, I was invited to give some remarks at the North Kingstown Republican Town Committee's Annual Lincoln Day Dinner. This is a big event each year and all of the Rhode Island Republicans are there. The title of my speech that night was "Abraham Lincoln, the American Founding, and the Principles of the Republican Party," which I think at some point was published on NRO. In any event, Chafee was there and sitting at a table right in front of the podium. When I reached the penultimate paragraph of my speech, I looked right at him and said:
"As the country music philosopher, Aaron Tippin, said in a song a few years back, "you've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything." Republicans have traditionally stood for limited government to protect equal rights. If the Party of Lincoln ever abandons its fealty to the principles of the Declaration, it will become little more than a pale imitation of the redistributionist Democratic Party. And Republicans can never hope to match the Democrats in offering a government solution for every problem, real or imagined."
Chafee's face turned absolutely scarlet. I heard from a party guy later that evening that Chafee was livid. I was elated.

Shortly after 9/11, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a TV reporter. He is a great guy but his politics are conventionally liberal. He was disgusted with Chafee because when he asked for Chafee's response to the attacks, our senator wouldn't give him an answer. Apparently, he needed to see what others thought first. Even liberals are disgusted by Chafee's lack of backbone.

I voted for him in 2000. I will never pull the lever for him again. As a Southerner, I come from a long line of "Yellow-Dog Democrats" and in keeping with this legacy, I will vote for a yellow dog before I will vote for this spineless disgrace.

Incidentally, the speech to which Mac refers is available here.

UPDATE: Anonymous commenter "Anthony" had this to say about Mac's post:

Suffice to say, I do recall Chafee's reaction to the incident. Maybe Chafee didn't give the reporter the sound bite he was looking for, but to suggest the Chafee wasn't bothered by the 9/11 attacks is just factually untrue. It is shameful to suggest otherwise. . .

So let me get this straight, you used Senator Chafee's name to raise money for the North Kingstown GOP and then proceeded to intentionally insult the person who helped you raise the money? Afterwards you were glad that you embarassed a special guest? Nice. Real classy.

I bear responsibility for cross-posting Mac's comments on NRO here at Anchor Rising. I have informed Mac of these comments and leave it up to him to respond if he so wishes.

UPDATE II: Mac responds:

I take it that Anthony doesn't like my assessment of the good senator's attachment to the principles of the Republican Party. But if he were to actually read my speech he would see that I had no intention of embarrassing Chafee. He does a fine job of that on his own. The purpose of my speech was to remind a group of Republicans about the legacy of their Party, a legacy too many Republicans, Chafee most certainly among them, have forgotten or abandoned. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know Chafee would be there when I was composing the speech. The fact that he was livid told me that at least one person there understood what I was talking about.

I probably shouldn't have related the second hand story about Chafee's response to 9/11, but I believe the reporter's account. He is a very well known reporter whose liberal credentials are impeccable. Nonetheless, I shouldn't have added it to my post. For this I apologize.

Anthony needs to develop a sense of humor. I know Aaron Tippin is not a real philosopher. But sometimes there is wisdom in the most mundane things. For instance, when it comes to women, I take my motto from a Sawyer Brown song. "Some girls don't like guys like me. Ah, but some girls do." Now that's true country philosophy.

In any event. I'll still vote for that yellow dog before I pull the lever for Chafee again.

Cheers, Mac

Voter Initiative Update

Carroll Andrew Morse

The RI Voter Initiative Alliance has collected about 60% of their goal of 20,000 signatures in support of bringing voter initiative to Rhode Island. Voter initiative allows citizens to propose, amend and repeal laws by gathering signatures and placing issues directly on the ballot. If you haven't already, you can sign the petition online here.

The petition is just the tip of the voter initiative iceberg. Here’s a brief outline of the entire process of bringing VI to RI...

Move: Voter initiative supporters will present the petition at the same time voter initiative legislation is formally introduced to the RI General Assembly in January.

Countermove: The General Assembly leadership will try to kill voter initiative as early as possible, in the Judiciary committee, with as little deliberation as possible, and without a vote. The new Judiciary Chairman Robert Donald Lally has already expressed opposition to voter initiative because "it does an end run around representative democracy as he thinks it should work".

Move: Voter initiative legislation will be introduced in 2 parts. The first part (here's a link to last year's version) authorizes the constitutional changes necessary to allow voter initiative. If that bill makes it out of committee and is approved by the whole legislature, then the proposed constitutional changes will have to be approved by a majority of voters in a referendum held during the November 2006 general election. The second part of the legislation actually implements voter initiative, assuming that the constitutional changes pass.

Countermove: If they can't kill it in committee, be wary of the RI legislature passing the constitutional changes necessary for voter initiative, but dragging their heels on fully implementing it.

Thanks to Bev Clay from Operation Clean Government for answering my questions on the legislative steps associated with VI.

December 5, 2005

Hugo Chavez holds an Election but Nobody Comes

Carroll Andrew Morse

If Hugo Chavez is a such popular leader and respectable democrat, then why was the turnout in yesterday’s Congressional election in Venezuela only about 25%?

(We’ll give a special award to the first moron who claims it’s because 75% of Venezuela’s population are members of the rich capitalist robber-baron elite).

Here are links to direct blog reporting on the subject from Miguel Octavio and A.M. Mora y Leon . (h/t Instapundit).

National Republicans Believe Chafee can Win Rhode Island Without Republican Votes

Carroll Andrew Morse

Originally, we thought that Steve Laffey was the only RI Republican disliked by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Now, it turns out that the national party is abandoning all Republicans in Rhode Island (with the exception of Lincoln Chafee).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee website is reporting (with an attribution to a C-SPAN2 discussion on December 1) that Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has stated that Senator Lincoln Chafee needs no support from Republican voters to win a Senate campaign in Rhode Island…

Nick: “Senator Chafee doesn’t need Republicans to vote for him.”

Guy Cecil [Political Director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee]: “Well, he’ll need a few Republicans to get through the Primary, won’t he?”

Nick: “No.”

I'm Pro Choice

Marc Comtois

OK, that was a cheap ploy. I'm pro-choice within the context of L. Brent Bozell's editorial in today's ProJo regarding 'a la carte' cable television options:

Consumers watch, on average, just 17 channels. But to get them, they are forced to buy this bundle of channels, because it opens up the universe of programming that they do want, from Disney and Nickelodeon to CNN and C-SPAN to channels for sports fans and history buffs.

This "all or nothing" approach is more than just an annoyance; it's a consumer rip-off. And it forces parents to try to protect their children from cable programs that they consider unsuitable just to get kid-friendly channels. . .

It would be unthinkable for a magazine publisher to tell you that in order to subscribe to the children's magazine Ranger Rick, you must also subscribe to Playboy and Guns & Ammo. But that's exactly what the cable industry has been forcing cable subscribers to do. The practice limits choice, raises consumer costs, and prohibits new and independent cable programming that might better reflect the diverse interests of viewers. . .

The cable industry knows there is growing consumer support for legislation requiring cable companies to provide "a la carte" pricing -- an option that would allow subscribers to select and pay for only those channels they want.

It's something I've been hoping for this for quite some time. Most cable providers are highly resistant to this infringement on their monopolistic programming power (satellite TV usage is still relatively scarce), but some other big hitters are supporting the measure. Speaking strictly as a consumer, I hope this goes through.

On the Wavelength

Justin Katz

For anybody with a spare half-hour tonight: Brown student radio interviewed me about living and blogging conservative in Rhode Island for tonight's edition of Off the Beat. The show airs locally on 88.1 FM and globally via online stream at 7:30 p.m.

December 4, 2005

The Projo's Dueling Impressions of Joe Wilson

Carroll Andrew Morse

Over the past several days, the Projo has printed contrasting views on Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador and Bush adminstration critic who lectured at Brown University on Wednesday evening. A Saturday editorial focused on Mr. Wilson’s latest instances of not telling the truth while on the public stage...

Mr. Wilson told Brown that Saddam had not bought uranium from Niger. He did not tell Brown that he had told the CIA (and subsequently the Senate) that Saddam had tried to buy uranium. He told Brown that Mr. Bush had lied in his 2003 State of the Union address. He didn't tell Brown that the president had said only that Saddam had tried to buy uranium. He also did not tell Brown that his wife had recommended that the CIA send him to Niger.
The final sentence from the excerpt is at odds with Elizabeth Gudrais’ report on Wilson's lecture from Thursday’s paper…
Wilson was sent not because of vicarious clout with the CIA, as his detractors have claimed. "I had served as ambassador to another French-speaking, uranium-producing country," he said, going on to cast himself as a trusted friend of officials in Niger, thanks to his role in crafting U.S.-Africa policy, and in nourishing Niger's fledgling democracy, late in his diplomatic career.
Taking advantage of a spousal recommendation certainly seems to qualify as using “vicarious clout” to get an assginment. Are we witnessing open disagreement between the reporters and the editorial writers of the Projo? As exciting as that might be, I suspect what we are really witnessing is a blown punctuation mark in Gudrais' article. By standing it alone, the Projo presents the first sentence from the above excerpt as generally accepted knowledge. Change the period at the end of the first sentence to a comma, however, and the first sentence becomes part of Wilson's statement, instead of an accepted fact.

Charles Bakst, on the other hand, makes it clear that he has no problem with the issue of Wilson's credibility. This is from Bakst's column in Sunday's Projo...

In a nutshell, Wilson, 56, represents truth, and his main message this night was the importance of telling it as it is, even if you or your spouse have to pay a price, because democracy depends on citizens informing themselves and holding government officials accountable.
A good message, in the abstract. Maybe at some point in the future, Mr Wilson will pay heed to it. It is well established that Joseph Wilson has been less than truthful in his public pronouncements, including the Brown lecture. Don't take my word for it; read Saturday's Projo editorial page. For a bit more detail, here is the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, as quoted in the Weekly Standard
On at least two occasions [Wilson] admitted that he had no direct knowledge to support some of his claims and that he was drawing on either unrelated past experiences or no information at all.

For example, when asked how he "knew" that the Intelligence Community had rejected the possibility of a Niger-Iraq uranium deal, as he wrote in his book, he told Committee staff that his assertion may have involved "a little literary flair."

Joe Wilson doesn't represent truth; Joe Wilson represents the belief that some causes are so important, truth must be discarded to advance them. He is just another pol advancing an agenda using any means, honest or not, that he thinks he can get away with. Charles Bakst has a long and distinguished career of taking such politicians to task. What leads Mr. Bakst to believe that Joe Wilson's continuing problems with truth-telling are not worth reporting in a column about Joe Wilson?

December 2, 2005

Timothy Williamson and the Role of a Legislator

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the ubiquitous Jim Baron of the Pawtucket Times, State Representative Tim Williamson (D-West Warwick/Coventry) is upset that he has been passed over for the job of House Judiciary Committee chairman (h/t RI Future)…

I am sure that Narragansett Rep. Donald Lally is grateful for his appointment as chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, but [Williamson], the vice-chairman of the committee, a heretofore staunch supporter of Murphy’s, is showing definite signs of discontent at being passed over for promotion. And he is demonstrating no inclination to suffer the slight in silence….

Williamson stresses that he has nothing against Lally, but adds that he "absolutely" would have liked to become chairman of Judiciary….

Williamson is looking for a sit-down with the Speaker to "determine what my purpose in the building (Statehouse) is."

Actually, Williamson answered his question for himself in a Greg Elais article in last week’s Kent County Times
"I do business for the people in District 25," Williamson said.
Elais’ article reported on a critic of Mr. Williamson, Harold Meyer, who maintains a rather saltily named, rough-and-tumble anti-Williamson website. This is what Mr. Williamson thinks of Mr. Meyer and his efforts...
"Mr. Meyer does not live in my district."

Williamson challenged Meyer to meet with him and "say what he had written to my face," describing the site as kind of comical.

"I don’t care about Mr. Meyer's opinion unless he lives in West Warwick or Coventry".

A defensible position? Perhaps for a backbencher, but certainly not for a legislator with leadership aspirations. A leadership role gives an individual power over all of the people of the state; a legislator who states that he is unwilling to listen to anyone outside of his district should not be considered for a leadership position.

Here’s a specific, relevant example of why. In the last session, the House Judiciary Committee killed several eminent domain reform bills without a vote, including one that would have made eminent domain seizures for commercial use development much more difficult. Representative Williamson is politically allied with supporters of commercial big-box development in West Warwick that would require large-scale eminent domain seizures.

Would a hypothetical Chairman Williamson, who considers only the interests of his constituents, and not the interests of the entire state, continue the Judiciary Committee’s tradition of killing eminent domain reform without a vote if he believes that large-scale eminent domian seizures are the best interests of West Warwick -- even if exisiting eminent domain law is not in the best interests of most citizens of Rhode Island?

Projo Editorial Page: Deficit Reduction is Tax Relief

Carroll Andrew Morse

Today’s Projo editorial page weighs in on whether deficit reduction automatically qualifies as tax relief

Rhode Island distributes money for tax relief to municipalities that meet the criteria for "distressed communities”….

This year, North Providence qualified for $509,000 under the program, so Mayor Mollis has proposed that the money go to paying off last year's deficit.

This is defensible. Interest on a debt of this size is considerable, and the proposal is tax relief -- of a prospective kind.

Will they, and other supporters of this view, accept its logical inverse: increased government spending automatically counts as a tax increase?

December 1, 2005

The Rage of the Bureaucrat: Joe Wilson Retells the Same Discredited Story

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to Elizabeth Gudrais’ story in today’s Projo, this is what former Ambassador Joe Wilson said last night at Brown Univesity about his famous trip to Niger

Early in 2002, Wilson traveled to Niger to investigate a report that Iraq had attempted to buy 500 tons of uranium ore from the West African country's government, and that a memorandum of sale existed....

Producing 500 extra tons of uranium would have represented a 35-percent increase in production, an increase that would have been apparent in increased quantities of workers, trucks and supplies, Wilson said.

So it came as a surprise, Wilson said, when President Bush said in the State of the Union address, on Jan. 28, 2003: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The problem is that you don’t need increased quantities of workers, trucks and supplies to seek uranium, which is what the President claimed.

The CIA analysts that debriefed Wilson after his trip -- not Bush administration officials -- believed that Wilson’s trip provided evidence of an Iraqi quest for uranium. This is from item from, which is run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania…

Based on what Wilson told them, CIA analysts wrote an intelligence report saying former Prime Minister Mayki "interpreted 'expanding commercial relations' to mean that the (Iraqi) delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales." In fact, the Intelligence Committee report said that "for most analysts" Wilson's trip to Niger "lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal"….

In the CIA's view, Wilson's report bolstered suspicions that Iraq was indeed seeking uranium in Africa. The Senate report cited an intelligence officer who reviewed Wilson’s report upon his return from Niger:

Committee Report: He (the intelligence officer) said he judged that the most important fact in the report was that the Nigerian officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerian Prime Minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium, because this provided some confirmation of foreign government service reporting. cites a report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as its primary source of information.

Perhaps Mr. Wilson felt he was qualified to write a book called The Politics of Truth because he is neutral towards rather than a supporter of the idea of truth.