December 31, 2007

Happy New Year from Anchor Rising

Marc Comtois

We at Anchor Rising wish all of our readers a healthy and happy 2008!


Here's to hoping that 2008 brings better times to our state. Strive On!!!

The Projo's Technical Difficulties with Digital TV

Carroll Andrew Morse

An unsigned editorial in Saturday's Projo had this to say about the coming transition to digitial television…

The government is taking away the analog spectrum to boost wireless services (which are becoming ever more important) and for public-safety needs. That’s why the Feds (i.e., taxpayers) are even offering to help pay for those converter boxes.

So those rooftop antennae that were such important images in so many Christmas cards and magazine illustrations (will magazines disappear too?) will leave the scene, increasingly dominated by cell-phone towers.

…but I don't think that's correct.

Digital TV signals are broadcast over the airwaves on standard UHF frequencies, so cable or satellite TV is not required for receiving digital or high-definition broadcasts. All that's needed is a) a digital converter and b) a good UHF antenna for acquiring signals to convert. (Channels that were originally VHF; 6, 10, and 12 in the Rhode Island market, have each been assigned some portion of the UHF spectrum, which the converters are programmed to find whenever the "old" VHF channel numbers are selected).

In anticipation of the change-over to digital, most televisions being manufactured now have converters built directly into them. External converters will only be required for older sets. WJAR-TV (NBC 10) has more detail available here; WPRI-TV's (CBS 12) digital information is available here.

Thus, contrary to the Projo editorial, UHF antennas will be more important than ever for receiving over-the-air broadcasts after the conversion to digital.

Exodus Means Less Reason to Stay

Justin Katz

Seasonality is likely a factor, but I'd been intending to offer the anecdotal testimony that the help wanted sections of various local and state papers are more sparse than I've ever seen them. Apparently, it isn't just my impression:

Job vacancies in Rhode Island declined from 10,949 in spring 2006 to 8,637 last summer, a drop of 21.1 percent. It’s a trend that continues from 2005, when Rhode Island job vacancies numbered 12,114. Economic analysts said the drop in job vacancies indicates a slowdown in the Rhode Island economy. ...

The median hourly wage for full-time occupations also dropped, from a range of $14 to $15 an hour last year to a range of $12.10 to $13.28 an hour this year. Murray said the drop is probably due to the decline in vacancies for some of the higher-paid job classifications, such as management or finance and insurance. ...

"The figures on the surface indicate the need to grow Rhode Island's economy much faster. We need to get existing Rhode Island companies to expand, and to lure other companies into the state," [William B. Sweeney, professor emeritus of economics at Bryant University,] said. But Sweeney said the state deficit looms as "a long-standing problem" in creating a climate that will bring business to Rhode Island.

Edward M. Mazze, Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration at the University of Rhode Island, also said the job vacancy figures indicated bad news. "Rhode Island is going into its own recession," he said. Mazze said there is a lack of confidence in the state's economic future and that, generally speaking, the state's economy is not creating new jobs.

More on it later, but news from the General Assembly doesn't offer much encouragement that the legislators truly understand the problem and what needs to be done. Best case scenario — and I'm well beneath optimism, myself — is that the General Assembly puts on an ineffective show this year and the voters express enough disapproval in the fall to scare next year's General Assembly into actually doing something.

Like I said, though, my optimism is decreasing more rapidly than Rhode Island's median wage.

A Mythical Rejection Slip

Carroll Andrew Morse

Official Notification of the Contest Judges
December 31, 1987

Dear Mr. Morse:

Thank you for your submission to our "Future of New England" essay contest. Unfortunately, we are unable to include your submission in our final collection. While your extrapolations about New England becoming a world-class leader in the areas of alternative energy (especially wind power), transportation infrastructure, and convenient access to health care are all reasonable in light of the region's noble traditions of progressive development, your predictions that the Red Sox will one day rebound from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees in an American League Championship Series en route to a World Series victory and that the Patriots will have a 16-0 regular season are simply too fantastic to be believed.

Best of luck with your future endeavors.

December 30, 2007

Rasmussen's Magic Campaign 8-Ball Says "Cannot predict now"

Carroll Andrew Morse

I know, I know, Iowa and New Hampshire are going to kick things in some definite direction in just a few days, and you can't use national averages to stand in for the state-by-state results that really decide the race. Still, Rasmussen's daily Presidential tracking numbers (reported December 30th) say there is no national frontrunner in the Republican race…

  • John McCain 17%
  • Mike Huckabee 16%
  • Mitt Romney 16%
  • Rudy Giuliani 15%
  • Fred Thompson 12%

Not Really My Crowd, But...

Justin Katz

My heroes so far in Disney Princesses on Ice:


The things we endure as parents. Now if I can endure the demands for $10 snow cones during intermission.

Re: A Need, No Specifics, and a Way of Life

Monique Chartier

In her OpEd in yesterday's Providence Journal which Justin brings to our attention, Ms.Yeh Ling-Ling states:

But at least the Chinese leaders realize population growth’s contribution to global warming. They defended their one-child policy by arguing that it has helped the fight against global warming by avoiding 300 million births

There are some valid points in this OpEd. (The theory of anthropogenic global warming is not one of them.) But the above reasoning by Beijing, which Ms. Yeh appears to agree with, is a bit convoluted and misleading. China instituted its one-child law almost thirty years ago and definitely not out of concern for global warming. Beijing pointed to it as an environmentally friendly policy as an after thought, only when it became the target of criticism for its disgustingly pollutive factories and electric generating plants and its refusal to participate in the Kyoto Protocol.

From a New York Times article a year and a half ago:

Unless China finds a way to clean up its coal plants and the thousands of factories that burn coal, pollution will soar both at home and abroad. The increase in global-warming gases from China's coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks.

Fast forward to June of this year, when China became the number one emitter of greenhouse gases. Criticism naturally accompanied this dubious achievement. But retrofitting hundreds of factories and coal burning generators with even a fraction of the scrubbers, filters and anti-pollution devices used for decades by the US (this would be one of many areas from which China, in turn, could "learn from America") and Europe was apparently not an option for Beijing. Casting around for a defense, they lit on their decades old one-child policy and rolled it out in August, two short months after they got their Number One Polluter award. "... uh, it's environmentally friendly. 'Cause fewer humans mean less pollution. Yeah ... that's the ticket."

Setting aside the scientifically unsound theory of anthropogenic global warming, priorities have gotten twisted if a sometimes infanticidal population control law is used as the cover for a country's refusal, initially and right along, to make its factories and economy even somewhat respectful of the environment.

A Need, No Specifics, and a Way of Life

Justin Katz

What comes to mind when somebody declares the necessity of population control? Personally, my initial reaction is against a presumed totalitarian intent. Yeh Ling-Ling's op-ed in the Providence Journal yesterday exacerbates that reaction, with its first paragraph urging presidential candidates to "learn from the Chinese experience."

And no, the piece isn't about the dangers of an oppressive government with little concern for human life. Still, it's a strange bit of writing, making some points that pulled me back a hair from my suspicions:

Three decades ago, the Chinese government already understood that population growth would seriously impede its economic success. ... China seriously limits immigration and welcomes only investors. It hands out no welfare checks and demands self-sufficiency of its people. ...

... Instead of advocating sustainable immigration, many [U.S.] presidential candidates are promoting immigration policies that will further increase our population, thus adding more people using energy and social services to this country. ... Why not seriously enforce existing immigration laws and give welfare recipients incentives to take jobs currently held by illegal migrants? Some growers in Idaho and Colorado are using nonviolent prisoners to replace illegal migrants. Why not make it a national practice? ...

There were 757,000 teen pregnancies in the U.S. in 2002 alone. Can any country prosper with a growing semi-literate student population, swelling welfare rolls and burgeoning numbers of babies having babies? In recent years, the U.S. has massively exported jobs and imported workers. Furthermore, most new jobs created in this country are service sector, low-paying positions, not generating enough income to support a family or tax revenues to cover the cost of social services provided to those workers and their families.

But then another agenda emerges:

China is far from perfect and indeed has many problems. One of the most pressing is environmental degradation, caused largely by China's exploding economic growth and increasing consumer-ism. But at least the Chinese leaders realize population growth’s contribution to global warming. They defended their one-child policy by arguing that it has helped the fight against global warming by avoiding 300 million births, as reported by Reuters this past August.

... to improve the quality of life for natives and legal immigrants already here, the U.S. must immediately adopt policies that would effectively lead to U.S. population stabilization, encourage self-reliance, cut consumption at all levels, foster a strong work ethic and train our youth to think critically and with foresight.

The unexplained hows make all the difference in this case. How do we "encourage self-reliance"? What policies would "effectively lead to U.S. population stabilization"? How do we "cut consumption"? One suspects that the "quality of life" thus slated for improvement comes pre-adhered to Ling-Ling's personal definition, and that it would turn out to be more of a subset of "the war against global warming."

I could be wrong, of course, but I can't help but hear an echo in Theodore Dalrymple's brief musing about news that divorces are bad for the environment:

The fact that there will be no demonstrations against environmentally destructive divorcees, who probably emit as much extra carbon dioxide as the average SUV, suggests that the desire to save the planet is not nearly as powerful as the desire to destroy a way of life.

The cliché is that the traditional approach of setting cultural expectations was oppressive, but it emphasized responsibility based on one's freely chosen actions. The alternative — curiously applicable no matter the harm for which remedy is sought — is true oppression, with power of increasing numbers of decisions, even over life and death, seated in the hands of our ostensible saviors.

December 29, 2007

Warwick Crossing Guards To Be Laid Off

Marc Comtois

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedesian negotiated a contract with the Warwick Crossing Guard union, but it was rejected by the City Council for still being too expensive. Avedesian then solicited bids for a privatization option, but only received one. Now, he's proposing laying off the union crossing guards and instituting a no-benefit, per-diem only crossing guard program.

The city’s crossing guards will lose their jobs as of Feb. 15, and the city will fill the positions with nonunion employees who will receive no health-care or pension benefits, Mayor Scott Avedisian said yesterday in announcing a solution to an issue that has dogged the city for more than a year.

Avedisian, who had negotiated for months with the current guards, who are represented by Local 1033 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said that it was time to find another option now that the City Council has rejected a tentative agreement he had reached with the union.

Although that proposal had offered some savings by including no raises for three years and keeping staff levels at a minimum, the City Council was unanimous in its opposition this month, with board members saying that the benefits were too rich for employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week.

The crossing guards, who are city employees overseen by the traffic division of the Police Department, receive health insurance, sick days and a union pension, and life time health insurance for retirees who worked for more than 10 years.... As Avedisian sought to reach a new pact with the crossing guards, their benefits package drew public fire as a prime example of a costly public service that might be better handled by a private company.
The bottom line, Avedisian said, is that the contract proposal did not pass muster with the City Council, and the administration now must find another way to provide the service....

“I have nothing negative to say about the union or the negotiations, even though we didn’t agree,” said Avedisian, who has been criticized in recent months for persisting in trying to settle with the union. “Once the council rejected the contract and we went out to bid, it left us with the ability to look at what we were getting and to see what other options we could come up with."
NESCTC’s bid offered to provide the city with 23 crossing guards at an annual cost of about $212,200, Avedisian said. By comparison, his new proposal would provide the same at a cost of approximately $183,200 per year.
Avedisian’s plan would pay the new guards $40 per day. They currently earn between $39.50 and $42.25 per day depending on seniority.

One thing that will not change, regardless of whether the city privatizes the service or hires new employees, is that retired crossing guards currently receiving a pension and health benefits will continue to do so. City personnel director Oscar Shelton said that there are now nine retired guards who qualify for those benefits.

About time.

On the Weakness of Prim 'n' Proper

Justin Katz

In a tangential comment to Marc's post about population loss, "Chalkdust" issued the following multipart critique of Anchor Rising's comment sections:

"Of course, once NOW stayed on its knees for Bill Clinton"

Another reason (along with "brown babies") that Anchor Rising MIGHT be an interesting place to debate issues, if one can manage to close one's ears to this trash.

Does anybody in charge here ever try to actively disassociate from this crowd? I don't mean censor, I just mean say loudly that they're over the top and unwanted. Just curious. ...

... I hadn't realized until now that "conservative talk" actually requires crude sexual and racial references. Maybe I was reading too much Buckley, Safire and Scalia, but thanks for the clearer picture of what conservativism in RI means. ...

... It's just that being raised by very, very conservative parents (Goldwater Republicans) , I was taught that, at least in public discussion, vulgarity, name-calling and hubris were not only improper, but sinful. I guess it's a different game today.

Monique left a subsequent comment explaining that we do pull the trigger, from time to time, when comments shift out of bounds, but I think a somewhat more involved answer might be useful.

I can't speak for the other contributors to Anchor Rising, but I grew up on the highway side of town in Jersey — by the exit, if you get what I mean. Nobody was poor in my town, but neither were the cardigans plentiful. Now, I live in a working-class neighborhood, which is fitting considering that I spend my days on the construction site and need a driveway in which my work van won't look out of place at night. This is all to say that, while I appreciate — and enjoy — restrictive, rules-based conversations that seek to address ideas and issues with viscera at arm's length, colorful language has its attractions and uses in certain contexts.

As a word guy, I'd suggest that choice imagery — emotion-drenched though it may be — can more fully convey a thought than antiseptic descriptions and abstractions. Comme il faut faux civility has actually become a useful mechanism for the Left. It's not "sucking the brains out of a just-about-born baby"; it's "partial-birth abortion." (Sometimes, it's not even "abortion"; it's "dilation and evacuation.") Racist, bigot, fascist, sexist, homophobe... these are all words that purport to be descriptive, but are wielded in such a way as to beat back and dismiss an opponent without staining one's white gloves with any taint of irrationality.

I suppose the writer of the "trash" could have avoided the fellatial metaphor and written, instead, something like: "Of course, NOW once compromised the integrity of its ostensible message." But that loses something of the justified scorn and the curiously stained irony of the empowerment group's fawning passivity before an alpha male.

I suppose that, if a reader's tender sensibilities are such that he or she cannot filter through the inevitable range of voices in an open online forum, then, yes, the Anchor Rising comment sections might not be the place to seek conversation. For my part, I figure that Carnegie Mellon called one of its required freshman English courses "Argumentative Writing" for a reason.

December 28, 2007

Light on the Spin

Justin Katz

The paper didn't put it online, but my response to a recent letter to the editor by the NEA's Pat Crowley is in the current edition of the Sakonnet Times. I just hope that I've done a little something to help clarity and truth foil the union's plans.

(Most) "Experts" Agree that Population Loss is Bad

Marc Comtois

In today's ProJo story on the RI population loss (mentioned here and here yesterday), the Governor, policy experts and academics agree that a shrinking population isn't a good thing for the economy. Some quotes from the article:

  • John Logan, Sociology Professor, Brown University - “Michigan and Rhode Island have something in common, which is the lack of job creation....Generally, population trends follow economic opportunity very closely.…The lack of growth is a good indicator of the lack of attractiveness of the state to people who might be looking for a job.”

  • Leonard Lardaro, Economist, University of Rhode Island - “This is a continuing negative trend, of losing our working-age population, ages 16 to 65.... An economy like Rhode Island that has been lagging will tend to lose population due to the bad combination of slow job growth and a lot of home equity....We are coming to a point in Rhode Island where a lot of our positives are being offset by negatives.... We are creating some jobs, but we are losing even more than we are adding.”

  • Rhode Island Governor Carcieri - "The reported loss of population certainly reflects the state’s high tax burden, which has been a longstanding problem affecting every aspect of our economy. The need to reform state government, and bring costs under control to an affordable and sustainable level is long overdue.”

  • Gary Sasse, Executive Director, Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council - “We are losing productive people, particularly in the 25-to-39 age range, and we’re losing college-educated people.... You’ve got to create a business climate that is conducive to job growth. Instead, we as a state are getting older and poorer.”

  • Laurie White, President, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce - “We are losing our next generation of workers, which makes for a shallower work force and erodes our tax base.... And then that makes it harder to attract industry and retailers. We are last in the nation in terms of a competitive tax policy. Our small-business friendliness is very low. We don’t fund our pension plans enough. And now we are losing population in greater numbers. This is a serious wake-up call.”

    Lardaro also explained that the RI's tax structure is "punitive" and it is ”discouraging highly paid, highly skilled workers from moving here, and high-tech companies from expanding here." Especially when our neighbors are more amenable.

    But, despite all of this, YKW (you-know-who) doesn't see a problem:

    Kate Brewster, executive director of the Poverty Institute...disputes that the state is unfriendly to business or that it is losing college-educated professionals.

    “From 1997 to 2004, the number of Rhode Islanders reporting incomes over $200,000 rose by 87 percent, a faster rate than in neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts,” Brewster said. “Detailed IRS data show no evidence of the rich fleeing Rhode Island.”

    Brewster also said that because Rhode Island offers tax cuts and deductions to the wealthy, the actual percentage of income tax they pay is closer to 5.7 percent. “So there’s no reason to think that high taxes are driving the wealthy out,” she said.

    Brewster blamed high housing costs and the lack of new construction, as well as slowing job creation, for the loss in population.

    And none of that is related to the state's economy? Sorry, taking a page from the class warfare playbook doesn't work this time around. As the experts point out, the demographic being lost are the young and middle-class (or potential m-c), not the rich. But guess who employs them? And they aren't going to move here so long as the perception is that RI is business-unfriendly and a tax hell.

    By the way--and just an aside--why ask Brewster's opinion on this in the first place, ProJo? Aren't there other academics who may offer an alternative view instead of a lobbyist who derives her living from advocating for an expanded, tax-funded, social welfare state? Her reaction to any news that may even remotely result in a cut of social services is predictable. Time to shake up the tree a little and rotate in a couple new sources for reaction.

  • Concerns About Coaty

    Justin Katz

    I'm as hopeful as anybody that Steven Coaty's Newport election to the General Assembly is a sign of trends for the elections to come. I'll admit, broadly, that I'm a little worried that the RIGOP won't prove up to the task of pulling the state back from the the precipice that has the Democrats bedazzled. I'll also admit, specifically, that I've got some reservations based on the little bit that I've read of Coaty.

    As I said, during the election, he seemed to retreat too rapidly to "we don't start (the process) by saying we've got to raise taxes" from his anti-tax-increase position. He also could have affirmed his belief that the citizens of the state need relief, not another share of the dirt pie that the state's going to have to start dishing out, when Charles Bakst asked him about his legislative intentions. Instead, we got a little murkyness:

    Coaty campaigned against tax hikes and said he'd cut spending, but I reminded him last week that when specific cuts are proposed, the lobbyists and interest groups from his district will howl that reduced service will hurt people. What will he do then? "A decent society will take care of the neediest, but has to be efficient," he said. "The days when you can say, 'Not in my backyard,' or 'Don't touch my rice bowl,' are over. I would think everybody's going to have to sacrifice."

    Taxpayers are already making more than their share of the necessary sacrifices, so I hope Coaty's "everybody" means "everybody currently taking from the government, not those giving to it.

    Coaty also told Bakst that he supported Chafee over Laffee, so I'd like to know whether he was of the "electability" school or actually liked Chafee's approach. And then there's this:

    And gay marriage? He thinks the state should get out of the wedding business: Any couple — man and woman, two men, or two women — could get a civil union license, which would not use the word marriage or wedding. If they also wanted to call themselves married — say by exchanging vows in a church — that would be up to them. "This is a way to resolve a very emotional, tenuous issue to the satisfaction of everyone," he said. (I can assure him: Not everyone.)

    At least he's erring on the libertarian side, but his solution is still a cop-out for two reasons:

    • Political. Coaty isn't going to come into contact with such a bill. How's he going to vote on the options that he's actually going to get: Yes to same-sex marriage, or no to same-sex marriage.
    • Substantive. What benefits are going to accrue to these universal civil unions? If they're attractive, should family members be able to enter them with each other? Why limit it to two partners?

    Fred Thompson Passes 1,000 Signatures

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    According to the Rhode Island Secretary of State's website, Fred Thompson has submitted over 1,000 signatures validated by local boards of canvassers to the state, joining Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney as Republican candidates who have successfully cleared the first hurdle for getting on the Rhode Island primary ballot.

    All of the Republican candidates are still awaiting "certification" of at least 1,000 signatures by the SoS.

    Narnia Out of Order

    Justin Katz

    Now why would Disney go and make the Narnia movies out of order?

    I understand why the film makers wouldn't want to start with The Magician's Nephew, which is the first book according to the storyline. C.S. Lewis, after all, didn't write the book until after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I suppose I can even understand why the makers would hold off on the book even as they move on with the series: The whole thing reads a bit like the first few chapters of a long book.

    But why skip The Horse and His Boy? Is it the Arabian flavor of the backwards Calormenes? More practical considerations could be holding the day, of course, such as the need to make all of the movies in which the Pevensie children play central roles so that the actors don't out pace their characters too dramatically in aging, as with the Harry Potter movies (which has been a huge distraction, for me as a viewer, anyway).

    December 27, 2007

    The Old In-and-Out in Rhode Island

    Justin Katz

    Subbing for Dan Yorke on WPRO 630AM, Matt Allen has been talking about Rhode Island's first place ranking among states for lost population, which Marc investigated this morning.

    I called in to the radio during my commute to mention my finding back in September (and my related Providence Journal op-ed) that, on top of the state's losing citizens, thousands of people in Rhode Island fell below the twice-poverty line. As it turns out, my day raising and sheathing a roof by the water in the cold misty drizzle affected my memory, because I guessed (from the road) that the high-end drop was actually about the same as the total leaving the state, but the actual number was 21,637 fewer people earning more than twice the poverty level.

    There is almost an exact match between the 30,577 increase of those making 1–1.99 times the poverty rate plus the 3,144 fewer people in the state with the 12,084 decrease in people under the poverty level plus the 21,637 decrease in people earning over two times the poverty rate. The last chart of my September post shows that the biggest drop was actually the roughly 25,000 fewer people making over five times poverty level, followed by the nearly 15,000 fewer people making between three and four times poverty. The bottom line is that the productive are being dragged down and driven out in order to achieve a much less significant improvement at the bottom of the scale.


    As I pulled into my driveway, Matt had shifted the topic slightly and asked listeners what one law would change their mind about leaving. My response is that my daily urges to leave Rhode Island might be dispelled were the RI government to pass a law requiring members of the General Assembly to pay for any deficits at the end of the year out of their own pockets.

    I think that, at the very least, would give our elected officials a sense of the magnitude of the problem

    The Proof Is in the Terrorism

    Justin Katz

    There's a faith-based assessment, on the Left, that war cannot but breed more terrorists, as Professor Gene Perry expresses here:

    Liberals whom I know are just as concerned to combat terrorism as is Mr. Rowley. The question is how best to do it. Are frontal assaults with tanks and rockets an effective approach to combating global terrorism? It seems to me that George W. Bush’s policies in the Mideast have only created more terrorists by confirming the worst imaginings that Muslims have about Western materialism.

    Leaving aside the question of what Western materialism has to do with Western militarism (apart from its perhaps being the main reason the Left believes the West deserves to be attacked by terrorists), Mr. Perry offers no evidence — or even what sort of evidence one should expect — to support his "it seems to me." It seems to me that the measure of an anti-terrorism policy is in the amount and trends of terrorism, and by that measure, previous policies of appeasement and squishiness clearly led to increases in the frequency and audacity of terrorism against the United States.

    I can't say for sure, but perhaps it's actually helpful for those who reside in terrorism's fertile ground to watch us topple the leaders who oppress them and then — great-Satan status notwithstanding — not subject them, as if they were rightfully won chattel, to oppression ourselves. It could be that folks such as the professor believe our materialism to be insidiously worse, but time will tell whether people who used to have their fingers chopped off and their children stuffed and fed to them for dinner will agree.

    Rhode Island Leads the Population Loss

    Marc Comtois

    Tipped off by 7 to 7, I went over to the U.S. Census Bureau web site, which has just released population estimates up to July 2007 (raw data here). From the AP summary:

    Rhode Island is losing residents at a faster clip than any other state in the nation.

    New population estimates being released today by the Census Bureau show that in the year ending July 1, the state's population declined by four-tenths of percent. Rhode Island lost just over 3,800 people to end up with an estimated 1.058 million residents.

    According to the Census figures, the only other state to lose population was Michigan, which saw a decline of three-tenths of a point.

    Here are some more details . First is a list of raw population numbers and rankings from 2006 to 2007; it is broken out by the U.S. as a whole as well as four geographic regions and RI itself (I apologize for the table lines not being completely drawn and other truncation. Thanks to "chalkdust" for giving a heads up on some oversights on my part. The perils of hasty post compilation!):


    Note that over the past year (as usual) the Northeast is the slowest growing region and Rhode Island is at the very bottom of all states. Here's another table showing the raw numbers:


    And another table that summarizes rates per 1,000 people:


    Finally, here is a graph of the net internal migration for Rhode Island up until 2006.


    Starting in 2004, but really picking up speed in 2005 and 2006, our state has been hemorrhaging people. Time to shrink government too, huh?

    Benazir Bhutto Killed in Suicide Bombing

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    From CNN...

    Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday outside a large gathering of her supporters where a suicide bomber also killed at least 14, doctors and a spokesman for her party said.

    While Bhutto appeared to have died from bullet wounds, it was not immediately clear if she was shot or if her wounds were caused by bomb shrapnel.

    Pajamas Media has a continuing roundup here (via Instapundit).

    Forming the RI Republican Presidential Ballot

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Rumors of fewer than three Republicans making the Rhode Island Presidential Preference Primary ballot appear to have been exaggerated. Edward Fitzpatrick of the Projo writes…

    Republicans Mitt Romney, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul and Democrat Christopher Dodd have submitted enough signatures to appear on Rhode Island’s March 4 presidential primary ballots, according to local boards of canvassers.

    They join Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani, who had already amassed more than the required 1,000 validated signatures, the secretary of state’s office reported yesterday. The final step before appearing on the ballot requires the secretary of state to certify the signatures.

    Other candidates might appear on the primary ballot. While the deadline for signatures was 4 p.m. yesterday, local boards have until Jan. 10 to validate signatures, and an unknown number of signatures have been submitted without being validated yet, said Chris Barnett, spokesman for Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis.

    However, no Republican is an absolute lock to make the ballot as of this morning, because in the Rhode Island process, every signature requires two approvals; a "validation" at the local level and a "certification" at the state level. Every Republican still requires additional "certifications" from the Secretary of State's office to reach the 1000-count level.

    Does anyone familiar with the mechanics of electoral politics know if the two-step approval process is used in other states, and if it serves any purpose other than allowing machine politicians two shots at disqualifying their opponents?


    Will Ricci has a bit more detail on "validation" versus "certification" at the Ocean State Republican website.

    A Local "No Child Gets Ahead"?

    Justin Katz

    My first reaction is to applaud efforts to make high school graduation requirements more stringent, but something in the execution always seems to cloud the picture:

    To ensure that a high school diploma in Rhode Island really means a student is prepared to graduate, education officials are developing tougher graduation requirements that would go into effect over the next few years.

    Instead of merely requiring that students pass 16 to 20 courses in key areas to complete high school, officials are recommending that students show they have mastered material and skills in three ways:

    * Passing a minimum of 20 rigorous courses that align with grade-level expectations developed by the state Department of Education.

    * Scoring proficient or better on statewide tests given junior year in English and math.

    * Completing two out of the following three: a portfolio, senior project or end-of-course exams.

    But doesn't appear certain to be a "pass all three" requirement:

    Education officials are proposing that each of the three areas — courses, tests and project-based work — count toward one-third of a student's graduation requirements, although they have not worked out what score must be reached in each area. Students who fail to reach proficiency on standardized tests would be given another chance later in their junior year or at the beginning of senior year.

    Admittedly, this is largely a gut response (to a program that is still inchoate), but I worry about the particular mix of cookie-cutter curricula and fudge-able measures, such as projects and portfolios. It seems likely to give blame for failures no desk on which squarely to land. The DOE says, "Hey, we developed standards." The schools say, "Hey, we can't accomplish things that are beyond our resources." And the teachers say, "Hey, we're trying to teach to a test, and that doesn't work for all students; look how well many of them did on their coursework, portfolios, and projects."

    It gives everybody incentive to achieve good numbers, but no outside judge and no corresponding consequences for poor results. Projects can be little more than fluff if there's nobody who doesn't profit from the padding to offer assessment.

    It also creates a spreading emphasis on the mediocre. The resources will flow to those who aren't hitting the metrics, to the detriment of those with greater potential. Note some of the specific suggestions and emphases from this article and from another:

    • "More literary assistance" to children reading below grade level by ninth grade.
    • Having "supports in place to help students who are struggling."
    • Addressing "inadequate support for urban schools."
    • Launching "a pilot early childhood program for low-income children."

    I'm not saying that children who require additional help shouldn't receive it, but one never hears so much as lip-service to balancing dwindling funds for the benefit of less-needy students. Families with the resources will send their children to schools with more advanced opportunities (such as gifted and talented programs), and families with advanced children but fewer resources will find not only the opportunities dwindling, but also the interaction with academically comparable peers who happen to be of a higher socioeconomic status.

    Readers are likely to recognize a recurring theme in the suggestion, but I'd suggest that two critical steps toward addressing the above concerns are (1) to bust the unions, and (2) to offer some sort of a voucher-like system. The first will make it more difficult for educators to manipulate numbers and apply pressure on requirements. The second will effectively create a group of external judges: the parents who are in a uniquely advantageous position to observe whether scores and grades are associated with a real benefit to their children.

    December 26, 2007

    Frightening Enough to Induce Vomiting

    Justin Katz

    And I'll share it with you:

    [Hillary] might even be shameless enough to put [Bill] on the Supreme Court, where he could ruin the law of the land, as many of his own judicial appointees are already doing in the federal courts.

    From an equal-opportunity take-down column by Thomas Sowell.

    "Take to Give" Has Got to Go

    Justin Katz

    Unless I allow my cynicism free rein, it continues to astound me that Poverty Institute types can look at the evidence and persist in their conclusions. A recent jobs study from the institute raised the following concerns:

    The gap between the haves and have-nots in Rhode Island has widened in recent years and the bulk of new jobs in the years to come will be “low-wage, low-skill service-sector occupations,” such as food service industry workers. ...

    A major problem facing Rhode Island is the loss of manufacturing jobs. Between 1990 and 2006, 42,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared, the sharpest decline of any state in the nation, the report says. ...

    A troubling trend in the report shows that, since 2000, Rhode Island is the only New England state to experience a decline in median wage. ...

    Further troubling is the fact that Rhode Island’s unemployment rate, 5.2 percent or 28,000 people, has exceeded the national average and has been higher than in the neighboring states of Massachusetts and Connecticut. ...

    During the years 2000 to 2005, the percentage of Rhode Islanders without health insurance jumped from 6.9 percent to 13.3 percent. Today, the report says, there are more than 119,000 state residents under the age of 65 without health insurance.

    And yet these are some of the suggestions:

    Still, the report says that the state's "changing job market" calls for a need to invest more time and money into its growing immigrant work force.

    The report says that it’s essential for the state to offer more opportunities for native and foreign-born residents to earn high school diplomas, including education programs that meet at night. ...

    "As the report shows, Rhode Island is a relatively low-wage state and an increasing number of workers no longer have access to health insurance on the job," said Kate Brewster, executive director of the Poverty Institute. "Until workers are able to earn sufficient wages to support their families and we come to a consensus on how to get to universal health care, Rhode Island must continue to provide RIte Care and subsidized child care to protect working families from falling further behind."

    The state's Brewsterites behave as if industry and government programs operate with total independence. Manufacturing jobs mysteriously "disappeared." Meanwhile, "sufficient wages" will somehow materialize, making RIte Care and subsidies temporary crutches.

    A flash for those who will not see: Higher wages, healthcare benefits, and jobs that create incentive for adult education require a thriving business environment, and for Rhode Island to achieve that — and it must come before the rest can be expected — the state has to transform its take-to-give mentality.

    You're part of the problem, Kate. With all of the time and money that your institute devotes to studying poverty, why is it that you seem most proficient at creating more of it?

    Consistency of the Mess We're In

    Justin Katz

    A sure indication that Rhode Islanders are in for a beating? The folks who are in a position to ease the pain of our collapse and recovery have to "talk" about stuff like this:

    William R. Guglietta, chief legal counsel for the House Democratic majority leader, is tentatively scheduled to be sworn in as chief magistrate of the Traffic Tribunal next month, but he might not end up with the power to appoint other traffic court magistrates, at least not for long.

    State officials are now talking about giving that power to Governor Carcieri or Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams.

    The General Assembly created the chief magistrate’s job earlier this year after removing the Traffic Tribunal from under Chief District Judge Albert E. DeRobbio. In doing so, the Assembly gave the chief magistrate a base salary of $132,062, a 10-year term and the power to appoint other Traffic Tribunal magistrates.

    Our government officials are clearly in need of a workshop on the concept of "separation of powers" when even the good-government side would allow the executive branch to be left out of the appointment process. As Keven McKenna puts it, "If anybody doesn’t deserve more unconstitutional power, it’s Frank Williams." The chief justice is the poster child for affronts to separation (emphasis added):

    Williams, who selected Guglietta for the chief magistrate's job, wrote back to Watson and Gorham on Monday, saying, "I fully understand your concern about these appointments. Allowing the Chief Justice to make such appointments would remedy this concern and provide for uniformity of the magistrate appointment process within the courts. We are presently in the process of working on legislation to address this and other issues relating to magistrates." ...

    On Nov. 21, Williams issued an executive order stating that "all magistrates shall be required to take an oath of office and file a written engagement prior to undertaking their duties." The order said, "The oath shall be administered by the appointing authority upon written notice to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court."

    Rhode Islanders ought to be getting pretty tired of hearing the phrase "uniformity and consistency" coming from within the halls of our government. More often than not, it seems to mean uniformity of oligarchical power and consistency of policy with their personal preferences and interests.

    Remembering Their Plight

    Justin Katz

    Jeff Jacoby's Sunday column in the Boston Globe merits a read by anybody who hasn't seen it yet:

    The sparing of these women was very welcome news, of course, and it was not coincidental that each case had triggered an international furor. But for every "Qatif girl" or Nazanin who is saved, there are far too many other Muslim girls and women for whom deliverance never comes. ...

    By Western standards, the subjugation of women by Muslim fanatics, and the sometimes pathological Islamist obsession with female sexuality, are unthinkable. Time and again they lead to shocking acts of violence and depravity.

    Most of the rest of the piece consists of examples, and we do well to keep such stories in mind for context as we bask in our comforts and enter a year of campaign rhetoric that is sure to go well beyond the line into offensive.

    December 25, 2007

    Merry Christmas

    Carroll Andrew Morse


    From La Salette shrine; Attleboro, Massachusetts, in the 2007th year of Our Lord.

    December 24, 2007

    Be Not Afraid

    Justin Katz

    Accusations have been made — recently and in the past — that I hold the social views that I do out of fear and hate. "Why do you fear sex?" "Why do you hate homosexuals?" "Why are you afraid of progress?"

    If not for the realization that these are clichés that have more to do with the speaker than with the object, I'd find such question perplexing, the personal experience of being myself having been what it's been. I was much more fearful back when I was an atheist with all of the proper opinions — pro-choice, fully tolerantTM, and so on.

    To be sure, a large contributor to my unease was the underlying sense that there was something flawed in the opinions I felt obliged to have, and that the results were dangerous and harmful, not the least to those who were supposed to benefit by them. What if I was ostracized? What if agreeing with the wrong crowd diminished my potential for accomplishing those goals on which I'd set my sights? What if I one day proved to have been backwards and culpably incorrect?

    With faith came courage.

    With more to the world than material accomplishments, things that I knew to be wrong could be decried on their lack of merit. Our God became human, going so far as to allow His begotten Son, with whom He is one, to doubt Him, and for His lesson to humanity, He allowed us to torture and kill him for speaking the truth. Of what should we, then, be afraid, except perhaps cowardice and complacency?

    Men and women of good will disagree about the specific requirements of religion, as a matter of worship, of intellect, and of action, but to suppose that those whose conclusions and consciences run contrary to the temper of the times speak against that fever out of fear is to misunderstand faith. It is, I would suggest, to misunderstand the significance of our celebrations this week: God's gifts to us are manifold, but justifications for courage and for hope rise high among them.

    Christmas is a merry time, indeed.

    Evidence of a United Strategy?

    Justin Katz

    Boy does this sound familiar:

    "There is a process called negotiation by which issues get resolved," James P. Dwyer III, a teacher, wrote in a Nov. 29 e-mail to School Committee member Stephen A. DeCastro. It was titled, Democratic Society. DeCastro read it at the committee's meeting last Tuesday. He read his two-page response aloud as well. "Unfortunately, you have chosen to violate this with the proposal and vote at the Nov. 13 School Committee meeting. ... The place to discuss contract changes is at the bargaining table."

    The contract for the local teachers union — the largest union representing the city’s school staff — doesn’t expire until October 2008, but it agreed to meet early to help the district with its "financial difficulties." Dwyer said the union's negotiating team offered proposals that would have saved the department "a significant amount of money," but they were refused.

    "One must question to what degree the School Committee really wants to foster trust and positive working relations with the professional staff within the East Providence schools," Dwyer wrote. "Especially after the [health care change] vote was taken against the advice of legal counsel! I am appalled by the lack of thoughtfulness and disregard for the professional staff in our School Department."

    Who'd have thought that multiple municipalities would elect school committees that would rebuff unions' brilliant and well-intentioned plans to save taxpayers money? It's almost as if the unions are making proposals that they know will be rejected so they can then put fliers in local newspapers (as the Tiverton-NEA has been doing) decrying the school committees' poor financial sense.

    Huckabee: The Candidate We'd Love Not to Hate

    Justin Katz

    Well, "hate" is a bit strong; "suspect" would be better.

    A few things I read yesterday jointly bring into focus the feeling that a large segment of the political right likely has about Mike Huckabee. The good comes from Mark Steyn:

    Because Mike Huckabee mentioned "the birth of Christ", he liberated the equivocal tentative finger-in-the-windy candidates and enabled them to utter the dread words "Merry Christmas." Save, that is, for Senator Clinton, whose message ends with "Happy Holidays." Thus, in a small way, the Governor shifted the goalposts. I can't say I care for the Huckster policy-wise, but his instincts are very shrewd. There's a big demographic out there (and certainly not confined to evangelical Protestants, or even believing Christians) that's sick of the insipid generalities of the liberal establishment's offensively inoffensive pseudo-religion. By declining to defer to it and suffering no ill effects, Huck demonstrated how weedy and insubstantial it is. A lot of cultural warriors will be heartened by that. And Huckabee's insouciance — it ad-libbed his Christmas greeting in two takes — helps explain why so many of the better funded, supposed front-runners this campaign season are lying in the snowbank with a stunned look while the soundtrack plays "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer."

    The frustration is that Huckabee's uplift doesn't come without some strings — chains, one might say. Kathryn Lopez sums it up:

    Speaking like a man seeking to be president of evangelical America, not president of the United States, Huckabee told Meredith Vieira earlier this week: "There’s a sense in which all these years the evangelicals have been treated very kindly by the Republican party. They wanted us to be a part of it, and then one day, one of us actually runs and they say, 'Oh, my gosh! Now they're serious.'"

    Huckabee, meanwhile, is leaving some non-evangelical conservatives wondering, "Oh, my gosh. Maybe they never wanted to be allied with us." Huckabee is working right now, intentionally or not, on breaking down a winning coalition of religious conservatives.

    When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, some of the most moving statements coming out of congressional offices were from evangelical conservatives who viewed him as an important leader in defending the sanctity of human life. Many of them had adopted his "culture of life" language and thinking. They saw him as an ally and were inspired by his leadership. They joined him, despite theological differences, in important cultural and political fights. It was and is a natural pairing. Mike Huckabee, who is not a conservative on all things, but is on social issues, should know that and treasure and protect and foster these alliances. He's a riveting speaker who could rally social conservatives, at least to whip them up to fight another day. Instead, he's executing a divide-and-conquer strategy.

    Peggy Noonan gives some context:

    This is some of Mr. Huckabee's power. There's the fact that he's new, and the fact that Americans are in a funny historic moment: The lives they lead are good, and comfortable, but they sense deep down that the infrastructure of our good fortune is in many ways frail, that Citi may fall and Korea go crazy and some nut go kaboom. In such circumstances some would think a leader radically different--an outsider, a minister, a self proclaimed non-establishment type--might be an answer. ...

    Mr. Huckabee is clever. He puts forth his policies, such as they are, based on a faith-based understanding of public policy, and if you disagree with his policies, or take a hard shot at them, or at him, he suggests the reason is that you look down on evangelicals. This creates a new fissure in a party already riven by fissures. He has been accused by some in the conservative press of tearing the party apart, but it was being torn apart before he got on the scene. His rise is not a cause of collapse but an expression of it. ...

    Does Mr. Huckabee understand that his approach is making people uncomfortable? Does he see himself as divisive? He's a bright man, so it's hard to believe he doesn't. But it's working for him. It's getting him his 30 points in Iowa in a crowded field.

    When he first came on the scene, I had a strange urge to be able to say I supported him. But then one learns about the candidate. Why, when there's a large void in the political landscape, does it seem so rarely to be filled by a person who allows a sigh of relief, rather than of disappointment.

    Washington Crossing the Delaware at Christmas

    Marc Comtois

    One of the little things that Christmas reminds me of is the first time I saw Washington Crossing the Delaware at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art when I was in college back in the early 1990's. (Why? Well, Washington crossed into Trenton on Christmas Eve).

    Now, I'd seen pictures of it, sure. But nothing prepared me for turning a corner in the Met and being confronted by a 12 foot high by 21 foot long painting. I was awestruck. It was the first time that I actually realized that there was a difference between a picture of a painting and seeing the real thing, up close. I had seen real paintings before, and already thought that being able to discern the individual actual brush strokes on the canvas was pretty cool. It gave me an appreciation of the talent and craft that went into painting. But the impact that size can have on the senses was something I hadn't thought of nor experienced until that moment.

    What a Career Ought to Be

    Justin Katz

    "A hobby that got out of hand."

    That's what Ron Voake, of Norwich, a Vermonter of the old sort, says regarding his booming business as a wooden toy maker:

    Mr. Voake, the owner of Vermont Wooden Toys, has been deluged with orders from customers leery of buying toys made in China after millions of toys manufactured there were recalled this year because they have lead paint.

    "Every time there was a story about a toy recall, I got flooded with orders," Mr. Voake said. "This year stacks up as preposterous. I've never had a year like this, and I hope I don't have another one."

    Wooden Toy Maker is certainly an option on the table for when I can't do the construction thing anymore. The question is: Do I have to move to Vermont?

    December 23, 2007

    A Saint for Our Times

    Justin Katz

    Warren Throckmorton's Friday Journal piece serves to leaven the surreality of the professor quoted my previous post (and I don't say that solely because I love the name Throckmorton):

    Many make the Santa Claus-like association of this story to Saint Nicholas the gift giver. I see an additional angle. For reasons that often involve money, women today have few benefactors, few Saint Nicks. Bob Dylan sang truly two decades ago that today’s culture seems to promote “old men turning young daughters into whores.” A look at any magazine rack will tell you that there is a market for flesh and the demographic is predominantly male, ages 12 and up. Research company Visiongain estimated that the pornography market was a $70 billion industry in 2006. That is a lot of gold being used to degrade women rather than enhance their virtue.

    Blending traditional gender roles has been little help here. Women today are not, nor should they be, as helpless as those three girls aided by Saint Nicholas. However, girls gone wild with sexual freedom most often leads to exploitation by men. I doubt we would see as much skin if there were no gawking male purchasers, eager to buy and sell innocence as commerce.

    Harmful to both men and women, graphic sexuality, even the somewhat scaled down prime-time variety, contributes to the overall commodification of sex. Viewed through the eyes of a pornographer, sex is commerce and sexual purity is restraint of trade.

    We need Saint Nicholas today. We need his gifts of chastity and modesty. We need more respecters of purity and fewer of those who would sell young people into the brothel of commercialism.

    Not a bad message to layer back onto the meaning of Christmas. Now we just need a Charles Dickens for our times (who could surely make use of Warren's name... consent forthcoming, of course).

    Let Them Eat Taxes

    Justin Katz

    I've devoted part of my mind — as I've worked throughout this pre-Christmas weekend — to an attempt to decipher the anagram that must surely lie behind the name Henry Rosemont Jr. He's one of the three academics with whom li'l' ol' carpenter Katz shared the Providence Journal's editorial pages on Friday, and I've found it difficult to believe that a real person would write such a thing as his love letter to "Little Rhody":

    You know, of course, that you are being deserted by some people who believe that you have become too rich for their blood, and ignored by many respectable businesspeople for the same reason. Others complain of your seemingly wanton ways, especially with respect to exchanging money or other goods for your favors. All of this must rightfully cause you anguish. But do not despair, because many people love you dearly, not least those of us who have only come into your embrace recently. ...

    ... In brief, what our property taxes paid for [in Maryland] was a sheriff’s department and a school system staffed with heavily overworked and underpaid teachers. ...

    ... In Lexington[, Massachusetts], the property taxes on an equivalent home there are more than double what we pay in Newport. If anything, our taxes are not high enough. ...

    Although there are problems in some schools, you pay those to whom you entrust the young very well, with the lowest student-teacher ratio of any other state except Vermont. You acknowledge the bravery and dedication of your firefighters by paying them more than their peers anywhere else in the country, and compensate the police well, too. Perhaps most significant, the manifold services you provide to the old, the sick and the needy rank you ninth in the U.S.; clearly you understand that aiding victims is far more humane and efficient than blaming them for their plight. And you do all of this without taxing necessities of life — food, clothing, shoes, reading material — unlike almost all other states.

    It's like reading a suicidal man's love letter to a poison. Rather, it's like reading a wine-drinker's love letter to the poisoned water that those beneath him are having to drink. How sheltered this man's life must be to see the world in which he lives so poorly.

    Here's a thought: If the professoriat so loves taxes, let's have all future deficits funded by taxes on universities. In this case, I might actually support the notion of using taxes to create disincentive: To cover their higher costs, the schools would surely raise prices and decrease aid, which would provide the further service of keeping vulnerable young adults beyond the reach of likes of Mr. Rosemont, who realize that workers, taxpayers, and businesses are leaving the state but still declare that "taxes are not high enough."

    Oughtn't academics be particularly concerned with discovering that which they are failing to see, rather than issuing flowery paeans to government and social systems that are in the process of proving themselves to be unsustainable failures?

    December 22, 2007

    RI Senate President Is Not Satisfied with Seventh Place

    Monique Chartier

    While Rhode Island has been distracted by gridlock snow storms, triple dipping public employees and Presidential primaries, Senate President Joseph Montalbano has been sneaking around giving an interview to the Editorial Boards of the Pawtucket Times and the Woonsocket Call.

    As reported by the Pawtucket Times' estimable Jim Baron on Tuesday, the state budget was the dominant subject of the sit-down. And though Rhode Islanders are already the seventh highest taxed in the country, it appears that the only tax off the table for the Senate President is the state income tax.

    Whether it is the Historic Structures Tax Credit, the Film and Television Tax Credit, the flat tax option for the state’s highest earners, or the capital gains tax which was being phased out but was frozen in the current year when it was scheduled for oblivion, “the revenue side has to be examined,” Montalbano told editors of the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call on Monday. Montalbano recognizes that cities such as Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Central Falls and Providence have benefited from the historic tax credits by getting some of their previously vacant buildings back on the tax rolls and that it is “good for business and good for the construction industry. ”But every time a developer takes advantage of the tax credits “it is a direct hit on the state budget.” So while Montalbano admits he is an original sponsor of the historic tax credit program – as he was with the film and television tax credit -- and has supported it over the years, he says the time may have come to “freeze it or in some way modify it.”

    * * * *

    The sales tax, too, could be up for some tinkering, the Senate President said, not a hike in the 7 percent rate, but perhaps broadening in the types of economic activity covered by the tax. “You are going to see proposals to expand the sales tax,” he said, “perhaps adding luxury items such as clothing that costs over a certain amount of money, or professional services such as legal services or accounting, things like that.“That in effect is raising taxes, I’m not denying that is a raising of taxes,” Montalbano conceded.

    It is a little disturbing that the Senate President placed so much emphasis on the revenue side of the budget throughout the interview, though he did indicate expenditure categories that would be looked at.

    It is not all going to be solvable on the backs of the state workers but there are definitely going to have to be cuts made and union contract concessions made and any time that is the case you have to have the unions there. You can’t just dictate contract changes, they are certainly not going to be legislated.

    And when cities and towns begin their budget planning, the Senate President's advises them not expect an increase in state funding this year.

    ”That same dynamic will also extend down to cities and towns, which will almost surely see a second straight year of frozen school aid and other funds from the state, Montalbano said

    In fact, the Senate President was downright critical of the budgeting practices of cities and towns.

    It’s going to be tough medicine for everybody,” he said. “The days of four-year contract extensions with 3 percent raises and no co-pay in insurance and not comparison between Blue Cross and United are over. The locals are negotiation contracts they can’t afford.

    Interestingly, the Senate President did not mention social programs, though Rhode Island is one of the most generous states in that spending category.

    Rhode Island is facing an annual operating deficit north of $450,000,000. Closing any portion of that deficit by advancing Rhode Island's position as seventh highest taxed instead of enacting difficult but necessary spending cuts will only accelerate the flight of real revenue producers from the state and thereby boomerang to the state budget.

    The Counterprotest Must Go On

    Justin Katz

    By the way, I would be shirking my agitator's duty if I didn't highlight some folks who managed to get out to Fall River and counterprotest the picket that didn't happen:

    But even though a judge had said such picketing would be legal, the union didn't show up. Instead, two Portsmouth residents stood outside the hospital on Middle Avenue to picket the teachers' union. Forest Golden and Joe Robicheau held up signs in front of the main entrance to the hospital that read, "Tiverton School Committee: Taxpayer Heroes" and "NEA: Professional Bullies."

    "We're here to picket the picketers," Mr. Golden said. "We support the School Committee. I applaud them for holding the line on spending."

    Town Council members Joanne M. Arruda and Jay Edwards also turned up at St. Anne's Hospital to support Ms. deMedeiros.

    Right on.

    The Book of Rhode Island

    Justin Katz

    Mike Squatrito is in the local news regarding the just-published sequel in his Overlords series. You'll note, if you browse his site, that the second book's cover is a significant upgrade from the first, for which Mike can thank Anchor Rising's sometime brush-for-hire Colby Cook.

    Mike also goes to my church, as it happens. He works for the same company as my brother in law. And he graduated from URI (albeit some time before I did).

    And thus does Rhode Island wrap its tendrils around those who live here. (Now, that might be the basis for an interesting fantasy novel... or would it be horror?)

    December 21, 2007

    Campaigning from Beneath a Blanket

    Justin Katz

    My piece in the Providence Journal today addresses some common misconceptions about Rhode Islanders' voting habits and the implications for non-partisan elections. Colby Cook illustrated the piece with a cartoon, which is thus far an Anchor Rising exclusive:

    Tom Shevlin Goes National

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Congratulations to RI Report founder Tom Shevlin on his new gig

    The presidential candidates can run, but it will be hard for them to hide from the horde of citizen journalists tapped by MTV's Choose or Lose '08 to cover the race for the White House.

    A group of 51 local reporters — one from each state and Washington, D.C. — will follow the 2008 elections and deliver weekly multimedia reports tailored for mobile devices.

    Don't worry Tom, even though you've gone MSM on us, we know you'll continue to bring a fresh and innovative perspective to your reporting!

    Help for the Last Minute Christmas Shopper Courtesy of George Washington

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    For the second year in a row, I predict more mayhem than usual for last-minute Christmas shoppers. Christmas this year falls on a Tuesday, meaning that all of the slackers who waited until the last weekend before starting their shopping (I've heard that such people exist) are going to realize within the next 48-hours that they have only Monday as a buffer, if they can't finish up everything they need to do by Sunday. The result will be both more intense shopping activity than usual during the weekend-proper, and an entire sum of week-of-the-holiday shopping desperation packed into a single day before Christmas.

    From this point forward, for help in surviving the commercial aspects of the Christmas season, I recommend the eggnog recipe favored by the First President of the United States, George Washington…

    • One quart cream
    • One quart milk
    • One dozen tablespoons sugar
    • One pint brandy
    • 1/2 pint rye whiskey
    • 1/2 pint Jamaica rum
    • 1/4 pint sherry
    Mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add liquor to mixture drop by drop at first, slowly beating. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.
    Er, after re-reading the recipe, let me be sure to be clear: I am only recommending the frequent tasting of our first President's eggnog recipe after a safe return home from your Christmas shopping!

    Guess We're Stuck with It, Then

    Justin Katz

    Could there be a better expression of Rhode Island's erroneous mentality than EMT's comment to Marc's post on the triple-dipper union fireman?

    So why is this only OK for union presidents who don't rock the boat?

    All you conspiracy theorists REALLY believe that Cicilline didn't feed this straight to the Journal, who are trying to anoint him Governor?

    He broke no laws, and he can't even be brought up on department charges because it's been past practice- a key labor law term.

    The State Police laughed this out of their office. It's only an issue because the mayor is desperate for leverage against a union that his yes-man Farrell can't dictate to.

    I suspect I'm not alone among Anchor Rising types in not caring how this information came to light and in not believing that the same behavior used to be OK.

    It's a travesty that it's taking the utter collapse of the state's finances to spur this sort of intra-insider contention. That it appears unique against the historical backdrop indicates how out of kilter Rhode Islnd's public sector has been. Such political wrangling is built into our system precisely to make it in everybody's interest to watch for excesses from everybody else.

    It's disheartening that even relatively reasonable pro-union folks can't bring themselves to see the fault in Doughty's behavior.

    A Substitute Career Path

    Justin Katz

    Also in yesterday's Sakonnet Times is an article about the transitional pains at one of the Tiverton elementary schools that I mentioned last week. Principal Ed Fava ends the article on an interesting note, albeit by missing the more significant factor:

    Mr. Fava has one more stress to add to his list this month: a shortage of substitutes.

    "It's problem that is district wide," he said.

    On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week, Mr. Fava substituted for a first grade class and a fourth grade class. On Monday, Dec. 17, he substituted for a fourth grade class, while a resource teacher filled in to teach first grade.

    "I just don't think we pay enough," he said. "That's why we can't attract them or hang onto them."

    Substitute teachers in Tiverton make $72 a day and about 30 percent of that goes to taxes, he said.

    "When you break it down, they're making a little over $7 an hour. You can make more than that working at McDonalds," he said.

    It really isn't appropriate to compare substituting in public schools with working in a fast food joint. As with other apprentice-like, ground-floor positions in the public and private sectors, schools used to get away with the pitiful pay for substitutes because it was an early step on the path toward being a full-time teacher. I suspect that young would-be teachers are discovering, as my wife did, that the openings for teachers are, and will continue to be, increasingly rare, and increasingly political when available. Thank the teachers' unions, in part, for erasing merit comparisons from the profession, while also creating a very attractive slot in which even the mediocre have enhanced security compared with the private sector.

    If young teachers can do little more than get in line for years on end, waiting for jobs that pay enough to attract the less passionate, that can be performed rather easily, if done poorly, and with dissipating risk of firing or layoff as time passes, then they'll conclude that either the region or the profession must be abandoned. Nobody's going to take fast-food–level pay (without benefits) for an indeterminate duration and little likelihood of advancing.

    I'm not sure what the current rules are for non-teacher substitutes, but the lack of predictability and the early wake-up calls when a slot is open make it an unattractive means of earning extra money. For this group of potential subs, as with the hopeful young teachers, schools simply aren't going to be able to pay enough to overcome the barriers.

    You want substitutes? Bust the union, reorder schools such that motivated and talented teachers can advance more quickly, and incorporate substitutes into the career path.

    Giving the Axe [sic] to the Finger

    Justin Katz

    Seemingly to change the topic after the NEA's many missteps in Tiverton (including the widely distributed image of his own middle finger to the townspeople), NEA Assistant Executive Director Patrick Crowley adds insult to injury by attempting to sell Sakonnet Times readers a portrait of deception. His letter in yesterday's edition ends with a statement that "people with a political axe to grind" should not "get away with distortions of the facts," and I agree so wholeheartedly that I cannot do otherwise than note his own.

    He starts with a comparison of the 19.9% national inflation from 2000 to 2006 with the concurrent 19.8% increase in RI "instructional expenditures," which includes instructional teachers, substitutes, instructional paraprofessionals, pupil use technology, and instructional materials and trips. Here, high school English teachers have an opportunity to quiz their students concerning the reason that Mr. Crowley would include technology, materials, and trips in data for his argument that teacher salaries and benefits are not "driv[ing] the acceleration of education costs in Rhode Island."

    Any student who answers that the union executive is hiding something gets a star: The increase in the teachers subcategory by itself was 28.1% (both in total and per pupil). The combined expenditures for technology, materials, and trips actually fell 3.3%, while teachers' percentage of the instructional category climbed from 84.5% to 90.4%.

    Crowley proceeds to jump from statistical category to statistical category in order to paint an impressionistic picture of exploding costs beyond the union's scope and only modest increases within. Sticking with's IN$ITE data, however, the paint evaporates right off his canvas. As a percentage of total expenditures, leadership and operations have both dropped over the time period in question. Meanwhile, the increases in the share of the pie claimed by "other commitments" and instructional support includes (among other things) a 25.5% increase for guidance and counseling (with professionals very visible in recent union activities), a 113.2% increase for retiree benefits, a 144.1% increase for teacher support (mentoring programs, trainers, aids, graders, etc.), a 155.5% increase for therapists, psychologists, et al (e.g., for special education), and a 171% increase for teacher sabbaticals.

    It is important to remember, when reviewing these percentages, that no other subcategory comes anywhere near the expenditures on teachers. The second largest expenditure in education is building upkeep, utilities, et al, at 7.7% of the total. Instructional teachers, by contrast, account for 47.1% of the total.

    One must give credit to Crowley for providing (most of) his sources. It takes some guts to give others the tools to prove that you're attempting to deceive them. Of course, it also takes an arrogant belief that residents of the East Bay area are too lazy or stupid to do so.

    It would seem that Mr. Crowley hasn't changed the topic at all.

    December 20, 2007

    Providence EMA Director Messier Fired

    Monique Chartier

    Citing a lack of confidence in the Director's ability to carry out his official duties in a future emergency, Mayor David Cicilline has announced that Leo Messier has been fired as Providence's Emergency Management Agency director.

    Mr. Messier is perhaps best known for being a little too sanguine during last week's storm about how some Providence school children would get home on gridlocked, often impassable, streets.

    That evening, Messier called the school bus situation “inconvenient.” But he said children “will get home eventually” because they have call phones to call their parents.

    The bus ride (or non-ride) home that night of some school children is also on the agenda of the Providence City Council post-storm meeting tonight.

    The City Council leadership, apparently unwilling to wait for a storm-response report commissioned by the mayor, has scheduled a special meeting for [tonight] to call department directors to account for why some children were stranded for up to six hours on school buses Thursday, among other problems.

    The meeting will take place tonight at 6:00 pm in Council Chambers on the third floor of Providence City Hall.

    UPDATE - Messier responds

    Leo Messier is not accepting his termination quietly. In an interview with Jim Hummel of ABC 6 News, Mr. Messier states that he informed Mayor David Cicilline that traffic was gridlocked around the city but that he never received instruction from the Mayor upgrading the storm to an emergency or directing him to implement an emergency plan.

    Who knew what when and what they did when they knew it is going to be an interesting component of the storm's aftermath.

    Whoda Thunk? A Double-dipping Union Hack

    Marc Comtois


    Providence Fire Union president Paul Doughty has not come to work for much of the last three years, staffing what Chief George Farrell said appeared to be a no-show position in the department’s training division instead of working a fire truck.

    At the same time, Doughty was making extra cash working overtime shifts to fill the vacancy created when he left his job on a special hazards truck, according to a Journal analysis of department records; Farrell said that amounted to double-billing the city.

    Perhaps the most illustrative aspect of the whole story is the "that's the way it's always been done" attitude of both Doughty and past union president Stephen Day. Guess what guys, business as usual ain't gonna cut it this time.
    Doughty asserts that he has done nothing wrong: he acknowledges that he did not come to work for almost three years, but said he had been authorized to work full-time on union business by Farrell’s predecessor as chief, David Costa. He said that previous union presidents — including Farrell — have been allowed to do union business full-time. The union contract allows the president to take time off for union business, but it does not specify how much.

    Doughty said that he was not double-billing by working overtime shifts. Once he was assigned to the Division of Training, he said, it was irrelevant where he served previously.

    “I know it doesn’t sound good, but no matter where I go, because of the way minimum manning is structured, either they’re paying me or they’re paying someone else,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s not my spot … for 17 years it’s been my spot, but for those three years or whatever, it wasn’t my spot.”

    All agree that Doughty’s predecessor as union president, David Peters, worked on a truck at least 20 hours weekly. Peters served the union between Farrell and Doughty, from 2002 to 2004.

    But Stephen T. Day, fire union president from 1988 to 1996, said that he was allowed to work on union business full-time, and that he, too, worked overtime shifts on his former truck.

    Day said that past practice proves that Doughty’s actions are proper.

    “This is a smokescreen issue, this is retaliation for Paul Doughty speaking up to defend his members,” Day said.

    To Farrell, that’s ridiculous. He said that had The Journal not started asking questions, he would have handled this internally — to have it come out in public just makes his department look bad.

    You got that right, Chief. And it confirms all of the worst suspicions the public has.

    Chipping Blocks from the Foundation

    Justin Katz

    What's dismaying is that which the Providence Journal editorial writer elides in his or her advocacy for same-sex marriage:

    The ruling essentially locks homosexual couples into marriage in Rhode Island unless one or both members of the marriage move back to Massachusetts and institute divorce proceedings there. That is not equal justice under the law. After all, heterosexual couples who were married in the Bay State are allowed to divorce in Rhode Island.

    The court, in its 3-2 ruling, noted that marriage in Rhode Island is repeatedly defined in state laws as being between a man and a woman. True, but the state has long recognized legal marriages performed in other states whose criteria for legality are different from its own. Take, for instance, that Ocean State courts have accepted marriages in other states involving people who would not have met the minimum age for marriage in Rhode Island.

    The missing admission is that, in Rhode Island, marriage remains what everybody always thought it meant until very recently: a relationship between a man and a woman. By that definition, an out-of-state marriage between a boy and girl too young to enter into the arrangement in Rhode Island is still a marriage; there's a difference between finding that a marriage was improperly entered into and/or ought to be considered void and finding that a relationship is not actually a marriage. The problem with the same-sex marriage movement, as with the larger homosexual movement, and the whole progressive movement beyond that, is the nonchalance with which advocates hack away at the blocks that form the foundation of our society in order to enable their peremptory emotional social manipulation.

    Imagine a wall of cinder blocks toothed and stacked like bricks. In order to layer on a new block that allows homosexuals to enter into marriage, our system requires activists to gain acceptance across the population, which often builds with restrictions on positioning and changes in import. To avoid that necessity, same-sex marriage advocates have been attempting to swing the sledge hammer labeled "civil right" at more fundamental principles: that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and, more fundamental still, that men and women are different in substantial ways. The tragedy is that other blocks rely on those principles — such as that children ought to be raised by their own mothers and fathers.

    Attacking the fundamentals — usually without acknowledging that one is doing so — is the only way to declare, as the Projo does, that extending "full marriage rights to... homosexual residents" is "the right and just thing." According to the structure of the law, the state's gay citizens do have "full marriage rights"; they just don't wish to exercise them. The predictable response from those opposite me on this issue is to scoff sardonically at a bigotry that they see as inherent in my assertion that legal equality indeed obtains, but no bigotry exists. I'm simply pointing to the "marriage = man and woman" block on which my opinion is based. That not being good enough for the advocates, they proceed to undermine that principle, and to continue the process on down to bedrock.

    This is why homosexuality, as a movement, is so irredeemably subversive. Consider what's been happening within the Episcopal Church:

    The Fresno-based congregation is the first full diocese to secede because of a conservative-liberal rift that began decades ago and is now focused on whether the Bible condemns gay relationships. ...

    "I do not intend to threaten you, only to urge you to reconsider and draw back from this trajectory," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the U.S. denomination, wrote in a letter to Schofield earlier this week.

    [Bishop John-David] Schofield responded that the Episcopal Church "has isolated itself from the overwhelming majority of Christendom and more specifically from the Anglican Communion by denying Biblical truth and walking apart from the historic Faith and Order." ...

    Christian advocates for accepting gay relationships, including Jefferts Schori, say they are guided by biblical teachings on social justice and tolerance. But Schofield and other conservatives believe Scripture bars same-sex relationships. San Joaquin also is one of three dioceses in the Episcopal Church that will not ordain women. Schori last year became the first woman elected to lead the denomination.

    The movement plainly can't insert its preferences into a religious infrastructure guided by Christian scripture without addressing all previous thought, right down to the way in which the Bible ought to be read and applied. In this case, leveraging previously installed wedges, the liberal movement has declared that "biblical teachings on social justice and tolerance" both override proscriptions against homosexual activity and apply to the church's hierarchy in a specific manner.

    The increasing experiences of religious organizations reveal the stress cracks that do and will run more deeply throughout our culture:

    "This is not an abstract debate on principles," Stern said, describing a number of other situations currently or recently in litigation:

    -- The Sea Scouts, a branch of the Boy Scouts of America, was denied use of a public wharf in California because Boy Scouts do not permit homosexuals as leaders.

    -- In Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal, a religious organization's billboard quoting from the Bible that homosexuality is "an abomination" was ruled to be "hate speech."

    "Around the world, many countries are following the European model, which says hate speech is entirely unprotected and trumps religious liberty," Stern said.

    -- An evangelical student wearing a T-shirt that said "Homosexuality is a sin" was suspended from school because the shirt challenged "the essence" of some of the other students. His suspension was upheld in court.

    "Whether attacks on a person's 'essence' are reason to deny free speech is questionable," the attorney said.

    -- A physician who refused to treat a lesbian couple who wanted artificial insemination was sued by the couple and lost in court.

    "Are we going to ask doctors to sign documents that violate their doctrinal beliefs" as a condition of licensure? Stern asked.

    -- An Orthodox Jewish university that designated certain housing for married couples only was accused of discrimination for denying a same-sex couple a place there and eventually was forced to open the housing to any couple.

    Rights of association. Rights of speech. Professional rights. All must fall, and the promise from the demolitionists is always that not much more needs to be removed, that the structure will hold, and that we don't need principles that uphold the rights of "bigots" (as their opposition gets branded) anyway. Unfortunately, we will all have to live in the society that they attempt to rebuild upon the morass that remains after their destruction.

    December 19, 2007

    Beware the Tween Idol

    Marc Comtois

    As my daughters have grown up, I've become more aware of the pop culture canonization of people who are famous (some for its own sake, aka Paris Hilton). What's disturbing to me is that there is no age limit to the phenomena. More specifically, the recent Hannah Montana ticket "controversy" is symptomatic of our culture's inability to keep tween entertainment in context, for example. It looks like we grown-ups are sending all the wrong messages to our daughters (and sons) about the importance of entertainment in our society.

    A few months ago it was "revealed" that the star of Disney's High School Musical franchise, Vanessa Hudgens, uhh, revealed a bit more than a high schooler should. Today we learn that 16 year old Jamie Lynn Spears, star of Nickelodeon's popular Zoey 101 (and sister to you-know-who) is pregnant. Both girls (yes, girls) have been placed in the pop-culture pantheon of "tween" stars and are held up as role models (like it or not) by our youth, especially young girls.

    It's not particularly insightful to proclaim that young, promiscuous actresses (or 'roided up baseball players, for that matter) are shaky role models. But they become role models because they have such a squeaky clean image in the fhe first place. But appreciation of their talent for its own sake is rarely enough. Instead, we make more of them than they are--and some try to make more of themselves than they are--and mass media helps to portray them as such until, eventually, a star somehow becomes a positive role model because they are....famous.

    These young almost-starlets appeal primarily to the 6-11 crowd and my daughters fit into the younger half of that demographic. But posing for nudie pics and getting knocked up at 16 aren't the sort of behavior I want my daughters to even know about much less be exposed to. Thankfully, we don't allow them to watch most of the shows aimed at the tween crowd because, frankly, we think they're not appropriate (even if Disney and Nick produce them--or should that be especially because they do?). But I know that we're in the minority of parents in that regard. Oh well. Cocooning has it's benefits, after all.

    Another Anecdote in Support of Limited Government

    Donald B. Hawthorne

    Some news stories, like this one below about the just-passed Omnibus bill in Congress, need no further commentary:

    [South Carolina Senator] DeMint's office put a finger in Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-Ill.) eye last night:

    Durbin: “For 46 hours and 8 minutes—the Senator from South Carolina has had an opportunity to go to the Internet and see this bill in its entirety, with his staff, and to read every page...Please, do not come to the floor and suggest that this is a mystery bill which no one has seen. For 2 days, this has been posted on the Internet . You have had your chance. Every Senator has had a chance.” – Senate Floor, 12/18/07

    According to Senator Durbin’s math: Every Senator had 2,768 minutes to read 3,417 pages of legislative text that included next year’s spending for every domestic program of the entire federal government and many new policy changes.

    According to Senator Durbin’s math: A Senator that downloaded the bill when it was posted at 12:15 a.m. Monday morning would have had to:

    • Read nearly 1.25 pages of the bill every minute for 46 hours and 8 minutes,
    • Not sleep,
    • Not eat,
    • Take no bathroom breaks.

    After Durbin's speech last night, DeMint asked him on the floor if he'd read the bill. He did not answer.

    And some people are silly enough to think that a public sector filled with politicians like Senator Durbin and unelected, unaccountable, physically remote, and faceless bureaucrats have only pure motives and are capable of solving our national problems!

    It is always worth reminding ourselves that it is the underlying incentives created by policies, not the publicly-stated goals, which drive actual behaviors long after everyone has forgotten about the legislative details. See the first part of this post and pay particular attention to this important post.

    Steroids, Baseball and the Failure of the Press

    Marc Comtois

    Editor & Publisher focuses it's microscope on sports journalists and how they missed baseball's budding steroid scandal way back in 1995:

    It wasn't a particularly long story. The 730-word piece by sportswriter Bob Nightengale in the Los Angeles Times on July 15, 1995, included no flashy graphics or leaked documents. But what it said turned out to be both groundbreaking and foreshadowing: Steroids had become both common and acknowledged in Major League Baseball...In his piece, the sportswriter -- now with USA Today -- quoted several major league general managers on and off the record who admitted that steroids were part of the game. Several players who spoke to him urged that testing be implemented to weed out suspicions. "We all know there's steroid use, and it's definitely becoming more prevalent," San Diego Padres general manager Randy Smith told the reporter. "The ballplayers all know the dangers of it, we preach it every year."

    But instead of sparking a wave of follow-up articles or investigations to ferret out the details of steroid use in baseball -- who was using it, where it came from, what it did to the body -- sportswriters essentially left the story alone. For several years, even through the home run derby summer of 1998 when McGwire and Sammy Sosa shattered the long-held 61-dinger mark, barely a word was printed about the illegal substances that were likely helping to boost home runs and endangering long-term health.

    Now, in retrospect, sportswriters are issuing mea culpa's.
    "The bottom line is, we were nowhere on it," says Howard Bryant, who covered baseball during the late 1990s and the first part of this decade for the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News and the Boston Herald, and now tracks football for The Washington Post. "It was too easy to ignore what was happening -- and we did ignore it." Adds Jeff Pearlman, a former baseball writer for Sports IIlustrated, "I think we just blew it."

    More than a dozen current and former baseball writers and their editors spoke with E&P about the often shoddy job sports reporters did on the steroid scandal in baseball, which now appears to date back almost 20 years. Most of them admit that those covering the sport either ignored or failed to properly look into the growing epidemic, which many say was prompting rumors and speculation as far back as the mid 1980s.

    "I think all of us wish now that we had pushed harder," says Tom Jolly, sports editor at The New York Times. "I suspect we weren't as well-informed about the whole thing as we are now."

    Ken Rosenthal, an analyst for FoxSports. com and a former baseball writer for The Sun in Baltimore, agrees. "In hindsight, I screwed up," he says about his failure to get at the steroid issue, especially during the 1998 home run chase. "That is our greatest sin, extolling these guys as something more than they were. Some of us had a feeling that something was amiss. We are more guilty of making McGwire and Sosa into heroes when they weren't."

    Healthy skepticism (fairly applied) is a keystone of good journalism and a larger dose of it would have (hopefully) helped. On the other hand, according to one academic, it's really the fans who are to blame.
    Charles Yesalis, a University of Pennsylvania professor and the author of three books on steroids in sports, places much of the blame for the lack of coverage on the fans themselves. He contends that most don't want to know bad news about their heroes, and editors know this. "It would be like telling a "Star Wars" fan about the special effects during the movie," says Yesalis, who testified before Congress during last year's steroid hearings. "They don't want to know it, they want to be entertained." He adds that many of the writers are too close to the game as fans: "They don't separate their love of the sport from their job."
    Way to insult the fans and the professionalism of journalists, professor. The truth is, while many fans may not care, I bet that more than a few want to be reassured that the athletes they enjoy watching are performing on the proverbial 'level playing field.' We of the faceless masses aren't all so easily sated, oh enlightened one!

    From Each According to Neediness, to Each According to Leverage

    Justin Katz

    Froma Harrop makes an interesting observation:

    PAYING BLOGGERS is "not our financial model," The Huffington Post's co-founder, Ken Lerer, told USAToday. What a profitable business that must be.

    The Huffington Post is a popular liberal blog site named for Arianna Huffington, a pundit and power broker in the celebrity-industrial complex. Huffington is also very smart. After all, she has 1,800 contributors typing their little fingers off for no money, while sending the site’s ad revenue and $10 million in funding into other pockets. ...

    Being very left, The Huffington Post provides a daily damnation of top-hatted capitalists oppressing the toiling masses. Imagine obtaining such content from slave labor. Business schools will be studying this example for years.

    I'm not making this up. Just as The Huffington Post expressed its resolve to not compensate writers, one of the bloggers posted an item headlined, "Greed is Good: How Big Media Wants to Steal From Its Workers."

    When once the young comme il faut leftist begins to discover that everything he or she has been taught to believe is built on lies, it begins to become apparent that practiced egalitarianism and all that junk has a strange tendency to benefit a few key preachers of the party line.

    It's sort of like socialism, that way. And now the opiate of the masses isn't just believing like the stars, it's (as Harrop puts it) "Blogging with the Stars."

    Palumbo and Maselli Make 2nd Attempt at RI Immigration Reform

    Marc Comtois

    Democrat State Rep. Peter Palumbo and Democrat Sen. Christopher Maselli have filed new legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration in Rhode Island.

    The legislation, a revamped version of a bill that died during the last General Assembly, aims to tighten state laws regarding issuance of driver’s licenses and to make it unlawful for businesses or individuals to harbor undocumented immigrant workers. Both legislators said the issue is about economics and protecting jobs.
    But enough about the actual legislation and its goals, the ProJo devotes the rest of the story (about 2/3s) to the reaction of those who oppose the measure. Nothing new there, just the normal rhetorical conflation of "immigrant" with "illegal immigrant" (apparently, "nuance" is a term of convenience and not applicable in the illegal immigration debate) and the old tropes about purported racism and hatred of non-English speakers are trotted out. But then there was this:
    William Shuey, executive director of the International Institute, said similar legislation enacted in other parts of the country “has done nothing to address the underlying issues that need to be addressed by federal legislation...
    Illegal immigrants living in states and cities that have adopted strict immigration policies are packing up and moving back to their home countries or to neighboring states.

    The exodus has been fueled by a wave of laws targeting illegal immigrants in Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and elsewhere. Many were passed after congressional efforts to overhaul the immigration system collapsed in June.

    Immigrants say the laws have raised fears of workplace raids and deportation.

    "People now are really frightened and scared because they don't know what's going to happen," says Juliana Stout, an editor at the newspaper El Nacional de Oklahoma. "They're selling houses. They're leaving the country."

    Supporters of the laws cheer the departure of illegal immigrants and say the laws are working as intended.

    Oklahoma state Rep. Randy Terrill, Republican author of his state's law, says the flight proves it is working. "That was the intended purpose," he says. "It would be just fine with me if we exported all illegal aliens to the surrounding states."

    Most provisions of an Oklahoma law take effect in November. Among other things, it cuts off benefits such as welfare and college financial aid.

    There's no hard demographic data on the trend, partly because it's hard to track people who are in the USA illegally. But school officials, real estate agents and church leaders say the movement is unmistakable.

    Other reports from Arizona (and here), Oklahoma and Georgia (video) confirm that, faced with tougher state laws (and a tighter economy), illegal immigrants are choosing self deportation. For instance, a recent story in the NY Times detailed how one family was part of a mass exodus of Brazilians leaving the U.S. for their home country.
    To explain an often wrenching decision to pull up stakes, homeward-bound Brazilians point to a rising fear of deportation and a slumping American economy. Many cite the expiration of driver’s licenses that can no longer be renewed under tougher rules, coupled with the steep drop in the value of the dollar against the currency of Brazil, where the economy has improved.

    “You put it all together, and why should you stay in an environment like that if you have a place like Brazil, where there’s hope, a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train to run you over?” said Pedro Coelho, a businessman in Mount Vernon, N.Y., who is known as the mayor of Brazilians in Westchester County. “Are they leaving? Yes, by the hundreds.”

    In Massachusetts, says Fausto da Rocha, the founder of the Boston-area Brazilian Immigrant Center, his compatriots — many here illegally — are leaving by the thousands, some after losing homes in the subprime mortgage crisis. In New York and New Jersey, travel agents and others who sell airline seats say that one-way bookings to Brazil have more than doubled since last year, to about 150 daily from Kennedy International Airport, and that flights are sold out through February.

    And at Brazil’s consulate in Miami, which serves Brazilians in five Southeastern states, officials said a recent survey of moving companies and travel agencies confirmed what they had already surmised from their foot traffic: More Brazilians are leaving the region than arriving...

    It would seem--contra Mr. Shuey--that a state can pass and enforce laws that makes it tougher for illegals to live in the U.S. and doesn't that "address the underlying issues," regardless of what the federal government does?

    Advocates for the Sheep

    Justin Katz

    I've been finding something frustrating with local Christian leaders, of late.

    Consider part of the Gospel reading from this past Sunday's Catholic Mass readings:

    Jesus said to them in reply, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."

    The lame walk, and the dead are raised, yet the poor do not "have their pockets filled." Instead, they receive the good news. A few chapters later, Jesus mentions the poor again:

    Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

    Jesus doesn't tell the rich man to procure for the poor a "living wage." He doesn't mention ensuring adequate revenue flow through a charitable government. Instead, the young man "went away sad, for he had many possessions."

    Our own Bishop Tobin offers related lessons:

    We can get lost if we get wrapped up in materialism, secularism or hedonism, worshipping the false gods of this world instead of the one, true God.

    The thing that frustrates me, with reference to the foregoing, is the all too common chastisement published as a recent editorial in the Rhode Island Catholic:

    The Gospel this weekend reminds us that Jesus comes to us to bring sight to the blind, let the lame walk again, cleanse the lepers, bring hearing to the deaf, raise the dead and to proclaim the good news to the poor. The news is not good for thousands of Rhode Island poor families. They face devastating cuts in assistance and aid from state agencies. Many of them face the prospect of no health insurance coverage for themselves and their children.

    "The news is not good"! But the News is good by definition — by faith. I realize the sentence was meant as a turn of phrase, but by such turns do we "get wrapped up in materialism." Through the echo of professional activists do we stumble into secularism. It is unfair — perhaps immoral — of Christian leaders, such as those who publish the Catholic, to leverage religious mandates when offering specific policy opinions without in tandem seeking to help the objects of the chastisements to make the difficult decisions:

    These are disturbing financial times in our nation but especially in Rhode Island. There are no easy answers and no quick fixes to the huge deficit. However, we urge Governor Carcieri and the leadership of the General Assembly to remember that the state budget is more than a fiscal plan; it reflects our values as a people. Budget choices have clear moral and human dimensions. The poor and needy should not be forced to endure choices that force them to live without health care, affordable housing, and basic needs.

    At whose door, then, would it be most moral to lay the budgetary shortfall? That of public employees? Unions? Taxpayers? High-paid non-profit executives? Is there no case for simultaneously improving our economic ecosystem and nudging the needy off the public lifeline into it?

    There's a cowardice to solely declaring that the flow of resources to the poor must not be decreased. And it's a cowardice that allows the leeches and corrupt aristocrats to lay the responsibility on the next most vulnerable group: the regular, hard-working citizens. Oughtn't the Church be advocating for us, as well?

    December 18, 2007

    District 75 goes Republican

    Monique Chartier

    With a remarkable 63% of the vote, Republican Steven J. Coaty won today's special election in Newport and will represent that city in the Rhode Island House.

    Mr. Coaty carried five out of seven precincts. More details are available at Ocean State Republican.

    [Hat tip once again to Will Ricci for alerting us to this breaking news.]

    EMA Director Warren Fired

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    WPRO (630 AM) is reporting that Robert Warren has been fired as the state Emergency Management Agency director, presuambly over his handling of last Thursday's snowstorm.


    Warwick's Honesty Tax

    Justin Katz

    It's certainly a laudable act to seek to return $762 dollars found on the ground by an ATM. Few, indeed, would fault a man for predicting the rightful owner to be unlocatable and pocketing the money. Even fewer, I'd say, would find it blameworthy to keep the money if the authorities wouldn't hand over even a portion should the owner not be tracked down, as Anthony Saccoccia discovered to be the case in Warwick:

    He tried to return the money to the Greenwood Credit Union, on Post Road, which was closed. Then he checked a neighboring business, also closed.

    So he took the money home and called the police. "We picked it up, brought it in and tagged it as evidence," said police Lt. Thomas Hannon.

    The police will follow up with the credit union to try to figure out how the money got there, and to whom it belongs. They will seek to examine surveillance video and will ask the credit union to review withdrawal records, Hannon said.

    Under the law, the money will go into an interest-earning account for six months, he said. If the police cannot locate the rightful owner in that time, the cash will be transferred to the general fund that pays for city services, he said.

    Odd that the person to whom the money actually belonged would likely be more generous toward Mr. Saccoccia than the municipal government. Who'd have thought that the honesty tax would be 100%?


    According to Jon of Rhode Island Law Journal, Mr. Saccoccia has a right to that money if it's not claimed. His 90-day clock to claim the money begins when the owner's 90 days are up.

    You may all proceed with your good-samaritanism.

    Pew Study: Good News, Bad News for RI Pension/Benefits System

    Marc Comtois

    Pew has come out with an analysis of state pension systems. The Providence Business News sums it up:

    Rhode Island was ranked among the top performers in pension funding, with $5.5 billion set aside toward a pension bill of $9.8 billion as of fiscal 2006. But on benefits, the state was ranked as “below par,” with nothing set aside toward a $700 million anticipated bill – a plight it shared with the nation’s five largest states, the center found.
    More from the actual Pew RI "Fact Sheet":
    Rhode Island’s pension system is one of the most underfunded in the United States, in aggregate terms. (At the time of Pew’s report, the state had complete financial data on its pension systems only through 2005.) Rhode Island requires a higher contribution from state employees (8.75% of salary) to participate in the pension system than all but two other states. But it has had a good record of making its annual required contributions as determined by its own actuaries. As for non-pension benefits, adjusting for the state’s size, Rhode Island’s bill coming due for retiree health care and other benefits appears to be lower than most other New England states.
    Pew considers RI's pension funding as a "Top Performer" but its "Below Par" (obviously!!) in funding future benefits.

    Getting Them Young

    Justin Katz

    It's taken a while for me to get to it, but it's still worth noting a surprisingly high-profile, front-page, Sunday Journal article by Jennifer Jordan:

    About 40 girls under the age of 15 become pregnant each year in Rhode Island.

    The number of girls ages 10 to 14 who become pregnant is substantially lower than for older teens. But it underscores the need for better sex education in middle school and at home, say health and education officials.

    "This is a public health issue," said Miriam C. Inocencio, president of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island. "We should not be seeing kids this age getting pregnant, many of whom don't have enough information and don't know any better."

    Dr. Patricia Flanagan, who heads the Rhode Island Teen Pregnancy Coalition, says that while most youth are not sexually active in middle school, adults should ask themselves if they are doing enough to talk to young teenagers and make sure they understand the consequences of being sexually active.

    Throughout the rather long unpaid advertisement news report, there is not a single indication that any trend or shift suggests that increased sex ed for kids is warranted, let alone necessary. Indeed, according to the Planned Parenthood–friendly Guttmacher Institute, in 2000, that 40 girls was 60 (PDF). In other words, the rate is, if anything, dropping. And it fell without programs. Without workshopper "skills." It fell without training, condoms, or pills. (Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

    A cynical reader might muse — as an appropriately skeptical reporter might pursue — that the teen pregnancy, family planning, safe sex, abortion industry has a financial incentive to expand its base, even if it's not socially necessary. Even if it's not culturally advisable. Get them realizing that they need your products and services young — that's the game, and parents shouldn't be comforted by the industry's assertions that the kids won't be spurred to wonder what it needs them for.

    Open Thread: Republican Presidential Nomination

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Since the collapse of the (now slightly rebounding) John McCain campaign earlier this year, the conventional wisdom has been that the Republican nomination would be decided in a one-on-one battle between Rudy Giuliani and whoever emerged as the winner of the GOP's "Conservative Division" in the early states.

    However, almost all of the politically knowledgable and politically active people I have spoken to about the Republican nomination race over the past few weeks have expressed a version of this graf from today's Rich Lowry National Review Online column…

    Nationally, [Rudy Giuliani's] numbers have been on slow downward slide since March. He was at 44-percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll in February, and at 25-percent in the same poll last week…

    This has trashed the Giuliani theory of the race, which was that his national lead in the polls was a bankable commodity that he could redeem even after losses in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, and South Carolina. It turns out that his national lead hasn’t even survived the media attention that has gone to the hot candidate in Iowa, Mike Huckabee, weeks before anyone votes. What happens when Giuliani’s competitors begin actually winning the early contests, with the attendant crush of attention and buzz?
    The horserace question is: Can the GOP field still be split into favorites and dark horses, or are there as many as five top tier candidates who control their own destiny, i.e. who have a chance to win without the help of a major gaffe by their opponents?

    The substantive question -- based on the fact that's it's already been a long campaign where people are at least familiar with the names involved -- is: Which GOP candidate has the best "second act" potential to capture the imagination of the public?

    Incredibly Random Bit of RI Political Trivia

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    I've thought of myself as pretty well tuned into Rhode Island political trivia, but until I stumbled across this Weekly Standard article mentioning a "famous Rhode Island drawl", I never realized that John McLaughlin – the McLaughlin of The McLaughlin Group -- was a native Rhode Islander. Here's the opening of his Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame entry

    The marvelous story of Rhode Island's own John Joseph McLaughlin leads one through more twists and turns than a Rocky Point roller coaster. Born on March 29, 1927 to Augustus and Eva (Turcotte) McLaughlin, he grew up in the neighborhoods of Edgewood and Mount Pleasant. His earliest run at greatness included stints as a pharmacy soda jerk, Triggs greenskeeper and caddy, Narragansett Park racetrack money-runner and a stock boy at Shepard's department store.
    (I am now trying to picture McLaughlin as a Triggs caddy)...
    Golfer: Do you think I should use my six-iron here?

    McLaughlin: WRONG!!!

    McLaughlin even ran against John O. Pastore for Senate in 1970…
    John "tiptoed" onto the political scene in 1970 by brashly challenging the iconic Senator John Pastore in McLaughlin's very first, and Pastore's very last, political campaign.
    Knowing John McLaughlin's origins certainly goes a long way towards explaining the rough-and-tumble format of his TV show!

    Conservatives Develop Liberals' Havens

    Justin Katz

    From time to time, we'll discuss among ourselves a theory that certain shifts in states' political character are the results of liberals' fleeing from regions that they've ruined to regions in which conservative policies have (ahem) done precisely what one would expect them to do. As Froma Harrop recently discovered, New Hampshire is exhibit A:

    The question again: Do recent elections here reflect temporary choler at the Republican leadership or a more fundamental shift? The changing demographics don't bode well for the Grand Old Party.

    "There used to be places that would vote Republican no matter how bad a year it was," Scala said. "Nowadays, those reserves are really depleted."

    Many of the old-time Yankees — the "genealogical Republicans" — are dying off. They are being replaced by fairly liberal retirees from other states. New Hampshire has long attracted blue-collar Republicans, angry over taxes, from Massachusetts. But they are now being outnumbered by an influx of more educated, politically progressive workers to the state's booming high-tech industries.

    The trick, I guess, is to figure out what region conservatives will pick for improvement next. Sadly, I doubt that they'll consider Rhode Island to be ripe, which is unfortunate: the state would make for a fantastic proof of concept field.

    December 17, 2007

    Next Time, I Won't Be Pre-Outraged

    Justin Katz

    Seemingly because of Bobby Oliveira's attempts to talk some sense into the NEA's Pat Crowley (I know!), the Tiverton teachers' union moved its planned picket from the hospital at which School Committee Chairwoman Denise DeMedeiros works to the superintendent's office.

    Maybe next time, we on the other side shouldn't forecast our outrage so explicitly. So let me just say, in advance, that I think burning effigies of the school committee on the football field would be very tasteful. Effective, too.


    Here's a thought: If Crowley truly wants to advance the negotiations, rather than play the role of hardcore unionist, he could fall on his sword as the bad cop. Alternately, the teachers could give him a push.

    That would send a clear message that the union is more interested in coming to an equitable resolution, rather than flexing its muscles in a bear hug.

    The Nation's Job Proficiency Test

    Justin Katz

    Lee Drutman has an excellent idea for an additional (or substitutive) practice for evaluating presidential candidates:

    How about, just for once, instead of a short-answer debate, we let our candidates take a long-essay test where we get to see the quality of their actual decision-making? The format could work like this: The candidates show up, and they each get an office with a computer, hooked up to the Internet, and a phone. They also get a full scenario. For example, What would they do if radical Islamists staged a coup in Pakistan and began initiating military action in Kashmir? How would they respond if China's economy went into a tailspin and Asia began following? How would they respond if a particularly virulent flu started showing up in the United States? What would they do if a group claiming to be affiliated with al-Qaida blew up a bus in Chicago?

    Then they get an hour to craft a response. They can call whomever they like, do what research they like, and talk to the scenario experts as much as they like. But every move is recorded on video, so we can see how they approach a problem. At the end, they each get 10 minutes in their office to explain how and why they would respond (this way they do not get to hear what other candidates have said).

    This would be different. But it would be serious. It would give onlookers a chance to see how the candidates think through a situation, what questions they ask, and how they present a solution, given time to think about it. After all, we want a creative problem-solver in the Oval Office, not a mere regurgitator of rehearsed pabulum.

    His second idea — an anonymous survey of government types — is less attractive, telling the public more who's side has better stacked the careerists than which candidate would be effective within their world. On the other hand, it might be nice to be able to vote against their preferences.

    Incentive to Produce

    Justin Katz

    This sort of thing shouldn't be anywhere near the chopping block:

    Investors in six start-ups are getting a lucrative reward for betting on local entrepreneurs, part of a new and costly state effort to grow local companies.

    Last night, the state Economic Development Corporation approved the first applications for the Innovation Tax Credit. The companies may now offer investors a credit of up to $100,000 off their individual state income-tax bill in return for their investments. ...

    But it is being unveiled at a time of alarming fiscal challenges for the state, as the legislature struggles to close a projected $450-million budget deficit.

    Those strains have prompted cuts in public spending, including the recent layoff of more than 100 state workers and sharp reductions in support for social-service agencies.

    The imbalance has provoked demands from advocates for the poor that many state tax credits, such as those given to the film industry and developers renovating historic buildings, be scaled back or eliminated. ...

    Participating companies can receive a maximum of $100,000 in tax credits to bestow on investors, distribute to employees or hand over to a new executive as a signing bonus. (The credits can be shared by up to 10 individuals. Unlike other state programs, they cannot be sold.)

    The program offers investors a 50-percent credit on their investment. For example, an investor who puts $100,000 into one of the companies could end up paying $50,000 less on his state income tax bill.

    The six applicants approved last night received $100,000 apiece in credits. Under the 2006 law, the EDC can dole out $2 million every two years, leaving another $1.4 million available this period. The legislation expires in 2016.

    Add some strings, if you want. Require, for example, a time commitment to the state. Heck, require some percentage of residency. But these back-door balms are crucial to take the sting out of Rhode Island's otherwise unattractive business climate and local infrastructure.

    The Price of Public Service Goes Up

    Justin Katz

    Newport Superior Court Judge Vincent Ragosta has rebuffed the Tiverton School Committee's attempt to "block the teachers' union from picketing on Monday [this afternoon] at the workplace of the committee chairwoman, St. Anne's Hospital in Fall River." Anybody considering elected office in Tiverton with the intention of upholding citizens' interests against the unions — or at least the teacher's union — should be on notice that their places of business are now considered open game by so-called professionals who believe they've a positive right to pay raises beyond the private-sector norm.

    Personally, that would be a plus, if I had any inclination at all to eschew my journalistic objectivity and run for office. (Yes, yes, tongue in cheek.) I'd love to have the union visit me on the jobsite. Right now, for example, we're installing rafters, and it'd be nice to have somewhere to throw all of the snow on the second floor deck. In warmer weather, I could find it necessary to do such things as run a few hundred lineal feet of pressure-treated lumber through the table saw upwind from the picket lines.

    I'm not, of course, saying that I think the union thugs' First Amendment rights ought to be curtailed. But I do hope that citizens will take note of the fact that the intimidational picketing is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. — a reminder that the hard-working educators somehow have the ability to do their street-walking at a time when counterprotests are sure to be hindered by regular folks' need to earn a living. I heard one Tiverton resident mention to WPRO's Matt Allen on Saturday that he'll be outside St. Anne's opposing the teachers, and I can only hope that he won't be alone.


    As a follow up to my notes from the last school committee meeting, I'd like to mention that, according to a print-edition Providence Journal article, the union member who was surprised that the school committee could find the money to move some children out of an overcrowded and antiquated school building into a temporary classroom was high school guidance counselor Lynn Nicholson.

    What is it with the Tiverton school system guidance department, I wonder?

    December 16, 2007

    The Pitchman Cares More About the Sale than the Benefit

    Justin Katz

    Speaking of the solutions that politicians dubiously "favor," I note that Rhode Island's blue-blooded, old-money Senator Sheldon Whitehouse would support climate-related legislation even if the "average American household" suffers in both the short and long terms:

    Landmark legislation to combat global warming will also be a long-term boon to the U.S. economy, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse predicted yesterday, but in the short term it will disrupt and cost jobs in some industries.

    However, "if we do it right," he said of the legislation that passed a key Senate panel yesterday, the average American household budget will not suffer. ...

    He had supported a more sweeping plan to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and the other so-called greenhouse gases thought to cause global warming but supported the more modest bill that passed yesterday. ...

    Whitehouse depicted himself as an enthusiastic adherent of the theory that — after some sharp economic dislocations in the near term — the new system of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions will do more than curb global warming. He said it should also force the marketplace to create cleaner energy sources and conservation tools that will be a long-term economic boon. ...

    Further, Whitehouse said, "There's no doubt that costs are going to rise" for gasoline and other carbon-based fuels, which is why he and other advocates of a campaign against global warming have also put mechanisms in the bill to cushion the blow on the poor.

    But Americans will more than recoup what they lose from the short-term price hike in coal- and petroleum-based fuels, Whitehouse predicted, if the final legislation includes the proper mixture of tax credits for energy conservation, energy subsidies for poor people and other forms of government aid. ...

    But Whitehouse would not commit himself to opposing a bill that does not contain the subsidies and other cost-offsetting mechanisms that he favors. He reasoned that the cause of fighting climate change is too important.

    Read the whole article. It's edifying to hear the good senator express his confidence that the government can "blunt" the blow to regular families "really from the very beginning" and to realize that even the most wildly unblunted outcome would hardly affect his family. That sort of perspective affects how much weight one gives to points such as Ed Achorn's:

    One of the people driving the fundamentalists nuts is Danish author Bjorn Lomborg, notwithstanding that he is a True Believer himself ("Global warming is real and man-made," he writes). Mr. Lomborg, who once headed Denmark's Environmental Assessment Institute, argues in his new book Cool It (Knopf, $21) that alarmism and emotionalism, global treaties and energy rationing are not the best ways to deal with the problem.

    Mr. Lomborg contends that, rather than strangling economic growth with costly "solutions" that will do little to alter CO2 emissions, the world would be much better off using its wealth to fight AIDS, malaria, malnutrition and poverty, while radically increasing research and development of fossil-fuel alternatives.

    He dares to note such politically incorrect facts as that far more people die from cold than from heat; that the number of polar bears (the poster children of the alarmists) is actually growing, and that hunting presents a far greater threat to them than warming; and that the United Nations estimates that sea levels will rise by only about 5 inches by 2050, no more than what we have experienced since 1940 — and a small fraction of the 20 feet that Al Gore projects by the end of the century.

    Except inasmuch as he's worried that his waterfront Newport summer-mansion isn't sufficiently high above sea level, Senator Sheldon hasn't much personal investment in the accuracy of the fashionable environmental hysteria du jour. Whitehouse elides much when he argues that the economic impact is akin to "the problem that carriage-makers had when Henry Ford became successful." As energy and fuel prices increase because of regulation, everybody within a certain margin from the economic tide (as opposed to the oceanic tide) must fear the erosion.

    If Mr. Whitehouse had more on the line, perhaps he'd be more inclined to seek solutions that might indeed cause only "industry-by-industry problems," such as what Cliff May calls the "alcohol solution":

    ... in his new book, Energy Victory, Dr. Zubrin does not just complain. He proposes a way to break free of dependence on a resource controlled by those who have declared themselves our mortal enemies. The technology already exists. It’s not expensive. All that is lacking is for voters to make this a priority — and to communicate that to the political class.

    Right now, 97 percent of the cars on America's roads run on gasoline. Only three percent are Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) — automobiles that can be powered by either gasoline or alcohol fuels, or any mixture of the two. The additional cost to make a new car an FFV is only about $100 per vehicle

    For the sake of individual security, the government mandates that all cars have seat belts. For the sake of national security, Dr. Zubrin proposes, the government should mandate that all new cars be FFVs.

    In three years, the change would put 50 million FFVs on the road. The free market would then mobilize to do what it does best: Entrepreneurs would compete to produce alternative, non-petroleum fuels for these potential customers.

    According to May, Zubrin's solution would have international political benefits (taking power from America's enemies), environmental benefits (less CO2 and less damage resulting from spills), and economic benefits (the energy source would play to areas of U.S. strength, such as agriculture). Somehow, though, I suspect that the excuse to sacrifice the first and third benefits is part of the attraction for Sheldon Whitehouse's elite pals of the fashionable stances that they take toward the second.

    Plans to Plan to Favor

    Justin Katz

    Charles Bakst has been peddling his curmudgeonly wares 'round these parts for much longer than I have, but at the risk of later being proven wrong, it seems to me that he's either not very observant or is in on the game:

    The governor expressed the fear that legislators will backtrack on tax changes in recent years that critics say benefit the rich but which he prefers to characterize as encouraging decision-makers to do business here.

    "We need to continue to position ourselves competitively from a tax standpoint with our neighbors," he said.

    I asked what makes him worry that the Assembly actually will raise taxes.

    "I hear rumblings," he said.

    From whom?

    "The walls."

    I don't know where the walls get their information. For example, this past Wednesday, two top House Democrats, Majority Leader Gordon Fox and Finance Chairman Steve Costantino, inveighed against any broad-based tax increase that would hurt job development.

    Mr. Bakst is, well, selectively credulous. At the very least, an observant columnist ought to have noticed the specificity of language, including such words as "plan," "favor," "broad-based," and even "tax increase." In a Moneyline column from the thirteenth that is for some reason not online, Neil Downing quotes House Finance Committee head Steven Costantino explaining not intentions, but a conundrum: "If we raise taxes, we risk putting further drag on our economy; if we keep cutting jobs and services, then the people who need them most suffer. Either way, Rhode Island loses." Downing moves on to House Majority Leader Gordon Fox: "We are not favoring any increases in broad-based taxes at this point." From whence the columnists' confidence with respect to taxes?

    Downing was sufficiently curious, at least, to pursue some specificity:

    • Income tax: Do Democratic leaders favor increases in the state personal income tax? No.
    • Capital-gains tax: No changes planned. Fox acknowledged that "there is some discussion" about the state's capital-gains tax. In other words, it's on the table. But he said his preference would be to keep the capital gains tax rates at their current levels.
    • Sales tax: No increases planned here, either, although neither Fox nor Costantino would rule out entertaining proposals to change the sales-tax structure — maybe by increasing the sorts of things that are subject to the tax, while lowering the overall sales-tax rate. ...
    • Corporate income tax: No increases planned for either the state corporate income tax or the state's franchise tax, Fox and Costantino said. On a recent visit to General Dynamics, Costantino said he got the impression that business wants "predictability" when it comes to taxation, an idea he favors. However, Costantino said that there are some "theoretical things" that legislators are looking at. One plan being kicked around could lower the top corporate income-tax rate while eliminating a number of corporate income-tax credits. Such a proposal would be intended as revenue-neutral, he said. But Costantino stressed that it's only an idea, only in the discussion stages.
    • Death tax: Neither Fox nor Costantino plan any changes to the Rhode Island estate tax, also known as the death tax.

    That's quite a bit of talk about what legislators "favor" and "plan," but I (for one) can't shake the feeling that they've some unacknowledged plans to plan to favor tax increases — defined generally as measures designed to take more money out of our bank accounts and filter it through the state government. Contributing to that unshakable impression has been coverage of the race to replace the late Rep. Paul Crowley of Newport. Responding (generally) to Republican candidate Stephen Coaty's remark that we "need a top-to-bottom review of all state spending," Democrat J. Clement Cicilline quipped, "It's both a spending problem and a revenue problem. If you cut $450 million from the state budget, I don't know if you'd be able to have the state open on Tuesdays and Thursdays."

    Cicilline sings a familiar refrain:

    "It's not just a spending problem, it's a revenue problem, too," he says. "I agree you have to look at spending."

    He thinks every state department should be mandated to develop a strategic plan to measure its success and better determine its funding needs. He also favors multi-year budgeting instead of year-to-year spending plans.

    "I think we have to look at where we've given away the store and where we need to reel things in," he says.

    BUT NEW REVENUES must also be explored, he says. He wants to study expanding the sales tax to items that are now tax-free, including expensive clothing and country club dues.

    "I'm of the mind that if someone can pay $400 for a pair of shoes, they can afford a tax," he says. "I'm trying to find ways [to address the deficit]. I'm trying to be honest and forthright about it and not just say slash and burn." ...

    "We probably have different ideas about what's important in terms of services and government," he says. "We start hammering and ... we're going to cut some of these services that are available to individuals with disabilities. You end up undermining the quality of life for these individuals.

    "You have to think about where you are going with this knife," he said. "It really could significantly hurt people. And you could hurt [the state] financially. He doesn't know the consequences of what he is saying. He makes statements without knowing the depth and breadth of the consequences."

    Rather than weakly retreating to an acknowledgment that "maybe we can't find $450 million to cut" and a stylistic critique that "we don't start (the process) by saying we've got to raise taxes," Mr. Coaty should ask about the quality of life of family's like mine, which is barely getting by with some amenities and rapidly approaching the day when the money will run out. To the extent that Rhode Island's problem is one of "revenue" (I prefer "spoils"), the solution is to attract more payers (by making this a more attractive place to pay to live and work), rather than continuing to attract takers and seeking innovative new ways to shake down those productive citizens who've been too slow (or poor) to flee.

    But to anybody who listens, the latter approach appears to be what the Democrats who run the state plan to plan to take. Stumping for Cicilline in a letter to the Newport Daily News, Senate Majority Leader Teresa Paiva Weed writes:

    The state is facing a challenging budget, and Newport deserves a representative who is experienced and with a record of proven commitment to our community. ... [Cicilline] has demonstrated his effective representation of Newport by working toward additional revenue for Newport, including the cruise ship tax and additional PILOT funds, which helped even the burden of property taxes.

    By "helped even the burden of property taxes," Paiva-Weed means that the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program shifts some state tax revenue to municipalities in which nonprofit organizations such as hospitals and universities are using space that would otherwise generate property taxes. In that respect, "Bud" Cicilline — who is president and CEO of the nonprofit Newport Community Mental Health Center — is nicely representative of the fundamental source of inertia in Rhode Island: Too many citizens are either insiders, on the teat (whether as public union members or as recipients of state benefits), or just too plain ol' rich feel the pinch.

    Too many others (with some local columnists coming to mind) are simply too wedded to partisan ideology to fight for anybody but approved groups... or to notice when the state's aristocrats are laying groundwork for a declaration that they "have no choice" but to step a little harder on the heads of residents who are already drowning in the byproduct other groups' malfeasance and greed.

    Anti-Americanism, Anti-Humanism, Make-'em-all-like-me-ism?

    Justin Katz

    Today's surprising factoid comes from Mark Steyn, after a few paragraphs on the voluntary depopulation movement:

    Lest you think the above are "extremists," consider how deeply invested the "mainstream" is in a total fiction. At the recent climate jamboree in Bali, the Reverend Al Gore told the assembled faithful: "My own country the United States is principally responsible for obstructing progress here." Really? "The American Thinker" website ran the numbers. In the seven years between the signing of Kyoto in 1997 and 2004, here's what happened:
    • Emissions worldwide increased 18.0%.
    • Emissions from countries that signed the treaty increased 21.1%.
    • Emissions from non-signers increased 10.0%.
    • Emissions from the U.S. increased 6.6%.

    It's hard not to conclude a form of mental illness has gripped the world's elites. If you're one of that dwindling band of westerners who'll be celebrating the birth of a child, "homeless" or otherwise, next week, make the most of it. A year or two on, and the eco-professors will propose banning nativity scenes because they set a bad example.

    Stepping back for the broad view of cultural implication, one gets the impression that the world's elites (as a group) no longer wish to undertake the responsibility of children, so realizing the inexorable nature of demographic shifts, they're attempting to persuade the rest of us not to disturb the ratio of power.

    I realize that there may be mitigating considerations relevant to Steyn's emissions numbers (such as the market types and stages of each category). I wonder, however, whether there are similar considerations when it comes to, say, claims about the increasing disproportion of relative wealth. Perhaps the low-end group is growing while the high-end shrinks (per capita) for the plain reason that the former continues to have children while the latter has fewer.

    December 14, 2007

    Another Structural Failure Highlighted by the Snowstorm

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Ian Donnis of the Providence Phoenix

    "Mid-afternoon, when it became clear that the situation was not resolving itself," is when the EOC should have been triggered, [Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts] says.

    Asked who was running the state, she says it appears to have been a team of Brian Stern, Governor Carcieri's chief of staff, and Jerome Williams, head of the state Department of Transportation.

    …and Michael McKinney of the Projo
    The Rhode Island National Guard commander said today the Providence Emergency Management Agency was in control during yesterday's storm -- a storm that he said did not warrant a "multi-jurisdictional event" that would have activated the state Emergency Operations Center.

    Major Gen. Robert T. Bray, the guard's adjutant general, said the operations center has been triggered for hurricanes and severe flooding -- and the yearly Tall Ships celebration, when hundreds of old sailing ships come to Newport drawing thousands to Aquidneck Island.

    Saying that the traffic problem was confined to Greater Providence, Bray said "statewide, the emergency was well handled," which is why, he said, the EOC was not triggered.

    Governor Carcieri's chief of staff, Brian Stern, said at the same State House news conference attended by Bray and Col. Brendan Doherty, who leads state police, that it was an "unprecedented traffic disaster."

    …have been reporting today on the chain of command issues that arose in Governor Carcieri's absence (he was out of the country) during Thursday's snowstorm that may have contributed, at least at the state level, to the poor emergency response.

    Something I've yet to hear mentioned is how the confusion pretty clearly illustrated the folly of electing a Governor and Lieutenant Governor separately. The ineffectiveness of yesterday's response was rooted at least in part in multiple, politically unaccountable officials (Brian Stern, Jerome Williams, Robert Bray, for starters) all claiming to be a final authority when the Governor is not around. That was, and is, inadequate.

    Unlike a President, a Governor doesn't have access to an Air Force jet that can get him home from anywhere in the world in a matter of hours, so there will be times when a Governor will be away from the state for a day or more, yet decisions will still have to be made by a legitimate authority near an emergency situation. The Governor's Chief of Staff has no authority to give orders to the National Guard or the State Police that must be followed, yet in the American system of governance, the head of the State Police or the National Guard is expected to be immediately answerable to a civilian authority.

    The system would function much more smoothly in the Governor's absence if the heads of state agencies knew that the Lieutenant Governor was a trusted deputy who had specifically accepted the responsibility of speaking for the current Governor in circumstances where decision making could not be delayed.

    (In Some Ways) The City Is the State

    Justin Katz

    To provide some perspective on yesterday's stark warning of calamity, it's worth mentioning that I made it home to Tiverton from Newport in not much more time than usual — about an hour, with three short stops (coffee, money, and newspaper). In other words, Will Ricci's nine-hour trip from East Providence to South Kingstown and back (if I read correctly) would likely have taken him less time if he'd gone all the way through Fall River and then Newport.

    In a major catastrophe, many people would realize such things and clog that route, as well.

    With respect to my comments on Rhode Island state expenditures, I'm confident (though I haven't looked up the numbers) that one would find that a large percentage of our top-of-the-country social and union spending goes to Providence, and that a large percentage of our bottom-of-the-country infrastructure spending does as well. In that context, it seems to me, one can't tease the city and the state apart in allocating blame.

    All of the bums in RI government have to go. All Rhode Islanders have to wake up, before something truly horrific happens.

    Taking a Bad Idea and Expanding It

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    The cost of healthcare in America has been distorted by the irrational coupling of health insurance to employment. And now, Professor Jeremy Wiesen of the New York University Business School, author of an op-ed in today's Projo, has an even worse idea -- he wants to couple your home mortgage to your employment!

    Professor Wiesen is wrong to characterize this as some sort of "free-market" idea. Markets require choices, but the mechanism he suggests for implementing his home mortgage plan…

    Congress can help this employer initiative by not taxing the benefit to employees,
    …is the same mechanism which has played a major role in creating a system where the only choice people have is to take-or-leave an insurance plan from one company selected by their employer, effectively destroying the free-market for healthcare.

    Professor Wiesen suggests that…

    Unlike the government’s public-private "partnership" and many other proposals now put forth, employer involvement would have both immediate impact and be a long-term solution, and would be implemented through an infrastructure already in place — companies’ human-resources department.
    But it is only big companies with big HR departments that could reasonably take something like this on, which would bring the existing division in the healthcare market between people who work for big companies and people who work for small companies/for themselves to the home mortgage market. That doesn't seem like a positive development.

    And do we really want a system where, for instance, teachers in Tiverton might go on strike demanding that the town provide them better interest rates on their home loans? Under Professor Wiesen's plan, that scenario would be no more bizarre than teachers striking against the town demanding lower prices for their healthcare.

    Please don't tell me that that there are lots of people out there who think this is a sensible suggestion.

    When Town Executives Are Let Go

    Justin Katz

    An editorial in yesterday's Newport Daily News makes an excellent point with reference to recent departures of town administrators:

    ... the lack of information about why the (Middletown and Tiverton) administrators are departing — whether because of poor performance, personality conflicts or political pressure — is frustrating, as is the fact that neither agreement has been made public, even though both involve a severance payment.

    That involves public money, and that means taxpayers have a right to know how much administrators are being paid, in effect, to take an extended vacation while they hunt for their next job.

    Of course, if the town administrator were an elected official — you know, a mayor — there would be less he-said/she-said about his or her reasons for leaving. If Tiverton's Glenn Steckman were a mayor, rather than a hired manager, he wouldn't be making cryptic remarks like this on his way out the door:

    He said the town needs to do considerable work including improvements to its worn out infrastructure but the town is limited by a lack of funds to get these things done and by soaring property taxes. "The debt keeps getting bigger and bigger and there's no end in sight," he said. "These are tough times and things are going to get a lot worse."

    He'd be making political hay over the reasons that it's true.

    December 13, 2007

    This State Is in Major Trouble

    Justin Katz

    I just saw a report on channel 10 that there are still — at 9:00 p.m. — children on buses from schools that let out at 12:30 or 1:00. People abandoning their cars because of traffic generated during a modestly heavy snow storm? This state is embarrassing.

    Heads ought to roll in government offices tomorrow (they won't), but that's not really the extent of it. Our government is a problem, yes, but so is the general infrastructure. So is the way the state has built itself. So are the culture of the state and the ways in which people act and what they prioritize.

    In part, this is what happens to a state that ranks 9th in the nation (per capita) for direct general expenditures, but 45th for transportation and 46th for highways (PDF). Ranking 9th for elementary and secondary education isn't such a prize when schools can't get children home within eight hours of dismissal even during inclement weather and heavy traffic. (Where's the money going that Providence needs two bus runs?) Those #1-ranking fire protection expenditures don't mean a whole lot when a crumbing infrastructure and foolish/selfish drivers block up roads, preventing fire trucks from getting through (as I heard on WPRO on my way home).

    MLB's Mitchell Report

    Marc Comtois

    Some of you may not care about baseball, but it is one of our country's cultural and historical touchstones. Former Senator George Mitchell's report (PDF)on the use of steroids and human-growth hormone in Major League baseball contains several names of players implicated in the use of either or both. And though Sen. Mitchell attempted to focus on the future, we can't escape the past, especially in the case of baseball, which lives and breathes its history perhaps more than any other sport. I don't know if this will be as notorious as the 1919 Black Sox scandal, but it could. Then again, Bud Selig ain't exactly Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

    Below is the list of players mentioned in the report. Some have previously been identified as users of performance-enhancing drugs, many are being identified for the first time. I've put recognizable names (to both Red Sox and casual MLB fans) in bold and kept them in the main post (for the rest, see the extended entry).

    The big "new" revelations are probably Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite and Miguel Tejada.

    "Big Names"

    Miguel Tejada
    Andy Pettite
    Chuck Knoblauch
    Lenny Dykstra
    Kevin Brown
    Barry Bonds
    Rafael Palmeiro
    Sammy Sosa
    Gary Sheffield
    Jason Giambi
    Juan Gonzalez

    The Red Sox players mostly were with the club in the late 1990's era (when Canseco was on the team) or were with other teams when they used.

    Jose Canseco
    Roger Clemens
    Manny Alexander
    Paxton Crawford
    Josias Manzanillo
    Mo Vaughn
    Mike Lansing
    Kent Mercker
    Mike Stanton
    Eric Gagné
    Brendan Donnelly

    Here are the JAGs on the list.....

    Ricky Bones
    Alex Cabrera
    Ken Caminiti
    Jeremy Giambi
    Bobby Estalella
    Armando Rios
    Benito Santiago
    Marvin Benard
    Randy Velarde
    David Segui
    Larry Bigbie
    Brian Roberts
    Jack Cust
    Tim Laker
    Todd Hundley
    Mark Carreon
    Hal Morris
    Matt Franco
    Rondell White
    Jason Grimsley
    Gregg Zaun
    David Justice
    F.P. Santangelo
    Glenallen Hill
    Denny Neagle
    Ron Villone
    Ryan Franklin
    Chris Donnels
    Todd Williams
    Phil Hiatt
    Todd Pratt
    Kevin Young
    Cody McKay
    Adam Piatt
    Jason Christiansen
    Stephen Randolph
    Jerry Hairston, Jr.
    Paul Lo Duca
    Adam Riggs
    Bart Miadich
    Fernando Vina
    Mike Bell
    Matt Herges
    Gary Bennett, Jr.
    Jim Parque
    Chad Allen
    Jeff Williams
    Howie Clark
    Exavier "Nook" Logan
    Mike Judd
    Ricky Stone
    Daniel Naulty

    Teachers Shouldn't Be Bullies

    Justin Katz

    This is a plea to the teachers of Tiverton: Please step back for a moment and consider the depths to which your union is bringing you:

    Tiverton teachers plan to picket the workplace of School Committee Chairwoman Denise deMedeiros on Monday afternoon and have notified the president of St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Mass., where deMedeiros works as a nurse, that she is the target of their informational demonstration.

    DeMedeiros said she learned of the intended action Monday after the hospital president, Robert E. Guyon Jr., received a letter from Patrick Crowley, assistant executive director of the National Education Association-Rhode Island, notifying him of the plan. ...

    Other School Committee members may be the target of informational picketing in the future, [NEA-Tiverton President Amy] Mullen said.

    I'll even make a plea to NEARI head Bob Walsh: Please rein in your attack dog. You're poisoning our community.

    Whether it's The Finger's brainchild or not, the tactic isn't "informational." It's intimidational picketing. People who see the protest won't know (or care) that it has to do with a school, let alone one in another state. People who read about it in the news will merely say, "Huh. Another teacher protest."

    This is all about putting negotiating heat on an elected official of the town by creating difficulties in her workplace. It's a new low, reached for the reason that a unionized group — with members already well remunerated — wants to squeeze more blood from the taxpayer stone.

    The union has crossed the line. Which is something that (in another sense) teachers should begin to do. I wish I weren't facing such dark financial circumstances, myself, or I'd take some time off to counterprotest with a sign reading:

    Teachers Shouldn't Be Bullies

    If they persisted campaigning in this manner, I'd stand outside a different school each morning and afternoon to yell:

    Teachers Shouldn't Be Bullies

    If I didn't need my vehicle for work, I'd park it in front of the schools with a sign in the window, so parents, students, and neighbors could read that:

    Teachers Shouldn't Be Bullies

    The unionists and teachers have worked it into their job-lives to organize and to protest. To picket and to scheme. So they're in a position to take advantage of the fact that part-time, small-town officials must have outside lives by which to survive, which makes them vulnerable to attack. And the citizens must work regular hours, which makes them dispersed and weak.

    Such are the hallmarks of bullies, which teachers shouldn't be.

    December 12, 2007

    Rearranging the Deck Chairs on Leonardo's Ship

    Monique Chartier

    It is a minor irritation to write or hear that cliche. It is a bigger irritation to watch someone carry it out.

    At a press conference today, House Finance Chairman Steven Costantino announced a plan to consolidate five state agencies into one.

    In a statement issued moments before his press conference was to get under way, Costantino said his bill would by Oct. 1, 2008, eliminate the separate Department of Children, Youth and Families; the Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals; the Department of Health; the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Elderly Affairs. ...

    Under Costantino’s proposal, each of these agencies would be replaced with a new “division’’ within the new super-agency for “children and family services,’’ “behavioral health,’’ “developmental disabilities,’’ “public health, ’’ “elderly and long-term care.’’ Added to these familiar rubrics would be a brand-new “division of veterans affairs,’’ for which veterans’ advocates have long lobbied.

    How will this save the state money?

    " ...the change would result in cost savings for the state, since administrative functions would be consolidated and health and human services would be better coordinated.’’

    Can we get a dollar figure on savings?

    [Costantino] has not yet pinpointed how much he believed the state might save by “centralizing’’ legal services, purchasing, personnel, licenture and regulation and other back office functions, including the administration of the huge Medicaid program by “one department-wide office.’’

    But he suggested the effort “would represent a major opportunity to cut administrative costs, achieve greater economies of scale and make the system as a whole more client-centered.’’

    Look, everything is on the table. No suggestion for addressing the state's serious fiscal problems can be disregarded. And though this situation is entirely of their making, a tiny part of me pities the General Assembly for what they have to do.

    But unless "consolidation" is a euphemism for the laying off of 4,500 state workers, it is difficult to see how savings from Chairman Costantino's proposal will hit eight figures, never mind come close to the projected $450,000,000 shortfall.

    Not That Kind of Revolution

    Justin Katz

    Andrew and I are at the Ocean State Policy Research Institute dinner with Grover Norquist at the Cuban Revolution in Providence, and as you can see, the atmosphere is full of thematic incongruities:



    All throughout dinner, something in Fidel's eyes distracted me. As everybody filtered out of the room, I walked over for a closer look:

    My question: Was this a sly cut at the icon by the artist, or is death something that fashionable leftist-revolutionary-ophiles like to see as the gleam in their heroes eyes?

    Congress's Energy Bill: Lipstick on a Pig

    Mac Owens

    Not too long ago, I addressed the security aspects of the pending energy legislation in the Christian Science Monitor. Today, I examine some of the economic consequences of the legislation in the ProJo.

    Despite the attempt to appeal to environmentalists and advocates of "fairy dust" energy sources, aka "renewable energy," this bill, like most energy bills, is laden with pork, albeit "sophisticated" pork. Pork comes from pigs. You can try to dress up a pig by putting lipstick on it, but in the end, it'S still a PIG.

    December 11, 2007

    Facilities During Improvement

    Justin Katz

    The school committee is looking for a temporary classroom because a school that's being phased out as new construction completes after this year is substandard. The idea is, as soon as possible, to spread the children out in (and out of) a building that is too small to accommodate them, for health and noise reasons.

    Indeed, a grandfather of a student at the school got up and testified that his granddaughter is having to be tutored at home because she has a reaction to mold in the school. The teachers applauded his testimony.

    Superintendent Rearick then explained that the school has been tested, and all of the relevant government organizations have looked at the building with no indication that there's a problem.

    Now, I've no reason to disbelieve either party, and as a father, myself, I'm certainly concerned that children displaced as their school environments are massively improved will face harm during the transition.

    But then one of the teachers who is always very vocal (apparently as a union member) stood up and expressed bewilderment that the district could come up with a few tens of thousands of dollars to pay for the portable classroom! That's simply unbelievable coming from a member of a group currently on work to rule seeking to squeeze every penny from the town.

    Protest Under Cover

    Justin Katz

    Not a group to let some rain disrupt their protest, the teachers stood at their seats in the auditorium before tonight's Tiverton School Committee meeting:


    My habitual area for sitting is occupied, so I thought it best to hide in back. (That, and I'm afraid that Pat Crowley might be in the audience and offend me with hand gestures.)


    I should note that, from my more discreet vantage point, I can see one teacher who appears to be using this time to correct papers. I'm not sure what the unionistas would say about that, but as a parent, I find it encouraging. (Although, when one considers that she appears to be the only one...)

    ProJo's Flawed Manchester/Green Airport Comparison

    Marc Comtois

    On Saturday, the ProJo took the opportunity to compare the expansion of Manchester, NH's airport to the lack thereof at T.F. Greene (though they're still trying). Arguing over the efficacy of expanding T.F. Green is fine, and I have my own opinion. But comparing Green and Manchester isn't apples to apples by any means. Here's what the ProJo editors wrote:

    By all accounts, Mark Brewer has done a good job as director of T.F. Green Airport. But Manchester, N.H., officials confirmed that he has agreed to leave by the end of the year to run the airport there — for a cut in pay, at least initially.

    “I feel bad for Providence,” said Sean Thomas, an aide to Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta. “We’re getting a great guy.”

    Mr. Brewer, 54, has led Green since 2004. He is not saying exactly why he is leaving but it is hard to avoid the suspicion that it’s because Manchester seems more serious about expanding its airport in ways necessary to keep it and its area’s economy healthy than is Rhode Island.

    Warwick officials have done everything possible to drag out a much-needed runway expansion. Manchester did it with little fuss.

    In addition, New Hampshire’s competitive tax climate and generally well managed local and state government leaves the Granite State better poised for economic growth — which will obviously spur airport growth.

    While both airports had sharp dropoffs in passenger traffic last year, Mr. Brewer seemed to choose the environment where he has the better prospects for growth and success.

    Demographically, the Granite State and Rhode Island are quite different in several important ways, and so comparisons must be made carefully. But Rhode Island could take some lessons from New Hampshire when it comes to public infrastructure.

    A few things. First, I agree that "New Hampshire’s competitive tax climate and generally well managed local and state government leaves the Granite State better poised for economic growth." How could you not? However, two other lines, when taken together, point to the problem with the ProJo's proselytizing. "Manchester did it with little fuss" and "Demographically, the Granite State and Rhode Island are quite different in several important ways, and so comparisons must be made carefully." Well, it's the demographics, along with the geopraphics, that explain why it's harder to expand T.F. Green. Two pictures help to explain the key difference.

    Here's Manchester's already expanded airport:

    View Larger Map

    Here is T.F. Green:

    View Larger Map

    These are done to the same scale and you can "google" around with them to see that Manchester Airport is located south of the city in a relatively unpopulated area (note that a lot of green surrounds the airport). Few people were or will be affected by expansion because not many people live around the airport. The exact opposite is true of T.F. Green, which lay smack-dab in the middle of RI's 2nd largest city.

    Extending into a hayfield that lay outside of the population center is one thing; knocking down houses (and neighborhoods) and splitting a city is another. One is simply easier than the other. Thus, I think the ProJo was disingenuous in its comparison because of this basic factor.

    Take Away the Incentive

    Justin Katz

    Lee Drutman's musing against the scourge of lobbyists is telling in the solution that he fails to consider:

    The challenge then is two-fold. One is to figure out ways to make public service more of a career in itself and less of the stepping-stone it is increasingly becoming. This may mean such things as better salaries, better benefits and better hours. The other challenge is to find a way that more groups can get adequate representation in Washington, not just those who can afford to hire the megaphone of an über-connected Trent Lott type. This is much harder.

    Perhaps it is time to think about regulating the prices that lobbyists can charge for their services (ideally to achieve some rough parity with government). Doing so would not only provide a more level playing field for different outside groups. It would also help to depress the salaries of lobbyists, and thus reduce the lure of lobbying to public servants. This is, of course, a radical solution. But perhaps drastic times call for drastic measures.

    Thus would he further ensure that career politicians have incentive to grow government and otherwise encounter situations in which the career might benefit from that which the country does not, and that the lobbying advantage will go to those able to spend around the regulated lobbying prices (perhaps by electing their lobbyists, as it were). Why is the solution always to grow and solidify the magnet of corruption? To increase the prize? Drutman may have titled his book The People’s Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy, but the masses will never benefit from increasing the exclusivity of government.

    A better solution would be to shrink it. If the state's fingers are not on every aspect of local, national, and international life — at least at a centralized level — then organizations have less need of high-priced lobbyists.

    The Early Reviews Are In: Senator Whitehouse's Big Surveillance Speech Was a Flop

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Even liberal law professors are not impressed with the speech that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave last Friday criticizing the President's use of executive power to conduct intelligence gathering. This is from Georgetown Law Professor Marty Lederman

    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island has been one of the very best, most careful and most thoughtful legislators in recent months on a wide range of legal issues relating to the Gonzales DOJ, the war on terror, NSA surveillance, and the like.

    Therefore it's with some regret that I write here to take issue with his latest speech on the Senate floor, expressing his outrage in response to reading classified OLC memos on the NSA surveillance questions. I am confident that there is much in those memos that gave Senator Whitehouse plenty of reason to be shocked and dismayed, and I hope that he will continue to make more of them public. In this case, however, I think Senator Whitehouse has primarily aimed his criticisms at the wrong targets, sorry to say.

    …and this is from Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin
    Whitehouse doesn't like the Protect America Act any more than I do. But he should direct his fire at the Congress that produced it last summer in a shameless display of capitulation to demagoguery and fear mongering.
    Professor Matthew Franck of Radford University offers a conservative critique of the speech here.

    December 10, 2007

    Out and In in Tiverton

    Justin Katz

    My observation of Tiverton government began too recently — and I'm insufficiently inside — to really get the significance of the move, but Town Administrator Glenn Steckman offered, and the town council accepted, his resignation tonight. Apparently the "arising rift" in town government noted in recent Providence Journal coverage was more of an arisen rift.

    Being a fan of rifts, though, I'd suggest that now is the perfect time for the Charter Review Commission to consider placing the possibility of creating a position of elected mayor before the voters. That way the lead executive of the municipality wouldn't work for the town council, but with it and sometimes, one would hope, against it.

    Other town council news is likely of minimal interest to readers in the rest of the state, but I would very much like to know if a bizarre moment from tonight's meeting is at all common at this level of government: After several neighbors of the Boathouse restaurant spoke in strong opposition to the possibility of indoor live music at the establishment (more, I got the impression, of the during-dinner ambient sort), and after several town council members spoke as if in agreement with the residents, Councilman Jay Edwards made, Councilwoman Joanne Arruda seconded, and the council overwhelmingly passed a motion to permit the entertainment license. So disjointed was the moment that I thought I'd misheard until other members of the audience whispered their own surprise to each other.

    I almost wonder whether some of the council members mistook the motion actually made for its opposite. Or did they intend to grant the license, but with the restaurant's representative in total understanding that he'd best keep the new feature tightly in hand? Or perhaps some of my fellow interested citizens and I did mishear...


    Apparently, the confusion was mine (which is always a possibility and one that I emphasized in this post). Councilman Edwards has corrected me, in the comments, that his motion was "NOT to grant the license for entertainment at the Boat House," meaning (I take it) that it was to deny the license. It would seem that either I misinterpreted the reactions of others in the room (including the manager from the restaurant), or I'm not alone in having misheard.

    I apologize for my confusion... although per my usual habit, I'd like to mitigate my culpability slightly with a reminder that my mind is much occupied with the difficulty of simply sustaining a household in this state, thanks to the end result of the RI Democrats' reign. (That's written with a wink and a smile, of course.)

    Re, re: The New "One Finger" Math

    Justin Katz

    One hesitates to take Pat "The Finger" Crowley's comments on taxation too seriously. His branch of mathematics, after all, takes progressivism to be a fundamental principle and unionism to be the standard of comparison.

    That said, anybody who finds merit in his question marks should consider, first, that he highlights two components of taxation, with no argument as to why the others ought to be ignored. Second, readers should note that the report (PDF) measures according to government revenue — that is, how much the government actually takes in. If, for the sake of argument, Rhode Island's high sales tax is driving customers out of state, then it wouldn't be surprising that the state ranks low for revenue from that source.

    A similar consideration ought to be made with respect to the income tax:

    State or local individual income taxes are levied in 42 states. Based upon FY 2005 data reported by the Bureau of the Census, Rhode Island ranks 21st highest on individual income tax revenues per $1,000 of state personal income and 16th highest per capita.

    Note that Rhode Island's standing slips when the measure is number of people rather than amount of income. One can infer that a significant number of lower income citizens (relative to the country) don't pay very much in taxes. Distributing the total revenue by income yields a small number; distributing the number by population yields a higher number; therefore, some portion of the population's income is not counted. And indeed, the data bears that out:

    % of Total Income % of Total Tax Paid
    Under $30,000 12% 4%
    $30,001 to $50,000 13% 9%
    $50,001 to $75,000 16% 12%
    $75,001 to $100,000 14% 12%
    $100,001 to $200,000 21% 23%
    Over $200,000 24% 40%

    Considering that many of Rhode Island's other taxes affect mainly those citizens who are most productive for the economy (and, therefore, wealthier than the average), such as business people. The relevant concern is that Rhode Island's tax regime will drive out (or beat down) precisely the folks who keep the state afloat. And indeed, I've shown that this is happening.

    As Mike commented to Andrew's post, those whose relationship with the state provides them a net gain "are facing a future of 'heads you win, tails we lose.'" In other words, the Pat Crowleys of the state had best learn to work within the boundaries of our right-wing math, because it tends to jibe with financial realities.

    RIP, Ted

    Donald B. Hawthorne

    Last December, I paid tribute to Ted, a former teacher of mine:

    Ted was my English teacher in 1971-1972, my junior year in high school. And he was one of four teachers who, over the years, had a profound effect on my life.

    A high school classmate told me two days ago that Ted had lung cancer and I called him yesterday for the first time in years.

    This post is dedicated to offering a well-deserved tribute to Ted, to highlighting what made him such a special teacher.

    It was in his class where I first read many of the great works of American literature. Prior to his class, my general attitude had been that reading literature was an utter waste of time. In particular, he introduced me to and I fell in love with Hemingway's writings.

    But what changed my life forever was Ted's famous red ink "bleeding" all over our papers. As a straight A student, I was unaccustomed to receiving many critical comments on my school work. I still remember the shock when I received my first marked-up papers back from him.

    Ted reminded me yesterday that he "bled" that red ink because he felt that he owed every student a thoughtful response to their hard work. As our school year together unfolded, I developed a deep appreciation for the advice contained in his written comments as he deconstructed my often pedestrian writing. The picture of our year together, however, would be incomplete if I failed to mention his simultaneous offering of verbal encouragement.

    Ted is 81 years old now, having retired in 2005 after achieving the milestone of teaching for 50 years. Think of how many students' lives he was able to touch!

    Ted was truly a remarkable teacher and I am only one of many former students who will always owe him a significant debt of gratitude. So, for all the guidance he thoughtfully offered in both red ink and the spoken word some 35 years ago, I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

    Today I received this beautiful email from his wife:

    I don't know if you heard, but Ted died on Monday, November 26. He had been hanging on to see our grandson, who was born on October 12. [Our grandson] and his father (our son) and mother arrived on November 18. He was baptized on November 20, what Ted was waiting to see. He was just thrilled. That evening I helped him to bed and said that he had done all that he was sent to do - taught for 50 years, been a wonderful husband for 45 years, raised a great son who was now a great dad himself. His work was done and as a good, faithful servant, he could go home.

    Ted never really awoke after that. He lingered in a semi-conscious state and finally peacefully died with all of us sitting around his bed, telling him that he was loved, praying and singing while [the baby] nursed. It was a beautiful death.

    On November 30, we had a memorial mass...It was a time full of love, laughter and memories as we celebrated Ted's birth in heaven.

    Ted's legacy lives on inside the many people whose lives he touched.

    RIP, my dear friend.

    RE: The New Tax Math

    Marc Comtois

    Just to amplify Andrew's point, from the 2007 Revenue Facts report:

    State and/or local property taxes are levied in all 50 states. Rhode Island ranks very high in the percentage of state and local revenues generated from property taxes. It has traditionally relied more on local property taxes than most states. FY 2005 census data showed that it ranks seventh in state and local property taxes per $1,000 of personal income and sixth in state and local property taxes per capita.

    The New Tax Math -- Don't Add What Doesn't Make You Feel Good

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Remember last week when I told you that there are some people who believe that "as long as there exists any metric showing Rhode Islanders not near the top in what they are required to pay to the government, taxes need to be raised"?

    I just found another one.

    For some reason, the person in question decides not to count Rhode Island's property taxes in Rhode Island's tax burden, apparently unaware that a dollar in property tax costs a taxpayer just as much as a dollar in sales or income tax. Then he has the gall to say it's right-wingers who can't do math.

    December 8, 2007

    State Primaries: Dates & Delegates

    Monique Chartier

    The clash between state and national committees over the scheduling of state primaries has led the national committees of both parties to nullify the presidential delegates from certain states, though in differing proportions. There is speculation that the national committees will not adhere to this tough stance.

    But in both parties, there's a belief that whatever penalties are meted out will be voided when the conventions gather next summer. The hope is that party leaders will want unity, not division, going into the general election.

    "The will of the convention in our system is paramount," the RNC official conceded. "We are a creature of the convention of the grass roots of this nation."

    As things stand today, however, the Republican National Committee has deprived the following states of half their presidential delegates:

    New Hampshire
    South Carolina

    [Note: Iowa also moved its caucuses to January 3, ahead of the cut-off date, but was not penalized by the RNC because their caucuses are non-binding.]

    And the Democrat National Committee has deprived the following states of all of their presidential delegates. In addition, all of the Democrat presidential candidates have pledged not to campaign in these two states, though this event has led to accusations that the Clinton campaign is following the letter, not the spirit, of the pledge.


    The New York Times has a handy chart with the dates of each party's state primaries and the current status of the delegates from each state.

    Republican Primaries & Delegates

    Democrat Primaries & Delegates

    [Thanks to commenter Anthony for reminding us of this interesting complication under Andrew's post, "Open Thread: Republican Presidential Nomination".]

    See the Commercial too Controversial for NBC...

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    ...then try to explain why NBC rejected it.

    More details available from the Powerline blog.

    It Will be Either a Cold Day in Hades or a Warm Day in Minnesota When Governments Start Making Rational Spending Decisions

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Liberals and progressives and those further out on the left assure me that government spending is what it is because of hard economic and social realities, certainly not because the machinery of government has self-serving incentives to spend everything given to it, then demand more! more! more!

    If that's true, somebody explain to me how this shortfall occurred in a set of local Minnesota municipalities in just one year (h/t James Lileks via Instapundit)…

    Lundgren said the trouble began in August when a clerk went into Mattson's file to change the designation of the property, at 233 Lake St. E., from homestead to non-homestead to reflect its change in status after its sale.

    The clerk filled in the $18,900 proposed valuation, but then mistakenly hit the key to exit the program. The computer added four zeros to fill out the nine numerical spaces required by the software, thus indicating the value was $189,000,000….

    The story has been creating quite a few chuckles since it began swirling around Waconia this week.

    But no one is laughing at the assessor's office, where the problem started. Neither is anyone at the Carver County Board, the city of Waconia or the Waconia School District.

    Those three entities -- which were counting on the $2.5 million in increased property tax collections -- now face the daunting task of raising taxes or cutting budgets to make up for the shortfall.

    Couldn't Have Put It Better, Myself

    Justin Katz

    Our referral logs led me back to the following comment to a Kmareka post:

    The fact of private schools is that parents can reign in or nullify the academic freedoms that make public and tenured institutions great opportunities to open young minds.

    I couldn't have put it better, myself. Even the incorrect usage of "reign" (should have been "rein") is perfect. That is precisely why any Rhode Island parent with the resources should seriously consider private schools for his or her children.

    Kids suffer from the mind-opening of tenured "professionals." (The NEA's Patrick Crowley has helpfully illustrated what children's minds are being opened to.) It's nearly disgusting, the presumption that random people with education degrees somehow have a fuller or more appropriate understanding of children's needs than the kids' own parents.

    Would-be indoctrinators should stick to opening their own minds.

    December 7, 2007

    Here's a Question

    Justin Katz

    Will Ricci makes an interesting comment to my post on Mr. Crowley's self expression:

    ... I think it's a golden opportunity for those of us who are actually concerned about our state's below average educational quality to show what the other side (those who don't care if kids fail, as long as their check clears) really thinks about taxpayers and the children they use as pawns. He can be our new poster boy / duck!

    Those few prime billboards on I-95 outside Providence run just under $10,000 for a month. Bus stops and other billboards are much less. How much would Anchor Rising readers be willing to throw in to make sure that Mr. Crowley's message to Tivertonians is conveyed to all Rhode Islanders?

    And perhaps more importantly: Any of our lawyer readers have a notion of whose permission we would need to use the photo for such a purpose?

    The Dream Interferes with the Life

    Justin Katz

    On Dan Yorke a few minutes ago, Trisha Smith — the controversial owner of the Post & Naughty store in Portsmouth, whose landlord is threatening to cancel her lease if she doesn't stop courting customers outside her store, as it were — mentioned that she has lost her day job. (The company owner, as it happens, lives in Portsmouth.)

    One could make hay about her being a never-married mother of two, but it seems to me that there's got to be a compromise that won't drive her family into poverty. She made a good point to Yorke: She's trying not to be one of those welfare moms we've been talking about. That said, she's been all over the news posing as a fighter of the prudes; perhaps she could cede a little ground and tone down the sidewalk marketing outfits. The store's name sort of makes the point without illustration, I'd say.

    Of course, as a conservative New Englander, I'm very empathetic when outside activities affect a last-cubicle-on-the-left job such as the technical writer position that Ms. Smith just lost. It also occurs to me that I haven't figured out what to get the missus for Christmas, this year, and I hear that not everything in the store is apt to make a Catholic-convert ex-bad-boy blush. And if I'm of a mind to stop by and help the business out, Monday on my way home from work, the folks giving her trouble ought to be on alert that they're in very sparse company.


    Make that Tuesday on my way home from work. Mr. Yorke is apparently disrupting her business and dragging her into the studio on Monday. (Why not bring the studio to her, Dan?)


    According to Marc (in the comments), I missed some key information when I hopped out of the van for a moment last night: Apparently the store isn't open on Mondays anyway, and Dan may be on site on Tuesday. Doesn't take long to miss much, I guess.

    RI Supreme Court: Gay Couple CANNOT Divorce in Rhode Island

    Marc Comtois


    The state Supreme Court has ruled that a same-sex couple married in Massachusetts may not divorce in Rhode Island.

    The court was split, 3-2, on the decision.

    In the case, the court was asked by the Rhode Island Family Court whether Margaret R. Chambers and Cassandra B. Ormiston, two women who were married in Massachusetts, could divorce in Rhode Island.


    In the majority opinion, authored by Justice William P. Robinson III, the court said that “well-established principles of statutory construction would lead us ineluctably to conclude that the General Assembly has not granted the Family Court the power to grant a divorce in the situation described in the certified question.”

    According to a press release, the court wrote, “The role of the judicial branch is not to make policy, but simply to determine the legislative intent as expressed in the statutes enacted by the General Assembly. In our judgment, when the General Assembly accorded the Family Court the power to grant divorces from ‘the bond of marriage,’ it had in mind only marriages between people of different sexes.”

    Later in the 30-page opinion, the court wrote, “We are cognizant of the fact that this observation may be cold comfort to the parties before us. But, if there is to be a remedy to this predicament, fashioning such a remedy would fall within the province of the General Assembly.”

    The majority consisted of Chief Justice Frank J. Williams, Justice Francis X. Flaherty and Justice Robinson.

    Justice Paul A. Suttell and Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg dissented.

    In a dissenting opinion, according to the press release, Suttell wrote that the certified question was extremely narrow in scope, and that it sought recognition of a same-sex marriage for the limited purpose of divorce and no other purpose. Suttell wrote that the question did not address the eligibility of same-sex couples to marry under Rhode Island law. The couple were lawfully married in Massachusetts, and had satisfied the applicable domicile and residence requirements for divorce in Rhode Island.

    “The subject matter jurisdiction of the Family Court does not turn on the gender of the parties; rather it turns on their status as a married couple,” Justice Suttell wrote.

    “We are in complete agreement with the majority on one critical point, however. The legal recognition that ought to be afforded same-sex marriages for any particular purpose is fundamentally a question of public policy, more appropriately determined by the General Assembly after full and robust public debate.”

    Full opinion here.

    UPDATE: Apparently, the majority of the RISC took a contextualist approach. From the decision:

    Upon contemplating the question certified by the Family Court, it became clear to us that the precise issue we must decide is ultimately the following: What is the meaning of the word “marriage” within the Rhode Island stature that empowers the Family Court to grant divorces—or stated even more precisely, what did the word mean at the time that the members of the General Assembly enacted the statute? It is imperative that we direct our attention to the meaning of this statutory term at that point in time.

    When we are called upon to decide what the General Assembly intended when it enacted a particular stature, we always being with the principle that “[t]he plain statutory language is the best indicator of legislative intent.”…It is clear to us that in this instance we are not confronted with an ambiguous stature. Therefore we simply must determine what the words in this stature were intended to mean….

    Words can have different meanings at different points of historical time, but it is the role of the judiciary to ascertain what meaning a particular word had when the stature containing that word was enacted. It is possible that today’ members of the General Assembly might have an understanding of the term “marriage” that differs from the understanding of those legislators who [created the Family Court] in 1961, but our role is to interpret what was enacted and not to speculate as to what some other not-yet-enacted statute might say or mean.

    With respect to the case at hand, there is absolutely no reason to believe that, when the act creating the Family Court became law in 1961, the legislators understood the word marriage to refer to any state other than “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex.” The quoted words are the definition of marriage that is set forth in the 1961 edition of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language. {They cite other similar definitions – ed.} In each case, the primary dictionary definition of marriage refers only to a union between a man and a woman.

    It is pertinent to note that Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, writing in 2003 for the plurality in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health…expressly acknowledged that the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court in that case “marks a significant change in the definition of marriage as it has been inherited from the common law, and understood by many societies for centuries.”…

    As we understand the language of the existing divorce stature, it does not constitute “express language conferring subject-matter jurisdiction upon the Family Court” whereby it could entertain a divorce petition involving two persons of the same sex….Moreover, “[i]n the absence of a clear legislative intent to the contrary, such jurisdiction cannot be inferred.”…The plain meaning of the word “marriage”…indicates to us that the Family Court is without jurisdiction to entertain the instant petition for divorce.

    NEA to Residents of Tiverton:

    Justin Katz

    Not one to shoot ducks in a barrel, I've resisted the urge to post this photo, but NEA-Tiverton President Amy Mullen's reaction in the Sakonnet Times suggests that more should be made of it:

    Amy Mullen, a special education resource teacher at Pocasset Elementary School, treasurer of the National Education Association Rhode Island and president of the Tiverton branch, described Mr. Crowley's action as an "unfortunate incident" the NEA-Tiverton does not support.

    "It is regretful communication has deteriorated to this level. We have been going through very difficult and very frustrating attempts at negotiating with the school committee. When First Amendment rights are violated, things can get heated," Ms. Mullen said. "It is unfortunate that Mr. Rearick chose to use the media to address this situation when there were other options available to him."

    Note the linguistic distance and the spin back to the school committee. Shameful.

    This wasn't an "unfortunate incident"; it was a deliberate statement, made out of either profane calculation or an adolescent lack of control. In a sane system — a professional one — the teachers would be requesting a new rep from the union and telling any reporter who would listen that they absolutely don't want Crowley to be seen as representative of them.

    Sadly, as I've been finding, the teachers don't appear to be unwilling pawns in the union's games. One gets the impression that the "unfortunate" part of the "incident" was that somebody had a digital camera handy.


    For the sake of clarity: Ms. Mullen's reference to First Amendment rights probably has to do with two teachers' suspension (with pay, of course) for publishing an anonymous letter in local union newsletter attacking (and making allegations about) individual school committee members. The photo of Crowley was taken at the protest related to that matter.

    (I apologize for any confusion. My "to post" pile has been growing in proportion to my too-heavy schedule, and this story is in it.)


    For the record, I first saw this picture on Dan Yorke's exhibits page about a week ago. Inner turmoil kept me from pointing it out until today.

    December 6, 2007

    First Circuit Nomination Surprise: William Smith

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Eagle-eyed William Felkner calls my attention to this news-breaking White House Press Release

    Nominations Sent to the Senate

    Ricardo H. Hinojosa, of Texas, to be a Member of the United States Sentencing Commission for a term expiring October 31, 2013. (Reappointment)

    Ricardo H. Hinojosa, of Texas, to be Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission. (Reappointment)

    Michael E. Horowitz, of Maryland, to be a Member of the United States Sentencing Commission for a term expiring October 31, 2013. (Reappointment)

    Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., of Missouri, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri, vice Donald J. Stohr, retired.

    Ed Schafer, of North Dakota, to be Secretary of Agriculture, vice Mike Johanns, resigned.

    William E. Smith, of Rhode Island, to be United States Circuit Judge for the First Circuit, vice Bruce M. Selya, retired.

    George W. Venables, of California, to be United States Marshal for the Southern District of California for the term of four years, vice Raul David Bejarano.


    Apparently, the nomination is only a suprise with respect to the very recent round of Robert Corrente-or-Robert Flanders speculation. William Smith's name was mentioned about a year ago as one of the frontrunners for the position for the seat being vacated by Judge Selya in a Projo article by Scott MacKay.

    UPDATE 2:

    Here's some more biographical information on Judge Smith, from the White House website.

    And John Mulligan and G. Wayne Miller have a story on the nomination in today's Projo, including the initial reactions from Rhode Island's Senators...

    As they had the day that Mr. Bush nominated U.S. Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond to the federal District Court last month, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse declined to be interviewed about Smith’s nomination.

    Instead, the Rhode Island Democrats, who will enjoy much deference from their colleagues as the Senate weighs the nomination, issued a noncommittal joint statement.

    “Rhode Islanders deserve to have highly qualified judges who are thoughtful and independent,” said Reed and Whitehouse. “Before giving someone a lifetime appointment to the federal bench we need to carefully review their record. We will be sure to give Judge Smith’s nomination thorough and independent review.”

    After Latest NIE, Some Appear Willing to Believe that "Death to America" Really Does Mean "I Love You"

    Marc Comtois

    Cliff May boils down the problem with the reaction to the NIE report:

    Many commentators are fudging the distinction between Iran “suspending” and “abandoning” its nuclear weapons program. According to the new NIE, Iran not only continues to enrich uranium, it also is “continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so.” If your teenage son tells you he doesn’t smoke, but you nonetheless find tobacco, rolling papers and matches in his knapsack, what would be your guess regarding his intentions and capabilities?
    The NIE was summary explained that Iran has stopped weaponizing nuclear material. This has been extrapolated and distilled to "Iran isn't a threat anymore." The truth is that the writers of the document had a political goal themselves and this has led to various attempts to spin the report. Gives you all sorts of confidence in the ability of the "intelligence" agencies to offer objective analysis, doesn't it? So we have a choice: we continue to be wary of a country that openly proclaims it wants to destroy us or we believe them when the say that "Death to America" really means "I Love You."

    Why Telecom Immunity Matters

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    I owe Monique an answer to a question she asked a few weeks ago on my view of including in Foreign Intelligence Security Act reform legislation an immunity provision for telecommunications companies who cooperate with executive branch surveillance requests.

    To understand why telecom immunity is an important issue, you need to start from one basic fact: real surveillance is not like what happens during an episode of 24. When the National Security Agency or some other spy agency listens in on a foreign telephone call, they don't do it by having Chloe O'Brian clandestinely tap into the worldwide communications network without anyone else knowing. Unlike the fictional CTU, real American intelligence agencies go through the front door; they probably even ask for some technical assistance from the telecom to set things up. That's why a significant part of the substance of the FISA legislation currently being debated by Congress describes circumstances under which telecom companies are required to cooperate with the government's requests for assistance.

    Under the threat of privacy lawsuits, however, telecommunications companies are likely only to comply with surveillance requests if they can be given ironclad assurances that the requests do not run afoul of the law. On the surface, this is not a bad thing, but because the House's version of FISA reform treats only communications where both ends are outside of the United States as legitimate targets for foreign intelligence gathering, such assurances, regardless of the location of the target, are impossible to give in the absence of a court order.

    Here is the problem, which the Democrats in Congress seem determined to ignore: what happens when a foreign surveillance target, located in a foreign country, unexpectedly makes contact with someone within the United States? Under the bill passed by the House last week, if any suspicion exists at the start of a surveillance operation that a party being monitored might contact someone inside of the US, the agency must to stop listening the moment a cross-border communication occurs, unless a court-order is already in hand. So unless telecommunications companies working with the NSA or some other US intelligence agency are willing to accept promises that cannot possibly be guaranteed -- namely, that foreign citizens under surveillance in foreign countries will never contact the United States -- court orders will be required for any foreign surveillance operations seeking to make use of American telecommunications hubs.

    There are at least two ways that Congress could mitigate this problem. One would be to make it clear that as long as one party is outside of the United States, communications involving that party are to be treated under the rules of foreign intelligence gathering, no court order ever necessary. Or Congress could give telecommunication companies immunity in cases where they are complying with requests signed off by the Attorney General, reducing the legal risk they would bear in cooperating with executive branch requests for information. So far, House Democrats have been unwilling to pass either of these provisions, showing less interest in encouraging private institutions to cooperate with the government in fighting terrorism than in injecting the court system as strongly as they can into foreign surveillance operations.

    Andrew McCarthy has more details on FISA reform in a Human Events article available here.

    The Militia and the Second Amendment

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Roger Williams University Law Professor Carl T. Bogus argues against the existence of an individual right to bear arms in Tuesday's Projo

    The traditional view is that the [second amendment] grants people the right to keep and bear arms only within the constitutionally-mandated militia — that it guarantees the states armed militia to provide for their own security.
    But Professor Bogus errs in suggesting that a militia is something created by a state. The militia exists, whether states choose to effectively utilize it or not, as Georgetown University Law Professor Randy Barnett explains with this powerful example…
    On September 11th of 2001, however, the United States came under aerial attack by planes piloted by foreign nationals. Two planes struck the World Trade Center destroying it and, with it, thousands of innocent civilians inside. Another struck the Pentagon killing hundreds of members of the armed forces. A fourth plane, United Flight 93, was heading for the nation’s capital with the likely target being the White House. It was stopped from reaching its target, but not by the Army, Navy, or even the Air Force. Nor was it stopped by the National Guard or the armed constabulary of the District of Columbia. After all, these official personnel cannot be everywhere the nation is threatened. No, unlike [in the War of 1812], this time the White House was saved from possible destruction by the heroics of members of the “unorganized militia” who, after learning on their cell phones of the attacks by other planes, acted in concert to protect the capital from a second successful attack in the same morning at the cost of their own lives.
    The second amendment isn't a grant of a right to state governments. It is a guarantee of the right of individuals to prepare themselves to defend their country and their countrymen, under the most dire of circumstances.

    Romney Speech: The Public Square Cannot Be Naked

    Donald B. Hawthorne

    The Corner provides excerpts from Mitt Romney's speech today, which suggest it will focus on the broader strategic question of what role religion should play in the American public square instead of the granularity of Mormon theology:

    There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adam's words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.

    Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone…

    When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States…

    There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths…

    It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

    We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

    The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.

    We should acknowledge the Creator as did the founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty…

    These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements…

    My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the self -same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency...

    The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed.

    In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion - rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.

    The Mormon tradition has some serious theological differences with Catholic and Protestant traditions. Yet, there are also theological differences which exist between Roman Catholicism and Protestant traditions, Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox traditions, Pentecostal and main line Protestant traditions, Evangelical and main line Protestant traditions, Christianity and Judaism, as well as Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed traditions of Judaism. We can argue about theological particulars but I haven't found that to be interesting since college days when we debated all sorts of topics. And even then, those debates were often inconclusive or unproductive.

    But the issue regarding what is the proper role of religion in the American public square - including how it informs the way we live together as a nation, a community, and a family - is a most important debate. That debate requires a certain moral seriousness, which can exist across differing religious traditions. It further requires us to take a serious look again at the principles of our Founding, which affirm that we are born with our rights which come from the Creator and "the laws of nature of and of nature's God," not the government. And, as the Founders stated, morality cannot be sustained without religious influence.

    It is a debate which has not been conducted openly and honestly in recent times, as noted in the earlier Anchor Rising posts highlighted in the Extended Entry below.

    If Romney's speech reignites a public debate on what should fill our public square, he has then made an important contribution to our civic discourse.


    The text of Romney's speech is here. The video is here.

    Here are some of the subsequent commentaries -

    Kathryn Jean Lopez
    Mona Charen
    Byron York
    Byron York
    Kate O'Beirne
    Ramesh Ponnuru
    Jonah Goldberg
    Mark Levin
    Captain's Quarter
    South Carolina Republican Party leadership
    Power Line
    Examiner editorial
    Lee Harris
    Ed Cone
    John Podhoretz
    Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume
    Evangelical leaders on Hannity & Colmes
    Wall Street Journal
    Boston Globe
    Peggy Noonan
    John Dickerson
    Michael Gerson
    Pat Buchanan
    David Kuo
    Rich Lowry
    Charles Krauthammer
    David Kusnet
    Kathleen Parker
    Jay Cost
    E.J. Dionne
    David Brooks
    Dick Morris
    Eleanor Clift
    Liz Mair
    Jonah Goldberg
    Jason Lee Steorts
    National Review editors
    An NRO symposium
    Kathryn Jean Lopez
    Bill Bennett
    David Frum
    The Anchoress
    Jimmy Akin
    International Herald Tribune
    Steve Chapman
    Robert Robb
    Terry Eastland
    Richard John Neuhaus

    Along with the American Founders, Romney strongly affirms the role of religion at the creation and through the history of this constitutional order...

    ...Those familiar with the discussion of these questions might say that the entirety of Romney’s address is an exercise in "civil religion." That is closer to the truth of the matter. Civil religion is not another religion but is a mix of convictions about transcendent truths that are held in common and refracted through the particular religious traditions to which Americans adhere...

    ...His understanding that the naked public square is not neutral toward religion but is a project of the quasi-religion of secularism is entirely on target. His sharp contrast between America and a secularistic Europe, on the one hand, and jihadist fanaticism, on the other, is well stated.

    It is too much to say, as he did, that Americans "share a common creed of moral convictions." It is not a creed, just as America is not a church, but there is an undeniably Judeo-Christian moral ambiance within which we engage and dispute how we ought to order our life together. And, however much we may argue over particulars, Mr. Romney is surely right in saying that "no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people."...

    ...He was making a bid for the support of people who find themselves on one side of a culture war that they did not declare. If you wonder who did declare the war, you need go no further than the facing page of the Times on the same day, with its typically strident editorial attacking Mr. Romney and his argument about religion in American public life...

    ...I believe Mr. Romney has rendered a significant service in advancing the understanding of religion and public life in the American experiment...


    Liberal Fundamentalism, Revisited

    In the above post, the following Wall Street Journal editorial is referenced:

    We have been following the extensive theological commentary in the press on the subject of politics and religion in the current presidential campaign. It might not otherwise have occurred to us that so many editorialists and columnists harbored so many deep, pent-up opinions on religious worship, voluntary school prayer or Christian fundamentalism.

    What we have been looking for but have so far missed in this great awakening of religious writing is a short sermon on the subject of liberal fundamentalism...we would like to offer a few thoughts on what has been far and away the most messianic religion in America the past two decades - liberal politics.

    American liberalism has traditionally derived much of its energy from a volatile mixture of emotion and moral superiority. The liberal belief that one's policies would on balance accomplish something indisputably good generally made opposing arguments about shortcomings, costs or unintended consequences unpersuasive...

    In retrospect, it's clear that the moral clarity of the early civil-rights movement was a political epiphany for many white liberals...many active liberals carried along their newly found moral certitude and quasi-religious fervor into nearly every major public policy issue that has come along in the past 15 years. The result has been liberal fundamentalism.

    ...Not surprisingly, this evangelical liberalism produced a response. Conservative groups - both secular and religious - were created, and they quite obviously made the political success of their adversaries more difficult. Liberals don't like that. So now, suddenly, we find all these politicians and columnists who are afraid someone might want to impose a particular point of view on them...

    If some liberals are now afraid that certain Christian fundamentalists will reintroduce new forms of intolerance and excessive religious zeal into American political life, perhaps we should concede the possibility that they know what they're talking about. But they might also meditate on the current election and why there has been an apparent rightward shift in political sentiment in the U.S. It could be that a great many voters have taken a good look at the fundamentalists on the religious right and the fundamentalists on the political left and made up their minds about which poses the greater threat to their own private and public values.

    (Note: The WSJ wrote those 1984.)

    Thomas Krannawitter adds these thoughts:

    ...natural law jurisprudence represents the greatest threat to the liberal desire to replace limited, constitutional government with a regulatory-welfare state of unlimited powers.

    ...the principle that our rights come not from government but from a "Creator" and "the laws of nature and of nature's God," as our Declaration of Independence says, and that the purpose and power of government should therefore be limited to protecting our natural, God-given rights.

    The left understands that if it is to succeed, these principles of constitutional government must be jettisoned, or at least redefined...the founders' natural-law defense of constitutional government is fatal to liberalism's goal...

    From a liberal view, liberty cannot be a natural right, protected by a government of limited powers, because there are no natural rights...Instead, 'the the creator of liberty...

    The size, scope and purposes of our government are no longer anchored in and limited by our Constitution...The American people need to be reminded of the source of their rights and persuaded that limited government is good; that the principles of the Constitution - which are the natural-law principles of the Declaration of Independence - are timeless, not time-bound; that without those principles, the noble ends set forth in the Constitution's preamble can never be achieved.

    George Washington said these words in his Farewell Address:

    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness - these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them...Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

    The Naked Public Square Revisited, Part I
    The Naked Public Square Revisited, Part II

    In Part II, Richard John Neuhaus writes:

    Politics and religion are different enterprises...But they are constantly coupling and getting quite mixed up with one another. There is nothing new about this. What is relatively new is the naked public square. The naked public square is the result of political doctrine and practice that would exclude religion and religiously grounded values from the conduct of public business...

    When religion in any traditional or recognizable form is excluded from the public square, it does not mean that the public square is in fact naked...

    The truly naked public square is at best a transitional phenomenon. It is a vacuum begging to be filled. When the democratically affirmed institutions that generate and transmit values are excluded, the vacuum will be filled by the agent left in control of the public square, the state. In this manner, a perverse notion of the disestablishment of religion leads to the establishment of the state as church...

    Our problems, then, stem in large part from the philosophical and legal effort to isolate and exclude the religious dimension of culture...only the state can..."lay claim to compulsive authority."...of all the institutions in societies, only religion can invoke against the state a transcendent authority and have its invocation seconded by "the people" to whom a democratic state is presumably accountable. For the state to be secured from such challenge, religion must be redefined as a private, emphatically not public, phenomenon. In addition, because truly value-less existence is impossible for persons or societies, the state must displace religion as the generator and bearer of values...

    [T]he notion of the secular state can become the prelude to totalitarianism. That is, once religion is reduced to nothing more than privatized conscience, the public square has only two actors in it - the state and the individual. Religion as a mediating no longer available as a countervailing force to the ambitions of the state...

    If law and polity are divorced from moral judgment...all things are permitted and...all things will be done...When in our public life no legal prohibition can be articulated with the force of transcendent authority, then there are no rules rooted in ultimacies that can protect the poor, the powerless and the marginal...

    Politics is an inescapably moral enterprise. Those who participate in it are...moral actors. The word "moral" here...means only that the questions engaged [in politics] are questions that have to do with what is right or wrong, good or evil. Whatever moral dignity politics may possess depends upon its being a process of contention and compromise among moral actors, not simply a process of accomodation among individuals in pursuit of their interests. The conflict in American public life today, then, is not a conflict between morality and secularism. It is a conflict of moralities in which one moral system calls itself secular and insists that the other do likewise as the price of admission to the public arena. That insistence is in fact a demand that the other side capitulate...

    The Naked Public Square Revisited, Part III
    Honoring the Land We Love

    In the preceding post, Roger Pilon writes about the Declaration of Independence and Constitution:

    Appealing to all mankind, the Declaration's seminal passage opens with perhaps the most important line in the document: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident." Grounded in reason, "self-evident" truths invoke the long tradition of natural law, which holds that there is a "higher law" of right and wrong from which to derive human law and against which to criticize that law at any time. It is not political will, then, but moral reasoning, accessible to all, that is the foundation of our political system.

    But if reason is the foundation of the Founders' vision - the method by which we justify our political order - liberty is its aim. Thus, cardinal moral truths are these:

    ...that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.

    We are all created equal, as defined by our natural rights; thus, no one has rights superior to those of anyone else. Moreover, we are born with those rights, we do not get them from government - indeed, whatever rights or powers government has come from us, from "the Consent of the Governed." And our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness imply the right to live our lives as we wish - to pursue happiness as we think best, by our own lights - provided only that we respect the equal rights of others to do the same. Drawing by implication upon the common law tradition of liberty, property, and contract - its principles rooted in "right reason" - the Founders thus outlined the moral foundations of a free society.

    Dr. Pilon concluded his essay by writing:

    In the end, however, no constitution can be self-enforcing. Government officials must respect their oaths to uphold the Constitution; and we the people must be vigilant in seeing that they do. The Founders drafted an extraordinarily thoughtful plan of government, but it is up to us, to each generation, to preserve and protect it for ourselves and for future generations. For the Constitution will live only if it is alive in the hearts and minds of the American people. That, perhaps, is the most enduring lesson of our experiment in ordered liberty.

    In addition, the following posts from a series entitled "Theocrats, Moral Relativism & the Myth of Religious Tolerance" address some of the broader issues in this necessary and important public debate:

    Part I: The Difference Between Religious Freedom & Religious Tolerance

    In Part I, William Voegeli writes:

    ...The more practical problem with the fact-value distinction is that no one, including those who espouse it, actually believes it. No one is really "value-neutral" with respect to his own values, or regards them as values, arbitrary preferences that one just happens to be saddled with...

    The problem with relativism is its insistence that all moral impulses are created equal - that there are no reasons to choose the standards of the wise and good over those of the deranged and cruel. A world organized according to that principle would be anarchic, uninhabitable. As Leo Strauss wrote, the attempt to "regard nihilism as a minor inconvenience" is untenable.

    The problem with relativists is that they always dismiss other people's beliefs, but spare their own moral preferences from their doctrine's scoffing...

    Justice, rights, moral common sense - either these are things we can have intelligent discussions about or they aren't...

    Thomas Williams adds:

    ...separation of church and state becomes separation of public life and religious belief. Religion was excluded from public conversation and relegated strictly to the intimacy of home and chapel. Religious tolerance is a myth, but a myth imposed by an anti-religious intellectual elite.

    This "tolerant" mentality is especially problematic when applied in non-confessional countries -such as the United States - where an attitude of tolerance is not that of the state religion toward unsanctioned creeds, but of a non-confessional secular state toward religion itself...

    Dignitatis Humanae, on the contrary, taught that religion is a human good to be promoted, not an evil to be tolerated. While government should not presume to command religious acts, it should "take account of the religious life of the citizenry and show it favor." Religious practice forms part of the common good of society and should be encouraged rather than marginalized...

    Part II: Are We Hostile Toward or Encouraging Religious Belief?

    Part II quotes a Supreme Court decision written by William O. Douglas:

    ...We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. We guarantee the freedom to worship as one chooses. We make room for as wide a variety of beliefs and creeds as the spiritual needs of man deem necessary. We sponsor an attitude on the part of government that shows no partiality to any one group and that lets each flourish according to the zeal of its adherents and the appeal of its dogma. When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs. To hold that it may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe. Government may not finance religious groups nor undertake religious instruction nor blend secular and sectarian education nor use secular institutions to force one or some religion on any person. But we find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence...

    Part III: Consequences of Excluding Religion From the Public Square
    Part IV: Moral Recovery via Rediscovering the Meaning of Words

    In the last post, Robert Reilly writes:

    You cannot use "evil" as an adjective until you know it as a noun...the new struggle [today] is over the meaning of freedom...In Veritatis Splendor, the pope warned of "the risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life, and on a deeper level make the acknowledgment of truth impossible." If truth is impossible, so are the "self-evident truths" upon which free government depends. Then, one can understand everything in terms of power and its manipulation...[John Paul II] raised the hope that moral recovery is possible by calling for it.

    Pope Benedict XVI adds these words:

    No great, inspiring culture of the future can be built upon the moral principle of relativism. For at its bottom such a culture holds that nothing is better than anything else, and that all things are in themselves equally meaningless...The culture of relativism invites its own its own internal incoherence...

    To which I offered these thoughts:

    Our heritage not only acknowledges the existence of moral truths but argues that these truths can be discovered by either faith or reason - thereby confirming what has been true for centuries: This public conversation about the role of moral truths in the public square does not require everyone to hold identical religious beliefs. It does require us to be morally serious and to firmly place moral relativism in the dustbin of history.

    Moral truths belong in the public square to avoid the societal consequences of moral relativism. Only with a belief in moral truths can words become meaningful again and enable us to begin a public conversation about principles such as freedom and - from there - to discuss proper ways to introduce their meaning back into the public square.

    December 5, 2007

    Governor Carcieri and "civil rights"

    Monique Chartier

    The ACLU of Rhode Island has attacked Governor Donald Carieri's record on civil rights (and the Providence Journal newsroom obliged with an undiscerning, over-the-top headline).

    Following is the basis of the ACLU's charges:

    •Carcieri suggested on talk radio in October that English-language interpreters are unnecessary.

    •He made statements in a legal brief in August condemning “no-fault divorce” laws, adding on talk radio last month that the state’s welfare system is “enabling” unmarried women to “have children they can’t support.”

    •He vetoed a bill in July that would have eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for various drug offenses associated with urban, minority offenders. The General Assembly passed the initial bill but declined to override the veto during a special session.

    •He vetoed another bill in July that would have provided retirement and death benefits to domestic partners of state and municipal employees. The Assembly later overrode the veto.

    •And Carcieri last spring supported legislation sending all 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system to adult court. The Assembly approved the law in July, but reversed it four months later.

    It should be noted that the first two items were statements made by Governor Carcieri (can a statement be a violation of someone's civil rights?) and that the General Assembly concurred with him on two of the others. Already, then, the credibility of the ACLU's criticism is diminished.

    More importantly, as to the substance of all five of these items, how do any of them constitute a violation of civil rights? Hasn't the ACLU misinterpreted or exaggerated the definition of civil rights, thereby watering down and even dishonoring genuine civil rights?

    Open Thread: Republican Presidential Nomination

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    The race for the Republican Presidential nomination seems more wide open than ever before. Here are the daily tracking numbers from Rasmussen...

    • Mike Huckabee 20%
    • Rudy Giuliani 17%
    • Mitt Romney 13%
    • John McCain 13%
    John Podhoretz of Commentary Magazine suggests that Mike Huckabee is picking up the Fred Thompson voters that Fred Thompson failed to attract.

    The questions are…

    1. Are Rhode Islanders for Rudy Giuliani getting worried at all?
    2. Are Rhode Islanders not for Rudy Giuliani looking at Mike Huckabee as a serious alternative?
    3. Do Rhode Islanders for Mitt Romney think his strategy of sweep-the-early states is still viable, even as his national numbers seem to have stagnated?
    4. Do Rhode Islanders for John McCain really think he has a chance to break back into the top tier?

    December 4, 2007

    Teach Them to Fish

    Marc Comtois

    Today, the ProJo delves into a report published last week by the Center for Immigration Studies:

    [T}he survey, based on U.S. Census data, found that immigration to Rhode Island increased by 61 percent between 2000 and 2007 and that immigrants and their U.S.-born children make up 17.7 percent of the state’s population. By contrast, that segment of the population totaled 17.4 percent in Massachusetts; 15.9 percent in Connecticut; 5.8 percent in Vermont; 7.8 percent in New Hampshire and 3.1 percent in Maine.
    The ProJo doesn't put that number in context nationally, however. Rhode Island's 17.7 percent immigrant+children rate is also the 10th highest nationally, behind California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii, respectively. These are all either big or border states or both. (Also, Rhode Island's immigrant-only population rate comprises 13.3% of the total, which ranks 12th nationally). So how does little Rhode Island find itself amongst these heavy hitters? Services and the safety net, perhaps? As one example, here is the percent of all Rhode Island births to immigrants from 1995 to 2005, including whether private insurance or Medicaid was used:


    Source: Rhode Island DHS report Health Indicators for Rhode Island

    Since 2000, 35-40% of all births in Rhode Island have been to immigrant women on Medicaid.
    *Note: Neither the CIS study nor the DHS data differentiates between illegal and legal immigrants, the the CIS reports that 1 in 3 of all immigrants are illegal.

    The ProJo asked William Shuey of the International Institute of Rhode Island about the findings:

    [C]ritics of immigrants overstate the extent to which immigrants use welfare and other state-financed programs. Shuey also said that the economic impact of immigrants is not a drag on the state’s economy.

    “A lot of this is just scapegoating a group that is vulnerable,” said Shuey. “It is easy to beat up on these people because they are politically powerless. If you take the long view, you’ll find that over 20 years immigrants are as likely as natives to own a house, have a steady job, be good citizens.”

    Generally, the CIS report seems to counter Mr. Shuey's claim. For instance, included in the report are numerous tables and figures that show the extent to which recent immigrants are less educated and more likely to remain in poverty and rely on social welfare programs than before. (See the extended entry for a select list of some of the findings).

    And there is a distinction to be made between the immigrants of yore and today. Our immigrant ancestors relied on each other, not the government, for help as they made their new lives. This is not some romanticized version of the past: there was no government-provided safety net. Operating without a net provided an incentive to achieve but some fell through the cracks. As a moral society, we chose to provide a safety net for them. Unfortunately, for too many, landing and staying in the safety net has become the definition of the American way of life.

    As Justin writes, there are indeed expectations bound up in all of this, on both sides. The expectations of those subsidizing the safety net are that, eventually, newcomers to our country should be able to take advantage of the opportunities our nation provides and become self-sufficient. To paraphrase, we'll give them some fish while they learn to fish for themselves. But only for so long.

    Here are some of the findings of the CIS study:

  • 31 percent [of adult immigrants] have not completed high school

  • The proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 33 percent, compared to 19 percent for native households.

  • The poverty rate for immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) is 17 percent, nearly 50 percent higher than the rate for natives and their children.

  • 34 percent of immigrants lack health insurance, compared to 13 percent of natives. Immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for 71 percent of the increase in the uninsured since 1989.

  • Immigrants make significant progress over time. But even those who have been here for 20 years are more likely to be in poverty, lack insurance, or use welfare than are natives.

  • The primary reason for the high rates of immigrant poverty, lack of health insurance, and welfare use is their low education levels, not their legal status or an unwillingness to work.

  • There is a worker present in 78 percent of immigrant households using at least one welfare program.

  • Immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. In 2007, there were 10.8 million school-age children from immigrant families in the United States.

  • Recent immigration has had no significant impact on the nation’s age structure. Without the 10.3 million post-2000 immigrants, the average age in America would be virtually unchanged at 36.5 years.

  • Stranger Welcoming

    Justin Katz

    Yesterday, Dan Yorke played a clip of Bishop Thomas Tobin on one of the Sunday news shows (which does not appear to be online, yet) discussing immigration. I certainly wouldn't claim to be more Catholic than the bishop, to modify a phrase, let alone the College of Bishops, but it seems to me that his human inclinations, and perhaps a touch of the subconscious workings of self interest, might be misdirecting his application of the faith to this prudential matter.

    The Church differentiates between the behavior of the governing authority (i.e., the state) and the individual when it comes to moral action. The state can tax; it can imprison; it can even kill and conduct war. The lessons of the Bible, in the government context — such as Jesus' explanation that "I was a stranger and you welcomed me," which Bishop Tobin quoted — apply less directly. To some extent the U.S. government must be welcoming, of course, and it must always act with at least the minimum compassion due a person simply as a human being, but it must set an immigration policy based on a complex array of considerations, and then, for the sake of fairness and security, it must enforce that policy. To simplify and exaggerate for the sake of discussion: You might decide not to take visitors after 5:00 p.m. because you must run to give your ailing mother her life-saving medicine; you are not morally obligated to open up the door and start a pot of coffee for a stranger who catches you at the end of the driveway at 5:10. A stranger who has broken into your house need not be given a special path to membership in the family on the grounds that he is a stranger who has broken into your house.

    The question of how to deal compassionately with strangers who are in our country illegally has become tangled in our modern notion that compassion requires the meeting of expectations. Out of compassion, we meet the immediate needs of illegals — food, say, or desperately needed medicine. Out of compassion, we ensure that their passage to wherever is safe. But compassion does not require a declaration that the laws do not apply to a particular group of people based on their act of breaking the very law that ostensibly does not apply (else we'll find the breaking of that law to become more of a goal than complying with it).

    To the extent that the Catholic Church needs to have a stance on the matter of illegal immigration that goes beyond simply a demand that all people be treated humanely and fairly, there is nothing in doctrine or, at least that I can see, in the binds of conscience, that is in conflict with a policy of increased pressure on employers and a willingness to return as many illegals as we can to their home countries.

    Breaking Down In Detail Rhode Island's Tax and Fee and Charge Ranking

    Carroll Andrew Morse

    Assessing monies collected by state and local governments, the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council ranks Rhode Island 7th in the United States in "state and local taxes collected per $1,000 of personal income", but 26th in "state and local tax collections, charges and miscellaneous general revenues per $1,000 of personal income".

    To some, the meaning of the difference between the two metrics is clear -- as long as there exists any metric showing Rhode Islanders not near the top in what they are required to pay to the government, taxes need to be raised! Others don't believe that the goal of tax policy should be to max out on every possible measurement of how much Rhode Islanders are paying and would like to figure out an explanation for the difference. Count me amongst the second group.

    RIPEC used revenue data compiled by the Census Bureau for 2005 and income data compiled by the Bureau of Economic Analysis for 2004 in their 2007 report. Using figures available online (here and here), I was able to produce results for taxes paid per $1,000 of income within a few cents of RIPEC's state-by-state analysis and reproduce RIPEC's rankings to within a place or two; the data available to me showed Rhode Island ranking 8th instead of 7th in taxes collected (see the table below the fold for the complete 50 state results and some brief speculation on the sources of the discrepancies).

    Now, the census data breaks down "charges and miscellaneous general revenues" into a number of specific categories, providing dollar figures for each by state. Just like states can be ranked in terms of their total tax collections, they can also be ranked in terms of how much they collect in each "miscellaneous" sub-category. Here are Rhode Island's rankings, per $1,000 of personal income, in each miscellaneous category used by the Census Bureau…

    Revenue Category
    Housing and community development $34,116,0004
    Air transportation (airports) $60,009,00014
    Other general revenue $466,844,00016
    Other charges $158,840,00026
    Highways $12,870,00030
    Sea and inland port facilities $456,00033
    Education (including higher education) $347,022,00034
    Natural resources $3,801,00038
    Parks and recreation $19,545,00041
    Sewerage $81,992,00041
    Parking facilities $1,031,00045
    Solid waste management $18,530,00045
    Hospitals $4,267,00049

    Rhode Island's 49th place ranking in "hospital" fees/miscellaneous charges is the most significant figure in this table, because by itself, it appears to account for much of the difference in Rhode Island's taxes-only versus taxes-plus-charges rankings. In terms of taxes plus "hospital" charges collected, the results for the 50 states (with absolute collections reported in terms of thousands-of-dollars) are…

    Revenue From
    Taxes + Hosp. Rev.
    per $1K of Income
    1 Wyoming $2,671,853 $612,601 $17,759,572 $184.94
    2 New York $111,107,619 $5,309,562 $739,795,482 $157.36
    3 Hawaii $5,523,747 $343,398 $41,074,817 $142.84
    4 Louisiana $14,301,995 $2,404,463 $122,294,458 $136.61
    5 Alaska $2,947,034 $85,083 $22,459,220 $135.01
    6 Maine $5,219,708 $71,413 $39,510,387 $133.92
    7 Mississippi $7,490,681 $1,852,745 $69,778,380 $133.90
    8 South Carolina $11,800,640 $3,355,730 $113,347,985 $133.72
    9 New Mexico $6,069,328 $434,536 $49,798,607 $130.60
    10 Vermont $2,574,761 $0 $19,749,931 $130.37
    11 Wisconsin $21,403,526 $893,667 $174,740,109 $127.60
    12 West Virginia $5,550,746 $263,029 $45,731,471 $127.13
    13 Utah $7,303,964 $782,270 $63,613,266 $127.12
    14 Nebraska $6,586,238 $444,248 $55,486,270 $126.71
    15 Indiana $21,337,077 $2,233,930 $186,222,441 $126.57
    16 California $146,616,887 $12,671,974 $1,265,657,107 $125.85
    17 Arkansas $8,053,926 $838,198 $70,706,380 $125.76
    18 Ohio $41,714,754 $2,498,092 $351,630,721 $125.74
    19 Iowa $9,704,861 $1,635,484 $90,515,010 $125.29
    20 Idaho $4,182,546 $560,393 $38,122,727 $124.41
    21 North Carolina $27,307,108 $3,447,778 $251,284,628 $122.39
    22 Rhode Island $4,499,624 $4,267 $36,814,199 $122.34
    23 Connecticut $18,896,812 $373,913 $159,255,636 $121.00
    24 Minnesota $20,956,639 $1,157,323 $183,794,728 $120.32
    25 New Jersey $42,557,354 $790,677 $361,678,619 $119.85
    26 Alabama $11,686,675 $3,421,130 $126,282,975 $119.63
    27 Kentucky $12,261,812 $1,084,068 $111,675,996 $119.51
    28 Nevada $9,043,570 $519,296 $80,311,322 $119.07
    29 Michigan $35,295,158 $2,634,009 $318,762,176 $118.99
    30 Kansas $9,385,496 $547,526 $84,619,970 $117.38
    31 Georgia $27,486,109 $3,104,011 $264,635,496 $115.59
    32 Pennsylvania $46,019,258 $1,777,028 $413,900,836 $115.48
    33 Washington $22,974,042 $2,058,441 $218,366,056 $114.64
    34 Arizona $18,331,117 $466,830 $164,941,395 $113.97
    35 North Dakota $2,121,388 $2,962 $18,674,433 $113.76
    36 Florida $59,863,884 $4,195,951 $565,211,107 $113.34
    37 Illinois $49,138,495 $1,201,295 $445,269,246 $113.05
    38 Delaware $3,277,387 $14,633 $29,269,007 $112.47
    39 Virginia $27,659,186 $2,107,533 $267,784,599 $111.16
    40 Massachusetts $28,756,962 $449,515 $266,818,043 $109.46
    41 Maryland $23,899,055 $134,644 $219,937,707 $109.28
    42 Oregon $11,106,991 $879,686 $109,807,900 $109.16
    43 Oklahoma $10,073,102 $790,853 $100,077,751 $108.56
    44 Missouri $17,374,264 $1,497,277 $173,968,028 $108.48
    45 Texas $69,133,862 $6,042,974 $695,503,614 $108.09
    46 Montana $2,722,702 $49,063 $25,813,892 $107.37
    47 Tennessee $15,993,136 $2,137,373 $174,740,992 $103.76
    48 Colorado $15,680,821 $1,146,051 $163,805,332 $102.72
    49 New Hampshire $4,319,777 $6,005 $47,170,059 $91.71
    50 South Dakota $2,103,820 $36,158 $23,881,413 $89.61

    Just this single category, where other states collect ample revenues, but Rhode Island doesn't, drops Rhode Island 14 spots in revenue ranking, from 8th to 22nd place.

    This result raises an obvious question for anyone arguing that Rhode Island's middle-of-the-pack ranking in taxes plus "miscellaneous" charges justifies a tax increase: why should broad-based taxes be used to compensate for a lack of revenue from specific areas that most other states target directly? Are hospitals an area where Rhode Island has fewer expenses than other states (hard to believe, as the figures would then imply that RI had only 1/3 the hospital capacity of Delaware, or less than 1/10th that of Maine), is this an area being mightily subsidized compared to other states, or is there some other explanation?

    The table below contains the rankings of states by taxes paid per $1,000 of income. These numbers differ slightly from RIPEC's 2007 analysis. Possible explanations for the discrepancies are adjustments to source data that may have been made since RIPEC's retrieved the inforamtion and/or RIPEC's possible addition/removal of certain classes of revenue to the category of taxes for the purposes of its analysis (for example, I'm not sure where gambling money fits into the Census Bureau classification of revenues, and whether RIPEC considers gambling money to be a tax or a miscellaneous charge).

    RankState Taxes per
    $1K Income
    1 Wyoming $150.45
    2 New York $150.19
    3 Hawaii $134.48
    4 Maine $132.11
    5 Alaska $131.22
    6 Vermont $130.37
    7 Wisconsin $122.49
    8 Rhode Island $122.23
    9 New Mexico $121.88
    10 West Virginia $121.38
    11 Nebraska $118.70
    12 Connecticut $118.66
    13 Ohio $118.63
    14 New Jersey $117.67
    15 Louisiana $116.95
    16 California $115.84
    17 Utah $114.82
    18 Indiana $114.58
    19 Minnesota $114.02
    20 Arkansas $113.91
    21 North Dakota $113.60
    22 Nevada $112.61
    23 Delaware $111.97
    24 Pennsylvania $111.18
    25 Arizona $111.14
    26 Kansas $110.91
    27 Michigan $110.73
    28 Illinois $110.36
    29 Kentucky $109.80
    30 Idaho $109.71
    31 North Carolina $108.67
    32 Maryland $108.66
    33 Massachusetts $107.78
    34 Mississippi $107.35
    35 Iowa $107.22
    36 Florida $105.91
    37 Montana $105.47
    38 Washington $105.21
    39 South Carolina $104.11
    40 Georgia $103.86
    41 Virginia $103.29
    42 Oregon $101.15
    43 Oklahoma $100.65
    44 Missouri $99.87
    45 Texas $99.40
    46 Colorado $95.73
    47 Alabama $92.54
    48 New Hampshire $91.58
    49 Tennessee $91.52
    50 South Dakota $88.09

    December 3, 2007

    Re: Thanking Hillary, Tongue in Cheek

    Monique Chartier

    When members of the College Republican Federation are at the corner of Post Road and Airport Road in Warwick at 3:30 today, they will have good reason to thank the Junior Senator from New York. Senator Hillary Clinton not only voted in favor of the war in Iraq, Christopher Hitchens pointed out in February that she actively made the case for our action there.

    Here is what she said in her crucial speech of October 2002:
    In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

    Notice what this does not say. It does not say that she agrees with the Bush administration on those two key points. Rather, it states these two claims in her own voice and on her own authority.

    Chavez Defeated

    Marc Comtois

    Hugo Chavez's attempt to reshape the Venezuelan constitution has failed. This despite the fact that, according to Providence City Council member Miguel C. Luna:

    [T]he reforms would deepen the social and economic changes under President Chavez that have just begun to affect the population, lessening poverty and affording more human rights to the majority. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and health would be criminalized while community organizations would receive direct funding for social-development projects.
    Apparently the poor didn't get the message:
    The loss signals waning support for Chavez's drive to bring socialism to the region's fourth-biggest economy by concentrating power in his hands and ramping up state control of private lives. Voters refused to abolish presidential term limits or allow government censorship during declared emergencies. Chavez also sought to shorten the work day and end central bank autonomy.

    ``This is the first significant setback that Chavez has ever had,'' said Adam Isacson, director at the Center for International Policy in Washington. ``He has lost popular support. He has lost support of some of the army and the poor.''

    Never fear, Mr. Luna, I have a feeling the Chavez will try again:
    ``This is a democracy,'' the president said in Caracas. ``For me, this isn't a defeat. This is for now.''
    I bet.

    Thanking Hillary, Tongue in Cheek

    Justin Katz

    The campaign of Hillary Clinton — herself a College Republican — is coming to town today, and the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island will be at the corner of Post Rd. and Airport Rd. in Warwick at 3:30 to express their gratitude for her vote for the war in 2002 and "for pledging to continue the presence of troops to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq if she is elected President."

    It's a frightening "if," I know, but support for the war is support for the war.

    December 2, 2007

    Energy Security vs. Energy

    Mac Owens

    Congress is considering energy legislation that will create some very bad outcomes. One of the worst will be to make the United States less secure when it comes to access to energy. I addressed this issue Friday in the
    Christian Science Monitor. A longer and more detailed version of my argument is over on the site of the Ashbrook Institute.

    December 1, 2007

    How I Came to Believe in God, and Why I Shouldn't Try to Be Steve Laffey

    Justin Katz

    To a completely unrelated post, Theracapulas (who has commented under a variety of names over the past six months) explains the problem with Anchor Rising and the RIGOP:

    As to why someone like you would say that you agree with a socialist like that URI professor is flat out perplexing. Dan Yorke didn't say that only wealthy people should have children. He said only people who could afford children should have them. She then said that was riddiculous. She's a socialist.

    The point behind all this is that you're simply not a fighter, and that's why this blog is so uninspiring. Have you ever posted anything about how we need to move to a voucher system in rhode island? No, you'd rather dance around stupid points with Pat Crowley, and confuse everyone in the process. But that's just one example.

    You're passive. That's the problem with the RI. GOP, but it's not just you. Gio Cicione is passive. Governor Carcieri is passive. And the members of the legislature besides Trillo, they're downright laughable. State Senator Ed Bates anyone? lol

    The party needs fighters like former Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey and Joe Trillo. We don't needs people like you who dance around issues and go into way too much stupid detail as opposed to making clear, straight forward points.

    Putting aside Thera's odd definition of passivity — which somehow includes a man with my schedule, not to mention a businessman who ran for and won the governor's seat and (albeit a little late) laid off hundreds of state workers — I guess the place to start, in my response, is with my conversion to Catholicism. Here's the shortened version of that story:

    About eight years ago, I began to feel that the atheism to which I'd stumbled during problematic teen years wasn't adequate to make sense of the world as I was experiencing it. Yet, I'd accepted so many principles, and had learned to have emotional affinity for such a segment of society, that I felt awkward trying to believe in God. My approach to the first stages of conversion was twofold: I attacked the intellectual precepts that I now know to have been faulty by reading opposing argumentation, and I began noticing acceptance of God within the culture to which I'd acclimated. The latter strategy sounds (and is) a little silly, from a certain point of view, but having been a teenage rock/pop junky, for instance, finding religious references in Cat Stevens, Bach, Bob Dylan, and Beethoven and realizing that George Harrison wasn't nuts to be the believing Beatle helped me to develop the emotional configuration of a man in whose culture believing in God is actually a possibility. Just so, conversion requires not only the appearance of intellectual necessity, but also emotional impetus and a spectrum of tiered affinity (from Dylan to Harrison and ultimately to explicitly Christian musicians).

    The relevance is that Rhode Island needs to be converted to conservative ideas. As much emotional impetus as the threat of utter collapse may provide, and as much as conservative prescriptions may be obvious necessities, for the state to be saved, its culture and its people must change in ways that touch upon identity.

    As it happens, I agree that Rhode Island needs fighters — people to slap the citizens awake and to kick the agents of somnambulism out of the room. That's the central reason that I was so reluctant to support Steve Laffey's bid to take his political career out of the state. But I'm not he; I tried on the taking-no-guff hat long ago and wound up miserable and hurtful. I won't by any means be the last man in the room to throw a punch, but in some folks, belligerence isn't a tool, but a beast. In some folks, it's a comedian. I'm of the former sort, and I've learned that I'm more effective (and happier, to be sure) channeling my fight to other fronts of the war.

    The Dan Yorke exchange that Theracapulas misconstrues is an example of the role that, it's fair to say, Anchor Rising in general seeks to fill. Kathleen Gorman said, "You think only wealthy people should have children?" Dan Yorke said, "Yes! Now we're getting somewhere! Only people who can afford it should do it."

    Now, we on the right understand (or assume) that Yorke isn't condemning hardworking young families that make the gamble, with reasonable odds, that their professional efforts will pay off with sufficient rapidity to support a growing family. But those approaching the conversation from another direction — the significant number of Rhode Islanders whom we must convert — are susceptible to Gorman's spin/delusion that such families are of a kind with those who procreate without a thought to raising their children and look to the government for indefinite assistance. Note that it was her spun version of Yorke's position that she called "crazy," not (as Thera respins it) Yorke's toned down explanation.

    "If all people waited until they had enough money to support their children," asserted Gorman, "there would be no children in the world." As a thirtysomething in my particular circumstances, I can't do otherwise than agree with the statement, isolated of itself. I take it to be my role, therefore, to seek to explain why the statement, isolated of itself, does not require agreement with Gorman's social program. In doing so, I'm also offering counsel to the fighters on my side as to how they might tweak their message for maximum persuasive effect.

    How well somebody undertaking such a role actually performs it is always a legitimate area of critique, and I'll cup my meager talents in my palms and plea that I can only do as well as I can do, while always striving to do better. If my writing confuses, I can only apologize and note that I'm merely a humble carpenter. If it's the role itself, however, that you dislike, then I'll suggest that perhaps you aren't my audience. It would certainly be more entertaining for me to crash and burn, frothing with righteousness, but I doubt it would be more effective in the long run.

    And if Theracapulas believes that he can create a more inspiring blog, I encourage him to start his own. Heck, I encourage him to come out of the shadows with a real name, begin submitting Engaged Citizen posts, and perhaps to become a contributor to Anchor Rising.


    I'm not sure why Thera's so sure that I've never advocated school vouchers; I've done so every time it's remotely relevant to the point that I'm making. Of course, I'm more apt to describe what it is I'm actually advocating — parental school choice, as a matter of principle and practicality — than to plaster my posts with the "voucher" buzzword. The word "voucher" has already been raised as a net for ideological volleys, and at any rate, I'd like to leave open the possibility that a more feasible approach to school choice doesn't involve a voucher system.