August 31, 2008

The gift of life vs. "never going full retard"

Donald B. Hawthorne

Rich Lowry wrote a touching post, saying:

...I found the Palin event Friday incredibly moving. Partly because of Trig.

The sentimentalist in me would be willing to see anyone who is loving and unselfish enough to welcome a Down kid into their family elevated to high office.

When I was thinking of Trig, I was reminded of an encounter I had a couple of weeks ago on the Delta Shuttle from Washington to New York. It was a mostly empty plane, but I went all the back to the very emptiest part of the plane to spread out and enjoy the quiet. And there was a man sitting in the very back row who immediately piped up, "Hi. I'm Ian. Would you like to sit next to me?"

He was a guy with Down Syndrome, maybe in his twenties. I declined the offer, but we struck up a conversation. He was going to New York for a family celebration, including for his birthday. I told him I had a birthday coming up too and he lit up and came over to vigorously shake my hand in congratulations—more delighted by my birthday than his own.

When the plane began to fill up a woman and her daughter came all the way to the back with a huge bag. I began to wonder to myself if I should offer to help them with it, when Ian popped up, told them he'd get it, and lifted it up and shoved it in the overhead compartment. When two men came down the aisle with a box they weren't sure would fit overhead, he intervened and told them it would—"trust me"—and put it up for them.

He chatted amiably with his neighbors during the flight, and when we landed was up out of his seat first thing to help that woman get her bag down.

From this brief encounter, I dare say Ian is friendlier, better adjusted and more considerate than about half of the people on the streets of Manhattan or San Francisco on any given day. Yet most of those people are perfectly unperturbed by the elimination of babies with Down syndrome in the womb. To hell with them. God bless Sarah Palin for bringing Trig into the world, and may he shower those around him with as much sunshine as the gentleman I met on that flight.

Here is Glenn Beck, who has a special needs child himself, on Trig Palin.

Years ago, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans wrote about their daughter born with Down Syndrome in a book entitled Angel Unaware: A Touching Story of Love and Loss, whose back cover notes:

Through great grief can come great joy. In the 1950s, doctors often advised parents of disabled babies to put them away in institutions or homes. But when entertainers Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Rogers discovered their new baby, Robin, had Down Syndrome, they were determined to take her home and give her their love. It wasn't easy. Through countless surgeries and sleepless nights, the Rogers found themselves exhausted and worried-until they began to notice a change in their lives. Somehow the unexplainable and unexpected was happening-Robin was helping Roy and Dale draw closer to God and to each other. Robin's brief life also persuaded them to do all they could to help others in similar circumstances. Told from Robin's point of view in heaven, Angel Unaware is a touching story that has inspired millions of readers around the world. Whether you are a parent of a special needs child or have experienced the loss of a loved one, Robin's story will bring you the peace and understanding you need in difficult times.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to spend time with my brother's family on the West Coast. He and his wife have two kids. One of them, my nephew who is 6, has Down Syndrome. He is a special boy, just like Ian and Trig Palin are special.

One of the topics which came up during the visit was a popular new movie called Tropic Thunder, which uses the word "retard" repeatedly. Related to the movie, a t-shirt is being marketed which says "Never go full retard."

When you meet the Ian's of this world and experience their guileless kindness and generous spirit, it is painful to hear such calloused talk. Down Syndrome people can teach all of us so much by their unaffected behaviors.

Can you imagine the outrage if the word "retard" was replaced by "nigger"? Or if someone was similarly cavalier about Holocaust victims? But no, calling another person a retard is supposed to be funny to the point that some people are trying to make money off of it.

By the way, when my brother - a high school teacher - hears one of his students call another student a "retard," he pulls out his wallet and shows a picture of his son to the student with these words: "Here is my retard." As you might imagine, an immediate embarassed silence and then an apology follow.

The words we use do matter. As does the very special gift of life, which offers each of us many blessings if we are open to them.

The Only Way to Settle the "Experience" Question

Carroll Andrew Morse

There's only one real way to add meaningful information to the Obama-vs.-Palin qualifications question before the 2008 general election actually occurs: through a one-on-one debate between Senator Barack Obama and Governor Sarah Palin.

Obama partisans who claim that their candidate's years of thinking about issues are better than actual executive experience should relish this opportunity for their man to prove his clear superiority in this format.

And Palin supporters who say she's ready for the job should welcome the chance for their candidate to face as high-profile a test, working without a proverbial net, as can be conducted within the context of an American Presidential campaign.

Tell me this wouldn't be the highest-rated Presidential debate ever -- and wouldn't bring a little bit of political substance to the attention of more Americans than ever before!

August 30, 2008

Accepting the Dare to Compare SATs Across States

Justin Katz

So a number of folks opined that the list of SAT scores for all fifty states that I posted the other day is meaningless because the states vary with respect to participation rates (PDF). Many states' students don't even take the SATs unless they want to go to certain higher-end universities on the East Coast, so of course they'd be apt to score better. By contrast, some have hypothesized that states with high participation rates may be encouraging students who mightn't otherwise bother to take the test, which would seem likely to drag scores down.

Cross-referencing the participation rates with the states' average scores leaves little doubt about the former point; the highest-scoring states have only single-digit percentages of students actually taking the test. But what about the latter point? Does high participation correlate with lower scores? Well, not really (solid lines follow the left axis; dotted lines follow the right):

This chart includes the sixteen states in which more than 60% of graduating high school students take the SATs. Except for highlighting the fact that Rhode Island is on the wrong side of the chart to have such a low score, arranging the data this way doesn't appear to tell us much. Participation doesn't appear to correlate with SAT scores.

To see where Rhode Island stands by a different measure, I sorted the states by the point spread between public and private students, and beyond finding Rhode Island to be third worst, an interesting consequence of this arrangement emerges:

What's interesting is that, although the scores drift apart as we move to the right of the chart, public and private school grades fluctuate in similar ways. The implication is that something irrespective of the school is playing a role, and figuring it out might salvage some utility from this line of inquiry.

So, let's test the already-suggested child poverty explanation (data from 2007):

Although there does appear to be a downward drift of SAT scores as child poverty increases, it doesn't appear to be a strong correlation. Note, especially, that, although Rhode Island is still near the bottom of the list, those states beneath us are entirely different from those beneath us on the point spread chart.

What if we switch to household income (data from 2007)?

Here, there doesn't even appear to be a drift, and certainly no correlation. Look, however, at what happens if we re-sort by point spread:

It appears that median income helps to explain the fluctuations, but neither income nor child poverty tell us much about the increasing disparity between public and private schools. Unfortunately, I've been unable to devise a method of quantifying the strength and zealotry of teachers' unions in each state, but it does not appear that public school teacher salary has much of an effect:

Of course, to some degree, income, private school attendance, public school teacher pay, and SAT scores all correlate, but Rhode Island stands out, in this regard: We've got an average median income, but the fifth highest public school teacher pay, the second highest private school student percentage, and the third lowest public school cumulative SAT score (despite the sixth highest private school cumulative SAT score). Take especial note of the coexistence of average wealth and high private school attendance.

We're certainly in the realm of speculation, here, but my hypothesis stands (and is, I chance to say, slightly stronger for this analysis): In Rhode Island, at least, the crushingly strong teachers' unions are draining the attractive qualities from the public schools, driving those families who can somehow manage to afford it — and who feel their children possess the potential to justify it — into the arms of the private schools.

West Warwick Democrats: Teaching Their Children Well

Monique Chartier

Dateline: the small town which generates a disproportionately large share of the political mischief and bad governmentalism in this state.

The trouble began when someone swiped a “Vote for Anybody But Alves” sign from Alan Palazzo’s lawn on Robin Lane.

About a week later, somebody egged his wife’s BMW, as well as another political sign on his property.

Three hours later, shortly before midnight on Aug. 11, according to the police report, Palazzo was working at his computer when he heard the bang of a door and looked outside to see someone steal a political sign from his yard and jump into a Toyota Camry.

Palazzo, a longtime political critic of eight-term Sen. Stephen D. Alves, gave chase in his car. The Camry got away, but not before Palazzo got the license plate.

The car turned out to be registered to Joan Brousseau, wife of recently retired Police Chief Peter T. Brousseau, according to the police report.

The West Warwick police investigated and, according to a spokesman for the state attorney general, identified two of the people in the Camry as the daughter of the ex-chief and Alves’ son, William.

Where oh where could these young 'uns have learned such disrespect for their neighbors' fundamental Constitutional rights?

For the record, in this ABC 6 report, Senator Alves decries the release of his seventeen year old son's name and offers an alibi on his behalf.


By the way, remember the night that Senator Stephen Alves turned up at a West Warwick Town Council meeting apparently inebriated and definitely combative? What had him riled was the non-unanimous vote by the Council to approve the appointment of J. Patrick O'Neil as the new district court prosecutor. From a December 20, 2006 Kent County Times article no longer available on line.

The arguments stemmed from a vote that took place earlier in the evening. The council voted 3-2 to appoint J. Patrick O'Neil as the new district court prosecutor, replacing Brenda Carcieri (see accompanying story).

Councilmen David Gosselin Jr. (D-Ward 2) and Angelo A. Padula Jr. (D-Ward 1) voted against O'Neil.

Toward the conclusion of last night's council meeting, Sen. Stephen D. Alves (D-Dist. 9) entered the council chambers and took a seat.

After the council adjourned, he pointed toward Gosselin and Padula. Apeaking loudly enough to be heard through the room, he told them they were each leaving the council after one term.

"You threatening me?" Padula said as he flew out of his seat. "You can't threaten me." A few more words were exchanged and Padula took off out of the back of the chambers in an effort to get to Alves.

And from the ProJo:

News of the possible replacement of District Court prosecutor Brenda E. Carcieri with state Rep. J. Patrick O’Neill brought protesters to the council meeting. Residents voiced concern about the appointment, suggesting it was a result of political favoritism. The council went on to vote 3 to 2 to appoint O’Neill. Council members Angelo A. Padula Jr. and David Gosselin Jr. voted against the appointment.

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Padula said yesterday. “It’s not anything against O’Neill, but we had a prosecutor everyone was satisfied with. I didn’t think we needed a change.”

The nerve of those two council members, not voting to replace a perfectly good prosecutor!

We should further note here that J. Patrick O'Neil, the subject of the contention of that 2006 meeting, is the West Warwick prosecutor currently declining to prosecute Senator Alves' son and the daughter of retired Police Chief Peter Brousseau for vandalism and theft in the recent sign incidents. (Signs, to reiterate, critical of Senator Alves.)

To paraphrase Mel Brooks, "it's good to be Steve Alves".

Even Surly Liberals Can Enjoy This Attempt at Direct Action by Sarah Palin

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ultimately, it didn't work. More conventional means had to be used to achieve the goal. But tell me you don't find this 2007 directive from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be worthy of some praise…

Governor Sarah Palin today directed Department of Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, to sell the jet that was purchased by former Governor Frank Murkowski’s administration. The Westwind II will be put up for auction on eBay.

A thought

Donald B. Hawthorne

Sometimes it is valuable to step back from the hectic doings of our lives and reflect on deeper things...such as the direction of our lives.

The mystic Thomas Merton wrote "Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire."

August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin's refreshing words

Donald B. Hawthorne

Beginning at 16:36 in this video of her speech today when she accepted John McCain's selection of her as his Vice Presidential partner, Sarah Palin said these words:

...I signed major ethics reforms...And I championed reform to end the abuses of earmarked spending. In fact, I told Congress: Thanks, but no thanks, to that Bridge-to-Nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said, we'd build it ourselves.

Well, it's always safer in politics to avoid risk, to just kind of go along with the status quo. But I didn't get into government to do the safe and easy things.

A ship in harbor is safe but that is not why the ship is built.

Politics isn't just a game of competing interests and clashing parties.

The people of America expect us to seek public office and to serve for the right reasons. And the right reason is to challenge the status quo and to serve the common good.

Now, no one expects us to agree on everything, whether in Juneau or in Washington.

But we are expected to govern with integrity and good will and clear convictions and a servant's heart.

Time will tell whether Palin has the ability to play successfully on the national stage. But in terms of an initial impression, Palin made a good one with those refreshing words.


Various interviews with Sarah Palin
Listen especially to the first one where she talks about energy issues. I believe Palin has a chance to alter the domestic energy debate during this presidential race. Sounds like she has more experience, judgment, and knowledge on the topic than any of the other 3 presidential/vice-presidential candidates. More on her experience in the following WSJ piece.

Wall Street Journal on Palin Has Long Experience Dealing With Big Oil in Home State.
Dean Barnett on Diminishing Palin: How the left will try.
Bill Stuntz on Palin, Obama, and the Experience Issue.
Bill Kristol on Let Palin Be Palin: Why the left is scared to death of McCain's running mate.
Kenneth Davenport on The Wrong Kind of Woman? NOW's crusade against Sarah Palin.
Fred Barnes on Providential Palin: She may be the one conservatives have been waiting for.
John McCormack on Sarah Palin, Not a Buchananite.
Volokh Conspiracy on Palin and Buchanan, II.
Helen Smith on Why Palin Is a Fantastic Choice: A Vice President Palin would help women in ways that are often ignored.
Jonah Goldberg on Commander of the Alaskan National Guard, Cont'd.
Jonathan Adler on The Alaska National Guard.
Jonah Goldberg on Pivot Palin, Pivot!
Rich Lowry on Fighting for the Middle Class.
NRO editors on The Palin Pick.
Jonathan Adler on Palin and Creationism.
Hot Air on Palin no panic pick: WaPo.
Flopping Aces on Palin's Trooper'Gate: Beating MSM distortions to the truth.
Lisa Schiffren on The Fighter Pilot and the Moose Hunter: McCain’s V.P. pick has electrified the base—for good reason.
John Podhoretz on She's Palin by Comparison.
Dick Morris on Lady is a Champ: McCain takes back the race with an inspired, maverick selection.
Father Raymond J. de Souza on McCain unveils a secret weapon for culture wars.

As to the issue of women in politics, I would say this: We have to get beyond the current politically correct gender silliness. The national debate on the role of women often has the depth of an elementary school playground argument. The horrible quality of that debate seems particularly ironic for some of us conservatives who were huge fans of Margaret Thatcher 25+ years ago and, had she been an American, would have voted for her in a heartbeat. Yet it wasn't her gender which endeared her to us. It was her world view, her ability to articulate that view, and her courage to act on that world view. She was principled, she was tough, and the fact that she was a woman was utterly irrelevant. Irrelevant to her, too, which is something most feminists don't get in today's America. And what will make history record Thatcher as great will not be that she was a woman but that time proved her world view and actions were wise and timely.

In a nutshell, the metrics by which we should measure the quality of any man or woman are their world view, their ability to articulate it, and their courage to act in a principled manner. For the good of our country, we should encourage a never-ending competition between different world views from both men and women. May the best ideas triumph over time.

It is extremely inappropriate at this very early stage to mention Palin in the same breath as Thatcher. But what is appropriate is to point out that there is often an intolerance among many feminists for their sisters who don't tow the politically correct left-wing feminist line. And these women don't see the obvious irony of how intolerant they are of intellectual diversity among even their own gender. I hope Palin stops talking about the glass ceiling because, by doing so, she is playing the game on her opponent's turf. She will do more for advancing the opportunities for other women by being competent and wise, by showing it is possible to play in the political big leagues while holding a different world view. Now that would be true diversity, a diversity which would shake the very foundation of feminist politics! Which is why the Left is so desperately trying to smear her upfront. It is far too early to tell how well Palin will do. She will most certainly be tested in the next 60+ days and let's hope she finds her own distinctive voice like Hillary Clinton found hers in the latter stages of the Democratic primaries.

Finally, I will close with a response I wrote in the comments section:

Hey, this is getting fun!

I write a simple post noting how Palin's initial impression was positive even as she is unproven on the national stage. That would be called a balanced and understated comment.

And that brings out the wackos who then call people who disagree with them idiots!! Somebody must be getting anxious. Better be careful in your name-calling though. You wouldn't want to be accused of being sexist and treating Palin like Hillary was treated by other Dems. Or of trying to swift-boat Palin. LOL.

Yes, Andrew Sullivan is so persuasive when he writes: "[Obama] is a man who has spent his adult life thinking serious thoughts about serious issues and having serious conversations about them with other serious, well-informed people." Would Sullivan mean Obama's conversations for the last 20 years with his preacher who openly states his hatred of America? Or would he mean Obama's working directly with an unrepentant terrorist who has said he should have done more to hurt America? Or would Sullivan mean all those "present" votes Obama has done as a legislator? Yes, such heavy and principled thinking indeed. Sounds presidential to me!

Some things never change: All of this reminds me of Bill Buckley's long ago comment that he would rather be governed by the first several thousand names out of the Boston phone directory than the Harvard faculty.


Regardless of what unfolds, good or bad, the bottom line is that this presidential race just got a lot more interesting. And that is good for the country.

Krauthammer: The Solo Act that is Obama

Marc Comtois

Charles Krauthammer has an observation one the unique "oneness" of Obama:

Barack Obama is an immensely talented man whose talents have been largely devoted to crafting, and chronicling, his own life. Not things. Not ideas. Not institutions. But himself.

Nothing wrong or even terribly odd about that, except that he is laying claim to the job of crafting the coming history of the United States. A leap of such audacity is odd.

The air of unease at the Democratic Convention this week was not just a result of the Clinton psychodrama. The deeper anxiety was that the party was nominating a man of many gifts but precious few accomplishments — bearing even fewer witnesses.

When John Kerry was introduced at his convention four years ago, an honor guard of a dozen mates from his Vietnam days surrounded him on the podium attesting to his character and readiness to lead...Eerily missing at the Democratic Convention this year were people of stature who were seriously involved at some point in Obama's life standing up to say: I know Barack Obama. I've been with Barack Obama. We've toiled/endured together. You can trust him. I do....

So where are the colleagues? The buddies? The political or spiritual soul mates? His most important spiritual adviser and mentor was Jeremiah Wright. But he's out. Then there's William Ayers, with whom he served on a board. He's out. Where are the others?

The oddity of this convention is that its central figure is the ultimate self-made man, a dazzling mysterious Gatsby. The palpable apprehension is that the anointed is a stranger — a deeply engaging, elegant, brilliant stranger with whom the Democrats had a torrid affair.

Obama always seemed to have been working toward the next plateau--from Harvard to community organizer to state legislator to Senator to nominee for President. As a result, with the obvious exception of his wife, there are precious few people who have shared his journey on his impressive historical run. He's been in such a mad rush to go ever higher, that he hasn't taken the time to set down roots anywhere. I think many Americans, perhaps intuitively, find that a little weird. Of course, many others could care less--they either agree with him or don't based on his espoused ideas, not his life journey.

Re: Sarah Palin

Carroll Andrew Morse

Since Matt Jerzyk of Rhode Island’s Future has said it as directly as anyone, and since there’s no doubting his sincere belief that Barack Obama is eminently qualified to hold the office of President, I’ll use his reaction as an example of what's being heard from the Democrats on the selection of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee…

Can YOU imagine Sarah Palin one hearbeat away from the White House.
So let me make sure I understand. A 47 year-old man, who first won statewide office in 2004, but has no executive experience is clearly qualified to be President, while a 44 year-old woman who first won statewide EXECUTIVE office in 2006 clearly is not.

Is it the two years that make the difference? Or is the Democrats' problem with Governor Palin what Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton suggested, when he decided her origins rather than her current job were more important in criticizing the selection…

Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,
…i.e. if you’re not from a city, there’s no place for you in national politics?

Or is there some other double standard that I'm completely missing in play?

Another List That We Trail

Justin Katz

For the curious, I took a few obsessive-compulsive moments last night to compile the public school SAT data for all states. Rhode Island ranks 47th for every test except writing and 47th for total score. It's interesting to note that states' public school scores do not appear to correlate with private school scores, inasmuch as the public schools in the top 5 states tend to match or exceed their private peers.

Public School SAT Scores by State Ranking

Reading Math Writing Cumulative
Iowa 607 621 588 1816
Minnesota 599 610 579 1788
South Dakota 605 602 580 1787
Illinois 588 613 582 1783
Wisconsin 590 611 580 1781
Missouri 593 598 579 1770
North Dakota 592 607 566 1765
Michigan 579 602 570 1751
Kansas 582 593 566 1741
Utah 586 583 564 1733
Nebraska 577 583 563 1723
Tennessee 573 570 564 1707
Oklahoma 575 575 555 1705
Arkansas 575 570 559 1704
Colorado 566 577 555 1698
Kentucky 566 573 550 1689
Louisiana 568 567 553 1688
Wyoming 563 579 543 1685
Mississippi 569 550 559 1678
Alabama 562 558 551 1671
Montana 544 552 526 1622
New Mexico 545 536 524 1605
Idaho 539 541 515 1595
Ohio 529 543 514 1586
Washington 522 531 505 1558
Vermont 521 523 507 1551
Oregon 518 525 497 1540
Alaska 521 523 495 1539
Massachusetts 507 520 505 1532
Arizona 514 521 496 1531
New Hampshire 513 516 502 1531
Connecticut 503 507 506 1516
Virginia 508 510 496 1514
West Virginia 509 499 495 1503
California 494 513 493 1500
New Jersey 492 514 493 1499
North Carolina 492 511 478 1481
Maryland 490 498 490 1478
Indiana 492 505 477 1474
Nevada 495 504 474 1473
Pennsylvania 490 500 478 1468
Florida 492 495 475 1462
New York 484 503 475 1462
Texas 484 502 476 1462
Georgia 486 490 477 1453
South Carolina 484 496 471 1451
Rhode Island 483 487 479 1449
Delaware 482 483 471 1436
Maine 463 462 456 1381
Hawaii 456 473 441 1370

Vindictiveness in the Face of Democratic Action

Justin Katz

Well, it may not be at quite the level of signing one's own death warrant as the Declaration of Independence, but the recent shenanigans of the government of Tiverton have spurred local action in the form of Tiverton Citizens for Change (TCC), a non-partisan political action committee. The town charter amendment that will appear on the next ballot (after some heated exchanges concerning political theory) to forbid the use of public funds to sway votes might be thought of as the first shot across the bow.

And now the group has experienced its first politically motivated personal repercussions: On Monday, the Town Council did not reappoint (i.e., fired) Cynthia Nebergall — who was vocal at both of the above-linked meetings — to the Tiverton Planning Board. That action spurred both the board's chairman, Noel Berg (letter), and its vice chairman, Rosemary Eva (letter), to resign the following day.

Ms. Eva highlighted "the lack of volunteers for the current vacancies" and enumerated the qualities that made Cynthia a valuable member of the board. Personally, if I were among the powers who be in Tiverton, I'd be trying to keep those qualities occupied on official boards rather than, say, preparing for TCC's first taxpayer meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, September 15, at the VFW (17 Shove St.). (Here's the flier for the meeting: PDF.)

Sarah Palin

Marc Comtois

The biggest talking point you'll hear from the Dems re: Palin is "There goes the Obama is inexperienced argument!!! " Perhaps. Except, the Dems "inexperienced" candidate is at the top of the ticket. Where does the American voter want the experience more? In the President, or the V.P.?

And you know what's ticking them off? McCain picked a woman and Obama didn't. Demographic-obsessed Dems are worried, don't let 'em fool you. Of course, the reality is that Palin's political ideology isn't exactly appealing to the average PUMA out there.

Nonetheless, she'll appeal to a lot of Mom's out there. She's a working mother with five kids (one son headed to Iraq, four kids at home including a newborn with Down's syndrome) and has a blue-collar husband whose worked in the oil fields and as a fisherman. Of the four people on the respective tickets, she's probably the most down-to-earth. And she's got the most executive experience of them all.

McCain VP? A guess...Palin

Marc Comtois

Mildly Self-Serving Bump: Looks like my gut-feeling was right: Palin is the pick. I'll leave it at this: finally, a conservative is on someone's ticket.

A la Sgt. Schulz, "I know nothink", but I've had a feeling for a few days (really, honest) that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be the pick. Makes sense politically on a number of fronts.


I know I'm not breaking any new ground, nor do I expect plaudits as the next Nostradamus. Just a guess. We'll see soon.

UPDATE: And it looks like the buzz is that she is the one, from NRO and Drudge's current front page.
UPDATE 2: Or not. She's still in Alaska according to ABC News. See, this is why I don't predict stuff. We'll soon find out.
UPDATE 3: Screw it, I'm all in. I still think it's Palin and we're seeing some head fakes from McCain.

AP Says It's Palin

Carroll Andrew Morse

Link here.

Seeing Union Negotiations in the Broader Picture

Justin Katz

Granted, I don't have his business experience, but sometimes news reports give the impression that Governor Carcieri doesn't have a feel for the push-and-shove momentum with which one must grapple when bringing painful, but necessary, change:

"We're going to do our best efforts to negotiate and discuss this in good faith and get a resolution," the governor's chief legal counsel, Kernan F. King, said outside the courthouse. "And the chief justice is going to be watching carefully over this process. [He] has encouraged both sides to get together and to get a deal for the benefit of the people of Rhode Island."

But Carcieri released a statement later in the day suggesting that he would not bend in offering labor unions a deal other than what Council 94 members and a handful of smaller unions rejected last month. ...

That deal "represents the very best financial offer the state can afford in this economic climate," Carcieri said. "While I am hopeful this expedited process will result in a ratified agreement, I continue to have an obligation to balance the budget. The longer we are without an agreement with Council 94 and the other unions, the only options I have to recoup the cost savings are more severe and impactful to employees than the co-share changes. Time is running out. I cannot delay much longer."

Inasmuch as the new contract sets forth a decrease in their members' largess, the unions have only to gain via continued "talking" and "negotiations," and the members are still existing with their currently ample deals. Indeed, Council 94's lead attorney, Gerard Cobleigh, admits, "We're where we want to be." As long as the governor's threats remain just that, the union has no reason to settle and considers itself to hold an ace:

"You have to understand though that the state workforce is down to a level now that there aren't enough people to do half the jobs that are out there," Cobleigh said. "So layoffs aren't really practical."

The governor's response should be to highlight his belief (I hope it's his belief) that there are too many jobs to be done in Rhode Island government, anyway. Go ahead, governor, bring this to a head, because all of this quibbling over $10 million looks foolish when anybody who's paying attention knows that to be a mere fraction of the midyear shortfall scheduled for announcement in a few months. (My money's still on $150 million.)

For all we can know, the governor has incorporated that pending change of circumstances in his current strategy for handling the unions. (E.g., "I was trying to be fair with the employees, but as the newly released numbers show, what we were trying to do was still not enough.") The union, by contrast, surely sees the successful completion of another election cycle as a milestone giving it running room to flex its muscles and push for tax increases.

What the system needs — what the union members apparently require — is a straightforward illustration of action and consequence, so that when the new numbers come to light and further reductions are necessary, government employees will have already seen that a failure to compromise sufficiently will result in some of them losing their jobs and everybody else having to work in a more harried environment with inadequate help.

Obama's Healthcare Detailing

Carroll Andrew Morse

Supposedly, this was "detail" offered by Barack Obama, in his nomination acceptance speech, on his plans for reforming healthcare…

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.
So an Obama administration is going to lower premiums for people who currently have health insurance without altering the scope of their coverage and create a massive new entitlement program for people who currently don't have insurance -- all without raising taxes on anybody but "big" business and the top 5% of the working population.

Going beyond the speech, Senator Obama claims he can achieve his goals through increased regulation and through something called the "National Health Insurance Exchange"…

The Obama plan will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase a private insurance plan. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible.
It's not economically possible for anyone, even Barack Obama, to lower prices and expand access to healthcare through increased regulation, without reducing the range of medicine covered by insurance. And while a "National Health Insurance Exchange" could, in theory, help expand access by allowing people who are self-employed or who work for companies that don't offer health insurance to get the same tax-benefits that people who work for companies with health insurance currently get, it's doubtful that such a program can help lower prices, unless policies sold through the exchange are given regulatory exemptions that non-exchange programs don't get, which is the kind of thing that a government does when it's trying to run non-government endeavors out of business. This is all pretty straightforward economics, unless there's some major detail about what a "National Health Insurance Exchange" would do that I'm missing.

Related: I thought this part of Senator Obama's speech was blatantly dishonest…

How else could [John McCain] offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?
John McCain supports a universal tax credit for health insurance, regardless of who your employer is…
While still having the option of employer-based coverage, every family will receive a direct refundable tax credit - effectively cash - of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to offset the cost of insurance. Families will be able to choose the insurance provider that suits them best and the money would be sent directly to the insurance provider. Those obtaining innovative insurance that costs less than the credit can deposit the remainder in expanded Health Savings Accounts.
How exactly is that "taxing benefits"?

Forgetting Bits of the Past

Justin Katz

Karl Stephens, of Barrington, recalls what many seem to have forgotten:

In its Aug. 19 editorial about Iraq’s $79 billion budget surplus from oil revenue (“America the sucker”), The Journal fails to mention the most important aspect of that oil-revenue story.

Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, oil money was used by Iraq to sponsor terrorism, build Saddam’s military and pay bribes to the French, Russians, and Democratic fundraisers, through the U.N. oil-for-food scandal.

Short and to the point.

August 28, 2008

Quick Thoughts on the Five Minutes of Obama's Speech That I Could Actually Endure

Justin Katz

Whatever the party, I can't believe that anybody is interested — much less enjoys — these speeches. Everything promised. Posture. Posing. Some standby lines and historical references. Black-and-white arguments and vague solutions.

One characteristic that I notice again and again with Barack Obama is his method of adding that flavor of bipartisan "change" to the rhetoric. He'll state some policy or such that's entirely in line with the Democrat-left playbook and then, with the air of one about to put his hand on the chest of his overzealous teammates, he'll say, "But we must admit that... yadda yadda yadda."

The yaddas will be some talking point that sounds vaguely conservative (e.g., "personal responsibility"), but they have no force in his policy. The proof is in his specifics and, increasingly, in his actions. Consider his lack of concession to those across the ideological divide in his choice of running mate. His apparent "no more red America, no more blue America" umph coasted him past the second-most-liberal Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, but he he couldn't quite bring himself to compromise with the socialist Bernie Sanders. Well known moderates such as Leahy, Boxer, Reid, Durbin, and so on were clearly out of the question.

So will be any compromise on policy should he achieve the highest office (especially with a Democrat-run Congress).


Marc Comtois

Given the temple like setting of tonight's address by The One, I'm tempted to allude to Acolytes worshiping in hopes of witnessing the Ascension.....

But maybe we should switch metaphors....

More about the movie, "The Ghost Breakers," here (yes, that last line was actually spoken). (h/t)

The Union's Value-Add

Justin Katz

Congratulations to the National Education Association's Pat Crowley for managing to push his story about Governor Carcieri's Florida condos onto (astonishingly) the front page of the Providence Journal, which used it as a contextual gotcha against the backdrop of the union healthcare story. (Gee, I didn't realize that the governor is rich!)

Normally, I wouldn't have considered this feat worth mentioning, except for a "meanwhile" education story relegated to the Rhode Island section:

College-bound Rhode Island students performed about as well this year as last in the SAT, AP and PSAT tests, it was announced Tuesday by the College Board.

Seniors scored 495 in critical reading on the SAT test, down 1 point from last year; 498 in mathematics, unchanged; and 493 in writing, up 1 point. About 66 percent of seniors took the exam. The scale for scoring ranges from 200 to 800.

Rhode Island students fell below the national average, which is 502 in critical reading, 515 in mathematics, and 494 in writing, the College Board said.

Rhode Island did not fare well when compared with nearby states. Figures from the Associated Press showed that Connecticut’s students scored an average of 507 in math, 506 in writing, and 503 in critical reading. Students in New Hampshire averaged 523 in math and 502 in critical reading. The score for writing was not available.

In Vermont, students scored 519 in critical reading, 523 in math and 507 in writing. The figures for Massachusetts were 525 in math, 514 in critical reading, and 513 in writing.

Scores for Rhode Island seniors who attend public schools were 483 in critical reading, unchanged from last year; 487 in mathematics, down 2 points; and 479 in writing, up 1 point. About 59 percent of the public school seniors in the state took the exam, the 13th-highest participation rate among the states. Figures for private schools were not available.

The College Board said that after two years of declining scores for public school students, the 2008 national scores — 497 in reading, 510 in mathematics, and 488 in writing — stood unchanged. Rhode Island scores, which declined only 1 point in the aggregate, have mirrored that national trend.

In summary, Rhode Island is below the national average in every subject, and our students are even further behind students in the two states by which we are surrounded. Plumbing the data for the public-school/overall distinction for our neighbors, the tale is even more bleak for RI families that can't secure freedom from RI's government/union schools:

So, not only do Rhode Islanders in general perform more poorly on the SATs, but there's a much greater discrepancy between public and private school students, here. Yes, congratulations are certainly due to Patrick Crowley and the NEARI!


I was actually holding off on a trail of analysis that I'd begun because there are more subtle points to be made, and I wanted pondering time, but since Brassband points out in the comments that the above chart shows public school and overall SAT scores (i.e., public school students are included in both), here's a chart comparing public with private schools:

Apart from the fact that there are relatively few non-religious private schools in Rhode Island, one reason I held off — and the reason I break out religious schools separately even though they are also included in the "all private" column — is that they seem more likely to be a refuge for the average family fleeing the public school system. Note that RI religious schools do better than religious schools in either of the other states.


In the comments, Thomas Schmeling calls the two visuals above "gee whiz graphs" because I zoomed in on a score range. Frankly, that sort of point, when made in isolation, strikes me as rhetorical sleight of hand. Examining the axes to discern what's being shown is a critical step in reading any graph, but deciding whether it is deceptive requires consideration; it isn't a given. Schmeling illustrates the validity of my rejoinder by failing to make any argument about whether the tighter distinctions are merited, just implying that they are not.

So here's the second graph starting from zero:

Except to the degree that it is more difficult to read accurately, that doesn't cool my response any, because (probably in common with most Anchor Rising readers) I learned from self-interested experience how to read and compare SAT scores. We all look to the labels, approximate a 200-point difference, and know that to be large (although those of us who took the two-subject version might have a skew). Indeed, Schmeling points out the percentage difference of the public and private categories, but the SATs aren't graded by percentage; they're graded by point, and comparisons of results in practical situations often come down to 50 points per test. People pay for test-specific training to achieve less advantage than that.

Schmeling's second point — that controlling for socioeconomic status makes the difference go away — is even more apt to elide the very point under discussion. Firstly, that private schools are able to educate students at a lower cost per student (and a much lower cost per teacher, to my experience) suggests to me that even an equivalent score brings into question the government/union model.

Secondly, consider the method of calculating "socioeconomic status" used in one study that Schmeling cites:

She determined students’ socioeconomic status (SES) by looking at six factors students were surveyed on in the NAEP assessment: eligibility for free or reduced lunch, eligibility for Title 1 funding, reading material in the student’s home, computer access at home, Internet access at home, and the extent to which a student’s studies are discussed at home.

Four of those six measures relate to parental motivation, not to household wealth. My family, for example, sacrifices hugely in order to claim items three, four, and five (and now to afford private school). And although I haven't seen any studies to this effect, it seems reasonable to me to suggest that the presence of such children has an effect on their peers' performance. If, as I implied above, motivated working- and middle-class families like mine are going that extra sacrificial mile to escape an unsatisfactory public school system, then those children who are left behind have fewer models for better academic behavior among their classmates.

Reaction to the Caruolo Dismissal in Cranston

Carroll Andrew Morse

Cranston Mayoral candidate Allan Fung has issued a statement on Judge Judith Savage's dismissal of the school committee's Caruolo Act lawsuit…

“Judge Judith Savage’s arguments for denying the School Committee’s request are quite alarming,” said Fung. “It shows that the School Department made no serious attempt to live within the money appropriated to it by the City. Even more disconcerting is that their current budget is based on a continuation of spending well beyond the amount allotted to the school system for the current fiscal year.”

While their bid to get additional money failed, as it did in 2004, the Schools were able to get approximately $4.1 million from Cranston’s Rainy Day Fund in the form of a loan. Judge Savage ruled that this loan has to be paid back. In addition to this reduction in the Rainy Day Fund, the School Committee will likely be forced to cut popular programs for students such as the program for gifted students (EPIC) and middle school sports, negatively impacting the quality of education for Cranston’s children. Fung pointed out that this is just another instance of a lack of leadership from our current elected officials.

“This is just another example of fiscal mismanagement by our elected officials that will leave Cranston residents holding the bag,” stated Fung. “The School Committee expects taxpayers to provide them with a blank check while they struggle in these difficult times to make ends meet. The School Committee and their administrators must be held accountable to spend taxpayer money wisely.”

In closing, Fung stressed that the School Administration must learn to run the school system more efficiently with the funds they are allocated by the Mayor and City Council. “While I’m a proponent of providing adequate funding to maintain our first rate school system, I will not do so until the School Administration can prove to me that they’re spending each dollar wisely,” said Fung. “The School Department was presented with a series of recommendations from a performance audit in 2004 that would have resulted in savings of approximately $12 million. Unfortunately school officials were unable or unwilling to implement many of these recommendations. As a result, we all lost. The taxpayers lost through a reduction in the Rainy Day Fund. The parents with children in the Cranston schools lost because of the likelihood that great school programs will be cut.”

Jim Quinlan, Republican candidate for Cranston City Council city-wide, has also issued a reaction…
No matter how the decision would have come down, it is a loss for the taxpayers of Cranston and is a clear demonstration of failed financial management by our elected leaders. Let us not forget that the City Council has already dipped into the City's Rainy Day Fund to loan the School Dept. $4.1 Million. This money will have to be paid back over time which will likely mean cuts in programs for the students.

It is time for true accountability in our city departments including monthly operations reviews within each city department reported to the Council in order to be able to immediately react to any budgetary concerns.

Had the administration and City Council demanded accountability from the schools when they were first notified of the looming budget deficit the loss to the taxpayers could have been minimized. Had the current council not approved multiple unnecessary legal settlements over the past 18 months and an egregious firefighter's contract perhaps there would have been money in the initial budget to avoid level funding the schools.

Shame on the School Committee for their reckless spending and their blatant disregard for the process. However shame as well on the City Council for not standing up for the taxpayers of Cranston in the first place.

Don Roach: Waking Up to Bakst's Nightmare

Engaged Citizen

In a recent column, M. Charles Bakst asks Rhode Islanders to "Wake up!" He opines:

Hello, Mr. Carcieri. Hello, Senate President Montalbano. Hello, House Speaker Murphy. Hello, rank-and-file lawmakers. Hello, prospective 2010 gubernatorial candidates Caprio, Chafee, Cicilline, Laffey, Lynch, Roberts

Can’t someone come up with solutions and put them across?

Not that I disagree that our state is in disarray, but for his positive remarks Bakst focuses his attention on much of what has contributed to our state's downward spiral. For instance, he lauds Bishop Tobin for coming to the defense of low income, hard-working yet illegal immigrants, saying:

God bless Bishop Tobin and the other priests for speaking truth to power and denouncing the division, fear and disruption the raids have created. "As religious leaders concerned for our people, we would be negligent of our pastoral duties if we didn't speak out," they said.

Excuse me? Perhaps Bakst is unfamiliar with an economic theory that goes a little something like this: Businesses will pay the lowest wages that the marketplace will allow. Allow illegal immigrants to hold under-the-table jobs without recourse, and companies will pay them. This isn't good for the overall health of the economy and can barely be called "good" for those low-wage workers. Consequently, the government is trying to stop it and hopes to make a statement that illegal immigration is not going to be tolerated in our state. Does anyone want to argue that an illegal labor is good for the RI economy?

Bakst also praises judge Patricia Hurst for her criticism of the governor's (I told you Will) executive order, which would have increased the percentage government employees pay for their healthcare. At a time when local officials are asking us to pay higher property taxes and utility bills and not addressing the increasing cost of our grocery bills, I'd expect government workers also to feel a little bit of the pain that the average Rhode Islander is facing. I don't expect nor want a judge to lambaste the governor for making a no-nonsense decision that, while hurting many workers in the short run, is a longterm policy change that should have been made ages ago. In other words, RI can no longer afford to subsidize its employees' healthcare to such a degree.

In spirit, Bakst is right that Rhode Island needs to wake up, but as with many a teen victim in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, if you wake up to his world, you're really not awake to the realities facing the state. Instead, you're clinging to the hope that if you keep running down the same endless hallway, you'll somehow escape. Where I come from, that's called insanity, and it's exactly what our state does not need.

August 27, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

Marc Comtois

Wow, conventions are BORING. I'm serious, whether it's Dem or GOP. It's all about preaching to the converted and talking points galore for a media obsessed with reporting on the spins and the spins of spins--and even trying to spin themselves--as well as the imagery, the pomp, the aesthetics, the show, the production, the message. Everything but the substance.

And the measurement of "big mo" relies on polls--tracking, flash, Gallup, Pew, Frank Luntz. Snapshots in time collated from answers given by people just waking up to an election year. All to help gauge the phenomena described by the word of the season: bounce.

"Is there a bounce?" Nope, no bounce? No Biden Bounce? Nope. Might be a bounce coming....not yet--no bounce. Ahh, but tomorrow night there'll be a bounce....Probably, usually is a bounce after the speech...Will McCain announce his Veep to dampen the bounce? Will that work, I mean, it could be quite a bounce and McCain risks having his Veep announcement bounce getting out-bounced by post-speech bounce! Well, we know that the GOP will get a bounce after their convention. They're bound too, right? Maybe. But one thing's for sure: the media will let us know.

Congress Makes the Economy Hibernate

Justin Katz

Jeff Jacoby offers an interesting tidbit in today's Globe:

... it's a quantifiable phenomenon. Scholars call it the "congressional effect" - markets tend to get nervous when Congress is in session, and generally perform better when it isn't. As economists Michael Ferguson and H. Douglas Witte have shown, the impact this tendency can have is dramatic. Analyzing stock returns since the Dow Jones Industrial Average was created in 1897, they found that an astonishing 90 percent of its gains occurred when lawmakers were on vacation. A dollar invested in the index's stocks in 1897 and converted back to cash whenever Congress recessed would have grown to just $2 by 2000. On the opposite strategy - investing in stocks only when the House and Senate were away and cashing out when they came back into session - that dollar would have grown to $216.10.

Maybe our homegrown reachers-for-the-stars — those non-Democrats who challenge Rhode Island's national representatives — should make this a talking point. You know, something about transforming the national legislature into an organization to which the nation can look to solve problems, not perpetually recreate them.

Judge Savage to the Cranston School Committee: The Caruolo Act Was Not Meant to Let You Ignore the Taxpayers and the Rest of Municipal Government

Carroll Andrew Morse

In her ruling dismissing the Cranston School Committee's Caruolo Act lawsuit, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Judith Savage reminds the CSC that the Caruolo Act is not intended as an alternative appropriations mechanism for school committees who decide they don't want to bother with the due-diligence necessary to inform and persuade the public that increased spending is necessary…

For the reasons set forth in this Decision, this Court dismisses the Caruolo action filed by the Cranston School Committee and declines to order the City Council to appropriate additional monies of close to $4.5 million for fiscal year 2007-2008. The denial of this relief is required, as a matter of law, because the School Committee blatantly failed to comply with numerous statutory prerequisites to filing a Caruolo action. Notably, it failed to file a corrective action plan with the Mayor, City Council and Auditor General as soon as it recognized a potential or actual budget deficit, as required by law. Indeed, to date, it has never filed the statutorily required plan. This corrective action plan would have required the School Committee to address the deficit, to ensure that it spent only the minimum amounts necessary to comply with its legal obligations, under the watchful eye of the Auditor General.

In addition, it never amended its budget to conform to the City Council’s lowered appropriation to it as a result of the State’s decision to level fund state education aid to the City of Cranston for 2007-2008, it failed to sufficiently minimize its expenses thereafter, it did not timely petition the Commissioner of Education for waivers from state regulations, it failed to timely alert the Mayor and the City Council about its expected budget deficit and it failed to timely file this Caruolo action. Instead, the School Committee simply continued to spend money until it had grossly overspent its budget, in violation of Rhode Island law. In what appears to have been an effort to try to force an increase in its level of appropriations, the School Committee did not file this action – which is designed to secure emergency court-ordered appropriations that a school committee must prove are necessary for it to meet its remaining legal obligations in that fiscal year -- until the school year was almost over and its money had almost run out. The School Committee’s filing of this action in the latter half of May 2008 is by far the latest Caruolo action ever filed in the Rhode Island Superior Court. By the time it filed suit, it had to ask this Court to order the City Council to appropriate to it over $4.9 million to cure its budget deficit– by far the largest sum ever requested in a Caruolo action.

David Scharfenberg of the Projo has more details on the situation in Cranston here.

Opiate of the Open Borders Crowd?

Monique Chartier

Under Reverend Pastor Keith Mlyniec's "Engaged Citizen" post, commenter Rhody observes:

I love how the right has gotten so depenent on the clergy (not just Catholic, either) as an ideological enforcement agency.

It should be noted, firstly, that the desire for enforcement of US immigration laws is not an exclusive commodity of the "right", unless 75% of America is on the right.

As to the crux of Rhody's comment, let us pause to note how many clergy have spoken against the Governor's Executive Order. And have called upon us to stop enforcing our immigration laws. And cited scripture in the process. Conversely, how many have cautioned us not to selectively read scripture when approaching a particular issue? By my count, it is conservatively twenty to one.

One hundred and eighty degrees from Rhody's statement, it is rather those who inexplicably do not wish our borders and sovereignty enforced yet cannot convincingly make their case with substantive, reasoned arguments who have "gotten so dependent" on clergy, themselves motivated by misplaced compassion, in an attempt to guilt the general public into a reckless "ideology"; namely, the relaxing of our already generous immigration laws.

August 26, 2008

Two Strong Views from the Right

Justin Katz

Yesterday brought a couple of opposing must-read columns from the right. First, John Derbyshire:

So I won't be watching either of the party conventions. Both parties' choices of nominee are appalling to me. I contemplate the next four years with dread.

I don't want either of these men in charge of the federal government, neither the crazy old fool nor the simpering sophomore. I don't want either the moralistic imperialism of John McCain or the welfare-state-to-the world sentimentalism of Barack Obama. I don't want my country represented by either a Compassionate Crusader or by Oprah Winfrey in drag. (Possibly in person, too, if the rumors we're hearing about Obama's plans for Ms. Winfrey are true.)

Next, Orson Scott Card:

In the election coming in November, we face the kind of choice that shapes the future of nations. On the one hand, we have an irascible Republican who is wrong as often as he is right, but at least has the courage to act according to his conscience often enough to earn the enmity of party hacks.

On the other hand, we have a candidate who has shown himself to be a complete captive of the intellectual elite, voting their party line in Congress, sneering in private at ordinary citizens that he does not even try to understand, wrapping himself in ersatz victimhood, changing his mind whenever it seems politically prudent while denying that he ever had any other view.

We are at the great political divide, and most Americans -- especially the young, who have been so grossly miseducated by the intellectual elite -- are getting their news from comedians who parrot the slanders of the elitists.

Solzhenitsyn saw what we seem determined to ignore: Power is fleeting, and so is freedom. The "world's only superpower" can only maintain the current world order if it acts with courage and vigor to stop the enemies of freedom and prosperity.

Perhaps the difference comes in whether one believes McCain is a fashionable elitist with an irascible streak or that he's a guy trying to muddle through, often acting with conviction in the wrong direction. If the former, he's a mildly better-than candidate. If the latter, he might be correctable.

Evidence of the Problem Is Not Always Proof of One's Solution

Justin Katz

I'm sure there are examples on the Right, as well, and taking my own biases into consideration, I wouldn't be confident declaring an imbalance. But it does seem as if the Left has a habit of assuming the soundness of its solutions and seeing any evidence of the initial problem as explicit proof for its assumption. Consider Ian Donnis:

Speaking of Carcieri, our governor has been an energetic supporter of what proponents call medical malpractice reform. Yet those who believe the medical system is plagued by unwarranted lawsuits might want to watch a segment aired last night on 60 Minutes, featuring actor Dennis Quaid.

The interview with Quaid is certainly chilling. In brief, his newborn twins were given adult dosages of a blood thinner, resulting in a thousandfold overdose that nearly killed them. The reason was that, at three steps between the receipt and administration of the drug, nobody read the label on the vials carefully enough, and the different shades of blue on the two versions' packaging were not sufficient to raise alarms.

A few details worth noting: According to 60 Minutes, there have been two similar incidents over a span of several years, one before and one after Quaid's experience. After the first, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drugs "issued a nationwide safety alert" and modified the packaging. Curiously, Quaid is suing the drug company (for failure to recall), but not the hospital, because:

"I'd like to see Cedar Sinai take the lead in doing something to change what's going on in what I consider to, in the end, a broken healthcare system in patient medical care."

All of which leads one back to Donnis's curious insertion of our governor into the story, which requires him to ignore the fact that the agent for dramatic change in the 60 Minutes report wasn't litigation, but the involvement of a wealthy and famous man. Moreover, of the five components of Carcieri's favored tort reform that Ian cites, only one — limits on non-economic damages and reimbursable attorneys' fees — would have any implications whatsoever for legitimate complaints in the service of rapid change. To insist on the necessity of eye-popping awards from lawsuits, one must imagine that some millions of dollars would add substantial motivation on top of the possibility of killing children to avoid the decisions and mistakes that ushered the wrong drug into Quaid's newborns. One must imagine, in other words, that the packaging designers, pharmacy technicians, nurses, and managers along the line understood, on some level, the possibility of being responsible for deaths and shattered lives and still took less care than they would have in the face of financial liability.

Keep in mind, too, that the financial liability is mostly borne by others: insurance companies, proximately, and policy holders and their clients, ultimately. Therein lies the cognitive dissonance of Donnis's juxtaposition. Malpractice insurance is driving up costs and driving out doctors, and as fewer medical providers are available — working in an environment of ever-tighter margins — mistakes will likely become more common, not less.

Then, true to form, the Left will up its rhetoric in the push for government healthcare... without questioning government workers' capacity for mistakes or government leaders' tolerance for high-profile, high-price-tag litigation, let alone taxpayers' ability to absorb new costs that come with the backing of police power.

August 25, 2008

DePetro Disappointment

Marc Comtois

I've essentially been "off the grid" for a few days, and I know Justin has mentioned the WPRO ratings thing (and I offered a quick, tangential comment to that post), but what initially disappointed (and irked) me, and continues too, is this:

“It’s embarrassing all the way around,” John DePetro, 44, said last night. “I don’t have a lot to add. My wife was asked to take part in a radio survey, she did and she shouldn’t have. It was wrong.”
In a recent interview, George Will explained his belief that "sensibility precedes philosophy and ideology." Well, while DePetro and I are ideologically and, perhaps, philosophically akin, I guess our sensibilities are a little different. Call me old-fashioned, wannabe-chivalric or, heck, conservative, but--and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the facts as he described--it's unseemly for a husband to use his wife as a shield to save his own posterior. It seemed awkward, ungracious and ungentlemanly for him to publicly blame her for either knowingly or naively trying to help his career. Look, I know it wasn't my ass on the firing line, but I'd like to think that I would have handled it differently. I just wish he had.

The DNC Caves on Florida and Michigan

Monique Chartier

Just in time for the convention, but only after all the Democrat state primaries are over and

with some adjustments in Obama's favor

Following upon the revelation that Senator Hillary Clinton never made Senator Barack Obama's vice-presidential short list, isn't this a little offensive to Senator Clinton and her supporters, not to mention generally undemocratic? "Okay, you're back in. But only now that the primaries are over and what's-her-name can't pick up any momentum from them, plus we've artificially skewed the results."

Further, hasn't the DNC opened the door to rampant lawlessness during the next Democrat state primary season [what's that? the Rhode Island Democrat primary has already been scheduled for next September? * ] by failing to stick by its sanctions and their deterrent effect to the end?

* Strictly an illustrative joke; Rhode Island's next Dem presidential primary has not yet been scheduled.

Democrat Mayor Corey Booker: "[We] have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education."

Marc Comtois

Mickey Kaus is at the Democratic convention and reports on the Ed Challenge for Change Meeting he attended.

I went to the Ed Challenge for Change event mainly to schmooze. I almost didn't stay for the panels, being in no mood for what I expected would, even among these reformers, be an hour of vague EdBlob talk about "change" and "accountability" and "resources" that would tactfully ignore the elephant in the room, namely the teachers' unions. I was so wrong. One panelist--I think it was Peter Groff, president of the Colorado State Senate, got the ball rolling by complaining that when the children's agenda meets the adult agenda, the "adult agenda wins too often." Then Cory Booker of Newark attacked teachers unions specifically--and there was applause. In a room of 500 people at the Democratic convention! "The politics are so vicious," Booker complained, remembering how he'd been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice, how early on he'd gotten help from Republicans rather than from Democrats. The party would "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause! Mayor Adrian Fenty of D.C. joined in, describing the AFT's attempt to block the proposed pathbreaking D.C. teacher contract. Booker denounced "insane work rules," and Groff talked about doing the bidding of "those folks who are giving money [for campaigns], and you know who I'm talking about." Yes, they did!

As Jon Alter, moderating the next panel, noted, it was hard to imagine this event happening at the previous Democratic conventions. (If it had there would have been maybe 15 people in the room, not 500.) Alter called it a "landmark" future historians should note. Maybe he was right.

P.S.: My favorite moment didn't concern the unions. It came when NYC schools chief Joel Klein called for a single national testing standard. Groff, a crowd favorite, made the conventional local elected officials' objection that you need flexibiity, one size doesn't fit all, "what works" in County X might not work in County Y. And he was booed! Loudly. By Democratic education wonks. Wow. (The "one size" argument cropped up in the welfare reform debate too--and I assume it's just as bogus in the education debate. We're a national economy with cities that look more or less alike. What works in County X is almost certainly also going to work in County Y.)

P.P.S.: John Wilson, head of the NEA itself, was also there. Afterwards, he seemed a bit stunned. He argued pols should work with unions, in pursuit of a "shared vision," not bash them. But isn't this a power struggle where you have to bash the other side to get leverage, I asked. "Then you have losers," he answered.

RI Future is covering the Dem convention with an RI perspective. Kim Ahern attended a meeting for young Democrats that included Newark Mayor Corey Booker (mentioned by Kaus, above), but she doesn't mention whether or not he spoke about how he took on the teacher's unions. (Last year, Steve Malanga of City Journal did a bio piece on Booker, which included a description of his stance on education reform).

Booker is blogging from the convention, too, and writes that he was inspired by the students at the event Ahern posted about, but he also described his excitement regarding the Education meeting that Kaus posted about.

Today I was proud to stand with the Mayors of Denver and DC and other city leaders as well as numerous other education leaders from around the country to hold a press conference and series of panels on education reform.

There is this powerful convergence happening in America with unifying voices for change. Great groups like the New Schools Venture Fund, the Education Equality Project, Ed in 08, the Black Alliance For Educational Options, Democrats for Education Reform and others are coming together to proclaim that we must change the way we are approaching education in our country or we will continue to fall behind. Today we came together for The Ed Challenge for Change....Visit for our statement of principles and to join with us in the most urgent movement in our country.

While Booker supports Obama (who also agrees with Booker-at least broadly-on education reform), John McCain has also praised Booker for his education initiatives. I wonder if the RI Futurites are comfortable with Booker's stance against the teacher's unions? Or does such tension within the party not jibe with the type of propaganda reporting they aim to provide?

A New Source for Heating Oil -- In Pawtucket?

Carroll Andrew Morse

How would you like to be able to buy cheap home-heating oil, made from algae in a factory in Pawtucket?

According to an item on the KTHV-TV (CBS 11, Little Rock AR) news-blog site attributed to CNN, oil-from-algae could become an option reasonably soon, and New England-based research is leading the way…

You see algae collecting on ponds and even swimming pools, but for some biofuel enthusiasts the green slime could turn into a gold mine…."Could very well be the fuel of the future...that's algae," says Scott Comey from Rhode Island with Energy Innovation.

"For every gallon of algae that you process you can get a half a gallon or more, depending on the strain of algae, of oil," says Comey.

Comey and his team of 30 PHD's, professors, and other working New Englanders envision a future in which they could sell algae based biofuel as home heating oil for under 2 dollars a gallon….

Using old factory buildings, the plan is to grow algae in mass quantities, and then convert it into heating oil through a few simple chemical reactions….Comey and his crew plan to move into a Pawtucket factory building to start production, but they still require additional funding to get the deal done.

Democratic Convention Goers Say "We're For Drilling, Just Don't Tell Anyone Here!"

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to an ABC News "Political Radar" Report from the Democratic National Convention, party opposition to expanded domestic oil-drilling is so staunch, the topic can't even be brought up in platform discussions on energy policy…

Offshore oil drilling is too controversial to be presented as part of the platform.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., co-sponsor of HR 6709, says, "If we could change the platform to show us as centrists, it would take the wind out of the Republicans and give us momentum coming out of the convention. But many convention-goers are activists. They would not support this change."

Democratic supporters of comprehensive energy legislation like HR 6709 confirm they will not play hardball at the convention by introducing an amendment to the platform. But they will continue to pressure the party’s leaders and the Democratic ticket to make comprehensive energy policy, including offshore oil drilling, their top priority.

But how likely is it that the Democrats will be able to make a meaningful change in an area they're afraid to talk amongst themselves about?

The Rhode-Islandification of America?

Justin Katz

A comment from Tom W, last week, raises an interesting question (emphasis added):

Of course "Linc" is now being widely (hailed) in the MSM regarding involvement with "Republicans for Obama."

Gotta love the irony, since McCain came here to campaign for Chafee to try to save his RINO bacon.

This is what happens when the GOP embraces "moderates" and the "big tent" theory.

The "moderates" follow their heart and side with the Democrats, while voters, unimpressed with "Republicans" that are largely indistinguishable from Democrats, vote for the real thing rather than the reasonable facsimile. McCain will discover this the hard way when he finds out the the Hispanics vote that he is courting heads toward Obama, who is pandering to them even more (he's not even playing lip service to "border security").

That is why the GOP continues to shrink in the areas where it is "moderate" - the Northeast and now California. Yet the national party leadership (e.g., McCain) are determined to continue down this path ... the RIGOP writ large.

Baffling, and it bodes ill for the future or our country, as both parties are leading us leftward, the only differences being the pace of decline ... but both ultimately heading for the same destination, transforming the U.S. from our founding principles into a European-style socialist democracy.

I don't know that the RIGOP writ large is possible on a national scale. Part of Rhode Island's problem, I've come to believe, is that its size doesn't allow for truly diverse enclaves in which an opposition party could develop a stronghold. The state's environment doesn't differ much from one place to another, making its residents consistently susceptible to the same peddled policies, as well as the same tentacles of corruption.

On a national scale, there would be a correction. GOP "moderates" would reach a degree of frustration at which conservatives, of whatever form, withdraw their support; simultaneously, "moderates" and liberals would begin to decide that they'd be better served by being part of the winning team. At some point, the institutional party would do what secular institutions do: adjust themselves for survival.

The danger — as any good federalist might surmise — is that undemocratic means would be leveraged to decrease the influence of conservative enclaves. Arguably (if ironically), a national popular vote system would contribute. The "Fairness Doctrine" would contribute. Legislation via judiciary is a more insidious example.

This may be part of what bothers me about our overly Senatorial presidential election: All of the participants are from the same range of our society. It's as if we're electing a prime minister, rather than a president. The health — the "contention" — comes when enclaves can raise up their own representatives, most notably governors, who bring a different perspective and a different approach to governance to the mix.

August 24, 2008

The Media's Side, and a Surplus of Senators

Justin Katz

There's something strikingly inappropriate about the Providence Journal's top-of-the-front-page headline for this story:

Biden adds foreign policy expertise to Obama ticket

It's arguably a factual statement, but it carries the strong subtext of: "Readers can stop worrying about those questions of Obama's inexperience on such matters."

Reading on, a separate area of concern arises (emphasis added):

Barack Obama introduced Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware on Saturday as "a leader ready to step in and be president," and the newly named running mate quickly converted his debut on the Democratic ticket into a slashing attack on Republican John McCain.

The GOP presidential contender will have to "figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at" when considering his own economic future, said Biden, jabbing at the man he nevertheless called his personal friend.

This presidential race is far too seeped in the collegiality of the U.S. Senate. Whatever the outcome, our nation seems likely not to receive the full benefit of a healthy contention and interpersonal friction that comes from the leaders of our governmental branches being of different worlds.

August 23, 2008

One for 640

Justin Katz

People apparently take radio show ratings seriously. I suppose that should be obvious, but especially on as anonymous a medium as radio waves transmitted indiscriminately over the air, I've never understood how anybody can state with confidence the number of listeners to any given show.

That said, I'm a little bit surprised that the Arbitron diary scandal hasn't had greater repercussions for John DePetro. Although, the news that a handful of surveys could make that much difference is striking enough that the "my wife didn't realize the impact" excuse is not wholly implausible.

Accentuating the Extremity

Justin Katz

Bob Kerr sounds a familiar argument, although I find it no more persuasive in print than in pixels:

I know as well as any keen observer that labor unions cause hair loss, teen pregnancy, sexual dysfunction, adolescent obesity and poor gas mileage.

I have heard repeatedly from the dashboard sages how unions are plotting to make a mess of darn near everything, with the possible exception of the union hall and the detailing on the expensive imports all union bosses drive.

It's no more persuasive when the writer provides his name, but at least the reader knows from whom it's coming.

August 22, 2008

The Reverend Pastor Keith Mlyniec: Immigration Exegesis

Engaged Citizen

[In light of Bishop Thomas Tobin's call yesterday for ICE to halt "mass" arrests of illegal immigrants, Pastor Mlyniec's Engaged Citizen post of April has been moved to the top of the blog.]

Dear Governor Carcieri,

It seems the media has chosen to portray all the clergy in our state as standing together with one voice against your recent executive order. Hence, the April 03 Providence Journal’s opening line of their lead story, “In an extraordinary show of unity, leaders of Rhode Island’s religious community yesterday called on Governor Carcieri to reconsider…” I would like to take this opportunity to share with you that not all the clergy of Rhode Island are opposed to your executive order pertaining to illegal immigrants.

As a pastor in South County, I support your leadership decision to boldly deal with such a complex issue. While I am in full agreement with other clergy in the need to be concerned for the care, rights, and dignity of each human being residing in our great state, I do not see any legitimate biblical justification to stand opposed to you. In fact, it is my opinion that there is ample biblical evidence to support your decision.

I recently heard a bishop justify his position by quoting Jesus, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Best that I can tell, your executive order is not aimed at strangers, but illegal immigrants. Jesus never said, “I broke your laws and you harbored me as a fugitive.” Yes, we are to love our neighbors, but we are also to uphold and obey the local laws of the land as taught by the Apostle Paul when he said, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1).”

Next, I heard a rabbi quote from the Old Testament, “…for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” What he didn’t mention was that the Israelites were officially invited to Egypt at the request of the Pharaoh, that they were publicly welcomed, and that they were given the best of the land (Genesis 47). They did not slip into Egypt under the cover of darkness and attempt to live there illegally. While I applaud the rabbi for his generous show of hospitality and concern for human rights, I must respectfully disagree with his biblical argument which implies that those who have intentionally chosen to break the laws of the land should be considered strangers and therefore taken in and treated as the native in the land (Leviticus 19:34). We must keep in mind that in those days, both the natives and strangers willingly obeyed the laws of the land (Ruth 1:16).

And of course, like many others, I then heard a reverend declare, “In God’s kingdom, there are no second-class citizens.” Now, I am a firm believer in the equality and rights of each and every human being. However, I must respectfully point out to the reverend, that the State of Rhode Island may indeed be the “Ocean State” but it is certainly not the kingdom of God on earth. I also call to his attention that there are two distinct divisions of people in our state, those who are here legally and those who are not. I do not deny that we should consider those who are here illegally as first-class people, friends and employees. However, as hard as this sounds, the reality is that they are not citizens of the United States of America and therefore there is no citizen “class” in which to put them.

I affirm and support the efforts of my well-intentioned and passionate clergy brothers as they take a stand to calm the fears and anxieties resulting from your executive order. I also commend them for standing to be shepherds and peacemakers for their flocks. They have encouraged all of us to display a greater love for our neighbors and their well-being. I will be in prayer during this wave of unrest and division that God would grant peace and understanding to all involved. As we dwell in a season of difficult days, may God continue to grant you humility, wisdom, and the strength to continue to make decisions filled with justice for all.

With great respect,

The Reverend Pastor Keith Mlyniec
West Kingston Baptist Church

Foreclosures Versus Student Enrollment II

Carroll Andrew Morse

There is at least one glitch in the comprehensive municipality-by-municipality data that the Projo has been providing on foreclosures. According to a John Castellucci story that appeared in the April 15 Projo, there were 108 foreclosures in Pawtucket between January and mid-March of 2008 and 172 in all of 2007. That calls into question the completeness of the Projo's 2007 to 2008 Q1 comparison chart, where figures of only 5 foreclosures in Q1 of 2007 and 1 in Q1 2008 are quoted for Pawtucket.

I can't find any "official" data on the web for municipal level data for 2008, but there are a number of websites that give city-by-city listings of foreclosed properties for sale.

Yahoo has a real-estate site that lists foreclosed properties with the dates they were listed. Here's the number of foreclosure listings I retrieved last night…

Central Falls14(June 10 – August 15)
Cranston142(June 10 – August 19)
Pawtucket99(June 10 – August 19)
Providence741(June 10 – August 21) breaks its listings into "foreclosure" and "pre-foreclosure" categories…

Central FallsForeclosure:21Pre-foreclosure:4

And the site that Ken suggested,, divides its foreclosure listing into "Auction" and "Bank-Owned" categories; the bank owned includes listings originally from 2007. The totals in the two categories are…

Central Falls30

The numbers in these other estimates are consistent with the Castellucci story for Pawtucket and roughly consistent with the other Projo-reported estimates for Central Falls/Cranston/Providence.

So, if as Matt Jerzyk postulates, the drop in student enrollment is directly related to foreclosures, then...

  1. The drop in in Providence should be 25 to 50 times bigger than the drop in Central Falls…
    • …but it's not. The decline in Central Falls was about 450 students, the decline in Providence, about 1,700 students, a factor of about 4.
  2. The drop in Cranston should be 5 to 10 times bigger than the drop in Central Falls…
    • …but it's not. The drop in Central Falls is more than 5 times larger than the drop in Cranston.
If Mr. Jerzyk is sitting on some data source that he's not telling anyone about, now is the time to release it. If not, then someone should be looking into the exact nature of the reverse-redlining that was apparently going on in Providence, because if the problem was only unscrupulous salesmanship, it is unlikely that Providence would be affected so much more disproportionately on a per-capita basis than Pawtucket or Central Falls. Is it possible that lending rules were being relaxed, even further than in other places, for housing with Providence zip-codes? If so, at what level in the mortgage process was that decision made?

Nix the Union

Justin Katz

According to the Sakonnet Times, the Tiverton teachers' union is softening its demands in the face of fiscal reality. I note, also, that according to an RI Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education table published in the Providence Journal, not a single Tiverton school had sufficient performance or progress to merit commendation after the last school year. (As of this writing, the relevant Web page for the Dept. of Education is not available.)

That educational failure couldn't have anything to do with the teachers' collectively working to rule, could it?

What a travesty. Fire them all, I say, and rehire any who are willing to work as professionals rather than as merit-averse unionists. In the meantime, give me at least some of my tax dollars back so I won't have to continue working myself into an early grave to afford private school.

August 21, 2008

Obviously Senator Reed is the Darling of the Neoconservative Cabal

Carroll Andrew Morse

William Kristol thinks Jack Reed is Barack Obama’s Vice-Presidential pick (h/t Kathryn Lopez).

Ramesh Ponnuru is not enthused.

I’m not writing any more posts on Vice-Presidential speculation.

Manufacturing Spin

Justin Katz

What folks on the local Left don't seem to understand is that we at Anchor Rising aren't so much politicos as, well, nerds (although we prefer the term "intellectuals," of course). So, for instance, when one of them cites a factoid or offers some analysis that we find interesting, our first thought is, "Huh. I wonder if that's accurate." Figuring out the policies that contribute to a result comes next, and politics come last, inasmuch as it makes no sense to assess the political implications of illusions.

That's why I was puzzled by Matt Jerzyk's insistence that right-wingers are attempting "to shift the debate from RI's recession and our foreclosure crisis" to immigration — or to anything, for that matter. If Anchor Rising is at all representative, we've done nothing so much as trumpet RI's status as one of few official recessions in the United States as evidence that the Democrat-and-union-dominated state is poorly run. Whether school attendance and foreclosures are related, in other words, our habitual argument remains intact: This state needs reform and an end to its collectivist policies.

His post, it seems to me, may be just a clever ploy to push Republicans and conservatives onto the defensive when it comes to RI's abysmal economy. That sounds like something that a well-financed union/progressive back-room organization would come up with, and his "I DARE YOU" comment to Andrew's recent post... in all caps, no less... is a pretty transparent attempt to make any response seem as if it's an acknowledgment that his false premise — that Republicans are responsible for the recession — is correct.

Judge Hurst Denies Council 94's Restraining Order

Monique Chartier

With the exemption of approximately one hundred state employees in the judiciary, Superior Court Judge Patricia Hurst yesterday denied Council 94's request for a restraining order to halt Governor Carcieri's Executive Order pertaining to health premium co-shares. An appeal of the Executive Order on the basis of an unfair labor practice is pending in front of the state Labor Relations Board; however, the Governor announced this morning that the new premium co-share percentage will be implemented immediately and retroactively to August 7.

Judge Hurst's decision available here.

And this from Charlie Hall's Ocean State Follies:


Just Because It's the Rational Solution Doesn't Mean I'm Going to Stop Talking About It

Carroll Andrew Morse

AFSCME Council 94's President, as reported by Katherine Gregg in the Projo, has named his union's immediate goal in the wake of Judge Patricia's Hurst's decision allowing the Governor's imposition of contract terms to go forward, as least as far as executive branch employees are concerned…

Our number-one goal is to stop the administration from taking money out of the paychecks of the people we represent without negotiations,” Council 94 president J. Michael Downey said.
Just keep in mind, if healthcare were decoupled from employment, the administration wouldn't be able to take money out of anyone's paycheck without "negotiation" to pay for insurance or most anything else, just like they can't take money out to make house payments or rent payments or car payments on your behalf.

Will the Ethanol Era End Before It Begins?

Carroll Andrew Morse

This would be a cool way to put an end to the ethanol-as-vehicle-fuel debate, with average citizens winning though ethanol loses (h/t Instapundit)…

Dr. Kenneth Hall, associate director of TEES and the Jack E. & Frances Brown Chair and professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, and his colleagues, Mark T. Holtzapple, a professor in chemical engineering, and Sergio A. Capareda, a professor in biological and agricultural engineering, have developed a process to make converting biomass to high-octane gasoline possible.

The advanced process is possibly the only integrated system that converts biomass directly to gasoline. Most other emerging processes convert the biomass into alcohol and then blend it with gasoline. The system is relatively inexpensive and focuses on using biomass waste streams and non-food energy crops rather than food products such as corn.

Additionally, the cost of such a conversion would lie between $1.70 and $2.00 per gallon excluding all government subsidies and tax credits. This cost range is dependent on the type and cost of feedstock as well as the size of the biorefinery. This would provide some much-needed relief for consumers when it comes to fueling their vehicles, whose current options are to pay more or drive less.

Foreclosures Versus Student Enrollment

Carroll Andrew Morse

Matt Jerzyk of RI Future believes that declines in student population in Central Falls and Providence are due to foreclosures…

Speaking of questionable analysis, it is absolutely outrageous to me that anyone can get away with saying that significant drops in school enrollment in Central Falls and Providence are a result of the right-wing's anti-immigrant activism in Rhode Island.

One word, people: FORECLOSURES.

Ian Donnis of Not for Nothing thinks that the theory is plausible. I'm not sure about the causal chain in Providence, but it's hard to believe that foreclosures are having a big impact on student enrollment in Central Falls, unless you're willing to accuse the Projo of some really sloppy journalism.

In the August 16 Projo, Jennifer D. Jordan reported on the student enrollment decline…

In Central Falls, the state’s most heavily Hispanic school district, student enrollment numbers are down by more than 400….Currently, Central Falls enrollment stands at 3,050, down from its usual 3,500.
And the number of foreclosures in the period leading up to the 2008-2009 school year? Well, the Projo gives us two figures for Central Falls to look at, compiled from data provided by Rhode Island Housing…Just to be clear, the numbers above are reported in units of one.

The foreclosure numbers for Providence are much higher, 609 in Q1 2008 alone, versus an enrollment drop of 1,700, but on the other hand, the community with the second largest reported number of foreclosures in Q1, Cranston with 155, has a student population that is holding steady, so there doesn't seem to be much correlation between rates of foreclosure and drops in student enrollment, unless you believe that the Projo is missing a big chunk of data, that foreclosures increased by about a factor of 10 in Central Falls after April '08, or that the average number of students living in a foreclosed home in Central Falls is somewhere in the vicinity of 20 or more.

Scott MacKay on the De-enhancement of Journalism

Carroll Andrew Morse

As an active local blogger, departing Projo reporter Scott MacKay's citation of the Projo's decision to allow anonymous and largely-unmoderated commenting on the Projo's news blogs as contributing to his decision to take his employer's buyout offer, quoted by Ian Donnis at the Not for Nothing blog, naturally caught my eye. The two-deep quotes are from MacKay, the intervening statement is from Donnis…

"The emphasis has been on the web site, which would be fine if the same standards applied to the web as those that govern the newspaper. If one sends a letter to the editor commenting on a story, that person must sign his or her name. Abusive language is not permitted."
Yet MacKay points to two "ridiculous examples of how the standards of the Providence Journal have dropped," including "a racist comment published [as a comment] on our web site after the death of Eileen Slocum." The other, also a blog comment, was made (and later deleted) about a local athlete.
"This is the kind of thing [editor] Joel Rawson used to warn about. Since his departure, the newspaper has apparently diluted its standards to the point where none should call it journalism."
There are multiple issues here. One is the wisdom of allowing anonymous commenting and its associated problems. The anonymous commenting that many blogs provide does tend to get abused and maintaining a civil and worthwhile flow in a comments section is a continuing battle for any blog moderator.

But beyond that, there's a larger issue involved: why should what appears in a mostly open discussion forum attached to a news story, even in a forum that allows for anonymous commenting, be seen as detracting from the "journalism" of a newspaper website? The idea that presenting unfiltered comments to the public on journalism somehow hurts journalism itself seems to rely on some questionable assumptions about the value of journalism, that it resides not in the information being provided, but rather in the access to the public that established journalistic organizations control. After all, the information in a good story remains there for the public to learn about, whether or not nutty comments are added beneath it, right?

Moving over to a different medium, aren't the old-line journalistic objections to talk-radio in Rhode Island rooted in a similar conception that access and not information is the real source of journalistic value, and that talk-radio allows people outside of the establishment journalistic elite, from hosts to callers, to control their own access to the eyes and ears of the public?

Blinders-on Economics

Justin Katz

Richard Forbes, of Warwick, offers an argument we've heard before:

I continually see negative commentaries about unions. Many people express resentment that union members (especially state worker and teacher unions) have excessive perks that the general population cannot obtain.

Their anger is directed toward the wrong place. In the past, unionization raised the bar for all of us. It was union organization that set the standard of an expectation of health insurance, paid time off, sick days, vacation days, limited work hours, etc. Unions created a standard of living that didn't exist before Franklin D. Roosevelt. ...

We should all be demanding that our standards be maintained, as the unions are trying to do, rather than blaming the last bastion of the American Dream.

What we never seem to hear is an admission from such idealists is that there are economic forces, rooted in human nature, for which we must account. Blinders on, they insist that market realities are arbitrary and ultimately manipulable.

Mr. Forbes should stop to consider that private-sector unions are fading because the bar has been raised beyond companies' ability to clear it and remain in business. He should also question whether the economic policies that he prefers are partly responsible for the government debt that he laments.

When one denies reality, the results are often the opposite of those intended — except, in the short term, when it comes to a limited group that is bolstered to keep the dream alive despite all wisdom.

Thoughts on Energy

Justin Katz

On Matt Allen's show last night, Andrew summarized his post on the differences in domestic drilling suggestions from the national Democrats and Republicans. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

August 20, 2008

To Drill or Not to Drill, That is Not the Only Question

Carroll Andrew Morse

Most recent coverage of energy policy has focused on the issue of conventional drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and on the continental shelf, but there is much, much more that is in play in our national debate about sensible energy policy.

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, the so-called “Gang-of-10”, have responded to the Congressional Republican floor revolt against the Democratic leadership's refusal to allow a vote on domestic drilling with a compromise called “the New Energy Reform Act” which includes new drilling with a host of other items. The House Republican Conference has responded with a comprehensive proposal of their own, “the American Energy Act” which includes encouraging alternative fuel development, making better use of petroleum resources and encouraging conservation in addition to new drilling.

The key differences between the proposals are…

  1. The Gang of 10 proposal is much heavier into subsidies, direct money spent on R&D and things like “workforce training” (that don’t really produce any energy), partially paid for with new taxation on oil and gas companies, while the House Republican Conference program has more focus on getting government out of the way of improved energy production by reducing regulations on new refineries, nuclear plants, oil shale, etc.
  2. More importantly, the Gang of 10 wants to limit new drilling to a few states, but has not provided any sensible geologic or economic criteria for the ones they’ve chosen. The Republican plan opens up all of the continental shelf and Alaska so that drilling sites can be chosen on the basis of -- get this crazy criteria -- whether there’s oil there!
Here’s an example of an item from the Republican plan that potentially frees up a new source of energy that right now is being blocked by conscious government decision not to develop it…
Allow development of our nation’s shale oil resources, which could provide an additional 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, as proposed in H.R. 6138 by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI).
The technology for extracting oil from oil shale is still under development, so it is difficult to pin down the exact quantity of oil that is extractable from shale within the United States, but conservative estimates put the figure at over 1 trillion barrels. For comparison, Saudi Arabia's oil reserves are estimated to be in the vicinity of 200-300 billion barrels.

But in 2007, Congress (with the support of Congressmen Patrick Kennedy and James Langevin) voted to prohibit the development of oil-shale on Federal lands, where about 70% of America’s useable shale is estimated to reside. There should be no “cost” in higher taxes or increased subsides like the kinds in the New ERA that should be needed to reverse bad decisions like this one.

The major provisions of both the New ERA and the AEA are listed below the fold. Can you assemble your own comprehensive energy proposal for lower gas prices and reducing American dependence on foreign oil that's better than what Congress can come up with?

The New Energy Resource Act, proposed by the "Gang of 10"...

  • Provides a CO2 sequestration credit for use in enhanced oil recovery to increase production from existing oil wells while reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Opens additional acreage in the Gulf of Mexico for leasing (in consultation with the Defense Department to ensure that drilling is done in a manner consistent with national security) and allows Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia to opt in to leasing off their shores
  • Provides grants and loan guarantees for the development of coal-to-liquid fuel plants with carbon capture capability. Plants must have lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions below those of the petroleum fuels they are replacing
  • Supports nuclear energy by increasing staff at the NRC, providing workforce training, accelerating depreciation for nuclear plants, and supporting R&D on spent fuel recycling to reduce nuclear waste.
  • $7.5 billion for R&D focused on the major technological barriers to alternative fuel vehicles, such as advanced batteries
  • $7.5 billion to help U.S. automakers and parts makers re-tool and re-equip to become the world leader in making alternative fuel vehicles
  • Consumer tax credits of up to $7,500 per vehicle to incentivize Americans to purchase advanced alternative fuel vehicles (those that run primarily on non-petroleum fuels) and up to $2,500 to retrofit existing vehicles with advanced alternative fuel engines.
  • Extending renewable energy, carbon mitigation and energy conservation and efficiency tax incentives, including the production tax credit, through 2012 to create greater certainty and spur greater investment
  • New consumer tax credits of up to $2,500 to purchase highly fuel efficient vehicles, to help Americans reduce their annual gas costs and reduce oil imports;
  • Extending and expanding the $2,500 tax credit for hybrid electric vehicles;
  • $500 million for R&D into new materials and other innovations to improve vehicle fuel efficiency;
  • $2.5 billion in R&D on next generation biofuels and infrastructure;
  • Tax incentives for the installation of alternative fueling stations, pipelines and other infrastructure
  • Expanding transmission capacity for power from renewable sources
  • New dedicated funding for the weatherization assistance program.

The American Energy Act, proposed by the House Republican Conference...

  • Open our deep water ocean resources, which will provide an additional three million barrels of oil per day, as well as 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, as proposed in H.R. 6108 by Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC). Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) has also worked tirelessly on this issue.
  • Open the Arctic coastal plain, which will provide an additional one million barrels of oil per day, as proposed in H.R. 6107 by Rep. Don Young (R-AK);
  • Allow development of our nation’s shale oil resources, which could provide an additional 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, as proposed in H.R. 6138 by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI);
  • Increase the supply of gas at the pump by cutting bureaucratic red tape that essentially blocks construction of new refineries, as proposed in H.R. 6139 by Reps. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Joe Pitts (R-PA)
  • Provide tax incentives for businesses and families that purchase more fuel efficient vehicles, as proposed in H.R. 1618 and H.R. 765 by Reps. Dave Camp (R-MI) and Jerry Weller (R-IL)
  • Provide a monetary prize for developing the first economically feasible, super-fuel-efficient vehicle reaching 100 miles-per-gallon, as proposed in H.R. 6384 by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT); and
  • Provide tax incentives for businesses and homeowners who improve their energy efficiency, as proposed in H.R. 5984 by Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Phil English (R-PA), and Zach Wamp (R-TN), and in H.R. 778 by Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL). l
  • Spur the development of alternative fuels through government contracting by repealing the “Section 526” prohibition on government purchasing of alternative energy and promoting coal-to-liquids technology, as proposed in H.R. 5656 by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), in H.R. 6384 by Rob Bishop (R-UT), and in H.R. 2208 by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL);
  • Establish a renewable energy trust fund using revenues generated by exploration in the deep ocean and on the Arctic coastal plain, as proposed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA);
  • Permanently extend the tax credit for alternative energy production, including wind, solar and hydrogen, as proposed in H.R. 2652 by Rep. Phil English (R-PA) and in H.R. 5984 by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD); and
  • Eliminate barriers to the expansion of emission-free nuclear power production, as proposed in H.R. 6384 by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT).

Donald Roach: "I like Obama, but I'll be voting for McCain"

Engaged Citizen

So says Tom Christian, who attends Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California, after hearing both Presidential candidates make their cases to evangelical voters this weekend.

Both McCain and Obama were asked identical questions ranging from their views on leadership, the definition of marriage, and other subjects that affect the evangelical demographic. With respect to abortion, Warren asked Obama, "At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?" Certainly, there is some biased phraseology within the question. Yet, like the seasoned compassionate liberal he is, Obama replied (according to the unofficial transcript notes):

Well, I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade. But let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion because this is something obviously the country wrestles with. One thing that I'm absolutely convinced of is there is a moral and ethical content to this issue. So I think that anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue I think is not paying attention. So that would be point number one. But point number two, I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe v. Wade and come to that conclusion not because I'm pro abortion, but because ultimately I don't think women make these decisions casually.[emphasis mine]

And so he tries to straddle the line between understanding the moral, theological, and scientific — the latter two above his pay grade — issues surrounding abortion but ultimately concludes that "women don't make these decisions casually." From an intellectual standpoint, that was a let-down. And I can imagine Tom Christian and other members of Warren's church thinking to themselves, "Wait a minute. This guy just said it's a difficult moral issue in one sentence but then supplanted the same difficult moral issue by giving supremacy to a woman's choice in the very next breath. He sounds like he is concerned, but it seems he's just holding to the tried and true liberal position on abortion."

Truth be told, earlier this year, I wrote that I was leaning toward Obama. I found myself drinking the "Kool-Aid" and, unlike Tom Christian, not reading through the tea leaves.

My main reasoning rested upon my perception of his integrity and my complete lack of hope for our current administration. I'd almost resigned myself to the notion of preferring a president I didn't agree with, but could trust when he acted on positions, versus a president I did agree with, but in whom I had little faith concerning in his ability to address real-world situations with any modicum of wisdom. Other conservatives like me — they call us Obamacons — have become disillusioned with the Bush administration's inept handling of issue after issue, moving the Republican party away from its true conservative roots. So why not give a hard-line liberal with conviction a chance, especially one as charismatic as Obama? Can it really get any worse?

Tom Christian would say "yes" and argue that, even though many Americans, evangelical Christians included, like Obama's message of hope and change, a closer examination of those positions illustrate nothing more than a fruitless liberal framework buttressed by empathetic dicta and inspiring rhetoric. And if Obama turns out not to be the dynamic once-in-a-generation leader many think he is, should we not heed Christian's observation: note the persuasiveness and allure of Obama but cast our lot with McCain, the pragmatic and proven leader?

August 19, 2008

Teach the Children

Justin Katz

Obviously, the two articles aren't in direct opposition, and I'm not suggesting that one presents anything nearing an argument against the other, but the two felt related, so perhaps they're worth juxtaposing. First, AP education writer Nancy Zuckerbrod's memoirish piece comparing early childhood education in the England versus the United States:

The head teacher and I exchanged pleasantries, and then she laid it out. My daughter, who commonly invokes the Mandarin word for little brother and usually wins at the game hangman, has a significant "learning gap" when compared with her British peers — especially in literacy.

Dumbstruck, I said nothing at first and then started to protest, suggesting there had been a terrible misunderstanding — maybe even a language barrier. OK, that one didn't make sense. I took a deep breath and then remembered all that I had heard about the differences between early education in the two countries.

Zuckerbrod points out some academic differences across children's progression through the school-age years, but somehow, Theodore Dalrymple's thoughts on Britains "bleak houses and low expectations" seem entirely as relevant:

Britain is the worst country in the Western world in which to be a child, according to a recent UNICEF report. Ordinarily, I would not set much store by such a report; but in this case, I think it must be right—not because I know so much about childhood in all the other 20 countries examined but because the childhood that many British parents give to their offspring is so awful that it is hard to conceive of worse, at least on a mass scale. The two poles of contemporary British child rearing are neglect and overindulgence.

Both pieces are worth reading in their entirety, and it's certainly worth considering the many ways in which a society can teach its children.

August 18, 2008

OSPRI's Transparency Train

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ocean State Policy Research Institute President William Felker published an op-ed in this Sunday's Projo introducing the new "Transparency Train" feature of OSPRI's website that makes detailed information on municipal budgets, spending, and contracts available to the general public…

Climb aboard and find budgets, payrolls and even employee contracts – fire, police, teacher, administrator, and more. We will also include brief contract analyses, school-test scores and even the check register – every check or bank transfer that goes out each month.

Some of this information is already available online such as the check registers in Cumberland and soon in Lincoln. We salute the leaders of those communities for their commitment to transparency and we look forward to the day that every municipality and school district places all information online. But even then, this transparency project adds value to that accessibility as it provides one-stop-shopping to find all the information you want.

Another unique feature of this site is the cross-document search capability. Public documents are normally in “pdf” format, a digital picture of the document. Unfortunately, until now, you had to open each document to search for the information you needed. But with this new technology you can search the entire collection of documents with one mouse click.

Musharraf Resigns

Carroll Andrew Morse

From the New York Times...

Under pressure over impending impeachment charges, President Pervez Musharraf announced he would resign Monday, ending nearly nine years as one of the United States’ most important allies in the campaign against terrorism.

Speaking on television from his presidential office here at 1 p.m., Mr. Musharraf, dressed in a gray suit and tie, said that after consulting with his aides, “I have decided to resign today.” He said he was putting national interest above “personal bravado.”

“Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose,” he said, adding that he was not prepared to put the office of the presidency through the impeachment process.

Circling the Wagons

Justin Katz

No doubt it's healthy and productive for schools to seek to mimic those fading opportunities for group gatherings and discussion, but Julia Steiny's column on "circles" at the Paul Cuffee Charter School carries a hint of the "war on boys." This part is particularly creepy:

The power of circles to reintegrate wrongdoers back into the community depends on the individuals' desire to get along with one another and to belong in the community. Not all do. Some students can be a lot of work to integrate, if they haven't been well socialized at home or in their previous schools. Of these kids, Shaw says "We say we have to 'Paul-Cuffeeize them,' or teach them how to be part of a community."

We should be wary of creating social circles to govern the classroom. Even when the goal is a practical harmony, pushing individualists out and rewarding politics are a danger, as is the promulgation of an incomplete understanding of human interactions.

August 17, 2008

Shopping Curiosity

Justin Katz

Just wondering: how much money have people seen flowing out of Rhode Island, today, to take advantage of Massachusetts's tax-free weekend? I know of a flat-screen TV and a computer and have received witness accounts of both such items flying out the door of the Dartmouth BJ's. (Sadly, my budget remains much too tight to take advantage of the opportunity, although my list of like-to-haves continues to grow.)

August 16, 2008

Corrente and Prignano Pension Decisions: Roll Call Vote of the Providence Retirement Board

Monique Chartier

[Credit: The vote breakdown below was supplied by an unidentified but helpful woman in the Providence City Clerk's office who also, upon being asked, provided an estimate of seven to ten days for promulgation of minutes of both meetings - minutes which apparently are eagerly awaited by certain parties unspecified.]

Under Marc's post "Partial Credit Pensions - What a concept!", commentor Anthony calls for the replacement of the entire Providence Retirement Board. Is Anthony exaggerating? Can we narrow the list somewhat?

Presumably, the guidelines by which a retirement board determines whether to grant or deny a pension includes compliance with statutory parameters. One of these is "honorable service", a municipal ordinance which

states that a pension or other benefit “shall be revoked or reduced” if the person at issue is convicted or pleads guilty or no contest “to any crime related to his or her public employment …”

So, under this requirement, Mr. Prignano qualified for a pension; Mr. Corrente did not. How did the votes of individual members of the Retirement Board actually shake out?

By a seven to five vote, the Providence Retirement Board voted on June 25, 2008 to revoke Urbano Prignano Jr.'s pension. Voting to revoke:

Wallace Demary Jr.

Former Councilman David G. Dillon

City Council appointee Carla M. Dowben

Councilman John J. Igliozzi

Susan R. LaPidus

Providence Finance Director Bruce Miller

Providence Treasurer Stephen T. Napolitano

Voting to grant Mr. Prignano's pension:

Chairman Pasquale T. D'Amico

Vice Chairman James Potenza, a Fire Department captain who represents active firefighters

Sharon Gleckman, a school employee who represents active city employees who are not police and fire officers

Kerion O'Mara, a retired detective who represents retired police and fire officers.

Harold Zacks, a police detective who represents active police officers.

On August 13, the PRB awarded Mr. Frank Corrente a partial pension, again on a split vote - split differently, however.

Voting to grant a partial pension:

Chairman Pasquale T. D'Amico

Vice Chairman Fire Capt. James L. Potenza

Mr. Greco [spelling & first name subject to correction]

Sharon Gleckman

Providence Treasurer Stephen T. Napolitano

Kerion O'Mara, a retired detective who represents retired police and fire officers

Harold Zacks, a police detective who represents active police officers

Voting against any pension:

Former City Councilman David G. Dillon, a mayoral appointee

City Council appointee Carla Dowben

Councilman John J. Igliozzi

Susan R. LaPidus

Providence Finance Director Bruce Miller

[Absent: Wallace Demary Jr.]

Anthony is correct. No member of the Providence Retirement Board rendered both of these decisions in compliance with the honorable service ordinance of the City of Providence.

ADDENDUM - City of Providence "Honorable Service" Ordinance [Chapter 17, Article VI]

At the suggestion of commentor George Elbow.

Sec. 17-189.1. Honorable service, revocation or reduction of retirement benefits of employees committing crime related to public employment.

(a) General provisions.

(1) Payment of an employee's retirement allowance or annuity or other benefit or payments as provided in chapter 17 shall be for honorable service only.

(2) For purposes of this section, "crime related to his or her public employment" shall mean any of the following:

a. The committing, abiding or abetting of an embezzlement of public funds;

b. The committing, aiding or abetting of any felonious theft by a public employee from his or her employer;

c. Bribery in connection with employment of a public employee; and

d. The committing of any felony by a public employee who willfully, and with the intent to defraud, realizes or obtains, or attempts to realize or obtain, a profit, gain, or advantage for himself or herself or for some other person through the use or attempted use of power, rights, privileges, duties, or position of his or her public office or employment.

(3) For purposes of this section, "public employee" or "employee" shall mean any current or former city elected official, or any appointed official or employee of the city, or of a city board, commission or agency, who is otherwise entitled to receive a retirement allowance or annuity or other benefit or payment of any kind pursuant to chapter 17.

(4) Revocation or reduction authorized. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any retirement allowance or annuity or other benefit or payment of any kind to which an employee is otherwise entitled to under chapter 17 shall be revoked or reduced in accordance with the provisions of this section if such employee is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to any crime related to his or her public employment. Any such conviction or plea shall be deemed to be a breach of the employee's contract with his or her employer.

(5) Hearing; civil action. Whenever any employee is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to any crime related to his or her public employment, the retirement board shall conduct a meeting, with the employee having the opportunity to be heard, to determine if a recommendation of revocation or reduction of any retirement allowance or annuity or other benefit or payment to which the employee is otherwise entitled to under this chapter is warranted. If the retirement board determines that revocation or reduction of any retirement allowance or annuity or other benefit or payment to which the employee is otherwise entitled to under this chapter is warranted, the retirement board shall initiate a civil action in the superior court for the revocation or reduction of any retirement allowance or annuity or other benefit or payment to which the employee is otherwise entitled to under chapter 17.

(6) For purposes of this section, "pleads guilty or nolo contendere" shall not include any plea of guilty or nolo contendere which does not result in a conviction by virtue of G.L. 1956 § 12-10-12 or 12-18-3, as amended.

(Ord. 1999, ch. 99-45, § 1, 11-15-99)

Rhode Island Congressional Power Rankings

Marc Comtois

A couple years ago, I posted about the RI delegation's rankings in the Congressional Power Rankings. Welp, I forgot about it last year, but this being an election year, why not see how the boys are doing?

So, here they are, rated first to worst (and it seems like power equates to earmarks....):

Sen. Jack Reed:
Rank in Chamber: 17
Rank in State: 1

Rank in Party: 15
Rank in Class of 1996: 2
Past Power Rankings
2005 Rankings: 83
2006 Rankings: 64

Total: $177,286,031
Earmark Count: 100


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Rank in Chamber: 83
Rank in State: 2

Rank in Party: 46
Rank in Class of 2006: 6
Past Power Rankings - none

Total: $37,518,050
Earmark Count: 49


Rep. Patrick Kennedy

Rank in Chamber: 83
Rank in State: 1

Rank in Party: 78
Rank in Class of 1994: 1
Past Power Rankings
2005 Rankings: 217
2006 Rankings: 222

Total: $57,418,800
Earmark Count: 55

Rep. James Langevin

Rank in Chamber: 331
Rank in State: 2

Rank in Party: 217
Rank in Class of 2000: 20
Past Power Rankings
2005 Rankings: 394
2006 Rankings: 409

Total: $35,761,400
Earmark Count: 29

August 15, 2008

Re: Left's Response to Russia/Georgia

Marc Comtois

Prompted by Andrew's post, allow me point to Gerard Baker of the London Times, who has more to say:

Once again, the Europeans, and their friends in the pusillanimous wing of the US Left, have demonstrated that, when it come to those postmodern Olympian sports of synchronized self-loathing, team hand-wringing and lightweight posturing, they know how to sweep gold, silver and bronze.

There's a routine now whenever some unspeakable act of aggression is visited upon us or our allies by murderous fanatics or authoritarian regimes. While the enemy takes a victory lap, we compete in a shameful medley relay of apologetics, defeatism and surrender.

The initial reaction is almost always self-blame and an expression of sympathetic explanation for the aggressor's actions. In the Russian case this week, the conventional wisdom is that Moscow was provoked by the hot-headed President Saakashvili of Georgia. It was really all his fault, we are told.

What's more, the argument goes, the US and Europe had already laid the moral framework for Russia's invasion by our own acts of aggression in the past decade. Vladimir Putin was simply following the example of illegal intervention by the US and its allies in Kosovo and Iraq.

It ought not to be necessary to point out the differences between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Mr Saakashvili's Georgia, but for those blinded by moral relativism, here goes...

Olympics More Popular

Marc Comtois

Hm. Some are crediting NBC's Olympic ratings success to the individual pursuits of swimmer Michael Phelps. There's ratings data to back it up:

For Phelps' first gold medal - in the 400-meter individual medley - last Saturday night, NBC drew 24.4 million viewers; for his second gold, on Sunday, 33 million; Monday, 30.2 million; and Tuesday, when Phelps won two gold medals, 34 million. On Wednesday, Phelps rested and ratings dipped to 27.7 million.
But I wonder if, just maybe, it has more to do with China. While I suspect U.S. audiences are interested in learning more about this relatively closed society--and NBC is giving us the puff pieces to scratch that itch--there is a developing theme coming out of these Olympics: the Chinese are attempting a massive PR campaign and they are willing to do anything to win the "medal count".

Exhibit "A" is the continuing controversy over the age of the Chinese gymnasts while the International Olympic Committee looks the other way. To American audiences, it appears as if a conspiracy is afoot. And there's nothing like a little good guy/bad guy to stoke the nationalistic flames of competition. In fact, isn't that the ultimate irony of the whole Olympic "experience"?

The theory is to have peaceful competition, sing "We are the World" and, well, win some medals. In actuality, the games tend to stoke pre-existing national rivalries--or create new ones. It looks to my eye like this Olympiad has finally put the long simmering US/China front and center for the American people. Even if Russia is trying its best to remind us all of the Cold War Olympic era by starting a war during this year's games.

An Admittedly Impressionistic Description of the Left's Response to the Russian Invasion of Georgia

Carroll Andrew Morse

After President Bush announces at West Point in 2002 that American strategy will evolve beyond containment in response to new threats, the left responds

What!?!? The United States is abandoning containment? Containment is how we all worked together to win the Cold War. Our strategy must be based on containment!

After the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, the left responds

What!?!? You mean containment means that we actually sometimes have to take an active role is resisting aggression and supporting allies? That makes containment too dangerous and provocative. Aggressors can be trusted to stop when they've taken enough to feel secure.

The End of American Indulgence

Justin Katz

Victor Davis Hanson is must reading:

In reality, to the extent globalism worked, it followed from three unspoken assumptions:

First, the U.S. economy would keep importing goods from abroad to drive international economic growth.

Second, the U.S. military would keep the sea-lanes open, and trade and travel protected. After the past destruction of fascism and global communism, the Americans, as global sheriff, would continue to deal with the occasional menace like a Moammar Gaddafi, Slobodan Milosevic, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il, or the Taliban.

Third, America would ignore ankle-biting allies and remain engaged with the world — like a good, nurturing mom who at times must put up with the petulance of dependent teenagers.

But there have been a number of indications recently that globalization may soon lose its American parent, who is tiring, both materially and psychologically.

Public Service Announcement: Senator Whitehouse to Hold a Community Dinner

Monique Chartier

... to stay in "close touch" with the people of Rhode Island and

so I can hear directly from you about the issues that matter most to you and your family.

August 19, 2008 6:00 PM - North Providence/Johnston/Smithfield Community Dinner

Sheldon will host a community dinner on Tuesday, August 19 at the Salvatore Mancini Resource and Activity Center to hear from community members and share news from Washington.

The Center is located at 2 Atlantic Boulevard, North Providence. The dinner will begin at 6 p.m.

To RSVP for this event, click the link above to fill out our online form.

August 14, 2008

Last Night's Performance

Justin Katz


The streaming link wasn't working all day, so having fixed it, I've moved the post back up to the top of the blog. Sorry for the muddleheadedness.

Listen as I stun Matt Allen with my confession that I voted for Sheldon Whitehouse, explain our Engaged Citizen, and summarize Bill Felkner's post using that feature — all with the halt-sprint rhythm of one who's spent years typing his thoughts more often than speaking them. Stream by clicking here or download it.

An Invitation to Left-Right Harmony

Justin Katz

Presumably such rhetoric is the result of having stopped somewhat short of full consideration of circumstances, so pointing out additional considerations should bring us at least to the point of admitting that we individually lack sufficient information to justify either vitriol or broad policy changes. Here's the basis for the hasty jibe:

Unlike the rest of us, most U.S. corporations and foreign companies doing business in the United States pay no federal income tax, according to a new report from Congress.

The study by the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday said two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, and about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes over the same period.

Oddly, the very same article offers the major reasons for adjustment of such statements:

An outside tax expert, Chris Edwards of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, said increasing numbers of limited liability corporations and so-called "S" corporations pay taxes under individual tax codes.

"Half of all business income in the United States now ends up going through the individual tax code," Edwards said.

The GAO study did not investigate why corporations weren't paying federal income taxes or corporate taxes and it did not identify any corporations by name. It said companies may escape paying such taxes due to operating losses or because of tax credits.

In other words, one-third of corporations do pay corporate income tax, around 50% are structured such that their profits are taxed through the individual tax system, not the corporate, and some percentage of the remaining 17% had no profits. That's not even getting to the argument about whether tax credits are justified.

August 13, 2008

Partial Credit Pensions - What a concept!

Marc Comtois

When the people at my workplace first heard that Frank Corrente was seeking a partial pension for the time he served government whilst NOT breaking the law, the reaction was universal: HA! That went for young, old and middle; men and women; conservative and liberal. Wow, we all thought, that takes some brass ones. But none of us were part of a key demographic: city machine insiders who comprise the majority of the Providence Retirement Board.

The Providence Retirement Board voted today to partially reinstate the pension of Frank E. Corrente, a former top lieutenant to former Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr.

Corrente, 79, was convicted of racketeering, conspiracy and extortion charges in U.S. District Court in 2002 in the wake of an FBI probe into corruption at City Hall....In voting 7-5 to give Corrente a partial pension, the board adopted a consultant's recommendation last month that Corrente receive a pension for his first stint with the City, but not his second, tainted term of employment in the Cianci administration.

The vote means that Corrente would receive $1,852.61 per month rather than the full pension of $5,881.30 that he was getting when his pension was suspended in 2002.

This over the objections of Mayor Cicilline and pretty much anyone with an ounce of common sense. Only in Rhode Island, right?

ADDENDUM: Dan Yorke reminds that the same Retirement Board just recently took away the pension of former Providence Police Chief Urbano Prignano, Jr., who admitted to helping Providence police officers cheat on tests but was never convicted of anything (unlike Corrente).

And by the way, thanks to an amendment to the City Charter, the majority of the Providence Retirement Board are Cicilline appointments.

Meet Donna Perry - Live and In Person

Monique Chartier

... in Jamestown this evening at the Portuguese American Club. 134 Narragansett Avenue. 5:30 - 8:00. Details and her website here.

Donna is running against Senate Majority Leader Teresa Paiva-Weed, who resolutely continues to point blame elsewhere for the death of the e-verify bill last session.

William Felkner: It takes a thief lobbyist…

Engaged Citizen

When Cumberland Democrat Mayor Daniel McKee took the teachers’ union - the National Education Association - completely off guard by successfully championing legislation that would provide education choice and remove the burden of union control, the response was predictable: "They cheated!"

On the Dan Yorke show, Bob Walsh, president of the NEA suggested that the mayor co-mingled federal funds in an account used to purchase lobbying services – a funding no-no. Well if they did cheat, or bend the rules, the NEA should know because they are the reigning kings of NOT paying for lobbying services.

Besides the four senators and two representatives currently in office that work directly for or sit on the board of organized labor, they take a less direct route to political power as well. Weeks ago, the Providence Journal highlighted the network of social and environmental activists working with the unions to influence legislation in RI. One of the most blurred lines between legal and illegal political activity is seen right inside the NEA building.

Ocean State Action (OSA) and Marriage Equity Rhode Island (MERI) are organizations that promote “social and economic justice.” They are actually a combination of non-profits (c 3’s & c 4’s) and political action committees ensuring that a legal funding stream is available for every occasion.

All affiliated organizations are located in the NEA building and are run by the same people. One quarter of the OSA funding comes from organized labor and the OSA Fund covers the payroll for everyone in the office. Furthermore, the NEA executive director, Bob Walsh, is also the secretary-treasurer of Ocean State Action and Working Rhode Island, another organization located in the NEA building. Working RI is the “conduit that distributes large sums of money to and from labor allies.”

Working RI, if you didn’t know, was created by disgraced former labor and gambling lobbyist Guy Dufault and has no paid staff. Their top four donors are the RI AFL-CIO, the NEA-RI, the United Nurses and Allied Professionals and Harrah’s Operating Company. Dufault was banished from sight after he was recorded scheming with casino lobbyist and Republican activist Mike Levesque on a way to sabotage Republican Governor Carcieri’s campaign.

The web of political influence is so convoluted that you don’t know who is doing what. I’m sure that everyone involved with OSA, MERI, and Working RI lobby the State House but you would never know how they don’t get paid for it. Technically, the NEA admits that some union dues go towards political activity but claim that it is only $10 per union member, per year. So they must be tremendously thrifty lobbyists.

But if you think that looks shady…nobody knows how to work the system better than the queens of tax funded advocacy, the Poverty Institute and One Rhode Island.

One RI is a coalition of 160 organizations that are all funded in whole or in part by tax dollars. These are the people that rally at the State House (besides the union activists). The Poverty Institute is an organization designed “to bring about systemic change by providing policy analysis, education, and advocacy statewide on issues effecting the well-being of all low-income Rhode Islanders.”

One RI compiles a platform of legislation that represents the collective wants of the coalition. This platform of legislation is also given to students at Rhode Island College who, as candidates for the Master’s of Social Work program, are required to lobby the State House – often led by the Policy Director of the Poverty Institute, Linda Katz. This is no small contingent as it is approximately 60 student lobbyists per year.

The Poverty Institute website names eight staff; most familiar are Linda Katz, Ellen Frank and Kate Brewster. The website also includes the One RI website which lists Heidi Collins as the contact person. But what exactly are One RI and the Poverty Institute? There is no paperwork registered at the Secretary of State’s office nor is there any information at Guidestar, an online directory of non-profits.

According to Heidi Collins, One RI is a project of the Poverty Institute and according to the Rhode Island Foundation which provides funding for them both; the Poverty Institute is a project of the Rhode Island College Foundation. Both One RI and the Poverty Institute are located at 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue in Providence, the same address as the state-run and tax-funded Rhode Island College.

According to the RIC School of Social Work Reaffirmation for Accreditation, “the School of Social Work operates the Poverty Institute,” and the Institute provides “field placement opportunities and material for course assignments, research projects for students from both levels, and graduate integrative projects.”

However, the registered lobbyists associated with the Poverty Institute – Linda Katz (Policy Director), Ellen Frank (Sr. Economic Analyst) and Kate Brewster (Exec Director) – are listed as employees of the RIC Foundation and it’s mission is "to encourage and receive gifts on behalf of RI College that provide financial support for the improvement and expansion of RIC."

But here is where it really gets confusing. When the ladies at Rhode Island College notify the RI Secretary of State that they will be lobbying at the State House, they claim payment from the Poverty Institute. However, the Poverty Institute has never registered as a lobbying firm. And how could it; it is not a real organization.

And here’s the kicker - if they are registered lobbyists for a lobbying firm that is really a project within the Rhode Island College Foundation, why does page 10 of the 2006, IRS 990 form answer “NO” when asked if "during the year, has the organization attempted to influence national, state, or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum?”

I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation. After all, the Poverty Institute has had this symbiotic relationship with Rhode Island College for about a decade. If it were illegal for lobbying activity to take place at a tax-funded college, some smart taxpayer would have turned them in to get the reward the IRS provides for citizens who turn in tax cheats, right?

The lessons here are two fold. Firstly, if a fictitious lobbying firm can operate out of a state-run, tax-funded college, then Mayor McKee should be able to creatively finance a lobbyist with legal funds, whether or not they came through a bank account that also holds federal funds.

Secondly, there is a vast network of advocacy groups that work with the cash rich unions. If you pay union dues or just pay taxes, you need to understand that your money is being used to lobby the State House for illegal immigrant rights, same-sex marriage, abortion on demand, universal healthcare, an expanded welfare system, and/or more redistribution of wealth policies than you can shake a stick at.

In the end, every taxpayer and every hard working, dues paying union member needs to ask themselves: “If I was free to choose how to spend my money – if Bob Walsh, Linda Katz, Kate Brewster, and Guy Dufault weren’t doing it for me – would I voluntarily give my money to support those issues?”

William Felkner is the president of Ocean State Policy Research Institute –

Latest Current Conditions Index for RI = 0

Marc Comtois

URI Economist Len Ladaro:

Rhode Island’s recession may be entering a troublesome third phase. For the first time ever, the CCI registered a value of 0. I prefer to think of this as a long-run equilibrium: at long last, we have gotten from Rhode Island’s economy precisely what we have always demanded from our state’s government: absolutely nothing! Fasten your seat belts, this is going to be a rough fall and winter.
I also heard Prof. Ladaro this morning on WPRO with Jim Hummel (filling in for John DePetro). Ladaro made the point that there is still much to do on the part of the legislature to reduce spending and restructure government. To paraphrase, "they shouldn't be lauded for passing a balanced budget. That's what's expected."

Trying and Trying to Put Down the Electoral College

Justin Katz

It probably hasn't surprised readers that a recent op-ed by Lincoln Chafee and Ari Savitzky arguing in favor of a national popular vote system for president strings together muddled thinking. On the one hand, they claim that "the apportionment of Electoral College does not benefit small states." Yet, a few sentences later, "the Electoral College gives Rhode Island a slight mathematical advantage."

One must, of course, appreciate the difficulty of the two authors' task. It is clear, between the lines, that Rhode Island's lack of influence comes entirely from its voters' inability to break their devotion to the Democrat party. And yet that isn't something that Lincoln and Ari wish to undermine, so they toss around rhetoric about everybody having "an equal vote." They bring up irrelevant history about slave states. All the while, their central premise is arguable, at best:

A national popular vote would be vastly superior to the current system, which practically shuts out over 30 "safe states." Not only is this a question of basic fairness, it is also in Rhode Island's interest. Right now, candidates have no reason to campaign here, organize here, or spend money here — getting more or fewer popular votes will almost never change the electoral vote outcome. Under a national popular vote, every vote would count equally, giving candidates an incentive to seek them here in Rhode Island.

Whatever the system, candidates will be operating with the same resources, and they will have to maximize the effectiveness thereof. Rhode Island is such a blue state that Republicans probably wouldn't see much return on their investment, and Democrats probably wouldn't lose much support by failing to set foot, here. Further, given the size of our state, politicians might find it more worth their while to invest in particular counties, or cities, elsewhere, to reach the same number of people; our definition as a state wouldn't mean a thing.

A national popular vote may or may not be the way to go, but it would certainly take away Rhode Island's "mathematical advantage." If securing political importance for our state is the goal, then the solution is to broaden voters' intellectual and ideological habits.

August 12, 2008

Is Revenue Lost if it Can't be Gained in the First Place?

Marc Comtois

"PRE-Dendum": Be sure to read the comments for much clarification regarding how the credits are sold by the production companies, etc. Basically, the below analysis is flawed because I made some faulty assumptions and didn't completely understand the tax credit "market" in this case. (It's the same idea as the historical tax credits). What is clear is that the system of buying and selling tax credits is ripe for exploitation and many loopholes need to be closed. Perhaps the solution would be to lower the overall tax burden instead of coming up with "innovative" programs like this?

So let me get this straight: in order to attract movie studios to Rhode Island, the state offers tax credits. However, a cost benefit analysis done by the state's Department of Revenue indicates:

The state gets back 28 cents for every dollar it gives up to the production companies, according to a recently released state Department of Revenue analysis. That’s an investment return of negative 72 percent.
Ouch. Not so good, right?
“The analysis proves that subsidies for motion picture production are a bad investment of state funds and suggests that the only movie credits that are meaningful are the ones rolling at the end of the film,” said Kate Brewster, executive director of the Poverty Institute at Rhode Island College. “In these extraordinary tough fiscal times, limited state resources should be invested in proven economic development strategies like work force training.”
Hmmm. Wait a sec. Let's back up and hone in on the fundamental number:
...the state gets back 28 cents for every dollar it gives up to the production companies...
Would those dollars that are "given up" also be dollars never gained if the production company hadn't set up shop in Rhode Island in the first place? Aren't there basically three possible scenarios, here?
Scenario 1 - "Dreamland":
State of Rhode Island - Please make your movie in Rhode Island. We're a great place!
Production Company - OK!
Theoretical "Dreamland" Result - $1 million in the State's coffers!

Scenario 2 - "Reality (w/out tax incentives)":
State of Rhode Island - Please make your movie in Rhode Island. We're a great place!
Production Company - OK, but what can you do for us?
State of Rhode Island - Um. Nothing.
Production Company - Forget it, we'll go somewhere else.
Real Result - $0 in the State's coffers.

Scenario 3 - "Current Reality"
State of Rhode Island - Please make your movie in Rhode Island. We're a great place!
Production Company - OK, but what can you do for us?
State of Rhode Island - We have tax credits targeted for your industry, but act now before we hit the cap!
Current Result - $280,000 in the State's coffers (via direct taxes).

In other words, isn't the premise surrounding a loss of direct revenue completely flawed because it assumes the production companies would make movies here without a tax credit? How else to explain this sort of economic thought? state resources should be invested in proven economic development strategies like work force training...
So what limited resources are being invested, exactly? How do you count a potential revenue source as an actual resource if the reason for said revenue being generated is never created in the first place? Put another way, does this mean we can theoretically tax a movie studio who doesn't set up shop in the state and put those proceeds towards "work force training"? Is this how it works....

Production Company: We'd like to make a movie in Rhode Island, do you offer tax incentives?
State: Nope.
Production Company: But we simply won't do business in Rhode Island if you don't offer any tax incentives. Other states do it.
State: Look, we can't. We used to, but under that old system we would have lost $.72 on every tax credit dollar.
Production Company: How's that work? If we don't come in, you get nothing at all.
State: No, you don't get it. We figure we'll make about $1 million off of you in direct tax revenue if you set up shop here without us offering a tax credit.
Production Company: No, YOU don't get it. Without incentive, we're not coming at all. Isn't $280,000 better than nothing?
State:Like we said, we used to do that, but then we'd be losing a potential $720,000 in resources. That's $720,000 that we could be investing in job training instead of you!
Production Company: Wha....?
State: (Pause) Tell you what, instead of making your movie here, just give us $1 million.
Production Company: Slaps head.

So, am I missing something? (Really, let me know). Anyway, there is one very important caveat:

The cost-benefit analysis focuses only on direct economic benefit to the state — namely increased tax receipts — while ignoring the indirect benefits and impact on the economies of cities and towns. The report is also based on general projections and doesn’t look at the details of the production costs of each project. (A separate “micro analysis” is expected later in the year.)

Cold War Divisions to Return?

Justin Katz

Not to scuttle all that harmony over dreams of a "working waterfront," but something's too eerie about this not to highlight it:

Launching an invasion while the world news is focused on the Olympics is pretty savy... and a grand first step towards a renewed, major US/Russia confrontation.

Yes, quite a clever fellow, that Putin, with his savvy first step toward the reascension of a leftist counterweight to that otherwise irredeemably vain, shallow, superstitious, greedy U.S. of A. Guess we should all take our usual sides on the escalation of global tensions.

(I'm curious from where Matt took the map. Note that South Ossetia and North Ossetia are the same color — as if to visually imply that Georgia is attempting to break apart a country.)

August 11, 2008

Re: Russia Invades Georgia

Monique Chartier

Glenn Beck adds one other factor to the "deeper historical background" in Marc's link.

Darth Vader, aka, Dick Cheney, decided to go over to Georgia because they built this giant pipeline and Dick Cheney being an evil oilman, knew exactly what Ronald Reagan, who wasn't an oilman was, just kind of like that freedom thing, decided, you know what, we really can't have only one pipeline coming out of this area. Otherwise Russia will control everything. So he got together with a few states and they decided to build a pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Baku, wherever the hell that is, okay? Putin didn't like that. That was a very bad idea because it would challenge his pipeline that ran from Baku to Turkey. That's the one Russia said don't ever let them build this. Well, the Russians along with the Italians who are now in bed with Gazprom are doing everything they can to ensure that a bypass and a second pipeline isn't built.

* * *

The real story is this truly is war for oil. What Russia is trying to do is take all of their money and they are trying to buy up all of the natural resources of gas and coal and oil and they are going to be the world's leader in those natural resources. That's why they are connecting to anyone that has it. They want to be the leader of the new OPEC. Why do you think they took a submarine and shot a torpedo tube with a flag in it to the top of the world? Because they are laying claim to all of the natural resources underneath Santa's castle. They are consolidating their power through energy. They have replaced nuclear weapons with energy. Why use a nuclear weapon when you can just shut down somebody's energy. Oh, yeah, Germany, you really need to go along with this or we're going to shut down your power. Yeah, I don't think we're going to sell you any more natural gas. Oh, Georgia, you've got a problem with that? Boy, it's January. Yeah, you hear that? I'm just shutting down the pipeline for you. They are intent on being the world's superpower yet again.

It should be noted that Beck was channelling the far left in referring to Vice President Cheney as "Darth Vader" and "evil".

More importantly, this development makes it clear that Beck's analysis was not off base. [From Free Republic online.]

Russian jets targeted a key oil pipeline with over 50 missiles in a weekend bombing raid in Georgia that raised fears the conflict will tighten Moscow's stranglehold on Europe's energy supplies.

Deep craters pockmark the landscape south of the Georgian capital Tblisi in a Y-shaped pattern straddling the British-operated pipeline.

The attack left two deep holes less than 100 yards either side of a pressure vent on the pipeline. Shrapnel of highly engineered munitions litters the area.

There was no visible damage to the pipeline. Its vulnerability is summed up by a yellow hazard sign next to the vent warning against digging in the area. Anyone venturing on to the site is warned against smoking.

Local police recorded 51 strikes. "I have no doubt they wanted to target the pipeline, there is nothing else here," said Giorgi Abrahamisvili, a policeman who witnessed the attack.

A Question of Possibility

Justin Katz

Reading some of the comments to my post on the Lincoln teacher union contract agreement, it strikes me that many of my anti-union compatriots give due appreciation to the reality of change.

The bottom line, as far as I can see, is that the union acknowledged the reality of limited funds and, rather than tumble into the public-relations nightmare that has attached itself to, for example, the Tiverton NEA gang, chose to shuffle the dollars around pretty much within its existing slice of the pie. That's a step in the right direction.

Sure, the members probably wanted to put as much money as possible into "raises" (in reality, step adjustments) so that those percentages would continue to grow into the future. No doubt, they likely hope to undo or shift some of the "concessions" when the economic environment improves. But continuing to ratchet up the squeeze is the duty of private citizens.

Don't insist on all or nothing, because even well-meaning beneficiaries of a corrupted system will burrow back into the comfort of unjust manipulation if their little steps forward yield nothing but heightened rebuke. The goal must be to translate our gains, as limited as they may at first be, into the language of systematic reform that remains even when dollars aren't so scarce (which is a distinct possibility sometime before mid-century).

Russia Invades Georgia

Marc Comtois

President Bush has denounced Russia for escalating the conflict in Georgia:

"I just met with my national security team to discuss the situation in Georgia. I am deeply concerned by reports that Russian troops have moved beyond the zone of conflict, attacked the Georgian town of Gori and are threatening the Georgian capital, Tblisi," Bush said.

He cited evidence suggesting that Russian forces may soon begin bombing the civilian airport in the capital city.

"If these reports are accurate, these Russian actions would represent a dramatic and brutal escalation of the conflict in Georgia," Bush said.

He said the actions "would be inconsistent with assurances that we have received from Russia that its objectives were limited" to restoring peace in separatist pro-Russian areas.

If it hasn't happened already, I suspect the bloom is off the rose of President Bush's personal relationship with Vladimir Putin. To catch up, here's a quick "sitrep", a map of Georgia, a deeper historical background and the latest news, which indicates a full-blown Russian invasion of Georgia is underway.

August 10, 2008

No Mystery to Contract Resolution

Justin Katz

Ah, the magic of the Lincoln compromise:

Despite these tensions, Lincoln is an example of what a community can accomplish, even when money is scarce, says [Larry] Purtill, president of NEARI.

"What Lincoln shows is that both sides were willing, in a tough financial environment, to find a way to make sure that they reach an agreement so there is no work stoppage and programs continue and that teachers got what both sides thought was fair," Purtill said. "Districts have to get creative, because both sides are realizing there is just not a lot of movement to be had on the money."

If the article's representation is accurate, there's really no mystery to Lincoln's accomplishment. Everybody understood that funds were limited, and holding steadfast to unrealistic increases in remuneration would only have bled funds from other necessary areas of the district's budget, so negotiations centered around how best to shuffle around the dollars already allocated for the teachers. They dropped sabbaticals, picked up more healthcare costs, decreased healthcare "buybacks," and tinkered with work hours to comply with state law while not incurring large costs. In return, they get raises.

I'd love to indulge in equivalence, but somehow the "both sides" construction doesn't strike me as accurate when it comes to what Lincoln has done and what every other Rhode Island town must do.

Off on a Tangent

Justin Katz

Work and other responsibilities have kept me away from the keyboard, of late, and my first production upon stealing a brief while for writing came in the form of some philosophical waxing. I've posted it over at Dust in the Light, if you're interested. I'll try to get to something more appropriately in the Anchor Rising line later this afternoon for those who are not.

Review: Your Government Failed You

Marc Comtois

Richard Clarke, Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters

Your government failed you.
So said Richard Clarke to the American people during the 9/11 Commission hearings a few years back. Clarke's resume of over 30 years in the foreign policy arena speaks for itself and adds weight to his point of view. At times, his tales of frustration infuriate because they show just how much government did fail leading up to 9/11.

But, as reaction to his first book Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror made evident, he can also be frustrating to those who are familiar with events he describes. And this familiarity with acute events can lead, ultimately, to a wholesale--albeit unwarranted--distrust of Clarke.

If I know that he's not being completely forthcoming on Event "A" for which I know a lot about, then how can I be sure he's not doing the same for Events "B, C and D" for which I'm not as familiar? And to the degree that his diagnoses and prescriptions rely upon his experience and expertise, as supported by his explanation of various events, then how seriously am I to take his ideas? In other words, are Clarke's ideas well-informed and worthwhile or just part of an exercise in legacy-protection? The answer, unsurprisingly, is all of the above.

When reading and analyzing a first-hand account of events, a reader should always be on the look out for bias; on the part of both the source and the reader. Ultimately, each of us have to rely on our sense of what seems like good, sound reasoning and argumentation. So, despite these reservations, there are still some things that even those most predisposed to distrust him can learn from Clarke.

Throughout Your Government Failed You, Clarke clearly names names and assesses blame. His reasoning seems sound and his grasp of the nuances of foreign affairs and diplomacy is worth noting as is his recognition of the role that contingency can play in outcomes. And while he doesn't let himself off the hook for some of the errors made, his phraseology can be passive/aggressive. For instance, the phrasing of his "apology" that gave title to this book leaves the impression that he's apologizing more for others than himself. In his opening to Chapter 5, Clarke explains that on the morning of 9/11

I knew that I had failed. In the days and years leading up to that awful moment I had failed to persuade two administrations to do enough to prevent the attacks that were now happening around me.
You see, the decision makers in government didn't listen to Clarke, which is why they failed. And he only failed because they didn't listen. That's a fairly obtuse way of taking blame. The question is then: should we listen to him? Based on my reading and analysis of the events that Clarke describes, I certainly am wary of accepting Clarke's version of events prima facia.

For instance, he notes "the refusal of the Bush administration to ratify the [Kyoto] protocol...(p.277)" and makes no mention of the Clinton administrations similar "refusal." Elsewhere, he explains how he thinks partisanship is bad for national security, something for which many would agree. But the examples of partisanship he provides are markedly one-sided.

I think the record is fairly indisputable that national security issues have been used for partisan electoral advantage in recent years: terrorism threats have been overhyped near elections, predictions have been made about terrorist attacks occurring if the other party wins, people's patriotism has been questioned. (p.340-41)
Common charges levied against the Republicans, all. No mention of the political rhetoric flying from the Democratic side--immediate withdrawal, illegal war, the Bush fascist state, etc.--which helped them sweep to Congressional power in 2006. I suppose if you believe one set of arguments, then they aren't partisan?

Much of the first part of the book is devoted to Clarke's restatement of many of the same charges he made in Against All Enemies. He still thinks Iraq is a distraction away from Afghanistan, which is an arguable point, especially with Osama bin Laden still loose. He also puts much blame for Iraq at the feet of the generals charged with preparing our forces for the invasion:

1) "Neither the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [General Richard Myers] nor the regional commander at CENTCOM [General Tommy Franks] dissented from the initial war plan..."
2) The generals didn't implement proper counter-insurgency activities though they were aware of analysis from the CIA and State department that predicted insurgent activity in post-invasion Iraq.
3) Related to #2, once it became clear that the President intended to invade Iraq, the Generals did not advise the President and Congress that they did not have enough troops to deal with an insurgency.
4) "Inadequate training" for American troops in Iraq.
5) Generals tacitly condoned torture, such as at Abu Grahib.
6) Generals didn't ensure that wounded troops were treated adequately (Walter Reed).
All of these points are worth debating. But elsewhere, Clarke essentially accuses General David Petraeus, architect of the proving-successful surge implemented in 2007, of moving the goalposts himself when his own counter-insurgency efforts were initially exhibiting slow returns. "It began to seem as if the reason for the surge, in Petraeus's mind, was to prove that his new counterinsurgency strategy could work."

The recent success in Iraq is making Clarke a victim of the time line. For he claims that Petraeus

[b]y defending a policy that in the larger sense was injurious to the United States and the Army, by arguing for staying on when he admitted that his own condition for the U.S. presence (real progress toward Iraqi unity) was not being met...raised new questions about what makes a general political.
When Clarke wrote these words, the effectiveness of the surge was still in doubt. But no matter the expertise that lay on the side of the predictor, reality has a way of ruining predictions.

Clarke has much else to say about a plethora of items related to national security and, not as impressively, global warming. As to the last, he essentially toes the Al Gore line. Nothing earth shattering (or warming?).

Further, it becomes clear that Clarke is a supporter of the Powell doctrine, though redefined for the times, which is entirely defensible. On the other hand, he also channels Thomas Franks (the academic, not the general) by basically asking "what's the matter with the military," because he can't understand why they have become so overwhelmingly Republican (though he notes that Democrats are gaining support).

All in all, this is a "thick" book. There is a lot to digest and a lot to think about. Clarke's writing isn't florid or light. Instead, he hits you time and again with anecdotes and antidotes that spring from the mind of the man who apologized to the American people on behalf of the U.S. Government. In the end, his is a voice that warrants a listen. Perhaps the best way to get a balanced view of some of the events is to read Clarke's book in combination with Douglas Feith's War and Decision. To quote Ronald Reagan, "Trust, but verify."
Cross-posted at Spinning Clio.

August 9, 2008

Please Do Your Bounding Part to Save the Planet

Monique Chartier

Actually, global warming stopped ten years ago and the planet has entered a cooling trend. But isn't it time we expanded our meat repertoire? [Courtesty BBC online news.]

The methane gas produced by sheep and cows through belching and flatulence is more potent than carbon dioxide in the damage it can cause to the environment.

But kangaroos produce virtually no methane because their digestive systems are different.

Dr George Wilson, of the Australian Wildlife Services, urges farming them.

He says they have a different set of micro-organisms in their guts to cows and sheep.

Sheep and cattle account for 11% of Australia's carbon footprint and over the years, there have been various proposals to deal with the problem.

Now Dr Wilson believes kangaroos might hold the answer.

He said: "It tastes excellent, not unlike venison - only a different flavour."

Matt Jerzyk on Patrick Conley and the Providence Port

Marc Comtois

Matt Jerzyk has an interesting post on Patrick Conley's attempt to develop (via rezoning) portions of Providence's working waterfront. Matt respond's to Conley's recent op-ed refuting those of the Journal Editors and Edward Achorn:

The future of the area has been under a cloud since Buddy Cianci's 1999 "Three Cities Plan" which prioritized mixed-use over industrial use. Due to a lack of clarity about future zoning, new water-dependent and industrial businesses have been reluctant to locate here. Despite this uncertainty, between 2004 and 2007 area businesses invested more than $30,000,000 in infrastructure improvements including pier upgrades and berth dredging....

The new jobs that would come with Conley's luxury condo/hotel development would be low wage service jobs with little or no benefits. At the recent Charette, the city's own economic consultant found that the area could sustain at most 200 condo units, priced from $300,000 - $500,000 that would produce minimal jobs. But if the city were to maintain the existing industrial zoning and promote port expansion, the area could attract 300 - 400 new high-wage jobs. Providence needs more good paying, living wage, middle class jobs, not more condos with low-wage jobs.

I don't know enough about the history of Providence City politics to speak about Cianci's plan or those of the current administration. What I do know is that Rhode Island has let too many of it's natural maritime advantages fall by the wayside.

Conley--who's also a historian--has a piece in today's ProJo in which gives an interesting account of some of the ships that once sailed or steamed around Narragansett Bay and how most have either been lost or moved elsewhere. (Including the former ferry Newport that now serves as a restaurant--Dimillo's--on the waterfront in downtown Portland, Maine. Good, if a little pricey, seafood by the way.)

What Conley wants is for RI to keep the USS Saratoga and a replica of the Sloop Providence in the Narragansett Bay for educational and, presumably, economic (tourism) reasons. As Conley says, "Clearly the Ocean State has squandered its maritime heritage." I agree with him.

But part of that heritage is also having an actual working waterfront where the maritime industry can thrive. Heritage is more than history or nostalgia, it's also carrying on the working traditions that have helped grow and sustain the state's economy throughout the years. The sea is Rhode Island's biggest natural resource. We should take advantage of it by developing and expanding ports (and the jobs they produce) in both Providence and Quonset. Zoning profitable maritime companies out of business is counterintuitive, counterproductive and unwise.

August 8, 2008

"...there are two Americas. Edwards had a wife in one and a girlfriend in the other..."

Marc Comtois

John Edwards has admitted that he had an affair with Rielle Hunter around the same time his wife was fighting cancer.


The National Enquirer broke it weeks ago--with plenty of corroborating evidence--but it was ignored by the MSM (unlike McCain's supposed "affair" that was "reported" by the NY Times earlier this year) and it was left to blogs and the online community to carry the story. Now that the coast is clear, all of the usual suspects are picking up the story.

Edwards claims the child isn't his--though he did visit her last month--and also is trying to lay out a timeline that shows he wasn't actually romancing Hunter while Mrs. Edwards was fighting for her life. Nope, he claims he waited until after she was in remission (the first time). Well, I guess that just makes it better: why on earth would a woman trying to deal with the effects that chemo, radiation and cancer have on the body and spirit need the attention and affection of her husband, right John?

Again, disgusting.

Friday Poll

Marc Comtois

Hey, it's Friday going into an RI-only long weekend. How 'bout a poll? So, intrepid AR reader, vote away.

If the Election for President were today, you'd vote for....
Barack Obama
John McCain
Against McCain
Against Obama
Hillary Clinton
Nader or Paul
Not Voting free polls


Marc Comtois

Some of you may be familiar with Thomas Barnett for his The Pentagon's New Map and other books. He also has his own blog on which he's posted a few thoughts (h/t) on how higher energy prices may affect globalization (inspired by this piece).

Up to now, accessing virtually any cheap, reliable labor made sense, given the cheapness of energy. Now, only those who can figure out how to make that happen with commensurately lower energy costs will be able to do so, and frankly, that should produce a better globalization. We've long let several crucial sectors of our economy off the hook in terms of serious innovation because there was no great incentive to pursue it....

I would expect to see a lot of glocalization by global corporations: continuing to "go global" by "going local," meaning they become truly "globally integrated enterprises" of the Sam Palmisano mode (R&Ding locally, hiring and resourcing locally, and producing and selling locally--all the while remaining a global corp). So the Ikea that imports everything now starts producing locally, creating local manufacturing jobs. Sure, expect jobs to be "saved," just don't expect to get unduly picky about who the employer is. You can call that a "reversal" if you want, but that's what a lot of economists and business types have been describing as the next stage of globalization anyway.

Olympic Talk

Justin Katz

Those who missed Marc on Wednesday's Matt Allen Show can stream Marc's thoughts on the Olympics by clicking here or download it.

August 7, 2008

If it Happened, Would She Really Say, "Shucks, I Decline"?

Monique Chartier

Our corporate overlords have asked us to distract from this. So quick, let's talk about Hillary.

Senator Clinton has not ruled out allowing her name to be placed into nomination in Denver, noting,

Senator Obama and I share the goal of ensuring that the voices of everyone who participated in this historic process are respected

We all remember vividly that Senator Obama won more delegates but that the final count was close. Can Senator Obama take the chance that it won't go the other way in a re-count at the convention? In putting her name back into consideration, is Senator Clinton truly motivated by a desire to respect and thank her supporters? Alternately, to take a slightly ominous view, is she putting the political strong arm on Senator Obama to name her to the V.P. position?

Or, most ominously, has she not quite given up the idea of landing the nomination itself?


Commenter Will points out

... the President and Vice President are nominated separately at these conventions. They are actually nominated by the convention delegates, not simply appointed by the would be president. Because the race is so close in actual delegates (due to the unelected super delegates), you are literally going to have a situation where roughly half the people on the convention floor are going to be Hillary backers. If they can't get what they really want (the number one spot), I think they will try for the number two position, even if they have to force it.

So the V.P. spot is the prerogative of the delegates, not the presidential candidate. This indeed is shaping up to be an action-packed convention.

A Case for Cuban Ethanol?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Commenter "OldTimeLefty" has put forth this interesting energy proposal…

We contract with Cuba for its sugar cane then refine the sugar into an ethanol based product. U.S. capital could invest in a refinery (on Guantanamo for example?). This keeps corn for food, employs the resources of Cuba and The United States in a joint venture that would profit both countries and go a long way towards establishing a peaceful coexistence between neighbors.
Wired Magazine carried an article on this suggestion a few months back…
Cuba has the potential to produce 3.2 billion gallons of ethanol annually, according to an analysis by Juan Tomas Sanchez of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. Another Cuba expert, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca, puts the figure closer to 2 billion gallons but even that figure would place Cuba third -- behind Brazil and the United States -- in worldwide production.

Of course, reaching either of those numbers would require Raul Castro to open the door to foreign investment, but that may not be as unlikely as it sounds. The Washington Post notes there's speculation that Fidel's exit opens the door to economic reform like we've seen in China, and it's worth noting Cuba is quietly modernizing its ethanol infrastructure.

Raul Castro is seen as a pragmatist who is more concerned with improving Cubans' daily lives than spreading la revolución, and according to Reuters he is believed to favor loosening state control on Cuba's economy.

However, Fidel Castro is opposed to any new ethanol production, as illustrated by this report from Reuters published just yesterday…
A Cuban official said on Wednesday the Caribbean island is modernizing its sugar industry but that plans to increase ethanol production have been scaled back.

Galvez, who announced plans for a derivatives conference in October, refused even to use the word ethanol, stating plans for "alcohol" were reduced due to the market, land use and the country's strategy.

Cuba's leadership is, of course, dutifully following the kinds of land-use and "country" strategies that have made the idea of communist agricultural planning into the laughingstock of history. Two illustrations of the results of a half-century of Cuban land-use strategy were presented on the Wall Street Journal's Environmental Captial blog earlier this yeat, on February 19 and February 22 respectively...
[According to Antonio Gayoso], another of the academics at the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. Cuba is presently neither self-sufficient nor sustainable. According to Cuban government figures, it imports about 85% of its food. The collapse of the country’s sugar industry has left huge swaths of cropland overrun by a type of Caribbean kudzu.

Before Castro’s 1959 revolution, Cuba was the world’s biggest sugar producer; today, its battered sugar mills and neglected land produce about 10% of what they did.

So, Cuba's land-use strategy eschews using currently unused land to produce a crop the rest of the world would be interested in buying. If the price of Cuba becoming more self-sufficient and more economically viable is a lowering of world oil-prices, then Fidel Castro is against it. Castro is painfully aware, in a globalized world, that spreading around cash raised from the sale of easily obtained-natural resources is the only means the world's remaining totalitarian dictators have for holding on to their power. For his own warped ideological reasons, Castro is willing to pay any price -- including decimating his own nation -- to defend the advantage of other totalitarians.

But biofuels are coming. With oil prices as high as they are, it's only a matter of when and of who's going to profit...

The Fighter Pilot and the Organizer

Marc Comtois

For those interested in campaign tactical theory (I assume there is such a thing), the blogs Classical Values and Belmont Club both critique the "community organizer" Barack Obama for not doing a good job of adhering to Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals." And Simon at CV offers a helpful analogy apt for this contest between a fighter-pilot and an organizer" McCain has gotten inside of Obama's OODA Loop.

The OODA Loop, often called Boyd's Cycle, is a creation of Col. John Boyd, USAF (Ret.). Col. Boyd was a student of tactical operations and observed a similarity in many battles and campaigns. He noted that in many of the engagements, one side presented the other with a series of unexpected and threatening situations with which they had not been able to keep pace. The slower side was eventually defeated. What Col. Boyd observed was the fact that conflicts are time competitive.
Simon elaborates:
Elections are nothing if they are not time competitive. Evidently the "freezing of the opponent" that Alinsky recommends has not worked on McCain. He was not frozen. Once that happened McCain was operating inside Obama's decision loop.
Wretchard at BC also explains why Obama hasn't been a very good Alinsky acolyte:
Alinsky’s Community Organizing model was above all a response within the Left to the Cult of Personality. Rules for Radicals is founded on the principle of “letting the people decide”, and while it does not dogmatically discount the influence of leadership it fundamentally rejects the idea that a “vanguard” intellectual elite can lead the “masses”....

The ideal organizer never takes personal credit for success. He finds existing currents and empowers people to free themselves from oppressors in culturally familiar ways. Organizers may provide background support for the popular activity — often doing the hard, dangerous stuff behind the scenes — but the people must always see achievements as being due to their own effort. Finally an organizer fades away. The ambition of a great organizer is to ride into the sunset like Shane, leaving a people’s organization that will persist after he is gone....

A real organizer works in small settings, amplifying, exhorting, putting others on the stage. He doesn’t work in front of large crowds and from the front pages of newspapers. And if it is objected that nobody can become President of the United States that way, the answer is that community organizers don’t want to become Presidents. They want to be organizers.

Gee, that sounds just like the organizers I know (quack quack).

Zaccaria Challenges Langevin to A-Debate-Per-Town

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to Cynthia Needham of the Projo, Republican Congressional candidate Mark Zaccaria would like to offer each city and town in Rhode Island's Second District an opportunity to host a Congressional debate...

“I look forward to a vigorous race against my opponent and I would like to challenge Mr. Langevin to a minimum of 20 public debates: one in each town in the Second [Congressional] District,” the former North Kingstown Town Council member said in a release.

“It is time for our elected officials to stop avoiding political debates. The voters deserve to be able to hear directly from the candidates in an open forum.”

The Pseudo-Intellectuals' Candidate

Justin Katz

Has anybody else gotten the sense that the Obamanation has the interesting effect of highlighting how extensively the zany intellectual clichés from the academic Left are ingrained in the liberal/Democrat movement? Consider Victor Davis Hanson's post aptly titled "Postmodern Architecture":

What was stunning about the NY Times' Bob Herbert's charge that the McCain campaign, in its satire on Obama's messianic sense of self, had deliberately inserted clips of the phallic Leaning Tower of Pisa and Washington Monument to drive home a racist trope about black men and white women was not just his embarrassing ignorance of architecture, or his infantile pop-Freudianism, or even his preemptory efforts to tie all criticism of Obama to racism and thereby stifle dissent. It was the sheer arrogance in the manner in which he persisted in his false points: "An image right there... of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and ... the Washington Monument.... You tell me why those two phallic symbols are placed there...".

Anybody who's sat through a college literature course no doubt recognizes Herbert's over-reliance on Freudian symbolism. (E.g., "His use of the word 'thrust' during the sword-fight scene emphasizes the phallic nature of the sword and raises the question of the white man's primal fear of being sexually compromised by the African American.")

Here's another example:

I think that the writer thought it smart to use the word "biracial" instead of "black" to feed on white male fear of black men taking white women.

I also think that the writer also thought it was brilliant to use the phrase "tiger by the tail" which is very close to the children's rhyme "tiger by the toe" which was originally the not so childish "n***** by the toe".

The blogger goes on, in the comments, to highlight the ostensibly racist letter writer's use of the word "lust," but a more rewarding deep reading can be performed without ripping the word from its succulent context:

Every scientific analysis of news coverage has noted the vastly dissimilar treatment of the two candidates. The media lust to be a part of "making history" by helping elect a biracial candidate. So, in the process, everything from ethics to integrity is chucked over the side. We're gonna make history. But, oh, at what cost?

We can well imagine the orgasmic euphoria with which the headline "Obama Wins!" would be written, and some of us may already harbor the foreboding fear of the governance that may follow it, but when it comes to fantasies, I'd suggest that the dark ones of the White Male are not nearly as significant a factor as the titillated craving for the expiation of guilt by means of submission to the Other from those who see in every tower a phallus and therein an expression of power.

August 6, 2008

Beijing Olympics 2008: Of Smog, Crackdowns and a few Games

Marc Comtois

The Olympics are coming to China on Friday and amidst terrorist attacks and environmental embarrassment, the Chinese and their enablers are assuring us that all is well. About those terrorists?

"Kashgar is totally unified against the terrorists," the Communist party chief in the city declared yesterday, pointing to an episode when a local village near the city snitched to the police in January about 17 terrorists who were on the run.

The reality, however, is that the local Muslim Uighurs, a Turkic race who make up almost 80 per cent of the city's population, were too terrified of police reprisals to even whisper about Monday's bomb attack.

In the same breath as insisting that the Uighurs and Han Chinese live in "harmonious coexistence", the local party chief chillingly remarked that the Chinese are determined to have "complete master control of the environment".

That's the spirit! And remember those cyclers who were photographed wearing the masks? Yeah, they apologized:
The masks, issued to the athletes by the Olympic committee through USA Cycling, were given to about 200 of the 596 athletes in the United States delegation, U.S.O.C. officials said. The swimming team was among those teams that brought the masks to Beijing, said one of the doctors working with that team.

But the cyclists’ grave mistake, U.S.O.C. officials say, was to wear their masks in the airport. Photographers and cameramen captured the athletes on film as the cyclists walked through Beijing’s new terminal. In minutes, those images were on television and the Internet.

“It wasn’t the best judgment at the time, and the athletes understand that now,” U.S.O.C. chief executive Jim Scherr said. “We believe that this will be, hopefully, the last incident of this kind. We’re making sure the athletes understand how their actions are perceived by the host country.”

The U.S.O.C. sent the cyclists’ apology to Wang Wei, executive vice president of the organizing committee.

Another official from the committee, Sun Weijia, director of media operations for the Beijing Olympics, would not directly answer whether officials were insulted by the cyclists’ decision.

“We have all along said that it is not necessary for the athletes to wear masks because the air quality in Beijing has improved,” Sun said. “We have to explain that looks can be deceiving, and that it looks like fog, but actually the air quality is good.

Wouldn't want to offend anyone, right USOC? Hey, but China is trying to clean up its act (at least environmentally)...for now. On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal thinks that the Olympics can be a Democracy Accelerator:
Even among the young and educated, the "democracy and rights" story of the Olympics is challenging th[e] "China's renaissance" story. Grace Wang, the brave Duke University student who faced down the hypernationalists on the Tibet question, could not have arisen apart from the dynamics of the Olympic year because it was the Olympics that set the protest-counterprotest (and then counter-counterprotest) into motion. On the People's Daily's popular Strong Country Forum chat room, the democracy question has come up frequently in recent months. In March a discussion erupted on whether authoritarian regimes that hold the Olympics tend to collapse shortly thereafter, examples cited being Berlin in 1936 and Moscow in 1980. In early July one post said that holding the Olympics is not in the interests of China and that in a democratic country the bid would have been rejected by the people.

And the cumulative results? By denying the Communist Party its moment of glory, the dissonance created by the Olympic year will accelerate the ongoing values transformation in China needed to erode the regime's popular support. At the same time, the mobilization of social actors and the creation of new venues of protest and expression will leave behind new levers for positive change. Beijing vice mayor Liu Jingmin's pledge in 2001 that the games will be "an opportunity to foster democracy, improve human rights, and integrate China with the rest of the world" will prove true.

We'll see (and hope). One suggestion: pick up Peter Navarro's The Coming China Wars (reviewed here last month). It's an easy and quick read and will clarify a few things about the relationship between the Chinese economy, its environmental policies and the political ramifications of the short-cuts its been taking.

M. Charles Bakst To Take the Buyout

Monique Chartier

... effective September 12, Turn to Ten reports. [H/T Ian Donnis at Not For Nothing.]

The longtime political columnist for The Providence Journal is retiring.

M. Charles Bakst is taking a buyout that was recently offered to a number of Journal employees.

For the past 40 years, Bakst has written weekly and Sunday columns for the newspaper. He also served as State House bureau chief.

Always Be Prepared

Justin Katz

Touching story in yesterday's Providence Journal: Apparently, the friends of John Cicilline, brother of the Providence mayor, had a little going-to-jail party for him, in order to keep his family from suffering financially from his conviction as a justice-system-manipulating shake-down lawyer. This line added some comic relief:

"It was a nice event to help a guy going through a tough time," said [Lawyer Peter] Rizzo. "Nobody can plan for a federal indictment."

Why not? Families plan for and insure against all sorts of contingencies. Developing some sort of backup would seem to be particularly advisable for somebody knowingly engaged in illegal activities.

Our Loss of Memory

Donald B. Hawthorne

Jonah Goldberg writes about Forgetting the Evils of Communism: The amnesia bites a little deeper:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is dead. Peter Rodman is dead. And memory is dying with them.

Over the weekend, Solzhenitsyn, the 89-year-old literary titan, and Rodman, the American foreign-policy intellectual, passed away...

What I admired most in both men was their memory. They remembered important things, specifically the evil of Communism. And, perhaps nearly as important, they remembered who recognized that evil and who did not.

Rodman, for example, was an architect of the Reagan Doctrine in places such as Angola and Afghanistan. One of his books, More Precious Than Peace: The Cold War and the Struggle for the Third World, was the quintessential defense of thwarting the Soviets in ugly spots of the globe where Americans were understandably reluctant to spend blood or treasure.

In Berlin on July 24, Barack Obama’s history of the Cold War sounded cheerier. There was a lot of unity and "standing as one," and we dropped some candy on Berlin, and now we need to be unified like we were then.

But unity was hardly the defining feature of the Cold War. There were supposed allies reluctant to help and official enemies who were eager to do their share. There were Russians — like Solzhenitsyn — who bravely told the world about Soviet barbarity. Here at home, there were a great many Americans, including intellectual heirs to the "useful idiots" Lenin relied on, who rolled their eyes at self-styled "cold warriors" such as Rodman. And from Vietnam through the SANE/Freeze movement, liberal resolve and unity were aimed most passionately against America’s policies — not the Soviet Union’s...

But it’s worth remembering how evil Communist governments really were. Stalin murdered more people than Hitler...The Black Book of Communism, a scholarly accounting of communism’s crimes, counts about 94 million murdered by the supposed champions of the common man (20 million for the Soviets alone), and some say that number is too low...

In 1974, when the New Yorker reviewed Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, George Steiner wrote: "To infer that the Soviet Terror is as hideous as Hitlerism is not only a brutal oversimplification but a moral indecency." When Ronald Reagan denounced the "evil empire" — because it was evil and it was an empire — he too was accused of absurd oversimplification.

The real brutal oversimplification is the treacle we hear from Obama, that victory in the Cold War was some Hallmark-movie lesson in global hand-holding. The reality is that it was a long slog, and throughout, the champions of "unity" wanted to capitulate to this evil, and the champions of freedom were rewarded with ridicule.

"This is the moment," Obama proclaimed, "when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday." Rodman and Solzhenitsyn understood that such talk was dangerously naive. People free from the "shadows of yesterday" forget things they swore never to forget.

Solzhenitsyn and Rodman are gone now, and a generation that learned such hard lessons is leaving us too quickly. The amnesia bites a little deeper.

August 5, 2008

Mark Zaccaria on the Republican Energy Policy Floor Revolt

Carroll Andrew Morse

Republican Second District Congressional candidate Mark Zaccaria, last Friday, issued this statement on the U.S. House Republican floor revolt regarding energy policy and domestic drilling for oil...

Mark Zaccaria today denounced Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her fellow House Democrats for adjourning for the August recess without having allowed a vote on the offshore drilling ban. Speaker Pelosi refused to allow a vote that could repeal the Congressional ban on offshore drilling. The White House recently repealed the executive ban on offshore drilling, and has called on Congress to do the same.

“I find it very disturbing that my opponent would follow Speaker Pelosi in adjourning for August recess without addressing the most pressing issue facing us today,” said Zaccaria. “Gas prices are having a devastating effect on everyone. Unfortunately, my opponent finds his vacation more important than the livelihood of his constituents.”

As part of his energy plan, Zaccaria has illustrated how speculators are the driving force behind high gas prices; however, initiating domestic oil exploration could drive the price of gas down within days.

Hey Hey Ho Ho! Nodrillosi Has Got to Go! Hey Hey Ho Ho ...

Monique Chartier


To next Tuesday, August 12. Same bat time; same bat channel.

The RI College Republicans have organized a protest at 1:00 today [edit] next Tuesday against inaction by the US House on several bills to expand domestic oil drilling. It will start at Congressmen Kennedy's office, 249 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, and move to Congressman Langevin's, 300 Centerville Road, Suite 200 South, Warwick.

The College Republicans at Roger Williams University and the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island are inviting YOU to join us and show your support for bringing an end to the House of Representative's August Recess and stopping our energy crisis!


Last Friday, on the floor of the House of Representatives, an historical event took place. Several GOP congressmen defiantly stood up against an ignorant Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives. For almost 5 hours, several Republican members gathered on the floor of the House of Representatives in protest of the August recess that passed an adjournment vote Friday morning. They're protesting because for the last week or so, Democratic Speaker ("Dictator") Nancy Pelosi and her far-left colleague Harry Reid, majority leader in the Senate, have been blocking bill after bill that would be voted on to address the energy and gasoline crisis currently crippling Americans. Said bills would open up exploration for drilling in Anwar and allow off-shore drilling to drive down our dependence on foreign oil and lower gas prices.

To date, the DEMOCRATS have not allowed a vote on such a bill, and instead have decided to take a break for the ENTIRE MONTH OF AUGUST! Instead of remaining in D.C. and performing the duties they were elected to perform, they are running away from the biggest energy crisis since the 1970's and the Carter days.

In honorable defiance of the Democrats and their cowardly "recess," GOP congressmen gathered on the House floor and demanded a vote! To counter this revolution, Pelosi herself ordered the power to but shut off to the House. For hours the brave GOP congressmen conducted their rally behind locked doors and without electricity! The DEMS ordered the lights to be shutdown, the mics and CSPAN cameras to be turned off, and didn't allow reporters into the capitol. These revolutionaries had to resort to their cell phones to take pictures and relay messages of the happenings that took place on the floor.


We have coordinated our efforts and put together a protest of our own to this ridiculous break the Democrats have taken! On Tuesday afternoon, tomorrow, we will march down to the offices of Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Rep. Langevin and rally for the cause of the GOP congressmen, and a vote on an energy or drilling bill that will bring relief to the American People! Both Rep. Kennedy and Rep. Langevin voted Friday morning to adjourn the House into this month long recess (see House Roll Call 566). We need to let our elected officials know that they belong in Washington doing their jobs!


We will meet in front of Rep. Kennedy's offices at 1:00PM sharp on Tuesday, August 5 [edit] 12. We will then carry on the rally to Rep. Langevin's offices at 2:00PM. Bring your markers, your poster, your thoughts, your sunglasses, and your friends! Remember, there is strength in numbers.


Barry Christopher Lucier
Chairman, College Republicans at RWU
1st Vice Chairman, CRFRI


For those who cannot participate next Tuesday but would like to convey their views via Mr. Edison's invention:

Congressman Patrick Kennedy - (401) 732-9400

Congressman James Langevin - (401) 729-5600

Royal Dispensations

Justin Katz

One often hears that the speaker of the Rhode Island House is the most powerful politician (along with the Senate president) in the state, but it takes a while to develop an appreciation of what the means. Here, for one indication, is evidence of their royal ability to dispense paid time off without having to face public scrutiny:

As a matter of stated policy, General Assembly employees are "capped at 140 hours of comp time per year." Working the standard 35-hour state workweek, that would be tantamount to a month off.

But, "exceptions can be granted by the speaker or president to exceed the cap," and this year, legislative spokesman Larry Berman acknowledges, the leaders granted an undisclosed number of additional hours, days and possibly weeks to 51 unidentified legislative staffers.

Had they been paid overtime, Berman acknowledges, those payments would be public information.

August 4, 2008

Jon Scott Applauds the Republican Floor Revolt on Energy Policy

Carroll Andrew Morse

Last week, Congressional Democrats voted to take their summer vacation without voting on a bill that would expand the Federally-owned lands and areas of the outer continental shelf that could be drilled for oil. In protest of the Democrats non-action, a number of House Republicans remained on the House floor after Friday's adjournment, making public calls for Congress to return and take a position on domestic drilling.

According to the Politico, the Republicans have returned to the House floor today to continue their protest...

House Republicans vowed to continue their talkathon on the House floor "as long as it takes," saying Monday they would continue their protest indefinitely if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not allow for a vote on domestic oil drilling.

"There are plans underway to be here into next week," said Rep. Mike Pence, one of the organizers of the protest. "We will be here as long as it takes."

Republican First District Congressional Candidate Jon Scott has issued a statement applauding the efforts by the Republican members of Congress to take definite action on the energy issue…
Allow me this moment to applaud Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives for exercising political courage on behalf of the American people. Last week's Republican floor revolt was an appropriate response to the Democratic majority's unacceptable failure to address our nation's energy concerns.

America faces an energy crisis that threatens our economy, standard of living and national security. Real leaders act in times of crisis. Nancy Pelosi, Patrick Kennedy and the Democratic majority failed America on Friday. They should be replaced.

Congress created this energy crisis, common sense can solve it. Congress must authorize more drilling. At the same time we need to pursue all alternative energy options including wind projects such as Cape Wind. We need to create solar panels, build nuclear power plants and use more natural gas. Every energy option must be placed on the table. Energy prices will drop when the supply increases.

The people of Rhode Island need representatives who are patriots first and party members second. Those who feel well served by the Democratic majority's failure to address the energy crisis should vote to send our current representatives back to Washington. Those being harmed by the burden of unprecedented and unnecessarily high fuel costs should vote for new representation in November.

Manny's Gone

Marc Comtois

Manny Ramirez was traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers last week. Tim Abbott has some thoughts on how to tell the kids.

Emily gave her heart unconditionally to Manny Ramirez.

I haven't yet had the heart to tell her he's gone....

Emily fell for Manny at first sight. How could she not? He was not the silent leader, brilliant behind the plate but woeful beside it. He was not the fleet-footed infielder, that springbok in a herd of wildebeest. No, she loved the class clown, charismatic and cute in his baggy uniform and oh so free and easy. I knew with certainty what every father of a tender-hearted daughter learns; this love would end in heartbreak, and there was nothing I could do to spare her. Perhaps postpone it for a day, but no more....

Will her love turn to loathing, her tender heart tenderized with a 33 oz bat? Will she carry a torch even as he wears the Dodger Blue? Or will she, with the wellsprings of an 8-year-old's empathy, somehow see through the casual clown to the tears within...?

I can tell her that this will pass, and share my own stories of Red Sox hope and heartbreak. I can hope that she falls for that nice kid Pedroia, or wingfooted Ellsbury. None of that will matter. Her heart is her own. It will find its way.

Play ball.

Mine was Carlton Fisk. And Freddie Lynn. But then I learned my lesson and came to acknowledge the Seinfeldian truth that we really just cheer for laundry. At least that's what we like to tell ourselves.

Captain Cook's Books Show Climate Change

Marc Comtois

British maritime historians are discovering that the information held in ye olde ships' log can help shed light on the "climate change" of the past.

Captain Cook and Lord Nelson seem unlikely figureheads in the fight against climate change alarmists.

The two British sea heroes have been dead for more than 200 years.

But their ships’ logs, and thousands more like them, have revealed that recent global warming is not so unusual after all....Maritime historian Dr Sam Willis says: “Ships’ officers recorded air pressure, wind strength, air and sea temperatures and other weather conditions...From these records, scientists can build a detailed picture of past weather and climate.”

The findings are startling. They show we went through a similar period of global warming in the 1730s that could NOT have been man-made.

And freak storms like the ones experienced recently also occurred in the 1680s and 1690s.

They were the coldest decades in what is known as the Little Ice Age — so could not have been caused by global warming.

Many doom mongers have pointed to freakish patterns in modern hurricanes as more “evidence” of the effects of man’s environmental damage.

Hurricanes that form in the eastern Atlantic normally track westwards.

So weathermen were shocked in 2005 when Hurricane Vince headed north east and hit Spain and Portugal.

But we now know exactly the same thing happened with a hurricane in 1842, thanks to logs left by our seafaring ancestors....

Geographer Dr Dennis Wheeler, of Sunderland University, said: “British archives contain more than 100,000 Royal Navy logbooks from around 1670 to 1850 alone. They are a stunning resource...Global warming is a reality, but our data show climate science is complex. It is wrong to take particular events and link them to carbon dioxide emissions...These records will give us a much clearer picture of what is really happening.”

ADDENDUM: Apparently NOAA has now decided that the "Medieval Warm Period" actually did exist, according to medievalist blogger Richard Noke's, who observes this is

a big change from back when they were disparaging reliance on contemporary accounts and archeology, darkly hinting that the Medieval Warm Period had some kind of political agenda behind it.
They didn't have much choice, as Noke's points out, for how else to explain how "this viking dock must have been constructed under the ice."

Facts: What Progressive Activists Say They Are, or Something More?

Carroll Andrew Morse

In Saturday's Projo, Bill Moyers attempted to take the Projo's David Mittell to task for not getting his facts correct in a recent set of columns by Mittell about Moyers (I promise, after the block quote, there will be no more references in this post to the timeline of how and when Bill Moyers became "Bill" instead of "Billy Don", an issue raised by Mittell in his original column)...

A course in Journalism 101 might have prepared [Mittell] to check his facts before making his judgments…

I do indeed have many critics among Mr. Mittell’s right-wing friends, but, as he does here, they are always getting their facts wrong. I became “Bill” not in 1954 but four years earlier, when on my 16th birthday I went to work as a cub reporter for my hometown newspaper, whose managing editor decided that “Billy Don” didn’t fit neatly into the space for a by-line....That little bit of snide sleight-of-hand by Mr. Mittell should be a warning flag to your readers to take his other assertions about me with a slight dose of skepticism.

But if you think that a writer accusing another of playing fast-and-loose with the facts is concerned with presenting accurate facts to the public in his own writing, at least in this case, you'd be wrong -- as wrong as Paul Bovenzi of Rhode Island's Future in his celebration of Moyers...
Reading Moyers gives you a glimmer into what is real journalism. It's a small difference, but something vital - Moyers only goes with facts, not assertions.
Moving to an issue of greater general interest later on in his op-ed, Bill Moyers objects to David Mittell's assertion that public broadcasting is "taxpayer supported" and he presents a "fact" to back it up…
Speaking of PBS: Mr. Mittell refers to the fact that I work for “taxpayer-supported public broadcasting.” I would like to point out that PBS is indeed supported by “viewers like you” but that only around 17 percent of the system’s total budget comes via congressional appropriations.
But Congress is not the only government body in the United States that authorizes taxes (a fact I'm sure I don't need to remind most Anchor Rising readers of). State and local governments also collect taxes and, like Congress, they also use a portion of their take to fund public broadcasting. According to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's 2005 financial report, the CPB received 19% of its funding from the Federal government AND another 24.6% from state and local taxes. To quote the character of John Winger from Stripes, "That's a fact, Jack", but in Moyers' opinion, one-quarter of the CPB budget drawn from taxpayer sources is somehow not relevant to a discussion of taxpayer support.

Tell me, exactly what journalistic purpose was served by Moyers presentation of incomplete data and his not informing the reader that Public Broadcasting, by its own accounting, receives over 40% of its funding from taxpayers? To paraphrase none other than Bill Moyers: this kind of rhetorical sleight-of-hand by should be a warning flag to readers to take Mr. Moyers' other assertions -- and his presentations of what he claims are facts -- with a heavy does of skepticism.

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P.

Donald B. Hawthorne

The editors at National Review remember Solzhenitsyn, who died yesterday:

Born in 1918, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn became the voice and conscience of the Russian people. There was no greater or more effective foe of Communism, or of totalitarianism in general. His Gulag Archipelago was a crushing blow to the Soviet Union — after its publication in the mid-1970s, the USSR had no standing, morally. The book was effective because it was true.

Because he was such a great and important man, it is sometimes overlooked how great, versatile, and prolific a writer he was. He wrote novels, novellas, short stories, poems, memoirs, essays, speeches, and more...

Truth was the essential ingredient of his controversial 1978 commencement address at Harvard: "A World Split Apart." He told the graduates, "[T]ruth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter." Solzhenitsyn went on to discuss the multiple ailments of the West.

This speech rocked the country, with many prominent liberals — e.g., Arthur Schlesinger Jr. — denouncing him for it. Sidney Hook wrote, "Rarely in modern times...has one man’s voice provoked the Western world to an experience of profound soul-searching."...

Malcolm Muggeridge called him "the noblest human being alive." After passing away yesterday, he is now one of the noblest human beings on earth or in heaven. He is one of the greatest witnesses in all history. And, like all great witnesses, he was inspired by love, the crowning quality of his work and life.

His Harvard speech can be found here.

Jay Nordlinger offers a commentary from 2003 on the 25th anniversary of the speech:

...Perhaps most important in "A World Split Apart" is this business of courage — and its decline...

Solzhenitsyn says, "The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and of course in the United Nations."...

And consider, for a moment, one of the most famous passages of the speech. Some people here may know it by heart: "The human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, exemplified by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music."...

Cognoscenti may expect a National Review hand to say this, but Solzhenitsyn, in his speech, sounds, to me, very much like Whittaker Chambers. At the core of Chambers’s life and thought was the question, "God or man?" It was that stark: Would we have a God-centered world or a man-centered one? Solzhenitsyn puts the same question. For that matter, so does Paul — who, in the words of his King James translators, asks whether we will serve "the creature" or "the Creator."...

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P.

August 3, 2008

Who's Got Our Back with Taxes

Justin Katz

An interesting response from rasputinkhlyst to my rejoinder to Crowley:

Folks in those states have higher wage and benefit base due to less attacks on workers from right wing nut jobs. Therefore their workers can afford to live there. Salaries for their state workers are higher and the benefits are better in these states. Having a livable wage means discretionary income and therefore the multiplier effect works for these state. RI with a very corporate mentality is a leader in the race to the bottom via Dumb Dumb Disaster Don and the GA enablers. These RI misfits keep thinking that RI is their personal candy store where only they deserve the sweetness. The outcome of this kind of simplistic thinking is obvious. RI was better off when workers were better off. It is a strong middle class that makes the economy work best. Less greed means more for all in the long run.

Most interesting about this is the revelation that the lefty perspective treats the public labor force as the basic determining factor of a state's health. That's a broad topic, though, branching from psychology to socialist theory, so I'll leave it to the reader to speculate.

For my purposes, it's enough to point out that, according to IRS data, Rhode Island relies more heavily on its middle class, and less on its wealthy citizens, than do Massachusetts and Connecticut:

Now, progressives are free to decry this state of affairs in Rhode Island, but they can't have it both ways. They can't cite a healthy middle class as the reason that Massachusetts and Connecticut citizens paid more in income taxes per $1,000 of aggregate income even though both states have lower tax rates on "the rich" while lamenting that Rhode Island's middle class pays a larger percentage of the state's income tax revenue.

The plain summary is that Massachusetts and Connecticut both tax wealthier citizens less, yet wind up collecting a greater amount of the population's total income, largely from the upper brackets. What a mystery!

About McCain

Marc Comtois

Some of you asked for it, so what the heck. Herewith are the "good things about McCain" list from a conservative perspective, gathered by your intrepid parrot of the right wing machine. Also with new and improved suggestions!

1) Judges -- is an explanation needed? Sure, there could be a Souter lurking there, but we know what kind of judge Obama will put up.
2) Pro-life -- Obama isn't and radically so.
3) Taxes--much better (though not perfect) than Obama. Needs to focus on helping the middle-class more dramatically. Reducing payroll (instead of income) taxes, via a child tax credit is one thought out there.
4) Supports domestic oil drilling and nuclear power--Obama only just came out for the former in a qualified way. No chance he'll support the latter.
5) Fight on Terror and "right" about the surge in Iraq. Tough but willing to work with Iran. Obama World Tours notwithstanding, McCain holds the edge and experience in the minds of the public. That won't change. Only question is if foreign matters are as important as domestic.
6) His health plan is all about portability and more options, making it more affordable. Tapping Mitt Romney--who can point to Massachusett's state health plan--could help McCain.

Finally, regardless of the above, McCain needs to tap into the domestic mood and strike the right tone. People are ticked and, like it or not, want "change." The thing is, Obama (he's new!) and McCain (he's a Maverick!) both meet that mark. The difference will be if we go with the untried-but-cool or the old-and-boring-but-solid.

Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru explain in a recent National Review that McCain should call upon his pedigree as a "fighter" to help bolster his campaign:

The fighter theme would work on multiple levels. It would tap into the public mood of disenchantment with Washington and politics. It would suit McCain, who is at his best when expressing an outraged irascibility (getting angry is not something he usually has trouble doing) and whose sense of honor is genuinely offended by many Washington practices. It would be in keeping with an aggressive anti-Obama campaign. It would communicate a certain vigor, perhaps mitigating concerns about his age. It would excite conservatives because — much of the time — McCain would be fighting against a confirmed liberal with an adoring media, while the populism and the anti-Washington cast of the message would appeal to independents as well.

The McCain campaign shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the narrowness of Obama’s lead. It may be that the best analogy is not 1976 — when the upstart challenger Jimmy Carter opened a huge lead over President Ford that steadily diminished over the fall — but 1980. That race was close until the end, when voters decided they were comfortable with Ronald Reagan, allowing him to blow out President Carter. If that’s the case, McCain helps Obama every day he fails to define and challenge him, as the public slowly gets used to the idea of the Democrat as a national leader.

The environment is so tough for Republicans that McCain won’t be able to win just on points. If it’s even a close call whether Obama is acceptable, Obama probably wins. McCain needs to fight, and time’s a-wastin’.

Grand New Party

Marc Comtois

Fred Siegel reviewed Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream, by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam in a recent issue of National Review. Here's the basic thesis, according to Siegel:

The timely thesis of Grand New Party is that the party that captures “the non-college-educated voters who make up roughly half of the electorate” will dominate politics for the foreseeable future, as has been the case ever since the New Deal...

[The authors] show quite convincingly that neither party is able to speak effectively to these voters. Democrats respond to their economic anxieties, but mistakenly dismiss their cultural concerns as merely a Republican contrivance, and offer to assuage their concerns by making them clients of an ever-expanding state. Douthat and Salam demonstrate further that “the so-called social issues,” from abortion, marriage, and religion to the death penalty and immigration, “aren’t just red herrings,” as liberals insist. Rather, they speak to the realities of working-class life, in which a failed marriage or crime or low-wage competition can put a family on the skids: “Working-class social conservatism . . . wasn’t just the residue of ancestral prejudices, it was and is a rational response to lives absent the security provided by wealth and degrees.”

Church and family as conventionally understood — and not government — are the bulwarks of the social solidarity essential for a stable and successful lower-middle-class life. But if liberal Democrats, some occasional rhetoric aside, are allergic to the social issues, business Republicans seem insensible to the perils produced by a global glut of low-wage labor that includes illegal immigration here at home. If Republicans refuse to recognize “that the white working class wants, and needs, more from public policy than simply to be left alone,” they will, the authors insist, be cast into the political wilderness.

Siegel agrees with their forecast that the U.S. may be turning into a "stratified society" where the upper middle class--thanks to "[t]he combination of intermarriage among professionals and a higher divorce rate among the less educated"--is at the top of "a Europe-like class structure, in which the upper middle class (particularly in the tech and financial-services industries) lives segregated from ordinary Americans." Siegel believes "illegal immigration, and the flow of servants it provides...has, in a sense, reconciled upper-middle-class feminism with the family." Two-professionals can work while the kids are minded while the illegal servants put the meals on the same table paid under which they are paid.

Creating strong families seems to be the ultimate cure for these ills. While Siegel is sympathetic to the goal, the means is less convincing.

The book offers a long list of reasonable proposals, ranging from expanded health-care-insurance pools to enhanced child tax credits and modernized highway signals (to reduce commuting time), that are designed to help create stronger, more secure families. The litany of solutions, which includes many of the proposals floating around the think-tank world, are not nearly as compelling as the book’s underlying argument. Nowhere do the authors take up the sheer incapacity of government to design effectively, and administer, sophisticated programs.

Lower Taxes and Higher per $1,000 Revenue... Go Figure

Justin Katz

Although I'm loath to feed his attention addiction, via his recital of standard lefty rhetoric, Pat Crowley raises a point worth addressing:

... with the report basing its analysis on taxes as a percentage of personal income per $1000, it totally glosses over the point, which the quoted section above confirms, that our tax burden is regressive to the point of absurdity. See, by lumping in everyone, and then calculating the burden, the report assumes that we all pay the same rate on our taxes and that we all pay taxes on the same things. No, by relying more heavily on things like property tax, the distribution of the taxes is weighted more heavily on the bottom.

The report is from the RI Department of Revenue, and the following is that paragraph that he'd just cited:

Regarding state and local individual income tax burdens, Rhode Island ranked 24th nationally in FY 2006 with Rhode Islanders paying $26.10 per $1,000 of personal income. Both Connecticut and Massachusetts ranked higher than Rhode Island with each state ranking in the top 15 nationally in state and local individual income tax burden. For Connecticut, which ranked 11th nationally in FY 2006, taxpayers paid $33.42 per $1,000 of state personal income while for Massachusetts, which ranked 7th nationally, taxpayers paid $36.17 per $1,000 of state personal income.

It takes but a smidgen of intellectual curiosity to discern why Crowley's closer to an accurate statement when he complains of the report's "lumping in everyone, and then calculating the burden," and why the point for which that consideration argues is actually the opposite of what he intends. As Anchor Rising readers are aware, the progressives' argument is that the state has been giving away all of its revenue in the form of tax cuts for the rich, thus starving state labor and public services of funds. The bleedingly simple solution, of course, is to jack those taxes back up for the cruelly wealthy.

But here's the thing: With regard to income tax, Connecticut and Massachusetts may have collected more per $1,000 of their populations' aggregate income, but both states have lower taxes "on the rich." Any guesses as to how that apparent contradiction occurs, Mr. Crowley?

The answer, obviously, is that Massachusetts and Connecticut have greater percentages of their populations inhabiting higher tax brackets. In 2005 (the latest year for which I've gotten around to aggregating the relevant information for all three states), Rhode Island's average adjusted gross income was $50,790, compared with Massachusetts's $62,855 and Connecticut's $73,073. That year, 10.23% of Rhode Islanders' federal tax returns were on income greater than $100,000, while the percentages were 13.84% for Massachusetts and 15.54% for Connecticut.

The same considerations come into play with other forms of taxes — whereby our gauges might be deceptive. If Rhode Island were to cut its sales tax, for example, it might actually see its "sales tax burden" go up, yet the result would be more commerce, and more income, for Rhode Islanders.

A Memory Revisited

Justin Katz

Way back in the early '80s, HBO used to show video shorts between movies, and one of them (which I only recall seeing once) really made an impression on me. So much so that I've found it coming to mind from time to time ever since.

Well, wouldn't you know, YouTube has "Arcade Attack" in both the long and cut to the good part versions. It's clearly outdated, but it still holds up pretty well.

Now if somebody would post episodes of Under the Mountain, perhaps I could start making sense of my childhood...

August 2, 2008

A Talking Point in Need of Revision

Justin Katz

Lefty Rhode Island wonk Tom Sgouros apparently hasn't had a chance to review the latest data available from the IRS, because he's still insisting — as if it's obvious — that recent upper-income tax cuts are the cause of our current financial woes:

Today, though, our fiscal crisis is the result of events very much under our control, the result of a tax cut overdose administered long before the economy tanked. The Governor and Assembly leaders knew this crisis was coming -- and have known for years -- because they caused it. The Assembly leadership is more responsible than the Governor for most of the tax cuts, but it's not as if he's objected to them.

The union leadership is in a hard spot here. For years, they have played the inside game at the state house, cultivating and protecting personal relationships with Assembly leaders and members. But over the last many years, those relationships have won them very few victories. Last year they won a provision to make it harder for the Governor to privatize state services, but they've also lost big time in the pension "reform," the casino, health care options and more. Given the circumstances of 1991, it's easy to see why a compromise happened. Given the circumstances of today, it is going to be hard for union leaders to explain to their members why they should compromise with this Governor. This year, we're in year three of a five-year cut to the taxes of the wealthiest individuals in our state. Are they telling their members to take less pay in order to preserve those tax cuts?

To the contrary, as I pointed out last week, state taxes paid by those in the upper brackets are up dramatically from the time before the tax cuts were passed:

While preparing to cite that data again, I noticed an error in the following from my prior post, but it's one that actually enhances the point:

In summary, from tax year 2005 to tax year 2006, Rhode Island imported 6,976 "households" with income under $50,000, lost 32 with $50,000-74,999, and gained 1,757 with $75,000-99,999, 4,794 with $100,000-199,999, and 1,011 with $200,000+. Among those totals are 24,817 returns filed with the federal government from new hometowns outside of Rhode Island. It could be that the increase in the upper bounds came from middle-classers who'd sold their houses and moved out of state, but the fact that the average income of incomers was higher suggests that something different occurred.

The error is in my assessment that the state-level IRS data allocates returns according to their residences during the tax-year in question, when actually they are sorted by the address that the taxpayer lists on the form when paying his or her taxes the following year. What confused me was that the IRS migration data — which literally tracks individual taxpayers by their Social Security numbers — showed a net loss of taxpayers from tax year 2005 to tax year 2006 of 3,733. If emigrants aren't included in the above chart, how does one account for the fact that Rhode Islanders filed 14,506 more tax returns in 2006?

After some time away from the computer, it occurred to me that the 2006 tax year — filed in 2007 — brought a substantial giveaway from the federal government to taxpayers with children. No doubt, many residents whose income negates the need to file tax returns annually did so for the purpose of claiming that prize. That would explain why the amount of state taxes claimed on federal returns of lower-income filers flat-lined even as the number of such returns jumped up. It's also in keeping with the turnabout by which those moving to Rhode Island had a higher average income than those leaving.

If we may presume that those in the "the rich" brackets file income tax returns as a matter of course every year, then increases of them in 2006 would have to indicate advancement of households from the lower brackets or immigration from other regions. Since the numbers of taxpayers in lower categories also increased or stayed pretty stable it seems likely that some significant number of them left (to account for the net loss of taxpayers). To get to the point: the number of high-income taxpayers increased even more than the charts indicate on their face.

To decry the revenue "lost" to the tax cuts, I believe that Sgouros takes the taxes received and recalculates it as if the rate had been higher. Clearly, when migration is a factor, it is inappropriate to assume that the increasing numbers — and the increasing revenue — that we've been seeing would have materialized if Rhode Island's tax structure had been more punitive.

Senator Whitehouse in Action on the Judiciary Committee: Tackling the Important Issues

Monique Chartier

[Starts at minute 4:50]

August 1, 2008

A Memorandum of Chain Jerking

Justin Katz

So the contract proposal that some public sector unions recently voted to reject was apparently not a real offer. According to the NEA's Bob Walsh, it wasn't the result of "negotiations," but of a "process by which a memorandum of settlement was reached." (Note the passive voice.) Presumably, Bob would have been just fine with the governor's having responded to broad approval of the contract by withdrawing its terms and declaring that it had just been, you know, a sort of poll of members' disposition.

So the negotiation process now has another layer. Union leaders "discuss" a settlement with the governor and vote to send it to their members as if it were an official contract to be ratified. Depending how that goes, they then enter into official "negotiations" with the governor to push for more. How many times contracts can be "discussed" without being "negotiated" is an open question.

From this perspective, the following bit of Walsh's explanation of why "union officials agreed to discussion, as opposed to negotiations," is of especial interest, strategically:

With contracts already in place through June 30, 2008, formal negotiations could have left the door open to a process where the state tried to reopen other issues in the existing agreement. This was not an idle concern, as informal discussions the prior year led a member of the administration to try (ultimately unsuccessfully) exactly that tactic regarding health care plan design.

In other words, "discussions" apparently allow the unions the flexibility to come up with contracts that the members can accept, while not opening up the previous contract for changes. This might be useful if, say, labor leaders wish to stall through the fiscal year without having to face the possibility of changes that might create immediate assistance to the fiscally ailing state. Sorry, Bob: the unions have had it every which way for far too long.

Me, I say that the unions blinked, and the governor should consider the thousands of Rhode Islanders who would be beyond relieved to see a flood of ads in the pitifully thin Sunday jobs section of the paper.

Quantifying the Benefits of Business Tax Breaks

Marc Comtois

We're about to find out if business tax breaks deliver on the promises:

The state each year doles out tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks to businesses to encourage them to expand and create jobs.

Who receives the breaks? How much do they receive? And do the businesses follow through when it comes to promised job creation and economic development?

Taxpayers will soon get to see for themselves.

Legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Carcieri last month will, for the first time, require businesses to fess up — publicly.


The information will be posted on the state Division of Taxation’s Web site, and incorporated into the state’s annual budget-making process, said Gary S. Sasse, director of the state Department of Revenue.

State officials will use the information to determine, for example, how many jobs — if any — each such business created in connection with the incentive.

Thus, taxpayers will get to see, by name, which businesses receive which incentives, how much they receive, and the degree to which each business has met its goal for job retention and job creation and economic development, Sasse said.

Simply put, this is smart business.

RI Courts and Attorney General: Taking "A Second Chance" to a New Level

Monique Chartier

The passage of twenty four hours has conferred no perspective on or fathomability into this:

The state courts plan to keep doing business with two cleaning companies that the Carcieri administration fired last week after 31 of their custodians were arrested as suspected illegal immigrants.

And Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch is also sticking with the one custodian he has left, even though the worker's boss and the president of the company has admitted to ignoring a federal law to keep certain documents on his employees.

In other words, two of the institutions charged with administering our laws and prosecuting crime propose to reward two companies which not only broke the law but broke the law within the physical boundaries of those institutions.

McCain Ad: "The One"

Marc Comtois

Now c'mon, that's gotta make you chuckle a little bit...

Pelosi Blocks Domestic Drilling Debate

Marc Comtois

Nancy Pelosi is blocking a vote, heck, a discussion, on lifting a ban on offshore drilling for oil. The talking points justifying her actions are out there. So are the polls indicating that a majority of the American people think we should do more domestic drilling, even while they recognize the benefits won't be immediate. Charles Krauthammer explains how Pelosi is exhibiting some cognitive dissonance on this matter:

Does Pelosi imagine that with so much of America declared off-limits, the planet is less injured as drilling shifts to Kazakhstan and Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea? That Russia will be more environmentally scrupulous than we in drilling in its Arctic?

The net environmental effect of Pelosi's no-drilling willfulness is negative. Outsourcing U.S. oil production does nothing to lessen worldwide environmental despoliation. It simply exports it to more corrupt, less efficient, more unstable parts of the world -- thereby increasing net planetary damage....They seem blissfully unaware that the argument for their drill-there-not-here policy collapses on its own environmental terms.

Of course, Pelosi et al don't think that the U.S., under Bushitlermonkeyboy would be "more environmentally scrupulous" than Russia or other countries, do they?

Dave Cote for State Representative: Ending Rhode Island's Giant Game of Monopoly

Carroll Andrew Morse

Dave Cote, Republican candidate for State Representative in District 36 (Charlestown/New Shoreham/South Kingstown/Westerly), believes that improving the quality of life of all Rhode Islanders depends upon voters taking a stand against Rhode Island government's predisposition towards monopolies…

I've seen all the monopolies we have in the state of Rhode Island. There's a workers compensation monopoly. There are public health care monopolies. In South Kingstown, they tried to create a trash hauler monopoly – and we fought it. They were going to put up to 10 local businesses out-of-business, because the town wanted its own monopoly. It cost us $10,000 to fight it, but we fought it because it was the right thing to do.

When South Kingstown changed from fully insured to self-insured -- where we saved a million dollars -- we showed that it could be done. We need to make sure that where this change proves positive, like in organizations with over 300 employees, that we do it automatically in the other towns.

We have competitive bidding. 98% of the towns have Blue Cross Blue Shield. Why is that? We can't have these monopolies. We need to bring in Tufts, and look at United Healthcare. We have to break the monopolies to help private enterprise in Rhode Island. Since when do we assume that government-created monopolies are better are doing things than private enterprise?

Everyone knows the quality of education in Rhode Island is dying. Too few of our students are proficient in math – we have to change that. We have environmental issues. The fishing industry in this area, in Galilee, is getting killed by over-regulation – there's a lot we can do to help the fishing industry.

Everything happens locally. We have pushed for changes locally in South Kingstown that can impact the state of Rhode Island. I'm running for State Representative in District 36 because South Kingstown is a microcosm of what we can do throughout the entire state and improve things for all of Rhode Island.

Meet Dave Cote, Candidate for State Representative in District 36

Carroll Andrew Morse

Dave Cote, chairman of the South Kingstown's GOP Town Committee, is running as a Republican for State Representative in District 36 (Charlestown/New Shoreham/South Kingstown/Westerly). Mr. Cote will be involved in a 3-way race this fall, between incumbent Democrat Donna Walsh and independent Matt McHugh, who held the seat as a Democrat, before being defeated by Walsh in 2006.

When recently asked by Anchor Rising about his reasons for running for office. Mr. Cote had lots of specific examples has was eager to discuss…

Rhode Island's tax base is putting people out of work and crushing the taxpayer. What we did recently in the town of South Kingstown, for instance, was to push for a referendum to change the health care contract, to change from fully-insured to self-insured. It's literally a name change. The town council and town manager refused to do it, but they recently agreed to one of our recommendations on health care changes. The town made the change and it's going to save the taxpayer up to one million dollars – they confirmed it.

So here's something that was obvious to save the taxpayer money, no changes to the employee, no changes to Blue Cross – and it was going to save one million dollars.

There are all these savings and restructurings we can do to help the taxpayer. Of course, then the town will probably say, "we need that for the rainy-day fund". Well, we've confirmed that the town of South Kingstown has over 25 million dollars in their rainy-day fund.

Guess what folks, it's raining here on us today.

Oil prices are going up. Gas prices are going up. Electricity is going up. We're in trouble. Property taxes are killing us. I'm running for the taxpayer. I'm running to improve the employment situation. I'm running for our children and our grandchildren, so they can be employed in the state of Rhode Island. Of course, everyone says they want people to be employed, but now we have to do something about it, and what that means is restructuring. In my company, we had to restructure, and we couldn't have the same health care plan as before. In order to keep me, Dave Cote, working, they restructured health care. As a result, lots of employees got to keep their jobs.

It is the same within the government. We need to restructure the pensions and change to 401(k)s, just like the private employers had to do, to keep us employed. The government needs to restructure pensions and health care to maintain an economy that encourages employment.

Coming in Part 2: No more playing Monopoly...

Crime in the Northeast

Carroll Andrew Morse

Is anyone else surprised by State Police Superintendent Brendan Doherty's assessment of the regional crime situation, as reported in today's Projo by Richard Dujardin

Doherty said he believes [the joint local/state/federal task force operating in Providence] has become necessary now more than ever because “crime in the Northeast is out of control.”
This is the first mention I've heard of a region-wide crime wave; are there other indicators out there pointing in the same direction?

What Would You Private-Sector Workers Do?

Justin Katz

Jessica Knapp's astonishing comment deserves a bit more attention:

As pointed out in the Providence Journal on Saturday, the talks between the governor's people and union reps were not official negotiations. To claim that they were is a blatant lie. Instead of taking the proper, legal channels, King Don has issued another "executive order." Utterly useless.

I'll never understand people who put all their faith in one profit-rabid CEO like Don and not in the hardworking folks of RI. 4,000 people just like you voted against this contract, in the best interest of their families and their state.What would you do if your employer demanded that you pay more of your health care premium? What will you do when men like Don win, and union members lose, and your employer demands the same of you? How much more do these people have to give up, and how much time do you have before the same is asked of you?

What's astonishing is that Ms. Knapp is apparently unaware that public-sector unions are hardly the leading edge in having to compromise with their employment packages, but she is apparently unaware that her opposition on the issue points it out repeatedly. On top of that, the ignorance of the disparity between public-sector union employment and private-sector employment is galling. What would I do were an employer to limit the amount of my raise and require increased contributions to healthcare coverage? Many in the private sector would rephrase the question as "what have I done when."

Moreover, the casting script of the unionists exemplifies their detrimental reliance on a divisive storyline. The few times that I've heard similar tales, whether with small construction contractors or large IT-related corporations, management was sincerely seeking to balance the health of the organization with the well-being of employees.