September 30, 2008

Creepy, indeed

Donald B. Hawthorne

A Kinder, Gentler, Happier Cultural Revolution.

At least as long as you don't speak out against The One.


From Instapundit:

Reader Raymone Eckhard writes that this is creepy. Yes. Roger Simon finds it disturbing, too. "It is the kind of exploitation of children that reminds me of Young Pioneer Camps I saw when visiting the Soviet Union in the Eighties...And they complain about the religious right - can you imagine the reaction to a similar group of kids singing about McCain under the tutelage of an evangelical minister?"

UPDATE: "Daddy says if we sing well enough, we might get an extra flour ration!"

Comments from this link:

Obama's not that bad. It's not like he has his own flag (oops, he does in that first video). Well, it's not like he has his own presidential seal (Oh wait, he did, but he stopped using it). It's not like he has his own gold coins with his image on them (Oh, wait, yes does).

Uh oh...

And its not like he wrote his own book detailing his radical past or plans...(Oh, wait, he did.)...

But at least he didn't give a rousing speech to a huge crowd in Berlin.


Well, at least he never proclaimed that his ascension would heal the planet and make the rising waters recede.

Oh, man...

Looks like the video is no longer available on certain links. Hmmm. Think somebody is unhappy with the attention it is getting?

165 Economists Agreed in Advance with the 228 Nay Votes Yesterday

Monique Chartier

From WorldNetDaily September 25:

At least 165 economists have signed a letter to Congress members warning of three pitfalls in the Bush administration's $700 billion proposal to deal with the Wall Street crisis.

Their objections are not partisan but seem to apply to any large-scale government bail-out/buy-in. [Emphasis added.]

The economists contend the plan is unfair, because it's a "subsidy to investors at taxpayers' expense."

"Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses," the economists say in their letter. "Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise."

The plan is ambiguous, they contend, as neither "the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear."

"If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards," the letter states.

If the plan is enacted, the economists argue further, "its effects will be with us for a generation."

Dear Steve...

Justin Katz

Give the man his due, Bob Kerr had a good column on Sunday, written in the form of a sympathy letter to soon-to-be-ex-Senator Steve Alves:

I recall the letter now, Steve, because it seems you too are dealing with that same kind of heartbreaking end, that same abrupt dismissal from what seemed a rock solid lifetime of warm embraces and soothing intimacies.

I'm speaking, of course, of your time in the Rhode Island Senate. If there is anything stronger than the emotional lock of true love it is the emotional lock of the General Assembly. It wouldn't surprise me if someone slipped "till death do us part" into the oath of office up there on Smith Hill. It's that certain, that solid. Once elected, you move in. And you don't move out until you decide to move out. ...

But holy hot bread, Steve! This guy, this baker, comes along and gets serious. Didn't anyone talk to him? Didn’t anyone tell him that there’s a procedure to be followed here and it has nothing to do with the voting booth?

Dan Reilly versus Amy Rice versus Free Speech

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to an official campaign statement from Republican State Representative candidate Dan Reilly (District 72, Portsmouth/Middletown/Newport) his incumbent opponent, State Representative Amy Rice, called police in response to three Reilly supporters who were holding signs on public property, across the street from a Rice campaign event…

The three campaign supporters were holding signs on the public street across from the event, clearly within their constitutional rights. After a Portsmouth Police officer arrived, he informed Rep. Rice that they were doing nothing wrong and he could not do anything to have them removed.
If this is true, it's pretty hard to disagree with this response from Mr. Reilly…
[Rep. Rice] does not even understand the first amendment of our Constitution.

Good to Be Leader (Bad to Be Beholden)

Justin Katz

Well, now:

Pelosi and her aides have made it clear they were not going to "whip" or twist the arms of members who did not want to vote, but they also made no effort to rally any support for a bill they attempted to hijack over the weekend.

Further, according to House Oversight Committee staff, Emanuel has received assurances from Pelosi that she will not allow what he termed a "witch hunt" to take place during the next Congressional session over the role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in the economic crisis.

Emanuel apparently is concerned the roles former Clinton Administration members may have played in the mortgage industry collapse could be politically -- or worse, if the Department of Justice had its way, legally -- treacherous for many.

A President Obama would likely be helpful in that regard, as well.

Jon Scott on the Bailout & on Alternatives

Carroll Andrew Morse

For the first time I can remember, the government is actually moving as fast as the blogosphere can keep up. I had scheduled up a follow-up interview with Republican First District Congressional candidate Jon Scott for Monday, to give him a chance to go on the record about the big bailout deal as it details were becoming clearer. They say that timing in life is everything. I sat down with Mr. Scott at about 1:00, so what follows in the Q&A section below are opinions expressed by Jon Scott BEFORE the bailout was voted down in the House…

Anchor Rising: Federalist 52 says that the House of Representatives, the office that you are running for, is supposed to be the branch of government having the most intimate sympathy with the needs of the people. Do you think that the House right now is doing a good job of fulfilling that function, with its work on the current bailout bill?

Jon Scott: There's a compromise being debated, but it's a compromise that's been brokered by the leadership solely. It doesn't have the opinions of all the Congressmen and Congresswomen -- that input hasn't been there, so I'm not so sure that it does represent the will of the people.

I will give credit where credit is due, and say that Congressman Kennedy is so far sitting this one out.

I said it the other night to the crowd over at the debate watch: this problem wasn't created over 72 hours. It was created over decades and to try and come up with a 72-hour fix is a mistake. I think you get those kinds of fixes that put the spotlight on the businesses and the executives and the class warfare when you don't have broad enough representation in Congress. Some of the people negotiating this bailout are so heavily invested in the market and in the oil companies and in the mortgage companies that it taints their view of how a bailout or a buy-in should go.

Anchor Rising: From what you've learned so far, what parts of the plan do you like or not like?

Jon Scott: I'm not so sure I like any of the plan. I think the wrangling has improved the plan and made it less of a socialist plan. I'm not so sure that any plan that breaks new ground in creating new relationships between government and business should ever be seen as a good plan.

At this point, Mr. Scott went into the details of an alternative plan that he favors. Since the interview, he's placed an outline of the plan into written form, which I will reprint below…

Make no mistake about it: Congress must fix the problems that they have created. They must act and they must shore up our economy but they need to do so without expanding their own power and scope.

I call on Congress to stay in session and pass a plan that mimics one devised by economist James Galbraith and laid out in the Washington Post. The Galbraith plan would have the government shore up the markets by using an existing vehicle: the FDIC. Five hundred billion dollars would get put into the FDIC’s coffers with a portion of that money allocated to the hiring of an expanded work force of forensic accounting experts and investigators who could probe the causes of the failures.

At the same time, the $100,000 FDIC limit would be lifted and another $200 billion put into reserves with the expressed purpose of re-capitalizing failing banks through the purchase of preferred shares – in the same way that investor Warren Buffet sparked the market last week with Goldman Sachs.

This approach does not saddle the American people with the purchase of bad debt. It does not create any wider partnership between government and business than that which already exists. It does not attempt to put a random value on illiquid assets which are not easily valued. It simply shores up the economy and helps spark the markets again.

It is not a fix that will turn the situation around overnight but there is no such fix that preserves the Republic as it was intended to be. There is no solution that will right, in 72 hours, that which has been created over decades.

If "No" Is Racist, then Race Must Be an Ideology

Justin Katz

Jerry Landay provides an inkling as to why the Left is so viciously anxious to destroy any successful minorities who do not carry its water: They scuttle a semantic game that otherwise allows disagreement to be portrayed as bigotry. Consider:

Race determined the primary outcome in three industrial swing states. Hillary Clinton, a white, won by large margins in the Democratic primaries of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Barack Obama, half-black, but self-identified as an African-American, lost. Some 15 to 20 percent of voters confessed to post-election pollsters that race was a “factor” in their decision. Obama must win these states. ...

A York law-enforcement officer declared that America was ready for a black president. But . . . "I just don't think Obama's the right one." He declared that Palin "has more experience than he does. No one has ever told me what a community organizer is." In fact, in speeches and two books, Obama has repeatedly described his efforts to help the people who live in southside Chicago. "Community organizer" in this context has been made a code word for "black."

I'm sure that in certain company this is treated as high wisdom, but for my part, this "code word" legerdemain is so much gibberish. The officer in the anecdote raises "community organizer" in Obama's biography as a comparison to "mayor" in Palin's. The utility of liberal word games, though, is that any phrase may be made suspect for the purposes of promoting representatives of the ideology.

If Obama loses, many among his supporters will not ask themselves those tough introspective questions that failure ought to inspire. They'll simply blame racism — so simple, so comforting. And if Obama wins, the rest of us will have the opportunity to observe how quickly it becomes a matter of racial bigotry to oppose a far Left agenda.

September 29, 2008

Financial Bailout DEFEATED in House

Marc Comtois

It just went down (ROLL CALL here. Both RI Reps voted YEA).

The House has defeated the $700 billion bail-out legislation for the financial industry.

More than enough members of the House had cast votes to defeat the Bush administration-pushed bill, but the vote was held open for a while, apparently as efforts were under way to persuade people to change their vote.

On Wall Street, stocks plummeted as investors followed the developments in Congress.


When the critical vote was tallied, too few members of the House were willing to support the unpopular measure with elections just five weeks away. Ample no votes came from both the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle.

Bush and a host of leading congressional figures had implored the lawmakers to pass the legislation despite howls of protest from their constituents back home.

The overriding question for congressional leaders was what to do next. Congress has been trying to adjourn so that its members can go out and campaign. And with only five weeks left until Election Day, there was no clear indication of whether the leadership would keep them in Washington. Leaders were huddling after the vote to figure out their next steps.

Monday's mind-numbing vote had been preceded by unusually aggressive White House lobbying, and spokesman Tony Fratto said that Bush had used a "call list" of people he wanted to persuade to vote yes as late as just a short time before the vote.

Lawmakers shouted news of the plummeting Dow Jones average as lawmakers crowded on the House floor during the drawn-out and tense call of the roll, which dragged on for roughly 40 minutes as leaders on both sides scrambled to corral enough of their rank-and-file members to support the deeply unpopular measure.

They found only two.

Bush and his economic advisers, as well as congressional leaders in both parties had argued the plan was vital to insulating ordinary Americans from the effects of Wall Street's bad bets. The version that was up for vote Monday was the product of marathon closed-door negotiations on Capitol Hill over the weekend.

"We're all worried about losing our jobs," Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., declared in an impassioned speech in support of the bill before the vote. "Most of us say, 'I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it - not me.' "

UPDATE: After days of bi-partisan work, it appears Speaker Pelosi ticked some GOPers off with an 11th hour, highly-partisan speech on the floor of the House:

Opponents said part of the reason for the opposition from Republicans was what they termed a partisan speech by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said one GOP source.

"Pelosi's partisan speech has caused our members to go berserk and may cost us any remaining chance to pass the bill," the source said.

Pelosi had said that Congress needed to pass the bill, even though it was an outgrowth of the "failed economic policies" of the last eight years.

"When was the last time someone asked you for $700 billion?" she asked. "It is a number that is staggering, but tells us only the costs of the Bush administration's failed economic policies — policies built on budgetary recklessness, on an anything goes mentality, with no regulation, no supervision, and no discipline in the system." {emphasis added}

Yeah, that's bipartisanship. And she left around 90 Democratic votes on the floor. Nice example of leadership, Madame Speaker.

Please Define "Predictable"

Monique Chartier

In "The Unspoken Roadblock", Justin points out that, while ignoring the six letter complication in our education system, among other education reform measures, RIPEC has called for the state to

implement a predictable formula for state financing of local schools

RIPEC is not the first to use this phrase. The question that pops into my head whenever I hear it is: What does "predictable" mean?

First, as to quantity. If education aid to cities and towns were cut by 20% (which is about right considering the state's finances) and the General Assembly said, okay, this is what we are committing to distribute every year going forward, that would be predictable, wouldn't it? There's always been a lurking suspicion, though, that some of the people who call for "predictable" funding don't just mean "reliable" but also "more" funding from the state.

If this is the case, we then have to ask, would additional funds be productive? Our school/student performance is in the bottom fifth nationally while teacher compensation is in the top fifth. Hasn't Rhode Island inadvertantly become the experiment that proves that lots of money does not improve an education system?

Additionally, quite an inequitable distribution ratio got established early on, a ratio that has never been revisited. Some cities and towns receive far more state funding than others and on a basis that does not appear altogether logical. Is fairness part of the definition of "predictable"? Will equitability be addressed as part of establishing a "predictable" funding formula?

Mark Zaccaria on the Big Bailout

Carroll Andrew Morse

On Saturday, I had the chance to interview Second District Congressional candidate Mark Zaccaria on the big bailout plan that was taking shape. Details were still emerging and not yet final, so I still wanted to keep the questions general.

I opened with a reference to Federalist 52. Mr. Zaccaria responded with the best explanation that I've heard so far of how the financial crisis has spread from the housing market to the wider economy…

I think that one of the reasons that you are seeing such a quick and deep response on the part of the Executive Branch is that the people like secretary Paulson stopped breathing a week ago Wednesday, when basically credit came to a halt in this country. We think of this in terms of the sub-prime mortgages and people buying houses they couldn't afford, and so forth and so on, but there is also this huge credit market in the United States.

When McDonald's needs hamburger, they use short-term paper and overnight loans. They call Merrill Lynch and say I need a billion dollars until noontime…

When UPS buys diesel fuel, they do it that way. Their cash flows on a cyclical basis, and their expenses are on a cyclical basis, and if the waves are out-of-synch, they use very short term borrowing.

That all stopped a week ago Wednesday. They just couldn't get it. That would have brought the entire economy to its knees very, very rapidly, and that's what made Secretary Paulson leap out of his chair and do something.

…and what was the principled objection to the original version of the plan…
The real problem that they really don't talk about in the media quite a lot, was that [the bailout plan] was an opportunity for members of the majority party in both the House and Senate to say let's hang a couple of ornaments on this Christmas tree. So, there were provisions inserted into the plan to use a certain amount of the money to fund future proposed low-cost housing authorities, and to do a variety of other things that were not directly related to resolving the crisis. Now, Paulson agreed to these things -- I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he grudgingly agreed – because of how important it was to restore confidence in the marketplace, by starting to buy up some of those bad loans, so that banks didn't just sit on their cash and started it moving around the track again.

Rep. Hensarling and the House Republicans didn't want to take 15 or 20% of 700 billion dollars and divert it to pork. For that, my hat is off to them.

This kind of exchange is why it's great to be a part of the blogosphere in a democracy. The entire interview is below the fold.

(p.s. McCainiacs will want to click here).

Anchor Rising: Federalist 52 says that the House of Representatives is supposed to be the branch of government with the most intimate sympathy with the interests of the regular American people. Based on what you know of the big bailout plan, do you think that the House is performing that function well, and that the House Republican Caucus is performing that function well?

Mark Zaccaria: I would say that, as a body in general, the House appears to have been caught pretty flat-footed by this, the way just about every other branch of government was.

I think that one of the reasons that you are seeing such a quick and deep response on the part of the Executive Branch is that the people like secretary Paulson stopped breathing a week ago Wednesday, when basically credit came to a halt in this country. We think of this in terms of the sub-prime mortgages and people buying houses they couldn't afford, and so forth and so on, but there is also this huge credit market in the United States.

When McDonald's needs hamburger, they use short-term paper and overnight loans. They call Merrill Lynch and say I need a billion dollars until noontime, how much is that going to cost? They have cash flow issues that are multiplied.

When UPS buys diesel fuel, they do it that way. Their cash flows on a cyclical basis, and their expenses are on a cyclical basis, and if those waves are out-of-synch, they use very short term borrowing. That all stopped a week ago Wednesday. They just couldn't get it. That would have brought the entire economy to its knees very, very rapidly, and that's what made Secretary Paulson leap out of his chair and do something. I'd venture to say that nobody in the House of Representatives knew about this until well after the fact, when the financial insiders sat them down and made them listen to a briefing on this.

In retrospect, there were plenty of signals that this was going to happen, but we humans like to ignore things like that, because we think it's going to happen some other time.

A week ago Wednesday was that some other time.

We've been hearing about the San Andreas Fault through Los Angeles for 40 years that I can remember, and the big one being right around the corner. Guess what, if you want to go start a real estate development in the San Fernando valley tomorrow, you'd find plenty of support. Someday there will be a big one along the fault line, and everyone will say Oh my God, what's the government going to do about this. It's sort of a natural human trait to bet that things are going to be as they are now.

In retrospect, I think that a body like the House of Representatives should exert a little bit of leadership in a case like this – that's why people hire representatives, to take care of things like this in advance. I think that there were so many different facets that went into making a short term crisis. It was like having the ocean open up and be about to engulf the entire country, then burp once, close, and say not now.

I was that kind of a shock to the people who really know inside finance. It's a situation where any of a number of things need to be done to correct it. I don't believe that clamping down harsh regulations on 50 different facets of our society is the right way to go. I have sympathy with representative Hensarling from Texas and his colleagues in the Republican House Caucus who basically said wait a minute, wait a minute, government's going to own all this stuff? You are supposed to have private ownership. This is America.

The kind of thing that regulation is not going to help quite so much is leadership. Rep. Hensarling is one of my favorite guys down there, and I hope I get to meet him and work with him starting in the next session. But the fact is that we need to exert leadership. This is a perfect example of how we don't necessarily have a cohesive society that agrees on a number of subjects broadly or deeply, finance being one that's key to all of us.

In the past, we used to have bankers who were little bit like physicians. If you came in and said can I please have a loan for 10 times more than I'm worth, they had a fiduciary responsibility to their bank to say, "I'm sorry, you can't afford that". That's exactly what I was told, when I tried buying my first house. My first house was a typical starter house, and a few years later when I could, I was able to move on and I did.

With the sub-prime mortgages, people were trying to jump into these big houses. They were basically being encouraged to do so, by a number of forces. One factor was that the bankers of the type I just described were gone and they were replaced with loan-originators who were commissioned salespeople. Those salespeople get some number of points on whatever happens. What they want is to have a closing. They don't really care if you're going to pay it back. They don't care if they sell you something where a balloom payment doubles your monthly mortgage payment 12 or 14 months in. They just want to get you started and will blow through all the legalities of a closing. Everyone tells you that it's in your best interests to read all that stuff before you sign it, but if you recall how much paper there is at a closing, it's a practical matter that you're not going to do that. You're just going to rely on legal counsel, and how many people do you know who don't bother to hire a lawyer, and just rely on the one who's there anyway – the one that the bank is paying for.

People say the don't want to spend the extra $200 or $300. They say they don't know a lawyer or they don't have one. They don't know how to go about finding one or evaluating one. Well shame on you for all of that stuff. But you need that protection, and it's a $200 life insurance policy. If more people had taken it, we would be having fewer problems now. There were other problems, but that was one.

Anyway, what's happened is that, because of the global nature of the economy, and because the loan orginators have begun essentially using derivates as an insurance policy to lay off their own exposure, because those derivatives are backed by U.S. real estate -- that gotta be good, right! -- they have gone and sold those derivatives world wide, and the whole sub-prime mortgage question was raised by some little bank in Germany that was the first domino that went over in that whole line.

When the U.S. credit market came to a standstill, it sent tremors everywhere. It sent financial people not just running for the doors but diving for the exits. That's the thing that Paulson probably got faster than anybody in the administration. That's why he's been so aggressive in trying to get all of this done.

AR: [As of Saturday], from what I understand, the President, the Senate, and the House Democrats wanted to do one thing, and the House Republicans were saying not-so-fast…

MZ: As I understand it, when Paulson came down and said, quick, we need to inject a bucket of money into this economy, the government essentially has to buy these securities, it has to take these things into ownership, that's exactly the model we used in the 80s and the early 90s with the savings and loan crisis. The Resolution Trust Corporation was created to do that and has done it. They've even done it profitably – we made money on that deal. A similar situation potentially exists here. The government obviously could wait a little while, but if we give it four or five years as a cycle, the government can almost certainly make money back from owning all those things.

The real problem, that they really don't talk about in the media quite a lot, was that this was an opportunity for members of the majority party in both the House and Senate to say let's hang a couple of ornaments on this Christmas tree. So, there were provisions inserted into the plan to use a certain amount of the money to fund future proposed low-cost housing authorities, and to do a variety of other things that were not directly related to resolving the crisis. Now, Paulson agreed to these things -- I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he grudgingly agreed – because of how important it was to restore confidence in the marketplace, by starting to buy up some of those bad loans, so that banks didn't just sit on their cash and started it moving around the track again.

Rep. Hensarling and the House Republicans didn't want to take 15 or 20% of 700 billion dollars and divert it to pork. For that, my hat is off to them.

There's another interesting piece. Even the casual observer may recall that late last week, the Democrats were specifically naming John McCain as somebody who had to be on board. They said there is no deal, unless McCain says there is a deal. He turned the tables on them and said, fine, I'll suspend my campaign, come to Washington and let's go solve this thing. I don't think they were ready for that.

What they really were saying was that since this plan has so much of the money being skimmed – frankly, so much so that the plan had the potential not to really work – the Democrats didn't want to be left twisting in the wind as the sole proprietors of this thing if and when it failed. They wanted to get everyone in on the dirty little secret, so that nobody would tell. The House Republican caucus, specifically Rep. Hensarling's wing of that caucus, specifically may have been encouraged by McCain, because he saw very clearly that there was something else going on. So I think that what you might have seen, although it's all inside baseball, and the kind of thing that may never hit the headlines, is that McCain has done the country quite a favor by in essence playing a game of chicken over this thing, to get them to take the pork out of it to make it more successful.

A Coalition of One

Justin Katz

On what grounds are the first two groups included on this list:

Health care workers, small-business owners and unions are especially concerned about that prospect. A new group, the Coalition for Our Communities, has raised $1.3 million, about $1 million of that from national teachers' unions, and plans television advertisements and direct mail campaigns against the repeal.

Karen White, director of campaigns and elections for the National Education Association, which has given $750,000, said the "reckless proposal" would have "dire consequences that will put education at risk, health care at risk, public safety at risk."

She added: "We're prepared to commit more money if we need to. We're going to do what we need to do to make sure that we win this one."

Coughing up a million bucks (77% of the financing for the "coalition") is certainly evidence of especial concern, but what have health care workers and small-business owners done? Particularly for the latter group, I imagine the explanation would require that one consider a subset of "small-business owners" to be decisive.

The whole thing does make me wonder, though, whether a coordinated state-by-state effort to end state income taxes mightn't bankrupt the teachers' unions as they attempted to protect their heard of cash cows.

Jon Scott on Hot Dogs & the Big Bailout

Carroll Andrew Morse

Republican First District Congressional Candidate Jon Scott kicked of his Work-a-Day campaign this past Friday at the Spike's on Thayer Street in Providence…

Jon Scott has invited his opponent, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, to join him as he works one day with various businesses around the First District in the weeks leading up to the November 4th election. He issued the invitation, along with a challenge for a series of four debates via email to Kennedy's new Press Secretary earlier today.

Scott will make a brief statement to the press, will answer questions and then serve customers at Spike's Thayer Street Providence location until 5pm. In coming weeks he plans on doing work days with a small construction company and an independent lobsterman, as well as other (as yet unscheduled) jobs. Kennedy, who once boasted that he had "never worked a day in (his) life", has been invited by Scott to join him on these work days.

"We're kicking this off at Spike's because they're not going to be in business after Sunday", the candidate continued. "Spike's is an iconic establishment with dedicated owners who put their hearts and souls into building something for themselves. The rising cost of rents and supplies and some missed signals on a possible contract have taken their toll, and now the Ocean State is losing a fixture. I wanted to start our Work-a-Day

Anchor Rising took the opportunity to ask Mr. Scott at his public appearance for his thoughts on the big bailout speeding its way through Congress. Because the bailout deal was still very much in flux on Friday, I asked Mr. Scott a general question, appropriate to the particular venue...

Anchor Rising: I hope you don't think it's too much of a softball if I ask you if you think that the owners here at Spike's are as deserving of help as much as the people who the government wants to hand $700 billion to in the next couple of days.

Jon Scott: I think they're more deserving, because of the hot dogs!

The owners here put their heart and soul into the business. The difference is that they they never expected to be bailed out. Garreth and Dana are going out of business, but when they got into business, they knew what the rules were.

Their rents have gone up and their costs have gone up. The part they really didn't expect was ethanol subsides to corn farmers that caused prices to go up.

They didn't expect the government to interfere in their business. They didn't expect their taxes to go through the roof. They didn't expect all those other things that come along with government interference. All of that bad side is what's caused what we have going on right now. This crisis is one that's caused by Congress, and it's one that could be fixed by Congress, but the fix isn't to nationalize more private wealth than at anytime in the history of the United States.

More from RI's Congressional candidates on the big bailout to follow…

The Unspoken Roadblock

Justin Katz

Something still isn't making sense, for me, from a Friday article on RIPEC's study of RI education:

RIPEC has released a report entitled Education in Rhode Island 2008 that is chock-a-block with data, and it reinforces RIPEC's standing message that lagging student performance does not reflect the size of the investment.

And yet (emphasis added):

RIPEC has a three-part prescription for the problem: Reconcile the curriculum with exam goals and make sure the exams conform to national standards; ensure accountability by combing through the expenditures of local school districts in a search of efficiencies and enforcing sanctions for failing to meet expectations; and implement a predictable formula for state financing of local schools.

It's true that urban schools are a drag on Rhode Island's test results, so bringing them up would bring up the state, but it's not true that all of Rhode Island's other schools are performing adequately. At bottom there's a six letter (plural) problem that must be addressed in our education system, and RIPEC skirts it.

The real and unforeseen public consequences of "private" behaviors

Donald B. Hawthorne

Setting aside for a moment how the MSM has made itself an all-but-formal part of the Obama presidential campaign team, there is another undiscussed angle to how Obama became his party's nominee for President.

Remember a decade ago how we were told Bill Clinton's improper behavior with Monica Lewinsky was a "private" matter which had no relevance or impact on his public role as President?

Well, maybe not. Is it really all that suprising that the same man who had no principles in his private life would carry the same ethical indifference into his public role as President?

Consider this issue and its impact nearly a decade later on this year's presidential race:

'Smear!" "Guilt by association!" "Politics of fear!" The Obama campaign has its cue cards at the ready whenever any of us right-wing demagogues has the temerity to suggest it might be relevant that a candidate for president is a friend of — is a business partner of, is simpatico with — a died-in-the-wool, America-hating terrorist.

The campaign doth protest too much. The sheer thuggery in their reaction to patently relevant questions about Obama's ties to Bill Ayers, raised by the intrepid Stanley Kurtz and the American Issues Project, betrays their candidate's panicked self-awareness. Of course it's relevant. Compound an era of terrorist threat with the Democrats' decision to nominate a walking, speechifying tabula rasa and what could be more relevant?...

Here's the dirty little secret: You can thank Bill Clinton and his co-president.

For all Bill's whining about Obama playing the race-card, for all the armchair psychoanalyses of Hillary campaign infighting and mismanagement, the Clintons and all the rest of us should know that Hillary — not Barack Obama — would be the Democrats' Anointed One today were it not for a single, solitary, gut-check issue.


...No, Barack Obama is the Democrats' nominee because Bill and Hillary Clinton, reputed geniuses, are short-sighted Hedonists, so self-absorbed, so intoxicated by their craving of the moment, that they can't plan for the fix they'll need five moments from the moment.

In 1999, Hillary Clinton — feminist champion whose claim to fame was riding her more politically gifted husband's coattails — was scheming a run for the legendary Pat Moynihan's U.S. senate seat. Rudy Giuliani, New York City's fabulously successful but then-reeling Republican mayor, loomed as a potential opponent. Rudy would eventually drop out, but the Clintons couldn't resist: Despite a terrorist onslaught that had just claimed over 200 innocent lives in Kenya and Tanzania, the Clintons decided Hillary's prospects could be advanced if Bill pardoned terrorists.

To appease Democrat activists, who somehow seem always to have a soft spot for assassins, Clinton pardoned 16 members of the FALN terror organization who'd set off scores of bombs in the United States. How better to lock up the Puerto Rican vote …. in an election Hillary could have won with no Puerto Rican votes?

That, though, was little-league stuff. On the last day of his presidency — that is, on his way out the door, with no debts to pay and no groundwork to lay — Bill Clinton decided it was time to use his raw, unreviewable power to make his bones with the Communist radicals he'd always admired but lacked the courage to join.

The embassy bombings were almost a distant memory. Not three months had passed since terrorists bombed the U.S.S. Cole, murdering 17 American sailors and nearly sinking a U.S. destroyer. No matter. Clinton's last official acts in office included the pardons of Susan Rosenberg, a Weatherman terrorist serving a richly deserved 58-year sentence, and Linda Sue Evans, a Weatherman terrorist serving a richly deserved 40-year sentence.

Barack Obama has an inexplicable relationship with Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers — and Ayers's wife, the equally disgusting Weatherman terrorist Bernadine Dohrn. It's a disqualifying relationship. All that needed to happen was for Obama's opponent to point it out.

Hillary Clinton couldn't point it out.

You don't need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Remember this story the next time you hear another argument about how improper private behaviors have no relevance to that person's public role. Yes, there are real and unforeseen public consequences to "private" behaviors. Maybe even four years of an Obama presidency.

Now think of how Obama dismisses his longstanding connection to unrepentant Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers. Is that really all that different from how Clinton dismissed his relationship with Lewinsky? Yet, at another level, a "private" relationship with potentially far more serious public implications?

Then ask yourself what could be the real and unforeseen consequences in the future should America, at a time of war and growing tensions in the world, elect a man as president who not only has longstanding relationships with terrorists, convicted felons, and other people who openly state their hatred and disdain for America but can't come out and say he is committed to leading us to victory against the terrorists who threaten our very existence.

Thanks, Bill and Hillary.

September 28, 2008

A Little Charity Is All It Takes.

Justin Katz

I've been neglectful in not responding to requests from the International Medical Corps to direct Anchor Rising readers to the American Express Members Project via which American Express members can vote for a charity to receive up to $1.5 million.

My understanding is that IMC is currently #5 on the list, which makes it eligible for the last of the five donations, or $100,000, which would go toward feeding poor children around the world. The IMC's Members Project page is here.

The Whole Shebang

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here's the big bailout bill, uncensored (h/t National Review Online).

The slippery slope

Donald B. Hawthorne

First, they bail out the financial institutions.

Now, the automakers. More here.

Next, the homebuilders are clammering for their time at the taxpayers' trough.

Surely the airlines and other industries can't be far behind. Isn't corporate welfare grand?

All funded out of the hard-earned monies of ordinary citizens whose only "crime" was to pay their bills and not be connected to powerful lobbying interests in Washington, D.C. Hey, if all the ordinary citizens of America stopped paying any monies to the IRS, could we just call that the "average Joe and Josephine" bailout?

We have embarked on one heckuva slippery slope toward socialism.

The latest version of the bailout bill

Donald B. Hawthorne

House Republican Whip Roy Blunt's office provides this side-by-side comparison of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's original Wall Street bailout proposal with the final compromise agreed to over the weekend by congressional and Treasury negotiators here.

Much better. Thanks are due from the American taxpayers to the House Republicans. After the debacles of recent years, I never thought I would say that.

Now watch out for devious, last-minute maneuvers by the Left prior to final passage.


Michelle Malkin reiterates her objections to any bailout and reminds us that there is no draft legislation available to anyone yet. She also provides a link to another interesting post, which says:

...My take: The way the WaMu bondholders are being treated [wiped out] is unprecedented (I also read that at another link), and is a major and again (sorry for the tired word) unprecedented threat to the markets’ confidence.

I think that Hank Paulson threatened to tank the markets himself if the bailout deal didn’t get done very quickly. Maybe Ben Bernanke, too.

If the government changes its position on the treatment of WaMu bondholders and makes them whole or almost whole, you will know that I was right. If the government treats future situations as it did pre-WaMu, you will know that I was right.

You have no idea how much I want to be wrong.

This is sickening.

The post links to a UK Times article, which says:

The broader debt markets were crippled by fears on Friday after the sale of WaMu. Unlike other recent bank deals, this one saw senior creditors wiped out alongside shareholders - an unexpected blow.

The wipeout of WaMu bonds is likely to make it much more difficult for any struggling US bank to raise new finance. If bondholders can be wiped out so easily, there is little point in extending debt to struggling firms. The added uncertainty is likely to make it harder for all companies to renew their debt facilities, and put a further squeeze on the price.

to which these comments are added:

Chances are very great that the uncertainty will bleed into the equity markets, perhaps even giving Paulson & Co. the 1/3 meltdown "Treasury officials have warned of."

I detect a whiff of financial sedition.

More here. (H/T Instapundit)

Well, this wouldn't be the first time that Washington politicians and bureaucrats acted against the best interests of American citizens, now would it?


Conservative stalwart Congressman Mike Pence says no to the bailout:

...We now have a deal that promises to bring near term stability to our financial turmoil, but at what price?

Economic freedom means the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail.

The decision to give the federal government the ability to nationalize almost every bad mortgage in America interrupts this basic truth of our free market economy.

Republicans improved this bill but it remains the largest corporate bailout in American history, forever changes the relationship between government and the financial sector, and passes the cost along to the American people. I cannot support it...


Michelle Malkin has lots more on the actual language of the bill and it is NOT pleasant reading.

More here.

There appear to be some genuine problems in the financial markets but this bailout bill appears to be another federal government travesty.

Clarifying the deeper problems with Barack Obama

Donald B. Hawthorne

What is so unsettling about Barack Obama?

Jay Nordlinger says:

...What's depressing, to a person like me, is that Obama has mastered the trick of coming off as perfectly moderate — even when your career and thought have been very different. Listening to Obama last night, you would have taken him to be a Sam Nunn, David Boren type. No ACORN, no Ayers, no Wright, no community-organizin' radicalism, no nothing. He certainly knows what it takes to appeal to people in a general election. Then, once he's in — if he gets in — he will govern as far to the left as possible...

I agree with much of what Nordlinger says but think the issue requires further elaboration.

Underneath Obama's very liberal tax-and-spend policies which - for some of us - would be reason alone not to support him, there are some deeper philosophical problems with Obama's world view, a troubling world view which he layers on top of a track record devoid of tangible accomplishments. The differences in his world view from mainstream American values are not like the differences between Ford Republicans and Reagan Republicans or what used to be differences between Scoop Jackson Dems and other Dems years ago.

Why is this important? Because, since no one can predict today what world events will occur in the next four years, understanding Obama's world view offers insights into how he might approach issues should he be elected President.

There are many unanswered and disturbing questions about Obama's radical associations, associations unparalleled in the history of a major party candidate for President. These associations have been written about in various places such as here and here. More links can be found here, here, and here. Add to that spending 20 years attending a church whose pastor preached hatred of America, including getting married there and having children baptized there.

No less significant is Obama's prior affiliation with ACORN. More here.

Then there is his association with convicted felon Tony Rezko and questions about Obama's house purchase.

More on Obama's poor judgment in selecting associates here.

This heritage of radical associations translates periodically into Obama articulating an unsettling post-modern and relativistic view of the country he says he wants to lead, as he did in last Friday's debate:

...But then Obama concludes [the first debate] by saying "I don't think any of us can say that our standing in the world now, the way children around the world look at the United States, is the same." CLANG. He then states, reminiscent of Kerry's "Global Test", that we need to "show the world that we will invest in education" and "things that will allow people to live their dreams".

The Obama campaign spent months countering Michelle Obama's "for the first time in my life I'm proud of my country" statement and then Obama himself suggests our ideals and values don't inspire the world, and that we ourselves realize our values and ideals are suspect.

Criticizing George Bush or any of our other political leaders is one thing. Contending America's ideals and values are somehow suspect is a breathtaking statement for a prospective commander in chief to make, especially when thousands of Americans have given life and limb, sons and daughters, in brave demonstration of our ideals and values.

In case Mr. Obama missed it, millions remain sufficiently inspired to try to come to America; our values and ideals still cause the rest of the world to look to us first whenever there's a crisis. And we always respond.

Like Obama and millions of other Americans, my father also came to America from another country. Not after writing letters trying to come to a prestigious college here, but after escaping from the death squads of the Soviet empire. Once here, he saluted the American flag every single day. And although he has since passed, I'm certain he'd marvel at our ideals and values today. He'd hold Obama's statement in contempt.

Insulting the values and ideals of America may be fashionable in the salons occupied by William Ayers and Rev. Wright. It may be a matter of course at swanky fundraisers in San Francisco attended by pampered glitterati. But it's not something likely to fly with those who expect their president to have unwavering pride in America and the sacrifices of its best and bravest.

No less unsettling are the instances of how his campaign seeks to silence criticism from domestic opponents via Alinsky-Chicago thuggery, with the latest examples being here, here (follow the links), here, and here.

Steyn writes:

...As Stanley Kurtz, Milt Rosenberg and David Freddoso can tell you, this pattern is well established: The Obama campaign's response to uncongenial allegations is not to rebut them but to use its muscle to squash the authors. This is especially true when it comes to attempts to lift the curtain however briefly on the Senator's mysterious past...

Even more from Stanley Kurtz here:

...As I point out in "Not Without a Fight," what really protects free speech here in the United States is the value we place upon it, and the shame we would feel handling criticism by way of law suits. When it comes to silencing critics, on the other hand, the Obama campaign appears to have no shame. That augers poorly for the culture of free exchange. As Tocqueville reminds us, habits of the heart, even more than the law itself, stand as our most important protections against tyranny. If Obama continues to break one free-speech taboo after another, the law will surely follow.

So continued media silence on Obama’s intimidation tactics threatens not only the fairness of this election, but press freedom itself. Yet to defend the freedom of the right as if it were their own is something our left-leaning press has forgotten how to do.

And if Stalinist-type intimidation isn't used against its domestic opponents, the Obama campaign has been willing to play the race card all while claiming it is the other side which is playing the race card, a cynical move that would make George Orwell smirk.

While he tries to silence domestic opponents in a most un-American way, Obama has said he is willing to meet with Castro, Chavez, Ahmadinejad, etc. - dictators committed to destroying freedom and America - and to do so without preconditions in the first year of his presidency.

Furthermore, even as he is willing to meet with the tyrants of this world, it is particularly disturbing that Obama is unwilling to come out and stand up for America's interests in the broader world:

...Saturday, before the Sportsmen Alliance, John McCain had this to say:

I noticed during our debate that even as American troops are fighting on two fronts, Barack Obama couldn't bring himself to use the word "victory" even once. The Obama campaign saved that word for the spin room, where they tried to convince themselves and others that their man had left the stage victorious. Well, maybe this attitude helps explain why it wasn't such a good night for my opponent. When Americans look at a candidate, they can tell the difference between mere self-confidence and an abiding confidence in our country. They know that the troops who are bravely fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan want to come home in victory and in honor. And we need a president who shares their confidence — a commander in chief who believes that victory for America will be achieved.

McCain has a point. With the help of the nifty "Speech Wars" tool, I checked on Barck Obama. It appears that Obama didn't use the word "victory" in his Denver speech either. It is simply not something he says much. (You have to go back to the Berlin speech to find "victory" in an Obama speech – generally referring to what we did in the past.)

Should that concern voters? Only if you think our national security requires victory over determined enemies. If you think it's all about getting along and making ourselves understood or convincing others to like us, this should be of no concern.

Just to add a bit more to the picture, Charles Krauthammer documents all of Obama's recent policy flip-flops and concludes:

...When it's time to throw campaign finance reform, telecom accountability, NAFTA renegotiation or Jeremiah Wright overboard, Obama is not sentimental. He does not hesitate. He tosses lustily.

Why, the man even tossed his own grandmother overboard back in Philadelphia — only to haul her back on deck now that her services are needed. Yesterday, granny was the moral equivalent of the raving Reverend Wright. Today, she is a featured prop in Obama's fuzzy-wuzzy get-to-know-me national TV ad.

Not a flinch. Not a flicker. Not a hint of shame. By the time he's finished, Obama will have made the Clintons look scrupulous.

On top of all these issues, Peter Robinson comments on the personal character issue of Obama's lack of any sense of humor:

...What Barack Obama lacks is simple--and a lot more important than it might seem: a sense of humor.

Evident throughout his campaign for the Democratic nomination--can you recall a single Obama witticism?--this proved especially striking at his party's convention. In an acceptance speech of some 4,600 words, Obama provided not a single good laugh...

Gov. Palin's performance undermined Sen. Obama in two ways. It made him appear prim and self-serious by comparison. And it thoroughly unnerved the man...Even now, more than two weeks later, he has yet to employ humor effectively. Instead he has "sharpened his speeches," to quote the Associated Press, adding "bite." Obama can take a blow. What he can't take is a joke...

Humor reveals character. It shows voters that a candidate possesses a certain fundamental confidence in himself and in the country. It demonstrates that he's in command...

Newt Gringrich offers another take on Obama's non-existent track of record of accomplishments, noting how all Obama has ever done is talk and write about himself.

And when talk by Obama about his candidacy includes messianic wording like this

...I am absolutely certain that, generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless...this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal...this was the moment when we ended a war, and secured our nation, and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.

it is enough to make one agree with the commentator who stated: "Maybe Obama thinks he is running for dictator or he thinks he is the messiah. Does he even know that our system of government was not designed for this type of radical change?...This is just Kool Aid Cult stuff."

If you had asked me how I was going to vote just over one month ago, I would have told you that I was seriously considering sitting out this election. That I had no particular liking for either presidential candidate. I still don't care for McCain.

But now I must say that the more I learn about Obama, the more frightening it is to consider him leading our great country in an increasing hostile world.


In the Comments section, TomW provides a link to this IBD series about Obama.


A friend writes these words after reading the post: "Very nice. But I must say that nothing is more convincing of the danger of Obama than reading the Audacity of Hope, which I did a week ago. Anyone who can suffer through that and not be persuaded that this is a very dangerous, if slyly talented man, must be a pre-determined convert."

September 27, 2008

Re: Sarah Palin, revisited

Justin Katz

We've all seen movies or TV shows in which the unlikely, different-from-the-norm character somehow acquires a position of influence. (For some reason the mid-'80s classics Brewster's Millions and Protocol spring to mind.) And it always seems so utterly natural when they convey their charmingly naive selves with perfect ease when the plot puts them before microphones and reporters' cameras.

Now, I've no reason to have even formed expectations for Sarah Palin, but the inaccuracy of Everyman's eloquence in film came to mind when I watched her interview with Katie Couric (once, that is, I got over Couric's crystal clear conveyance of scorn). Palin's pauses followed by a repeat of what she'd just said are strongly suggestive of a mental Rolodex flipping: The question is asked, an answer thought, the answer compared against a lists of dos and don'ts, and a more compatible answer sought and spoken. Whether that's habitual or evidence of overhandling, I don't know, but I'm still inclined to give a successful woman (in politics, no less!) the benefit of the doubt on that count.

With that, I'll confess a certain personal sympathy to her plight. There are a number of activities at which I'm reasonably competent, and sometimes, I find new ones that I'm able to learn with relative rapidity. The premier exception to that general proposition is sales, and I think the reason is that my strategy when faced with new challenges is to fit their components to my skills and personality, whereas sales require one to make a skill of mirroring personalities. When, for example, I've been tasked with managing people as part of my job, I've fallen back on my organizational abilities and willingness to fill any gaps personally (staying ahead of coworkers and leading by example, as it were). An extemporaneous motivator, I am not, so when I've been pressed to be more taskmaster than job-site adviser, I've found myself at a loss.

There's something of that in Palin's awkward pauses and garbled responses, I think. The loner struggling to hew to the team line for the greater cause. I could, of course, be projecting. Although perhaps it's still possible (albeit a hair shy of fantastical) that the campaign is using the media's predictable hostility to lull the other side into yet another rope-a-dope.

Sarah Palin, revisited

Donald B. Hawthorne

Some of us had an initial positive impression of Sarah Palin. At the same time, we acknowledged that only time would tell whether she could cut it on the national stage. Her selection also brought out into full public view again the political agenda of the feminists and Left as the attempts to destroy Palin reached new extremes. All of which were discussed in the earlier posts noted below at the bottom.

Palin did not do well in the Couric interview. She seems to have lost her mojo. Is it because she is being overhandled? Is it because she is in over her head? Or both? Does she have the talent but her time on the national stage is premature? Who knows. Only more time and exposure will tell.

Here are several recent commentaries which speculate on these questions:

Free Sarah Palin!
Has the McCain Campaign Broken Sarah Palin?
Should Palin walk the plank?

Unlike those who are afraid of competition and the resulting success or failure, let's see how it plays out. Let her be herself and let the chips fall where they fall. No bailouts.


Where is the "REDO" button?
The complete Palin interview with Gibson
The Bush doctrine and the psyching out of Barack Obama
Left-wing feminist masters to Sarah Palin: How dare you try to leave our plantation!
Sarah Palin's speech
The ferociously totalitarian response of the Left to Sarah Palin: Sexism, intolerance, and fear
Sarah Palin's refreshing words

September 26, 2008

Presidential Debate Open Thread

Carroll Andrew Morse

Something witty may be retrofitted into this space later.


I like this new more aggressive Jim Lehrer. Where's he been for his last 30 years of interviews?

Congressional Democrats: Letting "I Dare Not" Wait Upon "I Would"

Monique Chartier

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) appeared on the John DePetro Show this morning [no podcast yet available] [edit: podcast available here courtesy WPRO] to discuss the status of the bailout. At one point, he pointed to Congressional Republicans as the reason that bailout legislation has so far failed.

Question for all Democrats in Congress. You control Congress. You have the votes to pass a bailout. If you believe the situation is serious - President George Bush (R) certainly thinks so - and the health if not the very existence of the American economy is at stake, why the hesitation? What is more important than passing a bailout?

Yep. Scary.

Donald B. Hawthorne

Irwin Stelzer writes New Capitalism: Market capitalism in the United States will never be the same:

No matter what deal is finally cut between Hank Paulson, the Democrats, and unhappy conservative Republicans, or even if no deal at all is finally worked out, market capitalism as practiced in the United States will never be the same. Well, "never" might be too long, so let's say it won't be the same for a very, very long time.

We are witnessing a radical modification of capitalism. Some of this is obvious. We know that the old view that some banks are too big to fail has been augmented by the view that some financial institutions are too interconnected to fail. So Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, AIG and others are bailed out by one device or other, even though no depositors were directly threatened by the demise of these institutions. Carnegie Mellon economist Allan Meltzer might be right when he says, "Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin." But it seems safe to say that our tolerance of failure is just not what it used be. The great economist Joseph Schumpeter talked of capitalism's awesome power of creative destruction. Were he still around he would be unhappy to note that we are in for both less destruction and less creativity. There is a growing desire for shelter from the storms of market economics.

But the change in attitudes and policy towards failure--the greater willingness of policymakers to risk moral hazard in order to reduce risks of threat to the financial system--is only one of the changes reshaping market capitalism.

Another is increased dissatisfaction with the way incomes are distributed. The picture of executives of failed companies strolling off with multimillion dollar bonuses has made more and more people wonder whether what goes on in the nation's boardrooms is a search for ways to reward stellar performance, or a meeting of cronies to decide how to cut up the pie, far from the view of the shareholder-owners of the company.

More important is the fact that globalization, which along with free trade has done more to alleviate world poverty than all the misbegotten foreign aid programs combined, is now producing results that are seen as unacceptable. Over one billion workers in India, China and elsewhere have entered the world labor market, putting pressure on the wages of low and not-so-low income workers. At the same time, globalization has expanded the canvass on which skilled managers can paint. That makes them more valuable, and higher-paid.

This is not the place to resolve the dispute over whether the non-rich have done well or badly in recent years. Suffice it to say that the benefits of free trade--the t-shirts and sneakers in Wal-Mart, the rising living standard of developing-country workers--are less obvious to many Americans than the costs. The perception that trade has inflicted collateral damage on innocent bystanders has taken hold sufficiently to allow Barack Obama to attack trade-opening measures, and to force John McCain to promise training and other programs to soften its consequences. Neither believes the market should be left free to sort things out, despite America's record of creating millions of new jobs every year.

Add suspicion over executive salaries, ostentatious displays of wealth by some private equity and other financial types, pressures on real wages of ordinary workers, the feeling that free trade is not "fair" trade, and you have a cocktail that might prove lethal to the principle of minimalist government intervention.

Instead we have a capitalism in which financial institutions trade freedom for the protection of access to the government's balance sheet (Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley). In which institutions under stress accept pervasive government regulation in return for insurance against failure. In which the advantages of free trade are sacrificed in the interests of preserving jobs in industries best left to adjust to the winds of change. In which regulation of executive salaries is seen as a necessary political price to pay for preventing systemic failure of the banking system. In which taxes on the "rich" and not-so-rich are seen as necessary to offset the inequities of the income distribution system created by capitalism as we have known it.

These changes are already being played out in the campaign for the American presidency. Barack Obama is calling for higher taxes on the "rich"--families with incomes of $250,000 or more--with the proceeds to be redistributed to the middle class. He also wants to end free trade deals that his union supporters tell him depress the wages of blue collar workers.

Meanwhile, John McCain is railing against Wall Street bankers and assorted other villains, including most notably short sellers. And promising to fund huge training programs to enable workers displaced by trade to find new jobs in growth industries--the intelligent man's alternative to protectionism.

Both do have a tiny problem: they have made promises they cannot possibly keep, now that the government has taken uncounted billions onto its balance sheet. McCain will find it impossible to cut the corporate tax rate, and Obama to spend billions on infrastructure, alternative energy and an expansion of the social programs dear to his party.

None of this is meant to do more than catalogue the changes that are occurring far from the glare of the headlines that instead report day-to-day fluctuations in markets and in the progress of various bail-out plans. Those changes will undoubtedly deny us of some of the benefits of the creativity and dynamism of a capitalism in which failure was a greater goad to achievement. Sic gloria transit mundi.

The Familiar Ring of Fascism

Justin Katz

Something from a recent David Brooks column ought to sound familiar:

The government will be much more active in economic management (pleasing a certain sort of establishment Democrat). Government activism will provide support to corporations, banks and business and will be used to shore up the stable conditions they need to thrive (pleasing a certain sort of establishment Republican). Tax revenues from business activities will pay for progressive but business-friendly causes — investments in green technology, health care reform, infrastructure spending, education reform and scientific research.

If you wanted to devise a name for this approach, you might pick the phrase economist Arnold Kling has used: Progressive Corporatism. We're not entering a phase in which government stands back and lets the chips fall. We're not entering an era when the government pounds the powerful on behalf of the people. We're entering an era of the educated establishment, in which government acts to create a stable — and often oligarchic — framework for capitalist endeavor.

After a liberal era and then a conservative era, we're getting a glimpse of what comes next.

From Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism:

In reality, if you define "right-wing" or "conservative" in the American sense of supporting the rule of law and the free market, then the more right-wing a business is, the less fascist it becomes. Meanwhile, in terms of economic policy, the more you move to the political center, as defined in American politics today, the closer you get to true fascism. If the far left is defined by socialism and the far right by laissez-faire, then it is the mealymouthed centrists of the Democratic Leadership Council and the Brookings Institution who are the true fascists, for it is they who subscribe to the notion of the Third Way, that quintessentially fascistic formulation that claims to be neither left nor right. More important, these myths are often deliberately perpetuated in order to hasten the transformation of American society into precisely the kind of fascist — or corporatist — nation liberals claim to oppose. (285)

As we've seen, ideologically fascist and progressive totalitarianism was never a mere doctrine of statism. Rather, it claimed that the state was the natural brain of the organic body politic. Statism was the route to collectivism. (335)

The real threat is that the promise of American life will be frittered away for a bag of magic beans called security. (393)

... both [George W. Bush and Bill Clinton] are products of a new progressive spirit in American politics. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, liberals believed that the demise of national security as a defining issue would allow them to revive the progressive agenda. They hoped to invest the "peace dividend" in all manner of Third Way schemes, including new-corporatist public-private partnerships, emulating the more enlightened industrial policies of Europe and Japan. ... The climax of all this was Hillary Clinton's attempt to take over American health care, which in turn released largely libertarian anti-bodies in the form of the Contract with America and the, alas short-lived, Gingrich revolution. (400)

September 25, 2008

The Tone of the Incumbent

Justin Katz

The other evening, an older gentleman in Tiverton told me of his experience working in town government with Tiverton Town Council President Louise Durfee... during the Nixon administration. Well, the heiress apparently sees something of concern in Tiverton Citizens for Change, because she took out a big advertisement in the Sakonnet Times this week, the implications of which will no doubt strike familiar, dissonant chords among Anchor Rising readers:

Citizens of Tiverton Be Wary!

A group of recent residents to Tiverton has formed a Political Action Committee (PAC) to teach us fiscal "responsibility". The PAC is Tiverton Citizens for Change (TCC) which is composed of the same people who sought a $2 Million dollar cut at the recent Financial Town Meeting.

The $2 Million dollar cut was sought even after the Municipal budget as proposed by the Town Council for the Town Meeting had a ZERO impact on the tax rate. For example the municipal budget covers among other things, the Police Dept., the Fire Dept., the Senior center, the Highway Dept., the Library, Summer programs, the Town Hall and all volunteer boards.

The TCC has a responsibility to come forward with the budget cuts they would make.

Would they do away with our Senior Center?
Would they go back to a Volunteer Fire/Police Dept.?
Would they operate the Police Dept. from 9-5?
Would they do away with trash pick-up and snow plowing?
Would they ditch any proposed plans for a new library?
Would they cut summer recreation programs?

Be careful what you "wish for" and most of all be well informed about WHO you vote for!

Ah, the familiar ring of the Rhode Island political strategy: scare as many citizens as possible that their pet programs will be lost with disastrous results, stoke nativist prejudices against newcomers to the town, and treat those newcomers as if their voices ought to count for less in the governance of our town.

Ms. Durfee best be wary. Among the intended effects of TCC's advocacy is preventing all those "recent residents" from leaving the (quote/unquote) real Tivertonians to foot the bill for town services all on their own.

Markets and Martingales

Carroll Andrew Morse

I don't know a whole lot about the world of high-finance, but I do understand a bit about probability and in probabilistic terms, the government's proposed $700 billion bailout of U.S. financial markets bears some uncanny similarities to the use of a "martingale" strategy to make money. That is not a good thing.

Gamblers have unsuccessfully tried to win using martingale strategies since at least the late 18th century. Here's how the basic version is supposed to work, applied to roulette as an example…

  1. Start by betting $1. If you win, pocket the $1 winning and bet $1 again.
  2. If you lose, play again, but double your bet to $2. If you win, your total winning is $1, $2 won on the second bet, minus $1 lost on the first. Pocket the $1 winning and begin again, with a $1 bet.
  3. If you lose the $2 bet, play again, doubling your bet to $4. If you win, you will again have won a total of $1, $4 won on the third bet, minus $2 lost on the second bet, minus $1 lost on the first. Pocket the $1 and begin again.
  4. If you lose, at this stage or any stage, double your previous bet and begin again…
WARNING: Do not stop reading this post at this point, run off to a casino, and try this yourself, thinking you've found a way to generate a guaranteed stream of income. It doesn't work.

The problem is that the odds favor a single catastrophic losing streak – "catastrophic" defined as bad enough to swallow your initial stake – eventually wiping out any gains made from building your winnings $1 at a time. Unless you have an infinite amount of money (in which case, why are you bothering to bet?), you will reach a point where you can't make the bet that's necessary to cover your losses.

The signs of martingale-based thinking in the recent history of U.S. financial markets are disquieting. We've seen the government, twice in the past 20 years, appear to make two late-stage bets to cover a run of large losses, first the S&L bailout in the 1980s, now the proposed $700 billion bet to cover losses from the current housing and mortgage crisis. In between, there was the bailout of Long-Term Capital Management in the late 1990s, where some big Wall Street firms -- including names like AIG and Lehman Brothers -- put up big money to rescue a multi-billion dollar hedge fund that suddenly went on a big losing streak. They won that bet, kept playing, and later went on a losing streak that they were unable to cover.

The government's resources for covering market losses are not infinite. Congress can't decide to temporarily suspend the law of large numbers or any other of law of chance and probability. If the government keeps pumping funds into a financial system that requires continual doubling-down in order to stay ahead, isn't it only a matter of time before the government experiences the catastrophic loss that wipes out all of its (er, that would be our) stake?

Investors' Nerves

Justin Katz

The Providence Journal's in-print lead for this Business section story yesterday about the bailout:

Investors are nervous about apparent resistance to the plan in Congress.

My initial reaction: Good. Maybe next time they'll be nervous about apparently risky business ventures.

Of Economics, Leadership, and Debate

Justin Katz

I took the Anchor Rising Slot with with Matt Allen on 630AM/99.7FM WPRO last night to talk about John McCain's return to work, this week, and Barack Obama's pledge to debate. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

More Pink Slips at the Providence Journal

Monique Chartier

Ian Donnis at Not for Nothing brings this to our attention. From the Providence Newspaper Guild website:

Journal to Lay Off 30 From News Staff; No One Cut From Advertising

The Journal will be cutting its entire News Department part-time staff plus five full-time positions. No advertising jobs will be cut.

With one exception, the cuts will result in the least senior employee being laid off. The one exception is a reduction in the number of news online designers from three to two. All the employees in this classification are fulltime. The least senior designer will be laid off unless she qualifies for another job.

This may be the one area where my good government instincts clash with my belief in capitalism. We (all democratically based countries/societies/governments) need a healthy, inquisitive press. Period. Informing the public, asking questions, exposing government failures, over-involvements, cover-ups, ineptitudes, conflicts-of-interest. Television and radio play a vital role in a free press but as they cannot always get sufficiently in-depth, they cannot substitute for the newspaper.

Diversification of news sources resulting in a serious loss of advertising revenue has jeopardized the Providence Journal and newspapers across the US. Capitalism dictates that this is how it must be. At the same time, a free press seems a little too important to subject to the vicissitudes of the free market, not just for maintenance of some degree of honesty in our government but as the free market itself may in turn be jeopardized by the loss of a free press.

I wish fervently there were a remedy for this but don't see one off-hand. Important as newspapers are, I don't want them subsidized by the government. Experience has shown that the wrong kind of conditions would be placed with such funding; the last thing we need, for example, is a family member of Steve Alves covering Smith Hill.

Now, am I a fan of all of the ProJo's reporting? No, I am not. Too often in recent years, it's been news with a slant or some serious omissions. Or a sob story instead of both sides of the story. But that doesn't mean I'm happy to watch it get chipped away.

So perhaps this is a double lament - on a more local level for a newspaper that doesn't always comprehend the critically important role it plays in "simply" reporting in full and on the macro level for the slow loss of a vital player in a free press.

September 24, 2008

McCain Suspends Campaign to Assist Bailout Negotiation

Monique Chartier

From Drudge:


Wed Sept 24 2008 14:58:02 ET

McCain: America this week faces an historic crisis in our financial system. We must pass legislation to address this crisis. If we do not, credit will dry up, with devastating consequences for our economy. People will no longer be able to buy homes and their life savings will be at stake. Businesses will not have enough money to pay their employees. If we do not act, ever corner of our country will be impacted. We cannot allow this to happen.

Last Friday, I laid out my proposal and I have since discussed my priorities and concerns with the bill the Administration has put forward. Senator Obama has expressed his priorities and concerns.This morning, I met with a group of economic advisers to talk about the proposal on the table and the steps that we should take going forward.I have also spoken with members of Congress to hear their perspective.

It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the Administration' proposal. I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time.

Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me.

I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.

We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved.I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.

I am confident that before the markets open on Monday we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners, and earn the confidence of the American people. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set politics aside, and I am committed to doing so.

Following September 11th, our national leaders came together at a time of crisis. We must show that kind of patriotism now. Americans across our country lament the fact that partisan divisions in Washington have prevented us from addressing our national challenges. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country.


The report yesterday by ABC's Jake Tapper that both Democrats and Republicans on Capital Hill had balked at approving any bailout unless McCain voted yea may have in part precipitated the senator's decision.

[Tapper] It's McCain who may hold the fate of the $700b bailout proposal in his hands.

* * * *

And Democratic leaders have told the White House a deal without McCain on board will mean no sale.

* * * *

[Senate President Harry Reid] "We need the Republican nominee for president to let us know where he stands and what we should do."


Senator Obama has declined to postpone the debate or suspend his campaign. From Reuters.

Democrat Barack Obama on Wednesday rejected opponent John McCain's call to postpone the first U.S. presidential debate to work on legislation dealing with the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Obama made the statement shortly after McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, called for Friday's debate to be postponed and said he would suspend his campaign to help work out agreement among lawmakers on a proposed $700 billion financial bailout plan.

"What I'm planning to do now is debate on Friday," Obama said from the hotel where he has been preparing for the debate.

"It's my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible for dealing with this mess," he said. "I think that it is going to be part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once."

Aren't some situations serious enough to warrant the president's full attention? Wouldn't this be one of them? Further, Senator McCain did not suspend his campaign indefinitely; he proposed to negotiate a resolution with all parties by Monday morning.

Faced with such a serious problem, would a President Obama "multitask", inclusive of tending to his reelection campaign, through a resolution?

(Pop) Psychology of a State

Marc Comtois

FWIW, according the Wall Street Journal, new study has tried to identify regional personality traits. Probably more akin to pop psychology than science, but what the heck...consider this lunchtime reading.

In the past decade, [cross-cultural psychology] has been reinvigorated by the development of a 44-question personality test that evaluates five traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. Some psychologists disagree with this matrix; others would add traits such as honesty. But the assessment, called the Big Five Inventory, has been widely used in scientific research.

Mr. [Peter Jason] Rentfrow [of the University of Cambridge in England] came to the field full of questions gleaned from a life spent hop-scotching across America. Why were his neighbors in Texas so relaxed, so courteous, so obsessed with sports? Why did New Yorkers seem so tense and inward-focused, often brusque to the point of rudeness?

Eager to dig deeper, Mr. Rentfrow turned to a huge collection of psychological tests administered online from 1999 to 2005.

The assessments were linked to each respondent's current residence, so there was no way to tell if a New Yorker was a New Yorker born and bred, or had just moved from Kansas. But that suited Mr. Rentfrow's purposes. He wasn't trying to gauge how life in New York had shaped any one individual. His goal was a psychological snapshot of the state, and for that he needed to include even recent migrants -- who may, after all, have been drawn to New York because the big-city bustle suited their personality.

Mr. Rentfrow said his sample was proportionate to the U.S. population by state and race. Though it underrepresented the extremes of poor and rich, that shouldn't skew the results, he said.

While the findings broadly uphold regional stereotypes, there are more than a few surprises. The flinty pragmatists of New England? They're not as dutiful as they may seem, ranking at the bottom of the "conscientious" scale. High scores for openness to new ideas strongly correlates to liberal social values and Democratic voting habits. But three of the top ten "open" states -- Nevada, Colorado and Virginia -- traditionally vote Republican in presidential politics. (All three are prime battlegrounds this election.)

Anyway, apparently Rhode Islanders stand out even amongst our New England brethren. We are fairly "open" (28th), which can be read as "liberal", are strongly "introverted" (40th in extroversion) and are among the most "disagreeable" (45th in agreeableness), "unconscientious" (48th in conscientiousness) "neurotics" (# 2--Yay!--in neuroticism) in the country. That could explain some things.

Milking It

Marc Comtois

PETA's latest crusade is aimed at those paragon's of ultra-conservative, right-wing, free-market capitalists....Ben and Jerry. What did they do wrong? Well, milk does come from cows and, in the eyes of PETA, Ben and Jerry just aren't towing the ideological line close enough, I suppose. But PETA has a solution!

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., urging them to replace cow's milk they use in their ice cream products with human breast milk, according to a statement recently released by a PETA spokeswoman.
Huh. Let's set aside the, oh-I-don't-know, craziness of it all and imagine what kind of manufacturing reconfiguration, workforce retraining and supply chain modifications this would take.

Where is the "REDO" button?

Donald B. Hawthorne

This week has been the latest version of the perfect storm on why it seems appropriate to say, how about we punt on all the presidential candidates and press the REDO button.

John McCain
George Will
Back to Square One
More on Andrew Cuomo

Sarah Palin
(okay, what follows below is a bit dated because the only visible thing this week is actually a positive)
The Bush Doctrine
More on the Gibson interview

Barack Obama
Obama's Leftism
Obama’s Challenge: The campaign speaks to "Radicalism."
Obama and Ayers
Pushed Radicalism On Schools

Barack's Glass House

Joe Biden
Victor Davis Hanson
Interview with Katie Couric
Historical ignorance
No coal plants, either

And none of the above even touches how, under George Bush, we are seeing the nationalization of the financial sector of the economy. A fitting conclusion for a man who brought us outrageous domestic spending increases, NCLB, and the new Medicare spending program.

Then there is the proposal to ban short-selling. Heck, why don't we just turn over all matters to control by Washington politicians and bureaucrats since they seem to understand everything better than the rest of us.

Or touches the likes of Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, neither of whom is capable of talking about public policy issues such as energy here and here (or theology issues, in Pelosi's case) without sounding like a buffoon.

Where is the REDO button? Too bad we can't send all of Washington's politicians and bureacurats on an extended vacation. Even a paid vacation as long as they all got out of town so they stopped messing with our freedom and our hard-earned monies!

Creeping socialism is shifting into galloping mode right in front of our eyes. Scary.

Extortion Is a Heavy Burden

Justin Katz

Personally, I dislike government reliance on gambling for revenue, but this is emblematic of a mindset:

OUT OF EVERY DOLLAR lost at Twin River, the state gets approximately 61 cents. If expectations panned out, the state would get $254 million from Twin River this year. In June, the owners offered the state $500 million upfront if lawmakers would slice the rate by more than half. Legislative leaders refused.

Holloway, of Moody's, said "the state has — and I think it is pretty well known — a pretty onerous tax rate, and this property has produced a far lower level of revenues and earnings than was anticipated at the time the project was started."

And now Standard & Poor's credit rating agency is forecasting bankruptcy of the gambling hall. Who could be surprised that losing 61% of every "sale" — before accounting for expenses — would leave a company vulnerable?

Confirming, once again, what we already know: Our state government is a destructive force.

September 23, 2008

Fourth-Hand Opinions on a Complicated Topic

Justin Katz

The eye-opening thing is how many people believe that something as extensive as the current financial crisis can be analyzed simply and placed at the door of a particular political party — even a particular individual! By the time one gets to such specific and flatly stated explanations as Froma Harrop's, it is likely that readers are receiving a restatement of a paraphrase of a summary of a synopsis of a hypothesis:

McCain's former economic adviser is ex-Texas Sen. Phil Gramm. On Dec. 15, 2000, hours before Congress was to leave for Christmas recess, Gramm had a 262-page amendment slipped into the appropriations bill. It forbade federal agencies to regulate the financial derivatives that greased the skids for passing along risky mortgage-backed securities to investors.

And that, my friends, is why everything's falling apart. That is why the taxpayers are now on the hook for the follies of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns and now the insurance giant AIG to the tune of $85 billion.

And politically motivated oversimplifications such as that, my friends, are why those on opposite ideological poles in this country often seem to be speaking about wholly different worlds. To partisans — which is a category whose siren call I hear from time to time, as I navigate the ideological waters — just about everything confirms their own view and proves competitors' to be nakedly fallacious. Such responses are natural, to be sure, and in many ways defensible. Pointing out the other side's culpability is wholly rational, and often hypocrisy-free, if it is in actual or preemptive response to one-sided accusations in the other direction.

More profoundly, though, the factors that point to one's own side don't appear as culpability so much as indication of an idea's corruption or misapplication. Harrop foists calamity on Gramm's shoulders on the grounds that he "greased the skids" of the financial industry. Well, skids need to be greased lest they stick; the key is in the choice of path, and conservatives, notably Jonah Goldberg, will point out such stearing:

The starting line for the parade of falling dominoes doesn't begin on Wall Street. Nor, alas, will the parade end there. But if you want to know where it really begins, look to the Capitol steps.

The self-proclaimed angels in Washington will tell you they've been working tirelessly to expand the American dream of homeownership by making mortgages available to people unable to plunk down 20 percent on a house. Franklin Raines, the Clinton-appointed former head of Fannie Mae from 1998 to 2004, made it his top priority to make mortgages easier to get for people with poor credit, few assets and little money for a down payment.

So, without getting into the mire of who's in bed with whom (no matter how instructive, even important, that may be), what went wrong? In summary, it appears that the federal government pushed lenders to expand their market into riskier ventures and that deregulation made it easier for those lenders to spread the risks, which is typically a good thing, a safeguard. The involvement of government-backed institutions (Fannie and Freddie) and the growing sense that the likelihood of government assistance in the face of collapse decreased the gamble, and the Federal Reserve Board's efforts to keep the economy moving by means of low interest rates enabled a broader field of players.

Meanwhile, an increasing market for low-end houses due to this opportunity, in concert with a generally growing economy, pushed prices up and expanded the range of consumers turning to new means of borrowing. In other words, those who might previously have saved up a few thousand dollars for down payment on a starter home found that houses meeting their minimum standards were no longer within reach by traditional methods. An entire market segment, replete with a new category of how-to television shows, emerged to change intolerable houses into tolerable ones, flipping them to capitalize on the market's updraft.

The pot further sweetened with the use of equity mortgages to bring homes up to standards that would previously have been sought at the outset, to supplement incomes strained by outsized housing and debt costs, and (yes) to monetize families' largest investments for toys and extravagances. The pool of loans, ostensibly with the promise of guaranteed cash flow, made for an attractive addition to portfolios across the spectrum from individual investors to massive pension funds. Finally, accounting regulations enacted in response to Enron minimized lenders' ability to calculate the value of their holdings on a longer (and therefore more stable) view.

Who — or what — in all of this deserves blame, as distinct from partial responsibility: those who greased the skids, those who loaded their aspirations, dreams, and desires into the sleigh, those who pushed it down a particular hill, or those who presumed to stear it through the thicket? Personally, I'd point out that three out of four of these categories are actually different faces of the government.

Capitalism is a process, a strategy, and a very effective one. The danger comes with the pursuit of a "third way" that attempts to put it to work toward a particular cause that is chained to an immovable object like the government. Any private party attempting to push the market in one direction or another must weigh odds and calculate losses versus potential gains, which it will have to face as they arise. The government can dictate policies with consequences that can't possibly be known and — as we're seeing with the bailouts — wind up increasing its power when things go wrong. Until, that is, things go so terribly wrong that the whole system shakes itself apart.

September 22, 2008

Needlessly Amplifying the Price Tag of the Bailout

Monique Chartier

In the last hour of his show today, WPRO's Matt Allen discussed the shopping list [sorry, no link] of additional spending which Congressman Patrick Kennedy announced today that he wishes to attach to the seven hundred billion dollar bailout, a sentiment presumably shared by many other congresspersons.

Is the congressman's shopping list dwarfed by the size of the bailout? Undoubtedly, though it starts to add up to "real" money when up to five hundred and thirty four other shopping lists are thrown in. More troubling is the mindset revealed.

One is an obliviousness that the federal budget is - or ought to be! - finite. Vast though the budget has grown, seven hundred billion is still a lot of money. And while there is optimism that the federal government may break even or possibly profit many years down the road, the only certainty is that taxpayers would be on the hook for quite a large sum of money with no guarantee that it would all work out in the end, especially if the bailout began to experience mission creep.

Secondly, in view of the finite nature of the budget, individual congresspersons and Congress as a whole should be giving thought to "what are we cutting out of the budget going forward so we can write this gargantuan check" and even, "this is not our money so let's make the check as small as possible". The "what spending can I add to this gargantuan check that will get my vote and get me votes" approach taken early on by the congressman from Rhode Island's first district is entirely the wrong attitude when signing a sizeable check to be drawn on someone else's account.

Playing the Poll Game

Marc Comtois

I see Matt and Ian have both posted about how the most recent Brown poll shows an "approval" rating of only 39% for Governor Carcieri. The actual question/answers are as follows:

How would you rate the job Don Carcieri is doing as governor? Excellent 13.0%; Good 26.3%; Only fair 24.9%; Poor 32.8%; Don’t know/No answer 3.0%
I checked on the methodology of how Brown defines "approval" in their own polls, and they include only the "Excellent" and "Good" answers in this calculation. However, Matt takes this to mean that Governor Carcieri must have a 58% disapproval rating. Well, let's be fair, here. I'll concede that those answering "Only fair" don't imply that they "approve", but it also doesn't follow that they disapprove, does it? A fair reading would put the Governor's disapproval rating at around 33%.

Let's take Matt's formula and apply it to some other RI pols, shall we?

How would you rate the job Patrick Kennedy is doing as U.S. representative? Excellent 11.1%; Good 35.6%; Only fair 26.6%; Poor 20.2%; Don’t know/No answer 6.5%

How would you rate the job Elizabeth Roberts is doing as lieutenant governor? Excellent 2.5%; Good 21.5%; Only fair 29.4%; Poor 14.5%; Don’t know/No answer 32.1%

How would you rate the job William Murphy is doing as House speaker? Excellent 2.0%; Good 14.9%; Only fair 23.6%; Poor 18.4%; Don’t know/No answer 41.1%

How would you rate the job Joseph Montalbano is doing as Senate president? Excellent 1.6%; Good 11.6%; Only fair 22.2%; Poor 22.1%; Don’t know/No answer 42.5%

How would you rate the job David Cicilline is doing as mayor of Providence? Excellent 9.1%; Good 36.9%; Only fair 24.9%; Poor 18.2%; Don’t know/No answer 10.9%

Does anyone really think that nearly half of Rhode Islanders have a strong disapproval of Liz Roberts? C'mon....

Financial Crisis is Our Fault, too

Marc Comtois

"How the Democrats Created the Financial Crisis" by Kevin Hassett is getting heavy play in conservative circles (talk radio, the blogosphere), mostly because it is both an accurate piece of the story and attractively partisan. However, Victor Davis Hanson reminds us that, while there is plenty of blame to put on Wall Street and Washington, we also need to look in the mirror.

For two decades, we — as in we Americans — expected to buy homes, flip them, and walk away with thousands — without much thought about what might happen to the johnny-come-lately at the bottom of the pyramid when the game was finally up and housing prices cooled or crashed. Walking away from a mortgage on a house with negative equity was "smart;" putting someone in one who had no ability to come up with a down payment, monthly payments, taxes, and maintenance was "fair"; borrowing unduly against equity for cash expenditures was "understandable."

We deified the masters of hedge funds, derivatives, and subprime mortgages, forgetting that passé oil production, mining, farming, manufacturing, engineering and construction were the real sources of our material wealth.

We assumed mega-returns on our portfolios, without a thought what Wall Street did to get them, or the effect on others who needed to borrow at such high interest to run their businesses.

Ours became a culture that wanted larger cars but less drilling to fuel them, more stuff and more credit from — and more anger at — the Chinese; less taxes but even more government hand-outs; ever more electricity, but fewer icky coal and nuclear plants — and always more health-care, education-care, prescription drug-care, housing-care, and always less care how to pay for it.

So by all means let us prosecute the lawbreakers, finger-point at the enablers, lecture the stupid, but at least spare us the sanctimonious "they" did this to poor "us." If there were not a Senate Banking Chairman like Chris Dodd without shame cozying up to the creeps at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, or a Richard Fuld playing casino roulette with someone else's money, we would have had to invent them.

But it's easier to blame someone else, right? Yes, I know that some of Hanson's litany could be attributed to what some would disdainfully consider "free market capitalism," but look again and you'll see government's hand in all of it, too. We want it all with no risk to ourselves while expecting government to bail us out for our poor choices. And the people who are left to foot the bill are those who either made the right choices in the first place or are willing to take responsibility for not. In short, those who don't regard government as the cure of all ills will be paying the bill for those who do.

Efficiency Shock

Justin Katz

Just a reminder that such things are possible (emphasis added):

The old bridge fell Aug. 1, 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others. The sudden collapse of steel and concrete jolted Minnesota and other states into taking a harder look at the safety of thousands of aging bridges across the country.

The state put the $234 million replacement on a fast track, and contractors had it ready for traffic on budget and more than three months ahead of deadline.

September 21, 2008

Christopher Hitchens Identifies the Candidate Stronger on Pakistan

Monique Chartier

That would be Senator Barack Obama.

First, from the text of Senator Obama's mid-July speech on Iraq and Afghanistan.

The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won't. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.

Make no mistake: we can't succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people. It's time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people.

[Side question: How does this differ from President George Bush's policy on Iraq and his aspirations for the Iraqi people?]

Now, from Hitchens' September 15 column Fighting Words on It should be noted that the column was posted days prior to the horrendous attack on the Islamabad Marriott, an attack believed to have been carried out by the Pakistan Taleban.

Meanwhile, and on Pakistani soil and under the very noses of its army and the ISI, the city of Quetta and the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas are becoming the incubating ground of a reorganized and protected al-Qaida. Sen. Barack Obama has, if anything, been the more militant of the two presidential candidates in stressing the danger here and the need to act without too much sentiment about our so-called Islamabad ally. He began using this rhetoric when it was much simpler to counterpose the "good" war in Afghanistan with the "bad" one in Iraq. Never mind that now; he is committed in advance to a serious projection of American power into the heartland of our deadliest enemy. And that, I think, is another reason why so many people are reluctant to employ truthful descriptions for the emerging Afghan-Pakistan confrontation: American liberals can't quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he's ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that—not less.

NOW Morphs into NOD ... and Maybe That's a Good Sign

Monique Chartier

Perhaps it was inevitable, in view of their advocacy of certain issues which they perceive benefits all women, issues primarily, though not exclusively, advanced by one political party. And they certainly telegraphed this action ten years ago with silence in the face of Bill Clinton's serial harassment of vulnerable and subordinate women, a group whom they purport to champion.

In any case, with their endorsement Tuesday of an all-male (Democrat) Presidential ticket, the National Organization for Women has officially turned into the National Organization for Democrats.

This may be a good thing, in a strange way; an indication that America is in the final stages of moving past the consideration of gender in politics. Certainly this has been my own experience since jumping into politics almost ten years ago. Any negative reaction to my words or even presence in that time has been directed not at my gender but exclusively toward my stance on a particular matter.

In fact, this blithe indifference left me unprepared for the focus on gender which the arrival of both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in the presidential race evoked. I took it for granted that the discussion about their candidacies would be centered exclusively on their qualifications, policies and governing records (... and, as with all candidates, any dirt that could be dug up or spun about them).

Now perhaps, with the endorsement by an organization with one gender in their name of a ticket comprised entirely of the other gender, we really have arrived at the issues-and-qualifications stage of politics in America. (Dirt, on the other hand, will presumably continue to have a revolting/guiltily fascinating presence.)

Don Roach: Is the AIG Bailout a Long-Term Solution?

Engaged Citizen

With the Fed's announcement that it will bail out insurance behemoth AIG, taxpayers are left asking, "Who's on first?" It's as if most corporations were asleep at the wheel during the subprime mortgage boom earlier this decade. And now, everyone's looking at each other trying to figure out where to cast blame and unsure of what to do next.

According to the Fed, if the 18th largest company in the world, which is AIG, were to fall into bankruptcy, the ripple effects would be devastating. Many of us may have an AIG life insurance policy, or the company for which we work uses AIG products. Despite AIG's connections to many Americans, is this bailout about us or the stabilization of a market collapse due to greed?

If anything, it's certainly about staving off a catastrophic disruption within the insurance market, as an AIG bankruptcy would be the largest corporate bankruptcy filing in history. Yet, what does such a rescue say to other large companies that played the high-risk short-term-reward game of subprime mortgages? Democrats are saying that it's all a part of "crony capitalism" and are blaming Republicans. That's just political posturing.

Instead, we're seeing that the government — both the White House and Congress — did not police the market during the subprime boon, which led to numerous companies' either going belly-up or facing historic financial crises due to the pursuit of profits. There's nothing wrong with deregulation, but only if the government allows the market to correct itself. If companies bet the farm on subprime mortgages, they need to feel the pain as debtors' inability to repay their loans contracts the value of these mortgages. That type of accountability will help the survivors make better market decisions in the future.

By contrast, when the government doesn't regulate industries but does barge in to help the largest corporations, it sets up a dichotomy for disaster. In fact, if I'm any of the world's largest companies — for which there is the most risk of market disruption — I'm feeling very good about taking a chance on a risky industry right now. Why? Because in the back of my mind, I know if things go wrong, the Fed might be there to help me out.

Obviously, this too is a risky game, just ask Lehman Brothers, but the Fed is setting precedent here, and one that will not foster a more responsible marketplace.

Whether you're a proponent of regulation or deregulation, what's clear is that mixing the two at arbitrary points in time for selective corporations is only a short-term solution potentially creating even more extensive long-term damage.

September 20, 2008

Man-Made Black Holes Temporarily Postponed

Monique Chartier

The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland suffered some sort of electrical malfunction yesterday and is out of commission for two months as repairs are effected. The first beams had been successfully sent round the Collider ring about ten days ago but protons have yet to be smashed together.

So What's the Lesson?

Justin Katz

Charles Pinning's op-ed in today's Providence Journal may present an awkward blend of maudlin setting and ideological sneer, but perhaps it offers a chance for productive conversation. Pinning puts the following in the mouth of an older male character from Providence's west side, speaking of the regular schmoes whom his elderly sweetheart just encountered at the supermarket (emphasis added):

"Right — they're always kept off-balance. It is the goal of corporations to do this. Deny traction, and you keep people herky-jerky, running in place and churning profits for you. Listen to this:" (He picked up the newspaper.)

"August 27, Business section, front page, headline: 'National Grid asks rate hike of about 5 percent.' It goes on to say . . . 'National Grid also wants the Public Utilities Commission to restructure distribution rates in a way that would protect the company from revenue losses that result from the conservation efforts of its customers.'

"Got that? The raping has been so blatant for so long that National Squid feels it can come straight out and essentially say, 'You can conserve all you want. We're still going to squeeze the same amount of money out of you! We're just shifting the charges to another area.'

"It's the same thing that the Narragansett Bay Commission is trying to pull by asking the PUC to raise rates because of revenue loss due to customers' conserving water over the past three years. People logically think they're going to save a few bucks by using less water or less natural gas — but no! The utilities . . . Narragansett Bay . . . they're petitioning the PUC to get the same level of bucks they want no matter how much water or gas you use. Where's the incentive to conserve? We might as well keep nice and cozy and warm, or use as much water as we want because they're gonna get the same amount of money, whether you use five therms of gas or five hundred; a thimbleful of water or a hundred gallons a day!

"How do I make it clear to people that these corporations have people on a gerbil wheel? That instead of being rewarded for doing the right thing, you will be punished."

Note the player that is conveniently left out of the condemnation: the Public Utilities Commission, itself — the existence of which gives the evil corporations a limited government body to petition, and the authority of which gives a sheen of legitimacy, even inevitability, to the corporate machinations, should it be persuaded. In the absence of such a group, National Grid might simply enact the rate hikes that it desires, and people would respond by seeking ways to conserve or look elsewhere. At some point, it would become sufficiently profitable for competition to arise (whether direct or with the presentation of an alternative), which safeguard comes with a higher threshold to the extent that market entrants face regulatory hurdles.

Corporations alone are not the enemy, here. Corporations in concert with a limited governing body that is human, and therefore manipulable, create the problem.

That perspective is why such news as the following brings out the conspiracy theorist in me:

The outlines of the plan [to rescue financial institutions], described in conference calls to lawmakers on Friday, include buying assets only from United States financial institutions — but not hedge funds — and hiring outside advisers who would work for the Treasury, rather than creating a separate agency. ...

At the end of a week that will be long remembered for the wrenching changes it brought to Wall Street and Washington, Mr. Paulson and Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, told lawmakers that the financial system had come perilously close to collapse. According to notes taken by one participant in a call to House members, Mr. Paulson said that the failure to pass a broad rescue plan would lead to nothing short of disaster. Mr. Bernanke said that Wall Street had plunged into a full-scale panic, and warned lawmakers that their own constituents were in danger of losing money on holdings in ultra-conservative money market funds.

People involved in the discussions on Friday said that Mr. Paulson said he did not want to create a new government agency to handle the rescue plan. Rather, he said, the Treasury Department would hire professional investment managers to oversee what could be a huge portfolio of mortgage-backed securities.

The current financial industry is not wholly a free-market animal. It's a pack of abnormally large beasts nurtured in a particular regulatory environment. And it begins to look awfully convenient that the government that nurtured the creatures will bring their power and responsibilities within its own walls. A quick scan of the economic landscape makes one shudder to think how many industries are evolving in this way.

In other spheres — the social, the religious, the historical — I can at least comprehend the other side's reasoning, and usually empathize with its motivation. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why subscribers to an ideology so distrustful of people with economic power believe that the answer is to consolidate that power, with other forms, in the hands of an even more limited group.

Absorbing everything under the aegis of Government doesn't put everybody on equal footing; it puts us within the walls of a political master.

With Their Own Money, They Will Rob Them

Justin Katz

None can doubt that this is part of the "value add" of the union structure, but it still strikes the ear as sinister:

The organization opposing efforts to eliminate the state's income tax has received two-thirds of its funding from large teachers unions based in Washington D.C.

The Boston Herald reports in Wednesday's editions that The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers contributed a combined $1 million to the Coalition for Our Communities.

State finance records show that the group raised $1.5 million from unions and $100 from an individual donor.

How about that Orwellian name: The Coalition for Our Communities? Yeah, a coalition of unions to bleed our communities!

September 19, 2008

Residents Should Stop Paying That Much for This

Justin Katz

In a town that has witnessed nearly a 12% increase in property taxes in the past year, this sort of thing should get the union-busting, pink-slip-preparing blood boiling:

[Johnston teachers] were a no-show on Monday at Winsor Hill School's open house, an event where they typically meet parents and fill them in on their instructional plans, officials said yesterday.

School Committees should begin taking these unconscionable actions as justification for rewriting contracts to fit budgets and handing them to union leaders with hand-written "take it or leave" notes attached. Believe you me that plenty a private-sector employee is aware of the number of job inquiries floating around the executive office. The arrogance of the unions' tactics when taxpayers are already being pinched and when Rhode Islanders increasingly feel lucky to be working at all is simply appalling.


Marc Comtois

Sen. Joseph Biden, September 18, 2008:

“We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle class people. Anyone making over $250,000….Is going to pay more. You got it. It’s time to be patriotic, Kate. It’s time to jump in, it’s time to be part of the deal, it’s time to help get America out of the rut.”
Alexis de Tocqueville:
The evils that freedom sometimes brings with it are immediate; they are apparent to all, and all are more or less affected by them. The evils that extreme equality may produce are slowly disclosed; they creep gradually into the social frame; they are seen only at intervals; and at the moment at which they become most violent, habit already causes them to be no longer felt.

The advantages that freedom brings are shown only by the lapse of time, and it is always easy to mistake the cause in which they originate. The advantages of equality are immediate, and they may always be traced from their source.

Political liberty bestows exalted pleasures from time to time upon a certain number of citizens. Equality every day confers a number of small enjoyments on every man. The charms of equality are every instant felt and are within the reach of all; the noblest hearts are not insensible to them, and the most vulgar souls exult in them. The passion that equality creates must therefore be at once strong and general. Men cannot enjoy political liberty unpurchased by some sacrifices, and they never obtain it without great exertions. But the pleasures of equality are self-proffered; each of the petty incidents of life seems to occasion them, and in order to taste them, nothing is required but to live.

McCain Explains Government's Role in Current Financial Crisis

Marc Comtois

John McCain today (via The Corner):

The financial crisis we're living through today started with the corruption and manipulation of our home mortgage system. At the center of the problem were the lobbyists, politicians, and bureaucrats who succeeded in persuading Congress and the administration to ignore the festering problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

These quasi-public corporations led our housing system down a path where quick profit was placed before sound finance. They institutionalized a system that rewarded forcing mortgages on people who couldn't afford them, while turning around and selling those bad mortgages to the banks that are now going bankrupt. Using money and influence, they prevented reforms that would have curbed their power and limited their ability to damage our economy. And now, as ever, the American taxpayers are left to pay the price for Washington's failure.

Two years ago, I called for reform of this corruption at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Congress did nothing. The Administration did nothing. Senator Obama did nothing, and actually profited from this system of abuse and scandal. While Fannie and Freddie were working to keep Congress away from their house of cards, Senator Obama was taking their money. He got more, in fact, than any other member of Congress, except for the Democratic chairmen of the committee that oversees them. And while Fannie Mae was betraying the public trust, somehow its former CEO had managed to gain my opponent's trust to the point that Senator Obama actually put him in charge of his vice presidential search. {Johnson resigned over the controversy --ed.}

This CEO, Mr. Johnson, walked off with tens of millions of dollars in salary and bonuses for services rendered to Fannie Mae, even after authorities discovered accounting improprieties that padded his compensation. Another CEO for Fannie Mae, Mr. Raines, has been advising Senator Obama on housing policy. {This charge is based on Washington Post reporting and the Post now says it's a stretch, apparently, it is doubting its own veracity -- ed. This even after Fannie Mae was found to have committed quote "extensive financial fraud" under his leadership. Like Mr. Johnson, Mr. Raines walked away with tens of millions of dollars. {All links added -- ed.}

Partisan Rhode Island

Justin Katz

Perhaps the key is to acknowledge and work with Rhode Islanders' pathological need to vote Democrat:

[Michael] Pinga [electoral slayer of West Warwick Senator Stephen Alves] switched his voter affiliation to Democrat from Republican this spring. Some of his ideologies — his support of Governor Carcieri and opposition to tax hikes, abortion and gay marriage — differ from the party he now calls his. Though he has said he's supported candidates across the aisle in previous elections, Pinga said his decision to switch parties in this election was based on his desire to get the election over and done with.

Of course, if the RIGOP has any vestigial competence, the key players have set a meeting date (or had one already) to discuss the whys and hows of changing the poison touch of the "R."

... that is, except Sarah Palin

Monique Chartier

and millions of other women. A bumper sticker snapped in the greater Providence area last evening:


The surprising un-welcome from some quarters, described so well by Donald, to the arrival of Governor Sarah Palin on the national political scene made it quite clear, contrary to this seemingly guileless bumper sticker, that feminism extends considerably beyond the recognition of human females as members of the species Homo sapien sapien. As outlined in part by Gloria Steinem, it mandates the absence of religion, guns and fossil fuels and the confession of mankind's guilt in the phenomenon of global warming.

In short, as Donald pointed out, "feminism" has revealed itself to be politically, not gender, oriented and certainly not limited to the task of species assigment.

No Time to Update the Script

Justin Katz

Is it me, or is the news editor of the Providence Phoenix increasingly giving the impression of a strident partisan? To be sure, no doubt previously existed as to Ian's political leanings, but something in this election season seems to be drawing him further across the tightrope spanning the ideological gulf, toward his ticker-tape-talking-point friends. Perhaps I've been too keen to see balance, heretofore, but this post puts a head on the snake (so to speak):

Yet the CRFRI's implication that non-Republicans are to blame for the state of the fight against terrorism seems a bit odd, doesn't it?

A few questions:

Who botched the hunt for Osama bin Laden?
Who allowed the Taliban to come back into power in Afghanistan?

Who has waged an extremely costly and unnecessary war that has failed in its stated goal of transforming the Middle East?

Whose own government says this war has made worse the fight against terrorism?

And who is reportedly ramping up the search for Osama since there's a presidential election in November?

Putting aside my observation that, beyond its name, the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island stated nothing in the materials that Donnis cites to implicate non-Republicans in a way that exonerates various members of the party, what does seem a bit odd to me is that Donnis begins his questioning with reference a "botched" hunt for OBL and ends it faulting the administration's renewed focus on him now that its days in office are coming to a close. It's also worth noting that Donnis's link related to the OBL question is to an article from spring 2002, since which time precious little has been heard from the terrorist mastermind.

Donnis doesn't provide a link for his second question, but I'd submit that this article answers it with "Iran":

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have been arming Taliban groups in western Afghanistan for the past year, an independent journalist has told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Question #3 points to a curious — perhaps telling — ambiguity in liberals' thinking: The linked opinion piece addresses the Global War on Terror, with Iraq being merely a stage in that broader war; is Donnis's position that fighting terrorists is "unnecessary"? And apart from that request for clarification, I wonder if Ian would provide his view of a reasonable time frame in which to "transform" an entire region. Should routing terrorists and transforming a broad-based ideo-political culture be roughly equivalent, in time span, to earning a Master's degree? Or is it a project more in the mold of changing a state school's image from "party school" to respected institution?

Chronology is certainly relevant to Donnis's next question, not the least because his supporting link harks back to the pre-surge days of September 2006. Apparently, presidential races are to be run during whatever period serves the liberal candidate best, regardless of whether it happens to be the present.

September 18, 2008

"Two Faced": Does a Constituency Even Exist for the Obama Campaign's Latest Ad?

Monique Chartier

One of the requirements for American citizenship is naturally:


Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language.

Applicants exempt from this requirement are those who on the date of filing:

- have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 15 years or more and are over 55 years of age;

- have been residing in the United States subsequent to a lawful admission for permanent residence for periods totaling 20 years or more and are over 50 years of age; or

- have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, where the impairment affects the applicant’s ability to learn English.

Such a requirement is reflected in the immigration laws of most if not all other countries. The recent Barack Obama ad referring to John McCain as two-faced is voiced entirely in Spanish. ABC's Jake Tapper dissects the accuracy issues of the ad's content, here. [The ad itself is apparently no longer available at the Obama website.]

The target of all campaign ads sponsored by McCain, Obama and their supporters is presumed to be eligible voters. My question is simple if, perhaps, naive. In view of the reasonable and universal citizenship requirement to learn the language of the destination country, what is the necessity to create a campaign ad in some other language?

Economics and Taxes

Justin Katz

Last night, Andrew took up the topics of economics and taxation with Matt Allen on 630AM/99.7FM WPRO. Stream by clicking here, or download it.


The audio links weren't working when I first posted this in the a.m. They're fixed.

The "Advantage" of Universal Healthcare

Carroll Andrew Morse

In response to my question on the Medicaid waiver being sought by the Carcieri administration, commenter "mrh" responded…

I'd say that in general, "liberal Democratic" plans for universal health care don't promise to "put people on waiting lists for treatment, and limit the duration and scope of services."
…to which commenter "bobc" responded…
You're right they don't "promise" to "put people on waiting lists for treatment, and limit the duration and scope of services." But of course they will!
Let me further Bobc's point with a few examples…

1. This is from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who I believe is considered mainstream (maybe even a centrist!) by most liberals…

A national health care system will also be better at rationing when the time comes, but that hardly seems like the prime argument for adopting such a system today.
Krugman is for having government limit access to medical care, as he says, "when the time comes", but doesn't want people to know about this rationale for getting government into the healthcare business until it's too late. Many problems here.

2. A little more locally, Froma Harrop of the Projo recently wrote this about the Massachusetts universal healthcare mandate…

There have been glitches, the main one being that the plan will cost $129 million more than projected. That sounds like a lot of money, but bingo, the state could save $160 million simply by enrolling all its Medicaid members in managed-care plans. Shortfall averted with $30 million left over.
If the point of "managed care" in this setting isn't to give government bureaucrats the power to deny treatment, then how exactly does it work to control costs? (And remember, specifically for this example, Froma Harrop doesn't believe that preventative medicine does anything to lower costs, so that can't be the answer).

3. Moving out a bit towards the fringes, William Saletan of Slate Magazine believes the government-run healthcare should be used to reduce age inequality, i.e. the fact that genetics allow some people to live longer lives than others. I don't think this is mainstream thinking, but that doesn't mean that someone who believes as Saletan does couldn't end up in charge of a rationing or managed care system, once one was constructed.

We can always argue how much any subset of liberals is speaking for all liberals, if it's possible to speak for all liberals, etc. However, it is abundantly clear that an intersection does exist of people who 1) vote "Democrat" on a regular basis 2) want government to be more strongly involved in setting an individual's range of healthcare options and 3) want that stronger influence to be there to control costs by denying care.

If this is truly fringe thinking (even beyond Saletan), the wider world of liberalism should be more vocal about it.

Poverty Rate Versus Continuous Tax Burden

Carroll Andrew Morse

I've received several e-mails about possible distortions that can arise from plotting a true continuous variable (the relative poverty rate) versus an ordinal rank, and if it's possible to re-plot the data against the data used to create the ranks. Of concern is that ranks can have different meanings at different points on a scale; the difference between slots 1 and 2 might be much larger and much more significant, for instance, than the difference between slots 20 and 30.

Fortunately, with the data available on the Tax Foundation website, I can express the yearly tax-burden of Rhode Island residents using the same method applied to the poverty rate, in terms of a percentage of the national average. The correlation is as strong as in the continuous-versus-rank plot


(Tax burden numbers are from the Tax Foundation, poverty numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau)...

Tax Burden
Tax Burden
RI Relative
Tax Burden
RI Relative
Poverty Rate

On the Road to Nowhere

Justin Katz

The powers that be should pay some attention when Tom Sgouros and I agree on something:

Counting debt service paid from within the department's budget, we now pay almost $100 million every year in DOT interest payments. How does that make you feel about borrowing $40 million more next year? Do you think that's a sensible way to run the state? ...

So how did we get to this pass? Simple: we allowed politicians to pretend they were managing our finances in a responsible fashion while they borrowed way past any reason to spend freely on expensive roads and bridges while pinching pennies on the public transit that could save us all money and time. I'm tired of these games, and intend to vote no on the transportation bond, this November. Please join me.

We differ, of course, on some particulars. It's difficult, for example, to lament spending "freely on expensive roads and bridges" when those roads and bridges give the physical impression of neglect. Similarly, Sgouros's angle is that Rhode Island borrows the money to procure federal funds, so as to keep the financial spicket open, whereas I'd point out that the state could accomplish that end without borrowing, the implication being that underlying reason transportation is put at the bottom of the list for financial allocations is because it's an easy sell for more money.

The state spends its money on other, less-fundamental things (such as employee benefits, various resident give-aways, and sops to those in power) and puts forward transportation bonds as a "good deal" because they bring federal dollars and devote money to infrastructure that all citizens know to be substandard. Sgouros would probably take umbrage at my use of the phrase "less-fundamental" when it comes to union contracts and the welfare state.

Be that as it may, the game should be up, and we should refuse all bonds, whether transportation or otherwise. If a project or investment is a good deal for the state, then the state ought to be treating it as part of its regular budget.

Who'll Be the New King of the RI Senate's Financial Hill?

Carroll Andrew Morse

It looks like speculation can officially begin: Who's going to be the new chair of the Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee?

The current members (minus those not returning) are...

Senator Stephen D. AlvesChairperson
Senator Frank A. Ciccone IIIMember
Senator Walter S. Felag Jr.1st Vice Chairperson
Senator Hanna M. GalloSecretary
Senator June N. GibbsMember
Senator Maryellen GoodwinMember
Senator Beatrice A. Lanzi2nd Vice Chairperson
Senator Paul E. MouraMember
Senator Juan M. PichardoMember
Senator Dominick J. RuggerioMember

September 17, 2008

A Declining Poverty Rate Versus a Declining Tax Burden

Carroll Andrew Morse

With all indicators showing the Rhode Island economy tanking at the state level, as well as national and international-level factors like the banking crisis and energy prices squeezing Rhode Island families, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that the Federal Government says that the overall poverty situation in Rhode Island improved during the years 2006 and 2007.

According to the Annual Social and Economic Statistical Supplement put out by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the poverty rate in Rhode Island in 2007 was 9.5%, its lowest absolute level since 1990. The figure of 9.5% was 76% of the national poverty rate, the lowest relative poverty rate seen in RI since 1994, and the period 2006-2007 was the first time that Rhode Island's relative poverty rate remained below 90% for two consecutive years since 1995-1996 -- probably not coincidentally, around the same time that RI's social services programs were redesigned in response to the Clinton administration's welfare reform initiative.

The new data lets us add two more points to the graph first presented by Anchor Rising last year of relative poverty rate versus Tax Foundation state tax-burden ranking. This graph also incorporates the changes that the Tax Foundation has made to its ranking methodology since last year (which seems to have reduced some of the year-to-year swings in the RI rankings). Here is the scatterplot of current year's relative poverty rate versus previous year's tax burden using the new numbers; the points in blue represent the two most recent years…


Fans of the Tax Foundation rankings may be interested to know that Rhode Island has fallen out of the top 5 in terms of the taxes paid by its residents. RI "dropped" to 9th place in 2007 and, according to the Tax Foundation's preliminary estimate, to 10th in 2008. It's too early to add a 2007 tax rank versus 2008 poverty rate point to the graph, as 2008 poverty data won't be released by the government until August 2009, but for a possible look ahead, the tax rank of current and previous years can be averaged together and compared to the current year's poverty rate -- for this data set at least, the averaging method produces a tighter fit to the data than by using the previous year's rank alone…


Obviously, there is more than one cause in play creating a result like this, but it is pretty clear from the most recent 25 years of Rhode Island history that creating of a high-tax state is not a great method for attacking the problem of poverty.

Year RI
Tax Rank
RI Relative
Poverty Rate
1980 15 82.3%
1981 12 83.6%
1982 8 88.7%
1983 10 95.4%
1984 12 88.9%
1985 15 66.2%
1986 19 65.0%
1987 16 60.4%
1988 17 75.4%
1989 20 52.3%
1990 16 55.6%
1991 17 73.2%
1992 11 83.8%
1993 12 74.2%
1994 12 71.0%
1995 10 76.8%
1996 9 80.3%
1997 8 95.5%
1998 9 91.3%
1999 10 84.0%
2000 10 90.3%
2001 6 82.1%
2002 7 90.9%
2003 5 92.0%
2004 4 90.6%
2005 4 96.0%
2006 5 85.4%
2007 9 76.0%

A Rich Lesson in Government Finances from Gregg

Justin Katz

The article's a few days old, but one comment from writer Katherine Gregg yields too rich of a lesson for Governor Carcieri not to highlight:

How did we get to this point? Despite orders to cut spending, some state administrators simply couldn't bring themselves to do it. And state lawmakers seemed content to accept the Carcieri administration's promise of millions in unspecified cuts, rather than demand the kinds of emergency cutbacks in state-subsidized Medicaid programs, municipal aid, layoffs and government shutdown days that might have worked.

Yes, anybody who's followed the headlines for the past nine or so months can attest that every difficult decision made in the course of trimming our overgrown government brings indignation and media coverage painting the pruners as perpetrators, and here we are with a post facto instruction that such steps "might have worked." And no, going in the other direction — making the tough decisions in order to save the budget — probably won't produce post facto statements about doing what we had to do.

The lesson: hack away, because if one pays attention to the vested interests, the invested politicians, and the local media, becoming the fall guy for calamity is the likely result. The people of the state understand, though, and strong action will win them over.

The Problem with Activism, Per Se

Justin Katz

Although I obviously agree with his immediate point, something in this post by Damon Root strikes the ear funny, in a way that betrays the lack of long-term thinking among libertarians (emphasis added):

McCain's response? "That's an excellent point." I don't know if excellent is the word I'd use. When conservatives complain about judges "legislating from the bench," they mean protecting rights that aren't explicitly listed in the Constitution, such as privacy (or liberty of contract or the right to educate your child in a private school). Unless McCain starts campaigning to pass a new amendment reinstating slavery, I think Whoopi can rest easy. Besides, if she had read Lysander Spooner or Frederick Douglass, she'd know that slavery was already illegal before the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Are liberty of contract or the right to educate children in private school really on conservatives' hit list? From the piece (of his own authorship) that Root links on the words "liberty of contract":

Dissenting from the majority in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which nullified that state's anti-sodomy law, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued that the Texas legislature's "hand should not be stayed through the invention of a brand-new 'constitutional right' by a Court that is impatient of democratic change."

Such views are widely shared on the right, where few subjects produce greater outrage than judicial activism, which conservatives blame for the forced imposition of liberal values on American society. But libertarians, who have frequently allied with conservatives in the effort to rein in the federal government, should not join their battle against the judiciary. There is no inconsistency between principled judicial activism and limited government.

Root goes on to explain that, in the past, "judicial activism was associated almost exclusively with the protection of economic rights" and "that a principled form of libertarian judicial activism--that is, one that consistently upholds individual rights while strictly limiting state power--is essential to the fight for a free society." What's jarring is that modern conservatives like those outcomes, and it's instructive to consider ideological groups according to the beliefs that they actually hold, rather than in the relativist terms that equate today's "conservatives" with yesterday's.

The lesson for Root, who presumably joins many libertarians in approving of the more-recent social outcomes of judicial activism, is that the mechanism by which political ends are achieved matters, because the ends have a way of (quote, unquote) evolving. He describes the first, economic wave of judicial activism as a reaction to a movement among the states toward "legislating a variety of new 'progressive' regulations," which amounts to a preservation of understood structures against the imposition of change. The social wave of judicial activism, by contrast, has entailed transforming the established understandings of "liberty" to include (most prominently) various sexual behaviors, with the trail leading predictably toward social recognition of all sexual relationships as equivalent in all respects.

The first wave made the statement: "The government can't change that." The second: "The government must change that." The next step (again, predictable, indeed, already underway) is: "The government must enforce that." In other words, one citizen's liberty has a way of becoming another citizens compelled compliance when there's an untouchable arbiter to persuade.

Peeling back Root's statements by one layer, it becomes apparent that one could say much the same about any form of government or government action. He writes that "a principled form of libertarian judicial activism... is essential to the fight for a free society," but both his boundary for principle and his chosen mechanism are arbitrary. One could just as easily declare that a principled dictatorship — a principled theocracy — is essential. The problem is that those who find themselves in positions of imbalanced power will find ways to control the levers of power, to ensure that their "principles" are included in the practical definition of the term, and the smaller the group that upholds the principles, the smaller the task of manipulating it.

Me, I say we should let states institute foolhardy, even oppressive rules, as long as folks are remain able to vote, to speak, and to leave. If Rhode Island were to forbid the use of private schools, for example, statistics suggest that I'd hardly be alone in taking my tax dollars and productivity elsewhere. Relying on judges to determine — especially for the entire nation — what is right and wrong, we invite a precedent that will remain even when judicial wisdom takes a turn that we oppose.

September 16, 2008

Equal Pay? Acta non Verba Senator Obama

Marc Comtois

Senator Obama is accusing Senator McCain (via this ad, for instance) of not being for equal pay for equal work (specifically as it concerns woman and men). This is based on John McCain's opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Legislation is fine, Senator Obama, but what about putting your policy position into practice?

"Barack Obama says he's for equal pay for women, but women working in his Senate office earn an average of $9,000 less than men. By contrast, women in John McCain's Senate office actually earn an average of nearly $2,000 more than men. The American people understand that real leadership for the change we need is all about what you do, not just empty words." -- McCain-Palin spokesman Brian Rogers
The Boston Globe tries to spin this:
The study that McCain's campaign cites, however, notes that a major reason for the disparity is that McCain has more women in senior, higher-paid positions -- not that women are being paid less than men for the same job.
So, let me get this straight. To follow the Globe's line of reasoning: just because Senator McCain has more top-level--and thus higher-paid--women campaign staffers than Senator Obama doesn't mean that Senator McCain necessarily supports equal opportunity and equitable pay for women. I guess he just makes it look that way by his actions.

No Single Reason for Recent Financial Failures

Marc Comtois

We simple-minded humans often like to boil things down to a simple cause/effect (ie; reductionism). It makes it easier for us to understand complex issues. The recent financial crisis is a case in point. Liberals and Democrats are predisposed to blame greedy Wall Street and are calling for more regulation. (And some have added this to the list of "things that are Bush's fault"---think again). Some Republicans are also calling for more regulation, while others, including many conservatives, are blaming government intervention and regulation for setting the tone for the current problems. In short, predictable ideological lines have been drawn. The truth is that the blame lay at the feet of "all of the above," including average American consumers.

First, was the Clinton administration...[that] originally helped create the market for the high-risk subprime loans now infecting like a retrovirus the balance sheets of many of Wall Street's most revered institutions.

Tough new regulations forced lenders into high-risk areas where they had no choice but to lower lending standards to make the loans that sound business practices had previously guarded against making. It was either that or face stiff government penalties.

The untold story in this whole national crisis is that President Clinton put on steroids the Community Redevelopment Act, a well-intended Carter-era law designed to encourage minority homeownership. And in so doing, he helped create the market for the risky subprime loans that he and Democrats now decry as not only greedy but "predatory."

Yes, the market was fueled by greed and overleveraging in the secondary market for subprimes, vis-a-vis mortgaged-backed securities traded on Wall Street. But the seed was planted in the '90s by Clinton and his social engineers. They were the political catalyst behind this slow-motion financial train wreck.

But we shouldn't gloss over this last. There was greed on the part of some coupled with honest-to-goodness risk aversion on the part of others that combined to create the "mortgaged-backed securities" through "financial engineering" that lay at the root of the failures. Meanwhile, the people who ran Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac were clever in doling out political contributions and keeping the prying eyes away.

And there were warning signs a-plenty. Heck, in 2004 many were recognized but not heeded by government, business and consumer groups alike. We also should hold individuals responsible for making poor financial choices. By now, we're all familiar with stories of people who began to consider their home-equity as an endless font of wealth, aren't we? Or people who took "interest only" loans or 5-and-1 ARMs to buy houses that were WAY outside of what they could afford.

What we had, then, was well-intentioned (isn't it always...) government intervention into the housing markets that led to the market-share explosion of public/private partnerships (Fanny and Freddy) with little aversion to risk. At the same time, risk-averse private institutions created multi-layered, risk-hiding investment "opportunities" to simultaneously profit and pass on as much risk as possible to "the other guy." All of this was built on houses of cards purchased by fiscally naive consumers. Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around.

UPDATE: And someone saw this coming in 2000.

UPDATE II: Not to absolve business, but the more we look into it, the more we see the role that government had in screwing things up. Neil Boortz has a ground level view. James Pethokoukis gives a summary:

The more you look at the history of the housing-spawned credit crisis, the more you notice Uncle Sam popping up, Zelig-like, in every scene. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were government-birthed entities that decided to buy securities tied to subprime loans. And it was government officials on Capitol Hill, the recipients of millions in campaign donations from the F&F lobby, who decided not to rein in those entities. You had the government ' s Community Reinvestment Act nudging banks to make unsound loans. Government banker Alan Greenspan pushed interest rates too low for too long earlier this decade, creating an extreme financial situation that made the crazy Wall Street strategies look temporarily reasonable. And for decades, government has pushed higher homeownership as a national goal, via F&F as well as through the tax code, siphoning off resources that might have been better devoted to other economic sectors.

Variations on a Theme

Justin Katz

George Will:

The spontaneous emergence of social cooperation—the emergence of a system vastly more complex, responsive and efficient than any government could organize—is not universally acknowledged or appreciated. It discomforts a certain political sensibility, the one that exaggerates the importance of government and the competence of the political class.

Jeff Jacoby:

... you don't have to be rich to be skeptical when a candidate argues that the top 1 percent of taxpayers, who already pay 40 percent of federal income taxes, aren't being taxed enough. Nor do you have to be an economist to wonder about the grasp of a nominee who tells 95 percent of the public that they can have something for nothing. Obamanomics may look pretty at first glance. But voters are focusing more closely now, and they can see beyond the lipstick.

September 15, 2008

The Beginning of Actual Change

Justin Katz

Just a quick reminder for any Tiverton residents (or fiscal conservatives who wish to offer moral support to their peers here): Tiverton Citizens for Change is hosting its first public meeting tonight from 7:30–9:00p.m. at the VFW Hall at 134 Shove St., Tiverton.


The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m., and people are already showing up at 6:43. Space is limited.

ADDENDUM 7:00p.m.

Town officials in the room so far: Town Council members Don Bollin and Joanne Arruda, Town Administrator James Goncalo, School Committee member Sally Black, Town Clerk Nancy Mello, and Budget Committee Chairman Chris Cotta. I suppose from a good-government standpoint, incumbents really ought to attend these things, but given that the group is decidedly anti-establishment, it's still a surprise.

Might make for an interesting evening.

ADDENDUM 7:12 p.m.

We're probably about halfway to capacity, right now (with a big rush coming in), and even a crowd of this size can give one a sense of the complexity of society. That's something that I think gets lost in the week-to-week operations of town government, and the number in attendance already is much more than enough to have made a difference at the last Financial Town Meeting.

When a typical Town Council meeting has more people at the official tables than in the audience, it isn't surprising that the officials begin to take the people in the room as their constituency. When the School Committee is facing a grumbling crowd of teachers, with very minimal taxpayer representation, it isn't surprising that Rhode Island teachers' unions have pushed things as far as they have.

Even if local groups such as TCC manage nothing more than organizing an attendance movement (a phrase perhaps worth coinage), they could make a huge difference.

ADDENDUM 7:23 p.m.:

State Rep. John Loughlin just waved and called me Matt. "Wrong blogger." By far, representative, by far.

ADDENDUM 7:30 p.m.:

We're starting the meeting at room capacity. The reason, as moderator Tom Parker just said: "We have a problem in Tiverton."

ADDENDUM 7:37 p.m.:

TCC president Dave Nelson is making his presentation now, beginning with the bio that he moved here from NY, where he saw his taxes double over four years. Now he's seeing the same thing happening in Tiverton.

ADDENDUM 7:41 p.m.

A representative from the Little Compton Taxpayers Association is describing their experience: "Our main weapon is a newsletter... we have become a force in town."

"When you belong to this group [meaning the TCC], you better wear your helmets."

ADDENDUM 7:46 p.m.

Larry Fitzmorris of Portsmouth Concerned Citizens: "As individuals, when you go against town government, you don't have a voice... Together you have a voice; individually, you'll be ignored."

ADDENDUM 7:48 p.m.:

Harry Stanley of RISC: "You have enormous power in your hands" if everybody here tonight joins TCC and then goes out and brings one other person. (Presumably beginning with those people whom we had to turn away at the door...)

"A day will come when they [town and state government] are going to have to listen to you and to me... Don't let this be a one-meeting organization, because we need you — this state needs you."

ADDENDUM 7:57 p.m.:

Dave Nelson: "Our message is simple: We can do this."

It bears mentioning that the key take-away of this meeting is that we must vote, and we must be aware and organized in our voting. One important tidbit: Our ballot allows voting for up to seven town council members (and five school committee members), but voters don't have to vote for that many. Just getting people to withhold free votes could be decisive.

Heard in the audience when a candidate I don't recognize introduced himself to somebody: "Are you endorsed by this group? If you're not, I'm not going to vote for you."

ADDENDUM 8:02 p.m.

The free hot dogs are unveiled and the mingling begins.

ADDENDUM 8:18 p.m.:

His waving to me from the crowd reminded me that I neglected to mention the presence of my nigh-upon-inevitable state representative Jay Edwards. As at other public events — presumably in a display of pre-election comity — he spent the evening standing next to Rep. Loughlin.

By the way, the rough head count for the event was somewhere north of 200 people, meaning that we turned away about a quarter of those who showed up for the meeting because they wouldn't fit in the room. (I did my part by walking to the event, so as not to dissuade attendance due to lack of parking.)

Torn Between Conservatism and Fandom, 2008 Version

Carroll Andrew Morse

'Tis time for my becoming-annual lament: The series between the Red Sox and Rays beginning tonight would be much more exciting in the old two-division system, where a playoff berth would really be on the line. As it is, this is almost like a pre-playoff exhibition tournament.

As a Red Sox fan, of course, I'll take the increased margin for error.

Press to McCain: "Don't Cross Us... or Our Messiah"

Justin Katz

With suspect editing of the VP candidate's recent interview and dueling front page hit pieces against her, yesterday, Boston Phoenix blogger Adam Reilly would say that "by declaring war on the media, McCain has given them license to cover his candidacy the way they should have from the beginning." The move "could actually be a corrective to the fawning press treatment the allegedly liberal media has for years lavished on McCain."

Now that the Democratic and Republican pep rallies are over, the candidates desperately need the press’s assistance to get their message out. But now that McCain has given the press the finger, most members of the media will be a lot less inclined to do anything that aids his campaign.

Some of them may actually respond by leveling direct, aggressive challenges at the McCain-Palin ticket.

So much for the pretense of news being an uninvested, objective medium! (It's just Obama's turn to for lavishment, I suppose.)

Rather than an objective analysis, however, Reilly's piece reads as a balm for a newly insecure mainstream media. Never fear that our candidate doesn't have the lead one would expect based on our candidacy, the subtext goes, the other guy has finally given us reason to take off the gloves.

That's not unexpected. What's surprising is how very Old Media the column sounds. As far as I can tell, it's now an open question as to whether candidates "desperately need" the establishment media to communicate with voters. Those massively successful "The One" ads grew their buzz on the Internet, which is a force that The Press can no longer ignore, and which by its very openness exposes egomaniacal twists of the truth — whether out of liberalism or revenge — as politicking masked as journalism.

The Times and the Medicaid Waiver

Carroll Andrew Morse

The New York Times editorial board says the Carcieri administration's plan to redesign Rhode Island's Medicaid program is risky…

Under the proposed waiver, the federal government would contribute a fixed annual amount for the next five years (roughly what it was projected to spend anyway), but Rhode Island would limit its contribution to 23 percent of its general revenue budget….

The state is hoping to make up the difference, without harming patients, by providing health care more cheaply. It wants to require most long-term care patients to get treatment at home or from community-based services rather than in expensive nursing homes and would put virtually all beneficiaries in managed care.

If that isn’t enough, it wants flexibility to charge higher co-payments, put people on waiting lists for treatment, and limit the duration and scope of services.

My question is, perhaps with the exception of the higher co-payments, how are the actions cited in the Times editorial substantively different from standard liberal Democratic plans for implementing universal healthcare?

September 14, 2008

The complete Palin interview with Gibson

Donald B. Hawthorne

Here is the complete transcript of the Palin interview with Gibson.

Now everyone can see what was edited out. NewBusters comments:

A transcript of the unedited interview of Sarah Palin by Charles Gibson clearly shows that ABC News edited out crucial portions of the interview that showed Palin as knowledgeable or presented her answers out of context...

we see that Palin was not nearly as hostile towards Russia as was presented in the edited interview...

We also see from Palin's...remark, which was also edited out, that she is far from some sort of latter day Cold Warrior which the edited interview made her seem to be...

Palin's extended remarks about defending our NATO allies were edited out to make it seem that she was ready to go to war with Russia...That answer presented Palin as a bit too knowledgeable for the purposes of ABC News and was, of course, edited out.

Palin's answers about a nuclear Iran were carefully edited to the point where she was even edited out in mid-sentence to make it seem that Palin favored unilateral action against that country...

Laughably, a remark by Gibson that indicated he agreed with Palin was edited out...Gibson took her point about Lincoln's words but we wouldn't know that by watching the interview since it was left on the cutting room floor...

H/T Power Line.

And, after a performance like that, the MSM is upset over how IT is being treated. LOL.

You would think at some point these people would catch on that their behaviors and words make them come across like a bunch of partisan imbeciles.


The contrast is stark:

Sending lots of people into Alaska to investigate Palin's history is fine. Aggressively questioning Palin is fine.

But it is the double standard which is appalling. Not sending anybody into Chicago to do a similar investigation of PRESIDENTIAL candidate Obama doesn't cut it. What about Wright, Ayers, Woods Foundation, Rezko? There you have specific and explicitly known questionnable behaviors and affiliations by Obama and the MSM has no interest. Combining that with a lack of aggressive questioning of Obama about these dubious affiliations only magnifies the contrast, magnifies the bias. In addition, the MSM also don't even have any interest in digging into Obama's missing years earlier in his life.

But the MSM has spent months publishing glowing, uncritical stories about Obama, ignoring all the strange and seedy relationships in his past. Or his lack of experience and how easily rattled he has gotten. And then publish stories about Palin which contain either thin gruel or outright falsehoods. Flagrant contrast.

Meet West Warwick's "David": Michael Pinga, Baker and presumptive Senator-Elect

Monique Chartier

This week, WPRO's Dan Yorke interviewed Michael Pinga of West Warwick. Subject to the recount taking place tomorrow, Mr. Pinga won an upset victory over incumbent state Senator and Senate Finance Committee Chair Stephen Alves in Tuesday's primary. Because Mr. Pinga will be the only candidate on the ballot for Senate District 9 come November, Mr. Pinga is also the presumptive Senator for that district. Senator Alves has called the recount a "long shot" but says he "owes it to his supporters".

Below are some excerpts from Dan Yorke's interview. Audio of the complete interview available here.

Yorke: Why did you run?

Pinga: I ran because I'm a small business man and I'm fed up with the high taxes. The representation we have for West Warwick ... I feel that they're up there, most of the representatives & senators, for themselves, self interest and personal gain. They haven't done much for the town of West Warwick.

* * * *

[Yorke reads this Pinga ad, a compilation of headlines referencing many of Senator Alves' escapades.]

Mr. Pinga: [dryly] He's running on his experience. That's why I listed his experience.

* * * *

Yorke: Tell me about your mission. What is it that really moves you to run for office and what do you think you are going to be able to accomplish in our Rhode Island State Senate?

Pinga: It's no big secret that the state is in financial crisis. For years, been reading in the newspaper ... for example, the tobacco settlement money. They used that money. We had a settlement of roughly $1.2b. They sold that off for $600m. One time fix. They took that money. They plugged the budget. They used it for the operations of the state. You know, that's no different than me hitting the lottery to meet payroll this week. It's not going to happen every week for 52 weeks. I'm sorry. Instead of grabbing the bull by the horns and say, look, we're in trouble, something has to be done, they didn't do that. They just continued to go on and on and on. They're counting on the lead paint money. They should have had some fiscal responsibility, that's what I mean.

Anyone there, the representatives, all senators at the State House, anyone there longer than ten years, they're part of the problem. They saw this coming, they chose to do nothing about it. They just kept it going. And now we're what, five-six hundred million in the hole.

* * * *

Yorke: Will you support Joe Montelbano as President?

Pinga: [emphatically] No.

Yorke: A no vote for Joe Montalbano from Michael Pinga?

Pinga: Yes. I may be running for Senate President myself

Yorke: Is that right.

Pinga: Yes.

Yorke: Well, first tell me why you don't have the thought to support Joe Montalbano.

Pinga: I think that there's one clique up there and that's the clique we have to get rid of. Same old politics; same group of guys. You know, just doing whatever they want to do. I represent honest, clean government. I don't owe anybody any favors. I'm not givng anybody jobs. I'm not looking to get anybody jobs. Don't ask me to get a number plate for you! No favors.

* * * *

Yorke: Have you talked to some of the other players on the other Chamber, State House, the Speaker of the House?

Pinga: Yeah, I know Bill Murphy. He sent out a letter this weekend endorsing Senator Alves. That's fine.

Yorke: What about Mr. Williamson, another big player in West Warwick?

Pinga: Yes, I spoke to him. I believe he's part of the problem also.

Yorke: Did you tell him that?

Pinga: Yes, I did. He's been there too long.

Yorke: What was his reaction?

Pinga: Wasn't happy. Tried to mimic me. That doesn't phase me.

Yorke: I cannot believe that Tim Williamson tried to mimic you. That's just not in his ... that's just not in [laughing] his demeanor.

Pinga: On election day, he's worried about me wearing a suit and tie. I had a tee shirt on and shorts. I says, I'm not about the fluff. This is me. I'm the real person.

Yorke: You were out there ... Well, Laffey ran for Senate in a sweaty shirt all day long. What the hell, he almost pulled it off.

Pinga: Well, I guess for some reason, Mr. Williamson feels you have to be dressed up to win. Not the case, Timmy.

I'd also like to make a note that the Chairman of the Democratic party in West Warwick, after I submitted my papers to run, he told me in the parking lot that he doesn't care about the state level, just the local level. They all thought it was a joke.

Yorke: That you were running.

Pinga: Yes. That Stephen's unbeatable, too strong, knows too many people. Impossible. I'm going to get slaughtered.

It's not about me and it's not about him. It's about what the people want. And the people have spoken. They're sick and tired of it. They want change.

* * * *

Yorke: Did I read that Council 94 endorsed you?

Pinga: Yes.

Yorke: What's that all about?

Pinga: I went there. I went for an interview and they endorsed me, I believe, because they can see that I'm a fair person. And I told them I would lead by example. I would not ask a person to take a cut if I'm not willing to take a cut. I was always brought up, never ask somebody to do something I'm not willing to do myself. I wold be the first one to take a 10% cut on anything before I ask you to take a 5% cut.

And I believe all the representatives and all the senators up there ... Senator Alves killed the bill to pay 10% of his health care. "Needs more study." What do you have to study? All it comes down to is greed. You just wanted to save the 10% for yourself. Yet you have the audacity to ask these people that have a contract to take a cut. Absolutely wrong in my eyes.

Mr. Pinga's website available here.

Decisions and Morality

Justin Katz

No doubt, there are some who will tear their garments (to use the old biblical phrase) at the extremity of my beliefs — if only because they lack the power, for the time being, to tear my garments — but this paragraph from Mona Charen strikes me as ceding too much rhetorical ground (emphasis added):

Sarah Palin is no ordinary pro-lifer. She is an attractive, intelligent, ambitious, successful woman who has actually lived her convictions. Told that the baby she was carrying would be handicapped with Down syndrome, she and her husband made the only decision their consciences would permit — to welcome this child with the same love they would give to any other. That decision is comparatively rare in America. Fully 80 percent of parents who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome in their unborn children elect to abort. But it's not unusual at all among committed pro-lifers. I have met many in the course of speaking to pro-life audiences. And for every couple that has chosen life for a handicapped child, there are thousands and perhaps millions more who have abjured prenatal testing because under no circumstances would they abort their children. I cannot count the times I've amazed pro-choice people with the news that there are even waiting lists of couples who stand ready to adopt Down syndrome babies.

The magnitude of ending the lives of one's own children is not adequately expressed in terms of an option that ought to be beyond the bounds of a moral conscience. It's not a decision; it's an accession to the monstrous evil of a selfish era.

Charen further dilutes the point by making the Palins' moral boundaries out to be "rare." The factor to emphasize is that those who go so far as to seek a diagnosis regarding the mental capacity of their unborn children do so because they feel it will make some difference in how they proceed. I don't know what percentage of parents opt for such tests, but I'd be surprised if, at the end of the tabulation, the numbers don't fall right down the centerline of our society's ideological divide.

September 13, 2008

Katherine Gregg, Conspirator

Justin Katz

It may be that it doesn't come across as often as it should, but I'm as disappointed as anybody that Governor Carcieri seems often not to understand the image that he must present to counter the break-and-blame strategy that the Democrats have woven into the governance of Rhode Island. If actions of the General Assembly impeded him from meeting his budget, he should have taken whatever proclaimedly draconian steps were necessary and offered the clear cause/effect argument. But oh how I wish that we could rely on our front-page-caliber journalists not to be as complicit in the conspiracy as the politicians.

The latest indicator of the problem comes with Katherine Gregg's attempted zinger at the end of a front page "news" report for which she apparently fabricated an entire (shall we say) journalistic act by leading House Majority Leader Gordon Fox (D, Providence) toward her chosen topic:

[Gubernatorial spokeswoman Amy Kempe] did not mention as a contributing factor [to executive overspending] the governor’s hiring of a second out-of-state lawyer, James Bopp, at a cost of $15,000 to file a legal brief here in a same-sex marriage case.

Apparently, Gregg didn't have time to find somebody else in whose mouth to put her riposte. And apparently, the Providence Journal didn't have space to list every single budgetary line item that Ms. Kempe "did not mention."

Missed Opportunity on How Our Constitution Works

Justin Katz

As loath as we must all be to slip into the mire of political discussion on The View, I have to note that McCain missed an excellent opportunity to provide a grown-up explanation for a reckless question from Whoopi Goldberg. While the group was apparently discussing Roe v. Wade and the types of judges whom McCain would nominate, Goldberg chimed in:

Sir, I don't want to misinterpret what you're saying. Did you say you wanted strict constitutionalists, because ... should I be worried about being returned to slavery? Because certain things happened in the Constitution that you had to change.

McCain credited her with making an excellent point, but left it at that. The correct response would have been to remind the audience that the Constitution has been amended (i.e., changed) to abolish slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment reads:

Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

In other words, even a strict constitutionalist would find that the Constitution bans slavery.

September 12, 2008

Re: Two-faced McCain

Justin Katz

Without challenging Don's feelings about McCain — considering that the candidate would find it difficult indeed to get me much past ambivalent about him — I'm not sure it's entirely fair to characterize the Spanish ad as "two-faced." Here's a translation posted on a forum that appears to be hostile to McCain:

Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they?
The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail.
The result:
No guest worker program.
No path to citizenship.
No secure borders.
No reform.
Is that being on our side?
Obama and his Congressional allies ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead.

Is that playing with some vagueries in such terms as "guest worker program"? Perhaps, although we've seen that the Hispanic Caucus's version of immigration reform is indeed holding up desirable guest worker programs (that are particularly important for Rhode Island) in order to achieve more extreme ends. But I see no reason to doubt that McCain is developing a consistent message (whatever one's opinion of his sincerity might be). Consider another ad; this one in English. He mentions the contributions of Hispanic Americans, and even non-Americans, to the U.S. military:

So let's, from time to time, remember that these are God's children. They must come into this country legally, but they have enriched our culture and our nation as every generation of immigrants before them.

A strong case can be made that McCain is too willing to compromise on certain policies, but if his point is that Americans should respect immigrants (and hopeful immigrants), while enforcing the law, and that problems with immigration law should be resolved expediently, then nothing in these ads contradicts that message. (I'd note that he could go even further, stressing that Democrats have an electoral interest in keeping the immigrant strife an active issue.)

Two-faced McCain

Donald B. Hawthorne

I don't like John McCain's politics. Never have.

This piece from Mickey Kaus is the latest example of why:

Attention Ms. Coulter: John McCain is running an ad in Spanish attacking Obama for allegedly failing to support the "comprehensive immigration reform" bill that McCain himself has said he no longer supports. ... I guess McCain got the "message" but not the mensaje. ... P.S.: The picture of Sen. Patrick Leahy is especially terrifying. ... P.P.S.: Would McCain ever run this ad in English? ...

Here is the ad. I don't know Spanish so will have to take Kaus' word.

More on the problems with McCain in the coming weeks.

The Bush doctrine and the psyching out of Barack Obama

Donald B. Hawthorne

Charles Krauthammer on the Bush doctrine:

...The New York Times got it wrong. And Charlie Gibson got it wrong.

There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration -- and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today. It is utterly different.

He asked Palin, "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"

She responded, quite sensibly to a question that is ambiguous, "In what respect, Charlie?"

Sensing his "gotcha" moment, Gibson refused to tell her. After making her fish for the answer, Gibson grudgingly explained to the moose-hunting rube that the Bush doctrine "is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense."


I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term...

Michael Gordon of NYTimes on Palin's foreign policy answers

Jonah Goldberg on Feminist Army Aims Its Canons at Palin - Because womanhood is a state of mind

The Anchoress on the Gibson interviews of Palin and Obama

Protein Wisdom on Alinsky, Obama and progressives

No Left Turns on Howard Kurtz and the media's anger

Just One Minute on Lincoln's prayer

Mark Penn on press treatment of Palin

Gerard Baker on Obama: How there is a yawning gulf between what the Democratic candidate says and how he has acted. That's why the race is so close

Obama has been psyched out by Palin. Not even the media's distortion campaign can hide that fact.

Geez, if a 44-year-old American citizen - who is just a small-town mayor with no experience, right? - can get under his skin, then how is Obama going to handle Putin or Ahmadinejad?

Obama is a self-absorbed and arrogant wimp. Some Messiah.

So What Are the Odds That the Hateful Left Will Stop Falling into These Jabs?

Justin Katz

What a wonderful thing is the Internet, on which a few minutes of catch-up browsing can bring both smear and counterpoint. RIFuture has the smear:

Do you really think we will grow our IT and ET economies with a president [McCain] who doesn't even understand how to use a computer?

And Jonah Goldberg has the explanation:

The reason he doesn't send email is that he can't use a keyboard because of the relentless beatings he received from the Viet Cong. From the Boston Globe (March 4, 2000):
McCain gets emotional at the mention of military families needing food stamps or veterans lacking health care. The outrage comes from inside: McCain's severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes.

Thank goodness for Obama's politics of change! Used to be candidates would investigate and weigh the possibility of the "oh" sound of a political backfire.

(And, by the way, could anything be more emblematic of the chill-inducing thought processes of the Left than Matt's apparent belief that the New Economy, the world of High Tech, the Marketplace of Innovation cannot possibly operate and advance in the absence of a "with it" president? One could argue that such a president could know just enough to do some real harm to the industry.)


After multiple distractions, I've finally worked my way down the Corner to find Victor Davis Hanson's summation of the point that I meant to convey:

The problem with all this, as we saw with the lipstick quote and small-town mayor sneers, is twofold. Obama's original charm for many was his Olympian other-worldliness and easy cool post-politics. Now he seems no different from, or nastier than most, any other candidate. (You saw another sort of that disconnect between divinity and reality when he chose a plastic Greek temple and outdoor stadium throng to deliver pedestrian wonkish points about spending priorities). In his defense, his thousands in media are doing him a disservice, and turning off the electorate in daily buffonish partianship.

Also, his recent attacks against an 'old fish' and 'lipsticked pig', and those of his supporters, come off as ageist and sexist and that can't go well with a lot of voters. Yes, he is registering new voters, but since 2004, millions, to match them, have gone into their sixties and are "evolving," as they say, in their views. Some may well identify with a feisty older McCain in the way middle America does with Palin. And when you add up the daily outbursts of disdain and condescension from Hollywood celebs, unhinged pundits, Biden's daily fare, and the sneers of lower-tier Democratic politicians, the image is one of furor and panic, not calm governance. Another 2 weeks of this and I think millions are going to keep quiet, say they are "undecided," but privately conclude that they have had enough of all this bias, and simply won't vote for any more of Obamania.

Begin with the assumption that most Americans do not keep up with bloggers' and politicos' hour-by-hour pace. You've got one side making deliberately offensive comments (see also, "cocky wacko") while trying to sell the politics of rising above and the other side pointing out that a little moderation of rhetoric might be in order.

Whether Obama wins or loses, the output of the American Left is likely to be intolerably toxic. Of course, if he loses, at least that toxicity won't have a man in the White House.


As Will says in the comments: "Checkmate." This 2000 story comes via Jonah Goldberg again:

McCain himself was convinced early on that the Internet had to play a critical role in the campaign. Time and again it allowed him to leverage his money and his organization. "In the Virginia primary," McCain told me, "we needed a lot of petitions signed to get on the ballot. We had the form available to download off the Internet and got 17,000 signatures with very little trouble." ...

In certain ways, McCain was a natural Web candidate. Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee and regarded as the U.S. Senate's savviest technologist, McCain is an inveterate devotee of email. His nightly ritual is to read his email together with his wife, Cindy. The injuries he incurred as a Vietnam POW make it painful for McCain to type. Instead, he dictates responses that his wife types on a laptop. "She's a whiz on the keyboard, and I'm so laborious," McCain admits.

Look, I haven't quizzed McCain on his Internet savvy, but he's clearly got enough background with the technology to counter the substantive claims made in Obama's ad, and the fact that his personal usage is affected by POW injuries tarnishes with a streak of manure the high-saturation, halo-effect image of Obama as the New Politician. See, that's the thing with thinking your candidate is "inevitable"; every hunk of lead can begin to look like the silver bullet that's going to off the pointless competition.

Further Reading on Oil-From-Algae

Carroll Andrew Morse

For those skeptical about the idea that producing oil and other fuels from algae is viable in the near term, here are a few interesting links on recent developments I came across in putting the Phoenix article together. I was surprised by how far along this field seems to be.

Diesel fuel created from algae has been used to run a standard Mercedes C320 (Wired Magazine). Biodiesel from algae can processed to meet the same engineering standards that other biodiesels do (The Auto Channel).

The claim of a potential of 10,000 gallons of fuel per acre per year from pond-grown algae is backed by some serious scientists, for instance the Energy and Emissions Program Manager at the Boeing Company. Here's a less technical item discussing the claim (

A company called PetroSun Biofuels is developing 1,100 acres of algae ponds in Texas to be used for biofuel development (Wired Magazine).

Here's a CNN article on the claim that 100,000 gallons of oil per acre per year may be possible from vertically stacked algae incubators.

The processing test that had to be halted because the algae was growing too quickly was reported on in Business Week last December.

Finally, some cautious reporting regarding the potential and the difficulties with grow-in-the-dark algae is available from the MIT Technology Review and from a website that tracks developments in alternative fuels called

Until You Have Paid the Last Penny

Justin Katz

Among the factors that most impress me as indicative of the accuracy of the Roman Catholic faith is the mutual leaven of those influences that we are to consider when assessing the world in which we live. The individual conscience is sacrosanct, personal revelation possible, and compassion paramount, yet absolute truth exists, and organizational process — necessarily slow moving and impeded by the flaws of humanity — are institutionalized for applying that truth to the shifting world.

Conscience, revelation, and compassion are quick — like us, things of the moment. Hierarchy is cumbersome. Rooting decisions in ancient texts and slowly evolving catechismal documents requires that the ideas of the past be reckoned.

So, when I look to my Church for guidance, I look to these two practical sides of the belief system it proclaims, and with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' following RI Bishop Thomas Tobin's lead, I see a surfeit of divine compassionate impulse and a dearth of divine staidness. I hear the call to forgive drowning out the warning not to teach others by our transgressions:

... if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

Granted, the context of this passage emphasizes personal example and the culpability of sinful thoughts, but the essential messages are that amends must be made, debts paid, and that ideas have consequences for ourselves and for those whom our decisions reach. What, then — proclaiming neither the primacy of immigration law nor the infallibility of our secular leaders — are we to make of Gustavo Cabrera?

Bishop Tobin's answer would clearly be that we would be wrong to tear the illegal immigrant from his family — that disrupting their lives so dramatically would be immoral. But that result follows from Cabrera's action, not ours, and taking his family as reason to waive the consequences, meaning deportation, is apt to make the establishment of a family a milestone in the passage of other illegal immigrants, just as the amnesty granted in 1986 has arguably contributed to the exponential increase in violation of our immigration law.

One can hardly fault Cabrera for his decisions. He took a risk when he left his tearful family in Guatemala twenty-five years ago, and acknowledging the opportunities that his children have been, are being, and will continue to be given, that risk paid off. No doubt his own parents understood that when they watched the fading taillights behind which their son lay. To remove the sense of risk, however, is to make a promise that Americans may quickly find catastrophically expensive.

The fact that Cabrera found it necessary to give his multipage story to the Providence Journal through an interpreter, even after a quarter century in this country, underscores his outlook on his venture. He has always known that his stay within foreign borders was likely to be temporary; now that he's been caught, that straightforward consequence must be borne out. Perhaps he and his fellow returning expatriates will take the lessons that they've learned about governance back to the country that spurred them to leave — that made the sundering of families an attractive option for them.

On our end, we must remember the importance of ideas and that our own actions can have far-reaching ramifications. It's a natural urge for a moral heart to forgive the Gustavo Cabreras in our midst; it's a small thing, too, to say, "let them stay." Indeed, we need bear them no malice, and we should wish them well, with the hope that they can help to uplift those societies to which they return. (What would be the effect of return only illegal immigrants who are of criminal bent?)

I daresay that the lesson is equally applicable to us. Surely, we do ourselves spiritual harm by reinforcing the notion that putting some length of time between our decisions and their foreseeable consequences, and making those who depend on us vulnerable to those consequences, ought to translate forgiveness into absolution.

September 11, 2008

Discussing Energy Alternatives in the Phoenix

Carroll Andrew Morse

I make my debut in the Providence Phoenix this week, with an article on the possibility of turning factory-grown algae into home heating oil, right here in Rhode Island.

However, my article may get upstaged by this "Almost Famous" item about someone else familiar to RI blog readers…

New England Moderates' In-Tolerance

Justin Katz

I'm actually surprised that Froma Harrop would be this myopic (no permalink available):

"Cocky whacko," is what former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee called Sarah Palin yesterday during a speech in Washington. And Cocky Whacko is the general opinion around New England, even among Republicans and Republicans-turned-Independents like Chafee. We know that the Alaskan governor is beloved by the conservative base, but the reactions around here prompt the suggestion that Republican strategists get out of the office more often. New England used to be the Republican heartland. In 1936, only two states chose Kansan Alf Landon over sometimes-New Englander Franklin Roosevelt. They were Vermont and Maine. And even to this day, there remain popular Yankee Republicans, notably the Maine senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. But other than these and a few other holdouts from other regions, the Grand Old Party of fiscal conservatism and social moderation seems dead and getting deader.

Perhaps the national Republican party has moved to the right of (or, more accurately, hasn't moved as rapidly to the left as) a constituency that was significant in New England, but do the likes of Harrop even have the objective empathy to consider whether their own intolerance drives away us New Englanders to their right? Perhaps such "moderates" should strive to become better able to work with us — rather than thumbing their noses at us cocky wackos.

September 11 Remembrances

Carroll Andrew Morse

Tom Kenney, posting at RI Future

And in the midst of vast despair and destruction

Beyond comprehension in its scope

It was a picture of three firefighters raising a flag

That gave America hope.

Michael Morse from last year…
I learned an important lesson that day and the weeks and months to follow. The people we are sworn to protect are worth protecting. We stood together as a nation like nobody could have dreamed possible. We remembered what it meant to be Americans; we stood together, cried together and together have moved forward. Racial and economic divisions didn’t matter, differing political philosophies were irrelevant.

In a many ways we’ve returned to our pre-911 mindset, and that is unfortunate, but the togetherness and resolve that existed then still resides in all of us, and comes to the surface when necessary. I know it’s there, I remember, and that is what keeps me going.

This notice made at 9:57 am -- seven years to the minute when Islamist terrorists lost the initiative in the war they started.

Froma Harrop's Blog

Carroll Andrew Morse

Did you know that Projo op-ed columnist Froma Harrop has her own blog, where you can learn about things like her libertarian streak (h/t Jack Fowler of National Review)…

Froma Harrop is an independent voice on politics, economics and culture. Though often pigeonholed as “left of center,” she is widely known for her unconventional approach and libertarian streak.
I have no control over what anyone than myself posts in the comments section of another blog, but knowing the full range of the RI blogosphere like I do, I'm going to urge commenters who decide to participate in her forum to take advantage of the opportunity she providing to respond directly to her writings when you believe she's made a mistake (or even when you want to compliment her!), and not waste the opportunity available to get the attention of an MSM op-ed/editorial writer by lobbing general insults.

The good ideas win out in the end, when there's a forum for exchanging them.

Lipstick Talk

Justin Katz

Monique took the Anchor Rising slot with Matt Allen on 630AM/99.7FM WPRO last night to talk about painted pigs. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

September 10, 2008

Lipstick-on-Pig Round-Up

Monique Chartier

Barack Obama, September, 2007:

I think that both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are capable people who have been given an impossible assignment," Sen. Barack Obama said yesterday in a telephone interview. "George Bush has given a mission to General Petraeus, and he has done his best to try to figure out how to put lipstick on a pig."

John McCain, October, 2007:

While he said he had not studied Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's health-care plan, he said it was "eerily reminiscent" of the failed plan she offered as first lady in the early 1990s.

"I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," he said of her proposal.

Barack Obama, yesterday:

The other side, suddenly, they're saying 'we're for change too.' Now think about it, these are the same folks that have been in charge for the last eight years," the Illinois senator told a crowd of 2,400 people in Lebanon, Virginia.

"You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig.

In all of these instances, "pig" as a negative adjective was directed towards concepts or plans, not towards the individual. [Not that it's pleasant to be accused of attempting to carry out the specified action.]

Sarah Palin's comment about hockey moms, pitbulls and lipstick is what made Obama's most recent lipstick on pig comment ... er, stick a bit more than the prior two. Was it intended as a sexist insult? No. Was it a not-so-clever effort to play on Palin's lipstick comment? Yes. Is the McCain/Palin campaign making hay of it in dramatic fashion? You bet.

(Of course, this lipstick-on-pig round-up would not be complete without everybody's favorite, cited by the Ocean State Republican - the one uttered right here in Rhode Island during the 2004 state budget process by a charged up but constitutionally confused House Majority Leader.)

Would an Obama/Clinton campaign have been in equally high dudgeon if John McCain had made a similar comment about Dem VP candidate Hillary Clinton? Presumably. Are these tit-for-tat exchanges between the two campaigns productive? Probably not. Are they disproportionately damaging to one campaign? That's above my pay grade.

BDS to Become PDS

Justin Katz

Here's a theory — attractive more for the likely reaction than the likelihood that it's correct: America's liberals are preparing themselves for the possibility that McCain will win the presidency. That would explain why they're salvaging the emotionally satisfying, if self destructive, Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) that they've enjoyed for at least the past four years by recasting it as Palin Derangement Syndrome (PDS).

The thought came to mind upon reading Hilary Cosell's fumination (excuse the coinage) against Sarah Palin, particularly the line that I've emphasized:

It's also further proof that John McCain and the Republican Party believe that one woman is the same as the next. That voting women, and former Hillary Clinton supporters, are just too dumb to notice that this Governor Palin is anti-choice and a right-wing evangelical Christian who wants creationism taught in Alaska schools, who has no record of speaking out on equal pay for equal work, health care, child care, or anything at all relevant to the women- and family-oriented issues that are the heart and soul of the concerns of the women of the Democratic Party. (We won't even bother to mention foreign policy here, because there is no Palin foreign policy record or experience to mention.)

Let's move beyond spin and the surprise — rather shock — of McCain's choice and see what it really says: disdain for women as equals, as power holders, power brokers and human beings. Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, or in the vice-presidential mansion, it's the same thing. Palin isn't female empowerment. She, who has benefited from decades of tireless work of the feminist movement, is a slap in the face to us all.

Put aside foregoing falsehoods and note the resurrection of the "barefoot and pregnant" cliché to describe a sitting governor who has been climbing the political ladder with great energy and alacrity. If sexism is mainly a symptom of one's lack of empathy and imagination, I'd put forward Miss Cosell as a candidate. That wouldn't give her any more standing than being "a master's degree candidate at General Theological Seminary" (as her bio proclaims) to hiss so sourly at a vice presidential candidate, but the fact that she lacks a certain male protuberance doesn't make Ms. Cosell's vicious insecurity any less galling.

The Difference Is in What We Love

Justin Katz

Most workday mornings (especially if everybody in the house slept through the night), my drive over the Sakonnet River Bridge brings a wave of gratitude for the sights that fill my days. Similarly, the breeze off the water, whether warm or cool, as I cross the parking lot to church come a Sunday morning makes it that much easier to understand that life per se is a blessing, and life in Rhode Island, in Tiverton, serves to emphasize that fact.

I describe these sensations because those who love Rhode Island from an ideological cocoon (often receiving sustenance and livelihood in some degree from its corrupt civic culture) tend to go straight for the smear that reformers despise the place that they are attempting to improve and the people whom they are attempting to enlighten. Such was the case when one artist of aspersion, Patrick Crowley, the Assistant Executive Director of National Education Association Rhode Island, called me "the lead spokesman for 'I Hate Rhode Islanders'" in the Providence Journal back in January. And such is the rhetoric simmering behind the lips of those who would scald Tiverton Citizens for Change.

Nobody devoting hours to the cause of improving the place in which he or she lives "hates" that place. Such crusaders may be wrong. They may be right, although too eager. But differences of opinion at the local level indicate, at their most profound, that the disputants merely love different things about their home towns.

So, while I can't speak to the motivation of everybody who has expressed a desire for lower taxes and a less suffocating public sector, I can offer two examples of moments that leave me unable just to let Tiverton, and Rhode Island, be as they are. One (the obvious) comes as an echo to an envelope ripped open annually in the kitchen, bringing knowledge that a flat-rate mortgage is no protection against the town government's demands for more of homeowners' slender budgets. Ordering our household finances as carefully as we may is no charm against our representatives' promising our taxes for things we cannot afford.

The other example comes when I'm driving around the area on some errand and get a glimpse of the intriguing character of our surroundings. That geographic personality is an attribute that I lack the time and resources to explore, and its tantalizing, unattainable proximity directly affects citizens' quality of life. For too many of us, this town and state provide a setting for survival, not opportunity. For passing wistfulness, not sustained enjoyment. Yet, those who believe that the reins of power are theirs by right resent our refusal to accept legislated and negotiated largess as part of the inviolable scenery.

I don't know what sort of sensation will greet me with the evening wind outside the VFW hall on Shove St., Tiverton, after the first public TCC meeting, next Monday (the 15th), but I'm certain of the chance that it will contain hope, and he whose hope is nourished has much to love.

September 9, 2008

Primary Surprises?

Carroll Andrew Morse


Monique & WJAR-TV say Alves loses. He'll seek a recount...

One of the biggest upsets was brewing in state Senate District 9, where eight-term incumbent Alves was behind by 17 votes to Michael Pinga with 100 percent of the vote counted, according to Associated Press numbers.

Alves, who represents West Warwick, told The Providence Journal that he would seek a recount.

With 13 of 13 precincts reporting in West Warwick, State Senator Stephen Alves is significantly behind in his Democratic primary...

  • Michael J. PINGA (DEM) 968 48.4%
  • Stephen D. ALVES (DEM) 928 46.4%
  • Paul P. CAIANIELLO, JR. (DEM) 105 5.2%

Hmmm. The 13-of-13-precincts numbers have moved up (and in Alves' favor) from what they were a little while ago. I'm not sure if this is because of mail ballots, or for some other reason...

  • Michael J. PINGA (DEM) 994 47.8%
  • Stephen D. ALVES (DEM) 977 46.9%
  • Paul P. CAIANIELLO, JR. (DEM) 110 5.3%

I'm not sure if this is final, because of the way the BoE breaks up elections by town, but does anyone know why incumbent Senator Daniel Issa (Cumberland/Central Falls/Pawtucket) appears to be getting creamed?

  • Elizabeth A. CROWLEY (DEM) 789 63.6%
  • Daniel J. ISSA (DEM) 452 36.4%

Mark Zaccaria on How the Federal Government is Killing the Fishing Industy in Rhode Island and Elsewhere

Carroll Andrew Morse

Second District Congressional Candidate Mark Zaccaria doesn't think that it makes sense to ask a fisherman to go out to sea and come back with less than a full haul...

If you're about to go buy a $7,000 or $8,000 load of diesel fuel, but are only allowed to catch some small amount of the total amount of fish you're actually capable of catching, then you're in big trouble.
Yet, as he points out, that is exactly what our Federal government does
The fishing catch is based on the number of pounds of a particular type of fish, and the numbers are low enough so that they are well below a boatfull.
So what would Mr. Zaccaria do differently, if he were elected to Congress
We should devise a new way of doing that that's consistent with the way the fishing industry really works. Rather than say let's take this boat out, but you can only catch 3 fish – with a boat capable of hauling tens of thousands of pounds – what we need to say is that when you do go out, knock yourself out. We'll limit the number of times you can go out, and on an annual basis limit the catch, rather than in a given week.
As to the priority he believes this issue should be given by Rhode Island's Congressional delegation...
I'd be jumping up and down about the fact that we're killing an industry that contributes mightily to our economy, which means we're going to export that industry to others who are not going to do it as well as we do while, at the same time, not doing a good job of doing our stated goal, making fisheries sustainable forever. We're screwing everything up.
For the full detail on the type of thinking that Mr. Zaccaria believes needs to be brought to Congress on this issue, continue below the fold

Anchor Rising: You believe that your opponent is completely missing the boat on the issue of fisheries, the Federal government is very much out-of-whack, compared to what it should be doing, and that there are changes that need to be made...

Second District Congressional Candidate Mark Zaccaria: There are a number of things going on. Let me describe the problem that I see, and why I think it's important to the people, and why as far as I can figure out, why we aren't doing anything better.

We have a situation based on a 1976 law that was put through by a Senator named Warren Magnuson from Washington State. Senator Magnuson's name is still associated with some of the restrictions on commercial fishing catch.

The 1976 law did a number of things, like expanding the U.S territorial waters for fishing out to 200 miles. Overall, what it tried to do, which was a very good thing, was try to make commercial fisheries sustainable. It tried to apply science to the question of which fish do we have a lot of and should try to catch, and which fish do we not have a lot of, so we shouldn't try to catch. The result is a set of restrictions on the commercial catch that are based on 1976 technology and science and that are slowed down even further by the bureaucracy that's involved.

We have a Bureau of Marine Fisheries that is charged by this law with doing the basic science of determining what the fish populations are. The problem is that because of the layers of review and, dare I say, bureaucracy that has to go into it, by the time that a determination can be made, several generations of new fishes could have been born and taken to the school. It's just too slow.

The other problem that we have is that the fishing catch is based on the number of pounds of a particular type of fish, and the numbers are low enough so that they are well below a boatfull. The net result is that you can only land a catch of a certain amount, and fishermen have to throw rest back. They throw it back dead. It's not an ecological disaster, it's earth to earth, dust to dust, but it's still not the best use of the resource of fish. So, they kill an awful lot of fish that never get counted in the quota because they're not landed.

The current law is terrible from the point of a small business planner. If you're about to go buy a $7,000 or $8,000 load of diesel fuel, but only allowed to catch some small amount of the total amount of fish you're actually capable of catching, then you're in big trouble.

There are a number of things we can do to revisit the idea of this law and make the fisheries really sustainable, while giving small business people like fishermen some way to plan. We could restrict the number of days at sea, but allow fishermen to land whatever they catch from a full day's work, as long as it fits into the boat. The fishermen will be able to choose when those days are, based on what they know about the movements of the fish, so they can pick the fish they want to go catch.

This will impact the fishing industry, obviously, but also upstream if you will, the seafood industry and the restaurant industry.

Now this is one of those things that is absolutely a matter of passion down at the docks if you go down to Point Judith and start talking to the folks down there. But if you get people who don't have jobs directly related to that industry, they don't know what you're talking about. You have to have somebody in government who's willing to do the research to figure out what the right thing to do is and then what we need is a rule change in this game.

I'm proposing a couple of different things. I'm thinking in general terms here -- I haven't got into the real nitty-gritty of creating legislation, I have to get elected first before that can be done. But just take a look at the basic science of where the fish are and how many of them there are. It's being done already by a number of different organizations. It's being done by non-governmental organizations whose primary goal is conservation of some sort. The World Wildlife Fund is the group that I think probably has the best fisheries program, though I might be proved wrong here. The Sierra Club and the Audubon society have programs – the list goes on. These are all large international organizations that have respectable, reputable scientists working for them, and they work a lot faster than the government does, because their goals are different. Their goals are about the fish.

As well trained as dedicated individually as our government scientists are, they have to work on the fiscal year. They have to work on the resource allocation that the Federal government does and, as a result, it changes the way they do things. So rather than have them do the basic science, let's have them do the oversight. Let's have them do their careful and reasoned investigations of the NGOs who actually do the basic science to double-check and be the umpire.

AR: So right now, the Federal government is employing scientists directly, to go count the fish?

MZ: It's not quite the simple, obviously, but they are asked to determine and to offer an opinion of fish populations by species that are growing and declining. The object is fairly simple, really, you want to promote a catch among populations of fish that are growing, and especially, as happens more frequently than you might think, among populations that have grown dramatically, because they'll tend to implode on themselves. They'll consume all of the resources, so you want to fish some, to cull the herd or the school, if you will. And obviously, if you're running low on species A, don't fish it for a while so they can rebound. All of that is fairly straightforward.

It's our response time that's the problem. We are way too slow in determining what these species are and which ones we should fish and which ones we shouldn't. Plus, the way we subdivide the proposed catch is arcane, at best. We should devise a new way of doing that that's consistent with the way the fishing industry really works. Rather than say let's take this boat out, but you can only catch 3 fish – with a boat capable of hauling tens of thousands of pounds – what we need to say is that when you do go out, knock yourself out. We'll limit the number of times you can go out, and on an annual basis limit the catch, rather than in a given week. Telling fishermen that this week you can go out and catch 2 cod, that's not a good way to build a business.

What this will do is promote efficient fishing and an efficient fishing industry with better science at a lower price. If we take a government agency and back it down from doing the basic science, to reviewing the basic science that somebody else is doing, it will ultimately take less human beings to do it, and to do it effectively.

If the government finds some problem with the way the non-governmental organization is doing the science, they can run up a red flag and the Congress or some other agency can come over and say let's review this, but the problem that we have right now is that the government process for determining what the catch ought to be is cumbersome and once they finally do make that determination, the catch quotas that are put out are killing the fishing industry.

Do we want to outsource fishing along with all of the other things we outsource, because of bad regulations? I say no. I say fishing is an absolute traditional Rhode Island core industry – they call us the Ocean State for a reason -- and we certainly should take the lead, join with other coastal communities and say let's get this right.

Another interesting fact I'm told, though I haven't independently verified, is that
when we extended the territorial limits of the United States to 200 miles, which was much farther than any other nation at the time had even contemplated going, we encompassed in the Northeast US and the Northwest US an enormous percentage of the most fertile fishing on earth. In the shallow seas of the Caribbean and around the Equator, they just don't grow fish like we do in the Grand Banks. We are therefore doing the science and managing sustainable fisheries for a gigantic portion of the world, far more than the percentage of our population would indicate. It's a pretty big resource that we are all of the sudden in charge of and that's all the more reason, in my opinion, to do it right.

AR: Is your opponent anywhere on this issue?

MZ: I'm aware that Mr. Langevin has had the briefings and listened to the fishermen and should be aware, if he was listening, to the problems. What I don't see coming from him anywhere at all is the kind of passion that I think this issue deserves. I don't know exactly why. Maybe I'm misreading the guy. Maybe he's really taciturn and is really passionate underneath -- or maybe he's been in Washington long enough so that he tries to do things the government way, or he's been persuaded by the forces of bureaucracy, which are themselves self-sustaining by nature.

AR: Probably more self-sustaining than the fish.

MZ: If the bureaucracy was as interested in keeping the fish as well self-sustained as their own jobs, we'd have a wonderful world. The thing that I believe is that, given how much he has been involved with and immersed in the Federal Government way, Mr. Langevin may very well have a reflex at this point towards the government way.

He's certainly not making the noise I'd make. I'd be jumping up and down about the fact that we're killing an industry that contributes mightily to our economy, which means we're going to export that industry to others who are not going to do it as well as we do while, at the same time, not doing a good job of doing our stated goal, making fisheries sustainable forever. We're screwing everything up. Let's see if we can do a little better than that. We've got real Rhode Island families that are twisting in the wind.

People in government talk about farming a lot. We should talk about fishing in the same way. It's easy to overlook how complex it is. I don't know what fish are down there, but the fishermen do. They go out in their boats and it's not like the boat you'd go water-skiing behind. This is some serious, expensive equipment. In order to make the payments on it, in order to have it be sustainable as a tool for their business, they've got to use it.

Think of someone paying $6,000 or $7,000 for a tank of gas and going out and getting nothing. You can't do that very often.

What we need to do is work together, to make everything more efficient. We can make the science more efficient and we can make the quotas more efficient, based on how the industry really works, rather than by saying there are this many fish out there, so divide by 2 and that's what you can take. We need to find a way to match the catch to the boats, so that as a small business person, a fisherman can say when he does go out for something like a set number of days per year, he'll pick the days based on what fish he thinks are running that day and how it matches to his equipment. That's real planning, to help a small business.

Maybe we'll even start to get over our fear of using any number that hasn't been developed by someone other than by the Federal government.

Re: Busting the Palin Caricature

Carroll Andrew Morse

In addition to the areas that Marc mentioned, members of the Projo editorial board (and some other organs of the MSM) are playing fast-and-loose also with their description of Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin's position on stem cell research. Here's the the unsigned editorial from Saturday…

Governor Palin didn’t mention…that she opposes stem-cell research.
…and the Froma Harrop op-ed from Sunday…
It’s four more years of national humiliation as our leadership undermines the teaching of evolutionary science, and if something happens to John McCain, opposes stem-cell research.
But the statement that Governor Palin "opposes stem cell research" is not accurate and leaves the reader in the dark about the important developments into non-embryonic stem-cell research that have occurred over the past year.

The most promising research into stem cell medical treatments is coming from the use of "induced pluripotent stem-cells", using cells taken from adults and not human embryos. Time Magazine described the most recent breakthrough in July…

After nearly a decade of setbacks and false starts, stem-cell science finally seems to be hitting its stride. Just a year after Japanese scientists first reported that they had generated stem cells by reprogramming adult skin cells — without using embryos — American researchers have managed to use that groundbreaking technique to achieve another scientific milestone. They created the first nerve cells from reprogrammed stem cells — an important demonstration of the potential power of stem-cell-based treatments to cure disease.

Led by Kevin Eggan at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Christopher Henderson at Columbia University, the 13-person team reported online today in Science Express that they had generated motor neurons from the skin cells of two elderly patients with a rare form of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative condition. The new study marks an important first step on the road toward real stem-cell-based therapies, and also answers several plaguing questions about the pioneering stem-cell technique known as induced pluripotent stem cell, or iPS, generation.

IPS was first described by Japanese biologist Shinya Yamanaka, who, in 2007, showed that the introduction of four genes into an adult human skin cell could reprogram it back to an embryonic state (Yamanaka had reported the same achievement in mice the previous year). Like embryonic stem cells, these reprogrammed adult cells could be coaxed into becoming any other type of cell — from skin to nerve to muscle. But researchers questioned whether the new stem cells would behave as predictably or as safely as embryonic stem cells, or whether iPS would consistently yield usable cells. "Our work shows that the original method developed by Yamanaka works great," says Eggan.

Is anyone opposed to this line of research? If not, than the Projo op-ed page should stop running claims that someone is.

The idea the Governor Palin opposes all stem cell research traces back, as best as I can determine, to statements made in her 2006 campaign for Governor of Alaska, before the major 2007 breakthrough in creating stem-cells from adult tissues had occurred, but some MSM writers don’t seem interested in this critical distinction, nor in helping the public keep pace with the science.

Is that a rational position for those who fancy themselves as pro-science?

Circling the Bowl

Justin Katz

It may be that my estimate of the midyear budget review yielding a $150 million deficit was too optimistic. We're apparently starting with a baseline gap that's already one-fifth of that:

The state ended its last budget year awash in red ink, according to a newly-released Aug. 29 report by state Controller Marc A. Leonetti.

Made public after The Journal made inquiries today, the report pegs the end-of-year deficit at $33.6 million. Of that amount, $8.2 million is attributed to lower-than-anticipated revenues. Most of the rest is attributed to over-budget spending.

Governor Carcieri's office overspent its own budget by $184,152; the Department of Human Services overspent its budget by a total of $46.2 million in state and federal funds. Of that, the state portion is $18.6 million.

If the governor's explanation of unachieved furlough days and a legislative decreases in its contingency fund hold water, I'd say it's time to stop playing footsie with legislators and unions alike. Sink or swim, he's going to end up taking the blame for the state's collapse; that's partly why the other side is so unyielding.

The executive must take whatever steps are necessary, and if the opposition squeals that they are too harsh, then the governor should point to the poor condition of the tools that he's been given.

Rhode Island's Lack of Business, As Usual

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Phoenix Business Journal, reporting on research done at the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University, has Rhode Island holding down its familiar place on a pair of economic indicator lists.

Rhode Island leads the country in jobs lost for the year preceding July 2008…

Arizona ranked second to last for job growth, or more accurately job loss, in a tally of state activity from July 2007 to July 2008.

Arizona posted a 1.6 percent loss for the period, ahead of only Rhode Island with a 2.8 percent decline in jobs, according to the latest issue of the Western Blue Chip Economic Forecast. In all, 19 states posted job losses.

Wyoming came out on top with a 2.5 percent gain. Rounding out the top five were Texas, Louisiana, Colorado and South Dakota

…and Rhode Island's sales tax collections shrank more in 2007 than did any other state's…
Arizona ranked 14th among states for gains in sales tax collections last year with a 5.8 percent increase over 2006.

Idaho topped this list at 14.1 percent, while Rhode Island came in at No. 50 with a 3 percent contraction. The average gain was 3.9 percent, well below the 6.5 percent recorded in the previous year, according to the ranking published in the latest Western Blue Chip Economic Forecast based on U.S. Census Bureau data.

The full job-growth report is available, behind a paid subscription wall, here.

A Difference of Unification

Justin Katz

We've been having this conversation hereabouts, and Jonathan Zimmerman puts it well:

Beneath all of this talk, of course, lies the fallacy of race itself. Although America is a richly diverse place, we're told, people in any given race are the same — or should be. That's why you still hear whispers in the African-American community about whether Obama is "really" black.

He isn't. And you're not "really" white, or Hispanic, or Asian, or whatever it is you say you are. We're all mongrels, each and every one of us. But the concept of race masks the diversity inside of each group, even as it exaggerates the differences outside of them.

Somewhere along the way (probably during the radical '60s), balkanization by race became too useful for the American Left, keeping minorities in line in tandem with a package of social allowances that have undermined their collective advancement.

September 8, 2008

Busting the Palin Caricature

Marc Comtois

The ProJo editors and From Harrop (perhaps one and the same--and Harrop's piece is particularly nasty) are quite exorcised over GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin's social stances. As Steven Hayward writes, "The left and the media are trying to force Palin into a rigid social-con box..." But C-Span ran video of Palin in the 2006 Republican debate during the Alaska governor's race that shows she's pretty pragmatic when it comes to sex education and birth control. Byron York has more details:

[T]here was a passage in the debate that will lay to rest all those reports we have seen that Palin supports abstinence-only education when it comes to sex. It seems Palin had written in a questionnaire that she opposed "explicit" sex-ed programs, so she was asked:

In a recent survey you said that you would support abstinence-until-marriage education but that you would not support explicit sex-ed programs. What are explicit sex-ed programs, and does that include talking about condoms in school?

Palin's answer:

No, I don't think that it includes something that is relatively benign. Explicit means explicit. No, I am pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues. So I'm not anti-contraception. But yeah, abstinence is another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don't have a problem with that. That doesn't scare me, so it's something that I would support also.

As for the charge that she would push "creationism", well, that's false, too. Here's an AP account of Palin's stance on teaching creationism and evolution in schools (via Jim Lindgren, who was initially critical of Palin on this issue):
As a candidate for governor, Sarah Palin called for teaching creationism alongside evolution in public schools. But after Alaska voters elected her, Palin, now Republican John McCain's presidential running mate, kept her campaign pledge to not push the idea in the schools.

As for her personal views on evolution, Palin has said, "I believe we have a creator." But she has not made clear whether her belief also allowed her to accept the theory of evolution as fact.

"I'm not going to pretend I know how all this came to be," she has been quoted as saying. . . .

When asked during a televised debate in 2006 about evolution and creationism, Palin said, according to the Anchorage Daily News: "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

In a subsequent interview with the Daily News, Palin said discussion of alternative views on the origins of life should be allowed in Alaska classrooms. "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum," she said.

"It's OK to let kids know that there are theories out there. They gain information just by being in a discussion." . . .

Neither have Palin's socially conservative personal views on issues like abortion and gay marriage been translated into policies during her 20 months as Alaska's chief executive. It reflects a hands-off attitude toward mixing government and religion by most Alaskans.

"She has basically ignored social issues, period," said Gregg Erickson, an economist and columnist for the Alaska Budget Report.

As Hayward observes:
...she's much more about bread and butter issues and good government that [sic] a frothy social-con agenda. Sure, she has social-con views, but what people don't recognize is that she exudes Alaska's very libertarian, live-and-let-live attitude, such that her expressed policy views are much more moderate.
Is it too much to ask that the press not jump to conclusions? And they wonder why they are stereotyped as the "MSM" and "liberal media"? How about a little more digging before printing your assumptions? Here's some help.

September 7, 2008

Rhode Island's Poorly Performing Education System: Sorting out Who is Responsible

Monique Chartier

The Rhode Island chapter of the 2007 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, issued by the National Council on Teacher Quality, pinpoints one of the major culprits responsible for the unacceptable state of Rhode Island's education system: Rhode Island's state government. [In my view, the two other culprits are School Committees and City/Town Councils.] And with apologies to Speaker Murphy who frowns on finger pointing, inasmuch as the lion's share of power vests with the General Assembly given the peculiarities of the Rhode Island Constitution, the lion's share of the responsibility in this as in many other matters also rests with that body.

From the Yearbook introduction:

The State Teacher Policy Yearbook examines what is arguably the single most powerful authority over the teaching profession: state government. State authority over the profession—whether through regulation approved by state boards of education or professional standards boards or by laws passed by legislatures— is far reaching. These policies have an impact on who decides to enter teaching, who stays—and everything in between.

The Yearbook provides an unprecedented analysis of the full range of each state's teacher policies, measured against a realistic blueprint for reform. It identifies six key areas in urgent need of policy attention, along with specific policy goals within these areas.

In the six key areas, Rhode Island government receives five "D's" and one "F". [Should any of these areas have been positively reformed since this evaluation was completed, I would be pleased to update this post.]

Failures/omissions in the following areas were particularly surprising because they strike me as very basic procedures:

- Page 19: Rhode Island does not require new secondary teachers to pass a subject matter test.

- Page 47: Rhode Island fails to make "instructional effectiveness" and "evidence of student learning" principle factors in teacher evaluations.

- Page 55: Rhode Island has failed to establish a policy "regarding the frequency of teacher evaluations or the consequences of negative evaluations".

The second and third items above have been particularly damaging because they have enabled school committees to negotiate and then execute contracts that have contained raises (often double digit when steps increases are added in) without regard to student or teacher performance.

Thus did Rhode Island's education system reach the current unacceptable state of affairs. [Source: American Legislative Exchange Council]

- Pupil to Teacher ratio: First nationally

- Funding: Thirteenth highest nationally

- Rank of Academic Achievement: Forty First nationally

Governor Carcieri has signaled early that cities and towns should not look for an increase in state aid from the next budget. While this decision was prompted by budget considerations, it is clear from our ALEC rankings that as we look to address the weaknesses of our educational system, simply infusing mo' money would not do the trick in any event and we must examine other factors. The thoughtful analysis of Rhode Island's chapter in the State Teacher Policy Yearbook points to the areas upon which we can begin to focus.

[Thanks to commenter George Elbow who reminded us that "it's for the children", so sent me looking for ways that we really could make it "for the children".]

Re: A Study in Contrasting Responses

Donald B. Hawthorne


Incentives drive human behavior but, especially in government where there are no market forces, rarely does anybody pay attention to the impact of the incentives created by laws, regulations or government actions. Which is why government actions will always create "unintended" consequences and less than efficient solutions.

There is a concept called "moral hazard" in the finance world which one source defines as:

One of two main sorts of MARKET FAILURE often associated with the provision of INSURANCE...Moral hazard means that people with insurance may take greater risks than they would do without it because they know they are protected, so the insurer may get more claims than it bargained for.

What both Palin and especially Obama are missing in the Freddie and Fannie bailouts/takeovers is the larger issue of moral hazard. These bailouts/takeovers are signaling to the marketplace that nobody in the future will suffer meaningful adverse economic consequences as a result of their bad decisions.

As a first step into the moral hazard world, the federal government enabled this situation by not officially giving its full faith and credit guarantee to backstop any future defaults by Freddie and Fannie, as government-sponsored enterprises...but then winking at investors, as if to tell them that the government would step up if they had to.

Now think of how a bailout works, about what incentives and rewards it dishes out:

    Investors have generated greater than T-bill rates of return on Freddie and Fannie debt investments in past years while really only having marginally more risk than T-bills, which are explicitly guaranteed by the federal government. So investors have made out by generating a higher rate of return.
    Who paid for giving investors that higher rate of return? The American taxpayers. By now bailing them out, American taxpayers - who never contributed one iota to the misdeeds of Freddie and Fannie - are forced to pay billions of dollars of their hard-earned monies toward the bailouts. Said another way, taxpayers are being forced to make a payment for a past-due risk premium which is the difference between a T-bill level of risk and the Freddie and Fannie risk actually taken.
    The government says that the bailout proceeds will be repaid, while adding that it will be up to the next administration and Congress to decide the particulars. The players committing publicly today to a payback won't be around to ensure it happens so their words are meaningless. The government players who could be responsible for repaying taxpayers in the future have no obligation to do so and the government world provides them with no incentives to do so. Which, I predict, will yield a not-surprising indifference to paying back American taxpayers.
    Meanwhile, the people in Freddie and Fannie who actually made the bad decisions (including, it sounds like, aggressive accounting practices) that led to the bailout have no incentive to moderate their risk-taking behaviors because they have learned - just like children learn from bad parenting practices - that they will get away with acting out of line. Sure a few top executives lost their jobs but what else has changed? So the bailout/takeover has largely rewarded bad behavior and even those who lost their jobs have not suffered consequences anywhere near the magnitude of the actions they took or allowed under their watch.

The only genuine solution to stop the stupidity of incentivizing bad behavior that costs taxpayers money is to let something fail completely. Yes, it would be painful and that is never pleasant. But if anybody had the courage to do it, the proper alignment of incentives, of risk and reward, would ensure organizations rapidly returned to paying attention to their business fundamentals.

This is yet another example of what happens when government gets too large and when big business can buy favors from government.


See, once it starts, it just keeps going.

Don't lose sight of the obvious: It's big government and big companies doing corporate welfare OR it's big government doing other forms of undeserved welfare.

Meanwhile, average working Americans have no such welfare options. Nope, the government just takes more of their hard-earned monies via taxation to fund everyone else's misbehavior.

Call it justice, big-government style.


With a H/T to Ramesh Ponnuru, the Wall Street Journal weighs in:

...Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson wants to prop up the walking dead so the world keeps buying their mortgage-backed securities. His action may calm jittery credit markets, and it may get the companies through the current mortgage crisis -- albeit at enormous cost to American taxpayers. The tragedy is that he and Congress didn't act 18 months ago -- when the cost would have been far less -- and that he still isn't killing the Fannie and Freddie business model that has done so much damage. These corpses could still return to haunt us again...

At least Mr. Paulson has finally figured out he's been lied to...[previously] saying that the battle over the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) was nothing but a scrap between "ideologues." So he bought the Congressional line that Fan and Fred weren't a problem and would help financial markets through the housing recession...

This weekend's formal rescue puts an end to those illusions...

The new federal "conservatorship" is a form of nationalization that puts regulators firmly in control. The feds fired the company boards and CEOs, though the clean up needs to go further to change the corporate cultures. Both companies remain Beltway satraps that hire for reasons of political connection, not financial expertise.

The taxpayer purchase of preferred stock means that the feds will own about 80% of the companies if all the warrants are ultimately exercised. The feds also stopped dividend payments, saving about $2 billion a year. This amounts to significant dilution for current Fannie and Freddie shareholders, and it offers taxpayers some return on their bailout risk if the companies recover.

We only wish Mr. Paulson had gone further and erased all private equity holders the way the feds do in a typical bank failure. Fan and Fred holders had profited handsomely for decades by exploiting an implicit taxpayer guarantee that their management claimed didn't exist. Now that the taxpayers are in fact stepping in, the current common and preferred holders deserve to lose everything. Mr. Paulson apparently wanted to dodge that political fight...

The Treasury chief also gave a free pass to the holders of some $18 billion in Fan and Fred subordinated debt. He did so even though these securities were understood not to have the same status as mortgage-backed securities or other Fannie debt, and even though this will set a bad precedent for other bailouts. Watch for Citigroup's subordinated debt to jump in price as investors conclude that the feds would do the same thing if Citi needs a rescue.

By far the biggest risk here, however, is that the companies could still emerge with their business model intact. That model is the perverse mix of private profit and public risk, which gave them an incentive to make irresponsible mortgage bets with a taxpayer guarantee.

Mr. Paulson could have ended that model immediately by putting the companies into "receivership." Both companies could have continued to securitize mortgages, even as their riskiest businesses were wound down...And in any case, had Mr. Paulson acted sooner and given markets time to understand that receivership doesn't mean immediate liquidation, the risk of a run might now be far less.

The Treasury plan does at least put some useful limits on Fan and Fred risk-taking, albeit starting only in 2010...

Treasury says all of this will provide a motive for Congress and the new President to change how Fan and Fred do business, and in the meantime the conservator has also ordered a stop to their political lobbying. It's also nice to see that on this point Mr. Paulson has found religion. In his statement Sunday, he blamed the need for a bailout on "the inherent conflict and flawed business model embedded in the GSE structure." Welcome to our merry band of "ideologues," Mr. Secretary.

The Treasury chief has nonetheless decided to leave the hardest political choices to his successor, who will have to face down the usual phalanx of Fannie apologists: Democratic barons Barney Frank and Chuck Schumer, the homebuilders, various Wall Street sages and left-wing journalists...

...who knows how the political mood will have shifted once the housing slump passes. It's easy to imagine the next Treasury Secretary concluding that he also thinks the fight for permanent reform is too difficult. Then we are back to the same old stand.

The Fannie-Freddie bailout is one of the great political scandals of our age, all the more because it was so obviously coming for so long. Officials at the Federal Reserve warned about it for years, only to be ignored by both parties on Capitol Hill. The least we can do now is bury these undead monsters for all time.


More from Jim Rogers:

Has America created its own variety of communism with the U.S. Treasury Department’s bailout of two beleaguered government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? According to Rogers Holding CEO Jim Rogers, the answer is yes.

"America is more communist than China is right now," Rogers told CNBC Europe’s "Squawk Box Europe" September 8. "You can at least have a free market in housing and a lot of other things in China. And you can see that this is welfare for the rich. This is socialism for the rich. It’s bailing out the financiers, the banks, the Wall Streeters."

Rogers...said the bailout was not benefiting homeowners or helping average citizens improve their standing for a home mortgage.

“It’s not bailing out the homeowners who are in trouble, by the way,” Rogers said. “It’s not bailing out people who want a mortgage – it’s just bailing out financial institutions...I think it’s a mistake.”...

"This is a big huge mess and neither [Obama nor Palin] has a clue as to what to do next year," Rogers said. "Bank stocks around the world are going through the roof, that’s because they’ve all been bailed out. You don’t see the homeowners in Kansas going through the roof because they’re not being bailed out."

Rogers had previously called for Fannie and Freddie to be allowed to go bankrupt...

"Let the patient go bankrupt,” he said. “We have courts in America; they will be reorganized."

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were "wove a mantle of invincibility" through lobbying according to a September 8 Wall Street Journal "Deal Journal" blog post. According to the Journal’s Heidi N. Moore, the mortgage giants had $170 million in lobbying bills in the past decade and spent $3.5 million on lobbying just in this year’s first quarter, spreading their largesse among 42 outside lobbying firms.

Yep, big government works for the powerful who can buy favors. Now if the less powerful only had some more community organizers to help them out...


McCain and Palin weigh in with a WSJ editorial.

Corruption. Politicians and former politicians scratching each other's backs, getting wealthy at the expense of average Americans while not serving the public. Where is the outrage?

A Study in Contrasting Responses

Justin Katz

Put aside, for a moment, the very interesting fact that the article is one of an increasing number that place Obama in parallel with Palin and compare and contrast the pair's responses to the question of government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Obama:

"These entities are so big and they are so tied into the housing market that it is probably true that we have to take steps to make sure they don't just collapse," Obama told an audience in Terre Haute on Saturday.

But Obama added that the government needed to take steps to guard against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ultimately profiting from the government assistance.


"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they've gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers," Palin said. "The McCain-Palin administration will make them smaller and smarter and more effective for homeowners who need help."

Note Obama's distancing of himself from the decision making — "probably true," "we have to take steps," and "don't just collapse" (with no notion of what they should be) — but with a touch of anti-corporate seasoning for good measure. Palin, on the other hand, jumps right into that aspect of the question over which the administration in which she'll play a role has a say, and she gives a direct and simple reason: "they've gotten too big and too expensive."

Ignoring Human Nature Once Again

Justin Katz

Tom Sgouros's message must be mellifluous to public-sector ears. Everything's cause and effect (no poor decisions on officials' part), and vaguely unseemly of the citizens who initiated the latter.

The story, in summary, is that all was demographically golden in the world back in the '50s, until people started moving from Rhode Island's cities to join the "rubes" in the "sticks." Property values decreased in the cities, while it increased in the suburbs, and the latter expanded to accommodate the "demands" of citizens for city-quality public services. Urban governments are unfairly maligned for their deficit budgets, and suburban governments are unduly proud of their surpluses (or, presumably, were until recently). The next application of pain, however, will come as "high gasoline prices" send folks back to the city, and the trend will reverse.

What makes the piece worth some pondering, though, is the hint of Sgouros's solution to all this unfairness:

In the meantime, let's come up with a tax system that doesn't penalize us when people move.

That Sgouros leaves this dangling is suggestive of an invitation to speculate, but it would be a mistake to slide past a key question: Why shouldn't municipalities be "penalized" — so to speak — for the exodus of their residents? Isn't the discomfort a valuable impetus for change in a better direction? Take, for example, some facts that Sgouros cites from Providence:

Providence has only two-thirds the number of people it had in 1950, and a much smaller fraction of the property value, but it has the same number of blocks to police, about the same number of houses to burn, and more students in its schools.

In other words, Providence has been attracting poorer people who have more children. To the extent that its finances are insulated from its actual population, the city has less motivation to change the character of its citizenry. Or approach the matter from the other side:

The other big problem comes when suburban residents start demanding (and/or needing) the same level of services as the cities provide. When people move to the sticks and then demand fire response times comparable to what they'd have in Providence, you have a recipe for very high costs. When crime rates creeping upward make suburban residents demand policing like they'd get in Pawtucket, that's a problem.

If a suburb faces no consequences for too-rapid expansion, then it has less incentive to preserve its character or to ensure that those moving within its borders can afford to do so. Conversely, if it faces no penalty for driving citizens (or businesses) away, it can indulge in stagnationary policies that lock development and particular classes of people out. The non-penalizing tax system will ensure that the roads stay well kept and well patrolled whether there are fifty or five households per square mile.

Lurking behind these assessments is the dark political reality of human nature: If the leaders of a city, town, or region do not have to consider demographics' effects on their budgets, then they will be inclined to institute policies that attract residents who most benefit them — which is to say people who will justify requesting more dollars from whomever it is that doles them out and who will vote for candidates who promise to go after those dollars. As the taxing and policing body of government becomes more centralized, and the Gimme Vote more unified within particular districts, the dynamic will become such that those who receive will vote themselves an arm with which to reach into the pockets of those who provide.

Once that game is proven to be the order of things, those on the losing end of the tax-and-spend formula will find a way to extricate themselves.

September 6, 2008

Is it Time for the State to Cut Funding to Woonsocket?

Monique Chartier

A couple of loud fiscal alarm bells sounded in Woonsocket over the last ten days as we were all glued to convention coverage and moose-burgers. A week ago Friday, Fitch Ratings downgraded Woonsocket's General Obligation Bonds. Courtesy iStockAnalyst:

In the course of routine surveillance, Fitch Ratings has downgraded the rating on Woonsocket, RI's approximately $119 million of outstanding general obligation (GO) bonds to 'A-' from 'A'. The Rating Outlook has been revised to Negative from Stable.

And on Tuesday, Richard Lepine, the only financial professional on the Woonsocket Pension Board, quit. From the Valley Breeze.

... he neither agreed with the direction of the fund nor does he believe others sharing authority over the fund are listening to his warnings.

As of June 30 of this year, the pension fund for retired police and fire personnel was an estimated $12 million short of the approximate $90 million value it was required to maintain by state law, or face payments back into it to keep it fully funded.

The shortfall meant an estimated $16 million loss from the previous year as the stock market tumbled, but an actuarial "smoothing method" for the fund meant it was only $2.1 million "short" and still had time to catch up before the city would be on the hook for much larger payments a few years down the road, according to the city's actuary, Dennis Jacobs.

Estimates based on the new mortality tables the city will likely be required to use now have the fund short of full funding by about $17 million, and could require more significant payments.

Lepine said in his letter that the city should start making larger payments than the required $500,000 installments recommended by Jacobs based on the $2.1 million figure, and agreed to by other board members, to avoid an even more significant shortfall down the road.

"My 21 years of experience as an investment adviser leaves me with little confidence that these proposed minimal payments will be nearly enough to solve our funding shortfall, and that the greater risk to the city is that the unfunded liability may grow over the next few years to a perilous and unmanageable figure," Lepine said in his letter ...

"Smoothing method"? Is that a euphemism for "Do nothing and hope it all goes away"?

In his editorial this week, the Valley Breeze's Tom Ward does not mince words.

The money is running out much faster than it should, and it's clear that Mayor Menard is angry with Lepine for blowing the whistle on this mess to the City Council. Every city retiree who depends on those funds owes Lepine a debt of gratitude for speaking the truth.

The bottom line is that Menard is smart enough to know there's a problem, but likely was hoping to paper over the shortage of money that wouldn't come to light until after she left office. Let the next poor slob clean up her mess.

An honorable mayor would thank Lepine. Instead, he's made an outcast. That's Menard's "my way or the highway" style of leadership. The truth be damned - protect the boss at all costs.

Too late. I urge the City Council to keep a close eye on the mess a compliant Pension Board doesn't care to address.

These developments follow upon the damning audit released in March. And of course, all of this follows upon the colorful tenure of Mayor Susan Menard (yes, she's still in office; she changed her mind), whose dubious fiscal methods include but are by no means limited to no-bid motorcycles, no bid copy machines, hidden cameras, campaign contributions from the (prior) city auditor and the expenditure of legal fees on an ultimately unsuccessful bid to prevent the City Council from questioning city employees. [As to the last item, why has she been so anxious to keep them silent?]

Oh, and Woonsocket's 2006 School Superintendent made the Providence Journal's list of 100 highest paid municipal employees: Ms. Maureen Macera was the third highest paid muncipal employee in the state that year.

I point out such little items because Rhode Island taxpayers are the source for seventy five cents of every budget dollar spent in Woonsocket. Tom Ward is correct that the City Council needs to keep an eye on the Pension Board. But as the guardian of our hard earned tax dollars, the Rhode Island General Assembly needs to start looking much more closely at Woonsocket City Hall. Regardless of whatever hidden cameras may be set up.

Be still my soul: An invitation

Donald B. Hawthorne

We went to a memorial service today for a very nice man. May he rest in peace and his family be comforted by their faith and memories of him.

The service included many touching words and musical highlights, one of which was the singing of a great hymn, Be Still My Soul:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Here are different versions of the song performed by Libera, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and St. Philip's Choir.

May all of us find a certain stillness for our souls.

Yep, those religious fundamentalists are scary!

Donald B. Hawthorne


H/T to The Anchoress. Read her whole post, too.

Not to sound like a broken record, but:

...It could be that a great many voters have taken a good look at the fundamentalists on the religious right and the fundamentalists on the political left and made up their own minds about which pose the greater threat to their own private and public values.

Anti-Obama Books

Marc Comtois

Catching up on the "to do" list and I thought I'd mention a couple interviews Dan Yorke had with some authors of "anti-Obama" books.

The first was with Jerome Corsi, author of Obama Nation (podcast). Corsi is a lightning rod right out of the box thanks to his co-authoring of the book about John Kerry a la the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth controversy. He talked to Yorke about the "cult of personality" that has grown up around Obama and that Obama is largely a creation of Saul Alinsky disciples, Black liberation theology and other radical, leftists. A lot of politically savvy folks have heard it before, but Corsi delves deeper into some of the personal associations that others have only touched on. Understandably, Corsi feels a bit under siege, but that is owing both to his subject matter and his apparently confrontational writing style.

Dan also interviewed David Freddoso, author of The Case Against Barack Obama (podcast). Freddoso writes for National Review and his book sounds well-researched. He talked about how Michelle Obama's father came up through the Chicago's political machine and how Obama benefited from this. Further, when the time came, Obama supported candidates of the Chicago machine over real reformers. He also discusses Obama's ties to Tony Rezko. Freddoso also explains that the Chicago media has done a great job of looking into Obama's background (seems like he relied on those accounts to a large degree when researching Obama's Chicago years). However, the national, New York/Washington, D.C. press has yet to really pick up on those stories to any real degree. Further, Freddoso illustrates Obama's extensive ties to lobbyists and his support for such business-as-usual legislation as the 2008 Farm Bill to show that Obama really isn't the reformer he claims to be.

I haven't read either of the books (only excerpts), but of the two, Freddoso's sounds the more measured and journalistically credible. Corsi is more willing to take a rumor and amplify it. Here's a positive review of Freddoso's. This is a more skeptical review of both Corsi's and Freddoso's books, which notes Corsi's reliance on debunked rumors and faults Freddoso mostly for his stretched analysis, not his journalism.

ADDENDUM: I later found that Jim Geraghty (also of NR, which he makes clear) agrees that Freddoso's is the more responsible and credible.

September 5, 2008

The Old Warrior

Marc Comtois

The old Warrior still has some fight left in him. No one can doubt John McCain's commitment to his country or his belief in his ideals. He speaks with conviction, a conviction fostered and formed throughout a life of service to his country and that was strengthened--even as his body weakened--in a dank cell in Hanoi. So we see the determination in his eye and the set of his jaw and we're asked to trust his judgment. But is that enough? For some.

Unfortunately, he doesn't wax as eloquently as some; his injuries contribute to his awkwardness at the podium; he smiles weirdly after delivering a line. In short, he isn't a gifted presenter, which worries may people, especially in our style-over-substance era. Like it or not, many people need a president who is able to attractively convey his ideas and decisions to short-attention spanned Americans who will give short shrift to the ideas and policies of word bumblers and halted speakers and, in the Northeast especially, anyone with a southern accent. If they don't like the presentation, they won't take your ideas seriously. Change the channel, this is boring.

But it's probably too late for McCain to get better at giving a speech. So now it's all about the debates. The physical juxtaposition of an older, leaning white man and a younger, leaner black man will be obvious. So McCain will have to prove his mental agility and experience over a younger, more charismatic opponent. He'll have to keep his temper, but show his passion. He'll have to be tough but not condescending. The Old Warrior has a few more battles before he can take the Hill.

Social Security: The Scam That Keeps on Taking

Justin Katz

Alex Epstein rightly decries the fraudulent premises of Social Security:

Social Security is commonly portrayed as benefiting most, if not all, Americans by providing them "risk-free" financial security in old age.

This is a fraud.

Under Social Security, lower- and middle-class individuals are forced to pay a significant portion of their gross income — approximately 12 percent — for the alleged purpose of securing their retirement. That money is not saved or invested, but transferred directly to the program's current beneficiaries — with the "promise" that when current taxpayers get old, the income of future taxpayers will be transferred to them. Since this scheme creates no wealth, any benefit one person receives in excess of his payments necessarily comes at the expense of others.

Under Social Security, every aspect of the government's "promise" to provide financial security is at the mercy of political whim. The government can change how much of an individual's money it takes — it has increased the payroll tax 17 times since 1935. The government can spend his money on anything it wants — observe the long-time practice of spending any annual Social Security surplus on other entitlement programs. The government can change when (and therefore if) it chooses to pay him benefits and how much they consist of — witness the current proposals to raise the age cutoff or lower future benefits. Under Social Security, whether an individual gets twice as much from others as was taken from him, or half as much, or nothing at all, is entirely at the discretion of politicians. He cannot count on Social Security for anything — except a massive drain on his income.

Frankly, I'm expecting never to see a dime of return on my Social Security "investment," and to have scarcely any opportunity to save in my life. Taking four hours of my workweek away from me every week for the Ponzi schemes of older and larger generations is immoral to the borderline of criminality.

There Is a Right Path

Justin Katz

Just a pause to affirm that one doesn't have to push the boundaries of ethics to extend the boundaries of medical science:

The cell identity switch turned ordinary pancreas cells into the rarer type that churns out insulin, essential for preventing diabetes. But its implications go beyond diabetes to a host of possibilities, scientists said.

It's the second advance in about a year that suggests that doctors might be able to use a patient's own cells to treat disease or injury without turning to stem cells taken from embryos.

Of course, some folks give the impression that, deep down, they believe that ethical absolutes are the greatest disease facing humanity, with all mere ailments as subsequent considerations.

September 4, 2008

McCain's speech

Donald B. Hawthorne

On the recent Republican party behavior:

I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party. We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger. We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties and Senator Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. We lost their trust, when we valued our power over our principles.

We're going to change that. We're going to recover the people's trust by standing up again for the values Americans admire. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan is going to get back to basics.

On education:

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm President, they will.

On energy:

My fellow Americans, when I'm President, we're going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades. We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much. We will attack the problem on every front. We will produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore, and we'll drill them now. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles.

Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. But Americans know better than that. We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and to restore the health of our planet. It's an ambitious plan, but Americans are ambitious by nature, and we have faced greater challenges. It's time for us to show the world again how Americans lead.

This great national cause will create millions of new jobs, many in industries that will be the engine of our future prosperity; jobs that will be there when your children enter the workforce.

On war:

We face many threats in this dangerous world, but I'm not afraid of them. I'm prepared for them. I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better, and what it should not do. I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it. I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don't. I know how to secure the peace.

His conclusion:

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's.

I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.

If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you're disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

I'm going to fight for my cause every day as your President. I'm going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God, as I thank Him: that I'm an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on earth, and with hard work, strong faith and a little courage, great things are always within our reach. Fight with me. Fight with me.

Fight for what's right for our country.

Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.

Fight for our children's future.

Fight for justice and opportunity for all.

Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.

Stand up for each other; for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.

Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.

Not a great public speaker, McCain delivered a generally effective speech which conveyed the depth of his life experiences in a self-effacing manner and a willingness to battle for the common man and woman. The contrast with the soaring rhetoric of an empty suit was striking and also done in a completely different and less dynamic way than last night.

However, whether McCain's speech defined a sufficiently clear contrast with Obama for an effective and focused Fall campaign was less clear.

How Unlike a Normal Young Man Is David Segal?

Justin Katz

Oh to have the financial liberty that David Segal makes evident through his priorities (emphasis added):

I can think of nothing that would attract young people to Rhode Island, and keep them around, at a higher rate than expanded transit, and expanded health care -- two services that have suffered the most, under the austerity measures that have been pushed by Chamber of Commerce, the Governor, and far too many characters in the Assembly.

From personal experience, as well as acquaintanceship with various "young people" throughout my thirty-three years, I'd hazard to suggest that those of us who are not full-time part-time legislators are more likely to be attracted to and remain in a place with employment opportunities aplenty than a tax hell with a unionized fleet of public designated drivers. And depending where one draws the line for "young people," I suspect that there isn't an age demographic with less reason to worry about healthcare coverage.

Me, I remained in Rhode Island owing to the gravity of a large traditional family, but inasmuch as Mr. Segal is more ideologue than practical provincialist, I don't imagine he'll be advocating for traditional family values as an economic foundation.

On Sticking to Business, Two: Anthony DiBella

Justin Katz

Edward Mazze errs by inadvertently opening the door for the insidious consequence of socialist drift, Anthony DiBella takes his latest Business section "commentary" to the threshold of the socialist view of humanity. The humble Mr. DiBella volunteers for the task of bringing sun-shiny days to the lives of Rhode Islanders:

The governor's idea to assemble a tax policy group to find ways Rhode Island can be more competitive is an excellent one. Yet there is no guarantee that lowered taxes will lead to what should be our ultimate goal — greater happiness. If the governor is a true patriot encouraging the pursuit of happiness, then he should appoint a working group on how to make Rhode Islanders happier. I’d be happy to volunteer.

The proposal is especially telling if one has withstood the distracting history of the "gross national happiness, or GNH," and recalls DiBella's suggestion, a few paragraphs back, about what Rhode Islanders would do with tax dollars they were permitted to keep:

With regard to the impact of lowered taxes on J.Q. Publico, presumably that would give Rhode Islanders more money to spend on more important things, like lottery tickets and stuffies.

I don't know about my fellow face-stuffing gambling addicts, but I'd rather not invite Mr. DiBella to sort out my route to happiness. Somehow that particular pursuit seems more likely to feed his ego while depriving me of the opportunity for advancement and financial stability that I personally find to be the most fruitful field to sow for fulfillment.

The Voice of Small-Town America

Marc Comtois

Like the majority of Americans, and to quote John Mellencamp (who'd not appreciate it, I'm sure), "I was born in a small town" and I was raised by small-town parents, grew up with small-town people and married a small-town gal. That's why, even as Sarah Palin introduced herself to America last night, many people like myself felt like we already knew her. I've mentioned before George Will's construction that sensibility (or disposition) comes before philosophy or ideology. Last night's speech exhibited small-town, middle-America sensibility and it will resonate with millions of Americans who can identify with Palin and her family.

Just like Palin, small-town folks are fiercely protective of their family, particularly their children, who they consider their personal stake in the future. This also extends to friends and neighbors. They work hard and they play hard. They are in the PTO, they volunteer, they coach sports teams and they help at shelters, soup kitchens and churches. And small-towners are smarter than their given credit for. They know that simple words that get to the point are more effective than running to a thesaurus--who has the time for that? They know B.S. when they see it and they don't want to deal in it. (New Englanders should know this--what is Yankee wit, after all?). Most importantly, they know the genuine article when they see it.

Does this make small-towners somehow unique or better than other Americans? Of course not. For while city and suburban folks may not share the same background as Sarah Palin and the rest of small-town America, they are just as protective and just as devoted to family and community. Yet, there are differences in the city, suburban and small-town sensibilities. Sarah Palin is the first national politician in a long while who can legitimately speak to and relate to small-town America. She addressed their concerns and sensibilities on the national stage in a way that goes beyond lip-service and pandering.

It goes even deeper, though. For while Palin's political rise has been mercurial, her small-town roots are important in understanding the type of politician she is. She wasn't just the mayor of any small-town, she was mayor of the town she grew up in. Then she ran for lieutenant governor and, later, became governor of her home state, Alaska. As her confidence in her ability to serve her community grew, the size of that community--small-town, state, nation--has grown along with it. That doesn't mark her as unique, but it does explain her ability to relate and speak to first her neighbors, then her state and, now, America.

Fundamentally, then, it is the small-town roots that have helped her grow to national prominence. Her sensibilities that were cultivated and grew in a small American town inspired her "servant's heart." Her actions and words reveal that she is a woman who is consistent in her service to those she represents. She means what she says. That's all small-town Americans, any Americans, can ask for.

Left-wing feminist masters to Sarah Palin: How dare you try to leave our plantation!

Donald B. Hawthorne

I wish I could find an old political cartoon I recall from the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearing days which showed Ted Kennedy as the plantation master talking about how blacks weren't allowed off the left-wing plantation.

Well, today's plantation masters are left-wing feminists like Gloria Steinem.

Catch the irony here:

Roughly a decade ago, Steinem excused Bill Clinton's bad behavior with women, essentially declaring he was entitled to one free grope of women as long as he stopped after that.

But today Steinem writes an editorial about Sarah Palin entitled Palin: wrong woman, wrong message - Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.

What did I already tell you? The leftists are saying a woman can't be an authentic female unless she believes what the Left believes. But, as long as a man believes what the Left believes, then he is entitled to a free pass at abusing women. And that's liberation? This is enough to make your head spin!

Steinem says:

Here's the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing -- the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party -- are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice president...

But here is even better news: It won't work. This isn't the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie...

Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality...

Yep, gotta love the Left's tolerance for diversity. And what condescension! LOL.

(Another example here from Mark Steyn: What was it the feminists used to say? "You can have it all." Sarah Palin is a mom, and the first female governor of her state. But the enforcers at the National Organization of Women dismiss her as "more a conservative man than she is a woman." Golly. These days, NOW seems to have as narrow and proscriptive a view of what women are permitted to be as any old 1950s sitcom dad.)

Reminds me of the final words of a 1984 WSJ editorial - my favorite of all time - entitled Liberal Fundamentalism: Who are the intolerant extremists?, highlighted in this 2005 post:

...It could be that a great many voters have taken a good look at the fundamentalists on the religious right and the fundamentalists on the political left and made up their own minds about which pose the greater threat to their own private and public values.

Will Palin be effective in articulating a coherent message, at highlighting the incoherence and intolerance of the left-wing fundamentalists between now and November 4? Who knows. But her nomination has drawn them out and caused the public spotlight to turn back onto the left-wing political fundamentalist plantation masters. So, even if Palin slips up, the country at least knows what world view plays a large part in animating the Obama alternative.

Gotta go now, back to clinging bitterly to my guns and religion. That's all for now, folks!

On Sticking to Business, One: Edward Mazze

Justin Katz

Sometimes the wisdom of allowing the Providence Journal Business section to indulge in "commentary" isn't at all apparent. Edward Mazze, for example, did just fine, yesterday, until he transitioned from business and economic statistics to education with the following paragraph:

Based on the number of elementary and secondary schools in a state with a little over 1 million population, Rhode Island should be well-positioned to prepare the worker of the future. Rhode Island currently has 304 public schools.

The "should be" isn't the case, however, as Mazze proceeds to illustrate, although his prescription misses the mark in its poor assessment of political realities in our state:

We need more accountability for dollars spent and on future investments. We are too small a state in population and geography to spend the amount of money for the management of education in over 30 school districts with numerous union contracts when a state our size should have no more than five school districts and a statewide union contract. The savings in dollars on administration and labor negotiations if placed back into the education of students should result in more progress in achieving targets.

Yes, you read that right: Mazze asserts that increased accountability can be achieved by pushing education even more into the General Assembly's purview. Where, in the legislative body that runs the state, does Mazze hear a strong opposing voice to unions? Where the inclination to spend and invest prudently? A statewide union contract would mean that the unions would no longer have to spread their resources out fighting small skirmishes around the state (small skirmishes for which groups such as Tiverton Citizens for Change can crop up when a lack of accountability appears as a line item on mortgage bills)?

A consolidated school system would fit in very nicely with Rhode Island's governmental practice of ensuring that no one group (much less individual) is every decisively accountable for failures of policy. Note Mazze's crucial "if":

The savings in dollars on administration and labor negotiations if placed back into the education of students should result in more progress in achieving targets.

Watchers of Rhode Island politics may suspect that "if" to be akin to the Black Spot in Treasure Island, although rather than being indicative of a pronouncement of guilt, it's a pronouncement of vulnerability. "Savings" from school consolidation would be quite an attractive supplement to the now-state-employed union members' contracts and a lucrative source of revenue for our spendthrift representatives.

Much as the Western Left has learned to use the language of diversity and compassion to promote its totalitarian policies, the Rhode Island corruptocrats are beginning to rehearse the language of business and economics. One needn't possess a degree in either to recognize that the actual benefits to the customer of consolidation are typically a secondary motive, at best. In a polity with such contempt for taxpayers, we would hardly register.

VP Talk on the Radio

Justin Katz

In case you missed it, Don talked Palin with Matt Allen on 630AM/99.7FM WPRO last night. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

Re: The ferociously totalitarian response of the Left to Sarah Palin: Sexism, intolerance, and fear

Monique Chartier

Excellent, accurate title, Donald.

The one bit of good news to emerge from the anti-Palin furor is that women appear to have well and truly "arrived" - our gender is less important than our political orientation.

Here are some helpful guidelines for commentators who wish to criticize Governor Palin without appearing hypocritical or biased.

- Would you utter that criticism of a man?

- When you examined comparable actions of a Democrat in the identical situation at some point in the past (none of the matters for which Governor Palin has been criticized is without precedent), did you criticize him or her? Or were you silent or even praising?

- Are you actually changing your stance on an issue in order to criticize Gov Palin?

- Did you yourself, in your professional or personal life, willingly and deliberately take the action for which you are about to criticize Gov Palin?

- Are you about to precede your criticism with a fatuous statement such as, "Should this even be a subject of discussion?"

Avoiding these pitfalls in the course of your evaluation will engender a more open, honest and substantive debate as to the comparative merits of the two tickets.

September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin's speech

Donald B. Hawthorne

Along the way, Sarah Palin asked what the difference was between a pit bull and a hockey mom: Lipstick.

Ahem, after listening to her speech, ladies and gentlemen, I'm betting she is plenty tough enough and most surely ready for primetime.

Some excerpts:

On her experience as a public servant:

"I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town. I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education better. When I ran for city council, I didn’t need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and knew their families, too. Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities."

On why she is going to Washington, D.C.:

"I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. But here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion - I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country."

On energy policies that the McCain-Palin administration will implement:

"Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America’s energy problems - as if we all didn’t know that already. But the fact that drilling won’t solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we’re going to lay more more nuclear plants...create jobs with clean coal...and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative sources. We need American energy resources, brought to you by American ingenuity, and produced by American workers."

On John McCain:

"Here’s how I look at the choice Americans face in this election. In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change."

Other excerpts: small towns, they don't know what to make of a candidate [Obama] who "lavish praise" on them when he's around and then, behind their backs, "talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns." Don't talk about us "one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco."


Here is a link to the speech.

In the comments section, Monique provides another excerpt:

"The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of 'personal discovery.' This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn't just need an organizer."


"I've noticed a pattern with our opponent. Maybe you have, too.

We've all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers. And there is much to like and admire about our opponent.

But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform - not even in the state senate.

This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word "victory" except when he's talking about his own campaign.

But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot - what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?

The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. America needs more energy ... our opponent is against producing it.

Victory in Iraq is finally in sight ... he wants to forfeit.

Terrorist states are seeking new-clear weapons without delay ... he wants to meet them without preconditions.

Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?

Government is too big ... he wants to grow it.

Congress spends too much ... he promises more.

Taxes are too high ... he wants to raise them. His tax increases are the fine print in his economic plan, and let me be specific.

The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes ... raise payroll taxes ... raise investment income taxes ... raise the death tax ... raise business taxes ... and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars."

For goodness sake, why just read word excerpts when you can watch it live on video?

And I reiterate my points here. The quality of her performance tonight only ups the ante.


Thanks to CQ Politics for the link.

Chafee's Political (Ahem) Wisdom

Justin Katz

This is just too much, coming from a man who drove me to vote for an opponent who is now the second most liberal Senator in Congress:

As a matter of campaign politics, Chafee challenged the conventional wisdom that Palin's selection will rouse GOP conservatives who had not been enthusiastic about McCain. He said Palin appears to be a gesture to a part of the Republican electorate that does not need shoring up.

"I always thought that the base wouldn't have anywhere to go," Chafee said. Having lost control of the House and Senate, the conservative base should be "sufficiently motivated" by the prospect of losing the White House, he said.

He don't know us very well, do he?

The ferociously totalitarian response of the Left to Sarah Palin: Sexism, intolerance, and fear

Donald B. Hawthorne

Why the ferocious reaction by both the Left and the MSM to the Palin nomination?

The conventional wisdom is that it is sexism, a variation on what Hillary experienced during the Democratic primaries. That is certainly part of the explanation. When have you ever heard male candidates, such as Obama, asked about how they will handle their job given their young children?

But there is more going on here than sexism.

A second factor is how the Left is notoriously intolerant of women and minorities who don't tow their ideological line. Just like they react fiercely to blacks who wander off their plantation, women who hold different views are deemed as lacking authenticity. Can't be a real feminist if you don't think their left-wing way. (What is no less appalling is how overtly the MSM has fully joined the Left's insanity.)

A third factor explaining the intensity of the reaction to Palin is she is a direct threat to the existing culture of death. Whether it is Trig's birth or her daughter's pending child, there has rarely been such a direct challenge to the abortion culture. The culture war is alive and the Left is facing having to deal with a young, dynamic and contrary role model who has walked the life walk.

What is not lost on many of us is how tolerant the evangelical community has been toward Palin's daughter's pregnancy. One of the most striking comments in several articles below is how several people have said that it was a similar development in their family's life which drew them into the pro-life movement. And what a contrast they offer to the rabid anger of the Left.

So the Left has to try to destroy Palin out of the box because she appears to be a strong, capable and "regular" woman who offers, by her life example, an appealing alternative vision for the future. Again, we don't know her well enough yet to know if she can pull it off - especially given how committed the Left is to destroying her.

But, if Palin can pull it off, she could be one of the biggest threats of my lifetime to the cultural and political Left, someone who could potentially alter the political and philosophical landscape in the United States.

Which explains the ferocious response by the Left to her nomination.

More thoughts to come.

Jonathan Adler on Sarah's rough start?
Kathryn Jean Lopez on We’re Not Sisters with Her: Palin exposes the feminist Left
Kathryn Jean Lopez on Heart of the Matter: Sarah Palin and a new feminism
Rich Lowry on Hating Sarah: Partisanship at its worst
Byron York on Why the Palin Baby Story Matters: What it means to evangelical voters
Ed Morrissey on We have walked in the Palins’ shoes
Focus on the Family on Pastor doesn't preach
Richard Adams on A tale of two philosophies
John Pitney, Jr. on Go Ahead and Laugh: How Palin matters
NR Editors on Pregnant Pause: Trying to end the Palin candidacy before it begins
Thomas Lifson on Sarah Palin and the Two Americas
Jeff Jacoby on A stark choice on abortion
Michelle Malkin on The Four Stages of Conservative Female Abuse

What Debate Would You Like To See?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Regular readers know how I voted on this one (h/t Instapundit).

And What Tools We Are...

Justin Katz

By the by, I want to thank Charles Bakst for including us in his "Toolbox for Political Junkies." Ideological differences being what they are, he didn't have to give us the even-handed plug.

(N.B. — This post is not an excuse to bash Bakst in the comments.)

A Snapshot of Sarah Palin's Domestic Governing Experience

Carroll Andrew Morse

A review of Sarah Palin's administrative orders (what many other states call "executive orders") shows action taken on a range of statewide issues. In two years as Governor of Alaska, she has implemented policies in areas ranging from healthcare reform to housing policy to mental health reform to energy production. Here are the highlights.

Very soon after taking office, Governor Palin issued Administrative Order 232 (February 15, 2007), establishing the Alaska Health Care Strategies Planning Council and giving it a broad mandate to create an action plan. By the end of 2007, the Council had reported back with an extensive set of proposals; Governor Palin had obviously selected commissioners who weren't afraid of detail. The first area the commission focused on -- even coming up with some proposals that are economically rational -- was lowering costs…

  • Increase the place of consumerism in health care purchasing by giving people control over their health care dollar – the foundations are accessible, transparent, evidence-based price/quality information about providers and services (short-term).
  • Create an easily accessible and constantly updated website containing evidence-based price and quality information about health care providers and services (short-term)
  • Increase community-based health care services, both public and private sector
  • Stabilize the costs of health care by reducing the rate of increase relative to other states (national increase is 6%, decrease Alaskan rate to 4% annual increase)
The report contains similar lists in six other areas; creating a sustainable health care workforce, guaranteeing clean and safe water and wastewater systems, making quality health care accessible to all Alaskans, making personal responsibility and prevention in health care a top priority, developing the statewide leadership necessary to develop and support a comprehensive health care policy, and increasing the number of Alaskans covered by health insurance.

Following the release of the report, Governor Palin introduced legislation to begin implementing of the recommendations. To facilitate an increase in community-based health services, she has proposed repealing Alaka's certificate-of-need (CON) program, which prohibits new health care facilities from being constructed unless the government determines that there is a "need" for a new facility in a given area. To make costs and prices more transparent, Governor Palin has proposed requiring that all health care facilities in Alaska make accurate and updated lists of the costs of their procedures available to the public. The Governor explains her initial legislation here, in an op-ed in the Anchorage Daily News.

In response to the discovery of unexpected corrosion in Alaska's oil-pipeline system, Governor Palin issued Administrative Order 234 (April 18, 2007), creating a Petroleum Systems Integrity Office to monitor and coordinate the maintenance of Alaska's oil infrastructure. The office was up and running quickly enough so that by July 6 of 2007, the Petroleum Systems Integrity Office Coordinator was the go-to person when the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce wanted detailed answers to questions on dangers to pipelines, for example...

1. Does the build-up of sediment in a pipeline send up a red flag, since bacteria can flourish under sediment and lead to aggressive microbial corrosion?

Yes. Sediment in a pipeline can cause or contribute to problems, including providing an environment in which corrosion-causing bacteria can grow, creating difficulties with intelligent pigging, and blocking of corrosion inhibitor interface with the pipe wall. The presence of sediment is therefore a red flag for consideration of these issues, and generally calls for measures to remove it and to prevent its build-up.

In the area of housing policy, Governor Palin issued Administrative Order 236 (May 1, 2007), continuing the work of a commission created in 2004 by former Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski. The major recommendation from Murkowski's commission had been the creation of a housing trust fund to assist people in need, but he never implemented it. Palin proposed $10 million dollars in her 2009 budget, to be overseen by a new body created through the administrative order, to be used to jump-start the trust fund. Her actions won plaudits from Alaska's housing advocates.

The Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet was created by Governor Palin through Administrative Order 238 (September 14, 2007). Among the areas where the sub-cabinet is to develop recommendations on are…

  • The assembly of scientific research, modeling, and mapping information in ways that will help the public and policymakers understand the actual and projected effects of climate change in Alaska, including the time frames in which those effects are likely to take place.
  • The prioritization of climate change research in Alaska to best meet the needs of the public and policymakers.
  • The policies and measures to reduce the likelihood or magnitude of damage to infrastructure in Alaska from the effects of climate change.
  • The potential benefits of Alaska participating in regional, national, and international climate policy agreements and greenhouse gas registries.
  • The opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Alaska sources, including the expanded use of alternative fuels, energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, land use management, and transportation planning.
The sub-cabinet has opened the civic dialogue about the science and the potential impacts of global warming to a broad cross-section of Alaskans.

Finally, Governor Palin reshuffled the governing board of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, "the only public inpatient psychiatric hospital" in Alaska, through Administrative Order 241 (July 1, 2008). What's interesting about this reshuffle is who the Governor added to the board…

Six members representing the general public; members appointed under this paragraph must be or have been consumers of behavioral health services and have been diagnosed with one of the mental disorders [defined elsewhere in law].
…or, as the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services described it…
The Alaska Psychiatric Institute is forming a new advisory board with a unique feature: at least seven seats will be held by people who have used the state’s mental health services.

The new board will focus on patient rights and responsibilities, as well as continuing the transformation of the hospital to a recovery-based organization. “To accomplish this, we need — at the table — the very people we serve,” API Chief Executive Officer Ron Adler said.

Let's cut to the chase now. Did Barack Obama get so many changes underway as a community organizer? How about as a United States Senator?

Newt and Rudy on Palin vs Obama

Donald B. Hawthorne


Newt: "I don't know of a single thing Obama has done except talk and write. And I would like you to tell me one thing..." at which point the MSNBC reporter sent it back to the desk.


All of this talk about experience only serves to put more of the spotlight on Obama's lack of executive experience and leadership.


Or, as Joe Lieberman said:

Senator Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead. But eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times.

Don Roach: Then and NOW

Engaged Citizen

Then and NOW

What a difference twenty-four years and a political party make. In 2008, the National Organization for Women (NOW) has an interesting take on Sarah Palin's selection as John McCain's running mate. It is quite a departure from their role in 1984 campaign

2008: NOW statement on Sarah Palin (emphasis added):

Gov. Palin may be the second woman vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket, but she is not the right woman. Sadly, she is a woman who opposes women's rights, just like John McCain

The fact that Palin is a mother of five who has a 4-month-old baby, a woman who is juggling work and family responsibilities, will speak to many women. But will Palin speak FOR women? Based on her record and her stated positions, the answer is clearly No.

In a gubernatorial debate, Palin stated emphatically that her opposition to abortion was so great, so total, that even if her teenage daughter was impregnated by a rapist, she would "choose life" — meaning apparently that she would not permit her daughter to have an abortion. ...

Finally, as the chair of NOW's Political Action Committee, I am frequently asked whether NOW supports women candidates just because they are women. This gives me an opportunity to once again answer that question with an emphatic 'No.' We recognize the importance of having women's rights supporters at every level but, like Sarah Palin, not every woman supports women's rights.

How can a woman oppose "women's rights"? Is she opposed to herself, or do Palin's political views not fit within the narrow liberal confines of NOW? You decide.

1984: NOW pressures Mondale to select a "woman" VP:

Arriving at NOW's national conference in Miami just two weeks before the convention, Mondale was "confronted with a sea of green lapel buttons bearing a terse message: 'Woman VP Now.'" During his July 1, 1984 address, Mondale was interrupted not only by applause, but chants of "run with a woman" from an audience waving placards featuring the names of potential women running mates, including three-term New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro. As the New York Times noted, Mondale tried to assuage his audience:
Walter F. Mondale told the National Organization for Women today that he had "broken the barrier" of considering a woman to run for the Vice Presidency and that women would "never again" be barred from the nation's highest offices.

That may have been sufficient to secure for Mondale the first-ever presidential endorsement from NOW, but it came at a price. With just three dissenting votes, the organization overwhelmingly approved a resolution insisting a woman be nominated for Vice President from the floor of the Democratic Convention if Mondale chose a man as his running mate.

Twenty-four years separate the first and second female vice-presidential candidates ever selected by the major U.S. political parties. One candidate was liberal, and the other is conservative. Nonetheless, they broke through the glass ceiling, and one would hope that the National Organization for Women would applaud both, regardless of whether it disagrees on one of various ideological points. Unfortunately, as with most "liberal" organizations trying to purport themselves as speaking for particular demographics, the organization is unable to separate its particular political preferences from something even more intrinsic: being a woman. And regardless of your political persuasion, McCain's selection for a 44-year old female governor who has five children, should be celebrated. It's too bad that NOW and other liberal groups cannot see beyond their political agenda and note this monumental breakthrough for women.

More Anti-Palin Pack Journalism

Carroll Andrew Morse

There are times when I'm not sure if the immortal words of Krusty the Klown...

I'm gonna need a shoebox full of blow to get through this dreck,
...apply more appropriately to the product of the left-blogosphere, or to that of the mainstream media. Then again, at the moment, they're pretty much indistinguishable, so maybe there's no point in asking.

Left-blogger Andrew Sullivan is leading readers to this item posted on what I think is supposed to be a down-the-middle blog hosted by the Washington Post...

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee who revealed Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, earlier this year used her line-item veto to slash funding for a state program benefiting teen mothers in need of a place to live.

After the legislature passed a spending bill in April, Palin went through the measure reducing and eliminating funds for programs she opposed. Inking her initials on the legislation -- "SP" -- Palin reduced funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20 percent, cutting funds from $5 million to $3.9 million.

Slashed funding. The mean, hypocritical Republican slashed funding...except...

...that if you actually bother to examine the information that Alaska's Covenant House makes available about its operations, it's obviously not true. Start with the financials. In 2007, Covenant House reported $1.3 million dollars in "grant income". In 2006, the figure was $1.2 million. So why, all of the sudden, did Covenant House seem to need 4 times that amount, $5 million or so in state money?

The answer is that Covenant House is expanding. The plans are described in the 2009 Alaska capital budget proposal...

State funding will assist Covenant House to relocate, and construct a new Crisis Center for Covenant House in downtown Anchorage.
$22 million is needed to complete the expansion. Covenant House asked the Alaska legislature to provide $10 million, the legislature answered with $5 million in the 2009 budget. Governor Palin cut the figure back to $3.9 million -- for this year. This likely doesn't stop the expansion; Covenant House will either have to get more from the state in a future year and/or increase the amount from private donations to make it happen. But no existing program that helps teenage mothers or the children of teenage mothers has been affected by this budget decision, and calling a one-time infusion of $3.9 million added by the state on top of normal operating expenses a "cut" only makes sense if you can't do math, if you don't understand the difference between a capital outlay and an operating outlay, or if you hate Republicans.

Sorry Washington Post, you don't get your scoop. You'll have to find some other backdoor way to try to legitimize bringing Sarah Palin's daughter into your reporting.

Catching Up with Matt Allen

Justin Katz

I've been delayed in posting Monique's appearance on Matt Allen's show, last week, during which she and Matt discussed the boringness of political conventions, the smackdown of the Cranston School Committee's Caruolo lawsuit, and the intersection of religion and immigration: Stream by clicking here, or download it.

Tune in to Matt Allen on 630AM/99.7FM tonight around 7:50 p.m. to hear Don Hawthorne live.

September 2, 2008

A Little Perspective

Justin Katz

Another day at the office:


I'm Not Comforted by This "Progress"

Justin Katz

So the teachers head back to class today, in Tiverton, and although their contract is still under negotiation, there appears to be some movement. One of the reasons, however, is probably not a positive:

... both sides agreed to keep the details of negotiations private, in a departure from the practice of publicly airing differences on salaries and health insurance, the sticking points of the labor impasse.

So much for open government. Instead, they'll come up with some numbers and let the taxpayers know when it's a fait accompli. But that's not all:

Most recently, the union has told school officials it cannot meet until December — after the November election, which could affect the composition of the School Committee.

So the union has gone without a contract for a full year, with only an extension of the older contract in the previous year, bringing it up to this election, in which at least one very union-friendly resident is on the ballot. Now the union organization will try to elect negotiation opponents who are more amenable to their view and then "resolve" differences of opinion when it comes to the contract.

If only everybody could elect new bosses for negotiation purposes, too!

Little Wonder We're in Trouble

Justin Katz

We've reached a state of near parody:

While Political Scene was trolling the hallway outside Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams' office, in the Licht Judicial Complex, last week, something sparkly caught our eye.

A contractor perched atop elevated scaffolding was installing 23-carat gold leaf on the detailed ceiling trim.

The work appeared part of a minor renovation in the marble lobby.

The costly gold is imported from Italy, according to the worker. Its ornate packaging names the company: Giusto Manetti Firenze Goldbeaters, a Florence importer.

Chief Justice Williams most recently made the news by insisting that the governor and the public employee unions return to negotiations because "firmly believes that mediation and negotiation can produce a far better resolution." Let it be written; let it be done... I guess.

September 1, 2008

Time for Some Campaignin'

Marc Comtois

In the spirit of bipartisanship, I offer this to everyone of any political persuasion for your viewing pleasure (click on the picture to view):


Major Hillary supporter comes out for McCain; says Obama not who he says he is and Dems being taken over by types

Donald B. Hawthorne

Here is some interesting news:

John Coale, a prominent Washington lawyer, husband of Fox TV host Greta Van Susteren and a supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton, announced today that he was supporting John McCain for president. Coale, who traveled with Sen. Clinton, President Clinton and her family through out the primary season, complained of sexism, and said the Democratic Party is "being taken over by the types" in an exclusive interview with's Tammy Haddad.

Watch the video. Says he is recruiting "lots" of Democrats who will come out for McCain in the next few weeks.

Given their now well-documented inability to discern fact from fiction, how well do you think the Kos Kidz will handle this actual news? Maybe they will learn something about not over-playing their hand between now and when they hit puberty. LOL.


Froma Harrop reflects on Hillary's words and actions at the Democratic convention as well as the reaction of her supporters to being Kos'd. Bush Derangement Syndrome seems to have begotten Hillary Derangement Syndrome and now Palin Derangement Syndrome. Sounds like a clinical condition, doesn't it?! Or, at least a maturity problem!

As I wrote in the comments section:

It is also probably true that Coale and his ilk are political pragmatists who are motivated by wanting to see Hillary be able to run again for President in 2012. For that to happen, Obama has to lose in 2008 and they need to be able to pin the loss on him and the types so they can marginalize all of them in time for 2012 - without Hillary being tainted directly by their actions. A 1-term McCain presidency provides them with the chance to make that gameplan happen.

More broadly, what these immature Kos Kidz don't get is that some of us have intensely disagreed with Bush, the Republican Party, and Hillary at various times but we haven't felt the need to do what they have done and jump off the emotional deep end over our disagreements.

By overplaying their hand, the Kidz have polarized people and appear to have fractured their party's coalition. Hard to win elections - even in what should be a slam-dunk year - when you drive away key elements of your left-of-center coalition.

Hey, Kidz, politics is a contact sport so either grow up now so you can play ball with the rest of us grownups or sit on the sidelines until you have the emotional and intellectual maturity to run onto the field.

Samuel Gompers Wisdom for Labor Day or Any Day

Carroll Andrew Morse

Nothing says Labor Day quite like a good Samuel Gompers quote

Time is the most valuable thing on earth: time to think, time to act, time to extend our fraternal relations, time to become better men, time to become better women, time to become better and more independent citizens.
In terms of understanding the subtle shifts of history, however, this more practical quote from Gompers is still my favorite
The worst crime against working people is a company which fails to operate at a profit.