October 31, 2012

Things We Read Today (27), Wednesday

Justin Katz

Campaign finance & incumbents; where the buck stops for the bad economy; Obama follows Chafee on a Commerce Czar; and the storm should be a warning.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Big Storms and Big Government

Carroll Andrew Morse

From Walter Russell Mead of the American Interest, in a blog post titled "Hurricane Sandy and the Perils of Nanny State Governance"...

The problem with nanny state governance isn’t just that it’s intrusive. It isn’t just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn’t just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It’s that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.

"Sharing" Is Good (?) - Gordon Fox Worked For Default Riddled Providence Loan Agency

Monique Chartier

Heh - ace investigative reporter Mike Stanton is at it again. Looks like 38 Studios is not the first time that Speaker Gordon Fox (D) has mucked around with a bad loan program. At least his own law practice didn't benefit directly from the 38 Studios arrangement. Can't say the same about his involvement with the PEDP.

... by the way, he was brought in by then-Mayor David Cicilline. During his tenure as chairman of the PEDP, Mayor David Cicilline presided over a 60% default rate by that taxpayer funded loan agency. But Cicilline made damn sure he brought in the right person to get a piece of that tax dollar action, didn't he, now?

House Speaker Gordon D. Fox has been a closing attorney for a troubled Providence economic-development loan program recently cited by the federal government for lax oversight and a high default rate.

Fox, a lawyer, has been paid $40,319 since April 2010 in closing fees on loans granted by the Providence Economic Development Partnership to assist city businesses.

In addition, Fox received an undetermined amount of money for handling closings from 2005 to 2010. The partnership says it doesn’t know how much, because Fox worked during that period as a “subcontractor” to the agency’s lawyer at the time, Joshua Teverow.

David N. Cicilline, then the mayor and chairman of the agency’s board, says that he hired Fox after a discussion between the two friends and political allies. Cicilline says he then asked the partnership’s executive director, Tom Deller, to arrange a meeting between Fox and Teverow “to share work at the PEDP.” ...

Whitehouse and Langevin Maintain their Leads in the WPRI Poll

Carroll Andrew Morse

In the other two Federal races in Rhode Island this year, both polled by WPRI-TV (CBS 12), incumbent James Langevin leads challenger Michael Riley 48%-31% (and independent Abel Collins receiving 9% of the vote), and incumbent Senator Sheldon Whitehouse leads challenger Barry Hinckley 55%-33%.

October 30, 2012

One Point Lead for Cicilline in District 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

The WPRI-TV (CBS 12) poll released at 6 pm has incumbent First District Congressman David Cicilline leading challenger Brendan Doherty 42.6%-41.6%. Independent David Vogel has 6.3% of the vote, with 8.3% "not sure".

That result is a little closer than the most recent previous WPRI or Brown University polls.


Some evidence, alluded to in Ted Nesi's write up, that the Cicilline campaign strategy of hyperpartisanship hasn't been effective...

Doherty has opened up a 26-point lead with independents and an 11-point lead among voters ages 40 to 59.

"Independents are breaking very strongly for Brendan Doherty right now," Fleming said. "Cicilline seems to be leveling off at 45% [of the vote]. ... He has to move his numbers up higher in order to win this election."

October 29, 2012

Jim Haldeman For House District 35: "I will serve my neighbors and townspeople ..."

Monique Chartier

The Democrat incumbent of House District 35 has been outspoken in his criticism of House leadership. However, in a press release on Thursday, his Republican opponent, Jim Haldeman, points out that the General Assembly leadership does not represent (as it were) the only special interest in Rhode Island politics.


Opponent in District 35 focuses on infighting among statewide power brokers to control the opposition party.

(Wakefield, RI) - The Committee for Haldeman responds to reports of Spencer Dickinson, opponent of Jim Haldeman in House District 35 (Wakefield, West Kingston, Kingston). Mr. Dickinson has spent recent days endorsing and supporting the opponent of Speaker of the House Gordon Fox in District 4.

"I have no interest in the fight over control of the party of my opponent. I have spent the last several months meeting the voters of South Kingstown. They are all that matter” stated Haldeman. He further noted “My service will always be to my constituency here where I live, not the power centers on Smith Hill.”

Spencer Dickinson has openly criticized House leadership. On critical legislation, Dickinson has opposed the Speaker and sided with special interest. Fundraising efforts by the Dickinson campaign indicate a reward for those positions, with $13,515 in PAC contributions from January 1, 2011 through the most recent filing period.

“My opponent portrays himself as a rogue, declining to bow to the wishes of current leadership. But rather than serving his home district, he continues to serve a different master battling to control the state. In contrast, I continue my campaign meeting and earning support of the citizens in District 35. I will serve my neighbors and townspeople, not some obscure master north of the Tower vying to be the dominant power broker of state policy” states Haldeman.

Voters will find Jim walking their neighborhoods or waving from street corners up to and beyond the election.

"Character counts": ProJo Endorses Doherty

Monique Chartier

Patrick mentioned it in his post but it is significant enough to merit its own post.

The last week has witnessed a too predictable parade of endorsements of Democrat candidates by the Providence Journal. The predictability ended abruptly on Sunday.

... Mr. Cicilline’s luster began to fade in his last months in City Hall, when he was untruthful about Providence’s desperate fiscal state as he was running for Congress. He basically said that while there were problems, the city was in strong shape. After the election, the severity of the city’s condition swiftly became obvious. ...

On the basis of his background, temperament and character, we believe that Bren-dan Doherty would be a moderate, thoughtful and flexible congressman who can work with Democrats to get things done, in the tradition of the late U.S. Sen. John Chafee. And in some areas in which he has expertise, such as law enforcement, anti-terrorism and immigration, he could become a congressional leader. Very importantly, we believe that he will tell the public the truth and not just what it wants to hear. Character counts.

During Hurricane Sandy, Rhode Island Vendors Should Watch Their Prices

Justin Katz

With the declaration of emergency for Rhode Island, Hurricane Sandy becomes the first instance in which a new law, passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly and signed by the governor this spring, goes into effect.  H7409 (also S2606) outlaws price gouging during an emergency.  In the heat of the experience, the adrenaline of survival pushes the consequences of public policy even farther out of the public consciousness than its usual peripheral place.  Still, as we hunker down — with school canceled and government offices closed well in advance of the looming weather — interest in the storm creates an opportunity for education and debate.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Batten Down The Hatches!!

Marc Comtois

Flags up, stay safe!!!

October 28, 2012

Cicilline is Right

Patrick Laverty

I don't always see eye to eye with the decisions and policies from Congressman David Cicilline and his campaign and maybe some would say that I can even be critical at times. However, now I found something where I think I completely agree with him. I saw this posted on Twitter yesterday by his campaign spokesman, Bill Fischer:

Mr. Uncommon integrity (@doherty2012) has run the nastiest campaign I can recall in RI -pure filth- voters will respond in kind
I couldn't agree more. Brendan Doherty and his campaign have run the campaign with some really nasty information and it has been completely filled with pure filth. It's been disgusting.

Brendan Doherty has been telling the truth about David Cicilline and reminding everyone of all the vile, filthy, nasty things that he has done. Cicilline wants to distract and get people to stop looking back at all the things he's done. Or in the case of his Congressional record, not done.

But yeah, Mr. Fischer is correct when he talks about how we see David Cicilline's time as mayor. It was nasty and filthy. I'd even add vile and disgusting. Plus, it doesn't seem to get any better. It was recently shown that the taxpayers of Providence are still responsible for more than a million dollars of bad loans from the Providence Economic Development Partnership (PEDP) during Cicilline's tenure as mayor.

Between the period of 2006 and 2011 when Congressman Cicilline then mayor was at the helm, a report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development who gave grants to the agency revealed that loans were not properly vetted, there was little oversight, and 58% of the loans were delinquent or in default.
When you have a mayor with that kind of history, you'd expect some kind of mea culpa or at least an apology.
Congressman Cicilline said he does not regret his actions as the chairman of the agency.
That's unbelievable. He left the city in financial shambles, the problems continue and he has no regrets? Well, that's one thing that I do believe. That's exactly the kind of arrogance we've come to expect from David Cicilline and how he'll do anything to move up the political ladder.

We're in the final home stretch of the campaign with only about nine days to go and the endorsements are coming in. Yes, I'm the one who has said endorsements shouldn't matter. You should do your own research on each candidate and make up your own mind. However, the Providence Journal sure had some nice things to say about Brendan Doherty today in its endorsement of him over David Cicilline:

On some matters, such as “Obamacare,” he is to the right of us, though he is no Tea Partier. And here we stick in our usual caveat: Campaign rhetoric, however sincerely a candidate might believe in it during a campaign, inevitably bumps into the realities of governing in our complex nation.

On the basis of his background, temperament and character, we believe that Brendan Doherty would be a moderate, thoughtful and flexible congressman who can work with Democrats to get things done, in the tradition of the late U.S. Sen. John Chafee. And in some areas in which he has expertise, such as law enforcement, anti-terrorism and immigration, he could become a congressional leader. Very importantly, we believe that he will tell the public the truth and not just what it wants to hear. Character counts.

I couldn't agree more.

Why I'm Voting No on Question 7

Carroll Andrew Morse

This started out as an open-thread post, on Rhode Island ballot question 7. The question itself will read...

7. AFFORDABLE HOUSING BONDS -- $25,000,000 -- (Chapter 241 - Public Laws 2012)

Approval of this question will allow the State of Rhode Island to issue general obligation bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes in an amount not to exceed twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) for affordable housing.

I wanted to provide readers with a little more detail about what they were being asked to finance, so I went to the legislation that authorized the ballot question. Here is the full legislative description of the purpose of the $25M bond, from Article 5 of this year's state budget...
Question [7] relating to bonds in the amount of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) for Affordable Housing.

Provides funding to the Housing Resources Commission to provide state funds to promote affordable housing through redevelopment of existing structures, or new construction.

OK, next I figured within the Governor's budget request for this year, there'd be some detail about the Housing Resources Commission and various programs it runs. The Housing Resources Commission actually appears in two places in the budget. One place is in the "Quasi-Public Agencies" sub-section of the state budget, where $89,040 in operating expenses are listed for each year between FY2011 and FY2013. The other place is as part of "Housing and Community Development", under the "Planning" section of the Department of Administration budget, though no disaggregated total for Housing Resource Commission costs is listed there.

Members of the Housing Resources Commission as well as its various powers and duties are spelled out in Chapter 42-128 of state law. The commission membership is listed below the fold; depending on the exact process used for allocating the bond money, there are potentially significant questions about how much influence members of private organizations should have over direct expenditure of public funds.

The Rhode Island Secretary of State's Voter Handbook says that the bond funds "are expected to be matched by approximately an additional $225M in funding from other sources". As Justin mentioned yesterday, that's an 8:1 match (resulting in 9 times the original bond money being available, under the suitable definition of available). But in a Rhode Island Public Radio interview with Flo Jonic, Question 7 advocate Richard Godfrey mentioned that this bond would be matched at a 5:1 rate, for 6 times the bond amount in total.

The RIPR report mentions that this bond would be used to build 600 housing units. Using the 5:1 match, and adding in about $12M in interest on the principal, that's about $270K per unit. Also according to RIPR, a previous $50M bond approved in 2006 was matched at 8:1 and was used to construct 1300 units. That puts the cost for the previous measure, with any reasonable level of interest added in, at over $350K per unit. There seems to be substantial variability in how much housing is constructed per dollar under the mechanism that's being proposed.

Finally, the Hummel Report from this past week touched on the subject of how "affordable housing" projects have all kinds of implications for local communities, in terms of tax-abatements and building approval.

In short, this ballot question asks voters to put $25M into a not very well-explained process and trust the people involved to use their insider positions to do good with it. This is certainly not reasonable under current fiscal and economic conditions, and needs to be more transparent under any circumstance. For those reasons, I will be voting no on 7.

According to state law, the members of the Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission are...

The commission shall have twenty-seven (27) members as follows: the directors of departments of administration, business regulation, elderly affairs, health, human services, mental health retardation and hospitals, the chairperson of the Rhode Island housing and mortgage finance corporation, and the attorney general, shall be ex officio members; the president of the Rhode Island Bankers Association, or the designee of the president, the president of the Rhode Island Mortgage Banker's Association, or the designee of the president; the president of the Rhode Island Realtors Association, or the designee of the president; the executive director of the Rhode Island Housing Network, the executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, the president of the Rhode Island Association of Executive Directors for Housing, or the designee of the president, and thirteen (13) members who have knowledge of and have a demonstrated interest in housing issues as they affect low and moderate income people, appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate: one of whom shall be the chairperson, one of whom shall be the representative of the homeless, one of whom shall be a representative of a community development corporation, one of whom shall be the representative of an agency addressing lead poisoning issues, one of whom shall be a local planner, one of whom shall be a local building official, one of whom shall be a representative of fair housing interests, one of whom shall be representative of an agency advocating the interest of racial minorities, one of whom shall be a representative of the Rhode Island Builders Association, one of whom shall be a representative of insurers, one of whom shall be a representative of a community development intermediary that provides financing and technical assistance to housing non-profits, one of whom shall be a non-profit developer, and one of whom shall be a senior housing advocate.

October 27, 2012

Universal Sales Pitches to the Voters on Debt for Affordable Housing

Justin Katz

Two multimedia pieces addressing Rhode Island ballot question number 7 — to borrow $25 million through bond sales for affordable housing — are starkly different.  Both are essentially given over to advocates for the new debt, but in one case, the journalist does a reasonable job of raising possible objections, if not quite going so far as to play devil's advocate.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

October 26, 2012

The Benghazi Coverup

Marc Comtois

It's been the cover-up story "relegated" to Fox News and the internet. But perhaps it will change now that we know the Obama Administration refused the CIA military support 3 times during the Benghazi Consulate attack.

[A]n urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later was denied by U.S. officials -- who also told the CIA operators twice to "stand down" rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to "stand down," according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to "stand down."

Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged. The rescue team from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight.

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied.

And we also now know that an AC-130 Gunship was actually on station and ready to go.
The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Specter gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.
And we were told it was a YouTube video? No, the only video involved was the live feed from an on-station Drone that was being watched by the incompetent as our citizens were murdered. A grieving father and a nation wants answers. Hopefully the rest of the media will get more vociferous in their questioning.

Do Women Think Only With Their......

Marc Comtois

As a husband, father, son, brother, friend etc. of fine ladies young and old, I think a political campaign that continually targets women by focusing on areas related to female sexuality does a disservice to the most important organ women have: their brains.

I'm pretty sure women are also interested in the economy and foreign policy, after all. Yet, boxing people into demographic groups is what happens during the political season and we're all used to it, I suppose. Simplify and hone the message and all that.

However, to produce an ad like that is aimed at appealing to young women voters by likening voting to their "first time"?

That isn't hip or cool or edgy, it's gross and cheap in what it implies. Hey, wanna hook up with the Prez? I thought we left that behind with the Clinton years.

10/25/12 - Brown University Municipal Pension Panels

Justin Katz

4:04 p.m.
With my second fortunate parking experience in Providence this week, having found a parking meter that was already almost at 2 hours time, I've settled in for a rousing discussion of municipal pensions at Brown University's Salomen Center, hosted by the Taubman Center for Public Policy.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

"Cheerful Pessimist" Jacques Barzun Dead at 104

Marc Comtois

Historian, teacher and cultural critic Jacques Barzun, one of my intellectual "heroes", passed away at 104. What a life! He wrote about pretty much everything, but his historical writing culminated with his From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present. He also authored books on writing and historical method, but his greatest exposure to the public was in his many writings in magazines and periodicals. One that always stuck with me was his writing "On Baseball":

The idea of baseball is a team, an outfit, a section, a gang, a union, a cell, a commando squad--in short, a twentieth-century setup of opposite numbers.

Baseball takes its mystic nine and scatters them wide. A kind of individualism thereby returns, but it is limited--eternal vigilance is the price of victory. Just because they're far apart, the outfield can't dream or play she-loves-me-not with the daisies. The infield is like a steel net held in the hands of the catcher. He is the psychologist and historian for the staff--or else his signals will give the opposition hits. The value of his headpiece is shown by the ironmongery worn to protect it. The pitcher, on the other hand, is the wayward man of genius, whom others will direct. They will expect nothing from him but virtuosity. He is surrounded no doubt by mere talent, unless one excepts that transplanted acrobat, the shortstop. What a brilliant invention is his role despite its exposure to ludicrous lapses! One man to each base, and then the freelance, the troubleshooter, the moveable feast for the eyes, whose motion animates the whole foreground.

The rules keep pace with this imaginative creation so rich in allusions to real life. How excellent, for instance, that a foul tip muffed by the catcher gives the batter another chance. It is the recognition of Chance that knows no argument. But on the other hand, how wise and just that the third strike must not be dropped. This points to the fact that near the end of any struggle life asks for more than is needful in order to clinch success. A victory has to be won, not snatched.

The dude had game!

October 25, 2012

Steve Kass' New Radio Gig

Monique Chartier

Monday afternoon will find Rhode Island radio legend Steve Kass once again in front of a microphone - this time, at WSAR.

New England Talk Pro Steve Kass to PM Drive on WSAR, Fall River, Massachusetts. Veteran talk radio host Steve Kass begins new duties as host of the PM drive show on SNE Broadcasting’s WSAR, Fall River, Massachusetts on October 29. The move reunited Kass with programmer Paul Giammarco who serves as general manager at WSAR. Kass and Giammarco worked together at Cumulus Media’s WPRO, Providence. Kass also worked at Clear Channel’s WHJJ, Providence. He states, “Coming back to WSAR is like returning home after being away for 32 years. WSAR provided me with my first opportunity to be a radio talk show host. What a year to start a new adventure in talk radio: Prop 2 ½, the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran, Governor Reagan, John Anderson, and State Rep. Andy Card, are but a few of the events and guests that occurred in 1979. I have no doubt 2012 and beyond will be even more stimulating as we face so many challenges going forward. Best of all being reunited with Barry Richard and Paul Giammarco, two certified broadcasting pro’s provide the icing on the cake. Let the games begin.”

Forced Disclosure of Criminal Background: A Novel Explanation for Rhode Island's High Unemployment Rate

Monique Chartier

... proffered in today's Providence Journal by the challenger in the House District Four race.

Asked about his own solutions, [Mark] Binder linked Rhode Island’s high unemployment, in part, to the large number of people who can’t get work because they are required to disclose their criminal histories on job applications. Binder told his audience at Laurelmead that he heard this story often in talking to unemployed people in the Camp Street area of Providence and believes the state should make it “so these guys don’t have to check that box” on an employment application.

It could only be good for the government reform effort in the state to have a Democrat Speaker toppled. In this case, that would involve a victory by Mark Binder. That does not, however, obviate the necessity to ask the almost painfully obvious question here: how does Mr. Binder's theory explain the situation of the vast majority of the unemployed in the state who, you know, lack a criminal background?

October 24, 2012

Oopsie, Gotta Declare Those Political Expenditures

Monique Chartier

... even if you're helping a progressive candidate in decidedly left leaning Rhode Island.

In the category of Neither of the Above is the House District Four race, Speaker Gordon Fox versus Mark Binder. Gordon Fox is, of course, a Democrat and his challenger is, if anything, to the left of him. (Cracked me up to see a commenter under this GoLocalProv article call Binder a Republican.)

A group opposing Speaker Fox's candidacy has begun running radio ads on WPRO. Over at On Politics, Ian Donnis has learned something interesting about the group.

Fox’s campaign spokesman, Bill Fischer, says the campaign was unable to find a filing for the group in a review of state campaign finance records. Fischer says he thinks the Concerned Citizens Against Gordon Fox organization is failing to meet requirements for campaign finance filings by political action committees. ...

Fischer says the ad violates state law because, among other reasons, it doesn’t conclude with a “personal audio statement” by the entity CEO or equivalent identifying the entity paying for the advertisement.

That's a no-no.

It would be nice to see a Democrat Speaker toppled (even though such an election result would not contribute to the much needed political balancing of the General Assembly). But everyone's got to play by the same rules. Even if the ends are worthy from a certain angle, the appropriate filings and corresponding disclosures have to be made.

Things We Read Today (26), Wednesday

Justin Katz

Mainly on government's bad incentives: bad housing spending in Providence, unlearnable spending lessons for the governor, stimulus corruption, and Medicaid reform.

Continue reading the Ocean State Current...

October 23, 2012

Liveblogging Tonight's WPRI Senate Debate

Carroll Andrew Morse

[7:55] Whitehouse closing: Will fight against privatizing SS and for Medicare benefits and for the middle class.

[7:54] Hinckley closing: wipe away the labels, send a job creator to Washington.

[7:53] Whitehouse tries to drive home the idea that the Ryan budget would end Medicare.

[7:52] Hinckley says there are parts of Obamacare he would save.

[7:50] Whitehouse tries very hard to get in the fact he'd raise the earnings cap to save SS.

[7:49] Hinckley: Actuaries can put together a plan to save SS; it might mean some people collecting benefits later, means testing is a possibility.

[7:48] Hinckley: Dems have no plan to save social security. It will go broke, before people in their 30s and 40s begin to collect.

[7:46] Nesi forwards an email Q: Is it hypocritical for you to run on not changing Social Security, when you didn't intervene to stop pension reform. Whitehouse: Pension solution was necessary; pension crisis informs my position on SS

[7:44] Hinckley likes Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan; Whitehouse doesn't (Ed Fitzpatrick question).

[7:42] Term limits? Whitehouse, not any less than 36 years (Claiborne Pell's time in office); Hinckley, yes.

[7:41] Trade embargo on Cuba? Hinckley, not a priority; Whitehouse, I could go either way.

[7:41] Same-sex marriage? Yes and yes.

[7:40] End filibusters? Hinckley no; Whitehouse, yes.

[7:39] Oh, no -- lightning round. I'll try to keep up. No promises.

[7:37] Whitehouse cites Chinese currency manipulation as a place where he agrees with Romney.

[7:36] Answering a Ted Nesi Q, Hinckley says his pro-choice and pro-gay marriage positions align more with Ds than Rs.

[7:35] Hinckey: More than just people with money should have the choice to send their kids to good schools.

[7:34] Hinckley cites religious nature, as a reason for sending his kids to private schools.

[7:33] Whitehouse wants to extend Race to the Top to middle schools.

[7:32] Whitehouse sends his kids to private schools, because he wants them to have the best education they can get.

[7:31] Fitzpatrick asks why do you send your kids to private schools, and what would you do for education in RI.

[7:30] Whitehouse rather aggressively defends foreign aid to Egypt.

[7:29] White asks if Whitehouse supports hearings on Libya. Whitehouse responds that the Intelligence committee will be holding them.

[7:28] Hinckley: We shouldn't be spending on nation building, when we can't afford to maintain our own bridges at home.

[7:27] White to Hinckley: How would cutting foreign aid help with the problem of terrorism?

[7:26] Hinckley says he would support fewer deductions as part of a simpler tax code.

[7:25] Hinckley says Whitehouse's rigid partisan attitudes make resolving the deficit problem impossible.

[7:24] Whitehouse says Dems have put 2T of cuts on the table, but he seems to be defining tax increases as spending cuts in his examples.

[7:24] Whitehouse says we need to eliminate 4T dollars in a 10 year budget plan. 2T should be cuts, 2T should be revenue.

[7:23] Whitehouse cites conference of Catholic bishops opposition to the Ryan plan.

[7:22] I lost the question, but Whitehouse says he opposes the Ryan budget. Hinckley says he supports Simpson-Bowles, but not necessarily Ryan's budget.

[7:21] In a dive towards the middle, Hinckley says he might not support Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority leader.

[7:18] Nesi asks Hinckley if Medicare should be converted to a premium support system? Hinckley says he supports choice, and that legislators should discuss a wide range of options.

[7:18] Whitehouse: We have to control overall healthcare costs. Mentions US system is less efficient than most other countries.

[7:17] Paraphrasing Ted Nesi: Can we continue with unlimited growth of spending on medicare?

[7:16] Tim White asks about favorite justice (cribbing a question from the Brown/Warren debates). Hinckley, Clarence Thomas; Whitehouse, Sandra Sotomayor

[7:15] Whitehouse: "We have a court that has turned to the extreme right". Cites Citizens United as the decision that needs to be overturned.

[7:14] Hinckley cites the Roberts healthcare ruling.

[7:13] Ed Fitzpatrick asks about SCTOUS justices, and what rulings should be overturned?

[7:12] Hinckley says we should lower the corporate tax rate. White notes that the Prez would lower it to 28%, and asks if Whitehouse would support the same. Whitehouse says yes, but in the context of moving towards a balanced budget.

[7:11] Hinckley: Our Federal delegation has to work, to push Smith Hill to act more reasonably to help economic growth.

[7:10] Hinckley basically answers growth. White asks about the 60,000; will growth happen fast enough to help them?

[7:09] White to Barry Hinckley: How would you pay for the programs you've advocated for your in your campaign.

[7:08] In response to a Tim White question, Whitehouse says 6% unemplyment would be reasonable 6 yrs for now.

[7:07] Whitehouse cites infrastructure projects going on in RI. White asks if the 60,000 people unemployed in RI. Whitehouse: There's lots of infrastructure work to be done.

[7:05] First question from White on unemployment. Whitehouse blames Bush. We need manufacturing, innovation and infrastructure to rebound.

[7:04] Whitehouse actually complemented Hinckley's point pretty well.

[7:03] Sheldon Whitehouse: We have to press from the middle class out, and its basic mainstays, medicare, social security and Pell grants.

[7:02] Barry Hinckley goes first. He runs short on time, after saying Whitehouse's plan for RI is more taxes and more government.

[7:01] Edward Fitzpatrick is 3rd man in, with Tim White and Ted Nesi.

[6:57] We had a earthquake during last week's Cicilline/Doherty debate, and there's a possible tropical storm/hurricane heading for this region for next week. I'd just like to let Mother Nature know there's no reason to keep the streak alive this week.

[6:55] For tonight's debate event, we have a conventional liveblog of the WPRI-TV (CBS 12) debate between Sheldon Whitehouse and Barry Hinckley. There is also a debate between Brendan Doherty and David Cicilline being boradcast on WLNE-TV (ABC 6) at the same time.

Puzzling Inconsistency of the President Towards Retro Technology

Monique Chartier

Last night during the debate, President Obama countered one of Mitt Romney's criticisms of him by saying

“Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed,” Obama said, after Gov. Mitt Romney jabbed the president for, he said, overseeing a Navy that is smaller than at any time since 1917.

We would be remiss if we did not note in passing the President's curious approach, on a planet with 70% water cover, of placing modern ships in the same category - "Obsolete" - as bayonets.

But my main question is to request clarification about the standards by which to distinguish good retro technology from bad. The President looks down at bayonets and horses as obsolete but is a strong proponent of a centuries old technology for generating energy.

Can someone please supply the criteria by which bayonets are bad but windmills are wonderful?

Can Rhode Island Find Representatives Willing to Take the Daring Action of Representing?

Carroll Andrew Morse

I try to use the blogospheric cliche of "read the whole thing" sparingly, but it is very obviously the appropriate pointer to Senator Dawson Hodgson's op-ed from Saturday's Projo, where Senator Hodgson criticized the lack of accountability at the Rhode Island General Assembly, which the 38 Studios fiasco has made more apparent than usual.

Consider the following, in conjunction with Senator Hodgson's op-ed: when the General Assembly created the loan guarantee program that 38 Studios tapped into, the decision to use "moral obligation" instead of "general obligation" bonds was a conscious decision to bypass the process written into the state constitution that is supposed to be used when putting taxpayers on the hook for long-term debt. Long-term bonded debt is supposed to require direct voter consent...

ARTICLE VI - Section 16 - The general assembly shall have no powers, without the express consent of the people, to incur state debts to an amount exceeding fifty thousand dollars, except in time of war, or in case of insurrection or invasion; nor shall it in any case, without such consent, pledge the faith of the state for the payment of the obligations of others.
Seeking the express consent of the people would have automatically created a window for deliberation, open between the the passage of the legislation calling for a ballot question and the voters going to the polls. Questions like how much any one company could tap the loan guarantee fund for would have been raised in public; members of the state's Economic Development Corporation, responsible for administering the loan guarantee program, would have to had taken a position on whether they supported giving $75 million to a single company.

But, as is ingrained habit at the Rhode Island statehouse, our legislators decided to skip over any serious deliberations about whether to incur $125 million in potential debt. Instead, a few members of "leadership" decided behind closed doors what they wanted passed (the amendment that increased the initially proposed size of the loan guarantee fund from $50M to $125M, the difference being the size of exactly one 38 Studios loan guarantee, didn't write itself), chose the “moral obligation” process that did not involve a referendum, and told their followers to approve the plan as written. Naturally, their followers complied, obeying their orders without deliberating amongst themselves, much less the public, and sticking the citizens with the bill.

* * *

The refusal to deliberate 38 Studios has now extended beyond the original vote authorizing the loan guarantee program. No hearings were held this session to determine, in the words of Senator Hodgson, "who put [legislators] in the position to facilitate the squandering of tens of millions of public dollars". The General Assembly has decided that Rhode Island voters should not be provided with a clear accounting of how the loan guarantee decision was made, prior to choosing Senators and Representatives in the upcoming elections.

This decision fits perfectly within the usual operating philosophy of the Rhode Island legislature, where rank-and-file legislators regularly forgo conducting substantive business in open committee sessions. Instead, decisions get made someplace less visible, with legislative committees rubber-stamping them, their primary function being to provide a bit of theater to make backroom decisions appear to be public ones. Leadership alone is not responsible for this state of affairs; it is the repeated actions of just-happy-to-be-there backbenchers, willing to quietly go along with the practice of holding all bills "for further study" and awaiting permission from above before considering anything for real, that allows this to happen again and again.

The manner in which 38 Studios’ loan guarantees are ultimately disposed of will be greatly impacted by the degree to which Rhode Island legislators are willing to accept their usual relegation to the background. Will the decision either to pay off or default on the bonds be made through open deliberations, with all issues laid out, the public fully informed and every legislator making an independent decision about what is in the best interests of his or her constituents? Or will the decision be made by the House Speaker and Senate President, consulting with a few associates out of public view, and commanding a compliant majority to obey orders?

Senator Hodgson concludes his op-ed with one important question related to this and to every decision that the legislature makes...

[Y]ou should ask them whom they are going to support to lead the chamber. Are they going to use your vote to keep the same decision makers in place?
...but another, equally as important question should also be put to the voters of Rhode Island: regardless of who the next leaders of the Rhode Island House and Senate are, are you going to accept representatives who meekly give away their rights to decide on the substance of important matters, just because that's the way it's always been done?

Ballot Questions for the Voters

Justin Katz

In what's beginning to feel like a Rhode Island tradition, seven ballot questions will be posed to voters on November 6 having to do with casinos and debt. Those with a personal financial or ideological stake are making their cases, but small-government, free-market ideals should lead voters to be wary of the pitches.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

October 22, 2012

Liveblogging/Livetweeting the Third Presidential Debate

Carroll Andrew Morse

Open Thread: The Table Gaming Referenda

Carroll Andrew Morse


Shall an act be approved which would authorize the facility known as “Twin River” in the town of Lincoln to add state-operated casino gaming, such as table games, to the types of gambling it offers?


Shall an act be approved which would authorize the facility known as “Newport Grand” in the city of Newport to add state-operated casino gaming, such as table games, to the types of gambling it offers?

The conventional wisdom seems to be that the two table gaming referenda on this year's Rhode Island general election ballot are going to pass. A recent Taubman Center poll recorded 55+% support for both questions (with a 4.5% margin of error), and supporters of table gaming at Twin River have run one of the most visible broadcast advertising campaigns in this cycle with little visible opposition.

So is the CW correct, if so, will table gaming be good for the state of Rhode Island, and is there any insight to be had into what residents of Lincoln and Newport, who would still have to approve table gaming in local referenda to allow it to happen, think of all this?

An Unexplected Surge in Employment

Justin Katz

The national political scene saw quite a stir, the first week of October, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a huge jump in employment and corresponding drop in the unemployment rate.  As I noted at the time, a large percentage of the increase was attributable to people who are involuntarily working part time, rather than full time.

More curious, though, is that August-to-September is not typically a time for large increases. The September-to-October month is the one that brings a boost in hiring. That fact is usually obscured by the seasonal adjustment by which the BLS smooths the month-to-month results in order to highlight actual trends, but the not-seasonally-adjusted chart at the above link tells the tale.

This factor appears to be in play in the state data, too, especially in Rhode Island. In nine of the last twelve years, employment has dropped in September, before seasonal adjustment.  And September has never increased by the 5,229 people reported in this year's results.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

October 20, 2012

Mitt Romney at the Al Smith Dinner

Monique Chartier

Video below.

Transcript, courtesy the Chicago Sun Times, here.

Background of the Al Smith Dinner.

One of my favorite lines from Governor Romney's remarks:

I was actually hoping the president would bring Joe Biden along this evening, because he'll laugh at anything.

Allegations of "Pay to Play"

Patrick Laverty

It's very interesting to see what happens when very powerful politicians finally face a challenger who is willing to call them out for various things. House Speaker Gordon Fox has an opponent, Mark Binder, who is calling him out on a few different things.

First was the allegation that the General Assembly's Public Communications Director was being asked to answer questions about Fox's campaign, which is a no-no.

Additionally, Fox has been forced to answer questions about the 38 Studios mess, including his "everybody knew" comment. Incidentally, his comment seems to have thrown other legislators under the bus who have denied any knowledge of the direct negotiations or terms with 38 Studios prior to their vote.

Binder still has yet another tack, he's alleging "pay to play" during Fox's time as Speaker. First, that's not an allegation that I'm going to make at Fox as when you say things like that, you need to have solid evidence to back up your claims. I don't have anything like that. What it seems that Binder is using is circumstantial evidence. In his Newsmakers debate with Fox, Binder claims to have seen evidence in Fox's campaign finance reports and how he votes. Binder said that Fox has taken campaign donations from sources before, during and after voting on legislation that was beneficial to the donors. However, there is no direct "smoking gun" here. So maybe we should give the Speaker the benefit of the doubt? After all, he claims that he would never do such a thing.

Well, except for that fine he accepted back in 2004. Eight years ago, Fox agreed to the largest fine ever issued by the state's Ethics Commission and paid $10,000.

The Rhode Island state Ethics Commission was to vote Tuesday on a proposed settlement that would have House Majority Leader Gordon Fox pay a $10,000 fine for voting on a $770 million, no-bid deal for the lottery company GTECH in which his law firm was involved.
I guess that might qualify as "pay to play."
Fox denies in the proposed deal that he did any work for GTECH in the week before he voted on the legislation. However, billings his law firm sent to GTECH indicated that he did.
We're seeing another pattern with Speaker Fox. He seems to do one thing and then when it doesn't go right he simply apologizes. First there was the reduced funding for RI's higher education where he offered a "shame on us", seems to be doing something similar with 38 Studios and then did the same with this fine situation.
"I did not know of the law firm's business relationship with GTECH but I should have known. This is a mistake for which I accept full responsibility," Fox said in a statement released on Monday.
Apologies are great but we are seeing a pattern. Speaker Fox has at least one if not two big elections coming up. First will be his challenge from Binder but even if he's successful, he could have a challenge for his Speaker position. I guess we'll see with those two votes whether people want to continue down the path we've been following.

October 19, 2012

Gallup's First Fully Post-Vice-Presidential Debate Survey Says...

Carroll Andrew Morse

Gallup's 7-day tracking polls now include only the time period after last week's Vice-Presidential debate (October 12th to October 18th). According to their likely voter results, Mitt Romney has a 51-45 lead over Barack Obama, up from the 48-47 lead that Romney held in the results that ended with the day before the debate.

Romney's lead in the likely voter result is down one point from his 52-45 lead from yesterday, which could be related to changes from Tuesday night's Presidential debate beginning to enter the sample.

Registered voter results show a similar trend, with Obama having held a 48-46 lead on the day before the Vice-Presidential debate, while Romney holds a 48-47 lead as of today.


Nate Silver of the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog points out that Gallup's likely voter results are an outlier (h/t Jason Becker)...

[I]ts results are deeply inconsistent with the results that other polling firms are showing in the presidential race, and the Gallup poll has a history of performing very poorly when that is the case.

Other national polls show a race that is roughly tied on average...

Silver's popular vote forecast model shows the race at it's tightest on the day after the Vice-Presidential debate (Obama 49.8-49.1), with Obama gaining some slight momentum since then.

I also checked the RealClearPolitics daily poll average, which I believe is a not-very scientific averaging of poll results. It shows the same basic trend around the Vice-Presidential debate as Silver's model, with Romney having had his maximum advantage over Obama right around the Vice-Presidential debate, then a decline a few days afterward. RCP's "average" now has Obama up by a tenth of a percentage point; Silver's model has Obama up by 1.5.

In a related development, I just remembered why I stopped writing horserace prognostication posts!

"Everyone Knew"

Patrick Laverty

How many times have we heard our incumbent legislators tell us that they had no idea the $75 million addition to the EDC was for 38 Studios? Many times. Even Senator Daniel DaPonte, the Senate Finance Chairman, claimed during his Newsmakers debate that this was done "above my pay grade."

In the first hour on the Dan Yorke Show, Dan is playing audio from the Summit debate between Gordon Fox and Mark Binder. Fox is answering a question about the 38 Studios debacle and even states that legislators are saying that they didn't know, but that it was in all the newspapers. He even said, "Everyone knew."

So there you go. The Speaker is telling us that the General Assembly knew who the $75M was going to be for, in spite of many of them telling us otherwise. Who's lying?

Update: State Rep. Jon Brien called in to deny any knowledge that the legislators were aware that the money was earmarked for 38 Studios, along with a very detailed timeline of the events.

Update: State Rep. Rene Menard called in to also deny knowledge. He added that then-Finance Chairman Steven Costantino was questioned about where the $75M was going to go. Menard said Costantino told them that it was going to be dispersed in one to two million dollars to small businesses.

Update: State Rep. J. Patrick O'Neill called in to also deny knowledge. Said they were merely told that Schilling wanted to bring his company to RI, but there was never any mention of money or amounts. O'Neill claims that Fox was "one of five" people involved in the direct negotiations. Recounted Rep. Larry Ehrhardt offering an amendment to the $75M bill that would have capped the amount to any one business at $10M. Ehrhardt was asked to withdraw the amendment by Keith Stokes, without explanation as to why.

Update: State Rep. Charlene Lima called in to also deny knowledge. Said she questioned who the money was for and where was the transparency. She voted against it in the supplemental budget but then voted in favor of the $75M by thinking that some would go to small businesses in her district.

Update: On Newsmakers, Fox explained that this money was not "earmarked" because that would have been in violation of Separation of Powers. His explanation is the Assembly merely agreed to increase the program by $75M and then it was up to the EDC to decide how it was dispersed. (Starting at 14:00)

Update: Gordon Fox's campaign spokesman Bill Fischer came on to explain that Speaker Fox is not claiming that all legislators knew the $75 million was intended solely for 38 Studios. Fischer additionally stated that not even Fox knew that 38 Studios would get the $75 million. Fischer stated it was up to the EDC to decide what amount that 38 Studios would receive. Fischer announced that oversight hearings will begin during the next legislative session.

October 18, 2012

I'm Paying For What?!?

Patrick Laverty

Apparently I'm paying for the Burrillville-Glocester Youth Soccer Association. Excellent, can my child play there? Or how about the Elmwood Little League, where do I sign up? There's also the History Warren Armory, I've helped pay for that. Maybe I'll stop by the Richmond Community Center for some afternoon activities. And when I'm sick, I'll stop by the Block Island Medical Services. I'm helping to pay for all of those things, as well as a whole lot more. And so are you. If you pay taxes to Rhode Island, a portion of your money goes to these things through legislative grants.

If you're not familiar with legislative grants, here's generally how they work. Our legislators put in a request for an amount of money, from a few hundred dollars to as much as $25,000. Those requests go to the heads of the respective sides of the Assembly. House Speaker Fox and Senate President Paiva-Weed sit in sole judgement of who gets the pieces of their pie. The lucky legislators are then able to appear in the local newspaper with a large game-show type check for an organization in their district.

To see exactly who got what, you can see it here: House | Senate

Many of us have been hitting on this for a while now. A few years ago, the House Republicans took a vow to never request any legislative grant money out of protest for the system by which the applications are accepted: behind closed doors. Additionally, when cuts were being made to the state budget for the developmentally disabled a couple years ago, Republicans offered to restore those funds, taking the money from the legislative grant program. Of course, that suggestion was denied by the Speaker and Senate President.

The entire budget is a couple million dollars for all of these little checks. But it wasn't an unreasonable question when retirees were asking why their pension was getting cut at the same time that legislators were smiling with their $1,000 check for the local Little League.

Moderate Party Chairman Ken Block put out his own press release today about his disgust over an East Providence State Rep being "proud" of handing out a $500 grant to a town youth softball team.

If the local youth leagues are coming up short of money and they need the extra $1,000, how about they raise rates. How much is that per registration? $4? Maybe five?

In my town, my property tax dollars go to pay for our Senior Community Center. Why do I have to pay for Centers in other towns too? Apparently, those towns don't budget or appropriate enough money to pay for them.

Where's the accountability? How are the decisions being made?

If the Speaker is serious with the promises he made in his letter to get this state moving again and get us back to the top, then this program should clearly be one of the very first things to cut. What do you say leaders? Is it time yet that you agree the legislative grants process needs to go?

Capitol TV: End the Puffy Filler and Get Back to Basics

Monique Chartier

In today's GoLocalProv, RISC's Harriet Lloyd concurs with the reservations of Common Cause's John Marion about an election loophole exploited by Capitol TV, resulting in the taxpayer funded promotion of incumbent legislators - strangely, all Democrat ones.

Just last week, Capitol TV ran “interviews” in which the legislature’s $70,687-ayear inhouse TV host, Dave Barber, gave three incumbents facing challengers in the Nov. 6 election the opportunity to talk about what they see as their biggest accomplishments and disappointments. ...

... other featured guests on Barber’s recently aired shows include: Representatives John Carne-vale, Arthur Handy, Joy Hearn, Raymond Hull, Cale Keable, Deborah Ruggiero, Agostinho Silva, Scott Slater and Donna Walsh.

Under Harriet's op-ed, commenter Edith points to a video called "Catholic Schools Day at the State House". I clicked on it. It is a production of Capitol TV. It is very nice. I appreciate that it is respectful of Catholicism, which seems an increasingly rare approach to Christianity across the media spectrum.

Nevertheless, whether it be "Catholic Schools Day" or Capitol TV coverage of hypothesized "French Canadian" or "Gadsden Flag" days, such productions are completely superfluous to the purpose of Capitol TV, which is to cover the General Assembly while it is in session. Any such productions, along with puff interviews of incumbents of any stripe, strongly reek of filler material to justify a full time television budget which covers only a part time legislature.

While we're at it, this would be a good time to ask: why doesn't Capitol TV stream its coverage of the General Assembly live on the internet? Why must voters and taxpayers pay for cable service in order to watch their state legislature in action? East Providence, for example, not particularly known to be the Redmond of Rhode Island, has been live streaming their council meetings online for years.

And forget about attempting to bring about equal time for Capitol TV legislator interviews. There will never be an end: after Republican incumbents get into the Capitol TV interview rotation, challengers on both sides will understandably want in.

Reduce the expense of Capitol TV by cutting altogether the puffy interviews and the nice but irrelevant productions. Set up the live internet streaming of Capitol TV, certainly a "basic" in this golden age of the internet. It's time for Capitol TV get back to basics.

Rhode Island Economy Booming! Or Not.

Justin Katz

According to a press release from the RI Department of Labor and Training — the last to report this data before the election — Rhode Island's unemployment rate dropped to 10.5% in September, its lowest level since April 2009.  The change was on the strength of the state's " largest monthly increase of employed RI residents since the Bureau of Labor Statistics implemented the current methodology in 1976."

Did it feel as if Rhode Island's economy took off at an historic rate, last month?

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

The Insanity Will Never End, Until We At Least Begin to Think About It

Carroll Andrew Morse

RI Public Radio reporter Ian Donnis' recap of the last night's Gordon Fox/Mark Binder debate includes this gem of Rhode Island fiscal insanity...

6. [House Speaker Gordon Fox], in the first time that I heard him mention it, raised the possibility of using the state income tax to reduce the high burden of property taxes. He didn’t offer further specifics. The comment came in response to a question from a resident troubled by high property taxes on the East Side.
Think through how this would work. Speaker Fox is suggesting that a statewide tax increase (or perhaps a service cut HAHAHAHAHAHA) can be used to subsidize the property taxes of East Side residents. There's is no fiscal way that this works out unless 1) the General Assembly rigs some kind of "property tax funding formula", so that politically favored constituencies like East Siders receive money taken from less politically favored ones or 2) more money is taken from East Siders in state taxes than they get back in property tax subsidies (with the legislature hoping that nobody on the East Side notices).

Do Rhode Island legislators really believe that everyone can come out ahead, in a plan to shift money from Group A to Group B? More importantly, does the legislator you are planning to vote for this November believe it?

October 17, 2012

Not So Fast Mr. Speaker

Patrick Laverty

Today, RI House Speaker Gordon Fox put out a letter to members of his district. Andrew has already asked one question about it. If there is no political hay to be made about the 38 Studios debacle, then what is fair to talk about? Specifically, Speaker Fox wrote:

It is disappointing that there are people who want to use the 38 Studios issue as a political weapon as opposed to learning from our mistakes and focusing on how to move our state's economy forward. Partisan politics doesn't create jobs.
Very interesting. I'm certain that he feels the same way about his friends using this "political weapon" against former Governor Don Carcieri too, no? Or it's merely he who should be shielded? This just sounds too eerily familiar where a crisis was just beginning to bubble up right before an election and got tamped down until after the votes were counted?

However, the Speaker makes some other interesting points in his letter.

But I always remembered what [my father] preached to me about the importance of education. I saw an advertisement for Rhode Island College in the newspaper and I decided I could afford to take classes while still working. I rode the RIPTA bus to RIC and got absorbed in my studies, earning a degree in 1985 while majoring in both political science and history. I am tremendously grateful to the RIC professors who inspired me to work hard because that led to a full scholarship to Northeaster University School of Law and my career as an attorney. As I said to the students when I was RIC's commencement speaker a few years ago, Rhode Island College truly saved my life. A quality and affordable public education was my life preserver and I will never, ever forget that.
Apparently, he did forget that. While he was a member of the RI House and even while he was the House Majority Leader, the Providence Journal noted:
State support for Rhode Island’s only public research institution has fallen so dramatically in the past decade that the mission and future of the University of Rhode Island are threatened, according to a national report that echoes the concerns URI’s leaders have voiced for years.
A recent study by the National Science Board found that Rhode Island’s per-student financing of its flagship research university has declined by an inflation-adjusted 47 percent since 2002 — the second-largest cut in the country. And the amount the state spent per student in 2009-10 ranked Rhode Island 48 out of 50 states.
Additionally, he's well aware of the fact that he was a part of this when he told Newsmakers:
“Shame on us,” he said. “I was part of that, and shame on me for doing it"
Here we have the Speaker telling us that he'll "never, ever forget that", but in his history, he shows us the exact opposite. Should we believe what he says he's going to do or should we believe what he has already done?

But wait, there's more to this letter. On a different topic, we also hear about how the State House is a democracy, everyone's equal and if someone has a bill they want considered, his door is open to listen. Then at the same time, we hear of people like Rep. Spencer Dickinson telling us how it really works behind closed doors and how no bills ever see the light of day without Speaker Fox being on board. Anything he doesn't like simply gets "Held for further study." All of which, of course, gets denied by House Leadership. Except when he lets little things slip like:

"Moving forward, I will continue my decades-long fight to support and defend a woman's right to choose. I will do everything in my power to make sure that any legislation that doesn't respect women's reproductive choices is never brought before the House."
I'm not saying anything about the issue he brings up. My point is he is admitting to using his powerful position in the House ("everything in my power") to not let legislation be brought before the House. It's his will. His way or the highway. At least now we have the admission from the Speaker himself. He cherrypicks bills that he likes and allows them to pass and gives the judgmental thumbs down to bills he doesn't like and those die off somewhere. Is that really how the RI Constitution was written up? Is that the kind of power that we want just one person to have? Why does he have that power?

Lastly, in his closing, Speaker Fox wrote

"Negative ads don't cut red tape for small business owners. Anonymous attacks don't increase investments in college affordability and adult education."
With all due respect Mr. Speaker, nor do you or your General Assembly. However, he goes on.
"But I promise you that I will. I will work every day for you and your neighbors to grow this economy, to create jobs and to do whatever it takes to put Rhode Island back on top again."
To quote Ronald Reagan, "There you go again." Telling us what he's going to do, yet he has a clear record of doing the opposite. In fact, he's even contradicting himself right in this very message. He has said that he's looking to get a vote on same-sex marriage in January. What in the world does that have to do with growing the economy and creating jobs? If the highest priority is fixing the state's economy, then why isn't that the stated primary focus for January?

Why do we let these politicians constantly tell us what they're going to do and we just go along believing them, even when we have evidence to the contrary? Gordon Fox has been in the RI State House since 1992 and has been a member of the House Leadership since 2002. We've seen the damage that Gordon Fox has done to this state, we have a concrete history of his actions. We have absolutely no reason to believe him that he'll be any different going forward and he'll do anything differently. Clearly, it's time for a change at the State House, starting with the man in charge. Gordon Fox has failed us and he gives us no reason to believe things will get better.

Gordon Fox is Disappointed in the Discussion About 38 Studios

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island Speaker of the House Gordon Fox (D-Providence) has sent a letter to his constituents, available from the Providence Journal, that includes this amusing concept...

It is disappointing that there are people who want to use the 38 Studios issue as a political weapon as opposed to learning from our mistakes and focusing on how to move our state's economy forward. Partisan politics doesn't create jobs.
Let's keep this at a very high-level for starters: If bad spending decisions by politicians aren't a legitimate issue during a political campaign, then what issues are?

October 16, 2012

Obama Vows to Reform Medicare/Social Security....in 2008

Marc Comtois

Andrew Kaczynski reminds us of the promises, promises then-Senator Obama made in the '08 town hall debate (video at the link):

On Budget: "I'm cutting more than I'm spending."

On Budget: I want to go through the budget line by line, eliminate programs that don't work, and make programs that do work cost less.

On Entitlements: I want to reform Medicare and Social Security by the end of my first term as president.

On Green Energy: "We can create 5 million new jobs."

October 15, 2012

Twitter: As If Subtlety of Thought Weren't Already Difficult Enough

Justin Katz

It's hardly original to suggest that the real detriment of our era of political correctness isn't so much the specifics to which we're asked to conform, but the habits of thought that the overly sensitive ear engenders. That's actually a detriment with two parts.

First, it makes discussion a power play. Even in the long-gone millennium of my college years, it was already the case that a classroom discussion could be derailed by the wrong word used in a benign way, if the opposing side could affect to take it differently. Something like "the other guy" might provoke J'accuse! shouts about the "Other."

When that is the case, winning an argument ultimately requires having enough power (in allies and in authority) to push your preferred word usages on the overall discussion. There's no: "That's horrible!" "Let me clarify." "Oh. I disagree, but I see what you meant. Proceed." Instead, the debate becomes: "That's horrible!" "You're too stupid to understand!" "You're too dense to understand!" "Yeah, well I've got enough people to shout you down!"

Second, that dynamic creates incentives against subtlety of thought and challenging of assumptions. If you don't choose a side clearly, effectively ceding all ground that requires context, no context will prevent bad-faith readings. From there, explanations are made to seem like backtracking, hit-and-run, slithering, or whatever undesirable characterization political opponents prefer to proclaim.

And then there came Twitter.

This afternoon, I happened upon the following tweet:

In case anybody doesn't know the handles, that's Bob Plain, current editor of the progressive RIFuture and Jessica Ahlquist, who made a name for herself by signing on to the ACLU's successful campaign to tear an historical non-denominational prayer banner from the public space of a Cranston high school. At the time, I wrote:

By what conceivable measure is it possible to see the first of the following as more authoritarian than the second?
  • A local school committee, with the apparent backing of a majority of town residents, keeping in place a banner that has been with the school since the very beginning, even though it hails from a time when it was acceptable to urge prayer in public
  • A national advocacy organization (and certain commenters from Pawtucket, Providence, Arizona, and other places that are not the town in question) trying to use the expense of legal action as a means of bullying the district into taking the banner down on the grounds that a handful of residents do or might object to it

So, with that as intellectual background — and knowing full well to whom I was speaking — I tweeted:

Bob, I'm pretty sure, understood my quip as it was intended, because the following exchange ensued:

The article to which Ms. Ahlquist linked contributes to the context:

... Schindelheim, ordered students to “sit in a circle and sing and pray to God,” making the kids recite The Lord’s Prayer in their native Spanish.

She even whipped out her cell phone and put her priest on speakerphone, so he could listen to her class’s prayers, investigators said.

Schindelheim, who has worked in city schools since 1991, confessed when investigators questioned her about the incident.

She "confessed when questioned." And then she went on medical leave. So, a teacher in a distant school had a very off day, acknowledged that she was wrong, and a note has been appended to her permanent record. More than a year later, in Rhode Island, where atheist activists seem like they may be planning a push for floodlights in classrooms so that window sashes never make an unintentional shadow cross upon the wall, I thought it worth the effort of a tweet to convey the notion that a little perspective was in order.

The effort of a tweet turned into several extended exchanges, as if I had suggested that the Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me" should be interpreted as a sweet and innocent love song.

Humor entered the battle, though, when Portsmouth progressive John McDaid (with long years of considering me an enemy, it seems) jumped in:

No doubt, I'll find this to be the next front page story in the Sakonnet Times about my 140-character-or-less debates. From the commentary around town, you'd think that the educations of the 1,900 or so students in the Tiverton district hinge on a school committee candidate's refusal to voice regional orthodoxy on Twitter, forget less exciting topics like stagnant results in math and science.

In terms of my campaign, I can only suggest that parents, taxpayers, and teachers clearly need not fear that I'll operate in secret and without discussion. I put my cell phone number and personal email address on the cards that have been mailed and otherwise circulated. My Twitter account is easy to find.

In terms of my broader mission online, I can only say that I'm not going to conform with the rhetorical sterility that already dominates too much of public discussion. It has been very disconcerting to me to hear the First Amendment cited so often as an excuse for declaring certain statements and ideas as completely out of bounds. At least in polite, correct society.

I'd propose, instead, that we ought to take the full First Amendment as a reminder that, in the United States, we want people to express themselves, even if what they say is unpopular. That way we can strive to correct each other while we're still just talking, and we can check whether we are the ones who need correcting.

If we truly see ourselves as an extended community, then we need some perspective, such that we don't treat a one-time indiscretion on the part of a teacher as equivalent to a one-time school shooting. But I'm learning in Tiverton, in Rhode Island, and at the national level that a frightening number of people define community in an exclusionary way — meaning that those who disagree must be excluded.

No Global Warming For 15+Years

Monique Chartier

The Daily Mail (UK) reports.

The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week.

The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.

It is interesting that this news surfaced quietly,

... online with no accompanying press release – unlike six months ago when they showed a slight warming trend.

H'mmm, do you suppose someone is reluctant to publicize this inconvenient trend?

Man contributes less than 6% of the total greenhouse gases generated on Earth, with the other 94% created naturally, by Mother Earth. It is natural and responsible to ask, accordingly: if this small amount is the powerful tipping point, as is hypothesized by the theory of anthropogenic global warming, how could the planet go fifteen years with no warming?

Deregulation Isn't the Problem; Bailouts Are

Justin Katz

Travis Rowley takes on the talking point that the "Bush tax cuts" and the deregulatory impulse are what (say it with me) got us in this mess in the first place.  The core of the argument goes to those government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that backed mortgages for lower-income families:

Whenever Democrats cite “the failed policies of the past” in order to refer to Republican promises to loosen up government guidelines placed on private enterprise, they are purposely confusing plans to deregulate the marketplace with the lack of oversight on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – government-sponsored agencies (GSEs) that prominent Democrats sought to protect from Republican reforms.

As early as 2001 the Bush administration was warning that the size of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was a “potential problem” that could “cause strong repercussions in financial markets.” And Congressman Ron Paul (R) spoke of an existing real-estate bubble, and predicted that it “will burst, as all bubbles do.”

Put differently, it wasn't the deregulation that caused the problem; it was the promise of bailouts if things went wrong.  As I've pointed out in various parts, Fannie and Freddie became an alternative to government debt for a safe investment at a time when the stock market was creating more prospective money than even existed in the gross domestic product (GDP). ...

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

October 14, 2012

Rhode Island's Congressional Delegation on Whether and How to Fix Social Security & Medicare

Monique Chartier

The Social Security "trust fund" is expected to run out of money in 2033; the Medicare "trust fund" in 2024.

Last year, Rhode Island finally faced and addressed - okay, only partially addressed ... actually, only partially AND with the inclusion of a trojan horse - the insolvency of its state public employee pension fund. (Insolvent municipal funds remain entirely unaddressed, as the Ocean State Current reminds us.)

This insolvency came about at the hands of decades of elected officials, who promised or reconfirmed unrealistic benefits and then failed to take the steps necessary to either make good on those promises or make the adjustments necessary to prevent the collapse of what was left of the pension fund.

Though aggregate Social Security benefits per retiree do not come close to the amounts of many Rhode Island public pensions (which, for decades, commenced after only twenty years of employment, were calculated upon a base of the highest three years of salary, sometimes bloated by OT and amplified by a COLA that, in some cases, compounded), both Social Security and Medicare are headed down the same fiscal path as some of Rhode Island's biggest public pension funds.

Accordingly, when we ask, "what is Congress doing to address this problem?", the answers supplied by Rhode Island's delegation are of particular interest in view of the state's painful attempt to fix a similar problem on an all but after-the-fact basis.

In August, Anchor Rising asked each member of Rhode Island's Congressional delegation the following questions:

> Does the Senator/Congressman believe that Medicare and Social Security are in good or acceptable fiscal shape long term?

> If not, what is the Senator's/Congressman's plan to fix them?

Below, in order of seniority, are the responses (or the lack thereof). Please note that Anchor Rising has made no evaluation as to the accuracy or adequacy of the proposals put forth.

Senator Jack Reed

Senator Reed declined to answer our questions.

[The contacts made with Senator Reed's office are listed after the jump.]

Congressman Jim Langevin

In response to Anchor Rising's questions, spokesman Jonathon Dworkin forwarded a press release. Below are the sections that seemed to pertain specifically to the questions.

By phasing out the Social Security payroll tax cap that benefits wealthier individuals and building on the future health care savings passed in the Affordable Care Act, we can continue to ensure Social Security and Medicare work for everyone. ...

Additionally, Social Security cannot and has not ever added to the deficit. Instead, the program currently has a $2.7 trillion surplus. Because the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation will strain the system, Langevin has advocated ending the payroll tax cap that allows wealthier individuals to avoid paying into the Social Security on income above a certain level. Legislation the Congressman has cosponsored that includes a change to this effect, the Preserving Our Promise to Seniors Act, would ensure the program's solvency for the next 75 years.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Anchor Rising posed these questions to Senator Whitehouse's Communications Director, Seth Larson. In response, Mr. Larson proffered the last two paragraphs of an August 15 press release.

In order to ensure the long-term solvency of Medicare, Whitehouse has pursued reforms in our health care delivery system that could significantly lower costs for both Medicare and private sector insurers. He is also working to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare system and has cosponsored legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, an action which could save up to $24 billion annually according to a study by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

For Social Security, which is projected to remain solvent through 2033, Whitehouse has cosponsored the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act, which would raise the cap on Social Security payroll taxes to include income over $250,000. By doing so, the bill would extend the life of the program by an additional 75 years.

Congressman David Cicilline

Congressman Cicilline declined to answer our questions.

[The contacts made with Congressman Cicilline's office are listed after the jump.]

Record of Contacts - Senator Jack Reed

- 8/16/12: Call to Senator Reed's Washington, DC, office. Identified myself and conveyed my question to the woman who answered the phone. She put me on hold, came back and said that the legislative aid that I needed to speak to was not at her desk. I left a detailed message on that aid's voice mail.

- 8/17/12: Call to the Senator's DC office. Advised that legislative aid is out today. Put through to press person who offered his e-mail address so that he could forward the questions to the legislative aid in question.

- 8/20/12: E-mailed questions to the press person for onward forward to the legislative aid.

- 8/21/12: Call to the Senator's DC office. Advised that press person was not available. Left message on voice mail of press person asking when a response might be forthcoming and furnishing contact information.

- 8/23: Call to the Senator's DC office. Advised that neither the press person nor the legislative aid was available. Requested to be put through to the legislative aid's voice mail to leave a message. My call was put through to her extension and the legislative aid answered the phone (almost certainly, by accident). Legislative aid advised that it was, in fact, the press person who needed to answer my question. I told her that I had been advised that it was she, the legislative aid, who would answer these questions. She said, no, it's the press person. I asked when we might receive these answers; she replied, "This is August".

Record of Contacts, Congressman Cicilline

- 8/14/12: Call to the Congressman's Pawtucket office. Left message with the polite man who answered the phone.

- 8/16/12: Call to the Congressman's Pawtucket office. Spoke to the same man again stating that no one had called me back. He said that he would pass along another message.

- 8/17/12: Call to the Congressman's Pawtucket office. Spoke to a polite woman advising her that this was our third call attempting to obtain answers to our questions. She said that she would pass along a message.

October 13, 2012

Government Debt and the Danger of Historical Growth

Justin Katz

In today's Saturday column,Ted Nesi voices reasoning that is only possible in a society that's become hubristicly accustomed to economic growth as an inevitability:

If bond investors are offering Rhode Island the lowest interest rates in its history, shouldn't the state be borrowing more money right now? Gina Raimondo has hinted she’s thinking that way, and there are plenty of infrastructure projects that need to be done soon. Some people are opposed to any and all state borrowing, and that's fine – but if you're someone who acknowledges Rhode Island taxpayers will be borrowing money at some point over, say, the coming decade, shouldn't as much of it be borrowed as possible now, while interest rates are at historic lows and 10% of the state's workers are idle?

This is akin to the approach of a college student who lives beyond his means on credit, expecting the sort of paycheck that he's been told to expect ...

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Democrats Try to Put Fighter Pilot Back in the Kitchen

Marc Comtois

Rhode Island native Martha McSally is running as a Republican for the 2nd Congressional District in Arizona. Her opponent is Ron Barber, winner of a special election in April and former aid to Gabby Giffords. Nancy Pelosi's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running this ad against McSally:

McSally thinks the ad's portrayal of her is "laughable".

“The fact that they use this theme of Martha McSally in a kitchen cooking up recipes is…overtly sexist and insulting to any woman, but it certainly doesn’t fit specifically with me,” she said in a phone interview. “For crying out loud, I served 26 years in the military. I was too busy shooting 30 mm out of my A-10 at the Taliban and al Qaeda to spend any time in a kitchen.”

As Mary Katherine Hamm writes, "Nowhere in the country perhaps is the irony of the Democrats’ 'war on women' attack more glaring than in McSally’s race."

McSally has flown some 300 combat hours over Iraq and Afghanistan, earning the Bronze Star during her time commanding a combat squadron in Operation Enduring Freedom during 2005 and 2006.

McSally also sued her bosses at the Department of Defense in the early 2000s to change Pentagon policy forcing women service members to wear the abaya— Muslim body covering— when they went off base in Saudi Arabia. The policy changed. She uses that powerful example when constituents wonder if she’ll simply toe the party line once she gets to Washington, she said.

“I’m a conservative and I’m an independent thinker.”

Wish she'd move back to Rhode Island.

October 12, 2012

Things We Read Today (25), Friday

Justin Katz

Observing the VP debate from within; flight from a failing region; surprising beneficiaries of a government bailout; a fable.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Veep Debate Aftermath

Marc Comtois

Last night, for those who followed our live-tweeting of the Vice Presidential debate, Matt Allen tweeted out that Biden was killing Ryan. I countered that, no, in fact these debates are often much more about optics than what is being said (for good or bad). After the debate, Charles Krauthammer observed that those listening to the radio would think Biden won, but those watching TV would give it to Ryan.

I used as my frame of reference the CNN meters that were being handled by independent voters. In short, whenever Biden spoke, things went poorly. Especially among women. And one smart woman, Peggy Noonan (who, though a Republican, has been pretty laudatory--and often admiring--of both President Obama's and Biden's political skills in the past) is but one of the many women who confirmed my suspicion.

I have just realized the problem with the debate: it was the weird distance between style and content, and the degree to which Mr. Biden's style poisoned his content.

In terms of content—the seriousness and strength of one's positions and the ability to argue for them—the debate was probably a draw, with both candidates having strong moments. But in terms of style, Mr. Biden was so childishly manipulative that it will be surprising if independents and undecideds liked what they saw.

National Democrats keep confusing strength with aggression and command with sarcasm. Even the latter didn't work for Mr. Biden. The things he said had the rhythm and smirk of sarcasm without the cutting substance.

Richard Fernandez also picked up on Noonan's "Dem's confuse strength w/aggression" theme:
The Democratic debate strategy was apparently to put on a show in which Biden would visually dominate Ryan. This will have two effects. The first is it will convince the Democrats that they “won” the debate. But it will probably not convince anyone else. On the contrary, Biden seems to have infuriated all the conservatives who were watching the proceedings. The basic effect of the Biden-Ryan debate on the Democrats is to reassure themselves that they are not sissies.

Biden is doing a war chant for the benefit of the base....How will this net out? Biden will have not have succeeded in showing Ryan to be unworthy, a bully, unstatesmanlike, or arrogant — that was the principal pitfall that Ryan sought to avoid. But Biden might have convinced enough conservatives that he is a buffoon. The Democrats must be thoroughly demoralized if they found that spectacle bracing. My guess is that Biden has brought the president no net gain.

Michael Barone was the first I saw to summarize the instant reaction polls:
The instant polls: CNBC had it Ryan 56%-36%, CBS Biden 50%-31%, CNN Ryan 48%-44%, AP Ryan 51%-43%. Not nearly as one-sided as the instant responses to the first presidential debate in Denver. My sense: Biden pumped up partisan Democrats, but failed to win over the voters who are taking a serious look at Romney at a point when he is up in national polls.
I also watched the Frank Luntz group of undecideds and the general consensus was that Biden really turned them off with his antics, but not many minds were persuaded either way. That's about right, this was probably a wash.

October 11, 2012

Liveblogging/Livetweeting the 2012 Vice-Presidential Debate

Carroll Andrew Morse

Patrick Laverty >> Amazing that you can be disrespectful, angry and condescending in a debate and still be thought of as having won. #SympathyVote

Justin Katz >> After sleeping on it: That debate was bizarre. This cartoon captures it: http://ow.ly/eqi6b

Justin Katz >> Suspect we'll be seeing much more of this sort of thing http://youtu.be/_FEXI4taZW0

Justin Katz >> For some reason, I awake this morning with this classic movie clip in mind: http://youtu.be/5TPdUK78T64

Justin Katz >> One more. That was fast: http://youtu.be/PCtemaHgjyA

Justin Katz >> Old Seinfeld joke: The finger on the remote control is last bodypart to go to sleep. New reality: substitutes mouse clicker. Goodnight!

David Burge @iowahawkblog >> #ThingsThatMakeBidenLaugh thermonuclear war, dead ambassadors, $16 trillion debts, wacky Hindu convenience store clerks << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Patrick Laverty >> @JustinKatzRI That adds up to just short of 82 minutes. I wonder how they count the time they talked over each other.

Ramesh Ponnuru @RameshPonnuru >> Email reminds me why Biden could say Medicare Advantage rolls are going up: Admin started legally ?able demo project to get through election << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Justin Katz >> Summary of Biden on abortion: I believe human life starts at conception, but I won't tell anybody else when they can kill their children.

William L Patenaude @CatholicEcology >> Amen: "My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, about how to make sure that people have a chance in life." @PaulRyanVP << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Gerry McCracken @GerryMcCracken >> @EdMorrissey @IngrahamAngle "If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet" Proverbs 29:9 << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Justin Katz >> "More telling is my apolitical wife, who watched the debate for 20 min & left the room. 'I can’t take Biden any more!'" http://ow.ly/epT0j

Steven A. Cook @stevenacook >> I dont understand the spin room? Why report on the lies ppl tell? << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Justin Katz >> Krauthammer: On transcript, tie. Radio, Biden won. TV, Ryan won.

Justin Katz >> Looks like you may only get two bites at thuh (sp?) apple.

Todd Kincannon @ToddKincannon >> Key statistic of the debate: Joe Biden interrupted Paul Ryan 96 times. Paul Ryan interrupted Joe Biden 6 times. << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Justin Katz >> Chris Wallace: I don't know if I've ever seen a debate in which one member was so openly disrespectful.

Justin Katz >> Wishful thinking or spin? RT @robertawalshjr: Game Changed Back! VP did what he needed to do!

Justin Katz >> Biden laughed at 10% unemployment in Scranton (sp?)

_spell @_spell >> @JustinKatzRI 'Sustern' could be Cistern, Sustain, Sister, Austen, Astern, Stern, Sisters, Subteen, Justen, Sistering or Eastern. << Retweeted by Justin Katz

_spell @_spell >> @JustinKatzRI Sumptuous spelling! 'using' is right! << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Justin Katz >> Did anybody else know that using (sp?) in a tweet generates an automatic thesaurus reply? Neat.

Justin Katz >> Greta Sustern (sp?): I was surprised that I didn't like Joe Biden, there.

Justin Katz >> At least on Fox, Biden demeanor is the bipartisan story of the debate. If that's broadly true, it's not good for Biden.

Andrew Morse >> David Axelrod uses a rehearsed glib line criticizing rehearsed glib lines. #meta

Andrew Morse >> Chuck Todd is saying Ryan did enough to show he'd be able to be Prez if necessary, which is the most important thing in a VP debate.

Justin Katz >> @candrewmorse @DeeDeQuattro Depends on criteria. Undecideds looking for a #2 guy? Don't know. Looked like a jerk.

Andrew Morse >> .@DeeDeQuattro ...so many will just go with "I'll take the free stuff Joe Biden is giving away!"

Justin Katz >> Democrat stalwart Joe Trippi found Biden's smirking "condescending and overdone"

Andrew Morse >> .@DeeDeQuattro Ryan wasn't clear enough on the wonky stuff to swing many undecideds...

Andrew Morse >> .@DeeDeQuattro Mild victory for Biden.

Rich Lowry @RichLowry >> Ryan finished strong last half hr; how u judge first hr depends on what you make of biden's jerkiness << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Elizabeth Scalia @TheAnchoress >> Much more interested in public read than press reax << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Justin Katz >> @marccomtois @AaronFrechette Well, that's not surprising. I'll say that she was more rational than Biden.

Justin Katz >> Fox news: Biden 41 minutes 50 sec. Ryan 40 min 5 sec.

OSTPA @OSTPA1 >> VP debate, Raddatz did a great job as moderator << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Marc Comtois >> Welp, there's an hour and a half I'll never get back. Start spinning! OUT.

Marc Comtois >> @JustinKatzRI : @AaronFrechette isn't alone. it's a developing establishment meme. Many MSMers, pollsters, beltway types tweeted out same.

Josh Barro @jbarro >> This debate was a draw. Will read to most voters as two guys bickering, often incomprehensibly. << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Justin Katz >> What??? RT @aaronfrechette: Can I nominate the level headed Martha Radditz for VP instead of either of these clowns? They're immature...

MARK SIMONE @MarkSimoneNY >> Dick Morris: "My take on debate: No impact on the election. Boring. Politicians squabbling." << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> Stylistic observation: Ryan needed to hit the emotional tone in his final set of answers, in a few answers directly to Biden.

Tom E. Curran @tomecurran >> Follow me! My feed is free of political or religious commentary! Because I don't care what you think and you don't care what I think. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> Didn't Biden vote for the September 11 AUMF and the War in Iraq?

Ramesh Ponnuru @RameshPonnuru >> Oh, now Raddatz wants to "calm things down." What a hack. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Justin Katz >> Oops. Nope. But Ryan should have emphasized that Biden voted for military actions.

Justin Katz >> Is Biden getting both the first word and the last word?

Taylor Twellman ✔ @TaylorTwellman >> If every defender that I played against called me "my friend" every time he kicked elbowed and tackled me, I would punch him #VPdebate << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Kaczynski @BuzzFeedAndrew >> So Joe Biden contradicted the State Department on Benghazi security. http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/10/11/biden_contradicts_state_department_on_benghazi_security … << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Ramesh Ponnuru @RameshPonnuru >> I preferred the Biden who wanted to overturn Roe. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Newt Gingrich ✔ @newtgingrich >> Biden absurdly wrong "syria five times bigger than libya" FACTS libya 679,362 square miles- syria 71, 500 biden totally wrong << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Matt Allen @MattAllenShow >>@marccomtois wow you're right Marc. I'm watching on tv now from the beginning. The meter does not like Biden. << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Justin Katz >> Interesting Biden move: turn a question about negative ads into a negative ad against his opposition after a debate of anger and sneering.

kirsten powers ✔ @kirstenpowers10 >> Biden's 'i accept the church's teaching that abortion is murder" but people shld be able to do it is 1 of the most specious args ever made << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Christine Rousselle @crousselle >> I'm in a room full of Catholics and we all just guffawed at Biden. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Monique C >> @CAndrewMorse I see. Take no option off the table, at least, not publicly.

Justin Katz >> Am I wrong to see bias in the fact that they're not showing Biden's (audible) scoffing about Ryan's emotional pro-life statement?

Andrew Morse >> @MoniqAR ...if they think the US administration is hyperadverse to using force against force in the ME?

Mary Paoletti @Mary_Paoletti >> Biggest thing I take from the debate: If a person addresses you as "My friend," he wants to rip out your eyeballs & pee in your skull. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> @MoniqAR If the attackers regard Benghazi as a success, what's stopping them from escalating, on a future September 11...

Andrew Morse >> @MoniqAR Saying no boots on the ground in the Middle East; how do we respond then if another attack starts?

Monique C >> @CAndrewMorse How?

Kristina @KristinaRibali >> Sitting in a house with three independents. They find Biden very rude and bullish. Their words. #vpdebate << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> Vice President Biden has to realize he is risking greenlighting more Benghazi style attacks.

Andrew Morse >> Ryan doesn't do gray eminenceness on foreign policy very well.

Mary Katharine Ham @mkhammer >> I never dislike the moderator as much as others seem to. Except for this time: http://ow.ly/epQ7J << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Drew Ryun @DrewRyun >> The Graph! The Graph! Wow. The focus group hates Biden. I think he's been north of the line once while Ryan rockets above it every time. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Michael Graham @MGraham969 >> Anyone who thinks anything is happening OTHER THAN Biden screwing himself, you're over dosing on Kool-Aid << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Jay Severin III @Jay_Severin >> Is this broadcast Fully or partially paid for by Obama campaign? Is Martha Raddatz Fully or Partially paid by Obama campaign? << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> Biden answers with classic D incoherence: Timeline is tough on our allies, and [implied] who cares about impact on our enemies.

Joe Henchman @jdhenchman >> Biden says you need to cut off help or else people will never step up for themselves. He was referring to Afghanistan but it's broadly true << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Justin Katz >> I have to wonder if the Obama/Biden strategy is now to suppress voter turnout through frustration with the whole crappy process.

Andrew Morse >> Another solid follow-up from Raddatz -> Doesn't a timeline help enable green-on-blue.

Sean Davis @seanmdav >> Prediction #1: reporters are going to RAVE abt Raddatz's performance, b/c they all desperately want to be on stage as equals w/ nominees. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Max Boot @MaxBoot >> "We are leaving in 2014, period," Biden says. What message does that send to Taliban. #debates << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Dana Loesch ✔ @DLoesch >> See? Going to the weddings of journalists pays off. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Lyford Beverage @LyfordBeverage >> I think that the Obama/Biden base is probably stoked right now. The independent middle that they need - not so much... << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Eddie McClintock ✔ @EddieMcClintock >> Whether you're a REP or DEM, nothing says, "I'm a snide asshole." like continuing to laugh in the face of your opponent. #RESPECT << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

David Burge @iowahawkblog >> Joe Biden should replace Steve Carrell in Anchorman 2 I DON'T KNOW WHY I AM YELLING << Retweeted by Monique C

Justin Katz >> No, Joe. We went into Afghanistan to stop its being a base of operations for terrorists. It wasn't an assassination trip.

Laura Ingraham ✔ @IngrahamAngle >> Why does Raddatz want to "move on" when Ryan is getting traction? << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Jon Ralston @RalstonReports >> RT @samyoungman: People who like Biden will think this is the greatest debate ever. Folks who don't will find him at his most obnoxious. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Savannah @thesavvy >> I really hate Joe Biden right now. He's an ass. No political reason, he's just an ass. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Justin Katz >> Biggest effect so far, I think, is that people who don't like Joe Biden don't like him more.

Jacob Sullum @jacobsullum >> Ryan is defining a slower increase in military spending as a cut. #debates << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Jason Wolfe @jasonlwolfe >> Hey Martha. SHUT UP AND LET THEM TALK!!!!!!! #VPdebate << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

John Podhoretz @jpodhoretz >> Raddatz crossed a line there. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> Ryan didn't meet wonky expectations, in the tax segment.

Monique C >> @CAndrewMorse Now more than ever, that needs to change. Give individuals that deduction.

Ramesh Ponnuru @RameshPonnuru >> Are normal people still watching this? << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Elizabeth Scalia @TheAnchoress >> “@philipaklein: Every time Biden starts interrupting Ryan, Martha Raddatz cuts Ryan off.” noticed that. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Justin Katz >> Biden: "The greatest job creators are the hedge fund guys." Interesting.

Justin Katz >> I'd bet most folks have turned this off. Biden & moderator have turned it into a talking head show.

Luke Russert ✔ @LukeRussert >> Biden's strategy is one based on emotion as opposed to Ryan trying to be fact based << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Jonah Goldberg @JonahNRO >> Wow, Biden's being an ass. << Retweeted by Monique C

Andrew Morse >> Middle class people don't get a healthcare deduction, Mr. Biden. Corporations do.

Jonah Goldberg @JonahNRO >> Wow, Biden's being an ass. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Chuck Woolery @chuckwoolery >> I wouldn't even let two people on a bad date interrupt each other as much as martha lets Biden << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Monique C >> VP's tone borders on contemptuous.

Justin Katz >> If (per moderator) Romney/Ryan have no details, how is Biden able to refute so many specifics about their plan?

Dick Morris ✔ @DickMorrisTweet >> #debates She is not alternating Ryan and Biden but going to Biden more << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> Fair question on specifics of lowering taxes from Raddatz. Ryan makes reference to six studies.

Justin Katz >> Moderator bias comes through in a big way on tax questions.

Monique C >> When is Martha going to ask VP Biden for specifics, as she just did of Ryan?

kirsten powers ✔ @kirstenpowers10 >> Funny RT @MZHemingway: Tonight, Joe Biden is embodying everything that women hate about talking with men. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois · 226 Retweets 32 favorites

Charles Sykes @SykesCharlie >> “@PatrickRuffini: Dials flat on Biden attacks.” << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Patrick Laverty >> Biden: "I made social security viable through 2033" Great, then what happens in 2034?

Andrew Morse >> Biden is defintiely winning the I want mine, and I don't where it comes from vote. What % of the electorate is that?

Jonah Goldberg @JonahNRO >> Raddatz seems to think her job is to interrupt Ryan. << Retweeted by Monique C

David Martosko @EditMeDavid >> Biden says "who do you trust?" and the dial meter plummets among men. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Walter Russell Mead @wrmead >> If CNN's voter lines are right, women like Ryan more than men, and both like him more than Biden. Seems odd. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> So what's Biden plan on Social Security, other then let it crash after I'm out of office.

Justin Katz >> Mr. Biden, you can't get less than the nothing that no Social Security reform has led my generation to expect.

Nicholas Kristof ✔ @NickKristof >> Impressive & substantive debate all around. Ryan very solid. Biden at his best. And I'm voting Radditz for VP! << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Tiffani El Dawn Mims @tmims50 >> Most females can't stand being cut off bc we are so much.. Now #Biden is ticking off the moderators. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Matthew Zeitlin @MattZeitlin >> Wow, it's almost like people's views on who's doing better in the debate track their partisan preferences! << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Peter Beinart ✔ @PeterBeinart >>afraid that liberals like me like super-aggressive Biden but less ideological folks will find him overbearing << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Justin Katz >> By what measure? RT @mattallenshow: So far Ryan is getting creamed.

Tiffani El Dawn Mims @tmims50 >> How many times has #bush #Palin has been brought into this debate? Are they on the ticket? << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Ramesh Ponnuru @RameshPonnuru >> Ryan coming across as respectful, Biden as not. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Justin Katz >> Good response from Ryan to Biden interruptions. Wonder if that was planned or spontaneous.

Marc Comtois >> Flashed over to NFL for a sec. Titans up by 3. Confess that I lingered due to gratuitous cheerleader shot. #backtogrinningUncleJoe

Monique C >> Ryan: They got caught turning Medicare into a piggy bank for ObamaCare.

Justin Katz >> Trying to be objective. Biden's explanations lose me, and I just see bluster.

Justin Katz >> Both http://ow.ly/epOLu RT @eniedowski: @JustinKatzRI I can't remember, was the ham green too, or just the eggs?

GregGutfeld ✔ @greggutfeld >> Wow, it's like Joe is talking to me (if I'm a frightened commuter on the Acela). << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> Obama's former car czar recently began an NYT op-ed by saying "We need death panels". http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/opinion/health-care-reform-beyond-obamacare.html?_r=0 …

Monique C >> AARP supported ObamaCare, VP Biden, b/c they will benefit mightily from it!

Michael Graham @MGraham969 >> Stop complaining about Martha! The more Biden talks, the more people like my wife go "Geezz--what an as-swi-pe!" << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Jason Hawes ✔ @Jchawes >> Trying to figure out if Biden's lit or he just likes to sit & laugh a lot. He prob shouldn't have had that brownie prior.😉 << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Monique C >> ... wait, Martha, not so fast: where ARE those 5 million green jobs?

Justin Katz >> Goes well with green eggs. RT @eniedowski: Green pork?

Andrew Morse >> Didn't Biden vote for both the September 11 AUMF and the Iraq War?

Monique C >> What job bill is VP Biden talking about??? Printing more paper for China to buy so fed govt can send more stimulus $$ to state/local gov't?

Byron York @ByronYork >> My guess: So many reporters asking 'How will voters respond to Biden's grinning/smiling?' because they sense reaction must be negative... << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Justin Katz >> Why does the moderator reward Biden for interrupting?

Dee DeQuattro @DeeDeQuattro >> Biden finds unemployment funny? #WPRO2012 << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Erika Niedowski @eniedowski >> My timeline: people who support Biden say Biden killing it. People who support Ryan say Ryan killing it. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Justin Katz >> Ryan should point out that this "tax cut for the middle class" is already in place and hasn't saved the economy.

kirsten powers ✔ @kirstenpowers10 >> Good line from Ryan -- The VP knows the words don't always come out the way you mean. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Monique C >> @CAndrewMorse We need to send you to the Ethics Commission for a ruling.

Patrick Laverty >> So Biden *did* mean that the middle class has been buried for the last four years.

Patrick Laverty >> Biden: "I always say what I mean." Oh good.

Andrew Morse >> Full disclosure: I have family members who live in Northboro.

Justin Katz >> But Ryan should have hopped on the smirk: "You can go ahead and smirk at people unemployed in your home town..."

Larry Sabato @LarrySabato >> In 1 answer, Biden has used more good attack lines than Obama mustered in 90 mins! << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Justin Katz >> Excellent Scranton reference from Ryan. Biden's interruption seems petulant, seems to me.

Monique C >> Paraphrasing Biden: my parents are poor; Romney is rich. So vote for Obama/Biden.

Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo >> Interesting. The harder Biden attacks Romney, the more the dials go down. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> Biden brings the 47% remark into the discussion, in response to an economic question.

Patrick Laverty >> How long until Biden stands up and slams his chair down? So angry.

Monique C >> @marccomtois Ouch.

Jeff Greenfield @greenfield64 >> Ok, it's official. Biden's laugh will lead all the analysis. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

David Martosko @EditMeDavid >> Big credibility dip on the @CNN happy-meter when Biden says "this president doesn't bluff." << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Dan Kennedy @dankennedy_nu >> I’m sure it’s difficult, but Biden needs to start acting like he takes Ryan seriously, regardless of the reality. #vpdebate << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Josh Barro @jbarro >> Stop calling the economy a national security issue. It renders "national security" meaninglessly broad. << Retweeted by Justin Katz

Dick Morris ✔ @DickMorrisTweet >> #debates So far it is Biden way ahead. Ryan looks like a kid. Confused, weak, What the hell is a "precondition policy"? << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Leonardo Alcivar @alcivar >> FACT: State Department Yesterday: Budget Had Nothing To Do With Security Decisions At Benghazi http://youtu.be/1LRKGOrRkT4 #debates << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Monique C >> @JustinKatzRI YES.

David Martosko @EditMeDavid >> CNN's happy-meter shows people aren't buying what Joe's selling. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Monique C >> Biden: Said "Bibi" five times. We're supposed to hear: boy, is this admin tight with Israel.

Marc Comtois >> 20 Minutes in and I think avg. voter has probably hit the "eyes-glazed-over, where's-honey-boo-boo" moment.

Jeff Jacoby @Jeff_Jacoby >> Every president since Carter (very much including G.W.Bush) has failed the Iran test. Obama is just the latest in a long line. #VPDebate << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Justin Katz >> I'm biased for political and personality reasons, but I have to believe the "aggressive Joe" persona rubs most folks wrong.

Monique C >> @CAndrewMorse Do they believe that they could deal Iran a crippling blow without bringing about war?

Larry Sabato @LarrySabato >> Ryan projecting well & Biden's already shown more energy than Obama did in 90 mins. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois · 56 Retweets 8 favorites

Andrew Morse >> Ryan needs to provide more details about the legislation he's referring to, to be convincing.

Rich Lowry @RichLowry >> Biden apparently thinks laughing at your opponent constitutes getting tough in a debate << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Jonah Goldberg @JonahNRO >> "Most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions"? Uh fact check please << Retweeted by Monique C

Andrew Morse >> Classic Biden whipsaw. YOU want war, followed by WE'RE quite confident WE could deal Iran a crippling blow.

Robert Cushman @Cushman_Bob >> Round 1 to Ryan << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Patrick Laverty >> Fun. Joe Biden on how to build a nuclear bomb.

Katty Kay @KattyKayBBC >> It is ironic that the WH is being put on the defensive in this debate on the very area they have been strongest, national security. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Patrick Laverty >> Jason Sudeikis seems like he's getting angry.

Gerry Callahan @HeyCallahan >> That's it, 10 minutes on Benghazi, the biggest scandal of Obama administration. Thank you, Martha. Biden looks more relieved than A-Rod. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Andrew Morse >> Joe Biden looks how I'm afraid typing HAHAHAHAHAHAHA comes across.

David Limbaugh @DavidLimbaugh >> This was all planned in advance irrespective of Ryan's answer. Attack dog Joe, planned. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Dubes @mdubes77 >> Bit of free advice for Joe Biden ... lose the smirk and Phil Mickelson smile ... its creepy << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Monique C >> Excellent; Biden goes on the record: "We did not know they wanted more security". Something that can be confirmed or refuted.

Andrew Morse >> Biden: "We did not know they wanted more security".

Andrew Morse >> Strong follow up from Raddatz; Biden attempts to throw the "intelligence community" under the bus.

Andrew Morse >> Biden: "These guys bet against America all the time".

James Pethokoukis @JimPethokoukis >> This is an old fashioned donnybrook #oldfashionedwords << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Patrick Laverty >> "These guys bet against America all the time." Wow.

Monique C >> Thumbs down on this moderator. She frames the Libyan attacks very favorably to Obama and now criticized Romney's statement of the next day.

Andrew Morse >> Ryan: "It's never too early to speak out for our values".

kirsten powers ✔ @kirstenpowers10 >> Very solid Ryan answer on Libya. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Monique C >> Ryan: what we are seeing is the "unraveling of the Obama foreign policy"

Larry Sabato @LarrySabato >> Ryan goes right to Obama's Libya disaster, then Iraq, then Afghanistan. "Projecting weakness abroad". << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Patrick Laverty >> This Libya situation is funny to Joe Biden?

Robert Cushman @Cushman_Bob >> Binden not even sticking to the question. Ryan going right after the real issue. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

James Pethokoukis @JimPethokoukis >> Wow, pivot from Libya to talking points << Retweeted by Marc Comtois · 14 Retweets 4 favorites

Andrew Morse >> Kind of early for Biden to already go into a set piece.

Monique C >> @CAndrewMorse Yes, your objectivity is now in question ...

Monique C >> What??? Libyan attacks were massive intelligence failure??? Why is she spouting the admin's latest story?

Andrew Morse >> Full disclosure: I once talked to Martha Raddatz for 5 seconds in an airport in 1988.

Marc Comtois >> Not into Veep debate? 3 Women's college soccer games, WNBA, NFL, MLB playoffs offer competitive alternatives. #don'tmakemewatchveepdebate

Monique C >> It's all about that three letter word: jobs. Jay Oh Bee Ess. Jobs.

Marc Comtois >> Steelers are beating Titans by 10 pts (pending judges decision). #nfldebate

David Burge @iowahawkblog >> If fewer than 10 incumbent congressional Democrats have self-immolated by 11pm, Biden can declare a moral victory. << Retweeted by Monique C

B Fojtik @PositiveEnerG >> Very helpful to have all the experts tell us everything Biden and Ryan will say during the debate. #VPDebate #stupid << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Michael Graham @MGraham969 >> Debating Biden is like getting into bar fight with a drunken bum--if you punch him all night and he hits you just one good time--you lose. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

New York Daily News ✔ @nydailynews >> Fun Fact: President Obama was a law school friend of moderator Raddatz’s ex-husband, attended their wedding http://bit.ly/UO1aif #debates << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Gerry Callahan @HeyCallahan >> Ten minutes to debate. Media declares that Biden did much better than expected. << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Nick D'Andrea @nicoladandrea >> with just over 15 minutes until the VP Debate MSNBC has officially called Pres. Obama the winner of next Tuesday's Debate. @MGraham969 << Retweeted by Marc Comtois

Marc Comtois >> I don't know, it looks like the Teens are beating the over 25s on points #XFactorDebates

Marc Comtois >> Pretty sure all Biden has to do is show up & he's more than half way home to declarations that he won & "it was a good night for the Prez."

Marc Comtois >> It's pretty clear Biden won. Oh wait...it isn't over? #earlyrealeaseofMSMtalkingpoints

Edward Fitzpatrick @FitzProv >> On the other hand, Biden could rattle Ryan if he debates in a Big Bird costume. MT Big Bird costumes flying out http://www.wpri.com/dpps/entertainment/halloween/big-bird-costumes-flying-out-of-halloween-stores-nd12-jgr_4757949 … << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Edward Fitzpatrick @FitzProv >> Ryan could rattle Biden if he debates in workout gear. Here's explanation of why @TIME released fotos MT @WolfBlitzer. http://on.cnn.com/SUCTpF << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Dan Kennedy @dankennedy_nu >> Debate night, and I feel exactly how Obama felt last week: tired, uninterested and grumpy. #vpdebate << Retweeted by Andrew Morse

Lara Logan on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

Marc Comtois

I know it's the economy and we're all war weary, but we can't ignore foreign policy. Benghazi has shown that. So does the current state of Afghanistan. The reason we got into Afghanistan--the support provided to Al Qaeda by the Taliban--still exists. CBS News correspondent Lara Logan did a report for "60 Minutes" a couple weeks ago on the current state of affairs, particularly the insider attacks that are killing our troops. Included in the story was her interview with a Taliban commander, who explained that he is getting key support and instruction from Al Qaeda members. She also delved into the persistent problem of Pakistan as a sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

More recently, she put that report in context and explained the details of the investigation (and provided some insight into good journalism) in a speech she made before the Better Government Association.

On understanding who we're fighting:

If you fail to identify the ideological component of this fight, if you fail to identify what your enemy is really fighting for, if you lie about who they really are, I don't see how you can possibly have the right strategy.
On Benghazi:
When I look at what's happening in Libya, and there's a big song and dance about whether this was a terrorist attack or a protest. And you just want to scream, 'For God's sake, are you kidding me?' The last time we were attacked like this was the USS Cole, which was a prelude to the 1998 Embassy bombings, which was a prelude to 9/11. And you're sending in the FBI to investigate? I hope to God that you're sending in your best analysts and warriors who are going to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, that its ambassadors will not be murdered and the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.
More excerpts after the jump, but spend the 20 minutes to watch the whole thing.

"If Al Qaeda was what truly drew us to Afghanistan after 9/11 then we felt it was a fair and legitimate question to be asked of American leaders what is the state of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And you would have heard bandied around the number 50 all the time...the head of the CIA...officials of the Administration love to tell us today there are only 50 members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the impression we're given is that they're one drone strike away from obliteration.

That's just simply not true.

They know it's not true.

What we had to do was to set about investigating to determine what was the truth."

"How did we go about doing that [investigating the current state of Al Qaeda]? Well, of course, we turned to the official record reading and researching anything anyone in the Administration or in a position of authority had to say about Al Qaeda in Afghanistan over the last few years.

Fortunately, I read just about everything on a daily basis so I stay on top of a lot that and that is not hard....Beat reporters exist for a reason, right? A beat reporter is a great thing because there's nothing like that institutional knowledge, that depth of knowledge over time and that gut feeling that you have that tells you when someone is full of shit or their not and what you should be concentrating on and what you shouldn't."


"We kept hearing the same thing time and time again. 'There's no political reason for anyone to be talking to you about this right now because if we talk about Al Qaeda in Afghanistan doesn't that undermine the argument for leaving?'...We even had in writing from the U.S. Military that Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was off the table. They weren't even prepared to talk about that. Which only made us more determined...."


"The official American position is only one part...just as important to us was what Al Qaeda themselves had to say about this. There's been a narrative coming out of Washington over the last few years, much of it driven by Pakistani lobbying money and by Taliban apologists.

One of my favorite things to read about is how the Taliban today is so unlike the Taliban of 2001. They're just a more moderate, kinder, gentler Taliban who can't wait to see women in the workplace and occupying, you know, an equal role in society. Greater economic prosperity for all of Afghanistan and don't really want to take us back 3,000 years into that terrible, terrible place I witnessed in 2001 when I went with the Afghan soldiers who retook Kabul from the Taliban.

You know, it's such nonsense.

And every once in a while you'll read in someone in a British paper, someone in the American papers saying that they've been talking to the Taliban and the Taliban want to go to peace talks and they're ready to renounce their links with Al Qaeda.

Really, the theory is if you pack up and go home from Afghanistan, the problem is over with, the Taliban just want their country back, they've got no problem with you and we can stop wasting billions of dollars and American lives in Afghanistan and we can turn our backs on this war that has really been a waste of our time.

It's amazing to me that that's where we are today.

Not only do I remember the promises that were made--which is fine, we want to keep our promises, that's politics--but to think there is any similarity between this and Vietnam is ridiculous.

The Viet Cong didn't care what you did when you went back to America. The Viet Cong didn't fight for an Islamic Caliphate. The Viet Cong didn't have a global struggle....it's amazing to me that we constantly ignore what Al Qaeda and the Taliban and...all these groups tell us every day in their own newspapers, in their own statements. They share something. They share an idea. Al Qaeda is not a membership organization--you don't have to have a card or a membership badge....This is terrorism. It's a completely and utterly different fight from anything we've ever faced in our history."


"Our way of life is under attack. And if you think that's government propaganda, if you think that's nonsense, if you think that's war-mongering, you're not listening to what the people you are fighting say about this fight. In your arrogance, you think you write the script. But you don't. There's two sides and we don't dictate the terms.

In fact, after 11 years of war in Afghanistan where we're surrendering, rushing for the exits as fast as we can, not only do we not dictate the terms but we have less power to dictate anything on the world stage."

October 10, 2012

Cicilline is Too Busy To Address Unemployment

Monique Chartier

WPRO reports that Democrats have accused Brendan Doherty of not caring about civil rights because he did not confirm that he would attend a particular forum tomorrow night.

Huh, interesting. Taking a look at the agenda and the press coverage, it appears that David Cicilline did not participate in either of the Publick Occurrences events, sponsored by the ProJo/RIC/ Leadership Rhode Island, on how to reinvent the RI economy.

So, by the standard set by the Democrat party, because he missed these events, clearly, David Cicilline does not care about the Rhode Island economy, advancing economic development in the state or reducing the unemployment rate among Rhode Islanders.

Using this standard, what other matters vital to Rhode Islanders does David Cicilline not care about?

Debates, Independents and Answering Matt

Patrick Laverty

Well this must really be absolute crazytown. When I'm on the same side of an issue as Bob Plain and opposite from WPRO's Matt Allen, it really makes me wonder if I've been replaced by aliens or something. Tonight on his radio show, Matt was debuting the new and more crotchety Matt Allen. A changed man. His opinion on whether non-Republicans, non-Moderates and non-Democrats should be allowed in to the debates has changed and he feels they should not. They're a distraction and a nuisance just looking to make a spectacle of it all. And I mostly disagree.

Matt made many arguments as to why he now feels this way but I think each argument he made was on the extreme side and wasn't completely vetted yet. Some callers were also backing Matt with similar comments. A more common feeling that stuck out to me is they don't want to have "all those" people up there debating. Someone even picked a number and said that we don't want to have "thirteen" people up on the debate stage. Well, I can see that point, but it's being taken to a ridiculous end. There are only three that will be on the ballot. I don't see why it's hard to include just one more person. If we're talking about the Congressional race, we are talking about people who had to get at least 500 valid signatures to appear on the ballot. To me, for a Congressional race, if you're on the ballot, you're usually serious about your candidacy, with only some obvious exceptions.

Another opinion was that if you're serious, don't run as an Independent, go build something like Ken Block did with the Moderate Party. All Independents have to do is get signatures and they're on the ballot. Yeah, that's true but that's all Republicans, Moderates and Democrats have to do as well. So I don't see how it's any different for Independents. Just because they skated their way to election day? Heck, we have many GA races in this state that go unopposed because no one even bothered to go get signatures and simply "skate" onto the ballot. It makes perfect sense to me if you want to run as an Independent because your views don't align with one of the parties in this state.

The argument that I make about the chicken and the egg also came up. How can someone get the 10% support in a poll (that is WJAR's policy) if they aren't getting the coverage? Give them the coverage and maybe they'll get better support. It was also asked, why is it WPRI or WJAR or even WPRO's job to make a campaign for these non-traditional candidates? It's not. It's no more their job for the non-traditionals than it is for the D or the R or the M candidates, but the party candidates don't have as much trouble getting coverage? Why? Because they chose a certain letter that isn't "I" next to their name?

Plus, we can't just throw out a blanket statement that Independent candidates aren't serious. We've had some get elected to the General Assembly. Lincoln's Senator Edward O'Neill was elected as an Independent. Should his candidacy have been shunned? Of course not, it was obviously very viable. There's even another politician in this state that ran and won as an Independent. Mayor Buddy Cianci.

Then there's the argument that the non-traditional candidates have so little support and somewhere around a zero chance to win that they're a waste of time. Using that line of reasoning, we might have some major party candidates that are wasting our time. We see some are trailing in polls by 20-25 percentage points. We don't see them as a waste of time simply because of the party label they have attached to their name.

Lastly, an argument was made that if these non-traditional candidates are serious and really are about serving the people and not serving themselves then they'd be back for at least a second try, but they rarely do. It's one and done for them. So that shows that they were never serious in the first place. Clearly this is bunk as well. Republicans and Democrats take one bite at the apple time and time again and then disappear, never to be heard from again but they don't face the same criticism.

I get it, I understand that we don't want to fill the stage with Vermin Supreme or Jimmy MacMillan but if we have someone who is clearly serious and trying hard, I don't think we should turn that person away. I am glad that WJAR is allowing Abel Collins in to their debate and I disagreed with WPRI's decision to not let him in.

Just to add, my cutoff for Presidential debates is that if you're on enough ballots to actually win 270 electoral votes, you should be allowed in to the debates. Anything less and you're out. Want to guess who gets to decide who is allowed in to Presidential debates? Yep, the Republicans and Democrats.

We know that the two-party system is broken but if we're just going to make it harder for non-Democrats and non-Republicans to campaign for office, then we're a big part of the problem.

Why Democratic Party Discipline May Be Harmful to the Health of Rhode Islanders

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island's Republican candidates for Federal office would like to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka Obamacare) with something different. Senate Candidate Barry Hinckley calls for outright repeal on his campaign website; Second District Congressional candidate Michael Riley wants most of it repealed while retaining certain provisions, and First District Congressional candidate Brendan Doherty has said he will support Obamacare repeal if it is coupled with an effective replacement. Rhode Island’s Democratic incumbents feel differently. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said in his first television advertisement that he is proud of having supported the new healthcare law and First District Congressman David Cicilline has made Doherty's willingness to repeal and replace Obamacare a major part of his TV advertising. Given this range of positions, Rhode Island voters need to give some consideration to the narrow range of healthcare options that the Obamacare structure commits them to.

A central feature of the PPACA is a fifteen-member executive-branch body, all members to be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, called the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB). Under the current law, IPAB proposals can acquire the force of law under certain conditions (and are expressly exempt from judicial review), unless the President and Congress agree upon alternate means for achieving certain fiscal targets. Functionally, IPAB is supposed to be the major cost containment measure in Obamacare, though at this time, according to the direct text of the legislation...

[IPAB proposals] shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums,...increase Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.

Congressmen Cicilline and James Langevin have actually voted in favor of having an IPAB not just once, but twice. The first time was during the initial passage of Obamacare, when the measure passed with no Republican votes, at around the time the Democratic speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was telling citizens and legislators alike that "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it". The second time was in March of 2012, when both Congressmen voted against a measure that would specifically repeal IPAB while leaving most of the rest of Obamacare intact. IPAB seems to be central to the Democratic vision of healthcare and not something peripheral, and all four members of Rhode Island’s Federal delegation have expressed support for some form of IPAB.

Though the point of IPAB is to contain costs, influential figures within Democratic policy circles have expressed skepticism that it can do so given the current limits on its mandate. Christina Romer, former Chairwoman of Council of Economic Advisors under President Obama, wrote in the New York Times that "even with the law...more steps to contain costs will have to be taken" and that "once [IPAB] has a track record...perhaps it could be empowered to suggest changes in benefits or in how Medicare services are provided". Steve Rattner, the man selected by President Obama to be his “car czar”, went even further in the Times -- scary further -- writing that IPAB could become an appropriate mechanism for rationing (he explicitly uses that term) because too much money is spent in the United States on end-of-life care. People like Romer and Rattner are not fringe academics; of course, they haven't been elected to office either -- but the whole point of IPAB is to put lawmaking power in the hands of people who haven’t been elected to office.

If IPAB in its current form fails to contain costs -- and there's little reason to believe that Chirstina Romer, Steven Rattner and standard economic theory are all wrong about a program of purchase mandates and government subsidies not being effective means to reduce costs -- representatives of the citizens of Rhode Island will likely be asked in the very near future to decide on a either a Democratic alternative to "enhance" IPAB or a Republican alternative to repeal IPAB and Obamacare-in-general and replace them with something else. Voters should be aware this November when making their choices for Congressman and Senator this November, that candidates who uncritically accept the national Democratic party line on this matter are prepared to lock their constituents into a very narrow range of healthcare choices: living with fantasy economics until fiscal calamity forces a change (always a Rhode Island favorite), or giving IPAB the power to implement rationing, or possibly both, to stay safely within the bounds of their political partisanship.

Town-by-Town Single-Family Home Sales, August

Justin Katz

Checking in on single-family home sales across Rhode Island, as I did for July and 1Q12, reveals a mixed picture. Results for the state are mildly improving, but the "downward spiral index" worsened for 22 of the 38 listed cities and towns.

The downward spiral index is the sum of the three percentages given in Table 1.  The idea is that an improving market will see an increase in sales,  a decrease in inventory, and an increase in median sales price.  If inventory is dropping, that indicates that houses are selling faster than new families can put them on the market, and if the median sales price is climbing, that suggests that the demand for homes in the area is increasing.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Brown Poll Gives Insight on RI Voter Mindset

Marc Comtois

The latest Brown Poll is full of approval ratings and horse-race numbers. Ian Donnis and Ted Nesi are just a couple of those breaking it down. For me, the most interesting was the contrast between question #15 and #16:

15. Would you describe the state of Rhode Island’s economy these days as excellent, good, not so good, or poor? excellent 0.0%; good 5.2%; not so good 32.1%; poor 61.3%; DK/NA 1.4%

16. Would you describe the state of your own personal finances these days as excellent, good, not so good, or poor? excellent 7.1%; good 54.2%; not so good 25.6%; poor 12.1%; DK/NA 1.0%

Basically, while only 5% of those surveyed say the RI economy is good, 61% say their own finances are either excellent (7%) or good (54%). Yet, they also think the state is going "on the wrong track":
17. Generally speaking, would you say things in Rhode Island are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track? right direction 16.3%; off on wrong track 60.9%; mixed 18.1%; not sure 3.7%; no answer 1.0%
So, to summarize, 93% of Rhode Islanders say the state's economy is not so good or poor, 61% say the state is headed the wrong way, but 61% also say they're doing OK. And the latter is the key. It is why we get this:
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy? approve 55.2%; disapprove 39.5%; DK/NA 5.3%
Despite worries about their neighbors or the state or the state, when it comes right down to it, people vote their own experience and interests. Or at least how they feel about it.

Cato Gives Governor Chafee a D in Fiscal Policy

Justin Katz

In a white paper out yesterday from the Cato Institute, Governor Lincoln Chafee (as the chief executive of the Rhode Island government) received a score of D for fiscal policy.  His score of 41 is based on spending, revenue, and tax changes that he proposed and/or that were implemented under his watch from January 2010 to August 2012, and marks him as the seventh worst governor for fiscal policy.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

October 9, 2012

RI Governor Gives Nation a Preview of Obama’s Public Welfare Project

Justin Katz

People across the United States should consider Rhode Island as a canary in the ObamaCare coal mine, whistling the tune of the President's larger public welfare project.

When he spoke on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, RI's Lincoln Chafee introduced himself as "the nation's only independent governor." That's "independent" as in belonging to no political party. He went on to claim the mantel of "moderate" and to upend the dictionary with a new, inverted definition of "traditional conservative," applying that label to himself, as well.

Actual moderates and conservatives should be wary of Chafee's brand of independence.  The most stunning reason is his state's status, in July, as one of only three to have lost employment since the end of the U.S. jobs free fall in February 2010. A more subtle, but profound, reason is the vision of health benefit exchanges toward which he is hurrying his state.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Projo Tilt on RIVotes.org

Justin Katz

I'd finished an email exchange with Providence Journal reporter Philip Marcelo somewhat encouraged, on Friday night.  He apparently had some questions about the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity's RIVotes.org site; some legislators disputed that they'd missed as many votes as the site says.

On my way out the door to a social function, I didn't exactly perform an extensive review, but I checked the House Journals for five randomly selected bills for which RIVotes says Rep. Robert Flaherty (D, Warwick), the most vote-missingest legislator, did not cast a vote.  For one of the bills, he was absent; for the others, he was noted at the top of the journals as in attendance, but the roll calls did not have his name.  That is, on all five, RIVotes was accurate.

I explained this to Marcelo, and he said the information was helpful.  Not helpful enough, it appears, to include in the article ...

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

October 8, 2012

Regulation Failure Is a Field, Not a Hole

Justin Katz

An inherent problem with price fixing identified in basic economics is that we tend to see the proximate results of forced changes on the system, but not the more systemic results.  Moreover, fixing prices prevents us from addressing the underlying difficulties that drove them up or down in an undesirable way.

The same is true of regulation, which (it doesn't take much work to observe) is true in this New York Times article "Scant Oversight of Drug Maker in Fatal Meningitis Outbreak":

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

October 7, 2012

Diverse Global Warming Developments from the Past Week

Monique Chartier

--> The latest proposal for fighting global warming: we need to set in motion help from "above".

To combat global warming, scientists in Scotland now suggest an out-of-this-world solution — a giant dust cloud in space, blasted off an asteroid, which would act like a sunshade for Earth.

--> Oopsie, sea levels are not rising nearly as quickly as alarmists would like anticipated.

A new, first-of-its-kind comprehensive scientific analysis has shown that there is little to fear from rising sea levels driven by global warming. The likelihood is that the 21st century will see rises much like those of the 20th, and even in the worst possible case sea levels in 2100 will be far below those foreseen by alarmists.

--> A new wing has been added to the Anthropogenic Guilt Department with the theory that man began causing global warming long before the rise of fossil fuel usage that accompanied the Industrial Revolution.

For 1800 years before industrialisation took off in the 19th century, emissions of methane rose in line with expanding populations, human conquest and agricultural techniques ...

"This study shows the urgency of controlling greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, because it shows that the disequilibrium in the climate system caused by humans existed for much longer than we expected," [Dr. Celia Sapart] said in an email exchange with AFP.

The study indicates that the amount of methane emitted during this period is a small fraction of the methane that man emits today (and remember that ALL of the greenhouse gases currently emitted by man is less than 6% of the total generated). The next question, naturally, is about the effect of this pre-Industrial Age gas emission on climate. Ah, but no answer is provided.

The study was neither designed to calculate the additional warming from the methane emissions, nor probe whether any warming affected weather patterns, but it has clear implications for work on climate change

Presumably, it would be impossible to measure the effect of such a miniscule amount of historic methane on climate. But that's pretty much secondary, isn't it? The main point is that man is and always has been guilty, guilty, GUILTY!

---> Bad news about the overall environmental friendliness of electric cars, particularly in the production phase.

A new Norwegian study, “Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles” published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology (full paper here) found that the “use phase” of electric vehicles (EVs) “powered by the present European electricity mix offers a 10% to 24% decrease in global warming potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles assuming lifetimes of 150,000 km. However, EVs exhibit the potential for significant increases in human toxicity, freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and metal depletion impacts, largely emanating from the vehicle supply chain.” The authors call that “problem shifting.”

--> Lastly (for the moment), a headline by National Review Online's Greg Pollowitz perfectly summarizes the latest unfortunate effect of global warming.

Global Warming Causes Drunk Tourism
Oh, dear.
Global warming has opened up the Arctic to shipping and now also raucous tourists, say Canadian authorities who last month levied $10 000 in fines against an Australian tycoon for a booze-fueled party cruise.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police boarded a 34-meter, seven-stateroom luxury yacht moored in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut on 7 September and charged its owner, Paul McDonald (51) with providing liquor to a minor and being in possession of liquor without a permit.

The federal police seized 200 bottles of liquor, as well as illegal fireworks, said an RCMP statement issued Tuesday.

The Nunatsiaq News said the resource tycoon from Noosa, Australia and his crew ignored warnings not to shoot off fireworks in the pristine Arctic environment, harassed muskox, and allowed an underage girl to “dive off the side of the yacht during a wild party” into icy waters.

College Loans and Defaults

Patrick Laverty

I had a discussion recently with GoLocalProv.com writer Dan McGowan after his article on college loan debt and we got onto the topic of whether that debt might ever be dischargeable through bankruptcy.

I do think we'll see a time when bankruptcy clears out loan debt and if Obama returns to the White House, he could be the one to do it. But it'd be wrong.

With everything else in bankruptcy there is something tangible to repossess when the payments stop, whether it is a house or a car. One obvious exception is credit card debt. That's the risk that those banks take and they hedge that risk with the ridiculous interest rates on slow payers. That covers the defaults and write-offs from people using plastic.

If someone gets an education and can walk away from the debt through bankruptcy, why would anyone pay for college? You have the diploma, you have the education, you have the knowledge, what can they take away from you? They can't make you "unlearn" those things. Sure, they can deny you ever attended, but a smart employer doesn't care about diplomas. All they should care about is "can you do the job?"

The problem and the fix is on both sides. Students and families need to do a better job thinking about what they're doing and finding the right value. I don't just walk into the Ferrari dealer and sign the note and take the car. I actually think about whether I can
afford the payments on the Ferrari, or do I actually need to get a Chevy? Too many people go for the Ferrari cost of education when all they can afford is the Chevy. At the same time, I want schools and banks to make the student sign something showing what the repayment will be, even from day one.

For example, let's say for fall of freshman year, I need to borrow $10,000. That's pretty small to pay back, maybe $60 a month. No big deal. But what if I need to borrow that for the next seven semesters, or maybe a little more to cover the increased cost that the
school is charging. Maybe when I graduate, my real monthly cost will be $500 or $600 a month. Students need to know that going in. I should probably even know that before I matriculate. If I know what my need is to attend each college and I can calculate what the final monthly payment will be, will I be able to afford that? Can I get a job in the field that will pay me that?

Do I really want to get a bachelor's degree in Medieval Studies and have a $700 a month college loan bill, along with rent, car loan, insurance and some of the other things like an iPhone and the ability to go out on a Friday night? What do those jobs pay? Are there any jobs? That all should be taken into account, but rarely is. When I took out my college loans, I had no idea what my final monthly debt would be.

Lastly, I also see an attitude in some of these articles about the hardship that these college graduates and other former attendees. Some have an attitude that they'll "never" be able to pay back the entire loan. I've even read this kind of attitude from people who owe $20,000 or less. Seriously? That's a car loan. A car loan is normally paid back in five or six years. College loans give at least ten and have a lower interest rate. Anyone with the attitude that it's impossible to pay back a $20,000 college loan really never should have gone in the first place and likely never had any intention to pay it back.

Now that I and most of my friends are in our forties, many of us are finally getting out from under our college loans. Yeah, it's taken about twenty years for some. That's how long it can take. That's the deal we agreed to. It might not look like you're making progress by sending that $500 a month out and the balance seems to never drop, but it does. (Just wait until you get a mortgage if you want that kind of depressing monthly update!)

Presumably, you went to college to get an education that you'll use to make money for forty years or more. To use ten to twenty years to pay for it sounds like a pretty good tradeoff. Things don't just happen overnight.

The ... Er, Evolution of the Obama Administration's Explanation for the Attack on Our Embassy in Libya

Monique Chartier

An illuminating (thought the Obama administration might not appreciate it) timeline presented by the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

October 6, 2012

Marriage Rules Beyond the Ken of Kids

Justin Katz

This essay originally appeared in the Providence Journal on June 8, 2009. Given that periodical's revamped Web site, the essay is no longer available online, so I'm reproducing it here.

The preschooler's question at the dinner table probably wasn't as new to recent generations as a parent's first reaction might suggest: Can a girl marry a girl? It's the sort of question that children ask — have always asked — as they assess the world and its rules. It's a request for clarification of an inchoate understanding of what marriage is.

What was new to the American family, in that conversation, was the first grader's response to her sister's inquiry: Her friend's aunts are married to each other. The government of the next state over was the first to answer "yes," so there you go. A millennia-old process by which marriage defines appropriate, healthy relationships between the men and women whom boys and girls become is now obscured.

As with many challenges of the modern day, we who maintain a sense of marriage's value as an opposite-sex, fundamentally procreative institution must be willing and able to correct society's misdirection of our children. We must be able to explain to them our beliefs and long thought on the relevant issues, and we must be comfortable with the reality that our children will one day form and act upon their own conclusions. It serves no intellectual, spiritual, or rhetorical purpose to complain of the compounding nature of this burden. Still, observing such very direct examples of the effect that same-sex marriage will have on our culture and society is disconcerting.

That redefining marriage will indeed have an effect is a reality that a number of our compatriots wish not to face. With the escalating cost imposed by unfair accusations of bigotry, it is certainly easier to grab hold of emotional absolution. We all wish happiness for our homosexual friends and family members, but many of us allow the tint of that desire to cast an absurd light on wholly reasonable arguments, transforming them into something that they're not. Scoffing at the notion that a particular heterosexual marriage will change midstream should homosexual relationships be called by the same name is a convenient way to avoid addressing the fact that traditionalists aren't expressing that notion in the first place.

Supporters of same-sex marriage should consider the sisters introduced above, who even at their young age feel differently about boys than about their female friends. The "yes" or "no" offered at the dinner table sets the course for learning as they piece together a basic understanding of marriage that will underpin their related behavior throughout their lives. As pre-sexual youths, they learn mainly that their strange feelings toward boys are somehow — in the mysterious world of adults — associated with the concept of marriage.

Strange feelings become attraction, which progresses through sexual desire to the drive to procreate. In the traditional framework, the mystique of marriage encapsulates the entire cycle. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage. Thus has society woven ties of mutual care and responsibility between men, women, and the children whom only such pairs can bring into the world.

The consequence of providing a different answer to the initial question will be knowable only through the experiment that radicals are intent on conducting in the laboratory of humankind. (They'll leave no control group, if they can help it.) Ironically, adults who dismiss the possibility that the strength of marital ties will suffer from the dramatic change do so on the basis of precisely the underlying sense that they wish to modify: They grew up with the traditional presentation of marriage, so their fully developed intellects can extend a mature conceptualization thereof to encompass homosexual relationships that mirror the image.

A child does not have the luxury of that perspective. Children have no underlying sense through which to comprehend that their "icky" feelings toward the opposite sex will ultimately form the foundation for lifelong relationships, consummated in the persons of their own children, linking humanity across generations. If, in that first encounter with the concept of marriage, they learn that a girl can indeed marry a girl if they want to, if they love each other, that fact isn't an exception that builds on the institution. It's a constituent part of the rule. Whatever marriage therefore is, for them, it is not intrinsically a relationship for those whose expressions of intimacy tend to turn them into parents.

Moreover, children have no context to differentiate their presexual feelings for the opposite sex from their deeper interpersonal comfort with and affinity for their same-sex friends. Saying that marriage is a relationship of love, in other words, doesn't describe the form of love.

These abstractions are well beyond the ken of preschoolers, of course, which points to society's reason for developing a straightforward cultural institution like marriage, about which rules and mythologies could develop. At the nexus of feelings and law and culture and biology, men and women come together in an irreducibly unique way, and erasing the language by which we teach proper responsibility will ensure that questions at the dinner tables of the future are of a more ominous tone.

The Cluttering of the Artistic Mind

Marc Comtois

I found Camille Paglia's piece in the Wall Street Journal about modern-day art interesting and thought provoking:

What has sapped artistic creativity and innovation in the arts? Two major causes can be identified, one relating to an expansion of form and the other to a contraction of ideology.

Painting was the prestige genre in the fine arts from the Renaissance on. But painting was dethroned by the brash multimedia revolution of the 1960s and '70s. Permanence faded as a goal of art-making.

But there is a larger question: What do contemporary artists have to say, and to whom are they saying it? Unfortunately, too many artists have lost touch with the general audience and have retreated to an airless echo chamber. The art world, like humanities faculties, suffers from a monolithic political orthodoxy—an upper-middle-class liberalism far from the fiery antiestablishment leftism of the 1960s. (I am speaking as a libertarian Democrat who voted for Barack Obama in 2008.)

Today's blasé liberal secularism also departs from the respectful exploration of world religions that characterized the 1960s. Artists can now win attention by imitating once-risky shock gestures of sexual exhibitionism or sacrilege....It's high time for the art world to admit that the avant-garde is dead.

According to Paglia, art has suffered with the diminished working-classness of America.
The vulnerability of students and faculty alike to factitious theory about the arts is in large part due to the bourgeois drift of the last half century. Our woefully shrunken industrial base means that today's college-bound young people rarely have direct contact any longer with the manual trades, which share skills, methods and materials with artistic workmanship....For the arts to revive in the U.S., young artists must be rescued from their sanitized middle-class backgrounds. We need a revalorization of the trades that would allow students to enter those fields without social prejudice (which often emanates from parents eager for the false cachet of an Ivy League sticker on the car). Among my students at art schools, for example, have been virtuoso woodworkers who were already earning income as craft furniture-makers. Artists should learn to see themselves as entrepreneurs.

Creativity is in fact flourishing untrammeled in the applied arts, above all industrial design. Over the past 20 years, I have noticed that the most flexible, dynamic, inquisitive minds among my students have been industrial design majors. Industrial designers are bracingly free of ideology and cant. The industrial designer is trained to be a clear-eyed observer of the commercial world—which, like it or not, is modern reality.

Capitalism has its weaknesses. But it is capitalism that ended the stranglehold of the hereditary aristocracies, raised the standard of living for most of the world and enabled the emancipation of women. The routine defamation of capitalism by armchair leftists in academe and the mainstream media has cut young artists and thinkers off from the authentic cultural energies of our time.

While she is encouraged by the artisticness of industrial design, she points to the iPhone as a triumph of form but one that has "no spiritual dimension".
Thus we live in a strange and contradictory culture, where the most talented college students are ideologically indoctrinated with contempt for the economic system that made their freedom, comforts and privileges possible. In the realm of arts and letters, religion is dismissed as reactionary and unhip. The spiritual language even of major abstract artists like Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko is ignored or suppressed.

Thus young artists have been betrayed and stunted by their elders before their careers have even begun. Is it any wonder that our fine arts have become a wasteland?

I agree, but the very technology Paglia points to also goes a long ways towards stifling the creative mind. It's a heckuva lot easier to play a video game than to imagine up a story on your own, for instance. Then there's the hand-held devices--like the iPhone--that are removing a tolerance for boredom from our lives:
"Doug Gross writes that thanks to technology, there's been a recent sea change in how people today kill time. 'Those dog-eared magazines in your doctor's office are going unread. Your fellow customers in line at the deli counter are being ignored. And simply gazing around at one's surroundings? Forget about it.' With their games, music, videos, social media and texting, smartphones 'superstimulate,' a desire humans have to play when things get dull, says anthropologist Christopher Lynn and he believes that modern society may be making that desire even stronger. 'When you're habituated to constant stimulation, when you lack it, you sort of don't know what to do with yourself,' says Lynn. 'When we aren't used to having down time, it results in anxiety. 'Oh my god, I should be doing something.' And we reach for the smartphone. It's our omnipresent relief from that.' Researchers say this all makes sense. Fiddling with our phones, they say, addresses a basic human need to cure boredom by any means necessary. But they also fear that by filling almost every second of down time by peering at our phones we are missing out on the creative and potentially rewarding ways we've dealt with boredom in days past. 'Informational overload from all quarters means that there can often be very little time for personal thought, reflection, or even just 'zoning out,'" researchers write.
This confirms Paglia's fears, if from another angle. Ever-present technology is removing the time for introspection from our lives. We aren't stopping to take a breath, to think, to ruminate. It's all tweets and YouTube and Facebook status updates and DVRing and, yes, occasionally reading on the Kindle. But we don't reflect as much as we used to. Our imagining minds are cluttered with other peoples thoughts and ideas that crowd out our own.

October 5, 2012

Losers Make Excuses

Marc Comtois

Yuval Levin explains why liberals and Obama supporters have coalesced around the narrative that Romney won the 1st debate because he lied (and had a secret cheat-hanky...and altitude). They can't conceive of any other way the conservative strawman they created could've won.

This is, first and foremost, an instance of something that a lot of conservatives in Washington have run across when debating liberals: Because they basically control the mainstream media, and because they have created for themselves a fictional conservative worldview (evident in many an Aaron Sorkin project and Barack Obama speech) rather than confront the actual conservative worldview, liberals are often caught off guard when faced with an actual argument for positions they disagree with. What we’ve seen in the wake of the debate is that some on the Left are so wedded to their imaginary right-wingers that when their actual opponents advance positions or make arguments that are different from those imaginary ones they will call those actual opponents fakes and liars. They believed their own caricature of Mitt Romney, and his unwillingness to play into it strikes them as dishonest. Or put another way: Confronted with evidence of their own dishonesty about who Romney is and what he stands for, they call the evidence a lie.
He also refutes the three main contentions put forth by liberals regarding Romney's supposed lies.

Insight into Narrative Building With Polls

Marc Comtois

I got this release (PDF) about post Presidential debate research from The Winston Group. Included in it is an analysis of a debate focus group put together by left-leaning Democracy Corps.

Democracy Corps conducted a post-debate discussion with 45 swing voters in Denver, which included 16 unmarried women. According to their analysis this group contained twice as many Republican leaning participants as Democratic leading participants. This qualitative study supports many of the findings of the quantitative studies of CBS and CNN. By a 2-1 margin they thought Governor Romney won (42% Romney, 20% Obama, 38% Neither). Additionally, this group showed a significant improvement for Governor Romney in favorables, much larger than the improvement for President Obama, to the point there was a potential for a significant difference between the two. It also showed movement in the ballot test as Governor Romney picked up more support than President Obama - although their analysis says that the movement to Romney came from Republican leaning voters only.
I stopped reading here because something seemed pretty clear to me: Democracy Corps had set up this focus group with 2-1 GOP leaning undecided for the express purpose of confirming the narrative they had prepared. That Obama had won the debate and convinced even GOP-leaning women to get on board. Woops.

Instead, as explained in the report, the Democracy Corps was left to spin:

Their conclusion was that “In the end, though, this debate did not emerge as the game-changer the Romney campaign needed.” However, most of the data in the focus group doesn’t support this conclusion and was more in line with the two quantitative studies by CBS and CNN which showed clear movement. Their rationale was that no supporter of President Obama in the focus group moved to Governor Romney. Looking at the numbers it looks like this represented about 14 people (out of 45), a small group to make such a definitive conclusion. This is a quantitative conclusion based on qualitative data from 45 people in Denver preselected to match certain demographic criteria. Focus groups can provide possible theories; they cannot provide quantitative conclusions.

Employment: October Surprise or October Miracle?

Justin Katz

A lot of people who watch policy and politics relatively closely were very surprised, this morning, to hear that the unemployment rate had fallen to its lowest level during the Obama presidency — a level last seen in January 2009.  As James Pethokoukis notes, of the seasonally adjusted 873,000 jump in employment from August to September, 582,000 were people who want to work full-time but had their hours cut or were unable to find full-time work, involuntary part time, as they're called.

Given the sheer size of the jump in employment, though, some cynical folks on the political right are finding it to be a bit suspicious. In their view, the move would be in keeping with the Obama administration's request to defense contractors not to notify employees before the election of possible layoffs and promise to cover the cost if they are sued for it.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Getting Past Cicilline Spin on Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

Marc Comtois

This afternoon, WPRO's Dan Yorke has taken the Doherty campaign to task (again, hey, it's a day that ends in "y") for not being clear on why Doherty supposedly opposes the Violence Against Women Act that is currently stalled in Congress. In truth, there are two versions of the act and Doherty supports the House version. Now, given that I agree with Yorke that Doherty could do a better job explaining his position, it seems Yorke is falling pray to Cicilline campaign spin on the issue. As such, I think this portion of the explanation from the sponsor of the House's version of the re-authorization--Sandy Adams, R-Fla (and, yes, a woman)--is warranted:

The House and Senate versions of VAWA are largely similar, but at the center of the controversy are three brand new proposals the Senate included in its reauthorization. These added provisions veer from VAWA’s original intent, as well as past reauthorizations.

The first of these three provisions would give sovereign Native American tribes potentially unconstitutional jurisdiction by allowing their courts to try non-Indians. While no one disputes that Native American victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking need help and that their assaulters should be prosecuted, it should be done within the bounds of the Constitution.

Rather than trying to implement unconstitutional provisions, the House-passed bill designates domestic violence tribal liaisons within the U.S. Attorney’s Offices. The liaison would serve as a direct link between the U.S. Attorneys charged with prosecuting non-Indians who commit crimes on tribal lands, and Native American criminal justice systems. Additionally, the House bill allows Native American victims of domestic violence or stalking to get a restraining order against their abuser in a federal district court.

The second addition included in the Senate bill sets aside specific protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of abuse. While I agree that these individuals should have access to VAWA services, I disagree with the Senate’s approach which pits victim against victim. I believe all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking should be protected equally. This is why my bill includes language that specifically states, “No person in any State shall on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability be denied the assistance of, or excluded from receiving services from a grantee under, any program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds made available under the Violence Against Women Act.”

Finally, the Senate-passed bill disregards the fact that some immigration programs historically included in VAWA reauthorization legislation have been subject to fraud and abuse. The House-passed legislation allows illegal immigrants who apply for and receive a U-visa to stay in the United States to get the care and resources they need after being victimized by a criminal, while at the same time ensuring that the illegal immigrant works with law enforcement officials and prosecutors to put their perpetrators in jail.

However, the bill does not give them the right to permanent residence, unless the perpetrators of the crimes against them are aliens, are convicted of the crime, and are deported to the U-visa holders’ home country. Under these new requirements, the U-visa will no longer grant amnesty to illegal immigrants simply because they claim to have been the victim of a crime. My bill also guarantees the confidentiality of a self-petitioning immigrant who has been abused, and unlike the Senate bill, strengthens anti-fraud protections to ensure that victims – instead of perpetrators of fraud – receive the resources and benefits they need.
Obviously, there is room for disagreement, but to imply and state that House Republicans and the like "don't care" is yet another example straight from the same old Democrat playbook. Too bad people who should know better still fall for it.

The Powerful and Powerless General Assembly

Patrick Laverty

I had been planning to write a post like this but maybe later in the year. However, a letter to the Providence Journal by Mark Binder has sort of accelerated that.

Binder is an Independent candidate for House District 4, the seat currently occupied by House Speaker Gordon Fox. On his web site, Binder illustrates a number of areas where he has issues with Fox and the RI House, but in his letter one line especially stands out.

The strong men and women currently “leading” our state have proven again and again that they are incapable of this sort of leadership. They’ve left us behind.
I couldn't agree more. The 74 other members of the House of Representatives seem to forget what kind of collective power they have and what power that the Speaker actually has. The Speaker position only has the power that they give him. They can just as easily take it away or override him. But yet, they continue to concede this over to the position. (By the way, the same holds true over on the Senate side too. This is not a one-chamber discussion.) When we ask the Reps or Senators why they continue to allow themselves to get pushed around, they give the same answers, "You'll never get anything passed if you buck the leadership" or "You'll get a primary opponent in the next election." Well guess what, if you all do it, the majority wins. And for some of you, it's not like you're getting anything meaningful passed anyway. If you all step up and want change, if you all want your bills heard and not "held for further study", you can force that change.

On any given bill bill, maybe you don't care either way so you let it die in committee, but then you sit there seething when the bill you really care about dies because no one else is speaking up for it. Maybe it's time to think more generally instead of selfishly.

Binder's letter also showed another example:

In the last session, 50 state representatives co-sponsored a bill reforming payday-lending practices. The representatives wanted to reduce the usurious annual interest rate to 36 percent, from 260 percent. To counter this, one of the largest payday-lending companies hired former House Speaker William Murphy as a lobbyist. The reform bill never came to a vote...
This one is just mind-boggling. A full two-thirds of the House signed their name on this bill but it couldn't even get out of committee?

Let's look at Binder's statement in two parts. First, why couldn't it make it out of committee? Because the chairman of the committee suggested it and then the committee voted in favor? How is that possible unless that committee just happened to be stacked with people from the 25 who didn't sponsor it? And what are the odds that all 25 of them were opposed to this bill? When this bill came up in committee, why didn't the supportive Reps immediately move for a vote to send it to the floor? If they don't know how the mechanics of it works, Andrew spelled it all out for them almost two years ago with How To End the Tyranny of Held For Further Study. If you sponsor a bill and then sit idly as it dies in committee, you have failed as a representative. Not a capital R, but as a representative of your constituents and the people you were looking to help with that legislation. This happens over and over again in the State House. Many good bills go to die simply because the Speaker doesn't want them to pass. Letting this happen is a failure of all General Assembly members who don't work to stop it from happening.

The second part of Binder's statement just amazes me. Former Speaker William Murphy was the lobbyist against the bill. I've read comments from some legislators that Murphy still wields power in the State House. How? Does he have compromising photos of some of the Reps? He's not there anymore! He's a lobbyist! How does he have any power at all over them? And why are they rolling over like dogs for a tummy rub for him? If they thought the bill was a good enough idea to sponsor it, then tell the lobbyist "No!"

We keep giving the voters questions to ask the candidates when they come to your door, especially the incumbents like "Do you support same-sex marriage?" and "What did you know about 38 Studios?", "Did you vote for the loan?", however questioning the incumbents about what they're doing to prevent good bills from dying just because one man wants them to would probably be an even better question. Everything else stems from that. When we can get a more open system for legislating, when we can end the last-minute horse trading of bills, then that will be a step in the right direction for good government in Rhode Island and a step forward in improving our state.

Obama's Economic Claims Debunked

Marc Comtois

John Merline at Investor's Business Daily put together the below chart to help explain the economic myths being told by the President (read the whole thing).

October 4, 2012

Things We Read Today (24), Thursday

Justin Katz

West Warwick for all; the essence of education reform; declines in people births; declines in business births; the easy street to dependency.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Obama/Romney Debate: Moderator Lends a Hand (Twice)

Monique Chartier

Due to technical issues, I heard only scattered snippets of the debate last night (so I did not realize how it went until learning this morning that they were all but rushing counselors and a case of Zoloft to stricken MSNBC commentators).

At one point, however, the livestream kicked in just at the moment that the moderator, Jim Lehrer, said this.

But, Mr. President, you're saying in order to get the job done, it's got to be balanced.

Did I hear correctly? The moderator is actually helping President Obama answer a question?

Yes, he was - Breitbart confirms with the clip, below. It turned out, in fact, to be the second half of a two-part assist (on a question about whether to raise taxes to balance the budget).

Things We Read Today (23), Wednesday

Justin Katz

Controlling prices across a continent; a look back at erroneous polls; Matthews in the echo chamber; excuse #2 for Benghazi.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

October 3, 2012

No Consistency Equals No Credibility

Patrick Laverty

I guess the real question is whether the voters will fall for it. And based on the recent WPRI results, people are falling for it. The David Cicilline campaign is trying to scare the voters away from voting for Brendan Doherty by telling everyone who he supports and who he'll align himself with. Well, they're doing that sometimes.

First, they tried the old "Scare the Seniors" tack. He'll cut Medicare and Social Security! You'll die on the streets eating leftover cat food! But then Doherty offered his "iron-clad" pledge to not cut Medicare, but to strengthen it. Whoops, that one is out the window.

We've seen where Brendan Doherty said that he liked certain parts of the Ryan tax plan and that he supports Mitt Romney for President. The Cicilline people took this as an opportunity to lump them all together. "Doherty supports the Ryan Plan!" "Doherty supports Republicans!" (*gasp*) "Doherty will be in lockstep with Boehner!"

However at the same time, Brendan Doherty himself tells us that he can work with both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats. Cicilline's record is that he votes with his party 96% of the time.

I hear people in Rhode Island say that they need to send someone to Washington to work with their choice for president, President Obama. Ok, I get that logic. But if the goal is to send someone to Washington who can work with the President, did you watch the debate? The President showed his support for the Simpson-Bowles tax simplification plan. That's the same plan that Brendan Doherty has been touting that he's a believer in. Additionally, a few days ago Doherty expressed support for an executive order issued by President Obama.

So I guess my question here is, where are the claims from the Cicilline campaign about how Brendan Doherty supports President Obama? Where's the talk about how Doherty would be "in lockstep" with Obama? Where's all that "support" talk when we see actual examples of where Doherty backs up his claims with real action? It's non-existent from them. There's zero consistency and when there's no consistency, there's no credibility. You can see that everything that comes out of that side is at best heavily slanted and spun and at worst, completely false.

I'll keep asking the same question, why is it worse to be a Republican (and likely a member of the House majority party) than to be someone who struggles with telling us the truth? Please, someone explain that to me.

First Presidential Debate Liveblog/Livetweet

Carroll Andrew Morse

WPRI Poll Confirms RI Blueness

Marc Comtois

I know, dog bites man. The WPRI Poll--particularly with regards to the Presidential race and the approval ratings for President Obama--simply confirm what we know to be true. Democrats are the majority party in the state and they march in lockstep more than either Republicans or (by definition, I suppose) Independents.

WPRI sampled 501 voters statewide, with a party breakdown of 41/40/17 Democrat/Independent/Republican. In raw numbers, that translated to about 206/200/85, respectively. Breaking the poll down by party ID, we see that 93.1% of Democrats (192 voters) will select President Obama as will 11.6% of Republicans (10 voters) and 41.7% of Independents (83 voters). Governor Romney will receive 84.9% of the Republican vote (72 voters), 3.9% of the Democrats (8 voters) and 41.7% of the Independent vote (83 voters). The undecided breakdown is 2%/2.3%/13.6% (D/R/I). Clearly, the party advantage held by the Democrats is the difference. Duh.

The same is seen in the Presidential approval ratings. Overall, President Obama receives a 55.2% Excellent/Good rating and the party breakdown shows 77.3% of Democrats give him a Good/Excellent rating (159 of 206 Democrat voters) while 12.8% of Republicans (11 of 85 GOP voters) and 36.2% of Independents (72 of 200 Indy voters) do likewise.

Again, it's all about party advantage in the raw numbers because when we look at Republicans and Independents combined we see that about 71% of them (202 of the 285 GOP/Indy vote) gave the President Poor/Fair ratings. Of that, 43.5% gave him a "poor" rating (124 of the 285).

What to make of it? It's pretty clear that the 3 primary self-identified groups (Dem/GOP/Indy) are really no different in Rhode Island than they are nationally in how rate the President and plan to vote. It's just that there are so many more Democrats in Rhode Island--the blue social/political model, indeed--that it's an uphill climb for non-Democrats to succeed politically.

In Rhode Island, demography is pretty much destiny because "Democrat" is the default position. It's important to keep that in mind when looking at local and Congressional/Senate races. The only strategy is to lock in the "3rd party" GOP vote and really work to appeal to the self-described Independents. That's what Brendan Doherty is trying to do in CD-1, and while he has a lead among independents, CD-1 is much more heavily Democratic than the state as a whole. Michael Riley has a different challenge with Jim Langevin because, well, Jim Langevin is certainly no David Cicilline. Right now Riley is losing 25% of the Republican vote to his Democratic opponent, never mind trying to get the Independent vote (amongst whom Independent Abel Collins is running at 13%, incidentally).

Will Rhode Island ever turn at least Purple? Well, it is interesting that among the age co-horts (18-39; 40-59; 60+), President Obama received the fewest amount of "votes" (54.8%) and has the lowest approval (50% good/excellent) amongst those 18-39. (Update: as Ted Nesi tweeted, Riley is also winning amongst 18-39 year olds in CD-2). So maybe this shows that the demography is changing in the state as the younger cohort may be a little less Democrat-by-default. Well, at least until they get fed up and move away.

October 2, 2012

"Burying" the Middle Class With Tax Cuts Hikes??? A Joe Biden Two-Fer

Monique Chartier

Even if six things are going on at work, as they were today, I can usually grab what is being said on the radio, even if only on a tertiary level of attention. But this shorted my brain out with an audible sizzle when I heard it during a news break of the John Gibson Show.

How in the Lord's name can they justify raising their taxes with these tax cuts?

As Twitchy points out, that one was almost lost in the backwash of this other Joe Biden gem, uttered during the same speech.

middle class has been buried for four years

Gosh, we couldn't agree more, Mr. Vice President! Let's see, who's been in the White House for the last four years? By the way, the Romney camp wants to know if you're available to do a little campaign moon-lighting for them ...

Iowahawk tweets an excellent question.

How in God's name will Biden's staff lower his debate expectations?

GarbagemanGate Prematurely Terminated By Pesky Facts

Monique Chartier

"Pathetic" and "weak" would be good adjectives for this anti-Romney ad put out by AFSME.

The ad opens this way: “My name is Richard Hayes, and I pick up Mitt Romney’s trash. We’re kind of like the invisible people. He doesn’t realize that the service we provide – if it wasn’t for us, it would be a big health issue, us not picking up trash.”

Now, thanks to The Corner's Charles C. W. Cooke, we can add "inaccurate".

There’s just one problem with this, and it lies on page 251 of Mitt Romney’s book, No Apology:
During my campaign for governor, I decided to spend a day every few weeks doing the jobs of other people in Massachusetts. Among other jobs, I cooked sausages at Fenway Park, worked on asphalt paving crew, stacked bales of hay on a farm, volunteered in an emergency room, served food at a nursing home, and worked as a child-care assistant. I’m often asked which was the hardest job – it’s child care, by a mile.

One day I gathered trash as a garbage collector. I stood on that little platform at the back of the truck, holding on as the driver navigated his way through the narrow streets of Boston. As we pulled up to traffic lights, I noticed that the shoppers and businesspeople who were standing only a few feet from me didn’t even see me. It was as if I was invisible. Perhaps it was because a lot of us don’t think garbage men are worthy of notice; I disagree – anyone who works that hard deserves our respect. – I wasn’t a particularly good garbage collector: at one point, after filling the trough at the back of the truck, I pulled the wrong hydraulic lever. Instead of pushing the load into the truck, I dumped it onto the street. Maybe the suits didn’t notice me, but the guys at the construction site sure did: “Nice job, Mitt,” they called. “Why don’t you find an easier job?” And then they good-naturedly came down and helped me pick up my mess.

Oops. "Invisible". Wasn't that the same word used by the gentleman in the AFSME ad?

The Corner's Eliana Johnson points out that the garbageman ad is just the first in a series. Not sure if she means, a series of ads starring garbagemen or if AFSME will branch out to include Mitt's handyman, his car mechanic, the person who comes to tend his septic system (if he has one), etc. In any case, hopefully, the balance in the series won't be so badly researched or, more importantly, quite so WHINY.

Playing with the WPRI Poll: Doherty/Cicilline Raw Numbers

Marc Comtois

Danger, math ahead. I confirmed with Ted Nesi that the WPRI poll breakdown for the 1st Congressional district was 45% Democrat, 40% Independent and 12% Republican. So, I thought I'd delve deeper into the Doherty/Cicilline poll numbers because I thought it could tell me something interesting about District 1 independent voters. It also gave me some perspective by looking at the raw polling numbers.

Basically, according to the poll, 250 voters were sampled in District 1. That left a margin of error of 6.2%, which also is roughly the margin of Cicilline's lead over Doherty. Keep that in mind. If we are to apply the poll breakdown offered by Nesi, above, and apply that to the raw voter numbers, we come up with, roughly, 112 Democrats, 100 Independents, 30 Republicans and 8 "other".

Taking the percentages from the poll for the Doherty/Cicilline race and breaking them down by party ID (including "Independent" but excluding "other"), we find the following:

73 votes for Cicilline
20 votes for Doherty
5 votes for Vogel
12 undecided

47 votes for Doherty
34 votes for Cicilline
7 votes for Vogel
11 undecided

25 votes for Doherty
2 votes for Cicilline (who they hell are they? - ed.)
3 votes for Vogel
0 undecided

Tally it up and you get:

109 votes for Cicilline
89 votes for Doherty
15 votes for Vogel
23 undecided

So by the raw vote, Doherty trails Cicilline by 20 votes in this poll. There are still 23 undecided. That's within the margin of error.

As for my original question? Well, it looks like independent voters favor Doherty, although, by using the voting for/against questions, it is interesting to see that actual Independent "support" for each candidate is tied and the Doherty advantage is provided by those voting AGAINST Cicilline. (30 Independent voters are voting FOR Cicilline and 29 FOR Doherty while the breakdown for AGAINST is 5 against Doherty & 17 against Cicilline).

Things We Read Today (22), Tuesday

Justin Katz

Economic development options, from all-government to government-dominated; the heartless-to-caring axis in politics; Southern New Englanders' "independence"; solidarity between Romney and his garbage man; the media coup d'etat.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Playing with the WPRI Poll: Doherty/Cicilline

Marc Comtois

The latest WPRI poll (story here) offers some interesting and somewhat confusing numbers regarding the Cicilline/Doherty race. First, we know that the majority of RI voters are either Democrats or Democrat-leaning unaffiliated (ie; independent) voters. Hence, we shouldn't be surprised that David Cicilline leads Brendan Doherty 44% to 37.6% with 10% undecided and 6.4% for independent David Vogel. (Incidentally, Cicilline's lead is just outside the polls margin of error of 6.2%).

But then there's apparently some sort of cognitive dissonance going on when we look at the approval ratings for each. It's reported that Cicilline's job approval is "rated excellent or good by 38% of 1st District voters...while 55% rate his performance fair or poor." So we're to believe that there is a 6 point (negative) difference between Cicilline's approval rating and those who say they intend to vote for him?

Well, I believe it.

Essentially, Cicilline's 6 point lead over Doherty is attributable to voters who rate his job approval "fair or poor", but in actuality, 21.2% of those surveyed gave Cicilline a "only fair" rating. And in this blue-blue state, "only fair" isn't enough of a disincentive for many Democrats ( or those "independent" unaffiliated's) to divorce themselves from the Donkey. So, if I were framing these poll results, I'd say at least half of those rating Cicilline fair will still vote for him. That puts him around 48% (heck, it could even really be 58%).

Comparing Cicilline's "job approval" to Doherty's "favorability" and trying to compare to the poll results for the actual horse race is difficult because the poll choices for them are different. For Doherty, 23% view him very positively, 25.7% somewhat positively, 12.2% somewhat negative, 8% very negative and 31% don't know. These questions create clearer lines of demarcation to my mind. Basically, 48.7% view Doherty positively, 20.2% negatively and 31.1% don't know. I wonder why voters aren't aren't asked "favorability" questions about incumbents, as well as challengers, in this manner? Regardless, one could argue based on the above twisting of the numbers that the race is still neck and neck with each candidate getting about a 48% favorability rating! How's that for spin?

In actuality, the race is probably about where the poll says it is. Doherty has a 10 point deficit with those 60 years old and up and around 13 points among women. But he still has a shot with 10% undecided. 1 month to go.

October 1, 2012

Study Provides Positive PR Opportunity for Providence

Marc Comtois

There's always bad news to talk about around here--fish in a barrel. So when good stuff comes down the pike, we've got to be able to take advantage of it. KPMG recently did an international survey and analysis (PDF) of business tax costs around the world. Part of the survey included a ranking of U.S. cities, and the good news is that Providence landed at 15th out of 73 surveyed cities (the top three were all in Louisiana, interestingly enough). According to the Providence Business News:

KPMG compiled the ranking using total tax index, a measure used to compare tax burden by comparing the total actual tax cost in U.S. dollars for each jurisdiction.

Providence had an overall total tax index of 85.8, with 100 being the baseline. Cities with lower scores had more favorable tax structures for businesses than cities with higher scores.

Boston ranked No. 35 on the comprehensive list of U.S. cities with a TTI score of 91.9.

Comparatively, Baton Rouge, La., which ranked first on the U.S. cities list, had a TTI of 66.5 and San Francisco, which ranked last, had a TTI of 106.6.

Overall, Providence posted a 25.1 percent corporate income tax rate, a 6.6 percent rate for “other corporate taxes,” a 20.8 percent rate for statutory labor costs and a 52.5 percent total effective tax rate.

Among the U.S. cities, Providence ranked ninth for corporate income tax rate, 13th for its other corporate taxes rate, 59th for its statutory labor costs and 15th for its total effective tax rate.

While it's not surprising that Providence's labor costs are higher, it is certainly a positive that KPMG found that the city's comparative tax rates are lower than several other U.S. cities. KPMG also looked at specific business sectors and found Providence ranked 9th in the "digital sector" (though that may be questionable given that the grade was based on an analysis of two types of businesses, one of which was a video game production studio!). That ranking feeds into an already established campaign to tout Providence as a technology center.

The only caveat is it is unclear to me (but I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn last night) if the study adequately accounted for state level business costs. Regardless, this is a "usable study" for Providence. Yet, the methodology and caveats are less important than the bottom-line findings. The point to be made is that the city (and state) should take advantage of this report and promote Providence as a "TOP 15 Business Friendly City" and a "Top 10 Digital Innovation City" or something like that. Finally, we have a study that can be used for positive public relations. We need it and hopefully, someone will take advantage of it.

Why Government as Business Doesn't Work, at Least in Rhode Island

Justin Katz

For comment on the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council (RIPEC) report on the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) in his Sunday Providence Journal article, Paul Grimaldi turned to the Massachusetts affiliate of the free-market RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, the Pioneer Institute. While the general sentiment that CEO Jim Stergios expressed is apropos, it is unfortunately not correct:

“While Rhode Island may consider Massachusetts is doing better,” Stergios said, “the fact of the matter is Massachusetts is Greater Boston and three Rhode Islands grafted onto it.

“The high unemployment rates you see in those areas are similar to those in Rhode Island.”

New England is the only region of the nation for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks unemployment down to the city/town level, allowing readers to see, by the following map, that Massachusetts is clearly not a bright spot surrounded by Rhode Islandish darkness:

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Feeling Good On Monday Morning

Patrick Laverty

I think back to the old Southwest Airlines commercial (see it) advertising the all the great things about Philadelphia, including the cabbie proclaiming "Well there's a lot, a lot of culture here" and then all the other people in the commercial just proclaiming the greatness of the cheesesteak. Sometimes, I feel like people here in RI do the same when talking about why Rhode Island is a great state. We have the beaches, we have umm, Boston and New York are nearby. Oh, there's the restaurants, and of course we have Del's slushy lemonade. There you go, case closed, I've made my case for why Rhode Island is such a great place, why we're all here and why everyone else should consider coming here.

Just in case we needed the other view point in one concise web site, we now have that. The state's Republican Party launched RIRankedLast.com. Some of the things to enjoy with your morning Cheerios can include the state's rankings in various surveys like our dismal unemployment statistics, cost for education and a comparison to its effectiveness, our infamous business climate, and one for all the people who have sought fit to keep the Democrats in one-party rule for pretty much their whole lifetime: RI is the 7th worst state to retire in. How's that one grab you? You've been voting Democrat for the last 40-45 years or so, you're finally getting ready to retire and the fruit of your labor is non-existent. Abysmal. About the only thing you can do is start scouring the internet for your new home in the Carolinas or Florida, like everyone else. You helped create this environment and when it isn't working out for you, you flee, leaving it for the rest of us to try to clean up. It's like using the toilet and neglecting to flush.

Anyway, crude allusion aside, the web site has other information like links to all the recently convicted politicians we've been able to enjoy as well as lists of alternatives to consider next month.

It's sad that such a site is necessary and maybe even this isn't enough to get the message across to people but hopefully it'll at least get some people thinking about whether it really is true that "Yeah, the Assembly is a bunch of scumbags, but I like my guy. My guy is good!" We'll see in about another 37 days.