January 31, 2013
Walter Russell Mead: "Two hundred years ago people thought that the only real jobs involved growing food"
Walter Russell Mead, on the relationship between American politics and American society...
Does the American middle class (and by extension, the middle class in other advanced democracies) have a future in a post-blue world? That is the basic question at the heart of American politics;. As I’ve noted, 4.0 liberals think that it doesn’t, and think that the defense of the blue social model is the only way to protect the social achievements of the twentieth century....and on how a future that is different from the present is a source of both hope and fear...
They’re wrong. The post-blue future for the middle class is bright, and instead of using the weight of the state to shore up a declining blue system to defend an embattled middle class we need to use that power to promote the transition to a 21st-century political economy and a reinvigorated middle class—larger, richer and more in charge than ever before. This is not a call to dismantle the state; there really are important things that government has to do in a complicated and interconnected society. It’s a call to transform, retool and repurpose the state so that it becomes an engine for progress rather than an anchor trying to hold us in place.
The information revolution destroys jobs, but it also creates them, and we are already in the early stages of a jobs explosion. And as it proceeds, the information revolution is likely to propel the rise of a middle class that is more productive, better educated, more autonomous and more interested in and capable of civic leadership than the Fordist middle class of the late industrial age.
The new jobs will be different from the old jobs, and this is one of the reasons many fear the economic transition we’re in. There are a lot of people on both the right and the left who think that in a country that doesn’t “make stuff” there won’t be any jobs. If it isn’t a widget that you can grab in your hand and do something with, it isn’t real. This is nonsense. Two hundred years ago people thought that the only real jobs involved growing food, and that people who made non-necessary consumer goods were engaged in a socially parasitic activity....
The industrial revolution transformed agriculture from the core business of the human race into just one of many things that we do. The information revolution is doing the same to manufacturing....Design, software and engineering become more important as manufacture slips into a secondary status. (We still need factories, just as we still need farms—but fewer and fewer people will be working in them and less and less of our GDP will be bound up in their products.)
January 30, 2013
When the Insiders' Cut Comes First
Even if you've disagreed with everything I've ever written, take a moment to ponder the thinking on display in this Kathy Gregg article. It's about a study from the left-wing Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy finding that Rhode Island places a high tax burden on lower-income families.
January 29, 2013
Deepwater Wind: No Need for Fee Waiver - Or For Its Boutique Electricity
Deepwater Wind is seeking waiver of a $700,000 fee payable to CRMC. So, in addition to charging two and a half to three times the current market rate for the electricity to be generated, they don't want to pay a fee that they are legally liable for.
Here's an idea. Don't build the project. You won't have to pay the fee. We won't have to pointlessly pay a hefty rate premium for the electricity generated by a boutique, feel-good project. Sounds like a win-win. (Have your people call my people ...)
[Monique is Deputy Editor of the RISC-Y Business Newsletter.]
January 28, 2013
Selective Standards in Legislation (Uneducated and Unemployed)
Senate bill S0117 is one of those pieces of legislation that disguises its major effect in the description that most people will see (even among the minority of people who actually dig that deeply). The five initial sponsors of the bill are Senators Harold Metts (D, Providence), Elizabeth Crowley (D, Central Falls, Pawtucket), Paul Jabour (D, Providence), Roger Picard (D, Woonsocket, Cumberland), and Juan Pichardo (D, Providence), and it promises that it:
would provide for certain notifications that would need to be provided to parents or guardians of students identified as performing significantly below proficient on any state assessment
That sounds like such a reasonable "well, duh" requirement that one wonders whether it's actually necessary. Not surprisingly, it also isn't the first objective of the bill.
Coming up in Committee: Six Bills Scheduled to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, January 29 - January 31
6. H5114: A preliminary sign that the Rhode Island General Assembly may once again be taking a keen and perhaps unusual amount of interest in the rental of motor vehicles; this bill would require anyone "who rents or leases more than five motor vehicles in any one year" in the state of Rhode Island to have those vehicles "registered, insured and inspected in the state of Rhode Island" (H Corporations; Tue, Jan 29).
5. S0021: Authorizes the state Auditor General and the Division of Municipal Finance to create a "uniform system of accounting" for Rhode Island municipalities, and allows to state to withhold state aid payments from any municipality which refuses to install and maintain said system (S Finance; Tue, Jan 29).
4. H5129: Limits damages in lawsuits involving the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to a maximum of $100,000 unless the General Assembly authorizes a higher limit "in particular cases" (H Corporations; Tue, Jan 29).
3. S0023: Exempts capital gains resulting from the sales of an "ownership interest in an entity incorporated and having its headquarters located in the state of Rhode Island" that has been held for 3 years (and that meets a few other conditions) from RI income taxes (S Finance; Tue, Jan 29).
2. S0022: Changes the estate tax floor in Rhode Island from $675,000, at which point the entire amount of the estate is currently taxed, to $2,000,000, at which point only the amount in excess of $2,000,000 would be taxed (S Finance; Tue, Jan 29).
1. S0019: Allows the state or any public corporation to "refund" any non-voter approved "bond", "financing lease", "guarantee agreement", or "other obligation", provided that "the governor certifies...that the refunding shall provide a net benefit to the issuer" (S Finance; Tue, Jan 29). Could this be a strategy for dealing with the 38 Studios "guarantee agreement"? If so, it kicks the ball back to the Governor, requiring him to provide a certification for a specific situation under a law that applies to any bond that did not go through a voter referendum. Another immediate question raised by this bill is whether a "refund" for a state debt obligation can be provided in piecemeal fashion or whether it would have to be provided all at once. This bill's lead sponsor is Senate Finance Chairman Daniel DaPonte, suggesting that this bill is a priority of Senate leadership.
January 27, 2013
Syria, France and the US: the More Apt Reference, Senator, Is Vietnam
Senator Whitehouse has just returned from a trip to the Middle East with a pronouncement: the United States should help Syrian rebels just as France helped the American Revolutionaries in the 1700's.
Actually, the French reference to the situation in Syria that can far more easily be envisioned is nearly two hundred years later and in another part of the world: the United States entering the war in Vietnam as the French withdrew.
The senator claims that he is not advocating for American boots on the ground in Syria. That's good. Any such calls for ratcheting up of support for the rebels in another - any country - however, should and will be met warily lest they become the prelude to such a completely unacceptable step. No one needs to be reminded that the US did not decide overnight to send American troops to Vietnam. They were preceded, over the course of years, by the dispatch of US "military aid" and then US "advisers".
Overly romantic and inaccurate historic comparisons carried back to the United States by presumably well-meaning but misguided elected officials should not be permitted to gauze over the reality that a Syrian (or other) quagmire would not go any better than the Vietnamese one did.
[Monique is Deputy Editor of the RISC-Y Business Newsletter.]
January 25, 2013
Marriage's Decline, and Society's
For two years in a row now, The Journal’s article about the first baby born in the new year has contained no mention whatsoever of a father. Studies on the subject are clear that fatherlessness will be a disadvantage to these children, even if they weren’t already being born into disadvantaged communities.
We don’t hear much about it, locally, but we’re looking at a dangerous trend, and we’re ignoring the real harm to the children who will grow up to be our neighbors. In some neighborhoods of Providence and Newport, fewer than one in four black or Hispanic children live in homes with both of their parents.
It has seemed as if every article about education in Providence lately has included a teacher or student making reference to suburban Barrington as the distant, unreachable example with which city kids must strive to compete. Well, much of Barrington, East Greenwich, Exeter, and North Kingstown is notable for being on the opposite side of the spectrum in family life. Most children of every race there live with two parents.
Typically, to the extent that our society tries to address this problem, it focuses on symptoms, not causes, so we end up with a strategy of negation and perverse incentives. We try to prevent the children from ever being born by sterilizing the population through expanded access to contraception and stopping those who are conceived from ever taking their first breaths by aborting them. Then we use government programs and handouts to try to soften the hardship that the breakdown of the family causes.
One needn’t oppose such strategies, though, to admit the plain fact that, at the very least, they aren’t enough. The missing piece I would say the necessary centerpiece is the family structure that our society has been abandoning unwisely for a half a century.
Basically, as our culture advanced, it developed a way to control behavior with minimal coercion and with maximum freedom. It was to link men and women to each other and to the children whom they create through the institution of marriage. Marriage gives people a framework within which to behave responsibly.
It will never have perfect success, of course, because people aren’t perfect, but it is straightforward to understand that there is something inherently risky about sex outside of marriage and that the children whom men and women create together are living manifestations of the marriage that their parents should have.
Because it’s a way of conveying expectations, it doesn’t matter that some couples prove not to be fertile or choose not to have children. Their relationship involves an act that for almost all couples can bring new human life into the world, and so we have one institution for all. There’s no need for statements of intent or proof of fertility.
Such a message may sound simplistic, but that’s the point. It’s an institution meant to impart profound guidelines in a way that everybody can comprehend. Marriage, ultimately, is about the behavior and responsibilities of people who have the power to create children almost accidentally. It doesn’t take a sociology degree to use that power, and so the deep philosophies one hears in public debate about marriage are inadequate to define the culture.
We’ve drifted a long way from this understanding, to be sure, and many people have thrived outside of the marital model. But I’d point to the contrast of Providence and Barrington as a consequence. Who has been hurt by a sex-obsessed culture and no-fault divorce? Who is being harmed as state after state declares that gender doesn’t matter for marriage? Who is most affected by the idea that there’s nothing so different about the relationship between men and women that the law and compassionate people can treat it as unique?
Tragically, it’s those who have the least ability to take on any more obstacles: children who already face an uphill battle pursuing the American Dream. Children like Rhode Island’s first babies. Children whom Rhode Island should actually put first.
None of them will be testifying at the State House about the difference that it would have made to their lives if their mothers and fathers had understood the connection between them and their own adult relationships. And it definitely isn’t easy or comfortable to speak up in their place, but politeness and compassion count for little if we won’t even acknowledge such a central source of disadvantage in our community.
January 24, 2013
01/24/13 - Senate Improving Rhode Island's Business Climate Summit
Justin liveblogs from the Senate's "Moving the Needle" Summit.
Woonsocket Matters to Rhode Island and the Nation
John Hill's Providence Journal article about Woonsocket's deficit problem contains two important lessons ...
The first lesson is that everybody who's interested in these topics should read the Ocean State Current. An article here from last May explains the problem ...
... the second lesson of the article: The public is being poorly served by the way the pension issue is being framed.
January 23, 2013
Government as Reporters' Parachute
During the handful of interactions I had with Connie Grosch at the State House, last session, she was friendly and very helpful. Moreover, she did her job taking photographs for the Providence Journal well.
So, I was sorry to see her name added to the list of personnel cuts that the paper has made in recent years, and I'm glad that she's landed on her feet. But the way she's done so worries me.
Grosch has taken a job (perhaps "has been offered and accepted a job" would be better put) as Congressman David Cicilline's press secretary. At Governor Lincoln Chafee's State of the State address, her former media colleagues highlighted her attendance in that capacity.
In the past year, I've also had a few introductory lunches with folks in the Rhode Island media, and a number of them have declined my offer to pick up the bill for their sandwiches. For some, it's apparently company policy. As a matter of risking the credibility of reportage, how a couple of slices of bread with meat between them compares with, say, Providence Journal reporters' largely undisclosed membership in the RI AFL-CIO, I'm not sure.
How it compares with a politician's saving a late-career journalist from unemployment, I'm a little more confident. ...
January 22, 2013
Coming up in Committee: Three Sets of Bills Scheduled to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, January 22 - January 24
Let's really make the new Rhode Island General Assembly session official; the list below is based on the Rhode Island General Assembly website as of 11:00 am today...
3. On Tue, Jan 22, the Senate Rules Committee will discuss the Senate rules for 2013-2014.
2. H5086: Allows "developmental disability agencies" to operate their own "self-insurance" plans for "employees, retirees and other beneficiaries" (H Corporations; Tue, Jan 22). From the text, it's not immediately clear whether this bill is closing a loophole or defining an exception, but it does raise an interesting question of why a specific type of employer needs its own health insurance section of the law.
January 21, 2013
The Political Spectrum Goes 'Round and 'Round
It started with an email exchange among the contributors to Anchor Rising. Somebody suggested that moderates are essentially liberals who "believe in economics." That got my mind (when hungering for procrastination) to filling out the rest of a political spectrum, and it turned into the circle illustrated below.
As you can see, there are eight categories, six of them along the spectrum and two cutting across it. The spectrum circle is divide into Left and Right hemispheres, and the categories are divided into thirds by two vertical axes.
The basic determinant of Left or Right is whether one tends toward equivalence of morality with government or with culture. The important thing isn't whether one believes that, for example, whatever the government dictates should be considered moral. Left libertarians would rail against such a conclusion. Rather, it's about the way in which people in different groups think about these things.
A left libertarian thinks government ought to stay out of his life, but he thinks everybody ought to stay out of his life. Generally speaking, he would prefer that whatever impositions do exist should be written into the law, where there are codified rules for fighting it. Or perhaps he just thinks that government mandates are inherently moral impositions and, therefore, should be avoided. Not long ago, I heard a libertarian speak as if the Golden Rule is the source of all evil in our society, but the rules that he favored (property rights, notably), he thought to be justification for the government's use of power to enforce.
The Left-Right question, in essence, is: To whatever degree authority of people over each other is legitimate, should the guidelines be written into the law, or should they be expressed through the interpersonal forces of voluntary social interactions? Very few people will have pure answers to that question, but one or the other option will ultimately prove to dominate; the culture may apply some pressure through the law, but it ultimately understands the authority to derive from the beliefs of the people who make up the society, not the conclusions of the people who control the government.
One of the two axes that define vertical placement is essentially a belief about human nature. Progressives and those on the far right tend to see humankind as able to be made perfect, whether that's through social engineering (on the Left) or purging and racial purity (on the Right). The apotheosis of this belief is the totalitarian, wherein the dictators or ruling classes find themselves to be so infallible that they ought to be permitted to control every aspect of everybody's lives. As the spectrum approaches this point, the distinction between government and culture breaks down, because the government is all.
The X marks on the vertical axes are meant to indicate that the spectrum continues on, but that there is some line that can be crossed after which the person will pick one side over the other. In the case of the left-hand line, the upper segment is a belief in the constancy of human nature and fallibility.
This doesn't mean humanity cannot be improved or changed, but that it's not possible to perfect it, and that any social system must take that reality into account. Ultimately, this is an underlying assumption of economics, which premises its studies of the causes and effects of human behavior on the principle that the results will be relatively consistent.
The other vertical axis concerns one's emphasizing the individual over the community, or vice versa. Again, the spectrum is ultimately unbroken, but there is a line that can be crossed from libertarian to moderate, on the left, and to conservative, on the right. For instance, I would consider myself to be pretty much on the line that separates right libertarian from conservative, and it would be a matter of some difficulty for me to choose between the individual and the community in a final analysis. (I strike that balance through theology, more on which in a moment.) But I absolutely don't think communal goods should be wrested from the individual without consent, nor that individualism oughtn't be argued against when it threatens the society.
I've already heard the complicating consideration that some extreme libertarians and anarchists believe that here is a rational order to the society that they would prescribe, but it isn't pushed through either government or culture. Some in this range (I'll confess) seem mainly to take for granted the structures that have brought themselves advantage, but more intriguing in my context here is that moving away from the most complete joining of the notion of human fallibility with the notion of the primacy of the individual creates a straight, back-door line to totalitarianism in one of two ways: either the strongest person or group dominates the lawless field and controls by physical, political, or economic power, or the faith in the need to impose order on anarchic principles begets a rigid collection of rules for organized action.
Either way represents a deterioration and reversal of beliefs across the circle: The emphasis on the individual becomes belief in the individual's perfectibility; the belief in human fallibility becomes a belief in the need for the community to set set the guidelines through culture or through law. That is to say that the Anarchist-Totalitarian axis is not at all stable as a matter of political theory or of personality.
My final word is on religion. I'd initially planned to superimpose a shape labeled "belief in God," or something like that, but decided that it would necessarily be too complicated. What one believes about God makes all the difference. A progressive may take the existence of God as evidence that human beings were made to be perfected, and that their moral laws should be written into the civic law. A right libertarian might believe that God's interaction with the individual is so personal and specific that any coercion risks interfering with that divine relationship.
In other words, a series of axes describing religious beliefs could probably be made to fit as another layer on this chart, but the principles behind it would be wholly distinct from questions of politics. Perhaps I'll take that up next time I'm procrastinating on a three-day weekend.
Walter Russell Mead on the Future of the New England Tradition Everywhere
The New England tradition, rooted in Puritan experience and theology, wants a strong state run by the great and the good to serve as the moral agent of the conscience of the community. It is the duty of the state to make the people better, and without a strong and moral state to guide development and regulate behavior, the rich will become greedy and the poor will get lazy and fat....Professor Mead also mentions some other American regional traditions in his essay, but hints that the future of America will pivot on the New England one...
Ultimately even the doughtiest New Englanders are going to accept the need for deep governmental reform. The American public is much better educated than it used to be and knowledge is much more widely available. It is simply no longer possible for an elite of technocrats in appointive offices and regulatory bureaus to issue decrees and have them obeyed. Prussian bureaucratic civil service models from the 19th century are too cumbersome, too slow and too expensive to handle much of the business of a 21st century information society. It is not possible to reconcile the desire of individuals to control their own fate if authority is centralized at the federal level; we will have to find ways to decentralize authority so that states and local jurisdictions can make more of the decisions that directly affect peoples’ lives.
At the moment, the deep emotional commitment of the New England school to blue model governance and social ideas — and the visceral hopes among some anti-New England types that the death of blue is the death of New England — gives a strange and ultimately not very useful cast to many of our national debates. We are trapped into debates between the advocates of spendthrift compassion (maintain Medicare and add new entitlements whether or not we can pay for them because they are needed) or cut budgets even though some of the services lost are, in fact, necessary for millions of people.
General Treasurer's Letter About Gay Marriage: Was State Letterhead Appropriate?
As of late last week, the House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on a gay marriage bill tomorrow.
Around ten days ago, General Treasurer Raimondo sent a letter to Speaker Fox and Senate President Paiva-Weed expressing strong support for the passage of gay marriage in Rhode Island. Anchor Rising obtained a copy of the letter, available here as a PDF. She sent it on the letterhead of the "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations | General Treasurer" and signed it as the General Treasurer.
Full disclosure: my personal views on the matter can probably best be described as lame. I neither strongly oppose nor strongly support it. If it goes to referendum, I would most likely vote against the measure, though I don't feel strongly enough about it to write something on the issue itself, rally at the State House or lobby my elected officials on the matter.
Of COURSE, the General Treasurer - and all elected officials - have the absolute right to do what I don't feel compelled in this case to do: to contact Rhode Island's elected officials and express their views about any pending legislation. The issue here is the action of a General Officer of the state expressing his or her view on a matter that does not pertain to his or her office but giving those personal views the weight and amplification of the office by transmitting them on General Office letterhead as a General Officer.
Am I out of line in viewing this as an inappropriate use, possibly abuse, of the power and prestige of an elected office?
[Monique is Deputy Editor of the RISC-Y Business Newsletter.]
A Future Nobel Peace Prize Winner Looks to a Theologian to Make Sense of History
The modern philosophic since the revival of classicism in the Renaissance fall into the same ancient errors. They are either idealistic or naturalistic. If the former, they tend to lose a sense of the finiteness of human nature, conceiving the self as identical with reason. If the latter, modern man seeks to interpret himself wholly with reference to nature. This naturalism has in our times taken concrete expression in Marxism and Fascism.
Over against these anthropologies which fail to do justice to the dimension of human nature, and which, in spite of the inner logic of their assumptions and of the refutations of history, persist in falsifying the human situation by false notions of progress and by false dogmas of human perfectibility, [Reinhold Niebuhr] sets forth the biblical and Christian Anthropology. It takes issue with the utopian optimism of Modernism, but with equal emphasis it repudiates the cynical pessimism that lies at the heart of the age. It views man in terms of both nature and of spirit. He is both in the realm of necessity and in the realm of freedom. At one and the same time man is under the dominion of nature and also transcends nature....
The merit of Niebuhr is that...he sets forth with rigour and consistency in analysis and criticism the fundamental weaknesses and contradictions and the inevitable sterility of the humanistic emphasis. Moreover, I think that Niebuhr’s anthropology is the necessary corrective of a kind of liberalism that too easily capitulated to modern culture. Man who has come so far in wisdom and decency may be expected to go much further as his methods of attaining and applying knowledge are improved. Although such ethical religion is humane and its vision a lofty one, it has obvious shortcomings. This particular sort of optimism has been discredited by the brutal logic of events. Instead of assured progress in wisdom and decency, man faces the ever present possibility of swift relapse not merely to animalism but into such calculated cruelty as no other animal can practice.
|--||From "The Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr" by Martin Luther King, Jr., archived at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University.|
January 19, 2013
JEEPers, PolitiFact's Lie of the Year Turns Out to Be True
Thanks to John Loughlin for bringing this to my attention.
The original statement by the Romney campaign that was politifact-"checked":
[Mitt Romney] Says Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs.
And a headline from Reuters on Thursday.
Fiat sees at least 100,000 Jeeps made in China in 2014
To paraphrase commenter Dan on another thread: but, but, but ... they have the Truth-O-Meter!!! How could PolitiFact have gotten it wrong???
So in the end, PolitiFact's beef with the Romney ad was an entirely argumentative disagreement about what course of action Jeep should take, not a factual objection to Romney's true statement that Jeep was going to start building cars in China. However, disagreeing about the implications of manufacturing Jeeps in China doesn't justify calling Romney a liar for accurately stating Jeeps would be manufactured in China. PolitiFact didn't even dispute that, and even conceded the "Lie of the Year" was built on a "grain of truth."
Ah. A "grain" of truth". PolitiFact is acknowledging that which has been pretty plain about many, many of their ratings: too often, the "Truth"-O-Meter starts with a grain of truth which it spins into a rating that doesn't have much at all to do with that quality. (Anchor Rising posts demonstrating this about some PolitiFact ratings can be reviewed here.)
I am a big supporter of news outlets, including specifically traditional newspapers, who employ honest, talented, hard-working reporters and put them on a beat. (That latter is so important - the context that is provided by institutional knowledge is a vital component of good reporting.) PolitiFact might have started out as an admirable concept. Regrettably, however, the way that it has been far too often executed has been a major disappointment and, accordingly, a poor reflection on the hosting newspaper.
[Monique is Deputy Editor of the RISC-Y Business Newsletter.]
January 18, 2013
The Knights of Columbus and Rhode Island's Proposed Same-Sex Marriage Law
Rhode Islanders United For Marriage, a same-sex marriage advocacy coalition, issued a press release yesterday which included a fact-check style response to a paid advertisement run in the Warwick Beacon by the National Organization for Marriage, a same-sex marriage opposition group. The press release claimed that the NOM ad contained "falsehoods and misleading statements". The first "fact check" item read...
Claim: Faith organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, will be forced to host same-sex weddings in their facilities against their will.This analysis by RIers United for Marriage -- especially as it relates to what might happen in Rhode Island -- is incomplete at best, ignoring specific protections for religious organizations that are part of existing Vermont law, but have no analog in the proposed RI law.
Fact: A Vermont inn refused to host a same-sex wedding and was penalized. However, the legal repercussions were not due to Vermont’s marriage equality law, but rather a state anti-discrimination law.
The inn owners cited “personal feelings” to justify their decision not to host the wedding of a lesbian couple. But Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act prohibits public accommodations, such as inns, restaurants and schools that serve the public, “from denying goods and services based on customers’ sexual orientation.” Rhode Island law currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and HB5015 will not change affect that protection.
The claim in the press release begins with a "faith organization", yet the supposed debunking discusses a privately owned inn. Note, for the record, that most privately owned inns are not considered to be "faith organizations". The difference is significant, because Vermont specifically refers to the intersection of marriage and religiously-affiliated organizations in its public accommodations law...
4502(l) - Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage.Presumably, the Knights of Columbus are covered somewhere in the opening legalese.
If this section of Vermont law were not in force, then whatever action was taken against the owners of the inn could also have been initiated against the Knights of Columbus. This is an important fact for the fact-checkers to consider, since protections for religious organizations in Vermont law (and in Connecticut law, and in New York law and in New Hampshire law, for that matter) are much broader than the corresponding provisions in the proposed Rhode Island SSM law. The "protection of freedom of religion in marriage" in the House's SSM bill extends no further than statements that clergypeople are not required to officiate or solemnize any marriage and that religious organizations can control their own doctrine, and would not cover activities like usage of K of C facilities.
(Whether the supposed "protection of freedom of religion in marriage" provisions in the House's same-sex marriage bill mean anything at all is itself an open question, i.e. in their absence, could the state actually begin to order churches to perform marriages in accordance with a new state-mandated marriage doctrine?)
Now, technically speaking, it is accurate for Rhode Islanders United for Marriage to claim that the proposed law doesn't weaken any existing protections for religious organizations with respect to same-sex marriage -- but only because current Rhode Island law does not presume the existence of same-sex marriage, so there is nothing in the law directly related to SSM to weaken. Current Rhode Island law does, however, provide a section on conscience and religious organization protection with respect to civil unions that is similar in spirit to the law in Vermont...
15-3.1-5. Conscience and religious organizations protected (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no religious or denominational organization, no organization operated for charitable or educational purpose which is supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, and no individual employed by any of the foregoing organizations, while acting in the scope of that employment, shall be required:If the words "civil union" in this section of the law were changed to "marriage", then it would be clear that a Knights of Columbus chapter could not be sued for not accommodating a same-sex marriage, but that is not a proposal on the proverbial table at the moment. Whether Rhode Island's same sex marriage advocates are wedded (har har) to the barely-existent to non-existent protections for religious freedom incorporated in the current House bill remains to be seen.
(1) To provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, certification, or celebration of any civil union; or
(2) To solemnize or certify any civil union; or
(3) To treat as valid any civil union; if such providing, solemnizing, certifying, or treating as valid would cause such organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.
(b) No organization or individual as described in subsection (a) above who fails or refuses to provide, solemnize, certify, or treat as valid, as described in subdivision (a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) above, persons in a civil union, shall be subject to a fine, penalty, or other cause of action for such failure or refusal.
Statutes from other New England States and New York concerning same sex marriage and religious organizations and beliefs are available here.
December Employment: How to Feel About It...?
Rhode Island's unemployment rate dropped to 10.2%, after spending a couple of months at 10.4%, but at the same time, the Ocean State remains one of only two states above 10%. Moreover, the other one, Nevada, has made up more than a 1-percentage-point gap to reach a tie for last place.
That said, the following chart shows that employment has certainly been on the upswing. (Although, to be honest, the sudden leap continues to look peculiar, given that it suggests the state's economy is in an historic boom, whatever people's impressions might be.)
January 17, 2013
The Governor's 2014 Budget for Rhode Island in Historical Perspective
Here is the recent history of Rhode Island state government expenditures updated to reflect the Governor's proposed budget for 2014, made possible in part by the fast work done by the State of Rhode Island Budget Office to make the complete budget available on the ri.gov website.
As always, actual dollar amounts spent (or, in the cases of FY2013 and FY2014, to be spent) are presented first.
The next chart takes the spending amounts from all sources and adjusts them for inflation, based on data available from the Department of Labor and Training (and with 2% inflation is assumed for next year). The most distinctive feature of this chart is that FY2014 potentially represents a fourth consecutive year where state expenditures will be relatively stable relative to inflation, following more than a decade of nearly linear, year-by-year spending growth.
The amount of state government funded by general revenues (basically state taxes) does continue to grow in the Governor's proposed budget. If the totals in the Governor's proposed FY2014 budget are ultimately outlaid, Rhode Island general revenue spending will have grown by about 2.5% per year faster than inflation over the first three years of the Chafee administration.
The last chart shows the Rhode Island state budget's Federal funding. The spike in "General Government" that occurred in FY2010 that has been gradually drawn down since then falls largely under the heading of grants and assistance offered by the Department of Labor and Training -- presumably unemployment insurance related. It is interesting to note that increased spending under "human services" makes up much of the difference this fiscal year and next.
01/17/13 - RI House Economic Conference
Justin writes live from a five-hour, four-panel economic conference put on by the RI House of Representatives.
What a Football Hero's Fake Girlfriend Tells Us About the Media
If you haven't heard by now, Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o claims he was scammed into believing he had a girlfriend who then was in a car accident and died of leukemia. The details are too involved to be summarized, so read about it at Deadspin, who broke the story. The larger take-away is how the media (and yes, sports media is still media) completely fell down here. As Michael Calderon wrote:
Te’o's story was the type sportswriters — or really, journalists in general — flock toward. Here was a talented young man, who in the face of deep personal loss, triumphed on the field. The problem was that there’s no such person as Lennay Kekua, the nonexistent girlfriend whose life and death was referenced by several news organizations. …It’s understandable that journalists may not have double-checked Te’o's account of how, say, he supposedly met Kekau after a football game. But it’s amazing that news outlets were so quick to cover a woman’s death without any verification — an obituary, local report from the funeral, or comment from the family. …Herd mentality. The media? Noooooooo.
The Deadspin investigation may be remembered as much as an indictment of the media’s herd mentality than for its revelations about the hoax itself.
To Save Constitutional Liberty, Save Marriage
With advocates' having finally managed to bring the issue of same-sex marriage to the Supreme Court, it is critical that those who believe in limited government understand one thing: If the Constitution does not allow the people of the United States to maintain the traditional definition of marriage, then it does not allow them to govern themselves.
One often hears the classic quotations of the American Founders, such as "our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people," but we can go ol' John Adams one better: Plainly stated, there is no mechanism for limited government — not federalism, not separation of powers, not representative democracy — that can maintain freedom if the government cannot reflect, but can redefine, the culture of the governed.
Put differently, if the people of the United States cannot insert cultural notions into government that would be wholly inappropriate coming from elected officials, then elected officials will use government to change the culture to their advantage or their own liking. That could be same-sex marriage. It could be some vague "holiday tree" during a school celebration of the solstice. It could be the assumption of Big Gulp evil. Or it could be the elevation of "equity” above Truth and Justice.
January 16, 2013
Hm. Maybe the Status Quo Option Will Work for RI
Offered entirely tongue in cheek...I think.......Anyway, it looks like Governor Patrick is going to propose a series of tax hikes that could end up making Rhode Island look good in comparison (shhhhh, don't tell anyone!):
According to Boston.com, Patrick listed possible revenue sources including:Of course, my guess is that our leaders oft-stated goal of trying to be more like Massachusetts will finally take hold once these proposals get through!
Raising the gas tax from 21 cents to 51 cents per gallon
Raising the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 7.75 percent
Raising the state income tax to 5.66 percent from 5.25 percent
Levying a vehicle miles-traveled tax at 2.4 cents per mile
New, emissions-based vehicle title and registration fees could raise $175 million
A payroll tax on workers in regions with transit service could raise $140 million to $207 million
Legislation Under the Radar - Mo' Money for the General Fund
I'm going through all legislation as it's introduced to the Rhode Island General Assembly, and the Center for Freedom & Prosperity will be putting out a real-time Freedom Index — essentially a watch list — in a couple of weeks. That'll have the collection of good and bad within the think tank's scope.
Card check? Check. Master lever? Yup. Mail ballots for lazy voters? Uh-huh. General Assembly term limits? Absolutely.
But in keeping with yesterday's post about overly discreet legislation concerning Bryant's taxes, I'm not able to resist mention of bills that I find intriguing, including those that are of interest because of the way they're presented.
January 15, 2013
Sakonnet Bridge Tolls? Bye Bye $2.6 - $16 million in State Slot Revenue
Several months ago, I contacted Newport Grand to ask what percentage of their visitors came from Massachusetts so that we could project how much tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge would cost them in business - and, by extension, cost the state in lost revenue from the slot parlor. I didn't get very far, leaving messages on two-three occasions but never getting a call back.
Now, the AP and the ProJo report second hand that Newport Grand has provided the answer to the Newport Daily News (behind a pay wall). From the ProJo this afternoon:
CEO Diane Hurley warned of the revenue loss in a letter to the chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, joining a large number of area residents and businesses opposed to the planned tolls.
The Newport Daily News reports Hurley wrote that tolls could deter many southeastern Massachusetts residents from traveling to Newport Grand and cost Rhode Island's government $2.6 million to $16 million in lost revenue annually from the slot parlor.
Setting aside all of the very good reasons that tolls on the Sakonnet bridge are a bad idea and just sticking to the financials: did the General Assembly factor the loss of this revenue into their decision to toll the Sakonnet River Bridge?
[Monique is Deputy Editor of the RISC-Y Business Newsletter.]
Burying the Legislative Lead
Most legislation introduced into the General Assembly comes with a brief summary that appears with references to the bill — most visibly on the various pages of the legislature's Web site. Sometimes the descriptions are misleading; sometimes they're just confusing. (Usually, they're pretty good, assuming one understands the lingo of policy.)
Today, Representatives Thomas Winfield (D, Smithfield, Glocester) and Gregory Costantino (D, Lincoln, Smithfield, Johnston) submitted legislation with a description that puts a superficial effect first and excludes the most significant purpose of the bill from the locations where it would be most easily spotted.
Consequences Schmonsequences, as Long as We Have Control
In one of those old cartoons that — for better or for worse — taught moral lessons to a couple of generations of Americans, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck come across a Middle Eastern cave filled with treasure. Searching every corner to make sure that he hasn't missed a penny, Daffy comes across a magic lamp, and its jinni does what jinnis do and offers him wishes.
But Daffy fears that the jinni is really after his gold, so he stuffs him back into the lamp... temporarily, before the jinni shoots back out and declares that there will be consequences. The duck dismisses the threat, saying, "Consequences, schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich."
The cartoon ends with Bugs' finding a pearl in a seaside oyster and a miniaturized Daffy appearing to claim it. "Mine! Mine! I'm a happy miser."
Two essays on very different topics, both by conservative stalwarts, brought that scene to mind — especially the part about consequences.
January 14, 2013
Things We Read Today (46), Weekend
Perspective from on high; the empathetic view from my soap box; cover-up as economic development; what happens when that which can't go on forever doesn't.
January 13, 2013
Master Lever Master Confusion: What Happens to Votes Cast For An Unaffiliated Candidate?
In a post yesterday describing some of Ken Block's findings about apparent voting problems with the master lever, Patrick wrote
115 times [in Burrillville], the line was connected in favor of the Moderate party, but then all but 18 times, the voters chose someone else for Governor.
The initial temptation is to make a glib comment about the apparent intellectual capacity of these voters. In fact, however, from everything I've heard and read, not just in the last week or so, the master lever throws a serious monkey wrench into a voter's ability to accurately cast his ballot. That, in fact, is much more likely to be the cause of the seeming irreconcilable intent of these voters.
In an important "ferinstance", there is conflicting information as to what happens to the vote cast for an unaffiliated candidate in a multi seat race, like town council, when a master lever is pulled. Councilman Jim O'Neill of South Kingstown (who runs unaffiliated and is a smart guy about this stuff) swears up and down that if someone pulls the Democrat (or Republican) lever but then votes for him, the vote for him is thrown out.
However, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis says that the opposite would happen! Who is right?
[Monique is Deputy Editor of the RISC-Y Business Newsletter.]
January 12, 2013
How Straight Party Voting is Broken
Since the topic of straight-party voting has come up, of course there are those who want the option to stay. They believe that if I don't want to use it, I don't have to, but why take it away from those who do want to use it? Hey, great question. Let's answer that.
Because many use it incorrectly and that skews elections.
First, what's the point behind the straight-party option? The intent is that a voter can enter the voting booth, connect the line for the party and that will tally a vote for every candidate in a partisan race who is a member of that party. If there are non-partisan races or referenda on the ballot, no vote is tallied for those unless one is specifically marked on the ballot. All good so far, right?
Additionally, if there is a partisan race where the voter does not want to tally a vote for the member of the party that they connected the straight-party line for, they can override that vote by marking the ballot in that race. Here's an example. Let's say for example, I want to vote for every Democrat on the ballot. So I connect the line for the Democrat party in the straight-party option. But, I want to vote for the Republican for Lieutenant Governor. I can then connect the line for the Republican in that area and then turn in my ballot. I don't have to connect all the other lines for Democrats. The option is still there, though I'm not entirely certain why it's that hard to draw a one-inch line for each of the other candidates, but that's not the point here.
Now, let's take this one step further, as I'm assuming that the scenarios I've mentioned make sense. You connect the line, your intent is to cast a vote for everyone in that race. However, Ken Block has done a little research of his own. As he mentioned on Newsmakers this week, in just the town of Burrillville, during the 2010 election, 560 ballots were cast with a straight-party vote. He broke that down and just looked at those where there was a straight-party vote for the Moderate party. 115 of the 560 qualified there. Based on that and what we discussed earlier about the intent of straight-party voting, we'd have to assume that each Moderate party candidate would have received some number of votes close to 115. However, the official results showed that the Moderate Party candidate for Governor (Block himself) was credited with 18 votes. Out of those 115 ballots, here is how the votes were actually counted:
No, this is not a mistake by the Burrillville Board of Canvassers. This is how the people actually voted. 115 times, the line was connected in favor of the Moderate party, but then all but 18 times, the voters chose someone else for Governor.
Maybe people liked the Moderate Party but not Ken Block? Well, Moderate Party Attorney General candidate Chris Little received 31 votes. The voters chose someone else in the other race 84 times. Additionally, 60% of those 115 straight-party votes did not go to any Moderate Party candidate on the ballot. Even in the 2012 election, 9,000 straight-party votes were cast for the Moderate party even though they only had candidates on four ballots around the state. If you don't have a Moderate on your ballot, why are you connecting the line for the Moderate Party? (Yes, I know you did it as a form of protest mangeek, but a write-in would serve the same purpose.)
Clearly, this data shows that the voters are not using the straight-party option as it is intended, and quite often, it may not even be as the voter intended.
Here is one example of a ballot where the Moderate Party straight-party option was marked and every single other race also had a specific vote cast, and none for the Moderate candidate. Why? This is what is seen hundreds of times in each town around the state in every election.
This data may be representative of the rest of the state as it was only from one town and one party, so if the problem is seen so easily in this data set, we can clearly see what a problem it is for our elections. People got all up in arms during the last election cycle when there were mere allegations of impropriety with our voting system. Very little credible evidence was given with those allegations yet people wanted change to our election system. Here we have solid, indisputable evidence about a problem with our voting system in Rhode Island. Let's make the change. No one gets hurt, not one gets disenfranchised, and voting is no harder when we simply ask that a person draw a one inch line on their ballot another few times. This one is easy. Make it happen.
January 10, 2013
A Majority of RI Reps Are On-the-Record for Eliminating the Master Lever
Ken Block's Eliminate the Master Lever in Rhode Island! website is now reporting that a majority of the members of the Rhode Island House of Representatives say they support the elimination of the straight party option (a.k.a. the "master lever") from Rhode Island general election ballots.
The RI Senate tally still shows 10 votes in favor on the same question.
January 9, 2013
The Great Thinning?
Anyone want to attempt some big-picture speculation about what the numbers presented by Jeff Wise in Slate Magazine imply for a society that has baked the assumption of a growing population into its institutions and basic perceptions of the future...
Instead of skyrocketing toward uncountable Malthusian multitudes, researchers at Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis foresee the global population maxing out at 9 billion some time around 2070. On the bright side, the long-dreaded resource shortage may turn out not to be a problem at all. On the not-so-bright side, the demographic shift toward more retirees and fewer workers could throw the rest of the world into the kind of interminable economic stagnation that Japan is experiencing right now.
And in the long term—on the order of centuries—we could be looking at the literal extinction of humanity.
That might sound like an outrageous claim, but it comes down to simple math. According to a 2008 IIASA report, if the world stabilizes at a total fertility rate of 1.5—where Europe is today—then by 2200 the global population will fall to half of what it is today. By 2300, it’ll barely scratch 1 billion. (The authors of the report tell me that in the years since the initial publication, some details have changed—Europe’s population is falling faster than was previously anticipated, while Africa’s birthrate is declining more slowly—but the overall outlook is the same.)
Just 5 More RI Reps Needed for an On-the-Record Majority for Eliminating the Master Lever
According to Ken Block, founder of the Rhode Island Moderate Party and creator and sponsor of the Eliminate the Master Lever in Rhode Island! website, just five more State Representatives out of a total 31 undecideds are needed for a majority of Reps to be on record as supporting the elimination of straight-party voting (a.k.a the "master lever") from Rhode Island elections.
In the other chamber, 10 Senators have gone on record as supporting elimination of the master lever, with 10 more needed to get to a majority of 38 (with only one Senator on record as opposing the bill, with 27 undecided).
January 8, 2013
The Hollow Religious Protection in Rhode Island's Proposed Same-Sex Marriage Law
The "protection of freedom of religion" in the same-sex marriage bill introduced into the Rhode Island House by Representative Arthur Handy (D - Cranston) is extremely narrow. As it currently stands, the text reads...
15-3-6.1. Protection of freedom of religion in marriage (a) Consistent with the guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the First Amendment to the United States constitution and article I, section 3 of the Rhode Island constitution, each religious institution has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may marry within their faith, and on what terms, as long as such policies are consistent with sections 15-1-2, 15-1-3 and 15-1-4. No court or other state or local governmental body, entity, agency or commission shall compel, prevent, or interfere in any way with any religious institution’s decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith’s tradition.The meaningfulness of these provisions can be judged by the following test: Suppose 15-3-6.1 (a) and (b) were to be repealed by a future legislature, while everything else in the proposed law remained in place. In the absence of those two sections, would the state then be able to set "doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may marry" for religious institutions (part a), and could churches or religious denominations who refuse to perform same-sex marriages be sued in civil court (part b)? I think there is a pretty broad consensus that this would not be the case (or am I wrong on this?).
(b) Consistent with the guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the first amendment to the United States constitution and article I, section 3 of 1 the Rhode Island constitution, no regularly licensed or ordained clergyperson, minister, elder, priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any church or religious denomination as described and authorized in sections 15-3-5 and 15-3-6 of the general laws to officiate at a civil marriage, is required to solemnize any marriage. A regularly licensed or ordained clergyperson, minister, elder, priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any church or religious denomination shall be immune from any civil claim or cause of action based on a refusal to solemnize any marriage under this chapter. No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, or refuse to contract with any church or religious denomination on the refusal of a person associated with such church or religious denomination to solemnize a marriage under this chapter.
By definition, an "exemption" that changes nothing if absent is not an exemption.
Rhode Island's current civil unions law contains much broader protection for conscience and religious organizations, which Rep. Handy's bill would repeal...
15-3.1-5. Conscience and religious organizations protected (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no religious or denominational organization, no organization operated for charitable or educational purpose which is supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, and no individual employed by any of the foregoing organizations, while acting in the scope of that employment, shall be required:Maintaining a suitable analog to this provision would place a Rhode Island same-sex marriage law very much in line with the laws passed in most of the other New England states (Maine is the exception) and New York. Replacing the existing provision with the proposed one would open the question of whether the new language simply affirms basic constitutional principles without changing their scope, or whether it implies that there are issues of religious doctrine, policy, and teaching outside of marriage that are not off-limits to some form of state control.
(1) To provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, certification, or celebration of any civil union; or
(2) To solemnize or certify any civil union; or
(3) To treat as valid 1 any civil union; if such providing, solemnizing, certifying, or treating as valid would cause such organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. (b) No organization or individual as described in subsection (a) above who fails or refuses to provide, solemnize, certify, or treat as valid, as described in subdivision (a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) above, persons in a civil union, shall be subject to a fine, penalty, or other cause of action for such failure or refusal.
The various religious exemption sections of the same-sex marriage laws from Rhode Island's neighbors can be viewed in the post immediately below.
Religious Protections in New England (and New York) Same-Sex Marriage Laws
Rhode Island citizens, legislators and lobbyists are invited to use this compilation of various laws from neighboring states relating to marriage and freedom of religion protections as a resource for their upcoming deliberations on same-sex marriage.
ConnecticutSection 46b 22b:
Refusal to solemnize or participate in ceremony solemnizing a marriage on religious grounds. (a) No member of the clergy authorized to join persons in marriage pursuant to section 46b-22 shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his or her right to the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the first amendment to the United States Constitution or section 3 of article first of the Constitution of the state.
(b) No church or qualified church-controlled organization, as defined in 26 USC 3121, shall be required to participate in a ceremony solemnizing a marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of that church or qualified church-controlled organization.
Refusal to provide services or accommodations related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage on religious grounds. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if the request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage and such solemnization or celebration is in violation of their religious beliefs and faith. Any refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action, or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society.
Effect of marriage equality law on provision of adoption, foster care or social services by religious organization. Nothing in public act 09-13* shall be deemed or construed to affect the manner in which a religious organization may provide adoption, foster care or social services if such religious organization does not receive state or federal funds for that specific program or purpose.
MaineSomewhere in Title 19-A, when Maine gets around to updating its statutes. Here's the language directly from the bill that became the 2012 referendum:
Religious exemption. This chapter does not require any member of the clergy to perform or any church, religious denomination or other religious institution to host any marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of that member of the clergy, church, religious denomination or other religious institution. The refusal to perform or host a marriage under this subsection cannot be the basis for a lawsuit or liability and does not affect the tax-exempt status of the church, religious denomination or other religious institution.
New HampshireTitle XLIII, Chapter 457, Section 37:
Affirmation of Freedom of Religion in Marriage. – Each religious organization, association, or society has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within their faith.
I. Members of the clergy as described in RSA 457:31 or other persons otherwise authorized under law to solemnize a marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of their right to free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by part I, article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution.
II. No religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall be required to participate in a ceremony solemnizing marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of such organization, association, or society.
III. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association, or society, or any individual who is managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if such request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage, the celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage through religious counseling, programs, courses, retreats, or housing designated for married individuals, and such solemnization, celebration, or promotion of marriage is in violation of his or her religious beliefs and faith. Any refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such religious organization, association, or society, or any individual who is managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society.
IV. The marriage laws of this state shall not be construed to affect the ability of a fraternal benefit society to determine the admission of members pursuant to RSA 418:5, and shall not require a fraternal benefit society that has been established and is operating for charitable or educational purposes and which is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization to provide insurance benefits to any person if to do so would violate the fraternal benefit society's free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and part I, article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution.
V. Nothing in this chapter shall be deemed or construed to limit the protections and exemptions provided to religious organizations under RSA 354-A:18.
New YorkDomestic Relations, Article 3, section 10-B:
§ 10-b. Religious exception. 1. Notwithstanding any state, local or municipal law, rule, regulation, ordinance, or other provision of law to the contrary, a religious entity as defined under the education law or section two of the religious corporations law, or a corporation incorporated under the benevolent orders law or described in the benevolent orders law but formed under any other law of this state, or a not-for-profit corporation operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious corporation, or any employee thereof, being managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious corporation, benevolent order, or a not-for-profit corporation as described in this subdivision, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage. Any such refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state or local government action to penalize, withhold benefits, or discriminate against such religious corporation, benevolent order, a not-for-profit corporation operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious corporation, or any employee thereof being managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious corporation, benevolent order, or a not-for-profit corporation.
2. Notwithstanding any state, local or municipal law or rule, regulation, ordinance, or other provision of law to the contrary, nothing in this article shall limit or diminish the right, pursuant to subdivision eleven of section two hundred ninety-six of the executive law, of any religious or denominational institution or organization, or any organization operated for charitable or educational purposes, which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, to limit employment or sales or rental of housing accommodations or admission to or give preference to persons of the same religion or denomination or from taking such action as is calculated by such organization to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained.
3. Nothing in this section shall be deemed or construed to limit the protections and exemptions otherwise provided to religious organizations under section three of article one of the constitution of the state of New York.
VermontTitle 18, Chapter 105, Section 5144(b):
This section does not require a member of the clergy authorized to solemnize a marriage as set forth in subsection (a) of this section, nor societies of Friends or Quakers, the Christadelphian Ecclesia, or the Baha'i Faith to solemnize any marriage, and any refusal to do so shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage. Any refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with this subsection shall not create any civil claim or cause of action. This subsection shall not be construed to limit a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization from selectively providing services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to some individuals with respect to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage but not to others.
The civil marriage laws shall not be construed to affect the ability of a society to determine the admission of its members as provided in section 4464 of this title, or to determine the scope of beneficiaries in accordance with section 4477 of this title, and shall not require a society that has been established and is operating for charitable and educational purposes and which is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization to provide insurance benefits to any person if to do so would violate the society’s free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of United States or by Chapter I, Article 3 of the Constitution of the State of Vermont.
A State Full of Smart Non-Criminals and GoLocalProv Had to Import a Felonious, Bad Government "Mindsetter"?
Look, GoLocalProv does and has done some excellent work. Just this morning, for example, we taxpayers appreciate the reminder to our elected officials that 30+ cities and towns have busted the tax cap since 2009. (Why? Property taxes in Rhode Island were quite high enough in 2009. Was there, for example, a corresponding increase in population?)
The quality of GoLocalProv's work is also clear also from the fact that, a couple of weeks ago, another news outlet just poached one of their best reporters.
They have, however, had a couple of semi-serious missteps in the past couple of weeks. (No GoLo links will be provided from this point forward.)
David Cicilline as Man of the Year??? Prevaricator of the Decade, perhaps!
And now, a cultural commentary piece this morning from the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House, Thomas Finneran. In 2007, Mr. Finneran pleaded to a federal obstruction of justice charge involving redistricting.
C'mon, GoLocalProv. People are judged by the company they keep. News/media outlets are judged by the commentators that they publish. Mr. Finneran's criminal record for bad government practices is quite incongruent with your notable efforts to promote good government in Rhode Island.
[Monique is Deputy Editor of the RISC-Y Business Newsletter.]
January 7, 2013
Ban the Master Lever!
We've written about this multiple times before, banning the master lever, also known as straight ticket or straight party voting. It's that option at the top of a ballot where you can simply connect one line and vote for every candidate on the ballot affiliated with that party, in partisan races. I believe this should be eliminated from our ballot, like most states have done. However, in the past, the idea hasn't been able to gain any real traction because it didn't have a person with the time or resources to really drive it in a meaningful way. Robert Healey, a frequent candidate has pushed for its elimination, and Secretary of State Ralph Mollis has advocated for this law change, but without any real campaigning.
Now, one-time candidate for Governor and Moderate Party chairman Ken Block is starting a push to eliminate straight ticket voting from our system. His web site, masterlever.org has information about the use of the lever, bi-partisan comments from supporters of removing the master lever, a running tally of those who support and oppose his action in the Statehouse as well as an easy way for people to write to the state's leaders and request that this change is made.
Sure, it's easy to say that I support this simply because I am not a Democrat and it doesn't help me. But let's take a look at the masterlever.org web site and see if there are any Democratic supporters.
Rep. Edith Ajello, Rep. Raymond Hull, Rep. Peter Palumbo, Rep. Frank Ferri, Rep. Lisa Tomasso, Rep. Teresa Tanzi, Rep. Spencer Dickinson, Rep. Donna Walsh, Rep. Larry Valencia, Rep. Michael Marcello, Rep. Gregory Costantino, Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, Rep. Gregg Amore, Rep. Joy Hearn, Rep. John Edwards, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, Rep. Peter Martin
Sen. Louis DePalma, Sen. Marc Cote, Sen. William Walaska, Sen. Leo Raptakis, Sen. Susan Sosnowski
Right there are twenty-two Democrats at the Statehouse that are in favor of this. That's more than the entire Republican caucus, so it'd seem fair to label this issue as bi-partisan.
Plus, there have been studies on the subject and the results have indicated that if our goal is to preserve the integrity of elections, using the master lever is not the way to go. Statistics show great amounts of undervotes on ballots when using the straight party option. An undervote is when a vote is not tallied in a specific race. Many towns have non-partisan races for some seats and these are not covered by the straight ticket option. So if a voter didn't take the time to go down and vote in these races, how do we know how many other races the voter did not intend to vote in?
High ranking elections officials have also advocated for the elimination of this option, including the John Daluz, the Chairman of RI Board of Elections:
"the Board voted 3-1 to support the repeal of Rhode Island General Law 17-19-15 Party Levers, to reduce undervotes and eliminate voter confusion."The good government groups also support this change:
"the master lever, threatens to reverse that process. It's time to eliminate it from Rhode Island's ballot." - Margaret Kane, President, Operation Clean GovernmentAnd:
"Almost two decades ago Rhode Island had the foresight to move into the 20th century with our voting machines. Unfortunately our ballot design is stuck in the 19th century with the outdated and confusing master lever. It's time for it to go." - John Marion, Executive Director, Common Cause RIAnd:
"The best academic evidence indicates that when voters use the master lever their true preferences for candidates and parties are not realized." - The American Journal of Political Science, 2012And lastly, even the guy who is in charge of the entire Rhode Island election system, the Secretary of State, a Democrat himself has suggested that we eliminate the straight-ticket option:
"The master lever has the potential to inadvertently disenfranchise some voters and causes too many others to question the fairness of their elections. I'm convinced the time has come to take it off the ballot"When the evidence is that overwhelming from people who have actually studied this issue, our politicians in opposition to banning the lever at the Statehouse look pretty silly when they testify about this and begin their statements with "I think..." or "I believe...". The data is there. The proof is there. Voters can be disenfranchised when this is an option. Voters' true intent is often not realized.
It's time to join the other 34 US states who have decided to ban the straight party option. Contact your Senator and Representative, as well as Governor Chafee and tell them you support eliminating the master lever.
Quotes taken from http://www.masterlever.org
January 5, 2013
Study Finds that Twirlie Lightbulbs Pose Health Hazard (In Addition to the Mercury!)
While filling in at WPRO last week, John Loughlin shared a political rumor that Governor Chafee might take a position in the Obama administration - in the Department of Energy as (and it's possible that John was being facetious about this title) the Deputy Undersecretary of Twirlie Lightbulbs.
In that possibly fictional position, Mr. Chafee would have an increasingly steep marketing hill to climb. By now, the health hazard posed by the mercury contained in CFL bulbs is pretty well known. (Side question: why is mercury released from coal unacceptable but mercury released from a politically correct light bulb just fine? Don't they both cause nerve damage?)
Now the latest. A study conducted last summer, which just popped up, H/T, on Breitbart, indicates another problem with CFL bulbs. If you're too close to them, they hit you with UV light. You know, that cancer-causing spectrum emitted by the sun? PBS has a pretty good explanation.
First we had to understand why a household light bulb would produce UV light in the first place. As it turns out, all fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury vapor, which emits a lot of UV rays when hit with an electric current. Normally that UV is absorbed by a layer of molecules, called phosphors, on the inside of the bulb and reappears as safe white light.
But if that phosphor coating cracks, UV light escapes. And according to the researchers at Stony Brook, defects are common. They saw bald spots in nearly all the bulbs they collected from retail stores.
"Nearly all"? Oh, goodie.
About six months ago, the fourth CFL lighbulb burned out in my apartment. I was thrilled when CFL's originally came out. Thrilled, that is, until, a couple of years later, it became clear that 1.) they did not last NEARLY as long as advertised and 2.) when they burned out, there was a very good chance that they would release their mercury into the room. (One of the prior CFL bulbs that had burned out turned out, upon examination, to have had a small hole in the twirlie glass, indicating that the mercury had definitely been released.)
What a way to live! Waiting for light bulbs to burn out and petrified of the nerve damage that almost certainly would result when they did so. Forget it. With the burnout of CFL Bulb Number Four, I needed light bulbs. After a little searching, I located and stocked up on 100 watt incandescent bulbs. Now, with this latest study, I'm doubly glad that I did. Al Gore and Lisa Jackson, you can keep your hazardous CFL bulbs. Nerve damage and skin problems are too high a price to pay to "save the planet", whether or not it has a fever.
[Monique is Deputy Editor of the RISC-Y Business Newsletter.]
January 4, 2013
Concluding a Strange Season for Employment Data
An unanticipated (unprecedented) leap in employment just prior to this year's presidential election brought the Current Population Survey (CPS) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) an unusually high degree of technical scrutiny. As I've been noting, the seasonally adjusted and unadjusted results have been a bit peculiar. With data from December now available, the BLS concluded the year by changing five years' worth of seasonal adjustments and announcing changes that will make subsequent years "not directly comparable" to anything that came before.
For the final month of the year, the "headline" unemployment number, which is the percentage of people in the labor force who say they are actively seeking work, held at 7.8%. Two frequently highlighted considerations are that, one, certain demographic groups are way above that percentage and, two, the rate would be significantly higher if the American labor force hadn't slowed its pace. If the labor force of the last five years had continued to grow at the rate of the prior five years, the unemployment rate would be 8.6%.
But it's the difference of seasonal adjustment that illustrates the peculiarity of this year.
This Same-Sex Marriage Bill is Not Marriage Equality
First a disclaimer. I've been asking questions about this and trying to get information from various sources, but I think the questions coming from me, a known conservative, leads the receiver to believe I'm being sarcastic with my questions. I'm not. I'm being truly honest, as is what I'll state below.
The same-sex marriage bill was brought up by State Rep. Art Handy yesterday. (Read the text here) This is the bill that we've been hearing about for some time that will come to a vote early in this legislative session. This is the bill that is being touted by Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI). This is the bill that they say is about human rights and fairness. However, I believe this bill does not go far enough.
Maybe I'm in disagreement with many on the right who want to keep marriage as defined as between one consenting adult man and one consenting adult woman, as I'm fine with the idea of any two consenting adults being able to marry, or engage in some legal, binding contract that affords them the same rights and responsibilities as the other people who can currently marry in Rhode Island.
However, that's not what this bill does. This bill does offer exceptions, and I don't see that as the stated goal of equality and basic human rights. Why not simply change it so that any two consenting adults can marry each other? That's it. No more qualifiers or exceptions on it at all. What am I talking about? Here:
15.1.2 No person shall marry his or her sibling, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, stepparent, grandparents’ spouse, spouse’s child, spouse’s grandchild, sibling’s child, or parent’s sibling.and here
15-1-5. Bigamous marriages void ... A person is prohibited from marrying if such person is: (1) A party to another marriage; or (2) A party to a relationship that provides substantially the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as a marriage whether entered into in this state or another state or jurisdiction, and such marriage or relationship has not been finally dissolved, unless the parties to the intended marriage will be the same as the parties to such other marriage or relationship.My question on both of those is "why not?" Why are we not allowing any of those things to happen? Keep in mind, my definition is any two consenting adults. So the mentally incompent, children and anything non-human is out. The real key here is being able to give consent. So spare me the questions about marrying the family dog or a ham sandwich.
But why can't two brothers enter into the contractual relationship that gives them the same rights and responsibilities as a married couple? If it's incest that repulses you, when did repulsion become a reason for deciding the law? If some are repulsed by the gay lifestyle, should that be enough to not allow them to marry? If the argument is that we don't want incestuous relationships creating children, then the question is whether creating children is the purpose of marriage.
As for bigamy, why not? If all the parties involved are consenting and all current spouses consent, why not? If my wife wants an additional husband, and he and I are willing to agree to that as well, why should the state say that we can't do that?
If the whole goal here is to allow two people the same basic rights as a man and a woman are currently afforded in Rhode Island, why is it only gay or lesbian couples that are being added? That's not a human rights, that's picking and choosing certain groups of adults. It's really no different than what we currently have where the law has chosen who has particular rights and who doesn't. This law simply increases the number of people who will be included, but it sure isn't marriage equality.
If we're going to pass a same-sex marriage bill for the purposes of marriage equality, let's do it and do it right and include everyone.
January 2, 2013
Things We Read Today (45), Wednesday
Feeling hopeful, RI?; "top priority" is shown, not stated; RI gets fatherless children first; surviving sans regulation; surviving sans net income; and surviving sans a documented framework for working together.