— Interviews —

April 21, 2010

Interview with RI's Education Commissioner

Justin Katz

Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Gist has reworked her office space. The unguided visitor would surely pass her desk by, thinking it that of a secretary — although a secretary to whom it would not be clear, because she has knocked down the wall to the large corner office and transformed it into an inviting conference area. That was the room to which she led me for our interview, yesterday afternoon.

Our conversation touched on obvious topics such as union participation in the Race to the Top application, regionalization, and vouchers, but I also asked about her office's appropriate involvement in communities and the relevance of school department-taxpayer relationships to the state.

I'll have further commentary as my schedule loosens, but here is the unedited video. (Click "continue reading" for segments one and two.)

Continue reading "Interview with RI's Education Commissioner"

August 6, 2009

A Fireside Chat with Dan

Justin Katz

Alright, there wasn't really a fire, but since we're talking radio, I like to imagine that there was one. Dan Yorke and I had that sort of conversation, yesterday, on 630AM/99.7FM WPRO. Those who missed it or who would like to revisit something (for kind or scurrilous reasons) can stream the whole segment (about an hour, without commercials) by clicking here, or listen to portions:

  • On Anchor Rising, my writing habits and schedule, and blogging specifics (traffic, money, etc.): stream, download (5 min, 49 sec)
  • On our blogging mission (or obsession) and the effect that AR and blogs in general are having: stream, download (3 min, 46 sec)
  • On profiting (or not) from online writing: stream, download (4 min, 03 sec)
  • A call from Mike and discussion of "excellence" in Rhode Island and the effects of local participation, with Tiverton Citizens for Change as an example: stream, download (12 min, 45 sec)
  • On Dan's opinion that RI reformers need a "big win" and my belief that we focus on smaller victories: stream, download (2 min, 52 sec)
  • On hopelessness and a magic wand policy change in Rhode Island (public sector union busting) and the problem of regionalization: stream, download (6 min, 48 sec)
  • On what to do about unions: stream, download (2 min, 18 sec)
  • On the coalition of problems in RI and whether all are addressable by the same principle (dispersing power and building from the community up, as well as a tangent about binding arbitration: stream, download (6 min, 2 sec)
  • On the Republican Party in Rhode Island and awareness of reform groups: stream, download (4 min, 7 sec)
  • On prescriptions for Rhode Island and the lack of leaders: stream, download (6 min, 34 sec)
  • A call from Robert and discussion of Republicans and the Tea Party as a political party: stream, download (3 min, 14 sec)
  • On the Moderate Party: stream, download (2 min, 9 sec)
  • A call from John and discussion of Steve Laffey's plan: stream, download (1 min, 42 sec)

January 21, 2009

Sitting Down with the Treasurer

Justin Katz

RI General Treasurer Frank Caprio invited Anchor Rising for a sit-down chat in his office last night, centering on pension issues, but touching on various other matters.

In general, I think the four of us in attendance were reasonably impressed with the treasurer's explanations for economic policies and his knowledge of political history in Rhode Island. In specific, some of the more detailed material is going to take time for us to digest prior to comment, but a few clips might be of interest to readers right off the digital recorder:

  • On complete financial transparency in his office, to be unrolled in a few weeks: stream, download
  • In opposition to the use of state-owned vehicles: stream, download
  • I got a chuckle out of the notion of fear among those in his office promoted beyond the union's bounds to become (scary music) at-will employees: stream, download
  • Caprio's got a merit-based promotion system in place with his workers' union, and he thinks the practice is transferrable across government: stream, download
  • Apparently, Rhode Island "only" pays 7% of its revenue toward debt service. I wasn't wholly satisfied with the Caprio's description of the comparative appearance of that statistic against a typical business and wonder whether it's fair to compare the government to a mortgage-paying household: stream, download
  • On the possibility of municipal bankruptcy (or entry into "a process"): stream, download
  • On his pension-plan thinking. Apparently, much of the cost of switching to 401k would come from accounting rules, but with the possible loophole of diminishing, rather than "closing" the defined benefit program: stream, download
  • The reason that Rhode Island actually ranks pretty well when it comes to retiree healthcare costs: stream, download
  • On abortion and same-sex marriage, neither of which would be his center of focus for any campaigns or offices: stream, download
  • Running for governor?: stream, download
  • Wherein I continue to strive for an answer on the social issues: stream, download
  • On eVerify and immigration: stream, download
  • On branding the state otherwise than with corruption and mob films: stream, download
  • With regard to a port project and other initiatives, the treasurer agrees with me that a broadly attractive economic environment (tax cuts included) ought to be the focus of policies: stream, download
  • An interesting response to my question about his thoughts on Republicans running as Democrats ("Why not the reverse?") and a discussion of the RIGOP: stream, download

February 7, 2008

Rescuing Providence, Rescuing Everywhere

Carroll Andrew Morse

Throughout his book Rescuing Providence chronicling an emergency medical services shift in the city of Providence, Lt. Michael Morse never shies away from offering social commentary relevant to the calls that he and his partners Mike and Renato answer. Here's an example, from page 69…

The Charlesgate apartments are another high-rise. Elderly residents are still the majority here, but younger, disabled people are quickly filling the apartments. When drug and alcohol addiction became an official disability, a lot of younger people flocked to these places…This program designed to help has gone horribly wrong.
After finishing the book, I was left with some questions about the overall state of firefighting and rescues and society-in-general that I thought Lt. Morse might like to comment on…

Anchor Rising: A constant theme throughout Rescuing Providence is how rescues are overworked and more difficult to staff than the regular fire crews, yet large fire crews have to be maintained to respond to the big emergencies that will arise a few times every year. Is there anything that can be done to utilize the department's resources more effectively?

Lieutenant Michael Morse: Tough question. The knee jerk response would be to take people from the fire trucks to staff the rescues. There would be fewer firefighters, more ambulances, but further thought makes you think how wrong it would be to take away from an effective fire fighting force to fill the needs of another division and hope that nothing happens.

A fire company (the people on the truck at any given time) is a well-trained force. Fires don’t just go out, people don’t just get extricated from crashed cars, and poisonous chemicals don’t just go away when leaked, CPR doesn’t just happen. We train on how to respond as a unit. Taking one of more people from that unit to man another vehicle because of need reduces the effectiveness of the entire fire department, not to mention safety issues for the firefighters.

In a perfect world we would have all the resources we need, and be able to pay for them. In reality, we make due with what we have and hope for a better day. Been doing a lot of hoping, don’t see much help over the horizon. The administration wants to take firefighters off of the fire trucks to man the rescues. They know there is a severe shortage. The firefighters, the ones actually doing the training and work don’t want to give that manpower up.

AR: Related questions: fire departments (along with police departments and nursing staffs) reflect the best American tradition of willingness to drop everything rush to the aid of people in need. Yet in recent times, the system set up to handle the emergencies that occur in a big, impersonal city gets regularly abused by people who think it's "free" (I believe you call it the red-and-white taxi service) and who don't understand their role in keeping it effective, e.g. not making stupid calls, driving a friend to the hospital when it's a non-emergency, etc.) Is this problem becoming worse, and, again, how can things be made better?

MM: I could go all day. People have no idea that there are limited resources. They think, call 911 and the government has to come. We do the best we can, but it is getting ridiculous. Nobody stops people from calling 911 for rides. There should be some punishment for abusing the system, but society has denigrated to a point where nobody cares about much of anything-except themselves. It’s awful to see, but worse to see them get away with it. I’ve seen the blank stares on people’s faces who have called 911 so they would get in faster for their sore throat when I turn up the portable radio and tell them to listen as somebody else in their neighborhood suffering from chest pains, or a possible stroke or whatever waits for a rescue to come from Lincoln, Warwick, Cranston etc. They just don’t care.

AR: You see a broader swath of Providence than most. In Rescuing Providence, you write about calls involving street people, college students, long-time residents in their homes, elderly residents in high-rises, bad drivers on route 95, and many others. Seeing all these different in the course of a day, do you feel like you're dealing with one society with many faces that has the power to pull itself together if it could figure out how, or are there different, isolated societies all trying to occupy the same space?

MM: I love this question. A few years ago I thought we might be able to pull together and work it out, now I’m not so sure. There are different worlds out there, and nobody makes an attempt to understand the world other than their own. Racism is rampant, not just in white who people pretend to like everybody but hold on the prejudices as well as anybody, but in Black people and Hispanic people and Asian people too. I sometimes wonder how we are holding it all together. The things I see I truly can’t believe are happening five minutes down the road from my home. There is an attitude of corruption that can be felt in the inner neighborhoods. “What can we get from “the man?” seems to be sport. There is no shame in getting handouts; rather it is considered bounty, and something to be proud of. You are a chump if you aren’t getting yours. Terrible.

This whole new marriage initiative by Carcieri is so out of touch I can’t believe it. The people he is aiming at want nothing to do with what we consider marriage. A lot of them are already married in their home countries, or are married in their own eyes and the eyes of their family and friends. There is no way they will give up what they believe is theirs for the taking by getting married. No way. Babies aren’t always “mistakes,” but too-often are planned events to further income and solidify a position here.

AR: Finally, I have to ask you a inside-the-writer's-studio question: When you decide to write about a call, does the narrative pop into your head all at once, or do one or two details stand out, with the rest getting filled in later? And where do you find the time?

MM: I usually dwell on things for a day or two, then start to write about it, sometimes in outline form sometimes just the way I think. The things I finish I put in my blog, the outline stuff kind of hangs around until I lose it. That’s the truth, if I didn’t write a little bit of my book every day for a year I would have lost the entire thing. I learned a lot while writing that book. Organization is everything. I can and do forget and lose things that were excellent, in my opinion anyway. I usually write in fifteen-minute increments, sometimes once, sometimes several times a day. Every now and then something tales over and I go for a couple of hours. I wish that happened more often.

November 26, 2007

Meet Jonathan Wheeler, Candidate For State Representative, District 22

Carroll Andrew Morse

This Tuesday, there will be a special election in House District 22 (Warwick) to fill the seat of former state Representative Peter Ginaitt, who resigned at the end of the 2007 session. Running as a Republican in the race is Jonathan Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler has juxtaposed at his campaign website a set of numbers he believes best summarize Rhode Island's problems and the need for fresh soultions...

  • Rhode Island is 46th in HIGHER EDUCATION spending, but 3rd in WELFARE spending.
  • Rhode Island is 49th in PARKS AND RECREATION spending, but 11th in GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION spending.
  • Rhode Island is 41st in TRANSPORTATION spending, but 4th in VENDOR payments.
  • Rhode Island has the 9th HIGHEST DEBT in the nation.
This past weekend, Anchor Rising had the opportunity to ask Mr. Wheeler about his run for office...

Anchor Rising: What's motivating you to get involved with the unique challenges presented by Rhode Island politics?

Jonathan Wheeler: Another Democrat in the General Assembly is not going to fix the problems that Democrats have created over the last five decades. Until we get better balance in the General Assembly, until there are enough Republicans and like-minded Democrats to sustain a veto, and to occasionally stop the Democrats from doing things that right now there are no impediments from them doing, things are not going to change or improve.

AR: Everyone, except the Democrats in the General Assembly, seems to know that the state is facing a multi-hundred million dollar deficit…

JW: It's $450 million.

AR: That's the conservative estimate. What can be done?

JW: We need to control spending. Clearly, the Democrats in the General Assembly have made no effort to control spending. In the Providence Journal a few weeks ago, when they were talking about the deficit, they were laughing about it. There's not a damn thing funny about it. We need to start over, with something close to zero-based budgeting. We need to make every government agency justify their existence and their budget. Until we do that, we cannot expect anything to change.

AR: You are in a three-way race. Any thoughts on the dynamics of that?

JW: There's me, the Republican. There's Frank Ferri, who won the Democratic primary but was unendorsed, and there's Carlo Pisaturo, who's running as an independent, and is a former Democratic councilman in Ward 5. So really, it's me against two Democrats, because Carlo, although he is running as an independent, is a Democrat. He's not refused to caucus with the Democrats; I asked him that during our debate – you're running as an independent, who are you going to caucus with -- and he wouldn't commit. So he's a Democrat.

AR: If you win, when you head up to the statehouse, would you take on a signature issue?

JW: At this point, we don't have the luxury of any signature issues other than controlling spending and controlling taxes. The business climate here we all know is 50th out of 50. Rhode Island has the worst business climate in the country. Until we control spending, reduce taxes, and root out corruption, we are never going to attract business to this state. And until we attract business to this state, we're never going to improve the economy. In my mind, to any responsible legislator, that can be their only signature issue right now.

We're in a crisis, and everyone in the General Assembly -- everyone in state government -- needs that to be their most important thing.

January 29, 2007

Mitt Romney on Social Issues

Carroll Andrew Morse

I know. I’m not supposed to be posting anything on the 2008 Presidential campaign before June. However, I’m adding a codicil to my New Year’s resolution: I can make an exception when able to present primary-source material about a Presidential candidate (or someone with a Presidential exploratory committee) that adds to a discussion area already active here at Anchor Rising.

At the National Review Institute’s (direct quote from NRO-Editor-at-Large Jonah Goldberg: "Whatever that is") Conservative Summit held this past weekend in Washington D.C., Presidential Candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney gave a substantive address on his philosophy concerning the major issues in American politics -- limited and fiscally conservative government, healthcare, foreign policy, and social and life issues. Here's what Governor Romney had to say about gay marriage, abortion and stem-cell research...

Governor Mitt Romney: When I ran [for Governor of Massachusetts], there were a couple of social issues that were part of that debate. You probably know what some of them were.

One was gay marriage. I opposed then and do now oppose gay marriage and civil unions.

One was related to abortion. My opponent was in favor of lowering the age where a young woman could get an abortion without parental consent from 18 to 16…I, of course, opposed changing the law in that regard.

Another issue was the death penalty, I was for, [my opponent] was against.

Another was English immersion. For a long time, our state had bilingual education, where the schools or the parents get to choose what language their child is taught in. I said that’s just not right. If kids want to be successful in America, they have to learn the language of America. We fought for that, and by the way, I won that one, my opponent did not.

Now, as you know, after I got elected, Massachusetts became sort of the center stage for a number of very important social issues, one of them being gay marriage. I am proud of the fact that I and my team did everything within our power and within the law to stand up for traditional marriage. This is not, in my view and the view of my team, a matter of adult rights. We respect the rights of gay citizens to live as they wish and to have tolerance and respect and not be discriminated against. I feel that very deeply. At the same time, we believe that marriage is not primarily about adults. In a society, marriage is primarily about the development and nurturing of children. A child’s development, I believe, is enhanced by access to a mom and a dad. I believe in every child’s right to a mom and a dad.

Now, there’s one key social issue where I did not run as a social conservative, at least one. That was with regards to abortion. I said I would protect a woman’s right to choose an abortion. I’ve changed my view on that, as you probably know.

Let me tell you the history about that. Some years ago, when I was at the Olympics, I met a guy named Mark Lewis. He was head of our marketing there. He told me that he was a finalist for a Rhodes scholarship. I don’t know how far he got. His final interview was with a German interviewer and the interviewer said to him “Mr. Lewis, who is one of your political heroes?” and he said Ronald Reagan. The German had the predictable response -- *GASP*. He said how in the world can you square that statement with what Churchill said, which is that “a young person who is not a liberal has no heart?” Mark responded by repeating the last portion of that Churchillian comment, that “an older person who was not a conservative had no brain” and adding “I, Herr Doctor, simply matured early”.

On abortion, I wasn’t always a Ronald Reagan conservative. Neither was Ronald Regan, by the way. But like him, I learned with experience.

In my case, the point where that experience came most to bear was with regards to learning about stem-cell research. Let me tell you, there are so many different ways of getting stem cells. I was delving into that because my legislature was proposing new legislation that re-defined when life began. I think it’s interesting that the legislature thinks it has the capacity to make that determination. Our state had always said that life began at conception, but they were going to re-define when life began, so I spent some time learning (with, by the way, a number of people in this room who helped) about all of the different types and sources of stem-cells, not only adult stem cells and umbilical stem cells and stem cells from existing lines, but also surplus embryos from in-vitro fertilization. I supported all of those.

But for me, there was a bright-line when you started creating new life for the purposes of destruction and experimentation. That was somatic-cell nuclear transfer (or cloning) and also what’s known as embryo farming. At one point, I was sitting down with the head of the stem-cell research department at Harvard and the provost of Harvard University, and they were explaining these techniques to me. I imagined in my mind this embryo farming. Embryo farming is taking donor sperm and donor eggs and putting them together in the laboratory and creating a new embryo. If that’s not creating new life, then I don’t know what is. I imagined row after row after row of racks of these, created either by the cloning process or the farming process. At that point, one of the two gentleman said, “Governor, there’s really not a moral issue at stake here, because we destroy the embryos at 14 days”. I have to tell you, that comment and that perspective hit me very hard. As he left the room with his colleague, I turned to Beth Myers, my chief of staff, and said I want to make it real clear: we have so cheapened the value and sanctity of human life in our society that someone can think there’s not a moral issue because we kill embryos at 14 days.

Shortly thereafter, I announced I was firmly pro-life.

Now, you don’t have to take my word for it, by the way. The nice thing about being able to watch governors is you don’t have to look just at what they say, you can look at what they’ve done. Over my term, I had 4 or 5 different measures that came to my desk [concerning life issues] and on every single one I came down on the side of respecting human life. That didn’t make me real popular in the state. Remember, in Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy is considered a moderate….

In the next few days, I’ll have more from Mitt Romney on other issues, excerpts from Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush on the meaning and future direction of conservatism and from Tony Snow on the Iraq Surge and the President’s new healthcare proposal, plus a whole lot of insights and opinions that I heard discussed at the conference that will bring you up-to-date on the state of conservatism…

August 16, 2006

Lt. Governor Interview: Kerry King

Don Roach

Anchor Rising: What, in your opinion, is the purpose of the Lt. Governor? How well do you believe the current Lt. Governor has fulfilled this role?
Kerry King: The Lieutenant Governor's Office is what you make out of it. Constitutionally, the lieutenant governor has advisory role responsibilities related to health care, small business development, and emergency management. Nothing in the state's constitution limits the lieutenant governor to just those three roles, however.

I believe a lieutenant governor should and must get involved in all major issues and policies that touch the lives of Rhode Islanders in important ways.

Take public corruption, for example. It runs rampant in our state. People are tired of it. What do our representatives in the General Assembly do? They pass new financial disclosure laws that apply to everyone but themselves. That's unacceptable, it's time to get tough on corruption, and that's why I as a candidate for lieutenant governor have proposed Rhode Island adopt the toughest anti-corruption laws in the nation, including punishing violators with mandatory prison sentences, forfeiture of pensions, and seizure of personal assets to repay ill-gotten gains. My comprehensive 20-point plan closes the door on corruption, scandal for personal gain.

Given my experience as a business leader, as lieutenant governor, I also intend to get much more involved in creating the best possible climate for business and job growth. To accomplish that, the lieutenant governor also most get involved in quality education and giving graduates the skills sought by business these days. Our children deserve good jobs, and they shouldn't be forced to cross state lines to find them.

What I'm saying is that a truly effective lieutenant governor must be willing to take on all the important issues facing our state. (To learn more about my candidacy visit www.Vote4King.com.)

As for Lieutenant Governor Fogarty, he's a well-intentioned fellow who has tried his best. Whether his best is good enough others can decide. As a Republican, I'm more conservative when it comes to state spending, for example, and wish Mr. Fogarty were, too. Yet, on the other hand, Mr. Fogarty along with the governor and others did a good job in fixing glaring emergency management shortcomings ignored by Centracchio when he headed the Office of Emergency Management. We now have a good hurricane preparedness plan and emergency management control center.

AR: What separates you from your primary opponent?
KK: Our qualifications to do the job. Rhode Island needs a competent leader with business and financial experience to fix the many problems facing us. Reggie just doesn't fit the bill.

He offers Rhode Island his military skills. I offer economic development and job creation skills. When you ask voters which skills are most needed by Rhode Island right now, Reggie comes up short.

By his own admission, his strongest suit is name recognition. Name recognition has nothing to do whatsoever with your ability to get the job done, however. Voters can figure that out.

I'm not being mean. Time and time again, I've said Reggie is a decent and likeable person. But the fact of the matter is Reggie is just not qualified to be lieutenant governor.

He favors a better economy and better jobs. Yet, he has no economic development skills at all; I do. He also favors good affordable health care. Here again, he has no business experience in such matters. Finally, he touts his experience in emergency management. But under his leadership, Rhode Island's Emergency Management Agency was not well run at all.

Rhode Island has immense problems. Public corruption must come to an end in our state, for example. But my opponent offers no solutions on this important issue, whereas I do in my 20-point plan to pass the nation's toughest anti-public corruption laws.

The single greatest issue facing Rhode Island, of course, is over taxation. Our income and property taxes are among the nation's highest. And the tax climate for business is very bad, hindering our ability to grow jobs that pay good wages. Here again, Rhode Islanders must ask themselves which candidate has the better background and skills to solve our tax problems. Reggie's military experience is not the sort of experience that solves tax problems.

Reggie and I are very different candidates, with very different skills and abilities.

Continue reading "Lt. Governor Interview: Kerry King"

August 15, 2006

Interview: Dan Harrop, Republican Candidate for Mayor of Providence

Justin Katz

Anchor Rising recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Dan Harrop — Republican candidate for mayor of Providence — about his candidacy and matters of political philosophy arising from his unique personal standing.

Anchor Rising: On your Web site, you list several problems that you intend to remedy as mayor. Is there a specific image or realization that made you decide to run?
Dan Harrop: It's become clear to me over the last year that our current mayor is a pretty good politician, but not so good an administrator. He has consistently failed to deliver. In the last election he promised to settle the contract with firemen within thirty days of taking office. So far, nothing. He continues to take credit for the accomplishments of the state government: the GTECH deal and Masonic Temple renovation were brokered by the governor's Office, not city hall. Four years into his term, he is still developing an education plan, and every one of our middle schools has failed; every single middle school principal is being replaced. He has failed to even address the $610 million deficit in our city's pension fund, or the $250 million needed in deferred maintenance in our schools (yet somehow, the good politician he is, he got the Journal to headline $4 million put into school repair just before the election, and to talk about a partial pension reform plan, which seems to have no backing with the city unions or city council). He has consistently fought with the city council — witness the ten Democrat primary elections. He has raised taxes nearly 15% in three years but, with his fellow Democrats, put off a further tax raise (which the city auditor estimates will be 11% next year) until next year, so they can tell constituents the taxes were not raised this year. He has created a Providence "after schools" activities program with a five million dollar five-year grant from private foundations, which serves only a few hundred kids and provides some nice patronage jobs for the administrators. And let's not even get into Gordon Fox on the licensing board...

In contrast, I have proposed moving to a K–8 educational system, lifting the cap on charter schools, working with surrounding communities to develop regional schools (which is NOT regionalizing the school systems, but nevertheless regionalizing magnet schools for art, music, math and science, etc.), and working with state and local cities to regionalize transportation, teacher training, etc., all of which will save money (but reduce political patronage in the city, I understand). I have proposed stepping up the sale of unneeded city properties (do we really need to own half of Scituate, since recent advances in water purification don't require as large watershed); this would include sale, rather than rehabilitation, of some existing school buildings, and using the funds received to build smaller community-based schools. I do not argue with national standards for the number of firemen and rescue personnel we need in the city. I believe this mayor has burned his bridges with other state and local politicians (witness his walking out on the governor and his getting opposition candidates to run for city council elections) and the city has to have a change.

So the difference: I have concrete proposals — a good starting point for discussion, compromise, and collaboration. Four years into his term, the mayor is still "planning."

AR: How do you intend to break the "Rhode apathy" that perpetuates our state's cycle of inadvisably elected officials?
DH: Personal example. No one person can change that attitude. Every politician of every stripe needs to emphasize that politics and elections is one of the ways we move ahead in this democracy. I have been, and will continued to be, involved in various community organizations throughout my adult life. I will continue to emphasize to those organizations and people involved the need for more people to pick a candidate, any candidate, and get behind them with hard work and money.

AR: Not to push you into the third rail of RI Republican politics, but: Chafee or Laffee?
DH: Chafee, although this has nothing to do with the mayor's race.

AR: I've long thought that the next major political divide, once modern liberalism burns out or fades away, will be between libertarians and social conservatives. You appear to stand on that line. As Libertarian candidate for the General Assembly in 2002, you explained, "I cannot ascribe to the moralizing of the Republican Party." Yet, you are very active in religious circles, including with the Knights of Columbus, on whose local page a significant requirement for membership is stated as living "up to the Commandments of God and the precepts of the [Catholic] Church." How do you reconcile these two aspects of your beliefs?
DH: While, again, I don't believe this has anything to do with the mayor's race, I know your readers like a good debate, so here it is:

This is a great question, and debated hotly within my Catholic Church now. While this has really nothing to do with the mayor's race, since topics like abortion, stem cells, and the like just do not reach the mayor's desk, my beliefs on these topics are well known because of my past races (my opponents in the 2002 and 2004 General Assembly races made much of them), and yes, my active membership in both the K of C and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, as well as other Catholic religious groups.

There is a difference between being active, and moralizing, as a private citizen and doing so as a public official. Bishops of all faiths, for example, should moralize: that is their job. While this fact really rankles some in the pro-life crowd, in fact the Catholic Church has never actively campaigned that its position on abortion (that it is morally wrong in all circumstances including rape and incest) be turned into law. Even the bishops realize that this position would have zero chance of passing into law. The bishops have yet to take any action against Catholic politicians who support liberal abortion laws. The bishops strongly encourage Catholic politicians to support pro-life legislation, although none of this legislation really completely supports the Catholic position on abortion. I've actually been very vocal within Catholic circles that the Church should give up its tax credits and become much more active politically if it really wants to achieve its aims (see my answer to Question 2). That's not likely to happen, but it's a very libertarian idea. Public officials have a responsibility to lead by example: I believe the governor (and others) do this quite well, and I would follow the same path.

AR: As mayor, how would you address the social problems — such as drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and single-parent households — that face any large city?
DH: There are in city (state, nation) multiple sources of power and influence, not just city hall. This means not just the churches (a huge force) but community centers, as an example here in Providence. Take the DaVinci Community Center on Charles Street, or any of the other community centers in the city, and the fine work they do. I believe the current administration in the city has failed to properly utilize these grass-roots level (street level, I suppose) centers to address these problems. I'm not afraid of having city hall work with other organizations and groups: if they can get the job done, great. Providence has tended to think of itself in isolation, with power coming from City Hall, a legacy of the Cianci years, but carried over into the Cicilline administration. Increasing the ability of these groups to intervene, through city support, moral and financial and structural, can go a long way to helping these problems.

August 1, 2006

The Real Life Disrupted When the Government Claimed Her Home, Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

Most of us have been lucky enough to learn about the increasingly broad of the use of eminent domain from reading about it in the newspaper. Susette Kelo did not have that luxury. Here, Ms. Kelo continues the story of how she learned of the government's broad view of eminent domain from a series of notices delivered to her demanding that she sell her home and the court battles that followed...

Susette Kelo: The following month the Institute for Justice agreed to represent us. Without them, none of us would be here today. None of us could have afforded the tremendous legal costs which have been incurred over the years.

A year later we went to trial. After hearing 10 different reasons why our homes were being seized, from park support, to roads, to a museum, to warehousing, the Judge decided no one could give him a straight answer and overturned the eminent domain sentence on our home.

Then on the evening of October 29, 2002, I was working in the emergency room when the trauma code was called. A man who had been in a motor vehicle accident was nearly unrecognizable from his injuries and had been wheeled into the Trauma room. After several minutes of working alongside the Doctor and other fellow staff members, to my horror I realized it was Tim. For two weeks he laid in a coma, and we did not now if he would live or die. He finally improved and, after many surgeries, was taken off life support. Although Tim was permanently disabled due to traumatic brain injury, he was finally discharged to my care and able to come home. While he was hospitalized, the Connecicut Supreme Court heard our case. After Tim was well enough, we made it official by getting married. We still had no idea if we would get our home back. The court took fifteen months to reach its decision. When they did we were stunned, we had lost the case.

Our lives would be on hold and we would get another year as we waited for the Supreme Court to determine if they would hear our case. As you know the Supreme Court decided to hear Kelo vs. New London, and it was scheduled for September of 2005. Supporters from all over, including New London, came to the Supreme Court building that night, before the hearing, in order to hear what would become one of the most important property rights cases in American history.

There was a lot of information to get into the one hour that the court allows, so we were somewhat surprised that no sooner had our attorney made his arguments that Justice Ginsburg interrupted, to the point that it was obvious that our attorney's line of reasoning did not matter, because the city was economically depressed. Having lived in New London for a good part of my life, I can guarantee that the city of New London is not depressed. It may be disadvantaged because it is led by a city council that has no imagination, but it is a beautiful shoreline village with many wealthy residents and much potential without stealing resident's homes. None of us wanted to leave.

But the truth has been just as much a victim here as we have. And this is the story of me, my neighbors, our neighborhood, and our homes. None of asked for this. We were simply living our lives, working, taking care of our families, obeying the law, and paying our taxes. Even though our homes no longer belong to us, we continue to think what we have thought from the beginning, that a man's home is his castle and it is simply wrong to take that from anyone, especially for the purposes of "economic development", whatever that might be. Unfortunately the Supreme Court does not agree with that concept and has opened the door to economic development takings across the nation.

A few people believed and have said that money was the issue here. I tell you straight from my heart that no amount of money would ever cause me to change my mind, my goals, or my values. Mark Twain once wrote, "Don't part with your illusions, when they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live". My illusion was always that this is America. Had the City of New London needed our homes for a school, a fire station, or even a road, we would have been sad to lose our home, but we would have understood. If it were truly for a public purpose, it would have softened the blow and we would have complied. But public use is not the case here. Building a hotel, upscale condominiums, biotech office space, and homes for other people to live in is not a public use.

I would be foolish not to realize that my particular struggle is over, but as the result of the Fort Trumbull battle, property owners across the nation are up in arms and are involved in an effort to put an end to the abuse of eminent domain. Without the help and support of the Institute for Justice and our many supporters across the nation, our situation would never have received publicity and become a national campaign.

In September of 2005, when we again received eviction notices, Governor Rell intervened on our behalf asking now for the city to rescind those notices and declare a mortatorium on eminent domain until the Legislature considered that would protect property owners in Connecticut. The legislature failed to do that.

Election day will be here shortly, and we need to know individual legislators position on eminent domain and other issues as well. We need legislators like Rhode Island's Governor Carcieri, who sponsored a bill that strengthens the safeguards against the taking of land for public purpose, forces towns to hold two public hearings before any taking, and prohibits towns from taking private land and turning over to another private entity. We need legislators who will listen to the voice of the people and not just big businesses.

This has been a very stressful eight years. More often than not, I wake up exhausted, discouraged, and wondering if this has all been worth it. But will I give up my opposition to eminent domain? Never. I have many new friends, close to over 500 who came from as far away as Kentucky and Texas who came to the July 2005 rally protesting the decision taking of property for economic development.

In the year since the Kelo v. New London decision, nearly 6,000 properties across America have been threatened or taken as the result of the Supreme Court's decision. In New Jersey, Florida, California, Connecticut and even a place called Waterloo, Iowa, homes are being lost. What kind of America is this? We cannot allow the continued taking of private property like this. Charles Dickens wrote in the novel A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way."

I hope you will join me and millions of other Americans and tell the Federal Government, by your votes, that we have had enough.

This past year, several bills were introduced to the state legislature that would prevent this sequence of events from occurring to any homeowner in Rhode Island, but the House and Senate could not agree on a single reform bill, and the bills passed in each chamber were too vague to be meaningful. If you have the chance during this campaign season, ask your legislative candidates if they support clear, unambiguous eminent domain reform. And if a candidate is an incumbent, ask why it didn't pass this session.

July 26, 2006

The Real Life Disrupted When the Government Claimed Her Home, Part 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

At the Northeast Conservative Conference of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies held this past weekend, Susette Kelo told the story of the government seizure of her home so that the land could be given to a private developer. Eventually the United States Supreme Court ruled that transferring private property from one owner to another is a legitimate use of the government's eminent domain power (Kelo v. New London [2005]).

Most of us have been lucky enough to learn about the increasingly broad of the use of eminent domain from reading about it in the newspaper. Susette Kelo did not have that luxury. Here, Ms. Kelo tells the story of how she learned of the government's broad view of eminent domain from a series of notices delivered to her demanding that she sell her home...

Susette Kelo: I�d like to thank you for having me here today. Hardly a day goes by when I'm working in my garden or having a cup of coffee in my kitchen, both of which overlook the Thames River and the Long Island Sound, that I don't ask myself the same question. If I had to do this all over again, would I? Even on my worst day, and there have been many, especially now that I know that I have to find a new place to move my home or lose it, my answer is always the same: unequivocally, yes.

It was in February of 1998 that I first heard the news that Pfizer was coming to town. I remember having the thought that this was going to be a problem for me and my neighbors in Fort Trumbull. Little did I know how prophetic that thought would become. I immediately called then Mayor Lloyd Beachy, who was extremely sympathetic, and Kathleen Mitchell, then the neighborhood organizer of the neighborhood alliance.

Since that day eight years ago, Lloyd, Kathleen, hundreds of others, thousands of individuals have become my sounding board, my comrades in arms and my new best friends. But I'm getting away from the subject I know you want to hear about, and what I've come to talk about -- my feelings and thoughts a year after the infamous Supreme Court decision.

Let me give you a little background on myself and my home. In 1997, I started looking for a house, and finally found a perfect cottage with a beautiful view of the water. I knew when I first entered the cottage that I was meant to be there. Maybe that was also prophetic. I was working as a paramedic and was overjoyed that I was able to find a beautiful place on my salary. I spent every spare moment fixing it up, creating the kind of home I had always dreamed of. I painted it salmon pink.

About a year later, when Pfizer announced that their global headquarters would be built on this little peninsula next door, my neighbors and I received letters from the real estate agent representing the New London Development corporation. We didn't even know what the New London Development Corporation was, but we would learn fast enough in the next few months. The letters informed us that we had to sell our homes at their price -- or they would be seized by eminent domain.

Eventually these letters turned out to be true, but at the time we received those letters, not one word was mentioned about eminent domain. There were no plans which anybody had seen. The initial plans, we found out later, were prepared on the state level under former Governor Rowland with lobbyist Jay Levin leading the way. The United States Supreme Court can try to justify its actions by determining that this was a carefully considered plan which had cleared the necessary hurdles after a lengthy public and lawful process, but that simply was not true.

When the plan finally came down to New London, everything was done in secret and not in an open public process as the law requires. Many homes were acquired long before the plan saw the light of day. Our neighbors, many of whom were in their 80s and 90s, sold because they had the threat of eminent domain hanging over their heads. I don't blame them; they were afraid. Those who contacted lawyers were told you can't fight the big guy, so just take the money and leave. In the small town of New London, many lawyers did not even want to take the case.

Later on next year, when the New London Development Corporation contacted me again about selling my home by the beautiful water, after all the work was done, I simply told them I wasn't interested.

In late 1999, after graduating from nursing school, I became a registered nurse and began working at the Backus hospital in southeastern Connecticut. Early in 2000, public hearings were eventually held and the plan was finalized. Our homes were not part of the plan and by that time I had met a man who shared my dreams. The two of us spent our spare time and money fixing up our home. We got a couple of dogs, I planted flowers, I created my own rugs, and we had antiques which were just perfect for the home. And Tim, who is a stone mason, did all the stonework around the house.

When I first bought the house, it was run-down. Today, it is finished.

On the evening before Thanksgiving 2000, the sheriff taped a letter to my door stating my home had been seized. Thanksgiving was not the happy family holiday we had planned, and every Thanksgiving since has been bittersweet for all of us....

Coming in Part 2: Susette Kelo's case goes to the Supreme Court...

This past year, several bills were introduced to the state legislature that would prevent this sequence of events from occurring to any homeowner in Rhode Island, but the House and Senate could not agree on a single reform bill, and the bills passed in each chamber were too vague to be meaningful. If you have the chance during this campaign season, ask your legislative candidates if they support clear, unambiguous eminent domain reform. And if a candidate is an incumbent, ask why it didn't pass this session.

July 20, 2006

Cranston Mayoral Candidate Interview: Allan Fung

Don Roach

Cranston mayoral candidate, City Councilman Allan Fung, answered a few questions regarding the past, present, and future of Cranston:

1. What do you feel is THE major issue facing Cranston, and how do you propose to solve it?

Taxes are the priority issue in Cranston, and my goal is to make the city more affordable. I have a two part plan to achieve that goal. First, we need to get contractual benefits in line with the private sector. As a lawyer working for a Fortune 100 company, I honed my negotiating skills in the halls of corporate America. I will use my legal and business skills to negotiate contacts that are fair and responsible to the taxpayers. For instance, the city cannot afford free healthcare any longer. We need contracts that are not only fair to our hard-working employees but are fair and affordable to the taxpayers, as well. With fairer contracts, this should bring more stability to the budgeting process.

Second, I want to continue to develop Cranstons economy. Our city has a good mix of professional offices, retail stores, manufacturers, and a vibrant food service industry. I want to continue to expand our business base by attracting more professional jobs to our city. I plan to use my contacts in the financial services industry to attract these jobs to Cranston.

2. Your campaign slogan, Forward with Fung, what exactly does that mean?

I rolled up my sleeves when I first got on the council during the fiscal crisis and we had to make many unpopular decisions to right a ship that was steering into financial bankruptcy. Cranston is back on track and out of junk bond status. But we still have many financial issues to tackle, including a large unfunded pension liability. The city cannot afford to go backwards and put back into place people that helped steer our municipality into disaster. I intend to move it forward and in the right direction toward long term fiscal stability. I plan to continue the same conservative fiscal principles that we have been using these past four years to help right the city.

3. Do you believe that shortfalls will continue for the school budget? If so, why, and what can be done to fix the problem?

The school budget is approximately 55% of the entire city's budget, and it must be closely scrutinized. Every year the budget is increasing, but it is a constant struggle to get adequate funding from the state. Thus, it keeps falling back to the taxpayers. I plan to work with and have an ongoing dialogue with the new school administration and school committee members to monitor the budget on a constant basis. I will also push for timely audits, including performance audits, as it will provide a good picture into our school system, its fiscal health, and its performance. Also, I will push for the repeal of numerous unfunded mandates at the state level.

4. What inspired you to enter politics?

I entered politics because I was angry at the politicians that were in office who caused a financial disaster of enormous proportions in the third largest city in RI. I love Cranston, as it is the home for myself and my family. I wanted to use my legal and business skills to help turn the city around, and I am glad that I had the courage to run, win, and get Cranston back on track.

5. If you are elected, what do you hope will be your lasting impact on Cranston?

I hope to ensure that Cranston is on sound financial footing for not only the short term, but also into the distant future. Elected officials must be cognizant of the long term ramifications of the decisions that they make in the present.

Fung has been campaigning since he announced his candidacy in March. Some say he started too early and had no need because he's already a recognizable figure in Cranston politics. However, I believe it speaks to Fung's passion for politics, which clearly comes across in his responses to questions posed to him.

(Cross posted with Converse It!)

April 17, 2006

Blogging on the Radio

Justin Katz

In case you — like me — missed it, here's an MP3 file of Addie Goss's radio piece on Rhode Island blogs for the Brown Student Radio show Off the Beat (which, for some reason, never found its way onto the show's archive page).

(I didn't realize how halting. my. speech. can. be. when I'm trying to make points extemporaneously. I'll have to work on it... or else stick to well-memorized talking points as others in the opine business do.)

January 6, 2006

Direct Perspectives on Samuel Alito III

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising continues its interview with Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's law school classmate Mark Dwyer and former law clerk Thomas Gentile. Mr. Dwyer and Mr. Gentile can be viewed on 10 News Conference, on WJAR-TV (Channel 10) this Sunday at 6:30 AM. To read Anchor Rising's earlier interview with former Alito law clerk Susan Sullivan, click here.

Anchor Rising: Give us legal laypeople a hint of what to look for in the confirmation hearings that will tell us about what kind of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito would be.

Mark Dwyer: Youll see him be calm, collected and precise. I dont know what the strategy is for when you say I cant answer that question because it may come before me someday and when you say look at my past opinions and heres what Ive said about that in the past. I dont know just where hes going to draw that line. I guess Judge Roberts drew it in a pretty good place; hes probably going to try to do about the same thing. But you will see him when he talks be precise in his answers. He will get clarification when the Senators, as they will, ask questions that dont make much sense. Hes appeared in front of the Supreme Court and done a great job there. For him to appear in front of this group of Senators -- who are not as well versed in the subjects theyll be asking about as are Supreme Court Justices when they talk to you -- is not going to be a big shock to his system. He is going to be fine. He going to perform, I predict, extremely well, show his intelligence and show what a nice guy he is.

Thomas Gentile: During the confirmation hearings, all of America will see Judge Alitos facility for legal issues that have come before him in his 15 years on the court of appeals and are coming before the Supreme Court now. Judge Alito knows this stuff and he knows it cold. When I was a law clerk, there were times that Judge Alito would dictate opinions to his clerks off the top of his head -- complete with case cites and page cites. America will be impressed by the scope of his knowledge. America will also be impressed when it sees Judge Alitos dedication to faithfully applying the law and to never having his personal opinions interfere with his legal decision making process.

AR: If you could tell people something you think will be lost in the fog of partisanship and the focus on judicial outcomes that we will certainly see in the next few weeks, what would it be?

MD: Youre going to hear a lot of Senators and certainly a lot of lobbyists involved in the process look at one opinion that Sam wrote and not pay attention to the reasoning about how he got to the ending. Theyll find one opinion in a particular area, be it abortion, the environment, or employee rights, one opinion they disagree with, and conclude from that one opinion that Sam is a danger to the country because he is anti-abortion, or anti-whatever. They will not be looking at the whole group of opinions he has written over 15 years. They wont be looking at the group of opinions he has written in a particular area. They will look at the one they dont like and try to make hay out of that by making this all a political process instead of an assessment of whether somebody is a restrained and fair judge. So watch for that. Youll see people distort his record by focusing on the one case they dont agree with and not explaining how the law made him get there.

TG: America has a choice here. Its a choice about the role of the federal judiciary in our Constitutional democracy. If America wants the kind of Judge who decides cases, regardless of ideology, based on the law and the precedents and the facts of each case, then Sam Alito is the kind of judge they want sitting on the Supreme Court. If America wants judges who reach into their own policy preferences and create the outcome in cases they want to see happen, regardless of what the law requires, then Sam Alito is not the judge for them. I think when America watches the confirmation hearings, America will see that judge Alito respects the limited role of the judiciary in Americas constitutional democracy.

Direct Perspectives on Samuel Alito II

Carroll Andrew Morse

In modern politics, the loudest chatter heard about a Supreme Court nominee -- Samuel Alito included -- usually comes from those who know the nominee as little more than the sum of a paper trail. Anchor Rising was given one more opportunity (click here to read our earlier interview with former Alito law clerk Susan Sullivan) to supplement the paper trail by talking to people who know Judge Alito personally.

Mark Dwyer was Samuel Alitos roommate at Yale law school. Mr. Dwyer is currently Chief of the New York County District Attorneys Appeals Bureau. Thomas Gentile was a law clerk for Judge Alito in 1996-1997 on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He is currently a partner with the law firm of Lampf, Lipkind, Prupis, and Petigrow. Heres what Mr. Dwyer and Mr. Gentile think about the man who will stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee starting next week

Anchor Rising: Were you surprised when you heard that Samuel Alito had been nominated to the Supreme Court?

Mark Dwyer: Only in the sense that even the best person is a huge longshot to get that lone nomination that comes along. Ive never known anybody who was better suited and who seemed pointed in that direction any more than Sam. Hes been fascinated by the court and by the appellate process and appellate law ever since college. And he obviously went through the steps that would make him a natural nominee. In that sense, its a perfect fruition of what hes been doing his whole career. At the same time, you dont expect lightning to strike the guy you know, because it's just against the odds.

Thomas Gentile: I agree completely. There is no question that Judge Alito is eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. As soon as President Bush was elected back in 2000, you began to hear discussions of Judge Alito as possibly being a nominee to the Supreme Court when an opening came up. So in that sense, I wasnt surprised. But on the same note, there was something very surreal about turning on my TV on the morning of October 31 and seeing my old boss standing up there with President Bush.

AR: To me, the toughest part of finding someone who will be a good Supreme Court Justice seems to be finding someone whos got the ambition to want to sit on the highest court of the greatest nation on earth but also has the humility to respect legal precedent and decisions made by legislatures. Can you give us any insight into how youve seen Judge Alito combine these disparate impulses?

MD: Youre certainly right. Its a hard thing to find. Sam plainly has them both, and its just a remarkable combination. In terms of his drive and ambition, ever since I knew him in college, and certainly when I was rooming with him in law school, he was the guy who was burning the midnight oil. He was studying, studying, studying. It wasnt really labor to him because he loved the stuff. He loved learning what he was learning; it was so natural for him to enjoy all of that. He was really good at it. And all through his career, he put in that same kind of intense work/play in fooling around with the legal concepts in learning appellate law and being a great appellate judge. So hes got that drive. Does he want to be on the Supreme Court, does he have that ambition? Sure. But even without that goal in mind, he was going to be doing that same stuff anyway, because its just so natural for him.

The humility part is so natural for him also. He is a shy, nice, pleasant guy. I know that from living with him for a couple of years, three years actually, its just inherent in his personality to be that kind of guy, to be respectful of everybody hes dealing with including all the people he has to work with who arent as smart as he is and people who are as smart as he is. Everybody, whether a judge or in the clerks office gets the same nice treatment from Sam Alito.

TG: Ive worked in two of the biggest law firms in America for ten years and Judge Alito is, by far, the most brilliant legal mind I have ever encountered -- including all of my law professors at Harvard. But he couples that intellectual capacity with a judicial temperament and a humility in his approach to the law that uniquely qualifies him for the Supreme Court. He draws praise from the Judges that he sits with whether they were appointed by Republican Presidents or Democratic Presidents. The other judges on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals are pretty much unanimous in saying wonderful things about their colleague Sam Alito who has been nominated to the Supreme Court. When the judges write back and forth in opinions, including dissents, theyre never bitter, never angry, never caustic when Judge Alito is involved. They are very respectful. You will see opinion after opinion where other judges say I respect tremendously what Judge Alito has written and I disagree on these grounds. He fosters that atmosphere of judicial collegiality that I think sometimes is missing from the Supreme Court right now. Thats another reason why hell be an outstanding Associate Justice.

To be continued...

December 27, 2005

A Direct Perspective on Samuel Alito

Carroll Andrew Morse

Most efforts at evaluating the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court have focused on parsing the Judge's record (too often looking solely towards the outcomes of cases while ignoring the legal reasoning used). Anchor Rising was provided with an opportunity to approach the question of what kind of Justice Samuel Alito would be from another direction; we had the opportunity to put a few questions to a person who has worked with Judge Alito. Below is a short interview with Susan Sullivan, a former law clerk for Judge Alito (1990-1991), now a solo legal practitioner in San Francisco, CA.

Anchor Rising: We are interested in asking you a few questions about Judge Alito because, as a member of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, you have a resume that's different from many of Judge Alito's supporters. Do you believe that, as a Supreme Court justice, Samuel Alito would gave a fair hearing to the cases and arguments brought by organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU?
Susan Sullivan: As a self described social progressive, (a registered Democrat, a pro-choice feminist who supports gay marriage, opposes the death penalty and supports gun control), I am not afraid to have Sam Alito as a Justice on the Supreme Court. Having worked closely with him, I never saw his personal or political views dictate an outcome in a case and I do not believe him to be intent on advancing a conservative political agenda. If he were a conservative zealot there would not be the decisions he has made with so called "liberal" outcomes. There are cases with "pro-choice" outcomes; there are cases favoring plaintiffs bringing discrimination suits, cases that ruled in favor of criminal defendants, or expanded a woman's rights to seek political asylum on the basis of gender. These are just not the results you would expect to see if he were a conservative ideologue.

AR: What would you say to your fellow liberals who oppose Judge Alito's nomination because they don't like the outcome of some of his decisions, regardless of the legal reasoning used?
SS: If George Bush had picked anyone other than Judge Alito, I would probably have the same response of suspicion, fear and distrust as many liberals have had to Judge Alito simply because he was selected by Bush. But because I worked closely with the Judge I do not believe he will reach results based on his own personal views. While, it does not sound very complimentary to say that we could do a lot worse, the reality is that with George Bush in charge, we really could do so much worse and end up with a real conservative ideologue and I find that to be really scary! That is in part why I have said that by opposing Judge Alito, we may be shooting ourselves in our own left foot. I cannot predict the future and there are no guarantees but I'm confident that Judge Alito will be fair and impartial, and that is more important me than having a political ideologue of any stripe on the Supreme Court.

Second, we ask juries and judges every day to not judge someone until after they have heard all the arguments and seen the evidence. Some groups have already declared their opposition to him. I think the better approach is to wait until after the hearings to reach a more informed judgment. So I would suggest we take a careful look over his entire fifteen year record. He heard over 2,000 cases and was involved in over 200 opinions.

AR: What kind of boss was Judge Alito?
SS: He is a really likable, modest guy who treats everyone with respect and courtesy. It was great to work with him. He's really smart and he's always open to argument. He's a quiet and a private person. When a judge down the hall from Judge Alito redecorated her office and placed two rather elaborate stone lion sculptures outside her door, Judge Alito (though he won't confess to it), placed two pink, plastic flamingoes outside his own door! A coffee shop down the road named a coffee after him "Bold Justice." Perhaps if he makes it onto the Supreme Court, they'll rename it "Bolder Justice."

Hope that's helpful. All I would ask is that people temper what they are hearing in the mainstream press. Keep in mind that if it is not ugly and sensational, frankly, the mainstream press does not seem interested in reporting it and there is so much at stake, we should give the Judge a fair hearing before reaching any judgment.

July 22, 2005

Lance Armstrong

As the Tour de France comes to its end in the next few days and it looks like Lance Armstrong has a good chance to win his seventh straight race, I found the following excerpts from this older New Yorker profile article of Armstrong to contain many interesting insights into him:

Lance Armstrong's heart is almost a third larger than that of an average man. During those rare moments when he is at rest, it beats about thirty-two times a minute-slowly enough so that a doctor who knew nothing about him would call a hospital as soon as he heard it. (When Armstrong is exerting himself, his heart rate can edge up above two hundred beats a minute.) Physically, he was a prodigy...

Armstrong was an outstanding young swimmer, and as an adolescent he began to enter triathlons. By 1987, when he was sixteen, he was also winning bicycle races. That year, he was invited to the Cooper Institute, in Dallas, which was one of the first centers to recognize the relationship between fitness and aerobic conditioning. Everyone uses oxygen to break down food into the components that provide energy; the more oxygen you are able to use, the more energy you will produce, and the faster you can run, ride, or swim. Armstrong was given a test called the VO2 Max, which is commonly used to assess an athlete's aerobic ability: it measures the maximum amount of oxygen the lungs can consume during exercise. His levels were the highest ever recorded at the clinic. (Currently, they are about eighty-five millilitres per kilogram of body weight; a healthy man might have a VO2 Max of forty.)

Chris Carmichael, who became his coach when Armstrong was still a teen-ager, told me that even then Armstrong was among the most remarkable athletes he had ever seen. Not only has his cardiovascular strength always been exceptional; his body seems specially constructed for cycling. His thigh bones are unusually long, for example, which permits him to apply just the right amount of torque to the pedals...

Within a week, Armstrong had surgery to remove the cancerous testicle. By then, the disease had spread to his lungs, abdomen, and brain. He needed brain surgery and the most aggressive type of chemotherapy. "At that point, he had a minority chance of living another year," Craig Nichols, who was Armstrong's principal oncologist, told me. "We cure at most a third of the people in situations like that." A professor at Oregon Health Sciences University who specializes in testicular cancer, Nichols has remained a friend and is an adviser to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which supports cancer research. Nichols described Armstrong as the "most willful person I have ever met." And, he said, "he wasn't willing to die." Armstrong underwent four rounds of chemotherapy so powerful that the chemicals destroyed his musculature and caused permanent kidney damage; in the final treatments, the chemicals left burns on his skin from the inside out. Cofidis, convinced that Armstrong's career (and perhaps his life) was over, told his agent while he was still in the hospital that it wanted to reconsider the terms of his contract. That may have turned out to be the worst bet in the history of sports...

Armstrong now says that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to him. Before becoming ill, he didn't care about strategy or tactics or teamwork-and nobody (no matter what his abilities) becomes a great cyclist without mastering those aspects of the sport. Despite Armstrong's brilliant early start in the 1993 Tour, for example, he didn't even finish the race; he dropped out when the teams entered the most difficult mountain phase, in the Alps. (He also failed to finish in 1994 and 1996.)

As Carmichael pointed out to me, Armstrong had always been gifted, but "genetically he is not alone. He is near the top but not at the top. I have seen people better than Lance that never go anywhere. Before Lance had cancer, we argued all the time. He never trained right. He just relied on his gift. He would do what you asked for two weeks, then flake off and do his own thing for a month or two. And then a big race would be coming up and he would call me up, all tense, telling me, 'God, I have got to start training, and you guys better start sending me some programs.' I would say, 'Lance, you don't just start preparing things four weeks before a race. This is a long process.' "

Cycling is, above all, a team sport, and the tactics involved are as complicated as those of baseball or basketball. "Ever try to explain the infield-fly rule to somebody?" Armstrong asked me when we were in Texas, where he lives when he is not racing or training in Europe. "You have to watch it to get it. As soon as you pay some attention to the tactics, cycling makes a lot of sense."...

The physical demands on competitive cyclists are immense. One day, they will have to ride two hundred kilometres through the mountains; the next day there might be a long, flat sprint lasting seven hours. Because cyclists have such a low percentage of body fat, they are more susceptible to infections than other people. (At the beginning of the Tour, Armstrong's body fat is around four or five per cent; this season, Shaquille O'Neal, the most powerful player in the N.B.A., boasted that his body-fat level was sixteen per cent.)

The Tour de France has been described as the equivalent of running twenty marathons in twenty days...

Looking at a wide range of physical activities, Saris and his colleagues measured the metabolic demands made on people engaged in each of them. "On average, the cyclists expend sixty-five hundred calories a day for three weeks, with peak days of ten thousand calories," he said. "If you are sedentary, you are burning perhaps twenty-five hundred calories a day. Active people might burn as many as thirty-five hundred."

Saris compared the metabolic rates of professional cyclists while they were riding with those of a variety of animal species, and he created a kind of energy index-dividing daily expenditure of energy by resting metabolic rate. This figure turned out to range from one to seven. An active male rates about two on Saris's index and an average professional cyclist four and a half. Almost no species can survive with a number that is greater than five. For example, the effort made by birds foraging for food sometimes kills them, and they scored a little more than five. In fact, only four species are known to have higher rates on Saris's energy index than the professional cyclists in his study: a small Australian possum, a macaroni penguin, a large seabird called a gannet, and one species of marsupial mouse...

Every ounce of fat, bone, and muscle on Armstrong's body is regularly inventoried, analyzed, and accounted for. I asked him if he felt it was necessary to endure the daily prodding and poking required to provide all this information, and to adhere so rigidly to his training schedules. "Depends whether you want to win," he replied. "I do. The Tour is a two-thousand-mile race, and people sometimes win by one minute. Or less. One minute in nearly a month of suffering isn't that much. So the people who win are the ones willing to suffer the most." Suffering is to cyclists what poll data are to politicians; they rely on it to tell them how well they are doing their job. Like many of his competitors in the peloton, Armstrong seems to love pain, and even to crave it...

January 20, 2005

A Note on the Interview

Justin Katz

Email conversation with Sheila Lennon has persuaded me that my statement that "the news department of the Providence Journal is practically campaigning for a change in the law" should, instead, have read "the news department of the Providence Journal has practically advocated for same-sex marriage." Lennon may not find that language any more accurate, from her point of view, but it better conveys what I've found to be the truth as I've followed the Projo's coverage for Dust in the Light.

I can only insist that I intended no distortion and was merely attempting convey the palpable bias without tripping up the question with argumentation.

After some self-debate, I've gone ahead and made the change. However, I haven't noted it in that post because it doesn't strike me as enough of a shift to merit the distraction from the important part of the interview: Mr. Jacoby's answers.

Jeff Jacoby: An American Conservative in New England

Justin Katz

Sitting around a pub's chest-high table with new acquaintances, a blue-state conservative will look for signs of ideological sympathy. In New England, should the Boston Globe arise in conversation, the canny conservative need only drop one name, before sipping his beer to disguise the true import: Jeff Jacoby. The Globe's bio gives an inkling as to how reactions to the gambit might differ:

Jeff Jacoby became an op-ed columnist for The Boston Globe in February 1994. Seeking a conservative voice to balance its famously liberal roster of commentators, the Globe hired him away from the Boston Herald, where he had been chief editorial writer since 1987.

Given Jacoby's unique standing in New England as well as his online renown, Anchor Rising is grateful that he agreed to spend some of his time discussing terrorists in the Left's view, Jewish voters, the claims of biological fathers, same-sex marriage, the arts, the Internet, and (of course) the experience of being conservative in New England with us.

Anchor Rising. What sort of reception and feedback do you get as a prominent conservative in such an infamously liberal state and region?

Jeff Jacoby. It varies. From some readers, the reaction is shock and awe. There was a lot of this especially during my first few years at the Globe, when the letters to the editor poured in from Globe readers appalled that their paper was making room for opinions that were so, ugh, conservative. There are still plenty of responses along those lines, but I also hear from a lot of readers who are glad that there is at least one corner of the Globe where they can read something compatible with their own view of the world. Readers elsewhere in the country, coming across one of my columns for the first time, often ask if I'm about to lose my job for wandering off the Northeast liberal plantation. There was a lot of that especially during the 2004 campaign.

AR. Do you find that the adversity helps you hone your ideas and develop material?

JJ. Yes, in this sense: I know that what I write is going to be vetted a lot more closely by liberal dissenters than a liberal columnist's work is likely to be. I'd better be able to back up what I'm writing, because it is almost certainly going to be challenged. But apart from that narrow sense, I wouldn't say that I thrive on being in the philosophical minority at the Boston Globe, or in Massachusetts, or in the mainstream media. I've been a conservative since I was in junior high school — it's the way my brain works, and I don't think that would change if I were writing deep in the heart of Red America.

AR. I first became familiar with your work on David Horowitz's FrontPageMag.com. How has your audience — even your career — changed since the Internet, and especially since blogs, broke into the public consciousness?

JJ. Less than you'd think. I am the world's worst self-promoter and have made virtually no use of the Internet at all to build my audience share. I wish I had a nickel for every person who has told me I should have a Web site (or asked me why I don't). There is a JeffJacoby.com, but so far it is simply a sign-up form for anyone who'd like to get my columns by email. I haven't created a blog or joined an existing one, and I marvel at columnists who actually have time, energy, and ideas left over for blogging after their "real" writing is done.

All that said, the Internet has unquestionably expanded my readership; I hear from far more readers, and from much farther afield, than was the case when my Globe column began in 1994. I get email from around the world, and radio talk shows often come calling after seeing a column linked on RealClearPolitics.com or posted on Townhall.com or JewishWorldReview.com, for example. I don't know that the nature of the readers themselves has changed, though. I'd guess that I'm read by a lot more conservatives than I used to be — and also by a lot more people who get all their information from screens, not newsprint.

AR. It has been much noted that "the Catholic vote" swung from 50/47 for Gore/Bush to 52/47 for Bush/Kerry; I suspect the shift will continue in Republicans' favor. Meanwhile, Bush votes among Jews increased from 19% to 24%. What do you foresee happening there?

JJ. I wrote on this topic a few weeks before the election. I think that American Jewish voters are slowly growing out of their nearly umbilical loyalty to the Democratic Party. The youngest cohort of American Jews are the most likely to consider themselves Republican; the oldest are the likeliest to still think the 11th Commandment is "Thou Shalt Vote for the Party of FDR." 2004 was actually the third election in a row in which the Jewish Republican vote improved, and I wouldn't be surprised if the 24% recorded by exit polls actually understated the shift. Obviously a lot depends on the candidates in any given election year. But to the extent that the well-being and security of Israel remains a cutting issue with Jewish voters (it is a key issue with many non-Jewish voters too, of course), more and more of them will be attracted by the pro-Israel stance of the GOP.

AR. Reading your column about Yasser Arafat's death and reactions thereto, I recalled a chilling letter to the editor that the Providence Journal published a little over a month after 9/11/01. As an assumption in his argument for ending sanctions in Iraq, the writer declared that "no leader... would deny his own people the necessities of life." Why is it, at bottom, that such people cannot understand the nature of our enemies?

JJ. Because to do so would be to abandon their utopian belief that people are basically good. The left cannot accept that some people willingly choose to do evil — they feel more comfortable explaining the terrorism or wanton slaughter or gas chambers or gulag as a response to unfairness or poverty or a lack of reasonableness on our part. Our worst enemies cannot be appeased with concessions. We can either defeat them or be defeated by them. But that is something the useful idiots, as Lenin called them, never seem to grasp.

AR. Michelle Malkin recently wrote on her blog that she couldn't bear to watch the video of 3-1/2 year old Evan Parker Scott being handed over to his biological mother after believing that his adoptive parents were, in your words, "his rock." In your column on the topic, you noted the questionable character of Evan's biological father as well as his delay in establishing paternity. But the hand-over would be heartbreaking, it seems to me, no matter his biological father's qualities. Is there an essential principle that you think ought to be followed in all such cases? What action do you think ought to be taken in similar circumstances in which an upstanding biological parent has a legitimate claim?

JJ. The decision should not turn on the claim of a biological parent, upstanding or not. It should be based on the child's best interest. Evan Scott should not have been taken from the stable home he had lived in all his life — a home anchored by a married mom and dad who clearly loved and cared for him. Period. A biological mother who placed her newborn for adoption should not be permitted to change her mind 3-1/2 years later. And the law should be changed so that no man has a "legitimate claim" to his biological child unless he married the child's mother. (Nor should he be responsible for the financial support of that child.) Evan Scott's biological father was nothing more than a sperm donor. It defies common sense and decency that he should now have liberal visitation rights with Evan, while the little boy's true mom and dad — Dawn and Gene Scott — never get to see him again.

AR. You've written a number of straightforward and obfuscation-dispelling columns about same-sex marriage. To my experience that's a particularly rare action for a member of the New England media. In Rhode Island, for example, the news department of the Providence Journal has practically advocated for same-sex marriage, and even conservative talk radio hosts claim an inability to see anything wrong with it. Why do you think something so clear to you and me barely seems to register as a real argument among New England opinion makers?

JJ. Same-sex marriage, like the mainstreaming — even celebrating — of homosexuality generally, is one of those ideas that you have to believe in to be in the media or opinion elite, especially in a blue state. Just as you have to believe that the United States is a rogue nation led by a crazed cowboy, just as you have to believe that there is no more fundamental qualification for a federal judge than unblinking support for easy abortion, so you have to believe that the understanding of marriage that has prevailed for 5,000 years is a manifestation of ignernt redneck bigotry. Maybe it's a question of DNA. Or maybe it really is true that we come from utterly different origins: Conservatives are from Mars, liberals are from San Francisco.

AR. Not unrelated to the previous questions: You're on the Council of Overseers for the Huntington Theatre Company. How did that come about?

JJ. Interesting question with an interesting answer. I used to host a weekly show for New England Cable News. "Talk of New England" was nothing fancy — I would choose a topic and invite some relevant guests to come on the program and chew it over for an hour. The topic one week was government funding of the arts — which I opposed — and one of my guests was Michael Maso, the engaging managing director of the Huntington Theatre Company. As I recall, we had a spirited debate, in which I called for abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts and he made the usual litany of arguments for its existence. In the course of the show — or perhaps during a commercial break — I mentioned that I was a longtime subscriber to the Huntington, and a regular, if modest, contributor. A couple days later, Michael called to ask if I'd be interested in bringing my unconventional view into the Huntington as an Overseer. Which I was glad — still am glad — to do. (No minds have been changed on the subject of the NEA, though.)

AR. As a conservative with interests in the arts, I've noticed a number of figures who share our combination of conservative principles and artistic predilections. (National Review's Jay Nordlinger prominent among them.) Are we a silent cohort? A growing movement? What?

JJ. How about simply — normal? Music- and theater-lovers come in all philosophical shades, just as football- or soccer-lovers do. And vegetarians, poets, motorcyclists, and gardeners. There is no more reason to assume that only liberals are interested in the arts than to assume that only conservatives are interested in business. But don't do Jay Nordlinger the disservice of lumping me together with him as someone with "artistic predilections." His knowledge of classical music is encyclopedic; when he reviews a performance, you can take his opinion to the bank. I couldn't write an intelligent review of a play if you held a gun to my temple. When it comes to drama, I'm simply another Chance the Gardener: I like to watch.

AR. Fine arts seem an odd area of society from which to find conservatives absent — with the arts' long tradition and cultural significance. How can conservatives reclaim a place? Or do you think it'll happen organically, as aesthetic trends move away from rebellious nonsense to plain ol' high-quality work? Do these sorts of considerations affect your activities with the Huntington? Elsewhere?

JJ. I suspect that what is true in academia and the media is true in the arts: The leftwing hegemony has become so pronounced that conservatives either avoid the field altogether or, if they want to rise in it, suppress their political views. A friend of mine, a musician in a Top 5 symphony orchestra, is a devout Christian and an ardent conservative. His views are known to some of his colleagues, but he is careful not to be too blatant in his non-leftism. In recent years, a counterattack from the right has begun on campus. Whether it will succeed or not remains to be seen, but maybe conservatives and other non-leftists with an interest in the arts need to follow suit. I promise to do my part — I think I'll start by (finally) reading Roger Kimball's The Rape of the Masters.

AR. Any plans for a book?

JJ. I am the world's slowest writer. Two columns a week is absolutely a full-time job for me. I am in awe of people who can toss off a couple columns in a few hours, and spend the rest of their time hosting daily talk shows, editing journals of opinion, or writing books. All of which is a roundabout way of saying: No, not yet.