— Seeding the Grass Roots —

September 9, 2012

Things We Read Today This Weekend, 6

Justin Katz

First, scroll down and read Monique's postings on Rep. Spencer Dickinson. Then...

The topics of hope and hopelessness pervaded this weekend's readings, from absurd labor rules in schools, to the likely outcome of Make It Happen, to Spencer Dickinson's insider view, and then to Sandra Fluke.

August 31, 2012

The Brilliance of Clint's Empty Chair

Justin Katz

Politicos and policy wonks have been parsing every major speech offered at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, each with his or her own lens.  (The exception is MSNBC, which apparently declined to parse several speeches by ethnic minorities.)  Some have commented on the gender-war content of Ann Romney's statements; some have focused on the deep policy focus of Vice-Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan.

But the most transformative moment — in its way, the most redolent of the Tea Party revolution — was Clint Eastwood's conversation with an empty chair in which President Obama was not sitting.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

August 9, 2012

Sakonnet Bridge Tolls: Protest Rally Friday

Monique Chartier

Thanks to the General Assembly, the new Sakonnet River Bridge gets a toll booth next June. The cost one way will be $4; $.83 for residents with an EZ pass.

It seems to me pretty unfair to suddenly drop tolls on everyone in an area where no tolls had previously been. Tolls are one of many expense factors that people consider when choosing - or not - to move into a particular town. I was, therefore, pleased to learn that a protest and petitions are being arranged by Jeanne Smith of Tiverton.

The protest will take place tomorrow, Friday, August 10 from 3:00 - 6:00 pm at Clements Market, 2575 East Main Road, Portsmouth. (A second protest will take place on August 14 at Portsmouth City Hall; details to follow.)

It's interesting that members of the party that controls the General Assembly are looking as much to "mitigate" the tolls as to lift them.

Jeanne Smith is not of this submissive mindset. When I contacted her to obtain details of the rally, she sent the following thoughts, slightly edited for clarity and shared here with permission.

When I heard that they passed the toll during the last [General Assembly] session, and rammed it through right at the end, that got to me.

I heard it “was a done deal” and that our reps had done what they could do, and there are more of them and we were outnumbered. That got to me.

When I thought about how people on Aquidneck Island would be paying a disproportionate share towards the Turnpike Authority maintenance program, that also gets to me.

When I think of how small this bridge is compared to many of the other hundreds in the state, that also gets to me.

When I read that the Turnpike authority comment, I understand their pain, but after all they do live on an island ...

So, not having a defeatist attitude, I made out a petition and figured I would bring them to a few places and see the reaction.

Well, the reaction was great….

I believe that people still have a voice.

So I started speaking to many, many people and they wanted to help.

It just keeps getting bigger every day. There are petitions throughout the island, Tiverton, and Little Compton.

The Small Business Assoc. in Portsmouth and a number of other groups are on board as well.

There is a rally at Clements this coming Friday from 3-6, at the same time that Buddy Cianci is on air. Channel 10 should be present there as well.

Then there will be a rally at the Portsmouth Town hall meeting on August 14th. I want our Governor, and our Senator who voted for these tolls to be on notice.

April 15, 2011

The Rhode Island Tax Day Tea Party 2011, The View of the Crowd

Carroll Andrew Morse

And, of course, no Tea Party Rally photoentry is complete without some shots showing the size of the crowd...

The Rhode Island Tax Day Tea Party 2011 -- Though Governor Lincoln Chafee Did Not Show Up, the Spirit of Zechariah Chafee Did

Carroll Andrew Morse

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, whose views on freedom of speech are generally considered to have been significantly influenced by Professor Zechariah Chafee, wrote in a 1927 opinion that...

If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
A number of Tea Partiers lived up to the free-speech tradition of Justice Brandeis and Professor Chafee this afternoon, responding to some dissembling speech that appeared in the crowd with direct and honest speech of their own...

And there was also ample room for discussion between people with differing views...

The Rhode Island Tax Day Tea Party 2011, Signs of the Times

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Rhode Island Tax Day Tea Party 2011

Carroll Andrew Morse

January 12, 2011

Rhode Island, by Example

Justin Katz

Further to my point about a new political wave starting local, the landscape of Rhode Island politics stands as a stark example and testing ground:

... while the state has been trying to work through the desperate finances of its smallest city [Central Falls], it has also been working with three other economically distressed communities — North Providence, Pawtucket and Woonsocket.

And there is growing concern that other communities, also trying to cope with cuts in state aid and rising costs for salaries, benefits and pensions, may also be on the brink of being unable to pay their bills.

The backroom operations and self-dealing maneuvers of public sector unions have created an unsustainable structure, not only in the direct taxpayer costs that they impose, but also in the degree to which they hinder the progress that Rhode Island has to make, as in our shoddy public education system. Worse, it is exceedingly unlikely that the new governor and the General Assembly are going to take the sort of actions that they would have to take to turn things around, following my mantra of mandates, regulations, and taxes. Even if a reform impulse were to strike the state's leaders, the establishment's hand is simply too strong not to turn reforms their way by legerdemain.

Policies must change at the town level, and new, less corruptible, leaders must be found and nurtured through the system.

Tea Going Forward

Justin Katz

Noting the fates of previous grassroots movements, Patrick Ruffini suggests to Tea Partiers: "Hitch yourself to established power institutions at your own peril." That doesn't mean that they should ignore the Republican Party, refuse to participate in it, or fail to work with its established members. It does mean preserving an independent priority.

Indeed, Ruffini points in a direction that I've been advocating:

Ned Ryun, executive director of American Majority — one of the more promising new institutions that have risen up around the Tea Party movement — wants to ignore Washington and go local. "What the movement is really about, quite frankly, is the local leaders, and I've made a point with American Majority of going directly to them, and ignoring the so-called national leaders of the movement," he told me. "I think the national leaders are beside the point; if they go away, the movement still exists. If the local leaders go away, the movement dies."

Frankly, our entire civic culture has to be rebuilt, which is not a one-cycle project. Conservatives — including those who might shy from calling themselves such — shouldn't cede the national stage, of course, but their most lasting effect will arise if they can change the makeup of the political class, starting at the local level. A new type of candidate must be encouraged to get on the escalator at the bottom, carrying Tea Party principles into politics throughout the entire body national.

Power and the massive audience for national issues have a tremendous allure, but they are the corrupting influence that must be avoided.

December 10, 2010

Taking Up the Problem

Justin Katz

Here's my speech to the RI Tea Party meeting, on Wednesday:

The speech is only incidentally a sales pitch, but it's worth tagging on the reminder that you can email or call (401-835-7156) me to pledge financial support — as subscriptions, donations, or advertising — for 2011, helping to create a full-time job doing what we do, addressing the problems that I raised on Wednesday night.

December 8, 2010

Preparing the Tea

Justin Katz

Like Anchor Rising, the Rhode Island Tea Party is beginning to prepare folks for the two-year build-up to the next election. Part of the motivation is, of course, more immediate, because there are going to be plenty of battles to fight at the local, state, and national levels in the interim.

With that in view, I'll be speaking at the Tea Party's strategy meeting, tonight at the Quonset O Club. If you can, please attend. Across the nation, it's critical that emerging voices not simmer down in response to the latest election results (not the least because the winning political party must be watched just as closely as its opposition). That's exponentially more important in Rhode Island, which didn't even have the boon of political change.

September 4, 2010

A Song for the Weather

Justin Katz

Sorry for the lack of posts. The Katz household is recovering from the hurricane. (Isn't yours?)

The day has not gone to waste, though. I've got a new song to add to the "Sing for Unity" album that I've created on my MP3 player:

Of course, the album started as a collection of outrageous Obama propaganda, and this song marks a decisive shift to opposition.

September 3, 2010

Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

Marc Comtois

A lot has been said about the August 28th rally on the Mall last weekend. As a non-Beck guy (not anti- just agnostic) and having a lot to do last weekend, I frankly didn't pay too much attention to the event and the aftermath. Now that I've caught up a bit, I think Rich Lowry is pretty close in what it's all about:

This was the revolt of the bourgeois, of the responsible, of the orderly, of people profoundly at peace with the traditional mores of American society.
In other words, it's not a revolt so much as a retrenchment. While I think Lowry conflates the 8/28 and Tea Party movements a bit--it seems there may be some differences of emphasis (morals/tradition/religion or fiscal concerns, respectively)--they are pretty much the same bunch of people--average, middle-class Americans who our coastal/beltway elites like to call the bourgeois. Lowry continues:
For more than a hundred years, the bourgeois have been accused of being insipid, greedy, and unenlightened. To the long catalogue of their offenses can now be added another: unenthralled by Barack Obama, the Romantic hero seeking to transform the nation.

The tea party represents a revolt against his revolution, and thus a restoration. If a tea-party-infused Republican party were to take Congress and manage to cut federal expenditures by a sharp one-fifth, that figure would only be back to its typical level of recent decades of roughly 20 percent of GDP. If the party were to succeed in making the federal government more mindful of its constitutional limits, it would only be a step toward the dispensation that obtained during most of the country’s history.

Quite a revolt! Something about standing athwart History comes to mind....But Republicans shouldn't get too full of themselves, no matter what the current over/under on November looks like:
The last time Republicans benefited from a wave election, they had their own Beckian figure at the top in the person of House Speaker Newt Gingrich. They wallowed in their revolution and let Gingrich’s ideological grandeur define them — to their regret in the end. If the wave comes this time, Republicans should endeavor to be a sober and responsible party for sober and responsible people, resolutely cleaning up after the failed Obama revolution.
As the last two "wave" elections--one each won by the GOP and the Democrats--have shown, the quickest way for a political party to undercut such a win is to display vast quantities of hubris in the wake of a supposed mandate. In each case, the party that won went too far, reneged on promises or decided that ideals were worth sacrificing for the mirage of long term power. Americans want change, but not that kind or that much.

Now we see average folks clamoring for something else, anything else, to stop what they believe is a disaster in the making. They don't like the direction the country is taking politically so they've started Tea Parties. They don't like the long cultural decline so they find themselves inspired to hold a rally on the Mall. In short, average folks--the silent majority--are speaking up like never before. They've got nothing left to lose.

August 28, 2010

Glenn Beck's Rally: Where to Access Coverage (or Please Provide Your Own!)

Monique Chartier

Beck's Restoring Honor rally kicks off at 10 this morning.

C-Span will cover it live.

Members of Rainy Day Patriots will be posting photos here.

If so inclined, any Rhode Islanders in attendance are encouraged to send photos, videos or live action reports to A.R. during or after the event.

July 19, 2010

"Contract From America"

Monique Chartier

Browsing around on a google search to see whether an l.t.e. by S.K. Town Council candidate Andrew McNulty got printed (apparently I'm too proud to just ask), I stumbled on this.

With heavy emphasis on scaling back the size and spending (there isn't a non-cliche adjective that properly describes how out of hand both have gotten) of the federal government, not to mention a greater legislative adherence to the Constitution, the "Contract from America" is an excellent set of formalized goals developed by the Tea Party and 912 movements. My only mild complaint is that, while it talks about a cap on annual spending increases plus a review and possible wholesale elimination of federal agencies and programs, no mention is made of rolling back the staggering spending that took place over the last two years. But possibly that would be intrinsic to the elimination of programs and agencies. Or maybe the horse is out of the barn with regard to past spending?

"Contract from America", by the way, as opposed to "Contract with America" because

The Contract from America is a grassroots-generated, crowd-sourced, bottom-up call for real economic conservative and good governance reform in Congress.

"In Congress". H'mm. I wonder if the members of Rhode Island's congressional delegation have signed it ...?

July 4, 2010

Civic Engagement Should Be Part of Life

Justin Katz

It may seem an odd adjective to use in describing a person in such an establishment role as the Providence Journal's Commentary page editor, but in writing and conversation Robert Whitcomb is an iconoclastic figure. His take on the reason for dissipating civic engagement among the young, in the United States, highlights the characteristic.

Whitcomb's essay is brief, and he points his fingers in a variety of directions, so one-paragraph quotation would capture its sense, so read the whole thing. Having done so, perhaps you'll agree that the tilt of his proposed solutions misses something that his complaints stroll right around. For example:

Colleges and universities can encourage more civic engagement by offering more political-science and other social-science courses that explain how students can use their citizenship to more effect. Student internships and academic leaves at public-policy think tanks and media outlets should be encouraged. Political-science departments and journalism schools can help facilitate these arrangements.

Such an approach — while I certainly wouldn't advise against it — will tend to play into the specialization of interests that contributes to the problem in the first place. That is to say that it makes civic participation akin to a career option, when what a democracy needs is for it to be a constituent activity of life itself. Earlier, Whitcomb suggests that high schools' imposition of community service might cast it as a requirement from which college sets them free; why, then, would colleges want to present political science in a similar light?

To broaden that notion: What's needed, I'd suggest, is a return to general learning and cultivation of intellectual interest, which is much more difficult than siphoning some segment of student and young adult populations into an area of study and activity. Societywide, we have to begin rewarding action and discouraging passivity — encouraging exploration of problems and development of solutions on an individual basis and trusting that public action will prove sufficiently interesting to draw attention.

Unfortunately — and most definitely not surprisingly — those who currently inhabit the realms of politics and culture-making have reason to prefer begin left to their topical fiefdoms. Much better for the masses to become lost in the passivity of television, narcissism of social media online, and canned causes to assuage guilt than for everybody to have an opinion formed from personal conviction and tied to a learned habit of putting thought into action.

July 1, 2010

RISC Marching Forward, Too

Justin Katz

The Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC) recently announced that it has "reached a threshold of $100,000 in a combination of pledges, direct contributions and seed money which will be used to help pro-business candidates from any political party this election season." Now it's enlisted the world-famous-in-Rhode-Island Arlene Violet to steer the truck:

The RISC Business Network, launched last January by the multi-partisan taxpayer advocacy group, RISC (RI Statewide Coalition) is announcing that former Rhode Island Attorney General, teacher, talk show host and columnist Arlene Violet has been named to head up the campaign effort of the RISC Business Network.

"I am excited to head up the RISC Business Network and I am rearing to go to help get new people- - and new policies- - into the General Assembly because the status quo up there have profoundly failed the people of this state," says Violet. "It's true they cut the top income tax rate but they failed to address the kind of pension reform the state really needs."

It's easy to get discouraged, because Rhode Island cities and towns, the state, and the nation require much more rapid reform than looks likely to happen, but we should also consider that those reforms must be much more comprehensive than can happen quickly — at least than can happen well and quickly. And the steady (if too slow) growth of local activist groups suggests that they'll be around for a while, so even the cynic can take some comfort in knowing that they'll be here to help rebuild after the state collapses.

Of course, with sufficient resident involvement, total collapse could still be avoided...

June 30, 2010

OSPRI in Congress

Justin Katz

I've been meaning to mention the Congressional appearance of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute:

The Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI) today issued an appeal to the Rhode Island Attorney General asking for intervention in the Open Records Request sent to his appointed counsel in the lead paint case who is now being considered for a federal court seat.

"While OSPRI is concerned that the facts about the 'Dupont Deal' be made public, we are equally concerned that government transparency not be frustrated by private firms representing the people who fail to make the records of the case available to their client, we the people" said Brian Bishop, Director of the Founders Project, the Institute's legal research and education arm.

Following citation of OSPRI's efforts in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee where Senator John Corny recognized the frustration we have had obtaining 'Dupont Deal' documents and placed OSPRI's letter to the committee in the record of those proceedings, OSPRI continues to try to get to the bottom of who got what out of the deal and why.

Executive Director Bill Felkner and co. have been toiling on for several years, now, and even this sort of action, gaining the attention mainly of wonks and insiders, illustrate precisely why such work must be done. Without somebody with a spotlight, the public never has a chance to see the creepers skulking along just beneath the bright lights of government and media.

May 24, 2010

Why More than Economics is Needed to Understand the Tea Party

Carroll Andrew Morse

Last Thursday, the Projo published an excellent op-ed by Rhode Island Tea Party President Colleen Conley, written in response a derisive editorial on the Tea Party from a week ago Sunday.

Since Ms. Conley was more than clear about where the editorial board's perspective was lacking, the part of the op-ed I would like to call attention to is the penultimate paragraph, 1) because I like taking advantage of any opportunities to use the word "penultimate" and 2) because it challenges the conventional wisdom commonly found in both Democratic and Republican political circles...

We do not just protest; we are active, organizing and engaging in civic discourse. We are mobilizing in every city and town in Rhode Island. It is not only about economics; it is about individual liberty and the vision of the great patriots who created our country.
Often forgotten by so-called moderates and political professionals who seek to build tactical political coalitions -- yet who seem unable to understand why the Tea Partiers are not happy with the standard political choices being offered -- is that either good or bad ends can be pursued through efficient means, and that it will always take a discussion extending beyond fiscal and economic efficiency, in order to define what the goals of government should be in a society that is worth having.

May 19, 2010

The Obligation of Participation

Justin Katz

Jay Nordlinger's profile of Florida congressional candidate Allen West is interesting reading, overall, but this passage should haunt the days of all productive Rhode Islanders (emphasis added):

After the Army, West taught high school for a while — history. He is especially pleased that some of his students went on to service academies. Then he went to Afghanistan as a civilian adviser, training Afghan officers. He says he felt "a yearning in my heart" to do this. And then, politics called. West quotes Plato: "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

The story of our state — and its characteristic apathy — in a sentence.

May 17, 2010

Why the Tea Party Has Emerged from America's Side Streets

Carroll Andrew Morse

Bill James, the pioneer baseball number-cruncher who is also a gifted sportswriter, once observed that historians reduce real events to patterns of light and shadow, which popular memory further reduces to black and white. The description of the Tea Party movement offered yesterday by the Projo in an unsigned editorial was derived from a black-and-white picture of political activity that allows for only limited avenues of basic citizen participation: decisions by individual voters, activities of special interests and not much else.

In the political science literature, Republican Party support is often characterized, in terms of this limited set of possible actors, as an alliance of Main Street and Wall Street interests (which then added the "religious right" leading to the Republican Revolution of the 1990s). But the Wall Street/Main Street model has to my mind always been insufficient, as it is difficult to envision enough votes existing in the dual-street coalition to provide the totals needed to actually win anything. In cases where Republicans have been successful, there have to have been a goodly number of people from the side streets who also choose to vote Republican.

Side-street voters can be brought into the picture in a couple of different ways. In addition to citizens who focus solely on their narrow interests, our political and social system can also produce citizens concerned more generally about the long-term health of their municipality, state or country (I know it's hard to believe, given the cynicism of the times). Over the course of American political history, the Republican Party may have had the stronger attraction to these voters, who served to counterbalance the coalition of special interests that is the Democratic Party. (Digression: Don't blame me for characterizing the Democrats like this. This is how the poli-sci literature frequently describes them). Or there could be a significant segment of American voters who lie outside of a deep attachment to either party, who serve as neutral referees, choosing amongst the options they believe best serve the common good. Like many items in political analysis, the reality will be a continuum between the two ends.

But however this dynamic has worked in the past, at the present moment, the side-streets are where the Tea Partiers are coming from. The Tea Partiers are citizens who have put their hands up, to tell the established political players 1) you've really screwed up in planning for the future of our country 2) so you need to put together a better plan to pull things together 3) or else we will replace you, via the ballot box, with someone different who will. Yet while efforts to replace politically-chosen decision makers when the public believes that they have governed poorly are recognized as fundamental to the practice of democracy, reactions to the emergence of a segment of citizens who are visibly signaling that they want better choices than what is currently being offered have ranged from the dismissive to the apoplectic.

The negative reactions towards citizen participation are, in part, the result of special-interest-centric attitudes towards politics that have disimagined any significant role for regular citizens concerned about the long-term future their society. In many theories which gained traction in the latter-half of the 20th century on the subject of how democracy "really" works, the role of the common-folk was limited to picking amongst options offered by coalitions of elites and organized interests. Elites had the ability to transcend base motivations of self-interest, as well as to manage a power-structure that balanced competing special interests and to create the right messaging to get some of the common folk to come along, but the common folk, being common, couldn't be expected to organize in pursuit of a larger purpose, on their own, with the same vigor that they would organize themselves to pursue more immediately gratifying ends. Elite leadership was required to move them towards broader, high-minded goals.

Now, this is not the only pattern of light and shadow about the workings of American democracy offered by modern political science and, in this century, it may not even be the dominant one. But it is still one accepted view. Certainly, for example, a black-and-white picture of narrowly-focused special interests being the only significant mode of citizen participation that is possible informs the Providence Journal editorial board's cynical attempt to pound Tea Partiers into the mold of a traditional interest group.

Fortunately, immediate evidence of the deficiency of the narrow view of citizen participation is present on the same Projo page as the Tea Party editorial, where in what is either an unintentionally schizophrenic juxtaposition, or a brilliantly subversive move by someone on the editorial staff, a second editorial discusses the need for spending restraint to secure the future of all of Rhode Island.

When one newspaper editorial calls for spending restraint which will depend on political change, while another expresses unconcealed disdain for citizens who advocate for political change involving spending restraint, it is safe to say that a contradiction has been identified. The question needing to be asked to the author of the Tea-Party editorial, in light of the spending editorial, is whether it is acceptable for regular folks to organize on their own to address the long term, system-wide consequences of special-interest dominance of government -- or whether they should only be addressing hazards to the general good that staid and proper elites (like maybe the Projo editorial board) have declared to be legitimate concerns.

May 12, 2010

Two Pieces of Heartening News Out of Massachusetts

Monique Chartier

... for those of us who have watched with consternation the push around the country - and especially in Washington - for expansion of both big government and illegal immigration.

1) Republican Richard Ross (R - again, that's R) has won by a substantial margin the state senate seat vacated by Scott Brown. Ross even won Needham, the home town of his Democrat opponent. While not quite as monumental as Brown's victory one hundred days ago, this is nevertheless a notable development in a distinctly left-leaning, pro-big government state.

2) And the AP via the Boston Herald reports that last night, the Worcester City Council

declined to vote on a resolution calling for an economic boycott against Arizona in protest of that state’s recently passed controversial immigration law

Contrast this with the misguided action of the Boston City Council in voting to cut business ties with Arizona as well as the stated intention of Mayor Menino to poll all companies doing business with the city to determine their views on "immigration". (Note the refusal to use the word "illegal" as well as this potential exercise in thought policing.)

On his blog, Michael Graham makes the point that everyone critical of the AZ law has studiously disregarded.

here’s my question for pro-boycotters like Mayor Menino:

Now that other states are considering similar measures, are you going to boycott them, too? And given that 70 percent of Americans support Arizona’s law, and the law is actually just a state version of federal law right now (unenforced, but the law nevertheless), are you going to boycott the entire United States of America?

April 27, 2010

"Just quit spending all the money."

Marc Comtois

In Utah (h/t), incumbent Republican Senator Bob Bennett is running in third place with a couple weeks to go before the Utah GOP winnows the field down to two candidates. The Utah GOP is dominated by members of--or those sympathetic to--the Tea Party movement and Bennett has come under fire for proposing that individuals be required to purchase health care and for supporting the bank bailouts.

"What is uniting everyone right now is fiscal conservatism, and I'm not even sure I like the term conservative. It's just responsibility. Just quit spending all the money," said David Kirkham, a co-founder of Utah's tea party movement.
That's pretty much the basic uniting factor, isn't it?

April 20, 2010

What Ed Has to Believe

Justin Katz

Strolling amidst the crowd of the latest Tea Party, Ed Fitzpatrick reflected as follows:

I've got to believe the health-care law is going to do more good than the Iraq war, and I wondered if Tea Party members were concerned that the cost of the war had reached $717.5 billion as of Thursday, according to the National Priorities Project (costofwar.com).

I don't begrudge Fitzpatrick's shorthand use of the faith-based statement, "I've got to believe"; after all a full year of columns could be penned in defending the belief. Still, it's worth a question mark.

One could argue the execution of the war, its justifications, and its costs (both expected and actual), but from our current vantage point, it was overall a benefit to the United States and the world. In less than a decade, Iraq has moved from a reckless and brutal tyranny to the second most legitimately democratic governing system in the Middle East, after Israel. In short, cost removed, the action was to the better.

The healthcare legislation, on the other hand (the hand understood by most tea partiers), will make things worse. Costs will continue to go up, and they now come with a government mandate, absorbing taxes, decreasing employment opportunity, limiting innovation, and restricting access to services. That's a negative consequence.

Even without taking into account, in other words, the difference that the Iraq war will quickly decrease in costs from here into the future, it simply isn't the case that a negative action "does more good" than a positive action.

April 16, 2010

RI Tea Parties 2009 and 2010: Contrasting Crowd Size

Monique Chartier

The angle of the two photographs is not identical ...


2009 [Courtesy Justin Katz]



The Tea Party's Outreach

Carroll Andrew Morse

One theme that was repeated at yesterday's Tax-Day Tea Party rally was that the Tea Party can only be successful over the long term, if it continues to grow itself by reaching out to others...

April 15, 2010

The Tax-Day Tea Party: More Signs of the Times!

Carroll Andrew Morse




(Pink slip...did you get it?)


(This one presents an interesting paradox. If this is a regular Tea Party goer, than Jeff Montgomery of the People for the American Way would suggest that this sign is beyond the pale. But if were to be held by a Tea Party crasher coming from a leftist perspective, this might be regarded as a great act of patriotism. How can this be?)

The Tax-Day Tea Party: A Party Crasher?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The person in the center of the picture was holding an offensive sign that made reference to Timothy McVeigh. The serious-looking gentleman in the cool shades on the left side of the picture is a Rhode Island State Police officer.


Several different times, Tea Party members attempted to hold their own signs directly in front of the McVeigh sign. The state policeman informed them that they couldn't do that, the guy in the center of the picture had just as much right to stand there and hold a sign as anyone else.

The conclusion: Our state police officers do great honor to the concepts of peaceable assembly and freedom of expression in the performance of their duties. Where else in the world do the police take this part of their job as seriously as the Rhode Island State Police did today?

The Tax-Day Tea Party: The View of the Crowd

Carroll Andrew Morse

No coverage of a Tea Party event would be complete without some information on the crowd size.

This is from a little after 3:30...


From about 4:30...


(Say hi to possible GA candidate Richard Rodi in the lower right hand corner).

...and the crowd was still the same size or larger, by ten-past 5:00...


And don't forget the reverse angle, that shows the crowd on the statehouse steps!


Andrew Checks in from the Tea Party

Justin Katz

I got tied up working in Newport, today, but Andrew's at the State House sending me photos from the Tax Day Tea Party.

Tea Party!

Marc Comtois


April 14, 2010

Of Tea and Tyranny

Carroll Andrew Morse

Last week, current RI Future proprietor Brian Hull linked to a Boston Phoenix article authored by David S. Bernstein titled "Tea is for Terrorism"; Brian Hull chose a similar headline for his post, "Tea is for Terror". Early on, the article warns of a potential terrorist strike in the U.S....

[I]t would almost be surprising if there are not any “lone wolves” or “small terrorist cells” preparing to strike.
Given that early graf and the title, you might expect the bulk of the article to be about connections to actual or threatened violence, but it isn’t. Instead, the subject is protests, how the tone of political rhetoric might lead to violence, and how, in the author’s opinion, fringe group, tea party and mainstream GOP rhetoric have all crossed the same line together...
The distinction between legitimate and fringe speakers…has disappeared. Also wiped away is the line of demarcation between disagreements over policy and claims of illegitimacy.
And what kinds of examples does Bernstein use to support his that is a claim that the fringes are now part and parcel of the mainstream GOP? Well, one is the fact that past and possible future Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a significant number of Republican Attorney Generals have expressed dissent concerning the recently passed Federal healthcare law…
Mitt Romney, for example, released a statement calling passage of the health-care legislation “an unconscionable abuse of power,” and “an historic usurpation of the legislative process.”

And, after its passage, more than a dozen Republican state attorneys general immediately filed suit, claiming the bill is unconstitutional.

According to Bernstein, this is crazy stuff that reinforces the birthers or those who believe that the Obama administration represents the dominion of the antichrist. Ultimately, this argument boils down to that since there are crazies in the world, the loyal opposition should be as quiet as it can in opposing the actions of the governing majority -- keep that particular phrase in mind, because I've borrowed it from someone else, whom we’ll get to in a moment -- because dissent can lead to dangerous outcomes, so we are better off with less of it.

Quoting Jeff Montgomery of the People for the American Way, the article says...

“There is apparently nothing they can say or do that is so extreme that the party leaders will disavow them,” says Montgomery. As a result, “we have millions of Americans being told daily, by the people they trust, that the US government is on the verge of tyranny".
But if Bernstein paid closer attention to his own newspaper, he would know that its editorial board in 2007 was also concerned with the U.S. being on the verge of tyranny...
If the lies that produced the Iraq War can be considered a soft form of presidential authoritarianism abroad, then should we consider Bush’s perversion of the government’s prosecutorial power at home an equally dangerous form of tyranny? Following Karl Rove’s footsteps will help the nation understand the answer. Expect the worst.
...raising an obvious question of why it is within the bounds of professional journalism for alternative newspaper editors to say the U.S. is on the verge of tyranny, but out-of-bounds extremism when tea-partiers reach the same conclusion.

Brian Hull might be similarly interested to know that the prior proprietor of Rhode Island's Future has also told us that both Federal and state governments are on the verge of tyranny...

The march towards an American Police state continues. First, Don Carcieri rips up the Rhode Island constitution, now the US Attorney General unilaterally repeals the 4th Amendment
At this point, I could continue tossing out examples of the continuing invocation of tyranny by the left, e.g. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert saying “the rule of law is succumbing to the tyranny of fear”, or Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff in 2002 approvingly quoting another paper's editorial that stated that "actions taken over the past year are eerily reminiscent of tyranny portrayed in the most nightmarish works of fiction", and most of us could probably settle around a nice common-ground milquetoast position of sometimes people on both sides employ some hyperbole when using politically-charged terms.

But if your interest goes beyond dismissing the use of the term "tyranny" as something that everyone does, and you want to capture the spirit of the Tea Party rally to be held tomorrow at the Rhode Island statehouse, I would like to suggest a section of a 1927 Supreme Court Opinion written by Justice Louis Brandeis as a good starting point, Justice Brandeis not being, as far as I know, someone who is generally regarded as a right-wing kook...

Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that, in its government, the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary...that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government....Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.
Writing with the precision of a Supreme Court Justice, Justice Brandeis saw at least the occasional tyranny of a governing majority as a legitimate concern. Is this thought now too fringe for what purports to be a mainstream left? And are David Bernstein and Brian Hull ready to tell Rhode Island's Tea Partiers that Justice Brandeis' opinion is now outdated, and that civic disengagement and inert behavior are now the new patriotism?

April 13, 2010

The Definitionally Centrist Tea Party

Justin Katz

With a big picture of RI Tea Party organizer Colleen Conley clearly caught in the act of that dangerous right-wing activity of listening to somebody speak, Ed Achorn puts forward a theory about whom the tea party types actually are:

... because middle-class Americans, for as long as I can remember, have been too busy (some say apathetic) to protest against the loss of their money and choices. Usually, they just shut up, pay and obey. And professional politicians from both parties, for their part, have long grasped there is a middle America that cannot be pushed around too abruptly. Worried about re-election, the wiser heads from both parties have edged the country gradually toward the bigger, bossier Washington they favor.

But the wiser heads are no more. The more ideological, less pragmatic pols running the show today — undeterred by such flashing-red warning signs as the massive defection of independents in the polls, furious constituents at town-hall meetings and the loss of elections in Virginia, New Jersey and (almost unbelievably) Massachusetts — have so brazenly ignored the public's concerns that they seem to have awakened a slumbering giant. Middle-class Americans have coalesced around the rather amorphous Tea Party movement, and intend to turn out in large numbers around the country on Tax Day, including at the State House in Providence, to protest the country's direction.

I say that we should turn back the Big Government time bomb about a hundred years. That'll give us a century to focus on other things than how much more money we have to make to pay off the government and which of our habits Uncle Obama is going to target for penalties next.

April 11, 2010

"Colour Blinded" - Scaramouche and Graham On the Foolish Accusation Leveled Against the Tea Party

Monique Chartier

A Canadian blogger named Scaramouche supplies the perfect answer to the baseless charge that Tea Partiers are racist (the latest to do so, regretfully, being the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts).

We chit-chatted for a bit about Jews, American and Canadian, and their tendency to vote liberal (and Liberal) no matter what, until we arrived at the point of the conversation I always dread reaching with someone on the other side of the political fence: ObamaTime.

"Those Tea Partyers and rednecks--they hate Obama because he's black! They're so....racissst," she hissed.


What I wanted to say was, "Lady, I bet you've never had a conversation with a 'redneck' or a Tea Partyer in all your born days. I bet for all your self-regard, the legacy of having worked for 'civil rights' back in the 60s, you never once considered that voting for someone largely on the basis of his (black) skin colour is actually another form of 'racism'. It's obvious to me you haven't even the first clue about the people that you hate, yes, hate--what motivates them, what moves them, and why they might abhor what Obama is doing to your country and to the world, stuff that has squat to do with the discernable presence of melanin." I very much wanted to say all of the above, but, under the circumstances, it would not have been appropriate. Instead, I smiled sweetly, extended my hand, and said, "It was very nice meeting you."

Indeed: "stuff that has squat to do with the discernable presence of melanin".

My own theory is that the charge of racism against Tea Partiers and their "ilk" (place me in both of these categories) is a cross between a tantrum and a blankie for people who really, really want to believe in the government-expanding, Constitution-challenging, patently unaffordable policies of the current Congress and Presidential administration but are frustrated that they are consistently at a loss to defend such policies against factual, substantive criticisms. That they can also produce not one whit of evidence of their charge makes the whole conversation in a strange way entirely consistent on their part: no facts to defend bad policies, no facts to back the only charge that desperation compelled them to scrounge up against the critics of these policies.

As to the charge made a little closer to home, Michael Graham explains to the good Governor

Gov. Patrick, when you are voted out of office this November for raising our taxes, breaking your pledge to cut property taxes, raising our tolls, trying to create cushy government jobs for your friends, supporting openly-corrupt incumbent hacks, etc. etc. I make you this pledge:

Nobody will be voting against you because of your race. They’ll dump you because of your ineffective leadership and lousy public policies.

And we know this to be true, of course, because if Governor Patrick is voted out of office, he will be standing in the ranks of other public officials - many if not most of them lacking "discernable melanin" - voted out not because of their race but solely because of their "ineffective leadership" and the "lousy public policies" they pursued.

April 7, 2010

Perhaps Healthcare Will Be a Catalyst, at Least for a Permanent Alarm

Justin Katz

Theodore Gatchel raises the operative question with regard to the reaction to the content and process of the new healthcare legislation:

On the positive side, the process the Democrats have used to pass this legislation appears to have caused more Americans than ever to read the Constitution.

The more they read it, the more they question not just the legitimacy of this particular process, but also how the immense power of today's federal government can be reconciled with any common-sense reading of the Constitution.

As Gatchel suggests, part of the answer will depend on the direction that the Democrats head from here. If they wipe the dirt off their hands and govern quietly from the center at least through the next election, public ire might subside. If they continue with their radical agenda, whether on immigration, energy, unions, or what have you, they'll reinforce public opposition.

On the other hand, even in our little blue, heavily propagandized state, we've seen people newly involved in a way that suggests a long-term commitment — and a long memory. Even if the politicians manage to lull a critical mass of Americans back into apathetic slumber, there is now a huge nationwide infrastructure for sounding alarms.

April 4, 2010

Rhode Island Voter Coalition, North Kingston, Part 4, General Assembly Candidate Michael Grassi

Justin Katz

Slipping in at the end of Wednesday's Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates event, General Assembly candidate Michael Grassi got to go it solo for a bit and managed to run out the battery on my camcorder. (Click the "continue reading" link for more video.)

Continue reading "Rhode Island Voter Coalition, North Kingston, Part 4, General Assembly Candidate Michael Grassi"

April 3, 2010

Rhode Island Voter Coalition, North Kingston, Part 3, 2nd Congressional District Candidates

Justin Katz

The candidates for the second Congressional district had a lively time at Wednesday's Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates event. The more contentious segments is the third in this post. (Click the "continue reading" link for more video.)

Continue reading "Rhode Island Voter Coalition, North Kingston, Part 3, 2nd Congressional District Candidates"

Rhode Island Voter Coalition, North Kingston, Part 2, Lieutenant Governor

Justin Katz

The only candidate for lieutenant governor who was able to make it to Wednesday's Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates event was Robert Healey, who treated the audience to an edifying and entertaining monologue. (Click the "continue reading" link for more video.)

Continue reading "Rhode Island Voter Coalition, North Kingston, Part 2, Lieutenant Governor"

Rhode Island Voter Coalition, North Kingston, Part 1, General Assembly Candidates

Justin Katz

The first batch of video corresponding with my liveblog of Wednesday's Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates event covers the candidates for General Assembly. (Click the "continue reading" link for more video.)

Continue reading "Rhode Island Voter Coalition, North Kingston, Part 1, General Assembly Candidates"

March 31, 2010

Voters May Be Flooded

Justin Katz

As I mentioned to Matt Allen, a few minutes ago, we've been largely untouched by the weather, this week, in Tiverton, but I was still a little surprised not to see notice that tonight's Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates night at the Quonset "O" Club in North Kingstown had been postponed. It hasn't been, and I'm here along with about thirty other people.

Organizer Steve Wright seemed exhausted. Apparently, he spent the night fighting basement flooding, but steeled his spine to fulfill his drive for better governance and an informed electorate. Perhaps one thing to keep in mind during difficult times: life and social institutions march on. If anything, trying times should remind us why we need rational government structures.

7:35 p.m.

We're still giving folks a bit of extra time to get here, and a few more people have filtered in, bringing the crowd to about forty people. Random words caught from general conversation are mostly flood related.

7:39 p.m.

Steve Wright is running through the people who weren't able to come (moderator, candidates, sound & video crew).

First opening statement from Larry Ehrhardt (R., North Kingstown): "Rhode Island's in very serious trouble." He's running through all of the gloom — bad statistics, debt, liabilities, budget shortfalls, and so on. "The most important thing, now, is to watch the direction of the government of the state." He's referring to the elevation of Gordon Fox to Speaker of the Rhode Island House.

After reading from Rep. Corvese's op-ed against Fox, Ehrhardt said: "What's going on is a battle for the heart and soul of Rhode Island." He suggested that people need to vote for conservatives of whatever party.

7:50 p.m.

James Halley (district 31) is giving an opening statement that sounds pretty good (reasonable government, etc.), but now he's talking about the return of authority to cities and towns as a good thing. Apparently, he was a superintendent.

7:53 p.m.

Dawson Hodgson, a young Republican for the East Greenwich/North Kingstown/Warwick gave a good, right-leaning speech.

Now Doreen Costa (Republican from Exeter) is introducing herself in precisely the way that one might expect of a woman who has had her picture in the Providence Journal confronting Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D, RI).

8:06 p.m.

First question was concerning Chuck Levesque's legislation to raise auto registration fees and receipts tax.

Ehrhardt answered by citing an exchange by email with a constituent who sent in a form letter supporting the legislation demanding to pay higher taxes.

Colleen Conley asked about ending the public pension system as a defined benefit system in exchange for a defined contribution plan.

Ehrhardt referenced his own non-increasing corporate pension from two decades ago.

Halley wants to look at the federal government's model as a way of transferring from defined benefit to defined contribution.

Hodgston: "This is a huge, crushing structural debt that we'll pass on to our grandchildren." He says public employees deserve a good retirement program comparable to the private sector. He argued that the only way to keep the promise of the pension system is to transition it.

Costa: New employees to 401K. She cited her brother, who is retired at 57 from the Post Office with 80% pay.

8:14 p.m.

Next question: Will you sign a contract to vote "no" on new taxes?

Hodgson: Will only raise one tax: public pensions coming out of the state will be treated as income
Costa: "I will not raise a tax. Ever." The straw that knocked her into the race was the $7 fishing tax.
Halley: "I would not sign that." Our tax system is "not equitable" because it relies on property tax and has too many exemptions for sales taxes. He wants room to reform that.
Ehrhardt: "As a matter of policy, I do not sign pledges." He heeds his constituents, but he is against tax increases.

8:21 p.m.

Will Ricci: What taxes would you say we should lower for economic development?

Ehrhardt: Income tax, particularly on the higher brackets. Corporate tax. Sales tax.
Halley: Noted business tax. Property taxes are killing us.
Hodgson: "Budget policy is part and parcel of tax policy." "We've got to look at our spending problem." Structural debt. There's no easy answer. [Sure there is! --- JK] He's not optimistic about the chances of getting taxes down, because the people in government have made promises that we cannot keep.
Costa: Minimum business tax. Emphasized all of the various fees and requirements.

8:30 p.m.

Somebody raised the exodus of the boating industry (directed at Halley's comfort about taxing boat sales).

Halley's sticking firm. Colleen Conley booed. "It's the Ocean State!"

Next question: Unfunded mandates. Would Ehrhardt sign on to Trillo's 10th Amendment legislation?

Ehrhardt didn't cosign because Trillo didn't ask. He'd rather we focus on state mandates, such as bus monitors. They'd be "easy fixes."

Next questioner is advocating for same-sex marriage.

Costa: Support civil unions, attended one recently. Marriage, no, for social and religious reasons.
Hodgson: Running for other reasons. Doesn't trust government to legislate marriage. "If we have to legislate this, it should be for any two individuals."
Halley: Agrees with Doreen. Supports individual choices for relationship, but marriage is opposite-sex.
Ehrhardt: Marriage is man and woman. Would support some sort of civil unions, but would also support a ballot question on marriage.

8:37 p.m.

On to lieutenant governor, the only candidate to make it was Robert Healey. You'll have to check the video to see his posture as he began. Casual. It's like performance art.

"I believe in small government and oppose government waste, and in this case, the waste is the office that I"m running for."

He's especially incensed that there's an entire highly paid staff to support the office.

8:42 p.m.

"This office is like your appendix: you don't really need it." "When you think about the office, it sounds like you might need it, but you're really wasting a million dollars a year of taxpayer money." He promises not to take pay or hire a staff.

Colleen Conley called him a "forerunner of the Tea Party movement." Her question was how he would eliminate the office.

He said his first step would to fill the office doing nothing and taking nothing. The people of Rhode Island would have to figure out a new system. He does affirm the need for a generally elected office that would take over the governor's office. He questioned why the most powerful office holder, the House Speaker, would want to transfer to the office of governor. He thinks combining the title of lieutenant governor with some other office, like secretary of state.

8:50 p.m.

Missed the question, but Healey's saying that Liz Roberts's legislative record before she became lieutenant governor should scare people when they consider that she could, in fact, become governor.

Now he's reviewing his political history — as a small-government candidate for governor and a strong arm against the unions as a school committee member.

8:52 p.m.

Given the lack of authority of the office, the questions have been kind of to other points, and lighthearted. The video will be worth watching, though.

"Talk is cheap, and I can do it for nothing."

Now there aren't any real questions, so Healey's going through some of his past slogans, such as: "He won't be there for you."

He thinks he could govern "if I had to" because he was trained as a teacher, and has the experience and degrees to show for it. He know the law. He's owned and run businesses. He knows what it's like to work. "The beautiful part of it all is that I don't rely on the Rhode Island economy for my living." He does real estate development in South America with his profit from the sale of a liquor business.

Funny, he doesn't look like Gatsby.

8:59 p.m.

Will Ricci asked whether Healey would actually go to his office on a regular basis. He answered that he'd carry a cell phone, for which he'll pay. In his answer, Healey also referenced a debate in the last season with a general and Liz Roberts, one of whom is retired on a pension and the other of whom is a trust fund baby, neither really needs the money.

9:04 p.m.

He says he actually might have a shot, given the political environment, if the Republicans don't run a candidate or even endorse him. He wouldn't run for the GOP, though, because he wants to keep his creds as an independent.

9:08 P.M.

Moving on to the second Congressional race. Zaccaria, Gardiner, and Clegg.

Michael Gardiner is up, and his purpose is to redefine the local GOP as a centrist party. The backstory, by the way, is that Gardiner is in some way associated with the infamous Bobby Oliviera, who's been on a personal-attack binge by phone and by email, lately.

9:15 p.m.

A number of the Republican stalwarts in attendance left the room while Gardiner spoke. Tepid applause.

Bill Clegg is up talking about, emphasizing that he's running entirely on the economy and shrinking government spending. He's running for Congress, as opposed to state office, because the problems are so much bigger at the federal level. He thinks we need to start repealing.

9:17 p.m.

Mark Zaccaria says that he disagreed with all of the spending of the Bush administration, but he's positively frightened by Obama's follow-up. He wants to shrink government. Period. "Individual authority coupled with individual responsibility."

9:24 p.m.

Steve Wright uncharacteristically asks a question: about the Enumerated Powers Act, requiring each bit of legislation to cite its authority for its action.

Zaccaria supports.
Clegg emphasized a lack of responsiveness from government, and would support the act, but he notes the interpretational powers of the Supreme Court, which could take us in the wrong direction regardless.
Gardiner thinks the act is unnecessary, but hey, go ahead (paraphrase). Interesting note: I'm way in the corner, and of all the candidates, tonight, Gardiner is paying the most attention to my camera.

Next question is about something that happened on Facebook, but Gardiner talked over him refusing to answer. But it turns out that he wants to take the opportunity to rail against the 10th amendment, Colleen Conley, Helen Glover, and the state GOP. Boos. This guy is unhinged.

9:29 p.m.

Clegg: "I fully support Facebook..."
Needed laugh.
Zaccaria: "I was proud to represent the 10th amendment rally.

Gardiner mentioned signs offensive to Langevin. Given Bobby O's involvement in this thing, I'd wager that the signs were a plant by supposed "centrists" who wish to undermine conservatives.

Colleen Conley redirects to Gardiner regarding explicit threats from Bobby O. Smug look on Gardiner's face. Gardiner's defending Bobby O.

This is the dumb part of politics.

Steve Wright has intervened to stop the fighting and get back to relevant questions.

9:33 p.m.

I'll add this, by the way: I think the references to Bobby O's past could be a little more charitable, but the type of political behavior in which he revels is really inexcusable and unnecessary.

Next question: What is your take on repealing the healthcare monstrosity?

Notwithstanding his opposition to the 10th amendment, Gardiner wants state-driven healthcare solutions that move out of the employer-based system.
Clegg: He would work to repeal, not only because of the nature of the bill, but also because of the shenanigans used to pass it. "It's an abomination what has been done."
Zaccaria hasn't answered yet, but I'll predict: 'Hell, yes, repeal!"

What he actually is saying: "Even to think about spending that much more money that we don't have is ludicrous. We absolutely have to try to repeal the bill." If that's not possible (or in the interim) Congress should simply not fund it.

9:38 p.m.

The next question is about border control and the "shoving of amnesty down our throats."

Zaccaria: Eliminate the economic incentives for immigrants to move here illegally, beginning with controls on businesses and smarter controls on legal immigration. We also have to mirror the history of Columbia in controlling drug cartels in Mexico.
Clegg: Supports eVerify and legal immigration. What's going on in Mexico is a war, "one of the largest problems we have on the North American continent. That gives reason to maintain our own military to protect our own border, if we need to.
Gardiner: Speaking well of Chuck Schumer (D, NY). He supports the efforts that Schumer's pursuing. "eVerify is fine."

9:42 p.m.

Will Ricci is attempting to redirect the question as one against Bobby O.

Next question: How improve our debt rating?

Zaccaria: Must address Social Security and Medicare. The former must move toward defined contribution. He also raised troops deployed unnecessarily in such nations as Germany.
Clegg: Education and healthcare outstrip defense spending. He's a strong proponent of a strong defense, but regardless of the area, the question is what we can afford. Congress must look at every program and decide what to cut. He says that may require non-professionals, and he'll only run for up to two two-year terms.
Gardiner: Lauding George H.W. Bush. Gardiner is blaming the right for hanging him out to dry for violating the "no new taxes" pledge.

9:54 p.m.

Chairman of RI Log Cabin Republicans asked about the candidates' positions on same-sex marriage.

Clegg: For civil unions. "Marriage is the province of religion, not civil government."
Zaccaria: The definition of marriage derives from a religious sacrament. Thinks states should not issue marriage certificates. Definitely doesn't support a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Gardiner: Poetic answer about loneliness and the need for family. "What if I were gay and an orphan? Would I have no right to a family?" Challenges whether traditionalists really believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. "And I really don't care if you like the answer."

9:57 p.m.

The Q&A is over, but they're giving Michael Grassi some time to introduce himself as a candidate for General Assembly. A conservative speech.

10:04 p.m.

4-pronged approach to fixing Rhode Island:

1. No tax increases.
2. Small business tax reform. Eliminate corporate taxes. Use the gas tax for what it's meant to be used for. And the lottery, for education.
3. Create a competitive healthcare industry. In Rhode Island, we don't have a choice.
4. His wife is a school teacher, but "the unions need to realize something in this state": that we need pension reform. End the current plan.

10:05 p.m.

Monique asked if he supports eVerify for the private sector. He does, and he uses eVerify as a business owner.. The illegal community receiving our money has to stop.

Next question: Do people in government have to start exposing corruption? The questioner believes so, because it's criminal, not just slimy.

Well, they've run out my camcorder battery.

Steven Wright's closing comment: "OK. Now go home and pump out your basements."

March 27, 2010

More Images from the Tenth Amendment Rally

Justin Katz

Sent in by Steve Gerling, who happens to be the subject of the first picture:

Terry Gorman of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement:

Travis Rowley of Rhode Island Young Republicans:

General Assembly District 31 candidate Doreen Costa (I think):

Crowd shot:

Images from the Tenth Amendment Rally Today

Monique Chartier






Some Federalism on Saturday

Justin Katz

If you're looking for a way to register your support for a return of our constitutional republic toward federalism, taking some time out, this afternoon, to count yourself among the attendees at the Tenth Amendment rally at the state house from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. would be an excellent choice. A broad cross-section of representatives of Rhode Island's right-leaning grassroots will be giving short speeches.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to make it, but if anybody wants to offer reports, pictures, or multimedia, we'll be sure to post them.

March 3, 2010

RI Tea Party Meeting Video, Continued

Justin Katz

I'm finally catching up with myself and have processed the rest of the video from the RI Tea Party's meeting in January. To refresh your memory, here's my liveblog from the event, and here's the video of Colleen Conley and Steve Laffey speaking.

In the extended entry of this post, readers can find the brief presentations of Ocean State Policy Research Institute Executive Director Bill Felkner, Congressional Candidate Mark Zaccaria, and Operation Clean Government's Sandra Thompson.

Continue reading "RI Tea Party Meeting Video, Continued"

March 2, 2010

Rhode Island Voter Coalition, Burrillville, Video Part 4

Justin Katz

Additional video from the Rhode Island Voter Coalition Burrillville "meet the candidates" General Assembly Q&A may be found in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Rhode Island Voter Coalition, Burrillville, Video Part 4"

February 28, 2010

Jim Beale and Jeff Deckman on the RISC Business Network

Justin Katz

RISC President James Beale and Business Network Organizer Jeff Deckman went into detail about the Business Network at the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition's 2010 winter meeting, described in my liveblog of the event. (More video in the extended entry.)

Continue reading "Jim Beale and Jeff Deckman on the RISC Business Network"

February 27, 2010

630AM/99.7FM Host John DePetro at RISC's Winter Meeting

Justin Katz

John DePetro took on the role of first featured speaker at the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition's 2010 winter meeting, described in my liveblog of the event. (More video in the extended entry.)

Continue reading "630AM/99.7FM Host John DePetro at RISC's Winter Meeting"

RISC Chairman Harry Staley Opens the RISC Winter Meeting

Justin Katz

Rhode Island Statewide Coalition Chairman Harry Staley opened the group's 2010 winter meeting, described in my liveblog of the event, by noting their years of activity and the hope that this is the one that the effects are truly felt in Rhode Island. (More video in the extended entry.)

Continue reading "RISC Chairman Harry Staley Opens the RISC Winter Meeting"

Rhode Island Statewide Coalition Winter Meeting 2010

Justin Katz

RISC's winter meeting is as well attended as usual, with all the usual participants, with the addition, this year of Central Falls Superintendent Frances Gallo, who got a standing ovation upon introduction.

The only media at the press table are me, a local paper publisher, and another blogger from Rhode Island, Michelle Girasole, who's twittering away. What was the middle period of dinosaurs? I suppose that's me.

9:30 a.m.

Here's the room:

Here's Harry:

And here's Supt. Gallo:

John DePetro is up, making the round of acknowledgments.

9:33 a.m.

I'm happy to see that John has shaved since last night:

9:35 a.m.

As could have been expected, John is railing against special interests and talking about bringing jobs into Rhode Island so that families can remain together within the state. "Selfishness and greed has really taken over and hijacked Rhode Island in the last few years."

"I'm not a destroyer of unions; I'm a liberator of union workers!" He then said we need a Reagan-like union moment. He's going through all of the ways that towns and school districts are cutting supports claiming that they've got no money while giving raises and hundreds of thousands of dollars in unused sick time and so forth.

9:42 a.m.

John made some great, hopeful points about the sorts of events that we should be pursuing, two examples were having an America's Cup-type competition whether or not America's Cup comes here and leveraging the Tennis Hall of Fame. Those are limited examples, but John's point was that, if we could jettison our excessive cost of operations (meaning government expenditures in labor and special interests), we could make Rhode Island a regional, national, and international beacon.

Incidentally, I should mention that RISC has found somebody who will comb all proposed legislation, which is excellent and absolutely necessary. The first find that I've seen was the reintroduction of binding arbitration legislation, which I'll be looking into at first opportunity.

9:52 a.m.

Supt. Gallo is giving an unannounced speech (eat your heart out, old media).

She's really excellent. This'll be a YouTube video to watch, because she's really laying out her point of view in a degree that I haven't heard.

She noted that she's from a family of teachers and most definitely did not seek this role, as the superintendent of the smallest town in the smallest state. No vote was ever taken by the teachers. They never had a chance, because the unions said, "No. This is the way we're going. No. She'll never do it. No. We don't agree with the rules that she's following."

The union says parents don't care: 97% of parents attended parent/teacher conferences at the school.

The union says children don't care: We now have 89-90% attendance at our high school.

Somehow the teachers have lost their voice. "Teachers are leaders. They need a backbone. They need more courage than anybody in the universe."

She's citing that the deluge of attention spurred in part by union advertising and activism has made it such that she can't use her own phone, making mediation impossible. And the calls are 100 to 1 against the unions.

10:01 a.m.

Blogger note: with the craziness of my schedule, I failed to delete files off my camera. Luckily, I spotted the draining minutes of available files and was able to delete something during a thematic lull in Gallo's speech. Sorry, folks, but it shouldn't be that big a loss.

10:04 a.m.

Gallo just spoke about her embarrassment at all of the attention. She used to think she got hate mail when a student sent a note that he wished she weren't superintendent, now she gets this sort of thing: "I wish cancer on your family and you live to see them suffer and die. And I cry, and I pray, and I pray for them who could write such things."

Really an inspiring speech.

10:11 a.m.

Apologies to Jim Beale. I was checking to see whether, in my panic to delete old files I deleted the first part of Gallo's speech (I didn't), and I missed the beginning of his introduction of RISC Business Network leader Jeff Deckman.

10:16 a.m.

Deckman is essentially describing the business network and its purpose to counterbalance union interests at the State House.

By way of acknowledgment (since I mentioned the absence of old-media types, Neil Downing, business writer for the Projo, just arrived. Betcha Julia Steiny wishes she'd come. (Not to worry; as I assured Neil, Gallo's speech will be available on Anchor Rising this afternoon... except for the glitch that tripped me up as I've run a construction jobsite all day and been a new media guy most of the evening and in the predawn hours.)

10:26 a.m.

It's funny. Last night's Follies were definitely front-heavy. Patrick Kennedy's top 10 list should have been the mystery guest presentation. Let Mayor Fung prance around the stage in a racial cliché while people are still poking at their desserts. Well, this morning, Deckman's essentially giving a sales pitch and dry explanation of the RISC business network after a warm-up speech by fire-starter John DePetro and the newsmaking surprise speech by Supt. Gallo.

It's a necessary presentation, to be sure, but it's a lesson for all of us who are somewhat new to planning political events. The necessary, but dry, stuff will inevitably be challenging to convey in a way that maintains attention. When it's immediately contrasted with an edge-of-your-seat, emotional, politically hot speech, it's a bit like jumping in a cold pool after being in the jacuzzi; all you really notice is that you're cold.

10:39 a.m.

Governor Carcieri is up:

Pointing to the people in the room: "You are representative of what's going on in this state."

Now he's talking about the need to inform the public, noting John DePetro's show as an important way to do so. "Part of the problem we have is getting information out." Not for nothing, gov., but that might be a place to slip a nod to Anchor Rising into the presentation. Just sayin'. It's pretty much entirely volunteer on our end.

10:46 a.m.

Carcieri's talking about events in Central Falls, particularly mentioning the hate mail and the contrast between the teachers qua teachers and the union. Anecdote from last night: As everybody was leaving, Pat Crowley strolled over to the right-hand side of the room to say something to RIGOP Chairman Gio Cicionne. Crowley brought over a union guy who's appeared in notes on Anchor Rising now and then. Said he: "Hey, it's the teabaggers. I hate you guys."

Now, I don't care what people say to me. I'll smile and pat them on the head, as necessary, but that's the mentality. That's the soul of the union to which everybody objects, not the members, who are mostly professionals trying to do a job, probably not with much enthusiasm for all of the activist stuff.

By the way, it occurs to me to note that Carcieri's tone is much more serious than at just about every speech I've seen him give.

10:54 a.m.

The governor told an anecdote about a teacher friend of his, who'd been teaching some 25-30 years, at the time of the story: She'd been going over some strategies with a young teacher, and the latter stopped her, at one point, and said, "You can't do that. It's not in the contract."

The older teacher replied, "No. I don't have to do it, but I want to."

Carcieri: "The sad thing is that the teachers unions are making the teachers themselves look terrible."

Two thoughts: First, the story is indicative of an expansion of the union mentality that makes "don't have to" into "can't" and, in the opposite direction, "should, under ideal circumstances" into "must, under any circumstances." Second, I think there's a cultural shift with respect to people's attitude toward work. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but those negotiating contracts and such have to realize that they can no longer rely on a cultural perspective that takes work inherently as vocation. In a practical sense, that just means adding "and other activities as required" and some form of merit and assessment with which workers must contend as they put in their time.

By the way, the governor's back to his list of successes, and his presentation has shifted toward a more familiar, less deadly-serious tone.

11:02 a.m.

An important point that the governor just made: If the legislature allows Rhode Island at least to maintain its flat-tax and hold down all other taxes, our state's rankings in taxes and business climate will improve by contrast with our neighbors and the country. I'd add: Imagine what could happen if we took the shackles off of the state's economy!

"States are not going to get back to the 2008 level of revenue until 2014."

11:11 a.m.

The governor says he told Jeff Deckman to include four criteria in the business network's review of candidates. He called it the Compact for Rhode Island:

  1. Got to continue to reduce the size of government, particularly at the cities and towns, which spend 2/3 of the expense of government in RI.
  2. Public sector pensions and benefits, which make up most of the spending.
  3. Improve the climate for business. "There's going to be an assault in the General Assembly on the tax front." He cited New Hampshire; "Is it any wonder people in Massachusetts are moving north rather than south." "We've got to be tax competitive."
  4. We've got to sustain what Fran Gallo started.

11:17 a.m.

"We're the canary in the coal mine for what people fear is the direction in which the nation is heading."

11:20 a.m.

Another surprise speech, by RI Board of Regents member Angus Davis.

Much as I was happy to see that John had shaved, I'm happy to see that Angus didn't wear the pink pants he wore for the summer meeting. He's run through some of the actions of the Board of Regents and is offering his perspective on the context of the Central Falls matter.

11:25 a.m.

He shares the frustration of those who are excited at the fight-back against the unions, but he's urging us to remember that teachers must ultimately be the ones to implement education. "Let us not celebrate the firing of the teachers in Central Falls, but let us celebrate the rehiring of the 50% of the very best who will be rehired and the new teachers who will be hired."

11:28 a.m.

Boy, Angus is fired up about some of the people who may break the link of support running almost untouched from Gallo to Obama. He cited a letter from Patrick Lynch tending toward union favoritism and mentioned an email from Linc Chafee, who was seeking to clarify the "100% job security" comment by Gallo, citing that as the "basic question" of the controversy. Said Angus, pounding the podium with his finger: "What kind of leadership thinks the basic question in a school [with such horrible education success rates] is job security for its adults rather than the educational outcomes for its children."

February 24, 2010

Voter Coalition: Burrillville

Justin Katz

So the Crystal Lake Country Club in Burrillville (Burrillville? Maplewood? I found at least four different addresses for this building) is kinda hard to find. The PA system guy was late, and moderator was late, so even though it's already 7:06 p.m., somebody just announced that they'll begin the RI Voter Coalition program in 15 or 20 minutes, so there's still time to get here.

7:09 p.m.

A professional photographer type just asked me if I recognized any of the candidates. I pointed out Treasurer Frank Caprio, a few feet away, Republican AG Candidate Erik Wallin, a few feet in the other direction, Republican Representative Brian Newberry down the center aisle: "No, no," he said, "the governor candidates." Everybody wants the big names.

Just spotted John Robitaille.

By the way wasn't Crystal Lake the camp in Friday the 13th? Since I'm just killing time, I'll mention that I actually went to Boy Scout camp at the site on which they filmed that movie. Yes, it was creepy, although only my friends with more permissive parents had seen the flick.

Treasurer Frank Caprio goes over the rules of the debate with the moderator and RIVC founder Steve Wright (standing to the left).

7:37 p.m.

Moderate Party Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Block gets an early taste of political events:

If Linc Chafee were here and sitting in the empty chair at left (from the audience point of view), the candidates would be sitting in perfect order along the political spectrum.

7:43 p.m.

The gubernatorial candidates are giving their opening statements. Moderate Ken Block went first, with an introduction of the Moderate Party similar to his presentation on Sunday. Democrat Frank Caprio went second, with personal anecdotes of what people have asked him to do as governor: "Cut the prices, change the menu, and get a new chef." He closed with a call to "lower the taxes." Republican John Robitaille quickly ran through his biography and qualifications, which is good, because it was more impressive than I'd known. Then he gave his "Three Rs": Rescue (stop the bleeding, cut taxes) "This session of the General Assembly has got to get with it." Reform (tax codes, education, "individual freedom plan" for social services. Time ended before he could give his "third R." He closed with: "Never give up hope. Never give up hope."

First question from the audience was what the third R is: Renew. Reference to the Independent Man.

7:51 p.m.

Second question: How will you work with or change the legislature.

Caprio: "I've been in government for years... You know you're doing a good job as governor when you enter the State House and nobody wants to shake your hand." He mentioned involving himself in legislative elections.

Robitaille: Cited Tip O'Neil and Ronald Reagan. Interesting that Robitaille goes with cooperation and coalitions, while Caprio went with confrontation.

Block: Need to run new candidates against Democrats.

7:55 p.m.

Probably about 100 people in the audience, but every media outlet is covering the event, so there's no doubt the audience is much larger. That's a lesson, by the way, for all you citizens who don't go to these things. They're a great opportunity for you to have a voice.

Next question: How stop the entitlement mentality.

Robitaille: "Teach the kids self-reliance, not dependence."

Caprio: Tied the question to small businesses. He's already met with many of the special interests and providers who benefit from the system, and there's a lot of waste. "Cut money in the budget and have programs that help those who are most in need."

Block: Well, well, well, Ken's answer reflects my witness-leading question during our interview with him, when I asked him what we should do about our status as a welfare magnet.

8:01 p.m.

Next question: What executive orders to you plan?

Caprio: Increase the small business loan program of the EDC to "$100 million or even larger."

Robitaille: Compel all cabinet members to comb waste out of the system.

Block: "I just want to say that I agree with Frank." "But the very first thing that I would kick off would be an audit of the state's computer systems."

8:06 p.m.

"Why am I still paying 7% sales tax?"

Caprio: Small businesses can't just raise their prices during hard times, and the government shouldn't be able to, either. He's talking about advertising our tax-free clothing. "We need to have our sales taxes driven down."

Robitaille: "I personally like the New Hampshire model: There's no sales tax, there's no income tax, and the Tax Foundation has ranked the state of New Hampshire as the best tax environment." He went on to note that NH's unemployment is only 7%.

Block: "We have not had elected officials in the legislature or executive branch who've had the courage to step forward and say, 'enough.'"

8:10 p.m.

"If they ram this healthcare bill through Congress... what would you do to stop that?"

Block: Insurance is out of control. As a small business owner, he thinks about health insurance every day. "I would work to fix the healthcare system in our state." He notes that the lack of competition allows the non-profit Blue Cross to have higher rates than the for-profit United.

Caprio. Insurance is out of control. Had a meeting with Blue Cross executives later. Personal anecdote about somebody whom this affects.

Robitaille: Cited the 10th Amendment. He'd surround himself with constitutional attorneys. Noted the salt-water fishing license that the federal government is forcing on RI: "That's BS!" The healthcare bill is "bogus."

8:16 p.m.

To Robitaille: "Where's the Big Audit, and how would you do it?"

Robitaille: Went over the results of the Big Audit. 1st bucket: by executive order were done. 2nd bucket: by legislation, died in the GA. 3rd bucket: needed approval by unions, went nowhere. "I'm going to have a Lean Czar to trim out waste."

Caprio: Trimmed waste in treasurer's office, will do the same across state government.

Block: Techie answer about using software to analyze government expenditures and upgrading software.

8:21 p.m.

"Where do you think we are economically, and how do we fend off an out-of-control federal government from the governor's office?"

Robitaille: We haven't hit bottom, yet, but we're probably close. The problem comes in 2012, when the states have to deal with the disappearance of stimulus money. The governor can use the bully pulpit, and citizens can tell Washington enough is enough. John's doing better than I expected. Most refreshingly, he's actually answering questions.

Caprio: Disconnect in Washington and main street. Another personal anecdote of a citizen small business owner whom he's met recently. Make Rhode Island the state that other states feel like they can't keep up with. Made a closing statement rather than addressing the question.

Block: His business has received zero stimulus funds despite doing business with public entities. The stimulus bill "has been a dismal failure." As governor, he could only insist that the federal delegation cooperate with him. Posture yourself to survive the beating that's coming. "We're in a beating now, and it's going to get worse."

And that concludes the governor session.

8:29 p.m.

Attorney General Candidates are up. Probably half of the audience has dissipated, including much of the media. You know, everybody's fond of talking about the importance of changing the faces in the less sexy offices across government, but everybody still wants to focus mainly on the center ring.

Moderate Party candidate Chris Little introduced himself and explained why he's interested in running for office rather than learning to play golf.

Republican Party candidate Erik Wallin gave examples of public corruption and swung into the call-and-response "are you ready" opening that is his standard opening.

8:35 p.m.

First question is to Chris Little on bringing down health insurance costs. His answer has mainly entailed describing the job of the insurance commissioner. As at the Moderate Party events, I agree with much of what he's saying, but I'm not sure what it has to do with the AG's office. He says the office has authority, but I'm not sure it should.

Wallin blames the lack of advocacy from the AG, as well.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if one of these potential AGs said something creative, rather than focusing on bashing insurance companies. How about exploring the constitutionality of expensive regulations?

8:41 p.m.

Question: Talk about the overlapping of the AG's authority when it comes to state law and federal law.

Little: One example is Medicaid fraud.

Wallin: Would sign on to a movement to challenge the constitutionality of the federal healthcare legislation.

Question: How do you plan to fight illegal immigration? How can you assure us that you'll keep your promises?

Wallin: Opposes law that would prohibit law enforcers from asking about immigration status. Would cooperate with ICE. He's trustworthy because he's not in this for the politics, but because it's a calling.

Little: "I'll start out by echoing what Erik said" with respect to the politicization of the AG's office. Function #1 of the office is to enforce the law that's given to you and to work with other agencies. If he doesn't like a law, he'll follow it, but he'll advocate at the state house. He built his practice around the value of his word, and he'll maintain that.

Question to Mr. Little: Opinion on 2nd Amendment?

Little: Not super familiar with 2nd Amendment's relevance to the attorney general's office. He encourages people to hunt on his property in South County.

Wallin: Is a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment.

8:54 p.m.

What are you going to do about public corruption?

Wallin: There's a reason that people go to investigative reporters rather than the AG's office, because they worry that the AG has become too politicized. Corruption affects small business.

Little: "You won't find any difference in what I would say." Highlighted the reluctance to go to the AG with corruption complaints. "Everyone would have confidential access to me." Also brought up white-collar crime that he doesn't believe is being touched in RI, as well.

9:00 p.m.

Third session, congressional candidates: John Loughlin, Mark Zaccaria, Mike Gardiner. All Republicans. Loughlin's first district; the other two are second district.

As one might expect, the messages during the opening statements has been strong on defense, fiscal conservatism, and the need for noise-making in Washington.

9:10 p.m.

Question: Good speech about how "stimulus" is not stimulus and "reform" is not reform in current federal lingo.

Loughlin: "Now they're even changing the language again, because 'stimulus' now has a negative connotation. Now it's a 'jobs bill.'" He brought up fraud in the numbers being used to claim success.

Gardiner: "Stimulus seems to be a time-released support package" to support Obama's party. Wants a state-driven national marketplace for health insurance.

Zaccaria: "A real stimulus comes when we get the government out of the way" and let American people create wealth.

9:17 p.m.

Question: How can you make people serving in the military feel safer in military bases?

Zaccaria: Stop being the world's police force and reallocate money to force protection.

Loughlin: "Too often politicians look at the military as an opportunity for social engineering." Fort Hood was a result of political correctness. Also, draw down forward deployed forces, especially in Europe.

Gardiner: There was "probably" poor judgment in not picking up on the Ft. Hood shooter. Doesn't want to criticize the role of the military for social engineering. "His neighbors must have said that the [Ft. Hood shooter] was an OK guy. He slipped through the cracks."

9:25 p.m.

Question: How do we ween the American people off entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) before they bankrupt us?

Loughlin: Social Security is basically a Ponzi scheme. "The best welfare program is a good job that pays a good wage."

Zaccaria: "Most people are asleep, and it requires us to say, 'folks,' here's this problem.' Then we have to privatize Social Security (just like the RI pension system). Democrats don't want these reforms, because they might work.

Gardiner: Raise the age limit on Social Security. Privatization is part of the solution, but politically difficult to do. Incentives such as medical savings accounts.

[Editor's note: Sheesh, I'm tired.]

9:31 p.m.

Question: Revisiting old legislation, especially with respect to trade.

Loughlin: Took the question in a climate-change direction, expressing doubts about Climate Change. Revisit every law based on bad data.

Gardiner: Went with the NAFTA angle, saying that he's conflicted because "in my heart, I'm a free-trade guy." But he knows a lot of people who feel as if they're being put out of business. Doesn't have an answer. Is listening.

Zaccaria: Have an entire session of Congress devoted to retiring laws. Must be able to trade and compete fairly within that economy; NAFTA puts additional restrictions on American businesses that don't apply to other nations, especially in Mexico.

9:36 p.m.

Question: Concerned about the focus being off terrorism, such as President Obama's acceptance of Hamas members in the United States and terrorism within American Muslim communities.

Zaccaria: Prevent terrorism, but realize that we live in a diverse society.

Loughlin: Rhode Island was founded on religious freedom. Differentiated between Muslim faith and radical Islam. Must realize that we're at war with the latter.

Gardiner: Nobody has to swear into Congress on the Bible (in response to some members' using the Koran. "I would use the Bible, because I'm fine with that." [Not because he's Christian?] Weird answer about the courage needed by police officers to be willing to take a bullet to be sure that the minority criminal was going for a gun...

9:44 p.m.

There's supposed to be a session for General Assembly members. The audience has decided that it should be over, with only about five people remaining in their seats. This is going on way too long. Perhaps the RIVC should narrow the focus of each event, perhaps with two categories of candidates at each, 45 minutes allocated per.

Guess I'll tough it out, though. There are only two GA candidates still here. (Brian Newberry was here with his son, who drew him away a while ago.)

Independent Richard Rodi, District 2 (Providence). First thing, when he gets home, tonight, he's going to read the RI Constitution. A member of the audience just handed him a pocket federal Constitution.

Independent David Bibeault, Dist, 22 (Smithfield) is running because he's "watched the General Assembly, and that's definitely where the problem is." The two biggest things that we have to cut in state government are public sector unions and the welfare industry.

Republican Sean Gately, Dist. 26, Cranston, is running for Rhode Island, for his family. He sees this election as a unique opportunity for change. Very passionate. Rightly.

9:59 p.m.

Will you pledge right now to never take a dime from a public-sector union:

Bibeault: Makes the pledge. Says he probably doesn't even have to worry about making the decision.

Rodi: "I like this question." "David Segal is my opponent; what pocket is he in?" Takes the pledge. "They're ruining our state; they're ruining our schools."

Gately: "No." (Meaning that he takes the pledge.)

Question: Their positions on the Central Falls high-school matter, and the pension debacle.

Rodi: Pension reform is critical.

Bibeault: "We need the pension replaced with a 401K system." Describes Rep. Kilmartin's run for Treasurer — he's paid nothing into the pension system, because he's only a legislator, but if he were to be treasurer for a few years, his pension would be calculated on that basis.

Gately: Focusing on the teachers' unions. "Central Falls is a model for schools across the state." Everybody's taken pay cuts in recent years, except public-sector unions.

Question: General Assembly is essentially a dictatorship of the leaders. Can anything be done?

Bibeault: Get rid of legislative grants. Get the money out of the government.

[Editor's note: It might not have the media draw of the governor's race, but I'd like to see more forums related to the General Assembly.]

Gately: Notes that most hearings in the State House are filled with lobbyists. Citizens have to start showing up. That's why they're "scared as hell" right now. He'll help to shine a light as a representative.

[Editor's note: John Loughlin and Mark Zaccaria are the only candidates for higher office who've stuck around. Good on them, as they say.]

Rodi: People just have to vote. He offered an anecdote from the last election after which he heard from some of his lawn-sign displayers that they didn't vote, because they thought he had it wrapped up.

Question: Would you be willing to get rid of the property tax.

Bibeault: Government does have some legitimate functions. "The key is to have the smallest possible government." He says he's fundamentally libertarian and would focus on user fees to support those limited government functions.

Rodi: Get rid of property tax on cars. "If I buy a loaf of bread and pay taxes on it, do I have to keep paying for every slice?" Sales tax back to 5%. "We have all the tools in Rhode Island to change this state and make it what it should be."

Gately: His property taxes have increased from $3,500 to $13,000 something over the past decade. Property taxes are necessary, but we need to lower the price of schools and rework state funding.

10:19 p.m.

Question: How would you feel about a state-level audit of municipalities?

Gately: He'd like to see that, but people have to become active at local meetings. Lack of participation is the largest impediment. "If you've got a big spotlight, you need people to help hold it up."

Bibeault: Cited the Caruolo Act. Get rid of state mandates, and if it's truly something that the state must mandate, the state ought to pay for it. Privatize all schools. Give students vouchers.

Rodi: Noted the supplies lists going home with kids in East Providence because there's no money for supplies. "Yes, these schools need to be audited." The lottery was supposed to go to school funding. "Everything that has been allocated has to go back to what it was allocated to or go away and start fresh."

Oops, my camcorder battery is out of battery, but I think they're just doing a last-word political pitch.

Speaking of pitches, if you've read this far, clearly you found something of value in the above. Please consider clicking on the "Donate" or "Subscribe" buttons to the left.

And now for the long, dark trip home...

February 23, 2010

Political Season in Full Swing Already?

Justin Katz

Tomorrow's RI Voter Coalition event has turned out to have quite a line-up. I'll be there watching, and silently heckling on the Internet. (That's a figure of speech, of course.)

Also this week, on Saturday, is the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition's Winter Meeting, which is always worth a couple of hours on a Saturday morning.

January 29, 2010

Jeffrey Deckman: A Clarification

Engaged Citizen

I noticed some confusion surrounding my recent remarks pertaining to the distinctions between the RISC Business Network and the Tea Party.

Unfortunately, communications in, and with, the media require a level of forced brevity at times. I appreciate the opportunity to provide some clarification on my statements.

My point is this: The Tea Party has been highly effective at mobilizing people and helping them to get in the political debate as individuals. My understanding is that they educate folks on what is going on and assists them to get their message out and for it to be heard loud and clear. For that they are to be commended for playing a role in helping people to become more involved in the political process. I think any group with any political leanings who accomplishes this task is doing something good for the people and for our state. I also believe they will be an effective force in helping to increase voter turn out, which is also a good thing Rhode Island.

However, where they differ from the RISC Business Network (not to be confused with RISC, the umbrella organization) is that their effort is primarily focused upon energizing the individual, whereas the RISC Business Network is a multi-partisan effort focused specifically upon the owners of small and medium-sized businesses. Business owners have a different set of concerns than do non–business owners. While they have much common ground with the average taxpayer, their specific interests extend into other areas. So the RISC Business Network is designed to address the needs of that specific constituency.

Another area in which I see a distinction between the two efforts is that any candidates who would like to engage us will be vetted on several levels to determine if they are pro-business and the likelihood of their being able to run competitive campaigns. If they become "investment grade" candidates, we will make that information available to the small business community.

The next step in our process is that we are also galvanizing the small business community and encouraging them to make pledges of support to candidates whom they agree are worthy. It is reasonable to think that some of the candidates they support will be on our list and some may not be. But as long as small business owners are more engaged in the process, we feel the result will be more pro-business candidates' being elected to the General Assembly.

In this capacity, we are a conduit for information to flow between candidates and "funders," which should result in well-funded campaigns for pro–small business candidates.

The final distinction I will make is that our group is narrowly focused on the General Assembly. The Tea Party movement addresses issues on a much wider scale. They are heavily involved in national issues and the Congressional races as well as statewide issues, and I am assuming they may be involved in local matters that are of concern to them.

So, while the Tea Party may also be affecting elections, it will be using a different model, will be focused on races on different levels of government, and is focused on mobilizing individuals first, whereas we are focused upon those who own small businesses in Rhode Island and the General Assembly races.

January 28, 2010

RI Tea Party Meeting Video

Justin Katz

Because the inquiries started before I'd gotten to the door, here is as much video as I was able to get up before most of y'all are awake. I'll add the presentations of Bill Felkner, Mark Zaccaria, and Sandra Thompson as soon as I'm able. Seven of ten segments are up (click on the extended entry).

Continue reading "RI Tea Party Meeting Video"

January 27, 2010

Late Night "Huh?"

Justin Katz

Staying up a little later than usual tonight to process some video, I noticed this quotation from Steve Peoples's report about the Tea Party meeting:

The Statewide Coalition's Business Network, which is trying to raise $500,000 to support pro-business candidates this fall, has no relationship with the Tea Party either, according to the head of the initiative, Jeffrey Deckman.

"The Tea Party is more a taxpayer group," Deckman said. "I'm in the business of getting people elected and unelected, and I don't see them becoming that relevant on the political level."

Does anybody understand what Mr. Deckman is saying, as a presumably coherent point, or what he intended to accomplish with this statement?

Political turf guarding is an ugly thing. In an upstart movement that might have already lost too many potential constituents to emigration, it would be fatal.

RI Tea Party Meeting

Justin Katz

Rather than traverse the state all night, I came straight to the RI Tea Party meeting in Quonset. People other than me have finally begun to arrive, which is good, because I was fearful that the channel 6 reporter would interview me simply out of boredom.

6:25 p.m.

The cocktail hour has officially begun, and the room is filling up very quickly. The advantage of arriving at events before even the hosts is that it's easier to pick a presumptuous seat right up front. The disadvantage is that I've ended up at the speakers' table, and Colleen Conley asked me to prevent the rabble from taking places at it, which really isn't an activity toward which my personality lends itself. I scrawled a quick "Reserved" sign, which has helped, but I have had to issue a few "Colleen told me to" proclamations. (Sorry, Will!) I'm trying to look mean as I type, but it isn't keeping folks away. If only I looked more like my Anchor Rising drawing.

6:41 p.m.

Here's the scene:

I just had to block Governor Carcieri from sitting at the speakers' table. Just kidding; I haven't had to do that... yet...

6:54 p.m.

Several cameras and radio coverage from the left (Ian Donnis) and right (Dan Yorke). Ian found a satellite loophole to the speaker table block, pulling up a chair right next to me, but away from the table, and Dan sat next to him. I'm not sure it's really applicable, but for some reason it occurred to me to call this a sort of Rhode Island Follies for the Rhode Island right.

7:00 p.m.

Dan Yorke told me that he came by to see if there would be a "rock star effect." His judgment is that there is, and here are two of the reasons:

There's also a clear and direct link of the atmosphere to the Senator Scott Brown win.

7:05 p.m.

Colleen Conley's talking about the "Colorado model" that progressive billionaires used to turn Colorado from red to blue.

I didn't expect it, but Colleen including Anchor Rising among the necessary pieces (perhaps to justify my seat — literally — at the table):

  • Hummel
  • OCG
  • Legal arm to be determined
  • Anchor Rising
  • RISC
  • RI Tea Party

To this list, she'd like to add a People's PAC to help candidates. Me, I'm interested in the plan to find four billionaires...

7:12 p.m.

Steve Laffey has taken the microphone.

A participant who had expressed an intention to get an actual head count just handed me a piece of paper to say that two counts have confirmed 315 people in the room.

Laffey mentioned that people are fleeing the state, and now he's going over the PowerPoint presentation that he released recently (PDF). Driving around the country, he said, he couldn't help but notice that people from coast to coast live better: "People in Boise, Idaho, live better than we do."

7:23 p.m.

Laffey is summing up very well the many things that we talk about so frequently on Anchor Rising that are wrong and happening in the state. He noted, too, the conspicuous departure of so many people from state government, retiring, relocating, taking other jobs. The image that's been presented in our comment sections is of rats jumping off a ship.

On a performance analysis point, I'll say that Mr. Laffey has honed his speechifying from the night I saw him at a Portsmouth Republican event some years ago. I've commented before, liveblogging from an event with national-level speakers, that the speeches were definitely at another level from those given locally (even those that are good). Laffey's certainly there, although the more-than-friendly, very enthusiastic crowd is definitely helping.

7:37 p.m.

Very compelling bit about how people in other cities that have big airplanes and large trains running through the state, and so on, don't complain because "they see jobs."

7:40 p.m.

Beginning with the example of cigarette taxes, Laffey said that Rhode Island should always be just below the taxes of our neighbors. "But you need to be running surpluses to do that."

He then showed a map of right to work and non-right-to-work states. "All that means is that you can work at a union shop and not be a part of the union. Nobody gets hit in the head, or anything." He pointed to the sea of non-right-to-work states in the Northeast and said that we could be like Switzerland for workers rather than bankers.

7:44 p.m.

"There has to be a direct confrontation with the powers that be."

He's saying that people in media and in government respond when people show up and make a stink. I've certainly seen that on a small scale in Tiverton, and we all know the reality: This has to happen at the state level.

7:47 p.m.

"It's beyond a Democrat/Republican thing. The people in power need to leave!"

7:53 p.m.

"There's no magical way [to balance the budget]. It's over. Not coming back. The choices are to take extraordinary risks (which this general treasurer has done)."

7:55 p.m.

Bill Felkner's up.

Bill's going over the tools that Ocean State Policy offers. One thing he mentioned was that OSPRI has made it easy to search the names of people in local government, citing Monique's November 2008 post on the relatives of former Senator Alves currently or formerly employed by Rhode Island state or local government.

8:12 p.m.

Candidate for Congress Mark Zaccaria is giving a quick teaser for what he can do to help people who want to run for office:

8:14 p.m.

Noting that Steve Laffey is a graduate, Sandra Thompson of Operation Clean Government is explaining what the Candidate School is, whom it's for, and how to sign up.

"No more should we have offices for which there's no contention and incumbents get elected."

8:18 p.m.

Describing what would be happening for the "breakout" sessions, Colleen noted that there are candidate recruiters here for the Republican Party. She called the Democrats, but they didn't return her call. She called the Moderates, but their answering machine was full.


Just to clarify: Bill Felkner has included Anchor Rising in his vision of the "movement" since he first heard about the Colorado model quite some time ago. In other words, I wasn't surprised to be mentioned; I just didn't assume that I would be.

I should also clarify that Governor Carcieri wasn't at the event, as far as I know, so I never had to tell him that he couldn't sit among the VIPs.

January 25, 2010

Catching a Constituency Before They Flee

Justin Katz

Among the more disconcerting inevitabilities of Rhode Island's method of self-destruction is that the policies that are destroying the state drive away what I've called "the productive class," so as the situation gets worse, the proportion of the electorate that would be inclined to change things for the better shrinks. By productive class, I mean those Rhode Islanders in the working to middle classes who are smart, skilled, and driven — the sort of people whom a civic mentality that despises success harms.

I'm encouraged, however, to see an increasing effort among the politically active on the right side to harness the clout of this group before its attrition tips the scales irreversibly toward decline. RI Senator Ed O'Neill (I, Lincoln) puts it thus:

In addition to providing financial support, Rhode Island business should bring its vitality and intellectual horsepower into our state government. We need candidates with business experience and skills to run for office. We cannot expect positive and proficient movement in the legislature without fully involving the people resources of our business community. There are thousands of skilled business people and 55-plus retirees or semi-retirees in Rhode Island who could make a tremendous difference in our state government.

There is a fight going on. It’s time for Rhode Island’s businesses and taxpayers to show up.

As a vessel for such action, the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC) is developing a Business Network for which it encouragse political donations and support across district lines, diminishing the state's "my guy's alright" problem. The idea is that businesses pledge a donation amount, give RISC a percentage to cover administrative costs, and then follow the organization's advice as to where to donate the rest, in whatever town it might do the most good. After all, residents of every municipality are affected by a General Assembly in which most of the senators and representatives are elected elsewhere.

As Dan Yorke's interview with General Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio (D) at RISC's introductory event illustrates, even just the existence of such a group can give politicians cover to move in the only direction that can pull the state out of its free fall. Personally, I'm concerned that it may be too late — that those with special deals to protect already outnumber those who simply want a better living and working environment for everybody — but one needn't be as hyper-involved as I am to test the theory, and it's most definitely worth testing.

January 20, 2010

Seeing Office as a Possibility

Justin Katz

I found this email, posted in the Corner, last night, to be very encouraging:

I am a 28 year old WASPy Conservative. I never went through a liberal period. This race made me actually ask myself the question, "Could I run for our House seat and make a go of it?" I know the answer, and it is a resounding "no" as I have no political experience whatsoever. But, I wonder how many good conservative-minded people who DO have that experience are wondering the same thing! Nobody thought Mass. could elect a Republican. It looks like it'll happen. This gives so much hope to the rest of us living in seemingly hopeless districts or states . . . I need to live vicariously through these Massachusetts voters who finally have a voice that matters!

Hopefully, the tea party movement and general disaffection with the way government has been run, from the town to the national level, is inspiring people to reengage with civic processes. Ultimately, that's the only way for democracy to maintain itself — if people who believe in limited government actually participate in governing.

For my part, I superficially toyed with the idea of running for lieutenant governor on a promise to compile a browsable list of all of the foolish mandates and regulations in state law — actually using the position for something useful. It turns out, however, that in order to run, one must be willing to campaign, and my preferences for civic engagement lie elsewhere.

January 4, 2010

Re: A New Year Begins...

Donald B. Hawthorne

Trying to effect change in Rhode Island at even the local level has been a monumental struggle with almost no success to show for it. Frankly, after years of trying, I have concluded it is not worth the effort.

I crossed the state border again this Fall, this time leaving Rhode Island permanently. I recommend it highly. It's relatively easy, too.

And it is liberating to rediscover that the need to fight the colossal failure that is Rhode Island is optional.

It appears that nothing will change until there is a total collapse. So let the rats go down with the Rhode Island ship. It's apparently the only possible way to get rid of them.

It's sad, isn't it? Because it did not (and does not) have to happen that way. Which is a common conclusion when looking retrospectively at crises.

Meanwhile, some (updated) previous reflections:

Meaningless talk and inaction in a crisis: Why Rhode Island's crisis will get worse before it gets better & what to do about it
Lessons for Rhode Island from Silicon Valley: An historical reflection on an actual innovation economy
Innovation and the entrepreneurial business culture revisited

A New Year Begins...

Justin Katz

... with the Providence Journal declaring itself part of the old, dead Rhode Island. Some of the paper's journalists have been doing an admirable job of trying to cover Rhode Island as we all see it, but its list of "10 people to watch" in 2010 consists of:

This isn't to say that the choices aren't individually defensible from a "news maker" perspective — some of them are even obvious — but the only one even close to arguably involved in deep statewide reform is Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, and as I indicated, she's a hired dynamo working from within government. Where's OSPRI, RISC, RIRA, the RI Tea Party, Operation Clean Government, Common Cause Rhode Island, RIILE, the Moderate Party, or any one of the various talk radio hosts? Anybody. The Providence Journal ignored the fight for Rhode Island's soul in preference for identity groups and special interests, and even by that attenuated method, it didn't consider right-leaning reform worthy of inclusion.

My characterization of an old, dead Rhode Island is not a statement of braggadocio with regard to political and cultural victory of a new Rhode Island. It's a description of our choice as between killing an old way of doing things in this state or watching the state itself die. In some respects, one could suggest that the Providence Journal compiled a list of people to watch with the intention of stopping their political activism.

To be honest, if this weren't an election year during a dire time, I'd be moving Anchor Rising back to the category of occasional hobby in my personal scheduling. We've been at this for half a decade, now, and although we've grown a respectable readership and thereby gained some satisfying privileges, all of the opportunities that have arisen through that effort have been to provide more free content in exchange for the potential for vague additional opportunities. I reach the down-slope of my '30s, this year, and I need better prospects with greater definition.

That state of being applies to Rhode Island, as well. If things don't turn around with this budget cycle and with the coming election, productive, ambitious Rhode Islanders will have very little reason to stay. The next ten years won't be a period of rebirth and exciting growth, but a lost decade of struggle and wallowing. We're off the cliff, and salvation is do or die.

So I, for one, am taking the Projo's new-year step into line with the old guard as a motivator for renewed effort. Somebody's got to do something. We've got to make every feasible effort to turn the tide. Anchor Rising was created for that purpose, but in order for the purpose to be served, we're going to need your participation and your support. I'll hurl myself at the wall of Rhode-apathy for another year, but if we're going to break through, 2010 will have to see not just a shift in increment, but in level of combined effort and response.

December 18, 2009

The Tea Party's Moment

Justin Katz

Jeffrey Bell offers a good review of the tea party phenomenon and movement, but I think he picks the wrong moment of ignition:

By far the most pivotal event happened on August 7. That was the day a 45-year-old mother of five who had a month earlier announced her resignation as governor of Alaska, definitively ending her political career according to nearly every elite analyst, posted five paragraphs on her Facebook page. The post was titled "Statement on the Current Health Care Debate." Its second paragraph paraphrased conservative economist Thomas Sowell as observing that "government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost." Sarah Palin went on to pose a question Sowell's dictum implicitly raised: "And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

Through the lens of establishment politics, that may be the critical occurrence, but from my perspective in the cheap seats, the ultimate catalyst was the YouTube video of Arlen Specter facing angry shouts at his suggestion that the healthcare legislation must move quickly. That's when Americans called "BS," and when they realized that they could be heard, not only by their ostensible representatives, but by anybody who might happen upon a choice online video.

Online fame (such as it is) was perhaps a motivation for making events of the summer's town hall meetings, but the desire to be heard by political leaders has galvanized the longer-term movement, as Bell goes on to elaborate:

Completely absent both from the Hoffman campaign mounted by Conservative-party chairman Michael Long and from the various independent-expenditure grassroots efforts were the usual arguments, so ubiquitous among national Republican elites and Washington-based conservatives, over which issues to talk about and which not to. Hoffman included both social and economic issues in his campaign materials, and so did the independent grassroots efforts. Private polling found that both social and economic issues were contributing to Hoffman's unexpected surge.

This wasn't because the activists and voters who swung behind Hoffman agreed with one another on every issue or cared about all issues equally. They didn't. Rather, the threat of being marginalized by someone well to the left on virtually every issue seemed more important than intra-conservative disagreements.

That's worth remembering as the keepers of the standard running political narrative insist on a homogeneous political class.

November 24, 2009

Voter Forum, Part 2

Justin Katz

Although I haven't had the opportunity to watch it yet, it's good to see that We the People of RI has posted some YouTube footage from the second event held by the Rhode Island Voter Coalition:

November 19, 2009

A Southwestern Forum

Justin Katz

The Rhode Island Voter Coalition is hosting a follow-up to its Meet the Candidates forum a month ago. I liveblogged from the first, the complete video is up on our YouTube channel, and I encourage all who can to attend tonight.

Among the panelists will be Michael Gardiner, who is challenging Mark Zaccaria's claim to the Republican nomination for Congressman Langevin's job. Gardiner expresses the shady desire for "a more 'centrist' Republican party, although from the limited description in the Projo article, he appears to be to the right of Zaccaria on abortion. Some speculate that he's more of a plant to derail Zaccaria's momentum, which would hardly be unheard of in Rhode Island.

Unfortunately, I won't be there. In light of the meager response to our last round of fundraising, driving out to Westerly on a Thursday night, having spent the day trimming out a chilly roof deck in Newport, is a bit more than I can handle. And frankly, I simply can't afford the gasoline for the trip.

We'll certainly be interested in publishing any reports or commentary on the event.

November 16, 2009

Vlog #10: An Individual Constitution

Justin Katz

Wherein I respond to an op-ed by Rep. David Segal (D, Providence) suggesting that the grassroots tea party movement that so opposes the current establishment in Rhode Island would have naturally been inclined to support the old establishment back in the 1800s:

November 9, 2009

East Providence GOP Fall Fundraiser, Part 5

Justin Katz

RI Tea Party founder Colleen Conley capped off the East Providence GOP's Thursday night fundraiser with a message that GOP politicians should certainly heed:

East Providence GOP Fall Fundraiser, Part 4

Justin Katz

Interest in gubernatorial candidate Rory Smith is sufficient that his speech at the East Providence fundraiser on Thursday night, merits its own post:

East Providence GOP Fall Fundraiser, Part 3

Justin Katz

Next up, from the East Providence fundraiser on Thursday night, is East Providence School Committee Chairman Anthony Carcieri:

Followed, in the extended entry, by General Assembly Candidate Tom Clupny, Attorney General Candidate Erik Wallin, and East Providence School Committee Vice Chairman Steve Santos.

Continue reading "East Providence GOP Fall Fundraiser, Part 3"

East Providence GOP Fall Fundraiser, Part 2

Justin Katz

The next batch of video from the East Providence fundraiser on Thursday night begins with Congressional Candidate John Loughlin:

In the extended entry: Loughlin's brief Q&A and East Providence Assistant Mayor Robert Cusack.

Continue reading "East Providence GOP Fall Fundraiser, Part 2"

East Providence GOP Fall Fundraiser, Part 1

Justin Katz

Herewith, the first YouTube clips from Thursday night's GOP fundraiser in East Providence.

In the extended entry: RIGOP Chairman Gio Cicione, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, and Congressional Candidate Mark Zaccaria.

Continue reading "East Providence GOP Fall Fundraiser, Part 1"

October 18, 2009

Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates Forum Video: Q&A 3

Justin Katz

By way of a reminder: Any of these posts that have a "Continue reading" link at the bottom include additional videos in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates Forum Video: Q&A 3"

Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates Forum Video: Q&A 1

Justin Katz

The question and answer section of the Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates Forum pretty much began with what sounded like a withdrawal from the governor's race by Joe Trillo and the introduction of probable candidate Rory Smith and only got more interesting from there. Be sure to click the "continue reading" link for more videos.

Continue reading "Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates Forum Video: Q&A 1"

October 17, 2009

Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates Forum Video: Opening Remarks

Justin Katz

Herewith, video of the opening remarks and initial speakers from the four invited candidates at last night's forum:

Continue reading "Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates Forum Video: Opening Remarks"

Tea Parties and Rhode Island

Justin Katz

As illustrated in a recent National Review print edition piece, Mark Steyn gets the tea party movement more than most:

... The signs on display get the underlying principles of the Obama era: "LET THE FAILURES FAIL!" Teenager: "STOP SPENDING MY FUTURE!" Senior: "THIS GRANDMA ISN’T SHOVEL-READY." Just as importantly, the demonstrators understand the essentials more clearly than many of the think-tankers and Sunday pundits and other insiders hung up on the fine print. "Death panel" took off because it clarified the health-care stakes in ways none of the other oppositional lingo quite managed. My NR colleagues were sniffy about it, and, like many health policy wonks, seemed to think it an extreme characterization of whatever this or that provision in paragraph 7(d)iii on page 912 of the bill actually entailed. All irrelevant. Yes, once the governmentalization of health care is fully accomplished, there will be literal "death panels", like Britain's NICE (the National Institute of Clinical Excellence), an acronym one would regard as Orwellian had not C S Lewis actually got to it first — NICE (the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments) in his novel That Hideous Strength. But that's missing the point: The entire reform package, not page 1,432, is the death panel, in the sense that it will ultimately put your body under the jurisdiction of government bureaucrats.

What's really disconcerting, though, is how accurately, if inadvertently, he describes the end-game through which Rhode Island is suffering (or game-ender, if you prefer to assume ignorance rather than malice in those who brought us here):

If you expand the dependent class and the government class, you can build a permanent governing coalition, and stick the beleaguered band in the middle with the tab. ...

At a certain point, why bother? As fast as you climb the ladder, you'll be taxed and regulated down the chute back to the bottom rung. You'll be frantically peddling the treadmill seven days a week so that the statist succubus squatting on your head can sluice the fruits of your labors to Barney Frank and the new "green jobs" czar and whichever less hooker-friendly "community organizer" racket picks up the slack from Acorn, as well as to untold millions of bureaucrats micro-regulating you till your pips squeak while they enjoy vacations and benefits you'll never get. Who needs it? If you have to work, work for the government: You can't be fired and you can retire in your early 50s. But running your own business is for chumps.

October 16, 2009

Meeting Candidates You've Met

Justin Katz

Hey, is it just me or is Rhode Island a difficult place to find your way around? I don't think I've ever seen, before, the letters used on exit numbers (6A and 6) when the roads are entirely different. But I've made it to the Elks in West Greenwich for the Rhode Island Voter Coalition Meet the Candidates forum. If I'd known they'd have free pizza, I wouldn't have eaten on the way over.

The event was slated to begin at 6:00, and it's 6:18, but I only see two of the four advertised candidates/politicians; AG candidate Erik Wallin and Congressional candidate Mark Zaccaria are here, but State Representative Joe Trillo and state House candidate Moe Green, from Providence, are not. About 30 folks are in the audience, not all of whom do I know.

I suppose it'd be fair to say that there are tiers of events in the center-right reform milieu, but it's disappointing not to see more of the folks who make it to higher-profile happenings. Yeah, it's Friday night. Yeah, you know the candidates. Yeah, the event is scheduled for a daunting four hours. But there are new people, here, and the degree to which they'll continue to be involved and to tell their friends to become involved is surely proportional to the attendance and especially the apparent interest of allies whom they hear on the radio and see on television.

Are we trying to build a movement, here, or a loose social club?

6:57 p.m.

Coming up on 7:00, the crowd has grown to about 40 people. Joe Trillo is here. I overheard Dave Talan explaining that Moe Green was called in to work. (He's a detective in Providence). The speeches and Q&A have yet to start, though. It looks like I would have had time to go home, after work, after all... and avoid that ridiculous $4 fee for the Newport Bridge.

7:08 p.m.

By the way, Terry Gorman and the RIILE crew is here. RISC is represented in a behind-the-scenes way. It looks like the guys at We the People of Rhode Island are handling audio/video. (Yet another site that I have to make a point of visiting more often.)

7:15 p.m.

Joe Trillo's speaking: "The biggest problem with the state right now is the unions."

Trillo lambasted the political-cultural set that attends events like last night's RIPEC meeting: "I'm sick and tired of hearing how we're business unfriendly," but do nothing.

7:16 p.m.

Trillo: "The most important thing you can do is support" candidates.

And with that, one candidate takes the podium: Mark Zaccaria, whose first statement was one of encouragement about the number of grassroots groups that are emerging. I agree, but I'll be even more encouraged when they figure out how to work together.

7:19 p.m.

Zaccaria's slogan: "Clean house." As in: "if your representatives are supporting some group other than, you hired them, you can fire them. Clean house."

7:22 p.m.

Sorry, but I had to laugh (in a snorting way) when Erik Wallin opened his speech by mentioning the great things about Rhode Island, starting with: "We have wonderful, hard-working people who have made the state what it is." Perhaps that statement can be taken in multiple ways.

Incidentally, I notice that rumored gubernatorial candidate Rory Smith is here.

7:29 p.m.

Dave Talan, Moe Green's campaign manager has clarified that he isn't Moe Green, and "the real Moe Green" is not the sleazy casino owner who meets a bad end in the Godfather movie.

Green's number 1 issue is taxation, and as you may already know, he readily signed Grover Norquist's pledge not to vote for tax increases. He's also going to work against unfunded mandates.

7:34 p.m.

Moe Green is for education vouchers.

7:39 p.m.

During Q&A, Zaccaria stated that he's running for Congress to make laws go away, not to enact more of them.

7:42 p.m.

Trillo has taken the microphone to say that he has decided against a run for governor and put Rory Smith in the spotlight and request that he introduce himself. He's never spoken in front of a political group before, and he's not prepared for a speech, so he's giving some personal background.

He's humbled at the fact that politics requires the help of others, "and when they offer it, it's like the grace of God."

7:50 p.m.

A man who appears to be somehow closely affiliated with the event declared himself a Ron Paul Republican. Neo-conservatives apparently don't believe in the sovereignty of this country. Zaccaria played the hand well by speaking against labels and dismissing people whose support will be needed to win an election. He described some narrow terms of action and placed himself in the same camp as Paul.

Next question strongly implied disapproval of NAFTA. Oddly enough, it's possible that I'm to the left of the room (in physical location and ideology).

7:58 p.m.

Summary of various questions and answers: Zaccaria's conservative on just about everything, but then the wall: somebody asked about abortion. Making it illegal would cause three things:

  • Drive it underground
  • Would create two class, because some could fly to countries with more liberal laws.
  • Would condemn people in the second category to dangerous procedures

But then the utter confusion: He declared that life begins at conception, and abortion is the taking of a life. He then said that we must "make government get people to choose life" by — get this — replicating the stop smoking effort.

Only because I very much dislike asking questions at these things did I resist the urge to ask whether Zaccaria believes the government should kill a greater number of criminals until such time as we're able to stop crime via the culture (by means of the government, no less).

I'm really not sure what to make of that answer. We should maintain the right to take innocent human life until we find away to increase the breadth of the government in such a way as to change the culture to eliminate abortion as we've "eliminated" smoking. Ugh. Horrible, horrible answer.

8:15 p.m.

After a speech that'll be worth watching on our YouTube channel, an audience member (former Democrat trying to "make up" for what he did in that capacity") asked Trillo about gaming. The answer: We're addicted to it, so hey, we might as well go full out and get the voters to act on it.

8:18 p.m.

Trillo's gone on to talk about mandates, but I have to admit that I'm stuck on Zaccaria's answer. Perhaps a better hypothetical would be making gang-on-gang violence legal. If we can keep them from killing innocent people, it would ultimately save lives (compared with those unsafe back-room drivebys), and the government could pursue an anti-smoking-like campaign against gang violence.

But now that I think about it, perhaps there's something to the anti-smoking thing. The government could get abortion providers to admit that they know that their service kills people and then force them to advertise against it.

Did I already say "ugh"?

8:26 p.m.

Coincidentally, Erik Wallin was speaking against gang violence as I typed. He's now facing a question in favor of making drugs legal.

Wallin is against the legalization of drugs. "I've seen first-hand what drugs do to individuals" "People who are addicted to drugs are going to commit crimes in order to get those drugs."

On marijuana: "We should not be presenting more opportunities for young people to take drugs." He makes the point that the assumption that kids will have a harder time getting pot if it's legal is incorrect on the grounds that kids can get alcohol freely enough.

Personally, I think it ought to be a states-rights issue, and I think the illegality should not involve prison time for users, but I do think drugs should remain illegal, although I'd cede pot.

8:38 p.m.

I should note that this event has turned out to be very good. Some very strong points (and certainly passion) from the audience and the politicians. All candidates should be called on to participate in these things regularly, and all citizens should be pressured to attend.

8:45 p.m.

Representative Trillo just came over to me to clarify his position on the governor's race (somehow he's already heard what I wrote above): He is not withdrawing entirely the possibility that he'll run; he's waiting to see if somebody acceptable emerges, but if nobody steps forward whom he's comfortable endorsing, he will run.

8:54 p.m.

Some of the more, well, libertarian audience members seem a little incredulous that the attorney general would apply healthcare mandate laws duly passed by the legislature. Here we see, again, the peculiar circumstance of libertarians' wishing to dictate policies (in like manner to progressives/liberals) by wholly unconstitutional means... in the name of the Constitution.

8:59 p.m.

Great point from Wallin: "I'm running as a Republican, but I am independent" when it comes to the execution of his responsibilities as attorney general.

9:10 p.m.

Terry Gorman ran through the high-nineties percentages with which our Congressional delegates vote along party lines (100% for Langevin) and asked Zaccaria whether he'd do the same. Easy answer... of course not.

On a personal note, I could put my head down and go to sleep on the table.

9:13 p.m.

On the topic of immigration and the amount that hospitals are required to give to them (down to free cough medicine), Trillo noted a House Democrat who makes the argument that illegal immigrants wash all the dishes in restaurants such as that Democrat's family owns, and were that not allowed, the restaurants would not be able to stay in business.

Interesting juxtaposition... perhaps we should learn from the hospitals' conundrum in handling restaurants: Make them provide food to hungry patrons who cannot afford to pay. I mean, how can a moral society refuse food to starving children?

October 9, 2009

Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2 Afternoon, Video: Young Republicans

Justin Katz

Concluding the Saturday session of the Republican Northeast Conference was a trio of Young Republicans: Rhode Island's Ryan Neil Lund, Massachusetts' Matthew Boucher, and Britny McKinney, in from D.C.

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2 Afternoon, Video: Young Republicans"

October 5, 2009

Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: John Sununu

Justin Katz

The speech by former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu certainly increased the enthusiasm of the audience, and a great many laudatory comments could be heard in the halls on the way to lunch. (Based on viewing trends, I get the impression that it would be worthwhile to clarify that clicking the "Continue reading" line at the bottom of each of these posts leads to additional videos from each speaker; I've only been putting one in the main post because the site would quickly become a beast to load.)

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: John Sununu"

October 4, 2009

Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Thaddeus McCotter

Justin Katz

He surely benefited from contrast with our Congressional delegation, here in Rhode Island, and perhaps his dry mid-country humor and his intellectual phrasing appeals uniquely to me, but the Q&A speech with Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R, MI) was probably the highlight of the conference, from my perspective.

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Thaddeus McCotter"

Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Congressional Candidate Panel

Justin Katz

Of local interest, RI House Minority Whip and Congressional Candidate John Loughlin is clearly increasing his comfort on the campaign trail. One pleasant surprise, though, came with the short speech of Charles Lollar from Maryland. (Both candidates' clips are in the extended entry.) Lollar exudes that articulate-northeast-southerner confidence in conservative values and principles and is very persuasive in his declarations that the rest of us ought to be, too. Whatever the outcome of his race against Stenny Hoyer, I'd peg Lollar as one to watch.

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Congressional Candidate Panel"

Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Robert Simmons

Justin Katz

Former Congressman Robert Simmons, from Connecticut, is currently running in the Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate.

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Robert Simmons"

Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Ken McKay

Justin Katz

RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay went over the current standing of the party, with the emphasis on issues.

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Ken McKay"

Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Carcieri

Justin Katz

Herewith, the video corresponding with my liveblogging of the Republican Northeast Conference. First was the welcoming presentation of event co-chair Louis Pope; Governor Carcieri's speech is in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Carcieri"

October 3, 2009

Republican North East Conference, Day 2, Afternoon

Justin Katz

Tony Blankley's been giving a lunchtime speech; I've been eating. He's been talking organization, digital technologies, the Obamenon. One interesting point he's made is that there's some comparison between Reagan's accomplishment and Obama's. The difference about which he's hopeful is that Reagan changed people's minds about governing philosophy. Obama sold himself on one theme and is governing according to another.

2:06 p.m.

Blankley agrees with me that self-labeled Republicans have to be careful not to go too far into the dirty politics game, offering the attack on Bill Clinton as an example. He notes that Americans don't like it out of respect for the office. I wonder if there's also a degree to which it makes the electorate feel foolish. The respect for the office, for example, grows out of their feeling of responsibility for putting the person in office.

2:15 p.m.

Blankley: Most of the opportunity for the out of power party is the negative that the governing party is incompetent, but that that the public doesn't like negativity. A second Contract for America would do that, but, as came up earlier, he suggests that the issues are so big and divisive, right now, that it'd be hard to enumerate them as a platform.

2:35 p.m.

Ah, the perils of lingering around the edges with recording equipment: one looks like staff. Carol Mumford made sure to let me know that the ceiling was leaking in the dining area. That's what I get for wearing my bellhop cap everywhere.

2:41 p.m.

Pollster Jim McLaughlin is reviewing polling data, and he noted that more than half of the people elected in the Republican surge of the '90s had never done politics before.

2:50 p.m.

Once again, the economy leads the issues polls, over healthcare, and nobody believes Obama's spin that "fixing" the healthcare system will help the economy. In fact, they think the current proposals will make the system worse economically and when it comes to quality.

2:57 p.m.

Curt Anderson is giving a speech on strategy. He characterizes it as a recovery program: grieve, accept the problem, admit the problem, charge the hill, and look for positive way forward.

He notes that, contrary to common wisdom, money isn't all in politics. The money backing healthcare is hugely outbalancing opposition, yet folks aren't buying it.

3:03 p.m.

Anderson: Party leadership is more important in the Northeast than elsewhere, because we're not in an environment in which everybody agrees with us.

3:12 p.m.

McLaughlin: "On the things that matter most to voters, you've got to have better ideas."

3:14 p.m.

Anderson: "Something has popped in the last three months." People are suddenly caring about deficits.

Erik Wallin has taken the microphone to chastise the various Republicans who have, today, suggested the craziness of the tea party groups.

3:20 p.m.

Anderson: "They're shell-shocked in the White House," because they're learning that, in governance, the Big Speech doesn't fix everything.

3:25 p.m.

Three Young Republicans are talking technology Rhode Islander Ryan Neil Lund is making the excellent point that candidates have to actually be the personality behind their use of technology. That means writing the blogs, tweets, or whatever.

Yay. I got to hold my hand up as somebody under 35. Not for long, though...

3:31 p.m.

While Neil tries to get the technology working to show slides, Brittny McKinney, from D.C., is explaining that young folks need excitement. Contests. T-shirts. Pizza. Not sure how far I think that actually goes.

3:35 p.m.

Matthew Boucher, from Massachusetts, doesn't think kids want to read. Everything's got to be right up front where you can see it.

Y'know, there's a degree to which every generation has a style, but the principles are nothing new, whether it's online or on paper. Maybe I'm just an old conservative, but realizing that young adults are all excited to learn processes and techniques, I think what they really, really have to begin helping with is how to explain the principles — how to counter false impressions about conservatives and the apathy natural to them.

3:45 p.m.

Hey, it just occurred to me that maybe the reason I find this all so obvious is that I'm still in the under-35 demographic. Next year, I'll have to ask.

Republican North East Conference, Day 2

Justin Katz

Speaker Co-Chair Louis Pope (from Maryland) is opening the day. He put attendance around 170 and continuing to grow. He also pointed out a group of about eight Republicans who flew in all the way from Puerto Rico. ("They don't get a lot of snow, in Puerto Rico, but the RNC puts them in the North East.")

9:10 a.m.

Governor Carcieri's giving the first talk. He just tasked the Rhode Islanders in the room to make sure that the out-of-staters leave with wallets empty.

9:13 a.m.

Governor Carcieri is describing the economic situation in Rhode Island, and he laid the fault at the real estate budget. It seems to me it'd be a very effective — not to mention accurate — theme to acknowledge that it wasn't just the housing bubble. The state was in a terrible position to begin with. Our government was running hundreds of billions in deficits each year even during the bubble.

Differentiating between the private sector and the public sector: "In the public sector, the cash isn't real. It's just a number on a piece of paper."

9:22 a.m.

"After eight years running a small government, I have a hard time saying anything that we do well." There are good people, he says, but it's a matter of motivation.

This isn't exactly news, but there's no question, by the way, that the Republicanism of Don Carcieri is strongly, unabashedly conservative.

9:27 a.m.

On healthcare: "You gotta hand it to the Democrats. They make it so you can't figure out what you're going to argue on. Because what's the bill? ... There's never any substance."

He pointed out that Medicaid costs are unsustainable. But isn't that always Democrats' model for what they want to do and why?

"Does anybody believe that eliminating waste and fraud is going to pay for this program? If it is, why aren't we eliminating it now?"

Final thought: The nation is craving Republican leadership. And he closed with a story about a talking dog, to which Republicans are comparable.

9:35 a.m.

Jody Dow is introducing RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay. More info on party contributions: They're pulling in between eight and nine million dollars per month, with the average donation at $41.

McKay: "I wish right now, I were an investment. Getting into this job, when I did, was really 'buying low.'"

Slide 1: Republican self-identification has been on the slide but is returning.
Slide 2: On election day 2008, Republicans "were losing on every issue except security," which was a tie.
Slide 3: The GOP lost ground among various demographics, including Hispanics, youth, moderates, women, etc.
Slide 4 (or so): Since the election, Democrat affiliation has been falling; Republican affiliation has been falling more slowly; and Independents have been increasing mainly at the expense of Democrats.
Slide 5: Republicans now lead just about every issue (tied for Iraq; behind on government ethics). There's also a notable increase in the "not sure" category.
Slide 6: Obama's approval-disapproval ratings have been converging extremely rapidly. "Folks are not thrilled with his job performance, and on virtually every issue, he's upside down with everybody except Democrats."
Slide 7: Strongly disapprove is now above strongly approve for Obama. "We have to work for moderates and we have to work for independents." But McKay wishes the election were tomorrow.
Slide 8: Obama's sliding on every issue, including healthcare.
Slide 9: Everybody, even Democrats, believes that the president should focus on fixing the economy rather than reforming healthcare. All voters: 57 to 19.
Slide 10: People sick of spending.
Slide 11: GOP wins on the generic ballot, right now, 42 to 38. Congress approval: 36% favorable, 61% unfavorable.
Slide 12: Pelosi: 29% favorable, 47% unfavorable. "You could put a picture of Nancy up and win just about anywhere, and we haven't spent a dime on it; she's done it all herself."
Slide 13: Reid: 16% favorable, 21% unfavorable. "The problem we have with Harry Reid is that nobody knows him yet." But he's behind every Republican on the ballot in his home state.
Slide 14: People aren't happy with the direction of current events.
Slide 15: 53% to 38% disapproval of current healthcare legislation. McKay: Americans have the common sense to see the taxes behind these programs, and they know what's coming.
Slide 16, 17, 18, 19: People do not believe the promises made in favor of healthcare reform.
Slide 20: Virginia governor's race is within the margin of error, and the RNC is concentrating on it.
Slide 21: New Jersey has a Chris Christie (R) leading, but the independent, named Daggett, is muddying the waters.

10:11 a.m.

Q&A: McKay says there are just too many races for the RNC to devote too much money to races, but it can promise people.

Q: What is the RNC doing to support the tea parties.

McKay: "Frankly, they're people who don't want to be organized, right now. They want to organize among themselves." The GOP is courting such groups at the leadership level. "It's going to be a slow process, but at the end of the day, they're with us."

A woman from Vermont suggested that they've got evidence of other factions (Campaign for Liberty, Ron Paul) using the tea party movement as a means of infiltrating the GOP structure.

10:21 a.m.

Former Congressman (and current Senate candidate) in Connecticut Robert Simmons is up and assures the room that national Republican organizers have assured him that New England is on their target list for rebuilding the party. "Now is the first time in 180 years that there are no Republican members in the Congressional delegations from New England."

10:25 a.m.

"Thank you to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and President Obama for bringing the Republican Party back again."

He's hitting all of NE Republican talking points (which I say not to diminish them). Free enterprise, individual initiative, public service as a service, natural conservation, and education (as a prerequisite to having an individualistic and active population.

10:29 a.m.

"No more self interest above the interests of the people that you serve"... naming Dodd, Rangel, et al. The Democrats did, in fact, inherit the deficit, but they're making it worth. "Even the Chinese Communists are complaining about our overspending."

Every child born today is starting life with a bill of $40,000 from the federal government

10:32 a.m.

"When President Obama says, 'I will allow you to keep your doctor,' I say, 'No you won't; I have a right to keep my doctor."

10:38 a.m.

Up now is a panel of Congressional candidates.

Justin Bernier — with whom I conversed about the peculiarities of being Justin, last night — is from Connecticut.
John Loughlin — who is very, very unhappy with yours truly for my post about his pension scheme — is from here.
Charles Lollar — about whom I've gathered no anecdotes — is from Maryland.

10:43 a.m.

Justin held up a copy of Time magazine asking, on the cover, whether the Republican Party is an endangered species. "I think Time magazine will be extinct before the Republican Party."

"A jobless recovery is like a foodless meal."

10:50 a.m.

"Being House Minority Whip in Rhode Island is like being Vice Admiral of a canoe."

10:56 a.m.

Having brought the audience up to speed on local happenings, Loughlin is reading Bill Lynch's response in Patrick Kennedy's stead to last week's healthcare forum in Tiverton. (I hadn't know that Lynch spelled "Kennedy" wrong.)

"We tend to think that the Democrat machine are pros. They're not; they're morons."

11:00 a.m.

Lollar has taken the podium. He pointed out the two things from Carcieri's speech that bespoke of the governor's character: he's been married over 40 years, and he's got four children.

11:02 a.m.

Lollar: We [Republicans] aren't popular, but our policies are. They [Democrats] are popular, but their policies aren't. The only way they can beat us is to try to combine our policies with their popularity, which is to what

"Because we are conservatives and because we are Republicans, the American people are going to expect more of us." When Republicans sink to the other side's level, the response is therefore more dramatic and more rapid.

With my three minutes of experience with Mr. Lollar has definitely captured the audience's attention. I don't have any knowledge of his race against Stenny Hoyer, but I'll suggest that Lollar is one to watch. Talking Reagan. Family values. Clear, crisp analysis of what Republicans have to do.

11:10 a.m.

His closing story was about going into a bar to campaign in rural Maryland, with a big Confederate flag in the back, and the music literally stopped, as if it were a movie. (He's black.) He walked the room, talked to everybody about issues, and gained a lot of support.

11:19 a.m.

Will Grapentine asked Loughlin to comment on Kennedy's reference to the violence of tea party types. Loughlin pointed to me and asked whether I saw any. Being more a script than an improv guy, I couldn't think of the obvious come back quickly enough: "No, and that was with a bar in the back of the room."

11:29 a.m.

Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R, Michigan) has made a point of turning his entire speaking time to a Q&A to emphasize that Republicans have to listen to people more. "We began to think that we represented Washington to our constituents," when it should be the other way around."

McCotter's got a very dry sense of humor and solid mid-country confidence.

11:30 a.m.

Wow. McCotter's response to a question about Afghanistan is the stuff of think tank panels. Very smart, clear, and concise. Definitely worth watching in my YouTube clips yesterday.

11:33 a.m.

To an audience question about the procedural likelihoods among Democrats for the healthcare bill: "Life is short, so I don't spend a lot of time trying to figure out what incompetent people are doing, because they themselves don't know."

11:38 a.m.

In response to another question: "We can't continue to mythologize the Contract with America" The situation is similar, now to then, but the problems that are the issues are too big for such a limited document. McCotter also thinks now isn't the time to start an inside-Republican debate on a list of what we have to believe. Instead he puts forward five principles, after which the rest should be entrusted to the people actually elected as representatives:

  • Liberty is from God not government
  • Sovereignty is from souls
  • Security from strength not surrender
  • Prosperity is from private sector not public
  • Our truths are self evident

This is definitely a developing theme: Back to diversity of thought; back, in a word, to federalism.

After the next question, he's defending the bailout of auto manufacturers on the grounds that "America is not an economy or a bureaucracy. America is a country." Point being that you can't bail out Wall Street financiers and let auto workers lose everything.

11:49 a.m.

A local Chafee Republican (I'm guessing) asked about the instinct to push such people as he and Jeffords and Specter out. McCotter's answer: "Ideologues — there's a reason that they purge all the time: because they're nuts." Of course, he broke the application out in individual cases.

I suspect the Congressman would likely agree (if informed) that the voters who actually lived beneath Chafee were right to oust him. Just a guess, from his Specter-related statement: "We're sorry to have lost him. We were sorry to have him."

11:55 a.m.

Sorry. I lapsed and didn't get a picture of McCotter. Here's one of former governor of NH John Sununu:

12:02 p.m.

Sununu is describing the Democrats' strategy of collecting gobs of money at the national level from radical groups and billionaires and then pouring it into small, targeted races, even at the local level, which ultimately turned New Hampshire blue. "They did the nitty-gritty of politics better than we did."

12:07 p.m.

New England Republicans need to remotivate the business community, which is sitting around wondering what happened to their previously profitable region. Taxes. Regulations.

12:09 p.m.

Sununu thinks that, even if we all do nothing, the next cycle will be good for Republicans, simply as a matter of electoral trends. But, inasmuch as the Northeast is at the end of its rope, "Shame on us if we sit on our hands."

And again: "Internal fighting within a party is luxury that only a supermajority party can afford."

Well... I don't know. The key is to focus on issues of common concern and push differences to smaller areas (states, towns, etc.). But a coalition requires some common defense when the opposition pushes aggressively on issues that one contingent of the coalition deplores.

12:19 p.m.

Sununu noted that Republicans in New England should take advantage of the fact that we're a magnet region for higher education to communicate to young Americans that the Democrats really aren't serving their best interests.

12:22 p.m.

"The Europeans weren't in love with George W. Bush, but even though they didn't like him, they respected Americans. Now the world loves Obama, but they've got no respect for America."

The trip to Copenhagen tells Sununu two things: There really are no smarts at the top, and there are a bunch of crooked self-dealers around the president who pushed him over there to make a bunch of money.

12:30 p.m.

On a question about how to combat the Hollywood strength in culture and money, Sununu suggests supporting those who do similar things on our side, such as talk radio hosts (I'd add, ahem, bloggers). He also suggest that we not be "polite": Hang Roman Polanski around the necks of everybody in Hollywood. Also, we need to explore ways of communicating with teachers to counterbalance rhetoric that filters down to them.

12:34 p.m.

Gov. Carcieri just described the erosion — on both sides of the aisle — of local party committees and such, but the Democrats had the substitution of labor unions and organizations like ACORN. (Once more, I'd suggest, that top-down model that modern conservatives tend to resist on a gut level.)

12:37 p.m.

Sununu's now describing the Democrats' destruction of public sector pensions. He suggests to Carcieri a 13-month offensive to communicate to unions that there will no longer be pensions unless they let Republicans begin taking the reins of the states.

12:41 p.m.

In response to a question: "The dirty little secret: The unaffiliated voters are really Republicans." W.'s style turned a lot of people off — "What I call 'Texas cocky'."

The answer (say it with me): bring the issues back into the light.

12:43 p.m.

In response to a question about recruiting: "You cannot attract good candidates to a moribund party." In New Hampshire, they're now moving from having to work to recruit to having to work to manage primaries so as not to cause internal damage, because there are so many candidates.

Message: The current Democrat Party isn't the old Democrat party. "It isn't the party of Jackson; it isn't even the party of Jack Kennedy."

Republican North East Conference, Day 1 - Video and Follow-Up

Justin Katz

Following the opening event of the Republican North East Conference (video of which is in the extended entry), I followed up with Vermont Governor Jim Douglas regarding the need to define a "Northeastern Republican": stream, download. His answer wasn't particularly Earth-shattering, but it struck me as astute, in an understated Vermontian way. His emphasis is on local issues and local character, citing the diversity of the country and (therefore) the Republican Party and standing up for moral principle when the opposition forces the issue (as on same-sex marriage).

If I may paraphrase his answers in the terms of the intra-GOP debate: We shouldn't attempt to market a sub-brand of a particular type of Republican for local consumption, emphasizing our difference from Republicans elsewhere; rather, we should prove our character and intentions on issues of direct concern to local constituents and rebuff attempts to tie us to the most extreme statements of any minor Republican figure anywhere in the United States by lauding the inclusiveness of the party and the willingness to work together on matters of agreement.

Continue reading "Republican North East Conference, Day 1 - Video and Follow-Up"

October 2, 2009

RNC Northeast Conference, Day 1

Justin Katz

Breaking my rule of thumb never to enter into Newport after working hours, I've arrived at the Marriott to attend the opening events of the Republican National Committee's Northeast Conference. Inasmuch as I almost drove an eight-foot-high van into a 6'3" parking garage, I'd like to take the opportunity to renew my economic development advice for the city of Newport: Free centralized parking, at the end of a clear path from all entrances to the city and cheap trolley service in all directions. With the long traffic lights, the confused tourists, and groups of people understandably choosing to walk, it's very frustrating to have to rethink parking plans on the fly.

But now that I'm sitting, with a healthy Internet connection on my wireless card (the hotel charges $12 bucks per day for wireless access), I can say that it's very nice to see people I've never seen before at a Republican event. If only we didn't have to fly them in...

5:17 p.m.

Massachusetts GOP National Committeewoman Jody Dow opened with some general comments about the RNC. Gio Cicione (you know Gio, the RIGOP chairman) is giving welcoming remarks and some orientation — explaining the differently colored drink tickets.

"The pendulum swings, and right now, it's swinging in our direction."

5:23 p.m.

Ms. Dow just explained that large numbers of small donations are coming in to the RNC ($41 average), proving that people are worried and that the GOP is the big tent, not the party of the rich.

Up next is Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont. Having spent quite a bit of time in Vermont, as the son of a Green Mountain State mother, I'm qualified to opine that Mr. Douglas looks very much of Vermonter.

5:29 p.m.

Governor Douglas is suggesting that one trend they've seen begin in Vermont may be the conversion of incumbent Democrats to the Republican Party. "Republicans can win in New England." Of course, that's the beginning of the conversation of what sorts of Republicans we should run.

5:32 p.m.

Governor Carcieri just arrived. I wonder if he's got any complaints about parking in Newport.

5:34 p.m.

Governor Douglas is laying out the philosophical differences between the parties on healthcare: e.g., controlling costs versus mandating coverage.

5:40 p.m.

Wow. Speaking about the graying of the Northeast, Gov. Douglas just mentioned that Vermont has 13% fewer school children than it did a decade ago. The moral is that our states' economies have to become more inviting to young families.

Well, on to the opening cocktail party/dinner. I'm never sure where to strike the balance between blogger, activist, and affable schmoe, so I'll bring my blogging equipment (which I bring just about everywhere, anyway), but my inclination whether to pretend to be a journalist is to be determined.

September 13, 2009

Some Political Philosophy, Courtesy of the 9/12 Rally

Carroll Andrew Morse

The tea party movement was born, in large part, as a response to a political class that was assuming that no serious public discussion was needed about whether bigger, more centralized government was better, whenever the government declared that bigger, more centralized government was necessary. Contra to this idea, an important feature of the 2009 tea party rallies has been vigorous discussions of the proper scope of government and of the relationship between government and the individual.


Linked below are four short audio clips from Saturday's 9/12 rally at the Rhode Island statehouse, from speakers who were willing to take on some big ideas about civics, rights and self-government...Are ideas like these still considered, when decisions about big issues like healthcare and education get made, or has our current political leadership dismissed these ideas as too esoteric to be useful?

Starting with Ms. Conley's remarks and working backwards, what as a society and as a country do we all really all agree on is the foundation for working together, whether through government or outside? Where can Americans reasonably agree to disagree, and where do we have to press harder, towards better mutual understandings?

Signs, literally, of dissatisfaction with America's current political leaders...



September 12, 2009

Images from the 9/12RI and RI Tea Party Rally Today

Monique Chartier


The Gaspee [correction] The Brig Beaver (or a reasonable facsimile thereof)


The Crowd


The Theme




A name that's been in the news lately ...


Right to assemble, right of free speech, right to wear a Spiderman hat: new Americans exercising some of their new rights

September 11, 2009

Ocean State Policy Research Institute Hosts Grover Norquist

Justin Katz

Ocean State Policy Research Institue was good enough to invite me to its fundraising event at the Providence Marriott featuring famed tax hawk Grover Norquist. Some of Norquist's speech was familiar from his last appearance in Rhode Island, but considering all that has happened — with the election, tea parties, legislative assaults, healthcare — there were many new topics to address. And Grover gives an entertaining, informative speech.

Video in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Ocean State Policy Research Institute Hosts Grover Norquist"

September 9, 2009

Seasons Are Defined by Change

Justin Katz

Rob Long's piece on the summer's town hall meetings (subscription required) is characteristically humorous, but he's clearly missing something in the American air:

It's strictly a summer affair — when there are soccer games to get to and the weather gets chilly, most of the firebrands will be too busy and distracted to head on out to their senators' district offices to make a little trouble. Who has time, with kids to carpool and work getting stressful and now the holidays are coming, to ink funny hand-lettered signs and Xerox handouts and make the lemonade? No one, that's who. So the town-hall shout-outs will stop — and so will the town halls and office ambushes, for the foreseeable future — and Americans will turn their attention to other things.

Long acknowledges that the healthcare rallies "succeeded" in knocking down the socialistic ambition a few pegs, but from ground-level I don't see the broader reaction to the federal government's power grabs fading. He forgets, glaringly, that the tea party movement began back when there was still a chill in the air; back before people had decided that the summer vacation would be compromised as a "staycation."

I'll admit that I'm a little bit wary of the extent to which the national movement is serving to promote a particular individual (Glenn Beck), but a variety of local groups are planning to take the 9-12 Project as an opportunity to gather on the State House steps this Saturday from two to five. If nothing else, it's an opportunity to help prove Rob Long wrong.


Incidentally, also on the itinerary this week is the Ocean State Policy Research Institute's event, Thursday, with Grover Norquist at the Providence Marriot Downtown.

August 31, 2009

Self Interested Members of Unions and Taxpayer Groups

Justin Katz

I'll be the first to acknowledge the prominence of self interest in the development and ascendance of local taxpayer groups. Members take up political arms, as it were, for a variety of reasons, and often those reasons are decidedly materialistic in nature. Therewith comes the sliver of truth to Phil's cartoonish characterization of the simmering conflict in multiple Rhode Island communities:

Individual union members are taxpayers and voters. They like all the rest of us act out of self interest. It is in their self interest to join the workplace union and be represented by professionals. Too bad this choice is not nearly as available in the private sector. They like the rest of us have the right to try to effect the policies of their government. They also have the right to effect the policies of their unions through democratic means as David writes, something that is not available to private sector workers unless they belong to a union or an association. Most of these public sector workers will work in their communities for 30 or more years. They will see politicians come and go. Teachers particularly will see administrators come and go. They will see many school committee people come and go. Also they will see the taxpayer groups that form and make their noise come and go. But through that time they will stay and continue to do the essential work in those communities. That and their selflessness in joining together as a group will sustain them and their respective communities. Not so with the taxpayer groups. As you mention, Justin, when times are bad, people pay more attention to their local government. That's not a bad thing at all, but do not try to equate that with the longtime commitment to a community of the teacher or other public sector worker. Formed out of anger and selfishness these taxpayer groups fall apart after a short time. It's hard to keep people worked up and angry enough to overcome their basic selfishness. They stay involved for a while and then move back to more comfortable pursuits or to things that meet their self interest more directly. Most people would rather be with their families than sitting in overheated rooms being bored to tears or trying to manufacture outrage that amounts to pettiness. How could anyone keep doing that for thirty years?

In this picture, the unions are sustained by their selfless devotion to each other and to the community, while taxpayer groups appear in a flash of anger and then dissipate, leaving no trace. The intricacies of human relationships between people of differing personalities, goals, and interests seems not to enter Phil's design.

Whatever the motivation for their formation, taxpayer groups pull together residents who share certain principles and worldviews, and not surprisingly, find themselves forming lasting friendships. Meanwhile, they learn the ropes of local politics and policies, and some percentage continue their civic involvement ever after. Such groups also build structures, from PACs to transparency mechanisms that a handful of them, at least, will think it worth the minimal effort to maintain. In short, pretty much for the lifetimes of those involved, the public eye will remain more open than it was.

But sure, I'll acknowledge that an improved economy and achievement of some threshold of repair to the damaged governing system will drain fuel from the political machine that makes such groups a force to be reckoned with. There is a need to fulfill, in a local society, and these groups arise to address it, and the time and effort involved act as a mechanism for defusing them when they are no longer needed.

That, in essence, is the problem with public sector unions. A union, by its nature, pushes for the benefits of its members, and when workers are oppressed and individually powerless, the society pulls them together in an organized way to address the problem. There is no mechanism, however, to cause them to dissipate or hibernate when their purpose has been served. If a union were to shift gears to neutral because the circumstances of its workers had achieved an equilibrium of comfort and occupational demand, the workers would soon do away with the costly advocacy structure. So, the unions keep the push going, so that they can convince their members of their value.

The community suffers, because the unions demand increasing percentages of local resources. They become, indeed, the focus of local government, and avarice sets in. Even in a short time of observation, I've seen too many union decisions favoring raises at the cost of young teachers' jobs to buy the selflessness argument. Moreover, anybody who's compared public-sector and private-sector jobs in Rhode Island can't but laugh at the notion that those in the public sector stick around for thirty years out of a sense of altruism and community.

August 26, 2009

Dinner in Johnston

Justin Katz

Rhode Island roads are designed for people who already know where they're going. That's why I barely made it to Johnston in time to set up for the community dinner hosted b y Senators Reed and Whitehouse. And what do I find when I arrive:

Andrew sneaking up on Pat Crowley! We're a violent mob we right wingers. (No YouTubable video came out of that incident, unfortunately.)

6:03 p.m.

Whitehouse is listing ways to reduce costs in healthcare, most of which are unacceptable (e.g., throw people off the roles). His vague response is that we have to "reform the delivery system in ways that save money." No real solutions.

Jack Reed just repeated the lie that folks who like their insurance can keep it. He didn't add the necessary qualification that it would only last five years.

6:07 p.m.

A 75-year-old from German is testifying that his wife's small business has been having trouble keeping up with payments for employees health insurance. Germany, by contrast, is a nirvana of free healthcare. Not sure when the last time Germany led the world in healthcare innovation.

6:10 p.m.

Whitehouse is trying to explain that foreign companies have an advantage in exports because they don't have to incorporate healthcare for employees into their costs. Of course, the taxes must be worked into the price.

6:15 p.m.

Reed used a popular comeback when an older attendee spoke against the Democrats reform: "Well, what insurance do you have." When the answer is Medicare, he makes a face that says, "Well..."

6:22 p.m.

It's certainly the most quiet crowd tonight. Plenty of shushers when opposition voices make such suggestions as economics lessons in the Senate.

6:25 p.m.

An elderly man, who testified that he's happy with American care, brought up tort reform. Reed is downplaying the importance of that issue, and he looked to the table of planted Brown University medical students .

6:31 p.m.

A 14 -year-old asked whether a national healthcare would be Constitutional, and both Senators said "probably" and brought up a number of state-level public systems (e.g., colleges) as examples of its plausibility. Uh-huh.

6:35 p.m.

Will Grapentine just asked why, if America has the best of hospitals, medicine, etc., as he says Reed suggests, then why change it? He also suggested steps toward privatization.

Whitehouse is also bragging about America's medical facilities. "My concern is that we take all of that talent and excellence, and then we grind it through a system..." that kills people and leaves people out.

6:45 p.m.

Asked about free market competition, Reed said that they're trying to build a better system. Makes me wonder why, if they're such geniuses, in federal government, they went into "public service" instead of applying that insight throughout the economy as private actors.

6:52 p.m.

More repeats of favorite stories, such as Sheldon's example of hospitals not wanting to invest in efficiency equipment because it costs them billable minutes.

I've yet to hear anybody ask or explain why the feds aren't looking at specific problems, first, and then expanding to rewrite the entire system, if necessary.

6:58 p.m.

Whitehouse once again stated that the problems with Medicare originate in the fact that it hasn't been funded, as if some other entity than the government making those decisions.

7:11 p.m.

Whitehouse asserted that Obama has already cut taxes for the middle class, so we can trust him not to break the pledge only to tax rich people.

7:13 p.m.

Whitehouse expressed that the reform is intended to make the system, better, more efficient, and even more super duper. When asked how Congress will pay for it, he brought up digital medical records. First of all, can't that be done on its own? Second of all, is that really the big plan for saving money to pay for a public option et al.

7:20 p.m.

A young woman just noted that businessmen are not accountable to her, but these two senators are. Ah, youth.

A social worker just synopsized the liberal point of view by putting his entire perspective in terms feeling good about helping neighbors, equating a refusal to back a government system naked cruelty of soul.

7:26 p.m.

I have to say that I'm suspicious of the folks who come to these things in white jackets and stethoscopes around their necks are suspicious when they declare themselves doctors. Maybe it's just too much television as a youth, with the whole "I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV" thing.

One such doctor just said that a public option must be big enough to negotiate. That seems to conflict with earlier efforts to diminish the significance of a public option.

August 25, 2009

They've Heard Us

Justin Katz

An understandably frustrated Karin commented to a recent post:

Does it really matter who yells and screams. They have no intention of changing the way they vote. The yelling is out of pure frustration that we have zero control over these guys.

One needn't read Sunday's Providence Journal article about our delegation's backing off the public option to comfort Karin that the voices of opposition are making a difference. Of course, it helps to read such things:

For that reason, Langevin suggested that it was a blessing in disguise that both houses of Congress failed to meet Mr. Obama's early-August deadline for passing a bill.

"I'm glad we had this break to slow this down a little bit," Langevin said, adding that the prospect of historic changes in health care has provoked his constituents to a rare outpouring of deep and personal feelings. Langevin said a powerful theme of the public response has been, "We have to do this the right way. Don't rush it."

Yes, the community dinner hosted by Senator Whitehouse and Senator Reed was a bit more subdued than Langevin's town hall the night before, and we'll see how things go for Whitehouse and Reed in Johnston, tomorrow night But our elected political insiders and their staffs can see the wind shifting away from the hard left.

That's no excuse, of course, for turning down the volume, if only to discredit such statements as this:

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan."

But Langevin quickly acknowledged that it may not be possible to keep such a sweeping promise. "There is no guarantee" against at least some disruptions of health insurance coverage, he said.

For example, Langevin said, "It's true that some employers could opt for a penalty" rather than let their workers keep their current health plans.

"Certainly there are always unaccounted for, unpredictable and unintended consequences," in an enterprise as vast and complex as Mr. Obama's planned health-care overhaul, Langevin said.

Similarly, Reed was unwilling to repeat Mr. Obama's promise to the satisfied customer that "you can keep your health plan."

"That is our goal and that is our purpose," Reed said. "We will try our best."

I'm not referring to the persistent statement about keeping one's healthcare, which is a lie wherever it isn't followed by the phrase, "for up to five years." Rather, I mean to indicate the suggestion that consequences described by opponents of the plan are "unpredictable and unintended." The fact is that hundreds of Rhode Islanders — thousands of Americans across the country — have been showing up at their representatives' events explicitly to make such predictions, to the degree that not seeking to avoid the consequences would be strongly suggestive of intention.

August 22, 2009

RIGOP Fundraiser Video

Justin Katz

The video from this morning's RIGOP fundraiser with RNC Executive Director Ken McKay is available in the extended entry.

My apologies to RIGOP Chairman Gio Cicione; I was trying to learn on the job, as it were, and figure out how to improve the picture because of the bright backlighting of the windows and missed most of his opening remarks.

Continue reading "RIGOP Fundraiser Video"

Saturday Morning with Republicans

Justin Katz

It's been a busy couple of weeks. Two picnics, two to town halls, and now a breakfast fundraiser for the RIGOP. So far, this location has been the most difficult to find, a consideration that the party should perhaps take into account in the future; I imagine a significant proportion of its potential base consists of transplants, like me, who might be dissuaded by a local's instructions to "pass where you used to go over the railroad tracks." And it doesn't take many frustrating experiences for people to decide against subsequent participation.

It's a beautiful spot, though, Water St. in East Greenwich. Of course, Rhode Island has many more than its share of those.

10:45 a.m.

My first thought, as this thing wraps up, is that I really wish there were more time in a day. Ken McKay made some interesting and compelling points that would be great to isolate for y'all to absorb discretely, but I simply don't have the time to filter through the hour-plus of video with that sort of specificity.

My second thought is that you really don't realize how much a table and even a whole room shakes until you're trying to hold a camera steady with your elbows on the table. I'll be stopping on the way home to pick up a tripod or some such.

10:51 a.m.

One thing that I just can't leave the room without saying: Much of McKay's talk was encouraging, but he did make a statement along a thread that one picks up from time to time among Republicans: He spoke of his discovery of Saul Alinsky's rulebook and his astonishment at how closely Democrats follow it. That sort of insight is obviously very important to have, but then he suggested an intention to replicate the strategy.

Strenuous moralist that I am, I think that impulse ought to be resisted for ideological and spiritual reasons. It mightn't be a stretch, though, to think that it's best avoided for strategic reasons, in this environment. One lesson of Obama's candidacy was that people want an end to the meet-the-new-boss-just-like-the-old-boss cycle. In his case, that positioning was deceptive in the extreme. Mightn't it form a stronger and more lasting Republican resurgence to effect that change genuinely?

August 16, 2009

NOM Marriage Picnic

Justin Katz

Conservatives in this state must share a certain apprehension as they drive to ideologically tinted events — hoping that somebody shows up, but not the wrong people, and maybe it'll be an indication of our powerlessness, but what if we have to prove ourselves in front of a one-time crowd... Well, tea parties aside, the traditional marriage event that National Organization for Marriage Rhode Island is hosting at Aldrich Mansion in Warwick is definitely among the best attended right-leaning events that I've attended thus far. In fact, I may have to allocate some Anchor Rising resources to pay a parking ticket, since I'm not sure the line of cars down the street is actually legal:

And talk about gemstone corners of Rhode Island:

From where I sit on the stairs overlooking the lawn and the bay, I think I'm looking directly at the hill down which I walked my dog countless times and marveled at the view though I had no idea what I was looking at. How can Rhode Island encompass Rhode Island? [I apologize if that thought seems scattered, but I was interrupted midsentence by somebody who wanted to impress his young charges with the fact that I speak regularly with Matt Allen... certainly not an interruption that I minded!]

Whatever else this event proves, a major takeaway is just how abstract and intellectual is the argument that "fiscal conservatives" and libertarians can jettison us social conservatives. Attendance aside, this is by far the most diverse crowd that I've seen at any conservative event. You want hope shaking the opposition to its core? Come to an event like this.

I wonder if that explains some of the disgusting vitriol that social and religious conservatives attract from progressives...


Here's NOM-RI Executive Director Chris Plante:

And NOM President Maggie Gallagher:

And to be fair and balanced, here's the protest out on the street just after Gallagher's speech:


I don't agree with everything that the speaker who initiated the marriage vow renewal section of the program said. He ends the following clip, for example, thus:

You have not defined marriage, you have not shaped marriage, and you have not set its boundaries in place; rather, marriage has defined you. It has shaped you, and it has set boundaries in goodly places. And so it should be. We all choose to submit to marriage and should never seek to have marriage submit to us.

In terms of the functioning of marriage, as an institution, married couples do indeed define and shape the institution, which is why society must encourage them to respect the boundaries that it imposes. Put differently, it is because our own relationships define marriage that we must submit to it.

But minute disputes aside, hearing this speaker (especially in the context of the day) contributes to the sense that there's something peculiar about protesting such an event:

There were children running around with their faces panted. There were bouncy houses. The bulk of the performances weren't political, but musical. If right-wingers were to protest a similar gay family day organized by a group that advocates for same-sex marriage on a lazy summer Sunday, they'd rightly be lumped in with the Phelps family, but on the left, the impulse to protest — to frighten away attendees concerned with what their children might witness — is mainstream.

The small group of protesters who showed up, however, did evoke the tragedy of the issue. For the most part, they only wish to be accepted, to live their lives in as close an accord as possible to the ideals that the culture had put forward to them, but their ordering inclines incompatibly. Their predicament (meant neutrally) is one through which our culture has only recently begun to wend its rules, and understandably, they wish for it to bend as they desire.

Marriage is what it is, though, and it would be to universal detriment to divorce it from the principle that men and women are uniquely compatible with each other in ways of breadth and depth that no other relationship to similitude.


One absence that didn't strike me until I was getting ready to leave was that of politicians. The only candidate or current elected official whom I saw was Will Grapentine, and he's more ubiquitous at conservative events than either Caprio or the governor.

Rhode Island Republican Assembly "Victory Over Statism" BBQ Speeches

Justin Katz

Per our usual practice of reinvesting just about every dollar that we take in, for Anchor Rising, we're expanding our capabilities to include video, and the collection of short speeches presented at the Rhode Island Republican Assembly's Victory over Statism Barbecue presented a fantastic first run. Videos (with quotes and commentary as I'm inspired) for the following speakers may be found in the extended entry:

  • Erik Wallin, Candidate for Rhode Island Attorney General
  • Bill Felkner, Executive Director of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute
  • Mark Zaccaria, Candidate for United State Congress
  • Helen Glover, 920 WHJJ Radio Personality
  • Rep. John Loughlin, Candidate for United State Congress
  • Terry Gorman, Founder of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement
  • Colleen Conley, President of the Rhode Island Tea Party
  • Barth Bracy, Executive Director of Rhode Island Right to Life
  • Travis Rowley, Chairman of the Rhode Island Young Republicans
  • John Robitaille, Communications Director for Governor Carcieri
  • Dan Reilly, Candidate for Rhode Island House
  • William Sousa Grapentine, Candidate for Rhode Island House
  • Robert Paquin, Candidate for Rhode Island House
  • Kathleen McCurdy Dennen, Candidate for Rhode Island Senate

Continue reading "Rhode Island Republican Assembly "Victory Over Statism" BBQ Speeches"

August 15, 2009

Picnicking with RIRA

Justin Katz

What a place is Rhode Island.

As a matter of general impression, I wouldn't have characterized Rhode Island much differently than my native Northern New Jersey. High-density suburban. Some areas that tilt a little more rural; some that escalate to the density of cities. I recently took a moment to fiddle with Google Earth and was actually surprised at the difference. An aerial view of Bergen County, NJ, where I grew up, is like the plant organism through a microscope, properties abutting like cells. Rhode Island has some pockets of that, but it's almost as if the state has striven to fit more geographic diversity into the same space.

That's been my thought as I've traversed Rhode Island for various purposes over the past few years, and today's trip to the Masonic Shriners' Family Center in Warwick for the Victory over Statism picnic of the Rhode Island Republican Assembly contributes to the impression. Here, tucked in a corner of the state that you wouldn't expect, is a wooded park on the river:

And here gathered is a political alcove of conservatives in a deep blue state.

4:10 p.m.

In one of the selfless investments of Anchor Rising largess, I've upgraded technology in order to be able to post videos, which I'm currently endeavoring to do.

Andrew made a comment early on in the meeting that — with the disclaimer that we haven't been going to these things long — it seems as if the right/reform group has begun to pick up some steam. I don't know if the limited movement is kicking into gear or if something new is emerging. Judging from the youth of the candidates who've spoken, there's reason to hope that it's the latter.

August 11, 2009

Unions Sowing Fear in the Streets

Justin Katz

As a follow-up on the subject of organized labor stoking civil violence, it turns out that one of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members who crossed into physical violence in St. Louis wasn't just a overexcited layman:

Elston K. McCowan is a former organizer - now the Public Service Director of SEIU Local 2000 - and board member of the Walbridge Community Education Center, and is a Baptist minister, has been a community organizer for more than 23 years, and now, he is running for Mayor of the City of St. Louis under the Green Party.

As Clarice Feldman observes, McCowan "is the union"; he's one of the guys who "issues the cards."

Join that with an SEIU memo in Connecticut that explicitly instructs supporters to "drown out" those who oppose the healthcare power grab. The line between "being heard" and "making not heard" is not so subtle. The former is an expression of democratic process. The latter indicates an intention to bully the opposition into simply staying home in the interest of their own safety.

In Michigan, a man who confronted Rep. John Dingell (D., Michigan) about the availability of resources, under Obamacare, for his son's cerebral palsy subsequently received a visit in the middle of the night. Welcome to hope and change.

August 10, 2009

The Origin of Civic Violence

Justin Katz

It does more than prove the group's extremely low opinion of its audience's awareness and intelligence that a propaganda video from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) ends with the scene just after a half-dozen of its members, with racial slurs on their lips, had beaten up somebody protesting Congress's intentions with healthcare. Just after the incident, an overweight man with a cane, and wearing an SEIU t-shirt, walks toward the dissipating scuffle; the video strongly implies that the violence originated with the conservative activists and victimized peaceful union demonstrators. After the fade to black, we hear, "You just attacked that guy," and the video's producers are content to let the viewer infer the opposite of the truth.

The larger point that this audacity proves is that the people behind organized labor have little concern for truth and will rush to rewrite history in the most brazen fashion. So let's recall the time line:

  • Per established strategy, the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats declared an urgency to pass healthcare-overhaul legislation before legislators' knees could be weakened by expected constituent opposition, or perhaps by simply reading and understanding the bill that they were being asked to transform into law.
  • Many of those constituents set out to have their voices heard before the Democrats' urgency crossed the line to a done deal. Not surprisingly, when they had an elected representative's attention, their passion came through.
  • Union thugs tipped one such event beyond the border into violence, although it should be noted that there's no indication that the conservative activists fought back with more force than necessary to stop an attack.
  • Now, union leaders wish to foster a sense of victimhood and impending threat among their supporters.

And now the face of Rhode Island union thuggery, Patrick Crowley, stops only a few breaths from declaring, "Get the brass knuckles, boys":

This is nothing.

And if this scares the people who support health care, or voted for Obama, or a good liberals/progressives, my question to you is: what are you going to do about it?

Are you going to send an email? Maybe call the RNC to complain?

Or are you going to do something more? Do you really think an email is going to stop people like this?

His latest update to the post shouts, "NOW WHAT ARE YOU PREPARED TO DO?"

And thus do leftist organizers usher in the fascism that motivates their lesser activities. Conservative citizens of the United States of America have showed no desire to step beyond letting their representatives know in no uncertain terms that they want the legislative process to work in their favor. Unions and progressives, by contrast, are itching for an excuse to roll over the objects of their hatred in a steamroller of fists and jackboots.

The most disgusting part is the complicity of school teachers, via their union, in promoting people who promote violence. It was the National Education Association of Rhode Island, after all, that lent Crowley an air of credibility.

Luckily, sunshine frightens a troll, so if anybody asks members of the right, "What are you prepared to do?," we can stand firm on principle. "Pull them into the light," we can say. Just keep talking (and taping). When the truth is on your side, it isn't a stretch to suggest that email is going to stop people like this.

August 8, 2009

Busy Times for Right-Leaning Reformers

Justin Katz

It's possible, of course, that I'm more aware, this year, but perhaps there's reason to be encouraged by the number of events that right-leaning groups in Rhode Island have been placing on the calendar in the coming weeks.

  • Saturday, August 15th: As advertised in the sidebar on the left side of your screen, the Rhode Island Republican Assembly is hosting a barbecue event in Warwick with a variety of conservative and reform speakers
  • Sunday, August 16th: The National Organization for Marriage - Rhode Island has planned an afternoon/evening picnic at Aldrich Mansion in Warwick to celebrate traditional marriage with a free concert, children's events, and vow renewals, as well as a catered meal (requiring tickets).
  • Saturday, August 22nd: The RIGOP has scheduled a morning breakfast and presentation from RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay (location not yet settled).
  • Wednesday, August 26th: The RI Tea Party has arranged for a free dinner with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse at the Johnston Senior Center to have (ahem) a polite discussion on matters of policy.
  • Thursday, September 10th: Grover Norquist will join the Ocean State Policy Research Institute for an evening of conversation, with details to be determined.
  • Friday through Sunday, October 2nd to 4th: The Republican National Committee Northeast Conference will be held in Newport.

All of these events are on my calendar (for liveblogging, as possible and appropriate), and I hope to see a lot of you in attendance, as well. Conservatives seem to have different aesthetic preferences, when it comes to organizing, but if we don't begin intermingling and networking — getting to know each other — we won't be able to stop Rhode Island from winning the states' roll to the bottom. Part of the motivation for the creation of Anchor Rising was the contributors' mutual feeling of isolation in this deep-blue mire; above all, that sense of Hopelessness must be remedied.

August 7, 2009

The First Murmurs of Political Ugliness

Justin Katz

John Loughlin, the presumed Republican candidate for Patrick Kennedy's seat in Congress, has issued a press release stating that "the Congressman has a basic obligation to share his in-depth knowledge" about healthcare legislation at three to five town-hall-style meetings. As a matter of an elected representative's responsibility, Loughlin is absolutely correct, but constituents might have cause to worry that the ordeal of such meetings might send Patrick back into preventive rehab. The "debate" is getting ugly.

After a few instances of citizens' displaying their passion about the Democrats' federal powergrab in a porcine "healthcare reform" costume, party figures have been striving to prove that nobody does divisiveness as well as they do:

Democrats and the White House are claiming that the sometimes rowdy protests that have disrupted Democratic lawmakers' meetings and health care events around the country are largely orchestrated from afar by insurers, lobbyists, Republican Party activists and others.

Jonah Goldberg goes into further detail about the Democrats' attacks on American citizens. Peggy Noonan took up the topic for the must-read piece to which Marc linked earlier. Noonan highlights the looks of shock that have been characteristic of the Democrats who've been experiencing Americans' frustration. "They had no idea how people were feeling," she writes, and she ends on a note of concern that their leaders and allies see more need for forehead-to-forehead response than for the much-invoked empathy:

Absent [President Obama calling for a pause in the debate], and let's assume that won't happen, the health-care protesters have to make sure they don’t get too hot, or get out of hand. They haven’t so far, they’ve been burly and full of debate, with plenty of booing. This is democracy’s great barbaric yawp. But every day the meetings seem just a little angrier, and people who are afraid—who have been made afraid, and left to be afraid—can get swept up. As this column is written, there comes word that John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO has announced he’ll be sending in union members to the meetings to counter health care’s critics.

If, like me, you've come across news of a beating that apparent members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) delivered to a grassroots activist in Missouri, and watched the video of the aftermath, Noonan's final chord is chilling.

To be sure, meeting constituent unrest with union thuggery is probably not what White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina meant when he told Senate Democrats, "If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard," but the imagery is telling. And dangerous. Citizen ire is going to turn into bloodsport politics, in part because ostensible leaders prefer to battle than to listen.

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)

Well-Dressed Grass Roots? Just can't be!

Marc Comtois

Polls continue to indicate President Obama's and the Democrats' health care reform is in serious trouble. And the Dems are worried...and paranoid. They haven't been able to drum up support with their much-touted netroots apparatus and are instead encountering protests against their proposals. But it couldn't be that their grand plan is wrong...instead, the Democrats are claiming this opposition is nothing more than "astroturf." (Kinda like the Tea Parties, I guess). California Senator Barbara Boxer thinks that well-dressed protesters to Obamacare must be put-ups. Local progressives theorize that the media is conspiring ("which side are you on"?) against President Obama. And, as Michael Barone summarizes:

So now we have the spectacle of the White House trying to demonize the health insurers which it was not so long ago romancing and trying to label as “mobs” and “astroturf” voters who show up at town meetings and voice opposition to Democratic health care proposals—this from a president who during his campaign urged his supporters to respond to those opposing him by “get[ting] in their faces.” These seem like desperation tactics to me. Most Americans are pretty happy with their health insurance because, for one reason, they can choose a different plan every year. It's not irrational for them to fear getting shoved into a government plan which, to save money, will ration care.
Barone acknowledges that, usually, there is more enthusiasm by those on the outside looking in, but he thinks there's something more going on, too.
One of the less commented on features of our politics in this decade has been the huge expansion of voter turnout, from 105 million in 2000 to 122 million in 2004 and 131 million in 2008. These increases were generated by campaign organizations (including the brilliantly targeted efforts of the Obama campaign) but were also a spontaneous expression of enthusiasm—both for and against George W. Bush in 2004, for Barack Obama and against Bush in 2008.

You don’t do an unnatural thing like going to a congressman’s town hall meeting to express opposition to a health care proposal just because you got a robocall from someone from Cigna or Aetna. They don’t dragoon poor people into buses the way Acorn does. You go because you feel really, really strongly about some issue. There are, after all, organizers on both sides. The organizers favoring the Democratic health care plans aren’t able to generate any significant. The organizers opposing the Democratic health care plans are. And, as in the 2008 Obama campaign, a lot of people are turning out of their own spontaneous accord.

Democrats/Progressives are projecting their organizational model onto the average citizen. Believe it or not, folks can get upset enough all on their own: we all don't require "community activists" to identify our problems for us. When asked the generic question if health care needs to be reformed, the majority of Americans say "yes" (myself included). But this isn't what we have in mind. Instead, keep it simple by focusing on two words: portability and competition. Then work from there.

August 4, 2009

A Few Lingering Thoughts from the Meeting

Justin Katz

Driving home from the RISC meeting on Saturday, my MP3 player happened upon Will.i.am's "Yes We Can" propaganda song, which is essentially an audio collage of famous and semi-famous people singing and reciting along with a Barack Obama speech.

It occurred to me that the content is sufficiently vague that, if one strips away external knowledge about the policies being implied, it can actually be a universally inspiring tune. (Therein the secret to Obama's success, I'd say.) Yes we can heal this nation! Amen; we can cut government, lower taxes, make our country, once again, a beacon of hope in a world drifting off, this time, into a post-modernist malaise. Yes we can defend the free world from dictators and theocrats who want only to expand the reach of their oppressive claws. Yes we can!

Yes we can bring balance back to the tiers of government in Rhode Island. Yes we can overcome the ruts and obstacles that unions have laid across our path to prosperity. Yes we can!

As this frame of mind might suggest, I crossed Aquidneck Island, on Saturday, feeling like an outsider among political subversives. In retrospect, there are three core reasons.

We need fresh faces.

I wonder if it would be contrary to etiquette (or political wisdom) for reform groups to begin declining to allow the governor to speak when he shows up at their events. Don't get me wrong; I like Don Carcieri, and at the RISC meeting, he was by far the most rousing speaker. And I understand that not everybody has heard the points that he's been making over and over again, in the past few months. But he's a politician, and he's where we've been. We need folks telling us where we need to go.

We need speakers whom we perhaps don't recognize but within a twenty-minute talk give us a sense that they'll be remedying their obscurity in the weeks to come, raising us all up with them. We need fresh faces to emerge from the periphery and instill confidence that they can move to the front.

Regionalization is the wrong way to go.

We will succeed at neither finding those fresh faces nor ushering them through the gauntlet of Rhode Island politics if we stumble into the comfortable functionality of regionalization. In the first place, it's a method for increasing efficiency at the margins; being a dispersed polity is not the origin of our problems, and making it the issue will only give the corruptocrats, unionists, and money grabbers a bandwagon to join.

Join it, they will, because in the second place, consolidation benefits entrenched interests. We need to build a statewide movement that ties together local activists. Folks who aren't interested in the mud and difficulties of state-level activism or political campaigns will be more easily persuaded to step forward for town-level offices and activities. Some might see our problem as being the diffuse base of support for the reform movement, but that can easily be made a strength. Fewer resources are needed to challenge the tendrils of the establishment that are rooted in town councils and school committees; encouraging people to become involved will both acclimate them to civic participation and educate them about the sources of our difficulties at the local and state tiers.

In the third place, call them fiefdoms, call them hamlets, villages, whatever, the local variations of Rhode Island are a charming part of its character, blending in with the geography as if the civic structure is a natural phenomenon. Rhode Islanders sense and like this quality of the state, and any reform movement that ties its promises to challenging the innate parochialism is doomed. The key is not to erase the unique qualities of cities and towns — and at some point, regionalization will accomplish just that — but to infiltrate the governments of those cities and towns with people who appreciate them while still understanding the need to change the way they're run.

We're not pushing a boulder up a hill; we're crossing a collapsing bridge.

On Saturday, I objected to Governor Carcieri's metaphor of Rhode Island pushing a boulder up a hill. He exhorted us to keep pushing, because it's moving; I suggested that, at best, we're slowing its downward roll. Rumbling over the Sakonnet Bridge, a better metaphor occurred to me.

Rhode Islanders are repeatedly crossing a crumbling bridge with a fabulous view. We look out at the water and the islands, and then we go about our lives content with the glimpse of the natural advantages of our local environment. We don't really want to know about the nuts and bolts of the bridge's structure, because every time we begin to explore them, bitter-faced trolls spit profanities at us. What we need to learn, though, is that the status quo cannot continue, and the view isn't quite so spectacular from under water.

August 1, 2009

The Sounds of RISC Summer

Justin Katz

For those who were unable to attend, or who would like to revisit this morning's RISC Summer Meeting, the following audio corresponds with my liveblogging:

  • RISC Chairman Harry Staley's opening remarks: stream, download (10 min, 23 sec)
  • RISC Vice President & Secretary Harriet Lloyd's unveiling of the new RISC Web site: stream, download (3 min, 29 sec)
  • Board of Regents member Angus Davis: stream, download (8 min, 20 sec)
  • Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist: stream, download (16 min, 44 sec)
  • RISC Jim T. Beale: stream, download (3 min, 54 sec)
  • Federal Government Affairs Manager of the National Taxpayers Union Jordan Forbes: stream, download (9 min, 47 sec)
  • Governor Don Carcieri: stream, download (37 min, 54 sec)
  • Bruce Lang question, with Gov. Carcieri responding: stream, download (4 min, 34 sec)
  • Martha Staten question/commentary: stream, download (3 min, 5 sec)
  • Dick Smith question/commentary: stream, download (1 min, 33 sec)
  • Brian Bishop question, with Commissioner Gist and Gov. Carcieri responding: stream, download (4 min, 31 sec)
  • Sue Story question, with Jim Beale responding: stream, download (1 min, 45 sec)
  • Steve Santos question, with Jim Beal, Gov. Carcieri, and Harry Staley responding: stream, download (3 min, 51 sec)
  • Paul Tavares question, with Harry Staley and Gov. Carcieri responding: stream, download (4 min, 06 sec)
  • Jim McGuinn question, with Commissioner Gist and Gov. Carcieri responding: stream, download (7 min, 20 sec)
  • Anthony Carcieri question, with Gov. Carcieri responding: stream, download (3 min, 13 sec)
  • Ed Rollins question, with Harry Staley responding: stream, download (2 min, 31 sec)
  • Commissioner Gist, noting that "pay for performance" measures for teachers should be judged based on student growth universal milestones: stream, download (24 sec)
  • June Gibbs commentary on master lever, with Harry Staley responding: stream, download (1 min, 37 sec)

RISC Summer Meeting

Justin Katz

So I've taken up the invitation to sit at the Press table provided by the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition for its summer meeting (at the Hyatt on Goat Island in Newport — reasoning that it's a way to get a good seat up front without having to sit next to VIPs and speakers. Actually, inasmuch as the program is scheduled to begin at any moment and I'm the only person at the table, it also provides a good position from which to catch audio with a minimum of table shaking and glass clinking. The room is a little smaller than the one down the hall in which RISC held its winter meeting, but once the crowd in the hall filters in, it looks like attendance will prove healthy.

9:15 a.m.

I've been joined at the Press table by Julia Steiny from the Providence Journal, although she slipped away from the table before I had an opportunity to introduce myself. Otherwise, the crowd consists of many familiar faces, including Governor Carcieri, who's making the rounds.

RISC Chairman Harry Staley is giving the opening speech, introducing the new member group from Woonsocket, making a plea for more involvement, and so on.

The Providence Journal's Neil Downing has joined me at the Press table. I do wonder: as an ethical matter, should I take off the "I've joined the R.I. Revolt!" sticker on my shirt, given my seating?

9:39 a.m.

RISC Vice President & Secretary Harriet Lloyd officially unveiled the new RISC Web site, through which 7,000 emails have already been sent to legislators. RISC President James Beale ran through some official business that the group's bylaws require. And Board of Regents member Angus Davis is filling in for that group's chairman, Robert Flanders, who was unable to make it here for his speech.

Davis shared the anecdote of a two-time teacher of the year in Providence who, due to bumping, was also a two-time layoff victim.

10:01 a.m.

I've been having some technology glitches while Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist has been speaking. She began by saying that the number 1 question that people ask her is: "Why did you come here." She says that she came here "to make a difference." (Of course, I'm sure the unprecedented paycheck had something to do with it.)

"The students across Rhode Island have to be achieving at higher levels."

On economic and racial levels, "we have some of some of the highest achievement gaps in the country," which she says is a violation of their civil rights. I wonder how the progressive NEA feels about that.

"We're the ninth highest in state investment in education."

"The most important factor in a child's education is the quality of the teacher."

Mentioned bumping. Suggested more evaluation of everybody, from her right down to teachers.

"We have brought [the teachers] into this broken system."

She did not, however, use the "U" word. "There are models" for improving children's performance. Somehow she's gotten around to talking about world class teachers in excellent schools. The only time she's coming close to using specifics is to talk about "using data effectively," although she's not giving examples about what sort of data she means.

"We need a funding formula for Rhode Island schools." She said that we need money to "follow the child," but she didn't suggest anything that would define that beyond a bland talking point.

Consolidation... food, transportation, blah, blah, blah.

"Some people [around Rhode Island] are a little discouraged." You may have picked up on the fact that this is not the speech that I was hoping to hear.

She's done, and people are giving her a standing ovation, but I'm really not sure why.

10:27 a.m.

Next up, Jordan Forbes, Federal Government Affairs Manager of the National Taxpayers Union.

"Tax incentives are great, but do nothing for long-term tax policies."

Rhode Island "is in a good position," given its location and natural attributes. She recommends Heritage Foundation principles:

1. Not all tax cuts are created equal: they must improve incentives to work, invest, and save.
2. The change in tax rate matters, not the size of the cut.
3. Consumer spending is a consequence of growth, not a cause of growth.
4. Long-term tax policy is the best short-term stimulus.

Governor Carcieri has, as ever, offered to speak (as I promised Neil Downing he would).

The one reason the governor's tax plan (which the previous speaker lauded) didn't come to be was that we just didn't have enough people in the statehouse who believed in its benefits.

"I've got a year and a half left, and I'm not stopping on this one."

At last: the governor introduced the "U" word to the conversation, in the context of the forces against which RISC must stand as a "countervailing force."

Governor Carcieri pointed out East Providence School Committee Chairman Anthony Carcieri and noted that the difficult things they're going through in that town are necessary for the changes that have to happen.

10:39 a.m.

Regarding the budget: "The reality is that we did pretty well on this budget." Although, the General Assembly gave the executive branch a $70 million "lump" to find.

Not surprisingly, the governor predicts that the unions will lose their pension-related lawsuit.

He mentioned that the flat-tax remained, but that the capital gains tax cuts fell away. He expressed hope that Massachusetts shoppers will begin coming to Rhode Island thanks to a 25% increase in their sales tax. (Of course, they're still lower than Rhode Island's.)

We'll be seeing in the next few weeks that the $70 million "lump" is going to have to come from state employees in some way.

"I think we should have a defined contribution [retirement] program for new hires."

10:43 a.m.

"The 39 cities and towns are spending over $3 billion per year — 50% more than the state."

"The vast majority of the spending of the state is actually being done by the cities and towns."

I see no indication on Ms. Gist's face that she understands that the majority of that money goes to the schools, and the majority of that money is allocated to union teachers.

10:47 a.m.

The consequence, according to the governor, is that further cuts are going to have to come from cities and towns. One possibility is consolidation, citing Aquidneck Island.

10:53 a.m.

Although he's emphasized that the state government did not raise broad-based taxes, he hasn't noted that RI government spending increased some 12%.

Indoor prostitution loophole is a "black eye" for the state. "I know it's the ACLU."

"Good news: wind power."

As an aside, the long-running litany of accomplishment that the governor, as a political leader, runs through with each speech belie the trouble that this state is actually in. My impression of this meeting, so far, is that there still is nowhere near the necessary heat and ire (not a typo) necessary.

For example, the governor just said: "We're pushing a boulder up hill. The good news: it's moving. The bad news: you can't stop pushing or that baby rolls back downhill."

Wrong. We're mildly slowing the descent. It's not enough. We have to turn things around.

Another standing ovation.

11:23 a.m.

The Q&A moves along:

Bruce Lang: "There's not a business in America that could afford the sorts of fringe benefits that public employees get."

"How do we win this battle?"

My muttered answer: We don't. We're going under. Then we have to build up again.

The governor's answer. We need the counterbalancing voice to the unions, which (again) he states is acting in an understandable self-interest.

"Shame on us if we can't figure out how to get more votes, because that's the only way we're going to win.

Brian Bishop of Ocean State Policy Research Institute disliked the mention of racial balancing from Ms. Gist. She stated disagreement, but I might not be alone in having missed something in Brian's question.

Sue Story just expressed dismay at the possibility of binding arbitration for teachers. RISC's Jim Beale stated that RISC has radio ads against such a thing ready to go whenever the General Assembly reconvenes.

Steve Santos of the East Providence School Committee seconded the opposition to that sort of legislation. Beale thinks the RI Senate has heard the message. I think we've moved to talking about the legislation to maintain contract terms before renegotiation.

Best line of the meeting comes from Harry Staley. On the topic of folks who might be thinking about running for state office: "If you don't think you're qualified, spend a day up there." Then he qualified: "Present company excluded, of course."

11:43 a.m.

A question about controlling school district fiefdoms didn't elicit an exciting answer from Deborah Gist. She said that her authority comes mainly from results, as when a district isn't performing adequately. Again "data" and "models" made an appearance in the response.

Anthony Carcieri is asking how Ms. Gist intends to implement "pay for performance" in Rhode Island.

"I think it's really important that we recognize our excellent teachers." "This is another of those really complicated issues." She's going to make sure we have goals and that there will be some connection between remuneration and student results.

Anthony Carcieri: "What about contracts in reference to that."

Gist: "That's where it starts to get complicated." The state's policies must actually be implemented at the local level.

It occurs to me that the state could increase the bind on districts and towns to force them to make big — and public — decisions on which voters can pass judgment. The Ed Commissioner could also use the bully pulpit... say to oppose the Caruolo Act. (Yeah, I know, crazy talk.)

Here's hoping it was the freezing temperature at which the hotel keeps this room that made my "R.I. Revolt" sticker fall off a few moments ago.

And the meeting comes to a close.

July 15, 2009

Not Banned, but Invited?

Justin Katz

Well, it appears that the RI Tea Party is not banned from next year's Bristol parade:

[Tea Party treasurer Marina] Peterson said she was given a copy of [Bristol Fourth or July Committee Chairman David] Burns' apology, in which he says:

"The Fourth of July Committee regrets and apologizes for any miscommunication to the Rhode Island Tea Party group and assures them that they are not banned from future parades. In addition, it has not been determined that materials were distributed from the Rhode Island Tea Party float," Burns said.

"It is not the policy of the Fourth of July committee to 'ban' floats, marching units or parade participants, the Burns statement said. "The parade units participate in the parade upon invitation only. If a particular organization violates policy the committee would investigate the violation," Burns said.

Funny how explicit statements can become "miscommunications." But note the emphasis on "invitations." On the other hand, note that the chairman was careful to specify that it is of particular relevance whether handouts were made "from the float."

Keep an eye on this one; we may have reason to infiltrate the crowd with Constitutions, yet.

July 11, 2009

A Rule Broken and an Opportunity Presented

Justin Katz

In the post about the Tea Party ban from the Bristol Independence Day parade, commenter David points to "Float Preparation Requirement" #8 (PDF), which reads as follows:

There will be no distributions or fundraising by any float applicant. No objects of any kind may be thrown, sprayed or otherwise distributed to spectators from any entry (i.e., candy, silly string, snappers, advertisements, etc.) Failure to comply will result in immediate removal from the parade.

I think it's objectively fair to suggest that some ambiguity exists about who counts as an "applicant" and at what distance one ceases to be distributing materials "from any entry" (i.e., float). But let's stipulate that a violation was made. #8 states that removal will be immediate. A subsequent summary states that the organizers may remove inappropriate or dangerous floats from the parade "before or during" the event.

The fact is that Float Committee Chairmain Jim Tavares was clearly aware of the distributions while they were being made. According to the Tea Party group's posting on the parade (see extended entry below), no mention of the problem was made until days later, when Tavares issued the proclamation of a lifetime ban. If those are, indeed, the circumstances, then it appears that Tavares neither followed through with the prescribed punishment nor offered the group a cease and desist warning regarding the booklets, which is curious, given his concern for the public's safety. Considering that the handout was a copy of our nation's founding documents — very relevant to a 4th of July parade, I'd say — a lighter hand would certainly have been justified.

There's a strong odor of political motivation — with a dash of small-town pettiness — to the verdict.

But look at what the various rules appear to suggest: Those associated with a float (apparently indicated by wearing the same t-shirt) cannot hand out literature, even if they walk along the edge of the road. Those who are "soliciting" must apply for licenses at $200 per "runner" or $300 per corner. It seems to me that, if the Bristol Fourth of July Committee does not recant the ban of the Tea Party from placing a float in next year's parade, the group would be perfectly free to stroll the parade route handing out Constitutions, fliers about the controversy, leaflets about the endemic corruption in Rhode Island, and so on.

In fact, I'll propose that we all set loose expectations that we'll help out in the effort in July 2010. (Odds are good that a great many of us will be unemployed, anyway.) Imagine a Tea Party protest–sized group walking alongside every float in the parade, making distributions. Who knows but that somebody among the opposition will plan a counter-protest, and the event can follow the Parade Committee's lead right into a chasm of politically motivated noise.

Continue reading "A Rule Broken and an Opportunity Presented"

July 9, 2009

Confiscating the Constitution

Justin Katz

If nothing else, this illustrates how the celebration of an event can become more about the tradition of celebrating than about the event itself:

In a temper-filled tempest, the Bristol Fourth of July Committee has barred the Rhode Island Tea Party from taking part in the annual Independence Day parade next year — or any other year.

Marina Peterson, treasurer of the organization — it opposes government spending and new taxes — said she was told "not to waste the stamp to send in an application" to appear again in the Bristol parade, which the town says dates to 1785 as the oldest continuously observed Fourth of July celebration in the nation.

In the latest march, on Saturday, Tea Party sympathizers handed out copies of the U.S. Constitution as they ran alongside the organization’s first-ever float, a replica of the Beaver, the British ship ransacked by Colonists during the Boston Tea Party, in 1773.

Sounds to me — especially with the RI Tea Party's account in mind — like a local somebody wanted an excuse to exert petty power over a disfavored group — disfavored by those in the staid, corrupt establishment — and took the handouts as an excuse. A more reasonable, civilized approach to dealing with a new participant's inadvertent rule breaking would be a sort of probation at next year's parade. Otherwise one ends up with shocking symbolism like this:

"They endangered public safety," he said. [Float Committee Chairmain Jim] Tavares said he personally confiscated some of the handouts.

Confiscating the Constitution... at the nation's oldest Independence Day parade. Tea Party Treasurer Marina Peterson says that the rules prohibit "solicitation," which does not describe complimentary copies of our founding legal document. Mr. Tavares calls that word games. I expect King George would have agreed; the rules listed online state that "Soliciting along the parade route is illegal unless a license has been obtained from the Fourth of July Committee." Apparently, safety concerns are alleviated through payment of a license tax.

Incidentally, the Bristol Fourth of July Committee's Web site has a wealth of information, such as the general chairman's and parade chairwoman's email addresses.


The conversation continues here and here.

June 28, 2009

Re: The Confused, Non-End of this General Assembly Session

Justin Katz

I concur with Monique about the Speaker of the General Assembly House Bill Murphy's suggestion that the legislature is a full-time occupation, but it was a different line of his that caught my eye when I read that article:

"We said in January that the budget was going to be the issue this year and it was," Murphy said early Saturday morning. "I think once we got that over with Wednesday night, Thursday morning, people have had a long month, the Fourth of July is next week, we need a couple weeks to cool off."

"Cool off"? Somehow I can't help but wonder if — during a year of tea parties and coalescing opposition groups and local taxpayer organizations — the objective wouldn't be more accurately characterized as permitting the attention of difficult constituents to drift off: to let the summer doldrums settle in, vacations to drain the ground troops (so to speak), and a few weeks of hiatus to change the topics on folks' minds.

June 22, 2009

Scenes from Today's Iran Demostration at the RI Statehouse

Carroll Andrew Morse




June 11, 2009

Tea Parties and the Attitude of the RI Revolution

Justin Katz

Appearing on the Matt Allen Show, last night, Marc discussed the tea party with Matt and described the "resigned determination" of we who keep banging our head against the wall of Rhode-apathy and the corruption that it enables. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

Covering the Tea Party

Justin Katz

Will Ricci filled the gap on his Facebook page, but it didn't occur to me, yesterday, to try to get pictures of all of the speakers at the Gaspee Tea Party, as I focused instead on the people in the crowd and the message that they're sending via their hand-made signs. (MikeinRI has photos up, as well.)

That's really the story of these rallies, which is why it's objectionable that an unplanned visit from the governor toward the end of the rally became the photo for the Providence Journal's front page coverage, a fact made only more egregious by the Nixonian double-victory-sign pose that the editors chose. Contrast that with the Rhode Island section front page coverage of East Providence teachers' union protests. When a loose affiliation of angry taxpayers gathers, the governor becomes the face; when a group of organized union members gather (wearing identical t-shirts), they're presented as a "teachers and their supporters." (The online version, which is consistently more slanted, couldn't even spare the pixels for a picture for Steve Peoples's story, although there's one of the teachers.)

That said, Peoples's actual reportage is good, including this interesting tidbit:

Capitol Police Sgt. Joseph Habershaw said that the group — calling itself the "Gaspee Tea Party" — was the largest protest under the dome since the credit union crisis of the early 1990s.

There's also this concerning indication that, if we really want to encourage our legislators to take the only approach that will get Rhode Island out of its hole (namely, cutting taxes and reducing regulation and mandates), the phone of House Finance Committee chairman Steve Costantino ought to be ringing today:

"I think we've done pretty good on spending. I think we've dropped spending the last three years," he said. (State-only spending in the current budget dropped 3.7 percent in the current fiscal year, but increased 5.6 percent the year before.)

Costantino refused to discuss continuing negotiations on next year's budget plan, expected to be released by the House Finance Committee early next week.

Will there be any tax increases?

"I can't answer that," Costantino said of the budget that must fill a $590-million hole. "I'm in the process of negotiating a balanced budget."

Sounds to me like they've got a tax increase in the works, and if "few lawmakers paid attention to the outdoor event" (because miraculously, they happened to have a contracted session, yesterday), perhaps ringing phones will get their attention.

Or maybe they really do not care what the regular folks of Rhode Island want and need.


At least as of 8:22 a.m. — when Andrew commented to this post — Projo.com has had a picture and video associated with its story on the Gaspee Tea Party, so that complaint no longer applies. My opinion that the Web site turns up the bias a bit from the print edition is a long-standing impression, so it still stands.

June 10, 2009

Gaspee Tea Party

Justin Katz

As ought to have been expected, the crowd is a bit smaller today than it was for the initial tea party — about, truth to tell — what I expected last time, probably a little south of 1,000, although I offer the usual disclaimers about being terrible with on-site estimating:

Continue reading "Gaspee Tea Party"

Gaspee Tea Party

Marc Comtois

The second RI Tea Party, the Gaspee Tea Party, will be held from 4-6 today in front of the State house and will focus on local issues. Here is the list of speakers (PDF). Here is list of House and Senate bills that the RI Tea Party organizers suggest voting AGAINST:

H5282 BY Guthrie, Pacheco, Williams, Sullivan, Almeida, ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION - ALTERNATIVE FLAT TAX (would set the alternative minimum tax rate at 7 percent.)

H5624 BY DaSilva, McCauley, Carnevale, Driver, ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- PERSONAL INCOME TAX (would freeze the alternative flat tax rate at seven percent for tax years 2009 and 2010).

H5469 BY Guthrie, Pacheco, Sullivan, Williams, Walsh, ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- ALTERNATIVE FLAT TAX (would end the Rhode Island flat tax alternative for the 2008 tax year).

H6163 BY Pacheco, Guthrie, Ferri, ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION (would repeal the alternative flat tax rate for state taxpayers and would provide a tax credit for small businesses that add new employees).

S115 BY Metts, Pichardo, Crowley, Jabour, Miller, ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION - PERSONAL INCOME TAX (would repeal the alternative flat tax rate).

The various speakers at the event will also advocate for various measures.

Rhode Islanders join citizens in other states like Montana, Georgia, MIchigan, Wyoming, North and South Carolina and Texas, who continue to stand up and speak for fiscal sanity in our government.

June 8, 2009

After a Difficult Violent Roundtable, Part 3

Justin Katz

As I intimated yesterday, conservatives' appropriate fear of populist movements connects with our conviction that the nexus of power and desire ought to be checked. (One can be fearful even of that which is necessary, of course.) During Friday night's all–Anchor Rising Violent Roundtable on the Matt Allen Show, Marc and Matt kicked off a related conversation in which the latter took the position that structures allowing more direct democracy — such as public referenda — ought to proliferate.

The problem with developing a taste for simple majority rule is that the masses know what they want, but not necessarily how to go about getting it or, even less, how to balance competing needs and interests. This isn't to take the line that the dirty common folk lack the intelligence to comprehend cause and effect and the possibility of unintended consequences; the salient factor filters through the mechanics of a movement. However well a given voter comprehends how his own interests might be balanced and what compromises would be tolerable in achieving them, by the time political action builds to critical mass, his interests and negotiable thresholds must be overlaid with thousands of variations.

If a movement is to avoid a fizzle from noise, it must be led. Only in sharp, very specific outrages will large groups of people congeal with minimal guidance to answer a question of public policy. In most cases, a handful of leaders with the time and motivation must sort out the series of binaries by which more subtle decisions are reached — "yes" to this policy, "no" to that one, "yes" to this request, "no" to that demand. When the democracy remains representative, those leaders may be held accountable for the results, even as their daily popularity rises and falls over each answer. When those leaders are as voices in the crowd — shouting out suggestions to which the populist cry returns a "hear, hear" — their accountability dissipates, as does the feasibility of subtlety. It becomes guidance by explosion, not by instruction. A herding of votes.

When it comes to the practical operation of a society, democracy is best enacted in escalating tiers — elections followed by referenda followed by revolution — but always with a philosophical tendency to worry about anarchic expressions of power. A population enthralled with its democratic override is at risk of wielding it too lightly, toward ends that are never adequately articulated until the knots cinch tight.

May 21, 2009

Grassroots Against the Socialist Revolution

Justin Katz

Former CIA official Herbert Meyer has an excellent article about the Left's strategy and methods for radically transforming the United States of America, touching on some broad themes in current events:

At the core of democracy is the rule of law, and we have already lost it. The liberals lecture us incessantly that everything is "relative," but that's not true; some things are absolutes. You cannot claim to be faithful to your spouse because you never cheat on her -- except when you're in London on business. And you cannot claim to have the rule of law if the government can set aside the rule of law when it decides that "special circumstances" have arisen that warrant illegality. When the President and his aides handed ownership of Chrysler Corp. to the United Auto Workers union, they tried to avoid sending that beleaguered company into bankruptcy by muscling its bondholders into accepting less money for their assets than the law entitled them to collect. These contracts, and the law under which they were signed, were mere obstacles to a thuggish President bent on paying off his political supporters.

It's going to get much worse, fast. President Obama has told us time and again that among his criteria for choosing Federal judges will be "empathy." Empathy is a wonderful quality in any human being, but a judge's job is to rule according to the law. Once our courts are presided over by judges who will reach verdicts based on how they feel about an issue -- such as abortion or the right of citizens to bear arms -- the law will be whatever the judges wish it to be; the rule of law will become an empty phrase rather than the architecture of our civilization.

We have lost our free-market economy as quickly as we have lost the rule of law. Money is to an economy what blood is to a body; life and death resides within the organ that controls its flow. The government already owns our country's leading banks, which means the government now controls our economy. (And in all fairness to President Obama, it was the Bush administration that started us down this ghastly road.) One indicator of the Obama administration's real objective: When some banks that had taken federal money attempted to repay their loans, the Treasury Department refused to accept repayment and step aside. This shows the government's goal isn't to prop up the banks, but rather to control them.

Here, too, things are going to get much worse, fast. The government now owns General Motors Corp., is reaching for control of insurance companies, and has launched plans to take over our country's healthcare industry. It even wants authority to set the salaries of executives in industries that, at least for now, aren't being subsidized or underwritten by the government.

Put all this together, and what we have in our country today isn't a democracy and it isn't a free-market economy. Reader, what we have now is a revolution.

And his solution should resonated especially well among Rhode Islanders:

We need to launch a counter-offensive, so to speak, and the place to start is at the local level. Working with our county and state political parties when we can -- or working around them when we must -- our objective will be to elect as many people as we can to public office who understand what a democracy is and how the free market works. This will include city council members, county commissioners, school board members, judges, sheriffs and even members of the local parks commission. With the strength and political momentum their elections will provide, we can surge to the state level and then -- before it's too late -- take back the power in Washington DC.

Although centralization of resources and legislation has been a creeping corrosive for quite some time, power is still pretty widely distributed in the American system of governance. Most of us do not wish to wield even local power, but as Meyer goes on to suggest, the alternative to engaging with our intact civic system will be much more burdensome — perhaps even "horrific."

May 14, 2009

Rising in the Phoenix

Marc Comtois

The Phoenix's David Scharfenberg took the recent Tea Parties as indicative of something and looked into how the right side of Rhode Island--both overtly partisan like the RI GOP and RIRA and non-partisan, grassroots organizations like OSPRI & RISC--are working toward changing the political landscape in the Ocean State. Oh, and some blogger gets a mention, too.

"The important thing right now," said Justin Katz, Anchor's blogger-in-chief, "is to build that structure so when people say, 'I've had enough,' there's somewhere to go."
If we build it, they will come. We HOPE. But maybe there is just a little more waiting to be done. One more chip to fall before those on the outside can rise like the, ah, phoenix.
GOP leaders say one of their chief frustrations is that the public pins the state's fiscal woes on the Republican governor when authority is actually centered in the Democratic-dominated legislature.

But if the blame game is paramount in tough times, suggests Jennifer Lawless, associate professor of political science and public policy at Brown University, the Republican Party's weakness could actually turn into a strength.

"Ironically, the best bet for the Repub-lican Party might be a complete Democratic sweep of statewide office," she said, "because then there's no one else to blame."


May 6, 2009

A Full Court Press, in Local Terms

Justin Katz

Well, it's some sort of milestone, I suppose, to be denounced by name in a mailing to the email list of Tiverton Youth Soccer (with which my children are not currently involved):

Hi all,

It is that time of the year again.... time for me to urge each of you to attend Tiverton's Financial Town Meeting. I know, I know, sheesh Deb we don't like to go to those. They are long and confusing and lots of folks just get angry and yell.

You are right about all that, but here's the thing - I can think of lots of other things I could be doing on a Sat. morning at 9am, but I do not want to wake up on Sunday morning and hear that because enough reasonable people weren't at that meeting, a group of extreme, self-seeking residents slashed the town budget by $2 million dollars. It almost happened last year!! It would have been devastating to town services - a closed fire station, no trash pick up, etc. The schools would have had to eliminate anything not considered basic by the state - band, sports, maybe close a school. You all know the things that will go. The TCC contingent on the budget committee already tried for a $1 million dollar cut to the schools and over $250,000 to the fire department. They produced graph and charts and yelled and cut off any that would try and counter the incorrect, skewed or misleading "facts." Luckily, more reasonable and responsible voices on the committee prevailed. But, now read the letters in the Sakonnet Times from TCC members Justin Katz, Jeff Caron and Tom Parker (available on-line) filled with anger and innuendo and rumors which will stir the pot and get their cut-cut-cut base to the FTM.

I am NOT for higher taxes, but I am for maintaining services. That is what a community does - share the costs of preserving services. The proposed municipal operating increase is .5% over last year, the school increase is 1.48% over last year. These are reasonable and prudent and all have worked hard to keep taxes down while maintaining the services we all want (or at least I want). PLEASE, PLEASE try to have at least one member from your family (or 2 or 3) at the financial town meeting so we don't wake up on Sunday to find out that our town has been drastically changed. It is only a few hours but will impact the entire town for the rest of the year and beyond. Please call or forward this message to at least 10 others and let's spread the word. Thanks.


Oh, yes. Deb would never use anger (unless calling people self-seeking [sic] extremists with double exclamation points counts) or rumors to rile her base audience to the FTM. Yeah, villainizing neighbors to community groups — as opposed to letters to the editor and such — might be a little aggressive, but in order to be offended, one must imagine that we right-wing agitators are merely people trying to do what we believe to be right, not only for ourselves, but for the town, as well, and that clearly cannot be the case in Deb's aw-shucks world. Never mind that TCC's position (which may be different than a given member's) is to "hold the line" by approving the budget as it stands, without any surprise increases.

I do wonder, though, whether Deb's ever taken the opportunity of a group mailing to warn that the ever-growing remuneration of public-sector unions would squeeze out those "services we all want." If it's the Deb whom I believe it to be, she took quite the opposite view with the recent teachers' contract. So add that to the list of reasons for a community to exist: to provide services to the town, and to ensure disproportionate pay and benefits for union members.

Meanwhile, our old friend Richard Joslin once again appears to have hijacked (or attempted to hijack) TCC's mailing list:

If you do not want this email, please just delete it.

Once more, the TCC is lying to you. No one is planning to increase the School Budget; we support the Budget Committee on the schools. No one is trying to steal votes at the FTM. That is a paranoid fantasy Parker, Nelson and your TCC leadership are trying to "sell" you. . I for one am sick of David Nelson's lies, and you should be too. There has been an 8 month campaign to destroy our public school system by cynical people like Mr. Parker, who is claiming falsely this week that people will try to add $500K to the School Budget. And by Mr Coulter who has authored two legal suits- one attacking volunteer counters at the Town Meeting, and one destructive lawsuit which will accomplish nothing but spending your money on lawyers to defend the Town. Do you want you political "heroes" to attack the Town with lawsuits? All we are asking is for all voters to attend the FTM and vote for the Budget already approved by the Budget Committee, Town Council and School Committee. Please attend.

You cannot vote to reduce teacher's salaries or benefits at the FTM, you cannot vote to change the public pension structure at the FTM. You cannot change minimum manning of the Fire and EMTs at the FTM. Just about no one wants a ladder truck we cannot afford.

But keep on believing the lies of Parker, Coulter and Nelson. The TCC is proving to be a rogue right-wing bunch of idiots. It is an embarrassment.

This is being sent to you because (twice) three weeks ago Mr. Nelson intercepted emails I sent to supporters of the budget approved by the Budget Committee and TIV Town Council and sent my it to all TCC members. He urged you all to go to a non-public meeting to be held about the budget. Only one sad person tried to come, and as it was a private meeting he was turned away. You deserve to know the nasty tactics your TCC leadership practices.

Richard Joslin

Yup. No anger, there, from the man who decries a "right-wing bunch of idiots"! No paranoia from the guy complaining about Dave's "interception" of an email in which he (Joslin) — whom I'm pretty sure I've spotted attempting to spy on TCC meetings — asked all residents to attend a meeting that he hosted and encouraged recipients to forward the invitation.

Joslin never explains for whom he intends to speak with his "we," but perhaps his extensive network of informants are the reason he's so confident that "no one" is planning to increase any budgets at the financial town meeting. "Just about no one" wants a ladder truck, and yet enough residents petitioned for one to get it on the FTM docket.

At least Mr. Joslin realizes that unions are an issue, though. Unfortunately, in the cluelessness typical of those comfortable with the same-old governance of Rhode Island and its municipalities, he looks right past the effect that taxpayer pressure can have during negotiations. He has no concept of the importance of the leverage that officials can derive from downward pressure from voters.

And pressure is all we have. The unions may give some slack for this year, but their contracts are typically for three. Thus, at next year's FTM, any increase given away by negotiators will be declared untouchable. The current budget provides for no increase. That means that we're seeing a budget unaffected by the unions — and it still represents more than a three percent increase! (Unaffected, of course, except for the retroactive raise that the teachers just got and that carries through to this contract as the new baseline. In the absense of a contract, by the way, I imagine, contra Joslin, that line item is in fact available for modification.)

It's time to change the conversation and to stop falling for the soothing tones of people who turn their smiles to snarls with a disconcerting ease, depending on whether they're addressing the opposition or those whom they'd like to lull back to sleep while they make decisions — folks like Yer Pal Deb, Richard the Level-Headed, and Mike Burk, the FTM "moderator" who happens to have been one of the most aggressively anti-TCC partisans to emerge over the past year.

April 29, 2009

Participate, Because Somebody Else Will

Justin Katz

Herewith, the text of my speech at the Tiverton Citizens for Change Taxpayer Forum on Monday night. (Audio, with some extemporaneous differences: stream, download [5min 29sec])

Let's be honest. For most of us, this whole civic participation thing is a chore. It's a responsibility. We stay informed; we vote; and really that should be enough. One reason we have elected representatives is to free up the rest of us to be productive, keep the economy going, and pursue happiness.

And yet the previous speakers who called for increased participation — to the extent of committing ourselves to campaigns and elective office — are absolutely right. We may have no desire to make a career, or even a sabbatical, out of public service, we may have no thirst for political power, but that is precisely why we are needed. Simply put, if we don't step forward, somebody else will. Somebody who doesn't see government as a chore.

As an indication of what I'm talking about, I'm going to read a few lines from the infamous fire-truck petition:

This proposal is being sought because the item was not considered by the Tiverton Budget Committee in the docket for this year and because numerous members of the Tiverton Budget Committee have advocated a maximum increase in the annual tax levy not to exceed one percent or zero, because the Tiverton Budget Committee is recommending a slashed school operational budget in order to achieve their desired goal ... and because these same Budget Committee members are squandering the limited ability to utilize tax revenues under the State mandated cap of 4.75% to improve the community as a whole.

There's no statement of dire need to buy such equipment despite the horrible economy. No research about the likely changes in property insurance. No examples of lives that would recently have been saved. The authors of this petition didn't even bother to note properties that might have been preserved in the past. According to news reports, they didn't even consult the fire chief!

Their primary motivation, in other words, is to out-maneuver people they don't like on the Budget Committee, and secondly, to claim as much of your income as possible. Their design is to take money from every taxpayer in Tiverton and allocate it to the priorities of a few people with the time and motivation to manipulate procedure.

Some of these people either benefit directly from town government or are close to people who do. Others of them, well, who knows? Maybe they've got their eyes on the State House and maybe, in their long-term aspirations, on Congress. Maybe they just like the feeling of a little local prominence. Or maybe it's more like a high school popularity thing.

I want to stress, here, that I'm not talking about everybody in local government, whether I agree with them or not. But this is certainly a segment — a vocal and active contingent that must be countered. And the reason it must be countered is that if somebody is in government for personal gain, whether of the wallet or of the ego, or even if he or she just thought it'd be a nice way to get involved in the community, then that person is going to be more susceptible to special interests.

For example, throughout the recent teachers' contract discussions, we heard again and again, from the union as well as people on the other side of the negotiating table, that the money was "in the budget." The people of Tiverton — the argument went — wanted that money to go to the teachers' union. And now, here we stand, with all of the town's major contracts up for negotiation during a down economy, and the school committee chairman told the Budget Committee that he's got no bargaining leverage. The Town Council President claims it's easier to have too much money in the budget for labor and to put some back in the general fund if negotiations go well.

What these representatives should be advocating is to force the unions to negotiate against a taxpayer-mandated cut. Instead, there's been a push, which we'll probably see again at the financial town meeting, to postpone budget decisions until after the unions are all settled up. The Committee and the Council want to negotiate with an admittedly weak hand rather than to be able to say to the unions, "The money is not in the budget. At least you have your jobs."

You probably already know the argument that we'll hear if the FTM occurs after the fact. "These contracts are signed. There's nothing we can do. Except raise taxes. Oh, and by the way, we're going to need more money to staff, equip, and fuel our new fire truck."

Folks, we do have to start small, and that means simply attending the financial town meeting. But we also have to build, because these people, these problems, already permeate our system at every layer of government. TCC is available to provide some structure — and some moral support — at the town level, and the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition is growing at the state level for the same purpose, but there really is no substitute for participation.

We've reached the point in Tiverton and in Rhode Island that participation is no longer a civic duty or chore. It's a matter of self defense.

TCC Taxpayer Forum Audio

Justin Katz

The following speeches were given at the Tiverton Citizens for Change taxpayer forum on Monday, April 27.

April 28, 2009

Operation Clean Government Panel Audio (Continued 3)

Justin Katz

Picking up from the end of the previous string of audio, the following audio is as described on Anchor Rising's live blogging of Operation Clean Government's spring forum:

  • WPRO's Dan Yorke asks how leaders can accomplish a major change in Rhode Island: stream, download (57sec)
  • URI economics professor Leonard Lardaro suggests that we have to look toward the future in our decisions and that "everybody's indirect motto is 'everything's negotiable'": stream, download (1min 32sec)
  • First audience question goes to the man who shouted out angrily at General Treasurer Frank Caprio, who predicts a Governor Caprio and winds up asking why Rhode Islanders vote so badly: stream, download (2min 38sec)
  • Representative Elizabeth Dennigan (D., East Providence, Pawtucket) suggests that voters should "be discerning" and vote based on issues, not personality: stream, download (27sec)
  • John Hazen White, Jr., President and CEO of Taco, Inc., expresses the opinion that people should vote for politicians who don't see it as a career: stream, download (19sec)
  • Buddy from Johnston asks Dennigan to stop legislative grants ("rub and tug"), and she replies, "It's not an equitable system, and it's not dispersed equallly, so it shouldn't be dispersed at all": stream, download (1min 49sec)
  • Caprio answers a call for a pitch from government to business by saying that the government should exist to serve businesses, period; "Over taxation; over regulation; every time a business deals with government, it's confrontational":stream, download (1min 29sec)
  • An audience questioner asks, as a landlord, where tenants are going to come from, and she and Yorke have an interesting discussion on citizen activism: stream, download (5min 23sec)
  • Another questioner decries government cronyism: stream, download (1min 57sec)
  • Terry Gorman of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement asks why the state can't pass E-Verify: stream, download (1min 29sec)
  • Dennigan is "glad to see that the Obama administration is working on a system that will secure our borders": stream, download (41sec)
  • Caprio says, "Pass E-Verify; we're a country of laws; enforce the law": stream, download (13sec)
  • Department of Administration director Gary Sasse notes that the state currently uses E-Verify and businesses should be able to, and Yorke notes the difference in citizen enthusiasm between illegal immigration (high) and government inefficiency (low): stream, download (2min 56sec)
  • Caprio turns the question toward state aid and minimum manning mandates: stream, download (39sec)
  • Harry Staley of Rhode Island Statewide Coalition takes the audience mic expresses the concern of suburbanites that regionalization and consolidation will only direct money to the maw of Providence, and Yorke suggests that RISC make this its issue: stream, download (2min 38sec)
  • An audience questioner promotes ending the straight ticket ballot option, and Dennigan says she "strongly supports" it, as do others on the panel: stream, download (1min 13sec)
  • An audience member offers her diagnosis of Rhode Island's problem: "Rhode Island is a victim of rape": stream, download (32sec)
  • Another audience members says Rhode Islanders don't know what to believe and are too trusting of their leaders and asks how to develop a relationship with their representatives; Caprio: "Run against them or get in their face with a lot of people": stream, download (2min 29sec)
  • Yorke talks about wrapping up: stream, download (24sec)
  • An audience question about searching for a new Economic Development director; Sasse answers: stream, download (1min 17sec)
  • Governor's wife Sue Carcieri mentions the problem of monopartisanism and raises voter ID: stream, download (1min 32sec)
  • Caprio notes his ranking on Anchor Rising's top 10 right-of-center list for RI and, after some prompting from Yorke, declares definitively that he is not considering switching parties: stream, download (1min 17sec)
  • A college student expresses fear about not finding a job in Rhode Island and asks whether the people leaving the state like him or are more established people packing up and going; general agreement of "both," including from Lardaro: stream, download (1min 16sec)
  • Former OCG director Bruce Lang speaks of reducing the size of government, implementing term limits for legislators, and the power of public employee unions ("run the legislature"): stream, download (1min 20sec)
  • Dennigan notes that 55% of the state budget is social services but refuses to answer whether unions and social service advocates should dominate government expenditures, instead giving an example of somebody who relies on social services: stream, download (1min 54sec)
  • Yorke recalls the question about having state government "get out of a business" or two: stream, download (27sec)
  • An audience member talks about cutting taxes and being more targeted in government solutions and citizen activism: stream, download (1min 23sec)
  • Another audience member recaps and raises the straight ticket issue again: stream, download (51sec)
  • Representative Rod Driver (D., Charlestown, Exeter, Richmond) decries prevailing wage requirements and other state mandates on cities and towns: stream, download (41sec)
  • The panel members state that which they learned during the morning's event: stream, download (1min 32sec)
  • Governor Don Carcieri offers a closing summation, saying that government is not the proper channel for charity and social justice: stream, download (6min 38sec)
  • Yorke offers his own closing summation: stream, download (2min 42sec)

April 26, 2009

Operation Clean Government Panel Audio (Continued 2)

Justin Katz

The following audio continues where the related post left off, in keeping with Anchor Rising's live blogging of Operation Clean Government's spring forum:

  • WPRO's Dan Yorke asked where the side that's supposed to counterbalance special interests has been, to some confusion over whether he means elected representatives or voters, with short responses from General Treasurer Frank Caprio: stream, download (29sec)
  • Representative Elizabeth Dennigan (D., East Providence, Pawtucket) says the public has to do its homework, seeming to imply that citizens ought to analyze portions of the budget; "help us out": stream, download (1min 7sec)
  • Yorke specifies the question to ask why the General Assembly leadership isn't in the room; "Do you think they give a damn?"; audience, "No!": stream, download (57sec)
  • Dennigan attempts to compliment her leadership, but slipped up to say, "I'll give them kudos for letting me be here"; 30 seconds of audience turbulence, including one shout of "there's the diagnosis"; Yorke pursued, and Dennigan responded awkwardly: stream, download (1min 29sec)
  • Yorke questions whether anybody is in the room from labor, alludes to labor YouTube videos, compliments Bob Walsh, calls labor's point of view "legitimate," and lists the various issues that politicians must be able to address: stream, download (2min 49sec)
  • Yorke prods Caprio on how he would battle the General Assembly and test labor if governor; when he said, "You dig in with the General Assembly," an irate audience member stood up and started shouting, "You're grandfathered in"; Caprio clarified that "you dig in against them": stream, download (3min 52sec)
  • Having turned the question toward the "one thing" that a governor has to insist upon to turn the state around, Yorke points to Department of Administration head Gary Sasse begins on cutting taxes: stream, download (32sec)
  • Prompted to provide her philosophy on taxation, Dennigan says, "No new taxes; why can't we decrease them?": stream, download (1min 1sec)
  • URI economics professor Leonard Lardaro jumps in to say that "the people of this state have to demand results": stream, download (1min 35sec)
  • Yorke asks what business(es) the state government ought to get out of: stream, download (2min 14sec)
  • John Hazen White, Jr., President and CEO of Taco, Inc., replies "government"; Yorke asks if he's "advocating for chaos": stream, download (1min 2sec)
  • Sasse cites pension reforms, management rights, and tenure reform as areas that need to be accomplished more efficiently; he enumerates that government should be in education, infrastructure, and "realistic safety nets"; "everything else is irrelevant"; "We haven't discussed what we can afford. That's why we've become an entitlement society, because we never assess what we can afford.": stream, download (5min 16sec)
  • Dennigan responds that we need "pension reform" and begins to ramble: stream, download (1min 33sec)
  • Sasse raises provinciality, which becomes a sort of take-away for the morning: stream, download (58sec)
  • Caprio says that we don't need "government layers on top of government layers": stream, download (1min 17sec)

Operation Clean Government Panel Audio (Continued)

Justin Katz

As some have already noted in Anchor Rising's play-by-play, some significant and interesting things were said at Operation Clean Government's spring forum. Last night, I posted audio of Governor Carcieri's unscheduled speech; thereafter, the panel took the stage:

  • OCG President Arthur "Chuck" Barton introduces the panel, points out some significant people in the audience, and gives brief opening remarks: stream, download (2min, 9sec)
  • WPRO talk show host Dan Yorke kicks off the discussion, asking the panelists to give their diagnosis of Rhode Island's illness: stream, download (3min, 53sec)
  • Dan directs the question to RI General Treasurer Frank Caprio, who gives a solutioning speech (state must be "user friendly" to business), leading Dan to drive the conversation to the question: stream, download (4min, 10sec)
  • John Hazen White, Jr., President & CEO of Taco, Inc., repeats the governor's take, "We are creating a much bigger tax burden; at the same time depleting the tax payers": stream, download (41sec)
  • Unfortunately, an attempt to locate a beeping noise (which turned out not to be my equipment), rendered the short response of Director of Administration Gary Sasse, as well as the beginning of Rep. Dennigan's response, inaudible.
  • Representative Elizabeth Dennigan (D., East Providence, Pawtucket) points the finger at efficiency and transparency, saying "I can tell you as a long-time member of the finance committee that we don't know how we are spending millions": stream, download (29sec)
  • University of Rhode Island Economics Professor Leonard Lardaro blames an endemic approach of Rhode Islanders, specifically that "Too many people in this state have a very exogenous view of the world; things just happen; they don't really associate actions now with outcomes later": stream, download (2min 32sec)
  • Yorke redirects the question redirects the question to define Rhode Islanders: stream, download (3min 20sec)
  • Caprio mentioned the sacrifice of our parents and noted an inclination to help each other, to which Yorke responded that he's describing Americans: stream, download (2min 33sec)
  • Hazen White lauds ingenuity, creativity, etc: stream, download (1min 31sec)
  • Yorke specifies that he's looking more for the philosophical in order to resolve RI's status as "submerged": stream, download (50sec)
  • Dennigan says that we should stop "complaining and encouraging our young students to leave and go somewhere else" and market the state: stream, download (1min 58sec)
  • Yorke suggests that Rhode Islanders must and can be honest about themselves; "The doctor doesn't say, in his mind, you're dying of cancer, but you know what? You're a good egg.": stream, download (1min 34sec)
  • Lardaro says that Rhode Islanders are "deeply caring" but are "consumption oriented" and are "way too trusting of our leaders"; "Tone always seems to supersede accuracy": stream, download (1min 33sec)
  • Sasse expands that "what happened is we became an entitle-mentality state" based on political decisions, which fostered "an inferiority complex": stream, download (1min 42sec)
  • Yorke asks Dennigan whether Rhode Islanders have courage; the crowd says, "no"; Dennigan points to the people in the room as an example of courage: stream, download (33sec)
  • Yorke defines the question as having the grit to change our lifestyle, making it healthier; "Would Rhode Islanders rather die than do the things that the doctor has prescribed?"; audience member: "They don't believe it": stream, download (1min 9sec)
  • Hazen White says there's "a tremendous lack of courage and maybe an uninformed path" and that he was "dumbfounded" that the Democrats expanded their power in the last election; and another thing, "we've got a union problem": stream, download (1min 56sec)
  • To laughs from the crowd, Caprio shifts to call it "a special interest problem" in that there's no opposing force for the taxpayer against them: stream, download (1min 8sec)

April 25, 2009

Today's Panel... and Others

Justin Katz

Having not attended many events like this, I can only take a general sense for comparison, but I thought today's panel courtesy Operation Clean Government was particularly good and, incidentally, provided further evidence of a growing intention to be heard among Rhode Island's regular citizens. Some of that may have been an effect of the tone that Dan Yorke set as moderator, but in context of broader observations, well, it leaves room to hope.

As the event came to a close, Andrew suggested to me that a similar event for the younger set would be worth organizing and participating in, and I agreed. The prospect brought to mind a possibility that has emerged every now and then, over the past few years, of a panel that crosses ideological lines, hosted, for example, by College Republicans and College Democrats and involving Matt Jerzyk and me. Sadly, I don't believe the current leadership (especially attitudinal leadership) among our counterparts on the left to be as prone to dialogue as I've always thought Matt to be — even as we strenuously disagreed.

Our increasing prominence and the bubbling expansion of a right-of-center reform movement may be playing a role in that shift.

But to return to the subject at hand: There were some very compelling moments throughout the panel discussion, as well as some newsworthy statements. I'll be rolling out the audio as I'm able over the next couple of days.

To begin with Governor Carcieri's opening remarks: stream, download (18min 21sec).

"We've got to control the spending, so we can sustain what we have, and the other piece of the equation is we've got to get competitive from a tax standpoint."

"We've got to shift the focus to creating a vibrant economic base in this state that's privately structured so that we're generating the jobs."

"Now is the time that we've got to ratchet up the game."

Operation Clean Government Breakfast & Panel

Justin Katz

Just checking in from Operation Clean Government's event at the Quonset Club. A little shy of 200 people are here, many of them familiar faces, but not all. My initial thought is that there are a number of people from different segments of local activism. Local Tiverton folks, RISC folks, politicians, activists, and so on. OCG seems to cut across the categories.

Hopefully I'll be more insightful after I've had some breakfast...

10:06 a.m.

The governor is giving a surprise speech, mainly focusing on pensions as the next stop. Some pictures thus far:

Governor Carcieri works his way into the room:

Carcieri at the podium:

Dan Yorke arrives & Senator Leonidas Raptakis walks the room:

Treasurer Frank Caprio moves table to table:

Len Lardaro at the panelists' table:

Sen. Raptakis chats with somebody and RISC's Jim Beale chats with RIILE's Terry Gorman:

10:10 a.m.

Governor: "It's time to ratchet up the game to a higher level so that the people who are going to make the votes at the end of the day understand." Referenced OCG, RISC, the tea party.

10:13 a.m.

OCG's Chuck Barton is pointing out people of importance in the audience, legislators, RISC folks, some business people, former OCG leaders. Also Colleen Conley of tea party fame.

10:19 a.m.

Dan Yorke has taken the podium. "My goal is to see if anybody will say something new... not repeat the same old crap."

He also expressed hope that the presence of Jim Baron and Ed Fitzpatrick will ensure coverage beyond his radio show.


OCG's Chuck Barton opens the panel:

Dan Yorke takes the podium:

The panel assembled:

10:24 a.m.

Dan presents the question as providing a diagnosis. "Quickly, because if I go to the doc, I want to know if I'm going to live or die."

Treasurer Frank Caprio is trying to give a solution-type speech, and Dan keeps trying to drive him back to the question.

Dan "This is just a little group to practice on if you're going to run for governor."

"Everybody on this panel is a great citizen, but they've got to answer the question."

10:32 a.m.

John Hazen-White: Higher taxes, fewer payers.

Gary Sasse: Tax structure

Elizabeth Dennigan: Lack of efficiency and transparency.

Leonard Lardaro: Costs beyond taxes. "Do a dynamic or temporal analysis." Addressing the governor directly. "Can't afford to raise taxes."

10:33 a.m.

Yorke: "A lot of smart things are being said, but nobody's answered the question." In advertising, the message is the most important thing. "What is the product of Rhode Island; who are Rhode Islanders? You have to know the patient."

"Can we have a philosophical discussion among the audience and the panel about who we are? What is the Rhode Island disease."

10:36 a.m.

Caprio: "We're the product of families that sacrificed for us to get where we are today. Are people willing to have shared sacrifice to get our government in order?"

Yorke: "Are Rhode Islanders of a mindset to know what quality of life is and to make it a goal?"

Caprio: I think Rhode Islanders are different. [Catholic and other community-engrained religious groups.] "That's who we are."

10:40 a.m.

Hazen-White: "[RI] is a very unique place from the standpoint that it's so small." Tremendous opportunities; tremendous problems. Tremendous ingenuity; tremendous people. "Perhaps the greatest available workplace of any place I've ever been."

Huh? Based on what.

10:43 a.m.

Dennigan: "Something that really annoys me" is RI's talking about all the problems. "If we're always complaining and encouraging our young students to leave and go somewhere else... there's no state that doesn't have problems with ethics... [one film producer} said to me, 'I just love Rhode Island'" --- referring to the geographic diversity.

Gimme a break.

Dan: "Obviously, there are wonderful things about living in Rhode Island." His point is that people who live in Rhode Island can be honest about the problems in Rhode Island.

10:45 a.m.

"The doctor doesn't say, 'You've got cancer, but you know what: you're a good egg.'"

Lardaro: It's a consumption-oriented, immediate state that's too trusting in its leaders. "Tone always seems to overweigh accuracy."

Sasse: What happened? "We became an entitlement-oriented state."

Yorke: "Why?"

Sasse: "Those were political decisions." Unrest from the crowd. "People voted that way. People were not informed."

10:48 a.m.

Sasse: Rhode Islanders have an inferiority complex, founded in the principle that government owes you something.

Yorke to Dennigan: "Do we have courage amongst the people of Rhode Island."

Crowd: No!

Dennigan: Blah, blah, blah.

10:53 a.m.

Yorke listed a pretty rigorous health regime and asked if Rhode Islanders would rather die.

Crowd: "They don't believe they're going to die."

Hazen-White: "There is a tremendous lack of courage." "If you keep doing what you always did, you're going to keep getting what you always got." He was "dumbfounded" that Democrats increased their share of state government. Voters... it isn't their guy; it isn't their gal. And another thing: "We got a union problem."

Crowd: Cheers.

Hazen-White: "And damn it, unless and until that whole thing is dealt with --- doesn't mean it needs to be squashed."

Caprio: "We have a special interest problem." "It's like a football game... If the other team doesn't show up, the other team isn't going to go home; they're going to score touch downs."

Yorke: Where was the other side?

The audience seems to think that he means the working people of Rhode Island. Dan's rightly pointing to our elected representatives.

Dennigan: "We need more of the public doing their homework."

10:55 a.m.

Yorke's observing that none of the legislative leaders are in the room.

Yorke: "Do you think they give a damn?"

Crowd: No!

Dennigan: Thanked the leadership for letting her be here.

Crowd: What???? Shouts; anger.

Bad, bad answer.

10:57 a.m.

Breaking news: The legislative leaders advised Dennigan to participate in this event.

Yorke is mentioning that nobody from labor is in the room. ("Usually they hide with YouTube cameras.")

Yorke: Bob Walsh is the only one who will come to the fight with his legitimate point of view.

10:59 a.m.

Yorke: "The general assembly runs the show." "The sick people of RI have let the general assembly run wild." To Caprio: How are you going to change that.

Audience member: "You're grandfathered in."

Caprio: "You dig in against the General Assembly." Lay out a plan, and if they don't want to go there: "If after the first year, if the legislature doesn't want to solve the problem, it's up to the leaders to get people elected who will solve the problem." I [he] can pull those resources together.

11:03 a.m.

Yorke's trying to elicit the one thing that the governor needs to bring things into line.

Lardaro: "The people of this state have to demand results."

Yorke: "Do they know what result they want?"

11:07 a.m.

Yorke: "Is it possible that Rhode Islanders instinctively know that they don't want a nanny state?"

Audience member: Define that.

Yorke: "I have to define that?" ... We have to get out of a certain number of businesses in this state. Those who don't listen to his show don't seem to understand that he's talking about government actions --- whole categories of them. Poses the question to the panel, what businesses do we have to get out of?

Hazen-White: Government. [Too many people work for the government.]

Sasse: Need efficiency. Pension reforms. Management rights. Tenure. ("I have people working in my departments who really don't deserve tenure.") Three things government should do are education, infrastructure, and realistic safety nets to move unfortunately people up the ladder, with emphasis on realistic.

11:13 a.m.

Yorke has redirected to what we have to get out of.

Sasse: "They're tough choices." A checklist, such as state libraries. "We haven't discussed what we can afford. That's why we've become an entitlement society, because we never assess what we can afford."

11:16 a.m.

These pictures are a little out of order (I took them earlier), but I think they catch good moments.

Several times, the discussion dipped into a Yorke v. Caprio battle:

Several times throughout the event, depending upon what she'd just said, Rep. Dennigan looked as if she felt physically ill. Here she is after admitting that the legislative leaders had allowed her to participate. (Right click and choose "view image," or equivalent, for a larger image.)

11:18 a.m.

Sasse: There are too many cities and towns.

Yorke: "Are you saying that we need to get out of the business of provinciality?"

Me, I disagree. I like the variety. Push more responsibilities to the towns. Reduce the repetition at the top.

11:20 a.m.

Q&A period. Many hands go up.

11:22 a.m.

The first questioner thinks Caprio is "grandfathered into being our next govenor." "Do the right thing." The question: Why don't Rhode Islanders vote for the right people? Yorke changed to, "What's the right kind of person to elect?"

Dennigan: Voters have to be discerning.

Hazen-White: "Being a public servant should not be a career."

Question 2: To Dennigan: "Why don't you stop the grants that are going out to everybody?" [Rub and tug.]

Dennigan: We need more information.

After prompting from Dan, Dennigan: It's not an equitable system, and it's not dispersed equitably, so it shouldn't be dispersed at all.

Question 3: One or two good reasons that companies should move to RI.

Caprio: "We're here to serve you, period." Shouldn't be overregulation, overtaxation, headaches. "Every time business deal with government, it's confrontational."

Question 4: As a landlord, I want to know where are the people who are going to come into Rhode Island to live. A lot of people can't afford to live here, and those who can are on system-supported incomes, and then the government regulates my property.

Dennigan: We need to keep the property taxes down, as a result of looking at our spending.

Questioner: I'm fed up with the little guy being tax.

Yorke: What are you going to do with your anger?

She goes to the statehouse. Has brought people together. Went to the tea party. "I don't want to run for office until it's cleaned up."

Dan brought it back to the "who we are." "You don't want to enter the lion's den until it's cleaned up for you." "We have mad-as-hell people" who won't put themselves on the line to fix problems. "We'll only put our toes in the water in our comfort zone to fix the system."

11:34 a.m.

Next questioner: Cut taxes. Diagnosis: for years, the people who run this state have been running the state as their own companies... friends, families, business associates, and so on.

Terry Gorman of RIILE: I have a solution for the whole thing. "Why can't the state of Rhode Island pass E-Verify?"

Dennigan: Kicked it back to the feds.

Caprio: "Pass e-Verify. We're a country of laws, and we should enforce the laws."

11:41 a.m.

RISC's Harry Staley: Regionalization will cause certain people to object to sending suburban money to Providence. He thinks that regionalization ought to be RISC's driving issue.

Another question for Dennigan; actually not a question, but a promotion of elimination of straight ticket.

Caprio answered: Eliminate the straight ticket.

Another question/statement answering the diagnosis question: "Rhode Island is a victim of rape?"

Next audience member: "We don't know what we believe in, and we don't know who to believe."

11:48 a.m.

Question: Should there be a search for a new economic development director, considering that previous versions haven't resulted in good people?

Susan Carcieri: "Because we are dominated by one party (without naming names), we have a serious problem." What does the panel think about voter ID?

Caprio: Referenced Anchor Rising's ranking of him on the top 10 conservative list.

Yorke: "You could save a lot of dough in a primary with Lynch if you hopped over to the other side."

Caprio: "That's not under consideration."

A college student asked if the people who are leaving RI are graduates looking for work or rich people. General answer: both. I'm not so sure. I think the people who are leaving, but whom we want to stay, are the "productive class" in between.

Bruce Lang: The unions and social services advocates run the legislature.

Dennigan: 55% of our budget is social services.

Her answer to whether these groups should control government was that they have a lot of influence. Dan pressed for a specific answer, and she replied by bringing it to specifics about reviewing cases on their individual bases. As I paraphrased her earlier: blah, blah, blah.

11:59 a.m.

Rod Driver: "I want to throw out a specific suggestion... We need to cut back the mandates," including prevailng."

Panelists on what they learned this morning:

Hazen-White: The level of frustration and the regionalization question.

Sasse: There's a need for change, but we don't have a game plan.

Dennigan: Learned about straight-ticket.

Lardaro: People are concerned by a wider range of things than I knew about. People are getting upset about things enough to do something.

Caprio: Don't give an inch; take the spirit of this room.

Governor Carcieri: "I'm going to become a radio talk show host." "We don't know what we want; we're really confused." Government is not the proper venue for charity and social justice.

April 24, 2009

Tiverton Taxpayer Forum

Justin Katz

For any and all who are free and wish to attend, Tiverton Citizens for Change is hosting a taxpayer forum on Monday, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. at the North Tiverton VFW. Admission is free, and there will be a raffle for balloons filled with scratch tickets of various value as well as food. Speakers will include:

Dave Nelson, TCC President
Tom Parker, TCC and Budget Committee Member
Harry Staley, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition
Jeff Caron, TCC member and Budget Committee President
Bill Murphy, East Providence Taxpayers Association member
Larry Fitzmorris, Portsmouth Concerned Citizens member
... and me

April 22, 2009

Woonsocket Vote Proves Point of Tea Parties

Marc Comtois

In case you missed it, a Tea Party broke out in Woonsocket the other day (h/t).

As reported by WPRI:

Woonsocket's City Council has voted against a supplemental tax bill that would have raised property taxes by eight percent.

Councilors took the vote late Monday night, following testimony from dozens of residents. Council members said arguments against the bill changed their minds; it was originally expected to pass.

The bill was meant to close the school department's $3.7 million deficit. Councilors plan to meet Wednesday to decide on their next course of action, which could include a lawsuit against the state for more funding.

Why did it go from "expected to pass" to not passing? From the Woonsocket Call:
After some five hours of discussion, at just about midnight, the council...vot[ed] 4-3 against the measure. In the end, it was Councilwoman Suzanne Vadenais who tipped the balance. Early in the evening, she indicated a reluctant willingness to support supplemental taxes, but by the end of the night she had changed her mind.

“It was a very difficult decision,” she said. “After listening to all the people who spoke tonight, I can't vote for this.”

Vadenais joined Councilors Stella Brien, Christopher Beauchamp and Roger G. Jalette Jr. in opposing the measure. Council President Leo T. Fontaine, William Schneck and John Ward were in favor of it.

So, were Woonsocket residents inspired by the "Tea Party Movement" to take a more active role in local government? The signs seem to indicate that was the case. What is for sure is that something has happened to finally push average, apathetic taxpayers into having their voices heard.

April 21, 2009

About the Economic Knowledge of the Public...

Marc Comtois

Michael Barone writes, "Many of the sneering comments about the participants in last week’s hundreds of tea parties across the nation were premised on the idea that these people didn’t know much about public policy." (Sounds familiar). However, as Barone mentions, a Pew Research poll conducted at the end of March (you can take the related quiz here) "finds the American public reasonably well-informed about a number of basic facts pertaining to the current economic situation." Further, a new Rasmussen poll shows that 52% of Americans are worried that the government is getting too involved in the economy. This tracks closely with the results of another Rasmussen poll showing that 51% of Americans viewed the Tea Party protests favorably. That puts this slight majority at odds with the "Political Class" polled by Rasmussen:

[J]ust 13% of the political elite offered even a somewhat favorable assessment while 81% said the opposite. Among the Political Class, not a single survey respondent said they had a Very Favorable opinion of the events while 60% shared a Very Unfavorable assessment.
Then there's this:
Most Americans trust the judgment of the public more than political leaders, view the federal government as a special interest group and believe that big business and big government work together against the interests of investors and consumers. Only seven percent (7%) share the opposite view and can be considered part of the Political Class.

On many issues, there is a bigger gap between the Political Class and Mainstream Americans than between Mainstream Republicans and Mainstream Democrats. That was true on the tea parties, but Mainstream Republicans do express a more positive view of the protests than Mainstream Democrats. Still, a majority (54%) of Mainstream Democrats had a favorable opinion of the tea parties.

So, according to these polls, the tea parties were supported and attended by a basically bi-partisan, well-informed and populist crowd. Yikes!

April 18, 2009

See, That's the Difference Between a Popular Movement and an Establishment Structure

Justin Katz

National Education Association of Rhode Island Executive Director Bob Walsh expresses puzzlement over Colleen Conley's being allowed to be the spokesperson for the RI Tea Party:

on Buddy's show on Ch. 6 on Sunday - he went fairly easy on her after she could not answer basic questions about the size of RI's budget or where she was proposing to cut it. She was also on the second segment of Newsmakers. ...

Do you think if my side was having an event of this scale that we'd let one of out own appear on Buddy's show, or any show, that unprepared?

I'll confess that, on any given day in the recent past, I'd have been stumped by the question, "How large is Rhode Island's budget?" What I would cut is a different matter, but the notion that somebody could be prepared to that degree on such short notice likely strikes the reformist ear funny in a way that brings out two significant points. (Note that I'm putting aside the consideration that the Tea Party's focus was national.)

The first point is that the exact total budget number, of itself, isn't but so important from either an intellectual or rhetorical standpoint. Removed from context, it's meaningless. What's $7 billion (ish)? In order to assess whether that's too much, it is more significant to know that Rhode Island consistently ranks highly on matters of taxation, that its social programs are generous, that its public-sector unions are disproportionately well compensated compared with the private sector, and above all, that the budget deficit has been stepping up every year on a march toward a billion dollars of shortfall and that legislators won't take the steps necessary to turn it around.

The second, more critical, point is that the right-of-center reform movement in Rhode Island and across the country does not consist of folks who earn their living by reciting political arguments by which they stand to gain in their careers. Ask Ms. Conley a question about stationery, and she'll likely produce a more satisfactory answer. Ask me the standard rough opening for a three-foot door, and I'll ask you whether it's a six-six or six-eight and whether we're framing off finish or rough.

It would be more comparable, however, to ask me how many months worth of work I know my current employer to have or Colleen the size of the local market for custom illustrated cards, because the state budget is part of the public-sector total from which it is Mr. Walsh's job to extract amounts for his union's members. Personally, I've got too many numbers running through my head on a given day to have the capacity to recite the subsegment totals of RI government spending. We newly active citizens must rely on such strategies as generalizing the specifics that we read, hear, or see in the news into "too much," "too restrictive," "too generous."

This new dynamic — this increasingly engaged population — may be something for which Bob Walsh and his "side" aren't prepared. They won't be able to pull us into mutually canceling disputes over numbers, because we'll have to look them up, at which point we'll be able to explain how they're spinning them. And if they argue that we don't know what we're talking about — which they're already doing — well, that's more of a felt thing, from the audience's point of view, and not having memorized talking points is not a disadvantage if the speaker seems to have grasped the underlying issue and compensates for missing esoteria with good faith and honesty.

Buddy would likely stump Bob if he asked about the header size of his front entryway, but that wouldn't disqualify Mr. Walsh from suggesting that he'd like to be able to lock the door.

April 17, 2009

The State and the Local

Justin Katz

A quick Friday afternoon note regarding two events — one statewide and one in Tiverton — in which y'all might be (should be) interested:

  • The deadline to register for Operation Clean Government's Public Affairs Forum, which includes a breakfast and a panel discussion, is tomorrow. The event itself is next Saturday morning.
  • Tiverton Citizens for Change has organized a "Help Clean Up Tiverton Effort" as an example of the sort of activities that residents should take up in order to improve their towns — without having to increase taxes and in a way that builds a sense of community. We're meeting tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. at the Park and Ride across from Viti Auto Dealership on Fish Rd. (just off Rt. 24).

I'll be at both events, liveblogging the first... and perhaps the second, if it's possible to do such a thing.

So Who Won?

Justin Katz

It would be silly to take the presumed competition seriously, but considering the Providence Business News headline Wednesday morning of "Dueling demonstrations to mark Tax Day," perhaps we'd be justified in asking who won:

Two groups with different views on how those tax dollars should and should not be used will hold demonstrations in the city today.

From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., a group of activists plan to greet tax filers at the Corliss Street post office to protest the cost of the war in Iraq and the defense budget. The groups that will be represented include the American Friends Service Committee, Ocean State Action, Declaration of Peace Campaign Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Mobilization Committee to End War and Occupation. ...

Fiscal conservatives plan to hold their own “Tax Day Tea Party” protest in front of the Statehouse in Providence from 3 to 6 p.m. The event will coincide with hundreds of other rallies that will be held today in as many as 2,000 cities nationwide, organizers said.

Targeting People with Dark Skin So As Not to Be Racist

Justin Katz

Sometimes, one reads statements that leave the impression that the center line of American politics is a portal from one reality — with its own intellectual and moral standards — and another. Among the (predictable) criticisms being directed toward the Providence tea party is that the vast majority of those in attendance were light skinned, and in response to a comment by Real Deal Hope, on RI Future, that it was "an issue driven rally" with an open attendance opportunity, Matt Jerzyk offers the following:

While the event was an "open invitation," the event organizers did go around the state and speak at events, groups and businesses to drive up attendance. Anyone who has ever tried to organize an event knows that turnout is driven by specific outreach. Since my criticism apparently wasn't clear enough, let me give you a specific example. Did the event organizers go to Rhode Island's largest middle-class African-American church and ask for 5 minutes to speak about their event? Or the largest middle-class Colombian group in Central Falls or middle-class Cape Verdean group in East Providence? More to my point exactly, did they go on WBRU or PODER just like they went on every other radio station or did they sit down for an interview with UNIVISION or Providence en Espanol or the Providence American?

I could be wrong about this, but as far as I know, during the few weeks in which they organized the event, the RI Tea Party folks didn't "go around the state" speaking to groups, but made media appearances. They also didn't, I don't believe, go on WHJY, Cat Country, or "every other radio station" that doesn't have a news focus. If they did either of those things, I didn't hear about it.

That's ancillary to the point, which is the astonishing racial reductivism of Matt's suggestion. We on the right — particularly of the issue-driven, grassroots segment — target our message based on exhibited interests. When time is limited, we'll approach audiences that have exhibited receptivity to similar ideas and seek to work through media of general interest for the region. The assumption is that people exhibit their interests in accord with their individual beliefs and understanding, not on the basis of their skin or heritage.

To the left, tint is primary. In order to ensure that pictures of a crowd have color, they'll approach racially populated churches about government fiscal policy. They'll research ethnic enclaves in order to check off a hit-list of identity groups. By "racial inclusiveness," they clearly intend to divide and allocate people according to their race and then get representatives in a group photograph to promote their ideological cause. They mean to herd people into categories in order to more easily direct and manipulate them.

Matt may be correct that the hard-sell leftist effort to promote identity politics makes such a strategy politically savvy, in the current context, but I don't find it especially moral. And if I had skin of a darker hue, I'd be much more self-conscious about my physical appearance at a liberal rally than a conservative one, and I'd resent the effort to make me feel that I couldn't attend an event concerned with taxation without considering whether my fellow taxpayers were palpably conscious of my race.

As I walked around that crowd on Wednesday, I saw people. Contrary to the spin, some of them had darker skin than others, but I was paying more attention to signs and t-shirts.

April 16, 2009

Pics from the Crowd

Justin Katz

A reader sent me the following pictures today. (My mother likes the last one.)

Don't Let Them Convince You That It Was Something That It Wasn't

Justin Katz

This is a topic that I intend to consider from a couple of angles for some posts tomorrow, but it's worth making the general suggestion that attempts by various folks to define yesterday's tea party in Providence as something that it wasn't, or in a light that doesn't really apply, suggests that they just don't understand what's going on among right-of-center grassroots movements and the right side of the blogosphere. It could be that a basic difference in priorities, interests, and style precludes their understanding.

Consider the professional/mainstream media inclination to highlight a partisan aspect to the rallies — actually, to embellish for the purpose of highlighting it. Last night, as I waited in studio to go on the air with Matt Allen, WPRO reporter Steve Klamkin opened the door to discuss the tea party and was adamant that it was a "Republican event." The response that I gave on air to Matt was that the correlation is only a detracting factor — making it truly a "partisan" event — if the motivation for attendance was partisan regardless of the message. This was the opposite.

But this morning, Mr. Klamkin's report highlighted one speaker: Representative Joe Trillo, who said a few extemporaneous words after signing a no-tax pledge. Consider that: A reporter who wishes to see the event as a partisan event made a point of portraying it that way — not only picking a speaker who is known to be Republican, for one reason or another, but singling out one who is, by the nature of his office, a Republican figure.

The Providence Journal did something similar by using a picture of Republican candidate Dan Reilly for its front-page story of the event. It certainly isn't a denigration of either Mr. Reilly or Rep. Trillo to suggest that a picture of Colleen Conley, Bill Felkner, or Helen Glover would have been more appropriate as the signature image.

More than half of the other speakers are not explicitly partisan and would have conveyed a better sense of what the bubbling unrest is about: It's about people forming a popular movement, and that should be a much more frightening prospect to entrenched powers than the inevitable fact that politicians will find their way to microphones.

Why the Best Sign from Yesterday was the Best

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here are a few of the ideas encapsulated by the best sign from yesterday desperately needing some public discussion.

1. What exactly is it that happened, in 1776, when a new nation "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" was born? (OK, so I threw a bit of 1863 in there too). Did something truly exceptional occur in the founding of the United States of America, or were the ideas of democracy and limited government just historical quirks made possible by favorable geography, access to natural resources and good luck?

2. 1984 is George Orwell's classic warning of the possibility of a totalitarian future. The events of 1776 occurred, obviously, long before the publication of 1984 (in 1949, to be exact) and before totalitarian ideas had gained traction in human affairs, as carrying out 1984-like repression requires the modern bureaucratic state that didn't exist as of 1776. The question is: is it reasonable to believe that the modern state, which we know can be a powerful force for taking things in the wrong direction, can also be a force for strengthening the ideals of 1776?

3. And is it even agreed upon that people have an actual choice at all? The Marxists (Orwell's target in 1984) tell us that the progress of history is dictated by material forces, that our forms of government move inevitably through different stages (although the stages seem to change, when the predictions of "scientific socialism" don't quite work out). Even more cynical schools of thought hold that regular people don’t have the capacity to make the choices to navigate the modern world and that they are better off having their lives managed by a technocratic elite -- though government may need to maintain the appearance of democracy for psychological reasons.

Are the cynics right? Have the ideals of 1776 in the minds of too many become a remnant of a pre-modern past that must be abandoned in order to get on the right side of history and modernity? Or are we the people willing and ready to re-choose those ideals today?


Talkin' Rally With Mr. Allen

Justin Katz

What else would Matt and I have discussed during last night's Matt Allen show, other than the tea party? For thoughts on what to make of it and what to do next: stream by clicking here, or download it.

Roundup: Tax Day Tea Party, Providence, RI

Engaged Citizen

Upwards of 3,000 Rhode Islanders who've already had enough of Change made their presence known at the Tax Day Tea Party in Providence, RI. For those from elsewhere, that is an absolutely huge crowd backing this particular range of issues in this particular state, in which some commentators were predicting attendance in the hundreds.

We'll be updating this post as we're able. Anybody who has links that they think should be added to this list should feel free to email them to any Anchor Rising contributor.


Anchor Rising: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Ocean State Republican: 1, 2
Assigned Reading
Ocean State Policy blog: 1
Providence Journal
John DePetro


Justin Katz (Anchor Rising): Text and audio
John DePetro (WPRO): Streaming audio
(If any other speakers send their text to an Anchor Rising contributor, we'll publish them as Engaged Citizen posts.)


Providence Journal
Brown Daily Herald


Matt Allen and Justin discuss the implications and the next steps


Providence Business News
Providence Journal
Anchor Rising: Post-facto Republicanization
Pawtucket Times

Providence, RI, Tax Day Tea Party Speech

Justin Katz

Stream, Download

This is one of those times in history when a society must make a decision. Social commentators of the near future will say one of two things about us: If we fail to be heard, then these tea parties, these expressions of outrage across the nation, are the final lunge of a fading culture, riddled with the errors of an unenlightened past. Or, if we can rein in our government, these demonstrations represent the reawakening of the American spirit, reasserting the principles of the United States.

Our country is defined by its principles. There is no picture of the typical American. We aren't a race. We aren't a religion. We aren't a tribe or a sect or a straight line of lineage. The typical American is a person in motion. With a swagger. Sometimes a smirk. Often a smile. But always, there's a set jaw and a confident stride toward the future — toward growth and improvement and a better life for all who'll but seek it.

Future historians will either tell the tale of a nation that tipped the scales toward the final decline of Western civilization, or they will celebrate the character of a people who saved the world once again. Because it was right, and because it was who they were. Who we are.

We are called, most critically, not to stand against an external enemy — although that exists — but against a corruption of spirit. There is a cancer running through our culture that wants ease instead of opportunity, that takes a life of stability to be a higher goal than a life of achievement. Powerful interests will punish those who strive and excel because they want to be the ones providing everybody else's comfort — defining everybody else's well-being.

We here today do not savor work, but freedom. If we aren't free to err and struggle, we aren't free to succeed. If we aren't free to build organizations and businesses and lives according to our beliefs and our goals, and based on our own experiences, then we just aren't free. There is no stability without risk, and freedom is the only defense against stagnation.

The forces of stagnation have waged a decades-long campaign to advance their cause incrementally. Little by little. While they hold sway in the halls of power they inject their principles of big government and nanny-state dictation into the body politic, and then, when the poison reveals itself in painful consequences, they recede into the shadows and await their next chance.

When a welfare and social policy regime results in a desperate underclass, these forces point to a bogeyman of bigotry. Conveniently, it's always to be found among their political opposition. When quasi-governmental lenders back unsecure investments and build an edifice of financial straw, would-be magicians of the political sphere spread our great-grandchildren's earnings around in order to establish the principle that government knows best how to run all things, large and small. They connive to foster dependency. They know that an antidote never fully overcomes addiction.

They take, and they tax. They regulate, and they assert authority. They preach their own superiority. And every year, they control a little bit more of our lives, telling a distracted citizenry that they are all that stands between our families and utter collapse and that only their guidance can protect us from our prejudices. They push the fallacy that an increasingly complicated society requires centralized oversight and central planning, when the polar opposite is true. Well, I'm sorry, Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Congressmen Langevin and Kennedy, but no matter how eloquent and genuinely intelligent our new president may be, even if he's the brightest bulb in that dim capital, his thinking is fundamentally flawed. It is dangerous. Oppressive.

If we cannot put a stop to the lapse in our national ideals currently seeping into Washington — very similar to the illness that has ravaged Rhode Island — we will cease to be the United States of America. If we cannot say to the president and his followers, "you lied — you sold us a break, a period of cooperation," if we cannot say that and make the schemers in our government stop pasting a radical pastiche where they promised the even lines of a new realism, then they will have no fear. They will march right into our lives. They will know that the nice image of helping our old country to cross the road to a time of undefined hope and dubious change is suitable propaganda to cover their power grab.

I suspect that most of you here today now understand that there was never any intention to compromise. Those who rule our nation — and who would rule the "global community" — have an idea of compromise that is merely to mouth some pleasing words about listening and then to do whatever they want, take whatever they want. And that is why we must be uncompromising in our message. Enough is enough. That is the statement that the people of these United States have to make. That we have to make here today. And that we must continue to make as we turn our country back toward the right direction in the months and years to come.

April 15, 2009

How Many of Us Were There?

Justin Katz

I'm hearing various media-approved estimates for the crowd at today's tea party, and they seem to hover just north of 2,000 people. Not being sure what the methodology might have been — and suspecting it had a bit of that old give a little credit here, take a little adjustment there — I thought I'd have a go at coming up with something with at least some attempt to be accurate.

So, I took two photos that I took in succession from up high on the steps (here and here) and joined them at a roughly central depth (overlapping the green signs to the left of the second picture), as follows:

As you can see with the buildings and the trees, the different perspectives from which I took the pictures causes some doubling, but the span of the crowd that I'm looking at is relatively narrow in height, and it's also central in the photo. In other words, what I gained slightly above the mid-point was reasonably comparable to what I lost beneath it.

I drew a 1x1 square (the number is arbitrary) and moved it around the field to estimate the average number of people within it at 7. I then drew a box around the crowd (rotated so as not to have empty space in the corners) and by calculating the box's size, figured there to be 2,597 people in that main cobbled area. I then added a conservative estimate of 50 more people on the walkways and down by the road, bringing the subtotal to 2,647.

Taking this picture of the steps from about the same time, I repeated the method for the lower and upper tiers, the former showing 245 people and the latter showing 287.

Granted the method is crude, but I'm reasonably sure that my fudges around the edges cancel out, which makes the total attendance at the time of this picture (roughly quarter to five) 3,179. Given that people were coming and going over the course of the three-hour event, the total attendance was probably in the 3,500–4,000 range.

Photoblogging Today's Tea Party: Special Appearance By...

Carroll Andrew Morse

...Old Glory...


...and related friends.


Photoblogging Today's Tea Party: Rhode Island's Medical Taxes

Carroll Andrew Morse

The most substantive signs of the day came from a pair of nurses who turned out to protest the recent tax increase on medical expenses…


One of the protesting nurses was kind enough to provide some additional detail…

I work at Toll Gate radiology, I schedule all the exams. There's a 2% tax increase for all the patients that come in, they end up spending 2% and it kind of defeats the purpose. They end up paying a lot more to get testing that they need to have done. Even with their co-payments, they end up paying $125 more than they should have to go in for a CAT scan.

The Rest of the Pictures

Justin Katz

The extended entry contains the last of my pictures from today's tea party. What an event! Several of Matt Allen's callers made an excellent point: No security was necessary. There will be no trash-pick-up crew needed. These were regular Americans, regular Rhode Islanders, gathering together to make their presence felt. And moreover, they were folks who aren't demanding that more be given to them, but given back to them.

By the way, I've reduced the size of all of the image files, so if slow loading kept you away before, take a look at the previous posts.

Continue reading "The Rest of the Pictures"

Photoblogging Today's Tea Party: The Best Signs (That I Saw)

Carroll Andrew Morse

Honorable mention...




And, for all of the ideas that it packs into a concise statement, the winner is...


Photoblogging Today's Tea Party: A Winner is Declared...

Carroll Andrew Morse

The runaway winner in the best metaphorical costume division was the American patriot drowning in taxes…


Photoblogging Today's Tea Party

Carroll Andrew Morse

One nice thing about Rhode Island Statehouse protests is that they provide some aesthetically pleasing backgrounds...


On the other hand, the reverse angle gives a better sense of the size of the crowd...


Technical Note

Justin Katz

I've moved the pictures into the extended entry for ease of loading. Another learning curve: I've been using a much better camera than usual, and it keeps reverting to large file sizes. When I get home to my main computer, I'll shrink the images down.

Best in New England?

Justin Katz

I'm hearing rumors that this tea party is actually bigger than Boston's. I don't know about that, but it is definitely a large (and diverse) crowd. I'll say this, too: I was embarrassed when Helen Glover introduced me as needing no introduction, but I've been finding that I'm not quite as anonymous in a crowd like this as I once enjoyed being.

Continue reading "Best in New England?"

Tea Party Continued

Justin Katz

Sorry for the lag; nerves made posting even more difficult than the bright sun. Here are pictures from the past hour or so. There have got to be 2,000 to 3,000 people here.

Continue reading "Tea Party Continued"

Tax Day Tea Party

Justin Katz

It's not three yet, and I'd wager that the crowd's on its way to a thousand (although I'm terrible at estimating). The most recent of these pictures was taken about ten minutes ago (before I sought a location in which it would be possible to see my screen), and people have continued to pour in.

Continue reading "Tax Day Tea Party"

April 14, 2009

The S-Word: Glenn Beck Refines the Reason Behind the Tea Parties

Monique Chartier

It's not so much taxes as what creates the necessity to tax. (And look, once again, Rhode Island earns a national mention for a dubious achievement.)

The mainstream media will report on the tea parties as if they're just a bunch of whack-job Republicans who only care about taxes on the rich (like New York's so-called "millionaire's tax" on individuals making $200,000 dollars and couples making $300,000); a third of the average New Yorker's cellphone bill goes to taxes; or smokers (like those in Rhode Island who are ticked off that their state's cigarette tax would rise to $3.46 a pack — the highest in the country); or the proposed 10 percent "tanning salon tax" in Utah; the proposed "streetlight user fee" that would add $51 a year to electric bills in Washington, D.C.; the 3 percent "bed tax" on anyone silly enough to spend the night in a hotel room in the state of Nevada, best known for Las Vegas, which has the largest hotels in the world.

If the Tea Parties were only about taxes, there would still be a great case for them. Americans pay more in taxes than on food, clothing and housing combined.

But, they're not. They're about the reason for our taxes, which is an out-of-control government that can't control its spending.

Add up all the bailouts so far and Congress, the Treasury Department and the Fed have spent, lent and guaranteed a total of $12.8 trillion, an amount that's practically equal to our country's entire GDP.

* * *

Oh, I almost forgot about the pesky issue of $1.25 quadrillion in total debt, which represents the worst-case scenario for our Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security obligations.

Tea Party Speakers List

Justin Katz

The RI Tea Party organizers have released speakers list:

  • 3:00: Helen Glover (WHJJ)
  • 3:10: Colleen Conley (RI Tea Party)
  • 3:25: Bill Felkner (Ocean State Policy Research Institute)
  • 3:40: John DePetro (WPRO)
  • 3:55: Walter Muzzy (descendant of Battle of Lexington fatality)
  • 4:00: Father Giacomo Capoverdi (Priest & OSPRI fellow)
  • 4:05: Jason Matera (Young Americans Foundation)
  • 4:20: Brian Buongiovanni (Motif magazine contributor)
  • 4:25: Justin Katz (Anchor Rising)
  • 4:30: Ellen Kenner (Rational Basis of Happiness radio host)
  • 4:35: Jeff Deckman (businessman)
  • 4:40: Bob Cushman (businessman and former Warwick elected official)
  • 4:50: Edward Hathaway (teacher)
  • 4:55: Jim Beale (Rhode Island Statewide Coalition)
  • 5:00: Brian Bishop (OSPRI)
  • 5:10: Stefan Tabak (Fairtax)
  • 5:15: Bob Healey (Lt. Governor candidate)
  • 5:25: Chuck Barton (Operation Clean Government)
  • 5:30: Jon Scott (OSPRI)
  • 5:40: Ambassador J. William Middendorf
  • 5:50: RI Tea Party closing

On the Steps at 4:00 High

Justin Katz

Anybody who can make it into Providence for the tea party at any point and for any duration should do so. I'll be liveblogging the whole event and will be taking the microphone for a speech just after 4:00. Like Dan Yorke, I'm not sure what to expect, either as a participant or a speaker, but it'll be interesting to find out.

Feel free, by the way, to send me pictures to post after the fact (or to either compliment or console me, as merited, after my performance).

April 8, 2009

"What Do We Need to Do to Get Out of This Mess?"

Justin Katz

If you're available on the morning of Saturday the 25th, you might consider joining me in North Kingstown, as a member of the the audience of Operation Clean Government's spring public affairs forum, which is intended to probe "the RI fiscal train wreck."

There's a breakfast beforehand, at 8:45 a.m., with the main event being a panel moderated by Dan Yorke and consisting of a list of familiar names, beginning at 10.

March 26, 2009

A Not-So-Idle Question

Justin Katz

Pondering something not at all self-referential, I got to wondering who might rank on a top 10 list of conservative Rhode Islanders. (Given the competition, let's define "conservative" as "right-of-center.") Some names and placements are obvious, but what would the breakdown be?

I suppose one would first have to settle on criteria. There are folks who, by the nature of their positions, have a certain amount of power. Others have influence of which the public is hardly aware. Still others are very visible, but their influence beyond their visibility is a question. How does one measure a legislator against a radio personality? A newspaper editor against an activist?

What do you think?

March 24, 2009

Two Tea Parties for the Ocean State

Monique Chartier

Further to the complaints pointed remarks of commenter TaxPayer and myself under Justin's post, the Ocean State Republican blog reports that, in fact,

There will be two Rhode Island “Tea Parties” on Tax Day, April 15th. The different times should allow anyone who wants to participate, to fit at least one of the parties into their schedule. The first will be in Providence from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM [new time] 3:00 PM TO 6:00 PM, and the second will be in Warwick, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

The Providence Tax Day Tea Party will be on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM, which will be taking place at the Rhode Island State House on Smith Street.

* * *

The Warwick Tax Tea Day Party will take place at the corner of Airport Road and Post Road, outside of the Rhode Island Republican Party HQ from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

A Tea Party for the Ocean State

Justin Katz

It's becoming a frequently asked question of me, when I'm going about my business, when Rhode Island will host its own tea party. Well, I just received word that Ocean State Policy Research Institute has put up a Web site to promote just such an event on April 15th (tax day) 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the State House:

On February 19th, 2009, Rick Santelli spoke out on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange during a CNBC broadcast and expressed the frustration we are all feeling. Spawned of that "rant" was the National Tax Day Tea Party - and when Colleen Conley emailed the national group and said, "Rhode Island should do something like that," she had no idea how many other people were thinking the same thing.

Make your voice be heard on April 15th

Please join us as we send a message to our elected leaders that THEY WORK FOR US!

We the People are tired of irresponsible spending and actions taken by the state and federal government which threatens the financial health of the United States of America. We refuse to allow them to mortgage our children's and grandchildren's futures.

We demand accountability for their actions!

March 23, 2009

Back in the Town Hall

Justin Katz

Missing a town meeting or two reminds the active citizen how nice it is to have nights at home. Ah, well. If we're going to have a democracy...

When I walked in (yes, a few minutes late) RI Rep. John Loughlin (R., Tiverton, Little Compton, Portsmouth) was giving the council the newly regular update of happenings at the State House. Now, Wayne [somebody] is describing the state's stimulus-related activities. Councilor Louise Durfee asked whether the money-related decisions will be made by the General Assembly or ladled out after the session's end. Loughlin answered, "Yes." Both methods will play a role.

7:19 p.m.

Just an observation: Councilor Jay Lambert asked Loughlin about state aid (receiving no concrete answer), and jovial comments from Durfee thereafter gave the impression that something has changed in their relationship. Since the last meeting that I attended.

7:23 p.m.

On state aid and the financial town meeting, Durfee told Loughlin that the town is considering giving the legislature a bill for spending needs or demand a change in the financial town meeting's date.

TCC member Joe Souza just asked the town council to request that Loughlin introduce a bill to end binding arbitration for police and fire. Souza: "We've heard the town council complain that they have no control over the budget."

8:13 p.m.

Town Administrator Jim Goncalo informed the council that the governor has offered to reinstate some of the state financial aid to the town... but only if he can use stimulus money for the general fund.

This issue seemed to be raised mainly to offer another opportunity for councilors to mention postponing the financial town meeting.

8:34 p.m.

The town recreation committee is requesting permission to put up outfield banner ads for the Little League fields in order to fund capital projects. They're estimating that 20 banners will generate $20,000-$25,000 per year. The committee sees the practice as the norm.

Louise Durfee is objecting that allowing advertising puts the town on slippery slope as other leagues come forward for similar treatment. "We've kept our recreation areas free of commercialism." Council President Don Bollin is getting pretty fired up about the visibility of the signage.

Hey, here's an idea: Let's raise taxes! It's almost the same thing, only the people paying the money get no advertisements in return.

8:45 p.m.

Lambert suggested trying one field for a year. Councilor Ed Roderick is partial to the slippery slope argument.

9:00 p.m.

Durfee moved to reject the proposal. Lambert amended to make it a one-year, one-field experiment, but received no second. All but Lambert voted to reject the proposal to place green signs with yellow letters (lettering only visible within the field) in order to build a new concession stand that isn't rodent-infested.

Have I mentioned that the town recently approved raises for AFSCME employees? Maybe we should make them wear advertising buttons on their shirts.

If I had time, I'd prove a point by standing near the outfield fence with a handheld sign for one of the organizations with which I'm involved and see if the police come after me.

9:22 p.m.

Jay Lambert and Ed Roderick are about to move to postpone the financial town meeting to allow for more information to be available.

9:24 p.m.

Actually... Lambert's making the point that all estimates are for tax increases below the 3050 cap even with the state aid listed as zero dollars. Consequently, he's proposing to go ahead with FTM as scheduled, where town officials would lay out what will happen with any state money: half to the reserve fund and half to tax relief for the town. "A lot of people may not trust us on a continuance."

9:29 p.m.

Durfee wants to recess a meeting to "level the playing field." At the latter point, we'll have facts that we don't currently have, on which list she includes labor agreements. She argues that the low tax increase currently on the table provides for no increases for any employees. Regarding negotiations: "Changes we want in contracts, we may need to give a little to get it."

They (i.e., Durfee and her backers) just want to give more away to the unions than they should, and they don't want the citizens to feel that they have any say in the budget.

9:38 p.m.

The solicitor (not Teitz) is suggesting that the General Assembly may lack the authority to permit the town to change the date of the FTM.

Durfee interrupted to argue "that doesn't ring accurately with me."

9:41 p.m.

Councilor Cecil Leonard just noted another instance of numbers games in the low, low budget: Revenue projections that are dramatically higher than history, such as a jump in mooring fees from $3,500 to $45,000.

He's also arguing that postponing the FTM will result in unrest. He cited the 58% of people who rejected the proposal to let the town council decide the budget.

9:44 p.m.

Chris Cotta took his regular turn at the microphone to suggest that nobody's trying to fool the taxpayers; they're just trying to have accurate information for the taxpayers. I'd suggest that the only information that they want to feed the taxpayers is how much they have to pay for signed union contracts.

9:51 p.m.

Durfee moved to proceed in seeking legislation that would postpone the FTM until Saturday, September 12, pending a legal decision that it is legal to do so. Just curios: when do our seasonal retirees leave town?

If this passes, I think my summer may be devoted to campaigning to cut a double-digit percentage from the budget.

9:59 p.m.

The council voted to have a special meeting next Monday, at which time, the solicitor will have an opinion, and they'll take the vote on postponement then.

March 22, 2009

RISC Winter Meeting: Governor Don Carcieri on Budgets, Benefits, and the Future

Justin Katz

Governor Don Carcieri was the final speaker at the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition's Winter Meeting (stream entire speech):

  • RISC Chairman Harry Staley's introduction: stream, download
  • Opening remarks — coverage of the budget proposal has been "incomprehensible"; "politics is a contact sport"; "I am mad as hell": stream, download
  • The need for RISC and citizen action — American Revolution began with just a few taxpayers who had had enough: stream, download
  • The problem — "We have gotten ourselves into a position over decades"; Look around the country and see all the states that have grown and prospered over the last decade: they are all the low-tax, right-to-work states, where businesses are happy to go there": stream, download
  • On state employees — "I don't blame them. If you can get it and your employer is dumb enough to give it to you": stream, download
  • Riling up — "I'm tired of just talking around the edges"; "The reason we are where we are with spending and these benefits are out of control is you've got special interests — number 1, unions — state employees unions that are controlling this"; "They've been masterful, and are getting more masterful every day, and you're seeing it happen right now at the national level.": stream, download
  • Countervailing force needed — "In playing the game, that means there's got to be a countervailing force."; "What I'm talking about is a party system that is essentially a monopoly... They just do what the leadership wants done, and the interest groups that are up there every single day.": stream, download
  • Wall Street Journal editorial about taxation in Illinois — "Everything I say here, think 'Rhode Island.'": stream, download
  • We are improving — "This doesn't happen over night."; after pension change, over 1,200 people left, so state employment is at its lowest point since they've been counting: "It isn't any surprise why your property taxes are constantly under pressure, because most of the money that the towns and cities and states spend is for people.": stream, download
  • On being competitive — "We've got to be competitive from a tax standpoint as a state... News bulletin! News bulletin out there: The government does not create jobs."; "The government's job is to create the environment where the private sector creates jobs, employs people, makes higher wages, and grows the wealth of the community.": stream, download
  • We need to lower taxes across the board, not just one-off deals — "The beauty about reducing and eliminating our corporate income taxes is that everybody's in the same boat.": stream, download
  • Must move now — "We are at such an axis point, right now. This is it. This year, either we're going to do the things that we need to position this state to really prosper and to be able to sustain what it is we're doing, or we're not... It's not a foregone conclusion.": stream, download
  • Need to change our municipal operations, such as consolidating services on Aquidneck Island: stream, download
  • On the budget and stimulus — "There's a lot of confusion about what we're doing in this budget, what we're trying to accomplish."; "From my standpoint, there's three philosophical issues related to the so-called stimulus. ... A chunk of this stimulus money was... to help the states bridge [the revenue fall-off]. ... The hard choices are still there; they're not going away just because of this money."; "The second principle in this was, there's a lot of people out of work... so it was trying to help them."; "Third principle: Create jobs, but the only part of this whole package that's going to create jobs tangibly is the highway and bridge funding."; "I'm trying to get tax reform into place now because it's the only thing that's going to be our salvation going forward.": stream, download
  • On motivation and legacy — "I want to make sure that I'm leaving this state in a position that it's going to prosper; that's all I care about... change decades of bad behavior and bad habits."; "There's no other agenda. I'm not running for anything.": stream, download
  • Closing remarks — "You are the only hope. It's true. Don't look scared."; example: killing the Economic Death and Dismemberment Act last year; "We can do this, here. We're right on the cusp.": stream, download

March 21, 2009

RISC Winter Meeting: EPTA's William Murphy Encourages Engaged Citizens

Justin Katz

The second speech at the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition's Winter Meeting came from the East Providence Taxpayers Association's William Murphy, who focused on local-level movement building (stream entire speech):

  • RISC Chairman Harry Staley's introduction: stream, download
  • Murphy's opening remarks: stream, download
  • We must focus on our effectiveness as citizens: stream, download
  • Step 1 is to formulate our goals clearly: stream, download
  • Step 2 is to "offer the average citizen opportunity to constructdively participate," because "citizens have abandoned the public square": stream, download
  • The reform movement needs to strengthen local taxpayer groups — "we are learning in East Providence that shining the light on the process makes a difference": stream, download
  • Describing the situation in East Providence and suggesting that the solution lies elsewhere than on taxpayers' backs, but that taxpayers must be more involved: stream, download
  • Closing remarks: stream, download

RISC Winter Meeting: Gary Sasse Talks Taxes

Justin Katz

Giving the first speech at the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition's Winter Meeting, Gary Sasse, Governor Carcieri's Director of the Department of Administration, spoke about tax policy (stream entire speech):

  • RISC Chairman Harry Staley's introduction: stream, download
  • Sasse's opening remarks — we compete for capital and labor, and tax policy affects our success: stream, download
  • The reason for a Tax Policy Workgroup was our lack of competitiveness — we were "taking money out of the private sector and putting it in the public sector in a very uncompetitive way": stream, download
  • The need for reform to prepare for the end of the recession: stream, download
  • The tax reform in the governor's current budget — increase exemption of estate tax, phase out and eliminate the corporate tax ("That is the perception change we need. That is a bold step."), decrease personal income taxes ("Every income group, up to a half million dollars, pays lower average income taxes under the proposed system."): stream, download
  • Closing remarks: stream, download

A Winter Meeting in Spring

Justin Katz

What better way to spend the first Saturday of spring than listening to political speehes at the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition's Winter Meeting?

RISC Chairman Harry Staley is currently making opening remarks. Frank Caprio has been walking the room. Ed O'Neil is here. And the governor just walked in with his entourage.

9:42 a.m.

I've been battling unexpected technical difficulties. Gary Sasse explained some necessary tax changes. (I'll have audio up later.)

East Providence Taxpayer Association's Bill Murphy is now talking about the need for citizen activism, making arguments that would be very familiar to Anchor Rising readers and has progressed to describe circumstances in his native East Providence.

10:05 a.m.

Next up is Treasurer Frank Caprio:

As it happens, Mr. Caprio was Harvard classmates with the previous speaker. Every now and then a carpenter is reminded how connected others are.

By the way, Mr. Caprio pointed out, during his opening remarks that Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian snuck in behind me.

10:11 a.m.

Caprio is giving a brief history of state pensions. The tale begins in the 1930s and winds through decades of General Assembly failure to adjust... in the right direction.

"When groups say that they're being unfairly attacked... the issue is that the equation has been changed to make it much better for one side." (slight paraphrase)

10:16 a.m.

Mr. Caprio is describing that we're 10 years into a 30 year plan to balance our pensions, but he's not really expressing a plan. His message is more that the legislature is currently working on it. "We're trying to be fair," etc.

Incidentally, I see that Rep. John Loughlin has entered the room and is standing next to Avedisian. Oddly, to his left. (I kid... not about the positioning, just its import.)

10:24 a.m.

Now it's the governor:

His first point was to suggest that coverage of the budget hasn't been reliable: "The only thing incoherent about the budget is the people who are writing about it."

Next he mentioned some of the former Ivy League athletes in the room, the point being that we're in the midst of a contact sport, and he's "mad as hell."

10:27 a.m.

"We are hanging in the balance." I haven't heard the governor speak all that many time, but he's certainly more fired up than what I've perceived to be his norm.

10:30 a.m.

The states that are in the best position, right now, are all the low-tax, right-to-work states. Regarding lavish public-sector union benefits, Carcieri doesn't blame the state workers: "If you can get it, and your employer's dumb enough to give it to you..."

10:34 a.m.

"I've been in this six years; I'm tired of talking around the edges." The reason that we're in this mess is the special interests that control the legislature.

The interests are "masterful" and they're getting better and better. You can see it at the national level. Point being that we the citizens have to begin making the same moves: running candidates against elected representatives who go the wrong way, organizing, and so on.

10:36 a.m.

Legislators can't move around the State House without being "descended upon by people who want something." We need "a countervailing force."

10:39 a.m.

Carcieri just read an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal about Illinois that might as well be describing Rhode Island.

10:44 a.m.

Addressing the media directly: "News bulletin! News bulletin: The government does not create jobs."

Rather than giving tax breaks to incoming companies, the governor would like to reduce or eliminate corporate income taxes.

"This is it. This year, either we're going to do the things that will enable this state, or we're not... It's not a foregone conclusion, by the way."

10:49 a.m.

When Carcieri taught at Rogers High School in 1965, it was the only high school on the island, and Jamestown kids took the ferry over. "There ought to be one school system [on Acquidneck Island], one police department, on fire department on the island."

10:55 a.m.

Closing with three "philosophical principles related to the stimulus package:

  • Hard choices are not going away because of stimulus.
  • Unemployment is high, and we need to help them and to create jobs. "The only part of this package that is going to create jobs is the highway and bridge component." The governor specifically mentioned
  • Use this money as a bridge extending beyond the date when the federal money dries up, specifically by leveraging it to enact tax reform.

10:59 a.m.

"I want to see the state do well; I got no other agenda. I'm not running for anything."

11:01 a.m.

Governor Carcieri framed his speech with a comparison with the American Revolution. It doesn't take many people to get things moving, and we can turn the state around.

11:03 a.m.

Now a Q&A session with all of the speakers. First up is a man from Middletown suggesting a reduction of retirement income tax. The governor is making the point that about 20% of the states payments to its retirees go out of state, a third of them to Florida. He's also restating his support for eliminating the income tax.

Another question from the audience is where the noise from the business community is. Carcieri: "Everybody wants to keep their head down, in this state, because they're afraid that if they stick them up, they'll get whacked."

11:28 a.m.

Interesting tidbit. Bob Cushman from Warwick asked whether the governor's proposed mandatory 25% healthcare copays at the municipal level will apply to contracts already in effect (such as the one just passed in Warwick providing for $11 weekly copays). The answer: No.

Keep that in mind taxpayers and municipal negotiators!

March 19, 2009

A Clarification in the Other Direction

Justin Katz

Lest I be misunderstood, perhaps a note's in order stating that I support the Ocean State 38 initiative that Travis Rowley describes. As a political organization, the RIGOP must reinvent itself at the local level and build from there — not just for fundraising, but in order to get to know voters and to identify candidates.

Basically, the RIGOP has to be visible among the various reform groups and amidst the political backlash against Rhode Island's status quo.

It will be critical, however, for the party to present itself as just another group interested in a larger cause than itself. Each local member of the Ocean State 38 should engage with all reform activities, and without the implication that they intend to subsume them. An approach that errs on the side of arm's length assistance, rather than political opportunism, will rebuild the party more quickly. The question to answer is, "How does the party fit within this grassroots movement?"

It most definitely has a place.

Our Movement Needs a Common Focus, Not a Common Label

Justin Katz

In attempting to navigate the difficult waters that separate my employer and the clients on whose property we labor, I've at times been called "The Diplomat." I very often disagree with his decisions and, even more often, his methods, but there's a job to be done, and it requires that responsibility be properly allocated and that everybody's opinions contribute to final decisions without having differences break communication down to static. Everybody's got their own intentions and purposes, and the combination thereof sometimes reaches the brink of utter incompatibility. If I want to get a particular job done and move on with my life, that's not a functional place to remain.

I bring this up in response to the dispute between Travis Rowley and Ken Block, the latter of whose comment appeared earlier today on Anchor Rising.

Right now Rhode Island desperately needs to be shaken — and hard. Movement in any way toward the political and economic right is movement in the correct direction, and we who are doing the pushing will only trip each other up if some of us don't remain explicit about the extent of our cooperation and the limits of our commonalities.

Overstating will be a very easy thing to do, and emotions are going to be running high throughout the involved class of Rhode Island. We need circumspection and, yes, occasional internal diplomacy.

Ken Block: "Moderate" Is Not Another Word for "Republican"

Engaged Citizen

Travis Rowley, Chairman of the Rhode Island Young Republicans, in a recent posting discussing the Ocean State 38 on the Ocean State Republican blog, purposely and inaccurately attempts to link the Moderate Party of Rhode Island to efforts to rehabilitate the RI GOP.

In his post, Travis attempts to show that the RI GOP has lots of grassroots support due to the existence of "right-of-center" advocacy groups.

I also believe in the individuals taking up our cause—the people within and supportive of the RIGOP. The RIGOP is buttressed by a local conservative uprising. Evidence of this is the recent explosion of right-of-center advocacy groups. Each in their own way, these organizations and their members serve as crucial components to Rhode Island's Republican reform effort. Included in this list are:

The Rhode Island Statewide Coalition — RISC
The Rhode Island Republican Assembly — RIRA
The Ocean State Policy Research Institute — OSPRI
Anchor Rising — www.anchorrising.com
The Moderate Party
Operation Clean Government
Transform Rhode Island
Rhode Island Young Republicans
Rhode Island College Republicans
The Republican Jewish Coalition
Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement — RIILE

Speaking for the Moderate Party of RI, I can attest that Mr. Rowley made no attempt to contact us and ask if in fact our group was in some way endorsing or participating in some manner in the reform of the RI GOP. For the record, we are not.

While it is a safe assumption that any group with the word Republican as part of its name will be an active supporter of the state GOP, it is a monumental and irresponsible stretch to make that same leap with at least some of the other organizations listed above.

Hijacking the support of non-affiliated organizations is hardly the way to burnish, re-brand or rebuild the image of the RI GOP.

Ken Block is the chairman of the Moderate Party of RI.

January 24, 2009

Comments from the Chair

Justin Katz

Or maybe it was a bar stool; I couldn't see. Most of the talking at Thursday night's Young Republicans event was of a mingling sort among the 60–80 people in the room, so I didn't record it, but Travis Rowley and RIGOP Chairman Gio Cicione did offer more public comments:

I'd like to note, for the record, that mine is not the voice of the "woohoo" that one hears just after Travis mentions me.

The setting made it particularly appropriate, but Gio made a point that applies much more broadly than just to young Republicans:

When I got reengaged in the party about three years ago, it was through the Young Republicans and through somebody like Travis taking the reins and starting to do good things with this group, and two years after I got reengaged, I was the chair of the party. That's not necessarily a good sign for a party, but it's a good sign for the people in this group, because there is a lot of opportunity for people who are willing to put in the time.

Gio's is a common experience, in this state, from local taxpayer groups on up. Owing to dire need, willingness to engage and a bit of native intelligence can bring a person rapidly to positions in which it is actually possible to make a significant difference.

January 22, 2009

Out on the Town with Republicans

Justin Katz


Well, the country boy made it to the city. Eventually, I broke down and paid $5 to park (next door, by the way). The room at McFadden's is pretty full, but there's still room if you can get here.

So far, I've bumped into Gio Ciccione, Mark Zaccaria, Jon Scott, Dave Talan, Bob Watson, OSPRI'S Brian Bishop, a few familiars from RIRA (Ray McKay, Will Ricci), and of course, RIILE' Terry Gorman, host Travis Rowley. (Oh, and some guy named Andrew Morse.)

A lot of very young-looking folks (guess I'm officially n my thirties). And oddly, I'm the only person using a bluetooth keyboard and cell phone to post to the Internet. The decline of the state of Rhode Island!

January 20, 2009

Who Said Republicans Aren't Fun?

Justin Katz

As we old folks get our act together, on the political scene, we should ensure that there's a continuity stretching down to our younger right-of-center compatriots. So, if you can put down that new book about Reagan and Buckley for a couple of hours on Thursday night, you might consider joining me here:

Join us at McFadden's, at 52 Pine Street, in Downtown Providence next Thursday night, January 22nd, from 7:30pm to 9:30pm, for our 2009 Kickoff Event.

McFadden's is providing us with free appetizers and drink specials. All we have to do is show up and make fun of Democrats for a couple hours.

January 17, 2009

Taxpayer Group's Message Spun

Justin Katz

The East Providence Taxpayer Association is getting a lot of well deserved press, lately. The dispute in their city is big news, and the EPTA is keeping a consistent and measured message out there. From today's Providence Journal:

Standing in the cold outside East Providence High School yesterday, a lone spokesman for the East Providence Taxpayer Association said public school teachers are being misinformed by their union in their ongoing dispute with the School Committee.

"We are pleading with our teachers not to let an out-of-touch leadership lead them off a cliff that perhaps will result in layoffs, missed payrolls or even the closing of the school system," William Murphy said. "Solidarity is little consolation at the bottom of the abyss."

In a statement, the association said one misconception is that the teachers were "attacked and victimized" by the School Committee when it decided earlier this month to reduce the teachers' salaries by nearly 5 percent and force the educators to pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs. The taxpayers group said the changes were "in no way motivated by the ill will toward teachers."

Of course, it's worth a moment's note that the Projo's headline for the report amounts to spin: "Taxpayer group says teachers misinformed." The group's tempered plea thus becomes an insult. Yesterday's Projo headline was "Taxpayer group criticizes teachers." Funny how the passive voice comes and goes. It would not have been grammatically unusual for the paper to have gone with "Teachers' Behavior Criticized."

The phrasing is a matter of interest within the belly of Alisha Pina's Friday report, as well:

The audience erupted in cheers when union President Valarie Lawson told the committee it should accept a recent arbitrator's recommendation for a new contract, which included a wage freeze this year and teachers' contributions to health care that would increase to 15 percent — 5 percent this year and 10 percent next year — within three years. She said the teachers were willing and simply want to get back to the business of teaching.

The rest of the meeting was dominated by boos and outbursts, most of which were directed at School Committee Chairman Anthony A. Carcieri.

Note that it was the entire audience — not the teachers and their unionist allies — who applauded the union president and that the union supporters are taken entirely out of the sentence about "boos and outbursts." Teachers of English and writing take note: These are some illustrative examples of bias's insertion into ostensibly neutral reportage.

December 29, 2008

Which Side Their Bacon's Buttered On

Justin Katz

I've been meaning to make sure y'all are aware of a newly available resource for transparency in state government:

For the first time, the commission has posted online the latest financial disclosure statement filed by each of the state's general officers - the governor, lieutenant governor, state treasurer, secretary of state and attorney general - and every current state legislator.

The filings can be found under the heading "financial disclosure'' on the Ethics Commission's web page: http://www.ethics.ri.gov/disclosure/

Our judiciary can declare legislators' votes to be sacrosanct, but if voters have the right information — and someday manage to gather the will to deny lawmakers' political checkmate — they can punish the appearance of impropriety.

December 14, 2008

"A Fussy and Difficult Student"

Justin Katz

There's a familiar face on the front page of the Providence Journal today:

From the beginning, the relationship between William Felkner and the Rhode Island College School of Social Work has sounded like the screech of chalk on a blackboard. ...

Felkner has filed a lawsuit against Rhode Island College that revives arguments from conservatives who have assailed the NASW code of ethics, the profession of social work and the structure of academic programs in schools of social work across the country.

The article reminds readers of a quotation from one social work professor in Felkner's past who succinctly illustrated the attitude that can fester when a group is ideologically cloistered, standing as timely evidence of the need for intellectual diversity and of the opportunity for citizen media, such as blogs, to have an effect by shedding light even in small dark pits:

[Felkner's] complaint about the film prompted an e-mail from his professor, former adjunct faculty member James Ryczek. "Social work is a value-based profession that clearly articulates a socio-political ideology about how the world works and how the world should be," Ryczek wrote.

While Ryczek said he wanted to promote an open debate in class, he acknowledged his own liberal leanings.

"I revel in my biases," Ryczek wrote. "So I think anyone who consistently holds antithetical views to those that are espoused by the profession might ask themselves whether social work is the profession for them."

One problem that arises from this particular mentality is that it creates a system whereby public funds are used toward the education of people subsequently tasked with pressuring the public for further funding by a caste of secular sacerdotalists who dictate the methods and means for which acolytes must advocate. Along those lines, note this paragraph, as well:

The School of Social Work and its advocacy arm, the Poverty Institute, favored an "education first" approach to welfare, arguing that training helps recipients land higher-paying jobs in the long run.

A peculiar and tricky business this balancing of "arms," as one can begin to see (for example) in one California union's stewardship of a charitable appendage:

A nonprofit organization founded by California's largest union local reported spending nothing on its charitable purpose -- to develop housing for low-income workers -- during at least two of the four years it has been operating, federal records show. ...

The primary mission of the charity -- the Long Term Care Housing Corp. -- is to provide affordable homes for the local's members, most of whom earn about $9 an hour caring for the elderly and infirm. But SEIU officials declined to discuss the charity, saying it is a separate legal entity from the union, even though its board is dominated by officials from the local. The charity is located at the local's headquarters.

In some respects, it's surprising that Bill was able to infiltrate our local cell of poverty advocates as deeply as he did.

December 11, 2008

William Felkner: Not All the Answers, Just a Few Things That Worked

Engaged Citizen

According to Rasmussen, when given a choice between a government that provides fewer services and sets lower taxes and one that demands higher taxes but offers more services, Americans choose smaller government by a 59% to 28% margin. So, if these views are in the majority, why is it that our elected representatives do the opposite?

Maybe the answer lies in how we communicate with them.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in a large meeting room with individuals from other state think tanks, advocacy organizations, state parties, and the different branches of our government. As the nation slips into an economic abyss, or becomes more RI-like, people there were asking the same question we do here at home: "How do taxpayers communicate their wants with policy makers more effectively?"

Like most meetings, it was 90% complaining and campaigning, but I did find a few examples around the country that showed success.

The first order of business is to establish an infrastructure of advocacy. I used to call it the Poverty Institute–One RI–Working RI model. Then I found the good people at the Sam Adams Alliance working on a similar program, but on steroids, called the Six Capacities. This model suggests having the following tasks performed:

  • New Media Capacity — Blogs and other online venues can refute and direct the 6:00 news (think Drudge Report and Monica Lewinsky).
  • Political capacity — Taxpayer groups are the political muscle to rally, lobby, and influence policy makers at all levels.
  • Legal capacity — He who wins the case, influences policy. We have long been losing in this category.
  • Intellectual capacity — Create empirical evidence that is timely and made for general consumption.
  • Investigative capacity — Lets face it, newspapers and TV don't have the resources or, sometimes, the will. We can perform this function and let them report it.
  • Leadership training capacity — Like anything else, a political party needs to develop the majority of its team through a farm system.

In a perfect world, our side would be funded in parity with union dues and tax (or litigation) funded advocacy, but it's not. That being said, we do have each of these functions covered, at least in part. Once the infrastructure is in place, we need tactics and strategies. I heard a ton of these over the week, but two struck me as consistently successful.

I heard from more than one state that voters want assurances of candidates' intent on issues they cared about, which is provided by a simple and straightforward process. First, review the Democrat and Republican Party platforms for those items in which they are diametrically opposed. Second, review the poll numbers on each of those issues and find the ones with the most voter support. Third, have each candidate sign a "Pledge to the Taxpayer" that those issues will be supported.

Each and every area that implemented this system had success.

The next idea having the most success provides a more direct path to changing the law, especially relevant to states like Rhode Island that do not have voter initiative. This strategy has been mentioned on this blog before: initiate change via referenda at the municipal level.

The General Assembly does have authority over municipal decisions on some issues (education and costal development come to mind), but that doesn't mean they have to intervene or that they would if the will of the people were squarely opposed. Besides, there are lots of things the General Assembly might not be able to stop (such as tax caps). So rather than fighting the special interest groups at the State House, champion reform in your own back yard.

For relatively little money, a grassroots effort at the municipal level can be a very effective strategy. One example given involved referenda at three different towns. The local teachers' union spent money at a ratio of 30:1 more than our side, but they only defeated two out of the three.

If we are correct that our views on issues like school choice, tax caps, and transparent governance are universally supported then local referenda can be our voice.

Those are the basics of what I learned on my field trip. Specific issues relevant to specific areas will require unique tactics, but it's the job of the six capacities to figure them out. It may sound as if it is out of reach in far-gone Rhode Island, but Justin showed in a piece on the statewide battlefield, we already have most of the infrastructure, and many of you are already doing your bit (this blog front and center). We just need a little more collaboration and a little (lot) more funding.

Bill Felkner, executive director of Ocean State Policy Research Institute writes this letter as an angry taxpayer and not in a professional capacity.

November 24, 2008

Where Transformation Fits

Justin Katz

As I admitted this morning, I haven't been entirely sure where TransformRI fits into a complementary strategy for the advancement of reform in Rhode Island. Looking at the group's Web site, my impression is that, beyond reinforcing grassroots efforts, the group's role should be to liaise between the Republican Party and the various groups that advisably remain independent.

Apart from collecting the Governor's radio appearances the Web site summarizes some of the bigger issues in the state and directs visitors to opportunities for action.

The challenge will be to preserve the mutual support, even when the imperative of independence causes rifts on one matter or another.

Pulling Together the Change Agents

Justin Katz

If the statewide election results accomplished anything, this year, it was to up the ante for pessimism in Rhode Island. Whereas we used to ask each other how bad things would have to get, here, before voters would begin to wake up, it is beginning to seem more realistic to ask whether the state can save itself at all.

The partisan Democrats are busily constructing distractions to deflect the blame that obviously falls at their feet. The ideologically driven liberals have not relented in their push for progress toward oblivion and, indeed, have inhaled some pure oxygen with Obama's success. Economic recession, even depression, will shore up the poverty advocates' ammunition and expand the base of struggling families who are susceptible to their message. And public union members have, if anything, been sending a message that they want to compromise even less than their leaders.

Meanwhile, the exodus of productive taxpayers continues apace. In fact, I'll be so bold as to predict that the stream will become a flood unless Rhode Island manages to beat the rest of the nation out of recession — an unlikely scenario bordering on impossibility. For many residents who might be inclined to reorder the state, saying "uncle" won't entail resignation to changing our government, but to changing zip codes. Indeed, I can testify from my own experience that construction industry realities and disconcerting noises from my employer leave me little choice but to begin preparing an escape route.

In other words, time is short to rally those who would change Rhode Island for the better and to concentrate their talents for maximum effect. We have to push aside egos, spread around resources, and work together in designing structure:

  • The Rhode Island GOP: The official state opposition party has to lower its profile for a while. Its role should retrench to support of grassroots operations and maintenance of a channel to the national party structure. Step away from the stove for a bit and let the boil stir the broth; perhaps it's to the best if some detritus burns to the bottom of the pot.
  • Local "CC" Groups: Town-level taxpayer organizations, such as those in Tiverton, Portsmouth, East Providence, Lincoln, and Little Compton, need to arise in every town and concentrate on changing the habits and processes of government at the municipal level. Their focus should be on identifying citizens who might require only a little push to become active and to give residents a sense that they can make a difference if they would just engage. In this way, they may be able to give hope and a reason to stay to those Rhode Islanders whom we can't afford to lose, while building up a base of informed citizens with whom to populate town and state government.
  • Rhode Island Statewide Coalition: While the local groups form and get up to speed, RISC should focus on building an infrastructure to link them together and identify areas of common cause. As the "CC" groups develop their understanding of municipal government, they'll begin to identify the areas in which state law hinders their advancement. They'll also run right into entrenched organizations, such as the teachers unions, that act statewide. RISC can facilitate the initiation of CCs, whether financially or by connecting interested organizers with the leaders of successful groups in other towns, aggregate the intelligence about state-level obstacles, and prepare channels by which town groups can expand to statewide office and action.
  • Ocean State Policy Research Institute: As an organic network grows from town to town, there is clearly a role for a think-tank-style organization to research the statewide playing field and to develop policy suggestions that answer the CC groups' findings as well as broader problems that the state faces. While it will be important for OSPRI to remain organizationally independent from direct political interests, it will be critical for it and RISC to work together as complementary state-level organizations — in particular to avoid duplicated efforts.
  • TransformRI: To be honest, I haven't developed a sufficient sense of TransformRI's goals to place it within this proposed structure, but there are certainly gaps remaining that it may readily fill. Again, the key will be for the organization to work with the others, not duplicating their efforts.

Any successful network requires the involvement of "people groups," with the goal of furthering principles that they support:

  • Rhode Island Republican Assembly: RIRA's Web site quotes Ronald Reagan as characterizing the California Republican Assembly as "the conscience of the Republican Party," and RIRA's role should be to populate the reform structure in Rhode Island with an eye toward maintaining principles that ought not be diluted.
  • Moderate Party of Rhode Island: That said, there remain plenty of Rhode Islanders who recognize the pending calamity in their state and have a sound understanding of the steps necessary to avoid the worst of it. For that reason, it will remain important for dyed-in-the-wool conservatives and Republicans to work alongside self-identifying moderates. Compromises will have to go both ways, of course, such that nobody walks away from the table based on tangential or wholly irrelevant differences of opinion or aesthetic preferences. Toward that end distinct party labels are probably advisable, but cross-endorsements, so to speak, ought to be encouraged.
  • College Republican Federation of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Young Republicans: Similarly to RIRA, groups for young Republicans in the state should be brought into the fold, not only to cull active participants, but to involve a different voice and perspective.

Where Anchor Rising Fits into the Scheme.

Having observed the results of such a project, the contributors of Anchor Rising have no intention of becoming a propaganda organ for partisan activism, but when the lines are so clear and the needs so broad as in RI, there is no conflict between independence and cooperation. Our unique platform and established voice put us in an advantageous position to fill in gaps between and connect the various groups described above, primarily for the ends of communications and messaging:

  • The contributors are universally interested in researching and analyzing Rhode Island's problems, making it a natural inclination to take the findings of others — whether OSPRI's research or the CC groups' experience — and fit them into the narrative of the state. In that way, we would connect the various dots and help to make the case for suggested changes.
  • Blogs are also an excellent route by which to bring exposure to stories and events that might fall through the cracks of mainstream media attention. Not only could we keep distant members of the statewide network informed, but we could provide a stepping stone from which to hand stories to larger media organizations, feeding the news upward, so to speak.
  • As a setting for public discussion — not only in the comments, but also through our Engaged Citizen feature — we provide an online forum for continual principle and message development. To keep reformers focused and united will require a mechanism for sharing experience and working out differences (or agreeing to disagree), and an independent Web site allows that discussion to occur.

What I'm proposing, from our end, begins with a request: If you help us to generate enough revenue initially to fund a single full-time position for the site administrator (ahem), we can become a substantial force enabling the construction of a statewide opposition movement. We could expand our coverage of relevant events and develop our understanding of the players and playing field. I'd also take it as a goal to seek out and encourage Rhode Islanders who display an interest in getting involved, particularly with respect to public debate. I've got a list of specific initiatives on which I'd embark from day-one as a professional blogger (for lack of a better term), but I won't burden you with them, here; even presented vaguely, the value proposition is crystal clear.

For the time being, it is our intention to remain non-non-profit, so as to ensure both independence and privacy, but we'd be open to working with anybody who's interested in helping, whether via donations, advertising, or some other mutually beneficial arrangement.

Considering what we've accomplished as a group of part-time hobbyists, I'm confident that, if we can fund a single year of increased involvement, we could get Anchor Rising standing on its own feet, perhaps even chasing down Rhode Island's problems at a run within a year.

Please contact me with any leads or suggestions:

Justin Katz
(401) 835-7156
P.O. Box 751
Portsmouth, RI 02871

November 10, 2008

Doing Something

Justin Katz

Paul at Powerline suggests some actions that rightward Americans can take in order to rebound from the election. This one is particularly significant here in Rhode Island:

Support fledgling conservative institutions. The left has "marched through our institutions" - including the MSM, Hollywood, the public schools, academia, and even large swaths of corporate America. Conservatives need to respond by developing alternative sources of information, entertainment, and education. These alternatives won't succeed unless we support them.

If statewide elections illustrated anything, here, it's that Rhode Islanders don't feel that they've a viable alternative to the Democrats. The remedies are to (1) develop a compelling and palatable choice and (2) persuade our fellow residents that alternative policies will work. Toward those ends, a number of groups have sprung up around the state, but they operate largely on a volunteer basis, so they can only take their efforts so far.

We at Anchor Rising, for example, continue to see the growth of our readership and influence, but we're coming up against a wall of time that prevents our doing much more. You might be surprised at how little financial backing it would take to bring Anchor Rising out of the "hobby" category, and I'm confident that the blooming of our content and activities would impress under those circumstances.

Unfortunately, the reality is that small donations — as helpful and encouraging as they are — have thus far proven not enough to change the nature of the Web site. If anybody is interested and able to help us move forward, please contact me by email (jkatz@timshelarts.com) or phone (401-835-7156).

October 30, 2008

Getting the Message Out

Justin Katz

I just passed a woman standing at the corner of Union and West Main in Portsmouth holding a home-made sign reading:

Try the REPUBLICANS for Change

Now, I don't know if she intended just to buck the national mantra or if she's referring to state and municipal elections, to which her message is more clearly applicable. But I love the idea that she had a thought and set about conveying it to hundreds of people, with no apparent direct personal benefit.

March 24, 2008

Stopping the Tides

Justin Katz

When it so happens that the powers that be seem intent on acting in opposition to crystal clear reality, citizens are compelled to act. In Rhode Island, there's hope — or, in any case, we've hope — that plain information will serve to stop the tides, because it is in the universal self-interest to do so.

You've heard the argument: Our state's regime of taxation, regulation, and spending is driving away the range of citizens who are most likely to be productive, both as workers and as entrepreneurs, while attracting those most apt to partake of our too-generous services. As the taxation policies installed to compensate for the lack of further windfalls inspire the outward flow to continue, the government's shortfall with each budget will expand, rather than contract. How far down the path of economic stagnation do we want to go?

Under the principle that the impossibility of taking strides does not grant us permission to stand still, we've put together a flyer of sorts that seeks to convey one component of the vast body of evidence. We encourage you to print out copies to do with as you deem productive. Put them on public bulletin boards. Hand them out. Send them to media types and legislators. And if the effort meets any success, we'll proceed down the list of points until we've persuaded enough people to make it possible for Rhode Island to avoid utter (and utterly unnecessary) calamity.

December 22, 2007

The Counterprotest Must Go On

Justin Katz

By the way, I would be shirking my agitator's duty if I didn't highlight some folks who managed to get out to Fall River and counterprotest the picket that didn't happen:

But even though a judge had said such picketing would be legal, the union didn't show up. Instead, two Portsmouth residents stood outside the hospital on Middle Avenue to picket the teachers' union. Forest Golden and Joe Robicheau held up signs in front of the main entrance to the hospital that read, "Tiverton School Committee: Taxpayer Heroes" and "NEA: Professional Bullies."

"We're here to picket the picketers," Mr. Golden said. "We support the School Committee. I applaud them for holding the line on spending."

Town Council members Joanne M. Arruda and Jay Edwards also turned up at St. Anne's Hospital to support Ms. deMedeiros.

Right on.

August 7, 2007

Protest Against Stephen Tocco

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Rhode Island Republican Assembly forwards this notice about a demonstration being held in Smithfield tonight...

There will be a resignation rally on Tuesday 8/7/2007 at 7:00pm @ Smithfield Town Hall (64 Farnum Pike, Route 104).

The purpose is to demand that disgraced former Capitol Police Chief Stephen Tocco resign from the Town Council.

Thomas J. Morgan of the Projo has the details on the former police chief's (who is now the town council President) direct involvment with corruption...
[Jeff Neal, spokesman for Governor Donald Carcieri,] declared on June 7 that Tocco had been “temporarily reassigned” while the governor’s office examined the police chief’s role as a facilitator of bribes in municipal corruption cases in the 1980s and 1990s. The issue arose after a reporter uncovered records in the archives of the U.S. District Court that had lain unnoticed for more than a decade...

Tocco, according to the transcript of the trial of Garafano, the former Providence public works director, testified under oath that he had negotiated bribes and carried thousands of dollars in bribes on a number of occasions both to Garafano and to Louis S. Simon, then public works director in Pawtucket during the administration of Mayor Brian J. Sarault. Simon and Sarault pleaded guilty and served jail terms. Garafano was convicted and sentenced to prison.

Tocco committed these acts while he was also an officer of the Capitol Police, he testified.

According to an earlier Thomas Morgan article, however, Smithfield Democrats (including Tocco himself), don't see what all the fuss is about...
Tocco, who also is president of the Smithfield Town Council, said he intended no change in that position.

“Sure, I’ll remain on the council,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I?”....

When Tocco sought election to the Smithfield Council in 2004, he apparently neglected to mention the skeleton in his closet to Larry Mancini, the chairman of the Democratic Town Committee. “It was never disclosed to me in any capacity,” Mancini said last week. “If it was disclosed to me and to those who participate in the candidate-selection process, I think we would have weighed that in the context of a viable candidate.”

Mancini added, however, “Knowing him as a person and having the ability to assess his qualities in my mind would have outweighed the negativity.

After all, if we didn't have people to carry the bribes, how would any business get done in Rhode Island?

July 16, 2007

Introducing the Ocean State Policy Research Institute

Carroll Andrew Morse

In an op-ed in today’s Projo, William Felkner introduces the Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI) and explains why such an organization is desperately needed here in Rhode Island…

Ironically, Rhode Island is stuck in a “conservative” cycle protecting the “liberal” status quo of excessive workplace rules, generous social programs, retentive regulation, entrenched unionism in state government and Horace Mann’s approach to education. Harking to the days of the Dorr War (1842) and the Bloodless Revolution (1935), our oligarchy is unwilling to risk the progress it has made by reassessing these circumstances lest the robber barons should rise from their graves.

A voice for a more independent perspective has been missing on the Rhode Island scene until this Independence Day heralded the founding of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute. This nonprofit foundation intends to promote free-market ideals not as partisan choices, but as foundational American aspirations no less worthy of consideration than socially collective compassion epitomized by the Great Society.

Rhode Island is replete with a collection of “special-interest groups” promoting government intervention as the solution. Such groups as the Poverty Institute, at Rhode Island College, Ocean State Action and other nonprofits and public institutions lobby for more government programs and spending. Paradoxically, your taxes fund part of this activity, effectively government lobbying itself in a spiral to budget insanity…Evidence from the solid accomplishments of free-market institutes in 46 other states suggests that Rhode Island should re-examine the prevailing ‘’wisdom” that expanding government is the way to solve problems.

July 13, 2007

The Wisdom of Bloggers: Doesn’t Balancing a Budget Mean Spending Only As Much as You Take In?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Local Coventry blogger Scott “I am the Duck” Duckworth appears in today's Nicole Wietrak Kent County Times story about last night’s Coventry financial town meeting…

The next issue on the table was the school budget, with resident Dennis Geoffroy making a motion to add $99,999 to the bottom line of $64.4 million.

Resident Scott Duckworth spoke in response to the motion and asked the school committee if the district’s budget had officially been balanced after the state announced its decision to level-fund education aid, which left Coventry $600,000 in the red.

"It is a balanced budget that we put together, which, as we all know now, is $600,000 short of what we requested," said School Committee Chairman Raymond E. Spear (R-Dist. 1).

"But if you don’t have the money for it, then it’s not a balanced budget," retorted Duckworth.

"Well, technically, no," answered Spear, "but we are aware of the place we’re at and we recognize that the budget is going to require cuts of up to a half a million dollars or more."

In the end, 105 residents voted to give the additional money to the school department compared with 144 who opposed the action.

Only technically?

January 29, 2007

The Dim Future for the Term Compassionate Conservatism Shouldn’t Doom its Underlying Idea

Carroll Andrew Morse

Marc's previous post on "civic conservatism" prompts me to give my report on the national-state of another conservative brand, "compassionate conservatism". It's finished as a political label, but it's rooted in better ideas than you might think.

At the NRI Conservative Summit, Professor Marvin Olasky, the individual probably most responsible for bringing the term “compassionate conservative” into mainstream public discourse, expressed disappointment with President Bush’s version of compassionately conservative social welfare policy. His complaint was that President Bush has invoked the term “compassionate conservatism” without implementing the underlying ideas on the scale that is necessary.

According to Professor Olasky, compassionate conservatism should involve a radical simplification (my term) in the way that government delivers social welfare benefits to its citizens. He named two specific examples: a) an expanded child tax-credit and b) vouchers that public aid-recipients could use to seek help from social service providers of their choice -- faith-based providers included. In contrast, President Bush’s big domestic initiatives, like No-Child-Left-Behind and Medicare part-D, have been attempts to reform and expand existing bureaucracies. Dare I say that on the homefront, President Bush has governed more as a “Rockefeller Republican” who believes that big bureaucracy works, if you just find the right set of managers, and not really as a “compassionate conservative” who believes that something is irretrievably lost when personal efforts to help one another are replaced with government regimentation?

Of course, many mainstream conservatives bristle at the suggestion that “compassionate” can ever be a proper qualifier for conservative, wary that the implication that there is something compassion-neutral about conservatism does more perceptual harm than the modifier heals. This unpopularity with conservatives, combined with compassionate conservatism’s association in the mind of the general public with President Bush and his in-the-thirties approval ratings has already settled the taxonomical argument -- “Compassionate Coservatism” as a defining paradigm is not going to catch on. This most emphatically does not mean that the merits of Professor Olasky’s ideas about the role of government in providing social services and individual opportunity should be dismissed.

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…

December 7, 2006

Toward a New Direction in Rhode Island

Justin Katz

Among the qualities that I love about Rhode Island is its size. For some Americans, for example, attending an event across their state requires a plane and a hotel. Rhode Islanders can traverse theirs without even stopping for gas. One can get to know this state; it's manageable.

Of course, its manageability is also its great vulnerability. Entrenched powers, with their short-sighted self-interest, have been managing it right into a hole. So much is this true, it increasingly seems with each passing election that the only reasonable response is to give up on electoral politics. Between Rhode-apathy and the habitual voting practices — most notably those of voting Democrat and of granting the state government permission to grab new money for worthwhile expenditures that ought to have been included in its general spending — it is tempting to dismiss the system as unfixable.

So, many of us have begun to think it necessary to look for ways to work outside of the system, and here the state's size emerges again as a wonderful quality — in terms of both effectiveness and opportunity for experimentation. Many of us have also begun to think that the way in which to implement the conservative approaches that can save this state is through the very conservative principle of community activity, the conservative ethos of open and plain discussion of facts, and the classically liberal application of universal freedoms. To put it into a credo: we must give everybody a forum in which to discuss matters of concern to us all, within the context of plain recitation of stubborn facts and honestly assessed principles, at the most basic levels of society.

One such, newly implemented, experiment is Bill Felkner's Parents' Forum for the Chariho School district. On the index page, the Web site offers links to more information than the average parent will have time or inclination to peruse. Perhaps more importantly, Felkner has set up a message board, in the form of a blog, through which parents can discuss matters of mutual interest. I encourage those to whom the site applies to participate, and those to whom it does not to pursue similar strategies.

The movement to push Rhode Island toward healthier societal construction will by necessity incorporate many roles, and it is crucial that we remember that, especially in this state, local involvement can have far-reaching effects.

January 11, 2006

Getting to Work... by Postponing Work

Justin Katz

It was one thing to do nothing more active than sit in my office, blog, and write columns when I actually managed to make time to write. Lately that hasn't been possible. So, with the thought that "getting to work" in a metaphorical, political, and Anchor-Rising-al sense may now require me to actually leave the house (so as not to slip into working), I've decided to take a morning off and attend this Saturday's East Bay GOP Breakfast.

Whether you're from one of the ten technically included towns or otherwise, I encourage you to attend. Perhaps we can argue about Mayor Laffey's candidacy in the presence of the man himself.

So as to provide me somebody behind whom to hide should things get testy, Andrew will be attending the breakfast, as well.