— Where in Rhode Island... —

October 3, 2011

Checking in from a Seminar

Justin Katz

So, at my employer's insistence, I'm attending the GetMotivated seminar in Providence. Colin Powell is speaking, and he opened by thanking Providence for its involvement in his charity. When he specifically thanked former Mayor David Cicilline, the audience roundly booed... and were softly chastised by the speaker for bringing politics into it.

I have to say, though, that I can't agree that some public involvement in a charity undoes real and palpable damage to the people of a city.

September 8, 2010

The Customer Has to Want It

Justin Katz

I've recently changed construction companies, for my day job, and my new boss is very interested in continuing education. Not surprisingly, given that information, he comes from a business executive background, rather than having progressed along a sort of tradesman-up route to management.

I offer that information by way of explaining why I'm sitting in a tent in the parking lot of JT's Lumber in Middletown watching presentations by carpenter Gary Katz. (No relation, but I saw on the registration list that there's also a Jeff Katz in attendance, meaning that there are three unrelated Katzes in this group of about 30 people. 10%. We're taking over.

The thought that demanded my lunch break to mention on Anchor Rising is that Gary is going over all sorts of "must do" techniques to ensure the longevity of materials and arguing for the purchase of good, long-lasting tools (read: expensive tools). The two points have a related problem: Contractors have to either find the right clients or sell the extra expense for doing work the right way, and even so, they have to compete with others who don't take the necessary steps or say that they do.

Turning to the question of expensive tools, I can sympathize with the penny-pinching clients. I've done just fine with my midrange tools and lack the money to buy tools just because they'd be marginally easier to use or last me into my eighties. Having begun in the high-end of the carpentry trade, I found it difficult to adjust when, for side jobs, I had clients who didn't want to pay for the deluxe treatment, even though I felt like a hack for doing less.

Which brings us back to the conversation in the comment section of my post about employee motivation. Therein, Russ points out that most people aren't motivated by money so much as a desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I've no doubt that true professionals in all fields seek after those rewards, but in a real sense, they have to be purchased. Mastery is wonderful, but one must find the resources to support it, and until they hit a livable income threshold, it's a trade that I wouldn't expect most people to make.

August 23, 2010

The Living and the Dead

Justin Katz

One of the peculiarities that native Rhode Islanders perhaps do not even notice about their state — at least in the East Bay — is the proliferation of historical cemeteries, tucked into suburban and urban corners alike, here and there, such as this unkempt one on Water St., in Portsmouth:

George Carlin used to have a bit in which he suggested that all cemeteries and golf courses be sacrificed in the name of affordable housing. Taking up the economic calamity of such a move would be beyond my purpose, here, and it may be sufficient, anyway, to warn against preventing the intrusion of mortality and heritage into our daily routines.

What might remain of bodies interred some hundred and fifty years ago, I do not know, when even the stone etchings have faded such as to make reading difficult. With the aid of a type-written sheet of paper, sheathed in plastic on the site, however, the visitor can associate some names with the stones, thus parting with an explanation, upon turning back toward East Main Rd., for Child St. (Although, whether George Franklin, Jonathan, Lidia, William Henry, Joseph, or Harriet merited the honorarium is lost to history. Perhaps the honored Child lies beneath one of the faded, illegible stones, or perhaps the entire clan was the namesake.) Erasing the dead from the landscape would be akin to naming every road by its place and purpose, just as Portsmouth has East Main, West Main, joined by Union, with Middle right where one would expect.

In a faded and indistinct way, these daily encounters with our foregoers bring the same lessons that are incidental to Michael Morse's work as an EMT:

A few hours later, I returned to the ER with somebody else, but took the time to visit them. He was lucid now, she smiled as I shook his hand and deflected the genuine thanks he offered, saying the usual "it's my job" things. I don't remember what caused his confusion, his blood work was way out of whack, IV fluids and whatever else they gave him at the hospital worked wonders. He was funny, and kind, and appreciative. So was she. I was happy to have helped them. It was a "good" call.

I saw his picture on the obituary page two days later. He died that night. At least he walked out of the place he raised his family under his own power, and into whatever existence waits.

Two years later, another call brings him to take the she along the same path. Michael recalls her graciousness when he'd attended her husband's wake and how a certain respect had attached to his occupational proximity to the living's passing on to death.

Of course, we're all, every day, dealing with people on their way to the grave, gathering associations and memories, making impressions. Whoever's names the addresses of the living bear, the blocks, the towns, the regions that they inhabit carry the sense of them, even if that sense will pass with us. Let graveyards, then, stand as a reminder that we mark the ground on which we tread no less than the ground in which we lie.

In a recently reprinted column for the Rhode Island Catholic, Bishop Thomas Tobin summarizes a relevant theme in Jesus' teachings:

The first lesson is the reminder of how foolish it is to accumulate and then depend on material possessions. Remember the parable Jesus told about the rich man who built up huge barns to store his bountiful harvest? The complacent man said to himself, "You have so many things stored up for many years; rest, eat, drink and be merry." But God said to him, "You fool, this very night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?" Jesus concludes by teaching that we should try to grow rich "in what matters to God." (Luke 12:16-21) ...

Towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus urged His disciples to be less anxious and more trusting. "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear . . . Your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all . . . Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself." (Mt 6: 25-34)

Though the annunciations of our existences will dissipate with the wind and water, whether written in stone or in the reflections of those with whom we interact, these things are not all. Tomorrow will take care of itself, ultimately, in its material particulars, but the immaterial about today, its dreams and intentions, whether the will is good or ill, represents in us that which will never be buried.

August 2, 2010

A Change of View

Justin Katz

From my boyhood perch at the top of a New Jersey tree, to which I would climb with comic books in hand, I could see over the two-story apartments to New York City, beyond — the skyline punctuated by the twin towers of the World Trade Center. What awe I felt, before turning to my printed cartoons of super heroes, was of the modern works of man. Without the city, I don't suspect I'd have thought much of the view at all.

The perspective of perches along an evening walk in Tiverton is quite different:

Here, it's the awe of nature and the mere knowledge of the existence of mankind that inspires. Across the delta and the low hills of Bristol lies the bulk of the United States of America, whose history is not made up — truly — of discrete events and towering figures, but of individuals striving and building upon the work of those who've come before.

Even decades before September 11, and despite its raw size, NYC somehow emanated a sense of human impermanence. Without protection and maintenance, it will eventually return to nature, humbled, as it were, by the slow, patient working of soil, weather, and more-basic forms of life. The weeds will find their way. "I've seen the lights go out on Broadway," Billy Joel sang in those years, and because we, human beings, make those lights work, our negligence or weakness can make them not work.

The fruits of human life qua human life give a different sense. True, neglect of living and of the habit of passing on life can dim (even extinguish) our own lights, but that is only to be feared in the limited context of ourselves separated from God's creation. The land beyond the horizon will tell our story as part of the grand accomplishment of reality, and if we fix our eyes there, we see the everlasting.

July 26, 2010

Those with Time to Wait

Justin Katz

Money's somehow ever a factor in Rhode Island. Perhaps the tourist-attracting conspicuity of Newport mansions emphasizes the distinction between those with and those without (and the various gradations between). Perhaps the geography and historical, unplanned New England layout of the roads uniquely places working-class neighborhoods so near to the vistas that draw wealth. Perhaps the long life of the local architecture has led wealthy families to break up their land or subdivide their houses for apartments in proximity to others able to keep their estates whole.

Or it could be the discrepancy between those who can afford to tolerate the mess of the state's operations. After all, crumbling infrastructure has a sort of quaintness, and poorly run and business-unfriendly government only imposes a sort of premium, from the perspective of residents with the wealth to absorb the cost. Only those striving to improve their circumstances need suffer from the absence of opportunity.

It must be said, however, that money shapes the community in ways that can't help but be accessible to all. Unique (sometimes overwrought) architecture and the maintenance of the open spaces of bought-up land help to define an area. The specialty shops with crafts and arts that only the wealthy can buy may still be treated as free-entry museums. And then there's the interesting eccentricity that seems more refined among the rich. I think, here, of a statue that the distracted driver might spot on Rhode Island Ave., in Newport, while on the way to work.

Even if life leaves too little time or cash for more overt pastimes, only a slight turn of the head or turn of the wheel will lead to tastes of repose and feasts for the imagination — albeit with the pangs of longing for the time to linger and the observation that she's waiting for someone to come from within, not to pass by, without.

July 20, 2010

The Ground on Which We Stand

Justin Katz

Built on the belly of an exit ramp, as West Main Rd. transitions into Rt. 24, in Portsmouth, its parking area looking like a racetrack pit stop for daily commuters, Patriots Park is likely most often treated with a high speed curiosity about its import and forgotten. Only those headed toward Bristol will find curiosity convenient to answer; those heading toward locations north must take the exit and then weave through the northwestern side of town to reclaim their path. Arguably, that's a worthwhile coda to the visit.

The monument describes the Battle of Rhode Island, August 29, 1778, and the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, consisting mainly of blacks and American Indians, some literally fighting for their freedom. The front side of the wall, facing the road, addresses the collective identity of the Americans; the opposing side provides the historical lesson, and on a summer's afternoon the sun beating on one's back seems deliberately to recall the heat of battle.

Upon speeding back into the race of modern life, it's natural to consider those who once trod the ground beneath the suburban homes along the way and to share the experience of looking across the bay as the soldiers must have done as they marched.

I've lamented, in the past, that Rt. 24 thrusts into view the coal plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, placing the factory and stacks into a vista in which one would prefer some ancient castle, as might be encountered in Europe. Such is modern life, though, that blend of contemporary functionality and history. In Rhode Island, at least, we've much of that history to encounter as we go about our days, if we care to look.

February 26, 2010

Friday Night Follies

Justin Katz

Slightly different atmosphere at the Newspaper Guild Follies, this year — at least for me. I can't walk through this crowd quite so anonymously as last year:

I just had a very pleasant conversation with National Education Association Executive Director Bob Walsh, who told me that he really doesn't have a problem with open negotiations. We'll have to work to make that happen. Interestingly, as soon as I snuck up behind him to introduce myself, his cohort of unionists (including the Parisi guy of Central Falls fame) drifted away.

7:59 p.m.

Here's the inside, as folks filter in, all competing to be more fashionably late.

We're sitting near Linc Chafee, who arrived directly from making Dan Yorke bang his head against the wall.

And David Cicilline schmoozed on by.

Just spotted Bob Kerr, by the way; he looks just like his picture, only taller and more liberal.

8:08 p.m.

I've been chatting with the Rhode Island Republican Assembly member next to me, who has never been to one of these events. Indeed, he had never heard of the Follies. I explained that it's the sort of event that a certain crusty level of the state's society considers important, but that most people don't know exists, much less that it's supposedly important. He rejoined that one would think, even so, that it would be mentioned, after the fact, in the Providence Journal or something, making me wonder whether it's meant to be the Important Folks' night out.

Well, glad to be at the everyman table, engaged in the subversive activity of reporting on the state's newsmakers' night out. Frank Caprio and others have just characterized what I'm doing as "working"; it'd probably be more appropriate to label it "avoiding dealing with my anti-social tendencies."

It just occurred to me, by the way, that I haven't spotted anybody from the Moderate Party. Perhaps they've yet to be informed of the comme il faut.

9:25 p.m.

On the cover of the program this year is former Chief Justice Frank Williams:

I can only imagine that they've withheld most of the juicy lyrics from the program book, but one notable song is "Negativi-tea":

I'm sick and tired of paying tax To feed the faces of government hacks
Pisses me off and drives me crazy...

We plot an overthrow all night
Tea Party every day!
We take the Statehouse down all night
Tea Party every day!
We stick it to Washington all night
Tea Party every day!

No names included.

9:36 p.m.

A way-left activist nun, Sister Ann Keefe won the John Kiffney Public Service Award and has been giving a pretty long speech, with lots of knocks against the Catholic Church, it seems.

It's already getting a little late. Hope they get this thing rolling and that the band drank a lot of coffee tonight.

9:41 p.m.

Only a culture of vanity could make a must-attend event of some borderline karaoke with costumes simply for the reason that people in the audience might hear themselves mocked.

Once again, I'd like to offer thanks to cell-phone Internet connections.

9:48 p.m.

Surprise appearance by Patrick Kennedy for a "top ten real reasons I'm not running"

10 Being closer to Carcieri will make anyone's poll numbers look better
9 Finally run against a Chafee to see who could actually find a real job first
8 Press Secretary job for Marsh... Marsh... Coackley
7 After this much time in Congress, Whitehouse has mastered the foot-in-mouth, and I can move on now
6 NBC was looking for an Irish guy with funny hair to fill the late-night spot
5 Tiger Woods asked me to help him with his long game, to lobby to make viagra was covered in prescription drugs
4 Toyota hired me as a consultant, don't know why, I can't seem to get my car to stop either
3 Bishop Tobin would be a perfect choice for a test driver, because he never knows when to apply the brakes in the first place
2 Training for a rematch with the LA airport security guards
1 Hard to maintain sobriety around a party animal like Jack Reed

Let me say that I'm very happy to be at a small collection of tables that cheers and boos at all the wrong things, given the room.

9:57 p.m.

Abe accuses Chief Williams to the tune of "Creep" by Radiohead.

10:07 p.m.

The tea party song is to the tune of Kiss's "Rock and Roll All Night."

10:10 p.m.

Followed by a "Whitehouse Rag" mocking Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's rant.

10:17 p.m.

Interesting that a song about the governor's race to the tune of "Age of Aquarius" ('the four of us/you're stuck with us") had a change of line. In the program, it says "Laffey's an arch conservative," but in the performed version they changed it to something inaudible about John Robitaille. Tough to write a song about current events in this political environment, I guess.

10:24 p.m.

OK, let me adjust my commentary some. Much of the material has actually been very funny, particularly the stand-up segments. Perhaps it's a taste thing that makes me prefer the jokes that aren't meanly and personally political. A skit about prostitution in the State House was excellent ("some quality time with the best endowed constituents in your district").

10:38 p.m.

So far, the two biggest insultees have been Bishop Tobin (and the Catholic Church) and John DePetro, although the former has been the target of more heart-felt slights and the latter has been a name-dropped poke.

11:08 p.m.

The mystery guest for the evening — a much-hyped reveal every year — is Allan Fung, mayor of Cranston dancing around in karate gear to "Kung Fu Fighting," reworded "Allan Fung Fighting." Rhode Island has become a parody of itself.

Comparing Steve Laffey to Brett Favre: "Steve, just go back to Tennessee, I hear the Titans need a quarterback." Knows his audience, I guess.

January 28, 2010

A Rhode Island Frame of Mind

Justin Katz

Was on my way to dinner in North Attleboro, MA, when that burst of winter weather hit, this evening. I took the wrong Rt. 1 exit off of 95 north and ended up in Pawtucket.

I have never been timid about driving in any weather whatsoever, but I have never driven on roads so poorly prepared for adverse conditions. Four-wheel-drive trucks were skidding and spinning out on even slight inclines. It's as if the local department of public works had prepared for the cold snap by saturating the streets.

But here's the part that's truly becoming indicative of Rhode Island: The thought that immediately came to mind was: "Just make it to the border. The roads will be better at the border."

In case you're wondering: They were. Ready for change, yet, Rhode Island?

October 19, 2009

The Sweet Irony of Bumper Stickers

Justin Katz

Driving into Providence for a photo shoot in the rain, yesterday, I parked next to the statehouse. Through the streaks in my windshield, when I climbed back into the van, I spotted this antiquated bumper sticker:


The anti-Bush and anti-Republican stickers that also scarred the vehicle confirmed which regime the driver intended, but for a moment, I had to chuckle.

October 8, 2009

An Hour in a Different World

Justin Katz

I've arrived very early for a taping of WRNI's Political Roundtable with Ian Donnis and Scott MacKay that will air tomorrow at 5:40 a.m. and 7:40 a.m. on 102.7FM and 1290AM (and then appear online). On the way into Providence, I drove past Lincoln Chafee walking toward the office building next to Hemenway's. The ACLU's Stephen Brown was in one of the interview rooms when I arrived. On top of a table of assorted literature in the waiting area — the only political publication in the pile — is a copy of The Nation., to which the radio station apparently subscribes.

It's a little discomfiting to think that a friendly smile won't serve me very well on the radio. But the good news is that I found a parking spot with a missing meter. (That doesn't mean I'm sure to be towed, does it?)


Sheesh, a ten minute segment is by no stretch adequate to address multiple issues in a room of four strongly opinioned people. Just as a turgid writer type like me begins to formulate a coherent response to one panelist, another introduces a related, but distinct question, and the mind veritably explodes in the effort to respond to everything in a sentence. Which raises the old question: to talking point or not to talking point? But it was fun.

Incidentally, one of the WRNI folks from the office side came into the studio after the recording to correct me on one point: The Nation just sends issues to WRNI; the station does not subscribe in the sense of paying money or of having requested issues.

August 15, 2009

Tinctured Parochialism in Green Rhode Island

Justin Katz

Maybe it's my East Bay snobbery coming through, but the black blades of the windmill by the New England Tech Automotive building off Rt. 95 strike me as tacky:

Not like the pretty, monochromatic versions across the bay:

May 19, 2009

Spotted Today During Lunch

Justin Katz

April 30, 2009

On the Mattapalooza Scene

Justin Katz

Two bridges and countless escalators, and I've finally made it to Dave & Buster's for Mattapalooza. Haven't made the rounds, yet, but here are a couple of pictures:

8:15 p.m.

Apart from Dan Yorke, I've spotted Terry Gorman. There's a contingent of WPRO people, of course. The rest of the room, I'm guessing is fans, friends, and family. That's the highlight of the evening, I think: seeing the callers in person.

8:27 p.m.

Terry was telling me about the Tom Tancredo event and the way in which a certain unionist stood by the door with his little camera in folks' faces and proceeded to layer, umm, untruths on his online spin machine. If only I were funded to spend my days agitating on the dime of public-sector union dues.

8:40 p.m.

Dan and Matt:

Out on the Town

Justin Katz

Apparently, there will be strict adherence to the guest list at Mattapalooza tonight at Dave & Buster's in Providence, but I'll be there and will likely check in from time to time. (Not knowing what's in store, I don't want to promise liveblogging, per se.)

I'm also hoping to make it to the RIGOP Black Caucus kick-off at Tazza Cafe, but family-related scheduling may intervene. As readers know, I'm really not a fan of identity politics — quite the opposite — but the message that it is possible to believe in Republican ideals no matter the color of one's skin, as obvious as that should be, is an important one to make.

April 25, 2009

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

Random Conversation at a Local Business

Marc Comtois

Conversation at a local gas station/convenience mart. {Sound of multiple police sirens in back ground}

Store Attendant: "Go get 'em, guys. Make some revenue!"
Customer:"They have to get it somehow."
Attendant:"Yup, they do. Wait 'til the road gets repaved. People will be going 90 mph down the road. They'll be stopping them then. They get them for going 1 mph over now. $75."
Attendant:"You read the paper?"
Attendant:"Did you see how they want to tax businesses because the unemployment fund is outta money?"
Customer:"I think I heard that on the radio."
Attendant:"That's a great move. Tax businesses more and drive 'em out. No wonder we can't grow this economy."
Customer:"No kidding. That's the kind of shortsightedness that's in this state."
Attendant:"Yeah. Never gets better. What are people thinking?"
Customer:"Just keep voting the same people in."
Attendant:"Ha ha ha. Yup. OK, take it easy."
Customer:"Have a good one."

February 27, 2009

So These Are the Follies...

Justin Katz

Well, I've already spotted just about everybody in Rhode Island politics and related fields that I know that I know, and even a good portion of those whom I know that I'll recognize. Curiously, as I pass by legislators, I find myself compulsively checking on my wallet.

As tends to happen, every natural instinct makes me inept at these things. For anecdote, I was about to say hello to URI President Robert Carothers (curious, as I am about his opinion of my doings since the era in which he wrote me a graduate school recommendation) when a familiar unionist face stopped me to chat. When I turned back around, Mr. Carothers was walking away, and I found myself chasing him. I turned around so as not to appear, well, stalkerish.

Perhaps the single greatest thing about blogging is that it gives me an excuse to do what I'm inclined to do anyway: Avoid schmoozing by sitting down at my table and talking to myself, only now I can type.



Etiquette question: Is it rude to blog during dinner? I guess if the politicians never stop scoping out the room, the bloggers can get away with doing their own thing. The show has yet to start.

Apart from the local celebs, Rep. Langevin is at the table immediately diagonal from me. Senator Whitehouse has been wandering around . Non-Senator Chafee bobbled by.

A handful of women dudded up in tight leather clothes — clearly looking to impress people who like for folks to try to impress them — have reminded me to shake my head that these people in state politics take themselves so seriously. Do the rabble-rousers always think thus of the powerful?

9:23 p.m.

Bob Kerr is not in attendance this evening because of a somewhat serious health issue on Wednesday night. I offer well wishes.

On a related note, Matt Jerzyk let me know that Bob Walsh — gubernatorial candidacy notwithstanding — is still not fully recovered, although the prognosis is good, I take it.

9:27 p.m.

Beginning the show on a down note, the opening song is "Everything's Going to Hell Here in Rhode Island."

9:47 p.m.

Mocking John DePetro, whom I saw earlier, with a song called "Throw the Wife Under the Bus":


And making fun of the Cicilline Bros. with "Been Indicted":


10:20 p.m.

Still here. Some humorous stuff, some local stuff over my head. I must say — and I think this is an annual quality — there's something conspicuous about the heavy dose of scorn pointed toward WPRO. Conspicuity here indicative of jealousy, I'd suggest. On the other hand, with the particular attention paid to the governor, there is a bit of that "our side versus theirs" feel.

10:31 p.m.

Clearly, we in the East Bay aren't doing our job. I don't think we've earned one reference in this thing.

10:46 p.m.

What? Aren't they supposed to have some sort of surprise special guest? What does this failure of expectations portend?

10:51 p.m.

It's Congressman Barney Frank.


I was hoping that it was President Lincoln and Sarah Palin:


10:53 p.m.

It says something poignant about the state of Rhode Island that the super high-anticipation special guest at the big mucky-muck event of our state seems often to be a national politician from Massachusetts.

November 4, 2008


Justin Katz


Having Won

Justin Katz


Langevin's Turn

Justin Katz


Jack Reed

Justin Katz


Sheldon Does the Rounds

Justin Katz


Red-Eye Patrick

Justin Katz


Experimenting with Technology

Justin Katz

What better time than while in the spotlight to experiment with technology. Here's some ambiance audio from the Democrats' party: MP3.

Warming up at the Biltmore

Justin Katz


October 8, 2008

Scenes of Rhode Island

Engaged Citizen


A reader sent in the following, and it took us some time to consider what steps to take — the difficulty being a request for anonymity. Given the whistleblower tinge of such notes, we thought it acceptable, provided the threshold is higher against personal attacks and unalloyed opinion.

We welcome future submissions along this line.

Well, I finally figured it out.

Every weekday I take the Gano Street exit off of the new I-Way (or the Suicide-Way as it's called since it came out that Rhode Island had been fined because it didn't inspect the concrete). Everyday I see a young woman working for the Department of Transportation standing by her truck at the end of the exit ramp. She stands, or leans, by her truck and watches us go by.

She is located at the end of the Gano Street exit ramp where a stop sign allows us to enter the new section of road. We stop at a "T" but there are no other vehicles coming or going from any other direction because it is a new road and doesn't go anywhere yet.

I looked at the payroll and see that the average semi-skilled or level 1 operator for the Department of Transportation is $34,869. And that doesn't include healthcare ($14,000) and pension. Why on earth, when we are all struggling to make ends meet, do we spend tens of thousands of dollars to have someone stand at the end of an exit ramp and watch cars go by?

But today I got it. I finally figured out why we spend that money. Today, the woman in question finally worked. She stepped out from beside her truck and carried another stop sign (different from the one posted at the end of the exit ramp) and held it in front of my car while a work truck went by.

So, there you have it. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation does not hire truck drivers who are capable of navigating around traffic so we have to hire assistants to make sure they don't run into us. Hopefully, the DOT is saving enough money by hiring these less-skilled drivers so to afford the assistants.

September 2, 2008

A Little Perspective

Justin Katz

Another day at the office:


December 30, 2007

Not Really My Crowd, But...

Justin Katz

My heroes so far in Disney Princesses on Ice:


The things we endure as parents. Now if I can endure the demands for $10 snow cones during intermission.

December 12, 2007

Not That Kind of Revolution

Justin Katz

Andrew and I are at the Ocean State Policy Research Institute dinner with Grover Norquist at the Cuban Revolution in Providence, and as you can see, the atmosphere is full of thematic incongruities:



All throughout dinner, something in Fidel's eyes distracted me. As everybody filtered out of the room, I walked over for a closer look:

My question: Was this a sly cut at the icon by the artist, or is death something that fashionable leftist-revolutionary-ophiles like to see as the gleam in their heroes eyes?

September 10, 2007

Re: Do Anything, Say Anything for Political "Victory"

Carroll Andrew Morse

Is it possible to view the MoveOn.org ad mentioned by Marc in the previous post as anything less than a questioning of General Petraeus' patriotism?

Tomorrow--as General David Petraeus provides his Iraq assessment to Congress--the antiwar group MoveOn.org is running a full-page advertisement in the New York Times under the headline: "General Petraeus or General Betray us? Cooking the books for the White House."
If the General's patriotism is not being called into question, then who exactly does General Petraeus stand accused of betraying?

Governor Mitt Romney has already responded to MoveOn's message, via an e-mail to National Review Online

Democrats must make a choice. Will they embrace these deplorable tactics or give General Petraeus a fair hearing? It should be the hope of all Americans that we give him a fair hearing. Certainly, he and our men and women in Iraq deserve it. In the coming days and weeks, there will be much debate about the future course in Iraq, but this debate should be free of the kind of shameful tactics MoveOn.org has shown today. It's time we heard from the generals, not Washington politicians and not ultra-liberal advocacy groups. All Americans should keep an open mind.

May 23, 2007

The Sufferers of Traffic

Justin Katz

I always try to remember, when stuck in traffic, that my predicament is often the result of a situation that far outweighs inconvenience. How many hours of commute time would one prefer to being personally involved in a situation such as this:

An off-duty Portsmouth police officer has been identified as the driver who struck a 15-year-old Portsmouth girl yesterday afternoon as she was running across East Main Road near Clements’ Market. ...

The girl was in “bad shape” in the middle of the night, but Swanberg does not know her current condition at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. The state police have not named the girl...

The girl was not in a crosswalk, Swanberg said.
Mooney has not been charged in connection with the accident.

May 22, 2007

Escape from Aquidneck

Justin Katz

Just as I came up on the traffic, I heard a radio report of a serious accident on East Main Road in Portsmouth, so I turned around and switched over to West Main. Well, this is what I encountered there:


The question is: Did WPRO mix up East and West, or is this just what happens when there are only two roads to accommodate so many people? If the latter, what an apt metaphor for life in Rhode Island.

I just heard an update that part of East Main is actually closed down. Guess I just haven't gotten to the merging traffic yet.

May 10, 2007

The Wind as Landscape

Justin Katz

With the release of Cape Wind, a book co-authored by the Projo's Robert Whitcomb, about rich and influential people, ostensibly with socially appropriate environmental consciousnesses, and their fight to kill an environmentally friendly energy project involving water-based windmills, the example on the grounds of the Portsmouth Abbey that I pass twice a day caught my attention more than usual today:


Maybe there's something in human nature that wind-driven motion sooths, but whatever the reason, I think it would add to, rather than detract from, the scenery if there were more of them around — whether waving to passing commuters or appearing as dots in the waterviews of the hoity-toity.

May 7, 2007

A Whitecastle on the Hill

Justin Katz

Given some recent upgrades in my technology, I thought I'd make a practice of taking pictures as I wander about the state and uploading them, with commentary as appropriate — all at the speed of blog! So herewith, Sheldon Whitehouse's understated summer cottage, which I put in (my own) political context back before the election:


No doubt this is where the senator will commune with all of his important constituents.

A Whitecastle on the Hill

Justin Katz

Given some recent upgrades in my technology, I thought I'd make a practice of taking pictures as I wander about the state and uploading them, with commentary as appropriate — all at the speed of blog! So herewith, Sheldon Whitehouse's understated summer cottage, which I put in (my own) political context back before the election:


No doubt this is where the senator will commune with all of his important constituents.