November 30, 2005

RI GOP Takes Board of Elections to Task

Marc Comtois

According to Jim Baron (he's been busy!) of the Pawtucket Times:

The Board of Elections case against Governor Carcieri and the R.I. Republican Party is a "Star Chamber" proceeding with "no rules" and "no rights" for the defendants, says a lawyer for the GOP who is calling for a dismissal of all charges.

James Bopp Jr. also alleges that the actions of board chairman Roger Begin "may have so tainted the members of the Board of Elections" that not only should he recuse himself from the case but that the board members themselves "may not be capable of acting in an impartial manner in the present matter."

Bopp told The Times that the board is "irretrievably compromised."

A hefty, 81-page memorandum outlining the party’s case, filed with the board Tuesdayasks to stay an ongoing investigation by a special prosecutor and quash or delay any subpoenas he may have issued, authorize the defendants to issue their own subpoenas and conduct other discovery proceedings and hold an immediate hearing in contemplation of a dismissal of the case. . .

Bopp, a nationally renowned attorney on campaign finance issues, alleges that the board "refused to allow the party and the governor to defend themselves" when special prosecutor H. Reed Witherby issued a report saying Carcieri and the GOP violated campaign finance laws then "they voted on it right there on whether or not we are guilty."Actually, the board voted to accept the report and held off on referring anything to attorney General Patrick Lynch. Patrick Lynch is the brother of state Democratic Chairman William Lynch, who filed the original complaint. . .

Referring to an appearance by William Lynch on WPRO-AM’s Dan Yorke Show in which he said he rejected a proposed settlement of the case, Bopp said he wants to subpoena both Begin and Lynch to determine whether the Board of Elections is "taking orders" from the chairman of the Democratic Party.

Bopp said he wants to conduct depositions "to see if Lynch was lying" when he told the radio audience about the settlement. "The Democratic Party chairman says he controls the board," Bopp said. "He tells them not to pursue a settlement and they don’t do it."

Bopp is also seeking the right to be present at all depositions taken by Witherby and ask questions of his own. Lynch said he was already deposed by Witherby on the day before Thanksgiving. Bopp said that is a violation of his clients’ rights because he did not have an opportunity to be present.

In the memorandum, filed by Bopp along with Richard E. Coleson representing the GOP and East Greenwich attorney Richard Fleury for Carcieri (Bopp and Coleson list a law office address in Terre Haute, Indiana) say the investigation into whether there was coordination between the Carcieri campaign and the RIGOP should be halted because the underlying violation - that the ad was "express advocacy" of Carcieri was erroneous.

Bopp maintains that at least three First Circuit Court rulings establish that for an ad to be "express advocacy" it must use specific so-called magic words such as "elect," "defeat," or "vote for," which the 2002 ad did not. Bopp says he knows those rulings exist because "they are cases that I litigated and that I won."

The Board of Elections, Bopp contends, is "operating illegally," because it has not adopted rules for conducting and adjudicating complaints that come before it. The defendants have no rights under the board’s rules, Bopp says, "because there are no rules.

"In my 30 years of campaign finance practice," Bopp said, "I’ve never seen a more outrageous violation of people’s due process rights."

He says that when Witherby was asked whether attorneys for the defendants could participate in depositions, he wrote back asking under what rule they would be allowed to do that. "But there are no rules," Bopp repeated.

Lynch said Tuesday that Bopp and Coleson are "two ultra right wing lawyers for the Republican party who travel around the country entering appearances" in campaign finance cases. "That is who the Republican Party has stooped to bringing in."

Lynch said the RIGOP made the same defense to the Board of Elections three years ago: that there were no specific words expressly advocating the election or defeat of any candidate "and the board unanimously found that didn’t pass the laugh test." And when they appealed to the RI Supreme Court, Lynch said, the court threw the case out and referred it back to the Board of Elections.

He called the GOP memorandum "nothing more than a further attempt to delay" a case that has already stretched more than three years.

Poll: Attack Ads a Negative for CHAFEE

Marc Comtois

The Club for Growth has conducted a poll here in Rhode Island (incidentally, I think I was one of those polled) on the effectiveness of the NSRC attack ad campaign against Mayor Steve Laffey. In short, it's backfired:

The poll of 300 Republican primary voters was conducted by National Research Inc. on Nov. 14-15. The poll asked whether respondents had seen television ads about Stephen Laffey. Among those who had, three out of four respondents said the ads either made them more likely to support Laffey or had no effect. Among those who reported that the ads affected their views, nearly three out of five of those (or 58%) respondents reported they were more likely to support Laffey.

“From bridges to nowhere to campaign ads that have the opposite of their intended effect, some Republicans in Washington are proving that they are simply no good at spending other people’s money effectively,” said Pat Toomey, President of the Club for Growth. “If the NRSC really wants to win the support of GOP members in Rhode Island, they should try encouraging Sen. Lincoln Chafee to vote for what the Republican party is supposed to stand for — a pro-growth agenda of limited government, lower taxes and less federal spending.” The poll produced the following results:




YES 61%
NO 35.3%



“Washington-based Republicans’ elevation of incumbency protection over principle is disgusting rank-and-file GOP members. Great numbers of them are hoping for leaders who advocate returning the party to the pro-growth agenda that helped it achieve a governing majority in the first place,” concluded Toomey. “While I’m sure Mayor Laffey actually appreciates the results of the NRSC’s ads against him, it’s a sad commentary on the state of the Republican party leadership in Washington.”

Back to the drawing board, Liddy. (Tip: K-Lo at NRO)

President Bush's Iraq Plan Speech

Marc Comtois

Anchor Rising contributor Mac Owens alludes to Federalist 71 as he gives his positive impression of the President's Iraq strategy speech:

I don’t know if President Bush has ever read The Federalist Papers, but the steps he is to taking to explain the policy and strategy of the United States in Iraq means that he has at long last recognized [Alexander] Hamilton’s principle. His speech today at the Naval Academy is as fine an example of republican rhetoric as I have heard since the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

We often forget that opinion polls have no constitutional standing. Nonetheless, when properly done, they can tell us a great deal about what the citizenry are thinking. And it is clear that in the absence of any attempt by the president to defend his policies, the vacuum has been filled by “by the wiles of parasites and sycophants, by the snares of the ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who possess [the people’s] confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who seek to possess rather than to deserve it.” Under such circumstances, it should not be surprising that public support for the war has gone down.

Another name for such operators is “demagogue.” Our demagogues have pandered to the fears and weaknesses of the American rather than to their virtues and strengths. In his Naval Academy speech, President Bush did just the opposite, exercising his “duty [as one whom the people have] appointed to be the guardians of [their] … interests, to withstand the temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.”

Today’s speech is the opening salvo in a campaign of public diplomacy to reinvigorate the war effort and restore public support for our enterprise in Iraq. . . . The fact is that the United States has always had a strategy for Iraq, but any strategy worthy of the name must be adaptable.

What critics mean when they say there is no strategy is that they don’t like what the president is doing, although none have offered any alternative but withdrawal. By publishing the outline of his strategy, the president makes it impossible for his critics to take the easy way out. Now they will have to put up or shut up…if only.

Instapundit also notes that the plan has been there all along:
Some people are asking what's new about this strategy. The answer. . . is nothing, really. . .

What's new is that the White House is forcing people to pay attention to the plan, and to the fact that there is, and has been, a plan even though the press has ignored it. That many media outfits, as Henke notes, seem to think this is all new is merely evidence that they've been providing lousy war coverage all along.

But the White House, if a bit late in the day, is doing something it needs to do. You can't rely on bloggers to do it all.


Rich Lowry perceptively notes that the President found himself in a "rhetorical box" with his "stay the course" mantra. Thankfully, this speech kicked the walls of the box down. From the speech:

Some critics continue to assert that we have no plan in Iraq except to, "stay the course." If by "stay the course," they mean we will not allow the terrorists to break our will, they are right. If by "stay the course," they mean we will not permit al Qaeda to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban -- a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America -- they are right, as well. If by "stay the course" they mean that we're not learning from our experiences, or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, then they're flat wrong. As our top commander in Iraq, General Casey, has said, "Our commanders on the ground are continuously adapting and adjusting, not only to what the enemy does, but also to try to out-think the enemy and get ahead of him." Our strategy in Iraq is clear, our tactics are flexible and dynamic; we have changed them as conditions required and they are bringing us victory against a brutal enemy.

An Electric Discussion, Part 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

National Grid, the company that most Rhode Islanders send their electric bills to, says it is not responsible for rising electric rates. Here's a spokesman from National Grid quoted by Jim Baron in the Pawtucket Times...

National Grid says the climbing cost it isn't their fault, they take care of the wires and the poles and the switching stations. The law forbids them from owning electric generating capacity. They deal strictly with transmission and distribution.

National Grid spokesman Michael Ryan likens the company to services like UPS and Fed Ex - it can't be blamed for the price of the goods it delivers, he says.

The analogy doesn't work. When I use UPS, I pick the sender on the other end and I decide if I want to pay the cost of item being delivered. When I buy my electricity from National Grid, I don't get to choose whether I want oil-generated, nuclear-generated, or otherwise-generated electricity. National Grid picks the flavor of electricity that I receive. Mr. Ryan's analogy would only work if I told UPS "send me a book" and UPS picked the bookseller and price without consulting me.

And Rhode Island residents do have different flavors of electricity to choose from. According to a letter sent by Governor Don Carcieri to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, "roughly half of Rhode Island's energy comes from sources other than oil or natural gas". Here's where things get less-than-intuitive. The price a customer pays for electicity is not necessarily tied to its cost of generation...

In his November 18th letter to the FERC Secretary Magalie Roman Salas, Governor Carcieri cited his concerns regarding "serious problems in the electric energy markets in New England that unnecessarily increase the price of electric energy to consumers"...

Specifically, the Governor noted that two mechanisms for determining the price of energy are primarily responsible for this phenomenon. First, the market price for energy is determined by the highest cost charged by any single producer, forcing local energy distributors, and thus consumers, to pay inflated energy prices.

For instance, if the cost of producing energy from oil and natural gas goes up, but the cost of producing energy at a nuclear plant remains static, the nuclear producer increases its rates to match the price being charged by the oil and natural gas producers. In this scenario, the nuclear producers are enabled to charge higher rates even though their actual production costs have not increased.

The Governor's press release is a tad ambiguous about whether suppliers of non-oil, non-gas electricity raise prices because they can or whether they raise prices because of government mandates. Baron�s article explains that uniform pricing is the result of government mandates�
In testimony earlier this year before the [Public Utilities Commission], Gov. Donald L. Carcieri pointed out a quirk in the law that ties the price of electricity to the price of oil and natural gas, even though that power may have been produced at a nuclear plant, or a coal-fired generator or at a hydroelectric facility.

That decision was made when the URA was written, said Ryan and Robert H. McLaren, senior vice president of New England Regulatory Affairs and Energy Supply for National Grid.

The URA is the "Utilities Restructuring Act of 1996", which ties electric rates to a "Standard Offer" tied to the prices of oil and gas. At first glance, the URA seems to be yet another example of government's uncanny ability to design systems that combine the compassion of raw capitalism with the efficiency of bureaucratic socialism.

Understanding the details of the current price regulations is the beginning -- not the end -- of understanding the relation between government intervention, markets, energy policy and electric rates. There's a whole other level of considerations centered on regulations disallowing companies from owning both electricity generation and electicity transmission facilities. However, from Baron's articles and Governor Carcieri's letter, two points emerge right away, one substantive, one seemingly semantic, but not...

An Electric Discussion, Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here's the seemingly semantic point about deregulation and electricity prices: how is a system where the lowest cost producer is forced by law to set prices at the level of the high cost producer considered "deregulated". This is more than semantics. Because the current system is considered "deregulated", a key Rhode Island official is arguing that tighter government contol of the power industry is self-evidently necessary. This is from a second Pawtucket Times article from Jim Baron...

Count Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Roberti, who specializes in regulatory issues in representing the Division of Public Utilities, among those who think deregulation is at least part of the problem....

Deregulation, Roberti said, "is jeopardizing our reliability because it is not promoting fuel diversity (coal, waterpower, nuclear, solar and wind generation as opposed to oil and natural gas-fired plants), it is not promoting conservation and worst of all it is not promoting sufficient (capacity) to meet the peak day in summer and the peak day in winter, which means we are facing rolling blackouts without an administrative surcharge. That all adds up to failure. They may not believe it, but the market has failed.

Mr. Roberti is arguing that the failure of the current set of pricing regulations can only be interpreted as evidence supporting the need for stronger price regulations, but he needs to do a bit more explaining to make his case.

A big part of the current problem, apparently, is that current regulations force all electricity to be priced the same, regardless of the cost of generation. Also, it is unclear how increased regulation limiting the price of electricity will promote conservation. Keeping prices artificially low promotes increased consumption, not conservation.

Mr. Roberti's case is based on the tragically flawed idea that good intentions guarantee good policy...

"The market has one thing on its mind, which is profits," Roberti said. "Regulation is the heart that wants to make sure that consumers get essential utility lifeline services at the lowest reasonable cost. That is the role of regulation."
But the legislators who wrote the current set of regulations presumably had good intentions. Why should we expect them to do any better this time around? As Justin just pointed out, RI legislators have a tendency to take their regulatory powers a step (at least) too far, ultimately doing more harm than good.

Making a case for stronger, weaker, or status-quo regulation depends upon explaining the role and the concerns of National Grid. I can't quite determine from what I've read so far what National Grid's market incentives are supposed to be. If the FedEX/UPS analogy that National Grid suggests is accurate, then they are collecting the same fixed rate no matter what they deliver. Is that the case? Or are they a true wholesalers, buying from producers and reselling at a markup to retail customers? In either case, what is their incentive to shop around for the lowest prices?

We're starting to ask the right questions. Eventually we'll get the right answers. And then turning the right answers into good policy? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Re: Rhode Island's Retrograde Fiscal Culture

Justin Katz

Andrew puts his post about Rhode Island's fiscal position relative to its neighbors in the "Rhode Island Economy" category, but the issue is at least as political and cultural as it is economic. Over years of patchwork research, I've found that Rhode Island always tops Massachusetts in all the wrong ways. It takes bad or questionable policies, or policies that require moderation, and goes a bit further with them.

  • The process for becoming a master tradesman, for example, is longer and more arduous, providing incentive to conduct such business in other states.
  • As I recall from personal experience, teacher certification is just a bit more difficult to maintain and the inducement for those already in the club is a bit stronger, providing incentive (if not a requirement) for the young and innovative to ply that trade out of state.
  • The welfare net is somewhat more generous (and tolerant of delinquency), providing incentive for the non-productive to move here.

Throw in the prominence of such "passing through" industries as tourism and higher education (which, I've a feeling, generate "residents" with minimal personal investment in the state), and you've got a state heading in all the wrong directions at once.

November 29, 2005

Tax Relief, Deficits, Tax Increases, and Spending

Carroll Andrew Morse

North Providence Mayor and Secretary of State candidate Ralph Mollis unwittingly jumps into a debate we’re having here at Anchor Rising. Mollis considers spending money on defecit reduction to be tax relief. According to Mark Reynolds in the Projo

Mayor A. Ralph Mollis was clear about his intentions for using a new stream of state economic aid earlier this year.

He said the town would use the money -- given to North Providence and other "distressed communities" -- for "property tax relief."

Months later, Mollis is saying the aid might help the town payoff a deficit created by unplanned spending at the tail end of the fiscal year that ended June 30. And employing the aid, in this case a sum of $509,000, in such a way would still be using it for "tax relief," he says.

Earlier this week, Anchor Rising commentor Tom W. expressed what could be considered a similar idea in reverse…
ULTIMATELY, ANY INCREASE IN THE FEDERAL BUDGET IS AN INCREASE IN TAXES - the only variables being whether the increase is in "real terms" (i.e., above the rate of inflation) and whether the budget is balanced (i.e., whether some or all of the current budget will be paid for with current and/or future tax streams).
What do the fiscal hawks out there think? Does using existing revenues to pay down a deficit qualify as tax relief?

Rhode Island's Retrograde Fiscal Culture

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island has a $60,000,000 budget shortfall. And the news gets worse. Rhode Island’s revenues have gone bust at a time when tax revenues in most other states are booming. According to a recent USA Today article

Soaring state tax collections have created momentum for tax cuts in 2006, when most governors and legislators will face voters.

State and local revenue rose 7.2% in the first nine months of this year, the biggest jump since 1990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The problem is not that conditions in Southern New England are somehow different from conditions in the rest of the country. The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts is ahead in its revenue collection for the current fiscal year
Because of the improved economy, tax revenues from personal income taxes, corporations, and other levies are running 7.9 percent ahead of projections for the current fiscal year, putting the state $232 million ahead of what it expected to have by the end of October.
(Most of the Globe story is about how Massachusetts is, in fact, very much like Rhode Island; with revenues running ahead, the Democratic controlled state legislature is preparing to spend! spend! spend!)

The State Comptroller of Connecticut projects that Connecticut will also end the year with a significant surplus

State Comptroller Nancy Wyman today projected the state will end the 2006 fiscal year with a $135.4 million budget surplus.

The estimated surplus has risen by about $106 million in the last month, mainly due to strong collection of income taxes related to taxpayers' investments in financial markets.

The fact that our neighbors doing well shows that the Rhode Island budget shortfall is not a problem created by implacable macroeconomic forces spiraling out of control; economic conditions in Rhode Island are similar to economic conditions in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Rhode Island's problems are rooted in poor fiscal management and irrational spending policies. They cannot be be solved by giving even more money to the government that created this mess in the first place.

Quick Notes on a Laffey Sighting

Marc Comtois

I was clicking around last night before Monday Night Football and came across a Public Access show in which Mayor Laffey was being interviewed by an unknown-to-me but seemingly sympathetic host. (It was around 8:45 PM on Cox 13, didn't catch the name of the show). I watched for about ten minutes and came away with a couple things.

First, he explained that the problem with education spending in the cities and towns of RI, Cranston in particular, is that the Mayors and City Councils have little or no control over the education budgets set by the school committees. Using Cranston as an example, he stated that the education budget consumes 55% of the overall city budget. If the school committe passes a mandated increase in school spending of 8%, the mayor and council would have to cut 11% of the other 45% of the city budget to maintain current spending levels. (These were off the top of his head figures). As I didn't see the beginning of the explanation, I assume this was one of his explanations as to why property taxes in Cranston and other RI communities continue to rise. At the very least communities want services maintained--never mind cut!--so raising the taxes is the only way to fund the budget.

He also talked of his support for the Voter Initiative because it can be used to circumvent the politicians who don't work for the people anymore. He alluded to the "my guy is ok, it's the rest that are bad" attitude by saying that it had to change and RI voters had to take a more holistic approach to state politics. However, though he didn't say as much, there doesn't appear to be much chance of that, so the Voter Initiative may be the only way to go. This is also especially true in light of the recent defeat of the Constitutional Convention that would have been a more proper way to deal with government reform. (In an aside, he remarked as to how "for some reason" Common Cause of RI joined with the Unions to defeat the measure...I wonder about that too.)

November 28, 2005

Senator Chafee’s $700-per-Household Tax Burden

Carroll Andrew Morse

A direct mail message from the National Republican Senatorial Committee is announcing that “Steve Laffey and higher taxes go hand-in-hand”. Sourcing a Projo article dated January 29, 2003, the mailing states that...

Laffey’s tax increase amounted to $490 more in property taxes for a home valued at $150,000.
The strategy is that of a pre-emptive strike; 2003 just happens to be the year that Senator Lincoln Chafee helped impose a tax burden on the American people of $700 more per taxpaying household than was proposed by the President.

At the start of 2003, President Bush proposed a $726,000,000,000 tax cut to occur over 10 years. To win the support of enough liberal and moderate Republicans to become law, the tax cut had to be rolled back to $330,000,000,000. Here’s the description of the original proposal and the bill that passed from a (unfortunately not-online) May 23, 2003 Associated Press story written by Alan Fram…

Congress gave its final approval Friday to $330 billion in new tax cuts for families, investors and businesses, handing President Bush a victory despite sharply curtailing his plan for lifting the economy from its knees….

Though less than half the $726 billion in tax reductions through 2013 Bush initially proposed, approval marked a significant personal victory for the president.

Had Chafee and a few other Republicans gone along with the President’s original proposal, taxes would have been reduced by an additional $396,000,000,000.

The US Census Bureau estimates that there are approximately 112,000,000 households in the United States. However, not all households in the US pay federal income tax. The National Taxpayers Union reports about 50% of taxpayers pay 96.5% of federal income tax. For this analysis, we’ll assume that the income tax burden and therefore tax increases and tax cuts are spread out over 50% of (56,000,000) American households.

The $396,000,000,000 difference between the President’s proposal and the approved tax cut comes out to approximately $7,000 in additional taxes per taxpaying household. Spread out over 10 years, that comes out to $700 per household per year.

Is the issue really this simple? Probably not. But if the NRSC and the Chafee campaign want to confine the debate to who has favored higher taxes without discussing why tax increases are necessary or what additional revenues paid for, then the number to keep in mind when reading NRSC direct mail is that Senator Chafee was a key player in imposing an additional tax burden of $700 per taxpaying household in 2003.


Commentor RI Fan suggests that the figure of $700 per taxable household doesn’t account for wide possible variations in income levels & taxes paid.

Assuming that it is distributed similarly to the existing tax rates reported by the National Taxpayers Union, this is how the $396,000,000,000 in taxation imposed by Senator Chafee and the Republican liberals will break down across different income scales…

Income of $295,000 or more $12,000 per household in additional tax
Income between $130,000-$295,000 $1,800 per household in additional tax
Income between $95,000-$130,000 $810 per household in additional tax
Income between $57,000-$95,000 $420 per household in additional tax
Income between $29,000-$57,000 $180 per household in additional tax
Income $29,000 or less $24 per household in additional tax
A good number of Cranston residents paying $490 in additional property taxes on $150,000 homes probably also have incomes in the 50K-60K-70K range. Congress' refusal to pass the President's tax cut in 2003 probably cost Cranstonians about the same amount of money as did the property tax increase. You just can’t pay for $396,000,000,000 in taxation in a nation of 112,000,000 households without either confiscatory rates at the top of the scale or taking a big bite out of the middle class.


1. Convert the NTU 2003 tax table to a differential table.
The top 1% of taxpayers pay 34.27% of the federal income tax.
The next 4% of taxpayers pay 20.09% of the federal income tax.
The next 5% of taxpayers pay 11.48% of the FIT.
The next 15% of taxpayers pay18.04% of the FIT.
The next 25% of taxpayers pay 12.66% of the FIT.
The final 50% of taxpayers pay 3.46% of the FIT.

2. Multiply the taxpayer percentage by 112,000,000 total households. Multiply the percentage of tax by $396,000,000,000 of taxation. If tax cuts are distributed proportionally to what people are already paying,
The top 1.12M households pay an additional $135,709,200,000.
The next 4.48M households pay an additional $79,556,400,000.
The next 5.60M households pay an additional $45,460,800,000.
The next 16.8M households pay an additional $71,438,400,000.
The next 28.0M households pay an additional $50,133,600,000.
The final 56.0M households pay an additional $13,701,600,000.

3. Divide amount by the number of households to get the 10-year amount per-household. Divide by 10 to get the per-year amount.

November 27, 2005

A Reason to Support Hugo Chavez!

Carroll Andrew Morse

A Projo op-ed by Maria Cristina Caballero explains one reason you should support Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez…

The boom in oil prices has helped fuel a 43 percent increase in Venezuela's public spending this year, to $37 billion. Chavez is investing in a commuter train and the fourth phase of Caracas's subway system.
In other words, you should look past Chavez’s repression of free speech and public dissent because, like Italy's fascist leader Benito Mussolini, he can make the trains run on time.

Has the American left really sunk this far?

November 26, 2005

Freedom, Democracy & the War on Terror

With all of the Iraqi war naysayers playing loose with both facts and reality, I thought it might be helpful for all of us to reread some major speeches by President George W. Bush about the War on Terror and the great themes of freedom and democracy. While earlier postings (here, here) have highlighted speeches #1-8, I would encourage you to pay particular attention to the more recent speeches #9-12:

1. September 20, 2001 initial speech about War on Terror

2. October 7, 2001 Afghanistan speech

3. January 29, 2002 State of the Union speech

4. June 1, 2002 West Point graduation speech

5. January 20, 2005 Inaugural speech

6. March 8, 2005 National Defense University speech

7. May 7, 2005 speech in Latvia on freedom and democracy

8. May 10, 2005 speech in Georgia on freedom and democracy

9. October 6, 2005 National Endowment for Democracy speech about War on Terror

10. October 25, 2005 speech to Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives' Luncheon

11. November 11, 2005 Veterans' Day speech about War on Terror

12. November 16, 2005 speech in Kyoto, Japan on freedom and democracy

James Q. Wilson wishes Bush would give this speech.

Norman Pohoretz asks Who is Lying About Iraq?

Rich Lowry comments that If Bush lied, it stands to reason that Democrats who followed are all naifs, foolishly drawn to the seductions of a charlatan.

Michelle Malkin writes about Bush's Veterans' Day speech in Bush Battles Back and provides links to other reactions in the blogging community.

Other commentaries about the claim that Bush misled the nation about going to war by Instapundit, J.D. Johannes, Mark Goldblatt, Power Line, Christopher Hitchens, Power Line, Power Line, Joel Engel, Stephen Hayes, Instapundit, Instapundit, Power Line, and Captain's Quarters.

Read the links in this posting to remind yourself how Cindy Sheehan is wacky beyond words.

The Wall Street Journal comments on Bush's speeches in Latvia and Georgia.

Duncan Curries comments on Bush's speech in Japan.


President Bush gives additional major speeches:

13. November 30, 2005 Naval Academy speech on the strategy for victory in Iraq

Marc highlights commentary on the speech by Mac Owens and Rich Lowry and links to the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq report.

14. December 7, 2005 Council on Foreign Relations speech on War on Terror and Rebuilding Iraq

15. December 12, 2005 Philadelphia World Affairs Council speech on War on Terror and Upcoming Iraqi Elections

16. December 14, 2005 Woodrow Wilson Center speech on Iraqi Elections, Victory in the War on Terror

Peggy Noonan has these thoughts.


Angela Codevilla offers a counter-argument:

In 2005, the U.S. government's "war on terror," as well as its operations in Iraq, were entwined in the same tortuous logic by which they had been conceived. After redefining the mission in Iraq from finding Weapons of Mass Destruction, to building democracy, to eliminating terrorists, to enabling the Iraqis to fight for themselves—and not being serious about any of these—the Bush Administration was arguing that to withdraw would be to admit defeat. But what would victory look like?

In December, pressed from all parts of America to address that question, President George W. Bush spoke, surrounded by banners that read, "The Strategy for Victory." Yet the speech, as well as the seven-point, 35-page White House document that accompanied it, simply reiterated hopes for a united, democratic Iraq and the beneficial influence this might have. It described efforts to bolster Iraqi armed forces, foster national reconciliation, and build up the country's infrastructure. None of this amounted to a strategy any more than it ever had, because wishes are a poor substitute for explaining why anyone should expect these actions to produce those outcomes. In short, the Bush Administration never attempted logically to balance ends and means, the things it desired with the things it was doing...

Another Lesson from the Blog Boomlet in Coventry

Carroll Andrew Morse

Town of Coventry Watch is worried about the decrease in blogging activity from several of Coventry’s bloggers since the Coventry Town Council removed Frank Hyde as President and replaced him with Theodore Jendzejec. In asking “Who is everybody scared of?”, TOC Watch implies that there may be specific pressures on certain people to stop blogging.

I suspect that the real culprit may be plain ol’ human nature. As a group, we foolish humans tend to show a greater interest in personality politics than we do in policy politics; discussing whether Frank Hyde should continue as Town Council President or Bruce Sundlun should become town manager generates much more attention than does the details of tax-incremental financing, or underfunded pension liabilities, or school-choice funding schemes.

This preference for personality means that the greatest danger to the public interest comes not from the loudmouth buffoons who enter politics, but from those who learn to quietly manipulate the system behind-the-scenes. Their favorite tactic is to explain that issues are too complex for the average citizen to understand and decisions are best made by an elite that will spare the public the painful details.

But most issues aren’t nearly as difficult to understand as the political class would have you believe; the major problem is that information needed for responsible decision making is not always presented to the public as clearly as it could be -- as clearly as it should be.

This is the area where the internet and the blogs can add major civic value. The distributed intelligence of the internet can help people get the facts and the explanations they need to understand the consequences of government decisions. This doesn’t mean that citizen bloggers can guarantee to always make exciting issues surrounding tax-incremental financing plans, or pension reform policies, or education reform policies, but we can explain them in a way that makes their importance and their consequences much more clear.

After the high-profile fireworks have ended, Coventry -- and all of Rhode Island -- will be better off if Coventry’s bloggers stay around to help keep things honest. Coventry’s local bloggers like the Fabulous Rabbit, RI Politics and the Duck have been beginning to provide the public quick and easy access to the details of the workings of their town government. Such firsthand observations and unique insights, made available to a wide audience, are critical to keeping political discourse open and honest and working towards the best interests of everyone.

November 25, 2005

Beware Dictators Bearing Oil II

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island’s political left is ready to sell its soul for cheap oil. Rhode Island’s liberal blog, RI Future, approvingly reports that two Providence city councilors want to buy discounted heating oil from Venezuela. Marc posted on some of the details earlier this week.

In its comments section, RI Future’s primary contibutor, Matt Jerzyk, goes as far as to call the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, a "real leader". Here are a few examples of what progressives like Jerzyk must consider real leadership…

1. Chavez has signed laws censoring the free press. Here’s a description of the most recent censorship laws passed by the Venezuelan government in March 2005, courtesy of the American Prospect (not exactly a member of the vast right wing conspiracy)…

The language of the March law has a totalitarian ring: "He who offends in speech or in writing, or in any way disrespects the President of the Republic or causes another to do so, shall be punished by six to thirty months jail." Legislators, judges, and cabinet ministers all have similar protections, with similar punishments.

To be prosecuted under the new codes, it makes no difference whether the offending article is true or not, and news organizations that violate them are subject to crippling fines and, after two fines, closure.

2. This set of restrictions follows last year's restrictions on electronic media, the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television. Here are the details from Human Rights Watch
Television and radio stations would be obliged to transmit the government’s educational, informative or public safety broadcasts for up to 60 minutes a week. This is in addition to the president’s powers under article 192 of the Telecommunications Act (introduced in 2000 by the government of President Hugo Chavez) to order stations to transmit in full his speeches and other political messages….

The law establishes an 11-person Directorate of Social Responsibility, part of whose mandate is to enforce the law and punish infringements. Seven members of the directorate are government appointees. Its president, the Director General of the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL), is appointed by the president and does not enjoy fixed tenure.

Under the standards established by Real Leader Chavez, this sort of posting on RI Future would be illegal; why do American progressives think that citizens of other countries don't deserve the same rights that they themselves enjoy?

3. Chavez’s anti-democratic rise to power included establishment of a “judicial emergency committee” that had power to remove judges without consulting any other branch of government. Here’s a quote from the emergency committee chairman on the subject of removing judges…

"The objective is that the substitution of judges will take place peacefully, but if the courts refuse to acknowledge the assembly's authority, we will proceed in a different fashion."
It also included the formation of a constitutent assembly that declared meetings of the sitting congress illegal. Chavez’s general attitude towards opposition is summed up in this quote…
“We can intervene in any police force in any municipality, because we are not going to permit any tumult or uproar. Order has arrived in Venezuela.”
The repression of Venezuelan citizens ignored by an American left searching for cheap oil starkly illustrates what has sadly become the first rule of contemporary progressivism: government repression is acceptable -- in some cases, even desirable -- so long as the government involved is anti-American.

The Prick of Liberal Conceit

Justin Katz

The Providence Journal's Bob Kerr slipped a curious few paragraphs in the midst of a 600-word piece of derision:

Brown students are not enjoying their unintended celebrity. But then they haven't exactly covered themselves in glory on the social front lately.

For a while now, neighbors of the university have been complaining that student parties have spilled over in sometimes loud and ugly ways. There is apparently no guarantee that with high tuition comes an increased sense of social responsibility. At Saturday's event, some students had to leave in ambulances due to assorted excesses. High tuition also doesn't guarantee a sense of personal limits.

So Brown officials have decided to take a long overdue look at campus party policy. There could be changes.

And now, thanks to Fox News and its own roving party animal, thousands of people across the country know that at some parties at Brown University in Providence, students have sex.

Readers might infer that Brown's "long overdue look" was already underway before Bill O'Reilly gave Fox News viewers around the world a peek into the Ivy League weekend. They might therefore conclude, as Kerr does, that O'Reilly's report was "a sneaky, pointless piece of work." But that would, at the very least, assume more than the ProJo's own coverage ("Drunken revel at Brown prompts review of school policy") should allow. The party and O'Reilly's revelation thereof appear to have been a single event, from the perspective of Brown's policy makers.

What's curious is that, from the rest of his piece, one might wonder whether Kerr truly believes that Brown's policies — or its social life — need any investigation at all. His focus is not "the seedy social underbelly of a prestigious university," but the ostensible voyeurism of conservatives — whom he casts as superficially desiring reassurance "that they live lives Bill O'Reilly would approve of." But — given the longevity (and banality) of Kerr's proffered storyline — why the heat? Why the hackish interjections of "Gawwwwlleeee!!!" and "Shazzzam!!!"? Assuming that Kerr was not at that particular party, why does the stench of embarrassment puff out from behind his ire?

Perhaps what so upsets Kerr is not Fox's voyeurism, but rather its motivation, as he fancies, to "look inside the kinds of places where liberals surely lurk and do liberal things with their clothes off." In like spirit to Kerr's characterization, Anne Hersh, a Providence resident who is pushing Brown to tone down the partying in her neighborhood, suggests that the university find a way to "maintain your liberal image and curriculum, but still encourage your students to be respectful of the community at large."

It would seem beyond liberals' purview to insist — or to institute policies to ensure — that Brown students conduct themselves in a manner befitting the Ivy League. Who are they to define such a thing? In Bob Kerr's world, it is less judgmental to shriek at conservatives for noticing what liberalism apparently signifies.

November 24, 2005

Eagle or Turkey?

Carroll Andrew Morse

If the choice had been his alone, Benjamin Franklin would have selected the turkey to be the symbol of the United States of America...

For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country�For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.
You disagree with Ben Franklin at your own risk. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I can think of at least 5 reasons why we should be glad the eagle beat out the turkey for the honor of representing the United States of America...

5. I'm not sure that it's possible to do a realistic drawing of a turkey holding arrows with one foot and an olive branch with the other for the Great Seal of the United States.

4. I doubt that "Sam the Turkey" would have become the cultural icon that Sam the Eagle has.

3. Do you really think that John Wayne would have starred in a movie titled "The Wings of Turkeys"? How about Clint Eastwood in "Where Turkeys Dare"?

2. The 101st Airborne division would be known as "The Screaming Turkeys".

1. Having the Apollo 11 crew announce that "the Turkey has landed" would have destroyed the moment.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 23, 2005

Revising Thanksgiving

Marc Comtois

First, here is a worthwhile example of what Thanksgiving can mean in contemporary America. Contrast that with this jeremiad by someone who thinks Thanksgiving celebrates the oppressiveness of white European-types over Native Americans (don't read it if you want to keep your teeth from grinding--though some of the comments are worth reading). (via Instapundit).

Also, in an effort to prove that all historical revisionism isn't bad, I'd like to point to an article in the latest Smithsonian called "Squanto and the Pilgrims: Native Intelligence, " (PDF). The author is Charles Mann who wrote the critically acclaimed 1491 (I haven't read it yet). In the Smithsonian piece, Mann "suggests that the Native Americans were far more sophisticated than previously believed-and yet at the mercy of forces that abetted the settlers' ambitions." It's an interesting and worthwhile read. It's not hagiography, but it's also not demonization.

Beware Dictators Bearing Oil

Marc Comtois

Let's nip this in the bud. Just because New York and Massachusetts think it's ok to get discount oil from a radical, totalitarian, doesn't mean Rhode Island should follow suit. Sure, it sounds good. . . at first.

Local legislators and Venezuelan officials yesterday vigorously defended an agreement that will bring discounted heating oil to more than 40,000 low-income Massachusetts residents courtesy of a Latin American leader engaged in an acerbic public campaign against President Bush and US foreign policy.

The deal, signed yesterday in a Quincy couple's front yard, will provide more than 12 million gallons of heating oil from Venezuela, with each qualifying household eligible to buy up to 200 gallons, enough to last several weeks, at a 40 percent discount. The Quincy couple, Linda and Paul Kelly, were the first beneficiaries of the arrangement.

The agreement has come under fire because President Hugo Chávez, whose nation is the fourth-largest supplier of US oil, has used harsh language to criticize Bush policies on free trade, poverty, and the war in Iraq. But representatives from his government yesterday said politics played no role in the gesture, which was negotiated recently in a face-to-face meeting between Chávez and Representative William D. Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat.

''Our objective is simple: to help people of limited means through the winter," said

Felix Rodriguez, chief of CITGO, a US subsidiary of the Venezuelan petroleum company, said: ''No one should have to choose between heat and medicine or food."

Who could be against such choice, right Mr. Rodriguez? Setting aside the impropriety of a Congressman engaging in foreign policy or the interests of erstwhile Massachusetts political families, there is still a bit more to the animosity ginned up against Pres. Chavez than his distaste for President Bush.

Melana Zyla Vickers provides more information. Chavez explains he's more than "a hypocrite whose government enriches itself on highly globalized, state-controlled oil revenues, while he denies the region's privately owned businesses the same opportunity."

He's become an exporter of revolution, a socialist authoritarian with a Fidel Castro-style agenda to destabilize the region and with oil dollars to finance his ambitions.

Consider how his government takes advantage of Venezuela's oil wealth. When an American driver fills up at the local Citgo station, those gas dollars go from American wallets into Chavez's governing pockets -- after all, his government controls Citgo. From Venezuelan coffers, the money goes to fund leftist narco-insurgencies in Colombia, Ecuador, and other Latin American countries -- insurgencies the U.S. soldiers and U.S. taxpayers have expended great resources to tamp down.

Leftist guerrillas from eight Latin American countries have received training at Venezuelan military bases this year, according to an Ecuadorian intelligence report revealed in a Quito newspaper earlier this month. El Presidente Chavez of course denies the charges. But his recent vows to create a regional, anti-American leftist front, his alliance with Fidel Castro's Cuba, his rising military expenditures and persistent reports that weapons disappear from the Venezuelan military into the hands of regional leftist rebels, make the charges all the more believable.

That's just the sort of guy we should be looking to for charity, eh? If a crack dealer offered to subsidize your heating bill, would you let him? Or a terrorist? But he also pays for postive P.R. here in the U.S., and many lap-up his image as if he's some real life, modern day Che Guevera. Thus, many on the left tout the his graciousness and turn the other way to avoid scrutinizing his methods. He may be subsidizing U.S. oil, but he's doing it at the expense of his own people. How liberal and caring is that? By the way, next time, think twice before buying gas at a CITGO station.

November 22, 2005

Sheldon Whitehouse and the Appearance of Corruption

Carroll Andrew Morse

As Rhode Island’s Attorney General, Sheldon Whitehouse joined an amicus brief in support of upholding campaign finance reform laws. The reason? According to the brief, it was “essential to the health of our national democracy” to attack “the causes of cynicism and distrust that undermine our political discourse”.

Sometime between joining that brief and now, Whitehouse appears to have changed his mind. His response to Guy Dufault's personal attack on Governor Don Carcieri shows a decided lack of concern about cyncism and distrust undermining political discourse. According to Monday’s Political Scene column in the Projo

Former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse does not intend to return the more recent $2,000 Dufault contributed to his Senate campaign. Why?

This response from Whitehouse spokesman Michael Guilfoyle: "Sheldon does not condone what Guy said and he doesn't believe there is any room in the political dialogue for the politics of personal destruction....It was a terrible mistake, and Guy is paying a considerable price."

But "this is between Guy Dufault and Don Carcieri," Guilfoyle said.

One side works in the public interest while another side uses the politics of personal destruction to pursue special interests. And Sheldon Whitehouse views it as a personal conflict and can’t choose between the two.

Courts approved campaign finance limitations on political activity because they found a compelling government interest in preventing the appearance of corruption. Does Sheldon Whitehouse really believe that taking big money from a lobbyist prepared to use rumor and innuendo to advance his interests is unrelated to the appearance of corruption? If Whitehouse is still interested in preventing the appearance of corruption, he should exhibit some personal responsibility in this matter and give Dufault's money back.

Apparently, leadership to Whitehouse doesn't mean taking responsibility yourself; it just means placing limits on other people.

Political Scene reports that Whiltehouse’s primary Matt Brown has returned recent campaign contributions from Dufault, as has lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidate Charles Fogarty.

November 21, 2005

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Does It Again

Michelle Malkin has written a posting entitled What are your kids learning about Islam? which discusses a 9th Circuit Court decision and includes this quote from a newspaper article on the decision:

Edward White of the Thomas More Center, the attorney in the case for the two children and their parents, said he will ask the full appeals court for a rehearing. He said the panel failed to address his argument that the district violated parents' rights.

"What happened in this classroom was clearly an endorsement of religion and indoctrination of children in the Islamic religion, which would never have stood if it were a class on Christianity or Judaism,'' White said.

Malkin has posted excerpts of the actual Islam simulation curriculum in the referenced posting and also provides a link to more curriculum information.

Stop the ACLU has a related posting referenced by Malkin which sums up the key concerns:

...You can bet if the children were subjected to participate in a Christian themed role playing game such as a nativity scene in a [Christmas] Winter Break play that the Seperation of Church and State Clause of the Living Document would have had precedent. However, since its not Christianity, the 9th Circus found it o.k. to indoctrinate into children. Where is the ACLU on this one? Anyone? How is it that Gideons giving out little new testaments are found as a threat, but teaching children to recite Muslim prayers is not? So they had the choice to opt out, just like voluntary prayer, or reciting the pledge without using “Under God”, but somehow this is different. Please, Congress split this Circus up!

Can we find a teacher out there willing to make some Muslim students pretend to be Christians for a few weeks? You know, just to better understand the culture and all.

This just keeps on getting more and more absurd.

Here are some postings dedicated to offering counter-arguments to this nonsense:

Liberal Fundamentalism, Revisited
The Naked Public Square Revisited, Part I
The Naked Public Square Revisited, Part II
The Naked Public Square Revisited, Part III

The last posting is a more comprehensive overview of these issues:

Rediscovering Civility and Purpose in America's Public Discourse

Stuart Taylor on Judge Alito

Ed Whelan has highlighted liberal Stuart Taylor's thoughts on Judge Alito.

Taylor continues to be one of the sane voices in the judicial debate, a man whom we can all easily respect even when we disagree with his opinions at time.

...Sure, Alito seems a bit to the right of the current Supreme Court's somewhat left-of-center majority (and of yours truly, too). But his now-famous 1985 application, considered together with his 300 closely reasoned judicial opinions over the past 15 years, places him much closer to the center of American public opinion than his critics are. He also seems closer to the center than does Clinton-appointed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (confirmed by 96-3), and quite comparable to Chief Justice John Roberts (78-22).

Here's what Alito wrote 20 years ago, in applying to then-Attorney General Edwin Meese for a promotion from his civil service job as an assistant solicitor general to a politically appointed position:

"I am and always have been a conservative.... I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values."

Not so scary. But now come what critics call the smoking guns:

"I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate.... In college, I [strongly disagreed] with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the establishment clause, and reapportionment.... I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."

These are certainly the words of a Reagan conservative. But are they outside the mainstream? Somebody should tell The New York Times that Reagan won 49 states in 1984...

If Alito is outside the mainstream on abortion, then so are the very large percentage of constitutional scholars -- including many pro-choice liberals -- who agree that Roe was a judicial usurpation of legislative authority with no basis in the Constitution. Even Ginsburg herself wrote (also in 1985) that Roe was "heavy-handed judicial intervention [that] was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict."

To be sure, most Americans disagree with Alito's 1985 view that Roe should be overruled. But this is partly because many do not understand that the Roe abortion right is virtually absolute, and many are under the false impression that overruling Roe would make abortion illegal.

Polls show clearly that wide majorities of Americans want more restrictions on abortion -- especially late abortions -- than Roe allows...

As for racial preferences, Alito's 1985 assertion that "racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed" places him squarely in the middle of public opinion -- unlike Ginsburg, who has voted to uphold wholesale use of quota-like preferences in college admissions, contracting, and other areas.

Polls show overwhelming public opposition to quotas. And neutrally worded polls that avoid the word "quota" show that more than two-thirds of Americans oppose racial preferences...

The closest that Alito came to being "outside the mainstream" in his 1985 application was his whack at unspecified Warren Court decisions on "criminal procedure, the establishment clause, and reapportionment."

It is clear, however, that Warren Court decisions in these areas were subjected to trenchant criticism by mainstream scholars, and some were broadly unpopular at the time. These include decisions expanding defendants' rights, barring school prayer, and striking down aid to religious schools.

It is also clear that any moves by Alito toward greater governmental accommodation of religion would put him closer to the center of public opinion than Ginsburg is. Some of the liberal precedents that she has supported have been plausibly interpreted by a federal appeals court (among others) as barring all governmental "endorsements" of religion, including even the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. The appeals court ruling provoked a unanimous Senate vote of condemnation in 2002. Is the entire Senate outside the mainstream?

As for Alito's unexplained 1985 objection to reapportionment decisions, perhaps he had read the widely revered Justice John Marshall Harlan's demonstration in a 1964 dissent that "one person, one vote" was a judicial creation with no basis in the Constitution's text or history...

The list of other Alito statements distorted by critics is long. You will hear of him letting cops "strip-search" a 10-year-old girl. And upholding removal of black people from juries. And gutting the Family and Medical Leave Act. And seeking to legalize machine guns.

You will hear critics scoffing at the virtually unanimous praise of Alito by people who know him well -- liberals, moderates, and conservatives. You will hear him called a "right-wing suck-up" and (by The New York Times again) an "ideologue."

But you will know better...

Is the CIA Impeding the President's Ability to Act on Foreign Policy Matters?

With H/T to Power Line, Dafydd ab Hugh writes:

Paul over at Power Line poses a fascinating question -- in subtext -- in a recent post:
How does the CIA protect its turf so well? Its skill in the art of the leak must play a major role. For one thing, this skill helps explain how the agency exerts so much control over those in the mainstream media who cover it.

The subtextual question is, of course, what to do about this?

My suggestion is that the Bush administration must realize that this is a terribly dangerous situation: at a time of national danger, when we are at war, the CIA has become a rogue agency, uncontrolled by any branch of the federal government. It conducts its own foreign policy; it dictates military policy (through control of the intelligence the Department of Defense needs); it has seized control of a significant portion of the powers of the elected Executive.

It's time to fight back... and best and quickest way to do so would be for President Bush to direct Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to immediately begin Justice Department investigations of this rash of recent leaks from the CIA, including the decision to allow Joe Wilson to go public with his lying claims in the New York Times about "what [he] didn't find" in Niger; the leak about the previously secret prison facilities for terrorists; and so forth.

Reporters should be subpoenaed; if they refuse to testify, put them in jail for contempt until they do. Use the full powers of the Patriot Act to seize records and find out who is doing the leaking. And then drop the hammer on them: prosecute them for misuse of classified information or even worse criminal violations. At the very least, get enough evidence to strip them of their security clearances... make it plain that leaking to the press to damage the administration is a career-terminating offense and might even lead to prison time.

Also, be sure to widely publicize the names of leakers as soon as you dredge them up. These people rely upon anonymity; if word gets around that whatever you tell Harry ends up in a Walter Pinkus column tomorrow, the leakers will be shunned by many of the folks who have unwittingly been helping them funnel damaging information to the mainstream leftist media.

Bush can do all of this without Congress lifting a finger. He can do it over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, and he doesn't need any votes from the Democrats. The press will scream; but if Bush were to demand time to give a short speech for broadcast and explain his reasons to the American people, I think they would not only back him, they would applaud lustily: "My fellow Americans, this constant stream of political leaks from the CIA has just got to stop... for God's sake, we're in a war! It's time for the Central Intelligence Agency to get out of politics and back to their actual job: gathering intelligence on our enemies, not leaking stories to the press."

JunkYardBlog has more.

Providence GOP Hosts Media Celebrities

Carroll Andrew Morse

Tireless Providence Republican Party Chairman Dave Talan passes along an announcement of what promises to be interesting panel discussion & straw poll he's put together for Tuesday evening...





(270 Broadway - In Federal Hill)

Featuring a special panel on "How The News Media Covers Politics" with guest panelists...

WHJJ talk show host; former Attorney General; Providence native; former teacher in Providence (St. Xavier)

Former WPRO talk show host; former host of RI PBS The Lively Experiment; Governor Carcieri's Communications Director; One-time GOP candidate for Providence City Council (Ward 3)

Former anchorwoman for Channel 12 news; Now in Gov. Carcieri's Press Office; Member Prov. Ward 8 GOP Committee; Was Public Relations Advisor for the State Legislature

Atty. General candidate Bill Harsch, and possibly other statewide candidates, will be present.

Plus: Vote in unofficial straw poll on U.S. Senate race; win great GOP door prizes; meet hundreds of fellow Republicans.

No cost. Everyone welcome.


Marc Comtois

Byron York, using figures from the website PoliticalMoneyLine, noted that, among other things, the Charles Schumer (D-NY) led National Democratic Senatorial Campaign Commitee outpaced the Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) led National Republican Senatorial Campaign Commitee, $3,030,580 to $2,350,853 in October and leads overall $20,588,392 to $9,127,833, respectively. In response, he received a number of emails, of which (York says) this was representative:

I suspect that there are others who refuse to give to the RSCC for the same reason as mine. Under various chairmen/persons, this committee has stuck its nose in Republican primary campaigns to support RINO incumbents against a conservative or more conservative challengers, as follows:



Rhode Island--Chafee/Laffey

It appears that the committee is just out to protect its incumbent members, spineless lot that they are, and that's inexcusable in my opinion.


I know I decided not to contribute to the RNC or NRSC, but instead to try to contribute to individual senators' accounts, because I cannot stand the official Republican support of the RINOs and McCain (not a RINO but close), and their backtracking on true Conservative issues. Do you think they get the message yet?


The RSCC is supporting Chaffee in RI over a conservative and I, a conservative, am supposed to approve of this? I'll support specific conservative candidates but the days of supporting national GOP organizations is long over.

I wonder if the anonymous emailer is, perchance, an Anchor Rising reader/contributor? It certainly sounds like the sort of thing brought up in our debates for the last few months. I think it is close to the mark, though there are probably other factors. The Republicans are defending fewer Senate seats this year (15 to 18) than are the Democrats and of the five open seats, 4 are in the Democrat column. I also think the Dems are more motivated this far out. Nonetheless, as has been stated before, the fundamental purpose of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee is, above all else, the re-election of current Republican senators. It'll be interesting to see if their current strategy works.

Mac Owens On Ingraham Show

Marc Comtois

Anchor Rising contributor and National Review Online Contributing Editor Mac Owens will by on Laura Ingraham's nationwide radio show today at 10 AM to discuss the similarities between Iraq and Vietnam (you can stream it here). I suspect you can get a flavor of what Mac will be talking to Ingraham about by reading his latest column up at NRO, "Defeated by Defeatism: Why Jack Murtha is Wrong."

UPDATE: No Mac on Ingraham today (the vagaries of live radio), so it looks like he was pushed to later in the week. We'll keep you updated.

The Historiography of Debunking Thanksgiving

Marc Comtois

One of the lesser-known sub-disciplines within the field of History is Historiography: the study of how history has been practiced through the years. A fine and timely example is provided by Dr. Jeremy Bangs in "The Truth About Thanksgiving Is that the Debunkers Are Wrong." Dr. Bangs is the former Chief Curator of Plimoth Plantation and is quite familiar with the arguments set forth by those who, for some reason, want to make less of Thanksgiving than tradition holds.

Surveying more than two hundred websites that “correct” our assumptions about Thanksgiving, it’s possible to sort them into groups and themes, especially since Internet sites often parrot each other. Very few present anything like the myths that most claim to combat. Almost all the corrections are themselves incorrect or banal. With heavy self-importance and pathetic political posturing, they demonstrate quite unsurprisingly that what was once taught in grade school lacked scope, subtlety, and minority insight.
There is much more, but below I highlight Bangs' response to the particular charge made by some that Thanksgiving "was not about religion."

Rick Shenkman, editor of HNN, announces that Thanksgiving was not about religion. Had it been, he says, “the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them. Besides, the Pilgrims would never have tolerated festivities at a true religious event. Indeed, what we think of as Thanksgiving was really a harvest festival. Actual ‘Thanksgivings’ were religious affairs; everybody spent the day praying. Incidentally, these Pilgrim Thanksgivings occurred at different times of the year, not just in November.”

Responding to this in reverse order:

(1) that Thanksgivings were not limited to November does not mean that the first one held by the colonists in Plymouth (presumably in September or early October) was not a thanksgiving.

(2) The modern idea that in a religious thanksgiving “everyone spent the day praying” is inconsistent with the only description of the specific activities of a definitely identified thanksgiving day in early Plymouth Colony -- the thanksgiving held in Scituate in 1636 when a religious service was followed by feasting. (See my book The Seventeenth-Century Town Records of Scituate, Massachusetts (Boston: NEHGS, 2001), vol. 3, p. 513.)

(3) That “what we think of as Thanksgiving was really a harvest festival” (as if that meant it could not have been a thanksgiving) repeats Deetz’s incorrect opinion that an English harvest festival was non-religious or even irreligious.

(4) That the Pilgrims “would never have tolerated festivities at a true religious event” presumes a narrow definition of what a true religious event was before arriving through circular argument at a denial that what the Pilgrims did was such an event, because it differed from the axiomatic definition. (Ever been to a midwestern church picnic? Did tossing horseshoes and playing softball make it non-religious?)

(5) The Pilgrims attempted to pattern their religious activities according to biblical precedent. The precedent for a harvest festival was the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkoth (Deut. 16: 13-14), lasting seven days. The biblical injunction to include the "stranger" probably accounts for the Pilgrims' inviting their Native neighbors to rejoice with them. Besides Sukkoth, the Pilgrims’ experience of a Reformed Protestant thanksgiving every year in Leiden probably contributed to what they considered appropriate. The October 3 festivities commemorated the lifting of the Siege of Leiden in 1574, when half the town had died (an obvious parallel with the experience of the Pilgrims in the winter of 1620-21). Leiden’s ten-day festivity began with a religious service of thanksgiving and prayer, followed by meals, military exercises, games, and a free fair. The common assumption that the Pilgrims’ 1621 event should be judged against the forms taken by later Puritan thanksgivings - whether or not those are even correctly understood - overlooks the circumstance that the Pilgrims did not have those precedents when they attempted something new, intentionally based not on old English tradition but on biblical and Reformed example.

November 20, 2005

Re: War Is Peace

Justin Katz

This sentence in Andrew's previous post captures something that has been eating away at my confidence that September 11, 2001, seared a new clarity into the thinking of the American people:

... toothless is not how our enemies see us today; toothless is how they saw us leading up to September 11. A series of weak responses to attacks on Americans had convinced terrorist organizations and their sponsors that they could launch a September 11-scale attack and probably suffer only the effects of frozen assets and a few cruise missiles in response.

Isn't it simply astonishing that this lesson has been so quickly and so thoroughly disguised by the translucent gloss of apathy and political bandy? Perhaps nothing can be done about the degree to which time glazes all eyes in a culture that persists in seeing tomorrow's possibilities as today's reality and in which the ornamental ignorance of cocktail party conversation — wearing names, factoids, and fashionable impressions as so much costume jewelry — has become the standard for being "well informed." But the political campaign to cast Iraq as something distinct from the War on Terror — crystallized in the willful deafness to the distinction between "links to 9/11" and "ties to terrorism" — has brought forth the galling frivolity of our visible classes.

A return to serious discussion about how the United States should address the world as it actually is will require, it increasingly seems to me, an unequivocal move to use Iraq as a staging ground for further offensives against Islamofascism. Whether subsequent steps are military, cultural, or both, the crucial element will be the clear revelation of our action in Iraq as part of a process — justified in its own right, but a battle no less than a war.

The enemy is watching, and achievement of peace hinges on whether we, in our fiction-drenched minds, see Iraq as a "military adventure" or as a chapter in history.

ADDENDUM: On its face, the above may appear at odds with the preface to The Mudville Gazette's history of the war (via Instapundit):

One of the most blatant - and most effective - examples [of history being rewritten] has been the highly successful propagation of the idea that the war in Iraq began as a misguided result of the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11th 2001.

The reason this view accords with my call for further tying of Iraq with the War on Terror is apparent in the subsequent sentence (which has echoes in Andrew's post):

To achieve this feat of near-universal denial requires the dismissing of over a decade of real history - years in which a handful of Americans drew a line in the sand on distant shores - a line crossed repeatedly and re-drawn too frequently by too many hands to be forgotten so swiftly.

Our handling of Saddam Hussein became indicative for our enemies, enemies whose company Hussein kept, of our weakness and our indecisiveness. September 11 represented the exploration of that lesson and taught us — or should have taught us — that such mistakes will reverberate directly within our individual lives, not as news items, but as a lurking palpable danger.

Addressing our error in the case of Iraq was a discrete action, yes, but the damage permeated the broader world and must be undone more broadly.

November 19, 2005

Jerry Landay in the Projo: War is Peace

Carroll Andrew Morse

The problem with leftists is that they’ve got no foreign policy arguments of their own to make. This leads them write articles, like this Jerry Landay op-ed from Friday’s Projo, where they hitch themselves to any anti-Bush argument around, even when the factual basis is weak and the logic doesn’t make sense. In Landay's case, he hitches himself to the Brent Scowcroft realist bandwagon.

Landay lets his readers know right away that historical accuracy is not going to be his strong suit…

Both Scowcroft and [retired Colnel Larry] Wilkerson are case-hardened realists who scorn the taking on of military adventures with uncertain outcomes.
Scowcroft is anything but a non-interventionist. Scowcroft supported the American invasion of Panama in 1989. As national security advisor, he supported America's ultimate "adventure with an uncertain uncome" in Somalia in 1992.

Landay’s Swiss-cheese approach to history leads him to uncritically buy into Brent Scowcroft’s “realist” distortions of the recent past. Here’s Landay’s version of a history that never was…

The candid words of these wise old warrior-patriots underscore the menacing place to which our present national leadership has led us -- and the world. With a wrecked Army, Marine Corps, National Guard and Reserves, we are seen by our rivals and enemies as toothless. The "Pax Americana" we have imposed on the world for more than 50 years is undermined.
In Landay’s view, the world of the September-11 attack -- a world where 3,000 people in their home country were killed by foreign attackers in one day -- was a world at peace. You might coherently argue that liberating Iraq was the wrong move for neutralizing the most major threat to America, but you cannot coherently argue, as Landay does, that it was the wrong move because it brought an end to “peace”. For a bit more detail, here’s Christopher Hitchens’ description of the Scowcroft/Landay 50 years of peace…
Realism of the Scowcroft sort presided over the Iran-Iraq war with its horrific casualties and watched indifferently as genocide was enacted in northern Iraq. It allowed despots free rein from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, and then goggled when this gave birth to the Taliban and al-Qaida.
But the biggest problem with Landay’s and Scowcroft’s acceptance of war as peace is not how it distorts the past, but how it threatens the future. Contrary to Landay’s statement, toothless is not how our enemies see us today; toothless is how they saw us leading up to September 11. A series of weak responses to attacks on Americans had convinced terrorist organizations and their sponsors that they could launch a September 11-scale attack and probably suffer only the effects of frozen assets and a few cruise missiles in response.

That perception ended with Afghanistan and Iraq. Iraq may yet prove that the US does not know how to rebuilding a government once we’ve destroyed it, but nobody doubts any longer that the US will hit back hard if attacked.

November 18, 2005

Empowering Our Children to Live the American Dream Demands School Choice

The comments section in Andrew's posting entitled Cranston’s and Rhode Island’s Need for a Sensible School Choice Program is alive with a debate about two issues: Should children from Providence - where public schools are mediocre - have the right to attend better schools in Cranston and what effect does this have on education funding flows.

Let me get at the underlying issue that makes it necessary to have this debate in the first place: Just like it was ill-conceived government actions that made health insurance belong to companies instead of individual citizens, the entire school choice and related money issues only are a problem because of further unproductive government actions.

Here are two previous postings related to this issue:

Parents or Government/Unions: Who Should Control Our Children's Educational Decisions?

Milton Friedman on School Choice

There is a lot at stake here for our country and for our children's ability to realize the American Dream. The problem is best stated in this excerpt from the 1983 study entitled "A Nation at Risk:"

For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents.

Here is another quote from the report:

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.

That is a damning indictment of the status quo and those who support it.

Also in that second posting is this quote from Milton Friedman:

"A Nation at Risk" stimulated much soul-searching and a whole series of major attempts to reform the government educational system. These reforms, however extensive or bold, have, it is widely agreed, had negligible effect on the quality of the public school system. Though spending per pupil has more than doubled since 1970 after allowing for inflation, students continue to rank low in international comparisons; dropout rates are high; scores on SATs and the like have fallen and remain flat. Simple literacy, let alone functional literacy, in the United States is almost surely lower at the beginning of the 21st century than it was a century earlier. And all this is despite a major increase in real spending per student since "A Nation at Risk" was published.

And who do you think defends ever increasing spending with no connection to outcomes? The teachers' unions, who resist any and all reform including school choice. For an indictment of the teachers' unions and the status quo at a local, state and national level, I would refer you to the numerous postings at the bottom of this posting.

Public education in this country will only improve when we recognize that teacher's unions are a fundamental part of the problem with today's educational system.

School choice - where parents, not the government, control educational decisions for their children - is the only reform that has the potential to make American public education great again.

Cranston’s and Rhode Island’s Need for a Sensible School Choice Program

Carroll Andrew Morse

A Daniel Barbarisi article in yesterday’s Projo reported that Cranston has “expelled more than 100 students since September in a campaign to purge the system of illegally enrolled children from other communities”. The City of Cranston is taking the wrong approach. Instead of an enforcement campaign, Cranston should be celebrating its ability to provide a quality of education that residents of other Rhode Island cities and towns want. Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, the Cranston City Council, and the Cranston School Committee should be using the fact that students from other cities and towns want to attend their schools as an opportunity to press for a more sensible and fair program of state education aid.

Instead of Cranston sending time and money on efforts to send students back to Providence and other communities, the state should be sending money to Cranston to help them educate students who have freely chosen to go there. Rhode Island should adopt a public school choice program like the one in neighboring Massachusetts: students are allowed to choose amongst the public school systems that opt-in to the program, and state aid follows the number of students who choose to attend a particular school.

According to the budget, about $650,000,000 of state money went to cities towns in the form of direct education aid (see page 442 of the program supplement to the state budget). There are about 160,000 students attending public schools in RI. Divide the first number by the second, and you come up with a figure of about $4,000 per student.

Which plan seems more fair: sending $400,000 to help 100 students stay in the school system of their choice, or forcing 100 students back to school systems they have chosen to leave?

November 17, 2005

Casino on the Brink

Carroll Andrew Morse

The infamous Guy Dufualt/Michael Levesque exchange began with a reference to lethal implications arising from a difficult situation

Dufault: Well, I did send a little note to Jan and Dave basically saying that, ya know, this is a very, very difficult situation. Michael and myself are on top of it but this, ya know, this could have lethal implications for us. Cuz I, ya know, who.... even if Jeannie.... even if she cracked up and stepped down. I mean we gotta make sure we win that seat.
Tracy Scudder’s coverage of the West Warwick Town Council in today’s Kent County Times gives us a pretty solid hint as to what the lethal implications are. At present, there are 2 votes on the West Warwick Town Council ready to kill the casino…
West Warwick Town Councilman Leo J. Costantino Jr. (R-Ward 4) put forth a resolution that would withdraw support for the casino. It was voted down 3-2 with Costantino and Councilman Peter F. Calci Jr. (D-Ward 5) voting in favor of withdrawing support....

Costantino said it is time for a reality check and that the issue is "Dead, dead, dead. The question is what to do with the corpse."

Jeanne DiMasi, the recently outsted former council president, voted in favor of the casino. As town council president, DiMasi had been working closely with the state-level casino advocates. If she were to lose her seat to a casino skeptic, then the West Warwick Town Council would be aligned 3-2 against a casino.

The problem for casino advocates is even deeper. Though Councilman Edward Giroux did not vote to withdraw support, he did clearly state that he believes that the casino’s time is running out…

Council Vice-President Edward A. Giroux said he realizes that the chances of a casino going into the industrial park are "fairly slim."

"Personally, I will be giving it one more year," said Giroux. But if that year passes and progress has not been made then he said he would join Costantino in withdrawing support.

This is a significant indicator. Giroux has received campaign contributions from the big state-level players in the casino effort: Guy Dufault, Michael Levesque, Steven Alves, and Timothy Williamson. Is Giroux worried that in his next campaign, solid fundraising won't be able to make up for popular dissatisfaction with the direction that the casino wheeling and dealing has taken? Constantino explains why town residents might be souring on the casino deal…
Costantino questioned the motives of a company that is willing to pay consultants $210,000 but not pay the town $25,000 to do impact studies. "To quote John Flynn, 'If you can't trust them during the honeymoon period, you can't trust them during the marriage'.

The courts keep rejecting casino legislation. The residents of West Warwick seem to be growing tired of having their town viewed as a subsidiary of Casino Inc. Yet, according to Jim Baron in the Pawtucket Times, Williamson will file another casino bill in the next legislative session. If the pro-casino forces think that their window of opportunity is closing, how far will they go to get what they want? I suspect we will find out in the upcoming legislative session.

Sovereignty, Olive Branches and Big Sticks

Marc Comtois

John Adams wrote in his diary

I had something to say about Advizing the States to institute Governments, to express my total despair of any good from the Petition or any of those Things which were called conciliatory measures. I constantly insisted that all such measures, instead of having any tendency to produce a Reconciliation, would only be considered as proofs of our Timidity and want of Confidence in the Ground We stood on, and would only encourage our Ennemies to greater Exertions against Us.
While I recognize that he was speaking of the acute issue at hand (how long to wait for a peaceful solution to the splintering of the American colonies from Great Britain in 1776), his observation is applicable to both other historical situations as well as to those which we face today.

It is nothing new to say that effective diplomacy is supported by the plausible threat of force. Jefferson realized this in his "dealings" with the Barbary Pirates in America's first encounters with Muslim "non-state actors." World War I was an example of what could happen when an overweaning desire for peace blotted out the wisdom of maintaining the requisite arms to safeguard it.

However, after the Cold War, the idea of arms undergirding diplomacy appears to have been deemed antiquated by many nations. To crib from one theorist, Europe and America prematurely and mistakenly began to believe that the theories of their very "Kantian" world was extending into places in which the reality was a very "Hobbesian" conception of the sovereignty of nations and their power. Yet, when 9/11 ocurred, the U.S.--if not Europe--reconceived of the wisdom and necessity of using force again. The lead up to the Iraq war only solidified this epiphany as it exhibited the folly of relying on the process of diplomacy without any serious threat of violence. If there is only process without consequences, then the process would end because of lack of interest and nothing more. Indeed, with the Oil-for-Food revelations and all of the related corruption, it seems that was the goal all along.

But the root of the attitude that diplomacy can occur without the threat of force may be linked to a changing conception of sovereignty whereby anyone who can claim and hold power is deemed legitimate, democratic or not. However, as Andrew's very good piece concerning recent events concerning Syria indicate, perhaps such conceptions are changing. It may be that the events in Europe of the past year have helped to quicken the pace as more realize that patronization will get them nowhere with those who don't think "reasonably." Perhaps more are realizing that the only way to get some to the bargaining table is with an olive branch in one hand and a big stick in the other.

Who Said This...

Carroll Andrew Morse

To not give the answer away too easily, I changed one word in the quote below, and masked a proper name. With those caveats in mind, who said most of the following...

The president seems to have taken, at least until recently, the most anachronistic aspects of that policy -- an excessive reliance on arms, an obsessive antiterrorism and an imperial, unilateral behavior at odds with our constitutional democracy -- and carried them to the breaking point. However inadvertently, the administration has dramatized the inadequacy of policies no longer relevant to the real world.
Answer (and the point of this exercise) a little later in the day...


Reader GWB nails it on the first try. The quote is from the father of modern Democratic foreign policy, George McGovern. McGovern wrote the above passage about Ronald Reagan in 1987 (As GWB also points out, GM talked about anticommunism, not antiterrorism). That’s right, just about a year before the collapse of the Soviet Empire, McGovern wanted to withdraw the pressures about to cause that collapse.

The core beliefs of Democratic foreign policy haven't changed. Liberals continue to see every use of American power as obsessive, imperial and unilateral, and continue to respond to every challenge by urging America to walk away. That policy makes as much sense today as it did in ’87.

Here’s the whole passage, unabridged…

Ronald Reagan may represent the end of the line for the bipartisan cold war policy. The president seems to have taken, at least until recently, the most anachronistic aspects of that policy -- an excessive reliance on arms, an obsessive anticommunism and an imperial, unilateral behavior at odds with our constitutional democracy -- and carried them to the breaking point. However inadvertently, the Reagan Administration has dramatized the inadequacy of policies no longer relevant to the real world. Mr. Reagan has believed he was presiding over "morning in America"; we are about to experience the "morning after."

Syria at the Tipping Point

Carroll Andrew Morse

How the world responds to Syria’s involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri is going to have a huge impact on the future shape of the international system, and the response is going to be determined mostly by how Americans view the situation. I explain the details in my latest TechCentralStation column.

November 16, 2005

Why Who Maintains the Internet Matters

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here’s a little something to think about while the UN makes the case for greater international control of the internet this week. From the Financial Times (via Drudge)…

Beijing has halted plans to allow foreign newspapers to print in China because of concerns raised by recent “colour revolutions” against authoritarian governments in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, according to a senior media regulator.

Shi Zongyuan, head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, said the role of the international media in such popular revolts had prompted the suspension of what had been an cautious, but significant easing of China’s curbs on foreign news publications.

“The ‘colour revolutions’ were a reminder not to let saboteurs into the house and that the door must be closed, so we have closed it temporarily,” Mr Shi said in an interview with the FT.

If the government of China considers mainstream media newspapers to be saboteurs, what do they consider blogs to be? And what would they do to them if they had a share of control of the internet?

Can We Get this Deal in Rhode Island?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The good news is that Alaska’s bridge to nowhere is going to be defunded (h/t Instapundit). The bad news is that the consensus seems to be that Alaska now gets to spend the money that would have gone to the bridge anyway it wants. That’s right, Alaksa -- a state with no sales tax and no income tax -- is getting a $223,000,000 subsidy from the federal government.

Can we get that deal here in Rhode Island? Check out this list of federal money earmarked for Rhode Island. Now consider Rhode Island’s $60,000,000 fiscal year 2006 shortfall.

Yesterday, I read quotes from State Representative Steven Constantino, Ocean State Action Director Marti Rosenberg, and Rhode Island Poverty Institute Director Kate Brewster saying that the state’s human services programs should not be cut. Today, we’ve found a source for the money! Will Constantino or Rosenberg or Brewster call on our federal representatives to redirect funding from bike paths and the purchase of conservation land so that the “poorest kids and families” don’t have “to bear the brunt of any cuts” because of the budget shortfall?

Social Service Spending in Rhode Island

Carroll Andrew Morse

Yesterday’s Projo article discussing the state’s $60,000,000 budget shortfall quotes Marti Rosenberg from Ocean State Action who says that Rhode Island's human services programs have been "sliced to the bone". RI Policy Analysis doesn’t think that the facts back up that statement. Some of the specific facts they cite in refutation are…

In FY 2004 Rhode Island’s General Revenue spending on welfare and other assistance programs was the third highest in the country per $1,000 of personal income. Rhode Island’s spending on Medicaid is the fourth highest in the nation per $1,000 in personal income....

We are one of only eleven states that do not count time spent on welfare in another state towards the federal five-year limit on benefits, and our sanctions policies on welfare recipients who do not comply with their work or education plans are among the most lenient in the nation....

Between January 1993 and December 2001, Rhode Island ranked last in the country in welfare caseload reduction….Moreover, in 2003 head-of-household recipients stayed on welfare longer in Rhode Island than in any other state -- 76% longer than the national average, and almost 25% longer than in number two ranked California....

Even more stunning is the fact that 21% of Rhode Island welfare recipients subject to the federal limit of a maximum of five years on welfare had been granted exemptions by the state, and had been receiving benefits for a longer period. Nationally, only 3.1% of recipients had been exempted. The number two ranked state on this measure was Maine, where only 8.8% of welfare recipients had been exempted from the five-year limit.

November 15, 2005

How would you Close the State Budget Gap?

Carroll Andrew Morse

In today's Projo, Scott Mayerowitz reports on Rhode Island's projected $60,000,000 budget shortfall. The leadership of the legislature is ducking for cover when the subject of closing the budget gap comes up...

Both [State Senator Steven] Alves and [State Representative Stephen] Costantino said it was up to [Governor Donald] Carcieri to propose cuts first. The governor is required in January to submit a supplemental budget for the current year and a proposed budget for next year.

Carcieri has traditionally turned first to the state's social services when looking for cuts. In the past, he tried to drop people earlier from the state's welfare rolls if they did not carry through on employment and training plans. Carcieri has also proposed reducing the number of people eligible for state-subsidized childcare. Lawmakers have generally restored his cuts.

Costantino would not speak yesterday about theoretical cuts, but warned: "It has been the tradition of this Assembly to protect children, to protect seniors, and that will always be a focus of this Assembly."

Governor Carcieri "traditionally" turns first to social services because that is where the largest chunk of state money is spent -- $1,228,004,544 out of $3,069,500,007 (40%) to be exact. Here's every fiscal-year 2006 $100,000,000-plus line-item as listed in the "expenditures from general revenues" table in the state budget program supplement (warning: this link takes you to a honking-big pdf file)...
Education -- Elementary and Secondary $837,030,846
Human Services -- Human Services $768,915,978
General Government -- Administration $406,451,928
Human Services -- Mental Health, Retardation, & Hospitals $238,267,015
Education -- Higher Education - Board of Governors $182,208,913
Human Services -- Children, Youth, and Families $161,640,261
Public Safety -- Corrections $146,602,300
These seven items, by themselves, account for almost 90% of the state budget. Unless the state is willing to drastically cut/zero-out a whole bunch of smaller programs, reconciling the $60,000,000 shortfall has to come from either cuts to the above list or from tax increases.

Big Papi: He is our Most Valuable Player

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees has won the American League Most Valuable Player award this week. Some of us disagree strongly with his selection over David "Big Papi" Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox.

Here is the best case I have read about why Ortiz deserved to win:

The MVP award wasn't about defense the year Jose Canseco won it.

The MVP award wasn't about defense the years Juan Gonzalez won it.

The MVP award wasn't about defense the years Frank Thomas won it.

But suddenly, this year, defense mattered...

A-Rod had himself another spectacular season, all right. Nobody denies that...

The overall offensive numbers of these two men were amazingly close. Their teams finished with exactly the same record (95-67). And they both made the playoffs. So there wasn't much justification for using the standings as a means to separate them...

...If it wasn't about defense, then the wrong man won.

We know this can't have been about leadership, because that derby was no contest.

The Red Sox fed off Big Papi in a way that the Yankees never did off A-Rod. Ortiz had the presence of King Kong, inspired more smiles than Chris Rock and cast the follow-me aura of the Dalai Lama. A-Rod is the better all-around baseball player -- but let's just say he's no Derek Jeter in his ability to inspire those mortal humans around him...

If you really look closely at what happened in the batter's box when the biggest games of the year were on the line, it becomes clear that that can't be why A-Rod won, either -- because that, too, was a Big Papi landslide.

Alex Rodriguez had 24 more at-bats with runners in scoring position than David Ortiz this season -- and still drove in 18 fewer runs. That ought to tell you something. But if it doesn't, we'll spell it out for you.

Ortiz hit 62 points higher than A-Rod did with runners in scoring position (.352 to .290) overall...But that's in all games, in all RBI situations. If you keep looking, you find that as the games got tighter, that gap just kept getting bigger.

In the late innings of close games, A-Rod hit .176 with men in scoring position; Ortiz batted .313...

Ortiz's OPS (on-base plus slugging) in those situations was 1.224 -- to A-Rod's .813...

...A-Rod was vastly more productive in the Yankees' blowout wins than he was in games where a hit either way was the difference between winning and losing.

In the 20 games each of their teams won by six or more runs, A-Rod hit .549, had an OPS of 1.793 and racked up 46 of his 130 RBI (35 percent). Ortiz, on the other hand, batted .277, had an OPS almost 800 points lower than A-Rod's (.999) and drove in only 33 runs (22 percent of his overall total).

But in close games (games that either went to extra innings or were decided by one or two runs in regulation), the numbers look a whole lot different.

In those games -- and each team played exactly 65 of them -- A-Rod batted only .243, had an OPS of .805 and drove in just 38 runs (29 percent). Ortiz, meanwhile, clearly tapped some mysterious force that made him even better in moments like that -- batting .321, running up an OPS of 1.116 and knocking in nearly a run a game (62 -- or 42 percent of his overall total)...

November 14, 2005

Judge: Home-based Child Care Providers NOT "Effectively" state workers

Marc Comtois

According to a Katherine Gregg posting on the ProJo's newish blog:

A Superior Court judge has sided with the Carcieri administration in rejecting a state Labor Board ruling that home-based child-care workers are effectively state workers because they are so highly controlled by the state. . .

In his decision today, Judge Daniel A. Procaccini wrote, "The board's decision offends any reasonable notion of orderly and responsible expansion of the state's work force." He added that the board's analysis, "if accepted, may be applied to a myriad of groups that supply goods or services to the state."

The workers were seeking state employee status so they could bargain collectively and pursue other benefits of state employment.

Good to see some judicial sanity, eh? Governor Carcieri released a statement applauding the decision.
“Today’s ruling was a clear victory for Rhode Island’s taxpayers,” Governor Carcieri said. “The Labor Board’s decision to unilaterally add 1,300 people to the state payroll was unprecedented and legally insupportable. Today, the court agreed that independent businesspeople who are licensed by the state to provide services – however valuable those services may be – are not state employees.”

"The implications of this decision for the state budget and for Rhode Island taxpayers cannot be overestimated,” Governor Carcieri continued. “We already know that we will have to make a number of difficult decisions in the state budget for the coming fiscal year. The Labor Board’s original, flawed decision could have increased the cost of Rhode Island’s child care subsidy program by $8 to $10 million per year. That’s money that the state doesn’t have, and that taxpayers cannot afford to pay. Thanks to today’s ruling, Rhode Island taxpayers won’t have to shoulder that additional burden."

Storm Clouds Brewing on the Horizon

What a delight to read Andrew's posting about freedom of speech bursting forth in the town of Coventry!

And what concern all of us should have as we read his posting about potential government regulations which seek to squash the fundamental American right to speak our minds. Here are some earlier postings on this important issue:

Correcting the Bizarre Incentives Created by Campaign Finance Reform Laws

The Looming Threat of Government Regulation to Blogsphere, Brought to Us by Campaign Finance Reform

Will FEC Draft Regulations Lead to Greater Regulatory Control Over Blogging Community?

More on Potential FEC Restrictions on Blogging Community

FEC Hearings on Blogging Regulations

Why We Blog

I don't know a single American politician today who says we should have opposed funding fax machines for Solidarity nearly 25 years ago in Communist Poland, thereby providing the oppressed Polish people with a way to get the truth out to other freedom-loving people around the world.

Now ask yourself this question: If lifting restrictions on the speech of the Polish people was okay then, why are some of today's politicians in America voting against ensuring a similar lack of restrictions on our speech by opposing the Online Freedom of Speech Act?

To reinforce Andrew's concern, read the postings again in the category of Rhode Island Politics and ask yourself if our state would be better off with citizens knowing less about all those issues.

The Online Freedom of Speech Act & The Blog Boomlet in Coventry

Carroll Andrew Morse

There are about a dozen blogs written by residents of the town of Coventry (see the blogroll in the extended entry below). Their content includes a healthy amount of coverage of the civically unhealthy dispute between Coventry’s town council president Frank Hyde and acting town administrator Richard Sullivan. Hyde is accused of trying to force some hirings and firings that are supposed to be under the control of the town manager (including maybe trying to force Sullivan to resign from his acting position). There is an emergency town council meeting scheduled for tonight with election of officers and hiring a new town manager on the agenda. The bloggers, of course, have their own opinions on all of these matters.

The blog boomlet in Coventry is a perfect example the kind of activity that the first amendment’s freedom of the press was designed to protect -- criticism of the conduct of government officials. Yet our current Congress may attempt to restrict this kind of online political speech. The pro-regulation crowd in Congress continues to argue that only established, corporate media is covered by freedom of the press and that all other political speech is subject to regulation.

Coventry may provide the clearest example of how this is the wrong attitude. If Mighty Isis or the Duck or E-Town wants to say that “we need to get Mr. Hyde out of office and believe that Henry Jekyll would be the best replacement” then they should be free to spread that opinion as far and as wide as possible, without fear of the government defining their speech as a coordinated in-kind campaign contribution and claiming the right to regulate it.

A couple of weeks ago, Congress attempted exempting the Internet from campaign finance regulation through the Online Freedom of Speech Act, but the measure failed. According to the Daily Kos, an alternative proposed by notoriously pro-regulation-of-speech Congressmen Marty Meehan and Christopher Shays is ambguous at best, refusing to expressly extend media protection to blogs.

James Langevin, the Congressman representing the bloggers of Coventry, voted against the Online Freedom of Speech Act, leaving the threat of regulation in the air.

One final “only in Rhode Island” thought on this. In pursuing a campaign-finance complaint against the Republican party, Board of Elections chairman Roger Begin attempted to clear a proposed settlement with members of the state’s Democratic leadership. The politcos he talked to were not affiliated with the BOE in any way. Given the behavior of the State Board of Elections, is it unreasonable to believe that bringing political speech in the blogosphere under government regulation will ultimately give William Murphy or William Lynch or Joeseph Montalbano the power to stifle new-media criticism of their actions?

The Blog Boomlet in Coventry (mostly via Town of Coventry Watch)…
I am the Duck
Mighty Isis
Coventry Union Worker
The Fabulous Rabbit
The Corpse Bride
CovSC5 Citizens' E-Forum
Jake The Beagle

November 13, 2005

Don't Ignore Grass-Roots Education Reform

Carroll Andrew Morse

An editorial in Saturday's Projo compared the poor performance of Rhode Island's public schools to the better performance of those in neighboring Massachusetts, then listed a number of reform proposals for closing the gap...

Impose high-stakes testing.

Create performance incentives for teachers, through pay -- rewarding those who do a great job, and especially those who take on the burden of teaching in urban schools.

Rigorously evaluate teachers annually, with real consequences for performance.

Reform the state's education schools so that they turn out better-educated teachers.

Pass laws protecting the rights of school administrators, so that they can be held accountable for school non-performance.

Spend money in ways that will directly help the students, rather than simply lining the pockets of politically powerful groups in the form of unusually generous benefits.

Practice citizen participation: Make it clear that voters next year will reject incumbent legislators who fail to support a strong public-education reform agenda.

This list of top-down bureaucratic reforms (some of which are necessary) ignores grass-roots strengths of the Massachusetts education system. 1) Massachusetts has school choice within the public system. Parents can send their child to public schools in the state that have opted-in to the choice program. 2) Massachusetts has a stronger network of charter schools than does Rhode Island. In large part, this is because the Massachusetts legislature has not shown the degree of hostility to charter schools that the Rhode Island legislature has.

Rhode Island needs to consider these kinds of grass-roots ideas as part of any education reform. Let parents send their children to the schools that work, instead of having government expend money and effort on schools that don't.

Two Views of American Foreign Policy

Carroll Andrew Morse

Last week, the New Yorker published a Jeffrey Goldberg article based on an interview with former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft. Scowcroft gets a lot of press for being a Republican foreign policy mandarin critical of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

In setting up the article, Goldberg gives too stark a description of the Scowcroftian foreign policy worldview…

Like Kissinger, he is a purveyor of a “realist” approach to foreign policy: the idea that America should be guided by strategic self-interest, and that moral considerations are secondary at best.
I know you have to simplify when describing political philosophies, but Goldberg completely misses the essential divide that exists within Republican foreign policy circles. The Scowcroft/Kissinger view of the world is based on accepting the permanence of your enemies. The key assumptions are that opposing leaders are ultimately reasonable and that foreign policy is process of continuing deal-making over who can do what in the other side’s sphere of influence. The opposing school of thought is the Reagan school of thought. The key tenants are a belief that an enemy who says that his goal is to destroy you probably means it and that security comes from defeating your enemies.

The White House sent out an e-mail in response to the Goldberg article. Some national Republican version of Michael Levesque had this to say about the e-mail

"I was so disgusted that I deleted the damn e-mail before I read it," the Republican said. "But that's all this White House has now: the politics of personal destruction."
Actually, the e-mail turned out to be a list of sober, substantive rebuttals to various issues raised in the Scowcroft interview.

I’ll reprint the points from the e-mail in the extended entry (courtesy of RealClearPolitics). You have the link to Goldberg article/Scrowcroft’s comments. Which vision of American foreign policy do you prefer?

Here is the rebuttal to the points made by Scowcroft...

1. Bernard Lewis is perhaps our greatest living historian on the Middle East.

2. Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire" was accurate, courageous, and important, as we learned from (among others) Soviet dissidents.

3. The assertion that we have had "fifty years of peace" in the Middle East is an odd one, if you consider (a) America's 1991 war against Iraq (which General Scowcroft favored); (b) the Iraq-Iran war (in which there were a million casualties; (c) the conflict in the early 1970s between Jordan and the Palestinians; (d) the civil war in Lebanon; (e) the four wars between Israel and Arab nations; and (f) the attacks of September 11, 2001 (which was carried out by Islamic radicals who emerged from the broader Middle East).

In some ways this point underscores the enormous difference between the worldview of Mr. Scowcroft and those in the Bush Administration. Mr. Scowcroft seems to believe that the status quo in the Middle East is tolerable, maybe even preferable; we do not. The President believes that if the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation and anger and violence for export. In the words of President Bush, "In the past, [we] have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold."

4. The "bad guys" -- the most ruthless among us -- do not "always" rise to the top. In fact in many elections - in Spain and Portugal, Nicaragua and El Salvador, the Czech Republic and Romania, South Africa and the Philippines, Indonesia and Ukraine, Afghanistan and Iraq, and many more - we have seen enormous strides toward freedom. For example, the Western Hemisphere has transformed itself over the last two decades from a region dominated by repressive, authoritarian regimes to one in which the overwhelming number of countries there have democratically-elected governments and growing civil societies.

It's also worth bearing in mind that some pretty bad guys (like Saddam Hussein) "win elections" in authoritarian and totalitarian societies. Indeed, non-democracies make it far easier for the "bad guys" to prevail than is the case with democracies. Is it the supposition of Mr. Scowcroft that from a historical point of view dictatorships have a better record than democracies? Or that because democratic elections don't always turn out well they can never turn out well? Or that because democratic elections don't always turn out well we should prefer authoritarian and totalitarian regimes? The habit of mind that sees all the weaknesses in democracy and all the "strengths" in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes is, well, curious.

5. Mr. Scowcroft insists we will not "democratize" Iraq and that "in any reasonable time frame the objective of democratizing the Middle East can be successful." Except that in the last two-and-a-half years Iraq has moved from tyranny, to liberation, to national elections, to the writing of a constitution, to the passage of a constitution. By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress. Iraq still faces challenges, including a ruthless insurgency -- but there is no question that the people of Iraq long for democracy and for victory over the insurgency.

The charge that the way we have sought to bring democracy to Iraq is "you invade, you threaten and pressure, you evangelize" is itself deeply misleading. Mr. Scowcroft's invasion was in fact a liberation -- and overthrowing one of the worst tyrannies in modern times and replacing it with free elections is a good start on the pathway to liberty. And of course this year we have also seen political progress -- not perfection, but progress -- in Kuwait, Egypt, and among the Palestinians.

6. The notion that democratic progress in Lebanon is "unrelated" to the war in Iraq is undermined by what the Lebanese themselves have told us. To take just one example, here are the words of Walid Jumblatt, who was once a harsh critic of American policy: "'It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

7. Mr. Scowcroft seems to wish that Syria were still ruling Lebanon with an iron fist. Brutal repression may be wicked -- but (Scowcroft seems to believe) it does keep a lid on "sectarian emotions."

8. Sometimes when given a chance, we humans don't screw up. Sometimes human beings reach for, and (even if imperfectly) attain, nobility and the advancement of freedom and human dignity.Which seems to me to be an argument against cynicism and despair -- to say nothing of repression and tyranny. Let the debate proceed.

November 12, 2005

Anchor Rising Turns One!

Carroll Andrew Morse

When Justin, Marc, Don and myself started blogging together a year ago, we weren’t exactly sure where we were going, but we were sure we’d be able to find worthwhile topics -- topics not receiving the attention they deserved -- to discuss.

Almost coincident with our one-year anniversary, evidence appeared that our supposition was correct. A Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam article in the Weekly Standard laid out a program for a new domestic conservatism. One issue of prominence was healthcare. Here are a few snippets of their thoughts on healthcare…

Republicans need to deliver a market-friendly health care reform, and simply the current hodgepodge of command-and-control and laissez-faire….

For instance, Mitt Romney has proposed in Massachusetts that health insurance be made universal by making it mandatory….

More important, severing health care coverage from employment will eliminate the gaps in coverage that occur when workers move from one job to the next. Workers will no longer be shacked to jobs they despise, thus offering a tremendous boon to productivity.

A very similar discussion via e-mail between myself and one Mister Justin Katz was a precursor to the creation of Anchor Rising. Here's Justin discussing healtcare, over a year ago, at Dust in the Light...
Our system "combines the compassion of raw capitalism with the efficiency of bureaucratic socialism”….

“Rather, mandatory, private, health Insurance – ‘universal coverage in exchange for universal responsibility.’" That, it seems to me, might be the American way to create a universal health plan….

Employees might benefit from companies' newfound need to develop other ways to attract and keep employees, once risking temporary unemployment is no longer to risk one's life.

Rest assured, here at Anchor Rising, we will continue to bring you tomorrow’s solutions to today’s problems!

On a more personal note, let me add that I am proud to have been able to contribute to the civic discussion of this past year through my association with my Anchor Rising co-bloggers.

November 11, 2005

How Deep is their Conservatism?

Marc Comtois

To build on Justin's latest post, I'd point you to John Hinderaker's post in which he boils down what has happened to the Republicans over the last year and asks why they appear so weak-kneed:

So what has happened in the past twelve months to terrify so many of our Republican office-holders? Two hurricanes struck, and some observers accused a federal agency of responding too slowly to one of them. Tom DeLay was indicted, in what was basically a bad joke, by an absurdly partisan and utterly discredited Texas Democrat DA. An aide to the Vice President has been accused of lying to a grand jury about telling the truth to the press about a mountebank Democrat's lies about the administration. And the President's poll ratings--more or less irrelevant, given that he can't run for office again--have dropped into a range occupied, at one time or another, by every President from Lyndon Johnson to the present.

These are pathetic reasons for our representatives in Congress to be in a Chicken Little mode. The Republicans are rapidly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and it's hard to say who is more to blame--the Congressional Republicans, some of whom are afraid of their own shadows, or the White House, which, in studiously refraining from responding to the most outrageously unfair and blatantly partisan attacks launched against an American administration in 145 years, seems intent on a weird kind of martyrdom.

It's no wonder that Republicans across the country increasingly regard their elected representatives as gutless wonders. There is no objective reason why 2006 should be a disaster for the party, but it will be if our representative don't stick together and show the voters that the Republican party still stands for security, common sense and limited government. That's still a winning combination, but only if our representatives vote for it.

Too many elected Republicans--caught in the Beltway echo chamber and desirous of making everyone (the media) happy--seem to believe that they are in a weaker position than they actually are. They seem to have forgotton that they control both Houses and the Presidency. They are sacrificing their conservative principles because they believe that backing off of same will give them some sort of relief. But it won't and they should know better. Instead, it makes them appear weak and able to be bullied. But their actions do more than betray a lack of faith in their purported conservative principles. They also indicate that, in fact, there may be quite a few more rhetorical than ideological conservatives in the Republican party.

Fogarty Returns Dufault’s Campaign Contribution

Carroll Andrew Morse

Let’s credit Lieutenant Governor Fogarty for doing the right thing. According to Katherine Gregg in today’s Projo

After being on the receiving end of another of Dufault's televised barbs, the Democrats' own likely candidate for governor next year -- Lt. Gov. Charles J. Fogarty -- returned a $1,000 campaign contribution to Dufault.

Not happy with what Dufault had to say about his campaign, Fogarty said he also thought it "appropriate" to return Dufault's money "to make very clear that there is no support from me in any way shape or form of what happened with respect to the governor."

Will Sheldon Whitehouse (who has a lot more money to start with) and James Langevin follow Fogarty’s example?

Levesque Excommunicated by State Republicans

Carroll Andrew Morse

At a meeting of the Rhode Island Republican Party Central Committee (a regular meeting, scheduled before the Dufault/Levesque broadcast), the state Republican Party, unsurprisingly, has disassociated itself as far as is possible from Michael Levesque. From Katherine Gregg’s coverage in the Projo

GOP Chairwoman Patricia Morgan said the resolution, adopted by the Republican State Central Committee, "completely disavows the inflammatory comments and behavior of J. Michael Levesque and specifically states that he is neither a representative of or spokesperson for the Rhode Island Republican Party."
The rules here in Rhode Island don’t allow a political party to actually throw an individual out, but Morgan’s remarks make it clear that the Republicans would if they could…
"He can always register as a Republican, . . . but as far as allowing him to be a spokesman for the Republican Party . . . we've excommunicated him," she said.

Samuel Alito: Would you Like to Buy an "O"?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Look, it is fairly obvious that there’s some sort of visceral hostility to the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito on the Projo editorial page. But could they at least get the spelling of the man’s name right? The headline of today’s pro-Alito op-ed, at least in the electronic version, reads…

Ed Feulner: Verdict in: Judge Alioto fine choice for high court
I haven’t seen the dead-tree version yet. Is the error there too?

Chafee as Weather Vane for the Conservative Rebellion

Justin Katz

Something in a Corner post by Larry Kudlow might help to tie local Rhode Island concerns to the broader political landscape:

Why Republicans don't say more about the tax-cut related economic expansion is beyond me. And whether Tuesday's disappointing election results provide a wake up call for the GOP remains to be seen. But they need a wake up call. Young Turks in the House like Mike Pence, Jeff Flake, and Marsha Blackburn should be represented in the House leadership. Ideas matter. Dick Armey was a great idea man. Speaker Dennis Hastert doesn't seem to be a great idea man. The Tom DeLay period is probably over. New blood in the leadership is essential.

To offer flesh and fire to the sentence that I've italicized, consider an open note that the Anchoress has blogged to the GOP leadership:

The world is tilting, and you useless, ineffectual, dithering moneysuckers seem increasingly to be empty suits, given shape and movement not by ideas and a willingness to serve the electorate, but by wispy tufts of ambitious smoke. You seem directed toward nothing more than keeping your almighty Senate or House seat in your name. You give away your power, you give away your advantages in committee, you leave in place utterly feckless people like Arlen Specter and then, when you finally seem like you are on the cusp of doing something productive and right, like investigating the CIA or okaying drilling in a bare, muddly, uninhabitable tundra, you fall into a faint and go slinking back to your states and districts to gladhand and pump for money and then gladhand some more. ...

I will spend the next election, and the one following it, doing everything I can to replace you disappointing, entrenched frauds and fakers with real people who have real stakes in what is going on in the nation and want to effect real change for the better.

Now, I'm not saying that Rhode Island's own upstart Republican, Steve Laffey, fits the Anchoress's "leaders wanted" ad, but his campaign opposition, Sen. Lincoln Chafee, is (and will continue to be) living evidence of the GOP's response. The RNC's handling of the Chafee v. Laffey contest provides indication of whether it has heard the wake up call that Kudlow notes and the Anchoress amplifies. Similarly, it represents an effective starting point for those who are fed up with the status quo.

The Republican establishment wouldn't have to promote Laffey over Chafee, but the suits should keep in mind that replacing "disappointing, entrenched frauds and fakers with real people who have real stakes in what is going on in the nation and want to effect real change for the better" doesn't inherently require those real people to come from the same party. And to the extent that it does, the process can involve some creative destruction and unfold over several election cycles.

November 10, 2005

Oil Prices, Heating and Taxes II

Carroll Andrew Morse

At yesterday’s Senate energy hearings, one oil company executive gave the stiff, corporate managerialist answer when asked about the possibility of oil companies directly funding a winter heating assistance program…

The chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, James J. Mulva, said he opposed a provision that would require oil companies to finance winter fuel assistance because it would create "a bad precedent" of a private company paying for a government program.
If a private company paying for a government program is bad, then aren’t government payments to private companies equally as bad? According to Clay Risen, writing in the New Republic, the oil industry receives $7,400,000,000 in tax-breaks and subsidies each year. As Matt Yglesias points out…
How much sense does it make to take a heavily-subsidized industry and then slap a special excess profits tax on it? Wouldn't it be better to just eliminate the subsidies?
Jonah Goldberg concurs…
I agree with Matt Yglesias, though I'm surely more hostile to a windfall profits tax, I think he's absolutely right that a better policy would be to simply cut government subsidies to the oil industry.
The fact that the idea of a straightforward spending cut never crossed the mind of our elected officials provides a key insight into what is wrong with the whole big-government concept. Congress didn’t fund home heating assistance by cutting subsidies because achieving the immediate policy outcome -- making sure households have enough money for heat over the winter -- would have come at the expense of reducing the influence bought by oil subsidies. Congress was unwilling to take direct, effective action that would have reduced its long-term influence in the private sector.

Oil Prices, Heating and Taxes I

Carroll Andrew Morse

Oil-company executives were called to give testimony before the Senate yesterday on the subject of high fuel prices and profits. Though the hearings themselves were largely grandstanding, they did bring attention to a number of energy policy options currently under consideration: should a “windfall-profits” tax be imposed on oil companies, what kinds of tax exemptions should be offered for money reinvested in development of alternative fuel sources, and how should proceeds from a windfall-profits tax be used.

Senator Jack Reed wants to spend the money from a windfall-profits tax on increased heating assistance to low income households. This certainly sounds like the compassionate thing to do and a political winner. But there is a problem. As the past year has more than amply demonstrated, the Federal government consistently mismanages large sums of money under its control – bike paths instead of dam repairs, federal building improvements over aids drugs, bridges to nowhere over hurricane relief, etc. A low-income heating assistance program would be no different.

First problem: Senator Reed claims that an additional $2,900,000,000 is needed to fully fund the low-income heating assistance program, yet was unwilling to propose redirecting $3,000,000,000 spent just last week on a government subsidy of digital-to-analog television converters towards something more worthwhile. The Democrats' slogan is don’t force people choose between heating or eating. Senator Reed had a choice between helping people heat or helping them watch TV, and he chose in favor of TV.

Second problem: Senator Reed’s state-by-state list of where heating assistance money will go is evidence of yet more irrational government spending.

In the proposed heating assistance budget, the top five states in terms of heating assistance-per-household are Louisiana (#1), Texas (#3), and Florida (#5). Those aren’t cold-weather states. The average amount budgeted per household in Lousiana is $1,547, while the average amount budgeted per household in West Virginia is $264. There are more cold days in WV than there are in LA, WV’s coldest days are colder than LA’s coldest days, and you can’t explain the funding differences by citing West Virginia’s affluence. The state with the second most households receiving assistance would be North Carolina, a warm weather state that has more than twice as many households slated to receive assistance than does the colder state of New Jersey. Almost as many households in Hawaii are budgeted for heating assistance as are households in Alaska (though at much less per household).

Until the Federal government introduces increased transparency and rationality into its spending, the public is right to be suspicious of “Tax big to spend big!” as an actual solution to any problem.

Big Beneficiaries of Guy Dufault's Campaign Cash

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Projo reports that Guy Dufault is losing lobbying clients, but there has been little attention paid to the other end of the political process. Will Rhode Island’s political candidates continue to accept Guy Dufault’s money for their campaigns?

Here are the three Rhode Island politicians who have accepted $1,000 or more from Dufault this year…

Charles Fogarty 9/22/2005 $1,000
Sheldon Whitehouse 6/30/2005 $2,000
James Langevin 2/28/2005 $1,000
Do any of them intend to return Dufault’s money? If Lt. Gov. Fogarty’s answer is no, then does he intend to continue to allow Dufault the kind of behind-the-scenes access and advice that Dufault referred to on the Real Deal tape? And has Dufault recieved similar access from the camapaigns of candidate Whitehouse and Congressman Langevin for the money he has paid?

November 9, 2005

Levesque: Early Warning or Something Else?

Marc Comtois

It has been revealed by J. Michael Levesque that he himself had broached the topic of "infidelities" with the Governor earlier this year. It seems the timing was...convenient, to say the least:

Levesque said he personally told the governor, during a private meeting eight or nine months ago, "that I had been hearing talk on the streets of that . . . and you never know whether the chatter is, um, uh, you know, whether it's allegations or whatever, but I thought I did the proper thing in letting the governor know this."

In response to inquiries, the governor's office confirmed yesterday that Levesque's meeting with Carcieri took place at 2 p.m., March 8 -- a week before Harrah's publicly rolled out its latest $650-million, West Warwick casino proposal.

Asked if he had gone to see Carcieri that day in his capacity as a "community-outreach specialist" for Harrah's, Levesque said: "No, and may I say this respectfully: Why are you bringing Harrah's into this?

"It's got nothing to do with Harrah's. It's me as a Republican going to the governor, whom I support and defend on a weekly basis," Levesque said. "The only time the governor and I disagree is on the casino issue . . . because I'm defending my town."

Carcieri spokesman Jeff Neal said the meeting essentially slipped the governor's mind when he was first asked, on Monday, if he had heard the rumors of the alleged infidelities before.

After being told of Levesque's comments, Neal acknowledged the March 8 meeting. During that meeting, he said, Levesque "mentioned that Democrats and their allies were planning personal attacks against the governor and his family. Levesque also mentioned the possibility that one of these attacks would be a baseless accusation of infidelity."

Neal said the governor did not initially even remember the meeting because he viewed "Levesque's visit as one big fishing expedition."

"Knowing that Mr. Levesque is close to Mr. Dufault and is a lobbyist for Harrah's casino proponents," Neal said, "the governor put absolutely no faith in anything Levesque had to say." Asked whether Carcieri perceived Levesque's visit as a veiled threat of exposure, Neal said: "Who knows . . . but it is certainly something we are thinking about."

"In retrospect, it certainly appears more sinister than it did at the time," Neal said. "It seems that Mr. Levesque is as responsible for all of this as this as Mr. Dufault . . . It now seems clear that Mr. Levesque wasn't reporting rumors, he was actually trying to spread the rumors."

And, "it is disturbing that he continues to this day to spread these stories by repeating them to you and other journalists," he said.

For Levesque to claim he went to the Governor as a concerned Republican is laughable given the gleeful cackle that is heard spewing from him when Dufault broached the topic on the infamous Real Deal "OOPS" tape. Thanks to Levesque, we now have even more insight into how to "get things done" in the Ocean State.

The Encyclopedia of New England

Carroll Andrew Morse

OpinionJournal has a short review of a reference book titled the Encyclopedia of New England

The book draws on the efforts of some 1,000 contributors and, spooled out over 1,564 pages, touches on a nearly boundless range of topics, from the textile mills of the Industrial Revolution to the Internet boom of the information age; from clamming to aquaculture; from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Robert Frost; from the Harvard-Yale game to the Boston Red Sox. The tidy entries are accessible to the general reader and end with suggested readings for further study.
The review caught my eye mainly because of this one sentence that I think is a bit over-the-top…
The "Encyclopedia" also rightly emphasizes New England's complicated and often ambivalent place in the nation. It is a region both distinctly apart from America and yet a part of it just the same.
I'd like to hear what other New Englanders think of this idea. Do you feel like you’re living in a place “distinctly apart from America and yet a part of it just the same”? And do Rhode Islanders, in particular, feel a sense of belonging to a larger New England?

Are Terrell Owens and Guy Dufault Related?

Andrew points out that Guy Dufault's so-called apology to Governor Carcieri wasn't really an apology. As the Governor himself said, "[Dufault] only apologized for inadvertently allowing his plans to smear me and my family to become public."

Yesterday also brought us Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver Terrell Owens' "apology statement:"

I fight for what I think is right. In doing so, I alienated a lot of my fans and my teammates...

This is very painful for me to be in this position...I know in my heart that I can help the team win the Super Bowl and not only be a dominant player, but also be a team player. I can bring that...

I would like to reiterate my respect for Donovan McNabb as a quarterback and as a teammate...I apologize to him for any comments that may have been negative...

It really hurts me not to be part of the team anymore...

It is a sad commentary on American culture that such words have become typical in American public life. The non-apology apology. The utter failure to take responsibility for words and deeds. Sorry for getting caught, with no true penance for the core action itself.

Dufault and Owens are related. And their ilk will stay related until the American people insist that public officials - in all walks of life - be held truly accountable for their words and deeds.

November 8, 2005

Try Again, Guy

Carroll Andrew Morse

Guy Dufault’s apology to Governor Don Carcieri today must be an apology for something that was said in a parallel universe. From the Projo daily news blog

In a three-paragraph statement issued just before 5 p.m. today, Dufault said the comments were never meant to be public "and I clearly did not intend for them to go out over the airwaves."

He said the information he referred to had been unsolicited, anonymous and uncorroborated -- and that his policy is not to discuss issues publicly that have not been corroborated.

He also said, "It was never my intention to make this information public -- then or now."

The apology doesn’t square with what was said in this universe. From the Projo transcript of Dufault’s Real Deal broadcast…
Dufault: I can bring Carcieri down [pause]. I got stuff. (Laughter) If nothing else, I got the names of the past comattas [Italian slang for girlfriends]. I just gotta start throwin' 'em out there.

Levesque: . . . send a little brown envelope.

According to Jan Jones, appearing on Dan Yorke's show on WPRO, Harrah’s Casino and the Narragansett Indian Tribe are “suspending reimbursement” of Dufault. Michael Levesque’s status is under review.

Hilary Cosell’s Rant against Harriet Miers Samuel Alito

Carroll Andrew Morse

Hilary Cosell’s op-ed in today’s Projo bodes well for the Alito nomination. Her attack against judge Alito stumbles, bumbles, and ultimately fumbles (Hilary is the daughter of legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell). If this is the best liberal Democrats have to deploy against Judge Alito, then his nomination is going to sail through.

It’s a strange op-ed, little more than an extended session of name-calling. She makes a major but common factual error, saying that Planned Parenthood v. Casey proves that Alito is “against a woman's right to choose”. The case did not involve school choice at all. And if it is abortion rights she is referring to, Planned Parenthood v. Casey does not support her assertion either. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito applied the precedents established by Sandra Day O’Connor to decide that spousal notification – not spousal consent – was not an constitutionally undue burden on access to abortion. In 3 other abortion related cases, Alito has interpreted the law in favor of the policy-outcomes that abortion supporters desire.

Cosell wants the Senate to apply a religious test to judge Alito.

Alito's hitting the halls of Congress, chatting up the Senate, all smiles, all thoughtful countenance, all full of promises about precedent and laws of the land, and, no doubt, eventual refusal to answer direct questions about his religious views and political agenda.
I am curious how direct questions about religious views are relevant. What religious views disqualify someone from a seat on the Supreme Court?

Most interestingly, Cosell’s op-ed goes beyond the usual Democratic talking points, into a total disassociation from reality. She accuses Alito, who has served on the Federal appeals court for fifteen years, of being a “crony”. She talks about Alito, a Catholic from New Jersey, as swimming in the “evangelical swamp of radical-right-wing politics”. It sounds more like she is describing Harriet Miers than Samuel Alito. I wonder if this op-ed was written originally as an anti-Miers piece and after Miers withdrew and Alito was nominated, she didn't want to have to start from scratch, so she changed the name and added a paragraph or two about Alito. That would explain the non-sequitirs about Alito as an evangelical Bush crony.

Ms. Cosell's father got away with obnoxious rants because he actually knew something about the subjects he ranted about. Ms. Cosell herself simply rants from ignorance.

Guy Dufault: Consistently Acting Against the Interests of Rhode Island Citizens

Andrew has pointed out the latest very troubling actions and words of Guy Dufault in the postings entitled Another Crisis in West Warwick? and Carcieri Unafraid of Dufault's Stuff.

No one should be confused: Dufault's behavior on behalf of the public employee unions and gambling interests - and to the detriment of the working families and retirees of Rhode Island - is nothing new. Do you remember how the Constitutional Convention ballot vote was narrowly defeated in November 2004? Do you recall who deceitfully led the effort to block Rhode Island citizens from having the right to alter the misguided status quo of politics in this state? Guy Dufault.

A previous posting references an Ed Achorn editorial in the ProJo, which states:

The people who led the fight against a constitutional convention in Rhode Island - members of an organization called Citizens for Representative Government - went to great lengths to cover their tracks. But all roads seem to lead to Guy Dufault, the labor and gambling lobbyist.

The public-employee unions put up the money to run phone banks, air TV and radio ads, and print posters in narrowly defeating a constitutional convention, 52 to 48 percent, on November 2. Mr. Dufault acknowledged on Friday that he filled out most of the group's campaign-finance report now on file with the Rhode Island Board of Elections.

But you wouldn't know of Mr. Dufault's role by reading that public document. He kept that carefully hidden from the public...

What's the upshot of this?

I don't know if any of this constitutes filing and signing a false report...But it does seem puzzling that Mr. Dufault and Citizens for Representative Government chose to make it so difficult for the public to find out who was running the show. Why bother?...

Maybe Citizens for Representative Government did not want citizens to find out easily that it was a prominent State House lobbyist for the public-employee unions and gambling interests who fought to deny people the chance to shake up Rhode Island government with a constitutional convention. (Now, citizens will have to wait until at least 2016.)

I would encourage you to read the entire editorial for further details.

Kudos to Governor Carcieri for directly taking on this seedy underbelly of Rhode Island politics. It is about time that a bright light was focused on these people and their unacceptable behavior.

November 7, 2005

Another Crisis in West Warwick?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Projo has the full transcript of the Guy Dufault/Michael Levesque exchange from this past weekend. In addition to the personal smear directed against Governor Carcieri and the condescension directed against Lieutenant Governor Fogarty, the exchange involves a third issue of interest…

Dufault: Well, I did send a little note to Jan and Dave basically saying that, ya know, this is a very, very difficult situation. Michael and myself are on top of it but this, ya know, this could have lethal implications for us. Cuz I, ya know, who.... even if Jeannie.... even if she cracked up and stepped down. I mean we gotta make sure we win that seat.

Levesque: Yeah, but she can't step down.

Dufault: She can't step down.

Levesque: Cuz nobody will be able to ....

Dufault: I put a call into her about meeting after work tomorrow just to kind of hold her hand and ... She hasn't called me back yet though.

”Jeannie” is presumably West Warwick Town Council President Jeanne-Marie DiMasi. "Jan", I will speculate, is Jan Jones, a senior lobbyist for Harrah’s casino.

More questions than answers here. What doesn’t Levesque think anyone will be able to do, if DiMasi steps down? What are the lethal implications that Dufault and Levesque are worried about? Having compliant local officials in West Warwick only matters if a plan for advancing the casino issue at the state level succeeds; what is that plan? And most importantly, do the people of West Warwick want a town council president who’s holding on to the job because she’s been ordered to by gambling interests, or do they want a town council president who represents the interests of the people of West Warwick?

Will Charles Fogarty Return Guy Dufault’s Campaign Contribution?

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to a Dan Yorke interview, Lieutenant Governor Charles Fogarty has stated that there is no place in politics for negative personal attacks of the kind launched by Guy Dufault against Governor Don Carcieri.

Here is follow-up question for the Lieutenant Governor. Does he believe there is a place in politics for the money coming from the sources of negative personal attacks? According to state campaign finance records, Fogarty accepted a $1,000 campaign contribution from Guy Dufault on September 22 of this year.

Will Fogarty stand on principle and return Dufault’s contribution? Or does principle fall away once money is involved?


Here is Lieutenant Governor Fogarty's statement concerning Dufault's boasts...

“There is absolutely no place in politics for the type of negative personal attacks made by Mr. Dufault. The remarks he made on his show on Sunday were outrageous and completely inappropriate. Mr. Dufault needs to immediately apologize to the Governor and his family for these remarks.”

Carcieri Unafraid of Dufault's Stuff

Carroll Andrew Morse

Just in case anyone believes that there is any ambiguity in Governor Carcieri’s response to Guy Dufault’s boast that “[he] can bring Carcieri down” because he’s “got stuff”, here is what the governor had to say at today’s press conference…

I call on the responsible parties, starting with Mr. Dufault, to retract the statements. They are totally false.
Source: WHJJ news coverage.


The Projo digital bulletin has links to Dufault's original broadcast and Governor Carcieri's press conference.

November 4, 2005

Congress Begins Eminent Domain Reform

Carroll Andrew Morse

If West Warwick, or the local governments with jurisdiction over Rhode Island’s other two Municipal Economic Development Zones in Woonsocket and Central Falls, or any city or town in Rhode Island plan to use eminent domain to increase their tax base, they may soon have a new factor to consider.

Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2005 by an overwhelming 376-38 margin. The act outright forbids Federal use of eminent domain for economic development. It then goes on to limit Federal funding to states, cities, or towns that use eminent domain for economic development...

(a) In General- No State or political subdivision of a State shall exercise its power of eminent domain, or allow the exercise of such power by any person or entity to which such power has been delegated, over property to be used for economic development or over property that is subsequently used for economic development, if that State or political subdivision receives Federal economic development funds during any fiscal year in which it does so.

For the purposes of the law, economic development is defined as

(1) ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT- The term `economic development' means taking private property, without the consent of the owner, and conveying or leasing such property from one private person or entity to another private person or entity for commercial enterprise carried on for profit, or to increase tax revenue, tax base, employment, or general economic health…
Warning: the act then goes on to list a bunch of exceptions to the above.

Congressman James Langevin and Congressman Patrick Kennedy both voted in favor of prohibiting the use of eminent domain for economic development. The bill still needs to be passed by the Senate (where Senator John Cornyn has introduced similar legislation) and signed by the President to become law.

However, rather than relying on the threat of Federal defunding for private property protection, the people of Rhode Island should demand that their state government also pass state-level eminent domain reform. All the legislature needs to do is pass a bill similar to House bill 5242 (which was killed in last year’s session). Or perhaps the people of Rhode Island need to pass eminent domain reform themselves through voter initiative.

Finally, each of Rhode Island's cities and towns should pass local versions of eminent domain reform. The strong version of eminent domain protection proposed by Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey can serve as a model. West Warwick might be the ideal place to start the ball rolling.

Crisis in West Warwick

Carroll Andrew Morse

Thursday’s Projo reported on the total breakdown in relations between West Warwick Town Council President Jeanne-Marie DiMasi and the rest of the West Warwick Town Council…

DiMasi, speaking in measured tones, said her speech would "change my life forever." Soon, she was leveling highly personal attacks against town officials seated only feet away, and shouting over the objections of the council vice president, who pleaded for decorum….

DiMasi departed the meeting immediately after her speech [and] the other four council members unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution calling for an end to her presidency…

The Projo reported on what may be at least one long-term source of conflict…
Opposition to DiMasi's leadership has increased for several months and was particularly inflamed by her support for the proposed widespread demolition of homes and shops in the downtown district to accommodate giant retail stores.
DiMasi has consistently favored “big box” development, while other council members have favored a less disruptive approach. This is from the Projo of October 21
DiMasi has maintained that only large stores will maximize the benefits of the legislation, raising huge revenues for the town that could pay for improving the district's dreary landscape….

The other policymakers, however, passionately disagreed. [Councilman John Flynn] said the downtown would probably never return to being the heart of Rhode Island retail or a statewide Saturday night hotspot. But building mammoth shops, he said, would create the next generation of abandoned mills.

In fact, several council members said, it is the looming prospect of a slash-and-burn redevelopment strategy that has forestalled economic investment in Arctic.

"Arctic wants to redevelop itself," council member Leo J. Costantino Jr. said. "If we left the thing alone it would have done that."

DiMasi’s style of leadership seems always to have been something less than collegial. DiMasi has been the local-level point-woman in the effort to bring a casino to West Warwick spearheaded by State Senator Steven Alves and State Representative Tim Williamson. However, in her casino dealings, DiMasi has not always kept the town council in the loop. This is from the Projo of June 25, 2004
When pressed, however, for details of the town's agreement with Harrah's, DiMasi said, "It's hard to give specifics at this point because we haven't agreed to everything yet. Not all of the council knows about it because only certain people have been working on this….”
In 2003, she recommended replacing the outgoing town engineer with an engineering firm with politcal ties to Alves and to West Warwick State Representative (and Speaker of the House) William Murphy. This is from the Projo of December 18, 2003
DiMasi said she would invite Steven M. Clarke, of Commonwealth Engineers & Consultants, in Providence, to make the presentation next month -- not to make a pitch for his own firm, she said, but to explain the "concept" of hiring a company rather than an individual.

Clarke is a prolific contributor to political campaigns. Last year, he contributed $200 to the reelection campaign of Sen. Stephen D. Alves, a West Warwick Democrat. He has also made recent contributions to House Speaker William J. Murphy and a host of state and Providence officials.

So what’s the point of the above bit of local history? The big box redevelopment favored by Council President DiMasi would require huge eminent domain takeovers of property in West Warwick. Here’s Nicholas Cambio, a local developer who studied the issue…

"As I've understood the objective, you are proposing to take over a significant part of the town. That's a pretty complicated thing to undertake," especially if it involves seizing land through eminent domain and displacing people from their homes.

Cambio never publicly discussed the size of the investment required to buy up and rebuild Arctic, but Weigel said he'd heard an estimate of a billion dollars.

The people of West Warwick -- like most Americans -- are not happy with the idea that their leaders may use large-scale eminent domain seizures against them to increase the tax base. Their leaders, on the other hand, don't see a problem. In its last session, the Rhode Island legislature passed up the chance to outlaw the kind of eminent domain takeovers being proposed in West Warwick. House bill 5242, which prohibited the use of eminent domain to transfer property to a private entity, was killed in committee.

When a bill is killed in a legislative committee, it is because the legislative leadership wants it killed as quietly as possible. Is it pure coincidence that a few powerful members of the Rhode Island’s legislative leadership -- Speaker of the House William Murphy, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steven Alves, and House Judiciary Committee Vice-Chairman Tim Williamson (the House Judiciary Committee is where eminent domain bills are sent to die) -- are both political allies of West Warwick’s biggest eminent domain proponent and uninterested in reforming the state’s eminent domain laws?

November 3, 2005

Senator Reed's $3,000,000,000 Choice

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to Jim Baron in the Pawtucket Times, Senator Jack Reed thinks that the budget bill presently before the Senate is "a recipe for disaster”. Here are the programs of greatest concern to the Senator…

The Senate bill, Reed said, would lop $5.7 billion from Medicare and $4.2 billion in Medicaid, while the House bill would chop $14.3 billion in student loans, $4.9 billion in child support and $844 million in Food Stamps.
Let me offer a way for Senator Reed to protect part of that funding. In section 3005 of the budget reconciliation bill that Senator Reed is referring to, Congress allocates $3,000,000,000 to buy people digital-to-analog converters that cost about $50 apiece…
(c) PAYMENTS AUTHORIZED- The Secretary of Commerce or the Secretary's designee shall make payments from the Fund in the following amounts, for the following programs, and in the following order:

(1) $3,000,000,000 for a program to assist consumers in the purchase of converter boxes that convert a digital television signal to an analog television signal, and any amounts unexpended or unobligated at the conclusion of the program shall be used for the program described in paragraph (3)….

If Senator Reed really believes that the programs he mentions in the Times article are in dire straits, then he should introduce an amendment to spend the $3,000,000,000 being spent on converter boxes more wisely.

Senator Reed has a choice. He can choose to…
1) Spend $3,000,000,000 to increase funding to Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, child support or food stamps,
2) Spend $3,000,000,000 to reduce the deficit, or
3) Spend $3,000,000,000 to subsidize the purchase of digital-to-analog television converters.

Senator Reed shouldn’t talk about raising taxes if he chooses to throw $3,000,000,000 of taxpayer money away on choice 3.

Congress Defeats the Online Freedom of Speech Act

Carroll Andrew Morse

Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives failed to pass the Online Freedom of Speech Act. The act would have exempted the Internet from campaign finance regulations. The bill received majority support, but failed because it required a 2/3 majority for procedural reasons. Instapundit has a round-up here.

The bill's sponsor, Congressman Jeb Hensarling, plans to bring the bill up again under circumstances where it will require only a simple majority to pass. To become law, the bill will also need Senate approval.

Until an Internet exemption to campaign finance reform is passed, it is only a matter of time until an over-reaching judge or a partisan bureaucrat decides that some or all political speech on the Internet can constitute an in-kind contribution that needs to be reported, regulated and limited.

Congressman Patrick Kennedy voted to exempt the Internet from campaign finance regulations.
Congressman James Langevin voted against exempting the Internet from campaign finance regulations. Given that Congressman’s Langevin’s previous job was facilitating democracy as Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, his decision not to support online freedom of speech is particularly disappointing.

Curiously (or entirely predictably, depending on your political perspective), as a party, Republicans voted in favor of the act, 179-46; while Democrats voted against, 38-143. Socialist Bernie Sanders from Vermont, staying true to the socialist principle that government should control all aspects of life, voted with the Democratic majority.

November 2, 2005

Frog-Marching Liberal Democracy Around the Globe... Successfully?

Justin Katz

Rod Dreher's latest addition to the conservative-ire-at-Bush line of commentaries has made an appearance on Anchor Rising, so I thought I'd mention that I've contemplated part of it further in a post over on Dust in the Light:

Dreher, it seemed to me, began to drift not long after he made the leap from displaced red-stater-in-NY working for National Review to editorial writer and columnist for the mainstream media down in the Great Red Yonder. He's still to be counted among conservatives, without doubt, and fairness requires that I admit to not reading him much anymore.

Still, "rolling disaster" is a strong and unambiguous characterization of the war, and I wonder whether being steeped in media that "harp on the negative and pessimistic" explains the ease with which Dreher bowls it out.

More on Alito's Record

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Christian Science Monitor provides some more detail on Judge Alito’s record on the issue of abortion…

In 3 of 4 cases, Supreme Court nominee Alito voted on the side of abortion rights.
The CSM gives a brief explanation of the four cases involved.
1) A 1991 challenge to a Pennsylvania law requiring married women to notify their husbands before seeking an abortion. The court struck down the restriction. Alito dissented.
This is the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, already much discussed. In this case, Judge Alito scrupulously applied Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s precedents to decide that a spousal consent law with multiple exceptions -- (1) [The husband] is not the father of the child, (2) he cannot be found after diligent effort, (3) the pregnancy is the result of a spousal sexual assault that has been reported to the authorities, or (4) [the woman seeking an abortion] has reason to believe that notification is likely to result in the infliction of bodily injury upon her -- did not place an “undue burden” on the right to abortion.
2) A 1995 challenge to a Pennsylvania law that required women seeking to use Medicaid funds to abort a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest to report the incident to law enforcement officials and identify the offender. Alito provided the decisive vote striking down the abortion restriction.
This is the case of Blackwell Health Center v. Knoll. Alito joined an opinion that enjoined Pennsylvania from “(1) requiring certification by a second physician [in cases involving the health of the mother], and (2) enforcing its rape and incest reporting requirements..."
3) A 1997 challenge to a New Jersey law that prevents parents from suing for damages on behalf of the wrongful death of a fetus. Alito ruled that the Constitution does not afford protection to the unborn.
This is the case of Alexander v. Whitman. Alito strictly applied Supreme Court precedent to reach his decision; “I agree with the essential point that the court is making: that the Supreme Court has held that a fetus is not a ‘person’ within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
4) A 2000 challenge to New Jersey's ban on so-called partial-birth abortions. Alito struck down the law based on a recent Supreme Court decision.
This is the case of Planned Parenthood v. Farmer. In this case, Judge Alito voted to strike down the law because 1) it did not contain an exception for the life of the mother and 2) it too broadly defined what constituted a partial birth abortion.

The record is clear: Samuel Alito is not a fire-breathing radical who decides abortion cases based on their public-policy outcomes. It's time to replace that argument against him with something honest.

Is the Projo Making Samuel Alito's Religion an Issue?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Today’s Projo editorial on Samuel Alito contains at least one sentence requiring clarification…

One particularly troubling example of Judge Alito's approach is his dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In that case he backed a Pennsylvania law that required a woman seeking an abortion to consult her husband. It is her body. But then, as Judge Alito's mother, Rose Alito, noted, "Of course he's against abortion." The judge is a Catholic. The Journal continues to support a woman's right to choose abortion.
The context in which Alito’s religion is mentioned seems to imply that the fact that “the judge is Catholic” contributes to the judge’s “troubling approach”.

Is that the correct interpretation? If not, then why mention Judge Alito’s religion at all?

Samuel Alito and Sandra Day O’Connor -- Hard-Right Co-Conspirators

Carroll Andrew Morse

An unsigned editorial in today’s Projo is highly critical of Samuel Alito. The editorial labels judge Alito as a “right-winger”, yet cites only a single case in support of its name-calling…

One particularly troubling example of Judge Alito's approach is his dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In that case he backed a Pennsylvania law that required a woman seeking an abortion to consult her husband.
The editorial then goes on to pine for a justice in the mold of Sandra Day O’Connor…
President Bush would have served the country better by nominating someone more moderate -- someone like Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Judge Alito would succeed, if confirmed.
Taken together, the two statements are incoherent. Of course, sounding incoherent is the risk you take when you uncritically pass along partisan talking points.

In applying the law in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Judge Alito had to decide whether a spousal notification provision placed an “undue burden” on the right to abortion. In forming his opinion, Judge Alito followed the precedents established by Justice O’Connor. He combined her definitions of “undue burden” with the fact that she had found parental notification laws to be constitutional to determine that spousal notification was also constitutional.

If Justice O’Connor is the model of a moderate justice, then Alito took the moderate position in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Projo editorial board seems more interested in making common cause with abortion rights radicals who believe that no restriction on abortion can ever be justified than it does in supporting moderate jurists who apply the law.

Here is an extended excerpt (h/t Confirm Them) of Judge Alito's opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Justice O’Connor has explained the meaning of the term “undue burden” in several abortion opinions. In Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. at 464, 103 S.Ct. at 2510 (O’Connor, J., dissenting), she wrote that “an ‘undue burden’ has been found for the most part in situations involving absolute obstacles or severe limitations on the abortion decision.” She noted that laws held unconstitutional in prior cases involved statutes that “criminalized all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother,” inhibited ” ‘the vast majority of abortions after the first 12 weeks,’ ” or gave the parents of a pregnant minor an absolute veto power over the abortion decision. Id. (emphasis in original; citations omitted)….

Justice O’Connor reiterated the same analysis in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747, 106 S.Ct. 2169 (1986). She wrote (id. at 828, 106 S.Ct. at 2214 (O’Connor, J., dissenting), quoting Akron, 462 U.S. at 464, 103 S.Ct. at 2510 (O’Connor, J., dissenting)):
An undue burden would generally be found “in situations involving absolute obstacles or severe limitations on the abortion decision,” not wherever a state regulation “may ‘inhibit’ abortions to some degree.”

She also criticized the majority for taking an approach under which “the mere possibility that some women will be less likely to choose to have an abortion by virtue of the presence of a particular state regulation suffices to invalidate it.” Id. 476 U.S. at 829, 106 S.Ct. at 2214 (emphasis added).
Justice O’Connor’s application of the undue burden test in several cases further illustrates the meaning of this test. In Hodgson, 110 S.Ct. at 2950-51, Justice O’Connor found that no undue burden was imposed by a law requiring notice to both parents or judicial authorization before a minor could obtain an abortion.….

Justice O’Connor has also suggested on more than one occasion that no undue burden was created by the statute upheld in H.L. v. Matheson, 450 U.S. 398, 101 S.Ct. 1164, 67 L.Ed.2d 388 (1981), which required parental notice prior to any abortion on an unemancipated minor. Instead, she has stated that this statute merely inhibited abortions to “some degree.” Thornburgh, 476 U.S. at 828, 106 S.Ct. at 2214 (O’Connor, J., dissenting); Akron, 462 U.S. at 464, 103 S.Ct. at 2510 (O’Connor, J., dissenting)….

Taken together, Justice O’Connor’s opinions reveal that an undue burden does not exist unless a law (a) prohibits abortion or gives another person the authority to veto an abortion or (b) has the practical effect of imposing “severe limitations,” rather than simply inhibiting abortions ” ‘to some degree’ ” or inhibiting “some women.” Thornburgh, 476 U.S. at 828, 829, 106 S.Ct. at 2213, 2214 (O’Connor, J., dissenting), quoting Akron, 462 U.S. at 464, 103 S.Ct. at 2510 (O’Connor, J., dissenting). Furthermore, Justice O’Connor’s opinions disclose that the practical effect of a law will not amount to an undue burden unless the effect is greater than the burden imposed on minors seeking abortions in Hodgson or Matheson or the burden created by the regulations in Akron that appreciably increased costs…

November 1, 2005

Roger Begin and the Appearance of Corruption

Carroll Andrew Morse

Which member of the state Board of Elections made this statement about the BOE case concerning Republican advertisements during the 2002 election...

"I made the decision summarily on my own that, no, the proposed settlement terms that the governor and the Republican Party were suggesting were entirely inappropriate and unacceptable to me as the complainant and I would not participate and agree to any such settlement terms. . . . Let the chips fall where they may."
Actually, it wasn't a board member. It was State Democratic Party Chairman William Lynch, on the Dan Yorke show, as quoted by Katherine Gregg in the Projo. I know that Lynch brought the original complaint, but does that give him the power to decide it?

Maybe it doesn't matter. According to apparent Board of Elections practice, you don't have to be involved with the case in any way to have a voice in deciding it. You only need be a member of the state's Democratic leadership! Here's Edward Achorn, in today's Projo...

Last week, we learned that Roger Begin, chairman of the state Board of Elections and a former Democratic lieutenant governor, had chosen to run the idea of settlement of a politically explosive case involving the governor past Speaker Murphy and Senate President Joseph Montalbano.

Remember, campaign finance-related limitations on political speech have been approved by the courts because the courts have found that government has a compelling interest in preventing -- not just corruption -- but the appearance of corruption. The behavior of the Rhode Island Board of Elections is not serving this purpose. The board is now doing more to create the appearance of corruption than it is to prevent it, and the BOE needs to do something to remedy the situation.

Pragmatic Reason for Chafee to Support Alito

Marc Comtois

According to Michael Barone:

The political risks of opposing an Italian-American are therefore probably less than in 1983 [when Judge Antonin Scalia was nominated and confirmed]. But they're not zero. I wonder whether Tom Carper of Delaware (where 7 percent of the population in the 2000 census said they were of Italian ancestry), Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey (14 percent), Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (11 percent), Christopher Dodd and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (14 percent), and Jack Reed of Rhode Island (14 percent) really want to go to the length of supporting a filibuster against an Italian-American judge with sterling credentials and majority support in the Senate. I'm pretty sure that Lincoln Chafee, facing a conservative opponent in the Republican primary in Rhode Island, the state with the nation's highest percentage of Italian-Americans, doesn't want to oppose Alito. If I were giving him political advice, I would certainly advise him not to do so. As much as one quarter of Republican primary voters there will have Italian names or Italian ancestors.
Barone also provides this statement:
The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) applauds President George W. Bush on his nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr., a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, to the position of associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.Judge Alito, whose father immigrated to the United States from Italy, is highly respected in the judicial community for his constitutional knowledge and his impeccable character.President Bush has chosen an individual whose intellect and qualifications are above reproach. We are proud and fortunate that he shares our Italian heritage. Washington, D.C. Oct. 31, 2005.
In heavily Roman Catholic (and Italian-American) Rhode Island, can Chafee afford not to support such a well-qualified judicial candidate? Will concern for his "pro-choice" interest group rating prevail over political calculation? On the other hand, despite what Barone may think, I have little doubt that Senator Reed will pay little heed to this sort of "identity politics."

Samuel Alito on Abortion

Carroll Andrew Morse

Let’s match the left’s talking points on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito to some honest discussion of Alito’s record. We’ll jump right in with the hottest of the hot button issues – the issue of abortion. The talking points tell us that Judge Alito’s opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey proves that “Alito would overturn Roe v. Wade”.

Patterico’s Pontifications does an excellent job describing Alito’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey dissent, the reasoning he used, and how that reasoning was consistent with existing precedent…

In that case, Judge Alito wrote a cogent dissent which argued for the validity of a law requiring spousal notification before an abortion….

Alito began by noting the contemporaneous state of the law regarding abortion restrictions. He said that his major disagreement with the majority concerned the issue of whether spousal notification was an “undue burden”....

Alito began by noting the contemporaneous state of the law regarding abortion restrictions. "Taken together, Justice O’Connor’s opinions reveal that an undue burden does not exist unless a law (a) prohibits abortion or gives another person the authority to veto an abortion or (b) has the practical effect of imposing 'severe limitations,' rather than simply inhibiting abortions 'to some degree' or inhibiting 'some women'"....

Judge Alito then noted that the spousal notification provision at issue did not give the husband a veto power. Rather, a married woman simply had to certify (through her own uncorroborated and unnotarized statement) either that she had notified her husband, or that her case fell within any one of several statutory exceptions, including: "(1) [The husband] is not the father of the child, (2) he cannot be found after diligent effort, (3) the pregnancy is the result of a spousal sexual assault that has been reported to the authorities, or (4) [the woman seeking an abortion] has reason to believe that notification is likely to result in the infliction of bodily injury upon her"….

He specifically noted: "Whether the legislature’s approach represents sound public policy is not a question for us to decide. Our task here is simply to decide whether Section 3209 meets constitutional standards".

In the words of uberblogger Glenn Reynolds, “read the whole thing”.

Judge Alito has also decided at least one other important abortion case. According to the The Volokh Conspiracy, Judge Alito struck down a 1997 New Jesey ban on partial birth abortion in the case of Planned Parenthhod v. Farmer. From the section of the opinion excerpted a Volokh, Alito followed Supreme Court precedent to find the law unconstitutional 1) because it did not contain an exception for the life of the mother and 2) because it too broadly defined what constituted a partial birth abortion.

In both cases, Alito applied existing Supreme Court precedents. So where is the evidence that he would overturn Roe v. Wade?

The Perils of Gambling on Gambling

Marc Comtois

According to this story:

For years, slot machines at Lincoln Park and Newport Grand have seen double-digit growth. But now -- while the machines are still extremely profitable -- they are not producing the same boom, and that could have grave ramifications for the state.

This year's state budget is based on the assumption that slot-machine revenue would increase by 15.3 percent. However, data presented yesterday by the Rhode Island Lottery show that since the start of the fiscal year on July 1, there has been only a 4.2-percent bump.

While it's early in the year and there are many other factors that go into the state's budget, failing to meet the expectations could create a multimillion-dollar shortfall. . .

State leaders yesterday urged caution about the lottery figures.

"These estimates are preliminary and based only on the first quarter of the fiscal year," Carcieri's spokesman Jeff Neal said. "However, these estimates highlight the fact that we must begin to get control of state government spending. Rhode Island has the sixth-highest tax burden of any state in the nation. We will never be able to cut those taxes until we reduce spending."

House Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox, D-Providence, said through a spokesman that he is concerned about the lottery but that it is "too premature right now." Fox said he wants next week's final report so he can see the gambling numbers "in the broader context" of the rest of the budget.

Setting aside the questionable practice of relying on gambling revenue to the degree that Rhode Island does, what was the thinking that went behind a projection of 15% growth? Doesn't that seem a little too rambunctious?