August 31, 2006

Valerie Plame and the Risen Principle

Carroll Andrew Morse

As National Review’s Rich Lowry points out, the investigation of the Valerie Plame leak was obstructed by bureaucrats – a cabal if you will – who had motives different from carrying out the policies set by the elected President...

The Armitage revelation and way he and Colin Powell handled it—in the most self-serving way possible, with maximum damage inflicted on the administration—demonstrates what the real cabal in the first Bush administration was. It was Powell and Armitage, and their minions like Lawrence Wilkerson and Carl Ford. These people spent countless hours sitting around and figuring out how they could leak and use anonymously sourced hits within the press to undermine Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rove (and, later, when he was up for the UN job, John Bolton). Powell was always very shrewd about it and left no fingerprints. Since Powell and Armitage didn't have strong policy motivations, they turned everything into a personal turf war, which went a long way to embittering and making dysfunctional the first administration.

Yes, Bush and Rice should have stopped it, but a lot of the blame goes to Powell and Armitage for engaging in this kind of bureaucratic tribal warfare in the first place. Of course, the story in the press was always that Powell and Co. were the embattled, innocent victims—but that was partly because they were feeding so many of the reporters. It's outrageous that because this small group was so adept at leaking and so adept at working the press that they managed to get the administration's "neo-cons" portrayed in the media as an out-of-control cabal, when these officials were just supporting the policy of the administration that Powell and Armitage and their small group of allies so disdained and did so much to undermine.

There is certainly an element of anti-Bush bias in how the Plame story has been covered (and non-covered since Armitage's role has become known). But the coverage of the Plame story is also another clear example of the Risen principle in action…
  • The Risen Principle: The journalistic assumption that what happens within government bureaucracy, below the level of the leadership, is either beyond reproach or not worth reporting on and that failures within government departments are always failures of the leadership to set proper policies and never poor execution or active obstruction of otherwise effective policies.
Doesn't that perfectly describe how the MSM approached the Plame story? They assumed it had to be someone at the top acting in concert with the President and refused to take interest in the possibility that someone in the middle could be pursuing his own agenda.

Unfortunately, emboldened by the realization that mainstream journalists are incurious about bureaucratic obstructionism, current and future bureaucrats will be encouraged to pursue private agendas, knowing they will never be called to account.

Laffey, Centracchio Lead in Latest RIC Poll

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ian Donnis, prognosticating from a local perspective, picks Senator Lincoln Chafee in the Rhode Island Republican Senate primary. Robert Novak, prognosticating from the national level, gives the edge to Mayor Steve Laffey.

Rather than merely prognosticating, Victor Profughi of Rhode Island College has been asking Rhode Island voters what they think (OK, that is his job). The most recent RIC poll conducted between August 28 and August 30 has Mayor Laffey leading Senator Chafee, 51%-34% (15% undecided).

The sample size is 363 “likely Republican voters”, 63% Republicans, 37% Independents. The press release I received said that independents split, 43% for Senator Chafee, 41% for Mayor Laffey, but didn’t explicitly state the Republican breakdown.

The RIC poll also has Reginald Centracchio leading Kerry King in the Republican Lieutenant Governor primary, 31%-18% but with 51% undecided.


Dan Yorke is reporting that the NRSC has released an internal poll that shows Senator Chafee leading 53%-39%. Victor Profughi and Dan Ronayne of the NRSC both discussed their polls on Yorke's show. The major difference in methodology is in identifying likely voters. The NRSC applies a screening question of "do you know what day primary day is", while RIC screens by asking "do you plan to vote in the primary or to wait until November".


According to Jim Baron of the Pawtucket Times, the NRSC isn't saying what percentage of their sample was Republican versus Independent...

Chafee campaign spokesman Ian Lang cast doubt on the survey conducted by RIC Professor Victor Profughi. He said that 63 percent of the respondents identified themselves as Republicans while 37 percent said they were Independent, which is more heavily weighted toward party members than recent primary election statistics would indicate is a representative sample.

But Lang and Dan Ronayne, spokesman for the NRSC, refused to say what percentage of the respondents to their poll were Republican....

Isn't that the first thing the public needs to know in order to compare the two results?

August 30, 2006

A Neutral Education Investment Strategy (or something)

Justin Katz

Within the past week, my wife had to drop my niece off at Tiverton High School (of which town both we and my brother-in-law are relatively new residents), and she returned with this commentary: "That school is a dump. I hope they improve it before our children have to go there."

It is with that recent context that I read National Education Association Executive Director Bob Walsh's simple and direct comment to one of Andrew's recent posts:

National average Math SAT: 518
Rhode Island average Math SAT: 494
Barrington average math SAT: 580
East Greenwich average math SAT: 575
Central Falls average math SAT: 383

Working on the issues related to poverty will help teachers help students. It is as simple as that. And yes, it costs money, and to the extent you wish schools to be a partner in addressing the impact of poverty on students, it will require more money for schools. If you care about kids, or the future of our country (hopefully both), you will agree.

At first look, even the most free-market anti-unionists among us would have to admit a complex argument — which is not to say that resolution of the complexity would be amicable to the NEA. (N.B. — If Bob, or anybody else, has better data for what follows, I welcome it.) Comparing SAT scores and median household income for selected towns might, indeed, lead one to agree with Mr. Walsh:

Assuming, then, that the matter is "as simple as that" — that household income correlates with SAT scores — the ensuing question must be, "Is the impact of income the same as the 'impact of poverty'?" Well, considering that Tiverton (PDF) and Barrington (PDF) have pretty much identical percentages of families living below the poverty level (2.9% and 3.0%, respectively), the answer appears to be "no." In other words, "working on the issues related to poverty" would have to actually imply an effort to make everybody equally wealthy.

However, wealth being relative (and the market tracking to its scale), even a simplistic understanding of economic reality ought to be sufficient background for one to conclude that such leveling is simply impossible, least of all when forced through government policy. To the extent that government can affect household income at the middle-class range and above, it is mainly through the fostering of a healthy business environment that encourages entrepreneurship and the importation of existing businesses (e.g., by means of reasonable taxes, respect for businesses' freedom and rights, and a light hand when it comes to employment regulations).

Whatever the strategy, of course, towns must work with finite resources. Subsidizing one area of the town's affairs requires a decrease elsewhere. Granting exemptions and aid to businesses requires that money be redirected from some other area of municiple investment. So, since we're dealing with Bob Walsh, the NEA, and SAT scores, let's throw a specific municiple invesment — that devoted to teachers' salaries — onto the same chart:

The first thing to note is that, if it's class strife that Walsh seeks to foment, honesty should compel him to admit that step-10 teachers — most of whom need only to have been teaching for just 10 years, as I understand — make more than Tiverton's median household income. With even a modest spousal contribution, their households would easily surpass Barrington's.

More importantly (and less contentiously), note that teacher salaries do not appear to correlate with either median income or SAT scores. In fact, the salaries vary only negligibly from town to town. While median income may in fact be a measure worth considering when devising strategies to raise SAT scores, teachers' salaries appear not to make a difference whatsoever. On the limited basis of these statistics, therefore, a town such as Central Falls (or Tiverton, for that matter) would be well advised to lower teachers' salaries and redirect the savings toward such improvements as will increase average household income — and with the emphasis not on welfare-style poverty programs, but on working/middle-class economic activity programs.

Not to be flippant, but the most effective way to ensure that "schools [are] a partner in addressing the impact of poverty on students" might just be to decrease the degree to which they — as costly departments of the public corporation — contribute to the circumstances that perpetuate poverty. That, if one were to ask my wife, might involve investments to make the facilities encouraging to students, comforting to parents, and inviting to potential residents.

A Study Where it’s Good that Rhode Island is at the Bottom

Carroll Andrew Morse

Continuing the day-of-lists theme that seems to have developed, according to a study by the Trust for America’s Health, Rhode Island is the 48th most obese state in the nation (but still only second best in New England [h/t 7-to-7])...

  • Massachusetts 17.9% (49th)
  • Rhode Island 18.6% (48th)
  • Connecticut 18.9% (47th)
  • Vermont 19.1% (45th)
  • New Hampshire 19.9% (43rd)
  • Maine 21.3% (32nd)
Is it a coincidence that in an area where the government has little control, Rhode Island is virtually identical to its neighbors Massachusetts and Connecticut, yet in areas where government plays a more substantial role (like poverty or education), our performance is significantly worse?

Whatever the answer, I think the obvious way to celebrate Rhode Island's excellent rating in the obesity study is with a piece of “The Giving Cake” served by Gregg’s Restaurants. Part of the purchase price of every slice of Giving Cake is donated to Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Rhode Island's Poor Regional and National Performance in Education

Carroll Andrew Morse

Jennifer D. Jordan of the Projo reports on yet another study showing Rhode Island not doing so well, the College Board's yearly analysis of SAT Scores.

Here are the New England states ranked by math scores...

  • Massachusetts 524
  • New Hampshire 524
  • Vermont 519
  • National Average 518
  • Connecticut 516
  • Rhode Island 502
  • Maine 501
...and by reading scores...
  • New Hampshire 520
  • Massachusetts 513
  • Vermont 513
  • Connecticut 512
  • National Average 503
  • Maine 501
  • Rhode Island 495


I have to take a step back from using SAT scores as an indicator of Rhode Island's educational performance relative to the nation. Take a comparison of Rhode Island to Illinois as an example. At first, the Illinois numbers look fantastic (609 math, 591 reading). But then look at how many students took the test in each state: 8,130 in Rhode Island versus 12,694 in Illinois, even though Illinois has about 12 times the population of Rhode Island (Chicago by itself is almost 3 times as large as RI).

I suspect that the cause is that there are still regions of the country (like Illinois) where the American College Test (ACT) is more common than the SAT, and that in those regions the only students who take the SATs are those planning to attend some hi-falutin' Ivy League or west coast university, skewing the SAT median upward.

However, the regional comparison is still valid, as all 6 New England states have a high percentage of students taking SATs.

GOP Closing the Gap Because of Security and ....Pork?

Marc Comtois

A recent USA Today/Gallup Poll showed that the gap between support for a generic Democrat and generic Republicans had narrowed to 2% (47%-45%, respectively). As the related USA Today story pithily explained:

The arrest of terror suspects in London has helped buoy President Bush to his highest approval rating in six months and dampen Democratic congressional prospects to their lowest in a year.
In short, as security issues came back to the forefront, the general public re-assessed their priorities and--as has historically been the case--tend to look more favorably upon the GOP with regards to the future of Iraq and the War on Terror. Don Lambro agrees with "security" angle, but also adds this:
Another factor behind the Republicans' end-of-summer rise in the polls: They have spent the past month reminding voters, particularly their party's base, what they have done for their states and districts. Despite all the justified criticism about wasteful pork-barrel spending, the fact remains that most voters like their tax dollars coming back to them in bridge, road and other public-works projects and members aren't shy about reminding them about the bacon they've brought home.
We've certainly seen this born out as one of the central pillars of Senator Chafee's reelection strategy. It's a tried and true strategy and is effective in garnering support from most average voters (like RI Independents), as Lambro's analysis of the poll seems to bear out . It also is in stark contrast to Mayor Laffey's "no pork" approach, which is appealing to the more conservative GOP base (the Porkbusters crowd). Two different messages that appeal to two different sections of the GOP primary electorate. Which message will ultimately take hold? As with all else in this crazy race, it all depends on turnout.

Rhode Island's Poor Regional Performance on Income and Poverty

Carroll Andrew Morse

A just released Census Bureau report (pdf format) ranks that median household income of the fifty states plus the District of Columbia over past 12 months. Most of New England is at or above the national average ($46,242)...

  • Connecticut $60,941 (3rd)
  • Massachusetts $57,184 (5th)
  • New Hampshire $56,768 (6th)
  • Rhode Island $51,458 (12th)
  • Vermont $45,686 (23rd)
  • Maine $42,801 (33rd)
The report also provides data on the percentage of people living in poverty over the past 12 months...
  • New Hampshire 7.5% (1st)
  • Connecticut 8.3% (3rd)
  • Massachusetts 10.3% (11th)
  • Vermont 11.5% (19th)
  • Rhode Island 12.3% (25th)
  • Maine 12.6% (26th)
One grain of salt to take with the poverty data; the report says that "poverty thresholds do not vary geographically" which probably skews the numbers one way or another.

With that qualification, here are two questions worth considering...

  • Why does Rhode Island always do so much worse than Massachusetts and Connecticut on these kinds of lists, when we are all subject to the same regional economic trends?
Plausible factors: Connecticut data is skewed by the part of the state close to New York City. The Boston area is a sufficiently large metropolitan area to make comparisons to less densely populated remainder of New England difficult. But if the higher income numbers in Massachusetts and Connecticut are related to higher costs-of-living in Boston and New York City, doesn't it make their lower-than-Rhode Island poverty rates all the more impressive? And, on top of that...
  • Why then does New Hampshire, about the same size as Rhode Island in terms of population and at about the same proximity to Boston, do so much better than RI in this survey?

August 29, 2006

New Chafee Add: It's All About Style Now

Marc Comtois

The new Chafee add is up (called "People") and it looks like the time for policy debate is over. It's all personality politics, now. Here's the transcript:

Elderly Man: “Laffey is running for Senate here in the State of Rhode Island but his ego is the size of the State of Texas.”

Soccer Mom1: “He talks down to you…like he’s better than everyone.”

Regular Guy1: ‘Laffey’s a polarizing figure.”

Elderly Woman: “And he started hurting some of the people in Cranston, especially the elderly people.”

Older Woman: “Steve Laffey is a total different personality than Linc Chafee. And I really like Linc Chafee’s personality.”

War Veteran:”Keep Lincoln Chafee.”

Soccer Mom2:”Linc Chafee is a well-informed decision maker.”

Regular Guy2: “The Senator gets the job done.”

This seems to be a clear sign that Chafee feels he has to directly go negative (vice via his NRSC surrogates). I wonder if Laffey will take the bait.

(Tip via Dan Yorke).

Chafee to Benefit From Nat'l GOP "Draft"

Marc Comtois

Via a tip supplied by AuH2ORepublican in a comment to Andrew's most recent post, the Hotline's Kevin Rennie reports:

Democrats were right in 2004: the Republicans have adopted a draft. It only applies, however, to party workers employed by state victory committees in the east of the Mississippi. For many it will be worse than boot camp. They are to be sent to Rhode Island to try to rescue Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s re-election campaign in the September 12th primary.

Workers start arriving Friday and will be charged with sorting out the mess that Washington operatives believe is the Chafee campaign. First task may be to get Republican voters to forget Chafee’s erratic performance in the last two of the four broadcast debates between the incumbent and his lively challenger, Cranston mayor Stephen Laffey.

Scores of GOP workers will begin arriving this week and stay through the open primary as they search for and then try to persuade some of the 70,000 registered Republicans and several hundred thousand independent voters eligible to participate in the open primary to support Chaffee. Draftees, many of whom may be more compatible with Laffey, will be paid by their home-state committees. Food and lodging expenses will be picked up by Republican National Committee. Some of the faithful, however, may prefer to go AWOL than work for a Republican who opposes mangers on public property and calls the Club for Growth one of most notorious special interest groups in Washington.

Party pros may be hoping that the influx of energetic workers will inspire Chafee to put some heat under what they see as his lethargic performance in the day-to-day grind of campaigning in the Ocean State.

Yes, this piece is full of rumor and conjecture, but the fact is that the ground troops are indeed on their way to help Senator Chafee {Add this to the $180,000 in direct mailing support for Chafee--ed.}. I wonder if the Club For Growth has a similar ground force (to go along with its mailing support)? (No, I'm not volunteering).

Your Kerry King/Reginald Centracchio Voter Information Clearinghouse

Carroll Andrew Morse

Scott Mayerowitz has dueling articles about Republican Lieutenant Governor candidates Kerry King and Reginald Centracchio in this week’s Projo.

The article on Kerry King ran on Monday. For those seeking further information on Mr. King

The article on Reginald Centracchio ran today. For those seeking further information on General Centracchio

State Senator asks Chafee Campaign to Renounce NRSC Commercial

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Associated Press reports that State Senator Juan Pichardo has asked the Chafee campaign to renounce the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s latest anti-Laffey ad (available here on YouTube)…

State Sen. Juan Pichardo (D-Providence) sent Chafee a letter dated Friday asking him to renounce the spot.

"The ad's script and imagery are clearly meant to engender fear that, as a group, Hispanic immigrants present a threat to the security of Rhode Island and the nation," wrote Pichardo, a naturalized citizen who emigrated from the Dominican Republic. "I am deeply concerned that as a result, the ad will unfairly create feelings of prejudice and suspicion toward the Hispanic community as a whole."

Chafee described the ad as accurate during a Saturday night debate with Laffey.

But his spokesman Ian Lang referred questions to the NRSC after Pichardo's letter appeared yesterday on a Democratic Web site.

"This is not our ad, we have nothing to do with it," Lang said.

Remember that Mr. Lang’s response is motivated as much by campaign finance anti-coordination regulations as it is by traditional political considerations.

Current campaign law exempts the NRSC’s negative ad from counting as a contribution to the Chafee campaign since it never says "vote for Senator Chafee". If, however, the NRSC had sat down with Senator Chafee to develop a positive ad to help his campaign, the result would have been considered a “coordinated” ad subject to contribution limits. In other words, there’s no limit on how much bad stuff you can throw around about a candidate you oppose, but the resources that you can expend working with a candidate you support are strictly rationed.

That’s our ridiculous system of campaign finance reform. (Of course, since Senator Chafee did vote to implement this system, he probably shouldn’t complain about it too loudly.)

August 28, 2006

The Source of the Valerie Plame Leak

Carroll Andrew Morse

If anyone is still interested (probably not, because it looks like it won’t hurt Dick Cheney or Karl Rove), the world apparently now knows the source of the Valerie Plame leak. National Review’s Byron York reports…

According to Hubris, the new book by the Nation’s David Corn and Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, [Secretary of State Colin Powell] had been told by his top deputy and close friend Richard Armitage that he, Armitage, leaked the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak. Armitage had, in other words, set off the CIA-leak affair.
Apparently, the Justice Department has been aware that Armitage was the original leaker since October of 2003, but went ahead with a full investigation, including special prosecutor, anyway.

Here’s a bare bones timeline of Armitage's involvement compiled from York’s article …

  1. On at least two separate occasions in 2003, Armitage discusses CIA employee Valerie Plame's role in helping her husband obtain an assignment investigating Iraqi uranium purches in Africa, once with the Chicago Sun-Times' Robert Novak and once with the Washington Post's Bob Woodward. Novak uses this fact in a July 2003 column.
  2. In October 2003, during the very early stages of the investigation to determine who revealed Plame's connection to the CIA, Armitage admits to being Novak's source, but does not disclose the separate Woodward leak.
  3. Armitage eventually discloses the Woodward leak in November 2005.
York speculates that Lewis Libby, the only person indicted in this matter, was targeted by the prosecution because his story was inconsistent with the stories being told by the people who had received their information via the Novak leak while the prosecution was unaware of the existence of the Woodward leak. (The implication, I think, is that Libby learned of the Plame-Wilson connection from someone in the Woodward channel, if not Woodward himself).

But, as York points out, why Armitage’s initial incomplete testimony was treated as an oversight while problems with Libby’s story have been treated as criminal activity is unknown to anyone but the special prosecutor.

The Case for Wiretapping

Carroll Andrew Morse

Mark Steyn makes the argument for warrantless wiretapping when one-half of the call is outside of the US as well as can be done in two sentences...

If Judge Taylor's ruling stands, if the U.S. government intercepts a call from Islamabad to London about a plot to blow up Big Ben, it can alert the Brits. But, if the U.S. government intercepts a call from Islamabad to New York about a plot to blow up the Chrysler Building, that's entirely unconstitutional and all record of it should be erased.

August 27, 2006

Chafee-Laffey IV: Third Panel Round

Carroll Andrew Morse

Republican Senate candidates Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey debated on television on WJAR-TV Channel 10 this past Saturday. Here are the notes I jotted down during the panel's third round of questioning...

Bill Rappleye asks how exactly the US should free itself from dependency on foreign oil.
Senator Lincoln Chafee discusses the increasing demand for oil created by increased consumption by China’s huge population.
Rappleye: But what do we do in this country?
Chafee says that 60% of US consumption is from transportation, so we need to raise CAFE standards. Chafee notes that he drives a hybrid, but it was made in Japan. Government should force industry in the direction of 50 mpg cars, so the US can become a leader in hybrid vehicles.
Mayor Steve Laffey touts his specific plan to get America off of foreign oil (available at The US needs to raise CAFÉ standards from 27 mpg to 40 mpg, pass tax credits for hybrids, and offer 20 year producer and consumer credits. We need to get off foreign oil to win the War on Terror, and we won’t unless we create program on the scale of putting a man on the Moon.
Chafee says he’s worked in the Senate on raising CAFE standards, so Laffey should be endorsing his candidacy.

Michelle Johnson asks if America needs to build a fence on its southern border.
Laffey says yes for reasons of national security and stopping illegal immigration. Also, it’s not humane to have people walking days through the desert in hopes of getting to America.
Chafee says he voted in favor of a bill that had strict border security and a path to legality for currently illegal immigrants. We also need to address poverty in other countries to stop illegal immigration at the source.
Johnson asks Chafee how working illegally in Canada influenced his position on this issue.
Chafee tells an anecdote about contact with the RCMP at the racetrack where he worked that led him to obtaining landed immigrant status.
Gene Valicenti asks Chafee how old he was at the time.
Chafee: About 23.
Laffey volunteers that he’s never worked illegally in any other country. Also notes his campaign won’t run an ad about Chafee’s youthful indiscretion.
Johnson asks Laffey about Chafee’s experience as an example of how countries sometimes need people from outside to do work.
Laffey answers that Chafee going to Canada is not quite the same as poor people crossing into America and then reiterates his opposition to the “Kennedy” bill.
Chafee asks Laffey if he supports the Sensenbrenner bill (the House’s enforcement-only immigration bill).
Laffey says he hasn’t read the specific House bill, but he supports securing the border first. Then second step is then to enforce law against employers. Laffey goes on to criticize Chafee’s support for the provision of the Senate bill that he says gives foreign workers 4-5 times as much money as domestic workers at the same job site.
Chafee: “You’re a one man filibuster” who doesn’t offer solutions. What bill do you support?
Laffey says he would support a bill that would secure the borders first.
Chafee asks Laffey if he would oppose the House bill.
Laffey reiterates that he has not read the House bill, but would support it if it is a bill that secures the borders first.

Jim Taricani asks how much aid the government should give to people to get out of poverty and if that aid should come with restricitions.
Chafee says that America is at the top of the world because of our great social programs. Welfare re-authorization is just coming up now and the goal is to build the middle class.
Taricani asks about the role of individual responsibility in people getting themselves out of poverty.
Chafee responds that the Clinton compromise which got people to work for there welfare was a good thing, but you have to pay attention to day-care when you consider this issue.
Laffey says that the ’96 welfare reform, with 5-year limit on benefits, was good policy. But America is not great because of its social programs, it’s great because it’s a place where everyone has a chance to get ahead. Unless the financial direction of the country changes, this won’t continue to be true.
Taricani asks Laffey how tax cuts benefit poor people.
Laffey invokes the multiplier effect, attributing it to JFK. When small businesses get tax cuts, they can afford to hire more employees, and everyone does better.
Chafee says that JFK’s financial plan is not something to brag about, because we had Vietnam, and then got deeper and deeper into debt. The country didn’t get out until 1999, when Democrats and Republicans worked on revenues and expenditures together.
Laffey says he won’t criticize John or Bobby Kennedy
Chafee says he’s talking about financials, not people.

Chafee-Laffey IV: Second Panel Round

Carroll Andrew Morse

Republican Senate candidates Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey debated on television on WJAR-TV Channel 10 this past Saturday. Here are the notes I jotted down during the panel's second round of questioning...

Michelle Johnson asks Mayor Steve Laffey about being quoted or perhaps misquoted as saying God told him to run for mayor. What does he think the role of faith in politics is?
Laffey: I pray, I go to church, but when I get involved, it is all about public policy and what it is the best decision for the people I serve.
Gene Valicenti asks Laffey if God told him to run.
Laffey: No, but I’ve remarked something to the effect of “I guess the man upstairs wanted me to run”.
Senator Lincoln Chafee says that Rhode Island was founded on the separation of church and state by Roger Williams fleeing Puritan persecution and that RI wouldn’t join the US until that principle was included in the Federal constitution. Laffey put a charade of a crèche at City Hall, and was sued by ACLU.
Laffey responds that the people of Cranston put different displays at City Hall and their right to do so was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Valicenti notes that Laffey did lead the fight on the issue.
Laffey says it all started with a man who wanted to place a Menorah at City Hall, so he called a lawyer and learned that public holiday displays are OK as long as they are diverse; there’s tremendous public support for this.
Valicenti agrees that the public approves and asks Chafee if that’s wrong.
Chafee says he point is that there is a separation of church and state and we don’t want state sponsored religion.
Laffey says what we want is the Federal courts to make these decisions, not Chafee.

Jim Taricani asks Chafee why Republicans should vote for him when his positions differ from the Republican mainstream on issues like tax cuts, war on Iraq, abortion and stem cells.
Chafee says he considers himself a “traditional Republican” who favors fiscal responsibility, the environment, personal freedoms (keep governmentt out of our bedroom) and opposes foreign entanglements.
Taricani asks Laffey what Republicanism means to him.
Laffey says he refers to himself as reformer and a populist, in the mold of Teddy Roosevelet. TR saw unequal power, and he worked to set it right for people. In Cranston, I saw unequal power, and I set out to change it. Both great Democrats like JFK and great Republicans like RWR have favored tax cuts. Recent tax cuts have generated 500 billion dollars in extra revenue.
Taricani asks Chafee why he doesn’t believe in tax cuts?
Chafee: Deficits! We have to have the resources to fund special education, prepare for wars and natural disasters, and invest in infrastructure.
Taricani asks Chafee why people should think the guy with the Harvard MBA is wrong on this.
Chafee says the tax cuts were too deep. We’re still in deficits and they’re like an addiction, easy to get into but hard to get out of.

Bill Rappleye asks about college students graduating with an average debt of $20,000. What is the role of government in making college affordable and what about Pell grants?
Laffey says he supports maintaining Pell grants at the current level. Education at the college level is very successful in this country, the real education problem is at the primary and secondary level.
Rappleye: My question is about paying for college.
Laffey says the existing system is appropriate.
Chafee warns to watch what Laffey says, not what he does; Laffey supports deep tax cuts, even though Pell grants are not keeping up with college tuitions. An investment in education that gives everyone a chance to go to college is what makes America great.
Laffey says we should cut the $27B in pork, cut the $125-$150B in corporate welfare, and freeze discretionary non-defense spending to pay for existing programs without increasing the deficit or raising taxes.
Rappleye tries to get back to his original question. Is it OK for kids to graduate with a $20,000 debt?
Laffey says education loans at current rates are a good investment. Students and parents have to put some money in the game.
Chafee says that Laffey offers lots of sound bytes but no real solutions.

Chafee-Laffey IV: First Panel Round

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey debated on television on WJAR-TV Channel 10 this past Saturday. Here are the notes I jotted down during the panel's first round of questioning...

Bill Rappleye begins by telling Mayor Steve Laffey that he’s not interested in how he felt about Boy George 20 years ago, but will ask about his current campaign commercial where he mentions that his brother died of aids. Why bring up the cause of death?
Laffey says he understands how families go through struggles. The way he grew help helps him have empathy for the problems people face.
Senator Lincoln Chafee agrees with Rappleye’s premise that how candidates feel today is what’s important, then details his own gay rights record; he supports employment non-discrimination rights, opposes the Federal marriage amendment and supports hate crimes legislation. Chafee then brings up the Jackvony pixelation...
Gene Valicenti asks how the Jackovny pixelation is pertinent.
Chafee says it shows a vindictiveness on the part of Laffey.
Laffey says becoming a public official shouldn’t mean losing a sense of humor and he thought it was funny when he got pixelated by Chafee at the Rhode Island follies. This is not an issue for US Senate race.
Chafee, after acknowledging that people can’t be held accountable for things they did as college students, says neither the Boy George column or the pixelation were funny.
Rappleye asks Chafee if his campaign had anything to do with Boy George column finding its way to the Projo.
Chafee: ”Not that I know of.”

Jim Taricani asks if prosecutors should ask for the death penalty for Osama Bin Laden, if he’s found guilty.
Chafee says he opposes the death penalty because Rhode Island executed innocent people in the 19th century.
Laffey says the death penalty is inappropriate in many situations, but someone responsible for 3000 deaths should pay the ultimate penalty.
Taricani asks Chafee if his opposition to the death penalty is on moral/religious grounds.
Chafee cites a 19th-century example of mob violence and says that we have to be careful, plus the deterrent effect has not been shown to be strong.
Laffey says there’s no possibility of a mistake in a case involving Osama Bin Laden, because he openly takes credit for mass murder.
Chafee: Once you oppose the death penalty, you can’t make exceptions.

Michelle Johnson (For those unfamiliar with this name, note that many of the unbylined Associated Press stories on Rhode Island politics are written by Ms. Johnson) asks about Chafee’s previous statement that “A bad peace is better than a good war”. When is the use of military force appropriate?
Chafee cites the “religious parameters” of a just war. It must be a last resort, authorized by a legitimate authority, redress a wrong suffered, have a reasonable chance of success, have the ultimate goal of re-establishing peace, be proportional to the injury suffered, and avoid civilian targets.
Johnson asks if Afghanistan and Iraq met the criteria.
Chafee says no to Iraq and that he voted to authorize force in Afganistan. There have been shifting rationales for Iraq, first it was WMD, the bringing democracy, then remaking the Middle East, and now it’s a war on “Islamic fundamentalism”.
Johnson asks Laffey when he thinks the use of military force is appropriate.
Laffey: When the national interest or the people of the United States are at risk. Bad peaces lead to other wars.
Johnson asks Laffey how much diplomacy we should try in Iran.
Laffey answers we’ve already been working on diplomacy for past 3 years. Unfortunately, Russia & China won’t cooperate because of the price of oil. We need to move to economic sanctions against Iran, but they have to be sanctions that will really hurt.
Chafee: We have to be smart in our decisions or else “sometimes we incite the extremists”, leading to things likes the elections of Hamas and the Islamic brotherhood. Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

Chafee-Laffey IV: The Lightning Round

Carroll Andrew Morse

In the opening “lightning round” of Saturday night’s Laffey-Chafee debate, moderator Gene Valicenti got concise answers from Republican Senate Candidates Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey on several important issues. Here’s a summary. Complete video of the original is available on the WJAR-TV Channel 10 website…

Gene Valicenti asks why gasoline costs 3 bucks a gallon.
Senator Lincoln Chafee cites demand created by China and hurricane Katrina.
Mayor Steve Laffey says because of the lack of a national energy policy.

Valicenti asks for a quick-fix for stopping prices from rising to 4 bucks a gallon.
Chafee says reduce consumption by improving mileage standards on cars.
Laffey says there is no quick fix. Increasing the use of solar power and increasing CAFÉ standards are a start.

Valicenti says the Iranians opening a nuclear power plant. Do we need to consider military action?
Laffey says economics sanctions are now necessary, because diplomacy has failed.
Chafee says we need to open an embassy in Iran and start a bi-lateral dialogue.

Valicenti asks if a military draft needs to be instituted.
Both candidates say no.

Valicenti asks the candidates if they believe global warming exists.
Laffey says he’s heard good arguments on both sides, and we should act as if it’s true.
Chafee says even the Bush administration acknowledges that climate change is occurring because of human activity.

Valicenti asks if the candidates support gay marriage.
Chafee says yes.
Laffey says he supports civil unions, but not marriage.

Valicenti asks if the President can order wiretaps without a warrant.
Laffey says there are circumstances where it is necessary, but special Judges should be notified as quickly as possible.
Chafee says the Fourth Amendment is clear, no warrantless wiretapping.

August 26, 2006

Satire? Hit Piece?

Justin Katz

I'd like a specific answer, from Mayor Laffey, whether this (PDF) is satire:

There are many people who are too weak to live by any moral principles; they decide what is best by their own irrational whims and desires. These cowards attempt to justify their actions in two ways. Firstly, they try to bring others down to their way of life by exhorting them to compromise their values. Secondly, these moral milksops say that no one can be wholly good so please don't accuse me of being all bad. It is these same ingrates who belittle people who have clear, simple answers to the world's problems. They accuse others of seeing things in black and white, as if that was bad, impossible, or somehow wrong. What these poltroons are really saying is "Please don't discriminate between right and wrong."

Now, I'd be the first to express pretend astonishment that the Providence Journal would offer this particular college-age Laffey column as "a sample of a humor column by Stephen Laffey in a campus newspaper," rather than, say, the column from which Scott MacKay has drawn his first example, from which the headline was drawn, and on which Laffey was specifically using the humor defense. If the Providence Journal intended to prove that its pretense toward journalistic neutrality is merely a cover for aspirations toward status as a political force in this state, it could have comported itself no better.

That doesn't, however, excuse Laffey for taking the politically expedient route of disavowing all of his writing at the time. How refreshing it would be if the mayor would quickly put a larger sampling of his college columns on his Web site and explain what principles expressed therein were legitimately held and which were "over the top." Doing so might (one can only surmise) help to resolve some of the ambiguity that Rhode Island conservatives find in his persona.

Chafee-Laffey IV: Open Thread

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising readers are invited to use the comments section of this post to give their own real time reactions to tonight's Republican Senate debate between Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey (WJAR-TV Channel 10 @ 7:30 pm). Also, Channel 10 political reporter Bill Rappleye will hold a pre-debate discussion with Robert Weygand, Susan Farmer and Jennifer Duffy beginning at 7:00 pm.

Insightful comments, witty comments, and even comments that spin like Lynda Carter in an old episode of Wonder Woman are all welcome, but personally insulting or crude posts will be deleted as soon as I see them.

The comments will open at 7:30 are open now!

Laffey's College Columns

Carroll Andrew Morse

Scott MacKay has an article in today’s Projo discussing several columns that Steve Laffey wrote as an undergraduate student for a college newspaper in 1983…

In one column in the Bowdoin Patriot, the paper published by campus Republicans, Laffey wrote, "I have never once seen a happy homosexual. This is not to say there aren't any; I simply haven't seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet. All the homosexuals I've seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life."

Laffey, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, said he regrets writing that and other articles denigrating gays. But he chalks it up to undergraduate hijinks, saying, "In college we engaged in sophomoric political satire."

Asked if any of the columns represented his views, Laffey said in an interview at his Cranston home yesterday, "No. Not now, nor then, or ever . . . Do I regret writing some of these things? Sure. But at the time, we were just having fun. We thought it was funny."

Whether you believe that a candidate's college writings are a vaild subject in a campaign or you believe that this is an example of gotcha politics (MacKay reports that the Projo was made aware of the columns by an anonymous delivery), please keep the discussion civil.

August 25, 2006

First District Republican Congressional Candidates: Let’s Win the War on Terror, Not Learn to Live with Terrorism

Carroll Andrew Morse

Last week, the Cumberland Valley Breeze ran an op-ed by Anna Quindlen on America’s attitude towards terrorism. If Ms. Quindlen believes that there is anything more important in responding to terrorism than learning to accept its permanence, she doesn’t mention it…

Living with ever-present danger is scarcely new, although we like to make it sound that way…The great shock to the American system is realizing that no fortress is inviolate, no wall tall enough and no place really safe. Metal detectors, random searches. No toothpaste in that carry-on. Safety is a useful illusion, as modern - and as vulnerable - as a skyscraper.
Fortunately, many Valley Breeze readers live in Rhode Island’s first Congressional district, where they will have the opportunity to vote for a Congressional candidates who do not share Ms. Quindlen’s dour view.

Republican Congressional candidate Jon Scott believes that America should aggressively confront terrorists before they launch attacks…

Jon is a strong supporter of the War on Terror and understands that the best defense against Homeland Security threats is an offense that seeks out terrorists and confronts them before they reach our shores. He supports any legislation that increases the resources available to our men and women in uniform as they carry out this global mission and believes that their success depends not only on our commitment to their welfare but to the welfare of the families that remain behind in the US.
Republican Congressional candidate Ed Leather is also clear that the goal of the United States should be to destroy terrorism, not to learn to live with it…
If you stay the course on the fight against terrorism, you will destroy it. We have to support the destruction of terrorism, 100%. We have the means to do it, but victory requires the political will of every citizen....

We need the political will to destroy terrorism, but only the voters can provide the political will by electing officials who will carry on this battle. Only you can provide the power to fight for a safer and more peaceful world for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. It may be a lengthy process, but we have no choice. We must stay the course on the fight against terrorism and we will win.

Incumbent Patrick Kennedy alludes to the War on Terror on his campaign website, in an expression of general support for a strong defense, but is unclear on whether he believes the goal of America’s anti-terror policy should be a simple truce or true victory
Following the tragedies of September 11, 2001, Congressman Kennedy joined with his colleagues in committing resources to improving our national security and to ensuring that our Armed Services are stronger and more effective than ever. Congressman Kennedy has long supported efforts to strengthen our military, to improve U.S. military readiness to a higher sustainable level of response, to maintain our nation's strategic depth, and to modernize our military through the use of the newest and most advanced technologies and capabilities.
Both Republican candidates are very clear on this issue. Shouldn’t voters expect their incumbent to be equally as clear?

Bringing a New Strategic Focus to the Education Debate

Donald B. Hawthorne

Four recent postings by Justin and Andrew (here, here, here, and here) have brought us back to the important education policy debate.

Many reader comments on their postings have raised a number of issues related to education in Rhode Island and beyond, including: teacher salaries, automatic salary step increases, merit pay, accountability, union contract terms, pension retirement benefits, healthcare benefits, politician/bureaucrat/union behaviors, corruption, political power, union bashing, Governor Carcieri bashing, Mayor Laffey bashing, and the effect of poverty on educational outcomes.

Yet, however relevant some of these comments may be, they are reflective of the non-strategic nature of the current public debate on education. Dwelling on these largely granular or tactical issues alone has the unintended consequence of playing into the hands of those who defend the failed status quo. Alternatively, inspiring a passionate commitment to change across our society will only occur if certain core strategic questions finally become central to the public debate on education.

There are four such strategic questions:

1. Do we believe a quality education is the gateway to the American Dream for all children?

2. Whom do we trust to make better educational decisions for children: their parents or the government?

3. Within each neighborhood school, who is in the position to make the best decisions regarding individual students, individual teachers, and the curriculum: federal bureaucrats, state bureaucrats, unions or the school's principal and teachers?

4. What incentives will ensure accountability to taxpayers and parents as well as reward behaviors which lead to improved educational performance outcomes?

Answers to these four strategic questions lead us to one overarching question:

Can the failed status quo be made to work by minor adjustments at the margin or will high-quality performance only come from a completely different structural approach to delivering educational services?

Let's work diligently to alter the education debate so it focuses on these core strategic issues. With the proper focus, we can unite rich and poor, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans as well as people of all colors in a common mission dedicated to finally making a quality education available to every child in America.

Bringing a New Strategic Focus to the Education Debate

Four recent postings by Justin and Andrew (here, here, here, and here) have brought us back to the important education policy debate.

Many reader comments on their postings have raised a number of issues related to education in Rhode Island and beyond, including: teacher salaries, automatic salary step increases, merit pay, accountability, union contract terms, pension retirement benefits, healthcare benefits, politician/bureaucrat/union behaviors, corruption, political power, union bashing, Governor Carcieri bashing, Mayor Laffey bashing, and the effect of poverty on educational outcomes.

Yet, however relevant some of these comments may be, they are reflective of the non-strategic nature of the current public debate on education. Dwelling on these largely granular or tactical issues alone has the unintended consequence of playing into the hands of those who defend the failed status quo. Alternatively, inspiring a passionate commitment to change across our society will only occur if certain core strategic questions finally become central to the public debate on education.

There are four such strategic questions:

1. Do we believe a quality education is the gateway to the American Dream for all children?

2. Whom do we trust to make better educational decisions for children: their parents or the government?

3. Within each neighborhood school, who is in the position to make the best decisions regarding individual students, individual teachers, and the curriculum: federal bureaucrats, state bureaucrats, unions or the school's principal and teachers?

4. What incentives will ensure accountability to taxpayers and parents as well as reward behaviors which lead to improved educational performance outcomes?

Answers to these four strategic questions lead us to one overarching question:

Can the failed status quo be made to work by minor adjustments at the margin or will high-quality performance only come from a completely different structural approach to delivering educational services?

Let's work diligently to alter the education debate so it focuses on these core strategic issues. With the proper focus, we can unite rich and poor, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans as well as people of all colors in a common mission dedicated to finally making a quality education available to every child in America.

August 24, 2006

Laffey-Chafee III: Debating Foreign Policy

Carroll Andrew Morse

In the second radio debate, Senator Lincoln Chafee was asked if he really believed that weapons of mass destruction were the sole reason for invading Iraq. Senator Chafee answered that if there was a wider purpose to the war, it should have been put forth by the President and debated in public before a decision was made. I believe that Senator Chafee was spot-on with this answer. When history looks back on the conduct of the War in Iraq, President George W. Bush’s decision to not rally America around a greater cause than WMD in making the case for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Husein will be viewed as the primary failure from which the other problems have grown.

It is in a spirit that recognizes the importance of public debate when setting America's direction in the world -- the spirit expressed by Senator Chafee himself, at a moment where he well-represented the ideal of New England Republicanism -- that I offer the criticism that follows.

In three debates, Senator Chafee has offered three different views of foreign policy. In the first debate, Senator Chafee flirted dangerously with pacifism (“a bad peace is better than a good war”). In the second debate, the Senator presented a pre-World War II-style isolationism as true Republicanism (“avoid foreign entanglements”). Then, in Wednesday’s debate, Senator Chafee expressed a preference for a view that goes by the inelegant name of benevolent global hegemonism (“America should be the strongest country in a peaceful world”).

The dreaded neoconservatives also begin from the premise that America should be the strongest country in a peaceful world. But they go further, adding the idea that the only way the world will stay peaceful is if America is the nation that enforces the peace. Another group of foreign policy thinkers share the goal of a dominant America in a peaceful world, but believe that America is sufficiently powerful to creatively work through international institutions to reach that goal (no one has come up with a good name for this group yet). Then there are the realists who believe it is impossible for any country to maintain its status as most powerful, because everybody else inevitably gangs up to take down number one. There are many other possibilities, outside of and in between these views.

Given the diversity of choices available, Senator Chafee’s statement in the third debate that America should be the strongest country in a peaceful world was much more than a platitude. It was a very bold statement of American foreign policy. It was, however, entirely incompatible with his positions from the first two debates. It is not reasonable to believe that the world will stay peaceful if the U.S. disengages out of a desire to “avoid foreign entanglements”. With the US on the sidelines, who will stop a Slobodan Milosevic or a Saddam Husein from ending the peace in full scale military actions that swallow up neighboring states? And a stated willingness to accept a “bad peace” makes any hope of any peace less likely by neutralizing deterrence as a strategic option. Dictators and tyrants who believe they can be bully other nations into accepting disadvantageous truces will continually use violence or the threat of violence to take what they want.

I believe that Senator Chafee is sincere in what he has said about his beliefs, foreign policy or otherwise, but because of the contradictions, I am not yet convinced that he has expressed his core foreign policy beliefs during this series of debates.

Mayor Steve Laffey has approached foreign policy from a more operational direction, placing national energy policy at the center of his foreign policy platform. Not to be pedantic here, but this also is a way of avoiding foreign entanglements -- not all foreign entanglements, but a particular foreign entanglement, dependence on foreign oil, that is unduly controlled by other nations.

What makes the goal of energy independence more than the 21st century version of isolationism is that pursuing energy independence treats reduced entanglements as a means while traditional isolationism treats reduced entanglements as the end. In conventional foreign policy terms, the energy-policy-as-foreign-policy position is the belief that the constraints on America created by dependence on foreign oil have become so burdensome, they impair the ability of the United States to pursue whatever degree of foreign engagement the American polity chooses to be in its best interest.

Chafee-Laffey IV Moved to Saturday

Carroll Andrew Morse

The final debate in the Republican Senate series, originally scheduled for tonight, has been moved to Saturday at 7:00 on WJAR-TV Channel 10.

Laffey-Chafee III: Debating Immigration

Carroll Andrew Morse

During Wednesday’s debate, when discussing illegal immigration, Senator Lincoln Chafee said “the most important thing on any issue is to be consistent”, then contrasted Mayor Steve Laffey's opposition to the amnesty-based immigration reform passed by the Senate to his support for using consular ID cards in the City of Cranston. The Senator believes the two positions reflect a politically motivaed flip-flop. Mayor Laffey's decision to allow Cranston to accept consular IDs is also the subject of the National Republican Senatorial Committee's latest anti-Laffey ad.

1. Senator Chafee supports the “John McCain” bill (also known as the pick-any-combination-of-names from McCain-Kennedy-Martinez-Hagel-Frist-and-Reid bill). The key component of the bill is the so-called Martinez-Hagel compromise. Matinez-Hagel divides illegal immigrants currently within the United States into three groups. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for more than 5 years are immediately eligible to pay for permanent amnesty with back taxes and fines. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for between 2 and 5 years are eligible for a temporary amnesty if they return to a valid point of entry into the US. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for less than 2 years are required to leave, but may be allowed to re-enter as "guest workers". The defining characteristic of "guest workers" versus other categories of non-citizens legally in America is that "guest workers" are only allowed to stay in the US for as long as they are employed.

Support for the Martinez-Hagel compromise is the basis of Senator Chafee’s claim that he would support deporting illegal immigrants who have been in the country for less than two years. Yet, Senator Chafee also voted for Dianne Feinstein’s “orange card” amendment, which would have given permanent amnesty to illegal immigrants in the United States on or before January 1, 2006.

How is this consistent?

2. Steve Laffey has also criticized Senator Chafee for making illegal immigrants eligible for social security benefits and allowing foreign guest workers to be paid more than American citizens.

Here’s John McCain as quoted in the Washington Times describing how the current immigration bill deals with the issue of social security…

"We all know that millions of undocumented immigrants pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for years and sometimes decades while they work to contribute to our economy," said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

"The Ensign amendment would undermine the work of these people by preventing lawfully present immigrant workers from claiming Social Security benefits that they earned before they were authorized to work in our community," he said. "If this amendment were enacted, the nest egg that these immigrants have worked hard for would be taken from them and their families."

The "Ensign amendment" (which failed by one vote) would have prevented work done by someone in the country illegally from counting towards Social Security. Senator Chafee is technically correct when he says that no illegal immigrant will ever collect social security under a measure he has voted for, but work done by illegal immigrants, even by those using someone else’s identity, will count towards an amnesty recipient's Social Security benefits.

3. And, bizarre as it sounds, a provision in the immigration bill allowing foreign guest workers to be paid more than American citizens does exist. It has to do with the arcana of labor law. Kate O’Beirne from National Review explains the mechanics…

The bill extends Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” provisions—typically the area’s union wage that applies only to construction on federal projects under current law—to all occupations (e.g. roofers, carpenters, electricians, etc.) covered by Davis-Bacon. So guest-workers (but not citizen workers) must be paid Davis-Bacon wage rates for jobs in the private sector if their occupation is covered by Davis-Bacon. Presumably because Senate Democrats’ union bosses thought this provision too modest, an amendment by Senator Barack Obama, approved by voice vote, extended Davis-Bacon wages rates to all private work performed by guest workers, even if their occupations are not covered by Davis-Bacon,
...while Mickey Kaus tries to explan what legislators who supported this measure might have been thinking…
First take is that this provision will effectively price many guest workers out of the market, not only because it raises the legal guest-worker wage, but also because it makes them a magnet for wage-related litigation from annoyed construction unions who will claim that the guest-worker wages don't meet Davis-Bacon's government-set "prevailing wage" standards....
4. Finally, Senator Chafee voted against requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to certify that the border is secure before any guest worker or amnesty program can be implemented.

So in sum, the current NRSC ad says that Rhode Island voters concerned about illegal immigration should vote for the candidate who has favored the broadest amnesty that has been proposed to date, who has supported allowing work done by illegal immigrants to count towards social security benefits, who has voted to extend American labor law to foreign citizens (but not simliarly employed Americans), and who voted against securing the border before implementing any amensty, all because of a decision by that candidate's opponent about consular ID cards.

The 4 Things I Took Away from Laffey/Chafee 3

Marc Comtois

After the third Laffey/Chafee debate, I went "black" and avoided all punditry. Thus, here are the four (uninfluenced) items that stuck with me after the debate last night.

First: Chafee's labeling of Federal tax dollars to local/state government--what Laffey calls "pork"--as "property tax relief" was pretty clever. Never heard that one before. And though Laffey tried to pooh-pooh it by saying he's never heard a voter praise Chafee for tax relief, I think it was a rather ingenius attempt to blunt the "pork" argument. I'm not sure if it worked, but it was at least original.

Second: Laffey's explanation about why he called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. To paraphrase, "The administration went to war based on the worst case scenario and fought it based on a best case scenario." Simply put, a good sound bite. It was clearly aimed at the independents in both the primary and the general election. Whether or not they view it as a genuine feeling or political gamesmanship is an open question.

Third: Laffey won the debate, both on style and on the substantive issues. I suspect that this is especially true in the eyes of most GOP members. However, while Laffey scored some points amongst the independents, Chafee probably did enough to keep a hold of most of them. If this were a debate prior to the general election, Chafee would have come out looking better. But it's not.

Fourth: Because this was on C-SPAN, I couldn't help but wondering what the average conservative Republicans across the land must have been thinking while watching the debate. Perhaps something like, "Those are what they call Republicans in Rhode Island?"

Most national political junkies--those most likely to watch a GOP debate in tiny, Democrat dominated RI on C-SPAN in the summer--probably knew that Lincoln Chafee is a moderate Republican who seems to enjoy being the far outlier of the GOP. However, I don't think that the idealized "typical GOP" member was aware of Steve Laffey's populist bent. He called for Rumsfeld's resignation, accused the GOP run Federal government of corruption, and railed against "Big Oil", to give a few examples.

Whether we in Rhode Island realize it or not, President Bush still has strong support in the GOP base across the country. What that base saw were two "Republicans" doing their damndest to distance themselves from a President of their own party (Glenn Reynolds makes a good point about this tactic. MAC); a President that most national GOP members agree with on most of the issues (Believe it, it's true!). I don't think they are envious of the choice that RI Republicans have to make in September. When viewed through the lens of what a "typical" conservative Republican might be, neither Laffey nor Chafee fits the bill.

But this isn't Kansas: this is a uniquely Rhode Island race. Those of us who have been following it understand that both of these candidates are trying to do two things at once. They have to run against each other in the GOP primary and keep an eye on the Independent-dominated general electorate. That's something that probably can't be fully appreciated in other parts of the country. After all, what other state's largest voting block doesn't identify itself with either political party? Rhode Islanders like to take their cue from the Independent Man standing atop the State House. It would seem that--regardless of who they elect in the GOP primary--they'll have that Man, in one form or another, to support in the general election.

Laffey-Chafee III: Debating the Budget

Carroll Andrew Morse

Lots of budget numbers were thrown around in Wednesday’s debate. Let’s put them in one place and try to sort out how everything fits together…

1. How much is the overall Federal budget?

As Senator Chafee noted, the overall budget is in the vicinity of 2.5 trillion -- that’s $2,500,000,000,000 – and growing.

2. What’s the basic breakdown of that spending?

Using the Office of Management and the Budget’s 2005 numbers...

Entitlement Spending$1,300,000,000,00053%
Defense Spending$490,000,000,00020%
Discretionary Non-Defense Spending $470,000,000,00019%
Interest on the Debt $180,000,000,0007%.

3. How much of a dent can you make by cutting out pork?

Mayor Laffey quoted a figure of $27 billion dollars. That figure, I suspect, comes from the Citizens Against Government Waste numbers. That’s not chump change, but neither will it cancel out the growth in entitlements. Note also that about half of the CAGW number is defense related.

4. What about corporate welfare?

There seems to be less agreement on what exactly constitutes corportate welfare. Mayor Laffey claimed there was $125-$150 billion of corporate welfare that could be cut. That’s an estimate towards the high end. Here’s three others I found…

  • Ed Feulner (Chairman of the Heritage Foundation): $60 billion
  • Cato Institute (America’s favorite Libertarian think-tank): $93 billion
  • Public Citizen (“Nader’s Raiders”): $125 billion
Cato breaks their estimate down by category, showing the defense spending accounts for only a small percentage. My hunch is that the Public Citizen figure includes a bunch of defense spending as “corporate welfare” that the others don’t.

5. Isn’t this all dwarfed by the cost of the Iraq war?

No. Senator Chafee has used the figure of a billion dollars a week, roughly $50 billion per year. That seems a reasonable estimate, maybe even a little bit low, since the entire Defense budget is about $150 billion per-year higher now than it was in 2002. $50 billion is certainly larger than most pork estimates, but not an order of magnitude larger. And it’s still just about 4% of entitlement spending.

6. What about the revenue side?

Since the Bush tax-cuts, revenues have grown to about $300 billion more per year (consistent with the 12-15% increase in revenue that Mayor Laffey quotes, on top of a base of just under $2T) compared to before the tax cuts. I know that some people have a hard time accepting that revenues could go up after a tax cut, but 'dose is 'da numbahs. $300 billion is big money, enough to pay for a year’s worth of pork, corporate welfare, and the Iraq war and leave plenty left over but still only about 1/4 of the entitlement budget. That's how big the entitlements problem is. It’s not clear that even if we became a country of vegetarian (i.e. non-pork eating) pacifists (i.e. no defense budget) that tax cuts can grow revenues faster than entitlement obligations will eat them under the current structure.

The points here are…

  1. Senator Chafee can’t dismiss $27 billion in pork as being fiscally irrelevant while saying he thinks the cost of the Iraq war is a consideration so big that it prohibits considering tax cuts (even under flawed static assumptions).
  2. Cutting everything that Mayor Laffey has included as pork or corporate welfare would likely involve some cutting of defense programs.
  3. You can see significant revenue increases after a tax cut.
  4. Entitlement spending dwarfs everything else in the budget.
  5. (Most important point) We have to reconsider the fundamental design of a system that demands that people forever be paying higher and higher taxes for stagnant or declining benefits. There is a design flaw in such a system that needs to be remedied.

August 23, 2006

Laffey-Chafee III: Open Thread

Carroll Andrew Morse

I’m going to try a different coverage format for tonight’s Republican Senate debate (WPRI-TV Channel 12 @ 8:00 pm, live Internet video also available) than I used in the radio debates. Instead of summarizing the debate blow-by-blow, I’ll try to provide details that usefully supplement what the candidates say about specific policies, past votes, past statements, etc.

Meanwhile, Anchor Rising readers are invited to use the comments section of this post to give their own real time reactions to the debate. Insightful comments, witty comments, and even comments that spin like a U-235 atom in an Iranian centrifuge are all welcome, but personally insulting or crude posts will be deleted as soon as I see them.

The comments will open at 8:00 are open now!

Sheldon Whitehouse Agrees with Bush Energy Policy

Marc Comtois

Sheldon Whitehouse continues his "Picnicing Across the Ocean State" campaign. He recently brought his basket to Tiverton and Little Compton. One of his big issues continues to be the price of gas, for which he blames President Bush's energy policy:

“George Bush and this Republican Congress have left us with a truly bad energy policy that’s dictated by the oil companies,” Whitehouse said. “I’ve met so many people here in Rhode Island who depend on gas to get by – and with these skyrocketing prices, they’ve got no way out. For our national security, our economy, and our environment, we urgently need a new energy strategy.”
Predictably, Whitehouse offers his own alternative energy plan, which is characterized like this in the aforelinked press release:
Earlier this month, Whitehouse unveiled a major new plan aiming to make America the world’s leader in energy innovation and achieve energy independence by 2020. The plan includes raising Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to an average of 40 mpg to improve fuel efficiency, and major new federal investments in development, production, and commercialization of new cellulosic biofuels made from sugar, wood waste, and switchgrass.
These are good ideas and it certainly in marked contrast to current energy policy.......or NOT!! Here are two related points from the President's Advanced Energy Initiative first outlined (hint: this is the short version) in his State of the Union speech this year. On increasing CAFE standards (excerpted from the AEI website):
The Administration increased CAFE standards for light trucks and SUVs for the first time in a decade, raising the standard from 20.7 mpg to 22.2 mpg for the current model year 2007 vehicles. We have proposed additional increases in the fuel economy of light trucks and SUVs produced in model years 2008-2011, which would save 10 billion gallons of fuel over the lifetime of those vehicles.
On Biofuels:
To achieve greater use of “homegrown” renewable fuels, we will need advanced technologies that will allow competitively priced ethanol to be made from cellulosic biomass, such as agricultural and forestry residues, material in municipal solid waste, trees, and grasses. Advanced technology can break those cellulosic materials down into their component sugars and then ferment them to make fuel ethanol.

To help reduce the costs of producing these advanced biofuels, and ready these technologies for commercialization, the President’s 2007 Budget increases DOE’s biomass research funding by 65%, to a total of $150 million. The President’s goal is to make cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with corn-based ethanol by 2012, enabling greater use of this alternative fuel to help reduce future U.S. oil consumption.

I'm sure that the Whitehouse campaign's response will be something like, "Yeah, but we want to do more and faster....", which of course is easy to do when you're working off of someone elses proposal. Thus, given that Whitehouse's "new plan" is 8 months older than the President's current energy plan, it's pretty clear that Whitehouse agrees with the White House on an important aspect of energy policy.

Dole Giving up on Chafee?

Marc Comtois

According to the Winston-Salem Journal:

[Senator Elizabeth] Dole won't be campaigning any more for Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who is considered the most vulnerable incumbent Republican.

Chafee, a moderate Republican who publicly announced that he would not vote for Bush's re-election - he instead wrote in Bush's father's name - is facing a strong primary challenge from the right.

The Almanac of American Politics describes Rhode Island as "almost always one of the most Democratic states in presidential elections." Even if Chafee wins his primary, he faces a strong challenge from the state's former attorney general.

Nick said that Dole has no plans to go to Rhode Island between now and November. She did visit the state earlier this year.

Darrell West, a professor of political science at Brown University in Providence, said that is probably a good thing.

"Elizabeth Dole has good credibility on the right, (but) Chafee is pursuing independent voters now more than Republican voters," West said.

Is Elizabeth Dole giving up on Lincoln Chafee, or is she being politically pragmatic, as implied by Darryl West?

Who Really Could Be RI's Lamont?

Marc Comtois

2nd Congressional District Democrat challenger Jennifer Lawless has recently taken to likening herself to fellow New England Dem upstart Ned Lamont (as Andrew wrote about earlier this month). However, Time magazine's Joel Klein (via Patrick Casey) wonders if it may be Steve Laffey that most resembles Lamont.

Laffey is all adrenaline, the metabolic opposite of Chafee. And despite espousing the usual grab bag of social and economic conservative positions, he seems to most enjoy populist tirades against corporate special interests (especially the oil companies: he favors a robust alternative-energy plan for national-security reasons) and also against federal spending. "If you want big checks like the $150 million Chafee brought back from the $27 billion highway bill, vote for him. Rhode Island gets the short end of the stick when it comes to earmarks. I mean, the bridge to nowhere alone was $223 million," he says, referring to the famed Alaskan boondoggle. "I'm going to vote against all that."

If he gets the chance. Both Laffey and Chafee trail Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, another Protestant aristocrat, in the polls. Rhode Island voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry in 2004; it probably hasn't grown any fonder of George W. Bush since then. Laffey doesn't care. He's running on a different wavelength, against the big shots in both parties. "Have you ever seen a campaign like this?" he exclaims, jogging to the next house. No and, sort of, yes. A fellow named Ned Lamont just overturned the Establishment next door, in Connecticut.

Reginald Centracchio For Lieutenant Governor, Part 3: Plans for Small Business in a Red, White and Blue State

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising completes its interview with Reginald Centracchio, candidate for Liuetenant Governor of Rhode Island...

Anchor Rising: In the first part of this interview, you mentioned small business as an area you would focus on. What are your plans there?
Reginald Centracchio: Small business is the backbone of the state. We need to be competitive with the region, certainly with Massachusetts and Connecticut. First and foremost is tax-reform. We need to be able to demonstrate that we are sincere and genuine in asking businesses to come to this state.

I have asked several small businesses to be part of a panel to help us understand the needs of small businesses in Rhode Island. I’ve also asked several businesses who have left the state to come back in and talk to us. I’ve asked business who have been here for four to five years to participate. I’m asking the Economic Development Corporation, specifically under the Every Business Counts program that they have, to participate.

We need ask two simple questions to businesses: what caused you to come to Rhode Island and what will it take to keep you here? Rhode Island is in competition with the region and the entire nation. We need to address basic reasons, and not just the symptoms, that lead to businesses to come and to stay here. We must be competitive. That’s who we are as a country. No one is going to be able keep businesses in a place where they can’t make a net profit.

Affordable healthcare is a very important part of why a business will or will not stay in Rhode Island, so we need to ask why we don’t we have affordable healthcare for small business. There are numerous ways we could provide it, with different systems that would allow participation at different levels, rather than throwing everyone into a big pot with all of the big companies. We need to be sure we have ways for small business to be able to say “this is what I need in order to stay here” and then develop something that satisfies that need. I know we can’t do that for every single company out there, but we can certainly categorize them and ensure that companies with similar requirements can come together and access reasonable healthcare.

The same thing is true is with the confidence level that businesses have in our ability to deal with natural disasters and any sort of terrorist scenario. We need to involve individual businesses just like we need to involve individual people in emergency management planning. Businesses must have continuing operation plans. They must be able to sustain a natural disaster, or any other public safety disruption, and go back to work as soon as they can and still be viable. They need to have an internal plan as to how they ensure their employees know what’s going on. They need to have tested and excercised their plans.

These are very real requirements that are not paid much attention to. As the Lieutenant Governor, I can bring that to the table. I’ve seen many businesses. I probably have the closest ties to small business of anyone in this state over the last ten years. The National Guard consists of membership from those businesses. I’ve asked firsthand about their areas of concern. What does a business need to continue to support its employees as a member of the Guard? Healthcare -- the ability of a company to sustain healthcare for a member when he or she is deployed and what happens when they come home -- always comes up. The state is in the same scenario, where they need to take care of their employees when they are deployed.

What I’m saying is that when someone suggests that there is no analogy between the military and the civilian environment they are absolutely wrong…

AR (rudely interrupting): Do you have a certain someone in mind here?
RC: Someone who doesn’t understand the system. My membership in the Guard has helped me understand what the needs of small business are. I do believe I can help create a healthier environment for small business in Rhode Island.

These are all areas I have an expertise in, 10 years dealing with these challenges. I will bring to the office leadership, experience, and certainly a lifetime of service to the state. I’ve served with seven different Governors. I’ve been in the Executive branch for 10 years. I know what Governors do. I know what Lieutenant Governors do. I understand, especially under separation of powers, that the executive branch must stand alone as a strong branch, helped by the Lieutenant Governor. The General Assembly must be in concert with that. We must work together.

I truly believe we need to migrate away from the concept that there are red states and blue states. My campaign is based on the idea that we are a red, white and blue state. We are all Americans. We’re all in this together. We all have a similar stake.

There are different opinions about how to do things, I respect all those who know that something needs to be done, and I think I have a plan to do it. That’s how I want to approach this. We’re all Americans. Rhode Island is in a position to be a focal point, and if it can’t happen in Rhode Island, it can’t happen anywhere.

We have in our hands a jewel called Narragansett Bay. That jewel is unlike any other place anywhere in the United States. We have the capability of developing a center of excellence related to port security and underwater considerations for detecting ships miles out. We have the Naval War College. We have the Naval Underwater Warfare Center. We have all the ingredients to establish a platform for underwater technology. We can be competitive across the entire nation and, most importantly, be transparent to Narragansett Bay. It would not destroy the bay to develop the kind of technologies that are clearly in demand across this entire nation.

We also need to leverage our position within New England between Boston and New York. We have an excellent highway system. We have a rail system. We have a port. All those things are necessary ingredients to be able to draw business, because businesses all ask the same question: what is your infrastructure like. But we have to be smart as to how we offer it up. I don’t believe we’ll have the large tracts of land available for large world-scale business. Clearly, we need to have world business in Rhode Island. We have to have headquarters in Rhode Island, such as Fidelity, Amgen and GTECH, which are all extremely important to the economy of the state.

But we need to never, ever forget that small business is the backbone of this state. We need to continually set a favorable environment. Have you seen the movie “Field of Dreams”? I think if we build it, they will come. That’s the focus I have to offer. We need to look at those niches that fit this state and develop them and then they will come. Once they’re here, we need to make sure we’re competitive at keeping them. I’m convinced we can do this. Rhode Island is a wonderful state, but we need to ensure that confidence in its government is addressed on a continuing basis.

When I talk about accountability in this office, I’m talking about not only an end-product. What I’m saying is that I’m asking personally for people's votes. In return, I will give the voters accountability -- and I think that’s rare. I want all of our voters to understand they will get back accountability, integrity, and honesty if they elect me. They will get a sixteen hour day, if not more. They won’t have to worry about integrity or ethics. I have a track record of 48 years, 10 years as adjutant general of the state, and I would put that reputation, that performance and that track record up as evidence that I can make what I am saying now happen over the next four years.

August 22, 2006

Ethics Commission: No Problem if the Attorney General Takes Campaign Contributions from Lawyers He is Negotiating With

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the Projo’s 7-to-7 blog, the state ethics commission has decided not to investigate the complaint against Attorney General Patrick Lynch filed by William Harsch regarding AG Lynch’s acceptance of campaign contributions from a lawyer representing DuPont around the same time that the lawyer was negotiating DuPont’s release from the state’s lead paint lawsuit.

Mike Stanton had a comprehensive history of the DuPont deal in Sunday’s Projo. Stanton’s reporting again raises the question of what exactly DuPont chief litigation counsel Thomas Sager was trying to get across in his letter-to-the-editor in Friday’s Projo. According to Mr. Sager, DuPont was released from the suit “on the basis of the facts produced in discovery”. However, Stanton’s article tells a very different story…

One of the people [Attorney General Patrick Lynch] heard from was Bernard Nash, a Washington lawyer who has cultivated relationships with attorneys general around the country.

As the head of the State Government and Litigation practice at Dickstein Shapiro, Nash is skilled in finding "creative non-litigation solutions" for corporate clients facing scrutiny from the nation's attorneys general, according to his law firm's Web site. Dickstein Shapiro's lawyers boast "remarkable success" in helping corporate clients "avoid or minimize the impact of investigations and litigation."

Lynch testified in January that he may have first met Nash at a Florida conference of newly elected attorneys general, followed by phone conversations early in 2003.

At first, Lynch said in his deposition, "there was nothing substantive, but more of an introduction . . . and obviously, you know, do I have any inclination or desire to sit down and talk about, you know, any understandings that could be reached, short of having to go back to a second trial."

Nash's pitch on behalf of DuPont, recalled Lynch, was, "We're not as bad as the other guys."

Later in 2003, Lynch asked his chief of staff, Leonard L. Lopes, to serve as a witness to the DuPont negotiations. On Nov. 15, Nash called Lopes.

According to Lopes, Nash asked, "What is it going to take to get out of this?"

A second detail that doesn’t square with Mr. Sager’s claim that DuPont was released on the basis of merit is Attorney General Lynch's claim that the other defendants in the suit could have made a similar deal...
The biggest break occurred in June 2005, when DuPont agreed to donate $12.5 million to several nonprofit organizations; in exchange, Mr. Lynch dropped the company from the lawsuit.

Mr. Lynch said the other paint companies could have reached a similar conclusion, an assertion disputed by Philip H. Curtis, a partner at Arnold & Porter representing Atlantic Richfield.

If both AG Lynch and Mr. Sager have provided accurate information, then all of the lead-paint defendants should have been dropped from the case on the basis of the facts (thus ending the suit) meaning that one or both of the lawyers has not been accurate. The ramifications of this discrepancy are unclear at the moment.

Internal Polls Show Laffey Over Chafee

Marc Comtois
Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island is trailing Cranston, R.I., Mayor Stephen Laffey in a bitterly divisive primary contest that offers Democrats their best shot at picking up a seat in one of the nation's bluest states.

Internal campaign polls show the conservative mayor's campaign attacks on Mr. Chafee's liberal voting record -- including the incumbent's opposition to President Bush's tax cuts and to Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s nomination -- have struck a responsive chord among Republican voters.

So sayeth Don Lambro of the Washington Times. The question is, whose poll? And is this just counting Republicans or does it include independents?

(Tip via Dan Yorke, who'll have Mr. Lambro on later this afternoon.)

UPDATE: Lambro told Yorke he interviewed people on both sides, but he can't tell you who exactly gave him the info. He said Washington GOP folks tell him it's "really close", which means (based on his experience) that Chafee is in trouble. He's also not sure of the type of sample of the internal polls, apparently meaning that he doesn't know if they included independents.

Lambro said that when he talke to Ian Lang, Lang didn't argue with the point that conservatives are definitely leaning against Chafee. He also pointed out that the primary race was "competitive" and then Lang always steers the discussion to Laffey's purported gap against Whitehouse.

Yorke brought up the the GOP Senatorial bunch have really beaten up Laffey and also that the purported 20-30 point gap between Laffey and Whitehouse isn't that realistic. Yorke asked what the Washington GOP would do if Laffey won?

Lambro said they'd support him, but the depth of that support will be interesting. Given the controversy over tacit GOP support for Lieberman in CT, he doesn't think they'd be to keen on NOT supporting Laffey. In short, he thinks the national GOP would support Laffey if he should win the primary.

Yorke also asked what the Beltway take on this race was. Lambro said that the feeling is that the Dems could pick up 4-6 seats, which is why Elizabeth Dole is focusing on RI and her committee is going to help Chafee as much as they can.

A Republican Strategist Discusses the Northeast

Carroll Andrew Morse

Last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel hinted at the national Republican Party's willingness to totally give up on the Northeast…

Laffey supporters are betting that if he wins the primary, the GOP establishment will offer its support....It's still a long shot, although at least some Republican strategists are nonplussed. They've long argued the party should write off the Northeast, and focus on consolidating its gains in the South and Midwest.
Now, I don’t know that Rod Martin lists “Republican Strategist” on his resume, but he is the Executive Vice-President of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies and the founder of the, a national-level “online community of Americans who believe in conservative values, the free market and limited government as the best means to bring hope and ever-increasing opportunity to everyone, especially the poorest among us”. Mr. Martin has thought long-term about both the policy ends the conservative movement should be focusing its energies on and about the best political strategy for achieving them.

I asked Mr. Martin to comment on Ms. Strassel's article, asking specifically if he believed that Republican strategists were ready to write off the Northeast and, if so, was it a smart thing for them to be doing. Here is his reply on the challenge of and the hope for Northeastern conservatism…

Rod Martin: The problem is complicated. Conservatives outside the Northeast see the Northeast as the biggest single problem within the Party: liberal, establishment, looking down on and working to thwart conservatives (and particularly Christians). Rightly or wrongly, the faces of Northeast Republicanism they see are Christie Whitman, Arlen Specter, and Lincoln Chafee.

And that's not the worst of it. Conservative officeholders in Washington feel compelled to back leftists like Chafee (and Arlen Specter) to keep the numerical majority. In so doing, they choke off the growth of Northeastern conservatism, infuriate their national base, and make themselves hostage to their enemies.

But the bottom line in the Northeast is the same as it is everywhere else: eventually, ideology always matters, and eventually, if the voters want a Democrat, they're going to vote for a real one. Thwarting true conservatives like Steve Laffey is self-defeating on every possible level, not least the level of real voters in Rhode Island. The conservative message is universal, and universally needed. Is the Kelo decision any less onerous to Northeasterners than to Texans? Is the war on terror really harder to grasp in the shadow of the Twin Towers than it is in Idaho? Is sound economic policy any harder to explain in Connecticut than in Alabama(or Poland, or Hong Kong)?

Are we really supposed to believe that universal truths, increasingly accepted around the world, cannot be sold in the birthplace of American liberty?

Quite the contrary. I think we need to do all we can for our Northeastern brothers, to help them make the case at home and to demonstrate the power of that case elsewhere. And I think it's high time we helped them root out their home-grown leftists -- who are losing the old lefty Republican base to the Democrats anyway -- and finance guys like Steve Laffey who deserve the chance to show the way.

Re: Educational Assumptions

Justin Katz

Interesting point, Andrew:

Starting Line eschews any serious discussion of education reforms -- like public school choice or charter schools -- that could be implemented in relatively short order in favor of advocating for large-scale social spending in non-educational areas, in a rejection of the idea that education reform should focus on education.

The trap in such arguments (theirs, not yours) is that downplaying the ability of education to improve children's lives lessens the justification for spending so much on teachers. The cold strategist in me can't help but wonder whether there's an opportunity to divide and conquer, here. (Of course, in discussion with the general public, one must first persuade that we can't just keep pouring money into both.)

August 21, 2006

Educational Assumptions

Carroll Andrew Morse

A major debate about education is underway in Rhode Island. The debate is bigger than just a debate about how to fix education; the debate is about the fundamental importance of education.

One side in this great debate (see Julia Steiny or Valerie Forti for examples) begins from the premise that the best way to help people achieve their potential is to provide them with an education. The other side considers this position to be too quaint for the modern world, believing that impersonal societal forces beyond the control of the individual will primarily determine what individuals can achieve. In this view, education is just a bit of window dressing that correlates accidentally to socio-economic status.

For those skeptical that this second view exists in such stark form, I refer you to Peniel Joseph's Washington Post review of Juan Williams' new book, Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- and What We Can Do About It (h/t Power Line)...

Unlike The Covenant With Black America, a bestselling anthology with concrete proposals for community empowerment, Enough concludes with a flurry of righteous condescension, preaching that youngsters can best avoid poverty by finishing high school, getting a job and postponing marriage and child-bearing until at least 21.
Dr. Joseph's belief that the relationship between education and achievement is overstated has been expressed locally by the Rhode Island union establishment in their education reform document, The Shape of the Starting Line. Starting Line eschews any serious discussion of education reforms -- like public school choice or charter schools -- that could be implemented in relatively short order in favor of advocating for large-scale social spending in non-educational areas, in a rejection of the idea that education reform should focus on education.

Rhode Island's Weird Prostitution Law, and Why the ACLU Doesn't Want it Changed

Carroll Andrew Morse

Many Rhode Islanders have been surprised to learn, as reported by Amanda Milkovits in the Projo, that "prostitution isn't illegal in Rhode Island as long as it occurs indoors". The issue was brought to light by a Federal law-enforcement multi-state raid against a thriving network of spa-brothels that included at least one site in Providence.

A previous article by Ms. Milkovits from last year described how legalized prostitution in Rhode Island evolved out of change in state law and an unexpected court decision...

There are clusters of massage parlors, which the police say are actually brothels, operating throughout the state. The police raid them, but charges of prostitution don't stick because of a [26]-year-old loophole in the law.

The state's law criminalizing prostitution was changed then after a group of female prostitutes sued in federal court with claims that the Providence police were discriminating against women in their arrests.

The law at the time made prostitution a felony. The General Assembly amended the law to the current version of loitering for indecent purposes, a misdemeanor. The law targets the streetwalkers, their pimps, and customers who solicit them from their vehicles. But there is no provision for prostitutes working for escort services and brothels.

Up until [3] 1/2 years ago, the Providence police were charging women for prostitution inside massage parlors. They stopped after Warwick lawyer Michael J. Kiselica persuaded District Court judges to dismiss the cases based on the wording of the current law.

(The bracketed numerals indicate where I've advanced the relative dates by one year, since the above excerpt is now about one year old).

Last year, legislators proposed outlawing prostitution in a straightforward way, while still keeping it as a misdemeanor. The new law would have read...

A person is guilty of prostitution when such person engages or agrees or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee. Any person found guilty under this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor...
The above language would have superseded the existing section 11-34-8 of Rhode Island's General Laws, the section judged not to apply to indoor prostitution...
It shall be unlawful for any person to stand or wander in or near any public highway or street, or any public or private place, and attempt to engage passersby in conversation, or stop or attempt to stop motor vehicles, for the purpose of prostitution or other indecent act, or to patronize, induce, or otherwise secure a person to commit any indecent act. Any person found guilty under this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor...
Other sections of existing state law already outlaw pimping and human trafficking in Rhode Island in all circumstances, indoors or out.

The proposed change would not have set Rhode Island onto an uncharted path regarding prostitution law, but simply have brought Rhode Island into line with the 48 other states that make prostitution illegal. Still, progressive lobbyists objected to changing the law arguing, as is their habit, that a law that functions smoothly in 48 other states would create untenable conditions if passed in Rhode Island. Leading the charge, the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU cited two issues. One was the original argument that the law could be used to punish women who might themselves be victims. The second objection was more indirect: enforcing a law against indoor prostitution might create local police contact with illegal immigrants, thus leading local police towards working with Federal authorities...

There is yet another reason to oppose what has happened here and that involves the inappropriate collaboration between the local police and federal immigration agents to address a local community crime issue....

However, if local law enforcement officers become, for all intents and purposes, INS agents in the minds of the immigrant community, any trust that currently exists will be shattered. Victims of crimes, witnesses, and others in tight-knit immigrant communities will refuse to cooperate with police for fear that they, or close friends and family members, could face deportation due to their interaction with police. It is of little solace that the women who were the victims of these raids may have been violating the criminal law. Once the police department believes that it can use federal immigration officials as a shortcut for local criminal law enforcement, the bonds of trust are inevitably weakened.

The ACLU, apparently, opposes communication between different law enforcement authorities. Blinded by their institutional hostility towards law enforcement, the ACLU has reached the erroneous and destructive conclusion that trust can be built between a community and its police officers when police officers are required to stand helpless in the face of the violation of basic, decent community norms (i.e. that prostitution should be illegal). I've been critical of Providence Mayor David Cicilline on other issues, but he's right to pursue this change in the law, even if changing the law involves taking the "drastic" step of allowing different branches of law enforcement to work together.

Finally, to finish up on a mostly inappropriate note in Bill Reynolds-style: There's no truth to the rumor that Senate President Joseph Montalbano will argue that his unreported business with the town of West Warwick did not violate current state law because all of the agreements were made indoors.

August 20, 2006

Everybody in a School Building Must Be Treated as a Child

Justin Katz

In a comment to my previous post, Rhody writes:

... go to 401(k) first. Then we can sort out the seniority/merit issues.

Who decides who gets the merit raises? The only way you can do this fairly is have teachers teach to a test - whoever has the highest number of students pass gets the biggest raise. Not sure that's the best thing for the kids, and the political can of worms you open...

Before all else, I'll speak from experience and suggest that the current step system hardly eliminates unfairness. At best, it merely consolidates it at the beginning of the teacher's career — when jobs are doled out in the manner of lifetime appointments. More importantly, though, when did it enter the unwritten laws of the land that teachers must be treated as if they are a bunch of vulnerable children?

The working world that most of us inhabit has few explicit and standardized tests to determine the raises of employees. Managers and administrators grant raises and promotions according to whatever formulas they believe will bring the best results to them in their own capacity. Sure, sometimes the criteria seem unfair (e.g., the ability to stroke the manager's ego and tattle on other employees), but overall, a system of hierarchical accountability strikes me as exponentially more fair than one in which a mediocre employee making minimal effort follows the same path as an exceptional employee making extra effort.

That last — the current state of affairs — is certainly not the best thing for the kids.

The Mindset of the Complicit

Justin Katz

I wonder how public union employees feel when they read such pieces as this editorial in the Providence Journal:

Taxpayers may face a daunting future because of the pension benefits that politicians have promised public employees.

States and cities across America confront huge liabilities, with shrinking assets, and the shortfall threatens both to hammer taxpayers and to hurt public services, The New York Times reported this month ("Public Pension Plans Face Billions in Shortages").

No one knows precisely how much has been promised to public employees or what it will cost the taxpayers; statistics are not kept uniformly. But estimates of the liabilities range from about $375 billion to $800 billion. That's a lot of money for state and local taxpayers to pony up.

Sadly, I don't suspect most of them struggle with the guilt of being complicit in one of the major problems looming over our state and nation. More likely, the majority's reaction is, "They'd better not take away my benefits!"

What's Going On in Rhode Island

Justin Katz

Item 1:

On a quiet East Side street yesterday morning, police dug bullet slugs from the vinyl siding on a house and the fender of a nearby car. A teenager walked by with a bloody bandage on his elbow. And mothers complained about the stupidity of young people shooting each other for no good reason.

The night before, five people were shot as they sat in front of 94 Pleasant St., waiting to go to a club. Witnesses said they heard 15 shots. ...

"It's an East Side-South Side thing and they're fighting over nothing," said Denise Taylor, who lives on Pleasant Street. She said she has a 17-year-old son who has been shot once and shot at several times.

"I can't take him to the mall because he'll get jumped," she said.

Item 2:

Most of the massage parlors in Rhode Island are operating in office buildings in the capital city -- some just blocks from City Hall -- but the mayor says the state's weak law on prostitution hampers the police in shutting down the brothels. ...

A quirk in current state law makes prostitution legal in Rhode Island, as long as it takes place indoors. Only the streetwalkers, their pimps, and the customers flagging them down from vehicles can be charged. ...

Last year, legislators rejected an attempt to strengthen the prostitution law, saying it would punish women who may be working as prostitutes against their will.

At the last session of the General Assembly, two bills that targeted human-trafficking also died.

I don't know what to say, except maybe this: Hey, yeah, let's throw a casino into the mix. That'll help.

August 18, 2006

DuPont Explains Its Side, Sort Of

Carroll Andrew Morse

I know there's no way to explain anything comprehensively in the "letter to the editor" format. Still, Thomas Sager's letter in today's Projo concerning the questionable charitable contributions made by DuPont as part of the Rhode Island lead paint case leaves a significant gap in the story.

Mr. Sager, the chief litigation counsel for DuPont, begins by saying that DuPont's dismissal from the lead-paint suit was on the basis of merit...

DuPont was dismissed with prejudice, on the basis of the facts produced in discovery. The dismissal was not pursuant to a settlement. There was no settlement agreement between Attorney General Lynch and DuPont, and DuPont paid no money to either the state or the attorney general's outside contingency-fee lawyers.
He then goes on to discuss DuPont's charitable contributions...
DuPont agreed to make contributions to three charities: the Children's Health Forum, Brown University Medical Center, and Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston. We will honor each of these commitments. Suggestions to the contrary are just wrong.
Here's the missing step: DuPont doesn't need the Rhode Island Attorney General's permission to make charitable contributions; they are free to give their available money to charities whenever they so choose. So, if there is no connection between DuPont's dismissal from the lead paint suit and the charitable contributions the corporation made, as Mr. Sager implies, then how did the Office of the Rhode Island Attorney General become entangled in DuPont's charitable giving in the first place?

Warwick Teachers Approve Contract

Marc Comtois

Last night, the Warwick Teacher's Union overwhelmingly approved the contract that had been tentatively agreed upon by their negotiators and the Warwick School Committee. The School Committee will meet today at 4:15 PM to vote on final approval, which is fully expected. Because the teachers had been working without a contract for 3 years, this new contract is actually a 2-for-1. One covering the years 2003-2006, and the other for 2006-2009.

Here's the breakdown in numbers, according to the ProJo's sources. First, the "just expired" (never actually worked under) contract of 2003-2006:

2003-2004 : No retroactive pay, but a 1% "on paper" salary increase for the purpose of calculating future salaries.

2004-2005: "...teachers would receive 2-percent retroactive pay for the first half of the school year, and 1.5 percent for the second half. That money would not be paid, however, until Sept. 1, 2007."

2005-2006: same as 2004-2005, with money paid on Sept. 1, 2008.

By delaying payments for the retroactive pay, it is hpoed that the City of Warwick will be better able to plan and budget for school expenditures in the future, thus alleviating the need for a big, one-time cash hit.

The retroactive pay is a hard pill to swallow for many. During the contract strife of the last three years, the teachers were engaged in an unofficial "work-to-rule" policy, which included no teacher participation in open houses, no field trips, scaled back extracurriculars, etc. Thus, they did less work than they supposedly would have done if working under a contract. Now, despite that, they have been rewarded with retroactive pay--albeit less than they would have normally wanted, I suppose--as if they had continued to work normally. This should be remembered the next time there is a Warwick Teachers' contract dispute. No retroactive pay if work to rule is instituted.

The new contract (2006-2009) offers pay raises and a first time requirement for teachers to participate in paying for their own medical care. However, as has often been the case in other recent new teacher contracts (North Kingstown, Cranston), the pay increases easily offset any new medical co-pays and premiums. Nonetheless, the philosophical victory of getting teachers to agree to share the burden of paying some of their own medical expenses is a definite gain.

For the 2006-2007 school year, beginning Aug. 31, teachers would receive a 2-percent salary increase in the first half of the year, and an additional 2 percent in the second half.

In the 2007-2008 school year, teachers would receive a 3-percent salary increase, and in the 2008-2009 year, they would receive 3.5 percent...

For the first time, teachers would pay a percentage of their health-care costs. Teachers would pay a flat fee, as Warwick's other municipal employee unions do, of $11 a week, or $572 annually, and the payment begins this school year.

Retirees under the age of 65 would also now contribute to the cost of their health care. Retirees over 65 are not covered by the city.

Emergency-room visit co-pays would be increased from $25 to $100, and prescription co-pays would be increased from the current $5 to a staggered $7-$25-$40 co-pay, depending on whether the drug is generic or name-brand.

My kids began going to school during this contract dispute and have only known a "work-to-rule" environment. It will be interesting to see the difference in a school environment full of teachers working under contract. I'm glad it's over.

The Meaning of Islamic Fascism

Carroll Andrew Morse

Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has an op-ed in today's Projo where he objects to President Bush's use of the term "Islamic fascists" to describe fascists who are Islamic (or maybe he denies that fascists who are Islamic can even exist; I can't quite tell)...

The phrase "Islamic fascists" has drawn the ire of the American Muslim community. We use "Islamic ethics" to mean ethics based on Islamic teachings that guide our behavior. Similarly, Islamic art draws its inspiration from Islamic teachings that discourage certain types of art (immodest imagery or certain life forms). When the president uses "Islamic fascists," it conveys that fascism is rooted in or inspired by Islam. This is the way the Muslims see it, regardless of what Mr. Bush may claim he really means.
But the term "Islamic Fascism" is no more beyond the pale than terms like "German Fascism" or "Italian Fascism", terms universally accepted by the historical and political science communities because they meaningfully distinguish the movements they describe from other forms of socio-political organization. More importantly...
  1. No one conflates the acceptance of the terms German Fascism or Italian Fascism with an assumption that there is something intrinsically wrong with Germans or Italians.
  2. And the fact that many Germans and Italians did not approve of the actions of their early-to-mid 20th Century governments does not change the fact that fascist leaders of the period manipulated German and Italian nationalism as part of organizing a violent fascist movement. In the same way, that fact that a majority of Muslims do not approve of terrorism does not change the fact that modern day fascist leaders are manipulating the Islamic religion as part of their organization of a violent fascist movement.
For an antidote to Mr. Ahmed's article that provides as good an understanding as you will find of what Islamic Fascism is, read Steven Schwartz's treatise on Islamofascism from the Daily Standard...
Fascism is distinguished from the broader category of extreme right-wing politics by its willingness to defy public civility and openly violate the law. As such it represents a radical departure from the tradition of ultra-conservatism. The latter aims to preserve established social relations, through enforcement of law and reinforcement of authority. But the fascist organizations of Mussolini and Hitler, in their conquests of power, showed no reluctance to rupture peace and repudiate parliamentary and other institutions; the fascists employed terror against both the existing political structure and society at large...

Islamofascism similarly pursues its aims through the willful, arbitrary, and gratuitous disruption of global society, either by terrorist conspiracies or by violation of peace between states. Al Qaeda has recourse to the former weapon; Hezbollah, in assaulting northern Israel, used the latter. These are not acts of protest, but calculated strategies for political advantage through undiluted violence.

August 17, 2006

Chafee-Laffey II: Issues!

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Dan Yorke Show on WPRO-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating…

Dan Yorke asks Senator Lincoln Chafee about stem cell research, and to elaborate on his criticism of his opponent's position.
Chafee says that Laffey was quiet on stem cells because he faced the dilemma of having to please certain constituencies. Eventually, he sided with special interests in support of the President’s veto of the embryonic stem-cell ban, even though numerous pro-life Senators voted for it.
Mayor Steve Laffey says Chafee’s characterization is false.
Yorke asks Laffey to give his postion on the President’s stem-cell veto.
Laffey says he supports the President’s veto of embryonic stem cell research and supports funding adult stem cell research, because adult stem cells show the best potential for cures. If the scientific facts change, he will change his position accordingly.
Yorke asks Laffey if he has made a business or a moral decision on this.
Laffey says it’s a business decision.
Chafee says the pro-life community is helping Laffey in the primary.
Laffey asks how?
Chafee says pro-lifers are an important part of Laffey’s constituency.
Laffey says Chafee has no evidence to support his thoughts.

Yorke plays a Bush clip on illegal immigration, and asks both candidates to concisely state their position on the issue.
Chafee says the American borders are gigantic, so securing them it not going to be easy. Tax cuts won’t help. Chafee says he supports the “McCain bill”.
Laffey says he opposes the “Kennedy-Reid” bill (yes, they’re both talking about the same bill) because it grants amnesty and because it lets foreign guest workers be paid more than American citizens. If we can put a man on moon, we can secure our borders and we should have done it right after 9/11.
Chafee says the wage mandates on foreign guest workers were added to the bill to protect Americans.
Laffey says the mandates don’t protect Americans.
Yorke asks Laffey about the consular ID cards issue. Yorke says he saw great celebration in the immigrant community when they were approved, because they made it easier for illegal immigrants to bank and do business.
Laffey says his approval of the program was a safety issue intended to help police do their jobs and not a quality-of-life issue intended to help illegal immigrants.

Yorke asks Chafee about the rationale for invading Iraq: Don't we all know that more than just the weapons of mass destruction rationale was involved?
Chafee says he believes the invasion it was all about WMD and threats against Saddam, but the evidence for WMD was never strong. Chafee says he knows this because he went to the CIA personally to examine the evidence, and was not convinced. It was a war based on a false premise. If the real motivation was a greater plan of remaking the Middle East, we should have debated that subject.
Laffey says it does no good to complain about the war’s rationale, but not offer solutions. We need a stable government in Iraq now that is not threat to its own people or to its neighbors. We need to get allies involved. And 3 months ago, I called for Rumsfeld to resign.
Chafee compares Laffey’s record on consular IDs to his position on Rumsfeld and Iraq, accusing Laffey of cheerleading at the beginning, then changing his mind later on.

Yorke asks about Israel.
Chafee says he has the best interests of Israel in mind. They have the right to defend themselves, but they have to make smart decisions. The way they’ve conducted themselves in the recent invasion has empowered Hezbollah.
Laffey says America would never tolerate having its soldiers kidnapped off of its own soil; Israel shouldn’t be expected to either. If Hezbollah lays down its arms, there’d peace. If Israel laid down its arms, they’d be annihilated. Senator Chafee was premature in calling for a cease-fire before Israel achieved its political goals.
Chafee notes that Israel has not yet even achieved its goal of having its kidnapped soldiers returned.

Yorke asks Chafee if he regrets voting for George H.W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential election.
Chafee says he’s doesn’t; he doesn’t flip-flop around on issues and the Bush tax cuts went too deep.
Yorke then plays a clip of Laura Bush expressing support for Chafee.
Laffey first wants to make it clear that President Bush is supporting Chafee in this race, then says the month it took Chafee to decide to vote for someone not running showed Chafee’s indecisiveness. The same pattern was visible in Chafee’s vote on Samuel Alito; by the time Chafee made his decision to vote against Alito, his decision was irrelevant.
Chafee reiterates that the President does support him, and that he maintains good relations with everybody in Washington, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc.

Yorke asks his final question: What is it to be Senatorial?
Laffey says you have to be a leader. He has a track record of success of taking on the major issues of our day and has protected taxpayers. He will fight for his vision of the future on energy policy, prescription drugs, taxes and spending, etc.
Chafee says there are 3 qualities that are key to being Senatorial: courage, honesty, and an ability to work with others. You need the guts to make the hard decisions, and he has them.

Chafee-Laffey II: Ad Wars, Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Dan Yorke Show on WPRO-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating…

Dan Yorke plays the Chafee ad about Laffey’s record of raising taxes as Mayor of Cranston. Yorke notes that Laffey inherited pending bankruptcy and asks what could have been done differently.
Senator Lincoln Chafee cites his program as mayor of Warwick: a hiring freeze followed by small tax increases. That combination worked in Warwick. It’s hypocritical for Laffey to sign on to Club for Growth program of never raising taxes, when you can’t predict future circumstances that might require a tax increase.
Mayor Steve Laffey rebuts by mentioning a large pay increase for the Warwick teacher’s union that occurred under Chafee’s leadership.
Chafee said he was playing catch up.
Laffey says Chafee's situation in Warwick was not a crisis. Laffey says he worked with Democratic state Reps, and Governors Almond and Carcieri to fix things in Cranston. Yes, there was a supplemental tax imposed, but this year Cranston was the only RI community lower tax rates.

Yorke asks Laffey why the Cranston tax increases aren't a legitimate issue. Isn't it reasonable to look how someone has handled things in the past to figure out how they'll handle things in the future?
Laffey says local property taxes are different from Federal taxes and that Chafee wants to raise taxes on every single individual.
Chafee says Laffey should be more generous in sharing credit for fixing Cranston with the Cranston City Council and Cranston taxpayers. Chafee says he wants to do things on the Federal level that help reduce property taxes, like provide more Federal funding for special education. Laffey’s supporters in the Club for Growth are only interested in tax cuts for the rich.
Laffey notes that the No Child Left Behind Act, which Chafee voted for, is an unfunded mandate that puts tremendous pressure on property taxes.

Yorke acknowledges the education is a multi-wicket, but haven’t NCLB requirements brought in some necessary diligence?
Laffey says no, there’s been no measurable change in test scores. You have to treat Cranston differently from the Bronx.
Chafee wonders why all students shouldn’t be required to learn to the same level.

Yorke plays the Laffey campaign “peas in a pod” ad, which says Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse are basically the same. Yorke asks Chafee if he’s the same as Whitehouse
Chafee answers “far from it”. He’ll explain the differences during the general election campaign.
Laffey cites Chafee’s support of the death tax, opposition to Bush’s tax cuts, and the fact that Chafee has twice been mentioned as “porker of of the month” as similarities between Chafee and Whitehouse.

Yorke asks if it is fair to attack Senator Chafee’s record by singling out one project, like the bridge-to-nowhere, from an omnibus transportation bill. Don’t philosophical concerns about spending have to make some room for the practicalities of the legislative process?
Laffey says that $27 billion dollars in special earmarks in the highway bill were not in the interests of RI. They were not part of normal appropriations. Ronald Reagan vetoed a highway bill because it had 125 earmarks, this one had thousands of earmarks. Earmarks lead to a corruption
Yorke asks about giving the President line-item veto power.
Both candidates agree that a line-item veto is a good idea.
Chafee defends the earmark process as a legitimate part of a normal appropriations process, because it follows his asking town managers and mayors what their needs are.
Laffey asks how it was possible for Chafee to vote against the railroad-to-nowhere, if it was impossible for him to vote against a project like the bridge-to-nowhere.
Chafee cites his Concord Coalition designation as the Senate’s most fiscally conservative member as evidence of his strong record of fiscal responsibility.

Chafee-Laffey II: Ad Wars, Part 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Dan Yorke Show on WPRO-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating. Good luck to any non-Rhode Island residents trying to interpret this one…

Dan Yorke plays the Chafee campaign’s latest-anti-Laffey ad, then plays a more complete audio of the “Cranston firefighter” incident. An aspiring pugilist is heard to say to Mayor Laffey, “Don’t you ever talk to the wife of one of my guys. I’ll knock you right out.”
Senator Lincoln Chafee notes that the aspiring pugilist's remarks indicate that Mayor Laffey improperly addressed somebody's wife.
Mayor Steve Laffey points out that it is clear on the tape that all he said was “please stop this right now”, directly to the aspiring pugilist, in an attempt to restore order at a meeting that had gotten chaotic.
Chafee: Why did the aspiring pugilist mention somebody's wife?
Laffey says it's because the aspiring pugilist was lying; the incident has been investigated and reported on by local media. It's been confirmed that he stepped in an attempt to get people to calm down. Laffey then addresses Senator Chafee and says the personal attacks aren’t serving him well, the lies in his commercials are plain wrong, and he won’t do anything like that in his ads.
Chafee says if it’s not Laffey on the audio and video, he’ll pull the ads.

Yorke plays a more complete version of the 3rd part of the Chafee campaign's latest anti-Laffey ad, where Laffey says the older political elites in the Republican party, who are not as interested in winning as they are in grabbing some legal work and hanging out at parties, are luckily getting older and dying. Yorke notes that the Senator demanded an apology and Laffey offered one right away. So why has the Chafee campaing persisted with this issue?
Chafee said Laffey made the remark because he was angry that he sought the endorsement of the Republican party, but failed.
Laffey says he never sought the state party endorsement.
Chafee says he knows Laffey talked to people about getting the endorsement.
Laffey says name one.
Chafee says he can’t name anyone specific, but of course Laffey wanted the endorsement.

Yorke asks Laffey an incident like this has to do with his personality or if it's an anomaly.
Laffey answers it’s an anomaly. That’s why he apologized. National guys in the Chafee campaign have convinced him to go negative with this stuff.
Chafee says there are negative ads all over the place. He objects to the Laffey ad that says that Lincoln Chafee would give social security to illegal aliens. No illegal immigrant would ever get social security benefits under any program that he supports.

Yorke asks Chafee if he believes that Laffey’s apology was hollow.
Chafee believes that when you couple it with other instances, like the Jackvony pixelation, it shows a pattern.
Laffey responds that the Jackvony pixelation shows a sense of humor.
Chafee: It wasn’t funny.
Laffey: Didn’t you pixelate me out of a picture at the Follies?
Yorke: The Follies is different.

Chafee-Laffey II: Politics and Punditry

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Dan Yorke Show on WPRO-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Dan Yorke announces there are no rules for this debate!

Yorke plays a Laffey ad accusing the Senator of ducking debates, then asks Mayor Steve Laffey if he really believed that the Senator was not going to debate.
Laffey says that the debates should have started earlier, before vacation season in August.
Senator Lincoln Chafee says he has always debated in the past, eight debates in his last Senate campaign. His job in Washington made it hard to debate in person.
Yorke asks Laffey if the purpose of the ads was to make it look like he baited Senator Chafee into accepting debates.
Laffey says the ad meant what it said.
Chafee mentions he always debated in his mayoral races.

Yorke opines that it’s never easy to be challenged, then asks Chafee if he’s insulted by a primary challenge.
Chafee: No, I expected a challenge.
Yorke says Chafee is promoting the idea that Laffey can’t win, and asks Chafee to explain what that means.
Chafee says this is America, and people are free to run for the office they want, but many offices held by Democrats are going unopposed. The small base of Republican talent in RI could have been better spread around.
Yorke asks Laffey about shopping around for an office to run for.
Laffey: Running for Senate fits my talents
Yorke asks Laffey if any one thing “triggered” his choice to run for Senate.
Laffey says any disagreements with Senator Chafee are professional not personal and that he takes on different missions in different parts of his life. He saw Cranston going broke, so ran for Mayor to fix it, and always said he’d do something else once Cranston was fixed. Now Cranston’s fixed, but the US is on the wrong financial path.

Yorke asks what made Laffey think this was a winnable race.
Laffey answers no one thing and that he’s always been told he can never win. To win, you need money, a message, and a candidate, and his campaign has all 3.
Chafee says he knows from personal interaction with Laffey that Laffey came to RI for the purpose of getting to Washington. Running for Mayor of Cranston was low hanging fruit to start.
Laffey says he listened to the Senator before deciding to run for Mayor to be polite, but that the Senator had no influence on his decisions. It was conditions in Cranston that made him decide to run.
Chafee says he helped Laffey with meetings with Republican Senatorial and Congressional committees, and played a role in helping him get started.
Laffey says he doesn’t mean to be rude, but he’s made his political career on his own. Laffey also mentions Chafee’s remark about looking forward to ending his career; Laffey looks as public service as a way of giving back, not a career.

Yorke asks if a career in politics a lesser mission than other careers.
Laffey thinks that people should have real careers before entering public service. Too many people go into office not understanding the real world.
Chafee says he has had non-political jobs, a summer job, the racetrack job for 7 years, Electric Boat for 4 years.
Yorke asks Chafee if he wants to end Laffey’s career.
Chafee answers “absolutely” or at least be a bump in the road.
Yorke asks Laffey if he’s done with politics if he loses.
Laffey says he doesn’t think that way (that he might lose).
Yorke asks Laffey’s about Maureen Moakley and Darrell West’s prediction that Chafee wins the primary.
Laffey says Moakley predicted Chafee wouldn’t run negative ads. Then, the next day he did. She’s 100% wrong. And it’s unfortunate that people still go to Darrell West, he’s too partisan.

Yorke asks Chafee about depending on independents to win.
Chafee says he still goes to Republican events, spaghetti suppers and breakfasts. He represents a true Republicanism of civil liberties, environmentalism, avoiding foreign entanglements, and fiscal responsibility. But he says that independents are good for him too.
Yorke asks about the big gap between Whitehouse and Laffey in the polls. Since Laffey already has high name recognition, isn’t this a serious problem?
Chafee says since everybody already knows Laffey, it will be hard to close a 30-point gap. Jeff Pine was able to close a similar-sized gap because no one knew who he was when he was polling low.
Laffey calls Chafee’s answer foolish. He doesn’t enjoy anywhere near name recognition the Chafee name brings. Things will change radically after primary. Laffey also notes he won a high-turnout primary in Cranston, after being outspent 5-1.

There are Sensible People in Hollywood

Marc Comtois

First a confession: I'm still in full-blown vacation mode. I was in northern New England all last week and have been enjoying various aspects of the Ocean State with my family this week. I have been tempted to post about the impending revelation of the Warwick Teachers contract, but I'll wait until the details are finally released (and perhaps after the scheduled School Committee meeting tomorrow).

Now, since you've been fully informed of my current political lightheadedness, I offer this:

Hollywood heavyweights Nicole Kidman, Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Rupert Murdoch and more than 80 other stars played against type and entered stage right yesterday with an ad condemning Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and terrorists everywhere.

“We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas,” the full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times reads.
Whatever will the crowd at Spago think?

The undersigned also include La-la luminaries Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton of “Everyone Loves Raymond” and William Hurt.

Directors Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Dick Donner and Sam Raimi also signed their names. Other Hollywood powerplayers who signed their John Hancocks included Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Paramount Pictures, and billionaire mogul Haim Saban.

The move is a variation on the usual script in Tinseltown, where the political noise has been predominantly anti-Bush, anti-war on terrorism and anti-war in Iraq from high-profile stars such as George Clooney, Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

But this alternate A-List appeared to steal some of President Bush’s “A” material with lines like: “If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die. We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs.”

This doesn't mean that all of these people are conservatives. However, at least they're on the right side of one of the "big things" of our times. That can't be said for everybody. Now, back to serious political issues. Andrew?

The Wall Street Journal Editoral Board and Arlene Violet on AG Lynch & Dupont

Carroll Andrew Morse

The continuing controversy surrounding the details of Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch’s understanding that allowed DuPont to be dropped from the state’s lead paint case was the subject of yesterday’s lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s the opening graf and an outline of what follows…

When a state sues an industry – think tobacco – any settlement money typically goes directly to that state. But when Rhode Island dropped the DuPont Corporation from a lead paint lawsuit last year, after the defendant agreed to donate $12 million to charity, most of the money ended up at organizations based in Washington D.C. and Boston. Which is why Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch has some explaining to do….

Most of the money -- $9 million – is going to the Children’s Health Forum, a Washington D.C. nonprofit that has agreed to dole it out to groups back in Rhode Island for lead paint clean-up.

Why not cut out this middleman? Well, perhaps because the Children’s Health Fund was incorporated as a lobbying group three years ago and received nearly all of its seed money from Dupont....

Some $2.5. million is going to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, another curious choice because that Massachusetts medical center has no lead-poisoning prevention program to speak of...Mr. Lynch agreed to allow money from DuPont that would otherwise go to lead-paint cleanup in Rhode Island to be used instead by a private law firm to fulfill its pledge to an out-of-state institution....

Later this month, the Rhode Island Ethics commission will hold a hearing whether to launch a full investigation into the deal, and a thorough vetting of Mr. Lynch’s motives seems appropriate....

Also behind a subscription wall is former Attorney General Arlene Violet’s Cumberland Valley Breeze column where she explains how the problems with where the DuPont money has gone directly relate to the way in which the current Attorney General has been conducting his duties...
Dupont has forever been discharged as a defendant in a multi-billion dollar lead paint liability trial for nothing but a verbal agreement to spend $12.5 million. As Bill Harsch, whom I support for the office, pointed out, folks cannot buy a piece of furniture on time without signing a legal document outlining the terms of performance. Yet Dupont, in effect, is only bound to perform by a gentleman's agreement with Lynch, who might not be in office after this election....

In a deposition, the Attorney General noted that he thought the money might discharge Motley Rice's obligation and he vaguely knew of Dupont's involvement in CHF. He refused to say under what authority he had a right to dispose of the taxpayer's money since only the General Assembly has that power under separation of powers. One thing the Attorney General should be aware of is that he was either snookered by the company and their lawyer who contributed to his campaign both during negotiations and after the "deal" was sealed, or he was a very poor lawyer dismissing a big player like Dupont on a song and a prayer. In any event the taxpayers got rolled.

Both columns are worth reading in their entirety.

Today’s Senate Race Coverage from the MSM

Carroll Andrew Morse

Two new entries in the coverage of Rhode Island’s Republican Senate primary, one local and one national, were printed today. Neither breaks much new ground for those already been paying attention to the contest, with perhaps one important exception.

The local entry is a Projo article by Mark Arsenault focusing on the Club for Growth…

In its endorsement of Laffey on its Web site, the Club acknowledges: "One risk is that, after beating Chafee in the primary, Laffey loses the general election to the Democrat. But the odds of this happening are not overwhelming -- and we believe this risk is acceptable."

The Club argues that Chafee is the most liberal Republican in the Senate, and the chance to replace him is worth this risk for several reasons:

"First, it wouldn't be much of a loss if a new Democrat senator were elected, as he would vote much the same as Chafee does now," the Club claims. "Second, it is unlikely this loss would result in tipping control of the Senate back to the Democrats -- though that, too, can't be ruled out. If Republicans lose so many seats that the Rhode Island race is crucial, Chafee would probably lose, too."

Meanwhile, at the national level, OpinionJournal has a national level summary of the Senate race written by Kimberly Strassel that concludes in a way that may raise an eyebrow or two…
Yet it says something about GOP frustration that even these long odds haven't fazed many. Laffey supporters are betting that if he wins the primary, the GOP establishment will offer its support....

It's still a long shot, although at least some Republican strategists are nonplussed. They've long argued the party should write off the Northeast, and focus on consolidating its gains in the South and Midwest. If voters are as angry as seems, it may have no choice.

Writing off an entire area of the country is never a good idea, for any political party that wants to actually win nor for any party that wants to actually govern after winning elections.

August 16, 2006

If Langevin equals Lieberman, does Lawless equal Lamont?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Apologies for the painful alliteration. Only a little more follows.

Over at RI Future, they’ve posted a link to Jennifer Lawless’ new campaign website, Langevin equals Lieberman. Whatever the merit (or lack thereof) of that charge, Lawless equals Lamont in at least one very important way: Ms. Lawless presents no discernable positions on the War on Terror (beyond Iraq) on the issues section of her campaign website. Apparently, she doesn’t see fighting the War on Terror as one of the top 9 issues that the Federal government should be dealing with.

Like many progressives, Ms. Lawless seems to want to avoid explaining if she believes victory in the War on Terror is possible, or if she believes that the United States should instead settle for a truce and accept the permanent existence of an enemy that seeks to inflict mass casualties on the United States.

Fogarty Accepts Support from an Opponent of Eminent Domain Reform

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island Gubernatorial candidate Charles Fogarty is appearing today with Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who is a leading advocate for seizing property by eminent domain in order to further economic development. Governor Vilsack believes that government needs broad powers to take property away from private owners in order to "create new jobs and strengthen their communities".

In June, Governor Vilsack vetoed an eminent domain reform bill passed by the Iowa legislature in response to the Supreme Court�s Kelo v. New London ruling. The Governor believed that the bill's mild restriction on the use of eminent domain in cases involving "blighted areas" to cases where 75% or more of a condemned area had been deemed blighted was too strong. (Before the law was passed, there was no restriction on how much non-blighted property could be swept up when blighted areas were targeted for seizure). The Iowa legislature overrode the veto, 90-8 in the House and 41-8 in the Senate.

Given the opportunity, Governor Vilsack almost certainly would have vetoed Lieutenant Governor Fogarty's initial eminent domain reform proposal for Rhode Island, which prohibited using eminent domain to take "significantly residential" property.

However, Lieutenant Governor Fogarty's strong version of eminent domain reform never reached the full Rhode Island Senate. During the committee process, the protection for residential property was removed, leaving a "reform" that still allows the government to force residents out of their homes if the government determines that new owners will pay more in taxes. Lieutenant Governor Fogarty, at least on his official web site, didn't make any official statement regarding the differences in his bill as proposed versus as passed. Senator James Sheehan, the primary Senate sponsor of the bill, did tout passage of the watered down bill as a success.

This sequence of events, first claiming to be an advocate for eminent domain reform, but then allowing the legislature to gut his bill, and then making a major campaign appearance with a staunch opponent of eminent domain reform sums up the concerns voters have about Lieutenant Governor Fogarty. Whatever he may personally believe about an issue, he just doesn't seem to be someone able to take a meaningful stand against the special interests and the groupthink within the Democratic Party.

Lt. Governor Interview: Kerry King

Don Roach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AR: If elected, what would be the first item on your agenda?
KK: Two things actually:

  • Because people's livelihoods might be at stake, I'd conduct an immediate audit to uncover any business thinking of relocating or expanding out-of-state. Then I'd marshal every resource at the state's disposal to keep those jobs in Rhode Island.

  • Second, I'd push for immediate passage of my anti-public corruption plan (visit We need to restore integrity to state government right now. You can't conduct the people's business in the culture of corruption that exists now.

AR: What is one thing primary voters should know about Kerry King before making their selection?
KK: I'm not your average politician. In fact, I'm not a politician at all. I have no other agenda or ambition other than serving my state and fellow citizens.

I love Rhode Island. I was born, raised, and educated here. I've maintained a home here for most of my adult life. My son and two precious granddaughters are Rhode Islanders, too. Now retired, I'm at that wonderful stage in life where I can devote all my time, energy, and experience to making Rhode Island a better place for my family and all Rhode Islanders.

I'm tired of what's going on in our state politically. We need and deserve a better government, a better economy, and a better future.

AR: How well do you believe your anti-corruption plan will connect with voters?
KK: Voters will love it. Politicians won't.

Basically, I'm proposing that Rhode Island adopt the toughest anti-corruption laws in the nation. Obviously, our current laws are too weak.

Want to end corruption? Then make the penalties so severe that only a fool would violate the public's trust for personal gain.

Honest politicians have nothing to fear from these laws. Only the dishonest do. So why not pass these laws? Enough is enough; Rhode Islanders are sick of corruption. The General Assembly has had years to fix this problem. Either you're tough on corruption, or you're not. No more excuses.

It is time legislators passed my anti-corruption plan and end forever the temptation to use public office as a means to fill one's own pockets.

(Cross-posted with (Converse It!.)

August 15, 2006

Two Final Debate Follow-ups

Carroll Andrew Morse

Two more sets of questions worth following up on from the first Republican Senatorial debate...

1. The first question is for both Senator Chafee and Mayor Laffey. Mayor Laffey’s fiscal proposals have focused mostly on reducing discretionary spending of various forms, while Senator Chafee blamed the necessity for high-taxes on the war in Iraq.

Yet at one point during the evening, both candidates agreed that there is a “demographic tidal wave” about to hit entitlements. To fill in some detail, I refer you to Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, who argues that entitlements are on a path towards dwarfing all other budgetary considerations…

Entitlements, on the other hand, represented 53 percent of total federal spending in 2005 with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid representing 41 percent of the total. These three programs are growing rapidly, and along with interest on the debt, will absorb all projected federal revenues by the early 2030s.

The reasons for this rapid growth include the aging of the population (greater longevity, in particular—not just the retirement of the large baby boom generation) and rapidly increasing spending on health care….A variety of health care reforms—from greater use of electronic records to curtailing malpractice awards—could reduce the level of spending somewhat, but are not likely to constrain spending growth very much, except perhaps temporarily.

The question for both candidates is what basic principles do they believe in with regards to bringing entitlement spending under control?

2. The second question is for Senator Chafee: When discussing pork, the Senator discussed the complex and delicate nature of the legislative process. When discussing immigration, the Senator said he supported requiring illegal immigrants who had been in the US for two years or less to leave the country, as embodied in the Martinez-Hagel compromise.

Why then did Senator Chafee vote in favor of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s “orange card” amendment which would have given amnesty to all illegal immigrants within the United States on or before January 1, 2006 (for those really bad at math, that’s significantly less than two years) and unraveled the fragile Martinez-Hagel consensus on the Senate immigration bill?

Liberal Republicans, Character, Principles, and Negative Ads

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee opened Thursday night’s Senate debate with an important point: issues will change, so people need to elect representatives whom they trust to have the character to make good decisions in unforeseen circumstances. But character is not all that indicates how a politician will deal with the unknown. Yes, character helps determine how someone will react when confronted with the temptation to wander astray from his principles, but the principles themselves are important too. To make an informed decision between candidates running for office, it is necessary to consider the basic principles that candidates believe in, as well as their characters.

In some ways, determining the principles underlie the liberal Republicanism that Senator Lincoln Chafee represents is difficult, because Rhode Island's liberal Republicanism has become an unfinished thought. We all know how the thought begins, “Rhode Island is a blue state, so everyone has to accept the Rhode Island Republicans will be more liberal than the Republicans in the rest of the country in order to win elections”. But how does the thought end? Is there any difference between the ends of liberal Republicans and those of plain ol’ liberals, or do liberal Republicans offer nothing more than, to paraphrase Peggy Noonan, a promise to try to to slow down the liberal program -- the continuing government takeover of as much political and economic life as possible -- just a little bit?

The recent paid media put forth by the Chafee campaign, the latest in a string of issueless, backwards-looking attacks on Steve Laffey, makes the answer pretty clear. Liberal Republicans, in another unfortunate conjunction between liberal Republicanism and unqualified liberalism, have adopted the attitude that anybody who believes differently from they do can’t possibly be serious – can’t even be a good person! They've bought into the idea that liberal assumptions and liberal ends are so self-evidently correct, they need no defense, and that non-liberal ideas like tax-simplification, smaller government, reducing the power of bureaucracies and empowering individuals don't merit any serious discussion.

The only choice that matters to the liberal wing of the Republican party is which personalities can best manage the high-tax nanny-state they would like to perpetuate; that's why their campaign spends so much time focusing on the issue of personality. Any other discussions are treated as mere distractions from the inevitable march of history towards an ever-stronger Federal government. Fortunately, America's voters have a history of embracing a belief that a wider array of choices is possible.

Interview: Dan Harrop, Republican Candidate for Mayor of Providence

Justin Katz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 14, 2006

Liberal Commentary on the Anti-War Democrats

Carroll Andrew Morse

A pair of commentators with strong liberal bona-fides make the point that Ned Lamont’s victory in Connecticut shows that there is a strong faction in the Democratic party united by the fact that they do not see Islamic extremism as a threat worth fighting against. Here’s Jacob Weisberg in Slate

The problem for the Democrats is that the anti-Lieberman insurgents go far beyond simply opposing Bush's faulty rationale for the war, his dishonest argumentation for it, and his incompetent execution of it. Many of them appear not to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously. They see Iraq purely as a symptom of a cynical and politicized right-wing response to Sept. 11, as opposed to a tragic misstep in a bigger conflict. Substantively, this view indicates a fundamental misapprehension of the problem of terrorism.
Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly agrees, at least with respect to the left’s netroots…
Much as I'm reluctant to agree with him, Weisberg has a point: aside from kvetching about Bush's policies, the liberal blogosphere has chosen to almost unanimously sit out any substantive discussion of the fight against radical jihadism and what to do about it. Emphasis counts, and this widespread silence makes it hard to avoid the conclusion that liberal bloggers just don't find the subject very engaging.
The question that both Weisberg and Drum duck is does Ned Lamont himself believe that the war on terrorism is worth fighting to win, or, if elected to the Senate, would he advocate for a truce with terrorists that left their ability to attack the United States fully intact, so as long as a superficial appearance of "peace" was maintained.

Michael Barone on the Incumbent Rule

Carroll Andrew Morse

A few weeks ago, I postulated that there may exist a significant number of independent voters in the New England electorate who tell pollsters that they're "undecided", even if they're 90% sure who they're going to vote for. I called this the theory of the “surly New England independent”. Last week, U.S News and World Report’s Michael Barone offered a similar theory (but without the regional angle) involving "stubborn" moderate and conservative voters to explain why incumbent Joe Lieberman did much better than any pre-election poll indicated.

Of course, because a brilliant political mind like Mr. Barone reaches a conclusion similar to the one I've reached doesn’t prove anything. Then again, he is analyzing a result that occurred in New England...

It may be time to revise one of the cardinal rules of poll interpretation--that an incumbent is not going to get a higher percentage in an election than he got in the polls. Lieberman was clocked at 41 and 45 percent in recent Quinnipiac polls; he got 48 percent in the primary election. The assumption has been that voters know an incumbent, and any voter who is not for him will vote against him. But the numbers suggest that Lieberman's campaigning over the last weekend may have boosted his numbers-or that the good feelings many Democratic voters have had for him over the years may have overcome their opposition to his stands on Iraq and foreign policy.

Another possibility: The left is noisy, assertive, in your face, quick to declare its passionate support. Voters on the right and in the center may be quieter but then stubbornly resist the instruction of the mainstream media and show up on Election Day and vote Republican, as they did in 2004, or for Lieberman, as some apparently did this week.

Encouraging news for Governor Carcieri and Senator Chafee, perhaps?

Following-Up the Projo's Debate Follow-Up on Taxing and Spending

Carroll Andrew Morse

There are a few gaps that need to be filled in Mark Arsenault's Republican Senate debate follow-up article appearing in today's Projo. The article contrasts the positions of Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey on the issues of taxes and spending.

1. Though Arsenault's description of the PAYGO rule supported by Senator Chafee regarding deficits is correct in a technical sense,

Chafee is a believer in "pay as you go," a philosophy from the 1990s that requires spending cuts or a new source of revenue to balance each tax cut or new spending program.
...Arsenault doesn't discuss PAYGO's ultimate ramification. The key word in Arsenault's description is "new". The authors of PAYGO were certain to exempt the growth of "old" spending -- spending on already existing entitlement programs that increases according to pre-determined formulas -- from any limitation. Here's how the exception appears in the text of the legislation...
(1) IN GENERAL -- It shall not be in order in the Senate to consider any direct spending or revenue legislation that would increase the on-budget deficit or cause an on-budget deficit for any 1 of the 3 applicable time periods as measured in paragraphs (5) and (6)...

(4) EXCLUSION.--For purposes of this subsection, the terms "direct-spending legislation'' and "revenue legislation'' do not include --
(A) any concurrent resolution on the budget

Since Congress' concurrent resolution on the budget is that the only place where spending on existing entitlements needs an annual approval, exempting the budget resolution from the PAYGO rule exempts entitlement growth from the PAYGO rule. And, as Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution explains, entitlement programs are where our country's biggest spending problems are...
In efforts to restore fiscal balance, it's important to focus on entitlements for a number of reasons:
  • Entitlements are where the big dollars are.
  • They are growing rapidly.
  • Given the unsustainable deficits that this growth implies, there are only three possible options: restructure entitlements, eliminate most of the rest of government, or raise taxes to unprecedented levels.
Ultimately, the entitlements-exempt PAYGO rule favored by the Democrats and Senator Chafee becomes a way of forcing automatic tax-increases on the public. Here's Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation explaining how...
While PAYGO allows current entitlement programs to grow on autopilot, it would likely lead to the expiration of the current tax cuts. Merely retaining the tax relief that Americans now enjoy would, under PAYGO, require 60 votes in the Senate and a waiver in the House. To avoid this supermajority requirement, lawmakers seeking to prevent tax increases would have to either: A) raise other taxes; or B) reduce mandatory spending by a larger amount than has ever been enacted. Option A is still a net tax increase (raising one tax to avoid raising another), and Option B is probably politically unrealistic.
Senator Chafee tries to define his position on taxes and spending, which presumably includes PAYGO, as that of a traditional conservative Republican...
Chafee says that, while opposing the big tax cuts, he also voted against major spending items, such as the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which he says is too expensive. "I'm a very traditional conservative Republican on taxes and spending," he said.
But it is difficult to accept this statement as meaningful when the Senator supports a program that seeks to turn the Federal Government into an entitlement machine paid for through automatic yearly tax-increases.

2. Arsenault devotes only a single to line Mayor Laffey's proposal for tax simplification...

He also proposes rewriting and simplifying the tax code,
...presenting tax-simplification as if it were an add-on to the the Mayor's fiscal proposals, when it is actually a starting point. Mayor Laffey argues that simplifiying the tax code will reduce the power of lobbyists and the associated corruption they can bring. He is far from alone in arguing this (Mickey Kaus provided one of the best explanations I can remember seeing, but I can't locate the exact quote). The essential argument is that the influence of K-Street lobbyists in Washington is rooted in their knowledge of and their ability to manipulate an arcane tax code; simplify the tax-code, and corporate and industrial-sector lobbyists will become no more or less influential than Sierra Club-type lobbyists.

Unfortunately, since Arsenault relegates tax-simplification to a sidebar, we never learn Senator Chafee's position on tax simplification, nor any arguments for or against the idea. Do politicians unwilling to pursue tax-simplification take that position because they believe that tax-simplification does not matter, because they believe a complex tax-code is an inherently good thing, or because they are simply unwilling to challenge the existing network of lobbyists on this issue?

August 11, 2006

The MSM Reports on the Republican Senate Debate, and a Curious Omission

Carroll Andrew Morse

The MSM reports on last night’s Senatorial debate have been filed. Here are reports from…

All three MSM reports picked up on Senator Chafee’s statement of “a bad peace is better than a good war”, but none of the three reported on the Senator’s questioning (in response to a question about Israel) of where a war on “Islamic extremism” gets you, the statement made during last night’s debate most in need of clarification.

Also, the Chafee campaign has their review of the debate up on their campaign website. They think Senator Chafee won.

RILawJournal has a live blog report that does an excellent job capturing the tone of the debate's back-and-forth.

More follow-up coming next week…

August 10, 2006

Calling Jim Gillis Drunk

Justin Katz

For no particular reason, except a recrudescent weakness in the face of my urge to procrastinate this stormy evening, I checked in on the news that's fit to print online from the Newport Daily News. Meandering into the columnists' area, I received these words of anecdotal wisdom from staff writer Jim Gillis:

All along, Mel's denied any anti-Semitism in his work. But a few belts of hard liquor are a strong truth serum. Some Mel buddy on the tube said something along the lines of, "Hey, he was drunk. He didn't mean what he was saying."

Actually, when people are hammered, they say what they really think. More than a few times, drunken locals have left me voice-mail messages suggesting that kids molested by priests probably deserved it or enticed the good father.

Some were so drunk they left their names.

"Actually," huh? Actually, what people really think is more often revealed between the lines of well-polished prose. Gillis's lone example of drunken honesty (besides the Catholic Gibson) bespeaks a storyline that unrelated examples might have scuttled, even as they strengthened his point. Surely a local opinion fixture such as he has received drunken voicemail from non-papists.

Despite my being able to sketch a grad student's Ph.D. thesis on the link between drunkenness, truth, journalistic texts, and Ernest Hemmingway, I'm not so sure that Mr. Gillis has adequately considered the motivations of his voicemail correspondents. Were they being honest, or were they hurling ideas that they felt sure to shock their target? Or might it be more likely that they were expounding a truth at which they'd arrived once alcohol had drowned out half — arguably the higher — of the impulses by which we discover, understand, and express what we truly believe?

Since some of them left names, perhaps the journalist Gillis should seek them out and ask. But maybe he'd better knock a few back, first.

Long Gone the Schools of Lore

Justin Katz

A comment from Norman to Andrew's "Cross-Examination" post in the Laffey/Chafee series caught my eye:

... we can't patch a quick fix on to our education problems. Chafee is right that we have to reinvest in the public schools that made America great. If we send money to private institutions we will further marginalize the poorest and most disadvantaged Americans. Steve Laffey should remember his roots and support the schools that got him out of the middle class and made him a millionaire.

The noteworthy aspect of such arguments is that they present education essentially as a two-dimensional issue: dimension one being public versus private, and (the more substantial) dimension two being money. Take a moment to actually imagine the differences between today's public schools and the "schools that got" Mayor Laffey out of the middle class — the schools "that made America great" — and it is simply impossible to take the class-warfare rhetoric and the appeals for money seriously.

I'd be surprised, for one thing, to learn that 20th century teachers received anywhere near the employment packages that modern teachers boast. I'm not surprised, however, that mainstream discussion of the "education problem" so studiously avoids mention of the feminization, sterilization, secularization, and deramification that our education system has undergone since America became great.

(N.B. — From my admittedly limited experience as a private-school teacher, I'd suggest that Norman layer some qualifications on his insistence that funding private schools doesn't benefit "the poorest and most disadvantaged Americans." At least at the Catholic grade school in which I taught, both disadvantaged and poor children were often placed in classrooms that had no room for them, but in which room was made for the reason that they had nowhere else to go. Perhaps more importantly, the school is clearly understood among locals as a means of escaping the stain and sting of poverty that the often-dangerous halls of the public schools perpetuate.)

Laffey-Chafee I: Miscellaneous Questions

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating. "Miscellaneous" should only be read to imply that these questions did not fit into any other category, not that they are less important than the others...

Arlene Violet asks if drug companies or individuals got the better deal from the recent drug bill.
Mayor Steve Laffey answers that drug companies got a better deal, because medicare cannot negotiate for cheaper drugs.
Senator Lincoln Chafee says he voted against the drug bill because it had no bulk purchasing provisions.

Violet asks Chafee if he would support vouchers under any circumstance.
Chafee says no, vouchers undermine public schools.
Laffey says he wants every kid to have the opportunity that vouchers can provide. He mentions he’s trying to start a public school choice program between Cranston and Providence. Laffey says he supports vouchers and public choice.

Violet asks Chafee to name 3 places where he supports the President.
Chafee says he supports the President on free trade, respects his work on No-Child-Left-Behind, and keeps good relations with the White House.
Laffey says he supports the President on free trade, tax cuts, and the War on Terror. He disagrees with the President on NCLB, because education decisions should be made locally.

Violet says part of being a Senator is being willing to compromise, and asks Laffey for 3 issues on which he might compromise.
Laffey says he’s successfully worked with unions on negotiating health co-pays, proving he's is able to compromise and work with others. Laffey names the phaseout of the estate tax as an issue he would compromise on.
Chafee uses his time to mention that Laffey encouraged a primary against a Republican city councilman which shows that he has a hard time working with others.
Laffey questions the relevance of the intra-party politics in Cranston’s fourth ward to a race for United States Senator.

Violet asks Chafee if he knew a consulting firm his campaign hired was connected (by marriage) to an individual convicted of jamming phone lines on an election day. (Violet also asks if the consulting firm’s work will involve phoning voters).
Chafee takes responsibility for the hire and says he didn’t know about the relationship with the convicted individual. The firm can continue to work for the campaign as long as no professional relationship is established.

Violet seems like she’s going to ask Laffey a question about stem-cells, but at the last moment changes direction, and segues into a question about using Medicaid funds for abortion.
Alas, your intrepid blogger couldn’t follow the question or answer on this one. Fortunately, we’ll get three more chances to get it answered!

Laffey-Chafee I: Taxes and Spending

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Arlene Violet asks about extending expiring tax-cuts.
Senator Lincoln Chafee laments that we have failed to cut spending, yet we are cutting taxes. The biggest expense of all is this war in Iraq, which costs a billion dollars a week. We can’t cut taxes during a war.
Mayor Steve Laffey says that revenues have increased 12-14% in the three years following the tax cuts. Receipts are up relative to CBO estimates. Tax-cuts that encourage growth should be made permanent.

Violet asks something about spending and earmarks.
Laffey says spending can be brought under control by cutting pork, corporate welfare, and non-military discretionary spending.
Chafee is sympathetic to earmark reform. Appropriators in Congress have too much power. But other areas of the budget, like farm subsidies, dwarf what’s spent on earmarks.

Violet: Medicare is in worse shape than social security. What do we do?
Chafee says a demographic tidal wave is about to hit entitlements. We need people (like me, I assume the Senator means) who can work together to solve this.
Laffey basically agrees (I assume with himself in the role of “me”).

Violet asks about the responsibility of a Senator with respect to pork, and asks Laffey to name 3 projects in Rhode Island that are pork.
Laffey says a Senator should support his state, but through the normal appropriations process. The transportation bill brought plenty to RI, without counting the earmarks, and many of the recent Congressional scandals show how earmarking has become a magnet for corruption. Names the Westerly animal shelter as an example of pork
Chafee again cites the $1 billion dollars he has brought to Rhode Island because of his work on the Environment and Public Works committee. Mentions he obtained part of the money to take down the Jamestown bridge.

Laffey-Chafee I: Cross-Examination

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating. This is the part where they get to ask one another questions...

Senator Lincoln Chafee says he voted against tax cuts in 2001, because we should be fully funding special education programs like the IDEA program before cutting taxes. And more Federal funding for special ed would mean local property taxes could be lowered. What does Mayor Laffey think?
Mayor Steve Laffey says he cut local spending by firing the crossing guards. Meaningful property tax-relief will only come if unfunded mandates are done away with and management rights are restored. And tax cuts stimulate growth and make more money available.
Chafee rebuts: Crossing guards were only 1/4 of 1 percent of the Cranston budget. The Federal government has promised to fund 40% of IDEA, but hasn’t gotten to 20% yet.

Laffey asks about Senator Chafee’s vote against using the $223,000,000 appropriated for the bridge-to-nowhere funding to pay for bridges damaged by Hurricane Katrina. What good did that do for Rhode Island?
Chafee responds by defending the overall highway bill which the bridge-to-nowhere was part of. The highway bill required 3 years of delicate compromise, and brought $1 billion dollars into Rhode Island, $2.21 for every dollar we pay in gas taxes.
Laffey says he is asking about just the vote on the specific amendment, not the entire bill.
Chafee says that in practice, voting against the bridge to nowhere was impossible.

Chafee asks about Laffey’s signing an anti-tax pledge put forth by the Americans for Tax Reform. Are you bought and paid for, or does your signature mean nothing?
Laffey responds that he read the pledge carefully, modified it by removing portions he didn’t like, and only signed on to the provisions he agreed with.
Chafee expresses displeasure at being criticized by “a right wing organization” like the Club for Growth, then defends his record as Mayor of Warwick. Chafee says he raised taxes less in 7 years as mayor than Laffey has in 4, plus he raised investment in the city pension fund from $70 million to $225 million.
Laffey cites his own record on city pension funding, going from $9 million to $40 million, plus he inherited a city that was going bankrupt, which everyone in Rhode Island knows.

Laffey asks Chafee about a March 13, 2001 vote that allowed the government to raid social security to pay for more spending.
Chafee responds by citing the Concord Coalition citation of himself as Congress’s most fiscally responsible member.
Laffey responds that Chafee didn’t answer the question.

Laffey-Chafee I: War and the Middle East

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Arlene Violet asks if American foreign policy should always be in tandem with Israel’s.
Mayor Steve Laffey addresses the current Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Israel was attacked and they have the right to respond. We all want a cease-fire, but only if it leads to a lasting peace, which can only happen if Hezbollah is degraded.
Senator Lincoln Chafee decries the escalation of the current war, says it’s been escalated until it’s a war on “Islamic extremism” (this reference to extremism is the one point where I’m going to interject myself, and opine that maybe Senator Chafee didn’t say quite what he meant here) and where does that take us? Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

Violet presses for an answer on Israel that is wider than just the current conflict.
Laffey: Israel has tried to live in peace. If Hezbollah laid down its arms, there would be peace. If Israel laid down its arms, they would be annihilated.
Chafee stresses that he does not come to this issue from naivety. A bad peace is better than a good war. We should return to the peace process that started with Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat.

Violet asks if there is a civil war in Iraq, and if should Donald Rumsfeld should resign as secretary of defense.
Chafee emphasizes engaging Iraq’s neighbors to improve the situation there.
Laffey says Rumsfeld should resign. He has a tough job and has to be held accountable for the failures.

Violet asks about President Bush’s use of wiretapping and signing statements.
Laffey: Courts should decide signing statement issue. Today’s events in Great Britain show us that wiretapping is justified, but the President should get the proper authorization from judges and keep congress informed.
Chafee criticizes Laffey for supporting the war but opposing Rumsfeld. Chafee says that the Constitution is a sacred document that protects people from wiretapping. The Constitution says the Presdient is Commander-in-Chief, but that shouldn’t be stretched too far.

Laffey-Chafee I: Illegal immigration.

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Arlene Violet opens the debate with illegal immigration. Should illegal immigrants be deported?
Senator Lincoln Chafee expresses support for “the John McCain bill” including the Martinez-Hagel provisions that include deportation for immigrants who have been less 2 years.
Mayor Steve Laffey expresses opposition to the “McCain-Kennedy” bill and wants to secure the border first.

Violet asks about tougher enforcement of immigration laws.
Chafee first criticizes Laffey’s history with consular ID cards issue. Chafee then criticizes the House’s enforcement-only approach to immigration, saying that not one member of the Senate will support the House bill, nor will he.
Laffey defends the consular cards, saying they made for a more secure Cranston. Securing border and enforcing immigration laws needs to be done before anything else.

Violet asks about American practices, like subsidized agribusiness, that create conditions in other countries that encourage illegal immigration.
Chafee first criticizes Laffey for not being consistent on the immigration issue, then says free trade is the best way to address the root causes of illegal immigration.
Laffey says that once borders are secure and laws are being enforced, we can work with Mexico to get them to make necessary changes and implement a guest worker program if it's needed.

Laffey-Chafee I: Opening Statements

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate debated on today’s Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Senator Chafee asks voters to consider three things in his opening statement...

  • Who can win in November?
  • Who can best represent Rhode Island?
  • Issues are going to change, so you have to look at character when electing a Senator.
Mayor Laffey talks about the three biggest problems he believes need fixing in his opening statement…
  • Too many tax-breaks for special interests and spending is out of control.
  • The cost of prescription drugs needs to be lowered
  • The United States needs a national energy policy to enhance national security.

Reginald Centracchio For Lieutenant Governor, Part 2: Accountability and Emergency Management

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising continues its interview with Reginald Centracchio, candidate for Liuetenant Governor of Rhode Island...

Anchor Rising: You said that you want to make the Lieutenant Governor's office more than just advisory. How would you go about that?
Reginald Centracchio: I would recommend to the Governor that he issue an executive order that would place the accountability into the Lieutenant Governor’s office for emergency management and readiness, long-term healthcare and affordable healthcare, and small business by working closely with the Economic Development Corporation. I have many plans to make Rhode Island the point of interest and focus as to how we set an environment that allows business stay competitive with our sister states within the region.

The concepts I want to apply are really no different in the civilian environment than they are in the military. There’s always a way to use system in place to meet a required end result.

AR: When it comes to our emergency management systems, it seems that we, as a society, are pretty good at getting first responders – the heroic responders – to the places they need to be. But we’re a little weaker when it comes to getting regular people involved, at getting them to support the wider effort that’s necessary. How do we better get regular citizens involved in emergency response?
RC: Clearly a challenge across the United States. We’re a citizenry that expects the government will be in place to take care us. We have made many assumptions that when things go wrong, somebody is going to come out of someplace to take care of us.

There is a huge education program that is about to be launched by the Governor’s office, in conjunction with the Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. It’s called CERT, which stands for Citizen Emergency Response Team. That targets exactly what you just said. It gets individuals involved in the emergency response capability of their particular town or city through the Red Cross and their local EMA directors. We need to ensure that we have the basis in the general citizenry to put together additional resources for the mayors of the cities and the administrators of the towns that we will be able to access. We need to continue to educate the responsibility of individuals and households.

We have built a system in the United States upon the incident command system. The incident command system means that the first responder, a fire chief or police chief or other official responsible for public safety, will be the first one on scene. They would handle such things as natural disasters or other areas that may be driven by Homeland security. But most importantly, the ingredient that you put out for consideration, is that every one of us needs to build an emergency response capability within our own homes and be able to subsist for about 72 hours before any resources would come into the state from the region or across the United States. A clear example of that was Hurricane Katrina, when much of the response capability was dependent on local and state government, but the danger happened so quickly, that the people and the homesteads in the area were not ready to be able to last for several days without depending on somebody outside of the immediacy of their home.

So, there is a tremendous education challenge that we have before us. I can certainly work on that through the office of the Lieutenant Governor by bringing in the general public and helping them understand that the responsibility starts within the home. It starts within the family. It starts within a larger family, such as shut-ins, or individuals that need medical care that might not be otherwise thought about during the initial stages of an emergency.

The point you started with, once again, was an extremely valid one. We have a big challenge in front of us to make sure that John and Sarah Q Public understand that they have an initial responsibility to take care of themselves. We intend to teach them how to do that and make sure people have emergency supply kits in the home, have several days worth of water, have first-aid kits ready, have batteries and a battery operated radio and things of that nature ready.

We have come to depend so much on technology in this society that if we lose our cell-phones, we lose our communications capability and are dead in the water. We need to develop alternatives that go back to basics – like talking to each other without the use of cell-phones. About 3 or 4 years ago, we lost a satellite. All of the pagers went down. Much of our cell capability went down. During vacations, when all of the kids are out of school, and at other times, when business-as-usual is not taking place, it’s very common to see a busy signal on phones. You never really see that, unless the system is saturated. On 9/11 we learned that. Everyone was on the phone trying to contact somebody, and therefore we didn’t have communications.

Communications is absolutely essential. But we need to develop alternative systems and redundancy within the communication system across United States. Here in Rhode Island we need to do that too.

Coming in part 3: Plans for helping small business

Sheldon Whitehouse's First Flip-Flop?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Has Sheldon Whitehouse already changed his position on the Iraq War? In his initial TV ads, he said he wanted troops out of Iraq "by the end of this year". And as recently as June, Whitehouse told Projo columnist Charles Bakst that he supported a hard deadline on troop withdrawal from Iraq...

Whitehouse, who wants U.S. troops out by the end of 2006, says he'd have voted last week for Sen. John Kerry's proposal to require withdrawal of all combat forces by next July, with redeployments beginning this year.
Whitehouse would have voted for the Kerry amendment even though another Democratic-sponsored amendment was available (sponsored, in part, by Jack Reed) that called for the beginnings of a "phased redeployment", but without providing a final deadline to our enemies that they could use in their planning.

Now, in his latest TV advertisement, Sheldon Whitehouse says that he supports "a responsible redeployment of our troops out of Iraq", a position that is much more vague than the hard-deadline option he previously favored. It is legitimate to ask if the new emphasis is being driven by an actual change in position on Whitehouse's part, or if it is simply an attempt to tell people what he thinks they want to hear, i.e. I agree with the well-respected Jack Reed, and not the incoherent John Kerry.

One last concern: In the new TV ad, Whitehouse talks about sending "a clear signal that we are really getting out" of Iraq. If he believes that "signals" are important to the conduct of foreign affairs, does he also accept the possibility that a negative signal is sent to the rest of the world when the US walks away from a potential ally?

British Stop a Major Trans-Atlantic Terrorist Attack

Carroll Andrew Morse

Pajamas Media has a round-up of the plot – foiled by the British Government -- to blow up multiple airliners flying from Great Britain to the United States

UK SECURITY foils terrorist plot to make airliners into flying bombs. “Police say they have disrupted a major plot to blow as many as 20 planes over UK and US cities with explosive devices smuggled aboard as hand luggage.” Arrest 20. (Sky News) 00:37 PDT....

The terrorists were targeting United, American, Continental airlines, two U.S. counterterrorism officials say. One police spokesman said the attacks were planned to happen at the same time. The plan involved airline passengers hiding masked explosives in carry-on luggage, the official said. “They were not yet sitting on an airplane,” but were very close to traveling, the official said, calling the plot “the real deal.” A senior U.S. counterterrorism official said authorities believe dozens of people — possibly as many as 50 — were involved in the plot, which “had a footprint to Al Qaeda back to it.” (Fox News) 03:41 PDT

The threat is considered widespread enough that liquids have been banned from any carry-on luggage at Green (the terrorists apparently planned to use liquid explosives). According to Kate Bramson on the Projo’s 7-to-7 blog

No liquids of any kind are being allowed in carry-on luggage at T.F. Green Airport this morning following news that British authorities have thwarted a terrorist plot to blow up several aircraft heading to the U.S.

No liquid beverages, hair gels, lotions or shampoos can be carried on airplanes now, according to Patti Goldstein, spokeswoman for the airport corporation….

Goldstein urges passengers to get there 90 minutes to two hours before scheduled departure times to allow for additional time getting through security checkpoints.

The Department of Homeland Security has raised the threat level on flights originating in the UK to destined for the US to "critical" (the highest level) and raised the threat level on all other commercial flights to "high".

August 9, 2006

Reginald Centracchio For Lieutenant Governor, Part 1: Why He's Running and What He Wants to do About Healthcare

Carroll Andrew Morse

Retired Major General Reginald Centracchio, former Adjutant General of the Rhode Island National Guard, is the endorsed Republican Candidate for the Office of Lieutenant Governor. Anchor Rising recently had the opportunity to interview General Centracchio and ask him his thoughts on running for Lieutenant Governor, on healthcare, on emergency management and on helping small business. It didn’t take long for General Centracchio to build a convincing case that he is ready to hit the ground running …

Anchor Rising: Why are you running for the office of Lieutenant Governor?
Reginald Centracchio: I’ve got 48 years of military service and service to the State of Rhode Island and 10 years in the executive branch of continued service to the state. I think all of the acumen, expertise and leadership that I have gained through the years and the knowledge of what Governors and Lieutenant Governors do has driven me to the point of wanting to be the Lieutenant Governor.

I can bring leadership to the office that will help move the office from an advisory position to an accountable position, specifically in the areas of emergency management, long-term health care, affordable health care, and small business. This will all help set an environment where we can continue to build the economy of the state.

AR: Without exaggerating, I'd say there are about a dozen different ways that it is possible to approach the problems associated with healthcare. What’s the appropriate role of the Lieutenant Governor on this issue?
RC: The Lieutenant Governor chairs the advisory committee on long-term health care. That has resulted in some recommendations, some opinions, and some actions, but it hasn’t gone far enough. I can tell you two things right on the front end of this conversation that would certainly help with affordable healthcare.

First and foremost is to develop a system of electronic records that is interoperable between primary care physicians, specialists, hospitals, and every other facility. Some people would suggest that this might compromise the security of our records. I don’t agree with that. We need to develop the system under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which gives clear protection to each of us. I can draw an analogy: the United States has a tremendous network of information within the Department of Defense that’s never been compromised. Rhode Island, in fact, has a unit in the Air National Guard that’s responsible for the integrity of that system. If all of our physicians could depend on a record system that didn’t involve having to keep physical records, on having patients responsible for taking records from one physician to another and on having an administrative and logistics staff to handle that, then their costs of doing business would be substantially reduced.

That’s one area. The second area is a clear education program. Rhode Island is noted across the nation for using trauma centers and emergency rooms as our primary care point more so than does any other state. We need to migrate away from that. We need to educate our citizenry so that the first place they go is to their primary care physician. But to do that, they need to have a place to go. One of the biggest steps in this direction that needs to be expanded across the state is the clinical aspect, like CVS just started, so that people have places they can go to for things that are correctable with some initial guidance and to squelch their fears that they may have something that needs more serious treatment. If people can go to a clinic and be treated by clearly professional people, RNs, or LPNs, or PAs, who can provide an initial diagnosis that takes away the fear, then people would make less use of emergency rooms and the costs associated with using emergency rooms as primary care facilities would be drastically reduced. Those are two real points where I think I can make a tremendous difference via an education program. The lieutenant governor’s office clearly has the capability to bring together the collective resources needed to help with this.

I am right now working on the composition of a new committee. I’m not going to mimic the existing advisory committee that's in place and extremely valuable, but I want to develop another task force; I have three or four physicians right now willing to serve on this panel. I’m going to give the panel a simple question. Give me several areas, maybe three, where we can immediately do something to make healthcare more affordable. Then, put the panel in a room and say you can’t leave here until you come with several areas that are legitimate to pursue in terms of regulatory change, administrative change and perhaps even legislative change. I think that can be done. The solution is out there. It just has to be put together by everyone who has a stakeholder consideration in healthcare. And all of us are going to need healthcare sometime in the future.

The good news is that we’re getting older. The bad news is also that we’re getting older. The good news is that medical technology is allowing us to look at the age of 100 in the next 15 or 20 years as a reasonable lifespan. But we have not considered all that’s needed to maintain us through those ages, especially with respect to long-term and affordable healthcare.

I can tell you firsthand about this. My mom was living with me for quite some time. Eventually we had to get some professional help. She was in a nursing home for about 8 or 9 years and she died at the age of 96. I know what it means to have to depend on affordable health care. I know what it means to have to depend on long-term health care. We have tremendous facilities across this state, but they need an environment where they can flourish.

I take this issue extremely seriously. If fixing healtcare can’t happen in Rhode Island, it can’t happen anywhere. We need to be competitive. We have the acumen in this state to set ourselves up as a center of excellence -- for anything we do, whether it’s healthcare, long-term healthcare, business, etc. We have tremendous capabilities in this state. We need to leverage them and bring them forward. The Lieutenant Governor can help with that -- as an accountable area, and not just an advisory one.

Coming in Part 2: Making the office accountable and addressing emergency management...

The DuPont Understanding and the Rule of Lawyers

Carroll Andrew Morse

In today’s Projo, Mike Stanton reports on how Attorney General Patrick Lynch used the negotiations he led in the Rhode Island lead-paint lawsuit to compel DuPont to pay for a private law firm’s seat on a medical research executive advisory board. The private law firm is Motley-Rice, the firm retained by the Rhode Island Attorney General's office to try the lead paint case on a contingency basis…

[Motley-Rice] serves on the executive advisory board of the International Mesothelioma Program -- a seat that requires a pledge of $3 million, according to the program's annual report.

Jack McConnell, Motley Rice's lead lawyer in the lead-paint case, says he expects that the $2.5 million will count toward the firm's pledge.

DuPont representatives are saying that they were not aware that the money donated to charity by their company as part of its lead paint “understanding” with the Attorney General was being used to settle a Motley-Rice obligation…
A DuPont spokeswoman said the company was not aware of Motley Rice's ties to the mesothelioma program, but simply agreed to donate the $2.5 million to Brigham and Women's as the charity designated by Lynch.

Yesterday, DuPont released a statement saying that it "has instructed the hospital that its payment should not be credited to any pledge or obligation of Mr. McConnell, his law firm, or any other entity."

Bill Harsch, Republican candidate for Attorney General, is questioning on what basis the Attorney General claims the authority to use his office to unilaterally direct funds to favored entities…
“The law is clear,” Harsch said “state money should be directed to the General Treasury, and it is the responsibility of the General Assembly to appropriate that money. The Attorney General has overstepped his constitutional authority, and I am calling on the General Assembly to conduct full hearings into his actions”....

For Jack McConnell and Patrick Lynch to maintain that a total of $12.5 million will be going to Rhode Island efforts to address lead paint poisoning is patently false. We already know that at least $1.5 million will be going to Boston to fulfill a debt by Motley Rice for asbestos related cancer research. This is state money that has been hijacked for the purposes of private interests, and I think the Attorney General has some serious questions that need to be answered.”

Because of the obvious lack of accountability, hasn’t this matter clearly become a case where the Attorney General has allowed the rule of lawyers to replace the rule of law?

More detail on the network of unusual relationships underlying the Rhode Island lead paint case is available here.

Rhode Island District Court: Casino Question Will Stay on the Ballot, Despite a "Substantial Likelihood" That It's Unconstitutional

Carroll Andrew Morse

Federal District Court Judge William Smith has denied a motion to stop the constitutional amendment from being placed on the November ballot that, if passed, will allow the state to name a single, private casino operator without a competitive bidding process. The short version of the ruling in Ajax and Johnston v. The Narragansett Indian Tribe and Harrah’s West Warwick Investment Company (2006) is that, Fourteenth Amendment problems with the casino amendment notwithstanding, Judge Smith doesn’t want to rule on something that might never be passed by the voters anyway...

After reviewing the excellent memoranda filed by the parties, listening to the arguments of counsel, and reviewing the authorities cited, this Court finds that while Plaintiffs and the Attorney General have raised serious constitutional questions regarding the proposed constitutional amendment, the dispute is simply not yet ripe for adjudication....

This Court appreciates the gravity of Plaintiffs’ claims, particularly their allegation that the proposed amendment violates the Fourteenth Amendment because it amounts to an unlawful racial or ethnic preference. However, the Court is not prepared to say without doubt that the proposed amendment is “patently” unconstitutional....nor is this case of such an “exceptional” nature as to warrant intervention before the election has yet come to pass....This Court may never be called upon to rule on the constitutionality of the proposed amendment: the electorate may vote it down in November. Courts should not wade into constitutionally torrid waters unless doing so is unavoidable. That is not the case here.

The opinion then goes to a second level, where Judge Smith determines that Ajax Gaming and the Town of Johnston haven’t met the legal standard for injunctive relief, which requires showing than an injunction is necessary to prevent irreparable harm. Again, however, Judge Smith is clear that failure to meet the standard for injunctive relief is a matter entirely separate from the casino amendment's constitutionality....
Furthermore, even if the matter were deemed ripe enough for review, Plaintiffs have not satisfied their burden for preliminary injunctive relief....While it is probably true that Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits for at least one claim — perhaps even a substantial likelihood of success — this Court is not persuaded of the potential for irreparable harm to Plaintiffs if the referendum question appears on the ballot.

August 8, 2006

State Supreme Court Disallows Non-Binding Ballot Questions, Effective Immediately

Carroll Andrew Morse

From Steve Peoples of the Projo's 7-to-7 blog...

The state Supreme Court ruled today that the governor cannot order the Secretary of State to place two nonbinding ballot questions on the November ballot, reversing part of a recent Superior Court ruling.

The order upholds the General Assembly's arguments, and effectively strips Governor Carcieri of his power to place nonbinding questions on the ballot.

"Now that the time has come for the Secretary [of State] to perform his statutorily prescribed duties, the governor no longer has the authority to compel the secretary to honor that previously issued order," writes the court in its seven-page decision.

The Projo provides a link to the text of the Supreme Court's opinion.

Charles Bakst on Special Interests

Carroll Andrew Morse

In writing about the upcoming Chafee-Laffey debate series in today's Projo, columnist Charles Bakst is dismissive of the idea that “special interest” influence is an issue worth discussing in a political campaign…

The long, dreary [Senate] campaign has featured a cacophonous series of monologues, charges, and countercharges, from the candidates and their out-of-state moneybag allies, as to whether Laffey has been a terrific Cranston mayor or a lousy one, and how well or poorly Chafee did as Warwick mayor -- a decade ago! -- and who is a captive of special interests and who will stand up to special interests (you decide what a special interest is)...
Yet several months ago, Bakst was clear that special interests existed, that they were a problem, and that our polity had to be vigilant against succumbing to their influence…
The voter initiative campaign being promoted by Governor Carcieri and a coalition of enthusiasts to give citizens the power to put laws or constitutional amendments on the ballot is unlikely to get anywhere.

Nor should it....It would open the way for referendum campaigns dominated by special interests and mean-spirited dialogue.

Sure, special interests play roles in the legislative arena. But it's still the place to thrash out legislative complexities and vent and absorb emotions.

So how come talking about the influence of special interests is legitimate in the context of a voter initiative drive, but dreary and cacophonous when discussed in the context of a Senate campaign?

The Chafee Campaign's Independent Experts

Carroll Andrew Morse

Today’s Projo contains an unbylined story concerning some controversy surrounding the Chafee campaign’s efforts to reach independent voters…

Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee's campaign has paid $386,000 to a company controlled by the wife of James Tobin, a former Republican National Committee campaign official who was found guilty of criminally violating federal election law in a New Hampshire case.

The firm Northeast Strategies LLC specializes in targeting unaffiliated voters....

Tobin was found guilty of participating in a scheme by New Hampshire Republicans to jam the 2002 Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote telephone lines in New Hampshire. Tobin was sentenced to 10 months in jail.

"We had no idea that Northeast Strategies had any connection to Tobin," said Steve Hourahan, Chafee's campaign spokesman.

The original source for the story is a Washington Post article from Sunday.

Two Ballot-Question Cases to be Decided Today

Carroll Andrew Morse

Because the section of Rhode Island general election ballots containing referenda is supposed to be sent to the printer today, two ballot related court cases are expected to be decided today. The first case, argued in Federal court, centers on whether the no-bid, favor-one-company provision of this year's version of a Rhode Island casino amendment violates the Federal Constitution. Jim Baron summarizes the central legal issue in today's Pawtucket Times...

As John Killoy, lawyer for the tribe, explained, if the tribe is considered a racial or ethnic group, the proposed amendment would be subject to the "strict scrutiny" standard of its constitutionality, a very high bar to clear. If the tribe is deemed a political entity, then the matter will be decided on a "rational basis" standard - did the state have a rational basis for framing the proposed amendment as it did?
If the tribe is ruled to be a political entity, and not a racial or ethnic group, I hope the court tells people where they can go to make their application to join.

The other case, argued before the state Supreme Court, concerns the issue of the Governor's power to place non-binding questions on the statewide ballot. The legislature tried to strip that power away from the Governor this session. Governor Carcieri sued to prevent the law from being applied retroactively, i.e. from being applied to questions that had been submitted before the legislature acted. In a decision that surprised everyone, Superior Court Judge Stephen Fortunato ruled that the Governor of Rhode Island has an inherent power to place non-binding questions on the statewide ballot, even in the absence of any specific authorizing legislation. Here's the counter-argument from the General Assembly's lawyer, as quoted by Elizabeth Gudrais in the Projo?

"Rhode Island operates by representative democracy, not participatory democracy," John A. "Terry" MacFadyen wrote in the House and Senate brief.

MacFadyen quoted James Madison, saying that when Rhode Island residents approved the state Constitution they chose a republican form of government "premised upon the fact that the people cannot speak in mass, and the right to choose a representative is every citizens' portion of sovereign power."

In other words, if the government doesn't give its express permission for something and lay down a procedure, then that something is forbidden! I don't think Mr. MacFadyen gets the principle of limited government. Or maybe his clients just pay him to eviscerate it. Leave it to a lawyer for the General Assembly to make Judge Fortunato's unusually expansive view of inherent powers seem reasonable by comparison.

August 7, 2006

Restoring Nature, Maintaining the Status-Quo on Au Naturel

Carroll Andrew Morse

One phase of the cleanup of the January 1996 North Cape oil spill is nearly complete. As Peter B. Lord of the Projo reports…

Ten years ago, a winter storm drove the barge North Cape onto Moonstone Beach, where it spilled 828,000 gallons of home heating oil that killed thousands of shore birds and littered the beaches ankle deep with millions of dead lobsters.

The spill forced Rhode Island to launch an unprecedented effort to replace all that was lost. That work is now nearly complete….

But Thursday morning, Governor Carcieri and Sen. Jack Reed will lead a celebration of the program's biggest component, an effort to replace some 9 million lobsters that were killed by the spill. Together they will "notch" the last lobster to be protected.

One question on the minds of those familiar with the history of South County may be what attire is expected for the celebration at Moonstone; here's a finding of fact from the Federal court decision in New England Naturist Association v. Larsen telling us what may have been expected in 1988…
For many years, the public has used Moonstone Beach for sunbathing and swimming. Many of those using it, including members of the Association, have engaged in those activities unencumbered by bathing suits. By tacit agreement, the nudists have confined their activities to an area segregated from that frequented by their attired brethren.
Actually, unencumbered bathing was banned at Moonstone Beach about seven years before the North Cape spill occurred, so I assume (and hope) that Governor Carcieri and Senator Reed will be part of the attired brethren.

Ned Lamont's Search for a Truce (with Terrorists, not Joe Lieberman)

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Connecticut Senate primary between Democratic incumbent Joseph Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont will be held tomorrow. Mr. Lamont is running as an anti-war candidate. At the heart of anti-war ideology is a belief that attacks against America from radical Islamic groups and governments have become an unchangeable feature of the international system. Anti-war politicians ask the American people to be "adult" and accept that enemies possessing both the means and the intention to attack the United States will always exist, so the American people must accept casualties arising from terrorism -- even mass casualties -- as a permanent facet of modern life.

I would direct you to the subsection of Mr. Lamont's campaign website where he discusses these concepts, but I can't because the War on Terror is not important enough to Mr. Lamont to warrant its own section on the site. In Mr. Lamont's opinion, apparently, there is no War on Terror to discuss. He is thus anti-war in a literal sense -- he rejects the idea that attacks on the American mainland, by themselves, constitute acts of war. He doesn't look on potential foreign attackers as enemies to be defeated before they do grave harm, but as problems to be managed after an attack. (He does have a section on the War in Iraq, but I'm assuming he accepts standard Democratic boilerplate about there being "no connection" between the War on Terror and the war in Iraq).

Ultimately then, Mr. Lamont endorses a program of 1) dismissing the War on Terror as not central to American foreign policy, 2) maximum cut-and-run from Iraq and 3) appeasement of violent elements in the Middle East (see Martin Peretz in today's OpinionJournal for more details on this subject). Mr. Lamont's position -- that the War that started on September 11 is over and the only things left to do now are walk away from Iraq, wait for future attacks on the US to occur, and then respond if we first get permission -- is increasingly becoming the position of the Democrat establishment. But if Mr. Lamont believes that his views on this subject reflect those of the American people, then why doesn't he give a position on the war on his campaign site?

Meet John Clarke, Candidate For State Senator

Carroll Andrew Morse

John Clarke is running for State Senate in Rhode Island’s 9th District. The 9th Senate District, which includes most of West Warwick, is currently represented by Senate Finance Chairman Stephen Alves. Anchor Rising recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Clarke and capture his pointed thoughts on the job that Senator Alves is doing, as well as a number of other subjects…

Anchor Rising: Why are you running for office?
John Clarke: I am running for office because the public needs a choice. I think we have to bring balance into the legislature. It’s way out of balance, 85%-to-15% Democrat-to-Republican.

We have to put more Republicans into the legislature, but they have to be people who are qualified for office. I believe that I’m qualified. Not only am I qualified, but I don’t come to the candidacy with any particular conflicts of interest. I’m not looking for anything except to bring good, fair and honest government to the people of the State of Rhode Island and to the constituents in the town of West Warwick.

AR: I heard you describe yourself once as an ebullient Irishman (actually, you said it a little differently). Another Irishman with some experience in politics, Tip O’Neill, once said that all politics is local. To the people of West Warwick, the casino issue is a local as well as a state issue. Do you believe that the current statehouse delegation from West Warwick is representing the interests of West Warwick when it comes to the casino?
JC: I think that the people of West Warwick are very divided. We’re going to see what the results of that are when we get the results of the election on Question #1 in November.

I don’t think that the people of West Warwick are so fully behind the concept of a casino as Representative Williamson and Senator Alves would have you believe they are. Some parts of the town do support it. Other parts are absolutely opposed to it. The fifth ward, where the casino would be built, is largely opposed to it. Many people in the first ward, where I live, which is up against the Cranston line, are not too thrilled with it. The middle of the town, the second, third, and fourth wards, varies from voter to voter. I think you will find, when it’s all said and done, perhaps a small majority, 52-53% of West Warwick residents are in favor of the casino and the other 47-48% are not.

AR: Any thoughts on the casino on its merits?
JC: I have personal thoughts on the casino. I’m sure we all do and we will all have an opportunity to express those thoughts when we get into the voting booth in November.

Personally, I’m opposed to the casino on a variety of levels. First of all, as a business, it doesn’t develop any value. All it succeeds in doing is transferring small amounts of money from individuals to a big pile of money controlled by fewer individuals. It doesn’t provide any value-added like real industry does.

At the same time, it brings with it a tremendous number of social problems that I don’t think we’re prepared to deal with. There was an article in the paper the other day that said the state of Connecticut spends about one-and-a-half million dollars per-year on their gambling addiction programs, while the State of Rhode Island was spending only $150,000, and they just cut that by 10%, so now we’re down to $135,000. We’re not prepared to even begin to look at that kind of a social problem.

As far as this concept of abating taxes, I think that it’s just not honest. I think it’s insincere. When you take a look at the overall picture, the tax situation is not going to change dramatically as a result of the casino. All it’s going to do is put a lot of money back into Harrah’s and give some money – some, not a lot – to the Narragansett Indians.

AR: One of the arguments I would expect your opponent (Stephen Alves) to make for he re-election is that as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he can do lots of good for the people of West Warwick. How would you respond?
JC: I would say that he works for UBS-Paine Webber and he’s done an awful lot of good with investments for himself by handling the money that’s been available to him as Senate Finance Chair. He’s taken good care of Stephen Alves by making a fair amount of commissions with investments of all sorts of monies from the state treasury, beginning with the Tobacco settlement.

AR: What are the other issues important to you?
JC: I have no conflict of interest. I will have only one constituency that I am responsible to; those are the voters. I’m not interested in supporting any private interests or special interests or organizational interests outside of the Rhode Islanders who put me in office and even those who don’t put me in office, those who saw it differently. Nonetheless, if I am elected, I will be their Senator too and do the best possible job that I can do.

Not belonging to the insiders’ club, I think is a very important asset. The insiders club is costing the people of the state of Rhode Island an awful lot of money. We look at things like the impediments that have been put in the way of voter initiative, of separation-of-powers, of tax-increment restrictions (two-and-a-half percent over the cost of living increases) and of other things of that nature. Those impediments have been expensive.

The legislature has been outspending itself year-after-year-after-year for many years. It’s time we began to take a look at doing some really meaningful sunset on some legislation. We’ve got to put price-tags on legislation that’s passed, and sunsets on each piece of legislation that goes through, especially if it carries a big price-tag. We have to be able to effectively and meaningfully look at legislation in terms of its dollars and cents. That’s an issue not being handled right now.

August 4, 2006

The Flawed ABA Report on Presidential Signing Statements

Carroll Andrew Morse

Don’t believe the hype that says that the American Bar Association's recent report on the use of Presidential signing statements represents a universal consensus within the legal profession. Thursday’s Boston Globe ran an op-ed by Duke Law Professor Curtis Bradley and University of Chicago Law Professor Eric Posner that asks two fundamental questions that the ABA did not address -- is it possible that Congress or the courts might do something that is unconstitutional and, if it is possible, must the President comply with unconstitutional acts...

Last week, an American Bar Association Task Force issued a head-scratching report, which concluded that ``the issuance of presidential signing statements that claim the authority or state the intention to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law the president has signed" is ``contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers." That this conclusion is false is well known to constitutional law scholars and, one assumes, to the current and former law school deans on the task force….

The task force argued, in just two pages of the 34-page report, that issuing signing statements violates the separation of powers because the president has a legal duty to enforce unconstitutional laws….

The task force disapproved of nonenforcement of unconstitutional laws without providing a clear argument or drawing out the implications of its position, which is that not just Bush but many presidents have violated ``the rule of law" and ``the principle of separation of powers." If this is the task force's view, its focus on Bush is unjustified; what it is arguing for is a major adjustment of constitutional understandings

August 3, 2006

Senators Chafee and Reed Vote to Fund Southern Border Fencing

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senators Lincoln Chafee and Jack Reed have both reversed their positions from a month ago and voted “to appropriate $1,829,100,000 for the Army National Guard for the construction of 370 miles of triple-layered fencing, and 461 miles of vehicle barriers along the southwest border” of the United States. The vote was 94-3 in favor.

Interestingly, Senator Reed voted to fund the fencing despite being one of just 16 Senators to vote against its construction back in May. Could this be a sign that there's some sort of major immigration deal being negotiated in the background?

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska was one of the 3 Senators to vote against funding the fencing, bringing his never-very-promising Presidential aspirations to a final end.

Another Suspicious Lead Paint Relationship is Revealed

Carroll Andrew Morse

Michelle Smith of the Associated Press (via is reporting on yet another suspicious insider relationship related to DuPont's release from liability in the Rhode Island lead paint case...

When the state dropped DuPont Co. from its sweeping lawsuit against former makers of lead paint last year, one of the terms was that DuPont would donate $9 million to the Children's Health Forum for clean-up and education efforts in Rhode Island.

Attorney General Patrick Lynch at the time described the group as a national nonprofit organization focused on preventing childhood exposure to lead.

What no one mentioned were the extensive ties between DuPont and Washington-based Children's Health Forum: It was founded by a lawyer hired by DuPont to work on lead poisoning issues; it received most of its funding from the Wilmington, Del.-based company and most of its board members have ties to DuPont.

Government watchdogs say the relationship between the two, not previously reported, casts a new cloud over the deal, which let DuPont out of a case that could cost other lead paint companies billions of dollars.

In case you've lost track, let's recap the whole history of unusual relationships that have been revealed in this case so far...
  • The state of Rhode Island sues five paint manufacturers, Atlantic Richfield, DuPont, Millennium Holdings, NL Industries and Sherwin-Williams for creating a "public nuisance" by selling lead paint (the companies are not tried under product liability laws because the state's case is too weak).
  • The Rhode Island Attorney General's office retains private law firms to represent the state on a contingency basis. One of the law firms is Motley-Rice. At some point, Motley-Rice pledges money to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston for reasons unrelated to the lead paint action.
  • In July of 2005, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch agrees to drop DuPont from the suit in return for DuPont donating $12,500,000 to various charities. Eventually, three of the other defendants (Millennium, NL, Sherwin) are held responsible for damages that could amount to billions.
  • Around the same time he is negotiating DuPont's relatively cheap release from the lawsuit, the lawyer and the wife of the lawyer representing DuPont donate $2,500 to Patrick Lynch's re-election campaign.
  • One charity selected to receive a payout from DuPont payout is Brigham and Women's Hospital which has no anti-lead poisoning program. According to testimony from Attorney General Lynch, they are included, at least in part, because of Motley-Rice's unfulfilled pledges unrelated to lead paint.
  • A second charity selected to receive a payout is the Children's Health Forum, described in the excerpt at the top of this post. DuPont is thus released from the case in return for transferring money to an organization that it founded and already funds.


In today's Projo, Mike Stanton and Peter B. Lord fill in more details of the DuPont-Children's Health Forum deal.

Chafee's Perilous Pragmatic Appeal to the GOP

Marc Comtois

I understand what Sen. Chafee is doing by highlighting the polling data showing that Mayor Laffey is "unelectable" should he beat Chafee in the GOP primary and face-off against Sheldon Whitehouse in the General election. As Dan Yorke pointed out today, it makes political sense to scare people a little bit. But Yorke also made the point that it seems like the Senator is playing with a double-edged sword.

The continual pounding of the message that only Senator Chafee can beat Whitehouse leaves the impression that all Chafee has to offer is that he can hold the seat for the GOP. "Vote against Laffey, not for Chafee." I'm not sure if this pragmatic approach is appealing enough to the more ideologically minded GOP primary voter. And I'm not sure if it does much to help Sen. Chafee as far as laying groundwork should he win the primary and have to face Whitehouse. By leaning so heavy on the anti-Laffey tactic, he isn't giving many reasons for the General election voter to support him. It's a tough spot.

And this all brings me to another question: how many GOP voters will vote for whomever emerges from the primary, whether it be Laffey or Chafee? There has been much back and forth (and vitriol) in the Comments of this blog between the two groups of supporters. Should Chafee win, will the Laffeyites take their ball and go home? Or throw all ideology aside and vote against Chafee due to spite, even if he is still marginally more conservative than Whitehouse? Should Laffey win, will the Chafee voters suddenly decide it's not as important to hold the GOP Senate majority as they once did--especially given that it has been their main argument for keeping Chafee?

The Limits of Compassionate Conservatism: A Problem of Message and Messenger

Carroll Andrew Morse

A professor by the name of Andrew E. Busch had an article in Tuesday’s OpinionJournal ostensibly about the failure of “compassionate conservatism”. But the article is as much about the Bush administration’s lack of effort in promoting its ideas as it is about the ideas themselves…

Mr. Bush has neglected the critical task--carried out by Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich--of advancing a public argument that connects his otherwise disparate policy decisions to a broader philosophical framework. He has failed to articulate the philosophical argument for limited government that once defined the Republican Party. At the same time he has failed to win broad acceptance for his alternative, so-called compassionate conservatism. To a large extent, he has abandoned the systematic promotion of public philosophy altogether.
Professor Busch also captures a sense of how the failure to articulate a domestic governing philosophy can lead to more pragmatic failures…
Compassionate conservatism has systematically pushed Mr. Bush toward deals in which he has gotten neither enough good policy nor enough political payoff to justify what he has had to surrender.
For those with a legitimate interest is the nature of conservatism, Professor Busch's article is a worthwhile read.

Cranston’s Ward 2 Goes Online

Carroll Andrew Morse

Say hello to, the latest entry into the Rhode Island blogosphere. is a blog based in the city of Cranston's second ward.

Elizabeth Seal has a short article in this week’s Cranston Herald about and its principal founder (and Cranston City Council candidate and, most importantly, Anchor Rising reader), Mark Lucas...

As people start using the site, Lucas said his hope is that it becomes something of a throwback to the days of sitting on front porches and shooting the breeze. As people get busier, he said, neighborhoods get more disconnected. By creating a virtual “porch” of sorts, people can participate from wherever they are and stay informed and involved.

August 2, 2006

Dictators Are Cool...Unless You Live Under Them

Marc Comtois

As Andrew pointed out, there are--and always will be--a certain set of people who love to trumpet the purportedly egalitarian societies headed by tin-pot dictators. And then we have those who've lost family members to them. Like Mike Lowell, of the Boston Red Sox:

“My dad had to pack up his suitcase at 10 years old with his three brothers, who had nothing. And my mother was 11 years old and my grandfather, who’d been a dentist for 15 or 20 years, had to go back to school to be (politically) re-educated,” Lowell said.

“My cousins were political prisoners. My father-in-law was a political prisoner for 15 years because, at 19, they asked him if he agreed with communism and he said, ‘No,’ so they sentenced him to death. That’s not the way to live. I know it’s terrible to say, but I think of all of that and I hope he (Castro) passes away.

“I don’t care if he dies,” Lowell said. “There are so many people who have died because of him and there’s been so much wrongdoing and so many human rights violations that I hope he does die. That sounds bad, but it’s the truth.”

(via Kathryn Jean Lopez)

The Republican Rapid Responders are Coming!

Carroll Andrew Morse

From the Associated Press, via WPRI-TV

A Republican group describing itself as a "strike force" of experienced campaigners is heading to Rhode Island to help Senator Lincoln Chafee….

Former state Representative Brock Bierman is coordinating the effort by the Republican Rapid Responders. They'll arrive in the final weeks before the September 12th primary.

Chafee angered many Republicans by voting against President Bush's tax cuts, the Iraq War and the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. But the Republican National Committee still backs Chafee.

An extended version of the AP story includes these details…
Republican Rapid Responders is a Virginia-based group formed in 2004 to help re-elect President Bush. Bierman described its members as "political junkies" who are interested in getting Republicans elected and preserving the party's majority in the Senate….

It sent an e-mail to members Monday asking them to volunteer in Rhode Island for at least five days -- and as much as two weeks -- before the primary. Rhode Island Victories, an arm of the state Republican Party, will pay volunteers' expenses, including airfare, lodging and food.

The volunteers will focus on door-to-door campaigning, making phone calls and getting Chafee supporters to the polls.

At least according to the FEC website, Chafee-Rhode Island Victory is technically a non-party multicandidate political action committee. And as Bill Reynolds might say, there's no truth to the rumor that the state party is now an arm of the Chafee campaign.

Anti-American Dictators and the Progressives who Love Them

Carroll Andrew Morse

Today’s Projo has a stupid op-ed celebrating the supposedly democratic virtues of modern Venezuelan fascist Hugo Chavez…

The U.S. Press often repeats U.S. government propaganda, rather than analyze and accurately report events in Venezuela. Democratically elected President Hugo Chavez is subjected to numerous false allegations and innuendoes. For example, a New York Times editorial concluded, amidst a failed coup attempt in April 2002, that "Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator."
The fact that the authors are accusing the New York Times of being part of the vast right wing conspiracy should raise a red flag right away.

Since the authors of the op-ed are obviously the sort willing to either excuse or ignore any action by a dictator so long as that dictator is anti-American, let me present just a few of the undisputed facts about how Hugo Chavez destroyed democracy in Venezuela and propose a simple test. Ask yourself what your reaction would be (and for even more fun, you can speculate about what the reaction of the typical Hugo Chavez defender would be) if President George Bush applied any of the steps below in the United States. Then ask yourself why Chavez apologists don’t think Venezuelans deserve the same freedoms that Americans do...

  • Chavez called a constitutional convention which declared it was illegal for Venezuela's elected congress to meet and eventually replaced the elected congress in mid-term.
  • Chavez established a “judicial emergency committee” that had the power to remove judges without consulting any other branch of government.
  • Chavez has tried to use a nationwide referendum to remove the leadership of Venezuela’s labor unions (is there any more obvious case of progressives saying “screw our principles; we’ll support anyone who’s anti-American” than this one?)
  • Chavez signed laws censoring the free press
    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,
    …and requiring television and radio stations to carry up to sixty minutes of government programming.
There’s no logic to supporting Hugo Chavez except the logic of supporting dictators because of, not in spite of, the fact they are anti-American.

Kerry King Names Names

Carroll Andrew Morse

Kerry King, candidate for the Rhode Island Lieutenant Governorship, is being very specific when talking about a culture of corruption in Rhode Island. Mr. King has called on state legislators Joseph Montalbano, Timothy Williamson, Raymond Gallison and Grace Diaz to resign for what he believes to be violations of the state constitution's ethics clause (Article III, section 7)…

Ethical conduct. -- The people of the state of Rhode Island believe that public officials and employees must adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct, respect the public trust and the rights of all persons, be open, accountable and responsive, avoid the appearance of impropriety and not use their position for private gain or advantage. Such persons shall hold their positions during good behavior.

In a press release, the King campaign laid out the following reasons for naming the four legislators…

  • Representative Tim Williamson - Has played the role of a West Warwick Town Solicitor and chief advocate for the Harrah's/ Narragansett Indian casino deal. His law firm has billed the town over $600,000. Harrah's has then contributed over $1,000,000 to the town to help with the expenses of casino advocacy. Williamson is also pushing the General Assembly to amend the Constitution to give Harrah's the exclusive right to build a casino in West Warwick.
  • Senate President Montalbano - The State Ethics Commission voted to investigate Montalbano for failing to disclose that he worked as a lawyer for the Town Of West Warwick while he was supporting pro casino legislation at the state house earning, over $86,000 in fees.
  • Representative Ray Gallison - Gallison receives over $50,000 per year as an employee of Alternative Education Programming that is funded each year by a legislative grant of $280,000. He serves on the House Finance Committee and is joined by retired URI employee Leo Di Maio, who is also paid over $50,000 per year. Di Maio has had consulting contracts from former disgraced Speaker of the House, John Harwood.
  • Representative Grace Diaz – Is the owner of a day care center funded with state dollars. RI is the only state in the US to provide state subsidized day care to the tune of $80,000,000 per year. Last year union bosses tried to ram through a bill that would have unionized the workers, most of whom work out of their homes.
In the Pawtucket Times' coverage Mr. King's anti-corruption platform, Jim Baron has reactions from Representatives Williamson and Gallison, as well as a general reaction from House Speaker William Murphy.

Mr. King proposes the following six changes to reduce the influence of special interests on the government…
  1. Prohibit General Assembly members and their business firms from representing special interests with business before the State or local towns and cities
  2. Prohibit all elected municipal and state officials from accepting contributions from anyone doing business with state or local governments.
  3. Ban businesses owned by state or municipal officials from doing business with local or state governments.
  4. Require that all the State’s constitutional officers have no outside business interests whatsoever.
  5. Disallow any General Assembly member from serving as an employee, officer or Board member of any organization funded with a state grant.
  6. Stop union officers from serving on the Boards of state sponsored organizations or companies that do business with state or local governments.
…as well as six steps to improve the enforcement of both new and existing anti-corruption law…
  1. Create within the Attorney General’s Office a Public Corruption Unit dedicated solely to investigating and prosecuting corruption.
  2. Give the Public Corruption Unit the tools it needs to catch violators: lawyers, investigators, accountants and budget. (In the real world, you can’t fight corruption without the proper resources)
  3. In cases where a conflict exists within the Attorney General’s Office, appoint outside special counsel to investigate and prosecute.
  4. Pay big rewards for information leading to corruption convictions, say $100,000. And grant whistle-blowers anonymity. In doing so, end the problem where people are afraid of reporting crime or think it’s just not worth it.
  5. Create a stronger working relationship involving the local FBI, the AG office, and the State Ethics Commission to share leads, evidence, and investigative and prosecutorial resources. (The FBI nationally accounts for 80% of all state-level corruption convictions. Imagine how much better state agencies could do with FBI collaboration and vise versa.
  6. Create a “Drop a Dime on Corruption” hotline. Then share hotline reports with the FBI/AG/ Ethics Commission partnership.
Mr. King intends to send his “Rhode Island Anti-Corruption Plan” to every “Rhode Island legislative office seeker and holder”, along with a pledge card that reads as follows…
By signing this document I agree that we have to change Rhode Island’s negative image of political corruption. It is the largest stain on our proud state’s reputation. This is not a partisan issue, it’s an ethic’s issue and we must become the state with the most open and accountable state government in America. We also must work to ensure that our children and grandchildren do not have to suffer because of the misdeeds of unethical politicians.

Today I am signing onto the “Rhode Island Anti-Corruption Plan” and will serve as a co-sponsor of this legislation when I am sworn into office in January.”

August 1, 2006

More From Senator Reed on Iraq

Carroll Andrew Morse

In today's Projo, John E. Mulligan reports on Senator Jack Reed’s Monday lecture at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies on the situation in Iraq…

Reed's tone during the speech and the question session that followed seemed darker than it had in discussions of Iraq only a few weeks ago.
Perhaps witnessing the discussion in person revealed a different tone, but the prepared text of Senator Reed's lecture doesn't present an assessment of the Iraq war that is significantly darker than his other recent assessments. The Senator did express concern about the progress of "Operation Forward Together", the current attempt to secure Baghdad…
Over the last few weeks, we have seen a significant surge of violence in Baghdad, a state of emergency declared by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Basra, and continued violence in the Sunni Triangle. One must recognize that there are areas of relative calm in Iraq, most noticeably in the Kurdish region….The violence in Baghdad is taking place after Operation Forward Together, a commitment of approximately 50,000 additional security forces charged with the specific mission to end such violence. Operation Forward Together's current failure is ominous.
However, most of the problems described by Senator Reed, as well as his proposed solutions, were consistent with what he has been saying for several months now.

1. The most important thing that the US needs to do, the Senator continues to say (and he is not alone), is provide more resources for the civil reconstruction of Iraq…

In my view, the most decisive factor that the United States has in influencing a favorable outcome is our attention to the non-military needs of Iraq from its economic development to its political maturation as a pluralistic government. And, it is this effort that has been most lacking and is most likely to be given short shrift as budget pressures and other looming crisis constrain our efforts in Iraq…

A great part of [Iraqi Prime Minister] Maliki's problem and our problem is that reconstruction efforts and capacity building have gone so poorly that few benefits can be associated by the Iraqi people with his government and our continued presence. There is still widespread recognition that the United States removed a homicidal tyrant from Iraq, but rampant violence, ineffective governance, limited public services and significant unemployment are replacing profound appreciation with growing frustration and anger.

The United States has spent roughly thirty billion dollars to aid in the reconstruction of Iraq. But, there is shockingly little to show for it. Much of the money was eaten up by security costs. Too much of it was lost through incompetence and corruption. Indeed, with daily reports of mismanagement of these reconstruction activities, there is a real question whether the Bush Administration has the capacity or the willingness to create the capacity to ever make a decisive contribution to the physical and institutional reconstruction of Iraq. Without such an effort, our military sacrifices will be undone.

1b. In the full report Senator Reed prepared after his trip, he goes into more detail about bureaucratic problems that our government is having in supporting the war effort…
The civilian effort in Iraq has been hobbled from the beginning by an inability to harness sufficient numbers of Americans with appropriate expertise. This is a function of the bureaucratic culture of American civilian agencies, and the failure of the Administration to change that culture with appropriate incentives.

The most obvious aspect is the fact that duty in Iraq is still voluntary and that the incentive structure of most agencies gives no special credit to the importance and danger of serving in Iraq....

I pointed out the continuing inability to field Provincial Reconstruction Teams (“PRTs”) throughout Iraq. This is despite the fact that the State Department proclaimed with great fanfare last November that soon there would be sixteen PRTs throughout Iraq.

Satterfield responded that there are now five teams.

2. Senator Reed noted again that the violence in Iraq is not being driven by foreign jihadists, but by sectarian rivalries…
We should also realize that the character of the violence is changing. As General Abizaid pointed out, the violence is more about sectarian strife rather than insurgent activity. This sectarian violence raises the specter of civil war, a battle for political control not instigated by international jihadists but by Iraqis claiming their position in the new Iraq.
3. The Senator did sound an ominous note regarding the state of our military. They have done and are continuing to do their job well, but could be “broken” if operations have to continue much longer on the current scale…
Aside from political reverberations, there is another ominous consequence of our continuing operation in Iraq. Our land forces, both Army and Marines, are stretched to the breaking point, and they could break without immediate assistance. I want to reiterate that our military personnel are doing a superb job every day, and they will continue to do so. But, the wear and tear of today's operations needs to be addressed or the long term consequences will be severe.
4. Finally, Senator Reed deserves credit for expressly rejecting the premise that everything bad in the world has its roots in something that the United States did…
It would be off the mark to suggest that all of our problems in the world are a result of the Administration's missteps in Iraq.

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

Carroll Andrew Morse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chafee/Laffey Debate Schedule

Carroll Andrew Morse

In case you missed it, here’s the debate schedule agreed upon between Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey …

  • Thursday, August 10, 5-6 pm, WHJJ 920-AM (The Arlene Violet Show)
  • Thursday, August 17, 5-6 pm , WPRO 630-AM (The Dan Yorke Show)
  • Wednesday, August 23, 7-8 pm, WPRI-TV Channel 12
  • Thursday, August 24, 7-8 pm, WJAR-TV Channel 10