November 30, 2006

Against Linguistic Talismans

Justin Katz

Earlier today, Marc noted the "neat little trick" whereby "moderates" and those to their left claim to tolerate everybody except the intolerant and then define as intolerant anybody with whom they disagree. To my ear, there's something similar in the recently vogue usage of the term "mandate," as in:

"The election did show that there's a mandate to expand embryonic stem cell research," Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Putting aside the issue of embryonic stem cell research, what DeGette's statement highlights is the evolution of "mandate" into a linguistic proof of legitimacy — the implication being that a proven mandate requires our representatives to pursue, or not pursue, a particular policy. Thus, despite the inevitable ambiguity of election results, one side insists that representatives must support a particular cause, or the president must not do as he sees fit when it comes to national security. The side that wins is that which is able to declare most loudly and frequently the yea or nay on a mandate.

Our system would be more effective, I'd say, if representatives did whatever they felt to be right and then faced the consequences, or reaped the benefits, with voters in the next election. Of course, it would also be more effective if the average voter were sufficiently well informed to have his or her own preferred policies and, therewith, a certain immunity to code-word talismans.

If Medicare Part "D" Ain't Broke, Will Sen. Whitehouse Still Try to Fix it?

Marc Comtois

I remember during the recent RI Senate race that Senator-elect Whitehouse made much of Healthcare, and, in particular, the "broken" Medicare Part "D" program (prescription drugs). In fact, it was number one on his Health Care reform To-Do list. While he was holding "the hands of seniors who are desperately afraid that they’ll wake up one day to find that the medicines they need the most are beyond their reach,” Whitehouse proposed that the Medicare Part "D" plan be "scrapped" and cited the Washington Post, which reported "only 1.4 million people – a fraction of the 8 million eligible – have signed up for the new benefit, despite a $400 million campaign by the Bush administration."

Well, now the Washington Post (via Barone) has reported this:

It sounded simple enough on the campaign trail: Free the government to negotiate lower drug prices and use the savings to plug a big gap in Medicare's new prescription-drug benefit. But as Democrats prepare to take control of Congress, they are struggling to keep that promise without wrecking a program that has proven cheaper and more popular than anyone imagined...

Polls indicate that more than 80 percent of enrollees are satisfied, even though nearly half chose plans with no coverage in the doughnut hole, a gap that opens when a senior's drug costs reach $2,250 and closes when out-of-pocket expenses reach $3,600. By the latest estimates, 3 million to 4 million seniors will hit the doughnut hole this year and pay full price for drugs while also paying drug-plan premiums.

The cost of the program has been lower than expected, about $26 billion in 2006, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The cost was projected to rise to $45 billion next year, but Medicare has received new bids indicating that its average per-person subsidy could drop by 15 percent in 2007, to $79.90 a month.

Urban Institute President Robert D. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, called that a remarkable record for a new federal program.

Initially, he said, people were worried no private plans would participate. "Then too many plans came forward," Reischauer said. "Then people said it's going to cost a fortune. And the price came in lower than anybody thought. Then people like me said they're low-balling the prices the first year and they'll jack up the rates down the line. And, lo and behold, the prices fell again. And the reaction was, 'We've got to have the government negotiate lower prices.' At some point you have to ask: What are we looking for here?"

Oooh, I know, I know! An election year issue to scare senior citizens!

Jim Baron Says Take Down the Big Tents

Carroll Andrew Morse

Offering a decidedly contrarian viewpoint (relative to the usual MSM perspective), Pawtucket Times columnist Jim Baron comes out against political parties that are big tents…

The Republican and Democratic parties long ago stopped standing for any particular ideology or principle. Both have determined to become "Big Tents" attracting any voters they can. They have become about nothing more than their side winning the election and seizing the power and getting the fundraising advantage. If it is going to be one side or the other in charge, each wants it to be them. Philosophies be damned; the parties want to get their hands on the levers of power and keep them there. Nothing else is important....

So all of politics, and by extension, government, is the gang of R's fighting over power, turf and perks with the gang of D's, and everyone else - more than half of all Americans; more than half of all Rhode Islanders - matter not at all.

And you wonder why apathy about government and politics is so rampant that most people don't bother to vote, that most sane and grounded people can't be convinced to run for office to try to change things.

In his column, he also comes out against straight-ticket voting, choosing candidates through primaries, and maybe even political parties in general.

I’d like to submit for consideration one other contrarian observation (relative to the usual MSM perspective) to those sympathetic to Mr. Baron’s viewpoint. A large part of the mechanistic vulgarization of politics that Mr. Baron describes is a natural outgrowth of government becoming big, intrusive and expensive. Once government takes control of a huge chunk of resources, either directly through taxation or indirectly through regulation, human nature dictates that rival gangs, focused on grabbing those resources for themselves, will form.

Reduce the amount of power controlled by the government monopoly, and you’ll reduce the number of hands grasping at the levers of government for power's sake alone.

Oil Prices and Saudi Options in Iraq

Carroll Andrew Morse

An adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (who is also an advisor to the government of Saudi Arabia, BTW) offers some fascinating insight into the political economy of oil prices in the Middle East. Writing in the Washington Post, Nawaf Obaid explains that if the United States cuts-and-runs from Iraq, the Saudis will not stand idly by if either the Shi’ite dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or any of Iraq’s various Shi’ite militias embark on an ethnic cleansing campaign against Iraq’s Sunnis (h/t Rich Lowry). Because of their oil wealth, the Saudis have a number of options…

Options now include providing Sunni military leaders (primarily ex-Baathist members of the former Iraqi officer corps, who make up the backbone of the insurgency) with the same types of assistance -- funding, arms and logistical support -- that Iran has been giving to Shiite armed groups for years.

Another possibility includes the establishment of new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed militias. Finally, [Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah] may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half, the kingdom could still finance its current spending. But it would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even with today's high prices. The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere.

Remember, Saudi manipulations to lower oil prices would serve a second Saudi objective, lessening the urgency being felt in much in the United States for developing oil alternatives -- alternatives that could permanently lower the price of Saudi crude.

Then again, both motivations -- impeding Iran and stifling interest in new energy sources -- already justify a Saudi-engineered oil price drop, so it has to be asked why it hasn't happened already. (Certainly, there has been a drop over the past few months, but Mr. Obaid's article suggests that the Saudi domestic economy could easily absorb an even further decline). Could it be that it is important for the Saudis to see the US defeated, necessary to assauge domestic political considerations, before they take action?

Finally, including Saudi Arabia's long-term interests in the picture perhaps makes the refusal of Prime Minister Maliki to confront Iraq's Shi'ite militias just a tad more understandable. Knowing the Saudis are ready to surge aid to the Sunnis the moment the U.S leaves, he may already be preparing for his next war against a Saudi/Iraq Sunni alliance, if he believes that the United States is now destined to abandon him in his current war.

Bleeding the (Blue)blood out of the New England GOP

Marc Comtois

First, the New York Times focuses the soft-filter lense on the now dwindling ranks of GOP moderates in New England and :

It was a species as endemic to New England as craggy seascapes and creamy clam chowder: the moderate Yankee Republican.

Dignified in demeanor, independent in ideology and frequently blue in blood, they were politicians in the mold of Roosevelt and Rockefeller: socially tolerant, environmentally enthusiastic, people who liked government to keep its wallet close to its vest and its hands out of social issues like abortion and, in recent years, same-sex marriage...

Then they let the moderates explain that they're the real conservatives:
Walter Peterson, a former New Hampshire governor and lifelong Republican, this year became the co-chairman of Republicans for John Lynch, the incumbent Democratic governor.

“What the people want is basically to feel like the candidates of a political party are working for the people, not just following some niche issues,” Mr. Peterson said. “The old traditional Republican Party was conservative on small government, efficient government; believed in supporting people to give them a chance at life but not having people on the dole; wanted a balanced budget; and on social issues they were moderate, tolerant, live and let live. They didn’t dislike somebody from other religious viewpoints.”

He continued, “That was the old-fashioned conservative, but the word conservative today has been bastardized.”

I'm afraid that Mr. Peterson is the one "bastardizing" the meaning of the word. His apparent complaint that today's conservatives "dislike [people] from other religious viewpoints” stands out as the primary difference in his functional description of "what it means to be a Republican" and that of most contemporary conservatives. Together with the linkage of "live and let live" with "moderate" and "tolerant"--such a neat little trick--the comment reveals that the real axe he and other moderates have to grind is that they look down their blue-veined noses at people who actually have a religious viewpoint. In short, live and let live unless you're a right wing, religious nut. Very tolerant of them.

As a practical, pragmatic and political matter, the various New England GOPs need to have a much bigger tent than their counterparts in, say, the south. Yet, they also have to recognize that the conservatives who are (seemingly) at the lower, rank-and-file level of the party are tired of being ignored. We're smart enough to realize that compromises have to be made. Maybe it's time that the bluebloods realize that, too.

Finally, the Times offers Senator Chafee as Exhibit "A":

I’m caught between the state party, which I’m very comfortable in, and the national party, which I’m not,” said Mr. Chafee, adding that he was considering the merits of “sticking it out and hoping the pendulum swings back.”
Sheesh, Senator. "Sticking it out"? Could he be any more complacent? If he really wants to hold elective office again, he has to be proactive, seize the bull by the horns and start working now. A good place to start would be to put his time and money where his rhetoric is and help build the RI GOP. Don't start waiting. Start doing. (And remember to be tolerant and open-minded, K?)

November 29, 2006

Plan to Help the Homeless? Make Sure the Government Allows it First

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the Washington Post, the government of Fairfax County, Virginia has decreed that individuals cannot give homemade food to homeless people without first obtaining government approval…

The casserole has been canned.

Under a tough new Fairfax County policy, residents can no longer donate food prepared in their homes or a church kitchen -- be it a tuna casserole, sandwiches or even a batch of cookies -- unless the kitchen is approved by the county, health officials said yesterday.

I’m not sure what political philosophy the individual or panel who made this decision believes in, but the Fairfax decree sums up the modern liberal (actually progressive) ideal of a strong state quite well – in the ideal, all human interaction (outside of sexual relations in the home) will first be sanctioned by the government.

Yes, the rules in Fairfax County are an extreme case (for now), but they embody the preferred approach of modern liberalism towards almost every domestic civic and economic problem there is. Want individuals to give food to the homeless? Sorry, can’t be done. Someone might bake a bad tuna casserole, so it’s best to limit hunger relief to government approved facilities only (even if it means that fewer people get fed). Want individuals to be able to choose the schools best for their kids? Sorry, can’t be done. Someone might make a bad choice for his or her child, so it’s best to have the government choose a school for them (even if it means that fewer people get a quality education). Want to let individuals put their Social Security in individual retirement accounts? Sorry, can’t be done. Someone might not invest wisely, so it’s best to let the government hold their savings, and give it back to them when the government deems the time to be right (even if it means putting the younger generation into a system destined for bankruptcy). Et cetera. Et. cetera. Et. cetera.

Further commentary on Fairfax County’s insanity is available from Jonah Goldberg, John J. Miller, and (in pro-active fashion) Donald B. Hawthorne.

Froma Harrop Advocates Market-Based Solutions (For a Fleeting Moment)

Carroll Andrew Morse

In an op-ed in today’s Projo, Froma Harrop invokes the name of Milton Friedman in arguing for drug legalization…

I was alone on a New York subway platform, when a man started toward me. His glassy eyes foretold what was to happen. He pointed at the flute case I was carrying and said, "Give it to me”....

I didn't need Milton Friedman, a Nobel laureate who died on Nov. 16, to explain the economics involved. My mugger obviously had a drug habit made very expensive by the fact that his narcotic was illegal. Were his drug legal, he might have been able to buy it for the price of celery, in which case he wouldn't have needed me. He could have found the required change under seat cushions.

As a pure economic transaction, the mugging was most inefficient…

Alas, by the end of the column, any implied endorsement that market-based principles have a serious place in the formulation of government policy as more than a dash of rhetorical window dressing is entirely lost…
Try this instead: Put the drug dealers and narco-terrorists out of business by providing free drugs to our addicted populations. That way, we know who the abusers are and can offer them treatment. And those who persist in their addiction wouldn't have to prey on the rest of us for drug money.
It's safe to say that government subsidies for narcotics would not be consistent with the views championed by Professor Friedman.

Still, this is progress of a sort. Maybe we can look forward to some future Froma Harrop columns where she will be supporting market-based ideas in education reform, health care reform, and retirement income reform -- even if it's only for half of a column!

Paying Taxes: For Little People, Not State Legislators

Carroll Andrew Morse

And since the title of the previous post is based on a quote from legendary hotel magnate Leona Helmsley…

We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes,
… it should be noted that State Represenatative Bruce Long (R-Jamestown/Middletown) appears to believe that he has also left the ranks of the little people. According to a WJAR-TV report by Jim Taricani ("I-Team: Lawmaker Admits Failing to Pay Taxes"), Rep. Long has gone several years without paying business income taxes on the revenue generated by several Del’s lemonade outlets that he owns.

Rhode Island’s Open Meetings Law: For Little People, Not State Legislators

Carroll Andrew Morse

An unbylined story in today’s Projo, working off of a report issued by the Rhode Island Secretary of State's office, fills in some details about how the Rhode Island legislature regularly conducts the people's business in a less-than-transparent manner…

On his way out the door, Secretary of State Matthew Brown has given state lawmakers a D grade for compliance with the law intended to keep government meetings open to the public.
  • House committees complied with the 48-hour advance notice requirements in the state’s Open Meetings Law only 57 percent of the time during the six-month legislation session that ended in late June – and that was a slight improvement over last year’s 52 percent score.
  • Senate compliance dropped from 76 percent in 2005 to 67 percent.
  • At 63 percent, this year’s overall score for the General Assembly was the lowest since 1998, when former Secretary of State James Langevin, who is now Rhode Island’s 2nd District congressman in Washington, issued “Access Denied: Chaos, Confusion and Closed Doors,” the first in a series of annual reports on legislative compliance with this centerpiece of the state’s open-government laws.
By posting no notice of a meeting, or posting a notice that goes up so late that few see it in time, a legislative committee can effectively eliminate all but lobbyists and other insiders from involvement at key points in the legislative process....

But the secretary of state’s analysis found that particular committees, on occasion, posted far more bills on a single evening’s agenda than House rules allow, and, worse, posted rolling multiday calendars that make it impossible for anyone — outside the ranks of plugged-in professional lobbyists — to know which day a bill might actually come up for a hearing.

However, in an addition to complying with already-existing public meeting laws, an equally important reform for the legislature to undertake would be to make committee proceedings (especially vote tallies on amendments and motions to kill bills) available online.

The professional staff of the Rhode Island legislature does an excellent job of making the details of floor proceedings available in widely accessable electronic form in a timely manner. They should be allowed to expand their role and apply their knowledge and experience in fast-reporting of legislative activities to committee actions, so the public can more easily learn who has supported what during the committee process.

November 28, 2006

Will Chavez's Venezuela be the First Victim of Declining Oil Prices?

Carroll Andrew Morse

As we’ve been forecasting at Anchor Rising, declining oil prices are starting to impact the international landscape. This is from a Reuters report on how declining oil prices are increasing the stresses on the government of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez…

A decline in Venezuela's energy revenue could dog President Hugo Chavez if he is re-elected as expected on Sunday, curbing his self-styled socialist revolution that relies heavily on high oil income…

First, the sector's output is shrinking for the first time in years -- bad news for a government that earns more than half of its revenue from the industry.

Second, while Mr. Chavez has said he needs the average price for Venezuela's basket of generally sludgy crude to be at $50 per barrel, a four-month slide pushed the price below that floor last week despite his promotion of OPEC cuts…

Also alarming is that private oil sector activity contracted by 11 per cent in the third quarter compared with the year-ago quarter.

What the Reuters article is hinting at, but not quite saying, is that Chavez’s heavy-handed rule -- including politically motivated firings at the state run-oil company -- has been alienating Venezuela's professionals and skilled laborers, driving the knowledge base necessary for running a modern oil industry away from the country.

And the effect has been magnified. Many former Venezuelan oil-industry workers have settled in Alberta, where they are using their expertise in refining “generally sludgy crude” to help Canada develop its tremendous heavy-oil potential. This relates very directly to the reason that OPEC is resisting production cuts proposed by Chavez; most of the OPEC nations understand that high oil prices will accelerate the development of oil alternatives, ultimately reducing the demand for conventionally obtained oil. (And somewhere in heaven, Milton Friedman smiles).

According to Reuters, the bottom line is that…

"[Chavez's] heavy levels of social spending eventually start to cut into oil field investment," said Maya Hernandez, an analyst with HSBC in New York. "Chavez's popularity rests so much on oil that any weakening in that area will hit him hard”….

If oil revenue falls in 2007 -- either because of lower production or falling prices -- Mr. Chavez may face either runaway inflation or the need to cut government spending.

Furthermore, on top of the industrial woe, there is scant evidence that Chavez's "social spending" choices are improving the quality of life in Venezuela. Instead, Venezuelans are becomming increasingly victimized by violent crime. This is from an article by Sacha Feinman from yesterday's Slate Magazine
According to the United Nations, Venezuela recently passed Brazil to claim the dubious honor of having the highest rate of gun-related violence in the world among nations not at war....Lost in the media coverage of Venezuelan oil and Hugo Chávez's colorful antics is the fact that over the last decade, Caracas has become a very dangerous place to live. Colombia might have the history, and Brazil might make splashier headlines, but Venezuela has quietly eclipsed both its neighbors in levels of violent street crime. Unlike Colombia's narco-guerrillas or the heavily armed gangs in the favelas of Rio and São Paulo, crime in Caracas is indiscriminate; it has more to do with anarchy and the failure of infrastructure than it does organized, armed groups challenging the government's monopoly on the use of force.
A runaway murder rate is not a sign that the social agenda being implemented is a healthy one.

Finally, this past weekend, several hundred thousand people, at least, turned out in Caracas to protest the Chavez government and to express support for his opponent in the upcoming Venezuelan Presidential election -- despite the fact the Chavez attemped to close the city off to outsiders. Hundreds of thousands don’t turn out to protest in a country where things are going well for the common folk. The bad news is that Chavez is likely to lash out ever more erratically as the collapse that he is bringing upon his country accelerates.

Rhode Islander Nails Popular Science Award

Marc Comtois

Heather M. Lightner in the Jamestown Press:

Every year the editors of Popular Science review thousands of new products and technologies in order to find 100 breakthroughs in 10 different categories: automotive, computing, gadgets, home entertainment, personal health, aviation and space, engineering, home, recreation, and general innovation. This year, in addition to the "Best of What's New" award, the magazine also honored one product as the overall outstanding "Innovation of the Year" award - an award that belongs to Jamestown resident Ed Sutt and his innovative HurriQuake nail.

Sutt, who is the engineering manager of fastener technology at Bostitch in East Greenwich, has been studying the relationship between wind velocity and the failure of wood frame houses since his time at Clemson University, where he earned a PhD in civil engineering. Six years at Bostitch and hundreds of prototypes later, Sutt, also known as Dr. Nail, developed the Hurri- Quake nail, a nail that holds promise of reducing damage to buildings in the event of a hurricane or an earthquake.

Compared to standard sheathing nails, the HurriQuake nail offers up to twice the resistance to high-wind conditions, also referred to as uplift capacity. Two independent laboratory tests found that the HurriQuake nail can withstand uplift forces of up to 271 pounds per square foot. With its 25 percent larger nail head and unique geometric ring designed shank, the high-tech nails can withstand wind conditions and gusts of up to 170 miles per hour.

(OK, thanks for letting me scratch my engineering itch).

Achorn: GOP Lost to Dems Get Out The (Straight-Party) Vote Effort

Marc Comtois

Edward Achorn backs up what many have already concluded: the Democrat margins of victory were attributable to straight-party (mostly Harrah's "inspired") voters:

On Nov. 7, the straight-party system worked its wonders for Rhode Island Democrats. Some 61,357 voters cast a straight-party ballot for the Democrats -- a whopping increase of more than 23,000, or about two-thirds, over the last midterm election. Only 18,424 cast straight ballots for Republicans.

That obviously gave Mr. Whitehouse a dramatic boost, and quite possibly the winning edge. Subtract the straight-party ballots, and Mr. Chafee beat Mr. Whitehouse handily. It appears that Mr. Chafee was the preference of voters who actually took the time to mark their ballots for either candidate....

The people who really suffered, though, were down the ballot -- the reformers trying to bring more balance to the General Assembly. They got swept away in the flood. Many of the casual voters who went straight-ticket -- and thus returned the local incumbent to power -- probably never heard of either candidate in those races.

Brown University Let's the Evangelicals Back In

Marc Comtois

After telling the Reformed University Fellowship that they wouldn't be allowed on campus just, well, "because," Brown University has had a change of heart. But they still haven't been forthcoming as to why the RUF was banned in the first place.

Yesterday, Ethan Wingfield, president of the Reformed University Fellowship, said he was pleased at the Brown administration's decision. "I think it is fantastic. It is an absolutely positive step. I'm glad we are back in contact and talking and working on a resolution."

The campus religious group, which has about 100 members, is affiliated with Trinity Presbyterian Church, an evangelical congregation in Providence.

Restoration of the fellowship's status as a campus group means that its members can hold meetings on campus, advertise meetings and use campus space for speakers.

While Wingfield said he was pleased with the university's new tack, he said he is also disappointed because he believes the university wasn't specific about why the group was suspended in the first place.

"We still haven't been told why we were suspended," said Wingfield.

Leaders of the group say they were given different reasons for the action. At first they were told that Trinity Presbyterian, the local sponsor, had withdrawn support, which it had not, according to the Rev. David Sherwood, Trinity pastor.

Then they were told that it was because the group's former leader had been late in submitting the paperwork required to be established as a campus organization. The third reason given, according to fellowship leaders, was the most puzzling, they said. The Rev. Allen Callahan, Protestant chaplain, asserted they were "possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty that has rendered all collegial relations with my office impossible."

...The Rev. Ms. Cooper Nelson has laid out four steps that the fellowship must take to be reinstated, including filing forms on time and communicating with "full transparency" to the Rev. Mr. Callahan.

Wingfield said the standards set by the Rev. Ms. Cooper Nelson are not onerous and are pretty much what is expected of other campus organizations which seek university sanction and use of university facilities. "All we want to do is be on campus," said Wingfield, who said the fellowship is looking forward to reinstatement, "as soon as we can get this resolved."

Kudos to the RUF for sticking it out. If they hadn't gone public, I think Brown would have been happy to have swept it under the rug. Of course, given this outcome, I now wonder whether it is the RUF or the University that was "possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty."

November 27, 2006

Mayor Avedesian, the RI GOP and the "Drift to the Right" Bogeyman

Marc Comtois

This past Friday, John Howell of the Warwick Beacon reported:

While Republican candidates across the state and the country were washed away, Warwick’s Mayor Scott Avedisian not only withstood the pull of the outgoing tide, but defied the odds by notching a nearly 68 percent win over challenger Donald Torres...

“He’s really studied government, so he does a good job,” [RI GOP Chair Patricia] Morgan said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Morgan said Avedisian takes his job seriously, doesn’t let his ego take control and works to solve problems. She called Avedisian a “rising star” and said he is “destined for statewide office,” whether in a run for a seat that would take him to Washington or the State House...

Avedisian gained a greater percentage of the Warwick vote than any other candidate, with the exception of Congressman James Langevin and Frank Caprio, candidate for general treasurer.

Such a showing would appear to give Avedisian not only a viable shot at a statewide office, but a commanding position in the party’s ranks.

Morgan continued on her recent "Perfect Storm" riff and blamed the Laffey candidacy for splintering the party. When asked, Avedesian said he wasn't seeking a leadership role within the GOP. But then he had to go and say "it."
Avedisian holds out great hope for the party, observing it was “on the verge of extinction in 1974” and has held the governor’s job for the last 16 years. But he says, “It is increasingly difficult when the party drifts to the right.”

He doesn’t agree with efforts to take the party to the right.

“I think that’s the wrong way to go,” he said, “we need to come to the middle and the principles the party was founded on.” {emphasis added}

Governing a city is an entirely different animal than legislting or operating on the state-level. It demands much more pragmatism than ideology and Mayor Avedesian has been an effective leader in Warwick. Yet, before he sets his sights on higher office, I hope he reconsiders his apparent distaste with what I believe is an over-generalized caraciture of "the right."

For every time I've heard Morgan talk about welcoming those from across the ideological spectrum into the RI GOP, I've also heard fearmongering about how a conservative turn or a "drift to the right" (usually with an overt linking of Steve Laffey to a grassroots conservative movement within the RI GOP ranks) is bad for the Party. I urge Avedesian, Morgan and others within the RI GOP hierarchy not to fall prey to over simplifications: disapproval of Senator Chafee doesn't make one "un-moderate" nor does being conservative automatically equate to being a Laffey supporter.

I suppose that my first question is: what exactly are these "principles the party was founded on" I keep hearing about that "the right", apparently, won't seek to uphold? Perhaps they are the principles that Senator Chafee listed after his Senate loss: "fiscal responsibility, environmental stewardship, aversion to foreign entanglements, personal liberties." If so, I think that Mayor Avedesian's fear that a "drift to the right" will endanger them is misplaced. For the most part those on the "right" may disagree with "moderates" on the best way to maintain--and implement policy reflective of--those principles, but not the principles themselves.

If the RI GOP seeks to be a big tent as it claims, shouldn't it consider actually listening to traditional conservatives who are often the most committed individuals within the GOP ranks (hint: grassroots)? Then again, too many in the old-guard RI GOP don't really seem to care. No, I fear that a "drift to the right" is a not-too-subtle warning that anti-abortion, traditional marriage suppportin' ("redneck") theocons need not apply. Apparently, you can't be anti-abortion and pro-environment or fiscally responsible at the same time. Who's applying the litmus test now?

If such a message continues to be sent, the current RI GOP will get their wish. Instead of a RI GOP that could be revitalized with an infusion of new blood and ideas from the heretofore ignored "right," the party will continue to be nothing more than the "yeah, but...", Democrat-lite party it is now. All that Rhode Island conservatives ask is that they get a seat at the table to take part in the discussion about the future direction of the Party. Given that nothing else seems to be working, the RI GOP would be fools to pull a Heisman on them now.

But need I say more?

November 25, 2006

Healey: Question 1 Results Prove Viability of Voter Initiative

Marc Comtois

Robert Healey, Cool Moose Party Lt. Governor candidate, writes in a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in Friday's Warwick Beacon (and probably in other local papers):

In the aftermath of Question 1 there is an interesting point for those who support Voter Initiative.

Too often labor and others with vested interests in maintaining the status quo of legislative access via lobbyists have indicated that the initiative process would be too easily manipulated by those special interests with money.

These opponents of initiative have already purchased their protection and see initiative as an assault on their stronghold. Thus, they argue that anyone with tons of money could use the initiative system to circumvent the process.

The vote on Question 1 is a direct confirmation that such an argument is specious. The amount of money spent in support of Question 1 dwarfed the money spent in opposition.

If, as initiative opponents state, money can buy a vote, then why was it that such did not happen?

Buying elections is still in the purview of political parties, but the reality is that because someone with money wants something it still can be voted down by an electorate after an open and public debate on the issue.

Sure, there was effort to influence opinion. Sure, there were mindless voters in the process. But, through it all, the public was heard on the issue.

So, now, just what is the argument against voter initiative? The ability to buy influence is still concentrated in the lobbying process and away from the voters, but the argument that the voters can be swayed by a corporate interest with deep pockets is no longer a realistic argument.

November 24, 2006

Walking the Walk

Justin Katz

I don't want the previous post to remain long untempered by a statement of my substantial admiration for Rocco, particularly now that he's come out as Rhode Island's blogger in Baghdad, D. Alighieri. I do not stand where he stands, nor would I declare myself in possession of the courage that he has shown.

Still, it may be the case that wise advice will come from those not in the kiln of intensity, but with eyes daily on that which can be lost.

I, So-Called Conservative

Justin Katz

Over on Autonomist, my friend Rocco DiPippo — to whom I am tremendously indebted for non-blog-related reasons — writes:

...politically speaking it was idiotic for Republicans to showboat over the Foley matter. And incredibly, after the Foley revelations, Republican pundits lined up to publish a self-flagellating stream of articles saying how it might be "good" to lose the Congress, since that would teach Republicans how to be Republicans again.

Well that might be a reasonable strategy in peacetime, but it is madness during war, especially when you are willing to risk having people with a demonstrable, 40-year- long track record of appeasement coupled with an aversion to things military, attain power. So, in essence, though the Republicans rightly stressed that America's first order of business is successfully waging war against a particularly virulent, widespread enemy, some of those same Republicans were willing to jeopardize this country's safety by handing power over to a group of people who, in their adolescent haze, do not think we are actually involved in a war. These so-called conservatives and so-called Republicans are plain stupid, or utterly hypocritical. ...

Now, there's a good chance that the War on Islamist Terror will be lost, a million Iraqis will die and endless investigations aimed at impeaching Bush and Cheney will soon commence. Aren't you glad you stayed home instead of voting?

Although my motivation had nothing whatsoever to do with the Foley matter — to which I paid almost no attention — I am not timid in the least to admit that, not only did I not stay home, I voted for Sheldon Whitehouse. If that makes me a "so called" whatever, so be it.

Here's my bottom line: As soon as the national GOP began acting under the rationale of "what are they going to do, vote for Democrats?" — which they've been doing for longer than most of us would like to admit — the party became a detriment to the war on terror and, perhaps even more importantly, to everything that makes this country worth defending against terrorists. They became a detriment even to those social causes that they sought to leverage (e.g., same-sex marriage and abortion), and they became a detriment to the economic causes that are supposed to be the sine qua non of Republicanism.

If conservatives intended to assert themselves on this broad, self-defining slate of issues, it had to be with this election. These are, all of them, long-term issues, and the rapid slip among the "right" party required equally rapid correction: proving the possibility of defeat to the Republicans and the reality of responsibility to the Democrats. Doing so was neither stupid nor hypocritical, but considered and consistent. As to whether it will prove correct and effective, we can only pray.


Marc Comtois

Jonah Goldberg writes about the importance of tradition:

Traditional rules of conduct emerge over time through a process of trial and error. To pick an extreme example, the Shakers banned sex and - surprise! - America is not overrun with Shakers today. Successful societies learn from their mistakes in time to make adjustments. Those adjustments become best practices that in turn become customs, and eventually, those customs become traditions. Those traditions are passed along from generation to generation, usually without us knowing all the reasons why they became traditions in the first place.

Obviously, some of these traditions are outdated and silly. Others are vital. Even leftists and libertarians who display ritualized contempt for tradition understand that we do some things today because we've learned from the mistakes of our forefathers. If everything is open to revision, then slavery is still a viable option. Fundamentally, this isn't a point about political conservatism so much as civilization itself. Cultures have roots - a point we're learning the hard way in Iraq, where there is no liberal democratic tradition and we are trying to create one from scratch.

Goldberg continues by using Madonna--"a pioneer of slattern chic"--and showing how her apparent post-motherhood epiphany towards a more traditional morality does little good for the generation who grew up taking her message of "slattern chic" to heart.

Goldberg isn't blaming Madonna personally for the decline and fall of Western Civilization. However, he is pointing out that she is but one of many who were pushed to the front of the cultural vanguard and--like it or not--served as an example of what it meant to be cool. Perhaps she wasn't the first, but Madonna's example provided the template for a generation of young female pop singers--Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera come to mind--who defined becoming "independent" as becoming slutty. Predictably, both Spears and Aguilera have toned it down as they've matured. They and we have learned--again--that hedonism doesn't equal happiness: it's just too bad that no one ever seems to listen the first time.

But I suppose that ignoring the moralizing of the older and wiser is human nature. Every generation goes through their "Rebel Without a Cause" phase, but most grow out of it--having kids and assuming adult responsibilities has a way of doing that. What doesn't seem to change is that there are always those who will take advantage of the innate rebelliousness of youth in an attempt to push cultural change. They are locked in a cycle of change for it's own sake--more libertine anarchy than liberal progressivism it often seems--whether it's ultimately better for society or not.

Conservatives don't believe that change is bad, but we do believe that it should be undertaken gradually. Most importantly, conservatives believe that if the results of "change" aren't looking so hot, the solution isn't to press for further change in the vain hope that we'll somehow get it right this time, really, we promise. Instead, the smartest option is to go back to what worked before. Sometimes Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa really do know what they're talking about, after all.

November 23, 2006

It all started because Samoset wanted a beer...

Marc Comtois
Friday, the 16th, a fair warm day towards; this morning we determined to conclude of the military orders, which we had begun to consider of before but were interrupted by the savages, as we mentioned formerly. And whilst we were busied hereabout, we were interrupted again, for there presented himself a savage, which caused an alarm. He very boldly came all alone and along the houses straight to the rendezvous, where we intercepted him, not suffering him to go in, as undoubtedly he would, out of his boldness. He saluted us in England [English], and bade us welcome, for he had learned some broken English among the Englishmen that came to fish at Monchiggon [Monhegan Island], and knew by name the most of the captains, commanders, and masters that usually came. He was a man free in speech, so far as he could express his mind, and of a seemly carriage. We questioned him of many things; he was the fist savage we could meet withal. He said he was not of these parts, but of Morattiggon [Monhegan Island or Pemaquid, Maine], and one of the sagamores or lords thereof, and had been eight months in these parts, it lying hence a day's sail with a great wind, and five days by land. He discoursed of the whole country, and of every province, and of their sagamores, and their number of men, and strength. The wind being to rise a little, we cast a horseman's coat about him, for he was stark naked, only a leather about his waist, with a fringe about a span long, or little more; he had a bow and two arrows, the one headed, and the other unheaded. He was a tall straight man, the hair of his head black, long behind, only short before, none on his face at all; he asked some beer, but we gave him strong water and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard, all which he liked well, and had been acquainted with such amongst the English.

from Mourt's Relations by Edward Winslow

The rest, as they say, is history.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

November 22, 2006

Some Pre-Turkey Day Blog Stuffing : Football Econ 101

Marc Comtois

Heck, it's late on getaway-day, so why not a bit of fluff before you hit the In a rather un-PC titled article, "Patriots vs. Redskins", Kevin Hassett of the new On-line Magazine writes about how the Patriots are the NFL's business model franchise. Hasset explains why economic theory supports that "the [NFL] draft is the only place to build a winning team" and that "economics would predict that teams would uniformly put an enormous effort into perfecting their drafts, and avoid sinking excessive dollars into costly free agents." So who does this the best?

In fact, this model predicts very well the behavior of one team, the New England Patriots. Their head coach, Bill Belichick, who received his undergraduate degree in economics from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, has been an artist at squeezing value-added out of his draft picks, and has won three of the last five Super Bowls.

This economic brilliance was on display in September, when Belichick traded disgruntled receiver Deion Branch to the Seattle Seahawks for a first-round draft pick. The Seahawks gave Branch a $39 million contract, guaranteeing that they would achieve little value-added at that position. So Belichick burdened the salary cap of a rival with a fat obligation, and took home a valuable draft pick for his own team.

Belichick keeps winning because so many others in the league behave so strangely. Two economists, Cade Massey of Yale and Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago, studied years of draft history and found that teams make systematic errors that reflect a serious economic illiteracy. Coaches and general managers place too high a value on the top few picks, and too low a value on picks a bit further down.

Just some food for thought for you as you half-nap, half-watch an uncompetitive football game, with a ball of stuffing and turkey floating in your stomach amidst a sea of gravy, and your mind encased in a post-feast, triptofan induced fog.

Next up: why baseball is proof that trickle-down economics works.

(Just kidding)

Your Local "Good Guy" Dem Legislator Enables the Problem Pols

Marc Comtois

It's no big surprise that the R.I. Senate Democrats--33 out of the 38 State Senators--unaminously re-elected Joseph Montalbano (D-N. Providence) to be Senate President and M. Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport) as Senate Majority Leader. This despite the fact that Montalbano may currently be the target of an FBI invesigation. (Something, by the way, that both Bill Rappleye of NBC10 and the ProJo's Katherine Gregg brought up at the Dems celebration). From Gregg's story:

In June, the citizens group Operation Clean Government filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission about Montalbano's failure to mention on his annual financial disclosure statement the income his law firm had been getting since at least 2003 from the Town of West Warwick. Last month, the commission itself lodged a complaint against Montalbano for failing to disclose additional income derived in 2002.

Both stemmed from the disclosure by The Providence Journal on the day the Senate was poised to vote on placing the doomed West Warwick casino proposal on the ballot that Montalbano's North Providence law firm had been paid $86,329 including expenses by the town since 2003 for legal work that included clearing the titles on two parcels of land near the proposed Harrah's-Narragansett Indian casino.

By late last month, the FBI was involved.

The FBI subpoenaed records regarding his title work in West Warwick, a town councilwoman confirmed that she had been questioned by the FBI about how Montalbano came to be hired by the town, and Montalbano acknowledged the FBI "questioned several senators, members of my staff and they questioned me."

Montalbano said he welcomed the investigation because he had nothing to hide and had been assured he was "not a target."

Asked yesterday if he had taken any steps in advance of last night's Senate Democratic caucus to assuage any concerns his colleagues might have about his predicament, Montalbano said he saw no need: "To a person in the Senate, no one has questioned my determination that I will protect my integrity to the bitter end."

To be fair, there are no charges against Montalbano. But note the careful wording of his last statement: "no one has questioned my determination that I will protect my integrity..." I'm sure he's determined to protect his integrity, but not questioning his determination to protect his integrity isn't the same as not questioning his actual integrity. (Sure, I may be parsing a bit too closely, but Sen. Montalbano is a lawyer and has experience in the art of wordsmithing).

Yet, then again, even if they had such questions, it wouldn't matter anyway. Montalbano's re-election reveals questionable judgement on the part of the Democrat caucus who have decided that someone who is currently under a cloud of ethics charges is worthy of leading them. So much for the negative repercussions of the appearance of impropriety. Why didn't they elevate Sen. Paiva-Weed instead? She's proven to be an effective leader and there are no clouds threatening rain upon her parade. Instead, I'm left to believe that fear of political repercussions--or maybe just habit--has put Montalbano back on top.

Remember how the Democrats told us that a vote for Chafee would be a vote for Bush, because Chafee--though he may disagree with the President on almost everything--would ultimately help keep the President's "corrupt" party in power? The same applies on the state level here in Rhode Island, folks. Your local legislator may be a good person--just like Senator Chafee--but the votes and support of these average, "good guy" Democrats serve to prop up the same political problem children with whom everyday Rhode Islanders are supposedly so disgusted.

Iranian Demography and American Grand Strategy

Carroll Andrew Morse

Natalists rejoice! A few weeks ago, I linked to an item describing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call for an Iranian baby-boom. Yesterday, in a column about the proliferation of Iranian prostitution, the Asia Times columnist called “Spengler” provided some insight into Ahmadinejad’s probable motivation -- an Iranian birthrate slowdown on a scale more commonly associated with European population trends (h/t Instapundit)…

As the most urbane people of Western Asia, the Persians grasped the hopelessness of circumstances quicker than their Arab neighbors. That is why they have ceased to bear children. Iran's population today is concentrated at military age; by mid-century, today's soldiers will be pensioners, and there will be no one to replace them.

That is why it is folly to approach Iran as a prospective negotiating partner, and meaningless to offer the clerical government security guarantees, for the threat to its security arises from within. Once a people has determined to extinguish itself, nothing will prevent it from doing so. There is no doubt as to the demographic data, which come from the demographers of the United Nations.

There is a difference, of course. Euro depopulation is generally attributed to people being too complacent about their welfare-state existence. Spengler suggest Iran’s problem is rooted in too much despair…
It is not just poverty, for poor women bear children everywhere. In the case of Iran, deracination and cultural despair impel millions of individual women to eschew motherhood.
If the data quoted by Spengler is accurate, Iran is now in full or partial retreat on two grand-strategic fronts. 1) As Spengler discusses in detail, Iran is showing signs of the internal malaise common to totalitarian states and 2) the Iranian economy has likely passed its high-water mark. Unless there is a sudden and steep decline in the price of oil, alternatives to conventional oil are going to become economically viable on a permanent basis. Either scenario, lower prices or more alternatives, means less cash for the Iranian government, meaning more despair and more internal stress. (Totalitarian states are not good at facilitating diversified economies).

The important points here relate to the work of the Iraq Study Group. Does it make sense to offer an enemy state “security guarantees” at the time when the internal structure of its society is crumbling? If the forces that hold Iran together are openly starting to break down, then isn't this the ideal time to put a policy of containment -- a real policy of containment, i.e. pressure aimed at changing the nature of an enemy regime, not the lumpencontainment of Bill Clinton or Colin Powell, which is nothing more than holding the line and hoping for the best -- into place?

Leaving the Door Open on the Way Out

Justin Katz

It ought to raise suspicions about their cause when marriage advocates seek to advance it through divorce:

[Karen L. Loewy, staff attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders] said Rhode Island recognizes marriages validly entered in other jurisdictions, unless there's a strong public policy reason not to, and she said there's no such reason in this case. She said it's the common practice of comity, in which one state recognizes the laws of another.

The sticky area with same-sex marriage — which one is apt to find with any issue that involves the assertion of a wholly new definition of legal terms — is that the "strong public policy reason not to" derives from the fact that, in Rhode Island, marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. Note the Rhode Island General law respecting marriage licenses:

15-2-1 License required – Proof of divorce. – (a) Persons intending to be joined together in marriage in this state must first obtain a license from the clerk of the town or city in which:

(1) The female party to the proposed marriage resides; or in the city or town in which

(2) The male party resides, if the female party is a nonresident of this state; or in the city or town in which

(3) The proposed marriage is to be performed, if both parties are nonresidents of this state.

If Chief Family Court Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah Jr. decides to grant the divorce, he will have — despite all of the language throughout Rhode Island law proving marriage to be an opposite-sex affair — acknowledged that a marriage can indeed exist when the spouses are of the same sex. Combine such a decision with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's ruling that Rhode Island need not be seen as forbidding same-sex marriages for the purposes of Massachusetts law, and same-sex marriage will have been successfully imported to Rhode Island purely via judicial maneuvering.

November 21, 2006

Re: Brown University

Justin Katz

I found this line, from Ethan Wingfield, particularly interesting:

Brown is one of the most relaxed institutions there is. Students can drop out of a course on the last day of the semester and get the class erased from their records.

Perhaps the key would have been to pitch a grade-inflation angle to keeping the evangelical group on campus.

Brown University: Not a Bastion of Free Speech

Marc Comtois

Yesterday, I read in the ProJo about how Brown University had rather suspiciously banned an on-campus student evangelical group.

Leaders of the group say they were given different reasons for the action. At first, they were told it was because their local sponsor, Trinity Presbyterian Church, had withdrawn its support, which it hadn’t. Then they were told that it was because the group’s former leader had been two months late in September 2005 when he submitted the group’s application to be recognized as a campus organization. But the third reason is one that group leaders say is most baffling: the Rev. Allen Callahan, Protestant chaplain, asserted they were “possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty that has rendered all collegial relations with my office impossible.”

Student leaders said they still don’t know what he meant, and wrote a0 long letter to the chaplain’s office seeking elaboration. There’s been no response.

“We were disappointed that the university administration should treat us so lightly that they wouldn’t even acknowledge our letter,” said the fellowship’s president, Ethan Wingfield, a senior philosophy major. “We felt disrespected.”

The F.I.R.E. organization has taken up the students' cause, but the group has yet to get a concrete explanation as to why it has been barred. Arlene Violette also had one of the students on her show yesterday (I didn't catch his name, but it may have been Wingfield) and he did state that the local chapter of the ACLU was helping the students.

Now I've discovered (via Instapundit and Judith Weiss) that Brown also cancelled a talk by Nonie Darwish last week. Darwish is an Egyptian who has gotten publicity for her willingness to talk (and she's written a book) about the radical Muslim culture in which she grew up. According to Adam Brodsky of the NY Post:

MUSLIMS are often accused of not speaking out sufficiently against terrorism. Nonie Darwish knows one reason why: Their fellow Muslims won't let them.

Darwish, who comes from Egypt and was born and raised a Muslim, was set to tell students at Brown University about the twisted hatred and radicalism she grew to despise in her own culture. A campus Jewish group, Hillel, had contacted her to speak there Thursday.

But the event was just called off.

Muslim students had complained that Darwish was "too controversial." They insisted she be denied a platform at Brown, and after contentious debate Hillel agreed.

Weird: No one had said boo about such Brown events as a patently anti-Israel "Palestinian Solidarity Week." But Hillel said her "offensive" statements about Islam "alarmed" the Muslim Student Association, and Hillel didn't want to upset its "beautiful relationship" with the Muslim community. Plus, Brown's women's center backed out of co-sponsoring the event, even though it shares Darwish's concerns about the treatment of women. Reportedly, part of the problem was that Darwish had no plans to condemn Israel for shooting Arab women used by terrorists as human shields, or for insufficiently protecting Israeli Arab wives from their husbands.

In plugging their ears to Darwish, Brown's Muslim students proved her very point: Muslims who attempt constructive self-criticism are quickly and soundly squelched - by other Muslims.

Is there a pattern here? Brown did an admirable job of justified self-flagellation in their investigation into the role that the University played in slavery (though some dispute portions of it). Perhaps they should start a new investigation into why there is a pattern of silencing those whose views--on the face of it--seem to run counter to the on campus conventional wisdom.

I Agree with Spielberg: "I'm a parent who is very concerned."

Marc Comtois


Exclaiming that sentence--directed to my unsuspecting daughters--is a regular occurence in my household on any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon when Dad (me) is watching "the game." Especially now that the weather is getting colder and there's less to do outside. On the weekend, when they are taking a break from playing, the kids may wander into the living room to see what Dad's up to. Occasionally, they'll take a seat, ask me questions about the game and cheer when the Pats score a Home Run (they're still learning the details of which team plays what...). Eventually, on comes the commercial break. I'll let Steven Spielberg do the 'splainin' from there:

Steven Spielberg urged TV networks to be mindful of what they show on the air because of the effect it might have on children, and said programs like "CSI" and "Heroes" were too gruesome.

"Today we are needing to be as responsible as we can possibly be, not just thinking of our own children but our friends' and neighbors' children," Spielberg told an audience Monday at the International Emmys board of directors meeting here.

Spielberg decried on-air promotions for television shows like "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" that showed "blood and people being dissected." He also said that when his favorite TV show of the new season, NBC's "Heroes," showed someone cut in half in the 9 p.m. hour, he sent his younger children out of the room.

"I'm a parent who is very concerned," he said.

Spielberg is correct to be concerned about the times that gruesome shows are aired. Yet, my big problem is when I'm on the couch on Sunday at 2:25 in the afternoon watching the Pats, with a little girl on each side of me, and the latest CSI commercial comes on, complete with a shootout and at least one, "well-used" cadaver laying on the table. (By the way, I don't care what they say, the volume of a commercial is louder than the show).

I completely understand that TV networks are attracted to sports programming because they provide an opportunity to promote their cheaper and higher revenue generating fare to a particularly attractive audience demographic (18-34 year old males). No problem. Just remember that the content of the commercials for TV shows need to be appropriate for the time in which they air. I suppose if you're showing a slasher flick at 2 PM on a Sunday, it's OK to expect that the audience for that wouldn't be offended or scared by the image of a bloody cadavar. But not when a kid is watching a game! (This goes for advertisements for "male enhancement" products, too, by the way!)

Have my kids been irrevocably harmed? No, but I haven't caught one episode of CSI (any version) since it came on the air.

Everyone Loves a Winner (Except Mainstream Media Assignment Editors, Apparently)

Carroll Andrew Morse

Today, the Projo is running its second Scott MacKay story in three days on the dismal state of the Northeast GOP. Today’s story is focused on Rhode Island; Sunday’s story was about the Northeast in general. Neither story breaks much new ground, although today’s does confirm that Patricia Morgan is seeking another term as Rhode Island's State GOP Chairwoman…

As their election rout of two weeks ago sinks in, Rhode Island Republican leaders are trying to figure out how to rebound at a time when their state party chairwoman, Patricia Morgan of West Warwick, says she would like to be reappointed to the post she has held for the past four years.
It is worth noting that the party getting all of the media attention is the one most observers would deem the “irrelevant” one. When are the stories about what the Democratic party plans to do with its legislative mandate going to appear? Everyone loves a winner, apparently, except the assignment editors of the mainstream media.

Could the lack of interest in the majority party be because they have no plans to address any problem nor change anything at all (except maybe to increase the state subsidization of failing urban governance)?

RE: Heather has Two Mommies....: It's About Heather

Marc Comtois

I'd like to thank Justin for elaborating upon my initial post and also direct you to Stanley Kurtz's post on the NY Times Magazine piece, "Gay Donor or Gay Dad?". As Justin explains:

With "alternative" families, it's not so much that the family's story is more complicated as that it must be made complicated in order to create the illusion of this intangible purpose. Merely from the fact that the parents inherently refuse to acknowledge that their relation to their child is not "normal" — let alone "ideal" — the emphasis changes. Their relationship was never about merging themselves in the person of a child. The surrogate parent — from the start a necessity — was chosen, at best, for "traits that I want for my child" or, at worst, for being "amenable to the lifestyle that I wish to live."
Kurtz also treads along a similar path:
Implicitly and explicitly, the NYT article makes the case for accepting this radical new family form–using arguments we’re familiar with from the battle over same-sex marriage. These families want the same thing as everyone else, we’re told. Structural novelty notwithstanding, it’s said that the day-to-day lives of these bold family experimenters are boringly normal. Yes, we’re told, there are problems and instability, yet the same can be said of conventional families. And we’re led to believe that many of the problems faced by these unconventional families stem from the lack of role-models and legal safeguards. That lays the groundwork for a “conservative case” for defining conventional marriage and family out of existence. Just give us the legal safeguards and social precedents for three- and four-parent arrangements and we can prevent many tragic misunderstandings between potentially warring adults...
To be clear, my primary concern is for the children, not the parents. Do I have sympathy for parents in alternative relationships who want to start a family? Yes. But just because they have the legal ability to bring a child into this world, it doesn't mean it is right. In the aforementioned piece, Kurtz points to a study, The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children’s Needs, which can be read here. Here is the explanation of the problem that needs to be confronted (for the entire Executive Summary, please read the extended entry, below):
This report examines the emerging global clash between adult rights and children’s needs in the new meaning of parenthood. It features some of the surprising voices of the first generation of young adults conceived with use of donor sperm. Their concerns, and the large body of social science evidence showing that children, on average, do best when raised by their own married mother and father, suggest that in the global rush to redefine parenthood we need to call a time-out.
Whether it is through redefining marriage or genetically rengineering children (so they can have, say, 3 genetic parents): all are done to sate the desire of the parents--the children are secondary. These same undesirable motivations are not unique to non-traditional families, but the innovations that are cropping up to accomodate the changing definition of family are being implemented with little forethought for the consequences that will be most felt by the children of such genetic creativity.

The call for a time-out--to say "Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it."--needs to be heeded. In 1955, William F. Buckley was referring to the political and ideological movement of Liberalism. Now, we are confronted with forces that are changing the meaning of the definition of family, which is the fundamental cornerstone of civilized society. Yes, I think the least we can do is say, "Time out."

Executive Summary

from The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children’s Needs

Around the world, the two-person, mother-father model of parenthood is being fundamentally challenged.

In Canada, with virtually no debate, the controversial law that brought about same-sex marriage quietly included the provision to erase the term “natural parent” across the board in federal law, replacing it with the term “legal parent.” With that law, the locus of power in defining who a child’s parents are shifts precipitously from civil society to the state, with the consequences as yet unknown.

In Spain, after the recent legalization of same-sex marriage the legislature changed the birth certificates for all children in that nation to read “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B” instead of “mother” and “father.” With that change, the words “mother” and “father” were struck from the first document issued to every newborn by the state. Similar proposals have been made in other jurisdictions that have legalized same-sex marriage.

In New Zealand and Australia, influential law commissions have proposed allowing children conceived with use of sperm or egg donors to have three legal parents. Yet neither group addresses the real possibility that a child’s three legal parents could break up and feud over the child’s best interests.

In the United States, courts often must determine who the legal parents are among the many adults who might be involved in planning, conceiving, birthing, and raising a child. In a growing practice, judges in several states have seized upon the idea of “psychological” parenthood to award legal parent status to adults who are not related to children by blood, adoption, or marriage. At times they have done so even over the objection of the child’s biological parent. Also, successes in the same-sex marriage debate have encouraged group marriage advocates who wish to break open the two-person understanding of marriage and parenthood.

Meanwhile, scientists around the world are experimenting with the DNA in eggs and sperm in nearly unimaginable ways, raising the specter of children born with one or three genetic parents, or two same-sex parents. Headlines recently announced research at leading universities in Britain and New Zealand that could enable same-sex couples or single people to procreate. In Britain, scientists were granted permission to create embryos with three genetic parents. Stem cell research has introduced the very real possibility that a cloned child could be born—and the man who pioneered in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment has already said in public that cloning should be offered to childless couples who have exhausted other options. The list goes on.

Nearly all of these steps, and many more, are being taken in the name of adult rights to form families they choose. But what about the children?

This report examines the emerging global clash between adult rights and children’s needs in the new meaning of parenthood. It features some of the surprising voices of the first generation of young adults conceived with use of donor sperm. Their concerns, and the large body of social science evidence showing that children, on average, do best when raised by their own married mother and father, suggest that in the global rush to redefine parenthood we need to call a time-out.

Right now, our societies urgently require reflection, debate, and research about the policies and practices that will serve the best interests of children—those already born and those yet to be born. This report argues that around the world the state is taking an increasingly active role in defining and regulating parenthood far beyond its limited, vital, historic, and child-centered role in finding suitable parents for needy children through adoption. The report documents how the state creates new uncertainties and vulnerabilities when it increasingly seeks to administer parenthood, often giving far greater attention to adult rights than to children’s needs. For the most part, this report does not advocate for or against particular policy prescriptions (such as banning donor conception) but rather seeks to draw urgently needed public attention to the current revolutionary changes in parenthood, to point out the risks and contradictions arising from increased state intervention, and to insist that our societies immediately undertake a vigorous, child-centered debate.

Do mothers and fathers matter to children? Is there anything special—anything worth supporting—about the two-person, mother-father model? Are children commodities to be produced by the marketplace? What role should the state have in defining parenthood? When adult rights clash with children’s needs, how should the conflict be resolved? These are the questions raised by this report. Our societies will either answer these questions democratically and as a result of intellectually and morally serious reflection and public debate, or we will find, very soon, that these questions have already been answered for us. The choice is ours. At stake are the most elemental features of children’s well-being—their social and physical health and their moral and spiritual wholeness.

November 20, 2006

Re: Heather has Two Mommies...

Justin Katz

I wonder if you've fully articulated your beliefs, here, Marc:

I agree that--other than their unique family structure--there is nothing that sets these folks apart from "average" people.

I ask because I think your "however" is insufficiently strong to stand its own ground in the cultural arena:

However, I think that the baseline structure of the parent/guardian relationships that they have cobbled together, which form the foundation for the family they have "designed," is inherently more complicated and, thus, potentially more confusing and damaging to the children who are supposed to be the most important star(s) of these family constellations.

Already, within the quotation that you provide, one can find the argument that families formed around heterosexual relationships can be equally complicated — perhaps more so, for having not been "designed." And what if sociologists and psychologists — ever ready to define normalcy into their own intellectual preferences — are able to show that complication is not a detriment to children? I agree with your conclusion, though, so I'd suggest we look for ripples in more fundamental waters.

However complicated they may become, traditional families offer a very compelling narrative for children's place in the world: They are born through the sexual expression of their parents' love and act as a bridge from ancestry to progeny. In Christian terms, they are the full fruit of their parents' spiritual joining in matrimony, binding their parents (and their parents' families) together in a relationship reminiscent of God's creation of mankind. In evolutionary terms, they represent the joining of their parents traits in a purposeful development of their species. Anywhere within this range of perspectives, they are a significant end, a significant achievement, in themselves.

Even if they were the product of a "Whoops! We’re pregnant!" conception, children have access to this meaningful construct. Even if the parents separate, the child still has a claim to the romantic, religious, evolutionary context within which he or she was born; it's the parents who have fallen short. Even if the parents adopt the child, he or she fulfills a role for them that the biological parents were not able to need, just as the adoptive parents fulfill a role of which the biological parents were not capable for the child. Now, I'm not saying that we moderns haven't dulled the shine of the marriage ring, or that parents' choices after their children are born do not matter, but in whatever set of terms one chooses, there is an inexpressible truth to this: the genealogical tree is much more than a breeding chart.

With "alternative" families, it's not so much that the family's story is more complicated as that it must be made complicated in order to create the illusion of this intangible purpose. Merely from the fact that the parents inherently refuse to acknowledge that their relation to their child is not "normal" — let alone "ideal" — the emphasis changes. Their relationship was never about merging themselves in the person of a child. The surrogate parent — from the start a necessity — was chosen, at best, for "traits that I want for my child" or, at worst, for being "amenable to the lifestyle that I wish to live."

I can hear the objection, already, that heterosexuals choose spouses for the same collection of reasons, but that only highlights what's missing: that the relationship chosen for the sake of the children is at least intended to be the most significant relationship in the parents' lives, in a manifest confirmation of that incalculable meaning.

I do not doubt (especially having just read a New York Times piece so naked in its leveraging of emotional weight) that the majority of homosexual parents will do the best that they are able for their children, nor that any given family will find broad social or metaphysical considerations possible to overcome. However, they are drawing on a pool of cultural capital while insisting that its plain basis be ignored for their sake, and that is "what the big deal" is.

Heather has Two Mommies.....and Two Donors...or One Donor and some other Guy

Marc Comtois

I urge everyone to read this NY Times Magazine piece, "Gay Donor or Gay Dad?" about the complicated nature of family relationships that can develop when two same-sex partners seek a donor to assist them in starting a family. Reading the whole thing is essential because it is a complicated piece about a new, complicated family structure. Here is what would be considered a picture of a successful relationship:

Mark, 48, Jean, 37, and Candi, 34, now have two children — Mark (named after his father) is Candi’s biological son, and another boy, Joseph, now 7 months old, is Jean’s biological son. For a long time Mark, who was working as a freelance information technologist and financial consultant in Minneapolis until he took the job at the museum, could arrange his schedule to suit the mothers’ needs. He spends time with the kids once a week, sometimes alone, sometimes with his long-term partner, Jeffrey, who is 36 and went to college with Candi, and sometimes with one or both mothers. The relationship among the fathers and mothers has been a surprise benefit, he said, creating a brother-sister feeling. Despite the fact that the mothers are still financially responsible for the children, Mark has put them in his will. Each birthday and Christmas, he deposits a $1,000 bond for their education. Like any good father, he said, “I want to see them do well.”
Then there is this confusing explanation of another family (I stress that the story must be read to sort it all out):
When [R.'s] daughter was 2, her nonbiological mother became impregnated with sperm donated by a gay black friend. She bore twins. A couple of years later, the mothers split up. A custody battle ensued, in which the white mother tried to gain sole custody of all three children. The judge ruled against her. The final agreement essentially assigned the three mixed-race children to the white mother roughly 60 percent of the time and to the black mother 40 percent of the time.

The current family tree is a crazy circuit board: The black woman has a new female partner. The white woman is now living with a man, and the two have had their own child. So, as R. said, between the one child that R. has with the black mother, the twins borne by the white mother with a black donor and the newest, fourth, child born to her with her new male partner, all of whom have some sort of sibling relation to one another, things can be a little confusing. “They’re quite a little petri dish of a family, as you can imagine,” R. told me.

Of course, this doesn't mean that such confusion doesn't occur within heterosexual relationships, but these sorts of unions as constructed and designed are--of necessity--complicated from the start. Evidence of both are found in this explanation:
Candi’s attention returned to me: “Why is this worth a story? It’s not even worth discussing. We’re just as American as our next-door neighbors. You see all these families with stepdads and stepmoms and half brothers and half sisters. What do you say about marriages that 50 percent of the time end in divorce? Why are we so threatening?” Most heterosexual parents, she said, marry, have sex “and then suddenly: ‘Whoops! We’re pregnant!’ Our families are designed. They’re conscious. They don’t just happen by happenstance. We had to sit down and say: O.K., what’s your relationship to the kid going to look like? What’s our relationship to each other going to look like? What’s this family going to look like?” She didn’t understand what the big deal was. “We want the same things that every other family wants! You know? We shop at Costco; we shop at Wal-Mart; we buy diapers. We’re just average. We’re downright boring!”
I agree that--other than their unique family structure--there is nothing that sets these folks apart from "average" people. However, I think that the baseline structure of the parent/guardian relationships that they have cobbled together, which form the foundation for the family they have "designed," is inherently more complicated and, thus, potentially more confusing and damaging to the children who are supposed to be the most important star(s) of these family constellations.

I say "supposed to be" because much of the entanglements and complications described in the story arise from the attempts to delineate what "rights" each of the adults have in these relationships with regards to seeing and interacting with the kids. It seems that's what's best for the kids is less important than the type of relationship that the adults will have with those kids. That's not really out of the ordinary: too many adults put their own feelings and desires regarding the parent/child relationship ahead of the children's. Yet, if such misplaced prioritization is bad enough when you have a typical two-parent family, what the heck do we expect can happen when you have a 3 or 4-parent one?

Kissinger on Victory

Carroll Andrew Morse

Henry Kissinger’s statement from a BBC interview that victory in Iraq is no longer possible is causing a bit of a media stir. Here’s a snippet of CNN’s report on the subject…

A U.S. victory in Iraq is no longer possible under the conditions the Bush administration hopes to achieve, but a quick withdrawal of American troops would have "disastrous consequences," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Sunday....

"If you mean by clear military victory an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," he said.

What needs to be remembered in evaluating these remarks is that this is not the first conflict where Dr. Kissinger has declared victory out-of-reach. During his tenure in the Nixon administration, Dr. Kissinger was the leading voice for basing American foreign policy on the idea that a clear victory over the Soviet Union was not a realistic objective.

Conservatives Back Ideology with Cash

Marc Comtois

{N.B. Cross-posted at Spinning Clio--MAC}

Historian Ralph Luker points to a new book by Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks called Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. According to this story:

When it comes to helping the needy, Brooks writes: "For too long, liberals have been claiming they are the most virtuous members of American society. Although they usually give less to charity, they have nevertheless lambasted conservatives for their callousness in the face of social injustice."

...The book's basic findings are that conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notion that the government should engage in income redistribution are the most generous Americans, by any measure.

Conversely, secular liberals who believe fervently in government entitlement programs give far less to charity. They want everyone's tax dollars to support charitable causes and are reluctant to write checks to those causes, even when governments don't provide them with enough money...

"These are not the sort of conclusions I ever thought I would reach when I started looking at charitable giving in graduate school, 10 years ago," he writes in the introduction. "I have to admit I probably would have hated what I have to say in this book."

Still, he says it forcefully, pointing out that liberals give less than conservatives in every way imaginable, including volunteer hours and donated blood.

...Harvey Mansfield, professor of government at Harvard University and 2004 recipient of the National Humanities Medal, does not know Brooks personally but has read the book.

"His main finding is quite startling, that the people who talk the most about caring actually fork over the least," he said. "But beyond this finding I thought his analysis was extremely good, especially for an economist. He thinks very well about the reason for this and reflects about politics and morals in a way most economists do their best to avoid."

Brooks seems very reluctant to embrace his findings. I would bet it's because he isn't too keen on the idea of the political hammer it could become for social (religious) conservatives. I also think he'll get his wish of having other academics putting his findings through rigorous analysis! Finally, Ralph poses a good question: "do people on the left actually say: 'I gave at the IRS.'?"

Cold-Blooded Miracles

Justin Katz

One could, I suppose, respond to Andrew Stuttaford's prods about an intelligent designer by wondering aloud why this sort of thing isn't an example of built-in wonder — a cold-blooded miracle, if you will:

Twice within a year the brown arole lizard has evolved changes in its body and behaviour to outwit a predator — confirming Charles Darwin’s theory on natural selection.

Changes in limb length were observed by biologists after they introduced a predator, the northern curly-tailed lizard, to islands off the Bahamas where the brown arole is found.

In the first six months the brown arole, Anolis sagrie, developed longer legs so that it could outrun its predator, Leiocephalus carinatus.

Over the second six-month period the arole changed its behaviour so that it spent far less time on the ground and longer on branches and plant stems.

After a year the surviving aroles had much shorter, stumpier legs that were more suited to clinging on to thin branches. “We showed that selection dramatically changed direction over a short time, within a single generation,” the researchers reported in the journal Science.

We live in a skeptical world, indeed, if lizards' spontaneous ability to grow or shrink their legs is not evidence of design! Sadly, upon review of the online abstract and supporting materials (PDF), it appears that the ever-intriguing evolution/miracle debate needn't be had. From the former:

We predicted that the introduction of a terrestrial predator would first select for longer-legged lizards, which are faster, but as the lizards shifted onto high twigs to avoid the predator, selection would reverse toward favoring the shorter-legged individuals better able to locomote there.

And from the latter:

For individual identification, each lizard received an island-unique pattern of colored marks by injecting elastomer (Northwest Marine Technologies) subdermally into two limb segments. In November 2003 and May 2004, we censused nearly exhaustively on each island to determine surviving individuals. ...

Selection gradients could only be calculated on islands for which some, but not all, lizards died. Because survival of marked lizards was either 0 or 100% on some islands in some of the time periods, our sample size was reduced to nine islands in the first time period and five in the second time period; those five islands were used in the repeated measures analysis. On these islands, an average of 20.6 males was measured at the start of the experiment; survival
rates were 33% and 58% in the 0-6 and 6-12 month periods.

Interest may or may not compel me to pick up a copy of the magazine with the full article in it, but it appears that Stuttaford's source was incorrect. The lizards' limb length didn't change; rather, lizards of different limb lengths survived at different rates. Gee. The only astonishing finding here, as far as I can see, is the tendency of scientists and the materialists who love them to trumpet their documentation of the obvious and treat it as if it is revolutionary new proof that God doesn't exist.

As far as evolution goes, what I'd be interested to know is whether this single generation of lizards manages to convey its adaptations to the next generation. Note that the study addressed only males. If females, for a made-up example, have to lie dormant on the ground for a time in order to lay eggs, then the species might not survive at all. Or if long-legged gals are somehow better able to mate among the "high twigs," then the evolutionary influences on leg length might cancel out.

What would be exponentially more difficult to cancel out, given human beings' capacity for split-second adaptation, is the long-legged credulity of modern skeptics.

November 18, 2006

Ensuring War, and on Worse Terms, Too

Justin Katz

In the pages of the Providence Journal, Richmond, RI, resident Rod Driver encourages Rep. Jim Langevin to seal our fate and ensure war — perhaps with a nuclear component — with Iran (at least):

On that date the House voted on an amendment offered by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D.-Ore.) to prohibit the administration from initiating military operations against Iran, Syria, North Korea or other nations without authorization from Congress. This, of course, is exactly what the U.S. Constitution requires.

But Rhode Island's representatives, Langevin and Patrick Kennedy, voted with Tom DeLay (R.-Texas) and almost all other Republicans to defeat the amendment. See 2005 Roll Call No. 285.

Unless this vote is reversed, President Bush is likely to regard it as authorization to attack Iran.

It's stunning that some people — who don't give any indication of being drooling morons — can be so un-forward-thinking in their advocacy. To ask a question that Driver doesn't seem to have considered is to answer it: What is likely to be Iran's reaction were the United States to tie its own hands when it comes to war?

I fear we're heading into an unimaginably dangerous era.

November 17, 2006

Rebuilding the RI GOP Part IV: Politics on the Personal Level

Marc Comtois

So far, in addition to alluding to Dan Yorke's thought about disbanding the RI GOP and remarking upon the post-election insight provided by the current RI GOP Chair Patricia Morgan, I've written about the need for the Rhode Island GOP to coalesce around a cohesive and cogent political philosophy and how work needs to be done both from the top down and from the bottom up. I ended this last by writing that "All politics may be local, but in Rhode Island, it's personal." It's my opinion that therein lay the key to political success for the RI GOP.

I think that it is the process whereby the RIGOP chooses its candidates that needs to be refined. I believe that the party relied too much on "self-starters." While a willingness to run is admirable, too often it seems that simple desire doesn't translate into electability. I don't mean that they haven't organized their campaign or that they don't have attractive ideas. No, what I'm getting at is a much more visceral problem. Too many of their fellow Rhode Islanders don't know who the hell they are!

As I mentioned in the last post, money would go a long way in solving this problem. It can be an equalizer. It's a quick solution and also absolutely necessary for running a campaign. Money can get you 30-35% of the electorate. Being known by the electorate is crucial, but "being known" is more than just name recognition. No, here in Rhode Island, where everybody knows everybody, a candidate has to make sure they are known--and I mean really known--in the community BEFORE they decide to run.

Success in Rhode Island politics is heavily dependent upon personal connections. A candidate will get votes for being a "good guy" regardless of his political disposition. (This doesn't mean that only native Rhode Islanders need apply, but I think it is a tremendous advantage over an out-of-stater like myself and most of the rest of the Anchor Rising contibutors). The RI GOP needs to identify their own "Jimmy who lives up the street" to run against the Democrat's "Tommy who lives down the street." And these candidates need to already be integral members of their local community.

But what about the rank and file Republicans who may want to run some day but may not be so visible within their community right now? Read on.

While ruing the political and philosophical failings of the national GOP, Joseph Farrah recently explained:

Most of that work needs to be done outside the political arena -- way outside. It needs to be done in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our churches and synagogues and in our cultural institutions.
Farrah's fundamental argument, then, is that conservatives--and by extension, Republicans--need to engage their fellow citizens at the local level. That sounds fine and is nothing new: it's really politics 101, isn't it? Yet, while Farrah has become chastened to the idea of counting on political solutions to solve societies problems, Alexis de Tocqueville explained that these private "civic associations" can serve as a training ground for "political associations." So, while Farrah is correct in emphasizing extra-political solutions, it shouldn�t be forgotten that the members of those groups and clubs are also voters.

Tocqueville wrote about the importance of "associations" in the democratization of early America. He explained that, for any given group, "associated members must always be very numerous for their association to have any power." Nonetheless:

As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have taken up an opinion or a feeling which they wish to promote in the world, they look out for mutual assistance; and as soon as they have found one another out, they combine. From that moment they are no longer isolated men, but a power seen from afar, whose actions serve for an example and whose language is listened to.
Whether it be Save the Bay, a Church group, the local Little League or the PTO, groups of citizens can be more effective than a single citizen. Further, and more important to this discussion, Tocqueville explained that joining and participating in civil associations could be viewed as "practice" for political associations and that there is a symbiotic relationship between civil and political associations.
Civil associations facilitate political association; but, on the other hand, political association singularly strengthens and improves associations for civil purposes. In civil life every man may, strictly speaking, fancy that he can provide for his own wants; in politics he can fancy no such thing. When a people, then, have any knowledge of public life, the notion of association and the wish to coalesce present themselves every day to the minds of the whole community; whatever natural repugnance may restrain men from acting in concert, they will always be ready to combine for the sake of a party. Thus political life makes the love and practice of association more general; it imparts a desire of union and teaches the means of combination to numbers of men who otherwise would have always lived apart�
What I'm getting at is that Republicans need to get to be known and become embedded in the fabric of the community. It is only in this way that they demolish the negative abstraction that "Republican" has become in the minds of too many Rhode Islanders. But you know what? You shouldn't do it just because of any possible political advantage it may give you in the future. You should do it because it's your civic duty. Giving back to your community is an investment with a thousand fold return.

So, my final bit of advice to Republicans is to meet your neighbors and to join clubs and community organizations. Don't even talk politics if you don't want to. Be cordial, be yourself and show your fellow Rhode Islanders that you're a nice person, you're one of them...and you're a Republican.

Rebuilding the RI GOP Part III: The Leadership Speaks

Marc Comtois

Rhode Island GOP Chair Patricia Morgan sat down for an extensive and wide-ranging interview with Dan Yorke yesterday. I believe that the viewpoints of the current GOP Chair are worthy of conclusion in this discussion we are having about rebuilding the RIGOP. Call it serendipity, I guess.

First, here are my quick takes on some of the items that came out of the interview:

The headliner is that Steve Laffey was engaged in some dealmaking with regards to the Senate run and that he asked for either the URI Presidency or an Ambassadorship in lieu of taking on Chafee. He was denied both. Throughout the interview, Morgan repeatedly talked of healing the party, but in the end, Laffey proves to be a constant source of friction, even for her.

It would appear that a lot of the money/resources sent to the RI GOP from the National Party was spent in the primary for the GOTV (Get Out The Vote) effort, which essentially helped Senator Chafee. I understand that it was used to build a GOTV system (computers, lists, etc.) and that it would have been unwise to hold back until after the primary. I even recognize that using the primary as a "dry run" for the general election was a good idea.

However, I also can't help but wonder if too much of those resources were used specifically for the GOTV effort on behalf of the Chafee campaign in the primary. How much of those resources were spent identifying independents and Democrats and then cajoling them to vote for the first--and probably only--time for a Republican? As a caller said, why couldn't the RI GOP just have stayed out of the Senate '06 primary and let the two candidates with the deepest pockets slug it out on their own? Then they could have still built the GOTV effort and focused on the local races, where the money was really needed.

I think that all can agree that the Governor absolutely needs to take charge of the party. I realize he has a state to manage, but if he wants to have a lasting legacy, he had better step up and create an environment whereby individuals with whom he shares a political philosophy can carry the banner in the future.

Finally, we can agree that there are a core set of principles (mostly fiscal/good government) around which the RI GOP needs to build. However, many of the most energized volunteers in both the national and local GOP are those who prioritize social issues over economic. They don't engage in politics for the sake of helping themselves (ie, pocketbook issues), they do it so that their children will have a better future in a world that is a little less crass than it is now. Those resources need to be tapped and the only way to do that is to convince social and religious conservatives that their input is valuable and that their viewpoint will be respected.

In the extended entry (below) is a summarization of that conversation.

I've broken the interview into seven parts and embedded a link to the audio file for each (available on Yorke's web page).


Dan Yorke's proposition that the RI GOP shut itself down apparently aggravated Chair Patricia Morgan enough that she decided to sit down for an interview with Yorke.

She began by explaining what went wrong. In short, while they had a great slate of candidates that should have won, a the "Perfect Storm" swept them away. It wasn't just Rhode Island, but also nationally. But in addition, RI had some specific factors (the casino, a motivated labor coalition) that contributed to the electoral difficulty for the state GOP's candidates.

Yorke ran through the fact that the GOP made no gains in the Legislature or the Senate, the Governor barely won and Senator Chafee lost and cried about it later (blaming Laffey). Also, there are double agents throughout the RI GOP and the party has no money.

Morgan explained that polls taken the weekend before the election showed Chafee, Carcieri and Sec. State candidate Sue Stenhouse all leading, as well as 6 candidates for the House. But, in the bluest of the blue states, there was an energized union leadership that threw a lot of effort at this election and they were more organized than ever.

She explained that the unions get their money from everyone's paycheck automatically; they don�t have to ask for a check. Rhode Islanders aren't used to voluntarily giving contributions. The Democrats have a constant stream going into their coffers. Because the Governor took on pension reform and angered union leadership, they were out to get him and down ticket candidates suffered.

Additionally, there was Harrah's, which seemed to have an open checkbook. After ten years and millions of dollars, everyone in RI knew how they were going to vote on the casino. They also probably knew about the governor and the senate races, but didn't really know their local candidates. Thus, because it's a Democrat state, they tended to default to the Democrat side; besides which, as they were going into the polls, they were told to vote straight Democrat. Finally, Morgan thinks that the number of ballots that were straight Dem was double that of last election.

Yorke explained that he was "sick of the excuses." Morgan said that it wasn't an excuse, it's an explanation. After some back and forth, Morgan offered that, "I think the people of Rhode Island made a bad call." As an example, she mentioned Spencer McGuire in Bristol. He was a qualified candidate, raised $30,000, walked door to door for months, met everyone in his district and ran a great campaign. He was going against a guy who has a voting record that isn't in the best interest of the people in his district and had a very serious ethics complaint against him. Yet, the people returned him to office. Is it because the RI GOP didn�t have a great candidate? No. It's because the people aren't informed about their local officials.

Morgan attempted to take the heat herself by explaining that the RI GOP keeps trying but they're underfunded and she stated, "Criticize me for that." Yorke would have none of that line of thinking, explaining that it wasn�t about blaming Morgan, it was about the systemic issues of the RI GOP, which is a tiny party, fractured, full of double agents, no cohesive leadership plan and no money to even implement that plan if they had it.

Yorke repeated that they should shut it down. When Morgan defended the current Republicans up on the Hill, Yorke averred that they enjoyed being the minority party and taking what they could get. Morgan offered that Yorke's real question should be why the people of RI continue to vote for the people who don't serve their best interest. Yorke said no, my question is when is the GOP going to get its act together.

Yorke said the Governor should call for a GOP meeting ASAP (not in March, when it is currently scheduled). He should call out the double-agents, tell the factions to leave each other alone, talk about the party's benefits, elect a chairman, find the people to raise money, and then implement this plan. He should lead the effort for 6 months to get it going. If not, kill it. After some back and forth, Morgan eventually agreed that the Governor was the only one who had the star power to lead the effort in rebuilding the RIGOP.


A Caller offered that the state GOP has tried too hard to �out-left� the Democrats and also took the RI GOP leadership to task for "savaging" Laffey. Morgan disagreed that they had "savaged" Laffey.

Yorke then brought up the $1/2 million sent to the party for party-building that Laffey believed he should have had access to. Morgan explained that it was for party building and, once they got into the general election, that money was available for everyone. [According to National GOP rules, from which this money came, only incumbents can have access to this money in a primary].


Yorke played a clip of Chafee saying he was glad the GOP lost the House and asked how Morgan felt about it. Morgan said it was unfortunate and that Chafee was vulnerable. He had a bad couple days. Yorke offered that that was a very �chic� think to say (no offense intended).

Yorke then moved on to the fact that you don't get points for trying, and that�s all he was hearing. He also criticized the RI GOP for having nobody to run against Langevin. Morgan said that it just made sense to not run against Langevin. Too often the party puts up sacrificial lambs. They have limited resources and only so many volunteers and they needed to put them where they can make a difference.

A caller (Laffey supporter) said that in the primary, both Laffey and Chafee were well financed and could support their own campaigns. Why did the state party inject itself into that race? The Governor can't even sustain a veto in the house and the party was worried about two guys who have enough money to run both now AND four years from now.

Morgan explained that her concern was building the party infrastructure, getting GOTV expertise and getting help to help all candidates up and down the ticket. She hears the criticism that the RI GOP doesn't get enough volunteers and it is volunteers who do all of the hard work like making phone calls and going door to door, which helps to pull that vote out. According to Morgan, the RI GOP has never done that in RI because they've never had that grass roots infrastructure.

Laffey Supporter then had two follow-ups--He asked how much of that $1/2 million went to Chafee in the primary. Second, he thought it insulting for Morgan to say the people went the wrong way and asked when it was time to shoot the messenger. When do you acknowledge that you or the party isn't being effective?

Morgan explained that, first, none of that money went to Chafee, it was all GOTV. Laffey Supporter then asked how much went to the primary? Morgan restated that the national GOP didn�t give any money to Chafee. Laffey Supporter then stated that Morgan was avoiding the question and asked how much went to the GOTV effort during the primary.

Morgan said that they used the money during the primary and general election. She explained that you don't start building GOTV after the primary because there isn't enough time. There is only 8 weeks until general election. You have to start building it early.

At this point, Yorke jumped in, and said that Laffey, as the challenger, had to know he wouldn�t get that money until, and if, he won the primary. . Laffey Supporter agreed, but wanted to know where the RI GOP was when that decision was made. Morgan explained that the state central committee overwhelmingly approved (75%) using that money for GOTV. . Laffey Supporter responded that, while he understood that, wouldn't it have been better used for the general election and that he suspected most was used in Chafee/Laffey race. Morgan discounted that and said it wasn't, but the GOTV program was constantly built.

For clarificiaton, Yorke asked Morgan (rhetorically) to define what the GOTV and $1/2 million was. Yorke explained that it wasn't really cash, but a program for GOTV. They were assets for investing into a system for identifying voters. The Chafee campaign had access to that system in the primary but Laffey couldn't. He then asked Morgan if she knew how much of that now-famous 72 hour push in the GOP Senate '06 primary was helped by that $1/2 million. Morgan confirmed that that system was used by the Chafee campaign, but that the dollar amount didn't equate to half of the total. She explained that it was hard to quantify it because it was an ongoing thing.

Yorke then changed tack and played cuts of Jackvony comparing Laffey to Saddam Hussein and blaming him for all that is wrong with the RI GOP. Yorke asked Morgan when the RI GOP was going to get those type of people out of the party. Morgan replied that the GOP needed to realize that their opponent was the Democrats, not each other and they needed to get together.

Yorke explained that Jackvony and Holmes were self-serving, double agents who looked out for themselves. He also asked why the local media always goes to them for the GOP POV. He then played the clip of Holmes explaining that he had given advice to Democrat Charlie Fogarty. Morgan was very upset at this and called it "absolutely outrageous" and declared that Holmes' credentials as a Republican should be taken away and that the RI GOP needed to tell the media that Holmes doesn't speak for us and that there are others that are more representative of the party. When asked about Jackvony, Morgan dodged a bit. Finally, Yorke also mentioned that Morgan works 30 hours a week without pay.


A Democrat Caller had two points. He disagreed that it's the governors job to build a party. They can lend their name, but it has to come from the party chair and the grassroots. It's a cliche, but it's true. Second, the RI GOP's whole strategy for winning on a local level is flawed because they are too negative. [Yorke and Morgan blew him out of the water on that--he interpreted "going negative" as being critical of your opponent's voting record].

Yorke reiterated that the Governor was the only guy who can resurrect the party and put the chairperson on the playing field. Morgan agreed that she needed his help. To this, Yorke explained that the RI GOP needs more than help, it needs restructuring. That's what the Governor supposed to do as a businessman.


Yorke asked Morgan how the Governor could help. Morgan stated that he energizes the troops and helps in raising money, to which Yorke added that, "He needs to knock heads." According to Yorke, John Holmes is only one of a bunch of bad players in the RI GOP. He then asked, "What about Jackvony?" Yorke observed that, while he's got a personal problem with Laffey, Laffey does that to people, but he isn't going away. The RI GOP have to embrace Laffey as a viable part of the party and stop the internecine warfare. Morgan explained that there is a personal history between Laffey and Jackvony, but the GOP needs to take on the Democrats, not each other.

Morgan also said she wanted to still be Chair. She believed in the GOP philosophy and that it could help RI. People complain about taxes and corruption, but vote in the same people again and again. (Then they went back and forth again about the past election problems).

Morgan said that there was a lot of money on the other side floating around the state. Yorke said that that is what happens and when a party has no infrastructure, they get caught flat footed by that type of effort. Morgan explained that's why they got the money from the National GOP for GOTV, to which Yorke said, but it was chump change.

A Republican Caller said he was looking for an email or message from state party about what happened (speaking to communication issues) and said that the prty should embrace Laffey, and he needs to run again.

Yorke then went into a different direction than the party-building conversation and delved into the behind the scenes deal-making between Laffey, Chafee the RI GOP and National GOP. As has been well-documented, many tried to persuade him to run for another office. Morgan said that she believed Laffey wouldn't because he apparently really wanted to be Senator. However, she then explained that Laffey may have considered running for Lt. Governor if the duties of the office were expanded. Governor Carcieri knocked that down.

A Republican Contributor called and opined that, while Morgan said there were no grassroots, "maybe you're fishing in the wrong pond," ie; maybe the RI GOP should turn to its more conservative members. He then asked why does the RI GOP have to be Democrat-lite. According to Republican Contributor, Laffey had three paid staff members and the rest were highly motivated volunteers. "I didn't know him, but his message intrigued me and I thought I'd help." RepCon finally offered that if Chafee hadn't been rescued by the RNC, he would have lost.

Morgan explained that she would take anyone in the GOP. She doesn't restrict philosophy. If they want to work for the RI GOP, she'll take them. She qualified that when she talked about the grassroots, she was talking about the town committees. They need help. The Democrats have a natural constituency. They've been in power for so long, they've distributed patronage and they have the unions. They have people who show up because they're expected to show up. Morgan offered this anecdote: When she showed up for a debate against Speaker Murphy in 2004, the place was full of State House workers. There was a financial, personal reason why they were there. They weren't strict volunteers. On a side note, she also explained that Harrah's "volunteers" were being paid.

Another Caller chimed in and stated that, in other states, parties build their back bench through appointments to commissions by the governor. He said that he had inquired and didn't get any feed back that they had received his letter. He had to show up at the door of a certain member of the Governor's leadership team to confirm that he had heard of him. The RI GOP has to build from the bottom up, but some of these other positions could be used effectively. Morgan reminded him that many of those positions have to be approved by the Senate and there is horse-trading going on and, as a result, it's really Democrats that end up filling those spots. The caller made the final point is that the Governor's office or RI GOP should at least give some feedback when someone offers to help. Communication can help to energize the young party members.


Yorke then reported that he had received a well-sourced (confidential) email that said that in private meetings, Laffey had indicated he would accept the URI Presidency or a diplomatic position (ambassador) and drop out of the race against Chafee. The Governor shot down the URI Presidency and Ken Mehlman shot down the ambassadorship.

Yorke asked Morgan why she didn�t want to say it and she said because she wasn�t there. Yorke said he had heard this, but had had no sources. In the end, Morgan said it revealed Laffey's personality and that it showed that he was disingenuous. "If you really want to do something, you don't trade it away for something else--he was trying to use it as currency."

An Independent voter called. He was proud of Laffey and the Governor. He said part of the RI GOP's problem is that Morgan said she could care less if someone is liberal or conservative, as long as they're a Republican. Ind. Voter thought that is and example of the problem. He thought many with more traditional views felt that Chafee and many Republicans and Democrats don't share those views and that "we don't know where to go. We're orphans." Thus, maybe the RI GOP needs to articulate a value laden party. Carcieri has the values and views and strength to stand up to the corruption here in Rhode Island. Only a few others, like Dan Yorke and Steve Laffey, have done it, too.

Morgan said that she needed him to come help the party to grow. There are certain things that bind all Republicans together, she explained: smaller, efficient government; people running their own lives and not a government bureaucracy. There are things that we can all agree on and the RI GOP needs like-minded people to help.

Yorke asked the caller about the Laffey horse-trading deal and the Caller revealed that there was a softer side to Laffey, who would visit the caller's sick mother and bring her a Thanksgiving turkey every year. That is the softer side of Laffey that needs to come out. Yorke refocused and tried to get an answer. The Caller said he believed Yorke and Morgan, but didn't know for sure what to make of it. Morgan stated, "It really happened."

Another Caller said he was sick to his stomach listening to this. To be effective, the RI GOP needs an organization which requires money and a message. Two things they don't have. A lot of excuses: democrats, unions, terrorists--everyone but those running the RIGOP. They've failed and when are they going to take responsibility? The party needs new blood.

Yorke asked if he was saying that Morgan should go. The Caller responded,
"Yes." The RI GOP hasn�t won anything. If you fail, you move on. The RI GOP hasn't raised money. How much money did you spend on candidates that wasn't part of the rule 11 money (the $1/2 million). Morgan responded that $165,000 was spent for approximately 58 candidates. The Caller broke it down: they got $3000 each, "How the hell do you win an election doing that." This got Morgan's back up and explained that the RI GOP had a platform and that a booklet was provided to every candidate and that the RI GOP did opposition research for every candidate. Finally, she told the caller that she was surprised that someone such as he--who was supposedly so informed about the RI GOP--wouldn't have known that.


This segment opened with a caller who said he was the Secretary/Treasurer of the North Providence Town Committee and also a state GOP convention delegate. He said he was floored by Morgan's depiction of how the vote for the $1/2million went down. According to him, throughout the convention it was proposed that the money be used for all of the candidates and then, at the end, it was revealed that all of the $� million was for Chafee's campaign. As for grassroots, he said that he had offered several times to help the party with publicity or advertising, in which he had 40 years of experience. He then said he had never heard back from the RI GOP. Morgan confessed that she didn�t know who he was, but if people volunteer, she uses them and that she'd like his phone number.

Another Caller rang in to observe that the party is fractured and that Morgan had made a huge move forward by condemning John Holmes. He continued that a lot of people were disenchanted with Holmes et al and that, unfortunately, he's the face of the GOP party on local media outlets, not Morgan.

Yorke agreed and told Morgan that she needed to do a better job of getting genuine GOP spokespeople. Morgan pointed to Rep's Watson, Gorham and Trillo as some who should be used by the media not Holmes. Yorke commented that Morgan should have gone after ABC 6 for having Holmes on Election night or Lively Experiment for going with Jackvony as the GOP voice. Morgan agreed that there are more current people withing the RI GOP to whom the local media should turn. Yorke stated that, as the RI GOP Chair, Morgan needed to control these issues.

Another Caller said he was disgusted with Laffey, Holmes and Jackvony. Asserted that the RI GOP has good people in the House who can represent the party well. He was shocked by Laffey's actions re: the back room dealing and stated that Laffey shouldn�t be looked to within the party anymore because he put himself first. Yorke asked Morgan if she sanctioned that point of view, that "Laffey should be sent to the back of the bus." Morgan said that the people of the party will have to decide, but it's a window into his personality.

Questions About the Rhode Island Recount Controversy

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to Benjamin N. Gedan in today's Projo, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Stephen Fortunato has ruled that the state Board of Elections must make copies of "ballots that [did] not register a vote during a recount" that can be examined by individuals not associated with the Board. The BOE objects to Judge Fortunato's ruling and has delayed the recounts that were in progress while it seeks to have it overturned...

The Board of Elections yesterday asked the state Supreme Court to delay enforcement of a Superior Court decision mandating that hundreds of ballots be segregated and photocopied during machine recounts.

On Tuesday, Judge Stephen J. Fortunato Jr. ruled that ballots that do not register a vote during a recount be photocopied to potentially allow a manual examination to determine if the voter's intent can be learned.

The Board of Elections strongly objected, saying the removal of ballots for photocopying would slow recounts, increase mistakes and facilitate a manual review process that would mirror the tortured presidential election recount in 2000.

The recounts yet to be finalized involve Allan Fung in Cranston, Joseph Larisa in East Providence as well as local races in East Greenwich, Portsmouth and Tiverton.

My question is this: Is the BOE objecting to specific procedures that have been laid out by the Judge, or are they objecting to ever letting anyone from outside of the BOE see the ballots? If the objection is the more general one, then my second question is what good is it to keep a paper-audit trail if you are never going to let anyone from outside see it?

(Also, a minor digression: I wonder if Judge Fortunato had an opportunity to extol the virtues of Marxism to the judges from Russia who paid a visit to the Rhode Island courts earlier this week?)

Where Have We Heard This Before? Patrick Lynch Says It's All Judge Darigan's Fault...

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to Edward Fitzpatrick in today's Projo, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch continues his pattern of asserting that the rules that apply to everyone else don't apply to him. We've had the Attorney General assert that it's alright for him to take campaign contributions from a defendant that he is in negotiations with and to file incomplete campaign finance reports. Now, the AG is claiming his office should be exempt from Rhode Island's Access to Public Record's Act...

Facing a deadline in an access-to-public-records request, Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch yesterday released none of the evidence gathered as part of the Station nightclub investigation.

Instead, the attorney general's office sent The Journal a letter saying it could not release certain information and records because of privacy concerns and because of orders issued previously by Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr....

Earlier in the day, a Superior Court judge rejected a petition from the attorney general that sought guidance on what material must be made public. Lawyers met in chambers with Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, who concluded Lynch's petition did not follow the procedure laid out in state law regarding access to public records, according to the attorney general's office and a lawyer representing The Journal....

[Spokesman for the Attorney General Michael Healey] said, "Nothing about this case has been routine and basically what we were trying to convey to Judge Thompson in chambers this morning was: This is an exceptional case, so please consider giving us an exemption."

Rhode Island is in a 360 Million Dollar Hole Over the Next 2 Years

Carroll Andrew Morse

Scott Mayerowitz of the Projo provides some specific numbers on the projected state budget deficits, for this year and next...

But state government is also spending more than was budgeted, particularly in the Department of Corrections and the Department of Children, Youth and Families. Additionally, a reduction in the state's work force hasn't been fully implemented.

State lawmakers face not only the $104.8-million deficit this year, but an expected $254-million deficit for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

Remember, this is what Rhode Island is facing during a national economic boom. What's going to happen to RI in the event of an economic downturn?

November 16, 2006

Emergency Room Usage is Sort of the Problem, But a Part that Could be Fixed

Carroll Andrew Morse

Commenter “Andy” (no relation, as far as I know) tries to provide a signature example of how emergency room overuse contributes to rising healthcare costs...

If an uninsured person has no primary care provider, they are less likely to seek help if they have (to take a silly example) a chronic stomach ache. Let's say, for the sake of argument, the stomach ache is the result of an ulcer. If the uninsured goes to a clinic early on, it seems to me that it is a relatively quick and inexpensive fix. If, however, the uninsured does nothing until the ulcer burns a hole in the stomach (or whatever it is that ulcers do - I am not a doctor) and then goes to the ER, then the uninsured will need surgery, which is a significant cost that can be recovered by driving up premiums/costs for the insured population.
It is true that Andy’s example describes a situation, if frequent enough, that would drive up insurance rates for everyone. The longer people wait before seeking care, the more intensive care they are likely to need. More intensive care for more people means (assuming a traditional insurance model) that everyone’s insurance premiums go up.

Still, Andy’s example does not support the conjecture that the real cost of providing care at an ER is any greater than the real cost of providing care at a walk-in clinic or other type of facility. It�s the waiting that drives costs up, regardless of where care is finally delivered. However, for the rest of this posting at least, we can let this distinction pass, and focus on the issue that too many people waiting until they feel sick enough to go to a healthcare provider of last resort could be driving up healthcare costs for everyone.

Solving this problem takes us back to the paradox that universal care advocates generally want to avoid. Preventative care would catch some, maybe many, illnesses early, obviating the need for more expensive treatments. Yet there is no way, if we really want everyone to take advantage of preventative care programs, that it is rational to pay for them through an insurance-style system (full argument here). For preventative care, it makes much more sense to eliminate the middleman and pay doctors directly.

So what do we do?

The answer, in part, is to separate healthcare events into two categories, rare events (accidents, major illnesses) paid for through insurance, and routine events (regular check-up, initial examinations of aches and pains) paid for through direct reimbursement of doctors. Then, we give everyone the option of a health-savings-account plan for paying for the routine events. And then, knowing that regular check-ups and establishing a relationship with a general practitioner reduces the odds that someone will need intensive care, we sell health insurance at two different rates. Those who use some of their HSA money each year for a preventive care regimen get a slightly lower rate, because there are less likely to need major care in the future. Those who don’t pay a higher insurance rate for the same coverage.

Note that aspects of the over-regulation of health insurance, things like “community rating” systems, make this kind of common sense approach illegal in many places. It is deeply frustrating when government throws up regulatory barriers that prevent people from acting rationally and then says the only solution is a total-government takeover of the system that government mucked up in the first place.

Mayor Steve Laffey on the Passing of Milton Friedman

Carroll Andrew Morse

Cranston, RI -- Mayor Laffey today ordered that Cranston flags be lowered to half-mast to honor the life of Nobel prize-winning economist, Milton Friedman, who passed away today at the age of ninety-four. The Mayor commented, "Milton Friedman's belief that individual freedom should rule economic policy is inspirational to all of us who truly believe in the American Dream." Mayor Laffey added that Friedman, "along with Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul, and of course, Ronald Reagan were all part of a team that brought us out of the global malaise of 1970's and collectively -- though in very different ways -- contributed to the overwhelming victory of Democracy over Communism."
(via John J. Miller of National Review)

The RI GOP is Not Alone! The NY GOP is Just as Bad

Carroll Andrew Morse

Charles E.F. Millard wrote a New York Post op-ed about the NY Republican Party that, with a few details changed, could have been written about the RI Republican Party...

New leadership is needed. [Former New York Republican Chairman Bill Powers] summed up the keys to me after last week's bloodbath: "You have to have a plan," and "you have to believe"....

When the people who control the podium fail to make the case for GOP principles for nearly a decade running, don't be surprised when voters, donors and activists are unpersuaded.

The leadership of Rhode Island's GOP certainly seems to flunk both of Mr. Powers' tests: they're not organized (contrary to State Chairwoman Pat Morgan's frighteningly bizarre statement from this week's Providence Phoenix that "the state party is really stronger and better than it has ever been") and they don't believe in anything that they are willing to talk about.

John Holmes, former state Republican chair, has recently suggested that the state Republican party should be focused on than lowering taxes and economic development. But those are platitudes. Anyone can run on those ideas. And anyone has. As Millard points out...

In this last election, [New York Democratic Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer] espoused lower taxes and the reform of special-interest Albany.
As the example of Mr. Spitzer shows, Northeast liberal Republicans need to stop looking to external boogeymen (i.e. Southern conservatives) to explain their failure and accept that their near-extinction in the political arena is the result of their failure to differentiate themselves from Northeastern liberal Democrats.

November 15, 2006

Undermining All That Follows

Justin Katz

Senator Reed's "four-point plan" for resolving the Iraq conflict is reasonable — even if short on practical methodology — but he undermines his entire strategy with his statement of principle:

Now the president needs to take the next step and make it clear to the Iraqis that our military presence is not open-ended and we will begin redeploying our forces from Iraq as quickly as possible. ...

If President Bush cannot secure these basic commitments from the Iraqis, then the logic of keeping over 144,000 American troops in Iraq is suspect.

This approach is doomed to failure for two reasons:

  1. It ensures that the insurgents and terrorists understand that they don't actually have to defeat the combined military force of the United States and the young representative government of Iraq, but merely to make things sufficiently difficult that the United States will abandon the ally that it has created.
  2. It creates an environment in which the safest strategy for would-be power players in the new government is to hedge their bets. If the United States is threatening to retreat, then Iraqi government officials have to be prepared for the possibility that one of the factions — one of the "militias" — may soon be calling the shots.

I wouldn't presume to offer military strategies, but as a matter of basic approach, it seems to me that the message we want to send to Iraq's insurgents and government alike is that we are not going anywhere and may very well rewrite the rules to suite our own needs. The result of our losing patience has to be a stronger hand, not a weaker backbone.

A Paradox of Anti-Theocracy

Justin Katz

A piece by Bernard F. Sullivan in Tuesday's Providence Journal brings to light an interesting paradox. On the one hand, it's difficult to fathom that a man with such apparent deficiency in categorical comprehension could have ever been a regional editor for a major newspaper. On the other, his expressed concept of government enables insight into the thought processes of some secularists: they don't necessarily have an especially restrictive view of "separation of church and state"; rather, they simply can't understand that church and state have distinct functions and different rules of operation. Consider:

There is perhaps no institution more authoritarian and autocratic than the Roman Catholic Church. Yet its leaders were willing to cozy up to pols in a desperate attempt to end gay marriages on a popular vote. Then, when the vote threatened to go against their canonical stance, as in the case of women priests, they scurried back to the mountain of magisterial intransigence and, hoping for a collective short memory on the part of the congregation, said church policies are not determined by popular vote.

So, if "archdiocesan officials" explain that "church policies are not determined by popular vote," they must behave as if state policies are not determined by popular vote, either, but rather accept the determination of the state's judicial hierarchy. If they insist on attempting to leverage democracy to shape government policy in accordance with their religious beliefs, then they must subject their religious beliefs to the democratic process. It isn't possible, in this civic model, for a religious organization to maintain that God's instructions are not available for popular revision, but that human laws are.

Curiously, Sullivan doesn't give any indication that he believes that those human laws ought to be determined through a democratic process when once the modern interpreters of old government texts have issued their ruling. Perhaps it isn't so much authoritarianism that bothers him as disagreement.

Given my suspicions, I won't bother addressing his crack that "maybe diocesan church leaders might get lathered up about street killings, poverty, violence, homelessness, child hunger and lack of adequate health care." The notion that people could sincerely believe that fortifying traditional marriage could be central to addressing all of those problems would surely be too much for him to bear, and perhaps to understand.

Rebuilding the RI GOP Part II: Top Down/Bottom Up

Marc Comtois

Before the RI GOP can hope to make political headway, its members must identify what they really stand for, which is something that I wrote about in my last piece. Next, they must turn to the hard work of party building, which means developing and funding candidates. It is here that a fundamental reprioritization needs to be made by both the party and those who would like to seek political office with an "R" next to their names.

It's been my impression that Rhode Island Republicans are too enamored with running for the big-name positions--Governor, U.S. Congress, Mayor--and not so much into vying for the local political billets like Town Council, School Committee, or State Legislature. In other words, if RI politics were a buffet table, too many GOP candidates pass right over the meat and potatoes and head for the filet mignon. The problem is, there are many more meat-and-potatoes entrées, and they are cheaper and easier to get!

Heck, even the consummate filet mignon politician--Senator Lincoln Chafee--realized that you have to begin your political diet by scarfing down some SOS. He was a Warwick City Councilman before becoming Mayor of Warwick. Then he was appointed and re-elected to the Senate.

I'm not necessarily arguing against running for the big offices right out of the gate. Governor Carcieri was a political unknown, but he had the ability to fund himself. Through hard work and perseverance--and despite the doubts of the RIGOP establishment--he won the Governor's race twice. For that matter, Mayor Laffey has also been a "self-funder." Additionally, his tenure as Mayor also made him a recognizable political personality (for good and ill) in his Senate run. (Tangential point: It's interesting that two of the most successful members of the RIGOP today were/are considered "outsiders" by the RIGOP establishment.) While some may argue that Mayor Laffey should have "settled" for a state-level office, he had enough financial juice and name recognition to make a viable run for a high-profile office.

However, both the Governor and Mayor Laffey are the exceptions and, along with Senator Chafee, are evidence of part of a different, but related, problem within the RI GOP: an over-reliance on well-moneyed individuals to self-fund their own campaigns and bring everyone lower on the ticket along for the ride. The average GOP candidate--the one who's eating SOS--needs support from the state party to be able to finance a run for Town Council or State Rep. It's all fine and dandy to argue (hope?) that top-o'-the-ticket coattails can make up for lack of cash, but I haven't seen that translate into political success for the RI GOP. Cash would work better.

Look, I don't have a financial background nor any real idea as to the mechanics of political fund-raising. "I'm an idea man." As such, I have to think that if the RI GOP could offer attractive candidates, the money would come. Nonetheless, I also realize that any organization needs an effective leader. Yesterday, I pointed to the discussion that Dan Yorke was having about the RI GOP in which he proposed that they should impose the death penalty on themselves. End the misery now. Scorch the earth so that something new can grow in a few years. Yorke's premise is that there is no high-profile leader who is willing or able to step up and make the changes necessary for the RI GOP to become a truly viable political entity. Therefore, get the bad apples (according to Yorke, Bernie Jackvony and John Holmes) out by knocking their legs out from under them.

Perhaps he's right, and as I said, while I recognize the need for good leadership in any organization, parties and movements also must be built from the bottom up. The rank and file can reform the party, if they put their minds to it. No matter who becomes the leader of the RIGOP, or how they get there, it's my belief that--to really change the political equation in this state--he or she must recruit effective candidates to run in local elections.

So it seems to me that the path to success lays between having a top down and a bottom up party. Of necessity, the RI GOP still has to be an organizationally top-down party, with smart, effective (and well-connected) leadership. However, the implementation of a sound political agenda--real party building--can only be done starting from the bottom of the ticket and working up.

Some Republicans, such as Warwick Mayor Scott Avedesian, have recognized this and worked their way through lower political offices to upper. Sue Stenhouse, though she lost, is another good example (I keep coming back to Warwick, don't I?) of a candidate with experience on the Warwick City Council who sought a higher office.

Starting small acquaints a candidate with political and governmental processes. More importantly, it also acquaints them with the voters. Thus, it gives them something that most don't have the money to buy: name recognition. Like it or not, it isn't the ideas that first attract RI voters to particular candidates, it's how well they know and like them. All politics may be local, but in Rhode Island, it's also personal. More on that next time.

About that Vote for Change....

Marc Comtois

So, according to a new poll:

While voters in Election Day surveys said corruption and scandal in Congress were among the most important factors in their vote, the postelection poll indicated 37 percent of all adults said the war in Iraq should be at the top of the congressional agenda during the next two years. Nevertheless, 57 percent of all adults in the AP-Ipsos poll said Democrats do not have a plan for Iraq; 29 percent said they do.

That finding strikes at the heart of a Democratic dilemma. The party has been of one voice in criticizing President Bush's strategy for the war but has been more equivocal on how to move in a different direction.

Democrats such as Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania want a fixed deadline to pull all troops out of the country. Other Democrats, including some party leaders, have voiced support for a staggered withdrawal that demands greater responsibility from the Iraqis.

I like that..."equivocal." Sheesh. Anyway, let me see if I've got this straight. For a couple years now the President has been criticized by many Democrats for either not having a plan or having the wrong plan. Now, the average American voter is telling us that Iraq is the most important task facing a Congress led by the Democrat party, but also admits that they don't think that the new leaders in Congress have a plan.

And how is that tactic of voting out the GOP because of "corruption and scandal" working out? Well, apparently, the new House Majority leader isn't exactly squeeky clean. Writes the Wall Street Journal's John Fund:

House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi's endorsement of Rep. John Murtha for majority leader, the No. 2 position in the Democratic leaderhsip, has roiled her caucus. "She will ensure that they [Mr. Murtha and his allies] win. This is hardball politics," Rep. Jim Moran, a top Murtha ally, told the Hill, a congressional newspaper. "We are entering an era where when the speaker instructs you what to do, you do it."

But several members are privately aghast that Mr. Murtha, a pork-barreling opponent of most House ethics reforms, could become the second most visible symbol of the new Democratic rule. "We are supposed to change business as usual, not put the fox in charge of the henhouse," one Democratic member told me. "It's not just the Abscam scandal of the 1980s that he barely dodged, he's a disaster waiting to happen because of his current behavior," another told me.

By no means is this the only such story. Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post also wrote about Murtha (read 'em both). But it's not just Murtha...apparently Speaker-Elect Pelosi also thinks having an impeached judge running the House Intelligence committee is a good idea. Marcus wrote about this one, too:
...Nancy Pelosi's first test as speaker will arrive long before the 110th Congress convenes. Her choice to head the House intelligence committee -- unlike other House committees, this one is left entirely up to the party leadership -- will speak volumes about whether a Speaker Pelosi will be able to resist a return to paint-by-numbers Democratic Party interest-group politics as usual.

Pelosi is in a box of her own devising. The panel's ranking Democrat is her fellow Californian Jane Harman -- smart and hardworking but also abrasive, ambitious and, in Pelosi's estimation, insufficiently partisan on the committee. So Pelosi, once the intelligence panel's ranking Democrat herself, has made clear that she doesn't intend to name Harman to the chairmanship.

The wrong decision, in my view, but one that's magnified by the unfortunate fact that next in line is Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings. In 1989, after being acquitted in a criminal trial, Hastings was stripped of his position as a federal judge -- impeached by the House in which he now serves and convicted by the Senate -- for conspiring to extort a $150,000 bribe in a case before him, repeatedly lying about it under oath and manufacturing evidence at his trial.

How's that vote for "change" looking now?

UPDATE: (Via Instapundit) Meanwhile, the GOP has apparently learned a lesson and decided that Trent Lott should help lead them into the future. Brilliant. And Allahpundit points to this John Miller piece that explains why the GOP dumped Lott in the first place. Dean Barnett is right: "Is it just me, or is it becoming increasingly apparent that the Republicans and Democrats are determined to engage in a two year dumb-off?"

November 14, 2006

110th Senate Committee Assignments for Senators Reed and Whitehouse

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to John E. Mulligan on the Projo's Political Scene blog, committee assignments have been determined for the 110th Congress.

Senator-elect Sheldon Whitehouse has received seats on...

  • Environment and Public Works
  • Judiciary
  • Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Budget
Two quick thoughts: 1) With the appointment to the Judiciary Committee, it looks like some of the spotlight will continue to be on Rhode Island during Supreme Court nominations. 2) If there is any hope that Senator-elect Whitehouse will not govern as the complete hard-lefty that he campaigned as, it will initially come through his work on the Intelligence Committee.

Senator Jack Reed's committee assignments are...

  • Appropriations
  • Armed Services
  • Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
  • Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Does Emergency Room Care Really Contribute to Rapid Healthcare Inflation?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Megan McArdle of Asymmetrical Information challenges emerging conventional wisdom that using emergency rooms for routine medical care is a significant contributor to rising healthcare costs (h/t Instapundit)...

It doesn't seem to me that emergency room care for routine ailments is actually more expensive to provide than clinical care; it's just that hospitals price it to cover the cost of dead, uninsured trauma patients and so forth. I don't see how a triage nurse, a doctor, and a waiting room are more expensive to provide because they're on the first floor than they would be on the fifth. But perhaps I'm missing something there.
Agree or disagree?

Rebuilding the RI GOP Part Ia: Tear it down?

Marc Comtois

A few days ago, I posted Rebuilding the RI GOP Part I: Forming a Political Philosophy. I'm still working on a follow up post, but Dan Yorke--inspired by an Ed Achorn column that Yorke characterizes as having been written about a million times already--has a rather provocative proposal of his own: dismantle it. I believe Yorke's premise is that there simply is neither an effective leader who will/can step forward to rebuild the existing GOP nor will the current hierarchy go away. Yorke avers that too many in the RIGOP leadership are hopelessly pathetic, "Me too" and in bed with Democrats, that there is no hope to really change it. So Yorke thinks that a 40 year walk in the desert is called for (actually, about 5 years). However, Yorke's premise relies heavily on the Governor calling for the death penalty for the RIGOP. That won't happen. It certainly sounds extreme and is highly, highly, highly unlikely. But I suppose it's an option.

Rhode Island's Retrograde Fiscal Culture, the Saga Continues

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to an unbylined story in today's Projo, as was the case last year, a budget shortfall for Rhode Island is being projected for this fiscal year...

The state's budget situation looks bleak, real bleak.

The amount of cash flowing into the state's coffers this year is estimated to fall $74.2 million short of previous predictions, causing a major headache for all branches of state government.

To further exacerbate the problem, a report due out later this week is expected to show that department spending is far above what has been budgeted. Those added expenses could push the current year deficit well above $100 million, according to state Budget Officer Rosemary Booth Gallogly.

As was also the case last year, our neighbors in Massachusetts and Connecticut are not experiencing similar crises. The State Comptroller of Connecticut is projecting a surplus for for fiscal year 2007?
State Comptroller Nancy Wyman today projected the state will end the 2007 fiscal year with a budget surplus of $266.4 million.

The estimated surplus increased by $53.5 million over the last month. That growth was mainly due to higher-than-expected revenue from the income tax, especially the capital gains portion of the tax related to investors' robust returns from the financial markets. Modest job growth of about 1,700 positions in September also produced higher revenue from the payroll-withholding portion of the tax.

And while Massachusetts does not provide a comprehensive monthly forecast including both revenues and spending like Connecticut does, according to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, as of October's collections, revenue collection by Massachusetts is very slightly ahead (about $16,000,000 out of a total of $18,900,000,000) of what was anticipated.

Unsurprisingly, the fundamental problem facing Rhode Island has not changed from a year ago...

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

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

Brown University Losing Its Edge?

Carroll Andrew Morse

National Review isn't exactly considered the journal of record for the Ivy League. (William F. Buckley once famously commented that he would "rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the 2000 members of the faculty of Harvard University"). However, last week's dead tree edition of NR contained a line that may catch some folks a few years (or decades) removed from the college experience by surprise...

Columbia has been the cool school in the Ivy League for a while now, taking that title from Brown...
Is it really true, or is NR guilty of propagating a bit of New York hype here?

November 13, 2006

Experiments in Beneficial Information

Justin Katz

I don't think Julian Sanchez understood what I was saying:

... let me just address one qualm about the analogy between skeptical science and liberal societies. Katz doubts it will go through because while scientists have the shared goal of improving science (let this rather rosy view of actual scientists' motivations pass for the moment), the diverse members of a liberal society are trying improve their own lives. So let me make explicit what I was implicitly gesturing at in the original post: See Mill for the full argument there. With Mill and Nozick, I very much doubt there will be a One Best Way of Life if "Way" is understood to involve much detail, but also expect that people's self-interested "experiments in living" provide publicly benificial information without that being anyone's explicit intention.

First, I'd note in passing that my mention of scientists' shared goal of improving science was merely a rephrasing of Sanchez's statement that "there are scores of intelligent and skeptical researchers constantly testing and refining its [that is, science's] conclusions." On the level of social mechanisms, the individuals' motivation isn't what's important; rather, we can speak of their role in the social model without their having to be consciously motivated by it.

To get to the point, though, my previous post didn't argue that scientists act toward a shared goal while citizens act toward their own goals. What I was attempting to suggest was that Sanchez's appeal to science as a model in which systematic doubt enables confidence in the process does not apply to society in the way that he apparently desires. In order for the analogy to work, systematic doubts about particular social views would have to be seen as enabling the improvement of society toward some ideal. In the case of science, the ideal is a perfect understanding of the physical world; in the case of society, it would have to be a perfect vision of morality.

My claim, which perhaps was not sufficiently explicit, is that Sanchez's "fanatical... defense of liberal societies" is contingent upon his being able to believe that such societies will move toward the ideal that he prefers. In other words, his systematic "doubt" is rigged. If the "publicly beneficial information" that arises out of institutionalized doubt about citizens' "experiments in living" appeared to be leading toward (to maintain my previous example) a more pervasive Catholic sexual ethic, his confidence in the process would waver. (Alternately, he might insist that the process is not actually being followed.) I expect that Julian will disagree with that claim, but to do so, he'll have to dispense with the ambiguity whereby he advertises (so to speak) the generation of socially beneficial information about human lifestyles while linking to arguments against society's acting on that information.

That, however, is merely a problem with Sanchez's argument as it stands. Stepping back from the intellectual discussion, the notes of evolutionary inevitability that I could not help but hear underlying Sanchez's initial post continue to give some indication of what he would consider to be "refinement."

Moving Negotiations with Iran Beyond Appeasement, If That is Even Possible

Carroll Andrew Morse

The world anxiously awaits the report from the "Iraq Study Group" (aka the Baker-Hamilton commission) on what major changes the U.S. should make in conducting the War in Iraq. Most media sources anticipate that a key recommendation from the commission will be opening negotiations with Iran and Syria. Here's some representative speculation from Martin Walker of United Press International...

[T]hese high stakes also involve Iraq's neighbors in the region, who must somehow be brought into the process if Iraq is to be stabilized. This may well mean sitting down to negotiate with unsavory regimes like Syria and Iran, and accepting that they too have regional interests that will have to be dealt with....

[T]he wise men will make clear, as they have done before in different contexts, their conviction that Israel-Palestine is the key to the stabilization of the Middle East. It is the running sore, the constant focus of Arab anger and resentment, the blood opera of Arab TV screens, as central to modern Arab political culture as the Trojan Wars to ancient Greece, and rather longer lasting.

What precisely are these regional interests, important to our Baker-Hamilton-approved potential negotiating partners in Syria in Iran, that need to be addressed? Well, here's a fresh quote from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as reported today by Agence France-Presse, that explains pretty clearly the Iranian position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...
According to the Iranian media Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that Israel was destined to "disappearance and destruction" at a council meeting with Iranian ministers.

"The western powers created the Zionist regime in order to expand their control of the area. This regime massacres Palestinians everyday, but since this regime is against nature, we will soon witness its disappearance and destruction," Ahmadinejad said.
Repeated calls by Ahmadinejad for the destruction of an American ally are the source of hawkish skepticism that negotiating with Iran serves American interests. It's not that hawks don't believe in negotiating. It's that hawks believe that the different sides in a conflict have to recognize the right of the others to exist before meaningful negotiation becomes possible. Without agreement that mutual coexistence is the starting point, negotiation becomes merely war-by-other-means, a tactical maneuver used by one side to continue a conflict against others.

Unfortunately, there is little potential for finding a good faith negotiating partner in a radical Islamist government prone to describing other governments as "unnatural". Ahmadinejad's choice of words reflect a central tenant of Islamic radicalism -- that it is "unnatural" to expect harmony on earth where Islamic law (the immutable system, created by God, for governing relations between men) is absent and that any institutions not based on Islamic law must be destroyed, because such institutions stand between man and Islam, the only path that will bring harmony to relations amongst men.

Those optimistic about Iran's potential as a peaceful negotiating partner (like the Iraq Study Group) obviously discount the Iranian government's official fundamentalist rhetoric. Both realists (aka "Republican Marxists") and progressives are comfortable dealing with governments that are based on violent, intolerant ideas, becasue they believe that economic forces ultimately erase all else in foreign affairs. Stanley Kurtz provides a pretty fair rendering of the negotiate-at-any-price position in today's National Review Online...

Those who favor a grand bargain believe that a faction of the leadership in Tehran is more pragmatic than the radicals who support Ahmadinejad. And while the Iranian public is nationalist enough to favor a nuclear program (many Iranians believe the government's line that the program is strictly for peaceful purposes), the public's first concern is the economy.

So those who favor a grand bargain (Kenneth Pollack, for example) believe that a combination of big economic carrots and big economic sticks might bring Iran's public over to the side of the "pragmatists." In a showdown (provoked by tough economic sanctions) between the pragmatists and Ahmadinejad's radicals, power would shift to Tehran's own "realists." The Iranian economy is in bad shape. Instead of being plowed into investment, Iran's oil revenues are doled out to the regime's core supporters through a web of patronage/corruption. Hold out the possibility of a national financial bonanza on the other side of tough economic sanctions, and Iran's long-suffering public will side with the pragmatists against the radicals.

But it can hardly be called "realistic" for the U.S. to ignore the fundamental beliefs of any government that it intends to negotiate with. If negotiations with Iran have any hope of creating a lasting peace, they must include the question of whether the Iranian government believes that governments and social institutions not based on Islamic law -- including Israel -- have a basic right to exist. If the Iranians cannot answer such questions in an unambiguously tolerant, pluralistic manner, then the United States has no obligation to provide Iran with any assistance or security guarantees.

Senator Chafee: The Gift That Keeps on Giving, Again & Again

Donald B. Hawthorne

Here we go again...

After the post entitled Senator Chafee: The Gift That Keeps on Giving, most of us thought the psychodramas would die down. Silly us.

With a H/T to Jim in the comments section of the earlier post, comes the Investor Business Daily editorial Lincoln's Assassination.

Then there was Holding to the Center, Losing My Seat , a Chafee editorial in the NYTimes.

Patrick Casey said it best: "In the end, Rhode Islanders preferred a real registered Democrat over one who just pretended to be one."

Goose, Meet Gander

Carroll Andrew Morse

From yesterday's Meet the Press interview transcript with Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut...

MR. RUSSERT: Jim Jeffords of Vermont crossed over and joined the Democrats.


MR. RUSSERT: And they gave -- they gave him his committee chairmanship.


MR. RUSSERT: You're, you're not ruling that out at some future time?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I'm not ruling it out, but I hope I don?t get to that point?

Earlier in the interview, Senator Lieberman did reject the idea of any immediate switch to the Republican party...
MR. RUSSERT: You will caucus with the Democrats?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I will caucus with the Democrats. I said that to my constituents throughout. I'm going to caucus with the Democrats both because it's good for my constituents in Connecticut, because I retained my seniority, I become a committee chair, but also I want to continue to work to bring the party back to its historic traditions of, of strength on national security, foreign policy and innovation, and progress in domestic policy -- the, the Harry Truman/John F. Kennedy Democrat that, that I was raised to be.

Senator Lieberman is now the independent maverick swing vote on the Senate's Homeland Security, Armed Services, Environment and Public Works and Small Business committees.

November 12, 2006

Insecurity, Thy Name Is the Internet

Justin Katz

Well, apparently the liberal Internet conspiracy continues.

Resulting from what looks to have been some relatively benign and low-level hacking, our comments sections were down for at least a few hours. I thought things had been quiet 'round here.

For future reference, please don't be shy about contacting me regarding problems with Anchor Rising's functionality. I was able to fix this one in a matter of seconds... as soon as I found out about the problem.

Between J. Sanchez and the Deep J.G.

Justin Katz

Perhaps I'm particularly attuned to such discussions because the past few months have brought an increase in Rhode Island progressives' declarations that their goals are evolutionary inevitabilities, but I can't get the ring of their proclamations out of my ear when listening to somewhat rightish rationalists. Take the following from Julian Sanchez:

[Jonah Goldberg] mocks the idea of a "serious political movement" founded on the slogan "We're not sure!" But I think this misapprehends one paradoxical aspect of the relationship between doubt and confidence. I know, for example, that science proceeds haltingly, that its conclusions are always open to revision, and indeed, that many of the scientific beliefs of the past have been either rejected or developed to accommodate new facts. And this is precisely why I can be so confident in the scientific enterprise in the aggregate: Because I know there are scores of intelligent and skeptical researchers constantly testing and refining its conclusions. I can be fanatical in my defense of liberal societies, not because (like Islamists) I'm sure they have discovered the One Best Way of Life, but because they embody a process that allows fallible people to seek continual improvement.

The language introduces a bit of muddled expression that is, I think, intended (even if it is not deliberate). Sanchez is confident that science will construct an increasingly correct understanding of the physical world, because its process encourages healthy doubt about any particular finding. Whether or not Sanchez would agree with it, translation of this analogy into the terms of (classically) liberal societies would render thus: Because such societies permit doubt about any particular point of view, they will construct an increasingly correct understanding of the moral world. The "One Best Way of Life" remains implied, if only as an ideal toward which to strive.

That this conflicts with his belief that self-doubting societies can remain strong is emphasized by Sanchez's omission of certain analogical terms on the social side. Those "intelligent and skeptical researchers" are seeking to improve science; what are the "fallible people" seeking to improve? My guess is that Sanchez would insert "themselves," rather than "society."

Science, by its nature, offers the objective metric of ability to explain phenomena. In contrast, the criteria by which we measure progress or deterioration of society and culture are the very things that such as Sanchez would insist remain open to doubt.

Without stating what it is, Sanchez joins the Rhode Island progressives, it seems to me, in seeing his own version of the One Best Way of Life as inevitable. Would he truly remain "fanatical in [his] defense of liberal societies" if their continual improvement appeared to be heading toward, say, Catholic sexual ethics? I suspect he'd be inclined to deny their status as "liberal societies," even if they continued to embody the very same process.

Cultural processes and criteria also have implications for the part of Goldberg's response to Sanchez that uses same-sex marriage as an example:

I'm not a passionate opponent to gay marriage — as some close readers have gleened over the years. I favor civil unions and it's my guess that gay marriage is ultimately inevitable. And yet, I still oppose it. Why? Truth be told, my primary — but not sole — objection isn't religious. Rather, it's that, unlike some relevant advocates of same-sex marriage, I am humble and skeptical about the extent of what I can know. I work from the Hayekian assumption that there is a vast amount of social-evolutionary knowledge and utility embedded in traditional marriage that should be respected even if I cannot tell you what it is. ... there are some things about which we can't know all the facts right now. Most social policy failures — and disasters — arise from people working on the assumption that they have all the necessary data at hand. This remains the enduring folly of Progressives who believe they have all the facts they need to redraw the face of society. ... In short, my objection to gay marriage isn't primarily principled in the sense that my objection really has nothing to do with my attitudes toward homosexuality per se. It has to do with my views toward the pace of change itself. Gay marriage is a very, very, new idea. My view/hunch is that implementing it too quickly is a bad idea (for all sorts of obvious and unobvious reasons). More social "evolution" is required. ... And, who knows? After a generation of study, comtemplation and debate we may discover that it really is a bad idea after all. Or it may just seem obvious that gays should have been married all along.

I've little doubt that I'm failing to observe something that Goldberg actually does intend to say, but his vision of the nature of tradition's unknowables strikes me as prone to ambiguity. If his claim really is that we can't know the "social-evolutionary knowledge and utility" of traditional marriage "right now," but could, through "study, comtemplation and debate," in a generation, then same-sex marriage proponents would be somewhat justified in noting that they can't prove a negative ("will not have undesirable consequences") and dragging out the clock until the deadline for data submissions has passed. Indeed, they'd have some grounds for claiming that we won't have any new data that hasn't already been discussed until we've allowed same-sex marriage to enter into the society.

In truth, we can't ever know all of the cultural learning embedded in tradition, and relatedly, its application to modern questions has more to do with sense than with intellect. Regardless of what we, the research-inclined, have been arguing over the past decade, people in this country still can and do conclude that same-sex marriage, as it is being requested right now, should not be grafted onto traditional marriage, as it is understood right now. Some of us can formulate arguments as to why that is or is not a shrewd conclusion, and we all can push and pull marriage toward our preferred understandings. But what time and deference to tradition will shake out are our individual emotions, short-term objectives, and political stratagems.

If same-sex marriage does look more plausible in the light of the midcentury, it will be because marriage and the homosexual subculture will have moved toward each other. That could be good, bad, or a mix of both. If marriage progresses further toward status solely as an institutional contract between adults, without reference to the children whom they may have, that would be bad. If homosexuals increase the degree to which their relationships uphold the ideal assumed in traditional marriage, then that would be good. But over time, and under the specter of tradition, those whose motives are ulterior would either change or seek other methods of acheiving their ends.

That is how fallible people ought to seek continual improvement of the society that they build for themselves — with due understanding that both claims of inevitability and claims of processes' inherent virtue too often mask a desire to codify import that we fear to be fleeting.

November 11, 2006

Senator Chafee: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Donald B. Hawthorne

I previously wrote about the policy reasons behind my decision not to vote for either Chafee or Whitehouse in this week's U.S. Senate race.

Then there was the word that Chafee might not stay a Republican after all.

Now comes the re-affirmation that Chafee will indeed continue to block the nomination of John Bolton:

Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., who was defeated by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday, told reporters in Rhode Island that he would continue opposing Bolton. That would likely deny Republicans the votes needed to move Bolton's nomination from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the full Senate.

"The American people have spoken out against the president's agenda on a
number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy," Chafee
said. "And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse
something the American people have spoke out against."...

And how much did the Republican establishment spend on this Senator? For what end?

John Podhoretz, writing over at The Corner, writes about a New York Times article on the U.N. ambassador position:

Who has made it impossible for John Bolton to be confirmed by the Senate? Lincoln Chafee. Who has recently said he may not remain a Republican notwithstanding the millions upon millions of dollars spent by the Republican party to retain his seat? Lincoln Chafee. Who, therefore, in the delusional estimation of a New York Times reporter, might be John Bolton's replacement at the U.N.? Lincoln Chafee! "Names that have been floated both inside and outside the administration," writes reporter Helene Cooper in a risible piece today, "include Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq; Philip D. Zelikow, the State Department counselor; Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs; and even Mr. Chafee."

Left-wing editorializing masquerading as a news article - yet another example of the high standards at the NY Times.

Isn't it interesting how the definition of compromise post-election has been defined by the Left as capitulation on matters of principle?

One of the reason some of us are pleased that the Democrats now control the Congress is that they are now heavily accountable for American public policies in the next two years going into the 2008 elections. We will now get to see what they are really made up of. Simplistic knee-jerk negative reactions to President Bush will no longer cut it.


Marc Comtois

ProJo's "Editorial Mystery" Solved

Marc Comtois

I posted before about the questions that Ian Donnis was asking regarding the mysterious non-publishing of an editorial by the ProJo in which they attempt to justify endorsing"Yes on 1." (For posterity, I also included the text of the online only editorial). Now it appears as if there was no need. This morning's (Saturday) Op-Ed page contains the piece, titled "Editorial Mysteries." Indeed, it has been a mystery! Why did the editorial vanish? Why publish it now, so late after the election (on a Saturday, no less)? What could have possibly changed their mind? Regardless, my original problems with the piece still stand.

November 10, 2006

Guess What We Forgot?

Marc Comtois

With all of the election hoopla, none of us Anchor Rising contributors thought to remember that November 7 was the two-year anniversary of this blog. In the past year, I think that we've managed to pull at least a couple links of the ol' anchor chain out of the water. At the very least, our anchor weighing has caused at least a few ripples here and there (for example).

I believe that we have proven ourselves to be intellectually honest and responsible while advocating for conservatism in the arena of ideas. This has lent us a degree of credibility with other media outlets and, in turn, the increased exposure they have offered has allowed us to broadcast a conservative viewpoint to the broader public. Hopefully, we've opened some minds along the way.

But enough of the self-congratulation. The anchor still needs to be weighed. So let's get back to manning the windlass and keep cranking.

Rebuilding the RI GOP Part I: Forming a Political Philosophy

Marc Comtois

I think an important distinction needs to be made in this discussion about re-invigorating the Rhode Island Republican Party by "defining conservatism.' The attempt to excise the social aspects from the holistic definition of conservatism--essentially smaller government and traditional morality--indicates that it's not conservatism that is being defined so much as Rhode Island Republicanism. The strong on defense, small-government, low taxes, but mum-on-morality positioning sounds similar to Giuliani-style Republicanism to me. This is probably a pragmatic approach for a Northeastern state's Republican party to take, but let's not treat social conservatism as some sort of pariah.

Social conservatives realize that they can only be a part of the coalition that makes up the RIGOP. However, they also deserve to be treated with respect. Statements by RIGOP "moderates"--as when Sen. Chafee called them "radical right wingers"--don't help matters. Justin has explained--much more eloquently than I could--that socially conservative beliefs are sincerely held and are "above" politics. Nonetheless, in the political sphere, moderates and libertarians within the RI GOP can expect social conservatives to compromise to achieve certain political goals. But "Compromise Avenue" isn't a one-way street.

I think that Justin has correctly delineated the three groups that will make up the future RI GOP: conservatives, libertarians and moderates. Now, I have a pretty good idea where the average conservative is going to stand on most issues (small government, low taxes, traditional morality). I also think I have a good handle on what the average libertarian believes (small government, low taxes and "stay out of my bedroom"). I can't say the same about moderates. For now, I'll take my cue from Senator Chafee, a self-described moderate Republican, who stated yesterday that a he "care[d] about fiscal responsibility, environmental stewardship, aversion to foreign entanglements, personal liberties. This is the Republican Party that I represent."

It's obvious that there is some common ground to be found and I think that we can agree with the fiscal/small government policy that Jon Scott outlined:

1. I believe in low taxes
2. I believe in small government
3. I believe in a strong national defense (to include secure borders).
I agree that these can form the central pillar on which the RI GOP should try to rebuild. Yet, these are only goals: there is still disagreement on how to achieve them. For instance, I believe that most conservatives and libertarians would prioritize tax cuts, while most moderates prefer budget balancing before tax-cutting. I don't think it's a major stumbling block, though, and a coherent fiscal policy could be established that would be germane to future RIGOP candidates for both state and national offices.

Foreign policy questions are usually reserved for candidates for national offices. (This year was different: until now, I hadn't realized that the Governor had so much to do with the Iraq War). Standing for a strong national defense seems to be a no-brainer, but there is some difference of opinion just amongst conservatives as to what that means. Stay at home more--�essentially a defensive posture--or project power (ie; get them over there before they come here)? And what to make of the moderate position staked out by Senator Chafee that we should have an "aversion to foreign entanglements�" It sounds very Founding Father-ish, but I think that even many moderates would agree that this is not a practical approach in today's troubling world.

I don't think that there is much disagreement over the concept of strengthening our borders, but there are differing viewpoints over how to address the fundamental reason for why we need to do so, namely illegal immigration.

Senator Chafee mentioned environmental stewardship and this is an area in which the GOP, both nationally and at the state level, has allowed their political opponents to negatively define them. In our jam-packed state, fighting for open space, keeping the bay clean by improving city sewage systems, etc. are worthwhile and popular causes to embrace. Addressing environmental concerns go directly to quality of life issues and even have an economic development component. A sound environmental policy can explain how the RI GOP is just as "green" as most Rhode Islanders. It's our water and air, too.

These are all part of an overriding philosophy of government that the RI GOP should then tailor to our specific political environment. That doesn't mean sacrificing principles, but it does mean recognizing which issues should be emphasized. And the one issue that overrides all other is the business-as-usual approach in State Government.

Corruption is part of the problem, but lack of accountability and legislating behind closed doors (ie; open-government issues) are also viable areas for the RI GOP to address. It hasn't been for a lack of trying, though. Rhode Islanders seem to recognize that something is wrong with their state government, but they continue to enable the same Democrat leaders who perpetuate the problem by re-electing their own particular Democrat to the legislature. As it has been observed before, most Rhode Islanders simply think "my guy is OK" and it's the "other guys" who are the bad actors. Changing that attitude is the job that the RI GOP needs to undertake before it will ever make meaningful political progress in this state.

Trying to determine what it means to be a Rhode Island Republican is a worthwhile exercise. But unless the RI GOP can find attractive candidates to espouse these viable alternatives, the policy prescriptions concocted by us armchair philosophers and policy-wonks will be all for naught. Finding a coherent RIGOP philosophy is but one part of the problem. And it's the easy part. The RIGOP must realize that a party built for longevity is built from the bottom up, not the top down. The tough part will be finding and funding the right folks to run against the Democrat monopoly across the entire political spectrum. But more on that later.

It's Frighteningly Telling...

Justin Katz

... that Brown University professor emeritus of psychology, medical science, and human development Lewis Lipsitt doesn't offer one single example of what he means by "learning processes and socialization on a grand scale [that] will ensure human survival."

The same intelligence that brought us here must now be used to reverse aggressive assaults and promote opportunities for collaborative peace-making. ...

FDR's emphasis on science suggests that had he lived there might have been another Manhattan Project, addressing human relationships and the learning processes required to control international aggression. We have the choice to use, or not use, behavior science benevolently. ...

Such an effort is now required, even more than in FDR's time, to study how to abort and abate the violent behavior so prevalent in the modern world. Today, only a full-throttle commitment and large-scale investment in the study of the behavior of aggression will provide a level playing field for the terrorized people of the world.

So what rights will society claim when it comes to handling those who don't consent to this benevolent socialization? And why do I get the feeling that Lipsitt intends a very broad meaning of "terrorized people"? I'm sure the category of terroristic behavior will not drift toward a secular liberal fantasy of social engineering one bit. Yeah, right.

November 9, 2006

What Were We Just Saying About Lincoln Chafee and the RIGOP?

Donald B. Hawthorne

Following shortly on Andrew's recent post, What a Friend of the Editor of The New Republic Heard During a Rally in Rhode Island, comes Thanks for All That Cash, Liddy, But... over at The Corner, with a link to this Boston Globe article:

Two days after losing a bid for a second term in an election seen as a referendum on President Bush and the Republican Party, Sen. Lincoln Chafee said he was unsure whether he'd remain a Republican...

When asked if his comments meant he thought he might not belong in the Republican Party, he replied: "That's fair."

You don't think this might lead some people to say "I told you so," do you?

In the meantime, Patrick Casey writes about Chafee and the RIGOP inThe Post Election Canonization of Linc Chafee over at Sixers:

Glad to see that the Republican Party spent its money wisely in Rhode Island. The 53%-47% loss suffered by Senator Lincoln Chafee yesterday was well deserved by a party that had forsaken ideas and good government for a quest for raw power. There was not a single issue discussed seriously in this years Chafee-Whitehouse match-up other than who hated Bush and his policies more. In the end, Rhode Islanders preferred a real registered Democrat over one who just pretended to be one.

By putting forth a candidate like Steve Laffey, Republicans could have guaranteed a race in Rhode Island where issues like the economy could have been discussed. The fact that we currently have a great economy, and the way we got to it, was lost to Rhode Islanders this election cycle. The fact that our goal in Iraq and the Middle East is noble, and the fact that in wartime sometimes mistakes are made and things take longer than we would like, was lost in the battle between who was more anti-war and anti-Bush Chafee or Whitehouse. Talking about these things in the Senate race would have given us the opportunity for those ideas to have trickled down to other candidates and blunted the effect of the "I hate Bush No, I hate him more" mantra from both parties a little bit.

The pseudo-Republican/No Ideas Party that we have here in Rhode Island was destroyed last night, hopefully...

Rhode Islanders had no real choices this election cycle. It was, from the Senate down to the individual State Representative seats, a series of races between Democrats and Republicans whose party platform is to pretend to be nicer than the real Democrats. Disgraceful.

But not as disgraceful than this morning's love letter to Chafee by 'reporter' John E. Mulligan, A citizen-senator to the end, where the sycophantic author actually compared Chafee to the Founding Fathers approvingly.

At least in the national Republican Party you have a considerable base of officeholders and ideas that you can build on. In Rhode Island we have to start from scratch.

The RIGOP does have to be rebuilt from scratch as they are the single most inept political party I have ever seen in my lifetime.

Let's Get One Thing Straight: Core Beliefs

Justin Katz

An emergent strain of thought that ought to be quashed appears in the comments to my most recent post. Writes Greg:

Maybe it's time for Republicans to return to their roots? Let's go back to the start, decide what we believe in, and build a whole new platform.

Do we really need to be anti-gay? How does that really help us? ...

Are we really on the right side of the cloning debate? Are we saving babies or just stifling technological growth?

How can we properly frame the debate on social programs so that we can all come to an understanding and a middle ground?

Most of these things aren't hard if we put politics aside and start talking to each other like people that want to SOLVE problems.

Writes congressional candidate Jon Scott:

...we need to put aside our differences and come to some sort of agreement on flashpoint issues that divide the Party and pull us away from forward progress. That was one of the central tenets of my campaign.

In his comments, Hayden wrote: The party needs to recruit some moderate, smart, energetic young people to make them relevant and I couldnt agree more as long as those recruits agree that taxes should be low, government should be small, and the US should have a strong national defense.

Some on this board will bristle at that sentiment because their definition of conservative is somewhat different. The problem is that those three principles are our core beliefs as a Party and we have abandoned them for social conservatism. It is fine to be socially conservative but we cannot be so at the expense of our core beliefs and that is what has happened in Washington.

The place to begin is with Greg's suggestion that we can "SOLVE problems" if only we'd put politics aside. The essential and unmitigable reality is that he has the democratic process exactly backwards. It is politics that enables us to resolve more fundamental differences — to "solve problems" as a civic grouping without devolving into violence. In other words, if we put politics aside, we aren't digging down to shared core beliefs, but rather, we are exposing our core beliefs as incompatible.

For example: If you want me to buy that the greater good is served by backing down the path toward evil (just a little, just this once, promise) to grant medical scientists the right to federal funds in order to clone and kill embryos, I say no sale. If you want me to compromise the crucial institution of marriage to gain the votes of people too spineless or indifferent to stand up to emotional blackmail, I say no deal. If you want me to accept that mothers can "initiate the demise" of their children as long as an inch of the newly formed bodies have not yet tasted air, I say, so help me God, no.

These are "core beliefs." These are principles. You put politics aside, and this is what you get.

Low taxes and small government are preferences that must serve more substantive beliefs. For some — to give the liberal cliché its due — those more substantive beliefs are greed and selfishness. For others, they are liberty and independence. For still others, they are means toward the development of moral maturity. The political system is what enables us to work together, despite fundamental differences, to implement our shared governmental preferences. With those preferences in place, we act in other arenas (most notably, the social sphere) in order to turn them toward our ends.

I wouldn't be surprised if a significant portion of modern lowercase-L libertarians would allow all that I've written thus far — whether out of agreement or for the sake of argument. The friction appears when we acknowledge — or put forward for acknowledgment — the fact that libertarianism is negated not by social conservatives, but by liberals. What do we do when, as is currently the case, social conservatives must put aside their preferences for the sake of defending their core beliefs against liberals? How ought libertarians and the representatives of our shared Republican coalition respond when social conservatives feel it necessary — as with abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and same-sex marriage — to assert their core beliefs beyond the social sphere, into the civic sphere?

What I would advise is sufficiently obvious that I won't be so forward as to make you read something that goes without saying. I will express, however, my analytical understanding that a political party will not win majority support based on civic preferences alone. Of itself, the statement "you should support small government" lacks a "because."

Most definitely, Republicans must decide what they believe in. Personally, I think social conservatives provide a supremely rich supply of compelling "becauses," if only libertarians and "moderates" would trace conservatives' reasoning back from our points of agreement. If the first two groups come to agree that the third group is correct on this or that issue, then we will jointly be able to articulate our platform in broader terms. If disagreement remains, then we will jointly be able to articulate why inclusion of arguable parts of our platform allows broader advancement.

But if Republicans' conclusion is that it is not politically expedient to support that which I actually do believe, on higher planes than politics and government mechanisms, then they cannot count me among their number.

Liberals Must Have Invented the Internet

Justin Katz

Just to let folks know: I'm having issues with my email and am not receiving all messages sent my way. (Correspondents may or may not receive an error message saying that my emailbox is full.) I'm workin' on it, but it's always difficult to overcome these liberal conspiracies.

If ever anybody is rebuffed by my usual email account and/or is sending something of particular importance, please feel free to include "" as a carbon copy. If you've sent anything over the past few days, it mightn't be a bad idea to resend it to that address.

Jon Scott on the Republican Future

Carroll Andrew Morse

First District Congressional Candidate Jon Scott weighs in on how he thinks Republicans can best move forward from where they are. He begins as graciously as always

Jon Scott: First, let me take the opportunity to say thank you to those that cast votes for me on Tuesday and to those who supported my candidacy in other ways, as well.

Where we go from here certainly affects me in the future and I am unhappy with the support (or lack thereof) that came from the Party on both a national and statewide level although I do understand why there was none.

The question that needs to be answered and placed into the record is one of how we define conservatism. What makes a conservative a conservative? I am a Republican because:

  1. I believe in low taxes
  2. I believe in small government
  3. I believe in a strong national defense (to include secure borders).

Instead of flames, [I will support the statement] that we need to put aside our differences and come to some sort of agreement on flashpoint issues that divide the Party and pull us away from forward progress. That was one of the central tenets of my campaign.

In his comments, Hayden wrote: The party needs to recruit some moderate, smart, energetic young people to make them relevant and I couldnt agree more as long as those recruits agree that taxes should be low, government should be small, and the US should have a strong national defense.

Some on this board will bristle at that sentiment because their definition of conservative is somewhat different. The problem is that those three principles are our core beliefs as a Party and we have abandoned them for social conservatism. It is fine to be socially conservative but we cannot be so at the expense of our core beliefs and that is what has happened in Washington.

There is a bit of a struggle forming in the House right now that I wish I was a part of. As Speaker Hastert announced that he would not seek the Minority Leadership, those still standing after Tuesday night began to line-up in an attempt to secure their chance at the helm. The first was Mike Pence, a social conservative from Indiana. The heir-apparent, of course, is John Boehner of Ohio who is sometimes at odds with the Christian wing of the Party. The third name mentioned has been Joe Barton of Texas who is an oil industry insider.

Who would I have supported had I unseated Kennedy? I am not a social conservative in any true sense of the definition but there is no question that I would have gotten behind Pence. Why? Because in a statement that he sent out yesterday, the Congressman, who leads the conservative caucus called the Republican Study Committee, stated that we have not only lost our majority but we have lost our way.

In abandoning their commitment to limited government, the Party has lost their foundation. It is OK to argue the flashpoints but we have to get our central ideals back first. Those central tenets need to be the rally point for a re-building and re-energizing process in RI, as well. Without those ideals at our center we will continue to be lost.

Will Speaker-Elect Pelosi Pursue Victory in the War on Terror?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The op-ed from today's OpinionJournal hopes for bipartisanship between the President and the new Congress in their approach to the War on Terror...

The biggest question mark, and responsibility, for Democrats is on Iraq and the war on terror. They could do themselves and the country much good by working with Mr. Bush on a strategy toward achieving victory in Iraq as well as against al Qaeda.
However, contrary to the hopes of the Wall Street Journal, soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already stated that the does not believe that victory should be pursued in Iraq. ABC's Terry Moran asked Speaker-elect Pelosi about this on last night's Nightline...
Terry Moran: So withdrawal [from Iraq] would be a victory?

Representative Nancy Pelsoi: It's not a question of victory. It is a question of how we bring a solution to what is in Iraq. Victory has become a diminished option under the policies of President Bush and the implementation of those policies.

Admittedly, this answer isn't very coherent (what exactly is a "diminished option"?) but what is clear is that Congresswoman Pelosi is signaling the she and her party are resigned to something less than defeating the enemy in Iraq.

To be fair, Congresswoman Pelosi and like-minded liberals aren't the only ones who think that a meaningful victory in Iraq may now be impossible. However, the Congresswoman's answer to a prior question by Moran suggests the possibility that the Pelosi Democrats may believe that victory is impossible anywhere in the War on Terror...

TM: You say its time to end the war in Iraq. What if the other side, the enemies of the United States don't want it to end? Isn't ending a war when the other side is still fighting it cutting and running?

NP: No it isn't at all. Our presence in Iraq has been provocative to our enemies. It is viewed as an occupation, and is resisted not only by Iraqis but others in the region, and those troublemakers, few and number but nonetheless a menace would probably leave Iraq when we left Iraq. They're there because we're there.

This is the blame-America-first answer that assumes that the United States is always the source of the problem, and the the US most effectively responds to conflict by finding the most violent, most anti-American group involved, figuring out what they want, and giving it to them. What Democrats seem to fail to understand (but Terry Moran, to his credit, does) is that you can never rid yourself of a violent enemy if your only answer is appeasement.

The question is whether walking away is the Democrats position towards only Iraq, or if it is their total strategy for dealing with violent Islamic radicalism. The fear is that Speaker-elect Pelosi's ideas represent the mainstram Democratic beliefs on dealing with conflict, and that there is nothing to discourage fringe groups anywhere from using violence to get what they want from the United States?

November 8, 2006

The Purge of 2006?

Justin Katz

Perhaps it's needless to say that I disagree with commenter Anthony's assessment, offered in a comment to a recent post by Marc:

I think this election will force incumbent Republicans to move left, just as the Democrats were forced to put up more conservative candidates after years of unsuccessful attempts to elect left-wingers.

The central flaw of this view, as I see it, is that it sees politics mainly in terms of degree of extremity — as if neither party aligns better with the American people's beliefs on general principle. It leaves no room for the possibility that Americans prefer conservative policies to liberal ones. It's not as if voters rebuffed a slate of rabid right-wing Republicans; they rebuffed Republicans, period, including moderates. Anthony continues in a subsequent comment:

In this election, I think the conservatives blew it. The 'conservative' GOP Congressional leadership took on the same attributes as the Democrats--overspending and a bureaucratic approach to governing. At the same time, conservatives attacked GOP moderates instead of Democrats submarining them in vulnerable districts.

While GOP moderates were attacked from within, the Democrats were recruiting moderate Democrats to run and win districts that had been drawn by Republicans during redistricting to lean Repbulican.

Conservatives should have been focusing in on bringing "conservative" leaders back into line, not helping to elect Democrats.

The narrative simply makes no sense: Republicans did not govern according to conservative principles, so Democrats moved right, and conservatives targeted moderates, so Republicans will... move left? Belief in that strange scenario of inverse consequences is not, at least, the sense I'm getting from what I've read about Republican officials' reactions to their party's loss.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see, but if Republicans do move to shore up their base, then I'd suggest that, pace Anthony, conservatives will have been successful at "bringing 'conservative' leaders back into line" by means of this election.

How Much Did Straight-Ticket Voting Kill Rhode Island's Republicans?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The casino got crushed by a bigger margin than anyone expected, even though the result was consistent with every poll taken in the final weeks. At the same time, the Governor's race ended up much closer than expected, Elizabeth Roberts won by a bigger margin than projected, and Ralph Mollis won a race that many people thought his opponent would win. The GOTV for the casino was supposedly substantial, yet the casino race was the race that closed the least (as in not-at-all) relative to publicly-released polling. How do we explain all of this?

Obviously, part of the problem was that assumptions made by casino supporters about who would support them weren't valid. One insightful observer of RI politics suggested to me that casino proponents drastically underestimated how much living through the 60s and 70s made a large segment of the electorate leery of officially sanctioning potentially addictive behavior.

But there's another piece of this puzzle, beyond the failure of GOTV targeting. Voter turnout last night was at Presidential election year levels. The pro-casino targeting may not have had any association with support for Question 1, but it did probably mobilize a bunch of people to vote in a mid-term election who usually don't. What were these politically disengaged voters likely to do with the non-casino part of their ballots? I'm willing to bet that because of the sour mood towards Republicans in the country and/or because casino supporters came from demographic groups not traditionally friendly to Republicans, many of them picked the straight-ticket Democratic option available to them.

Straight ticket D voters would skew the results of candidate races, without changing the results of the casino ballot. More straight ticket D voters than usual, though they had nothing against candidates in down-ticket races, probably cost Sue Stenhouse the Secretary of State's race, cost Allan Fung the Cranston Mayoral race, and made races of many incumbent legislators thought to be safe much closer than expected.

I called the BOE for stats on how many straight ticket were cast, but they don't keep the information. It would be interesting if Darrell West and Victor Profughi and other Rhode Island pollsters added a question about "are you planning to vote the straight ticket Democratic or Republican option" to their standard surveys. And if exit pollers tracked this information, I'll bet they would have found many more straight-ticket voters than usual this year.

However big the effect was, there is an important lesson for the Rhode Island Republican party here. Unless RI Republicans can convince the legislature to remove the straight-ticket option from the ballot (HAHAHAHAHAHA), the stealth strategy -- "let's not tell people that we're Republicans when we run in an election, because that way we're more likely win over independents" -- will never work. To be competitive on a regular basis, RI Republicans are going to have to convince more people to actually become (or at least to like) Republicans. They are going to have to create a pool of voters who pick the all-Republican option on their ballots, cancelling out the all-Democratic voters, and leaving the final decision to the voters who actually fill out their ballots candidate-by-candidate.

It won't be easy, but the task is not as insurmountable as people might at first think. But it will never happen until Rhode Island Republicans make a decision to consistently stand for something that makes voters want to join their party for the long term and not for just an election day.

Casino Redux: The ProJo Position Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

Marc Comtois

Hopefully, this will be my last Casino post for a while (but ya never know...) I was driving home from work and heard the Providence Phoenix's Ian Donnis talking to Dan Yorke about the curious ProJo flip-flop on the casino. As Ian noted, Dan had covered the issue at length (and I had a few comments of my own).

In particular, Ian was remarking on ProJo's explanation as to why it flipped, which was available only on-line, and briefly at that. He was kind enough to point listeners (and readers, here's Ian's piece--updated 11/10/08) to Anchor Rising and my post commenting on the ProJo's non-explanation. For posterity, I've included the entire ProJo explanation in the extended entry.

Here's the ProJo's "missing" explanation as to why it decided to support the Narragansett / Harrah's Casino:

Editorial mysteries

01:00 AM EST on Thursday, November 2, 2006

People still read newspapers! We present as proof the recent rumpus over "Allow a third casino," our Oct. 22 editorial in favor of Question 1 on the Nov. 7 Rhode Island ballot. The question would permit the Narragansett Indian Tribe, partnering with Harrah's, to put up a casino in West Warwick.

We're glad that people are engaged in such issues, and we hope that citizens are looking at the arguments of both sides. (This can be difficult, of course, because people naturally want to see views that reinforce what they already feel and think: It's less anxiety-provoking.)

There has been much speculation, including many colorful conspiracy theories, about why the paper took its pro-casino position. That position, we emphasize, was made here in Providence, and not in Dallas, at the headquarters of Belo Corp., which owns The Journal. It's very much a local issue.

The editorial speaks for itself, but we repeat here that the prospect of more jobs for Rhode Islanders, especially for hard-pressed low-income people, including immigrants, was the overwhelming factor.

Certainly the other side has had its say before and after the editorial: Anti-casino letters and op-eds have considerably outnumbered pro-casino pieces on these pages -- by far more than the percentage by which the antis have outnumbered the pros in recent polls. That probably reflects that people are generally far more energized by opposition than support.

(We'd also observe that there have been large exaggerations on both sides of the issue on the impact that the casino would have on our area.)

The controversy also demonstrated considerable public confusion about how editorials come to be written and published. The editorial board of The Journal (and those of other U.S. metropolitan newspapers) reports to the publisher, who runs the company. Editorial writers come up with ideas to write about, those ideas are discussed and, truth be told, most then get into print -- after editing, of course! (We agree more often than not.)

Meanwhile, the editorial-page editor and deputy editorial-page editor, besides writing editorials that they conceive of, or the publisher assigns them to write, work with page designers, to produce the two Commentary pages we publish every day.

Members of the editorial board freely express their opinions to the publisher and their colleagues on the board, but the publisher, as the leader of the business called The Providence Journal, is the arbiter of what will appear in the editorials. That's because these unsigned essays are meant to represent the views of the company as an institution. They are not like signed columns.

Editorial writing occurs in a collegial setting, but is not a democracy -- any more than any other business. What is infused by a democratic spirit, however, is the very wide range of opinions that we strive to publish on these pages, and in, every day. Thus, on a good day, we can be sure that brickbats will come in from all directions for what we publish.

"[T]he total failure of big government Republicanism"

Marc Comtois

I may have intimated it previously, but let me be clear: yesterday was a failure for Republicans, not for Conservatives. But Conservative Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn adds an important qualifier (via Instapundit):

Although this election represents a short-term setback for Republicans, it could be an important turning point for the Republican Party and, more importantly, the country. Every incumbent was reminded that the American people, not party establishments, hold the reins of government... Many factors contributed to these election results. The American people obviously are concerned about the conduct of the war in Iraq... The overriding theme of this election, however, is that voters are more interested in changing the culture in Washington than changing course in Washington, D.C. This election was not a rejection of conservative principles per se, but a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government.

...Among the Republicans who lost their re-election bids a surprising number were political moderates who advocated a more activist government. Several Republican members of the appropriations committees, which have been on a spending binge, also were not re-elected. On the other hand, the two Republican senators who pulled off the most impressive victories were unapologetic conservatives, Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and John Ensign (R-NV). It is also notable that the Democrats who won or who ran competitive races sounded more like Ronald Reagan than Lyndon Johnson.

This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. In fact, these results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism.

The Republican Party now has an opportunity to rediscover its identity as a party for limited government, free enterprise and individual responsibility. Most Americans still believe in these ideals...What Republicans cannot continue to do, however, is more of the same. Our short-term, politically-expedient, bread and circus governing philosophy has failed. Iraq is an important issue in the minds of voters but it is not the only issue. Our majority was severely weakened by a long series of decisions that pre-date the publics current concern about Iraq.

Republicans oversaw a seven-fold increase in pork projects since 1998. Republicans increased domestic spending by nearly 50 percent since 2001, increased the national debt to $9 trillion, passed a reckless Medicare expansion bill and neglected our oversight responsibilities. While some of these decisions may have helped secure specific seats in the short-term the totality of our excess did not secure our majority, but destroy it.

There should now be less doubt about whether overspending and pork projects are bad policy and bad politics. This year, in particular, pork did not save our vulnerable incumbents but helped drag them down. The challenges facing our country are too great and complex for members of Congress and their staff to continue to be distracted by endless earmarking.

Some have said that Republicans and Democrats now need to govern from the middle. I disagree. We do not need to govern from the center as much as we need to govern from conscience. When politicians have the courage to argue their convictions and lose their political lives in an honest battle of ideas the best policies will prevail.

The American people do want civility but they also want real debate. Civility does not mean an absence of conflict, but a return of honor and dignity in our politics. The great debates in American history like the Lincoln-Douglas debates or the debates about the Constitution were intensely confrontational, but no one feels soiled after reading them. That same quality of debate is possible today if politicians put their country first and party second. The problems facing our country are too great to not have these debates. Voters are bored and tired of partisan role playing in Washington. The answers to securing Iraq, winning the War on Terror, and preventing the impending bankruptcies of Medicare and Social Security will not be discovered by portraying the other party as the focus of evil and corruption. If we dont debate these issues with honor and agree on solutions we will be the first generation of leaders that left the next generation worse off, and we will see our relative power in the world diminish.

One of the great paradoxes in politics is that governing to maintain power is the surest way to lose it. Republicans have the ideas to solve our greatest challenges. If we focus on ideas, our majority status will take care of itself, Dr. Coburn said.

Rumsfeld Resigns

Carroll Andrew Morse

From the Associated Press...

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, architect of an unpopular war in Iraq, intends to resign after six stormy years at the Pentagon, Republican officials said Wednesday.

Officials said Robert Gates, former head of the CIA, would replace Rumsfeld.

About Last Night...

Marc Comtois

A few thoughts and observations made after a short night of sleep...

Other than margins of victory, tell me exactly how the political landscape in Rhode Island has changed since yesterday? We still have a Republican Governor and Democrats everywhere else.

The two big things I cared about�the Governor�s race and the Casino�went the way I wanted (and I�ll take what I can get). Carcieri won by a smaller margin than predicted and the Casino went down. Sure, I had hopes for Lt. Governor and Secretary of State, but the Democrat turnout was impressive and just too much to overcome.

But the schizophrenic RI electorate did what it always does, essentially voted straight Democrat ticket and passed almost every Bond issue.

So, tell me again, why is this new?

Anyway, I understand the whole �anti-Bush� wave theory flying around, but you can�t tell me that the pro-Casino folks aggressive GOTV effort in Rhode Island�s urban centers didn�t add to the margins of victory for so many Democrats and shrink the losing margin for Fogarty. Heck, I saw it in my local City Council races (Warwick, by the way, now has an all-Democrat City Council and a Republican Mayor�it really is a microcosm of the state). Most of these City Council races were in the 53-47 for the Democrat range. This is closer than normal�probably some Chafee coattails�but not enough to overcome the Democrat turnout.

GOP Chairwoman Patricia Morgan seems like a nice lady, but I don't think she�s got much left in the tank.

Meanwhile, Steve Laffey was on Channel 12 and was talking about reforming the RIGOP. A few other pundits mentioned this and, as has been mentioned around here, it really has to be rebuilt from the ground up. You can�t start by running for House of Representatives, folks. Get some City Council seats and Mayor offices first. Hey Mayor Laffey, you volunteering to lead the effort?

Nationally, the American people have had their historically predictable 6th-year-of-a-Presidency temper tantrum and the Democrats took advantage with a message of �Vote for us, we�re not Republicans.� Now let�s see what they do with the power that they have coveted. It has seemed that they wanted power because they wanted power�now it�s time for some ideas, folks. That means deep-thinking, not soundbites.

I do think a lot of the independents did swing to the Dems in a desire to balance against the President and to punish the GOP.

I also think that the GOP did its level best to screw itself with its own party members. The GOP learned that a party based on�among other things--firm ideals of fiscal conservatism can�t pick power (via pork) over principle and expect to stay in good stead with its base. The GOP lost because it strayed from its core ideals.

The result of the turnover in Congress is gridlock in Washington, and my inner (paleo?) conservative couldn�t be happier. Maybe the President will get out his veto pen more often.

As a conservative, I also find it interesting that a lot of the red seats in the House turned blue because of the resurgence of the Blue-Dog Democrat. Former NFL Quarterback Heath Shuler is exhibit A. Apparently, liberal/progressive ideas still don�t win on the national scale, especially in Red America.

Finally, can members of the RI GOP propose a casino in, say, Warwick or Cranston, then lure in Harrah�s or Trump and get some help with the ground game in 2008?

Time to Hunker Down for a Perennial Winter

Justin Katz

How oppressive it will be depends on whether the Senate falls, as well. Regardless, and speaking with some restraint, the next two years (at least) promise to be difficult and perhaps dangerous.

Who can doubt, for instance, that the regime in Iran and terrorists across the globe feel as if they, themselves, have won a victory in their war against the United States? A nuclear Iran may or may not be a fait accompli, but it is certainly less likely that the country will now increase its openness to negotiations or that the United States will take the decisive steps necessary to stop it nonetheless. Similarly, expect a resurgence of violence in Iraq and perhaps, if the terrorists continue their characteristic fatally over-anxious strategizing, in the United States.

Meanwhile, Larry Kudlow makes me relieved that I currently work in two very different segments of the economy. The strength of the economy that we've enjoyed despite a major terrorist attack on our financial center, a war in progress, and environmental calamity may be about to wane.

On social and moral issues, from marriage to stem cells, I expect those on my side will have a lot of persuading and arguing to do. In a silver lining way, that will help us to focus our understanding of the world and to hone our vision for the future, hopefully laying the foundation for a return to prior trends in our direction. In a dark cloud way, I'm relieved that recent improvements of the Supreme Court cannot be undone and can only hope that the president is prepared to begin using his veto power.

I don't think the media is correct that this election's results are entirely attributable to, in soon-to-be-ex Senator Chafee's words, "rage toward our president." The Democrats, the media, and liberals generally have striven, out of their own black feelings, to make hatred out of broad disappointment. Republican partisans must heed Representative John Boehner's analysis that the "American people strongly supported our ideas and agenda in 1994, and they still do." Americans wanted change, yes, but the tragedy of our political system's current makeup is that the only change available was in the wrong direction. Republicans tried to capitalize on that fact for their own gain, and that left them vulnerable.

But none of this is an expression of buyer's remorse from a rebellious conservative. A trip around the dark side of the moon is what we need — a sort of (to mix metaphors) aggressive radiation therapy. I will pray strenuously, though, that my aforementioned restraint in prognostication is proven wise, and not unduly, well, conservative.

November 7, 2006

Numbers from the Governor's Race...

Carroll Andrew Morse

Governor: (97.2% of precints reporting)

Don Carcieri186,66851.3%
Charles Fogarty176,99048.7%

To catch up, Fogarty needs to win

  • 92.7% of the remaining vote, if 375,000 people voted.
  • 63.3% of the remaining vote, if 400,000 people voted.
  • 57.9% of the remaining vote, if 425,000 people voted.

GOP Incumbent McManus Trails Dem Challenger Loparto

Carroll Andrew Morse

With all 11 precints reporting, incumbent Republican William McManus trails Democratic challenger Ronald Loparto by 36 votes, 2,747-2,711, in Rhode Island's 46th General Assembly district.


Mail ballots put McManus up by 11 votes, 2,811-2,800.

Numbers from the Senate Race...

Carroll Andrew Morse

US Senate: (84.1% of precints reporting)

Lincoln Chafee145,12546.7%
Sheldon Whitehouse165,48253.3%

To catch up, Chafee needs to win

  • 65.8% of the remaining vote, if 375,000 people voted.
  • 61.4% of the remaining vote, if 400,000 people voted.
  • 58.9% of the remaining vote, if 425,000 people voted.
It's over.

Haldeman Loses to Shanley

Carroll Andrew Morse

Alas, Jim Haldeman has been defeated by John Patrick Shanley in Rhode Island's 35th General Assembly District, 58.5%-41.5%.

Lally Wins Too

Carroll Andrew Morse

With 7 of 9 precints reporting, Republican Karen Salvatore is leading incumbent Democrat Donald Lally in Rhode Island's 33rd General Assembly District, 2,644-2,601.

A surge in the last two precints puts Lally over the top, 52.6%-47.4%

Rice leads Robitaille Robitaille leads Rice

Carroll Andrew Morse

With 6 of 9 precints reporting, Republican John Robitaille leads incumbent Democrat Amy Rice, 2,013-1,912 (51.3%-48.7%) in Rhode Island's 72nd General Assembly district.

With 9 of 9 precints reporting, incumbent Democrat Amy Rice leads Republican John Robitaille, 3,108-3,062 in Rhode Island's 72nd General Assembly district.

Just a Thought

Justin Katz

If Fogarty were to win, it might be time to reassess the wisdom of remaining in this state, because it would signal either:

  • that Rhode Islanders have a sort of civic death wish (even if of the passive flavor characterized by ignorance and apathy),
  • or that the state is so hopelessly corrupt that the democratic process is incapable of bringing change.

Of course, always inclined to leave room for optimism, I suppose such utter defeat could galvanize the right minds in the Rhode Island GOP and prove the next few years to be the darkness before the dawn.

Casino Question Looks Like It's Been Rejected

Carroll Andrew Morse

Governor Almond is talking on WJAR-TV like he's confident the casino amendment has been defeated. WPRI-TV is running a headline saying "Casino Bill rejected".


WJAR-TV just called the casino amendment as defeated.

WJAR Calls Almost Everything for the Dems

Carroll Andrew Morse

WJAR-TV NBC 10 is calling every statewide race, except the Governor's race, for the Democrats.

Exit Poll Rumors Trickling Out Showing Whitehouse With The Lead

Carroll Andrew Morse

I jumped the gun just a bit with my previous post. Both The New Republic and National Review Online have obtained a first round of exit polls results

Ryan Lizza of TNR, commenting on the overall picture from multiple states, comments they seem too pro-Dem to be true.

Quick Election Thoughts (Warning: Information Value Nearly Nil)

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ive looked around the internet and must report that there is absolutely no election information of any value out there at the moment.

Personally, I blame Jimmy Carter for this. Liberals (who always have a hard time dealing with the rejection of their ideas) convinced themselves that the Republican landslide in 1980 was the result of their voters becoming discouraged because the networks had used exit-poll data to declare that Reagan Wins in the early afternoon while voting was still going on. People of my age or older will back me up on this. This traumatic experience led liberal newsrooms to institutionally internalize the idea that early release of exit poll data was bad.

Why not count absentee ballots before election day, as they come in? Then, wed get (pre-recount and pre-litigation) final results of close races a lot more quickly.

Im not a return all-the-way to paper ballots guy, but I like the optical scan technology we use here in RI that leaves a physical audit trail. I dont think going to a purely electronic touch-screen system will ever be a good idea.

Stay tuned. Rhode Island polls close at 9:00.

Election Day Open Thread

Carroll Andrew Morse

Election day. One-man (or one-woman) one-vote. The day when the voice of the lowliest blogger counts as much as the voice of the most powerful official.

Election day makes us all equal in another way. We all know that no one knows, better than anybody else, how the biggest news story of the day is going to turn out. In that spirit, here's a place for some open source coverage of (i.e. an open thread for) election day itself; Anchor Rising readers are invited to use the comments section of this post to give their own real time thoughts and observations on todays election.

Of course, at the very least from a national perspective, the biggest race in RI today is the Senate election. For those of you still undecided, here are thoughts from...

  • Justin Katz, arguing for voting for Sheldon Whitehouse
  • Don Hawthorne, arguing for abstaining in the Senate race, and
  • Marc Comtois, letting you know you are not alone in being undecided.

The comments are open now!

November 6, 2006

What a Friend of the Editor of The New Republic Heard During a Rally in Rhode Island

Carroll Andrew Morse

As is conveyed in the title of this post, what follows is hearsay, but hearsay that comes from Franklin Foer, editor of The New Republic, who stands to lose a good deal of professional credibility if it is discovered that he is just making things up about a candidate in a close race on the night before an election. Here is what Mr. Foer posted to The Plank, TNR's group blog


I have a friend in Rhode Island--a Democrat torn between his affections for Lincoln Chafee and his desire to make Harry Reid majority leader. Over the weekend, my friend attended a Chafee event and cornered the senator. Now, my friend doesn't have a personal relationship with Chafee, but he put the question bluntly to him: Why should I stick with you in a race with so many national implications? Chafee pulled my friend aside, lowered his voice, and told him that he might not be a Republican for much longer.

This is just one report. Take it for whatever its worth.

--Franklin Foer

If I have missed some statement by Senator Chafee during this campaign where he has pledged not to leave the Republican party, please post a reference in the comments or send me an e-mail and I will place it in the main body of this post right away.


Senator Chafee was pretty clear in an interview with ABCs George Stephanopoulos earlier this year

George Stephanopoulos: Are you committed, though, to voting for a Republican for majority leader, to voting for Republican committee chairmen?

Senator Lincoln Chafee: Yes, running as a Republican, Im not going to have it both ways. Im running as a Republican and thats the party Ill support.

So it comes down to this...

Marc Comtois

Don is going to "No Vote" and Justin is going to hold his nose and color in the Whitehouse arrow. I admire them for their ideological courage and consistency and for their honest explanations of why they're doing what they're doing.

Immediately after the primary, I was resigned toward the "pragmatic" solution of holding my own nose and voting for Chafee.

I'm as idealistic as the next conservative, but also recognize that there is a time for idealism and a time for pragmatism. For two years, I've attempted to rebut the pragmatic reasons for supporting Senator Chafee in the primary--he's more electable and he can vouchsafe a GOP controlled (and thus more conservative) U.S. Senate--by offering arguments rooted in conservative beliefs.

For me, the primary is the best time to argue over the ideas that should undergird a political party and in this primary I tried to convince Rhode Island Republicans the value of maintaining conservative ideals against practical politics. In the end, I was unsuccessful. It was a spirited debate, but ideas lost and pragmatism won. It's disappointing, but now pragmatism will simply have to be enough.

That last "will" should have been a "may." Two months later, and I'm not so sure. Yes, it's a sad commentary on the choices, but how does a conservative weigh short term objectives versus hoped-for long term goals? After all, if Whitehouse does win, what are the chances he'll ever be voted out in incumbent-loving li'l Rhody?

Or does it really just come down to punishing one whom you feel has served you poorly (Chafee) by either not voting for him (a swing of the electoral hammer) or the exponential act of voting for his opponent (a swing of the electoral sledgehammer)?

So what am I going to do? For the first time in my voting life, I actually don't know who I'm voting for before election day. It could be a long night.

The Rhode Island U.S. Senate Race: Advocating for Change by Staying on the Sidelines

Donald B. Hawthorne

This is a post I began writing on September 12, right after the primary vote had been counted. Not wanting to write anything rash after a hotly contested election, I chose to reflect on its contents for several months - expanding my thoughts as new events added more perspective.

First, a few reminders from the past: I have expressed admiration for Mayor Laffey's personal life story but expressed doubts about his decision to run for the U.S. Senate and was highly critical of his energy and healthcare public policy positions even as I agreed with many of his other policy stances. Near the end of the Republican primary timetable, I reiterated how both candidates were a letdown and reiterated some rather blunt criticism of Mayor Laffey's policy recommendations. In other words, I am not writing this post as a highly partisan Laffey fan.

Along the way, the Republican Senate National Committee showed that its core was the preservation of its own power for the sake of power rather than the articulation of any meritorious principles. If the national and state GOP offer no principled reasons to stand with them, then they are no different than any other political party and deserve to be abandoned as I have said here.

So where are we today, one day before the election?

I have no respect for Sheldon Whitehouse. To say he has a track record of even limited accomplishments would be kind. To say that he articulates a vision in this race - other than personal animus toward President Bush - would be wildly generous. And then there is his insufferable personal style.

But I cannot vote for Lincoln Chafee and have made the decision to stay on the sidelines for the U.S. Senate race in Tuesday's vote.

There are three major policy reasons for my decision:


I disagree with Chafee on nearly every major fiscal and tax policy issue of importance as he frequently votes with Democrats and is part of the PAYGO crowd. The PAYGO advocates are intellectually dishonest when they refuse to acknowledge that budget deficits have never been due to a lack of tax revenues. Rather, deficits have always been a result of uncontrolled spending and PAYGO is nothing less than a trojan horse for further undisciplined spending. Chafee's fiscal and tax policies are not that dissimilar from Democrat policies.

More specifically, Chafee apparently doesn't grasp that it is incentives which drive human behavior and the validity of supply-side economics (see here and follow the links at the bottom) is directly attributable to its recognition of the importance of such incentives. If you want even more empirical data, read this excellent article by Arthur Laffer, in which he presents historical data on the effects of marginal tax cuts from the Harding-Coolidge (1920's), Kennedy (1960's) and Reagan (1980's) eras - which also turn out to be the three times of greatest economic growth in the last 100 years.

Unlike those of us who are entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley and have created jobs and wealth through innovation and hard work, PAYGO is a philosophy that - not surprisingly - is frequently associated with some Northeast liberal Republicans whose world view is more influenced by the personal experience of clipping coupons than having to meet a payroll.

(For more particulars on the logic problems of PAYGO, go here, here, and here.)


We are at war with Islamic fascists who seek the destruction of America. Some have responded to this battle of our lifetime with clarion calls for standing tall, like Senator Santorum did here.

Yet, in this difficult time, all Chafee can offer us on foreign policy issues is contradictory and incoherent views:

After the first three Republican Senate debates, Senator Lincoln Chafee left voters with three seemingly incompatible views of foreign policy
A flirtation with pacifism ("A bad peace is better than a good war"),

Support for isolationism ("Fear of foreign entanglements"), and

Support for American hegemony ("A world where America is the strongest country in a peaceful world").

His broader views on the Middle East are - to be kind - befuddled.

And, during a time when North Korea is exploding nuclear bombs and Iran is actively developing nuclear weapon capabilities, Chafee unilaterally derailed the nomination of U.N. ambassador John Bolton - even after Bolton had shown, by his on-the-job performance, a level of sophisticated and stalwart leadership so desperately needed.

In other words, Chafee has neither the beliefs nor the personal fortitude to give a speech like Senator Santorum did. Like many Democrats on the national stage, Chafee articulates a confused and unrooted world view at a time of danger in our nation's history.


The Republican-controlled Senate has not distinguished itself on many, many issues. In fact, the only reason to argue for why it is important for the Senate to stay Republican is so a different sort of judge will continue to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court.

Yet, Chafee voted against the nomination of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court and opposed other Bush-nominated judges. And that makes him no different than Rhode Island having another Democrat senator or turning control of the Senate over to the Democrats.

In this way, Chafee is aligned with left-wing fundamentalists who seek to portray the debate about judges as a struggle between left-wing and right-wing judicial activists. Which just proves how they don't get it.

An alternative viewpoint is highlighted in Moving Beyond Loyalty to the Rule of Law Mixes Law & Politics, where I wrote about the importance of rediscovering the proper and limited role of the judiciary as envisioned by our Founders and how "conservatives were not simply seeking to confirm judges who will be activists - albeit conservative ones - from the bench." More on this alternative judicial philosophy can be found in the numerous links at the bottom of the preceding post as well as here.


In addition to disagreeing with Chafee on these three important policy areas, there is also a gravitas issue. Writing in President Bush's father in the 2004 presidential race - and talking about it publicly - while taking money and support from the very party he disdains is an example of unprincipled opportunism, not gravitas. And that is why this quote from a Pittsburgh editorial about Senator Rick Santorum's opponent in the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race pretty well defines my view of Chafee:

But, first, allow us to dispatch, quickly, with Santorum's Democrat challenger, Bobby Casey Jr.: There's no "there" there.

We can't even say Mr. Casey, the state treasurer, is one of those fellas who says everything but says nothing; he simply doesn't say much of anything. And when he does speak, it's so passive and intellectually vapid that silence would have been more engaging and informative.

For all of these reasons, I will not vote for Chafee tomorrow. And, unlike Chafee himself, I won't try to be cute and write in his late father's name. Nope, what Chafee will get from me tomorrow is the deadly silence of one no vote.

Keep Chafee... Out of the Senate

Justin Katz

That is the slogan that will determine my vote tomorrow. Under the present circumstances, there could be no worse outcome than to reinforce Republicans' belief that we must keep them in power regardless of their beliefs and behavior.

Frankly, I disagree with Orson Scott Card. "A chance" that Republicans will get the War on Terror right in the face of the palpable wrongness of Democrats is not good enough. Republicans must learn that the opposition's absolute looniness does not amount to a get-into-office free card, and more importantly, Democrats must learn that trafficking in insanity is not acceptable among our nation's leaders. To answer the first imperative, the Republicans must suffer electoral hardship. To answer the second, the Democrats must be given some responsibility — even with (perhaps especially with) the expectation that they will not live up to it.

The Rhode Island Senate race consists entirely of this choice: Either it is better that Lincoln Chafee wins, or it is better that he loses. As much as I sympathize with the poetic justice of a write-in vote, that route strikes me as passive negligence. Either Chafee should win, or he should lose. Standing aside and allowing your vote to be thrown in an "other" pile shirks the responsibility to make a decision. Chafee in, or Chafee out.

The Democrats could not have given us a better temporary repository of undeserved power on their side of the race.

There is really only one possible interpretation of Republican ballots that go toward Sheldon Whitehouse, and mine will be one.

Chafee out.

Some Reflections on Issues of our Time

Donald B. Hawthorne

To provoke thought, even if you disagree with their content, here are four interesting articles I have read in recent days about issues we face as a country:

Austin Bay on Military service, John Kerry, and honor

The Only Issue This Election Day

John Derbyshire on To Vote Or Not To Vote: A tough call for conservatives

Rick Santorum on The Gathering Storm

Wanting What We Don't Have: America Needs Two Vibrant Political Parties Competing With Each Other

Donald B. Hawthorne

I hope the Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives in tomorrow's election.

I am a conservative who happens to be a registered Republican. My disgust with the Republican Congress is intense. As I have said to many friends in recent months, they have done in 12 years what the Democrats took 40 years to do.

A more detailed reflection on the policy reasons for my disgust have been previously articulated on this site in many previous posts.

Now is not the time to regurgitate the specifics. Rather, it is a time to focus on the big picture:

The current Republican party needs some time in the wilderness in order to rediscover its currently lost connections to beliefs in limited government, to the defense of freedom and ordered liberty. Hopefully, they can find some new leaders with principles in time for the crucial 2008 elections.

And what could be better for the American people than to see the House be led for two years by a bunch of left-wing lunatics, to experience a sampling for 2 years before 2008 of what little the Democrats can offer during a time when our country is engaged in a world war with Islamic fascists dedicated to destroying America.

The overriding problem here is we have two political parties who stand for nothing but either the retention or gaining of political power for the sake of power itself.

For the long-term good of America, we need two vibrant political parties competing with each other. This isn't a Democrat or Republican thing. Both political parties have become devoid of a vision for the future of America. The Democrats have been devoid of vision for several decades. The Republicans have become devoid of vision, because they have faced little real competition and they are devoid of leaders with any coherent views of the world.

Think about the effect of this vision-less world view: Political races this year have become focused on the efficiency of voter turnout operations rather than articulating a vision for America that creates a natural passion within individual citizens to stand up and be counted in the voting booth.

And America is worse off for it.

Super Secret Poll Numbers

Marc Comtois

Not for nuthin', here are some super-secret election eve poll numbers obtained by Dan Yorke "on background" from a well-respected Democrat polling outfit:

Senate: Chafee up 2 over Whitehouse (Explains why Pres. Clinton is coming)
Gov: Carcieri up 7 over Fogarty (Nothing new...)
LtGov: Roberts up 10 over Centrachio (Name recognition not enough?)
SecState: Stenhouse up 2 over Mollis (Something must be sticking to Ralph.)
Treas: Caprio up 50 over Lyons (Yikes, 50?)
Yes on Casino down 11 to No on Casino (Again, nothing new...)

Memo to Conservatives: Next Time You Have to Share a Ride With a Liberal, Volunteer to Use Your Own Car

Carroll Andrew Morse

David Jaffe of Kmareka provides a rare moment of insight into the eternal debate between liberals and consevatives: An America without conservatism is like a SUV without brakes...

In the sedan (or SUV) that is America, liberals are the gas pedal, and conservatives are the brakes. One group seeks forward progress, while the other seeks to halt or even reverse direction.
Except that Mr. Jaffe then goes on to argue that brakes (i.e. conservatism) are inherently bad things
The irony of Bushs words is that, rather than masking, they expose the inherent intolerance and meanness of the conservative cause.
Then, after butchering the analogy about as thoroughly as is possible, he has the audacity to talk about conservatives being the stupid ones! At least most conservatives I know prefer cars with brakes over cars without them.

(NOTE: The spelling of "brakes" has been corrected from "breaks" in the original version of this post)

Rhode Island Statewide Ballot Question 3

Carroll Andrew Morse

In the comments section of the previous post, commenter S. Weasel asks

I just looked over the ballot -- can somebody explain to me that third constitutional amendment? The one about the rainy day fund?
Gary Sasse of the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council advocated for passage of Question 3 in a Projo op-ed from October 23
When something works well, you either stick with it, or look for ways to make it even better. A dozen years ago, Rhode Island voters approved a constitutional amendment that significantly improved the state's fiscal management. This year voters have a chance to make a good thing even better by voting yes on Question 3.

Question 3 does three important things:

First, it lowers the percentage of state revenue that can be spent each year to 97 percent from the current 98 percent.

It raises the amount of money in the state Rainy Day Fund to 5 percent from 3 percent of state revenue.

Finally, it prevents dollars in the Rainy Day Fund that exceed 5 percent from being spent to pay for debt service.

Progressive Matthew Jerzyk, writing in the Providence Phoenix, also endorsed passage of question 3
QUESTION 3 This question could expand Rhode Islands rainy day fund by allowing more tax dollars to be dedicated to the fund, providing a safety net against possible downturns in the state economy.

Both the Democratic General Assembly and Republican Governor Donald L. Carcieri support this measure, which was initiated by the business-backed Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC). An expanded rainy day fund is looked at kindly by bond rating agencies, and it could be an important tool to avoid social service cuts in an economic downturn.

So apparently weve got Carcieri, Jerzyk, RIPEC, and the state legislature all on the same side on this issue. Is there anyone anyone seriously against this measure?


Also, here is the index to Marc's guide to the bond issues that will be on Tuesday's ballot...

Public Poll Shows Chafee and Whitehouse Neck-and-Neck

Carroll Andrew Morse

Since theres not much policy difference between the candidates to discuss in the RI Senate race, we might as well mention the horserace news.

A Mason-Dixon poll released over the weekend (link via WJAR-TV NBC 10) showed incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee with a one-point lead over challenger Sheldon Whitehouse. Someone in the Whitehouse campaign and/or the Democratic Party must believe that the race has closed to a dead heat; according to Steve Peoples of the Projos 7-to-7 blog, former President Bill Clinton has been directed to Rhode Island for an unscheduled-as-of-last-week visit back to RI to try to give the Whitehouse campaign one last jolt.

Is Sheldon Whitehouses refusal to answer the Chafee campaigns charges of being soft-on-corruption taking its toll, with Sheldon Whitehouse playing the role of Matt Brown, but in slower motion? Or is it simply that the Whitehouses highly partisan campaign strategy vote for me because Im a Democrat and Democrats are good hit its ceiling early on (after all, people have been pretty sure about who the Democrat in this race from the start)? And with the race tightening, do disaffected conservative voters have cause reconsider their positions? About 384,000 people voted in the RI Senate race in 2000. About 30,000 people voted for Steve Laffey this year. If turnout is similar to 2000, and half of Laffeys voters leave their Senate ballots blank, thats a swing of about 2% in Whitehouses direction, enough to change a potential 51%-49% victory to a 49%-51% loss.

One for the Underdog�

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to a campaign press release, Repulbican Jon Scott has received the endorsement from the Newport Daily News for Rhode Island's first-district Congressional seat (original item not available online)...

The newspaper's Editorial Board met with all of the candidates in early October and put them through an interview process which focused on Aquidneck Island issues, though the questions ranged from personal reasons for political involvement to the war on terror. In selecting Mr. Scott, the editors wrote, "While Scott is a huge long shot, given Kennedy's famous name, well financed campaign, and years of experience, he is a breath of fresh air on the Rhode Island political scene, and we hope voters will support him"....

Scott is running against Patrick Kennedy, son of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who has served 6 terms in the US House. "We wonder how effective he can continue to be, despite his political connections", the Daily News mused about the Congressman and stated that "we considered giving him another chance -- but after reviewing past endorsements, we realized we have given him plenty of chances."

Today and tomorrow, Mr. Scott will be making a final tour of all 19 first district cities and towns...
Scott will spend forty five minutes in each of the 19 municipalities as he attempts to pull off the upset and unseat the heir to America's most entrenched political family. Monday will find the Republican candidate in the northern part of the district. He will shake hands with voters and answer questions in Burrillville, Woonsocket, North Smithfield, Smithfield, Lincoln, Cumberland, Central Falls, North Providence, Providence, and Pawtucket; the site of Scott's campaign Headquarters.

On Tuesday, he will follow up with visits to the polls in East Providence, Barrington, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton, Little Compton, Portsmouth, Middletown, Newport and Jamestown

November 5, 2006

Avoiding the Hypocrisy of Chastity

Justin Katz

One is justifiably reluctant to declare Michael Novak flat wrong on matters of religion and culture, but I'm compelled to do just that in response to his writing:

Being a liberal means having a right to do anything that you want sexually anywhere, anytime, and with anybody. Thus, there is no way for liberals to be hypocritical about sex. Except by being chaste.

To avoid such hypocrisy, all liberals need do is either fetishize chastity or make an orientation of it, as with asexuality. Thus, the avoidance of or disinclination toward sex becomes, itself, a sexual state of being. Whereas in Christian thought, both sex and chastity, when rightly ordered, are spiritual acts.

The reason these aren't merely two sides of a coin — and people inevitably will judge for themselves the significance of this difference — is that conservatives are skeptical of attempts to broaden the preferences, whims, and even lusts that are seen as rightly ordered toward God, while liberals are content to incorporate all of life into sexuality. And that brings me back to the intellectually safer ground of agreeing with Mr. Novak, who also writes that "the center of liberal values has migrated to sex and gender."

As if the Wrath of God Were a Real Phenomenon

Justin Katz

It's always an edifying experience when I remember to check in with Paul Cella:

Now, it may be that some did predict divine vengeance [after the ostensible omission of God from the Constitution]. But divine vengeance, as it happens, is in fact a calamity somewhat mysterious in nature. I think even if I were a rugged atheist, with piety for empiricism and none for mystery, I might tread lightly on the subject of divine vengeance. Our dear freethinkers and rationalists, their imaginations narrowed into that shriveled state that only free-thought can accomplish, can only conceive of divine vengeance as something obvious and inexpressibly cartoonish — a frowning bearded man descending from the sky with fire and steel or something. It just does not occur to them that an Intelligence beyond the ways of man might manifest his terrible justice in ways dissimilar from the cartoons we make for children.

It's a rather simple observation, if one pauses to allow modern illusions to settle, that atheists and secular agnostics take as their first assumption that evidence of God's existence — at least a God resembling the Judeo-Christian version — would have to be of a sort that they already know not to exist. We must have locusts in a New England winter or pre-stuffed turkeys falling from the sky to count. Looking back, it is clear how evil in the compromises of the Constitution led to the Civil War and continuing racial strife, so historians might say, as scientists do with examinations in their own field: "God isn't necessary to our explanation."

With history, the response is especially clear: If God isn't necessary, why didn't we avoid His wrath?

Voting for Delusion

Justin Katz

I was so perplexed by Froma Harrop's column about the Democrat Party's 50-State Strategy that I thought for a moment that I'd missed something that would be, politically, on the order of magnitude of the Earth's poles moving to the equator:

Imagine Democrats in Washington who don't all sound like Henry Waxman, Charlie Rangel or Ted Kennedy. That's about to happen, as party Chairman Howard Dean's 50-state strategy bears fruit. The plan involves running strong candidates on Republican turf and letting them speak the native tongue. Some worry that a socially varied Democratic Party would lead to chaos. California liberals would clash with Colorado libertarians, who would spar with Bible Belt Carolinians.

Doesn't have to happen. A more diverse Democratic delegation could avoid geo-cultural warfare by sending many socially contentious issues back to the states, where they belong. Then Democrats in Washington could concentrate on their lunch-pail issues, above all, economic justice.

The "some worry" phrase makes it sound as if there's a debate currently ongoing over a revolutionary plan by the Man Who Said "Aaarrgghh," so I thought I'd see what this 50-State Strategy might entail. Well, according to the official Democrat Web page, the 50-State Strategy is essentially an organizational, get-out-the-vote kind of thing, not a grand statement of principle. Indeed, nowhere on the Web site was I able to find a single indication that the Democrats have any intention of changing their platform or political approach, let alone so much as a hint that Roe v. Wade might be on the Democrats' internal negotiation table.

In other words, Harrop's appeal to Democrat federalism is wishful thinking to the point of delusion and, therefore, could be wished for either party... or both. Personally, I do wish for both parties to incorporate stronger federalist principles in their platforms. It would be folly, however, to suggest that any particular strategy from either party is likely to further that end — much less make it "about to happen."

If only Harrop had provided citations for the discussion that led her to indulge in daydreams, perhaps readers could figure out who is playing whom. As it is, one gets the impression that Harrop is merely exploiting a promise of federalism to badmouth President Bush for the anti-federalist sins of which both parties are perhaps unsalvageably guilty.

As a footnote, I'd like to mention that Harrop's apparent understanding of the mechanisms of society in a federalist framework makes it a much less appealing notion than it ought to be:

But when the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that its state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage, President Bush immediately stuck his nose in. At a campaign stop in Indiana, he denounced New Jersey's "activist" judges. Whether these state judges are activist or not should be the concern of New Jerseyans and no one else.

Unless we are to be a balkanized nation without its own character, what happens in each state ought to concern us all, and public statements are perhaps the most undeniably appropriate means of exerting influence across state borders. The question federalism seeks to answer is who gets the final say for each area and at what level of government.

Fixing the Problem Where It Begins: The Root Cause of Our Difficulties in Iraq

Justin Katz

Cliff May offers a bit of clear analysis of evidence in Iraq:

I also would argue that the evidence does not suggest that most Iraqis prefer not to be free, that most would rather not choose their leaders, that a majority enjoys a good suicide bombing every day or two.

The evidence suggests that a fanatical, determined minority can do vast amounts of damage, can destroy faster than anyone can build, can so terrorize people that they relinquish their hopes in exchange for protection. Why is this surprising? When the Bolsheviks took over Russia, it was not because most Russians were Marxist-Leninists. Most Germans were not Nazis in the early 1930s. When New Jersey store owners pay the Mafia protection money it's not because that's the way they like it.

May then quotes some more-action-oriented analysis by Fred Kagan:

The lessons of the U.S. military program in Iraq are reasonably clear by now. American forces, working with Iraqis, can clear areas dominated by terrorists and insurgents. The efforts to do so lead initially to an upsurge in violence as the insurgents resist, but then to greater calm. In places like Tal Afar, Al Qaim, and other small towns along the Upper Euphrates River valley, Sadr City in 2004, and even Falluja (in the second battle in 2004), clearing operations have succeeded. In many of these cases, however, the U.S. command left inadequate American forces behind to help the Iraqi troops hold the area, with the result that insurgents gradually infiltrated and began to destabilize these regions once again. The lack of any coherent plan to move from one cleared area to another, moreover, often meant that stabilized towns were islands in a tumultuous sea.

The failure to hold cleared areas results in part from inadequate U.S. troop levels, but primarily from a strategy mistakenly obsessed with the irritation the American presence causes.

Identification of that key obsession points to the root problem, which is located squarely within American society itself. One shudders to think that undermining the United States' project of making the world more secure and peaceful by transforming the Middle East is a deliberate strategy of a large (and elite) cohort on our own shores. If so, then that cohort is utterly blind to the domestic consequences of doing so — perhaps even to the notion that there could possibly be consequences.

At the very least — in the charitable interpretation — the obsession with conducting the Perfect War, with anything less negating the possibility that legitimate war can exist, grows from a fantasy that we can treat current events as we treat history: with analytical aloofness and an inclination to reinterpret according to ideology. Even among erstwhile supports of the war in Iraq, one hears such constructions as "we now know that the war was a mistake." But such statements are nearly devoid of actual sense.

To be fair, Jonah Goldberg follows his version of my paraphrased quotation by stating that "Congress... was right to vote for the war given what was known — or what was believed to have been known — in 2003." But the clarification invalidates the lead. Unless we are speaking within the context of history, we cannot identify choices as mistakes based on that which could not have been taken into consideration. (Note the etymology: mis-take.)

With history, we've broader perspective of what was misunderstood or simply not known. In contemporary terms, we can only guess at what is not known, and our individual guesses are our individual ideologies. In the present, disclaiming mistakes based on unknowns implies mistakes in values, and in the context of current action, we should seek to identify errors not for judgment, but for improvement.

The urge to judge each other by criteria of what will be known in the future relies on ideological division and disallows cooperative handling of shared circumstances. Those who, on ideological grounds, "opposed the war before it was popular to do so" (as one local congressman is currently stating in radio ads) aren't claiming mystical foresight, but rather that their ideology is more true. Such thinking reduces cooperation to subjugation of one side to the other.

We can (or ought to be able to) read history and identify our predecessors' mistakes without feeling either superiority or shame because we understand that historical analysis does not (or should not) involve value judgments: we analyze subjects and their circumstances, so we can conclude "this turned out to be a mistake." With current affairs, we cannot remain so aloof. This is not an admonition, but a statement of fact: it cannot be done. We will root for a side; if we are not rooting against a shared enemy, we will necessarily be rooting against some faction or other among our ostensible allies, and speaking of mistakes implies inferiority.

This division in the United States is part of what has motivated the insurgents in Iraq. They don't have to defeat the sleeping giant. They merely have to defeat neocons or conservatives or Republicans, all of whom have broader interests than nationalism and are therefore vulnerable to leverage on any given issue and may cave on the war in order to protect their core objectives, whether ideological or political.

Apart from insisting that we conduct our debate about the War on Terror in terms of strategy, rather than recrimination and political gamesmanship, I'm not sure what we can actually do to overcome this fatal chink in our national armor, this weakness of character. At the risk of reducing global matters to local politics, I'll state that I'm quite sure that rewarding the likes of Linc Chafee for straddling the line between his party affiliation and his own ideological prescience, so to speak, is not the way to do it. On the other hand, I'm intrigued by the possibility that swerving the car toward the precipice through a Sheldon Whitehouse vote might scuttle the wrong-headed fantasies and unhealthy obsessions that are leading us toward a calamitous future.

November 4, 2006

Eminent Domain Reform on the Ballot in Eleven States

Carroll Andrew Morse

Todays OpinionJournal notes that next Tuesdays elections are likely to be a big step forward in the national movement to reform eminent domain laws

No fewer than 11 states (see nearby table) have ballot measures designed to limit government's ability to pilfer private property for someone else's private economic development. Eight initiatives would enshrine those restrictions in state constitutions, and polls show that most are headed for victories.

Alabama was the first to move after Kelo, passing a statute in 2005 that still gave government the leeway to pursue private property that could be defined as urban "blight." This turned out to be a major loophole, which city planners have routinely applied to any home or business they wanted to condemn and then transfer to private developers. Alabama's legislature closed that loophole this year, and "blight" is now defined in the better reforms as a property posing a danger to health or public safety.

This issue, where citizens are using voter initiative to pass reforms that lobbyists have often blocked in state legislatures, is an excellent example of how ridiculous it is to assert that the lack of voter initiative is somehow in the average citizen's best interests
Arizona's legislature also passed a strong anti-Kelo bill, only to watch Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano veto it in June. Arizona voters responded by pursuing their own initiative that is even wider in scope. The best model may be Florida, where the legislature passed a Constitutional amendment that goes before the voters next week.

All of this has occurred despite furious lobbying by local municipalities and developers to water down legislation. The lobbying has sometimes worked with state legislatures, but voters in Idaho, North Dakota and California have responded with ballot language for constitutional amendments that go further than their own state statutes. This ballot language tends to be legally clearer, and such constitutional provisions are harder for politicians to evade or weaken later when voters aren't looking.

Finally, the op-ed notes that one region of the country seems to be lagging the others in terms of eminent domain reform
As is so often the case when it comes to economic freedom, the states absent from this debate are those with liberal legislatures on the East Coast. Politicians in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut (home of Kelo) are so addicted to the tax revenue they get by forcible property transfers to rich developers that they refuse to act on behalf of property rights. This is one more reason for their citizens to keep fleeing these states for more hospitable climes, much as Third World countries that fail to protect property rights watch their human capital flee.
Sadly, Rhode Island is no exception to this trend.

November 3, 2006

Kennedy versus Scott: Let's go to the Tape...

Carroll Andrew Morse

Take incumbency, a famous family name, and better hair out of the equation. Then, based on the arguments they make and the positions they present, decide which of these two gentlemen you would rather have representing you when it counts...

Chafee/Whitehouse Neck and Neck?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rich Lowry of National Review says internal polls are showing that the Chafee/Whitehouse race is much closer than any publicly released poll is showing

This is what I'm hearing about GOP internals: In MO, Talent has now had two good nights in a row. He's up by two in the three-day average, up five in the two-day. In NJ, Kean is hanging in there, just down by two in the two-day. In MD, unfortunately, there's no sign yet that it's happening for Steelehe slipped a little from the night before. OH and PA, of course, are gonzo. In TN, Corker is up by one, but the public polls show him with a much bigger lead. In the internals, he continues to have just a slightly better fav/unfav than Ford. In RIis this good or bad news?Chafee is right there with Whitehouse, just .1 behind in last night's track. Finally, there's VA, where it's not looking so great. Webb was leading last night, and is leading in the two-day. (Sorry, nothing from MT.)
Im assuming by .1, Lowry means 1 point down, or else Senator Chafee would be in the "gonzo" category.

I doubt, however, that any pollster knows how to take into account the effects the casino get-out-the-vote effort is going to have.


On the other hand, Senator Chafee claimed yesterday that his campaign is so broke, they're not actually doing any polls. From Steve Peoples of the Projo's new Political Scene blog...

"I am going to confess that we are so broke we are not polling," Chafee said this afternoon at the Federal Reserve restaurant, when repeatedly asked about his internal polling numbers. "We are using all our resources to influence voters."

Most competitive federal candidates continuously run internal polls to gauge where they stand....

Chafee said his campaign is depending on another campaign's internal polls for information, though he wouldn't acknowledge which one.

The Fogarty Healthcare Plan Would be Blocked by the Courts

Carroll Andrew Morse

Should Lieutenant Governor Charles Fogarty have the opportunity to implement his universal healthcare proposal, he will find himself disappointed. A key section of his Hope Healthcare Plan would be disallowed by the courts, if challenged under Federal law.

The section that would not pass Federal muster is from Phase 2 of the Fogarty plan

Employers will be required to provide health insurance coverage for their employees or pay a fair share fee. Employers with 10 or more employees will be required to pay an appropriate amount of money every year for each full-time-equivalent employee who is not covered through the employer or through another insurer. With the small business subsidy in place, providing insurance should not be an undue burden. Businesses that do the right thing and provide health insurance should not be placed at a competitive disadvantage with those that choose not to help insure their employees. These assessments will be collected in a state fund to support health insurance for uninsured Rhode Islanders who cannot afford coverage.
A similarly structured plan, mandated by the government of Maryland, was struck down by a Federal District Court earlier this year (Retail Industry Leaders Association v. Felder [2006]). The District Court upheld the long-standing precedent that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) prohibits states from regulating employee benefits any more stringently than the Federal government does. Ergo, a state government cannot require a company to provide health insurance to its employees because the Federal government does not require them to do so.

Im not saying (for the purposes of this post) that this is a good thing or a bad thing, just that the courts have been consistent in interpreting the ERISA statute in this way.

ERISA is not a new law. It is disappointing that candidate for governor, especially one who is running TV commercials for universal healthcare, is completely unaware of ERISA's effects and limitations. That Lieutenant Governor Fogarty and his advisors and policy wonks are ignorant of the ERISA constraints on health insurance shows how closed-minded they are to the reality that part of Americas healthcare crisis has its origins in out-of-control regulation.

Re: Anchor Rising in Glossy Print

Carroll Andrew Morse

In response to Justin's post that mentioned that Providence Phoenix columnist Chris Chip Young (aka Philipe) isn't a fan of blogs, Providence Phoenix news editor Ian Donnis points out that he mentioned Anchor Rising (along with RI Future) among the winners from the 2006 election cycle...

While my Phoenix colleague might not have much use for the blogosphere, I find it indispensable, particularly Anchor Rising and RI Future, which each offer a strong measure of thoughtful and passionate analysis.

I make mention of the value of these two blogs in a piece in this week's Phoenix, on the winners and sinners of the 2006 political season.

Here's Ian Donnis' original item from the Phoenix...
The good news is that an abundance of in-depth political information is there for the taking, if people choose to look for it. Besides television and newspapers, theres talk-radio, blogs like the liberal Rhode Islands Future ( and the conservative Anchor Rising (, and other new media offerings (such as the Polichicks, two college students who use their Web site, to make available video of various political debates).
p.s. I hope Ian doesn't mind that I've placed this posting under the "mainstream media" category.

The Issue of Healthcare Reform, Brought to You by the Commenters of Anchor Rising

Carroll Andrew Morse

There's a good debate about healthcare going on in the comments section on last night's gubernatorial debate that's worth promoting into its own post...

"Brad Fric" begins by defending the current RiteCare Program...

Not for nothin', but RiteCare is a good value. low admin. fed match.

Would it be better to increase the number of uninsured, kicking kids into ERs? Taxpayers and commercial rate payers foot that bill - to make it worse, ERs (uninsured care) are less efficient than RIte Care, which has primary care and prevention.

Other areas of medicaid have not won accolades as RIteCare has. if you want to criticize medicaid, take a look at the programs that are running less efficiently.

"John" responds by agreeing that the overuse of ERs and the other issues that Brad raised are real concerns, but that many other factors are also in play. "John" suggests some coverage schemes tried in other places that we should try to learn from...
Brad raises some good points. But there are others that are needed to complete the picture. Clearly, a national single payer health insurance system with competing private and non-profit service suppliers can efficiently deliver very good health care outcomes. Just look at Australia -- better health care outcomes at a lower share of GDP spending than the US on health care. But there's a catch. The taxpayer financed Australian system covers only basic heatlh care needs (and it has income scaled copays to limit overusage of it). Certain health care treatments are deemed luxury goods, and have to be paid for separately if you want them (hence Australia's thriving private health insurance companies). The analogy is to education -- taxpayers pay for K-12 for everyone, but college is, effectively, a luxury good.

To bring this back to the US, the most infamous blow up of a state Medicaid system was TennCare. Like RiteCare, it didn't offer an Australian style minimum coverage system; rather, it offered a package that was superior to most offered by private health insurance companies. Moreover, thanks to the litigation efforts of Tennessee's advocates, its coverage was constantly expanded, and copays blocked. Unsurprisingly, it attracted a lot of people and blew up the state's budget. As a result, TennCare was sharply cut back.

The comparison to RI is quite clear. RiteCare coverage is actually superior to individual policies you can buy from BlueCross -- a major reasons why some of RI's advocates have been looking for ways to allow people to stay on RiteCare rather than shift to RiteShare, in which the state helps pay for a portion of a low income worker's coverage via a company group health policy.

In RI you can also see the numbers of people on RiteCare growing, and little downward movement in their utilization rates for key services. Finally, despite the presence of our RiteCare program, RI also has the nation's highest taxpayer financed spending on uncompensated care per uninsured resident. This should come as no surprise to anyone. When you offer the nation's most generous welfare programs, and let people stay on them longer than anyplace else, you get rising demand for them. Even this might be sustainable if RI had one of the nation's most vibrant economies and was generating substantial amounts of tax revenue. But this isn't the case. When you combine high spending on state financed healthcare with high spending on a whole host of other inefficiently run programs, the result is high tax rates, poor services and a declining economy. And this is only compounded when you are becoming a bedroom community for people who commute to jobs (and pay most of their income taxes) out of state.

In theory and in practice (e.g., in Australia) a well designed national single payer health insurance program should be the solution to a lot of the healthcare problems facing the US today. RiteCare (like TennCare) could have been a model for the nation. Instead, thanks to the efforts of our advocates and their allies in the unions and the General Assembly, it has become just another part of the process that is bankrupting Rhode Island.

("Klaus", are you paying attention to all of these "real world" examples being cited?)

Finally, "Tom W" expresses skepticism that an Austrialian-type single payer program can be successfully implemented given the current political culture...

John's comments above regarding the Australian system are well put.

The problem is, in this country, it would be the proverbial "camel's nose under the tent."
On the national and state level the "Poverty Institute" ilk will never be satisfied with a system in which basic / emergency health care needs are met by the public sector, but others (who invariably will be mischaracterized as "the rich") can "afford" "better" healthcare. It just isn't fair, you see.

They won't be satisfied until everyone is trapped into a low-quality, and expensive, 100% public-sector system (e.g., HillaryCare).

It's no mere coincidence that medical inflation didn't start to take off until after Medicare / Medicaid started kicking in. Already in de facto control of about 50% of the total healthcare market, the government has already screwed it up.

Just thinking about putting the same type unionized slackers who run the Registry of Motor Vehicles in control of healthcare is enough to make one ... ill.

Healthcare reform is certainly going to be a major public policy and political issue in the coming year or two. Let's see if we can find some points we agree on, before the two sides start tearing each other apart in the electioneering phase of the 2008 political cycle.

November 2, 2006

Anchor Rising in Glossy Print

Justin Katz

Anchor Rising is featured in a report by Ellen Liberman in the latest edition of Rhode Island Monthly (which hasn't yet updated its Web site to reflect the new issue):

Diogenes of Sinope was one of the original Cynics, ancient Greek philosophers who shunned the status quo. Most famously, Diogenes wandered the birthplace of democracy, the marketplace of Athens, in broad daylight bearing a candle. He was searching for an honest man, someone like himself, who lived by his principles.

Strictly speaking, Justin Katz of Tiverton is not a Cynic. But as a political conservative, he's found himself in opposition to Rhode Island's liberal Democratic mainstream, and — ideologically, at least — lonely. In the modern age, however, one does not need a candle or a market to find a like-minded soul. Moveable Type software, suitable for blogging, and an inexhaustible supply of opinions and stamina will do.

Which is to say, perhaps, that technology is making it easier for those who live by their principles to carry their own candles. Not surprisingly, as bloggers never tire of pointing out, those who've gained access to spotlights frequently give the impression that they scorn candles because they distrust daylight. Says Chip Young, the Philipe of "Philipe and Jorge" in the Providence Phoenix:

"I don't rely on blogs at all... It's almost like listening to talk radio. You get all these disparate opinions from people who've had their first six-pack by noon."

According to Liberman, Young writes "a political media and current events satire column," so I understand that he might be attempting to showcase a biting wit. But to be so stupendously wrong about the purveyors of a medium of such acute interest in both his areas of focus leaves one with the impression that he is mainly guarding the cachet of his mainstream morning merlot.

At any rate, thanks to Ellen Liberman for the reminder that the wax burns (and hangovers) are not in vain.

Re: Destination Versus Convenience Gamblers

Justin Katz

At the risk of sounding cutsie, it seems to me that the most accurate method of categorization might be to say that there are gamblers, and then there are gamblers. I don't think, for example, that Andrew captures the salient distinction here:

The study found that most (meaning numbers in the 80% range) Lincoln and Newport patrons have made a visit to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, but most Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun patrons havent visited Lincoln or Newport. The sensible conclusion is that the most significant partition of the gambling population is not between destination and convenience gamblers, but between slots-only players and more diversified gamblers. Diversified players are not satisfied by slots alone, so they go to the destination casinos (Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun). Slots players, on the other hand, will go anywhere where there are slots (Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, Lincoln Park, or Newport Grand) regardless the other activities that might be available.

For this partitioning to be accurate, it would have to be true that the Lincoln/Newport customers who visit Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun play slots almost exclusively, and I'm not sure that's the case. This is not to say that Andrew isn't correctly identifying a shortcoming of the convenience versus destination gambler analytical scheme. The problem with that scheme, however, is not one of category, but of conceptualization: convenience/destination isn't a partition, but a spectrum. The equation yields a ratio of convenience to the gambling experience.

Some people treat gambling as merely a pastime. They'll go all the way to Foxwoods for the Big Casino experience, rather than Lincoln or Newport for down-and-dirty gambling, but the $154 loss of the average Lincoln Park visitor would be an expensive night out no matter where they went. Other people more specifically enjoy the thrill of gambling, and the convenience of finding it will carry more weight, with the "experience" factor serving mainly for periodic differentiation. And still other people treat gambling like a drug and will go wherever they can get their fix; the longing for trips to an addiction mecca, while the stuff of daydreams, falls away once the urge has been sated.

Presented thus, it becomes clear that, no matter the category, the proximity of the Big Casino experience makes a difference. If addicts can get the big score more easily, they'll be more likely to pursue it. If pastimers can save money and effort by getting the authentic casino experience closer to home, then they'll do so. But the notion that a full casino will not cannibalize the business of smaller and less glitzy venues is experientially absurd. The only way its appearance will not result in a decrease for the other outlets is if it helps to transform pastimers into addicts, which would be devastating for Rhode Island more fundamentally than through a mere loss of tax revenue.

Carcieri/Fogarty 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 final Rhode Island Gubernatorial debate between Donald Carcieri and Charles Fogarty (WJAR-TV NBC 10, @ 7:00 pm).

Insightful comments, witty comments, and even comments that spin like Gamera preparing to take flight to battle a swarm of Gyaos monsters are all welcome, but personally insulting or crude posts will be deleted as soon as I see them.

The comments are open now!

Lincoln Chafee is...

Marc Comtois

...Myrth York's kind of Republican, so she's endorsed him. Add her to the list of "Progressive" groups that have endorsed the Senator. Too little, too late? According the latest polls, it might be ('course, that is a link to Zogby...).

ProJo: Here's Why We Flip-Flopped on Casino

Marc Comtois

The ProJo disavows conspiracy theories and tries to explain why it changed it's mind on the casino:

The editorial speaks for itself, but we repeat here that the prospect of more jobs for Rhode Islanders, especially for hard-pressed low-income people, including immigrants, was the overwhelming factor.
That's it. One run-on sentence of explanation as to why 12 years of previous editorials against a RI casino now mean nothing. The rest of the piece is a too-inside baseball explanation of "how an editorial is written." In short, they devoted the meat of the editorial explaining to us ignorant rubes how really smart editorialists go through the process of editorializing.

That wasn't the question, guys.

What we want to know is how a newspaper that has previously doubted that a casino will deliver high-quality, well-paying, economically stable jobs can now--after 12 years of making these anti-casino arguments--turn around and say "Vote Yes on 1" because a casino will deliver "more jobs for Rhode Islanders, especially for hard-pressed low-income people, including immigrants."

What about putting our efforts into long-term economic development instead of a quick-fix casino? What about the damage that a large, economically dominant casino will do to the quality of life in Rhode Island? What about the burden to our government services (police, fire, roads, infrastructure) that haven't been properly accounted for? What happened to all of these other concerns? Well?

The Destination versus the Convenience Gambler: Is There Really any Evidence of a Distinction?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Casino proponents want you to believe that the universe of casino gamblers is divided into two groups, "destination" gamblers, who want to make an event out of their gambling trips, and "convenience" gamblers, who are interested in more frequent but less expensive trips. Based on this hypothetical partition, casino proponents claim that a Harrah's casino in West Warwick won't cannibalize gaming revenues at from Lincoln Park or Newport Grand. Lincoln and Newport are convenience facilities, they say, and convenience gamblers won't be interested in the things a destination gambling facility will provide.

It is difficult to look at Rhode Island's gambling revenue numbers and take this argument seriously.

First of all, the term "convenience gambling" doesn't really capture what goes on at Lincoln Park. According to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth's Center for Policy Analysis' 2006 New England Casino Gaming Update (performed by the same research group who performed the pro-casino Rhode Island Building Trades study), the typical gambling visit of a Lincoln Park patron is a larger event (measured in dollars lost) than the typical gambling trip of a Foxwoods patron. The average Lincoln Park gambler from Rhode Island loses an average of $154 per visit; Foxwoods gamblers from Rhode Island lose only an average of $129 per visit. (Philosophical question: Should it still be called gambling when you know you're going to lose over the long haul?). Does it make sense to associate the gamblers who spend more-per-visit with convenience-oriented behavior?

In addition to spending more money, Lincoln Park patrons also make many more trips per year to gamble than do Foxwoods patrons (or Mohegan Sun patrons). On average, the average Rhode Island-based Lincoln Park patron makes 18.45 gambling trips per year. By contrast the typical RI Foxwoods patron makes only 5.19 visits per year (and the typical Newport Grand patron makes only 5.68 visits per year). The large amount lost per visit to Lincoln Park times the large number of trips per patron means loss per patron at Lincoln is staggeringly high -- $2,850 per patron per year.

Lincoln Park patrons aren't "convenience" gamblers, they are "heavy" gamblers, looking for the nearest place where they can gamble very large amounts of money very often.

Another result from the 2006 Casino Gaming Update casts doubt that these "heavy" or "convenience" gamblers won't choose to make frequent trips to a West Warwick casino instead of Lincoln Park. The study looked at what percentage of Lincoln Park/Newport Grand patrons had visited Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun and vice-versa. The study found that most (meaning numbers in the 80% range) Lincoln and Newport patrons have made a visit to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, but most Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun patrons haven't visited Lincoln or Newport. The sensible conclusion is that the most significant partition of the gambling population is not between destination and convenience gamblers, but between slots-only players and more diversified gamblers. Diversified players are not satisfied by slots alone, so they go to the destination casinos (Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun). Slots players, on the other hand, will go anywhere where there are slots (Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, Lincoln Park, or Newport Grand) regardless the other activities that might be available.

Since slots players are going to go anywhere there are slots, the idea that Rhode Island's significant population of heavy gamblers isn't going to take some of its many trips each year to West Warwick and reduce the state?s Lincoln Park's revenue is self-serving speculation. And fiscally speaking, because Rhode Island has become so addicted to gaming revenues to balance its budget, it is potentially ruinous speculation.

November 1, 2006

Iraq and Domestic Political Considerations

Carroll Andrew Morse

The future of Iraq may now center around the Iraqi government's response to a search for an American soldier in Iraq believed to have been captured last week by a Shi'ite militia. The U.S. military responded to the kidnapping by sealing off and aggressively searching the Sadr City section of Baghdad. On Tuesday, the Iraqi Prime Minister either ordered or convinced American forces to shut down the search. This is from various wire reports compiled by the Hartford Courant...

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flexed his political muscle Tuesday and won agreement by U.S. forces to end their weeklong near-siege of Baghdad's largest Shiite Muslim district.

American troops departed, setting off celebrations among civilians and armed men in Sadr City, the sprawling slum controlled by the Mahdi Army militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Small groups of men and children danced in circles chanting slogans praising and declaring victory for al-Sadr, whose political support is crucial to the prime minister's governing coalition....

There were conflicting accounts of whether the decision to lift the barricades was made jointly with Americans. U.S. officials insisted the decision was taken after consulting with them, but an Iraqi official said al-Maliki made the decision, then spoke to Americans.

Prime Minister Maliki's order follows an earlier statement that he does not consider disarming Iraq�s Shi�ite militias to be amongst his government's top priorities. The Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi parliament has expressed a similar idea...
Khaled al-Attiya, the Shi'ite deputy speaker of parliament, said militias were not the main problem: "All the militias will disband at the end of the day but these are not the main enemy of the Iraqi people," he said.

"The main enemy are the Baathists and Saddamists who want to destroy the political process and the main principles of the constitution."

The more conspiracy-minded suggest that this may all be part of a plan to make the Maliki government look tough, allowing it to build the support necessary to eventually confront the militias. Whether that's true, or just wishful thinking, if Prime Minister Maliki will not confront the violence originating with Shi'ite militias, the Bush administration needs to prepare itself for some domestic repercussions of its own.

Senator Jack Reed has offered a stern reaction to Prime Minister Maliki's order (request?) to stand-down the search (h/t RightRI)...

This is yet another example of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the Iraqi government yielding to sectarian pressure rather than providing national leadership.

Our troops surrounded Sadr City, a major hot spot and a place where kidnappers may be holding one of our own soldiers, and Prime Minister Maliki is once again undermining efforts to rein in violence within Baghdad.

His on again-off again approach to disarming the militias is undermining efforts by both the Iraqi security forces and the United States military to provide basic security for the people of Baghdad.

Today, the critical issue in Iraq is whether the Maliki government can muster the political will to confront those who use violence to destabilize Iraq. If the Maliki government won't stand up to them, then military efforts alone will not guarantee success.

Senator Reed's reaction will resonate with the traditions of American hawkishness in a way that standard Democratic statements on the war usually don't. In America, popular support for sending troops into combat comes with at least one non-negotiable condition: that leaders who make the decision to go to war make an absolute commitment to victory. The American public will forgive a leader for making mistakes in pursuit of a noble cause, but they will not forgive -- or follow -- a leader who puts soldiers into harm's way in the absence of a total commitment to winning. (This is all a part of what the historian Walter Russell Mead calls the Jacksonian tradition in American foreign policy.)

If the mission in Iraq changes from pursuit of unqualfied victory over the enemy to just helping a foreign leader improve his domestic positioning, support for keeping our troops in Iraq -- even for perhaps a smaller training-oriented force -- will quickly erode, regardless of the consequences that a rapid American withdrawal from Iraq would bring. If Prime Minister Maliki does not make some kind of commitment to reining in the sectarian militias, whatever support his refusal to take action against them wins amongst Iraqis will come at the cost of undercutting the American support that remains for keeping American soldiers deployed in Iraq.

This is an area where the Bush administration must quickly overcome its famous tin ear (think Harriet Miers or the Dubai Ports Deal) when it comes to listening to its natural base.

Not Everyone Has the Same Goal in Mind for a "Population Policy"

Carroll Andrew Morse

Last week, Justin noted a Froma Harrop Projo column where she approvingly cited an organization who believes that the United States should actively work towards cutting its population in half...

Negative Population Growth ( thinks that the optimal number for sustaining a decent quality of life in the United States is 150 million. That is half of what we now have, but in case you think that it's a crazy low figure, consider that the U.S. population was 150 million as recently as the 1950s, which many regard as a golden age of American contentment.
Meanwhile, across the ocean, according to the Australian newspaper The Age, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would like to increase his country's population to 120 million, believing that more people means more power for his government...
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for a baby boom to boost the country's population to 120 million and enable it to threaten the West, as he boasted the country's nuclear capacity had increased "tenfold".

Mr. Ahmadinejad told MPs he wanted to scrap birth control policies that discourage Iranian couples from having more than two children. Women should work less and devote more time to their "main mission" of raising children, he said.

His comments were an attack on policies sanctioned by senior Islamic clerics aimed at limiting Iran's population of about 70 million. The Government backs birth control measures including female sterilisation, vasectomies and mandatory family planning classes for newlyweds. Iran also has a state-owned condom factory.

"Westerners have got problems," Mr Ahmadinejad said. "Because their population growth is negative, they are worried and fear that if our population increases, we will triumph over them."

He said he wanted to bring in legislation reducing women's working hours based on how many children they had. Women could work part time on full-time salaries, he said.

I wonder how the central population planners of the West plan to address the central population planners in other parts of the world who intend to use increased population as a means of conquest.