April 30, 2007

The Funding Formula Distraction

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island's education aid “funding formula” debate is moving from the sublime to the ridiculous. Pat Crowley (an assistant executive director with the Rhode Island chapter of the National Education Association) has posted on his blog a link to a video clip of Senate Majority Leader Teresa Paiva-Weed discussing the purpose of redesigning the formula. The Senator says that the current formula needs to be rebalanced to better address the needs of “second-tier” urban and suburban communities…

The focus has been on the urbans. That’s not to say that the urbans don’t need to continue to be important, but the question is there was a lot of challenges from the communities, both in the second tier and the suburban communities, that we were relying on an antiquated formula and that different things had occurred in the various communities that weren’t being addressed by the funding formula.
Meanwhile, former interim Central Falls school superintendent William R. Holland argued in yesterday’s Projo that Rhode Island's education funding priority should be more money for urban districts -- and he has a study paid for by the state legislature that Senator Paiva-Weed helps lead to back him up…
The recent Wood Associates Education Adequacy Report commissioned by the General Assembly calls for increased funding in urban districts, citing the high percentage of low-income families and the high cost and percentage of special-education and English-language learners in those districts.
Providence Mayor David Cicilline expects a revised funding formula to bring more aid to Providence. Yet officials from urban ring cities and suburban towns from Cumberland to Scituate expect the revised formula to bring more aid to them.

They can’t all be right about what the effect of the new formula will be, because there is no way that a funding formula can by itself increase the percentage of aid to the smaller cities and towns at the same time it increases aid to the urban core. Isn't it about time for the General Assembly to tell the people of Rhode Island what the goal of the new formula really is and to stop pretending there's a something-for-nothing solution to Rhode Island's education problems?

Primary Madness

Carroll Andrew Morse

Jim Baron has an op-ed in today’s Pawtucket Times where he discusses a possible improvement to the Presidential primary system (and once again, Rhode Island Secretary of State Ralph Mollis seems to be at the cutting edge of reform)…

Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, a Democrat, has embraced a plan put forward by the National Association of Secretaries of State - one that might get us past the parochialism and opportunism that is at the root of the states elbowing each other for position on the primary schedule.

Under this scheme, the nation would be broken into four regions: the East, the South, the Midwest and the West. There would be regional primaries in March, April, May and June and the regions would rotate the order in which they hold their primaries every four years.

The first year the East would be in March, the South in April, the Midwest in May and the West in June. Four years later the West would be in March, the East in April, the South in May and the Midwest in June and so forth.

Each region would hold its primary first once every 16 years, and would be last once every 16 years. The exception would be that the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses would keep their status as first-in-the-nation contests so lesser-known and lesser-funded candidates would still have a chance to campaign in states where person-to-person retail politics is as important as big-money advertising campaigns.

Here’s another, lottery-based system proposed by Bill Whalen in the Weekly Standard
Rule One: No presidential primaries or caucuses until the first Monday in February. Let the public have a peaceful January breaking resolutions and watching football.

Rule Two: Start the selection process with the same first four states as in 2008. Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina all are relatively small states. And they reflect four regions of the country with distinctly different economies and cultures. That makes for a level playing field.

Rule Three: Once those four states vote, the game changes. From here on, primaries are held among seven states, every Tuesday, for the following six weeks. That mix would include one "mega" state with at least 20 electoral votes, three mid-size states with a minimum of 10 electoral votes, three smaller states worth four to nine electoral votes, plus one small state with three electoral votes (on the seventh Tuesday, one "mega" state, two mid-sized states and one small state would vote).

I conducted such a lottery with the aid of four baseball caps and one shredded piece of paper. Based upon the new rules, if this system were implemented a year ago, here's what the 2008 primaries would look like:

  • Feb. 5, Iowa
  • Feb. 10, Nevada
  • Feb. 13, New Hampshire
  • Feb. 20, South Carolina
  • Feb. 27, Ohio, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Oregon, Alaska
  • March 6, Illinois, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Idaho, Rhode Island, North Dakota
  • March 13, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, South Dakota
  • March 20, Florida, Virginia, Minnesota, Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, District of Columbia
  • March 27, Texas, New Jersey, Indiana, Nebraska, Utah, Arkansas, Wyoming
  • April 3, New York, Missouri, Tennessee, Connecticut, Mississippi, West Virginia, Vermont
  • April 10, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland, Delaware, Montana
The lottery idea is a bit fanciful, but the idea of a two-round system, where a round of individual state primaries is followed by round of regional super-primaries with the order of regions rotating from election to election would be an improvement over what we do now.

The natural question to ask here is is there anyone who likes the system as it is?

April 29, 2007

Little Segue Is Needed

Justin Katz

It's somewhat surprising how little segue is deemed necessary, in America's letters to the editor sections, to bash the president or the pope. On the death of Kurt Vonnegut, Ivan Wolfson from Riverside explained:

Vonnegut’s novels explored, often with humor, the inexhaustible ability of humans, as individuals, governments and corporations, through their greed, thoughtlessness, stupidity and plain cruelty, to cause misery and destruction.

What could follow more naturally from the annunciation of humans' greed, thoughtlessness, stupidity, and plain cruelty than the following?

I imagine his reaction would have been the same, as was mine, had he read the only other headline on the page with his obituary: “Pope says evolution not proven.”

I suppose it would be fruitless to note that the Pope Benedict's statement appears to have been more that the broad historical claims of evolution can't be proven, in the laboratory sense, within the context of his larger argument that:

The question is not to either make a decision for a creationism that fundamentally excludes science, or for an evolutionary theory that covers over its own gaps and does not want to see the questions that reach beyond the methodological possibilities of natural science ... I find it important to underline that the theory of evolution implies questions that must be assigned to philosophy and which themselves lead beyond the realms of science.

Although, it might be surmisable that Mr. Vonnegut would have found fodder in the notion that we ought to trust the global media to properly handle such a subtle thing as context when it comes to matters of religion.

Putting the Other Side Out There

Justin Katz

In response to Marc's post on the DJs' being fired from Roger Williams's WQRI, program director Mike Martelli has left the following comment (which I've also read his expressing in an email that reached me through a series of forwards):

As the Program Director of WQRI it is my responsibility to determine what content is inappropriate to be aired on the station. After much discussion with the entire air staff I have come to the conclusion that the infamous phrase, “nappy headed ho” should not be repeated over our airwaves. I have given the air staff a lot of freedom with the content of their shows. However, when Dee Jays have pushed the envelope sometimes I have to bring them back to a reasonable level.

At the air staff meeting we discussed the First Amendment issues regarding the Imus phrase. It was at this meeting, which took place on Wednesday April 18th, we discussed whether or not the air staff felt as if they would be censored if I asked them not to repeat the Imus phrase. Mr. Peloso and Mr. Porter were not in attendance. The consensus from the air staff was that there was no problem to the ban. I had to call a special meeting with Jon Porter and Dana Peloso on Monday the 23rd in which I passed on the order. We were all in agreement that the phrase should not be said.

I don’t think that the phrase needed to be said again, especially since the Imus incident had taken place more than 2 weeks prior and was no longer newsworthy. I also felt that phrase could be offensive to some and with WQRI’s FCC license up for renewal I did not want to risk offending the community. We are a music station and we have spent lots of time trying to build up a reputable image with the community and have successfully done so.

The issue here is that the College Republicans have failed to comply with direct orders and station policy. My decision was based on WQRI issues only; my personal beliefs had to stay out of it. It is unfair that the media is pulling my blog posts and taking them out of context. The only reason I chose to suspend and fire Dana Peloso and Jon Porter is their blatant insubordination. The First Amendment was not an issue here as there was an obvious disregard for WQRI policy and leadership.

The accusations that I acted in collaboration with Vice President John King to censor the College Republicans is completely false and completely ridiculous. I have stood against VP King on many occasions and I can describe our relationship as professional but not one of great chemistry. VP King and I have clashed on issues of Student’s Rights and I have consistently stood as an advocate of these Student Rights. The issue with King and the CR’s has been misunderstood. VP King had only mentioned in passing to our General Manager that the content of the show might not be the best to display during the Accepted Students Day, and I completely agree.

VP King never, I repeat never, gave us an order to take any kind of action against Mr. Peloso or Mr. Porter. In fact he never even suggested that anything should happen to the College Republicans. Just because he mentioned that the content was not appropriate for Accepted Student’s day does not mean he wanted us to give the CR’s the Axe. He is an ambassador for the University and he has the right to comment. The comment had nothing to do with my decision. At no time did VP King or any other Administrator tell me what to do.

Jon Porter and Dana Peloso were suspended because of insubordination and have consequently been fired because they did not have the patience to take part in an investigation by the station's student run executive board. If Jon and Dana let us examine the tape of their show they would also have had time to defend their actions in front of the board. Since they decided to jump the gun and go to the press I am lead to believe that this has little to do with concerns of censorship and has more to do with gaining attention. Jon and Dana mentioned the Imus Phrase more than 30 times in 28 minutes, they did little to actually discuss the first amendment and it was quite clear that Jon and Dana were trying to cause trouble. Their actions were irresponsible and had no journalistic character. This is the reason I have decided to let them go. The University has nothing to do with this decision, it is 100% mine.

Mike Martelli
WQRI Program Director
(401) 254 3282

Personally, I'd be interested to hear the offending tape, myself (and if Porter and Peloso wished, I'd be happy to host a streaming version on Anchor Rising). From what I've read so far, although one can argue the merit of each decision leading up to the firing, my impression remains in sync with the instinct with which I received the initial "breaking news" announcement: I worry that coastal conservatives — by necessity a countercultural lot — can too easily be manipulated by attention-seeking yutes. That a particular incident reinforces our beliefs or advances our cause doesn't mean that we ought uncritically to pounce on it.

It might arouse less suspicion if the students were out in the public offering their own intellectual position and explanation, as Mr. Martelli is, rather than merely pointing to the fact that they'd been canned.

The Helplessness of Being the Joke

Justin Katz

It's a tricky business responding to the personal anecdotes that opinionists sometimes use in their columns. The reader was not there, for one thing, and it isn't always evident what emotions the memory revives, for another. But the stories are offered, ostensibly for the purpose of illustrating an important point relevant to current events, and so they would seem fair game for commentary.

The disclaimer thus expressed, this in-my-life anecdote from M.J. Anderson is a doozy:

I WAS AN ELF ONCE. At the campus dining hall where I worked, somebody thought it would be fun if the servers dressed as elves for the Christmas dinner, so we did.

I am hazy now on what our exact duties were. What counts in memory is that a diner in his cups — a large, athletic-looking guy — grabbed me, threw me over his shoulder, yelled “I got one of ’em!” amid a roar of male laughter and marched toward the door.

What counts is that I pounded on him with all I had and it did not matter. Suddenly, I was in a world I did not know. ...

As for my dining-hall abductor, he had me out the door and into the night before finally putting me down. What to him was a game was to me an education. I had found myself helpless against force, and never forgot the sensation.

This, we are meant to understand, relates to the ordeal of those Duke lacrosse players who took on the role of evil white males for the mainstream media for more than their promised (or threatened) fifteen minutes. See, M.J. was "put down" — spared the rape, one gathers she means — just as the fellas at Duke had the resources to ensure that they, too, were "put down" — spared wrongful prosecution and sentencing.

To be honest, I'm not sure how this observation should work into and/or unravel Anderson's parallel, but it seems not insignificant that the reason the elfish M.J. was powerless that evening wasn't that Mr. Athletic-Looking Guy could have done anything he wanted with her. Surely even some among his roaring peers would have stepped in had she been in any real danger. Rather, the reader mightn't be presuming too much to wonder whether her powerlessness derived from her inability to sense the joke.

It is precisely the humorless sense that all males — in their cups or otherwise — are potential abductors and rapists that set the scene for the actual and rending violation of those young athletes and, perhaps as bad, lured the unfortunate young woman who made the allegations, lacking the boys' "strong families and skilled lawyers," into that overly bright and wasting spotlight from which one is put down only after years of anonymity.

April 28, 2007

The Victims of Our Lack of Self Control

Justin Katz

Peggy Noonan gets it exactly right in her recent musing about modern media's effect on children:

For 50 years in America, whenever the subject has turned to what our culture presents, the bright response has been, "You don't like it? Change the channel." But there is no other channel to change to, no safe place to click to. Our culture is national. The terrorizing of children is all over.

We've been having discussions, on Anchor Rising, that are related to Noonan's point in their dealing with the fading distinction between censorship and the encouragement of self-control. There's so much talk about my right to speak, my right to know, my right to do whatever-the-hell-I-want-to-and-you-better-not-push-your-morals-on-me-buddy. Speak of responsibility, and the reply is likely to be either "don't you talk to me about responsibility" or "yeah, I wish people would be more responsible, but..." or "I know; I've written my legislators about that very issue." Noonan:

We are not giving the children of our country a stable platform. We are instead giving them a soul-shaking sense that life is unsafe, incoherent, full of random dread. And we are doing this, I think, for three reasons.

One is politics--our political views, our cultural views, so need to be expressed and are, God knows, so much more important than the peace of a child. Another is money--there's money in the sickness that is sold to us. Everyone who works at a TV network knew ratings would go up when the Cho tapes broke.

But another reason is that, for all our protestations about how sensitive we are, how interested in justice, how interested in the children, we are not. We are interested in politics. We are interested in money. We are interested in ourselves.

Do you get the sense that today's grown-ups are often chasing that tingly, exciting fear they got that pre-Halloween night watching a Disney special in grandma's basement? Perhaps that's too personal a representation to apply beyond myself, but perhaps this: Do you ever get the sense that a world of truncated innocence is one without true adults?

Re: Poverty Rate Versus Tax Burden

Justin Katz

It's worth noting, as an addendum to Andrew's post, that the two metrics aren't merely correlative. A substantial portion of the tax revenue goes toward those sorts of programs that attract poor people to the state (see, e.g., here, here, and here). In other words, the option is more likely to be "all of the above," as more tax dollars go toward handouts, draining funds both from general public services (such as road upkeep) and from taxpayers' wallets, driving them out of state or into poverty.

April 27, 2007

Poverty Rate Versus Tax Burden

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Providence Phoenix’s Brian C. Jones puts the idea that high taxes are driving people away from Rhode Island into the category of just-a-theory…

There has been a growing conviction that high taxes drive people away from Rhode Island and deplete the lifeblood of the private economy. Whether the world really works that way is debatable. What is not in dispute is that many economists and policymakers believe it to be the case, including Republican Carcieri, and legislative Democrats.
The theory is actually a bit more complex, that the combination of high taxes and poor-to-average public services in return drives the middle class away, because they can get more bang for their buck by moving elsewhere.

That point aside, data sources exist allowing the history of tax impact on demographics to be examined in some detail. Let’s begin with the U.S. Census Bureau’s yearly data on the poverty rate in each state. According to that data, the poverty rate in Rhode Island has been over 90% of the national rate for four years in a row, the first time the relative rate has been that high for that long since the data series began in 1980. That means in those four years…

  1. Poor people have come to the state, or
  2. Middle-class people have left the state, or
  3. Middle class people have been driven into poverty, or
  4. Any or all of the above.
But does the unprecedented relative poverty rate have anything to do with tax policy?

Well, the Tax Foundation has compiled data on each state’s tax-burden ranking since 1970 (Rhode Island is currently ranked 4th). By combining the Tax Foundation data with the Census Bureau data, we can see if there is a correlation between tax-policy and poverty rates. The plot below compares Rhode Island’s relative poverty rate between 1980 and 2005 to its tax-burden ranking from the previous year. The trend is unmistakable…


The high poverty period in the upper left-hand corner of the graph isn’t unique to the here-and-now, it also involves the years 1982-1984, the only other period since 1980 prior to the stretch beginning in 2002 where the RI relative poverty rate was over 88% for three years in a row. You can make the plot in other ways, tax-burden this year versus poverty rate, tax burden over the past two years averaged together, etc. and you’ll see basically the same trend.

Jones’ article includes this bit of analysis from University of Rhode Island Political Science Professor Maureen Moakley…

“Up until the 1980s, we were in the bottom of per-capita income,” Moakley says. “We really were a poor state, and that kind of body politic was very sympathetic with the social-welfare programs, because, ‘we need them.’ We now are a very prosperous state. We have more people doing better and [being] less concerned; there’s less of a critical mass that demands social services.”
From the graph above, if the goal is to generate more political support for poverty programs by creating more poor people, then raising taxes seems to be the way to go!

Here is the Tax Foundation's data on Rhode Island's tax burden ranking, and the Census Bureau's data on Rhode Island's relative poverty rate...

Year RI
Tax Rank
RI Relative
Poverty Rate
1980 11 82.3%
1981 8 83.6%
1982 7 88.7%
1983 10 95.4%
1984 13 88.9%
1985 15 66.2%
1986 15 65.0%
1987 14 60.4%
1988 21 75.4%
1989 26 52.3%
1990 15 55.6%
1991 12 73.2%
1992 11 83.8%
1993 15 74.2%
1994 11 71.0%
1995 12 76.8%
1996 9 80.3%
1997 9 95.5%
1998 8 91.3%
1999 8 84.0%
2000 5 90.3%
2001 5 82.1%
2002 5 90.9%
2003 5 92.0%
2004 5 90.6%
2005 4 96.0%

April 26, 2007

Abortion Falsehoods and Truths

Justin Katz

The Providence Journal's editorial on the Supreme Court's partial-birth abortion ruling isn't quite as deceptive/deluded as Mary Ann Sorrentino's, but at the very least, it's misleading (emphasis added):

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision upholding the right of the federal government to impose a ban on a certain form of rarely performed second-trimester abortion is unfortunate in two major ways.

First, it extends the role of the federal government into areas best left to physicians. The court upheld the idea that there be no medical exception in which a woman’s physician, after determining that so-called partial-birth abortion (“intact dilation and evacuation”) was necessary to protect the health of the woman, could then perform the procedure.

Apparently, allowing for the procedure in order to save the life of the mother doesn't count as a "medical exception." Judging from the Projo's bizarre notion of federalism, however, one must leave open the possibility that the word "exception" is used, here, to mean "constitutional right to whatever abortionists can do." I say this because it seems the editors feel that the federal government's power should be limited to granting broad rights to death, thus barring states from making anything more than moderate exceptions, without its being, for some reason, as unfortunate when a state government meddles in "areas best left to physicians." (Curious, that.)

Further, whatever you think of this procedure, that the federal government in this case has again intruded into an area that seems to us to be most properly situated close to or in domestic law — and therefore in our federal system under state jurisdiction — should trouble even many conservatives. This is part of a troubling pattern we have seen in the Bush administration of undermining the right of the states to regulate medicine within their boundaries. The Terry Schiavo case and the Oregon assisted-suicide law provide the best known cases of such, to us, inappropriate intervention.

In short, the ruling appears to be a dangerous over-reaching of federal jurisdiction, and one that we especially fear may set an unfortunate precedent for further inroads into individual rights and the relationship between physician and patient, up to and including an outright federal ban on abortion, thus overturning 1973’s Roe v. Wade protection of that right.

Contrary to the Projo's dismissive "whatever you think of this procedure," before conservatives — or just, you know, human beings — decide what they should be troubled about, it might be helpful for them to understand just what they're supposed to gloss over. Here's a passage from Gonzales v. Carhart by which future generations will have opportunity to judge us for centuries hence (citations removed):

The surgical procedure referred to as "dilation and evacuation" or "D&E" is the usual abortion method in [the second] trimester. Although individual techniques for performing D&E differ, the general steps are the same.

A doctor must first dilate the cervix at least to the extent needed to insert surgical instruments into the uterus and to maneuver them to evacuate the fetus. The steps taken to cause dilation differ by physician and gestational age of the fetus. ...

After sufficient dilation the surgical operation can commence. The woman is placed under general anesthesia or conscious sedation. The doctor, often guided by ultrasound, inserts grasping forceps through the woman's cervix and into the uterus to grab the fetus. The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed. A doctor may make 10 to 15 passes with the forceps to evacuate the fetus in its entirety, though sometimes removal is completed with fewer passes. Once the fetus has been evacuated, the placenta and any remaining fetal material are suctioned or scraped out of the uterus. The doctor examines the different parts to ensure the entire fetal body has been removed.

Some doctors, especially later in the second trimester, may kill the fetus a day or two before performing the surgical evacuation. They inject digoxin or potassium chloride into the fetus, the umbilical cord, or the amniotic fluid. Fetal demise may cause contractions and make greater dilation possible. Once dead, moreover, the fetus' body will soften, and its removal will be easier. Other doctors refrain from injecting chemical agents, believing it adds risk with little or no medical benefit.

The abortion procedure that was the impetus for the numerous bans on "partial-birth abortion," including the Act, is a variation of this standard D&E. The medical community has not reached unanimity on the appropriate name for this D&E variation. It has been referred to as "intact D&E," "dilation and extraction" (D&X), and "intact D&X." For discussion purposes this D&E variation will be referred to as intact D&E. The main difference between the two procedures is that in intact D&E a doctor extracts the fetus intact or largely intact with only a few passes. There are no comprehensive statistics indicating what percentage of all D&Es are performed in this manner.

Intact D&E, like regular D&E, begins with dilation of the cervix. Sufficient dilation is essential for the procedure. To achieve intact extraction some doctors thus may attempt to dilate the cervix to a greater degree. This approach has been called "serial" dilation. Doctors who attempt at the outset to perform intact D&E may dilate for two full days or use up to 25 osmotic dilators.

In an intact D&E procedure the doctor extracts the fetus in a way conducive to pulling out its entire body, instead of ripping it apart. One doctor, for example, testified:

"If I know I have good dilation and I reach in and the fetus starts to come out and I think I can accomplish it, the abortion with an intact delivery, then I use my forceps a little bit differently. I don't close them quite so much, and I just gently draw the tissue out attempting to have an intact delivery, if possible."

Rotating the fetus as it is being pulled decreases the odds of dismemberment. A doctor also "may use forceps to grasp a fetal part, pull it down, and re-grasp the fetus at a higher level--sometimes using both his hand and a forceps--to exert traction to retrieve the fetus intact until the head is lodged in the [cervix]."

Intact D&E gained public notoriety when, in 1992, Dr. Martin Haskell gave a presentation describing his method of performing the operation. In the usual intact D&E the fetus' head lodges in the cervix, and dilation is insufficient to allow it to pass. Haskell explained the next step as follows:

" 'At this point, the right-handed surgeon slides the fingers of the left [hand] along the back of the fetus and "hooks" the shoulders of the fetus with the index and ring fingers (palm down).

" 'While maintaining this tension, lifting the cervix and applying traction to the shoulders with the fingers of the left hand, the surgeon takes a pair of blunt curved Metzenbaum scissors in the right hand. He carefully advances the tip, curved down, along the spine and under his middle finger until he feels it contact the base of the skull under the tip of his middle finger.

" '[T]he surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull or into the foramen magnum. Having safely entered the skull, he spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening.

" 'The surgeon removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter into this hole and evacuates the skull contents. With the catheter still in place, he applies traction to the fetus, removing it completely from the patient.' "

This is an abortion doctor's clinical description. Here is another description from a nurse who witnessed the same method performed on a 26-week fetus and who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

" 'Dr. Haskell went in with forceps and grabbed the baby's legs and pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby's body and the arms--everything but the head. The doctor kept the head right inside the uterus... .

" 'The baby's little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby's arms jerked out, like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall.

" 'The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby's brains out. Now the baby went completely limp... .

" 'He cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he had just used.' "

Dr. Haskell's approach is not the only method of killing the fetus once its head lodges in the cervix, and "the process has evolved" since his presentation. Another doctor, for example, squeezes the skull after it has been pierced "so that enough brain tissue exudes to allow the head to pass through." Still other physicians reach into the cervix with their forceps and crush the fetus' skull. Others continue to pull the fetus out of the woman until it disarticulates at the neck, in effect decapitating it. These doctors then grasp the head with forceps, crush it, and remove it.

Some doctors performing an intact D&E attempt to remove the fetus without collapsing the skull. Yet one doctor would not allow delivery of a live fetus younger than 24 weeks because "the objective of [his] procedure is to perform an abortion," not a birth. The doctor thus answered in the affirmative when asked whether he would "hold the fetus' head on the internal side of the [cervix] in order to collapse the skull" and kill the fetus before it is born. Another doctor testified he crushes a fetus' skull not only to reduce its size but also to ensure the fetus is dead before it is removed. For the staff to have to deal with a fetus that has "some viability to it, some movement of limbs," according to this doctor, "[is] always a difficult situation."

D&E and intact D&E are not the only second-trimester abortion methods. Doctors also may abort a fetus through medical induction. The doctor medicates the woman to induce labor, and contractions occur to deliver the fetus. Induction, which unlike D&E should occur in a hospital, can last as little as 6 hours but can take longer than 48. It accounts for about five percent of second-trimester abortions before 20 weeks of gestation and 15 percent of those after 20 weeks. Doctors turn to two other methods of second-trimester abortion, hysterotomy and hysterectomy, only in emergency situations because they carry increased risk of complications. In a hysterotomy, as in a cesarean section, the doctor removes the fetus by making an incision through the abdomen and uterine wall to gain access to the uterine cavity. A hysterectomy requires the removal of the entire uterus. These two procedures represent about .07% of second-trimester abortions.

As one who is generally strongly supportive of states' right to differ substantively in their laws, I have to say that, as with slavery, I've no qualms about allowing the federal government to "dangerously overreach" to make blanket prohibitions of monstrosity.

Mary Ann Sorrentino Misunderstands the Partial Birth Abortion Ban

Carroll Andrew Morse

Mary Ann Sorrentino’s Providence Phoenix article on the Federal partial birth abortion ban and the Supreme Court’s decision upholding it in Gonzales v. Carhart repeats a serious factual error multiple times…

The court’s decision to uphold a ban on late-term abortions — even when the mother’s health is endangered — codifies what pro-choicers have suspected (and warned about) for decades. Abortion opponents grant the fetus “paramount right-to-life” status, while pregnant women apparently have no right to any life.

If, in month five of a pregnancy, a woman faces a medical situation guaranteed to injure or even kill her through pregnancy-related complications discovered at that time, compassionate conservatives say, “Tough!”
The assertion that the Federal partial birth abortion contains no exemption for the life of the mother is not accurate. Here is the text of the law...
Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both. This subsection does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.
How could a life of the mother exception possibly be any clearer?

Secondly, the Supreme Court in Carhart did not even hold that all partial birth abortions (except in cases where the mother's life is threatened) are prohibited. The Court only ruled that its precedents requiring that late-term abortion restrictions include an exception for the health of the mother extending beyond life-threatening circumstances did not justify overtuning the partial birth law as a whole and permitting the procedure in any situation. Because "as applied" challenges to the law are still allowed, the court may still yet find that a health of the mother exception is automatically built into any late-term abortion law.

The issue of abortion ban health exceptions in non-life threatening situations has become a contentious one because many abortion rights activists refuse to draw a distinction between mental and physical health. Froma Harrop has expounded on this point in the past…

Most of us agree that these abortions [to protect the health of the mother] should be done only under extraordinary circumstances. So if by "health" we mean the psychic well-being of someone who decided late in the game that she didn't want a baby, then no, the pregnancy must go to full term. But if something has gone terribly wrong, and the woman would be physically ravaged by continuing a pregnancy, then we must have a different kind of debate.
If Ms. Sorrentino doesn’t think that physical versus mental health is a legitimate distinction, then why does she limit herself to physical health examples (unless she considers raising or maybe giving a child up for adoption a “pregnancy related complication”) to make her point about the situations where partial birth abortion needs to be allowed?

Mary Ann Sorrentino is not a newcomer to the abortion issue. Her inability to get the basic facts right shows how the abortion rights movement has become consumed by political rhetoric that has little or nothing to do with reality.

RE: Wingfield's Letter

Marc Comtois

I share Justin's concern that some of what has gone on may not be "out of deliberate strategy" and instead may be for the sake of "the sheer self-gratifying joy of subversion and recognition." It is this line between publicity-for-its-own-sake and polemic that is sometimes hard to toe. (Ann Coulter comes to mind). So, perhaps I was a bit too hard on Wingfield, but there is certainly a place for using free speech--including tough language--to shake up the campus conventional wisdom. Keeping in mind that most College Republicans are essentially apprentices in field of polemics, some line-crossing is to be expected.

If nothing else, Wingfield's resignation--which, by the way, is largely symbolic as he's graduating in a couple weeks by which time his replacement will have been elected--has brought to the fore a debate that is going on in the wider world of conservative and Republican politics. It's encapsulated well in this post from National Review's Jonah Goldberg in which one of his emailers observes:

The vast right wing conspiracy at some point seems to have decided that we'll command, if not dominate, the following:

- Think tanks
- Talk radio
- Blogs

This strategy seems to depend on persuading opinion leaders of the merits of our case, preferably using 10,000+ words to do so. The opinion leaders then hold court at family barbecues, dazzling friends and family with facts and logic and slowly converting them to our side.

That's a perfectly legitimate approach, but it has three problems that make it less than sufficient as a marketing strategy: (1) political junkies aren't necessarily opinion leaders; (2) the arguments are usually too complex to be easily distilled into something that could lead to opinion leadership; and, (3) it assumes that people's views are shaped by facts and logic, when things like the aforementioned group identity are at least as important among many people.

In other words, we need counterparts to MoveOn and its ilk that can succinctly and persuasively communicate meaningful information to largely disinterested voters, and do so using the tools and tones appropriate for our target audiences.

Young and motivated College Republicans are the GOPs counterpart to the liberal foot soldiers of MoveOn. Wingfield is correct to caution them about stepping over the line. But we also have to realize that there is a difference between the language used in discussions held at a suburban, backyard barbecue and the jawing that goes on at a kegger.

Wingfield's Letter

Justin Katz

Inasmuch as it is difficult to discuss a document that is not readily available to the public, herewith is Ethan Wingfield's letter of resignation as Chairman of the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island (printed with permission):

To all,

I write this evening to announce my resignation as Chairman of the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island, effective at midnight, tonight. The petty in-fighting in this organization, led by arrogant and immature personalities, is beyond belief. Labeling vitriol, arrogance, and dogmatism as "getting work done" is quickly developing a dominant culture within this organization with which I will not associate. Over the past year, I have worked to change the organization into one that will invite interest among its members, command respect from the community, and promote dignified discourse on the college communities throughout this state. However, others involved in the organization have not contributed the maturity, hard work, and political will necessary to accomplish this much-needed transformation. Sadly, this is the second year in a row that a chairman has attempted to accomplish this, and also the second year in a row that culminated in the resignation of the chairman under similar circumstances.

Under my leadership, CRs from Brown, PC, and RWU logged hundreds of hours working on campaigns leading up to the November elections. We launched a comprehensive website. The Federation held a successful fundraiser, hosted by prominent Providence Republicans, drawing donors from all over the state. The Roger Williams University chapter has been reestablished and is among the strongest in the state, after only two semesters of activity. College Republican involvement and activity is at an all-time high in this state. I am proud of the work I have done, but fear for the future of this organization.

Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman, is esteemed by many to be the father of modern conservatism. In his book, "Reflections on the Revolution of France," Burke wrote, "But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint."

As I leave this post, College Republicans around this state have created multiple controversies by exercising our liberty of free speech. We are conservatives, not liberals. Use wisdom, and be virtuous when you exercise free speech. Do not use your liberty to incite your campus against you: the purpose of this organization is to grow and support the Republican party, and that end will only be accomplished when our message is one that appeals to the ordinary sensibilities of every individual. Seek rapport with your campus so that you can win their hearts and minds.

As you seek rapport with your community, work tirelessly to put the culture and mission of this organization back on the right track. Seek guidance from the state party and esteemed Republicans throughout the state. Be sure to include and encourage; maintain a relentlessly positive message to leaders and members. If this does not happen, then the Federation will become irrelevant to the strong chapters in this state, and useless to the chapters that are weak.

All my best,


Observing, first of all, that the usages of "our liberty of free speech" that Wingfield finds objectionable appear to be associated in his mind with a more characteristic trend among his peers, I have to admit frankly that I — manifestly not a Chafee Republican — share his concern, more broadly among conservatives, that "vitriol, arrogance, and dogmatism" are finding free rein under the excuse of "getting work done."

Perhaps I differ from Wingfield in that I think using "liberty to incite your campus against you" is a valid strategy (metaphorically, for most of us, of course). However, I am less and less confident that it is being done out of deliberate strategy, as opposed to the sheer self-gratifying joy of subversion and recognition.

The Carbon Offset "Smokescreen"

Marc Comtois

According to a report in the Financial Times:

Companies and individuals rushing to go green have been spending millions on “carbon credit” projects that yield few if any environmental benefits...

The FT investigation found:

■ Widespread instances of people and organisations buying worthless credits that do not yield any reductions in carbon emissions.

■ Industrial companies profiting from doing very little – or from gaining carbon credits on the basis of efficiency gains from which they have already benefited substantially.

■ Brokers providing services of questionable or no value.

■ A shortage of verification, making it difficult for buyers to assess the true value of carbon credits.

■ Companies and individuals being charged over the odds for the private purchase of European Union carbon permits that have plummeted in value because they do not result in emissions cuts.

Aw, so what? If it makes you feel better...

Re: Outgoing State College Republican Chair: Make Sure What You Say is Politically Correct Before You Say It

Marc Comtois

It's apparent that the sort of bareknuckle, in-your-face ideological battles that his fellow College Republicans are waging is too much for Wingfield.

Some may recall that Wingfield was the head of the Reformed Christian Fellowship at Brown University, which was suspended last year. Wingfield perservered and, with the help of FIRE, they were reinstated. Wingfield's resignation seems to indicate that -when it wasn't his ox being gored--he wants to be "moderate." He stated, "We are conservatives, not liberals. Use wisdom, and be virtuous when you exercise free speech." Wingfield is correct that College Republicans should use wisdom and be virtuous, but that doesn't mean they can't still be tough or humorous. Unfortunately, "being nice" isn't going to get you noticed on college campuses. If College Republicans want to make a mark, they need to select a replacement for Wingfield who won't be so skittish about taking the battle to the ideological opposition. It looks like there may be a couple people at URI or RWU who may fit the bill.

UPDATE: Contrast Wingfield's free speech construct with this from Andrew Klavan's (via Dale Light):

The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.

Then again, I forgot...Wingfield is a Chafee Republican, not a conservative.

Outgoing State College Republican Chair: Make Sure What You Say is Politically Correct Before You Say It

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ethan Wingfield has resigned as chairman of the State College Republican Federation (h/t the RI Report website). Mr. Wingfield’s resignation letter includes this vague statement on freedom of speech…

As I leave this post, College Republicans around this state have created multiple controversies by exercising our liberty of free speech. We are conservatives, not liberals. Use wisdom, and be virtuous when you exercise free speech.
If Mr. Wingfield has problems with positions expressed by other Rhode Island College Republicans, or with how they've been expressed, he should challenge specifically what he finds to be objectionable -- and do it in a way without recommending that campus Republicans limit themselves to speech that it is, in a literal sense, politically correct.

URI College Republicans, Still Recognized

Carroll Andrew Morse

From Randal Edgar of the Projo...

The University of Rhode Island Student Senate last night backed away from asking the College Republican club to apologize for advertising a “White Heterosexual American Male” scholarship, but the club is being asked to send clarification letters to the 40 people who applied.

The letters are to explain something that many Senate members felt was not clear in the one-time ad that ran in the collage newspaper last fall — that there was no scholarship and that the ad was meant to be a satirical statement on affirmative action.

The outcome followed nearly two hours of debate by the Senate, which occasionally discussed the matter directly with Ryan Bilodeau, the Republican club’s chairman.

Bilodeau, who made a formal address to the Senate and continued to insist that the club was not willing to apologize, said afterward that the Senate decision was a good way to put the matter to rest.

“We have said all along that we were willing to compromise,” he said. “The only thing we will not do is apologize.”

At least one student senator reveals that more debate, more speech, and yes, more satire will be necessary to drive home the point the College Republicans were trying to make...
Some Senate members opposed the bill, saying it let the Republican club off too easy and ignored a violation of Senate bylaws forbidding student organizations from discriminating or impeding equal opportunity based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation, national origin and other “non-merit” factors.

“I am personally offended by your event, not your ideology,” Senate member Cristin Langworthy told Bilodeau. “You’re not making a progressive statement, you’re discriminating.”

April 25, 2007

Meanwhile, at URI....

Marc Comtois

While the Roger Williams University radio controversy rages on, the URI Senate is deciding whether or not to de-recognize the URI College Republicans. Here's a press release from Ryan Bilodeau, Chairman of the URI College Republicans:

Kingston, RI - April 25, 2007 - Displaying a dramatic disregard for students' constitutional rights, a committee of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Student Senate voted to de-recognize the College Republicans student group. For months, the Student Senate has demanded that the group publicly apologize for advertising a satirical $100 "scholarship" for white, heterosexual, American males. In response, the College Republicans refused to apologize.

Tonight the URI College Republicans face a vote in front of the full Student Senate on whether or not they will be de-recognized.

The ACLU, University President Carothers and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have all spoken out in favor of the College Republicans.

University students and members of the media are invited to attend tonight at 6:30 PM in the Student Senate Chambers of the Memorial Union.

Protesters are expected to attend.

What: URI Student Senate De-Recognition Meeting
Who: University of Rhode Island College Republicans
Where: University of Rhode Island Memorial Union Student Senate Chambers
When: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 6:30 PM

Roger Williams U Gets into the Censorship Game? (UPDATED)

Marc Comtois

First it was the URI College Republicans, now a couple conservative college radio hosts have been "fired" from WQRI, the Roger Williams University student radio station. Their offense? Repeating the Don Imus "nappy headed ho" phrase on the air while discussing the incident itself. Call it second-hand censorship.

Now, I believe that because RWU is a private institution, 1st Amendment issues are not necessarily applicable, as they are in the URI case. However, given the "mission" of free and open discussion that most liberal arts schools claim to promote (though RWU's stated mission is not quite so explicit), there can be little doubt that ideological based censorship lay behind this action. That being said, RWU is proud to claim that it upholds the ideals of it's namesake, explaining:

The University has dedicated itself to the ideals advocated by Roger Williams himself: education, freedom and tolerance. Through his scholarship in language, theology and law, Williams’ life reflected the value of learning and teaching. The University honors his legacy by modeling a community in which diverse people and diverse ideas are valued, intellectual achievement is celebrated and civic responsibility is expected.
Well, apparently not all diversity--like intellectual or political--is equal. The students weren't being intolerant by repeating the phrase that set off a media controversy, but Roger Williams University certainly appears to be.

If they haven't already, the students should contact FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to help them with their case. They've certainly helped the URI Republicans (even if the Student Senate still refuses to budge--more on that here).

FYI, Dan Yorke is promoting an interview with the students this afternoon.

UPDATE: First, I appended (in the extended entry) the press release that the hosts of the conservative talk show “Morning Again”, Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, issued. Second, apparently they were directed to not use the term at all and then used it 30 times in a 25 minute period. So, there are some management issues here, too. However, it also appears as if the station administration hasn't been able to get their story straight. In short, it looks like Peloso and Porter purposefully provoked the situation...but is that cause for firing, when the usual action would be a suspension? Or did they cross a line and deserve what they got? More to come.

UPDATE II: Alex Kuffner of the Projo reports on the story here.

Here is a press release issued by Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, hosts of the Tuesday morning conservative talk show “Morning Again”:

Vice President of Roger Williams University practicing censorship and depriving students their freedom of speech! Student Radio Program Director suspends Conservative Hosts!

As of 5:15pm April 24, 2007 student lead radio hosts Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, hosts of the Tuesday morning conservative talk show “Morning Again” on 88.3 WQRI at Roger Williams University have been suspended indefinitely for their coverage of the recent Don Imus Firing. They received the word of the suspension from WQRI program director Mike Martelli who has been heavily influenced by the Vice President of the University, John King. King contacted Martelli last week in a feeble attempt to have the show pulled when the dual hosts covered the news worthy item on a special Sunday edition of their show. King said the wording “Nappy Headed Hoe’s” was distasteful for the radio even though the hosts weren’t using the phrases in a derogatory inflammatory way, rather reporting the news as it was current. This morning’s edition of the show started out as normal, with the two leading into the now current news of Kings attempt to un-justfully censor the radio show. This morning’s show has been recorded for further press releases and on request, although the quality is not the best due to the technology in the studio, but it is more than understandable. Martellis order to have the two pulled from their morning routine comes only after King was asked to appear on the show and defend his stances on the issue; King not only refused, but subsequently Martelli Has ordered the “Morning Again” radio show pulled until further notice. When asked who made the complaints about this mornings show, Martelli responded only with “That’s not for you to know, you work for me, not the other way around.” For further questions or comment feel free to contact show host Dana Peloso who also serves as the Chapter Chairman of the College Republicans at Roger Williams University at 617-785-1732 or via Email dpeloso291@hawks.rwu.edu.

RE: Mollis Recommends Photo ID... Mollis forms "Voters First Advisory Committee"

Marc Comtois

Building on Andrew's post (and apparently this is a case of lunch-hour, blog-posting serendipity) Jim Baron of the Pawtucket Times reports:

Secretary of State Ralph Mollis has assembled a bi-partisan "Voters First Advisory Committee" -- which includes the woman who ran against him in the November election - to hash out a list of 10 election-related issues.

The North Providence Democrat says he wants the panel's input on those matters so they can be addressed with laws to be crafted by his office that he hopes can be in place for the 2008 election.
Some of the Mollis proposals the group will look at are sure to be controversial - such as his call for all voters to show a photo ID a the polling place.

"The lack of a photo ID system creates the perception of voter fraud, shakes voter confidence and leads to lack of voter participation," according to materials distributed by the secretary of state's office. "A fair and equitable photo ID system that would stand the test of our judicial system and address the concerns of our community needs to be established."
The photo ID requirement was one of the grounds for agreement between Mollis and his Republican opponent last year, Susan Stenhouse of Warwick.

Stenhouse is now a member of the commission, as is GOP Sen. June Gibbs. Other members include Woonsocket Rep. Jon Brien, Providence Rep. Joseph Almeida and Providence Sen. Juan Pichardo, all Democrats, as well as Ken McGill, registrar of the Pawtucket Board of Canvassers; Robert Kando, executive director of the state Board of Elections, and Jan Ruggiero, director of the division of elections in the secretary of state's office. Mollis will be chairman of the committee.

"It was a little weird when I got the call," to be on a panel of advisors to the man who defeated her, Stenhouse confessed in response to a question. "I almost fell out of my chair." Nonetheless, she said, "these are issues I am passionate about and I have always felt you don't have to have the title to make a difference."

Good for Mollis and a smart political move, too. Now, let's hope this actually goes somewhere.

Mollis Recommends Photo ID for Rhode Island Voters

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to Elizabeth Gudrais of the Projo, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis has announced his plan to improve the voting process in Rhode Island…

Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis yesterday announced his ideas for improving the integrity of the voting system and increasing convenience for voters.

Among those ideas: requiring photo identification at the polls and allowing voting over several days.

The usual suspects object to the photo-ID requirement…
In particular, the groups — which included International Institute Rhode Island, the local affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rhode Island Disability Law Center — called the photo ID proposal “an overreaction to a largely nonexistent problem of alleged voter impersonation.” They ticked off statistics to show whom the measure might disenfranchise: More than 3 million Americans with disabilities do not possess a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID; 153,000 seniors who voted in Georgia in 2004 don’t have a government-issued photo ID; A 1994 study found that African-Americans in Louisiana were four to five times less likely than whites to have a photo ID.
Isn’t there an obvious compromise here, i.e. Sue Stenhouse’s proposal to issue voters photo-ID cards at the time they register to vote? (Former Councilwoman Stenhouse has been named the commission created by the Secretary of State to address election reform, and is therefore in a good position to advocate for her idea.)

The remainder of the Secretary of State’s proposals are…

  • Consider easing the requirements for absentee voting
  • Look at ways to clean up the voter rolls, such as decreasing obstacles to removing voters who have died, have moved or are registered at more than one address
  • Consider ways to increase voting booth privacy, such as adding curtains to booths
  • Consider expanding the no-canvassing zone around polling places from the current radius of 50 feet
  • Standardize training and compensation for poll workers across the state
  • Revisit the voter registration form, and consider requiring additional documentation and proof of residency
  • Examine poll opening and closing times, and
  • Study expanding in-person registration of voters by trained and authorized canvassing agents
I know that a few of these proposals, like adding curtains to voting booths seem trite. And Secretary Mollis is something of a controversial figure in Rhode Island politics. Still, I don’t remember the previous office holder paying quite so much attention to the basic duties of the Office of the Secretary of State.

Budget Crisis in East Providence

Carroll Andrew Morse

Add East Providence to the list of Rhode Island communities with structural finance problems leaving them no longer able to afford their existing school programs. From Alisha A. Pina in today’s Projo

Three of six options proposed by [East Providence] Schools Supt. Jacqueline Forbes two weeks ago included consolidating Martin Middle and Riverside Middle school students into one building, yet none of the options would fully resolve the $2.9-million deficit she projects for the School Department at the end of the next fiscal year....

The savings from the various options range from $26,500 to $948,000, not including the potential revenue from selling or leasing the various school buildings.

Wal-Mart to Open In-Store Health Clinics Nationwide

Carroll Andrew Morse

Blogger Mickey Kaus calls a news item directly impacting multiple blog-topics a "harmonic convergence" of issues. I think it’s fair to consider this news from Wal-Mart a harmonic convergence within the Rhode Island blogosphere…

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., intends to contract with local hospitals and other organizations to open as many as 400 in-store health clinics over the next two to three years, and if current market forces continue, up to 2,000 clinics could be in Wal-Mart stores over the next five to seven years, Wal-Mart president and CEO Lee Scott will say in a speech later today at the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C. The clinic program's expansion is just the latest in a series of moves by Wal-Mart to help implement customer solutions to America's health care crisis, including the $4 generic drug prescription program, health information technology and participation in a major coalition supporting comprehensive healthcare reform by 2012.
Wal-Mart puts appeals to all kinds of health policy wonks into their press release…
Scott notes that surveys in existing clinics revealed more than half of those who visited a clinic said they were uninsured. Nearly 15 percent of customers said they would have gone to a hospital emergency room for their care -- thus increasing the burden on already strained community health care institutions -- if they could not have gone to the clinic inside a Wal-Mart.

The providers running the clinics will determine what services to offer, which will generally include preventive and routine care for conditions such as allergies and sinus infections, as well as basic services such as cholesterol screenings and school physicals at affordable prices. They will be staffed by either certified nurse practitioners or physicians.

(Note that this part of the Wal-Mart proposal is different from CVS's description of its in-store clinic plan, which mentions only nurse practitioners.)
"We also think there is tremendous potential with local hospitals as partners for some or all of these clinics. Patients trust the role hospitals play in providing quality medical care. They have the medical experience and expertise -- and the larger network if more serious treatment is needed," Scott says.

The clinics will post clear prices for services and procedures, helping to bring much-needed price transparency to the American health care system.

Scott highlights Wal-Mart's work on health information technology, pointing to Wal-Mart's partnership with other corporations to start Dossia, an independent, non-profit group that will provide safe and secure electronic medical records to their employees and retirees. Wal-Mart recently joined with the University of Arkansas and Blue Cross Blue Shield to create the Center for Innovation in Health Care Logistics, a new research center focused on improving health care delivery through information technology.

Wal-Mart is also working with leaders in business, government, labor and public policy on the "Better Health Care Together" coalition. The goal of the coalition is to assure that affordable, quality health care is accessible to all Americans by 2012

Related items:

April 24, 2007

Does Harry Reid Believe the War is Lost or Just Not Worth Winning?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The evidence indicates that the “surge” is working, at least in terms of improving the quality of life for the average Iraqi. Here’s a firsthand report from Rocco DiPippo, published in the American Thinker....

Two weeks ago, I took another trip through Baghdad. I then headed south and eventually north to a small town close to Iran's border. In all, I traveled approximately 400 miles. At no time did I feel threatened, either when approaching checkpoints, (all of which were legitimate and well-manned), or upon exiting my car to visit a few reconstruction projects, each in separate towns miles apart.

There were other stunning differences between that trip, and the one I'd taken in December.

On the December trip I had seen abandoned shops and frightened people. On the latest one I saw many shops opened and people going about their business in what appeared to be a relaxed manner. On the first trip I saw cars and trucks in gas lines that stretched for miles. On the latest trip, though gas lines existed, they were far shorter, and looked about as long as those experienced by Americans at the height of the 1970s oil crisis. On the first trip I saw nothing but ruin: houses and other buildings in derelict condition, most appearing unfit for human habitation. On the latest trip I still saw many houses in poor condition, but I also saw homes being built, and a good number of existing houses and storefronts being repaired.

From a more official source, the leader of the Iraqi Red Crescent doesn’t think that withdrawing American troops, or setting a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops, will help the humanitarian situation in Iraq (h/t Instapundit)…
The president of the Iraqi Red Crescent, the only relief organization operating in Iraq, is calling on the Democratic-led Congress to rethink its troop withdrawal strategy and recognize that Iraq suffers from a worsening humanitarian crisis.

His call follows on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) announcement yesterday that Appropriations Committee conferees will set a non-binding goal, as part of the 2007 emergency war supplemental, of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by April 1, 2008.

Congressional leaders find themselves in a continuing stalemate with President Bush, who has vowed to veto any measure that contains a withdrawal timetable. Bush has the support of most Republicans on Capitol Hill.

In Washington for a series of advocacy meetings in Congress, Said Hakki, the president of the Iraqi Red Crescent, expressed concern that by setting a withdrawal timetable, the U.S. would abandon Iraq at the height of a humanitarian crisis.

“It is important that Congress identifies that there is a humanitarian crisis in Iraq,” Hakki said in an interview with The Hill. “If they agree there’s a crisis, let’s not have America be a problem but the solution.”

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society or Organization, as it is often referred to, is an auxiliary arm of the Iraqi government and is a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

So why is it that Democratic leaders insist, contrary to the evidence from the front, that the presence of American troops is not at least temporarily of benefit to the people of Iraq? Do our political leaders really believe that the quality-of-life of average people in other societies is not a part of international relations, world politics, and the harmony of the world in general?

More likely, what Democratic leaders like Senator Harry Reid, and even more sane ones like Congressman James Langevin, really believe is not that American can’t help the people of Iraq, but that America shouldn’t help the people of Iraq. They believe the cost in blood and treasure of repairing the broken societies of the Middle East is too high. That is a legitimate “realist” and/or “isolationist” position, akin to the position the U.S. Government took with respect to Rwanda in 1994, deciding that preventing the massacre of 850,000 people was not worth deploying the few thousand troops that probably could have stopped it.

What is not legitimate, however, is pretending that the future of Iraqi society and governance from this point onward is set in stone, when it is not. Senator Reid has adopted his war-is-already-lost meme

"I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and -- you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows -- [know] this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday",
…because he is trying to avoid responsibility for the course of action he seeks to impose. He wants to pretend that walking away from Iraq is not his choice, but the only choice. He says the war is lost -- even though the reports from the ground consistently say that the increased American troop presence is having a positive impact -- because he wants to hide his actual position, that the U.S. should no longer try to win the war in Iraq, behind rhetoric intended to convince people that the further decline of Iraq is now inevitable, because of forces beyond anyone’s control.

Men who want power but not responsibility for their decisions have no place as leaders in a democracy.

They’re Baaack…

Carroll Andrew Morse

Not going quietly into the night or, more importantly, into tomorrow’s proceeding where the URI Student Senate will vote on revoking their recognition, Ryan Bilodeau and the University of Rhode Island College Republicans have chosen today to celebrate “the first annual Global Cooling Day”…

The University of Rhode Island College Republicans, a student group currently in the middle of a national controversy after offering a satirical White Heterosexual American Male Scholarship, continues to inject humor into what has become a campus environment hostile to conservatives today as they attempt to freeze out cataclysmic environmental scare tactics by handing out facts about global warming and popsicles to cool everyone down during the day in the Memorial Union and tonight as they show "The Global Warming Swindle" documentary at 7 PM in Memorial Union Room #360.

The University of Rhode Island College Republicans contest that although the release of carbon dioxide contributes to the warming of the planet, the impact of man-made emissions is only a minor fraction of this.

Chairman Ryan Bilodeau chimed in by saying, "There is no doubt that the earth is warming. There is doubt, however, as to its causes and as to which actions should be taken to counter it, if needed to at all. The United States Senate sent a clear message in 1997 during Al Gore's term as Vice President in a 95-0 vote that we will not enter into a Kyoto Treaty which exempts 80% of the world and whose success for reducing CO2 emissions is negligible at best."

The first annual Global Cooling Day will occur today from 11 AM - 1 PM at the Memorial Union Booth #4 when the group hands out the facts about global warming and cools down by handing out free popsicles and tonight as the group watches "The Global Warming Swindle" Documentary at 7 PM in room 360 of the Memorial Union.

Literal Signs of Rhode Island’s Apocalypse?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here’s one you probably didn’t expect. According to a study by A.M. Best, Rhode Island is a top-10 State in terms of projected damage per square mile caused by tornadoes and “related weather events”…

Most people associate tornado activity with the "Tornado Alley" of the Great Plains states. While this is true in terms of the sheer numbers of tornadoes and losses, surprisingly, catastrophe modeling shows that New Jersey tops the list of the states with the highest average expected, or modeled, insured losses per 1,000 square miles from tornado and related weather events, followed by Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio and Rhode Island. Tornadoes have occurred in all 50 states; however, the high average loss rates in the above-mentioned five states are affected heavily by insured property values in addition to the frequency of the storms, according to a special report issued by A.M. Best Co.
However, according to the National Climatic Data Center, there hasn’t been any property damage caused by a tornado in Rhode Island since 1990. I would hazard a guess that the A.M. Best model doesn't have a high enough resolution to produce accurate results for Rhode Island alone, so we're getting lumped in with Western Massachusetts and its substantially higher tornado rate.

April 23, 2007

Civility — It's Not Just for Winners!

Justin Katz

I'll be the first to admit that it's all too easy, while in the rapture of our rightness, to lose sight of the fact that we're in the minority in this state... by a lot. So outnumbered are we that the Warwick Daily Times's imbalanced labelling of blogs needn't be seen as an unmitigated example of bias. Calling Anchor Rising "conservative" on a list of Rhode Island blogs is reasonably accurate shorthand for "this one is different from the rest."

That being the case, the best strategy for bringing about political and cultural change is even more advisable for us, and by this, I mean persuasion, not shouting loudest and not talking with the most self-confident vitriol. In the circumstances that our geographic reality places us, any opportunity to engage in discourse with others whose views differ from our own is, perhaps, a chance to win a convert, very possibly an opportunity to plant seeds of reconsideration, and almost definitely a time to hone our own arguments.

Some of you may recall the tone of the comment sections on this site back during the Laffey/Chafee primary, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that our continuing to allow comments at all was an iffy thing at that time. Now, I'm sure some clever-headed one among you will think to respond that our readership will dry up should we restrict comments, or do away with them altogether. To such a threat, I can only reply by patiently explaining that we don't view this as a business venture; we're not looking for fame, and we're certainly not worried about our trickle of revenue evaporating — which is to say that my reply is, "So what?"

We publish this blog for two reasons:

  • We enjoy thinking, writing, and discussing these topics.
  • We hope to change our state, country, and world for the better, to foster a healthier culture and society (again, mainly through reasoned persuasion).

If you look likely to thwart us in either of these goals, we will have no choice but to begin limiting the forum that we provide (free of charge, and with the highest of hopes).

What the Partial Birth Abortion Ruling Means

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here’s what last week's Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, the “partial birth abortion case”, means…

1. It doesn't mean that there has been any change in the controlling precedent of American abortion law, the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision authored by Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter…

It must be stated at the outset and with clarity that Roe’s essential holding, the holding we reaffirm, has three parts. First is a recognition of the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State. Before viability, the State’s interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of abortion or the imposition of a substantial obstacle to the woman.s effective right to elect the procedure. Second is a confirmation of the State’s power to restrict abortions after fetal viability, if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies which endanger the woman.s life or health. And third is the principle that the State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child. These principles do not contradict one another; and we adhere to each.
Since partial birth abortion occurs after fetal viability, the decision applies to circumstances where the court has already said that restrictions are allowed.

2. Lost in most of the MSM coverage has been Gonzales v. Carhart's major holding: the courts don't get an extra veto over the lawmaking process, to be applied at their discretion, when the issue of abortion is involved.

Gonzales v. Carhart is not the final word on any partial birth abortion procedure. Women may still seek the procedure in individual cases, and courts might still yet rule that the Federal ban cannot be enforced under certain circumstances. What the Carhart ruling does say is that the courts cannot use the existence of exceptions to strike down the law as a whole. In legalese, the “facial” challenge to the law has been rejected, but “as applied” challenges are still possible. Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has much more on this central issue here.

3. National Review Online's editorial on the ruling provides the best explanation of why the "intact dilation and extraction" procedure that is the object of the Federal ban was chosen for legislative action. If singling out one late-term procedure for restriction seems absurd, it is because the legal reasoning applied to abortion matters has been absurd -- and not at all scientific.

Intact dilation and extraction, which begins with the delivery of an unborn child, involves a legitimate gray area in the Supreme Court’s de-facto abortion jurisprudence (the dejure standard established in Casey nothwithstanding) that has placed political ideology over science. The courts have held that the life of a fully viable human being is not always protected by law, depending on the location of that life. An 8 3/4 month old fetus in the womb? Not protected. A 6 month old premature baby, one second after delivery? Protected. A 6 month old fetus, one second before an emergency premature delivery? Not protected. And a 6 month old baby in the process of being delivered?

That is the question the Federal partial birth abortion ban was designed to address.

Fairness Doctrine Watch, or Newspaper Publishers for Stronger Government Control of the Media

Carroll Andrew Morse

1. Commenter “Suzanne” thought my characterization of those attempting to connect the events leading to the firing of Don Imus to the movement to restore the fairness doctrine as having an agenda of getting the government to "limit the expression of certain viewpoints in order to promote civility" was unfair.

Well, here is Henry Brandt Ayers, publisher of the Anniston Star, an Alabama newspaper that has been named as one of the Columbia Journalism Review’s top 30, commenting on Imus and the fairness doctrine…

The Reagan era seems to be ending. A new president and Congress have an opportunity to refresh public debate and restore civility in a renewed Fairness Doctrine. Call it the Imus Act.
If that is not a call for content-regulation of media by the government, i.e. limiting how much of a certain viewpoint is allowed to be broadcast, in order to promote civility, then what is it?

2. Bizarrely, Mr. Ayres argues that one reason we need viewpoint regulation of broadcast media is to restore the faded credibility of print media…

Once the standards of good taste and fair play were removed, the way to be heard above the clamor of perpetual news was to shout louder, to make ever more outrageous statements. A confused public turned cynical, doubting the veracity of all news media.

In 1985, just 16 percent of the public gave low credibility ratings to their daily newspaper; by 2004 that number had nearly tripled to 45 percent.

Print media credibility improves, by definition, when people feel that newspapers are dealing it down the middle. Media credibility has suffered because people sense that the professional culture of journalism encourages a certain, usually leftward, slant on the news.

Given his position, Mr. Ayers should consider how much his call for voices on the right to be more strongly regulated by the government does to convince people that the fabled liberal bias in the media does not exist. Is print media credibility really damaged more by competition from broadcast media than it is by newspaper publishers who openly advocate for government enforcement of a certain slant on the news?

3. Even before l'affaire Imus, a bill to restore the fairness doctrine had been introduced in Congress. One supporter of the Senate version of the bill is Bernard Sanders of Vermont, a self-described socialist who caucuses with the Democrats. This brings America its least surprising headline of the year…

Socialist favors stronger government control of media.
I guess ya' get what ya' vote for.

Thank You and a Complaint

Carroll Andrew Morse

I’d like to thank the Warwick Daily Times for acknowledging Anchor Rising in their new community blogs section and on their editorial page.

And now, because I’m a surly blogger, I have a complaint. How come the Times feels the need to point out that we’re “conservative”, while RI Future is just a blog…

We're particularly eager to grow our page for community and political blogs. The page already features automatically updated lead-ins to RIFuture.org, conservative blog Anchor Rising, and Leo Costantino's Brightside West Warwick.

Leadership: Free Health Care for Legislators is a Constitutional Right

Marc Comtois

According to Katherine Gregg's reports in the ProJo, the leadership in the General Assembly believes that free health care for RI legislators is a Constitutional Right

House Speaker Murphy and Senate President Montalbano say they have no intention of making premium co-pays mandatory.

Asked last week why lawmakers alone should be spared, Murphy issued this statement: “In 1994, the voters approved an amendment to the Rhode Island Constitution that provided health insurance benefits for Representatives and Senators. I am a firm believer that the members of the Legislature are entitled to these fully paid health benefits as established by the voters.”

The constitutional provision he cited (Article VI, Section 3) says: “Senators and Representatives shall receive the same health insurance benefits as full-time state employees.” Those other employees are required to contribute toward the premiums for their benefits.

Why not legislators too?

House spokesman Larry Berman elaborated on Murphy’s thinking: “At the time of the vote in 1994 when this was changed, there was no co-share and there is no provision in the Constitution that discusses a co-share.”

Montalbano agrees with “the interpretation of the Constitution that says: if you want to change the law as to our compensation, which includes health benefits, you have to change the Constitution.”

Asked what he thinks premium-free health care for lawmakers does to the General Assembly’s image in a climate in which most workers who have health benefits pay for a portion of them, Montalbano said: “I think it’s different because we are elected to the office, in positions that pay what they pay …. I mean our families give up a lot for the time that we spend here.

“And so, if one of the benefits is that they get health care coverage as part of that compensation, I am comfortable with that. … And I don’t think the image is that we are over-paid at all. … I think the image is that we work hard and we spend a lot of hours and that if we were here for the pay, most of us wouldn’t be here.”

Then why--if we are to buy into this nobless oblige of yours--are you fighting so hard to keep this perk, Senator? But back to the Constitutional issue. Montalbano and Murphy are clearly caught in one here. The wording is clear and Berman's "originalist" argument doesn't hold water.

Why not try something else and take the Constitutional language for what it clearly states: "Senators and Representatives shall receive the same health insurance benefits as full-time state employees." If the average full-time state employee is co-paying, then you guys have to do the same. It seems pretty clear that the wording was intended to allow for a changing compensation package. The RI government has asked state workers to change with the times, and our legislators should do the same. Besides, since when did this group start arguing from original intent?

April 21, 2007

The RI Legislature Plans to Close the Deficit by Reducing Education Funding: Woonsocket Gets Whacked First

Carroll Andrew Morse

At Anchor Rising, our reading of the tea leaves has led us to forecast that the Rhode Island General Assembly is planning to reduce state aid to education as a means of closing the state budget deficit.

Confirmation that this is indeed the plan arrives today, courtesy of the Projo's Kia Hall Hayes

Legislative leaders are freezing $236 million in school construction projects until they can rework how they are financed and approved.

The move is a surprise to the state Department of Education and some local senators and officials.

Woonsocket’s $80-million middle school project is the first to encounter resistance from Senate leaders, including Senate President Joseph A. Montalbano.

“To go through all these hoops and testify before the House and then to have a different set of rules and agenda laid at your feet ... at the very least it was surprising and at the very most it was shocking,” Woonsocket Schools Supt. Maureen B. Macera said earlier this week....

Citing a possible $150-million state deficit this year and an even larger projected deficit for next year, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Stephen D. Alves, D-West Warwick, said lawmakers are looking at “ways to reinvent government and the way we do business.”

“Everything is being held until we rectify and come to terms with how much money we’re looking at and what are the most vital projects. It is the Senate’s position that they are going to be put on hold,” Alves said in a phone interview.

Senator Montalbano, who represents Lincoln, North Providence and Pawtucket, said in a separate interview, “We need to look at each and every one of these projects before we rubber stamp them.”

On the House side, Paul W. Crowley, D-Newport, who serves on both the finance and education committees, called the moratorium “the prudent thing to do” during a time of increasingly tight budgets.

Are capital education outlays a budget area where there’s lots of fat to be cut? Well, a Census Bureau study released last year ranked the state of Rhode Island 51st in “direct expenditures by public school systems for construction of buildings and roads [and] purchases of equipment, land, and existing structures”. So the answer would seem to be “no”, yet the place where Rhode Island ranks 51st in a nation of 50 states is the place where the legislature thinks it would be most prudent to make cuts.

The Rhode Island General Assembly's governing philosophy of slashing already underfunded budget items so to preserve more lavishsly funded programs that aren’t producing the desired results goes a long way toward explaining why average Rhode Islanders receive so little in return for the high taxes they pay.

The article also suggests that more than technocratic budget politics may be in play here…

Angry Woonsocket lawmakers, officials and residents have questioned whether any ulterior motives are behind the resistance.

“Why us, why now?” asked Woonsocket Mayor Susan D. Menard.

Menard confirmed this week that UBS Financial Services, where Alves is a financial adviser, had sought to manage Woonsocket’s $90-million pension fund in 2003. The city decided to go with Wilshire Associates, which some have suggested could be behind the middle school project’s recent problems.

“That’s a question only Senator Alves can answer,” Menard said.

Posed to Alves, he responded, “No.”

“If they’re trying to make it like I’m retaliating, people can think what they want to think,” he said, noting that Barrington’s $870,000 plan to refurbish the district’s tennis and basketball courts is also in jeopardy, along with another project involving building wind turbines at Portsmouth elementary and high schools.

Woonsocket isn’t being singled out; it’s happening everywhere, Alves said.

April 20, 2007

The "Bush Surge" vs. the "Reid Surge"

Mac Owens

Not too long ago I posted a criticism of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the Speaker of the House of Representatives, for trekking to Damascus to meet with the thug dictator of Syria. In arguing against her trip, I used a scene from the Godfather as an analogy: Sonny dissenting from a decision made by his father, Don Corleone, during a meeting with a representative of another Mafia family. The representative—Virgil “the Turk” Sollozo—an assassin for the Tattaglias, immediately concludes that if the Don is eliminated, Sonny will take his place and cooperate. And sure enough, shortly thereafter, the Tattaglias attempt to assassinate the Don.

If “Sonny” Pelosi’s Syrian trip was ill-advised because of Assad’s likely perception that if he can wait out the Bush administration, he can make a better deal with the Democrats, how much worse was the widely-reported statement two days ago by Senate Majority Leader Harry “the Copperhead” Reid that the war in Iraq is lost? According to news reports, Reid told journalists "I believe ... that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything, as is shown by the extreme violence in Iraq this week."

America’s enemies in the Middle East certainly took note of Pelosi’s trip; the Arab press was full of favorable reports of the Speaker’s pilgrimage to Damascus. The Middle Eastern press has also, not surprisingly, taken note of Reid’s comments (which he tried to take back later in the day). So in addition to feeding defeatism in the United States and demoralizing the troops who are in Iraq (or soon to be on their way there), Reid has most likely encouraged our enemies in that unhappy place.

Our enemies know that the war that counts is the one for the American mind. If we believe that the war is lost, they win. They have an incentive to keep fighting and to kill as many people as they can. In a gun battle with American troops, the insurgents lose. So they concentrated on killing as many Iraqis as they can in the hope and expectation that the news will demoralize the American public.

Lincoln noted that in a democratic republic, “public sentiment” is critical. During the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was an assiduous reader of Northern newspapers. By 1864 he understood that the only hope for the Confederacy was that war weariness in the North would lead to Lincoln’s electoral defeat. The Confederates put a great deal of hope in the “Copperheads,” the so-called “Peace Democrats” who did everything possible to obstruct the Union war effort.

During Vietnam, the Tet Offensive of 1968 was a military defeat for the North Vietnamese communists, but a public relations victory that helped turn the American public against the war. In audiotapes released by the insurgents over the last couple of years, their leaders such as the late and unlamented Abu Musab al-Zarqawi have demonstrated that they understand the lessons of Tet very well.

I believe that the bomb attacks in Iraq that caused such carnage in recent days are the expected consequences of the Democrats’ efforts to undercut the president’s new team and the changed strategy represented by the so-called “surge.” We know what the Bush surge is. I think a good name for the increasing body count in Iraq is the “Reid surge.”

Update: I have been pushing the similarities between today’s Democrats and the Civil War “Copperheads.” On Friday’s “Best of the Web,” James Taranto picks up the theme, comparing Reid’s statement to the Democratic Party platform of 1864, which was written by the Copperheads. Indeed, a Copperhead, Rep. George H. Pendleton of Ohio, was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. Not much has changed.

"Resolved, that this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity, or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the States or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the States."--1864 Democratic platform

An Aside on the Hazards of Comparing International Statistics

Marc Comtois

"Tom Paine" takes the Brits to task for their "smug" and "gleeful" take on the recent Virginia Tech massacre. He also makes this acute observation about comparing British and American homicide rates:

Britain's only statistical advantage in the field of crime is that our homicide rate is lower. That's largely because we only count convictions, not unsolved crimes or those plea-bargained down to something else. America counts all reported offences, including those that turn out to be justifiable homicides (e.g. self-defence). In our statistics, we would (at best) have counted the V-Tech killings as a single murder. We might not actually show them at all, if they were found to have been committed by a mentally-disturbed person (see Home Office Statistical Bulletin 02/07). America's statistics reflect the total number of victims.
We know that there are lies, damn lies and statistics and we should keep in mind that the axiom is applicable internationally, too.

April 19, 2007

How to Host a Social Security Bake Sale

Carroll Andrew Morse

By the way, while we’re on the subject of the URI College Republicans, I’d like to propose a new format for the Social Security Bake Sale that they hold as part of “Coming Out Conservative” week. Social Security Bake Sales are supposed to point out the unfairness of exsting social security system by requiring underclassmen (representing young people) more for the same goods than upperclassmen (representing old people).

Let me suggest this slightly more complex, but more accurate, Social Security simulation…

  • Seniors will be charged $1.00 for a baked good. They get to pick up their purchase immediately.
  • Juniors will be charged $1.50 a baked good that is the same size as a senior baked good, but have to wait until one hour after paying before picking it up.
  • Sophmores will be charged $2.00 for a baked good that is half the size of a Senior/Junior baked good, and be required to wait two hours before picking it up.
  • Freshmen will pay $3.00 for their baked good. They have to wait three hours after paying before picking up their purchase. Except that if the Seniors/Juniors/Sophmores have already bought out the entire supply by the time the waiting period has ended, a freshman gets nothing. And of course, there are no refunds.

URI Student Senate to College Republicans: You Are Free to Express Any Opinion (That We Approve Of), In Any Manner (That We Approve Of)

Carroll Andrew Morse

One of these things is not like the others…

1647: Rhode Island adopts its first code of laws. In stark contrast to codes enacted in colonies like Maryland or Massachusetts around the same time, the code imposes no penalties for “blasphemy” or uttering “any reproachful words or speeches”.

One of these things just doesn’t belong…

1842: Rhode Island adopts its first state constitution by popular referendum. The constitution includes guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Here’s the freedom of the press clause…

The liberty of the press being essential to the security of freedom in a state, any person may publish sentiments on any subject

Can you tell which thing is not like the others…

1920: Rhode Island native (and Harvard Law professor) Zechariah Chafee publicly criticizes the Sedition Act of 1918, an attempt to limit criticism of the government of the US…

One of the most important purposes of society and government is the discovery and spread of truth on subjects of general concern. This is possible only through absolutely unlimited discussion

Before I finish my song…

2007: The Organizations Advisory and Review Committee of the University of Rhode Island Student Senate votes to derecognize the URI College Republicans, because of their staging of a satire questioning whether any race or gender limited scholarship can be consistent with an anti-discrimination policy. The Student Senate’s position is that is has the right to treat URI Republicans differently from other organizations, because of an opinion they have expressed, unless they offer a public apology.

Randal Edgar of the Projo has some details…

The College Republicans at the University of Rhode Island say their ad for a “White Heterosexual American Male” scholarship was just a satirical prank, intended to voice the group’s opposition to affirmative action….

The scholarship has drawn attention from more than the three dozen students who applied for it.

Among them is the Student Senate, which told the College Republicans last month to apologize for the ad and for handing out scholarship applications. Also interested is URI President Robert L. Carothers, who recently told the Senate to back off. Forcing the Republicans to apologize, or make statements that “are not their own,” could deny them their constitutional rights, he wrote in a recent memo to the student body.

As of yesterday, the Student Senate was standing its ground....

Student Senate President Neil Leston said the student government got involved after a letter to the editor in the college paper suggested the ad was discriminatory and had violated the Senate’s bylaws. He said the number of students who applied for the scholarship — about 40 according to the Republican club — suggests that some people took the ad seriously.

“The big issue is they did not identify it as satire and that becomes problematic,” he said.

When Neil Leston and the rest of URI’s student Senators are deciding how to vote, will they also be considering a resolution of protest against the many other scholarships sanctioned by the University of Rhode Island that are limited by race or gender? Here are two examples from the official URI webpage
  • Robert L. Carothers and Patricia Ruane Scholarship: Income from endowment for scholarships to minority students.

  • Mary Braga Scholarship: Income from endowment for a scholarship to a female undergraduate in the College of Arts and Sciences of Portuguese descent. Preference will be given to a Rhode Island resident and to the older student. The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences will determine the recipient.
If the question never crosses the minds of URI's student solons, that could explain why the URI Republicans thought they needed a satire to bring their point home. Whether the URI Student Senate likes it or not, some people believe that non-discrimination policies should be truly race and gender neutral. And in the United States, those people have the right to express that opinion.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has more detail on the case here.
"One of these Things" written by Joe Raposo and Jon Stone.

April 18, 2007

Giving and Taking Unions

Justin Katz

After slipping into another certainly fruitless discussion with a certain of our regular commenters, it occurred to me that one of humanity's detrimental tendencies, with particular implications for modern society, is to think of societal mechanisms with too narrow of a focus, usually adjusted to the breadth at which our preferences appear clearest.

The case in point: I would argue that the appropriate concept of workers' unions is as, themselves, a reaction to the market (using "market" in its broad, theoretical sense, of course). Workers needed a mechanism through which to assert their rights and needs, and in many respects, the unionization method worked out well. However, if we begin to see unions as the source of, rather than the means for, improvements, we create another institution that must constantly be justifying its existence. We also maintain a centralized power even in the absence of a centralized goal toward which to wield it, thereby giving those at its head unhealthy room to lead toward their own ends.

The question is not what good unions may or may not have done in the past. It isn't even what they boast of wrenching from employers (often taxpayers) now. The question that we must consider is whether unions currently help us to strike the appropriate balances between employers and workers and between freedom and regulation. Keeping them in their conceptually appropriate place, if we diminish the influence of unions — or even disband them altogether — now and need their services again someday, we can always reestablish them, no doubt in a more effective form for having scuttled entrenched interests.

Reminder: Presidential Primary Day is Tomorrow!!!

Marc Comtois

Just a reminder!!!

The Rhode Island legislature has passed a law moving the state's presidential primary to tomorrow, forcing candidates from both parties to hastily revise their schedules and platforms.

"I love Rhode Island, always have—especially the people," said Sen. John Edwards while being briefed on Rhode Island politics aboard a plane bound for Providence. "Just because it's a small state doesn't mean it's not important. Frankly, I've always believed Rhode Island, or the 'Ocean State,' as I prefer to call it, should be much bigger—an issue on which my opponents have remained curiously silent."

Former Gov. Mitt Romney announced his intention to release a 10-point plan addressing the issues that most deeply affect Rhode Islanders, as soon as he and his staff figure out what those issues are.


Post Office Sides with Time Warner Against Free Speech

Marc Comtois

Whether you're left, right or independent, PAY ATTENTION:

Stamp Out the Rate Hike: Stop the Post Office Stamp Out the Rate Hike: Stop the Post Office Stamp Out the Rate Hike: Stop the Post Office
Earlier this year, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) rejected a postal rate increase plan offered by the U.S. Postal Service. Instead they opted to implement a complicated plan submitted by media giant Time Warner. (Click here for a timeline)

Under the original plan, all publishers would have a mostly equal increase (approx. 12 percent) in the cost for mailing their publications. The Time Warner plan overturned this level playing field to favor large, ad-heavy magazines like People at the expense of smaller publications like In These Times and The American Spectator. It penalizes thousands of small- to medium-sized outlets with disproportionately higher rates while locking in privileges for bigger companies.

A lot of your favorite ideological websites are outgrowths of the smaller mags that are being affected: National Review has The Corner, The New Republic has The Plank, for instance. If you want to let the Post Office know that you disagree with this move, SIGN THE PETITION.

United Healthcare Versus St. Joseph's and Our Lady of Fatima

Carroll Andrew Morse

I’m not commenting on the veracity of either side’s claims, as reported by Karen Lee Ziner in today’s Projo. I’m just pointing out that if United Healthcare decides to drop St. Joseph’s and Our Lady of Fatima hospitals from its provider network, the average United customer has no recourse, because of the way that health insurance is tied to employment. In a more rational system, people who didn’t like United's decision could walk away from United and buy their insurance elsewhere. However, since employment-based health insurance places consumers in the position of taking the one choice that's offered or taking nothing at all, United is free to make this decision without considering what its customers want.

OK, I will comment on one claim mentioned in the news item. This ratio does seem a bit out of whack…

At a news conference at Our Lady of Fatima, [St. Joseph Health Services president and CEO John Keimig] , “[United Healthcare] is the same company that earned over $5 billion in profits nationally last year. It is the same company that paid its CEO the staggering total of $124 million in compensation last year — an amount that is approximately 150 percent of the total annual payroll for all of the 2,000 employees here at St. Joseph Health Services …”
If one insurance CEO getting paid the same amount as 2,000 hospital employees is a problem, the solution is to allow every individual Rhode Islander to seek insurance from companies that can provide the same coverage with less corporate overhead. Under the existing system, insurance companies can increase the price of their services far above their costs because consumers are not free to take their healthcare dollars to insurers who run their businesses more efficiently, i.e. to insurers able to charge lower rates for the same or better service and still make a profit. Break the link between insurance and employment, and you'll see insurers suddenly become a lot more accomodating towards individual consumers.

It should be noted, however, that if hospitals want to be less subject to the whims of insurers, they too need to become more friendly towards the individual consumer.

Laffey Writing a "Tell All"

Marc Comtois

Mark Arsenault reports in today's ProJo that Steve Laffey has written a tell-all about his failed 2006 Senate campaign. The title indicates where he's going with this one--Primary Mistake: A Candidate's Tale of How Washington Republicans Tried to Squash a Reagan Conservative but Instead Lost Everything (link added and title revised to reflect information at linked site-ed.).

Laffey will argue in the book that his race epitomized what went wrong with the Republican Party, which lost control of the House and Senate in the last election. “The national Republican Party lost power because it put power in front of principle,” Laffey said yesterday. “I wanted to set forth some principles that we should hold on to.”

His editor at Penguin Group [who is publishing the book], Bernadette Malone Serton, said that Laffey tells the story of the campaign with stunning candor.

“Steve Laffey is so candid in talking about what Washington Republicans did to him that the rest of the country needs to know why they lost the Senate in 2006,” she said.

“And he names names in his book,” she promised.

Neither Laffey nor Serton would describe the contents of the book in detail before it is published, but both said it has nationwide implications.

“It’s a wake-up call to all Republicans for 2008,” Serton said, “because if these are the kind of decisions [by Republican leaders] and the games that are going to be played, that could very well affect the outcome of the presidential election.”

Laffey, who is traveling out of the country, explained by telephone yesterday why he wrote the book.

“I’m a very future-oriented person,” he said. “I don’t sit around and stew. I thought immediately that my race had a lot of implications nationally. I thought I had something to offer nationally for the party and the public.

“I really thought my race was the epitome of how the national Republican Party lost power and did the wrong thing over the last six years.”

The book ends with “a very positive message for the future, a very hopeful” message, he said.


April 17, 2007

Brazilian Ethanol Backgrounder

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here’s the background on the ethanol spat between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Brazilian President Lula da Silva going on at the South American energy summit being held this week.

Brazil is a major importer of Bolivian natural gas. About a year ago, Bolivian President Evo Morales, a Hugo Chavez lackey, nationalized his country’s natural gas industry. Morales demanded that all foreign natural gas companies operating in Bolivia, including Brazil's government-owned energy company, renegotiate their existing contracts with terms more favorable to Bolivia. This sudden action led Brazil to realize that an over-dependence on energy controlled by Hugo Chavez and his clients was not in the Brazilian national interest, and President da Silva's government began work on an ethanol cooperation pact with a country outside of the Chavez sphere of influence, i.e. the United States. Agreement on a pact was announced in March.

Since control of natural energy resources is the only international bargaining chip that Chavez has (without oil, his place on the international stage would be exactly that of Cuba’s), Chavez is desperately trying to stop alternatives to oil from being developed. Without high oil prices to pay for Chavez’s subsidies to Venezuela’s poor, it will become obvious to everyone but anti-American ideologues that Chavez’s “Bolivaran revolution” has been a failure.

Chavez will now try a two-pronged strategy. 1) Try to flood Brazil and other Latin American countries with cheap oil to stave off the demand for ethanol. However, Brazil won’t buy into this plan, after the experience with Morales in Bolivia. Plus Chavez can only make the price so low, before he loses the money he needs to subsidize Venezuela’s dead non-petroleum economy. 2) Try to scare people into thinking that increased ethanol production will cause food shortages and demand the governments ban the production of ethanol as a fuel. Translation: We can never have any new technological developments again, because the resources used to produce them might drive up the price of something we already have.

The United States should cement its commitment to the energy pact with Brazil by immediately dropping its 54-cent-per-gallon import tariff on Brazilian ethanol.

Rhode Island Education Commissioner In Search of the Best Education Practices of Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Sudan

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Peter McWalters is the keynote speaker at an international education conference being held in the United Arab Emirates this week…

The first-of-its-kind School Reform conference being organised by The College of Education at the United Arab Emirates University in cooperation with Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance was opened today (Tuesday, April 17, 2007) by H.H. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Chancellor of UAE University, at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.

The three-day conference, concluding on April 19, will host workshops and discussions featuring 50 case studies (25 in Arabic and 25 in English) of prominent international scholars and researchers in the field of school reform…

Some of the eminent speakers at the School Reform conference include Peter McWalters, Commissioner, Rhode Island Department of Education, USA; Kati Haycok, Director, Education Trust, State of California, USA; Professor Wayne Edwards from Massey University, New Zealand; Professor Dorothy Harnish from University of Georgia, USA; and Dr. Kristiina Erkkila, Director of Development for the City of Espoo, Finland.

According to the conference program, sessions that Commissioner McWalters will be able to attend include “Comprehensive Administrative School Reform in the Arab World” presented by a speaker from Saudi Arabia, a “Vision for Teachers Preparation and Qualification” presented by a speaker from Syria, and a session on the role of Special Education Programs in School Reform in the Sudan.

If, however, the Commissioner believes Rhode Island has something to learn from educational programs sanctioned by Middle Eastern dictatorships, shouldn’t he also be willing to take at least a cursory look at the education reform experiences of some places closer to home, like Utah and San Francisco, that are trying different versions of de-centralized school reform?

A Plea to Virginia Tech Officials for Better Clarity

Carroll Andrew Morse

Our prayers go out to the victims of yesterday’s Virginia Tech shootings.

No political commentary here, obviously. But what purpose is being served by investigators' seeming coyness about admitting whether there is the possibility of a second shooter or not…

Virginia Tech's president said Tuesday that a student was the gunman in at least the second of the two campus attacks that claimed 33 lives to become the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

Though he did not explicitly say the student was also the gunman in the first shooting, he said he did not believe there was another shooter at large.


According to ABC News, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger has confirmed the possibility of a second shooter...

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger told "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer this morning that there was still the possibility that there were two shooters in the separate campus attacks on Monday morning.

Again, from ABC News...

At this time, police are not looking for a second shooter, however, they did not rule out the possibility that an accomplice may have been involved.

April 16, 2007

On the Passing of the "Mother of the Conservative Movement"

Marc Comtois

Last night I learned that Pat Buckley, wife of conservative giant William F. Buckley, Jr., had passed away. By all accounts, she was a truly remarkable woman.

Death Spiral in Portsmouth: Raising Taxes While Cutting Programs

Carroll Andrew Morse

Meaghan Wims of the Newport Daily News has the details of the Portsmouth’s school committee’s budget proposal for next year…

The School Department is proposing a $33.4 million budget for the 2008 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The tight spending plan represents a $1.3 million increase over current-year spending and falls within the state's 5.25 percent cap on tax-levy increases in fiscal 2008.

To keep expenditures balanced, the school board voted this week to close Prudence Island School after this school year and to change Portsmouth Middle School to a grades 6-to-8 configuration, with fifth-graders being housed in the community's three elementary schools.

The school district also has cut a third-grade, a fifth-grade and a special education teacher, plus supplies, special education tuition and building maintenance costs.

Once again, we see a Rhode Island community planning to raise taxes and cut programs at the same time. And the problem is not that Portsmouth has a history of underfunding its school system. As Keith Kyle and Thomas Wigand of the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens organization have documented, Portsmouth increased its school budget by about 50% between 1997 and 2007. Yet despite a decade of increases, one budget proposal made last year by the Portsmouth school committee involved a 9.1% tax increase coupled with eliminating 12.5 teaching positions. Why the Portsmouth school department is consistently unable to afford its existing educational baseline is a question in need of an answer.

To reiterate the often mischaracterized position of "fiscal conservatives", it’s not an inherently bad thing to raise taxes to pay for good schools. But constantly having to raise taxes and cut programs at the same time, repeatedly demanding that citizens pay more and more to receive less and less, is a sign of a structural problem within the education bureaucracy that is a bigger threat to the quality of education than is the total funding level. Perhaps Mr. Kyle and Mr. Wigand say it best…

The Portsmouth School Department appears to have a management problem, not a budget appropriation problem.

Humanity in a Brave New World

Justin Katz

At the risk of confirming suspicions of conservatives' reactionary squeamishness, I have to admit to huge, visceral aversion to this sort of thing:

Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.

Scientists are seeking ethical permission to produce synthetic sperm cells from a woman's bone marrow tissue after showing that it possible to produce rudimentary sperm cells from male bone-marrow tissue.

The researchers said they had already produced early sperm cells from bone-marrow tissue taken from men. They believe the findings show that it may be possible to restore fertility to men who cannot naturally produce their own sperm.

But the results also raise the prospect of being able to take bone-marrow tissue from women and coaxing the stem cells within the female tissue to develop into sperm cells, said Professor Karim Nayernia of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Creating sperm from women would mean they would only be able to produce daughters because the Y chromosome of male sperm would still be needed to produce sons. The latest research brings the prospect of female-only conception a step closer.

On first look, it would seem that neither the standard pro-life nor the standard secular community objections apply, but where does that leave one's sense that we are on the cusp of changing human society in irrevocable ways and with barely a thought of the consequences. Of course, Christians believe, in the words of Mel Gibson's character in Signs, "that whatever's going to happen, there will be someone there to help them." The optimistic pragmatist, with whom I often feel a certain intellectual sympathy, might feel that nothing that is fundamental in humanity will change. And there are certainly liberals who, in their variously motivated advocacy on behalf of homosexuals, will throw themselves behind any "advancement" that allows those folks to more closely simulate normal lives.

Still, I can't shake the sense that all of these modern permutations to society will fall on us all at once in their aggregate magnitude and our society will jerk and sputter in a new, disassociated direction — perhaps under constant attack from true reactionaries from foreign cultures. We who believe that humanity has long had all that it needed, really, no matter the comforts that progress might provide may find ourselves unable to avoid the tremendous questions that the next couple of centuries will pose. Properly seen, it seems to me that such a predicament is more a blessing than a curse.

April 15, 2007

Circumnavigating Marriage... Again

Justin Katz

I have intended to keep up my end of the same-sex marriage conversation with Matt of Unlikely Words, but various factors have delayed my doing so. For one thing, life keeps trying to trip me up (in ways stated and hinted on Dust in the Light and in ways kept private). Perhaps a more significant, specific reason is that, having argued this subject for so long and from so many angles, it's difficult to muster motivation to repeat arguments that are readily available should one search Anchor Rising or Dust in the Light (or the Internet, for that matter) with a few well-chosen keywords. Rhetorical constructions of the type "I have yet to see an argument" evoke in me an especial weariness; anybody who's looked ought to be better able to restate the actual opinions of those who oppose SSM. Lastly, if I'm to make due admission of pride, I find unnecessary usage of the editorial "sic" — as if to imply that I do not write as carefully as I ought — discouraging. But Matt has offered his position eloquently and with clear intention of fair discourse, so I'll try to do the same, and I do apologize for taking so long.

The place to start is the heart of the matter. Matt is flatly contradicting himself when he writes that "any religious person should be free to decline to... acknowledge any marriage that offends his or her beliefs." Earlier, when differentiating between discrimination against gays, in not being considered eligible to marry each other, and that against Christians, in not being able to conduct their business or charity in keeping with their belief that marriage is fundamentally a male-female relationship, he wrote:

I'll grant that, in a world where same-sex marriage is legal and discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal, the invitation company might not be free to refuse to print invitations to same-sex marriages. Let's also grant that, if they take public funds, the Christian agency might not be free to decline to place children into households where both parents are of the same sex. Their definitions of marriage would suddenly come into conflict with that of the state and, indeed, they would be guilty of legal [sic] discrimination.

It may not make a significant difference, but it's worth noting that the Christian adoption agency faces a more essential repercussion than simply the loss of public funds; at least in Massachusetts (from which state my example derives), organizations offering such services must register with the state, and the Catholic adoption service found that it could no longer perform its function at all. Matt may take the position that the loss of a license is merely the reasonable consequence for refusing acknowledgment of same-sex marriage — which the agency is still free to do, in the abstract — but I imagine that I'm not alone in thinking that the coercive power of threatening a vocation (in both professional and religious senses) is tantamount to a denial of freedom. At the very least, that argument takes the same form as an opposing one, that homosexuals are merely not able to register their "marriages" — into which they are still free to enter on a private basis — with the state.

If Matt's "rubric to decide which [instance of discrimination] is worse" entails "evaluating the harm done to the class or individual discriminated against," I wonder what scale places public recognition of a relationship above the ability to enter into a field of work. Would it be worse to deny homosexuals a right to redefined marriage or to bar them from becoming (say) teachers. Matt may argue that the Christians are still free to provide adoption services, just under a rule that conflicts with their beliefs, but again, that statement takes an identical form to my argument that homosexuals are not barred from marriage — they just prefer to form relationships with those to whom they are sexually attracted (a preference that is certainly understandable).

Why is it a violation of "a simple question of civil rights" to state that marriage's meaning, at least inasmuch the government is justified in dabbling in it, involves something other (and more) than committed sexual intimacy, thereby excluding homosexual relationships by its nature, yet it is not a violation of the Bill of Rights to insist that Christians must be barred from placing children with adoptive parents in accord with their beliefs? In what way is more harm done by disallowing gays from redefining an age-old institution than by disallowing Christians from shaping their society in accord with their beliefs?

People can reasonably accept or refute these various arguments, whether they are of the same or different form, but if we are to work together to determine the best directions in which to develop our society — rather than manipulating the law and plying politics to force our own views to the fore — then we must seek at least the empathy that comes with understanding how the other side has arrived at its conclusions. And if we are to construct our own arguments in a way that is comprehensible to those who begin from different worldviews, then our examples and analogies must compare like to like. On topics related to homosexuality, comparisons with racial discrimination seem usually to shirk this imperative. Writes Matt:

... I don’t consider the imposition of equality to be discrimination. Was the decision in Brown v. Board of Education discrimination against segregationists? Surely not. Of course, the two cases are not entirely parallel. The distinguishing factor seems to be that the objections are motivated by religion rather than some other value system.

Actually, the cases are not entirely parallel because, in Brown, the court was imposing equality, while SSM imposes a definition of "marriage." The parallel would be if, in the name of racial equality, the Supreme Court had redefined "school" in a way that would increase the ease with which underprivileged blacks could acquire diplomas. Similarly, and more germanely, comparisons of SSM with miscegenation elide the fact that people of all races could enter into marriage, as it was understood by all, with the dispute being over whether a male of one race ought to be able to marry a female of another. The point is that the traditionalists in my examples are not discriminating against gays qua gays, but in favor of marriage under their definition, and since marriage is a cultural institution with implications for the society's health, such discrimination is legitimate.

It's worth noting, here, that the discriminatory definition of marriage is not "the traditional religious view," as Matt would have it, but the traditional religious, historical, cultural, and legal view. Moreover, it is not the case that traditionalists are trying "to make it the law" (therefore necessitating "extra-Biblical justification"). It is already the law, and legalistic obfuscation aside, everybody knows that it has always been the law. The burden is on those supporting a redefinition to explain why, now, all of a sudden, we must treat the legal meaning of the word "marriage" differently.

Back in 2004, Andrew Sullivan attempted to address this problem by arguing that coupling is now "the de facto meaning" of marriage for a majority of people who are married. As I pointed out at the time, that's simply not true. It is safe to say that almost all married men and women already or will have children. Matt offers a few "marginal cases" to prove that "defining marriage as a procreative pair cannot be sustained":

Can a heterosexual couple who are (independently or mutually) infertile be said to be truly married under this definition? What about a married couple that abstains from sex? And do we want the state to invalidate marriages that do not produce progeny, or require fertility and genetic testing before validating a marriage certificate? Do we want the state to compel married couples to attempt to conceive?

Addressing infertility (with reference to an older post):

  • Infertility is most commonly seen as a problem within marriage precisely because it makes it more difficult to fulfill a central role of marriage. It therefore cannot be said — as I said of SSM in the quotation to which Matt is responding — that it will "erode the institution's utility." If anything, it affirms the procreative emphasis of marriage.
  • It needn't invalidate a marriage, because infertility is not sterility, and most infertile couples do not ultimately prove to be sterile. (I know I did the research on that, once, but I can't find my resulting writing at this time.)
  • Couples will not generally know that they are infertile, much less be able to give therapies a chance, until they are attempting to have children, and it is precisely the attempt to have children that our society wishes to encourage taking place within the context of marriage.

That last point leads to a more fundamental one, of which it is easy to lose sight in a debate that has as its focus achieving marriage rights for homosexuals: Marriage isn't positioned in our society as a form of reward. (That credit card commercial in which the king declares the dragonslayer eligible to marry his daughter comes to mind as contrast.) Rather, marriage represents an arrangement into which we wish to usher those pairings that are likely to create children. Therefore, raising barriers such as fertility testing and affidavits of procreative intent would generate disincentive.

I'll rephrase for emphasis: The essential idea behind public encouragement of marriage is to draw people whose behavior makes conception likely within its structure. This is what we who oppose same-sex marriage are trying to preserve. We do not, as Matt apparently misconstrues, see marriage as a route toward procreation; indeed, pushing people into lifelong monogamous relationships would seem likely to decrease the rate of childbirth. Incorporating homosexuals into marriage would erode the notion that marriage and potentially procreative relationships ought, in principle, to be synonymous in a way that including sterile and abstinent couples does not for the prima facie reason that the former requires said notion's explicit rejection. If one does not accept the proposition that even abstinent couples — in their conspicuous incongruity — affirm this link, then at least it can be said that the opposite-sex aspect of marriage's definition, which abstinent couples do not threaten, is sufficiently specific for society's purposes. (And besides, abstinence is not an inherently permanent state; some might even call it tenuous.)

Indeed, it is advocacy for same-sex marriage that leads Matt to wonder, "Where, in any of this, should gender matter?" — "this" being "the strengthening of familial and societal ties, the establishment of persistent kin groups and affinities, and the financial stability of combining households, benefits, and assets," which he acknowledges as social benefits of marriage. Well, absent the expansion of those familial ties into future generations via procreation, where in any of that should number matter? Or preexisting relationships, such as exists between siblings?

To accept those subsequent claims to the "civil right" of marriage would be to make marriage essentially meaningless. To reject them would require a form of discrimination substantively no different from that of which traditionalists are accused when it comes to homosexual marriage. Actually, I take that back; it would be different — more capricious, more invidious. Matt's correct that "not all discrimination is equal." Some discrimination is advisable, as between good and bad clams, as between productive and wasteful activities, as between classics and popular fiction, and as between relationships that tend toward childbirth and those that inherently do not.

Dollar Bill Investigation Includes Senators Alves and DaPonte

Carroll Andrew Morse

Mike Stanton of the Projo confirms the names of two more Rhode Island legislators being investigated as part of operation Dollar Bill, State Senators Stephen Alves of West Warwick and Daniel DaPonte of East Providence…

Last fall, a lawyer for a local union pension fund came across a puzzling entry on the fund’s federal tax return — a $100,000 commission that had reportedly been split by Daniel DaPonte and Stephen D. Alves.

DaPonte and Alves, Rhode Island state senators and financial advisers who worked at UBS Financial Services, didn’t handle any of the pension fund’s investments. So why, the fund’s trustees wondered, did the return say that they had each received $50,000…

“The $100,000 payment,” responded [Prudential Financial] in a letter written last fall, “was a one-time finders fee” to UBS for “introducing Prudential to the possible opportunity at [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] Local No. 99 Annuity Fund.”

That came as news to the financial consultant who oversaw the process in which Prudential was selected and says he was not aware of UBS’s involvement or the $100,000 payment. The lawyer for the pension fund says he was also unaware.

The Prudential letter did not elaborate on how UBS earned its finders’ fee or what role DaPonte or Alves played…

During the 2005 session, which opened a few months after UBS received the $100,000 payment from Prudential, DaPonte was a co-sponsor of two more bills affecting electricians.

[Local 99 business manager Allen Durand] testified on behalf of one of the 2005 bills, which would have forbidden apprentice electricians with out-of-state certificates to work in Rhode Island. The bill passed the Senate and died in the House.

Durand also registered as a lobbyist for the other bill, regarding electrician’s licenses, which passed the Senate and the House and became law, without the governor’s signature.

April 13, 2007

Cranston: Higher Taxes for the Same Education System

Carroll Andrew Morse

Fellow Cranstonian Kiersten Marek of Kmareka offers some poignant commentary on Mayor Michael Napolitano’s proposal to raise taxes in Cranston by 5.25% while giving the school department a 0% increase…

This act has marked you, Mayor Napolitano. In my mind, it has marked you as someone who deliberately does unreasonable things in order to provoke a reaction. You can protest until the cows come home about how much you care about education, but it just doesn’t ring true when your budget does not allocate one single dollar in increases for the actual acts of educating children in our city. You have effectively alienated your core constituency.
Ms. Marek helps identify the common ground shared by many liberal and conservative citizens -- we can agree that raising taxes while not improving essential services is a bad idea.

But of course, pols sometimes have interests that are different from the interests of citizens of any ideological stripe.

I have less faith than Ms. Marek does that the Mayor's budget proposal isn’t a cynical ploy to force the school committee to sue the city for more money, allowing the Mayor to disavow responsibility for any associated tax increase or other financial consequences. Beyond that, the only other thing I have to immediately add to Ms. Marek's prose is a bit of haiku…

The budget disgrace
of Mike Napolitano.
A case for recall.


Commenters “Perry Ellis” and “Oz” let us know that the Cranston City Charter does make all elected city officials subject to recall (section 2.08). The basic rules are…

  1. 20% of registered voters must sign a petition to force a recall election.
  2. Removing an official requires a 2/3 majority of votes cast in the recall election.

Re: Imus and the Fairness Doctrine

Carroll Andrew Morse

The connection between the fall of Don Imus and the restoration of the fairness doctrine hits the mainstream media today, courtesy of the San Jose Mercury News. Remember, the following excerpt is from a news story, not an op-ed…

Radio has gone unbridled since the relaxing of the fairness doctrine in 1987, which required stations to present fair and balanced political viewpoints.

Since then, [Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology at Manhattan's Columbia University] said, radio networks have been governed by "the capacity to collect eardrums without any regard for veracity let alone civility."

Translation: The government should limit the expression of certain viewpoints, in order to promote civility.

Some points to ponder…

  1. What would Brad Kava, the reporter who wrote the excerpt at the top, think of a news story that stated -- as an unchallenged fact -- that American newspapers have become increasingly “unbridled” over the course of their history because the government has not required them to print fair and balanced viewpoints?
  2. How exactly is the connection between regulating broadcast content and promoting civility supposed to work? For example, more Al Franken on the radio might help meet restored fairness doctrine requirements, but it wouldn’t promote civility, because a) Franken is not a bastion of civil conversation and b) no one would be listening anyway. So where’s the connection?
  3. What would be the reaction if George W. Bush or Dick Cheney argued that the content of electronic media had to be more strongly government regulated in order to promote “civility”? Should the reaction be any less when other public figures call for increased content regulation of the media?
Here’s a possible local variation on the plans of fairness doctrine advocates and their allies…
  • Step 1: Restore the fairness doctrine.
  • Step 2: Tell a station like WPRO that it can no longer run 13 hours of John DePetro, Rush Limbaugh, Dan Yorke, and Michael Savage (no offense intended to Jerry Doyle, but I don’t listen his show enough to comment on his content) as its weekday lineup, because there aren’t enough hours in the day left to provide the legally mandated balance...
  • Step 3: ...but also tell WPRO that it can help satisfy its fairness doctrine requirements by dropping one of its existing programs and broadcasting Al Sharpton’s show instead!

April 12, 2007

Liberals Say Imus Proves the Need for Stricter Regulation of Broadcast Speech Content

Carroll Andrew Morse

In case you’re wondering where the Imus debacle is leading to, Sheldon Drobny of the Huffington Post gives us a hint…

Imus is another example of the degradation of talk radio that has been going on since Rush Limbaugh started this in 1980. Rush was another failed DJ that got lucky in 1980 when talk radio and the AM signal were in deep trouble. So they experimented with a show that had no boundaries as to the kind of racism and hate mongering that could be disseminated in talk radio.

This was followed by the other right wing haters with a mix of the "shock jocks" like Howard Stern and Imus. The fairness doctrine was killed by the Reagan Administration, which was followed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 signed by President Clinton. That is the short history of why hate and racist talk radio is the rule rather than the exception.
You see, we need stronger government mandates on the content of talk radio (which Reverend Al Sharpton openly called for on the Today show this morning) so that the government is in a better position to clamp down on improper speech before it occurs.

Expect proponents of the fairness doctrine to try to use the Imus debacle to advance their agenda of getting the government to limit the broadcast expression of certain viewpoints, i.e. if people don't want to tune in to Air America or Dave Barber on their own, then government should subsidize them, at the expense of other broadcasters, until people do.

April 11, 2007

Re: The Confluence of Homosexuality and Abortion

Justin Katz

Contra Ian Donnis, you can make this stuff up:

Mohler began by summarizing some recent research into sexual orientation, and advising his Christian readership that they should brace for the possibility that a biological basis for homosexuality may be proven.

Mohler wrote that such proof would not alter the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality, but said the discovery would be ''of great pastoral significance, allowing for a greater understanding of why certain persons struggle with these particular sexual temptations.''

He also referred to a recent article in the pop-culture magazine Radar, which explored the possibility that sexual orientation could be detected in unborn babies and raised the question of whether parents _ even liberals who support gay rights _ might be open to trying future prenatal techniques that would reverse homosexuality.

Indeed, anybody who took the initiative to find out what conservative Christians actually believe, argue, and proclaim wouldn't have to make anything up; it would be more accurate to say that they could predict it as a matter of straightforward analysis. As Rev. Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University and editor of Ignatius Press, explains:

''Same-sex activity is considered disordered,'' Fessio said. ''If there are ways of detecting diseases or disorders of children in the womb, and a way of treating them that respected the dignity of the child and mother, it would be a wonderful advancement of science.''

For those with disorders of a different sort, I'll put it simply: we right-wing fanatics simply believe that unborn children are in fact human beings, worthy, at the very least, of a right not to be killed. It is not the womb that is inviolable, but the individual, and to the extent that a treatment is legitimate for those outside of the womb, it is equally so within it. I'm not saying that some magnificently speculative procedure to treat a condition that may or may not originate in the womb is legitimate, let alone desirable, but if one is not surprised that an Evangelical would support medical treatment for homosexuality, then it betrays ignorance to level accusations of hypocrisy in this case.

Unfortunately, another thing that needn't be made up because it is so predictable is the utter inanity of liberal reactions, of which Mary Ann Sorrentino's is a fine example. In keeping with the apparent bigotry by which all conservative Christians are merely mind-melded drones — or "hordes of so-called Christians," if you prefer — Sorrentino evinces the above mentioned ignorance:

Mohler belongs to the same faction that has opposed pre-birth medical tampering in the past. Gender selection, in vitro fertilizations, even some pre-birth surgical procedures have all been deemed wrongful interference in divine territory. Now that these people see a way to diddle with the sexuality of the unborn, however, many of them are all over that possibility.

For the most part, the only "medical tampering" that raises substantial opposition from this so-called faction is that which involves death as its objective. That, indeed, is the primary objection to in vitro fertilization: that it requires the creation of embryos who will not be brought to term. Similarly, gender selection has largely been an issue — a real one, actually in practice, as opposed to the speculative brave-new-world version — because the "selection" takes the form of culling. As for "some pre-birth surgical procedures," I'm not sure what Sorrentino is talking about, much less who specifically objected to them, but her vagueness is typical.

Then, as if adhering closely to the guidelines of some rhetorical propaganda instruction manual, Sorrentino follows ignorance with laughable plying of emotional strings — describing a Hollywood movie that features a gay-therapy version of Clockwork Orange treatment and wondering darkly, "Is this the kind of thing that 'people of God' really support?" (I love the quotation marks around "people of God," as if she cannot even bring herself to countenance the sincerity of believers, even as she attempts to manipulate their good will.) This stratagem could only be followed with a faith-based elevation of homosexuality's existential essentialness beyond even genetics:

If Mohler is allowed to have his way, and society begins to tamper with the sexual preferences of about-to-be citizens still floating in the womb, the probable result will be a generation of would-be heterosexuals who eventually revert to their preferences for same-gender lovers.

Well, I suppose that, in an argument that brushes past two layers of speculative outcomes and transforms a villain's out-loud thinking into an assertion of "a way," it isn't out of place to declare the probability that all will be for naught. Similarly, it is not out of place for the author of such manifestly empty-headed rhetoric to read the minds of people with differing opinions and know — just know — that they are all about hate.

The Confluence of Homosexuality and Abortion

Marc Comtois

Ian Donnis rather wryle points out that "one of the country's top evangelicals, Kentucky-based Albert Mohler, has suggested that pre-natal treatment to change homosexuality in the womb would be biblically justified." Donnis also directs us to a recent piece by Mary Ann Sorrentino on the same topic. Writes Sorrentino:

The same gang that for decades has warred against any invasion of the womb in which a developing fetus (which they call an “unborn child)” resides now hopes to put a fetus on a sure road to heterosexuality.

As interesting as the concept of a gay fetus may seem, the image of hordes of so-called Christians fretting about the sexual orientation of the not-yet-born boggles the mind. Yet the Reverend R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Louisville’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, claims that in utero gays can find salvation through hormonal interventions that might make them straight from the moment when the obstetrician whacks their newly born bottom.

Mohler belongs to the same faction that has opposed pre-birth medical tampering in the past. Gender selection, in vitro fertilizations, even some pre-birth surgical procedures have all been deemed wrongful interference in divine territory. Now that these people see a way to diddle with the sexuality of the unborn, however, many of them are all over that possibility.
Indeed, it's apparently the hypocrisy of it all that is bothering people:
''What bothers me is the hypocrisy,'' [Jennifer Chrisler of Family Pride, a group that supports gay and lesbian families] said. ''In one breath, they say the sanctity of an unborn life is unconditional, and in the next breath, it's OK to perform medical treatments on them because of their own moral convictions, not because there's anything wrong with the child.''
Rev. Mohler is clearly making a distinction between pre-natal hormonal treatment and genetic manipulation (maybe it's too fine a point, I don't know). And Chrisler seems to be willingly conflating the meaning of "sanctity of life" to serve her own rhetorical purpose. There can be little doubt that Mohler is being consistent in his stance against abortion, as he also said "he would strongly oppose any move to encourage abortion or genetic manipulation of fetuses on grounds of sexual orientation."

This is part of a deeper debate, as outlined in this article:

Conservatives opposed to both abortion and homosexuality will have to ask themselves whether the public shame of having a gay child outweighs the private sin of terminating a pregnancy....Pro-choice activists won't be spared, either. Will liberal moms who love their hairdressers be as tolerant when faced with the prospect of raising a little stylist of their own? And exactly how pro-choice will liberal abortion-rights activists be when thousands of potential parents are choosing to filter homosexuality right out of the gene pool?
I think Rev. Mohler's stated belief is representative of a majority of Evangelicals (I'm not one, by the way) and thus answers the first question: having any child--gay or not--is preferable to aborting one. On the other hand, Sorrentino has consistently framed the abortion issue as a matter of "choice." So, if she doesn't want to be, you know, "hypocritical," does that mean that we can assume she also endorses a woman's right to choose to abort a fetus because it may be gay?

And that takes me to an even wider discussion. A couple years ago, I came across this touching piece by Patricia Bauer, the mother of a child with Down Syndrome. The parallel to the above discussion is obvious:

Margaret is a person and a member of our family. She has my husband's eyes, my hair and my mother-in-law's sense of humor. We love and admire her because of who she is -- feisty and zesty and full of life -- not in spite of it. She enriches our lives. If we might not have chosen to welcome her into our family, given the choice, then that is a statement more about our ignorance than about her inherent worth.

What I don't understand is how we as a society can tacitly write off a whole group of people as having no value. I'd like to think that it's time to put that particular piece of baggage on the table and talk about it, but I'm not optimistic. People want what they want: a perfect baby, a perfect life. To which I say: Good luck. Or maybe, dream on.

And here's one more piece of un-discussable baggage: This question is a small but nonetheless significant part of what's driving the abortion discussion in this country. I have to think that there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families {here's an example--ed.}. The abortion debate is not just about a woman's right to choose whether to have a baby; it's also about a woman's right to choose which baby she wants to have.

As far as I can tell, Sorrentino is perfectly fine with that.

Sorrentino has done admirable work in the gay community, but has she ever wondered if those whom she's helped through the tragedy of AIDS would have been better off if their mothers had aborted them instead?

That's a pretty tough theoretical, I know.

I suspect that Sorrentino was so delighted to hold up the mirror of hypocrisy in front of Rev. Mohler's face that she failed to look into it herself. Dealing with these deeper issues--instead of taking the easy, facile "hypocrisy" angle--is a much more difficult task. After she's seen the strength and grace of humanity amidst the tragedy of AIDS, I wonder how she can support giving carte blanche to those who may one day seek to preempt what they'd deem an imperfect life. Does she have personal reservations about unfettered abortion rights or does she subscribe to a universal, abortion-on-demand ideal--regardless of circumstance--because it's an individual choice?

In the end, I'm left with the impression that it's the right-wing, Evangelical zealot who is more likely to protect the right to life of an unborn gay child than a liberal, pro-abortion radical.

Get your head around that.

RI House Looks to Mandate Single-Mother Fertility Program

Marc Comtois

There are probably more than a couple reasons why this is just not a good idea:

Require health-insurance policies to cover infertility treatment regardless of a woman’s marital status. State law requires that insurers cover 80 percent of the cost of such treatments, with no limit on the total treatment cost. But they are currently required to offer that coverage only to married women.
Un-PC as it may be, can we agree that enabling anyone to have a child out of wedlock--for the sake of some ill-conceived notion of equality or fairness--is wrong-headed? Even setting aside the "culture war" aspects, why is it in the interest of the State to mandate such a thing?

Keeping Abstinence in Rhode Island

Justin Katz

Via Dave Talan's email-based RI Republican newsletter comes this worthy appeal:

I'm writing on behalf of Heritage of Rhode Island. Heritage is a Warwick-based non-profit that is concluding the execution of a three-year Federal abstinence education grant. During this time, Heritage has reached across the State with the message that abstinence outside of marriage is the healthiest choice an adolescent can make. Additionally, Heritage has worked with parents, teachers and faith community and civic leaders, equipping them with the skills and resources necessary to help their children avoid risky behaviors.

Heritage is in the process of reapplying for an abstinence education grant, and is seeking letters of support. Of particular help would be letters from educators, faith community and civic leaders who would be interested in bringing Heritage's programming into their community. Letters are needed within the next two weeks.

Heritage is the only agency in Rhode Island fulfilling this component of the President's domestic agenda - any support you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

For more information about Heritage of Rhode Island, you can visit their website at www.HeritageRI.org, or call the office at 401.921.2993 and ask for Executive Director, Chris Plante. An updated site should be going live very soon!

Thanks for considering this request,

Jeremy Brodeur
Heritage of Rhode Island
Member, Board of Directors

Rhode Island: Where Pols Are Afraid You'll Know Their Names

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to “hold for further study” the bill introduced by Senators June Gibbs (R-Little Compton/Middletown/Newport/Tiverton) and David Bates (R-Barrington/Bristol) that would abolish straight-ticket party voting in Rhode Island general elections. The House tabled a similar bill at the end of March.

Apparently, Rhode Island Democrats are afraid that they can’t win elections amongst the voters who actually know their names!

A Philosophy of Shopping

Justin Katz

Marc recently raised the question of conservative imperatives bearing on local versus big-brand shopping habits. It's an interesting topic, because it lies at the intersection of various philosophical principles and general preferences.

Chief among the principles is the acknowledgment that we must work within, rather than deny, the incomprehensible forces that govern human society. In this case, that means respecting the market. If national chains can more efficiently provide goods or services in a way that society prefers or needs — more quickly, less expensively, more reliably — then the competitive odds will be stacked in their favor, and denying that reality will result in a loss somewhere in the economy and the society, not the least because smart, entrepreneurial people will be devoting their efforts in wasteful ventures.

Market forces should draw workers from occupations and locations in which it is difficult to compete toward those in which opportunities outnumber employees. People who are able to do so would greatly benefit society and themselves by creating new markets or discovering untapped demand for existing ones. And the market will require folks who are especially gifted at or tied to particular markets in which competition has increased to differentiate themselves by finding angles that the competition hasn't exploited or cannot exploit as effectively. One obvious strategy aligns with a social preference dear to conservative hearts: encouragement of a sense of community.

Clements' Market in Portsmouth is an example of a business that leverages its available differentiators well. Local produce compounds the "buy local" appeal. Familiar faces are behind the registers by day, and after the schoolday ends, checking out is like stepping into a pleasant 1950s cliché. A program involving register receipts can benefit local charities. The store also takes advantage of Portsmouth's upper middle class standing with high-end offerings, including a sushi bar.

All of this comes at a cost, of course, which is why it is strange for liberals to hate Wal-Mart so fervently. Granted, that company's executives are rich beyond belief, but people who prioritize distributed wealth ought to appreciate that the stores' efficiency and economy of scale have given families of average and below wealth an opportunity for a higher quality of life.

Of course, a reasonable response is that the proximity of a superstore raises the cost — often to a prohibitive degree — of Clements'-like values, putting a premium on what once was ordinary. The urge to block big-box development is therefore understandable — even were it to prove largely futile in context of the larger economy — and there are legitimate and conflicting claims across class lines.

Whether particular developments are good or bad depends on group perspective. To families struggling to get by, sushi and smiles weren't on the table to begin with, but to others, business ownership and community are critical, defining characteristics of our culture that ultimately benefit everybody. As Hayek argued in Road to Serfdom — observing that Naziism was socialism for the class that working class socialism had suppressed — attempting to manage these endless complexities involved is an act of perilous vanity.

Even just the common assumption that disproportionate wealth is nearly evil in its unfairness is fraught with crucial subtleties. It's occurred to me, as I've passed the obscene wealth on display along Ocean Drive in Newport, that the alternative might resemble one of those seaside teenage paradise boardwalk cities that litter the New Jersey coast. Such areas have their place (and I was one of the teenagers who thought them paradise), but just as the wealth of upper middle class suburbanites preserves aspects of our culture, the wealth of the ultrarich is not purely to their benefit alone.

(One implication of this that the populist in me feels compelled to note is that an elite that loses its taste for the refined and hand-crafted also loses part of its argument for being tolerated. At the same time, the Christian in me must note that wealth is not all, and that some rewards come at a cost that our culture has a tendency to ignore.)

What this all comes down to for the conservative who wishes for a practical rule of thumb when forming shopping habits isn't very conclusive, because all courses of action are acceptable given the individual's preferences and circumstances. My own thinking on the matter is that we do well to treat those values that come at a premium — whether they are atmospheric or community-related or what have you — as exactly what they are: cost/benefit considerations. And here, traditionalist leanings point toward the wise strategy of looking to one's own family and assessing its wants and needs as a prior concern.

April 10, 2007

Jim Haldeman on the American Commitment to Iraq

Carroll Andrew Morse

In a letter to the editor in the South County Independent, Jim Haldeman, former commander of civil military operations in Fallujah, Iraq, questions the wisdom of basing American foreign policy on the premise that anything difficult to fix is not worth fixing…

[We] are a nation known for our want of instant gratification. We are the NOW generation. The majority of Iraqi citizens are beginning to live in their country as they have never lived before. They have more food, water and electricity than they have ever had in the history of their country. In November 2006, the Coalition Forces gave Fallujah back to the citizens. It’s theirs to govern, and theirs to maintain its security and safety. The new Iraqi government has also done a decent job focusing on their infrastructure and decentralizing their government.

Of course, there are significant problems. We used the 2005 free elections of their referendum and for their parliament as a thermometer to measure their given freedom, thinking that they would instantly respond to the first taste of freedom. Meaningless, I say! Freedom and democracy must be earned just as we have earned it here in the United States. Democracy and freedom can’t be measured based just on two days of going to a voting booth. They have not come to terms with what is needed to gain momentum and compete in this complex world. However, because their issues are so complex, many will not be corrected without the United States to be their crutch. Consistently, the Iraqi leadership with whom I worked would say to me, “We want you to leave but just not yet”.

Imagine the state of our country, and of our future generations after us, if we were to cut and run from this war. We must look at this war as our ultimate challenge to survival. The elusive posture of the maniacal Islamic radicals is to destroy our western civilization as we know it today. It is their long-term plan and their goal to see us retreat. In pursuit of this goal, they will kick us in the shins until we will eventually bleed to death. They are very patient.

Today’s citizenry may not see it, but there will be a time when, generations from now, their wrath will be felt if we do not continue to hammer home the fact that we will not quit. I applaud the president for his foresight and his vision of what could be. Let us not look at this war short term. Instead, we must accept the fact that we are in this for the long haul, whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere. We are not just trying to keep a small country afloat to serve as democratic competition in the Middle East, but we are working to ensure the safety and security of our country, and the entire free world, for that matter.

Read the whole thing.

Counterintuitive Consequence of the Day

Carroll Andrew Morse

Would passage of a new Equal Rights Amendment mean that Providence College could reinstate its baseball team? Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy thinks it’s a possibility…

As currently interpreted by courts and federal administrative agencies, [Federal law] essentially requires universities to have equal numbers of male and female sports teams, regardless of the amount of interest that male and female students have in athletics. This is a fairly obvious gender classification and one that probably won't survive strict scrutiny under the ERA.
Providence College eliminated baseball in 1999, after the NCAA determined that it had too many programs for male athletes. Here’s Reason Magazine describing the end of baseball at PC
In the late '90s, Providence found itself in a familiar bind. Women accounted for 59 percent of its students, yet they were only 43 percent of student athletes. The school was facing a peer review by the NCAA, and it needed to show quick "progress" toward gender equity. Providence simply had too many male athletes, and the easiest course of action was to cut some men's programs to bring its numbers into line. In the fall of 1998, the administration announced that the 1999 season would be the last for the school's 78-year-old baseball team. After 2002, Providence would no longer support men's golf or tennis. Not one new women's team would be created, but the male-female ratio would still be greatly improved.

To Appoint or To Reappoint, That is the Question

Carroll Andrew Morse

One of the restrictions on membership on Rhode Island’s Judicial Nomination Commission, part of the system intended to provide for merit selection of judges in Rhode Island, is this…

No member shall be reappointed to the commission.
Governor Donald Carcieri wants to interpret this law as prohibiting only sitting members of the commission from being reappointed to consecutive terms, and reappoint someone (C. June Tow) who already served a previous term between 1998 and 2002. Senator James Sheehan (D-Narragansett/North Kingstown) argues in today’s Projo that this interpretation of the law is absurd, as it would mean that the same group of people could be reappointed to the commission ad infinitum, as long as they took some time off between terms. Senator Sheehan has asked the Attorney General for an advisory opinion on the issue.

Jon Pincince of RI Law Journal has an analysis of how the legislature’s intent probably was to bar anyone from serving more than one term, but that the letter of the law does allow room for either interpretation. (Obviously, the RI Legislature needs more practice in writing effective reform laws!)

Though I am skeptical of relying too heavily on “legislative intent” arguments, which are not applied with consistency, with all of the other major problems that Rhode Island is facing, I don’t see fighting this battle as a great use of the Governor’s political capital.

April 9, 2007

"Anchor Babies" and RIte Care

Marc Comtois

Froma Harrop calls attention to the problem that "Anchor Babies" (some consider the term to be a perjorative, incidentally) pose for immigration reform and enforcement.

Pregnant women routinely arrive in the United States in time to give birth and thereby obtain Social Security numbers for their babies — and with them, permanent entrée into American society and the socio-economic benefits it offers. Once the American-born child turns 21, he or she can sponsor his or her parents and other relatives for citizenship.

Many illegal aliens already in this country make a point of having “anchor babies” that they hope will secure them a permanent status in the United States. During the recent immigration raid at the Michael Bianco factory, in New Bedford, a number of the arrested women who had American-born children were allowed to return to the community, while the childless workers were kept in detention centers.

Changing the law will not be easy. The guarantee of citizenship to any child born on U.S. soil is in a 1952 immigration act and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868. When Rep. Brian Bilbray (R.-Calif.) first introduced legislation to change the law, in 1995, stopping the anchor-baby phenomenon was considered radical.

Since then, however, our broken immigration system has made the concept more mainstream. Very few countries offer this automatic citizenship. Even France has been tightening up.

Ending the citizenship birthright need not affect any future measures to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. What it would do is end another lure to come here illegally.

Meanwhile, RIte Care is now in the process of implementing more stringent, federal guidelines that seek to prevent illegal aliens from using the system. And although even legal citizens are having a hard time proving their citizenship so that they may participate in RIteCare, the program does cover all children, whether their parents are illegal or not, so long as the kids are U.S. citizens. This is exactly the sort of thing Harrop is talking about. Finally, while the President is currently beginning a new push for "comprehensive immigration reform," there is no discussion about fundamentally changing the citizenship equation as outlined by Harrop.

Same Old Story...

Carroll Andrew Morse

The new RI Report website juxtaposes the release of the Tax Foundation's report showing Rhode Island's tax-burden to be fourth highest in the nation with census bureau data showing population in the Providence-New Bedford metro area to have declined since 2004, implicitly implying a connection. Actually, there's one other factor needed to complete the chain. When taxes are high and the quality of services they pay for is low, then people have great incentive to leave and resettle in a part of the country where they can pay less to receive more.

Here's a concrete example -- literally -- of the collapsed state of public services in Rhode Island. According to the Federal Department of Transportation, the percentage of RI bridges that are "functionally obsolete or structurally deficient" is one of the highest in the nation. What level of fiscal mismanagement does it take to push the state with the fourth highest tax-burden AND the smallest geographic footprint to near-last place in bridge quality? Where does all the tax money go?

April 8, 2007

The Significance of the Holiday

Justin Katz

To all of our Christian readers, I wish a joyous Easter, full of reminders of the holiday's significance to us. No matter what happens in this world, in our society, we've better things ahead. In all our actions, there should always be that underlying confidence in salvation.

Which is why it is only with sadness for those without that confidence that I take a moment to note how perfectly Google's holiday logo for Easter represents the cultural landscape that a faction of Americans would like to foster. For those who don't follow that link today, let me summarize: despite holiday precedent, the search-engine company has done absolutely nothing. Easter is less worthy of note, in Googleland, than Mozart's birthday.

Consequently, I also take a moment to remind everybody that charity remains a goal — an obligation — even beyond Lent and to renew my suggestion to use the Yahoo!-based GoodSearch.com as an alternative to Google. GoodSearch's logo incorporates a halo regardless of the day.

April 7, 2007

Pubs of Newport, Continued

Mac Owens

Congressional Democrats have decided to ban the term “war on terror” in the writing of legislation. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has decamped from Syria, where she donned a headscarf and in violation of the intent of the Founders, made nice with the dictator of a state supporter of terrorism, attempting to push what her colleague, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA)forthrightly—and honestly—calls an alternative Democratic foreign policy. So let’s talk about…more pubs of Newport.

The Atlantic Beach Club (ABC) is actually located in Middletown (just over the Newport line) on the east end of Easton’s Beach, AKA First Beach. The ABC boasts one of the most remarkable vistas on Aquidneck Island. This is especially the case when the weather warms up and the ABC deck opens.

During the summer months, the ABC deck features fine live bands on the weekends. Despite a cover charge, the deck is packed when the bands are playing. The scenery is fabulous (I enjoy looking at the ocean too). Not to be missed is the sight of New York girls in bikinis and high-heels. I’m guessing they’re not there primarily to go to the beach.

The food is quite good. As one might expect, the ABC specializes in seafood. It is not inexpensive, but the prices are in line with those of other seafood restaurants in the Newport area (and on Wednesday evenings, all menu entrees, other than lobster dishes, can be had for $12.95). The service in the dining rooms and at the bar is excellent and friendly. I can say that I have never had a bad meal at the ABC.

During the non-summer months, the ABC offers quiet jazz on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Surprisingly—given Newport’s reputation as the site of the annual Jazz Festival—the ABC provides one of the few regular jazz venues in the area.

The quality of the music is uniformly excellent. The usual program consists of a trio plus a vocalist. It’s good stuff. The vocalists are mostly local and quite good, but my personal favorite is a true New England treasure: Amanda Carr from Boston (more about her in a later post). In any event, if one wants to spend an evening listening to good jazz over a couple of drinks in a setting where it is still possible to carry on a conversation, the ABC is the place to go.

Good food, good drinks, good service, good company, and good jazz: the ABC is my kind of place.

Update: In my last post about Mudville Pub, I managed to misspell the name of my good friend Kevin Stacom (I spelled it Stachem). Sorry Kev. I also mentioned the “very gorgeous Melanie.” A couple of folks have asked me just how gorgeous is she. Well, imagine Scarlett Johannson with black hair. How’s that? And I certainly also should have mentioned the very lovely and fascinating Georgia peach, Anna, AKA Anna Banana (I know, I know, I mixed my fruits here. But is this as bad as mixing metaphors?).

April 6, 2007

"Sonny" Pelosi, Redux

Mac Owens

Here's what our friends at Power Line have to say about "Sonny" Pelosi's trip to the Middle East.

'We have pointed out that Speaker Pelosi's attempts at diplomacy in the Middle East haven't received good reviews from the Israelis or, here at home, from even the Washington Post. However, according to WorldNetDaily, she's big hit with terrorists. It reports, for example, that Khaled Al-Batch, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, expressed hope that Pelosi would continue winning elections, and added that her Damascus visit demonstrated she understands the Middle East. Similarly, Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas' military wing in the Gaza Strip, said the willingness by U.S. lawmakers to talk with Syria "is proof of the importance of the resistance against the U.S." To this terrorist, then, Pelosi's visit is a reward for making war on the U.S. and its allies.

Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group and the infamous leader of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, was also quite impressed with Pelosi. He said, "I think it's very nice and I think it's much better when you sit face to face and talk to Assad. It's a very good idea. I think she is brave and hope all the people will support her. All the American people must make peace with Syria and Iran and with Hamas. Why not?"'

Power Line is a conservative blog, but the Washington Post, not exactly a pro-Bush paper, seems to share Power Line's disdain for the Speaker's attempt at diplomacy.

'"We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace," Ms. Pelosi grandly declared.

Never mind that that statement is ludicrous: As any diplomat with knowledge of the region could have told Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Assad is a corrupt thug whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace with Israel but heading off U.N. charges that he orchestrated the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president. Two weeks ago Ms. Pelosi rammed legislation through the House of Representatives that would strip Mr. Bush of his authority as commander in chief to manage troop movements in Iraq. Now she is attempting to introduce a new Middle East policy that directly conflicts with that of the president. We have found much to criticize in Mr. Bush's military strategy and regional diplomacy. But Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.'

Foolish indeed. I wonder: does anyone think that Ms. Pelosi has ever even perused The Federalist?

Fish on Fridays

Carroll Andrew Morse

Nothing symbolizes the supposed arbitrariness of religion to those predisposed towards skepticism towards religious belief than does the Catholic practice of eating fish on Fridays during the season of Lent. I’ll admit to having asked myself, especially on Good Friday, what connection there is between fish and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And then there is the philosophical paradox. If my soul is lost after I’ve eaten meat on a Lenten Friday, does that mean I’m free to commit worse sins without making my situation worse? But if the rule doesn’t really matter, then why follow it? And on and on and on and on…

Here’s what I do know. With the choice of fish options available to a 21st century American, eating fish on Fridays is about as small a “sacrifice” in a material sense as can be asked for. But honoring the fasting rules does require me to make some conscious choices that run contrary to what the surrounding culture tells me is cool and sensible. And if I am unable to make this little tiny sacrifice, because I find it too inconvenient, or because I’m afraid to explain myself to others who don’t share my belief or who might think that I’m being just plain silly, then on what basis do I believe myself to be capable of taking a stand in more serious situations, when the choices might be a little harder and the stakes a little bit higher?

About that event next November we're not talking about...

Marc Comtois

Andrew spoke for all of us at Anchor Rising when he made a vow to not discuss a certain political event, and those who aim to be deeply involved in said event, until the actual event was much closer. It seems we are not alone. Here's The Anchoress (no relation ;):

I resent like hell that these politicians - all of them, but I seem to recall it was Hillary who started early, forcing everyone else to do so, as well - began their stumping and fund-raising two years before an election. Some of them - like Clinton - barely finished their re-election celebrations before reaching out their hands for ‘08 campaign funds.

They’ve decided to be in our faces for an excessive period of time, and the acquiescent media is allowing it by covering their every belch and hiccup, but that doesn’t mean I have to read it and get sucked into a pre-election vortex that has no business forming just now. Our “public servants,” duly elected to represent their states, are running back and forth across the country giving speeches, eating festival food and raising money, money, money instead of attending to the concerns of their constituents, voting on pending legislation, FUNDING OUR TROOPS and otherwise doing what they were hired to do.

I’m not participating in this, yet. I’m not going to allow myself to be suckered into paying attention to these people - and giving them either my money or my time - before I deem it practical and intelligent to do so, and that will be sometime around November of ‘07.

So far, we've done a pretty good job of staying mum around here (though we've given our readers an opportunity to "weigh" in).

At first I thought it was something about bloggers who have an affinity with "anchor," but other bloggers have put up their own "Protest Manifestos". And there's even a logo.


Maybe this could be the next, big blogger movement?

April 5, 2007

The Situational Pragmatism of Congressman Langevin

Marc Comtois

In addition to talking about Iraq with Dan Yorke, Congressman Langevin also talked about Speaker Pelosi's recent botched Syrian excursion and said she was following the precepts of the Iraq Study Group report (PDF). While Langevin condemned the regimes of both Iran and Syria, he also offered that--as per the Iraq Study Group--pragmatic diplomacy was the way to go. He also talked about how the U.S. should encourage democracy movements, particularly in Iran. So, while the regimes are bad and we'd really like to see them taken down, we've still got to talk to them, despite their past intransigence. It's realpolitick all over again and very pragmatic. (Don't get me wrong, we need to talk, but keep in mind who we're dealing with here.)

On the other hand, when Yorke asked him about gas prices, the Congressman lapsed into the standard alternative energy chant and explained that the U.S. needed to decrease our dependence on oil My first thought was: where's the pragmatism here, Congressman? I agree that we should develop new energy sources. But in the meantime, why don't we take steps to become energy independent by actually taking advantage of some of our own domestic oil resources or expanding our nuclear power capability? Wouldn't the pragmatic approach be to take advantage of the technology we we have now and still provide incentives for new energy sources? Why can't we do both?

Donnis Pitches Up Some Rhody-centric Baseball History

Marc Comtois

For baseball fans, historians and baseball historians, I recommend Ian Donnis' "Play ball, Rhody-style." Here's his All-Rhode Island Team:

First base: PAUL KONERKO (Providence)
Second base: DAVEY LOPES (Providence)
Shortstop: JAMES EDWARD “JIMMY” COONEY (Cranston)
Third base: JOE MULVEY (Providence)
Left field: HUGH DUFFY (Cranston)
Center field: ROCCO BALDELLI (Cumberland)
Right field: NAPOLEON LAJOIE (Woonsocket)
Catcher: GABBY HARTNETT (Woonsocket)
Pitcher: ANDY COAKLEY (Providence)
Relief pitcher: CLEM LABINE (Lincoln/Woonsocket)
Manager: NAPOLEAN LAJOIE (Woonsocket) {player/manager, eh?}
General manager: LOU GORMAN (Providence)
Special adviser: JEREMY KAPSTEIN (Providence)

Langevin Stuck in November '06

Marc Comtois

I had a chance to hear a portion of Dan Yorke's interview with Congressman Jim Langevin yesterday afternoon. When asked about Iraq, Rep. Langevin continued to trumpet the line that things are getting worse in Iraq and that the "surge" won't work. They've already made up their minds and this unwillingness to reassess the situation when things may actually be changing is indicative of the quandary the Democratic Congress finds itself in.

They have staked their political fortunes to the popular perception of Iraq--it's bad and getting worse--that they believe got them elected to a majority last November. After years of calling for change in strategy and finally getting their wish with General Petraeus' new plan, they've now moved the goalposts and said, "Sorry, it's too late." Whether it is or isn't too late is still a question, but one that can't be answered by just saying so. The reality is that the recent successes in Baghdad are an example of how there is an inherent problem in trying to manage a war legislatively. The situation "on the ground" can change quickly. Washington bureaucracy: not so much.

The Wall Street Journal's Dan Henninger has a piece that contrasts the military vs. legislative reality (here's his source). A sample:

On Jan. 23 Gen. Petraeus offered the Senate Armed Services Committee an outline of the surge. By Feb. 8, U.S. paratroopers and engineers in Baghdad had quickly put together 10 Joint Security Stations, the new command centers to be operated with Iraq's security forces...On Feb. 10, Gen. Petraeus arrived to take command of these forces in Baghdad. In the second week of February, U.S. troops conducted 20,000 patrols compared to 7,400 the week before.

On Feb. 16, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, 246-182, to oppose the mission. Nancy Pelosi: "The stakes in Iraq are too high to recycle proposals that have little prospect for success."

...On March 4, 600 U.S. and 550 Iraqi forces commenced house-to-house searches in Sadr City's Jamil neighborhood. Also in early March, with little fanfare, U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested 16 individuals connected with the Jaysh al-Mahdi cell, suspected of sectarian kidnappings and killings.

On March 23, the House voted 218-212 to remove these U.S. forces by August's end, 2008.

It's not quite three months since the surge began in Iraq, and some early assessments of the operation have emerged. They are positive. Keep in mind that this strategy emerged from military reassessment over the past year, led largely by Gen. Petraeus; this isn't a pick-up team.

But the Democrats are locked into a narrative of predetermined failure in Iraq. Henninger recommends a way out:
If the Iraq surge is succeeding, the Democrats' surge should stand down. If a year from now the Petraeus plan is foundering, the Democrats will have plenty of time to hang it around the GOP's neck by demanding a legitimate withdrawal date--November 2008. But not now.

All is Not Fine with the Emergency Room Fine

Carroll Andrew Morse

I have to examine the numbers more carefully before commenting on the overall plan, but this part of Rhode Island’s new small business healthcare plan, as described by Felice J. Freyer in yesterday’s Projo, seems troubling…

You pay through the nose — $200 per visit — if you go to a hospital emergency room with a problem that does not lead to being admitted.
Obviously the state is trying to discourage people from using emergency rooms for non-emergency care -- which may or may not be contributing to rising healthcare costs.

Yet at the same time, the state is also blocking alternative treatment facilities designed specifically for dealing with immediate but non-emergency care from opening in Rhode Island. Taken together, the policies seem to be designed to discourage people from seeking non-emergency care at all. I know that’s not the intent, but it’s the kind of stupid dysfunction you get when you try to manage individual human decision making through government planning.

And would anyone like to take a stab at explaining how charging people what is in essence a fine for using the emergency room helps to reduce costs? At first glance, the $200 surcharge seems more like a backdoor way to subsidize indigent care (those without insurance get still get emergency room treatment for free, right?) by grabbing money from families teetering on the edge of the middle class than it does a plan for real cost control.

The National Popular Vote Fallacy

Marc Comtois

Some proponents of having the Electoral College replaced by a National Popular Vote to elect the President write:

In today's climate of partisan polarization, the current system shuts out most of the country from meaningful participation by turning naturally "purple" states into simple "red" and "blue."

The result is a declining number of Americans who matter and a majority who don't. Youth turnout was fully 17 percent higher in presidential battlegrounds than the rest of the nation in 2004—double the disparity just four years before. The presidential campaigns and their allies spent more money on ads in Florida in the final month of the campaign than their combined spending in 46 other states....Candidates for our one national office should have incentives to speak to everyone, and all Americans should have the power to hold their president accountable. We're well on our way toward that goal with the Free State Initiative—escaping the shackles of the current bankrupt Electoral College system.

E.J. Dionne, Jr., who supports the idea, explains that the plan is a justifiable circumvention of the Constitutional Amendment process:
Yes, this is an effort to circumvent the cumbersome process of amending the Constitution. That's the only practical way of moving toward a more democratic system. Because three-quarters of the states have to approve an amendment to the Constitution, only 13 sparsely populated states -- overrepresented in the electoral college -- could block popular election.
By over representation, Dionne means that Rhode Island, which has 4 electoral votes that are worth around 250,000 people each, has more electoral college power than California, whose 55 electors each represent around 665,000 people. So, yes, on the face of it, Rhode Island's people have a disproportionate amount of power over the people of California when it comes to electing the President. A fact that some Rhode Island legislators want to "rectify" by introducing National Popular Vote legislation in both the Senate and House.

But should this national popular vote idea take hold, there will undoubtedly be some consequences for small states that the popular vote proponents fail to acknowledge. Dionne attempts to knock down some anti-popular vote arguments

Opponents of popular election invent scary scenarios to continue subjecting our 21st-century nation to a system invented in the far less democratic 18th century. Most frequently, they warn about having to conduct a nationwide recount in a close election.

But direct election of presidents works just fine in France and in Mexico, which managed to get through a divisive, terribly narrow presidential election last year. Are opponents of the popular vote saying our country is less competent at running elections than France or Mexico?

Well, some would say yes.

Yet, as the point is often made, the U.S. is a Republic and the system was designed to work this way such that there are really 50 separate presidential elections every four years. It's consistent with our Federal system and also in the spirit of the Founders inclination to distrust direct democracy (like it or not). At the heart of that distrust lay an antipathy to "factions." As Madison wrote in support of the current electoral system:

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.
For instance, besides state-centered factions, there was a very real country vs. city dynamic and a wariness against having a disproportionate amount of electoral power--especially when it came to the presidency--in the hands of one or another of these "factions." The reasoning behind this was that urban and rural people often have very different concerns and priorities. Breaking up the presidential election into separate state elections mitigated against the urban "factions" gaining too much power over the rural--or vice versa--because most states contained both rural and urban "factions." As such, politicians would be forced to address the needs of both groups.

Popular vote proponents make much of the fact that only certain battleground states get the lion's share of attention under the current system and smaller or more uncontested states are ignored. By going to a popular vote, they seem to think that the focus away from a few battleground states. There is also a flaw in the logic that argues that small states have too much proportional power yet don't get enough attention as "battleground states" under the current system. After all, despite all of the apparent electoral power that Rhode Island has over California, the Presidential candidates weren't exactly streaming into the state in 2003/4, were they? But, proponents would argue, that a national popular vote would make "every vote count" no matter where it is. Well, I wouldn't bet on it (some would count more often--badump-bum, tip your waitress, please).

Where can candidates get the most bang for their buck (and they're sure raising the bucks, aren't they)? In the cities. And while Dionne attempts to discount the shibboleth of a national recount, I wouldn't be so quick to do so. 3,000 Palm Beach Counties anyone? However, while I do harbor a fear of widespread vote fraud and corruption in the cities, my biggest concern is that candidates will be encouraged to concentrate on places where they are already popular for the sole purpose of cranking up their vote totals.

So while a Democrat could incessantly campaign in Rhode Island to jack up an overall popular vote tally, they would probably acutely focus on bigger population centers like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston etc.to maximize their turnout and run up their their popular vote tallies. Under a popular vote scheme, they could do that and still get the Rhode Island votes anyway. So where's the Democrat incentive to visit a small state like li'l Rhody for the sake of marginal popular vote gains when the big numbers can be had in the big cities?

Similarly, a Republican could adopt a similar, more rural strategy in a state like Utah or Wyoming, though it would be a whole lot more work because the population is more dispersed. They still might try it though, or they might try to take the Democrats on, city by city. If this were to happen, then the interests of the rural and suburban citizens could very well fall by the wayside--or at best be of secondary concern--as both political parties sought to tailor their message to the voters who live in large population centers.

What the popular vote movement does is replace one "ignored" population for another, all under the cloak of "equality." It's really just an electoral shell-game cloaked in populist rhetoric. There will still be battleground states, they'll just tend to be the ones that have big cities and big populations.

And maybe that's exactly the way the popular vote crowd wants it.

Re: Banning Brothels

Justin Katz

Objections to closing the loophole that allows closed-door prostitution in Rhode Island leave me thinking that those who make them are either on the take or not very... let's say... considered in their understanding. If the goal is to emphasizing the capture pimps, madames, or what have you, then it ought to be streetwalking that is legal. Closed doors require infrastructure, as does organized solicitation — marketing as opposed to peddling.

Somehow it seems to be missed that, in order to arrest those who are facilitating the sale of sex, the sale of sex has to be illegal. On another note, it ought not be missed that the ACLU is both anti-abstinence and pro-prostitution. What a healthy group to have so prominently represented in our community!

Banning Brothels has Opponents?

Marc Comtois

Despite the fact that prostitution can occur behind closed doors in Rhode Island, prostitution actually is illegal in the state. AG Lynch and many others have long sought to close that loophole. But, somehow, for some reason, they continue to meet with opposition. Rep. Joanne M. Giannini, D-Cranston has done yeoman's work in presenting a comprehensive package of legislation that seeks to address all of the past issues that opponents have had. In addition to offering new legislation dealing with prostitution, solicitation and the closed door loophole, she's offered two bills concerned with human sex trafficking involuntary servitude and a separate one dealing with sex trafficking of a minor. Yet, those testifying against the bill meant to close the loophole were either unaware or chose to ignore the portions of Rep. Giannini's comprehensive package.

The majority of the witnesses blasted the bill.

Opponents included Nancy Green, a concerned Providence resident.

“I feel like it is very easy to arrest [prostitutes] and toss them in jail,” she said to the small group of legislators gathered around a long table inside a cramped committee room. “I want to see us go after people at the top.”

Green’s concerns were echoed by a young social worker, a policy analyst, and the head of the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. They all said that the bill would unfairly target the prostitutes, who opponents say are often forced into prostitution.

...Giannini was visibly upset when she addressed the committee after her bill was repeatedly criticized.

“My intent was never to punish the women with this bill,” she said. “I’ve added the pimps and the people who own the buildings … and the Johns. When was the last time you saw a John in the paper?”

Shaking her head incredulously after her testimony, Giannini dismissed the opponents as those who would rather see prostitution legalized.

“They’ve had two years to come up with a solution,” she said of her peers in the Assembly. “The solution they’ve come up with is ‘Do nothing.’ ”

The same can be said for her co-legislators in the past.
In an interview earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Paiva Weed said she hasn’t seen Giannini’s latest proposal, but that she has serious concerns about past efforts to close the prostitution loophole.

“The concern I’ve always had has been that by focusing on the women on this issue, we are only focusing on half the problem,” she said. “I’d rather see better enforcement of the laws that are on the books.”

Apparently, Sen. Paiva-Weed was unaware that Giannini has dealt with those concerns already, but that's still no excuse for not taking action on this in the past. Talk about making the perfect the enemy of the good. Finally, it also appears as if time is running out on all of the bills as the deadline is April 12, according to the ProJo report (Steve Peoples). Majority Leader Fox is a co-sponsor on some of the legislation, but when asked if it was a priority, he could only offer that platitude that, “It’s a priority like any other bill.”

Gee, it sure hasn't been in the past.

Iran Declares Victory and Gets Out

Carroll Andrew Morse

Is it possible that the West’s self-flagellation about the release of the 15 British sailors kidnapped by Iran is going a wee bit too far? For instance, in his list of 7 reasons what Iran gained as a result of this incident, David Frum includes this point…

The Iranians succeeded in…establishing that Britain at least and quite probably the United States too fears the escalation of conflict with Iran more than do the leaders of the Islamic Republic
Let me propose an interpretation of events different from that of Mr. Frum and most others…
  1. Iran begins a conflict with Great Britain by kidnapping 15 British sailors.
  2. Britain and the U.S. offer possible concessions to Iran (we learn later) in return for the release of the sailors, but negotiations appear to go nowhere for a while.
  3. Then, on April 3, British Prime Minister Tony Blair says whatever offers are on the table are good for two more days. After that, he’s prepared to escalate.
  4. Now, if the Iranians have been paying attention, they must realize an important cross-cultural detail at this point – we Western infidels are hung up on specific dates, punctuality, and deadlines. When a Western leader says he’s going to do something after a certain time, he must act decisively soon after that deadline, or risk “losing face” with his own people.
  5. Iran must realize something else: Middle Eastern countries, despite some successes at proxy wars and low intensity conflict, don’t do very well in conventional military confrontations. If the situation gets to the point where Great Britain is willing to take direct military action, the Iranian military is going to end up looking impotent. And a major military loss will damage, maybe entirely destroy, the aura of inevitable international success that the Iranian government has been carefully cultivating for itself at home and abroad over the last several years.
  6. Unwilling to put its image of invincibility at risk, before Prime Minister Blair's deadline passes, the Iranian government decides to declare victory and get out.
  7. But we Westerners, with our unfortunate habit of looking at our adversaries as ten-foot tall supermen who never make a mistake, can't help ourselves from buying into the idea that the Iranian government has done nothing but make perfect, brilliant choices, even when they're really backing down.
If there is any possibility that this is a valid view of events, the British government needs to undercut Iranian triumphalism by announcing that its sailors operating in the Persian Gulf will immediately be operating under tougher new rules of engagement and that any Iranian vessel coming too close to a British one will be quickly dispatched to the bottom of the sea.

April 4, 2007

Accelerating Turnover... and Overturn?

Justin Katz

Speaking of proposals with gaping holes, if not blatant contradictions, in their reasoning, "key lawmakers and other major players in the state's law and order community" offered Governor Carcieri some suggestions as to how he might free up some space in the ACI as part of attempts to decrease the state government's deficit. Apparently:

31 percent of released prisoners are reincarcerated within a year, a rate that is 10 percent higher than the national average. Within three years, the number that return to the ACI is 50 percent.

Yet, every single one of the proposals that the Providence Journal reports focuses on making it easier for inmates to get out and harder for them to get back in, including this gem:

Target probation supervision to the first 12 months after release, when people are most likely to reoffend, and limit felony probation — which can now extend over 10 years or more — to 3 years "except for offenses punishable by life imprisonment." Estimate: 27 fewer inmates.

If I'm reading this correctly, 27 incarcerated criminals would not currently be in prison under the proposed rules because they would have gotten away with crimes committed after their supervision ended or would have been sentenced with no consideration of their previous records, after probation ended. This strikes me as nearly the reverse of an effective focus.

Why is not a single proposal from these important folks in the "law and order community" targeted at making ex-cons more wary of doing things that might land them back in prison? If Rhode Island's reincarceration rate is 10% higher than the national average, I can assure you that it is not because we make it too difficult for convicts to get out from behind the bars.

Maybe the Worst Healthcare Op-ed Ever

Carroll Andrew Morse

Lawrence Purtill’s education aid op-ed isn’t the only recent Projo op-ed guilty of trying to convince people that a contradictory set of recommendations can be combined into sound public policy. In last Thursday’s Projo, Dr. Joseph Chazan presented this dud of a suggestion for containing healthcare costs in Rhode Island…

Government controls and regulators should recruit new insurance companies to enter and compete in the marketplace and mandate that everyone receives needed care regardless of ability to pay as part of the cost of doing business.
I really don’t think that “Use your gains in other states to subsidize big operating losses in Rhode Island” can become the basis of a successful recruiting campaign. How exactly can you recruit companies to come to Rhode Island while demanding that they give their product away for free or below cost? What precisely are the “recruiters” supposed to pitch as the advantage of doing business here?

Dr. Chazan’s attitude towards individuals is even more frightening than his attitude towards business…

Recognize that individuals demand all the advances that have occurred in medical technology and prescription medications without concern for their costs. It is unlikely that health-care costs can be contained without some limitation or rationing of services. However, this will require a frank debate and the acceptance that to contain costs, not every patient can receive every available service.
Translation: "People have a survival instinct and want to live, so government must teach them to manage and suppress that instinct". That's not a business that government should be getting into.

Before we start talking about giving government regulators, who have have a difficult time controlling costs without killing whatever economic sector they are trying to regulate, absolute power to decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t, shouldn’t we at least give an expansion of consumer-driven health plans a chance? After all, as another of Dr. Chazan's recommendations explains (quite inadvertently), consumer driven plans are the best fit for a pluralistic, democratic society like the US…

Finally, permit a robust, honest, forthright, uncensored debate to occur among parties: government, regulators, providers, insurers and consumers included.
Dr. Chazan has the right principle in mind here, but what he and other advocates of a government takeover of healthcare never seem to grasp is that people need real choices if a robust, honest, forthright, uncensored debate is to matter. When individuals have a choice of healthcare options, they will talk to potential insurers and talk to their healthcare providers. That talk will have real ramifications, in terms of compromises on costs and on coverages and treatments offered. How can debate get any more robust than this?

Unfortunately, because of our employer-based system of health insurance, that debate is too restricted now because (save for a few forward-thinking companies like this one) employers have a big voice in the healthcare debate, but employees have almost none. And in strong-government schemes, the problem will become even worse, as government regulators, big-insurance companies, and well-organized special interests will become the only voices that matter, freezing ordinary people completely out of the debate.

Finally, Dr. Chazan reminds us that just because you think you're debating doesn't mean that you're making sense…

About 20 years ago, Rhode Island had one of the most regulated and controlled health-care systems in America. State laws required the Health Services Council and the head of the state Department of Health to approve the opening of virtually any new health-care facility (“certificate of need”). That sustained the status quo by delaying or preventing competitive facilities from operating but failed to control increasing costs.
Er, why should anyone be surprised that heavy regulation in order to reduce supply led to increased costs?

April 3, 2007

Whither the European Union?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Today’s Projo editorial on the uncertain future of the European Union isn’t terrible, but its focus on economics obscures the real source of EU weakness that has been painfully demonstrated by the ongoing situation between Great Britain and Iraq.

In case you’ve forgotten (and you probably have, given the EU’s weak reaction), the 15 British sailors being held hostage by the Iranian government are citizens of the EU, as well as being British subjects. In spite of this, the EU has made no serious moves to use its considerable economic muscle in the Middle East to come to the aid of those who are supposedly are its own people.

If the EU doesn't think that its citizens are worth vigorously defending, for how long will those citizens think that the EU is worth vigorously defending?

A Tax Shift is not a Tax Cut

Carroll Andrew Morse

Has Lawrence E. Purtill, president of the National Education Association’s Rhode Island chapter, figured out a magical way to increase government spending without increasing taxes? The text of his letter to the editor in Monday’s Projo certainly implies that he has...

If The Journal wants to take bold action [on improving educaton], it should join with us in changing Rhode Island’s formula for state aid to education in an effort to increase overall aid while lessening the burden on the local property taxpayer.
But if the burden on taxpayers will be lessened, then where will the money for additional state aid be found? Mr. Purtill and his organization could, I suppose, be endorsing huge increases in business taxes to replace and supplement lower property taxes. Or Mr. Purtill could be using sloppy rhetoric, saying that he supports reducing the burden on property taxpayers, when he really means that he supports reducing the property tax burden on property taxpayers -- while jacking up their income tax burden to make up the difference!

By the middle of his letter, however, Mr. Purtill has found his inner fiscal conservative, and criticizes the recently approved Utah statewide voucher plan for increasing state spending on education…

In fact, if the Utah plan were implemented in Rhode Island, education costs would rise, not fall.
So Mr. Purtill is opposed to increases in education spending that give more power to parents but favors higher spending that increase the monies going directly to bureaucracies. How do you read this and not conclude that maintaining strong bureaucratic control of education is a higher priority to Mr. Purtill than increasing resources to education? (It should also be noted here that a Utah-style voucher plan doesn’t necessarily increase education spending, but that a total aid increase was built into the Utah system as part of a political compromise to get it through the state legislature).

Finally, in maybe one hopeful section of his letter, Mr. Purtill says…

Rhode Island’s suburban and rural schools have performed and continue to perform as well as if not better than their peers throughout the Northeast and the country.
Does this mean we can count on Mr. Purtill to oppose any strong regionalization scheme intended to take educational decision making away from communities that have demonstrated the ability to run good school systems and move an increased number of students into systems controlled by dysfunctional urban bureaucracies?

April 2, 2007

"Sonny" Pelosi: Are the Democrats Seeking a "Separate Peace" with Syria?

Mac Owens

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is set to visit Syria for a meeting with a regime that the Bush administration has called a state sponsor of terrorism. Needless to say the White House is not exactly pleased.

The best way to explain the logic of the White House’s displeasure is to recall a scene from The Godfather. The Tattaglia Family, a rival to the family of Don Vito Corleone, has proposed that the Don enter the narcotics business. A meeting is scheduled, attended by the chief spokesman and assassin for the Tattaglias—Virgil “The Turk” Sollozo—and for the Corleones, the Don, his sons Fredo and Sonny, as well as the Don’s lieutenants, Clemenza and Tessio, and the Corleone family lawyer, Tom Hagen.

The Don is an old line Mafioso and rejects the proposal.

"I must say no to you, and I'll give you my reasons. It's true. I have a lot of friends in politics, but they wouldn't be friendly very long if they knew my business was drugs instead of gambling, which they rule that as a - a harmless vice. But drugs is a dirty business...It makes, it doesn't make any difference to me what a man does for a living, understand. But your business, is uh, a little dangerous."

But during the meeting, Sonny reveals his disagreement with his father's decision when he blurts out his enthusiastic support for getting into the drug business.

Clemenza and Tom are dismayed by Sonny's outburts. The Don diplomatically reprimands Sonny in Sollozo’s presence: "I have a sentimental weakness for my children, and I spoil them, as you can see. They talk when they should listen."

After Sollozo has departed, the Don rebukes Sonny. “Whatsa matter with you? I think your brain's goin' soft (from too much sex)...Never tell anybody outside the family what you're thinking again.”

The Don realizes that Sollozo believes that the Corleones would cooperate if Vito were to be eliminated. He is, of course, correct. It is not long before the Don is gunned down by the Tattaglias.

The lesson for us of Pelosi in Syria is not that the United States is a big crime family (although that is certainly an accepted view on the American Left), but that divided counsel may lead an adversary to believe that he can hold out for a more favorable deal. The principle lies at the foundation of the decision by the American Founders to create a unitary executive, capable of energy and dispatch in foreign affairs. The Senate certainly has a role in foreign affairs, but the president has the lead. Pelosi’s attempt to carry out an alternative foreign policy cannot help but undercut the country.

We went through this in he 1980s. I worked for a US Senator when the Democrats were pushing their own foreign policy in opposition to that of President Reagan in Latin America and vis a vis the Soviet Union. I still believe that the Democrats prolonged the Cold War because the Soviets thought they could wait for a better deal from Reagan’s congressional opponents.

As the New York Sun editorialized on April 2,

"Speaker Pelosi's visit to Syria, due to take place today, raises the question of whether the Democrats are prepared to seek a separate peace. When America was serious about war such a trip would have been seen as a scandal. At Casablanca, say, Roosevelt and Churchill decided, as one U.S. government Web site recounts, 'that no peace would be concluded except on the basis of unconditional surrender.' Roosevelt wanted 'to assure the people of all the fighting nations that no separate peace negotiations would be carried on with representatives of Fascism and Nazism and there would be no compromise of the war's idealistic objectives.'"

By the way, Sonny Corleone ended up a casualty of the gang war he helped to precipitate.

Keeping an eye on Common Cause's Recent Causes

Marc Comtois

Many were surprised when Common Cause of Rhode Island flipped on the question of Voter Initiative and became an opponent. That happened under Phillip West, but Common Cause, under new executive director Christine Lopes, still opposes Voter Initiative. In this, they share a position with the state Association of Fire Fighters, the AFL-CIO, National Education Association/Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. Last week, Common Cause also joined the ACLU and came out against Voter ID legislation. Now, I don't want to jump to any conclusions about any perceived patterns I may be detecting. After all, I also remembered this from a Charlie Bakst column a month or so ago:

You might say Christine Lopes, new executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, has come to the right place.

The state’s air is filled with talk of political corruption — convictions, indictments, gossip — and Lopes smiles and says, “I’m sure I’ll have a job for awhile.”

Lopes, 31, grew up in Massachusetts, which also has had its share of scandal. Last week she made her first splash at the State House here, presiding at a news conference/rally of Rhode Islanders for Fair Elections. Common Cause is part of the coalition, which backs a bill to dramatically expand public financing of campaigns....

This daughter of immigrants from Portugal and Cape Verde, she was in the student government of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, including a term as president. She testified and huddled with lawmakers at the State House in Boston on such issues as budget and fees...Her major was the study of the roles of class, race, and gender in political thought. She’s working on a master’s in public administration at Suffolk University....In Massachusetts, she worked as a staffer for Democratic pols, but in Rhode Island she says she’s avoiding partisan ties.

At least officially. Add in the recent high-profile (though probably proper) pillorying of the governor for his re-appointment of Judicial Committee members, and it seems that the Commonality of the Causes are tilting in a certain direction, doesn't it? At least if we are to judge by where the focus seems to be these days.

Unfortunately, the opposition to Voter Id seems to be of a piece of the national organization's stance, at least if we are to judge by the Common Cause blog. Check out this feature on the "Voter Fraud" and the Administration:

The Bush Administration appears to be hoisted on their own petard--yet again. The scandal that's erupted regarding the fired U.S. attorneys winds back in part to the conservatives' partisan attempt to claim that rampant voter fraud has infected our election system, thus warranting measures such as requiring proof of citizenship and photo identification in order to vote.

Someone, somewhere, had the brilliant idea that a good strategy for victory in elections is to limit those who can vote -- to, in effect, choose their own electors. It worked quite well in Florida in 2000 with the purged "felon" rolls. And the goal was not just to limit voters, but to whip up public fears about those who might vote illegally (coming from the group of usual suspects: minority voters, the poor, non-English speakers, undocumented workers) and thereby grease the slides for legislation that would supposedly catch transgressors but also net other "less desirable" voters -- at least less desirable to those trying to manipulate the system.

Sounds pretty non-partisan to me! But besides that, do Republicans (St. Louis! Seattle! Wisconsin!) and Democrats (Florida! Ohio!) really believe that voter fraud is just no big deal? Do Rhode Islanders? Well, according to Common Cause, you're all wrong. Tell me again, whose Common Cause are they fighting for?

Elaborating on MacKay's Immigration History

Marc Comtois

Scott MacKay's immigration piece in the Sunday ProJo was a good piece of historical writing. However, and inevitably, it will be used by some as proof for their arguments in the contemporary illegal immigrant debate. Namely that the U.S. has "historically" allowed all immigrants, whether illegal or not.

My first thought after reading the piece was that, while historically accurate, it doesn't necessarily reflect the situation that confronts us now. To be fair, though, this was only the first in a series (at least according to the ProJo), so I don't want to take MacKay to task when I don't know what else is forthcoming. However, I do suspect that there is an attempt to link the past with the present rather too directly--and some of MacKay's writing has the air of polemic rather than reporting.

Perhaps the issue that stirs the passions the most is that the primary difference between the immigrants of then and now is that the U.S. did not have the current social welfare apparatus in place. As such, the tax dollars of American citizens didn't go to support the immigrants of yesteryear. Instead, the immigrants worked hard for what they got. Were the conditions deplorable? Yes. Did they face racism and xenophobia? Yes. But to conflate then with now is simply not accurate.

MacKay writes about how French-Canadians were resistant to be assimilated into the U.S. culture and society. That is entirely true and I deal extensively with it below. He seems to be emphasizing this for the sake of invoking compassion for today's immigrants--and by doing so he conflates the legal/illegal distinction--but there is another way to look at it. Instead of using it as an excuse for today's immigrants, the difficulties encountered by the French Canadians as they attempted to cling to la survivance can also be used as an object lesson.

I don't think anyone will argue that chances are that the quicker an individual can acclimate to our culture and learn our language, the quicker he can succeed. That does not mean that Americans should denigrate or dismiss the various cultures of the immigrants--and we must keep in mind that there are waves of immigrants, which can obscure any acute progress in cultural education that is being made--but it does mean that we shouldn't let our compassion or forbearance be taken for granted. Today's immigrants should learn the "American way" as soon as possible and be encouraged to do so. That does not mean that they will be or should be somehow forced to forget their own culture.

Another point is that there was no such thing as "illegal immigration" until the U.S. passed laws saying so. MacKay deals with this, and although he certainly ascribes nefarious motives for the passage of the these laws, they were passed in reaction to a specific problem. Americans believed that too many people were coming in, too fast. Regardless of the ofttimes despicable reasoning behind the original passage of these laws, they are still the law and most Americans want to keep it that way.

By limiting immigration, the laws--if properly enforced--would actually reduce the current level of acrimony. They help to throttle back on the "incursion" of "the other" (to use a favorite academic term)--they make the waves smaller--and make it easier for those immigrants who enter the country legally to assimilate into the U.S. If these laws weren't so popular amongst Americans--including legal immigrants--then I don't think that some illegal immigration apologists would so consistently conflate the difference between illegal and legal immigration.

Overall, I find it interesting that much of this recounting of history is deemed pertinent because it apparently supports the argument that goes something like this: we've always had these immigration problems in the U.S. so why is it such a big deal now? What's missing from MacKay's accurate re-telling of history is any sense of learning from the lessons of the past. (Though, as I indicated, perhaps that will be present in the next story). Since when have progressives taken to premising their arguments upon the notion of "that's the way it's always been..." to argue for what it should be now? Usually they take what they know of history and try to identify a better way of dealing with the problems that were encountered. In this case, it seems like they're really just saying that everything is fine, let's move on.

In the extended portion of this post, I've tried to elaborate a bit on some of the unsaid implications in MacKay's piece by calling upon my own research into French-Canadian immigration during the post-Civil War era. To do this, I've excerpted liberally from a 4-part series on the topic that I've posted at Spinning Clio. (For important background--and full sources--see these posts on French-Canadian immigration before the Civil War and French-Canadian involvement in the Civil War, portions of which are included in this post).

Congratulations for braving an especially long post. Let's proceed.

I'll excerpt from MacKay's discussion of post-Civil War French-Canadian immigration and add my own elaborations as I go. Let's start with MacKay:

After the Civil War, Rhode Island’s economy swelled. Immigrants swarmed into the state from around the world. Waiting for them here was the brutal energy of unfettered capitalism: factory jobs producing woolens and cotton, forging metals and machine tools and crafting jewelry.

French-Canadians from Quebec, where the farm-based economy could no longer support the growing population, were recruited to work in textile factories. Mill owners sent recruiters to Quebec, promising a “better life” in the mills of New England. Many settled in Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Warren and West Warwick. No one was much concerned about their citizenship status.

MacKay is right that the French Canadian famers (habitants) in Quebec were suffering and this was because they had a growing population and not enough (poor) land. Even before the Civil War, French-Canadians had been in search of sources of supplementary income and turned to work as farmhands throughout rural northern New England as well as in the lumber camps of Maine or in the Vermont brickworks. The close proximity of northern New England to their homeland enabled them to more easily maintain their family and community ties.

In southern New England, especially Massachusetts, the small factories had begun to evolve into huge enterprises, especially the textile industry. Even before the Civil War, the booming textile economy fattened the wallets of the factory owners, it also did the same for the wallets of the American and Irish factory workers. The modernization of the factory processes also resulted in the creation of repetitive jobs that could be filled by unskilled labor. These jobs were unsatisfying to many American and Irish workers who left the factory floor for supervisory jobs or left the factory altogether.

Immigrants were an attractive source of labor as they were willing to work for less than American workers. Temporary employment in the mills of New England soon became an attractive way to earn supplemental income for the habitants. They went to America, leaving their families behind, and hoped to make enough money to pay off debts and get the farm back home or a new one in the U.S. up and running. The French Canadian habitant usually hoped to one day return to his agrarian way of life. There is an obvious parallel to many of the immigrants (legal and not) that live and work in the U.S. today. To continue with MacKay:

“One of the big misconceptions about immigrants is that they started speaking English the minute they walked off the boat,” says [URI professor and Rhode Island historian Scott] Molloy.

French-Canadians hewed fiercely to their ethnic identity and tried to preserve their language, religion and church schools. The leaders of the Franco-American community fought with Irish bishops and, sometimes, with Protestant political figures.

Usually one or two family members made the journey to New England to work and assess the situation. When they discovered the plethora of job opportunities and the money that could be earned, they summoned the rest of the family to follow. This became known as l’émigration en chaîne, or emigration based on familial or communal connections. One of the results of l’émigration en chaîne was the migration of many people from the same parish or region in Canada to a particular New England town or industrial region. This helped to lessen the emotional and cultural loss associated with immigration. As an example, it was discovered that Woonsocket, Rhode Island was the destination of twenty-one of the fifty-one families that had left St. Prosper parish in Champlain County between 1879 and 1892. In essence, the “petit Canada” in Woonsocket could have just as accurately been called “petit Prosper.”

While this exodus of French Canadian manpower continued to bleed Canada, many in Canada took notice and some began to warn of dire consequences. Included in this was the cultivation of a myth, la vocation de la terr, or the idea that, according to God, Canadians were supposed to be farmers. While many French Canadians heeded these warnings, the migration southward continued, but this ideal was present in the minds of many habitants who abandoned their mill jobs each summer and returned to Canada with the hope reestablishing the profitability of their abandoned farm.

Regardless of the societal pressures, French Canadian immigration to the U.S. increased towards the end of the Civil War. It is a measure of the degree of economic desperation felt at home by the French Canadians that they were willing to jump cultural, social and political hurdles to migrate to a country immersed in the middle of a civil war. Thousands throughout Quebec contracted fievre des Etats-Unis and rushed across the border. By the end of the Civil War, the machinery of the Industrial Revolution, modernized in the 1850’s and made more efficient by the war, was ready to run at full speed. French Canadianswere willing to work and willing to uproot their families for a chance at the seemingly endless opportunities available in America. So when MacKay writes:

Life in the mills wasn’t easy; 12-hours days were the norm, amid the mind-dulling noise of a power loom. Factories were freezing in winter and sweatshops in summer.
Keep in perspective that 12 hour days in a factory in which an entire family could earn cash was nothing compared to relying on poor crop yields from hardscrabble farming. And the point about the entire family is important. According to MacKay
The nasty secret behind Rhode Island’s flourishing textile economy was the state’s shameful record of child labor. Small hands and tiny fingers worked in the mills, creating lives of luxury for factory owners. By the dawn of the 20th century, Rhode Island relied on child labor to a greater degree than any other state in the industrial Northeast.

Mill owners had the General Assembly in thrall and legislators refused to enact laws banning child labor.

Children quit school to work in factories and lost limbs in machinery. It was the price of supporting immigrant families.

This may be hard to believe as we look back from the 21st century, but the French Canadians realized that the jobs they were doing in the textile factories required no real skill and that almost anyone, including children, could find work. Child labor was not taboo in French Canadian society and their Roman Catholic faith encouraged large families. These two facts combined to make factory work extremely attractive as the habitants realized that the more children they had, the more they could earn. Many habitants sent for their entire families with this in mind. While we are more enlightened and protective of children now, the fact is that many immigrants saw nothing wrong with putting their kids to work. It's a little anachronistic to project our own sensibilities--right though they may be--back into 19th century this way.

In 1865, the great French Canadian migration truly began and most French Canadians settled in the “petit Canadas” of New England factory towns. Their willingness to migrate to these “petit Canadas”, despite the filth and poorly kept housing that characterized these neighborhoods, led to a reputation of being an ignorant and unclean people.

Darkness, foul odors, lack of space and air, shabby surroundings, all these were universal characteristics of tenement life, to which the French Canadians had no exclusive claim, but their quarters were repeatedly singled out as among the worst or most ill-kept in New England. {Iris Saunders Podea, “Quebec to ‘Little Canada’: The Coming of the French Canadians to New England in the Nineteenth Century," The New England Quarterly, Vol.23, No.3 (1950)}
The reasons for living in these ghettos were many. Economic factors were the primary reason as it was simply cheaper to pack a family into a small row house, which was often owned by their employer. Settlement in “petit Canadas” allowed them to be close to their work and also allowed them to settle in a neighborhood that closely resembled the parish that they had left. The surroundings may have been alien to them, but the familiar people and sense of community provided a cocoon that insulated them and helped them cope with the monumental differences between American society and that of their heritage.

Protecting their heritage--la survivance--was both a noble ideal and a stumbling block to the full acceptance by Americans of French Canadian immigrants. When the French Canadians arrived in the United States, the prospect of them staying or going back to Canada was often an open question for both themselves and Americans. At first, they didn’t seem inclined to make the U.S. a permanent home. They sought jobs in the U.S. because of poor economic conditions in Canada and hoped to earn a few hundred dollars in the mills and return to their farms to continue to aspire to the ideal of la vocation de la terr. Those who did not return to Canada immediately did send money home, which seemed to indicate the transient nature of their stay in America.

Unlike European immigrants, the French Canadians in New England were geographically close to their homeland and the maintenance of family and communal bonds was facilitated through visits, reading newspapers from Canada and by sending their children to be educated in the land of their heritage. This open, dual loyalty puzzled many Americans, especially when contrasted with the attitudes of the majority of other immigrant groups. To many Americans, the French Canadian people appeared willing to reap the rewards of the economic boom while at the same time unwilling to participate in American society as a whole. This dichotomy led to much resentment, and it was the French Canadian attitude towards religion, education, and language that led to the most suspicion.

The Catholic French Canadians took their faith to Puritanical New England and faced many obstacles as they attempted to practice their religion. It is true that there were already Roman Catholic parishes throughout New England, but most of these had been established by the English speaking Irish who had been established firmly in New England prior to the arrival of the French Canadians. The Irish viewed the French Canadians with jealousy and suspicion, an attitude at least partially developed from the fact that the Irish were overwhelmingly pro-union and had seen French Canadian strike breakers brought in by mill owners time after time.

Misunderstandings between the two groups were exacerbated by the additional problem of the language barrier, which proved especially difficult because Irish priests often led the mixed parishes of Irish and French Canadians and there were internal clashes between the two groups. A natural desire to establish their own, French speaking parishes was eventually realized. Hand in hand with the establishment of the churches was that of the parochial schools, which usually taught in both French and English. This was in contrast to the public schools, which made little or no effort to provide for non-English speaking children. It was primarily for this reason that public schools were rejected by the majority of French Canadians in favor of the parochial schools. Besides serving the spiritual and educational needs of the French Canadian community respectively, the French Roman Catholic Church and parochial school also provided for the maintenance of la survivance.

The French Canadians initially stayed away from politics or involvement in local government. Neither political party had ever catered to them, chiefly due to the language barrier and probably because of some racial or religious prejudice. As a practical matter, many politicians probably did not want to waste their effort attempting to appeal to a group that primarily consisted of transient workers who made no attempt to speak the language or showed any inclination of making America their permanent home.

Eventually, French Canadian leaders came to realize that self-segregation and their apparent unwillingness to becoming participants in American society was detrimental to their reputation. They determined that naturalization of the French Canadian people was the most effective method they could use to gain acceptance. Initial interest in naturalization was less than overwhelming, but leaders held numerous National Conventions of French Canadians in the United States to promote naturalization and these meetings also unified them in their efforts to overcome the stereotypes held by other Americans.

These efforts to more fully integrate the French Canadian people into America were hindered by the increasing influx of French Canadians from Canada. While headway was being made to naturalize those already in the U.S., there was a significant amount of time spent indoctrinating and orienting the successive waves of French Canadians coming across the border. The stream of rural habitants arriving in the United States also reaffirmed a negative stereotype. To the jaundiced eye of many Americans, the French Canadians seemed to repeatedly commit the same infractions against accepted American social practices. No discrimination between the recent French Canadian immigrants and those of the second or third generation was made.

The post-War increase in the number of rural French Canadian immigrants in the United States did not go unnoticed. Many American newspapers reported complaints concerning the influx and these complaints were supplemented by exaggerated estimates of the number of French Canadians that had arrived in America. In April of 1870, the New York Times reported that there were estimated to be 500,000 French Canadians in the United States. Recent scholarship puts the actual figure at closer to 100,000 in all of New England, which had the largest concentration of French Canadians in the United States. Given this last, it is scarcely believable that an additional 400,000 French Canadians lived in the Midwest or West.

The initial trickle of French Canadians who had endured discrimination, bigotry and mistrust in America showed their friends, families and communities that the rewards of working in America were well worth the trouble. Immediately after the Civil War, the trickle became a stream and by 1870 the stream became a river. The push of economic uncertainty north of the border combined with the pull of ever-growing thirst for manpower by the factories and mills south of the border proved irresistible.

For the next thirty years the immigration of French Canadians to the U.S. reached new levels. Included in this wave were a great many of the intellectual and professional classes who contributed greatly to the social and cultural welfare of the French Canadians in New England. By the second or third generation, the Franco-Americans who were the progeny of the original, unskilled habitants were being brought up bilingual and better able to participate in American society. Undoubtedly, the constant pressure from other Americans to conform to the generally accepted precepts of American life also influenced the behavior of the Franco-Americans. In the end, their willingness to accept American society as their own led to the full integration of the French Canadian people into America, though many would regret that la survivance had been sacrificed in the process.

Secularists Versus Faith-Based Homeless Shelters

Carroll Andrew Morse

Am I alone in finding the attitude expressed towards the Providence Rescue Mission expressed by "some members of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless" in Linda Borg's Saturday Projo article to be outrageous...

Last night, Sean Carew greeted his guests the way he always does, with a firm handshake and a warm smile.

Carew is the executive director of the Providence Rescue Mission, which expanded its Cranston Street shelter and opened its doors to 40 more men yesterday. Although twice as many visitors were expected, only 15 men took advantage of the new wing for men. Perhaps, Carew says, the spring weather persuaded some to sleep outside, but he wonders if others were put off by the mission’s Christian affiliation. The non-denominational mission is supported by a network of area churches….

Some members of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless are concerned that a faith-based mission will foist its religious views on people who have nowhere else to go, but Carew said the shelter does not push religion on anyone, although it does ask its guests to attend a short daily chapel service.

A corresponding report from WJAR-TV (NBC 10) suggests that it is not just the “foisting of religious views” that is of concern to the Coalition, but the fact that charities that provide relief to the homeless within a religious context exist at all…
[Homeless advocates] question whether a faith-based shelter is the best place for homeless people who might come from diverse religious backgrounds.

"It's easy for us to assume that they will be grateful," said Jim Ryczek, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. "But homeless people have so many options taken away from them. Any choice that they can make that is solely their own is meaningful."

Sean Carew, the executive director of the Providence Rescue Mission, said all visitors will be treated well regardless of religious affiliation.

"We treat people like they are a guest," he said. "We have chapel at 5 p.m. and we ask that you attend. It's all about dignity. We don't ask what people believe in. We never ask if they are Christian. These folks have had a tough day. They need someone to give them a little affection, a handshake, a welcome. Most folks we work with are glad to go to chapel. They're glad to have someone to listen to them."

The shelter is a non-denominational Christian mission supported by 30 local churches.

Faith based charities need to be homogenized, so that the homeless can feel like they have more choices? That doesn't make sense. Different options have to exist in order for a choice to be possible. I don't think that Mr. Ryczek is doing a very good job of expressing what it is that bothers him about faith-based homeless shelters.

For the sake of truth in advertising, the Coalition for the Homeless should consider changing its name to the Coalition for Imposing a Particular View of the Role of Religion in Society and Dictating to Faith-Based Charities How They Should Be Allowed to Carry Out Their Mission and Once Done With That, Getting Around to Helping the Homeless.

Baseball and Blogging, and Trust the Locals on This One

Carroll Andrew Morse

With all due respect to Andrew Sullivan, Dan Shaughnessy's cranky Boston Globe column about Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s blogging indicates nothing beyond what New Englanders have known for years -- that Shaughnessy writes cranky columns using whatever material he can find.

With Red Sox season starting today, he'll at least be able to turn his crankishness to events on the field.