August 31, 2012

Mitt Romney's Five Policy Goals

Carroll Andrew Morse

During his acceptance speech at last night's Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney presented five policy goals that would be his focus, if elected President...

Paul Ryan and I have five steps.

First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, and renewables.

Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.

Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements, and when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.

Fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish, as have those in Greece. We will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.

And fifth, we will champion small businesses, America's engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small businesses the most, and it means we must rein in skyrocketing cost of health care by repealing and replacing Obamacare

There are a few different ways to phrase this, but to honestly evaluate the high-level description of the goals offered by someone seeking the highest office in the land, the basic questions to ask are: are these things that government should be doing, are these things that government can be reasonably expected to do, and are they different from what government is doing now?

The Brilliance of Clint's Empty Chair

Justin Katz

Politicos and policy wonks have been parsing every major speech offered at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, each with his or her own lens.  (The exception is MSNBC, which apparently declined to parse several speeches by ethnic minorities.)  Some have commented on the gender-war content of Ann Romney's statements; some have focused on the deep policy focus of Vice-Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan.

But the most transformative moment — in its way, the most redolent of the Tea Party revolution — was Clint Eastwood's conversation with an empty chair in which President Obama was not sitting.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Democrat Independent Lincoln Chafee Speaking At DNC

Patrick Laverty

Ted Nesi reported that Governor Lincoln Chafee will get a prime time speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention next week. I think that's great that Rhode Island democrats will finally get some recognition and our governor is being honored in such a way. Wait, what? Chafee's not a Democrat? Then why is he speaking that the Democratic National Convention? Does he want to be a Democrat? In my opinion, he should become one, and that's not just snark, I have an actual reason behind it. I'll get to that part later.

But back to Nesi's story.

Chafee at one point is quoted as to say:

"President Obama has been a friend to Rhode Island..."
Really? What do the people of Cranston think about this "friend" who was in the area at the time of the Cranston floods, when people were losing their homes to the rising waters and our "friend" didn't even have time to come to the state? It's not like he had to go out of his way. He was already in southeastern Massachusetts that day.

"I think he'll talk about the importance of collaboration and working across party lines to govern effectively,"
Which party lines? Shouldn't you have to be a member of a party to work across party lines? And how exactly has he worked across the Republican party lines? If he's going to tout how he's been such an effective governor, I guess I can see why it might only be a seven minute speech. Hopefully there isn't too much dead air time.

But anyway, back to the Chafee as a Democrat thing. Just this morning, Andrew Gobeil from WPRO tweeted:

Gov Chafee with us this morning. Are you going to join the Democratic Party? "Not at this point."
Ok, fair enough, not yet, but maybe eventually. Here's a rational reason why I think he should and will join.

To play defense.

Look at it this way, the Democrats have their "rising stars" and there's much talk about who will be the Democratic nominee for Governor in two years. One, Ernie Almonte has already thrown his hat in the ring and we hear of Angel Taveras and Gina Raimondo possibly also running for the seat. Any one of those people could possibly get the nomination and take out the party-less Chafee.

But what if Chafee does switch up his affiliation and declares himself a proud Democrat? Would the state Democratic party then actually turn their back on an incumbent Governor from their own party? Has that ever happened before? If a member of your party currently holds a seat and wants to keep it, will you actually say "No, this other person is better" and nominate someone else? That really runs the risk of losing the seat to a non-Democrat.

Of course all those people would still be able to run against Chafee in a primary, but would they? My thought is they would not and they'd concede the office to Chafee. This is why in my opinion, the smartest move politically going forward is for Linc Chafee to just complete the transformation and become a full-fledged Democrat.

All of Us Are the Job Generators

Justin Katz

Although with regret, I have to opine that former East Providence city councilman Robert Cusack misses the target in his op-ed, yesterday, suggesting a way for Rhode Island to rejuvenate its sputtering economy:

We need to identify a job generator, make the changes needed to attract those jobs and then promote Rhode Island to execute the strategy. Which job generator? The initiative that brought Fidelity to the state has worked. Financial services remains a good candidate. Now we hear of bio-science in a new “Knowledge District.” Other ideas have been put forward that capitalize on our strengths. Whichever one or two job generators we target, that decision for once should be data-driven and fully vetted, and not a hipshot. Our future as a state is at stake.

The frame of mind that presents a policy prescription of what "we" (ultimately having to mean the government) need to do is fundamentally built around a trap in logic.  Government officials — elected, appointed, or bureaucratic — have no competence in predicting the future bends of the marketplace.  Just as the stock market is ultimately a gamble, wagering the state's economic well-being on the probability that the companies that happen to be in Rhode Island will happen to compete well in an industry that happens to take off is a high-stakes bet at best.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

August 30, 2012

Fact-Checkers 4 Sale

Marc Comtois

Isn't it amazing that various, different "fact check" outfits all seemed to focus on virtually the same items from GOP VP Candidate Paul Ryan's speech last night?

"The Five Biggest Lies of Paul Ryan's Convention Speech" ~ New Republic
"Top 5 Fibs In Paul Ryan’s Convention Speech" ~ Talking Points Memo
"Ryan Takes Factual Shortcuts in Speech" ~ ABC News
"Paul Ryan Has Some Fibs He Just Isn’t Willing To Give Up" ~ Slate

That one of the above is called "Talking Points Memo" pretty much explains it all. They all focused on the same (usually 5) items. It's almost as if they all got the same fax or something. Not to be outdone, the Washington Post is actually fact-checking GOP Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney's speech--"the details...are not known"--before it happens!

Here are just a couple of the numerous counter-"fact"uals to the quickly-failing narrative shaping that was attempted in the wake of the widely-viewed-as-successful Paul Ryan speech: "Fact-checking the factcheckers on Ryan’s speech" & "Media ‘Fact Checkers’ Lie About Ryan Speech".

August 29, 2012

The Risk of Investment Promises May Be Unhedgeable

Justin Katz

Early in the summer, Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo announced that the state had invested $900 million of its pension assets in hedge funds.  The decision was actually made in the middle of last year, in response to an asset liability study, treasury spokeswoman Joy Fox tells the Current.  At that point, the treasurer began accumulating resources in cash to transition it into the new strategy.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

August 28, 2012

Liveblogging/Livetweeting the Cicilline/Gemma Debate

Carroll Andrew Morse

Below is the livetweet coverage from Anchor Rising's contributors of WPRI-TV's (CBS 12) televised debate between First District Congressman David Cicilline and primary challenger Anthony Gemma (Nancy Krause's write-up here, panelist Ted Nesi's analysis here).

[3h Patrick Laverty] >> And today, @MattAllenShow announced Gemma vs. Cicilline Part 2 will be Tuesday, 6 pm on WPRO. Can't wait to see what each do differently.

[3h Justin Katz] >> "Only Vertigoed Are Hopeful" RT @eniedowski: It's OVAH. #WPRIdebate

[3h Patrick Laverty] >> Will someone ask Gemma if he has proof of cash payments to Cicilline staffers? #wpridebate

[3h Patrick Laverty] >> It seems possible that Gemma was referring to Rep. John Carter of Texas who has sponsored bills to fund cancer research. #wpridebate

[4h Patrick Laverty] >> Catcalls from audience sure don't help your candidate. #wpridebate

[4h Justin Katz] >> Compare w/Cicilline, who bragged about condition of Prov. MT @jim_baron: Bragging about "anonymous" donations and naming them? C'mon Gemma

[4h Patrick Laverty] >> Term limits, 12 years each. #wpridebate

[4h Justin Katz] >> I hate to say it, but I think these debates are actually detrimental to informed voting. How could non-wonks see through the BS? #WPRIdebate

[4h Patrick Laverty] >> If I could rent my home, why wouldn't I just pay the mortgage? #wpridebate

[4h Patrick Laverty] >> Wow, Chris Young looks sane next to these two. MT @mattallenshow: What's the casual voter thinking watching this? #WPRIdebate

[4h Patrick Laverty] >> the B-level candidate for Governor

[4h Justin Katz] >>Earlier, Cicilline while not assigning blame for Solyandra: "Of course, people should be held accountable."

[4h Justin Katz] >>After an hour of trying to turn debate to bashing GOP, Cicilline talks about solving partisanship by getting to know colleagues.

[4h Justin Katz] >>Note to anybody who like to save money on everyday products: Cicilline & Gemma want to drive those prices up with import taxes.

[4h Justin Katz] >> QED why RI is in such horrible shape. RT @danmcgowan: Gemma and Cic actually aren't all that different on the issues...

[4h Justin Katz] >>"They took off my show for this?" MT @mattallenshow: What's the casual voter thinking watching this? #WPRIdebate

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline's closing "I'm [in Washington] every day to fight for the middle class of our country".

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma's closing "We must restore integrity to Rhode Island's 1st congressional district".

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma does not support fracking, or speculation in energy markets.

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline tries to take both sides of fracking issue. Tim White says answer sounds like code for more regulation.

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma: I am not for vouchers. Attacks Providence school performance under Cicilline.

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline: We need to spend more $$$, expand programs, but no "private scholarships to private schools".

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Achorn asks why Cicilline voted against DC opportunity scholarships.

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline: He supports a balanced budget amendment, and wants to accelerate troop withdrawl from Afg.

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Nesi asks Cicilline where he disagrees with House D leadership.

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Nesi asks on which of Cicilline's 1,900+ (Backfill: It's actually 1,600+ votes. Ted Nesi has the right number, I put down the wrong one during the liveblog) votes Gemma would have voted differently.

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline: I've seen how bad Rs in Washington are, so I'll vote for every D on the ticket.

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Responding to an Achorn Q: He will support the other Ds on the Fed ballot, but not Cicilline.

[4h Monique C] >> Gemma: Cicilline "not fit to serve in Congress".

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline cites his bona fides on abortion, and how extreme the Republicans are.

[4h Andrew Morse] >> Nesi to Cicilline: Should you congratulate Gemma on his new position.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Nesi: Since just this April? Gemma: Yes.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma: Republicans have become very extreme on the issue.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Nesi to Gemma: Why did you flip-flop on abortion?

(Backfill: In my original liveblog, I missed a good exchange on the Federal Budget here, specifically Tim White pressing both candidates on 2 specific programs they would cut. Cicilline started out with a vague answer and started talking about "grand bargains". Tim White pointed out to Cicilline that he was talking about raising revenue in response to a question about program cuts. Cicilline said that some forms of raised revenue are "tax expenditure" cuts. Gemma named defense as part of what could be cut, and Cicilline chimed in to agree.)

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma: Supports aggressive sanctions, and would support his commander-in-chief.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma: Iran should not have a nuke. Sovereignty of every nation must be respected.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Achorn repeats Q about military action. Cicilline says we'd support Israel, if they took military action.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Sanctions first. Israel is an ally who shares our values.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Achorn asks about Iran. Cicilline: Iran cannot be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma pointedly asks if Cicilline is paying anyone cash right now. He's planning to go somewhere with that.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline: I won my elections with an overwhelming number of voted.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline: There are Republicans having a Presidential convention tonight(?)

[5h Monique C] >> Cicilline: "Not one shred of evidence" - still no denial.

[5h Monique C] >> Re voter fraud, Cicilline: This is "absolutely absurd". But he doesn't deny it!

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma says Cicilline asked someone to delete "the NC list" from her computer.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Loud jeers from the crowd.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma: Voter fraud. Cites the accusations made in the affidavits.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Tim White: What's the specific accusation against David Cicilline?

[5h Andrew Morse] >> On to voter fraud...

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Gemma responding to a Ted Nesi Q: He wouldn't change Social Security or Medicare at all.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Ed Achorn to Gemma what would you have done? Gemma: Not lied, then discusses how he managed his business

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Tim White asks for "good, fair, poor?". Cicilline doesn't answer, talks about all of the problems he inherited

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline says he was "overly optimistic".

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Ed Achorn asks about Cicilline's apology for saying Providence was in "excellent financial condition".

(Backfill: 1st question was on each candidate's jobs program. IMO, neither defended their ideas convincingly)

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Cicilline's opening statement is much more conventional. He'll fight Republicans on the usual Dem fronts.

[5h Andrew Morse] >> Anthony Gemma goes after Cicilline in his opening statement: Says Cicilline lied and will lie again tonight.

Re: Patrick Lynch on Voter Fraud: Not To Worry, Statute of Limitations Is Only a Year

Carroll Andrew Morse

Monique mentioned earlier today that former Rhode Island General Patrick Lynch had tweeted that...

Rhode Island legal trivia: There is a one year Statute of Limitation for most voter fraud and election offenses.
Technically, his statement is correct. However, a chapter of the law (ch. 17-20) separate from the one that former AG Lynch referred to (ch. 17-23) contains its own definitions and penalties for crimes related to mail-in ballots...
17-20-30 Penalty for violations -- (a) Any person who knowingly makes or causes to be made any material false statement in connection with his or her application to vote as a mail voter, or who votes or attempts to vote under the provisions of this chapter, by fraudulently signing the name of another upon any envelope provided for in this chapter, or who, not being a qualified voter and having knowledge or being chargeable with knowledge of the fact, attempts to vote under this chapter, or who votes the ballot of another voter, or who deliberately prevents or causes to prevent the mail ballot to be received by the voter or to be returned to the board of elections, or who falsely notarizes or witnesses the voter signature on the ballot application or mail ballot, or who deceives, coerces, or interferes with the voter casting his or her ballot, and any person who does or attempts to do, or aid in doing or attempting to do, a fraudulent act in connection with any vote cast or to be cast under the provisions of this chapter, shall be guilty of a felony.
...and there doesn't appear to be a chapter-specific statute of limitations in chapter 17-20.

What may be of more immediate interest, however, is section 27 of chapter 17-20, where what is supposed to happen to ballots, requests for ballots, and envelopes containing notarization and witness affirmations of ballots, after an election, is defined...

17-20-27 Sealing of ballots and voting list – The state board shall, at the completion of the count of all votes cast at any election, securely store all ballots cast in the election, and after the certification of the results of the elections, the state board shall place all ballots received from mail voters together with the certified envelopes containing the ballots in a steel box or package...and thereafter no steel box or package shall upon any pretense be reopened by any person, except upon order of the general assembly or a court of competent jurisdiction, but shall be held by the board until the first day of September in the second (2nd) year after the ballots were cast, when they may then be destroyed...
In case you don't have a calendar handy, this says that materials from the 2010 election can legally be destroyed, beginning this Saturday (i.e, "the first day of September in the second (2nd) year after the ballots were cast").

I'm not sure how quickly the Rhode Island Board of Elections normally disposes of materials from a previous election cycle, but given the questions about mail-in ballots that have been raised by the Erasmo Ramirez video, shouldn't the RI BoE, whether on its own or at the request of an investigating authority, take definitive steps to preserve potential evidence which under the law should still exist and that might help build a case against perpetrators of voter fraud, suppression, and/or intimidation?

North Kingstown Employees Strike to Maintain Public-Sector Premium

Justin Katz

One question lost in the heat of this school year's example of the annual opening-day labor dispute is: Why should school children pay more for janitorial services than anybody else would?  The practical answer is that parents are very sensitive to the treatment of their children, and that's just one of the points of leverage that public-sector unions have.

According to the North East Independent, writing in July, janitors in North Kingstown used to make $19.47 per hour. Since the school committee voted to switch from the in-house union to the private GCA Services Group, while keeping the same workers, that hourly rate has fallen to $15.17. That's a substantial drop of 22%, and it comes with greatly inferior benefits.  But in Rhode Island's continuing jobs recession and apparent economic decline,  it isn't clear that public-sector jobs, especially in schools, ought to be notably inviolable.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

"Education Support Professionals" Block School Opening In North Kingstown

Marc Comtois

In June, the North Kingstown School Committee voted to privatize the union jobs of 26 custodians. Twenty of the twenty-six were re-hired by the private company--GCA--that was brought in to take over.

The committee voted to award a bid to GCA to privatize the district’s custodial department and will plan to award the contract at its meeting Tuesday night. Though the staff got the axe, GCA has made a verbal agreement to hire all of North Kingstown’s current custodians as long as they pass a BCI check. The custodians will be rehired at the company’s “enhanced wage.”

The committee also moved to reject the ESP (Education Support Professionals) contract and made substantial changes to its support staffing. Though the committee agreed 4-2 (Benson and Dick Welch opposing) to grant the paraprofessionals a one-percent pay increase (up from the superintendent’s recommendation to freeze salaries), it also eliminated life insurance for ESP, cut three sick days and one personal day and established new buyback rates for employees who opted out of health care. (Those new rates are now $2,500 for family and $1,200 for individuals.)

Employees who work fewer than 30 hours per work will no longer be eligible to receive health care through the school department. (Formerly, the cutoff was 20 hours.) The committee also authorized the hiring of 12 part-time employees to replace six full-time positions – a move that will save the district approximately $198,000.

NK School Committe Chair Kimberly Page explained it wasn't an easy decision to privatize. Now, via Bob Plain, we learn that the NK School Committee is--according to the NK school unions--engaging in "economic violence" (gotta love the hyperbole), which is why the NK school unions united in solidarity to close the schools for the sake of, er, 6 jobs. Or maybe there's more to it than that.
Education special interest groups, such as the teachers unions, are experiencing a decline in membership. As Stephen Sawchuck reports in Education Week, “by the end of its 2013–14 budget, NEA [the National Education Association] expects it will have lost 308,000 members and experienced a decline in revenue projected at some $65 million in all since 2010. (The figures are expressed in full-time equivalents, which means that the actual number of people affected is probably higher.)”
Look, it's pretty simple. This is only a little about jobs and mostly about power for unions. They certainly didn't shut down school for "the children." Or is shutting down a school district what we're call "education support" now? (Wait, don't answer that!).

For those who think handing these support services over to contractors will result in diminished quality, well, guess what? If the people of North Kingstown aren't happy with the janitorial services, they can go to School Committee meetings and complain. That's one benefit of hiring a private company to do these services: if NK taxpayers demand better results and they don't happen, they can fire GCS and find someone new. I know, it's amazing but true. It happens all the time in the private sector. Really.

Patrick Lynch on Voter Fraud: Not To Worry, Statute of Limitations Is Only a Year

Monique Chartier

Extending, even out of office, his repugnant legacy of coming to the aid of Rhode Island's political bad guys, no matter the crime or infraction, former RI Attorney General Patrick Lynch helpfully tweeted the following this morning at 7:22 am (re-tweeted by the spokesperson of the current Attorney General).

Rhode Island legal trivia: There is a one year Statute of Limitation for most voter fraud and election offenses. …

August 27, 2012

The PEDP, GLP, DC and Erasmo

Patrick Laverty

Has anyone else been paying attention to the job that Dan McGowan has been doing with his coverage on the Providence Economic Development Partnership (PEDP) for GoLocalProv? It seems just about every other day, he has some other important piece to the whole puzzle and further explaining the fund and how it has been used through the last ten years or so.

He's been chronicling the program and how the money has been used. Quick primer, think EDC. For the success rate, again, think EDC. It seems that loans given out by the PEDP have a failure rate of around 60%. Dan has shown how many of these loans go unpaid for years at a time, how the PEDP used taxpayer money for lunch, and simply written off a couple million dollars in default loans. Maybe Providence is so flush with cash, they can afford to just give away a couple million?

Then today, McGowan wrote about another little nugget that he dug up. He was able to find out about Erasmo Ramirez, the same one in the video that the Providence Journal displayed on Saturday. The same one that was seen offering to sell primary ballots to an undercover investigator. The same one that was previously a volunteer for David Cicilline's campaign, was also someone who received PEDP money, while Cicilline was in office.

But less than 20 months after Cicilline took office, El Portal Family Restaurant, which listed Ramirez as its president in its corporate filing, received a $103,000 loan from the Providence Economic Development Partnership (PEDP), the controversial city loan fund which critics have called a “slush fund” for Cicilline.
Whether it is or it isn't, this sort of thing just looks a whole lot like politicians doing favors for friends. The bright side of this one is the loan was actually paid off.

Poor finances, angry firemen and police and a very poorly managed loan program. (Well, wait. Can it be called a loan program when the majority of the money never comes back?)

The hits just keeps on coming. And yet, people still believe that Cicilline deserves his promotion to Congress. Wow.

Cicilline Moves Up On Gemma

Patrick Laverty

In the first release of the WPRI primary poll results, David Cicilline has opened a wider gap on Anthony Gemma. Where Cicilline previously let by just four points, he's now up by twelve. It's also interesting to see that Chris Young garnered 4% of the preferences.

Before you go shaking your head and wondering why Cicilline is actually able to increase his lead in spite of the recent voter fraud allegations by Gemma, this poll was conducted last Sunday through Wednesday (August 15-18). Gemma made his "next Wednesday" announcement on August 19.

What that means is one part, the voters' recognition of Anthony Gemma is likely to be much higher now than during the poll. In this poll, 47.7% of those surveyed gave a "don't know" about Gemma's favorability.

As for Cicilline's own favorability, 52.3% find Cicilline to be either fair or poor while only (or maybe "a whopping"!) 40.4% feel Cicilline is either excellent or good. Hey, another way for Gemma to spin this is only 17.5% gave him a fair or poor rating.

Some interesting questions remain for the 11 pm news. Whether those polled would back Doherty if each were to win the primary, and who the Democrats feel will win the seat in November.

Cicilline Helped Weaken Providence Police Department

Patrick Laverty

At least that's what today's article is conveying.

How can this be? He's been out of the Mayor's Office for two years now! This must be Taveras's fault! Patrick, you're just piling on and making this stuff up! See for yourself:

The police union blames the situation on former police Chief Dean Esserman and former Mayor David Cicilline. “Cicilline and Esserman bankrupted the city Police Department,” said union President Taft Manzotti. “I think the current administration has had to do as much as they can with as little as that was left them.”
So it isn't me saying it, it's the Providence Police Union President.

Are you feeling nice and safe, Providence residents? With a statistic like this?

More than double the murders: In 2012, there have been more than double the murders there were by late August 2011: 13 compared with 5, a jump of 160 percent—and that’s not counting last weekend’s fatal shooting.
And then, just about on cue with this story, comes a rough night over on Broad Street with the Puerto Rican festival where bottles and rocks were thrown at police officers, and a woman was shot and in critical condition. According to one report:
Around 10:15 tonight Providence police responded to the CVS located at Broad and Sumter Streets for multiple reports of shots fired. A female victim was located suffering from a gunshot wound to the back. She was transported to Rhode Island hospital in serious condition. No suspect description has been given at this time. The area is heavily concentrated with police, mounted units included. Reports from scanner traffic indicate that bottles were being thrown at those officers. Meanwhile a few blocks away on Harriet Street, a vehicle was found shot up.
Just add this to that Cicilline resume of all the "good" he's done for the city of Providence. He didn't intend to mislead anyone on the state of the city's finances, the firefighters' union wasn't thrilled with him when he said he'd settle their contract in his first year and didn't get it done until almost eight years later and here we see the police union saying he screwed up their ranks.

Anything else?

The Environment for RI's Health Benefit Exchange & Medicaid Expansion

Justin Katz

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has been collecting reasons not to pursue a "dependency portal" unified infrastructure, marketing all government services through the health benefits exchange currently in the design phase.  But there are plenty of reasons to resist the exchange and the related expansion of Medicaid eligibility without regard to the cutting edge of the entitlement state.

Both the exchange — which will subsidize health insurance for families up to 400% of the poverty level (around $90,000 for a family of four) — and the Medicaid expansion are anticipated to greatly increase access to health insurance and use of medical services.  Indeed, that's the point.  The problem is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA; "ObamaCare") itself does nothing to expand the supply of doctors, and Rhode Island, specifically, has taken no steps to make up for the shortcoming.

In other words, beyond the direct costs to Rhode Islanders, through state government revenue, will be a cost in the health of the local health care market. The state already suffers from high costs and burdensome state mandates.  That's why some charts and graphics by Avik Roy layer in a disconcerting additional consideration.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Note To GoLocalProv: RI "Rich Pay Less In Income Tax" = Third Highest Income Tax Rate In Country

Monique Chartier

GoLocalProv's Dan Lawlor has a column today in which he attempts to causatively link Rhode Island's top income tax rate to our unemployment rate.

In 1997, during a boom economy in RI- remember the Renaissance? - the top income earners had a 27.5% income tax rate. Our jobless rate was 5.3%.

Ah, but then, in 2010, according to Dan, we hit the skids, both in unemployment and top tax rate-wise.

In 2010, the General Assembly and Governor Carcieri reduced the top income tax rate from 9.9% to 5.99%. The state's sales tax remained at 7%. Our unemployment rate was 11.6%.

Uh huh. Two years later?

Top income earners now pay 5.99% in income taxes. Our jobless rate is 10.8%.

And the conclusion (according to Dan)?

Our tax policy has basically been that the rich pay less in income tax, and we all pay more in property and sales tax.

We could at this point ask if perhaps ALL of Rhode Island's taxes aren't too high and if this situation isn't most likely a direct result of too much spending on the state and local level. But we'll stick to what Dan wrote, only, if it's okay with Dan, we're going to overlay some context, a.k.a., facts.

By the way, H/T RIGOP StrikeForce Co-Chair Mike Napolitano for highlighting this column. About the 27.5% income tax rate of the 1990's, Mike points out in comments under Dan's column that Rhode Island's income tax was calculated quite differently than it is today.

In fact, that rate was not based on the taxpayer’s income but on the taxpayer’s entire federal income tax liability. In other words if a taxpayer paid $100 in federal income tax they in turn paid $27.50 to the state of Rhode Island. The rate was piggybacked on to the federal rate and not on their wages.

So comparing 1997's 27.5% income tax rate to today's 5.99% rate is not valid at all because the former was a piggy back rate. (Imagine a state income tax that was 27.5% of your income. By the second year of such a rate, Rhode Island literally would no longer exist as a state.)

Now, with regard to Rhode Island's current top income tax rate of 5.99%, let's mosey on over to the Tax Foundation and click on the Rhode Island page.

Rhode Island's personal income tax system consists of three brackets and a top rate of 5.99%, kicking in at an income level of $129,900. Rhode Island's income tax system closely adheres to the federal income tax code. Among states levying personal income taxes, Rhode Island's top rate of 5.99% is the 3rd highest nationally.

Follow up question for Dan. Under his theory, how much higher would we have to make Rhode Island's top income tax for unemployment to start going back down? Obviously, it would have to go from number three nationally to number one. But by how much would we have to overshoot the current highest rate to get back to a decent unemployment rate?

Off topic ADDENDUM: To prove that I am not merely out to pick on GoLocalProv with this post, permit me to direct you to their very good story today about the star of that video released Saturday by the ProJo.

The man seen in an undercover video telling a campaign staffer for Congressional candidate Anthony Gemma that he could deliver mail ballot votes in exchange for $500 per week received a $103,000 taxpayer-funded loan for a restaurant from the city of Providence in 2004, GoLocalProv has learned.

Remember that Mr. Ramirez allegedly secured mail ballots for the David Cicilline campaign in a prior election. Now, who was mayor of Providence in 2004 when Mr. Ramirez' business secured this loan and who might have been feeling grateful for Mr. Ramirez' assistance to his campaign? Gosh, I'm trying to think ...

Dept. of Education Commends Privilege

Justin Katz

Defending the No Child Left Behind Act, on the Hoover Institution's online Uncommon Knowledge show with Peter Robinson, President George W. Bush argued that parents need to be able to see measurements of their school districts' achievements in order to hold them accountable. The point is well taken, but there are reasons conservatives at the time were suspicious of the enthusiastic support of the late "liberal lion," Senator Ted Kennedy (D, MA).

Even apart from the urge to teach to the test, measurements run the risk of being obscured in order to argue for increased funding.  If a school does poorly, administrators and union organizers blame the lack of resources (and the local population); if a school does well, the same people declare success and argue for rewards.

The latter was recently the case in Tiverton (where, full disclosure, I'm running for school committee).  Justifying a three-year contract extension that included various forms of raises, despite the uncertain economy and annual budget fights, Superintendent William Rearick picked from among the RI Department of Education's (RIDE's) school report card results for evidence that the town's schools are "top performers."

Of particular note is the ranking of one elementary school, Fort Barton, at the very crest of RIDE's list, among the 17 "commended" elementary schools. Tiverton has two other schools for children of the same age group, one of which, Pocasset, landed at the next level, "leading," and the other of which, Walter Ranger, was graded "typical." Familiarity with some of the demographic differences across this economically diverse town led me to wonder how the scores are calculated.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

You Make the Call: Voter Fraud, Voter Suppression, or Voter Intimidation

Carroll Andrew Morse

The video obtained by the Projo of Erasmo Ramirez offering to sell mail-in ballots filled out for Anthony Gemma may not be direct evidence of voter fraud, given what voter fraud is commonly understood to mean.

Consider the following: On the surveillance video, Robert Cappuccilli (the potential vote buyer) reads names and addresses off of sealed envelopes purportedly containing completed mail-in ballots. It is possible that each ballot provided by Ramirez was honestly filled out by a legal voter, who took it to Erasmo Ramirez to be notarized (Ramirez makes a point to tell Cappuccilli that he is a notary) and that after notarizing a ballot, Ramirez offered to drop it into the mail as a convenience to the voter, but in reality added it to his collection of votes-for-sale instead.

In this case, there would be no "voter fraud" as the term is usually defined, i.e. someone ineligible to vote casting a vote, or someone attempting to vote multiple times in the same election. But Ramirez would be engaging in voter suppression, if he didn't turn in all of the ballots that he harvested.

There is another violation of the law seemingly evident on the video. Ramirez claims to know how all of the ballots in his possession are marked, even though they are sealed inside of their envelopes. Assuming that he's not outright lying to Cappuccilli (not a 100% safe assumption), this is unlikely unless Rhode Island election law has been systematically and repeatedly broken...

17-20-23(d) -- Voters receiving a mail ballot pursuant to subdivisions 17-20-2(1), (2), and (4) shall mark the ballot in the presence of two (2) witnesses or some officer authorized by the law of the place where marked to administer oaths. Voters receiving a mail ballot pursuant to subdivision 17-20-2(3) do not need to have their ballot witnessed or notarized. Except as otherwise provided for by this chapter, the voter shall not allow the official or witnesses to see how he or she marks the ballot and the official or witnesses shall hold no communication with the voter, nor the voter with the official or witnesses, as to how the voter is to vote. Thereafter, the voter shall enclose and seal the ballot in the envelope provided for it. The voter shall then execute before the official or witnesses the certification on the envelope. The voter shall then enclose and seal the certified envelope with the ballot in the envelope addressed to the state board and cause the envelope to be delivered to the state board on or before election day.
That's the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is potentially more troubling -- for some reason, hundreds of people involved enough in the political process to request mail-in ballots have decided that they cannot fill out their ballots, until they are directly under the watchful eye of Erasmo Ramirez (or one of his associates). How did a message of don't fill out your ballot until Ramirez can see you get out to hundreds, maybe over 1,000 voters, in the absence of intentional misinformation as a best case scenario and intimidation as the worst?

Finally, one more way in which Ramirez may have broken the law is suggested at the end of W. Zachary Malinowski's article which accompanied the video: straightforward voter fraud, if all of these names and addresses on the ballots don't belong to people eligible to vote.

If Robert Cappuccilli actually purchased ballots, then state authorities should have plenty of names to follow up on (including the names and addresses read on the videotape) to determine what scheme Erasmo Ramirez used; voter fraud, voter suppression and/or voter intimidation, to obtain the mail-in ballots he was carrying in his car. And as news of this story spreads, the BoE should be prepared to be contacted by anyone who honestly filled out a ballot and was betrayed by Ramirez. The BoE should inform the public of how many people that is.

August 26, 2012

The Gemma Press Conf About Voter Fraud: Questions that Doubters Must Answer

Monique Chartier

Yes, it's true, it appears that Anthony Gemma missed his intended target at his press conference on Wednesday. No evidence was presented that David Cicilline himself participated in carrying out voter fraud (though there is also no doubt that it was his election bid that would have benefited from these alleged efforts).

But in the process, a larger - and far more alarming - revelation emerged: wholly credible testimony of serious, systemic voter fraud in not one but several elections.

Some honest, otherwise smart people have completely missed this point - the dishonest, smart people are simply ignoring it - by allowing themselves to be distracted by the unprofessional aspects of the press conference, the overblown hype that constituted its preview and the fact that the "shooter" did not score a bulls-eye on his stated target. (Matt Allen, we specifically include you in this category of Smart Doubters!)

Let's disregard for a moment the ... intriguing video that the Providence Journal posted on its website yesterday and review only what was offered at Wednesday's press conference.

- A candidate for Congress reading the witness statement, presumably signed under pains and penalties of perjury, of someone describing the extensive voter fraud he or she had witnessed first hand in at least one prior election.

- Three people asserting in the first person that they had witnessed voter fraud in prior elections.

- Other witness statements asserting voter fraud.

[Note to the Gemma camp: Why did you release only a few copies of those witness statements? Are you aware of the invention of a device called the mimeograph machine that could be used by reporters to duplicate and then share those documents, thereby thwarting your inexplicable purpose for making them scarce? Please be aware that while we are whole-heartedly behind your efforts to expose voter fraud and are on the edge of our seats waiting for the next development, the credibility of this effort has been unnecessarily damaged by a list of avoidable missteps to which this mishandling of the witness statements has been added.]

Where were we? Oh yes. Without further ado, here are some of the questions that honest doubters must answer in order to continue clinging to their doubts:

> Are the three witnesses at the press conference lying?

> Is Anthony Gemma a pathological liar willing to sacrifice his not inconsequential reputation in the state by financing and staging an elaborate charade?

> Is the witness statement read by Anthony Gemma a work of fiction? What about the others that he tendered?

Obviously, the point is that all of these would have to be answered "yes" - and if that is your answer, please say so! I promise I'll try not to jump down your throat - for an observer to continue to be skeptical about the information that was presented Wednesday and not to see that there is very good reason to be alarmed about the integrity of our elections, past and current.

August 25, 2012

Re: The War on Women?

Monique Chartier

Under Patrick's post questioning the alleged War on Women, commenter Candace McCall remarks

stop pretending you don't know this is about abortion and contraceptive rights.

We'll take them one at a time.

#1, Abortion: there is nothing new this election on the issue. So this is not about abortion.

#2. There is, however, a new twist on contraception: the bizarre assertion that if contraception is not provided FREE, this constitutes a "War on Women".

Sorry, no, it does not. Not at all. Such a posture and a demand is merely an addition to the ever lengthening list of items - post secondary education, healthcare, gourmet (e.g., buying lobster with the EBT card) food, cell phones (incredibly), and just about anything money can buy with the cash part of welfare - that are somehow supposed to be provided for free by government or by eeeeevil insurance companies, both of whom are erroneously perceived to have an endless supply of money from which to pay for such righteous items.

Stop the insanity. Actually, don't just stop it, roll it back. The giving away of free stuff that, in actuality, costs money takes a toll that has been previewed by Greece's current straits. The fact that the United States is giving away different things than they did doesn't change the concept or the price.

Proof to Gemma Claims Trickling Out

Marc Comtois

Let me just say this: I'm glad the media has gotten over their (semi-justified, though hyperbolic) derision of the Gemma voter fraud presentation (and all the professional analysis claiming nothing doin') and is looking into his claims. WPRI took the lead, but now the ProJo has some video of a man who claims to be able to bring in numerous mail ballots.

From the story by Zachary Malinowski:

The Journal learned that Robert Cappuccilli, a field operative for Gemma, agreed to wear a hidden microphone and meet with Ramirez behind the campaign headquarters overlooking the Blackstone River and Tolman High School. Cappuccilli did not respond to a request for an interview.

The recording The Journal obtained begins with an investigator setting the stage, with date and time, for the meeting that was about to take place....Cappuccilli brought along a Spanish-speaking woman from the campaign office to help him understand Ramirez, a native of the Dominican Republic who speaks limited English.

During the recording, Cappuccilli and Ramirez have an in-depth conversation about absentee ballot votes and how much the Gemma campaign would have to pay for the service.

In response to several questions from Cappuccilli, Ramirez said he had experience handling absentee ballots for Cicilline and other elected officials — a state representative and a city councilman in Providence. Cappuccilli told Ramirez that he understood the Cicilline campaign paid him $450 a week in cash, an arrangement that Ramirez did not dispute.

Cappuccilli tells Ramirez that the Gemma campaign is willing to hire him to get votes for Gemma, but they want to do it above board, paying him each week with a check, not cash.

Ramirez agrees and provides Cappuccilli with his Social Security number and his driver’s license. They also talk about filling out a 1099 tax form.

Before the deal is completed, Cappuccilli says he wants to make sure that Ramirez can deliver on his promise.

“Do you have mail ballots with you?” Cappuccilli asks. “My neck is on the line with Anthony [Gemma].” They talk about whether he can deliver “300, 400, 500 or 1,000 mail ballots.”

Cappuccilli turns to the Spanish interpreter and says, “Let me tell you something. He has to show me something right now. Don’t take it the wrong way, but I have to make sure he’s not playing both sides.”

Ramirez retreats to his silver compact car and pulls out several absentee ballots. He shows Cappuccilli mail ballots for the coming primary that he said had been cast for Cicilline and Gemma.

Ramirez assures Cappuccilli that he has many “friends” and can coach them to cast their ballots for a certain candidate. He also tells Cappuccilli that he is a notary public and has notarized the ballots himself.

In the recording, Ramirez mentions the names of Latino voters at various addresses and senior high-rises in the capital city.

Keep digging.

August 24, 2012

The War on Women?

Patrick Laverty

We hear all about this "War on Women" that the Democrats like to claim that the Republicans are waging. First, I think these "wars" are silly. It cheapens what the word means. Comparing policy to dropping bombs on a people certainly cheapens the term.

But hey, while we're at it, can we ask why the Democrats are waging their own "War on Women" or more specifically, mothers?

Feminist activist Gloria Steinem and several chapters of the National Organization for Women (NOW) have condemned the Democratic National Committee for “discrimination against mothers with young children” during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

How exactly is that happening? What is Steinem talking about?

"The DNC requires children and babies to have a credential to enter the Convention, and then denies these credential requests from moms. The DNC credentialing process is being used as a tool to prevent mothers from participating at the Convention and is nothing short of discriminatory," said Lindsey Horvath, president of the Hollywood NOW.
Why are Rhode Island's national Democrats like David Cicilline, James Langevin and Sheldon Whitehouse not stepping up and making a big deal about this? Why aren't they fighting for mothers? Do they not care? Will they attend the convention if delegates who are mothers are not able to participate?

So to recap here, the whole "war" talk is silly, but what the Democrats appear to be doing with their convention is embarrassing and insulting.

Uncommon Integrity?

Patrick Laverty

I just can't keep this one to myself anymore. At the risk of giving this campaign any more attention than it deserves, I have to point this out. I also apologize as this is a race that is only for RI Senate District 19 and not a statewide race. But this is the kind of thing that we deal with.

Jim Spooner is a candidate for the Senate District 19 seat and he's running independent of a party. He's been taking out ads in the local newspaper. I don't fault the newspaper, so I won't name them.

He put out an ad a couple weeks ago with the text in it:

Jim Spooner
Senator Elect
Yeah, that's all well and good and all except he's not a sitting Senator. He's a candidate. I also get that there's no hyphen between Senator and Elect, so apparently he's trying to play word games and trying to fool the voters into thinking that he's the incumbent.

Well, he did it again. This time I scanned in his ad and posted the image below:

"Your State Senator"? C'mon man. You're not. You're a candidate for Senator. In his ad, he also writes that we need candidates with "Honesty." How are these two ads honest? It seems like he comes right from another Rhode Island candidate's school of honesty with statements like these.

But while we're looking at Mr. Spooner, take a look at his text to the voters.

Most of the younger generation of today communicate very differently than you and I! However it's not the lack of personal contact, it is the lack of respect of people and property!
Before you start thinking "Right on, Jim! Those kids today are punks!" Check out this article about who he considers to be the "younger generation."
Spooner, a retired self-employed real estate broker who has lived in Lincoln for 51 years, agrees that the younger generation thinks differently, but said he believes that is what is wrong with politics.

He originally referred to "all" of the people in the younger generation, but then later changed the group to most people younger than 65.

"They forgot what honesty is, what trust is, what integrity is," he said, not able to name any specific politicians who are exceptions to the rule.

He continued, "The younger generation has probably been given everything by the older generation, so they don't have honesty and integrity. They don't have values."

Wow. So the "younger generation" is people under 65. Plus, we all have no integrity and we have no honesty.

Well, at least we know how Mr. Spooner feels about us before we head to the polls. I'll be honest with him and say right now, I'm not voting for you, Jim.

When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be a Crony

Marc Comtois

I can't confirm if this was filmed in Rhode Island or not (h/t):

"I'm gonna fight for MY piece of the taxpayer pie."

"What's a crony?"

"It's like having a best friend who gives you other people's stuff."

"We take care of our friends."

"We get to spend taxpayer money any way we want."

"Why be a taxpayer when I can be a tax spender?"

Yup, it had to be filmed here, right?

The Mind-Boggling Debate Answers

Patrick Laverty

Have you been watching these RI Assembly debates put on by WPRI and hosted by Tim White? Fabulous stuff. So far, they've had three. The first was the battle for an East Providence seat where Roberto DaSilva is looking to oust current Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dan DaPonte. You can see the entire debate video at

The second debate was between Rep. Peter Petrarca and challenger Greg Costantino. Here is the link to their debate.

Most recently was the debate between Senator Michael McCaffrey and challenger Laura Pisaturo. The link to their debate.

I bring these up not only because I thought they were great but also because I'm guessing many people missed them. If so, they missed some interesting things, most specifically, how the incumbents view things is pretty mind-blowing. We often hear that people who live and work inside the Washington beltway have one way of thinking and everyone else has a very different view. This sounds like a similar situation where once you get into office up on Smith Hill, you get trapped into the same thought patterns.

As I watched each debate, there was always at least one moment or one answer that made my jaw drop. "Did he really just say that?" or in one example I'll point out, "Did she really not answer that?" I've taken the liberty of editing out some of these moments from the debate and posting them in their much shorter form. I've attempted to keep the full context of the question and the answers. But if you want the full debate, please go watch the whole thing over at

I have about five different videos here that I'd like to highlight.

Here's the first example, the only one I have from the first debate and this was probably the craziest line of the whole thing. Senate Finance Chairman, Daniel DaPonte is asked about the decision to back a loan for $75M to 38 Studios and what his knowledge of the situation was at the time. His answer?

Wait, it's above your pay grade? Who's pay grade is it to make those types of financial decisions for the state, if it's not the Senate Finance Chairman? And if you don't have the power to make those kinds of financial decisions, then why are you the Senate Finance Chairman?

Next is State Rep. Peter Petrarca on whether the State Ethics Commission should get its full power back in being able to discipline the members of the Assembly. Here's his answer.

Wait, what? You want to be able to discipline yourselves? Other than Senator Cicione looking a couple committee positions, what exactly has the Assembly done to police its own? And it sure isn't because they've all been angels up there.

He also mentions in there that the self-policing works for Congress so why can't it work for the Assembly? Well, in large part the way the policing works unfortunately is through the partisan politicians. When you have such one-party rule in the Assembly, it really isn't going to work to police yourselves.

Next is an issue that carried over between debates. The question was on the Assembly's legislative grants and the process by which they're carried out. Should the program and the process continue. First, Rep. Petrarca's opinion.

and then Senator Michael McCaffrey's opinion:

That's great that they help people. If that's the case, then let's put the money and the recipients in the state budget and let's have some kind of accountability that the money is being spent appropriately. As for keeping costs down of Little League in Warwick, why do I care about that if I don't live in Warwick? If Warwick Little League needs the money, let them sort it out. Why do I have to pay for that? And if it's not a "slush fund" to buy votes, why is it that the Assembly member is there with the oversized check, smiling for the cameras? Couldn't they simply mail the funds to the appropriate people? The legislative grants program is a joke and a mess.

As for how these incumbents think and why is Rhode Island one of the last out of recessions, maybe this is why. Ted Nesi asks Senator McCaffrey about it, whether the Senate is doing enough and why are we still lagging so far behind.

He just looks and sounds like a deer in the headlights. No real answer for this. It's a national problem? Really? That's why Massachusetts and Connecticut are trending higher? I think we're really seeing why our state is being run like it is. The unemployment numbers are heading in the right direction? What direction are the numbers of jobs heading in? How is that a good thing that we're still shedding jobs at a record rate? Do you have confidence in the General Assembly being able to fix our problems when you hear answers like this?

Lastly, I've only been picking on the incumbents, mostly because they said some of the worst things in the debates. But there was one challenger that I thought merited attention. Laura Pisaturo who is challenging Senator McCaffrey was asked point blank three times by Tim White how she would have voted on the pension reform bill that passed last year.

If she can't answer such an easy question like that, then how much faith can we have in her when she's sitting there after "the clerk has unlocked the box" with about 20 seconds to choose green or red? She can't even give a straight answer on how she would have voted? Why was that such a hard question to answer? Yes or no?

So that's what I have so far. Lots of interesting stuff coming out of the debates and I'm looking forward to more from WPRI, especially the Cicilline vs. Gemma debate next week.

August 23, 2012

Umm... Who (and What Policies) Got Us into This Mess?

Justin Katz

I've had the extreme good fortune to shift careers to one that allows me time to create and stare at charts. (Sadly, yes, that's a literal description of some of my afternoons, as well as my feelings about those afternoons.)  So it's with an especially strong "What!?" that I watched this video, via Ann Althouse, via Glenn Reynolds:



To save time for those who don't want to watch a political ad, the important point is that former President Bill Clinton argues for a second term for President Obama on the grounds that Republicans want to return to an era of deregulation — which, he claims, is "what got us into trouble in the first place."  This, he contrasts with the Obama's plan, which "only works if there's a strong middle class."  "That's what happened when I was president."

Let me first say that deregulation did play a role in our current predicament, but it wasn't deregulation alone.  It was deregulation with a de facto government backing when risky ventures went wrong.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Re: Gemma's "Breaking News": What Did You Think?

Carroll Andrew Morse

While Anthony Gemma didn't present any direct evidence of his charges of voter fraud in Rhode Island, his written remarks from yesterday assert that direct evidence does exist (h/t Edward Fitzpatrick)...

The five statements I have just presented to you represent a relatively small percentage of first-hand evidence developed by TRP. Testimony from these and other witnesses exists in written form and on audio and video tapes -- the product of sophisticated electronic and human surveillance operations that confirm the contents of sworn statements.

Multiple videos contain clear evidence that mail-in ballots have been and are being bought by the Cicilline campaign and by other local, state and federal political campaigns.

Taking this presentation at its word:
  1. Describing something as "sophisticated electronic and human surveillance operations", in any normal usage, refers to something more than "we have recordings of the statements I read today", and
  2. The reference to mail-in ballots raises the question of where exactly it is that ballots can be bought and sold, with the seller's identity as important an issue as the buyer’s.
As with many disputes, direct evidence when available is the quickest way to resolve uncertainties. Especially with regards to the second charge above, if video evidence of illegal attempts to influence this upcoming election exists (note that Mr. Gemma uses the present tense in reference to the mail-in ballots: "are being bought"), neither Anthony Gemma nor his investigators nor the proper legal authorities should feel obligated to wait until after the election has been tainted to present direct evidence they have obtained -- and in the case of the authorities, to tell the public why they felt it necessary to act (or not).

At the moment, the question is whether Anthony Gemma has accurately described the work product of the investigators he hired but that hasn't yet been seen by the general public, or whether marketing has run ahead of substance, in the absence of substance that speaks for itself.

August 22, 2012

Gemma's "Breaking News": What Did You Think?

Monique Chartier

The day previewed last week by Anthony Gemma in a somewhat hyperbolic announcement finally arrived.

WPRO carried the press conference live - their follow-up report here - though they disappointingly cut away from the press conference after Gemma had finished his statement.

An extensive report by WPRI, which includes reaction from various quarters, also names who came to the microphone after WPRO returned to regular programming.

Afterwards, three individuals - Laura Perez, Erminia Garcia and City Councilman Wilbur Jennings - took to the microphone and said they could corroborate his allegations.

Former RI Attorney General Jim O'Neil calls the accusations credible and asserts that the Rhode Island State Police are investigating them but

" far as saying there is an individual that says David Cicilline was part and parcel of this on a daily basis,” O’Neil says. “I didn't hear that and neither did you.”

A post by our friend Professor William Jacobson (certainly no fan of David Cicilline) over at Legal Insurrection includes a video of the "breaking news" but also a somewhat wary observation as to its potential impact - or lack thereof - on the race.

But I’m not sure how much more this hurts him, unless more facts come out.

The ethics cloud already is factored into the electorate.

If Ciciline wins, it will not be because people think he’s honest, it will be a combination of scaring Grandma half to death that Republicans will take her social security check from her hands then throw her off a cliff combined with promising federal cash to key constituent groups … basically the Obama playbook.

Personal aside: I'd take umbrage at a comment under the professor's post that characterizes Rhode Island as a suburb of Chicago but I'm too busy nodding in agreement.

Your turn. What did you think of the witness statement that Anthony Gemma read and the way that he presented it? Did the three corroborating witnesses who followed him lend the assertions in the statement credibility?

UPDATE: QDC Balks at Potential Shipper Expanding to RI

Marc Comtois

UPDATE: The original report from NBC 10's Bill Rappleye--upon which this post was based--has been pulled from the website. I've received clarification on a number of issues I originally brought up related to this item.


Eimskip is welcome to bring any amount of cargo to the Port of Davisville, at any time, beginning today. No cargo vessel has ever been turned away from the Port here. We would welcome Eimskip as a customer, and have communicated that to them.

A separate matter is Eimskip’s proposal to be granted an exclusive, private lease to operate the proposed container terminal at the Port of Davisville. Their proposal included a 10-year agreement that could be ended at their option, at which point QDC would have to reimburse them for any and all improvements the company made to the Port. Further, the proposal envisioned the creation of 3 jobs (3.1 full time equivalents). This proposal was obviously unacceptable, and QDC rejected it on behalf of the taxpayers, and the other port customers.

Meanwhile, based on the recommendation of the Legislative Port Commission in February, QDC has published an RFP to seek the best possible proposal to operate the terminal at the Port of Davisville. Unlike the Eimskip proposal, the RFP calls for maintaining the Port of Davisville as a public port, open to all shipping customers under the operational control and direction of the QDC.

We remain in contact with Eimskip. Similar to every other port customer, they have told us that they will make a decision based on a number of business factors, including rates established by the QDC. These rates will be established once the RFP process is complete. As always, the Port of Davisville will be extremely competitive. Eimskip has informed us that they will make decision in the next several weeks.

Steven King, P.E. Managing Director, QDC

Well, that explains things much better than the original story!

NBC 10's Bill Rappleye reports:

Federal dollars have refurbished Pier No. 2 at Davisville and provided the state with a crane that can offload containers.

Seafreeze, which is located next to Pier No. 2, exports frozen fish.

One of its customers, a shipping company from Iceland called Eimskip, wanted to bring some of its cargo to Davisville, and the Quonset Development Corporation wanted to get involved.

"As soon as we met with the QDC they invited Eimskip to use the pier and the crane," said Geir Monsen of Seafreeze.

Monsen said discussions with Eimskip went on for eight months and included a trip to Iceland.

But the QDC broke off the discussions in June and told Eimskip there would be a formal request for proposals, and that the operation would have to be staffed by union longshoremen.

"(The deal) would have granted the private company complete control over the proposed container terminal at the Port of Davisville at very unfavorable terms to the taxpayers and other port consumers," Steven King, QDC marketing director, said in a statement to NBC 10.

Hm. I'd like to know a few more details about those "unfavorable terms to the taxpayers and other port consumers" before jumping to any conclusions. Is it just because Eimskip (Iceland's oldest & biggest shipping company, with service to Europe and North America, by the way) didn't want to use union longshoremen? Or was there more to it than that? It also seems strange that it appears as if the QDC strung Eimskip along for 8 months and then, suddenly, there is to be an RFP. Are there other companies involved here? A lot of questions. Meanwhile, many Port of Davisville residents are upset.
"Eimskip wrote letters to the QDC and how they were looking forward to cooperating all of the users of the port including car imports and potentially any other container users," Monsen said.

Seafreeze, and a trucking company called Rhody which is also located in the Port of Davisville, said they would have invested millions and created 100 new jobs if Eimskip were to relocate to Rhode Island.

The companies have requested a meeting with Gov. Lincoln Chafee to try and sell him on the idea.

Monsen said Eimskip is also thinking of relocating to Portland, Maine and Norfolk, Va.

August 21, 2012

Meanwhile, ObamaCare Penalties for Excessive Hospital Re-admissions of Seniors Quietly Kick In

Monique Chartier

Some lively back and forth with regard to the impact of ObamaCare on Medicare.

Republicans have pointed out that ObamaCare cuts $700+ billion from Medicare.

Democrats and the Obama campaign have responded variously by denying this assertion and/or saying that this amount would be found by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse and from eliminating subsidies to insurance companies. (Sidebar: Really? $70 billion dollars per year of Medicare funds goes to these items? What happens to the availability of care to seniors when Medicare withdraws these "subsidies" from insurance companies? And if Medicare waste, fraud and abuse is such a significant amount that it can be cited as a revenue source for another program, why do we have to wait for ObamaCare to fully implement in order to crack down on it?)

But as the discussion continues, ObamaCare is already impinging upon Medicare.

In Rhode Island, nine hospitals will be penalized a total of $1.6 million in Medicare funds, for Funding Year 2013, out of about a total of $600 million in Medicare funds, according to Edward J. Quinlan, president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.

Why are they being penalized?

Penalties for what the federal government deems high readmissions will be no more than 1 percent in the year beginning in October, 2 percent the following year, and 3 percent the year after that, under the Affordable Care Act.

Some 2,211 hospitals in the nation will lose some degree of reimbursement ...

So to reiterate. ObamaCare has ordered that hospitals be penalized Medicare funds if hospitals re-admit seniors too quickly.

Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in 2010:

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it

In addition to the $700+ billion cut from Medicare mandated by ObamaCare, Speaker Pelosi, we're now "finding out" that ObamaCare is negatively impacting Medicare in another specific way - hospital stays for seniors. If ObamaCare continues to roll out, how many other similarly questionable items will turn out to be in it?

How To Eliminate Straight-Ticket Voting

Patrick Laverty

The straight-ticket, straight-party or master lever (just a line in Rhode Island) is an anachronism from long ago and its time has more than come to be eliminated. Each year, a bill is submitted to the Assembly to eliminate it, but you can probably guess what happens to the bill. Yep, held for further study.

Even the guy in charge of elections in the state, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, is in favor of eliminating this option. But yet it stays. Why? Clearly it's because it gives one side a huge advantage.

One example of this advantage is in the 2006 Governor's race. That was the anti-Bush, anti-Republican election year and Governor Carcieri was one of the few Republicans to survive the figurative bloodbath. Democrats pointed to Carcieri's weakness in that he only won by two points, 51-49%. However, when one looks closely, we see quite the difference in the straight ticket votes. Charlie Fogarty, the Democrat in that race, pulled in more than 70,000 straight ticket votes. Carcieri garnered 17,000, which is quite the difference. I'm not going to claim that none of those votes would have gone to the respective candidates, but not all of them would have either.

I'll readily admit, the option would not change the result in most races, but there have been some that could have been changed. There was one in my hometown where even if you assume that 80% of the votes still would have been cast for the respective party's candidate, the final result would have been changed. Interestingly, the winner in that race had even been bragging about his straight ticket votes advantage well ahead of election day.

So how do we eliminate this option? How do we get people to pay attention and agree it's a bad thing? That's easy. Just use it. Advertise it and use it. I mean all Republicans. If many Republicans were to connect that one line and tell everyone that it's exactly what they did, it might be enough of a wake up call for the Democrats to start to think "Uh oh, they're figuring it out!" and immediately look to eliminate this "advantage" that the Republicans have used.

So there it is. Republicans, Moderates, all parties. Use it. Tell everyone you're using it. Tell all your friends what a great thing this straight ticket voting is. Go into the booth, connect one line and votes for everyone in your party! It's easy, it's fast, and there's very little thinking involved. Connect the line.

Differences in Sources Suggest RI Does in Fact Have Most Burdensome Mandates

Justin Katz

Admittedly, I've been griping about PolitiFact from the sidelines almost since it entered the field.  For many of the uses that the reporters put it toward, the notion of entirely objective facts is as absurd as the notion of entirely objective reporters.  The simplistic (albeit marketable) Truth-o-Meter emphasizes the point; something's being arguable is not the same as its being partially false.

My vantage point was backstage during production of PolitiFact RI's investigation of RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse's statement about health care mandates in Rhode Island, and I can't say I've had my concerns about fairness eased.

According to the Center's Competitiveness Report Card, Rhode Island has the greatest number of mandates in the country.  In an op-ed in the Providence Journal, Stenhouse characterized it as "the most burdensome level."  And PolitiFact reporter Gene Emery went on the hunt.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Rasmussen Explains Gap Between Mainstream America and Official Washington

Marc Comtois

Pollster Scott Rasmussen explains how common poll questions offered by Beltway "professionals" make no sense to average Americans:

In Washington, it's a given that more government spending is needed to help the economy. Most Americans hold the opposite view. So when you ask whether cutting spending or helping the economy is more important, the question doesn't make sense. For most Mainstream voters, one leads to the other.

To gain a sense of how strong this belief is, consider the fact that voters are fairly evenly divided when asked whether they fear the government will do too much or too little to help the economy. At Rasmussen Reports, we asked those who wanted more government intervention what they would like the government to do. Most said cut spending. Overall, 66 percent of voters believe that the best thing the government can do for the economy is to cut spending.

The same dynamic exists when it comes to repeal of the national health care law. Rather than being seen as a diversion from talking about the economy, 43 percent believe repeal would help the economy. Just 27 percent think it would hurt. That's part of the reason most voters consistently support repeal. So, once again, it's not a choice between repealing the health care law and focusing on the economy. They're part of the same plan.

In other words, (gasp) voters have a more sophisticated understanding of the economy than Washington pollsters--and politicians--give them credit for.

August 20, 2012

Single-Family Home Sales from Town to Town

Justin Katz

I've been meaning to update the data that I collected for the first three months of 2012, based on single-family home sales data available through William Raveis Real Estate.

Upon re-reviewing the information, it seemed to me that the three-month window is sure to be erratic on a running basis. Simply as a matter of their size, a significant number of cities and towns in Rhode Island are apt to have fewer than 20 sales in a calendar quarter, so a good month (or significant sale) would throw things off considerably. Moving forward, therefore, I'll trace the rolling annual average.

The following table presents data for the twelve months ending with July 2012. The percent change columns are measured against the twelve months ending July 2011. The numbers in the pink-shaded cells are not favorable. Coming out of a recession and housing bust, a city or town should want sales to be increasing while inventory drops and median sales prices increase. That's an indication that people want to move into an area and property values are generally on the upswing.

As the table makes very clear, while no cities and towns are in the worst condition — fewer sales, higher inventory, and dropping prices — only four show full progress toward health: Barrington, Burrillville, Little Compton, and North Smithfield.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Dog Bites Man: Unions are Top Spenders in RI Politics

Marc Comtois

GoLocalProv's Dan McGowan has the surprising news that organized labor Political Action Committees have led the way in political spending this year:

The majority of the Laborer’s Political League’s spending has gone to the organization’s voluntary fund in Washington D.C., but the PAC has made $1,000 max-out contributions to Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed, Senator Frank Ciccone and former Providence Mayor and City Council President John Lombardi, who is now challenging State Rep. Michael Tarro.

The NEA has spent $43,795.83, although that amount includes the approximately $2,700 the union spends on rent and utilities each month. The NEA’s PAC has made $1,000 contributions to Clean Water Action, Ocean State Action, State Rep. Spencer Dickinson, State Rep. candidates Gregg Amore and Mike Morin and State Senate candidates Adam Satchell, Dave Gorman and Lew Pryeor. The influential union has also contributed to each of the 16 lawmakers who voted against the state’s pension reform efforts last year (the 17th lawmakers – Senator John Tassoni is not running for re-election).

Third on the list is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which has spent $28,419.99 this year. The IBEW pays Providence Central Labor Council president Paul MacDonald approximately $1,666 each month for “consultant and professional services” and has contributed at least $300 to Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena, Senate President Paiva-Weed, House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, House Majority Leader Nick Mattiello, House Finance chairman Helio Melo, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and Senate Finance chairman Daniel DaPonte.

Remember those names when collective bargaining issues arise. And note that the Labor PACs send money to other, mostly progressive/liberal, PACs, too. It's a big network of PACs. Heck, if you put them all together, you could almost call it....a SUPER PAC, or something.

August 19, 2012

Bristol Withdraws From the EBEC Wind Turbine Project - And Other Reservations While We're At It

Monique Chartier

Some quick background. The East Bay Energy Consortium ("EBEC") consists of nine towns on the East Bay of Rhode Island which had banded together with the following goals.

... to develop a regional wind energy system that will produce a sufficient quantity of electricity equivalent to the total municipal load of all nine members. We will take advantage of state legislation favoring municipally-owned renewable energy projects, and exploit the economic leverage accruing from building a multi-turbine installation for the benefit of multiple communities. 1) reduce the energy load in the respective communities, thereby saving taxpayer money now and in the future; 2) develop local assets and technologies (wind) in an effort to offset reliance on foreign resources; and 3) take advantage of the economies of scale by doing the project collaboratively and collectively to benefit the entire region.

The project has so far received $435,000 in grants - aka, federal tax dollars - from the EDC (yes, that EDC) and is currently in the "pre-construction" phase.

In August 2011 EBEC erected a Met tower on site. This tower will gather wind data for one year. This data is required for financing.

Best I can figure from the research I did, at this point, the EBEC cannot proceed too much further without the RI General Assembly passing legislation more formally codifying the EBEC's existence and bestowing upon them the powers that they would need to finance and build a wind turbine project.

Now we come to Friday's stop-the-turbines-presses development, reported by

Bristol’s involvement in the quest to build a regional wind turbine is in limbo after the town administrator yanked Bristol representatives from future meetings and the Bristol Town Council voted to oppose any new spending by the group.

The town administrator’s action came the day after Bristol resident Marina Peterson questioned her town’s ongoing involvement in the project. Along with Warren resident Andy Shapiro, a former member of the East Bay Energy Consoritum, and speaking at a Bristol Town Council meeting on Aug. 8, Ms. Peterson sharply criticized Planner Diane Williamson as the town’s representative to the consoritum.

This EastBayRI article does not provide the substance of the citizen objections that triggered the town's pull-back from this project. However, from Marina Peterson's letter to the editor late last week, it appears, among other things, that the EBEC may have gotten over their skis legally.

But in good government fashion or bad, legalities can be straightened out. This is especially true where an authorizing body (the RI General Assembly) is involved that has a soft spot in its heart for green energy which then gives rise to a propensity not to look too closely at cost factors. The larger matter is whether the East Bay Energy Consortium's wind turbine project should even proceed.

The first of the two serious problems that I see with this project and this consortium appears to have been resolved a couple of months ago. Thanks to citizens sounding the alarm and our elected officials heeding them, the proposal to give the EBEC the power of eminent domain has been withdrawn. This is a very good thing as it was a complete non-starter. It is quizzical, in light of its grossly expanded use and abuse, that our elected officials, state and federal, should possess the power of eminent domain, much less an unelected quasi-public entity, as is envisioned that the EBEC would become.

The second serious problem is cost. Here we find precious few answers to the following questions. (If I have missed something in my research, please let me know.)

Electric Rate

At what electric rate would the towns be purchasing power from the project? Is there any stipulation that it will be at or below the market rate for electricity generated by more conventional means? If not, why not? If not, why should the residents and businesses of the nine towns pay more in taxes to fund an artificially higher electric rate?

Maintenance and Repairs

Who pays for maintenance and repairs of the turbines? An unforeseen half million dollar repair appears to have torpedoed the income and expense projections of the Portsmouth wind turbine, which was just three years old. Have the costs of such breakdowns and repairs been factored into the cost of the EBEC project and the resulting electric rate?


Bonds would have to be issued to fund this project if it goes forward. In the event of default, will the taxpayers or ratepayers in the nine cities and towns of the EBEC have to pick up the bill?

Whatever the motive, I applaud the Bristol Town Council's decision to withdraw from the EBEC. All nine cities and towns should use this as a breather to attempt to quantify some of these questions of cost - WITHOUT the infusion of any additional tax dollars, please - before making a decision as to whether to proceed with the project.

For Lack of a Because

Justin Katz

Violence in movies is not the problem. Violent stories are as old as fiction. Likewise, the realism of cinema and video games may be new, but in prior eras people didn't need the visual aids. The livestock bled when slaughtered; the forest road was menacing in a way that needed no symphonic score.

The problem isn't even that the Dark Knight's Joker had a point. The forces of darkness have had a point since the snake in the garden. Human beings are flawed; Creation can be brutal.

The problem is that the knights no longer have a because.

In a 1996 essay titled "Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died," Tom Wolfe summarized Friedrich Nietzsche's prediction a century earlier that a society of Godless people, in Wolfe's paraphrase, "would loathe not only one another but themselves." As a result, the coming generations would see "wars catastrophic beyond all imagining." The human need that God once filled would be inflated with the less transcendent, more manipulable meaning supplied by factions and nationalism.

Surface quickly from these depths to Batman. The justification for Bruce Wayne's superhero persona was, essentially, that his vision for humanity was better than the degraded society that crime begets. Heath Ledger's Joker casts the battle as one between chaos and order. And he has a point in that the difference is largely aesthetic in their world.

As religion has faded, Western civilization has striven to maintain its fumes and hold back the darkness with a vague sense of a human community. Batman has faith in the people of Gotham. That is his community — indeed, readers would be hard-pressed to separate the two — and he is bound to it as part of his identity.

Ay, there's the rub.

For all the analysis already set to drift in the public reflecting pool, the matter of the Aurora killer's field of study has yet to find its candle. Is it too terrible a thought to mention? Neuroscience.

The self, as even passive recipients of science news may have heard by now, is mere illusion — a narrative that the sparks of the brain generate in order to organize the stimuli of life. If that's the truth, then a question naturally arises: What community can Gotham be if Bruce Wayne himself is not?

There is an answer to the riddle. The peculiarity of this era's philosophical battle is that investigation of the universe has fostered a mechanistic view as oversimplified as any attributed to the rigid theologians of yore. The materialists make a model and call it reality. "My two dimensions are sufficient; yours are a comforting illusion."

Evolution, that venerable old god-killer, is a process of stimuli's effects on the malleable medium of life, but the stimuli must come from elsewhere. Perhaps neuroscience will map the processes of the evolved brain into a fine and useful model, but promoting that model as more than a limited sketch will be a potentially cataclysmic experiment in how the social minds — real human beings in four-dimensional action — respond to the stimulus of finding themselves to be fiction.

The problem is that scientists have a narrow species of imagination and are insufficiently careful about propounding on their findings. The problem is that philosophy has become a sadomasochistic litany of narcissistic poses. The problem is that storytellers have seduced themselves with the quick fixes of sex and violence, and what philosophy they have, they lift from the philosophers' bloody bed because the stickiness has the tactile sensation of an intelligence they lack. And the problem is that plenty stand to profit, in government and business and society, by this degradation.

The nihilistic killer in Colorado may prove not to have thought of himself as acting from the conclusions attributed to neuroscience, or any conclusions at all. To be sure, we see in him most markedly a metastasized mental illness.

Nonetheless, we should take the lesson. Evil will find its lever, and it is no less monstrous when accomplished through normal and natural biological processes. While chemical imbalances may provide the mechanism by which an idea becomes horrific action in an individual, sustained moral decline requires the idea partly to be, "Why not?"

Human society evolved to its present state on the strength of our heroes' because. When even the men who shielded their dates and died on that terrible movie night are explained away as acting from biological necessity, it may not be long before the decision whether to murder or to protect comes down to the toss of a mad culture's coin.

August 18, 2012

What Happens In A Good Economy

Patrick Laverty

It's not that often where I can find an article on that has much relevance to Rhode Island, but this one caught my eye. It just shows what a little ingenuity and work can do when you actually have a thriving economy.

Out in North Dakota where the unemployment rate currently sits at 3% due to a new oil boom, a high school student was able to identify a need. Due to the nature of the work and the places that people are living, showers can be hard to come by. Even to the point where people wait hours for a shower at a truck stop. This teen then hatched a plan to purchase an 18-wheeler trailer, retrofit it with shower rooms and an office, and purchase a separate water tank. He offers the service for a fee to the workers.

Sure, I get the point that North Dakota might have gotten lucky with the oil boom. That's like hitting the lottery. But at the same time, the state has been smart enough to simply get out of the way and let the business and entrepreneurs thrive. Business begets business. When you let the market thrive, other businesses will piggyback on top of it and when people perceive a need, they'll work to fill that need.

The other thing that struck me in the article was the kid's attitude with regard to work and money.

Jensen said that while his parents would always be there to assist if he really needed it, the burden of tuition rests squarely on him. He is determined to balance his passion for music with the reality of life.
"Music is what I absolutely love doing, but for anything in life, if it doesn't pay the bills you gotta find something that does," he said.
"you gotta find something that does." Wow. If you fail at something, keep working to find something else that you can be successful at. That is about as opposite from the "what's in it for me" and the "where's my handouts" attitude that seems so prevalent here in Rhode Island.

North Dakota is about 1800 miles from Rhode Island but judging by the differences in the states, North Dakota might as well be Mars.

August 17, 2012

Other States Need Much More Misery Before RI Has Company

Justin Katz

The unemployment rate for Rhode Island fell by one tenth of a percent to 10.8%, but total employment dropped by 80 people.  That's not even a "mixed picture," though.  The only reason the unemployment rate moved in a seemingly positive direction is that 471 more Rhode Islanders just gave up looking for work.

So if the unemployment rate is a positive sign, then the state's motto might as well be "We hope people leave faster than they lose their jobs."

About the best that can be said for the Ocean State is that every other state in the union lost more employment than it did, except Utah, which saw a slight gain.  That context is illustrated very well in an update to my chart showing labor force (employed plus looking for work) and employment for Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut as a percentage of each state's January 2007 labor force.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

August 16, 2012

Re: Not The Most Qualified Pick for Vice-President - More Biden Gems

Monique Chartier

Further to Patrick's post, I cannot resist re-posting what has become one of my favorite political videos, prepared and released earlier this year by the Hinckley for Senate campaign.

DePetro's Petard

Marc Comtois

You'd have to be living under a rock around here if you're not aware of the accusations of sexual harassment that have been leveled against John DePetro by WPRO co-worker Dee DeQuattro (the complaint can be found here). Yesterday DePetro talked to RI Future's Bob Plain (who also used to work for WPRO) in an attempt to give his side of the story and was subsequently suspended by the radio station (until next Monday) for commenting on the case against their orders.

I always go back and forth on whether to deal with these types of issues--accusations--when it relates to, for lack of a better term, "newsmakers". In general though, I've tried to err on the side of "letting it play out" before jumping in. The DePetro incident, however, is unique in that it involves someone who, by any measure, is all for jumping in feet first and running with accusations and letting the derision fly. As I've mentioned before, it's a style that, apparently, appeals to some but I don't care for it and I'm not a fan.

This is a classic he said/she said and we all have our own predispositions on who to believe. So the question is: do we hoist him on his own petard and take him to task under the assumption that the accusations are true? Or do we hold our fire until the process plays out? Many have no problem ripping into DePetro--giving him a dose of his own medicine. For me, while I see more than a little plausibility in the accusations, I have a hard time stooping to DePetro's own level in this, mostly out of empathy for his family. If the charges are proven true, it's pretty obvious that DePetro should be fired and deserves all of the vitriol hurled at him. Karma is a bitch. But I'll only dance on his grave when--or if--he's actually buried.

ADDENDUM: I was working on this prior to seeing Bob Plain's lame attempt at moral equivalency:

Conservatives across Rhode Island are upset that a Warwick public works employee didn’t lose his job after being accused of stealing from the city. Accused, mind you, not convicted. Meanwhile, not a peep from the right about what WPRO should do with the state’s biggest blowhard John DePetro, who is accused of something far worse than property theft. He’s accused of sexual harassment, something that can cause serious emotional scars on another human being. But I suppose so long as it doesn’t cost them any money, conservatives just don’t care about who does what.
That I even have to explain the differences is pretty ridiculous. I mean, even the employee's union didn't dispute that he attempted to steal items, Bob. Instead, they based their case on the fact that he'd been "punished" already by being suspended and that his subsequent firing was too far--"double jeopardy". As Mayor Avidesian put it, the City lost because they had taken "too many bites of the apple" in punishing the employee. That the arbitrator agreed with this line of thinking points more to the failures of arbitration than the "innocence" of a tax-payer funded thief.

Now, Bob is correct that the worker hasn't been convicted yet (the criminal case is pending and the City tried to have the arbitration hearing after the conclusion of the criminal case, to no avail). I agree that the sexual predation DePetro is accused of is worse than stealing, but being caught red-handed by a third party is different than a he said/she said accusation with no other witness (at least, as far as I could determine). Sorry, it's just more black and white and, hence, provides more solid ground for critiquing prior to conviction.

August 15, 2012

If You Don't Say You're For It, You're Against It

Patrick Laverty

I think we're seeing that the problem is more organizational. Or maybe it just starts at the top and filters down. Now even the Providence Journal is accusing the Cicilline campaign of umm, well, not exactly telling the truth.

In today's Politifact report, Cicilline earned a "False" rating.

A David Cicilline campaign flier says Brendan Doherty wants to raise the eligibility age for Social Security benefits for anyone born after 1960 "with no regard for the challenges it would cause for people working in physically demanding occupations."

But the Cicilline campaign provided no evidence that Doherty ever espoused that position.

Attacking someone for what he hasn’t specifically said -- that he supports the exemption -- defies logic, particularly since Doherty says he does support the Simpson-Bowles proposal, which would include the hardship exemptions if the eligibility age is raised.

Well, that seems fairly innocuous, but in researching the article, Politifact asked Cicilline campaign manager Eric Hyers about this and his response:
When we asked Cicilline’s campaign for any other evidence of Doherty’s position, campaign manager Eric Hyers said Doherty’s lack of specific mention of the hardship exemptions shows he doesn’t support them and has "no regard for the challenges" of those who work in physically demanding jobs.
Let's get this straight. If you don't specifically say you support something, that means you oppose it? Is that the world of logic we're working with here from our Congressman? I've never seen where Cicilline has said he supports being nice to puppies, so that must mean he's opposed to it and kicks puppies. There are so many places you can go with this "If you don't say you support it that means you oppose it" logic.

Then the campaign manager gets caught up a little bit more with his attempt at wordsmithing:

Besides, Hyers said, the flier doesn’t actually say Doherty "opposes an exemption. It only says he has not made a point to speak about it."

(In fact, the flier says Doherty wants to raise the eligibility raise "with no regard" for physically challenging jobs.)

Finally, he tries the old "say it enough times and it'll become true" tactic

The flier "is 100 percent accurate," Hyers contends.
But Politifact wasn't buying.
But the Cicilline campaign provided no evidence that Doherty ever espoused that position.
When we have so many examples of Cicilline trying to pass of things that aren't exactly true, it really makes you wonder about everything else he says that hasn't been examined. Hopefully people will look at future statements equally closely.

Example of Ryan's Acumen on Health Care - "Hiding spending does not reduce spending."

Marc Comtois

Via Andrew Malcolm at Investors Business Daily. Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan directly takes on President Obama and explains how his health care reform cost more--not save--money thanks to double-counting and other gimmicks.

Not The Most Qualified Pick for Vice-President

Patrick Laverty

And he even said so himself.

she’s (Hillary Clinton) easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America, and quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me.
Then-Vice-Presidential Candidate Joe Biden
September 10, 2008

Ok, the quote is four years old. I'm rehashing old stuff. I get that. But before we go into total crazy Paul Ryan hysteria because of a budget bill he submitted, let's keep things in perspective here. On one hand, we have Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman who put forward a proposal to cut federal spending and rein in the deficit. On the other hand, we have a sitting Vice-President who continually puts his foot in his mouth.

Now VP Biden is telling us about a President Romney, "They are going to put y’all back in chains."

Sure, Ryan needs to be publicly vetted, I get that. That's why people are going over his budget bill with a fine-toothed comb and quite possibly some other spin from time to time. But is it too late to also take a look at what the other VP candidate in the race brings to the table?

Maybe we can get an idea on how these guys think simply by what they say.

Paul Ryan: "If we don't make tough decisions today our children are going to have to make much, much tougher decisions tomorrow."

Joe Biden: "When the stock market crashed (in 1929), Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened."


Paul Ryan: "Look, I am not worried about Washington cutting too much spending too fast. I mean, the kinds of spending cuts we're talking about just right now are $100 billion out of a $3.7 trillion budget."

Joe Biden: "Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs."


Paul Ryan: "The debt and the deficit is just getting out of control, and the administration is still pumping through billions upon trillions of new spending. That does not grow the economy."

Joe Biden: "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.... I'm not joking."


Paul Ryan: "To my great disappointment, it appears that the politics of division are making a big comeback. Many Americans share my disappointment - especially those who were filled with great hope a few years ago, when then-Senator Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois."

Joe Biden: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

And that's just a few of the many. Like I said, it makes perfect sense to try to get an idea of who Paul Ryan is and what he stands for and what kind of Vice-President he'd make. But at the same time, take a look at the body of work of our current Vice-President. If the decisions of the #2 guy on the ticket are enough to sway your vote, make sure you get an updated view on the current guy.

August 14, 2012

The Joys of Arbitration and Unionized Public Employment: "Fired DPW worker accused of theft gets job back"

Monique Chartier

Ah, yes. And they wonder why many of us are wary of binding arbitration.

A Department of Public Works employee who was fired after being arrested on charges he stole from the city, has won the fight to get his job back and will receive approximately nine months in back pay.

Kenneth Naylor, 48, of West Warwick – a 13-year employee of the Warwick DPW – was terminated in October after his arrest on a larceny charge a month earlier.

The head of the union that represents Naylor said an arbitrator ruled the city should not have fired Naylor because officials had already come to an agreement with the city to suspend him for 20 days without pay. The ruling came down on Aug. 7.

Good work, WPRI's Tim White. H/T the Matt Allen Show.

Mr. Naylor's criminal case is pending. Meanwhile, what will he get from the arbitrator's decision?

[President of Council 94 J. Michael] Downey said he doesn't know how much money Naylor will be paid following the arbitrator's decision but it will cover from the time he was terminated in October 2011 to today, minus the 20-day suspension.

According to a statement from Mayor Scott Avedisian, the city is still calculating how much money they will have to repay Naylor. Records show he made $48,215 in 2011.

So, roughly $36,000. Nice! Should help with the legal fees.

The next question is, what happens to his employment situation if he is found guilty? Will he get back the job he had with the employer from whom he was allegedly stealing?


Dan's comment reminded me of this recent instance of not just licking the trough clean but trying to take a bite out of it.

Six months after an arbitrator ruled that a retired town police officer should not have to pay anything for his medical coverage in his new job as a firefighter, Mayor Charles Lombardi has "reluctantly" paid what the town owes the worker in back payments. ...

In February of 2011, Cardarelli filed a grievance through the Fraternal Order of Police, Local 13, because he objected to paying $16.92 a week for his medical insurance premium, a total of $880 a year.

The arbitrator ruled on Feb. 9 of this year that the town violated the police contract by failing to reimburse Cardarelli for contributions made to the cost of his health insurance. Town officials were subsequently directed to make Cardarelli "whole" for his health insurance payments from the date of the union's demand for arbitration, Feb. 14, 2011, and to reimburse him monthly henceforth for the amounts of his contribution to his health care coverage.

Ryan on Medicare

Marc Comtois

As the Wall Street Journal writes:

There's no excuse in particular for letting the White House claim that Mr. Ryan would "end Medicare as we know it" because that is demonstrably false.

Late last year, Mr. Ryan joined Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in introducing a version of his reform that explicitly retains Medicare as we know it as a continuing option. The reform difference is that seniors would for the first time also have a choice of government-funded private insurance options. The Wyden-Ryan belief is that the choices resulting from private competition will be both cheaper and better.

This "premium-support" model has a long bipartisan pedigree and was endorsed by Democratic Senators John Breaux and Bob Kerrey as part of Bill Clinton's Medicare commission in 1999. Wyden-Ryan is roughly the version of reform that Mr. Romney endorsed earlier this year.

James Pethokoukis, working from a suggestion by the American Enterprise Institute's Andrew Biggs, lists the 3 things that need to be stated over and over about the Ryan Medicare Reform plan:
1. No one over the age of 55 would be affected in any way.

2. Traditional Medicare fee-for-service would remain available for all. “Premium support”—that is, government funding of private insurance plans chosen by individuals—is an option for those who choose it. No senior would be forced out of the traditional Medicare program against his will.

3. Overall funding for Medicare under the Ryan-Wyden plan is scheduled to grow at the same rate as under President Obama’s proposals. Is this “gutting Medicare” and “ending Medicare as we know it”? In reality, it’s the market giving seniors cheaper, higher quality choices they can take if they wish, with the traditional program remaining an option.

Back in 2010 President Obama called the Ryan-Wyden plan a "serious" and "legitimate" proposal (though, as Ted Nesi points out, Wyden does not agree with the latest iteration of Ryan's plan). The President also pointed out the "political vulnerability" that all such proposals have, even decrying the tendency in Washington, D.C. for one party to scare seniors, etc. instead of dealing with the proposals put forth by the other. Honest, here's the video (at around the 4 minute mark).

At around 5 minutes in the above video, the President asks: "At what point can we have a serious conversation about Medicare and it's long term liability? Or a serious conversation about Social Security or a serious conversation about budget and debt in which we're not trying to position ourselves politically?"

Oh, I don't know, how about now?

August 13, 2012

What the Dependency Portal Changes

Justin Katz

Over the weekend, two people whose opinions I value disagreed — with disconcerting vociferousness — with my objection to the innovation that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is calling "dependency portals." When that happens, there are two possibilities: either my gut aversion was wrong and my reasoning was mere rationalization, or I'm not adequately explaining what I find objectionable.

Figuring out which is the truth is a matter of immediate importance.  If I was wrong, then I'd best begin walking statements back, because charging forward would be a lunge toward a trap on the prayer that it won't go off.  And if I was right, then it's critical to prevent such impressions as I heard this weekend from solidifying more broadly.

In summary, both people argued that it is entirely appropriate, if not obligatory, for the government to inform people that the law makes them eligible for various programs. Put differently, it would be inappropriate for the government to making hiding eligibility a budgeting consideration.

With two full nights and a day of thought (including contemplative time in the pew at church and philosophically fecund time pushing a lawn mower), I have to say that I'm inclined to march on.  The reasons organize into three statements.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

7 Assembly Debates I Want To See

Patrick Laverty

I enjoyed watching the first two debates on Newsmakers. The first, between Senator DaPonte and Rep. DaSilva where I'm still trying to figure out whose pay grade it was that should have known about the $75M being intended for 38 Studios. If it wasn't the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, then who?

Then this week on Newsmakers, we saw another interesting debate between Rep. Peter Petrarca and challenger Greg Costantino. We got to see all kinds of things from an allegation of voter fraud by one of the candidates to the utterance of "ravioli people" by one of the panelists.

These debates got me thinking, which other debates would I like to see? Some would be pre-primary, some are after and some are dependent on one candidate surviving their primary. Here's what I got.

First, I think both heads of their respective chambers should be on the spot to answer questions. Let's start with those.

House District 4: Speaker Gordon Fox (D) vs. Mark Binder (D). Chances are you know who Gordon Fox is. He's the current Speaker of the House, completing his first full term as the Speaker. Many feel the Speaker is the most powerful politician in the state and nothing political happens without the Speaker's approval. Yet when he was questioned about the 38 Studios deal, the best he could offer was "I don't know." His opponent, Democrat Mark Binder shares many of the same progressive values as the Speaker but it seems one the areas he'd like to talk with the Speaker about and get answers on is 38 Studios. I'm confident Fox is a very skilled orator, but can he bring the substance behind it? I'd like to find out.

Senate District 13: President Teresa Paiva-Weed (D) vs. Geoffrey Cook (R). This is Cook's second shot at the seat as he also challenged the Senate President two years ago. Cook is a naturalized US citizen who followed the legal steps to become an American. One of Cook's major beefs with Paiva-Weed is her opposition to eVerify. Paiva-Weed might have some other things that voters could be interested to hear including her thoughts on the likely outcome if Speaker Fox does get a same-sex marriage bill passed in his chamber and passes it on to the Senate. Much of the talk is that Paiva-Weed is one of the major players blocking the bill. Is she?

House District 35: Rep. Spencer Dickinson (D) vs. James Haldeman (R). The incumbent Dickinson is just finishing up his second go-around in the Assembly and would first need to survive a primary with fellow Democrat Kathleen Fogarty. He first served in the 1970's and was re-elected just two years ago. One of the bills that Dickinson became known for was to require towns to put in escrow the amount of money that they would have to pay if the state's pension reform bill is struck down by the courts. Haldeman, a Republican, was well-received for a column that he wrote about his candidacy in GoLocalProv where he cited his reasons for running. Among them, to represent the entire district and not just a select few. These two seem pretty far apart on the ideological spectrum and I think getting them together for a discussion could get some sparks flying.

House District 49: Lisa Baldelli-Hunt (D) vs. The Field (D&I). Ok, I admit it, the main reason I chose this race was so Ted Nesi can sit across the table from all the candidates and ask one by one, "Do you think I'm cute?" Seriously though, some in Woonsocket are not happy with the way their state delegation handled the fiscal situation and want to replace various members, including Baldelli-Hunt. She is facing two other Democrats in a primary and then the winner will take on the independent Michael Moniz. I would like to see this debate to hear how the contenders would have handled the situation differently and helped Woonsocket avoid the budget commission, as well as how they see the Assembly helping Woonsocket stay fiscally viable.

Senate District 3: Maryellen Butke (D) vs. Gayle Goldin (D). Incumbent Rhoda Perry decided to not run for re-election, so this is an open seat. Maybe this would be the debate for all the policy wonks. Goldin runs the Women's Policy Institute and is an officer at the Women's Fund of Rhode Island. Butke is the former executive director of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement (RI-CAN). The focus of RI-CAN was to find new ways to improve public education in the state. Maybe these two would not exactly be the best two for contrasting each other's stances on issues, but it'd be great to hear what each of them will do to improve the state from within the State Senate.

Senate District 7: Senator Frank Ciccone (D) vs. Catherine Graziano (I). This one's easy. In spite of Graziano telling Ted Nesi back in April that she would not run again, she is. In that same article, Graziano is "shocked" by Ciccone's attempt to intimidate police a few months ago as he tried to get fellow Senator Dominic Ruggerio out of a DUI on the side of the road. There's no question that Ciccone apparently has union backing, so it could be interesting to probe deeper into that and who he truly serves in the Senate. And has he learned his lesson with regard to throwing his status around.

Senate District 16: Elizabeth Crowley (D) vs. Nicholas Gelfuso (M). Crowley needs to first survive a primary with Central Falls' former police chief, Joseph Moran III. That in itself could be a debate I'd like to see. In various articles through the whole Central Falls bankruptcy issue, I'd often see Crowley and Moran arguing the same side against the Receiver, Robert Flanders. I'm not sure why Moran feels he needs to unseat Crowley. However, I'd like to see how a Moderate party member would discuss these issues and how he would have handled the financial situation in Central Falls. Another question is whether they both support that idea the state's taxpayers should still be fully funding the Central Falls school district. What do they see themselves being able to do at the State House to further help the city get back on its feet financially?

Those are my picks. Are there others you'd like to see? Add them to the comments section.

August 12, 2012

Robert Oscar Lopez: "Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View"

Marc Comtois

Robert Oscar Lopez writes of the internal confusion he dealt with being raised by his lesbian mother and her partner.

Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors....When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird....My peers learned all the unwritten rules of decorum and body language in their homes; they understood what was appropriate to say in certain settings and what wasn’t; they learned both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine social mechanisms.

Even if my peers’ parents were divorced, and many of them were, they still grew up seeing male and female social models. They learned, typically, how to be bold and unflinching from male figures and how to write thank-you cards and be sensitive from female figures. These are stereotypes, of course, but stereotypes come in handy when you inevitably leave the safety of your lesbian mom’s trailer and have to work and survive in a world where everybody thinks in stereotypical terms, even gays....Gay people who grew up in straight parents’ households may have struggled with their sexual orientation; but when it came to the vast social universe of adaptations not dealing with sexuality—how to act, how to speak, how to behave—they had the advantage of learning at home. Many gays don’t realize what a blessing it was to be reared in a traditional home.

On their own, singular testimonials don't prove any sort of rule, no matter how handy and predisposition-proving they are. However, Lopez wrote this piece as a personal confirmation of a study done by Dr. Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas that shows that there are indeed some differences to be found in children raised by gay or lesbian families and those raised in traditional families. (Another study by Loren Marks shows that previous surveys of LGBT households--which mostly conclude there is either no difference or the kids of gay parents actually fare better than those raised in traditional households--were much narrower in scope than is characteristic of similar, less polarizing sociological studies. For example, most surveys focused on upper-income families or relied on self-reporters who, unsurprisingly, tended to reflect positively on their family outcomes). Understandably, Regnerus' study has been vociferously challenged. For instance, Darren E. Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University, gave his opininion on Regnerus' study:
Among the problems Sherkat identified is the paper’s definition of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers”—an aspect that has been the focus of much of the public criticism. A woman could be identified as a “lesbian mother” in the study if she had had a relationship with another woman at any point after having a child, regardless of the brevity of that relationship and whether or not the two women raised the child as a couple.
Lopez, informed by his own experience, thinks that Sherkat and others are completely wrong. (For a more even-handed critique of Regnerus, I encourage everyone to read Slate's Will Saletan who concludes, correctly I think, that "Stability, not orientation, is the story" of Regnerus' study.)
The problem with Sherkat’s disqualification of Regnerus’s work is a manifold chicken-and-egg conundrum. Though Sherkat uses the term “LGBT” in the same interview...he privileges that L and G and discriminates severely against the B, bisexuals.

Where do children of LGBT parents come from? If the parents are 100-percent gay or lesbian, then the chances are that the children were conceived through surrogacy or insemination, or else adopted. Those cases are such a tiny percentage of LGBT parents, however, that it would be virtually impossible to find more than a half-dozen in a random sampling of tens of thousands of adults.

Most LGBT parents are, like me, and technically like my mother, “bisexual”—the forgotten B. We conceived our children because we engaged in heterosexual intercourse. Social complications naturally arise if you conceive a child with the opposite sex but still have attractions to the same sex. Sherkat calls these complications disqualifiable, as they are corrupting the purity of a homosexual model of parenting....

The other chicken-and-egg problem of Sherkat’s dismissal deals with conservative ideology. Many have dismissed my story with four simple words: “But you are conservative.” Yes, I am. How did I get that way? I moved to the right wing because I lived in precisely the kind of anti-normative, marginalized, and oppressed identity environment that the left celebrates: I am a bisexual Latino intellectual, raised by a lesbian, who experienced poverty in the Bronx as a young adult. I’m perceptive enough to notice that liberal social policies don’t actually help people in those conditions. Especially damning is the liberal attitude that we shouldn’t be judgmental about sex. In the Bronx gay world, I cleaned out enough apartments of men who’d died of AIDS to understand that resistance to sexual temptation is central to any kind of humane society. Sex can be hurtful not only because of infectious diseases but also because it leaves us vulnerable and more likely to cling to people who don’t love us, mourn those who leave us, and not know how to escape those who need us but whom we don’t love. The left understands none of that. That’s why I am conservative.

He goes on to further explain how, in his experience, the "B"s (bisexuals) in the LGBT community get short shrift not only from both their gay peers but, importantly, from social scientists. He concludes:
Having lived for forty-one years as a strange man, I see it as tragically fitting that the first instinct of experts and gay activists is to exclude my life profile as unfit for any “data sample,” or as Dr. Sherkat calls it, “bullshit.” So the game has gone for at least twenty-five years. For all the talk about LGBT alliances, bisexuality falls by the wayside, thanks to scholars such as Sherkat. For all the chatter about a “queer” movement, queer activists are just as likely to restrict their social circles to professionalized, normal people who know how to throw charming parties, make small talk, and blend in with the Art Deco furniture.

I thank Mark Regnerus. Far from being “bullshit,” his work is affirming to me, because it acknowledges what the gay activist movement has sought laboriously to erase, or at least ignore. Whether homosexuality is chosen or inbred, whether gay marriage gets legalized or not, being strange is hard; it takes a mental toll, makes it harder to find friends, interferes with professional growth, and sometimes leads one down a sodden path to self-medication in the form of alcoholism, drugs, gambling, antisocial behavior, and irresponsible sex. The children of same-sex couples have a tough road ahead of them—I know, because I have been there. The last thing we should do is make them feel guilty if the strain gets to them and they feel strange. We owe them, at the least, a dose of honesty. Thank you, Mark Regnerus, for taking the time to listen.

August 11, 2012

EDC: Merely Broken Up and Redistributed Is Inadequate and Pointless

Monique Chartier

The headline of Friday's Providence Journal article

Proposal would disband the EDC

is incomplete. Let's look at a description of the proposal from the article:

The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation would be dismantled and reorganized with three components — one strategic office attached to the governor’s office, one university-led research arm and a reconstitut ed board of directors to administer programs within the private and public sectors, according to a proposal scheduled to be made public on Friday.

So an EDC would still exist, just in a more diffuse form.

We should pause here to note another item in the ProJo article:

As the state is reeling from the collapse of 38 Studios and the failure of a controversial $75-million loan guarantee that encouraged Curt Schilling to move his video-game company to Providence, these suggestions are the first among many that are anticipated in coming weeks as the EDC remains under scrutiny.

Any re-arrangement of EDC, such as described above or ones that yet may be proposed, would address neither the failure of the 38 Studios deal nor the larger problem of Rhode Island's abysmal business climate and corresponding damaged economy.

The principle cause of the 38 Studios loan guarantee going south was the lack of due diligence - by then-Governor Carcieri, Speaker Fox, Senate President Paiva-Weed and the EDC - that didn't prevent it from happening to begin with. A secondary factor still to be sorted out is the lack of oversight by Governor Chafee once the guarantee was in place. Candidate Chafee was quite emphatic, and rightly so, in his opposition to the guarantee. Yet once in office, it appears that he failed to ask any questions or avail himself of the oversight tools provided for in the agreement between the state and 38 Studios. (See, for example, Pages 51 and 52 of the Loan and Trust Agreement.) Had Governor Chafee done so, it is quite possible that the state's losses could have been mitigated.

In view of this, by the way, Governor Chafee's comments of a couple of weeks ago

"This was just not a startup atmosphere in the company, where you really hunker down and have macaroni and cheese - that's what most companies do," Gov. Lincoln Chafee told on Tuesday. "This was very, very different. [It] might not have been caviar, but they were living high on the taxpayer's dollars."

are inexplicable inasmuch as they point directly to his own failure to monitor 38 Studios and their cash burn rate.

As for the larger problem of Rhode Island's very poor business climate, as I've noted, this is the result of decades of bad legislation passed by the real "EDC" of the state: the Rhode Island General Assembly. Under the conditions created by the state's legislature, the EDC is simply shoveling against the tide. Reconfiguring that organization would do nothing to change those conditions.

The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation needs to be disbanded and deep sixed altogether. The many millions spent on their budget are wasted as long as the real EDC continues to choose to make this an anti-economic development state.

Barro's Welfare Error

Justin Katz

Via Ted Nesi comes a Bloomberg column by Josh Barro.  It's one of those commentaries in which it isn't quite clear whether the author is offering pure political advice or expressing his opinion, so I'll assume the latter.  In that context, here are Barro's thoughts on the balance of the economy and government:

If you concede that the purpose of a business is to provide well-paying jobs and solid benefits, then you cannot defend private equity. Private equity defenders must stand up for the idea that firms do not have a social obligation to retain and pay their employees; their function is to produce products and profits and getting them to do so more efficiently is good for consumers and for the economy as a whole.

… [Therefore, it's a] straightforward neoliberal proposition: The government should provide a robust safety net so that employers can be left free to hire, fire, open and close at will. A dynamic private sector is important, but it needs a substantial welfare state to support the people who fall through its cracks.

Barro's is an interesting argument, but its greatest asset is how clearly it brings into focus something that people across the country are beginning to sense, especially on the right:  The model of big finance and big business operating to supply wealth, with a robust welfare state picking up the pieces shed in the name of efficiency, is an excellent example of the ways in which the  money-shuffling sector is distorting the country's economy and government deleteriously in its own favor.

Barro introduces an error with his most fundamental premise that there is such a thing as one single "purpose of a business."  The purpose of a business is whatever the people involved in it want it to be.  If they value profit above all else, they'll follow Barro's reasoning; if they value a sense of community, they'll operate differently.

Indeed, the infinite variety of priorities is a large part of what makes people go into one industry or another — or one line of work or another.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Romney Picks Ryan for VP

Marc Comtois

Mitt Romney has selected conservative Congressman Paul Ryan from the swing-state of Wisconsin to be his Vice-Presidential running mate. The possibility of Ryan as VP has been gaining ground over the last few days. Politico ran a piece over the supposed "split" within GOP over the notion:

Ryan advocates, including some of his colleagues and high-profile conservative elites, believe Romney will lose if he doesn’t make a more assertive case for his candidacy and that selecting the 42-year-old wonky golden boy would sound a clarion call to the electorate about the sort of reforms the presumptive GOP nominee wants to bring to Washington. Call them the “go bold” crowd.

Their opposites, pragmatic-minded Republican strategists and elected officials, believe that to select Ryan is to hand President Barack Obama’s campaign a twin-edged blade, letting the incumbent slash Romney on the Wisconsin congressman’s Medicare proposal and carve in the challenger a scarlet “C” for the unpopular Congress. This is the cautious corner.

Cautious indeed. As if the Obama campaign would find anything positive about any choice, right? Rich Lowry explained why Republicans shouldn't "fear" the (at the time) potential selection of Ryan:
In political terms, picking Ryan is presumed to be like hanging out with the No. 2 of an al-Qaeda affiliate somewhere in the badlands of the Middle East. Ryan is a high-value target.

Ryan’s offense is proposing serious reform of entitlements, as part of a budget that puts federal obligations on a sustainable path. He’s already been featured in one attack ad, in which a Ryan look-alike pushed an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff.

There’s no doubt that the heart of the Ryan budget, Medicare premium support, is a major political risk. But the GOP is wedded to it. House Republicans passed the Ryan budget — twice. Romney himself endorsed it. He is already a “little bit pregnant” on Medicare.

The Democrats’ assault over Medicare will be ferocious, not to mention lowdown and dishonest. They’ve already all but accused Romney of killing someone, and they haven’t even gotten around to Medicare. When the barrage starts, Romney won’t be able to duck and cover. He’ll have to win the argument — or at least hold his own.

This is the broader point. Romney has to carry the argument to President Barack Obama. The state of the economy alone isn’t enough to convince people that Romney has better ideas to create jobs. Neither is his résumé. Romney needs to make the case for his program, and perhaps no one is better suited to contribute to this effort than Ryan.

We'll see. In the mean time, if your looking for more background, the Weekly Standard explained how Ryan "became the intellectual leader" of the GOP.

August 10, 2012

10 News Conference - Justin and RIFuture's Bob Plain

Justin Katz

Jim Taricani invited me and owner/editor Bob Plain to sit in for 10 News Conference, this morning. The topics leaned more toward politics than policy, but we bloggers did manage to pull the conversation toward political philosophy a bit. Specifically, we discussed economic development, the RI economy, the Congressional district 1 race, and the presidential race.

Watch video and continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Instant Runoff Election: Pick the Bridesmaid

Marc Comtois

Hm. I'm not sure what I think about this idea of a an instant runoff election, yet.

In an instant-runoff election voters will rank candidates by preference. If in the election no candidate wins a majority the last place candidate is eliminated and the second choice pick of voters who selected that candidate counts. The process continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes.

The process is designed so that voters do not feel like their vote does not count or that they are wasting their vote if they select an unlikely candidate.

If Rhode Island had run-off elections in place during the governor’s race in 2010 it is possible the election would have had a different outcome. Moderate candidate Ken Block, who received 6.5% of the vote would have been the first to be eliminated spreading his votes between Independent Lincoln Chafee, Democrat Frank Caprio, and Republican John Robitaille. Caprio who received 23% of the vote would likely have been eliminated next. Those votes would be divided between Chafee and Robitaille, which would have provided one of them with a majority of the vote.

After the 2010 election in which Governor Lincoln Chafee won with 36% of the vote to Robitaille’s 33% the General Assembly voted to establish the commission. The commission is expected to report its findings next year.

On the face of it, ensuring that whomever wins a particular elected office actually does so by winning the majority of all votes cast--sorta--is probably better than, say, having a Governor win with around 36% of the vote. Then again, this could also give the (eventual) winner the misconception that they won with some sort of mandate when they were actually the second choice of the people that actually put them over the top. And that leads to the biggest problem. It's entirely conceivable that the person listed as everyone's second choice could end up being governor. Maybe this should be called Bridesmaid Runoff Reform.

Legislative Votes For and Against Tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge

Justin Katz

Rhode Islanders, mainly from the East Bay, have organized a protest at Clements Market in Portsmouth, this afternoon, against tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. The hope is that the language that the General Assembly passed into law, this session, as Article 20 of the budget bill (7323Aaa) can be reversed.

That article and the budget to which it was attached were on the agendas of the RI House and Senate on June 7 and June 11, respectively. (The links are to the Ocean State Current's liveblogs, so readers can see who said what during debate.) In the Senate, Article 20 came up for a vote when Sen. Louis DiPalma (D, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton) proposed an amendment to remove it from the bill.

In the House, several amendments were raised and voted down to modify the article to make it less burdensome on local residents. The following table shows how the votes went in both chambers. The House voted on the article in three parts: Section 4, transferring the bridge's title to the RI Turnpike and Bridge Authority and authorizing tolls; parts of Section 3, authorizing the authority to maintain the bridge and set up tolls; and the rest of the article.

The votes below reflect the first vote, which is most explicit about tolls, but the article is written such that tolls would have been likely if any part of it passed. However, the only differences for the other two votes were that Baldelli-Hunt voted in favor of the language of Section 3, and Messier voted against the rest of the article.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

August 9, 2012

Sakonnet Bridge Tolls: Protest Rally Friday

Monique Chartier

Thanks to the General Assembly, the new Sakonnet River Bridge gets a toll booth next June. The cost one way will be $4; $.83 for residents with an EZ pass.

It seems to me pretty unfair to suddenly drop tolls on everyone in an area where no tolls had previously been. Tolls are one of many expense factors that people consider when choosing - or not - to move into a particular town. I was, therefore, pleased to learn that a protest and petitions are being arranged by Jeanne Smith of Tiverton.

The protest will take place tomorrow, Friday, August 10 from 3:00 - 6:00 pm at Clements Market, 2575 East Main Road, Portsmouth. (A second protest will take place on August 14 at Portsmouth City Hall; details to follow.)

It's interesting that members of the party that controls the General Assembly are looking as much to "mitigate" the tolls as to lift them.

Jeanne Smith is not of this submissive mindset. When I contacted her to obtain details of the rally, she sent the following thoughts, slightly edited for clarity and shared here with permission.

When I heard that they passed the toll during the last [General Assembly] session, and rammed it through right at the end, that got to me.

I heard it “was a done deal” and that our reps had done what they could do, and there are more of them and we were outnumbered. That got to me.

When I thought about how people on Aquidneck Island would be paying a disproportionate share towards the Turnpike Authority maintenance program, that also gets to me.

When I think of how small this bridge is compared to many of the other hundreds in the state, that also gets to me.

When I read that the Turnpike authority comment, I understand their pain, but after all they do live on an island ...

So, not having a defeatist attitude, I made out a petition and figured I would bring them to a few places and see the reaction.

Well, the reaction was great….

I believe that people still have a voice.

So I started speaking to many, many people and they wanted to help.

It just keeps getting bigger every day. There are petitions throughout the island, Tiverton, and Little Compton.

The Small Business Assoc. in Portsmouth and a number of other groups are on board as well.

There is a rally at Clements this coming Friday from 3-6, at the same time that Buddy Cianci is on air. Channel 10 should be present there as well.

Then there will be a rally at the Portsmouth Town hall meeting on August 14th. I want our Governor, and our Senator who voted for these tolls to be on notice.

August 8, 2012

What Cicilline Has Accomplished

Patrick Laverty

I had to laugh when I read an excerpt on an On Politics post by Ian Donnis by Cicilline campaign manager, Eric Hyers:

This is what they do. They distract, distract, distract.
It is the Republicans who don't stick to the issues and try to wave a shiny object in front of the voters so they'll forget about the Congressman's past. Oh really? If my memory serves me correct, it was the Cicilline campaign who first brought up a complaint about Doherty accepting PAC money and then running away when Doherty offered to return all of it if Cicilline did the same. Issue dropped.

Then, just in case the PAC issue got legs, somehow, miraculously, Politico finally discovered that Anthony Gemma has fake friends. That would be fine, except it's an old issue. Samuel Howard over at RIFuture first reported on that back in March. Why's that coming back up now, just as the Doherty campaign began the offer to return PAC funds? I can just see it now over at the Cicilline camp. "Uh oh, the PAC thing didn't work out and they're turning that one back against us. What do we do now?" "Hey, I know, I have a buddy at Politico, let's tell him about the Gemma Facebook thing and the media will jump all over that and stop asking about the PAC questions!"

Maybe equally curious, if you're a state-level blog and you report on something like the Gemma story back in March and then it breaks in Politico in July, wouldn't you be screaming from the highest mountains, "We had that story first!" Instead, nothing like that. Instead, just some light-hearted pokes back at Gemma.
Addendum: Samuel Howard contacted me and said he did address this here.

But back to the original point, distractions. See, I got all distracted away from my original thought. So let's take a look at the main points of an election. While his time as mayor has probably been fairly well chronicled and mentioned, let's look at what David Cicilline has done for us as a Congressman. Let's list out his accomplishments and what he's done for the people of the 1st District and what legislation he's gotten passed.


Ok, maybe that's a pretty short list. But have you seen his new television commercial? Apparently he's helped a few people so far. He helped one retired veteran get the Bronze Star he deserved. That's fair to give Cicilline credit for that. That's exactly one of the things that a Congressman can look into for people when all other avenues have been exhausted. A couple of the other ones are glossed over pretty quickly: "He connected me with job training." and "David helped me to get my medication." Ok, really? Connected with job training? What does that mean? Emailed her the phone number to CCRI or the DLT? And helped a woman get her medication? Sent a staffer to the CVS drive-thru?

It was his commercial, so he's the one who got to pick the best of the best for the things he's done. He has very little to show for what he's done in Washington and some quick clips of helping with job training and getting someone's medicine is what we have for a representative?

I'm just sticking to the issues and avoiding distractions, as requested.

On State of the State: Getting RI Involved and on Track

Justin Katz

On the latest State of the State with John Carlevale, I discussed Rhode Island's civic scene and how residents can begin to get involved and sort through the system along with Lisa Blais, of Ocean State Tea Party in Action, and Marina Peterson, of East Bay Patriots. Of particular note, related to my habitual role as contrarian, are the discussions of whether we should want elected officials to "work together" and the relative merits of offering comprehensive solutions versus simply increasing economic freedom.


7-26-2012 What's a Citizen to Do to Become Involved? from John Carlevale on Vimeo.

Bringing the Dependency Portal into Focus

Justin Katz

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has posted a hub page to explain and trace the development of Rhode Island's health benefits exchange into a full fledged "dependency portal," drawing people into government programs. As much as I strove to explain the concept on that page, two of the five points that one advocacy organization lists under "modernized eligibility procedures" express the disconcerting motivations behind the effort better than I was able:

  • “No wrong door” policies through which, when an application is submitted to one agency, data from the application is forwarded to other agencies to see whether consumers qualify for additional assistance—in effect, using an application for one program as an “on ramp” to other programs ...

  • Default enrollment strategies that provide eligible consumers with assistance unless they affirmatively “opt out.”

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

August 7, 2012

Cicilline = Change???

Monique Chartier

WPRO's John Depetro is not wrong to have questioned RI PBS's choice of moderator for "A Lively Experiment".

Dyana Koelsch, moderator of ”A Lively Experiment,“ which is featured Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s at Noon on PBS, admitted her role as a paid consultant to Congressman David Cicilline to WPRO’s John DePetro.

My impression of Dyana Koelsch, former WJAR television reporter, has always been that she is an honest, genuinely nice, non-scummy person. That opinion has not changed even though she is working for a candidate who possesses none of those qualities.

One item in her remarks to WPRO's Dee DeQuattro struck me, however.

For years, Koelsch worked as an investigative reporter for WJAR-TV but now she says she is allowed to have an opinion. “I want to be able to be working for change in our state,” Koelsch told DePetro.

This time only, we'll skip lightly over David Cicilline's highly questionable, in some instances, borderline criminal, actions as the mayor of Providence in deliberately locking out the Internal Auditor, raiding dedicated and reserve funds to balance the budget and postponing the release of city budget numbers until he was safely past the November, 2010, election and focus on Ms. Koelsch's stated reason for working for the Congressman's campaign.

As a politician who 1.) is a Democrat 2.) supports ever bigger government 3.) is averse to lowering taxes or rolling back regulations and 4.) fails to see the need to use the power of his office t o strengthen our economy by making the state more business friendly, does David Cicilline really represent "change" in the heavily Democrat, thoroughly taxed and regulated, abysmally un-business-friendly state of Rhode Island?

Budgeting and Spending

Patrick Laverty

Stop me around the part that no longer makes any sense.

Here are some values for you. This theoretical family nets $61,000 a year in income. That's after taxes. However, they find that in spite of cutting everything they think they can cut and is unnecessary, and trying to bring in extra money through second and third jobs, they still find themselves short by about $1,800. In other words, they still have $1,800 worth of expenses that are going unpaid. Then, in spite of the fact that they have a perfectly good 20 inch black and white tv, they decide that it's time to go to the local electronics store and purchase the latest and greatest flatscreen television for $4,000. That's $4,000 that they don't have in cash or in savings anywhere, they decide to simply put that on a credit card.

Does this make any sense at all?

This is pretty similar to what Providence is doing right now. The city has a near $614M budget, and according to today's, they have a $17.9M operating deficit. This in spite of all the cuts that the mayor has been able to negotiate through various sources, and all the extra payments he was able to get from the city's non-profits. They're still nearly $18M short of being able to pay all of their bills. So then why does it make any sense at all to ask the taxpayers to approve a $40M bond to repave some city streets?

The story here is that if you can't afford it, you can't have nice things. If you're already short on paying all your bills or doing things like:

the city’s plan to underfund its annual required contribution to the pension system by $10 million
then you should not be taking out loans and borrowing more money for what I call the "nice to haves."

Seeing as that it will probably take a year or so until all the roads would be completed, the timing is interesting. The Providence mayor would at that point be up for re-election or possibly to some higher post. "Hey Providence, how do you like those shiny new roads I gave you?" leaving out the part that "you paid for it...with interest."

Is it really a gift if you paid for it yourself?

August 6, 2012

The NASA Question

Patrick Laverty

Is something in the water over there on the Wampanoag Trail at the WPRO studios? I'm amazed at what I'm hearing. First, today Dan Yorke was going on about how great the Mars landing was for NASA and his opinion that this is the kind of thing that we should be spending tax dollars on. Skip ahead a couple hours to the Matt Allen Show and Matt has a similar opinion. He's all geeked out about the technology and how successful it all was and how he also seems to agree on using tax dollars to fund space exploration.

I couldn't disagree more.

First, I'll agree that it is an awesome achievement and I share Matt's "what ifs" with questions like what if NASA finds traces of DNA or some new element that is a cure for cancer. Those are great reasons to be there. I just feel we should not be using tax dollars to do it.

When my friends on the left tire of my whining about the federal budget, they'll ask something along the lines of "Ok smart guy, what would you cut?" expecting the usual "Welfare!" My first answer is always the same "NASA." Last fiscal year, the NASA budget was $18.4B. Sure, that's about one half of one percent of the entire federal budget, but imagine what else we could do with $18.4 billion. That's still a lot of money. It's about $118 per federal income tax payer. Relatively peanuts? Maybe to some, but that's also the point.

Some people believe that this is an awesome accomplishment and love the fact that they're helping to pay for it. That's great and I don't want to stop people from doing so. However, I don't want to force everyone else to pay for this as well. My solution is to privatize it.

I would offer all of NASA to Sir Richard Branson for one dollar. He can have the whole thing to do with it as he sees fit. Or, if it could be done, break up NASA into other logical divisions and sell those off to other various corporations, like a Lockheed-Martin, that could do some good with it.

My basic feeling is that if a government organization like NASA does so much good, then the private industry could do it as well. I think the reason that people don't beat NASA at their own game is in part due to the fact that not just anyone is allowed to launch a spaceship to the moon or elsewhere into outer space. Also there's an attitude of why not just join them? It's government funded, so become a partner with NASA or work for them directly.

My feeling is that government should provide infrastructure and defense and to me, NASA doesn't do either one. Flying to Mars really is an awesome accomplishment and all those scientists deserve all the praise in the world (in the universe?) but I just think they shouldn't be publicly funded.

State Agrees They Can't Borrow Forever

Patrick Laverty

Every two years, I've had this thought that the referenda on the ballot needs an "other side." At least someone to explain what it means to the voters from the other point of view. Every time there's a question about roads or bridges or buildings at URI or open space, every one of those questions has some group out there advocating for it. They have their own yard signs with a "YES on #2" or whatever. And it seems that every referendum passes overwhelmingly. Of course, why wouldn't we want new roads or a shiny new classroom at URI or public space? Of course we want all that, it's all free right? Plus, we're told that the federal government is going to at least match the money, so we're getting all these things for half price.

Most voters have no idea that when they vote for these referenda, they're voting themselves a tax increase. Each year the taxes go up and we hear people screaming about "those crooks" on Smith Hill and in Washington, yet they have no idea they partially did it to themselves by voting in favor of these spending measures.

Today in the Providence Journal is an article that Rhode Island will no longer borrow to spend on infrastructure.

For the first time in memory, the state this year will not ask voters’ permission to borrow tens of millions of dollars for the state’s transportation system — and run up borrowing costs.
The change will save millions in interest
So how about that "savings" when we get matching money from the federal government? Here's one example in the article:
In 2010, the voters approved the borrowing of $84.7 million — but with interest added, the cost was $147.7 million.
That amounts to paying an extra 57% in interest. There goes the "savings," not to mention that even federal money still comes from our pockets anyway. It's not like federal money is free money either.

How much is this borrowing cost us?

The debt-service cost to the DOT has risen to $50 million a year. Michael P. Lewis, the state director of transportation, said that if the borrowing had continued, the annual debt-service expense would have risen to $70 million in a decade.
That's $50M a year that we're paying because we basically put it all on a credit card instead of paying cash. If we don't have the money to pay for the infrastructure, why are we building it? If you need these things built, then pay for them now. That's really what taxation should be for, the infrastructure that everyone uses. Another example of this issue is actually under way right now. Shortly after Dan McGowan reported that Providence will still finish the year with a $19M shortfall, the city has decided to borrow another $40M to repair the roads. That's like getting a new iPhone when you don't have enough money to cover the mortgage.

Lastly, not to toot our own horn...well, ok yeah, this is tooting our own horn, here at Anchor Rising we've been saying the same thing for years. At least, Justin and Marc are on this record as being against borrowing for roads and bridges. (Friends who would listen to my rants can attest that I was also on board with this philosophy as well.) Justin even posted in his pre-Anchor Rising format as far back as 2004 and Marc did as well, in this more familiar look and feel. So this begs the question, will Rhode Island wait another eight years or more to finally realize that we are right about issues like debt, pensions and insider deals?

Recoveries: The Difference the Debt Makes (Not to Mention the Government's Focus)

Justin Katz

Earlier today, Glenn Reynolds linked to an American Enterprise Institute post by James Pethokoukis, drawing on charts from economist John Taylor showing that the United States economy hasn't been returning toward where it would have been without the crash, and that this is unusual for prior downturns.


The reasons, I think, can be inferred from this chart, which I created with a view toward answering the question of whether it's reasonable to continue expecting 7-8% returns on pension fund investments:

U.S. Stock Market Growth Compared with National Debt, Consumer Credit, and GDP, 1943 to 2010

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Governor Chafee, DOT make right call - NO Transportation Bond Ballot Item in 2012

Marc Comtois

It's about time, via the ProJo:

For the first time in memory, the state won't be asking voters' permission this year to borrow tens of millions of dollars for the state's transportation system - and running up borrowing costs each time.

The change will save many millions in interest, with the savings to increase until the Department of Transportation's debt service costs disappear once the bonds issued in the past are paid off, officials said.

It's unclear from this version of the ProJo story whether the state is still going to provide the requisite 20% of desired transportation funds that are required for the federal gov't to provide the balance (80%).

August 4, 2012

08/04/12 - RISC Summer Meeting

Justin Katz

9:13 a.m.
I was running just a hair late, but the early risers at the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC) had already jumped right in with the program for its summer meeting.

Robert Flanders just finished speaking. Some notable comments were that he believes, essentially, that there is nowhere to go but up, although "we've got to break some eggs to make a better omelet."

He then introduced the concept of the RISC Foundation as a research institution. "The goal is literally to reinvent, restructure, and revitalize Rhode Island."

Now Gary Sasse is up.

9:18 a.m.
Sasse: RI's "greatest deficit" is consistent and competent leadership.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Barone: Intellegentsia Got the Partisanship the Asked For

Marc Comtois

Michael Barone:

I ascribe much of the partisan tone of today's politics to two changes urged by the political scientists I studied in college nearly half a century ago.

One was the idea that we should have one clearly liberal and one clearly conservative party. This was a popular enough argument in the 1940s and 1950s that Gallup used to test it in polls.

Political scientists and sympathetic journalists were annoyed that there were lots of Southern (and some non-Southern) conservatives in the Democratic party and that there were a fair number of pretty liberal Republicans in big states like New York and California.

Wouldn't it make more sense, they asked, to have all the liberals in one party and all the conservatives in the other? That way, they said, voters would have a clear choice and the winning party (the liberals, most of them hoped) would be able to enact its programs into law.

There are indeed rational arguments for this. For years Southern whites clung to the Democratic label because of memories of the Civil War, while many liberal Northerners supported Republicans because they disliked big city Democratic political machines. Neither party was ideologically coherent.

Today it's clear that the prayers of the midcentury reformers have been answered. The Republican party is a clearly and nearly unanimously conservative party, while the Democratic party is the natural home for liberals.

As a result there are more party-line votes in Congress than there were half a century ago. There are fewer friendships and alliances across party lines. Parties with supermajorities can enact their programs (e.g., Obamacare) even in the face of hostile public opinion.

Hm. It hasn't happened in Rhode Island yet, though. He continues:
Another idea peddled by political scientists and some thoughtful liberal politicians half a century ago was that there should be more party discipline in Congress.

Rep. Richard Bolling, frustrated that Democratic House speakers didn't force Southern conservatives to vote the liberal line, wrote two books in the 1960s advocating this. Liberal political scientists and columnists liked the idea.

So when Democrats won big majorities in the Watergate year of 1974, San Francisco Rep. Phillip Burton, in a typical backroom maneuver, engineered the election of Democratic committee chairmen and important subcommittee chairmen by secret ballot.

House Republicans adopted a similar rule, providing for election by an elected steering committee, after their big win in 1994.

There's a certain logic to this, and I believe the results on balance have been positive. You don't see senile chairmen frozen in office by the seniority system (a progressive reform in 1911) any more, and both parties have generally chosen competent chairmen.

But -- and here's the answered prayers department -- you also get more partisan politics. Anyone wanting a chairmanship some day had better not dissent from party orthodoxy very often.

A reputation for bipartisanship doesn't help you get ahead when members of the other party don't get a vote.

Instead, you get called--often quite appropriately--a DINO or RINO.

August 3, 2012

One Graph Says it All

Marc Comtois

Hm. So what this says is we'd have been better off without the stimulus?

Well, at least we're in our 3rd "recovery summer", 'cause one just wasn't enough!

ADDENDUM: Woops, almost forgot. It's Bush's fault.

National Poll Shenanigans

Marc Comtois

Take a look at the Real Clear Politics' 2012 Presidential poll averages and you'll see, for the most part, Obama and Romney are within 2-4 pts of each other with Obama leading most of them. Then Pew released a poll showing Obama with a 10 point lead. How'd that happen? Well, several experienced and astute poll watchers noticed the discrepancy between the Democrats and Republicans sampled, which Pew itself laid out:

The current survey finds that 45% of independents back Romney and 43% Obama, which is virtually unchanged from earlier in July. Over the course of the year, independent support has wavered, with neither candidate holding a consistent advantage.

Both candidates have nearly universal backing within their party: Nine-in-ten Democrats support Obama and an identical share of Republicans support Romney. Obama’s overall edge at this point is based on the healthy advantage in overall party identification that Democrats have enjoyed in recent years.

Pew's aggregate shows that they significantly over-sampled Democrats compared to Republicans. That's how, even though 9 in 10 of each party stayed true and Romney has a slight lead over the President with Independents, Obama manages to have a 10 point lead. How can this be a legitimate way to conduct a poll when no one--and I mean no one--really things the Democrats will have a 10 point turnout advantage in November? Hugh Hewitt asked the Quinnipiac pollster--who also tends to over-sample Democrats--the same question.
HH: I want to start with the models, which are creating quite a lot of controversy. In Florida, the model that Quinnipiac used gave Democrats a nine point edge in turnout. In Ohio, the sample had an eight point Democratic advantage. What’s the reasoning behind those models?

PB: Well, what is important to understand is that the way Quinnipiac and most other major polls do their sampling is we do not wait for party ID. We ask voters, or the people we interview, do they consider themselves a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or a member of a minor party. And that’s different than asking them what their party registration is. What you’re comparing it to is party registration. In other words, when someone starts as a voter, they have the opportunity of, in most states, of being a Republican, a Democrat, or a member of a minor party or unaffiliated.

HH: Okay.

PB: So what’s important to understand is what we are doing is we’re asking voters what they consider themselves when we interview them, which was in the last week.

HH: Now what I don’t understand this, so educate me on it, if Democrats only had a three point advantage in Florida in the final turnout measurement in 2008, but in your poll they have a nine point turnout advantage, why is that not a source of skepticism for people?

PB: Well, I mean, clearly there will be some people who are skeptics. This is how we’ve always done our polls. Our record is very good in terms of accuracy. Again, remember, we’re asking people what they consider themselves at the time we call them.

HH: But I don’t know how that goes to the issue, Peter, so help me. I’m not being argumentative, I really want to know. Why would guys run a poll with nine percent more Democrats than Republicans when that percentage advantage, I mean, if you’re trying to tell people how the state is going to go, I don’t think this is particularly helpful, because you’ve oversampled Democrats, right?

PB: But we didn’t set out to oversample Democrats. We did our normal, random digit dial way of calling people. And there were, these are likely voters. They had to pass a screen. Because it’s a presidential year, it’s not a particularly heavy screen.

HH: And so if, in fact, you had gotten a hundred Democrats out of a hundred respondents that answered, would you think that poll was reliable?

PB: Probably not at 100 out of 100.

HH: Okay, so if it was 75 out of 100…

PB: Well, I mean…

For whatever reason, more Democrats seem to be answering the pollsters calls. There could be any number of reasons for this. The obvious error here is believing that people who pick up the phone for pollsters is an accurate reflection of those who will actually vote in November. Even though pollsters seem to know that the model isn't really incorrect, it sure is good for a headline, isn't it?

Mistaking Community Self-Protection with Street Justice

Justin Katz

Fresh on the heals of more murders in one Providence neighborhood, residents in another provided an example of one way to cut down on crime:

The suspects fled empty-handed from the house ... and found a gathering crowd, said Randy Figueroa, 20, one of the neighbors. One of the suspects pulled out a gun and shot at a neighbor, Figueroa said. The man dropped to the ground, realized he wasn’t hit ––and then everyone went after them, Figueroa said.

Police officers in the area heard the gunshot and saw a swarm of people chasing one man. The officers joined in, pursuing the man into a cemetery at the end of the street, where they arrested him.

One of the suspects has already been in and out of the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) and was currently being sought for failure to appear in court after posting bail on subsequent offenses.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

August 2, 2012

RI Job Count Adjusted Up; Rhode Islanders Not Necessarily the Beneficiaries

Justin Katz

After months of hearing from various sources, notably URI economist Len Lardaro, that official jobs reports for Rhode Island were inaccurately gloomy, I was thrilled, yesterday, to see Governor Chafee authorize the state Department of Labor and Training (DLT) to release new estimates.

Basically, there is a substantial lag before the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes official, verified data on the number of jobs there are originating in Rhode Island. Between publications, the BLS releases monthly estimates based on its models and smaller surveys, which it adjusts as needed when more concrete data becomes available. Using a more accurate data set, the DLT says that the jobs picture improved to 464,700 jobs in March, compared with the "official" 457,700 jobs, both measured against the March 2011 number of 459,900.

The official number shows a decrease, while the revised number shows an increase. The following chart puts the two numbers into graphical context.

Jobs Based in Rhode Island, All Industries, Official Versus Revised, March 2002 to March 2012


It's important to note that this is not the data used to calculate labor force, employment, and unemployment numbers for the state. The above data is employer-focused, based on tax filings and survey results from employers in Rhode Island with regard to the number of employees that they have. The unemployment rate and related data come from surveys of Rhode Islanders with regard to whether or not they are working.

According to that data, the number of employed people living in Rhode Island dropped from March 2011 to March 2012 by 5,258.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

Technology and Education Then and Now

Marc Comtois

The family and I recently spent a long weekend in Washington, D.C. and we visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The "America on the Move" exhibition included a 1939 Dodge school bus from Martinsburg, Indiana, which served as a platform for explaining how technology (the bus) affected education.

In rural areas, the introduction of school buses changed the character of the communities they served and the lives of the children who rode to school. Students who had once walked to a local, often one-room, schoolhouse now rode a bus to a larger consolidated school where they were taught in separate grades. Progressive educators viewed buses as a step toward modernizing rural education....[and] favored larger schools, arguing they would provide students a better, more standardized education. Some rural citizens feared consolidation would bring higher taxes and a loss of involvement in their children’s education. One midwestern farmer said his local school was “the center—educational, social, dramatic, political, and religious—of a pioneer community.” But declining rural populations and better roads spelled the end of one-room schools. In 1920 Indiana had 4,500 one-teacher schools; in 1945, just 616.
I'd say that everyone was right, to a point. At the time, most rural students did benefit from the standardized education (much as did their more urban peers) they attained via a more efficient school consolidation model and better trained, more professional teachers.

Rural folks were correct in that taxes probably did go up to meet the increasing costs of professionalized (and eventually unionized) education. I also don't think that--while the school does still serve as a neighborhood center of sorts (at least in a populous 'burb like Warwick)--many would argue that parental involvement in school has declined precipitously since then.

Fast forward to today and the problems and debates we have with education have less to do with the implementation of a standardized education model than with the very nature of the standards themselves. Indeed, technology continues to play a key role in this contemporary push/pull as, for example, it is the internet upon which ideas such as distance learning and "flipping the classroom" are built and which could lead to, ironically, a less centralized, more student-centered, personalized--versus standardized--education.

August 1, 2012

Legality of Executive Implemented In-State Tuition for Illegal Alien Students: Why Is the RI Attorney General Sidestepping One of the Specifically Delineated Obligations of His Office?

Monique Chartier

Let me preface this post by saying that I applaud Attorney General Peter Kilmartin for moving to have Rhode Island participate in the Secure Communities Program. He had to be correct in that regard because it earned him a dubious rating on the (smirk) "Truth"-O-Meter.

In late September of last year, the RI Board of Governors for Higher Education

approved a measure that would allow students who immigrated to the United States illegally to pay in-state tuition rates at Rhode Island's public colleges and universities after the General Assembly declined to take up the issue.

Note that last clause: the Board of Governors, a division of the Executive Branch, implemented a policy that the Legislative Branch had refused to vote into law.

In a letter dated February 9, 2012, twenty three Rhode Island senators submitted the following request to Attorney General Kilmartin.

As members of the Rhode Island Senate, we respectfully request that you provide us with an advisory opinion about whether the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education ("the Board of Governors") has the legal authority to adopt a policy that appears to be in direct violation of both federal law and the will of the Rhode Island General Assembly or whether the adoption of such a policy constitutes an unlawful or ultra vires act.

Eventually, after two follow-up requests from the senators, the office of the Attorney General responded. Quoting directly from the letter dated April 19, 2012 sent to Senator Marc Cote by Deputy Attorney General Gerald J. Coyne,

The provision of legal advice is one of the roles of the Attorney General. In doing so, it is important to remember at all times that the "client" of this office is the State of Rhode Island, rather than any particular office, agency, officer, or employee.

Among the ways in which legal advice can be provided is the issuance of an advisory opinion. This office responds to requests for advisory opinions received from the head of a state agency. For the purposes of this policy, this office will issue an advisory opinion from the Senate if received from the President of the Senate, or the House of Representatives if received from the Speaker.

Really? "For the purposes of this policy, this office" will decide who gets to make the request for a legal opinion? Does Rhode Island law as it pertains to the Office of Attorney General back up this stance?

Except as otherwise in the general laws provided, the attorney general, whenever requested, shall act as the legal adviser of the individual legislators of the general assembly, of all state boards, divisions, departments, and commissions and the officers thereof, of all commissioners appointed by the general assembly, of all the general officers of the state, and of the director of administration, in all matters pertaining to their official duties, ...

Oops, no, it doesn't.

A group of Rhode Island lawmakers has sought the legal advice of the Attorney General. Rhode Island law clearly states that supplying this advice is one of the duties of the office of Attorney General. Why is the Attorney General deliberately declining to do so?

This post is entirely the result of the diligence of the Executive Director of RIILE, Terry Gorman, and of the well-founded concerns of twenty three state senators about the legality of the Executive Branch implementing such a significant policy. RIILE, Terry Gorman and many, many other people, citizens and legal immigrants, share the bewilderment and consternation of yours truly at the refusal of our elected officials to address the problem of illegal immigration via the two eminently reasonable and minimalistic measures of enforcing existing laws and withdrawing enticements (such as in-state tuition!) to breach our sovereignty, our borders and our budgets.

Hopkins Center Milton Party (and Thoughts on the Fuel of Capitalism)

Justin Katz

The Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights' panel discussion on the event of Milton Friedman's hundredth birthday offset "liberaltarian" Brown professor John Tomasi with June Speakman, a Roger Williams professor more inclined to agree with the prefix of the coinage. The panel would have benefited from the inclusion of an unabridged conservative who agreed with its root.

The most interesting idea placed on the Nick-a-Nees table was Tomasi's hypothesis that free markets can correspond with social justice if we think of the latter concept "in new ways." The people who developed social justice, he says, just "happened to be all from the left."

A conservative panelist might have suggested that there's no "happened to be" about it — that the very concept was designed to supplant the competing idea of charity and free association. Justice is the province of the police and the justice system, and "social justice" inherently suggests that those who hold the political levers can judge and impose their view of a just society on others against their will.

Watch video of the event and continue reading on the Ocean State Current...