— Public Service —

December 14, 2012

Gary Alexander's Long Commute and Rhode Island's Big Compensation

Justin Katz

Rhode Island resident and former human services chief Gary Alexander has been making news back home related to his current job as Secretary of Public Welfare in Pennsylvania.

About two weeks ago, Alexander's work came up on the Current and Anchor Rising regarding a chart suggesting that a single-mother in the PA public welfare system is better off not making more than $29,000 in gross income unless she can leap above $69,000, because her loss of public assistance payments drops so much.

This week, Alexander caught the attention of Rhode Island Public Radio reporter Ian Donnis after the Pennsylvania Independent published a story about his use of a state vehicle to travel to and from his family's home in Rhode Island.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

January 25, 2012

Joseph Garrahy, 1930-2012

Carroll Andrew Morse

Multiple media sources have reported that former Rhode Island Governor Joseph Garrahy passed away earlier this morning.

July 21, 2011

Bruce Sundlun, 1920-2011

Carroll Andrew Morse

WPRO radio (630 AM) is reporting that former Rhode Island Governor Bruce Sundlun died earlier this evening.

May 31, 2011

Bravo! The State Takes Ken Block Up On His Offer to Look for Waste and Fraud

Monique Chartier

... in our Medicaid dollars. (Hey, Ken, will you be looking in any other areas?)

By the way, apparently he'll be doing it for free. This is very nice of him but personally, I'd have no problem with the state paying for such a service - a fee based on a percentage of dollars recovered would make sense.

The Barrington resident and business owner says he recently met with DLT Director Charles Fogarty and has met more than once with Health and Human Services Secretary Steven M. Costantino.

Block said he is offering his services free of charge. The challenge, he said, is to come up with a legal framework — perhaps a contract in which the state pays him a token $1 — that allows him access to state data so he can look for cases of fraud.

Block said he still believes Rhode Island could save $100 million to $250 million in its Medicaid programs, based on similar efforts in other states that have uncovered anywhere from 10- to 20-percent waste and fraud.

March 26, 2011

Mark Zaccaria on Two Guys Named Jim

Engaged Citizen

Last night I had the chance to attend two quite different public meetings.

I began at the newly reemerging Warwick Mall where Rhode Island Second District Congressman James Langevin was holding a hastily arranged public event. Although it was billed as a ‘Town Hall Meeting’ the actual ground rules Rep. Langevin established for the affair were different than that name might imply.

The fifteen or so voters who turned out were supplemented by perhaps 20 or more junior high school students who were dispatched by their teachers on the promise of extra credit. Before the formal proceedings, Mr. Langevin’s staff asked the attendees to sign up for one-on-one sessions of five minutes each with their Representative. These private exchanges were to take place near the main location of the meeting but away from observation and reaction by the whole body of assembled constituents.

The congressman began the formalities by making a rambling statement about the good economic times our state is entering and the fortitude shown by the President in Libya during recent days. The gentleman’s remarks were largely inaudible as, despite reminders, he kept inching the microphone away from its effective range. The impact on the students was swift and predictable. Cell phones at the ready they whispered and texted with one another until the distant chatter ended. Mr. Langevin has been a public figure all of his adult life. I cannot accept that he has not learned how to manage a microphone. It was intentional.

For me, though, the nadir of the meeting was reached when the opening statement was over. Several of the voters in the audience asked that they, too, be allowed to hear the questions that their peers and neighbors had for the Congressman. Mr. Langevin yielded the microphone to a staffer who drowned out that line of questioning by reiterating the ground rules for the evening in a very audible voice, while his boss made his way out of the enclosure and away from the brouhaha.

Whatever you think the rights of the voters and taxpayers might have been, you would have been most disappointed by the impact all this had on the young students. They were regaled with a demonstration of the unwillingness of a public official to even respond to those he is supposed to serve. To the kids it was one more example of why texting is the real world and government is just some impenetrable Kabuki dance. They simply shrugged it off, had their school papers signed for the credit, and repaired to the mall for some group socializing. What a wasted opportunity.

My next stop last night was Providence College where I attended a presentation by video provocateur, James O’Keefe.

Mr. O’Keefe has been branded a conservative guerrilla for the series of undercover tapings he’s made of public officials doing their work on the taxpayer’s dime. You’ve probably seen his exposé on Acorn staffers all across the country advising a pimp and prostitute on how to structure their tax filings to cover the fact that they employ underage, undocumented sex workers in their patently unlawful enterprise. If not, you may have caught his outing of Planned Parenthood staffers in a string of that company’s offices or his dinner with an NPR Fundraiser who, along with the CEO, was then forced to step down.

O’Keefe explained that his real objective was to prompt American News Media into doing this kind of investigative reporting for themselves. He went to lengths to express his outrage that as a college student without any real funding he had to do this on his own. He pointed up the vastly superior resources and network connections that traditional media outlets possess and was indignant that they seemed to be giving publicly funded organizations a pass on their blatant misuse of the taxpayer money they receive.

Unlike the other Jim, Mr. O’Keefe made his point passionately, compellingly, and without prepared notes. He then stayed to answer all questions from the audience and remained in the room long afterward to pose with attendees and hear their take on his past exploits and future plans.

The juxtaposition of the two Jims could not have been more stark.

Mr. Langevin, our Jim, was plodding through a set piece unconcerned – and maybe unaware – of the damage he was dully inflicting on everyone who was there. Mr. O’Keefe, on the other hand, swept in from his home in New Jersey and his work all over the country. He came at the request of the PC Students who’d contacted him to make the appearance. He was energized by the opportunity to connect with real Americans and show them the example of how anyone with a video camera can scoop the atherosclerotic mainstream media if they have the courage and energy to do so.

I applauded O’Keefe, along with everyone else in the room of 100 or so who listened to him. After that performance, as I thought about Our Jim, I was in mourning for the poor service we receive from him at this most critical moment in the history of both our state and nation.

Mark Zaccaria is a resident of North Kingstown, RI, where he operates a small business. He was the Republican candidate for Congress in Rhode Island’s 2nd District in 2010.

June 11, 2009

Nothing Egregious About This Picket Line

Carroll Andrew Morse

I guess I'm to the left of Bob Kerr on this one. I agreed with him in 2007 (and thought he wrote the best single item on the subject) when he wrote that the Providence Firefighter's Local 799 threat to picket a statewide disaster drill, which could have shut down the drill, was wrong. I was glad when the union altered its plans and opted for an informational rally instead.

But the circumstances are different this time, for at least two reasons...

  1. A statewide disaster drill is fundamentally different from a mayor's conference. Stuff happens at a large-scale drill that cannot be simulated anywhere else. Had the drill not gone on, there's no guarantee that an adequate replacement could have been put together anytime soon after and the opportunity for coordinated training and learning would have been lost.

    A mayor's conference is no disaster drill. The main activity at a conference is talking and (hopefully) listening. While there is value in getting public officials to talk to one another face-to-face, they will have plenty of other chances to communicate with one another on issues they believe are important. Or, if you prefer a more colloquial expression of this idea, politicians will be able to find other opportunities to talk.

  2. Whatever I may think of the principle of union members respecting one another's picket lines, the fact is they do, and it was unfair of union leadership to potentially disrupt the drill by forcing firefighters to choose between their professional responsibilities and their union.

    However, Vice-President of the United States of America is not a union job. Vice-President Biden's decision not to attend the conference is a purely political one and it is ludicrous to assert that people should self-curtail their rights of free expression and assembly, because the VP of the US needs to be protected from having to make political decisions.

April 3, 2009

A Theory on How the Leadership Controls the RI Legislature

Carroll Andrew Morse

I have always been curious as to how the leadership of the Rhode Island General Assembly actually wields power over the lawmaking process. Yet you may remember, for example, that last year's e-verify bill basically disappeared, because the leadership in the RI Senate wanted it to.

Yet according to a direct reading of both House and Senate rules, no single individual in either chamber has the power to kill a piece of legislation; every bill is entitled to a committee hearing and vote should its primary sponsor request one. Here is the Senate rule on the subject

30(a) Upon a written request by the prime sponsor of any public bill received by the secretary of the senate before the closing of the next legislative day after the deadline for introduction as specified in section 4.6 that a committee hearing be held with respect to such bill, the committee chair shall schedule a committee hearing within eight (8) days of such request unless a later date is agreed to by the prime sponsor. "Received" as used herein shall mean receipt in hand by the secretary of the senate or his/her designee. The secretary shall note the date and time of receipt on the request and such notation shall be dispositive. The committee chair may consider hearings on related matters. The committee shall consider said bill not more than eight (8) days after the committee hearing, unless a later date is agreed to by the prime sponsor. If the committee does not consider the bill then the committee shall be discharged of its responsibility to consider such bill and such bill shall be placed on the senate calendar pursuant to section hereof. Consideration by a committee shall be interpreted to mean any one of the following actions: recommendation of passage, recommendation of passage as amended, transfer to another committee, indefinite postponement, hold for further study or defeat of the bill.
So where exactly does this "power" of the House Speaker and the Senate President to kill legislation derive from?

A clue to the answer may lie in an interesting comment left by State Representative Brian Newberry (R -- North Smithfield/Burrilville) in response to Monique's post on voter-ID legislation, describing the customary process used in at least one RI House committee…

Every bill heard before House Judiciary is "held for further study" as a matter of course at its first hearing. The vote is pro forma and taken at the beginning of each hearing. I personally think that it is kind of silly, but at the same time, there are times when holding a bill "for further study" is appropriate.
If the rules are interpreted as meaning that a bill is entitled to one and only one hearing, could it be that these "initial" votes are being used to satisfy the formal requirements of the House and Senate rules, while leaving the list of bills that actually get deliberated under firm control of the leadership?

Is, perhaps, a rules-amendment requiring hearings upon sponsor request for bills "held for further study" for 15 days or more in order, as a way of improving the democratization of the Rhode Island General Assembly?

March 8, 2009

Obviously, Mr. President, You're Doing Too Much

Monique Chartier

The Telegraph has learned why Prime Minister Brown was given short shrift by the White House last week. According to the headline, President Obama was

'too tired' to give proper welcome to Gordon Brown

The article goes on to elaborate.

Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been "overwhelmed" by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.

British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.

But Washington figures with access to Mr Obama's inner circle explained the slight by saying that those high up in the administration have had little time to deal with international matters, let alone the diplomatic niceties of the special relationship.

Allies of Mr Obama say his weary appearance in the Oval Office with Mr Brown illustrates the strain he is now under, and the president's surprise at the sheer volume of business that crosses his desk.

It's perfectly understandable. All these bailouts. All this spending (even if it's someone else's money). The proposed massive restructuring of our health care system. So many people to try to save. So many Bushian wrongs to right. Of course it's exhausting.

Ease up, Mr. President. For your own sake, stop trying to do so much. One of the beauties of smaller government is that it means less wear and tear on those doing the governing. And you'd be surprised. It might even be the best course of action for the country.

March 5, 2009

Taxing the Rich and Hurting the Poor

Marc Comtois

Apparently we are all well aware that the rich can afford to pay more taxes--"their fair share." But can the poor afford it?

The administration’s recently released budget will limit tax deductions on gifts made to charities by those earning over $250,000 a year, raising (we are told) almost $180 billion over the next ten years. It’s an extraordinary grab for money — money given to private charities by private citizens as private donations. These donations directly fund programs that (among other things) feed, clothe, and house the poor, deliver after-school programs to disadvantaged children, build new facilities for colleges and other schools, and generally enrich everyone’s lives through education and the arts.

The way this will work in practice goes like this: Assume someone in the top tax bracket wants to make a $1,000 donation to a local homeless shelter. Currently they would be eligible for a deduction at the top 35 percent rate, so the donation costs them only $650. This proposal would allow deductions at only the 28 percent rate, meaning the donation will now cost $720, an increase of over 11 percent. In other words, $70 that could have gone to the homeless shelter will now go to the government. In the aggregate, then, charities can expect to lose about 7 percent of their contributions from givers in the higher tax brackets. The new top tax rate of 39.6 percent in 2011 makes the math even more punitive, making the cost of donations 19 percent higher.

A study released Friday by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University shows that if the provision had been in place in 2006, charities would have lost almost $4 billion in donations in the intervening period. With the incomes of the so-called wealthy dropping, at the same time that their taxes are going up, it’s hard to see how limiting the deduction will not have a significant impact on charitable giving. The dollars taken away from private donations and directed into government coffers are not going to be magically replaced.

The study did find that overall giving doesn't dip as bad when the focus is broadened and that charitable giving rates track closely with the stock market:
The drop in giving is less stark when looked at in the context of how it would affect all Americans who itemize on their tax forms and claim charitable deductions. Total giving by people who itemize would have dropped just 2.1 percent if the Obama plan had been in effect in 2006, the center estimated. Itemized charitable contributions totaled nearly $187-billion that year.

But the center cautioned that giving is far more likely to be affected by the condition of the stock market than by President Obama’s tax proposals. It noted that every time the stock market declines by 100 points, giving declines by $1.85-billion. Charitable donations rise by that same amount when the stock market increases.

Remind me: how has the stock market performed in reaction to the Obama economic "plan"? Finally:
Patrick M. Rooney, interim director of the Indiana center, said he worried about the effect of the tax change at a time when the downturn in the economy has put a squeeze on many donors and the charities they support.

“Tax incentives do stimulate more giving,” Mr. Rooney said, “and the challenges facing the nonprofit sector in 2009 suggest that this might be a good time to provide additional incentives, rather than reduce the value of the tax deduction for high-income households, so that the donors with the greatest capacity to give have more reasons to do so.”

But there may be hope yet.

February 16, 2009

A Thought on Minimum Manning

Justin Katz

I know and trust Lieutenant Michael Morse of the Providence Fire Department, and he certainly makes some persuasive points on minimum manning:

From my seat I witness Providence's manpower used beyond the breaking point daily. Day after day, we are forced to tap resources from surrounding communities to answer 911 calls. Crews from Cranston, East Providence, Johnston, Pawtucket and anywhere else Providence can find fill the void when we need emergency responders. The people in those communities are under-protected while their first responders are busy bailing out their neighbors in the capital. It is a recipe for disaster. ...

One thing that is imperative in the fire/EMS service is consistency. From our end, we need to know where our resources lie, how long before they arrive, and how many will show up when called. While I am doing CPR with my partner, I'm also formulating a plan based on my expectations. I know Engine Company 11 has been dispatched from the Reservoir Avenue Fire Station and will arrive within a few minutes with three firefighters on board. I'll need two trained people to continue CPR, one to drive the rescue, my partner to monitor the heart, administer oxygen and start IVs. That leaves me to administer medications, defibrillate, document and contact medical control. Nobody is idle during an emergency. Often we have nobody left to drive the fire engine. We do the best we can and make due with what we have.

What if the mayor closed Engine 11 for the night rather than pay overtime? What if two firefighters showed up five minutes later than planned? What chance, if any, the patient had for survival would be tossed aside because of irresponsible budgeting? Is this the best our society can do?

The basic distrust is that the people setting manning levels stand to gain financially from overtime. (Whether that is really a factor is a debate into which we needn't slip.) The basic challenge is that schedules will always hover somewhere between full-time equivalent positions.

To square this circle, although I hate to create any additional departments at the state level, what if Rhode Island were to establish (or adjust rules and regulations in whatever way necessary to enable municipalities to establish) a statewide or regional fire authority that would take care of some of the organizational and back-office work entailed in sharing full-time firefighers/rescuers from town to town? The fire authority could bring an outside perspective to disputes about the number of team members necessary at any given time, and more importantly, it could organize a mixed volunteer and professional force that would split time with different departments.

I'm not suggesting a union-hall type setting to which such employees would show up to grab their daily assignments. Rather, their schedules would typically be nearly as regular as firefighters' currently are.

That way, each town or city could remain fully staffed without requiring a significant number of work hours to be paid at time-and-a-half. There would also be a new route toward securing full-time jobs or volunteering. (Details about pay, benefits, and pensions would have to be worked out of course.)

Just a thought.

February 8, 2009

Is There Anyone in New England with a Dimmer Understanding of the Principles of Regulation than Christopher Dodd?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Keven Rennie's column in today's Hartford Courant forces the reader to wonder if Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd is incredibly dim-witted, or incredibly dishonest (h/t Instapundit). I don't think there's any other choice. Or maybe there's no need to choose…

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd went one contrivance too far last week at his carefully choreographed press event to explain his mortgage deals with Countrywide Financial. Dodd has engaged in so many contradictions in trying to manage the gathering storm that he probably did not recognize his stunning blunder.

At his Monday event, Dodd wouldn't let reporters have copies of the selected documents he let them glimpse. Instead, Dodd released a report from a Chicago firm hired with campaign funds to review his mortgage transactions.

If this episode reflects Senator Dodd's idea of meaningful oversight and transparency, he needs to be relieved of his Banking Committee responsibilities immediately. But hey, it's not every New Englander who can brag he would win a "who is less trustworthy" contest if pitted against Sam Goliath of Goliath Insurance, the ethically-challenged main character from the Providence Auto Body spots heard on local radio.

And did you know that Senator Dodd voted last week against giving low-interest mortgages to American citizens as part of the stimulus package. Apparently, the Senator believes that low rates are a privilege reserved for Senators with influence on banking issues, not something to be shared with the hoi-polloi.

December 14, 2008

"A Fussy and Difficult Student"

Justin Katz

There's a familiar face on the front page of the Providence Journal today:

From the beginning, the relationship between William Felkner and the Rhode Island College School of Social Work has sounded like the screech of chalk on a blackboard. ...

Felkner has filed a lawsuit against Rhode Island College that revives arguments from conservatives who have assailed the NASW code of ethics, the profession of social work and the structure of academic programs in schools of social work across the country.

The article reminds readers of a quotation from one social work professor in Felkner's past who succinctly illustrated the attitude that can fester when a group is ideologically cloistered, standing as timely evidence of the need for intellectual diversity and of the opportunity for citizen media, such as blogs, to have an effect by shedding light even in small dark pits:

[Felkner's] complaint about the film prompted an e-mail from his professor, former adjunct faculty member James Ryczek. "Social work is a value-based profession that clearly articulates a socio-political ideology about how the world works and how the world should be," Ryczek wrote.

While Ryczek said he wanted to promote an open debate in class, he acknowledged his own liberal leanings.

"I revel in my biases," Ryczek wrote. "So I think anyone who consistently holds antithetical views to those that are espoused by the profession might ask themselves whether social work is the profession for them."

One problem that arises from this particular mentality is that it creates a system whereby public funds are used toward the education of people subsequently tasked with pressuring the public for further funding by a caste of secular sacerdotalists who dictate the methods and means for which acolytes must advocate. Along those lines, note this paragraph, as well:

The School of Social Work and its advocacy arm, the Poverty Institute, favored an "education first" approach to welfare, arguing that training helps recipients land higher-paying jobs in the long run.

A peculiar and tricky business this balancing of "arms," as one can begin to see (for example) in one California union's stewardship of a charitable appendage:

A nonprofit organization founded by California's largest union local reported spending nothing on its charitable purpose -- to develop housing for low-income workers -- during at least two of the four years it has been operating, federal records show. ...

The primary mission of the charity -- the Long Term Care Housing Corp. -- is to provide affordable homes for the local's members, most of whom earn about $9 an hour caring for the elderly and infirm. But SEIU officials declined to discuss the charity, saying it is a separate legal entity from the union, even though its board is dominated by officials from the local. The charity is located at the local's headquarters.

In some respects, it's surprising that Bill was able to infiltrate our local cell of poverty advocates as deeply as he did.

September 28, 2008

A Little Charity Is All It Takes.

Justin Katz

I've been neglectful in not responding to requests from the International Medical Corps to direct Anchor Rising readers to the American Express Members Project via which American Express members can vote for a charity to receive up to $1.5 million.

My understanding is that IMC is currently #5 on the list, which makes it eligible for the last of the five donations, or $100,000, which would go toward feeding poor children around the world. The IMC's Members Project page is here.

July 12, 2008

RIP, Tony Snow

Donald B. Hawthorne

Tony Snow died today, at age 53, of cancer. We remember his family in our prayers as we pay tribute to the memory of a wonderful man.

Some tributes:

Cal Thomas
Byron York
Shannen Coffin
Kathryn Jean Lopez
Michelle Malkin
Fox News

Several selections from Snow's writings about Reagan, Parting Thoughts on the Ultimate Sacrifice, and Message to GOPers.

Finally, Snow wrote a poignant and powerful article last year entitled Cancer's Unexpected Blessings: When you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change where he discussed his cancer:

Blessings arrive in unexpected packages—in my case, cancer.

Those of us with potentially fatal diseases—and there are millions in America today—find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is—a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this—because of it—God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.

To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life—and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts—an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live—fully, richly, exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don't. By his love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

'You Have Been Called'

Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces.

The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter—and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time."...

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing though the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment.

There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue—for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.

We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us—that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us partway there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two people's worries and fears.

Learning How to Live

Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love...

[Snow's best friend, dying of cancer several years ago] gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend—and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.

Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it.

It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up—to speak of us!

This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God's hand.

RIP, Tony Snow.


Snow's 2007 commencement address at Catholic University
Bill Kristol

...I’ll remember Tony Snow more for his character than his career. I’ll especially remember the calm courage and cheerful optimism he displayed in his last three years, in the face of his fatal illness.

For quite a while now, optimism has had a bad reputation in intellectual circles. The fashionable books of my youth — and they are good books — were darkly foreboding ones like Aldous Huxley’s "Brave New World" and George Orwell’s "1984." Young conservatives of the era were much taken by Whittaker Chambers’s gloomy memoir, "Witness." We who read Albert Camus — and if you had any pretensions to being a non-Marxist intellectual, you read Camus — loved the melancholy close of his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus": "One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

The basic attitude one derived from these works was that pessimism is deeper than optimism, and existential angst more profound than cheerful confidence. This attitude remains powerful, perhaps dominant, among many thoughtful people today — perhaps especially among conservatives, reacting against a facile liberal belief in progress.

Tony Snow was a conservative. But he didn’t have a prejudice in favor of melancholy. His deep Christian faith combined with his natural exuberance to give him an upbeat world view. Watching him, and so admiring his remarkable strength of character in the last phase of his life, I came to wonder: Could it be that a stance of faith-grounded optimism is in fact superior to one of worldly pessimism or sophisticated fatalism?

Tony was one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet — kind, helpful and cheerful. But underlying these seemingly natural qualities was a kind of choice: the choice of gratitude. Tony thought we should be grateful for what life has given us, not bitter or anxious about what it hasn’t.

So he once wrote that "If you think Independence Day is America’s defining holiday, think again. Thanksgiving deserves that title, hands-down." He believed that gratitude, not self-assertion, was the fundamental human truth, and that a recognition of this was one of the things that made America great...

NRO symposium
John Podhoretz

...Tony was a fascinating type. He was, literally, the opposite of a paranoid. He was a “pro-noid.” He assumed people liked him. It is a rare quality for any person. It is almost unheard-of in Washington. Tony lived a wonderful life in large measure because he believed the universe was on his side, and it was. Until it wasn’t...

Fred Barnes
Mona Charen

...From the start I could see that Tony was blessed not just with brains and great looks — he had a far rarer virtue: God gave him the most superior temperament I've ever seen in a man of his prominence. Unfailingly gracious, sweet, and genuine, he was always a pleasure to be around. We kept in touch over the years and when he was hit by cancer, the entire world saw that what had at first seemed like just niceness was something far more, something approaching greatness. Constantly dismissive of his woes and worries, steadfast in his faith in a loving God, he bore his affliction with a most surpassing grace...

David Limbaugh

...He had a uniquely jovial demeanor; he got along with people of all political persuasions; he treated everyone with respect; he was deeply knowledgeable in all matters with which he would deal and a quick study as to the limited others; he was a fierce advocate for positions he believed in -- and most of those aligned nicely with this administration's; and his verbal agility was unparalleled. Even in fierce debate, he was always of good cheer.

But in my opinion, Tony's greatest attributes were his genuineness and authenticity, his impeccable character, his abundant decency as a human being, his likability, his work ethic and, most of all, his profoundly held life priorities, beginning with his paramount and unshakable commitments to God and family.

Many have already spoken of Tony's consuming love for his wife and children and his passion for God. I am but another firsthand witness to his "walking the walk" and, like so many others, greatly admired him for it.

People tend to say very nice things about people who pass away -- and that is as it should be; it's the right thing to do. But be assured in Tony's case, all the eulogies you are hearing about and reading are heartfelt and utterly without reservation. Tony was the real article -- he and the life he led were examples to which we should all aspire...

Mark Steyn

...He was an amazing man who gave the impression he had all the time in the world for everyone he met. Which, of course, was the one thing he didn't have...

Bill Bennett
Yuval Levin

...the quality that most struck me then about Tony, whom I hadn’t met before, was not his energy and enthusiasm (which were wonderful—"a breath of fresh air" is quite right) but his deep and intensely cheerful curiosity.

In his first week in the job [as White House press secretary], I made the mistake of sending Tony a half page of “talking points” about an issue I was charged with that was likely to come up that day. This was how his predecessor had preferred to get information from the policy staff. I quickly got a call from Snow saying that was all very nice, but why don’t we talk in some detail instead about what had happened, the background, the people involved, the history, the parts reporters may not know about that ought to shape our response...it was also one of the most peculiar telephone conversations I’ve ever had. We didn’t know each other when he called, and by the end of that fifteen or twenty minute conversation, he not only knew all about the issue in question, he knew all about me, my family, and my life, and I knew more about him than I do about some people I’ve known for years. Needless to say, in that afternoon’s briefing, when the subject did come up, Tony batted the question out of the park, putting things much better than I had on the phone.

...it became clear that he wanted to learn everything he could not only so that he could speak with some depth and authority to the press...but also because he himself was moved by a love of the little details and the big stories. This was an important part of his infectious enthusiasm. His love of life and his amazement at our country had to do with an appreciation for how the little pieces added up, and what extraordinary things happen here every day. His deep reserve of principle, love, and faith was never far from the surface, and he drew on it easily and often, even as the surface was always bubbling with excitement, confidence, and optimism...

Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas on Bill O'Reilly
Mark Hemingway
Kathryn Jean Lopez here and here on Snow's interview with David Gregory, which is here; Lopez concludes with these words:

Live life until you can no longer. "Every moment's a blessing." Tony's moments with us are up, but don't let that be the takeaway from his life, that he died; we all die. Focus on how we can live — as you can see, it can make people take notice, and that's a good thing when it's for the right reasons.

May 29, 2008

But Didn't He Play an Integral and Witting Role in the Alleged "Culture of Corruption"

Monique Chartier

Former White House Press Secretary (2003 - 2006) Scott McClellan has published his memoir, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception".

Why, all of a sudden, if he had all these grave concerns, did he not raise these sooner? ... This is 1 1/2 years after he left the administration. ... He is bringing this up in the heat of a presidential campaign. He has written a book, and he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book.

Scott McClellan in 2004 reacting to criticisms of President Bush's policies in the new book by his former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke.

April 25, 2008

You Have Been Warned

Justin Katz

URI professor Tom Mather is officially warning Rhode Islanders that Lyme disease–bearing ticks will be especially prominent this year:

Based on his research of the tick population last year, University of Rhode Island professor Tom Mather predicts the number of ticks infected with Lyme disease will be unusually high this year, requiring extra caution from those who enjoy the outdoors. Mather is a well-known tick researcher and an expert on tick control.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health Web site, 90 percent of all reported cases of Lyme disease occur in the northeastern United States, and Rhode Island consistently has the second-highest number of infections in the country.

In order to protect themselves, Mather said people should remember the action plan he calls TICK, which stands for "Tweezers, Inspection, Clothing and Killing" ticks. Mather said people should always have tweezers, preferably tweezers with a pointed tip, readily available for tick removal. Next, people should be sure to inspect themselves once a day to ensure they are tick-free.

One thing that I didn't know: Apparently, Lyme disease is completely curable if caught sufficiently early.

April 24, 2008

What the F@%#?!?!?

Carroll Andrew Morse

From an Alisha A. Pina report in the Projo

EAST PROVIDENCE — A Molotov cocktail thrown through a window of the Rumford fire station sparked a brief fire late Tuesday night. A similar device was tossed on a nearby church’s walkway.

No one was hurt in either incident.

I have no idea what the ratio of maliciousness to stupidity was in the motivation for this act, but I plan to make an anti-moron pro-community statement of support in the form of a donation to the East Providence Firefighters Community Fund.

(It may also help make up for the fact that I probably ate more than my share of hot dogs and chili after last year's East Providence Firefighters Freaky 5K, one of the best late-season racing events here in Rhode Island.)

What the F@%#?!?!?

Carroll Andrew Morse

From an Alisha A. Pina report in the Projo

EAST PROVIDENCE — A Molotov cocktail thrown through a window of the Rumford fire station sparked a brief fire late Tuesday night. A similar device was tossed on a nearby church’s walkway.

No one was hurt in either incident.

I have no idea what the ratio of maliciousness to stupidity was in the motivation for this act, but I plan to make an anti-moron pro-community statement of support in the form of a donation to the East Providence Firefighters Community Fund.

(It may also help make up for the fact that I probably ate more than my share of hot dogs and chili after last year's East Providence Firefighters Freaky 5K, one of the best late-season racing events here in Rhode Island.)

February 27, 2008

The State as Bizarro Company

Justin Katz

Is it me, or is there just something fundamentally bizarre about this construct:

The pressure comes as the authority is already having trouble carrying a large influx of riders. More Rhode Islanders are taking the bus since the spike in gas prices that began after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Public transportation provides a reasonable check on one's own priorities and principles, because it's technically a public service, yet it's hardly a public entitlement. Although folks will have differing opinions about the efficacy and boundaries of such programs as welfare, there's pretty universal agreement among those who don't draw income directly from them that the fewer people who need the "safety net," the better. By contrast, we want ridership to increase, and one would think that it has the potential, at least, to be a source of revenue, rather than an expenditure.

Granted, there may be intricacies to the world of buses and boats that I haven't considered, but how is it possible, given that they travel their routes according to schedule rather than immediate demand, that filling more seats could represent an additional burden? That seems a bit like McDonald's complaining about an increase in burger sales.

October 23, 2007

Details on Heroism

Justin Katz

The details of Firefighter Third Class Robert Thurber's receipt of recognition at last night's Tiverton town council meeting prove me to have understated Mr. Thurber's merit:

Firefighter Third Class Robert Thurber III was awarded a Medal of Valor, second class, by Fire Chief Robert Lloyd for his attempt to save two people from a car that was in 12 feet of water after it had gone off a pier in Plymouth, Mass., on Sept. 27. Thurber was on a day off and visiting Plymouth with his girlfriend when he noticed a number of police cars racing to a pier. He followed to see if he could help and ended up diving numerous times into murky water to try to locate a car that contained two people, ages 25 and 27. He finally did locate the car, but was unable to open the door. A diving team arrived about eight minutes later. The two victims were removed from the car and taken to the hospital, but they both succumbed to their injuries, Lloyd said.

October 22, 2007

A Hero Is Always on Duty

Justin Katz

In part because I spend so much time railing against public-sector unions, I wanted to be sure to mention one item from tonight's town council meeting in Tiverton, although (not being a real journalist) my details will have to remain sketchy until a professional note-taker and reporter makes them available (since a quick Internet search turned up no report thus far of the incident):

While on a date, Tiverton firefighter Robert Thurber investigated some flashing emergency-vehicle lights and discovered that a car had driven into the water with two people inside. Without safety gear, he proceeded to join the rescue effort, making multiple dives in an attempt to open the car doors and free the passengers. Unfortunately, the diving crew, searching in dark, murky waters, proved unable to reach the two twenty-somethings in time for a trip to the hospital to save them. Tonight, Mr. Thurber received recognition for valor (although the specific honor is one of the details of which I didn't take note).

In my admiration of the man and all of the men and women in uniform who make it a 24 x 7 vocation to protect, help, and serve others, I simply don't believe that communities would begrudge them ample provisions, remuneration, and benefits no matter their employment structure. It's vexing that they feel it necessary to participate in a form of organization that seems to tend toward extortion and corruption.

That said, I should stress that unionism and Robert Thurber's heroism are entirely distinct, and the latter ought to be recognized and lauded without regard to the former.

September 13, 2007

Are There Really Too Many State Employees in Rhode Island?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Providence Phoenix's Ian Donnis has found at least one reputable source saying that the number of state employees in Rhode Island is towards the lower end of the regional and national scales…

When viewed in proportion to our population, the number of state workers in Rhode Island is the smallest among the six New England states and just the 40th-largest in the country, according to US Bureau of Labor statistics used in an analysis compiled by Governing magazine.

In contrast to regional leader Vermont, which has 301 state employees per 10,000 residents, the magazine’s sourcebook found, Rhode Island has 164 state workers per 10,000 residents. The comparable numbers for the other states: Maine (221); Connecticut (196); New Hampshire (188); and Massachusetts (187)....

The number of authorized full-time equivalents in state government (which could be greater than the number of actual employees) is 15,987 for the current fiscal year, compared with 15,796 10 years ago, according to RIPEC’s Gary Sasse. The count of FTEs had been as high as 17,715 in 1992, he says, and as low as 16,910 in fiscal 2004.

Rather than the sheer number of workers, Sasse says, “the problem in Rhode Island is that we have high costs per employee.” He puts the typical cost of salary and benefits for a state employee in the area of $90,000, noting that the state’s total for this stuff has climbed over the last year by about 7.5 percent.

The complete list compiled by Governing is available here. All of kinds of other numbers of potential interest are available here.