Friday, November 24, 2006

What cheer, Netop?

Oh sure, our neighbor to the north hogs the limelight when it comes to Thanksgiving (even though they shouldn't), but the interplay of English colonists and American Indians played an overwhelmingly important role in the Ocean State's history as well. Take a moment to acquaint yourselves with the Narragansetts, and thank them for being such good sports (at such a great cost) to Roger Williams and company. It took both Williams and the Narragansetts to create the beginning of the Rhode Island we know and love today, and without them, Rhode Island would be just another lump of land in Massachusetts.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"The Supreme Soviet of Rhode Island"

Moscow on the Woonasquatucket? Edward Achorn at the Providence Journal (registration required) takes his dig at the one party state and compares the Rhode Island General Assembly to the old Supreme Soviet in Moscow in a scathing editorial available here.

It's hard to disagree with the gist of Achorn's main argument, namely, that Rhode Island voters are "ill informed" and "apathetic" politically, and that we would certainly benefit from a healthier opposition party. I would, however, take exception to his claim that the state's Republican party (accurately, if sadly, described as a "pathetic joke") was "torn asunder" by the Senate primary race. After spending his entire article bemoaning the lack of real political choices in Rhode Island and the lack of close races, the Chafee-Laffey matchup provided Rhode Islanders with a chance to determine the direction of the opposition party it needs - always a good thing.

Deep in the hole.

$100 million is a lot of money - especially in a small state. So when the state with America's fourth highest overall tax burden finds itself staring down the barrel of a projected state budget shortfall that could go into the 9 figure range, you have to stop and ask yourself what's got Little Rhody deep in the red.

Not surprisingly, the cost of state employees and entitlement programs top the list of the fastest growing costs, while on the revenue side, the state saw declining sales tax revenue (those Massachusetts malls are but a short drive away) and declining gambling revenue. The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council has a complete analysis of fiscal year 2007 here (warning - PDF file). Their recommendations of cutting the size of state government, scaling back the growth of state benefit programs and enacting tax reform to compete with Massachusetts on creating private sector jobs. Here, RIPEC and Governor Carcieri are in agreement, and it sounds fairly Republican. This may probably also explain why the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature isn't biting.

If Rhode Island can learn anything from the state they used to call Taxachusetts, it's that tax decreases coupled with decreased state spending can, in fact, serve as a serious economic stimulant. It's ironic that Kennedy country benefited economically from Reaganesque supply side economics, but Massachusetts could teach Rhode Island a thing or two about fiscal discipline, private sector job growth and reducing the state tax burden (although with Governor-elect Deval Patrick ready to take office, this may change).

Finally, Dictators of the World has been updated with the latest on Fidel "Feelin' Ill" Castro and a look at retro-politics in Nigeria. If you don't read it, someone else just might!


There's just no polite way to say this: the Boston Celtics are off to a monumentally terrible start. At 1-6, they're the worst team in the league. They've squandered the "soft" schedule that saw them playing most of their November games at home. They managed to lose after having big leads, close games - you name it, they've found a way to lose. This is a team that had high hopes and big expectations, so what gives?

Sure, there have been some injuries. Al Jefferson will be out for a month after an emergency appendectomy, Theo Ratliff is nursing a herniated disc in his back, and Brian "Veal" Scalabrine has an as yet undiagnosed condition that causes him to be stiff, ham handed, and just plain suck at basketball. Second leading scorer Wally "Two Zs, no D" Szczerbiak even missed a game after straining his ass. Yes, his ass. Yet injuries alone cannot seem to account for the Celtics' woeful performances.

On paper, the Celtics have a fairly deep roster, at least by Eastern Conference standards. They've got depth at every position, and some players, like former Providence College standout Ryan Gomes, Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins and newcomer Sebastian Telfair are performing well.

Perhaps the Celtics had it coming when they dedicated their season to the recently deceased team patriarch Arnold "Red" Auerbach. Or perhaps, in keeping with someone's theory, there is a curse on the team after the recent decision to become the last team in the NBA to hire cheerleaders (or as that someone calls them, "dance skanks"). That last one is an intriguing theory, but big booties shimmying in tight spandex probably hasn't caused the team to stink up the floor.

If it's not a lack of talent, or cheerleaders, then what's got them playing so bad? I'm desperate to know. And if anyone can tell me, I beg you, tell Doc Rivers and Tony Brown so that they can help turn this mess around. I'll watch every game, win or lose, but I'd certainly get a bit more enjoyment if they weren't the laughing stock of the entire league.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cry of the RINO

Let me start off by saying that I'm shamelessly breaking my promise to stop flogging the dead horse that was the 2006 elections. Lest I also forget to mention it, Dictators of the World has also been updated. That said, let's get to it.

Today's Providence Journal (registration required) has a lengthy article interviewing outgoing RINO Senator Lincoln Chafee. What gems of wisdom does he have to share with the people of Rhode Island regarding his loss to Sheldon Whitehouse?

To start with, Chafee blames "the right wing" of the Republican party for his loss. Sorry, Linc - I don't buy that. When someone's at the far left wing of the party, as you are, the middle looks like the far right. You played your cards right for being a Republican in Rhode Island but lest we forget, the electorate here leans fairly left of center. You ran as a Republican largely because you were appointed to the seat by a Republican governor who passed on the position like a Chafee family heirloom, and also because you had no connections to the state's powerful Democratic party machinery, where frankly, your ideological leanings wouldn't have caused so much as a ripple.

Frankly, Linc, I have no idea how Sheldon Whitehouse guessed that voters here are stupid enough to link you to the right wing of anything, or why you let him get away with it. After all, you could stop pretending to be a Republican the second you gained the votes of actual conservative Republicans by default after beating Steve Laffey in the primaries. Running as a Democrat who just happens to be related to a Chafee that the people of Rhode Island really liked was your best strategy, and you blew it.

Ron from Fall River raised an interesting point with me, saying that Chafee would have done well to follow the example of Senator Joe "Joe-mentum!" Lieberman and broken the party bonds by running as an independent. I completely concur. Unlike Lieberman, a solid Democrat who broke party ranks on exactly one issue, Chafee was at odds with Republicans on nearly everything under the sun - an understandable consequence of being a RINO. Yet those left-of-center politics, combined with his name recognition could have offset Sheldon Whitehouse's greatest, or rather only, campaign theme: "Lincoln Chafee's a Republican (boo! hiss!) and I'm not (hooray!)."

You tried to minimize your political risks by being a closet Democrat, Linc. I don't blame you there. After all, how the hell is a real conservative going to win in a state as blue as Rhode Island? But then Linc goes on to blame Steve Laffey of all people for his eventual choke job against Whitehouse, blasting Laffey for having "chose for his own self gratification to oppose a sitting Republican".

Yeah, the gall of that Laffey. Didn't he know this seat belongs to the Chafee family? Where did he get off, exactly, by running as an actual Republican? There's been a Chafee in the Senate for a long time, so it stands to reason, perhaps, that Linc hasn't exactly paid attention to his own party in a while. That's understandable. It explains why he's so dumbfounded at why Laffey chose to run, and why he almost beat Chafee in the primaries. I'll spell it out for you, Senator:

We like you better than Sheldon Whitehouse, but given a choice, Republican voters prefer actual Republican candidates.

Got that? Similarly, in a heavily Democratic state, the voters preferred bonafide Democrats who talk the Democrat talk and walk the Democrat walk to a Republican, no matter how skilled he is at imitating a Democrat. You got lucky once, but this time, Sheldon Whitehouse outflanked your left wing. Don Carcieri shows that the Governor's office is an exception (to offset the state legislature), but you were the rule this time around.

At the end of the interview, Chafee hints that he may leave the party, but not before describing himself as a "loyal Republican". I don't know how to put this nicely, Linc, but if that's loyalty, may God save us from treachery. Steve Laffey may have lost, but we didn't have to swallow our tongues when we voted for him.

Frankly, I like Lincoln Chafee. He seems like a decent man, and I'm sure I'll like him much more now that I don't have to admit he's my Senator. But if the "change" theme of the election rings true, it should also signal a change in the state party machinery. We don't have to vote for Chafee anymore just because we think he'll win - he's history. We have the freedom to start over in the opposition, and play a little offense for a change.

If anyone has Steve Laffey's number, I hope someone tells him to put any plans for 2008 on hold, because we'd love to see him run against Jack "The Invisible Man" Reed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

We wish you a speedy recovery

A certain someone's soul mate was rushed to the hospital yesterday with horrible stomach pains, and wound up receiving an emergency appendectomy. Get well soon, Al Jefferson!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

That's "Senator Douchebag" to you, pal.

The fat lady is howling. With all precincts reporting, incumbent RINO Lincoln Chafee will be heading back home to Exeter, and Sheldon Whitehouse will be heading to Washington. The final score, as they say in the sports business, was 197.5K to 171.3K - a virtual drubbing by Rhode Island standards. As much as I've dogged Chafee for his lack of strong convictions on, well, anything, I'd rather have suffered 10 years of Chafee to 10 minutes of Sheldon Whitehouse. Such are the breaks, I suppose.

On the plus side, however, Governor Donald Carcieri has been re-elected, squeaking out a close win over Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty, and the West Warwick casino ballot question has been soundly defeated - by a margin larger than I ever imagined. You win some, you lose some, or as the man said:

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when youre sittin at the table.
Therell be time enough for countin when the dealins done.

Thank goodness this silliness is done with - at least for the next two years, and I can get back to focusing on taking pictures of Rhode Island ... at least until the next time Patches Kennedy does something retarded again.

Senator elect Whitehouse exhorts the crowd to pull his finger

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election day

A word of warning: if you don't care who I'm voting for, just come back another time.

Today is election day, and somewhat surprisingly, Little Rhody is considered a battleground state for control of the US Senate. Our resident RINO, Lincoln Chafee, has finally managed to turn the tables on Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse in the final pre-election polls, leaving it up to Rhode Island voters to determine the winner. For what it's worth, I'm going to swallow my bile and vote for Chafee. I'm not particularly fond of his politics, or his spineless devotion to staying away from any stance that would harm his chances of re-election in what is, possibly, America's bluest state, but I loathe Whitehouse's brainless left-wing populism even more.

I will also be voting to re-elect Governor Donald Carcieri. Let's just face it - the man hasn't given us very much to complain about, and he helps serve as an effective counterweight to the state senate.

I may also be voting for not one, but two!, Democrats this time around. To be honest, it's difficult to avoid in Rhode Island, but I believe David Cicilline has earned another term as mayor of Providence, and my congressman, Jim Langevin, hasn't any credible opposition worth voting for (although I haven't ruled out writing in Fran├žois "Papa Doc" Duvalier because I'm just gully like that).

Then there are the ballot questions (viewable in a PDF file here). I'm going to vote one question 1, against the Narragansett Indian casino initiative, largely because the tribe's involvement will be limited to 5% or so of the profits, and because I'm not fond of the way Harrah's took the co-operation of the state electorate and our rotten legislators for granted.

I'm going to vote yes on question 2, for the restoral of voting rights to parolees and probationers. Frankly, if it were up to me, the voting rights of prisoners inside jails would be restored as well. After all, voting is a responsibility of every citizen, and incarceration, for whatever crime, does not invalidate one's citizenship.

I will also be voting yes on question 3, in the vain hopes that amending the state constitution will force our legislature into accepting fiscal discipline. The rest of the ballot questions are on bond issues on everything from the Roger Williams Zoo, to affordable housing, to educational grants.

Needless to say, I'm breathlessly awaiting the final results. Stay tuned, folks.