A Local Focus on Apathy and Fear

My essay on apathy and fear in Rhode Island is in today’s Providence Journal. From the version that Anchor Rising readers may have already read on the American Spectator’s site, I’ve changed the focus a bit and added some key anecdotes with a much more local focus.
To expand even more on the anecdote about the woman’s comment about my children: When she realized I was standing next to a local news reporter, she shouted across the street that her comment to me was “off the record.” Those who know the rules for reporters know that wasn’t a legally binding request, but I don’t think the reporter had any interest in shining light on that aspect of Tiverton politics.
Then the woman decided that she liked her offensive comment so much that she walked back across the street, past me and the reporter, to say the same thing to a female friend of mine who had just exited the building (albeit more quietly, so the reporter couldn’t hear).
As with government overtime for laundry workers, it’s entirely possible that the only instances of outrageous and destructive governmental and political activities in Rhode Island are the ones that happen to be discovered. I’d wager, though, that what I’ve managed to observe or hear about is only the slightest indication of a much more integral culture of corruption and intimidation.
That junk doesn’t end, and Rhode Island doesn’t begin to heal and to recover, until it comes into the light and, more importantly, Rhode Islanders insist that it is wrong. Bad voting habits are important, but shamelessness may be even more insidious.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
25 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bill
Bill
8 years ago

Justin, I read your editorial this am in the Projo. I only get it on the weekends now, because usually we get same progressive blather there (except for Ed Achorn) so it’s just not worth my support. Reading your piece was surprising as it actually made it through the liberal gauntlet that any conservative idea must pass. You are right on with your government employee/family relationship numbers, but I think just as importantly are the numbers of Union members (many also are included in the government ones i.e. police, fire, teachers) which also are inclusive of the “I got mine mentality and to hell with you!” I was once told by a professor at URI when I mentioned that the towns could no longer afford these salaries and benefits, “that’s not my problem.” And she was in the Business Department! Unless the mentality changes, we are doomed to bankruptcy sadly.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
8 years ago

I think that the 16% drawing salaries from local government is about average. I remember looking at the last census, in most states “government employees” were broken out at about 22%. That figure includes those drawing salaries from the federal government.

Monique
Monique(@monique-chartier)
Editor
8 years ago

” to say the same thing to a female friend of mine who had just exited the building (albeit more quietly, so the reporter couldn’t hear).”
Yes, it is quite telling. Advocates of Rhode Island’s status quo – high taxes, expensive government, mediocre govt services – are unable to make their case rationally or factually. So they resort to baseless nastiness.
It reveals that they personally are yucky people but, more importantly, that their cause is indefensible and invalid.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

One thing unique to Rhode Island is the number of people drawing pensions and healthcare from its government. For many years, RI allowed its firemen, policemen, and certain other privileged classes to retire young, usually on disability, and then start a second career. Often you would not be aware these were still in effect government employees. Then you have the spouses and dependents of the above. That’s not even to get into RI’s generous welfare system.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
8 years ago

This is why I stay away from meetings and the like; if that had been me I would have spit in her face GUARANTEED.
This state is Doomed with a capital D. It was in rough shape before but the influx over the last 20 years of both welfare queen hispanics and rich, scummy white “progressives” have moved the pinball machine to “Tilt”.
It’s the Florida Gulf for us baby. 5 years at most and Bye, Bye, Bye. Only thing we’ll miss is the restaurants.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz(@justin)
8 years ago

Tommy,
There are people of every demographic taking advantage of our system of government in each of the opportunities that it creates for doing so. It is harmful to the cause of improving all our lives to place racial or ethnic faces in particular roles, just at would be harmful to any mission to take to spitting on insecure people from the other side, no matter how hurtful their comments.

Will
8 years ago

Justin, Good job explaining things as usual. While I’m not sure that Rhode Island, as a percentage of the over all population of the state, has a significantly higher percentage of people who work for or who have worked for the government than many other places, I do very much think there is something to be said of the condensed geography of the state. I think in RI, people are more likely to live in the same streets, neighborhoods, etc. as all of those people who are on the public payroll, so they are more likely to be pressured by them… and often are quite directly. The analogy I often used (and it’s not meant to be a direct one, since I can see how it might be seen) is that of raw sewage. If you dump raw sewage into the ocean, it is going to have a significantly less impact than if you dump it into a neighborhood pond. The size of the ocean in that case will dilute and clean it up. In a place that isn’t so dense as RI, I think that people are more likely to act as people, as not as a unit. I know from personal experience in East Providence, that when people such as teachers, policemen, and firemen, are generally all “nice” people in isolation. However, when it looks like their own wallets might take a haircut for the greater public good, they can be made to turn on you very quickly en masse. It’s one of the negative aspects of public sector unionism… it tends to promote a high level of conformity, and not the good kind. I know one of the very first things we would ask people who were considering running for School Committee or City Council, sadly enough… Read more »

Phil Spadola
Phil Spadola
8 years ago

“I think in RI, people are more likely to live in the same streets, neighborhoods, etc. as all of those people who are on the public payroll, so they are more likely to be pressured by them… and often are quite directly.”
Those instances of neighbors interacting with each other in areas of politics can be helpful. One may gain new insights into others thinking and attitudes. There can be rancor too. Justin’s anecdotes speak to the latter. And it may be a case of reaping what has been sowed.
“I know one of the very first things we would ask people who were considering running for School Committee or City Council, sadly enough is, “do you currently have children enrolled in the public school system here?” If the answer is yes, we would strongly dissuade them running at all, because we know from past experience from both officeholders and even just candidates, how their children will get treated by those who are supposed to nurture and protect them.”
First, its hard to accept this at face value because the author only identifies himself by a first name. Second I have examples that completely contradict this assersion. Teachers I know bend over backwards to keep the political positions of parents where they belong….out of the classroom.
I want to thank Justin for his words to “Tommy Cranston”. I like to think that there can always be areas of agreement and instances of empathy with people with whom we mostly disagree.

Will
8 years ago

Phil… everyone here but you knows who I am. I was formerly quite involved in local RI politics. I moved from RI to VA in November. Thank you.

Phil Spadola
Phil Spadola
8 years ago

“Phil… everyone here but you knows who I am.
“Everybody loves Raymond”
“Everybody hates Chris”
“Everybody knows Will” ?

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

“First, its hard to accept this at face value because the author only identifies himself by a first name.”
Says a person who commented for years under his first name, and claims to run a business that has no digital record whatsoever.
“And it may be a case of reaping what has been sowed.”
I’ve never seen Justin engage in that type or degree of vicious personal attacks against people. I’m not the least bit surprised our local progressive is lining up to justify public bullying of those who disagree with his agenda – modus operandi for the NEA/RIFuture gang. I wonder, if Phil started receiving anonymous letters in the mail, and if someone verbally attacked his family in a public setting simply because he expressed his political beliefs, would he be so quick to rationalize the behavior?

Monique
Monique(@monique-chartier)
Editor
8 years ago

“because we know from past experience from both officeholders and even just candidates, how their children will get treated by those who are supposed to nurture and protect them.”
Yes, it’s all for the ch-hhhhiiiiillllll-dren. Unless their parents “act out”. Then all bets are off and the children become pawns.
“Bullying”. Yes, that’s the word. There’s been a big anti-bullying push in schools. When does it expand to politics? The charming, enlightened woman who insulted Justin and that other woman certainly needs to be held accountable. How about a time out sitting in the corner? To be served at the next Tiverton public meeting. That way, the “punishment” would match the mentality and maturity of the miscreant.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
8 years ago

Dan: “For many years, RI allowed its firemen, policemen, and certain other privileged classes to retire young, usually on disability, and then start a second career.”
Hasn’t this been a “career incentive” in the military for generations? I don’t know how long the “twenty years and retire” has been in effect. Whole towns in North Carolina seem to be military retirees.
Some perspective, Clinton’s first election was the first time that more than 20% of the voters drew there paycheck from governments. This did not include those drawing sustenance through “entitlement programs”.
I remeber discovering that the census broke out “government employees” and checked Rhode Island’s numbers, we were not out of line with a national average of about 22%. So, we require nearly one out of four to govern the rest. That is a substantial burden.

Max D
Max D
8 years ago

Dan: “For many years, RI allowed its firemen, policemen, and certain other privileged classes to retire young, usually on disability, and then start a second career.”
Having been there, I don’t expect police and fire to be able to perform their duties into there mid fifties and sixties. It’s easy to say give them a desk job but there aren’t enough to go around. That said, 20 years is just to short and, as Dan said, many disability retirees have been allowed to find full time work elsewhere. My how things change. Recently I met a young patrol officer who was injured on duty and had three surgeries. His department kept him on the payroll as long as possible but finally had to bid him adieu. He has found private employment but there is a limit on what he can earn outside his pension if he exceeds that limit his pension will be reduced by that much the following year. He envisions a tipping point at which he may have to give up the pension altogether in order to earn more. He’s working in the financial industry in a commissions based job so I suspect it will be sooner than later. I guess this is how it should work but the damage to the system has been done and we don’t even know if these ‘reforms’ are enough to save it.

Phil Spadola
Phil Spadola
8 years ago

Justin Katz researches public policy for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity and is administrator of the conservative Web site AnchorRising.com  .
That is how the Providence Journal describes the author of an editorial that makes some serious claims against some members of the Tiverton community. No mention of the fact that the author ran unsucessfully for the Tiverton School Committee. How is that for transparency?

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

Phil – I honestly don’t know what you think is wrong, misleading, or incomplete about that newspaper description – it seems perfectly fine and appropriate to me. I’m also not sure which members of the Tiverton community were aggrieved by Justin’s piece since he took the high road and had the decency not to publicly name those who engaged in the reprehensible public bullying behavior you are attempting to rationalize.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz(@justin)
8 years ago

Phil, That’s a fascinating complaint. I’m actively engaged in the civic debate and political operation of Tiverton; that was clear from the essay itself. It’s telling that you would pick one of my activities as especially relevant. I’ll tell you this, too: Once, in the years leading up to sixth-grade graduation from my NJ elementary school, I was not notably less hostile to one girl who moved to town relatively late and became a target for mockery. I’ve regretted it since, but perhaps I should ask newspapers and magazines to add it to my biography line for context: “Justin has devoted countless hours, over the last decade and more to researching public policy and doing everything he could (while working full time to support his family) to foster public debate and make sure the ideas he finds persuasive get a fair public hearing. However, at age eleven, he did not conspicuously resist peer pressure to make fun of a particular student, and (really) who could believe what he believes without have some evil motive?” So, in a state that is chest deep in corruption and insider politics that harm anybody trying to make their way in life without first taking a knee to the priorities of the ruling class, you’ve got a problem with the fact that the brief sentence identifying me as the author of an essay (for which I was not paid) didn’t do enough to raise suspicions about what I had written? Perhaps you should give some thought to the possibility that I’m simply telling the truth. What if there are institutionalized organizers who are actually paid (ultimately with public money) to foster a government system and political environment that discourages people from getting involved while promoting people who will set public policy to support their own… Read more »

Phil Spadola
Phil Spadola
8 years ago

“Perhaps you should give some thought to the possibility that I’m simply telling the truth.”
There is is many interpretations of what constitutes the truth and yours is valid for you. In your piece you mention a “look” from a High School principal( that person’s name would not be too hard to discover) that has the principal “joining in the jeering chorus”. That may be the truth, or only partly true , or completely false. It rests with your interpretation. You have one business owner complain to you and suddenly the entire business community is “cowed”. Truth or your interpretation? You offer a story about a woman speaking to you about your children. You call her a woman connected with local government. Probably true. Most likely true. But how does that interaction indict everyone in government. In your eyes alone, I would suggest. But I should not be surprised that you don’t understand why I’ve pointed out that the Providence Journal did not attribute you accurately by leaving off your part as a registered candidate for office. Your screed mentions Tiverton and the Tiverton High School principal so readers may wish to balance your interpretations of fact with the fact that you may be settling old scores. At least you have not taken the path of one defeated candidate in the news recently. What’s with the young journalist who does not want to use his name?

Justin Katz
Justin Katz(@justin)
8 years ago

It was an opinion piece on the commentary pages. Just in case you’re ignorant of the practice, it is typical for the biography line to be mainly a statement of what the person does and where his or her work can be found.
Your penultimate sentence, though, marks you as one whose criticisms need not be taken seriously, and so I’ll defer from doing so.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

Phil – Instead of spending your time on these petty and nonsensical criticisms of Justin out of a supposed concern for fairness and accuracy, why have you not even once taken Bob Plain to task for his numerous and blatant misrepresentations of public officials and the vicious, personal hit pieces that appear on RIFuture on a nearly daily basis? That fact that you are solely focused on attacking someone who actually makes an effort to get things right – simply because he disagrees with you politically – while letting the other blog on which you comment get away with the written equivalent of murder is evidence enough that you aren’t really concerned about that which you claim you are. One begins to wonder what your own score to settle is in your constant attacks on this website.

Monique
Monique(@monique-chartier)
Editor
8 years ago

“What if there are institutionalized organizers who are actually paid (ultimately with public money) to foster a government system and political environment that discourages people from getting involved while promoting people who will set public policy to support their own self interests?”
Perfectly described. That’s exactly what’s happening.
Amply assisted by certain misguidedly complicit members of the media who have inexplicably decided that you’re not a real “working man” unless you belong to a public sector labor union.

phil spadola
phil spadola
8 years ago

The issue of how an editorial writer is described by the providrnce journal does have merit. It is a criticism of the editorial staff and not you. I do still find it odd that you would think that a journalist need not supply his name .

Justin Katz
Justin Katz(@justin)
8 years ago

Phil,
You might be misunderstanding. I wouldn’t hire the reporter because he wouldn’t put his name on his work.

Art
Art
8 years ago

Isn’t it incredible the level of bad behavior that union supporters can stoop to? Taxpayers who do not want to be taxed out of their homes have little choice but to stay and fight, even with the thuggish behavior.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
8 years ago

phil spadola: “The issue of how an editorial writer is described by the providrnce journal does have merit.”
I have never noticed them to describe one of their own “journalists” as an “employee of a liberal newspaper”.

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.