The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RI

Welcome to another edition of my new weekly column. I’m enjoying writing it, and I really appreciate all the advice and feedback I’ve gotten so far. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi (at) wpri (dot) com and I may include them. Let’s jump in.

1. Is Rhode Island part of the U.S. economy? I’m starting to wonder. Friday’s national employment report offered more evidence the country has been recovering since last summer and is adding jobs at a decent clip. Rhode Island, on the other hand, is still losing jobs (and people). Only 59.2% of the state’s adults were working during the second half of last year – down from 65.5% in 2007 and even lower than the number during the official 2007-09 recession. At 59.2%, Rhode Island’s population is now employed at the same level as in 1978, when fewer women were in the work force. It’s no wonder people are gloomy.

2. Republican Brendan Doherty is in an enviable position heading into the November election, with plenty of money and a double-digit lead in a very blue district. But Friday’s “Newsmakers” taping made it clear the former state police colonel still needs to do his homework and bone up on policy. Votes don’t expect Doherty to become Reihan Salam, but they do expect a certain level of familiarity with federal issues; say what you will about David Cicilline, but the congressman knows his stuff (and his talking points).

3. On the other hand, Tim White pointed out to me that it’s a wonder Doherty and Cicilline are running at all when you consider, according to Politico, “the prestigious job of being a congressman sucks now.”

4. The first batch of sales numbers are in for “Reckoning,” and 38 Studios’ debut game sold 330,000 copies in the U.S., good for No. 4 on the February bestseller list. What kind of showing is that for Rhode Island’s newest corporate citizen? I put the question to Alexander Sliwinski, the savvy news editor of gaming site Joystiq, and he sees room for optimism. “It’s actually a strong showing for a new IP,” Alexander told me on Friday. “Placing fourth on NPD is really good. The console sales will trail off, but it’ll be interesting to see if it continues its life strongly on PC with Steam sales. It’s not a flop, which is the best that Big Huge Games and 38 Studios could hope for.” And, he added, “The numbers certainly guarantee a sequel is on the table.”

5. One lawmaker familiar with the ways of Smith Hill told me he’s skeptical about the actual popularity of the Cimini-Miller tax-the-rich bill despite their long lists of co-sponsors. He says it’s not uncommon for reps and senators to put their names on a colleague’s legislation as a friendly gesture, even if they have no intention of voting for it if and when it comes to the floor.

6. The FT’s John Gapper had an interesting column this week suggesting the economy’s structural problems aren’t going to be solved in “a gridlocked, indebted, constitutionally limited Washington” but rather through partnerships between states like Rhode Island and the companies located in them. “Today’s heavy lifting must be done locally, where companies thrive in clusters and large enterprises support a supply chain of smaller ones,” Gapper thinks. “They require some things from the public sector – solid infrastructure, good schools and supportive government – but they can do plenty themselves.”

7. Speaking of companies, I’ve got an unsolicited idea for publishers: They should start selling package deals on books that include both the print edition and the electronic edition. For example, I love my Kindle – it’s tiny, it’s distraction-free (unlike an iPad) and it’s portable. Yet I have trouble shelling out $15 for a book’s Kindle edition. (All that money and nothing physical to show for it?) But if I could put down $15 or $20 and get a print edition plus a code to redeem for the Kindle edition of the book, I’d be sold. Another option would be renting books Blockbuster-style – say, $5 for two weeks. Just a thought. (I’m also very bullish, as a reader and a writer, on Amazon’s new Kindle Singles.)

8. “Why,” a reader inquired of me this week, “are people assuming that Brendan Doherty will not have a Republican primary, when Rhode Island’s political couple of the last go-around may be interested?” He speaks, of course, of Christopher Young and Kara Russo, who need no introduction. There is a precedent: Ms. Russo challenged John Loughlin in the 2010 Republican primary, winning 1,301 votes to Loughlin’s 6,497. “In fact,” my correspondent added, “if Chris went as a Democrat and Kara ran again as a Republican, they could face off in a winner-gets-to-choose-the-honeymoon-location general election!” L’amour, l’amour.

9. I read two interesting articles about Mitt Romney recently: “Consultant in Chief” in Reason Magazine and “The Conversion” in Slate. Both are worth your time as we gear up for Rhode Island’s all-important April 24 primary.

10. As they put together the 2012-13 budget, Rhode Island lawmakers really ought to take a closer look at the obscenely outdated technology all over state government. Typewriters are still being used to handle HR in some departments. Employees waste valuable, taxpayer-funded time waiting for ancient Windows PCs to boot up. (Recently I saw one public servant carting in an iMac from home to do his job.) An Oracle system the state purchased is gathering dust because the money hasn’t been appropriated to actually get it up and running. We may be in an age of austerity, but some of this just seems penny-wise, pound-foolish.

11. I’ve been impressed with the initial posts penned by new Rhode Island’s Future contributor Samuel Howard, particularly this essay on why local progressives get so little traction. And, in classic fair-and-balanced MSM fashion, let me also extend a hat-tip to Justin Katz for his initial efforts at the new Ocean State Current site, especially his binding-arbirtration live blog on Thursday. The more the merrier, I say.

12. Is A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd bullish about his company’s prospects? The head of the Projo’s parent firm bought 87,000 shares of A.H. Belo stock for about $4.59 each this week amid a big burst of buying and selling by folks in the Dallas C-suite.

13. This week on “Newsmakers” – Republican congressional candidate Brendan Doherty. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. See you back here next Saturday morning.

Ted Nesi ( ) covers politics and the economy for and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

12 thoughts on “The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RI


    You can see from this chart that RI is hardly alone in employment percentages. By using the “adult” number, you’re skewing the percentage down since RI has so many elderly people. More, employment numbers don’t reveal wealth. When many less women were in the workforce and there were many less adult workers or workers as a percentage of the population, families were richer. How much people make — and not using very false CPI numbers — is more to the point in figuring out economic health than how many are employed, which can merely indicate that no one is getting paid much at all.

  2. Two things…

    Ted, you want free Kindle books? Check out RI’s libraries. They have a lot. You can borrow the eBooks there. Even better than paying $15 for nothing tangible.

    “Recently I saw one public servant carting in an iMac from home to do his job.”

    This is a security nightmare waiting to happen. I’m not going to make any claims to know anything about the security of the employer maintained machines, but bad things can happen when employees bring their home computer to work and plug it into the office network. It’s quite possible that this staffer keeps their computer more secure than most in the office, but for the most part the people in IT security would frown upon this practice.

    If the problem is not having the money for updated computers or software, I’m sure a few of us can come up with a whole list of easy money savers at the State House.

  3. Wow, I have also been hearing from republican friends that Kara Russo is talking about challenging Doherty in the primary. Things could get very interesting in the near future. Good pick up Ted.

  4. Morning, Ted. Interesting read(s).

    Regarding the state house technology situation, you recall that I wrote that review of the vote tracker way back when, but my epic first draft was a review of the technology basics from a ‘reverse engineered’ standpoint. It’s clear that whoever is running that shop is not clear on what’s available and what’s best practice. The old adage “nobody ever got fired for choosing Microsoft” is less and less true every day. (Place where I’m working has officially given up on a Sharepoint solution. Looked good at first, but turned out to be cumbersome and complicated. Who knew?)

    Which leads me to ask: who _is_ running that shop?

    Now, as to Oracle gathering dust, workers should count their blessings!

  5. The economy’s improving? Really? If one discounts the “party line” promoted by the US(or is that USeless) Dept. of Labor and its pals in the media and looks at those who’ve left the labor force and those underemployed, one gets a different picture. But, go beyond that. How can a fiscal policy and monetary policy which runs deficits as far as the eye can see, prints funny money, exacerbates bad tax policies, encourages inflation in commodities, and escalates health care costs possibly lead to sustained private sector economic growth and hiring? As for Rhode Island, this state has been out of it for a very long time. You can’t build on an ideological devotion to failed socialist redistributionist approach. Oh, if that bothers our “liberal”( no relation to classical liberalism) elites… tough!

  6. Hey Ted, did you hear the big news from Florida? Here is a post I’ve been putting up about it. Al


    Fact #1: Governor Hickenlooper signs bill this week to give a raise to state legislators. Fact #2: State legislators steal contracted, earned, fully-vested, and accrued retirement benefits from elderly in our state (SB 10-001, COLA theft bill.)

    Our values are warped.

    Thank God the courts are beginning to correct the outright, unabashed theft of public pension benefits that has occurred in a number of states across the U.S. Read below the clarity that this Florida judge brings to the matter, it is truly breathtaking.
    The Florida Legislature attempted pension reforms that were not nearly as aggressive, in terms of risk of unconstitutionality, as those adopted by the Colorado General Assembly. Nevertheless, the Florida Legislature has been smacked down by the courts.
    Here are some noteworthy portions of the Florida ruling:
    “This court cannot set aside its constitutional obligations because a budget crisis exists in the state of Florida. To do so would be in direct contravention of this court’s oath to follow the law.”
    “To find otherwise would mean that a contract with our state government has no meaning.”
    “There was certainly a lawful means by which they could have achieved the same result.”
    “Florida law is clear that a legislature can, as part of its power to contract, authorize a contract that grants vested rights which a future legislature cannot impair.”
    “The elimination of the future COLA adjustment alone will result in a 4 to 24% reduction in the plaintiffs total retirement income. These costs are substantial as a matter of law.”
    “Where the state violates its own contract, complete deference to a legislative assessment of reasonableness and necessity is not appropriate because the state’s self-interest is at stake.”
    “All indications are that the Florida Legislature chose to effectuate the challenged provisions of SB 2100 in order to make funds available for other purposes.”
    “If a state could reduce its financial obligations whenever it wanted to spend the money for what it regarded as an important public purpose, the Contract Clause would provide no protection at all.”
    “The Takings Clause is intended to prevent the government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens, which in all fairness and justice should be borne by the public as a whole.”
    “Defendants are further ordered to reimburse with interest the funds deducted or withheld . . . from the compensation or cost-of-living adjustments of employees who were members of the FRS prior to July 1, 2011.”
    Here’s a link to the decision in Florida:
    Here’s hoping that one day Justus will prevail in Colorado. Read all about it and support the lawsuit at

  7. Selfish Al:
    Too many of the promises that were made now can not be met. Many of them should never have been made in the first place. The choice will soon come to amend or default. I have always said that the only fans of the unions are its members! Of course MOST every member could easily be persuaded to accept retirement benefits, even if those benefits were NOT FAIR to those paying for them. Only a conscientious objector would walk away from a golden parachute. I don’t blame you for taking it, but when it is apparent that there will not be enough money, how can you all stand there, filled with indignation, and refuse to discuss the situation rationally. The union heads won’t give an inch because it’s their job, but, ultimately, the members will suffer for their inability to face reality. The gravy train has left the station.

  8. Some other stats about employment being actually detrimental to wealth: The Netherlands has a higher standard of living than we do but only 25% of the workforce actually is working. Norway is out of sight in wealth, something like $90,000 per capita to our less than $50,000 and much much better distribution, but I’m not too sure anyone is working much (think Kuwait here). Thirty percent work for the government in this socialist state, 10% have jobs they report to for about 10 hours/week. Probably about 30% “work.” The way to actually go is to develop natural resources that don’t pollute and live off of them, reducing population and limiting immigration and distributing wealth more socialistically. Too many people working is an indication of poverty. The jobs number in the US, of course, includes impoverished people working a second job, which is about 15 million or 10% of all jobs. Another 10% look for jobs over Christmas to buy presents, insanely.

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