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Old-Time Racism in Judicial Selection

Congratulations to those nominated for judgeships in Rhode Island.  It’s unfortunate that they have to be endorsed in such a reductive way

Emphasizing the importance of having judges who look like the people who appear before them, Gov. Gina Raimondo on Monday announced nominations to six judgeships across the state judiciary in what is likely the most diverse pool of nominees ever in Rhode Island.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but it feels kind of like our culture spent centuries moving away from the superficial ideas that we should judge people by how they look and that looking alike has some sort of legal relevance, yet here we are.

President Donald Trump rightfully came under fire when he stated that a judge with Mexican heritage would be biased against him while hearing a case, with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan saying, “Claiming a person can’t do the job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

This is exactly what Raimondo is doing, with her rhetoric about these prospective judges.

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Where Would Excess Health Insurance CEO Pay Go

So, socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is on Twitter highlighting the pay of health insurance CEOs:

What insurance company CEOs made in 2017:
-Leonard Schleifer (Regeneron): $95.3 million
-Dave Wichmann (UnitedHealth): $83.2 million
-Mark Bertolini (Aetna): $58.7 million

We need a system that provides health care for all, not massive compensation for a few CEOs.

Putting aside Regeneron, which is not an insurance company and is therefore a different conversation, I agree with Sanders that these pay amounts are excessive, but the senator skates by an important point:  The reason insurance companies can do this sort of thing is that government insulates them from competition.  It also forces market-distorting policies on them, like requiring less-costly insurance customers to pay more to reduce the gap in prices.

For context, the pay for Wichmann that Sanders cites equates to around $2.25 from each of the company’s members, so as an isolated expense, it doesn’t mean much by way of price competition.  Still $83 million is a lot of money that could be put toward some other benefit or organizational improvement that would be salable.  Government has shaped the market landscape that allows that money to pool in executive compensation.  Naturally, the socialist’s solution to this problem is… more government!

Let’s imagine, then, what would happen to this money if the government even more-fully ran our health insurance industry.  With no competition, the government would have little incentive to ensure that the CEO’s wages were redistributed in the way that would attract more customers.  Would it reduce prices by $2.25 for everybody?  That seems useless.  If you say it would hire more doctors, do the math, and you’ll find that the United CEO’s pay would maybe allow for another 400-500 for a nation of well over 300 million people.

Two areas in which some significant portion of the money would surely go are predictable based on other government activities:  More administrators and bureaucrats would be hired, and targeted special interest groups would receive enhanced benefits or cost savings, to be distributed based on the political value of their support.

This likelihood should lead anybody who thinks the CEOs make too much money and that it ought to fund, instead, an improved healthcare system to the conclusion that we need more market force in health care rather than less.  That would squeeze the pay of the top employees and distribute it where the market finds the most value.

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Another Route to Side Deals in Warwick

The latest extra-contractual agreement for Warwick firefighters, as reported by Mark Reynolds in the Providence Journal, is the sort of thing we should watch for across the state:

An unauthorized practice has overpaid retiring city firefighters for accumulations of vacation time since 2015, a Providence Journal investigation shows.

Asked about documents and information developed by The Journal, Mayor Joseph J. Solomon said Friday he was ordering a halt to the practice. …

“I know the contract that Scott Avedisian signed was not the contract that was voted by the City Council,” he said.

That last detail makes this deal substantively different from the other side deal, unearthed in October, because Avedisian denied even knowing about that one.

These side deals — and the next level, at which employees take resources and time without even the cover of somebody’s approval — show the sense of entitlement and impunity. Government employees in Rhode Island already get employment agreements well beyond what the market would set, but that isn’t enough.  It’s never enough.

One wonders if the motivation isn’t greed so much as seeing how much they can get away with.  And why not?  When there are never any consequences, grabbing more and more becomes a game.

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The Racist, Destructive Insinuations of Banning Impressionism

This sort of thing makes me embarrassed for the era in which we’re living:

The Gamm Theatre has canceled a Monday performance by the Edwards Twins, apparently over concerns that the Las Vegas-based impersonation act uses white performers to portray black celebrities.

Anthony Edwards, who with brother Eddie makes up the act, said that, while they have impersonated Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder in the past, their Christmas show this year does not include any black celebrities. Edwards said he even went so far as to sign a contract with The Gamm stipulating that the duo would not use any skin-darkening makeup.

Are we all children?  These are impersonators. They perform as a broad array of stars, and for each one, they try to look as much like the performer as possible, whether it’s Cher or Elton John or Lionel Richie.  Cher has longer hair and breasts.  Elton John dresses flamboyantly.  Lionel Richie has darker skin.

The claimed matter of concern is the history of black face, but as one of the performers explains, this is not that.  Black face was not simply imitation, but a specific, demeaning style of performance.  To equate impressionism with that is not only historically ignorant but also implicitly racist because it requires that any imitation of a black person must be mockery, as if there is no positive reason to take on the persona of a black person..

Making matters worse, agreeing to remove these supposedly offensive vignettes from their act for this performance — ironically, creating a segregated performance, as if no black singers are worthy of inclusion — was apparently not enough.  The fact that they have performed them in the past taints all of their shows.

James Vincent of the Providence NAACP and The Gamm theater should be ashamed.  They are contributing to the deterioration of our society and the destruction of our ability to see ourselves as one people.

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Examples from ICE’s Arrest List

None of the examples from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of recent illegal immigrant arrests in New England are from Rhode Island:

•In Lynn, Massachusetts, a 67 year-old national of Brazil who is wanted in Brazil for aggravated murder was arrested.
•In Putnam, Connecticut, a 59-year old national of Brazil who is wanted for murder in Brazil, a crime alleged to have been committed by casting a net over the victim and stabbing the victim 20 times, was arrested.
•In Methuen, Massachusetts, a 23- year old national of the Dominican Republic who had assumed the identity of a U.S. citizen with prior convictions for drug trafficking, identity theft, and resisting arrest, who is facing current pending drug trafficking charges.
•In Brockton, Massachusetts, a 41-year old national of France with previous convictions for cocaine possession and multiple instances of assault and battery whose history also includes 30 adult arrangements with arrestsfor kidnapping, assault and battery with a deadly weapon, domestic violence and other felony charges.
•In Windham, New Hampshire, a 44 year old national of Brazil wanted in Brazil for smuggling/embezzlement of firearms who had assumed the identity of a U.S. citizen, was arrested.
•In Hyannis, Massachusetts, a 41-year old Jamaican national convicted of possession of 28-100 grams of cocaine was arrested.
•In Dorchester, Massachusetts, a 40 year old national of the Dominican Republic with convictions for cocaine trafficking and money laundering was arrested.

The press release notes that 15 of the 58 individuals “were previously released from local law enforcement custody, correctional facilities and/or court custody with an active detainer.”  That was the case with the Rhode Island example from a similar press release in September:

On Sept. 20, ICE arrested a 27-year old illegally-present citizen of Guatemala in Cranston, Rhode Island, who had recently been convicted of aggravated domestic assault, who was the subject of a previous detainer request from ICE that had not been honored by local authorities. He will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.

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The Power Center of Intersectionality

A recent Ordered Liberty podcast took up the topic of intersectionality in away that made it especially clear.  According to the discussion, the ideology gives the person with the most direct claim to victimization the lead authority to decry any given target, and then it is the duty of the “allies” to back her or him up.  Thus, in the case of shutting down speech, the people doing the dirty work aren’t necessarily even offended themselves, but see themselves as defending others who hypothetically are or might be.

On the podcast, David French and Alexandra DeSanctis emphasize the greater power this system gives to the most supposedly victimized person in the group, but I think it’s much more insidious than that.  After all, if that were the case, you could reason with the person flagging the offense, bring in somebody of the same category to dispute it, or persuade the mob that the person leading the charge isn’t reliable.

More likely, the power actually goes to whoever it is who defines what is offensive, which is probably a smaller, more elite group.  After all, we regularly see people from minority groups who decline to take offense dismissed as inauthentic.  Somewhere, somebody is declaring what interest groups are included in the network and what they should find offensive.

When these declarations are distributed, people within an interest group will either respond with the required offense or, for the most part, simply step back and be quiet out of fear that they’re just different (in a way that makes them the worst thing: privileged).  Those who don’t want to go along or step back are brushed out of the picture.  With this nucleus of offense, “allies,” who may fear they have no right to voice their contrary opinions, act on behalf of people who might not ultimately be offended themselves.

So, the question is:  Where are the orders coming from?  For the most part, it seems that people “just know” what the dictates are.  It could be that somebody proposes an idea or responds with offense and the proposal either catches on or it doesn’t, suggesting that the power of intersectionality is held by those with the most credibility on the Left in general — professors, activists, famous people, union organizers, billionaire donors, and so on.

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A New Jersey Lesson in Minor League Baseball

Time will tell, but Rhode Islanders should keep a healthy eye, over the next couple of decades, on whether we dodged a bullet when we declined to bear financial risk for the construction of a new minor league baseball stadium.  Eric Boehm’s report from New Jersey gives reason to expect that it will prove to be so:

Taxpayers spent more than $18 million to build the stadium that would eventually be named Campbell’s Field, as part of a minor league ballpark-building frenzy across New Jersey that saw similar stadiums erected in Newark, Atlantic City, and Somerset—all part of redevelopment schemes that attracted independent minor league teams (that is, minor league teams not affiliated with the Major League Baseball farm system).

Less than two decades later, taxpayers in New Jersey will pay another $1 million to tear down Campbell’s Field. …

Camden’s not the only city to dump a ton of money into a minor (or major) league ballpark under the guise of economic development, only to see the project become a fiscal black hole. The minor league teams that moved into Newark and Atlantic City around the same time as the Riversharks started playing in Camden have met similar fates. The Atlantic City Surf survived for 11 years before going bankrupt and the Newark Bears folded in 2014. Their riverfront stadium in downtown Newark is also set to be demolished less than 20 years after it was built.

Yes, maybe it looks bad that Rhode Island is losing its icons and blocking new development, but that negative appearance doesn’t justify making risky deals.

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Death and Taxes in Rhode Island

According to a Katie Davis story on channel 10, the State of Rhode Island has decided that prayer cards and cremation urns are taxable and are hitting funeral homes up for huge retroactive bills:

… State law exempts caskets and burial garments from sales tax. Urns aren’t specifically listed in the law, but funeral directors say for decades, they never collected sales tax on them.

“Since the 50s, none of us had,” Ted said. “The State of Rhode Island, when we were audited, never asked or required or looked for any information pertaining to any of that.”

But now, state tax officials are taking a second look at the law and adding up what’s owed.

Manning-Heffern is one of at least six Rhode Island funeral homes hit with a bill for back taxes.

Well, that’s one way to find a windfall for a government that is overspending its budget.  One can’t help but think that it’s a harmful approach in the long run, though.  What other salable items and, similarly, regulations might exist that a go-getting taxman might find and target?

People go for decades with the understanding that the container for a deceased person’s ashes falls under the same tax definition as a container for an uncremated body, and rather than put in legislation clarifying for future purposes, the government sends an eye-popping bill.  I guess the state had to make up for the even-more-eye-popping bill a state college has to pay for an administrator’s vacation Internet bill.

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Confirming a Conservative Response to Poverty

Writing about public policy day in and day out, one can forget that not everybody follows every argument with close attention.  Broad philosophical points of view and underlying intentions can therefore be lost.

Just so, I almost didn’t bother reading a brief essay in which Michael Tanner promotes and summarizes his forthcoming book offering a broad explanation of a conservative policy response to poverty.  It’s worth reading, though, because he summarizes some conservative policies specifically in terms of their human objectives:

  • Keeping people out of jail can promote work and stable families.
  • Breaking up “the government education monopoly and limit[ing] the power of teachers’ unions” is rightly seen as an “anti-poverty program.”
  • Preventing government from driving up the cost of living, especially housing, will give poorer families a chance to get their feet on the ground.
  • Policies that discourage savings also discourage healthy financial habits.
  • A heavy hand in regulating the economy tends to target economic growth toward the rich and powerful.

As he concludes:

An anti-poverty agenda built on empowering poor people and allowing them to take greater control of their own lives offers the chance for a new bipartisan consensus that rejects the current paternalism of both Left and Right. More important, it is an agenda that will do far more than our current failed welfare state to actually lift millions of Americans out of poverty.

My only objection is that I’m not sure that the “paternalism of the Right” is a view that conservatives actually hold rather than a caricature that the Left spreads about us.  Of course, the fault is arguably ours, if we don’t often enough express our real intentions.

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More Indications of No Change for RI Education

While it is definitely not the most significant incident of the week Rhode Island, Education Commissioner Ken Wagner made a hugely symbolic gesture on Dan Yorke’s State of Mind show:

“There are coaches that believe you go into the locker room and you hold carrots until you get performance,” Yorke said to Wagner. “Then you have Bobby Knight who comes in and throws chairs and tells them the truth.

“I just want you to throw a chair once. I want people to understand that this isn’t funny, this isn’t acceptable and this isn’t true that our students don’t perform…” Yorke was then interrupted by Wagner responding to his statement.

Wagner then followed Yorke’s lead, stood up and threw his chair to the side.

“This isn’t funny, this isn’t acceptable, and it’s not true that our kids can’t do it, they can do it!” Wagner said.

The symbolism isn’t that Wagner’s going to shake things up, but that he does, in fact, think it’s funny.  Imagine, for comparison, that Rhode Island’s murder rate were among the worst in the country and Yorke offered a similar statement to the attorney general.  How would we react if he took the Wagner make-a-joke-out-of-it approach?

Along the same vein, the Rhode Island Foundation has made news this week by announcing its new initiative to bring together another discussion about education, so that unelected insiders have another forum through which to tell Rhode Islanders how a long-term plan could maybe improve results for students a generation from now:

Aside from [RI Foundation President Neil] Steinberg, other members of the committee include: Kathy Bendheim (Impact for Education); Elizabeth Burke Bryant (Rhode Island Kids Count); Victor Capellan (superintendent of Central Falls schools); Jeremy Chiappetta (Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy); Barbara Cottam (R.I. Board of Education); Tom DiPaolo (Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association); David Driscoll (former Massachusetts commissioner of education); Tim Duffy (Rhode Island Association of School Committees); Frank Flynn (Rhode Island Federation of Teacher and Healthcare Professionals); Tom Giordano (Partnership for Rhode Island); Christopher Graham (Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce); Julie Horowitz (Feinstein School of Education and Human Development); Dolph Johnson (Hasbro); Susanna Loeb (Annenberg Institute for School Reform); Elizabeth Lynn (van Beuren Charitable Foundation); Keith Oliveira (R.I. League of Charter Schools); Pegah Rahmanian (Youth in Action); Don Rebello (Rhode Island Association of School Principals); Anthony Rolle (URI); Ken Wagner (R.I. education commissioner); and Robert Walsh (National Education Association Rhode Island).

Honestly, is there anybody on that list that doesn’t already have a seat at the table — whose views are not already represented in public debate about public policy in education?  No.  In typical Rhode Island fashion, this is a group of the same old special-interest representatives who (we should assume) are coming together to ensure that whatever reforms the state may try will not disrupt their sinecures too harshly.

In other words, it’s more wasted time and money. Rhode Islanders should brush this off as a distraction and mimic Wagner’s joke in all seriousness.  Aren’t we tired of accepting failure, deceit, and mockery?

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A Hidden Subsidy in Solar

The problem of recycling solar energy panels has been in the news lately:

“The biggest issue is the misconception the recoverable materials are worth a lot,” [solar recycler Sam] Vanderhoof says. “We can pull out about 94 percent of the materials — but the market rate is $3.50 [per panel].” Most of that value is in silver. Vanderhoof thinks recycling costs could come down with scale, but the difficulty, he says, is “jump-starting the process.” Europe’s experience with mandating recycling with dedicated funding could be a guide.

A 2012 update to European Union electronics rules included specific regulations for solar panel recycling. As a result, EU countries have a more robust recycling program. This year, France opened what’s believed to be the first plant dedicated solely to recycling solar panels.

Vanderhoof would like to see a similar system set up in the U.S. “Like recycling here for cans and bottles,” he says. “Or if you go buy a new TV [in California], you pay upfront for the recycling.”

According to this expert working in the field, people should be paying into a recycling fund when they buy their panels.  Right now, that isn’t happening, and panels are coming online in a large wave.  That means somebody is going to have to cover that cost when it becomes a crisis — either the people who own the panels or everybody else.  (Have you noticed how some of the rooftop solar companies say you get to keep the panels after 20 years?)

Which of those will be the case depends on whether solar energy companies can remain a fashionable and powerful political lobby.  At the moment, we should just note how much of the cost of solar is not included in the price when people decide to deploy them.

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In Whose Interest Is No Confidence at CCRI?

The professors’ union at CCRI has voted “no confidence” in the school’s leadership.  Here’s the claim:

The motion said that Hughes, the vice president of academic affairs, Rosemary Costigan, and Dean Thomas Sabbagh have each “repeatedly failed in their leadership roles at the College to the detriment of our students.”

So what’s the underlying problem?

At issue is a plan for a three-week winter term that would start in January. In November, the chairs of the business, social studies, math and English departments said their faculty would not participate in the winter session without including the courses in the collective-bargaining agreement.

Ah… so the “detriment of our students” thing makes a leap from the professors’ interests to the students’.  That link is debatable, but it shouldn’t be assumed.

The statement asserts that the administration is “putting our accreditation and academic reputation at great risk,” which would certainly be a concern to all of Rhode Island.  Were this more of a looming possibility than some speculative rhetoric, though, one would think there would be more evidence.  For now, this seems to be the same old story in Rhode Island — all about labor.

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Government’s Autonomous Vehicles: The Driver Just Doesn’t Drive

Yeah, this program kind of misses the point of autonomous vehicles:

The [May Mobility] shuttles will run between downtown Providence and Olneyville via the Woonasquatucket (woo-NAH’-squaw-tuck-ett) River corridor. There’s currently no public transit along the full route. …

Each vehicle holds six people, including an attendant who’ll have the ability to fully control the shuttle at any time to ensure safety.

The state’s news release provides more information, although not much more detail. Oddly, that includes the expression of concerns from the bus drivers’ union, which isn’t the sort of content one generally gets from a promotional government statement.

Each of these shuttles will be too small even to carry two three-person families, because one-sixth of its capacity will be taken up (essentially) by a driver who isn’t driving. This might be why we don’t tend to allot our cutting-edge work to government.

Wasn’t there anything else on which the state could spend half a million dollars it shook down from Volkswagen?

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The Ambiguous Middle in the General Assembly

I’m not sure if the Providence Journal’s Political Scene crew is right to summarize the General Assembly’s left-right divide based solely on abortion and gun rights, but the reported numbers do raise an interesting question: Are the relatively conservative legislative leaders on the edge of a progressive precipice, or are the legislators whose views aren’t explicitly known more conservative than they want to show in floor votes, thereby exposing themselves to progressive attack?

Cranston Republican Steven Frias seems to think the former:

Frias said his own analysis of the ratings suggests that “Mattiello is in the minority among House Democrats on abortion and guns, which helps explain why [he] has dropped the ‘firewall’ rhetoric.”

“Mattiello’s dilemma is whether to allow a floor vote where representatives will be allowed to vote their conscience on legislation related to abortion and guns. Regardless of what he decides, someone will feel duped,″ either the “House liberals … [or] the cultural conservatives who backed [him] for reelection thinking he would be the ‘firewall’ on abortion and guns.”

Frias’ argument: “If Mattiello betrays his culturally conservative constituents it would be a signal to cultural conservatives that they cannot rely on the Democratic House leadership and they should vote Republican in General Assembly races.”

A corresponding dilemma faces quiet conservatives. As long as legislators are allowed to remain fuzzy on these issues, relatively conservative constituents will continue to rely on the good graces of “firewalls” like Mattiello. An unambiguous understanding of the danger would be clarifying as people make their decisions as voters, volunteers, and donors.

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Meeting the Challenge of Education Reform

The Providence Journal editorial board is (let’s just say) very forceful on the subject of Rhode Island students’ test results:

The weak and timid reforms he and Gov. Gina Raimondo have advanced, while soothing to special interests, have been plainly insufficient. It is time for a shakeup at the Rhode Island Department of Education and the state Board of Education. Will anyone have the decency to resign for having failed our young people?

Robert Walsh of the National Education Association and Francis Flynn of the American Federation of Teachers have, similarly, served Rhode Island students abysmally. Union leaders in civic-minded Massachusetts understand that an education system is about more than providing salaries and benefits for adults. We know there are many teachers who yearn for a sound, long-term plan to improve standards.

It is a shame Rhode Island cannot simply shutter its Department of Education and hire Massachusetts to run the Ocean State’s public schools as a subset of its own. It at least knows how to do the job.

I saw editorial page editor Ed Achorn pushing back on Facebook against those who respond to these sentiments by pointing out that the Providence Journal endorsed Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo. Part of the editor’s response was that the paper has also implored her to improve her record on education, which I’m not sure quite meets the challenge.

Some of the entities that should be a check on government, like the state’s major newspaper, have this problem: They formulate their solutions as if we had a properly functioning state. Under such circumstances, a governor who had received the endorsement might change out of concern that she would lose it. In Rhode Island, she knows that she has nothing to fear.

Nobody who has secured a role of significance wants to throw down a gauntlet to make any bold changes to the way decisions are made in the state.

It isn’t sufficient to suggest, in passing, that somebody should resign over abysmal test scores. That outcome has to be important enough that advocates will ensure that insiders cannot achieve their other goals unless they address education.

That, incidentally, is win-win, because the insiders’ other goals are, on the whole, corrupt and oughtn’t be achieved, anyway. They need to be made to understand, however, that their only hope of keeping any of their ill-gotten gains is by making improvements in this area.

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Center Recommends Constitutional Amendment to Codify Legislative Process Reforms

The legislative sausage-making process in Rhode Island is in dire need of reform. Those reforms that should be codified through a constitutional amendment, so that Senators and Representatives will have greater capacity and freedom to represent their individual districts, rather than being compelled to back the personal agendas of Senate and House leadership. Now is the time to demand better government.

Our state needs less control by leadership over what legislation will advance, with more power provided to legislative committees.

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The Noises of an Expected Problem

This sure looks like an action done with the awareness of Rhode Island’s chief executive, with full knowledge that overspending was part of a long-term budget-management scheme:

House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney publicly vented his “disappointment″ that the directors of Rhode Island’s overspending state agencies did not come to the hearing to answer lawmakers’ questions.

The House’s chief fiscal adviser, Sharon Reynolds Ferland, shared her own frustration at what she described as the lax response of state agencies to direct instructions from the state budget office to lay out specific options for averting a potential $47.2-million deficit this year, and scaling back their budget requests for next year.

She attributed the potential current year deficit “primarily … [to] unmet expenditure savings and unbudgeted policy choices.”

They don’t have plans because they don’t feel like they need them. Everybody in state government is on basically the same page about the primacy of government spending. This will continue until (1) politicians start paying a price for going along with it or (2) bankruptcy.

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A Post-Racial Society Would Be More Conservative

So here’s something for a bit of Friday fun:

A new study suggests that the words you use may depend on whether the club secretary’s name is Emily (“a stereotypically White name,” as the study says) or Lakisha (“a stereotypically Black name”). If you’re a white liberal writing to Emily, you might use words like “melancholy” or “euphoric” to describe the mood of the book, whereas you might trade these terms out for the simpler “sad” or “happy” if you’re corresponding with Lakisha.

But if you’re a white conservative, your diction won’t depend on the presumed race of your interlocutor.

Interestingly, the article appears to suggest that the conservative approach is ultimately what minorities want: “research shows that racial minorities are more concerned about being respected than about being liked.” One might speculate that, if minorities believe conservatives don’t respect them, it’s not because of the way in which conservatives behave, but because the liberals who control most of our news and information media expend so much energy painting conservatives as racists.

The article and the study on which it’s based provide a small example of how that works:

What she found, by performing online text analysis of 74 campaign speeches over the last 25 years, was that white candidates who were Democrats used significantly fewer words about “agency or power,” and more about “affiliation and communality” when addressing minority voters. There was no significant difference exhibited by Republican candidates.

The irony, as the paper notes, is that “Whites who may be more affiliative toward Blacks alter their verbal responses toward them in a way that matches negative stereotypes. Despite the patronizing behavior that they enact, these liberal candidates may hold more goodwill toward minorities.”

The bias comes with the imperative that liberals must be right and must be the good guys. Looked at objectively, no irony need be involved. Conservatives are less condescending in their language, and they are less interested in addressing minority groups as minority groups. The latter doesn’t explain the former so much as they are the same thing.

We conservatives take people as they come and present ourselves as we are — as individuals, not as identity groups. We don’t hold less “goodwill toward minorities” as people, but we don’t put much stock in treating them as a group of minorities, as opposed to treating them as a group of our fellow human beings.

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Where Can Non-Union South Kingstown Teachers and Students Turn?

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity makes an interesting point in a statement about the controversial election of teacher union representative Sarah Markey to the South Kingstown school committee:

As the United States Supreme Court opined in its historic Janus decision last summer, virtually every action that a government employee union conducts is inherently political, as it necessarily involves public policy or public money. On a local school committee that deals 100% on issues involving public education, and its funding by taxpayers, Ms. Markey faces a hopeless conflict of interest.

As an intellectual exercise to better understand the complications involved, here, consider this: Where can a non-union teacher in South Kingstown turn? Since Janus, government labor unions have been sending out threatening notices about the support they lose if they leave their unions, and now South Kingstown’s board of directors appears to be in the hands of the unions, as well.

More significant, however, is the question of where the students can turn when their interests are contrary to those of the union.

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Bruce Waidler: S.K. School Committee – Serious Questions of Transparency & Conflict of Interest

On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, I attended the South Kingstown School Committee meeting. The recently elected Vice Chair, Sarah Markey, is also the Assistant Executive Director for the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI). The vast majority of the employees working in the South Kingstown School Department are represented by this labor union.

Last year, Markey attempted to get appointed to a vacant school committee position.

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What Is Going on in Tiverton?

Well, there’s this:

Robert Coulter is the new president and Justin Katz is vice president of the Tiverton Town Council, which met for the first time Monday night and will convene again Thursday night at 7 at Town Hall to finish what was a hefty first meeting agenda.

Coulter and Katz were voted into their leadership positions Monday on votes of 4-0, with three abstentions. Coulter, along with Denise deMedeiros and Patricia Hilton, abstained from the vote to appoint him president, and Katz, along with deMedeiros and Hilton, abstained from the vote to appoint him vice president. Voting in favor of Coulter were Donna Cook, Nancy Driggs, Katz and Joseph Perry. Voting in favor of Katz were Coulter, Cook, Driggs and Perry.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring a new perspective to the governance of the town. If the philosophical ideas of the new majority are correct (which they are!), the town will be headed in an exciting direction, even as we strive to bring people together and conduct civil, professional meetings.

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The Constitutional Importance of Our Legislators’ Authority

Rhode Island has had lengthy debates about who, outside of the legislature, should have authority to judge what our state representatives and senators do in their official capacity, and few questioned whether that sort of protection belonged in the state constitution. Yet, nobody has yet suggested that legislators deserve the same level of protection from the abuses of other legislators, specifically when it comes to the House and Senate rules.

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is signing on to calls for rules that reduce the power of legislative leaders and give it back to legislators, but with the caveat that it ought to happen where new factions can’t change the rules back if they take control:

In calling for a dual-legislative track, the Center’s primary objective is to ensure that elected Senators and Representatives will have greater capacity and freedom to represent their individual districts, rather than being compelled to back the personal agendas of Senate and House leadership.

The first piece of legislation would immediately implement certain reforms for the 2019 General Assembly session, while the second piece would call for a ballot-referendum in 2020, whereby voters could approve codification of those reforms into the Rhode Island constitution.

The political Left, in particular, has exhibited a tendency to back individual rights until such time as Leftists are able to impose their preferred regime, at which point individual dissent suddenly becomes illegitimate. With legislative rules, as with our rights, we should move them as far out of reach as possible while we still have some semblance of representative democracy.

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