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Fung in for Governor

Citing the inspiration of Governor Baker in Massachusetts, Allan Fung tells the Tiverton Republicans he is running for governor again.

He cites problems with our governor and the General Assembly and the flight of younger families and has plenty of material to cite in criticizing the incumbent.

He cast eyes to New Hampshire and its lower capita budget and promised to propose tax cuts, mentioning the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity and the elimination or big cut to the sales tax. (Of course, he’s aware that I’m here.)

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Want Cancer Progress, Keep Progressive Government Out of It

Allysia Finley recently wrote a fascinating interview article for the Wall Street Journal with cancer researcher Carl June about a new strategy for curing cancer.  The conversation delves into the power of market forces and the undue burdens of regulation.

He’s also confident that economic competition will spur innovation. The University of Pennsylvania has licensed its CAR T-cell treatment to Novartis, and other pharmaceutical and biotech companies are racing for their own cures. “There are at least 40 companies right now making CAR T-cells . . . and they are incentivized to make it more cheaply,” he says. “The rate of innovation is so fast, patent life is going to be irrelevant for T-cells because it will be like your phone. Every two or three years, you buy a new phone because it’s better even though the patent hasn’t gone out.”

Regulators can’t possibly keep up with the rate of technological change and, beyond the likelihood that incumbent players will capture them in order to hinder competition, that gives them incentive to hold innovation back to a rate that they can tolerate.  As June makes clear, the innovation and competition are more effective at regulation of products and prices than a handful of bureaucrats with their own incentive structures could be.

That was one of my central concerns when ObamaCare came online — that the anti-corporate, anti-profit Left, if allowed to dominate health care, would freeze our advances.  In short, if you really want progress in some area of society, your best bet is to keep the progressives out of it.

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“Base Amoralism” Across the Progressive Left

I read this opinion piece by Dinesh D’Souza when he first published it, but something in particular stands out to me, now.

In it, D’Souza quotes from a 1998 interview with progressive megadonor George Soros in which the wealthy investor describes his experience pretending to be Christian under Nazi rule and going out to help confiscate the property of his fellow Jews.  Soros says he felt no guilt at all, because he couldn’t stop their property from being confiscated, so he might as well be on the side of the dictator.  D’Souza writes:

Soros reflects the type of base amoralism that is more characteristic of fascism and Nazism than of the forces that defeated fascism and Nazism. His anti-fascist pose camouflages deep affinities between Soros and the Nazis, in the same way that antifascist groups today closely resemble the Blackshirts of fascist Italy and the Brownshirts of Nazi Germany.  Soros and the left’s self-styled antifascism is a fraud because there are no fascists they are fighting.  The only fascism that is recognizable in their actions is their own.

“Base amoralism.”  Recall my post from last Monday about a Princeton philosophy professor’s belief that an unborn child whom we know is going to die (because the mother is certain to have an abortion) is “a very different kind of entity” than an unborn child whose mother is likely to bring him or her to term.

This sort of thinking pervades the Left because it makes every moral decision contingent and every issue about power — about being the one with the power to make decisions about who is deserving of life and rights.  That’s why progressives are so prone to excusing the bad behavior of their co-religionists (progressivism being a religion) based on their intentions.

In 2003, I wrote a series of essays after reading Frank Tipler’s Omega Point, and in one, I pointed out that Tipler’s promise of a god of man’s creation at the end of the universe would be prone to washing away the ethical protections of those who opposed such a project.  The same applies to the progressive god of government: Opposition is evidence that one’s intentions are bad, a disqualification for rights.

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AG Suggests the Use of Government Staff Has No Cost

This snippet from yesterday’s Providence Journal Political Scene caught my eye.  Concerning Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s running his office as “part of the Trump resistance movement”:

The cost?

“Although the office has spent significant time reviewing the various legal actions brought by attorneys general, this work continues to be handled by staff, without the need for outside resources,″ Kempe said.

Are we to understand that the AG’s staff is entirely volunteer, or that they would have been sitting around doing nothing if not for this activity?  Those are the only two ways an initiative to thwart the activities of the President of the United States wouldn’t have a monetary cost.

Otherwise, we ought to amend the Access to Public Records Act to take away government agencies’ ability to charge the person requesting information for the time of staff members in producing it, because as the AG’s office now suggests that using staff imposes no cost.

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Out of Touch Elite Don’t See the Nerve Trump Touches

Rod Dreher got to this point before I was able to do so:

The news media have been seriously distorting public reaction to Trump’s handling of Charlottesville. Whether this is a matter of only seeing what they want to see, or a matter of the talking heads being concentrated among coastal elites of both parties, is a matter of conjecture. True, a slight majority of Americans think Trump didn’t go far enough, but judging from the coverage and commentary, you would have thought at Charlottesville, Trump met his Waterloo. It didn’t happen. Charlottesville is not nearly as big a deal to Americans as it is to the media and coastal elites.

From coverage in the national media (and across the board, here in the Northeast), one would expect the “not far enough” opinion to rate in the 90s.  The only quibble I’d make is that Dreher skipped one possibility:  Maybe it’s not only that journalists are seeing what they want to see within their coastal elite bubble, but that they actively want to shape the narrative.

Whatever the case, one might fairly suggest that, when it comes to anything having to do with President Trump, journalists aren’t doing their job.  That’s true even if they see their “job” in some respects to be advancing their ideology.  Consider this, from Dreher:

This is likely to cause them to seriously overreach. If Democrats and liberals only pay attention to the media and to each other on the statue debate, they are going to alienate a lot of people. The hostile media environment has made it very difficult for anybody to speak up for keeping the statues, even though that is a majority opinion in America. So people will keep that opinion to themselves.

Keeping their opinions to themselves doesn’t mean forgetting the issue altogether.  Even people who don’t particularly care about Confederate statues will observe the way things work, these days, and may conclude that the country very much needs forces pushing back against the elite zeitgeist.  President Trump is currently the most visible manifestation of that conclusion, and I fear there are worse.

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Why Trump Won: Ending Tyrannical Obama Projects

Such thoughts are surely verboten across the entire Left and among some on the Right, but I don’t see how a reasoned assessment can conclude otherwise than this:  President Trump is still preferable to the President Clinton from whom he saved our country.  Yes, that’s a bit like saying amputation is preferable to death or blindness to a vegetative state, but sometimes life (and our countrymen) force such decisions upon us.

President Trump is reinforcing the Left’s divisive culture war and could certainly be handling that better, but a President Clinton would have reinforced the dismantlement of our rights.  If President Trump’s great sin, recently, was that he was too quick to equivocate over blame in Charlottesville, Hillary Clinton would have been unequivocal in furthering the treatment of conservatives, broadly speaking, as people without rights.  In that regard, even where Trump’s bad, at least he’s reminding liberals why we maintain those rights.

I offer the foregoing preamble in preface to a “hurrah” in response to this news, reported by Joseph Lawler in the Washington Examiner:

After the Obama Justice Department began Operation Choke Point in 2013, Hensarling and other conservatives accused them of denying the constitutional rights of businesses like gun dealers and payday lenders by targeting them for scrutiny under the program, cutting off their access to the banking system under the guise of investigating fraud and money laundering.

The GOP said companies were still wary that they could lose access to the banking system, and needed clear guidance from the Trump administration that the program wouldn’t be continued.

In a joint statement, Hensarling, Goodlatte, and Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri and Darrell Issa said that the Trump administration has “restored the Department’s responsibility to pursue lawbreakers, not legitimate businesses.”

In all the Sturm und Drang we see in the news, don’t lose sight of the fact that the absence of what we have now does not mean the ideal, or even the tolerable, but the elevation of some other intolerable circumstance.

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When Government Pays Us to Be Parents

Zach Maher, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, explains how the government-paid-parental-leave-in-Sweden-is-great scales fell from his eyes:

When the girl’s parents refused to subject her to this unnecessary procedure, the hidden machinery of the Swedish welfare state sprang into motion. My brother-in-law and his wife were required to attend multiple interviews with social workers and to submit friends and neighbors in their small town for questioning. Social workers even inspected their home. Suddenly, decisions as benign as what milk to buy seemed potential evidence of parental deficiency. My in-laws feared their two children might be taken from them.

In Sweden, the state reserves for itself ultimate responsibility for children’s well-being. As a parent my job is to give my kids the trygghet necessary to become productive, tax-paying members of Swedish society. This is why I receive financial support and medical benefits. The state is paying me to be a parent. I am, in effect, an employee—and if I do a poor job, my responsibility as a parent might be taken away from me.

 

When we give government responsibility for things — even good things, like the well-being of children — we also give it authority over those who provide those things, like parents.  Suddenly, government isn’t just filling in gaps, but seeking out gaps by putting parents under the microscope.

The United States is not immune to such thinking, obviously.  Some 20 years ago, on Matt Allen’s Mental Floss radio show with the more-liberal Jennifer Brien, the latter argued that schools have to teach sex education (liberally tinted, naturally) because parents simply aren’t doing the job adequately.  I called in to ask what gives her or the government the right to make that determination, but she wouldn’t be shaken from the assertion of need.  (And then I was cut off.)

Suggesting that he and his wife “insist… on having their own ideas about raising children,” Maher asks, “Does this mean we can’t accept parental support from the state?”  My guess is that he doesn’t really have a choice — that the government doesn’t actually see it as an exchange or contract.

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We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Left-Wing Violence

So… Boston.  A small group organized what turned out to be an actual rally for free speech, and left-wing “counter protesters” — likely ranging from Antifa to well-meaning college kids and others — turned out ready to brawl with Nazis.  In fairness, the news media promoted it as if it was the same sort of white supremacist rally as in Charlottesville, because that sold stories and helped them advance the narrative that racists are resurgent in America.

When it turned out there were no white supremacists to attack, the “counter-protesters” dragged an elderly woman by her American flag, screamed threats at a young man with a MAGA hat and an Israeli flag, and threw bottles of urine at police officers.

Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds offers a related reminder:

Note that although the Tea Party movement was treated much worse by mainstream media than Antifa has been, Tea Partiers never physically attacked journalists, or anyone. Note also that this didn’t get the Tea Party any credit, or even spare it from being compared to Nazis and the Klan.

Shame on the journalists and politicians creating the false sense of boogeymen.  On the other hand, thank you for doubling down on your ideological winnings from last week and losing it all, bringing us back to status quo ante: left-wing violence and opposition to free speech.

From what I’m reading, more “counter protesters” were arrested than actual free-speech advocates attended.  Guess that means there really aren’t two sides to the political violence.  The whole thing was a good lesson, though, of what the Left, mainstream media, and national Democrats hope to accomplish by tarring the entire Right as racist and minimizing the violence of the Left.

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Not Virtue Signaling a Bigger Education Problem than Not Educating

Yesterday, I pointed out that Providence appeared to have given up on trying to make college readiness a baseline criterion for its degrees.  Well, that was fast.  Dan McGowan reports at least a partial reversal of its changes.  Unfortunately, the stated rationale is from the alternate reality of progressivism:

“We have heard loud and clear the public’s concern that any change to our current world language requirement may inadvertently signal a reduced commitment to multilingual studies,” the district said in a prepared statement. “That is not the message we wish to send to our community or to our students.”

 

Acknowledging that Providence schools cannot accomplish the goal that the public generally expect from them is not the outrage, apparently.  Rather, a reduction of virtue signaling is.

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Universal Basic Income and Our Aspirations

Once upon a time, folks actually hoped that a universal basic education plus a prosperity-driven increase in free time would draw people toward intellectual pursuits and self improvement.  I’m sure there’s data on such things, but for my purposes, here, let’s just speculate that most folks’ general sense would be that it hasn’t quite worked that way.

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Dan Nidess asks why we would expect a universal basic income to have a different effect.  Indeed, he suggests that the policy “addresses the material needs of citizens while undermining their aspirations”:

At the heart of a functioning democratic society is a social contract built on the independence and equality of individuals. Casually accepting the mass unemployment of a large part of the country and viewing those people as burdens would undermine this social contract, as millions of Americans become dependent on the government and the taxpaying elite. It would also create a structural division of society that would destroy any pretense of equality.

UBI supporters would counter that their system would free people to pursue self-improvement and to take risks. America’s experience over the past couple of decades suggests that the opposite is more likely. Labor Department data show that at the end of June the U.S. had 6.2 million vacant jobs. Millions of skilled manufacturing and cybersecurity jobs will go unfilled in the coming years.

Notably, Nidess uses the term “productive class,” which I’ve been using for years in attempting to describe what populations have been leaving Rhode Island.  Basically, the Ocean State has been attracting the poor and (largely) holding on to the wealthy while driving out those who are looking for some way to transform their smarts, brawn, and effort into wealth.

Put in those terms, it’s clear that Nidess fears the UBI would bring about a national version of what I’ve called the “government plantation” or “company state,” whereby the government draws in dependents in order to provide services billed to somebody else.  Whatever arguments and motivations may underly such policies, they certainly don’t have the feel of being healthy for our society.

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Diluting Degrees in Providence

It’s possible I’m misreading the import of this Dan McGowan article on WPRI, but it sure seems like Providence is just admitting that its schools can’t fulfill the mission everybody expects from it:

Providence parents will need to affirm they understand the city’s minimum standards for a high-school diploma may not fulfill college admission requirements under a new policy announced Thursday. …

A revised diploma policy being considered by the Providence School Board would reduce the amount of credits students are required to earn during their high school career from 21 to 20, removing an existing foreign language requirement in favor of more elective courses. Superintendent Chris Maher said this week the goal of the changes is to give schools more flexibility.

To be fair, McGowan notes that “many of the state’s largest school districts do not force students to take a foreign language course in high school,” which colleges in the state tend to require, but I’d wager most Rhode Islanders believe it to be a central premise of our public schools that graduating students will be able to move on to college, if that’s their plan, and to do so without putting in their two now-free years at the Community College of Rhode Island to cover any lingering minimum requirements.

I should note that the school choice system I advocate would allow space for some districts and private schools to specialize such that not every student will graduate college ready.  Different students need different things and have different futures ahead of them, and forcing them into curricula that serve the needs of other students isn’t helping them.  But that’s not the organizing principle claimed for our public schools.

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Center Blasts Newest Truck Toll Tyranny; RIDOT’s Laughable Denial

It has come to light that, on August 11, RIDOT *corrected* requested a hearing, scheduled for today, to issue commercial truck route restrictions within the state. The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity (for whom I am Communications Manager) has just issued a statement strongly condemning this. It says, in part,

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Kudos to Rickman

In all of the grandstanding and political jockeying over events in Charlottesville, local activist and philanthropist Ray Rickman stands out for his notably mature and reasoned position.  To Steph Machado of WPRI:

“I suggested to him that he give Robert E. Lee, the statue, to the people organizing the rally,” Rickman said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “That, or put it in a museum where people can see it.”

Many of us on the right are constitutionally wary of any intention to scrub a country of its past, as by destroying such statues, but Rickman is right that moving them can transform them from being “honorific.”  (That makes the museum option much preferable to the “give it to them” option.)  Discussing the reason there are such statues in places of honor can create a rich discussion that would include not only the horrors of slavery and the Civil War, but also the intention of reconciliation that followed.

And to Kate Bramson of the Providence Journal:

Considering the needs of the community, Rickman emphasized numerous traditionally black organizations that are struggling financially. Helping fund the NAACP, the John Hope Settlement House and a fund at the Rhode Island Foundation that grants small amounts to Latino organizations would go a long way toward helping move the community forward, he said[, in contrast to candlelight vigils].

Another Rickman idea, instead of a vigil: “I’d rather have a potluck dinner where everybody donates $5 to help bury the woman who was killed in Charlottesville.”

One could debate the specific causes for which Rickman advocates, but his impulse is exactly right.  Rather than indulge in ideologically pleasant symbolism that can actually discourage action and further divisions, resolve to do something good for actual people in need.

Over the weekend, a phrase that popped up multiple times among those who were criticizing President Trump’s initial remarks on the events was “this isn’t hard.”  Indeed it isn’t.  The question, though, is what we want to accomplish.

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Investigating the Opposition

This is most definitely not the sort of story Americans should want to see:

The Department of Justice has requested information on visitors to a website used to organize protests against President Trump, the Los Angeles-based Dreamhost said in a blog post published on Monday.

Dreamhost, a web hosting provider, said that it has been working with the Department of Justice for several months on the request, which believes goes too far under the Constitution.

Maybe there are legitimate reasons that the federal government would want this list, but any action that government takes that appears to target domestic opposition, or could ease the way for a future government that does so, ought to be viewed with the highest suspicion.

This goes for Rhode Island government, too.  The anti-gun bills set to come back for consideration in a few weeks when the General Assembly reconvenes (H5510 and S0405) have been sold as only limiting the Second Amendment rights of those with restraining orders against them, but it also would confiscate the weapons of Americans who have misdemeanor convictions for a broad variety of crimes, including, for example, cyberstalking, which is vague, and disorderly conduct involving the use of force.

In other words, a person who protests government action in a peaceful but forceful way, with something tagged as the “use of force” (say, linking arms and “using force” not to be pulled apart) would give the government pretense to remove his or her constitutional rights.  Keep in mind, too, the slippery slope initiated by some progressives’ insistence that “hate speech” isn’t covered by “free speech”; the First Amendment is only one step removed from the Second.

Those on the political Left who fear the Trump administration’s access to Internet data should not be comforted by the fact that the political winds in Rhode Island tend to blow their way at this moment in time.

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Two Thoughts on the Group Home Incidents

We can all agree that the sorts of things that Tom Mooney and Jennifer Bogdan report in the Providence Journal shouldn’t be happening:

At least four times in the last five months, workers at state-regulated group homes took actions that left young people in their care hospitalized, endangered or exploited, a Providence Journal investigation has found.

In two cases, group-home employees attempted to cover up slack supervision and management with forged log books or falsified statements, investigators reported.

In one Pawtucket home, an employee used the agency van to help run a teenage sex-trafficking operation, prosecutors allege.

The report raises two thoughts, which are in some respects conflicting.  The first is that our reactions should be appropriately tempered by the scope of the apparent problems:

Across the state, 194 children of all ages and up to 21, currently reside in 41 state-regulated group homes. Many have complex behavioral and mental-health challenges. Many are traumatized.

In my view, this paragraph should have come much earlier than 19th in the story because it conveys the information that the reported incidents involve fewer than 10% of group homes and an even smaller percentage of the children in the system, as well as the sorts of children with which the homes are dealing.  That doesn’t excuse the adults who are supposed to be in charge, but it does give some perspective.  One suspects such perspective is why the online headline changed almost immediately from “Chaos in R.I. group homes” to “Danger in R.I. group homes.”

Being lackadaisical about such matters is not an option, but overreacting can do more harm than good.

My second thought is that we risk focusing too much on symptoms in our outrage at these stories.  Clearly processes in the Dept. of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) require immediate review and reform.  With a longer-term view, we should be asking what we need to do as a community to reduce the number of children whom the state sees the need to remove from their homes.

That’s a tough topic, to be sure, but it draws us back to the top priority of helping families and reducing the need for government intervention.

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