Featured Videos
Images to Share
Recent Podcasts

A Snapshot of Celebrity Morals

The next time some celebrity presumes to proclaim a principle as if his or her social status brings with it some sort of moral authority, remind yourself of this story by Hannah Sparks in the New York Post:

The Hollywood EGF Facial — a $650 treatment — involves a cleanse, chemical peel, microneedling, an “electrifying” face mask and a so-called “Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)” — a serum that happens to be derived from the foreskin of Korean newborns. The substance supposedly helps generate collagen and elastin in the skin.

It’s just one of many borderline cannibalistic — and inevitably expensive — beauty products wooing the rich and vain these days.

As the article goes on to indicate (although without expressing it thus), this may be part of a progressively pushed envelope.  The use of human secretions of one form or another has been a skin care strategy in the past, and moved on to the use of placentas and the customer’s own blood.

Along this trend line, utilizing discarded foreskins from other people’s children feels like a new level, in keeping with the use of young people’s blood in anti-aging experiments.  This is a precarious and (yes) slippery slope, and we make a huge mistake in our society when we attribute a higher moral status to precisely the class of people who seem to have the least friction to their soles.


The Great Flurry’ster of 2018 and Changed Rhode Islanders

So what happened with the disruptive snow and wind we were supposed to get yesterday?  That’s the question of the morning.  Something seems to have changed in the Rhode Island psyche after the “December Debacle” in 2007.  That year, the timing and handling of a snow storm, particularly in Providence, under Democrat then-mayor-now-congressman David Cicilline caused a nightmare for commuters and children.  Suddenly, hesitation to disrupt our entire community gave way to being “better safe than sorry.”

Once that old New England toughness lost its dominion, the ordinary incentives of government and politics took over.  If the governor or mayor closes down government and implements parking bans, not only do they give some key constituencies a day off, but they mitigate the risk of something going wrong.  Relatively few Rhode Islanders will even think to wonder about considerations like this, as expressed in a GoLocalProv article appearing this morning:

“Let’s go macro,” said [Providence restaurant owner Bob] Burke. “On any given day the state has $150 million in economic activity. What did we produce [on Wednesday] — $10 million?  Are we a state that can afford to give up $100 to $125 million in economic activity without a really tough fight? On Wednesday, they went down in the first round!”

Similar views were expressed by Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity. “The lack of concern for small businesses by bureaucrats and elected officials looking to make themselves look good – when they prematurely issue parking bans, large truck bans, or shutting down government operations – directly leads to a loss of business and productivity in the private sector,” said Stenhouse.

Whatever it is that’s changed in the Rhode Island psyche has freed government officials from the need to actually make decisions.  Either business people have given up trying to assert their influence in an often-hostile government or those who take the needs of businesses lightly have increased.

Perhaps the change has to do with the “government plantation” that effectively replaces Rhode Islanders who are driven to turn their time into money with others who are more likely to seek government services. Those who work for government get paid no matter what, and those who are the recipients of its beneficence are a step removed from caring about where the money comes from.


Racking Up Fees from the Working Class Through Licenses in Tennessee

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds is embarrassed to report this, from his home state of Tennessee:

“I never did any other job but hair braiding my whole life,” she said. “I cannot recall a time when I did not know how.”

But in recent years, Tennessee has forced Fatou to pay a staggering $16,000 in fines, simply because she employed workers who did not have a government license to braid hair. Nor is she alone. After examining meeting minutes and disciplinary actions for the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, the Institute for Justice has identified nearly $100,000 in fines levied against dozens of braiders and more than 30 different natural hair shops and salons since 2009. All of those violations were for unlicensed braiding; none were triggered by any health or sanitation violation.

It’d be interesting to tally up all such fines in Rhode Island, not only for hair braiding but for every other egregious occupational license.


The Irrational Assumptions Allowing Elimination of Down Syndrome

George Will writes powerfully against the West’s efforts to “eradicate” Down Syndrome:

An Iceland geneticist says “we have basically eradicated” Down syndrome people, but regrets what he considers “heavy-handed genetic counseling” that is influencing “decisions that are not medical, in a way.” One Icelandic counselor “counsels” mothers as follows: “This is your life. You have the right to choose how your life will look like.” She says, “We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended.” Which makes Agusta and Lucas “things” that were not “ended.”

Because Iceland’s population is only about 340,000, the problem (again, see the photos of problem Agusta and problem Lucas) is more manageable there than in, say, the United Kingdom. It has approximately 40,000 Down syndrome citizens, many of whom were conceived before the development of effective search-and-destroy technologies. About 750 British Down syndrome babies are born each year, but 90 percent of women who learn that their child will have — actually, that their child does have — Down syndrome have an abortion. In Denmark the elimination rate is 98 percent.

For many — maybe most— political or ideological positions with which I disagree, I can imagine my way around to understanding how reasonable differences about assumptions can lead people to conclusions with which I disagree.  Especially with improved medical imaging technology, the reach of my imagination cannot make a pro-abortion stance reasonable.  (I’ll also acknowledge that my thinking was objectively unreasonable back when I held that monstrous view in my youth.)

Aborting a pregnancy because a screening is suggestive of Down Syndrome is tantamount to saying, “My child will have a developmental disease; let me kill him or her before it becomes more morally complicated for me to do so.”  The underlying assumptions that make such a statement seem rational must be either irrational or morally repugnant.


Linda Finn Provides an Example for the Definition of Q.E.D.

Conservatives have the same (or a corresponding) tendency, no doubt, but sometimes progressives charge forward in their righteousness in a way that justifies the opposing arguments against which they’re railing.  Former Democrat legislator and gun-control advocate Linda Finn recently offered a fine example on Twitter:

Why, yes, how unreasonable for people to believe conspiracies!  A politician and activist who wants to use government to criminalize a member-supported group that she doesn’t like should perhaps shy away from promoting her opponents’ fear of government as evidence of their insanity.


The Burden of Proof with Civil Asset Forfeiture

Talk of civil asset forfeiture has been in the air, recently, and this story from 2016 is worth plucking from the flow.  A New Jersey man was stopped for speeding driving through Tennessee.  A traveling insurance adjuster, he had $22,000 in cash in his vehicle, which the police officer proceeded to confiscate on suspicion that he’d gotten the money through illegal means.  Here’s Officer Larry Bates:

Bates said the amount of money and the way it was packed gave him reason to be suspicious.

“The safest place to put your money if it’s legitimate is in a bank account,” he explained. “He stated he had two. I would put it in a bank account. It draws interest and it’s safer.”

“But it’s not illegal to carry cash,” we noted.

“No, it’s not illegal to carry cash,” Bates said. “Again, it’s what the cash is being used for to facilitate or what it is being utilized for.”

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, “But you had no proof that money was being used for drug trafficking, correct? No proof?”

“And he couldn’t prove it was legitimate,” Bates insisted.

As previously noted in this space, when it comes to civil asset forfeiture, it’s the object that is technically under investigation, and cash has no presumed right to remain with its owner.  So, rather than the government’s having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you’ve created a crime, you have to prove that your money was not acquired through criminal actions.


Gun Control Past the Firewall of the Bill of Rights

This paragraph is worth highlighting, from Jacqueline Tempera’s article last week in the Providence Journal, covering local politicians’ speeches to “about 100 students, teachers and activists” promoting gun control:

These are “easy votes” that should lead to tangible results, [Democrat Mayor of Providence Jorge] Elorza said. He took a shot at second amendment advocates, many of whom rallied at the State House last week to oppose the legislation.“Now the second amendment folks might say we are violating their second amendment rights to own and bear arms, but the truth is you cannot own anti-aircraft artillery. You can’t own a grenade launcher. You can’t own tanks,” he said

Those “second amendment folks” may be taking the lesson, recently.  Elorza illustrates how precarious it is for gun-rights advocates to compromise, creating incentive to be increasingly absolutist.

As the mayor proves, each compromise will become justification for the next infringement.  Civilians don’t need anti-aircraft artillery, grenade launchers, or tanks, so (the reasoning goes) they don’t need “military-style assault weapons.”  Well, inasmuch as “military-style” is almost entirely an aesthetic description of how scary the gun looks, if second amendment advocates cede that ground in the debate, it won’t be long until other guns of similar functionality supposedly aren’t permitted.  The steps will continue.

An objective, reasoned review of the matter suggests that we’re already well beyond what the Bill of Rights should allow, and increasing extremity on the gun-control side may very well be met with increased challenges to expand rights in the other direction, which no longer trusts that everybody is sincerely after a common sense middle ground.

The solution is to have a national debate that defines where the line should be through an Amendment to the Constitution.


Getting Turned Around with Progressive Tax Policies

This story out of Seattle provides a teachable moment on the craziness of the progressive approach to tax policy:

The Seattle City Council will once again consider an employee hours tax that’s being recommended by its Progressive Revenue Task Force, after having rejected such a proposal last November.

Rather than approving the proposal last year, which was projected to generate about $25 million annually by taxing businesses grossing more than $10 million annually 6.5 cents per employee per hour, the council decided to create the PRTF to further explore an employee hours tax, or head tax, and other possible new revenue streams.

The PRTF provides three options for an employee hours tax (EHT) in its recently published final report for generating $75 million in new revenue for creating affordable housing and providing emergency services. It provides several more recommendations for the city council to consider for generating another $75 million in new revenue for $150 million total, which the task force states is still grossly inadequate when dealing with the city’s homelessness crisis, but is a “solid start.”

Even on the progressives’ own terms, this is crazy.  So, a city has a problem with homelessness, and this “task force” thinks the solution is to increase the cost of employing people in the city by up to $150,000,000.

Employment and prosperity are the answers.  Incentives function by making it easier for people to do the thing you want while making it more difficult for them to do the things you don’t.  Now, we can certainly argue about the appropriate amount of meddling for government at each tier (local, state, and federal), but we should at least agree that incentive structures should point in the correct direction.

This would be like taxing gym memberships in order to fund obesity programs or taxing vaping products in order to fund smoking cessation activities.

It’s difficult not to conclude that progressives don’t much care how they get money for government; they just want more of it.  They may not even care all that much about what government does with its windfalls, as long as it’s government that gets to do the doing.


Ensuring More Such Union Behavior in the Future

Well, according to a Newport Daily News article appearing last week, the Newport school committee caved to the inappropriate behavior of its teachers’ union:

When teachers retire early, they can continue to receive health insurance under the School Department’s plan until they reach the age of 65. Then they go onto Medicare’s Plan 65. That is provided for under the labor contract.

These early retirees had been receiving dental insurance and life insurance until age 65 as well. However, the School Committee determined those benefits were a “past practice” not included in the labor contract, and ended them as of Nov. 16 last year. Now, however, the five teachers who announced their upcoming retirement well before November will receive the dental insurance and life insurance until they reach age 65 as well.

One could argue that the “compromise” was that the school committee is not barred from changing this absurdly generous benefit going forward, but then, the unions aren’t barred from renewing their inappropriate tactics.  They haven’t even been chastised for using them already.
The union has simply said that it won’t do something it never should have threatened to do in the first place.

This episode again emphasizes the imbalance in our government, especially in our schools.  The labor unions are essentially in place for eternity, once certified, so when they aren’t able to win the political contest over the school committee, securing friendly “opposition” in negotiations, they are free to simply make the job difficult until new people are in place.  The incentives are for the union constantly to push the envelope and for the school committee to be maximally accommodating.

So, over time, school committees across the state have allowed a system to develop that fails students and robs taxpayers.


Can We Realize The Destruction Of Families Has Unintended Consequences?

In the Providence Journal this week, Wendy P. Warcholik and J. Scott Moody write, “This growing number of children in Rhode Island without a solid familial foundation should give us all pause. This is not a problem that is going to just go away, and we must find ways to help these children before tragedy strikes, perhaps in your own neighborhood.”


Some Practical Calculations Applied to Climate Alarmism

Here’s an interesting alternative view to the usual alarmism about the climate. Manhattan Institute Senior Scholar Oren Cass looks at a few studies with implausible conclusions. One predicts Iceland and Mongolia as future economic powerhouses.  Here’s another interesting finding from a government agency:

One Environmental Protection Agency study estimates the potential increase in extreme-temperature deaths by looking at city-specific effects. It assumes that a day counting as unusually hot for some city in 2000 will cause a similar mortality increase in that city in 2100, even if climate change makes it no longer unusual.

The result is a projection that a hot day will kill massive numbers in Northern cities by 2100—though such temperatures are already routine at lower latitudes with no such ill effects. Pittsburgh’s extreme-temperature mortality rate is supposed to be 75 times as high in 2100 as that of Phoenix in 2000, though Pittsburgh will not be as hot then as Phoenix was a century earlier.

But if Pittsburgh’s climate steadily warms over the coming century, it will not react to a 100-degree day in 2100 the same way it did in 2000. Even if it didn’t warm, we should assume that economic and technological advancement will make the city and its residents more resilient to heat than they are today.

The absence of this sort of discussion is what makes many of us skeptical of alarmism.  There are many steps between “the planet is warming” and “you have to restrain your economy and give up your freedom,” but we’re typically told that there’s no time for all that stuff.


A Core Problem in Need of Reckoning

An op-ed in today’s Providence Journal by Wendy Warcholik and Scott Moody explores a point that has been mentioned frequently on this site:

We, as a society, don’t discuss this nearly enough, but we’ve embarked on a major experiment that has disproportionately impacted our children. No scientist would have authorized such an experiment because of its clear ethical implications on a vulnerable population, yet American society has pursued it with abandon.

That experiment is the elevation of adult desires over the needs of children, which manifests itself in divorce, cohabitation, and out-of-wedlock births. These actions destroy a child’s sense of self and leaves them to fend for themselves before they are ready.

This trend contributes to myriad problems in our society, arguably including school shootings, opioid abuse, and suicide, among a vast array.

A recent article from the Catholic News Agency (CNA) presents the theme on the national scale:

One in two: that is the current number of children in the U.S. who are being raised by both their married biological parents throughout their childhood.

“This figure is based on the proportion of 17-and-18-year-old high school students who were reported to be living with both their married birth mothers and biological fathers in 2016,” noted a report issued by the Institute for Family Studies.

This family structure is associated with better outcomes for children, and the fact that it skews along racial and economic lines suggests that rigid inequality will continue to increase, no matter how many government programs or corporate pressure campaigns we pursue.

Sooner or later, we’re going to have to address the underlying causes of our problems, even if it means challenging the free-love ethos of the Me Generation.  The later we let that reckoning be, the harder it will be to fix and the more people we’ll allow to suffer.


Perpetual Contracts and Managing the State’s Decline

I’ve been slow to share it, here, but the recent Providence Journal editorial on the return of perpetual-contract legislation to the General Assembly is important to read and take to heart:

Like a painful rash that keeps returning, the idea of “evergreen contracts” is back before the Rhode Island General Assembly. Year after year, union leaders who want even more taxpayer money revive this campaign.

Under this special-interest measure, police, fire and teacher contracts would remain in effect indefinitely after they have expired. The idea is to weaken the bargaining position of local cities and towns and pry more money out of the taxpayers, already burdened with some of America’s most crushing property taxes.

A fair accounting of this policy suggests that Rhode Island’s insiders understand that they’re really just managing the decline of the state.  Theoretically, perpetual contracts could benefit either side, given the circumstances.  We all understand that when the economic pressure would be on lower compensation for unionized employees, they’ll just sit on their contracts until things improve.  When the economic pressure goes the other way, promoting higher pay, local governments could be the ones to sit on the contracts.

However, everybody from the unions to municipal and school district leaders to the Providence Journal understands two things:

  • Economic flourishing isn’t in Rhode Island’s future unless the state can break insiders’ strangle hold on the state, and that doesn’t look likely, absent a terrible crash.
  • Interacting with that point, the deals that unionized government employees get in Rhode Island are so generous that it’s even less plausible to imagine circumstances in which Rhode Island’s economic growth would be so strong that the government would struggle to find people willing to work for that amount of remuneration.

Add in the fact that union employees can disrupt government services much more readily than government agencies and school districts can get out from under their unions, and it’s clear why this is such a one-sided issue.  At least the insecurity of a lapsing contract instills some discomfort among Rhode Island’s privileged class, which gives elected representatives a little leverage.  Whether or not they take advantage of that leverage — which hinges, in large part, on whether they were elected with the unions’ help — is another question.


The Imbalance of Perpetual Contracts


A State by Any Other Measure


The 1984 Version of #LoveWins

It’s difficult to believe that this isn’t fake, but Rod Dreher tends to be reliable, so there you go:



Yeah, yeah, there are something like 30,000 public high schools in the United States, each open for something like 36 weeks of the year, so a single flier in Atlanta, Georgia, can’t be taken as representative, even if this isn’t a joke or a prank.  But my how this jibes with the sense of progressives’ definition for “tolerance,” reminding me of my parody song, “Shout Down the Hate.”

If it is a joke, by the way, it’s awfully elaborate, involving (apparently) the school’s parent, teacher, and student association, which writes on its Facebook page:

Instead of demonizing and demoralizing students for their desire to protect themselves and bring some sanity to the wild west of America’s gun laws, how about harnessing that incredible energy? Grady High School in Atlanta is doing it.

Yup.  “Harnessing that incredible energy,” because (as the flier says) “individually we are different; together we are Grady!”  (Is that anything like being Negan?)

← Older posts...