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Washington Supreme Court Decides Against Religious Freedom

People across the political spectrum concerned about religious liberty should give a read to an article by Matt Hadro of Catholic News Agency.  The Supreme Court of Washington state has upheld a ruling that a Christian florist is not free to choose her jobs:

“It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees,” Kristin Waggoner, senior counsel with the group Alliance Defending Freedom who argued the case before the Washington Supreme Court, stated Feb. 16.

“This case is about crushing dissent. In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist,” she added.

Consider the dangerous reasoning of the court:

The law “does not compel speech or association,” the court added, stating that it “is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.”

What couldn’t fall under this construct?  Particularly problematic is that it’s built on a patently false premise:  The law does “compel speech or association,” whether or not it is “neutral” or “generally applicable” or “serves [a] compelling interest.”  As a legal matter, the question would be whether the law can compel such speech or association, which it clearly cannot — hence the dissembling.

As for the neutrality and general applicability, that’s of no comfort at all.  A legislature (or executive or court, in our corrupted version of representative democracy) need only declare a particular group (and its behavior) as exempt from moral criticism and then forbid everybody from discriminating against it.

Furthermore, if the state government has this “compelling interest in eradicating discrimination,” why is it limited to public accommodations?  And why does it protect some types of human activity and identity and not others?

People who agree with the Washington Supreme Court simply don’t believe in religious liberty for people of whom they do not approve.  Whether they realize it or not, they’re implicit tyrants and very possibly bigots, too.

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Keeping Information from the Deplorables Constructs a False Reality

CBC Radio Canada News takes up a second-order aspect to a news story about a man who is alleged to have inappropriately touched several teenage girls at a water park in Canada:

When Edmonton police announced the charges on Wednesday, they urged any other complainants or witnesses to contact them. One more complainant and one more witness have since come forward, police spokesperson Scott Pattison said Thursday.

The man charged in the case was a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada in January 2016, a fact that was reported Wednesday by numerous news outlets, including CBC News.

The story was quickly picked up by alt-right websites and anti-immigration groups. It was shared widely on social media.

As CBC tweeted, “When a refugee faces criminal charges, should the public be told?” How can there be any other answer than “yes”?  As reaction to the story has proven, the detail is absolutely relevant to public discourse.  Sure, the new bogeymen on the “alt-right” will attempt to amplify any such stories to advance their own point of view.  But then, failing to report the detail is to aid and abet the “ctrl-left,” by maintaining talking points about how there’s no evidence of any problems with refugees.

The area across Northern America and Europe is sufficiently large that a unified decision among our media betters to withhold information they don’t find relevant in isolated cases could brush away hundreds of stories and present a false impression of reality to news consumers.  It would be Rotherham on a Western Civilizational scale.

A news media that doesn’t trust us to be sufficiently intelligent to absorb and process this information is just feeding us ideological propaganda because they think they’re better than us.  It’s that clear.

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Voters Must Be the Adults in the Process or Idiocy Will Reign

In keeping with my post, yesterday, about the government’s impositions on people who dare to work with others’ hair without a license, Jeff Jacoby highlights, in his Boston Globe column, an exchange between Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and hair salon owner LaRonda Hunter during the senator’s debate last week with his Republican peer Senator Ted Cruz.

Ms. Hunter wanted to know how she’s supposed to grow her business when the government imposes thresholds for benefits, like health care, that don’t work within her profit margin.  Jacoby:

The exchange could not have been more enlightening. For entrepreneurs like Hunter, a mandate to supply health insurance triggers inescapable, and unignorable, consequences. For Sanders and other defenders of Obamacare, those consequences are irrelevant. They believe in the employer mandate — a belief impervious to facts on the ground.

Lawmakers so often enact far-reaching rules with worthy intentions, but little awareness of how much harm government burdens can cause.

Jacoby goes on to note this classic anecdote about liberal Democrat Senator George McGovern:

After a long career in Congress, former senator George McGovern tried his hand at running a business — a small hotel in Connecticut. “In retrospect,” McGovern wrote after the inn went bankrupt, “I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business. . . . I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day.”

Think of all the idiotic (yes, idiotic) legislation being submitted by the likes of the General Assembly’s quintessentially inexperienced Ivy League legislator Aaron Regunberg.  Voters must become the adults in the process, because too many of the politicians and their special-interest-or-ideologue supporters are not capable of playing the role.

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What You Are and Aren’t Allowed to Try to Change on the Left

Although some of us on the right find their viewpoints intellectually incoherent, progressives do have consistent guildelines that can help one to predict what their opinions will be on particular issues.  On matters of biology and sexuality, the guideline appears to be that any movement away from the attitudes and lifestyles that facilitated human society’s advancement through to the 1960s is good.  Consider legislation that Steve Ahlquist promotes on RI Future:

House Bill 5277, which if passed would prohibit “conversion therapy” by licensed health care professionals with respect to children under 18 years of age was popularly supported at the House Health Education and Welfare Committee meeting Wednesday evening. Conversion therapy as defined in the bill includes any practice that “seeks or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, practices which attempt or purport to change behavioral expression of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or attempt or purport to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

So, to review:  Progressive legislators have submitted an extremely broad and radical bill that would prevent just about any government interference when women want to kill their babies in the womb.  The Department of Education has issued regulations authorizing schools to guide students along the path of changing their genders, even if it means deceiving their parents.

And yet, progressives want to forbid people who wish to reduce or eliminate their same-sex attractions from working with professionals who might be able to help them do that.  This is pure ideology, like a fundamentalist dogma with no tolerance for individual choices that stray from the accepted beliefs.

Not to play Internet psychotherapist, but one gets the impression that people who’ve made radical lifestyle choices want to use the law to prevent others from choosing differently if their doing so might imply that the radical choice is wrong.  As for the progressive movement, as a movement, undermining the social structures and freedoms that empower individuals in the context of their families leaves a hurting population ripe for progressive rule.

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The State Police Catch the Diversity Virus

It would seem that progressive identity politics are now working their way up the scale of priorities of the state police:

In one of her first moves as the state’s top cop, Rhode Island State Police Col. Ann Assumpico has commissioned a study of recruitment practices aimed at retaining a “racially and gender-diverse department,” the state police announced Friday.

The project is expected to cost $225,000 and will be paid for from the state police’s remaining portion of funds secured in the federal settlement with Google.

Hopefully law enforcement remains the agency’s top priority, but two years of the Gina Raimondo in the governor’s chair haven’t been good for the institution’s once-impeccable reputation.  A diversity obsession can do a lot of damage.

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The Poster Hairdresser for How Government Interferes with Civil Society

Rhode Islanders may have noticed that Providence Democrat Representative Anastasia Williams has submitted legislation to allow people to braid hair for pay without requiring a license.  This is actually a subject that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has raised in the past (although I can’t find a link, just now) and is consistent with both our long-running insistence that the state government is strangling our economy with regulations and our more-recent emphasis on shifting policy in favor of helping Rhode Island families and facilitating non-government civil society.

Via Instapundit, however, comes an entry by Eric Boehm of Reason, who may very well have spotted the poster child for the government’s overreach in directing our lives and preventing us from serving one another as human beings:

The Arizona State Board of Cosmetology is investigating Juan Carlos Montesdeoca after receiving complaints that he was cutting hair without a license, Tucson News Now reported Monday. According to the complaint, which Montesdeoca shared with the TV station, the board received an anonymous complaint alleging that Montesdeoca was “requesting local businesses and local stylists to help out with free haircuts (unlicensed individuals) to the homeless.”

This morning, the Tiverton Budget Committee (of which I’m a member) toured the town’s Senior Center, and the new director related some of the anecdotes that she’s heard about the 100-year-old building.  Back when it was a school, apparently doctors would open weekend clinics for various procedures, including the removal of tonsils.

Now, given advancements in knowledge, we can surely agree on a role for government in requiring sanitary conditions and licensed professionals to perform such surgeries.  At the same time, we should be able to agree that rules against hair braiding and charity trims don’t really protect anybody but established practitioners who are able to charge more money the less competition they have.

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Anybody Buying the UHIP Spin?

Come on, now. This is like lie-detector 101:

“There was pressure [to launch UHIP despite its not being ready], no doubt about it,” Raimondo told reporters. “High ranking members of the General Assembly said, ‘Deliver this now.'” …

[Department of Human Services Director Eric] Beane, called to testify about his month-long probe of UHIP, tempered his answer, saying employees he spoke with at DHS and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services talked about pressure from former House Finance Committee Chairman Raymond Gallison and former Rep. Eileen Naughton, who chaired the finance subcommittee on health and human services.

So, the governor tried to deflect some blame, and the administration realized it was starting a political fight, so a flunky ostensibly testifying with a neutral assessment of what went wrong implied (indirectly, notice) that the blame should fall on two legislators whom a governor would hardly take seriously as directing the administration’s actions and who, conveniently, are no longer in office (one because he was jammed up with criminal investigations).

This is cover-up land. The governor can’t be trusted.  As I suggested in my “Last Impressions” podcast this week, it appears that Raimondo has invested in the tagline that she’s the “governor who gets things done,” and sliding down the UHIP wormhole had to be a major concern.

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A New Winner for Most Pro-Government-Spin Headline in the Providence Journal?

I’ve been meaning to nominate the headline that the Providence Journal used in its print edition for this article (from the Associated Press):

‘Obamacare’ sees high enrollment

To be fair, the Projo headline writer was taking his or her cue from and amplifying the spin of AP writers, Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar and Kevin S. Vineys who try to slip in the real story in the third paragraph:

Although initial enrollment is about 4 percent lower than last year, the sizable number of sign-ups illustrates the risk Republicans face as they begin moving to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and put in its place a yet-to-be-defined conservative approach.

You can’t get from a 4% drop in enrollment to a headline proclaiming “high enrollment” without being something more like propagandists than journalists.  If I were an objective journalist working for one of these organizations, I’d be furious with my coworkers for undermining our publication’s credibility.

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Educational Efficiency Requires Lower Spending

Here’s an interesting study.  It’s from GEMS Educational Solutions, and I found it via a positive mention in a Guardian article, so we’re probably not talking a right-wing group, here.

The study compares certain educational statistics across countries, and one of its principles is that “inefficiency can be a result of either underpaying or overpaying teachers.”  By that measure, the United States would become more efficient (better managing results versus tax rates) by lowering salaries by five percent and increasing class sizes by 10%.

Rhode Island’s teacher salaries are top 10 for the country, so 5% would be too low for our state.  Also, the 15.3 student:teacher ratio listed on GEMS’s application compares with a Rhode Island average of 8.

To be clear, these are back-of-the-envelope comparisons.  A more-thorough review might require adjustments of the numbers (different years, different teacher roles included in the student ratios, etc.).  I come across people, though, especially locally, who find inconceivable the idea that less spending on anything government does might be bad.

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News Flash: The Law Even Applies to People Progressives Like

Over on RI Future, Steve Ahlquist complains that, under President Donald Trump, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is now detaining people for “even minor crimes.”  Here’s Ahlquist’s example:

According to sources familiar with the incident, José Eduardo Cames (the third part of his name may be misspelled) lied to immigration officials at the border when he and his wife entered the country. They carried a baby with them that was not theirs, loaned to them from another family, to make a better case for themselves to stay in the United States.

An investigation revealed the lie, but under Obama, that did not make the couple a high priority for deportation and as long as they made periodic visits to an ICE office in Warwick, they were allowed to stay in the country. At their most recent visit to the Warwick ICE offices on Friday, ICE did not let them leave and detained them, said a source familiar with the case.

In other words, the “minor crime” that the couple broke was entering the country illegally, with the added dynamic of fraud, and the agency that the federal government has created at great expense to enforce that particular area of the law is holding them, perhaps to deport them.  (Never mind that they “borrowed” a baby, as one borrows a car, perhaps with the intention that the child’s actual parents would then have an excuse to enter the country, which is arguably a form of exploitation and human trafficking.)

As I’ve written before, there are legitimately difficult cases in the immigration debate, but one gets the impression that progressives don’t actually believe that any of the cases are difficult.  Their view appears to be that we should let everybody in at the border and then let them stay (seeding the government plantation and giving progressives political leverage).

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Attorney General Kilmartin’s View of Legal Process

An article by Tim White on WPRI raises an interesting question.  State Trooper James Donnelly-Taylor pleaded no contest to charges of assaulting a Central Falls man who had been arrested, and now he faces a civil lawsuit in the matter:

… the attorney general’s office has refused to represent Donnelly-Taylor in the civil suit. But they are representing the other defendants, including the state of Rhode Island, former State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell, Gov. Gina Raimondo, another trooper who took part in the traffic stop, and other officials. …

A spokesperson for Attorney General Kilmartin said his office believes this is the first time the office has not represented a state trooper in a legal action.

“As attorney general, I will never accept that criminal conduct falls within the job description of any Rhode Island state employee,” Kilmartin said in a statement. “Committing the crime of assault upon a prisoner – or anyone – is outside of the course and scope of the duties of a state trooper, and the taxpayers should not have to defend or pay for the criminal actions of Donnelly-Taylor.”

As White goes on to explain, Rhode Island law allows the attorney general to do as Kilmartin has done if “the act or the failure to act was because of actual fraud, willful misconduct, or actual malice.”  The question is at what point an AG gets to make the decision that these characterizations apply.

If Donnelly-Taylor had been found innocent in the criminal case, or if it hadn’t been completed, one could argue that Kilmartin’s decision would be wrong, for the same reason that journalists tack “alleged” onto their stories even when the crime seems obvious: People charged with crimes get their day in court.

Another aspect to consider is that U.S. District Court Judge John McConnell has prohibited the release of a video of the incident so as to prevent its spread from tainting the pool of people who may be assigned to the jury.  If that’s a concern, isn’t the attorney general doing something similar by calling it “criminal conduct”?

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Mike Stenhouse on GoLocal LIVE – Gov’s Manufacturing Council

Thanks to Kate Nagle and GoLocalProv for inviting the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Mike Stenhouse on their new GoLocal LIVE program yesterday. They discussed, in part, Governor Raimondo’s recently announced manufacturing advisory council, which is comprised of lots of people but not a whole lot of economic diversity.

Meanwhile, congratulations and best wishes to Kate Nagle, Molly O’Brien and GoLocalProv on the launch of their cutting edge new program!

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The Creeping Grim Reaper of Euthanasia

Just in case you’re thinking the grim reaper of euthanasia won’t be a creeping killer, here’s a Catholic News Agency article to consider:

An Oregon bill on advanced medical directive rules could allow patients who suffer from dementia or mental illness to be starved or dehydrated, opponents warned.

These are patients who are awake, can chew and swallow and want to eat, even though in some cases they may need help in delivering food to their mouths,” Gayle Atteberry of Oregon Right to Life said Jan. 31. “Current safeguards in Oregon’s law protect these patients from this type of cruelty. This bill take away these safeguards.”

Whether proponents see euthanasia as compassion or as a scheme to slough off some excess population, it has no boundaries once one cedes the argument over the sacred value of human life.

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Isn’t That Just Liberal Jurisprudence?

Not to seem too caustic and cynical (who me?), but I’m not sure what specific controversy Kate Bramson intends to highlight in this article, deriving from the broader controversy of one Rhode Island judge’s turn on the other side of the bench:

It was a Superior Court judge who brought to the attention of the District Court chief a transcript that appeared to show that District Court Judge Rafael A. Ovalles didn’t understand the legal concept of beyond a reasonable doubt.

I mean this sincerely:  In all of my dealings with and readings of people who take a liberal view of the act of judging according to the law, right up to the Supreme Court, I’ve found that text and precedence mean much less than the perceived good of what the judge wants to achieve.  After all, we can almost always count on the block of four liberal Supreme Court Justices to fall on the side that benefits the Left in any case.

So what is Ovalles’s particular legal sin, here?  Is it just that he took the next obvious step and — rather than go through the work of correctly explaining a term only to bend its meaning or ignore its implications — simply defined a term as he needed it to be defined?  That seems to me a minor difference, having more to do with showmanship than the application of the law.

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The Rigged System of Unions and Town Government

The cliché about the news media is that readers will always find reports in their own areas of expertise erroneous, and something similar applies to news reports from one’s own town:  What’s happening locally seems to prove the point of the whole broad world.

Even adjusting for that tendency, though, I have to say that Tiverton controversies are starting to feel as if we’ve come just an inch away from making it legal for town employees to walk into our homes and take our money. As I write on Tiverton Fact Check:

Such proclamations become more difficult to believe each time it appears that town employees are learning the lesson from former colleagues’ reaping the rewards of (alleged) bad behavior. We had Town Foreman Bob Martin and his pal, former Town Administrator Jim Goncalo. Last year, it was an entire shift of police officers led by overtime king Lieutenant Timothy Panell. And now it’s the fire department’s turn, with firefighter Patrick White:

The case of a firefighter who was terminated in early 2015 for allegedly abusing sick leave has been settled, with the town agreeing to pay $175,000.

That’s right. We paid him (and his union lawyer, naturally). The “neutral” arbitrator in the complaint sided with the union member.

One of the problems with settling is that neither side can claim vindication.  The institutional bias toward that sort of ambiguity, like union contracts and arbitration practices, is part of the problem.  Rhode Island has created a fundamentally dishonest system of government.

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Selling Cars with Classism in a Dress

If the Super Bowl commercial for Audi cars caught your attention (in a good or bad way), be sure to read Jack Baruth’s  frame-by-frame analysis of the commercial:

After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual — and as you’ll see below, you can’t understand it until you watch it and see what it’s really telling you.

Let me tell you up front: chances are you won’t like what Audi has to say.

Basically, the commercial is about wealthy whites dominating working-class whites in all ways, including their virtue signaling. So, it’s pretty much an articulation of liberalism in a sixty seconds.

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For the Part of the Country That Sees the Refugee Program as a Danger

Given that every tweet and extemporaneous comment from the Trump administration is being deemed newsworthy even by local papers, this — reported by Leo Hohmann on World Net Daily — would seem worthy of mention:

Doetsch retired about two months ago as a refugee coordinator. One of her assignments was at a United Nations refugee camp in Jordan, from which many of the Syrian refugees are flowing into the U.S. She did three tours of duty, in Cairo, Egypt, dealing with Middle East refugees; in Vienna, Austria, with mostly African refugees coming in through Malta; and in Cuba.

Her letter affirms two-and-a-half years of reporting by WND, which has reported that the “vetting” of refugees from broken countries such as Somalia, Syria and Sudan often consists largely of a personal interview with the refugee. These countries have no law enforcement data to vet against the personal story relayed to the U.S. government about the refugee’s background. Sometimes even their name and identity is fabricated and they have no documentation, such as a valid passport, or they have fraudulent documentation.

We really are dividing into a nation of two realities.  In the case at hand, one part of the country sees the refugee program as a clear vulnerability that has resulted in atrocities in other countries and (at the least) warning signs in the United States; the other part of the country sees it as a way to save good people from a terrible situation at little cost and no significant risk.

This state of affairs might change if the supposedly objective news organizations weren’t so slanted or, alternatively, if their slant were more honestly acknowledged and people felt it their duty to get both sides of every issue.

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How the Media Will Help Trump Get Away with Things

Even while reporting a correction in the Washington Post to a bit of fake news from the mainstream media that had (and probably still has) broad currency around the country, Jackson Diehl can’t help but push blame onto the Trump administration:

One thing Trump has decidedly not done, however, is downgrade the participation of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the deliberations of the National Security Council. You may have heard and read otherwise, repeatedly. Therein lies an illustration of how communication between the executive and mainstream media, and with it coverage of the Trump administration, has already come unhinged.

So a hostile media blames the administration for the media’s own inability to do its job while hopped up on hatred of said administration.  Instead, we get loud blasts of outrage and scandal over every little change or misstatement that members of the administration make, walked back or corrected in quieter, easier-to-miss follow-up stories.

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Support for Lots of Immigration, Not Necessarily Altruistic

Funny how moral principle in politics seems so often to align with self interest.  Here’s Byron York in the Washington Examiner:

Why is Washington State mounting such a vigorous challenge to President Trump’s executive order temporarily suspending non-American entry from seven terrorism-plagued countries? Of course there are several lawsuits against the president, and there are lots of motives among the various litigants. But Washington State’s is the suit that stopped the order, at least temporarily. And a look at the state’s case suggests that, behind high-minded rhetoric about religious liberty and constitutional protections, there is a lot of money at stake.

Judging by the briefs filed by Washington State, as well as statements made by its representatives, some of the state’s top priorities in challenging Trump are: 1) To ensure an uninterrupted supply of relatively low-wage H-1B foreign workers for Microsoft and other state businesses; 2) To ensure a continuing flow of high-tuition-paying foreign student visa holders; and 3) To preserve the flow of tax revenues that results from those and other sources.

And don’t forget Medicaid, SNAP, public education, and other federally subsidized welfare programs available to legal and (probably) illegal immigrants on the government plantation.

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Progressive Regunberg’s Trusted Source Highlights Gender Pay Gap Myth

Given that Democrat Representative Aaron Regunberg of Providence finds Glassdoor research so credible that he cites it as representative of the field of corporate information in legislation, perhaps this additional finding from the company will persuade him to agree that the talk of unequitable pay for women is a myth:

As above, with no controls men earn $21,410 more than women on average. However, adding controls for age and performance reviews that gap shrinks to $15,776. Finally, adding all controls the “adjusted” pay gap shrinks to -$425, which is a slight female pay advantage (but not statistically significant). Thus, once we make an apples-to-apples comparison of workers, there’s no material difference in pay by gender at Glassdoor.

Unfortunately, I suspect the “pay gap” is on the list of deceptions that are just way too valuable to the Left to allow correction.

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Scoffing at Trump for his Ethical Approach

I’ve seen variations of this comment, captured here in a Wall Street Journal article by Jess Bravin, in multiple places:

“If Trump is hoping that Judge Gorsuch will be a rubber stamp for the Trump administration, he is woefully misguided,” said former clerk Jason Murray, a Denver attorney who later clerked for Justice Elena Kagan.

The president’s expressed preference for pulling back restrictions on church leaders’ ability to make political statements has raised similarly cynical responses.  In a tweet that flitted through my stream, somebody suggested that Trump should be careful what he wishes for because many churches would use their new latitude against him.

As such thoughts pile up, even people who dislike President Trump should start asking themselves how many actions he has to take that could arguably constrain him politically in the future before they reevaluate their assumptions.  I’m not saying that this is my solid assessment, right now, but maybe Trump is doing things that he believes are right (or perhaps that some among his allies believe are right) without regard to their political consequence for him.

Somehow, I suspect we learn more about the people who make such comments (and the media that promotes them) than we do about President Trump when they scoff at his actions because they think he doesn’t realize the political implications.  They seem to be implying that they, themselves, would not do the right thing if it looked likely to have political ramifications for them.

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Holding Down Grandma for Euthanasia

Is this really the direction in which we want to go?  From an unsigned article of the Catholic News Agency:

[The elderly woman in Amsterdam] had reportedly expressed a desire for euthanasia when “the time was right” at an earlier date, but had not done so recently.

The senior doctor at the the nursing home determined that the woman’s condition meant that the time was right, and put a sleep-inducing drug into the woman’s coffee in order to administer the lethal injection without consulting the woman.

The woman woke up as the doctor was trying to give the injection, and fought the procedure. The doctor had to ask family members to hold the woman down while she completed the injection.

Hold your grandmother down while I kill her.  Aren’t some things self-evidently wrong?  In the popular imagination, there comes a time when people who’ve been moved down a dark path find that their actions are so extreme that it breaks through the social or psychological blinders that had hidden their true nature.  This seems like it should be one of those what-are-we-doing moments.

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Freestanding ER Bill Shows How Price Has Been Disconnected from Service

The lesson of Susan Campbell’s WPRI story about one woman’s surprise bill from a “freestanding ER” business from which she received service may not be quite what’s intended:

“They gave me oxygen, they did chest X-rays, an EKG, and blood work,” [Elizabeth] Darling said.When she got to the ER, however, Darling overlooked a sign at the front desk, warning patients that Medicare and Medicaid are not accepted at the facility. She was billed more than $1,600.“I never would have stayed there,” Darling said. “I would have walked out that door, had I known.”

This may look bad — and we’ve been trained to see the word “gouging” between the lines of such stories — but it goes with my broader analysis: We’ve completely disconnected price from service.

Given her insistence that she would have gone elsewhere if she’d known her price of service, this woman could obviously have made it to another service provider that would have saved the system money.  Instead, within a system that ensures that the decision-making consumers don’t usually care about the price of services, she chose a high-cost option.

A great many people would do the same thing, because the way the government has manipulated our health care system, people not only don’t associate direct payments with services, we don’t even have a concept of what those services actually cost to provide.  It’s a system designed for waste.

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Wanting Government Restrictions on Others’ Behalf

As far as arguments against a policy go, points like this are terrible: 

While some conservative Christians would like to see the rule [against religious organizations’ involvement in politics] abolished, others, especially the younger generation, support a clear separation of church and political endorsements. Many liberal churches are also active on policy issues, and could potentially get more involved in partisan politics.

Mayer noted that for some religious leaders, the IRS rule has given them a way to avoid political pressure for an endorsement.

“Now a church that wants to say no has an easy answer, it’s illegal,” Mayer said.

Really?  Those tasked with promoting and explaining a religion are timid about explaining why they might not want to endorse anybody, or even a particular candidate?  Nobody will be forced to express an opinion.  I suspect it’s more the truth that they don’t feel comfortable with it themselves and wish to restrain others from what they see as an unfair advantage.

Perhaps, too, those who object tend to be of the sort who are entirely on the same page as the secular culture, so they know their political work will get done, making it worth taking a slight hit in order to impede others whose Churches play a role to the secular culture.

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When School Budgets Become Sky’s the Limit

I’ve got a post on Tiverton Fact Check pointing out the oddly divergent trends of school enrollment and budgets:

Think of it this way:  When the PTOs send out notices that the Budget Committee will be considering the school budget, parents and teachers fill the town hall.  How many of them show up at School Committee meetings when important curricular questions are on the table?  How many parents step forward during contract-negotiations to express concern that large increases for employees could eat up funds for innovative technology or even for fixing roofs and HVAC systems?

The taxpayers of Tiverton should absolutely provide the resources necessary to ensure our children and our neighbors’ children have every opportunity to succeed.  But acknowledging that principle still leaves us having to answer an important question:  How much is really necessary?

The following chart shows the trends in student enrollment in Tiverton public schools and the school department’s budget since the 2001-2002 school year.

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A Deliberate Spectrum of Protest, from Riots Up

Overall, a Wall Street Journal article by Peter Nicholas and Carol Lee doesn’t exactly paint the picture of a White House in disarray, but rather of an ambitious president mixing things up and having to make adjustments in the process.  Those are very different stories, mostly of interest to those addicted to political news.

The more broadly significant, in my view, is this passage:

[Randy Bryce, political director of the local ironworkers union,]  learned through labor contacts the Secret Service had done a security check at a Harley factory in Menomonee Falls, Wis. He began organizing car pools and buses to bring demonstrators to the middle-class suburb in heavily Republican Waukesha County. Also, “we put up phone numbers for the [Harley] public-relations department and pretty much anybody we could get hold of,” Mr. Bryce said.

At Harley, which never acknowledged Mr. Trump planned a visit, executives became nervous about demonstrators, said a person familiar with their thinking. As word spread of the mounting protest, Mr. Trump’s appearance was canceled—at whose behest neither side has said.

Let’s stipulate that the labor union was planning a more-or-less standard union protest, maybe with some tense moments, but generally with a sense of control.  Even controlled protests, however, are now happening in an environment of potential riots, as seen at the University of California in Berkeley.

The first layer of threat against a company that takes the unextraordinary step of welcoming the President of the United States is that it will face organized boycotts and vitriol on social media.  If that isn’t sufficient, progressives have ensured a looming threat of property destruction, too.

Somehow, I don’t see this having the long-term effect that the activists want, but we’ll see.

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Weird: Good Teachers Want Pay Flexibility; Not-so-Good Ones Want Rigid Pay

Check out this unsigned editorial in the Wall Street Journal about an amazing innovation in Wisconsin education: letting school districts pay teachers based on their value to the schools!

As Stanford University economic researcher Barbara Biasi explains in a new study (which is awaiting peer review), Act 10 created a marketplace for teachers in which public-school districts can compete for better employees. For instance, a district can pay more to recruit and retain “high-value added” teachers—that is, those who most improve student learning. Districts can also cap salaries of low-performing teachers, which might encourage them to quit or leave for other districts. …

She also found changes in salary structure. For instance, salaries in Green Bay increased about 13% for teachers with five to six years of experience but a mere 4% for those who had worked 29 or 30 years. Salaries among teachers with the same seniority also diverged more. In Racine the opposite occurred. Green Bay was able to pay better teachers more without regard to the lock-step pay scales traditionally dictated by unions.

Well, you don’t need a degree from Rhode Island College to reason out why this would be so: “better teachers gravitate to districts where they can negotiate their own pay while lousy teachers tend to migrate toward those where salary scales are regimented.”

I’d add that it’s not just teacher quality.  Some teaching roles are easier than others, taking less learning and less work, depending on grade level or subject.  Sometimes unique challenges will be entirely specific to a school.

Only a system run primarily for the benefit of labor unions would organize something as critical as educating children in such a ridiculous way.

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Ah, the General Assembly’s Legislative Grant Program

Here’s a telling little tidbit that slipped through the strainer of Tiverton politics, from a not-online Newport Daily News article by Marcia Pobzeznik on January 30.

Town Council Member John Edwards the Fifth (son of Democrat State Representative John Edwards the Fourth) appears quietly to have planned a beach bonfire for Christmas trees, which left his fellow council members feeling like “the Town Council was the last to know,” per councilor Denise DeMedeiros.  They finally found out when they were called to a special meeting to decide whether to cancel the event because of gusty winds.

Here’s the telling part that makes the anecdote of statewide interest:

Firefighters and a fire engine would have been required at the beach, deMedeiros said, along with a police detail for crowd control.  She asked Edwards if he had considered the costs.

A legislative grant would take care of the costs of the firefighters and the police detail, said Edwards, son of Rep. John “Jay” Edwards, D-Tiverton.

There is no such grant on the House’s list, although it’s dated only through October 1.  The Senate’s list is more up to date and has some grants for Tiverton, but whether or not they’re associated isn’t possible to tell.

Think of the process, here, especially involving the son of the legislator who successfully pushed legislation to make it more difficult for individuals to participate in local politics, creating hurdles for them to jump in the name of “transparency.”  A Town Council member almost pulled off a public event involving town property and the use of town employees without the knowledge of at least some of his fellow councilors, and the whole thing was supposedly going to be funded through a General Assembly handout that, likewise, nobody else had any idea about.

Obviously, given the lack of transparency, there’s no way to know whether this is relevant, but as I’ve written before, the state Ethics Commission would find no problem with a member of the General Assembly pushing to use state taxpayer money to fund a politically helpful event secretly orchestrated by his son because everybody involved is acting in official government capacity.

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Different Risks for Different Faiths Suggest That Religious Consideration for Refugees Is Reasonable

This Perry Chiaramonte article on FoxNews provides an important reminder both to Western Christians and to our non-Christian peers who see us as the enemy:

The report comes on the heels of another study by the Center for Studies on New Religions that showed nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016 and that as many as 600 million were prevented from practicing their faith through intimidation, forced conversions, bodily harm or even death.

“These numbers underscore what we already know,” Robert Nicholson of the Philos Project, an advocacy group for Christianity in the Middle East, told Fox News at the time of the report’s release. “There are many places on Earth where being a Christian is the most dangerous thing you can be. Those who think of Christianity as a religion of the powerful need to see that in many places it’s a religion of the powerless. And the powerless deserve to be protected.”

The reality of different degrees of risk around the world for people of different religions shines a different light on domestic arguments about policy.  In discussion of who can come to the United States in order to escape persecution and danger — refugees, which derives from the word “refuge,” let’s not forget — I have to confess that I find religion to be an absolutely appropriate criterion.  A blanket ban on a particular religion goes too far, in my view, but if left-wingers scream about a “Muslim ban” based on geographic restrictions, they’d obviously find religious-preference rules beyond the pale, even though it would arguably be more reasonable and humane.

Taking a step back, progressives should understand that a great many people agree with me on this point, and harassing them into silence only hardens positions and makes problems more difficult to solve.

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Political Football

Trump wins again.

On the largest sports and media stage in the world, several news outlets somehow got it into their heads that Brady’s sole responsibility wasn’t to concentrate on football and lead his team to a fifth Super Bowl title. No, he also had a moral responsibility to denounce his friend and golfing buddy, Donald Trump.

In their attempts to put Brady and the team on notice about their problematic friendship, the media somehow managed to convert former Patriots haters into fans. Because while few institutions are more hate-able than the Patriots, the media is definitely one of those institutions.

Obviously, we New Englanders don’t hate the Pats and it’s not our fault the rest of the country – or the NFL offices – can’t handle their success (but those of us who grew up as Yankee-haters do sorta get it!).

That being said, the week leading up to the Superbowl saw Brady, Belichick and Kraft join the ranks of other celebrities who have fallen afoul of the media moralizers.  “Spineless Feminist” Taylor Swift came in for criticism when she didn’t attend the Women’s March on Washington.  Fellow Diva Lady Gaga has now fallen afoul of the Progressive Prudes for not properly politicizing her Superbowl Halftime show. “[I]t’s disheartening to watch someone with so much heart (and guts and spleen) stare down a moment of this magnitude and blink.Twitter was full of lefty media types gloating over the Pats performance and correlating the blowout to their support for Trump.  Karma or something.  But then at least some of those tweets got deleted once the Pats won.

Here’s hoping things calm down soon. I don’t think we can take this amped up environment that politicizes everything.  Can we?

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