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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.


Former Administration, Current Spies

You may have noticed the increasing role of “former officials” in news stories about the Trump administration, particularly regarding U.S. spy agencies.  Here’s an example from a Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee article in the Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):

U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.

Later on in the article, it becomes clear that it’s probably a non-story.  Spy agencies have withheld plenty of information about process and such, and the “current and former officials” “emphasized that they know of no instance in which crucial information about security threats or potential plotting has been withheld.”  What they claim is new is the “motivation” of those withholding information.

To the point at hand, though, the idea of “former officials” playing a role planting negative stories about their successors brings to mind stories about a “shadow government,” in which Obama and his allies are working either through outside organization or held-over employees to cause problems for Trump.  The Michael Flynn story ought to raise the level of concern.

As Michael Walsh writes on PJ Media, in the waning days of the Obama administration, the president expanded the ability of the NSA to share “intercepted personal communications”:

Once compartmentalized to avoid injuring private citizens caught up in the net of the Black Widow (as we all are already) and her technological successors, the NSA was suddenly handed greater latitude in what it could share with other, perhaps more politicized bodies of the intelligence community. Why?

It wasn’t that long ago that Americans (including journalists) used to care about spy agencies’ turning their attention inward to Americans. However, since it was the progressive favorite, Barack Obama, who pushed the erosion and the progressive bête noire, Donald Trump, who is being targeted, it’s apparently not a big deal.

One would think that the very election of Trump would have taught progressives a lesson about weaponizing the government.  Unfortunately, they appear to be doubling down and putting their hope in the unelected bureaucracy to do as they wish, now that they’ve badly lost in the election arena.

Think carefully, progs.  The bureaucracy can change, too.  All that has to happen is that their interests diverge from yours.


A Well-Planned “Shock” To The System Is, Indeed, Warranted

According to the Rhode Island Family Prosperity Index, “startups aren’t the only thing when it comes to job growth. They’re the only thing.” The only way to incentivize enough start-up activity to make a difference in our state is to create a business climate that is attractive enough to make thousands of entrepreneurs want to invest here. Crony deals for a few dozen companies will not get it done. Average Rhode Island families have been ignored while corporate welfare handouts have benefited the well-connected insiders. It is time to remember the forgotten people of our state.

Soon, we will demonstrate how a major reduction in the sales tax would allow Rhode Islanders to keep more of their hard-earned money. This bold tax cut would produce more economic activity and create thousands of new jobs (at a very low cost per job.) It would disproportionately help low-income families due to the regressive nature of the sales tax. Sales tax reduction would boost municipal revenues, so that cities and towns can reduce the car tax on their own, and would be easy and fair to implement. Sales tax reduction is a win-win-win scenario for Rhode Islanders.

Recently, a leading lawmaker advised me that this kind of thinking would be too much of a shock to the system. Bingo. My complaint for years has been that, as our state ranks so near to last place in so many categories, it is unacceptable to keep to the status quo. A well-planned “shock” to the system is, indeed, warranted. I am looking for state leaders – either lawmakers or civil society leaders – who will work with me to begin this very serious and important conversation.

What Rhode Island needs are bold, broad-based reform ideas: Ideas that will help every existing and would-be business and family. Politicians just saying things are improving in Rhode Island is not enough, they must take action. We need action. Unless they adopt the proven family friendly ideas that can turnaround our state, we will continue to see the negative trends continue. Your voice is strong. This is not the time sit back and just wait for change. By speaking out on the issues, you can demand the big reforms like sales tax that must happen sooner rather than later. The future of our families depend on it.

[Mike Stenhouse is the CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Check out his appearance earlier this week on GoLocal LIVE here.]


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.


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.


Gablinske: Energy Crisis Calls for Realistic Solutions

A thoughtful, well grounded op-ed by former state rep Doug Gablinske in Thursday’s Providence Journal, who makes the reality case that the electricity to be generated by the proposed Burrillville power plant is very much needed.

… the fact is, New England is facing an energy crisis. More than 10,000 megawatts of the 30,000 the region needs — a whopping one-third — will be going offline in the coming years. This includes the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, with the Pilgrim nuclear plant potentially to follow. How will we fill that gap?

How, indeed? Neither population nor our electric demand has dropped by one third. And for reasons of availability, reliability and high cost, renewables absolutely cannot fill this energy gap. Remember also, per a report put out by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, that Rhode Island’s pursuit of green energy is a cost-of-carbon-saved non-starter per the EPA’s own standard.

Mr. Gablinske makes the case that the plant will generate jobs in addition to electricity, which it will, of course. In this case, however, the implications to the state’s economy and the impact on our cost of living of the plant’s product (electricity) outweigh the normally paramount matter of jobs created. Once again, from his op-ed.

Like all Rhode Islanders, I’ve watched the electricity bill for my home go up and up. I shake my head when I see Rhode Island consistently ranked among the top five for the highest electric costs in the lower 48 states. I’ve watched as some of my neighbors and friends leave Rhode Island for less expensive states out west or down south.

The same holds true for businesses.

Mr. Gablinske raises a critical point that too often goes unacknowledged when energy options are discussed: cost. It is unrealistic to assume that the loss of a third of our electric generating capacity will not eventually come around to bite us – not just in even higher electric rates but in increasing the vulnerability of the grid by decreasing both generating capacity and fuel sources. (The latter has already alarmingly happened under the draconian EPA regulations implemented by the Obama administration.) Further, well-intentioned environmentalists and environmental-minded politicians need to stop pretending that cost cannot and SHOULD not (cue back of hand to forehead) be a factor in fulfilling our energy needs when, in fact, it very much is.

As I have said, we will all cheer if and when a feasible, affordable green energy source has been identified. Until then, shutting down all other energy sources and blocking the construction of the new, replacement plants that they fuel is sheer folly.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Oh, the “Day Without Immigrants” Was Yesterday

Being in the middle of a big list of projects and tasks that hugely interest me in every area of my activity (work, community, family, house, and so on), I’ve fallen behind on my news reading, and my RSS feed had piled up to hundreds of links.  As I sorted through it, this morning, I put aside the stories about the national “Day Without Immigrants” protest to read later, assuming they were about some planned event in the future, because nothing has happened as I’ve gone about the tasks of life that would lead me to think that the reports were of something that had already happened.

If the goal of the event was to prove that “without [immigrants] and without our contribution, the country is paralyzed,” as a sign outside the business of  Ivan Sanchez’s closed Providence business read, then I’d suggest the message was not received by more people than it was.  (And most of those who received it were already in agreement.)

I don’t offer that suggestion in order to belittle the effort, but to highlight the bifurcation in Americans’ political views and life experiences.  If most Americans blinked and missed the moment of being paralyzed, even many among those who noticed might not have taken the lesson that the activists intended.

In our staff meetings at the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, my role is often to interject into strategy discussions with the reset question of, “Who is our audience?”  Those who tend toward the progressive view on immigration should ask themselves how others who disagree with them will interpret an event such as this.  To the extent that it is actually disruptive, the message may very well be one of warning about what can happen when the country comes to rely too heavily on an identity group able to be activated as a political special interest.

After all, to the non-progressive who can’t purchase some item or receive some service because the immigrant provider is striking, the lesson may be that it is evidence that the immigrant shouldn’t have been permitted to dominate that market space.  That’s not a view to which I subscribe, but if the point isn’t just to rile up a progressive base, but rather to connect with a broader audience, it’s a view that must be considered.


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.


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.


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).


Last Impressions Podcast Episode 3: High Noon for Experts

A bad guy on the 12:00 train, UHIP messaging, and the rule of the experts.

Right-click title on track list to download.



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”?


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!


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.


Anomalies or the Tip of the Radical Iceberg in Public Schools?

Perhaps those watching the madness expanding across our political stage won’t be surprised to find that a left-winger was arrested for disorderly conduct for her zealousness in protesting Rhode Island’s all-Democrat Congressional delegation, but even some among us might be surprised to learn that she was a retired elementary school teacher:

At the meeting in East Providence High School, most people expressed anger over President Donald Trump, his administration and his political appointments. Elizabeth M. Ward, 59, criticized the delegation for not being more supportive of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. …

After the forum, Ward told The Journal, she placed her “Rule 19″ sign in front of U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin as someone took his picture. When a Langevin staffer told her to stop, Ward said, she “got loud and started yelling,” including an obscenity at a man who wagged his finger at her.

“I said, ‘Don’t you dare wag your finger at me like [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell did to Elizabeth Warren,” Ward said.

She was “very unruly,” East Providence Police Detective Lt. Raymond Blinn said in an interview. “She was repeatedly told to calm down, quiet down or she’d be subject to arrest. At this point, she demanded to be arrested.”

Although Ms. Ward is taking advantage of the union-delivered opportunity of relatively early retirement to express herself politically, it wasn’t that long ago that she had out-sized influence over young children.  Can we hope that she was unique among her fellow government-school teachers?  Well, two anecdotes from a field of millions isn’t exactly proof, but within hours of reading the above, I came across video of another government-school teacher physically attacking an apparently conservative protester, which initiated a more damaging beating upon him by the progressive protesters with whom she was standing on the street.  The video goes on to show her conversation with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson:

On Monday’s broadcast of his FOX News show, Tucker Carlson debated public school teacher and national organizer for the activist group BAMN, Yvette Felarca. ‘BAMN’ was among the largest supporters of the protests of Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ speech on Berkeley’s campus.

In a now-running theme, we must acknowledge that, obviously, not all teachers (indeed, not most teachers) are aggressive radicals who shouldn’t be given positions of influence over children, but it’s a continuum.  Take the temperature down a notch, and you’ve got teachers organizing protest field trips via an education system that interweaves “social justice warriors” officially in its school environment and gives outside activist groups access to the students under its care.

The telling thing is that both the political lean and the activist excesses always seem to go in one direction and that one doesn’t often come across public objections from other teachers.  Taken together, parents wouldn’t be unreasonable in fearing that Ward and Felarca are just the tip of the iceberg poking into sight of a system that has so lost its way that it can’t even see its own tilt.


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.


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.


Calling Attention to the Promise of “Insurrection” Before the Real Thing Comes

I believe part of the duty of people who make a point of paying attention is to challenge little curiosities before they become big problems.  Nobody will miss political brawls in the street, so if pundits and readers aren’t commenting on less, then what’s the point?

In that spirit, take a look at the sentence I’ve italicized in the following, from Ian Donnis’s TGIF column on RIPR last week:

Writing in The New Republic, Graham Vyse says Democrats are getting motivated by a populist backlash against Trump. Here’s a noteworthy excerpt featuring Providence native Tad Devine: “ ‘I think the calculus is changing almost by the minute,’ said Devine, a Democratic consultant who was Bernie Sanders’s senior strategist during last year’s campaign. ‘The public reaction to Trump’s presidency is boiling over.’ Devine predicted opposition to Trump will become a political movement unlike any in the U.S. since the Vietnam War. ‘I think we’re going to see a genuine insurgency in this country,’

Is it me, or is this strikingly casual reportage of a Democrat operative’s promise of “genuine insurgency”?  Add to it this:

The blasé manner in which the media describes opposition to Trump from within the bureaucracy is stunning. “Federal workers turn to encryption to thwart Trump,” read one Politico headline. “An anti-Trump resistance movement is growing within the U.S. government,” says Vanity Fair. “Federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives,” reports the Washington Post. No one who professes support for democracy and the rule of law can read these words without feeling alarmed. The civil service exists to support the chief executive—not the other way around. And yet, when White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that career officials who disagree with White House policy are free to resign, the collective response in Washington was outrage—at Spicer!

And put this in the mix:

In what’s shaping up to be a highly unusual post-presidency, Obama isn’t just staying behind in Washington. He’s working behind the scenes to set up what will effectively be a shadow government to not only protect his threatened legacy, but to sabotage the incoming administration and its popular “America First” agenda.

He’s doing it through a network of leftist nonprofits led by Organizing for Action. Normally you’d expect an organization set up to support a politician and his agenda to close up shop after that candidate leaves office, but not Obama’s OFA. Rather, it’s gearing up for battle, with a growing war chest and more than 250 offices across the country.

I know Ian Donnis probably about as well as I know most people in Rhode Island media, and I like him more than most (not the least because he humors me more!).  But the way things are developing, I worry about a future in which conflicts escalate, and I honestly question how much people in the news media will stand up for the likes of me while the Left defines fascism down as an excuse for violence and then, especially, their insurrection puts them back in power.

Oh, at some point, the more moderate folks in the media and other institutions of social power will realize that things have gone too far.  My fear is that by the time they begin acting as their sincere principles should dictate, it will be too late, and even then they’ll temper their support so as not to have the leftist mob turn on them.


Minority Students Suffer from Ideological Education Policies

For a glimpse of the plain wrong-headedness that can seep into school districts that are ultimately governed by politicians, give Katherine Kersten’s recent City Journal article a read.  It’s about the St. Paul, Minnesota, district’s experience attempting to follow the Obama administration’s push for “racial equity,” particularly in discipline statistics.

[Pacific Educational Group (PEG)]-trained “cultural specialists” reinforced the administration’s “blame-the-teacher” approach. They advised that if kids cussed teachers out, those teachers should investigate how their own inability to earn students’ trust had triggered the misconduct. The end result of a discipline infraction “should be more than just kids apologizing,” Kristy Pierce, a cultural specialist at Battle Creek Middle School told City Pages, which ran a series of articles on the mounting chaos in the St. Paul schools. “When you use the word ‘black’ versus ‘African American’ and the student flips out, understand where that might be coming from.”

A quick review of Rhode Island’s policies suggests that the Ocean State didn’t lunge quite so hard in that direction.  Perhaps no Rhode Island superintendent was sufficiently radical, particularly under Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who served, in the relevant time periods, under Governors Donald Carcieri (more conservative) and Lincoln Chafee (more interested in other things).  It wouldn’t be surprising, though, to find that PEG was to education in St. Paul what PolicyLink was to housing in Rhode Island (that is, a far-left activist group propped up by the president).

Be that as it may, the St. Paul policy illustrates how ideological policies grounded in a terrible misunderstanding of reality can bring about dystopia:

We have a segment of kids who consider themselves untouchable,” said one veteran teacher as the 2015–16 school year began. At the city’s high schools, teachers stood by helplessly as rowdy packs of kids—who came to school for free breakfast, lunch, and WiFi—rampaged through the hallways. “Classroom invasions” by students settling private quarrels or taking revenge for drug deals gone bad became routine. “Students who tire of lectures simply stand up and leave,” reported City Pages. “They hammer into rooms where they don’t belong, inflicting mischief and malice on their peers.” The first few months of the school year witnessed riots or brawls at Como Park, Central, Humboldt, and Harding High Schools—including six fights in three days at Como Park. Police had to use chemical irritants to disperse battling students.

Classes were disrupted, students weren’t learning, and teachers would “often go home in tears.”  As the situation became increasingly intolerable, the teachers’ union did get involved, but the resulting solution wasn’t to reevaluate the flawed policy, but to buy the union off with higher pay and new union jobs:

… In March 2016, the board averted a strike by approving a new teachers’ contract. The contract gave teachers what could be called hazard pay—the highest in the state, according to the Star Tribune. But St. Paul citizens’ confidence in Silva had evaporated. Teachers launched a petition demanding her resignation, and black, white, and Asian community leaders echoed that call in an op-ed in the Pioneer Press. At last, on June 21, 2016, the school board announced Silva’s departure after buying out her contract at a cost of almost $800,000.

In its new contract, the union also won funding for 30 new school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists. But unless district leaders resolve to adopt and enforce high standards of student conduct, a significant long-term improvement in school safety appears unlikely.

The running theme is that the Left, which dominates education and only recently lost the White House, does not want to address the core problem, because fostering that problem has become critical to its strategy for maintaining power:

The deepest source of the racial-equity discipline gap is profound differences in family structure. Young people who grow up without fathers are far more likely than their peers to engage in antisocial behavior, according to voluminous social-science research. Disordered family life often promotes the lack of impulse control and socialization that can lead to school misconduct.

Children grounded in healthy families build their own, independent generations.  Those who prioritize government as the center of our lives (so they can tell us how to live) need to break that cycle and replace it with dependence on their bureaucratic deity.  No doubt, they genuinely would prefer if the transformation of society could be done in a happy, peaceful way, but the power, not human fulfillment, is their primary purpose.


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.


Opportunity – Rhode Island Is Losing The Race

Instead of greater tax burdens on families and increased mandates on small businesses, broad-based relief that opens the door for more and better businesses to create more and better jobs is what we need if we want a better quality of life for Rhode Island families. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, there are empty chairs at our dinner tables. Opportunity is a key factor in migration of families from state to state. In this regard, Rhode Island is losing the race. We all know people forced to leave Rhode Island. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, there are empty chairs at our dinner tables.

The Family Prosperity Index (FPI) shows, quantitatively, the link between economic and social policy in determining prosperity. Rhode Island has the worst business climate in the nation. Our state ranks 48th on both the FPI created by top economists at the American Conservative Union, and the Jobs and Opportunity Index created by our Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity. It has virtually zero population growth, and it has suffered the ignominy of dozens of other near-bottom rankings. You deserve more than the rigged status quo.

Despite the failed policy culture, Rhode Island’s political class appears happy to stay the course. We need to empower entrepreneurs, families, and all of the people of Rhode Island to make the decisions for our state. Isn’t it about time? The Ocean State has been crippled by a broken system for far too long. Big spending, high taxes, and insider handouts have led us to where we are now. What if lawmakers were to realize that our policy culture of considering only the material needs of individuals has, all along, has been harmful to the family unit? They can become heroes.

The Ocean State needs to dare to disrupt the status quo and boldly evolve itself into a regional outlier so that we can become a magnet – on our own – for businesses, jobs, and families. How many of us would say that the status quo is making anything easier on the average family? For too long, the political elites have thought they’ve known how to better run your life than you do. I encourage you to speak out against the insiders who want further their own agenda, while your family is kept out of the process. Things can change here in the Ocean State, but it is to each of to make sure that it happens.


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.


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.


Some Day, My Prince … Er, Cheap, Green Energy Will Come

You may have been keeping half an eye on the proposed power plant that a firm called Invenergy would like to build in Burrillville. Friday, the Providence Journal reported that

Invenergy has failed to sell the second half of the power output of its proposed fossil fuel-burning power plant in Burrillville to the regional electric grid.

Opponents of the proposed plant understandably view this development as good news. However, it is not a fatal blow for the proposed power plant, as the article notes.

Further along, the article also notes that New England has had 4,200 megawatts of generating capacity taken off line (my observation: this happened in large part due to out-of-control EPA regulations by the Obama administration), and another 6,000 megawatts are at risk of going off line. Accordingly, many of us are concerned about the cost and continued adequate supply of electricity.

Environmentalists believe they have the answer.

But opponents of the plant say that renewable sources can fill in any need for new power in New England.

Yikes. Sorry, no, that is simply not the case. Look, if and when a reasonably priced, reliable, widely available green energy source is discovered, most of us, not just devout environmentalists, will cheer. But it hasn’t happened yet. Current green energy sources – comprised mostly of solar and wind – are very expensive and are not reliable. (The sun doesn’t always shine; the wind isn’t always blowing – or, out at sea, it may sometimes blow too hard.)

This article, tweeted out by a friend, is a cautionary tale from across the pond: certain European countries are experiencing power shortages – like outright blackouts – apparently because they transited too much of their grid over to green energy. That article also notes the very high cost of electricity borne by ratepayers throughout Europe, due in part to green energy mandates.

Further and importantly, closer to home, a report last summer by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity emphasizes that the very high cost of Rhode Island reducing carbon from its energy supply by shifting over to green energy would far exceed the benefits that would accrue. And before someone jumps up to point out that, well, sure, that would naturally be the conclusion of a center-right organization, this is, in fact, by the standards of the EPA, not exactly an arm of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. (Side note: accordingly, the Center’s call for Rhode Island to roll back all green energy mandates is spot on as their continued existence is clearly now indefensible.)

That there is so little benefit to Rhode Island continuing with green energy is precisely because our (regional) energy generation has shifted to natural gas, a fuel source that emits far less carbon and pollutants than oil and coal. In fact, this would be a good time to note that the proposed Burrillville power plant would be powered mostly by natural gas.

I actually don’t dismiss the prospect of a reliable, affordable green energy source simply as a fairy tale. The title of this post refers more to the gauzy, unrealistic attitude of some environmentalists THAT SUCH A SOURCE HAS ARRIVED and we can act accordingly when, in fact, that is something that will hopefully happen Some Day.

There is no need to repeat Europe’s mistake. Unless and until a feasible green energy source is discovered, we are not in a position to move away from fossil fuels. Simply shutting down all fossil fuel-powered electric generation – or stopping the construction of replacement plants – will only serve to needlessly drain our wallets and overtax our electric grid. It will not, as some well-intentioned but very misguided environmentalists seem to think, accelerate the discovery of a feasible green energy source. To do so would be to shove us all off a cliff on the theory that we will be forced to create a parachute on the way down.


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.


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.