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A Predictable Scandal with Socialized Medicine

Anecdotes are generally unfair as markers of an entire system, but less so when they are in line with expectations.  Such is the case with Rupert Darwall’s Wall Street Journal commentary about fatalities in the British National Health Service (NHS).  Apparently, the latest scandalous report about parts of the system reveals one hospital’s “unlawful killing” of 650 patients and ensuing cover-up.

What makes this an indictment of the entire system is how precisely in line with the incentives of socialized medicine it is:

The report explains the almost identical dismissal of relatives’ concerns as a result of the “coincidence of interests” rather than conspiracy. When the state is a monopoly provider of health care, there is a political interest in suppressing bad news. In discussing whether to prosecute, one police officer noted the “perceived plight” of the NHS ahead of the 2001 general election. At a pivotal meeting of prosecutors closer to polling day, a government lawyer attacked Dr. Livesley and sabotaged the emerging prosecution case.

Proponents of socialized medicine condemn profit in health care, but a for-profit hospital does not have a financial interest in killing its patients. In the NHS, patients are a cost and troublesome ones can be put on a syringe driver, something a nurse told the police happened at Gosport.

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When our society shifts responsibility to government, it tends to focus on the possible up-sides and assume that everybody involved will make genuinely selfless decisions, but what we really ought to watch is the change in incentives.  Human beings find it all too easy to determine that something in their own interest is in the interest of everybody, by way of “the system” of which they are a part, even deceiving families while killing their loved ones.


A Trajectory of Happiness Across the Generations

Rhode Island School of Design writing instructor Phil Eil (formerly the Providence Phoenix news editor) posted a compelling series of Tweets the other day:

Last year, on an @Ancestry genealogy kick, I found this remarkable “Declaration of Intention” form signed by my great-grandfather, Charles Eil, in 1909 renouncing allegiance to Emperor Nicholas II of Russia. Doc gives an outline of his immigration story. Occupation: “Carpenter.”

Charles was born in 1883 in “Jitomar, Russia” (what is now Zhytomyr, Ukraine), approximately 4,600 miles from New York. He came to the U.S. via a ship from Rotterdam, Holland, and arrived in June 1907. In 1909, he was 26 years old, 5’6″, 151 pounds, w brown eyes and brown hair.

This document is incredibly evocative for me, for so many reasons. I really didn’t know any of the facts it contains, and reading it turned my great-grandfather into a person I could almost picture. (The writing teacher in me says: “That’s what details do!”)

It is also a data-point in an archetypal story of upward, Jewish-immigrant mobility. Charles the immigrant-carpenter’s son, my grandfather Harry, was a doctor who served in the U.S. Navy. His son, my dad, is an MD/PhD who also served in the Navy.

Of course, that upward trajectory stops with me, who got an MFA and now works as a freelance journalist and adjunct college English/literature/journalism lecturer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But I do (mostly) love what I do! So there’s that.

Different ancestors would have had different opinions about the end states of their progeny, of course.  We can’t know from archived documents what Ol’ Charles would have considered to be a satisfactory end point of his “trajectory,” but the life Phil leads would likely have seemed aristocratic to him, in a good way.

One suspects Phil Eil is not done, and careers stemming from an MFA can have many unexpected branches, but even if he continues along his entire career more or less as he is now, the possible meaningfulness and leisure (used for intellectual pursuits, I trust) may have seemed the height of success to an early-twentieth-century carpenter.  (I’m not without some credibility for this suggestion, having been an early-twenty-first-century carpenter.)

On the other hand, maybe Great Grandpa Eil would have thought the son of a PhD medical doctor would be selling himself short if he weren’t an even more prestigious surgeon or a tycoon.

In any event, these are the ebbs and flows that should give us pause when we’re inclined to decry income gaps and class differences across multiple generations.  The 1%?  Of which era?  And by what measure?  The important question is whether life has its cycle, with people who are motivated to draw wealth to their families able to do so and those who find their purpose elsewhere to do that.

A good portion of a carpenter’s work in modern-day Newport involves adjusting houses to economic trends.  One month, the project is raising partitions and reconfiguring the layout to accommodate a new apartment in the mansion of a family that can no longer afford the luxury of their home without sharing some of it with a paying tenant.  The next month, the crew indulges in a sort of archeology, uncovering for an up-and-coming couple the fine, intricate woodwork that some previous owners had to sacrifice for the sake of their own partitioning.

In my family, the father of my father’s father was a pharmacist who owned much of what is now Little Falls, New Jersey, which (I’ve been given to understand) wasn’t quite the marker of wealth it would seem to us now.  His son was a paper salesman who provided a good life for his family.  His son was a Yale-educated lawyer who didn’t really take to the law and turned instead to editing and then teaching.  And his son?  Well, I’m not sure what I would say I am, yet.  One might observe that we’ve moved more or less laterally across the generations, with some ups and downs from parent to child and within each of our own lives.

Such a state of affairs has the benefit of not creating the feeling of trajectory, which perhaps makes it easier to see that people don’t tend to think a century down the line.  I provide for my family; you provide for yours; and we’re successful if everybody’s happy.  For an immigrant carpenter disembarking onto American soil in 1907, that probably did mean a better starting point for his children, but having spent time working as background scenery in the lives of some of Newport’s wealthiest families, I can attest that a more remunerative station ceases to be a measure of happiness at some level.


An Alternative Explanation for Rural Resentment

An Ivy League sociologist and a Vox writer had a conversation about rural America, and it went about as you’d expect, as Rod Dreher notes on his blog. This exchange, for one, captures something important to our political disagreements (N.B., Wuthnow is the sociologist):

Robert Wuthnow

We found town managers and elected officials who were frustrated over the generalized anger toward Washington because it inhibited practical solutions from being pursued. These officials knew they had to secure grants from the federal government, for instance, but found it difficult to do that when local elections were won by far-right candidates.

I think the concerns about moral decline often miss the mark. I think a lot of white Americans in these small towns are simply reacting against a country that is becoming more diverse — racially, religiously, and culturally. They just don’t how to deal with it. And that’s why you’re seeing this spike in white nationalism.

Sean Illing

Which is why I’d argue that the divide between rural and urban America is becoming unbridgeable. We can talk all we like about the sanctity of these small communities and the traditional values that hold them together, but, as you say, many of the people who live in these places hold racist views and support racist candidates and we can’t accommodate that.

Robert Wuthnow

Yes, this is one of the most difficult aspects of the discussion we’re now having about morality in America. What counts as moral varies so much from place to place. In the South, for example, you have clergy who are vehement about abortion or homosexuality, and they preach this in the pulpits every Sunday. But then they turn a blind eye to policies that hurt the poor or discriminate against minorities.

Sean Illing

I know a lot of people who don’t live in rural America are tired of being told they need to understand all these resentments.

Take special note of Illing’s twin sentiments:

  • “We can’t accommodate that,” and
  • we’re “tired of being told [we] need to understand all these resentments.”

The urban, coastal Illings believe themselves just to be better, more-enlightened people.  The idea of having to adjust for the backwards beliefs of their moral inferiors simply for the sake of abstractions like national unity and democracy is clearly aggravating.  We’re trying to assemble a fine social machine, and we’ve learned how a lot of the pieces are supposed to go together.  Why should we accept the delay and errors of people who don’t even understand how the machine is supposed to work?  Of course, there’s an opposite version of this attitude on the other side, among those who don’t want to rush because the people charging forward with the construction don’t even understand what the machine is supposed to do.

The mutual nature of these disagreements brings up an important question:  Why do we need to accommodate views we find repugnant and understand resentments we find baseless and objectionable in their premises?

Well, for the most part, we need to accommodate others’ views because urban and coastal progressives want to their values and tastes to govern the entire country.  Wuthnow alludes to one of the levers by which they pursue that end (federal grants), but there are many others, and many that are less voluntary.

The elite class, in other words, wants to be able to go anywhere in the country — no matter how briefly — and find that its values are affirmed by the locals, at least when it counts.  It isn’t that the rural folk don’t know how to deal with diversity, as Wuthnow suggests, but that “diversity” has become an excuse to impose the rules that the elites would prefer regardless of the color variety of the country.  “Diversity,” in other words, is another word for “everybody but you.”

This is true not only in the sense that “diversity” is a ruse, but also in the sense that the people of a rural American demographic are explicitly left out.  The down-side of superficial diversification falls on people who’ve faced great adversity, mainly by virtue of their lower incomes, but who share the skin color and national origins of privileged whites.  They are uniquely left out — sacrifices for the expiation of historical sins on behalf of the people who are actually benefiting in the present from the imbalances of the past.

The resentment, in short, may not be against a changing world.  People who live in the country do understand that life moves along.  Rather, the resentment may be against a powerful, privileged class that is actively blocking their way when they venture out of their neighborhoods and then working to invade those neighborhoods with their own ideology.


Cardinal’s Remark Revealing of a Missing Role

A Catholic News Agency article by Ed Condon conveys various responses to this comment from Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, explaining why “priests are not the best people to train others for marriage”:

“They have no credibility; they have never lived the experience; they may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, but to go from there to putting it into practice every day….they don’t have the experience,” the cardinal added.

I can’t help but feel like the thing that Cardinal Farrell appears to miss is also missing in important ways throughout our culture.  In the life of a church, a priest should have a unique view of people throughout their lives, having helped to train children in the faith, helped couples through their marital challenges, and been with them in times of loss at the ends of their lives.  And don’t forget their experience taking believers’ confessions and then being able to observe them in their lives.

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Sure, the extent to which this idealized image applies may be fading.  Fewer priests overseeing smaller parishes with more managerial responsibilities in a less-personally-connected world are not in the same position in which their predecessors may have been, and we shouldn’t shy from acknowledging that in order to save impressions.  My disagreement with the cardinal’s comment, however, is that he seems to be suggesting not that this is a problem to reverse, but that it’s a permanent change to which to adjust.

And so we drift further into isolation, turning to one-off quacks and clinicians who have financial incentive to tell us what we want to hear and professional incentives to advance a secular, materialist worldview, while we increasingly behave as if people with real experience have nothing to tell us and politicians have some keen insight into what our behavior ought to be.

I’d promote religious leaders as particularly well suited to play this role, but the heart of the loss is a figure who is expected to have the good of a community in central focus based on transcendent principles.


RI Needs to Spark a Public Relations Revolution

The latest in the running series of national articles that present Rhode Island’s current governor in a light that most of us don’t recognize comes from Forbes.  This one, by Daniel D’Ambrosio, is a particularly good example of Democrat Gina Raimondo’s PR strategy, as well as the reason Rhode Island needs a group like the Gaspee Project:

“We saw something was happening,” [Mike] Hallock said. “I was seeing an absolute renaissance in the food industry in Rhode Island, so I switched gears. I wanted to do something huge.” …

Today, his company is selling close to 40,000 pounds of mushrooms a week, and is proposing to build a $115 million, 2.5 million square foot Agricultural Innovation Campus at the University of Rhode Island. …

None of it would have happened, according to Hallock, without support from his home state, and in particular its governor, Gina Raimondo, who took office in 2014.

Conspicuously, for his article D’Ambrosio talks to precisely the people one would expect one of Governor Raimondo’s many public relations employees to have put before him:  a small entrepreneur receiving government incentives, some big-company executives receiving government incentives, and a representative of the national think tank with deep ties to the Raimondo administration and its projects, with heavy references to Commerce RI, which has been a PR wing for Raimondo since the beginning.

Also conspicuously, the article doesn’t mention a single statistic or quote a single person contradicting the governor’s self-promotional narrative.  The Forbes article is titled “How Rhode Island Is Sparking Another Industrial Revolution,” yet its author doesn’t seem aware that Rhode Island’s job growth has slowed under Raimondo.  Looking at just manufacturing, a long down-slide in RI-based jobs hit bottom in 2010, before she took office, and slow growth turned into more backsliding the year she was sworn in.  That trend didn’t return to growth until months into the presidency of Republican Donald Trump.

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Looked at differently, Rhode Island has still seen a slight decrease in manufacturing jobs since the month Raimondo took office.  Meanwhile, the nation as a whole has seen 3.4% growth.  (Of that 2.7% has come since Trump took office.)  Over that period, Rhode Island manufacturing jobs have increased by 2.4%.  At the very least, an objective analyst who restates a politician’s claims about manufacturing should address the fact that trends in manufacturing jobs actually suggest that her administration has, if anything, been a hindrance.

In the face of the upside-down pitching of our governor, Rhode Islanders are left with few proponents of reality who’ll charge into onto our political field with the truth.  With its focus on legislative races, the Gaspee Project has been reaching out to voters with a perspective they don’t get from mainstream sources, and its various affiliates, like the Gaspee Business Network, are organizing to see if the state can make the changes that will really spark an economic revolution, rather than the governor’s revolution in political self-promotion.


A Plank in the Moderate Platform

Although one can’t really claim it to be a “moderate” idea, a policy pledge that Bill Gilbert sent out as a Moderate Party press release would be really fun to watch:

The Moderate Party’s candidate for RI Governor is advocating a tit-for-tat response to the current administration’s inappropriate use of eminent domain to seize private property for construction of a new PawSox stadium. “If elected I will work with the State Properties Committee to acquire Raimondo’s and Mattiello’s real estate for the public use and public good. I will convert these areas to public parks and open space forever named after each of them,” said Bill Gilbert.

Raimondo and Mattiello have threatened the rights of every tax-paying property owner in RI by passing a law that says they can use money never appropriated by the voters to confiscate a person’s land and give it away to billionaires, so they can build a PawSox stadium. Gilbert stated, “It’s governmental thuggery at its worst!”

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Of course, if Gilbert were to win, Raimondo would simply be a private citizen, making the plan feel less appropriate, not to mention pointing to the reality that best way to impose a consequence and improve the function of government (and its respect for our rights) is to knock bad actors out of office.  In that regard, Gilbert’s candidacy is arguably at cross purposes with his intentions, creating the possibility that he’ll deprive a non-Raimondo candidate of victory by bleeding votes.

Indeed, the Moderate Party has arguably been one of the leading causes of Rhode Island’s inability to impose accountability on governors for two election cycles, now.


How Is the Governor Not Excommunicated?

Election season — with opposition from can’t-get-to-his-Left Matt Brown — is pushing Rhode Island’s progressive governor Gina Raimondo to shore up her support from those on the fringe of her party, as the Associated Press reports:

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says she would like the state legislature to return for a special session on abortion rights following the announcement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

WLNE-TV reports that Raimondo called the need to codify Roe v. Wade “more urgent and necessary than ever.”

Here’s a serious question Roman Catholics may rightfully be asking themselves: How is Governor Raimondo not excommunicated from the Church?  Here she is, a prominent Catholic, explicitly encouraging extraordinary steps to preserve the right to kill unborn children in Rhode Island in the face of still-speculative and distant change in federal law.

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On both the grounds of the disposition of her own soul and her highly visible role in undermining Church teaching, how she can possibly continue to be recognized as a Catholic in good standing?


Massachusetts’s Education Warning Signs

I’ve been pointing out that Massachusetts took a turn away from the success of its education reform in the mid-2000s.  As in Rhode Island, reforms that sought to fix the education system in cooperation with the interests that had helped to undermine it produced political pressure to end the reforms, even though they were working.  This creates an educational ceiling.  Massachusetts started earlier and hit its ceiling in 2007, while Rhode Island’s slower and less-enthusiastic move hit its ceiling in 2011, as aggregated scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test show:


People in Massachusetts are starting to notice, too, as evidenced by Thomas Birmingham and William Weld’s op-ed in the Boston Globe:

In 2010, the Commonwealth replaced its best-in-the-nation English and math standards with national versions that cut the amount of classic literature and poetry that students learn by more than half and extends the time it takes to reach Algebra I, which is the key to higher math study.

Today Massachusetts has essentially the same English and math standards as Arkansas and Louisiana. Students in those states can’t possibly match Massachusetts’ performance, so the political reality is that the bar gets lowered so more can clear it.

The results of this change in education policy have been swift. After years of improvement, our progress has come to a halt. Massachusetts is among a minority of states whose NAEP scores have fallen since 2011 and others are catching up.

Backsliding isn’t the result of any one policy change, but a change in attitude that leads to multiple, related changes:  Accountability measures, charter schools, broader school choice, and higher standards all interact.  More importantly, all of them have opposing incentives for families/students and the entrenched interests like teachers unions.

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As in this morning’s post on patriotism, the solutions all build on each other.  Reforming union policy to reduce the power of special interests will make accountability measures more plausible, while giving families high standards and alternatives will increase the resilience of the reform in the face of political pressure.


In the Face of Waning Patriotism, Give Americans Reason for Enthusiasm

Yesterday on PowerLine, both John Hinderaker and Paul Mirengoff posted on a Gallup poll on Americans’ pride in their country.  Gallup headlines that “extremely proud” Americans are at a record low.  But that’s not the whole story, naturally.

Hinderaker highlights the fact that this “record low” is the fault of Democrats, whose pride has plummeted to 32% while Republicans’ has turned up a bit, to 74%.  That’s a huge difference.  Of particular interest is that Democrats’ slide began in the thick of President Obama’s second term.  Perhaps his inability to fundamentally transform the United States immediately was a disappointment, especially in the context of a narrative push that so much has to be changed.  One doesn’t feel the need to radically transform something of which one is extremely proud.

Writes Mirengoff:

You can make the case that the single most important difference between Republicans and Democrats/conservatives and liberals is that Republicans are extremely proud of America, period, while Democrats are somewhat proud when they’re in power and not very proud when they’re not.

Hinderaker wonders “about the future of a party, most of whose members don’t like the country they are trying to take over.”  Interestingly, people who express an ideology are less likely to be “extremely proud” than people who identify with one of the political parties, with “conservatives” at 65% and “liberals” at a paltry 23%.  Without actual numbers of each group, it’s difficult to say, but this suggests that people who are proud of their country are more likely to get involved.

Of course, we should also keep these responses in perspective.  If we add in those who say they are “very proud” of their country, the overall average increases to 72%.

Still, the PowerLine crew is right to emphasize that college graduates and younger Americans are less likely to be “extremely proud” and seem to account for the bigger part of the drop.  From 2013 to 2018, 18-29 year olds with this level of patriotism dropped from 55% to 33%, while college graduates dropped from 53% to 39%.  This raises the question of why we put so much emphasis on education as a civic imperative if it doesn’t make people appreciate the civilization.

But again, some moderation in conclusions may be in order.  With the long stagnation of the Obama years, this five year span saw an increasing proportion of 18-29 year olds who’d never known a strong economy in their adult lives.  We’re also (hopefully) nearing the explosion point of an education bubble that places more premium on a college degree than that piece of paper deserves.  Consequently, the promise of the country, which lingers in our lore, doesn’t match the experience of it for them.

One suspects that two policy tracks can interact to change the unpatriotic attitude:  Get the Zinn/Marx out of education and get the economy going.  Improvements on either will improve the other, and both will make Americans feel better about their country.


The Business That Pickets Clients When They Choose Competitors

A number of policy questions come into play with GoLocalProv’s coverage of a labor union’s picketing a project receiving Commerce RI tax credits.

As a result of the investigation on 4/24/18 it has been substantiated that JS Interior Construction has misclassified 27 employees as independent contractors and has failed to pay wages to the employees in violation of R.I. General Law 28-14-19. Misclassification of Employees — (a) The misclassification of a worker whether performing work as a natural person, business, corporation or entity of any kind, as an independent contractor when the worker should be considered and paid as an employee shall be considered a violation of this chapter.

If I’m interpreting the story correctly, a builder hired workers as subcontractors in order to avoid burdensome laws that prevent workers from agreeing to work for less than an arbitrary level set by government.  Labor unions push for these laws in order to make their competition less competitive, and politicians agree to these laws in order to secure financial and boots-on-the-ground support from labor unions.

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The first issue is that the state government shouldn’t be subsidizing private-sector projects in the state because bureaucrats have judged them worthy.  The second issue is that the state government shouldn’t be restricting the rights of Rhode Islanders to agree to pay rates agreeable to both parties, especially as a systemic subsidy to private labor unions.

But the eye catcher of this issue is the labor union picketing a project ultimately (I’d suggest) because a non-union shop got the job.  What would you think of a company that sent its employees to picket another business that was out-competing it — or, more accurately, to picket a client because he or she chose a different contractor?

That’s obviously offensive, but labor unions fit the progressive narrative and (more importantly) the progressive money-flow scheme, so it’s not only tolerated, but lauded.


On Immigration, May We Reason in the Face of Emotion?

Richard August recently sent a letter to the editor of the Newport Daily News expressing a view that I’m not sure is permitted in Rhode Island:

The Border Patrol separates children under four conditions:

  • There is a suspicion that the adult is not the child’s parent.
  • There are indications of child abuse.
  • The adult has a record or is wanted for a felony here or in another country.
  • The parent(s) claiming political asylum.

To most rational people this seems reasonable. To the emotional left, it is horrific that there are about 2,500 kids separated from the adult who entered this country illegally with them.

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I wonder how many people could put a number of children who’ve fallen into each group.  The news coverage and the subsequent political rhetoric absolutely gives the impression that almost all are in the last, which is the one in which separation is more a side-effect than a first order policy.


Having to Win the Culture War to Allow Pluralism

Rod Dreher posted a great comment from one of his readers that captures something important in what I would propose as the pretty typical conservative view:

In a weird way, I’m kind of angry on behalf of liberals, if that makes any sense, because it pisses me off that such fundamental questions can be decided by presidential elections or judicial nominations. Which goes back to why I’m a conservative: I don’t think many of these issues belong in the political realm in the first place, and when they do, I’d prefer they be dealt with at the lowest, most local level of government where it’s practical to do so.

In a country as large, diverse and populous as the United States, it is INSANE for one part of the country to dictate to another, vastly different part of the country how it shall conduct its affairs. I have absolutely no interest in telling people in San Francisco how to live their lives or govern themselves, but it feels like I have no choice because if I don’t, they’ll turn around and impose THEIR will on ME, and I have NO desire to live like San Franciscans. It’s crazy.

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Conservatives come to these battles reluctantly, because outside some basic constitutional guarantees, we think all of the difficult questions that the country faces should be answered at the state… if not at the local or community… level.  In the past, I’ve presented the three basic freedoms that ought to be guaranteed at the federal level as the right to speak your mind, the right to work to change the government, and the right to leave.

Progressive zealots can’t abide anything like that.  Progressive non-zealots (what we used to think of as liberals) used to be able to do so, but it seems less and less feasible.  More and more, it seems, those on the Left can’t even differentiate between believing that somebody ought to have the right to do something and believing that it ought to be done.  How do we move forward as a pluralistic society if that isn’t a possibility?  Conservatives are beginning to come to the realization that we can’t.


Perspective on the Estate Tax as a Social Policy

Here’s a contentious statement:  The main difference between progressives and conservatives is how they frame their thinking, and the main problem is that progressives are wrong.  Consider this paragraph that Kalena Thomhave wrote in The American Prospect:

Think of it this way: There are two welfare systems, and both are conditional on wealth. One is for the poor, and is outward-facing—there are physical offices where people line up to receive benefits. The other welfare system is for the rich, and is hidden, embedded within the intricacies and complexities of the tax code. And when the president signed the new tax bill into law last December, this inequity between the two welfare systems was only exacerbated.

Of course, another difference between these two “welfare” systems is that one involves giving people money and the other involves not taking money from people.  The question of whether wealth is earned is pretty much irrelevant in a worldview that fundamentally sees wealth as something that society distributes, whether through government redistribution schemes or the much-sneakier private-sector mechanisms of freedom.

This sentiment lies at the heart of Thomhave’s perspective on the topic of her essay, which is the estate tax.  Because the framework of her thinking does not entail individuals acting through their own agency, she sees Republicans as hypocrites for wanting low-income adults to have to work for welfare while showing no concern for the degree to which flush estates allow the rich not to work.

Consequently, she misses the critical question of whether we ought to want people to have different attitudes toward work, quoting NYU tax law professor Lily Batchelder as follows:

According to Batchelder, this divide exacerbates inequality of opportunity. “A lot of the reasons [wealthy heirs] have more opportunities is just money,” she says. “But it’s also all the social connections and legacy admissions and all of the things that come along with that money that mean that someone born into a wealthy family is going to have a huge leg up in life,” says Batchelder.

So, the children of wealthy people have all sorts of advantages when it comes to work opportunity, which means they don’t have to work as hard — innovate, build relationships, earn investments, and just be more productive — if they decide they want to work.  Shouldn’t we want to reduce their incentive to work?  Framed this way, by taking money away from wealthy people through the estate tax, the government is depriving those who are less wealthy of the opportunities that the very wealthy will take, instead.

Such lacunae permeate Thomhave’s thinking all the way down the economic ladder.  Notably, she broadens her attack on GOP tax policy to rope in much more than the estate tax, as if each policy affects the same population:

Of course, it’s essential to understand that even before the GOP’s tax reform in 2017, the tax code was structured to disproportionately benefit those at the top. Wealth-building loopholes, such as the mortgage income deduction, the tax shelter for savings, and the deferral of taxes on capital gains, are skewed to the wealthy. Last year, the average benefit from such wealth-building tax programs for a millionaire was $160,190, while the typical benefit for a family working at the median income was $226.

With everything sorting into this rich-poor dichotomy, no wonder the Thomhave of our society believe everybody is trapped.  To the contrary, by attacking “wealth-building” policies, progressives are the one creating society’s ruts (which allows them then to offer government and their own ideology as the gates between them).  Let the wealthy scions keep their money and decide to be idle.  To the extent they decide they’ve got enough, they’ll become full-time consumers or philanthropists, leaving economic opportunities open for people who aren’t there, yet.  People who are more motivated and more productive.

This hugely oversimplifies, but the basic structure becomes this:  Investment coming in from people who want to let their money work for them creates opportunity for those who want to build their wealth through skill and innovation, for which they’ll need the services of those who want to transform their time and labor into cash and a wealthier future.  Maybe this works, and maybe it doesn’t, but there is no contradiction or hypocrisy to tax policies that discourage work at the top and encourage it at the bottom.

The implied approach on the other side is that we should tax rich people to keep them working and give the government money to redistribute so poorer people — who need to build up their earnings — have less pressure to work.  Again, this is the philosophy of ruts, and it is in perfect keeping with an ideology preaching that the good and the wise should make decisions for individual people based on generalizations, rather than allowing them to make their own decisions and allowing the economy to move forward organically.

This isn’t to say that there should be no safety net, but however our welfare programs should be designed, they should be conceived under the principle of letting people live their lives and judge their own needs in their own circumstances.

In this light, the estate tax begins to look more like a component of social policy than of taxation policy.  One would count an inheritance as new income if we see parents as sort of the employers of their children.  Alternately, if we see the family as a unit that supersedes government, then there is no rationale for government to tax money that passes among family (and that has already been taxed upon the family’s earning it).  Consider that we don’t tax money that the wealthy give to charities or non-charitable non-profits.  Is that relationship higher than the family relationship?

Of course, this question highlights most of all how conservatives and progressives look at the world differently.  To the latter, the government doesn’t tax money given to non-profits because, presumably, they’re doing something the government wants done.  Churches are similar; conservatives might argue that they should be exempt from taxes because that relationship supersedes the state, while progressives will assent to the non-profit status only as long as the churches are mainly furthering the interests of the state.

But that’s a tangent for another day.  When it comes to the estate tax, the government not only has no right to intervene in family economics, but we shouldn’t want it meddling in the incentives.  Sure, from the perspective of anybody for whom work is really work, it isn’t fair, but we find ourselves where we find ourselves.  Anybody who promises that they can bring fairness to the world is selling something unnatural and is really promising that, given the power, they’ll make life “fair” for whoever is useful to them.

Being unable to guarantee prosperity (because nobody can), they can only pledge to tear down those who have it and level the paying field.  They’ll do this even if it undermines an economic system that makes shared prosperity more likely.  As suggested at the outset of this post: the main problem is that progressives are wrong.


Getting to the Key Question on Drug Prices

The topic of health care can be a difficult one to take up analytically.  I hesitate, for example, to raise a long CNN article by Wayne Drash that profiles a Rhode Island family’s experience with the historic price increase of a drug that, at first, seemed like a miracle for their special needs son.  Click over for the details, but here’s an entry point for the fundamental question:

“It’s a very real thing living with a child that could have a [fatal] seizure,” Jonathan [Foltz] says. “It just seems kind of silly to be worrying about the bottom line of a company when you’re talking about kids’ lives.” …

News of Mallinckrodt’s $100 million settlement jolted them again.

“It seems like a slap on the wrist,” Jonathan says. “I’m not against capitalism. I’m not against people making a profit. But when small market drugs are making billions and they’re supposed to be using the money to help the community with new drugs, it seems like a failure.

Similar questions came up recently, for me, when I learned about cutting-edge medicines to treat a genetic disease.  In essence, the disease prevents DNA from producing cells that behave as they are supposed to behave, and the new drugs attach to the DNA to fix its operation.  In other words, it’s a treatment, not a cure, but it’s like a cure that plays out over an entire lifetime.  With a potential annual cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, how does one set the value?

On one hand, the seller could take the measure of the patient’s willingness to pay.  For any of these drugs, what is the value to a person of staying alive?  What is the value to his or her family and community of keeping him or her alive?

However, capitalism requires not only a demand-side calculation of value, but also a supply-side calculation of cost.  How much does it cost to develop and manufacture these drugs?  How unique are the resources or skill sets of the seller in the marketplace?  Within one’s line of vision, the bottom line of a company is a cold thing to measure against the lives of children, but the bottom line keeps production and innovation going, saving lives that currently have no hope.

Once we’ve acknowledge that the equation has two sides, the next question is whom we entrust to balance them.  Is it the government?  That only translates the equation into one involving the ability of advocates to promise votes and the willingness of corporate interests to supply donations.

This is a very complex matter to consider, and yet, I can’t shake the feeling that Drash’s article doesn’t quite name the real problem.  Yes, when a drug that has been around for decades and that once sold with a much-lower price tag suddenly rockets in price like Venezuelan inflation, something in the market isn’t operating correctly.  To know how to respond to the story, we have to know whether production really is much more expensive than it once was or some quirk of the law is perpetuating an unjustifiable monopoly.

Unfortunately, the public at large typically has to dig well beyond feature essays for that level of information (with the essayists, after all, responding to their own audiences), and few have the time or interest to achieve even that level of expertise on a narrow matter.  This points to something that needs fixing in our civic society.


Culturally Appropriating the Other’s Victim Status

The other day Republican Rhode Island Senator Elaine Morgan tweeted out the following, from her political competition for District 34:

I’m white. I have privilege. But today and for the next four years, I’m Muslim. Put me on a list.

In all honestly, I’m not inclined attack somebody for a show of solidarity.  The “I’m white. I have privilege.” thing is kind of silly, but if there is genuine persecution going on, there’s nothing wrong with an “I am Spartacus” movement.

That said, I’d like to know the rules.  Wouldn’t it be cultural appropriation for a privileged white person to usurp the victim status of a minority group, particularly in a society that places such a high value on victim status?  Evidence that the appropriator, in this case, places value on victim status arises in the thread of replies to her tweet, which includes her further explanation that she’s “never been given a hand up because [she’s] a woman.”

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I’d request a clear guide on all of these matters, but I suspect not having clear rules is key to their value to progressives.  A fine appreciation of the ever-changing rules illustrates a deeper conformity than simple pronouncements of agreement and solidarity.


Whitewashing the Radicals to Make Them Representative

The headline to John Hill’s Providence Journal article alerts readers to the bias: “R.I. joins voices against separating families.”  In the view of the state’s major daily, these few hundred protesters represent the state.

With that as the underlying assumption, I suppose it isn’t surprising that Hill sanitizes the event so to make it palatable for those who aren’t as radical.  The only hint comes with this:

[Aarish Rojiani, of AMOR, the Alliance to Mobilize our Resistance,] added that it was no coincidence that the demonstration was held across the street from the ACI: Law-enforcement policies also separate families, he said.

For the real story, turn to comprehensive coverage from the progressive UpriseRI.  What Rojiani really meant when talking to the Providence Journal is that they want to end incarceration — that is, prisons.  Not only that, but these supposed representatives of Rhode Island want to get rid of borders and nations altogether.  That wasn’t just the view of fringe sign makers; a cheat sheet of chants that the organizers handed out puts “No borders, no nations! Stop attacking migration” as the very first one.  (Note that it’s not “immigration,” even though the rhythm begs for the extra syllable; they think our borders are illegitimate.)

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And so it goes.  When conservatives rally, the mainstream narrative presents us as strange, extremist creatures.  When radicals rally, the mainstream narrative whitewashes their extremity to make them seem like the voice of goodness.


Calling for an Advantage from the Heat

So, here comes the heat.

I’ve spent the morning inside — thinking, reading, writing, and working (which, readers can well imagine, tend to overlap for me).  As the air conditioner has whirred in the background, I’ve contemplated the escalating culture war, the coming fight over a Supreme Court appointment, the need to ramp up for local elections, the best way to handle my eldest child’s final years as a minor, the ways in which I might help to shore up the Church against modern tides, and whether it is more urgent for me to clear out the mess beneath our back deck or seal the wood of a gate I hung just before winter.  And so on.

Contemplate.  If I’m following my etymological resources correctly, that word means, basically, to create a temple — that is, to set aside space for observation of divine signs.

For a short break from the weighty matters of my augury, I left my temperate office and trod across the lawn to get the mail.  Beyond the door is heat, and it’s the first time this year that the air really reminds an organism that the temperature can be a force.  A thing.  It is felt, not merely understood, and sometimes it requires action beyond thought.

Annually, around this time, one comes across an op-ed or blog post, somewhere, suggesting that air conditioning has played a role in the centralization of our federal government.  As the story goes, the heat once drove politicians out of the Washington swamp.  Technological advances not only in temperature control, but also in transportation and communication, have made it much more plausible to house a massive bureaucracy in a single place year round and to keep the string pullers at their instruments.

Another image comes to mind of Southern belles of old striving to stay cool, sitting in the shade with iced lemonade, hand-held fans flapping.  Striving.  In the heat of summer, human beings once had to actively avoid overheating.  Too much activity was simply difficult — more so for people whose station in life left them soft.

In that way, nature imposed a natural disadvantage on the contemplators versus the doers.  The schemer could leave his temple to impose upon the field worker, but in the heat, the former would be in the territory of the latter.  (He could hire muscle, of course, but somewhere on the fringes of consideration would always be the likelihood that the muscler had more in common with the musclee than with the boss.)

Let’s not be nostalgic for the discomforts of the past, but let’s spare some thoughts, from time to time, for the unintended benefits that discomforts might have had.  Heat once set limits on economic activity, as it did on the operation of government, and it is good to push our limits.  But maybe we need to set new ones.  Real progress requires increased balance, not concentrated advantage.

Some of us live more in the heat of life than others, and society is imbalanced when that doesn’t confer some measure of leverage, or at least defense.


Trusting Each Other to Keep the Economic Ship Right

Yesterday, the Newport Daily News ran an op-ed of mine

Lots of smart people think [about the social upheaval on the horizon when technology makes work obsolete], so I hesitate to admit that my opinion is that this really shouldn’t be such a difficult or scary topic. I’d humbly suggest that, in the excitement of prognostication, those smart people are missing a central economic principle — namely, that the free market itself is the greatest form of wealth redistribution. …

Locally, Rhode Islanders should contemplate the possibility that our location and size could make us a leading innovator in this healthy form of wealth distribution — once more a global powerhouse. All it would take is enough trust in each other to break the hold of insiders who sell the promise of economically protecting us from one another.

Always remember that it is in the interests of a lot of powerful forces to frighten us into over-correcting the ship in the direction they want us to go.

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Rules Against Bigotry Can’t Be a One-Way Door

The principle of “turnabout is fair play” applies to a story Glenn Reynolds noticed, of a University of Michigan-Flint economics professor who has asked Northeastern University, in Boston, to investigate whether one of its Women’s, Gender and Sexual Studies professors violated Title IX by publicly expressing hatred for all men:

“She has not only publically demonized and belittled all males at Northeastern University, she called out publically for the universal hatred of all men, including all men at your university,” [Mark Perry] wrote. “That makes Ms. Walters a confirmed sexist and bigot in violation of Title IX and your university’s own stated policies that prohibit such discrimination.”

Perry suggested that Northeastern should prevent [Suzanna] Walters from teaching male students, or have sway on decisions relating to male colleagues in her department, and be forced to partake in diversity training/anger management courses to address her sexism.

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The humor of Professor Perry’s request (and the poignancy, even if we see no humor) resides in the fact that the door of bigotry is only supposed to swing one way.  As we see every year in Rhode Island, when Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo discriminates against school boys in her “governor for a day” contest, progressives really don’t believe that rules and mores against discrimination apply to their own beliefs.  By definition, in their minds, they are free of such taints.  To wit: “I am not a bigot.  Therefore, my beliefs cannot be bigoted.”

But the double standard cannot hold, and those of us who maintain that the entire scheme of political correctness and the punishment of speech and beliefs is wrongheaded shouldn’t be shy about challenging it in its own terms, as Perry has done.


Assumptions in the Elimination of Parental Rights

An advocacy-as-news article from Megan Mitchell, a reporter/anchor for WLWT in Ohio, inadvertently brings into stark relief a flawed assumption and deadly blind spot in the promotion of transgenderism among children.  Teresa Schrader supports the decision of her daughter, Riggins, to present as a boy:

“I know my transition was easier because of my family and friends, but I also know that other kids like me don’t have it as easy because they don’t have the support,” said Riggins.

The new bill, proposed by Ohio Rep. Thomas Brinkman (R), from Mt. Lookout, would require school and hospital staff to inform a parent if a child indicates they aren’t sure about their gender.

Transgender advocates say the bill can create an unsafe environment for transgender children who aren’t supported by their family.

“The suicide rate for transgender kids is around 40%. So who wants their kid to possibly commit suicide because they’re not feeling comfortable with who they are or their not feeling supported?” said Schrader.

In an argument over legislation that would require teachers and therapists to inform parents of their children’s gender dysphoria, the party asking what parent wants his or her child to commit suicide should be the one insisting that parents have a right to know what’s going on with their children.  Schrader is assuming not only that satisfying the transgender impulse can be the right answer, but that it should be assumed always to be the right answer if the child with the dysphoria thinks it is, and that some parents might actually be willing to risk his or her suicide to disagree.

The more dreadful point, though, is the one less remarked upon.  The implicit argument is that schools and therapists should help to push children — children in a group that is more prone to suicide — into a situation in which they’re deceiving their parents about something supposedly central to their identities, possibly changing their own biology behind their parents’ backs.

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A reasonable argument might exist that the legislation should be amended to account for those extreme and rare circumstances in which a parent can be excluded from the notice, but even getting that far is apparently beyond consideration.  Parents are villains until proven woke.

Rhode Islanders should pay attention, because policies being promulgated at the state and local levels infringe on parents’ rights in exactly the way Representative Brinkman is striving to remedy in Ohio.


Hoping for a Janus Effect on the Cost of RI Government

Jason Richwine notes, on National Review’s Corner, that the Janus decision looks likely to help bring public-sector compensation back toward private-sector reality:

… there is indeed a correlation between compulsory union dues and public-sector compensation. Based on data from the report that Andrew and I wrote in 2014, state workers in compulsory states were paid 17.0 percent more on average than comparable private workers, while state workers in non-compulsory states were paid just 5.6 percent more.

Take a look at Rhode Island’s position on his related chart:


How much more economic activity would we be experiencing if it weren’t for this premium taxed out of our economy, and how much more work could we get done on government services and maintenance if it weren’t so expensive?

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In Rhode Island, Everything’s in a Name

The Rhode Island House Republicans’ Twitter account tweeted out a bit of deep insight from Mike O’Reilly of the Federal Communications Commission on C-SPAN:

“I was dealing with Rhode Island. They decided they were not going correct it, withstanding all the promises early in the year. They rename the program for the following year, thinking it’s going to fix the problem.” FCC Commissioner @mikeofcc

He’s talking about the 911 fee that the state government has come under scrutiny for misappropriating, but this is common in Rhode Island.  After 38 Studios, the General Assembly changed the name of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to the Commerce Corporation and, voila, all is right with Rhode Island policy.  In the season of education reform, Rhode Island shifted some names and org charts of state-level education boards around and all of a sudden children began a new educational voyage… I guess.

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Once again the reminder:  Elected officials will keep doing this stuff until it stops working for them.


“Real Compassion” Dispenses with Entitlement

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is right:

Carson told the story of a young woman who voiced her frustration at HUD for not finding her large family a government-subsidized apartment fast enough.

“In one group, a young lady stood up and she was very angry that it had taken the housing authority so long to find her a five-bedroom apartment because she had all these children and was even more angry because the dining room set had a scratch on the table. But as I was thinking about that, I said, this young woman probably has never known any other life. Her mother probably lived here and her grandmother probably lived here and she doesn’t even understand what is out there and what the American dream is all about,” Carson said at the recent Faith and Freedom Coalition “Road to Majority” conference.

“And that is one of the reasons that you will see from the new HUD, such an emphasis on self-sufficiency, because I think that is real compassion – getting people out of poverty and helping them to find the pathway. It is a double win because for each person you get out of that dependent situation, it is one less person you have to pay for and it’s one more taxpaying contributing member of society,” he added. “So this is the way we have to begin to think about these things.”

We’re altogether too comfortable with a sense of entitlement these days, and that’s across the board.  Yes, the woman in Carson’s anecdote was too comfortable with the notion that taxpayers should quickly supply her with whatever accommodations she might fill with children, but the social elite are too comfortable with the notion that they are entitled to whatever jobs they want and to have their worldview enacted into universal law.  Some established businesses are too comfortable with the notion that they are entitled to continue along without competition, and some entrepreneurs are too comfortable with the notion that taxpayers should help them rev up their endeavors.

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Spiritually, we’re built for a world in which nothing is assured.  God told Adam that it would only be by the “sweat of your face” that he would eat,” and He told Cain that “you can be [sin’s] master,” “if you do well [and] can hold up your head.”  That gives us responsibility and possibility.


In Search of “Agency Fee” Refunds

Here’s an interesting twist in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, yesterday:

Public-sector workers across the country are seeking to recover back wages they paid to labor organizations in the event the Supreme Court declares mandatory union fees unconstitutional.

Class action suits have been filed against eight unions in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maryland, California, and the state of Washington, accusing individual unions of violating workers’ rights by collecting mandatory dues payments. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on a groundbreaking case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which challenges the constitutionality of forcing public-sector workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The suits argue that any public-sector employee who participated in forced dues systems should receive financial “redress” from labor organizations.

Let’s stipulate that the number of public-sector employees in this category is probably pretty small in Rhode Island.  If not being in a union saves only a little bit of money or none at all because you have to pay an “agency fee” for the work the union does on your behalf anyway, you might as well be a member and get the full benefits, whatever they are.  One source puts the number of agency fee paying teachers under the National Education Association of Rhode Island at only 146, for instance.  I did some research on this a few years back, and although I can’t find my notes, that sounds about right.

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Still, being forced to pay a private organization in order to keep your public-sector job is a sufficiently egregious violation of an employee’s rights that those in this situation should seek a return of the money that was taken away from them unconstitutionally.


Thinking Through Trillo’s Campaign Finance Complaint

Billboards promoting Allan Fung’s candidacy may or may not violate campaign finance law, but Joe Trillo’s formal complaint about them raises questions that Rhode Islanders really should consider:

According to Trillo’s campaign, Fung is using several illuminated digital billboard signs in North Providence, which he did not report on his campaign finance reports.

“Allan Fung has been utilizing three corporate owned, illuminated digital billboard signs along major thoroughfares in North Providence, since December 3, 2017, but never officially reported paying for any such advertising on his past or present campaign finance reports. This is a violation of Rhode Island campaign finance laws, and yet another example of Allan Fung’s clear and intentional mismanagement of his campaign finances,” said Trillo.

Here is the current state of campaign finance law in the Ocean State, based on my own reading and experience dealing with the Board of Elections Campaign Finance Unit: If the candidate paid for the billboards, they would have to be listed as an expense on his reports.  If the owners of the billboards put them up without consulting with the candidate, the candidate should report them as an in-kind contribution, and the owners should possibly file reports as if they are political action committees (PACs).

That last situation is patently unconstitutional.  The state government of Rhode Island cannot regulate and limit residents’ free speech rights just because what they say supports a candidate for office.  That is true no matter the motivation or whether the person asked the candidate for input before expressing his support publicly.

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This same logic transfers directly to the candidate.  If it falls under free speech rights to express support for another person, and it absolutely does, then it must fall under free speech rights to express support for one’s own candidacy.

In the abstract (although probably not under current law as adjudicated by the Supreme Court), one could possibly argue that states can regulate the money that people give to candidates and how they spend it, but restrictions on anything having to do with speech are clear infringements on our rights.


The Happy Face of Janus



The Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSME strikes a very local chord for me.

Probably the most shocking, formative revelations from my experience as a young blogger covering public controversies in my town and state in Rhode Island had to do with labor unions, specifically teachers unions.

The first local school committee meeting I attended happened to be during contract negotiation season, and afterwards I sat in the parking lot and blogged with my pre-iPhone computer phone writing, “If what I witnessed tonight is any indication, concerned citizens have reason to fear that the dynamic created by unionization makes our school systems much less effective, making it more difficult for all of those involved to work together in mutual respect.”  I suggested that “anybody who is interested in encouraging professionalism in our schools ought to call for the end of teachers’ unions.”

Looking back through those posts from 2007, one can trace my hardening views.  About a month after that meeting, I wrote, “The unions are a cancer in our education system. Cut them out, and teachers, parents, and elected officials can be on the same side again.”

Not long afterwards, my opinion was sealed in a nearby town where the school committee had dared to stand up to the union.  The atmosphere was like a circus.

At that meeting, I became acquainted with more of the non-teacher unionists from the National Education Association of Rhode Island.  It’s funny how their names and faces start to pop up once you recognize them.  As the school committee chairman exited the auditorium, one guy got right up in his face and started screaming and waving his arms.  I later learned he was a lawyer for the NEA.  He has a tendency to appear when there’s trouble to be made.

Another of the regulars got himself in the local paper when he gave the superintendent the finger.  And still another familiar face attracted attention when a recording emerged of him threatening a state representative in an elevator.

My first response to these observations is as a parent.  Watching teachers’ behavior made private school feel more like an obligation than just another option.

My second response is as the husband of a teacher.  Aren’t union teachers embarrassed?  Surely some of them must want nothing to do with this horrible behavior… it’s more like a mix between a cult and a mafia shakedown.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus, teachers and other government employees can finally stop having to be associated with this sort of behavior as a condition of their employment.  Even as a matter of self-interest, it has to be obvious to great teachers that they’re under-selling themselves by joining these thuggish organizations.

In 2007, another nearby Rhode Island school district had to let go of a a teacher who had just been awarded with teacher of the year.  She didn’t have enough seniority to keep her job.

So young Americans — by which I mean Millennials, mainly — should resist the spin they’re certain to hear about the Janus ruling.  Freedom from unions is good for the families who rely on government services and it’s good for the employees who deserve better than the unions are able to secure for all of them as a group.

Now government employees who aren’t happy with the low bar set by their unions can choose not to support them and still not have to find another career.


It’s Wednesday; Do You Know Where Your Governor Is?

Rhode Islanders wondering where their governor is need only turn the news media… in California:

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is set to hold fundraisers for her re-election campaign Wednesday in Hancock Park and Studio City.

The first fundraiser will be a noon lunch at the Hancock Park home of Cynthia Telles, the director of the Spanish Speaking Psychosocial Clinic at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is set to attend as a “special guest,” according to an invitation obtained by City News Service. …

The second fundraiser will be from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Studio City home of Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali.

Tickets for both fundraisers are $1,000, the maximum individual contribution allowed under Rhode Island law…

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Telles is a big-time Democrat insider and enthusiastic board member of for- and non-profit organizations, like GM.  Naftali seems to be most notable as a fundraiser for Democrats, including, recently, Maxine Waters, who is currently under fire for encouraging mob action against Trump administration officials.


Casino Money May Go to Pay for Town Council’s Lawsuit Gambles

So, Tiverton has this big influx of revenue coming with the Twin River casino, and it sure does appear that the Town Council could lose a lot of it in court, as residents and local businesses win lawsuits related to reckless or poorly executed enforcement actions.  Here’s one instance, from Tiverton Fact Check:

The town approved an incorrect site plan for McLaughlin’s garage, allowing him to build it too close to his property lines, and later told him to take it down.  In February 2016, the town voted to hire a demolition crew one week after a court order allowed it to do so and knocked the garage down, even though litigation was ongoing.  Rather than wait for McLaughlin to exhaust all of his court appeals, the Town Council decided it was an urgent matter to remove the garage, which was, after all, still 16 feet from one property line and 22 from another.  It had to send a message to the people of Tiverton.

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The problem was that the wrong town body brought the suit, and now McLaughlin is moving forward in search of millions of dollars in damages.  One wonders how much less likely an incompetent town government would be to insist on arrogant shows of power if it wouldn’t always be able to simply pass on the cost to taxpayers.


The Governor’s Brief Walk on the Tightrope of “Tolerance”

Perhaps it’s misplaced to take too seriously Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling, today, acknowledging the authority of the President of the United States to set immigration policy within the boundaries of the Constitution and federal law.  Still, I think something telling in this paragraph is worth brief consideration:

“Rhode Island was founded on the idea that freedom of worship is an inherent human right. I’m disappointed that the Supreme Court sided in favor of President Trump’s immoral and unnecessary Muslim ban. Our state has always been strengthened by the contribution of immigrants. It’s now more important than ever that we show the world that there’s a place for everyone in Rhode Island. No matter your race, where you’re from, your immigration status or who you love-you are welcome here.”

First observe the illogic:  The statement begins by referring to “freedom of worship,” which has nothing to do with this case.  The Trump administration is not seeking immigration restrictions because the immigrants will come here to worship.  It is not seeking to screen travelers based on their religion, rather than the countries from which they’re traveling, or to prevent worship once they’re here, but rather to prevent terrorism.

Now fast-forward to the end.  Raimondo notes that “there’s a place for everyone in Rhode Island,” elaborating that the categories applying to that assertion are race, country of origin, the legality of one’s presence in the country, and sexual orientation.  Note what’s missing.

Yes, yes, I’m tempted to quip that Raimondo — who uses her government office to discriminate against school boys in an official annual contest — doesn’t mention biological sex, perhaps because men aren’t necessarily welcome.  But more to the point, see how she’s dropped that “freedom to worship” thing?

Of course, I sympathize with the challenge that she faced in writing this statement.  She could have reinforced the “freedom of worship” point by welcoming people “no matter what God or gods they follow, or if they don’t believe in God at all,” but that would have been clunky.  She could have welcomed people “no matter what you beliefs,” but what about people who believe in outrageous things like the Second Amendment and the traditional definition of marriage, let alone the humanity of children prior to birth?


A Local Hook for Restaurateur Discrimination

As local papers often do with national stories, the Providence Journal strove to provide local color to a growing trend in the area of Washington, D.C., of driving Trump Administration figures out of restaurants:

“I know hundreds of restaurant owners in R.I., and I can’t think of one that would turn someone away,” said Bob Bacon, owner of the Gregg’s restaurant and bakery chain and a past chairman of the R.I. Hospitality Association, an industry trade group.

“We are all thrilled to death to be given your business,” he said.

Presumably, reporter Gail Ciampa isn’t aware of Revival Brewing Company’s cancellation of an America’s Future Foundation event at the last minute for political reasons earlier this year, even though I wrote about it in her paper.

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It’s very easy for restaurants to proclaim that they’d never turn people away, and it’s easy to find a group of them that would be telling the truth with that proclamation, but that doesn’t capture the reality.  AFF had a similar experience with a different establishment shortly after, but I didn’t have time to write about it, and nobody else in Rhode Island media seems to care.

“It could never happen here,” the saying goes… except when it does.  Then nobody will notice so that they can continue to believe their pleasant fiction.

Not long ago, Christian writer Rod Dreher coined the Law of Merited Impossibility, which observes a common insinuation from the American Left whenever these sorts of stories emerge:  “That will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.”  This is human nature, and conservatives should be prepared for things to get worse before they get better, but it’d be nice if professionals who believe themselves to be objective were able to acknowledge it.