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The Madness That Lies Ahead with the Erasure of Gender

Don’t blink as you react to news that British identity politics has advanced to such a state that a convicted multiple rapist has been moved to a female-only prison upon declaring that he identifies as a woman.  We can be sure that if you do blink, the progressive narrative will have advanced to the point that you’ll only be allowed to have one opinion.  Whatever we’re permitted to say, we should take Brendan O’Neill’s warning, written for Spiked, to heart:

This strange urge of trans activists and commentators to accord more sympathy to Ponting than to women prisoners — to argue the corner of a rapist rather than women — speaks volumes about how unhinged the trans ideology has become. Or rather how abjectly unwilling society is to withstand this ideology and to tell its believers that they are wrong. In the treatment of Ponting’s belief that he is a woman as more important than the concerns of hundreds of actual women, we see in extreme form the extent to which society is now expected to bow before the narcissistic individual and his or her demands for recognition; to validate every identity, even where that identity is self-evidently irrational.

And where this expectation of validation is annoying and sometimes illiberal in everyday life — such as when student officials pressure people to use pronouns like ‘ze’ or when feminists are harassed online for saying men cannot become women — in the case of prisons it becomes positively dangerous. A society that cannot say even to a man convicted of rape, ‘You are not a woman’, is a society that has truly lost the moral plot. It is a society that has left the realm of reason and objectivity for the unbalanced, unpredictable and plain dangerous terrain of post-modernism, in which what an individual feels counts for more than what others know to be true.

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Progressives with no sense of boundaries or rational understanding that they are, indeed, seeking radical ends are at least doing us the service of rushing right to their ludicrous conclusions before society has been drawn along the “that will never happen” path.

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State House Report with John DePetro, No. 24 and 25: Voter Fraud, Pawsox, Dreamers, and DACA

I neglected to post my August 30th appearance on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, so this week, you get twice the audio.

On August 30, the topics were Elorza’s Dreamers, Pawsox, and District 13 follow up.

On September 6, the topics were official silence on Ken Block’s voter fraud report, the start of the Senate’s PawSox road show, and local response to the DACA.

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My appearance are now on a new day, which is Monday. Early next week, tune in on Monday, September 18, at 2:00 p.m., and keep an eye out for audio from two days ago.

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Gorbea’s Inappropriate Press Release

Politics in America have taken on a strange tone in recent years, amped up by the election of Donald Trump as president.  This is particularly notable in discussions of election integrity, both in the notion that Russians interfered in our national election and in different views on the significance of voter fraud.

Today, Rhode Islander Ken Block presented findings of his voter roll review to the president’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.*  Among other things, in that presentation, Block highlights that “30.7% of 2016 votes in Rhode Island were cast by voters with no identifying information in voter registration database.”  He doesn’t allege that those voters are doing anything wrong, but does insist, “It is vitally important to know how many voters in each state cannot be identified by their data.”

In a press release that is clearly more of a political document than an informative one, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea mischaracterizes this presentation in a strange way:

Today the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met in New Hampshire. Part of their presentation included the erroneous claim that 30 percent of Rhode Island voters in 2016 are somehow illegitimate or not verified. …

In short, these voters are your friends, your family, and your neighbors. If you registered to vote in Rhode Island before 2002, these voters likely include you. Allowing unsubstantiated claims to influence our public policy can lead to real consequences and the exclusion of legitimate voters.

Gorbea is speaking out about claims that nobody is making and, in doing so, sidesteps the important question of whether Block’s findings are correct and a legitimate cause of concern.  Note, for illustration, that apart from mischaracterizing his claims, she unprofessionally declines to name Ken Block, attributing his statements to the commission, and attempts to make voters take this as an attack on them.

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Obviously, folks are behaving with political motivation on both sides of these matters, but more and more, I find myself wishing that everybody involved, especially officials elected to do a job representing all of us, would let some opportunities for political jabs pass by in order to provide the public with a fair and reasonable understanding of what is actually going on.

* Memo to the editors of the Providence Journal: That is actually the proper name of the commission, as formed by the President of the United States.  Putting quotation marks around the whole title or (especially) just the “election integrity” part is unnecessary grammatically and inappropriate as journalistic practice, illustrating yet again your newspaper’s bias.

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Alexion Closure… Centralized Economic Development Not Cutting It

Back in 2012, just as the Town of Portsmouth was beginning to crow about the profitability of its taxpayer-subsidized wind turbine, government officials had to eat that crow when the unit failed, with a fix priced at more than the supposed profit.  That anecdote came to mind when I read of Alexion Pharmaceuticals’ plan to close up its Rhode Island shop.  According to WPRI’s Nancy Krause:

Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Tuesday morning it is closing its plant in Smithfield and moving manufacturing operations to other sites in the United States and Ireland.

A spokeswoman told Eyewitness News Alexion has 250 employees at the location, which the company said has been a key manufacturing site for Soliris – a high-priced treatment for two rare genetic disorders – over the past 10 years.

Add that 250 to the 715 Benny’s employees now set to lose their jobs, and it begins to appear that the economic winds might blow away every single job increase that Governor Gina Raimondo’s Commerce Corp. has bribed, or will bribe, companies to create in the state.

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Of course, we can’t know whether anything that the State of Rhode Island could have done would have saved the nearly 1,000 jobs that are now going to be erased from our local ledger from just these two companies, but if the economy is shedding jobs while only creating them when heavily subsidized, that’s a very strong signal that we should try another approach.  Simply change the state’s focus to making it easier for residents to live and do business, and companies will have more incentive to stay and innovate here.

All those bribes would have gone a long way toward making such refocusing possible.

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A Special Tier of Law for Insiders

Katherine Gregg has devoted another Providence Journal Political Scene to the worthy topic of the political connections of Rhode Island magistrates and judges.  Long before knowing the score, on this count, anybody who takes an interest in Rhode Island governance learns that justice is best sought in federal courts, because Rhode Island’s system is (let’s say) not to be trusted.

With this anecdote, Gregg gives a sense of why:

A former public defender, [now Superior Court Judge Patrick] Burke had been at the center of a controversial court case that evolved from his arrest by the Warwick police in 1993 after they observed his car weaving on Route 2 around 2:30 a.m. The police charged him with refusing to submit to a portion of the breath test. The traffic court suspended his license and scheduled a hearing. Burke’s lawyer — then Speaker Harwood — filed for dismissal in 1996, saying the multiple delays in scheduling the hearing deprived Burke of his right to a speedy trial. A judge dismissed the charge.

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This anecdote was 20 years ago, and we certainly have no reason to believe that things have improved.  How can Rhode Islanders have confidence in a judiciary that operates like this?

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One Thing is Clear: The Progressive Agenda Is A Failure

Despite the false hopes expressed by lawmakers based solely on a reduced unemployment rate, Rhode Island families are hurting. The Ocean State suffers under a terrible business climate, and remains stuck 48th rank on our Center’s Job’s & Opportunity Index. Just this week, it was announced that Benny’s, a Rhode Island institution, is closing. Furthermore, Rhode Island was the only state in New England to see its labor force decline in size in recent years, as hundreds of thousands of people have chosen to leave our state since 2004. This is not a recovery.


We know that that the high levels of taxation and over-regulation imposed for the sake of the progressive vision are the primary culprit in causing this stagnant performance. We’ve identified just 15 bills that would potentially cost Rhode Islanders over Six BILLION dollars. Put another way, overspending by a government that primarily seeks to perpetuate and grow itself, actually works against the best-interests of the very people it is supposed to be serving. Instead of seeking to grow prosperity, government seeks to grow itself.
What is really in the best interests of Rhode Island families? The progressive approach is a failure. How can we possibly hope to attract a company like Amazon when we can’t even get the basics right? Yet, for decades, politicians have practiced allegiance to the size of state government, as opposed to the allegiance they are sworn to uphold to the people of Rhode Island. It should now be clear that this progressive-left, big-spending agenda has failed those same Rhode Islanders. It is a battle of visions.
Indeed, one thing is clear. The progressives’ extremist agenda can no longer be denied. Rhode Island progressives now overtly advocate for government control over industry, for control over employers, and for control over all of our lives. If only lawmakers were to realize that there is a better way, we could restore prosperity to the Ocean State. I encourage you to speak out against the insiders who want further the progressive agenda, while your family is kept out of the process. Rhode Islanders want a state government that works for everyone not just the chosen few.
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So Much for That “No Evidence of Vote Fraud” Thing

Well, this sure is interesting:

Over 6,000 voters in New Hampshire had used same-day voter registration procedures to register and vote simultaneously for president. The current New Hampshire speaker of the House, Shawn Jasper, sought and obtained data about what happened to these 6,000 “new” New Hampshire voters who showed up on Election Day. It seems the overwhelming majority of them can no longer be found in New Hampshire.

That was enough to give Hillary Clinton the state.  She didn’t win, obviously, but the margin could have given the Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate the victory, as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach points out.  (Imagine, too, if a similar report were to come out showing that fraud could have given President Trump Wisconsin.)

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If you’ve been paying attention, J. Christian Adams’s PJ Media article quoted above fits perfectly with the early-2016 sting by video journalist James O’Keefe.  Note, in particular Chuck Ross’s description of O’Keefe’s video for the Daily Caller:

“Like, I think in many ways New Hampshire is incredibly proud of their first in the nation primary, and for that reason they make all of these really lax laws, surrounding voting, so people can, like, take advantage of it,” Waterman tells a PVA journalist.

“Why doesn’t just every volunteer, like, ever in the office, just…,” the journalist begins to ask.

“I think they all have honestly,” says Waterman. “And like, all of our paid canvassers have done it. It’s very, very easy.”

“It almost seems like…it’s better to have people from out of state. Because they can do that and it’s like more votes,” the journalist says.

The poll workers whom O’Keefe filmed talk about using other people’s addresses, even the office building in which they were talking.  That starts to sound like the alarm that Ken Block has been sounding in recent months, here in Rhode Island.

It’s scandalous that Rhode Island politicians, including the Secretary of State, get away with brushing these concerns aside.

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Rhode Islanders’ Nostalgia

In the context of a general melancholy feeling among some about the closing of Benny’s, Ted Nesi expressed an interesting thought on Twitter:

It is amazing that the PawSox have had so little ability to capitalize on sentiment in a state as nostalgic as RI

That does seem curious, but on the other hand, people’s nostalgia for Benny’s didn’t lead them to forgo the conveniences and prices of Amazon or even other local retailers and shop there more often.

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The reality is probably something more like this:  Only a segment of Rhode Islanders are actually all that nostalgic, or rather, all that nostalgic about a particular institution, and one would expect the sorts of people who participate in public life and news media (as producers or consumers) to be especially interested in local details.

That’s true everywhere, of course.  Perhaps what makes it seem more prominent in Rhode Island — apart from the state’s size and general quirkiness — is a social comfort with letting relatively small segments use government to impose their interests.  That is, whereas most people in Rhode Island (or anywhere else) will observe a departing institution and give it little more than the thought, “Huh; the world changes,” Rhode Island has a high proportion of people who feel like somebody ought to do something to make the world exactly as they want it (probably at public expense).

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“Raimondo” Certainly Not Synonymous with “Transparency”

Thanks to the indefatigable John Vitkevich, of Portsmouth, for pursuing information about Governor Gina Raimondo’s blue campaign signs, posted at taxpayer expense under the pretense of providing transparency as to the progress of RhodeWorks progress.  As Kathy Gregg reports in the Providence Journal, it has taken action by the attorney general’s office to make the governor be transparent about the signs:*

Of DOT’s unwillingness to identify the state account that paid for the signs, Special Assistant Attorney General Sean Lyness wrote: “We confess some unease. The DOT has consistently indicated that it maintains no documents responsive to this request… Nonetheless, there is some cost to the State of Rhode Island for these signs and it is axiomatic that this cost – assuming it is paid with State funds – must come from some budget line item(s).”

After finding DOT, in fact, had “an Excel spreadsheet of the costs″ for the signs, Lyness wrote: “Under the DOT’s interpretation, this running tally of signage costs could be withheld as a ‘draft’ indefinitely. This interpretation contravenes the definition of the term ‘draft,’ which contemplates an eventual completed document.”

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The Raimondo administration’s arguments are audacious and insulting, with the insinuation that the state government could develop an entire program and pay for it without ever producing a document that the public has a right to see.  The hope, one presumes, is to make “citizen-critics” like Vitkevich just go away.  We need more people who just won’t.

 

*  Obviously, this assumes that the Raimondo administration doesn’t attempt to defy the AG’s ruling.

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URI Honors Colloquium’s Narrow Explication of Everything

The graphic accompanying the Web page for this year’s honors colloquium at the University of Rhode Island appears to be ironic.  It’s a sketch of a star with a face faded into it, all superimposed on a field of stars.  Given that the title of the colloquium is “Origins: Life, the Universe and Everything,” one might assume the speeches would include some discussion of philosophy or even theology, but the list of presentations would seem to suggest otherwise.  (An email to one of the coordinators for confirmation of this observation went without response.)

Basically, all 10 speakers are concerned with science of one form or another, which is fine as far as it goes, but it raises the question of what the underlying philosophy of the colloquium is.  The fact that there must be such a philosophy implied can be seen in the advertisement that the speakers will help “to shed light on our current best understanding of humanity’s place in the cosmos.”  Whatever useful information scientists might provide, that one is well outside of their purview.

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Indeed, the insinuation that science can answer such questions seems like an attempt to smuggle in the academic elite’s popular variation of nihilistically tinged materialism.  The extent to which scientists can tell us our “place in the cosmos” is precisely the extent to which they can do the same concerning rocks or elements.  That is, they must first reduce us to mere things.

Worse, an institution that presumes to take up a topic such as the origins of everything without providing students some philosophical discourse as to (arguably) the most important question in their lives — not what or how, but why — does them a tremendous disservice.  Even those who won’t attend such colloquiums will pick up the institutional message that this critical question for self-exploration and human development is unimportant.

That gets to a core reason I send my children to Catholic schools, and in keeping with my theme of today, it represents a disappointing missed opportunity.

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Benny’s Is Another Warning Sign for Rhode Island

Like other Rhode Islanders, I’ve got my stories of finding just the right thing at a Benny’s.  As Ted Nesi reports in his weekend column, this is probably a point of commonality across the state:

“Like so many Rhode Islanders, I am heartbroken,” Governor Raimondo said after the announcement Friday – a somewhat remarkable statement about what is, after all, a store; there will still be places to buy Christmas lights or snow shovels after December. But of course it’s not about that. It’s about community, about the institutions and traditions that bind us together, especially at a time when it’s easy to feel closer to people across the country than across the street.

That is why our sense of pre-nostalgia melancholy at the closing of the entire chain should be secondary to a higher degree of concern, even urgency, at the direction in which we’re heading.  This isn’t just a matter of watching institutions crumble under the weight of an evolving future.  The profound lesson has to do with our passivity in the face of change.

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A few years back, when the RI Foundation hosted its Make Rhode Island Great Again summit (or whatever it was called), Mike Stenhouse and I happened to sit at a lunch table with one of the higher ups from Benny’s.  Given that it was an area of central focus for us at the time, Stenhouse raised the topic of eliminating the sales tax, and the Benny’s executive offered a somewhat muttered reply and soon thereafter excused himself from the table.

Now, I’ll never gainsay the possibility that Stenhouse and I are simply frightening to behold, and perhaps the businessman wasn’t in the mood to be pitched for a donation.  My impression, however, drawn mostly from the substance of his muttering, was that he wouldn’t support something so disruptive of the status quo.  Indeed, that was the view expressed in no uncertain terms by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce’s representative on the legislative commission to study  sales tax elimination.

Of course, one can’t say with certainty that the boom of an eliminated sales tax would have saved Benny’s from the Amazon tidal wave, but my wager would be that it would have.  More importantly, such a reform would have opened up new possibilities for the company.  Being the kind of state that isn’t afraid actively to get out of the way of its residents’ needs could make all the difference.

And it’s a difference we need to start making, otherwise the only Rhode Island institutions that will remain will be government and the outsized benefits of its employees.

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Last Impressions 30: Keeping in Touch… for Various Reasons

Sympathy for the racist; learning how (not what) to think; in favor of price gouging and dismantling unions; and saying goodbye to an old friend

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Links

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Click here for links to all episodes of Last Impressions.

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With SPLC, “Hate” Should Have a Trademark Sign

The group of conservative organizations signing on to an open letter addressed, so to speak, to the news media are absolutely correct:

We are writing to you as individuals or as representatives of organizations who are deeply troubled by several recent examples of the media’s use of data from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC is a discredited, left-wing, political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a “hate group” label of its own invention and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also endangers the lives of those targeted with it.

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At this point, citing the SPLC as some sort of arbiter of “hate” is either lazy or malicious.  The group has inspired a good deal of hate, itself, including a 2012 attack on the Family Resource Council that left a security guard injured.  And now its list of political enemies may be insinuating itself as a guide for corporations to blacklist organizations, as with the Ruth Institute’s loss of online payment processing.

As Tyler O’Neil notes, the same net that puts the Ruth Institute on the SPLC’s list ought to ensnare the Catholic Church, as well, except that inclusion of the church would expose the SPLC’s list for what it really is.  It’s a ploy to label as bigots those who wish to promote a culturally conservative worldview through persuasion and good works and thereby prevent them from participating in American society.

Journalists should have no part on advancing that ploy… unless, of course, they’re just left-wing activists, themselves.

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Against Becoming “Rhode Island and the Amazon Plantations”

The buzz is all around:  Corporate giant Amazon is in the market for a second headquarters — HQ2 — and the governments of cities and states across America are widely expected to make a competitive play for the honor of housing it, even if those same governments have only proven capable of keeping their current populations under H2O.

Americans should find this whole development disturbing.  Consider the implications of this paragraph from Ted Nesi’s WPRI reporting:

Bids for the new headquarters are due Oct. 19 to Amazon’s Office of Economic Development in Seattle. The company will announce its choice next year.

Regional governments are bidding to the economic development office of a private company for the privilege of serving its headquarters.  What does it mean for elected officials to be chasing the Amazon cornucopia in that fashion?

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For one thing, the process sounds a bit like state governments’ applying to the federal government for competitive grants, and that exercised has proven to be one of the key ways in which the federal government has nudged states to adopt policies that they wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

Moreover, allowing our government to take the position of contractor to the company would make us all vulnerable to losing our state.  Even if Amazon only puts Rhode Island in the running, none of our petty concerns about our own lives will even rate.  Our entire system will be transformed to serve Amazon, and our government will become little more than a middleman between us and the company.  No, thank you.

Instead, we should be trying to make Rhode Island the sort of state that a company like Amazon would approach independently.  That would put the leverage in the right direction.  And even better:  Such a state would attract companies of all sizes and create the environment for the creation of the next Amazon.

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You Will Be Made to Conform

If you need any evidence that progressive organizations like the Rhode Island ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Rhode Island Working Families, and the State Council of Churches have no intention of leaving any room whatsoever for people to hold different beliefs than theirs, consider that they are working to have the Rhode Island Department of Education to make mandatory its guidance on transgender students.  Apparently, one-quarter of Rhode Island schools have yet to implement a “comprehensive policy,” and that’s just not acceptable to the Conform Now crowd.

Mind you that these schools may follow the progressives’ beliefs in every detail without having formalized policies.  Moreover, they may have had no reason to make this a pressing issue that demands distraction from other priorities (such as overcoming the state’s abysmal record for educating children).

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More importantly, keep in mind how radical, oppressive, and intrusive the “guidance” actually is.   Not only does the state Department of Education call for schools to impose reeducation on any students who might be uncomfortable with transgenderism in bathrooms and changing areas, but it actively encourages teachers to attempt to discern the beginnings of transgender feelings in students and to draw those feelings out, working to hide the process from parents if the government-run schools think that the parents might not agree.

The basic promise of the American system is that everybody has a right to form their own beliefs about life and reality and to live under a system of government that respects those beliefs.  Progressives only partially agree.  To them, you’re free to hold any belief… as long as they agree with it.

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Magellan and the Cost of Business in RI

Good news, Rhode Islanders!  We paid another company to locate in Rhode Island jobs that it already planned to create:

The Commerce Corporation board approved up to $2.1 million in tax credits that Magellan can receive over 10 years if it creates 75 new jobs. An additional 25 full-time jobs are also expected to be added by the company. Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said an outside analysis showed the deal will be revenue-positive for the state.

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In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s $28,000 per job.  This is madness.  Bureaucrats and political operatives are playing the big shots with our money with no real skin of their own in the game.

If we have to subsidize companies to the tune of $28,000 per job to locate in our state, we’re clearly making it $28,000 too expensive to create jobs in Rhode Island.

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RI Government Is Good at Siphoning Money, RI Housing Edition

Naturally, a spokesperson for Rhode Island Housing is poo-pooing the size of the dollar amounts, but Rhode Island’s share of questionable expenditures in a federal housing program is shocking.  Dan McGowan and Walt Buteau report on WPRI:

Rhode Island Housing is one of 19 agencies throughout the country accused of misusing $3 million in federal funds earmarked for homeowner relief, according to an audit released last month by the office of the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).

The 93-page audit identified $1.2 million in unnecessary expenditures by Rhode Island Housing, including funds spent on a new customer center, severance payments for former employees and marketing costs.

That’s nineteen agencies, and little Rhode Island accounts for 40% of the questionable expenditures.  In other words, for every $2.50 that the audit is challenging across the country, RI Housing accounts for $1.00.  Whether the folks at RI Housing are correct that the auditors were misguided, one must wonder why it is that our little state was notably caught up in that difference of opinion.

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My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that the Obama administration liked just about any government spending.  Indeed, spending money (which means having to collect it, somehow) was arguably its highest goal.  And Rhode Island government is particular adept at finding ways to spend money.  Winks and nods come cheaply in such interactions.

However these allegations may shake out, Rhode Islanders should take the opportunity to consider, once again, whether we’re well served by a government that seems always to be funneling money to itself and its employees.

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DACA Activism, Not Journalism

You know you’re reading advocacy on a presidential policy, not journalism, when the statement on which the writer is supposedly reporting is briefly summarized, with misleading details and subjective commentary thrown in, and the bulk of the article quotes opposing activists and conveys sympathetic anecdotes.  Such is the case with President Trump’s statement announcing his policy toward the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The background is that President Obama was unable to move immigration legislation through Congress, so he simply declared that he would not enforce the law for some illegal immigrants.  The unconstitutional nature of this action is the focus of President Trump’s statement:

As President, my highest duty is to defend the American people and the Constitution of the United States of America. At the same time, I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.

The legislative branch, not the executive branch, writes these laws – this is the bedrock of our Constitutional system, which I took a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend.

The statement notes that 10 states are suing over Obama’s action and that the Trump administration has concluded that the federal government will lose a fair lawsuit.  It also highlights the humanitarian crisis that Obama’s unilateral action spurred, as young foreigners flooded the southern border of the United States.

So, “applications for new work permits will not be accepted,” but “all existing work permits will be honored,” and those currently being processed will be processed according to existing rules.  Moreover, the president stated his hope that Congress will resolve this Obama-created crisis by passing an actual law… the way this is supposed to be done.  “This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out.”

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As if in coordination, the theme that this is a “betrayal” of immigrants covered by DACA permeates the reporting.  Not mentioned is that the Trump administration would actually be betraying the voters who elected him, inasmuch as this issue was central to his success.

But to read the news reporting on this matter, one would think that the president had declared that deportations start tomorrow.  Today’s Providence Journal front page, for example, splashes the giant headline “‘Dreamers’ Denied.”  The bulk of the page is given over to a dramatic article about people affected, by Linda Borg.  A (smaller) AP article by Jill Colvin accompanying the story isn’t reporting, but commentary:

Trump didn’t specify what he wanted done, essentially sending a six-month time bomb to his fellow Republicans in Congress who have no consensus on how to defuse it. …

The president tried to have it both ways with his compromise plan: fulfilling his campaign promise to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, while at the same time showing compassion for those who would lose deportation protection and the ability to work legally in the U.S.

In keeping with President Obama’s disrespect for the rule of law, this entire episode is a shameful abrogation of the responsibility of journalists.  A democracy cannot function with this level of systemic imbalance.  Indeed, one begins to suspect that the folks churning out the propaganda don’t really want democracy to function, preferring whatever system of government furthers their own ideological interests.

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“Principles” Do Seem to Have Selective Application

I wouldn’t 100% endorse Kurt Schlichter’s criticism of national Republicans, but he articulates a feeling that a great number of conservatives around the country surely share:

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Yeah, so after nearly two years of tiresome finger-wagging about “the Rule of Law” and how we need to put our “principles” above our desire for “winning,” the whole sordid scam we always knew it always was is revealed for the world to see. They can’t hide it anymore and they aren’t even trying. Their glorious “conservative principles” aren’t principles at all but a skeevy ploy designed to tie our hands and keep us from pursuing policy goals our establishment coalition partners disfavor. They want open borders. They want illegals. They want cheap foreign labor that doesn’t get uppity to man their donors’ corporations so the Captains of Crony Capitalism don’t have to fuss with American workers who won’t tolerate being treated like chattel. Yeah, “we’re better than that” all right – if you mean that we are better than enforcing the laws the American people passed through a constitutional process if the ruling class decides it doesn’t like them.

One aspect that Schlichter leaves out is the role that the national Democrats are playing by being so radical.  In the absence of a plausible alternative for either party, the power of voters loses out in the balance against the power of moneyed special interests.

Whatever the case, this isn’t a healthy development.

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Don’t Like the Economic Results, Revisit the Government Policy

Neil Irwin’s New York Times article comparing the condition of a janitor at Kodak during its prime with one at Apple today came before me by multiple routes yesterday:

Eastman Kodak was one of the technological giants of the 20th century, a dominant seller of film, cameras and other products. It made its founders unfathomably wealthy and created thousands of high-income jobs for executives, engineers and other white-collar professionals. The same is true of Apple today.

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But Kodak also created enough working-class jobs to help create two generations of middle-class wealth in Rochester. The Harvard economist Larry Summers has often pointed at this difference, arguing that it helps explain rising inequality and declining social mobility.

In contrast, Apple — like most big companies, these days — focuses on its core competencies and hires contractors to do the rest.  The unmistakable insinuation:  Greedy companies are motivated to make their executives and shareholders richer and lack the concern for employees and sense of community that industrial giants once had. Somehow, I don’t recall the culture’s glorification of those companies back when they were at the top.

All-in-all, this article is an interesting read, but it misses two things.  First, it’s easy to trace the successful person who managed to get into Kodak at the bottom.  The consequences of the inefficiencies of that management approach we can not so easily trace.

Second, progressive government policy does much to make the injustice possible.  The cleaning company gets away with lower, less-personal compensation because of a lack of competition and a high amount of low-skilled immigration.  Employees are easily replaced and have less negotiating power.

Additionally, regulations (notably health care mandates) and taxes make it much more difficult for an employee to start a competing service, which would not only keep prices low, but also give the employer incentive to keep employees happy.

Thus, the gains from these efficiencies are going to a smaller group of high-skilled workers and (of course) people who are able to live off of the government behemoth that acts as the central planner ushering favors back and forth.  It’s been a booming few decades for Washington, D.C., after all.

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Who Pays for Wasted Money?

A friend of mine has a favorite story about a coworker — both in a career for highly intelligent professionals — who seemed sincerely convinced that the government could help the economy by building jet airliners and flying them into the ocean.  Obviously, that’s an extreme iteration of a common economic ignorance that one would hope would cause most people to pause and think, “No, wait, that can’t be right.”

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The anecdote came to mind while reading an AP story by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, about the big ObamaCare increases facing those who receive no subsidies for their individual plans:

“We’re caught in the middle-class loophole of no help,” said Thornton, a hairdresser from Newark, Delaware. She said she’s currently paying about $740 a month in premiums, and expects her monthly bill next year to be around $1,000, a 35 percent increase.

“It’s like buying two new iPads a month and throwing them in the trash,” said Thornton, whose policy carries a deductible of $6,000.

The point that needs to be stated is that it doesn’t make the waste any more palatable when other people are receiving those two trash-destined iPads per month courtesy of the U.S. government.  The number of people throwing out metaphorical iPads for which they’ve paid may be small, but adding all of the subsidies up amounts to a lot of airplanes at the bottom of the ocean.

Of course (to be fair), all that money isn’t just producing garbage but is buying insurance against risk, albeit at an exorbitant cost with unjustifiable increases.  Acknowledging that the money is buying somethinghowever, only directs our attention back to the underlying injustice:  The government is just forcing some Americans to buy something for other Americans… and undermining our rights and increasing our overall risk in order to do so.

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The Progressive Vision: $6,000,000,000 in New Costs to RI Families & Businesses

The progressive agenda is an assault on the human workplace. Indeed, Rhode Island is engaged in a battle of ideas. The progressive vision is transforming the Ocean State, right before our eyes, into an anti-human-work hell. Their goal is to make our home state into a place where businesses face onerous regulatory and financial burdens. The progressive nightmare would transform RI into a place where worker attendance and productivity are compromised or replaced by automation. Rhode Island would become an event less attractive place for employers. Your family deserves so much better.
The Center has identified potential increased costs of $6 BILLION per year that would be heaped upon our state’s families and businesses – via tax hikes, higher ratepayer fees, and new employer mandates – if just 15 bills that are now on a path in the General Assembly were taken up again in future years and became law. Such added government-imposed burdens would run counter to productive reforms in other states … and would create new barriers to job creation, while reducing disposable income for virtually every Rhode Islander.
Already suffering from a serious out-migration problem in our state, taxpayers, residents, and business owners should be alarmed that the wave of intrusive bills introduced in 2017 … in the areas of healthcare, business regulation, energy, and education … would likely sweep away even more Rhode Islanders into other states. The most onerous piece of legislation is a proposed single-payer healthcare system, sponsored by progressive-Democrat activist Representative Aaron Regunberg. In ceding management of the state’s entire healthcare insurance to an overly politicized and incompetent government bureaucracy, this one piece of legislation alone would heap about $5,403,000,000 per year in new costs on taxpayers.
In closing, there are better answers than the progressive nightmare for Rhode Island. 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 up to each of us to make sure that it happens.
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Profanity in Thought and Deed

I first read this Dan Hitchens essay in First Things while Democrats were both affirming their devotion to Planned Parenthood and taking (it seemed) every opportunity to swear in front of microphones.  The topic is progressive Catholic Dorothy Day:

It was hard to get thrown out of the Catholic Worker house over which Day presided—a house which welcomed the helpless, the lost, the mentally ill, the addicted, and the simply obnoxious—but Day did once expel some young bohemians after they used the printing equipment for an obscene magazine entitled “F*** You.” The use of the word shocked her: It showed contempt, she wrote in her diary, “for the very sources of life itself.” It was a “breath of evil,” a blasphemous nihilism which maimed “the creativity within them.” To profane the creativity of sexual desire, in word or in deed, was a kind of self-harm.

In one letter she surmised: “The kids are almost hysterically afraid underneath and want to eat, drink, and be merry because they feel death is so close.” But their attempted revolution set them “against the body and its needs, its natural functions of childbearing. It can only be a hatred of sex that leads them to talk as they do and be so explicit about the sex function and the sex organs as instruments of pleasure. . . . This is not reverence for life, this certainly is not natural love for family, for husband and wife, for child.”

So much is coarse in our society.  Coarse and superficial.  So much of our shared culture is nihilistic (if it’s honest) or banal in its assertions of meaning (if it’s not).

Last night, I caught most of the movie Me Before You (spoiler coming), which consciously chose to normalize euthanasia.  In summary, a rich, handsome playboy of the sort of perfection that only exists in fiction has an accident that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down.  His parents hire a bubbly local woman to keep him company during the six months preparation he has given them before he heads to Switzerland to end his life through assisted suicide.

At precisely the moment at which the plot gives him every reason to reconsider, the writer, Jojo Moyes, simply has him restate his intentions.  He acknowledges that he could have a “good life” still, but not the sort of carefree, impossible life he’d led before.  His girlfriend doesn’t argue that death is final, leaving him no reason to rush into it just as they’re falling in love.  The movie provides no full-throated argument for what his life could still be.  It’s his choice; he’s adamant; and that’s it.

In the end, he gifts the woman enough money to change her life and has the audacity to write her a posthumous letter exhorting her to “just live.”  If the author intended the viewer to feel critical of him at the end, it isn’t clear from the story, which hits all the notes of a bittersweet, but positive ending.  At one point, the girlfriend catches him in the truth that, if he weren’t crippled, he wouldn’t have lowered himself to see how wonderful she was, but the movie makes nothing profound of this point.  This new condition in which he lives may have made him able to see how she shines, but that isn’t good enough; the perspective in which he can see her wonders doesn’t provide a life good enough to live for.

In Dorothy Day’s observations, the youth of her time were so fixated on feeling good that they devalued that which gives life substance.  In Me Before You, the vain, crippled rich kid couldn’t use his sex organs as “instruments of pleasure,” so he utterly rejected life.  In the end, his girlfriend seems happier than not, leaving only some vague message of empowerment in a meaningless world.

As the credits rolled and it was clear that the girlfriend wasn’t going to turn the corner and reveal to the audience that her love had changed his mind, I couldn’t help but fear for the future of our civilization.  Day may have had reason for discomfort with some of those in her broader movement, but the results of their contempt and self-harm are now producing their poisonous fruits.

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Does an Ideological Discipline Deserve the Suffix, “-ologist”?

In a co-written article for City Journal, John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi make an important observation that applies much more broadly than just to the field of study that forms their topic, criminology:

Walter Miller, one of the few mid-twentieth-century criminologists whose work was unapologetically conservative, suggested that ideology can turn “plausibility into ironclad certainty . . . conditional belief into ardent conviction . . . and reasoned advocate into the implacable zealot.” When shared beliefs take hold, as they often do in the academic bubble in which most criminologists live, ideological assumptions about crime and criminals can “take the form of the sacred and inviolable dogma of the one true faith, the questioning of which is heresy, and the opposing of which is profoundly evil.” …

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Liberal political values can shape and distort the research that criminologists do and the public positions that they take. Lee Ellis and Anthony Walsh surveyed several hundred criminologists and found that self-reported ideological perspective was strongly associated with the type of theory that the scholar most often advocated, with liberal criminologists primarily supporting theories that locate the causes of crime in social and economic deprivation. Coauthor John Wright has recently collected data showing that political ideology predicts almost perfectly the policy positions of criminologists. On issues ranging from gun control to capital punishment to three-strikes laws, liberal criminologists showed almost no variation in their beliefs. (Needless to say, they dislike guns, oppose punitive sentences, and vehemently object to the death penalty.)

As an aside, consider how telling is the list of positions in that closing parenthetical.  The liberal criminologists, don’t tend to believe in putting people where they can’t inflict crime on society for extended periods, but they’d like to permanently limit all of our freedoms when it comes to the weapons that criminals sometimes use, thus making our entire society a little bit more jail-like.

More to the point, though, it’s difficult not to be suspicious when some discipline of academics — some “-ology” — begins to behave as if there’s really very little debate to be had about practical political issues, and that the public’s popular leanings are wrong.

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Ideological Loyalty Oaths and Professions of Faith in California

Mary Rezac reports for the Catholic News Agency (CNA) that California is considering legislation that would make it a crime for “nursing home and long-term care workers” to refuse to use the preferred pronouns of people under their care.  Employees could face up to $1,000 in fines and a year in jail.

Fortunately, those who disagree with progressives have (relatively) solid protection of their rights through the Constitution and its amendments, but we should certainly be concerned that politicians are disinclined to allow us to work out our own relationships.

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Organizations have incentive to please their customers, and there’s space for them to serve different markets.  They also have incentive to keep their employees happy.  The instances in which a long-term care patient would have no other options and the organization would be unable to provide some distance between a customer and an employee who have an irreconcilable difference would seem to be vanishingly small.

California State Senator Scott Weiner (a freshman Democrat), in other words, considers First Amendment rights so lightly that he is willing to trample them even in the absence of a substantial social conflict.  The rarity of this conflict raises a critical point:

“In many ways it seems to be a solution looking for a major problem,” [Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference,] said.

“That’s certainly one of our concerns – is this just part of a larger ideological drill? Do we have examples of people being mistreated around the state because of their gender experience? It seems that this is more like – let’s fix something that we don’t even know needs fixing.”

Exactly. This movement isn’t a push to solve actual problems.  It’s a strategy to imagine problems that will create justification for ideological loyalty oaths or professions of faith.  Citizens whose conscience prevent them from making such professions will find government excluding them from public life, including the professions of their choosing.

These people are tyrants.

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Beware the Endgame of Diversity Quotas

John Tierney posted something galling on Instapundit:

Affirmative-action hiring endangers the FDNY. One female recruit failed the entrance exam six times but was hired anyway to satisfy a court-ordered quota system. The goal in hiring firefighters, one judge opined, should not be to identify “those who are strongest or fastest.” Sure, a few victims might not be rescued in time, but think how empowered the new recruits will feel.

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The linked City Journal article by Bob McManus is worth a read in full.  He contends that policies like affirmative action or the “ban the box” insistence that criminal records should not be considered are founded simply on lies.

Common sense is still common enough, in the United States, that most folks will probably come to the conclusion that any job for which meeting ideological gender, race, or other quotas can be a higher priority than demonstrable ability to do the job in the first place must not be very important.  Perhaps folks will come to different conclusions about different jobs, but can we agree that any physically demanding job in which people’s lives are on the line should demand a higher priority on ability than demographics?

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The Answer to White Supremacy… and Identity Politics

Catching up with some items that I’ve set aside for comment, I was struck by the relevance of the January edition of R.R. Reno’s “The Public Square” column in First Things magazine:

Plenty of commentators have linked the two. Few, however, will entertain the thought that the entire West shares a common metaphysical vacuum—“the cult of the individual,” or, as I have put it, a materialism that disenchants. Nor has our chattering class noticed that the working class in New Hampshire and elsewhere now features social pathologies akin to those that nearly shipwrecked Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, when alcoholism was rampant and life expectancies plunged. Someone unaware of twentieth-century history who visits an old steel town like Steubenville, Ohio, would have to assume either that America had lost a major war and suffers the burden of onerous reparations—or that is beholden to a particularly brutal and inhuman ideology. …

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… Ethnic solidarity, patriotic loyalty, and a certain thrill in being able to come together to put a stick in the eye of remote and condescending elites—these are unstable and dangerous impulses. Yet they are also embers of love’s desire for something higher than self-interest. …

… Today’s populism must be anchored in a renewal of marriage and family. The lonely, atomized, homeless man—in this instance, especially the male—is more likely to rally behind the cruel gods of Blood and Soil than someone embedded in a network of familial relations and responsibilities. More important still, the growing desire for a return of the strong gods must be purified by a greater, supernatural desire for God, the one in whom alone we can find our true home.

One interesting question that arises from this perspective, if correct, is whether ethnic identity politics, including white supremacism, are different in kind than in the past.  After all, the racialism of the past existed at a time when people led more-traditional lives, including their participation and, moreover, was intimately bound up with the notion of marriage, family, and the racial purity thereof.  If the racial focus of today emanates from “the lonely, atomized, homeless man,” then it would seem some other mechanism must have produced the racial focus of those whose lives answered Reno’s vision of the cure, at least superficially.

At some level of analysis, that is certainly true, but at another level, the atomized individual is little more than a distillation of the same conceit that brought the bigotries of the past.  That “lonely man” in fact has nothing connecting him to a family, a community, or God, but in the past, all of those other things were merely components of himself.  The purity of the family’s blood and the community’s identity were part of his own purity and identity, to be proven, perhaps, to a distorted vision of God or perhaps merely to himself.

The solution, therefore, is not merely “a renewal of marriage and family,” but a vision of marriage and family founded in equality and mutual respect — a structure, that is, that binds the individual in the concentric circles of a familial and community network in which the individual neither takes the group to define him or her nor gives him or her self over entirely to the definition of the group.  If in the past our society needed a greater sense of the equality of individuals, what’s needed now is a grounding of our equality in something more substantial than either individuality or ethnicity.

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Last Impressions 29: A Small Excuse to Put Us All Away

WBRU changes to Radio-Christian Providence, bringing college insulation to the “real world,” a small excuse to put us all away, and useful slang from the year of my birth

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Links

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Click here for links to all episodes of Last Impressions.

 

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A Century of Global Climate… Easier to Predict than a Hurricane’s Path?

I make a point of directing news and commentary from ideologically conflicting sources across my desk, and so it isn’t unusual for me to see a headline like, “Harvey should be a warning to Trump that climate change is a global threat,” immediately following one like, “The Trouble With Connecting Harvey to Climate Change.”

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My own view on that contrast is much like Datechguy’s (via Instapundit):

Now as a person familiar with both mathematics and computer science, this [huge] variation [in predictions of the incoming hurricane’s likely path] is not odd, in fact it’s completely understandable. After all a computer model is based on the best possible guesses from the available data and hurricanes are “complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes” so there is nothing at all odd about there being a 850 mile variation as to where it will it.  As we get closer to Sunday and we have true data to input the variation in the models will correspondingly decrease.Now apply this to climate change models telling us we face disaster in 100 years.You aren’t dealing with a single “complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes” you are dealing with EVERY complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes that exists on the earth. Every single additional item you add increases the variation of the data models. Furthermore you are also dealing with variations in the sun, variations in the orbits of the earth, its moon and more.

Furthermore, as the post points out, those advocating alarmism on climate change have financial incentive to do so in a coordinated “consensus” kind of way, whereas the incentive for those predicting hurricanes that will play out over the following week is mainly to be as accurate as they can be.  The hurricane trackers aren’t asking us to hand over vast quantities of our resources, not to mention our rights, to them.  They’re just trying to do a job, and because they’ll have liability for their predictions in the near future, they’re much more controlled about their claims.

Observe, Americans, and respond to activists accordingly.

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