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Political Monday with John DePetro: A Speaker and a Deceptive Flier

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, this week, was about House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s challenges, the Democrats (seeming) Trillo promotion, polls, and the state of play in the campaign.

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I’ll be on again Monday, November 5, at 1:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Fung’s WPRI Poll Results Show the Trillo Effect

Polls can be proven wrong, of course, but WPRI is reporting that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo has a 45/34% lead over Republican challenger Allan Fung.  Independent candidate Joe Trillo’s take is 9% would put the race within the margin of error if we assume that Allan Fung would pick most of that up in his absence.

The bigger effect of Trillo in the race, however, may be seen in the favorability ratings.  Until this poll, Rhode Islanders have had a strongly favorable impression of Fung, but this latest poll sees his unfavorable rating up from 35% to 45%.  To be sure, Raimondo’s team has been spending its millions in part on relentlessly negative ads, but attacking Fung has been Trillo’s primary strategy.  The public expects to hear attacks from the candidate from the other party; having them reinforced by a third candidate formerly of the target’s own party gives them added force.

The presence of Trillo in the race probably also played a role in the decision of the Republican Governor’s Association to cancel advertising on Fung’s behalf.  This left him with fewer defenses against attacks.

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So, without an unexpected outcome next Tuesday, Raimondo’s millions in out-of-state campaign funds and the presence of the spoiling kamikaze Trillo will ensure she spends another four years pushing progressive policies, discriminating against school boys, and flubbing the management of the state while she travels the country replenishing her political war chest and preparing for her own personal advancement to the national stage and a lifetime political sinecure.

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Mattiello Promotes Thwarting Representative Democracy

Here’s something that jumps out at me from Katherine Gregg’s article about Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello’s race against Republican challenger Stephen Frias:

He also says the rules concentrating power in the speaker were adopted to prevent the “wrong things” from reaching the House floor for votes, such as a vote to slash the state’s 7-percent sales tax.

“At some point someone is going to come up with that,” he said. “You are going to force every member to start taking votes to not do something that is terribly irresponsible … [that] will just become fodder for political season.”

One’s first reaction (especially if one has been advocating for precisely that legislation for a number of years) is:  That’s the policy that comes to Mattiello’s mind as irresponsible?  Really?

A more important reaction, however, is to note that Mattiello is essentially acknowledging that his role as Speaker of the House is to thwart the healthy operation of our representative democracy.  What he describes as a problem is how government is supposed to work.

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Legislators with incentive to give people what they want bring policies forward, forcing other representatives to take a stand.  If voters don’t like the result, they vote for other people who will better represent their interests and their values.  Under this system, being responsible in the face of popular demands is supposed to come at a cost; that is what balances the self governance of democracy with the prudence of judgment.

If legislative leaders can kill legislation in an opaque process, the electorate can’t be represented, because we can’t know where our legislators will stand when a bill is before them.

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A Rubber-Stamp Commerce Board and Political Give-Aways

In my more-innocent days, I used to think the advantage of incumbency had mostly to do with things like name recognition and people’s general aversion to change.  Whether I’m just less innocent, these days, or our elected officials are becoming more brazen, I don’t know.

Take, for example, a new press release from Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s office:

At North Providence Town Hall this morning, Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation announced that nine cities and towns throughout the state have been awarded Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund grants.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and they often find their home in Main Streets across Rhode Island,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “By investing in our Main Streets and making them more attractive places to spend time and money, we’re supporting our local economies. We’ve seen great success in cities and towns that have received previous rounds of funding through this program, and I can’t wait to see the improvements from these new projects.”

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So, about a week before an election, the governor announced just over $1 million in taxpayer funding for nine municipalities.  Here’s the kicker:

The projects will go before the Commerce Corporation Board of Directors for a final vote at their next meeting.

The press release doesn’t mention this, but the board’s next meeting is November 19.  Even just to keep up the illusion that the Commerce Board has some sort of independent authority, shouldn’t the governor have waited until then to announce the awards?  Or shouldn’t her press release at least say that these communities “may be awarded” the money?  I guess there’s less to be gained, politically, from prudent governance.

To our civic shame, we’ve allowed legislators to enact various rules restricting our political speech, especially around election time.  Maybe what we really need are laws preventing government officials from announcing grants and other giveaways within 60 days of an election… especially those that haven’t yet been officially approved.

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Gorbea’s Pattern of Action with Electoral Security

Of course there’s a balance to be struck between public information and privacy, but this just looks suspicious:

Two summers ago, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea quietly changed what information is available to the public in the state’s Central Voter Registration System.

Without public notice or public hearings, Gorbea deleted the month and day from the date of birth supplied to the public in response to requests for the voting list.

Full dates of birth can be key to independent investigations into how accurately Gorbea is maintaining the state’s voting list. Full dates of birth facilitate computerized searches for voters who may be registered in more than one municipality, may be registered in more than one state, or may have died.

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As a rule of thumb, when politicians believe they’re doing something smart or popular, they create events, like hearings, and promote their actions with press releases.  When they’re doing something that they think might not be popular or for which they’ve got some ulterior motive, they do it “without public notice or public hearings.”  This is especially true when the politicians are using executive power to act, rather than legislative.

The motive could be as crass as responding to the desires of a big donor or as insidious as a plan to make election fraud more feasible.  In making a judgment as to where on that spectrum Gorbea’s action might fall, Rhode Islanders should recall that she also requested (and received) legislation from the General Assembly that would make fraud with mail ballots easier.

The mantra on the Left is that there is no evidence of systemic vote fraud.  To the extent that’s true (which isn’t much of an extent), one still must wonder about a secretary of state whose pattern of action seems to make it more difficult to find proof, rather than more difficult to commit fraud.

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Middendorf Pillar Of Freedom Award Winner: Daniel Harrop

On Friday, we were proud to present our prestigious Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award for 2018 to Dr. Daniel Harrop at our second annual Ocean State Freedom Banquet. Dr. Harrop, who was the founding Chairman of the Center, was recognized for his outstanding personal history of helping people both professionally as a psychiatrist and as a philanthropist. We held the luncheon at the Providence Hilton Hotel, and was the largest annual gathering of conservatives in Rhode Island. We had well over two hundred attendees, including a bi-partisan mix of elected officials, candidates for office, business leaders, and coalition-partner organizations.

The keynote speaker, nationally-renowned economist and Trump Campaign economic adviser, Stephen Moore, discussed the historic 2017 federal tax cuts as well as his just-released book, Trumponomics. Moore is currently the Chief Economist and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Additionally, Dr. Harrop’s support of the Catholic Church, as well as his long record of civic and political engagement, were highlighted. Quite simply, without Dan Harrop, there would not be a Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity. He is incredibly deserving of the honor.

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Civil Rights Erode Under Arbitrary Law in Tiverton

A bedrock principle supporting our civil rights is a fair and consistent application of the law.  If laws are applied differently depending who is affected, then we have no civil rights, but only a charade of them.

A small, but egregious, example has arisen in Tiverton this election cycle.  The Tiverton Republican Town Committee (TRTC) planned a forum for all candidates in the town’s nonpartisan campaign for Town Council, to be held in a community room at the town library on Thursday, October 25.  The library confirmed the reservation on October 2.

The Friday before the event, recently hired library director Catherine Damiani emailed Laura Rom, of the TRTC, as follows:

It is on the advice of the Town Administrator and Town Solicitor that Tiverton Public Library cannot provide a space for the Town Council Candidate Meet and Greet sponsored by the Tiverton Republican Town Committee on Thursday, October 25, 2018. The event’s partisan tone used in the publicly circulated flyer presents a possible conflict with the Tiverton Town Charter and the usage of town-owned property ( Section 1218). Should you have any questions, please contact the Town Administrator or Town Solicitor.

Section 1218 of Tiverton’s Home Rule Charter provides that “no officer or employee of the Town… shall use, or cause to be used, Town property, goods, money, grants, or labor to influence the outcome of an election, ballot question, or referendum.”  In other words, according to Ms. Damiani, Town Administrator Jan Reitsma and Town Solicitor Anthony DeSisto were of the opinion that an advertisement for the event had made it partisan, which meant that the forum, even though it would be open to the public and to all candidates, would be using “town-owned property” to “influence the outcome of an election.”  (Requests for the communications from the town administrator and solicitor were referred to the town’s Access to Public Records Act [APRA] process, which could take weeks and which the town may attempt to deny on the grounds that they are privileged communications regarding legal matters.)

This turn of events would be bad enough if it took place on untested legal ground, but there is actually recent legal precedent in the other direction.

During the 2016 campaign for Tiverton’s financial town referendum (FTR), at which voters could choose between competing budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, controversy arose over promotion of the town government’s preferred budget at the library.  Multiple residents (including this writer) observed letters promoting Budget #1 available in the library’s main area and on display in a plastic stand in the children’s section.  People were also observed holding yard signs in the children’s area promoting that budget, and a similar sign was placed by the entrance of the parking lot.  On May 18, residents Donna Cook and Nancy Driggs filed a charter complaint alleging a violation of Section 1218.

On June 13, the Town Council sat in its capacity as the Charter Monitoring and Complaint Review Board and dismissed the complaint on the grounds that 1218 did not apply to the library.  Minutes from the hearing show that the application of Section 1218 to the library was questioned based on whether library personnel are “officers or employees” of the town and whether private citizens use of the property is guaranteed by the First Amendment:

President [Denise] DeMedeiros questioned the Solicitor on whether a private citizen who is not under Town control can put a sign on Town property. Solicitor DeSisto cites a Supreme Court case from 1997 that said a public library is a public forum; are some First Amendment implications here, a private person uses that forum as free speech when it comes to an election. …

[Councilor Joan Chabot] opined… it was correct the Board of Trustees, the Library Director or any employee that works at the libraries are not officers or employees of the Town. Councilor Chabot believed it was very specific and agreed with it.  The motion passed on a vote of 6-1, Councilor [Joseph] Sousa opposed.

Before getting to anything else Solicitor DeSisto suggested a motion to deny the complaint based upon the prior motion.

In other words, Solicitor DeSisto was prepared to advise the council that residents might have a right to use the library’s property for explicitly political free speech, but that this question didn’t even have to be answered because the council had found that nobody associated with the library is actually prevented from political advocacy on their “town-owned property” — at least not under Section 1218.

This same Solicitor DeSisto is apparently now advising the library that it must cancel an event on short notice because allowing that event to take place on its property would violate Section 1218.

Opposing political actors in the town frequently state that members of the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA), including the complainants above, file too many legal actions, but the purpose of doing so is to establish the rules.  Of course, that doesn’t work if the rules can change this dramatically on an issue as fundamental as First Amendment rights.

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A Democrat Promotion of Trillo?

Some Rhode Islanders, at least some registered Republicans and unaffiliateds, have received a mailer “Paid for by the Rhode Island Democratic State Committee.”  Presumably, it’s an attack mailer to dissuade Democrats from voting for the independent gubernatorial candidate Joe Trillo, but it sure doesn’t look like an attack:

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The huge color mailer certainly links Trillo with President Trump.  The text on the back reads:

Same Policies, Same Priorities.

In the 2016 Republican primary for President, Joe Trillo was Donald Trump’s campaign chairman right here in Rhode Island.

Now Trillo’s running for Governor.

He’s a strong supporter of the President, and Trillo even said he is running on “Trumpian policies,” promising to work with President Trump to bring his priorities to Rhode Island.

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But nowhere does it say that those policies are bad.  Nowhere do we get the fear mongering that we would expect if the Democrats wanted to bring Trillo down.  In fact, without the “paid for by” disclaimer, one might assume that candidate Trillo had sent the flier.  The language is generally positive, if you take out the insinuations one expects it would have for Democrats.

So, why would a party spend money mailing big fliers to members of the other party in order to knock down a long-shot independent candidate whose most likely effect is to draw votes away from that other party’s candidate?  Well, the answer is in the question.  The Democrats want to remind Trump supporters that Trillo is the most Trumpy guy, not Allan Fung.

In other words, one could argue that this mailing should be reported on Trillo’s campaign finance reports as an in-kind contribution.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Endorsement Theater

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, this week, was about Trillo’s latest issue statements and the Providence Journal’s endorsements.

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I’ll be on again Monday, October 29, at 1:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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September 2018 Employment: Uh-Oh, Month Two

As usual, the news media focused on the dropping unemployment rate in Rhode Island, to 3.9%.  Unfortunately, the reason for that drop was that fewer Rhode Islanders were looking for work.  So, while employment was up a paltry 174 Rhode Islanders in September (seasonally adjusted), the labor force fell 333.  Jobs based in the state were completely flat after a big drop the month before.

One month can be a blip.  Two months begins to seem like a warning sign.  In the following chart, the red line shows the labor force (people working or looking for work) and the blue line shows employment since the start of the Great Recession.

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If we hold the labor force steady at its number from the start of the recession, we can see that the unemployment rate would not have fallen this month — instead remaining 6.1%.

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Broadening our window to view the Ocean State’s two neighbors, we see that this slowdown isn’t a regional phenomenon.  Massachusetts continues to rocket in employment and labor force, and Connecticut has seen a recent upturn.

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Turning to our monthly chart of states’ distance from peak employment, one could possibly hope that it is inevitable that Rhode Island will eventually get back to where it was in 2007.  For the time being, however, our state is one of just 10 that haven’t achieved that milestone.

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The next chart brings in the effect of stagnation of jobs based in Rhode Island.  The dark area shows the number of Rhode Islanders who claim that they are employed.  The lighter area shows the number of jobs available within the state, which has had a slower year.  The recent slowdown could help explain the dropping labor force.  If jobs aren’t available, people will stop looking for them.

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The last chart for this monthly report shows New England states’ positions on the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).  JOI takes into account 12 data points, including these employment and jobs numbers as well as income, taxes, and welfare, and it finds Rhode Island to be 47th in the country.

As somewhat expected, the Ocean State’s brief improvement to 46th place had mostly to do with the fact that new income numbers were not yet available.  In September, New York’s better income growth overwhelmed Rhode Island, and the two states switched places again.  That said, Rhode Island’s annualized 4.1% increase from the prior quarter was respectable, if middle-of-the-pack.

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How We Should Address Climate Change

Here’s another narrative-disrupting bit of information, this one from Michael Bastasch on The Daily Caller:

Greenhouse gas emissions continued to plummet during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, according to new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data.

Based on data from more than 8,000 large facilities, EPA found greenhouse gas emissions, mostly carbon dioxide, fell 2.7 percent from 2016 to 2017. Emissions from large power plants fell 4.5 percent from 2016 levels, according to EPA. …

Earlier this year, the Energy Information Administration reported that per-capita greenhouse gas emissions hit a 67-year low during Trump’s first year in office. …

[Meanwhile,] EPA’s new data follows news that, globally, greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise to historic highs by the end of the year, despite nearly 200 countries signing the Paris climate accord. Global greenhouse gas emissions also rose in 2017.

On the other side of all those questions about how much warming we should expect and who or what is causing it lies a whole ‘nother series of questions about how best to address it.  I’ve long been of the opinion that economic and technological progress is the only way forward.

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If we’re really only 12 years from a point of no return that could only be averted by the impossible decision of the people of the planet to hand over their freedom to a group of unaccountable global elites, then the only way out really is through.  Set a reduction in fossil fuels as a goal — a good thing — and then step back.  Bureaucrats are neither well positioned nor vested with the ideal incentives to understand what will achieve the end and what won’t.

This is another area in which, it seems to me, the constant need of progressives to filter everything through government is harmful even to their own ends (to the extent that they have ends other than the accumulation of power).

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About That Narrative About Dating Violence

A number of articles conveying contrarian statements of fact have accumulated in my files.  Inarguably, they point to the degree to which we’re living in different realities.  More arguably (although I think it’s still the case), they show how incorrect the mainstream narrative is.

Here’s one, from Toni Airaksinen on PJMedia:

A recent study has found that Canadian teen boys are more likely [than teen girls] to be victims of physical dating violence, a disparity that has been documented — but rarely reported on — by researchers in other English-speaking countries. …

Boys are “50 percent more likely to report physical dating violence” said [lead researcher Elizabeth] Saewyc, and that’s “a gap that has been more or less consistent for the last two decades.” While it’s a counterintuitive finding, Saewyc urged readers to put themselves in the place of teens.

“Think about how generally unacceptable for boys and young men to actually haul off and slap a girl. But for girls, there isn’t the same social sanction for hitting a guy, whether they’re dating or not,” said Saewyc.

Saewic’s explanation is basically that girls are allowed to hit boys, while boys’ hitting girls is treated as one of the worst things they could possibly do.  Thus, girls are a little more willing to act out with physical violence.  Of course, the fact that the numbers are even closely balanced suggests that talk about men’s inherently beastliness and “toxic masculinity” is simply left-wing propaganda.

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Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but having different standards for one sex than the other doesn’t strike me as a terrible imbalance.  However, as Instapundit Glenn Reynolds periodically states, chivalry was a system that imposed rules for both sides.  The problem isn’t necessarily that we have a double standard for any particular behavior, but that we’re only permitting double standards to disadvantage one side of the gender divide.

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46th – Rhode Island Remains Trapped at Bottom of Economic Pack

Rhode Island remains trapped at the bottom of the pack on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index. The Ocean State comes in 46th place amongst the worst in the country trailing behind our neighbors. The index is a national ranking of states comprised of over a dozen variables derived from government reported data. It gives a more complete picture of the state of our economy than can be seen in the narrow unemployment rate alone. Based on new numbers, it seems that the national recovery may be stalling out in Rhode Island.

The people of the Ocean State want to prosper in an economic climate that rewards hard work, encourages small-business growth, creates quality jobs, and can lead to a better life for their families. Only through proven conservative ideas can we restore prosperity to our state. Our index is the best way to measure the progress of our state on a regular monthly basis. I encourage you to keep track of how Rhode Island is doing here. 

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How Many “Side Deals” Exist in State and Local Government?

The sobering realization that should dawn on those who read Mark Reynolds’s article about Warwick fire fighters’ special sick-time deal is that these sorts of arrangements must exist across state and local government:

Under an agreement never approved by Warwick’s City Council, the Fire Department changed the sick-time benefits given to firefighters, granting eligible firefighters an extra amount of unused sick time each month, City Solicitor Peter Ruggiero confirmed Friday.

The unapproved “side agreement” was struck in 2013, between then-Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong III and then-firefighters union president William Lloyd. …

A copy of the 2013 agreement, obtained by The Journal late Friday, bears [City Solicitor Peter] Ruggiero’s signature.

Think of what had to go into the discovery of this arrangement.  Resident Rob Cote had to become so incensed about taxes and town government that he made himself a target of Warwick’s insiders for years to collect all the necessary data and understand how everything is supposed to work.  (Believe me, it isn’t easy to sort through all the numbers and contract language.)  Then Ken Block had to come in with a deep analysis of the numbers and be willing to make himself a target, as well, including a surprise fire inspection of his business.  Then, finally, statewide journalists became interested, and something came of the investigation.

This is for one relatively small “side deal” on one form of employee compensation for one union in one city.  By my count, there are 473 union locals across 39 cities and towns, a larger number of school districts and individual schools, as well as some fire districts and other distinct government or quasi-government entities.

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At first glance, each of the many benefits of these unions looks like a relatively small expense, and to investigate them and raise red flags, residents would have to spend copious time and accept public attacks on their integrity.  By my experience, local journalists will tend to accept that characterization of trouble-making residents until the intrepid good-government activists find some issue that cannot be denied and somehow manage to make it controversial despite a “nothing to see here” PR push from the insiders.

Finally, when everything comes to light, the union members never have to give anything back.  If any of them have broken any laws, they’ll typically be permitted to retire gracefully (keeping whatever sick-time or vacation payments they’ve accumulated).  In the case of the administrators who accepted it, they’ll at worst be replaced and shuffle off to some other community or take one of the many jobs in or out of government that insiders keep open for their own.

By plain logic, we should expect that Warwick’s sick time deal is replicated in one form or another throughout Rhode Island government.  This is a big reason that government employees should not be unionized.  If they were all independent employees, they’d have incentive to keep an eye on the deals being offered to others.  When they are unionized, rather than being part of a system of checks and balances, they all become complicit.

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Missouri Leads the Way in Rational Government on Hair Braiding Licensing

By way of touching base on an issue that has been the subject of debate (with help from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity), here is news out of Missouri proving that state governments can make rational decisions:

Relenting in the face of legal arguments by The Rutherford Institute and others that burdensome overregulation violates a person’s right to due process, the State of Missouri has repealed a senseless occupational licensing law that required individuals to secure a costly license in order to braid hair. In asking that the occupational licensing law be struck down, Rutherford Institute attorneys filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Niang v. Tomblinson, arguing that licensing restrictions that require a government license in order to perform work-related tasks that pose no health or safety risks such as braiding hair deprive citizens of their constitutional right to earn a living at their chosen vocation. As a result of Missouri’s repeal of the law, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the case moot and ordered that the lawsuit challenging the law be dismissed.

Unfortunately for the issue (but fortunately, I guess, for representative democracy), the court’s action will require sanity to spread across the country from state to state.  Would it be too much to hope that Rhode Island could be its next victim?

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Featured image: RI Senator Paul Jabour having his hair braided during a State House rally.

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A Journalism Panel at RIC Goes from Left to Lefter

A small note on a brief Providence Journal article about a panel discussion on journalism in the Trump Era, hosted by Rhode Island College.  Reporter Mark Reynolds conveys some of the comments from the panelists, but the key detail, for my money, is the list of panelists:

Jill Agostino is Deputy Editor, Special Sections of the New York Times.

Jennifer Bendery is a Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost.

Josh Israel has been the Senior Investigative Reporter for ThinkProgress since 2012.

Ron Nixon is The New York Times’s Homeland Security Correspondent.

Ashley Parker is a White House reporter for the Washington Post and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for her coverage of Russian Interference.

Paul Singer became Investigations Editor at WGBH in Boston and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting in March 2018.

In other words, the panel ran the gamut from… err… Left to Far Left.  Shouldn’t a college — especially a publicly funded college — make some effort to appear balanced?  I mean, apart from wanting to offer students a thorough education and a lesson in weighing different perspectives, that is.  A conservative journalist would have brought something completely different to the gathering, perhaps something surprising.

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Some local color might have been helpful, too.  Local reporters across the spectrum might have had something to say about the increased difficulty of getting information from government agencies during the Raimondo Era.  When she came into office, the door closed quite a bit on our ability to get information directly from government employees without going through one of the many public relations specialists.

By capitulating to progressive-union pressure, and despite disingenuous claims that no broad-based taxes were imposed, Ocean Staters will once again bear increased burdens to pay for new taxes and regulations, more spending, and more union giveaways. Lawmakers chose to appease, rather than resist, the progressives’ job-killing, big-spending agenda.

Lessons and Perspective on Economic Growth

I’ll provide more depth with my usual employment post and Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) write-up after all the data becomes available tomorrow, but at first glance, it looks like the national recovery might be stalling out in Rhode Island:

The number of employed RI residents was 539,800, an increase of 200 from the August figure of 539,600. …

The RI labor force totaled 561,900 in September 2018, down 300 from August 2018 but up 6,000 from September 2017 (555,900).

… In September, the number of Rhode Island-based jobs was unchanged from the August revised employment level of 502,100. Overall, Rhode Island’s job count is up 7,000 from September 2017.

Keep in mind that these numbers are all seasonally adjusted, so one can’t cite the end of our summer season as the reason that RI-based jobs have stagnated, employment growth has slowed, and the trend of fewer people looking for work has resumed.  If this is a slowdown, then maybe Rhode Island is a leading indicator for the rest of the country, or maybe our approach to policy has become so different from that of the federal government and other states that the Ocean State is now unable to capitalize on economic growth, period.

Tangential to this topic, I’ve seen murmurs here and there blaming the Republican tax cuts for current deficit problems at the national level.  Yeah, well, I kind of wonder about that:

The Treasury Department reported this week that individual income tax collections for FY 2018 totaled $1.7 trillion. That’s up $14 billion from fiscal 2017, and an all-time high. And that’s despite the fact that individual income tax rates got a significant cut this year as part of President Donald Trump’s tax reform plan. …

Other major sources of revenue climbed as well, as the overall economy revived. FICA tax collections rose by more than 3%. Excise taxes jumped 13%.

The only category that was down? Corporate income taxes, which dropped by 31%.

Overall, federal revenues came in slightly higher in FY 2018 — up 0.5%.

Spending, on the other hand, was $127 billion higher in fiscal 2018. As a result, deficits for 2018 climbed $113 billion.

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See also:

The U.S. economy sits atop of the World Economic Forum’s annual global competitiveness survey for the first time since the 2007-2009 financial crisis, benefiting from a new ranking methodology this year, the Swiss body said on Tuesday.

We are the economy — you and me.  Our activity is the economy.  The progressive approach to economic development that Rhode Island pursues is to control what we do in a way that powerful people believe is best, which includes taxing us so the government can redistribute the wealth.  Stop doing that, and our economy will soar; government revenue should be secondary.

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Schools Rewrite Humanity Quietly and Children Face the Consequences

Have you seen this story, out of Georgia (via Rod Dreher)?

City Schools of Decatur parent Pascha Thomas claims her daughter, known by the initials N.T. in public documents, was sexually assaulted last year by a male classmate in an Oakhurst Elementary School girls’ restroom. Thomas said her 5-year-old daughter complained of vaginal pain the evening of Nov. 16, 2017. When Thomas asked more, the girl said she was leaving a restroom stall when a little boy in her class came in, pinned her against the stall, and groped her genitals with his hands. She said she tried to get away and called for help, but no one came.

When Thomas reported the assault to school officials the next morning, they responded with “deliberate indifference” toward the assault and the victim, according to the complaint. Despite Thomas’ efforts to ensure justice for her daughter over the following weeks, she said, the school failed to conduct a meaningful investigation, discipline the alleged assailant, remove the child from N.T.’s class or ensure he would not use the girl’s restroom again, or offer any assurance of protection or psychological counseling for N.T.

At a meeting in December, the school informed Thomas the boy identified as “gender fluid” and was allowed to use the girls’ restroom per a districtwide policy opening restrooms and locker rooms to students based on their gender identity.

As the corresponding video notes, Thomas says the school district didn’t stop at “deliberate indifference,” but actually called the state agency charged with investigating child abuse.  That agency paid the family a visit as and investigated the Thomas, herself.

Another point of emphasis is how little involvement parents had it the development and implementation of this policy.  How many Rhode Island parents, do you think, know that our state’s approach to the transgender issue is to assume that government employees are on (at least) an equal footing with parents when raising children and, by the high school level, should be tasked with identifying transgender feelings and helping students hide them from their parents?

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Getting Down to the Philosophical Difference

Two seemingly separate discussions I’ve had on Facebook related to local Tiverton politics turned out (I think) to concern similar underlying differences.  Inasmuch as my interlocutors give no indication of the temperament and/or interest to explore this inquiry with me, I thought I’d spin it off into a quick philosophical post in this space.

One conversation had to do with the definition of “nonpartisan” and (implicitly) “partisan” when discussing politically active organizations.  I won’t extensively summarize the exchange because it was at the same time surreal and boring, but some folks were intent on proving that my local political group, the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA), is not nonpartisan.  My view was that the term has a specific meaning for political organizations, involving actual political parties, while the opposing view was that people or groups are only “nonpartisan” if they come to every answer without reference to any consistent organizing principles and if their decisions don’t happen to align with any group more often than any other group.

I can unpack that characterization if folks are interested, but I think it’s fair.  I also think it’s mythological and, therefore, useless in describing organizations.  What interests me, though, is the consequence for those who wielded it against me.  They are, on the whole, progressives and believers in the primacy of government.

I’m willing to define “partisan” and “nonpartisan” narrowly largely because I believe that political parties should form around questions of the proper operation of government, leaving plenty of room for people’s beliefs to overlap in other ways. A Republican and a Democrat could both be orthodox Catholics and gun enthusiasts, and political groups advocating for Catholic values or gun rights would be objectively nonpartisan because they are approaching a political question from the ground of their beliefs, not their political affiliations.  This status would not change even if it turned out that only, say, Republicans agreed with the group in a given time or place.  If your basis for decisions is not how they affect one political party or another, then you are not acting in a partisan manner.

What progressives have done is to pull us toward a basic sense that everything is political, so there is no distinction.  To them, everything has to align.  The structure of government for which you advocate (representative democracy versus centralized bureaucracy ) has to line up with the economic system you prefer (free markets versus socialism), which has to align with your social views (traditionalist versus radical) and a broad range of your understanding of rights (e.g., freedom of association versus identity politics).  Thus, unless you are completely haphazard in your thinking, your views must be assigned to the appropriate party, making you partisan.

This brings me to the other Facebook conversation, which has been ongoing with one resident in town.  She periodically claims I have expressed no “vision” for our town, whereas I repeatedly respond that I just don’t share her understanding of what sort of vision is appropriate for a town government to have.  I like both the rural and the more urban aspects of my town.  I like that there are parks of mobile homes across the street or across a pond from upper-middle-class developments.  I like that you can turn onto a dirt road between houses in a wealthy neighborhood and find a well-hidden shack deep in the woods.

I sympathize with those who want to preserve the town’s character and with those who want it to be open to development.  But I do not think it is the role of a handful of people to put together plans of what the town ought to look like in the future and set about restricting the rights of property owners in order to make that image a reality, or even to set the plan down as a legal obstacle over which property owners will have to fight a political fight if their vision differs.

That doesn’t mean that people who share my political philosophy want to leave people exposed to predatory developers.  It just means that a community must have other institutions and standards that help enforce a loose vision that represents the interests and preferences of everybody in town.   There is a role for local government, of course, in moderating the disputes between neighbors, but there should also be private organizations that, for example, collect funds to preserve particular bits of the town’s character.  That way, the town government can’t undermine a group’s advocacy by changing zoning out from under them, and on the other side, the government wouldn’t find itself preserving something that has lost support among the people, but that a few politically powerful interests like.

So, saying that my group is “nonpartisan” is not to say that it’s good and innocent and humanistically warm, while rationally cool, but that it doesn’t derive its motivation from the interests of a political party.  And saying that our “vision” for the town is largely limited to statements about how the government should operate is not to say that a small government should be the full extent of our sense of community, but something more like the opposite:  Our vision for the community is expansive enough to include other activities and institutions on which we spend our personal time.  Government shouldn’t be our means of imposing those other activities and institutions on our neighbors, who might not share our beliefs.

Why anybody would want political races to be knock-down, drag-out fights over the details of our future is beyond me.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Campaign Debates and Debacles

For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, this week, about the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races in Rhode Island.

Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

I’ll be on again Monday, October 22, at 1:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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For Government Unions, Layers Upon Layers of Deals

Ken Block has been highlighting peculiarities in payments to Warwick firefighters for unused sick time, and the Providence Journal has finally picked it up:

Under their contract, Warwick firefighters are entitled to 20 sick days per year at full pay. The city compensates firefighters for unused sick days, on a monthly basis, at a rate of pay that is 75 percent of their normal compensation.

Citing public records, the two critics, Rob Cote, a city resident, and Ken Block, a Warwick business owner who has previously run for governor, told the council that many firefighters had exceeded 20 sick days per year by using sick time and also collecting monthly payments that were supposed to be for unused sick time.

Block and Cote say the department paid firefighters for unused sick time each month, and also gave the firefighters a monthly credit.

The monthly credit was outside the terms of the contract, Block and Cote said. Firefighters took sick time, based on such credits, while receiving payment for unused sick time, they said.

Firefighters who were paid for their unused sick time each month should not have received additional credit, according to Cote and Block.

The closest thing to an explanation that reporter Mark Reynolds was able to provide was that the union had a “side deal” with former Mayor Scott Avedisian.  When the current administration put a stop to the practice, following Block and Cote’s alarm, the union filed a grievance.

As if the deal that government employees have isn’t good enough as written!  This 20 days of sick leave — equivalent to four weeks of paid time off — is on top of any days they take off due to illness or injury that they can plausibly connect with their jobs.  According to the contract, fire fighters can accumulate up to 140 days of sick leave over the years, for which they’ll be paid at a rate of three-quarters of their final pay when they leave the job for any reason.  It is only after they have hit this maximum that they then collect the monthly payments described in the article.

According to the city’s most recent audit, Warwick had a liability on its books for all employees of $12,723,194, with $1,576,840 expected to be paid within a year.  This is money that the city has committed to pay employees for days off that they didn’t use.  The total liability for this debt across all municipalities and state government was $238 million at the end of fiscal year 2016.

Private-sector workers might be astonished at these benefits, but if government employees are being paid this money as a bonus even when they use sick time, or if they are being paid the full amount for days for which they’re only supposed to be paid a percentage, the real compensation is much higher.

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The Challenge of Getting Back to Basics in Education

Two Washington Post articles in the Fall River Herald seem to have similar themes, even beyond the fact that they’re both about education.  The first, by Education Columnist Jay Mathews is about secondary school and the dearth of reading and writing:

The following statement is not a joke: Many writing classes discourage much writing. The nonprofit Education Trust found that only 9 percent of 1,876 literacy assignments in six urban middle schools asked students to write more than a single paragraph. Fitzhugh’s 2002 research found that 81 percent of high schools never assigned a paper of more than 5,000 words.

Sadly, English teachers don’t have time to handle lengthy researched essays. They cringe at what [Concord Review editor Will] Fitzhugh calls his Page Per Year Plan: a five-page paper in fifth grade, adding a page each year until everyone does a 12-page paper in 12th grade. He wants students to address issues they have read about, maybe even tackling a nonfiction book or two, very rare in schools.

One gets the sense that way too much is crammed on the “must be touched on” list of topics to allow for the slow digestion of works read and the (often) even slower germination of ideas that students might have in response.  I remember my disappointment, way back when, that the information that I’d picked up in school didn’t just stay in my head, because I’d gotten the impression that it should.  Why work through all those various topics if I’m just going to forget the content, anyway?

Yeah, there’s that old standby about “learning how to learn,” but somewhere in that lesson ought to be an exercise of depth — something with more of the feel of an apprenticeship to writing than a quick-tip lesson in the practice.  Maybe answering this omission is the motivation behind the fad of “senior projects,” but at best, those seem frequently to focus on doing something somewhat substantial (relatively speaking) rather than learning something substantial.

The core of the complaint in Mathews’s column is that our education system doesn’t leave open the time for the students or the teachers to dally, and one can’t help but feel that we cram too much in, not only of subject matter but of all the rest.  Between the educators and the educatees, there are clubs, diversity trainings, public service requirements, non-educational assessments of students, bureaucratic boxes to check, and on and on.

That sense applies University of Kentucky professor John Thelin’s explanation for the explosion in the cost of college:

Another fundamental element of the college experience was different in the 1960s as well. Costs were low because what colleges offered to students – and how many students they offered it to – was far more limited. Even with the decade’s admissions expansion, state universities such as the University of Massachusetts and Rutgers in New Jersey each only had a total enrollment of about 6,000. And colleges spent little on students. They handled expanding enrollments by increasing the size of lecture classes or other expedient measures like adding bunk beds to double the capacity of dorm rooms. They offered little in the way of advising, career placement, activities outside the classroom, recreational facilities and mental-health services. …

In many ways, this skyrocketing debt exposed the paradox of student consumerism. Increased competition led college officials to conclude that increased spending for elaborate residence halls and recreational facilities was necessary to lure students away from the competition. But an education more like the one provided in the 1960s would have kept costs – and student debt loads – far more reasonable.

Thelin doesn’t bring in the full picture.  Elaborate amenities (and the architecture of coddling) may be a route to draw students to a particular university, but those institutions have also taken the opportunity of all that subsidized and borrowed wealth to create reasons for spending.  How many “diversity” bureaucrats work on the typical American campus, and how many would really be needed, even if we were to concede the value of their occupation?  How many entire fields of study now exist with no practical application — years and years of courses that nobody in their right mind would have taken back when the burden was on them to come up with the money in the near term?  So much mere stuff!

This conundrum will not easily be unwound, absent a calamity.  To ensure an educational experience more like an apprenticeship to learning would require paying some teachers much more, both to attract the necessary talent and to give it space to operate.   Not only doesn’t our unionized factory model allow such a thing, but our special-interest politicization of education leaves the public no confidence that additional resources won’t be diverted from an agreed-to mission.  Similarly, to bring colleges back to providing a valuable service to students intent on capitalizing on the opportunity, those students would have to have more skin in the game, which would require draining the system of so much easily available cash and credit, which would mean that some young adults who aren’t prepared for work won’t be able to check the box.

In short, the incentive structures aren’t there for a systemic fix, which probably means that only those privileged few with the awareness and wherewithal to supplement the public offering will actually reap any lasting benefits from it.

 

Featured image: Norman Rockwell’s The Young Lawyer.

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To Join or Not? Public Workers Have A Choice

At the Center, we believe that public workers deserve to know that they now have full freedom to decide whether or not it is in their best interest to pay union dues. That if they choose not to pay, these employees cannot be recriminated against by corrupt union officials. Government workers around the country and in Rhode Island now have the choice about the best interests of their families when it comes to being members of the unions. In an effort to educate people about the newly restored Janus rights, we have launched MyPayMySayRI.com. On this website, you can find information about what the Janus ruling means.

The Supreme Court has decided that because it is their pay, union membership – or not – is rightfully the say of every public worker…especially when workers may disagree with their union’s political advocacy, which is paid for with their dues money.

Case in point is Michelle, a municipal employee in the Ocean State, who opted-out days after the Janus ruling and who said: “I don’t understand why some of my friends continue to pay their dues despite their political views being completely opposite of what the union supports.”

I encourage you to go to the MyPayMySayRI.com website now by clicking here. If you know a government worker who doesn’t agree with the political agenda of their union, please share this post with them.

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When Science Comes with an Underlying Hope

An essay on NRO by Oren Cass is worth a read for the broad-ranging illustration it provides of the state of politicized science these days.  His opening vignette is perfect:

The president of the United States had just cited his work with approval during a Rose Garden speech announcing a major change in American policy, and MIT economist John Reilly was speaking with National Public Radio. “I’m so sorry,” said host Barbara Howard. “Yeah,” Reilly replied.

This was not a triumph but a tragedy, because the president in question was Donald Trump. And the action taken was withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

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Trump had cited Reilly’s work correctly, saying: “Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full” using Reilly’s economic projections, “. . . it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree . . . Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100.” But as Reilly explained on NPR, “All of us here believe the Paris agreement was an important step forward, so, to have our work used as an excuse to withdraw it is exactly the reverse of what we imagined hoping it would do.”

In other words, this isn’t about science, but about belief, and in this view, science is supposed to find evidence confirming progressive assumptions.  That’s what it means to “believe in science.”

As Cass elaborates, this is especially a problem for people who profess to believe in data-driven public policy.  If their data starts to raise doubts about their policies, and rather than adjust the policies, they look for new data, the whole thing begins to seem a bit like a scam.  More from Cass:

Some check is needed on the impulse to slice and dice whatever results the research might yield into whatever conclusion the research community “imagined hoping” it would reach. In theory, peer review should do just that. But in this respect, the leftward lean of the ivory tower is as problematic for its distortion of the knowledge that feeds public-policy debates as it is for its suffocating effect on students and the broader culture. Peer review changes from feature to bug when the peers form an echo chamber of like-minded individuals pursuing the same ends. Academic journals become talking-points memos when they time the publication of unreviewed commentaries for maximum im­pact on political debates.

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Trillo, Mattiello, the Bully Justin, and the Question of Our Day

OK. In this post, at least, I’m not going to get into the sordid details of Joe Trillo’s reported assault of the juvenile Nicholas Mattiello back in 1975.  Rather, I think the story, of itself, raises fascinating, important cultural questions:  What sort of world do we live in, and what world should we want to live in?

Let’s imagine a scenario that fits the details we know, but that might not be exactly accurate.  Thirty-something Joe Trillo is doing some work on his house when he hears some neighborhood pre-teens horsing around on a nearby property.  Whether because of the content of their shouts or simple annoyance at their noise, he rages toward the boys, using intemperate language.  Among the kids, young Nicholas Mattiello is so obnoxious that even a local cop can’t help but express his belief that he was asking for some sort of retaliation from the grownup, and that retaliation comes in the form of a few whacks on the head with a caulk gun and escalated threats about vehicular assault.

Surrounding this all is the reality that Trillo’s relationship with his adult neighbors was apparently so bad that they wanted police involvement, and even 40 years later, he’s sufficiently hostile as to go after them with accusations of fabricating evidence.

Now I’ll throw in context, as somebody who lived his childhood before The Great Change that separates Gen X from the Millennials:  This is kind of how life was.  Neighborhoods had blow-hards like the Trillo in the above narrative and punks like the hypothetical young Mattiello.  Nobody expected government authorities to moderate every dispute.  The contempt of the kids sent a signal to the blow-hards that they were behaving like adolescents, and the relatively mild assertions of adult prerogative (like the caulk gun) taught the kids that there were boundaries to their behavior beyond which a stronger adult might issue a correction.

I recall an incident when I was 10 or 11 while I was hanging around the school playground unsupervised on a Saturday with some kids in my grade.  (Yeah, we used to do that sort of thing.)  Some kids who were a year or two older than us descended like the bullies in A Christmas Story.  The lead bully shared my first name and, that day, also shared my wardrobe item of one of those poofy vests that were in fashion at the time.  We younger kids scattered.  My classmate, Matt, tried to get away by climbing a six foot chain-link fence, but bully Justin grabbed his legs.  As Matt fell down, the sharp points of the fence cut open his arm.  (It was no joke, slicing very near to his wrist.)

I had run in the other direction and spent some time wandering around the neighborhoods on that side of the school.  When I returned and saw the bullies gone, I let out a little cheer.  Seeing my slight celebration, a pair of men came up to me and asked my name. When I told them, one of them  picked me up by the collar and started shaking me, shouting.  Fortunately, some of the kids who’d run off with Matt were near enough to rush in and tell his father that I wasn’t the culprit.

I went home scared and crying and told my father, but nobody ever gave the impression that Matt’s dad assaulted me.  He was, however, conspicuously kind for the rest of my childhood, even when his son and I got into fist fights in middle school.

That’s how things were.  We worked them out.  Sometimes — apparently, as with the Trillo-Mattiello altercation — the police would be called in, mostly as a warning to a neighbor that things were going out of bounds.  As part of that process, the legal system would exercise some judgment, such that charges that might follow a person around for his or her entire life were dismissed if they weren’t too serious and everybody got out of it OK.  The idea that such charges would surface some 40 years later in a political campaign — and that people would pay attention to them — would have been laughable.

So, what sort of world do we live in, and what world should we want to live in?  It wasn’t perfect, by any stretch, but we used to live in a world in which we shared a community responsibility to guide each other, and people sometimes erred in their judgment about how to do that.  So, we included checks, balances, and allowances.  The law and social expectations were more like the ropes around a professional wrestling ring than a cage, at least when it came to this smaller interpersonal stuff.  Now, it seems that we have a very strict set of rules applied retroactively and subject to change without warning, like a fence of fluctuating and electrified barbed wire.

Again, how we used to do things needed improvement, but I’d say it was closer to the ideal than where we are now.  Unfortunately, in this case, Joe Trillo reacted to the story in a way that suggests he’s still the same guy he was back then, and therefore objectionable as a candidate.  Voters should take lessons where they find them, but culturally, we need to take lessons, too, and toning down the outrage machine would be a start.  Maybe then we can return to being a community.

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The Feeling of Society When the Cultural Seasons Change

As the rain clears out on an autumnal Friday afternoon, a bit of encouraging analysis might enhance the mood.  Although, I should preface this post with an acknowledgment of the limited extent of the positivity.  What follows is encouraging not because it is suggestive of improvement so much as it at least confirms that we’re not crazy… at least not most of us.

With a quick hop-skip-and-jump, we turn to Rod Dreher’s post about a Yascha Mounk essay concerning a study by Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon.  Adding an even more cursory blog post than Dreher’s at the beginning of an attenuating list would be repetitive, so I’ll just articulate the conclusion that I would draw and refer you to those links for the evidence.

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The crazy condition of our politically correct, identity-obsessed culture does not reflect our society’s values, but only those of a tiny ideological minority of comfortable elites driven by fear that their pleasant illusions cannot hold.  Because they’re elites, they set the tone of much of our entertainment and our public discourse and have an overly strong hand in the education of future generations, but people are getting fed up with their bullying.

The problem that needs solving is that most people just don’t want to have to think about the issues that the progressive extreme is intent on foisting on us, which means that the power of the latter’s position is not so much in its ability to persuade as its prerogative to decide when the people can take a break and maybe get back to their lives.  This produces a public sentiment something like, “Fine… affirmative action, climate change, LGBeTc… can I just finish my daily cleanup and relax a bit before bed?”

Until very recently (I’d say), the overpowering trick was to make conservatives seem like the ones keeping the issues alive.  Public sentiment:  “For crying out loud, live and let live… and let this topic go away so we can go back to our burgers and talk about sports.”

One could make the case that what we’re seeing now is disorientation on the Left following the eight years of Obama’s ideological reign, during which a gap opened up between progressives who understood how the strategy of cultural change was supposed to work and progressives who’ve come to believe the implementation of their ideological imperatives is just the natural order of the universe.  As the public sentiment has become, “Whoa, there,” the activists are responding with outrage that, yes, dawn follows the night of their revelry and fall follows the hot summer of their control.

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The View the Left Has of “Conservative” Judges

One really must wonder where folks like Art Corey get their ideas:

Congratulations to Republicans on their big Supreme Court win. Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation could ensure GOP control over the court for a generation. Who could have imagined that obstructing Merrick Garland would result in not one but two hard-right conservatives joining the court?

“Hard-right conservatives”?  What?  Kavanaugh was the more-moderate pick, and the whole thing about “conservative” jurists is that they rule according to the law, not ideology or a party’s contemporaneous requirements.  The GOP won’t “control” the court; the court will ensure that legislative changes to the law happen in the legislature, whichever party happens to control it.  That’s why this is so wrong:

But the Republicans’ lust for power has blinded them to the truth that the court derives its legitimacy from the belief that it is above politics.

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If the court is above politics, it has to be because it rules according to the written law, whether or not a particular ruling is politically popular or corresponds to the temper of the time.  The entire “living Constitution” idea pushed by the Democrats and the Left more broadly is what makes the court inevitably political.  That is why the progressive wing of the court has ruled much more in lock step than the conservative wing and why this seems either disingenuous or naive:

So now any liberal group with business before the court could rightly question the legitimacy and impartiality of its decisions.

Corey would do well to recall that progressive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg regrets making injudicious statements about Donald Trump not because she allowed herself to have political thoughts, but because it was “incautious.”  In other words, she should have kept her bias well hidden.

But nobody is fooled any longer, which is why conservatives seek originalist judges who will rule impartially and restore legitimacy to the court.  Every judge has bias; what’s needed is a legal philosophy that really does leave that aside.  Conservatives’ hope is that the experience of his confirmation will provide Justice Kavanaugh with some inoculation against the social pressures that sometimes push judges toward the elite (which is to say, progressive) understanding of the law.

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National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Calls Out Kilmartin, NEARI

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today called out Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) and its Bristol-Warren local for attempting to mislead government employees in the Ocean State:

The notice comes after Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin – who signed onto an anti-Janus brief at the Supreme Court and received major support from union officials in his runs for public office – made the false claim that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling “only affects non-union members” and does not apply to union members.

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The Attorney General is wrong. Under Janus all government employees have the right to resign their union membership and immediately stop any financial payments to union officials. Because the Supreme Court decision made it clear that public workers must opt-in to any union payments and explicitly waive their constitutional rights, union members cannot be restricted if they seek to resign from the union and stop the payment of any union dues or fees.

The Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA) and the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) also issued a letter blatantly misleading teachers about their Janus rights. The letter claims that union nonmembers must pay a NEARI attorney to file a grievance against the union. However, as the Foundation’s notice states, unions are legally obligated to provide grievance service to both members and nonmembers as part of its exclusive monopoly bargaining status.

The BWEA and NEARI union officials’ letter also incorrectly claims that nonmembers are unable to request days from the Sick Leave Bank, even though the BWEA’s monopoly bargaining agreement establishes the Sick Leave Bank for all teachers, including nonmembers, covered by the agreement.

National Right to Work’s statement is in line with the analysis offered in this space in August.

Government employees in Rhode Island who want more information about their rights can visit MyPayMySayRI.com or National Right to Work’s MyJanusRights.org, where employees can also request free legal assistance.

It shouldn’t be too much to ask that the state’s lead law enforcement agent would offer accurate legal opinions to the public and that labor unions would be more truthful with their own employees.

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The Century’s Story of Partisan Hatred

Jonathan Haidt points to the following chart as a partial explanation of why our democracy “seems to have decayed so quickly,” with groups’ believing “that the ends justify the means.” The source is a book titled, Prius or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide, by Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler:

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Of course, progressives will fit the inflection points of 2000 and 2008 into their narrative about Republicans and racism, but my experience of the first sixteen years of the century leads to an explanation more like this: With the return of the presidency to a Republican after just one Democrat, especially with such a close, contentious election, the Left and the mainstream media began ramping up hatred against the Republican president and Congress as a political strategy.  (Note, surprisingly, that the entire episode of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment didn’t move the needle, leaving that out as a first-order cause.)

Seeing the lengths of the animosity by 2004, Republicans began to respond in kind, but it wasn’t until after the election of President Obama that their other-party hatred began to catch up to the Democrats’.  Obama definitely contributed to this in both the way he conducted his office and his rhetoric, and conservatives began feeling that they were being shut out and that the Democrat Party was changing the very rules of our government.

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These trends brought us from an even contest of seeming moderates in 2000 to a contest of hatred by 2016.  Since then, I suspect we’ve hit a plateau.  After all, in a fifty-fifty country, it’s difficult to have more than 50% of people hating one or the other of the parties (unless we shift into a new dynamic of voting for the parties that we hate less).  On the other hand, I think it is indisputable that the intensity of hatred on the left side of aisle has ramped up by multiples.

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The Practice of Commuting Children Around Providence Every Day

Dave Talan has an interesting (by which I mean “ought to be obvious”) take on Providence’s school busing woes:

The Providence school bus drivers strike, the extreme hardships it is causing for families, and the city’s total inability to react to it, raises this question: Why on earth are 9,000 students riding the bus when every one of them lives within walking distance to a neighborhood elementary or middle school?

We need a policy to allow most students to go to the closest school, one that is within walking distance from their home. The parents of most of these 9,000 students would choose this option if it were available to them.

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I’m all for a school choice policy that allows families to choose other schools, but that presupposes a default option.  If the assumption is that children go to the school that’s within walking distance, with extra capacity available to students elsewhere, the families that choose different schools can be expected to account for the distance.

Sending students around the city as a general practice seems like it unnecessarily uproots them from their neighborhoods, while (naturally) adding expense for union jobs.

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