Blog Style RSS feed for this section

Attorney General Kilmartin’s View of Legal Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mike Stenhouse on GoLocal LIVE – Gov’s Manufacturing Council

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

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


The Creeping Grim Reaper of Euthanasia

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Isn’t That Just Liberal Jurisprudence?

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

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

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

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


The Rigged System of Unions and Town Government

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

And put this in the mix:

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

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

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

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


Minority Students Suffer from Ideological Education Policies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Selling Cars with Classism in a Dress

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

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

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

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


Opportunity – Rhode Island Is Losing The Race

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


How the Media Will Help Trump Get Away with Things

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Environmentalists believe they have the answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Support for Lots of Immigration, Not Necessarily Altruistic

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

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

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

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


Progressive Regunberg’s Trusted Source Highlights Gender Pay Gap Myth

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

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

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


Scoffing at Trump for his Ethical Approach

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

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

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

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

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


Holding Down Grandma for Euthanasia

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

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

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

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

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


Freestanding ER Bill Shows How Price Has Been Disconnected from Service

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

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

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

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

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


Wanting Government Restrictions on Others’ Behalf

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

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

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

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

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

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


Last Impressions Podcast Episode 2: Reality Show America

American fascism, Moira Walsh’s evil men, and the governor’s bad arguments.

Right-click title on track list to download.



When School Budgets Become Sky’s the Limit

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

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

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

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


A Deliberate Spectrum of Protest, from Riots Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ah, the General Assembly’s Legislative Grant Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Looks Like There’s No Reason to Go After Guns in Rhode Island

Well, well, well.  According to Amanda Milkovits, shootings are down in Providence:

The number of shootings has decreased over the last five years, and with 68 victims last year, is reaching the level of nearly a decade ago. There were 11 homicides in 2016, which is tied with 2006 for the lowest number of homicides in about three decades, according to statistics from the Providence police.

Last year, there were no gang-related homicides – a first in recent memory. That is significant, as one gang killing can often lead to retaliation.

Clearly, therefore, violating Rhode Islanders’ Second Amendment rights with new gun control measures is unnecessary.  That’s especially true given that violent crime is up at the same time, per WPRI’s Dan McGowan.  Looks to me like law-abiding citizens could probably use more guns to protect themselves from thugs.


A Society in Which the Casino and the Government Must Always Win

An article by Kyle Sammin in The Federalist may be about a professional gambler’s conflict with a casino, but it provides a useful analogy for government:

[The casino managers] did not agree [to special terms from pro poker player Phil Levy in a game of baccarat] out of the goodness of their hearts. Casinos love to indulge high-rollers because they know that the longer a player spends at the table, the more money he will lose. So they allowed the requests, and thereby exposed themselves to Ivey and Sun’s advantage: the cards in question had a minute flaw. It was just a 1/32 of an inch deviation in the pattern on the back, but Sun had trained herself to spot the tiny variation. By getting the dealer to rotate certain cards before adding them back into the deck, she and Ivey could more accurately figure out which way to bet the next time around.

The practice, known as “edge sorting,” did not violate any of the rules of baccarat, nor did it conflict with the terms agreed upon by the casino and the gamblers. Nevertheless, Borgata cried foul and sued, claiming Ivey and Sun “knowingly engaged in a scheme to create a set of marked cards and then used those marked cards to place bets based on the markings.”

The key lesson, here, is that the casino must win, always, because its ability to win — and shuffle money into government coffers — is the only reason they let us gamble.  Now turn to this story, out of Illinois:

In Illinois, Substitute Teaching For One Day Reaped Nearly $1 Million in Taxpayer-Funded Pension Money

Here’s part of the explanation from Teachers Retirement System (TRS) spokesman David Urbanek:

Prior to 2007, Mr. Preckwinkle and Mr. Piccioli had accumulated many years of service in the IFT. That year the legislature approved and the governor signed a bill that, essentially, allowed those two to join TRS if they did what any member needs to do to become a TRS member – work one day as a licensed teacher. In addition, that 2007 law was written so that it allowed them, and only them, to claim all of the service they had accumulated with the IFT prior to joining TRS in the calculation that would determine their initial pensions, in addition to any time with the IFT they accumulated after joining TRS.

So, the people and watchdogs of Illinois thought they’d put a stop to an obvious abuse, but the union lobbyists saw a technicality in the law that others didn’t, and they won the game.

As government resources are increasingly constrained, look for an escalation of the rhetoric we hear every time some government employee is caught in objectively abusive behavior:  I was just following the rules for which we negotiated.  It’s not my fault that the public can’t follow every complex legal and budgetary issues.  It’s not my fault that elected officials try to avoid conflict and help unions get their way without waking up the public.  It’s not my fault the same unions help elect those officials… oh, wait.

Especially in heavily unionized states like Rhode Island, unions work with politicians to create a rigged system in which the house always wins.  Taxpayers and voters are like Ivey and Sun.  Whenever we figure out some way to make the rules of our democracy actually work in our favor, the house calls it “cheating” and finds some way around the result on the premise that their loss is always illegitimate.


Narragansett May Backslide from Single-Tier Tax System

A return to the status quo for Narragansett? Tonight, there is a scheduled public hearing of the Narragansett Town Council and motion to repeal the single tax rate for residential and commercial property. In a tense October meeting, testimony from local citizens, small business owners, and taxpayer advocates largely championed the creation of the single rate as a pro-business measure. The passing of the single rate represented an important step toward circumventing Rhode Island’s hostile business climate on the local level.

According to the Narragansett Times:

Vice president of the Narragansett Town Council Matthew Mannix filed a motion to schedule a public hearing to repeal the passage of the single tax rate last week. The move comes after Narragansett, under the previous town council, elected to switch to a single-tier tax rate in a 3-2 vote in late October of last year. Before this vote, the town taxed residential and commercial properties at separate rates, with commercial paying 150 percent of the residential rate. The motion submitted by Mannix last week to schedule a public hearing on the issue is the first step in repealing the October vote and reverting back to a system of varying tax tiers.

Suffering with a 48th place ranking on the Family Prosperity Index, Rhode Islanders need bold action like the single tier tax rate to improve our economy. For too long, ill-conceived tax policy has contributed to a hostile business climate. Another benefit of the single rate is that entrepreneurs are not pitted against residential property owners in considering tax policy in the future. It is much fairer to treat everyone the same in tax policy. Only pro-business family friendly public policy will restore prosperity to our state.

In an October release from the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity supporting the updated single tier tax rate, CEO Mike Stenhouse said, “If town families are to achieve a better quality of life, it is essential that more and better businesses, that create more and better jobs, have a better business climate in which they can thrive. The positive benefits of this plan clearly outweigh the arguments against it.”

Mike Riley Chairman of the Center, testified at the town council meeting on the night the new tax rate was ratified:

Tonight’s meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Narragansett Town Hall, 25 Fifth Avenue, Narragansett. Citizens are encouraged to attend and speak out against this step backwards for our business climate. Your voice is powerful. Time and time again citizen participation has made the difference on these critical issues. Don’t let this step backwards for Narragansett go unchallenged.


Death Spirals and Subsidizing Museum Settlements Out of Liberal Guilt

For Reason magazine, Ronald Bailey asks: “Why Aren’t More Americans Moving?“:

While land-use and licensing restrictions make it hard to enter booming job markets, public sector employment, welfare benefits, and homeownership make it harder to exit regions with waning economic opportunities. The nearly 13 percent of Americans who work for state and local governments rely on defined-benefit pension plans that are not easily transferable across state lines. Picking up to take a job in another state would significantly reduce a public employee’s retirement benefits. Differences in state eligibility requirements for various poverty relief programs—e.g., food stamps, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families—also discourage poor people from seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Read the whole article, and you’ll surely be reminded of the economic/demographic death spiral into elected officials and labor unions have spun Rhode Island:

Cities like Detroit, argues [Yale law professor David] Schleicher, get caught a negative fiscal spiral. Negative economic shocks lead to greater demand for government services rise, which leads to an increase in property and income tax rates, which motivates the remaining businesses and workers to leave. Another economically destructive dynamic frequently kicks in. “Difficulties in reducing government services worsen over time in shrinking cities,” observes Schleicher. “As private-sector workers leave, particular populations—net recipients of public services, public sector workers, pensioners—become more powerful in local politics, giving them power to save benefits from declining.”

The whole dynamic also starts to expose how progressive policies seem designed to maintain the aesthetic preferences of elites:

Schleicher cites one of the odder contentions for place-based subsidies, made by the Stanford law professor Michelle Wilde Anderson. If Oregon taxpayers subsidize public services in economically declining rural areas of the state, Anderson argues, the country people will stay put and be an inspiration to city dwellers. “In my view, historic places and modes of living have existence value, even when they have trouble attracting residents and businesses in a competitive system,” she writes. “Just as there is existence value to the forest ecosystems themselves – humankind made spiritually and morally more whole through the existence of households and environments beyond the hustle bustle of urban materialism.” Basically, stay on the farm and in small towns in order to gratify urban fantasies about how hardy country folk live.

When I worked on the docks on Point Judith, tourists waiting for the next ferry to Block Island would stand on the street and watch us unloading boats.  Some of my co-workers became agitated at the sense of being a spectacle, a feeling that worsened as the weather became less comfortable for handling wet products outside.

What Bailey describes is like a localized version of liberals’ romanticizing poor tribes in foreign countries.  Moderns don’t seem to consider that they have the option to live like that, but what they really want is just to know that somebody lives like that, as if it preserves something in the human soul.

Maybe it’s guilt.  Maybe they know that their worldview kills something important in humanity, so they’re willing to subsidize at least a museum settlement.


Prison Social Workers and the Fat Budget for Corrections

With the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity having recently dipped into the topic of criminal justice in the state, this Katie Mulvaney article in the Providence Journal caught my eye:

The director of behavioral health at the state Department of Corrections lamented Thursday that the prison system is functioning as the largest psychiatric hospital and substance treatment facility in Rhode Island, and yet it’s staffed with only 11 social workers serving about 3,000 inmates.”That is our staff,” Louis Cerbo told the 19-member Special Legislative Commission to Study and Assess the Use of Solitary Confinement in Rhode Island. He estimated that on any given day 400 to 500 inmates in the system are diagnosed as having serious, persistent mental illness.

One has to ask: Where does all the money go?  Of the 40 states with data in a 2012 report from the Vera Institute for Justice, Rhode Island has the fifth-highest cost per prisoner in the country and the sixth-highest corrections cost per capita.  (That first rank is actually better than the Ocean State’s second-highest-cost-per-prisoner performance in a 2001 Bureau of Justice Statistics report.)

These complaints from government officials should never be heard without being coupled with the existing costs of their departments, placed in context of the country.  If they lack for some personnel or shiny capital purchase, the reason is almost always that they’re already spending the money on something else.