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The New Educational List

Interspersed with podcasts and shorter works, I’ve been listening to an audiobook of Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1782).  As anybody with a decent respect for the discipline of history can attest, a tremendous amount of its value may be found in the lesson in and reminder of human nature.  Whether in the East or the West, among the civilized or the barbarians, in the intrigues of the royal court or the religious order, or with men calling the shots or women, we are never free of the fact that we are human.

We are fallen and should never presume purity or perfection.

The men/women angle came to mind while reading Erika Sanzi’s latest reminder that our education system is failing boys:

There was a time decades ago when girls trailed boys in math and science and we as a nation deemed that to be unacceptable. Starting in the 1970’s, initiatives and organizations sprung up all over the place to help girls catch up. And they did. But as girls began improving in math and science, boys were on a decline that people either ignored or, worse, scoffed at as “just deserts” for those who had unfairly benefited from The Patriarchy.

  • Boys are more than twice as likely to get suspended from school and almost three times as likely to be expelled.
  • Boys represent two thirds of the special education population. Almost 80 percent of these boys are Black and Hispanic.
  • 60 percent of high school drop-outs are male. 93 percent of prison inmates are male and 68 percent of them do not have a high school diploma.
  • 85 percent of juvenile offenders are functionally illiterate. 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

Yes, one does run into the notion that this is merely gender comeuppance, but one also gets the impression of a belief that boys are just not built to be as scholarly as girls.  Just so… Gibbon’s lesson.  The same was said of girls some time back.  The difference is that we’ve institutionalized the principle that girls’ way of learning and being schooled, more generally, is appropriately considered to be the universal method.  If it doesn’t suit boys, then that’s proof that they’re inferior.

We can most definitely admire human society for its ability to self-correct, but that is an indication that we are unique in doing so at all, not that we’re particularly good at it.  The steering of our society is like that of a boat, and our between deck is always half-full of water.  As we adjust course, we lean, and the water rushes to the lower point, increasing the tilt.  When we scurry to correct, we turn the helm too far because we blame the direction of the tilt, not the fact of having turned too dramatically, and the interior water rushes to the other side with even more force.

We blame that which was too high for its own condition of being too low, and praise that which was too low for becoming too high by no cause of its own.  For the sake of our children, we need to realize that our sense of balance was formed under different circumstances, but we can’t, because we’ve submerged the institutions that used to give us a sense of higher goals.

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A Question of Public Safety

Let’s begin with the necessary caveat that advocates and government agencies have incentive to make problems seem critical and to make increased funding seem to be the solution.  That said, Alex Kuffner’s reporting for the Providence Journal does raise a red flag worth noticing:

Environmental organization Save The Bay blames the disrepair of the state’s dams on inadequate staffing in the dam safety program, a problem that plagues the DEM as a whole, resulting, the Providence-based advocacy group argues, in a diminishment of the agency’s enforcement capabilities and an increased threat to public safety.

“We are literally one storm away from loss of life,” said Kendra Beaver, staff attorney with Save The Bay and a former chief legal counsel at the DEM.

So, here’s the next question we must ask:  Where is all the money going?  The state has a $10 billion budget.  Rhode Island must be doing something wrong if the condition of dams has reached the point of near certain catastrophe.

To be fair, Kuffner’s very long article does moderate Beaver’s assertion, but in doing so, it only amplifies the relevant question:  What’s the point, if it isn’t the need for more resources?  And that brings us back to: Where is all the money going?

Read mainstream news stories for long, and you’ll become very familiar with the “here’s a problem in need of more taxpayer dollars” genre.  Maybe what we need is more skepticism about what the priorities of government should be.

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The Importance of Opposition

The indictment of Mattiello campaign contractor Jeff Britt raises an important theme that all Rhode Islanders should think about:  the importance of political opposition:

The investigation dates back three years, to the fall of 2016, when Mattiello was in the political fight of his life against Republican Steven Frias. Mattiello defeated Frias by just 85 votes after his campaign coordinated a supportive mailer from Frias’s one-time Republican rival Shawna Lawton, who had lost to him in that year’s GOP primary.

But for the political pressure from Frias, Mattiello’s campaign would have felt no need to be so brazen.  But for the RIGOP’s pursuit of the matter, the unusual campaign activity never would have become an issue:

As Lawton had only $43.34 in her campaign account at the time, state GOP Chairman Brandon Bell filed a complaint with the Board of Elections questioning how she could have paid for the $2,150 mailer. That led to a two-year, stop-and-start investigation by the elections board, the initiation of contempt proceedings, and now, to the doorstep of the state’s attorney general — and a second look on the now-closed case against Mattiello.

One could go even farther and suggest that Attorney General Peter Neronha has political competition as a reinforcing incentive to pursue these matters.  In this episode, we’re getting faint glimpses of the sort of corrections that would be natural and unexceptional in a healthier polity.

This principle extends across government in Rhode Island.  Political competition keeps politicians honest and ensures that there is always somebody who benefits by looking for better ways to serve the community and respond to constituents.  When everything is locked up in a one-party system with an insider mentality, those in power are freer to serve each other.

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The Dirt Diggers Maximize Twitter

Maybe it’s not specific to anything Rhode Island, but Remy’s latest video for Reason captures part of our modern moment well and will might start your day off with a chuckle:

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Cracks in the Wall of Corruption

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for October 21, included talk about a political operative’s indictment, other political operatives’ hemp biz, Block’s complaint against government operatives, Wyatt protesters, and an unpopular governor.

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

I’ll be on again Monday, October 28, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

Progressive Summer Reading List contains a book detailing pedophiliac relationship

Suicide and the Modern World

A brief WBUR segment includes a critically important insight about increases in youth suicide.  Speaking about factors contributing to the problem:

[Emory University psychologist Nadine] KASLOW: When there’s abuse in the home, that can be a factor that really impacts children.

[Interviewer Rhitu] CHATTERJEE: As is substance abuse, she says, and the fact that most kids nowadays are growing up in communities that are not tightknit. Strong community ties provide a source of social support, a key protective factor against suicide.

KASLOW: Even if you feel down or badly about yourself or hopeless and helpless, that you feel loved and cared for and protected.

Note that this isn’t just love and care from a family, but from a community.  This is where social media may plug in.  Any meanness in the community is always there.  Every time the phone pings or shows that some app or other has unread messages, it could be another sneer, and anxiety goes up.  Kids can’t get away from it because they bring it with them all the time, on the phone.  At the same time, not having a phone is a path to exclusion, while knowing that the aggression is still out there, unseen.

The inability to escape manifests in another way, too.  Even a relatively small community will have sub-communities into which one can escape.  Once upon a time, the kids in math class might not have known what the bullies on the sports team were saying, and neighborhood kids who went to different schools would have no connection to any of it.  The families at the church gathering would have been another group, and coworkers at the part-time job came from yet another alcove.

Now social media finds those connections, and it isn’t implausible that everybody in a kid’s life has heard some whisper of a rumor.

A couple of weeks ago, I was helping out at a bingo event in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and somebody mentioned having seen me in the newspaper in connection with the recall in Tiverton.  By the time an adult gets to the point of being read about across the region in newspapers, he or she should (one hopes) have a pretty thick skin and a support system.

But just as blogging and social media have flattened and spread out access to audiences, they have also flattened and spread out the reach of whispers, and that’s a lot for kids to handle.

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Maybe Funding Isn’t the Issue

Although any such panel’s findings should be taken with a grain of salt until thoroughly verified, a legislative task force of the RI Senate offers an important reminder not to lose perspective while contemplating Providence schools’ problems, as Eli Sherman reports for WPRI:

Sen. Ryan Pearson, the task force’s leader, has been crunching numbers to determine how well schools are being funded by both the state and the communities based on the formula, which was enacted in 2010 after years of debate over how the state should parcel out school funding. …

“Providence is not the worst-funded district in the state. Woonsocket beats them by a country mile, and Pawtucket is also badly underfunded,” Pearson, D-Cumberland, told Target 12. Those districts have 70% of the state’s English language learners, he said.

One thing this panel reminds us about is that, to some extent, all of this is a dance about money — who gets it and who doesn’t.  This further reminds us that it isn’t all about money.  At state and local levels, it’s increasingly clear that government officials in Rhode Island have long been back-filling their inability to accomplish our community’s goals with more cash.

That’s not going to work.

 

Featured image: A chart comparing the state appropriation and student enrollment from the RI Senate, as reproduced on WPRI.

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Block Calls for Investigation of Warwick

Ken Block has been one of the most visible reformers looking for change in the State of Rhode Island, and last year, he directed some of his attention toward the City of Warwick, its financial problems, and the questionable way it was handling some of its operations.  That’s when his Warwick-based office received a visit from the fire marshal, conducting a surprise inspection based on an “anonymous, non-specific complaint.”

After waiting a year for Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon to deliver on his promise of a review of that inspection, Block has filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office:

I write today to file a formal complaint with your office regarding the City of Warwick. I believe that I have been the victim of abuse of power and an unfair and possibly illegal search. …

The visits to my office by first the fire department, then the Mayor and lastly the tax office conspired to send me a crystal-clear message: stop causing trouble or we will make your life hard.

Public servants should never abuse the power that is only made possible by the voters and taxpayers that support them. I look to your office as an important check on this sort of abuse.

Reformers are always at a disadvantage when pushing back against government abuse, particularly in a state like Rhode Island, which is incredibly lopsided, politically, and becoming more so, not less.  If the legal system and judiciary won’t act as a check on abuse, then all truly is lost. The same is true if people, like Ken Block, stop pushing back.

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Hope Within a Downward Spiral

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s annual Freedom Index makes clear a stark reality.

The legislative session for 2019 follows a series of bad years for freedom in Rhode Island’s General Assembly, but in some respects, it felt like the year the restraints broke.  Legislators finally gave in to the teachers unions for evergreen contracts and brought municipal workers along with them.  They meddled with local contract negotiations by imposing new overtime rules for firefighters that make some shift schedules financially unworkable.

Abortion became written into state law for the first time, and the lingering bogeyman of eminent domain loomed a little closer, as part of expanded redevelopment powers.  The state also admitted, at long last, that it had no intention of reducing the sales tax rate as soon as Internet purchases began to be taxed.  The fact that the abortion bill required legislative maneuvers to overcome strong opposition was only the icing on the poisoned cake.

These are the fruits of a progressive surge in Rhode Island, propelled by an unhealthy dose of out-of-state money.  Even the self-avowed conservative “firewall” against the progressives, Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, had to allow the flames to get through.  Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, another establishment Democrat whom progressives deride as too conservative, played semantic games to bring abortion to the floor of his chamber for a vote that he knew would pass.

All the while, the growth of the budget continued, bringing Rhode Island up to a $10 billion expense, or roughly $10,000 out of the pocket of every Rhode Islander, every year.

Perhaps the most discouraging thing about this trend is the evidence it provides that the Ocean State has entered an irresistible downward spiral.  As productive residents either find it increasingly impossible to turn their smarts, labor, and investment to their own benefit or find it increasingly clear where the state is headed, they leave.  This simultaneously increases the desperation of insiders to find new ways to maintain their own publicly funded profits and decreases the constituencies for resisting ever-more-radical impositions.

In this condition, the state is reduced to two hopes that might save her short of utter calamity.  By necessity, budgets that are increasingly difficult to flood with cash will force insiders to begin feuding for their shares.  This turmoil may create opportunity for reformers to make inroads.  Such success, however, will be contingent upon their ability to use intelligent organization and cooperation to maximize their influence.  After all, their natural supporters have been fleeing the state for decades, so the average engagement of each of those who remains must be higher than was necessary toward the end of the last century.

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The Familiar Names When Money’s on the Table

The lottery company seeking a 20-year, no-bid contract from the state of Rhode Island has acknowledged its failure to report $776,000 in lobbying expenditures over the course of three months, according to Katherine Gregg in the Providence Journal.  Some of the names involved are very interesting — which may explain some of the reluctance to report them:

In an updated lobbyist-disclosure report filed Wednesday in response to Journal inquiries, IGT disclosed a total of $776,000 in payments to its media strategist and spokesman Bill Fischer’s company, True North Communications; the Providence public relations and media placement company (NAIL), where Gov. Gina Raimondo’s former communications director, Mike Raia, now works; Signature Printing; Big Tony’s Pizza. The total includes $15,000 a month in both August and September to the only named news outlet in IGT’s report, GoLocal 24 LLC.

Raia, remember, was a Raimondo staffer who left her administration-campaign network earlier this year in order to take the small step into a private company that has been working with her office.  Now we find that company involved in the giant financial transaction for which Raia’s former boss has been inappropriately advocating.  Add this to the connection with former IGT Chairman Donald Sweitzer, who has been working with Raimondo in the Democratic Governor’s Association.

Whatever the specifics of the deal, Rhode Islanders can’t have confidence that the governor is acting entirely without self-interest.  It should go out to bid in a conspicuously transparent process.

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The Legislature Needs a Direct Intervention from Voters

Last month, my organization released its 2019 Freedom Index and Legislator Scorecard for the General Assembly.

Sadly, with only 12 of 113 lawmakers scoring above zero, the members of the political class failed to fulfill their promises to help everyday Rhode Islanders. Worse, the 2019 legislative session was an unadulterated assault on individual and economic rights, the totality of which I have not seen before.

Private property rights were corroded through an expanded eminent domain law, which gives local governments unprecedented power to trespass upon and seize private property.

Rights of freedom of association were trampled upon by a new state “individual mandate” — a penalty tax for those who do not buy the specific health insurance that the government wants you to buy, even though the federal government repealed its version of this tax in 2017.

The rights of public employees were abraded. A new law forces non-union members to utilize and pay for union officials in a grievance. The landmark 2018 U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision ruled it a First Amendment violation if workers are forced to pay a union… but Rhode Island lawmakers and union bosses don’t care.

The rights of the unborn were eviscerated via our state’s new unrestricted abortion law. The right to life of a nine-month baby in the womb can now be snuffed-out if the mother claims emotional anguish. Further, if a loved child is killed in the womb by an attack on the mother, the assailant cannot be charged with manslaughter or murder because the baby’s legal status as a human being was also expunged by this brutal anytime-anywhere abortion law.

The health and economic rights of patients recovering from major medical procedures were infringed upon via a counterproductive new tax on legal opioid prescriptions. Such a meaningless knee-jerk reaction to a real problem will do nothing to stop the illegal abuse of opioids, and will only increase out-of-pocket and insurance costs.

The health and privacy rights of adults were violated via enactment of a new law that forces medical providers to hand over your personal medical data to the state, without your permission, so that big brother can monitor whether or not you are undertaking the procedures that the government wants you to take.

All of us suffered a loss of economic freedom after I raised awareness about a state law that required a sales-tax rate cut once Rhode Island started collecting sales taxes on Internet purchases. Lawmakers not only ignored the law, but had the gall to repeal it, while simultaneously increasing the range of e-products that would be subject to the Internet tax.

How much more can we take? Nationally, the economy, jobs creation, and incomes are growing. Yet Rhode Island remains stagnant, continually ranking in the bottom 10 on far too many national economic indexes.

Why? The more freedoms we have, the more prosperity we will enjoy. The constitutional government of our great nation was formed to preserve our freedoms. But in the Ocean State, we reduce freedoms… and we suffer the consequences.

The progressive left and special-interest insiders have greatly diminished our liberties so they can advance their narrow and self-serving agendas. In catering almost exclusively to influential cronies, Rhode Island politicians have lost the trust of We, the People, who are also losing hope for our state.

Because voters have not held lawmakers accountable, Rhode Island has become a less hospitable place to raise a family or build a career. And because our state is not keeping pace with the rest of the country when it comes to jobs and population growth, we are likely to lose a prized U.S. congressional seat following the 2020 census.

A state constitutional convention — a true People’s Convention — may be the only way for concerned and vigilant citizens to regain our rightful voices.

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The Foundation of Human Rights

A British court ruling made international headlines last week when it decided that the Bible is incompatible with human dignity. The case involved a Christian doctor who, out of the conviction of his beliefs, refused to refer to a transgender patient by their desired pronouns. As a result, the doctor was fired.

Should, God forbid, these same sentiments become commonplace in the United States, we should fear that it would mark the beginning of the end of not just religious liberty, but the acknowledgement of universal human rights in general. The most important piece of the philosophy upon which America was founded is the idea that we are endowed by our Creator the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This statement recognizes that human dignity is absolute, not because of the decisions made by judges, rulers, and governors, but because of the dictates of a God that is infinitely more powerful and authoritative.

If the United States, like this British court, at some point decides to throw God out of the picture, we would be forced to come to terms with the fact that government, being the most authoritative force over our lives, is the entity that has the final say over the definition of our rights and dignity. As it currently stands under the precepts of the Declaration, government does not grant us our rights, it dutifully acknowledges them as absolute, universal, and eternal, and protects them accordingly. A society that rejects God’s say in this matter grants this authority to its government, and had better hope and pray it doesn’t change its mind on what human rights should be.

For more thoughts on the issue of human dignity, I have written a more extensive piece on my personal site.

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Making a Tinderbox Out of a City

In response to an ideologically driven attack on a statue of Christopher Columbus in Providence on Columbus Day, this is a terrible idea, as reported by the Associated Press:

Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza told WPRO he’d entertain the idea of moving the statue from the city’s Elmwood neighborhood to the Federal Hill neighborhood, which is known for its Italian American community and Italian restaurants. His spokeswoman later said that any move would require input from the community.

If it isn’t immediately clear why moving the statue to an ethnic enclave would be the wrong response, consider this commentary from Italo-American Club of Rhode Island President Anthony Napolitano, appearing in a WPRI article by Nancy Krause:

While moving the statue may not guarantee it won’t be vandalized, Napolitano said the plan would include putting security cameras in place.

“We’ll watch the statue,” he said.

Because the city apparently can’t, the Italians will defend their statue from the assault of others.

Dividing the city into fortified neighborhoods based on demographic identity would be a disaster waiting to happen.  It would declare a retrogression of our community toward a less-enlightened time.  It would be an acknowledgement that, as a society, we are incapable of the maturity necessary to take a balanced view of history and handle each other as individuals and as peers in the modern world.

We face a lot of work undoing the deterioration of our shared culture, but the easy accommodation of moving statues would be a marker of a step too far.

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Companies Can’t Deny the Math of Employment

According to Nathaniel Meyersohn, of CNN Business, Target’s pledge of a $15 minimum wage came with exactly the consequence that free marketers warned of beforehand:

Two years ago, Target (TGT) said it would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by the end of 2020. The move won praise from labor advocates and put pressure on other companies to also move to $15.

But some store workers say the wage increases are not helping because their hours are falling, making it difficult to keep their health insurance and in some cases to pay their bills.

Those who are skeptical of the free market tend to misunderstand the argument.  The point isn’t that the market will always come up with the best solution for every economic challenge, supplying a guide for morality along the way, but that market forces exist independent of our desires, and we need to recognize them and meddle only warily.

The store’s revenue and competition are what they are.  The value of employees’ labor is what it is.  Unfortunately, there is a good bit of educated guessing to put numbers on these things, but simply pretending revenue will cover an arbitrary number for compensation (or a number determined by something other than the store’s financial position) won’t work.

So, the store increases its minimum rate of pay above where the market would put it.  The pay rate necessary to hire executives doesn’t go down correspondingly.  The cost of products doesn’t go down.  The cost of operations doesn’t go down.  The revenue doesn’t go up.  All that can be done is what the article describes:  Shifts are reconfigured to be more efficient:

Target has overhauled operations at its 1,850 US stores in recent years to create more specialized positions for staffers, who now often focus on a single department, instead of the entire store. Target also eliminated backroom shifts at some stores. Backroom teams used to unload boxes and make sure inventory was in stock, but Target moved some of those employees to the sales floor. The new model is known as “modernization.”

Additionally, some tasks are automated, and managers schedule more carefully in order to avoid employees’ hitting expensive thresholds, like the number of hours required to be eligible for health care.

One gets the impression that progressives believe there’s some pot of money that The Man is withholding from workers.  There isn’t; if there were, competition would leverage it for market share.  Yet, progressives refuse to reevaluate their approach:

Lawmakers are starting to respond to address erratic hours and volatile weekly pay for retail and service workers.

Cities like San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Chicago and others are passing “fair workweek” legislation. In some cases, laws require businesses to offer their existing part-time workers more hours when they become available before hiring additional staff.

In the short term, these schemes will only make things worse for low-wage employees.  In the long term, the more regulatory barriers government creates, the fewer competitors there will be, thus powerful people will be better able to create the pot of money progressives imagined in the beginning.  Putting things that way, however, one must wonder whether getting the hand of big, progressive government in a pot like that wasn’t part of the plan all along.

We’d be better off letting employers and employees determine the balance of what can be paid and what can be accepted as pay.  They — both sides of that negotiation — are the market.

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Pointed Questions About the Anti-Brady URI Professor

On my post about URI professor Kyle Kusz, who became infamous for connecting Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with “white rage and white supremacy,” Joe Smith comments as follows:

Maybe URI should start with how a professor with his doctorate in kinesiology is now qualified to be a tenure track professor of English (or English and gender studies as URI website states)?

There are almost 700 kinesiology majors (Fall 18) at URI, barely 100 English, and not even a dozen gender studies majors — why is URI moving someone with a doctorate in kinesiology to English (maybe because he wasn’t really teaching, I don’t know, actual kinesiology) and not hiring English professors who are more focused on teaching literacy skills that are career focused (like how to write if you are a scientist or business person as opposed to teaching some obscure/niche topic)?

It’s one of the problems with higher education that teaching has taken second nature to publishing (for publishing sake in many cases like the Sokal Squared hoax shows). I’m sure the professor needs a book chapter to advance his tenure and/or promotion file. Maybe it will be assigned reading for his class (no conflict of interest there).

The main problem is not the counter balance of ideological representation, but that our higher education board (although isn’t URI free from that now?) never holds a discussion on — I don’t know — actual teaching and learning metrics. Like page 3 of URI’s benchmark survey of freshmen and seniors shows, URI is average to below average for effective teaching.

Maybe that’s comforting, Justin. If they are teaching ideological slanted material, it’s clearly not in an effective manner.

I’m afraid I can’t take the proffered comfort because of a sneaking suspicion that the results for effective teaching indicate that the ideological slant makes the supposed content of the courses roll off the table.  Whether students recognize that the slant is the problem or learn to take it for granted as simply true is still an open question.

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What’s in… What’s out…10/11/19

What’s in…

1. It’s  the Columbus Day Festival everyone! The Federal Hill Commerce  Association is kicking off the festival on Saturday, October 12, 2019, with an opening ceremony  in DePasquale Plaza at 12 noon.  The annual Columbus Day parade will be Sunday at 11:00 a.m. 

The Federal Hill Commerce Association is celebrating the 28th Annual Columbus Day Festival on historic Federal Hill from October 12-14, 2019. The Association is pleased to announce this year’s festival will feature three entertainment stages each day. Additionally, dozens of food and retail vendors, the annual parade, games and amusement rides will line Atwells Avenue.

Don’t forget to try the Veal Parmesan sandwiches and the cannoli.

2. The Scituate Art Festival.  One of the most anticipated events is happening this weekend from Saturday, October 12–14th!  The Scituate Art Festival is a Rhode Island tradition over the Columbus Day weekend.  The art festival will feature 200 art and craft exhibitors, select antique vendors, a food court serving regional specialties, and entertainment.

3. The Prince of Providence.  The stage play about Buddy Cianci at Trinity Repertory theater is a hit! Who would have thought that the book written by former Providence Journal reporter Mike Stanton would be a play and maybe a movie someday?  Well, anyone who knew Buddy Cianci knew it!  Buddy’s life was like a roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs, turns and twists and always a thrill! Whether you liked him or hated him, you have to admit he knew how to draw a crowd.  Even in death, he is still getting an audience.  Those of us who knew him and worked for him remember that Buddy could always put on a show.  So, it’s no surprise he is still entertaining in Providence with this production. And yes, I do think he’d be happy to be getting all this attention!

What’s out…

1. The Mattiello campaign investigation.  In what appears to be another investigation by state authorities, certain individuals have been subpoenaed to the grand jury regarding the 2016 campaign mailer supporting the candidacy of Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello. No one seems to know what this is all about, except for the people doing the investigation.  Mattiello spokesperson, Patti Doyle, has said  that they have put this behind them and are moving forward.  Stay tuned to this ongoing story.

2. Fish kill.. Providence.  A city project to repair the Canada Pond Dam is believed to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of fish in the body of water that sets the line between Providence and North Providence. The city was required to lower the level of water in the pond to make repairs to the dam’s low level outlet.  Such a shame! One has to wonder if this could have been prevented in any.

3. The Matt Lauer saga. The former Today co-host penned a letter that made TV news this week, when he spoke out about his alleged sexual misconduct with a former employee.  Lauer went into descriptive detail of the affair, which he said was consensual.  After telling everyone what kind of sex they had, he also stated that it was an affair that he had with a former work associate and completely consensual.  The alleged victim has had her picture plastered all over the news as well, saying she was raped by Matt Lauer.  In the middle of all this is Lauer’s former wife and children, who have to bear the embarrassment of Lauer’s actions.  He somehow makes it sound that if it’s consensual, it’s okay.  The fact that his actions publicly humiliated his wife and children don’t seem to be a factor for him.  His wife responded through a publicist that she only has the best interests of her beautiful children in mind and no further comment.  What else could she say?  Lauer has said enough.  He should go away now because he really is making himself look worse than before, if that’s possible.

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Annette Lloyd: Crushed Freedom Inspires Another Escape Plan

Rhode Island’s ban on flavored vaping shows a mentality that Rhode Islanders increasingly want to escape.

I’m constantly confused by politicians who think that their election also comes with honorary degrees in medicine, education, commerce, and the like… that upon their election, they have a right to appoint themselves as doctor, teacher, etc., to their constituents. Most of our elected officials are purely bought and sold tools of one lobby or another. They know no more than you or me.

Informed adults don’t need this kind of micro-supervision. Vaping has allowed me to get away from cigarettes, and I imagine the hundreds of thousands or millions of vapers in New England resent having their legal sources of vaping suddenly cut off with no compelling research into the public health effects of the habit.

This ban is a terrible trend by our governor. What she isn’t considering are the local small businesses she is destroying. There are plenty of online sources (for now) which will take more money out of RI. And, even more crucially, those who use vaping as a safer alternative to smoking will be forced to return to tobacco products. Maybe Governor Raimondo has missed the tax dollars from each pack of cigarettes purchased in RI.

The messages she is sending, of government overreach and a total lack of consideration of the ramifications of her edict, are yet another nail in this beautiful state’s casket. The R and I are, increasingly, standing for Really Idiotic.

Once our son is done with high school and Boy Scouts, we are fleeing. In search of freedom and some self-respect.

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The Pressure on Teacher Salaries

Daniel DiSalvo of the Manhattan Institute posits that legacy pension costs are suppressing teacher pay in a report out today:

Across the nation, only seven states had pension plans that were 90% funded, none of them in the states experiencing the most teacher unrest in the past two years. To make up for past underfunding, contributions to current pension systems are a form of paying off debt. In Arizona, for example, 82.7% of the employer contribution to the teacher pension system goes to pay off unfunded liabilities. In Colorado, it is 81.4%; in Oklahoma, 77.3%; in Kentucky, 74.4%; and in West Virginia, 81.8%. The national average is about 70 cents on the dollar of the employer contribution going to pay off debt. …

Chad Aldeman has demonstrated that teacher retirement benefits cost twice as much as those for other workers as a percentage of total compensation (10.3% versus 5.3%). Furthermore, teachers receive about 25% of their total compensation in the form of benefits, especially health insurance and retirement benefits, compared with about 13% for private-sector workers. As Figure 6 indicates, benefits are an increasing slice of school employee compensation costs.

According to Figure 6 of the report, benefits have increased from 20% of total compensation for teachers nationwide to 28%.  This is important for three reasons:  For one, long-term benefits like pensions and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) only apply in full for employees who stay put, which creates the risk of losing their value and leaves the employees less mobility in their careers.

For another, state and local governments tend to deal with these legacy costs in part by reducing them for new employees, which means the cost of older teachers suppresses the pay of younger teachers, but the latter will not receive the full benefits even if they do stay put.  For a third, people don’t tend to price in the value of their retirements very well when it comes to their perceptions of their jobs, which leaves them feeling disgruntled.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, whose data contributes to the Manhattan Institute report, public school teachers in Rhode Island have seen their salaries fall continually since 1990.  There is only so much money in budgets to pay for the services employees provide, and when huge amounts of it are going to pay for benefits earned in the past, only so much remains to cover pay in the present.

Actuarial reports from the state’s pension fund tell the story.  In 2005, the state and municipalities were paying 22% of total payroll toward teacher pensions, or $185 million.  By 2018, that was up to 25.25%, or $260 million, plus a 1% payment into defined-contribution plans, bringing the total to $271 million.  This 46% increase in the cost of pensions happened despite the pension reforms that set Rhode Island politics ablaze.

Any discussion of compensation in the public sector must consider these factors, but people often don’t do so even with their own income.  That makes it easy for politicians and special interests to stoke division and unrest.

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An Imbalance in the Testimony Competition

Katherine Gregg’s article providing some insight into how political consultants helped IGT get its employees to the State House to testify on its proposed 20-year, no-bid deal with the state provides tremendous insight into the process:

First came a “Dear Colleagues” email from a senior vice president in IGT’s Global Brand, Marketing and Communications division. Provided to The Journal by an employee who asked to remain anonymous, it said, in part:

“As you are aware, this is a critical week for our RI lottery agreement …. Select employees are testifying at the House hearing. But we need as many as possible employees at the State House on Thursday October 3, 2019 …. We are asking employees to bring friends and family along as well.”

The series of emails informs employees that they’ll be able to dress down that day and maybe work from home the next.  It promises reimbursement for parking, instructions on how to secure a seat in the hearing room and move around the State House, and assures participants of a free dinner.

Anybody who has made a go at grassroots organization at the State House will see the value of this — and the imbalance it indicates between special interests and the public at large.  For the public at large, testifying on legislation is a bear.  Where do they park?  When should they arrive?  What should they wear?  The hearing rooms are either frigid or sweltering.  There’s no food other than a vending machine tucked in the hallway (which is none too modern, to my recollection).

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with a private company hiring political consultants and giving employees incentive to support the organization’s mission.  Still, IGT appears to have required managers located in Rhode Island to attend and to have provided amenities of some value to all employees.  At what point should these things be reportable as lobbying activities?  I remember when unpaid Tea Party members were registering as lobbyists simply so they wouldn’t be tripped up.

My preference is to minimize all such regulation of political activity, but consistency and equal application are crucial if we’re going to have it.

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Candidacy as a Corruption Shield

A column by Marc Thiessen in the New York Post and a related post by Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit raise an interesting implication.  Here’s Thiessen:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking foreign heads of state or intelligence officials to cooperate with an official Justice Department investigation.

As George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley explains, “It is not uncommon for an attorney general, or even a president, to ask foreign leaders to assist with ongoing investigations. Such calls can shortcut bureaucratic red tape, particularly if the evidence is held, as in this case, by national security or justice officials.”

Taking opponents of President Trump at their word, then, what is the complaint?  Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Joe Biden, whose family is the subject of the investigation, is running for president.  This presents the impression of the current president attempting to dig up dirt on an opponent.

Note one thing, here:  President Trump didn’t put this in the news; a “whistleblower” did, in order to damage him.  The Bidens’ curious activities in the Ukraine may never have become an issue unless there turned out to be evidence of actual corruption on their part.

Put all that aside, though, for the sake of a deeper, nonpartisan question.  Should we be wary of a standard by which it is more difficult to investigate people because they’re running for offices of public trust?  If President Trump had asked the president of the Ukraine for help investigating some corporate interest — an oil tycoon, for instance — it’s hard to imagine very much outcry, especially from the side of the aisle that periodically cites the International Criminal Court as a legitimate authority over Americans.

Of course, this is all academic, to some extent, because we know we’re observing a one-way standard.  Because they’ve done it already, we know that a left-wing president or candidate favored by the news media could work closely with foreign governments to dig up dirt on their opposition and, as Thiessen notes, it would hardly rate as news coverage.  One side’s impeachable offense is the other side’s “just the way it’s done.”

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Is Government Over-Reacting With Vape Bans?

Are the decisions by the governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts to halt the sale of vaping products (which will destroy jobs and small businesses) fueled by solid research or inspired by politically-correct activism?

While we recognize that this may be a sensitive topic to some people, there are many pro-liberty arguments that can be made on why these vape bans are wrong. It is deeply concerning that Governor Raimondo used her office to unilaterally ban a class of products.

If we tolerate this ban, what product will be the next target?

This week the Center co-signed a national letter urging the Trump administration’s FDA not to proceed with its proposed regulatory crack-down on what many see as a burgeoning and life-saving industry.

A new post on the Ocean State Current from millennial writer Isaac Whitney gives four compelling arguments on why these bans will actually cause more harm than good.

Make sure to read them now!

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Addressing the Toll of the First-Responding Job

About a decade ago, Michael Morse’s writing and conversations with him enriched my perspective on first responders and forced me to give real thought to my political reaction to government labor unions.  I think it was over lunch, once, that he presented me with the explanation of a boy growing up in a setting where unions were just part of the natural order of life and associated with adults whom he loved and admired.

Church, family, community, union.  Out of such things was society structured and made coherent.  I don’t remember whether it was his image or one my imagination applied while we spoke, but I see a picture of him as a boy at an Independence Day barbecue with the dads wearing t-shirts for their departments or their unions and talking shop.  Being men.

Watching a Katie Davis segment on WJAR about suicide among firefighters that featured Michael, I thought of that image.  Part of the problem, as he puts it, is a masculine stoicism.  For the most part, these jobs are held by men, and men just deal with things.  Being men.

We hear, periodically, that they won’t seek the help they need, and that’s undoubtedly true, and it’s an area in need of correction.  But one can’t help but wonder whether (in a manner of speaking) they used to get the help they needed without asking — in church, family, community, and union.  It used to be possible to be admired for strength in a society that had faith in existential purpose, instilled respect from one’s family, and provided a place in the community.

So much of what made life solid back then has softened.

Some of that is to the better.  Trust in Truth shouldn’t be a license for bigotry.  A mandate for familial respect shouldn’t be a license for abuse.  And community hierarchies can be stifling.  Still, how many important structures have we torn down trying to get at the lingering discomforts of social evolution’s slow progress?

In arguments about unionization, one will often hear from somebody on the “pro” side that we must reinforce unions because they are one of the last remaining redoubts for a good middle-class income.  Such arguments avoid consideration of the underlying forces that are bringing the change.  Sometimes hunkering down and holding one’s position is not the best solution because the ground underneath you is disappearing.

That said, life’s other strongholds feel to be crumbling under the pressure of inexorable forces, so the impulse must be strong to rally to one that feels as if it could, maybe, with some grit (and helpful legislation) be salvaged.  From a certain perspective, people (like me) who argue that unions have outlived their social use and become part of a corrupt system, well, we might appear somewhat similar to those who go after the church, the family, and the close-knit community.

With all the change we face on an almost-daily basis, nowadays, we need to figure out a better way to hold on to what’s important in our institutions.  Maybe it will be different for each one.  (My leaning would be toward a recovery of church and family, a reworking of how we see community, and a replacement of unions, but initial leanings could be wrong.)

In this context, though, I’d put in a word for stoicism.  Being men.  It could be that “toughen up and deal with it” only seems like a callous cliché because it has been drained of its meaning.  What does it mean to “deal with it” other than to shut up and be taken advantage of by others?  What does it mean to be tough?  What does it mean to be men?  Answering these questions could be a form of social therapy.

Yes, we need to provide those who come to us at our worst moments with the support they need to handle what they see, but we may find that the cultural sense of structure and meaning that we’ve steadily belittled cannot be replaced with government policy.  It must be revived.

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Correcting Higher Education as a Funding Mechanism for Nonsense

The story of the University of Rhode Island professor who found it worth his while to diminish the Patriots’ star quarterback Tom Brady raises questions about the role of higher education — and especially public higher education:

Titled “Making American White Men Great Again: Tom Brady, Donald Trump, and the Allure of White Male Omnipotence in Post-Obama America,” the chapter attempts to provide evidence to back up Kusz’s suggestion that, like President Donald Trump, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has gained popularity due to the “latest wave of white rage and white supremacy” that he says developed since the Obama presidency alongside a “disturbing racial reaction among white conservatives in response to the idea that a black man would be [president].” …

Kusz zeroes in on “the complex racial, gender, and class meanings that have been articulated with Brady’s body and his performances of white masculinity in the context of a backlash against the Obama presidency” and of “Trumpism,” which he claims is also rooted in both race and gender.

As a socio-economic matter, the question is whether society benefits by creating a sinecure for somebody to become an expert “on the intersection between sport, media, and contemporary cultural politics.”  As a niche specialty, the answer is probably “yes.”  The dominant culture benefits from challenges around its fringes, with radicals prodding our assumptions and highlighting our weaknesses.

The problem arises when the radicals become the dominant culture, as they have in higher education and, increasingly, the rest of elite society.  They become like an autoimmune disorder, attacking the society’s healthy attributes as well as its unhealthy ones.

This points to a practical question:  How should a university deal with a figure like Professor Kusz?  We can hazard to estimate that his new-found fame hurts the university’s reputation and undermines good will among the public — and it is, after all, a public university.  When budget time comes around, the university’s will be that much more difficult to sell because people are associating the funding with nonsense like Kusz’s scholarship.

One answer, perhaps, can be found in the identity politics activism of the past.  We may not like it, but that is how the doyens of academia think of things, and if Mr. Kusz’s work were pointed in the opposite ideological direction, we know very well what would be happening.  If (and it would be a big “if”) he managed to keep his job in the uproar, activists would demand new collegiate structures to advance their own causes.  There would be demands for more money for multicultural studies, new dedicated office space, new professorships, and so on.

Maybe demanding the same for more-traditional or conservative views would provide some corrective.  At the very least, it would give a sizable portion of the population a little comfort that they aren’t completely alienated from their state’s higher education system.

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What’s in..What’s out…10/4/19

What’s in…

1. Twin River raises the stakes. In what appears to be the gaming war of the last decade, Twin River Casino has brought in another gaming giant to help them in their quest to bid on the “no bid,” 20-year contract with IGT. Intralot has joined the Twin River team and will be partners with them in their quest, according to written testimony submitted by the CEO of Camelot Lottery Solutions to the House Finance Committee on Thursday. Camelot and Intralot have partnered together before in Illinois and are use to working together. Intralot was also one of the three companies that Governor Gina Raimondo said were nationally qualified to do this contract work. This new news has raised the stakes, and it will be interesting to see if legislators change their minds on the no-bid deal. Twin River has consistently been throwing a monkey wrench into the governor’s plans to continue with IGT control. The governor remains Lear and steadfast in her support of IGT saying Rhode Island can’t afford to lose the 1,000 jobs from IGT and that it is only company qualified to fulfill this contract. Meanwhile, Twin River has hired many lobbyist to sing its praises at the State House.

2. IGT employees enter the debate. As part of this struggle, IGT’s employees have done commercials touting their employment and expressing concern about losing their jobs. If Twin River were to take over this contract, would they rehire the workers of IGT? Would 1,000 jobs be in jeopardy? There is a lot on the table in this contract, not only the loss of jobs, but the ability to run a first-class operation. Twin River Casino pales in comparison to other neighboring states’ casinos, like Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, and Encore. They have yet to say what their plans are to be more competitive. Now they want to embark on another endeavor to take over the IGT contract. In a Star Trek move, to go where they have not been before, Twin River wants a chance to compete in an area that has exclusively been the work of IGT for over 20 years. Is the RI General Assembly willing to take a chance on this new venture or will it rely on the old motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?  Time will tell a story of Gaming Wars not only between two gaming giants, but also between the powerful lobbyists hired by both companies, who are being paid thousands of dollars to fight for this billion-dollar contract. Stay tuned as this story develops.

3. Gloria Gemma Illuminations of life is this weekend. This weekend, a full water fire will be lit in downtown in Providence on Saturday night in commemoration of the Gloria Gemma breast cancer awareness events this whole weekend. Saturday night’s ceremony of the torch bearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the back of the State House, facing the Providence Place Mall. For more info visit the organization’s Web site.

What’s out…

1. Fatal Federal Hill stabbing in hookah bar marks a trend. A city man was fatally stabbed late Wednesday inside a Federal Hill hookah lounge, the latest incident of violence connected to the city’s nightlife scene.  Troy Pine, 46, of Providence, was identified as the twelfth homicide victim of the year and the fifth who was fatally stabbed. Last year, the Providence police reported no stabbing deaths.

In Wednesday night’s stabbing, two patrons of Nara Lounge, at 248 Atwells Ave., were involved in a confrontation. Bystanders broke up the stabbing, Pine stumbled outside, where police found him on the sidewalk. He was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital but died shortly after. No arrests had been made as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

These incidents are all too frequent in our city. This weekend and next weekend have major events in our city and on Federal Hill. Federal Hill business owners do not want the patrons to be afraid to go there. One solution may be to close all bars and clubs at 1:00 a.m. as Cranston and other neighboring cities do. The 2:00 a.m. closing may be a thing if the past. There would be no more traveling here from other clubs late night after their clubs close at 1:00. Drastic times call for change. Patrons and residents would feel better if they knew these changes were being made to stop the violence.

Federal Hill continues to be a great restaurant business section of Providence and deserves the city’s full attention in this matter. Meanwhile, we as patrons of Federal Hill and its businesses, should not let a bunch of lowlife punks ruin what our ancestors worked for all their lives. Keep supporting the businesses and restaurants of Federal Hill. They need our support more than ever. It’s our city, our neighborhoods and our friends’ businesses. Stand tall to speak up for our community.

2. The vaping crisis.  Over 1,009 vaping-related illnesses have happened across the country.  Various states are setting their own executive orders banning various vaping products.  In Rhode Island, Governor Gina Raimondo has banned flavored vaping products. Her ban did not go as far as Governor Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, but it is a start.  The Center for Disease Control has warned that vaping can be dangerous and issued warnings.  The vaping crisis has affected teens mostly, and all warnings should be adhered to.  Some opponents of the ban fear that they will rely on smoking again.  Both have their health consequences.  Stay tuned for more information as we learn the source of illness of the many who were effected.

 

Featured image by Dave Amadio.

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An E-Cig Ban Throws Caution (and Liberty) to the Wind

The Trump Administration’s concern for the recent vaping craze is understandable and its plan to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes is well-intentioned, but this action could end up inflicting far more harm than good. I will readily admit that frequent e-cigarette use ultimately has its fair share of negative effects, the least of which being addiction, if nothing else. But a massive ban of these products fails to take several points into consideration:

1. An e-cig ban would not target the main culprit of recent illnesses and deaths.

The CDC recently reported that they believe the vast majority of vaping-related can be attributed to the use of unregulated THC oils with e-cigs, not the products themselves. If this is the case, a wholesale ban of vaping products would completely fail to achieve its purpose. Such a move would eliminate the vessel rather than the substance inflicting the actual harm.

2. We should not get rid of a less-harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes.

While the actual effects of vaping are still being investigated, what is quite clear is that at worst, e-cigs present a far less-deadly alternative to analog cigarettes. As of right now, just over a dozen individuals within the United States have died due to vaping-related complications. No doubt these circumstances are cause for alarm, but the casualties from e-cigs pale in comparison to the CDC’s reported 480,000 annual deaths related to smoking standard cigarettes. With this in mind, it is clear that not only does a vaping ban target the wrong culprit, it also targets a practice that can have drastically beneficial results by getting individuals to turn from far more harmful forms of smoking.

3. A vaping ban would harm countless small businesses.

Andrew Van Dam of the Washington Post describes how small vape stores comprise the fastest growing industry among retail businesses in the United States. Most of these shops are run by a total of less than ten workers, and the growing number of them have been thriving over the past decade. The piece illustrates how vape shops make up nearly two percent of area business in some regions. Cracking down on e-cigs would undoubtedly deal a crushing blow to these organizations in a move that could even cause rippling effects throughout these local economies.

4. An e-cig prohibition infringes on personal liberty.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the conversation that has been disregarded in this conversation is the importance of allowing individual citizens to make their own personal decisions. Even if our worst fears about vaping are confirmed, the biggest question we must ask is whether government ought to have the authority to dictate what its citizens can and cannot put in their bodies. In making these types of decisions we must remember that the role of government is not to ensure that we live long, healthy lives, but rather to uphold our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. This isn’t to say that every harmful endeavor should be legalized. But when addressing the issue of vaping, we must consider whether a massive crackdown sets a precedent that alters the norms of our republic.

The recent trends of mass e-cig use should not be ignored. However, taking such quick and drastic measures are reckless and lack foresight. I would urge any leaders contemplating a vaping ban to consider the data we have available, wait for more research to be conducted, and think of the long-term consequences of such actions. Most importantly, the thought of expanding the role of government in regulating the lives of everyday Americans must be approached with extreme caution.

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Freedom… From the Progressive Point of View

Perhaps the most clarifying statement in Rhode Island politics, recently, came from one of the candidates now involved with Matt Brown’s Political Cooperative (which, despite the name, is not an alt-country band):

“Thought I may be the epitome of the American dream I cannot sit around and watch while many of my brothers and sisters are denied a shot at that very dream,″ said Jonathan Acosta, tracing his own story from “first generation American born to undocumented migrants from Colombia″ to the Ivy League.

“I believe that we are not free until we have dismantled structural inequality, developed sustainable clean energy, enacted a $15 minimum wage that pays equal pay for equal work, extended healthcare for all, provide[d] affordable housing, ensured quality public education starting at Pre-K, undergone campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, and implemented sensible gun control,″ said Acosta, running for the Senate seat currently held by Elizabeth Crowley, D-Central Falls.

So, to Mr. Acosta, we’re not free until we’ve taken from some categories of people to give to others, limited people’s energy options to benefit fashionable technologies, forbidden employers and employees from setting a mutually agreeable value on work to be done, taken money from some people in order to pay for others’ health care (as defined by a vote-buying government) and/or put price controls on what providers can charge, placed restrictions on who can live where and what they can build, tightened the regulation of politics with limits on the donations and privacy of those who become politically active, and reduced the rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

If that doesn’t match your understanding of “freedom,” you’re not alone.  Indeed, by its mission, this “cooperative” is cooperating against anybody whose understanding of freedom differs, because it cannot possibly cooperate with anybody who disagrees.  You simply can’t hold a definition of freedom that doesn’t have satisfactory outcomes for the interest groups that progressives have targeted.

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The Solution to Selective Admissions at Classical

One common observation that conservatives make about the progressive approach to solving problems is that it attempts to fix things with the most direct, immediate means possible without considering what is therefore given up.  Complaints that Classical High School in Providence isn’t inclusive of English-language learners because its admissions test is in English fall into this category:

… for the ever-increasing number of Providence students who are learning English as a second language, the barrier for entry to Classical is remarkably high. The admissions exam is offered only in English, despite nearly a third of the district’s 24,000 students being designated as English learners. …

[City Council President Sabina] Matos, who grew up in the Dominican Republic and learned English while attending Rhode Island College, said having an admissions exam that is only in one language “perpetuates the harmful stereotype that non-English speakers aren’t as capable or as intelligent as their English-speaking peers.”

“This English-only practice systematically discriminates against students who may possess a mastery in areas like math, science, or history but are barred for simply not speaking the ‘right’ language,” she said.

The first thought arising from this article is:  Why not work to ensure that students are able to take tests in English by the time they apply to high school?  That way, testing in English won’t be as much of a concern.

Of course, some portion of students won’t quite get there, perhaps because they moved to the country too recently.  That possibility, however, points to a second thought:  Why is it obviously wrong to have a school that can help students who excel without having to overcome a language barrier, too?  Maybe it is, but shouldn’t the argument at least be made, rather than falling back on assertions about discrimination?

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Progressive Regunberg Defames the Working Man

Maybe it’s an echo of my angry-young-man laborer days, but statements like this continue to grate on me:

Former state Rep. J. Aaron Regunberg issued a statement Friday on behalf of Never Again Action: “We are glad to hear that a grand jury is looking into this incident. Our hope is that justice will be served. That means holding accountable the individuals who attacked peaceful protesters with pepper spray and a truck. It also means holding the Wyatt accountable as an institution.”

He continued: “These were Wyatt employees, in uniform and on the job. If they were willing to assault peaceful protesters, in public and on camera, we know that this violence is just a shadow of what happens behind the walls.”

Let’s review who the speaker is, here.  Regunberg graduated from an Ivy League school.  Since graduation, his work appears to extend to progressive activist and legislator.  When he failed to win the lieutenant governor seat (for which he ran with copious help from out-of-state funders), the progressive mayor of Providence gave him an $80,000-a-year job as, it seems, a professional activist to tide him over until he started at Harvard Law.

In short, this is a guy with a golden ticket who is going to be just fine in life.  And here he is saying that he knows the working stiffs at Wyatt are perpetrating acts of violence against the inmates.  Worse, he’s doing so as an official statement in the state’s major newspaper.  Even worse, I haven’t seen anybody, anywhere call him out on it.

Meanwhile, here’s a news tidbit from another prison in Rhode Island:

A guard in the high security unit of Rhode Island’s state prison has been assaulted by an inmate. …

The guard was taken to the hospital, treated for a wound and released.

My 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Murphy, taught me not to make accusative statements about people or organizations without more-substantial evidence than “everybody knows.”  Apparently, it’s possible to get through Brown University without learning that lesson, and apparently, it’s possible to rise to the top of progressives’ activist network while exploiting that educational deficit.

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Ocean State Exodus: We Are Losing Productive People

No single indicator should be of more importance to lawmakers and civic leaders than whether or not our state is retaining and attracting talented and productive people.

The opportunity for prosperity is a primary factor in the migration of families from state to state. In this regard, our Ocean State is more than just losing the race. Far too many Rhode Islanders are fleeing our state, leaving a swath of empty chairs at our family dinner tables. We are seeing a full on exodus out of our beloved home state.

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Why are things this way? Rhode Island is merely maintaining its overall ranking of 47th worst in the country on the Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) developed by our Center.

With the eighth highest property taxes in the country, a major encumbrance within an overall anti-taxpayer and anti-business climate that has dropped Rhode Island into bottom-10 rankings in a number of critical national indexes, the excessive costs of collectively bargained government services can be directly linked to this statewide problem. Rhode Island taxpayers may be paying up to $1.1 billion too much for collectively bargained government services.

Read more now on RIFreedom.org about the excessive costs of collective bargaining that are driving people from our state. Remember, things do not have to be this way in Rhode Island, but it is up to each of us to change them.

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Where Might an Objective Morality Come From?

The essay to which Isaac Whitney linked this morning comes right up to a question that is almost so obviously right at the center of questions about morality that nobody ever asks it:  If people are coming to their own conclusions about morality, where are they coming from?

Writes Isaac:

In one of my favorite quotes, Thomas Sowell says, “…each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late” (162). If, God forbid, the death of freedom should arrive, its death will be a result of our refusal to civilize these little barbarians. Our downfall will begin with our fear of infringing upon their personal autonomy, and our playing into the individualistic American gospel that says we must be free to choose our own path, find our own morality, and speak our own truth.

If everyone were rational, you’d expect this notion of radical autonomy to overlap with small-government and religious perspectives.  One oddity is that those who most vociferously proclaim that society has no right to impose a moral code also tend to emphasize the use of our most compulsory institution — government — to solve problems and disputes.  Another oddity is that you would expect people who trust in our ability to discern morality would also believe that there must be some form of deity dispensing it.  The opposite seems to be the case.

Of course, people don’t tend to be rational, especially in these areas of thought.  We tend to come to the conclusions that we want to be correct and then fit arguments to that image.

Consequently, as Isaac suggests, we risk coming un-moored.  Whereas conservatives would suggest that God defines an objective morality toward which we should guide each other by the least coercive means feasible, radicals object to any coercion at all (except where they want it to be total) on the grounds that there is no objective standard (except the one they trust us all to follow).

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