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An Unconstitutional Palm Slap

Of all the deprivations that Rhode Islanders generally and Catholic Rhode Islanders specifically have had to endure during the past month or so, the inability to collect palms on Palm Sunday is not the biggest.  That said, it is critically important to note that it was patently unconstitutional for Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo to direct that they not be provided:

Cranston Police Chief Michael Winquist confirmed Sunday that officers responded to St. Patrick’s Church after someone called to report palms were being given out.

“It turned out that the doors to the church were left open with a basket of palms left in the vestibule for parishioners to take one,” Winquist said in an email. “No clergy were present.”

He said police did not take any action, as Gov. Gina Raimondo’s directive not to hand out palms did not come with an official executive order.

Raimondo announced Friday there would be no distribution of palms for the holiday, which marks the start of Holy Week for Christians.

St. Patrick’s is not part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, so the suggestion of Bishop Thomas Tobin that parishes should comply with the “directive” did not apply.  Within his scope, however, it would have been preferable for Bishop Tobin to assert that the ban on palms was his decision, not the governor’s, rather than just cede his authority to her.

If the First Amendment means anything when it comes to religion, it means that the governor cannot decide what religious implements are “essential.”  Fundamentally, that is the government’s chief executive implementing her own religious worldview as the law (and her support for abortion proves that her worldview is not Catholic).  Flowers from the grocer are permitted.  Beer is permitted.  Delivery of newspapers is permitted.  Pickup of sporting goods, office supplies, and more is permitted.

In other words, Governor Raimondo isn’t only saying that palm branches distributed through churches are not “essential,” but that they are uniquely dangerous.  Satan, no doubt, agrees.

This is a travesty against our Constitutional rights. The governor could ask religious leaders and individuals to (please) consider whether a particular implement or ritual is “essential,” but she cannot direct that it is or isn’t.  If religious Rhode Islanders don’t protect this liberty during our slow-rolling crisis, we may never recover it.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: The Executive Takes All

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for April 6, included talk about:

  • The governor’s tough tone
  • Unemployment skyrockets
  • The General Assembly shirks its duties
  • Bad optics from Cranston mayoral candidate
  • Tyranny in Tiverton

I’ll be on again Monday, April 13, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Social Distancing Between States: RI Arrests Massachusetts Golfers

Welcome to the world of social distancing.  As a person-to-person strategy to slow a contagion, it’s absolutely reasonable, but it’s starting to sound like an ominous act by government to tear us apart.

Meet three golfers trying to walk the line between their state of Massachusetts, which closed golf courses, and the neighboring state of Rhode Island, which closed the state to outsiders who can’t quarantine for 14 days:

An Attleboro man and his two golfing partners are being charged with playing a round in Rhode Island in violation of a ban on people coming into the state for nonwork-related reasons. …

They were apprehended at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant, where police say the men changed cars to drive to the course in a vehicle with Rhode Island license plates.

Taunton and Attleboro, where the men are from, are part of the regular lives of Rhode Islanders.  The quarantine restrictions don’t apply to Rhode Islanders who travel across the border or to people heading in either direction for work.  In this case, the three of them came to Rhode Island to give a local business some money and to walk around a giant outdoor lawn for a few hours.

Perhaps in our current environment this outcome is a matter for reasonable debate (although some would surely say no debate is allowed and I’m wrong), but this seems to me to be an indication that we’re beyond the reasonable line.

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Move the Date for Declaration of Candidacy

As state and local governments take action to postpone various elections and grant themselves emergency powers (and abuse those powers), the people should keep an eye on an important deadline: the declaration of candidacy.

The state forces citizens who might run for office to declare their intentions by June 22-24 in an election year.  While this gives plenty of time for campaigning (and opposition research by incumbents) and prevents political surprises, it also means that voters may not be able to hold elected officials accountable for anything that happens between late June and November, especially if the incumbents are running unopposed.

Even if the coronavirus crisis subsides in time to make it reasonable for people to collect signatures following their declaration, the public is still at a disadvantage.  When it comes to potential candidates, they can’t be out there right now learning the landscape and getting a feel for their chances.  When it comes to incumbents, the public is too anxious and preoccupied, right now, to adequately assess their actions (or lack thereof), and this atmosphere may remain until well after the COVID-19 cloud lifts.

As much as government may have a fair claim to increased flexibility during this time, the public deserves an opportunity for increased accountability as things get back to normal.  If parties can replace their candidates into September (as we witnessed when Bob Healey jumped in at the last minute as the Moderate Party candidate for governor in 2014), the people should be able to have until then to decide whether incumbents deserve competition or other declared candidates are satisfactory as the only other choices.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: Remarkable & Worrying Times (With Hope!)

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 16, included talk about:

  • The Virus and the politicians
  • Britt bends the insider rules
  • RI Women for Freedom & Prosperity
  • Closing the GOP primary

I’ll be on again Monday, March 23, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: They Value What They Promote

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 9, included talk about:

  • Unionist Pat Crowley’s promotion.
  • More grand jurying around the speaker.
  • Gina and her endorsements.
  • Minimum wage.
  • Anti-Second Amendment tax honesty.

I’ll be on again Monday, March 16, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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The Long Pursuit of Rights

So, you believe some government agency is violating your civil rights.  What do you do?  You file a civil rights lawsuit, you make the argument, a judge gives it some thought, and there you go.  Sounds simple, right?

Well, there’s a little more to it than that — time, not the least.

Back in November, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity partnered with the Liberty Justice Center (LJC) to challenge unconstitutional requirements for the disclosure of donors to issue advocacy organizations.  As the press release notes, “this invasive and unconstitutional law exposes citizens to possible retaliation and harassment for simply exercising their free speech rights.”

About a month ago, Rhode Island’s attorney general, Peter Neronha, filed a 20-page motion to dismiss the case.  And now a month later, as announced in another press release, the Center and LJC have submitted their response.

This is a long, drawn out process that leads one despairing of the capacity of the average citizen to defend his or her rights.  Lawyers must either be paid or convinced to donate their time, and those whose rights are being violated must simply live with it for months and years.

If that’s the process, then that’s the process, but it’d be much better for legislators to keep their constituents’ rights in mind when creating laws.

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A Law with Red Flags

Mr. Calenda was a prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office for many years. Now in private practice he describes how the “Red Flag Law” has been implemented over the last 18 months and its implications on the constitutional protections of due process and unlawful search and seizure. He also discusses the “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazine” bills introduced once again in this current session of the Legislature.

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Casimiro and Vella-Wilkinson on Pending Legislation

Guests: Julie Casimiro, State Representative, H-D 31, rep-Casimiro@rilegislature.gov
Camille Vella-Wilkinson, State Representative, H-D 21, rep-vella-wilkinson@rilegislature.gov
Host: Richard August
Topic: Vaping and other pending legislation
Host: Richard August Time: 60 minutes
Representatives Casimiro and Vella-Wilkinson discuss a broad range of pending legislation and other matters, which have their concern. Topics include vaping legislation; a veteran joint oversight committee; pharmacist having birth control prescription authority; reproductive health; firearm legislation; climate control; out of school time learning; early parole for young rehabilitated offenders; military sexual assault trauma; and more. Other matters include the need for a constitutional convention; line item veto; minimum wage; and candidate endorsements.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Why Can’t Everybody Be Right?

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 27, included talk about:

  • The Convention Center, the Speaker, the Republicans, and the Projo
  • Sickness in the Warwick teacher contract
  • Making the yellow shirts count
  • (Slim) hope as a new face enters the Providence school scene

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I’ll be on again Monday, February 3, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Catch Up with the Monthly State of the State

If you try to keep track of policy and politics in Rhode Island (and if you’re reading this site, you probably do), you should put the State of the State program on your watch list.  The program usually has two half-hour segments, but sometimes sticks with one guest for an hour, and it’s a good way to get a different point of view from the mainstream, from both the guests and the hosts, who often ask questions public figures and others wouldn’t be asked elsewhere.

The latest episode had a segment on Title IX abuse and another on Second Amendment rights.

1-13-20 Recent Title IX Cases from John Carlevale on Vimeo.

1-13-20 Stun Guns, Tasers and the 2nd Amendment from John Carlevale on Vimeo.

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Opioid Solutions When the Government Refuses to Address Problems

In his recent essay on this site, Dr. Stephen Skoly described the consequences of legislation seeking to regulate prescription opioids, but he stopped short of broad conclusions about the politics involved.  As it happens, one such conclusion fit in well with the other topics that John DePetro and I discussed on December 30.

We can, of course, debate whether a new $5 million fee for opioid manufacturers and wholesalers is actually about solving a social problem, rather than finding a new source of revenue.  But taking the politicians at their word for their motivation, one can at least say that such policies infantilize the people, as if our legislators and governor are the only adults in the state and therefore must protect patients from their irresponsible selves and from greedy doctors.

Something milder and, in its way, worse is probably going on, as well.  The theme that John and I happened upon in our segment was that government officials in Rhode Island shy away from addressing actual problems.  They look for all sorts of ways to get at them without actually naming and attacking the root causes.

When it comes to a failing education system, they seek work-arounds and small tweaks like, like shifting authority toward principals, rather than draw attention to the labor-union structure that makes the system all about the remuneration of adults rather than the education of children.  When it comes to teenage fights at a mall, the focus goes to things like community programs to give kids something to do, rather than unraveling the progressive assumptions that lead to gang-friendly policing and suspension-unfriendly school regulations (not to mention identity-group entitlement).

Just so, going after fentanyl and heroin on the criminal market would manifest in urban areas and among minorities.  Many people in those communities would be grateful for the improved environment, but the enforcement and incarceration statistics would look bad and draw the attention of groups like the ACLU.  So instead, government tries to find a solution from the other side, making things more difficult (literally more painful) for law-abiding citizens, in the hopes that they can limit the market for the drugs and make the dealers go away for lack of profit.

If that approach also produces a $5 million fee for government, so much the better.

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Of Course Police Like Powerful Tools

For the category of the news media constructing narratives on behalf of government, is there any way this finding could have been otherwise?

Police: R.I.’s red flag law ‘likely averted potential tragedies’

As of Oct. 31, state and local police across Rhode Island had invoked the red flag law on 33 occasions since its adoption in June 2018. The law allows police to petition a court for an “extreme risk protection order” that allows them to confiscate firearms from individuals believed to be at “imminent risk” of killing themselves or others.

Yeah, of course any time you take away somebody’s gun, you can say you might have stopped some tragedy.  But (of course) maybe you didn’t.

The implicit bias of this article is indicative of the entire gun-control impulse.  It’s the same mentality that says if we just take away all guns, we’ll obviously be avoiding tragedies.

Except when we don’t.  In those cases, there’s always an excuse and an explanation of how being even more aggressive about taking away guns would work better.  Contrary evidence is also difficult to connect decisively; while law enforcement can claim that every confiscated gun might have “averted potential tragedies,” we simply don’t know what “potential tragedies” might be caused by confiscation.

There are the immediate scenarios, of course, like the woman who obeyed a gun-free-zone law while the stalker who murdered her husband did not or the Texas church-goers who brought a quick halt to a mass shooting attempt.  And then there are the longer-term consequences of being the sort of people who’ll let government promise us greater security if only we’ll sacrifice a little bit more of our freedom.

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Next, They’ll Come for Meat

Earlier today, I highlighted Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s intention to make gasoline more expensive because “we have to get off of gas-guzzling cars for the existence of us.”  By pure chance, today, I also came across this indication, in The Economist, of the future of this sort of argument, under the headline, “How much would giving up meat help the environment?”:

IT IS NO secret that steaks and chops are delicious. But guzzling them incurs high costs for both carnivorous humans and the planet. Over half of adults in both America and Britain say they want to reduce their meat consumption, according to Mintel, a market-research firm. Whether they will is a different matter. The amount of meat that Americans and Britons consume per day has risen by 10% since 1970, according to figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

People who want to eat less livestock—but who can’t quite bring themselves to exchange burgers for beans—might take inspiration from two recent academic papers.

Whether we’ll freely take inspiration from those two academic papers, we can predict that somebody else will take inspiration to use government to force us to stop being “meat-guzzlers.”

Once we allow that government can use its power to nudge us away from exercises of our freedom, activists will find an endless series of activities that the world would be better off without.

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Vaping Shows How Quickly They’ll Take Away Rights

Note this, from Guy Bentley on Reason:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has finally identified a primary suspect in the wave of vaping-related lung illnesses and deaths.

Examining lung tissue samples of patients hospitalized with vaping-related illnesses, 100 percent tested positive for vitamin e acetate, often used to cut marijuana oils. This was not a surprise to those who have been arguing that the cause of these illnesses is not the commercial e-cigarette market, but the illicit market for THC vapes.

Now recall that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo moved quickly to hurt Rhode Island businesses by unilaterally banning a legal product that even then looked likely not to be the culprit.

Yes, we’re decades into a campaign by government to create a superstitious dread of nicotine products, but still… part of me can’t help but feel like every incident like this is a test to see how willingly Americans will give up their rights and their freedom.  The results of this test were not encouraging, at least in Southern New England.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Connecting Political Dots

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 11, included talk about:

  • The problem of public sector pensions
  • The value of the Fung brand for the Mrs.
  • Mayor Pete’s no-media, no-controversy event
  • Nanny Bloomberg and Gina’s RFP
  • No warning on the homeless transplants

Open post for full audio.