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The Board That Didn’t Investigate…

… is kind of like the famous dog that didn’t bark in Sherlock Holmes.

Part of what keeps the election-security issue going is the strange behavior of those who want to prevent greater restrictions on voters.  If groups like Common Cause and the ACLU are so sure vote fraud isn’t a big deal, why attack Ken Block when he started raising questions?

Once again, Board of Elections member Stephen Erickson acts as a glowing beacon of this strangeness.  The latest news comes via Block’s observation that Rhode Island’s various boards of canvassers did indeed find votes that were improperly cast.  Here’s Erickson’s response:

Robert Rapoza, the elections board’s new executive director, referred questions on Block’s renewed call for an investigation on Monday to outspoken board member and former District Court Judge Stephen Erickson, who said the decision is not his alone to make. But absent any evidence of fraud, Erickson said, he is not inclined to “turn people who make mistakes into criminals.”

“People move all the time,″ Erickson said. “And updating an address is not necessarily something that is at the top of people’s minds.”

That just sounds like an excuse.  The statute criminalizing illegal voting is clear that the vote must be fraudulent, and fraud requires intent, not mere error.

Given the minimal danger to people who erred and the degree to which Block has narrowed the question to just a couple hundred people for the Board of Elections, why not just devote some limited resources to completing the investigation to a degree that would satisfy critics?  If government agents are so sure they’ll find nothing worthy of note, following the path all the way to the end will provide a compelling response every time the matter comes up for the foreseeable future.

As made clear when I investigated a related matter in Tiverton, I agree with Erickson that voter registration shouldn’t be a game of gotcha, and the regulations should accommodate, rather than complicate, voters’ ever-shifting lives.  But the reluctance of an election official to give the public complete confidence in the system (and get those who’ve made mistakes out from under this cloud) is inherently suspicious, as is his willingness to advertise to potential fraudsters that Rhode Island won’t seek them out.


Needing Proof That Government Is Accountable

Maybe it’s a sign of conditioning, but even before I got to the end of the block quote contained in an Instapundit post, Glenn Reynolds’s closing sentence occurred to me almost verbatim.  The subject is the anti-conservative raids undertaken by the bureaucracy in Wisconsin, and here is the key paragraph of the block quote:

The Government Accountability Board, the state’s former “nonpartisan” speech cop, proved to be more partisan than originally suspected, the state Department of Justice report found. For reasons that “perhaps may never be fully explained,” GAB held onto thousands of private emails from Wisconsin conservatives in several folders on their servers marked “Opposition Research.” The report’s findings validate what conservatives have long contended was nothing more than a witch-hunt into limited government groups and the governor who was turning conservative ideas into public policy.

This episode, involving pre-dawn raids of the homes of politically active conservatives was police-state activity through and through.  It ought to be abhorrent to every American across the country, and it ought to produce a consequence so harsh that those tempted by the powers of government learn from the example.

In short, as Reynolds and I both reacted: Those involved need to be disbarred and jailed.  The governing system of our country cannot persist if people even suspect that such behavior by government might actually be plausible and not the stuff of spy-thriller fiction.


The Mystery of the UK Health System’s Urge to Kill Children

Once we hand the power over life and death to bureaucrats, their standards will evolve, especially when that power is paired with inherently limited budgets.  On National Review Online, Wesley Smith observes the socialized health system of the United Kingdom progressing its logic after the Charlie Gard case, in which the government forbade parents from giving an American specialist a shot at saving their terminally ill infant’s life (emphasis in original):

Well, it is happening again–except in this case the baby isn’t terminally ill but has been unconscious for a year. Moreover, as  I wrote here previously, there isn’t even a diagnosis as to the cause.

An Italian children’ hospital has offered to take the child as a patient for further inquiries and treatment. But the UK hospital administration and doctors are not only saying NO, but as in the Charlie Gard case, also seeking a court order allowing them to withdraw life-sustaining treatment.

As horrific as such stories may be, one could sort of understand the logic of declining treatment, beginning with different principles and assumptions.  The component that’s inexplicable is the refusal to allow transfers.

Smith thinks these are examples of the exercise of raw power, and perhaps there’s some of that.  I wonder, though, if the more human answer isn’t something more like insecurity.  After all, if a child dies, then the experts can insist that they were right and that nothing could have been done, except to cost the government money and perhaps the child discomfort.  If, however, any of these parents succeed in transferring their children out from under the government’s thumb and the child thrives, the doctors will have the discomfort of having been proven wrong on a matter of life and death and trust in the entire system could collapse.


More Smoke Around Voter Fraud

Basically, two things make it difficult to dismiss concerns about the potential for voter fraud.  First, given the size of government, the incentive to cheat is high, which combines in a dangerous way with the low likelihood of getting caught and (at least in Rhode Island) even lower likelihood of facing real consequences.

Second, powerful interests sure do seem motivated to amplify the first thing.  Christian Adams explains, for The Hill, that the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck is coming under attack with dishonest arguments about its accuracy:

This year, more than five million potential duplicate voters were identified throughout the Crosscheck membership. Those research leads were turned over to local officials for further study and cleanup procedures where necessary. Like many systems built on common sense, Crosscheck is under emerging attack. A social media conspiracy turned Harvard studyseeks to cast doubts on the reliability of the compact and trigger its dissolution. The academic researchers fret that if states are limiting the factors by which a voter can be considered a duplicate, such as only looking at matching names and birthdates, they risk misidentifying voters 99 percent of the time. The actual Crosscheck program doesn’t operate by such simplistic methods.

Rhode Island isn’t one of the 30 states signed on to Crosscheck, although no state closer than Pennsylvania is, so the usefulness of the program mightn’t be what it is in states that are closer together.  However, Rhode Island does participate in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which at least incorporates Connecticut.

Rhode Islanders should want these programs to expand, not contract, and we should look suspiciously at those who insist that voter fraud simply can’t happen and, indeed, ought to be tolerated in order to maximize the number of votes cast.


The Fruitlessness of Plastic Bag Bans

As we hear rumors that the municipal fad of plastic bag bans may move up to the state level, Glenn Reynolds points toDaily Mail article reporting that up to 95% of all plastic waste in the world’s oceans comes from eight rivers in Asia and two in Africa:

Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world’s oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research.

The top 10 rivers – eight of which are in Asia – accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste.

About five trillion pounds is floating in the sea, and targeting the major sources – such as the Yangtze and the Ganges – could almost halve it, scientists claim.

When your neighbors attempt to impose these sorts of environmentalist restrictions on you, what they’re really doing is imposing useless drags on our lives and economy in order to feel good about themselves.  Naturally, the most vulnerable in our community will ultimately feel the effects most acutely, but that’s of little concern when you’re saving the world from a phantom non-Asian bag menace.

That statement may seem a little harsh, but in all the articles I’ve read about these bans, I don’t think I’ve ever seen mention of the actual source of plastic in the oceans or a discussion of the economics.  I have, however, seen stories about people getting sick from reusable grocery bags.


We Must Preserve Our Right to Drive

I have to say that I’m with Andrew Stuttaford when it comes to the United States’ deciding whether the advantages of banning human-driven cars outweighs our, you know, right to independence:

For all the irritations that can come with car ownership, the essence of the automobile is the autonomy that it brings. The ability it gives, so long as there’s money for gas, to just get up and go, when you want, where you want, the way you want.

Forget all the environmentalist grumbling, it’s that individual autonomy that has long made the auto so offensive to so many on the left.

I’m astonished that Stuttaford has to address his commentary in response to conservative thinkers.  We on the right are supposed to understand that convenience is one way the Devil buys your soul.  Give the government power over your decision to operate an automobile independently for the sake of economic (or any other kind of) gain, and you’ll find that the government will tell you where to (or not to) go, when, and how.

It must be at least 10 years ago, probably more, that I commented somewhere on a blogger’s suggestion that driving is a “grandfathered right.”  Given the progressive state of our country, the theory goes, if driving were to have been introduced now, there’s no way the powers who be would let us do it… even without the alternative of driverless cars.

As Stuttaford notes, if people opt to allow their cars to drive them around (and I might very well give such a vehicle a place in our household fleet), then that is their prerogative.  But just as your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose, your right to autonomous vehicles must accommodate my right to drive.


“Fake But True” Tars the Innocent

For The Washington Examiner, Byron York reviews the case of a hoax racial incident at the Air Force Academy that inspired the superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, to make a destined-to-go-viral statement in opposition to racism.  York goes on:

… The cadet candidate who reported the racial slurs has admitted that he was behind the whole thing. It was all a hoax. The young man, who is black, has left the academy.

Anyone who follows such incidents, certainly anyone in the news business, should have known that there was a substantial chance the Air Force Academy vandalism was a fake. Too many such incidents have turned out to be hoaxes not to raise suspicions about new ones, pending the results of an investigation.

There was the young black man in Kansas who admitted writing racist graffiti on his car. There was the black man in Michigan charged in three racist graffiti incidents at Eastern Michigan University. There was the young Muslim woman in New York who admitted making up a story about being attacked by white Trump supporters. The black Bowling Green State University student who said white Trump supporters threw rocks at her. The University of Louisiana student who said a white man wearing a Trump hat tried to pull off her hijab.

Then there was the wave of stories about threats to Jewish community centers — stories that received widespread news coverage in the context of the new Trump presidency. Most of the threats were made by a teenager in Israel, with the others made by a former journalist who was somehow trying to get back at a former girlfriend.

Upon the revelation of the Air Force Academy incident was a hoax, those who had lauded Lt. Gen. Silveria applied the “fake but true” salve, as did the man himself.  Surely, we can all agree that racism is worth denouncing, even in the abstract.  One gets the sense, though, that a practice of denouncing individuals who don’t actually exist too easily translates into denouncements of those within a group who might resemble the fictional perps in some superficial particular.


From Mercy Killings in Hard Cases to Death on Demand

Fortunately, this hasn’t been much of a topic of conversation in Rhode Island (yet):  Wesley Smith describes how…

Once a society generally accepts killing as an appropriate response to suffering, there are few limits to the kind of “suffering” that will qualify for extermination.

The Netherlands shows the danger.  Permitted in a decriminalized form since 1972–and formally legalized in 2002–euthanasia deaths are skyrocketing.

Because it hasn’t been of immediate relevance at the level of news to which I devote most of my attention, I haven’t completely worked through my thoughts on assisted suicide.  As tends to happen with emotional matters that are closely tied to ideological or religious beliefs, people typically focus on the extreme cases that align with their first reactions.  On one end is the person facing an imminent and horrible death who wants to take his own life.  On the other end is a doctor having family members hold down a woman who wakes up and resists being killed.

So, one axis in a multidimensional spectrum could address such circumstances of each case, including degree of suffering, permanence of the condition, and imminence of natural death.  Another axis would be the degree of assistance, ranging from none at all through offering advice through the provision of supplies all the way to execution with dubious consent.  There may be other axes to consider.

According to my beliefs, nothing on this field is moral, but that does not necessarily mean everything must be criminalized and vigorously enforced.  In that regard, I find yet more reason to regret how integral we’ve allowed government to become.  To the extent that libertarians can cite an expansion of individual liberty, it seems always to be in these areas of personal destruction, which is to say when libertarians find common cause with progressives.

If government weren’t involving itself in the question of children’s lemonade stands, we mightn’t feel as compelled to write a policy on the tougher moral disagreements.  Similarly, if the fine details of employers’ insurance benefits weren’t up for national policymakers, so too might states and localities be able to draw different lines on other issues.


Ajello’s Use of Victim Status as a Weapon Against “Those [Innocent] Males”

Providence progressive Democrat Representative Edith Ajello said something to the folks at Rhode Island Public Radio that illustrates how the treatment of all things sexual harassment relies on a sort of superstition.  As Ian Donnis relates in his weekend column:

As far as [Democrat Representative Teresa] Tanzi’s decision to not identify the source of the harassment, and whether that may unfairly tar some members of the legislature, “The victim’s rights should be thought of as primary,” Ajello said. “…. I think we will hear from others, but the importance of protecting victims of sexual harassment, I think, is more important than protecting those males at the Statehouse” who do not engage in harassment.

This is nonsense, ignoring entirely the objective question of who suffers harm.

What is the harassment, in this case, if Tanzi is telling the truth?  A guy said something a single time and in private implying that she should do something she would find objectionable in order to gain advantage.  She has offered no evidence that this inappropriate comment caused her any difficulties in any way whatsoever, personally or legislatively, and the fact that it was a private comment means that it couldn’t even subtly affect how other people would react to her.  In contrast, Tanzi has placed all “those males” in the General Assembly under a cloud of suspicion.

Both cases involve nothing but words, but Tanzi’s words, proclaimed across the country, have a greater effect.  Again, it’s a kind of superstition that raises to a state of inviolable victim status somebody who suffered a bit of personal office awkwardness over people who have been implicated nationally as potential harassers.

One suspects that implicating men as irredeemable harassers is pretty much the point.


A Living Constitution as a Creature of the Elite

Rhode Island’s far-left Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has joined the ranks of his colleagues engaging in (let’s say) enhanced questioning techniques of Christian nominees.  As National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru highlights:

Whitehouse then asks nominee Trevor McFadden seven questions based (loosely) on these facts about his church. Whitehouse asks McFadden whether he agrees with the associate pastor, for example. Several other questions relate to whether McFadden could faithfully apply the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which required governments to recognize a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

Suggesting that Whitehouse’s line of questioning is inappropriate, Ponnuru draws a distinction between a person’s being a member of a religious organization, like a church, and making statements similar to those that a senator finds objectionable.  That approach misses the bigger problem (and hypocrisy) with Whitehouse’s approach.

Progressives such as Whitehouse believe that the Constitution ought to be interpreted so as to adjust to the changing standards of the times, as a “living document.”  The only mechanism for doing that in a democratic society would be for the country, through elected representatives, to appoint judges who match their standards and will rule accordingly, even if it means overturning decisions that prior courts have made.

Of course, one suspects that Whitehouse and his ilk don’t really want the Constitution to be interpreted according to the standards of the people at the time.  They want it to be interpreted according to the standards of an elite that sees itself as more enlightened than the hoi polloi.

This means that Whitehouse wants the evolution only to go in the direction that he believes to be correct.  Those with whom he agrees should feel free to reconsider rulings of the past, while those with whom he disagrees should be kept from the bench.


Institutional Absurdity at Wheaton

Wheaton College, in Norton, Massachusetts, is apparently not a place designed to guide young adults fully into the adult world, to empower them to overcome challenges, or to train them to deal with differences between people.  Shaun Towne reports on WPRI that the college canceled the entire women’s soccer team’s participation in their conference tournament because one of the players attended a Halloween party in a costume of a movie character whose appearance required her to darken her skin.  That punishment is on top of consequences that the individual student may face for expressing herself in a way that the snowflakes who run the institution can’t handle, emotionally.


Towne’s article includes the full text of a letter that President Dennis Hanno sent to the campus population.  Prospective students and their parents should judge for themselves whether the author of such a document, not intending it to be a parody, is likely to have the capacity to run an institution of higher education that is worth the price of admission:

The past few days have been disturbing and challenging for our community. A Wheaton student chose to wear blackface as part of an offensive and racist Halloween costume, and the incident raises difficult issues for all of us. …

This is a difficult moment for the college and our community and I am convinced that we can use this incident as a rallying point to build a better, more welcoming and inclusive place for all students, faculty and staff. I hope you will join me in this important work.

No kidding this controversy is disturbing. That a student and her teammates have been treated in this way over a costume shows how detrimental time spent at Wheaton can be.  When Hanno writes that the “college community aspires to be a place that welcomes a diverse group of students from every background and perspective,” he’s obviously lying.  Anybody who might think that young adults should be able to dress up as movie characters even when they’re of different races and that such activity actually speaks to a shared culture will obviously not be tolerated on campus.

(I wonder, by the way, if there isn’t an implicit sexism in the punishment.  Would the football team be treated so harshly, or are female sports seen as less-important affairs at Wheaton?)