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Is Transitioning Kids Really a Policy That Should Be Rushed?

As Rhode Island’s Department of Education moves to satisfy radical activists by making its guidance on transgender students into a mandatory regulation for all districts (hopefully not going after private schools) — guidance that encourages teachers to help students plan their transitions and hide it from their parents — one supposes the bureaucrats won’t pay much genuine attention to the arguments of doctors like those whom Adelaide Mena introduces in an article from the Catholic News Agency:

Emphasizing the importance of rooting medical practices in science rather than ideology, [Washington University of Medicine professor of Pediatrics, Endocrinology, Cell Biology and Physiology Paul] Hruz noted that no randomized controlled trial or consistent findings have shown that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are the best treatments for children with gender dysphoria.

“The reality is there is no science to back this drastic change.” He also noted that as many as 90 percent of youth outgrow gender dysphoria by the end of adolescence and realign their identity with their biological sex.

Think of how astonishingly quickly the progressives in and out of government have been rushing to impose their worldview on our children with this issue.  When it comes to reforming our education system, with some sort of flexibility for families and accountability for the unionized employees, we get decades of baby steps that special interests can easily undermine.  When it comes to reinforcing children’s rejection of their natural bodies and putting them on a path to irrevocably change them?  Well, on that we can rush right in, and with zero direct legislative authority needed.

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The Board of Elections’s Voice for Clerical Aristocracy

A recent tweet from retired judge, current Rhode Island Board of Elections member, and Ken Block agitator Steve Erickson inadvertently raised a critical point of difference between government insiders and (some of) the rest of us.  He insisted that a driver’s license or Social Security Number is still mandatory for voter registration in Rhode Island.  And then:

This statement so well captures progressive thinking — as if the law should be this mysterious thing that only a clerical class of lawyers can interpret, as proclaimed by an oracular order of prophetic judges.  Let’s review basic civics.

We elect representatives to pass laws with the expectation that we can hold them accountable when they do not behave in our interests.  We elect an executive under similar principles who then goes about applying the legislation in the operation of the government.  In this case, that’s the Board of Elections, as appointed by the governor.

When there is disagreement about how the law should apply to a specific circumstance, the judiciary is authorized to be the final voice on which interpretation is correct.  At that point, if the electorate doesn’t agree, they push the legislature to change the language of the law to conform with the intent of the people.

In this case, as I described in the article at the top of Erickson’s thread, the U.S. Congress required license or Social Security ID from any and all voter applicants who had been “issued” one.  After some ebb and flow, the Board of Elections decided that anybody registering for the first time in person didn’t actually need ID.

It’s that plain.

If judges have somehow interpreted the language of federal law to mean something other than what it plainly says, then they are in the wrong.  Insisting that it is somehow inappropriate for the general public to point out that the practice of the law doesn’t match the language of the law is to demand a level of trust to which no free people should consent.  Frankly, it’s disconcerting that somebody who served as a judge and now has direct authority over our democracy would be so dogmatic in his support of clerical aristocracy.

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RI Housing Regulation Serves Minorities Poorly

The opening paragraph of a Wendell Cox article in New Geography could apply to many, many more issues than housing:

America’s most highly regulated housing markets are also reliably the most progressive in their political attitudes. Yet in terms of gaining an opportunity to own a house, the price impacts of the tough regulation mean profound inequality for the most disadvantaged large ethnicities, African-Americans and Hispanics.

When government makes something more expensive to achieve progressive goals, it inevitably puts that thing disproportionately beyond the reach beyond demographic groups that are disproportionately less wealthy.  This is a very simple concept.

Not surprisingly, the Providence metropolitan area does very poorly.  Cox’s metric is the ratio of the median house price to the median annual income — basically, the number of years the household at the exact middle of the area’s income distribution would have to save all of its income in order to buy the house at the exact middle of the area’s real estate market.  He then provides tables showing how many more years black and Hispanic households would have to save than the average.

Black families in the Providence area have to save for an extra 2.12 years (above an average of 4.26 years).  That’s 19th worst out of 52 metro areas reviewed.  For Hispanics, the Ocean State’s ranking is even worse, at 4th worst out of 53.

The obvious thing to do with housing, as with all economic activity, is to ease up government’s thumb so that it can become more affordable.  That strategy works on the other side of the scale, too, loosening government’s stranglehold on the economy so that opportunity can flourish and incomes rise.

The difficulty, here, is that progressives want to impose burdens, in this case on the housing market, based on their ideological preferences.  When those proclamations have adverse consequences, they blame external, often fictitious factors like institutional racism and avaricious landlords.  As a remedy, they then propose to alleviate the consequences in a way that gives them power and makes the subjects of their condescension dependent on their good political graces.

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The State Makes Move on Rights in Multiple Dimensions, RI ACLU Applauds

The Rhode Island ACLU has a strange understanding of “civil liberties.”  The organization has apparently been successful in its push to have the state bureaucracy of the Department of Education take broad decisions about handling transgender students out of the hands of local districts:

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner announced his commitment Tuesday to require all school districts to adopt comprehensive policies affirming the civil rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.

The announcement, made at a meeting of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, supports a petition that the ACLU of Rhode Island and nine other organizations filed last month seeking to provide this protection.

This isn’t just a case of state government muscling local government, however.  As has been explored in this space before, the guidance on which this new, mandatory regulation will be based is so extreme as to task teachers and other school personnel with seeking signs of gender identity issues in all children.  By high school, districts will actively conspire with children to set time lines for transition and to hide it all from their parents.

An “American Civil Liberties Union” that supports this policy carries an Orwellian name.

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Should Rhode Islanders Be Confident In Our State’s Elections Integrity?

Following the release this week of city-by-city and district-by-district voter registration and 2016 election voting research by Ken Block, via his Simpatico Software Systems data analysis company, we call on the Governor and/or the Attorney General to initiate an independent investigation. This shocking data means our current registration practices may need to be amended, with individuals appropriately held accountable, if voters are to maintain confidence in our State’s elections integrity.

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Local Open Fire Ordinances Don’t Overcome Our First Amendment Rights

I can’t be the only one who has wondered how the story of the Swansea man who plans to burn a Patriots jersey in his home fire pit tonight would be going differently if he were a Black Lives Matter activist putting the American flag on the flames.  Kate Bramson reports on the latest development:

“We cannot legally issue a permit because the material he is proposing to burn is not permitted to be burned,” [Swansea Fire Chief Eric] Hajder said in a Thursday morning interview. “Any time open burning is conducted, it would have to be clean wood only.”

Hajder said he and the town’s police chief met with Hajder “at length” Wednesday morning and advised the homeowner that it’s against state law to burn anything other than clean wood.

Ordinances governing things like open flames are meant for larger-scale activities that are clearly not “speech.”  The distance between burning a shirt and burning one’s trash (to which Hajder compares it) is a chasm not only in scale, but also in intention.

Think of the scope of government control over our lives indicated even in the insinuation that a person would need a permit for the small-scale, short-duration action of putting a flame to a shirt in a safe location on one’s own property.  Then watch as all those people who’ve proclaimed the importance of the First Amendment in order to protect professional athletes from facing criticism and the private actions of fans find they have nothing to say about a literal example of government’s using the force of law in order to trespass on private property and prevent an act of free expression.

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Spinning Evidence of Climate Change Alarmism

A curious thing happens by the end of Harry Cockburn’s Independent article about scientists’ admission that they overshot the mark with their warnings of global warming a decade ago.  We start with this acknowledgment that those of us who were sneered at as “deniers” were actually right to be skeptical:

The study, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, does not play down the threat which climate change has to the environment, and maintains that major reductions in emissions must be attained.

But the findings indicate the danger may not be as acute as was previously thought.

But we end with the new spin, from University College London Professor Michael Grubb, who suggests that keeping the global increase in temperature to 1.5° Celsius “is simply incompatible with democracy.”

New calculations suggest that humanity can emit more than three times the amount of carbon than scientists had previously prescribed (as a pretense for imposing economy-changing regulations on the planet), which is great news, according to Grubb, because:

“That’s about 20 years of emissions before temperatures are likely to cross 1.5C,” Professor Allen said.

“It’s the difference between being not doable and being just doable.”

Catch the trick?  Under the previous assessments, it would already be too late to do anything about catastrophic climate change, so we might as well keep our democracy (and prosperity, I might add) through to the bitter end.  If we acknowledge that the models have been alarmist, on the other hand, there’s a chance that we just might be able to save the world.  So, there’s still a reason to hand over our freedoms to an international bureaucracy of elites.

Whether the models might still be too alarmist, we cannot yet tell, but why risk it for the petty sake of our inalienable rights as individual human beings?

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“Negotiations” Over Other People’s Money… Without Mentioning the Cost

I continue to be amazed at the use of the word, “negotiations,” in contexts like Patrick Anderson’s Providence Journal article:

Negotiations between the House and Senate, and labor and business groups, produced a new version of the sick leave bill, which emerged late Friday evening in the House Labor Committee and passed unanimously.

A priority for the General Assembly’s progressive caucus, the bill would guarantee Rhode Island workers up to three paid sick days in 2018, four sick days in 2019 and five days off per year from 2020 onward.

Who’s negotiating with whom over what?  People most of us didn’t elect are “negotiating” with people most of us don’t acknowledge as representing our “community” over costs that will be borne by everybody who operates a business in the state or has any dealings with anybody who operates a business in the state.

The unbelievable mindset — strike that: the all-too-believable mindset — that this is a “negotiation” is put over the top by the fact that nobody involved in the “negotiation” or in reporting on it is putting a cost on the result.  Anderson isn’t alone in this; Steph Machado does the same on WPRI.

If anybody wants a starting point, I looked into the matter (along with other pieces of legislation) last month for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity and concluded that the cost of this program will be about $49 million per year.  Others are free to debate that number, but for the sake of our state, shouldn’t we take it as a warning sign that nobody is doing so?

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PawSox Eminent Domain Language Reminds Us What’s Going On

Some welcome focus on the eminent domain aspect of the proposed PawSox stadium deal should awaken Rhode Islanders to what is really happening, here.   The Associated Press reports:

One of the two bills being considered as part of the legislative package would remove the phrase “blighted and substandard” from the definition of a redevelopment agency. It also changes the wording of state law so that, rather than preventing redevelopment agencies from constructing buildings for residential, commercial, or industrial use, it authorizes them to do so.

To be sure “blighted and substandard” is a subjective guide.  One expects that if the government wants a piece of property, it will find a way to call it “substandard” regardless.  Changing the language, however, is a reminder of the expansion of this mechanism for seizing land or, in this case, giving the government the upper hand in negotiations with a property owner that a private organization wouldn’t have.

Most folks who spend time considering public policy can justify the use of eminent domain to advance public infrastructure.  If some road, track, canal, or whatever would be a huge boon to the area, a single property owner could hold his or her entire region hostage over a property value that would not exist if it were not for the public project.

That rationale begins to wear thin when the government is building something isolated, like a school building or public safety complex.  Still, even some strong conservatives can see their way to accepting that sort of use.  (My view is that it cedes too much to the notion that the government is the real owner of all property, and individuals can only own, at best, inheritable development rights.)

At the other end of the question, a great many people object to the notion that government can take property from one private entity and give it to another simply because it proclaims that the receiver has a better use for it.  This PawSox deal is just like that, only with a patina of justification by keeping ownership in government hands, leasing to a single-use tenant.

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The Madness That Lies Ahead with the Erasure of Gender

Don’t blink as you react to news that British identity politics has advanced to such a state that a convicted multiple rapist has been moved to a female-only prison upon declaring that he identifies as a woman.  We can be sure that if you do blink, the progressive narrative will have advanced to the point that you’ll only be allowed to have one opinion.  Whatever we’re permitted to say, we should take Brendan O’Neill’s warning, written for Spiked, to heart:

This strange urge of trans activists and commentators to accord more sympathy to Ponting than to women prisoners — to argue the corner of a rapist rather than women — speaks volumes about how unhinged the trans ideology has become. Or rather how abjectly unwilling society is to withstand this ideology and to tell its believers that they are wrong. In the treatment of Ponting’s belief that he is a woman as more important than the concerns of hundreds of actual women, we see in extreme form the extent to which society is now expected to bow before the narcissistic individual and his or her demands for recognition; to validate every identity, even where that identity is self-evidently irrational.

And where this expectation of validation is annoying and sometimes illiberal in everyday life — such as when student officials pressure people to use pronouns like ‘ze’ or when feminists are harassed online for saying men cannot become women — in the case of prisons it becomes positively dangerous. A society that cannot say even to a man convicted of rape, ‘You are not a woman’, is a society that has truly lost the moral plot. It is a society that has left the realm of reason and objectivity for the unbalanced, unpredictable and plain dangerous terrain of post-modernism, in which what an individual feels counts for more than what others know to be true.

Progressives with no sense of boundaries or rational understanding that they are, indeed, seeking radical ends are at least doing us the service of rushing right to their ludicrous conclusions before society has been drawn along the “that will never happen” path.

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Gorbea’s Inappropriate Press Release

Politics in America have taken on a strange tone in recent years, amped up by the election of Donald Trump as president.  This is particularly notable in discussions of election integrity, both in the notion that Russians interfered in our national election and in different views on the significance of voter fraud.

Today, Rhode Islander Ken Block presented findings of his voter roll review to the president’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.*  Among other things, in that presentation, Block highlights that “30.7% of 2016 votes in Rhode Island were cast by voters with no identifying information in voter registration database.”  He doesn’t allege that those voters are doing anything wrong, but does insist, “It is vitally important to know how many voters in each state cannot be identified by their data.”

In a press release that is clearly more of a political document than an informative one, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea mischaracterizes this presentation in a strange way:

Today the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met in New Hampshire. Part of their presentation included the erroneous claim that 30 percent of Rhode Island voters in 2016 are somehow illegitimate or not verified. …

In short, these voters are your friends, your family, and your neighbors. If you registered to vote in Rhode Island before 2002, these voters likely include you. Allowing unsubstantiated claims to influence our public policy can lead to real consequences and the exclusion of legitimate voters.

Gorbea is speaking out about claims that nobody is making and, in doing so, sidesteps the important question of whether Block’s findings are correct and a legitimate cause of concern.  Note, for illustration, that apart from mischaracterizing his claims, she unprofessionally declines to name Ken Block, attributing his statements to the commission, and attempts to make voters take this as an attack on them.

Obviously, folks are behaving with political motivation on both sides of these matters, but more and more, I find myself wishing that everybody involved, especially officials elected to do a job representing all of us, would let some opportunities for political jabs pass by in order to provide the public with a fair and reasonable understanding of what is actually going on.

* Memo to the editors of the Providence Journal: That is actually the proper name of the commission, as formed by the President of the United States.  Putting quotation marks around the whole title or (especially) just the “election integrity” part is unnecessary grammatically and inappropriate as journalistic practice, illustrating yet again your newspaper’s bias.

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With SPLC, “Hate” Should Have a Trademark Sign

The group of conservative organizations signing on to an open letter addressed, so to speak, to the news media are absolutely correct:

We are writing to you as individuals or as representatives of organizations who are deeply troubled by several recent examples of the media’s use of data from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC is a discredited, left-wing, political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a “hate group” label of its own invention and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also endangers the lives of those targeted with it.

At this point, citing the SPLC as some sort of arbiter of “hate” is either lazy or malicious.  The group has inspired a good deal of hate, itself, including a 2012 attack on the Family Resource Council that left a security guard injured.  And now its list of political enemies may be insinuating itself as a guide for corporations to blacklist organizations, as with the Ruth Institute’s loss of online payment processing.

As Tyler O’Neil notes, the same net that puts the Ruth Institute on the SPLC’s list ought to ensnare the Catholic Church, as well, except that inclusion of the church would expose the SPLC’s list for what it really is.  It’s a ploy to label as bigots those who wish to promote a culturally conservative worldview through persuasion and good works and thereby prevent them from participating in American society.

Journalists should have no part on advancing that ploy… unless, of course, they’re just left-wing activists, themselves.

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You Will Be Made to Conform

If you need any evidence that progressive organizations like the Rhode Island ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Rhode Island Working Families, and the State Council of Churches have no intention of leaving any room whatsoever for people to hold different beliefs than theirs, consider that they are working to have the Rhode Island Department of Education to make mandatory its guidance on transgender students.  Apparently, one-quarter of Rhode Island schools have yet to implement a “comprehensive policy,” and that’s just not acceptable to the Conform Now crowd.

Mind you that these schools may follow the progressives’ beliefs in every detail without having formalized policies.  Moreover, they may have had no reason to make this a pressing issue that demands distraction from other priorities (such as overcoming the state’s abysmal record for educating children).

More importantly, keep in mind how radical, oppressive, and intrusive the “guidance” actually is.   Not only does the state Department of Education call for schools to impose reeducation on any students who might be uncomfortable with transgenderism in bathrooms and changing areas, but it actively encourages teachers to attempt to discern the beginnings of transgender feelings in students and to draw those feelings out, working to hide the process from parents if the government-run schools think that the parents might not agree.

The basic promise of the American system is that everybody has a right to form their own beliefs about life and reality and to live under a system of government that respects those beliefs.  Progressives only partially agree.  To them, you’re free to hold any belief… as long as they agree with it.

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Does an Ideological Discipline Deserve the Suffix, “-ologist”?

In a co-written article for City Journal, John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi make an important observation that applies much more broadly than just to the field of study that forms their topic, criminology:

Walter Miller, one of the few mid-twentieth-century criminologists whose work was unapologetically conservative, suggested that ideology can turn “plausibility into ironclad certainty . . . conditional belief into ardent conviction . . . and reasoned advocate into the implacable zealot.” When shared beliefs take hold, as they often do in the academic bubble in which most criminologists live, ideological assumptions about crime and criminals can “take the form of the sacred and inviolable dogma of the one true faith, the questioning of which is heresy, and the opposing of which is profoundly evil.” …

Liberal political values can shape and distort the research that criminologists do and the public positions that they take. Lee Ellis and Anthony Walsh surveyed several hundred criminologists and found that self-reported ideological perspective was strongly associated with the type of theory that the scholar most often advocated, with liberal criminologists primarily supporting theories that locate the causes of crime in social and economic deprivation. Coauthor John Wright has recently collected data showing that political ideology predicts almost perfectly the policy positions of criminologists. On issues ranging from gun control to capital punishment to three-strikes laws, liberal criminologists showed almost no variation in their beliefs. (Needless to say, they dislike guns, oppose punitive sentences, and vehemently object to the death penalty.)

As an aside, consider how telling is the list of positions in that closing parenthetical.  The liberal criminologists, don’t tend to believe in putting people where they can’t inflict crime on society for extended periods, but they’d like to permanently limit all of our freedoms when it comes to the weapons that criminals sometimes use, thus making our entire society a little bit more jail-like.

More to the point, though, it’s difficult not to be suspicious when some discipline of academics — some “-ology” — begins to behave as if there’s really very little debate to be had about practical political issues, and that the public’s popular leanings are wrong.

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