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Allowing the Jihadist Cloud Darken the Age

Writing on the terrorist attack in Manchester, Mark Steyn reflects on a suggested course of action that we’ve been hearing in this country since 9/11:

“Carrying on exactly as before”, as The Independent advises, will not be possible. A few months ago, I was in Toulouse, where Jewish life has vanished from public visibility and is conducted only behind the prison-like walls of a fortress schoolhouse and a centralized synagogue that requires 24/7 protection by French soldiers; I went to Amsterdam, which is markedly less gay than it used to be; I walked through Molenbeek after dark, where unaccompanied women dare not go. You can carry on, you can stagger on, but life is not exactly as it was before. Inch by inch, it’s smaller and more constrained.

To put the best spin possible on the West’s reaction to Islamism’s attacks, we’ve been trying to find the balance between security and respect for others’ rights.  That would be a more successful strategy if it weren’t for the stultifying political correctness with which we’re currently infected.  Questioning the actual wisdom of “coexist” stickers even just a little would mean we get to maintain more liberties and need less-strenuous security.

I share Steyn’s pessimism about the future.  Little by little, as people change their decisions in response to perceived risks, our society will change — not because our children have been persuaded that teenage diva-pop really isn’t worth their time, but because parents aren’t willing to sacrifice them for enjoyment of such fluff.

The politically correct fantasy is fluff, too, and we shouldn’t be willing to sacrifice our society for its enjoyment.  We’ll only get to carry on as before if we shed those indulgences of self-loathing that we’ve permitted to fester.  Not only our children, but our society is worth defending, and we should start acting like it.

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Eminent Domain as a Stadium Negotiating Tactic

Ethan Shorey presents, in a Valley Breeze article, another wrinkle in the PawSox stadium issue that gives the whole thing a “not at this point, thanks” kind of feel:

There is now increasing likelihood that the city would need to pursue buying the property through the eminent domain process, where officials would have to make a convincing argument that the property is needed for the public’s good. …

Officials are seeking to “reach a fair, negotiated purchase with the owner of the Apex property without the necessity of a taking through eminent domain, but all options will remain on the table in order to ensure that the people of Rhode Island are not denied this important public venue,” said Grebien.

So, the property owner has offered a price that represents the value of the sale to him, and the city government is using its power to simply seize property as a negotiating tactic.  The mayor’s amplifying the idea that placing a stadium on this specific property is an “important public” good should make warning flags go up.

People who own any property that might conceivably be attractive to politicians for their investment ventures are on notice that the government ultimately believes the property to be its own.  Recall that the RhodeMap RI plan included maps that made no distinction between public and private property — simply putting down the planners’ vision with the assumption that the government would end up owning anything they chose.

One misconception that the government is conveniently promoting is that the value of the property is its assessment… by the government.  The value of a property is the point at which the seller’s desire to give up the property meets the buyer’s desire to own it.  If a particular piece of land is critical to a government project, the fact that the owner is negotiating with “the people” does not change this dynamic.

To the extent that eminent domain is sparingly reasonable, it’s to prevent abuse around real necessities.  A person who owns the last acre of land to complete an important roadway, for example, would have unreasonable leverage.  A baseball stadium simply doesn’t reach that level.

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Crony Legislation to Cost Parents Time and Aggravation

When I first read the proposed legislation (H5457) to require all parents of young adults seeking their drivers’ licenses to take a course, I wondered why Rhode Island’s politicians presume the authority to behave like parents to every adult in the state.  One could imagine House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi (D, Warwick) overhearing some parent giving a child bad driving advice and determining to solve that perceived problem by implementing a blanket mandate for all parents.

This detail in a related AP story, though, makes me wonder if the motivation might be a bit more politically crass than that:

AAA Northeast is backing the bill, which was introduced by Democratic House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi. The legislation describes the organization as a possible course provider.

The legislation requires the course to be free to participants — treating their stolen time as without value — and doesn’t explicitly call for the state to pay providers.  Indeed, it says that if nobody wants to provide the program, it will cease to be required.  So, maybe there’s some payment from the state, or maybe AAA will only provide it to members (effectively forcing people to join), or maybe it’s a little more innocent and just an opportunity for AAA to give a sales pitch to a constant flow of captive audiences.

It’s the fact that AAA is “backing the bill” that raises my eyebrow.  Is this something for which the organization has actively lobbied?  Is it some sort of payback for, say, supporting RhodeWorks?

As I mentioned last year, I was a AAA member from the time I started driving (25 years ago, tomorrow).  The organization’s active support for RhodeWorks led me to quit, and finding it in bed with Rhode Island insiders who take their power over us as a marketable good to trade for cash and favors affirms my decision.

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An Obvious Step for Hair Braiding

The Institute for Justice reports that Indiana has taken an obvious (if small) step in loosening regulation:

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed a bill that exempts natural or African-style hair braiding from the state’s cosmetology laws. Authored by Rep. Timothy Wesco and Sen. Liz Brown, HB 1243 passed by wide margins in the Indiana General Assembly.

“Indiana has long prided itself as ‘a state that works,’” said Institute for Justice Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “This reform proves that those words are more than a motto by repealing a completely arbitrary labor-market regulation that stops braiders from earning an honest living.”

In Rhode Island, the similar bill is H5436, sponsored by Providence Democrat Anastasia Williams.

Even beyond this particular bill, Rhode Island should adopt this mentality of reform and get out of the business of extorting money from workers with binds that protect established players at the expense of their would-be competition.

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One Way the Left Gets Turned Around on Misanthropy

David Harsanyi finds the ghoulish worldview of self-styled “science guy” Bill Nye objectionable.  This particular paragraph of Harsanyi’s, though, allows for an interesting tangent into how the Left and Right think:

We live in a world where Ehrlich protege John Holdren — who, like his mentor, made a career of offering memorably erroneous predictions (not out of the ordinary for alarmists) — was able to become a science czar in the Obama administration. Holdren co-authored a book in late 1970s called “Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment,” which waded into theoretical talk about mass sterilizations and forced abortions in an effort to save hundreds of millions from sure death. Nye is a fellow denier of one of the most irrefutable facts about mankind: Human ingenuity overcomes demand.

This is just a single example of progressives’ comfort with concepts like forced sterilizations and forced abortions.  Harsanyi also quotes progressive Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as saying, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”  Other examples would easily be found.

What comes immediately to mind for a contrast is the Left’s reaction to Charles Murray.  Anybody who has read Murray’s original flash-point for controversy, The Bell Curve, would know that the book…

  • acknowledged differences in intelligence,
  • reported that in current circumstances, these differences do relate statistically (although not inevitably) to racial groups, and
  • warned about the future consequences of allowing such trends to develop.

Murray and co-author Richard Herrnstein were concerned about the development of a “cognitive elite” in proverbial gated communities lording it over everybody else.  In order to avoid that in the future, they said, we must honestly address the data and answer thorny questions of culture and political philosophy.

Think about that.  Murray is attacked as a “white supremacist” by the Left for arguing that we’re headed toward a divided, dystopian future that we should strive to avoid.  Meanwhile, voices on the Left are lauded despite their openness to divisive, dystopian policies in the present.

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The Risk of Premature Marijuana Policy

Mary Rezac, of the Catholic News Agency, reports on a study out of Colorado from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Trafficking Area, which is a government agency tasked with tracking the illegal drug industry in the Rocky Mountain Area.  Here’s a taste, but there’s much more:

Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 62 percent in 2013, the first year of legalization of recreational marijuana. About one in five more youth are now reporting having used marijuana in the past month since its legalization. Marijuana-related hospitalizations in the state nearly doubled from 6,305 in 2011 to 11,439 in 2014.

This statement, from Dr. E. Christian Brugger, a moral theology professor at a Colorado seminary, should resonate strongly in Rhode Island, as we debate taking the step of legalizing marijuana:

“If there had been any sincere effort on the part of Colorado citizens and legislators to gauge in advance the harms that would arise from legalization, they would have foreseen precisely (these results),” he told CNA in e-mail comments.

Rezac goes on to report that “adolescent exposure to marijuana can lead to an 8-point drop in IQ, on par with the drop seen in children exposed to lead.”  Lead, as we know, is treated as a public health crisis for children in the Northeast, and if I’m remembering my construction history correctly, the government once actually mandated that lead be put into paint.

Advocates on the other side of the issue do what one would expect and argue against the data and the incentives of the source.  Here, for example, is a Forbes article addressing the prior-year report from RMHITA.  At the link, Jacob Sullum makes some compelling points, but he also argues some of the statistics in ways that are, themselves, arguable.

These backs and forths would characterize any healthy debate about public policy, and we shouldn’t fall into the trap of picking our favorite side and believing its data with undue credulity.  The problem is we’re looking at just a couple years of data from a single state, so it’s all difficult to sort through.  All that’s needed is time and dialogue.  There’s no hurry.

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Crime and the Rhode Island Puzzle

Poking around the Family Prosperity Initiative data tool, I was struck again by how well Rhode Island does when it comes to violent crime.  According to the last-published Rhode Island report, Rhode Island is fifth-best in the country by this measure.  One could consider it to be counterintuitive or obviously correlative, but Rhode Island also has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the United States, as depicted in this slide from a presentation by David Safavian, an expert with the American Conservative Union Foundation, when he spoke at Bryant University at a Family Prosperity event:

safavian-incarcerationrates

While reviewing this information, I happened to be distracted by an “Economics 101” video by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity (not the RI organization of a similar name) emphasizing the combination of stability and freedom that characterizes prosperous countries.  The video is mainly concerned with financial stability, but overall stability is critical, too.

A safe state that doesn’t lock up large numbers of its residents should have an advantage economically.  Indeed, add that advantage to all the rest — location, history, etcetera, etcetera — that ought to make Rhode Island the jewel of New England, rather than the armpit.

Unfortunately, we get other things terribly wrong, so our advantages go to waste, largely in the service of our insider system of centralized micromanagement and profiteering.

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What Freedom Means When Government Takes Over for Organized Crime

The strongest argument for legalizing marijuana is based on freedom, particularly among the libertarians with whom I’m generally sympathetic.  Reading this article by Jennifer Bogdan and Tom Mooney in the Providence Journal, though, I’m surprised by ways in which this might not be so true:

Birenbaum touted the state’s camera surveillance system, which keeps electric eyes on all the grows, and various other tracking and security measures.

While the attorney general may have legitimate concerns about future recreational use, Birenbaum says, “we want cities and towns to see there’s a difference” with a well-regulated medical marijuana program.

Weeks after the tour, Pawtucket gave local approval for three medical cultivation applicants, noting how impressed they were with the state’s ability to track grows and the pot they produced.

Statewide surveillance of an industry and close government tracking aren’t generally the hallmarks of freedom.

That’s why my view is one of freedom gained through strengthening society.  If in general we’re operating under the civic premise that government has to take care of us all and take invasive measure to do so, then expanding the options for incapacitating ourselves and inviting government intervention aren’t likely to increase our total amount of freedom.

On the other hand, in a society in which individuals have strong character and families and communities are geared toward helping each other without the force of the law, our liberties can expand without infringing on our freedom.

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Mike Stenhouse on with DePetro on Marijuana’s Effects on Business

Related to a brief that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity released this week concerning the complications that legalizing marijuana would create for Rhode Island businesses, RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse appeared on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM radio show. Also: a new baseball stadium and sales tax.

Click full post for audio.

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Pot Luck Employment

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity posted a brief, today, pointing out some of the risks to Rhode Island employers in an environment of legalized recreational marijuana:

One South County firm has already been sued for denying employment to a legal medical marijuana user in compliance with the company’s drug-free policies. Similarly, firms in Massachusetts, California, Montana, and Washington — among others — have been burdened with similar lawsuits.

If recreational use of the drug is legalized, the constitutional crisis created by pitting employer rights against employee rights could explode, crippling companies that would have to pay exorbitant legal fees to defend their rights in court, as well as any damages they might incur from adverse rulings. Similarly, a conflict may also exist if landlords seek to ban marijuana use on their private property by their tenants.

Proponents of legalization present it as an easy matter of rights, and if it were that, the Center would probably agree with their objective.  The problem is that, when once the government has interjected itself into a matter of social concern, the landscape changes.

In this particular case, we have not only the complications of having state law conflict with federal law, but also a skewed balance between employees and employers.  If it were understood that employers could conduct their business and their employee relations as they saw fit, then the legalization of marijuana wouldn’t be as relevant to them.  If an employee behaves in any way that the employer finds objectionable, the relationship terminates.  Ditto if the employer dictates terms that the employee doesn’t like.

But that is manifestly not understood, and our state government is constantly looking for new ways to dictate employment policies to every business in the state.  In that case, businesses have an interest in constraining the activities of everybody who could potentially come within range of their liability, which is everybody.

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Creeping Sharia and Freedom of Speech

Mark Steyn describes how (and how quickly) the West is caving to the censorious demands of hard-line Muslims:

I have had the privilege of sharing stages with Ayaan Hirsi Ali at various places around the world from London to California. It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels already like the past – a previous era, just the day before yesterday but already the rules have changed. In 2015, I spoke in Copenhagen at an event to mark the tenth anniversary of the famous “Mohammed cartoons”. As on the fifth anniversary, it required the protection of PET, the Danish security police. But this time, as an additional precaution, it had to be moved inside the fortress-thick walls of the Danish Parliament in order to lessen further the likelihood of fellows who regard debate as a waste of time (and, indeed,an affront) busting in and shooting us all. Nevertheless, notwithstanding all the security, both the US State Department and the British Foreign Office issued formal warnings advising their nationals to steer clear of the Parliament building that day.

The group presenting at the event had scheduled a dinner afterwards, but when security went to do an initial review of the place, the restaurant owners panicked and canceled the event, according to Steyn.  So, the story is two-parts radical Islam, but one-part Western timidity.  Flip those fractions, if you like; the screaming snowflakes who can’t stand contrary opinions on “their” campuses are merely the enforcers of the rule that Western Civilization must stand down.

As Steyn writes, “they’re all in the shut-up business.”

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Who Ordered the Code Red, Smoking Gun

This Eli Lake article from Bloomberg seems like kind of a big deal.  I wonder how much we’ll actually hear about it from the news media:

White House lawyers last month learned that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Rice, you may recall, was the primary face of the Obama Administration’s like about the background of the Benghazi attack.  Things get stranger, too:

The National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with Bloomberg View on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice’s multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel’s office, who reviewed more of Rice’s requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.

Why would the White House General Counsel order this research stopped?  Were Obama holdovers still calling the shots, or was there some other reason?

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A One-Two-Three for Fundamental Corruption of the Rule of Law

One problem with President Donald Trump is that he’s like a flashy object in a pile of stuff.  Other things may be more significant, but he draws attention. On PowerLine, John Hinderaker connects some dots for one of those things:

So it appears that what happened here is that Democratic Party activists in the Department of Homeland Security either created a bogus document or dug up a poorly-researched draft document that had never been issued, and fed it to Democratic Party activists at the Associated Press. The Democratic Party activists at the AP published a story based on the anonymous document, which two Democratic Party activists on the [judiciary] bench used as a pretext for orders enjoining the president’s travel order.

This is how an ideological and partisan group constructs narratives, with a one-two-three from insider bureaucrats to judges who overstep their offices to undermine the elected president.  This stuff is inimical to a free society and the rule of law no matter which political side does it.

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