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Why Trump Won: Ending Tyrannical Obama Projects

Such thoughts are surely verboten across the entire Left and among some on the Right, but I don’t see how a reasoned assessment can conclude otherwise than this:  President Trump is still preferable to the President Clinton from whom he saved our country.  Yes, that’s a bit like saying amputation is preferable to death or blindness to a vegetative state, but sometimes life (and our countrymen) force such decisions upon us.

President Trump is reinforcing the Left’s divisive culture war and could certainly be handling that better, but a President Clinton would have reinforced the dismantlement of our rights.  If President Trump’s great sin, recently, was that he was too quick to equivocate over blame in Charlottesville, Hillary Clinton would have been unequivocal in furthering the treatment of conservatives, broadly speaking, as people without rights.  In that regard, even where Trump’s bad, at least he’s reminding liberals why we maintain those rights.

I offer the foregoing preamble in preface to a “hurrah” in response to this news, reported by Joseph Lawler in the Washington Examiner:

After the Obama Justice Department began Operation Choke Point in 2013, Hensarling and other conservatives accused them of denying the constitutional rights of businesses like gun dealers and payday lenders by targeting them for scrutiny under the program, cutting off their access to the banking system under the guise of investigating fraud and money laundering.

The GOP said companies were still wary that they could lose access to the banking system, and needed clear guidance from the Trump administration that the program wouldn’t be continued.

In a joint statement, Hensarling, Goodlatte, and Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri and Darrell Issa said that the Trump administration has “restored the Department’s responsibility to pursue lawbreakers, not legitimate businesses.”

In all the Sturm und Drang we see in the news, don’t lose sight of the fact that the absence of what we have now does not mean the ideal, or even the tolerable, but the elevation of some other intolerable circumstance.

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When Government Pays Us to Be Parents

Zach Maher, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, explains how the government-paid-parental-leave-in-Sweden-is-great scales fell from his eyes:

When the girl’s parents refused to subject her to this unnecessary procedure, the hidden machinery of the Swedish welfare state sprang into motion. My brother-in-law and his wife were required to attend multiple interviews with social workers and to submit friends and neighbors in their small town for questioning. Social workers even inspected their home. Suddenly, decisions as benign as what milk to buy seemed potential evidence of parental deficiency. My in-laws feared their two children might be taken from them.

In Sweden, the state reserves for itself ultimate responsibility for children’s well-being. As a parent my job is to give my kids the trygghet necessary to become productive, tax-paying members of Swedish society. This is why I receive financial support and medical benefits. The state is paying me to be a parent. I am, in effect, an employee—and if I do a poor job, my responsibility as a parent might be taken away from me.

 

When we give government responsibility for things — even good things, like the well-being of children — we also give it authority over those who provide those things, like parents.  Suddenly, government isn’t just filling in gaps, but seeking out gaps by putting parents under the microscope.

The United States is not immune to such thinking, obviously.  Some 20 years ago, on Matt Allen’s Mental Floss radio show with the more-liberal Jennifer Brien, the latter argued that schools have to teach sex education (liberally tinted, naturally) because parents simply aren’t doing the job adequately.  I called in to ask what gives her or the government the right to make that determination, but she wouldn’t be shaken from the assertion of need.  (And then I was cut off.)

Suggesting that he and his wife “insist… on having their own ideas about raising children,” Maher asks, “Does this mean we can’t accept parental support from the state?”  My guess is that he doesn’t really have a choice — that the government doesn’t actually see it as an exchange or contract.

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Kudos to Rickman

In all of the grandstanding and political jockeying over events in Charlottesville, local activist and philanthropist Ray Rickman stands out for his notably mature and reasoned position.  To Steph Machado of WPRI:

“I suggested to him that he give Robert E. Lee, the statue, to the people organizing the rally,” Rickman said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “That, or put it in a museum where people can see it.”

Many of us on the right are constitutionally wary of any intention to scrub a country of its past, as by destroying such statues, but Rickman is right that moving them can transform them from being “honorific.”  (That makes the museum option much preferable to the “give it to them” option.)  Discussing the reason there are such statues in places of honor can create a rich discussion that would include not only the horrors of slavery and the Civil War, but also the intention of reconciliation that followed.

And to Kate Bramson of the Providence Journal:

Considering the needs of the community, Rickman emphasized numerous traditionally black organizations that are struggling financially. Helping fund the NAACP, the John Hope Settlement House and a fund at the Rhode Island Foundation that grants small amounts to Latino organizations would go a long way toward helping move the community forward, he said[, in contrast to candlelight vigils].

Another Rickman idea, instead of a vigil: “I’d rather have a potluck dinner where everybody donates $5 to help bury the woman who was killed in Charlottesville.”

One could debate the specific causes for which Rickman advocates, but his impulse is exactly right.  Rather than indulge in ideologically pleasant symbolism that can actually discourage action and further divisions, resolve to do something good for actual people in need.

Over the weekend, a phrase that popped up multiple times among those who were criticizing President Trump’s initial remarks on the events was “this isn’t hard.”  Indeed it isn’t.  The question, though, is what we want to accomplish.

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Investigating the Opposition

This is most definitely not the sort of story Americans should want to see:

The Department of Justice has requested information on visitors to a website used to organize protests against President Trump, the Los Angeles-based Dreamhost said in a blog post published on Monday.

Dreamhost, a web hosting provider, said that it has been working with the Department of Justice for several months on the request, which believes goes too far under the Constitution.

Maybe there are legitimate reasons that the federal government would want this list, but any action that government takes that appears to target domestic opposition, or could ease the way for a future government that does so, ought to be viewed with the highest suspicion.

This goes for Rhode Island government, too.  The anti-gun bills set to come back for consideration in a few weeks when the General Assembly reconvenes (H5510 and S0405) have been sold as only limiting the Second Amendment rights of those with restraining orders against them, but it also would confiscate the weapons of Americans who have misdemeanor convictions for a broad variety of crimes, including, for example, cyberstalking, which is vague, and disorderly conduct involving the use of force.

In other words, a person who protests government action in a peaceful but forceful way, with something tagged as the “use of force” (say, linking arms and “using force” not to be pulled apart) would give the government pretense to remove his or her constitutional rights.  Keep in mind, too, the slippery slope initiated by some progressives’ insistence that “hate speech” isn’t covered by “free speech”; the First Amendment is only one step removed from the Second.

Those on the political Left who fear the Trump administration’s access to Internet data should not be comforted by the fact that the political winds in Rhode Island tend to blow their way at this moment in time.

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Two Thoughts on the Group Home Incidents

We can all agree that the sorts of things that Tom Mooney and Jennifer Bogdan report in the Providence Journal shouldn’t be happening:

At least four times in the last five months, workers at state-regulated group homes took actions that left young people in their care hospitalized, endangered or exploited, a Providence Journal investigation has found.

In two cases, group-home employees attempted to cover up slack supervision and management with forged log books or falsified statements, investigators reported.

In one Pawtucket home, an employee used the agency van to help run a teenage sex-trafficking operation, prosecutors allege.

The report raises two thoughts, which are in some respects conflicting.  The first is that our reactions should be appropriately tempered by the scope of the apparent problems:

Across the state, 194 children of all ages and up to 21, currently reside in 41 state-regulated group homes. Many have complex behavioral and mental-health challenges. Many are traumatized.

In my view, this paragraph should have come much earlier than 19th in the story because it conveys the information that the reported incidents involve fewer than 10% of group homes and an even smaller percentage of the children in the system, as well as the sorts of children with which the homes are dealing.  That doesn’t excuse the adults who are supposed to be in charge, but it does give some perspective.  One suspects such perspective is why the online headline changed almost immediately from “Chaos in R.I. group homes” to “Danger in R.I. group homes.”

Being lackadaisical about such matters is not an option, but overreacting can do more harm than good.

My second thought is that we risk focusing too much on symptoms in our outrage at these stories.  Clearly processes in the Dept. of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) require immediate review and reform.  With a longer-term view, we should be asking what we need to do as a community to reduce the number of children whom the state sees the need to remove from their homes.

That’s a tough topic, to be sure, but it draws us back to the top priority of helping families and reducing the need for government intervention.

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Tech Giants and the Small Print on Your Freedom

University of Toronto Psychology Professor Jordan Peterson has gained some notoriety recently for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns, and he provides the latest bit of evidence that you’re crazy if you rely solely on Google (or any other single provider) for critical services:

A professor in Canada who refuses to use gender-neutral pronouns and criticizes social justice issues was banned from using his Google and YouTube accounts Tuesday, regaining access hours later with no detailed explanation provided. …

The psychology professor has over 350,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, which he uses as a platform to post his lectures, interviews, and Q&As. …

“I’ve had that [Gmail] account for the last, say, 15 years,” said Peterson to TheDCNF. “All of my correspondence is in that account. It’s hundreds of thousands of emails from people all over the world.”

Google reviewed its ban and didn’t restore Peterson’s access.  Only after the above article appeared in the Daily Caller did the company reverse its decision… with no explanation.  What if you’re not sufficiently well known to produce a high-profile article?  We must assume that you are therefore subject to censorship and the loss of 15 years of your records, because if you leave them in their digital state on Google’s servers, you don’t own them; you’re producing them for free for Google as marketing assets and political leverage.

We rightly draw a distinction between government actions and corporate actions, because the latter involve voluntary agreements.  The appropriate response, therefore, is to stop voluntarily giving Google government-like leverage over our lives, businesses, and other activities.  As a society, we should deliberately empower competing services so we aren’t at risk of having our lives erased because some social justice warrior has made himself or herself the judge, jury, and executioner of our online lives under a shadowy corporate board issuing moral edicts.

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Regulatory Reform Requires Different Elected Officials

Don’t get me wrong.  I like the regulatory suggestion put forward by Republican U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah, as Eric Boehm describes on Reason thus:

The Supreme Court in 2014 overturned a North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners ban on non-dentists offering teeth whitening services. The ruling opened the door to lawsuits against state-level licensing boards that behave like private-sector monopolies by enforcing anti-competitive rules against their very own potential competitors. …

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on Thursday will introduce a bill that would give states two paths to immunity. The first by bringing state licensing boards under direct supervision by the legislative and executive branches. The second by requiring states to show why a certain licensing requirement is necessary to protect public health and safety.

Lee’s “Restoring Board Immunity Act” creates a limited, conditional exemption shielding licensing boards from federal antitrust lawsuits, but only for states that change how their licensing boards operate and how courts handle disputes between those boards and individuals subjected to their rules.

The problem, in Rhode Island, is that I think the new rules would apply only to licensing bureaucrats, not legislators, and that’s where the problem lies.  For a forthcoming brief from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, I’ve been reviewing the (let’s pretend) deliberative process behind some legislation introduced into the state’s General Assembly with an eye toward pricing some of the proposals, and I found the experience depressing.

Consider the paid-time-off legislation that is on the cusp of passing into law.  From what I can tell, nobody in our government made any effort to estimate how much this mandate would our neighbors’ businesses.  (It’s a lot.)  To them, the cost is beside the point.

As for the supposedly limited authority of government, our elected officials simply don’t believe in the concept.  Any freedoms that you continue to enjoy in Rhode Island, you enjoy entirely by their sufferance.  Your money is theirs to collect.  Your psychiatry is theirs to control.  Your actions are theirs to regulate.

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The Purpose of the Military

The most disturbing aspect of the rhetorical style of modern progressives is its peremptory, irrational foundation.  Disagreeing with them is simply bigotry, leaving no room for debate.  All contrary arguments are irrelevant to the overriding moral mandate to do what they want to do.

This dynamic may be most visible in the matter of transgenders in the military, on which David French has already articulated my view:

The military is different. You’re trying to forge men into a team, place them into the most stressful situations humanity has ever seen, and get them to perform under pressure. Oh, and in total war you need numbers. Lots of numbers — but without fracturing unit cohesion, coddling weakness, or taking on unacceptable risks.

So, here’s what you do — you make group decisions. Do people with certain kinds of criminal backgrounds tend to be more trouble than they’re worth? They’re out. How about folks with medical conditions that have a tendency to flare up in the field. They’re out also. It’s foolish to create a force that contains numbers of people who are disproportionately likely to have substantial problems. Increased injuries lead to manpower shortages in the field. Prolonged absences create training gaps. Physical weakness leads to poor performance.

The military is people fighting and dying in order to preserve our nation, not a place to make social statements to accelerate acceptance.  Even putting aside any awkwardness and discomfort, as French points out, transgenders as a population exhibit higher rates of warning signs about which the military is rightly concerned.

But putting aside awkwardness and discomfort is a step too far.  Progressives’ message to those brave Americans who join the military is, and has long been, “Hey, thanks for agreeing to risk your lives on our behalf, now we’ll just insist that you also accept our leveraging our control over you to make you accept our most radical beliefs.”

This, you’ll note, is in keeping with the rhetorical style mentioned above. Nothing is more important than pushing the Left’s beliefs — not others’ right to disagree and not even the existence of our civilization.

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Email Leaks Aren’t Just for National Politics

Americans are still receiving daily updates about Russia’s interference in our elections, last year, beginning with the still-unattributed hacking and publication of Democrats’ emails.  Followers of Tiverton politics, however, don’t have to go that far for their intrigue.  As I write on Tiverton Fact Check:

The day before our Charter Review Commission (CRC) election, Deborah Scanlon Janick published on her Facebook page a string of private emails sent among some members of the town’s Budget Committee, not including her.  Her explanation, as secretary of the committee, is that I “erroneously left [them] in [her] pile of attachments.” …

Her next move was to show them to Town Solicitor Anthony DeSisto to ask whether the email chain violated the Open Meetings Act (OMA).  Under state law, a quorum (usually a majority of a board) can’t communicate privately about official business because that would essentially be a secret meeting. …

In this case, there were five of us on the email chain out of 11 Budget Committee members, so Mr. DeSisto concluded we’d done nothing wrong.  Nonetheless, Janick held on to the emails for five months and attempted to throw them like a grenade the day before an election, hoping to affect the outcome.

So, acting in her official capacity, the elected secretary of the Budget Committee took private emails that she knew weren’t meant to be shared and released them on her own Facebook page for political advantage.  There’s nothing to the emails, but the folks in town who aren’t happy that taxes haven’t continued to climb faster than inflation are trying to compensate for the lack of controversy with dark insinuations that elected officials’ communicating is somehow overly secretive.

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Trump Administration Gives Hope to Property Rights Advocates

Paul Mirengoff, of PowerLine, notes that Secretary Ben Carson’s Housing and Urban Development department (HUD) is moving in a direction that should please anybody who was concerned about the implications of RhodeMap RI:

Here’s a reminder of why [even Trump critics on the Right should be happy that he beat Hillary Clinton]. Yesterday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced that his agency will “reinterpret” the ultra-instrusive Obama housing rule known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). The rule was designed by the Obama administration to seize federal control over local zoning for the purpose of creating neighborhoods that comply with the left’s race-based vision of where people should live. We discussed it here, among other places.

Secretary Carson didn’t say exactly how he plans to “reinterpret” AFFH. However, he told the Washington Examiner that he doesn’t believe in the “manipulation” associated with the rule or with the burdens it imposes on local communities. As a candidate for president, he called it “a doomed-to-fail attempt to “legislate racial equality.”

Mirengoff is right to subsequently warn that “reinterpreting” a rule is a softer protection than simply canceling it, but a step in the right direction is clearly better than a jump in the wrong one, which a different administration might have brought about.

That point, however, brings us back to an inexhaustible theme that conservatives must wake up reminding ourselves:  Our real work is cultural and in education.  As long as we continue to allow the Left to pervert the minds of younger generations as if they are invading aliens, the assaults on our liberty will return like a plague every decade or so, when the politic mood shifts.

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As Parenting Moves from Right to Privilege

If the government can take a couple’s children away from them based on an undefined sense that they’re more likely than average to make mistakes, we’ve reached a state of totalitarianism that handles parenting as a privilege, not a right.  Continuing one’s ancestral line must be at least as fundamental a right as working to persuade others to share one’s ideas and striving to perpetuate one’s belief system.

But Oregon appears to be pushing the boundaries:

For nearly four years, the Redmond couple has been fighting to prove to the state of Oregon that they are intellectually capable of raising their children. The Department of Human Services has removed both of their boys, saying the parents are too mentally limited to be good parents.

Fabbrini, 31, and Ziegler, 38, lost custody of their older son, Christopher, shortly after he was born. Five months ago, the state took their second child, newborn Hunter, directly from the hospital. Both are now in foster care.

One has to read a little between the lines, but it appears that the problem began with a bitter grandfather who didn’t like his daughter and had just lost his wife.  In the outcome, however, this story may not be all that unusual:

Across the country, a national study estimates that somewhere between 40 percent and 80 percent of parents with intellectual disabilities lose their parental rights.

The topic certainly isn’t an easy one to discuss broadly, because few folks would want to insist on an absolute right to parent, even in cases of clear and immediate danger to children.  However, if the standard is, as Samantha Swindler’s Oregonian article seems to imply, that a parent might fall asleep while lying next to a baby and periodically forgets to feed his dog, broad swaths of our society will be at risk of having children confiscated.

On this path, we can’t be far from government’s asserting a right to take children away from parents whose children might be at risk of learning undesired values.

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“Converting” Our Form of Government

If we want to live under a government with the power to forbid children and their parents from seeing what therapeutic options might be available for unwanted feelings, I guess that’s a conversation that we can have, although I find myself on the side of the ACLU in worrying about giving legislators “wide latitude to ban unpopular medical treatments.”  But if we’re going to have this conversation, we should do so with accurate information about what the bans cover, and Linda Borg’s Providence Journal article on Rhode Island’s new ban of “conversion therapy” fails on that count:

The bill makes it illegal in Rhode Island for licensed health care professionals to advertise or engage in conversion therapy for anyone under 18. It does not affect religious counselors or leaders — or adults who choose such a program.

That “does not affect” sentence is just not correct.  Read this section of the law:

23-94-4. Prohibition on state funding for conversion therapy. No state funds, nor any funds belonging to a municipality, agency, or political subdivision of this state, shall be expended for the purpose of conducting conversion therapy, referring a person for conversion therapy, health benefits coverage for conversation therapy, or a grant or contract with any entity that conducts conversion therapy or refers individuals for conversion therapy.

This is separate from the section that bans “licensed professionals” from offering such therapy to minors, and it goes much farther.  It covers “any entity that conducts… or refers individuals for conversion therapy.”  So, while a licensed professional would only lose his or her Rhode Island license if he or she provides the therapy to minors, that professional would lose access to any state or local funds that somebody might complain subsides the therapy for for adults, as well as any “grant or contract” whatsoever, whether related to conversion therapy or not.

This would apply, as well, to any person, group, or organization that refers an adult to such a therapist.  An aggressive judiciary could find within this language justification for removing tax exemption from any church that even suggests trying therapy to any church member.

This bill is your supposed representatives using your government to tell you what you must believe about the universe and your very self.

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A Fundamental Vision for Society

When it seems that members of our society are actually living in different dimensions, the world seems chaotic, but if we dig into the differences, we’ll often find them clarified.  I’ve been coming to a more-broadly-applicable point of clarity in the campaign for a charter review commission:

Here’s my “vision”: Local government’s role isn’t to plan what everybody can and must do with their property. The diversity of neighborhoods that I love in Tiverton and Rhode Island didn’t happen because people sat around on committees and decided to put this here and that there.   It happened because people made the best decisions for themselves with their own property.

Where there are stores, they grew because customers wanted what was being sold. Where there are activities, they persist because people want to do them. Of course I’d love to see more or less of certain things in town, but my preferences shouldn’t be the law.

As the “Declaration of Independence” puts it, “Governments are Instituted” to “secure” our rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Town government provides guidelines and maintains boundaries so we can work out our differences like neighbors.

Twelve candidates for the Charter Review Commission, including the nine endorsed by the TTA, share this understanding and will review the Charter accordingly.

The other 12 think the role of government is to plan our future. A handful of people on various boards and committees decide what Tiverton should look like and go about making sure that their vision is the one that wins. To them, the Charter’s primary function is to give the boards and committees power over us and to make sure that we can’t easily disrupt their plans.

Do we want a rule book that protects us individually and helps us to resolve our differences with our neighbors, or do we want a contract that locks in somebody else’s vision?  That seems to be the basic question at which political differences arrive, recently, if we strive to break them down enough.

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Indirect Moral Corruption Driving Catholics Out of the North

Part of the cynical wisdom, up here in the Northeast, is that the Catholic Church has to support pro-immigration policy because it needs immigrants to keep its parishes going.  To the extent that this demographic pressure has any effect on what the Church actually does, a Catholic News Agency article about the Church’s growth in the South should suggest other policy positions that the Northern Church could promote:

The growth in part reflects the number of Catholics moving south from northern dioceses. Though this results in the closures of churches and schools in former Catholic strongholds, it is driving new expansion in the U.S. South.

I’ve half-joked that I’ve remained in Rhode Island out of missionary motivation, and only the jest part is political.  A region that is driving families apart and separating people from their homes presents real moral challenges.  In that regard, the Catholic Church — all churches — should acknowledge what the government plantation policies of Rhode Island are doing and impress upon believers their moral obligation to stay and to change things.

Working against poverty and injustice can’t be limited to standing up for those who are clearly oppressed, or else good works risk falling into vanity.  Vanishingly few people in contemporary America question the righteousness of helping those who immediately need help, but if we’re serious about helping those whom we can’t so easily see, whether because their problems are not so obvious or because their problems haven’t yet manifested, we have to take a broader view.

That means a society that draws people toward fulfilling lives of familial stability and self-motivated work.  And while the constituencies who see a Democrat vote as part of their cultural inheritance won’t like it, the policies on which we’re currently focused are clearly not serving that end.  The moral corruption of the government plantation is that ignoring the structural justice that brings stability and prosperity, but that requires a resilient and sometimes unpopular maturity, produces ample opportunities to display visible righteousness on behalf of those whom our ignorance has harmed.

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