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How About a No-Poach Agreement with Government on Private Decisions

Here’s another example of people who have a certain philosophy seeing government as a sort of universal corporate board or universal labor union:

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading a coalition of Democratic state attorneys general seeking information about “no-poach” agreements meant to block employees from leaving one fast food franchise to work for another franchise in the same chain.

Healey says Monday the agreements limit the ability of low-wage workers to seek promotions and earn a better living.

The attorneys general say 80 percent of fast food franchisors have no-poach agreements.

Franchises make agreements with their lead corporations for a host of reasons, from marketing to supply purchases to business operations.  They’re simply a step removed from a more-straightforward corporate structure, in which the executives would be able to set policy for when and how employees can transfer from branch to branch.

The key point — that which makes this not a matter of corporate giants versus the little-guy employees — is that these are all ways of making decisions and balancing interests.  The big-government view breaks everything into power, rather than relationships of shared interest, and posits elected officials and bureaucrats as overseers balancing interests.

A shared-interest perspective reveals this to be oversimplified to the point of falsehood.  Good employees are valuable to corporations, which won’t impose burdensome restrictions on them.  A great register operator who wants to move up into management can always move out… to a similar company, so the chain doesn’t have incentive to shackle him or her to the front counter rather than share within the brand.

But that interest has to be balanced against other considerations, like the trust of franchisees that the corporation won’t set them up to fail in competition with each other for customers and employees.  Government isn’t in a position to (or very good at) making these decisions for people, and should stay out of them in the absence of truly egregious abuses.

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Maybe RI Regulators Will Listen to the Military

It amazes me that relaxing occupational licensing regulations even for military families is too much for special interests to accept, but Rhode Island should really take this news into consideration during next year’s legislative session:

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the presence of state laws on reciprocity of professional licenses for military families would now be a consideration when evaluating future basing and mission decisions in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

And that’s not all:

The statement — in a keynote address to the Western Governors Association meeting in Rapid City last month —came four months after Wilson, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Secretary of the Army Mark Esper sent a letter to the National Governors Association in February encouraging states to consider licensure reciprocity legislation while noting that the quality of local schools near a base would also be a new factor considered in future basing and mission decisions.

Imagine that… the U.S. military is concerned that its employees families have access to good schools and economic opportunity.  Rhode Island is fortunate, indeed, that private companies and individuals don’t have the same standards.

ADDENDUM (3:10 p.m., 7/10/18):
For those who can’t tell, that last sentence is sarcastic.

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A Plank in the Moderate Platform

Although one can’t really claim it to be a “moderate” idea, a policy pledge that Bill Gilbert sent out as a Moderate Party press release would be really fun to watch:

The Moderate Party’s candidate for RI Governor is advocating a tit-for-tat response to the current administration’s inappropriate use of eminent domain to seize private property for construction of a new PawSox stadium. “If elected I will work with the State Properties Committee to acquire Raimondo’s and Mattiello’s real estate for the public use and public good. I will convert these areas to public parks and open space forever named after each of them,” said Bill Gilbert.

Raimondo and Mattiello have threatened the rights of every tax-paying property owner in RI by passing a law that says they can use money never appropriated by the voters to confiscate a person’s land and give it away to billionaires, so they can build a PawSox stadium. Gilbert stated, “It’s governmental thuggery at its worst!”

Of course, if Gilbert were to win, Raimondo would simply be a private citizen, making the plan feel less appropriate, not to mention pointing to the reality that best way to impose a consequence and improve the function of government (and its respect for our rights) is to knock bad actors out of office.  In that regard, Gilbert’s candidacy is arguably at cross purposes with his intentions, creating the possibility that he’ll deprive a non-Raimondo candidate of victory by bleeding votes.

Indeed, the Moderate Party has arguably been one of the leading causes of Rhode Island’s inability to impose accountability on governors for two election cycles, now.

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How Is the Governor Not Excommunicated?

Election season — with opposition from can’t-get-to-his-Left Matt Brown — is pushing Rhode Island’s progressive governor Gina Raimondo to shore up her support from those on the fringe of her party, as the Associated Press reports:

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says she would like the state legislature to return for a special session on abortion rights following the announcement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

WLNE-TV reports that Raimondo called the need to codify Roe v. Wade “more urgent and necessary than ever.”

Here’s a serious question Roman Catholics may rightfully be asking themselves: How is Governor Raimondo not excommunicated from the Church?  Here she is, a prominent Catholic, explicitly encouraging extraordinary steps to preserve the right to kill unborn children in Rhode Island in the face of still-speculative and distant change in federal law.

On both the grounds of the disposition of her own soul and her highly visible role in undermining Church teaching, how she can possibly continue to be recognized as a Catholic in good standing?

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Having to Win the Culture War to Allow Pluralism

Rod Dreher posted a great comment from one of his readers that captures something important in what I would propose as the pretty typical conservative view:

In a weird way, I’m kind of angry on behalf of liberals, if that makes any sense, because it pisses me off that such fundamental questions can be decided by presidential elections or judicial nominations. Which goes back to why I’m a conservative: I don’t think many of these issues belong in the political realm in the first place, and when they do, I’d prefer they be dealt with at the lowest, most local level of government where it’s practical to do so.

In a country as large, diverse and populous as the United States, it is INSANE for one part of the country to dictate to another, vastly different part of the country how it shall conduct its affairs. I have absolutely no interest in telling people in San Francisco how to live their lives or govern themselves, but it feels like I have no choice because if I don’t, they’ll turn around and impose THEIR will on ME, and I have NO desire to live like San Franciscans. It’s crazy.

Conservatives come to these battles reluctantly, because outside some basic constitutional guarantees, we think all of the difficult questions that the country faces should be answered at the state… if not at the local or community… level.  In the past, I’ve presented the three basic freedoms that ought to be guaranteed at the federal level as the right to speak your mind, the right to work to change the government, and the right to leave.

Progressive zealots can’t abide anything like that.  Progressive non-zealots (what we used to think of as liberals) used to be able to do so, but it seems less and less feasible.  More and more, it seems, those on the Left can’t even differentiate between believing that somebody ought to have the right to do something and believing that it ought to be done.  How do we move forward as a pluralistic society if that isn’t a possibility?  Conservatives are beginning to come to the realization that we can’t.

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Rules Against Bigotry Can’t Be a One-Way Door

The principle of “turnabout is fair play” applies to a story Glenn Reynolds noticed, of a University of Michigan-Flint economics professor who has asked Northeastern University, in Boston, to investigate whether one of its Women’s, Gender and Sexual Studies professors violated Title IX by publicly expressing hatred for all men:

“She has not only publically demonized and belittled all males at Northeastern University, she called out publically for the universal hatred of all men, including all men at your university,” [Mark Perry] wrote. “That makes Ms. Walters a confirmed sexist and bigot in violation of Title IX and your university’s own stated policies that prohibit such discrimination.”

Perry suggested that Northeastern should prevent [Suzanna] Walters from teaching male students, or have sway on decisions relating to male colleagues in her department, and be forced to partake in diversity training/anger management courses to address her sexism.

The humor of Professor Perry’s request (and the poignancy, even if we see no humor) resides in the fact that the door of bigotry is only supposed to swing one way.  As we see every year in Rhode Island, when Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo discriminates against school boys in her “governor for a day” contest, progressives really don’t believe that rules and mores against discrimination apply to their own beliefs.  By definition, in their minds, they are free of such taints.  To wit: “I am not a bigot.  Therefore, my beliefs cannot be bigoted.”

But the double standard cannot hold, and those of us who maintain that the entire scheme of political correctness and the punishment of speech and beliefs is wrongheaded shouldn’t be shy about challenging it in its own terms, as Perry has done.

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Assumptions in the Elimination of Parental Rights

An advocacy-as-news article from Megan Mitchell, a reporter/anchor for WLWT in Ohio, inadvertently brings into stark relief a flawed assumption and deadly blind spot in the promotion of transgenderism among children.  Teresa Schrader supports the decision of her daughter, Riggins, to present as a boy:

“I know my transition was easier because of my family and friends, but I also know that other kids like me don’t have it as easy because they don’t have the support,” said Riggins.

The new bill, proposed by Ohio Rep. Thomas Brinkman (R), from Mt. Lookout, would require school and hospital staff to inform a parent if a child indicates they aren’t sure about their gender.

Transgender advocates say the bill can create an unsafe environment for transgender children who aren’t supported by their family.

“The suicide rate for transgender kids is around 40%. So who wants their kid to possibly commit suicide because they’re not feeling comfortable with who they are or their not feeling supported?” said Schrader.

In an argument over legislation that would require teachers and therapists to inform parents of their children’s gender dysphoria, the party asking what parent wants his or her child to commit suicide should be the one insisting that parents have a right to know what’s going on with their children.  Schrader is assuming not only that satisfying the transgender impulse can be the right answer, but that it should be assumed always to be the right answer if the child with the dysphoria thinks it is, and that some parents might actually be willing to risk his or her suicide to disagree.

The more dreadful point, though, is the one less remarked upon.  The implicit argument is that schools and therapists should help to push children — children in a group that is more prone to suicide — into a situation in which they’re deceiving their parents about something supposedly central to their identities, possibly changing their own biology behind their parents’ backs.

A reasonable argument might exist that the legislation should be amended to account for those extreme and rare circumstances in which a parent can be excluded from the notice, but even getting that far is apparently beyond consideration.  Parents are villains until proven woke.

Rhode Islanders should pay attention, because policies being promulgated at the state and local levels infringe on parents’ rights in exactly the way Representative Brinkman is striving to remedy in Ohio.

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In Search of “Agency Fee” Refunds

Here’s an interesting twist in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, yesterday:

Public-sector workers across the country are seeking to recover back wages they paid to labor organizations in the event the Supreme Court declares mandatory union fees unconstitutional.

Class action suits have been filed against eight unions in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maryland, California, and the state of Washington, accusing individual unions of violating workers’ rights by collecting mandatory dues payments. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on a groundbreaking case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which challenges the constitutionality of forcing public-sector workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The suits argue that any public-sector employee who participated in forced dues systems should receive financial “redress” from labor organizations.

Let’s stipulate that the number of public-sector employees in this category is probably pretty small in Rhode Island.  If not being in a union saves only a little bit of money or none at all because you have to pay an “agency fee” for the work the union does on your behalf anyway, you might as well be a member and get the full benefits, whatever they are.  One source puts the number of agency fee paying teachers under the National Education Association of Rhode Island at only 146, for instance.  I did some research on this a few years back, and although I can’t find my notes, that sounds about right.

Still, being forced to pay a private organization in order to keep your public-sector job is a sufficiently egregious violation of an employee’s rights that those in this situation should seek a return of the money that was taken away from them unconstitutionally.

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Thinking Through Trillo’s Campaign Finance Complaint

Billboards promoting Allan Fung’s candidacy may or may not violate campaign finance law, but Joe Trillo’s formal complaint about them raises questions that Rhode Islanders really should consider:

According to Trillo’s campaign, Fung is using several illuminated digital billboard signs in North Providence, which he did not report on his campaign finance reports.

“Allan Fung has been utilizing three corporate owned, illuminated digital billboard signs along major thoroughfares in North Providence, since December 3, 2017, but never officially reported paying for any such advertising on his past or present campaign finance reports. This is a violation of Rhode Island campaign finance laws, and yet another example of Allan Fung’s clear and intentional mismanagement of his campaign finances,” said Trillo.

Here is the current state of campaign finance law in the Ocean State, based on my own reading and experience dealing with the Board of Elections Campaign Finance Unit: If the candidate paid for the billboards, they would have to be listed as an expense on his reports.  If the owners of the billboards put them up without consulting with the candidate, the candidate should report them as an in-kind contribution, and the owners should possibly file reports as if they are political action committees (PACs).

That last situation is patently unconstitutional.  The state government of Rhode Island cannot regulate and limit residents’ free speech rights just because what they say supports a candidate for office.  That is true no matter the motivation or whether the person asked the candidate for input before expressing his support publicly.

This same logic transfers directly to the candidate.  If it falls under free speech rights to express support for another person, and it absolutely does, then it must fall under free speech rights to express support for one’s own candidacy.

In the abstract (although probably not under current law as adjudicated by the Supreme Court), one could possibly argue that states can regulate the money that people give to candidates and how they spend it, but restrictions on anything having to do with speech are clear infringements on our rights.

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A Local Hook for Restaurateur Discrimination

As local papers often do with national stories, the Providence Journal strove to provide local color to a growing trend in the area of Washington, D.C., of driving Trump Administration figures out of restaurants:

“I know hundreds of restaurant owners in R.I., and I can’t think of one that would turn someone away,” said Bob Bacon, owner of the Gregg’s restaurant and bakery chain and a past chairman of the R.I. Hospitality Association, an industry trade group.

“We are all thrilled to death to be given your business,” he said.

Presumably, reporter Gail Ciampa isn’t aware of Revival Brewing Company’s cancellation of an America’s Future Foundation event at the last minute for political reasons earlier this year, even though I wrote about it in her paper.

It’s very easy for restaurants to proclaim that they’d never turn people away, and it’s easy to find a group of them that would be telling the truth with that proclamation, but that doesn’t capture the reality.  AFF had a similar experience with a different establishment shortly after, but I didn’t have time to write about it, and nobody else in Rhode Island media seems to care.

“It could never happen here,” the saying goes… except when it does.  Then nobody will notice so that they can continue to believe their pleasant fiction.

Not long ago, Christian writer Rod Dreher coined the Law of Merited Impossibility, which observes a common insinuation from the American Left whenever these sorts of stories emerge:  “That will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.”  This is human nature, and conservatives should be prepared for things to get worse before they get better, but it’d be nice if professionals who believe themselves to be objective were able to acknowledge it.

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Notable Powers for Notary Publics

During our weekly on-air conversations, John DePetro and I have long pondered the increasing significance of notary publics to political campaigns. A campaign with some extra money can deploy people to go out and get votes by bringing absentee ballots to them and signing off on their signatures.

Today, John noticed a statement from Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea touting the General Assembly’s passage of legislation implementing “a model” that only 11 other states have pursued “designed to standardize notarial requirements and procedures.” I’ll freely admit that my knowledge of the subject leaves me unable to assess how different the provisions of the new law are to current practice, but whether the following provisions will be new or are already in place, they are conspicuous in light of this increase in the prominence of political notaries:

  • Another person can sign for somebody who is “physically unable to sign a record.” That inability is not defined, but it seems likely to include not only physical impairment (like broken hands), but also an inability to write for any other reason. (“Physically,” in this reading, would be meant as a distinction to prevent people from signing for somebody who can’t sign because he or she is somewhere else, for instance.)
  • Notaries in other states or even other countries would be able to verify signatures.
  • Notaries could accept “signatures” by digital technology, meaning “an electronic symbol, sound, or process.”
  • Notaries don’t need to check ID if “the individual is personally known to the notarial officer.”
  • To the extent that ID is needed, a notary can accept IDs that have expired within the prior three years.
  • “Errors” don’t carry any penalty unless they can be shown to be outright fraud.

In short, it’s very easy to see how notaries could haul in votes as if with fishing nets even without doing anything fraudulent, and be separated with several layers of ambiguity from actual fraud.

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The Conditions Under Which Progressives Will Lease Us to Businesses

One last minute bill in the Rhode Island General Assembly, H8324, may or may not be going anywhere, but it’s worth a look as an educational exercise.

Very simply, it would require any “hosting platform” (e.g., AirBnB) that allows people to “offer any property for tourist or transient use” to be responsible for making sure that the rentals are in compliance with state and local laws and regulations.  It would also require the platform operators to take a more active role in the collection and transfer of all relevant taxes.

This little change in law, affecting a narrow portion of a single industry in the state, carries some important questions of the sort that we don’t consider thoroughly enough.  What is the nature of commerce?  Who works for whom?  Who has responsibility for whom?

From a free-market perspective that starts with the individual as the origin of all economic activity, the property owners are responsible for the product that they are offering, and the hosting platforms work for them.  Because they are the constituents of state and local government, they have a say in that government and can arguably be said to have consented to granting it some authority to regulate their activities.

The progressive perspective that has long been insinuating itself into Rhode Island government and encroaching on Rhode Islanders’ rights is very different.  That view doesn’t begin with individuals as autonomous sources of responsibility and power.  The Rhode Islanders seeking to rent their property don’t truly have ownership of themselves.  Rather state and local government has claims on their activities, and the hosting platforms own their rental businesses.  It is therefore reasonable for the government to require platforms to make sure that their workers comply with its requirements.

From a free-market perspective, a government that imposes requirements on people might create incentive for them to hire a contractor to do tasks for them — for AirBnB to provide inspections for regulatory compliance, for example, with an extra fee.  But from a progressive perspective, the government has a right to tell companies that intend to draw profits from its people what conditions they must impose, or else they cannot do business here.

In other words, progressives implicitly believe that the government is renting us out to the companies.

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“Equal Pay”: From the Radical to the Uselessly Disruptive

Fortuitously, the Providence Journal ran an op-ed by me explaining how insanely radical proposed equal pay legislation actually is:

This legislation must, therefore, be about something other than simple fairness in the workplace. Sure enough, the biggest piece making this legislation so radical is its broad scope — going well beyond the battle of the sexes. Indeed, the “equal pay” umbrella extends to the categories of “race or color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or country of ancestral origin,” covering all “comparable work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”

Plainly put, this gives the government power to investigate just about any business and dictate changes to its pay policies, because the only pay differences that wouldn’t have legal risks would be those between people of the same race, religion, sex, orientation, gender identity, disability, age, and nationality. For any two employees who aren’t more or less demographically identical, the lower-paid one could initiate a complaint with the state with the same weight as complaints that the employer withheld pay. The law explicitly puts the burden on the employer to explain it and to prove that no other business practice could erase the difference, even if it’s innocent.

Today, the Rhode Island House will consider an amended version of the bill that gives reason to think that some legislators are not quite as crazy as the original bill would require them to be.  House 7427A limits the scope of the bill to race and gender, exempts companies under 18 employees, and reduces employers’ liability in a variety of ways.

The question now is why the legislature is passing anything at all.  Existing law already covers such things, so all this bill will do is create some new regulatory burdens with unproven legal language that may have unintended consequences.

The only explanation is political: that politicians want to be able to say they did something, even if they did nothing good in practical reality.  This gives momentum to the people who are manipulating the cultural narrative while tangling up Rhode Islanders who are doing their best just to support their families and move our society forward.

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Timbs v. Indiana May Not Go Very Far, but It Would Be a Good Step

It is unlikely that a ruling by the Supreme Court Timbs v. Indiana will go far enough to rein in civil asset forfeiture, even if it turns out to be a victory for that cause, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction:

The case is Timbs v. Indiana. It arose in 2013 when a man named Tyson Timbs was arrested on drug charges and sentenced to one year on home detention and five years on probation. A few months after his arrest, the state of Indiana also moved to seize Timbs’ brand new Land Rover LR2, a vehicle worth around $40,000. A state trial court rejected that civil asset forfeiture effort, however, on the grounds that it would be “grossly disproportionate to the gravity of [Timbs’] offense” and therefore in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which forbids the imposition of “excessive fines.”

The state’s forfeiture effort clearly qualifies as excessive. Timbs’ original crime carried a maximum financial penalty of just $10,000. And as the trial court observed, “a forfeiture of approximately four (4) times the maximum monetary fine is disproportional.” The trial court was right to deem the state’s actions unconstitutional.

But the Indiana Supreme Court took a different view when it decided the case in 2017.

If nothing else, the case is an excellent indicator of the fundamental injustice of civil asset forfeiture, inasmuch as it creates an additional category of penalty that isn’t technically considered a penalty.  “We’re taking your property away, but it’s not a penalty; it’s just that your property doesn’t really count as your property.”

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Another State Edging Toward Licensing Reform (Including for Hair Braiders)

Occupational reform catches on in Pennsylvania:

Being a barber, an auctioneer, or even a “campground membership salesperson” in Pennsylvania requires a state-issued license.

That should change, says Gov. Tom Wolf.

Wolf, a Democrat, called Thursday for the state legislature to abolish 13 occupational and professional licenses, following the completion of a year-long review of Pennsylvania’s licensing laws. In place of some of those licenses, the Wolf administration says workers could be required to register with state boards. For others, such as hair-braiders, the administration has recommended eliminating the state’s role entirely.

Is Rhode Island going to take the lead on economic freedom for its residents or be among the last states holding on to insider deals?  Sadly, that isn’t difficult to predict… unless voters start surprising us.

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Assets Forfeited and Returned by RI Police

Based on data provided by the attorney general’s office responding to an Access to Public Records Act (APRA) request, the state’s various police agencies have seized $10,337,190 worth of cash and property since 2012, returning $1,417,559.  That’s an 86% forfeiture rate.

RI-assetforfeiture-forfeitandreturned-2012-2018

 

That rate is not evenly distributed across programs, however.  Law enforcement kept every dollar seized under a search warrant or on the grounds of eluding police, with other crimes producing the following forfeiture rates:

  • Tobacco: 10%
  • Gambling: 30%
  • Prostitution: 50%
  • Counterfeiting: 60%
  • Narcotics: 92%
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Missouri Takes the Obvious Step for Hairbraiders

Missouri has taken a step that Rhode Island should follow:

Previous state legislation in Missouri had required people who wanted to braid hair for profit to obtain a cosmetology license — which required the completion of 1,500 hours of training.

This requirement was time-consuming, expensive, and created an unnecessary obstacle that made using one’s knowledge and skills to earn a living more difficult. Furthermore, it mostly affected women of color, who primarily make up both the customers and the braiders.

The requirement was yet another example of the ways regulations hurt everyday Americans’ ability to provide for themselves and to pursue their own economic liberty.

We can discuss in a more rigorous way when licensing is needed.  Is the use of chemicals a line?  Should it be a matter of life and death or contagion?  But surely, when one person consents to give money to another to braid her or his hair, the government doesn’t have to be in the middle of that transaction, especially to require a license for something that hair braiders don’t actually do.

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The Size of the Forfeitures

As the Stephen Hopkins Center brief (PDF) mentioned in this space yesterday explains, the actual amounts of cash and property that law enforcement agencies seize aren’t huge on a case-by-case basis, bringing into question the assertion by supporters of forfeiture that this power is central to disrupting cartels and kingpins.  Out of curiosity, I put together this chart of the amount of money forfeited to Rhode Island law enforcement agencies in 2016.  (That is, money the agencies got to keep.)

RI-assetforfeiture-cash-2016

 

Consistent with the Hopkins Center brief, these results don’t show an obvious focus on major busts.  The largest number of cases (45) involved cash amounts in the $1,000 to $1,500 range.  Sure, that’s a good bit of money for a person to be carrying around in cash, but that could just be proof of the complaint from anecdotes around the country — namely, that law enforcement is considering having a good amount of cash to be suspicious activity of itself.  But money in this range could be intended for benign things like buying a used car or preparing to go on vacation.

Note, by the way, that these bars use the ranges from the Hopkins Center report.  If we were to break them out by even $500 increments, the largest group would be $501-1,000, which even less suggestive of big-time drug dealers.

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Some Numbers on Asset Forfeiture

The Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights this week released analysis (PDF) of the state’s narcotics-related civil asset forfeitures, wherein police agencies take money and property from people who have not been — and may not be — charged with a crime, under suspicion that the money or property is connected with the illegal drug trade:

Joee Lindbeck, lobbyist for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, testified at both the House and Senate Judiciary committee hearings in opposition to legislation which would require a criminal conviction before seized assets may be forfeited. Ms. Lindbeck asserted in both hearings that the proposed reforms would serve only to protect drug cartels and drug kingpins.

The Hopkins Center reviewed data collected by the Rhode Island General Treasurer on forfeiture cases in in 2015 and 2016, which was provided to us and requested under the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act. The Center then aggregated and analyzed that data in order to assess the realities of how the law is currently being used. The results are clear – the majority of forfeitures were for small dollar amounts, not the type of cash or property “wealthy drug lords” have on hand.

As the brief explains, out of the $970,524 seized, 28.34% was given back as not legitimately confiscated.  A closer review of the numbers shows instances in which law enforcement ultimately returned most of the money or property, but kept some of it.

Rhode Islanders can disagree about whether the ability to take citizens’ property without prosecution is a legitimate use of government power even when those citizens are big time drug dealers.  We will probably mostly agree, however, that the limits should be strict and the guaranteed due process rights very strong on behalf of those whose property is taken, which is what the legislation mentioned in the brief would do.

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When Cash Is a Crime (Or Is Government the Criminal?)

This rather extreme example of civil asset forfeiture has been getting some deserved attention recently:

A U.S. citizen for more than a decade, Rustem Kazazi was flying back to Europe to help his Albanian family repair their home and maybe even to buy a little beach house somewhere along the Adriatic Sea. He placed $58,100 into three clearly marked envelopes, then packed the money away in his carry-on luggage.

It was 13 years of his life savings – and the federal government took every penny.

TSA employees discovered the cash, and agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized it. But first they strip-searched Kazazi and interrogated the 64-year-old without a translator as he covered himself with a towel.

Kazazi says he was carrying the cash in part because robbers in Albania make a practice of targeting people who make large withdrawals at the bank.  In the United States, it seems, the government makes a practice of scanning luggage for cash and taking it away.  In one case, the target may be beaten; in the other, he’ll be strip searched and interrogated in a towel.

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Philadelphia Insists on Worship of the Progressive gods

Welcome to the new “inclusive” paradigm:

Over the past 25 years, Sharonell Fulton has been a mother to more than 40 children through foster parenting in Philadelphia.

She has opened her heart and home to children who have suffered abuse and trauma, offering them an oasis of love and comfort during tumultuous times. …

When Philadelphia recently severed ties with Catholic Social Services, Fulton said that she felt fully “the pain of rejection.” Fulton, who had been using the Catholic Social Services program for her own foster parenting, said that seeing “the city condemn the foster agency that has made possible my life’s work fills me with pain.”

Sadly, nothing is as important to progressive governments as fealty to their gods.  Everybody must proclaim the truth of the progressive religion.  In ancient Rome, Christians were persecuted and executed if they would not go through the motions of worshiping Roman gods.  Very often, the early martyrs weren’t required to explicitly reject their own beliefs (by, for example, speaking ill of Jesus) so much as to bend a knee to the supposedly more powerful ones under a supposedly divine caesar.

Just so, Philadelphia Catholics aren’t forced to proclaim the falsehood of their beliefs, but only to behave as if their beliefs must be false for all practical purposes.  This modern variation is so much the worse because it doesn’t exact its punishment on the believers, but on the suffering and disadvantaged people whom the Catholics wish to help.

We’ll see how history judges secularists who believe it is better that children should suffer than that they be helped by Christians acting according to their beliefs.  Of course, those of us who believe in God also believe there is a much more important judge than credentialed chroniclers of the past.

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How Could Natural Hair Braiding Be So Difficult to Free?

I don’t doubt that Jocelyn DoCouto will eventually win her issue with the State of Rhode Island.  What’s astonishing is that it should take years of advocacy and lobbying to get it done:

I have spent my life mastering the art of African-style, natural hair care. As a young girl, I learned to braid and even practiced on my own head. I later learned more advanced techniques from my aunt. My knowledge has expanded to include weaving, crocheting, extension braiding and many other natural techniques — all collectively referred to as “protective styling.”

I started receiving clients at home, based completely on referrals, and now have customers of all ages. I have even been lucky enough to use this art to give clients who have recently undergone chemotherapy the protective, natural styles they have always wanted. And I strive do the best job possible for every client who walks through my door, because my customers’ satisfaction literally determines whether my business lives or dies.

I wanted to open my own salon, but Rhode Island would not let me. Under state law, I am not allowed to braid hair without a cosmetology license, which requires 1,200 hours of irrelevant training and can cost upwards of $17,000.

As I wrote earlier, Rhode Island can have a vibrant, innovative economy, or it can have its insider system, but it can’t have both.  It is well past time for us to let people like Ms. DoCouto explore their areas of specialty, even if it means some comfortable people have to compete a little harder.

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A Warning to Watch Across the Pond

The story of Tommy Robinson’s arrest may very well prove to have been a key bellwether of the modern West, so it’s worth highlighting here.  For that purpose, I’ll turn to Mark Steyn, who has long been a clear (and entertaining) voice on the broader topic of free speech in the face of Wester Civilization’s cultural collapse:

On Friday, Robinson was livestreaming (from his telephone) outside Leeds Crown Court where last week’s Grooming Gang of the Week were on trial for “grooming” – the useless euphemism for industrial-scale child gang rape and sex slavery by large numbers of Muslim men with the active connivance (as I pointed out to the Sky guys) of every organ of the state: social workers, police, politicians. Oh, and also the media. …

he was outside the Crown Court in Leeds. He was not demonstrating, or accosting or chanting, or even speaking. He was just pointing his mobile phone upon the scene from a distance. Within minutes, seven coppers showed up in whatever they use instead of a Black Maria these days, tossed him inside it and drove off. In other words, these were not “investigating officers” called to the scene: They showed up with the intent to take him away. Within hours, he was tried, convicted and gaoled – at HM Prison Hull, a Category B chokey, or one level below maximum security. The judge in the case, one Geoffrey Marson, spent all of four minutes on trying, convicting and sentencing Robinson. It is not clear whether that leisurely tribunal included his order expressly forbidding “any report on these proceedings” (the case is Regina vs Yaxley-Lennon because that’s Robinson’s real name).

The gag order on reporting about the arrest has apparently been lifted, but that doesn’t drive the chill from the air.  Steyn contrasts Robinson’s treatment with the kid-gloves handling by authorities that allowed these “grooming gangs” to become true, systemic atrocities.

We’re approaching a time in history that calls for clarity, and in cases like this, clarity should be easy.  The question that will determine the future may be how able we are to clear the identity politics from our eyes.

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Confusion on “Pay Equity”

It’s difficult not to feel as if you’re missing something while reading Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White’s recent op-ed in the Providence Journal.  On the one hand, she insists that “[e]nsuring pay equity is crucial for organizations to function successfully” and offers some suggestions for legislation currently working through the General Assembly.  On the other hand, she lists ways companies can achieve “pay equity” without “government overreach.”

The impression, overall, is that White is signaling that some tweaks to the legislation could be enough for her organization to sign on as supporters, but that she has to take a tone of opposition for the benefit of her members.

The whole debate, however, has this feel of missing something, at least in Rhode Island.  For starters, the wage gap is a myth.  It isn’t real.  Remove from the equation factors that should legitimately affect pay (like career choice, hours worked, and so on) and it evaporates.  White’s op-ed doesn’t go there, but she does proclaim that “pay equity” is critical for businesses to function.  If that’s the case, then why would they discriminate?

Another consideration that conveniently gets left out of this discussion is that Rhode Island already has laws against sex-based discrimination.  Without actual evidence of a systemic effort to skirt those laws, making them more stringent is a reckless imposition.

Of course, reckless imposition appears to be the real objective, inasmuch as the most significant action of the legislation on the table is to expand existing sex-based-discrimination law to cover just about every identity group.  Why is nobody acknowledging that reality?

Out of homage to political correctness, nobody seems to want to address the lies at the center of this debate.  Consequently, they’re conducting this surreal discussion as if debating how best to patch a roof that isn’t leaking.  Meanwhile, the foundation of our society is eroding and Rhode Island’s economic walls are crumbling — notwithstanding the governor’s frantic efforts to board them up with corrupt hand-outs.

Well might the Providence Chamber’s members be concerned about this issue, not the least because their spokeswoman is inevitably setting them up by failing to insisting that the state government legislate from within reality.

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