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Wanting Government Restrictions on Others’ Behalf

As far as arguments against a policy go, points like this are terrible: 

While some conservative Christians would like to see the rule [against religious organizations’ involvement in politics] abolished, others, especially the younger generation, support a clear separation of church and political endorsements. Many liberal churches are also active on policy issues, and could potentially get more involved in partisan politics.

Mayer noted that for some religious leaders, the IRS rule has given them a way to avoid political pressure for an endorsement.

“Now a church that wants to say no has an easy answer, it’s illegal,” Mayer said.

Really?  Those tasked with promoting and explaining a religion are timid about explaining why they might not want to endorse anybody, or even a particular candidate?  Nobody will be forced to express an opinion.  I suspect it’s more the truth that they don’t feel comfortable with it themselves and wish to restrain others from what they see as an unfair advantage.

Perhaps, too, those who object tend to be of the sort who are entirely on the same page as the secular culture, so they know their political work will get done, making it worth taking a slight hit in order to impede others whose Churches play a role to the secular culture.

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Looks Like There’s No Reason to Go After Guns in Rhode Island

Well, well, well.  According to Amanda Milkovits, shootings are down in Providence:

The number of shootings has decreased over the last five years, and with 68 victims last year, is reaching the level of nearly a decade ago. There were 11 homicides in 2016, which is tied with 2006 for the lowest number of homicides in about three decades, according to statistics from the Providence police.

Last year, there were no gang-related homicides – a first in recent memory. That is significant, as one gang killing can often lead to retaliation.

Clearly, therefore, violating Rhode Islanders’ Second Amendment rights with new gun control measures is unnecessary.  That’s especially true given that violent crime is up at the same time, per WPRI’s Dan McGowan.  Looks to me like law-abiding citizens could probably use more guns to protect themselves from thugs.

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School Choice Makes Families Consumers, Not Commodities

A great short report for which I’ve done some research, but which I never manage to get to, would look at the effects of Vermont’s legacy school choice program.  Given the long-rural history of the state, some districts offer students actual school choice, including to private schools, and a key finding that Rhode Island homeowners should find interesting is that property values go up significantly in areas with choice.  Geoffrey Norman doesn’t offer more than a nod to that dynamic in a recent article in The Weekly Standard, but he does use the current debate in Vermont to make a key, fundamental point (emphasis added):

So, school choice is not—and could never be—supported by the education bureaucracy. It threatens not just their convictions but their livelihoods. Where parents can take their kids and the public money that is being spent on them out of one school and move them, and it, to another—well, this threatens the entire system.

Why it might even, in the dark vision of one of the prominent Vermont opponents of school choice, “turn children into commodities.”

Which of course stands the whole thing on its head. Commodities don’t make choices. They are manipulated, packaged, and bundled. As are students in the grip of the industrial-education complex.

What Norman is touching on, here, is the government plantation.  Attracting people to an area who are likely to need government assistance, binding them to their region with government dependency, and locking their children in government schools creates a captive audience with little power to affect the services their receiving.  Again, “commodities don’t make choices,” but when human beings are “manipulated, packaged, and bundled,” they lose the authority to do anything but sit on the shelf until they’re of use to some powerful consumer.

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Setting RI Right on Crime

For the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, I’ve posted a brief report suggesting reform to Rhode Island criminal justice system, helping families to break the cycle of crime and familial breakdown.  With my interest in how the state government functions to restrict our freedoms and perpetuate a public-sector-first business model, the most important piece is also the one least likely to generate supportive legislation:

… it isn’t surprising Rhode Island has the lowest incarceration rate in the country. It is surprising, however, that the Ocean State’s probation and parole rate is fourth highest. That, in turn, leads to a high rate of recidivism, with 52% of former prisoners re-arrested within three years.

As researchers find to be true with other government programs, Rhode Island’s cost to supervise and provide services to prisoners and parolees is high (over $58,000 per prisoner). One might conclude that the state has an institutional bias against letting go of residents once they fall within its net of supervision.

Criminal justice reform is not only the right thing to do for Rhode Island families, it’s also a good example of the bureaucratic mentality that is strangling our state.  For reforms to be sufficient, they’ll have to begin treating that attitude as the crime that it is.

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When the Tolerant People Go to the City Council to Silence Those with Whom They Disagree

Writing in the Newport Daily News, reporter Colin Howarth slips in a helpful reminder — as we watch the Left attempt to make American life a non-stop political rally — of Lefitsts’ understanding of the role of government (emphasis added):

Locals have used social media to voice their concerns about DePetro’s rhetoric in the past, citing what they perceive as misogynistic and hateful remarks. A day after the announcement, a Facebook group was created titled “Get John DePetro off WADK.” Two local residents used the citizen’s forum at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to express their concerns about DePetro.

That’s right.  Progressives in Newport are going to the government in an attempt to silence somebody with whom they disagree.  As Mayor Harry Winthrop says, when others criticize him for welcoming a new talk-show-host to the market, “It’s unfortunate people don’t understand the role of mayor.”

WADK President and Owner Bonnie Gomes notes that, if boycotts threaten anybody, they threaten the 15 employees of the station.

For a long time, in our country, those of a progressive persuasion have been sold on the idea that opposing views are illegitimate.  It’s OK to silence conservatives while proclaiming dedication to free speech.  It’s OK to lock those who hold traditional religious views out of self-governance (by ruling their worldview unconstitutional) while pretending to be an advocate for religious freedom.

It’s time to insist on bringing real tolerance into American society, not just the phony one-sided version that progressives like to put on bumper stickers.

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One Day They’ll Be Ashamed to Have Supported Planned Parenthood

Gee, hard to believe that this story isn’t getting more coverage, isn’t it?

While Live Action was hard pressed to find any Planned Parenthood that offered prenatal care, some of the investigators posing as pregnant women were offered abortions instead. The abortion business does almost one third of all abortions in the U.S. — 887 per day on average or about 320,000 a year.

“Planned Parenthood says it’s a champion of women’s health care, yet prenatal care, which is an essential service for expectant mothers, is virtually nonexistent,” said Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action. “Our investigators who wanted to keep their babies were turned away by 92 out of 97 Planned Parenthood centers. It’s clear that despite its claims, abortion is the priority and the only option for pregnant women that visit Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood is an evil organization: “some of the investigators posing as pregnant women were offered abortions instead.”

The other day, one of my young children asked how the heroes of our national founding could have supported slavery.  It occurred to me after the conversation that children of the future will ask their parents how decent people once thought it was OK to tear babies limb from limb as long as they were still a few inches from birth.

The same politicians and news media who’ll use an unsourced document about “torture” of terrorist enemies for their daily dose of outrage against the Trump administration studiously ignore the dishonesty and death-profiteering of an organization that kills innocent children.

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Deescalation After the Left-Wing Hit

In November 2015, while progressives at the University of Missouri were busily destroying the school’s image with their fascism, I pointed out an Alinsky-style manipulation of a student journalist by religious-studies professor Richard Chip:

To me the most telling moment comes at the beginning, when a bespectacled guy who looks a little older than the average student tells photographer Tim Tai, from within the arm-linked circle of “protestors,” that the photographer “cannot push [the protestors] to move closer.”  It’s a reasonable sounding rule of engagement from somebody presenting himself as some sort of an authority figure.

A moment later, the students start pushing Tai away from the center of the circle, and he turns to the same guy with a complaint that they’re breaking the rules that he had just laid out.  The reply: “Don’t talk to me; that’s not my problem.”

The professor appeared to be an authority and articulated what sounded like fair rules, but then he only stood by the rules when it served his ideological (rather, tribal) purpose.  Something similar is in play in the video of Canadian conservative reporter Sheila Gunn Reid being punched by a left-wing thug, apparently named Dion Bews.

After the attack, a woman steps between Reid and Bews and — as the other “feminists” casually form a wall behind her and usher the violent man away from the scene — speaks in reasonable-sounding terms to “deescalate” the situation.  The clearly missing component is justice, which would have required similarly reasonable actions to keep Bews in the area for a civilized resolution when security had arrived.

As it was, Reid’s employer, The Rebel, had to offer a $1,000 reward and run a campaign to find the guy.  Whether government authorities would have taken the same pains is another question, and it depends in large part how far along they, too, are in seeing justice as a one-way street.

The lesson: When anybody (particularly a progressive) assumes a position of authority or mediator in a conflict, assume that he or she will apply justice only when it suits him or her and act accordingly.

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Surprise: Teachers’ Unions Are Just Political Activist Groups

I’ve written several times in the past that employee representation services are simply the fund raising mechanism for teachers’ unions’ real reason for being: progressive political activism.  Here’s Paul Bedard in the Washington Examiner:

Promoting a “National Day of Action” on Thursday, the NEA said, “On Thursday, January 19, the day before Donald Trump assumes the presidency, thousands of students, parents, educators and community members from across the nation will hold rallies in front of school buildings to inclusively stand up for all students.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to represent their members enough to ensure that they stay members (with wide rivers of funding) at the expense of those whom progressives claim to support.  David Harsanyi in The Federalist:

… teachers unions are the only organizations in America that openly support segregated schools. In districts across the country — even ones in cities with some form of limited movement for kids — poor parents, most typically black or Hispanic, are forced to enroll their kids in underperforming schools when there are good ones nearby, sometimes just blocks away.

The National Education Association spent $23 million last cycle alone working to elect politicians to keep low-income Americans right where they are. Public service unions use tax dollars to fund politicians who then turn around and vote for more funding. The worse the schools perform, the more money they demand. In the real world we call this racketeering.

It’s a travesty that teachers give these organizations a prominent, lucrative place in our government.

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China’s One-Child Policy and Rhode Island Job Initiatives

Something occurred to me when I came across Glenn Reynolds’s link to a New York Times article about China’s change of government heart regarding its one-child policy.  After having forced women to have IUDs implanted, with resulting health problems, the government has decided it needs more people and is now moving to have the IUDs removed.  Says documentary filmmaker Ai Xiaoming:

In the eyes of the government, women are labor units. When the country needs you to give birth, you have to do so. And when they don’t need you to give birth, you don’t.

That’s exactly right.  Humanist-driven progressivism sees people as units to be managed.  I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a pro-choice woman some years back.  She was adamant that her view was all about the freedom of women, so I asked about China’s one-child policy.  Her response: “Well, what do you expect them to do?”… meaning, to address their overpopulation problem.

To make you happier, government has to make you less human.  It’s in the same line as government confiscating resources and distorting the market to retrain workers to fill the jobs that politicians declare necessary for their own political benefit.  They know what’s best for us, and to implement that wisdom, we’re just cookie-cut shapes on a board.

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Saying “No” and then Changing the Times

Mark Glennon’s thoughts on how the state of Illinois will fall apart — is falling apart — in a long, gradual process will resonate with Rhode Islanders capable of seeing what’s going on.  In this paragraph, Glennon raises an historical cliché that I’ll likely start quoting every time somebody expresses bewilderment at Rhode Islanders’ political behavior:

The Illinois General Assembly majority, the Chicago City Council and Mayor Emanuel are the obvious villains, but as for the ultimate culprits — voters who elect them — consider what Alexander the Great supposedly said about why Asians in his day were easily made slaves: “Because they never learned to say ‘no.’” Just saying ‘no’ to the incompetence, graft, lies and rank stupidity of their own government would end it all. But Illinoisans, especially Chicagoans, won’t say it, content to march blithely into indentured servitude.

Perhaps the core feature of the system that our forefathers gave us is that we really can avoid servitude by saying “no.”  We are allowed to change things.  We are allowed to insist that all of the reasons insiders tell us we can only say “yes” are false and that believing as we do does not make us bad people.  Saying “no” is only the first step, of course, but we are permitted to change things, and even change them back to something that we’ve lost, like true representative democracy and the rule of law.  The past is fertile ground from which to draw seeds for the future, not a wasteland of toxic superstition.

As for the “how,” I’m more and more convinced that hoping for some catalyst or hero is folly.  Rather, I believe Saint Augustine had it right in his Sermon 311:

You say, the times are troublesome, the times are burdensome, the times are miserable.  Live rightly and you will change the times.

The times have never hurt anyone.  Those who are hurt are human beings; those by whom they are hurt are also human beings.  So, change human beings and the times will be changed.

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A Strange Issue on Which Not to Tolerate Dissent

This, from Jacqueline Tempera in the Providence Journal, seems related to the decriminalization of child prostitution in California:

Amnesty International’s policy on sex workers, which was published in May after a vote by chapters internationally, calls for “the decriminalization of all aspects of adult consensual sex work due to the foreseeable barriers that criminalization creates to the realization of the human rights of sex workers.”

[Rhode Islander Marcia] Lieberman, and most of the members of the 10-person chapter she coordinated, disagreed with this, she said. They felt the research into the policy was scant and that it would embolden “pimps and johns” who were exploiting “mostly young women and girls.”

“We believe there should be help for people in sex work,” Lieberman explained in an interview. “But we did not believe it should be legal for customers to buy sex.”

So, Amnesty International excommunicated her.  The organization is free to have its policies about internal agreement when it comes to its far-left, radical progressivism, but consider the issue that this is about.  There may be more to the story than presented, of course, but this hardly seems like an issue so fundamental to the organization that no prudential disagreement can be tolerated.

One certainly gets the impression that there’s an ideological agenda at work behind the scenes across the progressive movement.

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Not Surprising a Social Justice Warrior Would Bring Students to a Trump Protest

This is hardly surprising:

Central Falls High School math teacher Seth Kolker has independently organized the group [joining the anti-Trump “Women’s March on Washington”]. He did so to help students “channel their fear, anger and confusion” after the election, when they began asking such questions as, “Will I be deported,” or “Are Latinos going to be allowed to go to high school in America anymore?” 

Some might question the propriety of public school teachers’ using their positions of influence with students as a connecting point for political activism, but remember that Central Falls is the school district that is literally hiring social justice Warriors.  Of course, if we were to flip the politics, the Providence Journal would have written a scandal story rather than a celebrate-the-community story.

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The EPA Restricts Lifeboats While Driving into an Energy Iceberg

Ah, the tender extremism of the Environmental Protection Agency, as John Daniel Davidson writes on The Federalist:

… now comes the federal government to tell the inhabitants of Alaska’s interior that, really, they should not be building fires to keep themselves warm during the winter. The New York Times reports the Environmental Protection Agency could soon declare the Alaskan cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, which have a combined population of about 100,000, in “serious” noncompliance of the Clean Air Act early next year.

Read the whole thing, but in sum, according to Davidson this is a local problem isolated to an area that people can choose to leave.  The writer, for one, is willing to take the health risks associated with some wood-fire-related pollution for the benefits of life in the area, but the distant federal government isn’t willing to allow him that option.

Like much progressive, big-government action, the effect of this regulation (intentional or not) will be to limit the places humanity can settle… except, naturally, those privileged few with money to burn.  To be sure, it must be difficult for federal bureaucracies to tell people how to live their lives when we’re so spread out into the wilderness.

Indeed, one finds it difficult not to see a deliberate restriction of human freedom if the picture combines Davidson’s explanation of the energy challenges in the region…

Heating oil is too expensive for a lot of people, and natural gas isn’t available.

… with the EPA’s restrictions and President Barack Obama’s imperial ban on oil drilling along Alaska’s coast.

In The Titanic, one passenger laments that there aren’t enough lifeboats for half of the passengers, and the movie’s wealthy villain proclaims that it won’t be “the better half” who are stranded.  Think of government as a crew both steering toward an iceberg and restricting access to escape and you’ll have something of the sense of how progressive policies function.

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The Key Question When Government Enlists Stylists as Informers

On the sagacity of Illinois’ forcing beauticians to be trained in discerning signs that their clients are in damaging relationships (and, presumably, to do something with that knowledge), Mark Steyn offers his usual insightfulness:

Just as the Stasi turned neighbors and relatives into spies, the State of Illinois is making your stylist one. Will the “spirit of camaraderie” survive this new legislation? Or will such stock inquiries about coming vacations and plans for the weekend suddenly seem far more loaded and alert the customer that she’s now in the blow-dried equivalent of a Bulgarian hotel lobby circa 1978? …

… like so much government makework paper-shuffling schemes, it won’t do anything to reduce the problem it’s meant to be addressing, but it will be just one more tedious time-consuming obstacle to making a modest living.

There is likely one of two processes behind this legislation.  One is that activists with some ulterior motive (whether reducing competition in the beauty industry or padding the budgets of abuse and assault activists) pressured legislators.  The other is that some Illinois lawmaker observed that stylists fill somewhat of the same role that bartenders used to be considered as filling for men and thought it would be a great way for government to “do something” if the law went straight from social truism to professional mandate.

Either way, the most important question is:  Who keeps electing these people?

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Maybe Child Prostitution Isn’t Something to Decriminalize, Just Now

As Rhode Island enters another legislative session, we should keep a careful eye on other states so we can spot progressives’ destructive plans when they make their way here.  Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen points out, in the Washington Examiner, a big one out of California: 

Beginning on Jan. 1, prostitution by minors will be legal in California. Yes, you read that right.

SB 1322 bars law enforcement from arresting sex workers who are under the age of 18 for soliciting or engaging in prostitution, or loitering with the intent to do so. So teenage girls (and boys) in California will soon be free to have sex in exchange for money without fear of arrest or prosecution.

Government imposes too many criminal penalties for people’s free activities, catching too many people up in the system and making it more difficult for them to overcome adversity and thrive.  But can we at least agree that the underage sale of sex is a likely indicator that the public has an interest not in punishing the kids, but in taking a closer look at what their problems are?

To be sure, I’ve got a generally dark view of government’s ability to do such things, but as with legalizing marijuana, we have to acknowledge our current circumstances and consider the effects of changing them at this particular time in a particular way.  If our society were healthier, with strong social institutions, instead of deteriorating ones, we might consider changes that will tend to produce socially harmful effects, but to do so in a rush of progressive ambition is lunacy.

ADDENDUM (12/31/16 4:16 p.m.):

In anticipation of objections, I should address immediately objections that the intent of the law is not as Allen suggests.  Nobody should doubt that most progressives think they’re doing good by their actions.  But consider this, from bill author Holly Mitchell:

The problem is that not every county has services available in juvenile justice for minor victims.

Followed with NBC’s note that:

Various district attorneys’ offices in the state have expressed a similar apprehension toward the law —but some say it’s because the state just isn’t ready to provide adequate services.

Good intentions can be deadly.  If they feel, for whatever reason, that sex for money is in their best interest, CA children can now know that the worst-case will be services (for which they’re probably already eligible).

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Setting Degrees and Boundaries for Telling Parents What to Do

Abby Schachter raises a warning flag on the presumption of government agencies to tell parents how to raise their children:

The fact that legislation is necessary to correct the imbalance between parents’ rights and the separate, independent rights of their minor children is one of the defining characteristics of our current age, one in which the government at all levels has become involved in the private lives of families, dictating child-rearing standards and penalizing parents who do not follow the rules. This condition of overbearing state interference in the lives of families is pervasive, though not coordinated…

“Not coordinated” in the sense that there is no secret council with a defined plan to absolve parents of the rights and responsibilities of parenthood and transfer them to the government.  However, one would have to deny the link between big-government philosophy and a definable set of beliefs associated with progressivism not to acknowledge an implicit coordination.

Look, this is one of those areas in which the degrees to which interference is permissible and the boundaries at which such interference ought to be allowed through government, through social institutions, or merely through personal social pressure ought to be available for debate, but such decisions, being so personal and intrinsic to the perpetuation of families’ belief systems, ought to be made at the most local level possible.

My opinion is that government oversteps its boundaries when it mandates behaviors beyond immediate harm and with less than near-certain risk.  As for voluntary association with moral institutions, like churches, they ought to be nearly as free as individual families are.

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An Opportunity for Secularists to Recognize How Far They’ve Leaned

Even non-Catholic Rhode Islanders, particularly those of progressive bent, should carefully read this recent editorial from The Rhode Island Catholic:

What happens now [following the national election] is the continued battle between good and evil. God’s people must not discount the work of Satan in our world, who will be working full time to stop the progress of God’s will. If the administration-elect, in conjunction with the support of Congress, achieves even a few of their stated objectives, the devil will not be pleased. He will fight against the pro-life movement. He will fight against the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which stifles the voice of the Church in the public square. He will fight against religious liberties. He will fight against the appointment of constitutional Supreme Court justices. Like a dog backed into a corner, he will turn on the good even more viciously and seek any opportunity to exacerbate the divide among the people. As long as the devil is fighting, the faithful must stay vigilant as they continue to pray and support those who were raised up.

I hope non-radical liberals in Rhode Island understand how important this paragraph is.  As a local conservative and Catholic who has periodically had difficulty publishing in the paper, I can say that The Rhode Island Catholic is by no means a right-wing publication.

Some quick googler may prove me wrong in some degree, but my impression as a reader is that the conclusions of this editorial have been a long time building, not only at the paper, but in the Catholic-community context that informs and influences its editors.  Under Obama, nationally, and Chafee-Raimondo, statewide, even people who are relatively moderate religious believers feel under attack, and for good reason.

As a matter of practical analysis, this editorial could be put among the evidence behind Donald Trump’s electoral victory, indicating yet another factor that contributed to his upset victory.  But moderates and liberals should look past the political calculation and recognize the extremity toward which they’d been leaning, away from their neighbors.

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Speaking of Degradation Applies to Representative Democracy, Too

While this outcome, reported by Matt Hadro of the Catholic News Agency, is obviously worth a small celebration, it raises disturbing questions about the state of representative democracy in Massachusetts:

Then in a Nov. 7 letter, the state announced that it had changed its guidance on the rule [forbidding all organizations to divide any facilities by biological gender] and would not be including “houses of worship” among the “public accommodations” that would be subject to the law.

“Your lawsuit caused us to focus on these issues and to make this revision to our website.  Thank you for bringing the issue to our attention,” the state attorney general’s office said in the letter to ADF.

Of course, the same objection applies to religious exemptions as to journalists.  Why should particular organizations have specific rights?  Organizations shouldn’t have to be explicitly card-carrying religious organizations to have the right to set the terms of the use of their own property.

But more importantly — much more importantly — this should not be how representative democracy works. If the agency is able to preserve citizens’ rights through a simple change of its Web site, it will be able infringe on their rights the same way.  Lawmaking via regulation, or even casual interpretation in letters and Web site posts has gone much too far.

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