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Politically Correct Anti-Tobacco Regs: How Many People Might Die Because They Were Denied a Less Harmful Choice?

Better something that is less harmful than more harmful. But to some, innovative new products that reduce health risks – should be banned. In the tobacco and nicotine industry, the politically-correct anti-tobacco movement is advocating for the suppression of individual rights and elimination of less harmful choices, via restrictions and outright bans on products that could improve public health.


Challenging The Progressive-Left

At the Center, we know that the high levels of taxation and over-regulation forced upon the people by an ever-growing state government is the main culprit in causing Rhode Island’s weak and stagnant performance. Look at it this way, heavy handed action by a state government that primarily seeks to perpetuate itself, actually works against the best-interests of the very people it is supposed to be serving.


Hiding the Downside of Moral Decline

Barton Swaim picks out something important in his Wall Street Journal review of a book titled Moral Combat by R. Marie Griffith:

Ms. Griffith, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, writes with cold objectivity about her material, but the subject of sexual morality does not lend itself to cold objectivity. She has written a detailed history of the breakdown of American society’s broad Christian consensus on sexual behavior but says little about the consequences of this breakdown. There is nothing here about, for instance, the effects on children of single-parent upbringings, nothing about the dramatic dissolution of marriage among African-Americans, and almost nothing about the objectification of women in omnipresent pornography. The overall effect strikes this admittedly conservative reviewer as incomplete or skewed, like a book on the changing technology of warfare that never mentions death tolls or actual wars.

The narrative is all about what we’re told, and if people are only told about an evolution toward unchallenged liberty and the decline of moral institutions, but not about the trade-offs, our sense of ourselves and our history is terribly skewed.  One can see how the impression develops that our ancestors were just unenlightened, superstitious simpletons.  After all, by the progressive mainstream narrative, they allowed their freedoms to be restricted for no reason at all.

One can also see how younger generations, having been fed this narrative their whole lives, think it mere bigotry to worry about the deleterious effects of every innovation that cultural radicals force before us for approval.  Their story of history is of humanity’s perpetually being afraid to take evolutionary steps and perpetually finding that our concerns were unfounded.  At some point, having felt one’s way around in the dark and found no walls, the temptation is to increase our pace.  As Swaim notes, however, we’re ignoring sounds and signals that we might be approaching not a wall, but a cliff.

It is as if we’re watching a series of movies in which one character encourages the other to push away his inhibitions, but the movies never let the story follow up with the pair to display any consequences.  The circumstances are changed, and the hardships in every movie are just vaguely alleged to have been created by lingering inhibitions.


Deputizing Online Corporations as We Move Toward a Totalitarian State

Arguably, this article by John McKinnon was misplaced in the Business section of a recent Wall Street Journal:

A dispute over how to deter a flourishing online sex trade is likely to escalate into a high-profile policy battle in 2018, adding to political headaches for big tech.

Lawmakers for months have been working on ways to address the issue, which has its roots in a 1990s law that gives websites and other online businesses broad legal immunity for activity of their users. The law has provided legal cover for adult classified-ad sites such as to develop into big businesses, shielding them from lawsuits by victims as well as prosecution and other actions by local authorities.

To be sure, there exists a line across which a Web site or search engine is actually using the openness of its network as cover to conduct or facilitate illegal business.  That such a line is there, though, doesn’t mean it should be so broad or vague that we essentially deputize online companies to seek out illegal behavior among their users.

One thing that seems to underlie this issue is our confused understanding of freedom.  Because we refuse to accept cultural limits on our behavior, we wind up asking government to harden the barriers to that which remains unacceptable and, in this case, to deputize corporations and give them responsibility for investigating and prosecuting us.  Keep in mind that responsibility to do something goes hand in hand with authority to do it.

The regime toward which we’re headed is one in which the government protects behavior and lifestyles it likes, forbidding people (and their businesses) from discriminating against them, while the government also authorizes and even pressures corporations or other organizations (like colleges) to seek out behavior the government doesn’t like and persecute it.

Put this question in the context of smartphone apps used for purchases and services that the Chinese government is looking to transform into a means of controlling the public through behavior incentives. McKinnon’s article actually shares the page with another misplaced article, by Alyssa Abkowitz, about the possibility of those very same apps’ becoming official state IDs.

If you’re looking for something to resist in 2018, this totalitarian trend should be at the top of your list.


A “Sweetheart” Deal on a Compromised Military

If the facts that Ted Nesi reports on WPRI are the entirety of the story, we’re at a bizarre and dangerous crossroads in our country:

A U.S. Army general’s nomination to receive a third star has been pulled after he reportedly referred to one of Congressman Jim Langevin’s staff members as “sweetheart.”

Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, reported that Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves’ promotion was withdrawn after an inspector general’s report determined he had likely used the term in reference to the unidentified female Langevin employee during an October 2016 meeting.

As is always necessary, let’s assess the situation objectively:  We have, here, the potential promotion of an executive tasked with preparing and guiding the country’s forces in the matter of war, with some indication that he might have been headed for command of all U.S. Army forces in Europe.

War, as a reminder, is an armed conflict in which two sides in an otherwise irresolvable dispute kill each other’s people until one side concludes that the dispute is not worth the losses that it will suffer (or that it cannot win at all).  It is manifestly in a nation’s interest to have the most competent leadership possible when it comes to the military, as proven by their record of military service and acumen in the conduct of military affairs.

The question of whether General Gonsalves is such a leader (on which I have no evidence beyond the absence of other reported complaints against him in these articles) is not well determined through a he-said-she-said verbal controversy resulting from a single meeting with a testy political staffer, especially considering that we have not been provided any context at all indicating her behavior during the meeting.


Rhode Island In 47th Place On The Jobs & Opportunity Index

Happy New Year! In 2018, Rhode Islanders want to achieve their hopes and dreams of better life for their families. In order for the Ocean State to prosper, we need an economic climate that rewards hard work, encourages small-business growth, and creates quality jobs. In this regard, the traditionally cited monthly unemployment rate is often used by state lawmakers as a benchmark to evaluate the results of their policy initiatives. However, this rate represents only a very narrow look at the employment health of a state and can often paint an incomplete, or even inaccurate, snapshot of the broader economic picture.


The Failure to Make Distinctions, Illustrated

Arguments are fascinating things, and often, people who hold untenable positions will illustrate their error even as they smugly proclaim the errors of others.  I’m thinking, in specific, of this recent comment by (ahem) BasicCaruso to my post quoting National Review’s Kevin Williamson:

Ah, the contortions necessary to hold this to be true…

“Telling a black man that he may not work in your bank because he is black is in reality a very different thing from telling a gay couple that you’d be happy to sell them cupcakes or cookies or pecan pies but you do not bake cakes for same-sex weddings.”

So if I understand this correctly, a bank must be happy to offer a black man service such as opening a bank account but could deny him a joint checking account with his same sex partner or with his white wife because of an owner’s objections to same sex marriage or to miscegenation? Slippery slope, indeed.

Having highlighted the smugness in that comment, I’ll bite my lip so as to resist responding in kind.  Assess Basic’s accusation objectively:

  • Williamson’s claim in that sentence is that two circumstances are different.
  • In order to pretend that they are not, Basic must brush away all of these differences:
    • A bank must be just like a small-scale baker.
    • An employee must be just like a customer.
    • Creating a customized product celebrating a particular, personal event must be just like providing a generic long-running financial service for a household.

And all of these are direct and specific failures to distinguish, without getting into the more profound differences, like that between race and sexual orientation and even the difference between men and women.

One cannot argue with an interlocutor who will not acknowledge, even in theory, the differences between things that are so obviously different.  Largely, that is because the interlocutor has demonstrated that his or her beliefs are not founded in facts or logic.  They’re emotional, mostly fashionable, and fundamentally political.  To acknowledge the relevance of facts, in such a case, would be to acknowledge that the worldview to which such people adhere cannot be substantiated.


Another Providence Mayor Declines to Be a Good Role Model

With research into the correlation of people’s social and economic outcomes, it quickly becomes clear that almost nothing makes as broad and profound a difference as the nuclear family — with children raised in a household with their married mother and father.  Unfortunately, Providence is on track to have its second mayor in a row to have a child out of wedlock:

The mayor and his partner are going to be parents.

A spokesman for Mayor Jorge Elorza confirmed that the city’s mayor and his girlfriend of four years, Stephanie Gonzalez, are expecting a child.

Elorza, 41, and Gonzalez, 31, first met in 2013 at Central Falls Mayor James Diossa’s inauguration, according to a Providence Journal profile that featured the couple. They began running together – sometimes four times a week – and the friendship turned romantic.

The couple has been together for a number of years, and Elorza may very well follow his predecessor, Angel Taveras, and marry the mother of his child after the child’s birth.  The headline, “Providence Mayor Elorza, girlfriend expecting a baby,” is still detrimental, though.

Marriage is, above all, a cultural institution.  Responsible people who don’t ultimately require some sort of document proclaiming their commitment to each other pay into the institution by reinforcing the expectation that couples who do that which creates children will be married.  If they act as good role models and set cultural norms, then those who are less responsible, or at risk of becoming so, will be more likely to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, Elorza is a progressive, and successful progressives often live according to the principle that others should do as they say, not as they do.  That is, they do what is good and right for their own families while downplaying the secrets of their success.  Paired with public policies that also don’t reinforce behaviors that lead to human flourishing, they ultimately create a chasm across which those who start out disadvantaged cannot cross… at least without seeking favor from the ruling party.


Life Expectancy and Drug Overdose Deaths Don’t Fit the Identity Politics Narrative

The headline that the Providence Journal gave to a Washington Post story, “Fueled by drug crisis, US life expectancy declines for a second straight year,” hides the key point:

Overall, life expectancy dropped by a tenth of a year, from 78.7 to 78.6. It fell two-tenths of a year for men, who have much higher overdose death rates, from 76.3 to 76.1 years. Women’s life expectancy held steady at 81.1 years.

American women now have five full years of additional life, on average, than American men.  You better believe that if the sexes were reversed that would be not only the headline, but a theme for national coverage everywhere for a week.

Looking at a leading cause of the change only amplifies the point:

Men of all ages (26 deaths per 100,000) are twice as likely to die of a drug overdose as women (13 per 100,000).

In Rhode Island, where female Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo hosts an annual student contest that discriminates against boys, the number of overdose deaths among men is almost three times that of women:



The most important antidote to drug use and overdose isn’t a government program, it’s hope.  Unfortunately, that’s only a word on our flag in Rhode Island.


Beware the Expectation of Being Included or Exempted

In the wake of the two-day hate on the cessation of net neutrality, a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Mark Epstein puts a worthwhile spotlight on the communications duopoly enjoyed by net neutrality–backers Google and Facebook.  Basically, those two companies control 84% of all non-Chinese digital advertising and around 95% of all social media activity, and Google owns about 90% of searches.  This gives them the power to censor and to bully Web site owners into self-censorship.

They’re also shaping public discourse in the way some generally liberal mainstreamers don’t like:

Journalists also argue that tech companies are pushing media toward the lowest common denominator. Social media rewards clickbait—sensational headlines that confirm readers’ biases. Google and Facebook’s advertising duopoly bleeds traditional publishers of the revenue needed to produce high-quality news. At the same time, Google’s search engine is biased against subscription content, depleting another source of funding.

Yet, one gets the impression that supporters of old-guard media are perfectly happy to applaud censorship that they like, either because it harms their competition or affirms their biases.

Too many people with influence in our society want mainly to be included or exempted, and their political biases lead them to imagine that they will be.  That’s a mistake.