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Drag Queen Story Hour Features Cultural Marxist… No, Really

A drag performer in full costume calling himself “Naomi Chomsky” read a story to small children at the Fall River Public Library. Outside, Christian protesters prayed for the mental well-being of the children subjected to his performance. These “Drag Queen Story Hour” performances are spreading throughout Rhode Island, despite the concerns of many citizens. Why are they happening?

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How the Issues Blend in the General Assembly

Maybe I’m being a little too cynical, but a serendipitous press release from the Rhode Island Senate at least provides an opportunity to contemplate how things operate at the State House.

As readers probably have heard by now, the Democrat leadership of the Senate engaged in an unprecedented last minute political stunt by pulling an abortion bill that decriminalizes fetal homicide from the Judiciary Committee and sends it to the Health and Human Services Committee, which everybody expects to pass it.  The reason for this unusual move was that Senate Republicans looked like they were going to leverage their rights as a minority under the chamber’s rules to add two votes to the “nay” side and stop the radical, unnecessary, and deceptive legislation.

The odd thing about it is that Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D, Warwick) and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D, Providence, North Providence) could have done the same thing.  Instead, the Senate president managed to ensure that the bill passes committee without admitting that he voted for it.

Now the press release posted on the Web the same day as the committee maneuver:

The Senate today passed legislation (2019-S-803Aaa) sponsored by President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) that takes a new approach to economic development on large tracts of state land. Spurred by delays and impediments imposed upon the Hope Point Tower proposal for the I-195 Redevelopment District, the bill intends to create a more streamlined process for approvals on these state-owned parcels moving forward.

“We have a rare opportunity for development at the former I-195 land and some other areas across the state,” said Senator Ruggerio. “In the I-195 District, a developer is hoping to invest more than a quarter of a billion dollars to create an iconic structure that redefines the skyline. We should have welcomed this investment with open arms. Instead, we did everything we could to chase the developer away. Thankfully, he’s still here. This process has sent a terrible message to anyone looking to invest in Rhode Island.”

This is a big-money deal of particular interest to labor unions, for which Ruggerio worked until he retired after becoming Senate president.  The only reason I hesitate to link this with the abortion bill is that the vote wasn’t really that close: 28 to 8.  On the other hand, eight “nay” votes is pretty substantial in our one-sided legislature.  Had 10 votes flipped, the bill would have failed.  When the bill was in Senate Judiciary, four flipped votes would have stopped it.

So, the lesson:  When considering the up-and-down votes on any particular bill, you can’t assume legislators are judging the merits alone.  The lives of unborn children, in this case, can perhaps be sacrificed for the sake of a crony development deal.  Or perhaps some other backroom deal has been struck so that the House will stop the legislation in exchange for a return favor from the Senate.

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Upcoming Budget: More Privileges for Insiders or Real Help for RI Families?

With the General Assembly session nearing the end, we fully expect the new state budget to contain no meaningful remedies to the many problems that plague our state, such as high taxes across the board, high energy and healthcare costs, and onerous regulatory burdens on job-producers. In our Public Union Excesses report, we identified that there are $888 million per year in excessive collectively-bargained costs, responsible for driving up local property taxes by up to 25%.

Progressive wearing communist hammer and sickle alongside drag queen protests on Catholic holy ground.

Progressives Protest Catholic Church in Providence

As faithful Catholics left the 6:00 pm Mass on Sunday night at the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Providence, they met a crowd of over a hundred angry Progressive protestors. The demonstrators were there to protest against the religious tenets of the the Catholic Church. The protest came following a viral tweet from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin early Saturday morning reminding Catholics not to support the LGBTQ “Pride Month,” and warning families that the sexual displays present at “Pride” marches are especially harmful to children.

Somewhere around Twitter, I saw somebody complain that people are spreading "lies" about Virginia Democrats.  The on-point response from somebody else (paraphrasing):  "People are spreading direct quotes."

The Danger of Saving a Child’s Life

Even if I could somehow adjust for the fact that I agree with his views on abortion and human life, I think I would still struggle to understand how a story like that of Argentinian doctor Leandro Rodriguez Lastra could fail to spark cognitive dissonance among supporters of abortion:

Rodríguez is the head of the department of gynecology at the Pedro Moguillansky Hospital in Cipoletti. In May 2017, he treated a 19-year-old woman who was suffering severe pain due to ingesting misoprostol, the first of a two-part abortion pill regimen, which had been administered by an abortion group.

The doctor confirmed that the woman was almost 23 weeks pregnant and the baby weighed more than 1 lb. 2 oz., so in conjunction with the medical team and the hospital board, he decided not to terminate the pregnancy.

Rodríguez stabilized the patient and when the baby reached 35 weeks gestation, labor was induced. Days later, the baby was adopted and will soon be two years old.

This is in the news, right now, because Rodriguez faces two years in prison for the act of saving two lives.  One of the two wanted him to finish the job of killing the other, which she had started.

How — How? — could anybody think of that now-two-year-old child and think to him or her self, “This doctor must be punished because that child is alive”?  Is the child Damian, the Antichrist?

Of course it’s not this specific child.  Rather the motivation is to make of Dr. Rodriguez an example, so that doctors’ desire to save lives cannot disrupt the principle of infanticide — or, one step closer to the higher principle, complete sexual liberty.

Whether the focus is the child or the doctor, however, a society that sees either as a danger requiring punishment could not have a clearer need for self reflection.

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Millennial Suffering and the Right to a Coastal Lifestyle

As a general proposition, I find debate about the conditions of different generations — Millennials, GenX, Boomers, etc. — to be not much more than merely amusing.  However, a point that David Harsanyi makes in The Federalist touches more broadly on the way a certain sort of coastal elite looks at people’s conditions and rights.

Broadly, Harsanyi acknowledges that Millennials do show slower growth in wealth and delayed achievement of life milestones, but he argues that this is a function of their choices.  Indeed, delaying milestones like marriage and home ownership are likely the causes of slower growth in wealth, rather than the effects of it.

However, the interesting point about perspective comes with this:

… millennials aren’t compelled to rent apartments in the middle of the most expensive cities in America. Yet, many are happier living in urban areas than previous generations were. Pew Research found in 2018 that 88 percent of millennials now reside in metropolitan areas. That’s also a choice.

And the urban areas that millennials choose are more expensive partly because they are far better iterations of cities than previous generations encountered. In the past 30 years, these places have undergone waves of gentrification and revival, in part to cater to the tastes of younger Americans. Most are cleaner, safer, and more livable in numerous ways—and thus, more pricey. Yes, Brooklyn was a lot cheaper in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. It was also more dangerous, dirtier, and less enticing for families and businesses.

True, Harsanyi grants, half-million-dollar “veritable castles” in high-demand suburbs are out of reach for young adults, but starter homes in more reasonable zip codes are not.  That’s why we call them “starter homes.”

Of course, this point gets tangled up in the self-contradictory beliefs of modern progressives — for instance, that nobody needs a large house with all the fixin’s, but that anybody who cannot have such a house is unjustly deprived.  Just so, the insinuation on behalf of Millennials is that they have a right to live the lifestyle that coastal elites consider to be de rigeur and are deprived if they cannot.  The hardship of the generation, in other words, is that they cannot afford the things that a traditional lifestyle lived over a at least a decade helps a family to achieve.

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Dr. Stephen Skoly: Opioid Tax Bill Would Harm Families and Businesses and Do Nothing to Address the Problem

The opioid epidemic is a widespread, complicated problem, and only a collective effort will begin to solve it. The healthcare community and lawmakers need to work in tandem to find policies that effectively lessen opioid abuse while still keeping our state’s economic health as well the health and safety of the patient in mind. It’s unfortunate, however, that Senate Bill S0798, the Opioid Stewardship Act, fails on both accounts.

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Help Spread the Word About the Cost of Government Unions

Wow, has our report shaken up the status quo! We have done the research, and we have connected the dots. The number one driver of the Ocean State’s declining population and jobs numbers – the high property taxes we all pay – can now be directly connected to the excessive costs of government, as mandated by government union collective bargaining agreements.

Now, we are asking your support to help us spread the word.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Labor and Abortion in Rhode Island

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, this week, was about the likely future of legislation supporting organized labor and promoting abortion, as well as the governor’s chances of spinning her performance for state and national consumption.

Open post for full audio.

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Rhode Island’s Political Leaders Are Failing on Their Promise to Help Average Families

At $888 per year for each of Rhode Island’s 1 million residents, a family of four is paying over $3,500 annually for excessive compensation deals for government workers, while the basic needs of their own families are being ignored by politicians.

With almost two-thirds of these excessive costs being heaped upon municipal taxpayers, the report further estimates that property taxes could be reduced by 25% if more reasonable, market-based collective bargaining agreements were negotiated.

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A World With More than One Captain America

SPOILERS about Avengers: Endgame ahead.

I agree with Jonah Goldberg more than I disagree with him, but sometimes a guy has to stand firm in what he believes.  Of all the complaints one can make about the last of the Avengers movies (at least in this cycle), inconsistency about its treatment of time travel is not one of them.

I should note that I think the movies’ conception of how time works is pure fantasy not applicable to reality, but if one accepts their physics framework, the story is just fine.

Seemingly in order to make a fun reference to the Back to the Future movies, the smarter characters explain that it isn’t possible to go back in the past in order to change the present.  The heroes live in a world where the bad guy, Thanos, has used the Infinity Stones to wipe out half of all life in the universe.  The problem is that the people whom they left behind when they went into the past would still be in a future in which Thanos had already accomplished his goal.  It would be along a different time stream that Thanos had failed.  Undoing what has already been done is a logical impossibility if we accept a tangible universe.

Jonah’s complaint is about the end of the movie.  Once the world is saved, Captain America travels into the past to return the stones to their proper times, and he doesn’t return.  It turns out he’d decided to stay in the past and live out a lifelong retirement with his one-time love.  But then… there he is, as an old man sitting nearby a few seconds after the younger him had gone into the past.  Weren’t we already told that changing things in the past put you on a different time stream?

Yes, but we’ve also seen evidence that two copies of the same person could exist alongside each other.  Indeed, Captain America had to fight with himself!  Jonah’s complaint is that Captain America’s staying in the past would have changed reality in all sorts of unpredictable ways, but as long as he stayed quiet and lived as a regular Joe far away from the action of the Avengers, he would have done nothing logically incompatible with the world of the story that we’ve been following over the past eleven years.  For all we know, he was out there all along.

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Imbalanced Equity in Fortnite

Sometimes the practical wisdom of children — who can see past the hangups of adults, if only because they lack the experience that makes those hangups justifiable, even wise — brings a unique perspective.

By coincidence, on the same day that Rhode Island’s Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo swore in the fifth adolescent winner of her sexist girls-only “Governor for a Day” contest, I asked an early-teen boy of my acquaintance a question about his choice of characters in the video game Fortnite.  If you’re somehow not familiar with it, the game places characters on an island for a “Battle Royale” in which only one player can survive.  It’s a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, meaning that all of the other characters are people playing on their own devices somewhere in the world.

Earlier on in the game’s life cycle, players were cast randomly as female or male and had no choice.  Recently (it appears), the designers have made it possible to choose the sex of one’s character.

“Why have you been using that girl character?,” I asked.

He replied, “Because the girls are smaller, so they don’t stick out when you hide in bushes.”

Ah.  See, the male characters are all large, muscular types, which is a liability if you’re crouching in a bush or behind a rock.  Yet, they gain no advantage from their size.  They can’t carry any additional weapons or materials.  They can’t run any faster.  They have no advantage when it comes down to a pickax fight.  They can’t jump any higher or withstand more of a beating.

By social necessity, the game is a level playing field between the sexes, except in the one way that would be visually unrealistic, and that one way is an advantage to females.  Yet, it is a competitive environment in which players will make rational decisions.  Where the qualities of men provide no advantage, even as the attributes that would more-realistically produce those qualities create a liability, competitive boys will co-opt the advantages of women.

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How Much Union Members Are Paid, And How Much Taxpayers Can Afford

With the third highest property taxes in the country, a major encumbrance within an overall anti-taxpayer and anti-business climate that has dropped Rhode Island into bottom-10 rankings in a number of critical national indexes, the excessive costs of collectively bargained government services can be directly linked to this statewide problem.

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Assumptions of Perfection in Prostitution

For a recent episode of his Uncut podcast, Matt Allen had an interesting conversation with Bella Robinson, who is (I think it is accurate to say) a prostitute based in Rhode Island.  Matt remarked several times that Ms. Robinson seemed to paint those who do charitable work as well as government agencies tasked with human services as unfailingly bad or misguided, while also seeming to prefer big-government policies.

The flip side of this tendency toward blanket condemnations of adverse institutions is blanket praise for one’s own.  Listening to Robinson, one would think that prostitution is preferable to, and even safer than, just about any other occupation, and certainly to dating and marriage.

Along those lines, Matt confronted her with the broadly understood reality that a traditional, responsible lifestyle will bring 90% of people out of poverty.  Actually, the progressive Brookings Institute finds that 98% of poor people who finish high school, get full-time jobs, and wait until 21 and married to have children will escape poverty, with 75% making it to the middle class.

Bella Robinson’s response, in essence, was that she tried that strategy, and it didn’t work for her.  Well, yeah, any system that is 98% effective will not work for 2% of people.  That doesn’t mean that we should reorder society in a way that might work for that 2% but fails some much larger percentage.  (One thinks of radical feminism, which tears down standards for relationships that work for large numbers of women and replaces it with one that might not work for anybody except the feminists themselves.)

During the entire podcast, listeners get the impression that Robinson doesn’t believe anything works except the subject of her advocacy: sex work.  Religion, government, relationships, marriage, social work… all of them are entirely flawed because they’re not 100% perfect.  But tossing our “old tired ethics,” which our civilization has honed (yes, with missteps) over thousands of years, that apparently will cure everything.

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Rhode Island Is Losing The Competition Between States – Look for Major Report by Center

Although the state’s rank stayed the same, this month was not a good month for the state on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index. Rhode Island remains last in New England at 47th place in the country. Employment was down another 521 people from the first-reported number for February, and the labor force dropped 1,234.

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Toward a Consensus on Free Speech

The defenestration of British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton based on a deceptively presented interview may be of limited relevance to Rhode Island politics.  The lesson, however, is worth presenting in every venue of our modern age:

But while certain Conservative politicians seem set on appeasing what they take to be the spirit of the age, they might have misjudged the turn. … Those who were most angry were young people, who have grown to loathe this social media hate-mongering.

Their instincts are right. Our world is replete with complex matters that need discussing. We need philosophers, thinkers and even politicians of courage to help us find our way through this. We live in the age of character assassination. What we now desperately need is a counter-revolution based on the importance of individuals over mobs, the primacy of truth over offence, and the necessity of free-thought over this bland, dumb and ill-conceived uniformity.

People across the political spectrum must rebuild the consensus that everybody has a right to express their views, that we should give each other wide latitude to err (whether in fleeting words misspoken in an instant or more-fundamental flaws in a way of thinking), and that punishing people for the ideas that they express, to the extent that it should be an option at all, should be done only with full awareness of the context and intent of their speech.  Knowing what they actually said is only the first step of that process.

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From GOT to the Meaning of Life with Matt Allen

Honestly, I was a little bit more apprehensive than usual going on Episode 27 of Matt Allen’s Uncut podcast.  I’ve gotten used to talking about topics, and this was just… a conversation.  It ranged from casual life talk to deep political philosophy.  Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Listen to “Episode 27: Justin Katz” on Spreaker.

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The Employment Situation In Rhode Island Is Getting Worse – Bucking National Trend

Happy Easter from everyone at the Center to you and your family! We hope you had a great holiday weekend.

We wish we had better news to deliver. Unfortunately, the employment situation in Rhode Island is getting worse, bucking the national trend. While state politicians crow each year about not implementing broad new taxes, the unfortunate truth is that by nickle-and-diming residents and by not implementing aggressive reforms Rhode Island will continue to lose ground, nationally.

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The Undeserved Confidence of the New Upper Class

One common suggestion for those who wish to be aware of current events and engage in civil dialogue is that they should seek out alternate opinions and actually listen to the other side.  This practice does create a deeper understanding, but deeper understanding doesn’t necessarily bring a softening of reactions.  That was my thought while listening to former long-time PR guy for Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, Michael Raia, on the Bartholomewtown Podcast.

Listening to Raia talk about opportunities for our state and region, I couldn’t help but feel my impressions of the Raimondo administration affirmed and my concern about its type of thinking amplified.  The listener can hear how confident Raia is that he’s got the region all figured out, as if a society is just a puzzle for which placement of the correct pieces provides the solution.

Whether it’s the operation of businesses and the economy, the development and modification of the infrastructure, the operations of the healthcare system, or the quality of life of particular demographic groups, like senior citizens, one gets the impression that Raia has a firm belief that he and other go-getter experts can think it all through, plan it all out, wind it all up, and set the great society in motion.  Unfortunately, the human community doesn’t work like that.

Intelligent as they may be, the Raias and Raimondos aren’t smart enough to plan a society even if everybody wanted to live in neighborhoods like the ones they prefer and spend their senior years playing pickleball. Such an accomplishment would require infinite expertise and a God-like perspective.

The fact of the matter, though, is that most other people do not share the tastes of what Charles Murray called “the new upper class” in his book Coming Apart, and those people have a right not to have their societal preferences bulldozed aside by a powerful government.  Moreover, as Murray explains, the ethos of that new upper class is destructive of society in the long run.

Even in the immediate, direct trends of the economy, we can observe the economic sluggishness since Governor Raimondo took office, which suggests that her approach does not work.  In February, Rhode Island was the only state in the country that had fewer jobs than it did a year before.  Yet, one hears no trace of doubt in Raia’s voice that maybe (just maybe) crafting a society isn’t so easy.

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