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Red Sox Bleacher Banner Was Anti-American

Sometimes it’s important to be accurate, and Ken Powtak’s failure to be so for an article from the AP is important to note:

A few fans seated above the Green Monster dropped down a sign denouncing racism during the fourth inning of Boston’s game against Oakland at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

The sign — draped over the top middle of the 37-foot Monster — had a black background with white letters that read: “Racism is as American as Baseball.”

Sure, that message clearly carries the assumption that racism is bad, but what it does most of all is to denounce America as a racist country.  We shouldn’t let activists (in and out of the news media) muddy the waters.  One can be anti-racist and pro-America, but this sign doesn’t carry it off and shouldn’t be celebrated.


The Madness That Lies Ahead with the Erasure of Gender

Don’t blink as you react to news that British identity politics has advanced to such a state that a convicted multiple rapist has been moved to a female-only prison upon declaring that he identifies as a woman.  We can be sure that if you do blink, the progressive narrative will have advanced to the point that you’ll only be allowed to have one opinion.  Whatever we’re permitted to say, we should take Brendan O’Neill’s warning, written for Spiked, to heart:

This strange urge of trans activists and commentators to accord more sympathy to Ponting than to women prisoners — to argue the corner of a rapist rather than women — speaks volumes about how unhinged the trans ideology has become. Or rather how abjectly unwilling society is to withstand this ideology and to tell its believers that they are wrong. In the treatment of Ponting’s belief that he is a woman as more important than the concerns of hundreds of actual women, we see in extreme form the extent to which society is now expected to bow before the narcissistic individual and his or her demands for recognition; to validate every identity, even where that identity is self-evidently irrational.

And where this expectation of validation is annoying and sometimes illiberal in everyday life — such as when student officials pressure people to use pronouns like ‘ze’ or when feminists are harassed online for saying men cannot become women — in the case of prisons it becomes positively dangerous. A society that cannot say even to a man convicted of rape, ‘You are not a woman’, is a society that has truly lost the moral plot. It is a society that has left the realm of reason and objectivity for the unbalanced, unpredictable and plain dangerous terrain of post-modernism, in which what an individual feels counts for more than what others know to be true.

Progressives with no sense of boundaries or rational understanding that they are, indeed, seeking radical ends are at least doing us the service of rushing right to their ludicrous conclusions before society has been drawn along the “that will never happen” path.


One Thing is Clear: The Progressive Agenda Is A Failure

Despite the false hopes expressed by lawmakers based solely on a reduced unemployment rate, Rhode Island families are hurting. The Ocean State suffers under a terrible business climate, and remains stuck 48th rank on our Center’s Job’s & Opportunity Index. Just this week, it was announced that Benny’s, a Rhode Island institution, is closing.


Rhode Islanders’ Nostalgia

In the context of a general melancholy feeling among some about the closing of Benny’s, Ted Nesi expressed an interesting thought on Twitter:

It is amazing that the PawSox have had so little ability to capitalize on sentiment in a state as nostalgic as RI

That does seem curious, but on the other hand, people’s nostalgia for Benny’s didn’t lead them to forgo the conveniences and prices of Amazon or even other local retailers and shop there more often.

The reality is probably something more like this:  Only a segment of Rhode Islanders are actually all that nostalgic, or rather, all that nostalgic about a particular institution, and one would expect the sorts of people who participate in public life and news media (as producers or consumers) to be especially interested in local details.

That’s true everywhere, of course.  Perhaps what makes it seem more prominent in Rhode Island — apart from the state’s size and general quirkiness — is a social comfort with letting relatively small segments use government to impose their interests.  That is, whereas most people in Rhode Island (or anywhere else) will observe a departing institution and give it little more than the thought, “Huh; the world changes,” Rhode Island has a high proportion of people who feel like somebody ought to do something to make the world exactly as they want it (probably at public expense).


URI Honors Colloquium’s Narrow Explication of Everything

The graphic accompanying the Web page for this year’s honors colloquium at the University of Rhode Island appears to be ironic.  It’s a sketch of a star with a face faded into it, all superimposed on a field of stars.  Given that the title of the colloquium is “Origins: Life, the Universe and Everything,” one might assume the speeches would include some discussion of philosophy or even theology, but the list of presentations would seem to suggest otherwise.  (An email to one of the coordinators for confirmation of this observation went without response.)

Basically, all 10 speakers are concerned with science of one form or another, which is fine as far as it goes, but it raises the question of what the underlying philosophy of the colloquium is.  The fact that there must be such a philosophy implied can be seen in the advertisement that the speakers will help “to shed light on our current best understanding of humanity’s place in the cosmos.”  Whatever useful information scientists might provide, that one is well outside of their purview.

Indeed, the insinuation that science can answer such questions seems like an attempt to smuggle in the academic elite’s popular variation of nihilistically tinged materialism.  The extent to which scientists can tell us our “place in the cosmos” is precisely the extent to which they can do the same concerning rocks or elements.  That is, they must first reduce us to mere things.

Worse, an institution that presumes to take up a topic such as the origins of everything without providing students some philosophical discourse as to (arguably) the most important question in their lives — not what or how, but why — does them a tremendous disservice.  Even those who won’t attend such colloquiums will pick up the institutional message that this critical question for self-exploration and human development is unimportant.

That gets to a core reason I send my children to Catholic schools, and in keeping with my theme of today, it represents a disappointing missed opportunity.


With SPLC, “Hate” Should Have a Trademark Sign

The group of conservative organizations signing on to an open letter addressed, so to speak, to the news media are absolutely correct:

We are writing to you as individuals or as representatives of organizations who are deeply troubled by several recent examples of the media’s use of data from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC is a discredited, left-wing, political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a “hate group” label of its own invention and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also endangers the lives of those targeted with it.

At this point, citing the SPLC as some sort of arbiter of “hate” is either lazy or malicious.  The group has inspired a good deal of hate, itself, including a 2012 attack on the Family Resource Council that left a security guard injured.  And now its list of political enemies may be insinuating itself as a guide for corporations to blacklist organizations, as with the Ruth Institute’s loss of online payment processing.

As Tyler O’Neil notes, the same net that puts the Ruth Institute on the SPLC’s list ought to ensnare the Catholic Church, as well, except that inclusion of the church would expose the SPLC’s list for what it really is.  It’s a ploy to label as bigots those who wish to promote a culturally conservative worldview through persuasion and good works and thereby prevent them from participating in American society.

Journalists should have no part on advancing that ploy… unless, of course, they’re just left-wing activists, themselves.


You Will Be Made to Conform

If you need any evidence that progressive organizations like the Rhode Island ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Rhode Island Working Families, and the State Council of Churches have no intention of leaving any room whatsoever for people to hold different beliefs than theirs, consider that they are working to have the Rhode Island Department of Education to make mandatory its guidance on transgender students.  Apparently, one-quarter of Rhode Island schools have yet to implement a “comprehensive policy,” and that’s just not acceptable to the Conform Now crowd.

Mind you that these schools may follow the progressives’ beliefs in every detail without having formalized policies.  Moreover, they may have had no reason to make this a pressing issue that demands distraction from other priorities (such as overcoming the state’s abysmal record for educating children).

More importantly, keep in mind how radical, oppressive, and intrusive the “guidance” actually is.   Not only does the state Department of Education call for schools to impose reeducation on any students who might be uncomfortable with transgenderism in bathrooms and changing areas, but it actively encourages teachers to attempt to discern the beginnings of transgender feelings in students and to draw those feelings out, working to hide the process from parents if the government-run schools think that the parents might not agree.

The basic promise of the American system is that everybody has a right to form their own beliefs about life and reality and to live under a system of government that respects those beliefs.  Progressives only partially agree.  To them, you’re free to hold any belief… as long as they agree with it.


Ideological Loyalty Oaths and Professions of Faith in California

Mary Rezac reports for the Catholic News Agency (CNA) that California is considering legislation that would make it a crime for “nursing home and long-term care workers” to refuse to use the preferred pronouns of people under their care.  Employees could face up to $1,000 in fines and a year in jail.

Fortunately, those who disagree with progressives have (relatively) solid protection of their rights through the Constitution and its amendments, but we should certainly be concerned that politicians are disinclined to allow us to work out our own relationships.

Organizations have incentive to please their customers, and there’s space for them to serve different markets.  They also have incentive to keep their employees happy.  The instances in which a long-term care patient would have no other options and the organization would be unable to provide some distance between a customer and an employee who have an irreconcilable difference would seem to be vanishingly small.

California State Senator Scott Weiner (a freshman Democrat), in other words, considers First Amendment rights so lightly that he is willing to trample them even in the absence of a substantial social conflict.  The rarity of this conflict raises a critical point:

“In many ways it seems to be a solution looking for a major problem,” [Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference,] said.

“That’s certainly one of our concerns – is this just part of a larger ideological drill? Do we have examples of people being mistreated around the state because of their gender experience? It seems that this is more like – let’s fix something that we don’t even know needs fixing.”

Exactly. This movement isn’t a push to solve actual problems.  It’s a strategy to imagine problems that will create justification for ideological loyalty oaths or professions of faith.  Citizens whose conscience prevent them from making such professions will find government excluding them from public life, including the professions of their choosing.

These people are tyrants.


Beware the Endgame of Diversity Quotas

John Tierney posted something galling on Instapundit:

Affirmative-action hiring endangers the FDNY. One female recruit failed the entrance exam six times but was hired anyway to satisfy a court-ordered quota system. The goal in hiring firefighters, one judge opined, should not be to identify “those who are strongest or fastest.” Sure, a few victims might not be rescued in time, but think how empowered the new recruits will feel.

The linked City Journal article by Bob McManus is worth a read in full.  He contends that policies like affirmative action or the “ban the box” insistence that criminal records should not be considered are founded simply on lies.

Common sense is still common enough, in the United States, that most folks will probably come to the conclusion that any job for which meeting ideological gender, race, or other quotas can be a higher priority than demonstrable ability to do the job in the first place must not be very important.  Perhaps folks will come to different conclusions about different jobs, but can we agree that any physically demanding job in which people’s lives are on the line should demand a higher priority on ability than demographics?


Kids Are Stressed in School? Good.

Not to be the image of the rough old guy snarling at sensitive children, but if this, from a Linda Borg in the Providence Journal, is actually meant to be news about which we’re supposed to be concerned, then perhaps we mostly need to be concerned about the sorts of people who think that this is news about which we’re supposed to be concerned:

Half of all public high school students in Rhode Island say school is quite stressful.

More than 70 percent say they frequently or almost always worry about grades.

Sixty-three percent are really worried about things in their life.

Teenagers are living in a state of constant anxiety, according to a new survey from the R.I. Department of Education that gathered 83,000 responses from students in all grades, including 55,600 responses from grades 6 through 12.


School should be stressful for students — not unduly, out of proportion with the actual significance of any given matter, but as a general proposition.  Students ought to see their education as something that matters a lot and failure as something that can have real consequences.  And, moreover, failure in terms of grading ought to be a true possibility.

A central problem of our modern society is summed up very well in the apparent inclination to address stress by removing stressors rather than dealing with them.  And, no, that doesn’t mean learning how to express your feelings to a person who’s stressing you out so that he or she can change his or her behavior (or be forced to do so by some authority).  It doesn’t mean reworking a school system’s means of testing and holding students accountable so they can never feel like they’ve fallen short.

It means coming to an understanding of our lives that can accommodate stress and turn it into motivation.


Being Colonized by Our Betters

This pair of paragraphs from Rod Dreher on The American Conservative invites an interesting analysis of the nature of our country’s political and social division:

Starting in the 1960s, writes [political scientist Samuel] Huntington, “deconstructionists” of national identity encouraged “individuals were defined by their group membership, not common nationality.” Pushing identity politics was a time-tested strategy for colonialist regimes, for the sake of dividing and conquering subject peoples. But the governments of nation-states instead focused on uniting their disparate peoples. (Indeed, the Civil Rights Movement was about compelling the white majority to extend the promises of the Constitution and the Creed to black Americans — in other words, to fully unite them to the whole.)

Huntington says that this did not start from below, but was imposed from the top, by American political, legal, and cultural elites. He writes, “These efforts by a nation’s leaders to deconstruct the nation they governed were, quite possibly, without precedent in human history.”

In essence, our elites are colonizing us.  If that’s unique, it’s because the American project was unique.  Our would-be aristocracy has just taken some time to find the right formula, for government to grow, and for technology to advance.  The aristocrats have developed as a subculture, isolated and different from the masses of Americans, even if they didn’t have to travel an ocean to get to us.

This development is not without its irony.  During the reign of President Obama, some observers (notably Dinesh D’Sousa) characterized the president’s ideology largely in terms of its anti-colonialism.  One might fairly opine that the anti-colonialism of the leftist likes of Obama is superficial; the notion of colonizing per se isn’t what offends them, but rather that Western civilization did the colonizing.

This antipathy isn’t principled or genuine, as the pop-culture-loving, golf-playing Obama proved, but simply forms the basis for a rationalization to deprive others of their rights and to undermine the greatest country in human history for their own personal aggrandizement and advantage.


Maybe Not “Post-Christian,” but in Need of More Faith Nonetheless

In a recent issue of Rhode Island Catholic, Lauren Clem highlighted the local findings of a study into Americans’ drift from Christianity:

A study released July 11 by The Barna Group rated America’s major metropolitan areas on residents’ engagement with the Christian faith and ranked the Providence-New Bedford area the fourth-most “post-Christian city in America” based on factors such as lack of belief in God, low attendance at church services and lack of active participation in church life.

Unfortunately, a more-detailed review is more expensive than this quick post justifies.  To qualify as “post-Christian,” a survey respondent had to reply negatively to nine out of 13 questions, and the particular questions could make a big difference.  For example, “not born again” could be a drag on this highly Catholic region, as could having not attended Sunday school within the last week.  A person could believe in God, state that faith is important in his or her life, believe the Bible is accurate, and declare a commitment to Jesus and still qualify as “post-Christian.” In other words, Barna’s questions would be a better measure of evangelical Protestantism than Christianity more broadly.

That said, it would be difficult for somebody who regularly attends church to be “post-Christian,” and that is a problem in the area, not just from the religious perspective, but also because involvement in religious activities has benefits for health and behavior, increases one’s sense of community, and spreads some of a community’s power away from centralized government.


San Miguel and Our Education System

Providence Journal reporter Jacqueline Tempera’s use of the term “social justice” might be a red flag to conservative readers, but the San Miguel School is a poster project for school choice:

When Wolf first worked at San Miguel School, in 1997, he said it was a bit like “the wild west.” The teachers, Wolf included, were young and in their first years on the job. The four middle school classrooms at its original Carter Street building would fit into the gymnasium in the current school on Branch Avenue.

“Most young teachers coming into urban core have an intense and great desire to heal all and save the world,” said Wolf, reflecting on his own ideals as a 20-something leading classrooms of at-risk children. “Most of us come to this with open eyes and open hearts so wide you’re a little naive.”

When they aren’t restricted with bureaucratic strings, political mandates, and labor contracts, teachers and schools can focus on their areas of passion and experiment with ways to reach the students who are actually in their classrooms in ways specific to those students.

As I’ve said before, we should think of our society’s education system as all of the ways that we educate our children, not as a franchise of government-branded schools.  And if we understand our education system in that way, then it’s an injustice to discriminate against children and families just because their interests and needs don’t match the mass-production requirements of a regular district school and force them to pay for education twice, once through taxes and once through some other means.


Conservatism and Liberalism on Economic and Social Scales

For years, we’ve heard politicians and other political actors promote themselves as “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative.”  (Let’s call it the “soli-fico” position.)  Nationally, this impulse has seemed to be driven (at least in part) by donors.  Business elites are more likely to fall in that category, and the Koch Brothers were notable funders of the right with a libertarian mandate.

Recently those who’ve tried to remain at least palatable to the soli-fico advocates have been reconsidering.  On principled grounds, soli-fico is maybe the most cold of philosophies, leaving vulnerable people lacking the protections of both government intervention and social stability.  Once soli-ficos could claim that getting government out of the way would let society address cultural issues, but after many libertarians embraced the use of government — mainly the courts — to redefine marriage nationwide and then proved, at best, ineffective in keeping at bay early persecution of objecting Christian businesses, that balance proved illusory.

On financial grounds, the right has many donors who are not socially conservative, and they were arguably under-served during the soli-fico years.

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, F.H. Buckley highlights a study reinforcing this recent turn:

Most Hillary Clinton voters were deeply liberal on both [the economic and the social] axes. The surprise was the Trump voters, who were very conservative on social issues but moderate on economic ones. By Mr. Drutman’s count, 73% of all voters were left of center on economics. Most of the remaining Trump supporters were quite moderate on economic questions. …

While the great majority of voters were liberal on economic issues, a small majority (52%) were social conservatives at the top of the diagram, enough to swing the election to Mr. Trump. Only 3.8% of voters were libertarians in the lower-right quadrant, socially liberal and economically conservative. They split their votes evenly between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton.

The scatterplot that Buckley reproduces and other charts from the study are worth reviewing.  Soli-fico voters make up just 4% of the electorate.  Moreover, the opportunity for social conservatives to win over voters by explaining why their policies will accomplish the same goals as economic liberalism is greater than the opportunity for social liberals to win over economic conservatives.