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Ajello’s Use of Victim Status as a Weapon Against “Those [Innocent] Males”

Providence progressive Democrat Representative Edith Ajello said something to the folks at Rhode Island Public Radio that illustrates how the treatment of all things sexual harassment relies on a sort of superstition.  As Ian Donnis relates in his weekend column:

As far as [Democrat Representative Teresa] Tanzi’s decision to not identify the source of the harassment, and whether that may unfairly tar some members of the legislature, “The victim’s rights should be thought of as primary,” Ajello said. “…. I think we will hear from others, but the importance of protecting victims of sexual harassment, I think, is more important than protecting those males at the Statehouse” who do not engage in harassment.

This is nonsense, ignoring entirely the objective question of who suffers harm.

What is the harassment, in this case, if Tanzi is telling the truth?  A guy said something a single time and in private implying that she should do something she would find objectionable in order to gain advantage.  She has offered no evidence that this inappropriate comment caused her any difficulties in any way whatsoever, personally or legislatively, and the fact that it was a private comment means that it couldn’t even subtly affect how other people would react to her.  In contrast, Tanzi has placed all “those males” in the General Assembly under a cloud of suspicion.

Both cases involve nothing but words, but Tanzi’s words, proclaimed across the country, have a greater effect.  Again, it’s a kind of superstition that raises to a state of inviolable victim status somebody who suffered a bit of personal office awkwardness over people who have been implicated nationally as potential harassers.

One suspects that implicating men as irredeemable harassers is pretty much the point.


Federal Tax Reform: Ocean Staters, Families, and Businesses To Benefit

President Trump’s tax reform plan, released this week, is a winner! Our state’s partisan political class will no doubt trot out their standard, mindless, and divisive class warfare mantras, but having attended two national seminars to learn details of the President’s tax reform plan, I can assure the people of Rhode Island that this sweeping reform plan is indeed designed to mostly benefit the middle-class. It is disappointing that our state’s political leaders would choose to deny Rhode Islanders the chance to keep and make more money just because they are hung-up on an anti-jobs, tax-the-rich platform.


Making Counter-Culturalism Fun

This sounds like fun, and a much healthier approach to the politico-culture wars than shooting up a baseball field full of Republicans.  Patrick Courrielche’s article on Breitbartdescribes some of the key plot points of an ongoing reality TV  stream that one might title, The Deplorables Versus Hollywood.

The anonymous users of 4chan, or “anons” as they call themselves, often operate like a mercenary intelligence agency – analyzing satellite imagery, audio, and various other online data sources to attack their targets…not unlike the characters from Mission Impossible. For kids that have both grown up on the Internet and learned to hate Hollywood right back – this activity is their version of escapism…replacing traditional TV shows and films. The anons took [left-wing actor Shia LaBeouf’s] new live stream [of a protest flag somewhere in America] as an invitation to capture the flag – and were determined to take it down and replace it at all costs…even if it meant breaking a few laws.

To be clear, by “breaking a few laws,” we’re talking about trespassing for the sake of a prank.  Of course, trespassing isn’t the most disconcerting aspect of the story.  I’m concerned that the Internet really does enable an ad hoc community of online chatters to become something akin to an intelligence agency, but that cat’s out of the bag, and frankly, I’m not sure I’m all that much more worried about these powers in the hands of pranksters than in the hands of government agents.


Institutional Absurdity at Wheaton

Wheaton College, in Norton, Massachusetts, is apparently not a place designed to guide young adults fully into the adult world, to empower them to overcome challenges, or to train them to deal with differences between people.  Shaun Towne reports on WPRI that the college canceled the entire women’s soccer team’s participation in their conference tournament because one of the players attended a Halloween party in a costume of a movie character whose appearance required her to darken her skin.  That punishment is on top of consequences that the individual student may face for expressing herself in a way that the snowflakes who run the institution can’t handle, emotionally.


Towne’s article includes the full text of a letter that President Dennis Hanno sent to the campus population.  Prospective students and their parents should judge for themselves whether the author of such a document, not intending it to be a parody, is likely to have the capacity to run an institution of higher education that is worth the price of admission:

The past few days have been disturbing and challenging for our community. A Wheaton student chose to wear blackface as part of an offensive and racist Halloween costume, and the incident raises difficult issues for all of us. …

This is a difficult moment for the college and our community and I am convinced that we can use this incident as a rallying point to build a better, more welcoming and inclusive place for all students, faculty and staff. I hope you will join me in this important work.

No kidding this controversy is disturbing. That a student and her teammates have been treated in this way over a costume shows how detrimental time spent at Wheaton can be.  When Hanno writes that the “college community aspires to be a place that welcomes a diverse group of students from every background and perspective,” he’s obviously lying.  Anybody who might think that young adults should be able to dress up as movie characters even when they’re of different races and that such activity actually speaks to a shared culture will obviously not be tolerated on campus.

(I wonder, by the way, if there isn’t an implicit sexism in the punishment.  Would the football team be treated so harshly, or are female sports seen as less-important affairs at Wheaton?)


Rhode Island Leads New England in STDs

Coming in at 36th, clearly Rhode Island could be doing worse when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, although the map that Trent Wilson provides for his post on has the Ocean State as a darker spot in the midst of the rest of New England, all of which are in the best 10.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Wilson finds that Rhode Island improved by two spots from last year’s iteration, although it appears the cause is that other states’ rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea increased at a higher rate.

One notable factor is that rates of STDs appear to correlate most significantly with wealth.  At least in New England, one could suggest that it isn’t even just wealth, but the broader assessment of economic health and freedom from dependence captured by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).  The northern New England states are leading the region (in the good way), with a gap to Massachusetts and Connecticut and then another gap to Rhode Island.

The picture is worse for Rhode Island, too, if we go beyond the two diseases that Wilson used for his score.  According to the CDC’s 2016 data, Rhode Island may be 27th and 44th in the country for chlamydia and gonorrhea, respectively (with 1 being the worst), but we’re 12th in the country for primary and secondary syphilis.  D.C. McAllister points out on PJ Media that the lion’s share of these cases nationwide are found among men who have sex with men.

The relative rankings of New England states drive home the interacting responses of culture and economics, with Rhode Island lagging.  Reorienting our policy toward healthy families, away from special interests, would have broadly beneficial effects without having to be judgmental in a negative way about alternative lifestyles.  Without this positive component, public policy runs the risk of encouraging harmful behavior by alleviating its consequences.  We can and should help people who are suffering, no matter the cause, but dragging down those who’ve avoided suffering and burdening families shrinks the contrast.


A New Philosophical Underpinning of College Etiquette

Rob Soave’s article on Reason’s Hit & Run Blog — about a bisexual student who found bureaucratic trouble at the University of Texas–San Antonio when he told a classmate (outside of class) that he has reservations about Islam given the number of Islamic countries in which he could be put to death — is worrisome and interesting for a variety of reasons.  The possible angles span from the hierarchy of intersectionality to the deterioration of academia to the threat of being sent to “the Behavior Intervention Team” to the professor’s reflexive anti-Americanism (likening the United States to the countries to which the student referred).

Those interested in how people construct their views and arguments, however, might be interested in this snippet of the recorded conversation between student Alfred MacDonald and Philosophy Department Chairwoman Eve Browning:

BROWNING: Those are things that would get you fired if you were working in my office. The Islam comment would get you fired.

MACDONALD: …Would it really get me fired to say that I could be killed somewhere?

BROWNING: In that situation as you’ve described it, absolutely yes.


BROWNING: Don’t even ask. It’s clear you’re not taking my word for it. I don’t care to convince you. If I can’t persuade you that it’s in your interest to behave in ways that other people don’t find offensive and objectionable, then at least I’ve done my job.

MACDONALD: Well I know that it’s in my interest. I’m just trying to understand the reasoning.

BROWNING: You don’t have to.

MACDONALD: Well, this is a truth-seeking discipline!

The spectacle of a progressive college professor telling a student that he doesn’t have to understand the reasoning behind an asserted standard is almost too close to type to be believed.  Note, too, how well the exchange counts as evidence toward my repeated observation that the political postures that people take at any given time are among the most superficial aspects of their being.  In earlier eras, Browning would likely have taken exactly the same sort of stance on the traditionalist views that progressives claim to reject.  One suspects that the desire to assert certitude and power comes first, and the ethos draped around that desire is the ephemera of the time.


Wariness of Helpful Government in Case the Picture Flips

Many college graduates over the past few decades will have come across live painting performances, in which the artist makes a performance out of the craft.  My recollection is that the guy I saw back in 1993 was a bit of a pioneer (Denny Dent, I think), and part of his set involved pretending to mess up a painting of Jimi Hendrix only to flip it over and reveal the work as a success.  The image of him flipping that painting over comes to mind when I read news like this, in the Providence Journal:

The Cranston Police Department and Cranston Public Schools are working together to implement a program that will help identify homes of children with autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities.

The goal is to improve safety for children, and parents have the option to include their children in the registry, according to a news release from the chief of the Cranston Police Department, Col. Michael J. Winquist. Parents who wish to participate may fill out a form on the department’s website. Forms are also being distributed through the city’s public schools.

Yes, it’s well intentioned and voluntary.  But… but… I can’t help but think of CBS’s proclaiming Iceland’s supposed progress in “eliminating Down syndrome” by aborting unborn children who have it and the constant push to implement and expand legalization of euthanasia around the world.

While I wouldn’t criticize the city for implementing the program, or residents for utilizing it, I think it’s important to pause and recognize that the picture being painted in our culture has all the features of a truly terrifying portrait and may only require a flip to reveal where it was going all along.


Prostitution of a Different Type

With my crazy schedule (now exacerbated by sinkholes, toppled temporary fences, and litter in the yard), let me throw in another counterintuitive thought that occurred to me while running through the daily headlines recently.  From Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit, quoting a judge from the mentioned court:

CHANGE: Appeals court in SF allows challenge to state law banning prostitution. “Why should it be illegal to sell something that it’s legal to give away?”

It occurs to me that this quotation would apply just as easily to allowing outright bribery of public officials, or even judges (in the Left’s understanding of judicial responsibility).  If they’re able to make decisions for moral or political rewards, what makes the transfer of money so different?

Honestly, I’m not sure specifically where I’d come out if I followed these intertwined threads to their ends.  I can understand the libertarian argument about prostitution, but as with drug legalization, we have to consider the consequences of changing these laws within our current culture.  In that regard, activists who want to expand such freedoms ought to focus on strengthening the culture in order to address legitimate concerns about the effects of this brand of individualism.

And obviously, I oppose political corruption and bribery, but in a fair analysis, one might conclude that the difference between monetary rewards and social rewards is not as profound as they seem at first view.  Society stores and transfers power in multiple ways.  Money is power.  Fame is power.  The credibility to pass social judgment is power.  And obviously, control of the government is power.  A healthy society would work to keep all of these areas of influence working independently (although, of course, they overlap in particular people and organizations).

In the spirit of challenging one’s own assumptions and biases, it’d be a worthwhile exercise to try to explain why people with fame and social approval to dispense should have more influence over government power than those who are stronger in the money category.


The Significance of Politically Correct Language for Society

Sometimes subtle language cues are telling, as in the lede of this AP article:

Massachusetts Environmental Police say an undercover sting operation has nabbed a person who tried to sell an indigenous lizard on social media.

The creature in question is a Nile Monitor Lizard, which (the article goes on to explain) is “indigenous to Africa, but can be found in certain parts of the U.S.”  One suspects Massachusetts is not one of the places in the United States that a hiker might randomly come across an African lizard, so it appears that the lede writer used “indigenous” to mean something more like “non-Western,” which in 2017 Massachusetts is to say that it means pretty much the opposite of “indigenous.”  All that talk about “indigenous people’s day” must have sunk in to change the meaning for the editor.

From a linguistic perspective, this is unfortunate, because it strips the word, “indigenous,” of its particular meaning and adds more weight to the blob of words that simply mean “non-white.”  Just so, for another example, one sometimes sees the word, “diverse,” also used simply to mean “non-white.”

From a social perspective, this trend is somewhat worse than unfortunate.  The implication of the language that we use is that white people aren’t indigenous to anywhere and can’t increase the diversity of any group.  Indeed, one suspects that the tacit feeling that being white is the default probably underlies the shifts in the language.

We should keep in mind that this conceptual deterioration can flip in two directions, neither healthy.  Either white people are dehumanized and don’t count for as much or non-white people are always the aliens.  Maybe being particular about our language will help us to remain balanced in our thinking.


One-Size-Fits-All Transgender Mandate Puts Students At Risk

The transgender issue extends far beyond bathroom or locker-room rights. As expressed in a June 2016 “guidance” document from the RI Department of Education (RIDE) on transgender rights, RIDE itself will be seeking to bully local school districts into conformity, openly flaunting its disrespect of other students and of parental rights.


Evil Targets the Family to Sow Division

Catholic priest and exorcist César Truqui explained to the Catholic News Agency (CNA) that a particular demon takes the destruction of the family as its special assignment.  One suspects that, if there is only one, then it must have many helpers.

This part of Truqui’s description has application beyond simply drawing a hierarchy of evil:

“They think ‘if I don’t like my husband anymore, I would be better off divorcing’ but they forget about the consequences to the children and society,” he said. “This mentality that works against the family pleases the devil – he knows that a man who is alone without any points of reference is manipulable and unstable.”

Undermining families isolates people and leaves us vulnerable to evil.  That goes for our extended families, communities, and any other institution that draws us together.  Division serves the devil, and there must be demons of all variety working toward that end, especially in politics.

Not to repeat this refrain too often, but we should keep in mind that the devil is content to switch sides in our relatively superficial disagreements, so no one party or group owns the blame in the long run.  That said, the fact that a pendulum swings doesn’t mean it isn’t leaning in one direct at any given time, and I’d peg identity politics as a pernicious source of division in our times.


Familiar Tightening of Rules for Religions of Which the State Disapproves

Of course, it would be easy to overstate the parallel, but there’s something familiar in this Catholic News Agency article about political events in China:

President Xi Jinping of China announced this week that he wants to tighten Beijing’s strict government controls on religion in the communist country.

In a speech this week during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi said that religions not sufficiently conformed to Communist ideals pose a threat to the country’s government, and therefore must become more “Chinese-oriented.”

One gets the sense of a similar intention in progressive corners of the United States.  The Obama Administration wouldn’t recognize the Little Sisters of the Poor as a religious organization for the purpose of exempting them from ObamaCare mandates.  With the onset of same-sex marriage, the Catholic Church in Massachusetts was no longer recognized as sufficiently “Massachusetts-oriented” to offer adoption services.

For the time being, congregations in the United States (even New England) can still meet and practice their religion within the church walls, but unless they adhere to an ever-expanding list of mandatory virtues handed down from the government, their ability to act in public is increasingly restricted.  Meanwhile, the government is giving less and less credence to the notion that it ought to remain neutral with respect to its own activities, particularly in public schools.