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How Might Education Be Doing If Government Hadn’t Made It So Backwards and Bureaucratic

Well, this is a curious finding, articulated by Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit:

The takeaway here is that people who didn’t go to school at all did as well as or better than people who did. Considering the huge amounts of money, and other social resources, that we invest in K-12 education, that’s kind of a big deal. Of course, you’d want to do a bigger study before taking this too seriously on a policy level, but it ought to spark at least a bit of rethinking.

Of course, an important caveat is that “unschoolers,” as they’re called, are bound to be a self-selecting group, the last paragraph of Reynolds’s source article puts well:

In sum: “The findings of our survey suggest that unschooling can work beautifully if the whole family, including the children, buy into it, if the parents are psychologically healthy and happy, and if the parents are socially connected to the broader world and facilitate their children’s involvement with that world. It can even work well when some of these criteria are not fully met.”

Education is so dependent on individual circumstances that a changing world will inevitably require freedom to adapt.  Unfortunately, we’ve built a massive, self-interested education establishment that may be among the most resistant-to-change institutions in our society.

One wonders how we’d be doing, right now, if the progressive sentiments of the last century didn’t put education into such a backwards, bureaucratic model.  Parents would have sought the best opportunities for their children — because, if you haven’t noticed, parents tend to love their children and want what’s best for them more reliably than anybody else in the world — and communities would have figured out ways to guide families along, helping where needed — because that’s what communities tend to do.

Sadly, there are always those who think they know better and care more (conspicuously benefiting themselves through the process of dictating to others).

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Actual Issues Cross the Politico-Racial Divide

recent article in the The Providence American, a publication serving the black community in Providence, shows how conservative policies can find resonance among people who have been told to see Republicans and conservatives as the opposition:

Anti Free-Market, Protectionist Policies? It is a common scheme for advocates of certain industries to lobby government to impose strict licensing requirements in order to create barriers to competition. According to a 2012 report by the [RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity], many such occupational licensing mandates have a disproportionate and negative impact on low-income workers, who often can’t afford the time or money to meet the sometimes onerous and unnecessary requirements. …

Now is the time to push for a critical reform that can transform the lives of low-income families in Rhode Island. Our state should encourage work; NOT make it harder to earn money! Legislation has been submitted, and time is running out to advance this important reform.

The Right is for the American Dream, and the American Dream is good.  That’s a point that ought to be made again and again.

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MAGA Hats and Selective Respect for Speech and Appearance

Dean Balsamini writes in the New York Post of his experiences walking around the Big Apple in a red “Make America Great Again” hat:

In the left-leaning Big Apple, it’s a fashion faux pas more fatal than walking around in sandals with socks, or strapping a fanny pack around your waist: wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.To see for myself, I sported the fire-engine-red baseball cap worn by Donald Trump on the campaign trail in liberal gin joints and shops across Manhattan and Brooklyn.

I may as well have been wearing a Red Sox hat at Yankee Stadium.

We had a related incident at a Tiverton Budget Committee meeting a few weeks ago.  (Before the camera was on, unfortunately.)  Member Jeff Caron wears a red baseball cap from his friend’s business that reads “Make Skiing Great Again,” and one of the more vituperative members of the high-tax crowd accosted him as he took his seat and placed his hat next to him.  She insisted that it was a political statement and was therefore banned from Town Hall.  Or something.

Meanwhile, one of her allies was sitting in the audience proudly wearing her pink, knitted, pointy-horn hat.  (Yes, yes, I know.)

The irony is that this same crew is vehement that the Budget Committee is effectively silencing the public by not continuing to add time to its weekly three-plus-hour meetings to provide yet another forum for public statements.  In stark contrast, they’ll rush to suppress any statement with which they disagree, whether Caron’s hat, legitimate motions by Budget Committee members, or a fake rifle as part of a pro-veteran display on school grounds.

One suspects that the New Yorkers who reacted to Balsamini with scorn would excoriate anybody who treated in a similar fashion people in Muslim garb or with multiple piercings and purple hair.  You can believe whatever you want or dress however you want, in other words, provided you challenge their worldview and political power, the latter being the more important.

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Raimondo Seeks to Tighten Screws on Grassroots Opposition

So, while progressive activists make sure anybody who might disagree with them has incentive not to run for public office, progressive Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo attempts to create more dissincentive through the law:

Raimondo’s proposal would bar any candidate with an overdue campaign-finance fine of any amount from running for election. The rule would apply only to new fines; any fines under appeal or on a Board of Elections-approved payment plan would not prevent a candidate from running.

The proposal would also increase the fine for late campaign-finance reports from $25 to $100 while raising the maximum Board of Election violation from $100 to $500.

Rhode Island already as a palpable lack of people running for public office to challenge incumbents.  The governor’s proposals — by design, one imagines — would make matters worse, entrenching a powerful elite even more and further reducing the democratic functioning of our state.

We’re reaching the point of crisis on this stuff, and even “good government” people who ought to know better are asking government to take our rights away.

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Progressives Move Closer to Fascism in March on Coughlin’s Home

Obviously, they’ve still got a long way to go, but a mob of protesters’ showing up at a state representative’s home with a police escort and leaving a mess of signs is a step on the path to fascism:

Pawtucket City Councillors Sandra Cano and Meghan Kallman helped to lead the march, along with Fuerza Laboral’s executive director Heiny Maldonado and organizer Raul Figueroa. The group, escorted by the Pawtucket Police Department for the safety of the marchers, arrived at [Pawtucket Democrat David] Coughlin’s residence shortly before 9am and tried to get him to come out and address the crowd. Coughlin did not come to the door or answer his phone. A car with Coughlin’s House license plate 60, wrapped in a “Choose Life” frame, was parked in the driveway.

The crowd stood outside Coughlin’s residence for about ten minutes. Heiny Maldonado rang his doorbell and knocked, but did not get an answer. As the crowd departed, they left a small pile of messages, in the form of protest signs, on the front steps of Coughlin’s house. This is believed to be the first protest of a state legislator’s home in at least three years, and the success of the action points the way towards more such protests in the future.

Call it a trial balloon for fascism: target homes, intimidate, show up with a mob and the police, leave messages for the target to clean up (quotes: “Your Constituents Put You There. Your Constituents Can Take You ‘Out’,” “Resist,” “You do not represent our district,” and “Dream killer”), and publish photographs of his home from multiple angles having nothing to do with the “protest.”

Apart from the danger of fire, depositing these signs is not far off from a flaming cross, and the published photographs send the message “we know where you live” as clearly as a brick through the window.

Not only will the Coughlins of the state get the message, but anybody who might consider running for office while disagreeing with the brownshirts will have another reason to think twice.  That’s what they want, and that is fascism.

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CBO Points to the ObamaCare Abusive Spouse

This Wall Street Journal editorial offers some worthwhile perspective on the meaning of the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) estimates around Republicans’ initial ObamaCare repeal bill:

The CBO attributes “most” of this initial coverage plunge to “repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate.” If people aren’t subject to government coercion to buy insurance or else pay a fine, some “would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums.”

What this finding says about the value Americans attach to ObamaCare-compliant health insurance is damning. If CBO is right, some 14 million people would rather spend their money on something else, despite the subsidies.

In keeping with the general worldview of central planners, if you cease to get something through them, you’ve “lost” it.  This attitude permeates government, from charitable grants that local governments give to their preferred charities up to massive federal entitlements.  In this case, the government isn’t even just taking credit for something it’s using other people’s money to provide, but behaving as if forcing people to do something gives them that something.

As perverse as that is, it may be the perfect representation of progressive government.  It’s like an abusive spouse who rationalizes his or her pathology into the belief that commanding and berating his or her significant other is for the other person’s good.

As for the CBO, the Journal also reminds us that it’s a policy group working off a model, not a mystic order of prophets telling the future.

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Putting the “Failed” in “Liberal Coup”

Being suspicious that others are ever using rhetoric to manipulate, my warning lights go off when I see talk of coups and the like.  After all, if the battle is that stark, then your allies have some claim to have you compromise your principles.

It’s difficult to disagree with John Hinderaker, however, when he writes:

What we are seeing here is a coup: a coup by the New Class; by the Democratic Party; by far leftists embedded in the bureaucracy and the federal judiciary. Our duly elected president has issued an order that is plainly within his constitutional powers, and leftists have conspired to abuse legal processes to block it. They are doing so in order to serve the interests of the Democratic Party and the far-left movement. This is the most fundamental challenge to democracy in our lifetimes.

For the moment, I still conclude that our goal, on the right, should be to ensure that the rule of law is followed to the greatest degree possible, by which I mean that we follow it, rather than escalating the lawlessness of the Left.  That conclusion derives from my sense that the American people know what’s going on and a large majority don’t like it.  The progressives are over-playing their hand, in other words, and the only way they win is if conservatives don’t convey a palpable difference.

In short, I’d edit Hinderaker’s headline that “A Liberal Coup Is in Progress” to make it “A Failed Liberal Coup Is in Progress.”  The requirement, however, is that we stand up — stand up against the coup and for our principles.

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Venezuela Continues Down the Predictable Path of Socialism

In June, I noted how familiar and predictable Venezuela’s deterioration has been, citing Manzoni’s classic novel The Betrothed.  Seventeenth Century government meddling in the Italian economy created starvation-level problems, and naturally, the government looked for scapegoats.

Venezuela has continued along this predictable path.  As Jim Wyss reports in the Miami Herald:

Facing a bread shortage that is spawning massive lines and souring the national mood, the Venezuelan government is responding this week by detaining bakers and seizing establishments.

In a press release, the National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights said it had charged four people and temporarily seized two bakeries as the socialist administration accused bakers of being part of a broad “economic war” aimed at destabilizing the country.

Yeah… detain bakers and seize their establishments.  That’ll fix the bread shortage!

Watch this short Ami Horowitz report from Venezuela for more Manzoni parallel’s, particularly the part about how the powerful insiders continue to do just fine.  Please, please, folks, could we start learning from history and ignoring those whose main purpose is to deceive us into giving them more money?

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The Union’s Shocking Admission… Which Nobody Will Notice

Confessions of my naive idealism are becoming a theme for me, perhaps, but I still find casual admissions such as the following, from Ian Donnis’s weekly TGIF column on RIPR, partly shocking and partly comforting:

The National Education Association Rhode Island, a influential force in state politics, is likely to support Governor Raimondo for re-election next year. NEARI Executive Director Robert A. Walsh Jr. acknowledges that retired teachers are among those still fuming about the pension overhaul spearheaded by then-Treasurer Raimondo in 2011. Yet Walsh, speaking on RI Public Radio’s Bonus Q&A this week, offered this explanation for why the incumbent Democrat is likely to get NEARI’s support in 2018: “I think that the election of Donald Trump significantly changed the game in this state. It is imperative that the Democrats retain control of the governorship …. My approach to this is a very pragmatic one. You’ve heard me advertise for alternative candidates to the lieutenant governor — ‘come on down, we’ll help you run against Dan McKee [see #4].’ I am not advertising for alternative candidates to Gina Raimondo. We must retain the governorship and we must retain our Democrats elected in the Senate and in the United States Congress. And the Republicans are going to drop money in this state and go after us as a package, so it’s imperative that the team stays in place.”

Here’s one of your state’s two teachers unions: part of the Democrat “team.”  There is no line between the party and the labor union that takes taxpayer dollars and shuffles them back into political activism.

In a healthier society with a greater appreciation for the founding principles of the United States, this would be a scandal — the sort of thing that would be uncovered through an undercover investigative report.  Instead, it’s proclaimed proudly on a publicly subsidized radio station, and nobody in the state but an outré blogger will bat an eye.

I’ve said it before, but it merits repeating: Rhode Island isn’t fully a representative democracy anymore.

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Under Raimondo, Promoting Dear Leader Is the Government’s Job

Silly Republicans, there is no higher good than promoting Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo:

The Republican Governors Association slammed Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday for using taxpayer money on a Facebook ad to promote a New York Times story about her.

The sponsored ad, purchased by the quasi-public Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, was first noticed by an Eyewitness News reporter on Wednesday

This has been an issue for Raimondo’s entire term; in August 2015, I called CommerceRI a Raimondo PAC.  From where I sit, there are only two ways to look at this, both of them bad:  Either it’s corruption, and the governor is using public resources — not just $50 for a Facebook ad, but the multi-million-dollar apparatus of the Commerce Corp. — for personal political advantage, or her administration truly believes that the government’s chief executive should be considered the embodiment of the government and the state, which is an extremely dangerous totalitarian attitude.

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Don’t Want “Devastating” Cuts? Don’t Rely on Federal Government.

It seems that the special interests who rely on federal money for their income in Rhode Island (in and out of state and local government) have been working to keep stories like this in the news every week:

Potential cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put forward by the Trump administration could have devastating effects in Rhode Island.

The Coastal Resources Management Council, the state agency that oversees development along the state’s 400 miles of coastline, would lose nearly 60 percent of its funding.

This is the problem with the government plantation/company state model.  When you’ve built your economy around the government’s ability to make other people pay for services that the government insists on providing, local taxpayers will move away and people in other states may decide to cut funding.  It’s a risky dead end of an economic development approach.

Our goal as a state (similar to our goal in our cities and towns) should be to react to news of changes at the federal level by expressing relief that we don’t rely on the federal government for much of anything.  That would be a state of both freedom and stability.

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Violence Comes from Those Who Cannot Win by Words

Megan McArdle is good on the descent of left-wing activists to fascism:

The implicit assumption here is that their protest movement is not merely entitled to be heard, but to win – win with a victory so total that no voice is ever even raised in opposition. And if they cannot win by raising their voices, then they must move on to more aggressive means. This makes sense only if, as [Greg Lukianoff, of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)] says, you define Yiannopoulos’s outrageous statements as equivalent to violence, or worse than violence.

I will admit that this is a coherent world view. Indeed, it cohered for decades in the old Soviet Union. But most of us don’t want to live in the world it leads to, if for no other reason than because we aren’t so confident that we’ll get to be the ones choosing who needs to be violently silenced.

I do wonder, though, whether McArdle has missed a piece of the problem.  It’s not just that the Left feels an entitlement to win to the extent of wiping out its opposition; it’s that this entitlement is mixed with an incoherent worldview.  As progressive positions become founded more and more on an absurd worldview that doesn’t comport with reality, not only can debate not produce an enemy-destroying victory, but it can’t be won at all.

In other words, the Left can’t win a fair debate, so its activists must escalate to violence and silencing to ensure the victory to which they feel entitled for reasons of ideology or emotion.

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Hate Crimes and Playing the Man in Politics

Noting that some significant portion of the anti-Semitic threats made in the recent past were perpetrated by a left-wing journalist, Kevin Williamson puts his finger on the impression that many conservatives (and, I would hope, clear-eyed moderates and even liberals) are getting: 

The Left, for the moment, cannot seriously compete in the theater of ideas. So rather than play the ball, it’s play the man. Socialism failed, but there is some juice to be had from convincing people who are not especially intellectually engaged and who are led by their emotions more than by their intellect — which is to say, most people — that the people pushing ideas contrary to yours are racists and anti-Semites, that they hate women and homosexuals and Muslims and foreigners, that they could not possibly be correct on the policy questions, because they are moral monsters. This is the ad hominem fallacy elevated, if not quite to a creed, then to a general conception of politics. Hence the hoaxes and lies and nonsense.

Phony hate crimes. Phony hate.

“Play the man.”  That is, rather than try to move the ball down the field, hurt the other team’s members so they can’t make any progress, either.

Of course, contact sports have, well, contact, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell how clean a play is or whether a player is going after his or her opponent or merely standing his or her ground in the face of aggression.  In policy, the important judgment for spectators is where the emphasis seems to be.  Charts and analysis coupled with a bit of roughness is very different from accusations designed to keep people from considering alternatives to one’s preferred perspective.

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Different Understandings of Civic Education

State Representative Brian Newberry (R, North Smithfield, Burrillville) has submitted legislation to require Rhode Island schools to teach students about the founding documents of the United States, and I’m not sure Providence Journal reporter Linda Borg quite understands the difference between that proposal and this:

Generation Citizen goes into the classroom and provides students with a hands-on civics project. Last semester, a group of Providence students studied community-police relations and lobbied for the community safety act, meeting with the City Council and others.

“Our young people don’t see politics and government as a path to real change,” [Generation Citizen Providence lead Tom] Kerr-Vanderslice said. “If we provide local, project-based civics education, they start to see politics as a pathway to making an impact.”

Newberry’s objective (I infer) is to educate students on the structure and boundaries of government.  Understanding our founding documents is understanding the agreement we have made with each other about what we can and can’t use the force of government to do.  Generation Citizen is teaching students how to be activists (generally left-wing activists, by the looks of it).

Those are very different lessons — in some ways opposing and in some ways complementary.  Borg’s article, however, tells the reader almost nothing about Newberry’s perspective with his legislation.  Rather, his bill is mainly a framework in which to present Kerr-Vanderslice’s perspective.

In that regard, the article presents an excellent illustration of the dangers of the progressive mentality.  What is important, under its sway, is for people to learn how to leverage government (implicitly serving the interests of people who deify it), not for them to understand people’s right to live independently from government.  The message being taught is: If you want something, go get government to force people to give it to you at the point of a gun.

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First, They Give You Money; Then, They Take Your Freedom

Buried in legislation that would begin treating “sugary drinks” in Rhode Island as something akin to cigarettes or alcoholic beverages is one of the best arguments for turning down the government when it wants to give us things.  H5787 and S0452 — led by Central Falls Democrat Representative Shelby Maldonado and Pawtucket/North Providence Democrat Senator Donna Nesselbush — would create new, burdensome licensing requirements for businesses seeking to sell the evil elixirs and impose an inflation-adjusted tax on them, enforcing the law not just with fines and licensing consequences, but with a criminal charge.

Central to the rationale for the law is this language:

Medicare and Medicaid spending would be eight and one-half percent (8.5%) and eleven and eight tenths percent (11.8%) lower, respectively, in the absence of obesity-related spending.

There you go: The price of letting government pay for things, like health care, is that government then gets to tell you how to live.  This will get worse if we don’t make such politicians pay a political price of their own.

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Superficial Judgement Tends to Go with Intolerance

“Silicon Valley liberal” Sam Altman took the time to talk to those strange creatures called “Trump supporters” and wrote up his findings for Business Insider.  These two quotations particularly resonated with me:

“I’m so tired of hearing about white privilege. I’m white but way less privileged than a black person from your world. I have no hope my life will ever get any better.” …

“The amount of violent attacks and economic attacks perpetrated by the left are troublesome. My wife and I recently moved to the Bay Area. I was expecting a place which was a welcoming meritocracy of ideas. Instead, I found a place where everyone constantly watches everyone else for any thoughtcrime.”

The first quotation is a long-standing complaint I’ve made to liberals.  For all of the profundity they’re keen to attribute to the line, “What happens to a dream deferred?,” they’re willing to defer a whole lot of them if the dreamers don’t fit one of the profiles about which they feel guilty.

The second quotation may not point to a new phenomenon, but it’s increasingly relevant.  Watching progressives be active, whether locally or at the national level, their self-righteousness and willingness to excuse bad behavior are a lesson in how such things as the Salem witch trials happen.

The combination of the two quotes, though, is hardly surprising.  History has shown that the sorts of people who’ll judge others based on superficial qualities like skin color will also tend to be intolerant, sometimes to the point of violence.

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The Key Paragraph of the ACLU UHIP Settlement

You may have read that the state government settled the lawsuit that the ACLU filed over the debacle of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP; aka RI Bridges, if it ever works).  As I’ve asked before, was this necessary?  Even assuming the state wouldn’t have taken the same steps that it has promised in the settlement once negative attention forced action, couldn’t a push from a few activist groups have produced the same result?

Well, mostly.  This part of the settlement probably wouldn’t have been in the outcome of a simple petition:

Plaintiffs shall be entitled to recover their reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Within sixty (60) days of the Court’s entry of this Order as an order of the Court, Plaintiffs shall file a bill of costs and motion for attorneys’ fees and costs with the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, unless such time is extended by agreement of the Parties or order of the Court or unless such motion is rendered unnecessary by agreement of the Parties. Prior to filing such motion, 13 Plaintiffs shall present a bill of costs and fees to Defendant and within fifteen (15) business days thereafter, or at such time as the Parties mutually agree upon, the Parties shall confer by telephone or in-person in a good faith effort to agree to an amount in settlement of fees and costs. If the Parties are unable to agree to a fee amount, Plaintiffs may file a motion for attorneys’ fees and costs with the Court.

Indeed, if a petition-driven resolution had included language promising money to the activists, it would have seemed shady.  But in this case, to recap, the state is having trouble providing money and services to needy people, and some activist lawyers managed to make a payday of it while appearing to be warriors of charity.  That’s government under a progressive regime, I guess.

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Risk Aversion in Stocks and in Politics

Here’s an interesting find from Justin LaHart in the Wall Street Journal, in a brief article titled “Why the Stock Market Doesn’t Like Republicans“:

The two economists created a model where people have a choice between being entrepreneurs and working for the government, and of voting for a political party that favors lower taxes or higher taxes. When risk aversion is low, more people want to be entrepreneurs and to vote for the low-tax party. When risk aversion is high, the opposite is true.

It is a highly simplified version of U.S. politics and economics. But the implications for stock prices are interesting. The low-tax party gets elected when risk aversion is low, and then if risk aversion merely returns to the mean, stocks suffer. For the high-tax party, the opposite is true.

The next question, obviously, is what causes these changes in sentiment, because the variables seem more to correlate than to cause one another.

Of course, they may have a causative relationship indirectly.  The high-tax party, for example, is likely to sense this dynamic (whether consciously recognizing it or not) and change policy in a way that makes people more risk-averse (such as regulations to make independent activity more difficulty while acclimating people to dependence on government’s socialization of risk).  Indeed, even when they promote entrepreneurialism, they strive to make it seem like something that cannot be done without the safety net of government subsidies.  (“You didn’t build that.“)

The insight has implications for advocacy, too.  Conservatives who make a theme of imminent doom under progressive rule — however accurate that theme is — may be making the public more inclined to fall for progressive promises of security.  The key, perhaps, is to make people feel secure in their families and their own ability to transcend

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Yes, Let’s Keep the Rule of Law

Andrew McCarthy has been taking the lead in noting the basic principle behind some of President Trump’s immigration policy:

On Tuesday, John Kelly, President Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security, published a six-page, single-spaced memorandum detailing new guidance on immigration enforcement. Thereupon, I spent about 1,500 words summarizing the guidance in a column at National Review. Brevity being the soul of wit, both the memo and my description of it could have been reduced to a single, easy-to-remember sentence:

Henceforth, the United States shall be governed by the laws of the United States.

That it was necessary for Secretary Kelly to say more than this — and, sadly, that such alarm has greeted a memo that merely announces the return of the rule of law in immigration enforcement — owes to the Obama administration abuses of three legal doctrines: prosecutorial discretion, preemption, and separation of powers (specifically, the executive usurpation of legislative power).

The erosion of the rule of law in the United States (and, of course, in Rhode Island) is a topic on which I’ve written a great deal in recent years.  Note the political dynamic, though:  The Left (encompassing the mainstream media, universities, various supposed good-government groups, and others) is willing to look the other way when the rule of law erodes in ways they like under progressive government, but then they’ll howl if the Right reaffirms the rules and scream if they can so much as insinuate that conservatives are promoting some similar erosion that doesn’t serve the progressive ideology.

Let’s hope the eternal record of the Internet (1) stays free and (2) gives the people an edge against the ideologues by helping us remember what has been said and done in the past.

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Psst… Lack of Mandate Is Not Lack of Choice

The Trump administration’s change of course on the issue of transgender bathrooms (and similar facilities) — sending the question back to state governments — was excellent for illustrating the narrative-driven bias in the news.  The best expression that I’ve seen came from the Newport Daily News, which ran a front-page headline last Thursday proclaiming that “Transgender students lose bathroom choice.”

The McClatchy news service article beneath the headline, however, immediately tells a different story:

The Trump administration Wednesday told public school districts across the nation that they no longer have to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

In the progressive lexicon, when the federal government doesn’t force a position that progressives support, it is automatically forcing the opposite position.  In the terms of the headline, transgender students didn’t lose anything by this decision; rather, states gained a choice.

And what happened?  At least in Rhode Island (which should be the central concern of the Newport Daily News), Education Commissioner Ken Wagner immediately issued a statement to say:

The rescinding of this federal guidance does not change our policy – there is no room for discrimination in our schools, and we will continue to protect all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, from any type of bias.

Of course, what he says isn’t exactly true.  Students who aren’t comfortable sharing bathrooms with those of a different sex are “all students,” but the system is explicitly biased against accommodating them.  If they should be so bold as to express their discomfort, the state government suggests, “administrators and counseling staff” should get involved to change their beliefs.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the state of Rhode Island is perfectly able to continue setting its policy, and several school districts have made a point of proclaiming their agreement.

For some, though, that’s never sufficient.  They are incensed by the notion that people hundreds or thousands of miles away might be able to agree among themselves to disagree with the progressives of Rhode Island.  Our freedom is only ever to agree with the Left.

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Playing with Other People’s Futures in Education

I’ve attended events similar to this one, as described by Jackie Roman in the Valley Breeze:

Plans to give Smithfield’s education facilities, mainly the elementary schools, a facelift are coming to fruition. …

The event was attended by Smithfield administrators, teachers, government officials, parents, and even a few elementary school students.

“We are crafting ideas of what defines the future of teaching and learning,” [Frank Locker of Frank Locker Educational Planning] said.

That sounds good, and to some extent, of course, government schools must plan for the future.  But the whole endeavor raises a basic question: What qualifies these people to “define the future of teaching and learning”?

A follow-on question is what stake, really, these people have in the outcome, such that they might pursue what works, rather than what feels good?  That’s a problem endemic to all government activities.

It’s very easy, and disproportionately fulfilling, for people to sit around and imagine what a wonder the future could be.  But unless families are empowered to reject those plans by sending their children elsewhere, the folks “crafting ideas of what defines the future of teaching and learning” are just playing with other people’s lives.

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Corporate Personhood and Three Steps to No Rights

Brad Smith recently took up an important point in the Providence Journal, responding to Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who is seeking to “strip rights from corporate entities,” in Smith’s words.  He cites the 1819 Supreme Court case, Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward:

A corporation, the court noted, “is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.” But that didn’t mean that people gave up their rights when they formed a corporation. Rather, the decision emphasized that when people join together to accomplish things, they usually need some form of organization, and shouldn’t have to sacrifice their rights just because they organize.

This is one of those recurring discussions that are frustrating because they’re mainly semantic, and one feels as if normal people sitting down to fairly explain to each other what they mean will agree and move on.  The danger is that the semantics could allow radicals like Whitehouse to push the law a few steps to totalitarian control.

Step 1 is to force people to organize for any sort of public activity by offering either competitive enticements (from tax benefits to liability protections) or regulations restricting activities if people do not organize.  We’re already pretty far along this path.

Step 2 is declare that those organizations that people have formed don’t have rights.  Another way of putting that, as Smith explains, is to say that people lose their individual rights when they organize as corporations… which they were more or less forced to do in order to accomplish their goals.

Step 3 will be to force people to do what government insiders want by imposing requirements on the rights-less corporations.

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