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Standing Against The Progressive-Left

At our Center, we know that the extreme levels of taxation and over-regulation forced on Rhode Islanders by an ever-growing government is the primary culprit in causing our state’s sad performance. Look at it this way— heavy handed action by a state government that mainly seeks to perpetuate itself, actually works against the best-interests of the very individuals it is supposed to be serving.

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Will RI Push the ACLU into Conservatives’ Ditch?

I’ve been finding the news cycles discouraging lately, even frightening.  We’re fallen creatures, so even a casual familiarity with history will show that the madness isn’t anything new or different.  What’s discouraging at this moment is the acceleration of the movement to undermine the principles of freedom and (at least) aspiration to consider things logically and with mutual respect.

Even things that ought to be encouraging have the feel of futility.  It feels, for example, like a sign of how far things have gone that I’m agreeing so much with the Rhode Island ACLU more often, and not because I’m changing my worldview.  The latest area of agreement comes with the organization’s statement of concern about proposed “red flag” legislation proposing to empower law enforcement personnel and a single judge to predict that a person is likely enough to do harm that he or she loses his Second Amendment rights (emphasis added):

The heart of the legislation’s ERPO process requires speculation – on the part of both the petitioner and judges – about an individual’s risk of possible violence. But, the ACLU analysis notes: “Psychiatry and the medical sciences have not succeeded in this realm, and there is no basis for believing courts will do any better. The result will likely be a significant impact on the rights of many innocent individuals in the hope of preventing a tragedy.”The ACLU’s analysis concludes:“People who are not alleged to have committed a crime should not be subject to severe deprivations of liberty interests, and deprivations for lengthy periods of time, in the absence of a clear, compelling and immediate showing of need. As well-intentioned as this legislation is, its breadth and its lenient standards for both applying for and granting an ERPO are cause for great concern.

We’ll see how this plays out.  The RI ACLU was correct, as well, to express concern with the lurching of the Rhode Island Senate to expel an elected member and leave his district without representation on the strength of allegations.  Republican Senator Nicholas Kettle’s resignation saved Senate leaders from having to follow through on their threats — and saved the ACLU from having to judge the process one way or another — but there’s no similar out in this case.

The question for legislators and for the rest of us is whether Rhode Island is now a state in which the ACLU can fall outside of the boundaries of acceptable opinion on the conservative side of the spectrum.

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Revival Brewing Company Shuts Down Customers in Solidarity with Anonymous Libel

Local brewery Revival Brewing Company has shut down a planned event scheduled for tonight by the Rhode Island chapter of the America’s Future Foundation (AFF) based on a libelous Instagram post asserting that AFF has a hidden white supremacist agenda.  Here’s the Instagram post, which is obviously from somebody who opposes AFF:

anti-aff-post

In repeated comments under the post announcing the cancellation of the event, the Revival Brewing Company Facebook account stated that “regardless of it being true or not, we needed to stop it.”  The company’s account also posted a picture of a card insisting that it stands with “all races, all religions, all countries of origin, all sexual orientations” and “all genders,” while seeming to make no distinctions between an anonymous allegation and fact when it comes to “white supremacy.”

Fortunately for Revival Brewing, conservatives tend to think private companies should have a right to decide who can use their facilities and shouldn’t be forced to “bake the cake,” as progressives insist when Christian bakers opt not to celebrate same-sex wedding ceremonies.  Whether people who value free speech should continue to patronize Revival Brewing Company is another matter.  At best, the company’s owners aren’t as principled as they think they are.  At worst, they’re happy to find excuses to exclude people who are different from them.

ADDENDUM (5:13 p.m., 2/28/18):

When asked why people are calling AFF racist, Revival owner Sean Larkin tells GoLocalProv: “I have [no] idea, I’m more worried about people damaging my business and the lively hood of my employees implicating that we support an organization that is loosely tied to this thought.”  Note that the only “loose tie” between this group and racism is anonymous libel on social media.

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Bringing Logic to the Net Neutrality Debate

The Sunday Providence Journal carried my op-ed on net neutrality:

Really, with what other service do people insist that customers’ only options must be everything or nothing? Should we all have to have the same gym memberships? Should every car have to have the same engine and the same sound system?

A preference for an all-or-nothing industry, as with health care, tends to mean that the advocates want to be able to control the “all” so they can control our lives. Auton and Holden probably have no such intent, but following their suggestion would clear a path for those who do.

One comment, from Mike Berry illustrates the challenge of political discourse these days:

Hard to follow the logic here.
Mandatory free and open access cannot possibly restrict what ISPs sell us. It does the opposite.
Internet access is not like gym memberships or auto service. It should be a utility in which, yes, we ALL get the same thing!!

Notice the immediate logical inconsistency in Berry’s response.  On the one hand, he says net neutrality “cannot possibly restrict what ISPs sell us”; on the other hand, he insists that ISPs should sell everybody the exact same thing.

Objectively, it appears that Berry is tangled up in the talking points.  Proponents of net neutrality use phrases like “mandatory free and open access” because that implies more access not less, but using a talking point doesn’t mean it’s accurate.  Maybe if Internet access were some boundless resource that could simply be plucked for free and distributed without limit, but that isn’t the case.

The mention of utilities is also instructive.  Think about your electric bill.  Regulators and activists are working to ensure that you cannot get electricity from coal while they force you to pay extra for politically favored energy like wind.

In that case, we’re only talking about how the product is generated.  With the Internet, the control of the “utility” would implicitly cover what we receive.  We’ll quickly find that disfavored content — the coal of the Internet — is blocked while we wind up with government fees on our bills to fund content or services to which we object.

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To Progressives, Conservatives Are Like Lepers at Brown

The first thing one might wonder upon reading Rhode Island College professor Alex Nunes’s recent article in the Providence Journal is how many readers are actually interested in this sort of stuff:

In the last decade, the conservative icon and CEO of Koch Industries has poured $3.2 million into Brown University and the Political Theory Project, a think tank on campus. “The Koch network is essentially buying the legitimacy of Brown University for their own private gain and recruiting the next generation of free-market activists,” says Ralph Wilson, co-founder of the advocacy group UnKoch My Campus.

The second thing one might wonder is what lesson those readers will take from it.  Despite a whopping 1,500 words spent on the topic, Nunes provides no evidence that anything untoward has actually happened.  Did Brown pressure professors to change their courses to appease big-money donors?  Not as far as we know.  Did the Koch Brothers buy enhanced access to students in some way?  Not really.

The only complaint of the activists who give Nunes an excuse for his article is that Brown donors whom they don’t like are contributing some small portion of the school’s revenue, and a single professor is presenting material with which they disagree, as a small portion of the information and opinion available at Brown.

As I mentioned in my podcast last week, it is as if these censorious tyrants think any exposure to different viewpoints is like a virus that will infect the university’s dainty little left-wing communities.  So the third thing one might wonder is why progressives fear that their ideas will stand up so poorly against opposing views.

However few people are actually sufficiently interested to read about this (quote/unquote) controversy, we probably can’t afford to ignore it.  After all, environments such as that at Brown will produce the people who go on to work at Google and do things like seek to invade every space that people might create to discuss differing ideas.  In that regard, everybody should read articles like Nunes’s in order to realize just how irrational and totalitarian progressives have become.

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A Chronic Illness of the RI Right

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Rhode Island Senate Leaders Declare Representative Democracy Dead in Rhode Island

To the Rhode Island Senate’s shame, it has filed legislation for what is likely the first-ever expulsion of a state senator, and it was done, as the bill states, based on some now-resolved campaign finance problems, “unwanted media coverage,” and some allegations and criminal charges for which Coventry Republican Senator Nicholas Kettle has not yet gone to trial.

As argued in this space, yesterday, whatever one thinks of Kettle’s moral standing to claim continuing political support, this extreme measure by the Senate goes beyond attacking his rights to attacking the rights of Rhode Island voters.  It isn’t up to voters to find a candidate whom the insiders in the State House can accept; it’s up to the legislators to accept whomever the voters send.

The fact that the lead sponsor of the bill is Democrat Senate President Dominick Ruggerio — who was himself arrested in 2012 and brought “unwanted media coverage” to the chamber — puts an exclamation point on the political nature of this move.  The involvement of Senate Majority Leader Dennis Algiere does not alleviate this problem, especially after recent revelations that he played a role attempting to broker peace at an initially secret meeting between Ruggerio and Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello.

Moreover, the fact that the legislation includes detailed documentation of the allegations, as attachments or evidence, suggests that there’s more going on here than a desire to resolve a legislative problem.  I’ve never seen external documents appended as part of a bill before, and I’ve read thousands of bills in the past few years.

One needn’t come to the defense of Senator Kettle or his alleged actions to suggest that this is a step too far and moves Rhode Island governance to another level of intrinsic corruption.  If Kettle is no longer acceptable to his constituents, then they should remove him.  The other politicians in the state Senate shouldn’t take it upon themselves to ensure that a district goes without representation for an entire legislative session.  Discomfort with the subject matter of the allegations shouldn’t lead Rhode Islanders to give over their basic rights as voters to a small group of political elites.

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Setting Up Political Operatives

I’ve expressed skepticism that the state Ethics Commission will see a violation in Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s hiring of a member of the Providence Democratic City Committee and subsequent campaign agreement with that council.  In general, the commission has held the view that corruption only exists in the private sector.  Maybe a political committee will count as a private sector organization under its taxonomy, but I doubt it.

Abstruse government rules aside, the agreement, which Raimondo released on the Sunday of a three-day weekend, looks really bad, mostly because of this part:

No later than January 31, 2018, the Committee will authorize Patrick Ward (“Ward”) to open the following three accounts (collectively, the “Accounts”)…

The Committee agrees that Ward shall have exclusive and plenary authority to spend, transfer, and otherwise disburse funds from the Accounts for any lawful purpose… and shall be the only signatory on the Accounts…, except that Ward may designate any other persons of his choosing to also exercise these powers.  No other person’s approval will be required to authorize the spending, transfer, or disbursement of funds from the Accounts.

So, the agreement doesn’t leave the money in the control of the “committee president,” or any other such language that would give the committee as a whole ultimate control.  It gives control to somebody to whom the governor recently gave a $71,608, in company with his wife’s job in the administration.

The governor insists that the agreement doesn’t establish any “master and servant” relationship, but it gives the committee as a body no control outside of one of the governor’s employees.  Let’s just say that doesn’t look very good or ethical.

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