For a brief time Rhode Island had three seats in Congress.

By Justin Katz | May 6, 2021 |
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River and mill in Pawtucket, RI.

That’s one of the telling details from a characteristically easy-to-read and historically informed essay by Steve Frias in the Cranston Herald.  In a nutshell, unionization and a refusal to adapt to a changing economy have been costing Rhode Island population, economic activity, and relevance for more than a half century:

Unable to remake itself following this de-industrialization, for the last half century, Rhode Island’s economic growth has lagged behind other states and its population has stagnated. From 1970 to 2020, Rhode Island’s population only grew by about 16 percent and had the eighth-lowest population growth in the nation. Meanwhile, from 1977-2020, Rhode Island had about the 11th lowest growth in real GDP in the country. In fact, Rhode Island was ranked last in population growth and in real GDP growth among the New England states during this time period.

Not only has Rhode Island’s economy and population been slow to grow, but its stagnation has caused young, educated people to leave. For example, in 1997, the Providence Journal reported that during the recession of the early 1990s, Rhode Island “experienced a greater flight of its people,” most of them of working age, “than any other state.” In 2007, Providence Journal reported how “young, college-educated” adults were leaving Rhode Island and URI economist Leonard Lardaro warned of Rhode Island’s “skill drain.” Lastly, in 2012, the U.S Census Bureau published a report showing that Rhode Island had a consistent net out-migration of its young, single, college-educated population since 1965.

Quoting from old newspapers, Frias highlights the pride various regions, including the Ocean State, used to take in their economic advancement.  It’s telling about our current condition that Rhode Islanders don’t seem to mind the decline as a matter of pride or even as a matter of financial and familial investment.

That’s probably indicative of something deeper that would have to change in order to repair the damage.  If that cultural lethargy could be fixed, maybe it wouldn’t matter if population didn’t grow, because we’d be doing so well in so many other ways.

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The Right spans from Caitlyn Jenner to Catholicism to cryptocurrencies, these days.

By Justin Katz | May 6, 2021 |
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Mike Stenhouse and guests from In the Dugout

Mike Stenhouse touched on all of those topics on his In the Dugout show, yesterday.  He handled the Jenner topic himself, but Tyler Rowley joined him for the religion talk, and Kade Almendinger helped with cryptocurrency.

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Here’s today’s bit of clarity on the Marxist scam: decoy identities.

By Justin Katz | May 6, 2021 |
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Multiracial hands on a table

A few weeks ago, Sarah Hoyt commented as follows on Instapundit in response to a Victory Girls post by Lisa Carr concerning CNN assertions that Republicans are terrified of the darkening of the average American skin color:

… when I didn’t like academic, Marxist [science fiction] I got told that’s because I didn’t like women, immigrants and minorities writing science fiction.  For the left this makes sense, because you can’t possibly disagree with them, so it must be that you’re scared of women, minorities and immigrants. Sigh.

I’ve held onto the quotation because it points toward an important lesson.

In fact, the Left treats this principle as reversible.  Women, minority, and immigrant science fiction writers who aren’t writing Marxist content (among whom Hoyt numbers) are treated as if they don’t actually count.  (See also, “Uncle Tim.”)

Thus, leftism is grafted onto decoy identities that can then be treated as inviolable.  Women, racial and sexual minorities, and immigrants who aren’t progressive are not really women, racial and sexual minorities, and immigrants in an important sense.  Thus, the overlap of ideology and identity is considered total, so disliking the progressivism in the work or activities of people who do count is equivalent to disliking their demographic qualities.  Therefore, because only bigots criticize people based on their demographic qualities, criticizing progressivism is bigotry.

This nifty trick is utterly transparent.  The fact that social media and the left’s control of key social institutions gives them the power to enforce it doesn’t mean we have to pretend not to see through it.

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Under RI’s Act on Climate, can I sue Kamala Harris for her strange visit to Rhode Island?

By Justin Katz | May 6, 2021 |
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Kamala Harris disembarks from Air Force 2 in RI

A photo that Governor Dan McKee posted on his Facebook page, shown as the featured image for this post, caught my eye.  That’s an awfully big plane to carry one person hundreds of miles for tarmac handshakes with VIPs, a photo op with some local professionals, and a quick run to a neighborhood bookstore.  How much carbon did Kamala Harris’s little venture emit?  (Kinda weird the climate-threat believers aren’t asking that question.)

Air Force Two is a 757, and when the media types were inclined to criticize the president, they estimated that each 1,000-mile trip of Air Force One emitted 26 tons of CO2.  It’s about 400 miles each way between Washington, D.C., and Rhode Island, so 800 miles of flying would be about 21 tons of carbon now in the atmosphere that wasn’t there twenty-four hours ago.

For reference, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that “a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.”  Thus, Harris’s trip did as much damage to the environment as the typical Rhode Islander’s car does in four-and-a-half years.  Dan McGowan may write glowingly about the value of Harris’s trip to the handful of people who met her, but it would take an awfully low opinion of Rhode Islanders to think nearly a half-decade of their driving isn’t at least as valuable.

Think about that when the Rhode Island General Assembly inevitably votes to impose new gas taxes on you through the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) within the next couple months and when activists start suing state agencies (and probably private companies and individuals) for not meeting bureaucrats’ green goals under the Act on Climate law.

And it sure is weird that I didn’t see a single tweet from the environment-conscious media and activists questioning Harris’s tradeoff.  As the frequent refrain on Instapundit goes, I’ll believe climate change is a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.

Despite being vaccinated, Harris wore a mask for her entire trip, even while kissing her also-vaccinated husband.  (He, by the way, was hopping out of their big black SUV in order to hop into a plane and fly a relatively short distance for another PR jaunt of questionable importance.)  The stated reason for the mask wearing is to model proper behavior to Americans during the COVID crisis.  Of course, it’s a lot easier to put on a one-piece caution costume than to forgo executive jet-setting for PR and political favors.

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“Green” solar has eaten up about 4,000 acres of private forest land in RI and MA.

By Justin Katz | May 5, 2021 |
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A solar farm in the forest.

When government creates incentives, even with good intentions, it has an effect on people’s behavior.  Clark University Geography Professor John Rogan tells Scott O’Connell of the Telegram & Gazette, out of Worcester, that his team was surprised by the extent of damage solar mandates have done in these parts:

According to Rogan, through a combination of using satellite imagery, machine-learning algorithms, and other free resources, his team found that in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, nearly 4,000 acres of private forest land have been cleared to make way for solar arrays.

“I was personally shocked there was that much forest land converted to solar,” Rogan said, adding the situation illuminates one of the drawbacks of the country’s push for green energy alternatives. “Solar always comes up as a potential solution, but the issue is how you do it sustainably – I don’t think we’ve thought that far ahead.”

Several Rhode Island towns have grappled with this, including Tiverton, where 15 acres of farmland and a centuries-old farmhouse fell under the saw for solar.  As the endless stream of door-knocking rooftop-solar pitchmen and -women proves, there is big money to be made in capturing those government incentives.

Perhaps the realization of what progressive government has unleashed is playing a role in the Biden Administration’s softening on nuclear energy.  Although, the openness of Americans to accept any new implementations of that energy source is doubtful.

Everybody wants lots of cheap energy, but nobody wants it to be near them.  Of the options, however, knocking down trees and taking up space with ugly black panels (that include toxic materials) seems like a particularly bad tradeoff.

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Everything from municipal debt to vaccination gets pushed through our schools.

By Justin Katz | May 5, 2021 |
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Mike Stenhouse and Roland Benjamin on In the Dugout

Mike Stenhouse goes through the details, including a conversation with Roland Benjamin of South Kingstown, In the Dugout.

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Rhode Island Public High Schools Span the Nation

By Justin Katz | May 5, 2021 |
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U.S. News & World Report has released its 2021 ranking of 17,857 public high schools in the United States, including charter and magnet schools, and Rhode Island’s offerings span the list.

The top public high school in the Ocean State — Providence’s Classical High School — comes in as the 144th best school in the country, while 13 schools (mostly in Providence) are below the line at which U.S. News’ editors decided not to publish actual ranks (the bottom quarter).  The Rhode Island list, from best to worst, is provided at the end of this post, with the national rank shown (when provided).

The scores reflect each school’s performance based on six factors:

  • The proportion of seniors who took AP (or IB) exams and, additionally, who earned a qualifying score (30%)
  • A measure of students’ taking multiple AP (or IB) exams and earning qualifying scores (10%)
  • Math and reading proficiency based on state-issued standardized tests (20%)
  • Math and reading proficiency adjusted for the demographic qualities of the school (20%)
  • The size of gaps in math and reading proficiency based on demographic qualities of students (10%)
  • Graduation rate (10%)

Obviously, these measures are subjective, and changing relative weightings could make a significant difference for the results.  Moreover, the ranking makes no attempt to adjust for regional differences or for the amount that states invest in education.

Additionally, Rhode Islanders viewing the above rank should keep in mind that the straight list of 59 schools presents a distorted picture.  They aren’t evenly distributed across the national rankings — there are large jumps at some points.

The following chart illustrates that fact, with the ranks inverted, so the highest-ranking school has the largest column.  The gray box shows the bottom 25% of schools, for which U.S. News did not report the actual rank.  The solid red line is the midway point of the rank, and the dotted red line shows the cutoff for the top 25%.

RI Public High Schools by Inverted Rank

Click to enlarge.

 

Most conspicuously, the two steps from Rhode Island’s 26th-best high school, Rogers in Newport, to its 28th best, Providence Career Tech, is not representative of the real distance between them: about one-eighth of all schools in the country.

 

Rhode Island High School Ranking:

  1. Classical High School, Providence, 144
  2. Barrington High School, Barrington, 289
  3. East Greenwich High, East Greenwich, 551
  4. Portsmouth High School, Portsmouth, 1,283
  5. North Kingstown Senior High, North Kingstown, 1,382
  6. Blackstone Valley Prep High, Cumberland, 1,471
  7. South Kingstown High, South Kingstown, 1,951
  8. Exeter-West Greenwich Regional, West Greenwich, 2,020
  9. Paul Cuffee Upper School, Providence, 2,294
  10. Chariho High School, Wood River Junction, 2,509
  11. North Smithfield High School, North Smithfield, 2,578
  12. Westerly High School, Westerly, 2,982
  13. Lincoln Senior High School, Lincoln, 2,983
  14. Narragansett High School, Narragansett, 3,146
  15. Tiverton High School, Tiverton, 3,901
  16. Times2 Academy, Providence, 4,050
  17. Scituate High School, North Scituate, 4,088
  18. Cumberland High School, Cumberland, 4,106
  19. Mt. Hope High School, Bristol, 4,184
  20. Jacqueline M. Walsh School, Pawtucket, 4,637
  21. Smithfield High School, Smithfield, 5,506
  22. Coventry High School, Coventry, 5,535
  23. Middletown High School, Middletown, 5,766
  24. Ponaganset High School, North Scituate, 5,913
  25. Burrillville High School, Burrillville, 6,038
  26. Rogers High School, Newport, 6,411
  27. Cranston High School West, Cranston, 7,559
  28. Providence Career Technical, Providence, 8,866
  29. North Providence High, North Providence, 8,984
  30. Davies Career-Tech High School, Lincoln, 9,540
  31. Pilgrim High School, Warwick, 9,586
  32. Cranston High School East, Cranston, 9,758
  33. E-Cubed Academy, Providence, 9,963
  34. Johnston Senior High, Johnston, 10,042
  35. West Warwick High School, West Warwick, 10,148
  36. Beacon Charter School, Woonsocket, 10,699
  37. East Providence High, East Providence, 11,082
  38. Woonsocket High School, Woonsocket, 11,163
  39. Trinity Academy Performing Art, Providence, 11,387
  40. Toll Gate High School, Warwick, 11,580
  41. The Greene School, West Greenwich, 11,755
  42. Metropolitan Career Tech Center, Providence, 12,300
  43. Central Falls Sr. High, Central Falls, 12,581
  44. Academy for Career Exploration, Providence, 12,673
  45. William E. Tolman High, Pawtucket, 12,888
  46. Charles E. Shea High School, Pawtucket, 13,221
  47. 360 High School, Providence
  48. Blackstone Academy Charter, Pawtucket
  49. Block Island School, New Shoreham
  50. Central High School, Providence
  51. Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School, Providence
  52. Evolutions High School, Providence
  53. Highlander Secondary Charter School, Providence
  54. Hope High School, Providence
  55. Mount Pleasant High, Providence
  56. Nel/Cps Construction Career, Cranston
  57. Rini Middle College, Providence
  58. Village Green Virtual, Providence
  59. WB Cooley and Acad International, Providence, 17857
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The Amazon union vote is another flashpoint worthy of study.

By Justin Katz | May 5, 2021 |
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Aerial image of Bessemer, AL, Amazon

In the end, it wasn’t even close.  Of 5,800 warehouse workers at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama, 3,215 (55%) voted in the union election, 2,536 ballots were considered valid, and 1,798 (71% of the valid ballots) were against unionization.  Yet, judging from media reports before the election, this couldn’t possibly have been the case.

An Associated Press report by Kim Chandler that WPRI ran on March 26 is typical.  The only employees quoted are pro-union.  The points of view of pro-union “Amazon workers and union advocates… including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders” are quoted at length, talking about how “historical” the vote is, and the only counterbalance is a tweet from Amazon CEO Dave Clark.  His point was that the company was already providing the progressives’ target of $15 per hour and good benefits.

How could a supposed news report wind up painting a picture that is essentially the opposite of reality?  Answer that question, and you may have the key to many of our current political problems.  Start with imbalances that progressives long ago built into the law.  Union organizers are free to engage in full-on campaigns promoting any negatives in a company (even lying to do so) and touting the need for their services, while businesses are often wary of answering in kind for fear that the government will determine their efforts amounted to an “unfair labor practice.”  (Indeed, the union has filed a complaint precisely on those grounds.)

After considering biased law, consider the tilted landscape.  The unions’ business is unionization, while countering the unions’ claims can be only a small operational part of what a company does.  The unions therefore have every incentive to generate controversy and spoon-feed reporters stories and people to interview, exactly as government PR people do.

Finally, reporters tend to be progressives, including a heavy dose of pro-union indoctrination.  Oppressed workers exploited by evil, greedy corporate strongmen is simply the story they think it’s their job to tell.  When they receive the press release and the list of potential interviewees from the union, it fits their understanding of the world.  Meanwhile, finding workers who aren’t interested in the union takes more work, not the least because they may not want to draw attacks from activists and thugs.

Nonetheless, after the vote, Annabelle Williams of Business Insider did manage to find a couple of Amazon employees, both raised in communities full of miners and other unionized workers, willing to explain their vote against the union.  One of them, Cori Jennings, simply likes her job and understands that benefits she values might get lost in the shuffle as the union negotiates according to its own interests.

The other, Thomas Eady, says “he used to be ‘a huge pro-union person” whose experience taught him “that his work ethic didn’t matter and that unions would value seniority over everything,” while only acting “like a middleman” when it comes to termination and “just collecting money and overpaying themselves.”

To the ears of those in the government-union-media mono-party, that sounds like the rhetoric of the Other and undercuts both their ideology and their business model.

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“Platonic spouses” were another predictable outcome of the redefinition of marriage.

By Justin Katz | May 5, 2021 |
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Two men about to shake hands in the sunset.

A recent Zogby Poll found that 61% of American business leaders agreed “that progressive ideas on race, gender, post-colonialism and ‘cancel culture’ were undermining society and were not necessary.”  One suspects that the other 39% are not being honest with the pollsters or with themselves.

Consider the latest development on sexual identity undermining marriage: “platonic spouses.”  New York Times writer Danielle Braff does her best to write her article in a tone appropriate to quirky, fun experimentation with human norms, even trying to spin the following according to the standard narrative about stigma:

There are no statistics about the number of platonic, best-friend marriages, and many people who are in them aren’t open about their situation. But chat boards on Reddit and within smaller asexual and aromantic communities have popped up recently, suggesting this could be a larger portion of the marriage population than numbers portray.

The way progressives see the world, obviously the reason friend-marriage would be in the shadows has to be “that we’ve really normalized heterosexual monogamous romantic relationships to the point of stigmatizing other kinds of relationships,” as California marriage and family therapist Nick Bognar puts it.  From outside of the Left’s ideological mandate, though, such talk sounds like a bonkers mirror image of everything about which conservatives have been warning.

We used to warn that cultural elevation of homosexuality was erasing the idea of deep friendship, such that literary or historical close friendships were assumed to have been intimate.  Now, close friendships are taking their place among the victimized “alternative lifestyles.”

Maybe people who are in these marriages aren’t open about them because (1) they know they aren’t really marriage, and (2) they’re relationships of convenience.  Writing about same-sex marriage a couple of decades ago, I explained that this would happen.  It took no great insight.  Of course friends would do this, particularly with the complete absence of stigma for divorce.  In their early twenties, of course roommates and friends would fill out the paperwork in order to share benefits.  In their later years, of course older friends who thought their romantic lives behind them would follow incentives toward a semi-binding agreement like marriage.

More broadly, if marriage is just a statement of affection and mutual care, of course the standard of sexual intimacy would disappear along with the standard of being of opposite sex, the standard of being limited to two people, and the standard that the spouses cannot be closely related already.

Progressives have undermined marriage, and that’s just one of the institutions on which they’re working their corrupting magic.  This will have consequences, although progressives will keep blaming cops and “white supremacists.”

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A convenient concept taking progressive politicians by storm.

By Justin Katz | May 4, 2021 |
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The BLM flag flown in Barrington, RI

When I emailed the Barrington Town Council to voice my objection to their promotion of the Black Lives Matter flag in a divisive way and expressed that a flag policy has to be content-neutral, member Jacob Brier wrote back to asserted that it was “government speech.”  It was therefore completely constitutional.  Many others who received a similar response from Brier shared my “What in the world does that mean?” reaction.

Apparently, it’s becoming a thing nationwide.  John Hinderaker, of PowerLine, notes its usage by a school board in Rochester, Minnesota.  Rachel Mills reports for the local ABC affiliate out there:

The Rochester Public Schools board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to make several phrases and images, including “Black Lives Matter,” government speech, meaning the school can’t be held liable for allowing those views while not allowing opposing views.

“So here with adopting the messages that you’re adopting as government speech, you’re saying these are the messages that we’re communicating as a school district and by doing that we’re not also creating a forum to allow other types of speech to enter the forum,” John Edison, the RPS board attorney said.

Hinderaker (a lawyer) says the phrase is new to him and that “the idea of declaring an idea to be ‘government speech’ so as to prohibit anything counter to it seems a bit sinister.”  The impression that somebody, somewhere is feeding this legal rationale to the most-local of elected officials across the country only makes it more sinister.

That said, the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell Law School does shave a page explaining the “doctrine.”  However, it has tended to apply to government actions.  If the government’s message is “go get vaccinated,” for example, the First Amendment does not require it also to fund anti-vaccination content.

There can be little doubt, however, that the progressives are pushing this doctrine to apply to something new, explaining why it intuitively seems so wrong.  As the LII explains, it doesn’t apply to trademarks for several reasons:

First, the Court noted that, unlike license plates, trademarks do not have a history of use to convey messages by the government. Second, the Court further reasoned that the government does not maintain direct control over the messages conveyed in trademarks—indeed, “[t]he Federal Government does not dream up these marks, and it does not edit marks submitted for registration.” And third, the public, according to the Tam Court, does not closely identify trademarks with the government.

Black Lives Matter is a trademark and an organization.  Indeed, one could argue that it violates the rights of BLM for the government to declare its name to be the government’s own speech. Noting these facts brings us back to the basic impression that “government speech” is simply an excuse for government to give preference to specific groups and ideologies, and we should expect to see this deployed more and more frequently to restrict the free speech rights of non-progressives.

When governments approve quasi-permanent statues, they tend to seek broad consensus, not in-your-face ideological statements.  Unfortunately, to progressives, nobody else has any right to be represented.

 

Featured image of Barrington’s BLM flag via UpRise RI.

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