GEMMA AND VOTER FRAUD: Congressional candidate Anthony Gemma seems to be a somewhat bizarre individual. His actions, from collecting a million Twitter followers to making bold allegations with little proof offered up front, make him appear to have little substance. However, his allegations of voter fraud in past elections should not be taken lightly. The investigation that led to the allegations was conducted by retired, highly regarded state troopers. And, the evidence offered by Gemma at his news conference could be only the tip of the iceberg if there is more pointed evidence that was withheld for police investigation; and there remains the possibility that more damaging evidence may be uncovered now that the State Police and possibly the FBI are involved.
Although it is unlikely the allegations will be either proven or disproven before the September primary, the mere fact that an investigation is underway may deter voter fraud through absentee ballots. The General Assembly closed the door on voter impersonation fraud with the new voter ID law. Simultaneously, the legislature opened the door wide for voter fraud through absentee ballots by allowing absentee voting for any reason whatsoever. Closing one door for illegal activity while opening another even wider is no way to ensure a fair electoral process.
WARWICK'S STATION DISTRICT: In a lengthy Providence Journal "Reinvent Rhode Island" article about the envisioned "new downtown" that Warwick and state leaders hope will spring up around Green Airport and the Interlink air-rail facility, mention of Amtrak service to the new downtown was strangely missing. Amtrak currently will not stop at the Interlink facility because it does not have an electrified third track and because projected passenger activity at the facility does not justify a stop. To make the new downtown a true destination, more than hotels and businesses must be attracted; train service from Connecticut and New York must also be incorporated, along with additional service from Boston. The relatively infrequent commuter trains to and from Boston are not enough. With $267 million already invested in the Interlink, building the third rail for Amtrak may be a wise investment of state and federal monies.
R.I. ETHICS COMMISSION: All Rhode Islanders recognize the value of a state ethics commission that would serve as the watchdog over all R.I. politicians and office holders. The R.I. Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the current ethics commission could not exercise scrutiny over the legislature. It was a good decision since the commission was, essentially, an enforcement arm of the state's executive branch with the commission’s members appointed by the governor. Exercising its power over legislators clearly violated the separation of powers provision of the state constitution.
This issue is being discussed in several legislative races this year, including in Warwick's 29th Senate District where incumbent Mike McCaffrey is being challenged by newcomer Laura Pisaturo. McCaffrey opposes legislative oversight by a commission appointed by the governor, while Pisaturo thinks the commission should have more teeth. Whichever candidate prevails should introduce a bill to change the ethics commission to a nine-member panel with three members appointed by each of the three branches of government. The new commission would be independent but would have ethical oversight over all three branches. An ethics violation would be issued only with a 2/3 majority vote and so long as at least one of the three members from the accused party’s branch votes with the majority. With such a triumvirate body, the three branches would, in essence, be policing their own ethics and would be acting in accordance with the state’s constitution.
COLLEGE TUITION BURDEN: President Obama, speaking to students in a campaign speech in Ohio, accused his rival, Mitt Romney, of supporting a tuition policy that amounts to nothing more than encouraging students to "borrow more money from your parents" or "shop around for the best deal." Isn't that how it's supposed to work? Does Obama think parents are no longer responsible for educating their children? So, it's now the taxpayers’ responsibility? This is just more evidence that another four years of Obama policies will spend our country into a hole we'll never be able to climb out of!
WHO IS THE CHAMPION OF THE MIDDLE CLASS? President Obama constantly rails that Mitt Romney supports the rich while he supports the "struggling middle class." According to figures published in the Wall Street Journal last week, if Obama is the champion of the middle class, why has the middle class median household income declined from $54,983 at the beginning of the Obama presidency to only $50,964 today? Obama claims the loss is the result of the recession he inherited. Well, the recession officially ended in June of 2009. From that point to now, median household income decreased another $2,544! There's a big difference between a "champion" and an "excuse maker." You decide which category Mr. Obama falls into.
GOODBYE, NEIL ARMSTRONG: An American hero died last Saturday. Those of us who were at least 7 to 8 years old on July 20, 1969 when Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot upon an extraterrestrial body – the moon, remember exactly where we were when that amazing feat occurred. This writer listened on a transistor radio to Armstrong's famous words, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." This was followed, of course, by the more famous statement when Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Armstrong was a quiet man who truly represented what is good about America – hard work, persistence and never losing sight of the goal. This is what has made America the preeminent nation on Earth. Yet, we seem to have lost that drive to explore and to achieve. We'll never get it back if we continue the current administration's policies of cutting funds for NASA and shifting space exploration away from a return to the moon.
Goodbye, Neil! Perhaps your death will sound a wake-up call for Americans who want our country to return to the glory days when we ruled manned space exploration.