RAIMONDO SELLS HER SOUL: The once great and heralded Gina Raimondo, the white knight who had the courage to take on public service unions and the state’s political overlords on behalf of the taxpayers, has sold her soul to the devil. In her narrowly focused quest to become our state’s next governor, she has exchanged her philosophical beliefs for political expediency.
In 2011, after putting taxpayers, unions and legislators through almost a year of anxiety and after telling us the bill she was asking our legislature to approve was absolutely essential to pull the pension fund from insolvency, Raimondo managed to push pension reform through. We all issued sighs of relief that it was over and proclaimed Raimondo the state’s finest new political face, a strong face that exuded courage, conviction and determination to do what is best for our state. We definitely saw her as a future governor and saw national political prominence beyond that.
But, in her zeal to become governor, she opted to placate unions at the court-ordered mediation talks and has put Rhode Island back into the untenable position it was in before pension reform was enacted. Not only has she put $232 million back on the shoulders of taxpayers in the form of increased unfunded pension liability – even after she had promised in 2011 that taxpayers couldn’t afford a single penny more, she has also ensured that if the General Assembly kneels to her negotiated settlement, our state will have no answer on the constitutionality of legislated pension reform. Her actions will have ensured that unions maintain their stranglehold over elected representatives who will have no cover that an almost certain judicial decision of constitutionality would have given them. Legislators will never again put themselves in the precarious position of challenging state unions. The result: taxpayers will suffer needlessly because of Raimondo’s cowardice.
If the General Assembly has even an ounce of courage left after Raimondo’s betrayal, it will reject the settlement and will allow the issue to go to trial on its constitutionality. Let’s hope House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed have the courage that Raimondo so clearly lacks.
PULL OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW: Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai just released 65 dangerous Taliban prisoners, many of whom had been captured by U.S. forces before our country’s military draw down got underway but were then transferred to Afghanistan custody. Others were captured after Afghanistan took over control of enemy prisoners. A U.S. military spokesman called the released prisoners “dangerous insurgents who have Afghan blood on their hands.” No doubt these Taliban will return to the fight and will likely again kill Afghanis and American soldiers.
The U.S. should immediately pull out of Afghanistan! With President Obama reluctant to leave sufficient forces in the country after December to provide security for U.S. bases or to successfully perform anti-insurgent missions, it seems to be a losing proposition – especially with Karzai refusing to sign a security agreement. Now, with Karzai’s release of so many Taliban terrorists, any future deaths of American soldiers will be on the hands of President Obama if we don’t pull out now.
FEDS WRONG IN SECOND-GUESSING ACI HIRING PROCESS: The federal government is suing the Rhode Island Department of Corrections claiming the ACI’s correctional officer hiring process discriminates against blacks and Hispanics. What’s at issue is he written test administered to all applicants and the video-recorded “how would you respond?” scenario test. According to the federal government, roughly twice as many minority applicants than white applicants are weeded out by these two tests.
It would seem to the average citizen that the written test covering basic English and math is clearly legitimate. Surely most people would agree that corrections officers should be at least as smart as the average prisoner they guard. If our educational systems has failed some minority applicants causing them to fare poorly on the written test, that’s not the ACI’s fault. Guarding violent prisoners is a dangerous job that, if performed improperly because officers lack sufficient learning, could present a danger to prisoners, to other officers and to the outside community – especially to Cranston where the ACI is located.
The “how would you respond?” scenario test simply gages applicants’ common sense. Do we want correctional officers whose intellectual logic system causes them to make rash or imprudent decisions? Hardly!
All of this seems moot anyway. The last group of correctional officers hired by the ACI, all of whom succeeded on the controversial tests, was 27.6 percent minority. The minority and bi-racial makeup of Rhode Island is 24 percent according to the 2012 census. What can be wrong with tests that result in more minorities hired than their percentage of the population? If the federal government prevails and the tests are eliminated or watered down, Rhode Island’s dangerous prisoners will be guarded by many corrections officers, both minority and white, who are ill-educated, less than smart people who possess little common sense. That’s a prescription for disaster. The Department of Corrections needs to fight this to the hilt!
BECAUSE OBAMA BLINKED, CHILDREN CONTINUE TO DIE IN SYRIA: American officials at the just-ended second round of so-called “peace talks” in Geneva between Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebel fighters have admitted the talks have been just “for show” and will not likely resume. Even if a third round convenes, no one expects any progress to be made. In the meantime, non-combatant civilians, including countless innocent children and their parents, continue to be massacred by Assad’s forces.
The United States and Russia have been at odds for the past three years on how to end the civil war. The U.S. has long favored the ouster of Assad, while Russia has long supported him and supplied him with military weapons.
Last year when Syrian rebels were at their strongest and world opinion was most supportive of the idea that Assad must go, a chance for the U.S. to take action against Assad was at its peak. And like a gift to the U.S., a prime opportunity arose for President Obama to order military air strikes against Assad’s military infrastructure when Assad unwisely chose to use chemical weapons against civilians in rebel-held areas. Military action at that time would almost surely have resulted in Assad’s fall.
So where did things go wrong? Put very simply President Obama blinked! Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was opposed to military strikes, looked Obama in the eye and didn’t blink; Obama did. Demonstrating his spineless nature and his disregard for American ideals, Obama gave in and called off the military air strikes.
Now, disgusted with Obama’s cowering, Saudi Arabia has decided to arm the rebels with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles – weapons that could one day end up in the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists and be used to down commercial aircraft. All because Obama blinked.
In the meantime Assad remains in power and children continue to be slaughtered while Obama and America continue to watch.
EVEN STUDENTS ARE AGAINST TEACHER SENIORITY PROTECTIONS: Claiming rightfully that teacher quality is the biggest in-school determinant of student performance and that good teachers and students are gravely harmed by school districts conducting layoffs based solely on seniority, a group of California students has sued the California’s governor, its education department and its teacher unions in an attempt to change that state’s obsolete teacher layoff practice that is based strictly on seniority.
Hurray for California’s perceptive and brave young students! Let’s hope the movement spreads to other states. Thankfully, here in Rhode Island, we are taking slow, timid steps toward ridding ourselves of seniority as the only criterion for teacher layoffs. It would help if our students make their voices heard to push this change along.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Responding to a letter to the editor about Jack Reed’s collectivist, redistributionist approach to flood insurance that I wrote to the Warwick Beacon last Tuesday, an online reader had this to say: “Lonnie, the Takers of whom you speak are deeply indebted to RI’s congressional delegation for its redistributionist, expansionist approach to governing. The more people dependent upon government, the more people who will vote for more of the same. As a waterfront property owner, I see no reason why anyone should subsidize my insurance. Nor am I remotely interested in subsidizing anyone else’s housing, child care, transportation, meals, or anything else through added taxation.”