CHARTER SCHOOLS: Remember the days when American-made cars fell apart before their odometers registered 100,000 miles? In those halcyon days of the ’50s and ’60s, there was no significant competition from foreign automakers; thus Ford, Chevy and Chrysler had no incentive to improve the quality of their products. With the rise of competition from Japan in the ’70s and ’80s, suddenly American car companies began concentrating on quality. Now American-made cars routinely last far beyond 100,000 miles. The analogy in education is the story of traditional public schools vs. charter schools. Without charter schools to provide competition, public schools will remain mired in low quality practices and will continue to turn out students unable to compete in a global economy. Charter schools are good for education as a whole. Just as a rising tide floats all boats, competition from charter schools will increase the quality of education across the entire educational spectrum – charter, public and private. Don’t we want the quality of our children’s education to rise to the quality level of today’s American cars instead of remaining at the level of the clunkers of yesteryear?
CHRISTMAS TREE: If you call an elephant an “animal,” does it make the creature any less an elephant? If you call a donkey an animal, is it any less a donkey? Does calling a Christmas tree a “holiday tree” make it any less a Christmas tree? If we were to light a giant Menorah at the State House and call it a “holiday candle,” would it then have connection to the Jewish faith? Of course, the answer to each of these questions is a resounding no! Using semantic word trickery does not change the fact that we are celebrating the birth of Christ when we light a Christmas tree, regardless of its commercialization in recent decades. The lighting of a tree is associated with no religion other than Christianity. Calling it a holiday tree doesn’t change that. We can all celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Buddha Day, or any other religious holiday in our homes, our shopping malls, and our houses of worship. We don’t need our government to lead the way in these celebrations. Because government affects us all, regardless of our religion (or lack of), it should remain steadfastly secular. Its use of semantics to mask religious symbols is disingenuous at best.
OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Those who plan to vote against President Obama in 2012 must be royally irked that he is financing his re-election campaign with taxpayer dollars. Though the White House calls Obama’s speechmaking trips “official business,” they are clearly campaign trips. Not only does he vilify Republicans during almost every speech during these trips, the trips are strategically planned strictly to swing states – those states that historically have swung back and forth between voting Democrat and Republican in presidential elections and whose electoral votes are essential for a candidate to win the general election. Obama has journeyed forth on these election season campaign trips at a rate far exceeding previous presidents. This early in the campaign, with 11 months to go, Obama has already ventured out to swing states 54 times at taxpayer expense compared to only 33 such trips taken by President George W. Bush during his entire re-election campaign! Even dyed-in-the-wool Democrats should see how unfair, unjust and perhaps criminal it is for a Democrat president to use Republicans’ tax dollars to campaign against Republicans. Obama’s campaign coffers hold more money than Fort Knox. He should be using that money to finance his campaign instead of raiding the almost broke U.S. Treasury.
VOTER ID: Public hearings were announced to solicit comments on the rules being written to implement Rhode Island’s new voter identification law. Objections to the law continue with claims there is no evidence of voter fraud. Such claims are nonsensical since, without the ID requirement, it has been impossible to collect evidence of fraud or attempted fraud.
Anecdotal evidence indicates voter fraud has manifested itself through people going from polling place to polling place, or multiple times to the same polling place, to vote in the names of those who won’t go to the polls themselves – the drunk, lazy or otherwise apathetic among us. It’s fairly easy to get these folks registered to vote since political parties and other organizations conduct far-reaching drives that find them in every out-of-the-way corner and push registration forms into their hands. It’s not so easy, however, to get these people to actually go to the polls on Election Day. If these people could be dragged to the polls, they would likely vote the same as their fraudulent surrogates. However, that’s not how our democracy is supposed to work. The voter ID law is a good one and it will definitely stop this kind of voter fraud. And, it’s pretty clear which party will be adversely affected.
EX-CON BUS DRIVERS: Recent stories have highlighted the value and relative success of the re-entry councils throughout R.I., made up mostly of volunteers and non-profit civic/church organizations, who help released convicts re-enter society. These outreach groups are vital to help reduce the repeat crimes that land most released prisoners back in the ACI within a couple of years. What seems ironic and hypocritical is the media uproar, inspired by RIPTA union leaders as a revenge tactic against management, about the two ex-cons hired to drive RIPTA buses. The stories fail to mention what the two men were convicted of and it seems no one interviewed the drivers' passengers to determine the drivers' comportment. While there is merit to the argument that decent jobs should first be offered to law-abiding people who are out of work before hiring well-behaved parolees, our society has to decide – either we want to re-socialize ex-cons or we don't. We can't have it both ways.
SENIOR SEX: This week's winner of the "researching the obvious" award goes to the Gerontological Society of America for it's study that shows married couples over the age of 65 who engage in sexual activities are happier than senior couples who are celibate. Did anyone doubt this? Besides the primal instinct for survival (safety and food), the urge for sex – the act that ensures the continuation of our species, is the next most basic of our instinctive desires. It's a no-brainer; whether young, middle-aged, or older, sex is fun and makes people happy – no research needed!