October 31, 2014
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My take on the news
Obama’s good, bad calls in wake of marathon bombings
Lonnie Barham

A GOOD CALL BY OBAMA:  To President Obama’s credit, he has directed the Justice Department to try the surviving Boston Marathon terrorist in a civilian court rather than before a military tribunal. The injured and detained culprit is an American citizen who committed his criminal act of terrorism on American soil. While it might help soothe our collective psyche to have him declared an “enemy combatant” and confined in the military prison at Guantanamo, trying him in a civilian court is the right thing to do. We cannot allow ourselves to become a country policed by the military. It’s the proverbial slippery slope. How long would it take from first trying an American terrorist in a military court to finding it acceptable to try a bank robber or a drunk driver in such a court? Let’s keep the handling of internal criminal activity, even when it is terrorism, the responsibility of our civilian police and prosecutors. President Obama made a good call on this one!

 

A BAD CALL BY OBAMA: The first step to solving a problem is to recognize that a problem exists.  Unfortunately, President Obama seems to have a hard time recognizing or acknowledging acts of terrorism. In the case of Boston, he couldn’t seem to overcome the urge to be politically cautious and downplay the incident. Even on that first day, it was obvious that placement of the two bombs that killed thee and maimed more than 170 people at the end of the race was intended to spread fear and terror among as many innocent Americans as possible and, by every definition imaginable, was clearly an act of terrorism; yet President Obama consciously decided not to call it what it was in his first message to the American people.  The next day, instead of calling it terrorism outright, he beat around the bush by saying that an act meant to cause widespread fear is an act of terror; he defined terrorism instead of saying we were confronting an act of terrorism in Boston.   And, on Thursday at the interfaith memorial service in Boston, Obama again refused to call the bombings terrorism.  After one terrorist was killed and the other captured on Friday, Obama finally called them terrorists. 

Is our president so obtuse that he just doesn’t recognize terrorism when he sees it?  He certainly didn’t acknowledge it in Benghazi for over a week after it happened.  Is his ego such that he couldn’t admit that terrorism had occurred on his watch?  Was his concern that calling it terrorism might inspire more terrorism?  Most likely, Obama just doesn’t want to admit that, like Presidents Clinton and Bush before him, no president can’t protect all of us all the time when determined zealots are intent on terrorizing us.  However, President Obama must recognize terrorism and call it what it is when it happens.  As our nation’s leader, he of all people must first recognize and acknowledge a problem in order to help fix it.  

 

UNIONS, ETHICS AND THE STATE RETIREMENT BOARD:  First, Rhode Islanders should be appalled that the state retirement board is made up of so many union leaders.  Seven board members are union officials.  These folks who are helping decide financial policy for the state retirement system certainly do not have taxpayer protection at the top of their list of motivations.  Protection of their public service union brothers clearly trumps protection of taxpayers.  

The state Ethics Commission has been asked to rule whether these union leaders can be a part of retirement board meetings during which state lawyers discuss confidential information and strategy associated with the lawsuit to overturn pension reform that the unions have brought against the state. If the unions prevail, the cost to Rhode Island will be in the billions of dollars.  Is this a no-brainer, or what?  Of course we can’t have union leaders of the very unions that have filed suit listening in on the state’s strategy on how to defeat these same unions in court. 

 

ANOTHER BLACK MARK FOR RHODE ISLAND:  The results of yet another analysis of how states compare has put Rhode Island near the bottom.  Two respected professors of political science, William Ruger of Texas State University and Jason Sorens of the State University of NY, have analyzed laws controlling economic and personal freedoms in each state and ranked the states for their “overall respect for individual liberty.”  Where does Little Rhody, the state of individual liberty advocate Roger Williams, fall in the ranking?  Right where most of us would expect, near the bottom with a ranking of 46th.  Our state has a lot to learn from its neighbor, New Hampshire, whose laws respecting economic and individual liberties placed it at number 4 on the list.  Perhaps our state mottos tell the story.  In Rhode Island all we seem to do is “Hope” - taking no real action - while New Hampshire’s citizens are proactive, throwing elected officials out of office if they don’t maintain laws that allow resident to “Live Free or Die.”   

 

WHY LEGISLATORS WANT THE MASTER LEVER:  House Speaker Gordon Fox has implied strongly that he is in favor of keeping the master lever and has approved the Judiciary Committee to “hold for further study” the bill to eliminate it.  So, in the face of overwhelming public and organizational support to eliminate the master lever, why do legislators favor keeping it?  The primary purpose of the master lever from the beginning has been to keep the majority party in power, thus it is primarily the Democrats who favor keeping it.   How does it help keep the majority party in power?  Low interest voters who neither know the candidates nor the issues can be easily instructed on how to vote - “just pull the master lever”.  Voters who have to be sought out by Democrats for registration and who have to be hunted down on Election Day and dragged to the polls constitute a major factor in some Democrats winning reelection.  Since the candidates or their representatives can’t enter the ballot booth with these recalcitrant voters, having the master lever available makes it easy to control their votes from outside the booth. The master lever also makes it easy for voter impersonators to succeed.  All they have to know is “vote the master lever” for Democrats.

Although none of the legislators who voted to hold the bill will admit to why they chose to override the desires of Rhode Island’s citizens, one legislator came close.  Democrat Senator Harold M. Metts of Providence said voters in his district like the master lever because they often vote for just one party.  “They know which party looks out for them,” he said.  

When a political party favors having voters in the ballot booth who are ignorant of candidates and issues, that’s a problem!  When a political party favors one-stroke voting over political education and honest discourse, that’s a problem!  It’s time for voters to determine exactly which judiciary committee members voted to hold the bill and make sure they are voted out of office next November.

 

KILMARTIN BILL WOULD SLASH MEDICAL MARIJUANA GROWING:  A bill introduced on behalf of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin would slash from twelve to six the number of marijuana plants an approved patient could grow and from twenty-four to twelve the number a caregiver could grow.  With possession of small amounts of marijuana now decriminalized for everyone in our state, why do authorities now have a sudden need to force those who truly need the substance to reduce the already small amounts they are able to grow?  It doesn’t make sense! 

 

GUN BILLS THAT WON’T HELP:  A package of bills with a litany of gun restrictions has been introduced in the General Assembly.  Unfortunately, with the exception of prohibiting straw purchases and keeping guns away from unsupervised juveniles, the bills’ provisions won’t reduce gun violence.  As we’ve seen throughout our country, states with the most restrictive gun laws have high rates of gun crime, while states with few restrictions have low gun crime rates. The reason:  states with restrictive gun laws have more criminals, period.  Thus, as with any criminal endeavor, these criminals disobey the restrictive gun laws and commit high rates of gun violence.  It’s just common sense; criminals don’t obey laws.  As Second Amendment advocates have preached for years, restrictive gun laws affect only law-abiding citizens, not criminals.  

The best way to prevent recurrence of a tragedy like the one in Newtown is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.  These horrific crimes are not committed by criminals; they are committed by crazy people.  Yet, the system in our country for reporting mental illness to national tracking programs that would keep the mentally ill from purchasing firearms is dismal.  Rhode Island doesn’t participate at all.  And, what does our legislature do regarding the provision that will help most to reduce gun violence - requiring the reporting of mental illness to national tracking systems?  They put it off!  They want to study it for a while! As with many things our legislature does, this just doesn’t make sense.


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