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'We don’t need a jokester for president'
Lonnie Barham

VEIL OF SECRECY ON CHAFEE DRINKING PARTY: Exactly what should the public know about the circumstances surrounding an under-aged drinking party at Governor Chafee's estate? Apparently nothing, according to Colonel Steven O'Donnell, state police superintendent. Here we have privileged teenagers all hiring lawyers and refusing to talk, the state police commander seemingly protecting his boss – the governor – by refusing to release any information, and secret disciplinary action taken against a trooper who leaked information – action the Colonel won't tell us anything about, not even the trooper's name, his actions or the discipline involved. Looks like just another political cover-up attempt in our notoriously corrupt little state!

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR BOARD OF ELECTIONS: Three freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are primarily responsible for ensuring the people can maintain a democratic government – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the freedom to bear arms to protect these freedoms should an oppressive government attempt to take them away. The mechanism that transforms these freedoms into a representative government is the act of voting. Voting is so important to a vibrant and successful democracy that, among all government entities, the agency that establishes voting rules and regulations must be the most accountable to its citizens. Yet in Rhode Island, our Board of Elections is exempt from the Administrative Procedures Act, the law that requires dissemination of relevant information and public hearings before major changes to administrative rules and regulations. With no public input, the board recently tried to enact a rule restricting access to voter information that would likely have been a violation of federal law and was opposed by all three major political parties. The board backed off but still retains its power to act arbitrarily, capriciously and without public accountability. The General Assembly must quickly act to change our laws and return this board to public accountability.

BIPOLAR JOURNALISM: The Providence Journal's Bob Kerr wrote a great piece last Sunday about a Rhode Island woman who flies medevac helicopters in Afghanistan as an Army captain. It was excellent journalism that made the reader really understand the dangers, hardships, sacrifices and pathos of military service in a combat zone.
This great column was written only a few days after the journalistically bipolar Kerr wrote a ludicrous article titled, "We must try not to laugh even if it's funny," in which he took a happy occasion – outgoing Congressman Barney Frank's wedding – and turned it into a blathering column about Mitt Romney's lack of humor. He had some good one-liners, such as, "To call Romney stiff as a board is an insult to lumber." He even implied Romney should tell jokes like "...the one about the hooker, the priest and the fire engine." The joke is not familiar, but it surely must be misogynistic, irreverent and far more suited to the firehouse than the campaign trail. Kerr's column went on and on about Romney's lack of humor, implying there are lots of things our country should be laughing about.
Perhaps Kerr finds humor in this month's very disappointing jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department that showed job growth at only 80,000 jobs in June, well below half the number needed to keep pace with population growth. Maybe he thinks it's funny that President Obama tried to spin the numbers to his advantage when he declared, "Businesses have created 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 manufacturing jobs. That's a step in the right direction." It must tickle Kerr's funny bone to see the president conveniently forget that the economy has lost an astonishing 8.8 million jobs since 2008 when he was elected and has recovered only 3.8 million jobs – leaving a net loss of 5 million jobs during his presidency.
It must be hilarious to Kerr that the "official" unemployment rate has stagnated at 8.2 percent, while the true unemployment rate has climbed to 14.9 percent when those are counted who have given up looking for work or have found only part-time work.
Kerr must laugh himself to sleep at night when he relives Mr. Obama's phrases like "...a step in the right direction," and last month's statement, "The private sector is doing fine." Maybe Kerr lives on the same far-away planet where our president lives, a planet foreign to most Americans who don't find our depressing economy a laughing matter. Or, perhaps Mr. Kerr and the president want us to forget the statement Mr. Obama made shortly after his inauguration that, "I'm going to be held accountable ... If I don't get this done [fix the economy] in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition."
Mr. Kerr, we don’t need a president who is an amiable jokester but who can't get serious enough to lead us out of this financial morass. We need a president who is serious about our country's recovery and who has the business background to get us there – sense of humor or not. Americans can live with a humorless president so long as he revives the economy to the point we can “laugh all the way to the bank."

"THROW THE BUMS OUT" HAS LITTLE MEANING: We complain a lot about our state legislators and sometimes, in deep frustration, exhort the voters to "throw the bums out." Unfortunately, that exhortation means little or nothing in Rhode Island. Why? Because those who importune voters to kick out the incumbents are unwilling to run as replacements. Far too many incumbent legislators are running unopposed this year. Is the stench of politics so bad in R.I. that good people complain but adamantly refuse to go wallow in the mud on Smith Hill? This is an unhealthy situation for a political system that hopes to someday regain the vitality, innovation, transparency and accountability necessary for a democracy to succeed.

UTILITY BILL SCAM: A very successful scam going around the country has con artists telling utility customers the Obama administration will pay $1,000 of their utility bills so long as they give the caller their checking account numbers and other information. Scams that are unbelievable don’t work. In this case, Americans seem to have no problem at all believing Mr. Obama would authorize giving away taxpayers' money to pay utility bills. After all, we have become so accustomed to Obama's reckless spending of our tax dollars – usually given to those who pay little or no taxes themselves – it seems natural that Americans would take seriously this very believable scam.


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