November 26, 2014
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Where’s the outrage over killing of unarmed woman?
My take on the news
Lonnie Barham

COVENTRY KEYCHAIN SUSPENSION: How silly can school administrators get? Suspending a 12-year-old for bringing a key chain to school simply because the key chain had a quarter-sized pistol trinket attached is nothing less than educational malpractice. The school’s excuse that it has a “no tolerance” policy for violations of its handbook that says students cannot bring to school a “firearm or replica” is total nonsense in this case. Common sense says a “replica” is exactly as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “an exact or very close copy of something.” A quarter-sized key-chain trinket is certainly not a replica of a firearm! Every administrator who participated in or approved this suspension should be suspended themselves. This madness has to stop!

 

UNBELIEVABLE CONGRESSIONAL LAPEL PINS: The day after the car chase in Washington, D.C. that ended with police killing an unarmed 35-year-old African-American woman with an infant in the car, congressional lawmakers in both parties wore lapel buttons that read: “Thank You Capitol Police.”

What kind of weird, paranoid thinking exists in our politicians’ heads when they join in bi-partisan unity to celebrate the killing of a post-partum depressed woman who was totally unarmed, who had a baby in her car, and who presented no immediate danger to the police or to our lily-livered politicians? Do our congressional representatives actually support a police practice of “shoot first and ask questions later?” Where are the media investigations? Where’s the outrage from Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson? Why is everyone so silent about this wanton killing?

Our police forces have become far too militarized. Most mid- and larger-sized departments now have armored personnel carriers, military-style assault rifles and grenades, and use tactics straight out of an Army infantry manual. It appears some police officers think of the American public as an “enemy force” that must be dealt with in a military manner. Our Constitution forbids our military forces from policing Americans; however, the Founding Fathers would be appalled to find that instead of the Army patrolling our streets, many of our police forces have become armies instead. It’s disgusting and un-American! Yet, Americans accept it.

REUSE OF PROVIDENCE TRAIN TUNNEL: In his usual, bumbling, quixotic way, Governor Chafee has brought attention to the long-abandoned, mile-long train tunnel that stretches from North Main Street to Gano Street in Providence. Coincidentally, a group of RISD students were already brainstorming ideas for creative uses for the tunnel. Now, it seems, the whole state is talking about it – albeit, most are talking about how foolish the starry-eyed Chafee is to even consider using taxpayer dollars on such an expensive endeavor when so many other transportation shortcomings need to be addressed.

The students’ ideas range from feasible to near-insane. Using the tunnel as a bike path that would connect already usable paths is both feasible and useful. Creating a pneumatic tube ride for kids would be both expensive and not of great use. Building bars and restaurants in the tunnel seems equally unfeasible, mainly because of difficult access.

Now that Chafee has brought the existence of the tunnel to the news media and to the public, private investors may start looking at it for possible use as a profitable enterprise. Who knows, in 10 years we may have the “Tunnel Dormitory,” accessible only by foot or bicycle, that houses 300 Brown or RISD students.

TRAVELS BY TAVERAS: Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, a major potential gubernatorial candidate in 2014, has been traveling quite extensively throughout the country as he burnishes his image as an attractive future governor. However, most of his recent travels seem related to his ethnic background. He recently went to Washington, D.C. to participate in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Last week he spent two days in New York City at a conference dedicated to “advancing the economic development of the American Latino Community.”

Taveras will be a very strong gubernatorial candidate and, if elected, likely a good governor. And it is admirable that he shows pride in his heritage. However, in his pre-campaign activities, he needs to demonstrate to Rhode Island voters that he intends to be a governor for all of Rhode Island, not just for the Hispanic community.

A RHODE ISLAND CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION? Secretary of State Ralph Mollis says he will put a question on the 2014 ballot asking voters whether they want Rhode Island to convene a constitutional convention. Most of us think it is a good idea whose time has come. Our state government needs to be revamped in many ways, starting with revisions to the distribution of power between the three branches of government that are supposed to be co-equals.

We all know the governor has very little power compared to the excessive power invested in the speaker of the house. This has to change. The Providence Journal’s PolitiFact last Sunday pointed out that our state is one of only six states in the nation where the governor does not have line-item veto power, a tool that is essential to prevent stupid, expensive, special interest-inspired line items from being inserted into the annual budget. Giving the governor such power through an amendment to our constitution will save taxpayers countless dollars.

Oh, and by the way, while we’re conducting this constitutional convention, let’s get rid of the much-maligned, anti-democratic political tool that Rhode Island has hung onto and that has helped lead our state to a one-party system – a tool most other states long ago abandoned – the master lever.

 

UNION CONFLICT OF INTEREST: How can a public board allow gross conflicts of interest to continue? Both the National Education Association of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, the two state teachers’ unions, have publicly declared their vehement opposition to the very existence of charter schools. Yet, both unions have representatives on the state Board of Education who never recuse themselves from voting on existential charter school issues. The two union representatives, Larry Purtill and Colleen Callahan, even engineered a vote for the Board to reconsider its previous authorization of the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy. The charter school is one of Rhode Island’s best and the only school in the state to achieve 100 percent proficiency in reading. Purtill’s and Callahan’s obvious conflicts of interest should preclude them from voting on such issues in the future.

RAISING THE NATION’S DEBT LIMIT: Should the debt limit be raised routinely with no connection to lowering the nation’s spending? Apparently, the American people don’t think so. According to a recent Bloomberg poll, 60 percent of Americans say it is the right thing to do to require spending cuts when the debt limit is raised. Only 28 percent say the debt limit should be raised when needed without regard to spending cuts.

While Republicans in Washington should abandon their attempt to change or defund Obamacare and, instead, shift their emphasis solely to the debt limit discussion, President Obama also needs to compromise and agree to negotiate spending cuts and tax reform in order to get the debt limit increased. With the nation’s debt approaching $17 trillion, President Obama’s hard line on refusing to negotiate seems to run contrary to public opinion.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: A spokesman for the U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Brendan Buck, speaking of the dysfunction in Washington that has led to the government's shutdown and of President Obama's refusal to negotiate, said, "Ultimately, politics in Washington is a reflection of the president's leadership. People expect their president to be the grown up in the room, and he's not even in the room."

 


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