November 26, 2014
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My take on the news
Who’s listening to the president?
Lonnie Barham

NO ONE LISTENS TO OBAMA ANYMORE: Most Americans already knew President Obama’s foreign policy was in shambles and that it had led to our nation being considered a weakling among the world’s leading countries. Few, however, thought the world’s lack of respect for America and its disregard for our leadership would reach its current nadir.

Obama has bungled American leadership around the world so much that no one listens to him anymore.

Vladimir Putin certainly doesn’t listen to Obama. The tepid sanctions Obama placed against Russia have been laughable, and Putin’s laughing. Russia’s assistance in the downing of a Malaysian airliner and the deaths of 298 people is obvious, and it came the very day after Obama supposedly “strengthened” sanctions against Russia.

Europe’s leaders, including our staunch German ally Chancellor Angela Merkel, aren’t listening to Obama. They refused last week to even match our weak sanctions. Of course, this may change this week because of the Russian involvement in the airline downing; but, it won’t be because anyone listened to Obama.

Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki refuses to listen to Obama’s plea to form a unity government that includes both Sunnis and Shiites in order to prevent the country from descending into civil war and territorial division.

The religious nuts who run Iran certainly aren’t listening to Obama. They refused to seal a deal on limiting Iranian nuclear capabilities by the negotiations’ July deadline. Obama’s weak rhetoric is disregarded by Iran because his refusal to strengthen sanctions has put them at ease.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu certainly didn’t listen to Obama when the President beseeched him not to launch a ground invasion of Gaza after Hamas terrorists repeatedly launched missiles into Israel.

Even many of his fellow Democrats in Congress are no longer listening to Obama on many key policy issues. They want stronger sanctions against Russia and Iran and reconsideration of pulling all troops out of Afghanistan.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the strongest nation on earth, the only nation with the economic and military capabilities to substantially sway world events, is so disrespected because its leader is perceived to be such a weakling.

STATES COME AND GO, RI STAYS ON TOP: For a very long time Rhode Island has had the worst unemployment rate in the nation. Other states come and go from the top spot where they are briefly tied with Rhode Island. Michigan was up there with us for a long time; Nevada shared the dishonor for awhile; then for awhile we had the sole dishonor: and now we’re tied with Mississippi for the highest joblessness rate in the country. Mississippi? Yes, we’re right there beside the poorest state in the union. What a disgrace!

STOP WASTING FIRE EQUIPMENT: Warwick firefighters claim their equipment is in poor condition and want the taxpayers to pony up more money to buy new stuff. Two questions: Is the equipment in poor condition? And, if so, why is the equipment in such bad shape? The fire chief says the equipment is fine. If the equipment is not in tip-top condition, the reason is simple. Far too many fire apparatus respond to calls where they are not needed.

Why does practically every piece of equipment in a fire house have to respond to a medical rescue call? Do we really need a huge pumper truck, sometimes two, backing up a medical rescue truck?

In short, we overuse our fire equipment. The president of the firefighters union stated that the average fire truck in Warwick puts on 28,000 miles per year. That’s nuts! 80 miles per day, 365 days per year for every piece of fire equipment? That means each piece of equipment traverses the equivalent of the entire length of Rhode Island twice every day? Certainly those average 80 miles per day aren’t driven responding to fires and rescues. If they were, it would mean most of Warwick has burned down and most of its citizens are hospitalized?

With firefighters idle for hours every day, they have plenty of time to take care of the taxpayers’ equipment. With proper care and without the tremendous number of unnecessary miles, Warwick’s fire equipment should last far longer than the limited life firefighters claim.

TAVERAS NOT PUSHING TO HIRE CITY RESIDENTS: A Providence ordinance requires that all businesses that receive tax breaks, subsidies or any other economic assistance from the city must attempt to hire city residents over outsiders. The ordinance was meant to give the city’s lower- and middle-class workers employment opportunities and get young adults off the streets. According to Direct Action for Rights and Equality, enforcement of the ordinance by the Taveras administration has been abysmal with only 41 jobs awarded to city residents out of 1,110 hires. DARE has filed suit to require the city to enforce the ordinance.

The extremely unbalanced hiring ratio likely points to an uneducated, unskilled pool of potential workers in Providence. But, it also doesn’t look good for a gubernatorial candidate who claims to be pushing for new jobs to be so lackadaisical about trying to get jobs for his own city’s residents.

WARWICK SCHOOLS SURPLUS: To many it is disturbing that the City of Warwick has virtually level-funded its school department for the past seven years. To others the level-funding is really over-funding since the student population has declined steadily and, theoretically, the school department should need less funding each year. And, of course, the School Committee has refused to close unneeded buildings whose upkeep costs could have been shifted to educational programs.

What should be disturbing to both those who advocate more funding for the schools and to those who think the schools are already over-funded, is the almost comical lack of financial oversight the school administration exercises over its spending.

The school department knows how much money the schools have at the beginning of the budget year and knows how much must be committed in contractual and planned spending. With this knowledge, it is then only a matter of tracking accounts payable against accounts receivable by the school department’s finance folks to track daily exactly how much money they have and how much they will end the year with. It’s not rocket science!

How can the school department’s finance office have done its job correctly throughout the year and not know it has a $1.4 million surplus while it is asking the City to give it $2 million more in its budget request? It’s a question that all Warwick taxpayers and all parents of Warwick students should be asking.

DID WE BRING IT ON OURSELVES? Why do we have thousands of illegal immigrant children crossing our southern border and becoming refugees in our country? Is it because of President Obama’s lax deportation polices that make them think they can stay? Is it the 2008 sex trafficking law that protects imported child sex slaves by guaranteeing them they can stay years waiting for deportation hearings? Or is it because of the pervasive gang and drug cartel violence in these kids’ countries? It’s likely a combination of the three.

General John Kelly, commander of our military’s Southern Command, believes it is because of the violence in these children’s homelands. “Drug cartels and associated street gang activity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which respectively have the world’s number one, four and five highest homicide rates, have left near-broken societies in their wake.”

The drug cartels prosper primarily because of the insatiable demand for cocaine and other drugs in the United States, the destination of almost all the drugs funneled through Central America.

So, the influx of illegal child immigrants is at least partially due to the third-order effect of the U.S. insisting on continuing its failed “war on drugs” instead of decriminalizing, controlling and taxing most low-risk, non-hallucinogenic drugs. Much like alcohol, it is obvious that Americans are not going to stop using these drugs. Why not control them, profit from taxing them, and help put drug cartels out of business and eliminate their violence in Mexico and Central America. The newfound stability in their countries might discourage children from making the dangerous trek across Mexico to enter our country.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Mary Ann Sorrentino, an occasional contributor to the Providence Journal’s commentary pages, wrote last Sunday about her time in Florence, Italy. She quoted a Florence banker friend who summed up Italians’ lack of affection for government, “2,000 years teach us that if government does anything good it’s an accident.”


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