October 25, 2014
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My take on the news
Will Cranston voter have greater clout than Warwick voter?
Lonnie Barham

Will a Cranston resident’s vote count for more than a Warwick resident’s? Yes, if the legislative redistricting commission uses the same, tired old rule used by previous commissions and counts the 3,500 prisoners at the ACI as Cranston residents. State law prohibits inmates from voting. If the redistricting includes them, Cranston will get more representation per voter than will Warwick or any other community in Rhode Island. It is a ridiculous concept to consider these non-voting felons who hail from throughout the state as Cranston citizens. If the commission doesn’t scrap this foolish idea, then perhaps Cranston taxpayers should foot the $150 million annual bill to run the prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in a First Amendment case involving the Stolen Valor Act, the federal law that makes it illegal to lie about being awarded military medals. The law seems to prohibit constitutionally protected speech and will likely be overturned. Regardless, Representative Dan Gordon of Portsmouth may be in trouble for falsely claiming to have been awarded a Purple Heart medal for wounds he says he suffered in Iraq. The military, of course, says Gordon never spent a day in a war zone and his records show no history of being wounded or receiving a Purple Heart. Could Gordon’s violation of current federal law be a sufficient breech of ethics to warrant his removal from the General Assembly? RI veterans would surely support such a move.

This week’s astonishing news that 58% of retired teachers and 48% of other retired workers in the state retirement system are drawing retirement pay equal to or greater than their salaries at the time of retirement doesn’t tell the whole story. Those percentages will continue to move up until 100% of these retired public servants make 100% or more of their working salaries in retirement pay! It takes between 10 and 20 years after retirement for the annual compounded COLAs to push retirement pay to 100% of working pay, but, eventually, all retirees who live long enough will reach that lofty retirement income level if the General Assembly doesn’t make the changes Treasurer Raimondo has recommended.

The pension reform bill does little to help those communities with local pension plans reduce their collective two million dollar pension liability. The biggest help would have been for COLAs to be suspended for local plans the same as the bill does for the state plan. Why doesn’t the “compelling public interest” legal argument Treasurer Raimondo uses to justify suspending state COLAs also apply to local plans?

From individual interviews reported, the Occupy Providence squatters are self-described as: a college student, an artist, a “humanist,” an anarchist, a homeless person, a veteran, a libertarian, an Obama supporter, a drug addict, a retired teacher, and one young man who came simply because he thought, “It might be cool to be there”. This “popular” movement cannot be considered reflective of the RI population until it includes the engineers, builders, small business owners, and entrepreneurs who actually produce essential products. They are conspicuously absent!

In the “Colonel vs. Colonel” race for the Republican nomination to run against Congressman David Cicilline, Colonel Brenden Doherty, former State Police Superintendent, is running against Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel John Loughlin. Doherty’s fund raising has been quite successful while, comparatively, Loughlin has raised very little. Of course, Loughlin is serving his country in Iraq right now and cannot, by law, get involved in fund raising – even from afar by email or web site. Cicilline’s inept financial management as Mayor of Providence and his dishonesty in trying to cover it up have made his seat very vulnerable. The national GOP will try to capitalize on Cicilline’s weakness and will contribute a lot of money to the candidate it thinks is more likely to defeat him. Having almost beaten Cicilline already, the money may well go to Loughlin. The internecine machinations are already underway, however, as Doherty’s campaign seeks to schedule the primary so early that Loughlin will have very little time to campaign or raise funds once he returns from Iraq in December. Colonel Doherty to Colonel Loughlin: Thanks, John, for serving our country; just don’t come back too soon!

We are all being asked to take the “Food Stamp Challenge,” to see if we can survive for a week buying only the amount of groceries the average food stamp recipient can buy – $31.50 per week, per person, or $126.00 per week for a family of four. About one in six Americans use food stamps costing taxpayers about $70 billion per year. Our government wastes billions on programs that do nothing for our country besides increase the national deficit. The food stamp program is not one of those worthless programs, so long as it is run properly with fraud preventions in place. Weighing its cost against its benefits, especially for innocent children, the program deserves our support. Take the challenge!

President Obama proclaimed the war in Iraq over and a campaign promise kept with the ordered withdrawal of the remaining 40,000 U.S. troops in December. Let’s be honest with ourselves – Iraq threw us out! Rightfully, Obama and our military leadership wanted to keep thousands of our troops there beyond December to train Iraqi security forces, to foster cooperation between rival Sunni and Shiite elements – thus preventing civil war, and to act as the “presence” that would discourage Iran from exerting influence in Iraq. Obama lost! As much as he tried this week to paint the withdrawal as fulfillment of his 2008 campaign promise, Obama’s deceitful rhetoric was just sugar coating for another diplomatic failure on the part of his administration. Now we have to wonder whether civil war or Iranian influence will result in Iraq becoming our enemy again, thus invalidating the loss of over 4,000 U.S. military lives and 800 billion taxpayer dollars in a country we hoped would become a model of democracy in the Middle East.

The stand-off between Warwick City Hall and the Warwick School Department over $6 million in school funding provides a perfect example of how RI education laws promote dysfunctional decision making at the local level on funding our children’s education. With the Mayor and City Council having no accountability for education failures, and the Superintendent and School Committee having very little accountability to taxpayers for excessive education spending, there is little wonder the two organizations are at loggerheads over funding. As this column has advocated, school departments throughout RI should either work for the mayors/municipal managers who will share accountability for education failures, or school committees should have taxing authority and be held directly accountable to the taxpayers on how funds are spent.

Yet another national statistic released this week, RI again comes up a loser. We have the highest rate in the nation of people who plan for and attempt suicide, yet our actual suicide rate is relatively low. It’s not a laughing matter, but (fortunately this time) it looks like we’ve found yet another area where RI can’t succeed!

The Democrat controlled U.S. Senate defeated Obama’s jobs bill proposal to add more teachers, police and firefighters throughout the nation. Wait a minute! Isn’t it the abundance of public service employees with their excessive benefits that is crippling most states’ economies as it is? Yet Obama wants to increase that number to the tune of $35 billion in taxpayer dollars instead of using the money to promote private sector job growth? With this week’s polls showing that 60% of Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy and the joblessness problem, and 54% saying he doesn’t deserve a second term, his attempt to increase the number of public servants is just one more indicator that Obama is out of touch with reality.

The use of antidepressants among Americans has reached 11% of the population. In fact, usage has increased by 400% since 1988. With the U.S. economy continuing to falter, the jobless rate failing to improve, and the national deficit growing, drug companies should gear up for even greater production of antidepressants. We’re going to need them!


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