Will Buddy find redemption?

My take on the news


CRANSTON CITY COUNCIL CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS: The Cranston City Council and Mayor Allan Fung denied the Cranston School Committee its request for an additional $1.7 million to run the schools. Yet now the Council has passed a resolution telling the School Committee to restore middle school sports, music and the gifted student program, which were cut a few years ago due to budget shortfalls.

he council resolution is not binding on the School Committee, which wants to purchase buses, improve the security infrastructure and add to the elementary school technology program with money that could be used to restore the middle school programs.

The School Committee and parents of students in Cranston must be thinking of the Council: “Hey, if you want to demand the restoration of programs, then give us the money to pay for them. Don’t underfund our schools and then try to tell us how to spend the meager resources you have provided.” 

BUDDY’S LIFE IMITATES ART: Buddy Cianci, two-time former Mayor of Providence, two-time felon, former federal prisoner, putative catalyst for creation of the renaissance city, and current talk show host has announced his candidacy for mayor of Providence once again. 

Cianci’s political life could have been the future model for John Updike’s series of fictional books written between 1960 and 1990 that covered the life of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a one-time high school basketball star who strove unsuccessfully throughout his life to recapture the happiness and success of his high school years.

The first novel, “Rabbit Run,” mirrors Buddy’s initial term as mayor when he had problems in his marital life. Both Buddy and Rabbit end up fleeing their situations – Buddy because of a felony assault conviction that was related to his domestic situation.

In “Rabbit Redux,” both Rabbit and Buddy enter a scandalous period of life, which ends for Rabbit with a house fire that kills a young lover and ends for Buddy with his mayoral administration in flames and his imprisonment on a racketeering conviction.

Novel number three, “Rabbit is Rich,” finds Rabbit retired and living a very comfortable life, albeit a life without much satisfaction as he continues to reminisce about the woman who was the love of his life and how he might have done things differently. Buddy is now much like Rabbit; his life is quite comfortable but undoubtedly filled with wistful reminiscing and thoughts of how he could have done things differently.  

Updike’s last novel in the series, “Rabbit at Rest,” covers Rabbit’s later life and his attempt at redemption. Late in his own life, Buddy is, of course, seeking redemption by running once again for mayor.

Isn’t it strange how life imitates art? Rabbit didn’t find redemption. It’s unlikely Buddy will, either.

SENATOR WHITEHOUSE - ENEMY OF FREE SPEECH?  American courts have ruled numerous times that anonymous speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Most prominent was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McIntyre vs. Ohio in which the Court said, “Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.”

Yet, Rhode Island’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is pushing to make anonymous speech by political donors illegal. He even suggested to the Department of Justice that it should prosecute conservative activists who were illegally targeted by the IRS simply because some of them may have donated anonymous money to political campaigns - a practice that is perfectly legal so long as such non-profit organizations’ majority expenditures are for purposes other than political support. 

Senator Whitehouse should study our country’s founding history a bit before jumping to make anonymous speech illegal. 

The tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym “Publius “ and “the Federal Farmer” spoke up in rebuttal. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment. Senator Whitehouse, take note!

OBAMA A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT: After dragging his feet for almost two years and refusing to allow the CIA and the U.S. military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels who have been trying to overthrow Syrian dictator Assad, President Obama has finally decided to do so. 

Of course, Obama’s decision comes way too late and, putting only a half billion dollars into the effort, which is way too little. His previous refusal to arm the moderates supported by the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition allowed their rival group, the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), to gain immense strength and take over much of Syria and Iraq.  The Iraqi government is now at risk of falling, and with it will come the waste of thousands of American lives and trillions of our dollars. 

A senior member of the moderate Syrian National Coalition said, “This decision is a year and a half too late.  Had it not been for Obama’s hesitation all along, this wouldn’t be happening in Iraq today nor would there be the proliferation of extremist factions in Syria.”

It seems the old saying “he’s a day late and a dollar short” applies to Obama’s decision in this case just as it has applied to many of his foreign policy decisions.

VA WORSE THAN THOUGHT: The White House issued a scathing report on the problems that run rampant through the vast Veterans Administration health care system. It provided even more evidence that the massive, bureaucratic, and ineffective system must be eliminated with its veteran patients allowed to enjoy the far better medical care provided by private doctors and hospitals who comprise the backbone of the much more efficient Medicare system.

Veterans who have suffered through a visit to a VA hospital or clinic and have experienced the typical “government employee” attitude and inefficiency agree that it is time to close the nation’s largest health care system and fold it into Medicare, the system that veterans who have abandoned the VA have found far superior.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE TOO POWERFUL:  The Federal Highway Administration, the office that returns to Rhode Island a few of our citizens’ federal income tax dollars to use on highway projects, has given to the State Historic Preservation Office the authority to veto any building project it doesn’t like in the I-195 redevelopment area. If the 195 Redevelopment Commission doesn’t like the veto and refuses to go along with it, the feds will just take back some of our tax dollars that it has returned to us.

The whole concept that a panel of historic architecture hobbyists can arbitrarily overrule a state-appointed organization and capriciously reject a private developer’s construction plans is ludicrous on its face. Our congressional delegation needs to fight this in Washington. Otherwise, these historic preservation Luddites will be able to stand in the way of development, prevent the creation of much-needed jobs, and scare away other developers who might otherwise build in Rhode Island.  

BUT WE’VE ALWAYS DONE IT THAT WAY: That seems to be the underlying sentiment behind Mayor Angel Taveras’ response to his gubernatorial opponent, Gina Raimondo’s, published concern about Taveras having awarded a $200 per hour, no-bid consulting contract to his high school friend, Michael D’Amico. Taveras’ response was that Raimondo’s venture capital firm, Point Judith Capital, was hired by Providence in 2006 with a no-bid contract to manage $1 million of the city’s pension fund.  

It sure seems like Tavares is saying that improper, no-bid contracts are just fine so long as “we’ve always done it that way.”

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: In an interview with the Providence Journal, H. Philip West, longtime executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, said that he doesn’t think Buddy Cianci will win the race for mayor of Providence. Referring to this run and Cianci’s two previous periods as mayor, West said that voters will approach Cianci’s campaign with: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times - who are we kidding?”


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