Friday, April 29, 2005

And the battle continues...

Just like a game of roullette, the casino debate in Rhode Island goes round and round and round again. After being rebuffed by the Supreme Court last year, Rep. Tim Williamson (D-West Warwick) and the Narragansett Indian Tribe have come up with a new deal that addresses the concerns the Supreme court cited. Last night, the House Judiciary committee passed this legislation (H-6396) to the shagrine of Governor Carcieri who had some not-so-nice words for Rep. Williamson. It's no secret that the Governor does not want a 'new' casino in Rhode Island. Here's the problem(s) I have with the Governor:

1. He's working a deal to sell Lincoln Park to BLB which, you guessed it, is not a state entity. It would seem that for the same reasons that the Supreme Court struck down last year's deal the Governor's proposed deal should come under fire. In fact, since he was the one who issued the challenge last year, doesn't it seem disingenuous that he is one of the primary supporters of the BLB deal? 2. As the Narragansett Indian Tribe looks for ways to become economically viable-the Governor calls their attempts a 'charade.' I don't think people who are trying to work a business deal that would be good for the state and themselves have any false intentions. On the contrary, they are trying to produce a situation that will be beneficial for all. But it's not up to them, which brings me to point number three... 3. Even if this or last year's bill would have passed, the question is going to go to the voters of Rhode Island. That's right, you, me, and Bob down the street will be able to decide if we think the casino is the right option for the State. Let me just say, that if this comes to a vote I plan to vote against (with current information) because I don't agree with the proponents of a casino saying it will help Rhode Island. Yet, I disagree with the Governor in allowing the decision to rest with the people it will most directly affect: the voters. 4. What alternatives has the Governor suggested to the Narragansett Indian Tribe? *crickets churping*

I'm with the Governor in believing the casino will cause more trouble than it's worth. But, I have faith enough in the people of Rhode Island to make an informed decision. No, I actually believe that it is the right of the people to weigh in on this issue once and for all. It is the essence of democracy and it's painful to watch a Governor whom I respect, time after time get tripped up because of how he deals with the Narragansett Indians. Hopefully the Supreme Court will rule the current year's casino bill manifestation constitutional and in the Rhode Island 'marketplace of ideas' the casino will either live or die by the voice of the voter.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

When is the meeting? 1:00AM. Bring your slippers!

Just when you thought you saw it all at the Secretary of State's website. In February, the projo did an expose on how you really couldn't find your legislator even though the website said you could. That problem has been fixed, but lookie what I found today. 4 meetings scheduled for April 28, 2005 begin prior to 2AM!!! Not one-a data entry glitch, not two-someone having a bad day, not even three-someone's planning on giving their notice tomorrow, but four-do I really know how to work this thing-meetings being held while most of us are sleeping. Perhaps it was a one day thing, but as you look through the list of meetings you'll find numerous meetings listed before 5am. Surely, this must be an error but you have to ask yourself how often does the staff at the Secretary of State's office check this list for accuracy. We deserve better than this Mr. Secretary. Please update and/or correct this listing.

Right to Vote Part II: V is for Victory

From the Projo:

the Senate Committee on Constitutional and Gaming Issues voted unanimously to send to the Senate floor a proposal to ask voters to amend the Constitution to allow convicted felons to vote, as long as they are not serving a jail term for that conviction.
Boo-yiggidy-yah! As a member of the RI Right to Vote campaign, what has been curious to me is the lack of opposition, specifically organized opposition to this measure. This campaign has also brought many groups who are on opposing sides on many issues. The reason is, restricting a fundamental right of democracy to citizens living in our communities doesn't make any sense. The RI Right to vote campaign is still working with the House to get these bills out of committee. Yet if the Senate vote is any indication, things are looking pretty good. I know this post is somewhat incoherent, but I'm just soo excited that this has passed and has a legitimate shot of passing the full senate in the coming weeks. YES!! Right to Vote Part I: Second Class Citizenship

Parents 1, ACLU 0

House strengthens parental consent laws In a great move yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill making it illegal for people to transport minors across state lines in order to circumvent parental consent laws within the minor's state of residence. AWESOME! However, a member of the ACLU said "It certainly reflects a lack of compassion toward teens and in particular to their health [...] It reflects a willingness of Congress to override or trump states' policy decisions." No, it actually aims to strengthen states' rights. States that have chosen to enact parental consent laws shouldn't have their citizens going across state lines just to circumvent the laws. I'm sure the ACLU would be chanting in the streets if the Supreme Court struck down parental consent laws everywhere. A double standard indeed! It sickens me to no end to hear pro-choice advocates' inability to confront moral and ethical challenges of the abortion debate. Instead, they label folks such as myself as 'anti-choice' and against 'abortion rights'. Hmm, I believe that men and women have a choice to sleep with one another and I believe that once a human has been conceived that human has a right to life. But, I guess I just suffer from a 'lack of compassion' according to the ACLU. But, whenever I and the ACLU are on opposite ends of the debate, I feel I'm doing something right. Score one for parents everywhere who, oh my gosh, would like to know if their daughter is about to have an abortion. What a concept!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Proposed: .50 Caliber Ban

The radical Violence Policy Center (VPC) and CBS's "60 Minutes" used its Jan. 9, 2005 show to vilify .50 caliber rifles. The VPC storyline was that these guns are "too dangerous to be in the hands of private citizens". Jim Moran (D-VA) has introduced the "50 Caliber Sniper Rifle Reduction Act" (H.R. 654) in Congress. This ban would include many antique and blackpowder rifles and a number of big-bore rifles owned by hunters of dangerous game. In addition to a freeze on possession and transfer of all center-fire .50 caliber rifles, H.R. 654 requires guns now legally owned to be placed under Title II of the Gun Control Act (1968), and be treated like fully automatics. Moran's ban would prohibit any legally registered rifle from being bought, sold, given, traded or willed. "Reduction" is accomplished with the death of the registered owner, at which time the once-private property becomes the presumed property of the U.S. government. This far-reaching attack targets law-abiding citizens, while being disguised in ugly hype about "heavy sniper rifles" and threats of "terrorism". The propaganda war is calculated to frighten the unknowing public and fool and divide gun owners. If such restriction becomes law, that will be the beginning of gun ownership "reduction" based on bore size. Let's reference England's handgun ban in 1997. First, when licensed gun owners fought to stop confiscation of their registered handguns, the government threw them a bone - it only banned guns of a bore size larger than .22. The British licensed gun owners turned in their "large bore" handguns for destruction. They were told they could keep their .22s in government-approved lockups at government-certified gun clubs. Yet, that "bore reduction" gun control had barely been in place when British handgun owners were told the government was going to collect their registered private property from the approved armory sites. .22s suddenly had become "too big". So now armed young predators rule England these days, robbing, beating, and shooting the rich and poor alike. The harsh reality in England: -BBC reported that England's firearms restrictions "seem to have had little impact in the criminal underworld." Guns are virtually outlawed, and, as the old slogan predicted, only outlaws have guns. Worse, they are increasingly ready to use them. -December 2001, London's Evening Standard reported that armed crime, with banned handguns as the weapon of choice, was "rocketing." -In the two years following the 1997 handgun ban, the use of handguns in crime rose by 40 percent, and the upward trend has continued. From April to November 2001, the number of people robbed at gunpoint in London rose 53 percent. -From 1991 to 1995, crimes against a person in England's inner cities increased 91 percent. And in the four years from 1997 to 2001, the rate of violent crime more than doubled. Your chances of being mugged in London are now six times greater than in New York. -England's rates of assault, robbery, and burglary are far higher than America's, and 53 percent of English burglaries occur while occupants are at home, compared with 13 percent in the U.S., where burglars admit to fearing armed homeowners more than the police. -According to a United Nations study of crime in 18 developed nations published in July, England and Wales led the Western world's crime league with nearly 55 crimes per 100 people. -English crime followed a sea of change in government policies. Gun regulations have been part of a more general disarmament based on the proposition that people don't need to protect themselves because society will protect them. It also will protect their neighbors: Police advise those who witness a crime to "walk on by" and let the professionals handle it. -In 1973 a young man running on a road at night was stopped by the police and found to be carrying a length of steel, a cycle chain, and a metal clock weight. He explained that a gang of youths had been after him. At his hearing it was found he had been threatened and had previously notified the police. The justices agreed he had a valid reason to carry the weapons. Indeed, 16 days later he was attacked and beaten so badly he was hospitalized. But the prosecutor appealed the ruling, and the appellate judges insisted that carrying a weapon must be related to an imminent and immediate threat. They sent the case back to the lower court with directions to convict. -In 1987 two men assaulted Eric Butler, a 56-year-old British Petroleum executive, in a London subway car, trying to strangle him and smashing his head against the door. No one came to his aid. He later testified, "My air supply was being cut off, my eyes became blurred, and I feared for my life." In desperation he unsheathed an ornamental sword blade in his walking stick and slashed at one of his attackers, stabbing the man in the stomach. The assailants were charged with wounding. Butler was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon. -In 1994 an English homeowner, armed with a toy gun, managed to detain two burglars who had broken into his house while he called the police. When the officers arrived, they arrested the homeowner for using an imitation gun to threaten or intimidate. In a similar incident the following year, when an elderly woman fired a toy cap pistol to drive off a group of youths who were threatening her, she was arrested for putting someone in fear. Now the police are pressing Parliament to make imitation guns illegal. -In 1999 Tony Martin, a 55-year-old Norfolk farmer living alone in a shabby farmhouse, awakened to the sound of breaking glass as two burglars, both with long criminal records, burst into his home. He had been robbed six times before, and his village, like 70 percent of rural English communities, had no police presence. He sneaked downstairs with a shotgun and shot at the intruders. Martin received life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and a year for having an unregistered shotgun. The wounded burglar, having served 18 months of a three-year sentence, is now free and has been granted £5,000 of legal assistance to sue Martin. The failure of English policy to produce a safer society is clear. Do you want this to happen in America?

Minimum Wage Part II

I told you about minimum wage going on in the Senate on Monday, but I should have looked to find its House counterpart (H65420A). This bill would increase minimum wage to $7.25/hour; the increase to $7.75/hour in 2008 as well as the cost index increases/decreases that were originally part of this bill have been stripped. Also, it is scheduled to be voted upon in the House today. So what do you think? Andrew commented last week that:

One of the problems with raising the minimum wage is that it impacts small, mom-and-pop style businesses disproportionately.
But the question I have is this: will the disproportionate affect on mom-and-pop business make such an impact as to impede these same businesses from operating? In other words, would the 7% increase in minimum wage cause some small business to either downsize, close shop-being unable to afford the increase, or would businesses jump the border seeking cheaper labor in Mass or Connecticut? To answer the last question, in Massachusetts there is legislation which would change the minimum wage from $6.75 to $8.25-making the Mass minimum wage the highest of any state's minimum wage in the country! That could have positive and negative effects for Rhode Island. Some businesses may be tempted to move from Mass to RI to pay $1.50 less per hour which is significant, but on the flipside low-income workers will be tempted to go across the border to Mass (and taking their tax dollars with them) and receive a much higher income doing the same work. I'm no economist, so I really can't say which is more likely to happen. But, if I was making 6.75 in RI and the minimum wage in MA was $8.25, I'd be looking to leave my job...and quickly. In Connecticut the minimum wage currently sits a $7.10/hour. It's higher than RI and I haven't heard that Foster/Gloucester has been inundated with new building projects sponsored by disgruntled Connecticut manufacturers, have you? Again as Andrew noted, minimum wage is always a dicey situation-and I just don't know if this will be a good or bad move for Rhode Island. Any hack economists out there are welcome to educate us.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

No Laffey Matter

The state Board of Elections today pulled the plug on Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey's Friday morning radio show which aired on WPRO-AM. They reasoned that the free publicity, not to mention the free airtime, that Laffey received was nothing more than an in-kind contribution to a current officeholder. Ya' think? How many other local politicians get such generous contributions from the media, still the primary conduit for getting your name and message in front of the voters? As Cranston City Council President Aram Garabedian, a Democrat who filed the complaint leading to the Board's action, said, "It's worth thousands of dollars. Everybody knows its value, because we all spend that money to get in front of the people.'' D**n straight. Laffey's lawyer can start tossing all the First Amendment Red Herrings he wants, but the Board's ruling is not putting a muzzle on Laffey (pity.) He can talk all he wants -- he just can't do so on the public airwaves subsidized by some corporate largesse. And when the mouthpiece further tweaks our nose with the contention that Laffey's not a candidate receiving a political advantage, we're hearing the most transparent political denial since Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook." The good news for the radio station is that they don't have to miss a beat. The famous old actor "Francis the Talking Mule" is available to fill the time slot with yet another publicity-seeking a**.

Regarding Chafee: You Can't Touch This

According to the Projo, House Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) is not all that optimistic about his party's chances of unseating Lincoln Chafee. He said "We'll have to look at it. But right now, you know . . ." Rhode Islanders love Lincoln Chafee for reasons I cannot understand. In a recent Zogby Poll, 46% of those polled said they would vote for Chafee over 'someone else' if the race was held today (only 25% said they would vote for 'someone else'). Given that both Democrats and Republicans have or are about to take shots at our junior Senator, those numbers are mindboggling! But maybe Rhode Islanders like Chafee because he votes his conscious (according to this same poll 79% believe he does) and doesn't beat to the drum of Republican brass. This has angered hardline Democrats and Republicans who would rather have someone more to the left or right than Chafee. Yet, Rhode Island residents have always been independent-voting for the people of the office versus the party label. I think that's a good thing and so here's a little word of advice for any would-be Chafee challenger-do not attack him saying he's a Bush-ite, that's false and you'll catch a beat down, nor try and say that he's too liberal-the state is probably slightly left of Chafee and this won't resonate with most voters. All in all, if anyone hopes to defeat Chafee in 2006, they will have to craft their message not as anti-Chafee but as pro-Me. They'll have to do what John Kerry was unable to do against a relatively unpopular George Bush. If not, can you say 2012?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Minimum Wage Hearing

Senator Daniel Da Ponte has introduced legislation that would significantly change minimum wage in RI. S0277, would: increase the minimum wage from the current $6.75 to $7.25 on January 1, 2006, and to $7.75 on January 1, 2007. Beginning January 1, 2008, and every January thereafter, the minimum wage would be adjusted based on the northeast region cost-of-living index, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor. I've always felt that minimum wage laws were a necessary evil. Necessary in that as it gets more expensive to purchase goods and services there must be away to ensure those at the lowest income levels are not completely left behind. Evil in that minimum wage laws force market conditions. What I mean is, in a completely free market would RI minimum wage be $5.50? Or maybe even $10.50? Minimum wage laws take market fluctuations out of the equation and contrary to popular belief-the market doesn't always hurt the little guy. Yet, I do see this legislation as making minimum wage less of a political tool and more of a response to the environment of the Northeast economy. I do have a question for Senator Da Ponte: if the cost-of-living index happened to move downward, would minimum wage also be decreased? The hearing for this bill will be tomorrow 'around' 2:30pm at the State House.

Entitlement vs. Responsibility

There's a war being waged in our Rhode Island streets. It's not the drug war. It's not the Micky D's vs. Burger King war. It's not even the losing battle I, and many other married men, have with their wives over movie selection. 'No, I don't want to watch The Stepford Wives, honey.' This war is much more subtle, yet impacts us much more than many other aspects of our lives. It's the battle between entitlement and responsibility. Let's take entitlement. Entitlement - Give it to me, baby Entitlement says, 'you owe me, something.' You listen to any hardline liberal and they'll repeat something like this-'the state owes the people cheap housing, good education, healthcare, etc.' The thinking goes that if I am a citizen of this state, then if my needs are not being met, the state must do everything in its power to provide for me. This is Socialism 101. Responsibility - Suck it up and deal Responsibility, on the other hand, says 'if I can do it, so can you. Now get to it!' Listen to any uber-conservative or libertarian and they'll tell you that income tax should be revoked, the education department disbanded, and local police and fire departments should be utilized only to keep the peace-security and fire prevention details should be privatized by citizens willing to pay the price. In other words, the state has only one function, maintain peace among its citizens and allow for a free market whereby hard workers can rise from nothing. If you don't want to work or are lazy, you need to take responsibility for that fact while I pass you buy in my BMW. Which One? I'm sure you can see many problems with both arguments and you may find yourself in agreement with one more than the other. However, we have countless number of crises facing our state: property tax, affordable housing, education funding, and many others. Personally, I'm tired of the 'entitlement' theory rampant among many politicians, community organizations, and average joe residents. If we want change in our communities, we must make change happen. Sitting around and waiting for the government to do for us what it is unable to do for itself (i.e. balance the budget, remain uncorrupt, et. al.) is just plain dumb. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our children to take on the problems in our communities and be unwilling to yield until we solve them together. If we continue to believe we are entitled to things, then we can only hope to gain table scraps and downcast looks from surrounding states whose citizenry have chosen the more narrow and better road. Yes, the playing field may be unequal-but Jackie Robinson still played the game. I challenge you to think of one problem facing your household and begin to think in terms of how you can bring change to it versus how the government can solve it. You'll find the results fascinating.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Sick and Tired...of Taco Bell and Hypocrisy

Why haven't I posted an insightful or thought provoking piece today? Could it be that today begins WWIII and I just had more important things on my mind? Could it be that Mike was supposed to take today and give me a much needed break? None of the above, weary traveler. Instead, I got rocked by good old Taco [insert funny joke here] Bell. That stuff goes down harder than the political career of Sheldon Whitehouse. But the masses must be informed! So despite my stomach pains, I give you something on the scandals rocking the House of Representatives.... As I write to you, our friends at Rhode Island's Future have decided to beat up House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who is mired in an ethics scandal. Generally speaking, I think if we took more than a 30 second glance at any congressmen, we could find some type of scandal so when this broke about Delay-i really couldn't have cared less. Yet, the way some Democrats and media attacked Delay, it was as if he were the second coming of Benedict Arnold-only less goodlooking and more treacherous. Knowing the machine that is the GOP, I knew it was only a matter of time before a story about a Democratic leader with questionable dealings popped up. Well, the target has landed on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (link and link2). Oddly enough, the first article came out about two weeks ago and has gotten marginal run on mainstream media outlets. The second article paints an even more grim picture of Pelosi's ethics and I wonder if there will be even a hint of it within mainstream media? You see folks at most other media outlets want to rip any Republican that has some 'indiscretions' but seems to ignore similar situations when the (alleged) perpetrato wears the Democrat badge. Well BWL&R readers, this blog won't play into such partisan nonesense. Here's my advice for congressmen on both sides of the aisle: STOP COMMITTING ETHICS VIOLATIONS! I know, a novel concept but it's painful to watch media outlets lead us to think that the only investigations involve Republicans. Not only is it's false. I know we're smarter than that-so let's not fall into these witch hunts like chattle. But for now it's back to my bathroom. Peace out, y'all. *sings* I fought my stomach, and my stomach won!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

It's about the oil...stupid!

No one will mistake me for a treehugger. Ya know, those hippie, stuck in the 60s, would jump in front of a car to save a blade of grase type people. I'm about as far from that as William Lynch is a Republican. Yet, even I have to take a second glance when I hear that the House of Representatives voted late last night to allow oil drilling in Alaska. Yes, I understand that our gas prices are high. But is the solution more drilling? Though this is a diversified bill (contrary to what the liberals may tell you) drilling in Alaska seems like a bad idea. Here are some of the specs of the bill, according to MSNBC:

  • more than $8.1 billion in tax breaks (most of which will go to coal-based refineries...yuck!)
  • Require for refiners to use 5 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol by 2012, a 20 percent increase over what the industry is expected to produce this year, and a boon to farmers.
  • Expand of daylight-saving time by two months, so it would start on the first Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November.
  • Provide tax breaks to spur the construction of natural gas pipelines and improve the nation’s electricity grid. It also would require grid operators to comply with mandatory reliability standards instead of industry self-regulation.
  • Provide $1.8 billion in incentives for development of less polluting “clean coal” projects.

Definitely diversified, but I think we need to do more. We must face the reality that by 2100 we cannot rely on oil as much as we do now. I like that this energy bill contains $1.8billion for 'clean coal' projects, but we need more. Actually, I think gas price increases as well as automakers push to create hybrids is going to cause future administrations to rethink their energy policies.

For instance, hybrid auto sales continue to break record after record. As demand for these vehicles increase and the price of gas increases, the demand for gasoline will decrease-putting pressure on automakers to produce even more fuel effecient vehicles. I see that as a good thing for the environment, too bad this Congress doesn't have the same foresight.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Show me the Money

All y'all that read this blog and are Rhode Island residents must, repeat MUST, visit this site: RI Unclaimed Property This site is where you can find if the RI Treasury department has some money waiting for you. Just type in your last name and see if you have any money out there. There are hundreds of thousands of items out there so it is worth your while to check it out. If any of you are listed on the site, please let us know and I take the finder's fee (15%) via personal check. Just kidding. Seriously, take a look at the site and tell us what you find.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Satellite Suckas

My wife, Noni, and I did a little experiment yesterday. Nothing scientific but the results are fascinating nonetheless. You see a few weeks ago, I noticed a strange phenomenon on the streets of Providence. No, it wasn't the volume of rats, trash, or jaywalkers staring you down saying, 'come, run me over.' Instead, it was the amount of satellites attached to the sides of many houses. Doing some digging, DirecTV's base package costs $41.99/mo equating to a little over $500 per year. In a community whose median income is about $22,000 if we have $500 dollars to spend on entertainment, shouldn't we be putting this into mutual funds, IRAs, or at worst-the local bank? But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's what we did. We drove down a few blocks in Providence and East Providence to see which area had more dishes per block. It wasn't even close. For Providence we ended up with a total of 27 satellite dishes whereas East Providence only had 6. We actually passed more houses in East Providence because we were so shocked that so few houses had satellite dishes. It seems that we can infer that the dish volume may have a direct correlation to the level of income, only in that more dishes equal less income. My theory going into all of this was that affluent people would have more dishes because they have more leisure time. That was completely debunked by this study. Thus, I think there's a mentality the folks in East Providence have that Providence residents need to catch. A mentality of not watching their lives away, but of doing. Doing for themselves, doing for their families, and doing for their communities. It seems Providence residents need to turn off their tv's and turn on their minds-becoming actors in this game called life instead of zombified reactors.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tragedies in Providence

Providence lost a cop, a mother, and a neighbor over the weekend. Sad. 27-year vet gunned down at the Providence Police Headquarters Mother and neighbor killed on Osbourne Street. A very difficult weekend for Providence and the families indeed.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Open Discussion

Biting off other sites that do this, here's an open thread for you to talk about anything you want. The only requirement? Just say it!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Too short

A couple of days ago, some children played a baseball game. Nothing unusual there. After the game, two young men, children actually, had an argument at the concession stand. Still nothing unusual. One of the young men then became agitated and in the next instant the scene went from ordinary to tragic as one child pummeled Jeremy Rourke,15, with a baseball bat until his life was cut...too short. In an ever violent world, I have two questions: did the suspect have a history of violent behavior and more importantly why didn't anyone jump in and stop this? The answer, according to various reports, to the first question is no. The Arizona Republic reports that 'the [suspect] was known for being competitive but did not have a reputation for violence'. In the coming days, weeks, and months the investigation should confirm or debunk this claim. As for the second question, how was the suspect able to deliver multiple blows to Rourke without anyone stepping in? I am having a difficult time picturing bystanders watching as another child was beaten to death. Perhaps the situation was different, but from accounts I have read no one has asked, "where were the parents/spectators/coaches during this incident?" I'm not looking to place blame, but find it curious no one stepped in to stop this before it escalated. Regrettably, violence on our sports arenas is becoming too often and too violent. As a society we really need to begin to think about what drives our children's knee-jerk violent responses as well as our own apathy. Until we do, scenes like this one in Palmdale, CA will become all too familiar.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

17 and not in school? Be on the look out!

Representative Grace Diaz, my representative, has introduced legislation, H5744, whose summary reads:

This act would require that children attend school until seventeen (17) years of age.
Current RI law stipulates that children must attend school up to age 16. So, what does the General Assembly do?.....they create a commission to study it. I spoke to a lobbyist this week who said that the General Assembly usually creates a commission before passing anything. I laughed then, but I guess he was right.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Brown professor to run against Langevin in 2006

The Brown Daily Herald Reports that Jennifer Lawless, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Brown, intends to run against Jim Langevin in District 2. Den...Den...Den...Den. According to the Herald:

Lawless acknowledged in the e-mail the difficulty of challenging an incumbent like Langevin, but she wrote that the importance of having women in public office and her divergence from Langevin's views on several issues compelled her to consider running.
Conspicuously missing from the article is a detailed listing of the issues where Lawless diverges from Langevin. I think we're starting to see seeds of discontent within the Rhode Island Democratic machine. Matt Brown v. Sheldon Whitehouse and now Lawless v. Langevin. Perhaps 'outsiders' are tired of the same ol', same ol' and think they can defeat moderately popular incumbents. I don't know what the thinking is, but I'm sure the political infighting amongst Democrats is music to RI Republicans' ears. Lawless has noted her disdain for both Langevin and Kennedy choosing the safe route in not running against Linc Chafee. Perhaps Lawless isn't as 'outsider'-ish as I thought, for Chafee is about as Democrat as a Republican can get; perhaps her true intention is just like Whitehouse said, to send another Democrat to Washington? Stay tuned to BWLR as we confirm this story and sort out the details.

Calling All Cars...

So last night the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill to ban people from holding cell phones while driving -- and stop all drivers 18 and under from using any cell phones. As usual, they didn't let logic or pesky facts get in the way. Ok, so using cell phones while driving IS stupid, annoying, aggravating, idiotic, and potentially distracting enough to cause an accident. I understand that. But so are all these other seemingly ok activities we've all seen (and perhaps done) while driving: scarfing down a bacon burger and large order of fries; shaving, applying makeup, trimming nose hairs; swapping cd's or searching for the all-sports, all-the-time, because-I-don't-have-a-life radio station; etc. ... So why do our enlightened (read: shortsighted or myopic) pols want to single out cell phones? Isn't it time we start looking at the big picture instead of constantly nickel-and-dimeing our way to constant harassment? Distracted driving is distracted driving, whatever the cause. Are the pols too dumb to see that? (rhetorical question) If they are truly concerned about the dangers of distracted driving, instead of simply grandstanding as usual in front of the latest windmill, they'd be attacking the whole problem instead of just picking off the low hanging fruit. And banning all cell phone use by drivers under 18 is just another example of the Smith Hill Hacks taking potshots at easy targets. Ok, tests have shown that young drivers using cell phones have lowered reaction time equal to drivers in their late 60's or 70's who aren't using cell phones. Well, what about the old geezers who ARE talking while driving? What is THEIR reaction time like - probably as slow as one of our esteemed lawmakers trying to spell "cat"? Shouldn't they be banned too? Leave it to Sen. Joseph Polisena to label this fiasco "a great piece of legislation." And it would be, if it were printed on quilted 2-ply -- much less chafing on the tuckus. (We'll ignore his gratuitous swipe at Steven Brown and the ACLU.) Oh, and a memo to Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis, who extolled the virtues of using his hands free cell phone: don't let the fact that research has shown there is NO DIFFERENCE in distraction level between using a hands free phone and a hand held one while driving get in the way of pushing your agenda. No need to let facts get in the way of good propaganda. Of course, if the bill were to go so far as banning all distracted driving, it would sideline almost all police cars and hurt donut sales immeasurably . . .

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Providence Student transferability: Real or Imagined?

I’m going to do some digging tomorrow. I’ve been seriously concerned about the Providence School system since I student taught at Central High School in 1999. One of my main concerns has always been parental involvement. At the Providence School system’s website they list among parental rights the following:

Their right to transfer their child to a better performing school, if eligible. Parents of children in Title I schools that fail to make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) for two or more years have the right to request a transfer for their child out of that school and into a school that is making AYP, with transportation provided. Parents of children eligible for the Title I transfer option will be notified each school year of their option to transfer and the designated schools to which they may have their child transferred.

I have a few questions: 1. How many students are eligible to transfer? 2. How many students opted to transfer last year? 3. What schools were listed as ‘options’?

So, the plan is to call the Providence School Department tomorrow and see if I can get these answered and let you know about it. The critical element missing within the Providence School system is parental involvement and these statistics could prove very useful.

Municipal Economic Development Zone

Today, Rep. Roger A. Picard introduced the creation of municipal economic development zones (H-6364). I do not claim to be an authority on zoning and associated taxes, but at first glance, this legislation looks pretty good. To summarize:

This act would allow the cities and towns in this state to create a municipal economic development zone within the city or town and would direct that one-half of the sales and use tax collected within the zone would be retained by the city or town to finance the development of the zone.
In essence, half the sales and use taxes collected within these zones would be utilized to make these zones better. It doesn't exempt businesses from any state sales and use taxes; instead seeks to increase the tax base by continually putting back into these zones. In so doing, creating an infrastructure designed to increase revenue streams and causing businesses to salivate at the prospect of municipalities ear marking tax dollars supporting projects which create more opportunities for businesses. A can't lose situation. Again, I'm no expert-but this bill just makes $ense.

Right to Vote: Upcoming Events

Here in Rhode Island, the Right to Vote campaign has a huge week ahead:

  • On April 13th, we will be holding a rally outside the State House. The rally starts at 3:30pm.
  • On this same day, the House Judiciary will hold a hearing on both the constitutional amendment and the conrforming statutory legislation.
  • On April 14th, members of the campaign will be on the Arlene Violet Show airing on 920 WHJJ-AM at 3:00pm

If you are interested in any of these events, please go to the RI Right to Vote website.

See this post - Right to Vote: Second Class Citizenship for more information on how this has affected Rhode Islanders.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Women's Right to Know Act

On Tuesday, April 12th the Women's Right to Know Act (H-5144) shall be heard by the House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee. We need to support this bill that ensures that every woman who has an abortion in Rhode Island will have all available information about the procedure and its consequences prior to her abortion. Here are the specs of the bill:

  • Certain information, including the name of the physician, medical risks associated with the abortion, estimate of gestational age of unborn child, among others, must be dessiminated to the woman by telephone or in person at least 24 hours prior to the abortion by a physician
  • Other information such as medical assistance options available to the woman and/or unborn child, the liability of the father, and information concerning alternatives to abortion
  • Provides system for gathering information concerning abortions in RI
  • Provides penalties up to and including felony charges for physicians who do not follow certain stipulations within the bill
  • Provides civil recourse for affected fathers/grandparents

Overall, I like this bill. Abortion rights advocates always say 'My body, my choice.' Well this legislation says 'My body. My 'informed' choice.' It doesn't restrict abortions. It also provides for circumventing the informative clauses in cases of medical emergencies. Not only that, it requires the Department of Health to gather AND publish statistical data relevant in understanding percentages of women who receive/decline abortions after being 'informed' by their physicians.

By making this law, we help women and their would-be families. Shouldn't women know if there is assistance during prenatal and neonatal stages? Shouldn't women know that the fathers ARE liable to support their babies? And shouldn't women know the risks associated with future pregnancies after having an abortion? The answer is yes, yes, and yes. Let's be a state that enables women to make 'their choice' an informed one-not simply one of fear without knowledge.

Lives are depending on it.

Cicilline to propose tax sale legislation

From the Mayor's website: Mayor Cicilline and the Urban League of Rhode Island have partnered with the Rhode Island Housing & Mortgage Finance Corporation on legislation designed to change current tax sale laws to promote homeownership, help working families retain their property, and create more affordable housing opportunities. The news conference is scheduled for Monday, April 11 at 10:30 a.m. at Urban League of Rhode Island, 246 Prairie Avenue in Providence. Check it out if you can. I'm very curious to see what the mayor has up his sleeve.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Yeah, yeah, thanks for the glowing introduction, Don. "Whacked out dudes and dudettes"? The meds are working just fine thank you. Note to the regular readers of this blog -- listen up, both of you: You'll get no namby-pamby posts out of me. Too many bunched-panties whining about the government not doing enough to help them and all the other poor unfortunates. Personally, I'm tired of Uncle Sam's increasingly frequent colonoscopies -- all he ever finds is more of my money, which he then takes to buy himself another plateful of pork. If you want PC, I suggest you hop in your car, drive up Smith Street and turn up River Avenue -- you'll run right into the campus. I'll be telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth . . . as I deem it to be on any given day. And I consult with the burning bush on a regular basis. You've been warned.

New Contributor

...and they keep coming. Black, White, Left, & Right welcomes a new contributor, Mike. You'll come notice that many of his posts may vary differently from mine. Well, that's the point of BWLR. No partisan hackery here. Instead, we seek to provide RI with a cornucopia of whacked out dudes and dudettes who are passionate about what they believe and willing to back it up.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Dear telemarketers, LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

Taking a pause from politics...this is something that irks me. You know the 'Do NoT Call LIST' right? Well, I never signed up for it. Well, I should have. Everyday, I get no less than 2 calls asking me to consolidate my student loans. E-v-e-r-y-d-a-y. And these cats don't give up; one even got angry with me. What!?!?? I saw a Seinfeld rerun and I'm going to use his tactic. Seinfeld: Hello Telemarketer: You wanna buy........ Seinfeld: Let me call you back...what's your home phone? Telemarketer: I don't want you to call me there. Seinfeld: What, you don't like to be called at home??? Me, either. I'm using that tomorrow.......

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

No more circuses in Rhode Island

Sound crazy. Well it’s not. Deputy Majority Leader, Raymond E.Gallison has introduced legislation (H 5356) which would ‘ban any circuses, carnivals and zoos from exhibiting such animals for the purpose of entertainment, whether for profit or for not’. The hearing on this bill is scheduled for today. The only places exempt from this law would be Lincoln Park (surprise, surprise), zoos accredited by the American Zoological and Aquarium Association (Roger Williams Park Zoo is accredited), and events where horses are used as part of an athletic competition. This is a waste of my tax dollars. Circuses such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey’s have been invaluable to enriching the lives of many kids. Whenever they come to the Dunk, they’re a crowd pleaser. Doing a quick google search on “Ringling animal abuse” I come to Mercy For Animals (no link provided) which shows me picks of elephants in shackles and other animal atrocities. Again, animals---humans---animals. Until folks start caring about real people, don’t waste my tax dollars on animals. It’s hypocritical and abusing my eyes every time I have to read about some left-wing program designed to save a non-human and in the next sentence read about a left-wing program designed to ensure the death of a human. Anyone else care more about humans than animals and are unashamed?

Border risks?

The AP writes that Americans will be required to have passports to reenter the US returning from some our closest neighbors: Canada, Mexico, the Carribean, and even Panama. A Bush policy wonk states:

But we have some lead time to work with our Canadian travel partners to get this information out to them.
While a Canadian official says:
Our system has really always worked on the basis of reciprocity [...] And therefore we will review our requirements for American citizens and we're going to do that in collaboration with the United States.
See the difference? The US 'informs' while Canada seeks to 'collaborate'. Come on Bush can do better than this! Here's some free advice: when thinking about changing border policy with your biggest trading partner, you might want to bring them in on the conversation. Maybe it's just me, but that sounds like a good idea. Anyone else tired of overreacting by the Bush Administration? I am.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Right to Vote: Second Class Citizenship

Part One in an ogoing series on felon disenfranchisement: Second Class Citizenship In terms of 'punishment' felons face more difficulty regaining their right to vote than finding employment, housing, and admission to educational programs once they leave the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) or any other like facility. In other words, the Rhode Island correctional system deems these offenders eligible to return to normal society but disallow their utilization of a basic right-the right to vote. The reality that eighty-six percent of convicted felons are living in Rhode Island communities, are suffering a political death as a result of their crimes. Let’s take the example of Andres Idarraga. He was an Honors student at Moses Brown but along the way went down a path that saw him get caught up in the drug life. After serving six and a half years in the ACI, he will now serve 3 more years of parole and 27 years of probation.[1] Since being released he has enrolled into the University of Rhode Island and is running a legitimate business with other members of his community. Despite his accomplishments in reintegrating back into our community, he will not be able to vote for the next thirty years under current Rhode Island law. His is but one example of the 13,300 citizens living in our community, trying to make a change in their lives, but denied a basic right decade after decade. Sol Rodriguez, Director of the Rhode Island Family Life Center, declares "We're asking these people to come back into society and get a job, yet we're taking away their right to be a good citizen. Many people […] are trying to keep their life together. They pay taxes, yet they can't vote."[2] How can we expect to integrate these citizens if we continue to deny them these rights? Instead, we must support legislation that restores the right to vote to felons on probation or parole so that we can, without hypocrisy, claim that Rhode Island does not harbor, perpetuate, or propagate second class citizenship. [1] Ziner, Karen Lee: Providence Journal: State Law Keeps Felons’ Voting Rights in Check (2 November 2004). [2] ibid. For more information on the RI Right to Vote Campaign, please visit their website: link.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Simple Question

Question: Would you have removed the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo?