My take on the news

What sets Gina & Angel apart, concession contract & saving a neighborhood


MEDICINE AND EDUCATION VS. MANUFACTURING AND TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION: These represent the visions of gubernatorial candidates Angel Taveras and Gina Raimondo for the 20 acres of prime land left vacant by the I-195 relocation.

Taveras wants the land to be devoted primarily to medical and education facilities, enterprises funded largely by taxes and expensive insurance premiums. Raimondo wants the land used for collaboration between universities and high-tech industries to develop innovative manufacturing methods and produce high-tech products.

Taveras’ proposal would increase short-term employment during construction but would add long-term jobs that are mostly funded by taxpayers and insurance premiums. Raimondo’s plan would add short-term and long-term jobs that are funded to a great degree by businesses and private industry.

The two very different approaches reflect the two candidate’s backgrounds. Taveras has always been either a community organizing attorney, a housing judge or a politician - all positions that depend on extensive taxpayer funding. Raimondo, on the other hand, has worked most of her adult life in private industry, depending not on taxpayer funding.

The two candidates’ proposals for the I-195 land should give all of us a good idea of the proposals each would float as governor. Taxpayers and advocates of private industry over government bureaucracy have a clear choice here.

CAN’T PROVIDENCE KEEP ONE NEIGHBORHOOD QUAINT? A two a.m. melee outside the $3 Bar on Federal Hill last week was so out-of-control that police officers feared for their safety. It was the result of late-night, raucous partiers moving their loud, rude, often violent activities to a previously quaint, quite, family-oriented neighborhood.  A shooting outside the bar a couple of nights later and the beating of a woman in the restroom of another Federal Hill bar also owned by the $3 Bar’s owner point to the area becoming a major party-crime zone.

Partying is legal so long as noise, assault and liquor laws are not violated. Rude, boorish behavior is not illegal - we just have to put up with it sometimes. However, when a business encourages attendance by people who demonstrate both illegal and rude behavior, it seems time for the zoning board to step in and make sure such businesses cannot operate in previously quite, family neighborhoods.

If Providence can’t save neighborhoods like Federal Hill, the city’s future is doomed for sure.

OBAMA ACTS PRESIDENTIAL ON CIA REPORT: Getting in front of the impending release of the congressional investigation report on CIA torture interrogations that occurred shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Obama last week publicly characterized the Bush-era CIA actions as “a part of our history that was wrong and runs contrary to our values.”

Republicans may think Obama was throwing former President George W. Bush under the bus and castigating the CIA. Other comments Obama made seem to show the opposite.

Under pressure from his Democratic supporters to denigrate the former Republican president’s administration shortly before the November election, Obama actually performed with presidential grace. He emphasized that we can’t be “too sanctimonious” in retrospect since the folks who conceived and implemented the interrogation program were under tremendous pressure to protect the homeland at a time when additional vicious attacks were thought imminent. In fact, Obama called the CIA agents “patriots” for their intentions, even if ill-conceived.

With all that has gone sour in the Obama administration and with his poll numbers in the basement, it’s nice to see that the President can sometimes act with grace and humility. He actually acted presidential for once.

THE GREAT BEACH CONCESSION BID-RIGGING CAPER? It could be right out of a 1950’s B-movie script. Two crooked politicians get together to fleece the taxpayers on a public contract. They incorporate as limited liability corporations on the same day, and both submit bids the following day – one day before the deadline. They agree that one will bid high and win the contract. As soon as he gets the contract, he will back out. The contract will then go to the next highest bidder, the other half of the criminal conspiracy who had bid almost a quarter million dollars less. The second highest bidder will then give to the drop-out something of value for his cooperation in the bid-rigging scheme, perhaps a management job that pays more than it should.

Does that movie line sound familiar? While no firm evidence has yet been uncovered to prove that just-resigned state Democratic Party Chair David Caprio and State Representative Peter Palumbo, a Democrat from Cranston, conspired to defraud the public through a secret bid-rigging agreement to run three state beach concessions, the feeling that the whole thing was rigged is too strong to disregard.

The State Police must think likewise since they are investigating the contract award. Maybe we in Rhode Island are fortunate. Here you don’t have to watch old black and white movies to see what appears to be arrogant, crooked politicians in action as they fleece our pockets - and a state government either in collusion or too incompetent to notice.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ACTS TO DESTROY 8 MILLION JOBS: In a move unprecedented in the history of business and labor relations in this country, the Obama administration’s National Labor Relations Board, the panel that Obama unconstitutionally stacked with his supporters during a congressional weekend break that Obama called a “recess,” has ruled that McDonalds Corporation and all of its individually owned franchises are “joint employers” of all who work at the franchised restaurants throughout the country.

The previous labor rule used for decades said that a joint employer relationship existed only if the larger entity co-determined essential terms and conditions of employment such as hiring, firing, wages, discipline, etc. McDonalds has absolutely nothing to do with these personnel matters at the 3,000 franchises that individual owners operate under the McDonald trademark.

This new rule means that unions can organize workers across McDonalds owned by 3,000 different owners. Worse, it will apply to all franchise operations in this country, such as every individually owned Holiday Inn, Jiffy Lube, H & R Block, Taco Bell, etc. Individual owners will no longer be able to make hiring, firing and wage decisions; instead, unions will negotiate with national trademark companies who want nothing to do with such decisions. It will affect over 8 million jobs at 750,000 franchises - 15 percent of all jobs in the U.S.

It’s a lose-lose situation for employers and employees. Individual entrepreneurs will no longer purchase franchises because they can no longer make their own hiring, firing and wage decisions. Those decisions are the key to profitability. Jobs will disappear. Teenagers and young adults will no longer have so many entry-level jobs to use as stepping stones into the larger, higher-paying work force.

Who profits from this decision? Only labor unions. It’s payback time for Obama. In his lame duck years, he has found a way to repay unions for their massive financial donations to his and other Democrats’ campaign chests. And he’s put another nail in our economy’s coffin.

A CRIMINAL WALKS FREE: Superior Court Judge Susan E. McGuirl has decided that teachers union official John Leidecker’s impersonation of then-Representative Douglas Gablinske during the 2010 election season was constitutional, even though a district court judge had earlier deemed the impersonation and misrepresentation of Gablinske’s political position to be criminal cyber-stalking. He was convicted in district court. Now Judge McGuirl has set the criminal free.

If Judge McGuirl’s decision is not appealed by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to our state’s Supreme Court, then the recently passed law that makes it a felony offense for someone to use the name or persona of another or a public official to create a webpage, post messages on a social networking site or send electronic communications, without the person’s consent and with intent to harm or defraud, will be null and void. McGuirl’s decision will make the law moot because her decision says such behavior is constitutional, making the law unconstitutional - unless Kilmartin has the courage to appeal.

With Kilmartin running for reelection as a Democrat and the teachers unions controlling so many Democratic votes, it is highly unlikely that Kilmartin will have the guts to appeal. Either way, most Rhode Islanders will always think of John Leidecker as a miserable, low-down, mud-crawling criminal. And well they should.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: In a letter to the editor in last Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, a writer explained why teachers unions are so opposed to changes that would be necessary to implement school reform. “Give workers in nearly any occupation virtually lifetime tenure, few or no quantifiable performance measures and annual pay and responsibility increases based primarily on sticking around and they will more likely than not become quite comfortable with the status quo.”  


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As usual idle. chit-less banter from Mr. Barham.

Friday, August 8, 2014