A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE FOR UNIONS AND TAXPAYERS: One of the six employee groups that had to approve pension reform chose to reject it. The next step was supposed to be that the matter would go to trial on the constitutional question of whether or not the legislature can revise one of its previously enacted laws. Instead of sending the matter to court, however, the presiding judge, Judge Sarah Taft-Carter, ordered the parties back into negotiations. What is wrong with our judicial system when a judge thinks she has extra-judicial, extra-constitutional powers?
Over a hear and a half ago, Judge Taft-Carter violated the separation of powers clause in our constitution by, in essence, telling the legislative branch that she could override it and require mediation to change a law the legislature had passed. Further, she overrode the executive branch by telling the governor that he could not execute a law passed by the legislature. By doing so, she appointed herself judge, legislature and governor in the pension reform matter. And now she is doing it all over again.
Why is Taft-Carter so reluctant to do her job and interpret the Rhode Island Constitution? The legislature has spoken and it said loudly and clearly that pension reform is here. The Governor has spoken loudly and clearly by signing the pension reform legislation. And now the unions have spoken and said loudly and clearly that they want the matter to go to court. Yet, Taft-Carter still wants to act as legislature and governor and require negotiations to continue.
Not only have her actions been blatantly unconstitutional, they are just flat wrong from a moral and economic standpoint.
WHY WE WILL ALWAYS NEED HARD-COPY NEWPAPERS: It wasn’t an epiphany, but it was an eye-opening realization, nevertheless. I was looking at the commentary section of the Providence Journal with both pages spread in front of me on my kitchen counter. As an amateur columnist, I was more interested in the political articles and those of immediate state and national significance than the less relevant, neighboring pieces. But the human eye is amazing. It cannot read one piece without peripheral awareness of nearby headlines that gently tug the eye and the curious mind to articles that might otherwise be ignored.
Because I was reading a newspaper, the corner of my eye kept catching a headline about “The Other Noah.” I couldn’t resist reading the article about Rupert Fothergill, the Rhodesian game warden who saved over 6,000 animals - elephants, rhinoceros and small game, from drowning in the waters of the giant Kariba hydroelectric dam project that flooded Africa’s Zambezi valley in 1958. A real-life Noah I would never have known about except for a real newspaper.
This can’t happen on a computer. Only one article with one headline is in front of the reader. There is no nearby headline for a wandering eye to catch; no nearby story whose pleasure of reading may forever elude the computer reader.
Yes, the Internet is a wonderful thing. But it will never replace the joy of unintended exploration provided by a real newspaper spread in front of curious eyes.
JUDGE EVISCERATES ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS ACT: Contrary to the clear intent of the state’s Access to Public Records Act and outside the realm of common sense, a superior court judge has ruled that none of the investigation report regarding Governor Chafee’s son violating the social host drinking law can be released to the Providence Journal or to the public. The investigation of the governor’s son was conducted by state police whose boss reports directly to Governor Chafee.
It seems to be squarely in the public interest for the Journal to review whether or not employees of the governor properly investigated their boss’s son. We need to know if the king has no clothes on. If this case doesn’t warrant disclosure, then none should and the public records access law is worthless. Let’s hope the Journal appeals this to a higher court.
DOTH BLOCK PROTEST TOO MUCH? When someone makes a big mistake, they are sometimes ultra-aggressive in their efforts to reverse the mistake and to cover up the fact that the mistake was even made to start with. That seems to be the case with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block.
Block voted for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. The 2008 vote might be characterized as simply misguided, as most of the country was then caught up in the fervor to elect a black president. Most voters overlooked Obama’s lack of legislative experience, his totally non-existent background in any management or leadership position, and his ultra-liberal views - all in the mass euphoria caused by the appearance of a fresh, new face of color.
By 2012, however, the country had four years of experience in exactly where such vast inexperience in leadership and a far-left ideology can lead a country. With Obama’s reelection campaign based largely on his push for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), there was no longer any wool over the eyes of voters. They knew exactly where Obama stood and where he wanted the country to go. And Ken Block voted for him anyway.
Now, less than two years later, Ken Block is suddenly a fierce opponent of Obamacare. As a newly-minted Republican running for governor and intent on using Obama’s very unpopular health insurance act as a springboard, Block now says Obamacare is “a horrible bill, ill-conceived, unilaterally passed by one party, and terribly implemented.”
Speaking of a complicit actress queen’s fierce statements of love and loyalty to her murdered actor husband - the king in Shakespeare’s play-within-a-play, Queen Gertrude proclaimed to Prince Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Asking themselves how Ken Block could have changed his views on Obamacare so much just over a year, voters might say, “The candidate doth protest too much, methinks.”
U.S. ISSUES CONTRADICTORY CHALLENGE TO EUROPE: Secretary of State John Kerry last week challenged Europe to wean itself from dependence on Russia for its energy supply. Europe currently imports one third of its energy supplies, especially natural gas, from Russia. Yet the Obama administration still refuses to approve licenses for U.S. companies to export natural gas to Europe. If Europe is to distance itself from Russian energy, it must have a reliable substitute in the short term. Exhorting Europe to divorce itself from Russia’s energy supplies while denying it sufficient replacement supplies is typical of the administration’s contradictions. We can’t have it both ways.
WEST WARWICK PUBLIC EMPLOYEES GET IT: Unlike many public employee unions in our little state, West Warwick public employees and their unions get it. To keep their pension system afloat so they can someday take advantage of it, these dedicated employees have agreed to concessions unheard of in the rest of Rhode Island, perhaps in the country. They will now go up to six years without a raise, will wait up to seven years after retirement for a cost of living adjustment, will retire at a later age, and will pay up to 13 percent of their salaries into their pension accounts. The town, on the other hand, has promised to properly fund the pension system here forth. This will likely result in property tax increases for West Warwick homeowners, but the pain must be shared. Certainly the public employees have met the taxpayers half way on this.
OBAMACARE QUESTIONS: The Rhode Island General Assembly is now considering a bill that would require insurance companies to pay for medications necessary to treat drug addiction, medicines that are not covered by Obamacare. Why in the world does Obamacare require health insurance policies to provide pediatric services to seniors, maternity services to single men, and smoking cessation therapy for smokers, but doesn’t require insurers to pay for absolutely essential medications that treat a debilitating condition that can quickly lead to death – drug addiction?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Howie Carr, a columnist for the Boston Globe, speaking of the raft of recent political arrests and investigations - Charlotte’s mayor, three California state senators, including gun-confiscation advocate Leland Yee who was arrested for gun running, and our own Gordon Fox, had this to say: “Right now, a crime wave is sweeping the nation, and everyone in this out-of-control mob has a D after their names, even if most of the media are loath to report it.”