RI House leaders need to catch public spirit

Reprinted from The Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin Feb 5, 2005

I found it ironic that on Jan. 24, while Rhode Islanders spent the day helping other Rhode Islanders after the blizzard, one of the lead articles in The Journal was “Musical chairs have some House members singing the blues.” This is exactly the behavior that gets Rhode Islanders, regardless of political leanings, frustrated with our government: people arguing about where they sit.

Meanwhile, in my neighborhood as well as many other neighborhoods, people called to check on their older neighbors, owners of snowblowers took care of driveways, people dug out each other’s trash cans and brought newspapers directly up to doors, and some who couldn’t shovel cooked for those who could. Could we capture this spirit and send it to Smith Hill?

On the Democratic Party (Part I)

May 2004
Image result for senator kerry 2004
For better or worse, the Democratic Party has done it again. Are we resurrecting “President” Dukakis or President Kennedy? Senator Edwards has dropped out of the Presidential race and John F. Kerry is the presumptive Democrat nominee. Sen. Kerry is a successful politician and a great American. He would make an excellent President of the United States, but can he win? Electorally, what does he offer as a candidate?Massachusetts would vote for any Democrat. (Remember when Massachusetts was the only state to stem a Nixon sweep in 1972?) Senator Edwards, on the other hand, would have offered the Democrats the chance to alter the Electoral Map: make North Carolina a “blue” state instead of a “red” state and swing 15 Electoral votes into the Democratic column. That would give the Democrat 275 to Bush’s 263. That would give the Democrats victory. Can a Democrat from the Northeast be elected? Sure, it’s been done before…. 44 years ago!

President Kennedy was the last Northern Democrat to be elected and, of course, he slipped in with a 119,450 vote difference. Why? Because we are living in times of party de-alignment and neo-sectionalism. In order to win the Presidency, the Democrats must run a candidate from an area Republican strength and/or sweep the Midwest and Florida (Carter/1976, Clinton/1992, Clinton/1996).
Similarly, it has also been 44 years since a sitting legislator was elected President. Since JFK, we have had four governors (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, G.W. Bush), two Vice-Presidents (Nixon and G.H.W. Bush) and four incumbents, (Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton) elected President of the United States. Not one single legislator has been elected President in nearly a half-century. Why? Because legislators leave legislative paper trails; it is too easy to attack a legislator’s voting record. Although President Kennedy was a legislator with six years in the U.S. House and eight years in the U.S. Senate, he spent a significant amount of time in the hospital. Furthermore, the Kennedy election was arguably the last of the old-style political machinery elections. And even Kennedy barely won…one of the four closest elections of all time (1824,1876,1960,2000).

John Kerry has been a legislator for 18 years, but there are no corpses from Cook County Illinois to vote for him; John Kerry does not have a Boss Tweed or a Tammany Hall to carry his campaign, and John Kerry does not have the South voting for him. I hope I am wrong. I pray I am wrong. In November, I will vote for John F. Kerry to be the next President of the United States. He will make an excellent President and I wish him the best, but what color will North Carolina be: red or blue?

For better or worse, the Democratic Party has done it again

For better or worse, the Democratic Party has done it again. Are we resurrecting “President” Dukakis or President Kennedy? Senator Edwards has dropped out of the Presidential race and John F. Kerry is the presumptive Democrat nominee. Sen. Kerry is a successful politician and a great American. He would make an excellent President of the United States, but can he win? Electorally, what does he offer as a candidate? Massachusetts would vote for any Democrat. (Remember when Massachusetts was the only state to stem a Nixon sweep in 1972?) Senator Edwards on the other hand would have offered the Democrats the chance to alter the Electoral Map: make North Carolina a “blue” state instead of a “red” state and swing 15 Electoral votes into the Democratic column. That would give the Democrat 275 to Bush’s 263. That would give the Democrats victory. Can a Democrat from the Northeast be elected? Sure, it’s been done before…. 44 years ago!

President Kennedy was the last Northern Democrat to be elected and, of course, he slipped in with a 119,450 vote difference. Why? Because we are living in times of party de-alignment and neo-sectionalism. In order to win the Presidency, the Democrats must run a candidate from an area Republican strength and/or sweep the Midwest and Florida (Carter/1976, Clinton/1992, Clinton/1996).

Similarly, it has also been 44 years since a sitting legislator was elected President. Since JFK, we have had four governors (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, G.W. Bush), two Vice-Presidents (Nixon and G.H.W. Bush) and four incumbents, (Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton) elected President of the United States. Not one single legislator has been elected President in nearly a half-century. Why? Because legislators leave legislative paper trails; it is too easy to attack legislators voting record. Although President Kennedy was a legislator with six years in the U.S. House and eight years in the U.S. Senate, he spent a significant amount of time in the hospital. Furthermore, the Kennedy election was arguably the last of the old-style political machinery elections. And even Kennedy barely won…one of the four closest elections of all time (1824,1876,1960,2000).

John Kerry has been a legislator for 18 years, but there are no corpses from Cook County Illinois to vote for him; John Kerry does not have a Boss Tweed or a Tammany Hall to carry his campaign; and John Kerry does not have the South voting for him.

I hope I am wrong. I pray I am wrong. In November, I will vote for John F. Kerry to be the next President of the United States. He will make an excellent President and I wish him the best, but what color will North Carolina be: red or blue?

9/11, Kerr, Clinton, and Saddam

Mr. Stone’s Letter to the Editor on 7/14/03 is an affront to human decency and logic. First of all, I find it despicable to imply that a PJB journalist is an adulterer simple because Mr. Stone disagrees with Mr. Kerr’s opinion (“But I’m sure you… would rather hide in hallway anterooms with young interns.) Unfortunately, it is always easier to argue emotionally rather than logically.

To score emotional points, it’s easy to link pro-Saddam groups with terrorists who “look forward to strapping on 10 pounds dynamite to blow themselves” up (Stone 7/14/03). It would be more difficult to actually study the situation logically and to understand Middle East politics and religion. If one spent the time, one would realize that the pro-Saddam elements of Iraq are wholly secular and even anti-religious. Saddam’s Baath faction was in competition with the fundamentalist elements of Iraqi society prior to the war. Fundamentalist terrorists have always been a threat to Saddam’s Baath establishment. That is precisely one of the reasons that President Bush (41) left Saddam in power in 1991, to play these groups off of each other. If there is any connection between these two segments of Iraqi society, it is because the recent war pushed them together. On their own, they are religious and political opposites.

I am also so tired of right-wing extremists using President Clinton as a scapegoat for every evil in the world (“…the previous administration probably helped usher in 9/11”). Need I remind Mr. Stone that it is the current administration that has been “Stone”-walling the 9/11 Commission?

Of course, whenever logic fails, try to score another emotional point by bringing up Clinton’s adultery when defending the muddied situation in Iraq (“Bill Clinton’s philandering with an intern is so much ‘better’ than sending people off to fight and die.” Again, I am tired of these default attacks on Clinton and, again, I apparently need to point out the facts. While one of the two biggest complaints about Clinton is infidelity, the icon of family-values, President Reagan, “got away” with his out of wedlock affair (Reagan’s daughter Patti was born in 1952; a mere seven months after his marriage to Nancy). The second common complaint against Clinton is that he lied. We could make an endless list of Democratic and Republican presidents who lied, but let us only mention Watergate for this argument.

Bill Clinton’s two offenses are not unique to him, so let us drop the emotional attacks on Clinton and Kerr and attempt to use facts to discuss the current administration’s failings and the current problems in Iraq.

[This was in response to the following:

Regarding We’re in for the fight of our lives, Bob Kerr’s June 18 column: Yes, people are still getting killed in Iraq. Gee, I guess that must mean the liberal slant you want to portray is somehow more worthy of consideration than the Bush administration’s position. Bill Clinton’s lying about his philandering with an intern is so much better than sending people off to fight and die. Wow, what powerful insight! What persuasive logic!

Bob, even you should have enough common sense to admit that there continue to be fanatical members of various Muslim groups who will remain pro-Saddam and anti-Israel and anti-America no matter how much education and acceptance of differences we have. They look forward to strapping on 10 pounds of dynamite to blow themselves and the enemy of Islam into their version of paradise.

Despite liberal protestations to the contrary, the previous administration in Washington probably helped usher in 9/11. Ironically, the notion of a country so morally corrupt that its leader engages in numerous episodes of extramarital sex leads the fanatical Muslim to believe we should all be (at least) castrated.

But I’m sure you and others of your ilk would rather hide in hallway anterooms with young interns, instead of facing the horrors of stopping a mad dictator, his fanatical followers and other terrorists. Perhaps you think some form of appeasement would bring us peace.

DOUGLAS STONE
Warwick]

Bad history in a name change

Reprinted from The Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin Apr 15, 2002

The on-again-off-again debate over Rhode Island’s name consistantly uses bad history (Richard Lobban letter, March 26). The people who want the word plantation dropped from our official name incorrectly cite the term’s connotation of slavery. The term plantation, however, did not originally have anything to do with slavery. Plantation is an English term to denote the planting of people in new lands.

The Scottish resettlement in Northern Ireland is known as the King James Plantations and the Elizabethan Plantations. Virginia was originally a plantation of English cavaliers in the New World. Providence Plantations refers to the resettlement of people from England and Massachusetts. We need to accurately recognize the source of words before we criticize them or call for renaming our state.

Pedophilia and the Priesthood

The great thing about witch hunts is that it gives bigoted people the opportunity to “grind the their axes.” McLaughlin’s “Letter to the Editor” is a perfect example (3/28/2). The recent attacks on the priesthood have gone beyond criticism. Too many people have tried to link pedophilia to homosexuality and celibacy. Enough is enough. It’s as simple as this: heterosexuals are attracted to people of the opposite sex; homosexuals are attracted to people of the same sex. Pedophiles are attracted to pre-pubescent children. Saying that all pedophiles are homosexual does not make it true. In fact, most pedophiles are married men. Most instances of pedophilia occur within the home and family. The recent crisis in the Catholic Church offers a chance for introspection, accountability and, most importantly, for forgiveness. It is not the time for witch-hunts and unsubstantiated attacks. McLaughlin’s suggestion that all priests live in group residences is an interesting idea. Perhaps if all married men also lived in community homes, we could stamp out the terrible evil of pedophilia. In retrospect, we know that Salem’s Witch Trials, Stalin’s Purges, McCarthy’s Hearings went too far. Too many innocent lives were lost or ruined. How long will we wait to realize the same about homophobia?