GoLocalProv | Whitcomb: Downtown Cannibalization? OPEC, Russia Vote Republican; Corrosively Anti-Compromise

2022-10-09 07:16:41 By : Ms. Jolin kong

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View Larger + Robert Whitcomb, columnist

“The time will come

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror….’’

-- From “Love After Love,’’ by Derek Wolcott (1930-2017), Nobel Prize-winning St. Lucan poet who spent a lot of time in Boston.

“A tune with no more substance than the air,

Performed on underwater instruments….’

-- From “Elevator Music’’, by Henry Taylor (born 1942), American poet

“Love is an agreement on the part of two people to overestimate each other.’’

-- C.M. Cioran (1911-1995), Romanian philosopher

“Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.’’

-- David McCullough (1933-2022), American popular historian

Before meeting someone for lunch last  Monday in New Bedford, I walked around marveling at the old brick buildings interspersed with monumental neo-classical structures in the historic district, with its cobblestone streets, west of the waterfront. That was the city’s downtown during the lucrative and brutal years of the 19th Century when the city was the whaling capital of the world and one of its richest places.

I looked down toward the harbor with its white caps on that raw, blustery day and could almost imagine myself there in 1840. New Bedford can be Twilight Zonish.

View Larger + PHOTO: Justin Case We should pay more attention to seemingly banal scenes that only seem that way because of familiarity and inattention. Commuters, for example, quickly stop looking at the strange mixture of human-built and natural environments along their daily routes in cities and suburbs. Beautiful wildflowers along trash-strewn highway shoulders, opportunistic wildlife lurking in underpasses – raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, etc. – crows pecking at roadkill, other avians perched on utility lines.

Try walking a few miles along heavily used roads leading in and out of cities rather than whizzing by in a car, bus or train and you’ll be surprised at the resilience of Mother Nature, which almost always seeks reclamation.

Ah, automation! Look at the lawn sprinklers coming on after a night of torrential rain.

My oral surgeon has brilliantly placed a heavily patronized bird feeder just outside the window of his operating room at eye level of a patient in the chair. A real calmative.

View Larger + Hope Street Bike Path PHOTO: Anthony Sionni After the Hysteria

Hope Street Bike Path PHOTO: Anthony Sionni

So after the hysterical warnings, how has the trial of a bike path on Providence’s Hope Street gone? Kill the idea? Make adjustments?

For an update on the bike share movement, including its very helpful role during the MBTA’s Orange Line shutdown, hit this link:


There’s usually a debate in this or that community around here about whether to let such chain fast-food establishments as Dunkin’ Donuts open stores there. I’m sympathetic to those residents who want to keep them out.

Of course, one reason to oppose them is that they tend to drive some locally based businesses out of business.

Another is that they are serious outdoor-trash spawners. I’m not sure if Dunkin’ Donuts customers are bigger slobs than the rest of us, but their coffee cups, lids, bags and so on are all over the place.

View Larger + Diossa on a trip to East Timor - one of more than 40 trips he took as mayor Political Roundup

Diossa on a trip to East Timor - one of more than 40 trips he took as mayor

The affable former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa was a notable booster of his tiny and impoverished city, and he shows nice big white teeth while he smiles, which he does a lot. But now he’s running for Rhode Island general treasurer.

Based on his poor-city-subsidized relentless world luxury travel while he was in office and his ongoing propensity for creating potential business conflicts of interest, the general treasurer is a job that he should be kept far away from.

View Larger + Democratic candidate for Secretary of State Gregg Amore, the Democratic nominee for Rhode Island secretary of state, is absolutely right to oppose giving all responsibility for elections supervision to that office, taking power from the state Board of Elections, which is supposed to be an apolitical and technical operation.  He points to Georgia, where, in 2018,  then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, now the Republican governor, may have manipulated voting rules to defeat his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, in the gubernatorial race. He had near-total control of the election. That isn’t to say that the two Rhode Island entities shouldn’t work with as much collaboration as possible to ensure fair and efficient elections while monitoring each other.

Democratic candidate for Secretary of State

View Larger + Anthony Amore PHOTO: file That reminds me of another Amore – Anthony Amore – one of the dwindling number of responsible, non-fascist Republicans who are concentrated in the Northeast. He’s running for Massachusetts state auditor and has a stellar record of public service and integrity. With all the other key spots in state government almost certain to be taken by Democrats in next month’s election, there’s a strong argument for a Republican to hold the important oversight job of auditor in the Bay State.

I think that the Democrats are making a big mistake in many congressional races by obsessing on GOPQ threats to abortion rights. Most people vote on economic and related issues. The Dems would do better focusing on such threats as some Republican support for privatizing Social Security. And the Dems could take credit for trying to help people with education and medical debt and for expanding transportation infrastructure and other popular public works, which has created many well-paying jobs. 

In any event, I’d guess that the GOPQ will take over Congress, mostly because many blame the Democrats for high inflation, though that’s a global problem. And they’ll try to steal the election in some states where they have ruthlessly taken over the voting systems in the past couple of years.  Further, they blame Biden for being old and his party for being too interested in racial-and-sexual-identity issues, setting up, for example, the likes of  Critical Race Theory (which is NOT taught in public schools) as a convenient bugaboo.

CRT is a previously little-known field of study in some colleges that examines racism’s central role in shaping our society.

In the past couple of years, right-wingers have seized on the phrase, asserting that CRT is a  sort of Commie mind-control plot pushed by evil schoolteachers with the aim of programming children to hate white society and “replace” it with non-Christian, multicultural rule.

That’s not what CRT is.

Still, this isn’t to say that the anti-woke crowd doesn’t have some good points, such as opposing the gross inequity of letting transgendered students decide whether to play on a boys’ or girls’ team.

(No, Biden won’t run for re-election.)

View Larger + President Joe Biden PHOTO: video feed With our enemy, the corrupt Islamic tyranny of Saudi Arabia, (allied with and enriching the Trump clan), other OPEC members (also mostly corrupt dictatorships), and petro-state dictatorship Russia joining last week to jack up oil prices, the GOPQ will probably do even better than they otherwise would have. We keep going hat in hand to the Saudis hoping that they’ll help us out. Forget it.

President Joe Biden PHOTO: video feed

The Russians and Saudis look forward to helping to elect dictator-worshipping GOPQ folks.

Hit this link for world inflation rates:

I wonder how much money Putin’s bloodthirsty regime is putting into the campaigns of such fascists as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and  QAnon heroine Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. But to sort of defend them, they both appear to be insane.

As does Georgia GOPQ senatorial candidate Herschel Walker. I wonder if other major anti-abortion-rights fascist candidates besides the addled Mr. Walker will be revealed as having paid for the procedure for the women they impregnated.

What to Put in Its Place?

The controversy grinds on about how and whether, to save the Industrial Trust Building, the Art-Deco skyscraper in downtown Providence. The loudest noises, as usual, are negative, in particular complaints about the public subsidy in the form of direct taxpayer money and big tax breaks to redevelop it. Meanwhile, the rise in interest rates has cast more doubt on the project.

The plan is for High Rock Development to turn what’s erroneously called “The Superman Building” (the real one is  Los Angeles City Hall) into apartments, but with event and commercial space in what had been the palatial bank lobby, on the ground floor.

So could we have more suggestions from the foes of the plan on what to do with the tower? Would they just as soon have the damn thing torn down, leaving a big hole in the middle of the city? What might go to fill the hole? How about a mini-marsh to attract ducks?

Then we have that BankRI plans to build a new headquarters in the Route 195 relocation district, with state incentives, of course. It’s won’t be a huge building --  BankRI is but a subsidiary of Brookline Bankcorp.

This will leave a lot of empty space in the charming but not exactly up-to-date Turk’s Head Building  (completed in 1913) in the Financial District, where the bank’s headquarters has been. Chomp, chomp! Cannibalization.

I’d guess that that building, with its eponymous sculpture and a design that recalls New York’s Flatiron Building, will end up becoming mostly residential.

Would that require a lot of help from the taxpayers too? And will many/most downtown Providence buildings become college dorms?

View Larger + GOP gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus PHOTO: GoLocal Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus has an intriguing idea. She said:

GOP gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus PHOTO: GoLocal

“Here’s an idea – instead of giving $69 million in corporate welfare to the developer of the Superman Building, why don’t we invest in RIPTA? Considering the average driver makes $16.75/hour – imagine how impactful even an additional $1 million would be for RIPTA’s abilities to provide services.’’

It’s very sad to watch the slow and painful death of “Snow Cone,’’ one of the 350 or so remaining North Atlantic Right Whales. Snow Cone has been entangled in fishing lines, a reminder of how much we devastate wild fauna, including such highly intelligent mammals as whales. Surely the fishing industry can do much more to protect them.

One is getting fisheries to use different systems, even if we have to subsidize this to start. To wit, consider this from Oceana:

“Using Innovative, Pop-up Fishing Gear to Avoid Entanglements While Continuing to Fish

“Pop-up fishing gear stays connected to traps on the ocean floor until a release mechanism is triggered that allows a flotation device to surface so fishermen can retrieve the catch. Release mechanisms can be set to release at a certain time (‘timed release’) or upon receiving an acoustic signal from a fishing vessel (“on-demand release”). Because there is no surface buoy, virtual gear marking can notify fishery managers and other fishermen of the location of traps.’’

“Other proposed solutions would sever fishing lines in the event of entanglements, potentially allowing a whale to free itself. These include weak links, Yale grip sleeves and line cutters that in theory would only break the line after an entanglement. Despite these changes being easy to incorporate, none of these solutions prevent entanglements and there is no clear evidence that they allow an animal to free itself.’’ (Italics for my emphasis.)

We All Fail When Compromise Dies

As my old friend Philip K. Howard, who runs commongood.org, has noted, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s compromise infrastructure-permitting reform died because of the political selfishness of Republicans, who didn’t want the measure to be enacted because that would be seen as a Democratic win, and of left-wing environmentalist Democrats, who opposed it because it would have speeded review of a natural-gas pipeline in the Mountaineer State. Without compromise, progress is almost impossible in a quasi-democracy like ours.

The bill would have expedited the construction of high-speed electricity lines.

“All infrastructure projects have environmental costs; the question is whether their benefits outweigh the costs. Expediting permitting for energy projects, which Common Good has long advocated, is, on balance, dramatically pro-environmental. New transmission lines are essential to access wind and solar fields. Gas pipelines allow phasing out dirtier forms of fossil fuel. Nuclear power could render coal-burning plants obsolete. All these projects can be reviewed readily within two years. Environmental review is supposed to aid democratic decision-making, not give interest groups a veto.’’

The failure of Manchin’s bill is yet another example of why it’s so difficult to get big projects enacted that will help the vast majority of the population.

Compared to other “Developed Nations,’’ America has far fewer public restrooms, which certainly undermines quality of life and public health, including mental health. More should be provided.

But what about subsidizing businesses to open some of their lavatories to the public, with signage to indicate that such facilities are available? That’s been done abroad, such as in Britain and Germany.

The United Cartels of America

The United States has long had the world’s most expensive health care but far from the best.  One reason is that organized medicine has all too often operated as a cartel  to limit the number of physicians and thus help keep their pay the world’s highest.

For years, the American Medical Association (AMA), which these days has less power than it used to wield, was a culprit. It lobbied with considerable success to limit the number of medical schools and federal funding for residencies. And much of organized medicine continues to battle, expanding the number and scope of practice of such nonphysician medical professionals as nurse practitioners and physician assistants who earn considerably less than physicians.

There’s also inadequate federal and state funding for medical schools, which of course, limits the number of people they can train.

But then, much of the American economy is controlled by national and local cartels (including, say, price-fixing Ivy League universities, which are businesses too, albeit “nonprofit”), and oligopolies such as Google and Facebook. Real, competitive capitalism is for suckers.

Robert Whitcomb is a veteran editor and writer. Among his jobs, he has served as the finance editor of the International Herald Tribune, in Paris; as a vice president and the editorial-page editor of The Providence Journal; as an editor and writer in New York for The Wall Street Journal,  and as a writer for the Boston Herald Traveler (RIP). He has written newspaper and magazine essays and news stories for many years on a very wide range of topics for numerous publications, has edited several books and movie scripts and is the co-author of among other things, Cape Wind.

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