8/30/10

Finally Someone Who Speaks the Truth

Finally someone is speaking the truth, whether you agree with him or not. In contrast, Al Sharpton's counter-rally produced nothing productive.


Beck rally signals election trouble for Dems

By PHILIP ELLIOTT
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- If Democrats had doubts about the voter unrest that threatens to rob them of their majority in Congress, they needed only look from the Capitol this weekend to the opposite end of the National Mall.

It's where Ken Ratliff joined tens of thousands of other anti-government activists at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for conservative commentator Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally.

"There's gotta' be a change, man," said Ratliff, a 55-year-old Marine veteran from Rochester, N.Y.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans can afford to ignore the antiestablishment fervor displayed Saturday during Beck's rally that took on the tone of an evangelical revival.

Billed as a nonpolitical event, it nevertheless was a clarifying moment for those curious as to what clout an anti-Washington sentiment could have on midterm congressional elections in November. The gathering was advertised as an opportunity to honor American troops. But it also illustrated voters' exasperation - and provided additional evidence that Democrats in power - as well as some incumbent Republicans - may pay the price when voters go to the polls.

The tea party is essentially a loosely organized band of anti-tax, libertarian-leaning political newcomers who are fed up with Washington and take some of their cues from Beck. While the movement drew early skepticism from establishment Republicans, these same GOP powerbrokers now watch it with a wary eye as activists have mounted successful primary campaigns against incumbents.

The Beck rally further demonstrated the tea party activists' growing political clout.

If the GOP is able to contain and cooperate with the tea party, and recharge its evangelical wing with Beck-style talk of faith, it spells the kind of change Ratliff and others like him are searching for.

The promise of change helped President Barack Obama win the White House in 2008, but could turn against his fellow Democrats this year. Americans' dim view of the economy has grown even more pessimistic this summer as the nation's unemployment rate stubbornly hovered near 10 percent and other troubling economic statistics have emerged on everything from housing to the economy's growth.

That's been a drag on both congressional Democrats and the president. While Obama has shelved his soaring campaign rhetoric on change, Beck has adopted it.

At Saturday's rally, the Fox News Channel personality borrowed Obama's rhetoric of individual empowerment from one of the then-candidate's favorite themes on the 2008 campaign trail.

"One man can change the world," Beck told the crowd. "That man or woman is you. You make the difference."

Or change Washington. And while Beck didn't say so, that means change the party in power.

His followers got the message.

"A lot of people want our country back," said Janice Cantor. She was raised a Massachusetts Democrat and is now a North Carolina tea party activist.

Beck's religion-laden message was a departure from most tea party events, which tend to focus on economic issues.

Beck, who speaks openly about his Christian faith on his radio and cable news shows, relied heavily on religion during his speech, perhaps offering up a playbook for tea party activists and Republicans this November.

Earlier, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin urged the gathering to change the course of the nation, although she said "sometimes our challenges seem insurmountable."

"Look around you," she told the crowd. "You're not alone."

Fullfilled Promises?

Question: Is this a sign of the Obama Administration's strategy going forward or an admission of failure?

Obama commits to revival of Gulf Coast

By ERICA WERNER
Associated Press Writer


NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Five years after Hurricane Katrina's wrath, President Barack Obama sought to reassure disaster-weary Gulf Coast residents Sunday that he would not abandon their cause.

"My administration is going to stand with you, and fight alongside you, until the job is done," Obama said to cheers at Xavier University, a historically black, Catholic university that was badly flooded by the storm.

The president said there are still too many vacant lots, trailers serving as classrooms, displaced residents and people out of work. But he said New Orleanians have shown amazing resilience.

"Because of you," the president declared, "New Orleans is coming back."

Obama spoke five years to the day from when Hurricane Katrina roared onshore in Louisiana, tearing through levees and flooding 80 percent of New Orleans. More than 1,800 people along the Gulf Coast died, mostly in Louisiana.

Even as the region struggled to put despair behind it, hardship struck again this year in the form of the BP oil spill. More than 200 million gallons of oil surged into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was capped in mid-July. New Orleans' economy, heavily dependent on tourism and the oil and gas industry, was set back anew.

Standing in front of a large American flag with students arrayed behind him, Obama boasted of his administration's efforts to respond to the Gulf spill, saying one of his promises - to stop the leak - has been kept.

"The second promise I made was that we would stick with our efforts, and stay on BP, until the damage to the Gulf and to the lives of the people in this region was reversed," Obama said. "And this, too, is a promise we will keep."

But Obama's speech didn't offer any new plans for restoring the Gulf, bringing New Orleans' fast-disappearing wetlands back to life or cleaning up BP's spilled oil. Some residents had hoped Obama would take the opportunity to announce an early end to the deepwater drilling moratorium he enacted after the spill. But he made no mention of the moratorium, which people here say is costing jobs.

Obama did offer a list of accomplishments on Katrina recovery he said his administration has achieved, including helping move residents out of temporary housing, streamlining money for schools and restoration projects, and working to rebuild the poorly maintained levee system that failed the city when Katrina struck.

He promised that work on a fortified levee system would be finished by next year, "so that this city is protected against a 100-year storm. Because we should not be playing Russian roulette every hurricane season."

Implicit in Obama's remarks was an indictment of sorts against former President George W. Bush's administration for its handling of the crisis. Obama called Katrina and its aftermath not just a natural disaster but "a manmade catastrophe - a shameful breakdown in government that left countless men, women and children abandoned and alone."

But Obama has faced questions of his own about how his administration handled the Gulf spill, including accusations officials moved too slowly and deferred too much to BP. The White House has scrambled repeatedly to right the response, pleasing Gulf Coast residents with a $20 billion victims' compensation fund Obama pushed BP to establish. But there is still plenty of skepticism among Gulf Coast residents about government promises, and Obama sought to alleviate that.

"In Washington, we are restoring competence and accountability," he said. "We're putting in place reforms so that never again in America is someone left behind in a disaster."

Arriving without any new policy announcements or benefits for the city, Obama appeared to hope in part that his mere presence would reassure residents they were not forgotten. For some, it might have been enough.

Obama toured Columbia Parc, a development of attractive new townhouses that's replacing the St. Bernard Housing Development that flooded during Katrina. He met a longtime resident who had to be rescued from her home in a boat after Katrina struck. Several dozen demonstrators, protesting a shortage of affordable public housing, chanted nearby: "Housing is a human right."

And Obama dropped in at the Parkway Bakery and Tavern, a local institution known for shrimp and roast beef po'boys, which was underwater after Katrina. "I appreciate you coming here," one woman told him. He responded with a hug.

After his speech, Obama defended his administration's handling of the oil spill in an interview with "NBC Nightly News." The president said that "because of the sturdiness and swiftness of the response, there's a lot less oil hitting these shores and these beaches than anybody would have anticipated given the volume that was coming out of the BP oil well."


Copyright 2008 Associated Press

Two Short Columns for Dog Days of Summer

Amidst the dog days of this dry and hot summer, here’s two short columns for the price of one.

T.F. Green Expansion Takes Flight
T.F. Green Airport is finally going to get its much needed runway expansion. After years of stalling and wrangling between the City of Warwick, the RI Airport Corporation (RIAC) and the FAA, the project is at last back on track and moving forward. It will still be a few years – and perhaps more- before the extended runway is operational, but considering the glacial pace of this matter to date, consider it progress.

Warwick is still looking to get recognized – and compensated – for its role as the host community (rest assured Mayor Scott Avedisian will do his very best on that front), and affected residents will be looking for proper compensation and closure on their properties, which have been in a state of suspension for too long.

Rhode Island needs an airport that can handle transcontinental flights. Without it, we will fall victim to the Manchester, NH airport and even Logan, which no matter how difficult and expensive to get in and out of, has been adding flights. Marry a transcontinental flight capability with the almost completed mass transit rail Trans-Modal Connector project, which will allow Green inbound-outbound passengers to skip their cars and use T.F. Green via rail to points north and south, and we have the makings of a very convenient and competitive airport.

Beyond transcontinental reach, RIAC in time should be looking at wooing a European-based bargain airline, like Ryanair or easyJet, to be the destination for their U.S. hub on the East Coast. If you flown either of them, you know that both Ryanair and easyJet situate many of the connections at smaller airports to save on landing fees and not get crowded out by the big airlines. It would seem that Green is exactly that type of smaller, less expensive airport that fits their model.

Green is also in a better position than Manchester to win the eventual bargain airline trans-Atlantic competition due to the fact that Green is located between and Boston and New York. Ryanair’s high flying chairman has talked in the past about a future U.S. connection, and an expanded T.F. Green should be on his radar screen. Imagine our little airport as an international connection.

Lincoln Chafee Wants a Level Playing Field
Gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee is right about the sweet-heart Curt Schilling 38 Studios deal: Rhode Island taxpayers may be taking on a big risk in backing the fledging video game company’s move to the Ocean State. The former Warwick Mayor and U.S. Senator opposes the deal, which involves floating a $75 million obligation to Wells Fargo bank, which is bankrolling the deal. Should the company end up a failure (and failure in the video game development business can be very high), we will have to compensate Wells Fargo for its losses. He wants the RI EDC, which approved the loan backing, to go back and take another look at the deal.

Chafee, the independent in a tight race with General Treasurer Frank Caprio, thinks the money would have been better committed to a variety of start-up companies, or used for infrastructure improvements as a better path to economic development. He also thinks the state has been giving out the wrong kind of incentives to companies for some time now. I couldn’t agree with him more, especially as we read that the state doesn’t have a firm handle of what it was supposed to get back from a variety of in-state companies in return for incentives provided to either get them into Rhode Island in the first place or to prevent them from thinking about leaving. Many states over the past twenty years have bent over backwards in giving property tax breaks, executive tax breaks and other giveaways to corporations. How much have they gotten in return is a real question. Credit Linc for standing up and taking a firm position on certain issues. You may not agree with him, but at least you know where he stands.