Senate Smackdown 2000
Lincoln Chafee, our apple-cheeked US senator, has got to be one of the luckiest
guys around these days. It seems certain that the Democratic primary race for
his Senate seat is destined to be a mudfest for the ages.
This was borne out by Monday night's Democratic convention gala at (where
else?) Lombardi's 1025 Club, where Bob "Dorian" Weygand accused his opponent,
"Little Richit" Licht, and the party's leadership (aka Pucky Harwood) of
threatening to yank the patronage jobs of some state committee members if they
failed to back Licht, who handily won the party endorsement.
If this actually occurred (and Licht campaign manager, Brian Murphy, told the
BeloJo that the charges were "unfounded and baseless" -- note that the word
"untrue" was not employed here), it would be the umpteenth time that such
tactics have been used by a Democratic General Assembly leader.
Both Dorian and Richit have their work cut out for them in this steel cage
death-match. Dorian's problem is not so much that the party's power brokers
have never been enthusiastic about him, although this is the way he continues
to characterize his plight. P&J believe that Weygand's anti-abortion
position is more problematic in a party primary, where the liberal wing tends
to have more clout, than in the general election. Expect the Licht forces to
make much of this distinction (Richit has been a longtime pro-choice guy) in
rallying support for his campaign.
The same holds true for Secretary of State Jim Langevin, who easily garnered
the party endorsement in the 2nd Congressional District. He's another
anti-abortion candidate, and you can bet that Kate Coyne-McCoy, who's been
waging a spirited effort in pursuit of the same seat, will hammer this message
home. We also expect the Coyne-McCoy forces to go over Langevin's rather meek
legislative voting record from his days in the state House of Representatives
with a fine tooth comb.
It will be interesting to see how attentive primary voters will be to the past
records of Langevin and Weygand, or if they'll be able to run successfully as
Mr. Access Denied and Mr. Kickback Denied.
Halitosis Hall update
You've gotta love the way the General Assembly leadership keeps coming up with
new ways to thwart public participation in legislative matters, also known as
"the public's business." This year's laughable tactic was to post all at once
dozens of bills that were waiting to be heard, thereby spreading confusion
among any who might want to attend the related public hearings. The
legislature's response? "Who us, muddy up the waters?" Nice try, gang. Back to
the drawing boards.
Meanwhile, your superior correspondents have nothing but admiration for the
spirited (whoops, sorry about that) campaign put on this year by advocates for
lowering the legal blood alcohol level for drivers to .08. After being burnt
for a couple of years on this legislation, proponents of the lower level have
taken a more aggressive tact, featuring highway billboards, print ads and a
soon-to-be broadcast TV ad campaign to sway support.
Nothing could be more dramatic than the testimony of families who have lost
children to drunk driving accidents. The House Judiciary Committee, under the
ham-fisted leadership of Representative Robert Flaherty, will be hard-pressed
to let this legislation die in committee again this year. The pressure is on
and building to force serious consideration, rather than rolling over in the
traditional style for food and beverage industry lobbyists. It's only fair that
this bill get a full hearing from the whole legislature.
Finally, there's the push to reconsider the planned downsizing of the General
Assembly. While Phillipe & Jorge have for some time maintained a "wait and
see" attitude about this measure, we've been won over by the arguments to keep
things as they are, size-wise. Not unlike voter initiative, which also has a
nice populist ring to it on the surface, the problem is that the result in both
cases would concentrate too much power in too few hands.
In other words, downsizing the legislature and allowing voter initiative
would, in reality, end up subverting real power for real people.
White guys in suits
You have to just love the subtle but revealing little hints about their true
worldview that come in contributions from the more frothing Urinal editorial
page writers, like "Faux Phil" Terzian and David "Mr. Mole" Brussat.
On March 24, Faux Phil, the Villanova graduate who affects a fake English
accent and was the most detested man on Fountain Street before being shipped
down to Washington, wrote what, for him, was actually a readable commentary. It
was on the passing of TV legend Durward Kirby.
Terzian recounted a chance meeting he'd had with Kirby in New York City when
he stopped him to ask for help in getting his bearings. (Terzian's head even
then being wedged firmly up buttocks.) Faux Phil writes, "Not knowing which way
to turn, I approached the first respectable-looking pedestrian at the corner to
ask directions." Simply asking anyone nearby would not suffice for Phil. God
knows, the person might be a single mother or even -- gasp! -- a dusky
ghetto dweller or foreigner.
Instead, he picked out a tall white guy in a suit because, as anyone knows,
he's probably the only one at the curb intelligent enough to give directions
without pulling a gun on the pride of the Urinal. Sleep tight, John Rocker.
Then, on March 30, Mr. Mole made a unique observation about the parking
situation in North Conway, New Hampshire -- a matter which inspired a forced
and tenuous link to the Providence of the future. Brussat observed of the cars
at curbside, "A claustrophobic hemming in of the streetscape resulted, blocking
the views of the natural splendors to west, especially for children, short
women and dogs."
Given the fact that Brussat's imposing stature is such that he needs to sit on
the little horsie at the barber when he goes for a haircut, we can only imagine
he was also checking out his reflection in the hub caps. But real men, as you
know, can always look over walls or brush people aside like matchsticks, unlike
the wee ones, animals and, oh, of course, short women.
Nice job, guys. You're a credit to the gender.
Spuds 'n' safety
While there is some sort of poetic justice in employing Mr. Potato Head as Vo
Dilun's ambassador of tourism, we must petition Hasbro to keep the Towheaded
Tater in his place. We can only imagine that it was that longtime Hasbro
employee, Mr. Potato Head, who consulted with the toy giant on how to handle
problems with the company's Playskool Baby Fold 'n' Travel infant carriers.
On Tuesday, the Other Paper revealed that Hasbro paid a $400,000 civil penalty
to settle charges that it waited until several children were severely injured
before revealing there was a problem with the locking mechanism on the
carrier's handle. Nine injury reports were received by Hasbro before they
alerted the Consumer Product Safety Commission that there might be a problem
with the product.
The terms of the settlement allow Hasbro to deny any wrongdoing, as well as
deny that the infant carriers contained any defect. Geez, it's good to know
that there wasn't anything wrong, despite the fact that the company recalled
the product back in 1996. This is why we love the corporate world.
It no doubt brought a tear to Iron Eyes Cody's peepers in his grave when it was
learned that that noted environmental steward, Vinny "Family Man" Mesolella,
was deemed the sole owner of Pascoag Reservoir, able to restrict public use and
access to the popular swimming and boating site also known as Echo Lake.
Naturally, the Reservoir Dog immediately declared that no one could soon use
the reservoir without his permission.
One can just imagine the heartwarming sight of this grunting naturalist from
Nawt Prov all alone in his powerboat out on HIS lake, tricked out in L.L. Bean
angler's regalia while he fishes with dynamite for sunfish and bluegills. Then
imagine the keen naturalist stripping down to his Speedo and taking a dip,
which should raise the water level in the lake at least half a foot, with a
resulting oil slick to rival the North Cape spill.
(In a related story, ownership rights to Prince William Sound in Alaska have
been handed over to the Exxon corporation.)
Nike frozen out
Hats off to Brown University for sticking to its guns by honoring its
endorsement of the Workers Rights Consortium corporate code of conduct. This
Third World labor exploiters Nike to terminate its contract with the
university's hockey program. It seems that Nike officials don't enjoy the idea
of anyone looking over the shoulders in Southeast Asia and elsewhere as they
force elementary school-age children to crank out overpriced sneakers for
yuppies, for about as much money per week as you can find under the cushions of
Brown has its own code of conduct, but it is the WRC, with more access to
international sweatshop monitoring, that worries Nike -- hence the pull-out
from College Hill. Brown should feel confident in telling Nike not to let the
door hit them in the butt on the way out.
Phillipe in particular, as a Brown graduate and a member of the Brown Sports
Hall of Fame, took time to personally let Sheila Blumstein, Brown's acting
president, know that he thought Brown's stand terrific. Now, Nike knows that
neither Brown or the WRC are just posturing when it comes to human rights and
living wages. Dumping Phil Knight's gang of cannibals should be considered a
badge of honor for the school, and P&J hope the majority of the university
community believes that as well.
Just do it, Brown.