Sunday, February 27, 2022
Robert Whticomb, Columnist
Robert Whitcomb, Columnist
“The white houses
are moving away,
From “Small Towns Are Passing,” by Wesley McNair (born 1941), a Maine poet
“Every country has its own mafia. In Russia, the mafia has its own country.’’
— Garry Kasparov (born 1963), native of Russia, international human-rights campaigner and former world chess champion, now living in Croatia.
“Television pollutes identity.’’
— Novelist Norman Mailer (1923-2007) in 1972
“I wasted time and now time doth waste me.’’
— William Shakespeare (1564-1616), in his play Richard II
Crocus PHOTO: Scott Turner
I spotted a row of snowdrops and a lonely crocus blooming along a south-facing wall last Tuesday. Although late-winter snow will squash them and the dirt they’re in will freeze off and on for a couple more weeks, they were a tonic to see. Life’s so strong, like those little ferns I spotted growing out of a stone wall. Now for those tax returns….
Providence and some other communities are dumping far too much salt on some streets, some of which were bright white with it last week, amidst drifts of salt pebbles. This is toxic to plant life and pollutes water supplies. More care, please.
Is it fair to make teachers at, say, Barrington High School have three COVID shots as a condition of employment while a few dozen students are allowed to attend completely unvaccinated?
Kudos to Rhode Island state Sen. Samuel Zurier, of Providence, for introducing a bill to phase out those shrieking and intensely polluting gasoline-powered leaf blowers that make life miserable for humans and other animals for weeks at a time. They’re often wielded by hard-working illegal aliens with no ear protection working for yard crews. Somehow we survived quite well without them for millennia.
Besides the much quieter electric leaf blowers, there’s that revolutionary device called the rake. A few decades ago, I and other teens made extra spending money raking, lawn mowing and hedge-clipping. Where oh where did those healthy gigs go? Why do so many affluent people feel that they must hire a “landscaping company.’’
Might PPL, which plans to buy National Grid’s Rhode Island operations, be persuaded to bury those looming power lines at Providence’s India Point Park? Burying the lines would be good marketing for Rhode Island and the city, given the dramatic location at the head of Narragansett and that millions of people travel on adjacent Route 195 each year. And the buried lines would be safe from storms.
The first tranches of U.S and its allies’ sanctions against Putin’s petro/gas mafia state for his ongoing Hitler-like assault on Ukraine probably won’t do much for now. Russia has a highly fortified financial (and associated money-laundering) system, and the sanctions don’t target Putin hard enough, considering that he’s a murderer and thief worth many billions of dollars that he stole from his own country. Further, it’s still unclear how much U.S. and other Western military and economic help will be coming to help Ukraine defend itself. Obviously much, much more should be rushed to the brave Ukrainians whose fight is, in a sense, our own. But it may be far too late to stop a murderous Russian occupation.
The most effective fast sanctions would probably be blocking all U.S. technology transfers to Russia, with the hope that the entire West and such allies as Japan and South Korea join us. That would slam the Kremlin fast and hard.
After all, think of how much equipment has software and hardware made in America and by our allies.
To the maximum extent possible, Russian financial assets in the Free World should be immediately frozen, and ALL Russian institutions banned from access to SWIFT, the high security network that links thousands of banks and other financial institutions around the world so they can make payments.
Still, the overseas exposure of Russia’s Putin-connected elite is vast; time to go after those ill-gotten gains stashed in Western accounts and in money-laundering real estate. (See the Trump Organization.) Seize the oligarchs’ yachts, penthouses and so on.
And to the maximum extent possible, financial assets in the West of Putin puppet Belarus and key figures in that gangster state, which has assisted in the invasion, should also be frozen.
The despot, who wants to recreate a version of the brutal Soviet empire with himself as absolute ruler, would use a takeover of Ukraine to much more strongly position himself to undermine the fragile democracies in eastern and central Europe — Russian troops and tanks right on their borders! — and push further away from Russia’s borders examples of prosperous liberal democracies that make Putin look bad. Actually, this tyrant and others around the world, fearing examples of democratic success, seek to undermine representative government wherever they can.
And we should disabuse ourselves of the idea that Putin cares about the welfare of the Russian people, whom his rule has made poorer. He only cares about the power, grandeur and wealth of Czar Vladimir Putin. And he knows that NATO will not directly militarily attack Russia, though it must be relentlessly attacked in many other ways as long as Putin is running it.
Americans, especially fans of their own malignant kleptocratic narcissist, Donald Trump, might stop and consider how Putin and allied autocrats would, as they undermine liberal democracy, steadily constrict the space in the world in which the humane values of open societies, democracy and liberty dominate and where the West can freely sell its products and services. Confronting Putin is in our political and economic self-interest, though it will cause us some pain. Not to severely punish this bloodstained gangster’s invasion will cost us far, far more than the collateral effects on us of any sanctions against Russia.
Ukraine isn’t like, for example, Islamo-Fascist Afghanistan. This European nation seeks to be part of the West, and its values are Western.
Back in 1961, John F. Kennedy called for patience and fortitude in the “long twilight struggle’’ against Communist tyranny in the Cold War. Do Americans, famous for their impatience and desire for immediate gratification, have the patience to outlast the dictators?
Tucker Carlson PHOTO: file
Putin, who started as a KGB spy and then gradually became a Fascist pol, has long believed the West to be too effete, timid, decadent and impatient to act with the strength and sense of purpose to defeat a brutal foe like himself.
And do Americans have the rigor to resist disinformation, whether from Putin’s mob or from, for example, the deeply corrupt Fascist (and pro-Putin) wing of the Republican Party, some of it funded by billionaire oligarchs that recall those being fed by, and in return feeding, Putin, an admirer of Joseph Stalin, who murdered many millions of his Soviet subjects. As for such dictator suck-ups in the media as the spoiled preppy liar Tucker Carlson, get out the Lysol!
Hit these links for background on Trump’s squalid history with Russia and Ukraine:
How much will Americans tolerate higher energy prices and Russian cyberattacks before many will want to appease the aggressor?
And how many will fall for the obscene false equivalence of Russia/Soviet Union and America? Or will they sit down and read some history?
I’ll bet that many Germans deeply regret that their country closed its nuclear power plants, which has made it far too dependent on gas from Russia. Fossil-fuel burning, for electricity generation and transportation, not only causes what may be catastrophic global warming it also props up dictatorships. The European Union is belatedly taking steps to wean itself off Russian fuel.
Meanwhile, many wonder how far Chinese dictator Xi Jinping will go in allying himself with fellow tyrant Putin, considering the vast trade between the West and China. And looking ahead, will much richer and more populated China seek to grab some of Russia’s lightly populated the Far East?
By the way, Lukoil, which has lots of gas stations in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states, is a Russian oligarch-run company with very close ties to Putin. You might want to fill your tank at another company’s outlets.
Neighborhood Show Business
It’s good news indeed that Ed Brady and Jeff Quinlan, whose Dig In Dining restaurant group includes the Thirsty Beaver and other establishments, will revive the much-loved Park Theatre, built-in 1926 and shuttered since the early days of COVID-19. They’ll turn it into a place for a new performing-arts center and other activities. The owners anticipate, among other things, playing old movies and having a comedy club and a café.
This will energize the neighborhood and well beyond. So nice to have venues that aren’t in malls.
Outdoor dining PHOTO: Will Morgan
It would be pleasant if many of those temporary roofs put over some sidewalk dining areas during the pandemic were made permanent. The more year-round street life the better.
Are we ready for many more people to get and give colds, and the flu, as mask mandates are dropped? Don’t throw away your masks.
Elite colleges like Brown: Wall Street sharks run their boards and careerist, contact-cultivators dominate their student bodies.
Wind Economy Picking Up
The offshore-wind sector is slowly paying economic dividends onshore. The latest example is that Prysmian Group, an Italian company, will buy 47 acres on Brayton Point, in Somerset, Mass., to put up a $200-million facility to make subsea transmission cables to bring power generated by offshore wind turbines to the New England grid. It’s nice symbolism because Brayton Point was the site of New England’s last big coal-fired power plant.
Just down Route 195, there’s a facility to support offshore wind in New Bedford, like the Somerset site in connection with wind-turbine arrays to go up south of New England. The Whaling City facility will handle assembly and deployment of the turbines. And a site in Salem, Mass., is eyed as a staging area for turbine assembly, including for arrays in the Gulf of Maine.
The Perfect Trumper Pol
H. Russell Taub, who used the title of “ambassador,’’ reminds me of far too many in the Trump cult – amoral, greedy and obsessed with power and status. He’s the one-time Republican congressional candidate who was jailed for defrauding donors to his campaign to defeat Rhode Island Democratic Congressman David Cicilline in 2016.
Now it turns out that a few months before that election, he sent a message to a Twitter account – Guccifer 2.0 – used by Russian intelligence. He asked them to give him stolen information/dirt on Cicilline.
Taub was named “Ambassador” in 2014, according to a five-year-old version of the International Human Rights Commission. The group is/was tied to the Czech Republic and interests in Ukraine and claimed an office in Nigeria, one of the planet’s most corrupt places. It is unclear what criteria the mysterious organization uses/used to bestow the title of “ambassador” upon its recipients.
In the Teeth of Inflation
Big companies continue to jack up their prices and report record profits even as consumers buy, buy, buy with abandon while they complain. The three biggest causes of inflation (probably) – pandemic-caused national and international manufacturing-and-supply-chain disruptions, the Fed’s easy-money policies and the overly stimulative effects of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, enacted in March last year. Thus too many dollars chasing too few goods. And now Putin’s aggression will raise energy and other commodities prices higher.
To be fair, the Rescue Plan helped many people, especially in lower-and-middle-income groups who very much needed income from it to stay afloat. Of course, as with all such big programs, some rich people also benefited and, as with the pandemic-relief programs pushed through during the Trump regime, there was fraud. It will probably take years to determine how much.
On the other hand, the projects in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law enacted last year would tend to be anti-inflationary by making transportation, the electric grids, ports and other works more reliable, efficient and convenient. That’s what has happened before in government subsidization of canals and railroads in the 19th Century and public works from the New Deal on.
I’m glad that, for whatever reason of labor relations, Woonsocket-based CVS will close most of its pharmacies 1:30 to 2 p.m. to give employees a needed break from their relentless workloads. I hope that the idea spreads. Some Walgreens drugstores have commendably done this for years
Can’t Get Away From It!
Many folks throng to Sunbelt and Mountain West cities to escape high housing costs. But in doing so, they cause a surge in housing prices in their new cities.
And many discover that they need or at least want the public services in the cities they left behind – which require higher taxes.
In the Moscow Maze
Anyone who wants to learn about the pathologies of post-Soviet Russia that helped create the current nightmare would do well to read columnist and economic historian David Warsh’s riveting book Because They Could: The Harvard-Russian Scandal (and NATO Expansion) After Twenty-Five Years, with its detailed, you-are-there history and provocative collection of opinions. Harvard University certainly comes out of it looking very bad.
- Whitcomb: Employers’ Rights; Meet SAM; Censorship at MIT; Another ‘Twilight Struggle’
- Whitcomb: Port Opportunity? Food-Sector Engine; Disorganized Democrats; Accents
- Whitcomb: Countryside Protection; Down With This Duopoly; Building Early Equity; Working Waterfronts
- Whitcomb: Paring Down; Lost Amusements; Nice Idea but Not Near Us; Into the ‘Meta’ Maze
- Whitcomb: Outboards Over Oysters; Ocean Plastics Lab; Inflation Then and Now; Belarussian/Russian
- Whitcomb: The Diner Republic; At least a Few Voted; Higher-Price Panorama; Flood Fun
- Whitcomb: Fusion Future; Litigation Traffic Jams; Depressing College ‘Bookstores’; Floors Over Water
- Whitcomb: Would They Pay for It? Hurricane Hype; Unsightly Lines; ‘God Is Not Great’
- Whitcomb: Three Connected Stories; Inside Farming; Offshore Angst; Natural Cities
- Whitcomb: Our Amazon Basin; Letter for Spreaders; More Melting, Please; Churchillian Psychodrama
- Whitcomb: Rewilding of the Suburbs; History on the Blackstone; Gambling for More State Revenue
- Whitcomb: Rinks, Roads and Bathrooms; Putting on the Old Ritz; Dictators’ Delight; Grave Matters
- Whitcomb: Season’s Greetings; And Public Good? Releasing Sociopaths; In Search of Rich Patients
- Whitcomb: Taxing Questions; Opening up Primaries; College Controversies; Old Song in the Snow
- Whitcomb: High-Level Leavings; Those Polls: Free-Rent Stores; Getting Richer in Government
- Whitcomb: Making Stuff Where You Live; Facing the Pension Peril; Get off the Shore; Save the Woods
- Whitcomb: Schools Shouldn’t Be Sex Therapists; Outrage in Ottawa; New Kind of Lobstering
- Whitcomb: One Hub Is Enough; Move Higher; Lock ‘Em Up! Generating Power While Storing CO2
- Whitcomb: Lower This Project; Boston’s (Relative) Anti-Murder Success; Keep Bumping
- Whitcomb: Appeasement Advances Aggression; Lunatic in loco parentis; Pulling Straws; Boarding Houses
- Whitcomb: Baker Had Enough; Affordable-Housing Challenge: Cuomo Crash; Fusion Factories; Fauci Abuse
- Whitcomb: Winter Wonderland, for a While; Judeo-Christmas Songs; Masking Not Over; Mini-Warehousing
- Whitcomb: The Apex Opportunity; Christmas-Display Inflation; The Silent Treatment; Tip of the Hat
- Whitcomb: Don’t Burden the Responsible; Backyard ‘Little Houses’ and Other State Stuff
- Whitcomb: Are We Tough Enough? Trump and Putin; Good Show in Cranston; Wind Behind Sector’s Back