Monday, July 25, 2016

One trade that needs to happen

Every year I spend much of my wedding anniversary checking the internet and Twitter for trade news. I share my anniversary, July 31st, with the trade deadline (and my sister — but that’s different story) and so the day is frequently consumed with “what ifs” about the Red Sox. This year, my refrain will be “what if another team could use Buchholz and we could get another starter without trading away our young guys?” Perhaps it’s too much of a fantasy, but that’s a trade move I’d like to see.

There’s a more important trade in Rhode Island that really should come to fruition this year. For only the second time since 2008, Representative John Carnevale will be opposed in an election, giving voters of “his” district the chance to trade up for a new representative. While much of the case against re-electing him involves the word alleged — he allegedly beat his wife, he allegedly raped a woman, he allegedly does not live in his district, there’s one thing that is certainly true — he is a disgrace to “his” district, the House and our state.

When the grand jury charged him with rape in 2011, Carnevale was the 4th Rhode Island lawmaker to face criminal charges that year (for those keeping score at home others were Dan Gordon, Bob Watson and Leo Medina). At that time, the House was being run by Speaker (now federal prison inmate) Gordon Fox. Speaker Mattiello seems to run a tighter ship and moved quickly to get Ray Gallison out of his chamber and off his leadership team when news broke of the investigation into Gallison’s wrongdoing. Although Mattiello waited until this week to remove Carnevale from leadership, I can’t help but think that another bad apple is making life difficult in the House and continuing the narrative of corruption and bad government that no one in Rhode Island needs to perpetuate. 

More than anything else, we all deserve better. Resident of Carnevale’s district deserve to be represented by someone who lives where they live, understands their needs and doesn’t think that their neighborhood is beneath his standards. House members deserve to serve alongside someone who has a moral compass and doesn’t think of himself first. And all Rhode Islanders deserve to live in a state free from public corruption. Let’s hope the voters of District 13 make the trade this year.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Even baseball is no escape

In recent weeks the news in our country and around the world has been more disturbing than I can remember in a long time. Minneapolis, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Nice — the violence and the rampant killings are hard to understand for adults and harder to explain to children. I’ve stopped trying. The TV is off and there’s no family discussion of the world beyond Rhode Island and Pokemon Go. Perhaps I am doing a disservice to my children by not explaining to them that the roots of these conflicts go back many generations and that they are likely to continue for generations more, but it’s more important to me that their few precious years of childhood are not filled with worries about acts of terror or gun violence.

For me, baseball is an easy escape from the news — Big Papi continues to thrill us in the last half of his final year in baseball. Watching him at the All-Star game -- laughing, high-fiving with a big smile and a huge hug for everyone — was a wake up. How would his life in the U.S. be different if he weren’t a recognizable sports celebrity? Do you think he has stories about being pulled over for a broken taillight?  I drove around for a week with a headlight burned out and never once worried about the consequences of being pulled over. Even the fun of baseball is tainted by understanding that our country’s racial divide goes right through every clubhouse and every team.

And ugh. Politics. As we head into the most heated time in the election cycle lots of nasty things will be said about candidates up and down the ticket. Chances are good that some things will upset us and we’ll want to respond with angry words in response. It’s too easy to post, tweet or anonymously comment just to get it off our chests, isn’t it? But adding fuel to the fire is never a good idea and whether you choose to channel Martin Luther King Jr. and “turn the other cheek,” or Gandhi “keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior” or my mother “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” perhaps the best political discourse will be a silent one this year — and maybe that’s what I can tell my kids.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bring on the new faces - and voices

The white-hot Red Sox have cooled a bit in recent weeks. With their pitching continuing to be a bit suspect, it is widely believed that the team will use the trade deadline to get some pitching. Gosh I hope so because it’s been tough to watch our starters blow games so badly that even a high scoring offense can’t save them. It’s time for some new blood on the pitching staff.

We’re also seeing some new faces on the Rhode Island political scene. The deadline for declaring one’s candidacy has just passed and in the coming days, candidates will be gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot. While many General Assembly seats will go uncontested, there were fewer “free passes” than in years past. In the wake of the legislative grant scandal, many political watchers anticipated that there would be a wave of reformers lining up to run for office. This year’s candidates might only constitute a ripple and with some wins, we’ll have a few new faces at the State House.

What we really need is to hear from some new voices. The shock of the Brexit vote — and the rise of Donald Trump on this side of the pond — has shown that some voices in politics might be quiet in polling data or in every day conversation, but they show up on election day. While some like to believe that Trump voters are angry or unbalanced and that the “leave” voters were uninformed, I think it’s more constructive to consider alternative explanations. One thought: a democracy does not punish people for thinking differently than the media or their elected officials. Sometimes being part of a democracy means that you don’t get what you want. Hard to swallow — particularly for millennials who have learned that pitching a tantrum at college can get you “safe space” and anything else you demand — but something that the more aged among us can probably absorb. Sing it with me Mick … “you can’t always get what you want.”

So how do the not-like-minded co-exist? We need to build some middle ground. Back in the days before Twitter wars and 24/7 media, people used to talk to one another. Senators Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch were pals off the Senate floor and President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill enjoyed a deep friendship that transcended their ideological differences. As our country becomes more polarized and the candidates we have to choose from come from opposite ends of the spectrum, it more important than ever that we add different voices to the conversation so we can understand — and perhaps ameliorate — the sharpest differences. I can’t imagine how the passionate “remain” folks felt on the morning after the Brexit vote, but if we don’t recreate some kind of middle ground and invite others to join us there, we’re going to get a taste of their disappointment too.