Whitcomb: Providence as Hotel Heaven? Cape Wind Is Dead; ‘Handicapped Parking’ Crackdown

Monday, December 04, 2017


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Robert Whitcomb

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."

-- Anne Bradstreet, (1612-1672),  who moved to the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England and became the most prominent early English poet of North America.


"Come, come thou bleak December wind,
And blow the dry leaves from the tree!
Flash, like a Love-thought, thro'me, Death
And take a Life that wearies me."

--  Samuel Taylor Coleridge, (1772-1834)


 “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.'”


-- Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York speaking of GOP tax legislation.


He knows whom he reports to!





For some reason, news  of the recent proliferation of hotel projects in Providence recalled to me the late film mogul Sir Alexander Korda’s remark that you should “always go to the best hotel…{because} sooner or later someone will appear who will give you money.’’


At last count, there were a total of eight hotels being built or planned in Providence. I have to think that this suggests that there’s more business confidence in the future of the city and Rhode Island than most citizens think. Hotels, after all, cater to businesspeople and tourists. Presumably, the hotel developers believe that there will be more economic activity in the city in the next few years. It’s hard to figure out how much of this is due to the Raimondo administration’s relentless courting of companies to get them to move to Providence, how much to firms’ interpretation of general national and regional business cycles and how much to Providence’s proximity to booming Greater Boston.


The new hotels will boost the city in some rather indirect ways. Hotels, especially their lobbies,  function rooms and restaurants, are natural meeting places for businesses. Thus they make cities more dynamic for deal-making. Airbnb and bed and breakfasts don’t quite do that.


Some old hospitals can be turned into very nice hotels, as a recent Washington Post article reported.  Many more hospitals are likely to close as outpatient institutions and home care provide services, even acute-care services, that used to be only available in hospitals, and as new pharmaceuticals and medical devices make it easier to avoid hospitalization. To read The Washington Post article, please hit this link:


As I’ve written before, Pawtucket’s Memorial Hospital’s attractive and very solid buildings could be turned into a large assisted living center, condos, apartments or even, yes, a hotel.





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Cape Wind never launched

Cape Wind project, first proposed in 2001, is now dead. It faced fierce opposition mostly funded and led by Bill Koch, one of the billionaire right-wing Koch Brothers, who have big fossil-fuel investments. Mr. Koch has a big summer place in Osterville, on the south shore of Cape Cod. He didn't want to look at the wind turbines that Energy Management Inc. sought to build.


Though they have had to pull the plug on New England, the team has developed the largest and most successful biomass projects in America. 


"Gainesville Regional Utilities received $3 billion of orders for $416 million of bonds to partly finance its purchase this biomass plant. Bond proceeds will be used as partial financing to purchase a 100-megawatt wood-burning biomass plant called the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, or GREC, from a group of investors. Two private placements totaling $265 million were used to complete the purchase," reports Bond Buyer. The project was developed by Jim Gordon and Rhode Islander Dennis Duffy.


"This is a good deal for both parties, involving a state-of-the-art carbon-neutral project.   The Gainesville project is the largest renewable biomass plant in the nation and the first to receive sustainability certification by the Forest Stewardship Council.   Its construction financing was a Project Finance Magazine 'deal of the year' in 2011,"  Duffy, the Vice President EMI, told GoLocal.


"EMI has developed clean energy projects over the last 30 years and done substantial business in Rhode Island, including the development of the Tiverton Power and Pawtucket Power projects, as well as multiple solar projects," added Duffy.




There was a brief uproar last week when Donald Trump, speaking at a ceremony at the White House to honor Navajo “code talkers,’’ who were very helpful in the U.S. military in World War II, made a joke about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim to have some  Native American ancestry. He yet again called her “Pocahontas.’’ Like most of this con man’s jokes, it was stupid and nasty.  Still,  I, too, doubt if the Massachusetts senator has any Native American blood, though she has suggested she does. How about having your DNA tested, senator? That would clear this up.


(Some of my relatives have insisted that we have Cape Cod Wampanoag blood. Another romantic family myth. Or looking for some casino money….)


More troubling was that on the wall behind Trump and the honorees was a big portrait of the horrible President Andrew Jackson, the thug who helped force thousands of Indians from their homelands in the Southeast to west of the Mississippi. Many thousands died on this “Trail of Tears.’’


Trump has frequently expressed his admiration for Jackson, and indeed had that portrait hung there.




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U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Speaking of Warren, I wonder if the Democrats will be crazy enough to nominate her or Bernie Sanders for president in 2020. The Dems should be in a strong position to win back the White House in three years because of Trump’s corruption and incompetence and what’s likely to be a recession in the next couple of years. But the stridency of Sanders and Warren is unlikely to be a big hit in the next campaign. And they’d both be too old. By that point, I think, Americans will be looking for a calm and only slightly left-of-center leader, preferably someone who had been a successful governor.


Or it may be a name that few Americans would recognize now.




The eruption of the Mt. Agung volcano, on Bali, in Indonesia, could cool the world’s climate for a year or two by spewing out particles and gases that block some sunlight. If this happens, global-warming deniers will intensify their rejection of the scientific consensus that man’s massive burning of coal, oil and natural gas is causing potentially catastrophic global warming.


Mt. Agung’s 1963 eruption cut global temperatures from 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Celsius for a year. Indeed, some scientists are looking into whether some effects of volcanic eruptions could/should be mimicked to slow or halt man-made global warming -- for instance by injecting sulfuric acid into the stratosphere or by cloud-seeding programs.






It’s impossible to keep up with the nonstop lie machine in the Oval Office. I just note one of the more amusing recent ones:


Trump said the other day that “Financial Institutions have been devastated and unable to properly serve the public” because of Obama era regulations in the wake of the 2007-2009 crash caused by, among other things, weak regulation. But in fact, the big banks have repeatedly had record profits in recent years.




The Washington Post last week reported about a woman who falsely asserted that Alabama’s Roy Moore sexually assaulted her as a teenager. The woman was trying to embarrass The Post by getting it to publish a false report about Moore, the Alabama Republican who’s running for the U.S. Senate and has been accused of pedophilia. The idea was that The Post would then be blamed as engaging in “fake news’’.


The Post, however, did some research and discovered the woman was an agent for Project Veritas, a right-wing organization, led by the remarkably sleazy  Trumpist James O’Keefe, that uses deceptive tactics and secretly records conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets – such as the “Mainstream Media’’ (the generally responsible media that at least tries to adhere to rigorous reporting and editing). It didn’t work this time.


One has to wonder if Project Veritas is getting money from Trump’s pals in the Kremlin. In any case, readers would do well to frequently consult the fact-checking site snopes.com. With so many lies and misleading memes out there, especially on the Internet, services like snopes.com are essential in our besieged democracy.


To read more, please hit this link:


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PResident Donald Trump

Trump, whose company has been the recipient of many millions of dollars from Russians close to Vladimir Putin, shares that dictator’s distaste for serious journalism. As our leader tweeted the other day:


“@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!”


Trump should be happy that Putin has just signed a law making certain American media outlets working in Russia register with the government as foreign agents. Mr. Putin’s allies have signaled that CNN International could be affected. Fox News, of course, is the Pravda of America, acting as a daily mouthpiece of the Trump administration.




Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a bill to crack down on people who misuse disability credentials to get handicapped parking spaces. Rhode Island officials would do well to order the same sort of crackdown.


We sometimes see people who seem in very good physical condition using handicapped parking placards in order to park in spaces very close to where they’re shopping, seeing physicians and so on.


The Boston Globe reported that the new law, which increases the authority of the Registry of Motor Vehicles to investigate fraudulent applications for handicapped placards, was enacted after a 2016 report from the state inspector general found that people were misusing placards in every Boston neighborhood that was watched.


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MA Governor Charlie Baker

“’The use of disability parking placards should be reserved for our most vulnerable residents,’ Baker said. Obviously.


The issue reminds me that the demand for handicapped parking will presumably continue to surge with the aging of the population.  But will self-driving cars cool that demand as auto-autos pick up and drop off people exactly where they want to be?

To read The Globe’s article, please hit this link:


And then there are those “therapy animals,’’ mostly dogs, with owners with invisible health problems.




The scholars’ discussion is rather dense but this piece from Politico is very interesting. It’s headlined:


“No, Republicans Aren’t Hypocrites on Family Values: Setting Aside the Behavior of Certain GOP Politicians {Trump, etc.}, the Data Show that Red America Is Hardly the Land of Broken Families and Libertine Behavior Depicted in the Press.’’ To read it, please hit this link:




Essentia Health—a hospital system in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho—has fired 50 employees who have refused the flu vaccine this season. Good for Essentia. Someone should also fire the parents of children who don’t get vaccinations because they believe the quacks who lie about vaccinations. People who have not been vaccinated imperil others as well as, of course, themselves.




Whitcomb appears this week on GoLocal LIVE with News Editor Kate Nagle


Gary Cohn, the Wall Street shark who is Trump’s chief economic adviser, said the other week that “only morons pay the estate tax.’’ I admire his honesty in referring to the loopholes that enable many, perhaps most very rich people to avoid paying the estate tax, which applies to a miniscule percentage of American estates anyway – the top 0.2 percent. In any event, the GOP will probably succeed in ending the estate tax, in the Republicans’ endless efforts to further strengthen the wealth and power of the plutocracy and its descendants. Not great for democracy, but the Electoral College has spoken!

Pick your parents well, suckers!




Because Boston Mayor Marty Walsh resoundingly won re-election,  aided by the growing wealth of the city, some silly commentators are saying that he could have national ambitions. But no Boston mayor could go beyond being Massachusetts governor, and even that might be a stretch. Walsh is too liberal and some Americans would dislike his accent, too. Boston is a foreign city to many people west of the Hudson.




From “How a half-educated tech elite delivered us into chaos, ‘’ by John Naughton, in The Guardian:


“Put simply, what Google and Facebook have built is a pair of amazingly sophisticated, computer-driven engines for extracting users’ personal information and data trails, refining them for sale to advertisers in high-speed data-trading auctions that are entirely unregulated and opaque to everyone except the companies themselves.


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“The purpose of this infrastructure was to enable companies to target people with carefully customized commercial messages and, as far as we know, they are pretty good at that…. And in doing this, [Facebook chief Mark} Zuckerberg, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and co. wrote themselves licenses to print money and build insanely profitable companies….


“It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters. Hence the obvious question: how could such smart people be so stupid? ….


“My hunch is it has something to do with their educational backgrounds. …


“Now mathematics, engineering, and computer science are wonderful disciplines – intellectually demanding and fulfilling. And they are economically vital for any advanced society. But mastering them teaches students very little about society or history – or indeed about human nature. As a consequence, the new masters of our universe are people who are essentially only half-educated.’’


To read the whole piece, please hit this link:


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