Whitcomb: Heartwarming Entertainment in Arctic; Can’t Win on Immigration; Parking Districts


Sunday, July 30, 2023


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Robert Whitcomb, Columnist


When my eyes are weeds,
And my lips are petals, spinning
Down the wind that has beginning
Where the crumpled beeches start
In a fringe of salty reeds;
When my arms are elder-bushes,
And the rangy lilac pushes
Upward, upward through my heart;

Summer, do your worst!
Light your tinsel moon, and call on
Your performing stars to fall on
Headlong through your paper sky;
Nevermore shall I be cursed
By a flushed and amorous slattern,
With her dusty laces’ pattern
Trailing, as she straggles by.


— “August,’’ by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967),  American poet, writer, short-story writer, critic and satirist




“Civilization, as we know it, is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor.  No known civilization has ever reached the goal of civilization itself’’.

— Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), English historian




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Artic Playhouse

A Bright Light in Arctic

America’s towns need more civic organizations that bring locals together, and even pull in folks from out of town. There used to be far more of such groups, before economic and demographic changes, and the lure of living with screens, instead of with people in person, started to severely erode the local sense of community. The Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam wrote about this decline in local social and civic engagement in his  2000 book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, developed from his 1995 essay entitled “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital.”


But there are points of light and pride, such as the nonprofit Arctic Playhouse, in the old West Warwick, R.I., mill village of Arctic, once a thriving place but for many decades generally in decline as factories (mostly textiles) were closed and malls in nearby Warwick drove local stores out of business.  (The Arctic Playhouse itself used to be a clothing store.) Still, some fine old commercial buildings survive along Arctic’s Main Street, and nearby are some beautiful old mill buildings along the Pawtuxet River, which provided the power for the first mills. (And now many of the malls that drove so many locally owned stores out of business are themselves failing because of Amazon, etc.)


The  Arctic Playhouse puts on first-class plays and other performances. And next door is its Cabaret Club, which I visited last Tuesday to hear songs thrillingly performed by “Casey Jayne and Cyril,” Ida Zecco and Jim Rice. A real cabaret/nightclub. The place was filled, and, yes, they have a liquor license. The only thing missing was the cigarette smoke that used to fill cabarets.


Many of the patrons were from far out of town, as the fame of the Arctic Playhouse has spread. Check it out yourself!


Hit this link:



This reminds me of those summer stock theaters, with resident companies and sometimes under tents, that used to be so common, especially in scenic towns.  There are still some around, but their heyday was the 1920s to the ’60s. Their biggest money-makers were the Broadway musicals of those decades.


Then there were the small circuses that made summertime rounds of suburbs and rural towns.


How did Arctic get its incongruous name? Here’s what the Society of Architectural Historians says:

“Originally named Rice Hollow and Wakefield, Arctic, one of the three principal West Warwick mill villages lined along the South Branch of the Pawtuxet, received the curious name it has today from the Spragues in the mid-nineteenth century. The location of their mill at the bottom of a hollow that reportedly collected the coldest air in West Warwick suggested ‘Arctic,’ which also rhymed with the names of other Sprague-dominated factory towns at Natick (above), Quidnick in Coventry, and Baltic (in Connecticut)’’


Remarkable, if true!


I was at the playhouse as the guest of friends who moved from Virginia into West Warwick’s imposing granite Royal Mills Riverpoint Apartments, formerly a big textile mill, along the Pawtuxet. It was built in 1890 and looks solid enough to last 1,000 years.  Their spacious, loft-like apartment looks down at a waterfall. Looking at water is so soothing, except in  floods. The Pawtuxet has had its share.


These old  New England mills are a still underused resource.






It wasn’t all that long ago, historically speaking, that many of New England’s factory towns were bustling. When I was in high school in Connecticut, in the early and mid-‘60s, I often had to take a bus through Waterbury’s factory district up the hill to the nearby community of Watertown. All the factories seemed to be filled with workers, and roads crowded after 4 p.m. as they went home.


The city, nicknamed “The Brass City,’’ was world-famous for its metal products and watches and clocks. As with so many New England communities, it grew along a river – in this case, the Naugatuck — for power, water to use in industrial processes and as an easy dumping ground for any and all pollutants. Handy, except for the occasional disastrous flood, such as the one produced by Hurricanes Connie and Diane, in August 1955, that swept through Waterbury’s core.






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Redwood Library, Newport PHOTO: File

Expanding local library resources is another way of strengthening local loyalty and engagement. Libraries can be local civic centers. Many of Rhode Island’s public and private libraries, with their educational, cultural and civic missions, have fine records in providing a wide range of offerings.






The artificial intelligence revolution will almost certainly degrade individuals’ critical thinking, writing skills, and general creativity, in school and out.  


AI is starting to profoundly affect employment. “Human-centered jobs,’’ in, say,  health care and social work, may be safe even as AI destroys many positions in  the likes of consulting, investments, banking, media, insurance and engineering. In my trade, journalism/publishing it will be disastrous for employment and a boon for the propagation of lies. AI is good news for dictators and crooks in general, barring some technological breakthrough to block or at least better filter disinformation.



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PHOTO: GoLocal

Maids and yard workers will be fine!

That is, except for those yard workers who poison themselves and those around them by using those intensely polluting, screaming gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. It’s way past time to ban these infernal machines, which used to be used around here almost entirely in the fall but now are used to blow around stuff (sometimes just sidewalk dirt) year-round. While we’re waiting for that long-overdue move, we should boycott the so-called landscaping companies that use them and complain to the selfish property owners who employ them. I’ve noticed, by the way, that those owners often arrange to be away while these “landscapers’’ are assaulting their neighborhoods.


These hideous machines are a public-health menace.


Hit this link:






Global warming might turn off the Gulf Stream! Mass murderer is running the Kremlin! AI to destroy our jobs! It makes you want to turn off all news at least one day a week, and not discuss the future with your children or grandchildren lest they become paralyzed by despair.


Meanwhile, we’re using more oil than ever:




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Former President Donald Trump PHOTO: GoiLocal

Asylum Angst

The GOP/QAnon has tried to present the Biden administration’s immigration policies as aimed at flooding America with illegal aliens. But that’s baloney. In fact,  the administration has tried to find a middle way as it seeks to stem the flow of desperate migrants to our southern border while trying to treat these people humanely.


Consider that U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar has blocked the administration’s new and tough asylum regulation – similar to Trump’s! His ruling will presumably be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The judge’s ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union


The  Biden asylum rule disqualifies most people seeking asylum in the United States if they have crossed into America without first getting an appointment to apply for asylum at an official port of entry at our border, or if they can’t prove that they sought legal protection in another country along the way. The rule has been cited for causing a dramatic decline in illegal crossings at the border in the past few weeks, but the migrants will keep heading north: Fear and poverty are powerful forces.


Will gun-crazed Texas start shooting migrants?



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New Parking Cash Cow

Below is a way to reduce parking disputes, including potentially violent fights by drivers over spaces, while boosting, via added revenue, towns’ and, especially, dense cities’ services and infrastructure. Parking pathologies also include the propensity of people to relentlessly drive around, adding to road congestion and air pollution, to find a space along a curb so that they don’t have to walk a few blocks to where they want/need to go.


As Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California and the author of The High Cost of Free Parking, noted in a Bloomberg article: “Free curb parking imposes so many costs — wasted time, congested traffic, polluted air and forgone public services.’’ The fact is that in dense cities, there’s no such thing as ‘’free parking’’.


He writes:

“There is a better way to solve the curb parking problem. Several U.S. cities have established parking benefit districts that charge demand-based prices {thus that vary through the day} for curb parking within a selected area and use the resulting revenue to pay for public services on the metered blocks. The purpose of a parking benefit district is to convince stakeholders they want to charge for their curb parking, by connecting those fees to visible neighborhood amenities.’’


Such crowded cities as Providence, Newport, and Boston would do well to look into parking benefit districts, some of the money from which could go to public transit.


But the technology for billing parkers needs to be easier to understand and more reliable. As it is, many people find the new parking technologies incomprehensible, and many parking meters remain broken for long periods.


Hit this link:




Foreign News

Ukraine’s new supply of cluster munitions from America will be useful in detonating the many thousands of mines that the Russians have laid to thwart Ukrainian offensives to regain land.






South Africa’s outstandingly corrupt and incompetent government has turned that country, despite its many natural resources and still substantial, if dwindling, educated middle class, into a failed state with a plunging economy. Western nations are keeping their distance, especially since South Africa has virtually aligned itself with another kind of failed state – Putin’s Russia – in part with the hope of big trade deals. But it won’t find all that much of value in developing closer ties with what has been called a “gas station with nukes’’.


The European Union and the United States account for 30.4 percent of total exports by South Africa,” compared with Russia’s 0.23 percent.


The African National Congress, which has run South Africa since 1994, has long been resentful of American “hegemony’’ and ambivalent about democracy.


The West ought to punish the ANC regime for any support, direct or indirect, to Putin’s barbaric regime.

Robert Whitcomb is a veteran editor and writer. Among his jobs, he has served as the finance editor of the International Herald Tribune, in Paris; as a vice president and the editorial-page editor of The Providence Journal; as an editor and writer in New York for The Wall Street Journal,  and as a writer for the Boston Herald Traveler (RIP). He has written newspaper and magazine essays and news stories for many years on a very wide range of topics for numerous publications, has edited several books and movie scripts and is the co-author of among other things, Cape Wind.



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