Tinnitus Among RI’s Would-Be Overlords


I never quite knew how to feel about the fact that I could hear the famous dog whistle that The Beatles recorded for the final moments of their iconic album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Nowadays, I’m very clear on my feelings about hearing a constant ringing in my ears, though, thanks to playing my albums too loudly, attending too many concerts, and working in construction for years.

When Gayle Goldin accuses the Gaspee Project of using an anti-Semitic dog whistle, the progressive Democrat state senator from Providence is not somehow overhearing a secret message intended for her political opposition, but rather, she is afflicted with a sort of identity-politics tinnitus.

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Goldin attributes the tone that she hears to a meme from the Gaspee Project calling another progressive Democrat, Representative Aaron Regunberg, a “Thought Police overlord” for co-sponsoring a vague bill that would give the state government the power to determine whether any decision made by any public or private school amounts to discrimination for a wide range of identity-politics groups.

The animating political belief behind the proposed legislation (now withdrawn after public outrage) is that the state government is the rightful ruler of every educational institution in the state.  Every little fief of education must pay homage to their feudal overlords and be subjected to whatever investigations latter might deem necessary to assert their power and impose their view of the world.

In short, “overlord” is entirely appropriate, not only in the case of this bill, but especially when it comes to Regunberg’s broader legislative output.  Indeed, just now in my inbox comes a release from General Assembly’s press office promoting Regunberg legislation that would have the government take over the energy industry in the state, not just de facto, which is arguably the case under current regulations, but in name, too.  A second bill would force private energy providers to give the state government an accounting of their advertising budgets.

Only a wanna be overlord could be so tone deaf as to miss the hypocrisies of this press release.  On his first proposal, Lord Regunberg cites “continuous rate hikes and service complaints” as incentive to put energy fully in the hands of the state government.  Seriously.  Somebody should tell the twentysomething politician that the state government’s budget went up about 37% in the 10 years after he graduated high school, while National Grid’s standard offer rate has gone up 3%.  As for “service complaints,” should we talk about UHIP, the DMV, the condition of our roads and bridges, the poor performance of our public schools, and just about every other government service in the Ocean State?

On his second proposal, Regunberg complains that “National Grid should not be using ratepayer dollars from our energy efficiency programs to boost their own corporate public relations and branding.”  Yet, Regunberg is currently campaigning for the state’s most notable do-nothing government job, as the state’s $118,000-per-year lieutenant governor, while using taxpayer money to submit and promote himself through legislation, most of which has little chance of actually becoming law.  Nine out of 122 legislative press releases since January 16 are attributed to Regunberg, who is 1 out of 113 legislators.

So, no, using the word “overlord” to describe Regunberg’s intentions is not an anti-Semitic dog whistle.  It’s more like the phrase that’s repeated on endless loop when old record players reach the end of Sgt. Pepper’s: “Never could be any other way.”