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Saturday, October 25, 2014

The truth about the Master Lever

“Straight Ticket Voting” NOT very useful to local Democrats
By Will Collette
From the 2010 Rhode Island ballot. DON'T use this if you want to be
100% certain your vote will count for local candidates.

One of the enduring beliefs of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) is that straight party voting, often called “the Master Lever,” puts them and other political organizations not recognized as statewide political parties at a terrible disadvantage. They say it gives an unfair disadvantage to Democrats and that, they say, is undemocratic.

Like so much the CCA Party believes, the truth is different than what they believe.

November 4 will be the last time Rhode Island voters will have the option to use the “straight ticket voting” option. Its anachronistic nickname, the “Master Lever” harks back to the days when we had voting machines where you flipped levers.

The straight party voting option means that by marking one arrow, you can vote for all the candidates of the party of your choice, whether that’s the Democratic, Republican or Moderate Party. Or at least that’s what most voters believe.

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) has been campaigning against the so-called Master Lever, following the lead of CCA leader and Town Council member Dan Slattery’s mentor, former Moderate Party leader Ken Block. The CCA Party has argued long and hard that the Master Lever unfairly benefits Democrats.

They get no argument from Charlestown Democrats who also supported an end to the master lever, or from Rep. Donna Walsh (D) and Senator Cathie Cool Rumsey (D) who both voted to eliminate the master lever.

However, what the CCA Party seems to have missed is that they have also benefited from straight-party voting. 

Militarizing the WHAT?

You can't escape Zombies in a canoe
By Ted Rall

Click here to see who else is getting free military hardware.

VIDEO: Coke or Pepsi? Try Neither.

The Matunuck Controversy

Coastal Communities Feel the Reality of Climate Change

South Kingstown – Coastal communities, residents, business and property owners are feeling the adverse effects of climate change due to sea level rise, coastal inundation, severe storm events, flooding and coastal erosion.

Once known in the abstract as a global warming, big picture issue, the ill effects of carbon emissions and warming seas are taking their toll as government leaders at the national and local levels “prepare to prepare” their citizenry for future climate change crisis and emergent events.

Climate Change erodes Seaside Village

Matunuck Village tucked away on the south coast of Block Island Sound has residents and business owners embattled in a fight against Mother Nature, municipality and time.

The severely eroding shoreline adjacent to homes and businesses in the village created a public safety concern for the Town that pitted residents against town and the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).

For Rhode Island, here comes the sun

Guess which month Rhode Island began marketing
its solar incentives? (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

NORTH SMITHFIELD — Solar energy is becoming a better bargain in Rhode Island, as the costs for home systems are on par with Massachusetts, one of the top states for solar energy in the country.

In both states, incentives cover 50 percent or more for new solar panel installations, just as the cost for panels has declined in recent years.

Currently, the average solar-electric system for a home costs between $12,000 and $17,000 — after all of the incentives are applied. That is still a pile of cash, but, unlike some home improvements, a renewable-energy project repays itself and continues to deliver savings after the payback period.


A 30 percent federal tax credit is available for solar on primary and secondary residences, as well as businesses. State grants through the Renewable Energy Fund offer another 30 percent to 40 percent cost reduction.

Rhode Island’s distributed generation (DG) program will soon offer fixed energy-purchase pricing for 15-20 years. It’s more complicated than the grants and tax breaks, but the program provides another tool for making solar a money-saver.

A new state marketing program called Solarize Rhode Island reduces installation costs by about 20 percent. It also comes with local tax breaks.

Here comes the International Space Station

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the ISS will make one of its maximum length fly-overs at 6:51 PM
By Will Collette

The forecast from the meteorologists at the National Weather Service for tonight is partly cloudy skies. With a nice, long six-minute overflight, that should allow a pretty good view. 

When the computer says the overflight will start at 6:51 and end six minutes later, that's what you will get - not sooner, not later. The station will arc high overhead to a maximum elevation of 82 degrees above the horizon.

National Weather Service prediction is here. 

Life Skills Every Teenager Needs

It’s a sad fact that more than half of teenagers in the US do not know how to check the oil in their car, change a tire or jump start a dead battery, WFMY reports. It appears the more we introduce technologies to make our lives easier, the more basic life skills are going by the way side.

But what if the warning light is illuminated, or your child blows a tire on the interstate and a tow truck is hours away? Would he or she know what to do without life’s conveniences? As parents of up-and-coming adults, it is our job to not only prepare our children to live independent, adult lives, but also enjoy the power of knowledge and pride in accomplishing something without assistance. Here are a few important life skills every teen needs to learn:

Friday, October 24, 2014

VIDEOS: Why would anyone vote for Ernie Almonte for General Treasurer?

If you like Social Security, Medicare or have a pension, you should check out new video on Almonte's extremist positions
Ernie Almonte admits on video that he wants to privatize Social Security -
actually all government pensions because he doesn't trust the government.
Yet he wants you to elect him to join the government. 
By Will Collette

Ernie Almonte, now an “independent” running for General Treasurer, started out the 2014 campaign season as a Democrat running for Governor. He was the first to announce, way back in November 2012 right after the last election. 

He realized that there was no way he would win the nomination for Governor against Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras (and later Clay Pell), so he switched to running for the Democratic nomination for General Treasurer. 

He pulled the plug on that, too, when he realized he couldn’t beat Seth Magaziner and Frank Caprio, deciding instead to go the independent route, though with the informal endorsement from the RI Republican Party.

Almonte’s biggest problem and the cause of his vacillations is that he can’t keep his own story straight.

He claimed to be a Democrat, but he has repeatedly mouthed Republican positions such as mimicking Mitt Romney’s attack on the “47% of the public” whom Romney – and Almonte – consider to be deadbeats. He attacked Social Security and Medicare and even giving any consideration at all to raising taxes on the rich. It’s all on videotape that is linked here and here.

Almonte’s TV ads tout his credentials as an auditor, which I found to be pretty bold, given that Almonte – as Rhode Island’s Auditor General – failed to sound the alarm about our impending public pension crisis. The first warning from the Auditor General’s office about our pension problems came in the first audit report issued after Almonte resigned. We count on auditors to find problems like the one our pension funds faced, but Almonte blew it but now wants to claim credit for his experience as auditor.

At a recorded forum about a month ago, Almonte appeared on stage with his opponent Democrat Seth Magaziner. Seth very kindly gave Almonte an opportunity to recant, or at least revise, the remarks Almonte had made against the American middle-class, Medicare, Social Security and public pensions. [Continue the narrative after this video:]

Paleo-Risk Assessment

How the ape brain assesses risk
By Ruben Boling

Click here to see if you're doing it right.

Charlestown tapas, plus

Here are some items that didn't get into this week's news briefs
(And one that only got minor coverage)
By Will Collette

I've got two events in neighboring South Kingstown and one in Providence for Democratic candidate for Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

And a local job opening.

Here we go:

Keep going....

Help URI help Rhode Island to create jobs

The Real Public Health Threat

The amount of sugar Americans eat is scarier than the slim chance they'll get Ebola.

As airlines, cruise ships, and hospitals cope with waves of Ebola jitters, I’m wondering whether the panic the deadly virus is inducing will distort Halloween traditions this year.

No, I’m not talking about Ebola-related costumes.

There are real precautions we must take, but at this point the Ebola hysteria is overblown.

If Americans are worried about riding on airplanes with strangers, surely some folks will have qualms about sending their children door to door to strangers’ homes to collect candy.

And, if you’re worried your kids will get Ebola from trick-or-treating, please get a grip.

‘Leave’ Them Alone

Each fall, trees offer homeowners a bounty of free mulch.

This time of year, your trees are sending you a message.

Although I grew up in the Midwest, I’m experiencing it anew. After spending eight blissful years in California, I’ve returned to a state where people wear hats shaped like cheese and where leaves turn colors and drop off the trees.

I’m not completely ignorant of the weather here in Wisconsin. I remember having to pick a Halloween costume that could fit over a heavy jacket when I was a kid, and I know to expect the first snowflakes around the first week of November.

Bishop Tobin once again interjects himself into politics

“I should emphasize that being an atheist would neither recommend nor disqualify [Jorge Elorza] from being Mayor of Providence,” said Bishop Thomas Tobin in a surprising, recent Facebook post, but before celebrating Tobin’s tolerance and openness, we should read on. “But I wonder if an atheist mayor would be in a position to respect the sincere convictions of believers (of all faiths) and to encourage and support the many contributions the faith community makes in our city and state.”

Thus, Tobin slyly implies that atheists are intolerant.

Put aside, for a moment, the idea that atheists may be more or less intolerant than a conservative, Republican, Catholic Bishop and ponder a moment what Tobin’s words would sound like if he were talking about group of people other than atheists.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nukes, numbers and nuts lead off this week's Tapas

Charlestown Tapas - tasty nuggets of news
By Will Collette
NRC finally steps up oversight of Millstone nuclear plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued yet another notice of violation to Virginia-based Dominion Energy, owner of Millstone, our local nuke. However, this time they are also putting Millstone’s Unit 3 reactor under added scrutiny.

The plant operator has had on-going problems with maintaining a steady, reliable flow of cooling water without which a disastrous accident could occur – as happened at the Fukushima plant in Japan after an earthquake knocked out that plant’s coolant system. Dangerous levels of radiation were released over a 50-mile radius. Note that Charlestown is only 20 miles downwind from Millstone.

Last summer, nearby residents of Millstone were given free potassium iodide pills to be taken if Millstone should have a radioactive release to prevent thyroid cancer. Charlestown didn’t get any, though you can buy it without a prescription.

There’s another report out that suggests you should also stock up on beer. One can of beer can cut your dosage to beta radiation from tritium by roughly half. The Environmental Protection Agency's guidelines for tritium safety recommend staying well hydrated if you are exposed to radiation so your body can flush some of it out of your system. With Millstone as a neighbor, that’s good to know.

When good news is bad news

VIDEO: How to US Supreme Court arguments interesting

Food and Wine Tasting on November 13 for Scholarship Fund

URI oceanographer charting the dynamics of underwater ocean storms

D. Randolph Watts named Fellow of American Meteorological Society

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – October 16, 2014 – When D. Randolph Watts joined the University of Rhode Island faculty in 1974 to study ocean circulation and eddies, there were few oceanographic instruments capable of capturing the data he sought. So he began developing devices that have revolutionized the discipline, devices that are now used by scientists around the world.

For his contributions to the study of physical oceanography, Watts was recently named one of 28 new fellows of the American Meteorological Society. Only two of every 1,000 members of the society are honored as fellows. His induction will take place in January.

A new reason to eat yogurt

How Yogurt Protects Us From Environmental Poisoning
Yogurt containing probiotic bacteria successfully protected children and pregnant women against poisoning from heavy metal exposure, according to a new study.

Working with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Canadian and Tanzanian researchers created and distributed a special yogurt containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacteria and observed the outcomes against a control group.

A research team from the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotics, led by Dr. Gregor Reid, studied how microbes could protect against environmental health damage in poor parts of the world.

Deepwater already pays off for Block Island

Deepwater Wind Gives Back to Block Island
Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind celebrates a moment of victory with DWW counsel, Robin L. Maine on Tuesday night.  (Photo Tracey C. O'Neill/Freelance Photographer)
Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind celebrates a
moment of victory with DWW counsel, Robin L.
Maine in May. (Photo Tracey C. O’Neill)

New Shoreham - On October 14, Deepwater Wind, developer of the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) in partnership with the Block Island Historical Society and Southeast Lighthouse Foundation, announced a “collaboration to strengthen historic preservation and heritage tourism efforts on Block Island.”

In a press release from Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC, the partnership was touted as a collaboration that will “advance programming that benefits the entire island and its visitors. The majority of the funds will become available at the conclusion of 2016, when the Block Island Wind Farm is expected to commence operation.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How clean are local food establishments?

State Health Department tells who might be trying to kill us
By Will Collette
For more cartoons by Dan Piraro, click here.

Charlestown’s declared policy, called the “Slattery Doctrine,” calls for any outside government agents who come to Charlestown to conduct their work, to notify the town in advance and get permission. I’m not making this up – this is what the Town Council expects.

Nonetheless, state Health Department food inspectors came into Charlestown, South Kingstown and Westerly to try to make sure that none of the almost 600 food establishments in those three towns poison their customers. 

They take a few at a time. In the past three months, they conducted twenty-one food inspections of eighteen establishments in Charlestown alone.

This is the ninth in an on-going series of Progressive Charlestown articles that track how well local food establishments do when RI Health Department inspectors swoop in with temperature gauges and germ-o-scopes. In this installment, I cover reports from inspections done in July, August and September.

I looked at the inspection reports for all 93 Charlestown listings but only did a sampling, mostly places I know, in Westerly and South Kingstown. You can do your own search of any establishment in the state through the Health Department’s website. Only a percentage of Charlestown’s establishments were inspected during July, August and September, but probably the most I’ve seen in any three month period – a total of 18 establishments.

LOTS of violations. Many of them are repeats. In my opinion, when an establishment has had several bad inspections in a row, I don’t want to eat there until they’ve had at least a couple of clean inspections in a row. That's why I won't eat sushi in South Kingstown.

Read the inspection reports, cut-and-pasted below and decide for yourself. Some violations made me cringe; others struck me as minor or simply technicalities. I also did a count on the total number of violations (in most cases, going back to 2007) and included links to the Health Department database so you can see their current record in context. Judge for yourself. 

In this article, you’ll see reports on…

  • Charlestown Rathskeller – In August, they had their first clean inspection since they re-opened. But they were inspected again on October 9 and drew five violations. That brings their total to 20 violations since they re-opened just over a year ago. Click here to see their whole record.
  • The Cove – Eight violations. That brings their total number of violations in the Health Department database to 43. Click here to see their whole record.
  • CVS – clean inspection.
  • Happy Acres – two violations. Their cumulative record is twelve violations. Click here for their whole record.
  • Hitching Post – clean inspection.
  • Hungry Haven. Ten violations. That brings their total record up to 44 violations.
  • Hungry Haven mobile unit at Ninigret. 1 violation.
  • Johnny Angels – four violations. Their total record lists 17 violations.
  • Johnny Angels mobile unit – clean inspection.
  • Kingston Pizza – five violations. Their total record now stands at a grand total of 79 violations, the highest number I have seen in Charlestown.
  • Meadowbrook Inn – They had a clean inspection on September, but on a follow-up on September 17, they were dinged with seven violations. That brings their total record to 19 violations.
  • Mini-Super – thirteen violations. They are a repeater with 44 violations in the Health Department database. Click here to see their whole record.
  • Old Wilcox Tavern – seven violations. That brings their total record to 37 violations.
  • Peaches Fruit Stand – clean inspection.
  • Rippy’s market – Four violations. Their total record now stands at 38 violations.
  • Charlestown Senior Center – clean inspection.
  • Shelter Harbor Golf Club – two inspections. The first, on August 5, drew seven violations. The follow-up, on August 14, was clean.
  • The Willows - two violations for a total of 15 violations since 2007.

VIDEO: Henri on art

Rescheduled film on beach restoration


 Free to the Public
 All Welcome

Ms. Grayson's documentary tracks the rebuilding of Misquamicut Beach after Storm Sandy with actual footage of the rebuilding and interviews with key stakeholders.
 Location: Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association Campus
WPWA color logo
203 Acadia Rd, Hope Valley, RI

Date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Time: 6:00 - 8:00 PM
  After the documentary's showing a discussion will follow about the future of our beautiful coastal communities.
For more information contact Host/Producer Harriet Grayson: 

Community Culture Showcase is on public access TV & can be seen in the Groton, Stonington Mystic, Ledyard, N. Stonington area on Comcast Channel 12 at 8 PM on Tuesdays
 In RI Community Culture Showcase is seen on Cox Channel 18 and Fios on Channel 29 on Wednesdays at 6 PM
Ms. Grayson is the President of 5 Star Seminars ( and Publisher, Ocean Breeze Press. She is the author of "Guide to Grants Writing for Non-Profits" & "Guide to Government Grants & Vendor Opportunities" as well as publisher of new mystery novel by Anastasia Goodman "Loose Ends." Available via or www.oceanbreeze    

Attack the messager when you can’t handle the message

Kochtopus: How two rich men stole our democracy, explained in one image.
Image adapted from the International Forum on Globalization’s Kochtopus: Mapping the Influence of Koch Cash.
Last month, Rolling Stone released a very thorough and detailed expose of Koch Industries, revealing the dirty truth behind the brothers vast fortune. As the second largest private company in the world according to Forbes magazine, Koch Industries has fueled the vast money machine which currently threatens our democracy. 

They pollute without worry, knowing that any fine or penalty will never be larger than the money they’ve made by poisoning the environment. How do they know that? Because they bribe politicians to make sure of that.

Apparently the Koch brothers do actually have feelings, as they were hurt by the Rolling Stone’s less than genteel coverage. The Koch Industries response attempted to attack not the article, but the reporter himself, Tim Dickenson, and proclaimed the entire article as a “hit piece” with the implication that he was out to attack the white knights of the Koch brothers.

The real crisis is hysteria

For more cartoons by Pat Bagley, click here.

We have to get a grip. Ebola is not a crisis in the United States. One person has died and two people are infected with his body fluids.

The real crisis is the hysteria over Ebola that’s being fed by media outlets seeking sensationalism and politicians posturing for the midterm elections.

That hysteria is causing us to lose our heads. Parents have pulled their children out of a middle school after learning the school’s principal had traveled to Zambia. Zambia happens to be in Africa but it has not even had a single case of Ebola.

A teacher at an elementary school has been placed on paid leave because parents were concerned he might have contracted the Ebola virus. When and how? During a recent trip to Dallas for an educational conference.

Are we planning to quarantine Dallas next?

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