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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Voting Rights, Part 1

Toward the end of this year’s session of the General Assembly, a strange thing happened. The Democratically-controlled legislature passed, and center-left independent Governor Lincoln Chafee signed a bill that is at the center of the Republican Party’s national strategy for 2012: Voter ID.

The more people who vote, the more likely they are to vote Democrat. Simple demographics. Upper-income whites generally vote in far higher numbers than working class and low-income people, especially people of color. If turn-out is up, the odds are it will be due to more working class, low-income and people of color who tend to vote Democrat. So this simple arithmetic has become, for the Republicans, a very simple strategy: suppress the vote.

Here's a little good news

This could be you for $100,000
While we all wait to see what will happen in Washington, and who will ultimately be the winners and losers, or who ultimately just gets screwed (like we don't know already), Time Magazine on-line ran a very nice piece on Saturday to lift your spirits.

It's an article called "10 Things That Are Actually Getting Cheaper." Despite sky-rocketing energy prices, rising interest rates and economic uncertainly, Time has found 10 ways your ever-shrinking pocketbook can buy more than before.

Time's list of today's ten bargains are:

"Your Check Isn't in the Mail"

If there is no deal on the debt ceiling issue by Tuesday, one thing is likely: America's debt holders will probably still get paid.

President Obama is empowered under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to honor existing debt obligations and has reportedly already told bond holders that the US will use existing revenues to continue paying on those obligations to avoid a default.

However, the federal payments that a majority of Americans count on do not have the same protections.

Watch the video on the next page, and then take action.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Getting Main Street to Call the Shots

America has plenty of cash, but it's in the wrong pockets.
Thanks to massive bailout funding from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury, Wall Street survived the financial crash it created. This year, its titans are enjoying record share prices, corporate profits, and executive bonuses. The financial assets of America's billionaires and the idle cash reserves of the most profitable corporations are at historic highs. Their biggest challenge is figuring out where to park all their cash.

Senator Whitehouse defends Pell Grants

Yesterday, I reported that Pell Grants was one of the programs Tea Party Republicans had targeted for extinction in their crusade against anything that was not specifically ennumerated as a function of the federal government in the original Constitution.

This remarkable and successful program has enabled a generation of children from working class families to have the chance to get a college education. In our moden economy, college training can make the difference between poverty and a shot at a better life. But it's not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, so it must be communist.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Different versions of reality

"The Son of Man" by Rene Magritte
As the witching hour approaches, everyone in this country – at least everyone who is still paying attention – is wondering how this will end, and which version of reality will prevail.

Part of what we see across the country, and it even translates down to the smallest community, including places like Charlestown, is that people can’t find a way to agree on just about anything – including what is true and what is real.

We behave as if we are a variety of alien species who have been thrown together on this planet. We see different colors and shapes in the same objects.  We perceive different dimensions. We can’t speak each other’s languages. We do not have the same frame of reference.

Here’s an example. In the current debt ceiling fight, one of the issues that de-railed House Speaker Boehner’s so-called compromise bill last night was the discovery by his Tea Party colleagues that Boehner had left $17 billion in funding for the Pell Grant program in the mix of discretionary funding programs that survived Draconian cuts.

Budgeting for Ignorance

The most shameful assault in state legislatures these days is on our public schools.
By Jim Hightower July 25, 2011
Will Rogers said that when Congress is in session, the public gets the same panicky feeling as "when the baby gets hold of a hammer."

Rogers' observation can also be applied to the mayhem that has broken out in various smash-happy state legislatures. All across the country, right-wing zealots are wielding their little ideological hammers to destroy common sense and wreck the common good. These anti-government extremists are going after everything from the basic rights of workers to our crucial environmental protections.

Honoring a great Rhode Islander

Henry Shelton (l) and Carol Shelton (r)
copyright, The Pawtucket Times
Governor Chafee held a ceremonial signing of the new Henry Shelton Law yesterday at the State Capitol.

The event was more about honoring the great man whose name appears on the bill, more than anything else. The Governor had actually signed the bill into law two weeks ago. But such ceremonies are done on occasion when a piece of legislation means more than just the words on paper.

Such was the case a year ago when the Colin Foote Law, sponsored by Rep. Donna Walsh, was signed into law. Then, the point was that the Colin's Law was to be a first step in taking dangerous drivers off the road.

But the ceremony for the Henry Shelton Law was an affirmation of the lifelong work of Henry Shelton to help improve the lives of poor people in Rhode Island.

Tips to Reduce Your Gasoline Usage


The following is a list of tips, courtesy of Environment Rhode Island, to help you use less oil and shrink your carbon footprint:

Someone Missing!

Entire Massachusetts congressional delegation participates in the "It Gets Better" project. With one notable exception.

(the photo at left is a hint)

Complete snarky story available here.

North Kingstown Blow-out: Year in Review

Artist's conception of the Stamp Farm
turbine on Route 2
Samantha Turner had a great article in Thursday's North Kingstown Patch that reviewed her year's worth of combat reporting from one of the other front lines in the struggle against the deadly menace of wind energy.

She's been covering in the issue in depth, blow by blow. Reading her coverage and comparing it to the Charlestown experience has been troubling. Of all Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns, Charlestown and North Kingstown seem to be the most NIMBY-struck and extreme in their reaction to the very idea of wind energy.

And, as regular Progressive Charlestown readers know, I've been trying to figure out which of the two towns has taken the more extreme measures to make sure wind energy doesn't happen.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coal mining in Rhode Island?

Coal mine in Cranston
From 1990 to 1999, I served as the staff director for the Citizens Coal Council which was then based in Washington, DC. We were a coalition of local community groups in active coal mining areas ranging from the Navajo Nation to Pennsylvania, from Alabama to Montana. We tried to protect communities from having their drinking water polluted, homes destroyed and lands devastated by both strip-mining and underground mining. We also worked on getting old abandoned mines reclaimed.

In the course of researching the extent of the country’s abandoned mine problems, I stumbled onto the shocking fact that there was once extensive active coal-mining across Rhode Island. There was major mining on Aquidneck Island (especially in Portsmouth), Cranston, the Blackstone Valley (especially Cumberland) and Providence.

Hacking scandal? What hacking scandal?

Tom Tomorrow again comes to the rescue.

This time he capsulizes Fox News neat explanation of why there really is no cause for alarm at the phone hacking done by their News Corp. brethren in Great Britain (and certainly no reason to think this could have happened in the US).

Here's the top half. Click here to see it all.

Making summer fun easier on the environment

Seek alternatives to using disposables for your outdoor fun.

What’s on the line in a default?

In the month of June, the federal government issued 211.8 million “checks” (most were really electronic payments not actual paper checks). In the event of a default by the US government due to the failure of the Congress to reach an agreement on the debt ceiling, the effects could be felt immediately and directly by most households in the US.

Among other things, those 211.8 million “checks” would stop.

Let’s see who got those 211.8 federal payments:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More coverage of green energy in Charlestown

Oysterworks has sent out notice that the showcase new Charlestown Wine & Spirits was featured on "Renewable Now," a business program by the Arpin Broadcast Network, on the business side of "green" construction and building practices.

Our local liquor store new facilities feature a concentrated collection of remarkable alternative energy generation and energy conservation measures.

It's no wonder that this new retail outlet is drawing media attention and serious study.

And if you want an even simpler version...

Here it is.

To see the entire cartoon, click here.

Spending, debt and taxes

Too many Americans only hear “blah, blah, blah, blah and blah” when politicians and pundits discuss our current concocted crisis over the looming deadline to act on our nation’s debt ceiling.
When I worked in Washington, the term we often applied to such conversations is MEGO (“my eyes glaze over”).
But in the current crisis, many people do appreciate that something very serious is happening, that things seem to be going wrong and that there’s a fairly good chance that average middle-class people are about to get royally screwed.
I’m going to take a shot at a non-MEGO discussion of this crisis. It will be interesting to see how many of you click the “click here to read more” button.

Things To Do in Charlestown - July 27 through August 2

Go to a concert! Or two!

See a free movie! Or three!

And get rid of hazardous waste!

Read on for our recommendations for the next week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Exclusive: Mageau plans to field full slate in 2012 and WIN!

"Storm on the Sea of Galilee" by Rembrandt
Batten down the hatches, Charlestown, here comes Jim Mageau again!

Reliable sources report that Jim Mageau has declared he will field a full five-person slate of candidates for Town Council in 2012 and that he will win.

Mageau did not identify who those five candidates will be.

Post Offices on the chopping block

"The Rural Post Office," 1857 by Thomas P. Rossiter
The US Postal Service is under tremendous pressure to cut costs to reduce its budget deficit. They also would rather do their own cutting, rather than have even more Draconian cuts imposed on them by the Congress in its deficit-reduction mania.

Among the measures being undertaken by the US Postal Service is closing Post Offices. For months now, they have been looking over the list of Post Offices they could cut with an emphasis on low-volume, mostly rural offices.

Naturally, there has been concern in South County over the fate of our rural Post Offices. In Charlestown, our Post Office is one of our major social hubs and the thought of it closing is too awful to bear.

But now the Postal Service has released its list of 3,653 post offices slated for shut-down. Thirteen of them are in Rhode Island.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Crying Wolf

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) and its members on the Town Council, Tom Gentz and particularly Dan Slattery, have been continuing to tout the threat of two failed pieces of legislation in the General Assembly, H-5554 and S-533.

These bills (essentially a House and Senate version of the same bill) are BAD bills that would change zoning laws across the state to allow some unsavory practices, such as building on slopes up to 45 degrees and requiring less than one acre zoning.

At the July 11 Council meeting, these bills were discussed as though they represented a present and on-going threat.

Council member Dan Slattery said it was a close call in the recently concluded General Assembly session and that the Senate had actually passed the Senate version of the bill.

The Council voted to send a letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee, urging him to veto this legislation if and when it reaches his desk.

But how much of a threat does this legislation pose now or in the near future?

RIPTA cuts will hurt South County

The Westerly Sun’s Emily Dupuis wrote about threats to bus service vital to many South County residents on Sunday. Thankfully, the Sun didn’t stick her article behind their pay wall.

This will be one of Emily’s last articles before she leaves for a great new job as a researcher in Washington, DC. Her good fortune is our bad luck as another good, experienced local journalist leaves.

Her story details severe cuts in service to Route 90, one of the most important public transportation links between southwestern RI and the Providence metro area.

Tax soda, subsidize veggies?

Creative Commons image by Jesse Thorstad
Taxing junk food would mean fewer trips to the Golden Arches—and fewer trips to the doctor's office.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mageau's overblown, unfair attack on DiLibero

Mageau target: Town Administrator
Bill DiLibero
In a July 20 Westerly Sun op-ed, Jim Mageau takes another run at trying to discredit Charlestown Town Administrator William DiLibero, using in this instance the Town Council’s recent positive evaluation and pay raise for DiLibero.

This will not do, says Mageau, because the Council failed to take into account the numerous crimes and misdemeanors, instances of malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance DiLibero has committed in Charlestown and throughout his career and multiple, though unspecified, failures.

I’m no acolyte of Bill DiLibero; I certainly don't agree with his every action, but then that’s normal. However, Jim Mageau’s latest public attack on him is overblown and inaccurate.

Here’s why.

Wind power without the drama

CalTech's experimental vertical turbine wind farm
Note how close the turbines are to each other
Emerging technologies tend to advance pretty quickly. Today’s “state-of-the-art” often becomes a faint memory as scientists and engineers improve on their designs. Wind energy is no different.
One way that wind energy could become practical in a technology-averse community like Charlestown is through new advances in the development of Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT).
Instead of tall towers and propeller blades – a vision that has caused fear and division in this town – VAWTs don’t have to be tall and lend themselves to disguise. They can be home-sized or commercial-sized yet still generate enough energy to be a useful part of an alternative energy strategy.

Harry Potter solves the deficit dilemma

Click here to read the whole story.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Some music to help you enjoy the weekend

After a long, hard, hot week, a week where there has been more than enough heartbreak, tension and frustration to go around, I offer you a couple of music videos - one that Cathy tipped me off to, the other from my sister.

Neither of these videos has particularly great music. At least to my taste. No tune I'd like to carry in my head. But both videos - music and visual are just the thing to lift your spirits.

Click below - the videos are after the jump.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tips for dealing with hot pets and hot cars

The National Weather Service is predicting a high of 92 degrees in Charlestown tomorrow and has continued its Hazardous Weather and Air Quality Alerts.

Please be careful out there. Also be careful of your companion animals. Hot weather like this can sicken or kill animals just as it does humans. Older, younger, overweight and in dogs, pug-nosed critters are most vulnerable.

So how hot is it?

Rush Limbaugh thinks there's insidious politics afoot in the way temperatures are reported. Can we really trust the government to give us honest temperature readings?

Is the National Weather Service part of a radical progressive agenda?

Can good patriots do anything to stop this plot?

Is Rush back on the Oxycontin?

Truth is stranger than fiction

"Mom, what's that smell?" "Oh, that's just Terry, breaking up the rocks
underground to release the nice, clean-burning natural gas for us!"
Coal Cares was a hoax. The coal industry is not giving free asthma inhalers to kids who live near coal-fired power plants. But this one is 100% real: Talisman Terry, your friendly Fracosaurus.

Yes, you read that right. 

Our God-given light bulbs

John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun "hesitate[s] to suggest that the nation may have turned a corner, but it does seem that we reached a significant point last week: the discovery of a measure too stupid to pass the United States House of Representatives."

Read more here.

It's Showtime!

Rehearsal of the Jail Scene in Hairspray
Photo Credit Marylou Butler
The musical Hairspray, at Theatre By the Sea, was one of our recommended items in this week's Things To Do list.

Marylou Butler of South Kingston has been attending rehearsals. Opening night is tonight but we can read Marylou's report on the tech rehearsal now. Read it here.

For tickets visit the website or call the box office at 401-782-8587.

Upset stomach at the beach

654 Charlestown Beach Road, aka "The Pepto-Bismol House."
My husband and I like to visit the beach at 5 p.m. so we can bring the dogs along and spare our aging skin the UV exposure. We're sort of lazy, or I guess you could say slaves to habit, and so we always walk straight down toward the water and park our chairs on the western edge of the beach and face the setting sun. And we often end up speculating about why anyone would paint their house Pepto-Bismol pink.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Be careful outside on Friday

Purple haze over Ninigret Pond
The National Weather Service has issued an Extreme Heat weather advisory as well as an Air Quality Alert for all of South County.

Temperature, humidity and ozone pollution will be especially bad during the afternoon hours.

The combination of temperature and humidity is expected to produce a Heat Index of over 100 degrees. The air is expected to be unhealthy to people, especially children and the elderly, with respiratory problems.

Here are the recommended precautions:

Musings on "Jodi LaCroix tells all"

Part of what makes living here so special.
I was not yet a reader of Progressive Charlestown when the "tell-all" interview with Jodi LaCroix was published, but coming across it has given me a fascinating new perspective on life here in town and some recurring themes that have come up here on the blog.

Dim bulbs and "Freedom Filaments"

Forget unemployment, forget the three wars we are fighting, forget the recession, forget the suicidal debates in Congress over taxes and spending.

Get your priorities straight and focus on the real issues.

Here's the top half of an insightful cartoon. Click here to see it all.

After PC tip, ProJo sticks another fork into OSPRI "Piglet"

This has been a really bad day for the Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI). First, GoLocalProv ran a scoop that OSPRI is going out of business. Then, the Providence Journal's Politifacts slapped their dreaded "Pants on Fire" label on OSPRI's new "Piglets" report on supposedly wasteful government spending in Rhode Island.

Politifacts' slam on OSPRI today resulted from a tip-off from Progressive Charlestown.

OSPRI corkscrews into the ground had the scoop this morning that the Ocean State Policy Research Group has, as GoLocal put it, "imploded" and will shut down entirely by next month.

OSPRI director (and former RI Statewide Coalition board member) William Felkner has already left.

This ultra-right wing "think" tank has made its mark by issuing two consecutive "research" reports that earned a "False" rating from the Providence Journal's Polifacts fact-checking team.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bradford Dyeing is dying

2007 fire at Bradford Dyeing
Bradford Dyeing (a.k.a. Bradford Printing and Finishing) closed its doors this week. The last 45 employees were told they were on “furlough” as the troubled military clothing manufacturer finds it has run out of money. According to the Westerly Sun, Bradford CEO Nick Griseto has been counting on a bail-out from the town of Westerly in the form of a $707,000 share of the town’s anticipated Community Development Block Grant funding.

The once prosperous company right near the Westerly-Charlestown town line has been on the decline for years. But missing from media stories about Bradford are the real reasons why Bradford tanked.

News Bulletin from the Associated Press

"FBI Arrests Fourteen Anonymous Members"

No word yet on whether any of them were from Charlestown.

Dewberries are coming!

Ripening dewberries about 1 week from picking
I just picked my first ripe dewberry - just one - after spotting its shiny deep purple in the vines that run along the side of my driveway.

Dewberries are close relatives to wild blackberries and they are plentiful around here. Unlike their cousins, dewberries are almost always found on long vines trailing along the ground in mostly sunny spots at the edge of open spaces.

Dewberries are one of my favorite local wild berries, second only to my favorite nasty invasive species, the autumn olive. Over the nine years we've lived in Charlestown, I've figured out most of the places where the dewberries are so I can avoid mowing or ripping them out when I do yard clean-up.

State Dems hire new field director

NEWS RELEASE from the Rhode Island Democratic Party

Providence - RIDP welcomes Jonathan Boucher to the RI Democratic Party. Boucher will serve as field director for the state party, building volunteer capacity, working with cities and towns on outreach and training, as well as acting as intermediary on field matters between the state party and the DNC.

Things To Do in Charlestown - July 20 through July 26

Meet a famous bear!

See a musical!

Go to a concert! Or Two!

Run away to the circus!

Read on for our recommendations for the next week.

"It's a question of credibility"

"The Conspirators" by William Stang
The town has filed a response to the Open Meetings complaint filed by residents opposed to Larry LeBlanc’s proposed Whalerock wind farm on Route One.

This complaint charged that three Council members from the previous Council held an illegal meeting with LeBlanc at a 2009 URI conference where they suggested he develop the wind farm project with the town as his partner.

So LeBlanc developed Whalerock and the Council enacted an ordinance to assist him. Then all hell broke loose, splitting the town and throwing the Charlestown Citizens Alliance into a civil war. Wind power’s future in Charlestown became collateral damage.

What really happened at that URI conference is the nub of the issue. Recent records obtained by Progressive Charlestown under the state open records law show what facts are undisputed and what claims are in sharp dispute.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What if President Obama was a comic book hero....

One of my favorite political cartoonists, Tom Tomorrow, gives the answer with the latest episode of MiddleMan. Watch him do battle with Captain Orange and the Human Turtle in "The Debt Ceiling Debacle."

Here's the top half of this cartoon. Click here to see the whole thing.

CSI Charlestown - CCA Decoder Ring

I read yesterday's article where Will explained what he found out about changes in CCA leadership and I was having a hard time following it.
I started drawing lines and boxes and then I redrew it into a table I could share with you.

Dispatches from the north

It’s hot in Central Falls, where I live in a high-rise for seniors and the disabled.   Residents are sitting in the community room or outside, where amidst the conversations about family and gossip about each other there is an undercurrent of fear.  They have read or heard the news reports about the stalemate in Washington. They are well aware that some politicians have claimed that if the U.S. doesn’t raise the debt ceiling on August 2, August Social Security payments could be interrupted, though they don’t understand why.

Charlestown and RI coast featured in Travel and Leisure

In the August issue of Travel and Leisure magazine, travel writer Dominique Browning sings the praises of Rhode Island’s coastal attractions, especially those that are less likely to show up on a visitor’s itinerary.

In the article entitled “Rhode Island’s Secret Coast,” she describes places to see and things to do that a visitor would almost certainly enjoy (and that some of us who live here would enjoy). It’s the kind of article that’s worth printing out to save for the next time you need ideas for where to take family or guests.

Volunteers Needed to Pull Water Chestnut from Pond

Water chestnut overwhelmed North
Kingstown’s Belleville Pond a few falls ago.
Water Chestnut is an invasive species in the United States. Its discovery in four water bodies in Rhode Island is a serious development and one that must be handled aggressively.