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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ban wind power? In the middle of hurricane season?

Don't you wish you had one of these right about now?
More than a few people might be wishing right now that they had a wind turbine in their back yard to draw some power from while they wait for National Grid to restore their electric service. Except that the town is poised to ban all forms of wind power outright, for everyone everywhere within the town limits. 

Right smack dab in the middle of hurricane season. And just in time for winter storm outages as well.

Does this make any sense at all?

Storm info

Charlestown Beach Road weathered the storm in style.

As of today, Town Hall is open and all services are available. The following helpful information is from the town web site:


Is that rod hanging down an attempt
to sabotage Progressive Charlestown?
If the National Grid website says we have power then why are the lights off?

Is this a lesson that we have to report remaining outages to get attention or some evil plot?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Irene: The aftermath

Charlestown Beach Road pleads for mercy from Irene.
Somebody's wish came true.

What if we took this political trend to its logical conclusion?

Tom raised the challenge in his article, The Power of Prayer - what are those politicians who proclaim they are God's chosen really thinking?

And where does that thinking take us?

Here's one answer (click here for the whole cartoon):

Foods you might not have thought you could grill

Not again!
In the summer, it's de rigueur to grill hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, or steaks for those backyard barbecues. But in an extended power outage, when your grill is your only stove, what else can you serve for meals once you've tired of the usual barbecue fare? More than you might think. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Food safety during a power failure

What's safe to eat when the power's been out?
What should I do to keep refrigerated and frozen foods safe during a power failure?

(from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service web site)

Are the Tea Partiers Right?

Where does all our tax money go? Is it true what the Tea Party says - that most of our money just gets wasted?

Click here for the whole cartoon and the answer.

Dark for Days

Electric Lines on Route 2
Assisting our dark skies campaign, it is uncertain when power will be restored to much of Charlestown.

But a nighttime walk reveals that the chirp of crickets is overwhelmed by the whine of generators. And if you don't have a generator that wonderful fish in the freezer is a sodden mess.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pointless Speculation

Have you noticed the media obsession with the latest Republican flavor of the month? How the media builds up and then tears down one loser after the other?

We've come to rely on Tom Tomorrow to make such mysteries understandable, and once again, he doesn't let us down.

Here's the preview, then click here for the full version.

Tom's amateur weather forecast

Irene winds 8 am Sunday
I thought I might as well provide an amateur's prediction about the future plans of Irene.

If I'm right I'll claim to be a genius and if I'm wrong I can quietly delete this article. Right? You're not going to take a snapshot of it are you?

Well here goes...

Eric Cantor plans to hold Federal disaster funding for Irene hostage

If the storm causes damage while passing over highly populated areas as predicted, help from the federal government might not be quick in coming.

Right-wing meltdown

Rhode Island political groups on the far-right-wing fringe seem to be undergoing a kind of traumatic breakdown.

Some signs of that breakdown from just the past month:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Don't be foolish

From, 1:30 pm Saturday
I've been reading people's comments that Irene is fading and will turn into nothing.

So which is more credible, laypeople writing comments on the web or the National Weather Service?

Read on for some facts and perspective.

So. Kingstown Mandatory Evacuations Moved Up To 6AM Sunday

From our friends at South Kingstown Patch:

Hurricane warning in effect for coastal Rhode Island as town's low-lying areas are to be evacuated by 6:00 a.m. Sunday.
·                                 By Carl Critz

South Kingstown officials have accelerated their mandatory evacuations of low-lying and coastal areas in advance of a dangerous Hurricane Irene this afternoon, which is expected to make landfall near Rhode Island some time Sunday.

Current Charlestown forecast

According to the National Weather Service, this is what they expect to happen in Charlestown during Irene’s passage through our area:

Tonight: Tropical storm conditions expected, with hurricane conditions possible. Rain and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. Patchy fog. Low around 75. East wind 9 to 14 mph increasing to between 33 and 38 mph. Winds could gust as high as 46 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between 1 and 2 inches possible.


Rick Perry Signs Pledge To Back Constitutional Amendment Against Gay Marriage

The GOP hopeful was previously a big states-rights supporter, saying that he was opposed to gay marriage but would leave it to the states.

On Friday he decided to sign the National Organization of Marriage's pledge to fight for a U.S. constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Charlestown voluntary evacuation

This morning, the Charlestown Town Council declared a state of emergency, but as of 4:30 PM has only ordered the mandatory evacuation of waterfront properties. The Town Council has called for a voluntary evacuation of households who live south of Route 1A. Read the 4:30 PM notice here. Charlestown evacuees are directed to go to the Westerly Senior Center on State Street not Charlestown Elementary.

Our neighboring towns have ordered far more extensive mandatory evacuations (Westerly South Kingstown and Narragansett). The Westerly Sun reports the potential of up to a 16 foot storm surge (other sources are reporting eight).

Governor Chafee has declared a state of emergency for RI. RIDEM is closing state beaches and campgrounds. National Grid is moving in additional crews.

I don't understand Charlestown's comparatively docile approach to this storm. Check Google Earth and you'll see that an eight foot surge would take the ocean well beyond the beachfront. A 16 foot surge would flood about 2/3's of the land south of Route One. Route One at the Hitching Post is only 12 feet above sea level. Memo to Dan Slattery: this kind of wind really is dangerous to your health.

Charlestown Evacuation Order - Update!

Hurricane Irene is still a far away but events will develop rapidly starting Saturday afternoon.

South Kingston has announced that their coastal areas will be evacuated.

Charlestown Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) has announced that people in the designated evacuation areas will be asked to leave by 5 pm on Saturday. More below.

More politics of the absurd

No Deal (yet) for Watson. Disgraced former House Minority Leader Bob Watson (R-East Greenwich) had another day in court in New Haven, CT. Watson was arrested last April on DUI charges. Marijuana was found in his car and urine tests showed marijuana and cocaine in his system. He managed to squeak by with a blood alcohol level at 0.01 below the DUI limit in Connecticut.

Watson pleaded not guilty and his next court appearance is September 23. Watson has admitted he had the marijuana for a medical condition (but he has not registered to be a medical marijuana user). He also claimed the police were picking on him.

Well, we wrap up (more or less) one conflict (Libya) and another one pops up to take its place. The newest threat to American security is the announcement last week by the Canadian Department of National Defence that it will seek bids to produce a stealth snowmobile. Not a joke. They are prepared to pay up to $550,000 (Canadian) for a prototype. The vehicle must be a hybrid, naturally, and silent enough so Canadian soldiers can swoop down on their unsuspecting enemies – like in Maine or Minnesota.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nat'l Wildlife Refuges announce hurricane closure

Starting Saturday, the National Wildlife Refuges in Rhode Island - Ninigret, Trustom, etc. will close until further notice due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene.

Even though the current forecast track takes Irene much further to the west - almost on a direct line with New York City, winds and storm surge is stronger on the eastern side of the storm, and that's where we are. And of course the storm track could change to bring the storm closer.

Either way, we will take a hit, so you should plan to have your outdoor storm preparations completed by Saturday afternoon at the latest.

Read further for the official National Wildlife Service news release.

Beautification Project: Help Clean R.I.’s Beaches

Thousands of Rhode Island residents will head to the beach before summer ends next month, but on Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon many won’t be going for a swim.

Politics of the Absurd

Dan Slattery - king of the
Wild Frontier
Here’s something else for Dan Slattery to worry about. Just after getting himself whipped into a lather in fear of the largely unproven and unscientific health concerns about wind turbines, UMASS scientists announced the successful test of a new tidal turbine electricity generating system in the waters off Martha’s Vineyard. This is another promising alternative energy technology that will almost certainly stir up another batch of hysterical NIMBY opposition. Dan – let’s save some time….why not attach a tidal turbine ban to Ordinance 341 - the first in the nation total ban on wind energy – when you push it through the Town Council on September 12.

The Town’s official publishing of Ordinance 341, the total ban on wind energy in any shape, size and location in Charlestown in the Westerly Sun was pretty amazing to see. We paid for roughly three pages of newspaper space to print the “ordinance.” Those three pages of news print consisted of a couple of paragraphs – and the rest of it was line after line after line of crossed-out language from the existing ordinance. The reason for that is Ordinance 341 is a simple, total ban, while the ordinance it replaced was a moratorium combined with nearly impossible to meet conditions to get a permit for a wind generator.

Unfortunately, you can only see the ordinance as it appeared in the paper if you subscribe to the print edition. The publication of the ordinance is legally required before a public hearing – which comes on September 12. But still, “your tax dollars at work?”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Will we take a direct hit from Irene?

According to local meteorologists and the National Hurricane Center it looks like the answer is yes.

Of course, you certainly know that already - if you cruise the internet enough to visit Progressive Charlestown, you no doubt know the weather report.

Note that the National Weather Service is currently predicting rain to start after 1 PM on Saturday, so it would be a good idea to work on your outdoor storm preparations before then. If you need to go up on ladders to put up hurricane shutters or panels, you should plan to do it before then.

Muslims Don't Have a Monopoly on Terrorism

Too often, politicians and pundits refer to non-Muslim terrorists as just being "deranged."
Too many Americans think the term "terrorism" only applies to Muslims. Christians, Jews, atheists, agnostics, Unitarians, or Quakers who commit unspeakable acts of horror often aren't deemed to be real terrorists.

The EndTimes Guide to Dining Out

NOT edible!
Editor's note: when we last left Regina, she had just eaten part of a Death Cap Mushroom. Today we find out if she lived to tell the tale....
For Tea-Partyin' Gardeners Who Wanna Kick It Up a Notch.
by R. DeAngelo

Continued from Dispatch 2: Near Death in the White Mountains.

"Until you can tell a frog from a toad, don't catch your own frogs for dinner." -- David Fischer and Alan E. Bessette, Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America, 1992

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane Irene - worth watching

The National Hurricane Center is currently showing the track of Hurricane Irene taking it to New Jersey still carrying hurricane strength winds on Sunday around 2 PM.

The National Weather Service has gotten very good at predicting storm tracks, though they still don't have as good a record on predicting storm intensity.

Of course, it makes a big difference where within the "cone" - the predicted path - the storm actually does track.

Trash Talk on Thursday

Plastics are gathering in our oceans - killing marine life and damaging valuable resources.  Hear a firsthand account of what these oceanic “garbage patches” are really like and what you can do to stop them.

Things To Do in Charlestown - August 24 through 30

After last week's huge list of activities we have a slower week ahead. That leaves more time for beach visits and we should have lots of wonderful weather.

Read on for more.

You Can't Milk a Butter Cow

The Ames Straw Poll is as empty of meaning as a politician's promise.

Tim Pawlenty, erstwhile governor of Minnesota, gave up his bid for the presidency after finishing third in Iowa's Ames Straw Poll, shocking the vast majority of Americans who didn't know he was running.

Who cares what other people think?

Rhode Island’s Napoleonic Complex shows itself every time a new poll or national rating of the states comes out. How did we do? How did we do? Did we come in the top ten? Did we come in last? OMG, how do we compare to Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Two polls came out in the past couple of days that sent true Rhode Islanders’ insecurities into hyperdrive.

One is the annual Gawker poll on the Worst States in the Union.

The second was a Gallup poll ranking the states in terms of happiness.

If you’re a true Rhode Islander, you’ve just got to keep reading to find out how Rhode Island ranked.

EARTHQUAKE - not a joke

If you felt a series of tremors around 2 PM, it was not your imagination. I felt a wave of shaking lasting a few seconds, a brief pause and then another wave. I saw water swishing in the toilet boil.

This was an actual earthquake.

"Chaperone" Another Winner In Matunuck

Happy McPartlin as the Drowsy Chaperone
We've been enjoying Marylou Butler's reviews of this summer's productions at Theatre By The Sea. Here is her report on the current musical, The Drowsy Chaperone.

Life in the blog lane

By Will Collette and Tom Ferrio, Co-Founders

We launched Progressive Charlestown with the premise that each post would express the writer's individual views, without any agreed-upon editorial policy, and that individual posts would be personally identified. Like most blogs that deal with polarized topics, we began attracting our share of commenters who prefer to lob shots from behind a curtain of anonymity. We are simply not impressed.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chowder, Steamers and Politics

Rep. Donna Walsh & Senator Whitehouse
A nice sized delegation of Charlestown Democrats joined with hundreds of other supporters of the reelection bid of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in Middletown on Sunday. We were all there at Kempenaar's Clambake club for a fund-raiser for Senator Whitehouse’s campaign and we were treated to a classic Rhode Island clambake, complete with steamers, lobster and chourico

There were speeches, of course, but hardly necessary for a crowd that was already bought in before they walked through the gate.

Mainly, it was a time to enjoy great food – and I might add, a pretty unusual bargain for a fund-raiser since the regular price to eat at Kempenaar’s is $45 and the cost of the ticket was $50 – and great company.

Volunteers Needed

On July 19 I asked for volunteers to help pull invasive water chestnut from Chapman Pond in Westerly. That effort was a great success with 17 volunteers removing over a ton of water chestnut.

But half of the infestation remains and help is needed.

Dim Bulbs in Congress

Philips, GE, and Sylvania all are ready to market incandescent bulbs that meet higher efficiency standards, while saving money for consumers --but don't tell tea-partying lawmakers.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Power of Prayer

I must admit that I am a regular reader of a blog written by a Texan, Malia Litman. She is unlike most of the neighbors I had when I lived there and she has had some interesting articles about the myths of Rick Perry.

But an article that she posted today, not just about "all hat and no cattle" Rick Perry but important nonetheless, echos my thoughts so well that I felt compelled to share some excerpts with you.

Voting Rights for Property Owners

CCA and RISC leader Tom DePatie wasn't alone when he advocated for Charlestown to grant voting rights to millionaire vacationers.

Not only was he stating a long-held conviction of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition and that of Matt McHugh, the CCA's 2008 endorsed candidate for State Representative, District 36, but also that of the national Tea Party.

In fact, the Tea Party would take this proposition one step further and RESTRICT voting rights ONLY to those who own property. Sort of like the way King George and the British did it, and the way it was in America before the real tea party.

After the break, listen to it yourself:

Rick Perry on treason

Texas Governor Rick Perry really is the Republican flavor of the month and may very well stay that way if he keeps saying incredibly stupid things.

Like accusing Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke of treason for pretty much doing his job.

And this comes from the Governor of Texas who, on several occasions, actually suggested that Texas should secede from the Union if it doesn't like what Washington is doing.

We kinda settled that issue between 1861 and 1865, Guv.

Watch him call Bernanke a traitor below the break.

Civility and name calling

Froma Harrop
Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop is also nationally syndicated. She has an interesting column in today's ProJo titled "The Op-Ed Pages Are No Tea Party."

She begins by describing the attacks she received from Tea Partiers and their supporters for a column she wrote comparing the Tea Party's willingness to trash the economy, shred the country's credit rating and hold the nation hostage until its demands are met - to the acts of terrorists. And the national economy and markets are still reeling from the Tea Party's stunt.

Make me President and I'll get the US to secede from itself

Governor Goodhair, a.k.a. Rick Perry, of Texas has entered the race for the Republican nomination for President.

Perry, like so many of his colleagues, has a somewhat interesting grasp of the U.S. Constitution, American history and the duties and responsibilities of citizens.

Watch the video after the break.

Free Dentistry Day a huge success

Saturday morning, my husband and I got up before our neighbor's rooster in order to get down to Arrowhead Dental Associates at the end of South County Trail for their annual Free Dentistry Day. It was the best dentist visit I've ever had.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Be nice to corporations

The whole idea that corporations are persons actually comes from the US Supreme Court which granted corporations "personhood" for many purposes that are convenient for the corporation's owners. Mitt Romney recently made an impassioned plea that we remember that corporations are people (so we should be nice to them).

However, as this wonderful illustrated primer from Tom the Dancing Bug teaches in this cartoon (click here to see the whole cartoon), it's actually a pretty one-sided deal.

Headlines we'd like to see

Tom Tomorrow is always one step ahead. This time, he comes up with the kinds of newspaper headlines we'd all like to see.

Click here to see the whole cartoon.

Better to ask forgiveness than permission, Part 3

Here is a third installment of things you probably shouldn’t even think about doing in Charlestown. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

This series was inspired by the pronouncement by Charlestown Planning Commissar Ruth Platner that any use of your property that isn’t permitted in the Charlestown Code of Ordinances is prohibited.

Though Charlestown’s Code of Ordinances fills a three-inch-thick binder that sits by Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero at every Town Council meeting, not everything that Charlestown residents may wish to do is actually covered. Even though the Code reaches very deeply into your lives – whether you know it or not – it still leaves a lot out.

And in this series, we’re looking at things that seem to have been left out. And if it isn’t in the Code, Ruth Platner says you can’t do it.

Here are some more things that don’t seem to be permitted in the Charlestown Code. …

Friday, August 19, 2011

CSI: Shelter Harbor - Things that go bump in the night

RISC: Show me a school teacher and I'll show you
a bomb-throwing anarchist
There is a remarkable story in today’s Westerly Sun – in the free access part of their website (hooray!) – by Chris Keegan, one of the Sun’s best writers.

Chris reported on police reports released this week that raise the question: what's up with RISC Director Harriet Lloyd?

Last March, Lloyd called the Westerly Police, the State Police and the local fire company to report that somebody had set off a bomb outside her Shelter Harbor home. Of course, it must be the nefarious work of her evil nemesis, the NEARI teachers’ union.

Except, as Chris details, there are some serious questions about whether it actually happened, even though Lloyd seems to be convinced it did.

Jon Stewart Embraces an Alternative to Reversing the Bush Tax Cuts

More Short Takes and Crazy Politics

Schilling gets $75M state IOU tattooed on his arm
Sports Makes Politicians Stupid. Speaking of which, Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios has received another $4.1 million installment on its $75 million Rhode Island loan guarantee. Former Governor Don Carcieri slid this deal for the former Red Sox pitcher through at the end of his term, sticking Gov. Chafee with a project he did not want from a company that has no product to sell. 38 Studios designs online multiplayer video games and hopes to market its very first game on February 7. It recently announced that it had signed a deal to produce a second game. As I have reported previously, the likelihood that the state will get stuck for the $75 million is very high. Even if Schilling’s first game is a big success, it will have to sell an impossibly high number of games to come close to making the company solvent. But, hey, this is about Sox star pitcher Schilling!

"After all, this is America, right?"*

Make sure those snowballs don't touch
anything else before they hit the ground!
Or, Banned in Charlestown 

When I jokingly proposed that cell and WiFi signals should be blocked at the beach, at least one reader took me seriously—and took me to task for it. Guess I should've put a little smiley in there somewhere. 

What's not a joke, however, is the multitude of commonplace, everyday activities that are banned here in Charlestown. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Short Takes and Crazy Politics

Interior Sec. Ken Salazar
Slattery and Salazar Not on Same Page. Council Vice-President Dan Slattery and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are clearly looking at different research on wind energy. While Slattery has been the Council’s leading “authority” on the deadly health risks of wind energy, Salazar was in Rhode Island yesterday promoting off-shore wind energy and asking for bidders to build turbines right off our coastline in federal waters. Fabrication for the turbines would likely take place at Quonset Point, providing a tremendous boost for the RI economy. And Slattery will probably have a heart attack over it.

Chat with the experts on oil drilling in the Arctic

Earlier this month, the U.S. took an important step
toward opening up Alaska's outer continental shelf—
one of world's most pristine and inhospitable
marine environments—to oil and gas development.
Experts answer your questions about the environmental risks and energy benefits of drilling in the Arctic.

Illegal Foreclosure Epidemic

Robo-signing foreclosure paperwork is a federal crime, but no bank or banker has even been charged.
News Update: This morning's Providence Journal reports Federal District Judge John McConnell has ordered most Rhode Island foreclosure cases on hold.

Two-year-olds often go running around the house too wildly and crash into something. They get an "ouchie" and fall down crying, but they learn from it.

Better to ask forgiveness than permission, Part 2

This is the second in a series on the things that, in the opinion of Charlestown Planning Commissar Ruth Platner, Charlestown residents may not be able to do on their property. Click here for Part 1.

At the August 10 Town Council meeting, Platner made the remarkable statement that “[In Charlestown zoning] any use not permitted is prohibited.” If you watch the Clerkbase video, this quote comes at 3:58.

So unless the town expressly permits you to do something on or with your property, it is prohibited.

Even though the Charlestown Code of Ordinances is amazingly detailed and regulates most aspects of life in Charlestown, I have found a lot of things that are not actually mentioned. And if they aren’t in the Code, you can’t do them. If Ms. Platner is right.

Here are some more things that don’t seem to be permitted in the Charlestown Code.…

Wednesday, August 17, 2011