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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When the Cayman Islands just won't do

We're going to the moon!
By Matt Bors

For the whole cartoon, click here.

"It's the System, Stupid!"

Politics 101
By Jen Sorensen

Click here for the whole cartoon.

Exclusive: Read the Lisa DiBello v. Charlestown lawsuit

What Council member's lawsuit against the town actually says
By Will Collette

Council member Lisa DiBello, as previously reported, filed a civil lawsuit against the Town of Charlestown and nine present and former town officials on January 23. As of today, DiBello has still not served the complaint on the Town or the persons named in the suit.

But nonetheless, the Westerly Sun ran a front page story about her lawsuit last Thursday.

I went to the RI Superior Court in Wakefield to get a copy of DiBello's filing. You can read the complaint in its entirety by clicking here.

The general outline of DiBello's case against the Town she supposedly serves as a member of the Town Council will look familiar to regular Progressive Charlestown readers. There's a reason for that.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Zero on the Home Front's Richter Scale

The end of the Iraq War was accompanied by the sound of one hand clapping.

Among the strange things that happened last year — and there were many — perhaps the strangest was the end of the Iraq War.
Did you notice it? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. It hardly even registered on the home front's Richter scale.
We didn't leave in triumph (that was World War II). We didn't leave in confused embarrassment (that was Vietnam). We just left. We practically tiptoed away, hoping nobody would notice. And nobody did, hardly.

It's the liberal media's fault

So what if he eats human brains
By Tom Tomorrow

For the whole cartoon, click here.

Three interesting studies on intelligence

Are conservatives stupid?...Does working in groups make you stupid?...Do babies understand physics?
By Will Collette

Stupidity and prejudice. A new study out of Brock University in Ontario finds that children with low IQs are more likely to hold prejudiced views when they become adults. And low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies. According to lead researcher Gordon Hodson "Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood,"

In reporting this study, notes that this is but the latest of a long string of studies linking low intelligence with prejudice and conservative beliefs. Read the article for links to the other studies.

While this study, like others, does link lower intelligence and conservativism, it is false logic to say that all conservatives are therefore stupid. Beyond that, I’ll leave it to the conservatives to defend themselves.

OMG PD - one of these things is not like the others

Charlestown police pulled over an Exeter teenager last week who was reportedly speeding and discovered pot paraphernalia in his car—marijuana pipe, two joint roaches, a grinder—and…a machete? Police also found $2,655 in cash on him because, as the teen said, he didn’t trust banks.

Read past the break for more peculiar police reports.

Is the YMCA a good neighbor?

They should obey the same building codes as everyone else.
By Will Collette

At the risk of taking on another untouchable, much-beloved local institution, it’s time to take a critical look at the YMCA’s role in the attempted mugging of Charlestown taxpayers.

Of the very short list of beneficiaries for the proposed deal, the Ocean Community YMCA of Westerly is a major player. 

They stand to walk away with $700,000 or more in your tax money for land it abandoned. They hope to sell the land to the town as if it was pristine wilderness, at a price pegged as if it was being sold as a residential development.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Global warming is real

Don't tell the grand kids
By P.S. Mueller

For the whole cartoon, click here.

UPDATE: DiBello files suit against Charlestown in Superior Court

Westerly Sun has the scoop BEFORE any of the defendants are served with the papers.
By Will Collette

UPDATE: As of close of business on Friday, no  one in town - not the town, and none of the named persons in DiBello's earlier complaint - had been served with her lawsuit complaint, despite the article run by the Westerly Sun that went on-line at noon on Thursday.

According to the Westerly Sun, the suit was filed in court last Monday. Typically, the plaintiff's lawyer hires a process server to deliver the complaint to each defendant. Click here for the RI Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure.

It is highly unusual for a plaintiff to give the media such a filing several days before the papers are actually served on the defendants. Judges often frown on such behavior. We'll see whether this becomes an issue in this litigation. And, once I have a copy of the actual complaint, we'll provide you with more detail, including a copy of the complaint.

Posted on the Westerly Sun website at noon, Thursday January 26 - Chris Keegan has the story on Lisa DiBello's decision to file her lawsuit against the Town of Charlestown and nine present and former town officials.

Dollar Democracy

Some eras are more corrupt than others.

Corruption is as American as apple pie.
"The quality of government is seriously compromised when decisions made by elected politicians benefit those who funded their ascent to power," says the anti-corruption watch-dog group Transparency International.
That sounds like just another U.S. election campaign.
Some eras are worse than others. Historians say the post-Civil War period was America's most corrupt, with the 1920s-1930s a close runner up. We're now caught in a third wave of entrenched influence-peddling and crony capitalism.

Afghanistan's Poppy War

International efforts to stamp out opium production are failing.

For a symbol of how America's decade-long war is going in faraway Afghanistan, look at the beautiful fields of red poppies flowering so bountifully there. Unfortunately, that bounty symbolizes the failure of an ambitious Western initiative against Taliban forces.
Poppies are the raw ingredient for making opium, which can be transformed into heroin. And Afghanistan produces nearly 90 percent of the world's opium. Illicit flower power fuels the Taliban with the money to buy weapons, train fighters, bribe Afghan officials, and otherwise make war.

Getting by with a little help from my friends

Reason #12 why the Y Camp deal is a bad deal for Charlestown taxpayers … as if we really needed more reasons.

By Linda Felaco

On January 23, three Charlestown residents drove to Town Hall under a fog advisory to express their reservations about various aspects of the proposal for the town to purchase the YMCA camp. Yet they only scratched the surface of all the reasons this deal should have been a nonstarter. Progressive Charlestown recently published 10 reasons the deal is a bad one for Charlestown taxpayers, only to quickly uncover an 11th reason, namely, the adverse opinion from the Conservation Commission that Mr. Rooney spoke about at the Citizens Forum.

Now comes reason #12: the Planning Commission’s advisory opinion to the Town Council on the purchase, which is really just a rehash of the DEM grant application (also included at the previous link) with a bunch of self-serving justifications and rebuttals of points that have been raised at public meetings and elsewhere (i.e., here on Progressive Charlestown) that tells us nothing whatsoever about why the town should contribute funds toward the purchase and what the town would be getting for its money.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ain't this the truth

Fukushima Is So Yesterday

The United States is awaiting its own nuclear catastrophe before changing course.

Wonder if
Our noble nation;
Is that safe
From radiation.

Anger Management

Newt knows....
By Ted Eagan

For the whole cartoon, click here.

Climate Insurance

With climate change making extreme weather the new normal, it's prudent to do everything we can to protect our food supply.

I feel uneasy sleeping in a house without functioning smoke detectors. I lock my doors at night. I salt my sidewalk when it's icy. I always wear my seatbelt. Like most people, I prefer to minimize my chances of getting hurt or wrecking my car or house, despite the fact that my house, my car, and my health are all (thankfully) insured.
When it comes to agriculture and climate change, I'd like to see our nation take the same approach. Even though most farmers have crop insurance, we should make sure we are also helping them adapt their cropping and livestock systems so that they don't get wiped out by floods and droughts in the first place. Climate change is making extreme weather the new normal. It's prudent to do everything we can to protect our food supply.

For-profit bad, nonprofit good

Planning Commission Chair Ruth Platner started off Wednesday night’s mastication of permit applications by informing Larry LeBlanc that he’d have to wait till after the Edwards Lane project was discussed for his Greenock Village preapplication.

By Linda Felaco

Wealthy Tax Cheats

The rich don't much like paying taxes when tax rates run high -- or low.

Tax systems that heavily tax the rich are asking for trouble — or so the politicians who cater to the 1 percent incessantly argue. The higher the tax rate on high incomes, their argument goes, the greater the incentive the rich have to waste time and energy figuring out ways to pay less.
In 2001 and again in 2003, this convenient excuse helped the Bush White House chop away at the taxes the IRS expects rich people to pay. The government trimmed the tax rate on top tax-bracket income from 39.6 to 35 percent and slashed the rates on capital gains and dividends to 15 percent from 20 and 39.6 percent, respectively.

Rhode Island Political Bits

Immigrant-bashing, again...Tax the rich (redux)...Play as if it's your money....Faggedabouddit why doncha?...Things don't go better with Koch
By Will Collette

Round up the usual suspects. Tea Party state representative Doreen Costa (R-NO Kingstown) loves to “round up the usual suspects.” One of the General Assembly’s most ineffectual legislators, she spends most of her energies attacking the scapegoats of her hard-right core of supporters – immigrants and welfare recipients. Oh, and people who use non-denominational terms like “Happy Holidays!” All of these issues are, of course, the prime reasons for this country’s and this state’s problems. So, in typical Doreen Costa fashion, one of Costa’s first pieces of legislation would override the decision of the State Board of Governors for Higher Education to allow the children of undocumented immigrants to receive the in-state tuition rate at state colleges. Heaven forbid these children should get an education and, along with attaining citizenship, also become productive members of our community. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Things you DON'T hear Mitt say

The short version
By Matt Bors

For the whole cartoon, click here.

Obama on alternative energy

End oil subsidies, double-down on clean energy
From President Barack Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address
"I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. 

That's long enough. It's time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that's never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits. Create these jobs."

Former Gov. Garrahy Remembered For Progressivism

·          By Erin Tiernan, South Kingstown Patch

Ever-preserved in the minds of Rhode Islanders as the ‘regular Joe’ who worked around the clock in his plaid shirt through the blizzard that stopped the state in 1978, another former Rhode Island lawmaker remember former Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy for his progressive role in state politics after news of his passage on Tuesday.

“Fortunately Joe was very calm and collected and appeared very folksy with his lumber shirt,” said Tiernan, reflecting on Garrahy’s handling of the blizzard that surprised Rhode Island three and half decades ago. “He did a very nice job with that, which was difficult with so many demands for service.”

Only 10% of state funds in RI-owned banks

Where are R.I. Revenues Being Invested? Not Locally

By KYLE HENCE/ News staff

Dire economic times can mean funding cuts for programs that restore or protect our natural resources. In tough times, shortsighted thinking often displaces long-term sustainability planning. In turn, prospects for a restorative economy are dimmed.

A vital economy and a healthy environment are inextricably linked, just as economics and ecology share the same Greek root, oikos meaning “house, dwelling place, habitation.”

Rhode Island score compares well in study on corporate welfare

New report looks at state enforcement of standards attached to government subsidy programs
By Will Collette

A new report by Washington-based Good Jobs First, “Money-BackGuarantees for Taxpayers: Clawbacks and Other Enforcement Safeguards in State Economic Development Subsidy Programs,”  ranks Rhode Island at #13 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Rhode Island’s overall score was a “C,” which was good, given that Vermont won first place honors with a “B-.“ 

Good Jobs First, the top experts in the US on the issue of corporate subsidies and accountability, notes in its report that every state has a long way to go to achieve full corporate accountability for the billions states give them in subsidies.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Planning Commission meeting was preview of fireworks to come at next Town Council meeting

As predicted, by the time the Planning Commission had thoroughly masticated the master plan review of the Rehill subdivision, the advisory on the Edwards Lane affordable housing development, and the preapplication for a comp permit for Greenock Village (more on these subjects in a future story), the members were overtired, drumming their fingers on the mic stands, and ready to call it a night.

Except they couldn’t, because they had additional agenda items requiring immediate action: the long-awaited “dark sky” ordinance and the advisory on the purchase of the YMCA camp. 

By Linda Felaco

On the "Buffett" tax proposal

Why Americans who earn more than $1 million a year should at least pay the same tax rate as Warren Buffett's  secretary
From President Barack Obama's State of the Union address

“Now, you can call this class warfare all you want.  But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes?  Most Americans would call that common sense.”

Recycling made easier

Single-Stream Recycling Makes More Cents

By FRANK CARINI/ News staff
JOHNSTON — The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) is spending nearly $17 million to make recycling less of a chore and improve the state’s recycling rate, which has plateaued at about 25 percent.

Single-stream recycling (SSR) is scheduled to make its Ocean State appearance in late April and, according to those behind its implementation, there will be fewer rules, especially when it comes to recycling plastics.
But that doesn’t mean this one-bin system will be a free-for-all for plastics, glass, metals and paper. It’s not an all-in approach but there will be fewer restrictions and the process will be more logical, according to Sarah Kite, RIRRC’s director of recycling services.

New report on nuclear power threats to drinking water

Many Rhode Islanders could be affected by nuclear accidents
Neighborhood nuke: Millstone, 20 miles from Charlestown
By Will Collette

Environment Rhode Island and RIPIRG released a new report, "Too Close to Home," that takes a broad look at the potential for widespread drinking water contamination should one of America’s many aging nuclear power plants suffer a catastrophic failure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sturm und Drang at 7 PM

January 25th meeting agenda loaded with controversy, as usual
By Will Collette

The Planning Commission will tackle two long-running controversies, a dark sky ordinance  and the much-debated proposed town purchase of the busted out YMCA Camp on Watchaug Pond. 

They also have THREE housing development proposals on their agenda, plus the usual array of issues they plan to masticate over.

Unlike their last meeting, this time there are documents available on Clerkbase for most of the major agenda items.

Why we need publicly funded elections

Eleven Shocking Facts About Campaign Finance

Over at The Nation, they have a list of Eleven Shocking Facts about Campaign Finance (and they’re not pretty):

The amount of independent expenditure and electioneering communication spending by outside groups has quadrupled since 2006. [Center for Responsive Politics]

The percentage of spending coming from groups that do not disclose their donors has risen from 1 percent to 47 percent since the 2006 mid-term elections. [Center for Responsive Politics]

In Memoriam: Governor J. Joseph Garrahy

A good and decent man who cared about those in need
Gov. Garrahy (r) with former
Congressman Eddie Beard (center)
By Will Collette

In the 1970s, when I was a young adult, Governor J. Joseph Garrahy governed this state with grace and compassion. This morning, it was confirmed that Joe died at age 81.

Rhode Islanders of a certain age all remember Joe's leadership during the Blizzard of '78 when he worked 24/7 out of the State House command post to bring the state through the crisis. He was a reassuring figure when he appeared on television in his flannel shirt to tell us all what was going on and to keep our spirits up. All governors since then have been measured against his standard when they are called upon to respond to a disaster.

In the 1970s, while working with social justice organizations, I knew Joe for his openness and compassion. I worked for the Community Affairs Office of the Providence Diocese in a former Catholic school building across from the State House. My job during the legislative season was to prowl the halls of the Capitol and monitor legislation that could affect low-income Rhode Islanders. I spent a lot of time in Joe's office, frequently chatting up his chief aide, Mike Ryan, who now heads up National Grid in Rhode Island.

Tech Bits

TSA cashes in….A puzzle even Stephen Hawking can’t solve….Is politics biologically programmed….Put down that Crackberry….Shut off that TV….And knock it off, guys
By Will Collette

TSA: Like breaking open a giant penny jar. In 2011, the flying public left $409,085.56 in loose change at airport security checkpoints. The most left-behind coin was collected at New York’s JFK Airport and LAX in California. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) keeps the money and uses it as part of its budget. Unknown: how much they get for all those bottles of shampoo, mouthwash, etc. that exceed size limits, not to mention all the more serious contraband. 

More on “Who is Rich? Who is Poor?"

A follow-up to my December 23rd article
By Will Collette

One thing the “Occupy” movement did was to make the issue of income inequality a topic for debate in the national arena. At the national level, the amount of debate over the relationship between the “1%” (the rich) and the 99% (everyone else) is growing. A new poll shows it out-polling over-regulation as a major issue.

Citizens Forum reveals that Charlestown residents oppose the YMCA camp deal

Council Prez Tom Gentz being constructive, not destructive.
Of the six residents who took to the podium to address the Town Council at Monday night’s Citizens Forum, three of them don’t think town taxpayers should have to pay for the abandoned YMCA camp on Watchaug Pond.

By Linda Felaco

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Barriers to expanded aquaculture

Less Tension Needed to Expand R.I. Aquaculture

By BARRY A. COSTA-PIERCE/special to News
Tiverton resident and aquaculturist 
Chris Clarendon runs what he calls the ‘smallest farm 
in the state.’  (ecoRI News file photo)
As in many other crowded coastal areas, user conflicts over the use of Rhode Island’s coastal lagoons — salt ponds — for shellfish aquaculture have typically concerned two issues.

The first is that when a shellfish farmer receives a lease from the state for acreage on the pond bottom, that area is no longer available for use by wild shellfish harvesters, though it can be fished by recreational fishermen using the water column. The second is that the leased area is perceived to be off limits to other uses, such as boating or diving.
However, a number of recent developments, including both technological advances as well as an improved understanding of shellfish aquaculture, are converging to help solve these conflicts.

Thanks for buying electricity from me!

by Tom Ferrio

The display at the left tells me that you are are buying about 14 amps of electricity from me. Thanks! And National Grid will even collect the money from you for me so you don't have to write me a check.

This article continues my series on my solar electric installation.

Watch the sky tonight

Possibility of northern lights tonight
Also, today is National Peanut Butter Day
By Will Collette

The Sun unleashed a huge solar flare that has headed directly at the Earth. The edges of it have already hit. While this flare poses no direct danger to us, it could set us up to see a rare display of the Northern Lights or aurora borealis tonight.

Last night, there were spectacular sightings in northern Europe. According to NOAA's statistical prediction for the  Northern Lights, Rhode Island is just within the area where the phenomenon can be seen.

I saw them once here in Rhode Island, about six years ago.

Adapting to Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise

Beach erosion at Matunuck
By Andrew Baer / Oysterworks

         Rear Admiral David Titley, US NAVY Task Force on Climate Change

We agree with Admiral Titley.  As architects and builders we are increasingly aware of the impact of climate change on Rhode Island's coast.  Rhode Island's coastal communities are experiencing changes brought about by chronic events, primarily sea-level rise, and changes brought about by the increasing severity of catastrophic events, extreme weather ranging from hurricanes to nor'easters. 

What about Bob?

Will Rep. Bob Watson’s 2nd Drug Arrest in 9 Months End His Political Career?   

The Providence Journal (and everyone else) is reporting that Rep. Bob Watson was arrested again for possession of marijuana early Sunday morning.

When the police arrived, they saw a white Volvo sedan in the lot, with its rubber tire missing from the rim on the front driver’s side. The driver’s side door was open and a man who identified himself as Robert Watson was standing beside it, according to the police. There were no passengers in the car.
“The officers observed what appeared to be a pipe commonly used to smoke marijuana on the driver’s side floor of the Volvo,” Buckley said. “The officers also discovered a clear sandwich bag containing a green, leafy substance believed to be marijuana in the area of the driver’s seat.”