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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Things to Do in Charlestown - March Edition

Winter is winding down, though it's hardly been a winter at all this year. Check out our fine list of activities for March.

Email us if you have suggestions we have missed. We will release an update of this article around March 5 when more program information is available.

Major progress on beach pavilion

Charlestown Beach Feb 28 - click to enlarge
by Tom Ferrio

I was visiting Charlestown Beach yesterday, with Kingsley, to get some photos for my story about the beach dredging.

Though we have had incredible weather for construction I was surprised at how much progress has been made (photo at left). Another photo beyond the break.

Ninigret Pond dredging - EXPLAINED

Dredging overview - click to enlarge
by Tom Ferrio with assistance from Steven McCandless, Town GIS Specialist

Permanent breachways like that connecting Ninigret Pond to the ocean are not natural features of our shallow ponds along the coast.

Keeping the breachway open and protecting the health of the pond requires special design and maintenance.

Time to tax the rich

Proposal to tax the richest Rhode Islanders

As Rhode Island struggles to pull itself out of the recession many have been asked to sacrifice. Cities and towns have seen drastic cuts in state aid, schools have had their budgets cut, the poor have endured program cuts and public sector employees have had their benefits slashed.
Now it’s time to ask Rhode Island’s wealthiest residents to help out, too.

It's Leap Day!

and time to honor Leap Day traditions
We don't go around saluting each other with Happy Leap Day on February 29 but I did find two time-honored traditions for this special day.

by Tom Ferrio

Strange Science Stories

Wind turbines & AIDS….Goats can talk...Is it an appliance? Is it a urinal?...We don’t really have to be nasty…Pot smokers on the job
By Will Collette

Wind Turbines & AIDS. As I reported earlier, the Massachusetts Health department released a report debunking health effects claims cited by critics of wind turbines. The report was done by a panel of independent medical experts. The Department is required by law to put the report before the public for comments before finalizing it. This provided an opportunity for wind power critics to don their tin foil hats and come out to denounce the medical experts.

One critic, Eleanor Tillinghast, compared the report to the failure of the public health community to respond to the AIDS epidemic. "When I read the report, I saw many of the same patterns that we saw early on with those issues where the information is cherry-picked, despite tremendous amounts of information.  The people who are suffering are dismissed as having annoyance. … The patterns are the same and the outcomes are the same."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bill to ban pair trawling passes the RI House

House passes Tanzi’s bill banning pair trawling
Rep. Teresa Tanzi
General Assembly news release

STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today passed legislation (2012-H 7367Aaa) sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi to ban pair trawling in Rhode Island waters for the next year.

The practice, which involves two fishing vessels dragging a single enormous net between them, is banned or limited by nearby states and has been attracting out-of-state vessels that use up the region’s species quota, and then land and process the fish in other states.

We're not so bad

Rhode Island One of the Least Corrupt States

A couple days ago, Daniel Lawlor pulled out the old saw of Rhode Island’s corrupt politics, telling us political corruption is nothing new to Rhode Island.” While Mr. Lawlor’s article is nothing more than really a brief political history of the state, hardly more objectionable then telling us that some folks don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom, it ties into a serious misapprehension about the state; namely that Rhode Island is a corrupt one. While I would hate to deprive people something to complain about, the facts don’t align with that particular point of view.

NEW Dinner Theater at The Haversham Tavern

Jay Beausoleil, owner of The Haversham Tavern, has successfully rebooted The Haversham Tavern, as anyone who has tried to eat there on a weekend evening can attest.

He is now experimenting with a new use for the fine banquet hall, a dinner theater production.

Faith versus facts

Update - Charter Revision Hearing - Play-by-Play

Update - this morning we learned that tonight's scheduled meeting of the CRAB was not properly announced and cannot be held.

Will has been writing of his puzzlement over the proposals for changes in our Town Charter developed by the Charter Revision Advisory Board (CRAB). I shared some of his doubts and had my own questions. I was especially disappointed in how little rationale and justification was provided in the proposal document, so I was interested in attending the public hearing tonight to, hopefully, get a better idea of what these are about.

This report gives many of the comments made at that meeting and the explanations by the CRAB members. 

My colleague Will will add an article or two reacting to what was said. I am minimizing my personal comments here, to get this article published soon.

by Tom Ferrio

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ill Wind Blows Monday Night

Charter Revision Committee holds first (maybe last) hearing on proposed Charter changes tonight, February 27, at 7 PM in the Town Council chambers
By Will Collette

NOTE: tonight's hearing will NOT be recorded on Clerkbase. You CANNOT watch it from home or watch it tomorrow.

Correction: I have been calling this committee by the wrong name, using the name that their Secretary Maureen Areglado has been using in their minutes. Their official name is Charter Revision Advisory Board (CRAB). I'm not making this up. Correction on the correction - the TOWN CHARTER actually gives this committee a name (not Maureen Areglado). Under the Town Charter, the group is the Charter Revision Advisory Committee.

In the past couple of weeks, I have written extensively about one of the most boring subjects in Charlestown politics – the biennial process of preparing ballot questions for changes to Charlestown’s Town Charter.

This time around, the subject was made more interesting by the take-over of the Charter Revision Commission (CRC) by Charlestown’s resident anti-wind-power NIMBY group, Ill Wind RI. It’s clear from the CRC minutes, and from the seven Charter changes they propose, that this group (a) should have stuck with being NIMBYs, which is what they know best and (b) is more interested in revenge and their narrow agenda than the public interest.

NSFW Culture war debate continues

Kinda makes you miss class war
By Tom Tomorrow

To see the whole cartoon, click here

Things you probably don't want to know about chocolate

Enjoy Some Alphabet Soup with Your Chocolate

By JOANNA DETZ/ecoRIorg News staff
A kiss is just a kiss — unless it’s a Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Kiss. In which case, pucker up for a mouthful of PGPR.

PGPR, which began showing up on the ingredient list of drugstore chocolate several years ago, is short for polyglycerol polyricinoleate, a goopy yellowish liquid made from castor beans that reduces the viscosity of chocolate. Since 2006, big chocolate manufacturers such as Hershey’s have been replacing the expensive raw ingredient cocoa butter with PGPR in their recipes.
In many ways, the story of PGPR in chocolate is but a small chapter in a larger narrative about how convoluted our industrial food system has become: an alphabet soup of fillers and cheap ingredients that challenge the original definition of the product they seek to emulate, questionably sourced raw materials, and a cast of large corporations attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator acceptable for human consumption to keep costs low and profits high.
PGPR and AMP 4448, OMG!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Call any vegetable (added music video)

StudyReveals Plants Can "Talk" To Each Other

[Editor's note: when I saw this short piece, it reminded me of a old Frank Zappa song that I have attached to the end of this article. I guess this is another instance of Zappa's genius at predicting future scientific advances]

An Israeli research team has discovered that plants may be listening in on the conversations around them. Professor Ariel Novoplansky and his staff at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that garden pea plants were able to identify and respond to signals given by nearby plants.

Today's GOP makes Barry Goldwater look like a flaming liberal

From the Congressional Record, 16 September 1981:

"There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus, God, or Allah, or whatever one calls the supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A,B,C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism."

—Barry Goldwater

Get Ready for War with Iran

All this imperial conniving is giving the Republican presidential candidates, except the isolationist Ron Paul, plenty to yammer about.

Greed for oil
Will make us fight;
Iran has got
Endless barrels in sight.

“In God We Trust” and “Under God”: Time to go

Of all the sound bites deployed by opponents of Jessica Ahlquist’s successful lawsuit to have the school prayer removed from the Cranston High School West auditorium, the ones about “In God We Trust” on currency and “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance—both of which are Cold War relics—only serve to prove why both phrases need to go.

By Linda Felaco

I could’ve set my watch by it. As soon as my colleague Will Collette posted his item about the Jessica Ahlquist scholarship fund the other day, the predictable response came back: How can she spend money? She’s an atheist! Our money says “In God We Trust”! Zing! Gotcha!
And straight into the spam can. Red herring. Asked and answered.

Let’s break this one down, shall we?

Firewood - stock up now

Firewood: R.I.'s Next Buy Local Campaign

Split wood seasons more quickly and burns cleaner
than whole logs, says Geoff Mongeon of Above & Beyond
Tree Service in Cumberland. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff
It may be late in the season to think about firewood, but local firewood sellers say now is the time of year to stock up and save on next winter's supply. And while your at it, help be a part of the next "buy local" industry, say state officials.
This winter has lacked snow and hasn't been exceptionally cold, but firewood demand was strong for Geoff Mongeon, owner of Above & Beyond Tree Service LLC in Cumberland.

If only we could turn back the clock

Yearning for Ye Olde Charlestowne
In 1841, to demand universal suffrage was an act of
insurrection in Rhode Island where only property owners could vote
By Will Collette

There was a letter to the editor in the February 25, 2012, Westerly Sun by Jon and Joan Scolpino of Bethel, CT, who own a Charlestown home and pay taxes of $2,991. They felt an earlier letter by Henry Walsh was unfair for saying Charlestown’s non-residents don't pay enough in taxes.

The Scolpinos not only rejected the idea that non-residents don’t contribute their fair share, but also offered to do more – if only they were given the right, as non-resident property owners, to vote.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Fight over Reproductive Rights

Liberals aren't trying to make anyone use birth control.

The air is still thick with outrage over President Barack Obama's attempt to require all employers to provide insurance coverage for people who desire (or need) birth control.
Catholic bishops and their fellow travelers exploded in righteous indignation over a proposal that would have required religious institutions (but not churches) to offer employees the same contraception coverage required of other, secular institutions under the Obama health plan.

Wind turbine quackery (video added)

Tracking Ducks to Make Offshore Wind Decisions

Small satellite transmitters are being implanted
in the abdominal cavities adult female eiders.
(Photo courtesy of URI)
By News staff
KINGSTON — Biologists from the University of Rhode Island, the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and other agencies have implanted satellite transmitters in sea ducks to learn about the birds’ daily movements and identify important wintering locations.

This data will be used when government officials and offshore wind farm developers make decisions about where to site wind turbines. This information also will be used to assess how the birds’ movements are affected once the turbines are erected.

Where are the jobs?

Politics is boring?

Why Should Politics Be Boring?

“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Stephan's Quintet 
From NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day

Explanation: The first identified compact galaxy group, Stephan's Quintet is featured in this eye-catching image constructed with data drawn from the extensive Hubble Legacy Archive. About 300 million light-years away, only four of these five galaxies are actually locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters. The odd man out is easy to spot, though. The interacting galaxies, NGC 7319, 7318A, 7318B, and 7317 have an overall yellowish cast. They also tend to have distorted loops and tails, grown under the influence of disruptive gravitational tides. But the predominantly bluish galaxy, NGC 7320, is closer, just 40 million light-years distant, and isn't part of the interacting group. Stephan's Quintet lies within the boundaries of the high flying constellation Pegasus. At the estimated distance of the quartet of interacting galaxies, this field of view spans about 500,000 light-years. However, moving just beyond this field, above and to the left, astronomers can identify another galaxy, NGC 7320C, that is also 300 million light-years distant. Of course, including it would bring the interacting quartet back up to quintet status.

Rhode Island Political Shorts

You can wear a button to vote…If you have an ID…Look who wants to be a Convention delegate…Doreen Costa wants to kill diabetics…Where is Curt Schilling?...Rick Perry might ride again…Orange is his natural color
By Will Collette

You CAN wear a political button when you vote. For a while, it looked like the RI Board of Elections was going to issue a ban on the wearing of political buttons, stickers, T-shirts, hats, etc., by voters when they went into polling places. State law forbids “electioneering” within a certain distance of polling places, and the BOE was considering whether wearing a button saying “Vote for *#&%*” while voting violated that law. Of course, poll workers are not allowed to wear anything that indicates their political feelings, but this new rule could have had some serious repercussions at polling places. Fortunately, the BOE changed its mind and rejected this proposed rule-change.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Aliens among us

Romney versus Santorum
By Ted Rall

For the whole cartoon, click here.

Blowing in the wind

Bag It: R.I. Needs to Ban Plastic Tumbleweeds

By ROWAN SHARP/ News contributor
PROVIDENCE — They’re illegal in New Delhi, Bangladesh and Portland, Ore., but they’re blowing all over Rhode Island. They’re snagged on fences along the Woonasquatucket River. They’re bobbing in Narragansett Bay. There are likely several in your home or office at this very moment.

Plastic grocery bags are so ubiquitous in Rhode Island, and in most of the world, that it may seem strange to imagine life without them. But Channing Jones, field associate for the advocacy group Environment Rhode Island, is on a mission. He wants Rhode Islanders not only to imagine such a life, but also to live it.

Fact-Checking the Charter Revision Committee: Question 4

Stated reason for proposed Town Charter change is not true
By Will Collette

Diligent Progressive Charlestown readers have had to put up with a series I’ve been writing on the proposed changes to Charlestown’s Town Charter that will come up for their first public hearing next Monday, February 27, at 7 PM at Town Hall.

These proposals are being advanced by the town’s Charter Revision Commission (CRC), which has been stacked with members of Charlestown’s resident anti-wind-power group, Ill Wind RI, a close ally of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance.

One of their more innocuous, though puzzling, proposals is Question 4, a long and minutely detailed fine-tuning of town procurement policies. It lowers the point where competitive bidding must take place to $1000.

Lots of lighting loose ends

Dazed and confused – and blaming Peter
No joy in C-Town
By Will Collette

If you (a) read the Dark Sky Ordinance that was presented to the Charlestown Town Council on February 13, then (b) read the Planning Commission’s Advisory Opinion on this ordinance and finally (c) listen to the Planning Commission February 22 meeting on Clerkbase, you would wonder if there are three different Dark Sky ordinances in play.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Past Vice President Tried To Warn Us About This a Long, Long Time Ago

Astronomy Picture of the Day

A Zodiacal Skyscape 
From NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day

Explanation: Venus and Jupiter are this month's two brightest planets. Shortly after sunset on February 20, they dominate the sky above the western horizon and this snowy landscape. In clear and transparent skies over Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania, USA, they are also seen immersed in Zodiacal light. The extended, diffuse, triangular glow is sunlight scattered by dust along the plane of the ecliptic. Brighter near the horizon, the Zodiacal glow angles upward, first to Venus and then to Jupiter hugging the ecliptic as they orbit the Sun. Fading even further, the glow stretches toward the lovely Pleides star cluster near the top of the frame. Following their appearance in this Zodiacal skyscape, the coming days will see Venus and Jupiter sharing the early evening sky with a young crescent Moon. The two bright planets are even headed for a close pairing or conjunction, separated by about 3 degrees on March 13.

“Compensation” and “benefits” of blogging

By Linda Felaco

As is typical of blogs that cover controversial subjects, we get our share of comments here on Progressive Charlestown that are argumentative and combative. But yesterday, one came in over the transom—unsigned—that was laugh-out-loud funny. In case you missed it, I’ll quote it in full here:

You say this site is "independent." In order to validate such a claim, you should identify all sources of funds and all sources of contributions of resources, such as laptops, internet service. And you should also disclose whether the bloggers who write about Charlestown receive any form of compensation or benefits (Linda Felaco has identified herself as a freelance writer, so it's hard to believe she would be spending all that time going to certain meetings and writing about them and other comments for free). What are the names of the people who provide funding and other resources for the blog, and I'm not talking about the blog posts that you simply adopt from other sources?

Thanks, Anonymous, for making sure I got in my 18 minutes of belly laughing for the day to achieve optimal health. Heck, I'm laughing now just thinking about it. Because of course everybody knows only Google makes any money off of blogging. People blog for the sheer joy of seeing their name out there on the interwebs, and because you can do it in your pajamas.

Be A StormSmart Reporter!

Save The Bay and CRMC are working together to engage volunteers in monitoring the impact of coastal storms around the state with the StormSmart Storm Reporter Volunteer Program. Volunteers are needed to assist the two groups with documenting the effects of storms on the Rhode Island coast.

OMG PD: Under Duress

Woman, charged with DUI, signs documents "Under Duress"
An alleged drunk driving North Kingstown woman refused to pull over for police this week. She was first clocked driving 83 mph in a 55 mph zone on Route 4 but reportedly refused to stop when police activated their sirens, leading officers to her home instead. 

Changing the Town Charter for the common good

Ideas aimed at improving Charlestown government
By Will Collette

Now that I’ve concluded my review of the seven proposed changes to Charlestown’s Town Charter that will come up for a public hearing next Monday (Feb 27, 7 PM, Town Hall), I have some suggestions for Charter changes that might actually benefit town citizens.

Changes to the Town Charter should only be made if they are actually needed, resolve some existing problem, can’t be addressed by less drastic means than changing our town’s “constitution,” and finally, do no harm.

I concluded that none of the seven Charter changes proposed by the current Charter Revision Commission (CRC) meet those criteria. Several of their proposals are actually transparent attempts at revenge against the enemies of the members of the CRC.

Instead of these seven largely unwarranted, if not downright dangerous, proposed changes, here are four items I would propose for consideration:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Job training for the 21st training

Pundit re-training
By Jen Sorenson

To see the whole cartoon, click here.

Astronomy Picture of the Day: such an Ill Wind

Anticrepuscular Rays Over Wyoming 
From NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day

Explanation: What's happening over the horizon? Although the scene may appear somehow supernatural, nothing more unusual is occurring than a setting Sun and some well placed clouds. Pictured above are anticrepuscular rays. To understand them, start by picturing common crepuscular rays that are seen any time that sunlight pours though scattered clouds. Now although sunlight indeed travels along straight lines, the projections of these lines onto the spherical sky are great circles. Therefore, the crepuscular rays from a setting (or rising) sun will appear to re-converge on the other side of the sky. At the anti-solar point 180 degrees around from the Sun, they are referred to as anticrepuscular rays. Pictured above is a particularly striking set of anticrepuscular rays photographed last month near CheyenneWyoming,USA.

Big night for town Democrats

Guests at Charlestown Dems monthly meeting talk 2012 elections
By Will Collette

On Monday night, I got to wear two hats. One was as a proud and loyal member of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee. The other was as co-editor of Progressive Charlestown, the independent (got that, CCA?) source of news and progressive opinion in our fair town.

The meeting was highlighted by guest speakers who drove down to Charlestown to talk to town Democrats about the rapidly intensifying 2012 election. At the top of the bill was Rep. Jim Langevin. State Democratic Party Executive Director Stephanie DeSilva also spoke, as did Devin Driscoll, Rhode Island State Director for the campaign to re-elect President Obama.

More unnecessary Town Charter proposals

Part 3: Monkeying around with town government positions
By Will Collette

Read the background on the Charter Revision Committee here.
Read Part 1 on proposed changes on land acquisitions and term limits
Read Part 2 on three proposed changes to the way the town does business

Every two years, the town considers changing the town’s “Constitution,” its Town Charter. It starts with the appointment of a Charter Revision Committee (CRC) who generally find something that needs revising. After all, what’s a Revision Committee without revisions?