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Monday, April 30, 2012

Rep. Walsh pushes for passage of new environmental laws

Murky Future for R.I. Environmental Bills

Rep. Walsh at the State Capitol where she is pushing "product
stewardship" legislation to deal with hard-to-dispose-of  products
(photo courtesy of Clean Water Action)
By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff
PROVIDENCE — There were no environmental bills signed at the recent Statehouse celebration in honor of Earth Day. In fact, zero environmental bills have been signed into law during the current session, unless you count the Agriculture and Seafood Act signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee on April 26.

During the April 24 Earth Day ceremony, Rep. Donna Walsh, D-Charlestown/New Shoreham, said she expects two producer-responsibility bills — one for paint cans (H7233) and the other for packaging (H7027A) — to at least make it out of committee.

The DINOs didn't die out 65 million years ago

The Democrat in Name Only State: Rhode Island
Ask any conservative and they’ll tell you that the state’s problems are inextricably linked to the dominance of Democrats. This is not untrue, but what they aren’t telling you is that many of the Democrats in the General Assembly are more closely aligned with their own ideology than that of the party’s typical platform.

Our reporting on ALEC this week brought that rarely-mentioned truism to the center of debate this week. Not only is ALEC’s lone Democrat on its board of directors Woonsocket’s own Jon Brien. But for a supposedly liberal state, ALEC has no small toe hold on our General Assembly – more than 20 percent of legislators are members, and half of them are Democrats.

Cross Mills Farmers Market opens this week

New Thinking for New Farmers Markets

Kevin Thibodeau, owner of Lucky Foot Ranch, joined a
recent strategy session with other vendors
for a new Charlestown farmers market.
(Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff

CHARLESTOWN — It was only a few years ago that farmers markets were nearly extinct, marginalized by the car culture, shopping centers and fast food.

That trend has reversed in a big way in Rhode Island, with nearly 50 regular farmers markets today, several running through the winter.

What was Uncle Fluffy up to?

Odd little fight at the close of April 23 Town Council meeting
By Will Collette

One thing you don’t see very often is a heated debate and sharply split vote over whether to accept the minutes of a previous meeting. But in Charlestown these days, the bizarre has become commonplace.

You could have seen this coming when Town Council Boss Tom Gentz pulled an odd maneuver at the first half of the Town Council’s bifurcated April meeting on April 9. At the end of that meeting, as the Council was about to approve all of the noncontroversial “consent agenda” items, Gentz asked that instead of routinely approving the March 12 Town Council minutes, they be set aside “for further research.”

Near the end of the Town Council’s April 23rd meeting, after the CCA-controlled Town Council majority – and particularly Council Vice President Deputy Dan Slattery – took a beating from citizens for their ill-conceived attack on the town’s stewardship of Ninigret Park, Boss Gentz asked that the minutes of the March 12 Council meeting be changed.

What did he have in mind, asked his Council colleagues?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Long Adios

A Wal-Mart Detective Story
By Ruben Boling

For the whole cartoon, click here.

NASA releases photos of Shuttle over NYC

Spectacular photos of the Space Shuttle Enterprise circling Manhattan
By Will Collette

I wrote a short piece two week's ago about the journey of the Space Shuttle to the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum annex at Dulles International Airport. 

To get there, NASA mounted the Shuttle on the back of a 747 and flew it around and over Washington DC. This reminded me of actually seeing the Shuttle - before the first launch - being flown on the same path when I lived in Washington 30 years ago.

Earlier this week, NASA did it again, this time using the Space Shuttle Enterprise which is destined for permanent display near Battery Park in lower Manhattan. 

The Not-So-Curious Divide

The Not-So-Curious Divide
Charles R. Brayton, founder of
Rhode Island's machine politics
A few days ago, David Scharfenberg of the Phoenix wrote a blog post entitled “The Curious Divide” noticing the distinct difference between Rhode Island’s liberal federal delegation and its state legislature, which skews moderate (and as one reader has pointed out, significantly to the right of most Democratic state legislatures, with some Democrats more conservative than some Republicans). Mr. Scharfenberg explains his view:

the split vote – elect a moderate local rep and a liberal federal one – seems to perfectly capture Rhode Island’s deep unease with its own politics: it is a liberal state uncomfortable with its liberalism.

I’d agree, but I don’t think it’s exactly right. Take the last election. In the race for Governor, Lincoln Chafee’s advantage mainly came from two places; the cities of Providence and Pawtucket and a group I like to think of as “Bay Progressives” (though there were probably liberal Republicans in there as well).

Two Heads Aren't Always Better than One

An alarming percentage of the fish found in creeks contaminated by J.R. Simplot's phosphate mining operations in Idaho are grossly deformed.
The corporate propensity for rationalizing the irrational in the pursuit of profit appears to be boundless.
Consider J.R. Simplot, a giant agribusiness conglomerate whose phosphate mining operations in Idaho have grossly polluted creeks with selenium, a highly toxic metal. 
Simplot's scientists rationalized the corporation's dirty deed with a 1,200-page study asserting that even though the selenium contamination of creeks was well above levels allowed by environmental law, the water remained "safe" for fish.

Signs of summer: The Hitching Post reopens

You know summer can't be far off when the sign in front of The Hitching Post changes from "Closed to May" to "Opening May __." This year, the happy day falls on Friday, May 4.

By Linda Felaco

Could mercury poisoning be the cause of Charlestown’s special brand of craziness?

Coastal fog carries toxic mercury, the element that drove hatters mad in Lewis Carroll’s day.

By Linda Felaco

The dangers of prolonged mercury exposure are well known. They include impaired memory and language and motor skills and reduced attention span. Exposure to mercury used to treat felt hats caused hatters to appear confused or disturbed, hence the expression “mad as a hatter,” which inspired Lewis Carroll to create the character of the Mad Hatter in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. When animals ingest mercury, it is not easily excreted and tends to concentrate in fat tissue, which is why pregnant women are advised to limit their consumption of fatty fish. In addition to ingesting it from eating seafood, here in Charlestown we’re exposed to mercury via air pollution from trash incinerators due west and upwind from us along the Connecticut coast, as well as from coal-fired power plants.

Now atmospheric scientists have found another way that we’re exposed to mercury: Mercury vapor travels in coastal fog.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bye, bye Newt

Gingrich bows out
By Mike Luckovitch

Click here for the whole cartoon.

This Economy Stinks Worse than You Think

Too many top economic commentators are drawn from a pool of talking heads and economists who treat the welfare of corporations as a top priority.

David Kocieniewski just won the Pulitzer Prize for his in-depth reporting on the loopholes that the richest Americans and corporations routinely exploit to minimize their tax bills. Congratulations to him! But most of his counterparts covering economics and business are a bunch of lapdogs.
Do you get your economic news from TV or newspapers? Big mistake.
Their income derives heavily from corporations that need you to buy things. You're more likely to do so if you think (accurately or not) that the economy is OK.Increasingly, well-known journalists on the business and finance beats top off their earnings with speaking fees from Wall Street outfits, according to a recent Columbia Journalism Review article appropriately headlined "Money Talks."

Not getting over

Romney's outreach to women voters
By Matt Bors

For the whole cartoon, click here.

Courage Means Honesty

Budgeting for Disaster: How Budgets Are Cut

I was at the hearing at House Finance last night, talking about tax cuts for rich people.  The remarkable thing about all the tax cuts we’ve given over the past 16 years is not that we’ve given them, but how we’ve paid for them.

As we saw in the last installment, the story of the past 16 years has been relentless cuts in state income taxes on the top 1% of taxpayers. The cuts have come in several different forms, but the result has been the same: dramatically lower taxes on the top end, much smaller changes for everyone else.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Jupiter and the Moons of Earth 
From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day

Planet Earth has many moons. Its largest artificial moon, the International Space Station, streaks through this lovely sky view with clouds in silhouette against the fading light of a sunset.

Captured from Stuttgart, Germany last Sunday, the frame also includes Earth's largest natural satellite 1.5 days after its New Moon phase.

Just below and left of the young crescent is Jupiter, another bright celestial beacon hovering near the western horizon in early evening skies. Only briefly, as seen from the photographer's location, Jupiter and these moons of Earth formed the remarkably close triple conjunction. 

Of course, Jupiter has many moons too. In fact, close inspection of the photo will reveal tiny pin pricks of light near the bright planet, large natural satellites of Jupiter known as Galilean moons.

Today is Astronomy Day

Look, up in the sky…it’s a bird, it’s a plane…no, IT’S VENUS
By Will Collette

April 28 is Astronomy Day, an international effort to attract more people from the general public “to share the joy of astronomy.”

As regular Progressive Charlestown readers know, I am a big astronomy buff, which is why we often post NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, even though it isn’t exactly a hot, popular item.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Freedom to Fear

The only change the Supreme Court's majority believes in is change that takes us back to the 18th century.

Serious commentators are telling us not to assume that the Supreme Court is going to find "Obamacare" unconstitutional just because the conservative justices gave the government lawyer a hard time when the case came before the Court last month.
Somehow that doesn't make me sleep better at night. This is the same Court that gave us the Citizens United decision, which opened the sluice gates of special-interest money that flooded a political system that was already awash in it. The ruling was the Court's worst decision since Dred Scott in 1857, which ruled that no Americans of African descent, whether enslaved or free, were U.S. citizens.
You think that the Court is going to find mandatory health insurance constitutional? Nah.

Tough luck, South Kingstown

CRMC Issues Eleventh Hour Decision

Beach erosion at Matunuck Beach

The Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC), after another evening filled with heated testimony, issued its decision on a request by the Town of South Kingstown to reclassify a portion of shoreline along Matunuck Beach Road. CRMC would not be forced to make a potentially precedential decision based on an eleventh hour situation being put before them for resolution.

In a 6-2 vote, the Council voted no, voicing concern with reclassifying the existing shoreline designation of “Coastal Headlands Bluffs and Cliffs” to that of a “manmade shoreline.”

Celebrate Arbor Day

Plant a tree, appreciate what we have
By Will Collette

Today, April 27, is National Arbor Day, a day for those of us who live in Charlestown to celebrate our beautiful town, made special not just by our beaches, salt ponds and freshwater streams, ponds and lakes, but also by our abundant woodlands.

We all have different points of view about how to best preserve the beauty and natural abundance we have here, but I think we can all agree that what we have does indeed need to be preserved – not just for its own sake, but for the benefit of all.

UPDATED: Planning Commission Review: NOTHING old, nothing new

Plus a dozen odds and ends
Town plans to buy Planning Commissioners I-Pads
By Will Collette

UPDATE: I listened to the whole 2-hour-long meeting on Clerkbase. Those are two hours I'll never get back.

As I noted in my preview (click continued to read), the Planning Commission had no new business and no old business on their agenda for the first time in memory. The agenda was so devoid of serious content that three of the seven members didn't show up.

Yet somehow, they managed to fill two hours with some of the most amazingly banal stuff you could ever imagine.

Deputy Dan and the Search for CIP

Will somebody please find this man a hobby? That is, besides messing up Charlestown.
If only we had a CIP
By Will Collette

For the past three months, CCA Town Council Vice President Deputy Dan Slattery has been on a tear about CIP. CIP this, CIP that. Deputy Dan’s recent pet issues seem to be driven by CIP.

So what the hell is CIP and why is Deputy Dan so agitated about it? Why has CIP become his obsession?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ye Shall Know the truth

Etc., etc.
By Tim Eagan

Click here for the whole cartoon.

OMG Police

Bloody Boot, Stupidity With Cars and Citizen Vigilance

We compile the odd, unusual and ‘oh my gosh’ police items from throughout the region.
·           By Matthew Sanderson

Neighborhood Fight Leads to Loss of Teeth
Woonsocket Police arrested two brothers last Sunday after they allegedly beat up their neighbor and knocked out several of his teeth.

Police officers who responded to the property say the hallway had blood stains all over one area of the floor. When they went to the apartment of the suspects, officers say the man who answered was wearing a bloody work boot and barked "You got a warrant?" 

Alternative Energy Economics

The Price is Right for Wind Power

From: María Elena Hurtado, Science and Development Network, More from this Affiliate,

Generating wind energy is more than twice as cheap as solar photovoltaic (PV) energy production, a study of alternative energy in six developing countries has found.

The findings, published in Nature Climate Change last week (15 April), could help inform global debates on financing initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

Safely dispose of prescription drugs April 28

The usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

On April 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. you will have an opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding your home of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Bring your medications for disposal to one of these two sites in Charlestown:
  • The Charlestown Police station at 4901 Old Post Road (across from Ninigret Park)
  • The Narragansett Tribal Police office at 4375B South County Trail. This is an office trailer behind the Tribal office between The Gentleman Farmer restaurant and the Charlestown Fire station on South County Trail.

Taxing History

Budgeting for Disaster: Taxing History

Is it really too soon to modify our tax code?

In the discussions of taxes at the State House, one line you hear a lot this year is that our state’s new income tax code is new and we should give it time to see how it works out.  

That’s what House Speaker Gordon Fox has said, and I’m hearing that it’s the line of the day on Smith Hill, available from any of the House or Senate leadership.

Wheel of Misfortune coming to Charlestown soon

Town Council approves development of new game show
By Will Collette

First, the news. By a vote of 5-0 on April 9, the Charlestown Town Council directed Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero to develop an ordinance for a new program to help severely, but not too severely, disadvantaged Charlestown homeowners get tax relief.

See for yourself, here. The program is called RHOTAP (the actual name is meaningless, as you’ll see), and it is designed to set up a competition where some miserable Charlestown homeowners will compete for “prizes” (tax breaks offset by town tax liens against their property) in front of a volunteer panel of five judges. To become a contestant, you must be in danger of losing your home to foreclosure.

The judges will determine whether the contestants are (a) truly needy – i.e., not lying, (b) truly deserving – i.e., not spendthrift deadbeats, and (c) likely to keep their homes if they get help. I swear I am not making any of this up.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saw one of these today!

Huge. On a rock. A Google search for "big green moth" identified it right away.

Actius luna.

This one seems to be a male. The females lay eggs on Black Walnut leaves.

Gotta love sunny days

When you have a solar power system!
by Tom Ferrio

I won't deny it if you say I've become obsessed with analyzing how our new solar electric system is working out. Last month I showed you our electric bill of $39, down from $150 the previous year.

After prompting from some readers I presented an analysis of why the bill was so low.

We just received our March-April bill so here is an update.

UPDATED RESULTS: District 2 Democratic delegates selected

UPDATED: Election results
By Will Collette

I had suggested three solid Progressives to Democrats who voted in the Presidential Preference Primary. I'm pleased to report that these three, Reps. Teresa Tanzi, Josh Miller and Frank Ferri took three out of the top four highest vote-getting slots and will be going to the National Democratic Primary in Charlotte, NC.

In Charlestown, my three picks came in #1, #2, and #3 - Teresa Tanzi, followed by Josh Miller and Frank Ferri.

Here are the 11 Democrats chosen by Rhode Island District 2 voters to go to the Convention:

Joshua MILLER1313 7.8%
Patrick T. FOGARTY12727.6%
Teresa TANZI12337.3%
Frank G. FERRI11376.8%
Elaine PRIOR11316.7%
Michael A. SOLOMON11096.6%
L. Susan WEINER10336.1%
Mark S. WEINER10076.0%
Thomas J. IZZO9905.9%
Ryan Patrick KELLEY9865.9%
Elisa M. POLLARD9725.8%

Continue for my commentary on the delegate selection process.

Faux Facts

But "Fair and Balanced"
By Pat Bagley

For the whole cartoon, click here.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!

Where the Wild Things Are ... in Rhode Island

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff
Yes, there are bears roaming free in Rhode Island — and beavers, fisher cats, minks, bald eagles and coyotes. There are no moose, mountain lions or wild elephants, only at the zoo.
Here is a brief rundown of some of the uncommon creatures and critters roaming the Rhode Island wilds. Many of the animals haven't been seen since Colonial or pre-Colonial times, when they were either hunted into oblivion or lost their forest habitat.

Life is good for the 1%

Take and Give
By Jen Sorenson

Click here for the whole cartoon.

The Gang that Couldn’t Get Its Name Straight returns on Thursday

Where once were seven, now there are six
By Will Collette

After a hiatus following their disastrous February 27 debut, Charlestown’s Charter Review Advisory “Board” will resume their meeting schedule on April 26.

I put the word “Board” in quotation marks because, under the Town Charter, their actual name is the “Charter Revision Advisory Committee” (CRAC).

It’s a real bad start for such a group when they take liberties with the name they are given in the Charter they are supposed to be reviewing. Maybe they missed reading that part.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Breathing While Black

Strip searches are now legal after arrests for violating leash laws or riding a bicycle without an audible bell.

The radical conservative majority of the Supreme Court delivered yet another bizarre opinion the other week.
It ruled that police and jail officials can strip search anyone arrested for anything, no matter how minor the violation or how upstanding the suspect.
In doing so it agreed with the rulings of lower courts that have found strip searches legal after arrests for violating leash laws, driving without a license, falling behind in child support payments, failing to use a turn signal, or (my favorite) riding a bicycle without an audible bell.
Are these guys nuts?

The Poor as Collateral Damage

There are places where basic food, shelter, health care, and good schools are available to everyone, but not here.

Not much food
And job's no prize;
Is on the rise.

Laugh your ass off

For a good cause....Saturday night at the Westerly Armory