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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

6,000 Rounds

What we really need

By Tom Tomorrow

For the whole cartoon, click here.

Taxpayer Subsidies for Junk Food Wasting Billions

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Federal subsidies for commodity crops are subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup, enough to pay for 21 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to RIPIRG’s new report, Apples to Twinkies 2012. Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy one half of an apple per taxpayer.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Star Cluster R136 Bursts Out 
From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day

In the center of star-forming region 30 Doradus lies a huge cluster of the largest, hottest, most massive stars known.

These stars, known collectively as star cluster R136, were captured above in visible light by the newly installed Wide Field Camera peering through the recently refurbished Hubble Space Telescope.

Gas and dust clouds in 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, have been sculpted into elongated shapes by powerful winds and ultraviolet radiation from these hot cluster stars.

The 30 Doradus Nebula lies within a neighboring galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud and is located a mere 170,000 light-years away.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Episode 4

Bait & Switch (Not!)
By Robert Yarnall

Read the rest of the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series:
Episode 1 – Getting Ready To Fish

Episode 2 – Watchaug Bites
Episode 3 – Avoiding Car Sickness
Episode 4 – Bait & Switch (Not!)
Episode 5 – Still Baiting, Still Switching…
Episode 6 – Mother Gooser & Friends
Episode 7 – Under the Radar with L-T
Episode 8 – Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Prelude
Episode 9 – Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Kiss
Episode 10 – Snagged on the Epilog Epic-Log

Salt water fishing enthusiasts are only too happy to divulge the GPS coordinates of angling hot spots and the kinds of bait needed to bring home some heart-healthy, omega-3 infused bacon of the sea. For those of us lucky enough to live in and around Charlestown, the staff at Breachway Bait & Tackle will set you up and ship you out, optimally equipped to bring Jaws home to dinner.

The fish stories change considerably within traditionally secretive freshwater fishing fraternities.  Bassing pros brag about outboard engine turbo-boost. Fly-fishing Zen masters flash merit-badge sashes full of hand-tied trout flies. But when the fish are biting, good luck with the who, what, where, when, and why of bass, trout, and related gill-equipped species. The freshwater brotherhood – and the sisterhood, too – clams up tighter than a Quonnie quahog.

Planning Commission covers its “B-List” at July 25 meeting

Road bond refund, light poles, open space and affordable housing
By Will Collette

After a short hiatus, Charlestown’s version of political root canal, the Planning Commission, returned to action on July 25. Barely.

The Commission assembled a quorum with four of its seven members present. They actually lacked the three member quorum they needed to approve their last set of minutes (you have to have attended the meeting to vote to approve the minutes).

On board for the July 25 meeting: Planning Commissar Ruth Platner, her top lieutenant Linda Fabre (who is moving out of Charlestown), George Tremblay (who has his eye on a Town Council seat) and Alternate Joann Stolle, who brings her style sense and shingle collection to the table. Stolle’s term is up in November, but she is not running for re-election.

Gordon Foer, who is running for re-election, was not present. Neither was Jim Abbott, another member whose term is up but is not seeking to return. Kathryn O’Connor was also absent.

Monday, July 30, 2012

More ways to enjoy squash blossoms: Squash blossom soup

Squash blossom soup coming to a boil.
By Linda Felaco

Most people who are familiar with squash blossoms have eaten them stuffed and fried, but that's not the only thing you can do with these evanescent summer treats. I came across a recipe online for a squash blossom soup that sounded absolutely wonderful, but who makes soup in the summer? Well, with all this rain, soup somehow didn't seem like such a bad idea, even in July, so I headed back out into the garden Sunday evening in between rain showers to gather some more blossoms. 

The belly of the beast

By Dave Fisher.

I recently spent three days in Washington, D.C., covering the Citizens Climate Lobby’s (CCL) 2012 International Conference

Over the course of the week, some 200 volunteer lobbyists from the United States and Canada ventured to Capitol Hill to ask Democrats and Republicans alike to support the Save Our Climate Act, introduced by California Democrat Pete Stark.


Art Thief Dabbles in Tech Market, Hotel Guest Bares All
High-brow heist master settles for Samsung
Some could argue the man famed with bargaining with the FBI to arrange the return of $300 million in art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has sunk to less lofty goals.

Myles Connor, 69, famed art thief and one-time rocker, was arrested July 5, for robbing a woman of her cell phone at gunpoint in an attempt to get her to pay a debt. 

July 30 is Medicare Day

Celebrate its 47th birthday!
By Will Collette

For almost half a century, the United States has been providing government-funded health insurance to the elderly and totally disabled without regard to income. It was called “socialism” and just about all the other nasty names that have been hurled at so-called “Obamacare” – and much worse.

New Scam in the works for Comprehensive Plan?

Planning Commission considers faking it on Comprehensive Plan
"Trust Me!"
By Will Collette

On July 25, the Planning Commission met after a month-long break.

I’m going to cover this meeting in two parts. This first installment deals with the biggest new issue to come out of the meeting.

It now appears that Charlestown Planning Commissar Ruth Platner (CCA) plans to come up with a brand-new Comprehensive Plan by April 2013 even though she has allowed Charlestown to fall way behind schedule on this legally mandated and critically important duty assigned to the Planning Commission under the Town Charter.

In a separate article, I’ll deal with the several “B-List” items the Planning Commission covered on July 25.

Here’s part 1:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Science Marches on

Empirical Research

Summer Sunday vegetarian locavore lunch

The zucchini blossoms waiting to be cooked.
By Linda Felaco

Squash blossom lovers know that you have to take advantage of the short time of year that they're available, from mid- to late summer. So this morning while the blossoms were wide open (meaning you can check to make sure there are no pollinators inside before picking them), I harvested several blossoms from the garden to have for lunch. See here for an illustrated tutorial on how to harvest the male blossoms and leave the females on the plant.  

We fried the blossoms last time (see here), so this time we decided to sautée them along with the zucchini.

The War on Soda Pop

We're famous for embracing the freedom to do the wrong thing, as often as we please.

New York City, ever the leader in healthy living, is about to ban the sale of super-sized sodas and other sweetened drinks by its restaurants, movie theaters, and street carts.

As part of a continuing campaign against obesity, it's going to prohibit beverage containers bigger than 16 ounces.

"Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public officials are wringing their hands saying, 'Oh, this is terrible,'" said Mayor Mike Bloomberg. "New York City is not about wringing your hands; it's about doing something."

Good luck with that, Mayor.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Tulip in the Swan 

Framing a bright emission region this telescopic view looks out along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the nebula rich constellation Cygnus the Swan.

Popularly called the Tulip Nebula the glowing cloud of interstellar gas and dust is also found in the 1959 catalog by astronomer Stewart Sharpless as Sh2-101.

About 8,000 light-years distant the nebula is understandably not the only cosmic cloud to evoke the imagery of flowers.

The complex and beautiful nebula is shown here in a composite image that maps emission from ionized sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms into red, green, and blue colors.

Ultraviolet radiation from young, energetic O star HDE 227018 ionizes the atoms and powers the emission from the Tulip Nebula. HDE 227018, is the bright star very near the blue arc at image center.

Can’t handle the truth

Can’t take a joke
By Will Collette

In my writings on Progressive Charlestown, I investigate and report on the truth behind Charlestown’s byzantine politics and politicians. I also poke fun at those same politicians.

Neither of those pursuits is very popular with those politicians, especially the ones flying the banner of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance.

It’s pretty funny coming from them, all this talk of “hate” and “lack of civility,” since the CCA has built its power through some of the most vicious and personal acts of character assassination you’ll see anywhere in the country. Except Quartzsite, Arizona.

If you look back over the CCA’s six-year track record, you’ll see that in nearly every instance where they have gone on the attack after an opponent – whether it’s Jim Mageau or Bill DiLibero – they rarely provide anything like the level of detail and documentation that I consider to be fundamental to basic fair play in politics.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Things that couldn't possibly happen

Political Roundup: 2032
By Ruben Bolling

Click here for the whole cartoon.

Healing Mother Nature's Wounds

Our health is at stake.
Nature's on
A downward path,
Save her with
Some voter wrath.

"Stay the Course" isn't working

By Pat Crowley in

If you are of a certain age “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ is an iconic movie.  Reading about the fretting going on in the media about the latest edition of CNBC “Business Rankings” I can’t help but think about the movies’ opening sequence when Ferris’ parents, thoroughly convinced he is sick (once again) let him stay home from school and as soon as they close the door to his bedroom and are safely out of ear shot he shoots up from under the covers and says:

Google YouTube thinks anonymous commenters are nastier

New Google policy pushes commenters to use their real names
By Will Collette

YouTube's latest anti-troll effort
Mashable reports that Google is trying to address a problem as old as the internet of commenters who like to hit and run by posting nasty or stupid comments on blogs, news stories, videos (like those on YouTube), forums, etc. 

We certainly see a lot of that here at Progressive Charlestown where just about every racist, hateful, libelous or just plain stupid comment is posted by an anonymous sniper. Of the 629 comments we have spiked (the ratio is about 1 rejection for every 4.25 comments that we publish), nearly all are anonymous.

Millstone nuke wants to increase on-site nuclear waste storage by 710%

Directly west and upwind of Charlestown, 20 miles away
By Will Collette

Virginia-based Dominion Resources is a major player in electricity generation in New England. They own the Millstone nuclear power plant outside of New London just 20 miles west of Charlestown. They also own the nasty coal-fired Brayton Point plant just over the Rhode Island line in Somerset, MA.

Dominion is petitioning for permission to dramatically increase the amount of nuclear waste it stores on site. They currently store some spent nuclear rods in pools, but also have 19 casks of “dry-storage” waste as well. They are asking for approval to increase the number of dry casks to 135. While it is much safer to store waste in armored casks, compared to pools, this plan means long-term, on-site storage.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Variation on the Mint Julep

Photos and text by KARA DiCAMILLO/ News contributor

It’s been hot here in Rhode Island, which means it’s the perfect weather for frozen concoctions. 

What’s a better way to cool off before dinner than with a tasty beverage made with local ingredients?

I used the mint that I grow in my garden, along with fresh-picked blueberries that are now in season. 

I added a bit of rum for a delicious kick, and a dash of sugar to sweeten it a bit.

The Olympics are coming! The Olympics are coming!

VIDEO: Opening Ceremonies tonight on NBC
By Will Collette

Boyle shows off a mock-up of the design for the opening ceremonies
I really love the Olympics. I'm not a huge sports nut and am only vaguely aware of how the Red Sox are doing. Don't care about the Celtics or the Bruins. I do enjoy the Pats.

But the Olympics are in their own category and from the opening pagentry through the competitions - I'm partial to swimming, diving, much of the track and a few of the arcane events. I root for long-shots. Get embarrassed at the "USA! USA!" jingoism. Am sick to death of Michael Phelps. Am hoping Elizabeth Beisel comes home with gold.

I like the opening ceremonies, only I wish they were edited down to a reasonable length. I will never forget Pavarotti closing the show a the opening ceremony for the Torino Games, or Muhammed Ali carrying the torch to light the Olympic flame.

The Local Beer Boom

Craft breweries have doubled their share of the U.S. market since 2004.

And now, for some happy talk — by which I mean a non-corporate, "little-d" democratic, and altogether pleasurable economic development that's spreading across our country. In a word: beer.

More specifically, craft breweries are flourishing from Maine to Oregon, with happy hopheads in town after town now able to boast of their own local, unique, zesty, and fun batch of suds.

While Anheuser-Busch (now owned by a Belgian conglomerate) and MillerCoors (partially owned by Canadians) still dominate America's beer market, sales of the nondescript national brands have soured in recent years.

But innovative, small-batch, hometown yeast-wranglers have tapped a burgeoning market of brewski lovers reaching for the real gusto.

New funding for renewable energy

R.I. Energy Fund has $6M Available for Renewables

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff
PROVIDENCE — There’s some positive news at the troubled Economic Development Corporation (EDC), at least for its Renewable Energy Fund.
Some $6.5 million is now available in the Renewable Energy Fund (REF) to finance renewable energy and green technology projects. The Office of Energy Resources, the EDC and Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s office will determine how the money will be invested. 
Residential and municipal groups are expected to be involved in determining the qualifications needed to apply for grants and loans. Entities can also apply to the REF on an ongoing basis.  

Raiders of the Lost Platform

Michael Chambers’s ongoing quest to dig up the “dirt” on Charlestown’s Democrats (with a little help from “Peyton Storm”)

By Linda Felaco

If you’ve ever wandered over to the CCA “blog” and read any of the “guest posts” by Michael Chambers (be sure to take some Dramamine before you go), you’ve no doubt noticed that he’s rather a one-trick pony. Pretty much every post revolves around some alleged failing by town Democrats,[1] of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m one.

Though I’ll confess that Chambers’s exhaustive series of posts a couple of months ago claiming that the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee had no platform simply because he was unable to locate it on the CDTC website was mildly entertaining. See here, here, here, and here, plus this one that he wrote under the pseudonym “Peyton Storm,” apparently fearing that too many posts would dilute the Michael Chambers “brand” kinda like how Stephen King’s publisher made him publish a bunch of books as “Richard Bachman.”[2]

Eventually, Chambers stumbled across the CDTC platform (obscurely labeled “Platform” in the drop-down menu on the CDTC home page) and declared “victory” by claiming that it was posted in response to his persistent demands when in fact it’d been there since 2010 (though 2 days later he proceeded to find fault with the fact that the planks were not explained to his satisfaction). Woodward and Bernstein, you ain’t, Mike. Here’s some free advice: If you were thinking of taking up a second career as an investigative reporter in your retirement, fuggedaboutit.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Brainer

A view of the Coast Guard Station on
 the west side of Block Island. (photo by Bob Plain)
Both the biggest and smallest newspapers in Rhode Island weighed in last week on whether or not the federal government should subsidize private sector flights to Block Island. Interestingly, it was New Shoreham’s paper of record – not the state’s – that thought to make an economic argument on behalf of Rhode Island.
“And why, more than anything else, is RIAC sponsoring Cape Air, a company that started in Massachusetts and now flies all over the globe, over homegrown New England Airlines?,” asked the Block Island Times editorial (reprinted in the ProJo, I should note). 

Could this be the guy who bought the YMCA camp?

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff

The four wind turbines on the roof of his Newport home
supply electricity for everything but his clothes dryer
and kitchen stove. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)

NEWPORT — Sometimes you gotta say, “Screw you,” to make things happen. 

That’s what city resident John McNulty seems to be doing to get local rules established for residential wind turbines.

McNulty, a gifted do-it-yourselfer and admitted “thorn in the ass” to those who disapprove of his abundance of re-purposed outdoor furnishings — piles of masonry stones, assorted boats and a roof that looks like a makeshift weather station — didn’t wait around for government to tell him how to generate his own electricity.

2nd Annual Waterman Eco-Challenge Promotes Safety

“We had our hands full, but the conditions added to the energy of the day.” ~ Brian Guadagno, Senior Ocean Lifeguard Captain
By Tracey C. O'Neill  for Progressive Charlestown

2012 Waterman Eco-Challenge Prone Paddleboarders
(photo by Tracey C. O'Neill)
Ocean and sun safety awareness were on the agenda as the 2nd Annual Waterman Eco-Challenge kicked off on Narragansett Town Beach on Saturday.

An Eco-friendly 3-mile paddle, The Challenge, organized by Narragansett Parks & Recreation and Narragansett Surf Rescue, was sponsored by WaveJet and Raw Elements, eco-friendly water, surf and sun-safe businesses with local ties.  The start, just before noon was held despite conditions more conducive to a traditional surf contest.  

“Leave the people out of it”

Boss Gentz names names.

… Unless, of course, you’re CCA and you’re screaming for someone to be fired.

By Linda Felaco

At the July 9 Town Council meeting, Town Council President Tom Gentz (CCA) called for a boycott* of Progressive Charlestown, denouncing our lack of “civility” and our impolite habit of “naming names.” Gentz repeatedly demanded that we “leave the people out of it.”

Which sounds reasonable in principle, but there’s just a few problems with that.

First, just how would Gentz have us report on town government without naming names of who’s doing what when, where, and how? Should we assign numbers to the councilors like in the old Dating Game and refer to them as Councilor #1, Councilor #2, Councilor #3, and so on? I suppose town employees who have unique job titles could be referred to by title rather than by name, but it’d be kinda hard to report on what goes on at Town Council or Planning Commission meetings without “naming names.”

Perhaps Gentz would like us to use a “master lever” in Charlestown so we could “leave names out of it” when voting.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reasons to Hate Obama

All perfectly logical
By Tim Eagan

Click here for the whole cartoon.

The 'Freedom' to Refuse Health Insurance

Raise your hand if you don't want any health insurance.

As the writer Anatole France once said, "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges."

The right to refuse to have health insurance — something Republican leaders tout as a fundamental freedom — is a lot like the "right" to sleep under bridges. No one wants to exercise it.

GOP leaders are framing the requirement that every American get health insurance as the gravest assault on our liberty since the British burned the White House in 1814. But even the most hard-core teapartistas tend to freely choose the very insurance coverage whose imposition they decry as socialist tyranny. Few conservatives insist on paying their own medical expenses because they're rugged individualists.

Keep the bugs out!

Keep the Bugs Out: Buy and Burn Local Wood

Asian Long-horned beetle
By News staff

Tree-eating, non-native insects can be transported in firewood, with the potential to cause damage costing millions of dollars in clean-up, eradication and replanting efforts, according to the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

In fact, the issue of invasive species is one of the U.S. Forest Service’s top four threats. The financial impact from invasive species infestations in the United States has been estimated at $138 billion annually in total economic damages and associated control costs.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Episode 3 – Avoiding Car Sickness
By Robert Yarnall

Read the rest of the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series:
Episode 1 – Getting Ready To Fish

Episode 2 – Watchaug Bites
Episode 3 – Avoiding Car Sickness
Episode 4 – Bait & Switch (Not!)
Episode 5 – Still Baiting, Still Switching…
Episode 6 – Mother Gooser & Friends
Episode 7 – Under the Radar with L-T
Episode 8 – Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Prelude
Episode 9 – Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Kiss
Episode 10 – Snagged on the Epilog Epic-Log

The convenient truth about hauling a bass boat out of Watchaug Pond is that it’s basically clean when winched onto the trailer. No salty brine to topcoat the gunwales or yuck up the seats. Just drag the fish stalker up the ramp and beat a path to Route 1.

The AAA-endorsed triptik says to simply follow Prosser Trail toward the sea, but every once in a while some genius trades in his GPS for an IPA and winds up rampaging through the Sachem Passage neighborhood, where he  unwittingly brushes up against the second largest fluke ever caught in Charlestown, officially recorded as Assessor’s Map 17, Lot 186.

Village folklorists know this place as Whalerock.

Council finishes its July meeting with a 25 minute silly session

Council disdains MOU as well as open, transparent and professional governance
By Will Collette

It was not Tom Gentz's finest half hour
With no Y-Gate Scandal matters on the agenda, the Town Council met and bumbled through 25 minutes of business left over from their July 9 session.

Playing to a largely empty chamber, the meeting began with comments from Councilor Gregg Avedisian that the meeting agenda was incorrectly constructed. It was set up as if it was a regular Council meeting, rather than a continuation of the earlier July 9 meeting. Avedisian noted that using standard agenda boilerplate was inappropriate.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero agreed, noting that the Council should have the Town Clerk list only those items necessary to complete the Council’s business for the month.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Tax Former Movement

What's he hiding?
By Ted Rall

See the rest of the cartoon here.

300,000 – but who’s counting?

Despite Gentz boycott call, Progressive Charlestown readership grows
By Will Collette

Says she's never read Progressive Charlestown but knows enough to
denounce it from the Council dais (giving us a 40% bump in readership)
It’s been hard not to pay attention to our readership figures – like any editor or writer, I want to know that people are actually reading our stuff, so, yes, I look at our numbers at least once a day.

When Tom Ferrio and I started Progressive Charlestown, we thought that there might be a few dozen people who would click on the website, mainly out of curiosity, to read our personal take on Charlestown life, culture and politics.

At the end of February 2011, our first full month of operation, our articles were read a total of 1150 times[1], an average of just over three dozen a day.

Year of the Gaffe

We've got four more months of this.
Maybe you think the presidential election will come down to the issues. That would mean looking at how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney differ on important matters — or, in many cases, how they don't. Or perhaps the election might be all about money, and the shadowy Super PACs that will bombard us with TV advertising.

But often the campaign dwells on something else: gaffes.

What's a "gaffe"? One of those unscripted or "off-message" comments that, according to big-media pundits, are deeply revealing.

Planning Commission – THEY’RE BACK!

After short hiatus, Platner and her Planning Police come back on July 25 to long agenda
She's back!
By Will Collette

NOTE: given tonight's very light Town Council agenda, your Progressive Charlestown team will cover it later. The Wednesday Planning Commission meeting has a lot more juicy stuff in it.

On Wednesday, July 25, Charlestown’s premiere legislative and regulatory body[i], the Planning Commission returns to duty. They usually formally meet twice a month, but they cancelled their July 5 meeting and have not met since June 27.

They have a full dozen agenda items listed on Clerkbase, although many of them might simply be “placeholders” – slots reserved just in case Planning Commissar Ruth Platner wants to discuss items without overtly violating the Open Meetings Act.

We can be pretty certain that where there are documents linked to an agenda item, that item will actually be discussed at the July 25 meeting.

Let’s take a look.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Life begins at incorporation

Corporate Pro-Lifers
By Matt Bors

For the whole cartoon, click here.

Death comes for the humpback

By Linda Felaco

UPDATE, JULY 24: The Westerly Sun has reported that aquarium staff weren't able to find a place to perform the necropsy and the body was too badly decomposed already for them to be able to get much information from it—chunks of the carcass were falling off—so in the end they hauled her farther out to sea and sank her. So we'll never know how she died.
This morning, the Westerly Sun reported that a dead humpback whale had washed ashore at Lord's Point in Stonington. My husband and I grabbed the camera and headed down Route 1 to see if we could get a look at it before the good folks from Mystic Aquarium could haul it away. In one of life's odd coincidences, just as we were driving along the Charlestown moraine, WRIU was airing a program on … wait for it … the Charlestown moraine.

Hurricane insurance sticker shock will lessen

New Legislation goes into effect in January
Hurricane shutters battened down, waiting for Irene
By Will Collette

Ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, coastal residents have been paying much higher homeowner insurance premiums, if they can get conventional homeowners’ insurance at all, to cover insurers’ losses from Katrina and for future risk.

In 2006, after Katrina, Cathy and I received a notice from our long-time home insurance carrier. We were told that, despite having never filed a claim, we were going to be cancelled. And if we wanted to prevent that from happening, we had to install what we discovered were very expensive, hurricane-proof window and door guards.