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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why now?

The rise of the econotraitors
By Ted Rall

Click here to find out about this new menace.

Help South County Habitat for Humanity on April 6

Walkathon for affordable housing

(URI News Release) Registration is open for South County Habitat for Humanity’s annual “Pound the Pavement, Pound a Nail” walkathon, which begins and ends at the University of Rhode Island quadrangle on April 6.  

The 3-kilometer walk begins at 2 p.m., and all proceeds will support Habitat’s Old North Village on the edge of the URI Kingston campus.

No country does a better job integrating and benefiting from immigrants than the U.S.

Economic Benefits of Commonsense Immigration Reform
By Alan B. Krueger Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers 

Commonsense immigration reform -- that brings undocumented workers out of the shadows and provides a path to earned citizenship, that keeps families together, that provides green cards to math and science graduates, and that secures our borders and makes it easier for employers to verify job applicants’ immigration status -- would be good for the economy and good for the country.

No country does a better job integrating and benefiting from immigrants than the U.S. Immigration rejuvenates our workforce and entrepreneurs. It keeps our country on the technological frontier. And it has helped us build the greatest economic engine the world has ever seen. President Obama has said it best: Our Nation’s strength is “our youth and our dynamism, and our history for attracting talent from all around the globe.”

Don't forget clam cakes!

Sometimes, a state legislator has an idea that brings a smile to my face. And sometimes, that idea is ruthlessly mocked. So I think it’s high time I said something about H5654; better known as the “Calamari Bill” which makes Rhode Island-style calamari (the kind with pickled hot peppers) our state appetizer (as well as acknowledging that squid fishing is a major part of our economy).

First, let’s be clear about my biases:
  1. I love Rhode Island.
  2. Rhode Island-style calamari is delicious.

Recycling and your Easter junk

Most Easter trash cannot be recycled - a guide to what can and can't be recycled

As Rhode Islanders make plans to celebrate the Easter holiday, the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation is reminding residents that many of the prized, colorful favors that go hand-in-hand with the holiday are not recyclable.
In an effort to streamline operations at RIRRC’s Materials Recycling Facility, the agency has outlined a handful of helpful recycling tips. 
“In the days surrounding the Easter holiday, our Materials Recycling Facility receives an influx of materials that simply cannot be recycled,” said Sarah Kite, Director of Recycling Services for RIRRC. “From Easter baskets to artificial grass and candy wrappers, many residents are unaware that these materials cannot be recycled. We ask Rhode Islanders to keep the following tips in mind and recycle right during the holiday.”
Be sure to reference these helpful recycling tips during the Easter holiday:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Far out!

Gay Marriage and the Bible

By David Fitzsimmons

Find out why by clicking here.

Tea Party take note

Reuse Your Tea Bags!
From, Kelly Vaghenas for Green Prophet reports on 13 surprising green ways to reuse tea bags.

As an avid tea drinker, I was intrigued when I stumbled upon a variety of sources that promoted the eco-friendly use of tea bags, outside the teacup. Arthur W. Pinero, an Englishman, of course, said, “Where there’s tea, there’s hope.”  That’s definitely true.  Brewed tea bags can provide a pick-me-up in ways you’d least expect.  Here are 13 of them. You can use tea…

Government spying decision may hamper environmental advocacy

Recent Supreme Court Decision May Affect Environmental Standing

A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court has raised questions about the scope of plaintiffs' standing to bring suit in federal court, a critical issue for environmental litigants.

Federal courts have long recognized that certain types of environmental harms can form the basis of standing under Article III of the United States Constitution, which requires plaintiffs to establish an "actual or imminent" injury that is "fairly traceable" to the challenged conduct and "likely to be redressed" by a favorable decision. 

Organic farming can feed the world

Achieving a Sustainable Food System with Organic Farming

Despite a slight decline between 2009 and 2010, since 1999 the global land area farmed organically has expanded more than threefold to 37 million hectares, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service ( 

Regions with the largest certified organic agricultural land in 2010 were Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations (12.1 million hectares); Europe (10 million hectares); and Latin America (8.4 million hectares), write report authors Catherine Ward and Laura Reynolds.

An expensive mess

The state of Rhode Island’s infrastructure
By Will Collette

New annual data from the American Society of Civil Engineers paints a grim picture of bad roads, crumbling bridges, degraded transportation, dangerous dams, over dependence on fossil fuels, and underfunded school and park facilities from one end of the state to the other.

The ASCE report highlights the huge gap between the staffing and funding needed to address our problems and what we actual commit.

One way or the other, we pay, either when systems fail or are overwhelmed by natural disasters or through the daily toll in wasted time and damaged vehicles.

If it’s any consolation at all, Rhode Island is hardly unique. Most states have similar infrastructure problems while funding to help maintain these systems dries up at the federal and state level.

This has been going on for a long time. When Cathy and I lived our 25 year exile in Washington, I used to crack that DC’s motto should be changed to “Welcome to Washington: 500 miles of bad road.”

Turns out my wisecrack was pretty accurate, since that’s almost exactly how many of DC’s 1000 miles of street were substandard. You don’t see this level of decay in many other world capitals such as London or Paris. Maybe Rome, but they have age as an excuse.

Here is Rhode Island’s Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Wrong for the right reasons?

Ten Years After
By Tom Tomorrow

Learn how to do the pundit two-step by clicking here.


Unlucky on St. Paddy's, Caught Red-Handed
(Un)lucky Number 84

The luck of the Irish was not with the 84 people arrested at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Newport. Plot twist: most of those arrests were alcohol-related charges. According to Newport police, 37 people were cited with possession of alcohol in public while 31 minors were charged with possession of alcohol.

Fourteen more were charged with disorderly conduct with eight arrested on assault charges. Last, but not least, only two people were charged with urinating in public. 

Guess it's not an urgent issue...

R.I. Climate Commission Report Delayed by Changes
By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff

PROVIDENCE — The state's climate change study commission was supposed to issue an annual update by March 1. Instead, the Rhode Island Climate Commission is poised for an overhaul.

Last week, Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, introduced a bill (pdf) to recreate the state climate commission, which he co-chairs, so that it answers to the state Office of Statewide Planning.

The Military-Industrial Threat to the Nation’s Well-Being

It's time for some serious spring cleaning at the Pentagon.

These days, the news cycle rotates between the deficit, bouts of extreme weather, horrific crimes, taxation, immigration, gun control (or the lack thereof), and a few other regularly reported crises. Lost in this shuffle is any heated discussion of the biggest threat to America’s well-being: the military-industrial complex.

A generation into the nation’s lonely status as the world’s sole superpower, and a decade after the start of the tragic and pointless Iraq War, the Pentagon continues to be several times the size we need for security’s sake. But there seems little we can do about the more than $500 billion a year our government spends on “defense.”

If you’re internet connection has been slow lately, it may not be your computer’s fault

Global internet slow-down caused by commercial cyberwar
By Will Collette

My internet connections to many of my favorite sites – including Progressive Charlestown – has been slow as molasses in the past few days. So bad, that in some instances, sites simply won’t load.

Apparently, this is collateral damage from a European feud between one company in the business of curbing global spam and another company (and its friends) in the spam business.

It’s being called “the biggest cyberattack ever” and involves an attack by a self-described “internet activist” based in Barcelona called Sven Olaf Kampuis.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Eco-tip

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Light Echoes from V838 Mon 
What caused this outburst of V838 Mon? For reasons unknown, star V838 Mon's outer surface suddenly greatly expanded with the result that it became the brightest star in the entire Milky Way Galaxy in January 2002.

Then, just as suddenly, it faded. A stellar flash like this had never been seen before -- supernovas and novas expel matter out into space.

Although the V838 Mon flash appears to expel material into space, what is seen in the above image from the Hubble Space Telescope is actually an outwardly moving light echo of the bright flash.

In a light echo, light from the flash is reflected by successively more distant rings in the complex array of ambient interstellar dust that already surrounded the star. 

V838 Mon lies about 20,000 light years away toward the constellation of the unicorn (Monoceros), while the light echo above spans about six light years in diameter.

The Plan to Turn Medicare into ‘WeDon’tCare’

Paul Ryan is still stuck in the same old rabbit hole.

Apparently, Rep. Paul Ryan missed the outcome of last November’s presidential election. Oh, wait — wasn’t he on the ballot in that election as Mitt Romney’s running mate?

Well, yes, but less than five months later, the Wisconsin Republican seems to have forgotten that he and the Mittster were soundly rejected.

One Nation, Without a Clue

If our generations had been around in the 1930s, we'd still be in the Great Depression with prominent lawmakers telling each other we need a smaller government.
There was a time when we had a Greatest Generation. That would be my parents’ generation. If you’re a mere stripling of 40 or 50 or so, it probably was your grandparents’ generation.

You know the rap: They survived the Great Depression, won World War II, stood up to the Russians, blah, blah, blah.

I’ll grant you all of that. But if they were so great, how come they were such were lousy parents?

That may sound harsh. But as noble as they were, they fell down on the job of passing on their virtues to their children. That generation of Americans has now reached middle age and beyond. It includes my generation and my own kids’ generation.

Instead of being uncomplaining and self-sacrificing as our parents or grandparents were, we’re a cohort of greedy whiners, quick to blame others for our failings. And when the available evidence fails to support our convictions, we simply deny reality and make up a kinder version.

Who is Lulu Schlesinger, and why should you care?

It's Women's History Month

There's a special feature on the Charlestown Democratic website with lots of things you didn't know about women in politics in Rhode Island and Charlestown.

Click here to find out more.

Living with Copar

Playing “bait and switch” with our lives
By Christina Holden Shea

Imagine living in an area that gets very little media attention when there are some questionable activities going on in local government.  Can anyone understand the frustration felt by citizens affected and forced to endure back door politics going on and a door slamming in the face of citizens looking for justice?   

Lets mix this with a Zoning Committee Chairman who abruptly recused himself from the long awaited hearing with a less than detailed conflict of interest excuse and then another Zoning official (responsible for issuing the Cease and Desist Order) who up and disappears when the long awaited hearing has finally begun (seven months later), thus, resulting in a subpoena being filed for her return to testify at the zoning hearing.  All eyes need to shift to the south west corner of the state to the town of Westerly.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Experience counts

GOP Senator experiences hunger
By Ruben Boling

Read what that feels like by clicking here.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

M42: Inside the Orion Nebula 

The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas.

Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away.

In the deep image below in assigned colors highlighted by emission in oxygen and hydrogen, wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident.

The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye near the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion.

In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as theTrapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain much hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds.

Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.


Better than baby chicken embryos?

By JOANNA DETZ/ RI News staff
PROVIDENCE — The little girl in the green hat wouldn’t eat one. No way, she said. Her Mom thought about for a bit, but she chickened out at the last minute. 
Finally, Chrissy Teck, marketing manager at Fertile Underground Grocery, who had already eaten one earlier, popped another in her mouth with a smile. In one bite, the toasted cricket was gone. Down the hatch.
On a recent Tuesday evening, a small group was forming at the sample tables at Fertile Underground during the store’s “Alternative Protein Night.” Behind one table, fielding questions from curious shoppers, sat David Gracer, owner of Small Stock Foods and longtime proponent of entomophagy, or insect consumption.
The toasted crickets heaped in the plastic container in front of Gracer weren’t exactly going quickly. People seemed more interested in trying samples of the store-made vegan sausage at the next table.

Eat Your Weeds

The humble dandelion turns out to be a superfood and stinging nettles make a premium pizza topping.
Dandelion tart
By Jill Richardson

You might not be a master gardener, but odds are you grow one of the world’s healthiest vegetables in your yard every year. It’s a superfood that packs more calcium, iron, magnesium, and Vitamins C, B6, E, and K than an equal amount (by weight) of spinach. And, if you notice this amazing vegetable at all, you probably get annoyed by its uninvited presence in your lawn.

I’m talking about the humble dandelion.

Standing Up to a Theoretical Threat

It's good to know the Senate isn't squandering its time on banal issues like health care and immigration.

Strange things are happening in Washington.

In the Senate, Rand Paul, the son of presidential candidate Ron Paul, recently proved himself a chip off the old blockhead by conducting a one-man filibuster.

I’m not talking about the namby-pamby sign-a-piece-of-paper-and-forget-about-it filibuster in the modern style. I mean a real, old-fashioned, “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” Jimmy Stewart filibuster — the kind where a senator takes the floor and talks for hour upon hour to block a bill until he or she collapses or has to go to the bathroom, whichever comes first.

Mania on the Moraine

Areglado presses the panic button on Whalerock wind proposal

Ron Areglado is very upset...but it's nothing that money won't cure

By Will Collette

There was an interesting op-ed in the Westerly Sun written by Ron Areglado who ran an unsuccessful campaign for Charlestown Town Council on the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) ticket. 

Areglado wrote, with considerable distress, about what he seems to believe is the impending court victory by developer Larry LeBlanc in the almost three-year long battle over LeBlanc’s proposed industrial wind farm which would be sited right on the Charlestown moraine.

Areglado thinks this would be terrible. In fact, so do I, but Areglado and I differ greatly both on the reasons for coming to that conclusion and on what to do about it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Great Escape

For more great insights into the natural world, go to Fake Science

Astronomy Picture of the Day

NGC 6751: The Glowing Eye Nebula 

Planetary nebulae can look simple, round, and planet-like in small telescopes. But images from the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope have become well known for showing these fluorescent gas shrouds of dying Sun-like stars to possess a staggering variety of detailed symmetries and shapes.

This composite color Hubble image of NGC 6751, the Glowing Eye Nebula, is a beautiful example of a classic planetary nebula with complex features.

It was selected in April of 2000 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Hubble in orbit, but was reprocessed recently by an amateur as part of the Hubble Legacy program.

Winds and radiation from the intensely hot central star (140,000 degrees Celsius) have apparently created the nebula's streamer-like features. 

The nebula's actual diameter is approximately 0.8 light-years or about 600 times the size of our Solar System. NGC 6751 is 6,500 light-years distant in the high-flying constellation of the Eagle (Aquila).

Solar power now makes financial sense

Solar Power close to Cost Parity with other Energy Sources
From: RP Siegel, Triple PunditMore from this Affiliate on

They said it couldn’t be done. They tried to tell us that renewable energy could only survive if it were propped up with government subsidies. 

Never mind that our whole system of economic development, beginning with the patent office, is predicated on the idea that fledgling, underfunded industries need special protection for a limited time until they are strong enough to go it alone. 

Never mind that the fossil fuel industry, which can hardly be considered fledgling or underfunded, is still receiving billions in taxpayer subsidies.

UPDATED: The Donald hates wind turbines

UPDATE: The Donald can't always get what he wants
By Will Collette

This article ran in July 2011 as Charlestown was diving off the deep end of anti-wind energy NIMBYism. Donald Trump was a kindred spirit to our local Ill Winders.

But, according to the British media, the Donald didn't get his way. The Scottish Government has given its approval to an off-shore wind farm that Trump opposed, claiming it would ruin the view from his new billion-dollar golf resort.

Trump said he plans to sue. Naturally.

Continue on to read my original article.

Inequality and the Social Security Debate

In the richest country in the world, it's downright insane to even consider cutting back on benefits necessary to provide a dignified retirement for hard-working Americans.

Rhonda Straw is one of millions of Americans who do important work every day but still have a hard time saving for retirement. As a home health aide, Straw administers medication, changes bandages, and performs other vital services to the elderly and disabled. With an hourly wage of only $9, Straw, 51, expects to rely almost entirely on Social Security when she retires.

Unfortunately, workers like Straw aren’t big players in the Social Security debate. The Business Roundtable, the club for America’s most powerful corporate CEOs, is using its muscle to push for an increase in the retirement age to 70 and to recalculate inflation in a way that would further reduce benefits. Fix the Debt is another CEO-driven outfit that’s throwing around tens of millions of dollars in a campaign to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Compared to ordinary workers like Rhonda Straw, these CEOs have virtually no skin in the Social Security debate. To illustrate the disparity, we compared her situation to that of two health industry CEOs who are active with both the Business Roundtable and Fix the Debt.

Was there voter fraud at the RIGOP Convention?

Did Charlestown GOP votes make the difference?
By Will Collette

The successor to State Republican Chair Mark Zaccaria was supposed to have been picked at the GOP State Convention on March 21st, but Zaccaria declared the convention vote was nullified.

It seems that Mark Smiley beat Zaccaria’s hand-picked successor Dan Harrop by one vote.

However, when all the votes were counted, according to ABC6 and WPRO, there were 187 votes cast, but only 186 delegates who were registered to vote. WRNI reports the vote was a 94 to 93 vote, also in favor of Smiley over Harrop, and says the whole scene was “chaos.”

Based on the closeness of the count and this disparity, Zaccaria said that the parliamentarian recommended voiding the vote. 
Smiley declared winner after "investigation"

Compounding the chaos - and the bad media coverage that came from it - apparently Zaccaria decided to switch gears over the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, he announced in an e-mail that upon further "investigation," Smiley was the winner after all.

This closely fought battle to become the next captain of the RIGOP Titanic is rumored to be one of the reasons why Mark Zaccaria stuck his beak into Charlestown’s Republican politics. As I reported, Zaccaria recruited defeated state Representative candidate Tina Jackson to “re-organize” the town Republican Committee without consulting with the duly elected members of that Committee to find out if they wanted to be re-organized.