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Saturday, November 30, 2013

UPDATED: Lawrence & Memorial strike turns into an illegal lock-out

Management "lock outs" union workers 
By Will Collette

UPDATE: according to the New London Day, despite the union's offer to unconditionally return to work without a contract tonight, L&M management refused to let workers return. The hospital maintains minimal operations using 125 scabs hired through a Florida temp agency that specializes in strikebreakers.

According to the Day, management deactivated the badges of the strikers when the strike began and will not re-activate them until an agreement is reached. The union has charged the lock out is illegal and is seeking an injunction against management's actions.

After yesterday's successful union rally outside the hospital, Lawrence & Memorial brass returned to the bargaining table to resume negotiations. For four hours.

Westerly Hospital's new owners stepped away from the table saying they wanted to discuss and try to more fully understand the unions' position that they want job security - that when L&M transfers hospital jobs to one of its subsidiaries, the worker holding that job wants to follow the work.

But L&M brass wants to use the illegal practice of "double-breasting" (of shifting union jobs to a non-union "alter ego" company) to eliminate union workers and break their union. The National Labor Relations Board will be bringing the hospital management before a law judge on this unfair labor practice charge. Click here to read the actual charges being brought by the NLRB

You can bet on it

You can't win if you don't play
By Ruben Bolling

Click here to calculate your odds.

RI Food Bank asks you to advocate for change

Speak Out for Vulnerable Families
By the RI Community Food Bank

Thousands of Rhode Island families are unable to meet their basic needs, including the daily necessity for food. According to the USDA, 15.4 percent of Rhode Island households are food insecure and at risk of hunger, which is the highest rate in New England.

Working Hard, Earning Less

While there are some signs of economic recovery in Rhode Island, 50,000 adults remain out of work. And having a job is no guarantee of economic security. Workers at the bottom of the pay scale have seen their wages drop $1 an hour since 2006. As a result, many working families don’t earn enough to afford adequate food.

Click here to read the Providence Journal's November 25, 2013 article on working families who are struggling to put food on the table.

The Gävle Goat (Gävlebocken) for 2013 unveiled today

Will it make it all the way to Christmas?
The newly erected Gävle goat
By Will Collette

This will be the third year that Progressive Charlestown has monitored the health and well-being of the Gävle Goat (called “Gävlebocken” in Swedish). This enormous wood and straw goat has been erected in the town square of Gävle, Sweden since 1966, much the way that every year in Charlestown, Frank Glista erected a huge bonfire for Charlestown’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

Guess they think she got what she deserves

'War on Women’ Rages On, As GOP Denies Equal Pay to Its Own State Chair

War on women - new WA GOP chair paid $20K less than male predecessor
A new GOP chair makes $20k less than the man she replaced, and says
it’s because of the ‘war on women.’ But her party still denies any
pay gap exists. Photo by Jim Bates via The Seattle Times.
The new chairman, or rather, chairwoman, of Washington State’s GOP makes substantially less than the man she’s replaced. Susan Hutchison still makes $75,000 per year, but that’s $20,000 less than Kirby Wilbur made. Hutchison blames the war on women for the difference.

Budget cuts are supposedly the reason for Hutchison’s pay cut. However, Hutchison believes that the executive board’s vote violates the party’s bylaws and might be seen as “vindictive and discriminatory.” She worries that it might even play right into the hands of Democrats.

According to The Seattle Times, Hutchison also believes the pay cut blatantly goes against equal work for equal pay, and invoked the war on women in a memo she sent to her colleagues about the issue. 

The Board was upset that she brought it up. Or, as The Seattle Times puts it, “the conversation turned ugly and Hutchison’s request was rebuffed.” One person familiar with the dispute actually said, “There is no war on women.”

Friday, November 29, 2013

Good question

ProgressiveWordCloudRecently Mark Gray and Bob Plain were discussing the word “progressive” (while discussing Sam Howard’s piece here)  and neither seemed sure of how to define the term. 

Bob took a stab at it saying it had something to do with supporting “bottom up” Keynesian economics and later suggesting that progressives should seek to the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. 

Mark seemed to indicate that the term was essentially meaningless and suggested the word “liberal” be reclaimed. As a Humanist, I found this exchange interesting, because at its core, Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life based in reason, compassion, optimism and action. The term “progressive” is at the core of my beliefs in a very basic way.

UPDATED: Lawrence & Memorial strike update

LATE NEWS: negotiations re-start Friday night
Great turn-out, lots of solidarity support on a beautiful day
Text and photos by Will Collette

UPDATE: Lawrence & Memorial management agreed to start re-start bargaining negotiations with the union TONIGHT, instead of waiting until next Tuesday, as management had originally planned. This will be with the federal negotiator helping to keep the talks on track. At this afternoon's rally, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called for the talks to being again, and so they are. 

Several hundred striking nurses and technicians at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital rallied outside the hospital at noon today, supported by a broad range of supporters from other unions and community organizations, families, friends, neighbors and former patients.

I was glad to see so many Building Trades workers out there (and glad I wore my Building Trades hat).

The two AFT-Connecticut unions that represent more than 800 L&M workers plan to wrap up the four-day strike over hospital management's unfair labor practices tomorrow night at 11 PM. The buzz in the audience is that management is asking the strikebreakers (a.k.a. scabs) if they want to stay on beyond Saturday in case management decides to carry out its threatened lock out of its workers.

The Christmas season begins

For more cartoons from P.S. Mueller, click here

Celebrate the future!

You are cordially invited to join RI Progressive Democrats in honoring two of the hardest working progressive Democrats for Rhode Island!

US Representative DAVID CICILLINE & RI state Representative LARRY VALENCIA for their hard work and dedication in serving the people of Rhode Island

Date:  Friday, December 6th   6:30-9:00 P.M

Location:  Waterplace Restaurant, 1 Finance Way, Providence, RI

New show at the Charlestown Gallery

Celebrate the end of sales tax on original art, starting December 1

UPDATED: A million here, a million there and soon you’re talking about real numbers

Progressive Charlestown hits 1,000,000 page-views
By Will Collette

UPDATE: We closed out November by setting a new monthly record of 57,929 page views. That works out to an average or 1,931 a day.

At Progressive Charlestown, we have a lot to be thankful for – mainly that we've been able to come this far with a project that Tom Ferrio and I took on pretty much as a way to blow off tension and have some fun. 

That was our original plan in January 2009. We didn't expect to run more than an occasional article – maybe one or two a week – and figured we’d be lucky if more than a couple dozen or so people read what we wrote.

The statistics count at 9 AM this morning. The meter rolled over the
one-million mark early Friday morning
Three and a half years later, we have hit one million page-views. A page-views is counted every time a reader clicks on an individual article to read it. That's different than a “hit” when someone happens to click on our website homepage. Generally, it takes about ten "hits" before someone clicks on an individual article to create a "page-views." We now average 1,900 page-views a day.

Back in 2009, contrary to what CCA Party pundit Mikey Chambers would have you believe, we formed Progressive Charlestown in spite of and as an alternative to the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee, of which Tom and I remain proud, loyal members.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

If it glows, don't eat it.

The End-Times Guide to Dining Out
By Regina DeAngelo

Chicken of the Woods, from the Cornell University Mushroom Blog
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Regina's second account in Progressive Charlestown of a near-death experience. Click here to see the last time. Will the third time be the charm?

Here's how it happened: one Saturday morning I'm canoeing up the Delaware river along the idyllic Delaware Water Gap. A week later, I'm tethered to an IV in the emergency room at South County Hospital.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Very Chagrin Falls Thanksgiving
By Ruben Boling

See the original Thanksgiving, updated, by clicking here.

Salada reasons for optimism

Why should we bother trying to make the GOP look bad when
we’ve got the Tea Party to do it for us? Thanks to them,
Democrats can finally win back the House.
Image by Elisabeth Parker for Addicting Info.

We liberals have despaired for decades, as we’ve watched the GOP take over the country and steer it further and further to the right. When the Tea Party took over the Republican Party, things started getting even worse. But, as some wise old sage once explained, sometimes things have to get worse before they can start getting better.

The Tea Party has gotten too cocky for its own good.

When Tea Party candidates helped the GOP take over the House in 2010, the extreme Right got cocky and began showing its true colors. It grew more and more clear that the Tea Party was no “grassroots” movement, but rather a tool of nasty rich folks like the Koch Brothers. Conservatives have never been a friend to the American people, nor have they ever acted in our interests. But, for four decades, they have deftly used under-the-radar race baitingwinning words, and Ronald Reagan’s charm to appeal to voters.

Now, the Tea Party no longer even bothers with pays lip service to core American values like freedom, fairness, and a decent shot at upward mobility. Now that voters can finally see the Tea Party for what it really is, the tide has begun to turn.

Here are 10 reasons for us to thank the Tea Party.

Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart style

Challenging Wal-Mart’s Freeloading Ways
By Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest

from Cleveland.comCountless words have been published about the retrograde labor practices of Wal-Mart, but none of that writing conveyed as much as the short message recently reported to have been taped to a bin in an employees-only area at one of the company’s stores in Ohio: “Please donate food items here so Associates in Need can enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner.”

My first reaction was that this was a stunt staged by the Yes Men to embarrass the giant retailer. Yet it was all too real. In fact, a corporate spokesperson saw nothing amiss, saying it showed how much the company’s employees care about each other. No doubt they do, but the problem is that Wal-Mart is so deliberately obtuse about its obligation to provide a decent living to those on its payroll.

VIDEO: NRA Guide to Turkey Carving

Lawrence and Memorial strike update

Lots of picketers in the pouring rain, lots of solidarity and public support, management agrees to resume negotiations, and the union hands out turkey baskets.
L&M's CEO Bruce Cummings, pay package $702,147, blames everyone
but himself for these troubles at the hospital
By Will Collette

More than 300 registered nurses and LPNs signed in to walk the picket line at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in some pretty grim weather. Others simply showed up, grabbed a sign and walked and changed in the rain.

Supporters, allied groups, family, former patients, community leaders and students joined in, as did other AFT union members from Danbury Hospital and Connecticut Technical High Schools. 

A delegation from the UNAP members at Westerly Hospital came over to support their sisters and brothers at L&M, which of course now owns Westerly Hospital, too. A delegation of AFSCME members from the New London Public Works Department also joined in.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The choice is ours. Protect it.

Freedom’s Choice
Roger Williams and the Narragansetts
By James Bedell

It was a choice. And the fact that they had a choice is what brought them here in first place. Having choice is what made them…us.
The Puritans who settled in Massachusetts came here because they wanted to have the choice of how they worshiped. But after the Puritans settled in Massachusetts they began to create rules limiting the choices of their followers. At that point Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, took his followers to a place where their choices were still up to them. They uprooted their lives to preserve their right to personal choice.

Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart style

Bagger's Banquet: working on Thanksgiving
Teaser panel for Jen Sorensen comic 11/26/2013.By Jen Sorenson

Click here and be thankful.

What you may not know about Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: The Holiday Republicans Didn't Want To Celebrate
An array of facts and trivia about American Thanksgiving.
You may be surprised at what you learn:
did you know that the very first feast was in Florida?
Ah, Thanksgiving… turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie. Football, parades and feasting with family. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. Well, sort of. 

Many myths have sprung up around the holiday, and many traditions have, too. 

It’s time to take a look at the history and traditions of American Thanksgiving — our neighbors to the north had theirs last month.

‘Tis the Season to Celebrate Mammon

If you happen to have a job in a chain store, don't even think about taking a holiday.
By Jim Hightower

Here come Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. It’s a month-long season of friends and family, spiritual reflection, and time to decompress from our usual helter-skelter lives, right?

Good lord, shout the corporate bosses, are you nuts? Do you think America is some kind of Norman Rockwell fantasyland? This is the season of mass consumerism, bucko. So lift your tail-end out of that La-Z-Boy and hit the malls — pronto.

And if you happen to have a job in a chain store, don’t even think about taking a holiday — or you won’t have a job the next day. Let us now praise the one God we all serve: mammon.

Massachusetts tops chart for green energy, efficiency; RI and Connecticut close behind

The "state" of Energy Efficiency

From: Mary Mazzoni, Triple Pundit, More from this Affiliate in

Conversations about energy use in the U.S. often revolve around expanding domestic production or spurring renewables. It's easy to forget another significant piece of the puzzle — energy efficiency. In its 2013 scorecard, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks the most energy-efficient states based on policy and program efforts that improve efficiency in homes, businesses, industries and transportation systems.

The annual scorecard includes programs and initiatives maintained in ACEEE's database of state energy efficiency policy, which includes information from state offices, public utilities, nonprofit advocacy organizations, energy consultants, federal officials and the private sector. Read on to see how your state fared in 2013.

DEM says this will be a big hit under the xmas tree

Beautiful Illustrations and Descriptions of Fish Species and their Habitats Make This Book a Perfect Holiday Gift for Anglers and Nature Enthusiasts

Thumbnail image of Inland Fishes cover, with link to sample pages in PDFPROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces the publication of Inland Fishes of Rhode Island, a beautiful book depicting the more than 70 species of fish found in Rhode Island's ponds, streams and rivers.

This book is a definitive scientific work and the first of its kind for RI freshwater fish species. It was written by biologist Alan D. Libby and illustrated by Robert Jon Golder. The 287-page book contains descriptions and illustrations of each species of fish found in Rhode Island's freshwaters during surveys conducted by DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife from 1993 to 2012. Detailed characteristics used to identify each species are presented, in addition to habitat descriptions, life history information, and a distribution map for each species. Scientific illustrations of each fish in color and black and white aid with identification.

Deepwater Wind Submits Changes

Public Hearing to Follow

Providence – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) posted a required 45- day notice for public hearing on the Deepwater Wind Offshore Energy and Transmission project.

The hearing, scheduled for December 11, at Narragansett Town Hall will allow for public comment on proposed modifications to a State of Rhode Island Dredge Permit and Water Quality Certificate Application previously filed by Deepwater Wind (DWW) in anticipation of its plan to land a transmission cable at Narragansett Town Beach.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lawrence & Memorial strike starts Wednesday morning

Caregivers strike over unfair labor practices committed by the corporation operating Lawrence & Hospital
From Matt O'Connor

New London - Lawrence & Memorial Corporation (LMC) representatives today walked away from negotiations with nurses, caregivers and healthcare workers at Lawrence & Memorial (L&M) Hospital, setting in motion a strike set to begin tomorrow. 

Talks broke down when the corporation's representatives refused to keep working toward mutual resolution of issues impacting patient care sought by the unions representing approximately 800 of the hospital's employees. Registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and healthcare technicians will walk off the job at 6:00AM tomorrow in the first strike at L&M in the hospital's 101-year history.

This Vanilla Experiment Stinks

Genetic engineers just found a new way to put farmers in poor countries out of business.

Isn't it so inspiring to see global corporate giants crush small farmers, stomp on nature, circumvent our laws by hook or crook, and deceive and gouge consumers?

Welcome once again to the phantasmagoric world of DNA manipulators. In particular, this branch of genetic engineering wizardry calls itself “synthetic biology.”

Huh? Yes, that oxymoron means “fake life.” But the term is also moronic, for it’s the name of a crude and costly attempt by high-tech alchemists at such corporate powers as BASF and Cargill to genetically modify microorganisms to produce something wholly unnecessary: artificial flavorings and fragrances.

Time extension on grant requests for recreation funding

Grant Applications Will be Accepted Until 4 p.m. on Friday, December 6

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that due to the Thanksgiving holiday, it has extended the deadline for the submission of recreation acquisition and development grants to 4 p.m. on Friday, December 6. A total of $5 million is available this year under three grant programs. Funding for this round of projects comes from the Rhode Island Open Space Bond Authorization of 2012.

Say thank you to workers on Thanksgiving

Union-made Thanksgiving shopping list: Kraft/Nabisco crackers, Boar's Head turkey, Butterball turkey, Thumann's turkey, Keebler (Kellogg's) crackers, Bird's Eye vegetables, Ocean Spray whole berry cranberry sauce, Pillsbury pie crusts, Sara Lee pumpkin pie, Sara Lee apple pie

Save the Turkeys

Our fast-growing, heavy-breasted birds can't even mate anymore.
It’s odd that the most iconic feature of Thanksgiving — the turkey — is likely the most unnatural. It’s got competition, of course, from the jellied cranberry sauce that retains the shape of its can and various food products sold in boxes marked “Just Add Water.”
(Really, is it so hard to mash potatoes yourself, especially given their divine taste and creamy texture after you’ve added in all the cream and butter required?)
But it’s the turkey that takes the cake. Not that most of us would know that, since the last time most of us met a turkey was in a sandwich, not on a farm.
Not a Butterball (photo by Will Collette)
Despite the foreign-sounding name, turkey is a uniquely American food. American as in The Americas, and not just the United States. The large fowl was first domesticated in Mexico, after all, not Turkey.

Before those domesticated turkeys reached the iconic site of the first Thanksgiving, they were first imported to Europe, and then brought back to New England. 

Prior to that, the land we now call our country was only home to wild turkeys. Not that the Pilgrims didn’t eat them whenever they could catch one.

Doreen Costa: deadly weapon

When the NRA says jump, Doreen Costa asks how high

The recall election in Exeter, scheduled for December 14th, is being pushed through mostly by out-of-town gun rights zealots intent on punishing the Exeter Town Council for trying to enact a minor change in the law regarding the concealed weapon permit system. 

Rhode Island State Representative Doreen Costa has been involved in this issue from the beginning. Even though she is not a resident of Exeter, she does represent a small section of the town (the corner over by the Yawgoo Ski Area) in the Rhode Island General Assembly.

What the Exeter Town Council attempted to do was change the law in Rhode Island so that the Exeter Town Clerk would no longer be responsible for issuing concealed weapon permits. In most cities and towns residents can go either to their police chiefs or to the state Attorney General, but Exeter has no police force. So by state law, the duty of issuing permits falls to the Town Clerk, a person with no law enforcement training.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dogs, fleas and Politicians

Residents on town borderline abandoned by town governments
By Susan Clayton
This is what Copar neighbor Tina Shea's
well water looks like after Copar blasts
A version of this article ran as a letter to the editor in the Westerly Sun

This is my fourth piece for Progressive Charlestown about life under the shadow of the Copar Quarries. I decided to write this article after seeing the testimony of Christina Holden Shea in the Westerly Sun and Progressive Charlestown about the poisoning of her well.

I live about a third of a mile from Copar Quarry and want to say that everything Tina wrote is not only true, it is what I and my neighbors on Niantic Highway experience as well.

Every detail is exactly how it is for us, every single day. There have been damages to homes all over the area, but we in Charlestown have the added burden of no town water.

These blasts take place in ancient granite formed millions of years ago. It is layered, and running between the layers are rifts where the water flows. This is where we drill to get our water.

Clouding the truth about factory farms

Farm Bill Threatens Our Right to Know
By Patrice McDermott 

Families who live near or share waterways with large corporate farms or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have a critical need to know some basic facts about these operations. The public's right to this information, however, could be stripped away by the Farm Bill currently under debate in Congress.

Paying for Corporate Crime on the Taxpayer’s Dime

By letting JPMorgan Chase deduct $4 billion from its taxes to pay $13 billion in penalties for its misdeeds, the government is putting the "con" in unconscionable.
By Jim Hightower
Sometimes, a news story can be so crammed with irony that it boggles the mind. Consider just the headline on one such story that ran recently in my town’s daily paper: “Man gets 10 years for defrauding banks.”

That just screams for a rewrite, doesn’t it? I yearn for a story with a headline in boldface type that, at long last, would trumpet this joyous news: “Banker get 10 years for defrauding man.”

Alas, while the FBI, IRS, and the judicial establishment went all out to nail the bank defrauder, they allow big-time Wall Street crooks who defraud us to escape prosecution, much less jail. 

Let your xmas shopping do double-duty

Rep. Donna Walsh again honored for her work on behalf of RI agriculture

RI Farm Bureau honors 3 legislators
Senator Sue Sosnowski & Rep. Donna Walsh

STATE HOUSE – Three Rhode Island state legislators were honored today by the Rhode Island Farm Bureau during the organization’s 60th annual awards event at the West Valley Inn.

Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) and Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) were the recipients of a new award, the “Navigator” award, presented by the Farm Bureau. The award was created to honor state legislators and/or officials who have been instrumental in helping the organization deal with and address concerns about government regulations and procedures.

Senator Felag and Representative Walsh were the Senate and House sponsors of legislation that was incorporated into the state budget, requiring the state to assess inherited working farmland at its use value, not its higher cash value, for inheritance tax purposes.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nary a peep from Illwind turbine slayers

“Name That Moraine” - Game Over
By Charles Townsend, TMZ Special Assignment Correspondent

Future Former Town Council President Tom Gentz had his toy gavel handed to him on a tarnished silver spoon when Former Future Town Council President Dan Slattery hosed off his copy of Charlestown’s Home Rule Charter to discover that town commissions should actually play a role in town government.

“I spent nearly the entire intermission between the first and second periods of the Washington Caps game – Alex Ovechkin, personal friend of mine – conducting my own investigation into the town charter and I have determined that, in fact, the Conservation Commission is permitted to design management plans for acquired conservation properties,” Slattery revealed. “I conducted another investigation into the organizational structure of the Conservation Commission and determined that it is, in fact, a duly authorized body capable of making a reasoned decision.”


Nut Consumption Linked to Reduced Death Rate, Study Suggests
Science Daily

In the largest study of its kind, people who ate a daily handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than were those who didn't consume nuts, say scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, contains further good news. The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn't eat nuts, a finding that should alleviate the widespread worry that eating a lot of nuts will lead to overweight.

The report also looked at the protective effect on specific causes of death.

"The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from heart disease -- the major killer of people in America," said Charles S. Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, who is the senior author of the report. "But we also saw a significant reduction -- 11 percent -- in the risk of dying from cancer," added Fuchs, who is also affiliated with the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's.

Caregivers at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital "Won't be Bullied," Remain Committed to Patients and their Families

Nurses, techs respond to threats of lockout, workplace intimidation by corporate bosses as possible strike nears over delivery of care
Lawrence & Memorial management uses old school intimidation tactics
From Matt O’Connor 

New London - Bedside patient caregivers are responding to their employer's attempts to intimidate the workforce into accepting proposals that fail to protect community access to healthcare services at Lawrence & Memorial (L&M) Hospital. 

The CEO of Lawrence & Memorial Corporation (LMC), the acute care facility's operator, on Friday threatened to lockout employees in the event of a strike, harming efforts to reach a mutual settlement. The CEO also announced indefinite plans to rely on replacement workers to treat patients, raising questions about management's commitment to the hospital's reputation for delivering high quality care.