Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising, August 3, 2018

“When you’re poor and you live in a poor community you don’t really know what credit union are. But I do think it’s important to contribute to the movement by letting [Bank of America] know that  their investment in Energy Transfer Partners and in the Bayou Bridge Pipeline is completely irresponsible.” –Arely Diaz, FANG Collective Welcome to the Uprising! 1.
Photo for The Uprising, August 3, 2018

Published on August 3, 2018
By Steve Ahlquist

“When you’re poor and you live in a poor community you don’t really know what credit union are. But I do think it’s important to contribute to the movement by letting [Bank of America] know that  their investment in Energy Transfer Partners and in the Bayou Bridge Pipeline is completely irresponsible.”
Arely Diaz, FANG Collective

Welcome to the Uprising!

1. The FANG Collective

For the past year and half the FANG Collective has been supporting the L’eau Est La Vie camp that is resisting the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Southern Louisiana. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would connect with the Dakota Access Pipeline system to bring oil from North Dakota to export terminals on the Gulf Coast. Tree-sits have been set up deep in the swamp to block the path of the pipeline.

Here in Rhode Island, the FANG Collective organized a protest outside Bank of America on Hope Street in Providence. Bank of America finances some of the most controversial pipeline projects across the continent, including the Bayou Bridge, Mountain Valley, Line 3, Atlantic Coast, Mariner East and the Keystone XL pipelines.

2a. Ocean State Against Hate

On Saturday August 4 Resist Marxism is having their “Providence Freedom Rally and March” at the Rhode Island State House starting at noon. As of this writing, the Facebook event has zero people committed to going and over 200 people “interested.” Resist Marxism has been criticized as a “front group for the far right.”

A counterprotest, organized by the Ocean State Against Hate coalition, has over 200 people saying they are going and over 500 interested on their Facebook event page. Organizers wrote about their reasons for counterprotesting here. Their post was not without some controversy, however, as the Rhode Island ACLU’s executive director, Steven Brown, took Ocean State Against Hate to task for wanting to shut down Resist Marxism’s rally, writing,

Preparing to answer a hate group’s rally in Providence with a counter-protest is one thing, but attempting to prevent the group from holding a rally is another. The Orwellian idea that “there can be no free speech for Nazis because they cannot be debated” is both dangerous and counter-productive.

As a practical matter, preventing a hate group from speaking does not stop it from “growing” or “recruiting”; it only drives that growing and recruiting underground where it is even harder to challenge, and it only feeds the group’s distorted view – and the views of potential recruitees – that *they* are the victims of repression.

As a matter of principle, freedom for the speech we hate is essential in order to ensure free speech for our own ideas. After all, a key element of fascism is the forcible suppression of the opposition. If we are to keep such an ideology from gaining hold, the battle must take place in the open, not by adopting their censorial tactics.

It’s too early to know for certain, but I’m reminded of last year’s rally in Boston, held in the wake of Heather Heyer‘s death in Charlottesville. The tiny right-wing protest was swamped by tens of thousands of counterprotesters.

2b. Paul Pence

One person who will not be attending tomorrow’s rally and/or counter protest is Paul Pence, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Rhode Island. Here’s the Twitter exchange between Pence and Jen Thum:

3. UNAP and Lifespan

Members of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) Local 5098, at Rhode Island Hospital have overwhelmingly voted “no confidence” in Lifespan CEO Timothy Babineau and Hospital President Margaret Van Bree.

“Under Babineau and Van Bree, front line caregiver morale has plummeted. Our members are tired of being ignored and undervalued, and we hope that the Lifespan board will begin to listen even as most in senior management continue to turn a deaf ear to the alarming problems facing this healthcare system,” said Frank Sims, RN, UNAP Local 5098 president.

The union also voted to authorize members of its’ bargaining team to issue a 10-day strike notice, in the event that negotiations with Lifespan again break down.

Monday August 6: UNAP will be outside Rhode Island Hospital for an informational picket.

Tuesday, August 7: UNAP will be outside Miriam Hospital for an informational picket.

Wednesday, August 8: UNAP and Lifespan will be back at the bargaining table.

4. Invenergy

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed its Memorandum of Law opposing Invenergy’s and Johnston’s Motion for Summary Judgment in the Rhode Island Superior Court. In January 2017, Invenergy signed a contract with the Town of Johnston to secure the water needed to cool the turbines of its proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island.

“[T]his is something we do every day. We sell water at retail to commercial and industrial users … That’s about as vanilla or ordinary as you can get … [F]rankly, we don’t really care,” said William Conley Jr, lawyer for the Town of Johnston, in open court, on May 31, 2017. “Why should we? If you turn on a spigot, the water goes into a truck, we don’t care whether it goes into a truck, it goes into a bottle, what it goes into. The spigot is in the town of Johnston and they turn it on. We bill it. We bill them for it. And that’s the end of the process for us.”

Conley is also a Rhode Island State Senator representing Senate District 18 in East Providence. In 2016 Conley lost his Sierra Club endorsement over his actions as a senator regarding legislation that may have slowed or stopped Invenergy’s planned power plant.

Despite all this, Conley was honored by the Environmental Council of Rhode Island (ECRI) as some kind of environmental champion.

As this goes to press, I received word that Rhode island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has filed an amicus brief in support of CLF’s contention that the water deal is illegal.

Oral argument on the Motion for Summary Judgment will be held on Monday, August 20, at 9:30 AM, in Judge Michael Silverstein’s courtroom in the Licht Courthouse, 250 Benefit Street (3rd floor). The hearing is open to the public.

I have no idea how Judge Silverstein’s announced retirement will affect the case.

5a. Sean Spicer

More interesting than Sean Spicer writing a book and cashing in on his brief moment of infamy as on of the architects of the Trump presidency was former Mayor of Providence Joseph Paolino Jr‘s involvement with Spicer’s book signings at Barrington Books in Barrington and Cranston.

Paolino serves as the Democratic Committeeman for the State of Rhode Island.

“Lot’s of my friends on the extreme, my friends in the Democrats, say, ‘What the hell are you doing with Sean Spicer?’” said Paolino. “I just shake my head. I say, ‘You know, that’s part of the problem in politics and government today, that Democrats and Republicans don’t talk together…

“Today the polarization that I’ve seen is so bad,” continued Paolino. “What I’m trying to do in my position is to tell Democrats, ‘We’ve got to talk to Republicans if we want to get our country moving forward.’

“So as much as I did all I could to see Donald Trump get defeated – I was a strong political supporter [of Hillary Clinton] – I was so proud, that when Sean Spicer, a kid that grew up in Barrington, because what a lot of people don’t know is I grew up in Barrington.”

Paolino called Spicer “a quality guy. And I think all of us as Rode Islanders if we like his politics or we don’t like his politics we’ve got to be proud of the great success that he’s had.”

Spicer and Paolino are both Barrington natives.

Spicer’s “defining moment,” what he called his “ideological conversion,” came when the United States Congress passed a luxury tax in 1992. “It just wiped out the [yachting] industry here in Rhode Island. And suddenly you’re seeing the real impact it caused,” said Spicer.

Just knowing what it did to working men and women in Rhode Island and watching industry go away because, you know…” said Spicer.

It was because of that luxury tax that Paolino led the effort to make the sale of boats in Rhode Island exempt from sales taxes. “It was because of what happened in Washington,” said Paolino.

“So you’re kind of like a, sort of a Republican,” said Spicer to Paolino, to laughter.

5b. Full Frontal

At least two of the people attending the Spicer book signing have been tentatively identified as working on the television series Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Michael Rubens, senior field producer from the show, was ejected from the event after this exchange:

“Sean! Sean!” said a man in the crowd wearing a suit (Rubens?). “Any advice for the young people who want to make a profit from corroding the truth?”

“Excellent question!” said another man.

“I always liked you more than Sara [Huckabee Sanders]!” said the man (Rubens?).

“I’ll take it,” replied Spicer. “She’s a great person.”

Then there’s this picture I took of a black woman wearing a “Trump 2020” shirt.

I’m pretty sure that’s comedian Ashley Nicole Black, who writes for the show.

6. Elections 2018

Ward 13 candidates Rachel Miller, Leslie Papp II and Cyd McMenna hung out at Federal Hill Pizza to take questions about their run for Providence City Council as part of a series of events called Pizza and Politics. I was a little disappointed that my question about fracked gas and fossil fuels was left on the table by moderator Billy Manzo.

Rachel Miller, Leslie Papp II and Cyd McMenna

7. The Woman Project

The Woman Project Interviews: Brittanny Taylor, Photographer, Activist, Organizer

“To me it is just common sense that a woman has the right to choose what she does with her own body. Sadly, it is not common sense to a certain group of people,” said Taylor. “I have always had access to reproductive health be it through my insurance (that I pay out of pocket for) or by going to Planned Parenthood when I didn’t have insurance.”

8. Thomas Tobin

Radio host John DePetro wrote an open letter in the Providence Journal encouraging Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Diocese to go back on Twitter.

“Imagine if Jesus had the ability to stream ‘the Last Supper’ on ‘Facebook live,’ or if the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ could have been captured on Snapchat. One can envision Joseph and Mary using the ‘check in’ on Facebook for ‘Manger in Bethlehem.’ The pictures of the ‘three Kings’ would have received many ‘likes’ on Instagram.”

Tobin, in deleting his Twitter account, called it “an occasion of sin.”

I wrote about Tobin’s 2012 appearance on John DePetro’s radio show here.


The legislation SESTA/FOSTA, signed by President Donald Trump on April 11, 2018, shuts down websites where sex workers advertise, and removes the online safety tools that sex workers used to ensure their safety, says the group in an oped.

“When sex workers cannot vet their clients online, they don’t know if they’re a potential risk,” says Bella Robinson, executive director of Coyote Rhode Island (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics). “Sex workers around the world have immediately felt the effects of the new law – loss of work, bodily autonomy and an increase in violence, murder and HIV infection. The new law also threatens those seeking or posting about harm reduction for sex workers on websites.”

10a. Yemen

Pat Fontes

Peace activist Patricia Fontes, who is challenging United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the Democratic Primary this September was outside his office with members of

Organizers write:

“After joining some Republicans and only nine other Democrats, including Senator Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) in blocking discussion of the United States’ role in Yemen in the Senate, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island) defended his vote back on March 21, saying, ‘I share the concerns of many colleagues about the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen. I don’t see how precipitous withdrawal of the limited support the United States military provides would make things better in achieving our humanitarian or strategic aims, and voting on it without hearings or committee work seems rash.’

“In the months since Whitehouse’s expression of humanitarian concern, hospitals continue to be bombed and the Yemeni health system has been crippled.

“Hopefully, those committee meetings that Senator Whitehouse feels are necessary are occurring and are fruitful.”

10b. Sheldon Whitehouse

United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island) joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (Democrat, Connecticut) and eight other senators to introduce a resolution condemning the White House’s attempts to restrict media access and affirming the importance of a free and unfettered press.

“Speaking truth to power is what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they enshrined freedom of the press in our Constitution,” said Whitehouse.  “That’s why bashing journalists for doing their job and obstructing their work is an insult to American democracy.  I’m proud to join my colleagues in taking a stand against these strong-man tactics.”

11. Economic Policy Institute

“Heavy-handed and punitive work tests for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Medicaid will do little to nothing to boost employment for low-wage workers,” said Economic Policy Institute (EPI) Research Director Josh Bivens. “If policymakers were acting in good faith and actually wanted to increase stable employment opportunities for these workers, they would instead consider policies that aim to make work pay better and that provide supports such as paid leave and child care.”

12. Andy Boardman

Economics student Andy Boardman provides additional insight to the Economic Progress Institute‘s report on the increasing economic power and growth of the one percent. It’s much worse than we think.

“By separating the wealthy elite from ‘the rest of us’ at 99 percent of the income distribution, we overlook the ways the other 19 percent of the top quintile–the upper middle class, roughly speaking–are also veering away from the low-income and the middle class,” writes Boardman. “Policy practices like exclusionary zoning and inequitably-distributed tax breaks allow the upper middle class and one percent alike to stockpile resources and fence opportunities off from the rest of Rhode Islanders. Taken together, these policies and others create a phenomenon economic philosopher Richard Reeves calls “top stickiness”: the chances of staying in the richest twenty percent of the income distribution once one gets there (or if one has the luck of being born there) are increasingly high, but fewer and fewer are able to break through.”

13. UHIP

Amid reports that the state is on the hook for an additional $30 million to repair UHIP, gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown, who is challenging Governor Gina Raimondo in the democratic primary, has a statement:

“Paying even $1 for a government program that hurts people is wrong. But when the costs rise to $647 million, after tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders went hungry and without healthcare — it’s an outrage. Now, Rhode Islanders will have to pay for a failure they didn’t cause, in the form of $138 million in taxes.

“The UHIP disaster is the most expensive IT project in Rhode Island’s history. It’s also the most disastrous. We can’t forget how we got here: Governor Raimondo launched UHIP prematurely while cutting 40 staff, despite federal and state warnings that the system wasn’t ready.

“For people working minimum wage, the UHIP disaster meant the difference between accessing critical medical attention and going without it. It meant the difference between putting food on the table and going hungry.

“When the head of the state’s food bank attributes rising rates of hunger to a government-led program, you know we’ve got serious problems. Governor Raimondo should take accountability for her actions, admit the failures of the system, and step aside so that new leadership, for the people, can build the Rhode Island we need.

“As Governor, every single day, my number one priority will be looking out for Rhode Islanders. I won’t cut experienced staff in the midst of launching a massive new system. I won’t cut costs on the backs of those in need while giving out tax breaks to multinational corporations. And I won’t rush through a new program that provides essential social services without being sure it’s ready.

“Bottom-line: I would never let something like this happen.”

14. ‘Paris Plus Friends’ Opens Friday

See: Providence Daily Dose for details

16. Deja Garcia

See: Will Weatherly‘s piece in RI Future

16. Kevin Olasanoye

Rhode Island Public Radio Political Roundtable: Rhode Island Democratic Party Executive Director T. Kevin Olasanoye on Rhode Island Democrat’s Endorsement Controversy

Olasanoye mentions the photo of Michael Earnheart that caused exploded the issue, but fails to mention who took it.

17. Picture of the week:

New art in South providence, designed by students.

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