The Uprising! November 30, 2018

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen continues to worsen. Saudi Arabia continues to take actions that undermine confidence—not only with the brazen murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but in its continuing disregard for innocent human life in Yemen. The president has been weak in addressing these issues. Now it is incumbent on the Senate to send a clear message to the Saudi government that American support is not unconditional or absolute. I intend to vote in favor of the Sanders resolution.”
Sheldon Whitehouse

Welcome to The Uprising!

1. Republic of Yemen

This week started with a small group of maybe 20 people protesting outside the offices of United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island) to encourage him to sign onto and vote for the Senate Joint Resolution 54 (S.J.Res.54), which would “direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” The protesters also delivered a petition to Whitehouse’s office.

The next day Demand Progress urged Reed and Whitehouse to vote to stop United States involvement in the War in Yemen.

By the end of the week both Whitehouse and his fellow Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed had come to agree with the protesters.

When a similar resolution was brought before the Senate in March, Reed and Whitehouse voted against it, along with just eight other Senate Democrats. The Senators say a lot has changed since March, including the murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi, and the continuing human rights violations perpetrated by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Today, as many as 14 million people face starvation in Yemen, “representing the worst current humanitarian crisis in the world, and the potential for the worst famine in the world in more than a century.”

The Senate resolution is far from the final vote, however. The Senate vote allows for a fuller discussion of the issues, with a second vote on withdrawing troops to come after that. Then the House must take it up, perhaps in January.

2a. Invenergy

Invenergy wants to build an unwanted and unneeded $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant amidst the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island.

Eric Lineman, writing for The Energy Daily, a “must-read newsletter for energy industry leaders” and insiders, did a story on the setbacks Invenergy is experiencing in their efforts. The opening line says a lot for the power plant’s chances:

“In what may be a death blow to a project already facing growing headwinds, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week cancelled a capacity supply contract for a 970 megawatt gas-fired power plant that Invenergy wants to build in Rhode Island, agreeing with the New England grid operator that state permitting delays meant the plant would not be ready in time to meet its supply obligation for the 2021-2022 period.”

Meanwhile, Natural Gas Intelligence, another industry blog, reports that Invenergy is moving forward like nothing untoward is happening and “has finalized a related facilities agreement with utility Eversource Energy… which provides for several transmission upgrades to Eversource’s network in nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut to ready the system for the energy from the center.”

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer, one of the two lawyers leading the charge against Invenergy’s plans at the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) hearings, says, “Invenergy’s collaboration with Eversource does not make the permitting of the plant any more or less likely. The key decision will be made by the Rhode Island EFSB.

“Invenergy touting this agreement now may betoken one of two things,” continued Elmer. “First, this may mean that Invenergy has not yet decided to pull the plug on the application and just walk away. (But that has been our belief all along.) Or, it may be a clever (or not-so-clever) ploy to make the public believe that it (Invenergy) is further along than it really is. The analogy here is to the recent announcement that Invenergy is taking soil samples at the proposed interconnection route, which Invenergy did a few months ago (and many folks got alarmed). Invenergy needs an separate EFSB permit in order to build the interconnection. Taking soil samples is a meaningless publicity stunt as long as Invenergy has no separate permit for the interconnection. The agreement with Eversource is similarly meaningless as long as Invenergy has no EFSB building permit, no EFSB interconnection permit, no DEM Air Permit, and so forth.

“So, the bottom line is: (a) the article is technically, literally true; (b) this is neither new nor anything to worry about; and (c) in the wake of the ISO terminating Invenergy’s CSO, it remains very unlikely that the EFSB will give Invenergy a permit – with or without Invenergy having a small agreement with Eversource.”

2b. EFSB

The schedule for the final hearings on the proposed Invenergy plant changes faster than I can keep up with sometimes. The new schedule extends the hearings into February, and more delays may be in the offing. But as of now, the last two hearing dates this year are December 5 and 6 then a break until until January 8 and 9.

At the December 5 and 6 hearings, expect witnesses will be cross examined on their pre-filed testimony concerning:

Cultural and Historic Impacts:
Christopher Donta – Invenergy witness

Lighting:
Trevor Hollins – Invenergy witness

Noise:
Michael Hankard – Invenergy witness
David Hessler – Burrillville witness

Visual Impacts:
Gordon Perkins – Invenergy witness
William MitchellDepartment of Environmental Management advisory opinion (recreation)
Ray Goff – Burrillville Town Planner

2c. CLF

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has filed petitions with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to combat stormwater pollution in Bailey’s Brook and North Easton Pond on Aquidneck Island and Mashapaug Pond in Providence. The petitions call on the agency to require Clean Water Act permits from properties polluting these waters with toxic stormwater runoff.

“No one should be given a free pass to pollute Rhode Island waters,” said James Crowley, Staff Attorney at CLF. “Years of toxic runoff have endangered our waters, closed our beaches, and threatened important wildlife habitats. Our communities deserve to enjoy these areas without being sickened by toxic pollution that has gone unchecked for decades. The state has the power to hold these polluters accountable and it must act now to protect our waters for future generations.”

2d. Embodied Energy Injustices

When local boards and councils such as the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) make decisions about fossil fuel infrastructure, their decisions are always narrow in scope and the environmental impacts are always thought of in local and even hyper local terms. What we need, according to a new paper from from Dr Noel Healy, Jennie C Stephens and Stephanie A Malin, is a decision making process that takes into account a wider view of the justice implications, “especially for distant communities further up or down the energy supply chain.”

“Energy decisions have transboundary impacts. Yet Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) of large-scale energy infrastructure, including distribution networks and pipelines, shipping terminals, and rail and trucking networks intended to transport fossil fuels to markets, rarely consider the direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of such infrastructure linked with either upstream extraction or downstream consumption. Moreover, the justice implications—especially for distant communities further up or down the energy supply chain (e.g. “sacrifice zones”;)—are routinely overlooked or deliberately ignored. The net effects of this analytical gap are incomplete considerations of climate impacts, and omissions of socio-environmental justice implications of energy decision-making.”

In a world threatened by climate change, it’s not enough to simply look at local impacts (as dire as they are for some communities in Rhode Island, such as the neighborhoods surrounding the Port of Providence, with the highest asthma rates in New England or in Burrillville, which is being threatened with a second power plant within their borders, this one to be built at a wildlife choke point). Instead, a broader picture must be considered. There are environmental impacts all along the energy production chain:

3. Amigos Taqueria y Tequila

On Tuesday I drove down to Westerly to enjoy some $2 tacos at Amigos Taqueria y Tequila, a restaurant under attack from right-wing Trump supporters who have taken to harassing the restaurant by phone and by social media. Encouraged by Rhode Island State Senator Elaine Morgan (Republican, District 34, Exeter Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), trolls have been trashing the restaurant in online reviews and spewing racist, nativist garbage while doing so.

At issue is the restaurant employees’ decision, with the support of restaurant owner Wendy Carr, to wear “86 45” tee shirts. Morgan, in a statement to Channel 10/WPRI, said:

“To ‘86’ or ‘Deep 6’ a person means to murder them. Calling for the murder of anyone is wrong. Calling for the murder of our president is not only wrong but also treasonous. The right thing to do for any responsible citizen would be to call attention to and try to put a stop to this blatant incitement of violence.”

The best that can be said about Morgan’s contention here is that she is being willfully ignorant and ideologically motivated. Her bullying attacks on the Mexican restaurant seem racially based, especially in a climate where President Donald Trump is treating refugees and asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America as invaders. The army of trolls Morgan has unleashed are calling for ICE to raid the restaurant and have gone after the cleanliness of the place and the quality of the food, obviously having never stepped foot in the place.

The restaurant isn’t in Morgan’s district. The restaurant is in the district of Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere (Republican, District 38, Westerly, Charlestown), who is hoping that by ignoring the controversy, it will go away. Algiere said:

“I’m hoping that this matter will settle down and that the businesses in the downtown area don’t get affected by this, especially now during the holiday season.”

That’s a very weak defense of the small businesses in your District, Senator.

As for the food and the restaurant: Both were fantastic. I had three awesome tacos and bought five ten dollar gift certificates to giveaway for free online. (All the gift certificates have been claimed, sorry.) If you want to stand up to Morgan’s bigotry then the best thing you can do is frequent Amigos Taqueria y Tequila and give the wonderful staff your money and support.

4. Civic Education

“This lawsuit asks the United States District Court in Rhode Island to make clear that all students in Rhode Island and throughout the United States have an enforceable constitutional right to an education that will truly prepare them to be capable civic participants in a democratic society,” said Michael Rebell, announcing a class action lawsuit filed Thursday.

Named in the suit are Governor Gina Raimondo, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, Rhode Commissioner of Education Ken Wagner, the Rhode Island State Board of Education and the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Our United States Supreme Court has recognized that the denial of adequate education denies children the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions and even denies them the possibility to contribute to ‘the progress of our nation.’ However for a variety of reasons the Court has stopped short of finding that all children have a fundamental right to that education that enables them to participate and succeed in all aspects of civic life as adults,” said local co-counsel Jennifer Wood, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Center for Justice, “We are asking the federal court to affirm that all public school students have that right under the United States Constitution.”

“I feel that a lot of the things I should have learned in public school I didn’t learn,” said Ahmed Sesay, a senior at Classical High School in Providence. “For example, I never really had a dedicated civics class. We never went into depth about how local government works or how our decision makers are affected by the citizens that they are supposed to be governing… When you don’t teach civics and those things explicitly an blatantly, students feel left behind, or apathetic, or they feel that they can’t make a change.”

“This case resonates with me because throughout my who education I’ve had an IEP, which is I’m in special ed,” said Aletia Cook, a senior at the Providence Career & Technical Academy. “Not until recently did my case manager tell me I can get out of that… I don’t want younger students going into high school going through the same thing that I’ve gone through. I want them to have the civics education. I want them going into the real world knowing what to do. Knowing how to pay taxes, how to apply for a job… It’s really bigger than me. I’m doing this for younger students, my little brothers going into the education system.”

5. Nicholas Mattiello

I wrote two pieces on the once and future Rhode Island Speaker of the House, Nicholas Mattiello, this week.

The first looks at the Speaker’s history of punishing legislators who step out of line:

Will members of the Reform Caucus be punished by Speaker Mattiello?

The second looks at the Speaker’s economic policies, in his own words:

Speakernomics tastes like trickle-down and oligarchy

6. Sheriff Thomas Hodgson

On Thanksgiving I spent part of my morning in the freezing cold documenting an action by the FANG Collective outside the home of Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. The protest was entirely peaceful and lawful. But that hasn’t stopped Hodgson and his supporters in the media from trying to cast the protest as something else. According to the group Bristol County for Correctional Justice:

“Playing the victim, and sounding an imaginary alarm — Hodgson’s great talent — he told WBSM talk show host Chris McCarthy that he felt the group was there to try to intimidate him. Speaking with the Boston Herald, Hodgson said, ‘Any time you get groups of people together things can quickly shift into a mob mentality.’ The Boston Herald (‘Protests taking dangerous turn) ignored the [actual] peaceful nature of the protest and instead imagined all the mischief that citizens who confront public officials outside working business hours could make. Constitutionally-protected mischief.

“WBSM’s Ken Pittman showed his customary detachment from reality. Pittman blamed the protests on ‘grey haired’ New Bedford ‘Leftist Parrots,’ actually accusing them of being paid actors. Pittman was so unmoored he couldn’t even get his activist groups straight, calling the fairly youthful protestors “anarchist Bolsheviks” and making an unhinged remark about helping Ugandan children — which in retrospect can only be interpreted as a desperate plea for help with his mental health.

“Two days later Hodgson was back on the Adriana Cohen show at Boston Herald Radio, this time playing less the quaking victim and more the brave gunslinger. “The minute you violate the law, we’re going to lock you up,” Hodgson told Boston Herald Radio, which rather unprofessionally reported that the Sheriff’s family had been eating their Thanksgiving meal at 9:00 in the morning when the protestors appeared across the street. Hodgson said it ‘wouldn’t surprise’ him if protestors show up again, but he boasted he’s prepared to take them on all by himself. ‘I have some security of my own, through my own training.’”

Thomas Hodgson photographing me photographing him

7. Halima Ibrahim

Rhode Island high school student Halima Ibrahim gave a TedTalk three days after her 16th birthday in Providence a few weeks ago. You may remember Ibrahim delivering her poem “Wake Up!” at the March for Our Lives Rally earlier this year. In her TedTalk she talks about her struggles with illness and the ableist undercurrents within the activism community.

8. Populism Without the People: On Chantal Mouffe

Thea Riofrancos writes:

Populism is the shadow of representative democracy. Again and again, populist movements emerge and come to thrive in the gap between the promise of collective sovereignty and the disappointing experience of politics as usual. Their ideological promiscuity is disruptive to established political parties. In the past two years alone, anti-establishment insurgents have imploded or transformed the Parti Socialiste and Les Républicains in France, the Partito Democratico in Italy, even the Labour Party in the United Kingdom. So it is for good reason that populism is a specter that haunts elites, threatening their claim to legitimate rule. In invoking the “people,” populist movements conjure an image of something excessive, overflowing formal institutions, acting in opposition to normal procedures. Even the affects associated with such eruptions—anger, enmity, ressentiment—run counter to the professed liberal ideal of coolheaded deliberation and consensus. Amorphous, shapeshifting, with a taste for destruction: it’s a short leap from the demotic to the demonic. The leap is made shorter still by the powers of demagogic sorcery. In one political analysis after another, populism is reduced to a trait of leadership: a potent combination of charisma, mass-mediated narcissism, and felicitous historical timing…”

9. Losing Amazon

Not getting Amazon in Rhode Island could be the best thing that ever happened to us, if we use this opportunity correctly. As Ted Howard writes in the American Prospect, the city of Preston, in the north of England, lost out on a nearly $900 million development deal, but,

“…thanks in large part to Preston City Councilor Matthew Brown, the city seized the opportunity to take a different path. Brown had been inspired by something he had learned about on the other side of Atlantic—innovative work in Cleveland, Ohio, with the Evergreen Cooperatives, a network of worker-owned businesses designed to create living wage jobs by localizing the purchasing power of ‘anchor institutions’ like the cities’ large nonprofit hospitals and universities, including the world-famous Cleveland Clinic.

“Rolling up his sleeves, Brown went to work. This was back in 2012—well before Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise 2015 win as Labour Party leader put left economic populism back on the party’s national agenda. With the support of the rest of the council and the help of the Manchester-based Centre for Local Economic Strategies, Preston took stock of its own economic assets. If they couldn’t attract new money from out-of-town corporations, they could at least stop the money being spent by Preston’s anchors—the University of Central Lancashire, local hospitals, and the city government itself—from leaking out through purchases of goods and services from companies outside the region. Once gaps in the local supplier ecosystem were identified, the city could work with its partners to create new worker cooperatives to fill them, creating jobs and anchoring wealth in the community.

“But Brown and his allies in Preston didn’t stop there. They looked at how the city’s banking sector extracted wealth from the town—and catalyzed a new credit union to keep residents’ savings circulating locally rather than fueling the city’s speculative casino economy. They looked at where residents were getting their electricity and created a municipal energy company to keep those profits working to keep prices affordable, rather than lining the pockets of corporate investors. They also looked at where city workers’ pensions were invested and arranged for£100 million in pension funds—about $129 million—to be invested in new development in the city center.

Today, the strategy is paying off. Already £70 million ($90 million) more are being spent each year in the local economy, supporting 1,600 jobs, thanks to the shifts in anchor institution purchasing. The first gap-filling worker cooperatives are ready to launch. Plans are afoot for a publicly-owned bank to serve the entire county of Lancashire.”

10. Everybody Jump

“What would happen if everyone on earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant?”

What if that happened in Rhode Island?

“Within weeks, Rhode Island is a graveyard of billions.”

11. Eric Beane

Convergence Rhode Island has an exclusive interview with outgoing Executive Office of Health and Human Services Director Eric Beane.

12. Bartholomewtown Podcast

Two new podcast interviews this week:

Rhode Island House Minority Leader Blake Filippi (Republican, District 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly)

WJAR/Channel 10 reporter Parker Gavigan

13. ACLU

14. Blake Filippi

The Public’s Radio interviews Rhode Island House Minority Leader Blake Filippi (Republican, District 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) here and here.

15. House Orientation

The newly elected Representatives went through their orientation at the State House on Thursday. Here are a few pictures, taken early:

Representatives Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick), Rebecca Kislak (Democrat, District 4, Providence), Justine Caldwell (Democrat, District 30, East Greenwich), Karen Alzate (Democrat, District 60, Pawtucket) and Terri-Denise Cortvriend (Democrat, District 72, Portsmouth)
Representatives Mario Mendez (Democrat, District 13, Providence, Johnston) and Liana Cassar (Democrat, District 66, Barrington, East Providence)
Representative-Elect David Place (Republican, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester)

16. Picture of the week:

Amigos Taqueria y Tequila

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About Steve Ahlquist 670 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com

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