Toyota

Since the Dilly, Dally, Delay & Stall Law Firms are adding their billable hours, the Toyota U.S.A. and Route 44 Toyota posts have been separated here:

Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon



Saturday, October 30, 2010

PAYT saves municipal dollars

Responsible fiscal management includes making necessary changes wherever possible as this article highlights. With little effort, that's a pretty impressive savings.

The program so far has saved the city upwards of $1 million in disposal fees, and has increased recycling four-fold since the program was implemented,

PAYT reduced per-household trash costs in Malden by $41.93, and saved the city about $800,000 in disposal fees, based on figures from the first five months of the program’s implementation.


Malden officials on pay-as-you throw panel reignites old fight
By Matt Byrne, Town Correspondent


As a handful of city officials are expected to praise pay-as-you-throw trash disposal at a panel discussion for waste industry professionals later this month, a group of Malden taxpayers have continued to fight the measure, which they say was implemented at the 11th hour and without the necessary citizen input.

Robert Miller, founder of Malden Taxpayers for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog group that attempted unsuccessfully to repeal the trash program with a November 2009 ballot question, said the program amounts to an end-run around a long-standing state law against raising property taxes.

“We’re not against recycling, what we’re against is the way it was implemented,” said Miller in a telephone interview. “And a lot of my people still believe it’s an override of proposition 2 ½.”


"We put in place a program that is recommended by the DEP and EPA," said Mayor Richard Howard, of the continuing criticism of the PAYT program. The program so far has saved the city upwards of $1 million in disposal fees, and has increased recycling four-fold since the program was implemented, he said.

"As for the legitimacy, they can argue that same point in the 200-some other communities where they have similar programs. I think that argument falls on deaf ears, to some degree," Howard said.

Judi Bucci, city councilor for Ward 8, said she agrees that how the program was first implemented could have been better, but those criticisms are in the past.

“I think that clearly we have heard the message from the public that the way in which the program came to fruition as policy was not done as transparent as folks would have liked to have seen it,” Bucci said in telephone interview. “That was three years ago. I think we all need to move on from it. And I think all of the work we have been doing since then, all of the budget deliberations, have been in adherence with what the taxpayers have said they want to see.”

Pay-as-you-throw charges Malden residents $20 or $10 for official city bags to dispose of household waste. Under the program, recycling is free and is encouraged. According to a 2009 Environmental Protection Agency bulletin, PAYT reduced per-household trash costs in Malden by $41.93, and saved the city about $800,000 in disposal fees, based on figures from the first five months of the program’s implementation. Those savings have since increased, according to Howard.

Scheduled to speak at the conference Aug. 15-17 in Boston are Charlie Toomajian, special assistant to the mayor; Deborah Burke, Malden project director; Jeff Manship, Malden Director of Public Works; and Bob Knox, Malden compliance supervisor.

The panel discussion is part of the Solid Waste Association of North America’s annual convention

Toomajian, Burke, Manship, and Knox were not available for comment.

A representative for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said that PAYT is an effective way for communities to significantly reduce their recycling costs statewide.

“In these tight fiscal times, any costs saved at landfills or waste disposal plants can really help community budgets,” said Joe Ferson, spokesman for the Massachusetts DEP. “The department supports and [PAYT has] shown to improve our recycling by 15 to 25 percent, and decreased the amount of solid waste disposal by about 25 to 40 percent.”

Also scheduled to speak at the convention is Mark Dancy, president and CEO of Waste Zero, a South Carolina company contracted by Malden through the state to produce and stock the official bags. Dancy said that initial resistance to PAYT can be sizable, but residents often eventually see the long-term benefits.

“It takes a while for people to come around to understand that if each individual person is more responsible, it helps reduce cost,” Dancy said.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Where is the Outrage.....

Where is the Outrage that those whose policies and actions were most responsible for America’s worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, have spent the past 20 months blocking virtually every job creation bill, business development bill, and economic stimulus bill intended to speed The Recovery?

Where is the Outrage that they repeatedly said: “No”, “No”, “No” – while over 10,000,000 Americans lost their homes, their jobs, their life savings?

Where is the Outrage that they chose to spend their time trying to make America’s President fail, instead of spending their time trying to make America succeed?

Where is the Outrage that instead of using their influence to help Americans get out from beneath the crushing weight of the economic collapse, they used it to block The Recovery – for fear that a recovery credited to the Democrats would spell political devastation for the Republican Party for years to come?

Where is the Outrage that they deliberately lied, distorted the truth and misrepresented the facts on issue after issue – for the benefit of their own political interests – and the detriment of ordinary Americans?

Where is the Outrage that their leaders promoted fear . . . anger . . . hatred . . . and divisiveness – instead of offering solutions?

Where is the Outrage that in a time of severe economic crisis for the American people, they decided that it was better to rip this country in two – turning neighbor against neighbor; sister against brother; American against American – rather than bring us together?

Where is the Outrage that they played politics with people’s lives?

Unlike their attempts to hijack public forums by encouraging followers to shout, scream and brandish weapons to intimidate those with opposing viewpoints – there is only one suitable way for you and I to express OUR outrage – and that’s at the voting booth on Tuesday, November 2nd.

Tell them how outraged you are that they chose to ignore the pleas and cries of their fellow Americans in order to further their own political goals.

Tell them with your vote.

Talking Trash


There are certain things that can be accomplished to reduce your carbon footprint, or put another way, reduce what you schlep to the curb and pay for with you tax dollars.

Personally, we're not there yet, but had additional lazy motives for pursuing the issues.

Why should I have to take plastic shopping bags either to the 'curb' or in my case, down a 1500 foot driveway?

There's also my pet peeve - JUNK MAIL that filled my mailbox, invaded my home, and forced me to remove my identifying information to discard or shred. Another 'laziness' project ensued. Why should I have to take this unwanted crap into my house, invest my time to dispose of it? It was a lengthy project to reduce the volume and succeeded, except for the volume originating from Sean Bielat.

OK! So, it began with laziness, not solely environmental responsibility.

If there's another simple way, why not consider it?

Looking around at the mounds of trash put out each week, it's pretty astounding.

For awhile, we 'recycled' our plastic bags which meant remembering to take them next trip to the supermarket. Another project tackled from laziness.

And then I looked up the cost of municipal trash collection in the Annual Town Report and it seemed a 'no brainer' to reduce our contribution.

Frankly, it's disappointing that no active campaign has ever been conducted in Middleboro, but the Town Fathers/Mothers have enough difficulty addressing a Town Hall that consumes 5 times what other comparable buildings do. Not so enlightened, this crew! As former members of the Committee to Design the Camel, I hold out little hope.


In the MASSPIRG newsletter (worth reading in its entirety), the following was included:



"Zero Waste" Plan Needs Work
Forty years after the first Earth Day, we are still burying or burning more than half our waste. MASSPIRG has been urging the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt a solid waste plan that emphasizes recycling and strives for a goal of zero waste. And, on July 2, the DEP released the draft Solid Waste Master Plan, the state’s blueprint for dealing with waste for the next decade.

The draft, called “The Pathway to Zero Waste,” certainly pursues zero waste in name, but does not move quickly enough to address our trash problem. The plan has set a goal of 80 percent reduction in waste by 2050, which is about 20 years too long. Plus, the draft includes loopholes that permit certain types of waste burning in a statewide ban on new incineration.

Campaign Builds Momentum
During the last year, MASSPIRG has collected and delivered 15,000 signatures to DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt asking for a Master Plan that firmly sets the Commonwealth on the road to zero waste.

In response to the draft plan issued on July 2, we have ramped up our campaign to educate the public about the plan’s contents—both its strengths and weaknesses—and encourage people to participate in the public hearings, outline our concerns to DEP as they consider public input, and generate media attention for an issue that affects every citizen in the Commonwealth for the next 10 years and beyond. To that end, we held a press event with members of HealthLink in Saugus on July 26 in front of one of the bigger incinerators in the state.

The event was attended by state Sen. Sal DiDomenico, who represents the area. The event preceded the public hearing held the next day in Boston, at which many MASSPIRG staff and volunteers testified. In addition, activists held a press event at the public hearing in Worcester on July 27 that drew local media.


To me, what seemed like a "no brainer" sure didn't seem like a Right Wing Pro-Trash Vulture endeaver.

That is, until I found Jeff Jacoby's propaganda! Phwew!


Get excited about recycling? Not me
By Jeff Jacoby
‘GET EXCITED about Single Stream!’’ trills the flyer that comes from Brookline Town Hall. A letter from the commissioner of public works hails the “exciting change’’ beginning next month, when town residents will no longer be required to sort their recyclable trash into separate blue bins — one for paper, the other for cans, bottles, and plastic containers. Instead recyclables will all go into 64-gallon “toters,’’ which will be emptied at curbside on trash day.

But the excitement of this eludes me, so I turn to the enclosed information sheet. A list of “frequently asked questions’’ and a letter from the town’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee — and what would town life be without one of those? — assures me that single stream does away with “guesswork,’’ making trash-disposal easier than ever. “By eliminating sorting,’’ it reports, the new system may boost recycling rates by 30 percent or more. In large boldface print, it urges: “Get Excited!’’

I gaze at the brightly colored “Single-Stream Recycling Guide,’’ with its illustrated array of trash items that can all go in the “toter’’ without sorting. There are pictures of bottle caps and egg cartons, books and tin cans, plastic jugs and newspapers. “All Together Now!’’ the leaflet proclaims.

Then I start reading the fine print. It turns out that when the town says it is “eliminating sorting,’’ what it means is that glass bottles and jars can be recycled, but not drinking glasses or window glass. It means plastic tubs are OK to toss in the toter, but plastic bags aren’t. It means that while cardboard boxes must be flattened, milk and juice cartons must not be flattened. Reams of office paper are fine, but not the wrappers they came in. Tinfoil should be crushed into balls of 2 inches or larger; tin cans shouldn’t be crushed at all. I don’t think the green police will haul me off in handcuffs if I try to recycle an ice cream carton or a pizza box, but the town has warned that “there will be fines’’ for residents whose “recycling protocols’’ don’t measure up to “basic community standards.’’

Excited? Not.

To be fair, things could be worse. Clevelanders will soon have to use recycling carts equipped with radio-frequency ID chips, the Plain Dealer reported last month. These will enable the city to remotely monitor residents’ compliance with recycling regulations. “If a chip shows a recyclable cart hasn’t been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash for recyclables. Trash carts containing more than 10 percent recyclable material could lead to a $100 fine.’’ In Britain, where a similar system is already in place, fines can reach as high as $1,500.

San Franciscans, meanwhile, must sort their garbage into three color-coded bins — blue for recycling, green for compost, and black for trash — and scofflaws who pitch teabags or coffee grounds into the wrong bin can be fined. In other cities, residents must bag their trash in clear plastic, lest they be tempted to toss recyclables out with the garbage.

Does any of this make sense? It certainly isn’t economically rational. Unlike commercial and industrial recycling — a thriving voluntary market that annually salvages tens of millions of tons of metal, paper, glass, and plastic — mandatory household recycling is a money loser. Cost studies show that curbside recycling can cost, on average, 60 percent more per ton than conventional garbage disposal. In 2004, an analysis by New York’s Independent Budget Office concluded, according to The New York Times, that “it cost anywhere from $34 to $48 a ton more to recycle material, than to send it off to landfills or incinerators.’’

“There is not a community curbside recycling program in the United States that covers its cost,’’ says Jay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute and author of a handbook on environmental science. They exist primarily to make people “feel warm and fuzzy about what they are doing for the environment.’’

But if recycling household trash makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy, why does it have to be compulsory? Mandatory recycling programs “force people to squander valuable resources in a quixotic quest to save what they would sensibly discard,’’ writes Clemson University economist Daniel K. Benjamin. “On balance, recycling programs lower our wealth.’’ Now whose idea of exciting is that?


Although Jacoby's comments are straight from a Right Wing Think Tank Handbook, what is disheartening is continued reliance on Heartland Institute. Next thing, he'll resume the arguments presented by Big Tobacco and their paid scientists to tell us smoking is really good for us.

Are we willing to allow Big Corporations to dictate sensible policies and govern our future? Beacon Hill has bottled up an expanded Bottle Bill because of Big Corporations. When do we resume that "Government for the people...." thing?

Isn't that what Tuesday's vote is about?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Damn you, Sean!

Sean, I'm making a contribution to Congressman Frank campaign each time I receive your glossy brochure or a phone call from you.

Damn you, Sean!

I can't afford this!

I received yet another misleading Tea Party propaganda flyer today.

Do you have too much money? Where's it coming from? How expensive are those mailings?

We recycle as much as we can and we can't even recycle the crap you're sending.

Sean, when will it stop?

We've already determined that you're incapable of discussing the issues other than repeating mindless pap.

We watched you on Braude. You looked like an uninformed snot-nosed kid.


Sean: You're Cute!

but cute doesn't cut it when it comes to my vote and the issues.













We attended the forum at Taunton High School at which President Clinton spoke, raised many salient economic issues....well, like he left office with a budget surplus, businesses are currently holding $1 Trillion in cash, banks are currently holding almost $ 2 Trillion in cash - there's our recovery.

And much else.

Your handful of 'supporters' were disruptive, rude, boarding on threatening and unacceptable in my opinion.


As a candidate, YOU set the tone.


Sorry, Sean! I've gone door to door in hostile neighborhoods and been respectful. It's the American Way.

You stood on the Taunton Green with....was it 6 supporters?

Over the years, lest you believe I am similar to your uninformed followers, I have watched Congressman Frank's vote via megavote. There have been issues that I have questioned and invariably, I have received a timely response/explanation.

Over the years, I've needed federal reports and information and assistance.

When Tip O'Neill (you've heard of him, right?) said all politics is local, that was an understatement.

Congressman Frank's Office is unparalleled when it comes to constituent services.


Congressman Frank has always supported important environmental issues.

You might not believe it's important, but when the Corporate Thugs destroy the environment, what have we?

Now, that brings me to you.

You've never held office. You're unknown and I won't hold big ears against you (no pun intended) since you don't have a problem with "short."

But, Sean, you've filled my mailbox with expensive glossy brochures, sometimes more than one in a day.

Who is paying for those, Sean? Those glossy brochures are filled with inflammatory drivel that misinforms.

I can't wait for the campaign filings!

You've harassed me with phone calls - yes, Sean, I know political calls don't count.

Today, Sean was the FINAL STRAW!

Another call!

Melissa was very nice and I replied very politely that you have provoked me to make another contribution to Congressman Frank's campaign.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Support Big Bird!

The extremists have ceased the opportunity to destroy one of the few media outlets not relegated to rants and sound-bytes.

Please sign the petition below --


It's frightening how quickly the call to defund NPR moved from ranting on Fox News Channel to proposed legislation that would eliminate funding for all public broadcasting. Thankfully, tens of thousands of people are standing up for NPR and PBS against such extreme measures.

Already, more than 40,000 people have joined our mass action to protect funding for public media. Can you help us reach our goal of 60,000 by taking action today? Don't let political extremists destroy public media.

Thank you — Josh

Yesterday, Sarah Palin called on Congress to cut all funds for National Public Radio. Palin wrote that we should "defund" NPR after it fired news analyst Juan Williams for comments he made on Fox News Channel disparaging Muslims.

Palin set off a firestorm that spread from extreme right-wing blogs to Bill O'Reilly to Capitol Hill. Later today, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint plans to introduce legislation that would slash all funds to one of the last, best sources of journalism we have in America.

This is crazy. But with your help, we can stop it in its tracks.



Calling for Congress to defund NPR is nothing more than political opportunism by public figures who have built a career on such shenanigans. Regardless of what you think about Juan Williams' dismissal, calling for the defunding of NPR as a result is like asking for the death penalty in small claims court.

NPR plays a crucial role in America, providing original, in-depth journalism and educational programming. With commercial newspapers, radio and television stations cutting staff and scaling back on original reporting, the need for a robust public media system has never been greater.

People everywhere need to take a stand and tell our leaders to stop playing politics with our nation's public media system:

Take Action: Don't Let Sarah Palin Destroy Public Media

The United States already has one of the lowest levels of federal funding of public media in the developed world — at just $1.43 per capita. Yet surveys show that the public considers NPR and PBS not just our most trusted news sources, but the most valued public institutions we have.

Please take a moment and join tens of thousands of others who are defending NPR and standing up to Sarah Palin and extremists. Sign our public letter to Congress and forward this e-mail to all of your friends.

Thank you,

Josh Silver
President and CEO
Free Press Action Fund


1. "NPR Axes, Fox Defends Williams over Muslim Remarks":
http://act2.freepress.net/go/475?akid=1887.9235348.1oP3d9&t=11
2. "Sarah Palin, Jim Demint Take Aim at NPR Funding":
http://act2.freepress.net/go/476?akid=1887.9235348.1oP3d9&t=13

Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Learn more at
www.freepress.net

Lauren, There is no excuse for barbarians

Lauren,

Standing up for your beliefs in a Democracy is no reason to expect to be attacked.

My sincerest condolences and I hope you were not severely injured.

There is simply no excuse for that behavior.

Our thoughts are with you.



BREAKING: Republicans Must Denounce Tea Party Violence

Outside a Senate debate Monday night, a progressive activist named Lauren was thrown to the ground by Tea Party thugs holding "Rand Paul" signs. As one held her down, another stomped her head -- producing an audible crunching sound.


Rand Paul's Senate campaign put out a statement condemning violence on "both sides." What?? That's NOT ok -- we need accountability, not false equivalency.






Please sign the Petition that states:

"Republican politicians like Rand Paul
must unequivocally denounce Tea Party
violence. Blaming 'both sides' or
otherwise ignoring the problem will
feed more Tea Party violence."


From WBZ --

Rand Paul Supporters Rough-Up MoveOn Activist
Prior To Senate Debate In Kentucky, GOP Candidate's Backers Wrestle Woman To Ground, 1 Steps On Her Head

Dirty Energy and the Party of NO

As the rest of the world marches forward with sensible energy policies and China aggressively pursues manufacturing and installation of alternative energy production to ensure their energy independence and their global leadership, the U.S. is stuck in same old-same old reactionary Dirty Energy policies and massive subsidies for pollution. Pity!


Wind farm foe gave $100,000 to aid GOP

A month ago, as the battle over a proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound was being heard by state regulators, William I. Koch, the fossil fuel magnate and Cape Cod summer resident, donated $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association.

Koch, a longtime opponent of Cape Wind and cochairman of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, made the donation in part to support Republican Charles D. Baker, another Cape Wind opponent, in the race for governor.

“It’s no secret we oppose Cape Wind,’’ said Brad Goldstein, a spokesman for Koch at the Oxbow Group, the $4 billion fossil fuel conglomerate that Koch runs from his Florida home.

Baker has called the proposal a “sweetheart deal’’ among state officials, Cape Wind, and electricity provider National Grid. He has been aided in his campaign by more than $5 million in spending by the governors association.

Cape Wind, for its part, has financially supported Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat and avid supporter of the proposal. Two officials have made numerous direct contributions to the governor and his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray. They have not, however, made any recent contributions to the Democratic Governors Association, which has provided more than $3 million for ads produced by an outside group supporting Patrick.

Cape Wind president James S. Gordon has given a total of $2,500 to Patrick since 2005 and another $1,000 to Murray, according to campaign finance records. He has also given $10,500 to the Democratic State Committee, which is helping Patrick in his run for governor.

In addition, Mitchell H. Jacobs, Gordon’s partner at Energy Management Inc., Cape Wind’s developer, has given $1,500 to Patrick, $1,000 to Murray, and another $2,000 to the Democratic State Committee. He also donated $250 to Baker this year.

Still, Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind, said Koch’s six-figure donation to the Republican Governors Association is evidence that his financial interest in fossil fuels is driving his fight against the wind energy proposal. “The public has a right to know that oil and coal money has been fueling the opposition’s misinformation campaign against an offshore wind farm,’’ Rodgers said.

But Goldstein said Koch’s opposition has nothing to do with his business interests. Instead, he said, it is based on Koch’s status as a summer homeowner in Osterville, his passion for sailing — Koch won the 1992 America’s Cup race — and his belief that the proposal is bad for ratepayers.

“Bill thinks it’s a boondoggle for Jim Gordon,’’ Goldstein said. “He wants to see the sound preserved, and he definitely has some homeowner interest.’’

In addition, Goldstein said Koch’s donation to the association was also meant to help Republican gubernatorial candidates across the country — including incumbent Rick Perry in Texas, and Meg Whitman in California, where Oxbow has significant business interests. Oxbow has more than 300 employees working at three facilities in Texas, for example. It conducts no operations in New England.

The battle over Cape Wind, potentially the nation’s first offshore wind farm, has raged for much of the last decade, pitting proponents of renewable energy against preservationists and some prominent Cape Cod homeowners, including Koch and the late Edward M. Kennedy.

The Department of Public Utilities held public hearings on the proposal in September and is expected to reach a decision by mid-November. If the agency approves the deal, which is projected to raise customers’ monthly electricity rates by about 2 percent, opponents will be able to appeal to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.

In the meantime, both sides have pushed their respective causes in the political arena, making donations designed to influence the hotly contested race for governor and collectively spending about $4 million to lobby members of Congress.

Since the early 2000s, the Alliance and Cape Wind have each spent about $1.5 million dollars on their lobbying efforts. In addition, Oxbow, which is privately held, paid $1 million to a lobbying firm that worked against the Cape Wind proposal from 2005 to 2007, when Kennedy was seeking to kill it.

Federal records show that much of Oxbow’s $1 million was spent to directly influence the outcome of the wind farm debate. But they also show that the lobbying firm, US Strategies, worked on other issues, such as tax credits and other matters that Goldstein said might have included Oxbow’s international shipping interests.

Oxbow is a collection of more than two dozen companies with 15 locations across the United States and two dozen more spread out over five continents, according to Oxbow’s website. Its primary businesses are mining and the sale of coal, natural gas, and petroleum. It is also the world’s largest distributor of petroleum coke, a solid fuel that is a byproduct of the oil refining process.

Oxbow is unrelated to Koch Industries, the Wichita-based energy conglomerate owned by Koch’s two brothers, Charles and David, both of whom are prodigious funders of libertarian causes. Oxbow’s William Koch waged a bitter legal battle against his brothers during the 1980s and 1990s, contending he was cheated when he sold his stake in their company.

The Cape Wind proposal — which calls for 130 turbines, each 440 feet high, to be built over 24 square miles in Nantucket Sound — has also become an issue in the race between Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger, James P. McKenna.

In August, Coakley garnered headlines when she urged the Department of Public Utilities to approve an agreement between Cape Wind and National Grid, after she negotiated a 10 percent reduction in the price of power from the turbines.

McKenna, for his part, has urged the agency to reject the deal, saying it will be too costly for ratepayers. He has criticized Coakley for accepting $4,800 in campaign contributions from Cape Wind’s Gordon during her unsuccessful campaign to fill Kennedy’s US Senate seat.

“Jim Gordon stands to personally profit greatly from Coakley’s continued political power,’’ McKenna said in a statement.

But campaign records show that Gordon hedged his bets, giving $4,800, the combined legal maximum in the primary and general elections, to both Coakley and US Representative Michael E. Capuano, another candidate in the Democratic primary.

Jacobs, Gordon’s business partner, gave $1,000 to Coakley.

Brian C. Mooney off the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cape Cod Railroad Bridge

CapeCodOnline offered accelerated video and comments about the railroad bridge that spans the Cape Cod Canal. We've enjoyed a few of those 170,056 lowerings and it's worth the trip --

VIDEO: Railroad Bridge throws its weight around

BUZZARDS BAY — We are standing atop the Railroad Bridge and the world looks magnificent. Moments ago, Cape Cod Canal manager Larry Davis gave the go ahead, and the center span began to rise, 2,200 tons, smooth as silk, barely a sound, carrying us more than a hundred feet into the air.

Birds fly below us. The Cape curves away into a salty sunrise. A big wind bends around steel and the American flag snaps to attention. The hectic Bourne Bridge chugs away in the distance. And the canal runs through it all.

Bridge facts

The vertical clearance from above mean high water: 135 feet


Time to lower bridge: 2.5 minutes


Length of center span: 544 feet

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

"There's not a spot on this bridge that I haven't been," says Davis, with obvious affection for the structure and appreciation of how much work it takes to keep it running.

"It's probably the nicest railroad bridge design I've ever seen," he says. "And I've seen quite a few of these vertical lift bridges. But none of them quite have the style, maybe the Art Deco-type of look that this one does."

And what puts the lift in this vertical lift bridge? Two giant counterweights, 1,100 tons each, in the form of steel-plated boxes filled with concrete.

"It sort of works like an old-fashioned window," says Davis. "You have counterweights over a set of pulleys. As the bridge goes down, the counterweights go up, then, as the counterweights go down, the bridge goes up."

Ups and downs are what the Railroad Bridge is all about. As of Friday morning, the bridge had been lowered and raised 170,056 times for train traffic since coming online in 1935, according to statistics provided by Davis' staff.




But what starts the huge counterweights on their up and down exchange with the bridge span? We head into the tower room at the top of the Buzzards Bay side of the bridge and meet the sheaves: four 34-ton wheels, 16 feet in diameter!

The cables that connect the counterweights to the bridge span are guided by the sheaves. An intricate system of gears, powered by a 200-horsepower motor, turn the sheaves, providing enough of a catalyst to get the lift process going, and the counterweights do the heavy lifting.

A twin system of sheaves does the same job in the Cape-side tower. And all that gear-stuff, and the cables and sheaves, are slathered in grease, like mechanical barbecue sauce. Fifteen types of grease are used in the bridge in a never-ending battle against friction.

We head down from the tower in a tiny elevator. Outside again, there's one more chance to see the water of the canal move below our feet, through the grating on the bridge. And another chance to admire the bones of this bridge, built during the heart of the Great Depression and still going strong.

"Some of the stuff that was built in the old days was meant to stick around," says Davis.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Party of NO!

31 Bills Republicans Have Blocked in 2010
By the time President Obama was sworn into office in January 2009, America was losing 600,000 jobs a month. Within 6 months of passing the Economic Stimulus Bill (which was opposed by every single House Republican and all but 3 Senate Republicans), those job losses were reduced by two-thirds.

That was a good start.

Yet, despite the marked improvement, Republicans continued to block dozens of job creation, business and economic development, and consumer protection bills right through September of 2010, stalling the recovery.

You have every right to ask why. Did they want Obama to fail due to philosophical differences? Or was it because, as the ones who were most responsible for the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression, they knew that economic recovery credited to the Democrats would spell political devastation for the Republican Party for years to come?

Why did they choose to spend their time doing everything they could to make the President fail, instead of spending their time trying to make America succeed?

Whose side are they really on?

Here is a partial listing of journalistic news reports from (primarily) mainstream news sources of Bills the Republicans Have Blocked – or attempted to block -- during the past 20 months. These are the actual article headlines. I’ve provided several media links to confirm and verify the accuracy of each article.

It’s an eye-opener.

John



Republican obstructionism . . . is based on the idea that the failure not just of President Obama but of American society itself is the G.O.P.’s quickest ticket back to power.
Bob Herbert New York Times 9/10/2010




Republicans Block Bill to Aid Small Businesses
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/us/politics/30cong.html

http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/senate-republicans-block-small-business-aid-bill/19572912/



Republicans Block Unemployment Benefits Extension
http://www.todaysthv.com/news/natInt/story.aspx?storyid=109570&catid=288

http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2010/07/gop_brown_vote.html

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jun/25/nation/la-na-jobless-vote-20100625



Republicans Block Bank-Reform Bill
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/democrats-reach-deal-on-tough-derivative-law-2010-04-26

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63Q5CR20100427



Republicans Block Campaign Disclosure Bill
http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2010/07/republicans_blo.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66Q65I20100727

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38434903



Republicans Block Jobs Bill in Senate
http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/29/small-business-jobs-bill-stalls-in-senate/

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2012485381_congress30.html



GOP Blocks Transparency in Campaign Contributions
http://www.care2.com/causes/politics/blog/gop-blocks-transparency-in-campaign-contributions/

http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20100727/pl_mcclatchy/3578774



Republicans block bill ending tax breaks for US companies sending jobs offshore
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/28/AR2010092802768.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2821013620100928

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20017896-503544.html

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gjFU-ZOgeJNcMKBh9YdqcUyzXUPQ?docId=CNG.df9e6a188a034ac23300ab0760b91861.ad1



Republicans Block Bill to Raise Oil Spill Liability Cap
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20005333-503544.html

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/14/nation/la-na-oil-spill-new-20100514

http://thenorthcoast.blogspot.com/2010/06/republicans-block-bill-to-raise-oil.html



Republicans Block Wall Street Reform Bill
http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/94485-gop-blocks-wall-st-bill

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8644952.stm



GOP blocks Senate campaign-finance bill – again
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2010/09/senate-campaign-finance/1

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2323068220100923

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Election-2010/From-the-Wires/2010/0924/Campaign-finance-Republicans-block-bill-to-identify-ad-sponsors



Republicans Block Small Business Lending Bill
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-29/senate-republicans-block-small-business-lending-bill-sought-by-democrats.html

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38469644/ns/business-small_business/

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100729/ap_on_bi_ge/us_small_business_lending



Republicans Block Repeal of Military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy
http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/09/21/republicans-block-dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal/

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5grHLcTA5VMaxM1KPtvrf3OTOfZuQD9ICK7K00

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/senate-vote-repeal-ban-gays-military/story?id=11685658



Senate Republicans Block Own Amendments on Health Care Bill
http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/scarce/how-senate-republicans-obstruct-health-care



Republicans Block Energy Legislation…Yet Again
http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/08/04/republicans-block-energy-legislation-yet-again/

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66H1BS20100718

http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2267599/senate-blocks-energy-bill-yet



G.O.P. Blocks Debate on Financial Oversight Bill
http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/g-o-p-blocks-debate-on-financial-oversight-bill/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/business/27regulate.html

http://worldjewishnews.blogspot.com/2010/04/gop-blocks-debate-on-financial.html



Republicans Kill Measure That Created 240,000 Jobs
http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/09/30/republicans-kill-measure-that-created-240000-jobs/

http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-09-30/business/24103870_1_jobs-program-summer-jobs-subsidized-employment

http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/09/job-99ers-tanf-senate

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/09/30/if-we-re-serious-about-jobs-don-t-stop-job-creation

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/10/4/906979/-Republicans-kill-jobs



Senate Republicans block Dems' effort to pass mine safety bill
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/worker-safety/121457-senate-republicans-block-dems-effort-to-pass-mine-safety-bill



GOP Pledges to Block Immigration Reform
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/04/25/GOP-pledges-to-block-immigration-bill-push/UPI-56291272231701/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/01/AR2010070100388.html



Republicans Block Democrats’ Efforts to Hold BP Accountable
http://ynative77.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/republicans-block-democrats-efforts-to-hold-bp-accountable-gop-leaving-taxpayers-on-the-hook-for-bailing-out-bp-may-18-2010/

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20007511-503544.html



Senate Republicans Block Two Bills to Spur Renewable Energy Investment
http://www.grist.org/article/no-renewal-for-renewables/



House Republicans Block Medical Help for 9/11 Heroes
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20012217-503544.html

http://blog.aflcio.org/2010/07/30/house-republicans-block-medical-help-for-911-heroes/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/nyregion/30zadroga.html



GOP blocks small business bill. Who will get the blame?
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/07/dems_will_get_blamed_for_gop_o.html?hpid=sec-politics



GOP Blocks Financial Reform As Millions Lose Homes
http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/5875/gop_blocks_financial_reform_as_millions_lose_homes/



GOP Blocks Small Biz Bill
http://www.phillytrib.com/tribune/newsheadlines/14208-gop-blocks-small-biz-bill.html

http://wwj.cbslocal.com/2010/07/30/republicans-block-small-biz-lending-bill/

http://articles.cnn.com/2010-09-15/politics/obama.economic.relief_1_tax-cuts-small-business-gop-sens?_s=PM:POLITICS



Senate Republicans Kill Renewable Energy and Job Creation Bill
http://solveclimate.com/blog/20080610/senate-republicans-kill-renewable-energy-and-job-creation-bill-wheres-mccain

http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/the-gaggle/2010/09/15/who-killed-the-energy-and-climate-bill.html



Republicans Block US Senate Committees From Holding Hearings
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/03/24/GOP-blocks-Senate-committee-meetings/UPI-88161269468743/

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/24/gop-blocks-senate-actions/

http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/republicans-block-senate-committees-holding-hearings/



Senate Republicans Promise To Oppose Tax Cuts If Wealthy Aren't Included
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/13/mcconnell-every-senate-re_n_714739.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/13/senate-poised-for-highsta_n_714766.html



Senate Republicans Kill Job-Creating Tax Cuts
http://waysandmeans.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=11232



GOP Blocks 20 Judicial Nominees
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Obama-getting-fewest-judges-confirmed-since-Nixon--102306839.html

http://blog.pfaw.org/content/gop-blocks-20-judicial-nominees-rebuffs-goodwin-liu-again

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202471710311

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/23/opinion/23thu2.html?th&emc=th



GOP Blocks Freeze on Credit Card Interest Rate Hikes
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/18/gop-blocks-freeze-on-cred_n_362787.html



How Many Jobs Can Republicans Kill This Week?
https://democrats.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=326871&
&



Here’s one they’ve decided to support:


GOP has No Problem Extending Tax Cuts for the Rich
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/13/AR2010071305391.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68B1SH20100913




Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jeff Perry

Maybe it's naive, but it would be hoped that your 'average' citizen placed in a similar situation to Jeff Perry's would speak up or take action to prevent a 14 year old from being sexually molested. Maybe pangs of conscience afterwards might force you to acknowledge you were wrong in not stepping in. Not so Jeff Perry.

Politics aside, there's something deeply troubling about Jeff Perry's actions in this case that go beyond simply 'trust,' instead representing moral bankruptcy, a disregard for common decency, true contempt for a young kid and a moral depravity to deny it afterwards.

The victim's public statement is below.




Strip search victim speaks out on Jeffrey Perry
By George Brennan
STAFF WRITER

October 20, 2010

Lisa Allen, the victim of an illegal strip search in 1991 by a Wareham police officer, is breaking her silence saying that Jeffery Perry, a Wareham police sergeant at the time and a Republican candidate for Congress, did nothing to protect her.

“Jeff Perry was nearby when Scott Flanagan illegally strip searched me,” she said in a statement released by her attorney Wednesday. “Perry knew what Flanagan did, he had to hear me screaming and crying. Instead of helping me, Jeff Perry denied anything happened.”

Full Text: Read Lisa Allen's statement on Jeffrey Perry

Perry has been hammered by political opponents in this campaign about the illegal strip searches, in large part because his own story about what happened has changed and because his recollections don't match the public record in the case.

In a statement issued through his spokeswoman, Perry said what happened to Allen was wrong and should not have happened. “Scott Flanagan's actions were despicable and a betrayal of the oath he took as a police officer,” Perry said. “My heart goes out to Ms. Allen for what she was put through by Scott Flanagan that night.”

The strip searches have been the target of fliers and radio and TV ads, including one that was pulled by three radio stations on Cape Cod this week because of some questionable content.

Perry has called the attacks “mud-slinging,” but his opponent Democrat William Keating has said it's a matter of trust.

In statement today from Keating, he said: "No one should have to experience the trauma that Ms. Allen experienced, particularly at the hands of those entrusted to protect her. As district attorney, I have a profound respect for the incredible courage it has taken her to step forward and speak out about this offense. She is an inspiration to every survivor and to all of us who believe in justice for victims."

Perry and Keating, with less than two weeks to go in their bitter campaign, are expected to attend a League of Women Voters forum in Weymouth tonight.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Lisa Allen's full statement released by her attorney:

"I cannot stand by silently any longer while what happened to me is discussed in the press. It upsets me that Jeff Perry can run for Congress after what he did to me when I was fourteen years old.

"Jeff Perry was nearby when Scott Flanagan illegally strip searched me. Perry knew what Flanagan did, he had to hear me screaming and crying. Instead of helping me, Jeff Perry denied anything happened. Even after Scott Flanagan admitted the truth under oath and pled guilty, Perry never apologized for allowing Flanagan to abuse me. Now he has said he would not do anything differently if he had the chance.

"Perry did not care about protecting teen-aged girls in Wareham from police officer Flanagan. Jeff Perry cared only about protecting police officer Flanagan.

"Chief Joyce now says Jeff Perry was a good cop. Neither Chief Joyce nor Sgt. Perry were good cops. Chief Joyce refused to investigate when my mother complained about what Flanagan did to me. Like Perry. Chief Joyce protected police officer Flanagan instead of protecting teen-aged girls from police officer Flanagan.

"Jeff Perry was not an honest police sergeant; he should not be in a position of power."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bottle bill bottled up

Claire Sullivan left a comment on "Talking Trash Tuesday, Sept. 21: Bottle Bill" --

The town of Middleborough recently joined the South Shore Recycling Cooperative, ssrcoop.info, which is actively advocating for passage of this important and seemingly no-brainer legislature. Let your legislators know that you want to see this happen! It has been held up in committee for 16 years.

I would encourage others to communicate with their legislators, which I have, but it might seem that "Leadership" has been too busy behind closed doors meeting with Gambling Lobbyists crafting a grossly flawed bill to conduct the People's Business.

Bottlers oppose this as well.

Adding a deposit to other containers would reduce the costs of municipal trash disposal and would incentivize others to pick up those discarded on the roadsides.

It's long past doing what's right for the environment and municipal budgets. Please consider asking candidates for election and re-election their position on this.


Since you mentioned it....

Cape Cod Online offered the following article which I thought was pretty interesting --

Bat nursed to health in time for Halloween

Wild Care in Eastham is rehabilitating a small brown bat that was found on the ground malnourished and with tears in its wings.Cape Cod Times/Steve Heaslip
By Jason Kolnos
October 16, 2010
EASTHAM — He won't turn into Nosferatu. He prefers a simple insect repast to a bloodbath. And he likely won't dive-bomb into your hair.

A little brown bat is getting the royal rehab treatment at Wild Care in Eastham, and that's a bit of good news for a species that has been decimated across the region.

This plucky fanged fella was brought to the wild animal hospital two weeks ago with multiple puncture wounds and damage to his wing's webbing.

A cat had gotten at the bat, hypothesized Lela Larned, executive director of Wild Care.

After daily doses of electrolyte-infused fluids and tasty mealworms, the bat more than doubled his weight.

"When he first came in, he was emaciated, sluggish and unresponsive," Larned said. "Now, he's self-feeding, taking short flights and much more aggressive."

Folks at Wild Care are treating this little brown bat as a member of an endangered species, even though it isn't yet listed as one in Massachusetts.

Bats are dying in the state's caves and mines — where they hibernate during winter months — at alarmingly high levels, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife). Biologists attribute the cause to white-nose syndrome, a crusting fungus that attacks their muzzles and other body parts. Mortality rates may be as high as 95 to 100 percent.

An unpleasant example comes from the state's largest hibernaculum (winter bat quarters) in Chester, where a normal winter population was 8,000 to 10,000 bats. But during recent winters, all those bats have apparently died, according to MassWildlife.

"With all the declines that bats have suffered, we wanted to go to every length to make sure this one survives," Larned said.

And if you're sick of scratching bug bites, it behooves you to befriend a bat, too. These winged spelunkers are serial killers of mosquitoes and other insects.

Larned encourages folks to consider installing bat boxes that can host hundreds of them, including females and baby bats.

"A single bat can eat thousands of insects a night, so if you have one of these, you won't have mosquitoes," Larned said.


Coincidentally, thedailygreen offered 7 Surprising Facts About Bats that offers some great pictures and narrative.

Both of those forced me the re-visit Wednesday, August 4, 2010 STATE SPRAYING TO TARGET DISEASE-CARRYING MOSQUITOES.



All of which makes me ponder our arrogance and stupidity as a species.

Allow me -- when the public matter of mosquitoes arose, we were baffled!

For just about 30 years, a few bats have nested under our rake boards. They raise their families and grow and do their thing in the evenings. We have a nodding and appreciative neighborly relationship. Their numbers periodically increase as the harvest increases.

They've been pretty tolerant and forgiving like the time the house was power washed before painting.

A trip outside, into the garden invited the abundance of dragon flies to dive bomb maybe in search of prey that was becoming scarce.

On the evening we were forced to endure aerial spraying, it was misting - not quite a rain. Our bats had been circumnavigating the house, doing their job, sadly oblivious to the poison falling from the skies.

That poison, promoted as benign, destroyed the bats and the dragonflies, allowing the mosquito population to rebound and flourish.

Yesterday, October 17, was the first day a dragonfly was seen.

Years ago, a friend recommended Farnam's Nature's Defense® Water-based Fly Repellent Spray and Concentrate that we've used successfully that includes this product description --


Water-based formula combines citronella with other botanicals
Repels horn, stable, house, horse and deer flies, plus mosquitoes and gnats
Contains no preservatives, additives or artificial colors
Alcohol-free – will not irritate sensitive skin
For use on horses, ponies and foals
Available in ready-to-use formula with trigger sprayer or concentrate (dilutes 4:1)


It's herbs, folks! Harmless stuff the Big Chemical Companies don't promote, instead of poisoning the environment.

Instead of blindly accepting the hysteria, insisting on our superiority as a species, we might consider that the bats are warm blooded, just like humans. What are we doing to ourselves?

How stupid are we as a species?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dollar Stores, Family Dollar, Dollar General

As the middle class loses its buying power and poverty increases as a consequence of failed Reactionary Party fiscal policies that plunged us into the "Great Recession," this article was pretty interesting.


Maybe we'll all be working 80 hours a week for a pittance.

Banana Republic here we come!



CorpWatch Community Portal: http://community.corpwatch.org
***************************************************
Dollar Stores: Top Link in the Sweatshop Chain
By Kent Paterson, Special to CorpWatch, October 6, 2010

A growing group of chain-store corporations that cater to America's poor with
cheap goods are classifying workers as managers. By categorizing employees as
salaried managers these dollar stores avoid paying overtime wages that the Fair
Labor Standards Act mandates for hourly workers.
http://corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15629


Family Dollar
http://www.crocodyl.org/wiki/family_dollar


Dollar Stores: Top Link in the Sweatshop Chain


by Kent Paterson
October 6th, 2010

Abel Lopez was a busy man. The El Paso resident’s job with Family Dollar, Inc. averaged 60-80 hours a week. A former graphic designer and ad man from neighboring Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Lopez spent his days unloading trucks, processing freight, scouring toilets, running cash registers, cleaning, shelving, changing prices, doing inventory, and covering for other employees. As a bonus, he was even held up by armed robbers.

Like others at Family Dollar who wind up spending most of their time doing grunt work, Lopez bore the title of manager. He contends that the company routinely classifies regular workers as managers in order to categorize them as exempt employees and in doing so ensure they are not subject to the overtime provisions of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). (See box.)

Family Dollar is one of a growing group of chain-store corporations that cater to America's poor by selling cheap goods, many imported from sweatshops in low-wage countries including China and Mexico.

Critics of the two largest dollar store chains, Family Dollar and Dollar General, contend that the companies extract super-profits from the uncompensated labor of overworked store “managers” and other employees.

“It’s corporate theft,” asserted Alabama attorney Lance Gould, whose firm represents some of [Dollar General’s] managers. “All these dollar stores, their company structure is the same. Their largest controllable expense is their labor budget.”

Last April, after more than seven years on the job, Abel Lopez was fired. Family Dollar blamed him – unjustly, the worker says -- for bad upkeep of the store. Recently, he and a small group of supporters conducted roving pickets at different Family Dollar stores in El Paso. One day he stood outside a store wearing a t-shirt that read: “Family Dollar: Exploited Manager,” while an El Paso police officer warned the group not to leaflet on company premises.

“We’re being misclassified as store managers to avoid paying overtime,” Lopez charged. “I think the profit is made out of the hours they don’t pay the managers. ...They give you a payroll, and actually most of the time the payroll doesn’t cover you,” Lopez said, adding that managers were forced to do the jobs of workers they could not afford to staff.
Stout and straight-talking, Lopez resumed picketing as the mid-day traffic picked up and the hot sun blazed the pavement of the border city.

Pennies on the Dollar


Pay for Family Dollar managers like Lopez starts off around $550 per week but the long hours required result in some employees barely earning above minimum wage, Lopez says. At the opposite end of the company’s income spectrum, Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine enjoyed an annual compensation package of $5.38 million in 2010--part of a five-year bundle valued at $14 million, according to Forbes.

Based in North Carolina, Family Dollar began in 1959 with one store in Charlotte. More than 40 years later, the chain has more than 6,700 stores in 44 states with 45,000 employees. Earning nearly $7.9 billion in revenues for fiscal year 2010, Family Dollar recorded nine consecutive quarters of double-digit earnings per share growth through the summer of this year. The chain “significantly expanded operating margins and improved inventory productivity” while continuing to return “excess cash” to its shareholders, according to a company statement.

For the first three quarters of fiscal year 2010, Family Dollar paid out approximately $58 million in dividends.

While Family Dollar raked in profits, Lopez scrambled to make ends meet. With mortgage payments, as well as a wife and three young daughters to support, he did what so many other workers are forced to do by the Great Recession: dip into his 401(K)3.

As the months dragged on, Lopez waged a battle on two fronts: out on the streets and inside state unemployment offices, there he eventually prevailed against Family Dollar’s initial rejection of his claim, he said.

Abel Lopez is not the first company manager to challenge the Tennessee-based retailer. In 2006, more than 1,400 former and current company managers won an Alabama lawsuit alleging FLSA overtime violations and seeking compensation. Agreeing with the plaintiffs, a federal jury ordered the company to pay $35.6 million. Family Dollar appealed.

Family Dollar chairman and CEO Howard Levine praised the hard work of his employees but insisted they were exempt from laws requiring overtime pay. “We believe we are correct in classifying our store managers as salaried managers, and we intend to continue to fight for what we believe is right,” Levine said in a statement.

In 2008, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld the judgment against Family Dollar. The Fortune 500 company did not respond to several requests for comment on the current complaints against the company.

The Inflation of Dollar Stores

Rising from the U.S. Bible Belt, the dollar store trend began back in the 1950s. Today, three Fortune 500 companies compete for the title of Old King Buck--Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree. The corporate chains appeal to legions of economically-stressed shoppers, with Dollar General even sponsoring an advice-column blog authored by “Ms. Cheap.”

Unlike many retailers, the dollar store industry is thriving in these hard economic times. At the top of the heap is Dollar General. Beginning as a family business in Springfield, Kentucky, it expanded into a huge company that was eventually taken over in 2007 by affiliates of corporate raiders KKR and Goldman Sachs.

Publicly traded since 2009, Dollar General counts more than 9,000 stores, 72,000 employees and sales in the neighborhood of $11.8 billion. Like some Family Dollar stores, Dollar General accepts food stamps and goes beyond the buck-an-item model by also featuring grocery aisles. While checking the weekly coupon stand, customers can browse tabloids with headlines like “Michael Jackson Seen Alive.”

Dollar General faces the same overtime issues as Family Dollar. The “majority of [mangers'] work is the same as hourly employees,” said Gould, an attorney for Beasley-Allen, the Alabama-based law firm that since 2004 has handled thousands of employee complaints against Dollar General. Unlike actual executives, Gould charged, Dollar General’s managers must defer to district bosses for significant decisions. The approximately 750 cases pending in various U.S. courts make overtime lawsuits filed by managers of retail outlets “one of the fastest-growing areas of litigation,” said Gould.

A spokesperson for Dollar General said the company does not comment on litigation.

True to its name, Dollar Tree does indeed offer mostly very cheap goods. As the night of witches and goblins approached, El Paso shoppers were greeted with a gaudy “Halloween Headquarters” stocked with $1 candy bags, “boneyard” skulls, black crows and other apparitions of faux terror.

For a mere buck, borderland children can play at killing with toy assault rifles and grenades, the make-believe images of real-life weapons used every day just across the river in violence-torn Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. They can also pretend to ply the tools of the trade of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans stationed at El Paso’s Fort Bliss in ever increasing numbers.

Boasting more than 3,900 stores in 48 states, Dollar Tree traces its evolution to the Ben Franklin variety store in Virginia. Changing into a publicly-traded company decades later, Dollar Tree has recently busied itself buying up similar retailers in different states. During the second quarter of 2010, Dollar Tree opened 56 stores and closed only five.

Between Wal-Mart and a Garage Sale

“Dollars may not grow on trees but outlets of Dollar Tree’s stores seem to,” noted Hoover’s.

“Customers are responding in record numbers to our outstanding values and fun shopping experience,” said president and CEO Bob Sasser, who presumably also finds fun in a four-year compensation package Forbes estimated at $9.42 million.

Filled with the products of the world’s low-wage manufacturing centers, the dollar store industry occupies an economic niche somewhere below Wal-Mart and K-Mart, and somewhat above the weekend garage sale. They fill store fronts in moribund cities and strip malls around the country, as in economically depressed Barre, VT, where a Family Dollar displaying cheap items in bright colors nestles next to a nail emporium, a Chinese restaurant, a basic Radio Shack, and a long-empty storefront.

Dollar stores are also fixtures of immigrant communities. In New Mexico, west Texas and elsewhere it is common to find them near indoor flea markets, pay-day lenders and other manifestations of what Eric Murillo of the El Paso-based Retail Workers Rights Committee (RWRC) called the brave new world of the “predatory economy”.

Organizing for Fair Treatment

Organized this year to support Abel Lopez and other workers, the Retail Workers Rights Committee is laying the groundwork for a fresh burst of labor activism in an industry that is notoriously anti-union.

The new group demands a halt to the misclassification of store managers, an end to threats and intimidation of employees, and an increase in workplace security and no-retaliation pledges.

Founder of El Paso’s Border Workers Association, Guillermo Glenn, noted that the Family Dollar battle has special resonance in a city where retail jobs are one of the few options left. After NAFTA and other free trade pacts were implemented, nearly 40,000 manufacturing jobs were demolished in what Glenn termed a Katrina-like economic storm.

Unpaid overtime is a major problem in the retail and fast food industries of his city, Glenn maintained. Worse yet, he said, is weak Texas labor law that gives employers the power to fire even “if they don’t like your shoes.”

Ironically, in El Paso’s shops now, gadgets and gizmos made in China and other low-wage havens compete with cheaply produced Mexican goods. If workers’ grievances are as severe as they appear to be, it poses the question of whether retail stores are the sweatshops at the top of the sweatshop chain.

Added Glenn: “I see the movement of the retail workers as very important because there is [so much] sub-employment in this area-part-timers and people that don’t work sufficient hours.”

Backed by allies from different social movements, the RWRC is planning an October 16th national day of action against Family Dollar in cities such as El Paso and San Antonio. Organizer Eric Murillo said Family Dollar employees across the country were in the same boat. “We feel if we keep this pressure up, we’ll get other Family Dollar workers and perhaps other retail workers involved in this struggle as well,” Murillo said.



Unpaid Overtime: Ripping Off Workers,
Communities

At the root of
employee complaints against
Family Dollar, Dollar General, and other
retail chains is a somewhat archaic Fair
Labor Standards Act passed in
the 1930s.
The Act came about when “mom-and-pop”
establishments and not
“mega-
corporations” were the norm, said Karen
Dulaney Smith, owner of
the KDS
Consulting labor-management firm in
Austin, Texas. Exemptions
for retail
managers and others under the FLSA set
the stage for a wider
assault on overtime
and the 40-hour workweek.

Long backed by the
U.S. Chamber of
Commerce and other business
associations, the Bush
administration’s
Department of Labor (DOL) attempted to
expand overtime
exemptions in 2003 to
cover more than 8 million additional
workers,
according to an analysis prepared
by the Washington. D.C.-based Economic
Policy Institute (EPI).

“It was fraudulently sold to the public and
Congress as something that would simplify
the law,” said EPI Executive
Vice-President
Ross Eisenbrey “Some of these people
think there
shouldn’t be minimum wage.”

Adopted in 2004, softened but still
expanded overtime exemption rules
affected about 6 million new workers,
Eisenbrey estimated. Chefs, sous chefs,
nursery school teachers,
mortgage loan
officers, media workers, and others were
suddenly handed
“promotions” that
bumped up their status from lowly, hourly
workers.

At the same time it was relaxing overtime
requirements, the Bush
administration
quietly gutted the DOL’s wage and hour
law enforcement
capabilities by simply not
filling a large number of positions after
employees retired, said Dulaney Smith,
who worked as a DOL investigator
between 1987 and 1999.

A report from the Brennan Center for
Justice found that the number of DOL wage
and hour investigators dropped
from 921
in 1975 to 788 in 2004, while the number
of workers who
received back wages fell
from 380,254 to 288,296 in the same time
frame.

In organization with the National
Employment Law Project (NELP),
AFL-CIO,
Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center and
other labor advocates,
the Just Pay
Working
Group is negotiating with the DOL to
address
overtime and other pay issues. A
2010
Just Pay report documented rampant
overtime violations. The study cited a 2008
survey of 4,387 workers in
New York,
Chicago, and Los Angeles that reported
workers were cheated
out of
approximately $56.4 million in wages every
week in the three
cities alone. Not only do
family budgets suffer from the wage theft,
but
so do local economies and tax bases,
the report noted.

Immigrant
workers are disproportionately
impacted by wage theft, said Catherine
Ruckleshaus, NELP legal co-director. If it is
not curbed, massive wage
theft has
negative implications for reversing the long
economic slump,
Ruckleshaus added. “The
more our society permits these jobs to be
low
and underpaying, the less our
economy picks up,” she said

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jetson Green

Since it seems the Reactionary Party would make their Dirty Energy policy a campaign issue, Jetson Green offers great ideas and insight about energy usage and alternatives and is available with a free subscription. Their site is worth an exploration.

Racing Against Time: A Bright Future
By Preston Koerner

This article is a contribution to Honda’s “
Racing Against Time” thought leadership series.*

Recently, I was approached by Honda to tackle the topic of "peak oil" in relation to the normal conversation on Jetson Green. This site is devoted to green building innovation, and you may be thinking the subject of peak oil -- specifically, the idea that oil is a finite resource -- is a little tangential.

But it's not. In fact, oil is used to make all sorts of products and to power residential and commercial buildings. Honda's invitation has given me an opportunity to brainstorm on the subject and, after some contemplation, I believe there are six ways the building, design, and construction industry can eliminate the use of oil entirely.

#1: Ultra Conservation at the Outset
Recently, Bill McDonough said, "
efficiency will not save us" and "being less bad is not being good." There's a point in these bold statements, regardless of whether you believe incremental effort is helpful or mandatory for environmental progress. So I want to be clear. When I say "ultra conservation," I'm not saying we should seek greater efficiencies. I'm saying we should use extreme conservation as a path toward eliminating the use of a resource entirely.

Perhaps the Passive House standard illustrates my point. Generally, a Passive House is extremely airtight and ultra efficient. These cutting-edge homes are primarily heated by warmth from people, equipment, and solar gain. In other words, a Passive House is designed and built to nearly eliminate heating and cooling equipment. A house that doesn't need an active HVAC system is a house that doesn't use energy and won't need oil.

#2: Bridging the Gap with Technology

Ultra conservation, however, shouldn't require that people stop moving, working, and doing. Lifestyles may change, but a spartan living will not create the kind of movement that would eliminate the use of oil. After ultra conservation, we can and should tap renewable resources -- sun, wind, earth -- with available and reasonably priced technology.

Technology such as solar panels, small wind turbines, and geothermal systems all present viable opportunities to power the built environment with something other that oil (or replacement fossil fuels). Indeed, energy producing buildings can sell extra power to the grid or use that energy to power the next generation of vehicles.

#3: Controlling Transportation Energy Intensity

Even if a building is a net non user of energy or produces energy, it's important to examine the environmental impact associated with the location or siting of the structure. The transportation energy intensity of a building, which is the amount of energy expended in getting people to and from a building, can't be ignored. This is where a lot of oil is consumed through vehicles.

Commuting to the average office building accounts for roughly 30% more energy use than the building uses itself, according to Environmental Building News. For the average new office building, commuting accounts for more than twice the energy used by the building itself. For this reason, folks scrutinize density and proximity, so that people can access work and services without traveling large distances.

Building users should think through their choice of where to live and work, if possible. Why not live within five or 10 minutes of your office, church, and services? The closer you are, the more likely you will be to walk, ride a bike, or use mass transportation -- eliminating the need for oil-based energy.

#4: Sourcing Local Materials Properly


Similarly, materials used by a building's occupants or incorporated into a building are transported only by the use of energy. Though some forms of transportation are more efficient than others, it's impossible to ignore the amount of energy used in hauling materials around the world.

This concept, localism, if you will, regularly surfaces with the discussion of bamboo from China, natural stone surfaces from Italy, or FSC certified wood from some remote country.

LEED certification, for example, rewards projects that use "regional" materials that have been extracted, processed, and manufactured within a 500 miles radius. This is good and where possible, the radius should be shortened. Nevertheless, we should recognize that a large amount of oil is burned getting materials around, so steps can be taken to entirely avoid this environmental impact entirely.

#5: Sourcing Natural Non-Petroleum Materials

Materials are also made with petroleum in some cases. Asphalt, plastics, some forms of insulation, etc. An asphalt surface may be durable, but is there an equally durable surface made with a natural material? Spray foam may provide a tight seal and ultra-efficient envelope, but is there a soy-based alternative or something else that can be substituted?

May I suggest an effort toward naturalism. Petroleum is sourced from the earth, but it's not the kind of natural material we need in our products, furniture, or homes. We need natural materials that don't have toxins and harmful volatile organic compounds in them. We need materials that are not full of oil. A movement that rewards natural materials is necessary to extricate oil from all materials.

#6: Function Like the Natural World

In nature, animals don't take and burn oil to build, move, or live. Janine Benyus, a pioneer and leader in the biomimicry movement, explains: "The more our world functions like the natural world, the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours, but not ours alone," according to the Biomimicry Institute.

This is the premise and the promise of biomimicry, which is the science and art of emulating nature's best biological ideas to solve human problems. AskNature, an open source project and website, is one place where "bio-inspired breakthroughs can be born." For example, by studying photosynthesis, maybe we can find better ways to absorb sunlight and convert it to usable energy.

Nature is full of ideas, yet it is our responsibility to learn them. I believe this is an area that can and should be instructive going forward as we look for inspiration to avoid using oil.

The Future is Bright

Oil pervades all aspects of the built environment. However, the world is changing. The smartest innovators are working on electrical vehicles, energy storage, innovative materials, and new technology to power both buildings and cars. Consider this: we now have the technology to live in an energy producing home that's powered by on- and off-site renewable energy. We now have the technology to drive around with non-oil fuel sources. The technology of the future exists now, though we have to take action to use it.

*Jetson Green was selected to provide a unique perspective on how we should approach the discussion of oil as a finite energy source. During the first week of October 2010, five individuals provide their own thoughts on the subject. These independent contributors were not compensated for their participation and as such their views are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Honda. Details and links to what others are saying about “Racing Against Time” can be found at www.facebook.com/honda
.