Monday, July 31, 2006

Ridiculous puff piece

Today's Providence Journal (registration, as always, tediously required) features an absolutely nauseating puff piece about a 99 year old man who loves Patches Kennedy called, appropriately enough, "Love Stories". I know it was a slow news weekend, and that Rhode Island is a deep blue state, but this article appears to be little more than an unpaid political advertisement for our cretinous junior congressman. On the other hand, I was surprised to find this cogent editorial analyzing the orgy of greed surrounding the lead paint lawsuits in Rhode Island. To wit:
Advocates of suing paint makers now hope to get their hooks into the companies over the legacy of lead paint. The companies stopped selling the product for home use half a century ago -- well before the federal government banned it -- and the statute of limitations has long expired under product-liability laws. Such laws protect companies (which, remember, are people, not an alien species) from being destroyed by actions they took in the distant past, when knowledge of products' dangers and public willingness to accept risk were much different from now.
Speaking of unpaid advertisements, I have updated the Dictators of the World blog after over a month of silence. July is a month for vacations, after all ...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

New photos of Rhode Island

I have finally taken some new pictures, this time, from Scarborough beach in Narragansett. As always, I have put them up on Flickr for viewing.

The trip down route 4 was pleasant enough, until suddenly, at the Route 1 intersection, senator Lincoln Chafee and a group of his supporters were out waving "KEEP CHAFEE" signs. A pretty shrewd move, though - on a Saturday in July, there are tens of thousands of people headed south on 4, so he got some decent exposure. I still expressed my displeasure with a hand gesture.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Brotherhood, episode 3

I have no idea why I keep watching Brotherhood. The first two episodes suggest that the entire series is going to be little more than a knock off of The Sopranos with bad, fake New England accents and a Providence setting. Did the third episode change anything?

No, not really, although the third episode wasn't quite as tedious as the first two. Set against the background a city garbage strike, the third episode of Brotherhood explores the real life interplay of politics in Rhode Island with regards to the balance of power between state and city leaders, and the unions and organized crime.

As in real life, the series' protagonist, Tommy Caffee, is paid less than poverty line wages for his job as a state representative since Rhode Island does not have a full time legislature, and supplements his income as a real estate developer.

So when one of Tommy the private citizen's sales to an out of state client is in put in jeopardy by the mountains of trash on the streets of Providence, Tommy the politician looks for a way to help resolve the strike. While enterprising private garbage removers are kicked around by thugs acting on behalf of an organized crime syndicate, Tommy Caffee attempts to jiggle the levers of power, lobbying the mayor of Providence, the mob boss who controls the union, and one of Rhode Island's congressmen to help end the strike, and salvage his real estate deal. In the meantime, the people of Providence put up with mountains of rotting garbage and the millions of rats that feast on it. As noted earlier, Brotherhood gets points for accurately depicting the way the politics in Rhode Island actually work behind the scenes.

If any of this sounds familiar, it's because Providence was paralyzed by a garbage strike during the Cianci administration, but the real life strike was much more entertaining than the one on television. When you think about it, there's really no excuse for fiction being less entertaining than the truth, now is there?

In the meantime, there is a subplot with Tommy's unfaithful wife (played by Annabeth Gish sporting a godwaful fake Boston accent) , and a surprisingly lifeless subplot where Tommy's gangster brother, Mike, tries to recruit a gang of aging hoodlums so he can revive the career so rudely interrupted by a stint in the ACI. Perhaps The Sopranos has satisfied America's appetite for crime dramas, but blame the producers and writers of Brotherhood for making their own depiction of the New England underworld so leaden and lifeless. I know I do.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Jim Langevin and other nuisances

It appears that my incumbent Congressman, Democrat James Langevin (pictured above) will be running for re-election without a Republican opponent. This marks the first time in the last 149 years that there has been no Republican candidate for congress in the second congressional district. I'm not even going to pretend to be outraged - Langevin is completely unbeatable here. Unlike his cretinous colleague from the first congressional district, James Langevin keeps a low profile in both his professional and private life, and barring any drunk driving or date rape scandals, will be re-elected by comfortable margin just as long as he remains an incumbent and a Democrat. This seat is his for nearly as long as he chooses to hold it.

Lest I get started on the dismal state of politics on Rhode Island, it's time to focus on another irritating pest, only this one is responsible for the closure of beaches in Westerly and Charlestown this past weekend: the loathesome Portuguese Man o' War. This aquatic nuisance managed to sting two small children, forcing the closure of both public and private beaches throughout Westerly and Charlestown. The Providence Journal (registration required) has the story here.

Commonly mistaken for a jellyfish, the Portuguese Man o' War is actually a colony of invertebrates known as a siphonophore. Did you know that? I certainly didn't. Whatever it is, it's a completely detestable animal, and the invetebrates that it's composed of should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Also sprach Sheeler

Apparently, my humble blog has, inexplicably, attracted the attention of the future Senator representing the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations!

Ok, so I lied. But I seem to have attracted Carl Sheeler's attention. Sheeler, or some kind member of his campaign staff, has taken the time to follow up to my post on the Chafee/Laffey race for the Republican nomination. What's more, they did so at 4:11 in the morning which is, frankly, a bit odd. I mentioned Sheeler and his primary opponent Sheldon Whitehouse only in passing when I mentioned that I will stoop so low as to vote for Lincoln Chafee if and or when he beats Steve Laffey for the Republican nomination as to avoid voting for Whitehouse or Sheeler. Here's what the candidate (or his staff) had to say in response to my post:
Sheldon has a primary and his numbers are not nearly as strong as reported. There are a dozen Democratic primaries in Providence ward seats with most have Latino challengers. Latinos and minorities account for 17% of the state population and are concentrated in the city and surrounding areas.

Sheldon does not poll well with minorities.

Okay, I'll bite. What makes one an imbecile by your account?
So why did Carl Sheeler look for his name on my blog and post a response? I have no idea. Perhaps he's bought into the myth that this is the year political bloggers tip the scales. Ask Howard Dean how that went, Carl. An endorsement from DailyKos or the Huffington Post is completely worthless, because both of them will nominate any candidate they presume to be either furthest left of center, or most vocally opposed to their "enemies" on the right. If you want endorsements from Kos or Arianna Huffington, don't waste your breath: you've already got them by default. If you're looking for a Rhode Island blog to endorse you or post fund raising links, you've obviously come to the wrong place here.
As for his comment, I'd like to start by informing Mr. Sheeler that I live on Federal Hill in Providence (not West Greenwich), and I already knew that "latinos and minorities account for 17% of the state population and are concentrated in the city and surrounding areas" because my neighborhood, and surrounding neighborhoods, are largely black and latino. This is obviously in sharp contrast to rural West Greenwich.

Sadly, it's my duty to inform Carl Sheeler that I haven't posted anything about the Democratic primary race itself, much less how Sheeler and Whitehouse poll with Latino voters in Providence. Where he imagines he saw, or read, anything about that on my blog is a complete mystery to me. My own interest in the Democratic primary has been tempered by the fact that I'm a registered Republican, and I won't be voting in the Democratic primary. How well you or Sheldon Whitehouse do among minority voters doesn't make a thimbleful of difference to me or how I'm going to vote. So do I have any comment on your race for senate? And why do I believe that you, my friend, are an imbecile?

Personally, if Sheldon Whitehouse doesn't beat you by at least 15 points, it'll only be because he's either broke or engaged in some scandal so horrendous that it will actually make the news, a la Matt Brown's funding fiascoes. He's got name recognition, he's got the money, he's got you pretty much where he wants you, Carl.

Secondly, as much as it might astonish Carl, I supported the war in Iraq in 2003, and I still support it now. I would also support an invasion of North Korea, Syria, Zimbabwe, and a long list of politically repressive dicatorships where the human rights of its captive citizens are completely worthless, because I believe that the strong and free have an obligation to those held in thrall by tyrants. My feelings on this matter are especially strong when they have the entire world guessing whether or not they have, or are close to having, weapons of mass destruction. I believe in using military might to defeat tyrants, as much for Saddam as for Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. That George Bush took the enormous political risk to overthrow Saddam says something impressive to me about his character.

That Carl Sheeler would appear to want to withdraw and flee Iraq at any cost says something depressing to me about his character, and is my primary evidence in my characterization of him as an imbecile. What's more, putting "Bu$h" on a billboard removed any doubt that he's an imbecile. A juvenile style is a reflection of a juvenile mind. I don't take people who write "AmeriKKKa" seriously, so why should I take you seriously, Carl? Even some of my friends who are Democrats wince when they see that, as well they should. It's one thing to read DailyKos, Carl - it's another thing to mirror your style after it.

Now that Carl has come and gone, who can I expect to see comments from next? I'm hoping for Steve Laffey, but I'd settle for Sheldon Whitehouse now. Maybe he'd at least read one of my posts thoroughly before posting on it?

Pointless update: I left a comment for Sheeler at his blog directing him to the response he claimed to have wanted, but he has not deigned to publish it. In fact, none of the posts on his blogs appear to have comments. Is that really a smart decision for someone attempting to hop on the blogger bandwagon?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mr. Potato Head plates are back!

Rhode Island native Mr. Potato Head is back - on Rhode Island license plates. For a $40 fee, drivers in Rhode Island can replace their current Rhode Island license plates with Mr. Potatohead plates to help benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. The PDF order form can be found right here.

On a related note, I'm having way, way too much fun with the DMV's vanity license plate generator (found here). I tried "QUAHOG", but alas, it was unavailable. "CRN VIC" appears to be available, though.

Brotherhood, episode deux

Episode II of Showtime's series "Brotherhood" was on last night, and despite my misgivings about the plot, characters and acting. Why? The scenery, naturally.

In the second episode, some mention is finally made of actual ethnic groups that really do live in Rhode Island when the lead character Tommy Caffee visits a Portuguese festival, and in a nod to actual Rhode Island politics, bribes a Portuguese state senator. Bonus points are awarded for calling Portugal a "poor man's Spain", although this probably won't go over well with actual Portuguese in Rhode Island. I also found myself recognizing locations in Valley and Manton in a driving scene, and as before, plenty of side streets in my own neighborhood, Federal Hill, most of which looks every bit as terrible as it does in real life, something I'm completely in favor of.

As noted before, there are barely enough Irish in Providence to fill the Green Bar (as seen in the show), much less provide the muscle for an Irish crime syndicate. Out in Los Angeles, "New England" is more or less synonymous with "Boston", which also accounts for the bad Boston accents on the show. I don't know whether to blame the "dialogue coach" or the actors. Take your pick.

At this rate, I'm not sure I'll stick around for episode III, but if I have nothing else to do at 10:00 PM next Sunday ....

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Biggest Little Taxes in America

Way back during the Dukakis years, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts earned the unfortunate nickname of "Taxachusetts" in honor of having one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. Oh, how times have changed. Nowadays, Massachusetts is ranked #32 in the nation, while Little Rhody has climed all the way up to #4. Don't worry - with a little effort, we can beat Maine, New York and Hawaii to earn our rightful place at the top.

Now, CNN Money has made clear to the nation what everyone in Rhode Island knows: that it costs an arm and a leg to drive or smoke in the Ocean State. As someone who drives a car with a V8 engine, that 30 cents per gallon state tax is a killer, but it's nowhere near as shocking as a whopping $2.46 per pack cigarette tax. I can scarcely believe anyone would be stupid enough to buy cigarrettes in Rhode Island at that price, but there you have it.

What can I say? Such is the price we pay for living the good life in Rhode Island.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


One of Rhode Island's most infamous mobsters has been taken out of the loansharking game - for now.

65 year old Anthony "The Saint" St. Laurent of Johnston, a notorious loanshark affiliated with the sad remnants of the Providence based la cosa nostra franchise, entered a plea bargain yesterday on charges that he attempted to extort $200,000 from two men in Massachusetts. An unnamed state police source is also claiming that St. Laurent offered to pay someone $20,000 to have a man who defaulted on his payments murdered. So what's the twist?

St. Laurent is 65 years old, but elderly mafiosi are nothing new. What's remarkable about St. Laurent is the claim by his lawyer (John F. Cicilline) that his client requires new fewer than 40 (yes, forty) enemas a day - a medical condition that accounts for his predictable alternate nickname: "Public Enema #1".

What could possibly account for a need to constantly flush out your colon? Does he eat 8 pounds of peanut butter and brick chocolate per day? Did he last eat fiber during the Nixon administration? His lawyer won't comment, but it's fairly obvious that the claim is intended to try to wrangle out a house arrest sentence for his odious client instead of having him put behind bars. Apparently, a Patriarca capo named Bobby DeLuca fingered The Saint as both an FBI and Rhode Island State Police snitch back in 2001, so it is, perhaps, understandable that he wishes to stay away from dangerous convicts, but really: if a capo named someone as a snitch 5 years ago, why is he still alive today? Ray Patriarca Sr. would never have stood for it. I suppose all of America's traditional institutions are in a similar state of decline. Sic gloria transit and all that.

I don't think the judge will buy the defendant's claim of requiring such intensive anal irrigation, and while The Saint is frail and in ill health, he has little to look forward to beyond dying in jail sans, of course, his 40 daily colon blastings.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Laffey blasted by NRSC

The National Republican Senatorial Committee ("NRSC") has blasted Cranston Mayor (and Republican US Senate candidate) Steve Laffey for allegedly misusing public funds in Cranston to promote his run for the US Senate. The NSRC, who have endorsed incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee in the upcoming Republican primary, allege that Laffey inserted campaign advertisements in Cranston tax bills as a form of franking. The Providence Journal (registration required) goes over the accusation, and Laffey's denial of wrongdoing, here.

Ironically, I just received a very similar sort of mass mailing from Lincoln Chafee's office, with the Senator attaching what could, or could not, be construed as statements promoting Lincoln Chafee's leadership, concern and vision for Rhode Island in a mass mailing about water quality. I've since thrown the damned thing away.

Laffey's in a tough spot here. In a state where registered Republicans are few and far between, he's won the hearts of the party faithful, but lags far behind in funds and name recognition. Additionally, the national party apparatchiks have already decided to endorse Lincoln Chafee, astonishingly, with nearly no reservations. I've received no fewer than five mass mailings from the Chafee campaign, to one one from Steve Laffey.

I've gone over this before, but I'm dismayed that the national GOP machinery is promoting a RINO hack like Chafee at the expense of someone with actual conservative bonafides like Laffey in order to keep Chafee's senate seat Republican. A Democrat like Joe Lieberman would preferable, to me, over a Republican like Chafee, but I'll vote for Chafee if it means keeping imbeciles like Sheldon Whitehouse or Carl Sheeler away from Washington.

Blue Shutters beach

I know - I was just in Charlestown in May, but it's July, and a man's thoughts turn towards going to Blue Shutters beach for sun and surf. Well, surf anyway, since it was mostly overcast, but a good time was had all the same.

So what does a Rhode Island beach look like when it's packed for the summer? As always, I've got the photos on Flickr to show you.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Tonight was the premiere of Showtime's new series "Brotherhood". Shot entirely in Rhode Island, the series is loosely based on the real life Bros. Bulger (politician Billy and gangster Whitey) in Massachusetts. So how was it?

The premise of the show is this: Tommy Caffee is a state representative (and budget committee chairman) from a Providence neighborhood known in the show only as "the Hill". His brother, Michael, is a mobster who has returned after seven years on the lam. Tommy peddles influence and state contracts in the State House, while Tommy deals dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

When Michael returns, the Rhode Island state police and FBI want to know what's going on, and whether or not Tommy has any knowledge of his brother's criminal activities. Meanwhile, Tommy's feeling the heat in the press from his close ties to corrupt union officials, and there's a murder making his life difficult. The plot and action don't stray far from The Sopranos, even if the quality of scriptwriting does.

Brotherhood spends a lot of time trying to establish Rhode Island bonafides, but there are problems. The two biggest are:

1: As usual, Hollywood has a hard time with New England accents. With the exception of Fionulla Flanagan (who plays the family matriarch), the "Rhode Island accents" are the usual Hollywood misappropriation of the Boston accent. You can learn more about what an actual Rhode Island accent sounds like here.

2: The Caffees are more Irish than the actual Irish themselves, and the fictional neighborhood of "The Hill" (filmed in the neighborhood where I actually live - Federal Hill) is presented as an Irish, working class neighborhood. As it actually happens, Providence does not have a strong Irish heritage, and no predominantly Irish neighborhoods. Federal Hill is famous for once being Little Italy, and the headquarters of the New England branch of La Cosa Nostra, and nowadays, is home largely to Guatemalans, Dominicans, and upwardly mobile gay professionals. If the show's creators had made the show's characters Italian or Portuguese, it certainly would have made the show more accurately reflect Providence's demographics. Then again, if the family were Italian, the perception of this show being a cheap copy of The Sopranos would be just that much more accurate.

What does the show get right?

First of all, the show correctly (however unfortunately) gets the feel of politics in Rhode Island right. Though Tommy Caffee is a relatively big fish in a small pond, and because his committee deals with state contracts, he's constantly in demand. Furthermore, the show correctly details the horribly incestuous relations between the state, big labor, and organized crime - a relationship that has earned Rhode Island a reputation for having the most crooked politics in America.

Secondly, the show is filmed entirely on location in Providence, much of it near where I live. I found myself able to identify nearly every place on the screen, from Symposium Books downtown, to the Green Bar overlooking routes 6 and 10 on Westminster St., to Olneyville New York system, the show gets the look of Providence exactly right.

Will I be watching it again? I don't know. I already like The Sopranos, so it's hard to get too excited about the plot and script, both of which try to hard to emulate The Sopranos. Will the locale be enough to hold my attention for long? I suppose I'll watch the second episode and go on from there.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Back from vacation

I'm back from lovely, crime-free Delaware, and ready to resume taking photos of Rhode Island. There would appear to be lovely beach weather for this weekend - perhaps Block Island or Little Compton are in order? I'll see. Either way, I've gone too long without new pictures of the Ocean State.

On a different note, I haven't seen it yet, but my girlfriend analyzes what Showtime's new series (and Bulger Brothers allegory) "Brotherhood" gets wrong about Rhode Island here. All I can say so far is that the shots of downtown look pretty nice on their webpage. Those so inclined can take a video tour of Providence from the site as well. Sweet!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Rhode Island's biggest trial has ended with a guilty verdict. Esteban Carpio (pictured above in white plastic face mask) was found guilty of killing Providence Police detective James Allen, and convicted on the charge of "first degree murder of a police officer in the lawful performance of duty" in Providence last week. Carpio, who had attempted an insanity defense, is due to be sentenced this month.

The Providence Journal has the story here.