Monday, February 27, 2006

Good triumphs over evil

I don't care if the Boston Celtics lose 80 of their 82 regular season games, as long as the two that they do win are against the Los Angeles Lakers. Last night, the Celtics came out of the Staples Center in Los Angeles with a 112-111 victory over the hated franchise from La-La Land, thereby making my entire month of February a wonderful one.

February has been quite a month for the Celtics. Paul Pierce has averaged an eye-popping 33.5 points per game this month (leading the NBA in scoring for February), while former Providence College standout Ryan Gomes has proved his value by leading the Celtics in rebounds in an unexpected starting role.

After months of struggling to gel, they're finally starting to heat up, and I expect them to improve even more once Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins return from the injured list.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A journey through Olneyville

olneyville square
Originally uploaded by woneffe|Cotuit.

Flickr user "woneffe|Cotuit" walked all the way from Fountain Street to the Rising Sun mills in Olneyville, documenting everything along the way.

Although I am but a stone's throw from Olneyville Square, I have to admit the idea of walking around one of Providence's toughest neighborhoods snapping away has never occurred to me. Now that someone has photoblogged Olneyville, I suppose I should tackle Central Falls or Manton Avenue?

I'll have to run it by my girlfriend to see if she wants to assist me in this particular project, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the "West Fountain to Rising Sun" photo set as much as I did.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Providence sees first murders of 2006

Police headquarters (Providence, RI)
Originally uploaded by NetParrot.

The Providence Journal (registration required) is reporting that two men - Arthur Olink of Providence and Matthew Cyr of Warwick - were found shot to death in a car parked the Providence neighborhood of Olneyville this morning. I noticed with some trepidation that this occurred less than a quarter mile from where I live.

This followed a weekend of violent assaults in the city, in which three men were stabbed, and one both slashed with a knife and beaten with a baseball bat.

The city had been making some headway in reducing violent crime, but last year saw a spike in assault and murder for reasons that have baffled both the police and mayor's office. It would be a public relations nightmare for the city if Providence were to regain its once well deserved reputation as a hotbed of urban violence and squalor after a decade of laboriously rehabilitating the city's image.

There has been no comment on the first murders of 2006 as of yet from the fine folks at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Non-Violence as to what could have been done to prevent these murders (this is obviously sarcastic - they can't do anything to prevent murders in Providence any more than I can).

Monday, February 20, 2006

Three years on

It was three years ago today that the deadliest fire in the history of Rhode Island took the lives of 100 people in West Warwick. The Providence Journal (registration required) takes a look at the aftermath of the fire three years on.

I remember the fire mayhem that followed very clearly. In such a small state, you didn't have to look very far for somebody who knew, or was related to, someone killed or injured in the disaster. This CNN article, written by a former Ocean Stater overstates the degree to which people in Rhode Island know each other, but perhaps not by much.

The fire also put the state at the top of national news, which extremely unfamiliar territory for Rhode Island, which (when noticed at all) is usually lumped in with "Boston" as big media outlets lazily do with anything in eastern New England. Rhode Island doesn't make the news very often, but the next time it does, would it be too much to hope for that it makes the headlines for some good news?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

RINO targeted for political extinction

The conservative magazine The National Review is continuing to hammer the Ocean State's RINO Senator Lincoln Chafee like a bent nail.

While noting the "difficulties of being a Republican in Rhode Island", the Review details the woeful conservative credentials offered by Chafee, and endorses an actual Republican in the 2006 primaries: Cranston mayor Steven Laffey. The Review rightly takes Chafee to task for being one of four Senators to vote for the Syria Accountability Act - a position made even more egregious by the fact that Chafee is the chairman of the Middle East subcomittee for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

A recent Providence Journal poll of registered voters showed Chafee squeaking ahead of likely Democratic candidate Matt Brown. Dare I suggest Chafee widen the gap even larger by dropping the conservative pretenses and just run as a Democrat? Actual Republicans in Rhode Island are sick of trying to explain and excuse Chafee's lack of Republican bonafides, and even though any actual Republican candidate would lose the 2006 senate race, Democrats are already winning by virtue of Chafee's stances on, well, nearly everything.

Obviously, this is ground I've covered before, but it's nice to see that American conservatives outside of New England have paid some attention to the woeful politics of the Ocean State, especially for anyone to the right of, say, Lincoln Chafee.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Carcieri proposes DMV cutbacks

Governor Don Carcieri is proposing cutting the number of Department of Motor Vehicle branches to ... one.

There are at present eight branch offices: Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Warwick, Warren, West Warwick, Westerly, Wakefield (South Kingstown), and Middletown. The Governor is currently proposing to eliminate all locations except for Pawtucket, which is the main branch.

There are serious arguments for and against this proposal. While 70% of the state lives within 20 miles of Pawtucket, there are certainly corners of the Ocean State where a trip to the DMV would be a headache, especially since unlike most states, Rhode Island offers few DMV services online. I would hate having to drive to Pawtucket everytime I need to go to the registry if I lived in Westerly, Newport, or Little Compton.

Carcieri also proposes updating the DMV's computer system, which was implemented in 1979 - a long overdue move.

The Rhode Island DMV certainly feels like a relic from the late 1970s, with boxes full of paper slips visible everywhere. Whether or not Carcieri can overcome the political resistance to closing DMV branches outside Pawtucket, the idea of bringing the DMV into the modern age is sweet relief to people craving efficient state services.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Woonsocket serial killer sentenced

The serial killing career of Woonsocket resident Jeffrey Mailhot has come to end. Yesterday, Mailhot entered a guilty plea for three counts of murder and one count of assault at the Rhode Island Superior Court in Providence.

Jude Mark Pfeiffer then handed down Mailhot's sentences: two life sentences for the murders, plus a 10 year sentence for assault for two of the three murders he was accused of committing. Mailhot, now 35, will be theoretically eligible for parole at the age 0f 77. Mailhot has been transported to the ACI in Cranston to start serving his sentences.

Mailhot was accused of killing three prostitutes at his apartment at 221 Cato Street in Woonsocket before carving up the corpses in his bathtub with a handsaw, and disposing of them in trash bags. One of the trashbags was found at the central landfill in Johnston, where the body was identified as that of a missing Woonsocket prostitute. Mailhot was also captured on a security camera at a Lowe's home improvement store in Woonsocket, buying the handsaw the day after the woman's disappearance.

He was finally arrested after assaulting the woman who would have been his fourth murder victim - but she managed to escape and identify him to Woonsocket police.

With a pop culture reference that's sure to make CNN, Mailhot credited his inspiration to the HBO drama "The Sopranos", specifically an episode where the antihero protagonist of the series, Tony Soprano, disposes of his rival Ralph Cifaretto with a handsaw in a bathtub. It's a shame that it's this little touch which is bound to attract the interest of the national press, not the conviction of a depraved killer who slew three women few people cared about in a dingy industrial city in a small state that usually keeps a low media profile.

Jeffrey Mailhot now joins Warwick's Craig Price as Rhode Island's most notorious living serial killer. As a small state with a relatively low population, Rhode Island has few high profile killers, and now, thanks to Mailhot's conviction, zero serial killers on the loose in the Ocean State.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Peace Dale Mill crash "may have been deliberate"

Image courtesy of

The Providence Journal (registration required) is reporting that a South Kingstown woman driving a white Ford with Maine plates sped through a stop sign on route 108 in Peace Dale on Saturday morning, smashing through a brick wall at the Peace Dale mill complex before finally coming to a halt when the car ruptured a storage tank full of solvents.

The spill forced 50 people to evacuate their homes while cleanup crews worked to evacuate the spill. Captain Jeffrey Allen of the South Kingstown police said he wasn't exactly sure why the driver, 34 year old Melany Auger of South Kingstown, crashed into the wall:

"I think the intent may have been to harm herself. She appeared despondent and was taken to South County Hospital."

Curiously, by the time the Journal went to press, she was not at the hospital, and her current whereabouts are unknown.

Monday, February 13, 2006


A mid-February Nor'easter dumped a foot of snow on Providence last night, and over a foot in the northwest corner of the state. The Governor declared a state of emergency, but it should be lifted today, and life will return to normal. I will try to take a few photos of the wintery wonderland some time today.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What's the state of the state?

What's the state of the Ocean State? According to Governor Don Carcieri (pictured above), it's "vibrant and dynamic!" The Governor's 2006 state of the state address may be viewed in all of its vibrancy and dynamism in a PDF file here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The size of ... where?

Get serious!
Originally uploaded by NetParrot.

Whether people in Rhode Island like it or not, the smallest state has become a benchmark to measure enormous things. Storm systems, glaciers, tropical deforestation, are all often measured in Rhode Island sized units. If Rhode Island collected a dollar every time a reporter breathelessly described icebergs or asteroids as being "the size of Rhode Island", the streets of Providence would be paved over with gold.

You will occasionally hear something enormous being described as being "twice the size of Rhode Island". The state of Delaware is nearly twice the size of Rhode Island, and yet, very little is described as being the size of Delaware. I wonder why?

Of course, Rhode Island's Lilliputian reputation only applies to square mileage. With a population of just over 1 million, the Ocean State is only the 7th smallest state by population (with Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware and Montana respectively trailing Rhode Island).

Quahog has an interesting take on the habit of using Rhode Island as a unit of measure, as does Slate.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

True crime stories, Rhode Island style

The Providence Journal (registration required) reports that a man, 37 year old Robert Negrotti of Woonsocket, was arrested yesterday after driving up the steps of the state house with his 67 year old mother in the passenger seat. He then tried to enter the building carrying a package before he was subdued by the capitol police. Adding to the list of charges Negrotti will have to answer for in court, he was charged with two counts of "carrying a blade over five inches" after a frisking found a pair of scissors in his waistband.

A witness said they saw Negrotti's 1986 Dodge Diplomat cut across the lawn "like a shot" before shooting up 12 of the stairs. When he could get no further, he backed the car back down from the steps before going around to the building's north entrance, with his mother, where he was then arrested.

Negrotti reportedly said, "I want the state police! I want the state police!", while his mother asked if there was a bathroom she could use. The police aren't sure what motivated Negrotti to do something so stupid, but he's now been charged with disorderly contact, resisting arrest, reckless driving, destruction of state property, and possession of a weapon. He was hauled off the Lincoln state police barracks and further remanded to the ACI to be held without bail pending a hearing.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

100 counts of manslaughter

Nearly three years after the inferno at The Station nightclub in West Warwick claimed 100 lives, the criminal and civil suits are still unfolding.

On February 20, 2003, pyrotechnic special effects set off by the band Great White ignited foam insulation at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. The tiny building was fully engulfed in less than five minutes, eventually killing 100 people and injuring another 200. Needless to say, the investigation into the cause of the fire was wide reaching, and nearly everyone involved in (the club owners, the foam manufacturers, the band's stage manager, the concert promoters, and so on) is facing legal or civil action as a result.

Yesterday, Great White's former manager, Daniel Biechele, agreed to a plea bargain in which he will plead guilty to 100 counts of misdemeanor manslaughter as a result of his decision to ignite the fireworks that caused the fire. By pleading guilty, he avoided another 100 counts of gross criminal negligence, and faces 10 years in Rhode Island's Adult Correctional Institution instead of 100 years. Biechele will be sentenced Tuesday in Providence.

The owners of the club, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, are still facing 200 counts of manslaughter each (two per death - one for involuntary manslaughter, and one for criminal negligence resulting in manslaughter). The Derderians' lawyers expect that Biechele's guilty plea takes the pressure off of his clients, but that remains to be seen. It will be awfully hard to convince a jury of Rhode Islanders to let them off the hook.