Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tempest in a teacup

Following the deaths of three young men in a drunk driving accident in Providence, a miniature storm has erupted on the Providence Journal's "7 to 7" blog over the impromptu memorial spraypainted on the side of the building (owned by Ferguson Perforating & Wire Co.).

While comments on the blog's story included many RIPs and "oh isn't it terribles", a large number of people left comments about how outraged over the defacement of the property, prompting a followup here. And, in typical Rhode Island fashion, there were plenty of comments about the propensity of Portuguese people to drink and drive when compared to people who aren't Portuguese. All politics are local, as they say.

One of my favorite quotes in the original blog story was from "Geo" who defended the graffiti memorial, saying:

forget about the spray paint worry about the the kids who are deceased and pray for them, cuz its jus a symbol of struggle and i think everyone should understand and respect that
The "struggle" Geo is apparently referring to is the struggle to drink brandy and crash a Mercedes into a building, killing three people. The struggle continues, my brothers.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hammer drops on Exeter quack

A followup to something I posted last year: a federal jury in Providence has convicted John E. Curran of Exeter on 18 counts of wire fraud, and 3 counts of money laundering.

Curran's scheme was to pose as a doctor to sell bogus treatments to sick people (even to cancer patients) and attempting to convince healthy people they were sick. The worst part, of course, is convincing desperately ill people they could get better with bubble baths, florescent lighting, and other quack treatments while they got sicker and sicker.

Quackery is no joke when desperately ill people are deprived of real treatment, something Mr. Curran is about to learn the hard way. Each of the 21 counts he was convicted upon carries a maximum sentence of 8 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine. Chew on that, "Doc".

The Providence Journal (registration, as always, required) has more on Curran's comeuppance here.

Friday, May 26, 2006

We are the champions, my friend.

For the second consecutive year, Rhode Island drivers are ranked as being the absolute worst in the nation in a survey by GMAC Insurance. Champagne is in order, followed by driving. The Providence Journal (registration required) has more about our "acheivement" here.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Narragansett

It didn't rain this weekend, so that means the weather was perfect for this blog's raison d'etre: taking photos of Rhode Island.

This weekend, it was off to Galilee and Point Judith in scenic Narragansett, including a lengthy stroll down Salty Brine and Roger Wheeler state beaches.

As has become my norm, I have created a dedicated photo set on Flickr for the town of Narragansett, which can be viewed right here.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

New pictures?

Alas, I have no new pictures of Rhode Island this weekend, as it has been raining almost non-stop for the past week. Here's hoping that next weekend finds us in better weather! You can always see my existing Ocean State photo sets on Flickr until the clouds clear up.

In the interim, I have updated the Dictators of the World blog with profiles of Turkish ruler Kemal Atat├╝rk and Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceau┼čescu. If history and politics are your thing, check it out.

Biechele sentenced

The wheels of justice grind slowly in Rhode Island, but at last, Daniel Biechele (pictured above) has finally been sentenced for his role in the 2003 Station Nightclub disaster in West Warwick.

Biechele, who pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in February, will serve four years of a 15 year sentence with 11 suspended. The state prosecutor had urged Judge Francis Darigan Jr. for the maximum sentence allowed under Biechele's plea agreement (10 years with five suspended), but Darigan apparently found Mr. Biechele's statements of contrition genuine. Not everyone was so pleased. CNN's report says a man stormed out of Darigan's courtroom shouting "typical fucking Rhode Island!", but the Providence Journal (registration required) has no mention of their account of this story.

After his setencing hearing, Biechele was led away in handcuffs to being serving his sentence in the minimum security ward at the ACI in Cranston, where, if he behaves himself, he will become eligible for work release.

So am I outraged by the failure of the state to lean on Biechele as hard as they could? No. While acknowledging that 100 people died by sheer criminal negligence, there was certainly no malice aforethought here. Biechele and Great White did not stroll into West Warwick planning to burn down a building and kill people, and club owners did not plan to stuff their ancient building full of flammable foam insulation, and patrons did not intend to panic and block the exits. It just all came together to form the worst fire disaster in state history, and as much as the survivors and families of the dead want to scream and shout about it, Judge Darigan is acknowledging as much with the sentence imposed on Biechele.

The sad fact is that nobody could have seen it coming, which is why it happened to begin with. The fact that everyone went into that night expecting business as usual is exactly what makes the entire incident so depressing to begin with.

The legal process isn't done with this yet, however. Next up on the block will be the owners of The Station, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian. Their indictments may be found here and here respectively (watch out - PDF files). I get the feeling that this may be going on well into 2007, which probaby would be "typical fucking Rhode Island".

Monday, May 08, 2006

Patches pressured police, perhaps?

Were police explicitly told not to administer a sobriety test to Patrick "Patches" Kennedy during his recent early morning car crash? The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that officers on the scene were forbidden by their superiors to admnister a field sobriety test, and the union is crying foul. An internal investigation is under way by the police department to determine whether or not political pressure led police to send Patches home without being subjected to a field sobriety test which could have led to his eventual arrest for driving while intoxicated.

So, who's making excuses for Patches? The usual gang of limousine liberals at the Huffington Post, for starters, including this post praising Patches for his "courage". The Providence Journal's M. Charles Bakst also offered Patches a hearty "atta boy" for his "wisdom in seeking treatment" for his vices. Neither the Huffington Post nor Bakst address the most daming issue at hand, the ease with which Patrick Kennedy levied political power into a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Take a memo, people: using addiction as an excuse requires no courage. Making an announcement about your addictions and publically checking yourself into rehab before you get in trouble, when there's still a whiff or more of political and personal risk about it, requires more of what normal people actually call "courage".

Inquiring minds may view the accident report here, and read the statement from Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury decrying "political policing" here.

Charlestown

Behold, more photos of the Biggest Little State in the Union. This time, from Charlestown in Washington County (which everyone calls "South County"). Part of the day was spent at Burlingame State Park, and the rest at Blue Shutters beach. I know I certainly enjoyed being able to spend some time on the beach before the summer holiday crowds arrive.

As has become my habit, I've put the pictures here on Flickr.

Though it obviously has nothing to do with Rhode Island, I have also updated my other blog, Dictators of the World, with news on Indonesia's former dictator, Suharto.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My weekend of schadenfreude

As if the recent news regarding Patches Kennedy wasn't enough, the loathesome Los Angeles Lakers became only the eighth team in NBA history to squander a 3-1 playoff series lead after being blown out 121-90 by the Phoenix Suns in game 7. Especially sweet, Kobe Bryant was held to one single point in the second half One. That's just beautiful. Big props to Raja Bell for making Kobe Bryant's life miserable during this series.

I normally hate flash intros to webpages, but I hope every gets a look at this one while it's still fresh. I'm surprisingly gratified to see the Suns rubbing it in after such a roller coaster series.

Now granted, I wasn't expecting the Lakers go to the NBA finals, but even I would be hard pressed to ask for a more humiliating public collapse than the one they delivered last night. Christmas truly came early.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Schadenfreude special

Rhode Island Congressman Patrick "Patches" Kennedy, previously best known for saying he's "never worked a day in my [bleeping] life" and exchanging fisticuffs with female security guards, finds himself as today's top story on both CNN and the Providence Journal (registration required).

In the wee hours of the morning, Patches cracked up his green Mustang on a security barrier in Washington DC. According to the police report, Patches was driving "at a high rate of speed in a construction zone and also swerving into the wrong lane" with the headlights off.

While initially denying putting pressure on the cops, and being intoxicated, he's since admitted that he was under the influence of prescription drugs, and that he has no recollection of the events leading up to the crash. Furthermore, Patches announced this afternoon that he's addicted to prescription drugs, and he's off to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for drug rehab. The claim about not having consumed alcohol seems to be disputed as well.

CNN is also reporting that the DC police have reviewed the incident and found that the police have handled the incident improperly, which isn't surprising since Patches is fond of trying to intimidate people with his office when he gets in trouble.

As a Republican, having this in the news is a bit like having Christmas in May, but on the downside, having people associate Patches Kennedy with Rhode Island is always embarrassing even when he's in the news for entertaining reasons. Obviously, I'm going to stay glued to the "Nappaquiddick" story as it develops.