Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Summer in Rhode Island

Has it really been a month? More than a month? If I've been remiss in updating The Rhode Islander, it's because it's summer. And what better place to spend those hot summer months than in the Ocean State? Summer in Rhode Island means heading to the shore for some sun and surf. Why go all the way to Cape Cod when the Biggest Little State in the Union has miles and miles of the finest beaches in New England?

If you're thinking of visiting, be sure to check out the Providence Journal's Summer Guide for a list of beaches in the Ocean State, including the all important table of parking fees. Hey, sometimes you have to pay for the good things in life, but I assure you - it's worth it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My street was on fire - again.

Urban living is full of challenges people out in the sticks and suburbs don't have to deal with. On Federal Hill, I have to put up with all of them. I generally do so with good humor. Rats? I can ignore them. Crime? Hasn't affected me. But today was the second triple decker fire on my street in a year (here was the first). If this keeps up, I'm definitely moving to Warwick.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Armed junkie on the prowl in North Providence

A man armed with a gun robbed a Brooks Pharmacy on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence on Saturday morning. Did he take the cash? Nope. He took the OxyContin, of course. For quite a while, opiate addicts have been turning to the legal painkiller OxyContin to get their fix. Rhode Island pharmacies have been held up before, but this robbery has a twist. Apparently, the hold up man attempted a bank robbery in Cranston the day before.

Sounds like a job for The Man to me.

New photos: Warwick

I admit - I haven't been updating The Rhode Islander as often as I have been Dictators of the World. However! This weekend brings new, yes new!, photos of the lovely Ocean State. This time, I've got the goods on Oakland Beach in Rhode Island's second largest city: lovely, crime-free Warwick.

Satisfy your curiosity by seeing the entire photo set over at Flickr.

Monday, June 04, 2007

New photos: Cranston

Well, let me clear this up. I haven't exactly gone on a picture taking safari around the lovely city of Cranston itself so much as I took a whole bunch of pictures of an older lady's Buick going up in flames at a strip mall on Route 5.

Still! The photos are dramatic ... well, maybe "dramatic" is too strong a word, but I've got the photoset right here on Flickr for your enjoyment.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jenny, I got your number!

You know the song, right? Tommy Tutone's "Jenny (867-5309)"? If not, the video might ring some bells:

Anyway, Lincoln based Gem Plumbing is betting you remember the song, and they've been using the infamous number both in the 401 (Rhode Island) and 617 (metro-Boston) area codes for a few years. So why are they getting static from a company who has the same number with a toll free (800) exchange? Read about it here. Personally, I'm rooting for the local guys on this one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Bad News" Barnes busted

Former ABA All-Star and NBA train wreck Marvin "Bad News" Barnes is in trouble again. The Providence native (and resident) was arrested in Johnston by The Man, who found a bag of cocaine in his SUV. Barnes, who was easily the most talented basketball player ever to come from the Ocean State, acknowledged he's still having trouble with cocaine, saying "I'm still getting the help I need".

As usual, I wish Bad News Barnes all the best, but damn, man ... you can do better than this, right?

Thursday, May 10, 2007


OK, I've been seriously remiss about updating The Rhode Islander lately, focusing instead on Dictators of the World. What can I say? People just can't seem to get enough about world dictators! Add to the fact that I haven't taken any new photos for a while, and, well ...you get the idea.

I do have a tidbit to tide you over, though. Former Governor Bruce Sundlun is onto something, calling for Rhode Island students to learn about our state's history. Schools in Texas make Texas history a mandatory subject, so why not make Rhode Island history available as an elective subject?

New photos will be coming soon, and since it's spring, this will inevitably involve a trip to the shoreline.

Monday, April 23, 2007

New photos: Providence

The week long nor'easter is history! Saturday was sunny and warm, and that means new photos. This time, I've added new photos of Providence from the State House, to Kennedy Plaza, to Benefit St.

I've put the pictures up on Flickr, so head on over and get an eyeful.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Earth Day

My 1996 Crown Victoria has entered Iowahawk's prestigious Earth Day Contest. The photo I submitted is from Narragansett, but I guess I should have specified that I live in Providence? Explaining Rhode Island's geographic subtleties get tricky once you're west of the mighty Mississippi anyway, but I'm certainly glad to see my car up there. Al Gore had better watch his fat ass, because those juicy carbon credits are mine.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

No way for Imus Way

Does anyone outside the Huffington Post actually give a damn about the Don Imus controversy? Well, the Providence chapter of the NAACP does. Sort of. They've asked the city of Providence to rename "Imus Way" to "Jackie Robinson Way".

Back in 1996, mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, a regular guest on the Don Imus show, renamed a tiny, almost vestigial, stretch of Aborn Street between the Dunkin' Donuts Center (then named the Providence Civic Center) and the Holiday Inn "Imus Way" as a gesture of, well, something, to the skeletal talk show host. A sign designating the strip as "Imus Way" was apparently erected as well. By the time the state took ownership of the Civic Center in 2005, the sign was already gone. What's more, Buddy's ceremonial renaming was apparently just that: ceremonial. "Imus Way" is not an address that is actually registered with the city or state, and it doesn't appear on any maps (Google maps takes a stab at it, but fails).

So, with apologies to the NAACP and all involved, I propose an idea: let's keep moronic disc jockeys and identity politics out of city government as much as humanly possible. Neither Jackie Robinson nor Don Imus have anything to do with Providence, and frankly, the city can find better uses for taxpayer money than ceremonially renaming anything to suit interest groups, whether they're dessicated talk show hosts or identity politics lobbying groups.

Does that sounds good to anyone besides me?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Get ready

Get ready, folks. Former Providence mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci will be coming out of jail this summer, and you can bet he'll be returning to the Ocean State. Lock up your daughters, lock up your wives, and lock up your no-bid contracts! While I doubt he'll be returning to City Hall, I will certainly keep my eyes peeled on Federal Hill, camera in hand, for Buddy prowling around the restaurants and bars. I wonder if he'd pose for a picture with yours truly if I told him I'd bought a couple of jars of his signature pasta sauce?

New photos: Warren

The weather was as bad as the lighting this weekend, but lo and behold, I have pictures of yet another lovely Rhode Island town! This weekend, I had a chance to take some shots of the town of Warren in the heart of America's smallest real county*. I have created a set for the town right here on Flickr for browsing.

* "New York County", aka, Manhattan, is slightly smaller geographically than Bristol County, RI, but let's face it - a city does not make a county, much less one neighborhood of a much larger city.

Monday, April 02, 2007

New photos: Roger Williams Park

Spring has arrived, and do you know what that means? Why, new photos of Rhode Island, of course. I've added pictures of Roger Williams Park in Providence to my collection of Providence photos on Flickr, viewable right here.

I hope to go back sometime around May, by which time the grass will have turned from dingy early spring brown to a luscious green.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kathy Sierra sucks. Sorry, it's true.

Necessary disclaimer: this has nothing to do with Rhode Island.

That being said ...

I don't even know where to start with this nonsense. If you haven't caught up on the Kathy Sierra debacle, now is a good time. Blogger and author has cried foul after "staring into the Goatse.cx of the internet's soul". The solution? A "Blogger's Code of Conduct". In the process, Kathy has transformed herself, solely by virtue of her brush with trolls, from a D list internet celebrity to a C list internet celebrity.

My reaction?

Bitch, please.

If you're going to pull the "I am woman hear me roar" act, you're going to realize, sooner or later, that any halfway visible blogger cum internet celebrity is, eventually, going to expose themselves to crazies. This goes for the men, too. You found people are sexist? Rude? Abusive? Scary? Oh no, not that. It's almost as if the internet is serious business! So you're scared? Of what, exactly? And you think who else needs to take it seriously? Everyone? The same everyone who's supposed to tailor their blog posts to conform to whose standards of niceness and decency, exactly?

I'll take a pass on your drama, unwarranted self-importance, and victim complex, Kathy. Count me the fuck out.

Monday, March 26, 2007

We lose - again

Well, Rhode Island came close, but once again, the Ocean State is cigar-less. Danielle Lacourse of North Providence came in second to Miss Tennessee in the 2007 Miss USA pageant, the highest finish by any Rhode Island contestant. She could still, conceivably, win the top spot in the event that Miss Tennessee is "unable to perform her duties", and more importantly, she seems to have had fun doing it.

Rhode Island has never won the top spot in the Miss USA or Miss America pageant - a fact memorably lampooned on Seinfeld:

JERRY: I'm going out with one of the Miss America contestants, you wanna go?
KRAMER: What state?
JERRY: Rhode Island.
KRAMER: They're never in contention.
GEORGE: How do you know?
KRAMER: Because I've seen every Miss America pageant since I was six!

Update from 2017: Yeah, I wrote this before Miss Rhode Island went on to become Miss Universe! That's what happens when you forget about your blog for, like, a decade ....

Friday, March 23, 2007

Made in Rhode Island

First we had Rhody Fresh milk, and now Rhody Raised beef? I do believe we are one step closer to the elusive goal of the first ever cheeseburger made entirely of ingredients from Rhode Island. I am officially offering a $1 reward - plus Rhode Island grown french fries - to the first gourmand to put it all together. Top it off with Rhode Island bacon, and I'll up the reward to a whopping $2. Let the mad scramble for the prize money begin ... NOW.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"I would kill you if I could"

Let's say for a moment that, for whatever reason, you really hated Rhode Island governor Donald Carcieri. Let's also suppose, again for the sake of argument, that you wanted to let him know that you'd like to kill him. What would you do?

I think we can all agree we would not do what 59 year old Robert Pontarelli of West Warwick just did. In a fit of pique for reasons he apparently would rather not name, Pontarelli left two phone messages with the state's Office of Constituent Affairs last Friday night, telling the Governor, among other things, "I would kill you if I could" and "you've never had a round pass by your head".

While declining to detail why he was mad at the governor, Pontarelli was kind (and stupid) enough to leave his name and address in his phone messages. State aides heard the messages on Monday, and contacted the Rhode Island State Police on Tuesday to have a chat with Pontarelli about a felony charge of threatening a public offical and making harassing phone calls. Pontarelli is $25,000 lighter in the pocket and out on bail while awaiting a hearing.

Congratulations then, Robert Pontarelli, for being the dumbest man in Rhode Island this week. I wish we had an award for you, but I suppose your brief notoriety will simply have to do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Looking for Eastwick

A transplant from Pennsylvania spends a day searching for John Updike's Eastwick and finds something much more interesting: the real Rhode Island. Were you aware that:
"Once you cross the state line, whether at Pawtucket or Westerly, a subtle change occurs, a cheerful dishevelment, a contempt for appearances, a chimerical uncaring"?
No? Well, I suppose that's just Updike being Updike, but this short essay by Rory Schuler is a refreshing look at a real place where Quahog and Eastwick don't actually exist.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Woonsocket is decadent and depraved

Remember Rebecca Arnold and David Prata? Sure you do. They were the Woonsocket couple who got in hot water with the state after teaching their daughter the facts of life up close and personal. According to my statistics webpage, a whole lot of people have come here searching for "Rebecca Arnold and David Prata", so I figured an update is due on the story.

Well, Arnold and Prata have been sent through the state's judicial wringer and came out of it with three years of probation. Apparently, the state didn't want a conviction badly enough to put the child on the witness stand - a fairly understandable decision since I imagine she's already fairly mortified at her current level of notoriety among her peers. While Arnold lost visitation rights to her daughter, the state did make it clear that she and her boyfriend were never accused of actually molesting her daughter - a fairly important distinction in this day and age.

UPDATE: My readership statistics are over 10 times higher than normal for this post. Would one of you kind readers let me know how you found out about these two idiots from Woonsocket in the first place?

Monday, March 19, 2007

So what's new? Well ...

Well, frankly, the Ocean State has been the quiet state in March. There has been an update on one story I've covered here, the proposed closing of two Portuguese consulates. After intense political pressure on the part of the region's congressional delegations, and some good ol' fashioned bitching and moaning, the Portuguese government has thrown in the towel and decided to keep all four of their New England consulates open. How do you say, "it's not my Euros you're wasting" in Portuguese?

Looking towards April, spring will arrive soon, and with it, the chance to take more photos of Rhode Island. Ideally, I'd like to head into the ChaRiHo neck of the woods and get some photos of the lesser visited side of our state, but hey, I'll cross that bridge when we get there.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Arrests made in Stop & Shop fraud scheme.

Four Armenian men who traveled to Rhode Island from California were arrested at a Stop & Shop in Coventry yesterday after store employees noticed one of the men tampering with one of the store's keypads. According to the Rhode Island State Police and United States Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force, a total of $115,000 was stolen from 1,100 accounts at the Coventry store alone.

If convicted on all charges, the men face up to fifteen years in prison each. As reported earlier, similar tampering was found elsewhere, but so far, the only stolen data used to commit bank fraud came from the Coventry store.

And as if that weren't enough, Ocean Staters can sleep easier tonight knowing that Secretary of State Ralph Mollis' ne'er-do-well brother has been arrested - again. For those keeping score at home, Mollis' teenaged son was arrested for shoplifting, his stepson was arrested for attempted murder, and his brother has been arrested for serving alcohol to minors for a second time.

Ralph had better put a halt to his before his wife gets any ideas. I'm just saying.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Stop those presses!

The blog belonging WSAR AM's resident "portly, pint sized Portuguese political pundit" Keri Rodrigues has vanished (see here)!

A day after receiving a letter from Fall River, MA mayoral candidate Brad Kilby that alleged Rodrigues made libelous comments on air, the blog disappeared. The last post was a defiant rant by the blogmistress laughing at the aggrieved party's stated intention to pursue legal means of redress if necessary.

Whoops! Victory for Brad Kilby! May we infer that WSAR management PWNED their pugnacious pundit? It probably didn't help that the pundit's blogspot URL included the station's call sign, creating the impression that her views reflected the views of ownership and management. Those are, I suppose, the breaks. The Rhode Islander will be investigating this breaking story, and talking to former Keri Rodrigues Show blog regulars Lefty and Professor Inertia to get the straight scoop.

UPDATE: The former URL now redirects to an adult site?!

UPDATE II: Lefty has posted the third part of our continuing series on border disputes between Rhode Island and Massachusetts! We'll be getting his take on the "pundit to porno" scandal soon.

UPDATE III: I was going to talk to Professor Inertia for his take, but ... eh. He's pretty boring. Besides, once Inertia is at rest, it's a bitch to get him moving.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Celona readies for the big house

Sometimes, political corruption in Rhode Island doesn't pay. Former State Senator John Celona, already facing federal jail time for influence peddling, will be tacking on another one and a half years in the ACI after pleading no contest to corruption related charges.

I have to hand it to Attorney General Patrick Lynch (horribly designed web page here) for getting serious about cracking down on the state's notorious corrupt politicians. If only his predecessor had 1/10th of the same zeal.

Lest I forget ...

Speaking as a die hard Boston Celtics fan, this has been a long and rough season for the men in green. A series of injuries led to an 18 game losing streak, and as of today, the Celtics have the worst record in the league.

Still, while waiting for the draft lottery, we can still find something to stand up and cheer for. To wit: last Saturday's NBA All-Star dunk contest, where the Celtics' own Gerald Green electrified the crowd on his way to winning the contest. Yeah, I know - it's no substitute for making the playoffs, but it was great fun all the same. Especially when he paid homage with the "pump the Reeboks no-look dunk" that won it all for Dee Brown in 1991:

Oh great.

The Stop & Shop grocery chain has discovered that some ATM/credit card keypads in their Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts stores have been tampered with, leading to the theft of customer credit card information. Credit card information has been confirmed stolen from the locations in Coventry and Cranston, and tampered key pads were discovered in Coventry and Johnston, while tampered keypads were discovered in Providence, Warwick, Bristol, and Seekonk, Massachusetts.

I've been to two of these stores, and needless to say, I'm checking my statements with fine toothed comb. I think it's time to switch to Shaw's for good.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Snow photos? No.

Yeah. So, I promised to take pictures of Rhode Island in all of its snowy glory after the long anticipated snowstorm hit. The problem is, Rhode Island hardly got any actual snow. We did, however, get lovely sleet and freezing rain, which promptly froze into a three inch thick layer of ice covering cars, buildings and roads. It's really not very picturesque. Still, there's plenty of winter left, and it has to snow one of these days. Right? Right.

On a different note, this article in the Providence Journal (registration required) about the North Providence police department replacing their fleet with Dodge Chargers depressed me to no end. Why? Oh, I have my reasons. I only hope I can get into the auction when they put their old Ford Crown Victorias up for sale.

Completely unrelated note: Dictators of the World has been lavishly updated. Come to think of it, twice as many people read DotW than this blog. Could it be that people are more interested in dictators than Rhode Island? Perish the thought!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

In Woonsocket, it's girls gone wild.

What the hell is going on with women in Woonsocket lately?

Let's start with Ana Rivera and Maribel Santiago. Last month, Ana Rivera's daughter Amanda was suspended from Woonsocket Middle School for what appears to be a variety of misdeeds (apparently making threatening remarks and inappropriate dress), but that didn't stop her from pursing a grudge against her sworn enemy (middle schoolers with sworn enemies?) Grechel Santiago.

After vowing to take Grechel down on her MySpace page, Amanda convinced her mother Ana to drive her to school so she could get gully with her rival, Grechel. What Amanda and her mother didn't know is that Grechel's mother, Maribel Santiago, was with her at school. Before long, the girls started fighting, and anyone could yell "catfight!', their mothers went after each other. A vice principal who attempted to break up the brawl got socked in the eye by Maribel Santiago, and by this time, a large crowd had gathered to soak it all in. Someone finally called The Man, after which, six people (the girls, their mothers, and two other students who threatened the cops) were hauled off to jail.

This made nationwide news, embarrassing the city of Woonsocket to no end, but hey, it was an isolated incident right? No way.

One mother later, Woonsocket mother Robin Sevigny drove to a school bus stop and waited for her 14 year old daughter, and her 14 year old niece, to get off the bus. Sevigny's daughter walked over to her mother's car, said something to her, and before you could say "Jesus, not again!", Robin Sevigny walked up to her own niece, slapped her, and held her down to the ground. She called her daughter over to start hitting her while she held the girl down on the ground. Apparently, the girl and her cousin had been arguing over a boy, and escalated after threats were made on one of the girls' MySpace pages.

But now comes the weirdest, and dumbest, story of them all. Woonsocket mother Rebecca Arnold can more or less forget about seeing her 11 year old daughter ever again after being arrested for child neglect charges. Child neglect in itself isn't so weird, but the circumstances here are just bizarre.

Arnold's daughter had returned to live with her father in North Adams, MA when she told one of her teachers that her mother and her mother's boyfriend, one David Prata, engaged in lewd acts with each other in front of the then 8 year old girl "for educational purposes". The teacher contacted the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families to investigate the complaint. Investigator Vanessa Ciesla probably wasn't prepared for how easy the investigation would be. Both of them freely admitted performing a dazzling array of explicit acts in front of their daughter, and didn't, like, see the big deal, man. The report noted in a dazzling mastery of understatement:
"Mr. Prata said that he and [the girl’s] mother believe in a free and open relationship and don’t want to hide anything from [the girl]."
And what was the mother's rationale for her overeager readiness to get it on with her boyfriend, on numerous occasions, in front of her own 8 year old daughter?
“When I was married to my first husband, my mother-in-law and husband would make fun of me” because, Arnold said, she didn’t know a slang term for oral sex. “I didn’t want anyone to make fun of [her daughter]."
Gah. If anyone can think of a stupider reason to go to jail and alienate their children, by all means, share it with me. And for Woonsocket's sake? I hope Woonsocket women find a more suitable outlet for their aggression and lust. Like politics.

Finally - snow is on the way.

After a long dry and gray winter, Rhode Island will be receiving some snow this week ...

... to be followed by an ice storm and a nor'easter. Could we be looking at getting blasted by bombogenesis again this week? I'm not sure, but I will be taking some pictures when the Ocean State freezes over.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The border is ... where? Part II

If you haven't read part 1 of my series on the history of Rhode Island's border disputes with Massachusetts, now would be a good time to do so. It might also be a good time to read Lefty's examination of the issue from the Massachusetts side as well.

Despite the acquisition of a royal charter from King Charles II, the demarcation of the Eastern Rhode Island border remained in dispute. When petitioners from Rhode Island informed the King that Rhode Island's neighbors were coveting land granted in the original charter, the King graciously granted Rhode Island a new patent in 1693 extending Rhode Island's boundaries to include land "three miles east and northeast" of Narragansett Bay, despite the existing claim to this land by Plymouth Colony. When Plymouth protested, the King appointed a survey commission to settle the dispute. Unfortunately for Rhode Island, the commission found in favor of Massachusetts.

The border remained the same after Plymouth Colony merged with Massachusetts in 1691. In 1740, however, Rhode Island tried once again to secure the land rights granted in the 1693 patent. Why? Well, timing appears to have a lot to do with it. Having just decided a New Hampshire boundary dispute with Massachusetts in New Hampshire's favor, Rhode Island sensed that King George II might be amenable to Rhode Island's claims under the 1693 patent.

Rhode Island guessed right. King George II appointed another set of commissioners to settle the dispute between Massachusetts and Rhode Island, resulting in decision extremely favorable to Rhode Island. The decision was made to grant Rhode Island all points in a three mile radius from the Providence River and eastward into Narragansett Bay, in adherence with the 1693 patent. Overnight, the present day towns of Bristol, Warren, Barrington, Cumberland, Tiverton and Little Compton were transferred from Massachusetts to Rhode Island, forming all of present day Bristol County and adding considerably to present day Newport County.

So this settled it right? Wrong. Massachusetts accused Rhode Island of jumping the gun, and failing to allow surveyors from Massachusetts the chance to determine where the magic lines radiating from the river and bay determined the new boundary, setting the stage for the next, and final, stage of the dispute.

Friday, February 02, 2007

This just in!

This just in! Apparently, one party rule in Rhode Island has led to endemic corruption and embarrassing scandals! That's actually not news. But this is:

The voters don't care. Oh sure, they'll continue to complain about corruption, inefficiency, and the drawbacks of having a single party controlling the state legislature from now until the sun burns out, but they'll never actually vote any of their incumbent state representatives out of office. That would take, like, going to the polls and informing themselves about politics (and, like, stuff).

On the technical front, Technorati just can't seem to detect when I update this blog. It detects updates on this site's sister blog (Dictators of the World) without any problems, which has led me to quadruple check my work. Nope. The blog claim code is inserted correctly, but Technorati seems to think it's been over 500 days since The Rhode Islander has been updated. Bizarre.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The State of the State

While I continue to pore through source material about the history of Rhode Island's border disputes, Governor Donald Carcieri has made his annual State of the State address to the Rhode Island General Assembly. The Governor's mood was upbeat, and his outlook was positive, but he challenged the state legislature to do more, especially when it comes to controlling the skyrocketing cost of benefits for state workers, state entitlement programs, and fixing the state's dismal urban school districts.

Our Republican Governor also touched on something that our overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature doesn't want to hear, namely, how reducing Rhode Island's tax burden has created an upswing in the state's finances, and challenged the Legislature to reduce spending and balance the budget to keep our economic climate friendly to business growth and create an environment for attracting more jobs to the Ocean State.

Somewhat suprisingly, the Governor touched on environmental issues a number of times, setting a goal for 20% of Rhode Island's energy needs to come from renewable sources by 2011 (good luck with that, Don) and proposing an $85,000,000 bond issue to continue to cleanup of Narragansett Bay. A Governor getting touchy feely about mother earth? Sure, especially when it's good business (tourism is our second leading industry, after all).

Lastly, the Governor threw down the gauntlet on Rhode Island's troubled urban school districts, demanding financial discipline and laying down the gauntlet on English immersion versus bilingual education, saying:
"For nearly all of us, our fathers, grandfathers or great grandfathers came to Rhode Island as immigrants. But they came here legally - seeking work and a better life. And they became citizens! They learned English! That's the way it should be!"
I can dig it, Governor. Here's looking forward to a prosperous, and successful, 2007.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The border is ... where?

In an earlier conversation with Lefty over at A View From Battleship Cove, we discussed the fateful day in the nineteenth century where sections of modern day Fall River north of Tiverton, RI were ceded to Massachusetts from Rhode Island in exchange for land that eventually formed present day East Providence, as well as the city of Pawtucket east of the Blackstone River. Sounds simple, right?

Wrong. As it turns out, there may not be another state in the union that has had to define and defend its borders as much as Rhode Island. In fact, the entire history of the state (including the present day) has been one of border disputes with Connecticut, Massachusetts, and even New York. This is the first part in what I hope will become a series getting to the bottom of Rhode Island's messy territorial disputes with her neighbors. While Lefty handles it from the Massachusetts side, I'll be taking a look from the Rhode Island side.

Let's start from the beginning.

In 1638, Roger Williams finalized the deed honoring the purchase of the Providence Plantations from the Narragansett sachems. By 1642, Williams' original purchases were merged with the newly founded Warwick settlement, and the towns of Portsmouth and Newport on Aquidneck island ("Rhode Island") to create a charter colony uniting the four towns, thereby creating a union between Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations.

By 1643, neighboring the neighboring Plymouth Colony, already annoyed by Williams' perceived assault on the right of Puritans to establish a theocracy, begin staking a claim to land in the nascent Rhode Island and Providence Plantations colony. To prevent ceding his gains to the Puritan colony, Roger Williams hastily sailed to England, secured a land patent from the English parliament in 1644 to preserve the union of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Williams' accomplishment, secured with Parliament during the English Civil War, was secured again after the Stuart Restoration of 1660, whereupon Williams' "lively experiment" with religious tolerance in New England was set on firm legal ground with a new royal charter that set the tiny colony on an equal footing with other British colonies in North America.

After 1660, settlement in the remainder of the Providence Plantations west of Narragansett Bay expanded, and neighboring colonies began to engage Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in a series of continual border disputes, with Connecticut on the west, and Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies on the north and east.

I'm going to hit the books and the web to see where the first important territorial disputes where handled, what land they involved, and how the disputes were settled (and in whose favor) for my next update on this. As always, anyone with any information they'd like to add should just leave me a comment.

UPDATE: Dictators Of The World has more updates than you can shake a kangaroo court at!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ray Patriarca and the Rhode Island mob

Forget The Sopranos and forget New Jersey - Rhode Island is, without doubt, America's La Cosa Nostra state.

The Providence Journal (registration required) has begun an excellent special report called "The State of the Mob", examining Rhode Island's infamous mafia past, present and future. If you want to know how Raymond Patriarca Sr. (seen above in mugshot) went from being a small time hood on Federal Hill to ruling Providence as one of America's most dangerous and well known mob bosses, this is definitely required reading.

Friday, January 26, 2007

St. Rose of Lima School: Sit down, and shut up.

The St. Rose of Lima School in Warwick has taken the never ending battle in ensure student safety to absurd, if logical, lengths. From now on, students are forbidden to talk during lunch as a safeguard against choking.

I thought we had a safeguard against choking already, but hey, I'm not an overprotective parent or teacher, now am I? When I grew up, not only were children allowed to talk during lunch, but we were also allowed to ride bicycles without wearing helmets, play contact sports without bulletproof vests, and even use the toilet without parental supervision.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Politicians for sale? Here? AGAIN?

Yeah, our state legislators have been caught trading clout for cash. Again. Try not to be so surprised.

This time, the offender was none other than State Senate President Joseph Montalbano. The Rhode Island Ethics Commission has decided that there is cause to pursue eight charges of "knowing and willful ethics violations" against the Democrat from North Providence, ranging from fraudulent financial disclosures, failing to file paperwork documenting a conflict of interest, and participating in votes where he clearly had an undisclosed conflict of interest with a party that stood to gain from his vote - to say nothing of benefiting from his considerable political influence.

Montalbano does not deny the essence of the charges. He admits to collecting nearly $90,000 from the town of West Warwick for legal services assisting the town clear land for the proposed Narragansett Indian casino. He also admits that he failed to disclose this income as required by state ethics laws.

Then, while still collecting money from the town, he failed to disclose his conflict of interest while serving on the State Senate's "Committee on Constitutional and Gaming Issues", where he passed a bill to put a put the casino question on the 2006 ballot to the full Senate for a vote. Naturally, once the bill made it to the Senate, he voted in favor it as well - failing all the while to disclose his financial conflict of interest that would have shown his financial stake in the outcome.

Montalbano's lawyer, Max Wistow, says his client's failure to file financial disclosure papers was "inadvertent", and denies that his client will make a deal. However, things apparently got testy, and Wistow was heard shouting at the ethics commissioners through closed doors - an action that drew a rebuke from Ethics Commission chairman James Lynch, who told Wistow that "I hope when you come back you have a better attitude. You have been discourteous to the members of this commission - especially me."

Montalbano's egregious influence peddling is news to snooze by in Rhode Island, accustomed as we are to public corruption. The only state institution that we really trust is the Rhode Island State Police. So even when a leader with as much influence as Montalbano gets busted, we're outraged for a minute before re-electing him into perpetuity. Even if the ethics charges lead to criminal proceedings, it's a safe bet that an influential Democratic incumbent will be re-elected until he's old and grey unless he goes to jail.

So is the solution to pay our state lawmakers more money? At present, Rhode Island's part time legislators are the third worst paid lawmakers in the nation, which definitely provides temptation to sell their political influence. Or how about putting some teeth into state ethics laws? Or telling our State Attorney Generals to get serious about pursuing political corruption before they decide to run for the US Senate? My answer is "all of the above", but I'm certainly open to any other ideas.

UPDATE: No discussion of political corruption would be complete without my mentioning that Dictators of the World has been lovingly, nay, decadently, updated.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wal-Mart builds first store in Providence

A store in Providence that sells stuff people can afford? We definitely can't have that.

This isn't the first Wal-Mart in Rhode Island, mind you, just the first store in Providence. For what it's worth, I'm all for it. The new Wal-Mart on Silver Spring Street replaces a defunct Ames that had been abandoned for years, but apparently, a derelict hulk collecting graffiti in the heart of the 'hood is preferable to a Wal-Mart for some people. True, the 350 jobs created by the new Wal-Mart mostly suck, but to prefer no jobs to non-union jobs? Even in blue state, union controlled Rhode Island, this strikes most sensible people as being completely ridiculous. Thankfully, not everyone gets worked up into a frenzy over the Big Blue Boxes from Bentonville.

Providence Mayor David Cicilline thinks it's a fine thing indeed, and was on hand at the opening ceremony. The Mayor may not shop at Wal-Mart (most wealthy people don't), but he was pleased to any new economic activity in the North End, which has lagged behind downtown and the East Side economically. I couldn't agree more.

Monday, January 22, 2007

How do you say "enough already" in Portuguese?

It appears that we're overdue for a reality check.

I've already blogged about the brewing brouhaha regarding the potential closure of two Portuguese consulates in Southeastern New England. You may recall that I declined to offer much of an opinion on the subject since the matter doesn't really affect me one way or another.

I've changed my tune following a rally held yesterday at Kennedy Plaza in Providence to protest the closures. The Providence Journal has the story here, but I'll go ahead and vent my spleen for a bit anyway by getting to some of the more outlandishly stupid comments that were made at this rally.

Let's get the ball rolling by highlighting a statement made by a man who's a veritable fountainhead of stupid statements, Congressman Patrick "Patches" Kennedy, who breathlessly told the crowd:
"This consulate is so important because the people of Rhode Island are proud of their heritage, and the people of Rhode Island want to stay in touch with their families in Portugal. That is why we are here today.”
Rhode Island certainly has a large number of Portuguese Americans, a great number of whom are third (or higher) generation families who don't need consular services from the Portuguese government whatsoever because they're American. What's more, foreign consulates don't play much of a role in helping Americans stay in touch with the families in Portugal. As Portugal has long since been a European Union member state, all Americans visiting Portugal are issued a 90 day travel visa upon entry to Portugal. That's it. This covers the vast majority of vacation and business travel between the United States and Europe right off the bat, and doesn't require a moment of consular service.

You need a consulate to contact people in Portugal? Have we forgotten how to use the goddamned telephone? I'll grant you that, perhaps, once upon a time in the old country, the Portuguese had to resort to pinning letters on goats and send them village to village to stay in touch, or resort to launching a golden age of discovery, or even rely on telling their unfortunate slaves to deliver messages. That's not the case now, and we all know it.

The next groaner comes from Gloria Chaves of East Providence who reportedly held up a sign saying "if the consul is closed, the Portuguese will be forgotten"

Bitch, please. If the Providence and/or New Bedford, MA consulates are closed, it means people from Rhode Island may, god forbid, have to travel 45 minutes each way to Boston to visit a Portuguese consulate. Period. The Portuguese are even keeping their consulate in Waterbury, CT open for chrissakes! Does this stupid woman seriously believe for a moment that if they close the Portuguese consulate, non-Portuguese people in Rhode Island will be scratching their heads and ask "What-u-geese? Who?"

By contrast, other ethnic groups in Rhode Island have not turned out en masse to complain that a lack of convenient consular services has destroyed their ethnic identity. Italian Americans are still the largest ethnic group in Rhode Island - one in every five Rhode Islanders is an Italian American. Oh God, it appears that they actually have to travel to Boston or New York to visit an Italian consulate! Funny, though - we haven't seen Italians taking to the streets bitching and moaning about this, have we? Indeed we have not. A cynic might conclude that the Portuguese have much to learn about how to handle life's minor disappointments from their Italian friends and neighbors.

Does it get worse? Oh, indeed. Next up, John Marques of Central Falls who moaned, "if they close this [the consulate], we will lose our connection to home".

According to the Journal article, Marques immigrated to the United States from Portugal 37 goddamned years ago. 37 years! Look, John: after 37 years, America is your home. If you had any doubts about where home is, you should have settled them since the Nixon administration.

The article goes on to describe the crowd chanting "
a people united will never be defeated" in Portuguese, while waving Portuguese flags, and generally bitching and moaning, but nobody quoted in the article seems to ask, for a second, why the Portuguese government - who have 14 consulates in the United States - really need four within driving distance of one another. This goes especially for most Portuguese Americans who are not, and who have never been, citizens of Portugal, and don't pay a dime in Portuguese taxes. Shouldn't this issue be left to the duly elected representative government of Portugal? Secretary of State Ralph Mollis didn't think about it either, and put this cherry on the shit sundae of stupidity:
"We have to question the government’s decision to close the consulate in the state with the highest concentration of Portuguese-Americans"
We do? Who you calling we, white man? Why do we need to question a rather logical cost saving decision by a foreign government that will, at worst, mildly inconvenience people in this country?

It's an encouraging sign that people in this country have so few legitimate grievances that we can take the streets and make such an enormous stink about such incredibly trivial matters, but Jesus people, you're embarrassing me.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Politicians for sale? Here?

I know what you're thinking: corrupt politicians? Here in Rhode Island? You're kidding me!

In all seriousness, the heat over former State Senator John Celona's blatant influence peddling has now spilled over to his clients. To wit, a certain gigantic pharmacy chain headquartered in Woonsocket has drawn the attention of the US Attorney's office in Providence who issued an indictment against two of the company's executives, charging them with bribery and conspiracy. The Providence Journal (registration still tediously required) has the full story right here.

On a different note, I've managed to update Dictators of the World. Hurry up and read it before the secret police haul you away.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Portuguese consulates to close?

The Portuguese government has announced that it intends to close their consulates in Southeastern New England - a move that has generated a surprising amount of controversy. The consulates, located in Providence, Rhode Island and New Bedford, Massachusetts serve an unknown number of Portuguese citizens in New England, plus an even greater number of Luso-Americans. How many? I can't speak for Massachusetts (although I'm guessing it's enormous), but there are over 100,000 in Rhode Island alone. Quite a large number for a state with a population of only 1.2 million.

Since I'm not Portuguese, I don't really care all that much about this tempest in a teapot, but our congressmen are tripping all over themselves to lobby the Portuguese government to keep the consulates open. Rhode Island Congressman Patrick "Patches" Kennedy has joined Senators Jack "The Invisible Man" Reed and newly elected Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in lobbying the Prime Minister of Portugal to keep their Providence consulate open. Providence mayor David Cicilline has joined the efforts to lobby the Portuguese government as well.

For their part, the Portuguese estimate that closing the two consulates will save their cash strapped government nearly $4 million dollars. A proposal by American politicians to open a replacement consulate in Fall River, Massachusetts (located halfway between Providence and New Bedford) will likely fall on deaf ears as well.

UPDATE: Lest I forget, Dictators of the World has been updated with the latest dirt on Fidel Castro.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The ACLU vs. The Man

Who's got it right when it comes to the issue of enforcing immigration laws, the Rhode Island State Police, or the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union?

Back on July 11, 2006, trooper Thomas Chabot pulled over a van containing 15 (!) illegal immigrants from Guatemala on route 95 in Richmond for failing to use a turn signal during a lane change. After running the driver's license and registration, the trooper asked the passengers to produce some identification. When some of the passengers were unable to do so, the trooper then demanded the passengers produce "documents" proving their eligibility to live and work in the United States.

When the passengers were, obviously, unable to comply, trooper Chabot called for backup and informed the driver that the the State Police would be escorting him, and all of his passengers, to the federal Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Providence. Duly escorted, the 15 Guatemalans were admitted for processing by la migra.

Enter the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who filed a lawsuit alleging the State Police engaged in illegal racial profiling and violated the fourth amendment rights of the Guatemalans by submitting them to "unreasonable search and seizure". Naturally, the ACLU is filing a lawsuit seeking compensatory damages against the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, State Police Colonel Steven Paré, trooper Chabot and a trooper named as "Jane Doe" (the trooper Chabot called for backup, whose identity the ACLU has been unable to identify).

Let's forget about the folly of suing someone you can't even identify for damages for a moment and move onto the larger issue: do state and local police have the authority to detain people for violating federal immigration laws and send them to the feds? The answer is yes, although most state and local law enforcement agencies do not because they are unfamiliar with the intricacies of federal statues. The Rhode Island ACLU, for their part, has not even attempted to dispute the authority of the State Police to forward people suspected of violating immigration laws to the feds, but instead contends that they do so via racial profiling. While granting that constitutional protections are granted to "all inhabitants" of the United States and not just citizens, the State Police contend that they are also entrusted with upholding the law, and provided they know which federal laws they are enforcing, they have the authority (nay, the obligation) to uphold them.

The State Police, who conducted their own internal investigation, dismissed the ACLU's complaints as being without merit, stating that trooper Chabot's actions were handled "professionally and appropriately", so now it remains to be settled in court. For their part, the illegal Guatemalan immigrants are looking at a potential payday from the state before being deported to Guatemala, but will likely remain in Providence until the case goes to court.

Lest I forget, Dictators of the World has been updated for your pleasure.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Four more years

OK, so I may my candidate for the Senate was beaten like a rented mule back in November, but two prominent candidates I voted for were re-elected, and have been sworn in for another term.

Governor Donald Carcieri (pictured above), a Republican, won re-election by a very slender margin against his own Democratic Lieutenant Governor, Charlie Fogarty. Faced with an overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature, he'll have his work cut out for him trying to wheel and deal with state lawmakers to pass a balanced budget, much less get any of his own political agenda points dealt with. I certainly wish the Governor the best of luck, and invite you to read his inaugural address here.

By contrast, Providence mayor David Cicilline was overwhelmingly re-elected, and seems to enjoy a broad mandate from the city's electorate. The mayor's facing something of an uphill battle as well, as Providence's economic and social ills are nothing to sneeze at, but he's trying to look at the bright side. Waxing Obama-esque about hope and optimism, Cicilline deviated slightly from the Obama formula by not only doling out feel good platitudes, but by offering some specifics on what he would like to do to create "the New Providence".

Now, I like David Cicilline, and he's done a fine job as mayor, but he's got to put his money where his mouth is on the issue of Providence's dismal public schools, and he's going to have continue to battle the public employee unions that make the cost of living and working in Providence so inordinately high, and have helped provide a dismal return on the public's investment. Cicilline's first administration worked on the issue of public safety and restoring the public trust in City Hall as a political institution after the Buddy Cianci years. So far, so good. Now it's time for our diminutive mayor to get cracking on the really hard part of bringing Providence back from the brink of economic and political disaster.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New photos: Woonsocket

It's been too long since I've had any new photos of Rhode Island to share, so I'd like to get 2007 off on the right foot. Let's see if I can make up for it with a gaggle of new photos from lovely, crime-free Woonsocket in the heart of the Blackstone River Valley. As always, these pictures have been gathered on Flickr (viewable here) for your enjoyment.

Update: Well, it's obviously not related to the fine city of Woonsocket, but my Dictators of the World blog has more new content than you can shake an executed Arab strongman at.