Archive for the ‘Rhode Island’ Category

A couple of random notes: March 16, 2016.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

How did I not have a “Lovecraft” category before now? Fixed.

What brought this to mind? Anther AP story, this one about the relationship between H.P. Lovecraft and Providence.

Lovecraft aficionados, drawn to Providence, leave trinkets and notes at the author’s gravesite in Swan Point Cemetery. The Lovecraft council has a store downtown and holds conventions and events to celebrate Lovecraft’s work and influence.

When I visited Swan Point on one of my trips, I was told Lovecraft’s grave was the most visited one in the cemetery. This struck me as interesting, because Sullivan Ballou, aka “the guy who wrote the letter from the Ken Burns series that everyone but me loves” is also buried in Swan Point. My recollection is that this was near the peak of “Civil War” mania, but I guess Lovecraftian horror beats banjos and sentiment at least five out of seven days of the week.

Tam has a very nice obit up for Todd Louis Green, noted pistol trainer, class act, and “Archer” fan.

I never got to take a class with him, and I wish I had: I think I would have enjoyed both learning from him, and finding out if he hates Bionic Barry as much as I do.


Friday, January 29th, 2016

In another life, I used to travel between Austin and Rhode Island regularly (once a year or so).

The first time I went, I stayed downtown, at the Biltmore. This was 1995, I think, and it seemed that downtown was dead.

But I kept going back (this was the business I had chosen) and downtown Providence got better. They built a big new mall within walking distance of the Biltmore. They started Waterfire. The last time I was in Providence, it was a fun, exciting place to be. I miss it.

Buddy Cianci was responsible for a lot of this.


He wasn’t a hero of mine, and I never really “met” him. I did encounter him a couple of times.

It was a running joke among my coworkers (and the folks we worked with in Rhode Island) that you should eat at Joe Marzilli’s Old Canteen at least once; not only was the food good, but if you got lucky, you might see Buddy.

Well, one night I was in there with some of my coworkers and some of our Rhode Island contacts. So was Buddy. He actually came over to our table and commented on how cute and well-behaved the young child who was with us was. (As I recall, he was accompanied by a stunning, and very young, woman.)

Later on that trip, I shared an elevator ride with him. I didn’t say anything to him; didn’t seem like the time or place. I kind of wish I had said something nice to him now.


The Prince of Providence is a swell book about Buddy and Providence politics, though I don’t know if it has been updated since 2003.


Buddy reminds me some of Robert Moses. Both were examples of The Man Who Got Things Done. And it seems that both were also examples of the “rude to the waiter” rule. (I watched him get kind of snippy once with a desk clerk at the Biltmore who didn’t recognize him. To be fair, though, he was actually living in the Biltmore at the time…)

I was always conflicted by him. As a Libertarian, he represented a lot of what I hate about big government. As a connoisseur of politicians, especially crooked ones, he was one of the last examples of a type we probably won’t see again.

And I always thought his second conviction was questionable. He was charged on 27 counts, and was acquitted on 26. The one thing he was found guilty of was “racketeering conspiracy”. What the hell does that even mean? What “racket” was he “conspiring” in, if he wasn’t guilty of the other 26 charges?

Then again, I Am Not A Lawyer, and maybe I’m inclined to make excuses for someone I kind of liked.


He may have been a crook. But he was my crook, damn it.

Obit watch: January 29, 2016.

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Paul Kantner, guitarist and founding member of Jefferson Airplane. SFGate. NYT. A/V Club.

In the ‘70s, Kantner and Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick recorded Blows Against The Empire, a sci-fi concept album that was even nominated for a Hugo Award.

Perhaps someone more familiar with Hugo history can answer this: was Kantner the only guitarist ever nominated for a Hugo (either individually or as part of a group)?

This was by way of Lawrence, who asks, “Has there been a huge number of important deaths this month, or is my view just distorted?” If his view is distorted, mine is, too.

I think there have been studies that show a peak in deaths in January: people who are on the edge try to hold out through Christmas and the new year, but after January 1st there’s nothing to hold out for and they’ve used up a lot of their strength. Even taking that into account, this January has been one of the worst months I can remember.

At some point, I may run a comparison of how many obit watches I’ve posted in January since I began this effort. If I do, I’ll post it here. (And I know that will be kind of skewed, too, but it is at least a start.)

NYT obit for Buddy Cianci. That’s something else I’ll try to get posted today.

Obit watch: January 28, 2016.

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

In great haste, because my lunch is about to end and I’m busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest: former Providence, Rhode Island mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr.

ProJo coverage. I expect I’ll have more to say later.

TMQ Watch: November 11, 2014.

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

This week’s TMQ, after the jump…


TMQ Watch: October 21, 2014.

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Pete and Repeat walk into bar in this week’s TMQ, after the jump…


Phoenix, no ashes.

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Lawrence was kind enough to throw me a backlink for my SF Bay Guardian entry. So I thought I’d note here, just for the record, that the Providence Phoenix is also closing down. From what I can tell, the PP is part of the same media group that owned the Boston Phoenix, which shut down last year. (Also, this gives me an excuse to exercise the “Rhode Island” tag.)

I remember picking up a few issues of the PP back when I was going up to Rhode Island on a semi-regular basis, but I don’t recall much about it beyond it being a fairly generic alt weekly. Again, I’m sorry for the folks who are losing their jobs; no snark here. But it is hard to see what the PP had to offer that isn’t duplicated elsewhere.

Also, this gives me a chance to link to yesterday’s TechDirt article about SXSW: Populous, a consulting firm that’s been working with SXSW organizers, is proposing “clean zones” for SXSW:

According to the report, the “Clean Zone” would be a perimeter around some part of the city that:
“protects the brand equity of SXSW and its sponsors but would be made to work with existing businesses and their interests so as to uphold sponsor values and private property rights—in return this may involve a financial exchange linked to the permit process that provides the City with additional funding for security and safety personnel.”

Part of the “clean zone” proposal talks about doing “soft searches” for “forbidden items”. It isn’t clear what that means, though there’s speculation that “forbidden” = “doesn’t have an approved sponsor logo”.

The current policy of the City with respect to the permitting process as ‘first come, first served’ and/or ‘must treat everyone equally’ appears to have become detrimental to event planning process and management of the key stakeholder interests. The SXSW event is one of the largest events in the world, and bespoke treatment is needed to facilitate a continuing safe event in Austin.

A fair number of people seem to be reading this as part of SXSW’s ongoing struggle to get rid of “unofficial” SXSW events, and I kind of think it is hard to read in any other way.

I’ve felt for a while now that SXSW is too big, and I’ve expected a major disaster of some sort. But the funny thing is: we had our major disaster this year, and none of these proposals (or any other proposal I’ve heard) would have prevented it. As a matter of fact, the only thing I can think of that would have prevented it, is more substantial barriers on the closed-off streets.

Kind of seems like SXSW is becoming all the things the AusChron purports to dislike, doesn’t it?

Buddy watch.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, or if it is a well known fact, but former Providence mayor “Buddy” Cianci has his own line of marinara sauce, which is sold around the city. (At the time I was regularly in Rhode Island, he also had his own line of coffee, but I’m not sure if he still does.)

Profits from the Mayor’s Marinara go to a scholarship fund for kids.

But in recent years, no money from the sauce’s sales has been donated to Cianci’s charity scholarship fund, The Associated Press has learned. From 2009 to 2012, the sauce made a total of $3 in income, longtime Cianci adviser Charles Mansolillo told the AP.

The AP thought this story was so fantastic, they gave it a special award. I have some reservations about this:

In 2009, they lost $2,200 on the sauce, Mansolillo said. The following year, they made $2,974, while in 2011, they lost $2,969. In 2012, they made $2,198 profit, he said. That adds up to a profit of just $3 during the 4-year period.

Is it possible they weren’t making money because former Mayor Cianci was kind of out of the public eye during this period? (He got out of prison in 2007, and had some radio and television gigs, but I don’t know what kind of public visibility those brought him. At least one of the shows he hosted was the “weekend public affairs program” Four Leather Chairs Against a Blue Background On the Record with Buddy Cianci. What kind of ratings do those get?)

Cianci and Mansolillo said sales have been hurt in past years by mismanagement from some of the sauce’s previous distributors, one of which went bankrupt. During the time when Cianci was in prison from 2002 to 2007, the sauce sometimes was not on the shelves at all.


Bob Borges, gourmet manager at Eastside Market in Providence, said the sauce sells well at his store, which goes through about a dozen 12-jar cases a month. He said he thinks first-time purchasers might buy it because they think sales are benefiting children, but they wouldn’t get the repeat sales they get unless it was good. They sell it for $5.69 per jar.

This story, for some reason, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. To be fair, though, there’s a related story by the same author that’s a little more interesting. You know that scholarship fund mentioned earlier?

Since 2008, the charity has spent no more than 2.7 percent of its assets annually on scholarships, and as little as 1.7 percent.

The charity’s IRS filings show that it had $434,126 in assets as of June 30, 2013, and received around $25,000 in investment income that year. It gave out $11,000 in grants and spent $32,061 total in expenses. The year before, it had $3,862 in revenue and gave out $12,000 in grants, and before that it received $10,972 in revenue and gave out $10,000 in grants.

I hate to keep sounding like Buddy Cianci’s defender. But if this is a scam, it seems to be a very penny-ante scam. It sounds like something that started out as a PR opportunity and went a little off the rails.

(ETA: Forgot to give Romenesko credit.)

Best news I’ve had all week.

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Somehow I missed this until today, but: Buddy Cianci is running for Mayor of Providence. Again.

Yet you can’t blame voters who look at Providence circa 2014 – highly taxed and highly indebted, not far past a flirtation with bankruptcy, its tallest building empty, its streets a moonscape of potholes – and think, well, the Cianci days sure were a lot better than this. And they’re all the more likely to feel that way as memories of City Hall corruption dim, while the rivers and the mall remain as monuments to his reign.

Random notes: March 24, 2014.

Monday, March 24th, 2014

What does the fox say?

“I resign.”

Rhode Island Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox, enveloped by an apparent criminal investigation, announced Saturday that he has resigned his leadership post.
He fell in a lightning-quick series of events that began Friday with investigators, armed with search warrants in a probe of an undisclosed matter, taking boxes of evidence from his State House office and his East Side home.

The paper of record describes agents “carting out boxes and bags labeled ‘evidence.'” This raises some questions, at least for me: did they write “evidence” on the side with a Sharpie? Or do these boxes and bags come pre-labeled as “evidence”? Can you buy “evidence” boxes and bags from your local law enforcement supply store?

(Isn’t it kind of cartoonish when you think about it? Sort of like Scrooge McDuck carrying around a big bag with a “$” on it, only instead you’ve got a neatly attired IRS agent with a bag that says “Evidence”?)

So much for that. Looks like I owe Lawrence $5. See if I buy one of your damn t-shirts now, Gonzaga.

(Still hopeful for those Cubs, though.)

City That Squandered Baseball Relishes Brief Return

“Squandered Baseball”? Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is that the Expos made unreasonable demands after the 1995 baseball strike and drove fans away.

The Island of Mayor Moreau.

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

That would be Charles D. Moreau, the former mayor of the bankrupt city of Central Falls, RI.

Former mayor Moreau is out of prison now after serving one year. (Previously.)

What’s interesting about this is how his release went down. Mayor Moreau originally pled guilty to a charge of taking “illegal gratuities” from a “friend and political supporter” who was given a contract to board up abandoned buildings.

However, a federal appeals court apparently ruled sometime last year that “accepting gratuities” was not a crime. No, really, I’m not making this up:

…in 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found in an unrelated case that it is not a crime for a government official to accept gratuities. A gratuity is a reward for a future or past act, as opposed to a bribe, which is a quid pro quo meant to influence an official.

So Moreau’s people moved to have his conviction thrown out, the prosecution said “Let’s make a deal”…and Moreau got the “accepting gratuities” conviction thrown out, and then pled gulity to a bribery charge.

Yep. You read that right. Why would he do that? Because the sentence on the bribery charge was basically “time served” (see below) so he got to walk away a more-or-less free man, and the prosecution got to chalk up a felony win.

Other penalties from his previous conviction stand, as a result of Moreau agreeing to plead guilty to bribery. That includes the $25,000 fine, which has been paid, three years’ probation and 300 hours of community service that must “redress the harm caused by the defendant’s criminal conduct in Central Falls.”

I think the key takeaways here are: try the veal at Joe Marzilli’s Old Canteen, and remember to tip your government official.

Random notes: November 13, 2013.

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

The three civilian officials, who oversee highly classified programs, arranged for a hot-rod auto mechanic in California to build a specially ordered batch of unmarked and untraceable rifle silencers and sell them to the Navy at more than 200 times what they cost to manufacture, according to court documents filed by federal prosecutors.

According to the WP, “the silencers were designed for the ‘AK family of firearms'”. The people who are under investigation claim they were intended for DEVGRU.

In February, the silencers were delivered to a Naval Research Laboratory warehouse in Chesapeake Beach, Md. NCIS agents seized the silencers two months later.
The silencers were unmarked and untraceable, despite a federal law requiring all firearm manufacturers to imprint them with a serial number and the name of the maker.

Yes, there’s nothing better when you’re running clandestine ops than having a serial number and manufacturer’s name stamped on your gear. (That is, assuming these silencers were actually intended for clandestine ops. “Officials with SEAL Team Six told investigators that they were unaware of any such order for silencers, according to court documents.” But if they weren’t intended for DEVGRU, what was the plan for them? We’re through the looking glass here, people.)

Today’s NYT has an article on the Industrial Trust Building in Providence. The Industrial Trust is the tallest skyscraper in Rhode Island – and now it’s vacant. The current owners want to convert it into apartments, but they need tax credits and breaks to do it; and the state isn’t inclined to give out those after the Curt Schilling fiasco.

This has a little bit of special significance to me. I used to travel to Rhode Island, and I remember this skyscraper. I’ve even stayed in the Biltmore (which you can see in the corner of the second photo in the slideshow).

It is a nice building. I’m sad to see it vacant. But I bet you Buddy Cianci could get something done with it.

Obit watch: John Tavener, classical composer.