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Joke of the week

How about the Rhode Island Ethics Commission? Because they don't want to upset the state Supreme Court, this group of toothless tigers allowed House Speaker John "Hey, I got my wife a great job!" Harwood to practice law in front of state agencies. This after Chief Justice Frank Williams (a learned barrister, who, we might note, teaches at the internationally renowned Ralph R. Papitto School of Law and Bartending), utilizing a Urinal op-ed piece, stabbed former director Martin Healey in the back, forcing his ouster. But why aren't we laughing?

Ignore the man with the tribunal

Why should we be afraid of Attorney General John Ashcroft's attempt to rid us of those pesky things we call "civil liberties"? Consider this from syndicated columnist and good ol' gal Molly Ivins:

"And what could be better than the insouciance with which the attorney general himself approaches the Constitution? During his six years in the Senate, he tried to propose no fewer than seven constitutional amendments.

Since we've only managed to amend it 17 times in the last 200 years (that's leaving out the Bill of Rights), it's an impressive record. Of course, one of John Ashcroft's proposed amendments was to make it easier to amend. Another was the always helpful flag-burning amendment, which, had it been in effect, would have done so much to prevent the terrorist attacks.

Yep, if we had a Constitution largely rewritten by Ashcroft (as opposed to the one we're stuck with by such picayune minds as Madison, Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, etc.), we'd be a lot safer today."

Sleep tight, America.

With friends like us

Since the check to keep us quiet didn't clear in time, we have no recourse but to mention the outburst that P&J's old friend Jan Reitsma, director of the state Department of Environmental Management, has been accused of launching against a fisherman during a hearing at URI's Bay Campus on new management regulations for lobstermen. The fisherman accused Reitsma of swearing at him and then challenging him to take the "discussion" outside. This has resulted in possible misdemeanor charges against Reitsma, because the lobsterman felt he was "in fear of being assaulted."

Reitsma admits that he did lose his temper -- a situation that is understandable, if not excusable, given the abuse that DEM and he get on a regular basis. But knowing Jan for years, we suspect this is a one-off and a bit too petty for legal pursuit. We also find Reitsma's owning up to his faux pas a bit better than the response -- "We don't give a [damn] what you think" -- recently articulated by Bob Carl, director of administration in the Bigfoot camp. Jan does give a damn, so give him a break, folks.

While we're on the subject of our pals, P&J are absolutely appalled that the editors at Channel 10 would alter the copy on Casa Diablo fave Jim Taricani's "I-Team Exclusive" report of December 7 on Lifespan and its woes over finances, internal turmoil, and conflicts of interest. This included mentioning how an editorial critical of Lifespan was spiked from the Other Paper by an unseen hand with an obvious interest in protecting the Lifespan muckety-mucks from criticism. (We won't mention any names, but BeloJo publisher Howard Sutton knows who we're talking about.) And the credit for the Phoenix's own investigative genius, Steve Stycos, who broke the story on the vanishing editorial in the previous day's edition of Our Little Rag, was deleted, no doubt for reasons of time. Right?

Attorney of the year

We've been following news accounts of the trial of Providence police Officer Peter Flynn. If the serial bully is found not guilty, for some unknowable reason, his lawyer, Michael Colucci, should be given some sort of special award for his spin doctoring. Since the real evidence points to Flynn's guilt in the matter, Colucci has centered his defense around a few thoroughly specious points.

One is that off-duty Providence cops heading into town for a little entertainment should be able to park in any lot in the city for free. WRONG! Colucci insinuated there was some sort of "deal" in place for officers to park free at all times. Gee, we guess no one happened to tell the attendants about this deal.

But you've really got to love Colucci's contention that Flynn's not beating the shit out of the attendants with a baseball bat was "out of compassion," and that he defused a potentially deadly situation. It was only "potentially deadly" because Flynn was allegedly acting like a mad dog. If Flynn stays on the force after all this, it will be obvious that anything goes with the Providence police and that efforts by Chief Sullivan and others to clean up the force are all for naught.

Empower to the people

The General Assembly's controversial redistricting plans are abhorrent enough to contemplate without the patronizing attitude and condescending comments of Senate Majority Leader Bill "Little Napoleon" Irons. Every time there's an imbroglio over the redrawing of district in such a way that black or Hispanic candidates would face each other, Billy Boy chirps about how his intent is to "empower" minority voters.

Empower with what, senator, a laser sword? This idea -- that the ability to be treated as a real citizen is being overseen and handed out by Irons and his cronies -- is demeaning to the public, not to mention the height of arrogance. (Oh, sorry about the "height" mention, Bill.)

As put by As Adam Urbanski, a Polish-born friend of state education commissioner Peter McWalters, and a man whose education reform efforts in Rochester, New York, led to national attention and the presidency of the National Education Association, "Rights aren't something that are given to you. They are something that can't be taken away." Thanks anyhow, Senator Irons. Minorities have already got what you're selling.

A real con job

P&J were astonished to read that the Convention Center Authority wants to lend $10 million to Vinny "The Plug" Mesolella, the knuckle-dragging developer and ex-state rep from Nawt Prov, for a 300-room hotel in downtown Providence. This crass and belligerent drainer of lakes has already struck a development deal with the Con Center honchos, allowing him to lease the land with an option to buy, while the authority holds onto the land.

Your superior correspondents are concerned that the House Finance Committee (J. Harwood, proprietor) is in charge of deciding whether to give the Con Center the power to lend the money (a great idea when the state faces a huge shortfall). Claims that the taxpayers won't be at risk, uttered to the Urinal by a spokesman for Governor Bigfoot, mean one thing: hang on to your wallet with both hands.

No doubt Vinny the Plug's years at the State House, when he could generally be found genuflecting at Pucky's feet, have nothing to do with this. Nor did they have anything to do with the speaker naming him to head the Narragansett Bay Commission, a campaign fund cash cow if ever there was one, while he was at the General Assembly.

Good to know we're cleaning up the way in which the state does business, eh, kids?

What's in a name?

Why are we not surprised to learn that nearly half of the graduates of the Ralph R. Papitto School of Law at Roger Williams University flunk their Rhode Island Bar exams? (And who could fail to see the irony in the Urinal's preceding human interest story, about a recent grad who actually passed the test on the third try, but couldn't get a lawyer's job, and is now working in a real bar?)

Ralph R. Papitto School of Law. Well, thank God it isn't another Benny Woods or Alan Shawn Feinstein production, but why does it make your superior correspondents think of Bob Newhart's famous "Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Screen Door Company"?

Go home

God, the idea of having the hideous First Enablers, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush, being pushed out together before the media reptiles is appalling enough, but at least they came off as poster gals for hypocrisy while trying to promote tourism in Washington, DC, during a recent dog-and-pony show.

This at a time when 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is closed to tourism -- well, at least for the great unwashed -- due to the terrorism scare. Celebs and big donors are still welcome, of course. This despite the fact that no one shy of Osama bin Laden could provoke a more frightened response in us than the death mask face and affectations of invited guest Baba Wawa.

Sure, please come to Washington. Just not to our house. "Home for the Holidays," indeed.

Paddleboro redux?

This from the police log in the Jamestown Press of December 6, recalling the arrests for spatula-equipped S&M parties in Attleboro, Massachusetts, aka Paddleboro:

"A Spanker woman told police that some Christmas lights had been stolen from her property . . . "

May we assume the lights were red?

The shining bucket

Your superior correspondents can't tell you how impressed we continue to be with developments in Jorge's ancestral city of Pawtucket, aka The Bucket. We spoke the other day with Herb Weiss, the program manager for development projects in the city's planning department, as he told us about the latest living/work project earmarked for artists. It's at the J&K Sayles Building, situated ideally on the Blackstone River across from the Pawtucket Armory.

A Boston developer is putting the deal together, but the real genesis began with Morris and Phyllis Nathanson, whose Blackstone Studios abuts the Sayles property. Another key player was Casa Diablo regular Teresa Level. This is a $50 million project, folks, and underscores how Pawtucket has taken the art/living space idea and really run with it. Weiss has gotten the ball rolling in recent years, but this has been the vision in many ways of the Nathansons, who began working at it 15 years ago.

By the way, the Foundry sale at Blackstone Studios continues this Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free, and besides seeing a lot of great one-of-a-kind art works for sale, you'll get a chance to see what the excitement is about in Pawtucket.

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Issue Date: December 13 - 19, 2001

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