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Blood from a stone


Hats off to House Speaker Bill Murphy for being the favorite to win Governor Don Carcieri’s cash reward program for state employees who come up with ideas that will save money for the Biggest Little.

Murphy’s inspired contribution in these times of nickel-squeezing financial austerity was using taxpayer money to purchase a plush new rug and draperies for his third-floor digs at Halitosis Hall. And how does that save money, Phillipe and Jorge’s inquiring readers are no doubt wondering? "Hell, I also bought a new walnut-stained desk and a matching bookcase and entertainment center, and I actually paid for them myself from campaign contributions from lobbyists," we imagine Murphy would have told us if we actually asked him. "Christ, if Johnny Hardwood was still speaker, he would have stuck the state with the entire bill."

The Don has yet to announce the winner, but you know who P&J have our money on, quite literally.

Won't get foold again

The stage-management techniques employed to stunning effect by Dubya’s communications unit — as recently described by the New York Times — are frightening. While there is not an ounce of substance to Boy George, he is always ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille, with stylized lighting and backdrops that reek of subliminal Madison Avenue advertising — all done with the TV audience in mind. The most chilling part is that the American public eats up this empty and obvious charade. Ignore that man behind the curtain? Not bloody likely with the Moron Majority.

But on a cheerier note about the Bushies, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Ari Fleischer. This ghastly, arrogant little professional liar was supposedly pushed out the door, but P&J would have preferred a more exacting punishment. Fleischer’s sneering, shifty posture should have been an affront to the American public (sorry, no luck — see above), as he stonewalled the media and blatantly obfuscated and misrepresented the administration’s actions during his every public appearance. Maybe we can all chip in and buy him an all-expenses-paid trip to Saudi Arabia as a going-away present.

Hammer time

Your superior correspondents were glued to our seats in the Boom Boom Room at Casa Diablo for NBC’s May 19 airing of Martha, Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart. We joined countless others in reveling in this evisceration of Ms. Perfect, all the more so since most of the citizens of Westport, Connecticut — where she made her name and which is Phillipe’s hometown — are appalled by her. We also had our derisive whistles whetted by Alessandra Staley’s comment in her wonderful preview, in the New York Times, of the made-for-TV movie:

"But for those who feel Ms. Stewart has not yet been punished enough for her hubris and for stock trading that has placed her under federal investigation, Martha, Inc. has a special reward: imperfection. Ms. Stewart, who rose to fame on her own steely perfectionism and snobbery, is commemorated in a network special that is cheerfully sloppy and second-rate.

"Nothing is likely to torture her more."

We just hope that in driving Stewart berserk, this surpassed our favorite episode of Martha’s eponymous TV show, with guest star Aretha Franklin. Aretha, who has been letting out the shower curtain with regularity over the past few years, demonstrated her own special ham glaze as Martha stood by, feigning rapt attention. But her eyes bugged out and mouth fell open when Aretha whipped up her specialty by emptying a quart of cream soda into a bowl and adding an entire box of brown sugar. Short, simple, and oh-so-sweet. (But maybe it was diet cream soda.)

Gray skies

P&J were enjoying an inner tube float down the Narrow River, to Narragansett Beach, on May 16 when we noticed quite a crowd gathering above us at the Sprague Bridge Park off Route 1A. Smelling a news event, we paddled to shore, adjusted our Speedo thong bathing suits, and marched up the riverbank to see what all the fuss was about.

There, lo and behold, was none other than US Environmental Protection Agency head ramrodette Christie Whitewoman, surrounded by Governor Don "The Don" Carcieri and a slew of local government dignitaries from Vo Dilun and Massachusetts, as well as a ring of spectators and some of our media colleagues. Little did we know at the time that this would be Christie’s swan song, as she threw in her smog mask less than a week later and quit Dubya’s administration — with that tired old chestnut of an excuse, "I want to spend more time with my family." (Honk!) But we digress. The cause for the gathering was the announcement of an $800,000 EPA grant to the Ocean State for a grab bag of tree- and quahog-hugger projects, including cleaning up the very Narrow River where P&J had been blissfully cruising only minutes before.

Ms. Whitewoman, Colin Powell’s favorite cabinet member, gave a nice speech before presenting the eager guv with the financial windfall in the person of your usual oversized faux check. (However suggesting her boss, Dubya, is all for watershed management was a stretch, especially since he doesn’t actually know what one is.) But perhaps the finest moment of the dog-and-pony occurred while Narragansett Town Council president Brian Handrigan was speaking. The Don reached over and surreptitiously pinched Ms. Whitewoman’s buttock before quickly stepping back into the gathering of officials among whom he was standing. The EPA head quickly turned, glaring, and proceeded to slap Department of Environmental Management director Jan Reitsma, whom Carcieri had slipped behind, right in the face, with a crack that sounded like the report of a rifle from a duck blind in the marsh below. To his credit, the stoic but astonished Jan took the blow well, while The Don nearly bit through his lip trying not to laugh. Those Republicans. What cards. Always up to something.

But that wasn’t the worst of the day for Christie, since she was cornered after the ceremonies by P&J’s old buddy, JAR-head R.J. Heim, who pressed her about Dubya the Dumb’s bogus "Clear Skies" (purportedly) anti-air pollution initiative. This is about as forthright as describing the Buzzard’s Bay oil spill as a good model for improved water quality. A typical back-pedaling response from Whitewoman — no problem with old coal-powered plants . . . boy, we’re cracking down . . . Clear Skies bill wonderful . . . how long is my nose getting now . . . who’s a wind dummy . . . blah, blah, blah. But good on R.J. for putting her on the ropes, because Boy George’s environmental agenda is to natural resources what the US Cavalry was to Indian nations. Might this have been the straw that broke the camel’s back?

Rhymes with homos

Phillipe’s late father would have been proud.

P’s dad was an alumnus of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia (and the only Protestant in his class), where more than 100 2003 graduates walked out prior to the commencement address by that loathsome phony, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. The reason was the smirking Neanderthal Santorum’s recent remarks to the Associated Press, which equated homosexuality with bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery.

What was almost as despicable as the Senate’s third-ranking Republican’s screed was Dubya quick race to his rescue, including a description of the homophobic Santorum as an "inclusive" person. Aaah, life with the Bushies — black is white, white is black.

Good on the St. Joe’s kiddies who took a walk on this clown, and sleep tight, George Orwell. It’s all coming true, you just got the date wrong.

Ink awards

One of the big annual events for local newspaper people is the Rhode Island Press Association’s awards banquet, the most recent of which was held last Friday, May 16. Basically, the ink-stained wretches from around the state gather at the Hotel Viking in Newport, have a couple of cocktails, talk shop, eat dinner, listen to a guest speaker, and then virtually everyone in the room wins some kind of award. Everyone except Phillipe & Jorge who, as regular readers of this column have probably ascertained, would never qualify for any sort of legitimate award.

We are, however, happy to report that there has been a huge upgrade in the quality of food at the Viking since new management took over. The grub at the RIPA banquet has been a running joke among Phoenix folks for years, sparking theories that the meal was designed to sell more drinks. Another pleasant surprise this year was a pamphlet of 12 essays on the importance of access to government meetings and records in Vo Dilun. It was put together by Access/RI, a broad-based, nonprofit coalition founded in 1996, with the goal of advancing freedom of information in the Biggest Little. Access/RI is associated with Brown’s Taubman Center for Public Policy, but a great deal of the credit for its success must be given to URI’s Linda Lotridge Levin. The pamphlet was produced with the help of a National Freedom of Information Coalition grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

This year’s speaker was the governor, Don "The Don" Carcieri, and one wag pointed out to Jorge that his presentation bore a striking resemblance to an advertising presentation (i.e., start with a joke, hit on five or six key points, end with a joke). Our Jolly Willy Loman was mercifully brief.

Pop quiz

Having always been concerned with education, your superior correspondents are worried about the teaching quality of social studies in our public schools. We have devised this brief quiz to see if our readers are up on recent events.

1) The Tigris and Euphrates are:

a) A Cranston law firm

b) Two popular brands of potato chips

c) Bush’s two latest appointments to the federal bench

2) Which one of the following is the name of one of Saddam Hussein’s sons?

a) Scooby Doo

b) Ixnay

c) Uday

d) Curly Joe

3) The Patriot Act and the newly proposed addition to the Patriot Act:

a) Expand the civil liberties of all Americans, particularly recent immigrants

b) Assure the New England football franchise a spot in the next Super Bowl

c) Mean that John Ashcroft probably knows which video you rented last night

4) The black vote was critical to George W. Bush in the 2000 election because:

a) So many African-Americans in Florida supported him

b) His love of jogging reminded voters of Al Sharpton’s jogging suits

c) He won the election by one vote and it was Clarence Thomas’s

5) All of the huge contracts to rebuild Iraq appear to be going to American-owned companies because:

a) Companies in other countries forgot to apply

b) American companies underbid all the others, even though there were no bids

c) Because, just because

The answers to these questions can be found by perusing a few daily newspapers.

Send sunscreen and Pulitzer-grade tips to p&j[a]phx.com.

Issue Date: May 23 - 29, 2003
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