Rhode Island outraged by use of Massachusetts to illustrate size of oil spill

Rhode Island, perhaps because it is the smallest state in the union, is the preferred media reference when describing the size of something. This works well for both the factual and the fantastical.

031105_RhodeIsland The following are just from news stories in the past week:

The ice sheets that peel off of Antarctica all seem mathematically related to the Ocean State. The most recent: An Ice Shelf the Size of Rhode Island Breaks Up in Just 24 Hours

For those of you keeping track at home, Rhode Island is either 1000 square miles in size (just measuring the land part) or 1,500 sq. mi. if you include Narragansett Bay as well. Now comes the horrific news that MASSACHUSETTS!!! of all places is being used as a measure.

They say the dead zone is roughly the size of Massachusetts, or at least 7,722 square miles. The largest ever measured was just over 8,000 square miles in 2001.

Rhode Island has always had a chip on its shoulder about Massachusetts. My home state was literally founded by Bay State castoffs (cast off because they were in favor of things like religious tolerance, I might add). So this trend has to be stopped in its tracks. NOW. So Mr. Reporter, lets try again. It is nearly EIGHT TIMES THE SIZE OF RHODE ISLAND!!! Now, isn’t that more impressive?

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Most colorful pol in US ready to run again for office!

God bless you, Buddy Cianci.

Cianci –– former mayor of Providence, RI, current radio talk show host, and convicted felon – says he may get back into politics. Cianci says he may run against either Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Carpet Bagger) or current Mayor David N. Cicilline (the only gay Jewish Italian mayor IN THE WORLD!).

marinara Buddy is an astute observer of politics and he notes there is a strong anti-incumbent feeling out there. This feeling is running even higher in the Bay State which has something like a 13% unemployment rate. (Top that Michigan!) To outsiders it would seem that even that wouldn’t be enough for Cianci to get elected. They would be wrong.

Outsiders get all hung up on the fact that Buddy left office in disgrace not once but twice.

  • In 1984 he resigned the mayoralty after pleading no-contest to charges of kidnapping and assaulting Raymond DeLeo with a fireplace log, an ashtray and a lighted cigarette. Cianci believed DeLeo, a long-time friend, was having an affair with the mayor’s estranged wife. This assault was witnessed by Cianci’s police chauffeur, his divorce lawyer, the Providence director of public works and a former state attorney general. But that’s ancient history.
  • In 2002, during his seventh term as mayor, he was convicted for running a criminal enterprise out of City Hall and served a 4.5 year sentence. In some states that could present a problem, but not in Little Rhody where getting busted is practically a rite of passage for most pols. (For even more entertaining details click here for my article on RI, politics and corruption.)

Outsiders get it wrong because if you haven’t lived in RI you have no idea how weird it is. It is Fellini meets Terry Gilliam only weirder.

If Buddy runs do not bet against him. He has lost only one election that I can think of. His pasta sauce, The Mayor’s Own Marinara, is still sold throughout the state (and if you want some amusement google “Rhode Island gift baskets” and look at the contents).He remains popular with the electorate because he probably knows all of them. As Providence Journal columnist Bob Kerr told me, “I always remember there’s the friend of mine who’s a Cambodian guy – he came here, survived the killing fields. Did the classic American struggle, went to school and went to college, became a school counselor and then he got his master’s degree. On a hot summer afternoon in South Providence in this guy’s backyard, they were celebrating his master’s degree with some Cambodian food and a few friends and up comes the limo and out gets Buddy with a proclamation. … And that’s him, he’s always doing stuff like that.” During his times in office it was widely believed that Buddy would attend the opening of a door.

Sadly Kennedy’s seat is probably safe. Buddy would be bored out of his mind in Congress and he knows it. But if he runs for mayor his only opposition will be the good government types who are ethically right and about as interesting as a damp sponge.

Also in Buddy’s favor is the “he can’t be any worse than what we already have” factor. If I still lived in RI, I’d vote for him in a heartbeat – he may not always provide bread but he excels at circus.

First God gets an airline, now He/She/They/It get a social networking site

Social networking seems to have found religion or visa versa.

A site called CircleBuilder.com wants to be a MySpace and FaceBook “where people of all faiths can come together to nurture their personal relationships and put their faith into practice.”

The idea of an on-line social networking service for religion seems odd to me. Churches, mosques, synagogues are one of, if not THE orginal social network. That person-to-person community and connection is such an essential part of what these places are that having an on-line simulacrum seems … I don’t know exactly … but at least jarring.

It is a deeply non-denominational site – which in a way I also find jarring.

CircleBuilder is an online networking and management platform enabling faith-based organizations to increase their membership, improve fundraising, organize events and more efficiently serve their community. Through our simple to use web-based interface we create numerous “touch points”—personalized emails, shared calendars, blogs, text messages, online donations and storefronts, streaming media and newsletters—by which members can communicate with their organizations and with each other.

CBlogoNothing wrong with any of this, it’s just that I’m a uncomfortable with the euphemisms they use: people of faith & faith-based organization. While it is inclusive it is also so inclusive as to be meaningless: Cubs fans are a people of faith and support a faith-based organization, after all. Isn’t our current administration’s foreign policy faith-based, in the worst possible meaning of the phrase. (And isn’t the CircleBuilder logo just a wee bit Christian looking? Maybe what makes me uncomfortable about these euphemisms is that so far I have only heard them from Christians so they’re like code words to use in situations where that pesky separation of church-and-state issue might come up.)

I come from Rhode Island, a state founded by Roger Williams because he thought people should have the freedom to worship or not worship in whatever way they please without government interference. I have always been very proud of the fact that my little home state was started for this reason. (And it doesn’t hurt that Williams actually purchased the land for his first settlement from the Native Americans who were living in the area!) So I am a big believer in the ecumenical.

That said, I think a person belongs to a church or a synagogue or a mosque or wood grove or temple to Apollo or whatever and not to just some generic “faith.” Heck, my religious beliefs are so idiosyncratic that once you get past prayer and the belief in a deity I’m generally at variance with some tenet or another of pretty much every organized system of worship. But just the same, I’d rather be called someone who believes in God than a “person of faith.”

Wonder what the folks over at my favorite church marketing blog think about all this?

UPDATE: Just found a VentureBeat article from earlier this week on the general theme of churches and social networking … click here … the author doesn’t mention CircleBuilder, but I don’t have a lot of those things he has … what are they called? … oh yeah, facts.