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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Red State Tide?

Generally young men are regarded as radicals. This is a popular misconception. The most conservative persons I ever met are college undergraduates. The radicals are the men past middle life.
Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924)

It is a shame that the creeping infestation known as Red Tide has hit the Cape’s shorelines just after the sun has come out and the holiday season has begun. My condolences to the fisherfolk along the shore, and a hope for a speedy remediation.

However, the name of the plague fits another phenomenon that Porcupine has noticed, hitting primarily the shoreline area of Massachusetts, and he wonders if that infestation went unnoticed at the time.

Twenty odd years ago, was the coastline hit with what might be called Red State Tide? How else to describe the sudden proliferation of youthful Republican office holders and seekers along the shoreline?

Republican Adam Chaprales, (aged 21) is the most notorious, having captured a seat on the Sandwich Board of Selectmen by using the endorsement of William Delahunt, your usually uninvolved Congressman. This as proven to be quite an embarrassment to Delahunt’s office (he has yet to comment except through hapless minions) as the endorsement was given ‘based on age, among other things’. (Side Note – In an excellent letter to the Cape Cod Times, ousted Selectman Frank Pannorfi wrote in part
- “As a 63-year-old incumbent candidate who ran for re-election for Sandwich selectman, I must conclude under the congressman's criteria that I was unqualified for this position, because of my age. I find it interesting that on those few occasions when I have met with the congressman, or his staff, no mention was ever made of that being an issue. Apparently the congressman believes that since I now receive Social Security benefits I am no longer of any value to my town. When, where and under what circumstances did he have this epiphany?....Maybe seniors should take a long, hard look at the congressman's age in 2006."– Porcupine expects we shall hear from Mr. Pannorfi again!) Such an elementary step as checking the party registration of the young man was beyond the ability of the Congressman or his staff – after all, if he was young, he’s a Democrat, right? Perhaps the Congressman was more spooked than he cared to admit by his energetic, dynamic 30-something challanger from Plymouth last year, Mike Jones.

The Congressman might not have been so hidebound in his thinking if he considered young (29) Douglas Bennett, elected to the Nantucket Board of Selectmen a year ago and now considering a run for State Senate, assuming Gail Lese (aged 34) doesn’t choose to run again.

Who are these young folk? Isn’t the GOP the party of portly old men and hydrangea-haired ladies? Apparently not. New clubs of Young Republicans and College Republicans are chartered in Blue Massachusetts every day, and the clubs have begun to inject themselves into Bay State politics, energized by young legislators like Sen. Scott Brown, Rep. Vinny DeMacedo, Rep. Jeff Perry, Rep. Karen Polito and other such GOP luminaries.

There is a phenomenon called South Park Republicans – named after young television watchers, young people fed to the eyeteeth with the sanctimonious, politically correct, moribund drivel the Democrat Party has seen fit to adopt as its platform and operating premise. Family Guy is another show which appeals to these youngsters, Stewie being a particular favorite. Bored senseless with gray-haired, aging Red Diaper babies teaching in institutions of higher learning, extorting 'correct' responses from the young in return for favorable grades and pontificating about how they had been going to change everything back in the day, these young folk have looked to the Republican Party, especially after getting those $300 checks a while back, and realized that in fact, tax money actually came from them and it might behoove them to take an interest in how it is spent.

Worse, not a few of these young folk are women, allegedly impossible in party politics. Carrying their ‘W Stands for Woman’ signs last year, they worked, they ran and they made a difference in many races around the country. Many, if not most, are also pro-choice indicating a dangerous ability to work for a better candidate that they disagree with on some issues. Without their litmus tests, where will the Democrats – part of the single interest aggregation - be?

An early bellwether on Cape Cod was Kris Poole, Phil Early, and other Nauset students, who stood with American flags and Bush signs at the Eastham Windmill, near the elderly Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom anti-war demonstrators. Look at the fresh and withered faces, and think about the turning of the Red State Tide.

Perhaps we can blame it on the Outfall Pipe…

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Town Meeting Time

I heard about the Government and I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at it when I saw it.
Carl Sandburg (1878–1967). Chicago Poems. 1916.

Your Town Meeting season has about ended, and the periodic cry to do away with them has already begun. Of the state's 351 communities, 300 use Town Meeting to do business, including 260 towns that hold open Town Meetings. On Cape, all have town meetings except Barnstable, which chose to adopt a dysfunctional Town Council. Another town, Winthrop, which recently made the same choice said, ``There was a sentiment out there that having about 300 people make decisions on a $32 million budget at best twice a year was something that didn't structure us for the most efficiency,'' said Winthrop Board of Selectmen Chairman Martin O'Brien. They will soon learn that government functions best when it is least efficient. It’s when they get efficient that they become dangerous.

The Massachusetts Moderators Association, the trades-union of small-g government, has issued the following warning, ``If this institution is going forward we have to think of ways to fit the current culture. It is tough. It's not farmers sitting in an auditorium on a Saturday afternoon. It's people with soccer programs, gardening and other interests,'' said North Andover Town Moderator Charlie Salisbury, who is also president of the Massachusetts Moderators Association (MMA). The MMA's Town Meeting 2020 committee is tossing around such high-tech ideas as electronic voting, Internet debate forums and PowerPoint presentations. Already, moderators are seeing voters file into meetings with laptops and cellphones to tell their neighbors when a ``big'' vote will take place.”

To Porcupine, a really stressful spinning class just isn’t in the same catagory of importance as an annual life and death struggle to hoard enough food to last during a New England winter, so the ‘too busy’ excuse doesn’t wash. Likewise, the people with cell phones and Blackberries (banned from every town meeting that Porcupine ever attended!) aren’t really very different from the exodus of police and firefighters as soon as their contracts are ratified, leaving the rest of the warrant, which includes their children’s school budget, to the tender mercies of close-purse elders who are in no mood to squander tax dollars on mendicant children.

Actually, this remote participation began a while ago, when public access television gave people ways to watch Selectmen’s Meeting while in the comfort of their home. Not long ago, a little after eleven p.m., a tired Jane Otis of the Dennis Board wailed, Who is WATCHING US at this hour? Well, Porcupine was, albeit from a celestial perch, as were many other Dennis residents who find the shows addictive. One such resident, whose name rhymes with ‘air conditioner’, is notorious for hopping in his car and driving over to Town Hall to comment live.

And Lou is honoring the best of Town Meeting by doing so. Those 260 towns with open town meetings adhere to the purest form of democracy on earth. Every citizen is free to express an opinion, and attempt to sway fellow citizens to their point of view. The moderators vary in style – a musical comedy specialist in Provincetown, a leisurely three night meander in a few others, one town notorious for its brusque, last-man-standing style, with no questions answered and no amateurs allowed – but each chooses how its budget, policy and town will be ordered for the forthcoming year.

The biggest problem is the voters from ‘away’ – retirees who have never participated in such a forum, and who are cowed by the idea that THEY will decide if the police chief should get a new station. No, no, EXPERTS, they should do that! Many newer Cape residents are thrusting power away with both hands, uneasy in the requirement that they ARE the City Hall they griped about all their lives. And of course, power delegated is power lost forever.

A pox on internet voting, electronic debate forums, and other such sanitizing forces. We want blood on the floor, hardy souls who shout ‘NO’ as the tellers prepare to take the count, sneering at the lack-wits who hold up their paper token against us, and the ability of a single sensible person to make their way up to the mike and change the mind of 300 people with a well placed question. In person, personal, and populated.

We need a Town Meeting primer class, to help new citizens make the transition from victim to all-powerful body. If the Moderators Association won’t do it, it’s time we all take responsibility ourselves, or the last best hope of mankind shall be buried under an inexorable lava-like creep of bureaucracy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Hubris of the Fourth Estate

Many said selfishness was the flaw of our modern age; but then self-conceit emerged from a corner of the deepest hell to join selfishness.
Franz Grillparzer (1791–1872

I am continually amazed at the conduct of my fellow scriveners in this modern era. When I was besmirching politicians and ruining reputations, I didn’t delude myself that I was somehow a warrior for truth and justice, some sacred exquisite of superior sensibility. Exposing malfeasance for fun and profit was more like it.

But now, reporters have come to believe that they are a protected class – above laws, criticism and often reality. Their obliviousness has erupted in a particularly ugly way in the Newsweek controversy. By publishing an unsubstantiated report, since retracted, that the military was using copies of the Koran as latrine accessories, Newsweek caused worldwide riots that left 15 dead and many injured.

It demonstrates how ill educated, unsophisticated and egocentric these graduates of journalism factories – um - schools are that their blind hatred of George Bush would cause them to rush into print a story that barely rises to the level of the Hedda Hopper truth-in-gossip variety. The story is retracted, the editor admits they were wrong – and yet the rest of the wolf pack is still unwilling to admit error.

At the White House today, Press Spokesman Scott McLellan was attacked by the press pool for suggesting that Newsweek has some responsibility to correct the damage it has done.

“Who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?”

“You're pressuring them.”

“Are you asking them to write a story about how great the American military is; is that what you're saying here?” Oh, heaven forefend!

What was Mr. McLellan saying to provoke such fury? “Our military goes out of their way to handle the Koran with care and respect. There are policies and practices that are in place. This report was wrong. Newsweek, itself, stated that it was wrong. And so now I think it's incumbent upon Newsweek to do their part to help repair the damage. And they can do that through ways that they see best, but one way that would be good would be to point out what the policies and practices are in that part of the world, because it's in that region where this report has been exploited and used to cause lasting damage to the image of the United States of America. It has had serious consequences. And so that's all I'm saying, is that we would encourage them to take steps to help repair the damage. And I think that they recognize the importance of doing that. That's all I'm saying.”

Well! If we’re going to drag cause and effect into the argument, how can the oblivious function?

After the CBS fiasco, the Jayson Blair scandal, the Cliff Schectman-Cape Cod Times snafu, the Walter Cronkite never-mind - how do they manage to keep their self absorption so pristine?

Well, they DID go to the finest colleges, you know.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For…

There are serious objections to be met, fears to be disarmed, and rash hopes to be crushed
William Ellery Channing, from The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

In 1997, Congressman William Delahunt was asked by the Cape Cod Times how his first year in office had gone, and what grand, bold scheme was in the future. Delahunt unveiled his plan to close the Massachusetts Military Reservation, a ‘Cold War Dividend’ and create a wildlife sanctuary. But we’d keep the Coasties! He liked them!

This vision was quickly embraced by anti-military zealots, notably the late Joel Feigenbaum, who decided the best way to eliminate the military was to use environmental laws against them. They had a certain degree of success – they even taught seminars on Vieques Island, near Puerto Rico, on how to shut down a military base. That effort was more successful, and the island is now destitute.

But Camp Edwards and Otis stubbornly hung on, even though the Marine Corps was forced from the Base in 1998. Legislative efforts to close the Base stalled, as a lease was held by the Pentagon on the land and they did not choose to leave. Constant complaint, constant demonstration, constant misrepresentation – these were the techniques of the base activists, determined to prove that the Base was the source of all pollution and disease on Cape Cod.

Then Sept. 11, 2001 happened. The Base suddenly wasn’t superfluous anymore.

Today, that same William Delahunt stands exasperated on the Steps of the Massachusetts State House, complaining that ‘his’ Otis Air National Guard Base is being closed.

Really, Massachusetts didn’t fare too badly with the Base Realignment and Closing Commission, called BRAC. A far-sighted Mitt Romney described to a group of startled Republicans last winter the relationship he had developed with his one-time opponent, Sen. Ted Kennedy. Together, they wandered the halls of Congress, visiting the Republican leadership, with Kennedy standing well behind Romney at first to prevent ashtrays from being hurled at his hoary head. They offered to make capital improvements to Hanscom, Natick Labs, and other Massachusetts bases in return for keeping them open. Of course, John Kerry never bothered to accompany them on these forays. This novel strategy worked well – and today, Hanscom will gain over 1,000 new jobs. Overall, Massachusetts will gain 471 new jobs at bases throughout the state – even with the 550 lost at Otis. Compare that with complacent Connecticut, which will lose thousands of jobs on bases because they thought they were immune.

Delahunt, Romney and Kennedy held their press conference at the State House today, and vowed to try to keep Otis, too – even though they know the BRAC is 90% certain, and they actually did pretty good. Kerry, as usual, was nowhere to be seen, even though the event was held only two blocks from his Louisburg Square home - absent from duty once again.

And Bill Delahunt finally got his wish. The Base will be closed.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Upon My Oath as a Gentleman...

Facts are stubborn things
Alain Rene Le Sage (1668-1747)

You read it here first – it’s Mitt Romney’s fault that Tom Finneran may be indicted on Federal perjury charges for his testimony during the investigation into the 2000 redistricting plan, claiming he had no knowledge of the districts in advance.

Oh, there are holes to plug up, and bridges to build, but eventually the case will be made that a Republican Federal Attorney must have been influenced by Romney in making his decision. The fact that the Court deliberately foot-noted Finneran’s testimony as being questionable is just a side issue – after all, they were appointed by Dukakis!

I have a quick memo for the Democrat Party in general on this issue. You can mis-speak, obfuscate, omit and outright lie to your family, friends, supporters, Party and even the media – but when you enter the courtroom and put your hand on the Book, all that goes by the board. After the misadventures of your President Clinton on this issue, you would think that would be graven in stone for them by now – but it isn’t.

Already, former colleagues of the Speakah are springing to his defense, asserting that he didn’t mean to say anything wrong, and because his intentions were not evil, no crime was committed. Tell that to Martha Stewart! This follows the reasoning that because Clinton lied about sex, it didn’t really count.

Yes, it does. And it is called perjury.

None of us gets to decide what truths are comfortable for us to tell – judges do that. Lying or misremembering when instructed to answer is, in fact, the proverbial Federal case. It isn’t the crime, it’s the cover-up. It isn’t the lie, it’s the Oath.

And somehow, it will all be Mitt’s fault.

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