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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More Adventures in the Alternative Universe

When the break comes, those who start it will be astonished to find how many of their friends have been in favor of it for a long time, and have only been waiting to see some one take the lead. This desirable solution can only be attained by the defeat, and continued defeat, of the Democratic party as now constituted.
Conclusion of "Reasons for Being a Republican", one of the few speeches made by General Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822–85) after he retired from public life. Delivered at Warren, Ohio, on September 28, 1880.

We saw the best of Mike O'Keefe last night.

Not the terse, tight-lipped District Attorney, not the DNA-sweep self-justifying politician, not the alleged ladies’ man – rather, the humble, thoughtful and even vulnerable friend of late D.A. Phillip Rollins. Last night, the Cape Cod Republican Club (CCRC) gave its annual Lincoln Day Award to Phil Rollins, and O’Keefe spoke before a movie from Rollins’ retirement party was shown. It was a compilation of snapshots (including a honk-nosed John Kerry, sporting a mustache, from the days when he was Dukakis' Lt. Governor!), old videos, and tributes from those who worked with him like Frank Bellotti and Bill Delahunt. In it, O’Keefe was still the future DA, and you could see in the film why Rollins chose him as a successor, and even more, you could see the competence, dignity and strength in the man as he spoke that told us all what a good choice Rollins had made. It is a side of O’Keefe that is not seen often enough, and one we must remember as he faces reelection.

A bust of Abraham Lincoln was presented to Priscilla Rollins in Phil’s honor, and Rep. Gomes also brought a citation from the House. Fran Manzelli explained to the gathered crowd of over 120 that the CCRC President, Tom George, was currently in Cabo San Lucas (in light of some remarks made that was perhaps a good thing).

Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy spoke next, and talked a little about the priorities of the Legislature which are so askew. If the Democrat solons fail to act by the end of this week on the health care bill filed by Gov. Romney, the state will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal funding. The debate is hot and heavy right now, on the subject of – vending machines in schools. The health care bill has been bogged down in a legislative conference committee for weeks, and they cannot allow it to go forward – as it might give Mitt Romney a legislative victory. No, better far that the state lose the money through their dog-in-the-manger actions; why, then they can say it’s George Bush’s fault! Anything but their own inaction and inattentiveness to the people’s business!

Which brings us to Matt Wylie, the Executive Director of the Mass GOP. Wylie spoke about the various training efforts being made for legislative candidates, and how happy he was to be on Cape Cod, where every seat is a contested one – with two Republican primaries to boot! He said that he believed that primaries were healthy, and a real sign of a revitalized party (and it is at that point that he should be grateful that Tom George was in Mexico, as Tom does NOT like primaries at all!). He spoke of the Healey-Mihos situation, and told us that Mihos had said he would be making an announcement in front of the State House on Thursday as to whether or not he would run as a Republican.

Which brings us to all the candidates there (in addition to the Lt. Governor) – Kevin Scott for U.S. Senate running against Ted Kennedy, Phil Paleologos for Governor’s Council, Ric Barros and Doug Bennett for State Senate, Dick Neitz for First Barnstable, Don Howell and Aaron Maloy for Fourth Barnstable, Bill Doherty for County Commissioner, Jack Meade for Register of Deeds, Scott Nickerson for Clerk of Courts. All were given 90 seconds, and despite the reputation of SEVERAL for verbosity, they all did very well. (By the way - Porcupine has decided to refer to Primary candidates alphabetically).

Which brings us to the most exciting announcement of the evening – Will Crocker, long time news director of WQRC and Ocean 104, told the group that he had submitted his resignation, in order to run for the Second Barnstable seat against Demetrius Atsalis! Will Crocker is a Cape Cod native, and his many years as news director at Cape Cod's premier news station has given him a unique education over the course of time in the issues and concerns facing Cape Cod. Crocker said, "I really admire all of those present for running, and know how much dedication this takes - But I have actually had to quit my job in order to run for this seat, and I think that shows real determination! I want to go to Beacon Hill, restore the integrity of the Second Barnstable District, and make sure that the Chapter 70 education formula is FAIR - fair for Barnstable, and fair for all the towns on Cape Cod!" An auspicious debut, indeed!

Which brings us to one final thought. If over 120 Democrats had gathered to hear Atty. Gen. Tom Reilly and Democrat Party Chair Phil Johnston speak in Hyannis, the Cape Cod Times would probably hired a news chopper, let alone send a reporter. They knew about the event, as it appeared in their calendar listings, as it did with other papers. But, once again, Porcupine is the only one to bring you news about the doings in the Alternative Republican Universe in bright blue Massachusetts.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Another Miers Moment?

Realizing that common sense and common decency alike dictate the futility of appeasement, we shall never try to placate an aggressor by the false and wicked bargain of trading honor for security. Americans, indeed all free men, remember that in the final choice a soldier's pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner's chains.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, First Inaugural Adress, 1952

When former President Jimmy Carter says your stance is a good one, isn't that reason enough to rethink it?

President George Bush has mulishly announced that he will support a deal to lease our east coast port facilities to a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates, and has gone so far as to threaten to
veto any legislation which would overturn the deal. Yet, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has called for a halt to the deal, and Speaker Dennis Hastert has asked for more review. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said that the concerns of the legislators were "legitimate". "I'm not against foreign ownership," said Frist, "but my main concern is national security." That is precisely where Sen. Frist is wrong, as is the Administration.

A private British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., runs major commercial operations at in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia. It has recently been acquired by Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates (). UAE and Dubai have been good allies in the Middle East, at least off and on, and Bush is understandably worried about losing face with the seven sheikhs. Yet the control of our ports is something that should remain in the hands of the United States, even if it is more expensive. Porcupine is second to none in his admiration of the United Kingdom, and has an understanding of the 'special relationship' that has served both our countries so well, but this is an opportune time to reexamine whether the sovereignty of our nation should be outsourced to even the best of friends.

Sometimes, Porcupine grows weary of politicians who will run government 'just like a business'. It cannot be done. Government is not a business, it is a public service which is free of the profit motive. Yes, business methods can be introduced into government practices to provide greater efficiency, but government is never going to be as cost effective as the private sector, for the simple reason that it is largely immune from the laws of the marketplace. It cannot go out of business from a bad decision, and the only reward is the status quo for making a good decision. The security of our ports is a governmental matter, not a commercial one.

Much will be said about anti-Arab discrimination, the fact that some of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE, that the Cabinet examined and endorsed this deal, that Dubai is a vital port for our military, that U.S. Customs would still control what gains admittance, that the President should conduct business in the most efficient fashion. None of this is germane to our autonomy as a nation and our national security.

The President has alienated his conservative supporters, much as the Miers nomination did. Porcupine expects this deal to be overturned, and a veto to be overridden if things get that far. Then we need only worry about the fallout of alienating an ally over a matter of first principles, and the potential wrath against our ships and servicemen.

This arrangement should never have been allowed to progress this far.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Carnival of Liberty XXX - President's Day Edition

When Porcupine submitted his invitation to participate in this Carnival of Liberty, he suggested that since it was President's Day it would be especially appropriate to blog about the Power of Government as it affects Liberty, especially by the Executive Branch. He was well rewarded with submissions from every point of view.

Dr. Lonnie Hodge
HERE says in his post about 'The Road to Guantanimo' "This won't make anybody happy - liberals, moderates or conservatives - but I blog them as I see them". Indeed he does - writing from the heart of censored China, One Man Bandwidth asks hard questions about the nature of Liberty itself in an age of global terrorism.

The New Chainik Hockner tells of a new book which illustrates how America helped spread Liberty in the last century
HERE, and Mensa Barbie writes about how we are continuing on that mission today HERE.

Our Government is sometimes the agent who threatens our Liberty, warns Scatterbox on the impact of intrusive new reporting requirements
HERE , and at other times Government can serve as our protector with appropriate action as Stop the ACLU points out HERE.

Our property - an intrinsic element of our American Liberty - is threatened by government says Forward Biased
HERE , Liberty Papers HERE and Eidelblog agrees HERE. An example of judicial error are submitted by Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds HERE.

Kender's Musings asks angry questions of all our elected officials
HERE and they are ones which they should be prepared to answer honestly. New World Man reminds us of one of the best Presidents of the 20th century HERE and how TR was perhaps the most principled President of the last hundred years (Porcupine admits to a personal liking for for him).

Porcupine would like to finish this Carnival with two very different meditations on liberty. The first is from his sardonic friend, Mr. Ogre, who favors us with a new meditation on the Little Red Hen and the forces gradually crushing our Liberty
HERE. (Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun - Ogre should perhaps read the ancient origins of repressive tax policy at State of Flux HERE). In a more idealistic vein, Always on Watch has submitted a Sonnet for President's Day written by a homeschooled child, which gives us all a reminder of the Liberty which we cherish and the price that was paid to obtain it.

And being Porcupine, he will have the last word. The wide variation in ideas, styles, and principles submitted by these various bloggers - some of whom Porcupine applauds while others he disagrees with fervently - is an excellent excercise in Liberty and freedom of speech and thought. While much of the world is still in flames over this issue, as Either Orr points out so well HERE, it behooves us to be thankful that we can so productively disagree.

TTLB Link - http://www.truthlaidbear.com/ubercarnival.php

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Apples and Oranges? No, Apples and Apples

"Ultimately I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend, and that's something I'll never ."

The gravelly voice was even scratchier than usual as Vice President Dick spoke publicly for the first time about the hunting accident that injured his friend of 30 years, Atty. Harry . His main offense seems to be not speaking to the major MSM until 72 hours after the shot. Worse, 18 hours after the accident, he allowed an eyewitness to give a statement to the local paper in Austin, creating an official record before the White House Press Corps could comment. How DARE he not consult with the reporting pool in Washington immediately, and allow some small town tintype to steal their time?

Think that’s an overstatement? Consider the monologue Monday night on Leno, or Letterman’s Top Ten List. But they are professional comedians; the efforts of the amateurs are far more smarmy. Jim Brady, who was crippled by a gunshot during an assassination attempt on President Reagan, joked that he wondered why Dick Cheney was always asking him to go hunting. That was marginal, but Mrs. Brady was worse. She unctuously stated that she had always thought that Cheney had a weird vibe about him, and now that he had shot a man, she knew she had been right to be afraid of him. Al Franken said he had either been drinking, or was an incredible jerk. Before they learned that Mr. Whittington was being kept in intensive care for privacy reasons, and was in fact sitting up and working on legal briefs after the small pellet caused a 'silent' heart attack, the Democrat D.A. announced that if the man died the Vice President could expect to sit in front of a Grand Jury immediately (how many hunting accidents in Texas do you think he prosecuted last year?) And on and on.

This was an accident. But because Cheney didn’t grovel sufficiently and quickly enough to NBC, CNN, et al, the most amazing inferences are being tossed around by the Washington insiders. "I think the reason it took the vice president a day to talk about this is part of the secretive nature of this administration," said the top Senate Democrat 'Searchlight Harry' Reid. "They keep things pretty close to the chest." Of course, last August, Reid and his family kept his mini-stroke a secret from the press for three days, until the tests were done and they were sure he would pull through. But that was different. That was a medical situation. Besides, they're Democrats.


Porcupine was able to meet the Vice President briefly, just a handshake and a smile. But seeing him up close and in person allowed Porcupine to see the personality that Mrs. Brady found so sinister. Actually, it seemed somewhat familiar.

Sometimes, it's useful to characterize a person by using a local and well known personality as an example. Dick Cheney is gruff, stubborn, experienced and has a kind heart - think former Rep. Tom George.

In fact.....

President George Bush is brash, almost overconfident, with deep convictions and strong opinions - think Rep. Jeff Perry.

Former Vice President Al Gore is aloof, wooden, opinionated, given to odd flashes of rage - think Rep. Matt Patrick.

Former President Bill Clinton needs to be loved by everybody, can be inconsistent in positions on issues, but has a real knack of making a connection that makes you forget the contradictions - think Rep. Shirley Gomes.

Cong. Tom DeLay is vengeful, opinionated, and careless about money and rules, which are for other people - think Rep. Demetrius Atsalis.

Sen. Hillary Clinton is making a teeth-gritting attempt to be seen as a moderate, but is a flaming and passionate ultra-liberal under her assumed rationality - think Rep. Cleon Turner.

Sen. 'Searchlight Harry' Reid is quite senior in years of service, and should be an influential leader, but radiates ineffectiveness and ineptness - think Rep. Eric Turkington.

Sen. Ted Kennedy is rambling, incoherent, confused, big-haired, and admired more for past accomplishments than for any current capabilities - think Sen. Rob O'Leary.

Sen. John McCain is an intelligent workhorse, despised by the fringe elements of the Party - think Sen. Therese Murray.

See? Apples and Apples after all.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Best Regards of the Day, Mr. President

'Tis the wink of an eye - 'tis the draught of a breath - From the blossom of health to the paleness of death, From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud, Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

The quote above is from the poem 'Mortality', which was a favorite of President Abraham who recited it entire from memory so often that he was mistakenly thought to be the author. He wrote to a friend, that "I would give all I am worth, and go into debt, to be able to write so fine a piece as I think that is. Neither do I know who is the author. I met it in a straggling form in a newspaper last summer, and I remember to have seen it once before, about fifteen years ago, and this is all I know about it." And this was the man who wrote what is considered to be the finest oration ever given, the Gettysburg Address! A link to the enitre fourteen sentimental and melancoly verses is found HERE.

It might seem odd to mention this facet of the President's nature as part of a birthday tribute, but it was a compelling and overarching feature of his life, which gave his tremendous empathy for the sufffering of others. Lincoln's melancholy was the father of his compassion, and perhaps allowed him to preside over the most critical period of American history with a sense of fatalism, destiny and religious faith. Indeed, an excellent article in the Atlantic Monthly in October of 2005 argued that Lincoln's chronic and devastating clinical depression, in an era without psychiatry or medication, was what gave him the strength of character necessary to cope during the Civil War years. He had been broken many times, but had to rebuild himself, becoming stronger with each episode. It is unnerving to think of a President sitting in the Oval Office, racked with uncontrollable sobbing, confessing to friends that he dared not carry a pocket knife for fear of what he might do during an attack of 'the hypos' (for hypochondria) as he called it - but this is the man who kept the country together during its most dangerous challange, freed the slaves, and was the first President and among the founders of the Republican Party.

As we go into another election year, and begin the wailing about the quality and timbre of those who put themselves forward, please consider this. Would we, as a nation, state or district, allow a person with clinical depression to serve as our elected representative? Would we narrow our focus to the flaw, and fail to see the person that the flaw has strengthened?

Worse, would we elect a person who was ugly, with a thin reedy voice?

We cannot elect a person to office knowing what will be the most important issue they will be called upon to cast a vote. Locally, while working on a campaign in 2002 where gay marriage was a hot issue, Porcupine went back and looked at the leading question asked in 2000, the great determining factor in the last election. It had been the stance on the death penalty - which didn't even get a hearing in the Session after the 2002 election. In 2004, after the media was done ascertaining how a candidate stood on gay marriage, the first important issue to be voted on was stem cell research - which hadn't even been on the radar of the questioners during that election.

We must elect people not on a narrow stance or issue, but on their overall personality, maturity, judgement and experience. Frankly, the narrow interest groups who make so much noise and demand so much attention during elections are little more than Rorsach blots to see how a candidate reacts; and be wary of one who tries too hard to line up endorsements like ducks in a row, or parrots a narrow party line on a specific issue with no real ideas of their own. Those will probably not be the issues that the politician is called upon to make decisions about.

For those interested in learning more about Abraham Lincoln, there is the digitization project of the Illinois Historical Society and Northern Illinois University, Lincoln/Net .

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Seeds of Hatred

You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.
James Thurber (1894–1961), "The Bear Who Let It Alone", Fables for Our Time, 1940.

Massachusetts has certainly been in the news lately, and none of it has been flattering. Two young men are making headlines, and Porcupine wonders if there isn't a line that can be drawn between them.

Jason was a deeply unhappy and troubled eighteen year old, who became attracted to a white supremacist mentality and began a tirade of hate and loathing, ending in a hatchet attack upon the patrons of a bar and the death of a police officer in Arkansas. His ideas and actions were reprehensible, but Porcupine wonders why such extreme attitudes grew in one so young.

Then, Porcupine learns of another young man who has been suspended from his Brockton school at the age of five for sexual harassment for touching a young girl in his class. The suspenson is ludicrous upon its face, as harassment requires a sustained pattern of abuse rather than a single incident, but pause to consider if Jason Robida was also told about his intrinsic unworthiness at a very young age.

The only real unforgivable sin in our culture anymore is to be white, healthy, straight, and male. If you are rich too, then a pact with Satan is obvious.

Christina Hoff wrote about this phenomenon in 2000 in her book, "The War Against Boys", and was soundly trounced for having bizarre and incorrect views. Her book was summarized with a 2000 New York Times piece, which questioned a spate of feminist books claiming that girls in school needed special attention (link
HERE). Four years earlier, she had written an article with the same title for the Boston Globe about an incident in a Worcester school (link HERE) which bears a striking resemblance to the current situation in Brockton. One telling paragrah reads as follows:

While the boys need re-education, the girls need all the help they can get to survive in the "patriarchy." Consider the girls-only holiday "Take Our Daughters to Work Day," an annual event organized and run by the Ms. Foundation. Reacting to growing protests over the boys' exclusion, the Ms. people decided to initiate "Son's Day," an annual holiday for boys. Among the suggested activities for "Son's Day" are:

* Take your son to an event that focuses on ... ending men's violence against women. Call the Family Violence Prevention fund at 800 END-ABUSE for information.
* Make sure your son is involved in preparing the family for the work and school week ahead. This means: helping lay out clothes for siblings [and] making lunches ...

In short, this punitive little holiday was contrived by women who are convinced that what our male children need most is indoctrination.

She further explained, "For the past 10 years, groups, such as the American Association of University Women, the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Legal Defense and Education Fund have been successfully lobbying the federal government to impose strict harassment codes in the schools. In August (of 1996), the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights issued a 26-page guideline on the subject of "peer harassment." No age limits were specified." In 1996, at the begining of the enforcement of these policies here in Massachusetts schools, Jason Robida was eight years old.

Porcupine expects to be excoriated for writing this, but please consider. While positive role models are presented for every minority, such as persons of every color, women, and the disabled, positive protraits of 'dead white men' have been given a shorter and shorter shrift in school curriculums and socitey at large. Porcupine finds it interesting that here in the blogosphere, where we are all disembodied voices, charges of racism, sexism and predjudice are flung around quite freely, when those making these claims has no idea of the race, gender, age or inclination of the writer.

In the conclusion of her book, Sommers writes, "In our schools, therapeutic practices have effectively supplanted the moral education of yesterday. Ironically, those who pressed for discarding the old directive moral education did so in the name of freedom, for they sincerely believed that moral education "indoctrinated" children and "imposed" a teacher's values on them, something they thought the schools had no right to do. In fact, the "therapism" that took the place of the old morality is far more invasive of the child's privacy and far more insidious in its effects on the child's autonomy than the directive moral education that was once the norm in the every school."

Porcupine has long contended that we have changed in this country from a patriarchy, brusquely ordering from the top down, to a matriarchy, intruding into and drearily attempting to regulate every facet of life and thought. As our Cape towns become 'No Place for Hate', it is to be hoped that young straight white males do not come to feel that they are the only true Judas goats left.

That may have been how Jason Robida felt.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Last Night in Republican Boston

Imagine Howard Dean coming to town and nobody writing about it? Well, his counterpart was at the Parker House in Boston last night, and there is only Porcupine to write about it.

There was a very good crowd from all over the state. Every announced GOP candidate from Cape Cod was there, along with both State Committee members and Cape Cod Republican Club officers. All had come to hear from the official head of the national Republican Party, Ken Mehlman.

Mehlman is no stranger to Massachusetts. He got his law degree from Harvard, and worked in Bill Weld’s first campaign. Before his election as Chairman in 2005, Mehlman served as campaign manager for Bush-Cheney ’04, and before that he served from 2001 to 2003 as White House Political Director. Mehlman was National Field Director for Bush-Cheney 2000, where he worked with the campaign leadership in all fifty states and the National Committee to mobilize strong grassroots.

Before joining President Bush, Mehlman was Congresswoman Kay Granger’s Chief of Staff and Congressman Lamar Smith’s Legislative Director. At first glance, he looks very young, but he quickly emerges as a mature and thoughtful individual, with a dry wit. Perhaps his best known retort was to his counterpart, Howard Dean. When Dean claimed that the GOP was ‘a white, Christian party’, Mehlman remarked that his rabbi would be very surprised to hear that.

After a brief introduction from Massachusetts Party Chair Darrell Crate and a welcome from Lt. Governor Kerry Healy, Mehlman made the following remarks. Porcupine is not a tape recorder and did not take extensive notes, but this is the gist of what was said.

It’s great to be back in Massachusetts, and it’s fun to go around talking about how important this election is, but usually it’s not true. This time, it really is.
The Republican Party is the party of social innovation. Lincoln changed the nation and preserved it with the abolition of slavery. Theodore Roosevelt protected the working man from expoitation by trusts and monopolies. We as a party have had have had several crucial epochs. The Republican response to the Soviet Union after World War II, and the framework laid down in the 1940’s and 1950’s for the Cold War was such an epoch. In the 1960’s, the Republican leadership role in writing and passing civil rights and voting rights legislation was another such epoch. In the 1980’s, as Reagan changed the way the country defended itself and changed the world economy, we went through another such epoch. We are now engaged in another struggle like those. The global economy and the danger of international terrorism demand that the country learn once again to think in a different way. It is important that we remain strong, loyal to our allies and unafraid of those who seek to intimidate us. It is very important that the Congress remain in the hands of the Republicans, so I say to you that this is an important election year.

We will be able to do this by grass roots party building and by using the newest technologies intelligently and effectively. For instance, during the Superbowl, many of the ‘sought after’ ads were filled with promotional spots for ABC and for local affiliates. The ads were not all purchased, as the defining power of mainstream media is waning. are more important than ever. They have revised and defined debate in whole new ways, and the Party and the White House both pay close attention to what they have to say. It was Bloggers who contested the Miers nomination, and it was Bloggers who spotted the Rather forgeries. Their importance cannot be overstated. This is grass roots media, and grass roots information, and they make the Party strong in the same way that grass roots organizing makes our party strong.

Mehlman’s remarks were well received, and the crowd began to connect and network – exactly as Mehlman had described. Porcupine had a nice conversation with media analyst Charley Manning, and sympathized with him that since he was a mainstream media type, he was on the decline. Manning thinks he’ll survive just fine.

Later, Porcupine was struck by another facet of Ken Mehlman’s remarks. You can agree or disagree with his assessment of our status and his solutions for them, but the fact remains that he has a vision and a solution. This is precisely what Howard Dean is lacking. As a local example, I give you a link to the blog of Ray Clement, who has written a piece for CCToday called ‘What is Mitt Afraid Of?’ One of his blog entries is called ‘Why I Am Proud to Be a Massachusetts Liberal’ (HERE). Instead of stating what he believes or would like to accomplish, he writes only about how evil Republicans are. He allows his political enemies to entirely define him.

In Ken , the GOP has a strong leader with a strong vision. Good thing he’s around for this important election year.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Less Than A Dollar A Week

On another thread on the Cape Cod Today web site which carries his ruminations, Porcupine has been disagreeing with Cape Cod Crusader about being insensitive to the needs of Dorchester and other area towns. Crusader said, "You should not mention names of towns when you talk about this subject. You sound as if you are discriminating, and stereotyping which leads to alienation and fear of a certain region. I realize there are individuals who should be doing more for themselves. I could name a few towns on the Cape that encourage unflattering behavior, I could also mention towns that appear, say prefer to retain a less diverse populace of race, class and religion. But I don't mention the towns by name, because that is NOT THE POINT. " My rejoinder was, "Crusader - you are exactly wrong. The name of the city IS the point. Feel free to substitute Chelsea, Somerville, Brookline, Cambridge, etc. The purpose of the various formulas for distributing state aid, be it for education, roads, or lottery, is that they are rigged for maximum benefit for Boston and environs. Worcester, New Bedford and Lowell are thrown enough to keep them quiet. I am entirely alienated from the Boston region already, thank you."

Why do I mention this? Because it is exactly relevant to the new demand for cash from the Legislature by the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA).

Porcupine admits to being something of a zealot on this subject. He has spent hours on their web site (
HERE), muttering unflattering imprecations to himself about the greed and obliviousness of this Boston super-bureaucracy, which takes in 60 urbanized cities and towns.
Taken from the web site is an explanation of the money demand - "In the early years of , repayment of principal on large capital projects was deferred to protect ratepayers from the sudden impact of rapid spending. " (WHY?)

"In response to a growing public outcry against rising water and sewer rates (BY THOSE IN BOSTON), the legislature appropriated $20 million to MWRA in FY1994 for the Commonwealth’s Sewer Rate Relief Fund, also known as 'debt service assistance.' This amount was enough to offset 20% of MWRA’s debt service for wastewater projects (THIS IS THE OUTFALL PIPE). By FY2002, the appropriation had grown to almost $53 million and included debt services for the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel (YES, INDEED, LET'S EXPAND THE SUBSIDY SINCE IT 'S WORKING SO WELL! NO SENSE SENDING IT TO THOSE RICH CAPE COD SCHOOLS OR ANYTHING!). Debt service assistance was designed to offset revenues that would otherwise have to come directly from ratepayers (LIKE IT DOES EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE STATE!). "

""In FY2003, the program was eliminated in response to the state's fiscal crisis. (NINE YEARS FOR THE GRAVY TRAIN TO END!) This cut represented a 10% reduction in MWRA’s annual revenue in the middle of the year. (PLEASE NOTE - THE FIGURE JUST CHANGED FROM A 20% SUBSIDY OF DEBT SERVICE TO 10% OF ANNUAL REVENUE). Other than state debt service assistance, MWRA has no impact on the state budget. (THE IMPACT IS IN THE MONEY IT SUCKS AWAY FROM THE OTHER CITIES AND TOWNS, AND OUT OF TAXPAYERS POCKETS!) Over 90% of MWRA’s total revenue is derived from users’ rates and charges. (GEE, IT'S 100% HERE!)"

Tell me, when did the state last help Cape Cod with IT'S water and sewer troubles? Why is money from the General Fund dedicated to 60 out of 351 cities and towns? " The MWRA Advisory Board has been working tirelessly to have state debt service assistance restored. So far, 49 communities have signed a resolution to have funding restored at a minimum of $25 million." I just bet they have.

You may say, Porcupine, this is a big issue. Most of the ratepayers in the State are in the MWRA. Yet the MWRA is condemned by its own practices. From another page on their interesting web site comes this statistic (
HERE). Their Community Support Program has provided $181 million in grants and interest free loans to member communities for sewer engineering, pipe replacement, and rehabilitation, and $250 million in water pipe rehabilitation project grants and loans. If they eliminated the grant system, or charged a Prime MINUS One interest rate - would they have the money to pay their own debt service instead of expecting a bailout from the rest of us via the Legislature? While the statement has been removed from their web site now, very recently the MWRA bragged about being able to hold is rate increases to UNDER 2% per year - despite the fact that when they came with begging bowl to the Legislature, they promised to phase in the debt service on these projects.

What galls Porcupine the most is - the projected annual increase for an average household is - drum roll, please - $41 per YEAR. Yes, the entire state needs to bail out the MWRA to prevent their ratepayers from paying an increase of less than a dollar a week.

As I said to Crusader at the outset, these communities already benefit unfairly from Chapter 70, Chapter 90 and Lottery formulas. Yet we here on Cape are told to suck it up when it comes to property tax, insurance rates, and our OWN water and sewer problems. After all, how can the Legislature spend money on a strictly regional problem like that?

Any Cape legislator who votes to give the MWRA an additional penny should be removed from office - and we all should be watching.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Enquiring Minds

The revenue will not be trifled with. The prattling about the rights of men will not be accepted in payment for a biscuit or a pound of gunpowder.
Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

There is no pleasure in writing this. Rep. Marie St. Fleur is a kind, intelligent lady. Of all the Chairs of the Education Committee, she was the only one to give any real credence to the problems of Cape Cod that were created by the 1993 Birmingham education formula. But her judgment in accepting an endorsement from Tom Reilly to be Lieutenant Governor was just dreadful.

I have read and listened to the extensive coverage of this matter, and there are a couple of questions that I have not seen asked.

According to the Boston Globe, here is a synopsis of the facts:
St. Fleur said she told Reilly she had ''some financial issues." But Reilly never asked for specifics, which include three delinquent tax debts in the last four years, including a 2005 federal tax lien of $12,711 against her and her accountant husband. St. Fleur also owes $40,000 in delinquent federally backed student loans. The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance also fined her $750 for trying to sell her six-year-old Honda to her campaign committee for $13,000 and continue to use it. (In an ironic twist, Reilly, as AG, is suing state Senator Dianne Wilkerson for numerous alleged campaign law violations.) When approached by the Globe Tuesday, St. Fleur said that she had paid down the federal tax debt to about $8,000 by making $500 monthly payments since last spring. But later, Corey Welford, a Reilly campaign spokesman, corrected her, saying that she had in fact made only one $500 payment last May and that the balance is still more than $12,000.” Also, her driver’s license has been placed in on-renewal status due to a failure to pay excise taxes, as has her husband’s, for failure to pay excise and parking tickets.

The questions –

  • Is it appropriate for a person to act as Chair of the Committee on Education while failing to pay $40,000 in student loans? Rep. St. Fleur is 43 yeas old, not some twenty-something still struggling. She is an attorney, who should be aware of a conflict.

  • Rep. St. Fleur was elected to the seat vacated by Tom Finneran, and in a highly unusual move, was named a Chair by the new Speaker DiMasi almost immediately. The extra stipend, above and beyond her salary as a legislator, is $5,000 per year. She has held the seat since 1999 – that’s $30,000 in leadership stipend. Why was that additional stipend not dedicated to paying down her debt? Rep. St. Fleur also receives franking, i.e., taxpayer funded postage for her mail, as well as her $300/mo stipend. Why did she need to try to scam her campaign committee with her car deal?

  • Since she failed to pay her property taxes in Boston for three of the last four years, why on earth did Tom Mennino urge Reilly to pick her as a running mate?

  • Rep. St. Fleur voted against the tax rollback and for reduced tuition for illegal aliens. Yet she herself failed to pay the taxes necessary to support these initiatives Why did she feel she could cast such votes?

  • Did she drive uninsured?

  • Why are we hearing about all this now, for the first time in the six years that she has been a committee chair? What do the reporters on Bacon Hill like Frank Phillips do with their time, other than cut and paste press releases from emails? Forget Tom Reilly's due diligence - what about theirs?

Rep. St. Fleur said that her problems were what allowed her to empathize with constituents who are not well-to-do. But here on Cape Cod, home of the self employed and small contractor, every plumber who struggles to make his quarterly payments, every dime store operator scraping together sales tax, every landscaper putting together withholding taxes – all of them know full well how delinquent you must be, the extent to which you must flout taxation, before a lien is placed. Rep. St. Fleur isn’t empathizing with them. She is taking extra money out of their pockets to make up the shortfall in the General Fund to fund her self-indulgent lifestyle as a pauper-legislator.

There is no room for a lawmaker who can’t live by the rules.

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