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Monday, May 29, 2006

Memento Mori

Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die:
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 'Charge of the Light Brigade'

Many will write about the flags, the trumpet solos, the aged veterans, the origins of Memorial Day - Porcupine chooses instead to offer a view of military affairs in his own day, the early half of the 19th century. Below are some excerpts from the book, "The Reason Why" by Cecil Woodham-Smith (a woman with a male name and an unerring eye for military history, who was kind enough to quote my own small efforts of writing in describing the public run up to the somewhat insane Crimean War):

About the Untrammeled British Aristocracy:

And the strange, the astonishing fact was that public opinion accorded these privileges not merely with willingness but with enthusiasm. Foreigners were struck by the extraordinary and eager deference paid by the English to their aristocracy. It was, as Richard Monckton Milnes wrote, "a lord loving country." Honest British merchants quivered with excitement in the presence of a peer, as if they were susceptible young men in the presence of a pretty girl. True, beneath the surface dark and gigantic forces were beginning to move, and in mines and mills, in rural hovels and cholera-infested city rookeries, half-starved, sub-human millions were beginning to stir in their sleep. But the wind of revolution that had blown from France seemed to have died away, and in England rank and privilege had never appeared more firmly entrenched. Flattered, adulated, deferred to, with incomes enormously increased by the Industrial Revolution, and as yet untaxed, all-powerful over a tenantry as yet unenfranchised, subject to no ordinary laws, holding the government of the country firmly in their hands and wielding through their closely knit connections an unchallengeable social power, the milords of England were the astonishment and admiration of Europe.

On the practice of buying a Commission or Rank in a Regiment:

The purchase system, under which a man first bought his commission and then paid for each subsequent step in rank, and which enabled a rich man to buy the command of a regiment over the heads of more efficient officers, appears at first sight so childishly unjust, so evidently certain to lead to disaster, that it is almost impossible to believe that sensible people ever tolerated, much less supported it. Yet the purchase system expressed a principle which is one of the foundations of the British Constitution; famous victories were won by the British Army while it was officered by purchase, and it was upheld by so great a master of military administration as the Duke of Wellington.

No sentiment is more firmly rooted in the English national character than a hatred of militarism and military dictatorship. "An armed disciplined force is in its essence dangerous to liberty," wrote Burke, and Parliament in its dealings with the Army has always been concerned, above all else, to ensure that no British Army shall be in a position to endanger the liberties of the British people.

The vital period in the formation of Britain's policy towards her Army was the period of government by Cromwell's majorgenerals. The people of England were then subjected to a military dictatorship, they were ruled by Army officers who were professional soldiers, and who, though admittedly the finest soldiers in the world, usually had no stake in the country, and often were military adventurers. Their government was harsh and arbitrary, and the nation came to detest the very name of the Army.

After the Restoration, nation and Parliament were equally determined that never again should the Army be in the hands of men likely to bring about a military revolution and impose a military dictatorship. With this object, purchase was introduced when a standing Army was formed in 1683. Men were to become officers only if they could pay down a substantial sum for their commission; that is, if they were men of property with a stake in the country, not military adventurers. As a secondary consideration the purchase price acted as a guarantee of good behaviour; a man dismissed from the service forfeited what he had paid.
From that date it was the settled policy both of Parliament and of the Crown to draw the officers of the British Army from the class which had everything to lose and nothing to gain from a military revolution.

That really refines the concept of the all-volunteer army, does it not? This is the military in which I served, and had to flee because I attempted to expose the graft and corruption endemic in the officer corps.

Lastly, the subject of the book, the vicious and spoiled James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan who purchased command of the 11th Hussars:

The circumstances of his arrival were impressive. It had been three generations since the succession of the Earls of Cardigan had gone direct from father to son. The much desired heir was of almost mystic importance, and as he lay in his cradle, wealth, rank, power, and honours gathered around his head….No rude voice contradicted him, no rough shoulder pushed him aside. From his earliest consciousness, he was the most interesting, influential person in the world…..He did not know what fear was. A superb and reckless horseman, he risked his neck on dangerous brutes. No tree was too tall for him to climb, no tower too tall to scale. He had in addition to courage another characteristic which impressed itself upon all who met him. He was, alas, unusually stupid…The melancholy truth was that his glorious golden head had nothing in it.
Lord Cardigan -in addition to getting a sweater named after him - is most famous for misinterpreting the order to take the guns that caused the British Light Brigade to charge the artillery battery at Balaclava, the only time artillery was captured by a cavalry regiment. Three out of four men were killed in their saddles, and the empty-headed Lord went home safe and sound to continue his career of military mismanagement.

When you hear of soldiers misbehaving, of colonels dithering, of generals pursuing the wrong strategies - Remember Lord Cardigan and generational idiocy, and be grateful that our American Armed Forces have become the professionals they are, and can rely upon the volunteers that step forward to defend this nation in time of trial.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Letter From A Friend

Americans are cordial, frank, anxious to oblige, and ready to make friends. In the fulness of their heart, they generally promise more than they can keep.
Francis Pulszky, and Theresa Pulszky. "White, Red, Black: Sketches of American Society in the United States During the Visit of Their Guests" (1853).

One of the nicest things about the Internet is the ability of those who live at long distances to communicate with one another in a thoughtful way. Of course, in my day, we called it letter writing but then the recipient was obliged to pay the postage, and perhaps feed and water the messenger and horses if in a rural area. On the whole, I like this way better.

Porcupine received a letter from a friend who lives in the Midwest with close emotional ties to Cape Cod. He wrote, in part,

What is it about the air of politics on the Cape? I just don't get it sometimes, and I am not just talking about Republican vs. Democrats vs. Independents. I am talking about the air of mistrust, or uneasiness in business that seems to always hang in the air in the Northeast and especially the Cape. There have been some great people over the years that I have met, and they have been a part of the Cape. But there have also been those that seem just over the edge, and this blog thing (a.k.a., editorials incognito) seems to bring out the best and the worst in some of them, even all the way to the top. And the sad part of all this is that I have not even met any of them face to face and I get this feeling of undertones and backhandedness that is go on, and when some things happen I feel like saying, where have I been, or are things really that different between the mid west and the Cape. I always thought I knew or at the least kept up with the ways of the Cape, but all of a sudden I am beginning to wonder. Is my mid-west thinking, that 'tainted', moderate-conservative Republican thinking, that means I am just not getting the liberal back stabbing mentality of the hard core Democratic east coast? I love the Cape, love the atmosphere that is has had in the past. Has it really changed that much or am I reading too much into this whole thing?
Porcupine wrote back.

Much of the tension on the Cape has to do with its changing. For decades, city people with liberal beliefs came for a month or so, shook their head at the simple country folk and went back to Manhattan to watch David Susskind. Now, they are staying, and reasonably want to import their way of thinking with them. What they did not reckon with is the bedrock of town government.

I don't necessarily mean elected officials. I mean the guy who owns the bank and the car dealership, and the guy who sits on the FinCom and watches every penny in the
budget, and the guy who is a gruff landlord who can always be counted on to quietly write a fat check for a person in trouble. These guys (I call them The Taxpayers, because they pay half the taxes in town) are used to running the town a certain way, and having those other people leave quietly when Labor Day comes. Most are WWII vintage and have quietly given their lives to their community, really not asking for thanks, and have been good civic stewards.

They aren't used to answering questions. They don't like it when liberal groups organize and put articles on the town meeting warrant to get out of Iraq or repeal the PATRIOT Act or support Falun Gong. Town meeting is serious, not some damn debating club. It irks them when prating people - with all of two years under their belt as a second homeowner - TELL them that they have been doing a bad job all these years.

The washashores cannot understand why we don't have curbside trash pickup, full sewerage, more racial diversity and David Susskind. The natives cannot understand why they live here if all they want to do is change the place - if the city is so great, why don't they stay there?

Most of these tensions are unspoken, and perhaps even unrecognized by those who feel them the most keenly. That is what makes the attitudes and tactics so spiteful and underhanded - each side is fighting for something in a murk, not recognizing their own motives, let alone the other guy's.

Porcupine is sharing these letters in hopes of beginning a genuine dialogue - for the Cape Cod that is, the Cape Cod that was, and most importantly, for the Cape Cod that is about to be.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Playing Cards



THE Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free CARD

And BEST Of All - The Credit CARD


Read the Whole Story - and Remember, YOU are paying for this!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Pomp and Circumspect

Though a great scholar, he’s a Democrat, If not at heart, at least on principle.
Robert Frost, A Hundred Collars, 1915

Barney had it right.

When the odious Rev. Phelps and his crew of anti-gay protestors fro the Westboro Church showed up at a military funeral in New Bedford for a soldier killed in Iraq that Cong. Frank was attending, he was asked about his take on the protestors, who go to military funerals and hold up signs proclaiming that the soldiers were dead because God wants to punish the U.S. for becoming a homosexual nation.

They died so that these guys”, he said hitching a thumb at the scraggly crew, “could do what they’re doing right now.”

Porcupine wishes Congressman Frank would share that wisdom with the faculties of some colleges who are leading their impressionable students in protest against the invited commencement speakers because the ideas they hold do not conform to the cherished opinions of college notables.

At the New School in New York City, University President and former U.S. Senator Bob Kerry (he of the lightbulb-shaped head) invited last January his former colleague Sen. John to be the commencement speaker. The New School takes exception to this -
"Senator John McCain does not believe in a woman's right to control her own fertility," shouted Ann Snitow, a professor of literature and gender studies. "He has been opposed to Roe v. Wade for more than 20 years. He is a man who believes in female sexual slavery." Ms. Snitow added: "What would he have to do to not be invited? Would he have to say we should drop a nuclear bomb on Iran tomorrow?"
You get the idea. In fact, there is a whole thread devoted to this protest argument, with comments mostly from students, that is one of the saddest things I have ever read. (HERE)

Closer to home, Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza is enduring a similar embarrassing rejection after accepting an invitation to address the graduating class at
Boston College. Reportedly, over 100 theology profesors signed a protest letter which stated in part -
''On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rice's approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston College's commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university's work."

Porcupine wonders why there were no similar protests when that redoubtable warmonger, Clintonian Secretary of State Madelyn Albright, gave Commencement speeches during the war in Bosnia and Kossovo. At least the College professors do not object to giving Rice an honorary degree - of course, they know she already holds a doctorate.

It was not always thus. In 1969, the Hasty Pudding Club invited John Wayne, exemplar of Vietnam support and cowboy ways, to . You can say that the Hasty Pudding isn’t the same as a Commencement, and you would be correct – the Hasty Pudding is more cherished by the students and is more important to them. The Duke obliged by roaring into Harvard Square in a tank, and having a great time trading jibes with the hirsute undergraduates. Certainly, no minds were changed, but at the same time, there was a cessation of hostility as each side appreciated the other.

Why do we not have these wary truces today? Porcupine believes it is because Academe knows that its silken walls are gossamer thin, and one sharp remark will rent their feeble superficiality asunder. In 1969, the faculty protesters and zealots were true believers; now, they are tired retreads, intellectually vapid and morally spent. What is sad about this is that most of these students will be expected to function in a real world where unkind remarks will be made, unpopular ideas will triumph, and they will not be regarded as authorities but as neophytes. What will they do then – organize a protest?

is a time to emerge from the hothouse of academic theory and into the world, armed with an education and the reasoning skills to make up your own mind. Next weekend, perhaps a single exposure to conservative thought may be a way of finishing off what seems to have been an incomplete education.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bugsy's Malaise

(Click to enlarge)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Petroleum Puzzle

Lt. Governor Kerry Healy and House Minority Leader Brad Jones have filed legislation to eliminate the Massachusetts gasoline tax during the summer months. Naturally, the Legislature will pay no attention to this, except for sneering a little. Why, they're too busy to hold a constitutional convention, much less act upon ordinary legislation!

Regarding the proposal, Porcupine was interested to read in a local paper the following comment:

"But Democrats and activists blasted the move. Massachusetts Sierra Club
spokesman Jeremy Marin said the proposed rollback reflects misplaced priorities.

'We have a public transit system that is proposing raising fares
dramatically, but they propose something that will increase traffic gridlock,'
he said."

Democrat Gubanatorial candidate Patrick called it gimmick, and so did Tom Reilly, using larger and more stately words.

As always, Porcupine has the solution!

How about eliminating the gas tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day for areas which HAVE no public transportation, like...Barnstable County?

It is impossible to travel without a car (spare me, Flex route and bicycle enthusiasts - I am talking about getting back and forth to work in professional attire, whcih residents have to do all summer, not vacationing with no fixed time-line). It is also impossible, due to the laws of physics, to increase the gridlock.

What do you say, Mr. Patrick? How about a Cape Cod Tax Free Summer?

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Schadenfreude \SHOD-n-froy-duh\, noun: Malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others. Schadenfreude comes from the German, from Schaden, "damage" + Freude, "joy." It is often capitalized, as it is in German. – Dictionary.com

The recent troubles of Congressman Patrick have brought this word to Porcupine’s mind. Bleary eyed and staggering, “young” (can we still call a 38 year old a ‘fresh faced politician’ as David Wedge of the Herald did on WBZ?) ‘Patches’ Kennedy crashed his car, without headlights on at 2:45 a.m., into a security barrier at the U.S. Capitol, and emerged from his second car crash in a three-week period asserting that he was late for a vote. Has that happened before – Legislating Under the Influence? While the D.C. Police have been formally disciplined for the incident for preventing the officers on the scene from administering a field sobriety test, Kennedy stoutly asserts that he didn’t ask for any special treatment. Indeed, he may not have, as Porcupine would imagine that pouring various Kennedys into cruisers for special rides home is a forty year old tradition in Washington, D.C. that has evolved into standard practice. Now, he is off to the Mayo Clinic, again, after his Christmas stay there, to get dried out and possibly avoid all that messy Twelve Step junk that would involve taking a fearless and searching moral inventory and making amends to those hurt. No, let’s just see what the latest in monkey glands can do instead. Otherwise, making amends to the people of Rhode Island might involve a resignation. Or surrendering his license before he kills somebody.

Contrast this with the media’s treatment of Rush when he was shown to be an Oxycontin addict.

This week, the ultra-liberal Blue Mass Group chose to resurrect the Limbaugh matter (timing is everything, isn’t it?). Follow this
link, or read these comments:

Let's be sure always to emphasize that he's a hypocritical, unsympathetic to all forms of human weakness, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key, screw-the-poor drug addict. Most drug addicts are good or potentially good people.

I wonder what this little addiction has cost the [sic] pulic coffers? How much did insurance companies shell out in co-pays? How much did it
cost to investigate his crimes, arrest him, hold him, and prosecute him? Not only is he a [sic] crimminal drug addict, but he was sucking off the public teat to boot! Then again, he's white and rich. All is forgiven,

It's Okay If You're A Republican". applies to so many things!

Porcupine has never been a big Limbaugh fan. He prefers the rapier to the sledgehammer (or the threshing machine that i Savage Nation!) Still, six or so years ago, Rush was a novelty and amusing. Then he became Conservative Satan, as outlined in the insipid book by Al Franken (did you know you can get a copy for $1.67 on Amazon.com?) and subject of a campaign to force him off Armed Forces Radio. He was too compelling! He might change minds! WHY does he have listeners when Air AmeriKa can’t stay on the air without stealing from children?

Still, this was Limbaugh’s statement when he announced he was going off the air and into rehab:
"I am not making any excuses. You know, over the years athletes and celebrities have emerged from treatment centers to great fanfare and praise for conquering great demons.

"They are said to be great role models and examples for others. Well, I am no role model. I refuse to let anyone think I am doing something great here, when there are people you never hear about, who face long odds and never resort to such escapes.

"They are the role models. I am no victim and do not portray myself as such. I take full responsibility for my problem.”

Compare that with Flo Jonek on WBZ gushing that Kennedy checking himself into rehab is “his own Portrait in Courage”. Or with Kennedy’s own statement on his problem:

"Of course, in every recovery, each day has its ups and downs, but I have been strong, focused and productive since my return…I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police, or being cited for three driving
Yes, now that’s admitting we were powerless over alcohol/drugs - that our lives had become unmanageable.

One of these figures is a United States Congressman and the other is a Radio Talk Show Host. Porcupine asks – which was in the more responsible position, and which deserves the greater castigation? Right and Left can enjoy Schadenfreude over these scandals – but let us treat them each in an equitable fashion.

HERE for a link to The Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions of AA, the parent of a sobriety groups.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Un-Conventional Wisdom

After four years at the United Nations, I sometimes yearn for the peace and tranquility of a political convention.
Adlai Stevenson, New York Times, 1964

Porcupine sits, feeling every one of his 243 years. His favorite bottle-green coat is rent with small, unfamiliar tears, and his best wig is out being powdered and reshaped, while he makes do with an unfashionable older version. Throat spent, calves aching - Porcupine has been through another Massachusetts Republican political convention! In my day, it was easier. My first four campaigns for Parliament were unsuccessful because I failed to utilize the simple expedient of bribing the voters! I was elected on my fifth try, however, and campaigning has gotten pretty prim since my day. I heartily recommend A Spectacle of Corruption by David Liss as a find example of my campaign woes!

Wise souls will shrewdly comment upon the issues raised. Porcupine wishes to write about - the parties!

Friday night, Porcupine began in Auditor-Candidate Earl Stroll's hospitality suite at the Doubletree Hotel. It was modest, with decent pizza, and while the candidate was out and about, he was ably represented by an effective campaign manager, who deftly made sure that every entrant signed his nomination papers.

Then, on to the Brew House for a joint party for Kerry Healy and Reed Hillman. There was pandemonium, as over 1,000 delegates drank, ate indifferent hors d'ouvres, and talked at the same time. A rock band up front added to the noise, until Governor Romney took the mike to introduce Kerry Healey, who spoke briefly and was heartily cheered. Anne Romney made one of her rare public appearances, and then Reed Hillman spoke. This party lasted several hours, and was chock full of Cape Cod worthies.

Here is Harwich's Pat Klammer of the Lower Cape Republican Council with the matchless Polly Logan, Chairwoman of District 5 and Chair of the Cohassett Town Committee. A grande dame and a great dame - Porcupine will leave you to assign the labels.

Also having a fine time were Ric Barros, candidate for State Senate, Val d'Ambrosio the Nantucket Town Committee chair, and Jim Powell running for the Barnstable, Dukes & Nantucket seat now held by Eric Turkington.

Upstairs, Senate Candidate Ken Chase was having a reception. Less noisy, distinctly less crowded, and blessedly cooler than the rampaging throng at the Healy-Hillman bash downstairs, Chase spoke briefly and competently. No open bar, and non-existant food, although there was detritus that indicated there had been potato chips at some point.

Perhaps the most interesting party of the evening was U.S. Senate Candidate Kevin Scott's Karaoke Party. Porcupine saw Don Howell, sitting amazed at a truly frightful rendition of 'I Got Friends in Low Places' and Bob and Priscilla Young enjoying a Louis Armstrong imitator singing 'Wonderful World'. Porcupine left at a truly terrible rendering by one particulary tipsy young lady of 'Wind Beneath My Wings', but enjoyed the offering of another young lady in a red satin tube top. The best thing about Scott's party was the good food and an enormous punch bowl of free Red Bulls, to go with the free-flowing liquor.

Upstairs, another more discreet bash began at 11:20 p.m., with rather more adults in evidence. Sheriff Cummings, Rep. Sue Pope, Rep. John Lepper, Assistant Minority Leader George Peterson, Minority Whip Mary Rogeness and other luminaries enjoyed the all-you-can-eat shrimp and other delicacies hosted jointly by National Committee Man Ron Kaufman and State Party Chair Darrel Crate (who had also caused to be delivered to every delegate's room a generous tin of shortbread elephant cookies!). After a genteel midnight supper, Porcupine retired to begin again the next day.

At 7 am, County Sheriffs Cummings of Barnstable, Hodgkins of Bristol and McDonough of Plymouth hosted a Breakfast Banquet, replete with individual omlette stations to nourish the delegates as they set out for a day of speeches. Porcupine noticed the tomato juice flowing freely as well.

For a description of the events at the Convention, Porcupine shamelessly directs you to those who were working - the Margolis Twins at Hub Politics. In addition to live-blogging the Convention, they included audio clips of the speeches by Sen. Ed Brooke (Porcupine had forgotten how good an orator he is) and former White House chief of Staff Andy Card, who delivered a speech that is genuinely one of the best political speeches Porcupine has ever heard. Listen to them HERE, and be sure to explore the rest of Hub Politics as well.

After a dash from the Convention Hall, Porcupine was able to attend a smaller reception with Card, with only about 30 people. Andy Card seems genuinely happy to be back, and took time to talk and reminisce with everybody present.

Then, back upstairs to a Casino Night run by the Boston Young Republicans. Porcupine is proud to report that it took him three hours to lose his initial grubstake of $500 in chips, and he placed 5th at a tournament-style Texas Hold Em table of ten. It was a respectable showing, as he was playing against young college-age sharks, by and large, and Porcupine maintains that it was reasonable to go All In on three eights - the full house held by Governor's Council Candidate Phil Paleologos' campaign manager was a statistical fluke!

After another restful night at the Doubletree, and a quiet breakfast with State Treasurer Candidate Ron Davy, Porcupine headed back to Cape Cod - Partied out and ready for November.

Th...Th....That's ALL, Folks!

(One of Doug Bennett's Bumper Stickers slapped up on the wall of the Doubletree Elevator, as well as the Lobby and Convention Hall)

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