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Monday, February 26, 2007

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Expensive Drapes!

Porcupine has never been a big fan of Deval Patrick's point of view, but he never doubted his intelligence. So, his odd gaffes since beginning office have been puzzling.

First, the helicopter. Next, the high end interior decorating. Then, the infamous Cadillac. Porcupine wryly suspected that those missteps were cover for the real end run - rewarding a political funddraiser with a plum job on the state payroll, helping establish Diane Patrick as a dual political force. But, this most recent episode of having the State Police drive the Coupe DeValle to Washington, D.C. - a city with no parking where Senators, Congressmen and Supreme Court Justices take taxis and where Patrick worked for years - for his use at the National Governors Conference made Porcupine wonder what else Governor Patrick was up to; he couldn't possibly be that tone deaf to public opinion!

A little quick research confirmed that Gov. Patrick has been busy indeed while the press remains riveted on financially trivial issues. This has not been much of a trick, as Gov. Patrick has taken to using Friday afternoon 'media dumps' to demonstrate his transparency - sending out important press releases late on Friday, when reporters are less likely to be around and may miss them.

First, there is the Municipal Partnership Bill (a link to the Mass. Municipal Association analysis is provided
HERE). Had Mitt Romney tried to make such sweeping changes, the media would have been shreiking like a steam calliope. Some features:
  • If the cities and towns elect the local option meals tax, a portion will go to the state, along with what they already collect.
  • Newspapers can be bypassed by cities and towns for legal notices in favor of internet postings (now do we have your attention, MSM?)
  • Union stewards will still be able to veto the towns if they want to buy in to the GIC for health insurance
  • 'Underperforming' pension systems will be REQUIRED to fold themselves into the state plan, bypassing local autonomy. There is an appeals mechanism included - but the decision will be made by the pension board.

There is also a great deal about tax collection fees, which seem to be aimed at the City of Springfield, and some seem retroactive.

Gov. Patrick also announced the creation of a new Director of Municipal Affairs position within the Executive Office for Administration and Finance and issued an Executive Order to establish a Municipal Affairs Coordinating Cabinet. He appointed Taunton Mayor Robert Nunes as Director of Municipal Affairs. This Municipal Affairs Coordinating Cabinet will "coordinate the implementation of municipal impact statements on legislation and executive orders, and it will provide analysis of home rule legislation to determine if the particular provision should be applied broadly to all cities and towns, thereby providing permanent local authority." Not that the towns asked for it, mind. The cabinet, chaired by Nunes, will include the State Purchasing Agent, the Chief Information Officer, the Commissioner of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (better known as DCAMM and responsible for all state property and land), the director of the Group Insurance Commission, the Personnel Administrator, the chair of the Civil Service Commission, for starters - Administration and Finance can appoint more. The cabinet will also work 'to implement and analyze recommendations from the Local Government Advisory Commission, which meets regularly with the administration'.

Here is a link to the membershipof the Local Government Advisory Commission (HERE).

Mayor Nunes takes over as head of the Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services, which is responsible for all matters pertaining to local taxation, on March 12.

This is an amazing consolidation of power, and it may or may not bode well for the small towns of Massachusetts. What is certain is that it is virtually unreported, as the press remains riveted by the Magical Automobile.

Porcupine decries the ferrying of the Cadillac to D.C., on the basis of gas mileage alone (and WHAT will that do to the mileage at the end of the lease?). But it is to be hoped that these other balls in the air get some watching, before being swept away in the furor of the budget release. Since all these Friday afternoon information releases seem designed to make sure we don't look at them at all.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Missing 189

A man who thinks too much about his ancestors is like a potato—the best part of him is underground.
Henry S. F. Cooper

The Associated Press (via reporter Glen Johnson from Boston) has chosen to alert us to the fact that two of Mitt Romney's great-great grandfathers practiced polygamy. Porcupine knows this because today's Cape Cod Times featured the story prominently, complete with photographs of statues raised in the honor of one of them. Interestingly, while featured on Page 3 of the print version of the newspaper, it is entirely missing from the on-line version, so Porcupine is unable to furnish a link to that story, but includes this one from ABC News instead (HERE). It isn't entirely new information; it has long been reported that Romney's forebears, who were members of the Mormon church of that era, practiced polygamy, which was outlawed by that church in 1890. What is new is the information that there is a statue of Miles Park - location Salt Lake City - and that his great-great grandmother 'used to walk the floor and shed tears of sorrow' according to her diary over the polygamous choice of her husband.

Romney has repudiated polygamy in the best possible way - by being the only Republican top-tier candidate to be married to one woman for 37 years. In fact, since Mitt and Anne Romney went to their high-school prom together, it is unclear if he has ever even dated another woman, much less married one - or two ot three, like McCain and Guiliani.

However, this story raises important questons for the rest of the Presidential field.
Every human being has 32 great-great-grandparents. Porcupine assumes that the Associated Press, by commenting on the lives of three of Mitt Romney's ancestors, is beginning a two year series to bring us the lives and names of the others.

This will be a weighty enterprise for Mr. Johnson and the Associated Press, so Porcupine suggests that they stick with the six so-called 'top tier' candidates - McCain, Guiliani and Romney on the Republican side, and Clinton, Obama, and Edwards on the Democratic side. There may be intriguiging stories there as well. Was the great-great grandfather of Southerner John Edwards a slaveholder? Did he possibly own Kenyan slaves, related to Obama's great-great grandfather? This could be a great teachable moment.

And for all those candidates who claim to not be clear on who ther great-great-grandparents were, or that they thought and did, there can be only one question.

WHAT are they hiding?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Making Amends

I despised William Wilberforce when I served as a Member of Parliament.

I was not Peter Porcupine then, but William Cobbett, Gentleman, and I could not understand or sympathize with his decades of obsession to end slavery.

When a young man, Wilberforce had fallen under the influence of an elderly reprobate turned pastor named John Newton, who wrote a hymn called Amazing Grace between 1760 and 1770, while working as an evangelical pastor. Son of the commander of a merchant ship, run away to sea at the age of 11, Newton was captain of a slave ship for many years, until he underwent a dramatic religious conversion while steering his vessel through a storm. Repenting and regretting the misery he had inflicted on the thousands of human cargo he had transported across the Middle Passage for many years, he devoted his life to the Church. In 1780 Newton left Olney to become rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, St. Mary Woolchurch, in London. Among the large congregations drawn to his eloquence was William Wilberforce. Newton continued to preach until the last year of life, although he was blind by that time. Newton died in London December 21, 1807.

Ironically, even earlier, before I was elected as a Member of Parliament myself, I used the power of my Political Register to publish Wilberforce's speeches, believeing that none would find them compelling (link HERE). In doing so, I helped bring Wilberforce before the public eye and preserved his oratory for all time.

Why could I not see the evils of slavery? Because my concern was with the farmers and working men of England, starving under our noses, not with blacks across the sea in other lands. I took his religiousity to be pious cant when he supported measures which kept the people in their places, failing to realize that in his attitude towards class distinctions and rank Wilberforce was a child of his time. He not only believed in the rightness of class distinctions but also that, although everything should be done for the poor, the poor must not be given the power to do it for themselves. In fact, he tended to see a Christian virtue in material poverty - for poor white men. I, on the other hand, while recognizing the natural distinction between labourer and gentry, wanted to educate and enable the rural poor, not distant sad blackamoors.

On December 18 1823, Wilberforce's arguments were met with a resounding counterblast from my Cobbett's Political Register, the story of what I believed happened in San Domingo in the 1790's after the slaves there were emancipated:

And what has been the result?...The consequence as to the wretched negroes themselves. This consequence has been a series of massacres, continuing, with little intermission, for one-and thirty years and put a stop to, from time to time, only by a system of slavery ten times harder than that which existed before; and which system of slavery and that alone has prevented the complete extermination of the wretched beings to whom Santhonax and Polverel gave, what they had the infamy to call, freedom.
Many of my articles about the inherent inequality of the races were quoted in the years leading up to your Civil War. Indeed, most of my writings from this era bring a blush to the cheek, as I simply did not believe that these were fellow men and women, but sub-human laborers, destined to take bread from the mouths of the honest yeoman I spent my political career defending. Indeed, it strikes me that much of the political and economic argument then mirrors the controversy sweeping around the issue of illegal immigration now, the loss of jobs, the insecurity over the effect that introducing 'the other' into our society, and so on and that I was rather the Howie Carr of my day - albeit without the sound effects.

Parliament outlawed British participation in the slave trade in 1807, but did not finally outlaw slavery until the Emancipation Bill gathered support and received its final commons reading on July 26, 1833. Slavery would be abolished, but the planters would be heavily compensated. 'Thank God', said Wilberforce, 'that I have lived to witness a day in which England is willing to give twenty millions sterling for the Abolition of Slavery'. Three days later, on July 29, 1833, he died.

Why tell this story? Because today, a film will be brought to the public called 'Amazing Grace', a biography of William Wilberforce and his epic struggle to end the slave trade and his unfinished battle to end human slavery in the world where 27 million still live in slavery. Please consider his historic and unfinished endeavor, and allow me to promote and endorse the ideal of ending human slavery as my own way of making amends.

Yr. Obedient Servant,
William Cobbett, Gentleman
Peter Porcupine

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Two Out of Three is a Start....

So. The Cadillac DeValle will be paid for partly by Governor Patrick. His excuse that the Crown Vic that Mitt Romney drove "has 80,000 miles on it and the heater doesn't work!" merely increased Porcupine's respect for Mitt's frugality, if it's true. Now, the $595 per month difference in the leases will be paid by Gov. Patrick - hopefully from his own pocket, and not from his campaign account.

Also, he will reimburse the Commonwealth $27,000 that he spent on office furniture. Again, hopefully not from the campaign account. What appears to have been replaced are the enormous blue velvet Scarlett-O'Hara-looking drapes,with a bright chintz, as well as the oaken desk and some other furniture.

What perhaps SHOULD be paid from the campaign account is the new $72,000 Chief of Staff for Mrs. Patrick. That's almost two Cadillacs, and doesn't take into account pension and health benefits, which average $12,000 for a state employee.

To put this into perspective, a Chief of Staff for a Legislative Committee, responsible for arranging all hearings, vetting all bills, arranging notification for testimony, providing the Chair with research and analysis - this responsible postion is paid less than $40,000. Yet Diane Patrick needs somebody paid twice as much to verify her speaking engagement with the Urban League.

Perhaps the Chief of Staff position, given to his chief fundraiser, is something that he should use the campaign account to pay. Together we can...figure out how to have the style so wanted without soaking the taxpayers for it.
Cross Posted at RED MASS GROUP

Friday, February 09, 2007

Beginnings and Successes

Two of Porcupine’s cyber-friends deserve to be featured today, for very different reasons.

The first is John Stephenson, proprietor and founding eminence of a blog called
Stop the ACLU! Today marks its second anniversary, and the blog recently received it ONE MILLIONTH hit!

How does such a blog begin? What is the impetus? In his own words, “To Beat Them to Death with Their Own Hammer and Sickle”. Mr. Stephenson has never been shy about his opinions, and many are strong to take. However, he certainly puts his money where his mouth is, and cannot even read and celebrate his own blogoversary, as he is currently deployed in the Armed Services (the blog is being run by Gribbit and other friends from the Wide Awakes, which is where Porcupine first made his acquaintance).

The blog is certainly worth the visit, and Porcupine would recommend a hat to hold onto, firmly.

Contrast that with a new blog, just setting out, called Left Wing Escapee. Porcupine is personally acquainted with the author of this blog, and has proudly watched him morph from a Democrat, to a conservative JKF-style Democrat, to an Independent, to a …well… he trembles now upon the brink of actual Republican Party registration in bright blue Massachusetts. Porcupine is of the opinion that having children and paying taxes was a catalyst in this transformation. Left Wing Escapee is intended as a guidebook for others, as they make that perilous journey back to common sense.

To Jake, just starting out, and Jay, a happy birthday, and may you each see a million for hits by next year.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Crime and Rehabilitation

More details are emerging about Peter Berdovsky, 28, and Sean Stevens, 27, who became global celebrties by placing Aqua Teen Hunger Force Lite Brite devices in sinister places around Boston and provoking a city paralysis. Porcupine detailed reaction to the events HERE, and Stewie Griffin was prescient - Turner Broadcasting and the Cartoon Network did indeed send lots of money. Two Million Dollars - $1 million for reimbursement for public safety expenses, and $1 million in what Turner Broadcsting calls 'goodwill money'. More of this anon.

Today, it appears that the pair - the Hair Club for Fools - were a little more involved in the events of Jan. 31. It was learned today that they show up on surveillance video, eagarly videotaping as the bomb squad removes their creation and formally detonates it at 10:30 am - the first incident at Sullivan Square.

Their attorney, Jeffrey Pyle, told the press, “He documents the world around him. He did not initially know that the event near his house was related to the (cartoon character) he placed there for Cartoon Network,” Pyle said. “He went home and called his employer, and they told him to sit tight.” Mr. Pyle is the third attorney to represent the pair in five days, a remarkable level of committment to the world of performance art by the Boston Bar Association.

This explaination doesn't hold water very well. Why did they stand by, sniggering and videotaping, instead of doing the right thing before they called the New York advertising people, and say - "Hey! That's not a bomb! In fact, I put it there! I'll show you where the 34 others are too! " That would have been the right thing to do, but for hours after the initial incident, they allowed the police and the city to waste time and energy 'disarming' their devices.

Many insist they have special status as artistes, and First Amendment beneficiaries. They deserve a pass because they didn't foresee the pandemonium that followed. That is like insisting that White Snake's indoor pyrotechnic display was not at fault in the Station Nightclub fire, because they didn't mean to burn the building down.

So, how can they be productively rehabilitated? How can the hard carapace of their Mass. School of Art enhanced self-absorbtion be pierced? Perhaps that money can help.

While it is appropriate that public safety expenses be reimbursed, why should Mayor Menino be allowed to parcel out the other million? Already, a restaurant owner is complaining that while he usually has 700 customers in a day, on Jan. 31 he had three, and lost about $3,000. Porcupine has already blogged about the lady stuck in traffic for a day who must now spend another vacation day to keep the doctor appointment she was prevented from getting to.

Why not have these young men listen to and administer complaints? It would be a form of community service uniquely beneficial to both sides - the regular John and Mary who lost money due to their stunt would receive reimbursement for their problems, and the Artistes would be forced to listen to how their feckless actions hurt others.

But that would be too easy and sensible - Porcupine is cetain that the little guy will go unrecompensed, the Arties will go free and Menino will have an extra million of slush fund to spred about - because that is how the Hub of the Universe does business.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

We Had Our Own Superbowl This Past Week...

And the Winners ARE....Not on Cape Cod...

Speaker Salvatore DiMasi has named the Chairs of the House Committees for the forthcoming two years, and the results for Cape Cod are...subdued.

Doing the best was newly elected Sarah Peake. She was appointed to Environment (a necessity in her delicate district), Financial Services (formerly seperate Banking and Insurance committees, with oversight of the FAIR Plan, a potential home run for her), and Municipalites and Regional Government. These appointments argue for a good relationship with the speaker.

Cleon Turner was a little more subdued, but moved up a notch. Elected to his second term, he continues on Housing and Health Care, and added Small Business to replace Election Laws - all solid committees with issues germane to his district. Status quo ante, as it were.

Eric Turkington has retained the chairmanship of his boutique Committee, Arts & Tourism, one of the newly minted committees from last Session. In the last two years, it considered zero pieces of legislation, but it did hold some hearings, and may have work to do. Maybe. If somebody thinks of some. But, it's nice to see Turkington rewarded with a Chairmanship, however marginal, after sticking it out on the sidelines during the long Finneran wilderness years (he guessed wrong, and voted for Voke and was never forgiven), rather than fleeing Beacon Hill like his equally non-psychic brother legislators, Tom Cahir and John Klimm.

The remaining House members bear some comparison with Republican 'classmates' who also represent the area.

Demetrius Atsalis and Vinny DeMacedo of Plymouth were both elected in 1998, and are beginning their sixth terms. In the last Session, when the new Speaker DiMasi 'combined' the Committees, resulting in a net gain of five Committees with new Chairmanships to be had, Atsalis fully expected to receive one of them and reportedly locked himself in his office when he was not among the new lucky winners. Now, in addition to serving on Bonding and Labor & Economic Development, Democrat Atsalis is just barely holding on to the Vice-Chairmanship of a minor Committee, Election Laws, which was originally given to him by Finneran. He has not suffered actual demotion, like Tom O'Brien who fled the State House for the Plymouth County Treasurer's Office when he was stripped of his office and titles, but it is clear that Atsalis is not only not on the fast track any more, he has begun to fall behind; for instance, a far more junior legislator like Rep. Forry has the Vice Chairmanship of Public Service, a more powerful committee. Demetrisus' collar and cuffs are looking a little frayed, as he goes about with his hackneyed 'Ear of the Speaker' routine. Whereas, his contemporary legislator, DeMacedo, in addition to his service on Energy and Children & Families, is now the Republican Ranking Member of Ways & Means, a position similar to that held by Henri Rauschenbach, with a suite of offices, a seat in the Ways & Means Conference Committee that writes the final version of the budget, grater influence, and a leadership stipend far better than a Vice Chair of a negligible committee.

Also elected around the same time are Matt Patrick and Jeff Perry. Matt Patrick, as liberal a legislator as can be found, has still not been entrusted with even a Vice Chairmanship, although he continues his service on Energy, Economic Development, and Municipalities and REgional Government (with Sarah Peake), he has never succeeded in being named to Education, his stated first choice for many years. Of course, Jeff Perry was elected two years later and has served as Ranking Member of Education since he was elected, and receives a leadership stipend for that service, as well as serving on Rules, Public Safety, and Turkington’s Tourism Committee.

So, it would seem that the Cape Codders who worked so hard to further the Democrat majority are no better thought of in the House than they are by Gov. Patrick. On Cape Cod, Republicans still have better action.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Porcupine, Hedgehog and Groundhog Day

Porcupine is disturbed by this story about his smaller, more vulnerable cousin, the Hedgehog, from the Daily Mail in his home Kingdom (See HERE). Found near the Scots border (a questionable area for a young mammal), a local vet said, "We believe this little fellow missed out on his hibernation altogether and the stress of still being awake and trying to fend for himself has caused him to shed his prickles."

Now, the prickles of a Hedgehog are nothing to write home about. Smaller and more delicate than a Porcupine, stroking a Hedgehog has been compared to running one's hand over a bristle brush. Those foolish enough to attempt stroking a Porcupine, with his sharp and pointed quills, have described the experience as being similar to running one's hand over razor wire. Heh.

Still, tribal loyalty counts for something, and it is clear that the earth is undergoing a crisis in limate - even if a wooden marrionette like Gore does say so. Let him have is Oscar, his movie was well done and thought provoking (even if it should not be swallowed whole). The Nobel Peace Prize is a bit much, but it is still only a nomination. Perhaps next year former Vice President Gore can compete in the Mr. Universe pagent as well, and have a trifecta of plaques to console himself for the end of his political career.

Today, it was reported that El Nino, the ocean breeze trend responsible for this strange warm weather that Porucpine has mused about before (see
HERE) is coming to an end, and we may revert to more normal winters. But, on a day when another distaff family member, the Punxsutawney Phil, is predicting that there will be an early end to this ersatz winter (HERE), Porcupine noticed that the International Governmental Panel on Climate Change has released its report on global warning (HERE) and indicates that while humans are not entirely to blame, they are certainly a factor, a position that Porcupine can support.

So - let us find a way to break the stranglehold that OPEC and Middle Eastern Oil have upon us - perhaps by building a ind Farm?

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