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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Legal Beagles

First, let's kill all the lawyers.
Willam Shakspere, Richard III

Porcupine wishes to take a moment to publicly declare that he will not be suing anybody over the death of his dog, Marvin, seen above in happier times impeding the construction of Porcupine's vacation shanty.

Porcupine wrote about Marvin's passing (HERE) and it has become evident that between the timing, the dog food he was fed, and the nature of his death from sudden and acute renal failure, it is entirely possible that Marvin died from the Menu Foods produced dog food. However, Porcupine will join no class action suit, will not participate in angry forums or demand that reparations be made.
As it happens, Porcupine was home sick yesterday, and saw daytime television commercials which he rarely sees. Did you have a heart attack? Lose your hair? Slip and fall? Have a doctor not reach a diagnosis with the same speed as House? Call Sokolov-Wynn-Dewey-Cheatum-Howe and get your fair share! Operators are standing by! We may not be licenensed in your state, but we can find somebody who is! Why, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. himself says it's a good deal! And we ALL work on contingency, so no money down! No, we'll just file suit and get the insurance company to pony up on a nuisance basis rather than go to court. Later, you can SELL your structured settlement to J.G. Wentworth, and squander the money as you see fit!
When people suffer a minor inconvenience, or a minor tragedy, they are being conditioned to think in terms of cash recompense. Free Money is the siren song, but in reality, we all pay. Increased insurance costs, increase health care costs, loss of doctors in difficult specialties - all of these have become endemic in society, because the legal system has become the first rather than the last resort. A while ago, Porcupine write about the contrast and priorities expressed between an orphan drug for Ewing's Sarcoma and a judgment of many millions for a single widow over a heart medication (HERE) . Although the post is almost two years old, it is equally true today.
So, please, consider your response. Think about what this pet food scandal may mean about the safety of food distribution for humans, and call for beter regualtion and enforcement. Express concern over the vagaries involved in the increasing internationalization of our food supply, and the loss of support of our own American agricultural industry. But please - do not join any class action lawsuit over the death of a pet, however beloved. Put that grief and anger towrds a solution, not a tawdry cash bonus to fatten the coffers of legal jakcals and vultures.
Do it for Marvin.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Strange Bedfellows?

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
Tennessee Williams (1914–1983), Blanche DuBois, in A Streetcar Named Desire, (1947)

And allies of business interests don't come any stranger than Speaker Sal DiMasi! "I believe that any of these proposals that put more of a burden on business are only going to be adversely affecting our economy, and right now we don't need that," DiMasi told reporters after speaking to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in downtown Boston. "I'm concerned about the growth of our economy in Massachusetts, and I'm not ready to take a step back."

DiMasi expanded his thoughts this morning on WRKO on the Finneran Forum for about half an hour. Ater some Speaker to Speakah cross-talk, Sally settled in to tell his side of the story with a friendly questioner, the frugal Tom Finneran.

The proposed cuts would save about $250 million in the next fiscal year. However, according to DiMasi, most of them were recycled from a bill filed by Mitt Romney to close the same corporate tax loopholes only last year! Additionally, in the course of the last four year, approximately $400 million in corporate tax loopholes have already been closed! Sal said, "We debated this only six or seven months ago; at that time, we thought it was foolish to pass an Economic Stimulus bill to lure businesses to Massachusetts, and at the same time pass a bill to tax them more heavily! We have just finished this debate, and the House does not intend to revisit it."

DiMasi - and Finneran - talked about the business climate in Massachusetts, and how the Legislature is out of touch with how the owners of businesses think. Porcupine is of the opinion that this is due to the fact that so few of them have ever met a payroll, hired, fired, paid UI , bought liability or ever functioned as a business principal in the Dreaded Private Sector. DiMasi spoke about how businesses, when looking at Massachusetts, make a five or seven year plan. "Moving into Mass., making that investment, and then having a new tax to pay that you didn't budget for is like signing a lease, moving into an apartment, and having the landlord raise your rent the next month! Who would move to a place like that?"

If the budget needs to be balanced, according to Speaker DiMasi, it will be with cuts to programs, not new taxes or loophole closing. While he did not entirely rule out the new tax on telephone poles in the Globe, he spoke at great length about rebuilding the Commonwealth's infrastructure and making it more business friendly, which leads Porcupine to believe that as a courtesy to Gov. Patrick, he is willing to consider the new tax. He just isn't willing to enact it.

So - strange times indeed when Sal diMasi, with his impeccable liberal credentials, the man who gave a leadership position to the inimitable Byron Rushing, turns out to be the bulwark of support for the business and corporate community.

And as we all should remember - all spending bill must originate in the House.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Compare And Contrast

There has been a great deal of anger that the uber-liberal Boston Globe has run stories virtually daily, with fresh scandals about the new Deval Patrick administration, which have been called unfair and punative. But let's look at how newly elected Gov. Romney fared in 2003.

The angst over Patrick's proposal that he would allow larger legislative stipends in return for having some of his agenda moved forward, which was called common bribery? In 2003, Mitt Romney proposed that the States of Rhode Island and Connecticut pay the Commonwealth $75 million dollars, in exchange for a promise not to expand gambling in Massachusetts, or he would file legislation to legalize video lottery terminals and auction licenses to the highest bidder.

Patricks proposals to relieve property tax rates? In 2003, Romney proposed amending Prop. 2 1/2 by changing the excise tax rate.

The Glob expose of 'CaddyGate'? In April of 2003, Romney was criticized in the Boston Herald for driving around with Utah license plates on his pick-up truck, as were his Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Dunn and aide Spencer Zwick.

Sal DiMasi's announcement in the Glob that he would not back Patrick's closing of the so-called 'Wal-Mart Loophole' targeting the practice of placing stores in real estate trusts (REIT's) and then leasing thm back to themselves? On April 17, 2003, the Globe chastised Romney for backing a bill to raised bank tax rates and 'stuck them with a $140 million bill for back taxes' having to do with real estate investment trusts (REITs). David Tuerck of the Beacon Hill Institute, no bastion of progressive thought, was quoted as saying, "You can call this closing a loophole if you want. What it really is is a tax hike."

And who can forget Mitt Romney's first budget, written like a businessman, which combined all monies going to municipalities - Chapter 70 school, Chapter 90 road, Local Aid, Additional Assistance and Lottery - into a single gross amount, on the theory that the towns could best decide for themselves how to apportion the money? It ripped the facade off of every City Hall in the commonwealth, exposing the the police thought the schools would steal money, the schools worried that the DPW's would clean them out, the DPW's worried that the Town Hall wouldn't give them money for road repais, and on and on. The whole idea of municipal empowerment was quietly buried by the beginning of Fiscal 2004 that July.

So what is the difference between Mitt and Deval's inevitable early stumblings?

Well, it does seem odd that the conservative Herald attacked Mitt while the liberal Glob attacks Deval, but that's how it is. (One Herald line is too good not to repeat, however - The good news is that after sixteen years, we have a Democrat as Governor. The bad news is, it's still Mike Dukakis.)

Both Governor's wives have very real health issues. Another difference is that Mitt never announced when Ann Romney was having an episode of MS, but preferred to ignore newpaper charges of absenteeism, while allowing Kerry Healy to take over appearances for him. Deval announced that he would be taking off nights and weekends to tend to his wife and expected sympathy and support instead of derision, and has left his Lt. Governor out of the loop. In reality, who would notice that he didn't attend some events and sent Murray instead? All Deval has gained is more bad press.

Another thing worth noting is that while both men held responsible positions in the corporate world, only Romney had been a Principal. Also, Patrick's government experience was as an appointee, not an elected official, which is whre the experience as a principal is useful.

No, the major difference is how both men responded to criticism. Both are businessmen, and come from a similar corporate world. Mitt was equally impatient with the byzantine world of government as Deval seems to be, but Mitt had the advantage of growing up in a political family and knowing instinctively what will NOT play in...Pembroke, if not Peoria. He would never have called a press conference and acted petulantly, no matter how nettled he felt. Mitt would never have spoken to an out-of-town paper about being 'hazed' as the new guy. Even if it were true, there is no universe in which it could be productive.

It took Romney longer to hire experienced help than it did Patrick, so Patrick may yet pull out of his slump. But if he has learned anything, it needs to be that politics is no place for a thin skin, and the adulation of the campaign trail has no place in the grinding business of day to day government, which functions best when you check your ego at the door.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happy Evacuation Day!

Porcupine has been engaged in contemplating vistas much like this since last Thursday, secure in a glassed-in balcony in Rockland, Maine as the storms howled, the roads collapsed and much of the Mid-Coast succumbed to flooding. It was wonderful - warm and comfortable, as the fog rolled in from the horizon it engulfed the harbor in about ten minutes.
However, Porcupine also ventured afield to check on his property (seen HERE in sunnier times), and is pleased to report that it was still standing, had not been broken into or shot up for fun, or set on fire - a true sign of acceptance by the natives after these eight or so years. While doing so, Porcupince passed by Montpelier, the home of Gen. Henry Knox, seen here (well, a drawing is seen here):
Porcupine has written about Gen. Knox before (HERE) and regards him as the father of Evacuation Day. His prodigious efforts in dragging the cannon of Ft. Ticonderoga across venues and weather such as Porcupine witnessed this weekend, and giving them to Gen. Washington on Dorchester Heights to bombard the British on March 17th was a remarkable example of the tenacity that our early leaders brought to bear in the middle of an unclear guerilla war.

The white house towrards the center is Montpelier, on the banks of the St. George River, where the General retired after his many years of service to the nation, and it is always a lift on a sleeting Maine day to glimpse such a monumnet.
Now, what is all this about some other celebration in Boston involving a breakfast that Porcupine has been hearing about?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Gov. Romney!

Governor and Ann Romney - As you move from this

Together at the Long Walk from the State House

To This

Together at the Official Announcement at Boston Convention Center

To This



Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Fox and Some Grapes

And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is acceptable in his own country.
Luke 4:25

A new 527 is about to be born, and while the official lauch isn't until towmrrow, Porcupine has chosen to write about this particular group in advance of their official entrance onto the political stage.

The group is called Massachusetts Republicans for Truth, (MRFT) and it is headed by two longtime activists, Holly Robichaud and Ron Vining. Porcupine is less acquainted with Mr. Vining, who was briefly a candidate for Chairman of the Mass. GOP, but chose to withdraw at the candidate debate for an unspecified upcoming project, which appears to be this one. (Click HERE to watch the debate; the election was won by Peter Torkildson, but far too few people realize that there were six candidates, and that there WAS a debate). A copy of Mr. Vining's press release announcing the formation of the group is HERE.

Porcupine is rather better acquainted with Holly Robichaud. Ms. Robichaud is an attractive blonde, a bit of a Republican fox (MEMO: WHY are all GOP punditresses brainy blondes? Ann Coulter, Laura Ingram, Ainsley Hayes - there's something going on there). She was a long-time aide to Rep. Ed Teague, who became House Minority Leader, and she was campaign manager for Ed Teague's unsuccessful campaigns for Congress and State Senate, the unsuccessful campaign of JoAnne Sprague for Congress, and the successful campaigns of Reed Hillman, Ginny Coppola and Jay Barrows for the House. She was on the original Christy Mihos for Governor team, but quit when he decided to run as an independent, citing her long involvement with the Republican Party. Ms. Robichaud has apparently discovered Christy's delight at being a spoiler. She is also known as the 'Lone Republican' as a commentator for the Boston Herald, and is likely to bcome a lot more lone very soon. She was not hired by the Romney campaign, but it is not clear if she is acting for the McCain or Guiliani campaigns as founder of this 527 group. Holly claims the group has 40 members, but she declines to name them as they are fearful. Or imaginary. Or both.

Ms. Robichaud took the group out for a spin in front of the Friday Morning Group, a monthly conservative think tank with which Porcupine is acquainted, and reports only a mixed success in front of the group. Porcupine has little trouble believing that, as while they all hold strong opinions, trashing a favorite son would not sit well with them. Because of its unveiling last Friday, Ms. Robichaud has brought the web site on line a little early. It was supposed to take its place on the stage tomorrow, doubtless to coincide with Gov. Romney's 60th birthday. Nice.

The web site says it will answer these following questions - Porcupine will anticiapate their answers with some responses of his own. (These are probably not the answers MFRT will offer).

· Who is Mitt Romney? Governor, businessman, entrepreneur, saviour of the Salt Lake City Olympics, faithful husband and father, generous contributor to charity.

· What were his accomplishments? Abolition of the hack-ridden Metropolitan District Commission, the firing of Billy Bulger, the creation of the John and Abigail Adams scholarship programs to UMass, bringing the Sagamore Flyover project to completion on time and under budget, appointed Gen. George Keefe to shore up troubled Mass. National Guard, wrote origninal Massachusetts Universal Health Care bill, was able to save Camp Edwards from the BRAC closing commission, took un Katrina refugees - many of whom have chosen to relocate to Mass. permanantly...this could go on and on.

· When did he say that he was to the left of Ted Kennedy? Never. He said he would be a more effective advocate for gay rights in housing and employment in the 1994 Sente debate, and at that time, it was true. Sen. Kennedy was hamstrung by the positions of the powerful pre-scandal Catholic Church, and had to tread carefully there 13 years ago.

· Where has he flip-flopped? Holly and Ron will have to answer this. Their imaginations may be taxed.

· Why did he allow gay marriage? Because he is a duly elected Governor, not a Roman Dictator. The SJC ruling gave leave for the Legislature to act, but they chose not to. Romney instructed town clerks to act in concert with existing law - ALL law, including the unpopular 1913 one as well as the new Court decision. He also filed the request for the opinion which forced the Legislature to act in the Janurary constitutional convention. In all, he opposed gay marriage within the confines of the law - appropriate behavior for the Chief Executive, but not so much fun for spitball throwers in the back row like Ms. Robichaud.

· How come the Mass GOP took its biggest hit under his leadership? Two words - George Bush. Massachusetts believes that by electing even more Democrats to the Legislature, they are sending a stern warning to Bush. In reality, Romney earned $7 million for the 2004 races, funding 133 legislative candidates which was unprecedented. He sent personal donations to every Legislative candidate - unheard of in the Milk Street days when the State Committee functioned as the Paul Cellucci Reelection Committee. And Mr. Vining and Ms. Robichaud should know - they were both there.

· Was he a good Governor? Yes.

The site - which is technically not quaified to use the name 'Republican' without the permission of the Mass. State Committee and so may have to reinvent itself under another name - will do what it can to rework tired allegations and supply half-truths to Romney's opponents. But the only real losers here are the purveyors of the site, denied the grapes of success as they rail against the wind.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Death of A Thousand Cuts

When the ancient Chinese wanted to torture an enemy, they used a contraption called the Wire Jacket. It looked like small-mesh chicken wire, and was wrapped around the hapless victim. The victim would then be subjected to the Death by A Thousand Cuts – one by one, the raised flesh in the wire jacket would be slashed with a razor, causing each bump of flesh to spurt and bleed individually until the victim died – often, after more than a hundred cuts.

The Governorship is proving to be a wire jacket for Deval Patrick.

First, the criticism of the progressive-supper inauguration – complete with fortune cookies that said ‘Together We Can’ from the Kowloon donors (perhaps with lucky numbers on the back for the budget?). State House traditionalists gave the one of the first razor cuts.

Yet even before he was sworn in, Deval Patrick was calling legislators and urging them to ignore the ruling of the supreme Judicial court and abrogate their oath by using a procedural vote to avoid voting at the Constitutional Convention. Arlene Issakson gave that warm-up cut.

Announcing that all the budget cuts made by Romney would be restored – even gazebos and statues. The Governor’s budget advice team made that razor cut.

Then, the Cadillac after Romney’s frugal and unheated (according to Deval) Ford, after Deval ostentatiously spend the campaign in a hybrid, pledging to make the State vehicle fleet greener – except for himself. The Herald gave that cut.

Voiding Governor Romney’s agreement with the ICE and the Federal Government to allow the State Police to detain illegal immigrants when arrested on other charges, with the excuse that they are too busy. Couple that with the State Police having the time to drive his new Caddy to Washington, D.C. for a Governor’s Meeting and now the raid on a New Bedford sweatshop resulting in the arrest of 300 illegal immigrants that have been released on bail, not detained because the Governor voided the agreement. His social service transition team handed Deval that razor cut.

The two helicopter rides in a weekend, when Romney used it once in four years. Howie Carr with a fresh new razor.

The drapes and furniture when Romney took home the office trapping that the Legislature refused to allow him to purchase. The Glob this time with the razor.

The $72,000 per year scheduler for the wife’s part-time involvement. Deval inflicted that one himself.

The sneering apology for the Caddy, drapes and scheduler, implying that the Boston Media had way too much time on their hands to question him about such trivial matters, when he was on such a higher plane (or helicopter). Andy Hiller wielded the razor that time.

Then a bill which the Glob reports "is designed to reverse a recent Supreme Judicial Court ruling that could require extensive review of permits for developments on landlocked, filled tidelands that do not abut the water." Benefiting a Cambridge development called NorthPort, this razor cut was delivered by Daniel O'Connell, the new Housing and Development Secretary and Greg Bialecki, who is now advising Patrick on real estate permitting, as they wave their recused hands in the air while accepting the potential benefit.

The budget release which explained that virtually none of the expensive campaign promises would be honored – only 250 cops instead of 1,000; $750,000 for state parks instead of $10 million; the local aid enhancement which proved to be giving the towns the power to tax themselves more. Leslie Kirwan can take that slash.

Then after trying to replace Congression Medal of Honor recipient Tom Kelley with the unprepossessing Rep. Verga as head of Veterans Services, until the protests of Veterans Agents statewide stymied that plan, Deval contented himself with demoting Tom Kelly from Cabinet status as head of Veterans Affairs despite 2003 special legislation elevating that position. Perhaps a razor swipe from elements of the Legislature?

And now, Frank Phillips, razor in hand, gleefully reports the telephone call. At the request of large campaign donor Americorps/ACC, involved in shady mortgage dealing and foreclosing upon Deval’s constituents, a call was made to Robert Rubin of Citicorp, which is trying to expand into Massachusetts and is regulated by the state, to vouch for ACC’s good track record. Deval claims he made the call as a private citizen, a capacity which he will not enjoy until 2010. Citicorps came across with the money for ACC.

Perhaps the complaint filed with the State Ethics Commission will prove a ‘killing cut’, made when the razor slashes across several bumps of flesh at once. The specifics of the complaint and which laws may be broken can be viewed HERE.

If Deval Patrick wants to become the governor that everyone thought he could be, and not just the tabula rasa of the campaign upon which varied and incompatible interest groups projected their own images of what or who he was, he needs to stop the cutting now.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Footprint Reduction

Porcupines are naturally careful with the environment. For instance, in a recent photo, observe the burrow of a cousin hibernating in Maine on some land that Porcupine owns. (None of us are at our best while hibernating)

However, Porcupine admits to living in rather more luxurious quarters on Cape. It is nothing compared to former Vice President Gore's digs, with a heated cee-ment pond and 22 rooms. The ecological Vice President assures us that he is carbon-neutral, however, as when his use of special light bulbs and such has not been sufficient, he has purchased carbon offsets, a rich man's coping strategy which strikes Porcupine as being rather like purchasing a substitute for $300 so you don't have to go fight in the Civil War.

Nevertheless, Porcupine is intrigued with the idea of reducing his Carbon Footprint, despite the wooden messenger. His own burrow has already been properly weatherized by the Cape Light Compact people, the roof and windows replaced, the switch to gas heat was years ago, and there are no automatic lights or sprinklers. Also, Porcupine has no washing machine, preferring to patronize a laundromat with a proper filtering system and holding tank for gray water, and also has no dishwasher. That is why Porcupine is married, after all.

However, Porcupine has one other major appliance - his beloved Patriot Blue PT Cruiser, often referred to as the 'Clown Car' - seen below.

The car was purchased new in 2002 with only 14 miles on it. Now, it has 143,000 and has been a devoted political worker - sign hauler, people mover and roving billboard. When Porcupine got the car, its unusual stying was still a novelty. Now, it is a popular and reliable car seen more and more often on the roads.

But - its best mileage is 24 MPG. So, Porcupine has turned to a newer model which gets 37 MPG and is a cleaner running car altogether - the 2007 Honda Fit Sport.

Porcupine expects to enjoy the new car, but there will always be a soft spot in his heart for the Clown Car, the first new car he had. Of course, years ago, Porcupine's Father bought his first new car in his late sixties, a Dodge Shadow which could talk - indeed, he would sometimes drive it around in order to hear the robot voice intone 'FUEL is LOW' or 'A DOOR is AJAR' (which always seemed like a Beat Poet philosophical statement). Still, THAT was the voice of the FUTURE! And now, the with its gizmos (will Porcupine be forced to get an MP3 player since it plugs into the dashboard for podcast listening?) and endurance (Low Emission Certified) also feels like the future.

That's the best part of reducing your Carbon Footprint - it feels like a step into a new future. Perhaps one with Cape Cod ocean windmills in it.

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