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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Aha! I KNEW Something Was Amiss!

Almost two years ago, Porcupine wrote about his profound discomfort at the BodyWorks exhibit of plastinated human remains being displayed at the Boston Museum of Science. His post then, aclled Human Sensibility, contained these words:

But as you look at the photos, and perhaps the exhibit, please keep something in mind. These are actual people, who got up in the morning, dressed, went to work, and so on. It is stated that they volunteered for this process, and it is to be hoped that there are no John Does with no next of kin, doomed to peripateic travels rather than rest in even an unmarked grave.

It has now been learned that they are worse then John Does - they are, instead, victims of Chinese torture and execution. The anonymous Chinese corpses come from the plastination lab at Dalian Medical University in China, operated by a former partner of plastination pioneer and anatomist Gunther von Hagens of "Body Worlds" fame. von Hagens himself has served as a visiting professor at Dalian Medical University, and for some of his international plastination exhibits he received from China the corpses of apparently-executed prisoners. While, in North America, Body Worlds is now touring in three versions, in Europe it has disappeared, having gone unexhibited since 2004. For in that year, the German newsweekly Der Spiegel published a lengthy expose of von Hagens, the burden of which was that at least some of his subjects showed evidence of bullet holes in the back of the neck, the preferred Chinese method of executing prisoners. Der Speigel obtained proof of $300 'body runs' and reported that many of the posed figures were members of the banned Falun Gong sect.

Porcupine was dismayed before, but is disturbed now. It is to be hoped that these interesting 'experiments' will be given the decent burial they deserve.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sunday Summer Sing Along - Early Edition?

The Democratic National Committee's Rules & Bylaws Committee will proceed on May 31 during a much-anticipated meeting to reconsider issues in the Florida and Michigan delegate flap at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel , in Washington, D.C. The decision may determine the outcome of Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign.

Usually, Porcupine begins the Sunday Summer Sing Along on the first Sunday in July, but thought this song, called Hillary's Plaint, was appropriate for the meeting tomorrow - sung to the tune of the Hank Williams classic, 'Cold, Cold Heart'.

I tried so hard, my friends, to show that I’m your every dream.
Yet you're afraid each thing I do is just some evil scheme
Some memories from my White House past keep us so far apart
Why can't I free your doubtful minds, and melt your cold, cold heart?

Another Clinton, years ago, made your hearts sad and blue
And my campaign is paying now for things I didn't do
Sure, I claim ‘experience’, but that’s just being smart
Why can't I free your doubtful minds, and melt your cold, cold heart?

You'll never know how much it hurts to see you fawn on him
You know Obama’s full of smoke, a mere Progressive whim
Why do you run and hide from facts, to try it just ain't smart
Why can't I free your doubtful minds and melt your cold, cold, heart?

There was a time when I believed that you belonged to me
But now I know your votes are shackled Bill’s memory
The more I try to bond with you, the more we drift apart
Why can't I free your doubtful minds and melt your cold, cold, heart?

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Memento Mori - 2008

Porcupine's parents are buried here. At the National Cemetary in Bourne, mother and father are awaiting Eternity together. When Porcupine's mother died, his father made a military joke. "We'll be buried together - in Section Eight. You kids won't forget THAT in a hurry!"

True enough. The Bourne National Cemetary is beautiful, especially on holidays, when the entrance is lined with fifty flags. Porcupine likes to drive over to Section Eight (which refers to a discharge for mental illness - like Cpl. Klinger on M*A*S*H) and look at the flat stones. Porcupine's father fought in two wars - drafted for WWII and recalled for Korea. He served as a liberator of the concentration camps in Poland, a life changing experience, and was awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star for heroism. But his most heroic acts were in caring for his beloved wife, as she slowly died from a series of strokes, leaving him alone for five years. Now, they are together again in a beautiful setting, which he earned with his service.

But once again, Porcupine was not there on Memorial Day. Instead, he carried out an older obligation on their behalf, at older stones, up in Maine. As begun in early childhood, Porcupine visited the beautiful ancient cemetary at the top of the hill near the St. George River, and left flowers at the markers of grandparents, great uncle and aunt, and great-grandparents, just like he was taught to do every Memorial Day from early childhood, leaving for Maine while it was still dark, carrying geraniums in the back seat of the station wagon, to that same burial spot.

The bands, the flags, the ceremonies - all were there for Porcupine's parents today. Porcupine honored them by honoring their wishes, and keeping memories of family alive for another year and another generation.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Boy Will Always Need His Mother....

Porcupine lost his own mother when she was 64, and cannot imagine a richer experience than to have a wonderful mother throughout an entire life. A very happy Mother's Day to Roberta McCain!

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Definition of Insanity

Gov. Deval Patrick uses hand gestures to demonstrate his chances of getting his casino bill passed.
It takes a little bit to actually shock Porcupine, but Deval Patrick succeeded in doing so today. This morning, in front of the Brookline Chamber he announced his intention to resurrect the failed casino gambling bill.
The Democrat told a Brookline Chamber of Commerce audience that "an unyielding need for property tax relief, the possibility of slot machines at the state's racetracks and ongoing efforts by the Wampanoag Indians to build their own casino will reignite the discussions".

Acccording to the Boston Globe, Patrick said, "There's a lot of interest in it, and issues that die in one session don't die a permanent death. They tend to come back over time." Under one scenario, Patrick said, casino gambling supporters might try to expand the slot machine bill to include the resort-style casinos proposed by the governor. Patrick projected that his plan for three casinos would generate at least $600 million in licensing fees, $400 million in annual tax revenues and 20,000 permanent jobs.
Indeed, there's nothing that Porcupine enjoys more than seeing the Globe exasperated. But what the Globe fails to mention is that the source of these projections is Clyde Barrows of UMass-Dartmouth, and that he is also a recent author of a 'poll' which claims that a majority of the electorate wants casino gambling in Massachusetts - but not in their town. The jobs, the dollars, the concept - all have been thoroughly discredited. To bring three casinos on-line at the same time in a mature and fading market is madness. The profit would be wiped out by the need to have union-run laundry and service contracts in a state owned enterprise - which is why the bill enjoyed such enthusiastic union support. Which of course presupposes that casinos are even an appropriate venture for the state to get into - don't we already have enough problems from a something-for-nothing culture? (Forgive Porcupine - he was a Scout leader, and the Baden-Powell prohibitions against gambling as the ruin of a young character come bubbling up from time to tiem).
What can possess the Governor to follow this path once again? His liberal base is admantly opposed to casinos. The Legislature does not want it. Conservatives do not want it. Indeed, nobody seems to want it but the Governor and SEIU.
The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. The Governor has already publicly embarassed himself, but perhaps his liberal friends can talk him down out of this tree. Indeed, the liberals are castigating the Pioneer Institute for saying that Patrick had devolved into a 'machine politician'. To Porcupine, the only omission was that the machine is a slot machine.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Town Meeting Time - The Sequel (?)

Porcupine has sunk into his green leather chair, after more than three hours on small plastic seats in a school auditorium. He has just returned from town meeting (override defeated, ha!). Porcupine has a winner-take-all, last-man-standing, one-night-only annual town meeting - tonight alone, there were two motions to reconsider, and about six motions to move the question! Three hours well spent - and three new affordable housing plots given to Habitat, AND a new Protection of Farming by-law, to "protect our agrarian heritage".

Town meeting interests the sushi eaters of Blue Mass Group in the big city. Porcupine notices that certain of his posts keep getting hits over and over again, usually due to a google search - so, in the spirit of recycling and green-ness, Porcupine is republishing this post, first written almost three years ago this date, and has attached the comments left on it as well.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Town Meeting Time

I heard about the Government and I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at it when I saw it.

Carl Sandburg (1878–1967). Chicago Poems. 1916.

Town Meeting season has about ended, and the periodic cry to do away with them has already begun. Of the state's 351 communities, 300 use
Town Meeting to do business, including 260 towns that hold open Town Meetings.

On Cape, all have town meetings except Barnstable, which chose to adopt a dysfunctional Town Council. Another town, Winthrop, which recently made the same choice said, ``There was a sentiment out there that having about 300 people make decisions on a $32 million budget at best twice a year was something that didn't structure us for the most efficiency,'' said Winthrop Board of Selectmen Chairman Martin O'Brien. They will soon learn that government functions best when it is least efficient. It’s when they get efficient that they become dangerous.

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

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

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

And Lou (Carrier) is honoring the best of Town Meeting by doing so. Those 260 towns with open town meetings adhere to the purest form of democracy on earth. Every citizen is free to express an opinion, and attempt to sway fellow citizens to their point of view.

The moderators vary in style – a musical comedy specialist in Provincetown (Keith Bergman, now departed - ed. note), a leisurely three night meander in a few others (Tom George of Yarmouth has just retired after 35 years as moderator - ed. note), one town notorious for its brusque, last-man-standing style, with no questions answered and no amateurs allowed (you know who you are - ed. note) – but each chooses how its budget, policy and town will be ordered for the forthcoming year.

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

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

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


Anonymous said...(and isn't it ALWAYS 'Anonymous'?)

Porcupine, you really need to go off-Cape and maybe fly in an airplane to the hinterlands. You have a real superiority complex. News flash: most of the USA does not have town meetings. And guess what--most of the USA is not collapsing, starving to death and enduring pestilence and corruption and in danger of imminently dying. And any problems that non-New England states might have wouldn't be solved by town meeting anyway. The town meeting system is a stupid relic and it's going to die, so deal with it.

1:08 PM

Peter Porcupine said...

"News flash: most of the USA does not have town meetings."

Their loss. I am only concerned with Cape Cod and our way of life. I wonder if you have attended an entire town meeting, or just stalked off after they failed to vote opposition for the Patriot Act...

11:07 AM

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