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Friday, January 16, 2009

Northern Exposure

Porcupine is in Maine, looking out at the chunks of ice in the sub-zero harbour. Massachusetts just wasn't cold enough.

Porcupine is listening to 740AM, a Canadian radio station run by CARP (Canadian Asociation of Retired Persons). Porcupine is of the opinion that CARP is a superb way to refer to a group of seniors, and wonders why AARP doesn't get a station. The station is dedicated to Zoomers - Boomers who zoom! - and plays excellent music.

The news reports are startling. There has been a massive power failure in Toronto, going on to its third day, from a broken water main which froze downtown. Thousands are without light or power, and the government is trying to cope with refugees in the 17-below weather. The station is running a 'Hot-Hot-Hot' contest - if you call in when Buster Poindexter sings, you're entered into a drawing for the next station-sponsored trip to Cuba.

At the public hearings on the budget held today for citizens to comment on government expenditure (!), the Inuit
came to testify to preservation experts that there was no need to protect polar bears under the American Endangered Species Act, as there were twice as many now as there was 50 years ago.

There are twice as many bears, and half as many Inuit. There was no report if there was any correlation....

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Exercise Your Civic Rights!

I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character. George H.W. Bush, First Inaugural Address, Saturday, January 20, 2001

How often have you heard it said - there ougtta be a law!

In Massachusetts, you have a chance to make you own law, and the filing deadline of Jan. 14, 2009 is upcoming.

Here in Mass., we have in our Constitution what is called the Right of Free Petition. Any citizen of the commonwealth can file legislation with the House Clerk, and it must be considered by the relevant legislative committee on the same footing as a bill filed by a legislator.

There is no dearth of ideas floating about here. The Mass. Secretary of State, William Galvin, has an excellent guide on his web site,
Participating in the Legislative Process, which provides a good outline of how to do so.

The Clerk of the Massachusetts House is Steven James, and he can be reached by calling the main number of the State House. He is an excellent and non-partisan public servant, genuinely helpful (due in no small part to the fact that while the average tenure of a Speaker if five years, the average tenure of a House Clerk is closer to forty - he can expect to work with a variety of people).

Don't be shy - your idea is just as likely to be good as that of a legislator who throws a bill in the hopper to mandate umbrellas once it begins raining. The tools are in your hands, and you can try to improve our Commonwealth with your efforts.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Company You Keep

Endeavor, as much as you can, to keep company with people above you.... Do not mistake, when I say company above you, and think that I mean with regard to their birth; that is the least consideration; but I mean with regard to their merit, and the light in which the world considers them. Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl Chesterfield (1694–1773)

The Massachusetts Democrats have reelected the ethically troubled Salvatore diMasi as Speaker of the Massachusetts House.

Usually unanimous, the Democratic Caucus had something of a horse race in putting forward Speaker diMasi's name. One of his Chairmen, Rep. Torrissi, had announced that he would vote 'Present', as he thought diMasi ought to step down in light of his possible legal troubles - certainly, the appearance of impropriety rivals that of "Gov. Blago" of Illinois. Indeed, the final vote tally had several Democrats who voted 'Present'.

One Cape Cod Democratic representative declined to do so. According to the Cape Cod Times (Porcupine would link to the story, but oddly it isn't on the Times’ web site), Rep. Turner stated the he 'didn't see anyone named Present running', and "Short of his being indicted, then I guess you are innocent until proven guilty." Not yet indicted - THERE is a standard of leadership for Democrats to aspire to. Newly elected islander Tim Madden said, "He is the only one running, so that makes it a pretty easy vote."

But that is not accurate. Minority Leader Brad Jones, Republican of Wakefield, also ran for Speaker. To be sure, he isn't a Democrat but leads the tine sixteen member Republican Caucus (for now - he was only reelected by a vote of 9 to 7 against the charismatic Rep. Evangelides).

Had any of the Democrats wanted to vote against diMasi, he did have an opponent. The 8 of the 146 Democratic members who voted 'Present' deserve some credit - indeed, Rep. Greene voted for himself. But the rest chose to condone illegality.

Say it was politically expedient. Say you were afraid of the Speaker's power and decided to give him more of it. But don't whine that you didn't have a choice. You did, and you chose party over ethics, and that vote is recorded against you for good.

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