Blogfather's blog

20th Century's best pre-blogger

 H. L. Mencken's Imagined Blog 

HLMIn today's (Sunday, January 1, 2006) New York TIMES, Thomas Vinciguerra imagined what the 20th century's grandest social critic, H.L. Mencken, would have written in a blog.

For lovers of this wonderfully, unreconstructed misanthrope, Mr. Vinciguerra's imagined prose is right on the mark. To get you to read the rest (a one-time registration is required), here are two examples of:

Hank Mencken's 21st. Century Blog

Dec. 12 - The departure of Tookie Williams via intravenous chemical cocktail was less noteworthy than the  brummagem  protests that attended his final days. Williams himself was a malignant nonentity, his switch to the side of the angels while in the San Quentin calaboose an act of sheer opportunism. But on that score he was outmatched by Mike Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Susan Sarandon and the other magnificos who adopted him as their personal cause célèbre while they basked in his spotlight. Ever since the Supreme Court gave these United States the leave to take life, death row has racked up a thousand bodies. Surely a few of them had had moral reawakenings no less fervent than Williams's. Where was the outrage of Hollywood's finest when these malefactors were being dispatched?

Dec. 21 - Elton John has embarked upon wedded bliss with David Furnish, described by acclamation as his "longtime companion." I wish the nominally ambidextrous Mr. John luck. Marriage is among the most purgatorial of states, even under the best of circumstances. Beguiling though women may be, and even useful upon occasion, I would no sooner spend my life with one than surgically probe my own peritoneum. As for the conjugal union of two men, engaging in non-Euclidean sex, I prefer not to contemplate.

Now it's YOUR turn 

I encourage other Mencken-lovers to add your own versions of imagined "posts" in the comment area below. To encourage the incorrigible, I suggest these two verbatim quotes of Mencken's:

Jan. 1- Of all the classes of men, I dislike most those who make their livings by talking - actors, clergymen, politicians, pedagogues, and so on. All of them participate in the shallow false pretenses of the actor who is their archetype. It is almost impossible to imagine a talker who sticks to the facts. Carried away by the sound of his own voice and the applause of the groundlings, he makes inevitably the jump from logic to mere rhetoric.

Jan. 2- College football would be much more interesting if the faculty played instead of the students, and even more interesting if the trustees played. There would be a great increase in broken arms, legs and necks, and  simultaneously an appreciable diminution in the loss to humanity.

The pendulum of politics

There is a pendulum in our country's politics which over generations swings from  left to right, then back from right to left.

THe chain of commandFew web surfers have been around long enough to observe this phenomenon, so for them here's a very short history lesson.

The swing to the right 

When the first World War ended in 1918, a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, was in the White House. The pendulum of politics was reaching the end of its swing left, and the next three presidents (Harding, Coolidge and Hoover) were Republican and conservative during this  decade of enormous economic growth culminating in the Great Depression of 1928.

A swing to the left 

Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt was  elected president as a result, and America swung wildly to the left for the next thirty years until the election of World War 2 hero Dwight David Eisenhower in 1953 when  the country wobbled right for eight years until our own John Fitzgerald Kennedy began the swing left again for another eight years through the escalation of the Vietnam War and Lyndon Johnston's one term ending in 1969 .

Another swing to the right

Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford lead the country on a more conservation course for the next eight years, only to be interrupted for Jimmy Carter's one, four year term, but continued to the right again  for the twelve years of presidents Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, 1981-1993.

Little difference between GOP and Dems for a century 

Up until this time, the pendulum swings were mild ones. During the whole twentieth century there was relatively little difference between the two major parties, a condition which made for a far less abrasive political climate than exists today. 

During the past century Republican often accomplished Democrat goals, and visa versa. Two examples are Republicans Nixon opening the door to Communist China and Reagan making  friends with Communist Russian Gorbachev. And it was Democrats  Kennedy and Johnson who escalated the Vietnam War.

Eight years left, then a jog to the right again

Starting with the Bill Clinton's first mid-term congressional elections, America started a wild swing right which continues to today. Being president during the first six years of this latest swing made for a very rocky ride for Mr. Clinton. The swing right accelerated with George Walker Bush's election in 2001, but it was reaching it's apogee on November 11, 2001.

 For news junkies like myself, the incipient swing left was obvious starting in the summer of 2001. Voters were tiring of the pious platitudes of the Neo-cons in The White House and in Congress. Without Osama Bin Laden, we would now be well into the next swing left, but fear and jingoism stopped the swing in its path, and the Patriot Act, Rumsfeld, Cheney and rest ensued.

Barring another 9-11, expect to see that old American pendulum swing to the left for a few years very soon. 

Yelling "FIRE" on CapeCodToday

COG BlogThe right of free speech ends only when it violates another person's safety or reputation. 

We did NOT deny Gary Lopez and the COG blog their freedom of speech, in fact we just offered you a link to it here and by clicking on their logo on the right. The new COG blog also has a free link in our Directoty under Local Blogs.

We required from him what we require from all our "Cape Bloggers" -  that he not use profanity, not delete the comments made by people who disagreed with him, and not attack the comments with personal slurs.

We gave him three warnings, but his need to be vulgar and vicious overcame his need to be read on CapeCodTODAY.com 

Or as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Schenck v. U.S. (1919) in setting limits on the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater..." 

We seldom agreed with Gary, but welcomed his dissident voice for Barnstable and hope another resident takes up his flagitious sword and makes it righteous. 

The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously and discretion in speech is more potent  than eloquence.

Electric bills go up 81% this month

Consumer prices jumpCape Cod to pay among highest rates in US

By Walter Brooks

The Cape Light Compact which negotiates electricity prices for over 180,000 households on the cape and islands announced yesterday that your electric bill will nearly double starting with the next meter reading this month. The rate increase is part of a contract with ConEdison Solutions which Cape Light Compact signed last week.

The new contract runs until January 2007. The delivery & transmission part of your bill (usually less than $50) will not change.

Your actual kilowatt per hour will rise from 7.132¢ to 12.92¢, an increase of over 80%. If that portion of  your monthly bill is currently

  • $50,  it will be $90 next time (annual increase $480),
  • $100, it will be $180 next time (annual increase $960),
  • $150, it will be $270 next time (annual increase $1,440),

Commercial customers will see their rates raised even higher (85%), but they can opt out of the compact.

Compact blames Katrina, Patrick's prescience

The leaders of Cape Cod Light Compact blamed Hurricane Katrina for the rate increase. Others contend that the compact itself is more than partly to blame.

Matt PatrickIn an Op Ed piece here last February, Upper Cape State Representative Matt Patrick charges that "Many Compact members are former utility executives. I can only surmise that their background and experience may bias their view when innovative management measures are raised."

He added, "their defense of pollution-belching generating facilities too closely follows the company line... Compact members continue to make outdated arguments about costs."  Mr. Patrick has proposed legislation to transform the board from an appointed to an elected body.  

One environmental activist from Yarmouth suggested that next time he submits a bill to change the compact's structure he should write it to only allow ratepayers who are part of the compact to vote on their Representatives rather than each town's selectmen or even all  voters, like the voting in any corporation in which you own stock. 

The single biggest problem for Cape Cod is that the Cape Light Compact represents far too few customers to have signficant market leverage, and it is poorly equipped to compete against a large company like NStar, which will offer residential consumers a lower rate over at least the next 6 months.

Powicki: Give power back to the people 

Consumer advocate Christopher Powicki charges on these pages nearly a year ago that " (Cape Cod Light Compact) Board members and other officials are attempting to derail the legislation by various means, most notably by suggesting that it represents an attempt to advance the wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound."

Chris PowickiHe highlighted a number of problems that have occurred under the board's executive leadership, concluding that "Avoiding fiduciary duties, ignoring the adverse effects of power plant emissions, failing to comply with regulatory requirements, publishing misleading information, making expensive errors, keeping constituents in the dark, sticking them with the bill, and denying responsibility are not the kinds of things that impress voters. Transforming the Compact Governing Board from an appointed into an elected body will ensure that its members are accountable and that consumer interests are understood, respected, and protected - for the power of the people can best be wielded by those the public itself empowers."

How to contact the Compact 

Cape Light CompactCape Codders who wish to give Cape Light Compact their opinions on this latest turn of events may reach Margaret Downey, Compact Administrator,  by email at [email protected], or by phone at  508-375-6636.

Compact board members will be selecting the executive leadership for 2006 at the December 14 meeting so today is the time to act if you want to see a change.  The names and email addresses of all the Compact's officers and board members is available here.

Read the story in today's CC Times here

Does anybody want to buy a newspaper?

See K-R's 32 newspaperts     In another chapter of the "newspaper as dinosaur" saga, the New York Times Business Page  reports today that the Knight Ridder newspaper company, the nation's second largest chain, will have difficulty finding a buyer;

     There is a venerable Wall Street joke featuring an investor who, having accumulated a large position in an illiquid stock, decides it is time to get out. "Yes, sir," replies the broker when he is told to sell. "To whom?"
     The current situation of Knight Ridder, the owner of newspapers including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Miami Herald, brings back that joke, albeit painfully. The investor is a hitherto successful money manager named Bruce S. Sherman, whose Private Capital Management invests money for wealthy individuals and institutions... He is the largest owner of seven of those companies, with 15 percent of The New York Times Company, publisher of this newspaper; 26 percent of Belo, publisher of The Dallas Morning News and The Providence Journal; and 38 percent of McClatchy, whose papers include The Sacramento Bee and The Star Tribune of Minneapolis...
     Knight Ridder's plight also reflects the fact that Wall Street is not always nice to those who do what the Street demands. Analysts called for aggressive cost cuts and Knight Ridder complied, in some cases angering employees and creating public controversies over whether news coverage would suffer. Investors responded by sending the stock to a three-year low last month.
     Anyone want to buy a newspaper? Mr. Sherman certainly hopes so.

     The story offers this possible end game; "And that is where the auction process comes into play. Perhaps private equity companies will see an opportunity to buy and break up Knight Ridder. Perhaps other media companies will bid. The quality of news provided to millions of Americans may depend on who buys the papers and how they are managed."

     But Knight Ridder's problems are simply today's headline. The collapse is industry-wide as these two stories in today Editor & Publisher trade magazine report;

  •  Memphis 'Commercial Appeal' Latest Paper to Offer Buyouts
    E.W. Scripps' Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., is the latest newspaper to offer buyouts to employees in an effort to cut costs. President and Publisher Joe Pepe said the paper would offer a package to about 170 of the paper's 800 employees, although no target has been set.
  • Black, 3 Others Charged in Fraud Indictment
    Press lord Conrad Black and three other executives were charged in a federal fraud indictment Thursday involving the $2.1 billion sale of several hundred Canadian newspapers and the abuse of corporate perquisites at newspaper publishing company Hollinger International Inc.

Read the previous column on the Knight Ridder debacle "The Mating Sounds of Dinosaurshere.

Postscript: The chain was sold in March, 2006, to McClatchy, the only bidder.

New Feature: Sponsor Gallery

The Blogfather wishes to to say " thanks" to all of our sponsors for supporting CapeCodToday.com, which has grown by leaps and bounds to become a true community website for Cape Cod.   

Sponsor Gallery

Check out our brand-new Sponsor Gallery--it features screen shots of all our sponsors' home pages--and by all means, visit their sites!  CapeCodToday.com is only possible with the support of our business community.  Thanks!

The bitter end of the energy pipelines

Uncle Teddy's Christmas Gift to Cape Codders 

Only Hawaii is more vulnerable than New England and Cape Cod to interruption of imports or a distribution system breakdown.  Electricity costs here are nearly 40% above the national average because we don't produce any energy in the entire region.

We are literally at the end of the energy pipelines.

Yet at a time of global energy emergencies, record numbers of  hurricanes destroying oil rigs in the Gulf  of Mexico, Middle East instability and violence, Asia's insatiable and ever increasing energy appetite, the prospect of more Katrinas and devastating flooding wrought by global warming, how can Massachusetts survive and prosper when our own representatives in the Senate and Congress are the ones trying to stop renewable energy available off our own shore?

I returned today from three weeks in Southeast Asia where the growth of commercial demand for energy is obvious and very scary. If America continues as it has since the first Arab oil embargo of the 1970s (photo on right), you will be paying $6 to $10 a gallon for gas in another decade--if you can find it. In the meantime, assume your heating bill this winter will be nearly 50% higher, unless the Arabs get really mad at us, in which case all bets are off.

 These are your Christmas  gifts from:

  • Senator Ted Kennedy
  • Senator John Kerry
  • Congressman Bill Delahunt
  • State Senator Rob O'Leary
Thomas Jefferson warned us that a country gets the government it deserves. Do we still deserve these selfish, self-seeking scalawags?

May you live in exciting times

Little could demonstrate the impact of the web on our lives  more
than the  birthday wishes I have been receiving here in Saigon

Budist candles

Viet Nam NewsHere I am sitting in the famous Caravelle Hotel across the boulevard from the Continental and the Rex which were so prominent in the "old media"  during the Viet Nam War, and lo and behold the birthday wishes come flying in, and Emily Dooley of the Cape Cod Times contacts me about a story she's writing on the effect of the blogs on cctoday on the local body politic (see COG, they are reading your stuff).

But the "old media" is alive and well here in the former capital of French Indochina. On the left is my birthday's edition of a free, English language newspaper which reads pretty much like most U.S. dailies.

20% of this nation is now wired, and  the irrepressable commercialism of the Asians is obvious in the millions of mopeds and countless shops in every city we visit. Viet Nam had 3 million visitors last year and the U.S. ranked in 2nd place among them.

The candles above are burning in a Buddist Temple in Saigon, and the newspaper heralds a typhoon which struck yesterday here killing 20.

No big deal - a year ago we left the beaches in Goa, India a couple weeks before the tsunami hit, and the last time we visited Haiti we were highjacked with an Uzi stuck in our belly for hours.

The Chinese curse "may you live in exciting times" has special meaning to my noble wife and myself, and we shall return - I think.

I wasn't going to write, but the typhoon, bird flu alarms...

...and internet access in Hanoi gave me this excuse.
The view from the bus

Duckin plucking in Viet NamAbove is what it it looks like out the window of our National Geographic Expedition bus today as Typhoon  Kai-tak rages across Viet Nam and the television blares little else save Avian Flu warnings.

So we cancelled our visit to the aviary, and probably will not compete in the duck-plucking contest in Saigon tomorrow.

I won't bore you all again unless something exciting happens in Saigon (a.k.a. Ho Chi Min City) or on The Mekong later this week. 

The Blogfather

P.S. The friendliness of these people towards Americans is truly  amazing. Their twenty year war with us apparently pales in comparison with their centuries-long battle against the Chinese and French before us, and the two-year war with the Khymer Rouge followed by a ten-year war again with China after we left them alone.

Write us a letter

cctoday wants to hear from you

While we now have forty local, blogs on this site, we still haven't heard from YOU.

If you are reading these words you are online and have access to email, and now you can write as easily as our bloggers do without maintaining your own blog.

Just send a Letter to the Editors

If any local matter concerns you,  or you have thoughts you wish to share with our surfers, send an email today with the word "letters" in the subject line to [email protected] 

Of course you can also add coimments to any of your blogs, but we'd like to feature your letter more prominently as well.

(Just don't write to me for the next 3 weeks as I'm typing this in the S.F. airport waiting to leave for Cambodia. Walter)

On a side note, our "What's  Hot!" continues to sizzle. Here's the latest rankings of our forty "Cape Blogs" and I didn't even make the Top Ten:

10 most popular blogs

 1. RappCity - (13,947 references)
 2. Citizens for Open Government - (8,148 references)
 3. Media Watch - (7,547 references)
 4. Cape Cod Living - (7,328 references)
 5. Dead Bloggers Society - (6,869 references)
 6. Wind Farmer's Almanac - (5,551 references)
 7. Peter Porcupine - (4,599 references)
 8. Massachusetts Democrant - (3,339 references)
 9. Boston Cod - (3,197 references)
 10. Cape Cod Crusader - (2,928 references)

Pages