Thursday, June 30, 2005

Guess Whose Coming to the Prescott Bush Dinner?

Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, said to be a moderate Republican, attempted at the end of June to bring together under the state GOP's big tent abortion advocate Jennifer Blei Stockman, the recipient of this year’s prestigious Prescott Bush Award, and possible Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts.

A Greenwich resident, Stockman is the wife of Ronald Reagan’s former budget director, David Stockman, and co-chairwoman of The Republican Majority for Choice. Romney was featured as a presidential possibility in the June 20, 2005 issue of National Review under the title “Matinee Mitt.”

Attendance at the dinner was considerably lower this year than in previous years. The event usually draws about a thousand Republican stalwarts. This year, only 550 Republicans showed up.

Surveying the crowd, Rell said,“I think we have excellent attendance. She noted that some people had come expressly to see Stockman.

At least one Greenwich Republican begged to differ. Sam Romero, who frequently attends the event, boycotted it this year he said, because “For them to honor Stockman is an insult. Mrs. Pro-abortion herself; she doesn’t represent me and a lot of Republicans on her stance. Doesn’t this fly in the face of George Bush’s conservativism? He’s definitely a committed, pro-life president. How could I go, in good conscience, to that dinner?”

Stockman begged to differ with Romero. Rell had called Stockman about the award. The Republican governor had shown leadership by offering the Prescott Bush olive branch, the Hartford Courant reported, to “socially moderate Republicans at a time when the national party has consistently pushed a platform that is against abortion rights.”

The presentation of the Prescott Bush award to a prominent socially moderate abortion activist followed the governor’s successful attempt to push through the legislature a bill legalizing civil unions for gays. Connecticut may now boast it is the first state in the union to provide legal rights for gays without having been forced to do so by overreaching courts.

Said the Prescott Bush award recipient, “she was very courageous in giving me this honor. It was an important statement that Governor Rell wanted to do what she thought was right. There are governors in other states doing exactly the opposite.”

Other Republicans begged to differ, some insisting that the governor had shown a lamentable lack of courage on several fronts. Rell approved a new Democrat proposed gift and estate tax on property worth more than $1 million. Homes that sell for more than a million are common in most affluent towns in Connecticut, Greenwich among them. It would have taken some courage to buck majority Democrats in the state who hope to finance their inflated spending plans by imposing new taxes on the sort of people who regularly attend Republican political affairs in Greenwich.

Taxing the rich, after all, is a politically problem free solution to a spending binge that more than doubled the state’s budget since former Gov. Lowell Weicker, a longtime “moderate” Republican, forced a new income tax through Connecticut’s legislature.

So unpopular was the 2005 budget among Republicans that only one GOP senator and three House members voted for it.

As Rell inches leftward on social policy, some Republicans are beginning to wonder whether it might be advantageous for the state GOP, now perceived as a handmaiden to Democrat Party interests, to distinguish itself from its titular head.

In the short run, Republican resistance to Rell’s attempt to swing her party towards a “center” that for some time has been moving at a rapid pace to the left may cost them the governorship. In the long run, Republicans may develop an identity that will stand them in good stead in future elections.

It is impossible to assert the principle that excessive spending drives budgets continually upward when the titular head of the party arranges with Democrats to ameliorate the end result of profligate spending, ever increasing budgets, by disproportionately taxing the wealthy so as not to inconvenience and alarm the majority of voters in the state – who certainly will end up footing the bill if Democrats are unsuccessful in imposing a millionaire’s tax on Gold Coast residents.

Stockman and Romney, yielding to political etiquette, avoided a direct confrontation at the Prescott Bush awards dinner. But the Republican Party in the state has never advanced very far by supporting the unprincipled programs of its compromising governors, and it may be time for the party to present a more principled and united front to the public by breeching the usual etiquette.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Kelo vs New London: Eminent tyranny

In Kelo vs. New London the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that from the moment of its decision forward it shall be lawful for agents of the government to seize homes from citizens and to force those citizens to sell their property to commercial interests.

Before the court crafted this decision -- out of snakes and snails and puppy dog’s tails -- eminent domain could be invoked by the federal or municipal government only when the seizure of property was necessary to satisfy a legitimate state interest. After Kelo agents of our republic’s tripartite government will be authorized to seize my home and force me to sell it to satisfy a commercial rather than a public interest.

From the point of view of constitutional interpretation, this is the most harmful U.S. Supreme Court decision in my lifetime. And if there is anything that can arouse the citizens of our sleepy republic to march on Washington and demand a repeal of this decision and a restoration of our constitutional liberties, it is this God-awful decision. Ben Franklin might have had such anti-republican assaults in mind when he said during the continental congress that produced both the U.S. constitution and the American Republic, “We have given you a republic – if you can keep it.”

“Takings” of property, usually by conquest, and the granting of charters, usually by monarchs, the presumptive “owners” of land taken in conquest, were common characteristics of the of the pre-revolutionary colonial period. The state of Massachusetts, and later Connecticut, was given by charter by the king of England to a corporation.

When agents of the king sought to void Connecticut’s charter by seizing it, the colonials hid in an oak tree the document that granted “rights” to the settlers of the state. But, even then, the notion of rights as liberties conferred on the governed by a king was already in disarray. To the founders of the American Republic, natural rights were rooted in the nature of man – God given and therefore, in Jefferson’s term “imprescriptable.” What God’s seal had impressed in the very nature of man not even a king could take away.

Having declared their break from England, the people of America, Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, had assumed “among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them.”

Among the“self evident truths” mentioned by Jefferson are the following: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The right to happiness, much misunderstood by modern hedonists, would have been understood by Jefferson’s contemporaries as the right to have, to hold, to enjoy and to dispose of property. The end of the feudal era and the beginning of the modern age begins with assertions made by the heirs of England’s Great Revolution that a man’s home is his castle, secure from attack by both kings and commoners because the right to own and freely dispose of property is rooted in the nature of man. The whole point of laws and constitutions, as they were understood in the post-feudal period, was to secure such rights.

“To secure these rights,” Jefferson said in the Declaration, “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Against corrupt governments, Jefferson asserted a right of revolution: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Acting very much like a tin-pot god, the U.S. Supreme Court now has granted an unconstitutional “right” to states, acting very much like tin-pot kings, to confer the state’s powers of eminent domain on development corporations so that the corporations may force citizens of this country to sell their property to commercial interests favored by the state and the corporation.

To anyone who knows the history of the American revolution, this is the very definition of tyranny, and it provides an unwelcomed answer to Ben Franklin’s challenge: "We have given you a republic, if you can keep it."

In the post-modern period, it seems less and less likely that we can keep the republic safe from the assaults made by the U.S. Supreme Court on our God given, imprescriptable natural rights.

A revolution of some kind would seem to be in order. The only question is: Where in this anemic republic will we find a Jefferson or a Franklin to lead it?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform Connecticut Style

In a letter addressed to legislative leaders, Gov. Jodi Rell, finding herself in a non-combative, compromising mood, asked that a bipartisan committee of 12 lawmakers be convened to reach consensus on campaign finance reform. The question arises: What is the likelihood that such a committee will report out a plan that will both satisfy all the parties concerned and reform a process that has led to the imprisonment of a couple of mayors and a governor?

There are two kinds of campaign reform. There is a reform that will change the nature of campaigns, now weighted heavily in favor of incumbents; and there is a reform that will leave the disposition of power and forces much as it was when former Governor Rowland – and who knows how many other high government officials – fended off all serious political challenges while collecting favors from people his office was in a position to benefit.

The true test of successful campaign reform should be reflected in the turnover of incumbents. Any campaign reform that reinforces the status quo ante is, by definition, not reform. After all the pulling and pushing, if the percentage of incumbents returned to office remains nearly the same as it has been since Gov. Jodi Rell was knee high to a toadstool, the reforms proposed by this governor and legislature will have failed.

The mere suggestion that some reforms may reduce the overwhelming advantages enjoyed by incumbents has many legislators in a tizzy, even though it is unlikely that any or all of the reforms proposed thus far will even the playing field between challengers and what is becoming, both in Connecticut and the nation, the permanent government. If the most stringent reforms so far proposed were to be enacted, not many incumbent legislators will lose their seats.

For instance, none of the reforms will affect the composition of Senate and House districts. Over a long period of time, Republican and Democrat incumbents have gerrymandered districts to insure what they consider a fair balance between the parties. But in the lexicon of incumbents, “fair balance” means that no changes in the composition of districts must be permitted to disturb present arrangements.

None of the reforms proposed thus far is likely to result in a money advantage for challengers; and, as everyone knows, challengers must have a money advantage in campaigns to unseat incumbents -- because an excess of money for challengers tends to even campaign scales imbalanced by other advantages enjoyed by incumbents.

The notion that a race between a hare and a tortoise would be “equal” if both contestants started from the same line is a fantasy that can only delight the hare and depress the tortoise. So too is the notion that “equalizing” campaign financing will result in a fair race between incumbents and challengers. At best, the reforms being proposed would equalize campaign financing and therefore throw the race to incumbents.

And it is not likely reforms will be adopted that will provide even minimal equality. Political watchers familiar with reforms in other states that were greeted when first proposed with hosannas of approval but failed in their purpose are wondering what all the fuss is about. Some incumbents are reacting to the reforms as if they were being invited to stretch their necks on the execution block.

Sen. Gary LeBeau of East Hartford gave the game away when he said during a floor debate on reform, "There are real fears that are associated with this bill - our own re-election."

LeBeau meant that incumbent mice were afraid they would lose their sinecures if someone took their add books away from them.

Be not afraid. These fears are largely illusory. Campaign reform measures presently being debated in Connecticut have worked in other states to even the playing field between incumbents and challengers only when the reforms have been implemented in conjunction with term limits. Never-the-less, the proposed reforms have spooked some incumbents who are unwilling to surrender the slightest of their advantages and prefer the illusion of reform to real reform.

Embarrassingly for Democrats, the Republican governor, now snorting and pawing the ground in hopes that golden boy Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will enter the political bull ring, has stolen the Democrats campaign financing bauble -- and they just do not know what to do about it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hillary To Klein: Gotta Problem With That?

Here we go again.

A new book by former editor of Newsweek and former editor in chief of the New York Times Magazine Ed Klein, excerpted in Vanity Fair, claims that former President and sexual scofflaw Bill Clinton “seemed to grow even more reckless after his memoir “My Life” became a big bestseller. Thanks to his record shattering $12 million book advance plus another $10 million in speaking fees, he was rolling in money – and hubris.

“Throwing caution to the wind, he started a torrid affair with a stunning divorcee in her early forties, who lived near the Clinton’s in Chappaqua. There was nothing discreet about he way he conducted this illicit relationship; he often spent the night at his lover’s home, while his secret service agents waited in a car parked at the end of the driveway.

“’It’s one thing to go out to California with his wild buddies and stuff there’ said (MY ITALICS) someone with intimate knowledge of the former president’s philandering ‘But being indiscreet with a woman in Chappaqua steps over the line. That’s the place Hillary calls home.’”

I have imprisoned in italics Mr. Klein’s source. Possibly in forty years this “Deep Throat” will out himself, though perhaps Dick Morris, a former Clinton intimate, now a columnist for a reputable publication, will step before the klieg lights and declare he is the person with intimate knowledge of the former president’s philandering immortalized in Mr. Klein’s book.

Morse himself was upended -- and left his position as presidential confidant, pollster-in-chief and advisor -- when a reporter discovered that he had been utilizing the services of sex-provider who specialized in toe sucking or some such thing.

Who spilled the dirt on Morse? Who spilled this most recent dirt on Hillary’s husband?

Who knows? Does anybody care?

Mr. Klein’s publisher no doubt is hoping that everyone will care enough to read Mr. Klein’s book, wherein we discover that Bill Clinton, then touring Bermuda with the future Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, told another nameless source – Or was it the same nameless source? -- “I'm going back to my cottage to rape my wife."

According to “The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, And How Far She’ll Go To Become President,” Bill later learned from reading it in a newspaper that his frolic had produced their daughter, Chelsea.

Scandalous enough to sell a biography do you think?

At some point – most likely after Hillary announces her presidential bid, sources tell me – Mrs. Clinton may be asked by some ink stained wretch to comment on the charges made by Mr. Klein.

Before replying – or not – she should read the biographer’s interrogatory with Kathryn Jean Lopez, who interviewed Mr. Klein for National Review Online, part of the vast right wing conspiracy that hopes to consign the Clinton’s to the ash bin of history.

Said Ms. Lopez concerning the “rape claim” in Mr. Klein’s book, “To be upfront here, I thought it was a terrible story to be highlighting, about a child and her parents. Why on earth would you put such a terrible story in your book? — that looks to be flimsily sourced at that. But even if it wasn’t — why tell it?”

Mr. Klein’s answer – that the charge was included in the book as “yet another example of a bizarre political union where a pregnancy is leaked to the largest newspaper in the state and treated as political gain rather than shared privately as a couple” – is not convincing.

Ms. Lopez got it right: The charge was a mean piece of garbage – even if it was true. Though I do not have the advantage of a intimate Clinton source only too happy to bite the hand that feeds it, I suspect that Bill here was joshing at the expense of his sometime demanding wife; you know, the old male Arkansas thing, purposely outrageous, a riff on Hillary’s reputation for frigidity upon discovering the infidelities of her husband … that sort of thing.

I further suspect that Mr. Klein’s unnamed source communicated the nature of the offensive comment to Mr. Klein, but the truth, in his telling of it, never made it past his publisher for reasons having to do with dollars and cents.

I further suspect that no charge relating to the sexual exploits of her husband will have any effect upon the senator’s putative candidacy for the presidency.

By the way, “the stunning divorcee in her early forties” shown in Mr. Klein’s book locking lips with the ex-president is wearing a baseball cap emblazoned “Kerry, Edwards For President.”

Perhaps Mrs. Clinton can induce her to wear a “Hillary 08” cap when next she locks lips with Bill.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Vietnamization of the Iraq War

“The White House insists that all is going swimmingly in Iraq,” according to the editorial page editor of a local paper.

No one in the White House ever has made such a claim.

Polls show “popular disgust at the continued killings of civilians” in Iraq, and “an inability to suppress the insurgency in Iraq is finally beginning to disturb members of the U.S. Congress.”

The word “finally” suggests the editorial writer had been disgusted long before congress tardily came to its senses. But disgust is a double edged sword: It moves some people to increase their resolve, especially when faced by the horrific crimes against humanity committed by what the writer is pleased to call "the insurgency." Others lose courage. The “insurgents," many of them Saudis, are surging into Iraq from outside the country. The border between Iraq and Syria is particularly porous.

“Growing talk” among supporters of the president – Connecticut Rep. John Larson is not one of them -- that Bush needs “an exit strategy” had induced the president to plan “a more aggressive defense of his conduct of the war in the coming weeks.

“But what can he possibly say? There will likely be no fundamental change in the Bush strategy of training Iraqi security forces and waiting for them to get control. And that may not happen soon. Do we really want to wait?”

Sen. John McCain, much praised by Connecticut's liberal press, has said that the troops should remain in Iraq for at least two years.

The editor does not disclose in this editorial what “fundamental change in the Bush strategy” would assure success in the Middle East, nor is it clear that anything the president may say will unsettle the editor's hardcore opinions.

A “non-binding resolution” – oxymoron alert! – “calling on President Bush to start bringing home troops by Oct. 1, 2006” has been characterized by one of its sponsors as a “target date,” not a withdrawal date, the editorial writer advises, though the editor himself later refers to the “target date” as “the October deadline.” Among newspaper folk, deadlines are not target dates.

The editorial writer nearly pins a medal of valor on the chest of Connecticut Rep. John Larson for having called for a withdrawal date a year ago.

“Only Larson, among our congressmen, voted yes” on the measure.

“But now Republican (emphasis original) members of Congress are growing squeamish at the prospect of having to justify their support for a war that was based on false premises and false information; has not helped American interests in the Middle East, despite assurances that it would; and seemingly will not end.

“Indeed, it is not even clear that Iraq is more stable with U.S. troops there. It might stabilize with our withdrawal.

“But the bottom line, the most serious consideration, is the U.S. soldier. Once again, his life is being put on the line for a war without a solid reason, strategy. Or chance of decisive victory… Once more, he may have to die for a mistake. Think of that soldier, or his parents, and say we should stay in Iraq ‘as long as it takes.’”

Justifying support for a war that can be won is not rocket science. If there is a possibility of winning, surely we do not want to abandon the soldiers in the field – not to mention the honored dead who have shed their blood in the war or their parents – to a losing strategy.

The “once again” mentioned in the editorial points backwards to Vietnam, and this editorial may be taken as the beginning of the Vietnamization of the Iraq war in Connecticut.

The editorial writer’s analogy, however, does not compute, however uplifted Larson and others who oppose U.S. military intervention in the Middle East – Sen. Joseph Lieberman is not a member of this chorus -- may be by the comparison.

There were three reasons why the United States did not win the war in Vietnam: Its military could not destroy the source of supplies of the Vietcong, which originated in China; its military, for complex reasons, could not capture and hold territory; and political support on the home front collapsed under a barrage of negative publicity, some of it justified. Jane Fonda and the Vietcong won the propaganda war in the United States.

One of the countries supplying the so-called Iraqi "insurgents" – They are really "outsurgents" -- with arms and material is Syria, a country that lately has been forced to withdraw from Lebanon. Some people, Larson and the editorial writer not among them, think the Bush strategy in the Middle East had something to do with the liberation of Lebanon. Afghanistan is no longer the threat it was before American troops and Afghan fighters liberated it from Osama bin Ladin and the virulent form of Wahibism practiced by the chief architect of the destruction of World Trade Center in New York.

It is true that the support for the Iraq war among some members of congress was based in part on false premises and false information. Whether congressmen may be able to justify the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the continuing democratization of Iraq is an altogether different question. Many justifiable wars – including World War II and the Civil War -- initially were prosecuted on questionable premises. No one any longer questions whether either war advanced the interests of the United States.

Has American military intervention in the Middle East “helped American interests?” Would a diplomatic intervention, after 9-11, have been more helpful to American interests?

Different interested parties will answer this question differently. The president of Afghanistan and the women of that country, no longer chattels, have good reason to be hopeful at the changes brought about by American military intervention in their country, whatever the precipitating cause of the intervention. The French and German presidents obviously feel differently –as do Larson and most editorial page editors in Connecticut.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hillary: How to Lie to the New York Times

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, finding herself among reddish ideological compatriots – a “Women for Hillary” gathering at a midtown hotel that added $250,000 to her political coffers – threw off her recently acquired “moderate” corset and unwound.

Samplings of the senator’s spicy rhetoric follow:

• “There has never been an administration, I don’t believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further (sic) their own agenda. I know it’s frustrating for many of you, it’s frustrating for me. Why can’t the Democrats do more to stop them? I can tell you this: It’s very hard to stop people who have you shame about what they’re doing. It’s very hard to tell people that they are making decisions that will undermine our checks and balances and constitutional system of government (sic) who don’t care. It’s very hard to stop people who have never been acquainted with the truth.”

• According to a report from the Clinton friendly New York Times News Service, the senator “described Republican leaders as messianic in their beliefs, willing to manipulate facts and even ‘destroy’ the Senate to gain political advantage, a reference to the recent fight that nearly stripped the Democratic minority of its filibuster powers to shelve judicial nominees. She also took a shot at the House of Representatives, calling it ‘a dictatorship of the Republican leadership.’” This last reference may be a feminist riff on Lenin and Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

• The news report continued, “In some of her sharpest language, Clinton said that abetting Republicans was a Washington press corp. that has become a pale imitation of the Watergate era reporters who are being celebrated amid the identification of the Washington Post source Deep Throat. “It’s shocking when you see how easily they fold in the media today. They don’t stand their ground. If they’re criticized by the White House, they just fall apart. I mean c’mon, toughen up guys; it’s only our constitution and country at stake.”

Boiling the rhetorical lard out of Clinton’s provocative assertions, we arrive at the following propositions, none of which is unassailable: 1) The filibuster is a constitutional right; 2) Republicans wish to deprive Democrats of the right, destroying the American Republic in the process, because they don’t care about constitutional rights, 3) the Washington media could thwart these subversive acts were they not shameless cowards who do not scruple to connive at lying on a grand scale, and 4) Republicans are shameless liars and dolts.

Now then, no one – not even a fanciful Supreme Court justice who tends to fabricate newborn constitutional rights from “the aura of rights” that surrounds the US Constitution – has asserted that the filibuster is a constitutional right.

At best, it is a tradition of the senate – and not a longstanding tradition at that. Prior to the current filibustering of judges, only once in U.S. history has the senate engaged in a filibuster to deny a presidential nominee a judgeship. Abe Fortas’ nomination was filibustered during the Johnson administration. And then again -- as if Democrats needed reminding -- the traditional filibuster is a talkathon conducted on the floor of congress lasting at most a couple of days. Prior to the obstructionism of the current congress, the longest senatorial filibuster was performed by Sen. Chris Dodd's favorite rhetorician, Robert Byrd, a now repentant Klu-Kluxer who then was filibustering the Civil Rights Act.

The Democrat “filibuster” against Judge Janice Roger Brown lasted two and a half years, ending finally in a deal that permitted the congress to vote on her nomination.

While filibusters are not mentioned in the Constitution, that hallowed document does assign to congress a right of advice and consent on executive department nominations. But Congress’ constitutional prerogative has been frustrated by a small group of senators – taken together, one might call them a dictatorship of judiciary committee members – that has misused the filibuster to prevent judicial nominations from going to the floor, where senators not deprived of their constitutional rights might exercise their rights of advice and consent.

When you turn it over and examine the thing closely, the so-called "filibuster" against judicial nominees is really a committee strike or work stoppage designed to bring the business of the senate to a halt, which is not the sort of thing that occasions the fall of republics.

As to the Republicans being liars: "There are three kinds of lies," Disraeli once said, "Lies, damned lies and statistics." Clinton's own remarks about the filibuster fall somewhere in this grouping. Lies are the mother’s milk of politics, and Clinton’s more rabid supporters are hoping the senator may be good enough at it to become the Democrat presidential nominee after the Bushies vacate the White House.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

David Verses Goliath: The Future of UTC in Connecticut

In a speech given before the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce in Cromwell, CEO of United Technologies George David, ever polite, said that he had “hard words” for his audience. He recalled a phone conversation he once had with then Governor Lowell Weicker, who was attempting to persuade David to amend a note receivable held by UTC that would facilitate the sale of the Hartford Whalers hockey team.

Weicker had mentioned that both David and he were “big boys,” major employers in Connecticut. But for the first time that year, Weicker said, he was a little bit bigger than David: The number of state employees had grown larger than UTC workers.

“I put the phone down,” David told his audience, “and recalled asking myself whether this was the right theory.”

Much water has flown under the bridge since that conversation. Connecticut’s payroll has increased 24 percent since 1992, although its population, David noted pointedly, has grown during the same period “by only 2 percent, with outward migration slightly exceeding births.” And the state – if it is possible to imagine such a thing – has become even more insistent on its prerogatives than was ex-Governor Weicker, to whom David refers tenderly in his address as “tough and patronizing, in his usual way.”

Connecticut, a Goliath that has doubled its spending since 1992, also has adopted “business-unfriendly tax measures” to ease its budget shortfalls. The 25 percent corporate income tax surcharge levied in 2002 was never sunsetted as promised. Three years ago, the state reduced by 30 percent a Research and Development tax credit intended to produce higher income jobs and promote intellectual property. Last year the state proposed a Homestead Act designed to shift property tax burdens from residential to corporate taxpayers. A “Pay or Play” bill now before the legislature, David said, “requires employers of 5,000 or more to move their privately negotiated medical plans up to levels for state employees or pay a corresponding tax on the difference,” thus increasing UTC’s Connecticut tax burden by more than half. The bill is onerous not only because it would require unnecessary benefits from UTC but also because “state intervention in otherwise private negotiated agreements between employers and employees is a grave precedent indeed.”

Before he completed his address, David firmly but politely fired a shot across the bow of Connecticut’s state government. “I want to be circumspect in responding to SB 1147,” said David, “but also to be clear with our legislature that there are choices in where we locate ourselves and where we locate our work.”

In an era in which the politics of parties have been replaced by the politics of interests, it would be foolhardy of politicians not to realize that businesses are driven by interests, foremost of which is profit making. If it is more profitable for UTC to rupture its historic ties to Connecticut and move to the greener pastures of a more business friendly state, that is what UTC will do to survive in a world in which nostalgia and false sentimentality can only spell disaster.

When asked recently whether he thought Connecticut’s millionaires, whose assets he had hoped to acquire through a millionaire’s tax, would remove themselves and their assets to a less predatory state, Speaker of the House James Amann expressed surprise. Hadn’t millionaires in Connecticut and elsewhere realized profits from a favorable change in federal tax policy? If enacted, the millionaire’s tax Connecticut Democrats were proposing would still leave them with a net profit. Such being the case, Amann doubted the tax would result in an exodus of millionaires. Connecticut, he said, was “such a nice state.”

The state does indeed have much to recommend it, and moving is always a nuisance. But companies are not persons. It may seem brutal to put it his way, and David is much too polite to employ such language, but the prime directive of a company is to grow or die. And if the soil in which it finds itself is no longer nourishing, it would be fatal not to seek a more favorable business environment elsewhere.

David’s remarks are an indication that Connecticut may be approaching a point where its politicians will be forced to decide whether they want jobs or services; and if companies begin to leave the state, who --other than millionaires bound to a specific geographic area by nostalgia – will finance the increasingly expensive services?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Budget 2005: When "Compromise" is surrender

As budget negotiations between state Democrats and Republicans appeared to be teetering on the brink of disaster, a rising tide of national prosperity lifted Connecticut’s boats and made a so-called budget “compromise” possible.

In a presidential administration that has been universally reviled for its propensity to spend, who woulda thunk that tax revenues would increase? Connecticut’s surplus dollars -- $700 million in the current fiscal year with a prospect of more to come the next fiscal year as the economy continues to improve – made everyone giddy with happiness.

The legislature, dominated by Democrats, has decided to spend most of the surplus, dedicating a sliver of it, $76 million, to the state’s rainy day fund, and another sliver to the state’s under funded teacher’s retirement fund.

The compromise budget replaces Governor Jodi Rell’s proposed “sin taxes” on cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, beer, wine and spirits, with a Democrat proposed 20 percent surcharge on the corporate profits tax in the 2006 tax year and 15 percent in the 2007 tax year. Being prosperous in Connecticut has now become a taxable sin. The bottom line, as the budget makers say, is that the Democrat controlled legislature intends to raise taxes $474 million in the current two year budget, which will be paid by corporations and the holders of wealthy estates.

Republicans and Democrats favor different “sin taxes.” Democrats oppose “regressive” taxes imposed on those whose incomes fall short of the state’s median income and favor “progressive” taxation on the principle that the rich, far better situated than the middle class, should pay their “fair share.” A fair share, needless to say, is not an equal share.

But if the share of taxes paid by the rich and the middle class is to be progressive, who shall determine what is fair? Would a progressive tax in which the rich paid 100% of the taxes consumed by the poor and the middle class be “fair?” What effect does a heavily progressive tax have on what economists call volatility and predictability in the market? A revenue structure heavily dependent upon a highly progressive tax becomes as volatile and undependable as a revenue structure that depends overmuch on “sin taxes.”

Volatility and predictability are the chief determinants of investment. A company considering either moving to Connecticut or expanding its business in state will be less willing to invest in jobs or business expansion if the revenue structure of the state is volatile and unpredictable.

These considerations do not figure in the Democrat’s long range planning. Commenting on the so called “compromise” budget, Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams said, "We didn't need as much in taxes. We didn't need both the estate tax and the millionaires' tax."

While national prosperity – not at all the same thing as Connecticut’s prosperity, which remains anemic – has this time saved the necks of Connecticut’s millionaires, punitive taxation remains, in the minds and hearts of liberal Democrats, as Shakespeare might say, “a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

Connecticut’s anemic economy should concern everyone in the state -- because the state cannot depend on a national rising tide of prosperity to lift its boats in the near future. The national economy is entering a slough; the tide is receding, responsible economists tell us.

And a lowering tide will increase volatility and decrease the ability of people and companies to plot their futures. States whose revenue streams are not dependent on the vagaries of the stock market will be able to survive the down tick in the national economy. The rich will as ever survive most set backs; but states whose revenue streams are dependent on “sin taxes” levied on both the poor and the prosperous may not survive the receding tide.

A broad based tax in which the middle classes who consume the bulk of state services paid their fair share would avoid volatility, secure a predictable future and serve as a bar to extravagant spending. Neither the poor nor the rich in Connecticut should be punished with “sin taxes.” The payment of taxes is a civic responsibility that should be shared equitably by the consumers of state services.

No responsible citizen should depend upon his rich uncle to pay his bills; that way points downward towards indigence and irresponsibility. And what is true of persons is true of the state. Connecticut should not depend upon the rich to foot its bills.

That is something Republicans and Democrats politicians should think about in their rush to make life comfortable for themselves.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Judge Robert Chatigny's Ethics

Judge Robert Chatigny was asked point blank by Assistant Attorney General Terrence O’Neill, “Does your honor hold any personally held beliefs or has your honor written in any other cases that we just haven’t been able to find yet that would cause us to question your partiality with respect to the implementation or execution of a death sentence?”

Only two days before he threw a monkey wrench into serial killer Michael Ross’ impending execution, Chatigny answered, “I have no moral beliefs or other types of beliefs that would stand in the way of implementing a death penalty in the circumstances where the law called for it to be done. So, yeah; you'll not find anything that suggests anything to the contrary. I feel fortunate to be in a situation to be able to address these issues without having to deal with a client, the public, the media, a boss or anything other than my own conscience."

Two days after the interrogatory between O’Neill and Chatigny, the judge convened a now notorious teleconference in the course of which he threaten Ross’ lawyer, T. R. Paulding, that he would go after his law license if later it were to be shown that Ross was incompetent to choose to forgo further legal appeals and accept his court ordered sentence.

Apparently, the judge’s conscience had failed to remind him of his previous involvement in the Ross case.

Acting on behalf of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Chatigny had submitted in 1992 a three page application with the State Supreme Court seeking permission to file a friend of the court brief in the Ross case. Permission was granted, but no record of a brief has been found.

The association he represented, Chatigny had written in the application, "is gravely concerned about the trial court's rulings on significant evidentiary issues in this case.” In his teleconference, Chatigny clung to the same view, despite the authoritative judgments of appellate courts – including a state Supreme Court and a U.S. Supreme Court -- that Ross was competent to decide whether or not he should forgo further appeals.

In the additional hearing occasioned by Chatigny's intervention, the presiding judge reached the same conclusion regarding Ross' competence as had preceding appellate courts ruling on similar presentations. The so-called new "additional evidence" that Chatigny thought should be included in a new hearing on Ross' competence -- including the effects of "Death Row Syndrome" -- did not play any part in the hearing.

Partiality in a view need not be rooted in moral or religious beliefs. A judge may exhibit partiality because he is unwilling to let the considered facts of a case interfere with his inflexible prejudgments.

Could the judge’s previous intervention in the Ross case have slipped his mind?

Not likely, according to House Minority Leader Robert Ward who, along with other Republicans, filed a complaint against Chatigny with the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

“I can understand a lawyer not remembering the details of a case he was involved in ten or twelve years ago, but there aren’t many Michael Ross cases. His name is on the petition to the State Supreme Court. He clearly had an agenda in this case.”

And since Chatigny previously had participated in the Ross case as a litigant – indeed, he was the sole signatory to the application seeking permission from the State Supreme Court to enter the case as a friend of the court -- Ward said it was “a clear ethical violation for a judge not to disclose his prior involvement in this case.”

Chatigny has declined comment on any possible conflict of interest. Judges are immune from suits, however injurious their actions, except under two narrow conditions: Their action must be “non-judicial, i.e. not taken in the judge’s judicial capacity; or, if judicial, the action must be taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction.

The protections afforded by the law to judges are necessary because suit happy lawyers otherwise would be able dance around the appellate process by suing judges who have ruled against them – which, come to think of it, parallels Chatigny’s extraordinary intervention in the Ross case.

Should judges be permitted to sabotage the appellate process by threatening attorneys and compelling them, by means of threats, to persuade obdurate clients to agree to further obstructive and unnecessary litigation? If the answer to that question is “no,” a further question presents itself: Can sanctions be devised that will not adversely affect the sometimes over-hyped “independence” of judges? Is it possible to devise a sanction applicable to judge A that will not impair the independence of the rest of the judicial alphabet?

“I have strong reservations about Judge Chatigny’s actions during the conference he conducted in the Michael Ross case,” Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. “The Judicial Council of the Second Circuit will determine whether these actions were proper and ethical. My office has no role in that process. We have filed no formal complaint against the judge. No provision of state or federal law allows my office to recover costs from a judge found to have acted improperly or unethically.”

If suits are out of the question, what about – a mind bent on resolution here desperately reaches for solutions – horsewhipping? Would the establishment of a “Committee to Horsewhip Judge Chatigny” do the trick without imperiling other unbridled judicial autocrats?