Friday, June 30, 2006

Borden on the Bench

Justice Borden took an axe
And gave Zarella forty whacks


Here’s the short version of what happened.

Governor Jodi Rell wanted to appoint State Supreme Court Justice Peter Zarella as Chief Justice. The sitting Chief Justice, William Sullivan, soon to retire, thought to grease the skids for Zarella, a protégé whom he appeared to like more than, say, Justice David Borden – by withholding from publication in a law journal a decision that had produced much controversy in the media.

The court, Zarella voting with the majority, had declared that a decision made by the Freedom of Information Council ordering the release of certain information to the media could not trump a previous decision made by a superior court judge that the information need not be made public. The decision turned on the nature of the information that was to be released. The court was divided on the issue, Borden voting with minority dissenters. The high court’s decision did not please the media, friends of the Freedom of Information Council, Justice Borden or Democrats sitting on the Judiciary Committee.

Justice Borden then came to the aid of this powerful triumvirate by disclosing that Chief Justice Sullivan had purposely withheld publication of the court’s decision in an attempt to deprive congressmen of information necessary to them; a legislative committee was, after all, in the process of voting to approve Zarella as Chief Justice.

Zarella’s requested that his name be withdrawn from nomination, and this produced smiles all around. Rell was content, if not happy, that a roiling controversy had been nipped in the bud; she was already struggling in an attempt to pull her top aide, Lisa Moody, from the burning faggots. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were happy because they had flexed their muscles and achieved the removal of a Republican gubernatorial appointment to lead the state Supreme Court. The media was happy because the judiciary branch, a creature content to work in the shadows, had momentarily emerged into the sunshine. And Borden was happy because he had replaced Sullivan as Chief Justice, if only temporarily.

In fact, Borden appeared to be the major winner in this judicial taffy-pull. He was widely celebrated in the media both as a friend of freedom of information and a brilliant jurist who might possibly make a fine chief justice, now that Zarella had been put out of the way. The awkward controversy might have ended right there, had not Democrat legislators on the Judiciary Committee made arrangements for a hearing. Zarella agreed to testify, but the redoubtable Sullivan balked, wherefore the solons on the Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to compel the former Chief Justice’s testimony.

And here the carefully crafted ethical posturing of the usual culprits suffered a serious meltdown; for acting Chief Justice Borden vigorously supported Sullivan in resisting the subpoena. Borden and Sullivan’s lawyers argued that the subpoena violated the state constitution’s separation of powers doctrine. To no one’s surprise, a superior court justice soon decided in their favor.

The moral to this tangled tale may be: Let no one attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of Justice Borden. Should the sitting Chief Justice be nominated by Rell to a permanent position, he does not intend to preside over the dismantling of the Supreme Court’s authority. The decisions of the superior and state supreme courts would be effectively nullified if other inferior judges of facts – Freedom of Information Commissions, editorial boards of powerful newspapers or even bumptious congressional committees – were permitted to trump judicial decisions. This rational ran like a golden thread through the decision that had caused all the difficulties for Zarella.

We are now back to square one, with acting Chief Justice Borden desperately maintaining that the exercise of legislative oversight is unconstitutional -- except when it occurs in venues permitted by judges.

The part played by Borden in the tale proves that there is more than one way to skin a gubernatorial nominee and still come away from it bathed in the glow of ethical propriety and smelling like a Chief Justice in full flower.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lamont, the New Moses

Tom D’Amore, who joined the Ned Lamont campaign a few months ago, is former Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker’s former major domo. At one point, Weicker shoehorned D’Amore into the chairmanship of the Republican Party. The party’s central committee swallowed hard and voted him in. D’Amore also is a stormy petrel, a bird whose presence announces the coming of a storm.

Weicker is the storm.

Weicker and his lovely wife Claudia held a well attended fund raiser for Lamont in Chester on Sunday. Claudia is a Democrat; Weicker is still an Independent Maverick-- which, translated into Connecticut-speak, would make him a Democrat.

Weicker’s face has been popping up here and there in various venues for the last few months. Recently appearing with Mark Davis of WTHN channel 8, Weicker was asked whether sour grapes figured at all in his support of Lamont, who is challenging Weicker’s nemesis, Senator Joe Lieberman, in a Democrat primary. Lieberman hitched up with conservatives and battered Republicans to defeat then Senator Weicker, who once famously dubbed himself accurately as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.”

No, Weicker said. Following his defeat by Lieberman, the people of Connecticut chose him as governor two years later. “I don’t carry any grudges; it has nothing to do with that.”

Really, it’s all about the war in Iraq.

No kidding, really.

The ironies are exquisite. During his victorious campaign against Weicker, Lieberman tapped into a river of Republican discontent. The Republican beef against Weicker went like this: First, Weicker was not a real Republican. He backed Democrat U.S. senators Chris Dodd and Edward Kennedy at every turn and gleefully savaged members of his own party, including the sainted President Ronald Reagan. Second, he’s not a real Republican. Weicker went out of his way to champion interests customarily associated with the Democrat Party, such as enforcing a rigid separation of church and state (Senator Weicker once said the U.S. Constitution provided a right of freedom from religion, though timid reporters never asked him whether he would call the police should church bells disturbing his Sunday morning sleep), inordinate taxation and Teddy Kennedy. Third, he’s not a real Republican …

Among the Kossacks – progressives who get their marching orders from the DailyKos, a liberal blog site -- the beef against Connecticut’s junior senator is: First, he is not a real Democrat. Lieberman has supported Republicans at critical turns, especially that dunce, President George Bush, who has involved us in another Vietnam. Second, he not a real Democrat …

Weicker was polished off in a general election; the kossacks hope to dispatch Lieberman in a primary. During the years of blight, when D’Amore was chairman of the party in which Weicker floated happily as a turd, Republicans had become so use to the spittle in their faces that they couldn’t even mount a successful primary against Weicker.

When some Republican defectors from the Weicker camp attempted a feeble resistance, Chairman D’Amore proposed that Republicans should open their nominating conventions to independents and unaffiliateds, an idea that did not go down well among mainline troops who wanted to retain the integrity of their party. Had the notion been adopted by Democrats around the time Weicker and DailyKos were concocting their poison pill for Liberman, Ned Lamont’s campaign would have been aborted in the womb.

In any case, we are once again involved in a cosmic battle for the soul of a party; actually it is a battle between old guard Democrats and party insurgents born with knives in their brains. This time, old guard Democrats have gotten stuck in the dessert of moderatism. But never fear, distaste for the Iraq war in this bluest of blue states is the shining beacon their new Moses will use to lead them to the promised land.

It’s about the war in Iraq. Really, it is.

No politics here.

At the Chester bash, Weicker told a reporter, “My presence here today has to do with the war, the war, the war. I am not a Democratic activist. I am an anti-war activist. I am not some left-wing nut or liberal crazy. I am an American of common sense who can recognize failure and pigheadedness.”

If pigheadedness could fly, Weicker would have wings sprouting behind his ears.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

To Hot Tub or Not to Hot Tub

Today’s Hartford Courant reports, not too prominently on page A21, that U.S. Senator Chris Dodd “reported owning a cottage in Galway, Ireland, valued between $100,000 and $250,000.” There is no indication in the story whether or not the cottage has a hot tub in it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Past and Future Skeletons in Dodd’s Closet


In a blog entrée reproving former Democrat Party chairman John Droney for having suggested that besieged Senator Joe Lieberman should run as an independent, Courant columnist and radio talk show host Colin McEnroe reached over and slapped Democrat Senator Chris Dodd upside the head.

The jolt to Dodd’s brain stem did not appear to be inadvertent.

It’s no secret that McEnroe regards Droney as a crass opportunist.

My chronic distaste for Droney has mostly to do with my belief that he's a bit of a bounder, as they say, and that, during the Rowland years, this acclaimed Democratic power broker never did much to unseat the Republican governor because he and his cronies liked the way Rowland and state Treasurer Paul Silvester ran the candy store. Droney capped off that marvelous phase of his life by becoming, appropriately, Rowland's defense counsel.


McEnroe rose to the defense of people characterized by the politically inept Droney in a Hartford Courant story as “weirdoes.”

Apparently, if you deplore the stagnating war in Iraq, if your stomach turns to see your country acquire an international reputation for torture and human rights violation, if you look upon Lieberman's blithely unrepentant attitude as proof that he is prepared to make the same kind of mistake again and again, you are a left-wing weirdo. It's the kind of remark you don't want to make about the other team before the game, because it gets taped up to a wall in the locker room and fires up the opposing squad. A smarter guy than Droney would know that.


And then, having roughed up Droney, a friend of Senator Chris Dodd’s, McEnroe concluded his blog with a promise of fisticuffs to come.

Coming soon: Droney is a long time Chris Dodd guy; but if he's going to be a big player in a Dodd presidential campaign, somebody is going to have to shut Dick Morris up.


The link to an earlier Morris column, though years stale, is somewhat damaging to Dodd’s nascent presidential ambitions.

Republicans continue to marvel at such internecine warfare within Democrat ranks, not a few of them wondering: With Friends and well wishers like McEnroe peeing in the fireplace, does the Democrat Party need Republican enemies?

Monday, June 12, 2006

MoveOn.org Told To Move On

Here in Connecticut, MoveOn.org has financed, produced and distributed several ads that may be described as “helpful” to Democrats challenging entrenched Republicans. The so called “Caught Red-Handed” ads launched against U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson and others have been frequently aired, but it is questionable whether the ads will be helpful to Johnson’s Democrat opponent, State Senator Chris Murphy.

Traditionally, negative advertising in the state has not had a good press. Major newspapers in particular have argued that they hurt more than they help; for one thing, “fact based” attack ads arouse antipathy in the media. At least, that has been the case so far.

Unlike some earlier negative ads frowned upon by many newspaper publishers, editors and commentators, the “Caught Red-Handed” ads have no connection with the Democrat Party as such. While MoveOn.org is ideologically affiliated with the progressive wing of the Democrat Party, formally the group’s connection with the Democrat Party is no more legally entangling than, say, Rep. Nancy Johnson’s connection with felonious lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Johnson’s Democrat opponent has distanced himself from the ads and given hints that the ads are somewhat below the salt, politically speaking, and indeed they are. Several reputable television stations elsewhere in the country have refused to air them.

Having spent about $1.3 million on the Republican’s “Caught Red Handed” ads,” MoveOn.org must have been a little disappointed that some conscientious decision makers, after consultations with lawyers, have refused to show the ads.

WVIT, Channel 30 in Connecticut, refused to show a “Caught Red-Handed” ad that tied Johnson to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff because the ties between the two are tenuous to non-existent. The Courant reported that the General Manager of Channel 30, David Doebler, killed the ad after consulting with the station’s lawyers.

He is not alone.

A “Caught Red-Handed” ad airing in Ohio that depicted Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce and others as selling out seniors to major drug companies was rejected by the only local station running the spot because, said WBNS General Manager Tom Griesdorn, “In the end I deemed it was defamatory because the allegations (made by MoveOn.org) could no longer be defended to the satisfaction of our attorneys."

FactCheck.org, a reputable non-partisan organization known for calling public attention to fraudulent political ads, last February declared that, “MoveOn.org launched a false TV ad in the districts of several House members, claiming through images and words that President Bush plans to cut Social Security benefits nearly in half.”

It’s become far too easy for politicians to “distance” themselves from ads that clearly benefit them, while refusing to denounce the sometimes “factual” but untruthful message projected by the ads.

The McCain/Feingold campaign finance reforms banned unlimited unregulated contributions known as “soft money,” regulated and limited “issue ads” from unions and corporations, and prohibited foreign nationals from contributing soft money to national state or local elections.

The reforms, well intentioned, were largely responsible for the creation of politicized 527’s that are immune from laws and regulations governing parties. These in name only “non-partisan” entities- MoveOn.org is one – now may collect and spend money to produce attack ads. Since these groups are not formally attached to parties, the media, which previously had exercised a restraining hand on irresponsible political ads, is not inclined to accuse those who produce and distribute the ads of rank partisanship – even when they are clearly partisan.

Because the groups operate outside the precincts of the parties, not only are they free from laws and regulations that apply to political parties; apparently, they are free from the laws of polite social behavior as well.

A more accurate way of putting it is this: Political 527’s, and blogs as well, are so new that social sanctions and prohibitions have not grown up around them. There are things that even the most audacious commentator might not say in a newspaper column. But bloggers – at least for the time being – are free of restraints that hem in political commentators, whose work is usually overseen by editorial cops.

Since 527’s are creatures of the tax code, rather than the laws and social behaviors that govern parties, the restraints that limit parties do not exist for 527’s. A political party might blush at having sanctioned – if only by its silence – an ad rejected by so many conscientious journalists. But MoveOn.org has no problem with the ads because a) they perform a useful and necessary political purpose; b) they are perfectly legal; and c) the moralists at MoveOn.org who might in pre-campaign finance reform days have choked on such ads have discovered the virtues of tolerance and forbearance, which is usually the case when someone else’s ox is being gored.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

This is What It’s All About, Alfie

Over at Slate magazine, not a conservative publication, Christopher Hitchens, not a disreputable neo-con, speculates that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the target of two 500 pound bombs, was not an innocent bystander in the war against the West being prosecuted by Islamic Salafists.

The guy who sawed off the heads of two American prisoners, Hitchens writes,

…contributed enormously to the wrecking of Iraq's experiment in democratic federalism. He was able to help ensure that the Iraqi people did not have one single day of respite between 35 years of war and fascism, and the last three-and-a-half years of misery and sabotage. He chose his targets with an almost diabolical cunning, destroying the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad (and murdering the heroic envoy Sérgio Vieira de Melo) almost before it could begin operations, and killing the leading Shiite Ayatollah Hakim outside his place of worship in Najaf. His decision to declare a jihad against the Shiite population in general, in a document of which Weaver (on no evidence) doubts the authenticity, has been the key innovation of the insurgency: applying lethal pressure to the most vulnerable aspect of Iraqi society. And it has had the intended effect, by undermining Grand Ayatollah Sistani and helping empower Iranian-backed Shiite death squads.


The father of one of al-Zarqawi’s headless victims, Nick Byrd, now running on the Green Party ticket for Congress, has said he takes no pleasure in the death of his son’s murderer, which is very Christian of him. But, alas, the al-Zarqawis of the world are not Christians, and their manners are not likely to be softened by noble gestures made by wannabe congresspersons.

How did the Salafists get this way, and are they likely to change anytime soon?

Salafism, also known as Islamic Modernism or Islamic Reformism, was a school of thought developed in the 19th Century by a number of figures (Abduh, Rashid Rida, al-Afghani, et al) at al-Azhar University in Cairo as an attempt to purify and modernize Islam, according to Trevor Stanley. The Salafis regarded the Quran and hadith collections as “instruction manuals for political reform or revolution written in an archaic language that required deciphering.”

Lately, the deciphering has been left to such as Osama BinLadin, Ayman al-Zawahiri and their muscleman in Iraq, the lately departed al-Zarqawi. For an exploration of the links between all these thugs, including Saddam Hussein, see the Middle East Quarterly article on Ansar al-Islam.

If there ever is a debate between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman on the war in Iraq, the moderator would do well to bone up on the subject by reading something other than MyLeftNutmeg and DailyKos.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Who Done It?


The usual sleuths are snooping around the corpse in an attempt to find out who done it.

An Associated Press report indicates that “Tips from within al-Zarqawi's own terror network helped the U.S. locate and bomb a safe house where the al-Qaida leader was meeting in secret with top associates.”

Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser told a reporter from the New York Times, “"We have managed to infiltrate this organization,” but the tight-lipped security advisor declined to elaborate. An unnamed Jordanian official told the Times – which also tends to be tight-lipped concerning its sources – “the mission that killed Mr. Zarqawi was a joint operation conducted by the Americans and Jordanian intelligence. The source inside Mr. Zarqawi's group, the Jordanian official said, had been cultivated at least in part by Jordanian intelligence agents. ‘There was a man from Zarqawi's group who handed over the information,’ the Jordanian official said.”

The good news is that the wall of silence that surrounds murderous terrorists like the late Zarqawi has begun to crumble. Friendly overtures made by Zarqawi’s thugs to Sunnis may have done him in, according to one report: “…the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi, who was sensitive to U.S.-encouraged derision of a foreigner killing Iraqis, began cozying up to Sunni insurgents. It was probably the move that led to his undoing, said Ed O'Connell, a retired Air Force intelligence officer who led manhunts for Osama bin Laden and others in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen.”

Zarqawi’s death was not noted in Hartford Courant editorials on the day after he was sent heavenward. The paper chose instead to write about popcorn.

Some are speculating that the oversight may have been due to the following factors: 1) The entire editorial staff had been dispatched to cover DailyKos’ annual shindig in Las Vegas. DailyKos, Moveon.org and other blogspots, some of them here in Connecticut, are supporting, monetarily and emotionally, the candidacy of Lieberman slayer Ned Lamont; 2) Courant editorialists, confused by the glad tidings, are busily arraying their prejudices for a bulky Sunday edition.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Got'em

Al-Qaida’s man in Iraq, al-Zarqawi, is now being attended by scores of virgins in heaven. He was reduced to his present estate, according to recent reports, as a result “of intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by residents in the area” and Jordanian assistance.

According to an Associated Press report,
A Jordanian official said that Jordan also provided the U.S. military with information that helped in tracking al-Zarqawi down. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was addressing intelligence issues, would not elaborate, but Jordan is known to have intelligence agents operating in Iraq to hunt down Islamic militants.

Some of the information came from Jordan's sources inside Iraq and led the U.S. military to the area of Baqouba, the official said.

Baqouba has in recent weeks seen a spike in sectarian violence, including the discovery of 17 severed heads in fruit boxes. It was also near the site of a sectarian atrocity last week in which masked gunmen killed 21 Shiites, including a dozen students, after separating out four Sunni Arabs.

"Those who disrupt the course of life, like al-Zarqawi, will have a tragic end," al-Maliki said. He also warned those who would follow the militant's lead that "whenever there is a new al-Zarqawi, we will kill him."

That fact that al-Zarquai was ratted out by locals suggest a turning point of some kind. Anti-war operatives at DailyKos are reviewing the matter to see how it will impact the Lieberman/Lamont race in Connecticut.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bad Ass Bass

Paul Bass is – or was—the editor of the New Haven Independent, a left leaning blogpaper. The Hartford Courant’s Northeast Magazine picked him up as a columnist after longtime political columnist Michele Jacklin left the paper to join Mayor John DeStefano’s gubernatorial campaign. Jacklin has since left the DeStefano campaign for parts unknown. Bass recently penned in Northeast Magazine a broadside against Sen. Joe Lieberman, universally reviled by Connecticut’s leftist bloggers, that opened to rave reviews from the Kossacks, the blogging storm troopers of the left in the state’s Democrat Party.

Many of the approving reviews have appeared in Connecticut Local Politics, a political blog site that sports an accompanying communication space frequently visited by earnest leftists. The proprietor of the site led off with an adulatory comment: “Wow. This editorial by Paul Bass is one of the harshest and most unflinching portrayals of Sen. Lieberman's political career that I've ever seen.” His commendation was followed by some magical figuration supplied by BRubenstein showing that, God wot, Lamont could defeat Lieberman after all.

Quoting from a piece written by Bass six years earlier, turfgrll then pointed out that the Bass piece was a rehash of somewhat stale positions ventilated six years earlier: “So what can we say about the latest salvo from Mr. Bass? More of the same, he's been pounding the anti-Leiberman drum beat for quite awhile now. He didn't have to go to his attic to rummage through his anti-Lieberman rhetoric, he has never sung from any other hymnbook.”

The lady also questioned the figures presented by BRubenstein – “Your math skills must be on par with your lawyering skills. Good one there, go on thinking that 33% represents a majority” -- which produced an impassioned rejoiner from the affronted BRubenstein: “Turfgrll... once again you misread the prior posting i did...i am beginning to think that you may have a cognitive brain problem.” So it goes in Blogland, where perfectly reasonable points – 33% is not 51% -- are met with gattling gunfire and take-no-prisoners rhetoric.

In any case, Turfgrrl is right. Lieberman already has answered most of the points raised by Bass elsewhere, some of them in the pages of the New Haven Advocate, Bass’ old stomping grounds. The points presented by Bass do not gain in cogency simply because they have been conveyed from the Hartford Advocate, via the New Haven Independent, to the no less liberal Courant. So, what’s going on here?

What we have in Bass’ Courant column is the script for an attack on Lieberman from the left, and a prod to a possible debate between Lieberman and Lamont. It’s a summation of possible talking points that may, in the end, serve only as after dinner chatter for leftists.

Lieberman, in fact, is very capable of defending his record. And it is by no means certain that Lamont would carry a debate even on the Iraq war – even a debate monitored by Paul Bass.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Term Limits Revisited: They’re Good For What Ails You

The conventions, now mercifully over, will be followed by a period in which everyone will be besieged by platitudinous political ads, most of them distracting and irrelevant. One of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s recent efforts portrays his opponent, the personable Ned Lamont, as redundantly wealthy, his sights set on buying a senate seat. Well sir -- that should raise the hackles of the union leaders and other members of the proletariat who already support Lieberman, mostly for self serving reasons.

The more interesting question – Why is it so easy for those with deep pockets to buy admittance to campaigns? – probably will not be explored this election season. One guess is that the McCain/Finegold reforms were instrumental in weakening parties and strengthening the hegemony of incumbents of all stripes. The reforms restrict party building funds and divert most campaign contributions to individual politicians who are – Guess what? – incumbents.

The impregnability of incumbents and the ease with which the malefactors of great wealth are able to insert themselves into elections are unimpeachable arguments for term limits – which undoubtedly would a) spread the rampant corruption around to more politicians (Why should only incumbents have fun?), b) hopelessly confuse lobbyists who donate to incumbents without regard to party affiliation (Who is this guy? Is he ours or theirs?) and c) at long last persuade Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, wedged out of his current position by term limits, to run for governor (Honey, I lost my job).

I’ts a mystery why the Kossacks, assiduous readers of DailyKos who form much of the Frankensteinian mob now calling for Lieberman’s head, have not aligned themselves on the side of term limits. For one thing, term limits would provide more… ahem … “opportunities” for private hangings and a larger field of operations for aging anti-Vietnam war heroes who, Samson-like, want to pull down on everyone’s head the detritus of bare, ruined political parties. Secondly, term limits would move most of the Kossacks from cramped private quarters visited only by the likeminded into the public domain, where they might actually get some hands-on experience in real bare-knuckle politics.

Republicans, too, should be thumping for term limits; they haven’t held more than the governor’s office since former Senator Lowell Weicker, badly in need of someone to pay the taxes on his ill gotten gains, ran for governor on an independent ticket, won and imposed an income tax on the proletariat.

In fact, the only partisan political groups that oppose term limits are the Incumbent Party (pretty much everybody in office) and Connecticut’s only state-wide newspaper, which seems to think – when it does think – that term limits would deprive the state of necessary political experience. Actually, term limits would import experience and politicians into other positions.

Term limits, it is often forgotten, were the driving engine in Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America,” an amazingly successful campaign program that swept Republicans to victory in one of the most impressive non-Rovian political pogroms of the last century. Of course, when Republicans finally achieved control of both houses of the legislature, they quickly shelved the idea as too… ahem… cumbersome. But it was wildly popular among the populous, who began to imagine all the politicians heads mounted on one neck so that, like Nero, they could with one stroke of the sword quickly rid themselves of their tormentors.

In Connecticut, apart from Governor Jodi Rell, the most wildly popular politician among his constituents is Sam Caliguri of Waterbury. He came by these plaudits by way of self termination. After child molester Phil Giordano was hauled off to jail and Caliguri told he had succeeded to the mayoralty, the new mayor let it be known that he did not intend to run for the position again at the expiration of his term. Result: Politically defanged, everybody decided to work with Caliguri for Waterbury and the common good, and in six short months Mayor Caliguri had accomplished more for the city than his predecessor had in the previous six years.

It would be difficult to think of another bridge issue that make so many groups of people who usually spend their time screaming at each other across the political barricades lock lips together. The only people who seriously oppose term limits are incumbent politicians and their hand puppets in Big Media. After decades of pointless reform that has only served to separate political leaders from their constituents and make campaigns prohibitively expensive for anyone but incumbents and millionaires, it may be time to give term limits a try.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Is That An Ice Cube On My Neck?

It was bound to happen someday. A blogger at the popular blog site, Connecticut Local Politics, has ratted out another blogger to the FBI.

BRubenstein, who blogs under his own name, took umbrage at comments made by “Senator Harry Reid,” not the bloggers real name, and took the matter up with the Feds. Most bloggers use pseudonyms. Anonymity tends to stiffen the spine, which is why blog sites are a wee bit more freewheeling – some would say more recklessly irresponsible --than, say, the good, grey New York Times.

The fake “Senator Harry Reid” inserted himself, just before the Democrat convention, between the warring camps of Sen. Joseph Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont, who had received a great deal of support, moral and monetary, from Daily Kos, a blog site popular with Democrat progressives and anti-Iran-war drum beaters.

On May 7, “Senator Harry Reid” dropped by the site and said:

The complete failures of the Republicans in Washington have made America less safe, less secure, and less competitive than ever before.

I haven't been able to devote any time to reading this Kos' blog, although I'm told it is very popular with a certain element in the party. But let me be clear: as the leader of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate, I need Joe to be re-elected. Joe's presence in the United States Senate is essential.

Joe has an unquestionable commitment to the progressive principles that make our Party great, and has told me time and time again of how proud he is of his Democratic Party affiliation.

Mr. Lamont has Kos, Joe has me.

Every best wish,

U.S. Senator Harry Reid, Democratic Leader


If any of the commentators on the site that day supposed they were reading a letter from the real Harry Reid, the estimable Democrat Minority Whip, they kept their supposition to themselves. DeanFan84, not his real name, responded, “Harry Reid-- I hope you know that what you are doing is wrong. I presume everyone will recognize you as one of Joe's lame-ass staffers, but assuming identities is still taboo.” BRubenstein did not immediately respond to “Harry Reid’s” provocation, noting only that, “Lamont needs to grow his ‘center" support’ ...id (sic) love to see a mainstream politician in an ad for Lamont.”

The pseudonymous “Harry Reid” soon launched another unctuous letter:

Dean fan 84, I think you and everyone else knows that I am in fact who I say I am. You can corroborate that by reading the printed letter I sent through the mail to Democratic delegates to your state convention.

But if one needs an excuse to use a name other than one's own, your group's viciousness toward the author of this blog (is Ghengis Conn his real name?) is all the justification one would require.

Mr. Lamont will fail in his bid to unseat Senator Lieberman, because loyal Democrats will rally to Joe's side. This will happen because Joe has an unquestionable commitment to the progressive principles that make our Party great.

Hatred will never be an acceptable basis for our Party to select a candidate, much less unseat a good man, a committed Democrat, someone who has devoted his life to good, principled government.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

Every best regard,

U.S. Senator Harry Reid, Democratic Leader


And then “Harry Reid” said this about BRubinstein: “Mr. Rubenstein's hatred of Joe Lieberman, as he just bragged in this thread, is well known and understood for what it is. The ‘Connecticut for Dean’ organization suffered fatally because of it, and hatred of your fine junior Senator does not form the basis of a candidacy that rank and file Democrats or leaders like me can support.”

That dropped anvil would have bruised anyone’s big toe. But if BRubinstein felt the smart, he maintained a dignified and honorable silence.

He bided his time, and then he ratted “Harry Reid” out to the FBI.

BRubinstein claims that the anonymous blogger (aka “Harry Reid”) was being malicious rather than satirical. Remarks made by “Harry Reid” to DeanFan on the Connecticut Local Politics blog site, BRubenstein has said, removes the letters from " harmless satire" to “a deceitful attempt to confer a benefit to Senator Lieberman...” BRubinstein since has identified the benefit: "In this case people were urged to vote at the convention and primary for Senator Lieberman....which is a attempt to convey a benefit." But the clause “attempt to convey” may be taken as lawyerspeak for – “we need not show that the accused was successful in actually conferring the alleged benefit.”

Since BRubinstein is a lawyer and an ardent Lamontist, it seems reasonable to ask him whether he thinks any disinterested reader of “Harry Reid’s” letters would find his disguise so impenetrable as to succeed in convincing otherwise intelligent Democrat delegates who were committed to vote for Lamont at the convention to switch their votes to Lieberman? How many convention delegates, yanked at the neck by the fictitious “Harry Reid,” switched their votes from Lamont to Lieberman? Indeed, how many voting delegates at the convention saw the remarks?

And are there any tip-offs in the letters written by the fake “Harry Reid” that these satires likely were not written by the real Harry Reid? Anything at all? What about the salutation “Harry Reid, Democrat Leader?” Does the real Harry Reid sign his letters, “Democrat Leader?” And would the real Harry Reid know the real BRubenstein from a hole in the ground? Surely, these improbabilities point in the direction of satire.

We bloggers suppose the FBI will be able to figure it all out – someday. In the meantime, did someone put an ice cube down my back? I feel a sudden chill.

UPDATE

A lively discussion of these issues may be found at Connecticut Local Politics.

What Shays' Opponents Can Learn From History, Before They Are Doomed To Repeat It

If Dianne Farrell’s strategy is to tie President George Bush around Republican Rep. Chris Shays’ neck like an albatross, hoping that a distaste for Bush is transferable to Shays, it is a fair bet that this strategy will fail. It will not work because it has not worked. Shays has been careful to inoculate himself from the conservative virus in all his campaigns. Shays’ shtick is that he is, like Lowell Weicker before him, a maverick – his own man.

Anti-war lynch mob bloggers have seen through that particular façade in the case of Lieberman, who has earned their displeasure by departing from far left orthodoxy – most especially on the war in Iraq. The progressives’ beef with Lieberman is that he has not driven enough nails into Bush’s coffin, proof positive, in their opinion, that he is a faux Democrat.

What anti-Shays agitators ought to be asking is this: “What sort of a campaigner can defeat Shays,” and they should be willing to approach the question in cold blood.

Conservatives, champing at the bit during the Weicker hegemony, were asking themselves the very same question. The answer they came up with was: Joe Lieberman could defeat Weicker. Lieberman was not at the time – nor is he now – a conservative. Everything about Lieberman – his past political history, ideology and voting record – screams “moderate to liberal Democrat.” Even as I write, Hillary Clinton, lean and hungry, is primping in the same moderate to liberal outfit.

True blue conservatives in the years of the Weicker hegemony, their hearts sealed in ice, made a sort of pact with the devil: They would support Lieberman, who could defeat Weicker and remove the “turd from the Republican punchbowl,” a ribald expression coined by Weicker to describe his strained relationship with his party.

Leftists in the Democrat Party are facing a similar mirror image problem in Shays' case. Shays’ enemies all are mustered on his armored left flank, while his right flank is completely exposed. If there were in the Democrat Party a candidate for Shays’ seat who stood to his right on a few issues, he or she might have a chance of unhorsing him. But there isn’t, and there won’t be – because keepers of the progressive flame will not allow an assault centered on Shays’ unprotected right side. A Democrat candidate who could attack Shay’s on his exposed side would not be sufficiently liberal for Daily Kos and other likeminded progressive bloggers in Connecticut that appear to have fallen out of Markos Moulitsas Zúniga’s pockets; Zúniga is the proprietor of the Daily Kos blog.

When Farrell threw her support to Lieberman rather than the Daily Kos favored candidate, Ned Lamont, progressives read her out of their minds, if not out of their party, and threatend to hurl at her the same Zeusian thunderbolts they have been slinging at Lieberman. Not one far left thunderbolt has yet singed so much as a hair on Shays' chinny, chin, chin.

For progressives, this is a problem that will not retreat when met with indifference.