Monday, July 31, 2006

Shucking Off the Mortal Coil

If anyone should want to send a get well card to Fidel Castro, now might be a good time. The ailing dictator has turned over power in Cuba to his younger brother Raul, no spring chicken at 75. Castro will be 80 on August 13. The obit writers are fleshing out their texts, though it is always possible that news of Castro’s imminent demise is greatly exaggerated. In the past, the Cuban dictator has survived exploding cigars and other novel attempts by freedom loving CIA agents to help him over the bar.

But age and stress, pulling us all sooner or later into the grave, has taken its toll. According to an AP report, stress “from recent public appearances in Argentina and Cuba” has led to gastrointestinal bleeding, never a good sign. Extreme stress, Castro said "had provoked in me a sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding that obligated me to undergo a complicated surgical procedure."

The good news is that Castro is being tended by Cuban medical personnel, said by other dictators in Latin America to be the best in the world. Cuba’s health care is socialized – as indeed is everything on the island – and doctors have been sent out by Castro to other countries, preludes to the usual Latin American coups.

Judge Chatigny’s Memory Lapse

“Judge Chatigny stated that he had forgotten his brief, inconsequential involvement with Ross' direct appeal and would have recused himself had he remembered it. A failure to recuse resulting from an innocent and reasonable memory lapse is not misconduct."

Those lines, from a special committee report clearing Judge Robert Chatigny from charges of misconduct, ought to be dubbed “the Lisa Moody defense.” Essentially, the panel of judges that gave a pass to Chatigny are saying 1) Chatigny did indeed fail to recuse himself for having participated earlier in the Michael Ross case, 2) the failure to recuse does indeed indicate misconduct, but 3) a failure to recuse oneself need not lead to a determination of misconduct if the judge “innocently and reasonably” has a memory lapse.

One recalls Moody’s doubtful memory lapse in connection with Chatigny because Moody, Governor Rell’s chief aide, had made handwritten notes on a memo she claimed not to have remembered; Chatigny hand wrote 15 pages of notes in connection with a filing that he claims not to remember. Moody, Governor Rell’s chief aide, survived an interrogation by a legislative committee; but some legislators, unsatisfied with her explanation, plan to recall her for further questioning. The three judges who determined that 15 pages of Chatigny’s hand written notes fell though a tiny crack in the judge’s memory banks, were more obliging to their judicial brother-in-arms.

Neither his unfortunate memory lapse nor the report vindicating Chatigny, however, changes the roll played by the judge – that of a judicial scold -- in the Michael Ross prosecution. Through a series of overt and implied threats at a meeting hastily called hours before convicted serial killer Michael Ross was to be executed, Chatigny prevailed upon Ross’ lawyer, T. R. Pauling, to convince his client of the need for further judicial intervention. After years of judicial processing, Ross had determined that he did not wish to impede justice any further; he decided to step off the judicial rollercoaster and accept the punishment meted out to him by a series of judges and juries. Approached by a shattered Pauling on the eve of his execution who implored Ross to agree to yet another hearing, Ross relented, explaining that he was doing so only for the sake of his lawyer.

As a practical matter, the meeting arranged by Chatigny served to overrule a series of decisions made in the case by numerous judges – including a putative “final decision” made by Connecticut’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court and state Supreme Court decisions came at the end of more than a decade of costly judicial processing. The seemingly endless processing, lasting a dozen years, was prolonged further by what the panel that vindicated Chatigny called the judge’s “unusual” actions. It is not common for justices to force lawyers to abandon the defense of their clients and agree to extraordinary measures by threatening to pull their law licenses or to arrange unorthodox hearings the practical effect of which is to overrule conclusive decisions at the tail end of a case that has percolated through the courts for a dozen years.

One thing is certain: The judicial brotherhood, like any of the lesser “hoods,” knows how to take care of its own. The covey of judges that decided the issue of Chatigny’s misconduct -- 2nd Circuit Chief Judge John W. Walker Jr., circuit Judge Pierre Leval and Chief Judge Michael Mukasey of the Southern District of New York -- made a special point of noting in their final report that Pauling was not a complainant. “It is noteworthy,” the Judges wrote, “ ... that it is not Paulding but his litigation adversaries who argue that the judge improperly threatened Paulding.”

What a surprise!

From the very beginning of the Ross case, victimologists in Connecticut identified Ross – not the serial killer’s true victims, more than a half dozen young women who were raped and strangled by Ross – as worthy of their attentions. And in their final report a panel of judges sympathetic towards Chatigny has determined that Chatigny is simply a victim of unreasonable charges made by Ross’ prosecutors. Chatigny was innocent and reasonable, the victim of overreaching prosecutors; Pauling was not victimized by Chatigny.

Nice!

Whether Chatigny should be impeached is still an open question.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Yellowcake anyone?


The indomitable Christopher Hitchens – who is neither a neo-con nor a Christian fundamentalist nor an ardent Bush supporter – ties up a few loose ends concerning Joe Wilson, his CIA wife Valerie Plame, Nigerian yellowcake and the now notorious few sentences, much commented upon by the left, in president George Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.

"This means that both pillars of the biggest scandal-mongering effort yet mounted by the "anti-war" movement—the twin allegations of a false story exposed by Wilson and then of a state-run vendetta undertaken against him and the lady wife who dispatched him on the mission—are in irretrievable ruins. The truth is the exact polar opposite. The original Niger connection was both authentic and important, and Wilson's utter failure to grasp it or even examine it was not enough to make Karl Rove even turn over in bed. All the work of the supposed "outing" was inadvertently performed by Wilson's admirer Robert Novak. Of course, one defends the Bush administration at one's own peril. Thanks largely to Stephen Hadley, assistant to the president for national security affairs, our incompetent and divided government grew so nervous as to disown the words that appeared in the 2003 State of the Union address. But the facts are still the facts, and it is high time that they received one-millionth of the attention that the "Plamegate" farce has garnered."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Israel, the Terrorists and the West


To say that war is a continuation of diplomacy by other means is to say that diplomacy may be, when circumstances are ripe, a continuation of war by other means. The object of both war and diplomacy is – to get what you want in the long run; the short run is often tactically confusing.

What does Israel want?

Immediately, it wants an end to the death and destruction showered upon it from military emplacements in the southern part of Lebanon, land from which Israel withdrew as a part of a peace process several years ago because a) a long Jihad with Hezbollah, a terrorist organization supported by Syria and Iran, had exhausted it, and b) Israel had bought into “peace for land” arguments advanced by diplomatists who are now suggesting that further diplomacy is the solution to recent attacks by Hezbollah launched from territory surrendered to them. The highlands in South Lebanon were swapped for an illusive peace, and before you could say “diplomacy is war by other means,” missiles were raining down on Israel.

In the long term, Israel wants what any nation minimally must have to be a nation: peace and security from terrorists and their Arab facilitators.

What does Hezbollah want?

Like most Arabs, the terrorist organization wants the complete and utter destruction of Israel, as well as any outcroppings of democracy in and around the Middle East. In the long run, a resurgent Islam wants a caliphate in the Middle East ruled by Sharia law as understood by Salafists, and a serious assault on what has come to be known in the West as the fruits of the Enlightenment period, the crucible of ideas that has allowed the West to flourish since the post-Renaissance period.

Both Israel and pan-national Islamic fundamentalists regard diplomacy as the continuation of war by other means. Hezbollah’s strategy to accomplish its aims involves calling on peacekeepers to intervene and enforce a truce should their Israeli enemies win a decisive military victory. Despite pacifist fables to the contrary, decisive wars bring peace in their bloody wake. The peace following World War II was deep, rich and abiding because that war – unlike World War I – was decisive; World War II decided the shape of Europe for years to come.

The shape of the future is now being decided in the Middle East. And the most important question before the West is: What would a successful war, both military and diplomatic, against the enemies of the West look like?

The bombing of Israel has caused Al-Qaida’s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, to declare that the fighting between Israel and Islamic terrorists will not end with “cease fires and agreements.” Salivating in a recently released Al-Jazeera video, al-Zawahri said, “It is a Jihad for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq. We will attack everywhere." A helpful textual note from the Associated Press tells us that “Spain was controlled by Arab Muslims until they were driven from power at the turn of the 16th century.”

The Muslims were driven from Spain around the time that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered a land mass he thought was India. Boabdil, the last Muslim leader of the Moorish stronghold of Granada, surrendered to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella on January 2nd, 1492, but the decisive battle that prevented an Islamic incursion into Gaul was fought and won by Charles Martell at Tours on October 10, 732.

A military leader of uncommon valor and brilliance, Martell was regarded by those who fought against him as unusually vicious; he would not have passed the Geneva Accords sniff test.

There is no one like him in modern day France. Martell is the sole reason why al-Zawahri did not say that the Jihad – the struggle of Islam against the West -- will last until Islam prevails from France to Iraq. Martell’s decisive battle checked the advance of Islam before it could penetrate Gaul.

Today, Islam already has penetrated a sleeping Europe. Only a few months ago, much of France -- but happily not Paris -- was set afire by unassimilated, second generation French Muslims who had not been absorbed by western culture. The fires in Tours, some Islamists hoped, would light the way to a decisive victory.
Isabelle and Ferdinand expelled the Jews from Spain around the same time they accepted the surrender of Boabdil. Al-Zwahri, no doubt, has similar ambitions.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Eagle Has Landed: Clinton in Connecticut

About 2,000 Democrats showed up at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury to cheer on ex-President Bill Clinton and re-welcome in the Age of Aquarius. Fleetwood Mac’s hypnotic verse “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,” Clinton’s signature song, filled the air, and the revelers certainly were focusing on tomorrow.

Recent poll figures show Ned Lamont edging Senator Joe Lieberman among likely Democrat voters, which betokens a tomorrow unwelcome by former Democrat Leadership Council presidents Clinton and Lieberman. The DLC’ers are moderate Democrats; the insurgents now laying claim to Lieberman’s senate seat are, shall we say, immoderate.

A Hartford reporter covering the event wrote, “The former president said no Democrat should be held responsible for the war in Iraq, the issue that polls say is driving Democrats away from Lieberman and to his anti-war challenger, Ned Lamont.”

Not exactly: In Clinton case, one has learned to pay attention to fine print qualifiers. Any assertion boldly made by Clinton always depends on what “is” is. Clinton said that Democrats were not responsible for the “mistakes that have been made since the fall of Saddam.” Some Democrats, most notably Bill Clinton, must accept responsibility for such saber rattling at this:

Six weeks ago, Saddam Hussein announced that he would no longer cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors called UNSCOM. They are highly professional experts from dozens of countries. Their job is to oversee the elimination of Iraq's capability to retain, create and use weapons of mass destruction, and to verify that Iraq does not attempt to rebuild that capability.

The inspectors undertook this mission first 7.5 years ago at the end of the Gulf War when Iraq agreed to declare and destroy its arsenal as a condition of the ceasefire.

The international community had good reason to set this requirement. Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them. Not once, but repeatedly. Unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war. Not only against soldiers, but against civilians, firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. And not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq.

The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.

That was Clinton on the eve of his impeachment -- long before voters ushered in the age of Bush the Lesser -- addressing the nation on the danger of leaving Saddam unmolested in Iraq. But while Clinton’s saber rattling may be partially responsible for the later deposition of Saddam by Bush the Lesser, no Democrat – not even Bush enabler Lieberman – may be held responsible for mistakes that have occurred “after the fall of Saddam.”

Well, maybe yes, maybe no. It certainly is true that Bush must accept primary responsibility for mistakes that have been made in the prosecution of the Iraq war. But others, even senators that have escaped scrutiny by the insurgents, have dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood of that war. Master strategist and triangulator Clinton is right when he points out that “the real issue is, whether you were for it or against [the war], what are you going to do now?”

That question has not been answered convincingly by Lieberman, Lamont, Bush or Clinton. Aging anti-Vietnam War insurgents think they have an answer: Withdraw under honorable cover – Remember Nixon’s peace with honor? -- and let the natives hash out the future of the Middle East by themselves. But that answer is indifferent to sense and sensibility, which holds that impish history sometimes presents to us a farce (the Vietnam War) that, repeated a second time, becomes a tragedy of incalculable proportions. The Islamic fundamentalists are not Vietnamese; they are world conquerors.

Bush’s answer – introduce democracy and its handmaiden liberty into the Middle East – appears to be going up in smoke; his apparent failure has been applauded by a Euro-Europe insensible of the danger of an Islamic reconquista, homegrown politicians and faux nonpartisan media adepts whose brains are on fire.

In search of a third way, a weary world now turns its eyes to the Great Triangulator and his wife Hillary, prompting the question: Do nations that willingly extend their necks to executioners deserve to survive?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Lowell and Colin Show

“Thinking about today's show,” Colin McEnroe – blogger, author, Courant columnist and beau viviant – writes on his blog, “ I re-read Genghis Conn's excellent meditation on Weicker's 1970 three-way. (It is fun to wonder how many of the people posting comments, back then, about Lieberman crushing Lamont like a bug have revised their entomology. Hey, we ALL get stuff wrong.)”

Gengis Conn is the proprietor of Connecticut Local Politics, a much read progressive blog. The blog is read mostly for its sometimes colorful and disputative commentary section. Among the comments on the particular site to which McEnroe refers is this one:

Don Pesci (that would be me) said...
GC
I believe in God and Senator Dodd and keepin' old Castro down --Phil Ochs, Draft Dodger Rag
In the context of the times, Ochs' song is instructive. It's generally forgotten -- and never mentioned in discussions of the Dodd pere/Duffy/Weicker race that Duffey was the anti-Vietnam war dove. Dodd, unlike his son, was an aggressive anti Castroite and anti-communist. Weicker was a raging war hawk, and a conservative. Only later did his world view develop those amazing twists and turns for which he became famous. His pro-war message was one of the reasons Weicker was able to prevail in the race.
Genghis Conn said...
Very true, Don. In fact, during the first and only debate in October, another of Weicker's memorable lines was that "a nice warm jail cell" awaited draft dodgers. If I had to guess, I'd say a higher number of conservatives voted for him in that election than in any of his subsequent contests--especially post-Watergate.”

Gengis’ comment is, as the progressives might say, absolutely spot on. Weicker was elected as a conservative hawk; he did, over the course of a long career, move to the left; he was the bane of the Republican Party both as senator and governor, once referring to himself colorfully --but absolutely spot on accurately -- as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.” Whenever he cudgeled individual Republicans and pulled the elephant’s nose, the Democrats snuggled up and returned him to office.

Weicker was defeated finally by his mirror opposite, current Senator Joe Lieberman. Just as the right regarded Weicker as a faux Republican – and worse – so now the left looks with the same baleful eye on Lieberman and sees … well, McEnroe is familiar with the left’s attitude towards traitor Joe. In fact, many of Lieberman’s blogging flagellators were in the studio with McEnroe as he was throwing smurfball questions at Weicker.

It is this sense of ironic cymbals crashing two inches from one’s ear that is not caught in McEnroe’s interrogatories with the ex-senator and governor. Weicker, one of the best sound bite pols in the business, was occasionally interrupted by a worshipful McEnroe with affirming grunts, but there were no claps of thunder, no lightning flashes revealing armies struggling on a darkling plain.

Now then, here is what we know about Weicker, Lieberman and Ned Lamont, the progressive’s – and Weicker’s – Great White Hope:

1) Weicker hates Lieberman and wishes to see him roasting on a spit in Hell, along side all the Connecticut voters who turned the former senator out of office.

2) It was Weicker who first publicly encouraged Lamont to run. Lamont’s campaign soon brought in Tom D’Amore, the ex-senator and governor’s hand picked ex-Republican Party chairman, to cook and wash bottles for Lamont. Yet, when Lamont phoned into the Lowell and Colin show, he said to Weicker, “Ah, so you’re on board…” At this point, one expected a snarling guffaw from the usually risible McEnroe, but the co-host was too enchanted to react, which means that McEnroe, virtually all of the bloggers who joined him in the studio and Connecticut’s uncritical media are now partisans in a struggle for political influence and status.

3) Weicker’s principal interest is – and always has been – self vindication.

Ahab, the greatest self vindicator in American literature, in pursuit of the white whale that had scarred him, is told his passion is blasphemous, to which he responds, “Speak not to me of blasphemy man – I’d strike the sun if it dare insult me!”

There is more than a little Ahab in most Americans. But then, as McEnroe reminds us, “Hey, we ALL get stuff wrong.”

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Silence of the Lambs

Address of Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadhlullah

On the Birth Anniversary of Imam al-Mahdi (aj)

Allah says in His Glorious Book: {Allah only wishes to remove uncleanness from you, members of the Family, and to purify you} [3:33]. The first member is Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib ('a), while the last is Imam al-Mahdi (May Allah hasten his relief) whom Allah, the most exalted, has prepared to fill the earth with justice having been filled with wrongdoing.

The struggle between Israel and Hezbollah – the Islamists would call it a jihad – probably will affect state campaigns only slightly.

In Connecticut, where anti-war candidate Ned Lamont is challenging incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman, some subtle shifts in emphasis may be expected. Lieberman’s opponents have been unusually quiet of late. The conflict has been going on for more than a week and promises to continue much longer than that. Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, so is this portentous silence.

The left in Connecticut takes its cues from the anti-Lieberman blogging community -- a coalition of anti-war protestors, leftists whose ambition it is to take over local Democrat parties and virulent anti-Bushites. One senses that the ideologists and strategists of the movement – but not, of course, the singular minded Cindy Sheehan -- are somewhat befuddled. They may be waiting for the script to come down from Mount Olympus.

The survival of Israel as the only working democracy in the Middle East is very much at stake; that has always been the case. There are two heads to the terrorist snake. One wants the obliteration of Israel, and the other an Islamic caliphate, ambitions supported by a majority of Muslims both in the Mid-East and in Europe. These goals are interdependent. The firing of missiles into Israel, like the notion that one is about to be executed in the morning, clarifies the mind wonderfully.

The calls for a negotiated peace to the present conflict must be understood in the context of a future Islamic victory. The opponents of an Islamic caliphate, for instance, have insisted that the terrorist, the vanguard of that caliphate, are living in the 10th century. Surely the heirs of the Enlightenment need not fear retrograde terrorists. In the battle of ideas, the West is certain to win. Very nearly the opposite perception is true. The terrorists are living in the future, not the past -- it is the future, not the past, that makes men mad -- and they have bloodily laid claim to the future. It cannot be said that the terrorists, the vanguard of the coming Mahdi, do not have the courage of their convictions. Peace, in these circumstances, is no more than the temporary absence of hostilities, a lull before the storm that the illustrious President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assures us will wash away everything. This peace, the peace the terrorist want is full of the bleating of lambs. It will be followed by the silence of the lambs.

The sounds of silence are all around us. The only serious hostility in Connecticut is that between Lamontites and Liebermanites; and, as one commentator reminds us, “Lieberman is dropping like an anvil pushed out of a C-130. That's the trend” – a good sign, some think.

Here is a typical blogbleat lifted at random from a popular progressive blog site. I’ve corrected only the spelling and punctuation:

Thank you President Bush and Joementum for leading us to a more unstable Middle-East!!! Joe's lap dog actions for Bush have not even bought us friends in Iraq. And you ask why Lamont has 51% of my party?

The author is apparently Jewish, and elsewhere in the postings we are reminded that Lamont leads Lieberman among Jewish voters in Connecticut.

Actually, that datum is not too surprising. In sophisticated states like Connecticut, political affiliation usually trumps personal prejudices; one supposes a sophisticated poll might detect that a majority of Jews in the state would prefer that the state of Israel should not succumb to the Mahdi’s army. Combined with supremacist arrogance – fundamentalist religious fanatics surely cannot triumph over Enlightenment Europe in a futile attempt to reverse Spain’s 10th century Reconquista – noblesse oblige is a heady brew.

Israel certainly knows that the active hostility of Arab states predates the Bush administration. But then, the view from Connecticut and the view from Israel are understandably different; and, noblesse oblige, isn’t everyone is entitled to their point of view?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Billy Get Your Gun


Four years ago, the Daily Times reported that former U.S. President Bill Clinton would have been more than happy to put his life on the line for Israel.

“The Israelis know,” Clinton told a crowd at a Toronto Jewish charity fund raising event, “that if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch and fight and die.” Clinton’s remark, the paper noted, shocked many Arabs who may have thought he was “more even-handed on the Palestine question than his predecessors.”

Since that time, the Iraqi army has undergone (ahem) reconstitution, but a Hezbollah army of terrorists backed by Iran that has found sanctuary in Lebanon and Syria recently pounded Israel with rockets, with predictable consequences, causing some in Toronto and elsewhere to wonder whether it might be time for the former president to leap into an Israeli foxhole.

Former President Clinton’s wife, the artful and agile Hillary Clinton, is defending her seat as a New York senator, and there are wild rumors that she intends to run at some point on the Democrat ticket for president. Should she be successful, Israel will be gratified to know that they have a potential grunt friendly to them who sleeps but a whisper away from the president's ear.

But none of this will help the punching bag of the anti-war movement, Senator Joseph Lieberman. The long train of abuses that belatedly led to what some have called Israel’s “exaggerated” response to years of mid-East terrorism – If Hezbollah smite thee on the cheek, rip off its head – is not yet fodder for the anti-war chatterers. They can’t quite figure Israel out; the damned nation seems determined to survive, and the proper approach to take towards a democratic state beset on all sides by 10th century theocrats who wish to push it into the sea is still a work in progress among the anti-war, anti-Lieberman crowd over at DailyKos and the Huffington Post, two popular liberal blog sites. According to a recent communication from Lamont’s campaign, “Ned believes that the war in Iraq and threatened action against Iran are destabilizing the Middle East and making Israelis’ and Palestinians less secure.”

But in recent months Israel has made serious concessions to the Palestinians that now has compromised its security. By returning the Gaza Strip to Palestinians, Israel implicitly recognized the necessity and desirability of a Palestinian state. The missles that plowed into non-military targets in Israel were launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah, a Syrian and Iranian backed terror group. Is it possible that Arab states are impervious to concessions? Is it possible that concessions are regarded by them as an fatal admission of weakness that should and must be exploited? Is it possible that Lieberman’s opponents have misunderstood the nature of Israel’s enemies?

Commenting specifically on the current situation, Lamont’s campaign says that he “also supports a two-state peaceful solution and that diplomacy has to be the tool of choice, not force. He believes more has to be done to get international and US aid to humanitarian groups to assist the regular people who are the ones being hurt by this situation.”

But certainly many more than two states are mischievously involved in pressing for a final solution to the Israeli problem. Recent statements concerning the destruction of Israel made by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has praised Hezbollah as a “symbol of pure thought of Islam,” resonated throughout the Arab world and could not have been reassuring to the humanitarian groups the Lamont campaign wishes to insert in the area to assist “the regular people who are the one’s being hurt by this situation.”

In a recent rally in New York, Hillary Clinton said, “To everyone who can hear us, we will stand with Israel, because Israel is standing for American values. We will support her efforts to send a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, to the Syrians, to the Iranians, to all who seek death and domination instead of life and freedom, that we will not permit this to happen, and we will take whatever steps are necessary.”

These brave words cannot easily be molded into campaign bullets destined for the breasts of Lieberman and Bush, and they will not stand Clinton in good stead with the more virulent of Lamont’s homegrown supporters. Both Clintons talk the talk wonderfully well; however, no one should expect either of them to walk into a foxhole any time soon.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Art of the Possible

It’s these unexpected twists and turns in the course of human events that make politics an art rather than a science.

Alan Schlesinger, the Republican nominee for the U.S. senate, is being pressed by Governor Jodi Rell and state party chairman George Gallo to withdraw from the race following a disclosure that he had gambled at Connecticut’s two casinos.

Schlesinger’s game of choice was blackjack. Schlesinger said he had gambled more frequently in the 1990’s but, during the past few years, he had visited the casinos about once a year.

His card counting skills limited his losses, Schlesinger said, but “I never had a year when I won.” Having been spotted by casino officials as a card counter, Schlesinger said, “I’ve been asked not to play blackjack.”

Neither gambling nor card counting are illegal in Connecticut. Indeed, the state is heavily reliant upon the taxes it receives from the casinos to pay for its basic services, an admission that gambling is both necessary and an ethically neutral activity.

Schlesinger, it would appear, has fallen through the widening gap between activities that are legal but morally objectionable. Many people regard gambling disreputable, even though the state approves and encourages the activity though lottery advertising.

In the bad old days, when gambling was widely viewed as both illegal and immoral, there was no such gap in perceptions. Gamblers were ruthlessly pursued by morally armed officials, and the mob certainly was not permitted to advertise its services. Many ads for the Connecticut lottery are humorous attempts to convince a doubtful public that gambling is a patriotic activity, and politicians appear to be hooked on the tax revenue it provides.

Schlesinger insists that he came by his “wampum card” by fair means and did not earn sufficient winnings to file tax returns. He gambled with a wampum card under a pseudonym, Schlesinger said, because he wished to avoid public scrutiny: “I used a pseudonym just for this reason: this stupidity we are going through now.”

Whose stupidity?

If you are a public figure and you begin to dissemble, it will not be long before you find yourself enveloped in a burka of dissimulation. It’s always the blowback that kills. Nothing Schlesinger did was illegal; nothing Lisa Moody did was illegal – at first. But oh what a tangled web we weave when once we practice to deceive. The game of deception must be kept up, and it is very easy to cross the borderline that marks off unethical from illegal behavior.

There was no law preventing Lisa Moody from handing out to state commissioners invitations to campaign fundraisers; the law applies sanctions to commissioners who strong arm workers into contributing to candidates they do not wish to support. Moody’s foot was caught in a snare when she insisted before a legislative committee that she had not read or sufficiently considered a memo discouraging such activities. Had she lied to the legislative committee, she would have committed perjury – which is illegal. However, proving that politician A has lied to politician B -- or, in Moody’s case, a series of partisan political Torquemadas plying her with questions – is somewhat iffy.

So too with Schlesinger: Gambling is legal, through frowned upon by moral enforcers. But his use of a pseudonym on a wampum card has given his opponents – not all of them Democrats – an opportunity to claim that Schlesinger had obtained the card by illegal means.

It is better in these matters to follow the sage advice of Mom and Huckleberry Finn: If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

In politics one often finds dissimulation piled upon dissimulation. Some have suggested that Schlesinger is being nudged off the political stage to make way for a Republican candidate that might do better in a three way race between Democrats Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont on the one hand, and any Republican candidate less blameless but more politically adept than Schlesinger on the other

Politics is sometimes called the art of the possible. In a profession of ethically challenged incumbents, pretty much anything to which no jail term is attached may be possible.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Times They Are A’Changing

Paul Bass, who now writes a regular column for the Hartford Courant, would have told you a little more than a year ago that it’s legal but not kosher for politicians to accept campaign contributions from contractors with whom they do business– provided there is no quid pro quo.

Here is a piece from the Yale Daily news, dated September 30, 2005, in which Bass gave a get-out-of-jail pass to John DeStefano:

For the most part, DeStefano has managed to avoid any implications of corruption during his decade in City Hall. A notable exception occurred in 1998, when a scandal broke over a zero-interest loan his then-executive assistant, current Ward 4 Alderwoman Andrea Jackson-Brooks, received from the Livable City Initiative. Controversy ignited over a number of other controversial loans from LCI, and in the ensuing scandal, which involved an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office, DeStefano fired three top aides, including Jackson-Brooks.

But DeStefano's popularity and reputation quickly bounced back.

Local journalist Paul Bass, who has closely followed and frequently criticized DeStefano's administration for years, said that while exchanging contracts for political contributions is standard practice in New Haven, he does not believe DeStefano has ever used his position for personal financial gain.

"It's understood that if you want contract work you write a check to the mayor's governor campaign," Bass said. "That is the root of all the corruption scandals we've had in Connecticut, the pay-to-play politics. The difference is DeStefano has never shown evidence that he takes money. And that's important."

All very well and good; we always knew that contractors were just like the little people: Everyone wants to throw a dollar in the direction of politicians whose programs and ideas need a little monetary affirmation. And as long as the quid isn’t waltzing around with the pro quo, everything’s way cool.

But since 2005, the standards have changed a smidgen. Consider celebrity columnist, radio talk-show host and blogger Colin McEnroe’s lucubrations on the Moody/Rell fandango.

Mr. McEnroe begins by reminding us that, unlike the sordid Clinton/Lewinsky mess, Moody’s venture into Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them is a very serious business. Some people think that the Clinton/Lewinsky case and L’Affair Moody both are trivial.

But mais non! They are wrong!

The Lewinsky case, in which the president who is responsible for high court appointments lied to a grand jury, really was trivial.

In the Moody Affair, there's a direct non-trivial connection to the way the governor's office operates, and it's much harder to argue that interest in the matter has somehow crippled Rell's operations. Unlike Clinton, she has not been deposed or impeached or asked any questions at all. The governor has been left almost startlingly un-pestered by this whole mess, even though she obviously knew quite a lot about of it.


Unpestered? Well sir, just take up and read the Hartford Courant!

But what really has put the fox in Mr. McEnroe’s bosom is the letter writing campaign.

Back to the letter-writing campaign. Today's lead letter to the Courant was from a very concerned businessman named Manish Gupta. He wants us all to understand that Rell is an ethically superior human being and that nobody has any business suggesting otherwise.


Campaign? A letter doth not a campaign make.

And who is this Manish Gupta who has soiled the paper for which Mr. McEnroe writes with a letter flattering to Ms. Moody’s enabler?

Why, he is a contractor, a “small businessman that would be hurt by the privatization protections” in a bill favored by Governor Rell. “He was featured in a news release from the governor as well as in a letter to the editor of the Hartford Courant.”

So that we will not miss the non-trivial point Mr. McEnroe is making, he enshrines in a garish blue.

Mr. Gupta has received more than $9 million in state contracts since 1995 including more than $1 million in the 10 weeks leading up to his inclusion in the news release, according to the TV report. He, his families and principals of his company have given approximately $20,000 to John Rowland, Jodi Rell and Connecticut since 1998.

Hmmmmm.


There now – here is the quid in return for Rell’s pro quo: She has given Gupta contracts, and he has given to her, John Rowland and the state of Connecticut "$20,000 since 1998."

And, as if this were not corrupting enough, the man has written a fawning letter. Really, it is too much for mere flesh to bear!

But the sum contributed by Gupta to Rell is not quite so much as DeStefano has received from his fawning contractors, according to the Yale Daily News.

At architectural firm Herbert S. Newman and Partners, which designed New Haven's Nathan Hale School and two others, at least four employees have donated a total of $7,800 to DeStefano for Connecticut. Architects at S/L/A/M Collaborative, the firm responsible for designing Hillhouse High School, donated $6,000. Even famed architect Cesar Pelli, whose firm is designing the New Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, personally contributed $2,500.

The list goes on: out of 30 New Haven school construction projects that have been assigned to architects, at least 25 are contracted to firms with employees who contributed to DeStefano's campaign. All told, architects working for firms affiliated with public school construction projects have contributed over $50,000 to DeStefano's campaign effort.


According to Mr. McEnroe’s fellow columnist at the Hartford Courant, Paul Bass, the DeStefano contributions were all legit, if ethically dubious.

Then again, perhaps DeStefano’s contractors did not write letters to newspapers?

Hmmmmm.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Trouble in Paradise

It didn’t take long for the snake to rear its corrupting head in progressivism’s Garden of Eden. Sadly, it would appear that everyone – even the white knights of Daily Kos, like their patron, billionaire supporter George Soros -- are in it for the money.

The Hartford Advocate, a sister publication of the Hartford Courant, has noted in a story, “Just Kos?, that the struggle between the New Republic, a center left puiblication, and Daily Kos, the epitome of far leftism, parallels closely the division within the Democrat Party between primary challenger Ned Lamont and sitting Senator Joe Lieberman.

The flare-up between the New Republic and dailykos.com has parallels with the Connecticut Democratic primary race between incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman and Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont. First, it exemplifies the conflict between the hawkish, centrist wing of the party (the New Republic /Lieberman) and the anti-war left (liberal blogs/Lamont).

“But besides ideological similarities, allegiances have been drawn. The New Republic, which printed a lengthy endorsement of Lieberman´s 2004 presidential bid, posted three pro-Lieberman articles on its website this year, and called Lamont´s online supporters ¨Lamonsters."

The notion currently being pressed by supportive Connecticut bloggers that the Lamont campaign is entirely a home grown affair is, according to the Advocate, absurd. “Currently,” the Advocate reports, “Lamont is the leading candidate on actblue.com,” a campaign money funder for progressives, “with more than 2,000 doners contributing almost $77,000 as of Monday” July 3rd.

And carpetbagger bloggers are actively working in the Lamont fox holes.

Bloggers have gotten directly involved in the race. Moulitsas appeared in a Lamont campaign commercial, where he portrayed an enthusiastic campaign volunteer, eager to work with Lamont. In June, Jane Hamsher of firedoglake.com chronicled her trip from the West Coast to Connecticut to work for the Lamont campaign.

The New Republic’s beef with Daily Kos centers on a message send by Daily Kos’ founder Marcos Zuniga Moulitsas to a private e-mail list.

Zengerle [of the New Republic] said the message, which primarily concerned Moulitsas´ request that his fellow bloggers refrain from writing about Securities and Exchange Commission allegations against blogger-turned-online-political-consultant Jerome Armstrong, showed that Moulitsas issued orders that other liberal bloggers dutifully followed. In an entry titled, "The Blogosphere´s Smoke-Filled Backroom," Zengerle accused liberal bloggers of displaying "a sheep-like obedience to [Moulitsas´] dictat."

A fairly complete and updated account of the DailyKos scandal may be found in Outside the Beltway. The Securities and Exchange complaint against Jerome Armstrong – a consultant, blogmeister and co-author with Moulitsas of “Crashing the Gates" – see here. The infamous George Washington Plunkitt, a turn of the century Tammany Hall boss, used to call this sort of behavior "honest graft."

But beyond the usual money grubbing, we are are here witnessing a battle over journalistic turf and prestige between the traditional left (The New Republic, the Washington Post, the New York Times etc.) and insurgent journalists/political consultants (Daily Kos and many other supportive leftist bloggers who, especially here in Connecticut, have targeted for extinction more moderate Democrats who do not measure up to their expectations).

The insurgents’ attitude towards their elder brothers in the journalistic community was perfectly summed up by Moulitsas after unflattering pieces had appeared in both the New Republic and most recently the New York Times. The New Republic, Moulitsas said, is a “dinosaur.” No one reads it anymore.

Only someone whose antennae are finely tuned to pick up major shifts in the social templates may be able to tell us precisely what is going on here: Tom Wolfe would be my candidate. Local students of social and political mores who might be capable of doing the job – Colin McEnroe, for instance – appear to have been fully absorbed by the new left, seduced perhaps by the sweet singing found on blog sites such as MyLeftNutmeg, one among a half dozen Connecticut sites devoted to pounding Lieberman into the sand.

The road to success and financial security among hard left bloggers has now been paved with the following good intentions: 1) get financing from a redundantly wealthy kingmaker; 2) start a blog; 3) write a book – everyone’s doing this; 4) turn a profit by means not so illegal as to get yourself thrown in jail; 5) light up and enjoy a good Cuban cigar.

As Plunkitt well knew, these steps on the way to success and financial security are as American as apple pie.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Objects May Be Bigger Than They Appear


There is a scene in Jurassic Park in which the driver in a vehicle looks in his rear view mirror and sees for the first time a Tyrannosaurs Rex gaining on him; a little white message on the mirror informs us that “objects may be bigger than they appear.”

Alfred Hitchcock would have loved that touch.

Mayors John DeStefano and Dannel Malloy, both in hot pursuit of Democrat primary votes, have not glanced in their rear view mirrors lately.

The one thing that Democrats despise -- even more than President George Bush -- is puffed up moralists; in this respect, one thinks of Sen. Joe McCarthy, beset with personal problems and an aggressive moralist, charging that one of Joseph Welch’s attorneys had ties to a communist organization. Welch, a Boston lawyer the Army had hired to represent it in the Army/McCarthy hearings promptly denounced McCarthy with the scorching words, "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness." And when McCarthy persisted in his attack, Welch launched this bazooka: "Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?" -- perhaps the most annihilating retort in recent American history.

As the primary finish line comes into view, DeStefano appears to have put the pedal to the metal in an attempt to convince the last progressive Democrat standing that he, not the pretender Malloy, is the genuine progressive article.

Does Malloy have a health care plan? It cannot be as progressive as DeStefano’s. Are Malloy’s energy and transportation plans forward looking? Sure, but they pale in comparison with DeStefano's. Does Malloy boast that he has created affordable housing in Stamford? There is too much carrot and not enough stick in the solution. DeStefano would withhold state grants and bonds for such amenities as ball fields, libraries and other local projects if towns do not shape up and build more affordable housing. "If you want to live like an island, God bless you," DeStefano said. "Finance your own projects."

An equal opportunity denouncer, DeStefano reacted – some would say over-reacted –in the time honored fashion of a progressive over-achiever to Governor Jodi Rell’s announcement that she planned to create special gun courts in shoot’em up cities. "This is a plan,” he said, “I would expect to see from the governor of Mississippi in the 1950s. Rell has done nothing to support the African American community of Hartford.

In DeStefano, progressivism has found its Savonarola. But primaries have a way of ending, at which point the influence of true believing progressive Democrats will be considerably reduced. The Tyrannosaurs Rex in the rear view mirror is the general voting public, an amalgam of Republicans of all stripes, Democrats of all stripes and unaffiliated voters. Progressives are the tail; the general voting public is the dog. Tails wag dogs only in fairy tales, and the Tyrannosaurs Rex is much bigger that it appears in DeStefano’s reckoning.

Democrats face a similar problem in their senatorial primary should supporters of primary challenger Ned Lamont succeed in ousting current Democrat senator Joe Lieberman, an ardent supporter of a war that is not popular in Connecticut. After the primary comes the general election, the pursuing Tyrannosaurs Rex.

Among the general population in Connecticut, Lieberman continues to be popular; and according to a May Quinnipiac University poll, “only 15 percent (of Connecticut voters) would vote against a candidate based only on his position on the war,” the centerpiece of Ned Lamont’s campaign. Lieberman recently served notice that he would run on an independent line should he lose the primary, a strategic move that should firm up support among Democrats who have not already pledged their troth to Lamont.

Should Lieberman win the primary, mainline Democrats will breathe a sigh of relief, and Lamont supporters will be sorely disappointed. Should Lamont win the primary, the “Nedheads” will be congratulating themselves at having displaced a senator who is more popular than Sen. Chris Dodd with a politician who may not be able to outpace the Tyrannosaurs Rex now visible in the rear view mirror.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Moody Transendentalizing

The worst case scenario concerning the now notorious memo at the center of a legislative investigation of Lisa Moody, Governor Jodi Rell’s right hand woman, was presented by co-chairman of the government administration and elections committee Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport:

"It now appears that Lisa Moody has lied under oath to the legislature,” said Caruso in a Hartford Courant story, “has perjured herself, and, and effectively has obstructed the legislative process.

"I think it's high time that the governor seriously reconsider her professional relationship with Lisa Moody and possibly severing ties," Caruso said Friday night. "I think it will be impossible now, at this point, for her to be able to effectively work with the legislature and within the government."


Moody was defended by House Minority Leader Robert Ward, who pleaded extreme business on her behalf:

"Busy people who read hundreds of documents a week don't recall every detail of what they read a year ago," Ward said. "And saying `I did not read or memorize' something" - as Moody did, under oath - "is not inconsistent with making a few comments and shipping [a memo] back" to an aide. He said he still thinks Moody is "honest and hard-working" and the Democrat-run probe is "a partisan fishing expedition [and] politics at its worst."

Probably the truth lies somewhere in between, and it is surprising that no one, so far, has thought to bring forward what might be called the Bronson Alcott defense.

Alcott was the father of Lousia May Alcott and a noted transcendentalist. One day while walking in the woods with a friend, thinking deep transcendental thoughts, he collided with tree and was promptly felled. He picked himself up, brushed himself off, and proceeded to explain to his friend that the accident had occurred because, while he had seen the tree, he hadn’t realized it.

It’s not too unusual for state administrators to see and sign memos they haven’t quite realized. On the other hand, Moody may have been disposed not to realize the content of the offending memo. Whether or not Moody consciously lied under oath to legislative interrogators is a separate question now being kicked around by Democrats probing for Gov. Jodi Rell’s Achilles’ heal. However, proving that politicians have consciously lied always has been a near impossible task.

There are some downsides to a hearing convened to get to the bottom of Moodygate. First of all, Rell is armored all over against charges that she is unethical. The rhetorical grapeshot just bounces off her. Even though she has been known to associate with a certain felonious governor, Rell does not walk like a Rowland, talk like a Rowland, and has no hot tubs in her past; on the plus side, she has been successful, at some cost to herself, in changing the political hotwiring in Connecticut that has sent so many promising politicians to the clinker.

While Moody’s ham-fisted attempt to play politics the old fashion way has been a hopeless and embarrassing failure, she has already been punished for having strong-armed commissioners into coughing up money for Rell’s campaign -- unlike the present mayor of Bridgeport, who took drugs while in office and has yet to incur the wrath of the hypersensitive Democrat leaders who have advised Rell to can Moody.

A public hearing may be more distracting than efficacious. One of the reasons Rell and the two Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls, mayors Dannel Malloy and John DeStefano, have yet to engage in political fisticuffs is that the two Democrats are locked in a primary contest.

Primaries are costly invitations to commit campaign suicide in general elections. Usually, the winner of the primary has drifted so far to the periphery in attempts to appeal to the party base, either progressive Democrats or conservative Republicans, that they are easily pushed over the edge in general elections: They have promised too much, gone too far, cut off all paths of retreat and accommodation.

Campaign delays and distractions help powerful incumbents. That would be Rell. And the idea in successful political campaigning is not to be helpful to the politician you are trying to displace.