Thursday, November 30, 2006

Public School And The Courts

The Sirkins, who have written about public education in Connecticut, point us in the right direction and review a book edited by the masterful Eric A. Hanushek

PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND THE COURTS
By Gerald and Natalie Sirkin

Thinking Americans have become keenly aware during the past 30 years of two public entities which, by their bungling, are doing great damage to society.

One is the public school system. The other is the arrogant, intrusive judiciary. Separately, each is capable of inflicting serious harm. Combined, their power for injury is greatly magnified. We are only just becoming conscious that the public schools and the courts have joined hands.

Excellent essays concerning legal proceedings on school financing are collected in Courting Failure, How School Finance Lawsuits Exploit Judges’ Good Intentions and Harm Our Children, edited by Eric A. Hanushek (Stanford, Cal.: Hoover Institution Press, Education Next Books, 2006, pp. 367, $25, paperback $15).

Interested parties in the school system hunting for more funds have turned to the courts. In the 1970s, they began filing lawsuits based on the argument that the disparity of spending among school districts is not equitable and therefore not constitutional.

The equity argument did not work out well for them. Sol Stern comments on New York’s Court of Appeals decision in 1982: “In a rare display of restraint that seems almost quaint by today’s standard, the state’s highest court declared that while reducing or ending funding disparities in education might be a grand idea, it was up to the legislature, not the judicial branch, to address the issue.”

That decision, however, created a new opening for lawsuits. The court hinted that it might be willing to consider a suit based on “gross and glaring inadequacies.” If school funding were found to be inadequate for an acceptable level of education, it would violate the state constitution.

Thus began the adequacy lawsuits although no one knew then and no one knows today how to define or measure adequate funding. New York City , one of the leaders, filed a suit in 1993 against New York State for more funding. After 13 years and immense legal expenses, the case is just ending.

The plaintiffs arrived at a figure for the cost of an “adequate” education by commissioning a study by a panel of school administrators, principals, and teachers. Not surprisingly, these school employees thought that the schools needed a great deal more money, specifically $5.63 billions more per year. The State Legislature and the Governor, wrestling with a budget deficit, were staggered. They proposed a much smaller amount. The judge appointed another panel, three referees all in the law business with no expertise in education, and they confirmed $5.63 billion. Meanwhile, spending by the City schools shot up by 50 percent. The increased spending yielded no improvement in learning. The court paid no attention.

Last month, on November 20, the Court of Appeals ended the case, holding that the lower court had exceeded its authority by intruding on the domain of the State Legislature and the Governor. The decision cut back the increase from $5.63 billion to $1.93 billion, which the Governor’s commission had recommended.

Adequacy lawsuits have spread to about 45 states. The state courts have taken on themselves the task of defining what the state constitutions require, often going to absurd lengths. Some courts have interpreted the constitutions to mean that the schools must provide the “best” education, an open-ended concept that can enable the courts to order unlimited increases of spending. In Wyoming , the court expanded its interpretation from “the best” to “visionary” and “unsurpassed.”

In several states, the courts have held that “thorough and efficient” means that the schools must eliminate the achievement-gap between ethnic or socio-economic groups. Since no school system has been able to eliminate the gap, the potential for finding education funding unconstitutional and requiring more spending is endless.

The incompetence of the judiciary in overcoming the failures of public schools is demonstrated by the apparent faith of courts that more spending assures more learning. Several essays in Courting Failure show how little relation learning has to spending. Some of the highest spending schools have the lowest test scores (Newark, Washington, D.C., Cambridge, Mass., Kansas City, Sausalito, Cal.). Some of the lowest spenders have the highest scores.

Walberg’s essay on high-poverty, high-performance schools reports a large-scale RAND study showing that major cost factors—per-pupil spending, pupil-teacher ratios, proportion of teachers with advanced degrees, and teacher experience—make no difference in achievement.

All these attempts at school reform have been blatant failures. Eric Hanushek’s essay shows convincingly that no educational benefit can possibly come from judicial interference.

The failures are illustrated by the persistence of Progressivism in education, summarized in Evers and Clopton’s essay on high-spending, low-performing school districts. Progressivism believes in child-centered discovery-learning (leave it to the children to find their own knowledge), Whole Language (learn to read by recognizing the appearance of words, not by decoding), abstract mental skills (“higher order critical thinking”), no drills or memorization.

None of the Progressive beliefs is supported by empirical research. All are rejected, yet they continue and are taught to prospective teachers in schools of education.

Courting Failure recognizes the blight of Progressivism but doesn’t explain why the blight persists in spite of research and experience. One explanation is that public schools do not have to compete. They are political organizations. They do not have to produce results to get financing.

School reform will not work nor will education improve till schooling in the private sector is sufficiently financed and expanded to provide the competition that will drive the public schools to reform.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Nation (no, not that “Nation”) Warms to Lieberman

As if losing were not humiliation enough, The Harford Courant this morning mainlined more bad news into the anti-Lieberman camp over at the Huffington Post and DailyKos, two liberal blog sites full of foaming at the mouth pro-Ned Lamont progressives: It turns out that the good old USA thinks Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) is more loveable and cuddly than either New York Sen. Hillary Clinton or Massachusetts Senator and perennial presidential hopeful John Kerry.

According to a national Quinnipiac poll that measures the affection of people towards their leaders, Lieberman falls just a step behind that loveable mushball ex-President Bill Clinton, who came in at number 5; Hillary followed at 9; Lieberman was 6 and Kerry, alas, was at the bottom of the barrel, a lowly 20.

Rudolph Giuliani topped the list at numero uno; Nancy Pelosi ranked 12 and Bush 15.

According to the Courant, “Lieberman scored well among almost every constituency in the Quinnipiac poll, which surveyed 1,623 registered voters between Nov. 13 and 19. He was received warmly by Republicans, Democrats and independents, in red, blue and purple states, and among men and women.

“His old foes were less impressed. ‘A lot of this poll has to do with what you call the political celebrity culture,’ said David Sirota, a Democratic strategist who helped Lamont. "Lieberman's been in the news a lot."


A little sour grapes helps the crow to go down.

Local Huff-Po and DailyKos spinoffs have yet to comment.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Blumenthal as Caligula

Gore Vidal, who was friendly with the Kennedy family, once was asked whether he was disturbed by Edward Kennedy’s long reign as senator of Masachussetts. Not at all, said Vidal -- author of “Myra Brekinridge/Myron-Myron", whose heroine, sort of, was a transvestite and “Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia", as well as a host of other well received books on various topics – every state “should have at least one Caligula.”

Connecticut’s Caligula may be Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose fondest wish – to save the world by suit – was granted, according to a story in the Hartford Courant, a day after Thanksgiving, when the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear a suit championed by Blumenthal and other attorney’s general to force the Environmental Protection Agency to classify CO{-2} as a hazardous emission.

On the local front, according to the paper, “…a second coalition case known as Connecticut vs. American Electric Power seeks to force five of the nation's largest power-generating companies to begin reducing their CO{-2} emissions. Now pending before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, it argues that CO{-2} constitutes a harmful 'public nuisance' under common law.”

Blumenthal is quoted in the story as saying, “The most difficult question for me is not whether CO{-2} causes global warming and not whether global warming is harmful ... but what is the best way to stop global warming.”

It’s not the science of pollution that matters; the suit’s the thing. And if energy prices rise as a result of Blumenthal's efforts -- well, they rise.

In the wacky world of Connecticut politics, Blumenthal's suit should give a boost to Democrat efforts to lower energy costs, once a major pillar of John DeStefano's gubernatorial campaign. It all seems so long ago.

On September 13, Blumenthal met on the political stump with then Democrat gubernatorial John DeStefano and Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura to protest higher energy costs.

"Connecticut is mired in an energy crisis,” DeStefano cried out at Waterbury’s Town Hall. “It already has the highest rates in the nation, squeezing families and costing us jobs. While electric rates are soaring, Gov. Rell has not shown the leadership or a plan to reduce costs. As Governor, I would work with the legislature to lower rates for consumer and families by imposing a windfall profits tax, making Connecticut a national leader in conservation and putting in place a series of detailed measure to lower our energy costs.”

DeStefano vowed, “As Governor, I would immediately return $300 million to Connecticut's families and $40 million to businesses by imposing a windfall profits tax on electric generators."

Juggling the revenue and expenditure ledgers of business in the private or quasi public marketplace is a tricky affair, where taxes are treated as part of business costs. The costs of taxes are usually recovered through price increases. Both litigation costs occasioned by Blumenthal’s suits and tax costs occasioned by DeStefano’s windfall profits penalty usually would be recovered by businesses through an increase in the product price. Should such increases be made impossible, the product tends to disappear, except in markets that allow less punishing regulation.

There is one exception to this general rule. In socialist countries like Venezuela, where energy production is state owned, government can set the price of energy; but neither Blumenthal nor DeStefano have proposed the nationalization of energy producers.

Under the present circumstances, Blumenthal gets to have his cake and eat it too. He is partially responsible for high energy costs occasioned by litigation and regulation -- and yet he is permitted to pose before the public as a knight on a white horse fighting the greedy captains of energy who want to bilk the public and stuff their pillows with ill-gotten profits.

Energy production in the Northeast has not been properly deregulated; it would be truer to say that it has become a publicly regulated industry that borders on a monopoly, which is why it is so easily manipulated by legislators and attorneys general. The quickest way to create a quasi-monopoly in a quasi-free marketplace is to produce through government regulation a forbidding economy that will preserve old inefficient businesses and prevent new businesses from entering the marketplace on a level playing field.

Not a bad job – if you can get it from Blumenthal.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

News You Were Afraid To ask About

Crypto-Stalinist Vladmir (Shoot’in) Putin has poisoned yet another opponent of his regime, this time a defecting spy who thought he was safe in England. And Putin rounded out the merry month of November by selling a Tor-M1 air defence rocket system to Iran. The system is designed to shoot down airplanes, helicopters and other airborne targets and will be useful to fascist Iran just in case Israel decides to take out a nuclear missile program that Iran’s kookoo president is developing to “wipe Israel off the map,” as he so felicitously put it.

Not to be outdone on the larger stage of human events, soon to be Madam Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has committed yet another boner. She wants Alcee Hastings to head up the Intelligence Committee in the House that Jefferson built. Problem is: Hastings was impeached by the House for bribe taking and other shady activity usually attributed by Democrats to Republicans. Byron York, in National Review, has the best short account of the former judge’s perfidies. None of our intrepid journalists in Connecticut has yet asked Reps. John Larson or Joe Courtney whether they would vote in favor of Pelosi’s choice. Both of the incorruptible Reps are on record as having favored Pelosi’s previous disastrous nomination of Jack Murtha as Majority Leader.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Morning in Blogsville

Jane Hamsher, always brimming with the testosterone of progressivism, takes aim over at firedoglake, the blog site she maintains, at two impertinent revolutionists who have strayed from the fold.

“If you'd been sitting in Le Pan Quotidian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard yesterday afternoon you would have seen me pitch back in my chair and howl with laughter when Digby told me John WATB Harris and Jim "Pool Boy" VandeHei were leaving the WaPo to honcho a groovy new interactive news media site:

"'Harris and VandeHei note that their move is tied to a new vision of political reporting. It uses every medium on the web — text, video, and interactivity — to pull back the curtain on political stories and narrow the gap between reporters and their audience.'

“Tears…tears…oh lordy, it's just too funny…I can just hear the sales pitch for this future dinosaur (probably the same one they made for Hot Soup): ‘We'll tap the great untapped center, the people who are sick of partisan politics. Blogs are written for wacko political extremists, and nobody is speaking for the common man…the little guy in the middle…just ask Joe Lieberman. We'll own the internet.’”


Progressive bloggers have a problem with "centrists."

“Those ‘centrists,’ the people who can be convinced to swing Democratic in one election and Republican in the next, who don't make up their minds until the night before an election or just run in the voting booth and pull all the top levers are probably not engaged in the political dialog to the point that they will want to "interact" with those who bring them their news. They might be stupid, apathetic or working three McJobs just to make ends meet but they're probably not going want to spend their leisure time shootin' the shit with VandeHei. People who are engaged political junkies tend to have strong opinions and they want to interact online with others who are like minded. If there were a great gaping demand for a moderate site, Joe Gandelman would be a rich man.”

The reader will note the progressivist's elitist view of her opposition: They are "stupid, apathetic" and not a little weary holding down two jobs and slinging hamburgs at the greasy spoon, while Hamsher sips lattes at the chic Le Pan Quotidian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard with other well-heeled progressives.

Centrists are pointing to Joe Lieberman’s victory over Ned Lamont, the darling of progressive bloggers, as an indication that the Kosacks, avatars of DailyKos and the Huffington Post, two progressive blog sites, are not quite the wave of the future. This has engendered some resentment among progressives, who spend much of their time sitting in Le Pan Quotidian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard discussing the news of the day reported in such favorite progressive haunts as Firedoglake.

Over at National Review, the conservatives, who also took a beating in the late elections, are more sanguine, less edgy – and, as always, full of good humor.

The latest edition of the magazine, “Election 2006,” has in it nine major articles that explain in lurid detail what went wrong and how to fix it. “The Week,” a section of the magazine known for its perfectly sculpted paragraphs, begins “Well, at least Lincoln Chafee lost too.” And if the reader of this line does not understand the humor involved in this gentle retort, it is a fair bet he or she is no conservative.

Chaffe was a liberal Republican, now vanished in a puff of smoke from the political scene. The late elections – particularly here in the Northeast – have been hard on what the conservatives might call liberal to moderate Republicans.

The moderate mojo – We are social progressives, but economic conservatives – clearly did not work this time for Republican U.S. Reps. Chaffee, Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons. And before anyone supposes that the two multi-term Republican moderates were knocked off by their support of President Bush’s failing policy in Iraq, it should be recalled that the two Connecticut politicians most closely associated with that policy were Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Chris Shays – both winners.

Down at Le Pan Quotidian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard and at other progressive watering holes, people like Jane Hamsher – best known for carrying on her blog site a picture showing ex-President Bill Clinton in sunglasses and present Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in blackface – are still sifting the data.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Global Warming Revisited

Gerald and Natalie Sirkin, whose writings have appeared on this site before, wade into the Global Warming swamp and surface with some sound data.

GLOBAL-WARMING CYCLES (11-15-06)
By Gerald and Natalie Sirkin

Europe is stepping up its campaign to persuade the United States to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and stop global warming. The British Government has just released a report commissioned by Parliament, the Stern Report, which finds the future cost of global warming to be very high and the cost of implementing Kyoto very low. How can any country turn down such big benefits at such low costs?

One reason the U.S. is not leaping at the bargain is that the cost and benefit estimates of the Stern Report are questionable. The Stern Report estimates that the cost of cutting emissions to 60% to 80% below the 1990 levels would be about 1% of global domestic product. However, other estimates range as high as 16%. As Jerry Taylor, an expert on energy- and climate-policy at the CATO Institute, says, the wide range of cost-estimates tells us we are guessing.

In any event, economic analysis is premature. First, climate science should tell us what we are dealing with.

Global temperature has for thousands of years been subject to wide variations. Ice ages and warm periods come and go in cycles. These temperature swings have obviously nothing to do with man’s activities.

There is no correlation between recent variations in temperature and greenhouse gas emissions. Global temperature increased ½º Celsius in the past century. But most of that increase occurred before 1940, when human CO2 emissions were not large. From 1940 to 1970, when CO2 emissions were rising, global temperature did not rise. In fact, global temperature fell slightly. Since then, temperature has risen by a small amount, much less than predicted by the global warming models.

Global temperature correlates not with CO2 emissions but with the brightness of the sun. Cycles of the sun’s magnetism agree well with the timing of global temperatures.

The solar cycles and the climate cycles that follow from them are described in the soon -to-be-released Unstoppable Global Warming, Every 1,500 Years, by leading climate physicist S. Fred Singer and Hudson Institute Analyst Dennis T. Avery (Lanaham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007, pp. 260).

Over the past two million years, the earth has experienced long cycles of ice ages lasting 90,000 to 100,000 years and interglacial warm periods of 10,000 to 20,000 years. The present interglacial period began about 11,500 years ago. Temperature-changes between glacial and interglacial periods are large, 5º to 7º Celsius, and even as much as 15º to 20º Celsius.

Our picture of climate cycles changed sharply with the publication in 1984 of research by a Danish and a Swiss scientist. They were able to get very deep ice cores from Greenland, which covered 900,000 years of climate history. Analysis of the cores showed cycles of warming and cooling varying about 4º Celsius from peak to trough, and averaging 1,500 years in length.

Currently, we are in a cycle that began with the Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1850 and a warming since then. This warming has nothing to do with greenhouse gasses, and nothing we do about emissions will affect it.

Is there anything to worry about? Singer and Avery look at the various fears that global warmists raise.

Will warming raise sea-levels and flood coastal areas and islands? Warming will expand sea water and melt ice. On the other hand, warming will increase evaporation of sea water, increase precipitation, and add ice to the Antarctic ice cap. Evidence indicates that the net result of these counteracting effects will be very little change in sea level.

Will warming increase the frequency and severity of hurricanes and other storms? The expectations are just the opposite. The Caribbean had three times as many major hurricanes per year during the Little Ice Age than during the warming period since 1950. Storms are driven by the temperature difference between the equator and the Polar Regions. Warming raises the temperature more at the poles than at the equator, reducing the difference and moderating the storms.

Will warming raise death-rates? We have modern ways of protecting people from extreme heat and we can control insects that spread disease. Freezing weather is far more dangerous to human health. To the extent that global warming alleviates freezing, it will reduce death-rates.

The neglected feature of global warming in the discussions of it is the benefit of CO2 and warmer temperatures. CO2 is a fertilizer. It increases the production of vegetation and crops. Warmer temperatures lengthen the growing season and expand the areas available for agriculture.

The conclusion of climate science is that variations of global temperature are a natural phenomenon. Human emissions of greenhouse gasses are an insignificant factor.

The Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions can contribute nothing to human well-being. Even if greenhouse emissions were significant, Kyoto could achieve nothing. Developing countries, particularly the most rapidly growing emitters like China and India, are excluded from having to cut emissions under Kyoto. The European countries that have signed the Protocol have done nothing to reduce their emissions. In fact, they have increased them.

If the U.S. were to sign on, it would be left to carry the load of the required enormous reduction in the use of energy. It would cripple the economy. It would mean a drastic fall in the standard of living, the movement of industries and loss of jobs to countries that are not restricted by Kyoto including Mexico, Brazil, China, and India; and a severe shortage of electricity, and increased deaths.

America’s competitors in the world market would love it, but it is to be hoped that the U.S. will not be so misguided as to accept the erroneous science of global warming.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Is the Republican Party Worth Saving?

Is the Republican Party in Connecticut worth saving?

The short answer is “No.” The long answer is, I’m afraid, longer.

The Republican rot begins, as may be expected, with former senator and governor Lowell Weicker. When Weicker was senator for several terms and full of the puss of hubris, he sighed in the presence of a Hartford Courant reporter, “The Republican Party in this state is so small; someone should take it over.” So Weicker did, and the Courant, of course, obliged him.

Weicker considered himself a Republican in the mode of Jacob Javits of New York – a moderate, anti-conservative with a lively social conscience. Weicker appointed his handmaiden, Tom D’Amore, as chairman of the party, and together they proceeded to reform and destroy it.

What we see now in the age of Jodi Rell -- more popular, apparently, than salt -- is an empty husk of a party, paralyzed and useless. I am not speaking hyperbolically: Except as a reflex action to the preposterous and ruinous agenda of the Democrat Party, The Republican Party has all but disappeared. The most powerful politician in the state just now is not Jodi Rell but Jim Amann, the Speaker of the state House of Representatives.

John Rowland, before he was crippled by his own stupidity and an energized liberal media, used to think of himself as a breakwater to Democrat excesses. But Rowland shucked off his conservative ideology very early on and became, for all practical purposes, yet another in a long line of moderate Republican governors. The threat of a veto, he liked to think, kept Democrat spending in line; but this was largely self delusion. Within the space of two governors – Weicker, a Republican turned Independent, and Rowland – spending in the state doubled. The Democrats were playing Rowland, and Rowland was playing pretty much everyone else.

The charades came to an end when the Journal Inquirer smelled something rotten in Denmark, and the chase was on. It was great fun, and only Rowland and his immediate confederates were discomforted: An impeachment proceeding that might have examined corruption in Connecticut in other administrations was cut short when Rowland bit the bullet and went to jail on a single charge that earned him a year in the pokey. The rot had been contained, thank you very much.

Jodi Rell, Rowland’s successor, has no veto power. The Democrats this year captured enough seats in the legislature to override gubernatorial vetoes. Rell’s real political power is comparable to that of the Queen of England. After years of moderation and bi-partisanship, the Republican Party in Connecticut has been reduced to this – a figurehead. That Republican Party – a party that is permitted to exist only at the sufferance of Democrats and liberals in the media -- is not worth saving. Who needs it?

It is important to understand that conservatives in Connecticut have played no part in the destruction of the Republican Party – none. The real opposition to Democrat programs, such as it is, has come from frustrated conservatives, who have been vigorously opposed by the Democrat majority, Republican moderates and abettors of the one party state in Connecticut’s truckling media.

So, we have a one party state. How do we fix this?

There are different prescriptions. Kevin Rennie, a Hartford Courant columnist, lawyer and former moderate Republican state lawmaker, suggests that the successful strategies of Maine senator Olympia Snowe be replicated throughout New England. Rennie describes Snowe as “the very model of a moderate modern Republican,” wildly popular in Maine. He suggests a New England summit of Republicans in Boston, “the birthplace of rebellion,” where the party can develop successful winning strategies and bring itself back from the dead.

But Connecticut has already been there, done that. Snowe is not more popular than Rell. The object in all this should be to elevate a party rather than a politician. And there has never been – in the whole history of the world – a revolution begun and sustained by moderates.

The heartiest revolutionist in Boston was Sam Adams. This is what Sam Adams said about the moderates of his day: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We seek not your counsel or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; may your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

That enlivening sentiment, the spark that lit a country on fire, cannot not sit well with moderate Republicans such as Snowe or Rennie, who would rather cooperate with the present system than overthrow it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Murtha’s Augean Stables

It didn’t take long for Democrat unity to become hopelessly entangled in petty feuds and party alliances.

Speaker elect of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s choice for Majority Leader, Rep. John Murtha, was quickly voted down by a majority of Democrats. Many of the incoming “young turks,” swept into office owing to voter disenchantment with the war in Iraq, voted for Murtha on Pelosi’s recommendation, which came late in the day after Rep. Steny Hoyer had secured promises of support among House members uncomfortable with corruption in Washington DC.

Among Murtha most vigorous supporters in Connecticut were one “young turk,” Joe Courtney, who defeated Republican Rep. Rob Simmons by the narrowest of margins, and one “old turk,” Rep. John Larson, who praised Murtha’s opposition to the war in Iraq as a sufficient reason for supporting him. Larson has been appointed House Democratic Caucus vice chairman in the reconfigured congress and, as such, may have felt himself duty bound to support Pelosi’s decisions, however inadvisable.

A majority of Larson’s associates in the House, however, offered a stunning rebuke to Pelosi. The vote for Rep. Steny Hoyer and against Murtha was a lopsided 149 to 86. In a Washington Post press report preceding the vote, Murtha, far from being a Hercules prepared to clean the soiled Augean stables in Congress of corruption, was portrayed as one of the contented Beltway cows.

The Post report mentioned Murtha’s involvement in an FBI sting operation that involved agents posing as Arab sheiks. Following the vote for Majority Leader, the New York Times observed gravely in a stinging editorial, “The well-known shortcomings of Mr. Murtha were broadcast for all to see — from his quid-pro-quo addiction to moneyed lobbyists to the grainy government tape of his involvement in the Abscam scandal a generation ago. The resurrected tape — feasted upon by Pelosi enemies — shows how Mr. Murtha narrowly survived as an unindicted co-conspirator, admittedly tempted but finally rebuffing a bribe offer: ‘I’m not interested — at this point.’”

For people in Connecticut, rubbed sore by corruption, Murtha’s involvement with lobbyists and money changers in the temple of US Congress is itself disqualifying. Connecticut sent to jail a governor who used confederates in his office to procure favors from contractors doing business with the state, though former Governor John Rowland was convicted on a lesser charge. A battalion of red flags were waving over Murtha’s head when he was favored by Pelosi to be Majority Leader.

In Connecticut today, especially among Democrats, Rowland still figures as a campaign hobgoblin, a spook brought out during elections to frighten away those considering voting for any Republican who has had any attachment to him, however remote and inoffensive. But Rowland did not “put on hold” Arab sheiks who were attempting to bribe him with a drawer full of money; he did not fail to report such bribery to proper officials; he did not provide earmarks for a company, The PMA Group, that had reaped 60 special provisions, or earmarks, worth more than $95 million. The PMA Group – whose two lobbyists were Paul Magliocchetti, a former aide to Murtha, and Murtha’s brother Robert “Kit” Murtha – was described in the Washington Post story as “the go-to firm to approach Murtha as ranking Democrat on the Appropriations defense subcommittee.” Both the Post and the Times are liberal papers that have vigorously criticized the war in Iraq.

If Murtha were a Republican governor of Connecticut, he likely would have been impeached and prosecuted.

All the information now presented in major stories has been long available to politicians that endorsed Murtha as Majority Leader. The Los Angeles Times broke the story in June 2005, and the Times last October reported extensively on Murtha’s questionable connections with lobbyists. Apparently, there are among us in Connecticut politicians and commentators who are perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to the evident corruption of a politician who has done yeoman service for them in other respects; thus, Murtha is to be given a get out of jail card because he strenuously opposed President Bush’s war in Iraq.

Among the first Republican politicians to condemn John Rowland was Rep. Rob Simmons, defeated this year by Courtney. John Larson holds what surely is among the safest seats in the House, and yet he could not pluck up the courage to vote against Murtha – because he did not wish to alienate the affections of incoming Speaker Pelosi.

This is not an auspicious beginning in the new Democrat Congress for "turks" young and old.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

No Hercules He

Far from being a Hercules prepared to clean the soiled Augean stables in Congress of corruption, Rep. John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi’s choice for Majority Leader of the House, appears to be one of the contented Beltway cows, according to a recent story in the Washington Post, not known as a neo-con newspaper. Even the Hartford Courant saw fit to print a discouraging word. True, Colin McEnroe has not yet weighed in on the new culture of corruption in Washington DC, but then he has not yet fully recovered from his obsession with the inoffensive Joe Lieberman -- Independent Democrat CT.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dodd Takes The Road More Traveled

US Sen. Chris Dodd is taking the road trodden earlier by Joe Lieberman, the junior Democrat senator from Connecticut, now an Independent Democrat. After almost making it to the White House on a ticket headed by Al Gore, then running as president, Lieberman, a few months ago, was turned aside by his party in a bitterly fought primary won by Ned Lamont. One of the charges raised by Lamont and his supporters that decoupled Lieberman from his party was that the senator’s ambitions for high office had put him out of touch with the little people back home. Lieberman, it was said, had become arrogant and overly ambitious.

Dodd now puts his foot in the same snare, but he has found a way to purchase party loyalty in states he must win to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. With some help from interest groups that may benefit from the soon to be chairman of a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that has jurisdiction over financial institutions, defense production, port security, export licensing, urban transit and housing issues, Dodd just buys the support.

“Citizens for Hope Responsibility Independence and Service PAC,” ChrisPAC, according to a story in the Journal Inquirer , “a leadership PAC separate from the Connecticut senator's re-election campaign committee, has spent $100,000 since August to purchase ‘voter files’ in Iowa and New Hampshire.”

And not just voter files. “ChrisPAC, as the panel is known, also contributed a total of $65,000 to seven Democratic Party committees and six Democratic congressional candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, states slated to lead off the Democrats' 2008 presidential primaries and caucuses.

“Dodd's committee invested the most money in New Hampshire, where it not only paid the state party $50,000 for its voter file, but also made $10,000 in contributions to the state party.

“Similarly, it contributed $12,500 to the Democratic caucuses of the New Hampshire state Senate and House, and it dispatched $5,000 each to congressional candidates Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter, both of whom were elected Nov. 7.

“ChrisPAC also paid $50,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party for its voter file, along with a $1,500 donation to the state party and a total of $10,000 in contributions to the two Democratic state legislative committees, the Iowa Senate Majority Fund, and the Iowa House Truman Fund.

“Four Democratic congressional candidates in Iowa - Bruce Baley, Leonard Boswell, David Loebsack, and Selden Spencer - also received $5,000, $3,600, $2,500, and $2,500, respectively. Boswell and Loebsack were elected.”


And who is financing ChrisPAC? The usual culprits: “Contributors to ChrisPAC include other PACs organized by corporations and business groups such as Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. PAC, Morgan Stanley PAC, the American Insurance Association PAC, and the Bond Market Association PAC, which each had contributed a total of $5,000 by mid-October.

“They also include individuals who are executives at companies such as the Stamford-based drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma, including Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, the company's president, and Mortimer D. Sackler, its vice president, who each also had contributed $5,000.”


Not a bad deal. Some political parties would be happy to be able to dispense such largess, but they can’t because they -- unlike Dodd and other goodie dispensers who for all practical purposes have become petite political parties – have been reformed by powerful incumbent politicians who know how to hang on to their perks.
Not a bad deal. Some political parties would be happy to be able to dispense such largess, but they can’t because they -- unlike Dodd and other goodie dispensers who for all practical purposes have become petite political parties – have been reformed by powerful incumbent politicians who know how to hang on to their perks.

Let no one say that this shuttling of money to powerful politicians who control important committees from interest groups and corporations that may benefit from the largess is illegal or unethical. It’s all on the up and up, all in conformity with campaign finance reform measures that were supposed to erect a Berlin Wall between politicians and special interests groups seeking to affect legislation. If you launder the money by pushing it through ChrisPAC, you too can become an unregulated political party -- like Chris Dodd.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Tony Soprano on the Lieberman-Lamont Race

“Chris Dodd—your fellow senator from Connecticut, did a commercial for your opponent—all of them campaigned or gave money. Is it going to be awkward for you?” Tim Russert to Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Q: Hi’ya Tony. How you do’n?

TS: Good. How you do’n? Hey, what are you talking like that for? And what’s with the baggy pants? You’re an educated guy. You been to college, someth’n like that. What’s with the gangbanger stuff?

Q: (Clears his throat nervously) Oh, okay. We’re here talking with Tony Soprano about the recently concluded, hotly contested Lieberman-Lamont election in Connecticut. Tony, as you know, Lieberman won that one. And he’ll be returning to the U.S. Senate as an Independent who will be caucusing with the Democrats, so he says. But the campaign has ruptured some old friendships, particularly the long-standing friendship between U.S. Senator Chris Dodd and Lieberman. We thought you might bring a fresh perspective to the subject of friendships in politics.

TS: Yeah sure, I know a lot about friendship and caucusing. Half my life has been spent winning friends – and losing them.

Q: Batta’bing, hey.

TS: Hey – HEY!

Q: Okay…okay…okay…okay. I just slipped into it. Sorry.

TS: Look, I’m trying to juggle some thoughts here, and you come along and bang my balls, with your bat or somethin’. Shaddup!... I was saying … There’s a difference between friendship and business, especially in the political arena. Now, I know about politics. Half my life has been spent caucusing with the boys. Now, there ain’t much difference between the parties and, you know, “the thing.”

Q: Right, the unmentionable “thing” (A disparaging look from Tony). Okay…okay…

TS: As I was saying, before you tore the delicate web of my thoughts with your bat or somethin’… Look, it’s business okay? Dodd and Lieberman are grown-ups. They understand these things. I been do’n a little research. It’s all psychology or somethin’.

Q: Forgive me, Tony, but that’s rich. Are you a Freudian or what?

TS: Now that’s the first intelligent question you asked Mr. fancy baggy pants. Yeah, you can’t be a leader of men without understanding psychology. Psychology is the science of what makes men tick, and Freud didn’t have the last word on the subject. Now shaddup and learn. Lieberman isn’t the first independent minded politician Dodd was friendly with. Before him, there was Weicker, the capo di capo of the state Republican Party. Close friendship, right? They were dancing together, right? Weicker, Dodd, Ted Kennedy of Massachussetts – a regular ménage a trois. Then along comes Lieberman, and he bumps Weicker off. Does Dodd despair, does he gnash his teeth? No. He waits. Weicker drifts off, and Dodd commences a “friendship” with Lieberman. And that lasts until Lamont comes along – backed by, guess who? (Lieberman’s old nemesis, Weicker) – and dispatches Lieberman in a primary. Now, at this point, Lieberman is supposed to ride off into the sunset and, good Democrat soldier that he is, leave the field to Lamont. But he doesn’t. This happens in our business all the time. So, the whole thing falls apart; people are shouting and shootn’ at each other. And, when all the smoke clears, there’s Lieberman, stand’n tall. You gotta admire his gumption, his – what do the Jews call it? – chutzpa. And there’s Dodd, scratch’n his head and ask’n himself – What I’m gonna do?

Q: Jeeze, Tony – that’s not bad analysis.

TS: That’s why you’re talk’n t’me, right? So, if your question is “Will the friendship between Dodd and Lieberman survive the strain put upon it by Dodd’s betrayal of the friendship,” the answer is: Sure. Political attachments aren’t friendships; they’re business relationships. Sometimes the relationship is awkward, but business relationships survive between people who do business together. Still, it’s always a good idea to bear good advice in mind: “One should not give rise to those causes which are destructive of friendship; and when they arise, one should get rid of them by adopting such friendly attitude as can remove those causes.”

Q: Did you learn that from Freud, Tony?

TS: No, from the Arthashastra.

Q: The what?

TS: So, you don’t know that one, Mr. fancy baggy pants? It’s a 4th century BC treatise on the obligations of rulers. And you call yourself a political commentator! What’s journalism coming to?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What A Difference A Day Makes

Was ever a swift boot in the arse followed so quickly by a kiss and make up smooch?

Hartford Courant Oct. 29: “Her (Rell’s) brand of small-steps stewardship is not what Connecticut needs to tackle some of its most acute problems over the next four years. It needs the boldness she promised when first appointed, but didn't deliver. The state could use a visionary with big ideas, a dynamic leader not afraid to shake up the Land of Calcified Habits in order to effect real change.

“Democrat John DeStefano Jr., 51, the New Haven mayor challenging Mrs. Rell in the Nov. 7 election, comes closer to filling that description. He has the experience and drive to meet issues head on where Mrs. Rell has been mainly content to polish around the edges… The bottom line is that we believe Mr. DeStefano would be more engaged in pushing for the kind of bold change that Connecticut needs.”

Hartford Courant Nov. 8, the day after Rell cleaned DeStefano’s clock: “Though we endorsed her visionary opponent, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, we admired the governor for calming the state at a critical time with her reassuring manner.”

Thursday, November 09, 2006

After The Ball Is Over

The Sandinistas are back in power in Nicaragua, and Democrats here in the United States are back in power in the House of Representatives. Daniel Ortega, much chastened since his days as a Nicaragua’s communist dictator, won the presidency of the country, causing old Contra hands to mutter under their breath, “There goes the neighborhood.” Sen. Chris Dodd and ex-president Jimmy Carter no doubt will be dispatched to Nicaragua to quell the flames of revolution.

Governor Jodi Rell swamped her Democrat challenger, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, but her victory is likely to be a Pyrrhic one, because Democrats now have a veto-proof majority in the legislature; which is to say, they may safely ignore Rell and the Republicans.

Connecticut is now officially a one party town.

The day after the Rell Tsunami, the Hartford Courant strewed some palms at the governor’s feet. Rell “…won that office on her own by politely ignoring her Democratic challenger's attacks,” the paper enthused. And, the paper observed, she is no friend to sprawl.

“Sprawl” is a code word for state intervention in the private market place, and the progressives are hot after it; so, for that matter, was DeStefano, who earned the paper’s endorsements because he was a proponent of “Big Ideas.” The Big Idea fallacy, rampant among progressives, is that more of a Bigger thing is a better thing.

On the bright side, those omnipresent noxious political ads, now that the election is over, will retreat to their proper place in the commentary sections of media outlets. And, should anyone be feeling mangled by the mercifully concluded election, they would be wise to beat a retreat to the Bolton Animal hospital, where Dr. Pomper regales visitors with his explosively wry sense of humor.

Pomper: (drawing a phial of blood from Jake’s paw; Jake is my wife’s Fidelco guide dog) Good Jake. You know, there are those of us who think that Lieberman might end up in the Bush cabinet, leaving his position vacant, at which point Jodi Rell can only do the honorable thing… Good, Jake…stay… and appoint Lamont as senator.

Meanwhile in blogland, the proprietor of Connecticut Local Politics, Genghis Khan (not his real name), asked some important post election questions well worth exploring.

1) “How will Jodi Rell, who has used veto power to accomplish at least some of what she wants, deal with a Democratic super-majority? Will she be able to accomplish any of what she wants (whatever that is), or will Democrats call all the shots?”

Very likely, Democrats will call all the shots. The Speaker of the House, Jim Amman, is not a wall flower type. Conservative Republicans not routed or frightened by Democrat gains in the U.S. Congress may suppose that the Rell administration will be a DeStefano administration without DeStefano. Why? Because the Rell administration is only half heartily Republican. The best ex-Governor Rowland could say of himself is that he served as a “breakwater” to prevent excessive Democrat spending. The Rell administration will be more of the same. But the breakwater has been breached by a veto-proof Democrat legislature.

2) “Will the Republican Party on the state level (outside of the governor's office) continue to be essentially irrelevant? Is this the end for George Gallo?”

There is no Republican Party “outside the governor’s office.” Why has no one noticed this? Gallo is bright and energetic, but his continuation as party chairman is unnecessary because Republican Party chairmen are not necessary. They have been useless appendages – dischargeable at the whim of governors – for several decades. In the bad old days of party bosses, party chairmen were influential in choosing governors, the gubernatorial under ticket and federal legislators. Surely, someone should have noticed that radical changes had occurred in the parties when then Sen. Lowell Weicker, who once described himself as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl” was instrumental in appointing his chief aide, Tom D’Amore, as Republican Party chairman. Most recently, D’Amore – not a very ardent Republican – surfaced as an aide to Ned Lamont, the Democrat Party’s choice for the U.S. Senate.

3) “So now what?”

We may look forward to further atomization of the parties, further decline, and the inevitable consequences of a one party state: There will be less discussion, more caucusing, more direct action by the single party in power, and less opposition when unopposed Democrats lead us -- as sometimes must happen -- in a direction that adversely impacts the state.

Monday, November 06, 2006

God's Spies

King Lear, dethroned by court intrigues, responds to his faithful daughter when threatened with imprisonment:

No, no, no, no! Come on, let's go to prison. The two of us together will sing like birds in a cage. We will be good to each other. When you ask for my blessing, I'll get down on my knees and ask you to forgive me. That's how we'll live—we'll pray, we'll sing, we'll tell old stories, we'll laugh at pretentious courtiers, we'll listen to nasty court gossip, we'll find out who's losing and who's winning, who's in and who's out. We'll think about the mysteries of the universe as if we were God's spies. In prison we'll outlast hordes of rulers that will come and go as their fortunes change.”

Winning is not always a blessing; losing is not always a curse. And Lady Fortune is sometimes a strumpet.

Prior to the final tally this year, there was gossip galore. Bill Curry, who now writes a political column for the Hartford Courant, thought the mid-term elections would be portentous. Curry, who seemingly has run for every office in Connecticut but dog catcher, was certain that the next half century would belong to Democrats -- if only they were bold enough to reach out to Bush exiles, independents and some Republicans who have been put off by Bush’s reckless spending and his inattention to economic justice.

When Curry lost to Governor John Rowland, he was hired by the Clinton White House as an advisor, and even now, years after he was detached, the umbilical cord still shows. Here is a prediction Curry can take to the bank: There will in the future be no love lost between Leadership Council Democrats – Bill Clinton was one; Curry is another – and the sans-culottes who this year wanted to take Sen. Joe Lieberman, another DLC’er, to the gallows.

Buried in the muddy mirth of a Colin McEnroe column on the eve of the election was a golden perception. Although Gov. Jodi Rell was the proud owner of an obscenely large approval rating, her coattails would be correspondingly small, McEnroe predicted. Former Governor Rowland’s coattails also had been small, even though in pre-scandal days he had been popular enough to defeat by a significant margin McEnroe’s bosom buddy Curry, and this year voters awarded Democrats a veto-proof margin in the state legislature.

So long as Republican governors are forced by circumstances to gussy themselves up as Democrats in order to hang on to the office by their bloody fingernails, there will be no coattails – and no state Republican Party. The Republican Party in Connecticut has no agenda; it is committed to no coherent body of ideas; it has no warm adherents in the state’s overwhelmingly liberal media; it has no courage, no fortitude and no prospects for the future. But it has a governor, which is not enough to qualify it as a party; just ask Alan Schlesinger, whom liberals were hoping might draw just enough votes from Lieberman to make the ideologically charged Lamont the state’s new U.S. Senator.

It did not quite work out that way.

The most conspicuous and tread upon pro-Bush Democrat, the much despised Lieberman, retained his seat in the U.S. Senate by about a 10 point margin, though an avalanche of anti-Bush sentiment was put in his path by anti-war Democrats and their proponents in the media. On the other hand, moderate U.S. Rep. Republican Nancy Johnson, whose campaign was not as closely tied to the Iraq war, lost her position to Chris Murphy by an equal margin,while Chris Shays, also tied to the Iraq war as a supporter of Bush, won.

Whatever can this mean? Nobody knows for certain. Any analysis smashes upon an ominous and obvious outcropping: Lieberman is there, while Johnson is gone.

This is not to say the war in Iraq is not what Democrats supposed it to be -- a gold plated campaign albatross hung around the necks of moderate Democrats (if there are there any left in the nation) and conservative-to-moderate Republicans.

By Vietnamizing the war, anti-war opponents have all but assured that the war effort at home, such as it was, would be fatally weakened. Democrats have now claimed a divided House at a time of war. But it remains true in our day, as it was in Lincoln’s, that in matters of war a house divided against itself cannot stand, and we are more than a century away from Ulysses Grant’s then non-controversial notion that when the United States draws its sword, all tongues should fall silent.

The nature of the struggle, the jihad with Islamic fundamentalists, will not change. Fanatical Islam is a form of slavery. Yielding to it would make the post-Enlightenment West a slave in chains in its own house. Bush’s failure to successfully prosecute the war returns us to the status quo anti on the day after 9/11. But the question artfully left unanswered by much of Europe and anti-war Democrats is no less pressing now than it was then: What’s to be done?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Fat Lady's Song

The Lieberman-Lamont race for status and prestige in Washington D.C. will be over by the time this is posted, and I have no way of knowing, from this remove, who will have won the race. But it’s been lots of fun, in an agonizing, sliver-in-the-foot sort of way. Whether the race between Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman and Democrat senatorial nominee Ned Lamont has been a tragedy or farce is a matter for tragedians or comedians to decide. Towards the end, the whole wild roller-coaster took wing and headed off into LaLaLand.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who earlier campaigned for Lamont in Connecticut , said during a campaign rally for California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq ."

This is what Kerry spokeswoman Amy Brundage said that Kerry’s text had called for him to say, according to an Associated Press report: "Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq . Just ask President Bush."

This is what President George Bush, campaigning in Georgia for former Republican congressman Mac Collins, said concerning the statement made by Kerry: Calling the Kerry statement “shameful” and “insulting,” Bush said, “The members of the United States military are plenty smart and they are plenty brave and the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology.”

This is what Kerry said about what Bush said about what Kerry said: "I'm sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won't take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes. It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks who've never worn the uniform of our country are willing to lie about those who did."

What we have here, on the face of it, is a failure to communicate, leading to a tiff that points backward to Kerry’s unfortunate habit of hyperbolizing and then braving his way out of a rhetorical hole by a) accusing those wagging fingers at him of outrageous personal attacks, and b) brazenly asserting that no one who has not participated in a war is fit to comment on any matter relating to the military. Soldiers who have seen active service, like Kerry, may join in the discussion and say things that are wounding and wrong; others, including the wounded and the wronged, must bite their tongues.

That view of things is tragically wrong because soldiering does not confer infallibility on the soldierly speaker. However honorable Kerry’s service to his country as a soldier in the Vietnam War, there is no necessary connection between his service and any political statement he may make such that his service will confer on his statement a certitude that belongs properly to a correspondence between unchanging facts and statements made about such facts.

Kerry was followed on the political stage by the Lyndon LaRouche cult. LaRouche storm troopers, a few days before Election Day, showed up at Mayor Mike’s restaurant in downtown Hartford to heckle Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman and William F. Buckley Jr., who was not present at the festivities.

According to one report , a young LaRoucheite “disguised in a wig and make-up as conservative columnist William F. Buckley, began yelling and throwing green ‘Buckley Bucks,’” while a chorus sang a little ditty: “If you want a third world war, vote for Joe, Bill Buckley's whore."

One of the storm troopers helpfully explained to a reporter that they had “come to Connecticut from around the country specifically to heckle Lieberman because, they said, Buckley supported Lieberman when he unseated Republican U.S. Sen. Lowell Weicker in 1988.”

America! What a country, eh? Some people who in the past have been successfully impaled by Buckley’s National Review magazine write letters to the editor; other vintage wing nuts engage in Abbie Hoffman-like rhetorical pogroms in Hartford bars.

Anyway, the fat lady has sung, and it’s over, for which we may thank God -- and ex-governor and senator Lowell Weicker, the political genius suffering from a Napoleon in exile complex who persuaded Lamont to spend a small fortune to oust his former nemesis. A comedian might view the whole race between Lieberman and Lamont as the bi-product of a nightmare brought on by dyspepsia while Lowell was trying to write an afterward to his unread biography.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

An Honorable Exit

Christopher Hitchens – long committed to the Kurds, yesterday’s Darfur – provides an exit strategy to the exit strategists that might just leave our honor intact. The one thing we cannot do, Hitchens argues, is to evade our ethical responsibilities to the Kurds, to our kindest visions of ourselves as a nation, and to posterity. We broke Iraq, Hitchens argues, and we should make a reasonable attempt to fix it, before bailing out.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Stormtroopers Invade Hartford

It may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Here is a solid block of fascist rhetoric from the Lyndon LaRouche stormtroopers, posted on the LaRouche internet site:

“On Oct. 31, at one of the conferences jointly organized by the United States Embassy in Berlin and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, on the coming American Congressional election, a key operative in the fascist network which, in the United States, has called for the mass murder of Muslims, is being featured. The panel will feature Peter Ross Range, the editor of Blueprint—the magazine of fascist Joe Lieberman's Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in the United States. The event is being chaired by senior Social Democratic Party figure Karsten Voigt.

“The fascist credentials of the DLC are straightforward. Founded with Buckleyite right-wing mafia money, the DLC promotes Cheney-Bush imperial war policies, under the name "Democratic." Thus, it finds itself a useful tool of the Bush Administration, in deploying against the ongoing Eurasian dialogue being run by Lyndon LaRouche.”


The LaRouche stormtroopers on Thursday showed up at Mayor Mike’s restaurant in downtown Hartford to heckle Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman and William F. Buckley Jr., who was not present at the festivities.

According to one report , a young LaRoucheite “disguised in a wig and make-up as conservative columnist William F. Buckley, began yelling and throwing green ‘Buckley Bucks,’” while a chorus sang a little ditty: “If you want a third world war, vote for Joe, Bill Buckley's whore."

One of the stormtroopers helpfully explained to a reporter that they had “come to Connecticut from around the country specifically to heckle Lieberman because, they said, Buckley supported Lieberman when he unseated Republican U.S. Sen. Lowell Weicker in 1988.”

America! What a country! Some people who in the past have been successfully impaled by Buckley’s National Review magazine write letters to the editor; other vintage wing nuts engage in Abbie Hoffman-like rhetorical pogroms in Hartford bars.

As is usual when leftists overreach and condemn the very behavior they are practicing, disavowals and denunciations from those who benefit by the stormtrooper tactics were either no where in evidence or slow in coming.

Where is Tom D'Amore when you need him; or, for that matter, D'Amore's former boss Lowell Weicker? And the usual defenders of politicians jackbooted by the right; where are they? What flower pots are they hiding behind now?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On Saying What You Mean And Meaning What You Say: Or You Can Take The Soldier Out Of The War, But You Can’t Take The War Out Of The Soldier

This is what Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry said during a campaign rally for California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

This is what Kerry spokeswoman Amy Brundage said that Kerry’s text had called for him to say, according to an Associated Press report: "Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush."

This is what President George Bush, campaigning in Georgia for former Republican congressman Mac Collins, said concerning the statement made by Kerry: Calling the Kerry statement “shameful” and “insulting,” Bush said, “The members of the United States military are plenty smart and they are plenty brave and the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology.”

This is what Kerry said about what Bush said about what Kerry said: "I'm sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won't take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes. It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks who've never worn the uniform of our country are willing to lie about those who did."

What we have here, on the face of it, is a failure to communicate, leading to a tiff that points backward to Kerry’s unfortunate habit of hyperbolizing and then braving his way out of a rhetorical hole by a) accusing those wagging fingers at him of outrageous personal attacks, and b) brazenly asserting that no one who has not participated in a war is fit to comment on any matter relating to the military. Soldiers who have seen active service, like Kerry, may join in the discussion and say things that are wounding and wrong; others, including the wounded and the wronged, must bite their tongues.

That view of things is essentially wrong because soldiering does not confer infallibility on the soldierly speaker. However honorable Kerry’s service to his country as a soldier in the Vietnam War, there is no necessary connection between his service and any political statement he may make such that his service will confer on his statement a certitude that belongs properly to a correspondence between unchanging facts and statements made about such facts.

Since Kerry has already admitted, through his spokeswoman, that he did not say what he intended to say, it would be a very small step for a man but a large step for humanity if Kerry would simply apologize for having unintentionally insulted the troops in Iraq, after which everyone could begin to discuss whose grades were lower in college – Kerry’s or Bush’s – and who, of the two, got stuck in a war in Vietnam.