Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rellism, Weickerism and Rowlandism

Henry Mencken, the great Baltimore sage and journalist, once defined democracy as that form of government in which “the people get what they want – good and hard.”

What is that form of government in which the government gets what it wants, good and hard? We might call it Rellism, or Rowlandism, or Weickerism. This form of government was perfected by Lowell Weicker, but his Republican gubernatorial accolades have followed the former senator and governor faithfully in his rather large footsteps.

The thing achieved perfection when Weicker, having shunned the prospect of an income tax in his campaign, then became governor and appointed as head of his Office of Policy Management William Cibes, who had run in and lost a primary as a pro-income tax candidate. Following this appointment, came the income tax, followed in turn by a decade long deluge of spending and a predictable seemingly endless bout of economic anemia. Elsewhere in the country during these years, the economy has been robust; here it has been flat.

A couple of years ago, before Weicker became fully engaged in an attempt, nearly successful, to replace Sen. Joe Lieberman with Weicker's doppelganger Ned Lamont, another Greenwich millionaire, Weicker was pondering state budget matters and permitted himself to wonder aloud, “Where did all the money go?”

Well, most of it went from the people to that form of government that gets what it wants – good and hard. And the government spent it. Now that the government’s credit card has been maxed out and the fortune Weicker took from the people and gave to them has been depleted, it is back for more, its unappeasable appetite unstated.

Still hotly defending his decision to hang an income tax albatross around the necks of his subjects, Weicker is inclined these days to defend the tax – which other less anemic states are now jettisoning – by pointing out that it has been “good for Connecticut.” But by “Connecticut,” Weicker means, and has always meant, the ruling classes – himself and the people with whom he has associated during his long and eventful life.

The people of Connecticut are suffering – from burdensome taxation, from business flight, from what is perhaps the longest bout of economic anemia in its history. These days, fathers and mothers travel south -- to states with more enlightened governments -- to visit their children, who might have remained at home in the bosom of their extended families were Connecticut not afflicted with a government that faithfully serves the government rather than the people.

The views of the people on spending and budgets in Connecticut, as opposed to the views of the ruling elite, have been most clearly expressed in municipal referendums, during which extravagant spending proposals have been vetoed and trimmed. A recent Rell proposal to cap municipal spending at 3%, while at the same time permitting referendums to carve out exceptions when necessary, brought this squeal from Speaker of the House Jim Amann: "Can you imagine 169 towns holding referendums on taxes?”

Quite a revolutionary idea, actually.

In past times, the answer to a preening government that claimed to represent the true interests of the people while feathering its own nest was – revolution.

The Sun King, Louis XIV, kept his head during his splendid reign by building flashy public monuments and burnishing his reputation as a faithful representative of the “true interests of the nation,” but other monarchs soon lost theirs when people discovered that parliaments more faithfully represented their real interests. The American nation offered a republican form of government, with checks and balances and a process that would insure a healthy turn over among the ruling elite, as a solution to the problem solved in France by the wet blade of the guillotine and the reign of terror.

In the age of revolution, arguments being used by the ruling elite to justify their monarchical and government enhancing enterprises would have been seen as measures that “eat out the substance of the people,” and heads assuredly would have rolled, both figuratively and in fact.

But we are far beyond the age of revolution. When Ben Franklin was asked after the Continental Congress had established the American government what sort of government it was to be, he replied, “You have a republic – if you can keep it.”

The defining characteristic of a republic is that representatives of the government serve the people, not the government.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

PCBs, GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

By Gerald and Natalie Sirkin
c2007

A front-page story on PCBs in the March 9 News-Times is just wrong.

The first thing to know about PCBs is that they never killed a single person nor did they ever cause cancer. The second is that although they are invariably called “cancer-causing,” that designation comes chiefly from a single rat study.

The third thing is that the subject rats were exposed daily for 21 months to 100 parts per million (ppm) of PCBs containing 60% chlorine. (The 100 ppm was about 5,000 times the tolerable daily intake of PCBs set by FDA in 1973.) When rats were exposed to PCBs containing less chlorine, they developed no cancers.

The fourth, that when the exposed rats were allowed to live out their lives, they had fewer cancers and lived longer than the unexposed rats.

PCBs is a family of chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls. PCBs contain chlorine ranging from 12% to 70%. They were used in two General Electric plants that manufactured electrical equipment.

Under the DEP, sampling has been done of fish in the Housatonic River since the early l980s to ascertain the PCBs in the River. The sampling is done at four sites, Cornwall , Bulls Bridge , Lake Lillinonah , and Lake Zoar , by a firm in Philadelphia . Where possible, samples of eight fish have been taken every two years at each site. The chief interest is trout and smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass is the only species monitored at all four sites, according to the voluminous PCB Concentrations in Fishes from the Housatonic River, 1984—2004, and in Benthic Insects, 1978-2005, prepared for GE by the sampling firm.

The Report finds that with one exception, “None of the smallmouth bass samples in 2004” had PCB concentrations exceeding FDA’s standard. “Proportions of brown trout exceeding the FDA standard were lower in 1994-2004 than in 1984-1992. “

Though the concentration of PCBs has been declining, sampling continues under DEP’s overseer Ernie Pozzuto, successor to retired Charles Fredette.

In our anti-science era, politics trumps science. “But public panic, engendered by scare reports issued by public officials who have only the most superficial knowledge of the toxicology of PCBs and chloro DFs, is totally unnecessary,” according to California toxicologist Alice Ottoboni in her book, "The Dose Makes the Poison."

PCBs were banned by FDA in 1976. In 1984, FDA tightened its standard from 5 ppm to 2 ppm. The concentration of PCBs in the Housatonic meets that tougher standard. By 2004, the most recent sampling, the PCBs in the smallmouth bass were below 1.0 ppm at Bulls Bridge ; and brown trout were below 2 ppm. The goal of DEP appears to be lower still. Mr. Pozzuto does not contemplate ending the sampling in the foreseeable future, as he told us in a telephone call last week, though PCBs in the Housatonic has been steadily decreasing since 1992.

PCBs have never killed a single person. On the contrary, they have been life-saving. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), remarks in her book, Toxic Terror, that “it is likely that PCBs saved lives in their functions of minimizing the risks of fires by replacing combustible insulating fluids.” Insurance companies sometimes required that PCB equipment replace the fluids.

It’s common for EPA to declare that a chemical is a suspected carcinogen. The Data Quality Act requires regulatory agencies to use the best available science. Often EPA doesn’t have the science, but that doesn’t stop it from declaring the chemical to be a “suspected carcinogen” (on the precautionary principle). It is a political, not a scientific decision, and is based on animal studies. ACSH has petitioned EPA to abide by the Data Quality Act, thus far to no avail.

The largest human study finding no link between PCB exposure and cancer mortality was done in 1999 by Dr. Renata Kimbrough of the Institute for Evaluating Health Risks. There were four earlier consistent studies at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, N.Y. State Department of Health, and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. The data were GE employees in the two GE plants using PCBs. Kimbrough covered a longer period of time and 850 more employees (including 783 who had died). She looked for 28 different cancers among a total of 92 causes of death.

Kimbrough’s observations were 7,075 individuals who worked at least 90 days from 1946 to 1977. All were exposed through skin or inhalation to PCBs. She classified them by age, gender, hourly and salaried jobs, cumulative length of employment, latency periods to cancer. She compared her findings to the population in the region and the nation. None of those distinctions made any difference. Nor did blood-levels of PCBs, which ran as high as 2,530 parts per billion. (Nationally, they averaged 5 to 7 ppb). Comparing observed with expected causes of death, Kimbrough found that the observed in “All cancers” numbered 128, expected 158.

Declares The News-Times of PCBs, “They also work their way through the food chain—from bugs to fish, to waterfowl to humans.” But what does it matter if they are harmless? PCBs in food are of the lowest toxicity in Bruce Ames’s Hazard Ranking of Daily Human Exposure over a Lifetime. Examples: one hundred grams of cooked bacon present 30 times the risk of PCBs; one peanut-butter sandwich, 150 times; 12 ounces of beer, 14,000 times; a phenobarbital sleeping pill, 80,000 times. Ames is a world-renown microbiologist and cancer expert.

Concludes toxicologist Ottobani,

There is absolutely no evidence that PCBs contaminated with trace quantities of DF cause cancer in casually exposed humans. The best of this evidence is from epidemiologic studies of people whose jobs involved daily contact with PCBs. The absence of increased cancer rates in these groups makes it very difficult to believe that infrequent accidental exposures carry any cancer risk for the general public.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bill Clinton The Metaphysician

Former President Bill Clinton, as everyone knows, is the best metaphysician in the Democrat Party. A metaphysician is someone who devotes himself, day in and day out, to the meaning of the word “is,” as in “Hillary Clinton is not a war hawk.”

At least not today.

She was a war hawk after 9/11, when a few peaceable followers of Mohammed, blessings be upon him, drove two planes loaded with non followers of Mohammed, blessings be upon him, into the Twin Towers in New York, a state now represented in congress by Hillary.

Or was she?

Bill says “no.”

“I don’t have a problem with anything Barack Obama [has] said on this,” said the former president on a conference call while speaking to hundreds of supporters -- Barack, by the way, says “yes,” Hillary was a tempestuous war hawk after 9/11 -- but “to characterize Hillary and Obama’s positions on the war as polar opposites is ludicrous.

“This dichotomy that’s been set up to allow him to become the raging hero of the anti-war crowd on the Internet is just factually inaccurate.”

And here it comes, the metapolitical explanation: Having re-read the Iraq resolution last week, Bill has concluded that his wife, the artful Hillary, was justified in refusing to apologize for her vote favoring a military response that successfully overthrew Saddam Hussein but has now, unfortunately for war hawks everywhere, involved us in a messy war in Iraq because… because… here it comes… Hillary was “acting out of concern that future presidents might need similar language authorizing “coercive inspections to avoid conflict. It’s just not fair to say that people who voted for the resolution wanted war.”

Pure intentions purify bad decisions: That’s the metapolitical point.

Why hasn’t Bush offer the Hillary defense as a metapolitical barrier to “unfair” criticism from… well, Hillary and Bill, among others?

Because, the hapless Bush a poor metaphysician, that’s why. Cowboys are usually deficient in this area.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rell-Moody, The Great Compromiser

“Rell,” screamed one headline in a Hartford paper, “Shifts Gears On Car Tax Proposal.”

Way back when everyone thought Governor Jodi Rell was a Republican, she proposed what some people would consider a distinctively Republican measure – an honest to God tax cut. Rell proposed to eliminate the car tax. Since that time, Rell has issued a white elephant of a proposal that, all will agree, is distinctively Democratic: a hike in the income tax to finance a pointless spending spree in the educational sector. That sector is devoted mostly to electing Democrats who will feed its voracious appetite.

Now Rell has shifted gears on her car tax proposal. “Shifting gears” is perhaps not quite the correct metaphor, because it does not capture the driving force (no pun intended) behind Rell’s habitual tendency to compromise Republican principles and deliver the legislative goodies to Democrats. That driving force is Lisa Moody who, when she was a political up-and-comer in Vernon, was disposed to make compromises that would win local Republicans friends and influence people.

Former Governor John Rowland did the same sort of thing. He was wafted into office on a promise to eliminate Lowell Weicker’s income tax. Once in office, he began to compromise. Before you could say “We need a convention center,” Rowland’s stiff resistance to an income tax was shoved to the back of the closet, and we were off on a spending spree. Republicans winced and winked at all this. After all, they were a minority; what could they do but compromise? They were the “firewall” that would prevent the general conflagration to come. Yes, indeed, they were.

And what would that conflagration look like? Well, budget spending would double and triple; through excessive bonding, state’s “credit card” would be maxed out; conservative Jeremiahs would rend the air with their imprecations; young college graduates – those ungrateful tax sponges – would, upon graduating, kick the dirt of Connecticut from their feet and move to Southern climes to find jobs in companies settling in states where taxes were less punishing and Republicans were true to their principles, firewall states like South Carolina.

Not to be too much of a Jeremiah, but the future is here; it is now.

Meeting that future is the Rell-Moody team, the great compromisers.

Here is the way “compromise” works in this the land of steady habits: 1) A Republican proposes a tax cut – not a tax rebate, mind you, but a genuine tax cut; 2) Democrats object that the tax cut will favor the plunderable rich folk who make Fairfield County glow like a bar of gold. The Republican does not say, “Look, a tax cut is a reversing of gears. The rich, who paid more in property taxes on their fleet of Mercedes going in, must necessarily retain more money when the tax is eliminated. That is a bi-product of the nature of the tax. If you buy a more costly car, you will pay a higher tax. When the tax is eliminated, you do not pay the higher tax, but neither will the poor or the struggling middle class pay the lower tax. It is not as if the state is giving more in tax money to the rich than it is to the poor. The state is simply not taking the money, either from the rich or the poor. Everyone will benefit from the elimination of the tax.” Not at all. The Republican compromises and; 3) good bye principle, good bye tax cut.

Rell-Moody now has decided to soften their tax cut through a device that makes the cut progressive: The tax cut will apply only to the first $30,000 of a car's fair market value.

Watching all this from the galleries, voters, scratching their heads and pulling their lobes, ask themselves, “What is the point in voting for the Republican who, like the Democrat, wants to despoil gold hoarding Fairfield malefactors of great wealth and then pluck the gold fillings from our mouths?”

The Democrats at least are principled: They operate on the principle that a whole loaf is twice better than a half loaf, and from Rell-Moody they want the whole loaf. But they are willing to consume it a bit at a time. Why be a pig?

Here is Rep. Chris Caruso, perhaps the Democrat’s most accomplished demagogue, denouncing a tax cut that will be, for all practical purposes, progressively applied: “It doesn't resolve the problem for urban dwellers and the middle class. People in Bridgeport don't drive Bentleys. They don't drive Porsches. They don't drive BMWs.”

Indeed, it only remains for some faux Republican to pop up and accuse Caruso of stealing from the mouths of the poor the bread that might be purchased by them through a tax cut on cars because the poor cannot afford Porches.

Given the defection from Republican principles, Connecticut has now become a one horse town. And the horse is being driven over a cliff by a half mad poisonous demagogue. Unfortunately, that ain’t just a metaphor.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hillary As “Big Brother.”

Blue State Video has issued a “statement” on the dastardly video that features senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the role of “Big Brother,” the dominant character in George Orwell’s book “1984.”

The popular video assembled by Blue State Video employee Phillip de Vellis at home on his computer, a mash-up of an ad introducing the Apple Macintosh computer, has been making the rounds on the net. Mr. de Vellis may have borrowed the idea for his video from local blogmeister Connecticut Bob (aka Bob Adams), who adapted the commercial to poke some good natured fun at Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Sen. Lieberman, driven from the Democratic Party fold by primary challenger Ned Lamont, has been a disappointment to blogger furies ever since, having lost a primary to Lamont, he refused to go quiet into that good night. Lieberman waged a general election campaign against Lamont, won and thereafter re-emerged in the senate as a “Democrat Independent.”

Lieberman, in fact, survived a blizzard of critical videos, most of which were produced by bloggers who had vowed to send him into retirement. And some of the anti-Lieberman screeds – every bit as vicious as the infamous Barry Goldwater ad showing a little girl being nuked as a result of a successful Goldwater presidential campaign – were unusually wounding. Jane Hamsher, the proprietress of the FireDogLake blog, produced and circulated a mock-up photo of Lieberman and former President Bill Clinton showing the ex-president in Blues Brother sunglasses clutching a Lieberman in blackface. Hamsher was loosely associated with the Ned Lamont campaign.

Anxious to disassociate itself from Mr. de Vellis’ independent and underground activity as an anti-Hillary critic, Blue State Video issued its statement, which reads in part, “Pursuant to company policy regarding outside political work or commentary on behalf of our clients or otherwise, Mr. de Vellis has been terminated from Blue State Digital effective immediately.”

The company notes that “Blue State Digital is under contract with the Obama Campaign for technology pursuits including software development and hosting. Additionally, one of our founding partners is on leave from the company to work directly for the campaign at headquarters.

“However, Blue State Digital is not currently engaged in any relationship with the Obama Campaign for creative or non-technical services.

“Mr. de Vellis created this video on his own time. It was done without the knowledge of management, and was in no way tied to his work at the firm or our formal engagement [on technology pursuits] with the Obama campaign.”

And, of course, Blue State Video wishes Mr. de Vellis the best: “We wish Mr. de Vellis well in his future endeavors.”

No hard feelings there.

One can only imagine the feelings coursing through Hillary Clinton’s network of re-circulated Bill Clinton campaign workers, campaign workers on loan from other prominent Democrats, who wish her well, and bloggers lifted from various sites and recruited to elect as president the candidate featured in Mr. de Vellis’ short video as “Big Brother.”

Would it be presumptuous to assume that much will be made of Mr. de Vellis’ putative connection with Barack Obama’s campaign?

The real problem here – which no one is addressing – is that highly partisan freebooters have become formally detached from political parties and now operate outside the rules governing political campaigning as “masked” partisans, fulfilling a prediction made long ago by the late departed Arthur Schlesinger Jr. that, as political parties deteriorated, politics would fall into the hands of loosly organized political anarchists.

In the past, killer ads used to issue from within the parties. They were easily condemned and used as campaign fodder by politicians under attack. But one cannot unreservedly condemn a producer of an ad who is not formally attached to a campaign – however partisan he may be – without at the same time condemning respectable, putatively independent journalists, however partisan they may be.

The categories – journalist, blogger; campaign worker, independent but partisan ad maker – are in the process of mutating, and the rules that govern political behavior have not caught up with them yet.

It’s a problem.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Krayeske Unbound

The hills are alive with the sounds of Ken Krayeske’s release from Connecticut’s gulag, and a blow has been struck for the freedom of the press of those who own the presses in Connecticut. I am proud to say I added my own little bit to Krayeske’s liberation here . Krayeske appears to have been sprung by Stan Simpson, myself, his able lawyer, a ton of blogging well-wishers, progressive agitator elect Colin McEnroe and the God of common sense. We ink stained wretches all can breathe more easily now that Krayeske is free to take pictures of the governor, should she ever again venture out of sight of Lisa Moody.

In Defense of Polygamy, with explanatory notes


No one said during a recent Hartford Courant’s seminar on blogging that the activity was pretty much like a masked ball on the Pequod; masked because most of the commentators on ship operate under pseudonyms, and the Pequod because that fair ship was, among other things, Melville’s metaphor for a jostling, multicultural world. Most of the usual arguments against gay marriage having been answered sufficiently by proponents of gay marriage, I was wondering whether the same defenses used by gays may also be used to check what appears to be a troglodyte resistance to polygamy. So I proposed the question during a blog session at Connecticut Local Politics, one of the most active sites in Connecticut’s burgeoning blog community. A blogger, ctkeith, helpfully suggested that I move the dialogue to my own blog, “where it will never be read”. If it is never read, I see no harm in this. What follows below is the resulting thread on the question proposed. I’ve edited out other comments that do not bear on the point without, I hope, doing violence to the dialogue, which may be read in its entirety here. I’ve corrected some spelling and grammatical errors. A few additions to the threads are included in parentheses. My conclusion – always provisional in the blogging communit -- may be found in italics at the end of the thread.


Ghengis Conn (the proprietor of Connecticut Local Politics): “It’s also said that gay marriage will eventually lead to polygamy and worse. This argument is without even the barest shred of merit.”

The point most people are making is a little more subtle than that. There may no causative connection between gay marriage and polygamy such that allowing one will permit or encourage the other. Here’s the problem: Polygamy is a legitimate – and even religiously honored – social arrangement. Some Mormons used to practice polygamy before Christians got all in a twit about it and managed to convince legislators to criminalize the practice. But that was in the long ago, before all of us became multiculturalists, a multiculturalist being defined as one who is convinced that all useful and practical social arrangements are equally acceptable. Polygamy is practiced, and accepted, in Islam. Now, the arguments in favor of polygamy are very convincing: 1) In a society in which two working spouses have problems in making ends meet, the addition to the traditional arrangement of extra partners makes a lot of economic sense; 2) If we are willing to accept unorthodox familial arrangements – two dads and children, two moms and children – upon what grounds should we forbid a like arrangement for polygamist groupings; aren’t more dads and moms better for the children than fewer dads and moms?; 3) isn’t every argument in favor of gay marriage also an argument in favor of polygamy? If for petty prejudicial reasons we wish not to allow polygamy – say, we just don’t like polygamists – what other practical reasons can we offer to assure that the practice remains illegal? Most of the practical reasons, it may seem to some, have already been debunked.
6 | Don Pesci March 20th, 2007 at 1:12 pm

And Don–there are a few ways to look at that issue, and I agree that at least in terms of the law, it’s not as meritless as Genghis says it is. The easiest way to look at it, at least for CT, is to say that under our state constitution and the laws that have been enacted by our legislature, sexual orientation is a protected class. Which is a perfectly legitimate argument at this point in our state’s history; we have legislation against discrimination on that basis, against hate crimes, etc. If sexual orientation is a protected class (like race), any legislation imposing restrictions based on sexual orientation are therefore subject to strict scrutiny by courts, under which most legislation fails as violative of constitutional rights. That’s not an argument that would work in all states, b/c each state has a different history with regards to the rights of gays and lesbians. But it would work in our state, and that argument is not a slippery slope into allowing polygamy.
8 | Gems March 20th, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Gems

“…each state has a different history with regards to the rights of gays and lesbians. But it would work in our state, and that argument is not a slippery slope into allowing polygamy.”

Forgive me, but the notion of a “slippery slope” is a polite fiction. Polygamy, religiously sanctioned, already exists in a multicultural world. The question is not: Do gay rights lead to polygamy? I do not believe there is a necessary connection. But in a permissive and multi-cultural society, it will not be long before polygamists – very nice people, but different – will want to claim their rights, religious or secular. They will be advancing arguments very much like those I see here in favor of gay rights. If we decide not to allow polygamy, how shall we prevent them from extending the social franchise to polygamists? It seems to me that an answer to this question will do much to relieve the anxiety of people who oppose gay rights. So, what’s the answer to my question? Silence and shifting the question to other subjects will not be allowed.
14 | Don Pesci March 20th, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Don, if gay marriage is the product of judicial fiat then there is no way to stop polygamy from being made legal. If it is by legislative fiat then there is no problem: the legislature draws lines all the time.
15 | Tony Starks March 20th, 2007 at 1:59 pm

The bill in no way mandates what religions must do–only what the state does. Better that way, by far.
16 | Genghis Conn March 20th, 2007 at 2:08 pm

“If we decide not to allow polygamy, how shall we prevent them from extending the social franchise to polygamists? . . . Silence and shifting the question to other subjects will not be allowed.”

Thanks for laying out the ground rules, Don. Nice. Anyway, I think you prevent it from being extended by having this be a legislative action, as Tony says. The legislature is there to represent the views of the people of this state. Say what you want about whether the legislature is one the right or wrong side of this issue–the legislative process is working here. Legislators are meeting with constituents on both sides of the issue, they’re sitting through public hearings, and they’re voting on the bills relevant to the rights of same-sex couples, up to and including marriage. I agree with Lawlor’s statement that gay marriage is inevitable, b/c it’s becoming more and more accepted by the younger generation, so when we’re in our 40s and 50s and make up the government of this state, the laws will reflect our views. Perhaps my children will think polygamy is acceptable, because 50 years from now, polygamy will have gained widespread support. That’s OK with me. The laws of a state are supposed to change with the people of the state, and people’s views on issues change with the times. Maybe polygamy won’t ever be acceptable to the people of this state–in that case, the issue would never gain traction in the legislature. That’s the legislative process, and again, I’m OK with that. And now I have to get back to work, so silence beyond this post will just have to be allowed, Don.
17 | Gems March 20th, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Polygamy and Gay marriage, as issues in regards to marriage, are completely different. For the Judiciary to grant Gay Marriage they would simply have to strike they would simply have to strike “between a man and woman” from the law. The ability to strike down parts of law has been a clear judicial power since Marbary v. Madison. There is no additional governing case law that has to be created. For polygamy to work, you would have to define such legal issues as how divorces are handled in plural marriages, what percentage is each spouse entitled to, how many marriages may one engage in, what responsibility one would have to each spouse. This could not be done by simply striking down language. The only way to define this would be through legislation, because it would require the rewriting of all marriage law. Since Gay marriage is still between two equal partners, nothing needs to changed except 5 words. That being said, it would be best if the legislature did this. It is always best when the Legislature chooses to follow the states constitution, instead of being forced by the courts.

As for the decline in marriages in European countries, I believe that was a trend well before Gay Marriage was instituted. Without facts to back me up, I would suspect it has more to do with the younger generation fearing marriage due to the increase in divorce than anything else. I know that fear has made more extremely cautious in approaching the issue.
22 | adamcs95 March 20th, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Gems

Something to ponder after work: Given the tendency here in the United States for the courts to meddle in legislative affairs, particularly when an aggrieved party claims a violation of constitutional rights, the possibility of the question at issue being decided legislatively is, shall we say, remote. A legislature may constitutionally remove certain jurisdictions from the courts, or it may propose a constitutional amendment that protects an issue from judicial meddling – but all that is very difficult and probably impractical. What this means is that if we wish to prohibit an activity, we shall have to do it by writing pretty ironclad legislative prohibitions. The question I am trying to raise is: If an activity is so abhorrent to a community that the community is resolved to prohibit it, what convincing arguments can it use that are unassailable? That is an important question. I am listening to the arguments on both sides of the gay marriage issue here, and I am coming away from it with the feeling that every argument used to advance the cause of gay marriage – and many of the arguments are plausible – may also be used to advance the cause of polygamy, a respectable social arrangement in some parts of the world, and incest, which is legal in France among children under a certain age and consenting adults. I just want someone to develop a legislative or judicial strategy that would allay fears that we are helpless in the face of “inevitable” social change of a kind that even (an) honorable progressive would object to.
24 | Don Pesci March 20th, 2007 at 8:01 pm

adamcs95

The rule in law is that if an activity is not specifically prohibited in statutory or constitutional law, it is allowed. What the lawmaker has given, the lawmaker may take away; the reverse is also true. To allow an activity previously prohibited, one need only amend the law to strike out the prohibited activity. That is what is being proposed in the bill allowing marriage for gays now wending its way through the legislature. Occasionally, the courts also change legislative law through judicial interpretation. It is will, rather than some fictitious doctrine of inevitability, that determines the destiny of states and nations.
25 | Don Pesci March 20th, 2007 at 8:16 pm

Don,
Let me put this some other way. You can form a sole proprietorship, which is a business entity of just you. There are certain rules and laws that govern this formation, and those rules are written in a certain way as to pertain to a single person. If you wish to add more people to the mix, that is a completely separate institution with different rules. Marriage is the same way. Such a complete over haul would be needed to facilitate polygamists that the institution could no longer be considered marriage, a separate institution with separate rules would have to be created, which is a role the Judiciary has never claimed. Furthermore, discrimination does not come into play on this issue, while in the Gay Marriage debate it does. Marriage, as far as the government is concerned, is a civil matter. Any demand for polygamy to be accepted on religious grounds would be thrown out of court, because no marriage is accepted on religious grounds.
26 | adamcs95 March 20th, 2007 at 8:20 pm

adamcs95

I agree that the construction of legislation allowing polygamy would be a delicate process, and, of course, traditionally courts have not engaged in the writing of such legislation. The role of the court usually ends in declaring a law unconstitutional; the patching up process is left to legislators who feel the point of the judicial gun at their temples. Upon what grounds would you object to a polygamist agitating for an extension of civil rights to allow him the same freedom enjoyed by non-polygamists? Courts usually frown upon the argument you advance once the court has decided that the petitioner is being denied a constitutional right. Difficulties may always be overcome – at some cost, to be sure, to our traditions. Sole proprietorships mutate into multi-proprietorships all the time.
28 | Don Pesci March 20th, 2007 at 8:47 pm

Don,
Why not take this conversation over to your blog where no one will see it?
Your Rovian tactic of printing the word Polygamy on a thread about Gay marriage a thousand times is kind of annoying and quite transparent by now.
29 | ctkeith March 20th, 2007 at 8:56 pm

Don,
Let me start last first. Yes they may start as sole proprietorships and turn into an LLC, that doesn’t stop the fact that it has become a separate institution. What civil rights do you believe are being violated by the state refusing to issue multiple marriage contracts to one person?
30 | adamcs95 March 20th, 2007 at 9:02 pm

CtKeith
Should I be mentioning incest then?
32 | Don Pesci March 20th, 2007 at 9:22 pm

“What civil rights do you believe are being violated by the state refusing to issue multiple marriage contracts to one person?”
The same rights that are being denied to gays.
33 | Don Pesci March 20th, 2007 at 9:25 pm

21st Amendment to the State Constitution: No person shall be denied the equal protection of the law nor be subjected to segregation or discrimination in the exercise or enjoyment of his or her civil or political rights because of religion, race, color, ancestry, national origin, sex or physical or mental disability.
I clearly see sex in that Amendment, I don’t see any mention of polygamists, or those who engage in incest.
34 | adamcs95 March 20th, 2007 at 9:32 pm

Furthermore, Polygamy appears to be expressly prohibited by Section 3 of the Constitution
35 | adamcs95 March 20th, 2007 at 9:42 pm

The thread I am developing is not entirely theoretical. Shortly after the Vietnam War, a cousin from New York – Fordham graduate – went to Saudi Arabia and, like T.E Lawrence, became infatuated with the culture and went native. He now has three wives. If he resettled in the United States, his marital arrangements would be frowned upon by the same sort of narrow-minded bigots that seek to deprive gays of their rights. Why shouldn’t the social franchise be extended to polygamists? adamcs95 says that accommodating my cousin, who holds duel citizenship, would be legislatively difficult. So what? Difficulties can be overcome. I am mentioning polygamy too often to suit ctkeith’s delicate taste. Hey, get over it, man. An authority on marriage and the Bible, writing recently in the Hartford Courant, reminds us that polygamy is part of the biblical culture. Practitioners of Islam here in the United States can hardly be expected to rest content with a religious rather than a civil right so long as the police are under the bed restricting what should be their civil rights. Polygamy will not affect non-polygamist marital arrangements. So what’s the problem?
36 | Don Pesci March 20th, 2007 at 9:58 pm

I think you answered your own question. Civil rights have nothing to do with any religion. If in the future we decide through our legislature or our courts that polygamous marriages are within our legal realm then they will be.
37 | ctkeith March 20th, 2007 at 10:42 pm

ctkeith

Not so sure that civil rights have NOTHING to do with religion since religion is one of the constitutional rights mentioned in the US constitution. But you can have the last word. Glad you’re down with polygamy.
38 | Don Pesci March 21st, 2007 at 4:37 am

I support the proposed bill that will include same-sex couples within Connecticut’s definition of marriage. The primary posting above ably states why this is a positive step.
What amazes me are the 39 posted comments that follow. We need to get Don Pesci a day job so he can focus on something other than polygamy.

Passage of the marriage equality bill would indicate that lesbians and gay men are social equals to nongays. Even more significant, same-sex marriage will imply that the SEXES are deeply and fundamentally equal. This brings to mind the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention passage of 2 closely linked rules: that a wife must “submit” to her husband and that homosexuality must be opposed by every possible means.

EJ Graff reminds us that these two ideas are “twin sides of the same coin. If a woman marries another woman, who’s in charge? Restricting marriage to husband/wife pairs is an essential symbol of MALE supremacy–just as restricting marriage to one race was an essential symbol of WHITE supremacy. . . .Same-sex marriage reveals that marriage need not be hierarchical at all, that biology is not destiny, that marriage can be about not obedience but love.”

As to the history of polygamy, it has been an instrument of male domination–one husband and multiple wives. The inclusion of same-sex couples within our marriage framework is a step forward for those who value egalitarianism in our state’s institutions. I would hope that Mr. Pesci can see the difference between “domination” and “egalitarianism.”

I note that Stanley Kurtz is cited in a comment above. Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. It was established in 1976 to “apply the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.” My experience with the writings of Stanley Kurtz is that he comes from that wing of the Judeo-Christian tradition that allies itself with the Empire rather than the Hebrew prophets. He would do well to read John Dominic Crossan’s new book God & Empire.
Christian theologian Walter Wink edited an evenhanded book on gay issues within religion. It is titled Homosexuality and the Christian Faith.

More recently Professor David Myers co-authored the book What God Has Joined Together? A Christian Case for Gay Marriage. He writes from his mid-western campus in Michigan and from an evangelical perspective. He supports the move toward marriage equality.

So I suggest that social commenter Stanley Kurtz is one voice that claims Judeo-Christian roots. A focused analysis reveals, however, that his position is built on premises of hierarchy and power, rather than love and commitment.
41 | WSCoughin March 21st, 2007 at 8:56 am

WSCoughin

“As to the history of polygamy, it has been an instrument of male domination–one husband and multiple wives. The inclusion of same-sex couples within our marriage framework is a step forward for those who value egalitarianism in our state’s institutions. I would hope that Mr. Pesci can see the difference between ‘domination’ and ‘egalitarianism.’”

According to most feminists, the history of marriage is a history of males dominating females. Surely we can agree that, at least in Western society, this is no longer the case. In most instances, there is a rough equality in marriages, as in all else. Going forward, why should the same not be true in polygamous marriages? In a perfectly equalitarian society, women in polygamous marriages would be able to have as many or few husbands as men would have wives. An equalitarian could have no objection to that. Besides, my own personal objections or approval are unimportant; so are yours. The question is: If you don’t like polygamy and wish to prevent your sons and daughters from engaging in it, what are the laws and social conventions you may appeal to in order to effect your aim? According to you, those laws and social convention must not offend the principle of equality. Beyond this, I’m not clear what they might be.
42 | Don Pesci March 21st, 2007 at 6:45 pm

WSCoughin:

Then too, in the kind of marriage of which you approve — male, male and female, female — the kind of non-equalitarianism of which you disapprove could not occur. In a polygamous same sex marriage, there could be no gender inequality. If you must object, you must do so on other grounds.
43 | Don Pesci March 21st, 2007 at 7:21 pm

One more time, Using religion to change marriage would go against everything we know to be true about a civil contract. It is a civil contract. Changing it based upon religious justification would make it a religious document. It being a religious document, expressly endorsing a religion that has plural marriages, would be unconstitutional under the first amendment. Discriminating based on gender is expressly prohibited, but so is endorsing religious practices, making this a non-issue. Homosexuals only have said rights because a prohibition on gender discrimination is enshrined in the state’s constitution, and under the equal protection clause, the US Constitution. Until polygamists are recognized as a seperate group, having characteristics that are inherent at birth, or at least beyond there control, then no civil rights are violated. No move could be made in the courts.
44 | adamcs95 March 21st, 2007 at 7:55 pm

You know what, I’m just treading over the same ground again and again, hoping I can break through somehow. When I do, you ignore it (see the lack of response to 34 and 35). If you feel so strongly about this argument, the public hearing on this bill is on Monday. Go and make a DeLuca out of yourself.
45 | adamcs95 March 21st, 2007 at 7:58 pm

Adamcs95

I think there are more than a few people that feel the timing of the gay bill being proposed has a lot to do with the CJ position. This will never pass on its own and will at some point go to the courts. Lawlor and McDonald might have felt that they needed Sullivan and Zarella out of the way if there was any chance of it passing a court challenge (but who’s to say how they, Sullivan and Zarella, would have voted.

While everyone else in Hartford was quiet, these two and the Courant carried on as if it was the end of the world. They twisted a nothing into something. Somehow, Dewy, Cheatem and Howe JUST HAPPENED to be on their side and the rest is history. Adam, given your other comments and your obvious position on this issue, I am shocked you would ask the question you are asking— (are) you just screwing with me?

I think the supporters of this bill are really reaching on the constitutional question. The constitution protects sex as in man and woman but I don’t see anything or even suggesting the he’n and he’n and she’n and she’n protection being claimed. All this long winded constitutional talk is moot. It comes down to the will of the people and I can’t believe the people of CT will stand by and support this mess. I don’t know much but, in my humble opinion, he’n and he’n and she’n and she’n is far worse than anything that happened at the court. Just think— he’n and he’n—- holding a decision— as Lewis Black would say–” don’t think about that for more than a second or your head will explode”
46 | fire153k March 21st, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Okay, adamcs95. Well take it bit by bit.

“One more time, Using religion to change marriage would go against everything we know to be true about a civil contract.”

No one is proposing “using religion to change marriage.” In fact, no (such) changes are proposed. In a civil society that recognizes polygamy – as it does in law recognize more traditional arrangements – religion would not be used to change marriage. Presently, polygamy is recognized in much of the world as a traditional marriage arrangement, and the civil law protects and does not change it. The same holds true with traditional marriage. The law here in the United States recognizes traditional marriage ALSO as a civil right. Indeed, the present legislation before the Connecticut legislature contemplates extending the same civil protections – marriage is a civil right but a religious privilege – to the less traditional marital arrangements approved by gay couples. I am asking you to tell me why the same protections cannot be extended to those who practice polygamy. The extension of the protections of civil law to polygamous arrangements very likely will produce here in the United States a bumper crop of non-religious polygamists. What about them? Suppose a gay couple wishes to engage in a polygamous marriage in which there would be no sex differences; would you allow that? By the way, believe me – Delucca would not favor polygamous marriage. He might be able to develop a reasonable argument against my proposal, but it would be one, I fear, that would not find favor in your eyes.
47 | Don Pesci March 22nd, 2007 at 5:32 am

adamcs95

A comprehensive answer to 34 and 35 would take me very far from the thread I am developing. Briefly, let me say that correct constitutional interpretation is no longer a bar to the pretensions of the Supreme Court. Any court that deduces rights not specifically mentioned in the constitution – a right to privacy, for instance – from the “aura of rights surrounding the constitution” has effectively freed itself from contextual interpretation. And that means that a previous commentator may be right in supposing that an extension of rights to groups not covered in the plain text of statutory or constitutional law is purely a matter of will: “All this long winded constitutional talk is moot. It comes down to the will of the people.” I have little doubt that a court liberated from textual analysis is capable of deducing a “right” to polygamy from the aura surrounding a grapefruit.
48 | Don Pesci March 22nd, 2007 at 6:54 am


adamcs95

Or, to put it another way: The Supreme Court having extruded a “privacy right” from the “aura of rights surrounding the constitution” that it then used to void statutory state laws governing sexual behavior, what is to prevent the same court from applying the same privacy rights to legalize, so to speak, the sexual behaviors of polygamists?
49 | Don Pesci March 22nd, 2007 at 7:1

Your claim seem to suggest that this right is being claimed is somehow extra constitutional, that it takes an activist judiciary to create it. In fact, It has been reaffirmed several times that the government may not discriminate on the basis of gender. Despite what you may think the whole basis for this argument is solidly grounded in the constitution and judicial precedent. So yes, my constitutional arguments come into play, because I believe it is the clear that any judge that can look at the constitution and judicial precedent and not find favorable for Gay Marriage is being activist Even a quick reading of the decisions in New York and Washington against gay marriage will show a judiciary that is being truly activist. They ignore the wording of the State’s Constitution, deny themselves a role that the Judiciary has claimed almost since the founding of the republic, and ignore at least 50 years of Judicial precedent to come to their decision denying marriage equality. That is activism.

As for the right of privacy, marriage is inherently public, since what we are talking about is recognition in the public sphere. If there is any right to privacy related to polygamy, it is only when a marriage license is not applied for. That is why the government doesn’t go into the FLDS compound and arrest everyone for polygamy.

Marriage is most of all a contractual commitment to another person. I know this example is crude, but when you sign a contract selling your house, it would be illegal for you to sign another contract selling to another person. Though I am not comparing marriage to selling yourself, it was the best example I could think of.
As for the “make a DeLuca out of yourself” comment, I was referring to how the Senator made an ass of himself at the Plan B public hearing by being ill informed on the issue, and failing even to read to bill. Therefore what I was suggesting you that you should testify at the public hearing, which I’m sure would be a great embarrassment, even if you don’t realize it.
50 | adamcs95 March 22nd, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Provisionally, it would seem that many of the arguments presently used by gays to assert their justicable rights under law to march to the tune of their own drummer may also be used by polygamist towards the same end.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Obamaphobia

Camille Paglia, whose enticing column appears in Salon, an on-line publication, does not dread going where even dark angels fear to tread.

Here is Paglia commenting on Hillary Clinton’s less than adroit handling of David Geffen’s defection from the Hillary camp:

“What in tarnation was the Hillary Clinton camp thinking when it threw a tantrum about Hollywood producer David Geffen making a few critical remarks about her to a fagged-out media scold? Most people in this country have never heard of David Geffen and don't give a damn about whether or not he defects to Barack Obama.”

The “fagged out media scold” is none other than New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Paglia praised Obama’s “lofty assertion of statesmanlike unconcern” and then drove the shaft home:

“Hillary didn't help herself with her over-the-top sermon at the First Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama, two weeks ago. Her aping of a black Southern accent from the pulpit was so inept and patronizing that it should get a Razzie Award for Worst Performance of the Year. At times, it approached the Southern Gothic burlesque of Bette Davis chewing up the scenery in "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte." Does Hillary Clinton have a stable or coherent sense of self? Or is everything factitious, mimed and scripted (like her flipping butch and femme masks) for expediency?”

If one can get by the briars, Paglia’s analysis is not factitious.

It’s gonna be one heck of a campaign.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Governor Blumie

Mark it on the calendar: On March 18, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ended the most prolonged petting session in Connecticut’s political history. Columnist Kevin Rennie has revealed that Blumenthal was – seriously folks – throwing his hat into the gubernatorial ring. The Democrat Party has for 20 long years been trying to entice the camera shy Blumenthal to run for something – anything – but attorney general, and he now has semi-definitively said that he will go all the way.

Blumenthal’s announcement follows former attorney general Elliot Spitzer’s successful run for governor in New York. The attorneys general have been in the habit for many years of following each other around like a string of doggies, nose to tail, and it’s possible that Blumie, noting Spitzer’s successful venture in New York, figured to copy his template. Or perhaps Blumie simply tired of trotting out old excuses when political functionaries in Greenwich asked him for the hundredth time when he planned to run for governor or US senator -- or anything but attorney general.

Or could it be this? Rumors abound that the wildly popular current governor, Jodi Rell, intends not to run for a second term in her own right after having “gotten it done.”

Gotten what done?

Like her predecessor once removed, Lowell Weicker, Rell has proven to be something of a disappointment to her Republican cohorts, who are generally more conservative than Weicker but more liberal than, say, Ann Coulter. Weicker was the guy who “got it done” and gave us a state income tax, after having given every indication that he opposed such a tax in his gubernatorial campaign.

Bill Cibes' Democrat primary campaign was structured around the necessity of an income tax. After Cibes lost the primary to Bruce Morrison, Weicker, who defeated John Rowland in a three man race, then appointed Cibes as the head of his Office of Policy Management, not a comforting sign to those who believed Weicker’s campaign malarkey.

Together, the two of them “got it done” and gave us an income tax, which removed all restraints on spending. Connecticut’s budget has more than doubled since the tax was instituted; the state’s auxiliary budget, its bonding, has increased proportionally; businesses are fleeing the state and nuisance taxes have metastasized. Even Weicker, some time ago, was heard to complain, “Where did all the money go?”

During her own campaign, Rell more than once simply refused to debate her opponent, the tax and spend quasi-socialist mayor of New Haven John DeStefano, while continually giving off the odor of a governor who, like former governor John Rowland, would serve as a fire wall against the tax and spend Democrats. Once elected, Rell proposed a budget that busted the state cap on spending by raising Weicker’s income tax to furnish yet more tax money to an already overstuffed educational empire. Naturally, this left a few frowns on the faces of what remains of the Republican Party, leaving the way open to a Blumie run.

Blumenthal’s critics are out there plugging away. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s report on delinquent attorneys general is particularly harsh on Blumenthal, named in the report as the worst attorney general in the United States, but the data in such critical analyses seems rarely to pass through the Connecticut media’s selective semi-permeable membrane.

So then, in his bid for governor – assuming the rumors are true that Rell does not intend to run again – Blumenthal will face the ghost of a Republican Party, an adulatory media and a brokered spot on the Democratic ticket. There is no enemy to the right. On the left, the sans culottes who deposed Sen. Joe Lieberman in a primary, deprived of a contender who has publicly backed an unpopular president, will lose much of their sting.

How can he possibly lose? No doubt, Blumenthal, ever the cautious politician, has asked himself that question and, having come up with a satisfying answer, now has ventured out on the gubernatorial campaign limb.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Plan B Flotsam

Every so often, in what we are pleased to call a “debate” on a polarizing issue, a piece of information will float by, like flotsam in a rain swollen stream, that sticks in the mind like a burr.

Such was the testimony of Dr. Frank Davidoff before the state’s Human Services Committee, which later voted out a bill that will satisfy thoroughly all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.

Davidoff’s testimony supported proponents of a bill titled “An Act Concerning Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault.” He said, “In fact, the most careful and rigorous study that’s been done to date, which was published just last month in the scientific literature, showed that while Plan B was nearly 100% effective in preventing pregnancy when it was used before ovulation occurred, it was almost completely ineffective in preventing pregnancy when it was used after ovulation and fertilization had occurred.”

Catholic hospitals refuse to administer Plan B only on one condition; otherwise it is routinely administered on request to rape victims. If, after testing, there is reason to believe that ovulation has occurred and the victim may be pregnant, the Catholic hospital will not administer Plan B. The hospital staff will accommodate the victim in other ways, should she want to take the drug.

Now, Dr. Davidoff says that the drug is “completely ineffective” when used after ovulation, the only time Catholic hospitals will refuse to administer the drug. The committee, despite Dr. Davidoff’s testimony, obviously thought that this was the perfect opportunity to issue a bill that would force Catholic Hospitals to violate their religious precepts by administering a pill that the good doctor said would be “completely ineffective” under the only circumstances in which Catholic hospitals would refuse to administer the… what to call it? …placebo?

Given this intelligence, provided by a doctor by no means friendly to the Catholic position on the issue, does the bill make sense?

When I asked that question on a blog site -- also not friendly to the Catholic position on Plan B – a commentator submitted the following rejoinder: “Yes Pesci, if Plan B is ineffective once ovulation has started then the RC Hospitals who require a test today for ovulation before administering the drug are just being silly in their opposition.”

To which I replied: Applying the strictures of Pascal’s wager to the problem, it is not the Catholic Church that should retreat from its position IF — big “if” — a victory on your part should violate both the canon law of the church and First Amendment (religious) rights. The problem, if there is a problem, can be solved in a way that does not violate either. By the way, did the relevant committee ask any of its expert testifiers precisely how many rape victims, turned away by Catholic hospitals, could not receive the Plan B in other places? That figure should figure in any legislative attempt to force Catholic hospitals to violate their church’s legal strictures.”

Another commentator offered this remark: “When 90% of even Catholics think a raped woman should be quickly given whatever she needs to avoid a pregnancy, yes, the proper place for a woman to receive Plan B is in the emergency room. Period. Catholic or non-Catholic hospital is not the issue. Having medical professionals promptly assist a rape victim is. I bet even Bishop Mansell won’t go on record saying that a woman, after being violently raped, should sit back, do nothing, and if impregnated go ahead and give birth to the rapist’s baby. Honestly, I’d like to hear him say it. This debate is all about ideology run amok. And yes, the government should simply legislate it out of the health-care profession.”

To which I responded: “You can frame the issue anyway you like; it’s a free country, though there are some who would like to make it less so. The proposed legislation, however, does not seek to check unreasonable ideologies. The practical effect of the legislation will be to force Catholic hospitals — not to mention the Catholics who work in them — to violate their consciences and to commit a crime against the cannon law of their church. That is not an ideological description; it is a precise description of what the bill will do. That is an extreme – not to mention unconstitutional – measure. A reasonable person, faced with such a Draconian solution to a problem that may not exist – the jury is yet out on that one – must ask himself: What is the problem precisely, and can it be settled by other means? I do not find anyone here asking or attempting to answer that question. If Dr. Davidoff’s assertions are accurate, we are on the point of forcing Catholics in this state to violate their consciences because they are unwilling to provide an “ineffective” medical prescription to rape victims. See the above entrée. Now, this sort of thing may disturb only a small number of Catholics in the state. But this is a matter that should not be settled by counting heads. It should be settled by using brainpower.”

This being Connecticut, where legislative brainpower most often is put in the service of special interests groups, the human services committee reported out a bill that is, quite literally, God awful, punishing to faithful Catholics -- those that follow the strictures of their church -- and possibly unconstitutional.

All in a day’s work.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Rell And The Ethics Petard

How many swallows does it take to make a summer? More than one, surely. How many ethical goofs does it take to make an unethical administration? More than one.

Yet another mailing list issue is bedeviling Governor Jodi Rell’s administration, and it all seems eerily familiar: Someone on Rell’s staff procured state address lists from tourism and art officials that later were used to solicited contributions for Rell’s campaign, this in an administration that prides itself in out ethicizing its political opponents across the aisle.

Lisa Moody, Rell’s chief aide, has already got banged once by the ethical swinging door, and now it appears to be happening all over again. The precise roll played in the affair by Moody, Rell’s “Karl Rove,” is unknown at this point, but the fingerprinting squad is on the case.

Way back in August, the lists procured by Rell policy council Philip Dukes were forwarded to Moody, and before anyone could say “stick’em up,” the good people on the lists were receiving funding requests from Rell’s campaign committee.

When the issue first popped above the horizon, the governor’s office pleaded ignorance. No one was able to say how the lists were appropriated by the Rell campaign. But as state auditors and others joined in the hunt, Rell’s press secretary, Chris Cooper, this week said for the first time that the lists “could have originated from this office."

Cooper added that Rell’s staff never disputed that the lists could have been obtained by the governor’s office, and he pointed out that the lists were public information. The manner in which the names were gathered was consistent, the press secretary said, with Freedom of Information regulations, a rejoiner that gave state Democrat Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo an opportunity to coin a new word.

The issue was not that the records were “FOI-able,” DiNardo said. “The issue is why these top members of the governor's staff were gathering these address lists on state time, using state resources, to politically benefit Jodi Rell."

With DiNardo nipping at Rell’s heels, can state Rep. Chris Caruso, Chairman of the Government Administration & Elections Committee, be far behind?

Coincidentally, Speaker of the House Jim Amann was solving his ethical problem as Rell was being hoisted in the air by her petard.

On patronage matters – the mother’s milk of politics -- the Democrats have offered a token resistance to the ethical Torquemadas. “I acknowledge that you can't keep an organization together without patronage,” said turn of the century Tammany Hall boss George Washington Plunkitt. “Men ain't in politics for nothin’. They want to get somethin’ out of it”

Amann had come under fire for behavior that Plunkitt would have considered praiseworthy.

In his day job, Amann raises funds for the Greater Connecticut Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which pays him a yearly salary of $67,5oo. By tapping the shoulders of lobbyists for contributions to the charity, newspapers have said, Amann has created for himself, if not a conflict of interest, then the “appearance” of a conflict of interest. Are the lobbyists turning out their pockets for the charity because they are charitable or because they wish to curry favor with the speaker? Would they have given as avidly to, say, Mother Teresa, who is not running for office this year?

Probably not.

In any case, no doubt realizing he had wandered into an ethical bramble bush, Amann pulled the rug out from under his own feet, but was careful to let himself down gently. He vowed henceforth not to tap lobbyists for political contributions because any further disturbance in various newspapers was likely to upset the victims of multiple sclerosis. Intimations that he was engaged in corrupt activity were “a bunch of baloney.”

According to those who know him best, his staff, Amann is an upright guy, a little rough around the edges, but afflicted with a streak of kindness and bonhomie that sometimes, through the jeweler’s eye of a reporter or columnist on the hunt for dirt, looks like arrogance and Plunkittry.

This likely is true. And Rell is a fairy godmother.

But in the new age of post-modern journalism, character is easily manipulated, by the media, by blogger furiosoes, and by events over which, increasingly, politicians have little control.

When wandering through the forest of political fairytales, one can never be too careful. Boggy beasts are everywhere

All Too Human: The Life And Times Of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Progressives now have weighed in on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Colin McEnroe, on his blog To Wit, wrote:

“I'm not sure I understand the prominent placement of all the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. There was never much doubt that he played a huge a role in planning the 9/11 attacks. Hadn't he even boasted of that before capture?

“Now we've had him for four years. We've tortured him. He's confessed to the 9/11 crimes and a host of other plots, including the killing of Laura Palmer on 'Twin Peaks.' Why is this big news? He actually claims some remorse over civilian casualties. Which is more than I ever remember hearing, oh, for example, Bush say about what we are pleased to call 'collateral damage.' A sorry state of affairs when an evil terrorist mastermind seems to have more human perspective than the POTUS.

“Anyway, I saw '300' last night, and I'm pretty sure Xerxes is behind at least some of this stuff.”

Well now, let’s see. When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed sawed off Daniel Pearl’s head, an event celebrated by Islamic terrorists who produced a video that quickly made the rounds on the internet, this was “prominently reported.” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed testified, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head." And when two planes plowed into the twin towers in New York, an event orchestrated by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, this also was “prominently reported.” In fact, most of the handiwork of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was “prominently reported” at one time or another. An early report in the American Spectator, not a favorite publication of those mentioned in this blog, fingered Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the Middle East’s lead terrorist. Now prosecutors have released testimony from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that details the bulk of the serial terrorist’s activities, including the murdering of innocent women and children, which he claims to regret, displaying, according to McEnroe, a “human perspective” superior to that of President Bush. So, why shouldn’t Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s “human perspective” be “prominently reported?” Surely, this aspect of the sheik’s personality is news to everyone. Who would have guessed that the sheik, while sawing off Pearl’s head, had a tender side?

The Huffington Post noted that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s testimony aroused doubt among responsible commentators.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hillary Triangulating: Let The Howling Begin

According to the New York Times, not generally regarded as kind to moderate Democrats or lingering fanatics who do not wish to see Iraq dismembered by theological oppressors in Syria and Iran, Hillary Clinton is moving cautiously towards a position on Iraq that is likely to get her into Dutch with the kind of people who think Joe Lieberman has cloven hooves and a tail.

Clinton told the Times in a half hour interview on March 13th that, were she elected president, she would “keep a reduced military force (in Iraq) to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military.”

In the interview, the Times' reporter thought, “Mrs. Clinton articulated a more nuanced position than the one she has provided at her campaign events, where she has backed the goal of ‘bringing the troops home.’ She said in the interview that there were ‘remaining vital national security interests in Iraq ‘that would require a continuing deployment of American troops.’”

The position on Iraq of Sen. Chris Dodd, on the other hand, has evolved in a different direction. An inveterate peacenik, Dodd, as has been said in this space before, first opposed the Gulf War prosecuted by the present president’s father on the grounds that it was certain to become a “quagmire” like Vietnam. Dodd’s opposition came at a time when President George Herbert Walker Bush had secured the backing of traditional US European allies and the military goals of the first Gulf War were limited: The US pushed an aggressive Saddam Hussein back from Kuwait to Baghdad and established and enforced a “no-fly” zone in the north. In a speech from the well of the Senate in which he compared the Gulf War to Vietnam, Dodd said no and suggested diplomacy.

His present position is a reversion to what, for Dodd, is the status quo ante in any circumstance that involves military conflict: Put the guns away and let’s talk. Recently Dodd further elaborated his shifting position on Iraq on the “Daily Show,” where he was gently treated by it’s usually acerbic host Jon Stewart, like Dodd an opponent of the Iraq war.

The Time’s reporter archly noted that Hillary’s evolving position might cost her some votes among the MoveOn.org crowd: “Mrs. Clinton’s plans carry some political risk. Although she has been extremely critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the war, some liberal Democrats are deeply suspicious of her intentions on Iraq, given that she voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force there and, unlike some of her rivals for the Democratic nomination, has not apologized for having done so.”

Referring to Hillary as “Mrs. Clinton,” the reporter noted, “She said in the interview that there were ‘remaining vital national security interests in Iraq’ that would require a continuing deployment of American troops.

“The United States’ security would be undermined if parts of Iraq turned into a failed state ‘that serves as a petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda,’ she said. ‘It is right in the heart of the oil region,’ she said. ‘It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel’s interests.’

"‘So it will be up to me to try to figure out how to protect those national security interests and continue to take our troops out of this urban warfare, which I think is a loser,’ Mrs. Clinton added. She declined to estimate the number of American troops she would keep in Iraq, saying she would draw on the advice of military officers.”

Clinton’s more “nuanced” view of the war in Iraq may rest, one hopes, on two solid perceptions: 1) that uber-terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who recently confessed under what his representatives call “torture” to organizing and implementing most of the terrorist activity the United States, was not behaving like the Viet Cong, which refrained from blowing up buildings in New York, still the preferred target of terrorists; and 2) wherever the United States goes after its congressionally forced retreat from Iraq, what some commentators have called the “insurgents” will follow – and it will not matter greatly whether the US military retreats to Afghanistan or its camps in the United States. The battlefield will be wherever the United States will be.

Let the howling begin.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who Killed Cock Robin?

The successful prosecution of “Scooter Libby" – for lying to a grand jury – was a spectacular failure because it did not answer the question “Who outed Valerie Plame as an undercover agent?" There will be no further prosecutions in the case because the prosecutor fingered the wrong man: Scooter Libby did not blow Plame’s cover, because she was not an undercover agent. Prosecutor Fitzgerald packed his bags and went home after his flawed prosecution of the case because he fingered Libby rather than Richard Armitage, chief aide to then Secretary of state Colin Powell, as the primary leaker.

Libby’s troubles began with a column written by Sun Times columnist Robert Novak, who testified to the grand jury under oath that Libby had said nothing to him about Plame.

“While my column on Wilson's mission triggered Libby's misery,” Novak wrote in a recent column, “I played but a minor role in his trial. Subpoenaed by his defense team, I testified that I had phoned him in reporting the Wilson column and that (ITALICS MINE) he had said nothing about Wilson's wife. Other journalists said the same thing under oath, but we apparently made no impression on the jury.”

In post grand jury interviews, Novak was asked numerous times whether he had revealed to the prosecutor that he had relied upon Armitage – not Libby – as a source in disclosing information in his column that triggered the special prosecution of the wrong man.

“Actually,” Novak wrote, “in my first interview with Fitzgerald, he indicated he knew Armitage was my leaker. In fact, Armitage had turned himself in to the Justice Department (ITALICS MINE) three months before Fitzgerald entered the case, without notifying the White House or releasing me from my requirement of confidentiality.”

So then, why didn’t Fitzgerald direct his prosecution towards the initial leakier?

“The trial provided no information whatever about Plame's status at the CIA at the time I revealed her role in her husband's mission,” Novak wrote. “No hard evidence was produced Libby ever was told she was undercover.”

Because she was not undercover during this time: “Her being classified -- that is, that her work was a government secret -- did not in itself meet the standard required for prosecution of the leaker (former Deputy Secretary of State Armitage) under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. That limits prosecution to exposers of covert intelligence activities overseas, whose revelation would undermine U.S. intelligence. That is why Fitzgerald did not move against Armitage.”

Fitzgerald moved against the wrong man. It was a fatal error. You cannot arrive at China by setting a course for the North Pole. This prosecutorial miss-step aborted further prosecutions and hot wired the case in such a way as to make it impossible to answer the question “Who killed Cock Robin?”

Even though no crime had been committed in outing a “classified” agent, the political world had been overturned by these disclosures. And just as one cannot arrive at China by setting a course for the North Pole, so one cannot finger the Bush White House as having outed Plame, a classified government worker – presumably for political reasons – without knowing who done it and why. The Fitzgerald miss-prosecution draws a discreet veil over a definitive answer to the question.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pols on Parade

Amann Among The Lilliputians

“I acknowledge that you can't keep an organization together without patronage. Men ain't in politics for nothin'. They want to get somethin' out of it” – George Washington Plunkitt

Jim Amann, the powerful Speaker of the state House of Representatives, has come under fire for behavior that turn of the century Tammany Hall boss William Jefferson Plunkitt would have considered praiseworthy.

In his day job, Amann raises funds for the Greater Connecticut Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which pays him a yearly salary of $67,5oo. By tapping the shoulders of lobbyists for contributions to the charity, newspapers have said, Amann has created for himself, if not a conflict of interest, then the “appearance” of a conflict of interest. Are the lobbyists turning out their pockets for the charity because they are charitable or because they wish to curry favor with the speaker? Would they have given as avidly to, say, Mother Teresa, who is not running for office this year?

Probably not.

What Would Senator Dodd Do?


Dodd, on the presidential stump in Providence Rhode Island recently, was asked about his “mistaken” vote authorizing President Bush to intervene militarily in Iraq, overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussain, not a Catholic, and do things that Dodd, on further refection, has found objectionable.

Projo reports:

“An opponent of President Bush’s Iraq war policies, Dodd has called mistaken his 2002 Senate vote authorizing the president to send troops to Iraq. Dodd now says he would move immediately to bring troops home from urban areas of Iraq and gradually redeploy and bring home the rest of them.
“’I would be moving our troops out of urban areas tonight,’ he said.

“Dodd said he had no problem acknowledging that his 2002 Senate Iraq vote was a mistake. ‘I’m Catholic, I’ve been to confession,’ he quipped.”

Dodd’s record of votes on abortion in the U.S. Senate – a perfect 100% from the usual pro-choice groups; the senator, and other notable Catholic Democrat congresspersons in Connecticut, favors partial birth abortion -- probably has caused a few embarrassing moments in the confessional.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Wicked World

My mother cried, my father wept, into the wicked world I leapt” – William Blake

In her forthcoming best seller, rumor has it that Ann Coulter will apologize profusely for using the “F” word – no, not that one – while adamantly refusing rehab. Meanwhile, over on the less far right, Jonah Goldberg of National Review On Line has offered a luminous piece on the Wilsons, Joe and Valerie Plame. And Binny turned 50 on Saturday. Assuming he is yet alive, Osama bin Ladin will have celebrated his fiftieth birthday on March 10th. A celebrant, Abu Yacoub, offered his good wishes on a website commonly used by insurgents and possibly by CNN. Said Mr. Yacoub, “Osama bin Laden turns 50. God protect our leader, our Sheik Osama bin Laden. God reward him for his words and actions.” He will Mr. Yacoub, He will. Someone has turned up a article written by Winston Churchill in 1937, “How The Jews Can Combat Persecution,” that seems to assign partial blame to Jews for the reprehensible way they were treated by Mr. Aldolf Hitler. Said Mr. Churchill in the recently disclosed article: "It [anti-Semitism] exists even in lands, like Great Britain and the United States, where Jew and Gentile are equal in the eyes of the law and where large numbers of Jews have found not only asylum, but opportunity. These facts must be faced in any analysis of anti-Semitism. They should be pondered especially by the Jews themselves. For it may be that, unwittingly, they are inviting persecution -- that they have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer." The text of Mr. Churchill’s statement is being studied by Iranian scholar Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, and his Venezuelan friend and scholar Hugo Chavez, who presently is in the process of creating a “heaven on earth” in his native country; Mr. Chavez also intends to nationalize the oil companies. On his way to spread light and joy in Nicaragua, where Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega has seized power in a democratic coup, Mr. Chavez took a good natured poke at capitalism. “Those who want to go directly to hell, they can follow capitalism," said Chavez, apparently over the muted protestations of Senator and presidential candidate Chris Dodd, considered an authority on Latin American thugs. “And those of us who want to build heaven here on earth, we will follow socialism.” God is watching – and laughing.

Scooter Libby And The Poetic Imperative

“Tell the truth,” says the poet Emily Dickenson, “but tell it slant.” The poetry resides in the slant.

Bill Curry, a liberal Democrat who twice ran for governor and now writes a column for the Hartford Courant, is Connecticut’s politician poet in residence. Personally, I’ve always considered it unfortunate that Curry had not prevailed over former Gov. and felon John Rowland.

Had he won in one of his two attempts to be governor, the state almost certainly would have been spared a messy gubernatorial prosecution and threatened impeachment, and not only because Curry can be as honest as the day is long – when it suits his purpose – but also because the state’s liberal press is somewhat laggard in the matter of applying to Democrats the lashes it distributes with such relish to Republicans.

I do not doubt – as have said or intimated many times in this space – that Rowland got what he deserved, and before commenting further on Curry’s column on “Scooter” Libby, I wish to state without equivocation that Dick Cheney’s chief aide got what he deserved. If you lie to prosecutors under oath, you should go to jail.

For the purpose of this piece, I am interested mainly in examining Curry’s political poetry.

Curry begins his commentary by noting that only bloggers followed the Libby case closely, “hardly anyone else did.” And this was serious business too: “Libby's lies subverted our national security, our judiciary and our democracy, but a graver threat than his lies is our indifference to them.”

A prose writer, consulting the journalistic record, probably would not have said that hardly anyone but bloggers followed the Libby case closely. The mainstream press, particularly the poetically slanted New York Times, and the Washington Post, somewhat less inclined to poeticize, were hardly snoozing during the affair. But poets must be given their license and it would be butchery to cut the poet’s tongue out of Curry’s mouth.

Curry was once an advisor to former President Bill Clinton, who has been known to tell a stretcher or two to a grand jury without having, as Curry would doubtless agree, plunged the republic into a glacial ice age. Unlike Libby, Clinton escaped serious jail time, one of the perks in being president.

Curry is particularly eloquent on Clinton’s lies and the reaction to them of a sober citizenry. The mob, liberals included, was pawing the ground for Clinton’s impeachment when, in the nick of time, the sheriff appeared: “In the nick of time, Clinton was saved. People opposed impeachment because they saw it as a power grab and a threat to their own right to privacy. It wasn't out of love for Clinton, whose approval ratings dipped to Bush-like depths, and it certainly wasn't because they thought his lying was OK.”

It is certainly understandable why Curry should approve of jail time for Libby while balking at impeachment for Clinton, even though both had committed the same offense. Loyalty – almost always a virtue – tugs at us in different ways. Cheney, no doubt, feels the same way about Libby as Curry does about Clinton. On a purely human level, these feelings are understandable and even praiseworthy.

But the poetry of this particular line – “In outing Valerie Wilson as a CIA spy, Libby and his tight circle of cohorts knew just what they were doing and to whom” – threatens to bury a more prosaic and fruitful truth.

Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson’s wife, was not “outed” by Libby – if by outed we mean “first exposed.” The prosecutor traced the path to Libby through columnist Robert Novak. But famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward was told by someone other than Libby that Plame was connected to the Central Intelligence Agency long before Novak supposedly blew Plame’s cover. It was then Secretary of State Colin Powell’s right hand man, Richard Armitage, who first suggested to Woodward that Plame worked for the CIA – not as an under cover agent but an analyst. Armitage claimed not to know her status.

The de-poeticized truth is: 1) that Plame was not an undercover agent when she was first exposed to a reporter; 2) that she was outed by an aide to Powell, who has always publicly disagreed with President Bush’s approach to the war in Iraq; and 3) that Plame may very well have been outed by her husband Joe Wilson who, Armitage said, was talking about her “to everyone.”

Does this prosaic view of inconvenient truths disturb at all the politics of accusation?

It does not. In politics, the poetic imperative reigns supreme.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Enabling Spending: Rell’s Budget and the Decline of the Connecticut GOP

It was fairly obvious soon after Governor Jodi Rell delivered her budget address that Democrats, who now enjoy a veto proof majority in the legislature, were less than pleased with it. Their appreciation of the governor’s ideological drift in a progressive direction – she surprised members of her own party by proposing a tax hike to pay for new education proposals – was voluble and sustained. Following the address, it was difficult to find a Democrat who was not effusive in his compliments.

Republicans, on the other hand, were stunned into an uneasy silence.

Into the bi-partisan Garden of Eden created by Rell’s surprising capitulation, now slither several snakes. The Democrats are having second and even third thoughts about the Rell budget plan.

It was not viewed as a propitious sign when Speaker of the House Jim Amann tossed Rell’s budget plan in the wastebasket, suppressing a sigh as he did so. The speaker several times has suggested that, in matters of the budget, the light bulb in the governor’s attic is sputtering.

After Republicans recovered from the shock and awe of Rell’s mini war on GOP orthodoxy, they listened politely to Chris Healy, the new Republican Party Chairman, who sought in several venues to sooth their fears, and Rell dispatched her new business advocate, former U.S. Congressman Rob Simmons, to chat up the Rell budget plan to Connecticut’s shrinking business sector.

Simmons now faces the unenviable task of persuading business people that a plan considered reckless by fiscal conservatives such as Amann and several unblinkered Republican legislators will be good for business.

Healy, appearing at a gathering of conservatives in West Hartford, told the group that he had worked on Bill Buckley’s campaign against liberal Republican Mayor John Lindsey of New York in the mid sixties. Buckley lost that campaign but went on to found the modern conservative movement. Drawing on his campaign experiences, Buckley a decade later wrote the book “Four Reforms", the fourth chapter of which, “Education: Towards Non-Coerced Education,” begins with the line, “Of all the dreams of American liberalism, the dream that featured education – as the solvent of universal equality, harmony and prosperity – was the most rudely shattered in the postwar decades,” not a Rellian sentiment.

Simmons – responsible in his new position, according to one news report, for “informing businesses about various public and private assistance programs, technical help, job training, state services and financial assistance that are available in the state” -- has not yet arranged to deliver a talk on the precise relationship between tax and spending increases to the Yankee Institute, a libertarian/conservative watchdog group. Good thing too, because the Institute has just released “Fiscal Flapdoodle”, a devastating analysis of Rell’s budget plan that punctures several governmental “myths” and probes the real time consequences of the spending mania that seized Connecticut government after former Governor Lowell Weicker favored the state with an income tax.

Among the myths exploded in the study are two that Healy did not mention to the West Hartford Conservative Congress:

“Myth One: Higher spending will improve the quality of education in Connecticut.

“Reality Check: There is no evidence to support this claim, and the Rell administration is ignoring education-choice alternatives that promise better schools at a lower cost to taxpayers.

“Myth Two: Hiking Connecticut's income tax will enable the governor and legislators to provide property-tax relief.

“Reality Check: Since the adoption of the income tax in 1991 did not provide relief, raising its rate in the hope of providing a break for overburdened local taxpayers is naïve.”

On a much different track, Democrats are dissatisfied with the Rell plan not because it appropriates unnecessary money for a metastasizing unionized education empire but because it lacks the precision and progressivity offered by Rell’s Democrat gubernatorial opponent, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano.

Democrats are still hopeful they can overspend and force millionaires to pick up the tab. Rell’s thoughtless acceptance of the need for increased spending will spur them on.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The inevitability doctrine

State Rep. Mike Lawlor, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee since 1995, a proponent of marriage for gays, has said that the movement in that direction is “inevitable.”

Lawlor and others conceive of marriage as a civil right, and Lawlor has noticed that in the past century civil rights have been expanding. The right to vote once was denied to women, but with a little persistence, women were eventually – Lawlor would say “inevitably” – enfranchised. African Americans, once treated as chattel, first won their emancipation in a brutal Civil War and later, during the Civil Rights decade of Martin Luther King, won a victory over Jim Crow. The “enfranchisement” of gays – specifically endowing them with the “right” to marry – is next on the Civil Rights docket, and it is "inevitable" that the case should be decided in favor of gays.

The Lawlor theory runs aground on the perception that in politics only death, an unfortunate by-product of the human condition and apparently the only practical means of purging the body politic of calcified incumbents, and taxes are inevitable. Lawlor, serving his eleventh term as a member of the House of Representatives, has worked diligently to assure that taxes in Connecticut continue to defy the law of gravity; they always go up and never come down.

There are some important differences between marriage and voting. Marriage is principally a religious institution and, unlike voting based on citizenship, is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Some people think that constitutional rights are infinitely elastic, but this theory runs aground on the notion, common in constitutional interpretation, that you cannot extend a right infinitely in one direction because the right will collide with an equally valuable constitutional right.

Gay rights already have collided with religious rights; the rights, privileges and immunities of both must, when necessary, be accommodated.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Obama Meets a Mudball

The headline on the Chicago Tribune story, “Obama calls Iran threat to U.S, Israel,” was a little ambiguous;that Iran is a threat to Israel no one disputes, but Barack Obama’s message, delivered before a the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major pro-Israel lobbying group, was a little more complex than that.

"One of the most profound consequences of the administration's failed strategy in Iraq,” Obama said, “has been to strengthen Iran's strategic position, reduce U.S. credibility and influence in the region, and place Israel and other nations friendly to the United States in greater peril.”

Some people will dispute the claim on both historical and strategic grounds.

Iran’s antipathy to both Israel and the United States precedes the arrival of President George Bush in the White House. The Iranian revolution, which followed the deposition of the Shah of Iran, began during the administration of former President Jimmy Carter. One of the key participants in that revolution was a student leader featured in photographs showing him in company with blindfolded, captured American soldiers, a nightmare of the last years of the Carter administration. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now president of Iran, has promised on many occasions to destroy Israel, possibly with nuclear weapons; and his prediction and promise likely does not sit well with the gathering that heard Obama fault Bush’s failed strategy in Iraq. Obama’s compatriots in the Democrat Party are now split on the question of strategy. Some prefer an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American troops; others favor a conditional withdrawal. But the question foremost in the minds of Obama’s audience probably was: Does the Democrat strategic plan, whatever that is, further “reduce U.S. credibility and influence in the region, and place Israel and other nations friendly to the United States in greater peril?”

This is very much an open question, and none of the Democrat presidential candidates thus far have tackled it head on.

“By speaking to about 800 of the committee's members at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers,” the Tribune story asserts, “Obama was able to reaffirm his support of Israel, as voters consider the early presidential field. Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) made a similar speech to the group's members in her home state on Feb. 1.”

Maybe so, maybe not.

But the Tribune story is interesting because it contains this mudball: “Despite the eagerness of local news crews for him to comment on the topic, Obama made no mention of a revelation reported Friday by the Baltimore Sun that he has white ancestors who owned slaves. A spokesman also said he would not be taking any media questions.”

Forget for the moment that Obama’s white ancestors may or may not have owned slaves, an event of no importance at all in the selection of a president. The question that never will be answered in future press reports is: Which camp is supplying the mudballs? That question will not be answered because the media is loathed to reveal its sources even if it could be shown that poison pills of this kind have been furnished by opposition candidates.

We now know, after months of destructive speculation, that secret agent Valerie Plame was a) not a secret undercover agent when her identity was exposed by b) her husband, the much aggrieved Joe Wilson, who was, according to Richard Armitage, then second in command to Colin Powell, a critic of Bush’s adventuresome policy in Iraq, “telling everyone” about his wife’s employment, including c) Armatige, who spilled the beans to noted Watergate reporter d) Bob Woodward, no friend of the Bush administration.

And we now know – as if we couldn’t tell beforehand – that Obama’s mamma was white; this little tidbit first appeared in a conservative publication, but it would be a tad presumptuous to suppose that conservatives are especially interested in knocking off Obama before Hillary Clinton and some of her more unscrupulous handlers have had a chance to paw and claw him in a primary. To this tidbit a mudball clings: Obama’s ancestors may have been slaveholders. It only remains for someone to leak to the press the additional tidbit that the aforementioned slaver was … who? … George Washington? Thomas Jefferson, perhaps?

If it were not so destructive, all this would be very funny. Imagine – the media, which is supposed to puncture pretensions such as these, co-operating in the destruction of good people; who would have imagined the heirs and assigns of Joseph Pulitzer could have sunk so low as to allow themselves to be so used by a bunch of third rate politicians.