Monday, April 30, 2007

Welcome To Connecticut, The Land Of Steady Taxes

One of the reasons advanced by pro-income tax proponents in those halcyon days when the state budget was only one half of the present money sucker was that the sales tax, then the state’s principal revenue producer, was volatile.

In good times, the state’s coffers were full to brimming; but in bad times, revenues trickled in, causing deficits. One happy consequence of the deficits was that they occasionally prompted legislators to cut spending.

All this happened in days long past during the administrations of Gov. Ella Grasso, a notorious penny-pincher, and Gov. William O’Neill. Both Grasso and O’Neill were fiscally responsible Democrats; neither were conservatives. Both were unalterably opposed to an income tax.

The red ink -- caused then and now by overspending -- troubled legislators who in lean years were forced to cut spending, because spending cuts aroused the antipathies of precisely those people, teacher’s unions and other tax consumers, who, mightily upset, were fully capable of driving the penny-pinchers from office.

And so, the push for an income tax began. Pro-income tax support was drummed up by the Hartford Courant. Many anti-income tax battlers still recall the sighs and laments issuing from that quarter: The sales tax was insufficient, because it was an uneven revenue stream; relying on the sales tax, Connecticut had in times past been forced to add to the sometimes swollen, sometime slender tax stream a whole series of minor tributaries, niggling little taxes that annoyed people -- especially proponents of the income tax. An income tax, it was said, would do away with all this, provide a steady, reliable tax stream unaffected by the vagaries of the marketplace, and put the state on an even keel.

These were the chief arguments employed by then Gov. Lowell Weicker and Office of Policy Management chief Bill Cibes among them, to sell the income tax to wavering legislators.

Three governors after Weicker’s November surprise, what hath we wrought?

The current budget has metastasized; it is twice the size of the last, pre-income tax O’Neill budget. Although an uncertain and volatile revenue producer, the sales tax was not abolished when the income tax was instituted. The income tax was simply added to the notoriously unreliable sales tax. A swarm of niggling little taxes now hovers, gnat-like, above the income tax. Indian casinos, unknown to Grasso, now form some of the many tributaries that feed the swollen tax stream. The cigarette tax, perhaps the most regressive impost on the list of Connecticut’s niggling, pestiferous taxes, has just been bumped up by a Democrat dominated legislature that Grasso would have been the first to inveigh against. Grasso also would have made hash of Gov. Jodi Rell's grosser pretentions.

And now, President Pro Tem of the senate Don Williams and Majority Leader of the House Jim Amann, have proposed, over the feeble objections of some Republicans, to narrow the base of the income tax by making it “less flat.”

The problem is: The income tax is not flat. Built into the tax are exemptions and perks that round its features, until it begins to look very much like a progressive income tax.

Under the current so called “flat tax,” according to an analysis provided by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, the top two-tenths of 1 percent of tax payers – rich people paying their “fair share” -- pay as much in taxes as the bottom 77 percent of all filers combined. Under the Democrat plan, that same group, filers earning $2 million or more, would pay as much in taxes as 90 percent of all filers.

The tax paying base, in other words, would be narrower: Fewer people would be paying more taxes.

And his is where we came in when the income tax was first proposed.

The significant change has been in the amount of taxes collected. That increase has been fueled by spending and not, as was supposed when the income tax was first instituted, by deficiencies in the manner in which it had been collected.

To reverse a well known formula much bruited about when the tax was but a gleam in the eyes of Weicker and Cibes, “Connecticut does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem.”

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Democrats In War And Peace: Hillary vs Dodd

Dodd Likes Spinach

When a politician begins a statement this way – “Don’t misunderstand me, I like spinach’’ – you can be certain he deplores spinach. If the politician is a progressive, the same rule holds true when the “spinach” is “soldiers in Iraq busily undermining the Democrat congressional effort to subvert the war on terror and make the White House safe for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich or Chris Dodd, who has more experience than the other Democrat presidential candidates in subverting wars.”

Hillary the Stiff

It is said that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is much stiffer on the stump than her husband, ex-President Bill Clinton – soon to be, God willing, the future president’s First Partner. And this is true.

Hillary is more formal than Bill, more cautious, less certain that –whatever the rhetorical thicket she may wander into – she possesses the wit, charm, grace and verbal agility to escape the briars that will tear her tender flesh. She is a passable but not an accomplished liar. Her record of tub thumping lies is spotty, despite assurances from ex-Clintonite columnist Dick Morris, who appears to be nurturing a private grudge against the Clintons, that Hillary is the devil’s behind. Besides all this, Hillary has a past to recon with -- which includes Bill’s past, which includes, in the matter of terrorism, a certain fantasy or narrative that must at all costs be preserved.

The narrative goes something like this: As president, Bill hated terrorists and did all he could to send Osama binLadin to the clinker, which at the time was located somewhere other than Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His failure to snuff out binLadin – or, better still, to bring him to trial in a court presided over by Sen. Chris Dodd, son of Nuremberg prosecutor Tom Dodd – was not successful; but he tried – very, very, very hard.

Bill had better success in far off Yugoslavia. Unlike the hapless President Bush, Clinton prosecuted the war against Hitler wannabe Slobodan Milosevic in the old tried and true fashion. He identified the belligerents: Christian Serbs on the one hand and Islamic Kosovars on the other and threw in his lot with the Islamisists.

Now this is the way the United States has won all its wars, with the exception of Vietnam and, if the Democrat dominated US Congress has its way, possibly the Iraq War:

Step 1 -- Identify belligerents.

Step 2 -- Choose to ally yourself with the prospective winners. Just flip a coin if you must, ever mindful of Henry Kissinger’s remark during the seemingly endless diplomatic negotiations (Listen up, Dodd!) between the Viet Cong, the South Vietnamese and the US during the late lost Vietnam War that he wished “both sides could lose.”

Step 3 -- By diplomatic means, persuade faithless, quivering, cowardly allies to lend their support. It’s a good idea to give them something. Dodd’s brother, a diplomat, might have been a helpful negotiator here.

Step 4 – Having identified the side you wish to win, kill all the belligerents on the other side. This is very important; your success will depend upon it.

Clinton, the hero of Kosovo, followed all these steps religiously and, after some carpet bombing, brought peace in our day to Yugoslavia, securing the gratitude of Dodd, among other warmongering Democrats. And a joy it was, as the poet says, to be alive on that day:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
Make him a member of the gentry, even if he is a commoner.
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.”

The past, the more fiction it has in it, must be preserved at all costs. Hillary senses this deep in her bones. The First Husband must not be diminished.

“Some presidential aides and friends are describing Kosovo in Churchillian tones,” The Washington Post reported in the final days of the carpet bombing, “ as Clinton’s ‘finest hour… what Clinton believes were the unambiguously moral motives for NATO’s intervention represented a chance to soothe regrets harbored in Clinton’s own conscience.” The paper quoted a friend as saying “that Clinton had at times lamented that the generation before him was able to serve in a war with a plainly noble purpose, and he feels ‘almost cheated’ that ‘when it was his turn he didn’t have the chance to be part of a moral cause.’”

As for Bush – well, that is another matter. Clearly, the present duffer does not belong to the brave band of Democrat brothers vying for the presidency, and the elevation of Democrat winners depends on the devaluation of Republican losers.

If some Democrat presidential aspirants appear to be sympathetic towards the most resourceful enemies of of the United States since Aldolf and his crew prowled the earth attempting to rid it of pestiferous Jews, that is because the enemy of my enemy is necessarily my friend, certainly not because Democrats wish to aid terrorists in once again blowing up New York City. Democrats are betting that the American voting public is savvy enough to grasp this subtlety.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Rell, The Hot Potato

"This is the way the income tax should have been since day one" -- President Pro Tem of the state Senate Don Williams

Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax the guy behind the tree” -- Huey Long.

Seeking to recover some lost political ground when she unveiled her budget and alarmed Republicans by behaving like a Democrat, Gov Jodi Rell quickly amended her spending plan by adding features that that caused the most powerful union in the state to drop her like the proverbial hot potato.

This is both good and bad: good because Rell’s amended budget may cause some moderate Republicans to rally round her drooping flag; bad because she has lost her Praetorian Guard, ardent Republicans who want dearly to save the state from the prehensile grasp of antique Huey Long Democrats.

Summoning their courage, some Republicans produced an alternative budget that held the line on tax increases. Their alternative budget still busted the constitutional cap on spending Connecticut voters affirmed when the legislature put the cap in the bill that several years ago gave us an income tax, which was followed by the worst recession – still malingering – in the state’s history. The legislature, even in pre-income tax days dominated by Democrats, never passed the necessary defining legislation that would have enabled the constitutional cap.

The governor dismissively congratulated the Republican Republicans for their efforts and quietly prepared to compromise with leading Democrats in the legislature.

The new feature in Rell’s amended proposal that alienated teacher’s unions -- which spend a good deal of advertising dollars pumping the up governor’s unamended budget -- was a cap on property taxes.

Rell’s proposed cap will pass only over the dead bodies of Speaker of the state House of Representative Jim Amann, President Pro Tem of the state Senate Don Williams, engorged state union leaders and the usual big spending culprits.

Progressives do not like caps for the same reason pigs do not like turn off valves on the trough, and now that the Republican Party has been diminished by years of compromising governors, the free spenders intend to have a good feed -- paid for by so called “millionaires,” wage earning couples making more than $190,000 per year who for some undisclosed reason will unflinchingly stand for the pickpocketing without bolting the scene.

Democrats, who enjoy a veto proof majority in the legislature, will simply cherry pick those features of the governor’s budget proposal they like, add them to their own budgetary wish list, and pass their budget with relative ease. And life will go on, a little more nasty, brutish and short than before – except in the legislature where, following passage of yet another “historic compromise budget,” Democrats and Republicans will embrace and congratulate each other at having produced a bloated marvel that will make life in the land of unsteady habits a little more nasty, brutish and short.

Already the Democrat spin machine is churning out demagogic pap. Appealing to the majority of tax consumers over the heads of minority (read “rich”) tax payers, Democrats have said that their budget proposal will reduce taxes for about 90 percent of nutmeggers who, they hope, will be grateful enough to vote for them in upcoming elections.

The Democrats will not be wrong: Demagoguery always works – for awhile, after which reality sets in, overthrowing the best laid plans of mice and men.

The golden rule in tax and spend policy is: Whatever you tax tends to disappear. Democrats themselves acknowledge the force of this rule whenever, hoping to encourage an approved behavior, they provide a “tax rebate” to spur the preferred behavior.

If Democrats succeed in their plan to transfer wealth from a minority earning more than $190,000 a year to a majority earning less, the majority will swell and the minority will disappear – because life in low tax states is less brutish, nasty and short, and even faux “millionaires” are mobile.

The federal income tax, it is not often recalled, began as a 1 percent tax on millionaires. The more broad based federal income tax, after which Democrats wish to model Connecticut’s relatively new and flatter state income tax, now has metastasized and trickled down to non-millionaires such as, dear reader, you and me, in addition to the guy, in Huey Long’s phrase, “hiding behind the tree.”

If there is a lesson in this for the victims of demagogues secretly rejoicing at the prospect of obtaining state services on the cheap, the state’s unprincipled Republican Party has not been able to press the lesson on beguiled taxpayers.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Estonia vs Connecticut: Don’t bet on Connecticut

What do the following countries have in common: Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Georgia, Romania and Macedonia?

They all have growth rates of 6.9 percent and, according to an editorial in the Providence Journal of Rhode Island, “a much higher rate of gross capital formation” than other European countries. By comparison, the growth rate in Connecticut is too small to measure. Among national competitors, Connecticut is dead last in job growth and its out migration of students and young entrepreneurs places it near the bottom percentile.

So what’s the big secret?

All the Eastern European countries, no longer henpecked by Soviet socialists, have adopted a flat tax. Once an economic basket case, Ireland, which has reduced its taxes, is now known as the “Celtic Tiger.” Estonia is next in line for prosperity. Following its adoption of a flat tax, Estonians will be able to complete their tax forms in 15 minutes.

As the Providence Journal puts it, “Some 84 percent file their taxes electronically. No hair-pulling, no accountants, no incomprehensible instructions, no file cabinets full of receipts, no blizzards of tax forms. Estonia taxes everyone at the same flat rate — 22 percent, soon to be cut to 20 percent — with a few exemptions for mortgage interest, education expenses and charitable giving. People with very low incomes are exempt from paying taxes.”

By contrast, here in the United States, “taxpayers confront a tax code that is more than 66,000 pages long, and so convoluted that experts — including the Internal Revenue Service itself — cannot comprehend it. The average taxpayer, studies suggest, must spend more than 37 hours completing his or her forms. For the self-employed, it’s far worse. The cost in lost time and accounting fees was some $265 billion in 2005, the Tax Foundation estimates — more than the federal deficit and the equivalent of charging taxpayers another 22 cents for every dollar they must send to the government.”

Both the flat tax and its ugly twin sister, the progressive tax, have measurable consequences. Since the flat tax permits people to keep more of their own income, that income is returned into the general economic pool in the form of investments. Every time a consumer purchases a product, he is investing in the product; that is to say, he is sending a message to the producer to hire more people to increase production.

These kinds of investments increase business activity, create jobs and – though it seems counterintuitive – result in increased tax revenues by nurturing more tax producers. Capital formation is the pool of money available to industry to expand, create jobs and produce more goods. Connecticut is near bottom in capital formation.

Connecticut Democrats – who don’t get out in the world much, so insular are they – now have decided to adjust the tax code to make it more progressive and less flat. Under a flat tax code, everyone pays the same rate; under a progressive tax code, rates are higher for those whose income is greater.

Republicans will not be able to arrest the state’s decent into non-prosperity unless they are willing to adopt as public policy some novel ideas advanced more than a century ago by the father of the modern Republican Party, who said:

“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves” -- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Alternative Republican Budget

Just when the Connecticut chorus advocating more spending has become taxing, the Republican Party – absent Governor Jodi Rell, who has become a party unto herself – cleared its throat and began to sing a familiar tune.

Republicans this year have produced their own budget, apparently on the sly, and not unexpectedly it contains zero tax increases.

The problem with the Republican Party budget is not that it is little more than a series of campaign debating points; on the contrary, the GOP budget is detailed and comprehensive. The problem is that the alternative budget will be treated by the governor, the media and less so by Democrat legislative leaders, who will simply ignore it, as a “point of departure” for negotiations; serious budget negotiations will take place between the governor, who yet disposes of a few bargaining chips, and a Democrat legislature on steroids.

Both the governor and Democrats have shown themselves to be big-time constitutional spending cap busters.

The Democrats are coming off a Rocky Mountain high. For the first time in many years Democrats have a majority in the legislature sufficient to override a gubernatorial veto. What is the point in having absolute power, a famous caricaturist one asked, if you are not willing to abuse it?

How bad is it?

A few weeks ago, the smiling and unwinking President Pro Tem of the Senate, Mr. Don Williams, unveiled a Democrat plan for universal health insurance that would have added about $18 billion to an already bloated $16 billion budget – and no one shrieked. The $18 billion tax supported single payer insurance plan was intended to cover everyone in the state, not only those who have no insurance. It was thought indelicate to press this plan to raise taxes through the roof at a time when the legislature is enjoying record surpluses and the rainy day fund is well stocked. So the plan was moved to the legislative back burner. Mr. Williams said it would be difficult to further fleece taxpayers this year.

But there’s always next year. And if the Democrats succeed in moving tax payments to those earning more than $200,000 a year from their poorer tax paying cousins according to the well known progressive formula “to each according to his needs from each according to his means,” they will have removed a break on spending that so far has “limited” the increase in the budget from about $8 billion, in pre-income tax days, to about $16 billion today, all within the administrations of three governor, two of whom were Republicans; the third, former Sen. and Governor Lowell Weicker, was his own man.

The Democrat plan, according to the press office sound bite, will “cut taxes” for 90% of taxpayers in the state. One can only imagine what the bottom line in future budget will be once “millionaires” in Connecticut have surrendered their “fair share” of taxes.

When former Republican Party senatorial nominee Alan Schlesinger said during his campaign “If you think social security is expensive now, just wait until it’s free,” he meant that citizens who do not pay for increases in spending are less than eager to punish legislators who overspend. Why should the 90% of taxpayers in Connecticut who will see their tax payments reduced under the Democrat plan care if Mr. Williams adds another $18 billion to the budget -- provided someone else picks up the tab? Pushed to the limit, progressive taxation is a recipe for irresponsibility.

The Republicans who produced the no tax increase budget think that spending increases of this nature cannot be sustained. The smaller pool of taxpayers renders collections less stable. The “fair share” the “millionaires” pay will be determined others who have a stake in raising their taxes, and people earning more than $200,000 – far from millionaires -- are mobile, precisely the kinds of entrepreneurs the state does not want to lose to low tax states far less predatory than Connecticut.

The GOP alternative budget may be too little too late. In the future, if real Republicans truly want to pass a responsible budget, they may want to try supporting and backing a real Republican governor.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Jefferson, Jackson Bailey Dinner

Nancy Pelosi, the powerful Speaker of the US House of Representatives, was a fashionably 15 minutes late, the result, no doubt, of the antique twin engine plane that carries the Speaker hither and yon.

Dodd gave a well received speech, though the feasters present at the Jefferson, Jackson, Bailey Dinner were anxious to dive into their meals during the last few flagging minutes of the speech.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Dodd protégé from the gerrymandered 3rd District, which has gone Democrat in all but 12 of the last 74 years, gave a rousing speech introducing Speaker Pelosi and congratulated her on being a woman.

Independent Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman was not in attendance; religious obligations impended.

After the event, there was much cogitation in stories and commentaries speculating on how Lieberman, who defeated preferred Democrat nominee Ned Lamont, might have faired if he had attended the event. Dodd said Lieberman would have been politely received, even though the ID took issue with Lamont’s – and now Dodd’s – position on the “war in Iraq.” New protocols in the Democrat controlled US Congress prevent references to “the war against terror.” How nifty that the US Congress has the power to abolish “the war against terror” with a mere stroke of the pen.

For those who may not know, the festive dinner is named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, both presidents, and John Bailey.

Jackson, the hero of the battle of New Orleans, is thought to be the architect of the modern Democrat Party, while Jefferson, who rid the world of the Barbary Pirates, a scourge on shipping controlled by Islamic pashas in North Africa, is a representative of the ancient Democrat regime. John Bailey, who supported President John F. Kennedy’s venture into politics, was the last party boss in Connecticut. Lieberman wrote the best book on Bailey, which served as his springboard into Connecticut politics as a state senator. He served as Connecticut Attorney General, a US Senator, a Vice Presidential nominee of his party, and finally as a scorned supporter of the war on terror or, as the US Congress now prefers, “the Iraq War.”

Somehow, one cannot help but wonder what old Andy Jackson and Tom Jefferson would have thought of Lieberman’s downward spiral within the party of Franklin Roosevelt, a depression-era war president, and John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman, also war presidents.

The big night, it was generally agreed, belonged to presidential aspirant Dodd.

“Friday was the night,” one blogger attendee wrote, “when Connecticut’s Democrats showed their loyalty to a man who had given extraordinary service to the party and the state for decades and, at least outwardly, to show their support for his presidential bid.” But for the concluding sentence, “… he got a big round of applause for declaring that the Iraq War must be brought to an end, and was warmly applauded at the end of his eight minute remarks,” the blogger might have been talking about Lieberman, the prodigal son of the anti-war party.

Unlike Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is also running for president, Dodd has more or less apologized for having given his congressional support to the war in Iraq. Many Democrats have followed suit by rescinding from their memories, if not from history, everything they knew, or thought they knew, at the time they cast their votes in support of the war.

Across the nation, Democrats have used the unpopular war as a lever to pry Republicans from congressional seats. They were unsuccessful in ousting both Lieberman and Rep. Chris Shays, the two politicians in Connecticut most closely associated with President Bush’s unsuccessful prosecution of the war, and their effort to force the president to retreat from Iraq by attaching conditions to funding – when they could end the war immediately and constitutionally by voting to defund it – is both political opportunism and a course of action that is heedless of consequences, a predictable response for a party that never stops thinking about tomorrow and rarely thinks about the day after tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Yanks Are Coming

D. Dowd Muska was kind enough to invite me to speak to the Yankee Institute on blogging. This is the result:

I’d like to thank Mr. Muska for inviting me here today to talk to you about blogging. And if it’s possible to thank an institution, I’d also like to thank the Yankee Institute for having provided to me over the years the live ammo I’ve used in political columns and blogs. You, the keepers of the right data, have been and are an invaluable resource.

In this talk, if I am successful, I’d like to set blogging in its proper place in the political firmament, and then offer some words of encouragement.

About a month ago, I was engaging in political fisticuffs on a blog not my own, Connecticut Local Politics, run by a gent who calls himself Ghengis CONN – that’s C-O-N-N – when I was rudely interrupted by a pest who styles himself Connecticut Keith. CtKeith said this: “Perhaps Mr. Pesci will consider moving his remarks to his own blog – where no one will ever read them.”

That’s the sort spit and spittle you can expect when engaging bloggers; it’s like introducing a firecracker into a Brahms lullaby. You’re driving along peacefully when, all of a sudden out of the blue, someone throws an epithet through your windshield.

People who blog – the noun has now become a respectable verb – are used to this sort of thing. But CtKeith’s comment is provocative, and provocation is good because it induces us to pose and attempt to answer the right questions.

Do people read blogs? They do. Should they read blogs? I don’t know. Should more politically aware, anti- socialist, Milton Friedmanesque free marketers involve themselves more actively in constructing libertarian or conservative blogs?

Let me answer that last question this way: When the reliably liberal – or progressive --British Broadcasting Company sent a couple of reporters to Connecticut to cover the role played by bloggers in the Lamont-Lieberman race, the producers of “All Night Long” lined up the usual phalanx of progressive bloggers, ten or twenty deep, all with their spears pointing rightward and… me.

I thought at the time; boy, I sure could use a little help here.

The Democrat senatorial primary and the general election that followed – if studied closely, which I do not intend to do here – will tell us a great deal about the effect blogging has had, and will have, on our politics.

Blogs figured importantly in the Lamont-Lieberman jihad – that, and the war in Iraq.

It was former senator and governor Lowell Weicker, father of the state income tax, and his major domo Tom D’Amore, once appointed by Weicker as Republican Party Chairman (What ever was the Republican Party Central Committee thinking?)… it was these two worthies who nudged Lamont into a primary.

At the time, the Cindy Sheehan wing of the Democrat Party was greatly distressed both with Lieberman’s position on the Iraq War and with the senator’s willingness to fraternize with President Bush. This distress produced “The Kiss” that launched a thousand anti-Lieberman blog threads. “The Kiss” was a paper maché representation of two enormous heads, Bush’s and Lieberman’s, lip-locked in a perpetual kiss. “The Kiss” hearkened back to that moment -- which will live in infamy, according to the leftist blogging community – when Bush hugged Lieberman after a robust pro-war speech he had given to the congress.

From that time forward, wherever Lieberman went on the campaign trail – for some reason, he’s partial to diners – there was “The Kiss” on a flatbed truck just outside the nearest window, leering provocatively at him, an unanswerable paper maché reproach.

Did “The Kiss,” the blog chatter, the money raised by progressive blogs for Lamont, the anti-Lieberman blog threads seamlessly woven into mainstream reporting on the campaign, help or hurt Lamont or Lieberman?

There are two answers to this question. The participants in a forum on blogging sponsored by the Hartford Courant -- to which no conservative bloggers were invited – were agreed that bloggers, mostly themselves, played a significant role in both the primary and the general election senatorial campaign.

Personally, I incline to the answer given by the Jewish lady who brought her dying husband to the doctor. The doctor said, “I have some very bad news for you: Your husband is dying.

The woman said, “Give him some chicken soup.”

The doctor said, “Madam, I don’t think you heard me. Your husband is dying. He’s not going to live; that’s certain. He’s at death’s door, he’s due to depart – soon. Chicken soup won’t help.”

She said, “Can’t hurt.”

Blogging helped Lamont and hurt Lieberman in the primary; it probably helped Lieberman and hurt Lamont in the general election, by which time Republicans, no doubt fearing another senatorial stretch by a Weicker wannabe, came on board the Lieberman bandwagon and voted against their own candidate, the hapless Alan Schlesinger, whose remark during the campaign – “You think social security is expensive now; just wait till it’s free” almost persuaded some Republicans to switch their votes.

Hillary Clinton now has armored herself by bringing bloggers into her campaign for president; presently, about 25% of her campaign contributions have come through the internet. John Edwards did the same, but his choices proved to be unfortunate – a couple of anti-Catholic scorpions. My best guess is that these measures are craven attempts to blunt the sharp criticism of some ardent troublemakers and demobilize primary opposition by inviting progressives into campaigns. At best, it will provide a temporary reprieve from sharp criticism and moneyed opposition. At worst, inviting foxes into henhouses is always a chancy proposition.

The rise in the importance of bloggers correlates, I think, with the disintegration of political parties. On my own blogsite, “Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State,” I’ve attempted, perhaps poorly, to point as often as possible to that connection. Bloggers have stepped into a vacuum created by campaign finance reform, which has strengthened what elsewhere, in columns and blogs, I have called the incumbentocracy – and weakened, perhaps irreparably, the political parties – most especially the state Republican Party.

If blogging lies at the epicenter of our political struggle, the very pillar of our discontent should be the slow, remorseless destruction of the state’s Republican Party, that poor, ragged, motherless orphan. She has been abandoned now by everyone – by the worst sort of people: men without chests, political profiteers who would not scruple to sell her into slavery for a vote or a sycophantic bow from any of the state’s media, heavily implicated in its destruction.

The governor, I’m on the point of concluding, is one of these, but look at the models she has had. Weicker was a nominal Republican, and Rowland, while he showed some promise at the beginning of his gubernatorial career, succumbed to the blandishments of unchallenged Democrats in the legislature.

This road now has led the governor, gagged and bound, into the usual political cul de sac. Having failed to bless all of us with a costly universal health plan that will more than double the budget, leading Democrats in the legislature are now proposing crippling taxes on so called “millionaires,” – couples earning more than $200,000 a year – to pay for their improvident spending.

The answer to all this lies in courage, fortitude and principled resistance. We know that we are on the side of the angels, even when – especially when – the angels seem to cry out against us. We have something in our heads besides sawdust, and our spines can bear the weight of opposition. We don’t need the comforting approbation of the comfortable. We have our weapons, and we will fight. We ought to be spoiling for a fight. Someday – hopefully before it is driven into the poor house -- Connecticut will be blessed with politicians who don’t faint at the prospect of an invigorating struggle.

When you open my blog, you will see at the banner on the top a quote from Samuel Adams, failed businessman, provocateur, warmonger:

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We seek not your counsel or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; may your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!"

Those are words to live and fight by, a bright standard under which to march on the fortress.

There is a place on “Red Notes” for comments. Perhaps some of you will be kind enough from time to time to visit the site and offer a constructive comment. I’ll leave a lit candle in the window for you.

Thank you all for coming, and thank you Mr. Muska for inviting me. I’ll remain here for a few questions. And I think I can promise you that if I don’t know the answer to the question, I’ll take a lesson from the politicians and answer some other question you have not asked me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dodd On The Stump: The More You Look, The Less There Is

The problem with Sen. Chris Dodd’s view of the world – and even more so his views on foreign policy – is that there is no “is” there.

In foreign policy issues, Dodd proceeds as if the ideal universe he wishes to establish on earth, mostly by diplomatic means, is the reality; when, in fact, the real world, especially in the Middle East, is riven by religious zealots impervious to diplomacy whose world view is shaped by dreams of a Islamic caliphate that will extend from the shores of Tripoli to the halls of Montezuma.

Improbable as it may seem, in the real world of Osama bin Ladin and his intellectual offspring, the Islamic revolution will not be complete until Dodd’s two charming daughters are wrapped in burqas and Dodd himself, a putative Catholic, is taxed for his non-belief. That is the way things were in the good old days of the 10th century, and terrorists in and outside of Iraq are striving to reestablish their supremacy over the West – which is to say, over everything to which Dodd should have pledged his life, his liberty and his sacred honor.

In a recent speech delivered before a Des Moines public affairs audience, Dodd said, "We don't need a surge of troops in Iraq - we need a surge of diplomacy. The Bush/McCain Doctrine is not succeeding, it is failing.” Both Dodd and McCain are running for the presidency, and Dodd, after some wandering around in the desert, has now positioned himself firmly in the camp of the anti-war movement.

The first line of Dodd’s statement is a mere platitude disguised as a foreign policy apercu; because a military surge in Iraq may fail – and Democrats in congress are determined that it should fail – it does not follow that diplomacy will succeed.

One can only be diplomatic with another diplomat who represents the interests of a nation. But the jihadist surge underway in and outside Iraq operates outside national boundaries, and it is not likely that emissaries sent to terrorists will be successful in persuading them that time, God, Cindy Sheehan and the US Congress is not on their side. Thomas Jefferson did not send diplomats to negotiate with the Barbary pirates of his day, the equivalent of the jihadists. He sent in the marines, over the objection of Europe, which was content to continue to pay tribute to the pashas in Tripoli to secure safe shipping in the Mediterranean and every where else the pirates plied their trade.

The second line of Dodd’s statement is a feeble political attempt to bond with those who disagree with President George Bush’s efforts to bring democracy to Arabia with a sword, always a chancy proposition. But the line provides a nifty sound bite and will play well on the political circuit.

The Democrat Party’s position on the war – war bad, peace good – is guaranteed to please, but its short term strategy may inflict upon the party wounds from which it may not easily recover. The present strategy Dodd has settled upon – American troops must be out of Iraq by March 31, 2008 -- is neither honest, nor particularly effective, and that is the beauty and purpose of it.

Dodd’s efforts to bring the troops home by micromanaging a war in progress is essentially dishonest because Congress can tomorrow end the war honorably and constitutionally by de-financing it. Instead, foreign policy experts such as Dodd and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, both schooled in the ways of anti-war protests, have decided to subvert the war by inflicting upon the president a death of a thousand cuts. They do not want to leave their fingerprints on a war that many of them consider hopelessly lost; they want the president to lose the war, and to this end they have threatened to attach conditions to the funds they provide for its prosecution.

Dodd’s strategy will not be effective because a retreat from the field of battle on the enemy’s terms will make diplomacy impossible and tribute necessary. The jihadists will continue to hollow out countries through terrorist activities and use them as Jefferson’s pirates once used captured ships – to effect their ends, while demanding tribute from intimidated nations.

The notion that peace will flow from a withdrawal is a comfortable illusion that refuses manfully to face reality. The reality is that Bush’s participation in the war will end when his term in office ends. And if Democrats are successful in their attempt to capture the White House, they will inherit the wind. The war against the West will not end when the Bush administration comes to an end.

A precipitous withdrawal will not prevent Hamas and Hezbollah from shooting rockets into Israel, Victor David Hanson reminds us in a Washington Times column: Tribute will still be paid by Gulf States to terrorists in an attempt to escape their wrath; the Sunni triangle will still serve as a magnet for jihadists; Iran will not abandon its attempt to acquire a nuclear bomb, and New York, twice attacked by jihadists, will not be safe so long as borders are porous and Iran has its finger on nuclear technology.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Democrats To Rell -- Checkmate!

Having said "It will be difficult to get it all done this year" – “it” being a $18 billion boost in taxes to pay for a universal health insurance plan – President Pro Tem of the state senate Mr. Donald Williams gave us a peek into the future when Democrats recently unfurled their battle standard, a budget, heavily progressivized, that punishes smokers, many of whom tend to be poor, and the Democrat’s version of a “millionaire,” anyone earning more than $200,000 a year, while it rewards those in lower income brackets and people living in whatever towns Democrats have chosen to lard with benefices.

When the state income tax was but a gleam in Lowell Weicker’s eye, then governor Weicker was faced with a difficulty in passing the tax through a legislature more evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats than the present arrangement. So the boys and gals wrote a cap on spending into the tax plan, lately busted by Governor Jodi “I am willing to negotiate” Rell, and produced a nearly flat income tax. The semi-progressive income tax had always disturbed Democrats, and now that they have achieved a veto-proof majority in the legislature, they have pounced on a weak ideologically compromised governor.

If Rell did not object to a cap busting increase in educational funding, what principle could she legitimately put forward to serve as a firewall against Democrat pretensions that the additional marginal rates they wish to add to the tax structure brings “fairness” to budget collections?

Actually, it brings divisive politics to budget allocations and opens the tap to further spending. Once you have decided to rob rich Peter to pay poor Paul, you will increase proportionally Paul’s tendency to consume Peter’s wages. In a democracy, those who have less will always want more in services – when they find they do not have to pay for them. When the founders of the nation wrote about the tyranny of the majority in democracies, they had in mind, among other things, the ability of the majority to vote money out of the wallets of a minority.

The real danger in a steeply progressive tax is that the majority that consumes services is able to expand its appetite without paying a penalty for over consumption. Of course, those who foot the bills an improvident legislature puts before them can always move to other less predatory states, and rankings provided by the Yankee Institute showing Connecticut 47th in population growth, 41st in real personal-income growth, and dead last in job creation throughout the recession in the early 90’s indicate that the exodus has begun.

The Democrat spending and allocation plan is a John DeStefano budget administered by a governor who defeated DeStefano in the late gubernatorial campaign and fashioned by a veto-proof legislature that has just checkmated Mrs. Rell

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spending My Way Back To You Babe

“There are reality checks when you put a fiscal note to a bill,” said House Speaker James Amann, a Milford Democrat. “There are some ideas that are so unattainable, so far out of reach, that you have to have a reality check.”

Mr. Amann was here referring to Universal Health Care, a euphemism for state socialized medicine. The price tag put on the legislative bill for Universal Health Care by the Connecticut’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis was a cool $18 billion, a number that sent chills up and down the spines of both legislators and the not easily spooked members of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

“Even we were quite shocked [by] the enormity of the cost. ... A lot of people are just scratching their heads and saying, ‘Wow!’” said CBIA associate council Eric George.

The $18 billion figure is just a touch more than Connecticut’s two year budget. But not everyone was scratching their heads and placing their hands over their wallets, mumbling as they did so, “Neither our wallets or our lives are safe while the legislature is in session.”

Mr. Donald Williams, the President Pro Tem of the state senate was raciocinating. “On the one hand,” he pondered, “$17 billion seems staggering, and it is. At the same time, the Connecticut Business Policy Council estimated that in Connecticut we spend $22 billion on health care costs each year - and that was in 2004 - for 3.5 million people.”

Mr. Williams is a fan of a single payer system, a euphemism for state socialized medicine. And he wasn’t ready to throw in the sponge. "No state has done what I would like to see us do,” said Mr. Williams, “which is to have a Medicare-for-all type system," a euphemism for state socialized medicine.

Williams added ominously, "It will be difficult to get it all done this year."

Mr. Williams never met a reality he didn’t like.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Iranian Prisoners, Then And Now

Some time ago, Reuel Marc Gerecht reviewed Mark Bowden's book on the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis -- Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam. This is what Gerecht said in the Wall Street Journal about the behavior of Americans taken prisoner after Iranian students – one of whom may have been the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the merciful – stormed the American embassy in Iran:

“John Limbert, an academically trained, Persian-speaking diplomat -- who probably has the softest heart for Iran among the hostages -- is in solitary confinement in the city of Isfahan, 200 miles from Tehran, after the failed Desert One rescue mission. (President Carter, after long delay, had sent fuel-tanker planes, gunships and helicopters to recapture the embassy; in a night-vision-goggle debacle set into motion by a sandstorm, a helicopter and a plane collided in the desert; the aborted the mission left the burnt remains to be toyed with by revolutionary clerics.) Mr. Limbert has no idea regarding the whereabouts of his compatriots until an Iranian guard, whom he is tutoring in English, asks him the meaning of the words ‘raghead,’ ‘bozo,’ ‘mother-f’ and ‘c-sucker.’ ‘Limbert laughed,’ Mr. Bowden writes. ‘It warmed his heart. Someplace nearby, his captors were still coping with the United States Marine Corps.’

“The most brazen and hard-edged of the hostages is Michael Metrinko, a street-wise former Peace Corps volunteer and Persian-speaking diplomat who declares war on the gerugangirha, the hostage-takers. Using his vast knowledge of Persian culture, psychology and slang, Mr. Metrinko fights back. Beaten repeatedly, held in solitary confinement, hooded, tied up and denied food, he never stops searching for means to annoy and emasculate his captors. At one point he tries to derail the interrogation of an Iranian friend before him by baiting his interrogators to beat him (he succeeds). Even on his last day of captivity, on the bus to the airport, Mr. Metrinko verbally lashes out at a guard's offensive behavior by making a very Persian reference to the guard's mother and the procreative act; he is again beaten and then thrown off the bus. (A last-minute intervention by Iranian officials gets him on the plane to Germany.) Throughout, Mr. Metrinko is a proud, outraged man whose anger grows more intense precisely because he loves Iran so profoundly.

“To verify some of Mr. Bowden's reporting, I sent an email to Mr. Metrinko, who is now working in Afghanistan. A short, rough, not particularly handsome fellow, Mr. Metrinko remarked that he hoped that this book, like Mr. Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" (1999), would become a movie. He really wanted Brad Pitt to play him, since "that's the way I would really like to remember myself." Mr. Pitt should be so lucky as to play such a part.”


And this is a current report from a London newspaper:

“One of the hostages, Dean Harris, 30, an acting sergeant in the Royal Marines, told a Sunday Times reporter yesterday: ‘I want £70,000. That is based on what the others have told me they have been offered. I know Faye has been offered a heck more than that. I am worth it because I was one of only two who didn’t crack.’”

The times, they are a‘changing.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Rep Chris Caruso, the inspector Jarvet of Democrats, was decidedly upset.

“Maybe Mr. Healy can fill me in on what ethics violations occurred,” he told a reporter. "In all fairness here, Don Clemons hasn't been charged with anything. We have no authority in this area. I know [Healy] is desperate to latch onto something. He should first call his Republican friends because they control the U.S. attorney's office. Before he starts shooting his mouth off, he should call Kevin O'Connor, the Republican appointee. He'd get a quicker answer that way."

State Rep. Don Clemons, who is considering running for mayor of Bridgeport in November, was present in the summer of 2004 at a private meeting attended by former NBA basketball star Charles Smith and the notorious state Sen. Ernest Newton, now cooling his heels in prison for various offenses that Caruso found intolerable when they were committed by agents of former Republican Governor John Rowland.

At the meeting, then Sen. Newton pitched an idea in the direction of Mr. Smith: He would be delighted to load up Mr. Smith’s non-profit foundation with $3 million in state tax dollars to build a shopping center in Bridgeport if Mr. Smith would be so kind as to divert some of the loot to an associate of his, Jeanette Foxworth, recently found guilty after a short trial of nine felony counts in a public corruption scandal.

Before the deal with Mr. Smith was completed, Mr. Newton went off to serve a five year stretch in prison, and Rep. Clemons clammed up – until he was called to testify in Ms. Foxworth’s trial, when the truth came tumbling out of him; odd how the prospect of perjury convictions can pry open lockjawed clams.

Mr. Healy, the Republican Party chairman, has made a great fuss about all this, ruffling the feathers of the easily provoked Rep. Caruso and others in the Democrat Party.

Mr. Caruso wants Mr. Healy to point to a specific ethics violation committed by the snow white Mr. Clemons, confident he cannot do so. Speaker of the House Jim Amann already has passed the Clemon’s fish under the noses of Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane and Jeffrey Garfield, executive director of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, both of whom smelled nothing odiferous.

“I would assume if there was a crime,” said Speaker Amann, “the FBI probably would have issued an indictment of Don Clemons by now. They've said the Newton case is over.”

Really, who does this news sponge Healy think he is, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal? Having received a pass from all the above mentioned ethical sleuths, why should Mr. Clemons not be permitted to resume his quiet uneventful life, unmolested by Mr. Healy?

Good question.

Because, sirs and madams, we are now living in the post John Rowland era. And in the post Rowland era, politicians should be held to a higher standard than they were when the legislature threatened to call then Governor Rowland to testify in a pre- impeachment proceeding. Prosecutors had not yet targeted Rowland, and it was widely felt at the time that concurrent proceedings – a legislative investigation combined with a prosecutorial investigation – would speed Mr. Rowland out of office and into jail, where he belonged. When the legislature met to consider impeaching Gov. Rowland, he had a clean bill of health from the relevant ethics committee and prosecutors had, at that point, no reason to proceed against him.

Yet none of this prevented leading Democrats from kicking up the kind of fuss that now has caused Mr. Caruso to erupt in bilious rage against the mild suggestion offered by Mr. Healy.

The prosecution of Ms. Foxworth was a spin off from the prosecution of former Bridgeport mayor Joe Ganim and Mr. Newton. Prosecutors bagged their prey from information they had compiled while listening to tapped telephone calls. When the FBI spokesmen said the case was now closed, they meant no further prosecutions were likely from the information they had at hand. But legislative hearings are not especially concerned with prosecutions, and statements from Mr. Kane and Garfield ought not to be taken as an indication that all is well in Bridgeport, where Mr. Clemons aspires to become mayor.

One wonders: Will Mr. Clemons in the future be able to count on the support of those leading Democrats who even now appear anxious to support him?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dodd And The Right To Happiness

Campaigning for president in New Hampshire, Sen. Chris Dodd told a group of Concord high school students that anyone who would deny a gay child the right to be happy isn’t being honest.

According to an Associated Press report, Dodd said, “We ought to be able to have these loving relationships.” The father of two young daughters in a second marriage, Dodd speculated that his daughters could grow up to be lesbians: “They may grow up as a different sexual orientation than their parents. How would I want my child to be treated if they were of a different sexual orientation?”

According to the AP story, “Dodd, who opposed a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to man-woman unions, said he supports civil unions, but not gay marriage. Asked afterward what he sees as the difference, he said: ‘I don't think probably much in people's minds. If you're allowing that, all the protections you have there, you've covered it.’”

Dodd has here carved out a painful and potentially unhappy future both for himself and his daughters, should they grow up to be lesbians unhappy with the present arrangement their father supports.

If there is little or no difference between civil unions and gay marriage, Dodd’s opposition to gay marriage must fail. Then too, how would Dodd want his children to be treated if happiness eluded them outside of a traditional marriage? Would he not want them to be married rather than civil unionized – especially since there is, in Dodd's view, little difference between traditional marriage and civil unions?

Dodd was not asked these questions by his Concord high school students, but his campaign is yet young, like his charming daughters. That campaign will grow up, and someone is bound to point out his fallacies, both on domestic and foreign policy issues.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

An Enemy Of The People

Even after all these years, Dr. Stockman is still an enemy of the people.

Henrick Ibsen’s infrequently produced play, “An Enemy Of The People,” revolves around a doctor who discovers that his town’s huge bathing complex is irretrievably contaminated. Having alerted the town, he is visited by his brother, the town’s mayor, who tells him he must retract his statements. First of all, his brother does not believe him. But even if the doctor’s views were correct, his brother still would oppose him, because the economy of the town is tied into the baths; and, in any case, the repair of the sewerage system causing the possibly deadly contamination would be too expensive a project.

Convinced the people will back him, the doctor holds a town meeting and turns to the newspapers for support. When important people in the town attempt to prevent him from speaking, Dr. Stockman, losing all patience, lets loose a long tirade condemning both the founding of the town and the tyranny of the majority. Naturally, he loses the sympathy of the people, his home is vandalized and he becomes the enemy of the people.

Life – more contaminated, to be sure – goes on.

Dr. Stockman quickly reverts from hero to villain because the solution he offers to a dangerous problem, a contamination that is making people ill, involves a necessary but impractical measure, spending money the town cannot afford to fix the sewers, that is perceived as an attack on an otherwise good institution: The baths provide sustenance to the town, and the continuing prosperity of the town depends upon Dr. Stockman’s silence.

Vernon Town Finance Officer James Luddecke may soon be viewed as an enemy of the people. The good news out of Vernon is that the Democrat administration of Mayor Ellen L. Marmer has reduced the mill rate in her next budget an alarming 23.7 percent; the bad news, if you are not a member of the Marmer administration, is that taxes on residential properties are expected to rise, according to a story in the Journal Inquirer, on average by 16.5 per cent.

“Town Finance Officer James Luddecke, who released his estimates today based on Mayor Ellen L. Marmer's proposed $75.7 million budget,” the paper pointed out, “cautioned that his figures were conservative,” very likely the only thing about this sad situation that is conservative.

The bottom line: Once all the peas are shuttled through all the shells, homeowners in Vernon will be facing a tax increase of about 16.5 percent. Town revenues are swelling because of revaluation, a tide that promises to lift all the boats paddled by Vernon politicians, while leaving Vernon residents knee deep in debt.

According to the story, Deputy Mayor Jason McCoy, a Republican, “called Marmer's budget address ‘smoke and mirrors’ and said the spending plan itself is balanced on the backs of kids and seniors.

“It's totally inappropriate to say she is cutting taxes when they are, on average, going up 20 percent, and spending went up 5 million,” McCoy said. “The value of the town's grand list significantly went up, but it still didn't pay for her spending spree.’”

Marmer has refused to mitigate the pain likely to be caused by a 16.5 percent tax increase by phasing in the charge. Other municipalities, similarly faced with steep tax increases, have agreed to ease them in; not Marmer, who has seen her previous budgets rejected multiple times in referendums.

Phasing in the increase, Marmer said, would only cost more in the long run and adversely affect Vernon’s bond rating. Besides, the mayor is convinced that Vernon’s taxpayers want to be plundered, as the paper noted, “in one fell swoop.”

Said Marmer, “The tax increase for a single-family home assessed at $150,000 comes out to roughly $1.25 a day,” a seeming pittance. “For $1.25 (per day) look what's being obtained here. I challenge anyone to just ride around town and see all the progress being made. The percentages sound bad, but the realities (sic) of $1.25 to provide this community with everything that's needed is really something to be proud of."

Riding around Vernon these days, as well as other towns that have not been able to control spending increases, sightseers will marvel at the number of home that have been put up for sale. Those “for sale” signs are markers of the price of progress – and burdensome taxation.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Corrupticut Revividus

The Day of New London discovers new ways of looking at billboards.

Obamagod!

My guess is that Barack Obama is a bit too modest to consider himself a Christ figure, but artist will be artists.

And over at “To Wit,” a blog run by professional blogger, journalist, radio commentator and ex-Hartford Courant religious writer Colin McEnroe, chocolateers will be chocolateers.

Nice to have all this attention paid to Christ so near to Easter.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Contra Colin

When Colin McEnroe condemns what he calls pedophilic priests – often -- Catholics should join in the condemnation, although they may quibble with the word “pedophilic” as it has been applied to Fr. Richard Foley on McEnroe’s blog “To Wit.” The clinical definition of pedophilia involves sexual relations with pre-pubescent children. Fr. Foley has been accused of having improper sexual relations with teenage boys; that would make him a predatory homosexual or a child abuser.

If McEnroe wants to condemn a church hierarchy that winked at the behavior of pedophiliac priests like Fr. John J. Geoghan of Boston and by so doing enabled that behavior, Catholics should send up a hearty cheer for McEnroe. Gehogan was convicted on a charge of molesting a 10 year old boy, though this was but the tip of his personal erotic iceberg. But it’s important to maintain proper distinctions even in condemning priests. Geoghan, murdered in jail by a homophobic prisoner, was a pedophiliac; Fr. Fr Paul Shanley, another notorious and noxious Boston priest, was an aggressive homosexual.

Shanley began a ministry among down and out teenagers in Boston and developed a rapport with the media that later would stand him in good stead when he began his decent into predatory homosexuality. Shanley was present at the formation of the North American Man/Boy Love Association and also bedazzled boys by plying them with booze and driving them around in hot cars, like Fr. Foley.

But McEnroe is not content with condemning Foley in his March 25th blog titled “Connecticut Doubt.” McEnroe’s blog is, of course, a vigorous attack on those who support the position of Connecticut Catholic bishops on the distribution of Plan B in Catholic hospitals, and McEnroe here seeks to attack the position of the bishops on that issue by attacking the fitness of the church to pronounce on moral issues. He does this by pointing to the scandal in the Catholic Church involving pedophile priests, homosexual priests and child abusers, asserting that a church that abets such behavior lacks the authority to pronounce on ethics and morals.

“Reminded yet again of the way the Church countenanced the abuse of living, sentient boys,” McEnroe writes, “we may be forgiven if our stomachs churned while Feldman insisted on the church's moral right to parse microscopically the activities of unimplanted cell clusters drifting in the bodies of rape victims.”

Barry Feldman, the vice-president and counsel for St. Francis Hospital, recently testified before a legislative committee that reported out a bill that would force Catholic hospitals in Connecticut to distribute Plan B to rape victims who test positively for ovulation. The Catholic bishops in Connecticut so far have refused to allow the four Catholic hospitals in the state to distribute Plan B only when test show the patient is ovulating; otherwise the pill is administered in Catholic hospitals. Most recently, Catholic decision makers were in discussions with pro-Plan B proponents in an attempt to find a mediated solution that would not involve unnecessary inconvenience for rape victims or an order from the state to Catholic hospitals that would force Catholics to violate the cannon law of the church, the punishment for which, in the case of those who facilitate abortions, is excommunication.

Now, it is not possible to talk rationally about this controversy without mentioning the reason why the Catholic Church is adamant in refusing to dispense Plan B under the very narrow circumstances described above -- that is, only when it has been determined that ovulation may be occurring. But McEnroe manages to do so with his usual sneering aplomb.

Because Foley molested teenage boys under his charge, sodomizing one of his victims, Feldman’s testimony before a legislative committee contemplating a bill that would force Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B to rape victims may be safely discounted. Why? Because this business of losing moral authority is catchy. Neither Feldman nor Bishop Mandell have molested boys, and yet their moral authority has been irretrievably corrupted because, to take a concrete example, two Boston priests – one a pedophile, the other an abusive homosexual with a taste for vulnerable young boys – had caused a scandal in a Catholic Boston diocese. Feldman is not fit to give testimony to a legislative committee on Plan B because he is a lawyer for Catholics, and all Catholics, including the vast majority of priests who are as offended as McEnroe at the moral corruption of Shanley and Gehogan, are deeply implicated in the scandal; that implication has, in McEnroe’s blog, now extended it’s boney finger in Feldman’s direction.

The problem with tarring people with such a broad brush is that others very well may follow suit and, for example, condemn all gays because of Shanley’s behavior. That would be wrong. We do not say that all gays have lost their moral authority to present themselves before legislative committees to argue in favor of gay marriage because Shanley, who also spent some time recuperating at St. Thomas’ Seminary and later ran a gay bed and breakfast in California, was a sexual predator who took advantage of young teenagers in his charge. We do not say this because it would not be true. Some gays in Boston who knew what Shanley was doing objected to his behavior to church officials who had turned a deaf ear to them. Shanley’s unorthodox views on sex got him a great deal of approving press coverage, and when a bishop finally cornered him, he hinted that he would turn the media against the bishop. We do not say that Boston’s media has lost its authority to pronounce on morals because Shanley was able to use his favorable press to seduce young boys, some of whom were uncertain about their sexual identities. We do not say this because it is not true.

We want to say the truth and shame the devil, as Cardinal Newman once put it – even if the truth is that the devil has got hold of a priest. That being the case, we want to be able to condemn the priest and his abettors, even if they are bishops.

But McEnroe’s undifferentiated condemnation of the Catholic Church is wrong, and it would be wrong if a bishop did it too. Bishop Mandell is not Cardinal Law. The Catholic Church’s authority to pronounce on matters of faith and morals does not depend upon the moral probity of its fallen away priests. A teaching of the church is authoritative when it is theologically true. There is little or no connection between the Catholic Church’s position on Plan B and Foley’s disgusting behavior. Some Catholics, by no means all, do not wish to be cut off from the grace of the sacraments through excommunication because the state of Connecticut has forced them to violate the laws and rites of their church.

That’s the truth. Unfortunately, one searches for it in vain in McEnroe’s sometimes amusing reflections on Catholics.