Friday, June 29, 2007

The Republican Opposition

Freshman state Sen. Sam Caligiuri voted against a compromise budget and by doing so became, in Henry David Thoreau’s phrase, “a party of one.”

Caligiuri has said the spending increase in the biennial budget’s first year is too high. And he did not understand why the legislature was unable to cut taxes in the face of a $915 million surplus.

"I think this is the best budget that we were able to put together given the political reality that we are facing,” Caligiuri said, “and let me also say that if it wasn't for Republican pressure, we would have tax increases today."

The budget deal was an exercise in defusing extravagant hopes; some would say nightmarish dreams.

The Democrats, as part of the deal struck with obdurate Republicans, gave up a potentially destructive refashioning of income tax – for the time being.

Instead of producing a timely budget, Democrats this year spent their time and energy in seeking to make Connecticut’s not quite flat income tax more progressive. Effective opposition to this ploy came not from Governor Jodi Rell, who had been blithely pursuing her own private détente with the Democrats, but from Republicans who recoiled from the governor’s early budget proposal, which featured a budget cap busting increase in the income tax to pay for an improvident boost in education spending.

Launching a torpedo in the direction of the Democrat Party, some Republicans with street creds pointed out that all the tax raising was not necessary at a time when the state treasury, as usual, was flush with an embarrassing surplus. In her negotiations with Democrats, Rell found her party’s observation useful.

A strong case can be made to show that Caligiuri’s fellow Republicans voted for the budget for prudential reasons. Having reached an uneasy détente with Democrats, Republicans easily could have torpedoed the deal by over reaching and voting against the budget for reasons of principle. A hearty opposition to the compromise budget, some Republicans argue, might have given Democrats an opportunity to rally their forces and acquire enough votes to overcome a threatened gubernatorial veto, in which case Republicans would have been left with an arrangement whose effects might have been far more destructive.

Once again, according to the Republican narrative, a handful of stout defenders have fended off an attack on the Alamo.

And that is the problem with Republican non-visionaries: They are content with defensive measures. Some would argue that, moderate to the core, Republicans are in danger of disappearing as an effective opposition because they are, literally, inoffensive; which is to say, they have no offensive plan.

There are plenty of distinctively Republican ideas out there, many of them presented here in Connecticut by the Yankee Institute and other libertarian to conservative idea factories. The advantage of a party of ideas over a party of personalities is that ideas are more durable and long-lived than persons. Ex-Governor Rowland advertised himself as a breakwater to Democrat extravagance, and the claim – which ran aground on the perception that Connecticut was spending itself into oblivion – took him through three terms, no small accomplishment. Then, in a breath, Rowland was gone and followed by Rell, who this year busted the spending cap and proposed extravagant new spending on education.

Republicans were left flat-footed this year when Democrats proposed to make the state’s income tax more progressive, a notion long pursued by the party that was featured, unchallenged by Rell, in the gubernatorial contest. Even now, the governor’s office has offered no principled opposition to the idea. The state’s surplus, the Republican Party has argued, has rendered increases in the income tax unnecessary. An unprincipled opposition tied to surpluses will disappear when surpluses vanish though improvident spending.

Ideas would go a long way in enlarging the footprint of the Republican Party in the state. Republicans had Governor Rowland and now they have Rell, but she is not nearly offensive enough, and parties centered on people rather than viable political ideas disappear through attrition.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Bloomberg, Weicker, D’Amore Industrial/Political Complex

The Greenwich Times is reporting that former senator and governor Lowell Weicker would enthusiastically support the presidential bid of New York Mayor and fellow multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

"I think he is head and shoulders the best candidate to be president of the United States. I think he'll find lots of support wherever,” Weicker said.

There is a problem though: Over at The Politico, Roger Simon is reporting that Bloomberg has given the kibosh to third party enthusiasts such as Weicker, whose former chief aide and Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Tom D’Amore may possibly be angling for a new political prospect after his latest venture, propelling Greenwich senatorial hopeful into current Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat, proved disappointing.

“Asked if there were any circumstances under which he would run,” Simon reported, "Bloomberg replied: ‘If everyone in the world was dead and I was the only one alive, sure.’”

That’s a “No.”

However, in politics “No’” not infrequently metamorphoses into “Maybe” and then into “Yes,” provided the naysayer has sufficient funds on hand to prevent him from entering the poorhouse at the conclusion of the campaign.

Weicker, the Greenwich Times reported, “said he spoke to Bloomberg about a month ago and urged him to run but doesn't expect the former longtime Democrat to make an announcement until early next year when the field of candidates is winnowed.

"'I think that his track record is just outstanding,' Weicker said. 'I think he has the resources if he wants to run for president.'"

Greenwichers such as Weicker and Lamont call the money they dispose of for political purposes “resources.” And, for sure, Bloomberg has billions of resources. Lamont had lot’s of resources to dump into his failed campaign; so, too, with Bloomberg. Apparently, the campaign reform legislation that has been so effective in decoupling campaign spending from political parties does not prevent billionaires from purchasing elections.

Bloomberg’s seeming unambiguous “No” has led some political handicappers to suppose that Weicker’s enthusiasm is but a prelude to D’Amore’s involvement in a future Bloomberg presidential campaign. Certainly Bloomberg has resources enough to hire D’Amore’s as a political consultant. D’Amore’s firm, Doyle, D'Amore and Balducci did wonders for Lamont, and D'Amore's attachment to parties is as ephemeral as Bloomberg's.

“D'Amore said the Lamont campaign pays his firm ‘seven or eight thousand dollars a month’ to consult on ‘strategic planning and communications strategy,” Paul Bass reported during Lamont’s failed campaign. “He (D’Amore) said he did re-register for one day as a Republican, in 2000, to vote for John McCain in that year's presidential primary. He then immediately returned his registration to independent.”

Bloomberg, who changed his party registration from Democrat to Republican to run for the mayoralty of New York, now has switched from Republican to Independent. This switcheroo has set off a firestorm of supposition.

Bloomberg has become an independent, Simon observes archly, “because it is the easiest way for him to become president of the United States.

“In politics, this is what we call principle.”

In politics, if you have lots of money, principle is no bar to election.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Understanding Obama

If you are an accolade of one of our more modern secular faiths -- say, the ministerial alliance of MoveOn.org or the Non-Sectarian, Non-Religious Atheists Association of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens -- whether you like Barack Obama or not, and there is a there there to like, will depend less on Obama and more on your own deeply held secular and/or anti-religious beliefs.

If you think the whole religious business is hokum, you will not appreciate Obama’s brand of hokum. In the anti-religious theatre of thought and action, it is not possible to loathe the war but love the soldier. Hitchens, for one, cheerfully threw off that imposture when, shortly after the death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, he vigorously and publicly attacked the corpse. A convert to America from Merry Old England, Hitchens is in some ways more American than apple pie; so, for that matter, was DeToqueville. As a confirmed atheist, Hitchens has never been comfortable with religious prattle. Since hypocrisy remains the only mortal sin of journalism, Hitchens always has been careful to dance around it – unlike, say, Emerson, who reveled in it; hence Hitchens’ attack on the still fresh corpse of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a menace to all the sons of the Enlightenment. In this, at least in respect to his aggressive atheism, Hitchens is out of tune with the rest of America, which continues to astonish Euroland (aka Europe) by its high regard for the faith of Paul, Aquinas, Luther and – yea, even lesser saints like Obama.

When Obama whooped it up over the weekend with a convocation of Christians at the old Civic Center in Hartford, he was engaged in a service that is distinctively American. Only in recent times, egged on by practical atheists on the Supreme Court, have some Americans insisted they prefer their religion and politics unmixed. From the beginning, the heady brew streamed like lava through American veins. Washington was publicly and privately devout, Jefferson the exception, until he was publically upbraided for his freethinking ways and so brought to heel. Lincoln may or may not have believed in God – he certainly behaved and spoke as if he did – but Lincoln always had the good grace not to erect an alter to himself, the great failing of many modern atheists who suffer from a lack of humility that warps around the bones of better Christians when they kneel at the cross.

In Hartford, before an appreciative audience of the United Church of Christ, Obama preached what has been called the American “social gospel” of the Christian church. By doing so, he stepped into the over-sized shoes of Martin Luther King, John Brown – born in tempestuous Torrington – and, long before either of these two leapt upon the religious stage, Luke the Evangelist.

Those who do not wish to mix religion and politics had better steer clear of Luke, because the social gospel streams like a font of living water from his beatitudinal anathemas. Luke goes the extra mile; he walks the walk. Not only do Luke’s beatitudes praise the poor -- “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” -- they unreservedly condemn the rich -- "But woe to you rich, for you have had your consolation." Sen. Ted Kennedy or Rep. Rosa DeLauro could not have put it any more sharply. At first glance, Luke imprecations sound like the uncorrected draft of a speech before the Democrat Socialist Club: Pass around the progressive income tax, and praise the Lord. Obama’s edifying sermon in Hartford also sounded like this.

But second thoughts intrude. Most religious people know that the First Estate in infinitely more powerful than the other three estates because it erects a world outside the political universe that moves people through love and faith – which is why tyrants have always tried, and failed, to suppress religion.

Hitchens is quite wrong on this point. The King, if he has a conscience, must always quail before the prophet. And if he does not quail, he has not a conscience. And if he has not a conscience, the prophet must die, which does not – as tyrants such as Stalin will never realize – rid the heart of religion, for the human heart has reasons of its own. Love and faith are also forms of knowledge.

Americans get this stuff. Europe has long forgotten it. Obama’s sermon will not translate well into French, German and Italian.

But we understand Obama. Don’t we?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hillary’s Traction

We often say here in America that politicians with a past are carrying a lot of baggage into office with them. Hillary Clinton’s baggage, as everyone who has not slept through the past two decades may have realized, is husband Bill. And no, I am not referring to what the press used to call in Bill’s Monica Period the president’s sexual “peccadilloes.” We like to turn our pages on our pasts, and America is after all the land of second chances. Most Americans were quite willing to forgive Bill his “indiscretions” about five minutes after the cigar incident. The few women in Bill’s past who were crying “infidelity” – and in at least one case “rape” – were dismissed, even by the feminists, as implausible publicity hounds.

No, all that lies in a past that, despite William Faulkner’s misgivings, is over. Faulkner said the past was not over, “It is not even past.”

Hillary’s big problem is with husband Bill’s warmongering.

In a review of two recent books on Hillary, “Hillary Clinton: Her Way” by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. and “A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton” by Carl Bernstein, Christopher Hitchens briefly remarks on the problem.

“The candidate herself seems determined to redisprove Scott Fitzgerald’s much-exploded dictum that there are no second acts in American lives. Unfortunately for her, this involves both taking the credit for her husband’s administration, while avoiding the less adorable aspects of the couple’s political and personal relationship. Thus, Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta suggest – correctly in my view – that her relatively hawkish position on Iraq is to be explained by the fairly hard line that Clinton and Al Gore (then) took on Saddam Hussein…”

Hillary cannot quite denounce President George Bush in the tone used by his most virulent opponents without also throwing a brick at husband Bill. How to defend Bill’s hawkish analysis of Middle Eastern jihadists, and even the incorrigible Saddam Hussein, while denouncing Bush is a conundrum that other politicians running for the presidency have settled by making the requisite public confession, which begins with “Regrettably, I voted for the legislative bill that gave George Bush authority to prosecute the Iraq war,” contains a grudging admission of fallibility, “But I was wrong,” and proceeds to the now ritualistic denouement, “Therefore I propose a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by…,” and here it is best to leave the date of surrender hanging upon some reasonable condition – just in case.

This now well worn path has been trodden by lesser presidential luminaries such as Chris Dodd and others, but Hillary has refused to join in the fun, some suppose, because Bill’s and her own past -- she was, after all, the co-president -- is standing in the way of her ambition.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Art Of The Deal: Dems, Repubs And The Budget

A state budget soon will be reported out of the legislature – a little late, say some – and it will be yet another “let’s make a deal” budget.

Here in Connecticut, it is virtually impossible to get folks focused on state budgets. Town budgets are a different animal, largely because municipal tax payers are occasionally given the opportunity through referendums to vote budgets up or down, a rare concession in Connecticut politics to direct democracy.

There is no state budget referendum, which means that final decisions on budgets are left to duly elected legislators -- the deal makers. If the public does not like the budget, it is assumed it will vote out of office the deal makers who, so far, have conspired to raise the bottom line of the state’s budget from a modest pre-income tax budget of $8 or $9 billion – the figures are rounded and near accurate; what’s a billion or two among friends – to about $18 billion today.

Now, we know for certain, through casual conversations over beer and pizza and through the results of multiple town referendums, that generally people are edgy about tax and spending increases. “I’d like to be sure,” said a spry but elderly lady who had just voted down a third unacceptably high Vernon town budget, “that the teachers are not going to use the increases in the budget to pay for a Florida vacation or a second house.” The lady went on to explain that she was on a fixed income and could not afford more tax increases. She was, so to speak, at the end of her rope. And glistening in her eye was the fervent hope that, before she reached the poor house, she would see dangling at the end of her rope the architects of her despair.

Well now, even the most icy-hearted and isolated legislator, listening to this discourse, would reason to himself, “Here we have a problem. Let’s do something.”

This year, Democrats in the legislature had hoped to relieve the lady’s distress – without reducing net spending or taxes – by adding a progressive feature to the state income tax that would take more money from the wealthy in Connecticut, always inured to the pain of the little people, while allowing the protesting lady to retain more of her fixed income.

Sure, spending and taxes and the bottom line of he state budget would have gone up had the Democrat plan been implemented. However, not you or me “but the guy behind the tree,” in Huey Long’s immortal phrase, would have borne the burden of paying for increasing services.

Both Democrats and Republicans wanted to spread the joy because bread and circuses have, since the good old days of Caligula, soothed the people while permitting their overseers – disguised in representative democracies as “servants of the people” -- to get away, quite literally, with murder.

Even in Democratic Greece, Pericles was swept into power, and kept there, by a super majority he carefully caressed. Aristole says that Pericles dished his more wealthy opponents by distributing public moneys, “and in a short time, having bought the people over, what with moneys allowed for shows and for services on juries, and with other forms of pay and largess, he made use of (the people) over the Council of Areopagus.”

The more things change, the French say, the more they remain the same.

In the end, both Greece and Rome fell because of imprudent demagogues: The money coming in – especially when the outer edges of the empire began to collapse – could not pay for the promises going out. In the name of the people, demagogues always bite off more than they can chew.

This year, promises came fast and heavy from state Democrats. They would provide bread to the people -- and not a few three ring circuses -- but payments would come from Connecticut’s wealthy class, not all of whom had yet changed their primary residences from Connecticut to a more welcoming state, like Florida for instance. The people could gorge themselves to their heart’s content on services they did not have to pay for, said the new demagogues. The tribunes of the people, naturally, lapped up this milk like cats with two stomachs.

The Republicans did not meet this devilish temptation head on and say unambiguously, “Look, we believe that everyone should bear an equal burden in taxes because no other measure will effectively control spending, and spending is the problem we must attack if our state is to remain prosperous.” That would have taken a degree of courage the average moderate politician in the state does not possess.

Some Republicans, however, did notice that the state was running an obscene surplus. The state has run surpluses every year since the imposition of the not quite flat income tax. This year, bucking their governor, some Republicans called attention to the surplus and questioned the need for new revenue enhancements, which effectively killed Democrat plans for a more progressive income tax.

The bread and circus crowd will have to wait their chance until next time. Assuming the Republic does not fail, there will always be a next time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You Gotta Be Kidding Me!

According to investigative reporter Jon Lender, reporting in the magisterial Hartford Courant on the DeLuca mess: “One ethics law says ‘no person shall offer or give to a public official ... anything of value, including ... a gift, loan, political contribution, reward or promise of future employment based on any understanding that the vote, official action or judgment of the public official ... would be ... influenced.’”

The law, be it noted, punishes the gift giver, not the recipient, who is likely to be a politician. The ethical law, as written, would punish the FBI agent who, acting in his official capacity, offered a bribe to Lou DeLuca. It does not set a punishment for DeLuca for either accepting a bribe from the FBI agent or refusing the bribe and declining to report it. If there is such a rule, it is probably lying rusting in the tool box of the ethics commission. If there is no such law, perhaps some of the ethical paragons in Connecticut’s ruling Democrat Party might want to fashion one. Nothing would prevent Michael Lawlor on the Judiciary committee from proposing a rule that would require any legislator to report a bribe attempt on pain of being ejected from the legislature if he fails to do so. With such a law or legislative rule in place, we would not need silly public hearings when legislators stray into ethical brambles. Expulsion would be automatic on a report that a bribe has been offered and not reported.


And "Sicko" is out. The “documentary” by Michael Moore – some consider it propaganda, others treason – had a salutary effect on Colin McEnroe. “I just saw ‘Sicko,’” McEnroe wrote on his blog. “I can honestly say: I laughed. And I cried. When it comes out, it will be required viewing. And it might change this country.

“My favorite line is from an American woman living in France. ‘Here, the government is afraid of people. In America, the people are afraid of the government.’”

It’s cheering to know that the sons and daughters of Danton are not frightened by Nicholas Sarkosy, France’s new president. Sarkosy models himself after Ronald Reagan rather than the estimable Fidel Castro and his faithful old brother Raul, who first introduced Castro to his stinking little communist pieties.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

AIR SCARES ARE TALL TALES

By Natalie Sirkin

Polls show that Americans consider environmental groups the most credible sources of information on the environment, and that they also trust information from regulatory agencies. Yet, these trusted sources routinely misrepresent -- Joel Schwartz

Much excellent research has been published on clean air. Joel Schwartz, who has done 30 studies, has added to it that the public has not been told it and does not believe the truth. Much of this column is based upon his lecture, “Breathing Easier About Air Quality,” given in April, 2006, at the Institute for Study of Economics and the Environment at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.

Air pollution was a problem when Seneca in 61 AD complained of “the stink, soot, and heavy air” in Rome. In London, in 1285, King Edward I created a commission to improve air quality. In the U.S., pollution has been decreasing.

Americans get their information, much exaggerated, from journalists, government regulators, environmental activists, and scientists. Exaggerations increase costs and minimize opportunities to address real risks.

Most of the U.S. meets federal air pollution standards for four pollutants, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. For ozone (smog), only 10% of the ozone monitors violated EPA’s 1-hour standard in 2004, reduced from 60% in the late 70s. For particulate matter (soot), about 90% of the nation’s monitors would have violated the standard 25 years ago, but only 14% violated it by the end of 2004. What makes these improvements remarkable is the big increase in driving, use of energy, and more economic activity.

Air pollution will continue to decline. If over the next 20 years, driving increases 3% a year, total miles driven would increase about 80%, but would be offset by a 90% decrease in per-mile emissions.

Public perception of air pollution is that the air is dirty and getting dirtier--the opposite of reality. Public perception is no surprise as the public gets its information from the media, and the media from environmental organizations. Regularly, the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Ai, misinforms, giving “more fiction than fact,” says Schwartz. ALA ’s press releases are repeated by dozens of media. Example of fiction: From 1999 to 2001, said ALA , Los Angeles County had 35 days exceeding EPA’s 8-hour standard for ozone. In truth, it had zero. The monitor in the worst location registered 18 days; the average, six days.

If a single monitor in the whole county on one day exceeded the standard, and if another monitor elsewhere in the county exceeded on the next day, ALA listed two days of exceedances and gave the whole county a failing grade. And that is so even as 60% of the county met both EPA’s 1-hour and 8-hour standards. This is the way Connecticut’s exceedances and all states’ are counted.

ALA similarly misstates soot (particulate matter, PM 2.5). The federal standard is 65 micrograms per cubic meter, but ALA uses 40. ALA reported Cook County (Chicago) had 43 exceedance days from 2000-2001. In truth, it had none.

Ralph Nader’s PIRG in its Danger in the Air, which had fictionally high exceedances for all states, announced that California exceeded the 8-hour ozone standard on 130 days in 2001. In truth, half the monitoring stations had no exceedance days at all; the average location, seven.

Federal and state regulators use similar pollution-counting methods. Journalists inflate the data. The New York Times reported that metropolitan Los Angeles exceeded the 1-hour ozone standard on 68 days in 2003. In truth, the worst site registered 39 days; the average location, 10.

Next time The New York Times or The News-Times asserts that “the ozone smog in Connecticut is among the worst in the nation,” bear in mind that after the first six “dirtiest” metropolitan areas, the next ten (including Connecticut) have very small and identical exceedances. Schwartz quotes dozens of newspapers that similarly mislead.

Americans are alarmed because the news is alarming. They believe by 85% that dirty air causes serious health problems. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, two prominent health officials referred to the Children’s Health Study in California to announce that air pollution “may have” contributed to the increasing prevalence of asthma. Schwartz notes four other health professionals from around the country did the same, but none was familiar with the CHS study and none was aware of the ozone levels in his community relative to that in the Study’s high-ozone areas. The truth is that the air pollution levels were associated with a lower, not higher, risk of asthma,

EPA has ascertained that were the ozone standard further tightened, asthma patients’ visits to emergency rooms would be reduced by nearly nothing (0.04%). As with asthma, EPA has ascertained that ozone pollution has no short-term effects, yet EPA’s literature untruthfully warns that current ozone levels can lead to “serious harm.”

As with ozone, PM 2.5 has nearly no impact on health. “It remains the case that no form of ambient PM—other than viruses, bacteria, and biochemical antigens—has been shown, experimentally or clinically, to cause disease or death at concentrations remotely close to U.S. ambient levels. This lack of demonstration is not for lack of trying . . .”

A new study of 58,600 women has appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine claiming that because of PM 2.5, “breathing urban air pollution is much more deadly than previously thought,” according to The Wall Street Journal page-one story’s of 2/1/07. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson announced he would not stiffen the 15 micrograms standard because the science is not definitive enough.

On one point we might disagree with Schwartz. The 4,000 Londoners who died in the London Fog of December, 1952, did not demonstrate that soot and sulfur dioxide can kill, because, though extremely high, they probably were not the cause of death. Hugh W. Ellsaesser, physicist and meteorologist, scrutinized the official data and concluded that the deaths were caused by the sudden onset of extremely cold weather following a long stretch of very mild weather.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The DeLuca Murtha Connection, Why The Silence?

Sen. Lou DeLuca has now been “done in” by most commentators and editorial boards. It’s difficult to see how he can survive the drubbing, and it is safe to predict that his days in the state senate soon will be drawing to a close.

The Harford Courant has, somewhat tardily, called for DeLuca’s resignation from the senate. DeLuca has stepped down as Minority Leader for Republicans but continues to cling on to his seat by (pun intended) the seat of his pants.

“And Mr. DeLuca,” the Courant intoned two days before two of its columnists, Kevine Rennie and Bill Currry opened fire in the Sunday edition of the paper, “ a Woodbury Republican, was wrong again last week in deciding not to resign his seat in the Senate. Resigning would be the honorable thing to do, but Mr. DeLuca is nothing if not consistent.”

Rennie, whose jeweler’s eye was trained on prosecutorial inconsistencies, in addition to holding aloft DeLuca’s severed head, also lambasted prosecutors who arrogantly refused to settle what may become a legal point in dispute between DeLuca’s lawyer and Waterbury police chief Neil O’Leary. DeLuca claims the chief was told that his daughter was being abused by her then boyfriend Mark Collela. The chief says “No,” Deluca never complained of abuse. This dispute could easily be settled by prosecutors.

“DeLuca's lawyer,” Rennie wrote in his column, “has called on the feds to release the information they gathered in verifying DeLuca's story. They have refused, citing the continuing investigation of Galante.

“Federal law enforcement officials were eager to include pages of extraneous information in the arrest warrant fatal to DeLuca's political prospects. They weren't worried about an ongoing investigation when they wanted the spotlight; now they hide.”

Rennie’s left leaning compatriot at the courant, Bill Curry, compared the DeLuca mess to other federal prosecutions.

“DeLuca,” Curry wrote, “is part of a trend bordering on an epidemic. Last week, Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, whose freezer full of greenbacks gave new meaning to the phrase ‘cold hard cash,’ clung to office, while Attorney General Alberto Gonzales blithely ignored a lopsided Senate vote calling for his removal and Republican presidential candidates signed en masse onto the ‘free Scooter’ movement, which would have President Bush grant an instant pardon to I. Lewis Libby.”

However, the name John Murtha, just now the darling of anti-war sentimentalists, has yet to surface in Connecticut’s timid public commentary.

One wonders why, particularly since the state’s newest congresspersons may be in danger of being corrupted by the powerful Earmark-In-Chief of the defense industry. The defense industry in Connecticut is tied by a congressional umbilical cord to John “The Earmark King” Murtha, and the parallels between the Murtha and DeLuca FBI stings are so similar as to be jarring to anyone who has seen the Earmark King’s performance in a tape now available on YouTube. The YouTube drama previously had been available in brief clips; this is the whole unbelievable enchilada.

Both Murtha and DeLuca were the subjects of FBI sting operations. Both were offered bribes, refused them, but did not report the bribe attempts to the relevant authorities. Both promised to perform favors for the principals on whose behalf the bribes were offered by FBI agents posing as corrupt businessmen. Neither case went to trial. DeLuca resigned his post as minority leader in the senate. A grand jury returned indictments against Murtha as a co-conspirator in an ABSCAM corruption case, and the tape showing Murtha wheeling and dealing with prospective bribers is at least as damning as DeLuca’s pitiful conviction.

“DeLuca,” Rennie wrote, “finally agreed to a deal that had him pleading to a state, not federal, misdemeanor (italics mine) more than a year after the statute of limitations had expired on the crime. The arrest warrant application was larded with jarring nuggets from the federal investigation that were irrelevant to the misdemeanor charge. State officials did not conduct their own investigation. It was not much of a criminal tale, but it was a devastating indictment of DeLuca's misuse of his political power and casual attitude toward the bribery attempt. Public revulsion, not the muted response of the political class, guaranteed that DeLuca would at least have to resign as the Republican leader.”

DeLuca told the FBI agent posing as a Gallante confederate that he could not accept the bribe but he would do all in his power to help him.

Murtha also refused a bribe from an FBI agent posing as the representative of a wealthy Arab merchant who wanted Murtha’s help in relocating to Pennsylvania, the Earmark King’s turf. But he promises help – lots of help. He suggests that the money offered him can be cleaned by filtering it though legitimate businesses. Mutha knows a couple of bankers who would be happy with the donation; he suggests that the money might be invested in a couple of mines in his home state that have run up against hard times. And his refusal of the bribe money is contingent. He cannot accept it without getting into hot water at the moment. But, Murtha says, after the representatives of the wealthy Arab merchant and his confederates have done business for awhile, maybe it might be possible. DeLuca refused the bribe outright for similar reasons.

No one in Connecticut’s press has yet drawn attention to these stunning parallels.

Why not?

A partial answwer is provided by Stephen Spruill writing in National Review Magazine.

An unindicted co-conspirator in the 1980 Abscam sting operation, Spruill notes, Murtha “has consistently opposed tougher ethics rules and has actually co-sponsored legislation to make it harder to investigate members of Congress. In 1998, he and Pennsylvania Republican Joe McDade (who was indicted but acquitted on bribery charges in the early 1990s) sponsored a bill to create a congressionally appointed review board with oversight into Justice Department investigations of lawmakers’ activities. At the time, congressional watchdog groups called it the Corrupt Politicians’ Protection Board. More recently, Murtha referred to the Democrats’ latest attempts at ethics reform as ‘total crap.’’’

Murtha is not the sort of guy who, living in a glass house, refuses to throw stones. When a Republican member of the unruly House of Representatives recently sought to deprive Murtha of an earmark slated to benefit one of his fat cat contributors – not a wealthy Arab businessman this time -- Murtha erupted in rage on the House floor.

Early in May, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers introduced a motion to delete a $23 million earmark for the National Drug Intelligence Center from the intelligence authorization bill. Rogers reasoned that since other agencies audited the center, the $23 million authorization was a needless duplication and a waste of taxpayer’s money. Roger’s motion followed the passage of a new rules package in January that forbade members to link earmarks with votes on bills. But there was a problem with Rogers’ probity: The earmark was sponsored by Murtha, who told Rogers on the floor of the House, “I hope you don’t have any earmarks in the defense appropriation bill because they are gone, and you will not get any earmarks now and forever.” Rogers told Murtha that this was not the way to handle their dispute. Said the Earmark King, “That’s the way I do it.”

Undetered, Rogers then introduced a motion to reprimand Murtha for violating the new rule. All but two House Democrats then voted to snuff the resolution because, Republican supposed, Murtha is the keeper of the earmarks. Given that Democrats had earlier been wafted into office on promises to inaugurate a kinder, gentler and ethically cleaner congress, Rogers’ reaction was overly polite. He said, “I wasn’t surprised that [the Democrats] took the partisan position on [the resolution], but I was a little surprised that they didn’t allow the debate . . . or at least refer it to the ethics committee on their own. They took neither option. They basically said, ‘We’re not even going to talk about it.’”

Omerta is alive and well in the U.S. Congress, and so is shameless hypocrisy.

Given the unindicted co-conspirator’s track record on the ABSCAM investigation, Murtha’s failure to report a bribe attempt to the FBI and his flouting of congressional rules – the rule, in fact, that proved to be the Democrat’s passport into the congress -- is it not amazing that not one of our tempestuous commentators has remarked that Murtha, like DeLuca, just has got to go?

Well, it’s not too amazing when one realizes that Murtha holds the purse strings to defense spending right here in the nutmeg state, the home of the Groton sub base, Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, and Reps. Chris Shays, Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney and Jim Murphy, none of whom were among the two honorable House Democrats who voted to uphold their campaign promise to scrub the congress free of corruption – proving that that Murtha was right after all when he said that attempts at ethics reform were “total crap.”

Thursday, June 14, 2007

DeLuca’s From Venus, Healy’s From Mars

The Chris Healy disaster, following closely upon the heels of the Lou DeLuca disaster, caused one agonized and/or furious Republican to burst forth with a comment on a blog site: “You guys are killing us.”

Healy is the Chairman of the state Republican Party arrested the day after a Republican presidential debate at the University of South Carolina for driving while under the influence, and DeLuca is the former Minority Leader in the state senate who recently gave up his position after he had been arrested on a misdemeanor threatening charge.

Following DeLuca’s tete a tete with James Galante, who is in the trash hauling business, during which Galante offered to have someone “talk with” DeLuca’s son in law, DeLuca was quickly set upon by political commentators. Republican Party officials closed ranks and went into their omerta mode, but DeLuca probably was encouraged privately to do the right thing.

Although he has resigned his leadership position in the senate, DeLuca still can be censured or removed from office by his fellow legislators. He cannot be impeached. Healy can only be removed through votes cast by a Republican Central Committee that seems indisposed to replace him.

Healy’s difficulties provoked a more nuanced response from many commentators. Unlike DeLuca, Healy is not a congressman. The chief duty of the Republican Party Chairman is to churn out propaganda for Republicans, a stressful chore that some believe might be softened by an occasional bout with the bottle. Healy’s position is appointive, not elective. Healy has said that he has struggled with alcoholism most of his adult life. Having been arrested once before for DWI, he was duly repentant and promised to seek help for himself.

So then, there are some important differences between the DeLuca orange and the Healy apple. The FBI hadn’t had an opportunity to interpose itself in the Healy mess and offer the Republican chairman a bribe, as was the case in the DeLuca mess. DeLuca refused the bribe but failed to report it, perhaps because he had on a previous occasion called upon the services of Galante, and the bribe was being offered, so DeLuca thought, by a Galante associate.

Memo to Healy (assuming he retains his position, as I think he should): Why don’t the Republicans construct a bill that would sanction, with the loss of a political position, any servant of the people who declines to report a bribe? Not only would such a bill make moot any disagreement about the details of impeachable offensives, it would, if adopted nationally, clean the Augean Stables of our national government of many an odoriferous congressman.

My feeling -- subject to further revision as the poisonous flower unfolds its petals -- is that Healy should stay at his post because he is redeemable, like Ralph.

Mark Twain painted a picture in one of his writings of the amiable drunk. Twain himself was born in a town, he said, so small that it had room in it for only one drunk.

Ralph was our drunk. He used to come around the house when ever I was outside doing chores, or – more likely – arranging not to do chores. He would steer himself carefully up the drive, pause before me like a preacher about to let loose a sermon, and say in as steady a voice as he could command, “Is Frank home?”

Ralph was always careful to steer a course around my mother, who never was successful in persuading my father that he should not contribute to the delinquency of town drunks.

So, I’d summon my father, he’d have a few words with Ralph, and soon a bit of green would pass from my father’s hand to Ralph’s, over the hearty protestation of my mother.

Everyone in town had a try at Ralph – priests, his nieces and nephews, his aging and ailing mother, the local doctor, who told Ralph that he would possibly die from cirrhosis of the liver, but who confided to my father in private that Ralph’s innards were so pickled he probably would survive well into the next two centuries. Nothing worked. Words just slid of him without doing the usual damage.

Ralph would use the dollar or two my father gave him either to buy a bottle of cheap hooch or to take a drink in one of the many pubs that used to line the Main Street of Windsor Locks. My brother and I counted these pubs one day and stopped at eight.

Ralph would wend his way down the driveway, careful to thank my father, and we wouldn’t see him again – until the next time.

I lost track of Ralph when I graduated from High School, just one of the many people who dart in and out of our lives like vagrant ghosts.

One day, on a visit home from college, my father mentioned Ralph to me, and I prepared myself to receive the news he had passed on, for he was an old man when I was a young and stupid idiot.

But no, my father said. Ralph had stopped drinking and taken up his old profession once again.

What was that, I asked?

He was a master carpenter before he fell into the bottle. Ralph made the most beautifully delicate cabinets my father had ever seen, and now, after years of drinking, he had returned to making lovely things. It was this idea of beauty locked in some sober part of his soul, my father thought, that in the end proved to be Ralph’s salvation.

My father was very quiet about the kindnesses he extended toward all, who knew him. And I discovered later that he had never given up on the man. Not only was he making an occasional contribution to Ralph’s delinquency, but my father was helping him in other ways.

“You don’t want to give up on people,” he said.

Never give up.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Messaging 101: The Dodd Ads

Ads, as everyone knows, are primarily messaging instruments. This is true also of political ads. U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s latest ad features his five year old daughter Grace.

The title of the ad is – do not blush – “Amazing Grace.” The referential message here is religious, though the text of the message is obscure.

In the ad, Dodd says, “I was blessed to become a first time father at age 57,” and he reminds everyone that Grace was born on Sept 13, 2001, two days after the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York.

Following a black and white photo of baby Grace, another photo shows the senator’s new family, wife Jackie and daughter Christina. This is Dodd’s second marriage.

"I want my campaign to be about all of our children,” Dodd remarks, “and the kind of world we give them." Dodd says he wants to increase the security of the country, stop global warming and "restore our moral leadership."

A following ad will picture Dodd as a young Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s, the Vietnam era. Showcasing Dodd as a man of experience, the ad will picture him with Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader before the Soviet Union was tossed on the ash heap of history by former President Ronald Reagan, the pope pictured in the ad with Dodd, Polish Solidarity leader Leck Walesa and Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, among others.

What messages are we to take from the human furniture in these two Dodd ads? One can only imagine what the pope whispered in Dodd’s ear concerning his voting record on the ban on partial birth abortion. Mikhail Gorbachev’s appearance signals what exactly: Dodd’s displeasure with regimes in Latin American – one thinks of Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua – that have patterned themselves after unsuccessful soviet states?

Dodd is not inordinately religious. Certainly he is no evangelical, as was John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” or his friend and fellow evangelical poet William Cowper, with whom Newton collaborated in writing verses for Onley Hymns, the publication in which “Amazing Grace” first appeared.

Perhaps the first ad was intended only as a celebration of fatherhood at 57, and the second as a hymn to the virtue of political experience. And then too, Grace is very cute.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

IMMIGRANTS WHO DON’T ASSIMILATE

This guest Blog was written By Natalie Sirkin

Assimilation—a cultural unification of the American population—has been challenged by an anti-assimilationist ideology, which is called “multiculturalism” . . . and which is specifically identified with the Hispanic community -- One Nation, One Standard

In an enlightening autobiography, Herman Badillo explains the nature of Hispanic immigrants. An orphan, Herman Badillo, by chance, by a keen brain, and by determination, rose to be Deputy Mayor of New York City and the first Puerto Rican in Congress. He analyzes Hispanic non-assimilation and its background, the “five century siesta” of Spanish civilization. He offers arguments relating to the immigration bill which the Senate is now debating, that apply to Latin Americans and Pakistan.

Badillo asserts that Mexicans haven’t been helped by U.S. government programs. The fundamental problem is education. Mexicans do not value it. They do not assimilate. The latest arrivals, Mexicans have strong family values and a strong work ethic but the highest drop-out rate from school of any ethnic group, the largest share of the poor, the highest rate of pregnancy of unmarried girls, and they are prone to gang-violence. Twentieth-century and earlier immigrant groups have assimilated into our culture. Mexicans do not and have not had experience in participatory democracy.

The huge increase in immigration being now contemplated will cost us heavily as we have to pay for their Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and welfare. An analysis by Heritage Foundation economist Robert E. Rector puts the annual cost of each Hispanic immigrant at $19,588 from the start, for a yearly total of $89 billion. They are costly, but if you had a choice, would you prefer Muslims?

Though Mexican immigrants fail to assimilate, Muslims go further. They refuse to assimilate. They pressure us and the West to adopt their customs and culture, including child marriage; lashings, stonings, and honor-killings of women; anti-Semitism; special rights for Muslim workers of American firms; terrorist-like behavior at airports and in airplanes. They have begun demanding Sharia law to substitute for existing civil law. Some look forward to world domination.

The Koran, bible of the Muslims, directs and dictates their attitudes and behavior in all spheres of life. The merest criticism of anything Muslim is a cause celebre frequently calling for death of the critic. They claim to be victims of discrimination, and many, whether out of political correctness or ideology or a concern for civil liberties, believe them, failing to recognize a fundamental problem.

The Koran calls for jihad against infidels who are unwilling to convert to Islam. It condemns to death Muslims who do not participate in jihad. Neutral Muslims are in danger of being radicalized. A recent Pew survey finds that a fourth of young Muslims approve of suicide bombing, and over half believes 9/ll was not committed by Muslims. We hear of rare outspoken critics like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Oriana Fallaci, willing to risk their lives in open opposition to the Islamists. They probably won’t believe that the three Fort Dix illegals planning to blow up a fuel pipeline destroying JFK Airport are Muslims.

Then there are anti-Islamists we never hear about, who openly protest. They believe the Islamists care more about ideology than their faith and see their methods as totalitarian. Telling about them is a documentary, Islam vs. Islamists, commissioned by the Public Broadcasting Corporation, which paid for it ($675) but will not permit it to be shown unless the story-line is changed to praise the Islamists. The documentary has been blacklisted, its makers believe. Those who sign up on its website---free the film.net---will see the documentary if that becomes possible.

Late news: On May 25, PBS announced it will permit Islam vs. Islamists to be shown in Oregon. What is wrong with them? This is the subject of C-SPAN’s Sunday night (June 3) Q-and-A program on Channel 18, an interview with Frank Gaffney who is associated with the documentary-makers. A transcript can be read on C-SPAN’s website, Q-and-A.org

Islamists are “more akin to a fanatical religious cult which recruits by actively brainwashing impressionable people with the propaganda of hatred and lies,” according to British journalist Melanie Phillips. A case appeared in the June 2 New York Times, “A Journey to, and From, the Heart of Radical Islam in Britain.” A young British Muslim who could not assimilate joined the terrorist organization, Hizb ut-Tahrir, which calls for a caliphate in Muslim countries. This organization is well known in Britain, where, however, the authorities have refused to outlaw it. It is radicalizing large numbers of young Muslims on campuses, in youth clubs and elsewhere, according to Phillips, whose book Londonistan and website are a treasure of information..

The British have had much more experience with Islamists than we but have not taken appropriate measures. Officials put Islamists’ rights first, even where the Islamists are foreign nationals.

The civil liberty lobby argues that taking strong measures will fuel murderous resentments. Islamists make the same argument. Only recently did a British official dare to take issue with Muslim women’s wearing headscarves when appearing in government offices. Last week in a headscarf case an American judge awarded the Muslim complainant $285,000 to compensate her for the anti-religious attack.

The British government has failed to stop the spread of Sharia law. British police refuse to enter a mosque. The government will not deport a terrorist to any country that does not measure up to British standards on human rights, so terrorists are not deported. They are confined to their homes from which they regularly escape.

Islamists constitute a threat greater than Great Britain has ever known, says Phillips. We must learn from their experience. Immigrants who do not assimilate are a danger to our culture and civilization.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Will The Fat Lady Please Sing

Taxpayers, their own belts tightened, may breathe a sigh of relief that the current legislative session is officially over. Of course, it’s never over until the fat lady sings, but this year, the summer of our discontent, we narrowly escaped some idiocies, mostly because Democrats, the dominant party in the legislature, ran out of time.

This was the year that progressives in the Democrat Party were poised to fleece the state’s millionaires, but there did not seem to be, even among the general voting public, the necessary support for their program.

The “millionaire’s tax,” embraced with wild enthusiasm some time ago by progressives such as mayor of New Haven John DeStefano, quickly trickled down to wage earners making about $250,000 a year.

Democrats argued that their re-vamped plan would effectively provide tax relief to middle class wage earners, and when Governor Rell, showing some spine at last, refused to sign the legislation, the big guns in the party were brought out to accused her of not caring for hard pressed middle class wage earners, one of the capital sins progressives usually assign to anyone who scrutinizes spending.

The notion that those whom fortune has favored ought to pay a greater burden of taxes is one of the brightest crayons in the progressive’s coloring box. Yet, no one other than progressive politicians appeared too excited about implementing the Democrat plan this year, and Democrats, under the leadership of President Pro Tem Don Williams in the senate and Speaker of the House Jim Amann, were not able to summon enough votes to overcome Rell’s veto.

Why was the plan, tailored to appeal especially to the middle class, such a dud?

It’s always possible that people in Connecticut are not amnesiacs. Who knows, some of them may recall that the federal income tax began as a one percent tax on millionaires. Over the years, that tax has metastasized so that Joe Lunch Pail now is delivering up to the federal government a large chunk of his paycheck that otherwise might be spent on a mortgage, college tuition payments or political contributions to the Democrat Party.

The Connecticut state income tax, a relatively new levy, is not, practically speaking, a flat tax. Some features in Connecticut’s tax policy make it slightly progressive. And, of course, on the distribution end, tax revenues are progressively spent in Connecticut: Hartford receives much more in state funds for education than, say, New Canaan.

When the income tax was instituted by then Governor Lowell Weicker and his Office of Policy Management chief Bill Cibes, budgets began increasing by leaps and bounds. The last non-income tax budget was about $8 billion, and this year’s budget – if the Democrat controlled legislature ever gets around to submitting one – is more than double that.

So then, state politicians, both Republican and Democrat, have been spending lots of money, and few people – other than the creative thinkers over at the Yankee Institute – have proposed serious measures to address the spending problem. Indeed, a web search on Connecticut’s major media sites for “spending cuts” yields a pitiful return, which means few politicians in the state have been thinking about spending in a creative way.

No so long ago, the chief political writer for a statewide paper said in one of her columns, “Connecticut does not have a spending problem; it has a revenue problem.” This thinking, very progressive, is mirrored in the state legislature. The state this year has no revenue problem: Its treasury is flush with money. But even when the surplus was approaching half a billion dollars, both Democrats and the governor proposed an increase in the state income tax.

The surplus having grown to embarrassing proportions, nearly a billion dollars, the governor, chastised by budget hawks in her own party, backed away from her plan to increase the income tax, but Democrats are still at the same old stand, peddling the same old nostrums.

There are signs -- most especially in the way white and blue collar workers have rejected in countless referendums over-sized municipal budgets -- that people are fed up with the obvious spending problem. If our politicians can’t cut taxes when the state is running a deficit, and they can’t cut taxes when the state is running a surplus, when may taxes be cut? The answer to that question, coming from the party of Ella Grasso and Bill O’Neill, both budget hawks, appears to be -- “Never.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Of Mice And Men

On one of his many campaign stops across the country, Senator John Kennedy, then running for president, found himself at the Alamo. It was very hot, very crowded, and Kennedy was anxious to be on time for his next campaign appearance. He was running late. So Kennedy corralled a guide and asked where the back door was.

“There are no back doors to the Alamo, Senator Kennedy,” he was told. “Only heroes.”

Speaker of the House James Amann beat a most unheroic retreat, one newspaper reported, “rather than have budget negotiations that included Republican leaders Rep. Lawrence Cafero and Sen. Louis DeLuca,” who has a bid of a problem involving his grand daughter’s husband and state prosecutors.

DeLuca recently pleaded guilty to a charge of “threatening conspiracy,” a misdemeanor, that arose from a meeting he had with James Galante in which DeLuca was told by Galante that he would help the senator settle a family problem.

The problem involved a granddaughter who, DeLuca thought, was being abused by her husband, Mark Collela. The husband denies the abuse occurred; DeLuca said he had taken to the police photographs that showed the abuse in an attempt to persuade them to intervene. He later recanted this statement; now he says he did not show the photographs to the police. The police chief says that DeLuca did not mention the physical abuse suffered by his daughter. According to DeLuca, the police refused his entreaties because the granddaughter would not issue a complaint. And so, out of desperation, DeLuca met with Mr. Galante, who promised the senator that he would pay Collela a visit. Returning to his office, Galante told his confederates that he wanted Collela “bitch slapped.” Thanks to a gloss provided by prosecutors, we now know that “bitch slapped” means that Galante was appointing an intervener to “do bodily harm” to his granddaughter’s husband. Galante is in the trash business. One report describes him as a “trash magnate.”

No harm was done to Collela, because the police dispatched an officer to keep watch over his house; the police presence, it is theorized, frightened away any potential slappers in the area.

The question hanging like a Damoclean sword over DeLuca is: Should he resign?

My own very short answer to the question is – yes. Like U.S. Rep. John Murtha before him, the senator did not report to the relevant authorities that he had been offered a bribe from an FBI agent pretending to be a Galante associate of questionable character. In Murtha’s case, the FBI agent was pretending to be the representative of a wealthy Arab who wanted to enter the United States and was willing to surrender half a million to Murtha to hasten the process.

Both DeLuca and Murtha refused the bribes, but neither reported the bribe attempt. This is wrong. Lawmakers should not be scofflaws.

There are two open questions in this sad tale: Why did prosecutors serve a warrant on DeLuca for a charge that had timed out? The statute of limitations on conspiracy threatening had elapsed when the warrant was served. And why didn’t federal prosecutors seek a warrant on DeLuca for making a false statement to federal agents in an interview in which he lied about the purpose of his meeting with Galante? That charge is a felony that carries a sentence of five years.

Did federal and state prosecutors bring the lesser charge because they wished to secure DeLuca’s co-operation in the far more important case against Galante, a defendant in a wide ranging anti-trust case filed against organized crime figures associated with the trash hauling business?

Amann was not fleeing DeLuca’s company because the Republican leader in the legislature had suddenly developed leprous sores. When Amann snuck out the back door of President Pro Tem Don William’s office, he was quitting the premises for reasons relating to what we may now laughingly call a budget. The revenue bill produced by Democrats who control both houses of the legislature, since it does not address spending, is half a budget.

The real budget was to be discussed by Amann, House Majority Leader Chris Donovan and state budget chief Robert Genuario. But when Amann heard that Rep. Lawrence Cafero and Sen. Louis C. DeLuca were to be in the room, he had one of his increasingly frequent meltdowns and quickly crept ou the back door -- one day before the end of the legislative session.

Some leaders in the Republican Party mildly opposed an earlier Rell plan to raise the income tax and Rell ditched the idea. At this point – with the clock running out and a real budget not yet in the sausage grinding machine – Amann probably figured that Cafero and DeLuca would not be soft touches, unlike the governor. Amann had come to negotiate, and negotiation, for a party that controls the state legislature with a veto proof majority, means dictating terms.

Monday, June 04, 2007

DeLuca Should Resign

Senate Republican leader Lou DeLuca should resign, sparing himself and the Republican Party unnecessary grief. Any politician who has been the subject of a bribe attempt and who has not reported the attempt to the proper authorities should resign his or her office.

That is true of DeLuca, and it is also true of the Democrat Party's earmark king John Murtha, still parceling out favors years after he had been swept up in the notorious ABSCAM case.

Both DeLuca and Murtha were targets of bribe attempts made by agents interested in gathering evidence against them in criminal probes. Both refused the bribes but did not report the bribe attempt.

Since DeLuca fessed up to prosecutors, suggestions have been made in some quarters that DeLuca himself is mob connected, and his claim that he brought pictures to police showing his grand daughter had been brutalized by an ex-con boyfriend also has been doubted.

The question whether DeLuca's grand daughter was indeed brutalized by an ex-con is of a different order. If DeLuca had lied about bringing pictures to police authorities -- he said he was told that the police could do nothing unless he victim reported the crime -- very likely he would have been charged with additional counts. So, it's reasonable to believe that DeLuca's account, at least in this respect, was true.

But turning for help to a man who possibly is mob connected is not only stupid -- though desperation does drive men to such extraordinary measures – it is criminal. On a human level, DeLuca’s behavior is understandable, but some penalty beyond acknowledgement and repentance is necessary in this case.

Men who make laws for others should not themselves violate laws with impunity.

Weicker Is Not A Fathead

Peter Urban over at the Connecticut Post has unearthed several comments on Connecticut politicians made by former President Ronald Reagan in a newly published book, “The Reagan Diaries.”

With breathtaking concision, Reagan remarks about then Senator Lowell Weicker:

“Tuesday, March 20, 1984

“We lost the school prayer amendment in the Senate. We had a majority but needed a 2/3 majority. The sad thing is about 15 Sens. were convinced the amendment was a mandate that schools would have to have prayer. Lowell Weicker was the head ringmaster against us as he is on everything we want. He's a pompous, no good, fathead.”


Reagan, of course, was a master of hyperbole, and the short, pithy diary form, comparable to a blog, is not exhaustive. So, perhaps Reagan may be forgiven for calling Weicker a “fathead.” Given his size, Weicker’s head was proportionally not that fat.