Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Faith of Rosa and the Faith of the Catholic Church

Do I have a right to make prudential judgments? Yes, I do that” -- Rosa DeLauro

US Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s faith, Catholicism, is brought to center stage in today’s Hartford Courant front page story, “Rosa’s Faith.”

Some Catholics may quarrel with some points in the story. Their quarrel may begin with its title, “Rosa’s Faith.”

In so far as Rosa’s faith differs from the faith of her church on matters of Christian doctrine, it is not, and cannot be, Catholic faith.

Prudence, valued by DeLauro, and conscience do not always march together hand in hand.

Catholics must take care to conform themselves to their faith; it cannot be the other way around. The Catholic struggle is to understand the faith and to conform one’s conscience, in one’s daily life, to Catholic teaching. When one trims the faith to make it fit one’s comfortable notions, one has stepped outside the Catholic universe. This temptation is one that Catholic politician are especially prone to. It must be an informed conscience as well as prudence that directs Catholic action. The problem with prudence is that, in a world hostile to the Catholic faith, the prudent thing to do, more often than not, is to follow in the rut of convenient circumstances. What is prudent for the politician, as has often been said, is to go along to get along, and prudence can lead the weak-minded, uninformed conscience far from the faith. Catholic politicians occupy a teaching function in the world, and as such they have an obligation to talk about their faith in a way that does not mislead other Catholics. They have an obligation, in other words, to be prudent in their speech and actions.

DeLauro fails this test very early on in the story.

Consider the following short paragraphs:

“Luisa DeLauro, Rosa's mother, was a devout Catholic, a deeply faithful woman who saw the church's mission as promoting social justice while adapting to the world around it. So she chose to have her daughter born at what became Grace-New Haven, now Yale-New Haven Hospital, not the Hospital of St. Raphael, which was run by the church.

“Rosa DeLauro is known today for her fast-talking, idea-a-second style, but when she recalls her early years, she speaks slowly, thoughtfully.

“’The Catholic hospital would have saved me and not my mother’ if her birth had been a risky one, she said. ‘Grace-New Haven would have tried to save both, but if they couldn't, they would have moved in the direction of my mother. My parents, practicing Catholics, exercised that judgment. They exercised prudential judgment, Catholics 64 years ago.’”

DeLauro seems to be laboring under the misapprehension that in cases in which difficult births may lead a doctor to choose whether to save the life of the fetus or the mother, a Catholic doctor must always choose to save the life of the fetus.

That is not true. DeLauro’s church teaches that the doctor must try to save both the mother and the fetus. If one or the other’s life cannot be saved, the doctor must then make a prudent medical decision which of the two it would be best to save. It may be the mother, or it may be the child. A predisposition to save the fetus does not accord with an informed Catholic conscience. A pre-decision in favor of the mother would expose the doctor to charges of feticide; a pre-decision in favor of the fetus would expose the doctor to charges of murder. The Catholic Church, through its cannon law, assigns religious penalties to both theologically criminal acts. In the case cited by DeLauro, the Catholic doctor must make a medically prudent decision based upon a conscience informed by the teaching of his church. If he does so, he has acted both prudently and conscientiously.

In cases of abortion – where the life of the mother is not in danger – Catholic doctors have a religious obligation to act in favor of life. That obligation is also morally binding on Catholic politicians. These obligations are congruent with the secular charge in the Hippocratic Oath that states that the first obligation of a doctor is “to do no harm.” Abortion becomes a theologically criminal act only when the abortion is “directly procured.” And, of course, religious sanctions are not applied to non-Catholic politicians.

Catholic politicians are not in danger of excommunication when they support, let’s say, partial birth abortions, because their support is not a direct procurement of an abortion. They may be denied communion, the Eucharist, because communion signifies communality in the faith of the church.

The various positions of DeLauro’s church on such matters as abortion, the obligations of Catholic doctors in cases of difficult births and the denial of communion as a penalty are available to anyone through Catholic encyclopedias. It would take about five minutes for DeLauro, or any reporter, to research these matters on the internet.

A note of caution is proper here: Since I am not a theologian –neither are DeLauro or David Lightman, the Hartford Courant reporter who wrote “Rosa’s Faith" -- I am here writing under correction. This means that some of the statements I have made here may not be theologically correct. If they are incorrect, I will correct them or publish corrections in this spot when they are successfully challenged.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Art Of The Smear

First, the anonymous author of “Courant Asks If Shays Is ‘Too Shaky To Serve,’” CaptCT, quotes from a comment made on the Courant site by the anonymous “Ex-cop.”

“Ex-cop,” a moniker that may lead the casual reader to assume that the author is, you know, an ex-cop, said on the Courant site, according to the anonymous CaptCT, “…if any of you displayed this type of juvenile behavior, you would have been stuffed and cuffed and placed on the Capitol police nut list.”

The behavior to which “Ex-cop” refers is noted in David Lightman’s story on Chris Shays: “To critics, the erstwhile gentle, patient Shays seems to have been replaced by someone who has trouble controlling his anger. In July, he confronted the Capitol officer and touched his name tag after getting angry - and spewing profanities - because constituents were left standing in the rain, unable to enter the building.”

Next, the anonymous MyLeftNutmeg author, CaptCT, characterizes the Lightman story as a “puff piece that attempts to defend the sanity of Chris Shays,” which seems to suggest strongly that Shays is not sane. “It's an appropriate topic,” the anonymous CaptCT continues, “ and Lightman deserves credit for bringing it up. However, he seems to lead readers to believe that Shays is probably as sound-minded as ever, and that comments suggesting otherwise are just Democratic dirty tricks.”

CaptCt apparently cannot rest comfortably in his insinuation that Shays is wacko if there is anyone within striking distance who may think otherwise. And that is how I entered the “discussion” at MyLeftNutmeg:

“And who does Lightman turn to for evidence?” asks the anonymous CaptCT, “ A psychologist, perhaps? No. He turns to a blogger, Don Pesci!


"’His recent actions have been no more erratic than his past actions,’ said Republican-leaning writer and blogger Donald Pesci in an e-mail. ‘It's just a smear,’ said Pesci of the charges against Shays. ‘Bloggers have raised smearing to a high art.’

“... said Pesci, the blogger.”

This is cute. Part of the art of the successful smear, in this particular case, is to suggest that Shays is not merely angry on occasion but insane, and to do so in such a way as to preserve deniability.

The charge is that Shays is nuts, and the anonymous CaptCT regards as puffery any news item that casts doubt on the matter.

Now, the difference between being nuts and engaging in occasional erratic, non-normative behavior is that nutty behavior is normative in the nut.

Let’s say , for example, that the anonymous CaptCT is a senator. His constituents have come to pay him a visit in Washington DC and they are caught in a rainstorm. The Capitol police do not notify Sen. CaptCT that his constituents are outside in the downpour, getting all wet. They do not permit the wet constituents take shelter while waiting for Sen. CaptCT, who gets angry and lets loose a sting of profanities at the Capitol police. Later he apologizes for his behavior.

The question arises: Is CaptCT nuts, or is he merely angry?

I would say, though I am not a psychologist, that CaptCT was angry, not nuts. If CaptCT berated Capitol police every time it rained, I might be disposed to believe that CaptCT was nuts, because then his erratic behavior would be repetitive and, for him, normative. However, before asserting – or strongly suggesting – in my own blog that CaptCT was nuts, I might want to check with a psychologist, rather than to rely upon an anonymous commentator who writes in a Courant commentary that CaptCT undoubtedly is wacko.

See, that’s the way we do here in Saneville.

The Vanguard Would Like To Speak With You

In a blog written some time ago last June, I stressed the importance of the Yankee Institute to Republican prospects in Connecticut.

The problem with Republican non-visionaries, I noted, is that they were content with second place status:

“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… 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.


The Yankee Institute is not only burbling with ideas; it is exploding with young new talent such as Sue Lavelli-Hozempa, the Yankee Institute’s Policy Advocate. From now through December, Lavelli-Hozempa, an articulate spokeswoman for winning Republican ideas, will be available to speak to Republican Town Committees. Meetings may be arranged by contacting Sue at: sue@yankeeinstitute.org

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Carter Does Quinnipiac

The present state of Iran – calamitous, full of barking imams and led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who recently, at the invitation of President of Columbia University Lee Bollinger, entertained the assembled students with his fictions – is former President Jimmy Carter’s present to the world.

Carter facilitated the fall of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, once friendly to the United States, now become the Great Satan among Middle Eastern men who like their women wrapped in burkas, like human hotdogs in wool buns.

Oriana Fallaci is the first and only woman journalist to pull off her chador while interviewing the Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, Iran’s answer to the Shah, throw it to the ground and declaim, “I will not be imprisoned.”

Jimmy Carter is no Oriana Fallaci.

After the fall of the Shah, Khomeini, the Lenin of the Iranian revolution, returned to Iran from France, where he had been in exile, and quickly took over. In this he was assisted by then President Carter’s yen for diplomatic solutions. Carter had hoped to strike an anti-communist alliance with the new incoming government. But shortly after the return of Khomeini, the moderate government of Mehdi Bazargan and his cabinet resigned under pressure just days after Iranian students stormed the American embassy and took 63 embassy personnel prisoner. Fifty two of the hostages remained captive for 444 interminable days, while American diplomats, taking a page from Sen. Chris Dodd’s current playbook, negotiated and dithered. Khomeini had already given his sanction to the hostage taking under the slogan “America can’t do a damned thing!” How was Carter to know that Khomeini was using the hostage crisis to consolidate his power at home and overthrow the last vestiges of a tolerant monarchical regime that Carter had helped to undermine?

Given his past record on Iran, everything Carter says about the country should be taken with a ton of salt.

At Quinnipiac college, where Carter received the school's Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the former president said the United States should open diplomatic relations with Iran and reassure the country’s leaders that Iran is not America’s next military target. "Diplomacy,” Carter said, “is the best way to deal with it.”

He should know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fallout

Rich Lowry of National Review examines U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s journey from Iran critic to Bush critic. Former Mayor of New York Ed Koch gets it right. Dana Milbank a columnist for the Washington Post thinks the invitation to Amadinijad has served a useful purpose: Now we know he’ a jerk. Arthur Herman of the New York Post disagrees. Over at Slate magazine, Annie Applebaum tells us that Amadinijad’s goal was “to undermine the American and Western democracy rhetoric that poses an ideological threat to the Iranian regime.” And, to judge from the home town press, he may have succeeded.

On Inviting Amadinijad To Columbia

Bill Buckley, whose conservativism no one will question, once successfully persuaded the Yale Union to rescind an invitation to speak that it had extended to American Communist Party Leader Gus Hall.

In an address before the Yale Union in 2006, about a half dozen years after Buckley had decided to give up public speaking, he recalled the moment to mind: “David Boren, the president of the PU, invited me to appear before you, and I accepted. A week later I saw in the Yale Daily News an article listing the speakers the PU had lined up for that fall. It included the General Secretary of the Communist party of the United States, Gus Hall. I sent a note to Mr. Boren and told him to drop my own name from the fall list, as I declined to appear on any roster of speakers that included an official of the Communist party. This was about the time Solzhenitsyn published his first book about life in the Gulag Archipelago, and I and a few others thought to seek an appropriate response to the conditions described, even in such attenuations as this little protest against the incorporation of a defender of the Gulag on a guest speakers' list.

“But, I said to President Boren in my letter, I would agree to appear provided the resolution of the house was altered to read, ‘Resolved, The Yale Political Union should rescind its invitation to Gus Hall to appear as guest speaker.’”


Buckley pressed his points before the Yale Union in October 1963. After having painted in some detail the historic horrors of Communism, Buckley concluded: “... some of you may feel the obligation to externalize your knowledge that you know he is here to defend the indefensible. You may jeer him, as he has been jeered by those who wrestle for their livelihoods with their hands, who especially despise him because he claims to speak for them (Buckley was here recalling the rigorous opposition of labor leaders to the communist enterprise); some of you may treat him with that terrible coldness that is the sign of the intellectual foreknowledge that you cannot, at your level of attainment, take seriously the man who speaks and works for a kingdom which it is the very purpose of your education to know to despise… Fight him, fight the tyrants everywhere, but do not ask them to your quarters if you cannot spit on them. To do the one is to ambush a human being as one might a rabid dog; to do the other is to ambush oneself, to force oneself, in disregard of those who have died trying to make the point, to break faith with humanity.”

Wise words those, but unheeded by Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, who invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak to students at the college.

Before Ahmadinejad’s appearance at Columbia, Bollinger gave out signals that although a) free speech and free inquiry compelled him to extend the invitation, b) he would ambush the speaker and pierce him with trenchant questions and remarks, which is simply a polite way – the president of Columbia is nothing if not polite – of spitting on his guest.

The city of New York’s reception of Ahmadinejad was more in line with Buckley’s apprehensions. Ahmadinejad thought to pay a visit to the footprint where once the Twin Towers had stood. They were brought to ruin, Bollinger will remember, by jihadists whose purposes Ahmadinejad has furthered by training and supplying terrorists. Without spitting upon Ahmadinejad, the city of New York denied Ahmadinejad access to the spot for “security reasons.”

Family members who lost loved ones during 9/11 will appreciate the Hemingwayesque understatement. There is really no need to mention that a breach in security might have entailed bodily harm to Ahmadinejad, when everyone knows he would not have been in danger of being struck by a falling debris from the World Trade towers in the footprint of which he wished to lay a wreath to commemorate… what exactly? Some supposed he wanted photographs to bring home as trophies, bruit testimony to his resolve to strike back at blinkered New Yorkers, like Bollinger, who had invited a fox into his henhouse.

Ahmadinejad having left New York for Iran, it is now possible to discuss the question of one-upmanship.

An Associated Press story covering the “tense showdown” is suitably cold, almost but not quite disdainful. Reporters are, after all, under an obligation to be “objective,” a journalistic term of art that is the equivalent of the more prosaic “polite.” If a resurrected Hitler or Stalin were to address the Columbia students, an AP report on the encounter the following day would refer to the two respectively and respectfully as the German or Soviet “leader.”

Ahmadinejad, the AP story said, “provoked derisive laughter by responding to a question about Iran's execution of homosexuals by saying: ‘In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country ... I don't know who's told you that we have this.’”

In fact, they jeered.

The Jews in the audience were more polite to the Holocaust denier than the gays, but both groups probably had, in their studies, reached a level of attainment that allowed them to properly appreciate Ahmadinejad’s overt and covert lies, and the gays in the audience could not restrain a natural response.

When Ahmadinejad, responding to Bollinger's opening remarks, characterized them as "an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here," the audience groaned inwardly.

But Ahmadinejad did not go to Columbia to convert the unconverted. None of the Jew in the audience could reasonably believe that Ahmadinejad did not, in his heart of hearts, wish to push Israel into the sea, and none of the gays there could reasonably believe that the Ahmadinejad regime could not persecute gays because none were to be found in Iran.

Ahmadinejad came to New York so that he could address true believers in the Arab world from the city that had been attacked twice by jihadists and show the folks back home that he could brave the quiet insults of the Great Satan in pursuit of the goals to which he and other jihadists in the Arab world have dedicated themselves.

What a pity Bollinger had not consulted Buckley -- or, indeed, former Mayor Koch of New York -- concerning his invitation to Ahmadinejad. He might have learned to feel, as Buckley certainly did decades earlier, what wretches under the thumb of jihadists feel. And then he could have exercised his freedom to refuse an invitation to speak to a notorious liar.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dodd, Slip Sliding Away

You won’t find this little ditty on the front page of the Hartford Courant – where it belongs: “Dodd's Surprise Vote On Iraq,” by David Lightman, the Courant’s chief Washington reporter, who previously has not had difficulty getting his stories on Chris Dodd featured on the front page.

This one appeared in a little visited section of the paper called “Caucus Politics,” an ashcan section of the Courant devoted to throw-away though piquant items.

The second paragraph is the bone crusher: “The Connecticut Democrat was one of only three Democratic senators to oppose a measure intended to bring most U.S. troops home from Iraq within nine months. The proposal failed on a 47-47 vote, 13 shy of what was needed to cut off debate.”

Dodd has continually been featured in the paper as opposing the Bush regime’s posture in the Middle East, and he has made appearances in all the usual anti-war watering holes: DailyKos, MoveOn.org, the Huffington Post.

His newly acquired anti-war friends in Connecticut, assuming they see the carefully concealed piece in the state’s newspaper of record, will not be pleased.

According to another brief but potentially incendiary piece in the Courant, also tucked away in nowheresville, Dodd has lately been sending smiley faces to his once and future friend Joe Lieberman, the arch fiend of the anti-war movement.

What the’hey is going on?

This is what Dodd told Lightman: “But, Dodd said, continuing bloodshed in Iraq and the Sept. 11 testimony of Gen. David H. Petraeus, when the general could not say whether the war has made the United States safer, have convinced the senator that stronger action is needed.”

The bill, Dodd is saying, accomplishes what Dodd has proposed in most of his speeches, as well as the statement he has make on anti-war blogs, but it is not perfect.

"’This bill will not stop this president from continuing to wage this war,’ Dodd said. ‘While a firm deadline is necessary, it is not sufficient without it also being enforceable through the power of the purse,’ Dodd said. And, he figured, ‘given this president's loyalty to his own failed policy, it is clear to me that anything short of a firm, enforceable deadline that forces his hand will only serve to perpetuate our involvement in this civil war.’

“As a result, Dodd said, ‘I will only vote to fully fund the complete redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.’”

The bill he voted down, Dodd is saying, is not perfect enough. Readers of the Courant will be waiting in vain for any one of their liberal commentators to say that Dodd here has, in the words of Courant columnist Bill Curry, made the good the enemy of the perfect.

Lightman apparently did not have the presence of mind to point out to Dodd that any bill that falls short of defunding the troops at war in Iraq will be similarly imperfect.

Dodd is playing a shameless game, but none in his worshipful audience have the courage to call him on it. Any bill that does not defund military enterprises is a sham bill. Congress in general – and Dodd in particular, as has often been said in this blog, can constitutionally end the war in Iraq tomorrow – by definancing it. But Dodd, who is simply and shamelessly playing politics with the war, hasn’t the stomach to do what is honorable and constitutionally proper.

All these bill are paper airplanes launched in the direction of an embattled president who has no intention of withdrawing troops from a hot war with terrorists.

There is only one way to end this war. Dodd can do it in a moment by presenting a bill that definances military operations in Iraq. He has not done it; he will not do it – because he is a cheap political hack. The Democrats who say they want to end the war do not want their fingerprints on a lost war. They want Bush to slit his own throat. It won't happen.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Expel DeLuca For Failing To Report A Bribe

Attorney Sandra Norman-Eady, testifying before a special legislative committee, said there were no clear rules or language in the cases she had examined that dictate how the committee, poised to decide whether Sen. Lou DeLuca should be expelled from the chamber, should decide the issue. "There's nothing definitive,” Norman-Eady said, “that says it has to be a felony conviction for expulsion.”

Having consulted relevant passages from James Madison in the Federalist Papers, Sen. Anthony Guglielmo told the committee that the constitutional founders set a pretty high standard for expulsion; they “were concerned about overturning the elections of duly elected officials."

Both Norman-Eady and Guglielmo are right. Very likely, legislators may expel members for cause – any cause. On the other hand, overturning elections is a serious business, and so the cause ought to be denial proof. Expulsion is particularly chancy when legislatures are dominated by a single party.

Precedence is established as cases come before legislatures and are determined. In its 400 year history, Connecticut has never expelled a member from its General Assembly. Therefore, the legislative committee now poised to decide whether DeLuca should be expelled has no precedent to guide it. Indeed, the legislature will shape the precedent in its decision. It will be providing to future legislatures a template the General Assembly may follow whenever it considers expelling members.

What would a denial-proof cause in the case under consideration look like?

Court convictions are denial proof. That is why many legislatures expel members only after they have been convicted of breaking laws.

While many charges have been made against DeLuca – especially by ethicists in the media – the senator has been convicted only of a misdemeanor, and that misdemeanor was non-prosecutable because the statute of limitation on the charge had run out. Some commentators have speculated that federal and state prosecutors chose not to prosecute DeLuca on more serious offenses because they wished to secure his aid in frying bigger fish.

When DeLuca was offered a bribe by an FBI agent disguised as a confederate of James Galante -- a Connecticut “trash magnate,” as he was called by one newspaper, who had been paying “tribute” to an organized crime boss under investigation by the FBI-- he refused the bribe but then did not report the bribe attempt to federal authorities. That is a felony and a prosecutable offense. Moreover, DeLuca’s failure to report the bride passes the deniability test, since recorded conversations between DeLuca and an FBI plant posing as a Galante operative demonstrate that a bribe was offered, refused and not reported to the relevant authorities.

Any decision to expel a member from the General Assembly should not be dependent on felony convictions. The legislature should itself determine causes for dismissal, and these causes should not depend upon actions taken by other agencies. The legislature should make it very clear that the General Assembly alone is authorized to determine when a member has so befouled his office that expulsion is unavoidable. FBI agents and prosecutors are not elected by the citizens of Connecticut to represent them; legislators are.

It is precisely because the legislature as a whole has been chosen by the state as a whole that it – and it alone -- should be the final authority in determining conditions of service. The legislature has both the power and the responsibility to set such terms.

Its power should not be diminished through precedence; in other words, the legislature’s ability to determine a cause for expulsion should not in the future be restricted because the legislature had in the past determined a specific cause for expulsion. The legislature must insist that it can expel members – for cause.

On the other hand, prudence dictates that the cause should not be a frivolous one. It is, and ought to be, a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry electorate.

Lou DeLuca has disgraced his office. He should be expelled.

Consulting prudence, rather than other lawyers, it may seem obvious to detached observers that DeLuca should be expelled for having neglected to report a bribe. There is no question that he was offered a bribe; there is no question that he did not report the offer. Detached observers may properly reason that DeLuca was not prosecuted on the charge, a felony, because prosecutors were anxious to secure his co-operation to support other cases that were more important to them.

No doubt, federal and state prosecutors, guided by necessity, failed to prosecute felonious activity. The legislature should not condone that activity by its inaction in a matter that concerns it. For this reason, the legislature should craft a rule making expulsion mandatory for members who have failed to report bribe attempts even if the threat of expulsion induces DeLuca to resign from office. Expulsion for having neglected to report a bribe may, it is hoped, have a salutary effect on other Connecticut officeholders.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ahmadinejad At Columbia

According to a statemnet by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is coming to a school near you.

Bollinger intends to prod his guest with some sharp questions involving:

·the Iranian President’s denial of the Holocaust;

·his public call for the destruction of the state of Israel;

·his reported support for international terrorism that targets innocent civilians and American troops;

·Iran's pursuit of nuclear ambitions in opposition to international sanction;

·his government's widely documented suppression of civil society and particularly of women's rights; and

·his government's imprisoning of journalists and scholars, including one of Columbia’s own alumni,
Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh.

Don't bet on Columbia to win any debates spun off from its president's prods.

I Am The Government, So There

This from Capitol Watch, a blog maintained by two Hartford Courant reporters: Attorney General Dick Blumenthal, who thinks he’s a legislature, believes that Accenture, the consulting company that advises Connecticut on its CORE-CT computer project, ought to be “censured” because it allowed “valuable secret data to be stolen… putting at risk state taxpayers, bank accounts, and purchasing cards. Accenture acted unconscionably and illegally.”

And last month the attorney general caught a cold, but he sued it and, like the Gaderine swine, it left him.

Morning After In Hell

Michael Totten reports from Anbar, where Hell has been suspended.

Every picture is worthy a thousand words.

A New York Yankee In Lester Maddox’s Court: Giuliani In The South

Several years ago my brother Jim, bruised by the treatment he had received at the hands of a Hartford Insurance Company CEO, journeyed to Columbia, South Carolina in search of a job.

Because he had been approaching retirement age, the company decided to toss Jim out of their plane with half a parachute. The Puff Adder CEO, having ruined the company, was trying to save some money, if not his skin, by reclaiming benefits awarded to his workers by earlier more successful CEOs; this involved firing (downsizing) people, usually males of a certain age, company men now close to retirement.

Over the years – Jim is now safely retired and no longer within reach of lying, rapscallions who would not know how to run a lemonade stand, let also a multi-billion dollar business -- my brother writes me from Eden taunting e-mails like this: “Y’all, I see your property taxes are climbing up and up there. Our guys have just submitted a legislative plan to get rid of them.”

And now, Jim tells me, quintessential New Yorker Rudy Giuliani has visited my brother’s adopted state, made some speeches there and emerged from the ordeal unscathed.

Very likely the best piece written on Giuliani so far, “Mayberry Man,” by Peter Boyer in the New Yorker, explores the question “Is what New York never liked about Rudy Giuliani exactly what the heartland loves?”

The short answer to the question is: Yes.

In South Carolina, the land of Benjamin R. (Pitchfork Ben) Tillman, the four-term United States senator who led the movement that disenfranchised black voters in 1895 and instituted Jim Crow, Giuliani is met by a reporter who asks him, “Mayor, you talk about being a straight shooter. Is this position you have on abortion something that’s going to shoot a hole in a key Republican plank?”

Giuliani’s contortionist position on abortion has gotten him in trouble with conservatives both north and south of the Mason Dixon line. By way of answer, Giuliani produces a political parable.

While roaming New York streets searching for votes as a young uncouth politician with Louis Lefkowitz, the longest-serving attorney general in New York history, Giuliani met a New Yorker who was adamantly opposed to a position he had taken on “some position or other.” Giuliani attempted a conversion, “And I spent twenty minutes trying to convince him.” He felt the pressure of Lefkowitz’s arm around his shoulder, gently leading him on. “Hey, kid,” Lefkowitz said, “you’re not gonna get this guy’s vote.”

Boyer remarks, “Giuliani chuckled at his story. The consensus seemed validated—this was a man wholly out of place in the Republican South. ‘He’s toast,’ the Clemson University political scientist Dave Woodard told the Associated Press that day.”

Think so, eh?

On his way to Magnolia’s in Charleston, where Giuliani hopes to haul in some cash from capitalists who know how to do well what bumbling CEOs in the North used to do effortlessly, he finds himself caught in traffic, disembarks and begins to walk towards Magnolia’s. He is immediately besieged by passers-by.

Boyer paints the scene: “’Give her a run for her money, Mayor!’ one woman screamed, feeling no need to mention Hillary Clinton by name. A tourist carriage rolled by, and the driver shouted, ‘Hey, Mayor! I’ve got three votes for you right here!’ Giuliani—wearing his signature dark suit, white dress shirt, and tie—signed autographs, posed for pictures, and even knelt on the sidewalk to be photographed with a dog. ‘That’s our next President, right there,’ said Chris Workman, a Myrtle Beach firefighter and former McCain supporter, who had chatted with Giuliani with a dip of snuff bulging from his lip.”

Waiting for Giuliani at Magnolia’s in Charleston is his South Carolina campaign chairman Barry Wynn, whose uncle, Boyer reminds us, “was Lester Maddox, the axe-handle-wielding Atlanta segregationist who became governor of Georgia.”

Wynn is asked what effect the Christian Right will have on Giuliani’s bid for the presidency. “Good question,” Wynn answers, “I’ve already talked to a lot of people I consider very hard-core social conservatives, part of the religious right, who are supporting Rudy Giuliani. I think this idea that someone just blows a whistle and all of a sudden people go heading off in one direction—it doesn’t happen that way. It’s a little bit of a myth that’s created by the press.”

Inconvenient myths don’t survive very long in the New Old South, where – like it or not – things have changed.

What is it that chaw chewing Southerners with the improbable name of “Workman” like about Giuliani?

Couple of things.

Like the New Old South, Giuliani has adjusted his posture over the years. Believe it or not, he was not always comfortable in his own skin. Before he civilized the Big Apple, Giuliani stiffened under the klieg lights; he was wary; his delivery was frozen; he was more like Hillary Clinton than the gay and carefree, chat’em up New Yorker he has now become. Success does strange things to a man, and there is no question that – by Southern standards – Giuliani has been one of the most successful New York mayors since the “Little Flower,” Fiorello Enrico LaGuardia, bloomed in the city. The South would have been enchanted by LaGuardia also.

Think not?

Think again. LaGuardia was born to an Italian lapsed Catholic father and an Italian mother of Jewish linage. He was raised in an Episcopalian household and spend much of his childhood in Prescott, Arizona.

Both LaGuardia and Giuliani were crime busters. LaGuardia particularly loathed gangsters because they brought shame on the Italian community. His first order of business on becoming mayor was to pick up the telephone and order the city’s chief of police to arrest mob boss Lucky Luciano. In a radio address, he told New Yorkers, “Let’s drive the bums out of town.” And, in 1934, sledge hammer in hand, he publicly destroyed thousands of Frank Costello’s slot machines, dumping them off a barge while news photographer’s recorded the event for posterity.

The face Giuliani now presents to the world, the all-important political persona, has deepened under the influence of Elliot Cuker, the magician who was able to summon the real Giuliani from the depths of a persona that had served Giuliani well as a tough-guy prosecutor. It was not a question so much of putting lipstick on the pig, of out rigging Giuliani with a reinvented personality. Most politicians have multiple personas sloshing around in their psyches. Character more often involves a harmonization of parts. Giuliani never had a problem with self direction; there was always a there there. The great danger politicians face is that the various roles they must play occasionally overcome their inner director. Under Cuker’s tutoring, Giuliani’s inner director took control of the play.

So, what does the South like in Giuliani?

He’s a little battered but tough, and a tough world needs tough guys to batter it into shape. “If men were angels, no government would be unnecessary,” said James Madison. But men are not angels, and government is necessary, and Giuliani, when all is said and done, was a good governor in a city from which inner direction had fled. The South and the North and the nation could use a bit of that.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tough Towns Make Tough Guys

Very likely the fullest if not the best write up on Rudy Giuliani so far.

Bridgeport Pols Kiss And Do Not Tell

In Bridgeport, it’s all over but for the kissing.

Challenges to Bill Finch, who won the Bridgeport mayoralty primary against corruption crusader state Rep. Chris Caruso, are fast disappearing.

Former Mayor John M. Fabrizi, who indicated he might enter the mayoralty race as a third party candidate should Caruso win the primary, has agreed to settle comfortably into obscurity now that Finch has prevailed over Caruso. And pictures printed in The Connecticut Post show House Speaker James Amann sharing the dais with Caruso after Casuso had been dished by Finch; Caruso, as usual, looks earnestly out at the audience, while Amann stands to his left wearing a Mona Lisa smile. Another photo shows Finch, his left arm wrapped around his wife, punching the air in a victory salute, while Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams smiles and applauds in the background.

It seems odd to find Amann in Caruso’s corner and Williams in Finch’s. Amann was widely criticized by the left wing of his party for having supported renegade Democrat Joe Lieberman, who challenged party endorsed senatorial candidate Ned Lamont in a general election in which Lieberman, with strong support from Republicans, dished Lamont, who has since popped up here and there, in and out of state, supporting left leaning Democrats. Amann is generally regarded by moderates in his party as a fiscal conservative. If pictures really are worth a thousand words, what do these two shots mean?

There are small clouds hovering over the joy fest. During the Bridgeport primary, Caruso, as expected, let loose upon Finch his anti-corruption blunderbuss; Finch, ever the gentleman, did not return fire when the two engaged in debate but is still picking buckshot out of his hide. While it seems unlikely that Caruso would challenge Finch in a general election, he has alerted the authorities that party corruption may have leached into the primary.

“Caruso is considering challenging the outcome in court,” according to the Connecticut Post, which notes that “baring any unforeseen developments like a court order overturning the primary results,” the general election will be crowded with independent and third-party candidates.

Hartford presents a similar tableau, according to the Waterbury Republican American: There, Mayor Eddie Perez, tainted by charges of corruption, won a decisive primary victory, but some of his challengers are considering running against Perez in the general election. In both Bridgeport and Hartford, it is widely supposed that federal investigators are foraging in the corruption debris, and no one, this side of J. Edgar Hoover’s shade, knows what they might already have found.

In the meantime, citizens of Hartford and Bridgeport may not even know the names of the Republican candidates vying for mayor -- so weak is the Republican Party in Connecticut’s cities.

In days gone by, when the parties had funds enough to support candidates, some party money might have been diverted to clean Republican candidates in Bridgeport and Hartford. The money and party support might not have made a difference in cities where Democrats far outnumber Republicans, but an attempt certainly would have been made by Republicans to push forward a plan that would prevent the criminalization of the cities, a dumping ground for ex-cons newly out and on their way back to prison. And some effort would have been make to hold Democrats in the city responsible for the collapse of public education.

That is no longer the case because the influence exerted by parties has been considerably reduced by reforms that prevent funds from flowing anonymously into party coffers. While parties are poor, incumbent politicians have become rich, both in money and influence. Also, gerrymandering has carved out spheres of influence that assign cities to Democrats.

Hartford and Bridgeport await a Republican candidate who can marshal meager forces to wage a forceful campaign against the predations of city politicians. But the smiles and nods and genuflections of Amann and Williams suggests that that day is not yet upon us.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rose Pesci 1912-2007


On Sept 11, my mother died at Hartford Hospital – of complications that arose from a broken hip. We will all someday die of complications; life is a very complex business. She died, at age 95, full of years rich in memory and love. I was asked to do the eulogy. The Mass of Christian Burial was said by Fr. Richard Bollea – Ann’s son, you know – in the small church she attended throughout her life, St. Mary’s in Windsor Locks. I was fortunate to have given the eulogy in this same church for two of my uncles and my father. Rose was the last of the First Family of Mandirola’s, the matriarch of the family. In beginning the eulogy, I chose a passage from Blaise Pascal, because Pascal is the poet of dying among Christian saints and theologians. His own life was brilliant. He was a precocious child and one of the foremost mathematicians of his day before, after having had a profoundly affecting religious experience involving his near death, he retreated to a simple, austere life, giving up – with one rare exception – his mathematical pursuits. He started the first bus line in Paris, invented the calculator (and calculus), wrote the finest piece of French prose of the day, The Provincial Letters, an attack on Jesuits who, Pascal thought, in their theology were denying the freedom of God and God’s grace. And then he died, at age 39, of complications.


“In the end, they throw a little dirt on you and everyone walks away. But there is One who does not walk away.”

That was said by Blaise Pascal – a 17th century mathematician and physicist – about the God of Promises, Who is faithful to those who love Him.

May the God of Promises, faithful to His word, now receive the irreducible soul of my mother, Rose Pesci.

In life, you know, Mom was a little like that – irreducible, and as full of stories as any library.

One of the great joys of my life for the past few years was to sit at her kitchen table – the Grand Central Station of our family, in the golden days of our youth, an endless procession of uncles, aunts, friends of the family, enemies of the family, superintendents of the town dump my father had brought home to ply with pastries and coffee. The dump guy provided some shutters my father put on the house and Dad wanted to repay him with a donut.

There, at the kitchen table, Mom would work her magic on the past – which is always a sore burden unless it has been molded by the fingers of the imagination.

If any of us have any aptitude in the direction of story telling, I like to think it comes from the Mandirola side of the family. Talents are like seeds in a garden; if they are in the ground and you nurture them, they grow. Somehow, I have the fancy that my mother was the planter of these seeds; my father was the nurturer. She sowed, he reaped. My brother and sister – and anyone else here who knew my mother and father well – will know what I mean. My father kept my mother on a good track. My mother kept my father from giving away all his money to the poor.

Of the two, my mother was, as she would say, more of a realist. “What is is,” was pretty much her philosophy. If my father was the endless blue sky, tapering off to infinity, my mother was the solid, rich earth, both in her humor and in her prevision of a spectral future, which sometimes frightened her. My father was never frightened of any man, or of any of the nightmares that sometimes haunted my mother. Both of them loved each other and us. My father especially, openhearted and always ready for a new adventure, was the most courageous, hopeful man I ever knew.

And together, they complimented each other.

With a little prodding, anyone could get my mother to spill the beans – about anything. We all plundered with reckless abandon the rich store of her memory – which remained undiminished, the last time I saw her.

At that table, Rose would remember her grand daughter Lisa, as a little girl, rummaging with her in the attic, searching for prom dresses; her grandson David eating grilled cheese sandwiches with her after he had moved the lawn and the discussions they had; babysitting for Jake, her great grandson, in Stamford while her grandson Jay went to school and his wife Madelyn tended the store; the time she spent in teaching my brother’s wife Madelyn how to sew so she could make the vestments her brother wore when he said his first mass as a priest. An early conquest of hers was getting my cousin, Billy Mandirola, to eat his vegetables. This was considered something of a minor miracle at the time.

We all have our memories of her. But Billy will tell you that she was at the center of what we have become, the last Mandirola of the first family. None of us will forget that she was, as my sister says, a woman who loved her family and who enjoyed the simple pleasures of life. Her’s was a life lived for others.

In the last few years, over that kitchen table, I got my mother to explore that moment in her life when love drew her into my father’s heart. He loved her right from the beginning. When he thought it was proper, he asked her to marry him. But she kept putting him off, and putting him off. Finally, armed with a calendar, he went to confront her where she was working as a nanny for the Fuller family.

“Rose,” he said, “here is a calendar. I want you to pick a day when we are to be married. If you do not do this, I will not ask you again.”

She hesitated. “What is it? What’s the matter?”

She had made a promise to her dying mother to take care of her brother Charlie, and she did not want to burden my father.

“That’s it? Charlie will come and live with us.”

“You say that now,” my mother said.

But he was not saying it now. He was making her a sacred promise. These were people who either kept silent or kept their words. Every word was a commitment, a promise.

And because of the promises they kept, because of who they were and the way they were – Look around you; see what they have given to us all, to me, to my brother and sister and to their children. Look at us all here – her children, and her children’s children: These are fruits of love that have grown from promises kept.

When my father died, the rest of us tried to help fill the gap that opened when he left us. But there are some holes in the heart that only infinite love can fill.

When Rose took her last breath – I believe this -- her heart was healed. Today, we commit my mother to the rich earth and throw ourselves on the promises of the God of promises, the same faithful and good Father – like my own father -- about whom Pascal said, “In the end, they throw a little dirt on you, and everyone walks away. But there is One who does not walk away.”

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rep. Chris Shays And The Struggle To Remain Relevant

U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, according to a lede on a popular Connecticut political blog site, “claims it will be distracting to both run for reelection in his district and not know whether or not he will win the chairmanship. I understand that this is a power play on his part, but it also contributes to the perception that he’s unstable.”

The blogger, charitably, does not tell us whether the word “unstable” refers to Shays’ precarious political position or to his state of mind. On the left side of the political barricades, it is not uncommon for disputants to refer to politicians who support President Bush’s maligned “war on terror” as having lost their marbles.

Shays thinks it will be terribly tedious to remain in the U.S. House of Representatives if he is not selected for the top GOP spot on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. And so, he has now given notice to national Republican Party power brokers that he just might give up his seat in the House to a deserving Democrat if they set this particular laurel on a Republican head other than his own.

Well sure, this is something of a power play, a perennial inside the beltway game. But Shays may be negotiating with folk who already have written off the Northeast.

Republicans like to quote Barry Goldwater to the effect that if you lop off California and New England, festering pustules of liberalism and rustbelt “moderate” Republicans, you have a pretty good country.

The aged specter of the “Rockefeller Republican,” fiscally conservative but socially liberal, is wearing thin; Lowell Weicker, who considered himself a Jacob Javitts Republican, may have been the last of the breed. Shays, in the view of many of the New Republicans, is Lowell Weicker off steroids. No one nationally will be crying crocodile tears should some fiscally conservative but socially liberal Democrat -- assuming there is such a creature in Connecticut -- knock Shays off. Indeed, in the last elections, all the “Rockefeller Republicans” in the Northeast went down to dusty defeat, with the exception of Shays.

The obits on decimated GOP moderates brought a tear to the eye of some Republican grey heads, but activists working the edges of the party were dry-eyed. Many of the political stories and commentaries one read in the major media were thin analytical washes that concealed what many political activists, both on the right and left, view as the real correlation of forces in the nation -- even in that part of the country that Goldwater wanted to clip off and send on its merry way.

The new left in Connecticut is hot on John DeStefano, New Haven’s answer to Hugo Chavez, and Ned Lamont, who defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in a primary but then lost the general election to the embattled senator, always stubborn on the point of delivering up the Middle East to barbaric jihadists. The Connecticut Republican Party, dominated for many years by middling Republicans, has a thin back bench, but the younger leadership of the party appears anxious to unhobble itself. In both parties, there is considerable ferment beneath a surface rarely explored by the conventional media.

In the blog sites, this ferment bubbles up like hot lava. In the conventional media, the potentially cataclysmic movements of the political tectonic plates is barely noticed at all.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dodd’s Hour

Believe it or not, there are Democrats whose most ardent hope is that Bush will come to his senses and end the war in Iraq before the next presidential election. One can almost hear the sweat pouring off their foreheads splashing on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

That hope, somewhat unrealistic considering Bush’s adamantine refusal to withdraw the troops, is in its death throws after General David Petraeus’ report to congress. The Petraeus report did not go down well with the ardent anti-war crowd huddled in the bunkers over at MoveOn.org, who accused the general of “Betrayal (rhymes, sort of, with Petraeus) or the anti-war harridans over at DailyKos, Impeach Bush Central.

Our own Sen. Chris Dodd is one of the principal leaders of the Movement To Get Bush To Put His Head In A Noose And Pull The Trap Door.

It’s not working. The man is stubborn and has no yen for self destruction. The Democrat, anti-war take on Bush is that he bumbled into the presidency fraudulently (the environmentally friendly Al Gore should be mowing the lawn at the White House) and once there, after Osama binLaden (still on the loose, by the way) had made a smoking ruin of the Twin Towers building in New York, Bush bumbled momentarily into glory, much to former Bill Clinton’s chagrin.

In those brief days, before the Democrat will to respond authoritatively to the terrorists had collapsed, Clinton was heard to mumble that he had not had a chance to respond vigorously to terrorists pretensions before his time in office had run out. Clinton’s wife Hillary is now running for president. Bill wanted to be Bush – really he did – but time ran out. At the time, Republicans were saying that Hillary’s husband had missed his chance after terrorist had first struck the Twin Towers building. He was content, they said, to lob missiles into inoffensive ibuprofen factory in Iraq.

All this time, Dodd, always a fervent anti-war senator, was playing his cards close to his chest. He voted for congressional augmentations of war powers following 9/11. Dodd lives, with his second wife and two new bambinos in East Haddam, about an hour’s drive from New York; the plume of smoke from the burning Twin Tower buildings could be seen from portions of Connecticut that were but a stone’s throw, so to speak, from the pillow where Dodd laid his head at night, sleeping the sleep of the just.

Well, in politics, things change – thank God.

Bush went on bumbling. The “Shock And Awe” portion of the war to end terror was a crashing success. But the seeds of defeat are sown in such successes. The Iraqi army – taken down a peg or two after U.S. troops swept through Baghdad – disappeared into the human brush, as did any evidence of weapons of mass destruction. There are anti-war Democrats, and some pro-war Republicans, who continue to think that the WMD’s were a dessert mirage thrown up by Saddam Hussein to fend off possible attacks from Iran. That mirage was, at the time, convincing enough to fool the heirs and assigns of the Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, Hans Blick, the United Nations Sherlock Holmes then looking for WMD in Iraq, and even presidential aspirants Dodd and Hillary.

Dodd, who sometimes appears to be running for president of DailyKos and MoveOn.org, has apologized profusely for his earlier support authorizing military intervention; Hillary – sweating out the possibility that Bush might plop the Iraq war on her presidential plate – has been a little more circumspect than Dodd. When First Husband Bill re-enters his former presidential pad, he just might be given the opportunity, through his wife, to recover some of his now faded glory as an assertive commander-in-chief.

Dodd doesn’t care about these things, because he has not been able to garner more than 1% in recent presidential polls. No one on the left has been anxious to suggest that Dodd's low poll ratings are indicative; the politician most closely associated with the Murtha plan to immediately withdraw troops has not been able to break out of his 1% poll rating cell. What does this mean?

Privately, Dodd’s life has been at least as successful as Bush’s Shock And Awe campaign. Like his counterpart in Massachussetts, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Dodd has become a permanent fixture in congress. His second marriage has been fruitful. Dodd is now the father of two delightful children, both girls. His only fear is that, should one of the girls decide to become a lesbian, her choice may be obstructed by fervent fundamentalists on the right who want to keep women naked and in the kitchen. Otherwise, the skies over East Haddam are blue, the pillow is soft, and over in New York architects are laying plans to fill in the dreadful footprint made by jihadists in the city. No plumes of smoke are visible on the horizon.

God is good, God is great.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Lieberman Paradigm

It’s almost too funny for words. In the bad old days, Lieberman, defeated in a primary by the party endorsed candidate, Ned Lamont, went on to engage Lamont in a general election. Prior to that election, Lieberman was raked over the coals by the Lamontistas for having traduced his party. They were hurling some pretty nasty thunderbolts at Lieberman during the dark days of his party defection.

Fast forward: Chris Caruso – who has managed during his career in politics to define himself as the anti-machine candidate – decides to contest the machine (read: party) candidate in a primary mayoralty contest in Bridgeport. He loses in what has been called a squeaker of a race.

He has said he will not contest the primary, unlike Lieberman. But his supporters, the same crew that dumped on Lieberman, have fastened on Caruso as the more left-leaning, less corrupt candidate. And they are urging him to run against the Democrat Party nominee and primary winner, Bill Finch, who is “corrupt” only by association: Finch is a member in good standing of the Bridgeport Party “machine,” which is corrupt; therefore, he is corrupt.

One anti-Lieberman, pro-Caruso enthusiast puts it this way: “With so much crap going on, and such a few % of Bridgeport actually voting, I think Caruso has a duty to the people of the Park City to give them a choice come November. The 4200 people who voted for Finch represent but the fringe, Dem crony element within Bridgeport. Honest to God. Finch won with less than 52% of the vote. And less than 1 in 14 Bridgeport voters actually voted…”

The moral of the story — if there can be any morals in the politics of the left -- the politics of personal destruction, as Hilary Clinton might put it – is: Where there is a will, there is a way. And one should not permit one’s conscientious scruples to overcome one’s political ambitions.

Wonderful!

Caruso himself has not yet said he would contest the primary in a general election. But Caruso is contesting the primary, citing polling irregularities and threatening court action. "It is almost as if we are operating in a third world country," Caruso said in an interview following the primary.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Courting History

God being unavailable – see atheist writers Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins on this – Americans naturally are anxious to bring History to their side. In the post-Hegelian world, History has been deified, has a voice and speaks to us.

“This, damn it all,” a blogger wrote following General David Petraeus’ report to Congress, “actually is Bush’s fault for going to war with Iraq in the first place when there was no legitimate reason to do so. That, I guarantee you, will be history’s judgment.”

These lines appeared in defense of Sen. Chris Dodd’s view of the Middle East and History. After General Petraeus’ appearance before congress, Dodd said in one of his press releases: “The fact that there are questions about General Petraeus’ report is not surprising given that it was brought to you by this White House. In contrast, independent report after report indicates that the whack-a-mole strategy has made this the bloodiest summer of the war. And by the General’s admission, the so-called surge has not achieved its goal of political progress. But even more fundamentally, debating the merits of a tactic when the strategy that underlies it is failed is nothing more than a distraction from the work that needs to be done to bring this war to a close.”

We want to be careful in our judgments concerning what history will say, because history has a way of introducing into the stream of time elements we could not have known when we make our predictions about it.

This is what can safely be said about the about the Middle East, and History’s shaping hand: That area of the world is roiling cauldron of competing interests. It is a safe prediction – though, of course, one never knows – that those who have been defeated in military engagements lose their bid to control the future. That is the way it has always been throughout history: Who wins the war wins the future. This means that the future of the Middle East, upon an American retreat, will be determined, as it has been in all wars, by the victors.

Germany, after World War II, lost control of its future. Some Americans, following the war, thought this was a good thing. Similarly, Japan, following the war, lost control of its future. The spoils of war generally do not go to the losers.

Someone should ask Sen. Dodd who he thinks the spoils of war will go to, upon an American military defeat in The Middle East; it is axiomatic, if we judge by history, that a withdrawal in a hot war is an admission of defeat.

There are two reasonable possibilities: After an American withdrawal, the fate of the entire Middle East will be determined by the jihadists, who have hijacked states to do their bidding; or, at some future date, America, perhaps allied with a cowardly and shaken Europe, will re-enter the Middle East militarily to win control of the future of that area of the world that has been justly called the “basin of Western civilization.” The decisions that are now being made – this is a prediction, always subject the vagaries of history – will determine one of those two courses.

Even Rolling Stone magazine – hardly a hotbed of Bushite miscalculation – thought that the attack against General Petraseus , by MoveOn.org and other anti-war fanatics, was disgraceful, and they had the courage to say so. Commenting on a MoveOn.org add, editor Tim Dickens wrote:


“’General Betray Us’?

“For God’s sake, it’s not even clever. A bad pun driving a despicable message.

“Listen: General Petraeus may well be carrying water for the Bush administration — I’ll reserve judgment until his microphone starts working. And let me be clear: He is every bit a target of legitimate criticism.

“But to impugn the patriotism of a man who is doing what the commander in chief has asked him to do — try to win the war in Iraq — is as despicable as Dick Cheney questioning the patriotism of those Americans who want us to redeploy from Iraq.

“MoveOn is practicing a mirror image of Sean Hannity politics. And it deserves all the criticism it is reaping this morning.”

The attack on General Petraeus, now joined by Dodd, who appears to be running as president of DailyKos and MoveOn.org, is political posturing at its worst. The General’s address to congress was not vetted by the White House. It was the same account Petraeus gave to the troops in the field he was asking to die for him, and generals, under those circumstances, do not lie.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Problem With Atheists

The problem with modern atheism is that it has no positive content. It’s the phallus of Old Greek comedy applied to religious precepts. Christopher Hitchens, author of “God Is Not Great,” and Richard Dawkins are very good at swinging that thing, usually at literalist faiths. Dawkins argues that theology is vacuous; he means non-materialistic. Hitchens is likeable; even those who heartily disagree with his point of view appreciate his fidelity to the Western Enlightenment period, which was also, at least in its later stages, profoundly anti-religious, if not atheistic. But the wit and charm of Hitchens’ atheism changes nothing. There is and can be no “there” there in atheism, and one grows suspicious of Dawkin’s apologetic note when he softly criticizes the ravages of Lenin and Stalin -- who were simply atheistic banditos with guns.

There is something wrong with the analytical acuity of critics who are overly severe with Mother Teresa but go soft and squishy on Stalin and Hitler, both of whom were practical atheists. Perhaps the real lesson to be learned from Torquemada and Stalin is that both were willing to use the organized power of their day to suppress their innocent enemies; unoffending Jews in the case of Torquemada, theists in the case of Stalin.

In the 15th century, the organized power was the church, in the 20th the Leviathan atheistic state. Jihadist Islam, directed today by its own Torquemada, binLadin and his followers, is pre-Medieval, but how many of us can recall within our own memories a bishop of the Catholic Church applying a thumb screw to a heretic? It is idle to pretend that churches have not disavowed and condemned such primitive methods of leading people to the faith. Some things change; some things have changed. But its critics are loathe to apply their evolutionary doctrine to theology. It seems anti-historical – certainly it is not enlightening -- to pretend that the practices of the Christian church, if not its foundational doctrines, have evolved.

There is no question that the best argument against totalitarian faith today is Osama binLadin. If binLadin did not exist – to vary a phrase from Dostoyevsky – Hitchens and Dawkins would have been forced to invent him. As it is, they both have set up straw dummies to despoil faiths that have contributed a good deal to make humankind more humane.

The kind of historical debate occassioned by Hitchens and Dawkins should continue until the churches have been purified, through renunciation, of their past sins and cruelties. But atheistic critics do not by their just criticism add a jot to their own atheism, which remains empty of content and therefore below criticism.

The beef against Hitchens is not that he is wrong when he condemns the excesses of Christian faith. Those excesses are there in the historical record; they are undeniable. The church must repent of them. But the notion that atheism, unobstructed by blind faith, will in the future lead to a humanistic utopia is a child’s dream, haunted by the specters of Stalin and the petite Stalins that followed him, both in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. Fidel Castro has not been friendly to churches; utopia still eludes Cuba. It is a child’s fancy to conflate the Roman Church of Torquemada’s day with any present Christian church in the Western world.

And in the wide world, the opposite is more likely true. In places where jihadists and radical atheists dominate and have seized political power, the Christian church is a church of sorrow, suffering and persecution, as it was in the Soviet Union during the time of Lenin and Stalin.

In 15th century Spain, Hitchens would have had little difficulty making important distinctions between Jews forced to convert to the Christian faith – who were never-the-less persecuted -- and their persecutors. It is fairly easy to see that Juce Franco was not Torquemada. The differences between the two were written in fire on the flesh of the tortured Jews. But avenging atheism forces atheists to throw Christians and non-Muslims suppressed by jihadists and the jihadists themselves into the same rhetorical pot. Not only is this intellectually dishonest; it is a ridiculous posture for a post-Enlightenment scholar to assume.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Spooks Among Us

In the spook business, what comes in is every bit as important – sometimes more so – than what goes out. Spies, since the Washington administration, have always shaped political behavior. One of the reasons Washington was able to prevail over the British was that New York spy John Honeyman was a loyal and accomplished spook. The danger is that the bad spies (theirs) are able to manipulate the good spies(ours) if one of the good guys, for whatever reason, jumps the fence and joins the bad guys.

In the spy business, you are what you know. And what you know, and don’t know, is furnished by intelligence gatherers that are, or are not, trustworthy.

Got that?

You may think you’ve got it. Perhaps you have been attentive over the years to the thrilling spy novels of the post Cold War period. But you have not got it unless you have read “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA,” by Tim Weiner, a real-world account of how the Soviets for eight years manipulated U.S. intelligence -- surely an oxymoron.

For eight years, from 1986 to 1994, every U.S. agent in the CIA and the FBI was compromised because, Aldrich Ames, chief of counterintelligence for the CIA’s Soviet/East Europe division, possibly the most destructive spy in U.S. history, had supplied the Soviets with covert U.S. intelligence. The Soviets, in possession of strategic intelligence, were therefore able to make accommodations in their own strategy and flood the incoming intelligence pipeline with disinformation, in effect controlling the entire U.S. agent network in the Soviet Union and Russia. Moreover, the CIA, throughout the administrations of Reagan, Bush and Clinton, knew that their intelligence pipeline had been hopelessly corrupted and they told neither presidents nor their secretaries of state nor any other administrative official in the executive department. They did not even spill the beans to the New York Times or the Washington Post or the Rockville Reminder.

Why?

Because keeping secrets is what spies do best. And had this secret gotten out, heads would have been struck from necks.

Weiner, a reporter for The New York Times who has written on American intelligence for twenty years and won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on secret national security programs, is no stranger to spookdom. “Legacy of Ashes” relies on first hand sources, named and cited, such as Fred Hitz, the CIA’s inspector General who investigated the Aldrich Ames leak.

The corrupted “blue border” reports, Weiner writes in his book, “were signed by the director of central intelligence and sent to the director of central intelligence, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of State. ‘That’s what intelligence communities exist to do,’ Hitz said. The senior CIA officers responsible for these reports had for eight years known that some of their sources were controlled by Russian intelligence. The agency gave the White House information manipulated by Moscow – and deliberately concealed the fact. To reveal that it has been delivering misinformation and disinformation would have been too embarrassing. Ninety-five of these tainted reports warped American perceptions of the major military and political developments in Moscow… distorted America’s ability to understand what was going on in Moscow… The most senior CIA official responsible for these reports insisted – as Ames had done – that he knew best. He knew what was real and what was not. The fact that the reporting had come from agents of deception meant nothing. ‘He made that decision himself,’ Hitz said.”

The CIA, Weiner tells us, began as a spy agency; its mandate was to spy on the Soviets. But the agency’s mandate mutated soon after it was formed, and president after president used the agency for covert action. A 1945 report commissioned by Franklin Roosevelt, released only in the 1990’s, discloses that British intelligence regarded American spies as “putty in their hands”; that Chiang Kai-shek easily manipulated the OSS; that Japanese embassy personnel in Lisbon discovered OSS plans to steal its code books and changed the codes, resulting, according to the report “in a complete blackout of vital military information… The almost hopeless compromise of OSS personnel makes their use as a secret intelligence agency in the postwar world inconceivable.”

The OSS was the spy nursery from which the founders of the CIA were drawn, and the transplantation did not improve the product.

There are two serious problems with secret intelligence. The first – that the mission of the CIA changed from intelligence gathering to covert action -- forms the thesis of “Legacy of Ashes.” If covert action now is driving the CIA, then intelligence gathering will be subordinated to the agency’s prime directive. That subordination necessarily affects the character and reliability of the intelligence.

The second problem, discussed most ably by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in his testimony before congress in a Committee on Governmental Affairs hearing on Government secrecy in 1997, is more subtle. “Secrecy,” Moynihan said, “is the ultimate mode of regulation; the citizen does not even know that he or she is being regulated! It is a parallel regulatory regime with a far greater potential for damage if it malfunctions.” The custodian of the secrets has a power over other governmental agencies that is determinative, and the custodian alone can vouch for the truthfulness of the intelligence.

“Legacy of Ashes” is a brief history of sixty years of – mostly – failure in the U.S. intelligence community, which ought to remind us that not only pride but stupidity, in the precise sense of the word, goeth before a fall.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hillary’s Choice

Maybe corruption is like a disease. If you are afflicted with it enough in small doses, you develop immunity from it. So it seems with the Clinton’s. According to reports from Canada, Bill still has an eye out for worshipful women who sort of resemble a kinder and gentler Hillary; what is it with Bill and blondes? He is at least as horney as JFK, probably more so, though it is not recorded that JFK ever assaulted or groped recent widows in the White House kitchen. Bill is now being celebrated for a book he wrote “On Giving,” although there is nothing in his charity reports while president to suggest that he personally was over fond of it. And then, there’s Larry Craig, heavily criticized by those on the left who think the Republicans love to fall asleep with corruption on the pillow next to them, quickly jettisoned by Republicans, and now the subject of revisionist thinking by Democrats and their cheerleaders in the press who would like to use his corpse in a campaign against moralistic Republicans. Only in America. What is the chance that Bill, on a book tour peddling “On Giving,” will be accosted by a reporter and asked to dilate on the moral delinquency of Craig? Plus, Hillary’s bagman, the mysterious Mr. Hsu (e'scuse me!) went over the wall… Plus she’s being sued by Peter Paul… Peter Paul who, you may ask? Never mind. Go back to sleep. Amazing.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Norman Hsu Goes Poof

Once and future fugitive Norman Hsu (e’scuse me) has disappeared, leaving behind about $2 million in bond money. No matter, Hillary Clinton is worth it.

McGreevey Syndrome

New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, the nation's first openly gay governor, lately retired from office, has risen to the defense of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, whose on again off again resignation from office, after he had got caught in a compromising position in a men’s stall at an airport, appears to be off again.

McGreevey’s trials and tribulations began for him when, as a child, he recognized he was different from other kids. His Catholic upbringing was of no help at all: “No relief was forthcoming from my then-Catholic faith, which said the practice of homosexuality was a ‘mortal sin’ subject to damnation.”

He carefully weighed his options: “… my only options were suicide, something for which I could never find the courage, or 'closeting' my homosexuality. You decide: I'll change it, I'll fight it, I'll control it, but, simply put, I'll never accept it. You then attempt to place ‘it’ in a metaphorical closet, keep it separate from open daily life and indulge it only in dark, secret places.”

McGreevey’s decision to suppress behavior that was objectionable to his church and his society, caused shame: “The danger of this decision is the implicit shame it carries. I was convinced I was worth less than my straight peers. I was at best inauthentic, and the longer I went without amending that dishonesty, the more ashamed I felt. And the third shame, for me, was my behavior.”

But his shame was overcome by a stronger emotion: “From the time in high school when I made up my mind to behave in public as though I were straight, I nonetheless carried on sexually with men.”

Living with shame causes psychic upheavals: “How do you live with this shame? How do you accommodate your own disappointments, your own revulsion with whom you have become? You do it by splitting in two. You rescue part of yourself, the half that stands for tradition, values and America, the part that looks like the family you came from, and you walk away from the other half the way you would abandon something spoiled, something disgusting.”

Later, he ran for politics and found that being in the closet was not a hindrance: “But being in the closet uniquely assisted me in politics. From my first run for the state legislature until my election as governor, all too often I was not leading but following my best guess at public opinion. Despite being a moderately liberal governor, my stance on marriage was: "between a man and a woman." The position, in my mind, created a tension with the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community that affirmed my bona fides as a "straight." Only after the crisis that resulted in my resignation, when public opinion no longer mattered, did I realize the importance and legitimacy of same-sex marriage.”

In the midst of a divorce proceeding and while studying theology in New York, McGreevey has offered a prayer for U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, who recently resigned (sort of) from the senate: “I can only pray that Larry Craig and his loving family come to peace with his truth, whatever that may be. To those who judge him harshly, I ask that they fill their hearts with compassion and equanimity. The senator did not have a lover on the payroll, as I did; nor did he engage in sexual relations for money or use his office for unethical professional or personal gain.

“Is it possible that we hold him to a different standard because a same-sex entanglement is involved? If being gay is, as I believe, a natural gift of the creator, what choice does a gay person have in being gay? If we condemn sin in an equal manner, so be it. But what if our condemnation tells to members of the next generation that they are to be shamed, repudiated and vilified inequitably for being gay?”

Actually, these last few questions – following McGreevey’ romp through pop psychology – are pertinent and well worth serious reflection, as are other questions he has not addressed in his op-ed piece, which was written for the Washington Post and reprinted in the Hartford Courant. The questions not addressed by McGreevey concern the utility of shame and whether it is advisable for any church to forbid certain behaviors if the consequent shame involved leads to further ungovernable behavior.

For instance, prohibitions on adultery may lead to shame on the part of an adulterer. Should churches strike prohibitions on adultery, or other behavior they wish to discourage, because the prohibitions cause shame, leading to further adulterous behavior on the part of the adulterer? Indeed, does the effect of shame, genuinely felt, on what churches regard as sinners lead to more sinful behavior? McGreevy argues in his op-ed piece, “Trials Of A Double Life,” that he is gay by design, not choice. Why should he be punished for what the Finger of God has written into his nature?

Was it shame that, like Virgil leading Dante through the circles of Hell, put McGreevey on a path leading to public ridicule and personal destruction? Is it not possible that it was an ungovernable and destructive lust that led McGreevey down this path? Other men, gay like him, have not been led similarly by the nose in the McGreevey way. There are plenty of honorable, non-promiscuous gays among us. There are also plenty of dishonorable, promiscuous heterosexuals among us, proof, if any were needed that Eros is no respecter of gender.

Nature is shot through with human frailty. Shame is the red flag that’s raised when what the Greeks called hubris causes our actions to overflow the bounds conscience has set for us. Some men acknowledge that frailty and adjust their behavior accordingly; others make excuses for themselves and enroll in theology classes at General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

Wisdom of a different and more useful kind concerning McGreevey Syndrome is dispensed by Christopher Hitchens, a gay, anti-religious, pro-Enlightenment writer over at Slate, an on-line magazine.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Orwell And The Truth

The bad news, recently unearthed, is that MI5, the British spook agency, was spying on George Orwell for two decades. The author of “1984”, which featured Big Brother, was a target of British intelligence from 1929 to 1950.

The good news is that the Brits were intelligent enough to regard Orwell, as an Associated Press story out of London puts it, “benignly.”

Orwell in England and Albert Camus in France were fierce, uncompromising anti-totalitarians. Neither would have been comfortable entertaining Stalin at tea. George Bernard Shaw, on the other hand, was at ease petting Stalin, but there is no indication in the AP story that he was similarly spied upon.

Britain’s Big Brother, it appears, was captivated by Orwell’s bohemian life style, And on the basis of wrongheaded observations by a lackadaisical snoop, it was supposed that Orwell might be a communist. He did, after all, involve himself in the Spanish Civil War. And his manner of thinking – always outside the box – and dress may have indicated to spies who did not know him a dangerous tendency towards subversion.

To complicate matters further, it recently has been discovered that Orwell closest friend during this period, George Kopp, the commander of the Marxist militia that drew Orwell to Spain, was a double agent who worked both sides of the aisle. Kopp, who had saved Orwell’s life after he was shot in the throat during a fight with Franco’s fascists, reported – mostly for money – to both Britain’s MI5 and the Nazi Vichy regime in France.

To complicate matters even further, Kopp reported to Anthony Blunt at MI5. Blunt was himself a notorious double agent, Stalin’s man in England.

Orwell did not live in uninteresting times. Pulled here and there by various loyalties, Orwell dedicated himself uncompromisingly to the truth and, whipped on all sides by conflicting ideologies, he never betrayed it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The So Called Gay Debate

Now that former Sen. Larry Craig's political life has been terminated, public opinion in some quarters appears to be shifting in his favor.

Colin McEnroe, a Hartford Courant columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, appears to be having second thoughts.

‘The Larry Craig deathwatch is ticking down to its final tock as I write this, and -- now that we've all had our hearty laugh over his plight -- I have to ask what the man did that warrants expulsion from the Senate. Is he gay? I think yes. Has he been a bit of a phony? I think yes again, but if you're going to set the bar there, we have a lot of senate cleaning to do.”

And Courant columnist Bill Curry wants to wring some valuable lessons from Craig’s ordeal, principal among them that Craig is gay; that his gaiety was suppressed as a child, not an unusual occurrence in homophobic America; that the humiliation of being gay in straight Idaho caused psychological perturbations; wherefore Craig, in serious denial, wandered into a men’s bathroom in an airport, propositioned somebody who was a cop and got arrested.

“There's no telling what epiphanies Craig's having,” Curry wrote in his Sunday Courant column, “but in his brief public remarks you may hear a heightened sensitivity to the right to privacy and a very new awareness of the rights of the accused. At home, he's no doubt learning that it is indeed love that makes a family.”

Realizing that this is a sensitive subject, let me tread carefully here. There is enough rhetorical hokum in that one paragraph to choke a shark. It leaps off the assumption that Craig is gay. But this is by no means certain. At least one gay “expert” – on the Nancy Grace program, of all places – speculated that Craig may have been bi-sexual, which is not precisely the same thing as being gay.

Surely Curry cannot believe that the right to privacy, a manufactured “right” that some judges higher than a kite on interpretive improvisation found in the “aura” of rights surrounding the constitution, obliges us to fire the cop who arrested Craig for lewd behavior -- on the grounds that the right to privacy should protect us from peeping Tom's with badges.

Love certainly is important in a marriage, but love, as any Greek philosopher might have told Curry, is not Eros. Craig didn’t love the stranger in the next bathroom stall with whom he sought to make contact, and he especially did not love him after he was arrested. Craig was hankering after a groping session in a bathroom stall.

What’s love got to do with it?

Whatever… as the kids say.

But we can learn valuable lessons from Craig’s plucked and stripped carcass, Curry thinks. Though Craig is an unsympathetic figure, we can use the pain felt by his family to transport us to a higher truth.

Craig, it turns out, was the victim of a “syndrome” that affects many people. According to the examples provided by Curry, Republicans are especially hard hit by it. Curry provides some lurid examples of Republican politicians who, while denouncing homosexuality and stirring up the public against gays, were themselves hypocritical gays.

“The right," Curry concludes, “tries to infect children with homophobia." If there were no homophobia, the syndrome, the downward spiral that has caused such grief to Craig’s family, would be defused. No homophobia, no random sex in public bathrooms.

One wonders how Curry would account for heterosexual random sex in public places: bathrooms, libraries, cars behind tobacco sheds, and once, if we are to believe my highly eroticized cousin, on the roof of a college planetarium.

Craig’s great failing is not hypocrisy, according to Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe, but rather inconsistency and infidelity.

Curry reminds us that the culture is moving on: “Many Democrats espouse a cultural politics rooted in the right to privacy and dedicated to mutual acceptance.” And he implores Republican presidential candidates to move with the times and accept… what? Erotic free love?

What, exactly, are we being asked to accept? Should there be no public sanctions for the kinds of behaviors that a society wishes to condemn? No public or legal sanctions for, lets say, adultery? Craig may or may not be gay. But there is little question that he was flirting with adultery in that bathroom.

Curry and McEnroe may be pleasantly surprised to hear the Catholic Church views adultery under the rubric of "injustice," and it heartily condemns it along with other injustices.

Mrs. Matos McGreevey among countless other victims of Eros, have felt the weight of that injustice. Is it not possible that what we have here is a confusion centering around the age old difference between fidelity in marriage, which makes a family, and Eros run amuck, which destroys families? It’s getting to the point in our public discourse where people will not be able intelligently to discuss these subjects without being unjustly accused of homophobia. In the future, such prohibitions can only have deleterious effects on scholars, philosophers, theologians and political commentators, impelling them to seek erotic gratification in public bathrooms.

Could we stop and think for a moment, maybe make a few important distinctions between Eroticism and Love? Love may make a family – or not -- but adultry in public bathrooms destroys families. Just ask Matos McGreevey. Would it not be more pleasant to live in a society in which public sympathy flowed away from Mr. Craig towards Mrs. Craig – even if Mr. Craig should turn out to be gay rather than a suicidal homoeroticist?

Is it even possible to discuss such questions honestly without having thrown at your head the dirty wash water of homophobia?

Against hope, one hopes so.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Politics In The Capitol City

Some of Mayor Eddie Perez’s former supporters, notably among them Geraldine Sullivan, now running the mayoralty campaign of Democrat challenger Charles Mathews, have fallen away.

Concerning Perez’s clumsy movements in the China shop of Hartford Democratic politics, Sullivan says, “This is a reign of terror.”

Before Hartford moved from a city manager to a strong mayor form of government, the mayor, little more than a political decoration, was less terrible to factious Democrats who ran the city without ever having had to assume responsibility for their astounding stupidities.

The new strong mayor came on like gangbusters. By flexing a little political muscle, he got himself appointed chairman of the Hartford board of education. His influence was apparent in the appointments of the police chief, city council, school superintendent and housing authority. Along the way, ever in a rush, Perez stepped on some corns, kicked some shins and broke some eggs. But you can’t make an omelet, as Walter Duranty used to say, without breaking some eggs.

Before Perez, political power was shared among a crowd of people all of whom luxuriated in their irresponsibility. Perez, at least, has accepted responsibility for his triumphs and failures, and his political opponents just now are determined to hold him responsible for his shortcomings. Politics, among other things, involves stealing glory and assigning blame. Success is everyone’s child; failure is an orphan.

Perez’s most abject failure involves his inattentiveness to a sea change in the business of state politics. The change actually began with the diminishment of political parties and the rise of the politically moderate, unattached, independent politician.

Perez, when he assumed the responsibilities of his office, certainly seemed to be a party unto himself, and in this regard he does not differ substantially from other powerful Connecticut politicians who are independent from their parties.

It was Perez’s misfortune that he entered the political ring when the old-boys rules were still being methodically observed by old guard Hartford politicians like Abraham Giles. In the process of building a party around himself, Perez sought to scratch Giles back in the hope that Giles, grateful for the mayor’s generosity in throwing some political chits his way, would in turn scratch Perez’s back come election time and round up some votes for the mayor.

Of course, it didn’t – and couldn’t – work out that way. In the new politics, back scratching is looked down upon as an antique form of political corruption, and endorsements are less important than moral unction. The good you have done will lie buried with your bones if you slip up; the evil you have done will live long after you have been buried in mountains of hypercritical political stories and commentary. In the new politics, one hand does not wash the other, and good works are not redemptive.

If it were possible for Perez to reform public education to a point where a sizable majority of Hartford students graduated from high school literate and mathematically proficient and non-pregnant, years after he had shucked off his mortal coil, people would still be talking about his biscuit colored bathroom tiles. Better an incompetent saint than a competent and repentant sinner: That’s the new governing rule, and politicians had better get used to it.

It will be objected that the either/or here proposed is a false paradigm. What Hartford needs, it will be said, is a saintly, competent administrator.

It would be a miracle to find such a paragon of virtue at the helm in Hartford. In moving away from political parties towards a politics of interests, we are not moving in the direction of virtue. We are gravitating towards a Darwinian universe in which organized interests prevail over the public interest. Parties that have dominated politics in urban centers for long periods of time also move in that direction. But the answer to strong political parties cannot be a strong and unchallenged single party state or city. It is often said that two heads are better than one, even when the heads but each other. For the same reason, two parties are better than one, because they check and correct each other.

Hartford is suffering from all the disabilities of a one party town. Its single party is nothing more than anarchy of disparate interests. The ambitions of its politicians are unchecked by a healthy and real rivalry. It has no goals because it has no end in view, other than to rule. It is a government of the governors, by the governors and, indisputably, for the governors. And Mayor Perez’s biscuit colored tiles, his overtures to politically connected ward healers, and his chummy relationship with contractors doing business with the city are the least of its problems.

A Word Of Advice To Mrs. Craig, From One Who's Been There

"It's very painful to know that you've been betrayed by the person you love, the person you trust. And it's equally painful when you have the rest of the world, who doesn't know what you're feeling, what your relationship is like, criticizing you for taking certain actions" -- Matos McGreevey

Matos McGreevey, the wife of former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, the nation's first openly gay governor, knows whereof she speaks.

She was hit in the face with her husband’s infidelities three years ago.

"I had 48 hours, 72 hours to try to make sense of what he was telling me," she said in a recent interview. Stunned by quickly unfolding events and standing at her husband’s side when he announced before TV cameras that he was "a gay American" and would resign, McGreevey has made a full recovery.

She is in the process of kicking her treacherous and smooth as butter husband to the curb. Locked in a contentious divorce proceeding with the former governor, McGreevey said the relationship expired once her husband came out. She said she is moving on, even dating, but has lasting issues trusting others.

The ex-governor also has opened a new page in his life. According to a “myway” report, “Jim McGreevey, 50, will begin full-time studies at General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in Manhattan, seminary spokesman Bruce Parker said Friday.”

In his studies, Jim may want to steer clear of Leviticus.