Friday, November 30, 2007

Chicken Little Finally Admits The Sky Is Not Falling.

Rep. John Murtha today said he saw signs of military progress during a brief trip to Iraq last week, but he warned that Iraqis need to play a larger role in providing their own security and the Bush administration still must develop an exit strategy.

"I think the 'surge' is working," the Democrat said in a videoconference from his Johnstown office, describing the president's decision to commit more than 20,000 additional combat troops this year. But the Iraqis "have got to take care of themselves."

Violence has dropped significantly in recent months, but Mr. Murtha said he was most encouraged by changes in the once-volatile Anbar province, where locals have started working closely with U.S. forces to isolate insurgents linked to Al Qaeda.

He said Iraqis need to duplicate that success at the national level, but the central government in Baghdad is "dysfunctional."

Mr. Murtha's four day-trip took him to a Thanksgiving dinner with troops in Kuwait last Thursday, and he then made stops in Iraq, Turkey and Belgium.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dodd’s Little Ease: It's The War Stupid

Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Dodd is a liberal; or, as liberals like to style themselves these days, a progressive. So, naturally, conservatives in and out of the senate tend to rejoice at his absence from the chamber, increased these last few months by his quixotic pursuit of the presidency.

Dodd’s ratio of missed votes compare favorably to other Democrat presidential wannabes. Hillary Clinton has missed 18% of senate votes because she is able to avail herself of private aircraft to speed her back and forth from the capital; Barack Obama missed 34%; Joe Biden missed 35% and Dodd 34%.

According to Project Vote Smart, an organization that tracks votes important to Dodd’s clamorous progressive supporters on various blog sites, the senator missed 75% of “key votes” last month and 100% by the end of November.

Now comes a page one story in the Hartford Courant written by Rinker Buck, the paper’s designated funeral director, to drive the last few nails into Dodd’s coffin.

Buck points to a Quinnipiac University poll that shows 68% of registered Democrats want Dodd to run up the white flag and bring himself home; his private quest for the presidency, if polls are any measure, is not going as well as General David Petraeus’ war in Iraq.

Mat Stoller, a progressive at OpenlyLeft.com, part of the vast left wing conspiracy to breathe life into Dodd’s presidential corpse, thinks that the senator “has been the most effective senator because he’s using his senate work to drive the presidential debate.”

It’s hard to know where to begin in deconstructing this cloying progressive fantasy.

There is no presidential debate, nor will there be one until the Democrat presidential candidate selected by a party convention – almost certainly not Dodd – meets the yet to be decided Republican presidential candidate on the field of battle. Primary “debates” are little more than glorified press conferences; which, come to think of it, may be why the mainstream media covers these Democrat and Republican sleep sessions in such soporific detail.

Stoller's line of argument leads not to the White House, but to the senate. Archimedes once said, "Give me a place outside the world where I could set my fulcrum, and I can move the world." If Dodd, like Archimedes, can move the political universe by setting the point of his fulcrum in the senate, he should, like the aging and increasingly irrelevant Sen. Edward Kennedy, remain there.


Dodd’s chances of rising to the top of the greasy presidential pole are remote. That being the case, Dodd may not find himself debating the Republican presidential designate at all.

Tom Swan, the director of Connecticut’s Citizen Action Group, another hollering from the roof top progressive organization and Ned Lamont’s former campaign chairman, has detected a merging “of Dodd's priorities as a presidential candidate and a Senate committee chairman. If Dodd can pass in the senate reform legislation that, in Buck’s words, “outlaw the kind of predatory lending that led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis,” he may be able to claim with some justice on the campaign trail that “he's a leader who can work with Republicans and fashion successful legislation.”

Fashioning compromises is part of the normal business of a senator who is expected to move legislation in the chamber. This should not be too difficult a task in the case of sub-prime lending reform since Republicans, despite intimations to the contrary in news stories, do not want to let incompetent or crooked lenders force people from their homes.


The major disagreement between Dodd and the Republicans concerns their approach to jihadism. Events in the Middle East have a direction and momentum of their own. If the thus far winning strategy of General David Petraeus falls apart like a house of cards, Dodd’s attempt to remove American forces from the area by March will seem statesmanlike. If the military success continues and a fugitive peace settles upon the Mideast, Dodd's success in passing sub-prime lending reform will not convince the American public that he has not done all in his power to obstruct the war.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

That makes one vote: Brother Tom on Christy

"Tom Dodd, who is currently touring Iowa on behalf of his brother, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, was a different type of visitor from what the students had previously encountered. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay from 1997 to 2001 and then as ambassador to Costa Rica until 2005. Last year he authored a third book, "Tiburcio Carias: Portrait of a Honduran Political Leader," about the longest-serving head of the Honduran government. In addition, Tom Dodd serves as adjunct professor in the school of foreign service at Georgetown University and has previously taught at the Escuela de Estudios Superiores in Mexico.

"The former ambassador discussed how the life of the younger brother he refers to as "Christy" and his own have often been on parallel tracks, despite a 10-year age difference.

"'He went into a life of politics and got interested in Latin America as a Peace Corps volunteer,' Dodd said. 'I went into academic life. But we interact a lot because of his work with the Foreign Relations Committee. I've watched him build many bridges between United States and Latin America leaders. I also watched him build bridges -- such as trade agreements -- among and between Latin American leaders.'"

Brother Christy has yet to comment expansively on Hugo Chavez, who is now positioning himself as the new Fidel Castro in Latin America after the old turd kicks the bucket

Sunday, November 25, 2007

O’Neill RIP

Former Governor Bill O’Neill passing is a sad day for the state, though few will remember why.

O’Neill was an honorable man and a watchful governor, an oddity in modern politics. He was ushered into office at the death of former Governor Ella Grasso. Personality wise, she left him with large shoes to fill. Grasso was brash, bold, commanding, and those who knew her said that on occasion she had a salty tongue. O’Neill had a quiet presence and dignity that suited the state well.

His political acumen was vastly underestimated by almost everyone. People somehow mistook his gentility for weakness; but as a former House majority leader, Democrat chairman and lieutenant governor, O’Neill was a formidable politician.

Both Democrat governors were by temperament and disposition fiscal hawks, which is probably why they were followed by a succession of Republican governors disposed to give away the state’s silver plate to all comers. Former Gov. Lowell Weicker, now officially a resident of Virginia, will best be known in the state as the father of Connecticut burgeoning income tax. When Weicker pulled up his Connecticut roots and left the state, some of his critics suggested that he was doing so to protect his vast wealth from the income tax wolf he had posted at the state’s door. Former Gov. John Rowland served some time in prison because he had misused his office. The termination of O’Neill’s career marked the end of an era in Connecticut politics. In the major cover story in the Harford Courant following his death, O’Neill is referred to as “the conservative O’Neill,” very likely the last of the breed in Democratic politics. He continually thwarted the liberals in his own party and effortlessly defeated the Republicans, who caught up with him in 1990, when he was more of less run out of office by an income tax hungry liberal press.

O’Neill was married to the same woman for 45 years; that in itself is an accomplishment in an era when successful politicians are much in the habit of ditching their first wives, the mules of their careers, and re-marrying or reinventing themselves.

Gov. Jodi Rell said of O’Neill, “No description of him would be complete without the words ‘decency’ and ‘fairness,’ and he understood that government must take its lead from the people it serves.” True and fair enough. Even truer still is former state chairman of the Democrat Party John Droney’s characterization of O’Neill: “He was, in my view, the Harry Truman of Connecticut.” All analogies are imperfect, but O’Neill was plainspoken, a tough as nails politician who disposed of vast gentlemanly reserves, a masterful political organizer, and someone who, like Truman, would rather be right than president.

At the end of his career, O’Neill was forced out of office by liberals who had prospered in the shade of his branches. The Courant story does not report how fierce its editorial board was in support of the income tax. Not only the editorial board but Charlie Morse, the paper’s chief political columnist at the time, singed O’Neill with charges that he was relying upon a decrepit tax structure, rife with niggling additional sin taxes, to balance the state’s budget. Morse later went to work for the Weicker administration.

O’Neill simply kissed the liberals off and declined to run again for office. Presently, in the post income tax era, we have returned to the status quo ante of pre-income tax days. Budget deficits, to be sure, are gone, replaced by a succession of surpluses hoarded by grasping legislators. The budget doubled within the administrations of two post-income tax Republican governors. And the niggling taxes are all back.

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

O’Neill must have been amused watching all this folderol from his easy chair. God bless him; he is gone, and we will not see his like in the Democrat Party again.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What Makes Chris Dodd Run?

Concerning the strike authorized by CBS News writers this week, four questions quickly rise to the surface:

1) Will the Democrat candidates for president support the strike by refusing to cross picket lines? Yes. Who among the candidates has lent their support to the unionists? Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd and John Edwards all have pledged their support, though it may be a measure of the esteem in which Connecticut’s own Dodd is held that the story from Politico, “CBS strike could put debate in disarray,” mentions Dodd only fleetingly. Dodd has yet to rise much above 3% in most polls, and his coverage in the national media is correspondingly slight.

2) Will the strike and the reluctance of leading Democrats to cross picket lines affect the debates? Yes. Clinton, the front runner, has issued a statement that said, “It is my hope that both sides will reach an agreement that results in a secure contract for the workers at CBS News, but let me be clear: I will honor the picket line if the workers at CBS News decide to strike.”

3) Does anyone care about the debates? Sort of. Mediafolk care about them, but, the general public is snoozing through the so called “debates,” which seem to them more like glorified news conferences than anything they remember from their American History classes.

4) Qui bono? Who will the strike help most? Hillary. Her pants were put on fire during the last debate, and she could use a “time out.”

5 Will anything help Dodd? No. People in Connecticut still can’t figure out why he entered the race in the first place.

Speculation, though, is rife:

a) Dodd may have wanted to boost sales for his book, a compilation of letters his father wrote his mother while facilitating the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.

b) Dodd may be restless; after 23 years in the senate, one tens to develop rust spots.

c) Dodd is running for president of DailyKos and MoveOn.org. The senator remembers – mostly because he participated in the process – how his fellow Democrat sidekick Sen. Joe Lieberman was roughly treated by homegrown Kossack wannabes, and he is determined not to suffer the same humiliation. Dodd's defection from his long time friendship with the senator after the Connecticut primary, which Lieberman lost to liberal heart-throb Ned Lamont, was like watching Don Quixote stand by as bandits kicked the tar out of Sancho Panza. The major media in Connecticut is supinely liberal, and with few exceptions has not opened fire on Dodd for having, among other things, developed a too cozy relationship with campaign contributors he is regulating as chairman of the senate Banking Committee.

d) He’s yearning for a spot on the ticket of the next Democrat president, possible Hillary or Barack Obama.

e) It may be time for the senator to cash in his chips. Now in a new marriage, Dodd is the father of young children who tend, when they grow up, to be expensive propositions. A cushy job among friends in the financial sector may ease the economic pain.

f) He's listened too many times to the song, "I Gotta Be Me."

Some candidates for president run to be president; others run to make a point. Dodd’s point, as concerns foreign policy, is not much different than the talking points made in the usual Democrat campaign literature: War is bad, peace is good; the war in Iraq is unwinable; the troops should be brought home at the earliest possible date. Dodd has suggested March as a non-negociable withdrawl date. The surge commanded by the denigrated General David Petraeus appears to be working, but hopeful signs in Baghdad and other badlands of Iraq that suggest the local population, both Sunni and Shiite, have joined in the fight against al-Qaeda leave Dodd cold.

Giving Thanks For Hillary

We all have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving -- for instance this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Surge Has Worked

The view concerning Iraq from Britain appears to be, according to a shrewd analysis in Prospect magazine, cheerio.

To be sure, the analysis is somewhat old. “Mission Accomplished,” by Bartle Bull, appeared in the magazine in October, weeks before the New York Times acknowledged that that times in Iraq, they are a’changing -- for the better.

The glad news in the Times appeared in its inner pages. We don’t want to frighten the kids now, do we, with the possibility that the surge in Iraq has succeeded? Not all the American press was missing in action?

For years, the New York Times, which long has appeared to neo-conservatives as a propaganda annex of the Democrat Party in retreat, had dwelt with feverish anxiety on the signal failures of President George Bush’s policy in the Middle East.

If information were money, it would have been possible for any objective observer to warn the paper that it was too heavily invested in an American defeat.

The tide in formerly unlivable hotspots in Iraq now appears to be turning. The Iraqi man on the street is no longer convinced that America is the Great Satan. In fact, for some time he has been conspiring with American troops to drive out foreign terrorists (read: al-Qaida fundamentalists equipped and trained in Syria and Iran.)

In Britain, the glad tidings are splashed all over the place. The larger questions in Iraq have now been settled, says the brash Bull:

“… Iraq's big questions have been resolved—break-up? No. Shia victory? Yes. Will violence make the Americans go home? No. Do Iraqis like voting? Yes. Do they like Iraq? Yes—Iraq's violence has largely become local and criminal. The biggest fact about Iraq today is that the violence, while tragic, has ceased being political, and is therefore no longer nearly as important as it was.”

Christopher Hitchens, a British import now become an American citizen, sums up the sea change in Iraq very well: “…the Iraqi people as a whole had looked into the abyss of civil war and had drawn back from the brink. Second, the majority of Sunni Arabs had realized that their involvement with al-Qaida forces was not a patriotic "insurgency" but was instead a horrific mistake and had exposed their society to the most sadistic and degraded element in the entire Muslim world. Third, the Shiite militias had also come to appreciate that they had overplayed their hand. There remained, according to Bull, an appalling level of criminal and antisocial violence, but essentially Iraq was agreed on a rough new dispensation whereby ethnic and social compromise would determine events and where subversive outside interference would not be welcomed.”

It certainly is a strange turn of events when the American news consuming public has to turn to foreign newspapers and British re-pots like Hitchens to obtain an unvarnished view of important changes on the ground in a war the major American media has been covering for more than four years.

The complex story of the disintegration of both al-Qaida and Syrian and Iranian backed terrorists in Iraq was covered adequately in what one might call the opposition press. But the opposition press was not likely to affect major media outlets, which had unreflecting supported Bush’s poorly thought out initial game plan in Iraq before it soured.

The very success of the surge is proof positive that the White House’s earlier strategy in Iraq was fatally flawed: Not enough troops were committed early enough; the reaction to a prolonged American presence in Iraq from undefeated pro- Saddam Hussein elements and pro-Iranian and Syrian cultists in the Mahdi Army in Iraq was wildly underestimated.

All that said, the reaction in Iraq against puritanical reactionaries that applied the severest of sharia laws in places they had subdued by force was as wildly underestimated. Iraqis will not abide the murdering of tribal sheiks, forced marriages or even bans on smoking and moderate drinking by fanatical teetotalers.

Jihadism is not a doctrine that has not been tried in much of the Middle East; it is a doctrine that has been tried and, as the Britons might say, been found wanting.

DDT, MISINFORMATION THEN AND NOW

Natalie Sirkin, in an eye opening column on DDT, points out the difference between pop-science and the real thing. Africa is awash with preventable diseases because false science, in obedience to Grisham's law, has driven out real science.

Roger Bate is a South African who has devoted himself for decades to promoting the use of DDT in the battle with malaria in Africa . Bate in his November 5 Wall Street Journal piece, “Last Chance for DDT,” tells how the use of DDT is being undermined by environmentalists and organizations selling alternatives to DDT.

Environmentalists are scaring undeveloped nations telling them that DDT causes cancer or birth defects (totally false). European Union officials are suggesting their crops would be boycotted. Within national donor agencies, teams are writing anti-malaria literature while running No-Spray programs. The U.N. is hurting. Mozambique has run a successful indoor residual spraying program, but the media ignore the news.

DDT is a miracle. DDT is a killer. Which is it? The National Academy of Sciences’ President said DDT is the greatest chemical ever discovered. Rachel Carson said DDT and other pesticides silence nature. She made outright misstatements, but she did it in mellifluent prose that the world found persuasive. Ten years later, William Ruckelshaus, head of EPA, cemented her mission with a ban on DDT.

Today, according to Bate, some of the motivations for misidentifying DDT have changed, but DDT is not much closer to being allowed to save humanity from death from malaria and two dozen other infectious diseases than it was.

Ruckelshaus’s ban followed a seven-month public hearing on DDT from 125 experts in over 9,300 pages of testimony. The Hearing Examiner, Edmund Sweeney, held that DDT is not carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic to man. The uses of DDT under the regulations do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wildlife . . .; there is a present need for the essential uses of DDT.”

The Environmental Defense Fund, then three guys and a clipboard, appealed to Ruckelshaus to reverse Judge Sweeney’s decision. Ruckelshaus agreed. He assigned the appeal to—Ruckelshaus—himself--as appellate judge.

Ruckelshaus knew nothing of the case, had not read a page of the transcript, had not attended a day of the hearing. His decision was “padded with propaganda from EDF literature that appeared nowhere in the entire transcript of the hearings,” according to J. Gordon Edwards, professor of entomology at San Jose State University, whose corrections of Ruckelshaus’s errors were placed in the Congressional Record (pp. S11545-47, 24 July 1972) by Senator Barry Goldwater.

The basis for Ruckelshaus’s decision, as he wrote in a letter to the Wall Street Journal, was “its impact on the thickness of eggshells of raptors, brown pelicans, and the peregrine falcon.” Was this the first time eggshell-thinning was made the chief reason for banning DDT? Probably not. Aaron Wildavsky, in his account in his book “But Is It True? A Citizen’s Guide,” makes the statement (though without explanation) that DDT thinned raptors’ eggshells, which caused depopulation of the bald eagle, the brown pelican, the peregrine falcon, and the osprey.

To this day, people believe it. What are the facts? In the articles and manuscripts of Professor Edwards and in Wildavsky’s book, these facts can be found:

• Bald Eagles: Before DDT was widely used, only a few bald eagles nestled in northern U.S. , none in New England . The Audubon Christmas Count per-observer recorded 197 bald eagles seen in 1941. In 1960, after years of heavy DDT use, there were 891 per observer, a 25% increase. The Hawk Mountain Sanctuary counts showed that the number of bald eagles migrating through Pennsylvania more than doubled during the first six years of heavy DDT use, 1946-52.

• Peregrine falcons: Over the last century they declined. Eastern populations declined before DDT, completely disappearing east of the Rockies . There have since been massive captive breeding programs, and they have become abundant.

• Ospreys: In 1946, 191 ospreys were seen by the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association. During the years of great use of DDT, there were great increases: 1951 254; 1961 352; 1967, 457; 1969, 527; 1971, 630; then in 1974, 318; 1975, 279, according to the Sanctuary newsletter. It was thought they were migrating to the West.

• Brown pelicans: There were few in Texas and Louisiana from around 1918 and fewer, around 900, in 1934. In 1937, instead of 1300 nests, 300 were seen. They continued to decline, and were around 300 in 1942 to around 1959. But they were plentiful in California during 20 years of heavy DDT use till the oil spill at Santa Barbara in 1969.

Environmentalists blamed DDT, never mentioning the oil spill.

Of the 25 different birds observed in the Hawk count, 15 were more numerous in 1960 than 1941, and only nine, less numerous. It is surprising, therefore, to find Professor Thomas H. Jukes, professor of biophysics at the University of California at Berkeley , writing in 1992 that his and his pro-DDT colleagues had no strong faith that science would win:

The defense of DDT was, from the beginning, a lost cause. A few of us vainly hoped that science would prevail. We soon found that Gresham ’s Law, which states that bad currency drives out good currency, applies to science as well as to economics.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

DeLuca, The Aftermath

The interest in soon to be former state Sen. Lou DeLuca has flagged, especially among news reporters, at exactly that point at which it should be most intense.

DeLuca announced that he was resigning last Wednesday, made a very pretty speech in which he once again admitted wrongdoing, and was as quickly forgotten as yesterday’s hasty pudding. Everyone went back to sleep, hardly noticing that nothing of any note, other than DeLuca’s resignation, had been settled.

Predictable people said predictable things.

Republican Sen. John Kissel said “It put an unfortunate chapter behind us.”

Sen. Andrea Stillman, a Democrat, offered that the conclusion would have been the same had the legislative committee investigating DeLuca completed its work.

Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, a Democrat, breathed a sign of relief. “Obviously,” he said, “the Committee will be concluding its work today.”

But of course. It was never the work of the committee to devise and implement procedural rules to prevent future legislators from declining to report that they had been bribed by FBI agents pretending to be associates of “trash magnates’ who were under investigation by the FBI. If the DeLuca affair had continued to its “predictable” end, the special legislative committee, having been forced to expel DeLuca, also would have been obliged to report to the senate as a whole their recommendations for preventing such actions in the future.

Sen. Edith Prague, one of the moral wide-awakes in the legislature, said that DeLuca’s “behavior and his willingness to use the power of his seat to help a man whom he knew was on the fringes of criminal behavior … is outrageous. You know, we have ethics in the chamber. We have a code of dignity and integrity.”

Some time ago, the code of dignity and integrity of the legislature was somewhat compromised by Prague and her dog, who left some droppings on the floor of the Legislative Office Building. Prague insisted that a guide dog had done the damage, even though she should have known that guide dogs do their duty on the command of their owners, always out of doors. Prague’s tale did not hold up against a security video film showing that it was Prague’s dog that was the culprit, a small matter surely, but one that did not enhance the dignity of the legislature. It was Sen. DeLuca who disclosed the film to reporters.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams was full of assurances. DeLuca, he said, assuredly would have become the first state senator to be expelled from the chamber for having conspired with James Galante, the trash magnate, to threaten Mark Colella, now the husband of his grand daughter, whom DeLuca had supposed was abusing her.

In leaving the senate, DeLuca said, “There’s a time and place for all good things to end. We’ve fought the good fight. Been true to our principles.”

Whatever principles DeLuca had been true to were lost in this shabby affair.

It has come time now for DeLuca’s comrades in the legislature to do the right thing. And the right thing would be to devise a rule that would rid the legislature of anyone who declined to report a bribe they had been offered.

DeLuca’s failure to report a bribe is the one undoubted action that should have precipitated a process of expulsion from the chamber. Everything else in this sad affair is subject to doubt. It may be doubted that DeLuca’s grand daughter was abused or not. The “help” DeLuca offered to Galante, DeLuca has said, was the kind of help any legislator might have offered to any constituent, doubtful as DeLuca’s claim may be. Among other doubtful claims, DeLuca has said he did not know the extent to which Galante was involved in organized crime. He also claimed that when he agreed to the “visit” Galante would arrange with Collela, he did not know the visit would entail violence.

All these claims and counterclaims are doubtful; indeed, all of them have been doubted in multiple news stories. The one undoubted assertion in all this smog of doubt is that DeLuca was offered a bribe, which he failed to report. This alone should be reason for expulsion. Had a rule requiring expulsion from office for failure to report a bribe been in place a decade ago, the process for expulsion for both state senators Ernie Newton and DeLuca could have begun at the first report that an unreported bribe was offered.

A rule of the legislature requiring expulsion for failing to report a bribe--any bribe--would affect behavior in the legislature in a positive way.

Speaking of a uniform code of ethics in the House and Senate, Sen. Edward Meyer, noting that lawmakers had for four years in a row refused to examine proposals to deprive state officials convicted of corruption of their pensions, was not sanguine. “I think that the General Assembly has trouble dealing with ethical issues,” Meyer said, “and would prefer not to deal with them and hope they go away.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Winter's Tale: The Election in Enfield

The following story first appeared on Ron Winter's blog, A Winter's Soldier Story. It is reproduced here with permission because I like good political literature.

The 13th Candidate: Enfield CT, GOP Victory Provides Template for National Campaigns
Enfield Connecticut is a village/small city with a cohesive downtown area surrounded by tracts of open space punctuated by subdivisions.

A large shopping mall anchors the commercial district, Interstate 91 bisects the community on its way from Hartford to Springfield, Massachusetts, providing quick access for the struggling industrial base, and the Connecticut River establishes Enfield's western border.

The population of 45,000 residents is a relatively stable blue collar/white collar mix, and at election time most candidates are known to the voters for their other activities in the community as well as their politics.

Like many similar communities across the nation Enfield is facing serious financial issues from burgeoning school and municipal budgets, a downturn in the housing market that has left about 500 empty houses on the market, and taxpayers were hit with a whopping 14 percent tax increase this year.

That did not make the voters happy, nor did the antics of the Democratic administration. Fights over development issues, fights over party control, fights over taxes and other financial issues, even fights with the local nuns! It was rumored that high-level investigations were underway by both state and federal authorities, and the word 'corruption' was heard in hushed whispers, although not out loud, and not in any official statement.

On the other side of the political fence was Republican Town Chairwoman Mary Ann Turner, an unabashed supporter of George Bush and Dick Cheney, a Republican who really is a Republican not a Republican In Name Only, and isn't afraid to say so. She understands exactly why she is a Republican, exactly what values she espouses, and she is a fighter.

She started the political campaign season back in May, looking for candidates to fill out the 13-member slate for Town Council and Board of Education. She ended up on Election Night standing the entrenched machine on its ear, taking over the Town Council and Board of Education. More on that in a bit.

For at least a decade the Republicans held only the minimal number of seats on each agency, and were essentially powerless if the Democrats decided to rub their noses in the mud.

Nonetheless the Republicans were occasionally successful in getting some initiatives through the system, and had some very good ideas on how to fix much of what is wrong with their local government, if only they had the chance - and enough seats on the council and school board to carry the votes.

I was hired by the Enfield Republicans to handle media relations, political strategy and public relations early in the process, and had a ring-side seat to view the campaign as it progressed.

The candidate selection appeared to go smoothly at first, but almost immediately hit a reef when a dirty whisper campaign started against one of the school board candidates. Democratic operatives passed the false rumors on to a local paper, which threatened to run a story about it. To his credit, the candidate put party loyalty above personal ambition and withdrew his name, effectively squelching the story and the mud slinging, at least for the moment.

When the nomination process was over, and the GOP caucus voted on the slate, controversy was absent and the campaign got off on a positive note. The slate included a nice mix of incumbents and newcomers, white color, blue collar, a businessman, a Baptist minister, a retired Army colonel working a second career in finance, a policeman, technology experts, finance experts, business managers, a real estate broker. There was plenty of commentary about the chances each had of prevailing in their race.

Without question, of the most personable and dedicated candidates, whom I will dub The 13th Candidate, was Clemence Dumont, a naturalized citizen of French-Canadian descent who had just retired after a career in accounting. She was energetic, outgoing, aware of the issues.

She also was a total novice - although not the only one on the slate - whose entire previous political involvement came when she ran for president of the local Women's Club. Over time, one opinion emerged about the relative chances of the 13th candidate.

Hardly anyone in the local party structure, except Mary Ann Turner, or the area media gave her a snowball's chance in hell of winning against a male incumbent who was solidly entrenched with his base, which included the volunteer firefighters, a formidable voting bloc in his district. I agreed with Mary Ann. I believed Clem Dumont had all the ingredients to win, except political experience, which I saw as working in her favor.

Fortunately, Clem took the campaign seriously and had every intention of winning. She attended every meeting, went to the campaign school hosted by the Connecticut Republican Party in the summer. She held a successful fund-raiser, listened intently at strategy meetings, and worked diligently during practice sessions for media appearances, debates and public forums.

And every single weekend she walked her district, knocking on doors, dropping off literature, talking to voters.

Nonetheless, the 13th Candidate still wasn't given much of a chance of wresting the district's voters away from the incumbent. As recently as Monday morning a knowledgeable political editor from an area paper opined that she wouldn't overcome the votes expected from the firefighters and their supporters.

But he didn't know how hard Clem was working. And all the naysayers forgot one important facet of the election equation. The incumbent may have had the fire fighters' votes, but Clem Dumont had their wives'.

She continued to walk and knock on doors right up to the day before Election Day, uncovering a trove of votes in one area of the district that the incumbent had taken for granted, and thus ignored. When the cold and dark drove her indoors, Clem and her husband Mike took to the phones, calling registered Republicans and Independents who were likely voters.

In the 48 ours before the polls opened they made 500 phone calls. When the numbers came in on Election Night, she matched the opponent in the middle of his strongest section of the district, losing there by only one vote. But then she took the second polling place by more than 30, losing the third by less than two dozen.

In the end the 13th Candidate, Clem Dumont, took the district by 6 votes. Not a huge victory, but a victory, an especially sweet victory considering that she was supposed to be crushed by the incumbent.

Without her the Republicans still would have had a majority on the council. With her they have a super majority that for the first time in more than a decade will have sufficient votes to propose policy and enact policy.

When asked by the media how she managed to emerge victorious in what was considered to be an impenetrable district, Clem responded with her "Ant Theory."

Simply explained, she toiled like an industrious ant building an anthill, piece by piece, day by day, never stopping, never losing site of the goal, always working. No one paid any attention to her, she noted, yet she was always there, always working, always campaigning.

There are many other reasons why the Republicans took the election last night in Enfield, Connecticut. They had the issues, and they certainly had the leader in Mary Ann Turner.

She started out the victory commentaries Tuesday night intending to apologize for her sometimes brusque manner with the statement "Let's get this over first ... If I have yelled at you ..." to which the entire room erupted with a very good natured "What do you mean IF?" That was followed by a roar of laughter and the comment "We accept your apology!" to even more laughter.

When the numbers went up and the crowd realized the extent of the GOP victory, they started to understand why she works the way she does, and she saw the rewards of leadership, lonely though that spot may be at times. But on Election Night, everyone was her best friend.

The candidates should not be discounted. They worked hard and they worked smart. They are honest and care about their community, and they worked as a team.

Yet the campaign was no cake walk. In fact, it was an especially tough campaign for the GOP.

One candidate had so many of his lawn signs stolen that the combined value ultimately reached the level of a Class D felony and a report was filed with the police. Another was the target of an especially vicious smear campaign and character assassination. An estimated $11,000 of damage was done to a council candidate's car when the fuel system was contaminated.

Democratic dupes, hiding under the cowardly umbrella of Internet pseudonyms, planted rumors in political blogs in an attempt to cast doubts and aspersions. To their credit, Enfield's Republicans rallied to the side of their fellow candidates, posting their names and daring the assassins to identify themselves and back up their filth with facts.

There were no takers. Slander apparently is much more fun when no one can identify its source.

My favorite rationale from the other side of the fence appeared in the Hartford Courant thus:

"Democratic Deputy Mayor Kenneth Hilinski, an at-large council member who lost his bid for a second term, said the Republicans got their message out better than the Democrats."

I totally agree.

Although this campaign was no where near the level of a national campaign, it nonetheless had all the elements that are necessary to victory, and are so often missing on the national level.

Voters across this country, across party lines, across economic, racial and religious demographics, are sick to death of being treated like unintelligent, incompetent sheep. That is why so few come out to vote in so many elections.

There are many issues facing this country, just as there are many issues facing communities like Enfield, Connecticut. Voters know this. What they are looking for is hope, justifiable hope, that if they avail themselves of the most basic of our constitutional rights, they will be rewarded by office holders who really will work for them.

I watched Clem Dumont and her fellow Republicans throughout the campaign, and I know they will work to deliver the kind of government their community deserves. If Clem Dumont wants to run again in two years one thing is certain; lots more people in her district will know her, and no one will say she took them for granted.

She will continue to build her anthill, and she will do a good job for her district.

National candidates may want to take a long look at the campaign waged by The 13th Candidate. It contains the key to victory.

If you have any questions, give her a call. She's great at getting her message across on the phone. She's even better in person

Friday, November 09, 2007

ACLU Time?

Question: When is a house not a home?

Answer: When it’s a Jewish temple.

Chabad Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish organization, bought a Victorian era house in Litchfield and announced that it planned a temple on its property. The temple would require changes in the house: a roof steeple bearing a clock face with Hebrew lettering on it to identify it as a synagogue and a star of David. These changes did not pass muster with Litchfield’s Historic Commission, which previously, according to a story in the Waterbury Republican American, “had ordered flower boxes removed from in front of homes and more recently a historic plaque to a Revolutionary War hero taken down from the side of a house.”

During a Sept 6 meeting, Commission Chairman Wendy Kuhne offered an objection to the plan. According to the minutes of the meeting: “A steeple will be added to the roof of the building and have a clock face with Hebrew alphabet lettering. The siding will be a combination of wood and Jerusalem stone. Mrs. Kuhne noted her own objections to the stone which is not indigenous to the district, feels the clock tower is not appropriate, and the Star of David may not comply with the District.”

Litchfield Borough Warden Lee Losee politely pointed out that the nearby Methodist Church has no fewer than two stars of David set in its stain glass windows.

Chabad’s disappointed president responded, “I felt that an essential element of the expression of our religion had been denied," Eisenbach said when asked by the Republican-American about the Sept. 6 meeting. "However, I am sure the commission will come to appreciate the beautiful new addition to Church Row."

The reference to Church Row is a stinger. When the Historic Commission looks at the property owned by Chabad Lubavitch, it sees a house. But when the owners look at their own property, they see a temple. There was a time – long passed in Connecticut – when it was thought that owners could make renovations to their own property without being impeded by the architectural police.

A remembrance of that distant time caused Andy Thibault, Connecticut’s Nat Hentoff, to erupt in polite fury at the presumption of Litchfield’s Historic Commission. “Once, the people of Connecticut had such a thing called 'property rights,'" Tibault wrote on his blog site, The Cool Justice Report. “Absent installing a public health hazard, one was pretty much free to do with one’s land what one wanted. This was, of course, before planning and zoning did a little rearranging of the notion of private property.”

How different it was in Waterbury. Seeking to move from New York, Rabbi Yehuda Brecher of Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, knew he would find a welcoming shelter in Connecticut’s city on a hill. Waterbury, the city chosen by Ken Burns to broadly represent American soldiery in his World War II film, is not one of Connecticut’s gated cities.

It was the almost impertinent cross scraping the sky on one of the city's tumbling hills, and its rich immigrant heritage, that drew more than 110 orthodox Jewish families to Waterbury. There they have transformed a corner of the city, refurbished old housing stock, filled a school with pious young people, added their mite to an already rich cultural diversity and made a city on a hill sing a song of love and fellowship.

Connecticut’s Civil Liberties Union, always energized whenever a crèche comes too close to a town green, may want to join Chabad's attorney, Peter Herbst Sr., in any future legal proceedings to assure that constitutional religious rights are observed. The snoring from that quarter, whenever genuine religious rights are put in jeopardy, would wake the dead.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Small “d” Democracy

Democracy, the ability of the people to throw the bums out, runs purest in Connecticut’s town governments, because US congressional districts in this and other states are gerrymandered in such a way as to frustrate the democratic instinct. British author Malcolm Muggeridge used regularly to vote against incumbents because, he reasoned, the challengers, whatever their political orientation, had not yet presumed to rob him of his assets, cluttered the legislative landscape with pointless laws and deprived him of his God given liberties.

That impulse is as American as apple pie. Here in the good old USA, the presumption generally lies against incumbents, even as the ability to survive the storm of voter discontent lies in favor of incumbents.

For reason other than gerrymandering, the carving up of districts so as to prevent the party out of power from gaining a foothold, some legislators in some districts will forever be secure in their sinecures. It is difficult to imagine what Democrat U.S. Rep. John Larson, now serving in Connecticut’s impregnable 1st District, would have to do – short of burning down East Hartford, fiddling as he did so – to be discharged by the voters, a preponderance of whom are extremely tolerant Democrats.

Lou DeLuca hasn’t quite burned down Woodbury, a town where Republicans have controlled the First Selectman’s office for the past 300 years. But this year, write in candidate Mark Alvarez wrested a respectable 996 votes in a contest for town meeting moderator from Lou DeLuca, the seemingly impregnable Republican state senator who refused but did not report a bribe offered to him in an FBI sting operation. DeLuca, some believe, is on the point of being ejected from Connecticut’s legislature by a bi-partisan committee of his peers.

As a general rule, incumbency carries along with it certain privileges and immunities that are almost impossible to overcome: Gerrymandering, which assures that the pool of district voters will be inclined to cast their ballots for the incumbent; the money in the bank incumbents have been able to salt away for future campaigns; the cozy relationship incumbents often have with the mainstream media – one thinks immediately of such criticism proof icons of public probity as Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

There is a good reason why the endorsements of major newspapers are routinely given to incumbents. In the mainstream press, business decisions trump politics. Some people might think it odd that the Hartford Courant, which exposed the delinquencies of Mayor Eddie Perez, should end up endorsing a politician who was behaving, for all practical purposes, as did ex-Governor John Rowland just prior to his ejection from office. But unfortunately, none of these people write editorials for the Courant. The paper has invested a great deal of emotional energy supporting liberals, Perez among them, who have obligingly jumped through its editorial hoops.

The most interesting towns to watch during elections are those that have in the past exchanged power between the major parties. If lessons are to be learned in how to win or lose campaigns, they are to be learned here and not, for instance, in Woodbury or East Hartford, respectively a Republican and a Democrat fortress.

Over in Vernon where I live – trying as always to keep one step ahead of the taxman – two term Mayor Marmer and her Democrat team was turned away by an enraged citizenry. The changes were as dramatic in Enfield. In both towns, Republicans campaigned on low taxes and controlled spending. But what appears to have turned the trick for Republicans was the tin ear of Democrats, who frustrated townspeople by presenting to them budget increases that were whittled down in successive referendums. Over in Tolland, where Republicans were ousted by Democrats, Republican Board of Education Chairman Daniel Carmody attributed the loss to the frustration engendered by six earlier budget referendums.

The message from the towns to an as yet unheeding state government seems clear: Present rational budgets that demonstrate a willingness to control spending. The larger message to the state may be that citizens, having tightened their own belts to accommodate uncontrollable cost of living increases, can no longer afford to be generous towards profligate governments, town or local, that assume they can afford unreasonable budget increases.

There is a homely philosophy in that reasoning that has not been mastered by politicians who, thus far, have kept themselves in office by the artificial political devises mentioned above – which can be altered by an aroused public.

The Weicker Posse

Chris Powell, over at the Journal Inquirer, is making sure that a posse meets ex-Senator and Governor -- and now ex-nuttmegger -- Lowell Weicker when he reaches Virginia.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Reform Primary Debate Format

Primaries are intra-party struggles. They answer the question: Who will represent Republicans and Democrats in the general election?

In the past, questions of this kind used to be determined by party bosses in smoke filled back rooms. A John Bailey, the last Democrat Party boss here in Connecticut, used to gather together party regulars and decide, for instance, that everyone would back John F. Kennedy for president and Abe Ribicoff for governor. Applying a little pressure and buying off the more principled of the pols with a local project certain to gain them votes, all would emerge from the meeting in amicable agreement, and a party convention would put the gentlemen on the ticket. Everyone had a cigar, a shot of Jim Beam, and yet another putatively successful campaign was launched.

This arrangement did not prove satisfactory to reformers. A concerted assault on the smoke filled back rooms ensued, after which primaries were instituted. Someone stuffed Bailey, put him in a political museum along with party conventions, and the age of primaries was launched with great fanfare.

This was both good and bad. We’ve just seen the bad part in the most recent Democrat primary debate. Clinton, stung in the past by charges of hypocrisy, sought to weave her way through positions generally identified with the progressive wing of her party, with predictable results. She was chastised by Dodd, among others, for having both said and unsaid that she favored Mayor of New York Elliot Spitzer’s plan to allow illegal immigrants the “privilege,” Dodd’s formulation, of driving cars in New York.

It was awkward. Many people felt the debate would have been far more instructive and enlightening had the debaters been Dodd and Giuliani or Hillary and some Republican worthy?

That sort of cross party debate would have been significantly different, more like a debate in the general election, more informative, keyed more to the general electorate, less absurd. That’s right – less absurd. Chatter designed to appeal to minor actors standing in the wings of the parties waiting to take over the political play is bound to be absurd.

It can be reasonably argued that U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s whole campaign thus far is hopelessly skewered; he appears to be running for president of DailyKos and Moveon.org.

Dodd’s message, such as it is, is directed to progressive party activists.

Now, the chance of Dodd being chosen as the Democrat nominee for president in the national convention is pretty remote. Dodd polls well at progressive blog sites such as DailyKos, around 23%; but in national polls, he is hovering, as one conservative blogger put it “somewhere in between the guy who fills the soda vending machine at the US Capitol and Eleanor Roosevelt’s bones.”

It’s time to think seriously about changing debate formats in primary campaigns.

Newt Gingrich, the idea man of the Republican Party, has suggested canning Democrat on Democrat and Republican on Republican debates during primaries and replacing them with cross party debates, pairing up Dodd and other Democrats with Republican presidential primary candidates.

The change would reshape primary campaigns, because primary messages would be addressed not to extremist in the wings of both parties but to real primary voters. And since the message would be more carefully modulated, partisan politicians need not throw themselves off ideological cliffs in pursuit of the good will of party activists who are rarely satisfied by the heroic self immolation of their heroes.

Dodd, facing Giuliani in a primary debate, would not be pitching his message to the ideologues of his party – and his pre-election vote totals, as a result, would be higher than the soda vending machine guy’s. And Hillary Clinton’s performance during the Democrat debate would have seemed more progressive and less centrist had she been debating George Romney rather than other Democrat presidential contenders who were intent on stepping to the left of Dodd.

Gingrich’s reform is a good idea whose time has come.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Wuss Factor

Wussiness is a matter of perspective. If Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Bill Clinton’s choice for president, has thus far appeared to be a tad less wussy than the other empty wallets with whom she has shared the stage during the Democrat primaries, it is because Hillary’s position on the Iraq war has been more attentive to consequences than, say, that of Sen. Chris Dodd.

Dodd’s position on the war is: Run away.

No ambiguity there.

More precisely, Dodd’s ambition is to do everything legislatively to force the president to withdraw from Iraq – short of passing a bill definancing the war, which would create a multitude of problems for his comrades in the Senate and House. That kind of a bill would be a) constitutional, b) effective in ending the war and c) politically disastrous for the future of the Democrat Party.

Dodd, an old anti-Vietnam war protestor, knows that the American public was loathed to turn against that lost cause until very late in the season. Generally, Americans do not like to lose wars, because they understand the subtext of Hillary’s cautious approach to abject surrender: Those who lose wars pay the piper, and the chief consequence of a lost war is that the loser does not have an opportunity to shape the future.

Deep in her bones, one senses Hillary understands that the war against jihadism is a war like no other.

This is no Vietnam. The loss in Vietnam surrendered the future of East Asia -- Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia -- to communist overlords who did not spank New York City by blowing up the World Trade Center Towers.

The jihadists are ancient enemies. The West – which is to say, most hot vacation spots visited by ugly Americans for the last 400 years – has both vanquished and been vanquished by a resurgent, militaristic Islam. This interpenetration means that resurgent Islam is a Western, not an Eastern, phenomenon. The sons and daughters of Mohammed ruled much of the West until they were pushed back into Africa by Spain’s monarchs around the time Columbus set sail to discover a route to the Indies and happened upon America, now a cause of great lamentation among some groups during Columbus Day and other festive national celebrations.

Dodd knows this; Hillary knows this; and, presumably, even progressives urging a military surrender to jihadists know this.

But all the knowing bumps up against primary elections, during which politicians are expected to throw raw meat in the direction of those supporters who will decide which champions will represent them in the general election.

In the general election, when Democrats are expected to face Republicans in debate formats that reach a wider non-partisan audience, those politicians who have not been weeded out in primaries will confront seriously the consequences of the programs they have been pushing in primaries.

And the messages will change. Primaries are dreamscapes; general elections are daytime realities. Primaries distort reality In the daytime, consequences matter. It is always a jarring experience to witness the transformation of a primary hero into a general election wuss. In the journalism arena, we call this backpedaling, abandoning the ideals or – the worst curse of all -- hypocrisy, than which there is no greater sin in the journalist’s lexion of political vices.

The first shall be last and the last shall be first is a prophecy fulfilled both in heaven and in general elections following primaries.

It is primaries, not a universal moral degradation, that has twisted our politics. It is because most serious patriots recognize that primaries are a distortion medium that Hillary -- whose view of foreign policy appears to be more realistic and serious than the other fantasists she has shared the primary stage with – is leading in popularity polls.

Lost wars are not in the long run popular. And most Americans are not willing to surrender their future to fantasists who will treat jihadists as if they were members of the US Senate’s club of incumbents.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Triangulating Hillary: The Morning After

It may be a hopeful sign that Big Media still considers vacuity a no-no in politics.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has taken a few raps for her performance at the last Democrat debates, and the rapping appears to have come from both sides of the political barricades.

Following Clinton’s dance of death at the Democrat debate, John Edwards told an audience in South Carolina that Hillary hasn’t been candid with voters. It has not been recorded in press accounts of the South Carolina meet-up whether the audience was shocked – really, SHOCKED! – that yet another politician was found lacking in candor.

"Since the debate,” Edwards said, “we've continued to hear spin, smoke and mirrors — the same kind of double talk — to get away from the very serious issues that are in front of us in this campaign.”

Barak Obama pointed out that although he was black and had been hit hard during the debate on various foreign policy issues, he sucked it all up and “didn't come out and say look I'm being hit on because I look different from the rest of the folks on the stage.”

Following the debate, Hillary went weeping to Wellesley College, where she made arch references to the "all boys club of presidential politics.” A fund raising letter styled Hillary “one tough woman” and deplored the “six on one” debate rape.

Meanwhile, across the country, arch-triangulator Bill Clinton – white male, Hillary’s husband and ex-president – defended both himself and his wife from charges, darkly hinted at by debate moderator Tim Russert, that the Clintons had been resisting the release from the National Archives of the former First Lady’s papers.

His wife could not have known, Bill said, that he had written a second letter in 2002 requesting that the National Archives release his papers ASAP.

The debate moderators, Bill contended, had played "gotcha" with his wife while lobbing softball questions to her rivals.

This is somewhat true. Actually, Russert lobbed a fragging device at U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, which was adroitly avoided.

During Sunday’s televised presidential debate, Dodd allowed that he “might” join the three Democrat presidential frontrunners -- Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina -- in supporting “some version of proposals to hike taxes on highly-compensated deal-makers and hedge fund managers,” but he was worried about intended consequences and was seeking to "act responsibly."

In a masterful report, the Journal Inquirer has peeled the lid from that can or worms.

According to the senator’s latest FEC report, the paper said, “29 individuals associated with six charter members of the Private Equity Council - which is reported to have spent millions lobbying against the proposed tax hike - gave a total of $65,100 to his presidential campaign committee over the summer.”

The all boys club was not amused at Hillary’s dodge-ball performance.

Neither was uber-progressive Gail Collins, a New York Times columnist; is there any other kind of New York Times columnists?

Ms. Collins – who, as a woman, belongs to the same all-girls club as Hillary – averred that “you would have to be a very, very committed Hillaryite to be comfortable listening two solid hours of dodging and weaving on everything from her vote on the Iran resolution to her husband’s attempt to keep records of their White House communications secret until after 2012.”

It is unknown at this point who precisely Ms. Collins intends to vote for among the Democrat candidates in the upcoming elections – certainly not Joe Lieberman, Everyliberal’s bete noir.

Ms. Collins is playing her cards close to her vest, and not even an insistent Russert will be able to wrest the information from her.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Cubanizing Venezuela While The Courant Winks

Hugo Chavez, the Fidel Castro of Venezula, is moving his country towards a communist form of government. The constitutional changes made recently by the Venezuelan legislature dominated by Chavistas would, according to an AP report, “allow the government to expropriate private property prior to a court ruling and take total control over the Central Bank, create new types of property managed by cooperatives, and extend presidential terms from six to seven years while allowing Chavez to run again in 2012.”

People in Connecticut, if they blinked, will have missed the report in the Hartford Courant. The paper reported the story in its Nation/World News section, a clip bin of world news stories.

Though U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd from Connecticut, now running for president, is considered an authority on Latin America, apparently no one from the paper has contacted him to gage his response to the Cubanization of Venezuela. Dodd also has been cited in the Courant as a supporter of constitutional government, and yet he has not been forthcoming on Chavez’s thus far successful attempts to subvert constitutional democracy in Venezuela.

Connecting Dodd’s Dots

The Journal Inquirer has reported that U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd is worried about unintended consequences and seeks to act responsibly. Dodd was not worried that a plan he supports to withdraw American troops from Iraq by March would be attended by unsupportable consequences. The senator was taking about friendly contributors to his campaigns.

“Managers and partners at private equity firms, whose personal income-tax bills could double under proposed legislation,” the paper disclosed, “continue to be among the biggest contributors to U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd's quixotic bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Federal Election Commission records show.”

During Sunday’s televised presidential debate, Dodd allowed that he “might” join the three Democrat presidential frontrunners -- Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina -- in supporting “some version of proposals to hike taxes on highly-compensated deal-makers and hedge fund managers,” but he was worried about intended consequences and was seeking to "act responsibly."

According to the senator’s latest FEC report, the paper said, “29 individuals associated with six charter members of the Private Equity Council - which is reported to have spent millions lobbying against the proposed tax hike - gave a total of $65,100 to his presidential campaign committee over the summer.”

Nearly half of the 29 work for Apollo Management, a firm headed by William Mack.

Mack was, according to the paper, “fingered for helping former Gov. John G. Rowland raise $50,000 in campaign funds days after Silvester invested $75 million in state pension funds in an Apollo real estate deal.”

Two of the other recent Dodd contributors were from The Blackstone Group, which hired Washington lobbyist Wayne L. Berman to fight the proposed tax hike. One of the biggest campaign contributors to Silvester and Rowland, Berman personally collected $1.5 million in "finder's fees" in connection with two other state pension fund investments authorized by Silvester.”

This is the stuff of which political headaches are make. Swimming in the water with such by-out sharks, one can never be too careful.

Just ask Bill DeBella.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Crime and Punishment

Connecticut built new prisons several years ago on the assumption that getting serious on crime would deter serious criminals. Prison beds expanded, and they were soon filled. Some on the left have now concluded that punishment does not deter criminals. They are suggesting treatment programs for drug crimes; this, they say, will release more beds for serious criminals and, in the long run save us some money.

The question of decriminalization may not be wholly a right, left issue. It’s been more than three years since Bill Buckley, hardly a man of the left, suggested that the use of marijuana for medical relief should be decriminalized. In arguing for limited decriminalization, Buckley suggested that the “stodgy inertia most politicians feel” when they address the issue of limited decriminalization should give way to “a creeping reality.” Buckley noted that “Professor Ethan Nadelmann, of the Drug Policy Alliance, writing in National Review, estimates at 100,000 the number of Americans currently behind bars for one or another marijuana offense.” Those are a lot of prison beds that otherwise might be devoted to hardened and violent criminals. Staking out a position on the decriminalization of marijuana no longer will get you uninvited as a speaker to the usual conservative platforms. On the other hand, to say that punishment does not deter crime or to suggest that all crime should be treated as if it were a medical disorder is dangerously obtuse.

The figures do not suggest that punishment does not deter crime; they may suggest that some punishments do not deter some criminals. The possibility of imprisonment or execution seems to have less a deterrent effect on crimes of passion. What prison program or punishment – other than execution -- could have been offered to prevent Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, two petty burglars, from invading Dr. Pettit’s house in Cheshire, beating the doctor with a baseball bat, raping his wife and daughter, then murdering both and another daughter by setting fire to the house?

In one respect, at least, the whole question of deterrence is a red herring. If it is true that no punishment deters convicted criminals released into society – very doubtful – the “truth” would not relieve us of the necessity of punishing, for two reasons: The punishment may deter prospective non-career criminals; and justice requires punishment. No punishment, no justice.